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Alex Chambers:  Growing up, Joyce didn't think much about limestone, in-spite of the fact that she was born in Oolitic which is named after the limestone the town was founded on.

Joyce Jeffries:  I think it's significant that I was born a mile from the quarries and never really noticed that until recent years. I'm kind of proud of that really [LAUGHS] I feel like I was part of it.

Alex Chambers:  It wasn't until she was older that she realized how much of a part of it she was. And she's a dedicated a lot of the past couple of decades to learning more.

Joyce Jeffries:  Of course I love talking about it, I mean I could talk for hours. I've learned so much about things that people have no clue about and I want somebody to know it before I die [LAUGHS], I don't want things to just, you know, go away.

Alex Chambers:  I'm Alex Chambers, this week on Inner States, we'll hear from Joyce Jeffries and others about limestone in Southern Indiana. As she said, she could talk about it for hours. This will be about fifty minutes. Coming up, right after this.

Alex Chambers:  This is Inner States from WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. I'm Alex Chambers. I want to start by clearing the air, I'm calling this episode Joyce Jeffries and the Cutters. But that's not quite accurate. Because those cutters don't actually exist. I don't mean the Bloomington Cutters Cycling Team, they definitely exist, even if they were born from affection. But the actual cutters, the people who have worked in the quarries and stone mills of South Central Indiana for a century and a half. I was chatting with some of them on a forum recently and apparently they don't call themselves cutters. Well no, of course they don't call themselves that, you're probably saying to yourself. It's an insult, it's what the IU students called them. At least, back in the seventies, when that great documentary came out about the time the townies raced in the Little 5. Except of course, Breaking Away isn't a documentary. And the folks on the forums said they were known as stonies. And they figured the reason it was changed to cutters in the movie, was that in 1978 calling them stonies would have gotten them confused with stoners, and that would have made it hard to focus on the plot.

Alex Chambers:  An industry veteran pointed out that there are a lot more specific descriptions of who they are. Stone carvers, stone cutters, planermen, gang sawyers, draftsman, estimators, secretaries, supervisors, all he wrote, with high skills, doing their part to build spectacular limestone creations.

Alex Chambers:  And so, this week we're going to hear about the limestone works of South Central Indiana. Joyce Jeffries who grew up and worked among them her whole life, she'll tell us the stories. We'll also tour the Bybee Stone Mill, with Dorian Bybee and his wife, Jeeyea Kim. But first, if we want to talk about stone cutters and their stories, I think we need to spend a few more minutes with Breaking Away.

Alex Chambers:  If you're from Bloomington, or South Central Indiana in general, you probably know Breaking Away. If a movie can function as an anthem, Breaking Away is Bloomington's. For me, the movie was a test that would determine whether I could stay. See, I came to Indiana because I'd fallen in love. When I met my girlfriend's family, and they heard I wasn't from here, they sat me down and stuck the movie in the VCR. After it was over, they waited for my answer. Baited breath and all. I told them I'd enjoyed it, which was true, and they welcomed me into the family. Well, I also had to pass the Monsieur Hulot test, but we'll save that for another episode. Breaking Away is about a group of boys, on the cusp of adulthood and in denial about it. It's about the tension about university students, Indiana university students specifically, and the local kids, who for one reason or another couldn't go to college.

Alex Chambers:  It's about class, it's about gender, it's also about race, or at least ethnicity in the way the main character, Stoller falls in love with the Italians, who his father can't stand. Their foreignness is immensely romantic in contrast to Dave's life in a small mid-western city. The plot centers on the Little 5 and for listeners, and for listeners not for around here, I should explain, that's the Little 500. It's an annual race that nods to the Indi 500 of course, but the Little 5 is on bikes. The men's race is 50 miles, the women's 25, and the riders compete in four person teams. In the movie the local boys want to compete, but they have trouble qualifying as a non-university team. Against all odds, the make it into the race. And low and behold... well I don't want to ruin it.

Alex Chambers:  To my mind the race isn't actually what the movie's about, the real tension is whether the boys are going to go to college or just keep living in the present. Swimming in the quarries and hanging out. One of the things they're trying to break away from, is the limestone work their fathers did. In the logic of the movie, limestone is a dying industry. There's no future there. College is the future, limestone is the past. The way they turn away from work, where you're actually making something, to white collar jobs that require a college education, sounds about right for the period. It was the late 1970s, the mid-west was de-industralizing. The rectification really took hold in eighties as car manufacturers sent jobs over seas, technology replaced steelworkers and major cities across the north-east and mid-west hemorrhaged good jobs. Oh, and Reagan broke the unions by firing 11,000 air traffic controllers, when they went on strike. He banned them from ever working for the Federal Government again, did you know that? I didn't know that.

