Barbara Altman and Jackie Sojico

Recorded March 9, 2011 Archived March 9, 2011 40:05 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX007807


Facilitator Jackie Sojico, 23, interviews Barbara Altman, 67, about her father, Harold Alton Corbin.

Subject Log / Time Code

BA remembers visiting Kansas with her father and trying to find his grandmother’s grave.
BA’s father fought in WWII and was aboard a submarine. The family knew not to ask him about his experiences, but BA once asked him if his submarine was ever shot at. He answered, ‘I don’t know, if they shot at us they missed.’
Growing up on the farm, BA’s father remembered how there would be other local farmers who would sometimes come and play at their house and his mom would bake pies for the occasion.
BA lists some of her father’s chores on the farm. He hated having to deal with the cows because they were ‘stupid.’ If there was a blizzard, he would have to turn them around to make sure they wouldn’t suffocate from inhaling too many snowflakes.
For BA the takeaway of her father’s upbringing is to ‘be productive and do something’ with your life.


  • Barbara Altman
  • Jackie Sojico

Recording Location

MobileBooth East

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:04 My name is Jackie. Sujiko. I'm 23 years old. Today's date is March 9th 2011 hour in Macon, Georgia, and I'm here with Barbara who I just met.

00:15 My name is Barbara Altman. I'm 67 years old is a date is March 9th 2011. The location is Macon Georgia, and we just met thanks for coming in today. But I wanted to ask you why you wanted to come to storycorps today. My father was born I try came in really to tell my father's story is much more interesting than mine. What's his name Harold Alton Corbin Corbin and he was born on a farm outside of Winfield Kansas on December 31st 1906 and he grew up there until his middle teen years at which point his father who was a farmer lost his crop three years in a row, they ran out of money, and I'm so he like so many others moved to Southern, California.

01:07 And so he graduated from high school at in California, Los Angeles area. Sherman Oaks. Well West Hollywood. What's what's now West Hollywood and but his early life on the farm is really like Little House on the Prairie and he used to tell these fascinating stories. He died in June 1988. And before he died, I just felt almost desperate. I did not want these stories to be lost. And so I wrote down a bunch of questions and mail them to him and he never did anything with it. So 1 Christmas vacation. I borrowed a little tape recorder and sat him down with a microphone and said, okay Daddy start talking then I started feeding off these questions and got them his answers on tape, which my husband transferred to CD. They're fascinating stories and I am

02:07 Thrilled at the thought that they might be in the Library of Congress and he also would be thrilled. So that's why I'm here. That's so great. Do you want to maybe start with some of those some of your favorite stories of your dad? Okay. Well, I'll start actually with his parents who also had pretty interesting stories. They were each half Cherokee and his mother was a foundling and April I believe 1884, but I'm not sure and Out in the Country outside of Winfield Kansas in the farm area there and she was found by a dog who laid down on top of her to keep her warm. It was early April and it was so I guess very cold and the dog barked until his owners came out and there's this baby they

03:07 Retired Farmers, they didn't really need more children. They were done with that, but they took her in and they raised her as one of their own and their last name was Newlin Newlin. I do not know their first names. What was her name? Her name was Alma Ethel Newland Corbin. Her married name was Corbin. So let's see my grandfather. My father's father was Walter Freedom Corbin and his story is that he was born in Northern Oklahoma near the Kansas border and

03:45 He left home when he was 8 because they also were farmers and his story is something to the effect that when he was 8 there was a woman named Bell whose last name. I don't know and she gave an ice cream social and everybody was fine, except my great-grand mother my grandfather's mother who within a very short span of time got sick and died and and shortly thereafter. She and my great-grandfather got married and my grandfather left home. He was 8 never went back because he always maintained that she Bell killed his

04:35 Mother Ma who knows who who can prove it. I don't know but it's who knows and sounds feasible. Nobody else got sick and they did get married and even as an adult my grandfather.

04:53 When when his father and Bell who were married would come by the his farm a visit then it's still around 1900. It was so of his it was maybe ten days or so you didn't go by for the afternoon or an hour 15 minutes, whatever.

