WILSON: Tape one, Peace Corps Oral History Project interview, March 15,
2006, with Jim Archambeault. Interviewer, Jack Wilson. (pause) Okay,
Jim, if you would, please, give me your full name and where and when
you were born.
ARCHAMBEAULT: My name is James Archambeault. I was born in Flint,
Michigan, February 26, 1943.
WILSON: And did you grow up in Flint?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I was, when I was seven years old, my family, my father
was transferred to Pennsylvania. He worked for General Motors. And
he was transferred to Western Pennsylvania. So I feel like I was
raised in Western Pennsylvania, though I still have a lot of relatives
WILSON: So you went to high school, junior high--
ARCHAMBEAULT: I went straight through school in Western Pennsylvania,
parochial school. In fact, I went to Duquesne University in
Pittsburgh, which is also a Catholic run university, liberal arts
university, in downtown Pittsburgh. I graduated from Duquesne with a
B.A. in communications in 1965.
WILSON: Okay. Brothers? Sisters?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I have a sister who is six years my junior. She is a
flight attendant for US Airways. Has been for thirty years. She's a
great, great person. And I have a, well, I had a brother who is now
00:02:00deceased. He died when he was two years old. So I have one sister.
WILSON: Okay. Anything in your family background that you think of that
might have contributed to your interest in the Peace Corps or overseas
ARCHAMBEAULT: I think that, well, actually, I was fairly protected
most of my adolescent life. I lived in a suburb. My mother and
father made a middle income living basically. I played basketball and
football, and loved the outdoors. Did a lot of fishing and hunting
00:03:00at the time. In fact, I would say the outdoors was the thing that
I did more of than any other activity. But basically I was a white
Protestant middle class kid. Nothing particularly outstanding about me
or my growing up period. The only thing that I can think of that may
have contributed to why I decided to go into the Peace Corps, or try
to get into the Peace Corps, was at one time I thought about becoming
a priest. Now this was, I was eleven, twelve years old. Going to
Catholic schools, of course they tried to get the men to, young men to
00:04:00look at the priesthood. And I did. And I wanted to be, I was fairly
interested for a year or two there. But I wanted to be a missionary
priest. I didn't want to be a priest in a parish. I wanted to go to
Alabama or way out there in Alabama, down there in Alabama and become
a missionary priest. And I remember, my mother one day, of course I
had written to several of these monasteries in the South, and they had
sent me information in the mail. Well, my mother, getting the mail,
she received these. And she started to cry. Like, "You're not going
to become a priest, are you? And a missionary? And go all the way down
South?" Of course in those days, you have to understand, that was in
the '50s. And Alabama, I mean, when you lived in Pennsylvania, Alabama
00:05:00was a long way away. That's just how people kind of felt then. So
anyway, my mother didn't want me to become a missionary priest. And
then I eventually decided I didn't want to become a priest, either, of
any kind. So I had that kind of in my mind. And then years went by
and I went to college and near the end of my senior year, I guess in my
senior year, I just decided I wanted to apply to the Peace Corps.
WILSON: This was 1965.
ARCHAMBEAULT: '65. It would have been, I graduated in '65, it
would have been late '64 when I began to apply and fill out all the
applications and so forth. And I forget the whole process that was
00:06:00involved back then.
WILSON: Before we get deeply-- (pause) All right, Jim, you were starting
to talk about how you got interested in the Peace Corps, and a little
bit about the process.
ARCHAMBEAULT: It was in my senior year of college I decided to apply to
the Peace Corps. I'm sure that part of my desire to at least apply to
the Peace Corps was my earlier desire to work as a missionary. That
was one thing. And then I was a great admirer of John Kennedy, who
started the Peace Corps. And of course he was assassinated the year
before I applied to the Peace Corps. I think that all tied in with
00:07:00my wanting to go. And it was also, it would have been an experience,
an adventure. And I could have, idealistically, perhaps, made a
contribution to wherever I went. All of those things, I think. And
most volunteers have those same thoughts. So I applied. And--
WILSON: Do you remember anything about that process?
ARCHAMBEAULT: All I remember, and I could be making this up, is I
contacted the Peace Corps somehow. And, or perhaps they came to campus
and I filled out, anyway, they sent me forms, and I filled those out
and sent them in. That's all I remember about that. And my parents
00:08:00didn't even know I had applied. And I'd finally told them that I had
applied. And they were, I would say that they were shocked. Appalled
would not be, that would probably be too strong of a term. But they
did not want me to go to the Peace Corps. They wanted me to get a
job, and to proceed on with my life as they envisioned it and as all
my other friends were going to do. But their feelings really didn't
dissuade me. I told them I was going to go if I got in, that that's
what I wanted to do. Finally they accepted it, of course. And then I
remember the day that I got the letter from the Peace Corps. My mother
00:09:00was downstairs. I was still in bed. It must have been a Saturday.
Anyway, the Peace Corps letter came. And she ran upstairs into my
bedroom, you know, she was waving it, she was so excited about it. I
said, "Well, read it." And she opened it and read it and I was accepted.
And she was just as happy as I was. It was a defining moment in my
life. And from then on, everything changed in many, many ways.
WILSON: So they got an understanding, you think, of why you were doing
ARCHAMBEAULT: My parents, yes. They did. They did. And I was going
to. So I mean, they had to accept it. And we didn't argue about it
or anything like that. It's just, I was going to do this if I was able
to, if I was accepted.
WILSON: Did you ask for a particular country?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No, I did not. I just said, wherever you want to send me.
WILSON: Okay. So you got the letter, and then what?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I got the letter. It was actually signed, I still have
it, by Sargentt Shriver. And I, it said, the letter said that I was
accepted into training at University of Hawaii, which was a bonus I
didn't even anticipate, you know. Can you imagine that? My mother's
going, "You're going to Hawaii!" Wait a minute now, this is only a
stopover. But anyway, training was in Hawaii, three months. And I
accepted, somehow, I forget how that went. I think they gave us about,
I think the letter came in August and we were going to go into training
WILSON: So tell me something, well, first of all, what country were you
ARCHAMBEAULT: Oh, the Philippines.
WILSON: For the Philippines.
ARCHAMBEAULT: The Philippines. And of course, Hawaii has a lot of
Philippine nationals who had moved to Hawaii. And it was a natural
place to train, because a lot of people there spoke the Philippine
language, Tagalog and various dialects. And so they were able to
recruit from the local population people who spoke the native language.
And they were the trainers.
WILSON: Tell me something about the three-month training program.
ARCHAMBEAULT: It was in, physically, in fact, all the Hawaii trainings
were at an old Hawaiian school location. The Hawaiian school system
00:12:00had recently, I guess in the late '50s and early '60s, had consolidated.
And prior to that, there were small Hawaiian schools scattered all
over the islands of Hawaii. And they were basically wooden structures
in kind of a dormitory like, they were built in dormitory like
construction with big, wide porches. Of course, no heating or air.
And the windows were just open all the time, and air moved through.
And that's where we trained. We trained at one of those schools.
WILSON: And this was on which island?
ARCHAMBEAULT: It was on the big island of Hawaii, in a town called
Pepeekeo. Pepeekeo was literally in the middle of a sugar cane
00:13:00plantation. So you were surrounded by sugar cane you know, eight,
ten, twelve feet high. The school was. And then there was a view of
the ocean. No matter where you are in Hawaii, there's almost always
a view of the ocean. And there was a little village there called
Pepeekeo, probably a hundred people at the most. All native. Not all
native Hawaiians, but Hawaiians, Portuguese or Japanese or Hawaiian
or Filipino, basically. And we lived and studied at that school for
three months. And we were taught, you know, cultural courses in the
Philippine culture and society. And geography. And we were taught
00:14:00language. Basically it was, you know, just a standard Peace Corps,
what I call standard Peace Corps training at the time.