Alex Chambers:  So this move away from manufacturing was in the air, and as I said, limestone already seemed like a thing of the past. And no matter how much skill it actually involved, manual labor just didn't get that much respect. Late in the movie, Dave Stoller's dad has a moment of honesty about all that. He used to work in limestone but in the time of the movie, he's a short tempered hustler of used cars. He and Dave end up out for walk on Indiana university campus, right up by the library. The whole campus is made of limestone.

Movie Clip - Dave Stoller's Dad:  I was damn proud of my work, and the buildings went up. When they were finished the damnedest thing happened, it was like building's too good for us. Even now, I, I'd like to be able to stroll through the campus and look at the limestone but, I just feel out of place.

Alex Chambers:  It's the emotional climax of the movie. The scene where the father and son finally start to understand each other. Dave's dad admits he wants his son to go to college because there's no future in limestone.

Movie Clip - Dave Stoller's Dad:  You guys still go swimming in the quarries?

Movie Clip - Dave Stoller:  Sure.

Movie Clip - Dave Stoller's Dad:  So, the only thing you got to show for my 20 years of work, is the holes we left behind.

Alex Chambers:  I was curious of that idea of local kids as cutters, still held water. So I went and found some high schoolers. Their English teacher,Rachel Bahr had recently shown the movie as part of a unit about having a sense of place. Was there still tension between local kids and the college students?

Nicole Dewar:  Not really, just because I feel like, more in the last couple of years, not going to college has been a little bit more different. A lot of people have decided to get their associates degree or get certifications. A lot of people are becoming entrepreneurs.

Alex Chambers:  That was Nicole Dewar, her classmate, Ambrose Lee agreed.

Ambrose Lee:  I would say that the cutters now actually have the upper hand against the college students. Because, like the college students they just come here to, for a few months, just to learn and then they leave again, and Bloomington's empty again. And so, like living here, here my whole life, I have always thought we are better than the college students.

Alex Chambers:  Actually that sense the locals had more power in town, ran pretty strong. Some of the students felt like they had to emphasize that in-spite of everything, they still treated the college students with respect. Here's Lizzie Busch.

Lizzie Busch:  I have a friend who's a student, so I've met a few students. I know a couple of my friends from school, same thing where they have friends who are students.

Alex Chambers:  We're cool, my best friend is a college student. I didn't expect to hear that. But when you drill down, it's maybe not as different as it seemed. Here's Lizzie again.

Lizzie Busch:  I can see the undertones of the class divisions of the characters, where they talk about the students all being, you know, from richer families. Whereas, all of the cutters are fairly, like they're not as well off. And I think that's still something that you can see in Bloomington. Every time I go onto Facebook, there's always somebody talking about how housing prices have risen, how gas is more expensive on certain sides of the town. And I think that's just because IU students, they still tend to be a little bit more well off, I think.

Alex Chambers:  I just have to say, I was not paying attention to housing prices as a high school senior. And that's not even the only moment Lizzie and I discussed property values. Go Lizzie, maybe we'll get into tax code next time. Anyway, back to the question of tensions between students and locals.

Peyton Chitwood:  Yeah so, that was very fascinating.

Alex Chambers:  This is Peyton Chitwood.

Peyton Chitwood:  Whenever I watch the movie at first, I, I never experienced, or at least either heard of, or seen the tension prior to the movie, but after the movie it was really fascinating to see. Because I, I work in town and I was hearing, I over heard some customers in our store just talking about some townie said something. And I was like, wow, like people are still saying that? It's very interesting, like I, I didn't know how much of it was movie exaggeration or not. But, it's, I had never had heard that before. People were just talking about, you know, townies and all of that, and it was very interesting. Because that, that really was the key thing that told me that this movie is still holding up.

Alex Chambers:  Did it feel like they were, like sort of turning their noses up?

Peyton Chitwood:  Yeah, yeah, it definitely felt like that, I only heard a couple of words but the way that it was said, was very against it look, you know, you know, so looking almost down on a person or something. It wasn't positive.

Alex Chambers:  These students definitely identifying as locals.

Ambrose Lee:  Like, we're taking our city back and like hope we can eventually and get rid of some of the apartment complexes. There's too much college stuff here.

