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The speaker is a 69-year-old White woman with a high school education from St. Elmo, Illinois; she was recorded in 1969.
4:00-5:50


County: Fayette
State: IL

Commentary:
St. Elmo is a town of about 1,400 whose population hasn't changed much over the last 70 years. It is located in central Illinois halfway between St. Louis, Missouri, and Terre Haute, Indiana, on Interstate 70. Its economy is mostly agriculturally-based, although oil was discovered in the region in the 1930's. This excerpt discusses the drilling of the first oil well, and the effects of this small boom on the town.
Inf: Yes. That, uh, the first well. Well, uh, the uh exploration well was 1938. And uh, you talk about being wild, just before that, uh my dad had been mayor of the town, oh, two or three different terms, and they finally talked him into going back into it again. And just after he told 'em he would, then this oil boom started. And maybe you think we didn't have a time. I got in on it just the same as he did. It was really wild and woolly. We even had a murder here, I want you to know.

FW: Just one?

Inf: Just one (laughs). But there were some rough times. Uh, they had uh, 'course they'd put in taverns, which we hadn't had, and uh, dad came home one evening, his shirt sleeves all torn. We wondered what in the world had happened. Well, there'd been a, some kind of a big fight up in one of the taverns, and, and he had been in there kinda helping police, and he was just like a little banty rooster. I mean, he wasn't too large, but he went right after these fellows (laughs). That's the way he got. And uh, many, many people were afraid to go out at night because uh, now we had many, many nice people. And we've made a lot of dear friends and lot of 'em have stayed here, uh, are still making this their home after retirement. But then we had many of the rough element for a while, until they finally took means of getting them out of town. We had uh, the gamblers and the ne'er-do-wells, an' those that tried to live off of others. But uh, the nice people made up for those that uh, were otherwise.

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