WILSON: And the language that you learned was--
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, the language I learned was a language called
Bicol, B-i-c-o-l. The Philippines, as many countries, there are many
different languages, dialects. And the Philippines had, I think,
seventy-five different dialects. Pardon me. And of course, partly
because it was such a scattered country. Twelve hundred miles long,
and seven thousand islands, and a lot of isolation, which resulted
in different dialects. And so most of us, in fact, all of us learned
00:15:00Tagalog, which is the official national language. And it is spoken
in Manila, the capital, and around Manila. But once you get away
from Manila, and I'm sure it's probably still the same case today, the
dialects begin to change. And sometimes, where I was assigned, there
were two towns that were no more than three or four miles from each
other that spoke different dialects. And it was hard even for the
local population to understand each other, one dialect to the next.
WILSON: So you must have known where you were going to be assigned when
you did the language training?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No. No. Everybody learned Tagalog.
WILSON: Oh, I see. Okay.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Because at least you got some sense of the languages and
00:16:00nuances, the sound, structure. But only, I think there were eighty-
five of us in training. And I think probably ten or fifteen percent of
that number were sent to Tagalog speaking areas. And the rest of us
were sent to non-Tagalog speaking areas where we had to basically learn
based on our, on Tagalog, we had to learn a new dialect. And different
words, different sentence structure. And so we just did the best
we could. Fortunately, in the Philippines, because of the American
occupation of the country from the Spanish-American War through World
War Two, English was spoken all over the country. And it was the
00:17:00language of the school system. And the books, the textbooks, were
written in English. So it was not difficult to get by in English if
one wanted to.
WILSON: What was the program thrust? What were you going to do? And was
that a part of the training at home or not?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, the training program was divided into, well,
actually, I'm trying to think here. Some of the volunteers, some of
the trainees were going to be teachers. They had degrees in teaching,
or they had been teachers in the United States. Others of us, myself
00:18:00included, were put into the category of community development workers.
And that was a very broad category that involved, or could involve,
anything from building one-room schools to improving water systems to
becoming involved in rice research. Rice at that time was a big issue,
and of course still is, because that's the main food of the Asian
population. But they were trying to increase productivity from rice
per acre. And actually did succeed in doing that. Not because of the
Peace Corps, but there were volunteers who did work in rice research.
00:19:00Anyway, in that broad category of community development, that's where
I was put. And I ended up being a, working for a regional development
planning commission, which involved trying to coordinate regional
development, economic development, in an area of the Philippines called
the Bicol area. And it was a peninsula. And within that peninsula,
there were probably eight or ten provinces that were tied together by
language and by geographic location. And a province, basically, was
a state in the Philippines. It was treated as a state. As we would
00:20:00treat a state here. However, the size of a province was more the size
of a large county here in the United States. So to try to get some
idea, a group of counties, say, in Nebraska or Ohio or Texas. So it
wasn't a huge area that we were dealing with.
WILSON: So had you had any kind of planning training in your background?
Or was that an element anywhere in the Peace Corps training?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No. No. It was not, not at all. We were just thrown
into this situation. There were four of us who were, of the eighty-
five trainees, there were four of us that were selected to be involved
with this planning commission. And we had an office in one of the
00:21:00provincial capitals. And that's where we operated out of. So there
were four volunteers that essentially, or for the most part, we had
desk jobs. I mean, that was, we each had an office in this building.
And we had several Filipino, Filipina helpers, secretaries, what
not. So I guess we had ten or twelve people in this office. The four
volunteers plus Filipino associates who were involved with, experts
on social work and agriculture and so forth. And then we would travel
within the provinces at various times. We were, we became very good
00:22:00friends with each of the provincial governors in each of the provinces.
And of course, that was all politics. They were like governors here
in the United States. They were powerful people. And so we worked
with them and attended many meetings with them at their own capitals.
Or we'd go to Manila and have a big blowout. I mean, it was a lot
of partying that went on during my time there involving the governors.
And we worked with a lot of national organizations, community
development organizations that provided the manpower, really, to get
00:23:00some of these programs off the ground, started, and so forth.
WILSON: That's interesting to me in the sense that Peace Corps, if I
understand it correctly, particularly in those times and since, prided
itself on being sort of apolitical. So how did you avoid getting
caught up in the local politics? Or didn't you?
ARCHAMBEAULT: We kind of ignored it. I mean, I don't think anybody
really got involved with the politics. We just kind of, we were aware
of it, but we didn't let it, we did not become involved with it in any
way other than to be aware of it and to be aware of the consequences
00:24:00of some of our actions or our programs that may have affected a certain
governor or a certain province or a certain situation. We had to be
aware of the political situation. But we didn't--
WILSON: Was there anything in the Peace Corps training that tried to
sensitize you to any of that?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, that was all part of the cultural and social training
that we went through, trying to make us aware of the cultural patterns
of the people. What would offend them, for example, that we did. And
00:25:00what they accepted. And of course, as in any culture, there's a lot
of things that are different from your own. So we had to be aware
of those. And we certainly didn't want to step on anybody's toes.
And so the training that we got sensitized us to be sensitive to the
local culture. And of course that just fed into the whole political
situation. And I think that, I felt that we were adequately prepared
to face this situation. No matter what you did in the country. And of
course you had to experience a lot of it, too, and make your mistakes.
But generally, I thought the Peace Corps did a good job.
WILSON: One last question about training, and then I want to go back
to the job, do you remember anything particular about the selection
process in those days? You said there were eighty-five of you that
started. Tell me something about that.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah. The selection process. I'm not sure what it is
today at all, no idea. But the selection process involved two parts.
One was the staff. They were involved in--
WILSON: This is the training staff.
ARCHAMBEAULT: The training staff. They were involved in the selection
process. That would be all of the teachers, whether they be Filipino,
or whether they were Americans, Caucasians, what have you, right up to
00:27:00the director of that particular training site. So that would include
all the staff. And they were, they had their voice was, and each of
us, each of the volunteers was evaluated by the staff. Then there was
a peer evaluation. Now that was a whole other, I don't know if they
have that today. During the course of the three months, I think there
were three or four times when we would have peer evaluations. Which
was a written form that each volunteer filled out on all of the other
volunteers in the group.
WILSON: And what kinds of criteria?
ARCHAMBEAULT: (laughs) Basically it was our opinion of a particular
volunteer's psychological makeup, whether we thought that they were
suitable to live and work in the Philippine culture. You know, those
kinds of questions. And then all of these questionnaires were tallied
for each individual volunteer. And then each volunteer would then meet
with a staff member, usually a psychologist or someone in that field,
and the psychologist would present to the volunteer what their peers
said about them. And then discuss with the volunteer their reaction.
00:29:00So that was a difficult--
WILSON: And did everybody freely participate in that evaluation process?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah, we did. Everybody did. Everybody participated.
Yep. And I think that, I mean, some of the questions, I mean,
everybody knew, I don't know how this, but everybody seemed to know
who was right on the edge of not being allowed to go. And who was
definitely going to go. This was among the trainees. I mean, three
months in a close environment like we were in, living and going to
classes virtually within the same building. There's nowhere to go
00:30:00other than they would sometimes come and get a bus and take us into
Hilo, which was the big town down the road. But basically, we were
just confined to this one small tiny, very tiny wooden school. But
it was a difficult thing. Because we were basically given the power
to decide whether or not a person should go overseas or not in our
estimation. And if the majority of the trainees, the peers of a
particular person, thought that they shouldn't go overseas for whatever
the reasons, then they didn't get to go, literally. They were not
allowed to go. They were sent back home. Now some of them, some of
the volunteers, this is all coming back to me now, but some of the
00:31:00trainees saw the writing on the wall and went home on their own before
training actually was over with. Either because they felt like they
were not going to be selected, that's the word that was used, selected,
or being de-selected, okay? They thought they were going to be
de-selected, or they just didn't want to go. They just changed their
minds. Which a lot of trainees get over there and they train and they
go no, not for me. But in the very end, those that stayed around to
the very end of the process, some of them were de-selected right at the
very end of training.
WILSON: So of the eighty-five of you who started, how many went?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I do not remember that exact number. It was somewhere
around sixty to sixty-five.
WILSON: So pretty good percentage of people leaving.
ARCHAMBEAULT: As I remember. As I remember. Which I could be wrong.
