Harold Terhune Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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 GEORGE STONEY: (Beeping) Let’s do this in close up so we get (inaudible) story again of how you got to Newnan and the building of the platform.


STONEY: And, um, LaGrange.

TERHUNE: (laughs) Well, uh, on the getting to LaGrange were the Callaways. As I understand it now –- and my memory is after 60 years gets a little foggy –- but the call came in from Callaway that they needed s-- a cameraman down there to help disperse the crowd with the union coming in there because they had a lock out. And, uh, the only way they knew to do it, they did not want the workers to get incited into a riot and break the gates down because it wouldn’t serve any purpose. So, uh, I’ve been a stringer cameraman. I was elected to go down there. So I get in the buggy and head on down to LaGrange 1:00down there with just a camera. I think I had, uh, one magazine of film, and I didn’t even put it in the camera. So, uh, when we got in there –- we went in a side gate, and I remember I was met outside of town, went in the side gate, and I said, “Well, you can’t just shoot through the fence.” I poked –- I wouldn’t see anything. So, they were very helpful. And, uh, they had to be under the circumstances. So we rigged up a lot of boxes and crates and tables and stacked things up. It was kinda shaky, but it really didn’t make any difference to me then because I didn’t –- I wasn’t even going to put any film in the camera. So I got up there with this box-like camera, which was an old Universal camera. Sort of box-like, you know, like that, and a crank on the side. But it looked good -- I did not wear a cap, you know, with it turned around and all that. But I cranked away and cranked away, you know, and I thought, gee, these people are not that dumb, you know? They -- they know 2:00something. So when I finished going down I said, “Look. I’ll come back tomorrow, and I’ll bring the real thing down here, which they know from seeing the newsreel what a camera looks like, because they probably don’t recognize this thing. So the next day I went down and I believe I had the Bell and Howell camera that time, I’m not sure. And we had the sound then with the [sync?] and, uh, he was always at one-ten thousandths with -- in -- in the sync, you know. But anyway, we got back up but we made the platform a little more sturdy this time. We propped a little here and there. And I got up and I started really cranking away then, and then I switched motor on the –- sound wasn’t on the -- he gave me the signal, and I switched the motor on and I just panned around, and I turned the turret, or the telephoto, on and zoom in. And you could actually see now if it was a union man he’d start turning around real quick because they did not like to be photographed. And then I put the medium 3:00shot on and panned around then in a wide shot because we just had three lenses and we don’t have a zoom like you have here. So, uh, it served its purpose. And, uh, the film that I shot with that, uh, after we went back and processed it, printed it, and some went, as I understand now, some went to Callaway and some went to Universal news. And, uh, uh, that was about the extent of it.

STONEY: Did you do any other shooting during that strike?

TERHUNE: Yeah, no. The only shoot –- that was about the only shooting that I did there. That was more or less, uh, as, uh, to counteract the union’s activities. Uh, the people themselves, I don’t think they liked it either. They just wanted to go back to work. They didn’t want all that stuff. The -- you know, you’re in a Depression years, and the measly little living you’re making, when that’s taken away from you, you get mad. So I think the majority of ’em kinda got mad at the union for starting the whole thing.


STONEY: Now were you ever used in that same way in any other labor struggles in the South?

TERHUNE: No. That was the only one that I was really involved in there.

STONEY: Uh, just again, incorporating my question.

TERHUNE: Well, uh, the other strikes that the union was involved in, around like, uh, in Newnan and, uh, other middle towns in -- in the Carolinas and that sort of thing, I was not involved in any of those whatsoever. I think that one with the Callaways was enough for me anyway, you know, because, uh, there for a while, you know, you get a little uneasy because, uh, you don’t know -- you see all these clubs and people carrying things, and you think, “Naw, it’s probably my imagination,” but you think there’s guns here and there, and, uh, you’re a pretty good target up there on top of that pile of boxes, you know, with the camera rickety, you know, and -- and I’m sure if that ever went on the newsreel on the screen, it was going like that, you know. Because, uh, 5:00not only were the boxes shaking, but I was too, you know, see. But, uh, it was a very interesting experience, but that’s –- that was about the extent of it.

STONEY: Remember what you got paid?