05:16 And my grandfather never would let Bell get off the

05:22 The vehicle she had to keep going my grandfather kept my great-grandfather could come in and visit for 10 days whatever but he never would let Bell get off the wagon and she apparently knew better and never tried. So there was no forgiveness. He my grandfather knew that Bell killed his mother and that was that so this is a story I grew up hearing and eventually my grandparents obviously met and married and my father was born in 1906 and he had one sister whose name was Joan and she was born in 1907 and they moved during my father and Joan Antone's high school years to California and which is where I was born.

06:11 He says that my father says the house that he was born in was born in which about 15 miles outside of Winfield and it had been a former Granary and his parents. His dad was a sharecropper. They never had any money. They never owned the land there. And yes, I have I went there he went back for his 50th High School reunions. They invited him even though he didn't graduate from there and he went and I met him there at the time. I was living in Cincinnati. I was married and had two very small children and I took the boys and we got in an airplane and went and met my parents in there and we drove around and he showed me the site of where his grandmother's the dog had found his grandmother and their house the house is no longer there.

07:08 But you can see where there used to be a house there and it's just on his little dirt Farm Road, and I'm sorry to say I could not find it now. But what was it like for you to go very emotional very emotional and a very good feeling. I was extremely close to my dad and

07:31 It just felt good to finally see these places. We had been to Kansas before to visit some of the new and family because they had other children besides my grandmother who they raised their own butt.

07:51 So my dad knew them they were kind of like his aunts and uncles and we had been there to visit before but I've never been there was just my parents and poor my poor. Mom had to stay in the hotel room and babysit for my little kids with my dad and I drove around. We also found a cemetery and I don't know the name of the cemetery. The Newlands are buried in a liberty liberty Cemetery outside of Winfield. It's been about 45 minutes. Not that close to Winfield.

08:29 But there is a cemetery in the middle of a cow pasture and most of the stones are knocked over by the cows. There's Wild Iris Wild Roses there but it's where he says his

08:45 Grandmother, my great-grandmother is buried and he we couldn't we looked and looked and looked and looked could not find a stone and I told him I'd go back and look for it at some point and I never have I still hope to do that.

09:04 So anyway, that was his beginning.

09:11 When he was small they lived in an A-frame house and he talked used to talk about that. His dad would have to break ice in the morning and build a fire and

09:25 Melt the ice on the den a bucket of some kind on the pot on the fire that he builds and so they could wash up in the morning and so forth any all always love music there was a lot of music in the house, he and his father both played both guitar and violin and I still have his file and I don't know what happened to the guitar, but as an adult he got a guitar and when he died, I brought it back and my younger son Ben Benjamin Alan Altman.

10:02 Picked it up and he now has his Doctorate in classical guitar from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester New York. And he's he's a guitarist and I wish I could tell my dad and was it was it important to you that like somebody played your Dad's guitar or did he just did perfectly not really I just brought it back cuz I didn't want to sell it cuz I'm a musician. I'm a cellist and my dad was always very proud of the fact that I was a professional musician. I'm also a graduate bachelors and masters of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester New York and play in the Rochester Philharmonic for several years and then matter Georgia Boy. So here we are.

10:50 In Georgia, and I free lamps here. So did your dad encouraged you to know? Yes, he was very very proud of me. I have had one sister she died. But her name is Deanna and she died 12 years ago and she was a high school math teacher and he was very proud because he wound up as a high school physics teacher at North Hollywood High School for 47 years. He was there and he was very very proud that one. I followed him into the teaching field and the other he had wanted to be a musician never had the chance to get very good at either violin or guitar solo, but I became the musicians. So any didn't push either of us, it just naturally happened, but he made him very happy. So

11:48 Cello with him playing the violin. We know we never did actually because he quit and he knew he couldn't do it. Well anymore he as an adult.

