Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Lewis W. Cochran, January 15, 1985

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Childhood and Kentucky origins

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Partial Transcript: I want to--this will be, uh, primarily around UK experiences, I assume.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about his parents' origins, his mother being from Casey County and his father from Boyle County. He discusses their occupations, both teachers in rural schools. Cochran tells the interviewer about being born on Board Farm near the Perryville Battlefield, where he spent his early years before moving to Hustonville. Cochran recalls the use of horse and buggy during his childhood, as automobiles were not readily available at the time. He discusses the various livestock work he did with his father while growing up in Perryville in the 1920s. He talks about the technology that was and was not available in Perryville at the time.

Keywords: Board Farm (Ky.); Horse and buggy; Kentucky--1920s; Rural Kentuckians; Rural Kentucky; Rural educators

Subjects: Boyle County (Ky.); Casey County (Ky.); Hustonville (Ky.); Mercer County (Ky.); Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site (Ky.)

00:09:34 - The Great Depression / High school experiences

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Partial Transcript: I'll never forget the night, uh, when the Depression really hit.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran discusses the low prices of hogs and grain during the Great Depression, which caused his father to lose a large sum of money. He talks about the conditions of Kentucky farming in the 1920s which contributed to the Depression. Cochran recalls his experiences in high school during the Depression, living with his grandmother in Perryville to attend high school until her death, when he then boarded with a friend of his grandmother's. He discusses his classical high school education and the strength of the agricultural vocation program at the school.

Keywords: Great Depression; Kentucky--Rural education; Rural Kentuckians; Rural farmers; State teachers colleges

Subjects: Classical education; Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Education--Kentucky; High school; Perryville (Ky.); Teachers colleges; Tobacco farmers

00:14:57 - Family history / Rural education & life

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Partial Transcript: Now did you say your mother was a teacher?

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about his siblings’ careers and where they attended college, if they did. He discusses family issues dating back to the Civil War, as his mother’s side were Confederate supporters and his father’s parents were Union supporters. He tells the interviewer about his grandparents’ work and education as well as his relationship with his grandmother, who wanted her son and grandson to become well-educated. Cochran talks about the difficulty in accessing secondary education. He discusses the traveling salesmen who would come to rural areas during the 1920s.

Keywords: Kentucky--1920s; Kentucky--History--Civil War, 1861-1865; Kentucky--Rural education; Teachers--Education.

Subjects: Education, Rural; Education--Kentucky; Perryville (Ky.); United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.

00:24:20 - College education--Morehead State Normal School

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Partial Transcript: I remember talking to my father, we hadn’t said a word about going to college when I graduated from high school.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran discusses his initial inability to attend college due to the Great Depression’s effect on his father’s income and savings. He recalls how he was granted a scholarship to his top-choice school, Morehead Normal School, by the superintendent of Casey County. Cochran talks about how this scholarship was not a merit scholarship, but a “workship,” so he had to work for the school to attend. He discusses his initial job as a cafeteria worker before being hired as a grader in the math and physics department. Cochran talks about the little traveling he did while living in Perryville.

Keywords: Colleges; Great Depression; Kentucky colleges and universities; Scholarships; Student graders; Work-study students; Workships

Subjects: Centre College (Danville, Ky. : 1918- ); Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Education, Cooperative; Morehead State Normal School; Morehead State University; Teachers' assistants.

00:34:23 - Morehead State faculty and administrators / Dr. John Howard Payne

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Partial Transcript: --Finish up that going to college thing, a couple of other little interesting aspects of that.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran discusses mandatory chapel while attending Morehead State and the “off-color” stories a man named Mr. Watkins told during chapel. He also talks about the former president of Morehead State, a man named Mr. Payne, and how he built up the faculty at Morehead. Cochran talks about the later years of Mr. Payne and his passing.

Keywords: College administrators; College presidents; Colleges and universities--1930s; Morehead State Normal School faculty; Physics professors; Rural Kentucky education

Subjects: Education, Higher--Kentucky; Education--Kentucky; Education--Study and teaching; Morehead (Ky.); Morehead State Normal School; Morehead State University

00:43:59 - College major / University of Kentucky graduate school

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Partial Transcript: So what, uh--now when you went to Morehead, were you planning on majoring in mathematics--

Segment Synopsis: Cochran discusses how he initially wanted to major in chemistry and minor in language while at Morehead State. He talks about his various professors in chemistry while at Morehead. He also discusses how he became a chemistry major with a minor in mathematics, as well as a minor in physics. Cochran then talks about the various projects and inventions he assisted his professors with, which equipped him with experience to get a graduate degree in physics. Cochran recalls the other students in his cohort at the University of Kentucky, discussing what they did after they earned their master's degrees.