TERHUNE: Well, if I got paid, I don’t remember that far back, but if I got paid it was probably a measly sum. Uh, if I got paid by the footage I would have been well paid, but I wasn’t. You know, I think I probably made a hundred bucks out of the whole thing, you know. And of course that was pretty good money, you know. That, uh -- that would last me two or three weeks, you know. But, uh, other than that, you know, it wasn’t any fantastic –- being a stringer you’re low on the totem pole, you know, and they walk all over you. But, uh, it’s a lot of fun and I was in a learning process. Still am, you know.

STONEY: Did –- did you do any still pictures there?

TERHUNE: Not there. I did not do any still pictures. I had all I could do to handle the camera, the movie camera, that –- that’s all I could do.

STONEY: Did you ever meet Mr. Callaway?


TERHUNE: I met one of the Callaways, but I don’t know whether it was Senior or Junior. I just don’t know which one it was. Now I met Senior when they had that big parade, and the big gathering or thing. I met him then briefly, and was after the house and, uh, confiscated one of his pictures that we used to put in the film. And I hope he got it back. They were supposed to mail it back to him but I’m not even sure about that. But, um, it was very interesting. They are nice people. They are very nice people. They, uh, give an honest dollar for an honest day’s work, which I don’t know how that worked out for the people that worked there, but I mean, uh, they –- they were not trying to, uh, get anybody like, uh, slave camp or anything like that. They were just good, honest people trying to make a living themselves. And those that worked for ’em, they paid ’em their weekly wage and, uh, that’s about the extent of it.


STONEY: Now, uh, Roosevelt and the Callaways were very close --

TERHUNE: Mm-hmm.

STONEY: -- in Warm Springs.


STONEY: Did you do any photography with them, or anything like that?

TERHUNE: Well, no. I did, uh, still pictures at, uh, Warm Springs of Roosevelt down there, but, uh, I did that for the, uh, for the newspaper. And, uh, that was, uh, an interesting experience because it was just up-and-coming then, you know. It’s not like it is now. And, uh, Roosevelt was a very gracious person. And, uh, he related to everybody, and everybody loved him. Now I did not see any of the Callaways when I was there. I did not. So, uh, that was really the extent of my experience with that.

STONEY: Hold on just a moment. Judy?


STONEY: Take over, okay?

(break in video)

HELFAND: -- me to come down, this is what—-

TERHUNE: Well now, wait a minute.


TERHUNE: He didn’t ask me. It went to the office, remember? I told you that. And I got the assignment, remember? He didn’t ask me personally. I want to be sure to make that clear. ’Cause I think you misinterpreted something I said there. Because if you recall, I said that the, uh, message came into the 8:00office and nobody wanted to answer it. It was answered, and then it came to me, and then I went down there.

STONEY: You did that very well, too, yeah. That’s—-

HELFAND: OK. OK. Well, I’m wondering what kind of instructions were given to you to help you, you know, decide how to shoot? What they –- if you could elaborate on what they ask me –- why they ask me to bring down a movie camera and the kind of instructions they gave you.

TERHUNE: All right. Are we live now?

M1: Yes, sir.