12:04 Did other things he was in the 1932 Olympics as a sensor and then in the 1984 Olympics when they came back to Los Angeles ABC covered the Olympics that year and they did an interview of him, which I've got a copy of pretty cool and is very cool and

12:31 So he he got into fencing and school and he also loved to sail and he had a 40-foot an old wooden. Yacht. He loved that thing was called the Pronto but he had to sell it because it was hard to keep up took a lot of time the old wooden ones took more upkeep. Then I guess the modern ones did and my sister and I came along and there wasn't time there wasn't money so he sold that but I'll tell one story he is to tell once when he also speaking of the sea in Saline everything he was a World War II veteran. He was one of many who many who I believe signed up right after Pearl Harbor. He joined the Navy and he was in a submarine in the Pacific.

13:20 During the war and he never talked about it and it was real clear that we weren't supposed to ask him. Now. There were no words spoken. It don't don't ask me about this. So you just knew did you ever try? I asked him one question. I said was your submarine ever shot at and his answer was I don't know if they did they missed and that was it and we kind of knew that's you don't ask anymore. How old were you?

13:53 I don't remember exactly but a teenager high school I'd say yeah, and he was in Naval intelligence in San Diego and the Korean conflict. It's been a lot of time down there. It was kind of home on some weekends, but it's been a lot of time down there and he stayed active in the naval reserves and until even after retirement at 65 and still went to their Thursday meetings and is buried in his Navy uniform. He wanted to be and so he is out at Forest Lawn, Glendale.

14:33 A story I was going to tell about the sailing was apparently his friends.

14:40 Dared him. He said he could navigate to Catalina Island by the stars as friends dared him and course out in California. That's always clear. That's never cloudy rainy, whatever. So one night. He did and I said, how did you

14:56 Proves that you got there and he said will they sailed over and met him for breakfast? So they knew he got there and then I said Daddy did you ever tell your mother at this time? She was told and he look like a whip little boy and he said no one don't you? Tell her I never did o70. I don't know.

15:19 6070 I don't know. Young. So that was kind of a fun story. Anyway music was always very important to him and he and his dad both had Perfect Pitch, which I also do and so they had good years and I think probably a lot of talent but who knows really his dream was to play in the St. Louis Symphony because he heard that a couple of times when he was a kid in Kansas, but he never had the chance, but he and his dad used to play Real Country dances.

16:00 He talked about when he was probably 7 on his birthday his dad gave him a shotgun and he would take it to school everyday all the boys did because the night before or the day before on the way home from school. They had set a trap and in the morning, they would go to school and check the Trap and finish off whatever so it wasn't tortured and leave it there and then on the way home take take home dinner.

16:31 And he said all the boys took their shotguns to school and pile them up in the corner of this one-room schoolhouse, and he went to the red Valley school house and then they moved to a different farm and it was the Liberty school house. I think they were both one-room schools 9 grades.

16:51 And he said there at one point there was a bounty on Hawks and owls and looking back. He shouldn't have done it. But as a kid, he didn't know that and the Bounty was $50.50 an animal but a shell costs $0.05 and so he would go out and shoot Hawks and house which he was sorry for later, but

17:15 So on the way to school he would set the Trap line and then check it on. No on the way home after he picked up whatever animal was there for dinner. He would reset the Trap line and then check it the next morning on his way to school and he would gather the animal and reset the Trap and then they would put the animal on the spreading board and skin it and hang it to freeze and dry the meat and use it and sell the fur to a man who came through periodically and I was on the way they made money in addition to their farming crops. They add pecans and black walnuts. Also his mom one of her jobs along with my father and his sister Joan where to milk the cows and they put the milk into a separator.

18:13 And his mom would make the cream into butter and they said that he said they said the milk to pigs and other animals.

18:25 And he didn't mention drinking milk, but I know he loved to drink milk as an adult. So I really don't know about that.

18:33 And also she made made it into cheese.

