Media Files
Interview with Maxine Wiley, April 20, 2010
Bourbon in Kentucky: Buffalo Trace Oral History Project
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
Interviewee Maxine Wiley
Interviewer Thomas Troland
created 2010-04-20
cms record id 2010oh058_bik015
accession number 2010OH058 BIK 015
is part of Buffalo Trace Oral History Project (BIK003)
summary Maxine Wiley grew up on a farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. After fifty-four years, she retired from her position as a secretary at the former Ancient Age Distillery, now the Buffalo Trace Distillery. In this interview, Wiley describes her childhood on the farm and explains how she began working as a secretary at the distillery. She describes what it was like working there in the 1950s and 1960s. Wiley explains the nature of the work she did and talks about the bosses she had over the years, mentioning Colonel Blanton and Elmer Lee. She also shares anecdotes from the distillery and explains how the work culture and environment have changed over time. Wiley talks about the distillery's changes in ownership and describes the impact of these changes. In addition, she tells the interviewer how she would like to be remembered at the distillery.
Family farms
Traditional farming
Woodford County (Ky.)
Farm life
Work environment
local term Whiskey industry--Kentucky
local term Whiskey
local term Lee, Elmer T., 1919-
local term Blanton, Albert B. (Albert Bacon), 1881-1959
local term Women in the whiskey industry
local term Whiskey--Anecdotes
local term Distilleries--Kentucky
local term Distillers.
local term Buffalo Trace Distillery.
local term Bourbon whiskey
Rights Statement:
All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.
Interviews may only be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections and Digital Programs, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Source Metadata URI:
00048050 (2010oh058_bik015_wiley_ohm.xml)
Maxine Wiley is introduced. She gives a brief overview of her current life since her retirement from the Buffalo Trace Distillery. She talks about her impressions of Sally Gardner, Colonel Blanton's personal secretary, which lead to her desire to work at the distillery.
Partial Transcript: My name is Tom Troland.
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Colonel Albert B. Blanton
Sally Gardner
Wiley talks about her childhood growing up on a farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. She talks about her parents and siblings, working hard on the farm, and her father's death when she was fifteen. She talks about things she learned from her mother, including cooking skills and the importance of giving to the church.
Partial Transcript: Let's, let's consider a little bit about your early life before you came here and then we'll talk even more about what your career and what your life was like here at Buffalo Trace.
Family farms
Farm life.
Traditional farming
Woodford County (Ky.)
Kentucky River
Life lessons
Wiley talks about graduating high school and why she did not continue on to college. She talks about some of her early jobs, including clerical work for the construction company that was building National Distillers. She talks about how she came to work at the distillery now known as Buffalo Trace. She talks about her work in the engineering office, her impressions of Colonel Blanton, and the changes that occurred when the ownership of the distillery changed.
Partial Transcript: Where did you go to school?
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Women in the whiskey industry
Clerical work
Colonel Albert B. Blanton
Colonel Blanton
Engineering office
Great Depression
Millville School
National Distillers
National Distilling Company
Office work
Schenley Distillers Inc.
Woodford County High School
Work environment
Wiley describes the many bosses and general managers she worked for at the distillery throughout her long career. She talks about Bill Fairleigh, Elmer Lee, and Bob Baranaskas, among many others. She talks about her working relationship with each of these managers.
Partial Transcript: So you worked in the engineering office for many years.
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Women in the whiskey industry
Bill Fairleigh
Bob Baranaskas
Don Kelly
Dr. Jim Fox
Elmer T. Lee
Engineering office
General managers
Joe Darman
New York
Regional managers
Richard Wolfe
Sally Gardner
Working relationships
Wiley talks about some of the changes she witnessed at the distillery during her career. She talks about name changes, building the single barrel warehouse, and the effects of changes in ownership. She tells a story about an employee being locked in a warehouse overnight.
Partial Transcript: You worked for so many years that the distillery obviously saw many changes that occurred during that period of time.
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Ancient Age
Co-op students
Engineering office
Funny incidents
Local people
Locked in
One barrel warehouse
Single barrel warehouse
Work environment
Young people
Wiley talks about the garden at the distillery named in her honor. She talks about changes she has seen at the distillery throughout her career in regard to women employees. She tells a story about Christmas parties at the distillery in the early days, and describes the work environment there.