TERHUNE: All right. Well, actually what happened, Judy, was when I was instructed to go down to LaGrange to the Callaway mills, uh, as I understand it, one of the Callaways called. Now I don’t know whether it was Senior, Junior, or one of his cohorts. But I wa–- I, being a stringer, got the assignment to go down there. And when I arrived down there, they were waiting for me. 9:00Really, at a little out of the town, little bit, and we went in a roundabout way, and after we got inside, the –- there was two or three guys there to help, whatever I needed. And that’s when I needed a platform to get up on. ’Cause you can’t shoot through a fence. Uh, you could get your lens up there, but you wouldn’t get anything. So we scrounged around, and they were very helpful in bringing in tables and boxes. In fact, we took about four tables and we put ’em side by side and spread ’em where you could put the other tables opposite, and that would elevate you the height of a table. And then we put another table on that, and then some boxes. And this, you must remember the terrain is not level there. So, you know, it’s kind of rickety. And, uh, I needed a ladder. We got a ladder. And I got up on top, and then they’d hand me the equipment up. And, uh, set up the camera on the tripod, and tripods are heavy, much heavier than the one you have here. Back there, 10:00those things weighed about 75, 80 pounds. And then you’d have to put a sand bag under ’em to keep ’em from shaking like if you’re shooting a football game or something. But anyway, we get up on top of this platform, and then after I set the camera up, I’d start just cranking away. And when we finally, uh, finally came back the second time and we used the sound and everything on it, we went through the same procedure again. However, the platform was already there, then, if you could call it a platform. So, after we got through shooting, which I figured was long enough, you know, and people would be getting uneasy and everything, you could tell, I’d leave the camera there and come on back down, you know. And they -- they were really nice there. They’d bring you something to drink. I -- I don’t remember what it was. It wasn’t very strong I know that. But anyway, after that then I’d rest a while and go back up again. And one of the-- I remember distinctly one of the fellas said, 11:00“Well, why don’t you let me go [up there?]” and I said, “No way. Ain’t nobody touching my camera, you know, but except me.” So, uh, I’d go back up and sweat it out again, and then when we’d come back down with that I’d get -- pack up and get back in the car and go on back to Atlanta and process the film. And some of it would go to Callaway and some of it would go to Universal. And, uh, that’s about the extent of it.

HELFAND: I wonder if you could talk about how critical it was -- was it critical for you to be able to see the strikers, but I imagine it was critical for the strikers to be able to see you --

TERHUNE: Well --

HELFAND: -- and I -- could you talk about that, and -- and mention that – (break in video) that [word?] and talk about that?

TERHUNE: Well, while up on the platform and you’re looking down on all these people -- now these are good people. They’re on strike because they were locked out. But the reason they had to be locked out was, of course, the union would’ve wanted it to get sent into the plant and sabotage it -- tear up the 12:00machinery. Now that would put these people out of work. And it -- it was quite a task of getting over to these people that the reason they were locked out because they didn’t want the machinery tore up. And when you looked down on ’em, and in fact, when I looked down on ’em, you could see a lot of animosity with some people, and other people, they would just sort of hang their heads. They didn’t want to really have anything to do with it. And if I brought the camera around, they didn’t know a telephoto lens from a wide-angle lens. But if I zeroed in on a certain spot, and there was a union person there, you could spot it ’cause he’d immediately turn around. He didn’t want to be photographed. He didn’t want his face to show. And you run into that all the time with union people back then because the unions were so different. They were strong arm people then. It’s not like political unions now. Everything’s political now, but it wasn’t then. I mean, they’d just soon 13:00take a club and wail the daylights out of you, you see. So I could see these people glaring at me thinking that I was an enemy of them, which I wasn’t. But we was there -- I was there actually to help disperse the crowd, and the union particularly, because the union incited all this. The minute they were locked out, the union stepped in. And they had all these people -- they -- in the picture they bring all these clubs and all that sort of thing, and most of ’em, you know, they’d probably use it for a fishing pole. They wouldn’t hit anybody with it. So, uh, the intimidation was really mutual, you know. I felt intimidated, and I’m sure that they felt intimidated because I was there, you know. And th-- that also reflected to Mr. Callaway -- to the Callaways. Which was not really what it was all about. The whole thing about was to get the union out of there and let these people go back home, calm down, and then 14:00come back to work. And it would all be over. And that’s eventually what happened, see, so that’s it.

STONEY: Very nice.



HELFAND: Whew! (laughter)

(break in video)

TERHUNE: -- but of course, you’d send that into the newsreel, which you thought would be most recepted. And at that time, it was Universal. Because, you must remember, that Paramount and, uh, some of the others -- they had their own cameramen, which was on-call all the time and at different areas. And therefore, Universal was a little lax in that, and, uh, Pathe News was the same way. But, uh, they were sort of too far out, and that -- so, uh, that was the reason Universal was selected and sent to them. But they accepted -- I don’t know how much footage they took -- but they accepted that right away because that was the big thing going. And then they wanted everything they could get on it, and as cheaply as they could get it.

HELFAND: So, my question is, um, I wanted you to be able to describe -- you 15:00shot, I believe, 400 feet in total of that event, is that right?

TERHUNE: Yeah, about that, you know.

HELFAND: OK. Was it from -- was it from the 400 feet that you got the mater-- was it out of the 400 feet that you shot --

TERHUNE: Well --

HELFAND: -- you sent stuff to Universal?