00:32:00There could have been more than eighty-five, there could have been a
hundred, and fifteen were de-selected. But I think it was more like
eighty-five started and maybe sixty or sixty-five went overseas.
WILSON: Okay. I took you back from where you were talking about the job.
WILSON: And community development planning for this large region. What
kinds of development programs were you working on, or trying to get
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, one, of course, the Philippines is an agriculture
based economy. And we were attempting to work in areas, for example,
00:33:00in rice production, trying to increase rice production within the
region. Banana production, tremendous banana region. The export of
said bananas, the storage and export of rice, if that was appropriate.
Transportation of produce from one area to another. We even got into
things like air transportation and the improvement of airports in each
00:34:00of the provinces. The improvement of railways, the improvement of
highways. Just anything that had to do with the economic development
of the region, we were involved with.
WILSON: And where were the funds coming from in all of this?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, they were coming from, the local provincial
governments were contributing the funds that kept the regional
development office running. And it wasn't a great amount of money
that they were contributing. Of course the volunteers themselves were
paid almost nothing by the US government, which didn't matter to any
of the volunteers. We were fine. But the staff, like our secretaries
00:35:00and our resource people were paid out of funds that were contributed
to a general fund by each of the eight or ten provincial governments.
That was how that was funded. Now the programs that we were working
on, pardon me, they had to be funded by bigger agencies, national
government agencies or perhaps even United Nations, or perhaps US.
USAID was heavily involved in the Philippines at the time, probably
still are. Wherever we could get the money to initiate a program that
we had come up with. And it wasn't just the volunteers who came up
00:36:00with these programs. In fact, it was a group effort. We didn't go in
there and say, "This is what we think you should do." We went in there
to assist them, the Filipinos, in reaching objectives that they already
wanted. It wasn't like, "Well, you should do this." I mean, they
already knew what they should do. So we were just helping them try to
make, try to realize some of their--
WILSON: So you were working primarily with Filipinos.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Absolutely, yeah, on a day to day basis. We weren't
working amongst ourselves. I mean, we were part of a team. But it
was, we were working with Filipinos.
WILSON: And so the project ideas, were you saying the project ideas
ARCHAMBEAULT: The Filipinos. With our ideas and input included and
considered in their ideas, in their objectives. A lot of the ideas
came from the provincial governors themselves, of course. They had
their own priorities. And so, you know, we would work with them. I
mean, they had the power so if there was something they wanted to get
done and we felt like it was something worthwhile, and usually it was.
I mean, they weren't going out and being very selfish about what it
was they wanted. I mean, most of them had the local people and the
local government in their best interest. I mean, it was all, there
00:38:00were very, very few really what I would call selfish people who just
wanted to do something for themselves.
WILSON: Tell me something about your living conditions.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well initially, when I first got there, I lived with
another volunteer who, his name was Jack, and he lived, he was also
on this planning commission with me. And he and I took a house, we
lived with a fairly well off family in the provincial capital where
we were, where our office was. And we had, we shared a large room
underneath the main house. We lived there together for about, I want
00:39:00to say, four or five months. And then we mutually parted because we
basically had differences of living conditions and differences in how
we wanted to live. So we just, I think he stayed there, as a matter of
fact. And I moved to a fishing village, which was about three or four
miles out of the provincial capital on the coast of the, on the ocean.
A village of about maybe two or three hundred people, maybe not that
many. Maybe not that many. But if you count all the kids, maybe it
was. And I lived in a wooden house, no electricity, no running water.
00:40:00I lived there the entire, the rest of my time. I would either take a
bus, a jeep, actually, they called them jeepney in the morning from the
barrio, fishing village, into the provincial capital.
WILSON: But you'd had those amenities of electricity and running water
in the first. .
ARCHAMBEAULT: In the provincial capital, yes, we did. Yes, we did.
WILSON: So what do you think led you to decide to--
ARCHAMBEAULT: I wanted, you mean to go out to the--
ARCHAMBEAULT: Oh, I wanted a different experience. Living in the
provincial capital was all right. But I wanted to experience living
in the country. And so I got the best of both. I got to live in the
barrio at night, and I got to be in the city in the day. If you want
00:41:00to call it a city. Big town, I guess. So I got the best of both.
WILSON: Tell me something about what you ate, how you lived in the
ARCHAMBEAULT: I ate generally very simply when I was there. I ate,
well, not just in the barrio, but then in the provincial capital, and I
didn't always eat in the barrio. In fact, by the time I got home, back
to my place at night, I had already eaten in the provincial capital.
I did not have any cooking facility in the house where I lived. It
was on stilts. It was a neat place, actually. But I didn't actually
eat there. Now sometimes I would eat with families in the barrio. And
00:42:00they would eat, basically, fish and rice. Occasionally they'd have
some sweet potato or something, some vegetable. But fish and rice was
what they ate. And that's what I ate. And I loved it! I've always
liked fish. And so, and the fish was fresh, right out of the ocean.
It was fabulous. Fabulous. I mean, if you were to go out to a great
restaurant here in Lexington or Louisville or Cincinnati and order
this, you would go, "This is fantastic!" You can't find that around
here. You can't find it anywhere. But I ate very simply. I ate
the local food. I ate, of course, the Chinese were a big influence,
Chinese food over there, Malayan, Malaysian food. Sometimes if you
really got desperate, there was a hamburger joint down the street. I'd
00:43:00have a hamburger now and then. But the food was so good over there
that I didn't have any desire to eat American food. Very rarely.
WILSON: And water, was the safety of water an issue?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah, water is a huge issue. Most of the volunteers
got sick with dysentery. Not dysentery, but they had problems with
intestinal difficulties. I was very lucky. I mean, they told us to
boil water before we went. But I never once boiled the water. Now,
knock on wood, I did not drink a lot of the water. I drank like soft
drinks. But you couldn't avoid it. If you had a drink there was ice
cubes in it. I mean, it was like, so I just decided I was going to not
worry about the water situation and see how it was. And I really never
00:44:00had any trouble with the water. Not that I would go out of my way to
drink it, but I drank it inadvertently many, many times. So.
WILSON: Were there other health issues? Was malaria an issue?
ARCHAMBEAULT: We took a pill once a week, and I think it was called
Aralen, I'm not sure the exact name of it. And we were provided that
by the Peace Corps. We took it once a week or once a month. And
that, even if we were bitten by a malarial mosquito, we would not have
the symptoms of malaria. And I never got malaria. But apparently,
as long as you were taking the Aralen, this is what we were told, but
when you went back home, if you had been bitten by a malarial mosquito,
you might pick up the symptoms of malaria once you stopped taking the
00:45:00Aralen. I don't know. I never had any trouble. Actually, my health,
I don't remember any particular aspects of my health that particularly
affected me in any negative way. It was a pretty smooth trip as far as
that was concerned.
WILSON: Okay. Good. We need to flip over--
[Tape one, side a ends; tape one, side b begins.[
WILSON: Okay, Jim, you were just finishing up, I think, relative to
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah, health issues, yeah, yeah. I really didn't have any
serious health problems myself while I was there.
WILSON: When you first went, how did you become acclimated? Or maybe
the question is, what was the most difficult adjustment for you, do
ARCHAMBEAULT: I think the most difficult adjustment was being away from
home for the first time in my life. I had never, even though I was
twenty-one, twenty-two years old, I had been, I had never been away
from home. So I got homesick. (laughs) Especially in the training
part of it. When I was in training, I was still in Hawaii. I got
homesick. Good old bona fide homesick. And especially right around
Christmas time that I was in training. And my family was always big on
Christmas. I missed it. But once I got through that period--
WILSON: So did the training program go over the Christmas holidays?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah, it went right through. Yeah, yeah.
WILSON: And did you get to go home between training and going in country?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No. No. That was not part of the deal. You went from
Hawaii right over to, in fact, when I left home in October of '65, I
did not return back to the United States for three years. I was gone
for three years.
WILSON: So you must have gotten over the homesick--
ARCHAMBEAULT: I got over it. (laughs) Yeah, I got over it. That was
the biggest thing that I had to overcome.