18:40 So is Mom a better all he used to talk about popcorn. They had a half an acre to an acre that they grew of popcorn and it was fine except once in a while. There would be a hot South Wind in the summer and will come through and enough of the Corn would pop right on the cob that they couldn't everyone to crop. They couldn't sell it. So it was popcorn different from regular popcorn is different than regular corn. Yes. Yes. It is. It's a different variety whatever I couldn't show you the difference. I don't but I know it's different. Yeah. I asked him about chores.

19:19 And he said the earliest sure he can remember was having to pick up kensing when he was small for the fire in the house, which was there. Only Heat.

19:31 And to use the corn sheller and they use the cops as kindling and I guess his mother cooked corn and that there was his dad would cut the trees ask the owner of the property and got permission then cut a tree so they could have firewood all winter and there was a big sharpening a big grinding stone grinding wheel to sharpen his father's Axe and he had to help with that and one job that he hated one of his chores was it had two trays of eggs.

20:13 And there were a hundred and forty four eggs in each tray and in the spring they had to be turned twice a day and he really hated that but he had to do it twice a day. Why do they have to be turned 0909 it's hard to put into words so they would make chickens cuz the chicken wouldn't turn them right or no the chicken wasn't there the chicken they took the chicken off. I guess the way other eggs and butter chicken will turn the eggs and I guess a bird does the same thing in the nest turns so that they grow evenly and hatch and do a bird.

20:57 Who knew?

21:02 So

21:03 He had to turn the eggs twice a day and he hated that and he also used to talk about he loved be loved be hated cows because he said they're really stupid cuz one of his jobs his chores as a little boy was in a blizzard. He would have to go out and turn the cows because if they were facing into the wind, they're too stupid to turn around and wind and snow would blow up their noses and they would suffocate they would die. So he had to go out and turn the cows or help. He said horses go to the barn horses aren't that dumb cows are stupid. So again who knew?

21:49 Another of his tours was to clean the barn.

21:58 He is to talk about Farmers coming by if somebody came by they say what will make a little music tonight and they would all get together and in somebody's house want one or another and his mom would bake pies. And if if there was fruit in season and they all sit around and with their guitars fiddles, whatever and sing or whatever play their instruments and talk for a while and then go home and that was about the only entertainment they had he said Christmas came out why I asked him about holidays. He said Christmas came twice a year. Once was when the Montgomery Ward catalog came and the other was when the Sears catalog came.

22:43 Can I ask you a quick question. I was just curious wouldn't where did your dad learn to play music was it through those? I guess his dad taught him and he talked about a man who lived in town which would have been Winfield who played fiddle and he said the man was a gypsy and he taught him some

23:05 And he he earned possibly through selling these found a hawks and Alice. I don't know if he earned enough to take a few lessons, but not many.

23:21 So he I don't think ever played Jerry advance, but I have on the CDs that I have of him talking when I sat him down and asking these questions. He starts by singing Redwood Red Wing, which is an old. Do you know Red Wing? It's an old old old wonderful Melody. You don't want me to sing a trust me and he strums his guitar. So he still could play basic chords and by then he was

23:54 Well into a 7 days, so I think you don't quite forget. Was that one of his favorite song? Yes. Yes. Yes and

24:05 Talk about Cowboy that a data that I can't remember. His it Ragtime. Oh, I can't remember his other favorite one, but it's also on these CDs that I have which I wish there was a way I could archives them in the Library of Congress to but I guess that's this is good because this is good.

24:26 He talked about that his mother used to make soap and also that she would constantly bake she made for very large loaves of bread twice a week.

24:41 And it's all the men would get together periodically and kill a pig and he talked about how they cleaned it and store the meat and everything.

24:55 And the women would gather the intestine and scrape it and clean it and so forth and turn it inside out and there was a sausage maker and they filled it with sausage and there was always more meat than

25:12 Then intestine I guess so they would pack the rest of it and its own fat and did it and it's such a way that there was no air, so it wouldn't spoil.

25:25 I asked him what else they grew they grew potatoes beans peas corn sweet corn to eat and other things. He said they celebrated 4th of July.

