Ann Autry was secretary to the director of the Department of Food Science and worked at the Griffin Experiment Station for 52 years. Of particular interest is her commentary on how life and working conditions changed over a period of two generations, and what she considers to be the most important developments in the history of the campus. Some of these views were unexpected after talking with a number of faculty members and other administrative assistants off the record. By comparing different perspectives through oral interviews, it is hoped that one can acquire a much richer and more inclusive view of the history and life of the campus.
Monday, August 31, 2015
- John Cruickshank is a Librarian at the Griffin Campus Library, University of Georgia.
Interview with Ann Autry
CRUICKSHANK: 2015, I’m John Cruickshank, and I’m interviewing Ann Autry. So Ann, would you please tell us a little bit about where you were born, where you grew up.
AUTRY: Well I was born here in Griffin. I’ve lived here all my life, grew up here, graduated high school here and started working here. My senior year in high school I worked after school from March until I was hired full time in June and I worked here ever since.
CRUICKSHANK: You worked here in your senior year?
AUTRY: I worked part time in the afternoon for Dr. Woodruff.
CRUICKSHANK: What about your family? Did you have any siblings?
AUTRY: My sister worked here right before I did. She travelled with her husband and she got a job with Dr. Woodruff here and worked just a few months because she was pregnant at the time and she had a baby and when she left I got her job.
CRUICKSHANK: So that’s what gave you the idea to come here?
AUTRY: Yes because she worked here and then Dr. Woodruff went to Mrs. Neely who taught the business courses at the high school and asked her about me and she recommended me and I came here and I’ve been here ever since. Like I said, though, when my daughter was born in 1958 I was out a year until she was a year old, then I came back to work. I had a son. I just took a maternity leave for six weeks when he was born, and when my daughter was born I was out a year. Other than that I worked continuously.
CRUICKSHANK: So what was your primary job when you started working here?
AUTRY: I was a secretary to Dr. Woodruff: typing letters, correspondence, papers.
CRUICKSHANK: So in the years that you worked here were you working exclusively for the head of that department?
AUTRY: Yes, I was.
CRUICKSHANK: Did you do any work at all for the director of the campus?
AUTRY: No, I did not.
CRUICKSHANK: You had quite a bit of interaction, did you, with the director?
AUTRY: Well, in the latter years I had more action with Dr. Arkin than the others because, I don’t know why, but I didn’t do any work per se for him, though. I just worked for the heads of the department here.
CRUICKSHANK: I’m just curious to know what kinds of access you had to information about what was going on. Were you attending faculty meetings?
AUTRY: Yes, I would take notes at faculty meetings.
CRUICKSHANK: The whole time you were here?
AUTRY: Well, mostly the whole time I was here, but mostly in the latter years when Dr. Nakayama became department head I was more involved in faculty meetings and stuff like that, but I helped with the budget and all that.
CRUICKSHANK: And, ah, looking back over the years, what strikes you as the most significant changes that occurred when you were here?
AUTRY: Of course the most significant is having – we started with grad students way back several years ago and Dr. Beuchat had the first grad student on the campus and he was in our department and then the most significant change is when we built a student learning center and started taking undergrads here.
CRUICKSHANK: And what year was that? That was, I guess 2005, wasn’t it?
AUTRY: Yes it was not too long ago.
CRUICKSHANK: So they were taking graduate students way back in the 50’s, is that right?
AUTRY: Well Dr. Beuchat came here in ’72 so it was in the ’70’s I’m sure they started the grad students.
CRUICKSHANK: And up until then it was strictly research?
AUTRY: Strictly research and we had cows and pigs and everything on the station and even had peaches, and crops, you know.
CRUICKSHANK: Of the people you knew or worked with, who impressed you, personally or professionally, the most?
AUTRY: Of course Dr. Doyle did because he was an expert when he came here in food safety and food borne diseases and he really impressed me with his knowledge and his dedication to the food safety.
CRUICKSHANK: And when did he come here?
AUTRY: He came in 1991.
CRUICKSHANK: And so he was your immediate supervisor?
AUTRY: Yes. I was his administrator since 1991 until I retired.
CRUICKSHANK: So what is it that impressed you about him? His knowledge?
AUTRY: His knowledge, and his stamina. He could keep going and he could close out everything around him and concentrate on his work and he was a fair person too. He treated everybody fairly but most of all he was just an expert in what he did. That impresses me.