Alex Chambers:  But that's doesn't guarantee a connection to limestone. I mean it doesn't grow on trees. It forms in shallow seas, where the remains of calcium carbonate based life forms accumulate over millennia. Ultimately lithifying into a soft rock, that becomes case hardened and resistant to weathering after it's been quarried, making it a desirable building material. It's not just lying around. Well, it kind of is. But it is easy to overlook. And I think the workers feel overlooked too. Like Dave Stoller's Dad in the movie. He's Lizzie again.

Lizzie Busch:  You know I've never seen the quarries, they're all like roped off now. I've been to Woolery Mill, never saw it in action, never saw it as a mill. So, I don't know, there's just kind of a nostalgia for something that I've never even seen.

Alex Chambers:  How do you end up with nostalgia for something you've never seen? The legacy of limestone workers, isn't just holes in the ground. As I said, there's a whole limestone campus in Bloomington. The old house I live in has a limestone porch, limestone steps. But it's not about the stone itself. Everyone who talks about Indiana limestone reminds you of the famous buildings it's on. But the work itself was dangerous, and fairly anonymous I think. As people move on to other things, away from that work, there's a fear that the stories are going to be forgotten. Which means the people will be forgotten. That's hard to face. So, we're going to take a break and then we're going to hear some of those stories, and get a feel for the stone mill, at the same time. This is Inner States.

Alex Chambers:  It's Inner States, I'm Alex Chambers. We're talking limestone this week, and limestone workers. I'm going to drop out now, we'll start with Joyce Jeffries, who grew up among limestone workers in Bedford, Indiana.

Joyce Jeffries:  It would be the north-east corner, is where my grandparents lived in the corner there.

Alex Chambers:  In?

Joyce Jeffries:  Oolitic, and then the little house behind it, which is kind of on the alley, is where I was born. And, my dad had to walk up to Doc Dullen's house which was like two blocks, in six inches of snow to get him. [LAUGHS] But I just, I think it's significant that I was born a mile from the quarries and never really noticed until recent years, I'm kind of proud of that really. [LAUGHS] I feel like I was part of it.

Joyce Jeffries:  I've been around stone all my life that I didn't really realize how closely I was associated with it. In 1991, I went to work at Star Quarry Office, and the girl that worked in the office said she would introduce me to everyone. Nine out of ten people that came through that door was someone I'd known all my life, including the truck drivers. I mean it was amazing. I didn't realize and then I thought well, on my block there were at least three or four guys that worked for stone companies. We just took it for granted, because that was what all we knew. One day, one of the truck drivers came in and he had a beard and sunglasses and he looked at me, and he says, Joy, you don't know who I am, do you? And I said, no, who are you? [LAUGHS] And he said, Gary Matlock. Well, we used to run around in the same gang when we were at high school. And one time he took me to work, and he drove from Oolitic to Bloomington in seven minutes. [LAUGHS] He drove like maniac. He's, he's passed since then but, he was a funny guy.

Dorian Bybee:  A nice clean overview. Basically as we walk through here, this is the old mill and then we'll end up in the new mill, which is adjacent. But as we walk through here, we're kind of going backwards through the process. So, here, right where we're, where we're standing here is where the finished stone will get packed on to pallets and then go out to, will wait outside to be shipped wherever it's going and then we have the cutter yard, which is typically where a lot of the stone gets finished and in the far back, you can see through the door in the back there, are actual quarry blocks. So, that's where the block comes in and starts the process. So, you're kind of seeing from this vantage point, the entire process but in reverse.

Dorian Bybee:  My name's Dorian Bybee, we at Bybee Stone Company. My family's business has been here since 1979. I grew up working almost every summer here, from the time I was in late middle school or whenever it was legally allowed for, you know before, there was no child labor fortunately, but, but yeah I've been working here summers since I was a kid. And it's a beautiful October day. It's a nice day to be at a, at a mill.

Joyce Jeffries:  I'm Joyce Jeffries, we're here at Stone Croft in Bloomington. In the courtyard and the flowers are beautiful, and the birds are around and it's a really nice day. I've only been here since last July. But it's, it's been nice, I've met some interesting people and some nice people. And, mostly the aids are very good, they'll do about anything I ask them to do.

Alex Chambers:  It's almost like a cathedral at times.

Dorian Bybee:  Yeah.

Alex Chambers:  Piles and piles of dust. There's a guy sweeping the dust out, and shoveling it into a bin. Big machines, cleaners, lots of stone, lots of pieces of stone in all different states. Bales of something like straw. The floor is just covered with dust. It's like we're walking on the moon.

Dorian Bybee:  So here, you really need to keep your head on a swivel and watch out for the overhead cranes, you don't want to go underneath those.