TERHUNE: Well -- well, now -- now, let me tell you how that worked. The negative that I shot at Callaway is roughly, you know, 3 -- 400 feet give or take some. When you come back, what we did then, we processed that and made a print to go to Callaway but we sent the developed negative to Universal explaining to them why they got -- ’cause they liked -- they liked to process their own negative. They don’t want second-hand stuff. So, but, it was explained to them why, and being such a national thing, newsworthy, the strike, is a reason they accepted that developed portion of the negative. That’s the way that worked then because newsreels are funny. They want to get the raw film that’s exposed, and they want to process it themselves. Otherwise, they 16:00figure, well, every Tom, Dick, and Harry’s got it, see. And that makes a lot of sense. So -- and that’s the way they pay for it. Now, on this particular one, there was a specific reason to process the film first and get it to them, and, uh, I’m sure that whatever went out to the newsreel went out first before it even went to Callaway because that was second -- really, second and it really didn’t mean that much to Callaways, you know. It was just something they put in the can and set it aside, and a hundred years later maybe somebody finds it and says, “Gee, what’s this?” See? So that’s the way that worked.

HELFAND: And what kind of stuff were you trying to -- what kind of -- what kind of images of that particular event would Universal be keen to buy and show in a theatre? I’m trying to understand what--

TERHUNE: Now you’re talking about the, uh, Callaway Garden?

HELFAND: No. I’m talking about --

TERHUNE: I mean the Callaway mills? (laughs)

HELFAND: Exactly. I’m talking about that event, that strike --



HELFAND: -- and I’m wondering, as someone who wanted to make a buck, you’re --

TERHUNE: Well --

HELFAND: -- going to try and shoot this stuff that they’re going to want to buy.

TERHUNE: Well, here’s -- here’s a way that would work on that. You would pick out certain people in the crowd that -- that showed real animosity. They were vicious type, and they were going to use their club. You would zero in telephoto with that. You would see a union person and you would try to get him before he’d turned around on you. Because they could be identified by their dress, by their mannerisms. They were an entirely different class of people. Entirely different. So it wasn’t hard to spot ’em, and therefore, uh, you might see if you saw a person with a weapon, which I did not -- I can’t honestly -- I thought I did, but you would show that. And that’s what the newsreel would really want. They’d want a -- a, you know, uh, that type of a thing, you know, is, uh, something that, uh, the public in the theatre wants to see. The people in the theatre on the strikes, if you ever -- of course, you 18:00probably never watched one of the newsreels, but I’d watch them -- but the people in the theatre, they -- they’d start talking and they, you know, they’d get, uh, real excited themselves about there’s so-and-so, and why don’t they do this, and why don’t they just kill the guy, or something like that. They’d get real excited about it, you know. And, uh, the newsreels was looking for that stuff, and, uh, that’s what you would shoot for there. Now, of course, there’s the other side to it, too, if you go into a disaster like a tornado. Now, a tornado -- we had a huge one in Gainesville that wiped the town out. And, uh, the calls came in. They wanted every cameraman that they could get up there to shoot everything that they could think of. And they’d take it all, because the stuff that they didn’t use on the -- on the newsreel, they would put in the archives for future use because it was very valuable film, and you had every Tom, Dick, and Harry up there. And I went up there to, uh, 19:00Gainesville on that shot. And, uh, I believe I went along with, uh, Charlie [Bealen?]. I didn’t go with him, but Charlie Bealen was up there -- but I know my stuff was sent to Paramount, and Charlie Bealen was a Paramount man. And, uh, he was a very fine and excellent -- he was a top-notch cameraman. And, uh, the automobiles were flat as a pancake and buildings were gone, and I remember we got up, there was two of us, and we got up on a building and started filming away, and the, uh, I don’t know whether it was a police or fire department come around, started motion to get down, you know, and it wasn’t about 30 minutes later the building fell in. See, it just collapsed because everything was wrecked up there, the whole town was like that. So, uh, that’s the way it goes in the newsreel business. It’s like any other business, you know. It’s give and take and grab what you can grab.

