ORAL HISTORY OF ELIZABETH BUSTEED
Interviewed and Filmed by Keith McDaniel
December 4, 2009
Mr. McDaniel: Well, tell me your name, and if you don’t mind, tell me your age.
Mrs. Busteed: Okay. I’m Elizabeth Busteed, and I was Elizabeth Kesling. I grew up in Indiana, and on Pearl Harbor Day, which is three days from now, I’ll be ninety-five.
Mr. McDaniel: And today is December the 4th, 2009.
Mrs. Busteed: Mhm.
Mr. McDaniel: So tell me, how did you end up in Oak Ridge?
Mrs. Busteed: Well, my daughter lives here, and I came here after my husband died to be with her.
Mr. McDaniel: Okay. All right. So you were – and where did you live before?
Mrs. Busteed: In Clarksville, Tennessee.
Mr. McDaniel: Oh, you lived in Clarksville, Tennessee.
Mrs. Busteed: Yes, where Fort Campbell was.
Mr. McDaniel: Where Fort Campbell was. But your husband was here early.
Mrs. Busteed: That was way back when, before it was really a city of Oak Ridge. He helped lay it out, is my understanding.
Mr. McDaniel: Tell me about that. Tell me a little bit about that.
Mrs. Busteed: I know very little, because he died in 1986 and – or he died in ’85 actually, and the Top Secret was not relinquished until ’86, and he was the type that if he was told something that he wasn’t supposed to tell about it, he didn’t.
Mr. McDaniel: But he was here – he came here in ’43?
Mrs. Busteed: Yes, for a short period of time, we think to help lay out the city, possibly.
Mr. McDaniel: That’s what you think, to help lay out the city. Now, was he in the service, or was he a civilian?
Mrs. Busteed: No, he was a civilian Army engineer.
Mr. McDaniel: Army engineer. Civilian Army engineer.
Mrs. Busteed: Yes.
Mr. McDaniel: Okay. All right. So you moved here twenty-five years ago to be near your daughter.
Mrs. Busteed: Correct.
Mr. McDaniel: And who is your daughter?
Mrs. Busteed: Nancy Stanley.
Mr. McDaniel: Nancy Stanley. Everybody knows Nancy in town.
Mrs. Busteed: Yes.
Mr. McDaniel: So when you moved to Oak Ridge, what did you do? What did you get involved with?
Mrs. Busteed: The main thing, I guess, was probably the music program. I played violin and I played in the symphony.
Mr. McDaniel: Okay. And you started that right away after you got here?
Mrs. Busteed: Soon after I arrived, yes.
Mr. McDaniel: Tell me about that. Tell me how did you get involved and tell me about the early days that you were in the symphony.
Mrs. Busteed: One reason I probably was involved, I knew Mary Cox, who had taught at Austin Peay University in Clarksville, and she moved back to Oak Ridge after having lived here before, and she played in the symphony, so that automatically gave me an opportunity.
Mr. McDaniel: So do you remember what year you began playing in the symphony?
Mrs. Busteed: Twenty-five [years].
Mr. McDaniel: Twenty-five years ago.
Mrs. Busteed: Yes.
Mr. McDaniel: And how long did you play.
Mrs. Busteed: Until about three, four years ago.
Mr. McDaniel: Really?
Mrs. Busteed: Yeah. And I had played in the Austin Peay University symphony for about twenty years, nearly, and also in the South Bend Symphony in Indiana, where I grew up.
Mr. McDaniel: Okay, all right. So what are some of the other things that you were involved in when you moved to Oak Ridge?
Mrs. Busteed: Well, I sang in the church choir and the ORCMA Guild [Oak Ridge Civic Music Association], which is a music club. That’s the main things I did really. I played quartets and string trios at F. A. Carlson’s for ten years. We had a group that played together, and that was nice.
Mr. McDaniel: Let’s go back to you first coming to Oak Ridge. What was your first impression of Oak Ridge? I guess you had been here before to visit.
Mrs. Busteed: Yes I had, a number of times.
Mr. McDaniel: So when you came to Oak Ridge the first time, what was your impression?
Mrs. Busteed: A little different than a city like Clarksville. I found the people were – they have a certain pride in this community because of its background, and I found that interesting.
Mr. McDaniel: Okay. For example, give me some examples.
Mrs. Busteed: Well, a lot of the people who played in the symphony who were people who were scientists like Waldo Cohn, who started the symphony. We were friends, and many of them were Jewish people who are automatically I think musically minded, and both of the – I’m trying to think of their names.
Mr. McDaniel: Silvermans?