Partial Transcript: Now the area around this clubhouse is very beautifully maintained.
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Women in the whiskey industry
Colonel Albert B. Blanton
Colonel Blanton
Economy drive
Gift shops
Office jobs
Work environment
Wiley talks about what she would like to be remembered for at the distillery. She talks about her favorite bourbon, and mentions that her mother was concerned when she began working at the distillery. The interview concludes abruptly.
Partial Transcript: It's obvious that you're very well-remembered here at this facility.
Bourbon whiskey
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Ancient Ancient Age (AAA, Triple A)
Bourbon industry
Drinking bourbon
Elmer T. Lee
Locked in
Straight bourbon
TROLAND: My name is Tom Troland. I'm here today interviewing Maxine
Wiley. This is April 20, 2010. This is part of the Buffalo, uh,
Buffalo Trace Oral History Project, and we are located here at the
Buffalo Trace Distillery. Maxine, first of all thank you so much for
agreeing to sit down and talk with me.
WILEY: It's my pleasure.
TROLAND: Let's start with a simple question: just tell me a little bit
about yourself.
WILEY: Uh, now? Well, my husband's passed away, and I, uh, I operate
a small utility trailer business from my home. And, uh, I have one
grandchild that's a teacher at Beaumont Center, uh, Rosa Parks in
Lexington and one son that lives next door to me, and he makes my
life a lot
easier. He takes care of most of my yard work, and so I've
really enjoyed my retirement and, uh, have a comfortable home and a
good life. Uh, at first I didn't want to retire. I thought I would
need maybe a part-time job, but I've managed to work out finances and
I'm living very comfortably.
TROLAND: How long have you been retired?
WILEY: Four years and, uh, my husband passed away in '07, and, uh, that
changed my life a lot.
And, uh, but I've made new friends and I do
church work; stay as active as I can.
TROLAND: I want to ask you a question that might embarrass you--not
WILEY: (laughs) You better not. (laughs)
TROLAND: I was given some information about you prior to this interview
because I've not had the pleasure of meeting you before, and speaking
on behalf of the distillery, one of the items I was told is this: "We
all love her immensely."
WILEY: That's so nice.
TROLAND: Why do you think, why do you think people have such a wonderful
impression of you? What's one reason perhaps?
WILEY: Well, I love people. I try to put other people before
I did it when I worked here, you know. It was, uh, important to me to
help others all the time, and I've continued to try to do that still.
I try to help at least three people every day in some way, and, uh,
I've done that all my life or since I've been an adult. And it was
like a family when I came here to work. It was mostly local people--
now it's more international but it was local--and, uh, we just were like
a big family. And Colonel Blanton's secretary, uh, Sally Gardener, she
lived in my
community and we went to the same church. And, um, I was a
teenager and, and I would notice her because she always drove a new car,
had beautiful clothes. She'd go out of town to buy her clothes, and
I would think, I'd like to be like her. We all knew that she had such
a fabulous job as a private secretary to Colonel Blanton, and everyone
said that she made more money than the engineers and the professional
people; that he paid her really well. So that was my desire, to be
like Sally Gardener, and when I heard about an opening here I jumped
on it. And, uh, like I mentioned to you before, they hired
me, and
I think it was just kindly in a plan what I'd wished for basically
eventually happened. Even though I wasn't a private secretary, I took
her desk when she retired and, uh, stayed in that position for--hmm--
forty years. (laughs) And, uh, I, I've just--we were just, like I said,
a family, and that, uh, I still love all of them that I, you know,
worked with when I was here and, uh, get to see them as often as I can.
TROLAND: Let's, let's consider a little bit about your early life
you came here and then we'll talk even more about what your career and
what your life was like here at Buffalo Trace. Uh, tell me something
about your parents.
