Media Files
Interview with Alice B. Blanton, October 30, 2008
Bourbon in Kentucky: Buffalo Trace Oral History Project
Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
Interviewee Alice B. Blanton
Interviewer Thomas Troland
created 2008-10-30
cms record id 2009oh025_bik005
accession number 2009OH025 BIK005
is part of Buffalo Trace Oral History Project (BIK003)
summary Alice B. Blanton, of Frankfort, Kentucky, was born in 1918. She is the daughter of James Bacon Blanton and the niece of Colonel Albert B. Blanton, former president of the distillery now called Buffalo Trace. Blanton received a degree in mathematics from the University of Kentucky and worked for her father's construction company in Frankfort. In this interview, Blanton describes members of her family, including her father, mother and Uncle Albert, and recalls playing on the grounds of the distillery as a child. She talks about her life, describing her education and career. In addition, Blanton talks about the town of Frankfort and describes the effects that major events, including the Great Depression and Prohibition, had on Frankfort's citizens.
George T. Stagg Distillery
Albert B. Blanton
local term Buffalo Trace Distillery
local term Whiskey
local term Whiskey industry--Kentucky
local term Prohibition.
local term Blanton, Albert B. (Albert Bacon), 1881-1959
local term Depressions--1929--Kentucky
local term Frankfort (Ky.)
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:
00048045 (2009oh025_bik005_blanton_ohm.xml)
Alice Blanton is introduced. She talks about her father, James Bacon Blanton. She talks about her childhood memories of the George T. Stagg Distillery (now called Buffalo Trace), including learning to roller skate on the property. She talks about the workers she remembers there during Prohibition and their means of transportation to the distillery.
Partial Transcript: My name is Tom Troland and today we are interviewing Alice Bacon Blanton who is the niece of Albert Bacon Blanton.
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Frankfort (Ky.)
George T. Stagg Distillery
James Bacon Blanton
Lumber milling
Model T
Roller skating
Blanton describes her family home and the people who lived there when she was a child. She talks about the many beech trees that were once on the property.
Partial Transcript: Tell me a little bit about the house where you lived.
Beech trees
Great grandfathers
Land grants
Blanton describes her mother and father and their personalities. She tells stories about her parents, including how she learned the truth about Santa Claus. She also talks about her sister.
Partial Transcript: Tell me a little bit about your parents.
Head of household
Life lessons
World War II
Blanton talks about her uncle, Albert B. Blanton, former president of the distillery now called Buffalo Trace. She talks about his personality, his feelings on being called "Colonel Blanton," and her memory of him moving into an apartment at the distillery.
Partial Transcript: Now there was, uh, someone else living, of course, in that house when you were very young, namely Albert B. Blanton of, uh, bourbon fame.
Frankfort (Ky.).
Albert B. Blanton
Aunt Betsy
Colonel Blanton
Mr. Rosensteel
Blanton talks about how the city of Frankfort was affected by the end of Prohibition and the revival of bourbon distilleries in the area. She talks more about her childhood memories of the distillery.
Partial Transcript: By that time obviously he had been working at the distillery for some time.
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
Frankfort (Ky.).
Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Albert B. Blanton
Mac Miller
Blanton discusses why she chose to study mathematics in college, how she was treated as the only female student in her classes, and how she has used her degree in her life since graduation.
Partial Transcript: Where did you go to college?
College students--Social conditions
Universities and colleges.
University of Kentucky
Women in higher education.
Dr. Cohen
Blanton talks about the Johnson family, and how several of the family members have worked at the distillery over the years. She talks about her memories of World War II, including rolling bandages for the Red Cross.
Partial Transcript: Uh, you said that you knew, uh, uh, some of the members of the Johnson family.
World War, 1939-1945--Women
Bridge (card game)
J. B. Blanton Company
Jimmy Johnson, Sr.
Johnson family
Red Cross
World War II
Blanton says that she was too young to attend her Uncle Albert Blanton's parties, but did attend many family dinners during which his cooking skills were displayed.
Partial Transcript: Did you ever develop a taste for bourbon yourself?
Bourbon whiskey
Family dinners
Blanton talks about how her father's businesses were started, and talks about working for him as a bookkeeper after finishing college. She talks about how her father's businesses survived the Great Depression.
Partial Transcript: I have a question about the--your dad's company.
