Friday, June 26, 2015

Interviewing Eddie Gillespie

Trials of the First Solo Interview

The road to getting in contact with Mr. Gillespie was a challenge in itself.  It took three individual phone calls to his residence at Autumn lake to get past the caretakers and the front desk.  Finally on the third try I was able to convince them that StoryQuest was a legitimate academic program, and they granted me access to Mr. Gillespie.  Yesterday I took a trip there and made my way to his room, only to find that his was lying in bed asleep.  I went to the nurse who woke him up, much to Mr. Gillespie's chagrin.  Mr. Gillespie unfortunately has a rare disease that away motor function from the waist down, which he is very bitter about.  I had a difficult time breaking the ice, as he did not shake my hand until eight seconds after I reached out.  I rarely get nervous, but interviewing Mr. Gillespie racked my nerves immediately from the second I entered the room.

Mr. Gillespie did not have that much to say.  Whether it was lack of memory or reluctance to dig deep into his past is debatable. I also perceived that Mr. Gillespie was uncomfortable speaking into the microphone, as he would keep back about a foot from it despite my efforts to bring it close.  This made understanding Mr. Gillespie while transcribing more difficult than necessary.

The content of the interview was spotty at best.  I did have two stand out stories other than the usual quips about rationing and patriotism.  The first was about speed limit reduction.  I assumed that the only regulation on cars was on gas intake, but apparently the speed limit was reduced to 35 mph in all areas according to Mr. Gillespie's knowledge.  If somebody was driving by at excess speed it was normal for a law abiding citizen to give some gesture of displeasure like shaking a fist or something to a similar degree.

The second story, and my personal favorite from the interview is his beach story.  Mr. Gillespie and his family went to the beach one summer in the middle of the war.  During any other time the beach would have been beautiful, resplendent with alabaster sand and crawling with wildlife.  This was unfortunately not the case for beach goers during those years.  The pure white sand had been replaced with sticky, pungent, black tar.  Mr. Gillespie explained how disgusting it was, and the sheer quantity of oil that had been washed up from tankers decimated by German U-boats.  This brought to light the ecological effects of the German assault aside from American casualties.

Mr. Gillespie also explained how he found a life raft that washed up on the tar beach.  He could tell that it was unused because all of the supply gear was still inside.  He and his cousin were about to take it with them, but the national guard showed up seemingly out of nowhere and pressured the two boys to leave without taking the life raft with them.  I'm curious what the guard wanted with the raft.  I can't imagine anything critical would have been on there.  The only reason I can think of is that they were trying to piece together what happened in a tanker explosion, and the raft might have had a clue on it.

My interview was suddenly interrupted by a family member that came to visit Mr. Gillespie.  Out of respect I ended the interview to give Mr. Gillespie time with his family.  At that point I had exhausted most of my questions.  The interview was disappointingly only 25 minutes long, but I felt that I had gotten out everything that Mr. Gillespie had to offer.  I'm a little upset that my first solo interview was relatively lackluster compared to others, but I am proud that I managed to handle all of the extra complications and conducted a professional interview all on my own.


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