Mrs. Busteed: Silvermans, that’s who it is. They were friends, and all of these people in the symphony were friends of mine.
Mr. McDaniel: I interviewed the Silvermans, both of them, I sure did, a number of years ago.
Mrs. Busteed: You did? That’s good. I’m glad you did.
Mr. McDaniel: They were quite an interesting couple.
Mrs. Busteed: They were. They were very fine friends.
Mr. McDaniel: Do you have any good stories?
Mrs. Busteed: Well – yes, I have one really good story. They were here playing quartets, and another gentleman was here who it was his birthday, and he brought a cake, and Dottie [Silverman] was – she liked to tell her husband what to do [laughter], and she automatically did that that day, and the other gentleman just got up. He says, “I’m not playing anymore.” He’d had enough. He had brought a birthday cake that he had made that his mother had made in Germany when they lived there. And he says, “I make this for my birthday every time, and I brought it here. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m going to eat a piece of cake.” So we sat down, we all had a great time eating the cake, and the Silvermans had as good a time as anybody. It was an interesting evening.
Mr. McDaniel: How did you get involved in music?
Mrs. Busteed: I started playing the violin over eighty years ago when I took lessons in the fourth grade, and I’ve played ever since.
Mr. McDaniel: That was in Ohio.
Mrs. Busteed: No, that was in Indiana.
Mr. McDaniel: Excuse me, in Indiana, and you grew up in Indiana.
Mrs. Busteed: Yes.
Mr. McDaniel: Let’s go back to your childhood and talk a little bit about that. How did you get involved or interested in music?
Mrs. Busteed: Well, my sister was a fine pianist. She was seven years older than me, and I think the family just all loved music. I have two sisters. One of them was a fine pianist, played church organ for thirty-seven years, and my other sister was a vocalist and played clarinet, and I played clarinet too in the high school band, so we just gave a lot of programs together as a group.
Mr. McDaniel: I imagine your parents were enthusiastic and encouraging?
Mrs. Busteed: Absolutely, yes.
Mr. McDaniel: What did your parents do?
Mrs. Busteed: My father started out originally as a banker and sold insurance on the side, and then we moved to South Bend, and he – or near South Bend. He still did that some.
Mr. McDaniel: Tell me about meeting your husband. Where and when was that?
Mrs. Busteed: He was building CCC [Civilian Conservation Corps] camps. He had charge of the CCC camps in four states and dismantled them, or had them when the war – was wartime. He had to go to all of these different communities, and there were a lot in the four states, Ohio and West Virginia and Indiana and Kentucky. He was responsible for them and helped build them. That’s why he got in working with the army. He started with building CCC camps.
Mr. McDaniel: So he was an engineer.
Mrs. Busteed: Yes.
Mr. McDaniel: And how did you meet him?
Mrs. Busteed: He came to South Bend to build a camp, and he was talking to my sister’s boyfriend. He said, “Does she have a sister?” He said, “She does.” And he brought him down and that was it. That was the way I met him.
Mr. McDaniel: Is that right?
Mrs. Busteed: Yeah.
Mr. McDaniel: So he – you stayed there after you got married?
Mrs. Busteed: Yes, for several years because he was traveling all over different – mainly in Indiana at that time, but when the war came and camps were disposed of, he did that.
Mr. McDaniel: So I guess you were married when he came to Oak Ridge to do his work.
Mrs. Busteed: Yes. That was – Nancy was – you see – had her four boys when I came to Oak Ridge.
Mr. McDaniel: But when he came to Oak Ridge to work on the project?
Mrs. Busteed: Yes, we had Nancy. She was just about a year and a half old.
Mr. McDaniel: Now, did you come with him to work –
Mrs. Busteed: No, I didn’t know he was there at all, and he was not allowed to tell he was here.
Mr. McDaniel: So what did he tell you?
Mrs. Busteed: To tell the truth, I thought he was working in Dayton, Ohio. That was what they had him say, he was working out the Fifth Army Command Ohio. And he was supposed to have been at Right Field Dayton. His headquarters were Middletown, Ohio, and there was where he started the top secret program. He built – Runnymede Playhouse was developed into a laboratory for some men who came to Oak Ridge after that to do top secret work. And then he came to Oak Ridge I think out of that program really for a few months to work.
Mr. McDaniel: How long was he gone?
Mrs. Busteed: He would come back. He could drive home, so I had no idea that he was doing that.
Mr. McDaniel: My goodness. When did you find out he was actually here?