Great Depression
James Bacon Blanton
Kentucky River
Plaster mills
Works Progress Administration (WPA)
Blanton talks about how her grandfather became involved in the bourbon business after first serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The interview is concluded.
Partial Transcript: Is there anything else you'd like to say that I haven't asked you?
Buffalo Trace Distillery.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
Whiskey industry--Kentucky
Albert B. Blanton
Bourbon business
Confederate Army
Confederate bonds
Gold rush
TROLAND: My name is Tom Troland and today we are interviewing Alice
Bacon Blanton, who is the niece of Albert Bacon Blanton. It is October
30, 2008. This is part of the Buffalo Trace Oral History Project and
we are here at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. First of all, thank you
so much for participating in this interview.
BLANTON: You're welcome.
TROLAND: Let me begin by asking just a very general question: tell me
something about yourself.
BLANTON: Well, I was born June 10, 1918, I've lived in Frankfort all
my life, and I, uh, worked for--all my work in life was for my father,
James Bacon Blanton, at a lumber and building material firm. And, uh,
we--before, I, I started working there in the summer of
1939, but I
can remember, uh, I used to work in the summertime, and I was familiar
with it. And, and I remember distinctly when Prohibition was repealed,
and Frank Messer and Sons started building warehouses for the then
George T. Stagg Company and build-, uh, business certainly picked up.
(laughs) It had been very slow up until that time. And, uh, what else
would you like to know about me?
TROLAND: Well, many things. Uh--
TROLAND: Tell us a little about--since you bought that topic up--a
little bit about this time in your life when you were a young girl and
Prohibition had just ended. What did you know about Prohibition? How
did it affect you?
BLANTON: Well, uh, not at all, really, as far as I knew. Um, I used
to come down to the distillery when I was a little girl and play. I
learned to roller skate here because we didn't have--we had a short
concrete walk at home, wasn't long enough for me to learn to roller
skate, but there was enough concrete down here, so that's where I
learned to roller skate. Um, the, I can remember the--there, there
was only a handful of people working here: Uncle Albert and, uh, Jimmy
Johnson--that's the father of the present Jimmy Johnson--and Benno
(??) Johnson and Fithian True (??) and Mack (??) Miller, who used to
drive the, a car--they didn't have station wagons in those days, but
it looked like the, uh, the (laughs) father of the station wagon.
And, uh, Miss Fannie Gray was the, uh, uh, secretary, typist, lady of
all work in the office, and those are the only people that I remember
here. I'm sure there may have been a few more, but very few. And,
uh, everybody came down on the streetcar. The streetcar came down
from town, came down the middle of, of, Wilkinson Street, and then came
across our front field, across the road about where the entrance to the
distillery is. Came along the side of the, uh, hill on the left-hand
side as you approach the distillery, and everybody came there. And
also everybody who lived in Leestown, as we called this area then,
traveled back and forth. We came back and forth. Our laundress came
on the streetcar, our, m-, our nurse came on the streetcar, and, uh,
Pro-, during Prohibition, there simply were not enough people coming
down here to justify the continuation of it. But it, uh, originally
it came down to the, uh, where the, then the railroad track ramp had
a turnaround and came back to town, but they discontinued it, and my
father went out and bought three Model T Fords. (laughs) And that,
after that, that's the way we--one for himself, one for my mother,
and one for the old man who lived on the place: the man of all work,
Uncle Joe Lindsay (??). And Mother had a hard time learning to drive,
and Daddy had a hard time learning to drive, but Uncle Joe jumped
right in his car and--(laughs)--and drove right off with no problem at
all. And, uh, we drove acro-, or up the road, just from chughole to
chughole to chughole until we got to town.
What was your earliest memory of coming here to the distillery
BLANTON: Just, uh, just coming down to, to, uh, to learn to skate, and
then as, uh, Uncle Albert moved down here in, uh, in an apartment in
the back of the, uh, office when I was eight years old. And I would
come down to see--he had a Chow dog who bit people, (laughs) and
he also raised gamecocks. And, uh, he would give us chewing gum--
(laughs)--if we stopped in to see him, and that was--but I, I didn't, I
didn't come down frequently. I just, every now and then.
TROLAND: Tell me a little bit about the house where you lived, which is
a very old house in this area.