WILEY: My parents were, uh, uh, they lived on a farm. I was raised
on a farm. I was a baby of seven children, the youngest, and, uh, we
all had to work. I can remember--(laughs)--I couldn't--I was just big
enough to keep a bucket of water up off the ground, and I would have to
take water to all the field hands for them to, to drink. And, like I
say, I could just barely carry that bucket, but that was my job and I
had to do that. And, uh, we all worked. I've helped in tobacco and,
uh, I had responsibility of taking care of sheep, and, uh, that I, that
I enjoyed. Uh, we had a large farm and they would wander, and I'd have
to make the count of them and make sure they were all accounted for
at the end of the day. (laughs) They didn't let me have a lot of free
time, and, uh, uh, there was just something going on on the farm all
the time. And I couldn't wait to get off of it, but now I think how
wonderful it would be to go back and live on a farm.
TROLAND: Where was this farm?
WILEY: Woodford County, um, what they call "Little Germany".
I don't
know if you're familiar with, um, um--it's about nine miles from
Versailles and the same distance from Frankfort. It's close to--our,
our farm was on the, uh, Kentucky River, and, uh, it was just good
TROLAND: Tell me something about your dad. What was he like?
WILEY: My dad passed away when I was fifteen. Um, he, he never met a
stranger. I know when we'd get to--maybe once a week we'd go into town
for supplies and groceries. The minute he'd get out of the car, he'd
start talking to people, and,
uh, he, he just enjoyed life. He, uh,
worked hard. He also liked, uh, the product we have here. I remember
that, and, uh, but then he was sick a lot of the--he had a heart
condition, and at that time there wasn't a lot to be done for that. I
think they prescribed sulfa drugs or something like that, and that was
about it. So he died young, and, uh, there's not a lot of stories that
I can remember about him.
Uh, my mother was a hard worker. She was a seamstress and, and sewed
for all the women in the community. She made fabulous looking dress
suits, and it wasn't just, uh, flat sewing. I mean, it was extremely
hard, and, uh--excellent cook. She'd send me to the kitchen when I was
just, I was the only one at home not going to school, and she'd tell me
how to make, uh, potato soup and apple pie. That's what I started out
with; just real, real young. And, uh, they'd brag on it, and I thought,
"Well, I'm really good at this." And I know now why they bragged on me.
They wanted me to keep cooking, you know--(laughs)--but those are some
of my memories when I was just really young. And, uh, but I'm glad I
learned how to cook because I've had to do a lot of
it, and, uh--
TROLAND: What is something you learned from your mother that you took
into adult life?
WILEY: When I, when I got my first job she made sure that I took a
portion of my salary and gave to the church, and I would, I'd say, "Oh,
I, I don't want to do it. I don't--Unh-uh. I can't barely get by."
You know, she would say, "That's going to make a lot of difference in
your life if you will continue to give." And it's been such a
to me. I don't think you're supposed to talk about it, but I tithe my
income. I think that's how I managed to keep a job as long as I did.
The good Lord took care of me. I believe that, and it's just the
sole, a lesson that I really needed because she just kept insisting.
She had to work with me a while to get me to tithe, but that's the one
thing I remember that she didn't give up on.
TROLAND: Can you think of, of a story when you were young at home
involving either your, uh, one of your parents or one of
your brothers
or sisters? A funny story? Something that happened that was unusual
that you well remember?
WILEY: (laughs) Well, there was twins in my family, a boy and a girl,
and they were into everything. Um, they set the garden on fire.
They upset the whole family, you know, I mean, because it was a big
fire. Um, they would chase the animals and pull their tails, and,
uh, where some of us were afraid of the animals, they--(laughs)--they
weren't. They just got into everything. It really livened up the, the
household, you know, when they would never, never quit. They were just
always into something, and, uh, my mother always had a lot of
to tell about them. Um, I'm sure things happened constantly, but, uh,
I can't remember too many things about them. Uh--
TROLAND: Where did you go to school?
WILEY: I went to Millville, Millville School through the eighth grade
and then we were bused to Woodford County, Versailles School, and
that's where I met my husband. And, uh, we didn't have, uh, I really
wanted to go to college, but we just didn't have
the money, you know.
I was, uh, uh, came along right after the Great Depression. (laughs)
It made a big difference. We had, we had everything from the farm that
it could supply, but we didn't have material things and, uh, college
was just out of the question.
TROLAND: What interested you as a young person, um, as a teenager? What
was something that--apart from, perhaps going to college which turned
out not to be a, an option--what other kinds of things interested you
at that time? What did you think the future might bring you?
