Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John C. Miller, Tommy Strunk

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Introduction / making moonshine and setting up a still

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Partial Transcript: --l the 1st, 1988, in McCreary County, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Betty Ellison, the interviewer, introduces the interviewees. Strunk talks about his early experiences in making moonshine, the whiskey-making process, and what was needed to set up a still.

Keywords: clefts; cliffs; making moonshine; mash; moonshine; stills; sugar; water

Subjects: Distilleries.; Distilling, illicit.

00:03:17 - Financial reasons for making moonshine / being caught

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Partial Transcript: Well that was, uh, actually the main means. I know, uh, my Mom's people used to make moonshine...

Segment Synopsis: Strunk discusses how financial hardship drove many families to make moonshine. He describes being caught making moonshine not long after he started.

[There are loud background noises]

Subjects: Distilleries.; Distilling, illicit.; McCreary County (Ky.).

00:07:12 - Strunk's career as a performer / proofing whiskey

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Partial Transcript: I worked in a carnival, in (??) show business sometime...

Segment Synopsis: Strunk discusses his career as a performer and why he turned to making moonshine to supplement his income. He also talks about proofing his whiskey and ways to make sure that the entire batch has the same proof.

[There are loud background noises]

Keywords: Canada; backings (whiskey making); bead; hot liquor; income; lack of income; moonshine; parents; performing; performing acts; poverty; probation officers; proof; touring; working

Subjects: Distilling, illicit.

00:10:32 - Traditional and modern moonshine

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Partial Transcript: Anymore what stills they are, or the majority of them is in buildings anymore, ain't they?

Segment Synopsis: Strunk, Miller and Ellison compare traditional and modern moonshine, the latter of which is made with much more sugar. They talk about how the type currently being made is likely to have more negative effects on the person who drinks it.

[There are loud background noises]

Keywords: "syrup liquor"; buildings; cleaning stills; corn; corn liquor; grandparents; hangovers; horse feed; moonshine; quality; sprouts; still locations; stills; sugar; yeast

Subjects: Distilleries.; Distilling, illicit.; Whiskey.

00:14:17 - Differences between alcohol and drug use

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Partial Transcript: What do people--are, are people making--uh, I'll just make this a general question...

Segment Synopsis: Strunk and Miller compare the effects that moonshine and drugs like marijuana have on those who use them. They stress the dangers of drug use over drinking alcohol.

[There are loud background noises]

Keywords: alcohol; drug use; drugs; getting high; hangovers; moonshiners; shotgun injuries

Subjects: Marijuana--Growth.; McCreary County (Ky.).; Whiskey.

00:17:39 - Bob Bridgewater and Tommy Strunk / a movie about moonshine-making

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Partial Transcript: Wonder if, uh, would you mind if Miss Davis took a picture of the three of us...

Segment Synopsis: Strunk and Miller talk about Bob Bridgewater, a mutual friend of theirs who worked with the police up until his retirement. Miller also talks about his friendship with Strunk and mentions a documentary that the latter was in.

[There are loud background noises]

Keywords: Bob Bridgewater; Bowling Green (Ky.); Christmas; Germany; KET; Russell Stockton; State Fire Marshall; friends; honesty; moonshine; movies; photographs; railroad tracks; state police

Subjects: Law enforcement.

00:23:11 - Miller first meeting Strunk / traveling and performing

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Partial Transcript: ...where are your first recollections of meeting Jack?

Segment Synopsis: Miller describes the first time that he met Strunk and their long friendship since then. Strunk talks about the traveling that he did as a performer in carnivals and fairs.

[There are loud background noises]

Keywords: "mule skinning"; Bob; Jack Miller; age; carnivals; changing tires; county fairs; deer hunting; flat tires; honesty; logs; rifles; shooting; squirrel hunting; stills; traveling; traveling shows; trucks

00:26:58 - The cost of moonshine / still explosions

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Partial Transcript: What, what does moonshine sell for in this county now?

Segment Synopsis: Miller and Strunk compare the (then) current price of moonshine to that of legal red whiskey. They also talk about still explosions, and Miller tells a story about accidentally blowing up a still that he and a few others were watching.

Keywords: Bob Wiley; burns; cleaning; cooker; copper; danger; explosions; kindling; moonshine; pine knots; price of whiskey; red whiskey; selling moonshine; soldering; still explosions; stills; worm (whiskey making)

Subjects: Distilleries.; Distilling, illicit.; Rockcastle County (Ky.).; Whiskey.

00:30:47 - Signs to warn moonshiners / the financial hardship of Strunk's family

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Partial Transcript: Uh, back when you were, uh, watching people, uh, with stills making moonshine whiskey...

Segment Synopsis: Strunk discusses some of the signals that were used to warn moonshiners that the revenuers were coming. He also talks about his own family and the financial hardship they went through when he was a child. The interview is concluded.

[There are loud background noises]

Keywords: Alpha (Ky.); carnival; charity; families; farms; food; food stamps; footprints; guns; handouts; jobs; mines; money; moonshine; mothers; poverty; revenuers; saw mills; school; sewing thread; signals; single parents; uncles; welfare

Subjects: Distilling, illicit.