BLANTON: Well, my great-grandfather built it in
1818, and that's
documented in the family Bible. And there, there was, uh, it, the land
itself was a land grant to Hancock Lee, and my great-grandfather bought
it. He was not on the tax rolls in 1808 but was in 1814, so he bought
it sometime in that time. And, uh, there, there was a house on the
property, and the--he tore down all but one room and attached the rest
of the house onto it, and originally it was a, a living room, dining
room, bedroom downstairs, and two bedrooms and an upstairs storage room,
and a full attic and a full basement,
and an upstairs gallery and a
downstairs gallery. And the galleries were enclosed to make a kitchen
and to make bathrooms. There, there was a, uh, stone kitchen in, in
the back, uh, attached to the house by a walkway, but that was torn
down before I was born. And the present house in the back, which was,
uh, a laundry room and a dairy room downstairs and servants' quarters
upstairs, servants' quarters that--and there was a bathroom downstairs.
TROLAND: Why was the house called "Beeches"?
BLANTON: Because there were a number of old beeches there, and evidently
enough that, that they dominated the front yard. And I can remember
when I was a child there were still three of them left, but they were
in bad condition,
and one by one, they fell over. And, uh, my father
replaced them with three European beeches, and one of those was--uh,
is gone. The last beech tree fell over and fell on top of the European
beech, so there were two beeches gone. And I replaced that with one,
and we lost--really there's just the skeleton of one of them left that,
that was, uh, denuded this summer with that s-, winds-, heavy windstorm.
TROLAND: Have you lived in that house for your whole life?
TROLAND: And who, who was living there, uh, among your family when you
were very young?
BLANTON: My mother and father;
Uncle Albert Blanton; my aunt, Miss
Elizabeth Dudley Blanton; and my, uh, grandmother had lived there, but
she died, uh, the winter before I was born. So when, and when--and my
mother and father, of course--and, but when, uh, my mother and father
were married in, in 1916, and my grandmother was still living then.
TROLAND: Tell me a little bit about your parents. You've spoken a
little bit about your father and his business, but what was your, for
example, what was your father like? What kind of a man was he?
BLANTON: Well, he was, uh, the, the most--I've, I've never had any doubt
but that the most important thing in my father's life was my mother and
me, and my sister, and our welfare. And he was, uh,
a serious man. He
was the oldest of his family. His father died when he was fourteen,
and Uncle Albert was just about two years old then, and he had, uh,
this, he--there were four brothers and two sisters, and Daddy was the
oldest. And when, uh, Mother, uh, before Mother was married, uh, my
grandmother and my Aunt Betsy went to call on my Grandmother Roberts.
And Grandmother s-, Roberts said, uh, "Ida is, is, is a lovely young
woman, but she is a little spoiled." And Grandmother Blanton said,
"Spoiled? You should
see Bacon. When, uh, her, his father died, he
became the head of the household, and I trained the children to stand
up when he came into the room." (laughs) So he, he was the head. He
was forty-nine when I was born, so he had been hea-, and he died when
he was eighty-three--so he was head of the household for many years,
almost seventy years. And, uh, Mother was, uh, when she--her fa-, when
she was twelve years old, her father moved here from Eddyville with the
Hoge-Montgomery Company. And, uh, she went to Science Hill and then
went to Wellesley, graduated from Wellesley, and came home and taught
at Frankfort High School until
she married. And, uh--
TROLAND: What was your mother like? How would you describe her in a
few words?
BLANTON: She was bright and funny. She was really the most intelligent
person that I've ever known, and very good company. And, as I say,
very funny, not deliberately--witty--(laughs)--and, uh, and very,
very well-read and, uh, expressed herself well, very eloquent and, uh,
little and redheaded.
TROLAND: Can you think of a story about something that
happened in your
family involving your mo-, your mother or your father or both?
BLANTON: Well, I can tell you, I can tell you one of my last memories
of Mother. It was--Thanksgiving dinner was our big family dinner, and,
uh, my sister and her husband and her, uh, three children were there.
And, uh, Mother looked around the table as the, uh, dinner was drawing
to a close, and she said, "Oh, I have so much to be thankful for."
She said, "Here are my daughters and my, my son-in-law, and my dear
grandchildren, and this wonderful meal that Corinne (??) has prepared
for us, and I'm just as thankful as I could be." And everybody smiled
and started eating dessert, and I was sitting by her, and she looked
over at me and said out of the corner of her mouth, "And I have a lot
to complain about." (laughs)
TROLAND: What do you think she had to complain about?