Joyce Jeffries:  My grandfather, Jeffries, his sister Floy was married to my, my grandma's brother Jesse S. Owen. They both worked in Dark Hollow quarry, which was down near Fayetteville now but Jesse got caught between two stones and kind of got his insides mashed. I talked to his daughter, Christine about two years ago, she just passed away about a year and a half a go, but she was in her nineties. And she said their neighbors came to school and got them, her and her brothers and, and took them home and then they took them to the hospital, and they went to see their dad. And she said, he told them to be good and, and help their mom. And then they went home, but after they got home somebody came and told their mom that he thought of something else he wanted to tell her... But she didn't get to the hospital before he passed away.

Joyce Jeffries:  Christine, Jesse's wife had three kids, they were like nine, ten and thirteen and so they took the body back to Horse Cave for burial. My grandpa rode on the train with the body, but he hired a taxi to take my, my grandma, and Aunt Floy and her three kids, plus my dad was five, and my aunt Irene was two. So, there they were, and my, my grandma was pregnant with her third child. So, five little kids and two, you know widow and her sister-in-law, in a horse and wagon [LAUGHS] which I, it takes about four hours to drive down there now, so I don't know how long it took them, but I'm sure it was a stressful time. Because they were grieving and then they had those kids to control.

Joyce Jeffries:  My grandpa's brother Ed had, he got married and had a baby, had a baby, James. And when James was 11 months old, his wife died. Well, James was the youngest. I think they had four or five kids. And so then he remarried and had some more kids. I think he had 12 kids together. And, then his second wife left him, and so there he was with all these kids but Stanley was one of the younger ones, and I guess he was ten or 11, he was playing in the stacks, rocks stacks at Dark Hollow and he fell and hit his head on rock, on a Sunday night and he died on Tuesday. This was 1925.

Joyce Jeffries:  And of course, Ed being left with all those kids, and you know, the youngest one, James was only 11 months old, and he just passed away last year. It had to have been hard on him.

Joyce Jeffries:  Some of the guys got caught in a, between a railroad cart or something and just got squished. I mean, and stones fell, this one boy was 16 and he was a water boy. I didn't even know they had water boys until my mom told me that, back in the nineties. But, apparently they had little boys to carry water to them in the quarries. But this one boy was just standing there, and a big rock fell on him and crushed him. Stuff like this happened all the time. People, you know, drowned in the quarries. There's been a lot of that with the people I went to school with, drowned in the sixties. Him and another guy...

Alex Chambers:  Like a teenager?

Joyce Jeffries:  Yeah, they were, they were still in high school.

Joyce Jeffries:  In the early fifties, in Oolitic they had union office there, at the end of Main Street, and I can remember my mom and dad driving through there and there would be this long line of men, covered in stone dust, they looked like Pillsbury Dough Boys, that's the best I can describe it. I wish I had a picture of it, it was just an amazing sight this, I mean a long line, there, you know, they'd maybe two or three hundred of them, waiting in line to vote on the strike or not.

Joyce Jeffries:  And when they had a strike it really affected a lot of things, you know. A lot of people too. But they didn't strike that much I don't think, but as the turn of the last century, they were only making like 15 cents an hour at tops. And we can't imagine that now.

Alex Chambers:  No. Were the strikes effective, were they able to get better working conditions?

Joyce Jeffries:  Most of the time they did, yeah.

Joyce Jeffries:  Because my family had worked in stone so much, they just didn't, it was just something they did. They didn't, I don't think they really understood what they were doing, and how much of this country has been built from our stone.

Tom Dixon:  It's amazing how many people don't know much about it. I grew up in Indianapolis, and people don't know any thing about it really, but my address on my house was carved out of stone. The houses in Wyatt are out of limestone, and if you go down to Indianapolis, I mean it's everywhere. The historical monument, I used to see it when I was a kid, not even know where it came from. I didn't, I knew no one that worked in a stone mill. Which is amazing. What about 30 some capital, state capitals are built out of it. It's just everywhere, and I used to work. My dad had a vending company in the nineties. I'd go round, all over Indianapolis and I couldn't believe all the stuff I saw. You'd go in really bad neighborhoods, and there would be old churches or buildings with Corinthian caps are just unbelievable. There's a really big building with Corinthian caps on the street, near Thomas Hendrickson's house. He was a Vice President and it's in a real bad neighborhood. There's a bar that has a sign that says, no gang colors, and you go round the corner and then there's this building with Corinthian caps and stuff all over it.