Mrs. Busteed: Nancy and I went to the museum, and we were looking at the pictures in the back of the museum, and she looked up and she says, “That’s Daddy.” That was the first time, and that would have been about in ’84 or ’85.
Mr. McDaniel: Is that right? So he never told you he came to Oak Ridge and worked?
Mrs. Busteed: No. He was made top secret. His name was ‘Charles Finch,’ and the communications he had were to ‘Charles Finch,’ and I had no idea. When he came to the people who were head of the program, they came to Milan, Indiana where his parents lived to do a lot of research, and his parents never knew why, but they were asking questions all over from other people in the community about Paul, and they were afraid he had gotten in some kind of trouble, when they were just trying to decide whether he had the possibility of being top secret.
Mr. McDaniel: That was probably the FBI or someone like that doing a background check on him.
Mrs. Busteed: Could have been. It may have been army, who had a lot of responsibility for those programs, I think.
Mr. McDaniel: That is true. So you never knew he was here until you saw his picture at the museum.
Mrs. Busteed: That was a long time afterwards.
Mr. McDaniel: That was before he died or about the time?
Mrs. Busteed: After he died. After I moved here.
Mr. McDaniel: What year did he die?
Mrs. Busteed: He died in ’84, and I moved here in ’85, and in ’86 they – people who were top secret after a period of time were released, and he had died, so he never was able to tell me that he was top secret or anything about it.
Mr. McDaniel: My goodness. So you don’t really know very much at all, do you?
Mrs. Busteed: No, because I couldn’t ask him any questions. The release of when he could speak about it was in ’86 and he died in ’85.
Mr. McDaniel: My goodness. So you moved here in ’85.
Mrs. Busteed: ’86.
Mr. McDaniel: So you moved to Oak Ridge in ’86, and you got involved in the orchestra. What other things – you said you were involved in your church?
Mrs. Busteed: The Methodist Church, First Methodist Church here, sang in their choir there. And I had directed choirs in three churches, so that was another part of music that I was interested in.
Mr. McDaniel: Did you join any clubs or any groups or anything like that?
Mrs. Busteed: Mainly music things, the ORCMA Guild, and we rehearsed every week. That was a lot, and the programs were challenging, so you had plenty to do.
Mr. McDaniel: How many symphony conductors have you gone through since you’ve been here?
Mrs. Busteed: Four or five.
Mr. McDaniel: Do you have any stories about the symphony? Specific programs you remember that you were proud of or disappointed in or –
Mrs. Busteed: Well, I think the symphony at that time involved a number of people from Oak Ridge, so much more than it does now, because a lot of the fine musicians who came here have passed on. Now the symphony isn’t quite as much of a local symphony as it used to be, which I’m sorry to say. The main people now come from the Knoxville symphony and are paid employees.
Mr. McDaniel: Any specific programs that you did or concerts that you did that you remember?
Mrs. Busteed: Not necessarily. We had good programs, I would say. The conductors, for the most part, have been very fine and unusually good for a small group like this.
Mr. McDaniel: How does the Oak Ridge Symphony compare to the others that you’ve played with?
Mrs. Busteed: Well, I played in the South Bend Symphony which is, of course, much larger and different type of symphony, and the symphony in Austin Peay University involves a lot of students, so that was entirely different.
Mr. McDaniel: Sure. I understand.
Mrs. Busteed: One time we had the governor of the state come, Lamar Alexander, and he played with us. That was fun, in Austin Peay.
[break in recording]
Mr. McDaniel: What’s interesting about being here and –
Mrs. Busteed: It’s nice to be near family, and Nancy has been a big help with me to make my community experiences good, and I’ve found it – the people here are challenging, to a certain degree, because of their backgrounds, and it’s a different kind of community. I don’t – when you come from one community into Oak Ridge, you realize it.
Mr. McDaniel: Well, I guess Clarksville – and how long were you in Clarksville?
Mrs. Busteed: We went there in ’42. We were the first civilians to move on the base there.
Mr. McDaniel: Is that right?
Mrs. Busteed: Yes. That was an interesting experience. We had a lot of prisoners of war there, and they took care of the grounds, and it was challenging to have them out mowing the lawn and have a small daughter who liked to play outside, and you wondered. But we had one young man that we became friends with when he worked in my husband’s office, and his name was Blasky. He was an Austrian who was captured by the Germans in a wine cellar and was forced to fight for the Germans and was – then he was captured by the Americans and came here and lived out on the base. And we found out he was a fine artist, and he was very pleased to be in the United States, and did a lot of painting, portraits for people. They’d buy his painting, and he worked in the office to do sign paintings. That’s the way my husband became acquainted with him, and he told him he was very happy to be in the States. We visited him twice in Switzerland and saw some of his fine paintings, and he gave us a number. We have four oils that he did and some prints.