WILEY: Well, I, I really intended to be a
beautician. I liked, uh, uh,
doing my sisters' hair, you know, and my mother's, and that was pretty
much my plan. But I was an excellent typist, um, so that changed
my mind really because I loved typing. I mean, I was, it was just
something that I was really good at, and, uh, so that's why I started
doing clerical work. And, uh, it was--I didn't have transportation,
but National Distillers was about six miles from where I lived. And,
um, there was an opening at a construction company that was building
the, uh, warehouses at National, and I, I managed to get a job there
and stayed there until they completed their construction work. And
then the, uh, my boss got me a job at, um, national office as a file
clerk, but I could never, I just didn't like filing at all. So I
stayed there about a year and a half and then left and, uh, worked
at, uh, filled in for a friend of mine at the state of Kentucky, and,
uh, it was a new annex building. It had just been
built and, uh, tile
everywhere, you know, and I just, I just loved it. But the girl got
well and came back to work, so I was out of a job. And when I, that's
when I heard about this job at, uh, uh, Schenley.
TROLAND: Now how old were you at the time when you heard of the job at
this distillery, now Buffalo Trace?
WILEY: Twenty-three or--twenty-two or twenty-three, and I, I started
working. Like I said, I'd worked in that new annex that was just
fabulous. I walked into the office. That's where I would be working.
The floors were warped from floods. (laughs) The building looked like
it was about ready to fall down.
TROLAND: Now that's here at this distillery?
WILEY: That's here.
TROLAND: Yes. And what year was
WILEY: Fifty-two. Nineteen fifty-two. I thought, I'm getting my
Christmas expenses paid for and then I am out of here because it
look-, the building actually looked like it was going to fall down,
and they had a fan sitting up behind me where I worked. It was blowing
right down on my neck. That afternoon when I left work I could not
turn my head. I mean--(laughs)--I had the stiffest neck that ever
was. I thought, "How do these people work here?" (laughs) You know?
It was awful, and, uh, I got over the stiff neck eventually and got
used to the building. I had the best supervisors that ever was,
just--and I was actually having a lot of fun. You know, it was just,
uh, interesting
people, and, uh, I looked forward to coming in every
day. And, uh, the building didn't seem to matter anymore. They later
demolished it, but, you know, it was, uh--I never will forget how it
looked. It was just, uh, walk across the floor, you know, it was just
a mess--(laughs)--and that's where Colonel Blanton had his office, in
that building. And, uh, it has just always been a nice place.
TROLAND: Tell me a little bit about Colonel Blanton. He was here for a
brief time when you first began working. What are your recollections
of Colonel Blanton?
WILEY: (laughs) Well, he would come in--he had retired--and, uh, he
lived in the stone mansion up on the
hill. And, uh, he'd walk down
and come into the, his office every day, and he wore a little, uh, some
type of a visor; uh, had that on every day. Uh, and he'd walk through
the office, and I would just panic. I'd be scared to death of him.
I don't know why because he didn't pay any attention to me certainly,
but, uh, just the fact that I'd always heard of Colonel Blanton, uh,
he, he was just, uh, a very nice man, so I was told. Treated all the
employees just like they were part of his family, and, uh, but then he,
uh, he gradually quit coming around. And he didn't live real long after
he retired. Uh, but I, I worked in that office for about ten years.
TROLAND: That office being--
WILEY: The engineering office.
TROLAND: The engineering office. Yes.
WILEY: I think I enjoyed that, that job more than any. It was, uh,
it was so beneficial to me. Um, I learned how to do drafting, and I
didn't think I would ever use it but I did in, uh, when, um, Schenley
sold to the New York, uh, two men from New York--Baranaskas
and Falk-
-in '82. Schenley took every, all the paperwork and moved it to, um,
a Lawrenceburg, Indiana, plant. There was nothing left in the form
of forms or anything. We had to start from scratch, and I did all of
the forms, made them myself. And, uh, that's where the drafting was
really a benefit to me. Um, I don't know why they took everything,
all the paperwork when they left, bought it, you know, sold it, but
they did. So it kindly made it rough to have to start over
with all
new forms and, but that was a, that was a big change in the distillery.