Tom Dixon:  And I'm not even sure it's in use, but it's just everywhere. You'll see it on old garages, carving work. But just unbelievable. But it's everywhere, but it's just amazing, that so many people don't know anything about it, in their own state. You know it's a, it's been a, a unbelievably big industry that people just don't know anything about.

Alex Chambers:  Can you tell me your name.

Tom Dixon:  Tom Dixon. I came out here in 1980, spring of '80, they just bought this place and I ended up going to Texas, but I took an apprenticeship down Oolitic in '79. I didn't even really know that carving was going on, I was going to the art school down there. And I didn't know they were doing any carving work really. A guy came in and told me about it, he goes, you gotta get an apprenticeship down there. He saw me working in the sculpture department. And he said, they're doing all kinds of stuff down there. So, I come down here right away and, and I went to work at the art center up there, and a guy that used to work here had been working there and I saw the pictures, of what was going on here. So, I came right down here to apply for a job and I've been here ever since. They're great stories.

Tom Dixon:  This is very similar to what you'd see on the Notre Dame Cathedral. How I knew that? Because I painted a picture of the hunchback of Notre Dame in high school, and actually in the background painted the Notre Dame Cathedral and I painted the saddle-back moldings, which I think was done in the 1100s, I don't know where they got the idea for that.

Joyce Jeffries:  On Dillman Road, in '37, there's a semi truck place and if you take Dillman Road to the first driveway down, in goes into Star and a real rough winding road but you could go there. And they have quarry on the north side, Star quarry. And I had gone up there to, at times to take things to the foreman and pick things up and stuff. Which was kind of exciting [LAUGHS].

Alex Chambers:  What was exciting about it?

Joyce Jeffries:  Well, just to be there where the quarry and the stone and see it in and everything.

Alex Chambers:  At what point did you really start to think about the stone workers?

Joyce Jeffries:  In 1991, I was talking to my mom and we were talking about her dad, and she was talking about him working in the quarries and at some point she said something about water boys. And I said water boys? And she said, yeah they had boys to take water to them because they didn't want to interrupt their work. I couldn't imagine that. Little boys, I mean mostly young kids, like nine, ten. And to me, growing up being a little kid, you know, we never had to do anything like that. I mean, I helped with washing and ironing and watching my brothers and sisters and things like that. But I never had to go out and do physical work. And then I thought about my grandparents, on both sides and their, the way they grew up. My grandma Jeffries had nine kids in her family and they worked in the tobacco fields and stuff. You know, and my grandma said that she hated working the tobacco fields because the tobacco worms were so nasty, and they had to chop them up, you know, to get them off the tobacco. [LAUGHS]

Joyce Jeffries:  Of course, I love talking about it, I mean I could talk for hours. I've learned so much about things that people have no clue about. And I want somebody to know it before I die. I don't want things to just, you know go away.

Tom Dixon:  Here and over there, you see all the metal tools, those are used on the planers and they're all done by our own blacksmith, who's shop is right over there. So, for any kind of design, any profile the architect would choose, they're going to, we're going to fabricate our own custom metal tool to produce that here in the planery yard. So, if you're wondering what all these things are, that's what they are.

Joyce Jeffries:  Like they used to have the wooden derricks and they had steel derricks, and channeling machines, they don't have any of that any more. To get a big rock out, they had to drive wedges down in it, and then they had to physically push it over. Now they have air bags that they put down in there, and they have diamond saws to cut it up and stuff, and it's so much easier.

Dorian Bybee:  These are the gang saws, which are arguably one of the older technologies here. Most stone mills gave up on them decades ago. And we've, we still use them although we've gotten some newer technology that will allow us, us to do some of the same work, but we use them for certain types of finishes. You can see here, this, the fact that this one has water running on it, means they must be planning on using or they just did. But this is how we can get what we call shot-sawn finish, or chat-sawn finish. Which has to do with just using a certain size aggregate. Whether it's kind of a sand for the chat-sawn or actual metal pellets for the shot-sawn. They just go into the slurry and they're there as the blade cuts the stone and they produce a very specific, very interesting texture.

Alex Chambers:  Alright, it's time for a short break. You're listening to Inner States.

Alex Chambers:  This is Inner States, if you're just joining us, we're listening to memories and stories of limestone work from Joyce Jeffries. Mixed with a tour of the Bybee Stone Mill with Dorian Bybee and Jeeyea Kim.

Alex Chambers:  So, tell me about this.

Dorian Bybee:  So this is our CNC, we got it a few years ago and effectively you can think of it as being a roughing tool.