Mr. McDaniel: Is that right? The base, what was the name of the base?
Mrs. Busteed: Fort Campbell.
Mr. McDaniel: That was Fort Campbell.
Mrs. Busteed: It was Camp Campbell when we moved there. And later when it was made permanent was – and it’s one of the largest bases in the United States now.
Mr. McDaniel: So your husband went to Fort Campbell. What did he do there?
Mrs. Busteed: He was with Post Engineers and was head of Post Engineers for a long time. We had I think an interesting experience there. When we went there, General Lemnitzer was the head of the – who became a very well known general, and one of the – he was Colonel at that time, and he had one of the best minds of anyone I ever saw. He would meet you once, and there were hundreds of people in that base, and he would remember your name.
Mr. McDaniel: Is that right?
Mrs. Busteed: He was a very fine person to work with also. They had a lot of different generals come in and out of Fort Campbell that made it difficult, and also, it did – with the engineers it was kind of difficult because they each came in with their own ideas, would change procedures at the base and you had to adapt.
Mr. McDaniel: Sure.
Mrs. Busteed: That made it a little difficult sometimes.
Mr. McDaniel: Sure. I understand. So you all lived there until –
Mrs. Busteed: We built a home out on the highway south of the base. I think it’s an interesting story of Fort Campbell and the way Alben Barkley was vice president at the time, and they bought over 300,000 acres or took them over, actually and away, and Alben Barkley says, “I want the post office to be in Kentucky,” because he was a Kentucky man. They – So it was put there, but ten percent of the base is only in Kentucky, the balance of it, ninety percent of it is in Tennessee. That has caused some problems.
Mr. McDaniel: I guess it’s just north of Clarksville, isn’t it?
Mrs. Busteed: Yes, about ten miles.
Mr. McDaniel: That’s what I was thinking, just north of Clarksville. So when you were there, you were in this military environment, and also, Clarksville being a college town –
Mrs. Busteed: And an old community. At the time we moved there, they were still very southern. I remember one friend from Indiana said, “Elizabeth, don’t you ever let anyone see you washing windows on the outside when you move to Clarksville.” They were still very, very southern, but now Clarksville is – the whole county is occupied. It has the same type of government Nashville does because it’s such a dense community.
Mr. McDaniel: Sure. That was kind of different coming from Clarksville to Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge is obviously much smaller. It was more of a federal town instead of an army town, I guess.
Mrs. Busteed: That’s right. Actually, for a long time Clarksville didn’t accept the army very well I didn’t think. They felt they were sort of outsiders. I imagine that has changed a great deal now, but actually, they were very set in the southern ways in Clarksville when we moved there.
Mr. McDaniel: So it was fairly southern, whereas Oak Ridge was fairly more metropolitan type?
Mrs. Busteed: Absolutely. A very big difference.
Mr. McDaniel: Which were you more at home in? Even though you were there a lot longer.
Mrs. Busteed: I don’t know – actually, Indiana was entirely different than Clarksville. For instance, this may seem a little strange, but we never talked about the Civil War in Indiana. But you still heard about the Civil War when you came to Clarksville. They were a very southern community.
Mr. McDaniel: And you still hear about the Civil War today in Tennessee, don’t you.
Mrs. Busteed: Absolutely. And it was never discussed in Indiana in any way.
Mr. McDaniel: My goodness. What else do you want to tell me about? We’re set up; we’re rolling.
Mrs. Busteed: I have a son who was born in Clarksville, and he went to school in Tennessee Tech and got a master’s there, and has recently retired. He and his father fished a lot on Kentucky Lake, and they’ve bought a place on Kentucky Lake. They’re very pleased and hope to move there soon. He worked for Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati, and they’ve lived there for a number of years.
Mr. McDaniel: So those are your only two children, Nancy and your son?
Mrs. Busteed: Yes, and they’re ten and a half years apart.
Mr. McDaniel: What about grandchildren?
Mrs. Busteed: I have four grandchildren that are Nancy’s sons. She had four sons, and Bill has two sons and a daughter, and Bill’s last child will graduate from University of Kentucky, and all the boys are busy. Dan, the one who’s a doctor – Nancy’s son – has three adopted children, which are interesting.
Mr. McDaniel: Let me ask you a question. What would you think – and you’ve been here twenty-five years. What would be your favorite thing about Oak Ridge besides, of course, Nancy being here and family? What would be the thing you’ve enjoyed most? I think we’ve kind of gone over the music, but besides that?