They brought in computers for the first time, and, uh, I didn't expect
to keep a job, you know, because of, uh, I assumed that the computers
would--they said there'd be very little paperwork, you know. (laughs)
But it just increased, actually. So--
TROLAND: So you worked in the engineering office for many years?
TROLAND: For ten years. Yes.
WILEY: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. And then, uh, when Sally Gardener retired,
Colonel Blanton's secretary, they
offered the job to two other women
that had been here longer and were better--they'd had, uh, business
courses--and they were better qualified, but they didn't want to work
for the boss that we had at that time.
TROLAND: And what year was this roughly?
WILEY: Sixty-five. Nineteen sixty-five. (laughs) That's a long time
ago. Anyway, they turned it down. The other two, uh, that had more
seniority turned it down. Well, I took it. I mean, I didn't care.
You know? (laughs) And he was hard to work for, Bill Fairleigh.
TROLAND: Now Bill, Bill Farley?
F-a-i-r-l-e-i-g-h, Fairleigh.
TROLAND: Fairleigh. He was, in fact that--
WILEY: He was the regional manager. He was over our plant and the
other plants that I mentioned, and, um, he got me upset one day. I
just got up and walked out. I left. Never said anything to anybody,
and I had to talk myself into getting up the next morning and coming
back in because he had really hurt my feelings. Well, I, I--from that
day forward, he was the nicest person to--I just loved him dearly. He
was just so good to me. I guess that's what it took, just getting up
and walking out, and
I often wondered why the other women thought they
couldn't get along with him because we just got along fine. But, uh,
I never walked out again because--(laughs)--I knew better, but, uh,
at that time it didn't bother me. I thought, Well, if I lose my job
so what? I was younger, and I knew I could get one somewhere. So,
but, uh, I had--after that I just--I must have had about eight bosses,
different bosses and liked them all.
TROLAND: So beginning in, uh, 1965, your position here was as the
secretary to the--
WILEY: General manager.
TROLAND: --general manager of the distillery? Yes.
WILEY: Um-hm.
TROLAND: And there were eight such--approximately--eight such general
managers during the time you worked here?
WILEY: Um-hm. Elmer Lee--of course he was, he was my boss in
engineering and then after, when Bill Fairleigh retired Elmer took that
position, so he was my boss again and a great man.
TROLAND: Tell us a little bit of what it was like to work with Elmer
T. Lee.
WILEY: Well, I thought a lot of him. I thought a lot of him. He, he
wanted everything done just right, just perfect, and I learned to make
sure that I did the best I could do on any jobs that he
asked me to do
or doing letters and different things, you know. I just had to make
sure I got them just right, but he was very understanding. And, uh,
I know in 1969 they had an economy drive--or I don't know if they sold
the plant, the distillery, or if it was an economy drive. I, I can't
remember which--but it was his responsibility to let so many employees
go. It was such a drastic cutback, and I'd been here at that time, I
think, seventeen years. They sold the company, but I, I can't remember
who bought it. Anyway, I remember
Elmer, I asked him one day, I said,
"Will I get to keep my job?" And he had tears in his eyes. He said,
"I'm not sure." He, he was just a big-hearted, generous person, and
I've just adored him all through the years. And he stayed my boss
until, uh, eighty, '82 when the New York men bought us, and they kept
him on as a consultant, Elmer. And, uh, there wasn't--they let all
the hourly people go at that
time, and there was about seventeen people
for the office to do all the office work. And, uh, they didn't paint
us a very good picture at all, you know. They didn't have much money,
and we just had to do a lot harder work than we'd ever done before
but there was always fun. You know, you can, I know--(laughs)--Mr.
Baranaskas, he spent probably the first year here at the distillery.
He'd go home to New York on weekends, but he was--
TROLAND: Now who was he?
WILEY: Bob Baranaskas. He was one of the men that bought the
distillery, and,
uh, he would dictate to me. He'd call me in to
take a letter. Well, he would just go so fast I couldn't keep up
with him. I'd get so nervous. I'd be squirming and trying to think,
hope I could remember what he said. He was going so fast. Then he'd
say--after I'd worked with it all afternoon trying to decipher what I
had taken down in shorthand--he'd say, "You don't have to worry with
that. I just wanted to learn how to dictate." I'd squirmed and got
so upset and thought sure it was a letter that he intended for me to
mail, you know, get ready and mail out, but he was just always thinking
of something like that to do
to somebody. And, uh, he made it a lot
more interesting, you know, uh, doing things, but he was very nice
to me. And, uh, he has since been--he was killed recently, uh, in an
airplane, uh, uh, accident, flying his own plane, and that upset me.