WILSON: How do you think you did it?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I don't know. I don't know. Time, I think it was just
time. You know, that's all I can think of. I wanted to go and I was
00:48:00going to go, overseas, I mean. Had to get over it. Get a grip.
WILSON: What do you think you were best prepared for when you went in?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I think I was probably best prepared as a representative of
the United States people. I was a good guy. I was, people, Filipinos
liked me. I liked them. I respected them right from the start. I
never looked down on them or thought that I was superior in any way,
shape or form. I would socialize with Filipinos almost exclusively of
00:49:00fellow volunteers. I never, I rarely socialized with the volunteers.
Now we would have meetings, volunteer meetings at the regional office,
which we would all attend. But basically I just immersed myself in the
culture, Filipino culture, and had a lot of friends.
WILSON: When you say--
ARCHAMBEAULT: But I think, you know, getting back to your question, you
know, it was just, I mean, my personality was already formed before
I went over there. It wasn't that training, training can only do so
much to change a person or acclimate a person. A person basically is
what the person is when he goes to training, when she goes to training.
00:50:00So one can become more aware, I think, of cultural aspects that one
can then modify one's behavior, I guess. I'm not sure if I answered
your question about that. In terms of technical things, I don't think
I took a darn thing over there. I mean, I always tell people that
I certainly gained far more than I ever left there. I mean, it was
definitely, for me it was a tremendous experience, and I got a lot more
out of it than I put into it.
WILSON: Yeah. And what were those things that you got out of it?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, I think just in a general sense is how I looked at
the world, and how I looked at other cultures after this experience.
00:51:00America was not always right. And America was not necessarily
the best. They didn't have all the answers to all the world's
questions. You know, I mean, I think of course all the individual
experiences that I had over there just added up to strengthening my own
personality. And I think everything that we do in life is accumulated
within us and becomes a part of us. And comes out as we progress
in life and do various things, I think those experiences manifest
00:52:00themselves in sometimes small, sometimes big ways.
WILSON: If you would, can you describe what a typical day might have
been like in your life? Sort of from the beginning, through the day?
ARCHAMBEAULT: In the Philippines?
ARCHAMBEAULT: A typical day would have been get up in the morning at,
the house I lived in was actually attached to another house by, you
had to walk down, it was, all these houses were on stilts, of course,
because of the ocean environment. So all the houses were about ten
feet off the ground. And my house was on stilts attached to another
house which the family lived in. But you couldn't walk from my part
00:53:00of the house to their part of the house without walking down, out and
around. And I had essentially a bedroom, and then I had, outside of
that was a thatched roof place where they had like a fifty gallon tin
drum, a metal drum, and I would take my baths there. And they would
keep the drum filled with water.
WILSON: So somebody carried the water.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Someone carried the water up to the drum. And then there
were holes in the floor, so all the water would mainly just go right
through onto the stand, basically. So I'd take my shower or take my
bath and shave and all that. It was very simple. Water was cold.
And then I would either take my bike, a bicycle, I rode a bicycle
00:54:00some of the time, or I'd take the jeepney, which routinely came into
the village, into the barrio, four or five miles into the provincial
capital, to my office. And sometimes I might stop and get a breakfast
downtown. Or I would just go right straight to the office. And
depending on what there was to do, I had a desk and a secretary and I
would spend most of my day, on a typical day, at the office, or going
to a meeting with the provincial capital governor there, which was
right next door to our office, the provincial capital building was,
where all the government offices were. And might have lunch with
some coworkers, or after work, go into the city and have dinner, have
00:55:00a few beers, go to people's houses, talk, just generally socialize.
Sometimes play some cards, play some mahjong. Sounds real exciting
but, I mean, it was pretty routine. Now sometimes I would travel
and be gone for four or five or six days. You know, we'd travel on
business or go to Manila, the big city. But that was a typical day.
It was nothing, you know, nothing out of the ordinary. At night I'd
take my bike or a jeep and go back to the barrio. And usually it was
dark by the time I went back.
WILSON: What did you do for recreation? I guess you've mentioned playing
00:56:00some cards and drinking a little beer.
WILSON: But on weekends, or other times.
ARCHAMBEAULT: (laughs) You know, I can't remember. Probably just more
of the same. We would take, I would, you know, some other people,
would take bus trips to other provincial capitals sometimes, just to
see, if we didn't already know about it. Or there was a big volcano
nearby that we would climb.
WILSON: Did that with other Peace Corps volunteers?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Other Peace Corps volunteers. And Filipinos together.
Mostly, I don't know. I mean, nothing just stands out. I mean--
WILSON: Okay. But you did do some travel within the country.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Oh, in the country, I did a lot of travel. I mean, that
was part of--
WILSON: Both business and recreation?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. A lot of, I traveled
the length and breadth of the country at various times.
WILSON: And since there are a number of islands that-- some of that
ARCHAMBEAULT: It was almost all flying.
ARCHAMBEAULT: It was, the Philippines, they had, even at that time,
a pretty extensive airline system. And it was the only way to get
around, really. I mean, you could take a boat. But if you wanted to
get someplace quickly, you took a plane. And the planes, then, were
almost all DC3s. They were World War Two leftovers. And so we'd fly
00:58:00on these DC3s, which held about anywhere from thirty-five to forty
people. And it was harrowing. (laughs) A lot of the pilots, they
drove like taxi drivers do here. I mean, they would just go up, and
there were no radios on the ground. Most of these places had no radio
systems. So they would just kind of fly by the seat of their pants.
And if it was overcast, they'd just dive down through the clouds
so they could see the airport strip, which was usually gravel. And
make their turn and land. I mean, it was, and the Philippines was a
very mountainous country. So you never knew, when they were flying
through those clouds, if you were going to just run into a mountain.
And a lot of times, planes did. They just ran into mountains. But
00:59:00there were some instances when I did take a boat, especially in the
Southern Philippines, where the Muslim uprising had been going on for
a number of years. But when I was there, there was no uprising. We
would have to take a boat from island to island. That was quite an
experience. Like a ferry, not a ferry boat, a passenger boat. Usually
overcrowded, taking chickens and all. If somebody coughed too much
one way or the other, the boat might just tip over. That was the kind
of feeling you got. And buses, we'd take buses, buses where the roads
were terrible. It would take nine hours to go fifty miles, stuff like
that. Well, you probably experienced a lot of that yourself. Most of
01:00:00the time, to get someplace, airplane, that's what we took.
WILSON: Yeah. Did you ever leave the Philippines during that time?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No. Not during the time I was there. We had the
opportunity to do that. Some volunteers went to Hong Kong, which was
nearby, or they went to Japan. But most of the time they went to Hong
Kong. If they were going to go on a vacation outside of the country,
that's where they would go.
WILSON: Did you have specific vacation periods?
ARCHAMBEAULT: As I recall, we were allotted certain vacation time.
And we could take it more or less whenever we wanted to. But we were
limited to so many weeks in a year. I forgot how much it was. It was
maybe four weeks in a year, or something like that.
WILSON: Did you have any different kind of project or anything you
01:01:00worked on during any of those times?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No. No. When I was traveling for pleasure, that's all I
was doing, was traveling for pleasure.
WILSON: You've talked a little bit about interactions with Filipinos.
But maybe you can tell us something more about that. Did you have a
particular Filipino counterpart? Or--
ARCHAMBEAULT: That's how usually I would meet Filipinos is through work.
And then I would become introduced to maybe their extended family.
So I might become friends with my secretary, for example, which I
did. And then through her, I met her family. And then her extended
family. And so I spent a lot of time with her family. And then
01:02:00there were other people who I worked with that I would, I befriended,
they befriended me, and I would spend time with them and their
families. Mostly it was a family-oriented sort of social situation.
Particularly if, I mean, if there was a woman involved. In other
words, if there was an attraction, let's say if I were attracted to a
Filipina, the only way that I could have any contact with her of any
kind, I'm not talking about physical, I'm talking about just, would be
in a group. Go to a movie with four or five or six people. You were
with her, everybody knew that, but you were in a group. Or at a party,
01:03:00or at dinner at someone's house or whatever. It was assumed in the
Philippines that if a man and a woman were in a room together for any
length of time by themselves, everybody would assume that it went on.