CRUICKSHANK: So he spent most of his time doing research. Did he spend much time just doing administrative work?
AUTRY: Of course, he had to do a lot of administrative work since he was center director and before that he was department head and then they took department head for five or six years. He was department head over this in Athens and he would spend two days a week in Athens and three days here, going back and forth. Mostly – he did a lot of administrative work but he was also over the research in his lab.
CRUICKSHANK: Could you describe your friendship with those you’ve worked with here, on the UGA Griffin campus? Tell us a little bit about your friendships?
AUTRY: Well I have developed a lot of friends and I still am friends with a bunch of ’em. You know what I am saying? A lot of people come and go but they’ll always speak when I see them in town and – “how are you doing” and “what’s going on at the station…” and things like that.
CRUICKSHANK: So most of the people you got to know, were they mostly in your department or did you get to know many people outside of your department?
AUTRY: Well, because we were mostly research and lab work we didn’t get out and about like the ones that did the field work and stuff but you know I was friends with the business office and – you know – the ones around that had something to do with our jobs. I was friends with all of them. But other than that, you know, mostly we didn’t get out and meet everybody like the field workers did – the ones that did field research.
CRUICKSHANK: So did you end up having a lot of friends here in your personal life? Did you go out with people after work, or was it pretty much confined to work?
AUTRY: It was pretty much confined to the work, sometimes.
CRUICKSHANK: What was the most challenging time of your employment?
AUTRY: The most challenging time was the budget when we had budget cuts and they didn’t let us hire any body and I had to do everything like purchasing, correspondence, being an assistant to the Director, and I was the only one here for a while. That was very challenging but it worked out and we’ve got more people hired now that are doing more.
CRUICKSHANK: So was it a challenge because of the workload?
AUTRY: And because of the budget cuts. You know, we had a lot of budget cuts in the last several years.
CRUICKSHANK: So it was pretty much near the end, then, that’s when it was most challenging for you?
AUTRY: Well, not exactly. I think we had challenging times, you know, all along.
CRUICKSHANK: But the budget issues – was that…
AUTRY: The budget issue was the main thing – that we couldn’t hire people to do the work.
CRUICKSHANK: How far back did that problem go, I mean, when you were here in the 50’s and early 60’s, was it a problem back then?
AUTRY: Well, the budget was handled differently then because the station, like the director of this station did the budgets and he doled out money to each department but later on, and I can’t remember the years, but everything moved to Athens and they handled the budget from the Dean and Director over there and they doled out the money, and it was
CRUICKSHANK: So at what point did that happen – maybe, roughly 10 years in? Can you make a guess?
AUTRY: Probably. No, probably about – I’d say 20 years in.
CRUICKSHANK: So around 1980 probably.
AUTRY: Probably – I’m not sure, though.
CRUICKSHANK: Sometime in the 70’s – maybe the late 70’s probably.
CRUICKSHANK: During the civil rights era was there any racial tension here among personnel?
CRUICKSHANK: You weren’t aware of anything at all?
AUTRY: I wasn’t aware of any. No.
CRUICKSHANK: So you lived and grew up in Griffin. What does the campus mean to the community? What did it mean to the community early on and how did that change over time?
AUTRY: When I was in high school a lot of people came up here and they picked cotton, you know, in the summertime and they worked in the peach orchards picking peaches and all. But then they did away with all of that and changed their research focus and it meant a lot to the young people in Griffin to have summer jobs and things and then it kind of evolved into more lab work and stuff like that and now people that are in the sciences in college – they usually get more lab jobs than the ones that pick the peaches and the cotton and the other crops, you know, that they grew.
CRUICKSHANK: So really, I suppose early on, maybe in the 60’s there was a lot more attraction to the general population, I suppose, because of that?
AUTRY: Well, maybe not a lot more attraction but I think it’s always meant a lot to the administration of Griffin that this has been a main focus to the city here and the campus here and then Dr. Arkin came along and he really stirred up the people about the Griffin campus and you know we had a vote one time to make Gordon – to move – make a junior college in Griffin and they voted it down and that’s when Gordon became a university – part of the Board of Regents. So Dr. Arkin, when he came, he started working on the city officials to make this more of a campus. I don’t know how many students they have now but it’s really evolved. A lot of people – locally, anyway, like to have this so they don’t have to travel, they can have families, and still take their students.