BLANTON: (laughs) Well, she, she was eighty, and she, she had the, all
the things that you have when you get to be eighty; you know, her knee
hurt, and, and she got tired easily, and, and, uh, and just, just all
the--all old people, I'll tell you this, and you'll know it (laughs)
when you get to be as old as I am--people, all old people have lots of
things to complain about. (laughs)
TROLAND: What is, uh--(clears throat)--excuse me--(clears throat)--let's
try again. Can you think of a, of a lesson or something, something
important that you've learned from your parents that you've taken, uh,
with you through
BLANTON: Well, I, I had the--I never knew either of them to do anything
dishonorable, and they never--they told us the truth. And I can
remember when, just for instance, when I was a little, little girl, I
climbed up on my father's knee and said, "Daddy, is there a Santa Claus?
I have to know." And he said, "No, Alice Bacon, there isn't." And the
reason I had to know was because there had been a series of burglaries
in this area, and I heard a good deal about it from the, uh, ser-, the
servants' quarters. And I thought that--it was nearing Christmastime--
if a little man in a red suit
came down the chimney and there wasn't any
Santa Claus, then it was a burglar, and I wanted to yell. And if there
was a Santa Claus, I wanted to act like I was asleep and let him leave
his presents, and that's why I had to know. And Daddy told me the
truth then, and he did--and mother did, too--all the rest of my life.
TROLAND: Was there any particular reason why you asked your father that
question rather than your mother?
BLANTON: (laughs) No, he was just, he was just available when it
occurred to me. But, uh, they, they were, uh, as I say, Daddy was, uh,
forty-nine when I was born, and Mother was twenty-nine, and they were
at home in the evening.
They, they were, they were there. They, uh--
TROLAND: Tell me a little bit about your sister.
BLANTON: Well, my sister, uh, is, lives in Florida now. She was six
years younger than I was. She, uh, went to Margaret Hall School and
to Randolph-Macon. She married, uh--she was, uh, a college girl, a
young girl, during World War II, and her husband, uh, left Vanderbilt
to go into the Navy, came back and finished at the University of
Kentucky, went, went through, uh, to medical school at the University
of Louisville, then did his residence at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in
New York. And he was the, uh, chief pathologist and head of staff at
Jewish Hospital in Louisville, and they
lived in Louisville until he
retired, and then they moved to, uh, Longboat (??) Key, Florida. And,
uh, Ellen's (??) a bridge player, as I was, and they were, her whole
family were great tennis players; the bo-, one son and one daughter
were, uh, champion, Ken-, state champions from age to age as they grew
up. We had a tennis court when I was a child, and Ellen (??) was a
good player then. I was very poor; all I could do was just lob the
ball over the net. I, I could run after it, but I--and I could hit it,
but I couldn't, uh, guide where it went. I wasn't a very good, uh, I
wasn't very athletic.
TROLAND: Now, there was, uh, someone else living, of course, in that
house when you were very young, namely Albert B.
Blanton of--
BLANTON: Uh-huh.
TROLAND: --uh, bourbon fame. What were your earliest recollections of
your uncle living in, in, in that house?
BLANTON: Well, Uncle Albert was, uh, also funny--(laughs)--and good
company, and I amused him, and I remember that he laughed at me. And,
uh, I remember I didn't like (laughs) being laughed at very much. I
c-, I remember one thing: that I adored butter. And, uh, we always
had a butter plate with a pat of butter on it, and once when I thought
nobody was looking, I put the whole pat of butter in my mouth, and he
howled with la--(laughing)--I don't know why that amused him so, and,
and, and then I, I can remember crying because he laughed at me. But,
uh, uh, he was--it was fun having him there. He, he w-, he, he was
really a charmer, (laughs) there's no d-, and then
my Aunt Betsy taught
the fifth grade, and, and I adored her. And, uh, she was, uh, she was
nearer my fa-, Daddy, let's say his father was fourteen when he died,
Daddy was fourteen when his father died, my Aunt Betsy was twelve, and
Uncle Albert was two, so there was ten years' difference between Uncle
Albert and my Aunt Betsy, and twelve--but, uh, he had, Uncle Albert
had, uh, when he moved down here in the apartment, there were a group
of bachelors that, that used to meet down there on weekends and cook;
they liked--and, uh, he was friendly with them then. There, there
was Mr. Mason Brown, whose sister gave the Orlando Brown house as
a museum house,
and, and, uh, Mr. John Selbert and his family still
own Selbert's Store and, uh, a friend named Captain Wiley--and what he
was captain of, I don't know--and, uh, Mr. Jordan Hoge, spelled J-o-
r-d-a-n. In those days, J-o-r-d-a-n was pronounced "Jerdan." (laughs)
You know, you, in the Bible, the river was the River "Jerdan," and Mr.