Alex Chambers:  It looks a little bit like, like a giant 3D printer.

Dorian Bybee:  Well, other than the fact it's removing instead of adding, which, you know a 3D printer is an additive process, compared to this, it's not so different. They're both computer controlled, they're based on having a 3D model and then programming using special CNC software. But once you start it up, you can just run it all day, all night. We typically will run the CNC not only over night, but over the weekends.

Alex Chambers:  And it must be just incredibly precise?

Dorian Bybee:  It's, in Indiana limestone in the industry we have a sixteenth inch tolerance, so that, you know, basically everything we do needs to be perfect within one sixteenth of an inch, and sixteenth of an inch depending on who you talk to, on who you talk too, is either a large number or a very small number. Most people will think of that as being pretty small. But for us actually it's, you know we try to do better than the sixteenth all the time. The machine itself is more accurate than that by far but the machine does not see problems in the stone, it doesn't recognize, our craftsman can look at a piece of stone and understand there might be a hidden seam, in the stone, or something like that. And that's really valuable and that's something a machine will never be able to do. You'll also see we've got water coming out of the spindle, and that has to do with just the fact that you're putting metal on stone, the high rotation and that's going to cause heat. So, the water keeps things cool, it also helps move the material that's been removed off the stone, because we really, don't want that to be piling up on top of the surface we're cutting.

Dorian Bybee:  So, that's part of the process. Really, historically, you saw it down in the gang saws, where water was running there. Water is always a really important part of cutting stone. Historically it always has been. So, almost every stone mill you'll find is near a lake or a stream. Because there's always been that need for water. So, here we are with one of the most cutting edge technologies, you could find in a stone mill and it's still has that relationship to the water.

Joyce Jeffries:  As I mentioned earlier, some of these stone mills were open on both ends, like the end of your mill used to be over, behind where Kaiser Aluminum used to be. That mill was open on both ends. And they worked all winter long and you know. Well Jim, my brother-in-law. He said they had a little shed that they called the warm up shed, had a little heater in there. And so, he got really cold and he said he went in there to thaw out a little bit and he felt something wet on this legs, he pulled his pants down and his legs had cracked open. Because he was using, it's kind of like a grinder thing, they call it a bug, where they send the stone down smooth, and it has, have water on the blades to keep it from overheating. So that water was coming down his pants legs and freezing, and then freezing to his legs. And I can't imagine working under those kind of conditions. To be in that pain, and still work. Those guys were tough.

Jeeyea Kim:  This is Jocelyn pot, so you see the random groove, that variation of a thickness of a groove and the shallowness. This is on the one that's produced with that gang saw.

Alex Chambers:  And this is made with sand or...

Jeeyea Kim:  Metal pot.

Alex Chambers:  Metal shot?

Dorian Bybee:  Yeah, so this is using metal shot, the chat-sawn finish is similar but a little less extreme, let's say, it's more subtle.

Jeeyea Kim:  My name is Jeeyea Kim, I'm originally from South Korea. Seoul, born and raised. I am a faculty member of the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture and Design and I teach architecture in the program, called the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program located in Columbus, Indiana.

Dorian Bybee:  I'm also a faculty member at IU at the Eskenazi School. I teach interior design in the undergraduate program there.

Alex Chambers:  So, we're at the other end of the warehouse now, there's a lot fewer people, a lot more pieces of lumber blocks.

Jeeyea Kim:  So you see that the tone of the stone changes from yellow to gray.

Alex Chambers:  Yeah.

Jeeyea Kim:  Or cream to gray. So the cream color in the industry they call buff color and the one down is called gray. So gray is actually original kind of, supposed to be original from millions of years ago, it was like deposited and water sifts through it. There some of the minerals and older kind of thing, the pressure on the blend, changes the color gray to buff.

Alex Chambers:  Oh wow.

Jeeyea Kim:  But the buff is actually considered to be more harder to find or harder to like a little rare than gray, so it's a little more pricier, you know in terms of what it's like, the selective, selecting the color, it's bit more, like higher price range.

Alex Chambers:  Okay.

Jeeyea Kim:  But if you don't, if you don't select, they call it variegated, so it's a random choose. So whatever the block of thing, it has a variegation between buff and gray. So you'll be able to find some building in limestone, in the campus will have both of this in one building, that was done by variegated. Which is a little more economic of using the stone. Because if we have to select either gray or buff, it takes more time and more energy to select things. So I see a lot of gray variegation right there.