CRUICKSHANK: So before 2005 it was just grad students, I believe, right? They didn’t start taking undergraduate students until 2005?
AUTRY: Uh uh.
CRUICKSHANK: How many graduate students came here up until 2005, would you say?
AUTRY: Well I know Dr. Beuchat in the Food Science Department had more than anybody on campus for a long time and I couldn’t even guess. Of course we used to keep a list of them.
CRUICKSHANK: Would it be dozens?
AUTRY: Yes, dozens, and there were Masters and Ph.D. students.
CRUICKSHANK: So, can you tell me anything about – you’ve done a lot of administrative work – you’ve seen a lot of documents. I’m just curious to know what you can tell us about the relationship between Athens and Griffin.
AUTRY: Well, I think, you know we had a pretty good relationship mainly because at one time Dr. Doyle was Head there and Head here too and that made for smoother work but I think sometimes there was a little jealously maybe. You know, among the – I can only speak for Food Science – because that was what I was in – but I think that we were not recognized as much as we could have been or should have been because of our work and a lot of people would go to Athens because they liked the campus life rather than Griffin, you know, doing things like that. All in all, I believe we had a pretty good relationship, maybe just a little envy, or jealous or something.
CRUICKSHANK: You’re saying a lot of people went to Athens because of the difference in social life and so on.
CRUICKSHANK: Are you talking about faculty?
CRUICKSHANK: Faculty as well.
AUTRY: Yeah, because most of the people here were local people – the staff.
CRUICKSHANK: So how did early technology – computers – when computers came along – how did that effect the campus? How did it affect your work?
AUTRY: Oh well of course it made it much easier. We started out with manual typewriters, then I had an electric typewriter. Then we had those typewriters that had memory with them. Then we had the Wang system which is a computer of sorts but it was put out by Wang.
CRUICKSHANK: Wang. WANG?
AUTRY: Yes. We went with that a long time and then the PC’s came into being.
CRUICKSHANK: So with the Wang system you were sort of able to erase things a lot more easily?
AUTRY: Oh yeah. You could type over.
CRUICKSHANK: That would have been a huge difference.
AUTRY: Huge difference.
CRUICKSHANK: Much, much easier.
AUTRY: Ah ha. Even much easier than those memory typewriters because you would have to print out everything.
CRUICKSHANK: And those wouldn’t really erase, would they?
AUTRY: Well, you could take out but it still – it just wasn’t as efficient.
CRUICKSHANK: So, let’s see, let’s go through the people you worked for. The first person was Dr. Woodruff.
AUTRY: Dr. Woodruff, ah ha.
CRUICKSHANK: And then who? Who was next?
AUTRY: Let’s see, Dr. James Marion.
CRUICKSHANK: James Marion.
AUTRY: He stayed here two years and then he went to Goldkist. And Mr. Kell Heaton was the interim department head during that time. Then Dr. Nakayama came and then Dr. Doyle came after Dr. Tommy Nakayama.
CRUICKSHANK: How long was Dr. Nakayama here?
AUTRY: Let’s see. Dr. Marion left in ’69. Dr. Nakayama was here until ’91 but in the meantime he took a two-year hiatus and was director of the Peanut CRSP (Peanut Collaborative Research Support Program) project and Mr. Heaton was interim again during that time. But then Dr. Nakayama retired in 1990 or ’91 and Dr. Doyle came in January of ’91.
CRUICKSHANK: So you were working for Dr. Nakayama for around 20 years then, right?
CRUICKSHANK: Must have been close to 20 years.
AUTRY: Ah ha. No. I left out one. I thought I didn’t work for him that long. After Dr. Marion, Dr. Lorne ….
AUTRY: So after Dr. Marion, Dr. Lorne Shewfelt came.
CRUICKSHANK: How long was he here?
AUTRY: He was here until 1976 and he had a heart attack and died in December of ’76. And then in the meantime Mr. Heaton was the interim there until Dr. Nakayama came probably in ’77. And he stayed until ’91, except for the two years he was Peanut CRSP director.
CRUICKSHANK: Did you work for Dr. Beuchat?
