Tom Coffin oral history interview, 2016-03-04

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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00:00:00 - Disclaimers

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Partial Transcript: ANDY REISINGER: Okay, seems like everything is on and ready to go. Um, just some formality pieces to begin to make you aware this isn't a private conversation.

Segment Synopsis: Andy Reisinger notifies Mr. Coffin that he is being recorded and requests verbal consent to continue recording the interview.

00:01:25 - Family background

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Partial Transcript: ANDY REISINGER: So to start at the beginning, can you tell me a bit of when and where you were born?

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin begins to talk about where he's from and explains in detail his family background and the relationship he shared with them.

Keywords: Dearborn (Mich.)

Subjects: Families; Loggers

00:10:22 - Growing up in Soap Lake, Washington

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: So I grew up in this little town in Washington state.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks more in depth about his experiences during childhood while in Soap Lake, Washington.

Keywords: Soap Lake (Wash.)

Subjects: Children; Families

00:15:40 - High School in Spokane, Washington

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: And then at that -- you know, my family moved to Spokane, Washington

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about what it was like moving to Spokane and his high school experience in the town.

Keywords: Spokane (Wash.)

Subjects: Education; High school students

00:24:20 - College

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: I was intent on being a scientist. I love science, I love math.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin begins to talk about his college experience including his professors, classes and the had the jobs he worked.

Subjects: College students; Washington State University

00:34:50 - Applying for conscientious objector

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: -- was starting in -- you know, I mean I wasn't too aware of it living in Portland, Oregon.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about his experience applying for conscientious objector under the draft.

Subjects: Conscientious objectors; Military policy; Sheriffs

00:43:09 - Family influences

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Partial Transcript: ANDY REISINGER: Yeah if we could go back for a second because it seems like we're approaching Atlanta.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks more about his father and Uncle Johnny and how he we was influenced by them.

Subjects: Families; Uncles

00:59:37 - Reed College

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Partial Transcript: ANDY REISINGER: And then also just to clarify, what years did you transfer and then attend Reed?

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin begins to talk more in detail about when he transferred to Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He discusses his field of study, interests, and experiences with drugs while there.

Subjects: College students--Political activity; Reed College (Portland, Or.)

01:08:32 - Meeting wife and moving to Atlanta for graduate school

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: When I graduated from Reed in 1967, I met my wife Stephanie on January first of 1967 at a New Year's Eve party.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about what brought him to Atlanta, how he met his wife and the different adventures they had while traveling in the states.

Subjects: Atlanta (Ga.); Emory University; Marriage; Travel

01:15:13 - Moving to Atlanta

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: So we headed down to Atlanta.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about when he moved to Atlanta with his wife and how they managed to make it through without much money.

Subjects: Atlanta (Ga.); Church; Money

01:18:13 - Emory University

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: Came to Atlanta in 1967. One of the things that were very shocking -- and you know I was very much against the war in Vietnam

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin begins to talk about his first semester at Emory and how the Emory Herald Tribune came to be. He then goes more in depth about his involvement on campus, the people he met, a few thoughts regarding his academic career, and the comment that got him banned from campus.

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Emory University

01:31:03 - Emory vs. Reed

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: Emory was a different animal than Reed certainly.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin begins to talk about some of the differences he discovered between Reed College and Emory University.

Subjects: Emory University; Reed College (Portland, Or.)

01:33:30 - Forming the newspaper

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: And you know, for about a month and a half, that's not a very long time.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about the equipment used to publish the paper and the people he met that helped them become more advanced.

Subjects: Great Speckled Bird; Underground newspapers

01:49:10 - The start of The Bird

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Partial Transcript: ANDY REISINGER: Can you talk a little bit more about this process of coming together, it sounds -- for the first issue

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about the step by step process of getting the first issue of the paper out and how the paper got its name.

Subjects: Great Speckled Bird; Underground newspapers

01:56:52 - Printing The Bird

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: Our first printer was the printer of the Dekalb New Era out in Decatur.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about some of the challenges he faced with the paper including finding press and a printer.

Subjects: Hippies; Meetings; Newspaper publishing; Press; Printers

02:07:23 - Staff

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Partial Transcript: ANDY REISINGER: How did the decision come about, number one to have staff, how were staff brought on, compensated?

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about the role of the staff and the dynamic between them.

Subjects: Newspaper employees

02:16:59 - Photography

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: Just in the putting out of the paper and ensuring that it got out every week.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about his love for being behind the lens and his transition from writing to photography.

Subjects: Photography; Photojournalists

02:26:24 - Finding coverage

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: I don't know what (inaudible) -- I don't know where we should go.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about how the Bird staff decided what material would be put in the paper.

Subjects: African Americans; Journalism; Lesbian community

02:36:58 - The Birdhouse

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Partial Transcript: ANDY REISINGER: And were you living at the Birdhouse this whole time?

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about the location of the Birdhouse as well as where he and his family lived.

Subjects: Houses and homes; Office buildings; Underground newspapers

02:41:07 - The Great Speckled Bird

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: -- continuous loop here.
ANDY REISINGER: So you mentioned the fire bombing which certainly brings up public responses to the Bird.

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about the responses he received after naming the paper The Great Speckled Bird and how they affected the community.

Subjects: Incendiary bombs; Religion; Underground newspapers

02:52:03 - Leaving The Bird

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Partial Transcript: TOM COFFIN: Anyway.
ANDY REISINGER: So what -- when did you go off of staff and why was that?

Segment Synopsis: Tom Coffin talks about how he gradually left the paper's staff.

Subjects: Great Speckled Bird; Newspaper employees; Underground newspapers