"Jerdan," and the Hoges, there are still Hoges in Frankfort. John
Mothman's (??), it's that same Hoge family. And--
TROLAND: What was Colonel Blanton a colonel of?
BLANTON: This was something that, uh, Mr. Rosensteel (??) did. He
was a Kentucky Colonel, and Mr. Rosensteel (??) wanted him to be
called, always spoke of him as "Colonel Blanton." And it embarrassed
Uncle Albert because there, at that time there
were, uh, during and
after World War II, there were colonels and, and majors and so forth
who had really earned the, the title, but, uh, for Mis-, but for Mr.
Rosensteel (??) it was, uh, uh, a publicity thing, I think. But he
was actually the colonel of nothing.
TROLAND: So your Uncle Albert never really liked to be called "Colonel."
TROLAND: How old were you when he moved out to his, uh, apartment on the
BLANTON: I was eight years old.
TROLAND: And why did he move out at that time?
BLANTON: Because we moved, we, uh, we moved to town to housesit for a
friend of
my mother's family for the winter, because she wanted to be
in town for the winter. We went to school in town. We di-, there was
a f-, an eight-room, I mean a one-room, eight-grade schoolhouse right
across the road from us, but we, my father played Jewish, and they
took us to the city schools. And, uh, Mother took us back and forth
to school, and I think she just wanted to be in town where her family
was and where the schools were for the winter. And when we moved in
town for the winter, my Aunt Betsy moved in, into town, to an apartment
in town, and he moved down to, uh, the apartment in the distillery,
attached to the office in the distillery.
TROLAND: By that time, obviously, he had been working at the distillery
for some time. Do you have an idea what his position
was in the
distillery at that time?
BLANTON: I, I think that at one time when it, when it was at its lowest,
I think he owned it for a short while when--(laughing)--I was going
to say when it was just bottling a little medicinal whiskey and, and
wasn't worth very much. And then, uh, Schenley acquired it when, uh,
when Prohibition was repealed. And, uh, it was, as I say, it was just
a, a renaissance for Frankfort, because there was not only, uh, George
T. Stagg Company, but, uh, uh, Old Taylor and Old Crow in Millville,
and, uh, the--and it's a shame that they, they're no
longer operating.
And then, uh, Labrot and Graham just over the line in Woodford County,
so, and, uh, so, so many of the citizens in Frankfort were, who were
unemployed were employed in the distilleries and by the construction
workers who were building new warehouses. And I can remember that
there was, uh, one minister in town who was very much opposed to not
only the drinking of whiskey but the manufacture of whiskey, and he
would, on Sundays, he would, uh, preach against it, and his flock left
in droves. (laughs) And, uh, my family were Episcopalians, and the,
I guess it
was the largest church with the smallest congregation in
Frankfort, but, uh, the co-, the congregation swelled (laughs) when,
when, uh, the, the, with members of, of this other church. (laughs)
TROLAND: So I gather your family did not attend the church that this
particular preacher preached at.
BLANTON: No. (laughs) I'd say they were, they were lifelong
Episcopalians, and, uh--
TROLAND: We talked a little bit, uh, about your recollections of
Prohibition, coming down to the distillery from time to time. Any other
thoughts about what you've, what you were thinking when you came to the
distillery? Just to play, of course, but what impressions did you have?
BLANTON: I was so young. I just, it was just a place to come and play,
and there, there
really wasn't very much going on. As I say, one of
the people working was Mack (??) Miller, and he drove a, uh, something
that looked like a very, very, uh, early station wagon. And he--every
day my mother would call the grocery and leave her order for groceries,
and then she would call Fencil's (??) Meat Market and leave her order
for meat. And, uh, Mack (??) would, would go up to town and, and take
the mail from the distillery and do whatever errands they had him do,
and he would pick up our groceries and our meat and bring them back
down. And I can remember Mother calling Mr. Fencil (??) and saying,
"Mr. Fencil (??), this is, uh, Ida Blanton. Uh, I'm
going to have
some company today, and I want a, a really nice, large T-bone steak,
about forty-five cents." So (laughs) it was--
TROLAND: Now, uh, your Uncle Albert moved out when you were eleven,
you say?