25:39 As a holiday and they were going to town unless it was time to start cutting the wheat and if it was time to start cutting the wheat, then that's what you did because I couldn't wait even a day because if weather came through and course, they didn't have the forecasting that we have now and

26:02 Damage to crops and you lost your whole crop. And in fact, it was when his dad lost his crop three years wheat crop three years in a row that they had to move to California used to talk about his dad bought a car for $50.

26:19 I don't know what year that would have been but it would have been really early drove it home and my grandmother told him he never could drive anymore. So I guess it was a really bad driver. Basically, I guess you didn't know how to drive. He just kind of figured it out on his way home. But she said she did all the driving and they drove to California One Summer and that was that was at

26:48 He talked about remembering that Thanksgiving was a holiday, but he didn't remember a lot about any special fees. They didn't have money for special meals and things like that. It was just kind of another day TED talks about that. They never took baths because it was just too hard. They have no running water and it was too cold in the winter anyway, and they just he said he didn't ever remember taking a bath until they move to move to town which they did when he started High School know they didn't move to town. He lived with somebody in town so he could go to school because I guess it was pretty clear that he had a good brain and it needed to be put to good use.

27:38 They grew apples peaches and apricots. And so those were some of their pies.

27:46 And

27:53 That's all I can think of at the moment.

27:56 Can you think of any other questions I know I'm going to go home and think of other things. Yeah. I did have a question. I was wondering if when you interviewed your dad if there was anything you learned about him that surprised you.

28:12 Not that I can think of at the moment cuz he had told these stories and his father used to tell the story about leaving home when he was 8 so I grew up from the time. I can remember hearing that.

28:31 Alarm, I did learn his grandfather my

28:35 My grandfather's father is buried in Grant's Pass, Oregon. I didn't know that before.

28:41 I learned the actually after my son Ben was born and we named him Ben. My father was very pleased because there had been a band.

28:52 And his family and I don't know if that I could look it up. I have this at home if that was his.

29:02 My great-grandfather's name or even further back than that? I'm not sure.

29:08 But as I said, they my grandparents were both half Cherokee, which means I'm sure I lost relatives on the Trail of Tears. I don't know that but I mean it's got to be so just a little bit about my mother since I really wanted to tell my dad story. I tried to get my mother to tell her story and she never would and I tried to get my father's sister to tell what were her chores the same a little girl's version of my father's story and she never would so, I'm really sorry. I don't have those. Thanks, but did they ever tell you not much? Not much just felt like my Aunt whose nickname was Winnie Aunt Winnie we didn't call Joan.

29:58 And that came from Winnie the Pooh when she have some little like Winnie the Pooh so she became winning and we always knew his aunt Winnie.

30:10 She

30:12 She yum.

30:14 No, I lost my train of thought.

30:18 Oh, oh, yeah that she hated the farm. She hated Farm life. And I think she kind of wanted to put it behind her. I don't think she wanted to remember things to tell him even if your dad so your dad didn't hear from life then.

30:34 He he said it was awfully hard and he was glad to get away from it.

30:40 But he certainly had a lot of warm sentimental memories and I think it bothered him some how relatively spoiled his daughters were my sister and me that we had it so easy and persuasion think we had it all that easy. We had to study we had to do this and that but we grew up in Sherman Oaks California and comparatively life was really easy. I'm kind of curious. What is your dad look like

31:15 Dark hair

31:19 Blue eyes is about who is 5-10.

31:25 Average build certainly not heavy.

31:28 Just average bills.

31:34 My mom was five 2 and grew up in Denver and I'm not sure why they moved to Los Angeles, but her father was a lithography. She was a city girl. My dad was a farm boy.

31:54 Artist I actually have a book that he did at home. Her name was Ruth Elizabeth guice Corbin.

32:07 I can't it's it's like a printing a form of printing I should know a lot more than I do pictures. It's not printing words. It's a way of

32:19 Pictures on paper and this is really embarrassing. I don't know more about it.

32:26 Her parents were really sweet. Nice fun people.