Keywords: Career goals; Graduate schools; Physics graduate students; Science majors; Scientific inventions

Subjects: Chemistry; College majors; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Graduate students; Morehead State University; Physics; University of Kentucky

00:50:28 - Graduate program at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: What was your general impression of, um, UK?

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about his impressions of the University of Kentucky (UK) while earning his master's degree in physics. He discusses the size of the student body and faculty. He then talks about the rigor of the program and the work being conducted in the various science departments on campus at the time. Cochran talks about how the physics work being conducted at UK contributed to World War II technology, emphasizing the importance of electronics in physics at the time.

Keywords: Physics graduate students; Physics teaching assistants; University of Kentucky--1930s; University of Kentucky. Department of Physics & Astronomy.

Subjects: Education, Higher--Kentucky; Education--Kentucky; Education--Study and teaching; Electronics; Graduate students; University of Kentucky

01:08:29 - Post-graduate work / Doctorate at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: And, um, then I went into a period of, uh, teaching in the spring and summer up at Morehead, coming back in the fall.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about the various work he did after completing his master's degree in physics, teaching at Morehead State for a spring and summer. He discusses how he decided to take a high school teaching job in Harrodsburg, but had to complete a physical education certificate before he could be qualified to teach. Cochran discusses how he instead returned to the University of Kentucky (UK) to complete his PhD in physics and teaching as a part-time instructor. He recalls Dr. Frank L. McVey, the president of UK.

Keywords: Part-time instructors; Physics PhD; Physics teachers; School certification programs; Teaching qualifications

Subjects: Harrodsburg (Ky.); High school teaching--Kentucky; McVey, Frank LeRond, 1869-1953; Science teachers; Teachers--Kentucky; University of Kentucky

01:12:22 - The University of Kentucky in the 1930s

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Partial Transcript: He had to carry that thing through a very, very difficult time.

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about the work going on at the University of Kentucky (UK) during the 1930s, despite faculty not being paid a salary or taking a 15% pay cut. He discusses several professors who taught many classes with few benefits who conducted good research. He talks about how McVey was responsible for transitioning UK from an agricultural & mechanical college to a state university.

Keywords: Academic research; Agricultural and mechanical colleges; Physics students; Professors--Salaries; University of Kentucky--1930s

Subjects: Education, Higher--Kentucky; Education--Finance--Kentucky; Great Depression; McVey, Frank LeRond, 1869-1953; State universities and colleges; University of Kentucky

01:17:01 - University of Kentucky--Student life and campus activities

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Partial Transcript: As a graduate student, did you attend any of the chapels that they had over in the Administration Building?

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about the student life on campus at the University of Kentucky during the early 1940s. He discusses how there were not many general campus activities and that many social events on campus were at the fraternity and sorority houses. Cochran discusses some of the dangers on campus, including a neighborhood on Euclid Avenue where students did not want to go. He recalls how most students lived in houses off-campus, and the various buildings built on campus while he was a student.

Keywords: Campus activities; Campus greek life; Campus housing; College social events; Graduate students; Jewish fraternities

Subjects: College students; Education, Higher--Kentucky; Greek letter societies; Student housing; Universities and colleges--Graduate work.; University of Kentucky

01:23:18 - University of Kentucky students during the Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: Overall, was--what was the mood on campus?

Segment Synopsis: Cochran talks about the level of optimism and privilege on campus during the Depression, as many students felt like they were living better lives than many people in the United States during that time. He discusses the high tensions in the faculty meetings at the time. He then tells a few anecdotes about his experiences with the professors while at UK.

Keywords: Great Depression; Physics graduate students; University of Kentucky graduate students; University of Kentucky--1940s

Subjects: College campuses.; College environment; College students.; Depressions--1929--Kentucky; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Universities and colleges--Anecdotes; University of Kentucky