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August 13, 2007



I grew up in eastern Kansas. The interviewer sounds very eastern Kansas. The older lady is talking about Newton which is close to Wichita... she talks like my great-grandmother. I haven't heard "how's that?" or "how?" instead of "what?" or "what did you say?" in many years.

i'd really like to know where those phrases came from.

thank you for posting this.


Interesting stuff true enough, but at the same time also somewhat frustrating. My first thought was that hopefully this interviewer (molly?) was in high school and not in college as you imagined, but after some reflection I fear you are right. Her reference to her “instructors” rather than her “teachers” doesn’t give me much hope for her being a mere high school student. What's most frustrating to me is that, other than the tape recorder, she didn't come at all prepared for the interview. It seems to me as if she's asking her questions right off the top of her head with no direction or cohesion or appreciation for the very busy time in history this woman was eyewitness to, and thus the mother load of her 100 years of experience remains sadly un mined. Nevertheless some real nuggets do manage to work their way to the surface. For instance I had no idea that past survivors of contagious diseases like small pox were basically shanghaied into providing health and hospice care for those unfortunate souls still sick and dying. Amazing fortitude to survive both the small pox and four years active duty during the Civil War. If it seems like I’m bitching forgive me because I’m not. I love shit like this and thank you very much!


thanks for posting this. People should record their parents while they are able to. It's real bad when you can't talk to them anymore.

Chris Dunham

We've established on my genealogy blog that the woman being interviewed is Florence Bessmer of Newton, who died in 1982 at the age of 104. She funded an addition to her local library, which would no doubt love to receive a copy of the tape.


thanks for the comments guys, i appreciate them...

wow, chris, i'm stupified! i can't believe in just 5 days the identity of this person is revealed! good work! if you're up to the challenge, try to find out who the interviewer is. she'd possibly still be alive today.

Chris Dunham

That's a tall order! It sounds like she was familiar with Newton (and her "instructors" had heard of Florence), so I would guess she was a student at Bethel College in North Newton. It's a four-year liberal arts college, so she would have been an undergrad. A search of the college library's online catalog gave no hits for "Bessmer." If she wrote a paper based on this interview, the evidence is probably long gone.

An inquiry published in the alumni magazine might be a good way to find out who she is. Who knows, maybe she lives in Toledo!

David Noades

This is truly fascinating. I have carried out a lot of genealogical reseasrch into all branches of my family and wish I had interviewed my great-grandmother who died in 1977 just before her 100th birthday. We shouldn't be too hard on the interviewer here (whoever she is), even when I was 18 I would have been nervous interviewing an elderly person, especially as she is a little deaf and some of the questions had to be repeated.

Somewhere I have a lovely tape of out takes from British radio shows and one features a journalist nervously interviewing a 100 year old man and the problem is that neither can understand a word the other is saying.


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