He was a very nice person.
TROLAND: Who was another general manager of the distillery while you
worked here that you remember particularly well or were particularly
fond of?
WILEY: Well, there was Don Kelley. He's now,
um, um, plant manager at,
uh, Owensboro Distillery, uh, that I think Buffalo Trace has recently
bought. Um, he, he was, uh, hired by Bob Baranaskas. They had worked
together at Fleischman's, and, uh, Don moved here. He was about
thirty-six years old when he, when he came here, and, of course, I was
getting up in years. And that was a concern, trying to mesh gears with
a younger, much younger boss, but he was such a gentleman and real
to be around and work for and, uh, just, just sort of turned out to be
one of the better bosses that I had and, uh, very considerate. Uh--
TROLAND: Who was the last general manager with whom you worked?
WILEY: Richard Wolf. I think he left last year. Uh, then there was a
doctor, uh, before him, Jim Fox. I remember, uh, after Jim Fox left
they interviewed, uh, Mr. Brown, interviewed,
uh, two or three people,
and his secretary gave me their names and she named Richard Wolf. I
said, "Well, we've had so many animals here," I said, "they'll hire
Richard Wolf"--(laughs)--and sure enough, they did. My, the boss
before him was Jim Fox and then Richard Wolf and, uh, then Joe Darmon.
He was here for about ten years and moved here from Massachusetts,
and, uh, he had worked for Bob Baranaskas before. And he was very
nice. Um, I've had a lot of good bosses through the
TROLAND: You worked for so many years that the distillery obviously saw
many changes that occurred during that period of time. What is one
change that you saw that you thought was interesting or significant
during the time you worked here?
WILEY: Well, I think changing the name of the distillery, uh, from
Ancient Age to Buffalo Trace, I thought that was very interesting.
Um, I liked that change, and, uh, I think building the one-barrel
warehouse, they started building that shortly after I came to work
here. And they had to meet a deadline on
it, and they worked around
the clock. Uh, they, they had lights set up where they could work at
night just like they did in the daytime, and, um, then they had, um,
oh, they had a problem finding a mason to do the stone work. And, um,
they went all over the country trying to find somebody to--that could
do that type work, and I was in the engineering at that time and knew
quite a bit about what was going on with it. And I found that very
interesting. And, uh, they had, uh, they hired co-ops in engin-, when
I was, you know, at
that time, and they'd have these young men that-
-(laughs)--were still in school. And, uh, I don't know. It was just
a lot of fun actually to work with young people like that, and, uh, I
never will forget one of the co-ops came up. He didn't want anybody to
hear him, and he'd say, "How do you spell barrel?" (laughs) Couldn't,
couldn't spell at all, you know, and then they thought the corn, they'd
asked, uh, Do they bring the corn in on the cob? (laughs) You just
remember little things like that that were just
humorous, and, uh--
TROLAND: In all the years that you were here many things happened; some
major, some minor; no doubt some other funny stories or little things
that, little instances that occurred. Can you think of a, of a funny
incident or a story, uh, that happened here at the distillery that
someone, during the time that you were here?
WILEY: Well, there were so many, but, uh, I actually wish I could just
think of one thing that was outstanding.
No. I'm sorry, but I just
can't think of any one thing that was--
TROLAND: Well, if such a story comes to your mind in a few minutes--
WILEY: Oh, one, one thing. They locked an employee up in the warehouse.
Maybe Ronnie told this. I don't know. He was locked up overnight in
the warehouse, and the next morning when they unlocked the warehouses
he was laid out drunker than a lord and was happy as could be. You
know, he had really had a good time in that warehouse, and, uh, since
then I think they made sure they never locked anybody else up because
there wasn't any way for him to get
out back then, you know. And, uh,
that was quite a story at that time. Uh--
TROLAND: What about the work environment--(clears throat)--that you
experienced? Did you notice over the years that you were here at
the distillery any changes in the work environment, changes in the
attitudes of people who worked here or changes in the type of people
who worked here?