Joyce Jeffries:  When you deal with stone, you take the core sample and you eventually, you have a quarry and then you take the stone through the mill to be finished and then ship it out, and then it's going on a building. I mean it's not just big rocks, it's, there's a lot involved [LAUGHS].

Alex Chambers:  It is amazing the different colors, you know, just looking at these, just look at these over here, there's, you know this, these really pale ones, compared to how dark these, this stack is right here.

Jeeyea Kim:  I think because it's wet.

Alex Chambers:  Oh [LAUGHS].

Dorian Bybee:  They do get darker when they're wet and then they get a little bit lighter as they dry up. So that's, you're seeing a little more variation here than what actually would be the case once they're on a building and they're set. But there are, one of the reasons Indiana limestone is coveted for architectural work is actually the homogeneity of the, of the color and, but we do have, as J already explained, gray and buff and then when you have those together we call it variegated. But, between two pieces of stone that are both gray, or two pieces of stone that are both buff, you have a lot of similarity, so it gives you a nice architectural finish.

Joyce Jeffries:  There's a lot of residences that are made from our stone. I mean big, important places, Biltmore Mansion has our stone in it.

Joyce Jeffries:  When the Pentagon was damaged in 2001, we were able to match the stone and, and repair that. Also the Empire State Building has, that's where the Empire Quarry comes in, that's where the stone for the building came from. And...

Alex Chambers:  That's why it's called Empire Quarry?

Joyce Jeffries:  Yes.

Jeeyea Kim:  So when the 9/11 hit the Pentagon, the Pentagon building was built in really short amount of time with every industry of the industry of the Bybee stone and that Bybee industry of the whole Indiana limestone worked one time together collaborated to build the whole, the whole building as a one unit. So, at that time they used a shot-sawn texture for some of the facade and then when 9/11 hit the pentagon this Bybee stone was the only, only place that can replace the same texture.

Alex Chambers:  Wow.

Jeeyea Kim:  Yeah, so the Bybee Stone Company flew into Washington right away and then they saw the texture and then they were able to produce a similar texture.

Joyce Jeffries:  We went to Peerless one day and there was a mill there in the twenties called the Fanning Mill, and we went back to the site of where the mill had been. This was in the late eighties. And, we didn't take pictures then either. I don't know why we didn't take pictures. But anyway, he was showing me, this is where the saws where, and this is where blah blah blah. And he could tell, you know, where all the equipment had been, and there was a railway track coming through there. Of course the railway tracks are still there, the trains are gone. And, those massive column maces, you've seen them. They're like six feet in diameter and there was two of them sitting there, next to the railroad track. And to me that was just sad, they were just sitting waiting on a train that's never going to come and I just, it kind of overwhelmed me a little bit. I just thought, how sad that these guys worked so hard to get these done and they're not going anywhere. But, I mean a lot of the quarries had to shut down at some point. And there's probably still good stone in a lot of them.

Dorian Bybee:  Before Bybee Stone was Bybee Stone, it was Matthews Brothers and Matthews Brothers started a century plus ago and they started as a quarry operation. At that time, the typical way of doing masonry and carved stone was actually to quarry the block and then ship the block to the site, where masons would actually work the stone on the site of construction. So, the, the famous example is the Biltmore. But that changed and people realized it was more efficient were you to fabricate stone in a central location where all of your tools are, where you can have a, a really nice set up, and then ship the finished work to the site. So, the Matthews Brothers quarried for a while, but then they became more fabricators. The built the fabrication plant. They decided that there was no more usable stone here, so they stopped quarrying. When my grandfather bought Matthews Brothers in 1979, we started quarrying again for a while.

Dorian Bybee:  Technology had allowed us to, to get some stone that Matthews Brothers weren't able to get before and so then we quarried for a while but then basically ran into the same problem, the deposit was no longer, it was, there was plenty of stone, but you needed to get enough high quality stone out. If every other quarry block you take out isn't really usable, then it doesn't matter how much material there is there. So, we've focused on fabrication ever since then. We quit quarrying and we've strictly done fabrication.

Alex Chambers:  Can you actually read what it says?

Jeeyea Kim:  United States of America, Donald J Trump, President, General Service of the Administration and Emily W Murphy at the administrator, 2019 to 2022.

Dorian Bybee:  Indiana Limestone is used pretty frequently on Government buildings, a large chunk of Washington DC is, comes from right here in Hoosier's backyards, from South Central Indiana. And so that's an example, that's obviously for a GSA Building and just commemorating who was President and administrator at the time. So, it's not uncommon to see work coming through here, that's going to iconic, important buildings around the country. And for the folks who work here, I think there's a certainly a, a, a nice amount of pride in knowing that they're contributing to building these things that are going to be around probably after you and I and, all three of us standing here are long gone. And that's kind of a, a nice humbling thought to have. And I think anytime you can contribute to something that's going to outlast you, it's, it's a wonderful feeling.