AUTRY: Well he was interim once in a while, he would be the acting department head and they tried to give him the job when, I believe it was when Dr. Doyle came. But he didn’t want it because of his health, he said he couldn’t take the stress and so Dr. Beuchat was chairman, I mean he was the head, acting head in between a lot of those times, but he was never permanent head.
CRUICKSHANK: Ok. So is there anything else that you want to bring out? To talk about? Anything else before I stop here?
AUTRY: I, well if there is anything else you want to know.
CRUICKSHANK: Um, when we were looking through some old photographs just a few minutes ago you recognized a lot of people back in the 70’s
CRUICKSHANK: The 70’s and 80’s certainly.
CRUICKSHANK: And even the 60’s I guess. And uh, so how did those times strike you as being different than your last years here? What are the main things that, um, come up in your head? What things do you think about?
AUTRY: Well mostly I think about how things have changed since that time, how they’ve improved the Station, how they paved the road, and they’ve done away with a bunch of crops, and animals.
CRUICKSHANK: That’s an improvement?
AUTRY: No, that’s not an improvement, but they’ve improved the station. But I think they’ve improved it by adding the undergrad students and I think a lot of times though they tend to lose their focus on the research part and I think research is very important. So…
CRUICKSHANK: And what about people? Do you think, um, they behave any differently now than they did in the 50’s and 60’s?
AUTRY: Do they behave differently?
CRUICKSHANK: Do they behave differently or did you find it easier to get along with people back then than you do now or is there a difference?
AUTRY: Don’t think there is a whole lot of difference, I think it all depends on your personality. Some people get along with people better than others and some people are not going to get along with anybody. And there have been very few that I could not get along with at all in my 50 some odd years here.
CRUICKSHANK: And you were just saying, you were just telling me earlier that you weren’t allowed to wear pants, I guess until quite recently actually.
AUTRY: Yeah, actually even when Dr. Jackson was here I believe he didn’t allow the ladies to wear pants in his office. And maybe Dr. Arkin, I can’t remember, but they just started wearing pants in the 80’s maybe. Late 70’s and 80’s, but they had to wear dresses.
CRUICKSHANK: And were there a lot more activities, social activities on the campus back then back in the 60’s?
AUTRY: Yes, we had we used to have picnics on Saturday’s, for the whole Station, of course we were much smaller back then.
CRUICKSHANK: How often would you have them?
AUTRY: Maybe a couple of times a year, we would have picnic’s and get-togethers and sometimes we would have, well still now you know we have the Thanksgiving and Christmas Breakfast and things like that, but we would have things for the families, like picnics on Saturday and things like that.
CRUICKSHANK: We were looking at photographs earlier and I was surprised that you could remember all those names, I mean going way back
CRUICKSHANK: I mean right off the top of your head, with no hesitation at all.
CRUICKSHANK: It sounded like that to me. How well did you know some of these people?
AUTRY: Well, we were so small back then, you knew everybody, and you worked closely with them, so I guess you would say I knew them pretty well. Because of the size of the Station you got to know people better. And now there are so many people you just don’t get out and about, but like I said in our department, we didn’t get out and about because we did mostly lab work and not field work, but we did know the people in the business office, the director’s office and different places like that.
CRUICKSHANK: So, in the early 60’s um, where you worked, how many people would have been there, in your building?
AUTRY: Ah, in my building there probably would have been maybe 15 or 20.
CRUICKSHANK: Oh, so.
AUTRY: Maybe less than that.
CRUICKSHANK: So you were probably interacting with them many times everyday.
CRUICKSHANK: With everyone
AUTRY: That’s right.
CRUICKSHANK: And how did you interact with them? They would go to your office and I suppose you would type things up for people?
AUTRY: Yes I did. I typed for everybody.
CRUICKSHANK: Did you go to their lab?
AUTRY: No, they came to the office.
CRUICKSHANK: And so.
AUTRY: I mean there was a time way back in the late 50’s and early 60’s where Dr. Woodruff was department head and they would do processing on turnip greens and green beans and things and they would make a list and if we didn’t, if we were not real busy in the office we would snap green beans and wash them and get them done like that. But they would make a chart, you know, who would do what back then.
CRUICKSHANK: How often did you do that sort of thing?
AUTRY: Well we did it probably during the summer when the crops were ready.
CRUICKSHANK: So, did that take a lot of time, or was that something that was rarely.