32:35 And she had two sisters and I knew them quite well, I was lucky growing up all my relatives lived in the LA area within an hour. And now that I moved to Georgia and my boys don't know don't have good memories of my parents and it Chris makes me very sad, but I was fortunate that I knew all four of my grandparents very very well and my aunts and uncles and so forth.

33:05 I was just going to ask him to your son's didn't know your dad that well, if there is a memory of your father that you really want to make sure that they do know about him. They each have copies as do my niece and nephew they all have copies of these CDs that but is there one number that you have them that you want to just how?

33:29 Firm but gentle he was very very

33:35 Gentle and kind

33:40 He was a high school physics teacher. Oh and also say that I have met a couple of his former students and he made quite an impression. One of them is or was a heart.

33:58 Surgeon heart doctor cardiologist at the UCLA Med Center and was very upset when he found out that my dad had died because he said he would have wished I'd known he would have liked to have tried to have done something because I run. I don't think it could have because it wasn't really hard problems but

34:19 My dad had a major impact on him and he had three pictures on his wall. One was Einstein one was my father and one with somebody else and I don't remember who that was. But you know, that's that's not bad. Not bad company my dad and Einstein.

34:36 And I've become actually very close friends with another former student of his who retired from teaching.

34:46 Physics related topics electromagnetic something. I'm one of these titles way too long for a simple musician to know and understand that and I from UC San Diego Sunday and my dad had a major impact on his life too. So just he was a very strong person and

35:10 Smart

35:12 Focused

35:14 Didn't waste time.

35:18 Gentle kind very very kind.

35:23 So

35:33 Read with you about how he grew up in his life. That one needs to be productive do your work?

35:45 I'm basically that don't waste your life be productive do something do whatever job you have do it and do it. Well do it, right?

35:58 Don't mess around don't waste your life. I would say and I think he did transfer that to both my sister and I and hopefully we've transferred it to our children. My sister has two children who are grown and have their own families as do both of my boys. Now. She had a daughter Marissa and his son Andy and I both still live in the Los Angeles area and my two boys are Ian and Ben and Ian teaches high school English and he's a lot like my father is not physically so much as his whole approach to everything. It's fascinating and really touching to the watch. I see my father in him and then of course with his guitar, which he got from my dad.

36:53 Ben lives in Denver. Now, he's recently married. Is it nice to see Ben have like he's got his own guitar now, which is better than my dad's by a long shot. But he's I don't think he'll ever sell it. So my dad's so is there any

37:18 Want to ask your dad if he were able to be here today?

37:27 I would ask him what else he wanted to say that he didn't already saying these four tapes order for CDs.

37:36 But I can't think of any specific question.

37:40 Is there anything you want to tell him?

37:43 I love him. It was interesting. He was he died in a VA hospital in California Southern California and I flew out there when I knew he was sick and certainly wouldn't go home. And when he saw me he said I'm so glad I am that you're here. I never told you I love you. And I said daddy you told me that with every breath you ever take took and hits the kind of thing. Very quiet unspoken. He didn't need to say it but

38:17 So there's there's that and that's kind of the farmer.

38:21 And him that they didn't they weren't outwardly sentimental but their feelings were extremely deep and connected. So yeah.

38:35 Peppa I'm curious. Do you just book preparing to come here?

38:41 The CDs to jog your memory. What what is it? Like when you listen to those CDs, I'll tell you I don't listen really often because it can be hard to hear his voice. I wish I could call him up and say hi. It can be hard to hear his voice at first, but then I get used to it and it's good to hear him. It's really good to hear those stories and hear his voice and it's a really wonderful thing and I'm glad I did it.

39:22 So I would like to thank you Jackie and you Eloise very much. This is a precious precious opportunity because for a long time I thought I wish I could get these CDs somehow permanently recorded and I realize they're not all of there are copies of them around for my son and my niece and nephew, but they have this much on tape and know that it will be accessible in the future and permanently recorded is really a wonderful thing, and I thank you. Thank you so much for coming. My pleasure.