Mrs. Busteed: For instance, just the other day I heard my dentist say he was amazed at – he was from near New York, and he was amazed at the talent in the community and even Knoxville. He says, “I can go to plays in Knoxville and see them for $30 and $40 or $45 maybe,” and he said, “When I would go to New York to a play, it’d be a couple hundred dollars by the time I parked my car for $34.” And I think that’s true. We have a lot of advantages in Knoxville and Clarksville that you don’t find in a lot of communities, especially the size of Oak Ridge; the Playhouse is one of the older ones in the states, my understanding. I took – have always enjoyed that, and there are a lot of things at the Museum that are interesting. The Children’s Museum’s a fine outlet. So it’s a little different community than a lot for the size I think.
Mr. McDaniel: One of the things that people have said is Oak Ridge was always a very educated community and second, along with that education came the cultural activities.
Mrs. Busteed: Absolutely. Makes a big difference to have that percentage of people in the community who are like-minded in that. They like to have nice things and good things to attend. The Roane State Community College and Pellissippi, which is close, are advantageous to both communities I think.
Mr. McDaniel: So on the flip side of that, what would be the least favorite thing about Oak Ridge, and be honest.
Mrs. Busteed: They’re strict in thinking that they’re sort of – what shall I say? A lot of people here think that Oak Ridge is – and it is important, but they carry that through in their thinking a lot, how important they are as a community. When – if you start to tell them the hardships we had in Clarksville, for instance, in the war and living on the base, they will ignore it. It was more difficult in Oak Ridge than anyplace. I’ve found that in a lot of people and their ideas.
Mr. McDaniel: So are you considered a newcomer since you’ve only been here twenty-five years?
Mrs. Busteed: You know, I was until I think just the last ten years or so. It took a long time to become a real part of the community. The music community accepted me very well, and – but it was a little more difficult in some of the other things.
Mr. McDaniel: That has tended to be the way things are I think sometimes.
Mrs. Busteed: That’s right.
Mr. McDaniel: Okay. Anything else you want to talk about?
Mrs. Busteed: Well, I can’t think of anything special right now.
[break in recording]
Mr. McDaniel: So tell me that story.
Mrs. Busteed: Okay. In 1952, the army decided to store the atomic bombs during the Cold War at Fort Campbell, and the airfield had to be enlarged to handle large planes coming in. The Navy was put in charge of this with guards from the marines. One of the reasons I think the area was chosen, there were a few cave type places in the field. They had over three square mile that they surrounded with this, and the marines guarded it, and not until just a few years ago did these men come, and there were ninety-four marines came to Fort Campbell to see the spot and to be told what they had been doing. They said that if you told people to stop and they didn’t stop, even with – people would try to get in, evidently, with the three fences and a driveway around and spots where the men were guarding it, and there were ninety-four men who came who had been guarding that. They said if you told them to stop and they didn’t stop, you shot. So it was a very secret spot out there at the base.
Mr. McDaniel: And that’s where they stored the weapons.
Mrs. Busteed: That they might need during the Cold War.
Mr. McDaniel: My goodness, so they had a reunion of the ninety-four men who guarded.
Mrs. Busteed: Ninety-four Army men came that had been guards there – the Marines, they were.
Mr. McDaniel: Is that right? When was that reunion?
Mrs. Busteed: Just a few years ago, in 2006.
Mr. McDaniel: Is that right?
Mrs. Busteed: Mhm.
Mr. McDaniel: The article says something about a ‘birdcage.’
Mrs. Busteed: They didn’t know what they were doing, even the men that were guarding it. They had bunkers built, and some of them were only eighteen inches high, and they had to lay down to guard it, and others where you could stand up. These men didn’t know themselves what they were guarding. I imagine – they didn’t know what to call them, so they called it ‘the birdcage.’
Mr. McDaniel: Is that right? My goodness. Anything else you want to talk about?
Mrs. Busteed: I think that’s an interesting story. Look at the picture there.
Mr. McDaniel: Go ahead and hold that up again. Hold it towards me.
Mrs. Busteed: There was one of the men that had been a guard. You can see the bunkers were just a few feet. They had to crawl into them to guard the atomic bombs.
Mr. McDaniel: All right. Well, we certainly do appreciate your taking the time to talk with us and to give us a little bit of your background and your life.
Mrs. Busteed: I hope it’s been worthwhile.
Mr. McDaniel: I’m sure it has. It certainly has. It’s been very interesting.
[end of recording]