AUTRY: No, that didn’t take a lot of time, but it was occasionally we would have to do that.
CRUICKSHANK: A few times a month?
AUTRY: Oh, a couple of times a month, maybe.
CRUICKSHANK: So you were actually in the labs working with them, sometimes?
AUTRY: Well in the processing plant they called it the pilot plant. I didn’t work in the labs to do analysis or anything.
CRUICKSHANK: Did you set foot in the labs at all?
AUTRY: Yeah, but you know.
CRUICKSHANK: What were you doing in there just saying hello?
AUTRY: Well you know, getting time cards signed, you know doing my regular job, getting in touch with people.
CRUICKSHANK: Well really your job required you to go around an interact quite a bit, then?
AUTRY: Yeah, uh-huh.
CRUICKSHANK Well I think it’s just about time to wrap things up. Is there anything that you would like to say before we close here?
AUTRY: Is there anything I would like to say?
AUTRY: Well I can tell you this is the best thing that ever happened to me was getting a job here. When I did fresh out of high school, working 50 something years and besides all the experience and people I met. You know there is a lot of culture here and also the benefits were good and great and I just liked it. I had planned to retire years ago when I had 30 years, and then my husband died in January and I was planning to retire that summer, so I just kept working after that and it ended up being 52 years’ service that I retired with. And then I’m still working part-time now.
CRUICKSHANK: What are you doing now?
AUTRY: Well I’m helping with an annual meeting this year, but I would just help in the office, whatever they needed me to. Because of the budget cuts they had not replaced my job, they just put a girl that was already there in it and we just had to re-divide the duties and so.
CRUICKSHANK: So you retired in 2009 and-
CRUICKSHANK: Right in a really bad economic, we were all in a really bad economic situation in 2009.
AUTRY: Uh huh. Last year was the first time they had gotten a raise since then. Since the year before then, so I retired at a good time.
CRUICKSHANK: So they were in dire need of your help right when you retired.
AUTRY: Well, I worked half-time, just about half-time, for the first year and just kept cutting it back until I got to one day a week and now I just help when the annual meeting comes around and they will start working on that in October. And that will be over in the first of March, so that’s what I do.
CRUICKSHANK: Going way back, Dr. Woodruff, he did a lot of work on frozen food I think didn’t he?
AUTRY: Um hum
CRUICKSHANK: Developed Birdseye.
AUTRY: Birdseye, yes. He worked closely with Clarence Birdseye.
CRUICKSHANK: So you were involved in all that. You were involved in some ways, what all did you do? Did you have anything to do with that at all?
AUTRY: No, just the typing the regular secretarial work. I didn’t have anything to do with.
CRUICKSHANK: So you were typing up all the scientific papers?
AUTRY: Yes, the correspondence and things like that. And Dr. Woodruff dictated a lot so I had to transcribe my notes.
CRUICKSHANK: Was that difficult, was he a real task-master?
AUTRY: Well he was a real task-master, but he did pretty good, dictating.
CRUICKSHANK: And that went on, how long was that going on, that project, the frozen foods, that development?
AUTRY: I can’t remember, but when I first came here they were already working with that frozen food, they had a quartermaster project too where they did all the quartermaster rations, they would store them and see how long they would keep, and then we would have taste test on them and we were expected to do the taste panel on them. And there were a lot of four-in-one and five-in-one rations. Things like that.
CRUICKSHANK: So were they already marketing this stuff, was it already on the market, when you started here?
AUTRY: No. They were doing the test. The quartermaster corps gave them a bunch of money, there was a grant from the quartermaster to see how long they would keep.
CRUICKSHANK: When did the business start? When did they start getting to the business of Birdseye Company and marketing all.
AUTRY: You know that was right before I started. I couldn’t really tell you about that.
CRUICKSHANK: Well, if there is nothing else, nothing else you want to talk about, I guess we’ll wrap it up now and perhaps we can have another go at it later.
AUTRY: Ok. If you need something I’ll be available.
CRUICKSHANK: Well thank you very much for your time, I enjoyed talking to you. Bye for now.
- Interview with Gerald Arkin, retired Assistant Dean of UGA Griffin - September 6, 2015
- Interview with Ann Autry, retired from the Department of Food Science - September 3, 2015
- Interview with Jewel Walker-Harps, President of the Griffin, Georgia branch of the NAACP - August 31, 2015