So you weren't allowed to do that. (laughs) Yeah. Yeah.
WILSON: Okay. What about your interactions with other Americans? Peace
Corps volunteers or other expatriates?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah, we actually, we worked with USAID. And then we
worked with, through this regional planning commission, we worked
with several consultants who, I can't remember exactly who they were
attached to, who would come through now and then. And we would consult
01:04:00with them and they had ties to advice, a lot of advice, of course, and
perhaps ties through money of some kind. And usually these were older
men, usually, who would sometimes just travel around. Not just in the
Philippines, but Indonesia and, I don't know. Sometimes they would,
actually the money would actually come through somehow. But of course,
a lot of these, well, the ones, several of the ones that used to come
through where I was, just great to be around. They had stories that,
they had spent all of their lives, you know, basically in Southeast
Asia. They just had wonderful stories to tell about their experiences.
01:05:00I spent two hurricanes or typhoons there in hotels with some of these
expatriates. Of course, the hotel was the biggest, it was like a
block house. (laughs) Built of brick, you know, right on the coast.
You could survive a typhoon in those things. Anyway, I had a lot of
experience with some of these expatriates.
WILSON: You mentioned some of their stories.
WILSON: Do you have a couple of memorable stories or events you'd like
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, I had several, well, a couple of instances on
these passenger boats in the middle of the ocean when I thought I was
01:06:00really not going to come back, when the boat was going to tip over.
And several of the airplane flights that I took, I probably flew a
hundred times when I was over there. That's a lot. And many of them
were heart thumping kinds of things. I had one experience where, of
course, generally speaking, the Filipinos and the Americans got along
very, very well. And the Filipinos like Americans. So there was an
instant camaraderie, if you will. But there were some Filipinos who
did not like Americans. And one time I was in a, like a little street,
01:07:00I can't think of the name of what you called it. It was like a little
place where you could just go in. There was just like a bar kind of
thing where you sat and you could order a little food and you could get
a beer if you wanted to. It was right there on the street. Thatched
roof kind of thing. And I was in there one night by myself. And this
Filipino came in, sat down beside me. I didn't know him. But he began
to basically, he wanted to get into an argument with me. He wanted to,
he wanted me to argue with him about I forget what it was now. And he
had a few beers. And I had a beer. And he was attempting, basically,
to intimidate me to the point where I would react. And it got very,
01:08:00very heavy. And I decided that the only thing that I, the best thing
I could do was to leave. But I didn't think he would let me. I
didn't think he would basically allow me, we were just sitting beside
each other, literally closer than you and I are. Side by side. So I
had to look this way to see him. Finally he turned in his seat, this
is probably after about an hour. He turned in his seat and had his
back to me. And I just turned in mine, I left and walked out. Well,
walking out was ----------(??) in that rocking chair, and then I was
in the street. It was open. I didn't have to go through a doorway or
anything, it was just walking out. I'm halfway across the room and I
see, it was at night and there were some lights in there, I could see
01:09:00that he was coming after me. And I kind of turned, and he had a beer
bottle in his hand. Held by the neck. And he was going to hit me over
the head with it. I mean, that's what he was going to do. And all of
a sudden, out of nowhere, this other person comes up from, I didn't even
see him, and just grabs the guy's arm and the beer bottle in it. And I
just kept walking. And it was his bodyguard, he had a bodyguard. And
it was his bodyguard who had been kind of watching the whole thing from
a shadow somewhere that stopped him from hitting me over the head. Of
course, I think I would have at least defended myself. But he didn't,
he just grabbed his arm. I kept walking. There were a couple of times
when guns were not pointed, well, no, there was one time that a gun was
01:10:00pointed at me. But I was so young and naive that I didn't even think,
I never thought that it would actually be fired. (laughs)
WILSON: What kind of a situation led to that?
ARCHAMBEAULT: It was in a bar, also. A restaurant. I want to say a
restaurant where this, a former pilot for, who had flown for the US
Air Force in Vietnam, he was a Filipino. Apparently he had some bad
experiences in Vietnam with the Americans. You know, he was like
flying DC3s and, you know, doing some weird stuff over there. And he
had come back and didn't like Americans. So he carried a .45 around
with him all the time. The one time he just, there was a group of us
at a table about like this. He just took out his .45 and just laid it
right on the table. And I really forget the whole circumstances of it,
01:11:00but he just laid it right there on the table and could have used it, I
guess. But he didn't. Anyway. (laughs)
WILSON: Are there any other particular stories?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, some I probably shouldn't tell. No, no. Actually,
that one was particularly the one with the beer bottle, that was
WILSON: Any more pleasant ones? (laughs)
ARCHAMBEAULT: Pleasant ones. Oh, there were some pleasant ones, yeah.
WILSON: So you mentioned earlier that it was three years before you
WILSON: Did you extend in the Philippines?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No, I actually, after I spent, our term was a little over
01:12:00two years. So then there was three months of training. And then after
the Peace Corps, I traveled for about three months.
WILSON: Okay. Well, tell me something about that.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Two other volunteers and myself traveled in Southeast
Asia. We went to Indonesia, traveled around in Indonesia. Went
to Bali. At that time, it was pristine. It was just fabulous. A
nightclub was unheard of. I mean, there was no night, there were no
nightclubs. It was just beautiful farmland, beautiful area. We went
to Singapore. We went to Australia, New Zealand. We spent a couple of
01:13:00weeks in New Zealand. Beautiful.
WILSON: In the North Island, or South?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, mostly in the South. We hiked, fished. Just a
fabulous place. I'd recommend to anybody New Zealand. Then we went
to Tahiti. I think that was it. Then back to Hawaii. And then from
Hawaii, now in Hawaii, I took a job with the University of Hawaii as a
Peace Corps trainer. So I flew home for the first time to Pennsylvania
and spent about a week or two in Pennsylvania with my family. And then
I immediately flew back to Hawaii.
WILSON: Okay. So that, you terminated your Peace Corps service in the
ARCHAMBEAULT: In, it would have been '68. I want to say maybe January
or February of '67. Yeah, it would have been in early '68. Then I
traveled for about three months or so. And then back to Hawaii, and
that's when I took the job with University of Hawaii as a Peace Corps
trainer. And that's when I first returned home.
WILSON: And what did you do as a trainer?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I was a site administrator. I was basically in charge
01:15:00of a particular training site. And I was in charge of three training
sites over the course of my time as a trainer. Three different ones.
And so I was basically the administrator. There was a director of
several training sites over me. But I was in charge of a particular
site, which meant making sure everything operated.
WILSON: Was this the Pepeekeo?
ARCHAMBEAULT: One was in Pepeekeo, and then one was on Molokai, you
know, Molokai. Another one was back on the big island in the north
part of the big island. I can't think of the name of the town. But
again, an old Hawaiian school.
WILSON: Were those training--
ARCHAMBEAULT: I think it was called Hakalau, a place called Hakalau.
Well, you know where that is.
WILSON: Were those training programs just for the Philippines?
ARCHAMBEAULT: They were just for the Philippines. Yeah, they were just
for the Philippines. And the same kind of situation. We'd have the
staff of teachers who were both Filipino and Americans. And social,
we taught geography, social, cultural, language. And we had those
selection, we had that peer selection process in those days. That
still was used. And of course, staff selection, too. And they were
three months in duration. And I think I was administrator of three
different training camps.
WILSON: So at the end of that year, you came home?
ARCHAMBEAULT: At the end of that period, oh, I know what it was. I was
going to become a regional administrator back in the Philippines.
WILSON: For Peace Corps.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah, for Peace Corps. I was going to become the regional
rep. They called it a regional rep. And it was going to be on the
island of Mindanao, which, in the southern Philippines. And I had gone
to Washington, DC, and was interviewed by the Peace Corps director at
the time. This was after Shriver. And I was accepted.