TROLAND: Eight. Excuse me. Uh, you were eight. Uh, did you visit the
distillery more commonly after he moved out, to visit him, or did that,
BLANTON: No, no. Uh, by that time, I, when I would come to the
distillery, I ha-, uh, really my nurse would bring me down to, to
skate. I didn't come down alone. And by that time my sister was born,
and the nurse had moved along to her, and I was more interested in
what was going on in, at school and in the--and, and I came
down, uh,
I, I really didn't come down much to see Uncle Albert. He came to see
us. We, he came, although he was down there, he came frequently to
di-, to--I started to say dinner at night, but we had supper at night,
(laughs) and he would come. We had breakfast, dinner, and supper, and
he would come for su-, frequently for supper.
TROLAND: As you got older and, uh, and became an adult, you obviously
s-, uh, got to know, uh, your uncle even better, uh, over time. What,
what would you say, how would you describe him now, thinking of him
from an adult perspective? Uh, knowing him as an adult rather than as a
young child, how would you describe him?
BLANTON: Well, I don't think my, uh, ideas of him changed at all. He
was just, uh, attractive and, and
good company, and I knew he was very
much beloved by the people who worked down here, the, the few when
I was young, and, and more when there were more employees. And, uh,
then, of course, when I was in, uh, when I was in college, he married
and built the house up on the hill. And after he and Aunt Vannie (??)
married and while the house was being built, they moved back down in,
into the house. So they spent about the, oh, I guess the first maybe
six months or so of their married life living down with--but I was in
college at that time.
TROLAND: Where did you go to college?
BLANTON: University of Kentucky.
TROLAND: And what did you study there?
I majored in mathematics, which I have used none. The
o--(laughs)--I, I took it because it was, it was kind of like, uh,
like a game. They, they were fun, and, and, uh, when I, the only
thing that I studied there that I used when I worked for my father, I
took, had, also he wanted me to take bookkeeping, and I took a course
in accounting, and Daddy would like for me to, uh, he was always
interested in percentages. What percent, what was our, the percent of
our, our, uh, uh, our expenses, and to do, do our, our sales and that
sort of thing, and, and all of the calculus and the--(laughs)--and the
differential equations. They were just a waste
of--I could no more do
that. It, it's just as much gone as if I had never studied it.
TRAVER: I was going to ask if there were any other women in that, her
TROLAND: Interesting question. Uh, in your class at the University of
Kentucky, were there other women who were also studying mathematics?
BLANTON: No. I had, I had one professor, the, the, uh, uh, man who,
Dr. Cohen (??), who taught integral calculus, and when he would ask a
question--he would ask questions from time to time, and he would say,
"So and so and so and so, Mr. Blanton?" And I would turn, and he'd
say, "Excuse me, Miss Blanton." (laughs) And then, then he would, maybe
a week later he'd be back, "So and so, Mr. Blanton." And I'd, I'd
answer it, or sort of answer with the answer, or say, "I don't know,"
(laughs) and he'd say, "Excuse me, Miss Blanton."
TROLAND: So when was the last time in your life when you felt the need
to make use of the integral calculus?
BLANTON: The day I graduated. (laughs)
TROLAND: I see. Uh--
BLANTON: And I, I wish, if I had taken, uh, almost anything else,
(laughs) it would have done me far more good. I, it's that I just, uh,
I enjoyed it, and it was fun, and aft-, and after I was a sophomore,
I had that, I had so many hours in it that it was just easier to go
on with that than it was to back up and pick up something else. I,
I'm afraid that I've gone through life following the line of least
resistance, and I did then.
TROLAND: I think few would describe a major in mathematics as, uh,
the line of least resistance, but I accept your, your description
nonetheless. Uh, you said that you knew, uh, uh, some of the members
of the Johnson family. We interviewed earlier Jimmy Johnson, a long-
term employee of Buffalo Trace. You knew some members of that family,
is that not true?