WILEY: Well, it did change. Um, when I, when I first came it was local,
all local people, and it, it gradually
changed to more international.
And, uh, of course as they, as they, uh, the payroll enlarged, you
know, it was, um, a lot more people and definitely not as family-type
business as before. Um, and then, uh, I think when, uh, Sazerac bought
us they were more, intended to go more international and brought in
more people from
everywhere. So it definitely changed at that time,
um, which was--they always hired good people and, uh, nice to be
around, and, and then, uh, gave more tours, and that, that changed the
distillery. And at one time, I just thought the distillery was dying;
it was just going to close down completely.
TROLAND: What time was that?
WILEY: That was, um, in the early eighties, and, uh, uh, Bob Baranaskas
and Ferdie Falk helped the distillery ten years and then the Japanese
and Sazerac bought
us, and, um, that, that was a complicated situation.
The Japanese owned part of it and Sazerac owned part of it, and the
government couldn't even understand how to do government forms and all.
It really--(laughs)--it really got complicated, and, um, I know I had
to work with the government, federal government on it a lot and they
couldn't understand how one of them could own the brand names and trade
names and the other one owned the property. And
it complicated the
paperwork, but we eventually got it worked out and everything running
smooth again. So that was a good move really for the distillery.
They did a lot of beautification and, um, changed it; did a complete
TROLAND: Now the area around this clubhouse is very beautifully
maintained. I'm told that somewhere on the grounds is a garden named
for you. Where is that garden?
WILEY: It's, um, it's right beyond the, um, gift shop, between the gift
shop and the clubhouse.
TROLAND: And when was that garden named for you?
TROLAND: And when did you retire?
WILEY: March of '06. And, uh, I'm very proud of it. They've changed
the, uh, they've changed the garden two or three times, and the
last--they've recently done it. I haven't stopped to look at it, but
I'm going to on my way out--but, uh, I was told that it looked like I
was buried there. It was on a, a plaque was on a rock--(laughs)--and
they said, "Well, it looks like you're buried there." I said, "Well,
they should have given me a plot, too, as many years as I've worked."
(laughs) But now they've changed it, so I don't know if it still looks
like I'm buried there or not. But,
uh, anyway, I'm, I'm proud of it.
TROLAND: So your career here began in 1952 and you retired in 2006.
That's a very long time. When you first began working here how many
other women, to your recollection, were working here?
WILEY: Well, like I said, Colonel, Colonel Blanton's private secretary,
um, retired schoolteachers--I think we had two retired schoolteachers
working--and, um, they all looked real old to me when I started
working here, and I've often thought how young people coming in--
(laughs)--before I retired, how they had to think, "Gosh, she must be
ancient." But
that's the way I felt about these older women that I
started working with, but they were all so nice and after you've worked
with them a little bit you didn't think anything at all about their
age. Um, they, there was a lot of women here, but of course I don't
know how many. But, uh, they were all qualified, most of them well-
educated, and, uh, all of them were nice to me.
TROLAND: What was the work environment for a woman here early in your
career? Do you feel in
particular that women were respected and their
efforts valued by the distillery?
WILEY: Uh, yes. I, I would say yes; probably more so then, then at that
time, than in later years. They, uh, they just showed more respect at
that time, and, uh, it was so different back then because--well, one
thing, we had parties. I mean, like, I couldn't believe it. My first
Christmas here, on Christmas, the last day we worked before Christmas
they started
partying at, like, eight o' clock. You walked in and
before you got your coat off somebody was saying, "We're all set up
over--come over and have a drink with us." Now, at eight o' clock in
the morning you started drinking. By lunchtime--(laughs)--the party
was really going, you know, and, uh, of course that ch-, that changed.
That had to change, but back then it didn't make any difference. Bars
were just set up in all the offices and I couldn't believe how it, how
it was, but I never will forget it. I mean, it was just a lot of fun
to, to party back then, you know, and, uh, they'd,
uh, by the end of
the day not everybody had a car to get home. And, uh, the engineers
would, uh, kid each other, and they'd load all the drunks up in a car.
