A Brown County Elders Interview
By David Seastrom
One of the best parts of my “job” with the Brown County Hour radio show is getting to interview interesting people. Most of the time these folks are musicians, but every once and a while I’m privileged to speak with someone from the larger community.
The BCH team is developing a community elders project. We feel this is important work that can contribute to the collective memory of our county by preserving the stories and history of individuals as told in their own voice.
Last night we were honored to have Samuel Fritch in the studio.
Sam was born on Possum Trot Road on January 12, 1925. His great-grandfather, Doc Fritch, rode over from Unionville in his horse and buggy to deliver him. According to the records, Doc delivered most of the folks in the area, often accepting chickens or firewood as payment. The patients who were able pay in cash made monthly payments of twenty-five cents towards their bill.
Sam’s family farmed the land that’s now under Lake Lemon. They had a six-cow dairy farm and raised their own food. Sam helped supplement the family’s diet by hunting squirrels and rabbits. In those days, deer had been hunted to extinction, and what was left of the once-mighty forest had been reduced to young trees clinging to barren hillsides. Sam remembered that stumps of big trees were everywhere.
His family didn’t have any money; few people in the area did. Because of that, they traded for things they couldn’t produce themselves. “We were poor, but that’s all right because we didn’t know any different.”
Sam traded some firewood for his first hunting rifle when he was a young boy, and later his family traded a heifer for their first car, a Model T Ford. He recalled that the roads were so bad a car was almost useless during winter, so they kept their horses. They never owned a tractor, so Sam was a plowboy from an early age.
He attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse on Slippery Elm Shoot Road and graduated from Helmsburg High School just in time to join the Air Force for World War II. Sam recounted that a few of his classmates lost their lives in Normandy on D-Day.
During the war, he was a B-17 ball-turret gunner stationed in Italy. He fell in love with flying and obtained a private pilot’s license. He’s enjoyed many hours of flying over the hills and hollers he grew up in.
Thanks to the GI Bill, Sam went to barber school, which provided him with a lifetime of employment.
After the war, he married his sweetheart, and they’re still together. They raised six children and have many grandchildren. Sam is proud that all of the grandkids have a college education.
Sam has seen much in his long life. He assured us that he’s still having a good time and enjoying every day he has the privilege to experience.
Excerpts from David’s interview with Samual Fritch will appear in a future episode of the Brown County Hour, and be posted here.