BLANTON: Yes. I, I just, I just remember Jimmy and Benno (??), who, uh,
were his father and his uncle, and I also knew Cary West (??). And I
know that there i-, was a connection there, and I don't know exactly
what it was, but, but the, the families owned property down there. And
Cary (??) was quite a bit older, and my guess would be that he might
have been a great-uncle.
TROLAND: When you say "Jimmy," uh, "Jimmy Johnson," you're referring not
BLANTON: Senior.
TROLAND: --the man who worked here for so many years, but to his father?
BLANTON: Father.
TROLAND: Yes, who also, of course, worked here.
TROLAND: I see. How did you, how did you know
these people, or under
what circumstances did you meet them?
BLANTON: Well, just when I was working, just playing, would come down
and play down here, and they would be here, and, uh--
TROLAND: What was your--
BLANTON: --you, you, you understand that this was eighty-odd years ago.
(laughs) But I just remember the names, and I, I, I remember the way
they, I, they looked. I can remember their face, and, and they looked,
uh, Jimmy's father looked very much like he did. And, uh, uh, I knew
him. I used to, to run into, when the, the, uh, uh, old post office
was on High Street, I used to run into Jimmy frequently. I don't know
whether they had a post office box there or what, but, but we would,
uh, I would ask about it. And, and he also, uh, he and his family were
customers of ours when we, when I worked at the J.B. Blanton Company,
and I knew him through that.
TROLAND: Do you have any particular memories of World War II and its
effect either on the community or on the distillery as you sort of
understood it through your own--
BLANTON: I, I don't have any recollection connected with Uncle Albert,
but I have a very clear recollection because I was here and I, I worked
for the, the Blanton Company. And, uh, uh, and the, there were, all
of the men were going. Most of my friends, uh, were married, and
their husbands were in the Army or the Navy, and they had come home,
and there wasn't anything much to
do but play bridge. I think that's
the reason I got to be such a bridge player. We'd play bridge in the
evenings, and, uh, one night a week we'd go to the Salvation Army--I
mean to the Red Cross--and roll bandages, and there was always quite
a contest as to who could, how, roll the most bandages per hour, and
I got the booby prize. I was--(laughs)--I was uh, never very good at
handiwork, and, uh, it took me forever to roll a bandage, but, uh--
TROLAND: Did you ever develop a taste for bourbon yourself?
BLANTON: No. No. (laughs)
TROLAND: I understand that, uh, your uncle used to have parties at his
residence here on the distillery grounds, uh, at which special bourbons
s-, provided, but apparently you never, uh, attended one of those
BLANTON: No, I, I was, I was a whole, I was a, uh, really a generation
and a half, uh, younger than Uncle Albert. He, he was about forty when
I was born, and, uh, in those days, chil-, children just didn't go to
things like that. And, uh, then, uh, by the time that, that I was old
enough really to have attended, he, uh, he and Aunt Vannie (??) would
entertain at home. Satur-, Sunday night supper was, uh, he would have
friends in for Sunday night supper, and he was a wonderful
cook. And
Aunt Vannie (??) said once that I would rather prepare a twelve-course
meal myself than clean up after Albert Blanton when he fixes Sunday
night supper for six people. So--(laughs)--but he was very meticulous.
If he chopped anything, he would chop, chop, chop, chop, chop into
little teeny-tiny pieces, but his, his specialty was roast leg of lamb,
and it was marvelous. And I, when I say that I, I didn't, uh, attend
the parties, but we had family dinners together, our family at his
house and he and Aunt Vannie (??) at our house. And when he had--he
had, had a couple who lived up there; there was a house in the back.
But when he
had a family dinner, he would, he would cook. At least he
would fix the roast lamb, and he would fix his specialties.
TROLAND: Can you think of any other stories, uh, involving your uncle
that, uh, were either memorable or funny or unusual?
BLANTON: No. (laughs) I just can't. (laughs) I'll, but I'll tell you
one thing: when I get home tonight, I imagine I'll think of, of, of
many. (laughs) You know, you always do: "I should've, I should've come
up with that."
TRAVER: I have a question about the, your dad's company. You might have
already said what, what you did, what the company did, but could you
talk about your dad's company?