And, uh, they said, "We didn't have any brakes so we just had to slow
down in front of their house and roll them out into their front yard,"
and I believed it, of course. I thought that's what happened because
they were usually all sauced, you know, just, uh, by the end of the
day. People couldn't even get home. (laughs) I mean, should I be
telling that? But that's the way it was, and, uh, didn't seem to be
anything wrong with it. They did let you party after you worked hard,
and, uh, so that was
unusual. And they, they gave bonuses years ago
to employees, and my first Christmas I got eleven dollars. And, uh, I
thought that was the best thing that ever was to get in on a bonus, you
know, and then they discontinued them. They didn't give them anymore
after that first year, so everything changed. And, uh, I even remember
my salary when I came; forty-eight dollars and fifty cents a week.
I thought that was really something and had to pay a babysitter, and
I commuted from Versailles. By the time I paid a sitter
and bought
gasoline, I had nothing left hardly, and they had the first economy
drive and, uh, the general manager, Orville Schupp, came up to my desk
and said, "Now, don't you worry. We're not going to let you go." He
said, "We're keeping you." I was so proud of that. I told some of the
engineers. They said, "Well, why would they get rid of you? You're
working free--forty-eight dollars and fifty cents a week." (laughs) So
that inflated me right there. You know, I thought the boss was just
being so nice to me by keeping me, and, uh, they took the wind out of
my sails. (laughs)
TROLAND: In the latter years working here at the
distillery, did
you have the feeling that attitudes towards women working at this
distillery were distinctly different from the early years or not?
WILEY: I don't think I noticed too much, you know. Uh, I know through
the years they had more, uh, women supervisors in, you know, recent
years, and, uh, they were very respectful for women. But, I mean,
other than that I don't think I noticed too much difference. Uh--
TROLAND: It's obvious that you're very
well-remembered here at this
facility. I witnessed the garden has been named in your honor.
If sometime in the future someone wrote a history of Buffalo Trace
Distillery and if your name was mentioned somehow in that story, what
would you like to be remembered for?
WILEY: I was definitely loyal to the company. I worked when I was sick.
I don't think I took a sick day for twenty years. I maybe had to be
off for, with my child, but for myself I worked sick. Um, just, just
fact that I tried to be a loyal employee would mean more to me than
most anything.
TROLAND: Do you drink bourbon yourself?
WILEY: Sociably. Uh, my favorite brand was Triple A.
TROLAND: And what is Triple A?
WILEY: Ancient Ancient Age. To me that had such a smooth flavor and
taste, and, uh, and they were bottling that when I came here. And,
uh, it was just a favorite, but I like Buffalo Trace. I try to keep
a bottle of that,
and, uh, my mother thought I would be an alcoholic.
She didn't want me to start working here, but, uh, I, I didn't have
any problem with it and don't to this day. I try not to have any
habits that I can't control. So I can, uh, enjoy a drink as often as,
you know, whenever I have friends in or--and it doesn't bother me.
TROLAND: So you're confident that had you been accidently locked into
the warehouse one night you would not have over-consumed?
WILEY: I don't, I don't know. I probably would have. (laughs) I
there are snakes in that warehouse, and, uh, I'd probably want to drink
just to overcome my fear. (laughs)
TROLAND: Some bourbon enthusiasts say that you should always drink your
bourbon straight, uh, but I recently learned that Elmer T. Lee himself,
uh, likes to take his bourbon with Sprite. So how do you take your
WILEY: I always preferred 7-Up. Uh, I, I like that. Um--
TROLAND: Is there anything else that you'd like to say that I haven't
asked you?
WILEY: Well, I think you've covered it pretty
good. Um, I, I couldn't
say enough good things about this distillery. I really couldn't.
Um, it was just such a big part of my life for so many years, and my
memories are all good. I just maybe cared too much for people really
because it, it hurt me so when I had to retire and leave them. But,
uh, I enjoy reading about the distillery now and,
uh, all the bourbon
books. I, of course, know so many people. I enjoy looking at them.
I try to keep all the, um, magazines that I can get my hands on of the
bourbon industry, and, um, I enjoy seeing Elmer Lee and Harlen.
[End of interview.]