HELFAND: The beginning of that story you kept on referring to “you were looking for strikers that were doing this, you would look for this.” If you could tell the beginning of that story again, and instead of saying “you,” 20:00say “I.” Because you were there. I wasn’t there. (laughter) If you could do that, it would help us edit this.

TERHUNE: C’mon, c’mon [critic?]. No, go ahead. (laughter)

HELFAND: It’s really a brilliant story. It was brilliant. And the latter end of it doesn’t have to change a bit. (laughter) The only thing I’m going to ask you to do, and you know what to say ’cause you just said it, is -- excuse me?

M1: (inaudible)

TERHUNE: My memory that’s -- my memory’s [not?] sharp. He’s going to run out of tape in about five minutes.

HELFAND: It’s OK. What I -- what I -- I’d like you to do—

(break in video)

TERHUNE: I understand.

STONEY: And you’re looking for violence at the [electric cart?].

TERHUNE: Yeah (inaudible). I’ll bring -- I’ll bring violence.

HELFAND: Now would it help you to look at this picture again before you tell that story?

TERHUNE: Yeah. Why not?

HELFAND: Would it help you to refer to this picture?

TERHUNE: Yeah. Sure.


TERHUNE: Of course I’d really rather look at you, but this is fine. C’mon, now.

HELFAND: Well, I’ll take the picture back, and then you talk to me. (laughter) I’m serious. Study that picture a little bit.

TERHUNE: Naw, I’m going to put my monocle on. Is that all right with the camera?

HELFAND: You’ll be fine.

TERHUNE: Am I getting a reflection, sir?

M1: No, sir.


TERHUNE: Now, uh, at the Callaway Garden while I was standing on -- I’m sorry. 21:00Cut it, my friend.

M1: It’s OK.

TERHUNE: (laughs)

HELFAND: Do you want to take the picture back up?

TERHUNE: Oh -- When I was at the Callaway, uh, mills at -- at their request to, uh, set up the camera and -- and photograph motion picture-wise of the crowd down there to help disperse ’em -- that’s what it was all about to start with. And when you are up high looking down like in this picture, ah, you see all different types of people here. You see people, uh, that, uh, create disasters by, uh, violence, and, uh, I have a feeling I’m not giving you what you want.

HELFAND: (inaudible) Let’s do it. (laughter) But please, I’ll say -- use the -- “I.” ’Cause you did, OK? So, “When I stood on the platform, I was looking for this kind of event. I.”



TERHUNE: (laughs)

HELFAND: OK. You can call me Jake.


TERHUNE: All right, now. When I was at LaGrange at the Callaway mills during the strike, and up on a platform looking down on this crowd with a lot of animosity, I had uneasy feelings. And I’m sure they had uneasy feelings. Because they did not like a newsreel cameraman making pictures during a strike. Any filming they wanted to disperse. The union was there trying to keep ’em in and to create and -- and to wave their sticks and -- and everything just like they’re really angry there. You -- you’re looking for anger. And, uh, in the faces of some of them, I could just -- I could depict people that were not into that. They didn’t want to do that. And I could see others probably brought in from the outside that were being paid to do this, and I could spot those because they were the ones out there like the rabble rousers. And, uh, if you -- I panned the camera around and picked up a person that suddenly turns 23:00around, you know it’s a union man. And you could tell it anyway because they dress so different. But, uh, the union, as I understand it now, and I saw this, would bring them in -- in truckloads from out of town. They’d hire people to come in, and they were really, uh, riot inciters is what they were. So what happened was, then, when the cameras set up there, and the people that really worked there, being good people, they didn’t like these people coming in, and they wouldn’t do what they were told to do. But I could look down on this crowd and spot the good people, you can spot the bad people, you can spot the ones that are there and trying to want to break the gates down and go in and tear up the mill’s machinery. And that’s the reason that they locked ’em out. So, uh, that was about the, uh -- the way it was when I was there. As I saw it.

M1: We need to cut.

HELFAND: Standing by to standing by.


M1: Standing by to stand by.

HELFAND: All right.

M1: And in about five. Standing by to stand by. And ask your question, please.


HELFAND: OK. Mr. Terhune, Harold, I want you to tell us what you were shooting that day so that you could make a buck with a newsreel company, and start your sentence with, “Me being a freelancer, me being a stringer, I knew what they wanted. I wanted to make a buck.”