WILSON: That would have been Jack Vaughan?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I think it was Jack Vaughan. In his office. I believe
it was. And they offered me the position. And so I went back home to
01:18:00Pennsylvania, and getting ready to go back to the Philippines for two
more years, that was the typical tour. And I had about two weeks to
go before I was supposed to leave. And I realized that I didn't want
to go. So I knew that if I went back, it wasn't that I didn't like the
Philippines or anything like that, or that I didn't think I could do
the job. It was I knew that if I went back to the Philippines, my life
would probably forever change and I would, it was a decision that would
01:19:00have been life changing, basically. The Philippines, the Peace Corps
had already been life changing. But this was going to be even more so,
because I was really going to take a path that probably would have lead
to who knows what. And I decided that I wanted to stay in the United
States, and to experience that. Because all I had been was a student
all my life. Up until the time I went to the Peace Corps. I'd been
a student. And I had never really held a job in the United States. I
had never really worked or lived on my own in the United States. And
I wanted to. So I didn't want to go back to the Philippines at that
time. So I told the Peace Corps I didn't want to go. So I stayed in
01:20:00the United States.
WILSON: Yeah. And in Pennsylvania?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah. In Pennsylvania. I looked for a job in
WILSON: Did you have something particular in mind at that time?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I wanted to be in a planning kind of a situation. But
since I had absolutely no experience in planning other than what I had
in the Peace Corps, I had no direct experience--
WILSON: And no formal training.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Nor formal training. Zero. Nobody wanted to hire me.
And they were completely right. (laughs) I mean I had no formal
training, and Peace Corps wasn't enough. So one afternoon, it was in
January, cold and downtown Pittsburgh, I walked -- this is how we make
our decisions, seemingly a small decision in life, it just blossomed
01:21:00into something completely unforeseen. But I'm walking down the street
in Pittsburgh and I look on the side of a big skyscraper and there's
a bronze plaque on the side of the building and it said UPI, which was
United Press International. And I had a degree in communications. So
what the heck, I just said to myself. I'm going up and talk to them.
So I did. I went up the elevator to UPI and walked into their office
there. There was the bureau manager there and another gentleman, I
can't think of what he was doing there. I said, "I'm looking for a
job." And I told them a little bit about my background. And they kind
01:22:00of conferred and they came back to the table and they said, "Well,
we'll offer you a job." And they offered me the job right then. And
they said, "You can go to, you just start out as a bare bones writer
for UPI. The pay is not very good." And it wasn't.
WILSON: Had they seen anything you'd written?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No! No. They just liked me. I mean, I told them all this
stuff. I had a degree from Duquesne. You know, I mean, I'd spent two
and a half years in the Peace Corps, I mean, how bad could I be?
WILSON: Okay. (laughs)
ARCHAMBEAULT: You know, I mean, so they basically said, "You can go to
either, we have an opening in Louisville, Kentucky, or Columbus, Ohio."
And I said, I thought about it for about thirty seconds, and I said,
"Well, Louisville is where I want to go."
WILSON: Had you ever been to Louisville?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I had been to Kentucky in '63, traveling through Kentucky.
But only in the eastern part, in the mountains. And I was impressed
by it, right through the heart of Appalachia. And for some reason
that always stuck with me, as raw as it was, still is. But it was,
I remember how beautiful it was at the time. Anyway, plus I liked
to watch the Kentucky Derby. But otherwise, I had no other ties to
Kentucky at all. But I did not want to go to Columbus, Ohio. I just
didn't want to be up there in the center of Ohio on the flat plain. I
just didn't want to be up there. Louisville seemed a lot more romantic
to me. I took Louisville. Came to Louisville, crossed the Ohio River
01:24:00in February of '69, I guess it was. Never went back north again. Went
to Louisville, worked for United Press International there for about
six months. And then I was transferred to Lexington, and I was bureau
manager here for United Press International for another six months.
That was no big deal, because I was also the only employee. And then
I decided I had enough of the wire service, and moved on. And then
became a, actually became a photographer.
WILSON: I was going to say, tell me something about that evolution.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Okay, I worked after UPI, I worked, I took a job with,
this is kind of a funny story, but Robert Stevens, who was at that
01:25:00time an attorney in downtown Lexington, he became the supreme chief
justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, at that time he was almost an
unknown attorney in downtown Lexington. And the county judge, in those
days, they have the county judge system, which they still have in most
Kentucky counties. And the county judge is like God, you know. Well,
a guy named Joe Johnson was the county judge at the time in Fayette
County. And it was election time. And Johnson was opposed by this guy
who nobody knew, Robert Stevens. And Robert Stevens won the election.
By not very much, but he won the election. And I wrote a story that
01:26:00night that he won the election about him, and about him wining the
election. And it appeared on the front page of the Herald-Leader, it's
not called the Harold-Leader, it's called the Herald, it's the morning
paper, the next morning. And I think it was a good article. It was a
well written article. And basically it said, you know, now we're going
to find out who Bob Stevens really is. That was what the article was
about. No one knew him. He won. Well, about an hour after the papers
came out, I was in my office at UPI, I got a call. "This is Robert
Stevens." He said, "I just read your article that you wrote about me."
And I thought uh oh, here it comes, you know. He said, "I'd like to
have you on my staff." So I, to make a long story short, I went down
and talked to him and took a job with him. I was his administrative
assistant for a year. During his first year. And then I went on to do
01:27:00some social work with juveniles, as an administrator, again.
WILSON: Here in Fayette County.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Here in Fayette County. Here in Fayette County. I worked
for a federal program called the Kentucky Child Advocacy Council. And
we basically provided attorneys for children who were, for juveniles
who had been accused of mostly small crimes, who were in the middle of
adoption struggles between their parents. In those days, the county
judges were the main, the people who basically decided the fate of
juveniles. Juveniles had no legal representation back then. Now they
do. Partly because of our program. And during this time that I was
01:28:00administrator of this child advocacy council, I began to go out and
photograph right around here in Fayette County, on my own.
WILSON: This would have been 1970?
ARCHAMBEAULT: '73, '74.
WILSON: Okay. But you had never done photography prior to that?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I had done a little bit. I had done a little bit. But
nothing, I mean, amateur, on my own like everybody else. But I enjoyed
it. But I never, I never really thought of it as being anything that
I would ever pursue. I mean, it just wasn't, I just enjoyed being
outdoors because, as I mentioned earlier, I had been raised hunting and
fishing. So I enjoyed the outdoors. Camping and hiking. And so being
outdoors as a land, photographing the landscape and nature was something
01:29:00that I was able to do and I enjoyed. And I began to read books about
photography and study it. One day I took a picture out here along
Tates Creek Road and I developed it. I was shooting in black and white
back then. I developed it and I said, if you can do that one day, you
can do it another day. And that's how I really pushed myself out into
doing more photography. One thing led to another. And I quit my job,
my last, I was still, I was always self employed, except for UPI. I
quit my last job and became a full time photographer. (laughs)
WILSON: Okay. I've got to switch tapes here.
[Tape one, side b ends; tape two, side a begins.]
WILSON: Tape two of interview for Peace Corps Oral History Project with
01:30:00Jim Archambeault on March 21, 2006. (pause) Jim, you were talking a
little bit about how you moved from the job of juvenile advocacy to
photography. Give me a little more about that. Again, this was 1974,
ARCHAMBEAULT: '74. Yeah, '74. It would have been about '74. Actually,
I'm skipping another part there. Between '74, this is after the child
advocacy council work that I did, that was three years. After that,
I hooked up with a friend of mine and he and I, for about four or five
01:31:00years, this is at the same time as I was doing a lot of photography
on my own, but he and I did a lot of planning work where we would
hire ourselves out to communities and municipalities to do surveys and
planning work for them. And we also did some preliminary development
work. We were also involved with a construction company, which I
knew not a darned thing about. And we just kind of played around with
planning and development and construction.
WILSON: All over the state?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No. Just in Lexington. We branched out. We had some
work in Bardstown, Kentucky. We did some work there. Generally it
was a period of my life that I don't, it was a learning experience.