BLANTON: Well, uh, my father, uh, when he, uh, when his
father died,
he went to work on a riverboat, working for the U.S. Engineers. They
went up to, uh, around Beattyville, surveying for the series of locks
and dams. There were s-, lo-, there were locks and dams lower down
in the river, but nothing up at the headwaters of the river. And,
uh, he, uh, was an instrument boy for the surveyors, and he loved the
river. And when he was finally able to save enough money, he had a
boat and, uh, a tugboat and a pump boat and some barges, and he pumped
sand out of the Kentucky River. The Kentucky River sand is fine, and
it's suitable for mortar sand. The Ohio River sand is coarse, and it
is suitable for
concrete. And then, uh, then he had a plaster mill,
and, uh, he, uh, manufactured the plaster that went into, to the new
Capitol, and started, uh, handling brick and mortar and, uh, sewer
pipe and that sort of--and then he took on a line of, uh, lumber, and
he also had a quarry out in Thorn Hill. And during the Depression,
the quarry sold rock to WPA, and that is what kept us going. And my
father said that he tied the, the boats and barges up along the side
of the river because there was no call for the sand, and he kept, a, a
skeleton, uh, force working there: one man in the office, and a night
watchman who also drove the truck and manned the plaster mill. And
he said some days we'd sell a sack of cement and some days we wouldn't
sell anything. But the quarry and the, the roadwork and the WPA work
kept him going. And, uh, so when I--he was not having any sons and
having only two daughters, and I, since I was the older, when I was
in high school I would work there in the summertime because he was
desperate for me to learn something about the business. And then when
I graduated, I went to work as the assistant bookkeeper. He had had a
wonderful bookkeeper, but there were two companies that, that, uh, had
to--and there was enough work of that kind for two people. So then I
worked there, then after he died I more or l-, had--I guess the buck
stopped with me, but there were, were other people really that knew
more about the lumber, certainly about the, the building part of the
business than I. And I stayed, then I sold it when I, or the family sold
it, when I was sixty. I felt like I was ready to retire by that time.
TROLAND: Who do you think had the greatest influence on your life? What
person have you known in your life that had the greatest influence, and
what was that influence?
BLANTON: Well, I think Mother and Daddy had, had, had, and I, I, I--
never a day passes that I don't think about them a hundred
TROLAND: Is there anything else you'd like to say that I haven't asked
BLANTON: I have absolutely rung my mind dry. (laughs) I can't think of
another thing. Y-, everything y-, everything I know, you know now.
TRAVER: I have a question. Was Uncle Albert the first member of your
family in the bourbon business, or was your grandfather?
BLANTON: My grandfather was. He, my Grandfather Blanton went to, west
with the gold rush, and he got as far as Denver and stopped and opened
a store to sell things to people who were going on to California to,
uh--and, uh, he prospered, and he thought that Denver was
the coming
city of the west, and he invested his money in Denver real estate.
And when the Civil War broke out, he sold the real estate, bought
Confederate bonds, came back home and joined the, uh, Confederate Army
as a first lieutenant, and he served in a regiment, in a Tennessee
regiment, under General Hood until the war was over, and he retired as
a major. And then he came back home and worked for the dis-, worked
for the distillery work, and his health was really ruined. He, he
served all through the war, all through the big, big
battles, and, uh--
TRAVER: So he must have lost much of his fortune.
BLANTON: He, he--such as it was, he lost it all. (laughs)
TRAVER: Because of the Confederate bonds.
TRAVER: He put it all into Confederate bonds. That wasn't the place to
have it.
BLANTON: ----------(??) Uh-huh. And someone said, "Ben, that was a
foolish thing to do." And he said, "I can't understand why anyone would
wa-, be willing to give his life for a cause and wouldn't give his
money." Of course, at that time he didn't have a family. He married
after, when he met Grandmother Blanton, who was Alice Bacon, when she
was here visiting Mrs. Crittener (??) and your great-great-great-
great--(laughs)--grandmother and, uh, met her and married.
TROLAND: So I think it's fair to say that you have whiskey in your blood
but not actual whiskey in your actual blood.
BLANTON: (laughs) Exactly. (laughs)
TROLAND: Well, thank you very much for taking the
time out for this
interview. We appreciate it very much.
BLANTON: Well, I, I, just as I said, I'm sure that, that, uh, when I sit
down tonight (laughs) after supper, I'll think of a good many things
that I should have told you and, and have not told you, but--
TROLAND: Well, you've already told us a lot, so we appreciate that so
TRAVER: Well, we'll catch those on the next round then, when you think
of those.
BLANTON: (laughs) This is it. (laughs) Amen.
[End of interview.]