TERHUNE: OK, Jake. (laughter)


TERHUNE: Let me know when.


M1: Any time, sir.

TERHUNE: Well, when I went to Callaway mills down at LaGrange, and being a stringer cameraman -- that’s really a cameraman without a job unless he can find something that the newsreels would want. And of course a strike is something they would really want. They’re looking for violence, they’re looking for anything for excitement that, uh, that people in the theatre would get real excited about. So, uh, you -- you would pick out in -- in a -- a crowd 25:00of people that’s on strike, you would pick out the ones that were trying to incite the strike. They had clubs, they had everything you’d think of. And some of ’em would raise their clubs up and wave ’em, and some of ’em would shake their fists, and others you’d -- you think -- now, I’m not saying I know, but you think some of them have guns, and you get real uneasy about it. But you know that’s what the newsreel wants. And I’m out to make a buck. And the only way I can make a buck is to get some footage that I know the newsreel will buy. And the only way I could do that was get down there and hope we get all kinds of excitement. I was hoping they wouldn’t throw it at me, but maybe at each other. And, uh, you’d pick out different ones; you’d pan around, you’d try to get a telephoto shot of somebody who was glaring at you and making all kinds of nasty remarks. You could read their lips, you know, that they just wanted to get in there and kill you. That’s whe-- and I felt that’s what they wanted to do. But that is the kind of footage that the 26:00newsreel wanted, and that’s the only way I could make a buck. ’Cause being out -- you know, I didn’t have a regular job. I was a stringer. I’d have to take all the lousy assignments that would come up. But every now and then they’d turn out real good. Well, I was in the learning process and I was young, you know, it was exciting for me to do it. But I had to make a buck, you know, you have to eat. So, uh, and, uh, you know, I don’t think anybody would loan me any money after that, you know. After a year or two there nobody’s going to loan you anything ’cause you don’t have a job, you know. But, uh, I got along good with the guys. They were all nice, everybody helped me out. And, uh, I think a lot of them felt sorry for me, so I got a pretty -- few good jobs. And then when the tornado came along up in Gainesville, it was the same thing, you know. Get the disaster. You want the disaster. So, uh, you -- you just scout around. A town being like that, it’s terrible to look. But to show it on film, any cameraman would tell you, it’s easy to look at it, but to 27:00get it on film to where it’s really presentable to look like a disaster isn’t that easy. I remember one shot I had an automobile had been flattened down, and I found two guys here and I got them to pick this car up and that’s what I shot. Just to show it there didn’t mean anything. It could have been any car. But to show ’em picking it, where you could actually pick that car up on one side like that, and then when they was going to demolish a building, I got a shot of that. And that -- that’s what the newsreel was looking for. And that’s the way I made my buck.

STONEY: Beautiful. That couldn’t be better. Thank you.

(Break in video)

HELFAND: Wait. We’re going to have to have him turn around. He’s not looking at me.

TERHUNE: Now what have I done?

STONEY: Look at Judy.

HELFAND: Look at me.

TERHUNE: Open my big mouth again. (laughter)

HELFAND: Please look at me.

STONEY: Look at Judy.

HELFAND: Tell me this story.

TERHUNE: All right. Well, in order to tell the newsreels what you had, you did not write out a, uh, script, like or anything -- that would be boring. You know, they’re -- they’re like editors for any kind of a story. They want a 28:00certain format, and all the newsreels’ companies, they would supply anybody with their forms, their official forms, which had, you know, A, B, C, D, you put this in there what happened, and then cut it down. It’s like editing out what you think you would want to tell ’em, because it would ramble on and on. You’d never get anything to ’em. So you would write out maybe in three or four sentences. They’d pick up the rest of it, and then they’d put the sound on with that. Now if you were shooting sound, sometimes they’d wipe you out and use their own narrator because they would do it better. So, uh, that was usually the way it was that they’d use the background sound, but if you wanted to really get into the newsreel and tell them that, you’d better use their official form or they’re going to scrap your film right quick, they’re not going to use it. ’Cause they would never second guess anything because of lawsuits. And that’s -- that’s the way that you communicate with a raw negative -- exposed raw negative that you send in to ’em.