But in terms of looking back on it right now, I probably could have
done something better during that time. But I did it. And so, but
it was also during that time that I was becoming frustrated with what
I was doing. And although I think all of us are, we can do a lot
of things. I could do a lot of things. But was I happy doing them,
01:33:00you know, was I fulfilling myself by doing these things. Could I do
them? Yeah. But photography, I began to go out more and more and more
during this period of planning and development work that I was doing.
I began to go out more and more after work and on weekends, and began
collecting photographs and studying on my own. Then I mentioned that
one photograph I took that I said to myself well if I can do that
once, I can do it again. And that's just exactly what happened at
that moment. That's how I felt about it. So I began doing more and
WILSON: Were you selling the photographs during this time period?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Oh, a few. A few. And now we're going to come to the
part of the story that relates to luck and being in the right place at
the right time. And a lot of people's lives are, have those sorts of
situations that, but anyway, there was a little craft shop, downtown
Lexington, the Civic Center. And it was called Collector's Gallery.
And the guy that ran it sold prints and horse prints. It was more of a
horse-related kind of artwork. And I took my prints down there. I had
this little box of eight by ten prints. About fifteen of them. And I
took them down and I showed them to him. And I said, "Would you carry
01:35:00my work?" And he said, "Well, we'll do it on consignment." And I said
fine, that was at least a way to get my work in his shop. So I took my
little wooden box down there and put my prints in there. Occasionally
he'd sell a print. And at the same time, I applied and got into the
Kentucky Guild of Arts and Crafts in Berea, based in Berea. And I
started doing those art shows that they sponsored in Berea. And it was
another way to kind of get my work out there more. Anyway--
WILSON: This is the mid 1970s?
ARCHAMBEAULT: This is '77. '76, '77, into '78. And I still, I
mean, I was still pretty unsure if I could ever make a living at
photography. I still had to hold onto this other work I was doing.
01:36:00But one day I got a call from the owner of a place called Craig
House Bookstore. Now Craig House was sort of the forerunner of Joseph
Beth, a different owner. And he said to me that there was a company
in Oregon that wanted to do a book on Kentucky. And they had seen my
work at this little shop in downtown Lexington, at the Civic Center,
the Collectors' Gallery. The guy, the representative from the company
had come to Kentucky to kind of see if they wanted to do a book here.
They decided that they did. Then he saw my work and so he thought
well, I'll invite this guy, too. So to make a long story short, they
01:37:00interviewed a dozen photographers. Ten or twelve photographers over
a two-year period, a two-day period. And this one person named Doug
Fifer, I'll never forget it, all the other people they interviewed were
full time photographers. You know, there were some Courier-Journal
photographers, there were some Herald-Leader photographers. I mean,
these were all full time people. I was nothing. I mean, really, I
wasn't. All I had was this little box of eight by ten prints. But
I must have come across to him as being sincere. And since I didn't
have a job, well, I had a job, but I told him that I would devote all
of my energy to this book if I got it. Since I didn't have any other
01:38:00photography responsibilities, and I had no family, I had no children,
it was almost a perfect situation. I didn't have to worry about--
WILSON: Other commitments.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Other commitments. Right. And so about a month later
he calls me on the phone from Oregon. He said, "Well, we decided that
you can, if you want the job, it's yours." (laughs) That was one of the
phone calls that changed my, that did change my life, that phone call.
So then I told Mike, my partner. I said, "I'm going to have to do
this." He said yeah, he understood. So I kind of took care of whatever
I needed to take care of. And in about a month's time, I had quit
Mike, quit being with Mike and had gone out on my own and had started
working on this book. That was in September of '79. And for the next
two years, and I didn't have a job. I didn't have a job. And the next
01:39:00two years, I worked on this book. Not full time, but a lot. And I
lived right on the edge financially. The only income I had during that
time was Mike, my former partner, was involved in building some houses
in Pikeville. So I would go down to Pikeville on Monday mornings and
drive nails for a week. Stay in a trailer in the mountains. And come
back on Friday night. Spend a weekend in Lexington. Of course, there
were times when I was out photographing, when I wouldn't be driving
nails. But I made seven bucks an hour down there, doing that. And
that got me through the two years, pretty much.
WILSON: So no advance on this book.
ARCHAMBEAULT: No. Well, there was an advance, but I spent it on
01:40:00photography equipment. And I borrowed money from friends, which I
paid back afterward. And had a couple of yard sales. I had a friend
who moved to Texas and allowed me to stay in his house for a year,
rent-free, if I took care of it. Things like that. And anyway, after
two years I presented my work to the publisher in Oregon, and they
liked it, they published the book, and the book came out. And the rest
WILSON: This was which book?
ARCHAMBEAULT: This was the first book, it was called Kentucky, and it
was published in 1982, in spring of '82. And then that put my name on
01:41:00the map, I guess. And I began actually to earn royalties for the sale
of the book. And I was doing a lot of art shows at the time. And I
had some, I did a little bit of work for other people, but I didn't
like that. I preferred just to go out on my own. So I pretty much
relied on the art shows, and sales. People would call me at my house
and I would sell prints out of the house. Anyway, it was enough to
make a pretty good living. Then I started doing the calendar in '85,
Kentucky calendar. And I started doing note cards in '90. Anyway, I
just keep kind of building on my business. And it's done pretty well.
WILSON: And how many books have you done?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Four. I've done Kentucky, the first book, Kentucky 2,
which came out in '89. And then Kentucky 3, that came out in '90,
no, I'm sorry. The Gift of Pleasant Hill, which is about the Shaker
community near Harrodsburg, that came out in '91. And then Kentucky 3
came out in '99.
WILSON: And you're working on a new one.
ARCHAMBEAULT: James Archambeault's Historic Kentucky, it's going to be
called. And it will be out in October of 2006. And then I'm working,
I'm actually working on a couple of other books now that I have been
working on over the years. They're just sort of coming together. But
I don't have a publisher or anything like that. But I'm working on
01:43:00some other books.
WILSON: Well, very interesting story. Taking you back, if I may, to the
Peace Corps and the Peace Corps experience, what do you, what do you
think the impact of your Peace Corps service was on the Philippines or
people in the Philippines?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I think that, I think that I've sort of answered this a
little bit earlier. My personal impact on the Philippines really was
probably simply a person to person impact of my interacting with the
Filipinos. My becoming friends with them. I don't think that what
01:44:00I did in terms of my work on the regional planning commission had an
impact. I'll never know that. I mean, I know that some of the programs
that we started were continued. But I lost track of where they kind
of went to eventually. But I think it was mostly just interpersonal
relationships with the Filipinos. And exchanging ideas. Maybe I gave
them something that they didn't have, and they gave me a lot.
WILSON: Well, and I guess you said something about that earlier, but
that's really the follow on question, which is what was the impact on
you, of the Peace Corps experience?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, I think, well, it's easy to say that it changed my
life, it changed how I look at the world and other cultures. How I
look at political events that happen. Have happened. are happening.
I guess all of that experience that I have is somewhere inside of me
and comes out in various ways that I'm not even aware of on a conscious
basis. Generally, it was all very positive, my entire experience. And
01:46:00I think that the Peace Corps, I forget how many volunteers there are,
returned volunteers, about ninety thousand or something in that, it
seems like it should be more than ninety thousand--
WILSON: Well actually, I think it's about total volunteers who have
served, it's about 170,000.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Oh, is it? Okay. Okay. Well then, it's more than I
thought. But I think that as a group, those people are contributing
positively to American culture and to our culture, and to world
culture. Just because of their experiences.
WILSON: When you say it impacted the way you looked at the world--
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, . .
WILSON: What do you mean?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I looked at from a narrow viewpoint, a narrowness that was
a result of being born and raised and educated in the United States.
01:47:00Everything is funneled through that. Through that tunnel. And then
having lived overseas in another culture, and immersed myself in it as
best I could for two years, I realized that there are more ways to look
at things than just the American way. So that has colored the way I
think about a lot of different things these days. There's more than
one way to look at something. And other people have opinions and ideas
and express themselves in ways that are just as, if not more, the right
word's not "positive." I can't think of the right word. But anyway,
01:48:00other people have ways and ideas and thoughts that are just as viable
as ours, if not more, in some cases.
