releases book of oral history
books goal is to preserve
families, workers sacrifices
Lela Jane Bradshaw
(February 2011) Every family member
reaches a point where they wish they had sat down and listened to the
old stories, says Mike Moore.
Many people can identify with this sentiment, realizing only after it
is too late that they should have spent more time listening to old family
tales of the way things used to be. However, members of the Jefferson
Proving Ground Heritage Partnership are releasing a book to preserve
stories important to the history of southern Indiana and to the families
of those whose lives were changed forever by the U.S. Army ammunition
testing base. Moore, who served at JPG first as a mathematician and
later as the supervisor of the Data Reduction Branch, explains that,
This book published by the Partnership was our attempt to keep
these memories alive and relevant.
JPG Heritage Partnership are
(from left) Mike Moore, Millie Busch,
Robert Irwin, Carl Busch, Norma Lou
Irwin, Ken Knouf, Ilene Harsin, Ron
Harsin, Louis Munier, Sue Dilk and
Charles Dilk. Their new history
book on JPG is due out soon.
Reminiscences and Reflections will go on sale
March 7 at the Jefferson County Historical Society in Madison, Ind.,
and at Historic Hoosier Hills in Versailles, Ind. The product of several
years of work, the final book includes transcriptions of interviews
with those who lived on the land that became JPG and those who worked
at the test site. In addition to rare, first-hand accounts of an important
piece of Indiana history, the book also presents 80 photographs allowing
readers to get a visual sense of the people whose lives were touched
by the installation, and how the land was changed.
From 1941-1994, JPG served as an army testing site for ammunition, earning
Madison the nickname of Boomtown as windows would shake
from the explosions. Yet, before the once 55,000-acre site rang with
munition blasts it was home to more than 2,000 residents who had to
leave their homes and communities to make way for the testing grounds.
As a way to share the experiences of workers at the site and residents
who were relocated, the JPG Heritage Partnership has also voted to donate
copies of the book to area libraries and historical societies.
Reminiscences and Reflections draws from hours of interviews
with those associated with JPG. Hanover college professor Ruth Turner
received a grant in the 1990s to have students interview JPG workers
about their jobs. Moore recalls that, We had a box full of audio
tapes and they just sat there from 1996 through about 2004. JPG
Heritage Partnership webmaster Ron Harsin transferred the the tapes
to CD and computer corrected some of the tapes that had been originally
recorded at the wrong speed so that the interviews were then much easier
to transcribe. The 115 tapes from Turners project grew to include
about 20 interviews conducted by Moore. Out of a total of 110 interviews,
about 30 were selected for inclusion in the book.
Moore spent countless hours transcribing the interviews
and assembling the manuscript and pictures for publication. He estimates
that for every hour of recording, eight to 10 hours were spent painstakingly
transcribing the conversations. With so much time invested in the work,
Moore reflects that I really got interested in other peoples
lives. You feel like youre sort of related to the person youre
interviewing He speaks of a sense of obligation to do the best
job possible on the book in honor of the people who shared so much of
their history. He is grateful that grants from the Rising Sun Regional
Foundation and the Jefferson Community Foundation allowed the book to
become a reality.
Yvette Hayes who serves as the Garrison Managers Representative
at JPG, said she hopes that Reminiscences and Reflections
will remind people of the work done at JPG. She believes it is important
that no one forgets what we actually did and how dangerous it
While the grounds currently serve as a beautiful wildlife refuge, Hayes
stresses that unexploded ordinances are still located on the site that
will likely never be cleared away.
The JPG Heritage Partnership may work to preserve the past, but the
group is also looking to the future. Already discussions have begun
on their next project, a coffee table style book of photographs from
the JPG site, showing the orchards that once dotted the landscape and
the creeks that still flow. As a result of the research that went into
Reminiscences and Reflections, Weve got hundreds of photos
now, says Moore. With luck, readers can anticipate another look
For more information, visit: www.jpgheritage.org.
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