WILSON: Are you still in contact with anybody from your Peace Corps days?
WILSON: Either volunteers or Filipinos?
ARCHAMBEAULT: No, I'm not. I basically, once I came back, I never,
I mean, I say that, I run into a volunteer now and then, I have some
friends here in Kentucky who are volunteers, they were volunteers. But
I do not keep up with returned volunteers or the Peace Corps other than
literature I get in the mail and so forth. No I don't. Not at all.
WILSON: What would you say the impact of your experience was on your
01:49:00family? Either your original family or today?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I would say very little. (laughs) The Peace Corps
experience is a singular experience that is experienced by the
individual and there is really no way to communicate with, communicate
emotionally the feelings that one had, or the experiences that one had
as a result of being a volunteer when the other person has no idea or
experience themselves. There's no way to connect. And so, other than
with returned volunteers, obviously. But my family, they wanted to
01:50:00hear, they heard a few stories. But they actually just got bored with
it. They couldn't relate. So, I don't think I had any effect on my
family, my experience had no effect upon them.
WILSON: Have you had any international experience since your Peace Corps?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Just traveling.
WILSON: You have traveled some? Where?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I've traveled some. I've traveled to, let's see. Italy.
At different times, Italy, Ireland, England, the Caribbean, Mexico,
China. Those are the highlights.
WILSON: Would you like to do more in the future?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Yeah. We're going to go, my wife and I are going to go
to Greece this year sometime. And the older I get, the more I want to
travel, because we're running out of time. (laughs) And my legs aren't
quite as in shape as they used to be. So I want to get as much in as
I can. And of course, financially it's a little easier now than it was
twenty years ago to do some of this stuff.
WILSON: And do you, when you travel like that, do you do some of your
ARCHAMBEAULT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I could not go anywhere
without my cameras. And my wife understands that. And it's not that
01:52:00I'm working constantly, or anything like that, but there are always
opportunities that present themselves. So I always have my cameras
when I travel. If I didn't have them, I wouldn't go. I mean, I would
feel completely lost. Because I still have fun doing photography.
Which is why I enjoy it. The day that I stop enjoying it is the day
that I stop, period. And that hasn't happened.
WILSON: What do you think the overall impact of the Peace Corps has been?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, I think it's been good for 170,000 people, as
you've pointed out, who have experienced a culture, a cross-cultural
experience, I think is a positive thing for not just the United States,
01:53:00but on a day to day basis those people are out there affecting other
people by their thoughts and what they learned, even if it's not a
conscious kind of thing. They're affecting their jobs, other people,
ideas, not just in the United States but all over the world. Now you
think about the times right now, the times that we're going through
right now, you wonder where those 170,000 people are. (laughs) But
they're out there somewhere. They're hiding or something. I don't
know what they're doing. Anyway, I really think that the impact of
those collective experiences has got to be positive for the world and
WILSON: So what do you think the role of the Peace Corps should be today?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I think it's performing well as far as I can tell. I
don't think it ought to be changed in any way. Tweaked, perhaps, but
it's been tweaked over the years. It's, I guess, had some, people
are more educated in their field before they go than they used to be.
They used to throw a bunch of B.A. generalists into the water like
I was. I didn't have any experience in my field at all. (laughs) I
had a degree. But you know, I wasn't like a geography teacher in the
fourth grade who wanted to go into the Peace Corps and had ten years
experience teaching geography to elementary school kids and I could
go over the Africa or wherever and teach geography to them. I had no
01:55:00such experience. It seems like Peace Corps is recruiting more special,
people who are more specially trained in what they're going over to
do than when I was a volunteer. Which I think is good. Because the
experience is still going to be there, the cross cultural experience is
going to be there.
WILSON: Do you think there's any connection between your willingness and
ability to go into the Peace Corps and do something that you weren't
really quote "trained" to do professionally and that same kind of thing
through the rest of your career to venture out and do something you
01:56:00hadn't done before, all the way to the point of photography at a later
period in your life? Or was that just, was that just something that was
a part of you, would have happened anyway?
ARCHAMBEAULT: I think it would have happened anyway, but I've always
been, I've always been a person that felt like one had to experience
something in order to realize whether one wanted to do it or not. You
couldn't read about it in a book and say well, I don't want to do that,
you know. So I've been a very experiential person all my life. I mean,
if it was for a short time, just go out and experience this thing that
you're interested in and see if you want to do it. Sometimes I stayed
with something for a while, and sometimes it was only a short while.
01:57:00Like when I was in Pikeville, driving nails into those houses, I knew
I didn't want to do that. (laughs) That didn't take but a couple of
days to realize that. But I just think experience is the best teacher.
WILSON: Well, that's all the sort of formalized questions that I have.
But is there a story or two that you'd like to tell? Or is there a
question that I haven't asked that you'd like to answer?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, there was a couple of things that I thought about as
we were talking. But I don't know if I can--
WILSON: Well, if you can drag them back up, go ahead.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Actually bring them up again. I mean, I don't know if I
can actually think of them. One of them related to photography. But
01:58:00I can't think what it is now. Oh, I'll tell you what it is. It's why
I got into photography. One reason, of course, was that I had spent a
lot of time outdoors when I was a kid, right through adolescence. But
what I found out about photography is that I loved it. And so, what I
had finally realized, through years of being a photographer and doing
what I did, is that I love it. And so if you can find something, not
me, but anybody, can find something that they love to do, the chances
are, they're going to be good at it. The chances are, they're going
01:59:00to be. And that's what I would say to anyone who's not sure what they
want to do, is to try to find something that they love to do. Genuinely
get up in the morning and say hey, this is another great day. Now
all my days are not like that, of course. There's the drudgery of the
business part of my work that I can do, but oftentimes don't want to.
But as far as what I do generally, my photography, my work, going out
photographing, I just love it. Doing books, doing calendars, doing
design work. And with my own work, thinking of ideas, going out and
doing them. It's just wonderful. People say to me, of course a lot
more people know me than I know them, because from my public, you know,
02:00:00face. But people say to me, "Well, there's James Archambeault. He's
rich and famous." I say, "Well, I don't know about the rich part." I
have made a pretty good living from my photography. But I always, I
have this second love that no one really knows about. [phone rings]
WILSON: Do you need to get that?
ARCHAMBEAULT: That few people know about, which is completely, people
would, "How can you be a photographer and also love this other thing?"
But I love real estate. And ever since I was a kid, I'd get the Sunday
paper, and the first thing I would look at was the real estate section.
Of course I was nine, ten, eleven, twelve years old. I'd look at
farms for sale. I wanted to own a farm. Of course, that related to my
love of the outdoors, you know, that whole thing. But I also wanted to
02:01:00own land. I wanted to own a piece of land that was mine, and I could
stand on it and say it was mine. Even then, I wanted that. And so I
bought real estate here in Lexington and in South Carolina. And I got
some rental property. I own about eight pieces of property right now.
And I love it. I mean I really, yeah, I enjoy going out and finding
real estate and making a good deal on it, you know, and then watching
that piece of ground grow in value. ----------(??)
WILSON: But is there any connection between those two loves?
WILSON: They're just loves.
ARCHAMBEAULT: They're loves. They're just loves, yeah. I really, if,
when all is said and done, I've made a lot more money in real estate
than I ever have in photography. Photography is a cash flow kind of
thing that just keeps on going. But have I made a great deal of money
in photography? No. But I have made a lot of money in real estate.
WILSON: Well, you must be good at it.
ARCHAMBEAULT: Which is finding a place and buying it at the right price,
and anticipating that it is going to appreciate. And part of that
was because I've always been pretty much self employed, real estate
was a forced way to save, buy a piece of property, you've got to make
the mortgage payment. So it's a forced way to save. I'm not sure
02:03:00if I would have saved very much at all, if it wasn't for real estate.
Anyway, it's been fun. I enjoy it.
WILSON: Well, good. Anything else?
ARCHAMBEAULT: Well, I'm sure there is, but I think we've covered a great
deal of ground here.
WILSON: Okay. Well, thank you.
[End of interview.]