Joyce Jeffries:  As you're going south to Bedford and you pass through Oolitic, as you're going up the hill, to Fifth Street in Bedford, there's a little addition to the right. If you go back there, it's not too far from where the Dark Hollow Quarry was. And, they named one of the quarries back there, Baalbec, BAALBEC, well it turns out there was a Baalbek, BAALBEK in Syria and they actually had huge stones, I mean you've seen these blocks on trucks around here, when they're hauling the stone blocks, they would make these look like toys. And, and they have a massive stone, they call it the Stone of the Pregnant Woman and it's huge and it's sticking out of the ground. And there are people standing on it, and they look like little ants.

Joyce Jeffries:  My ex-husband and I in 1991, we went to Hopkins cemetery, I don't know if you know where that is. It's, it's, south of Needmore, the Lawrence County Needmore [LAUGHS] but not to be confused with Nashville. We walked, we, we talked to the night watchmen. Of course they're not supposed to give permission but he knew we weren't going to be in there to tearing things up, be mischievous or get hurt or anything. And my, my ex-husband worked in Montana for years. Anyway, we walked from Needmore to Oolitic through the quarries and it was in May and it was a full moon, and it was the most beautiful thing. I wished I had had a camera with me. But the stone was just looking kind of blue, it was just ethereal. I, I never and it just looked like Grand Canyon. I mean, you were here on the road and then all of a sudden there was this hug gaping whole like the Grand Canyon and [LAUGHS] it was just amazing.

Joyce Jeffries:  We ended up getting into Oolitic, right at the edge of town and at that time, there was a tavern there, so we went in and had a beer and then we walked back. And it was just, it was really exciting.

Joyce Jeffries:  Back in the nineties I was on the tourism committee for Lawrence Monroe County and we had a meeting at the Indiana Limestone building and I was talking to Brian Cox who at the time worked for WFIU and it was in March, and it was cold and rainy that day, windy. And, I was telling him at the back of that building there are 25 large panels of different kinds of stone and it's just like a supermarket, where you pick out the kind of stone you want. And I think it's beautiful. And we went back there in the rain, and the wind and he was fascinated by it. But, I was offended because at that time, Oakland City University was using that building and they had placed a dumpster right in front of one of those panels. It irritated me [LAUGHS] But I'm sure they never thought, they didn't realize the significance of it or anything. But, in the eighties also Lydia Finklestein, I think was her name, created this Land of Limestone exhibit, that they had in the Indiana Limestone building at that time, when it was Oakland City University.

Joyce Jeffries:  But it was beautiful and the first time I went to it, they opened it on a Friday, well I was working for Collegian at the time, so I got to go on my lunch hour and hear the dedication, but then I had to leave before they took the tour. So, I went back on Saturday to take the tour. And I'm looking through all this and I see pictures of people I know and some of the equipment that recognized and everything and I come down this little stairway, and right in front of me is this four and a half or five foot picture of my ex-brother-in-law, Jim Leech, who passed away in 1991, by the way, he was hit by a car, crossing the highway. And, because a lot of the stone workers have drinking problems, because when they're laid off and they have nothing to do. But anyway he was standing there looking at me and it was just, kind of overwhelming. I mean I cried [LAUGHS] and he's posed like Michaelangelo pose, with air hammer or something on his shoulder. And, and so I still have that picture too, and that's kind of neat.

Alex Chambers:  So, there's tiller trees growing up where, you know, where they've been cut, I'm sure for, for the quarry and then up at the top of the hill, where there's the, the, you can see the edge of the quarry, there's these two columns, just standing there sort of among the trees. It feels sort of, like ancient Greece or something.

Dorian Bybee:  Well there's, so those memorials up there, two of them are two, two of my uncles who passed away years ago, and one to my grandfather who founded Bybee Stone, so. Yeah, there always up there, on that kind of cliff edge, looking down over the mill. And it's, it's kind of poetic. It's interesting, I don't think anybody has mentioned that it feels like ancient Greece, but you know that's, that's an interesting comparison. Just random limestone monuments in the landscape.

Joyce Jeffries:  If you ever go to Bedford, go to Green Hill Cemetery, and some of the monuments there, there's one of a golfer and there's one of this, this boy, he was 17 I think. He was electrocuted at the end of the stone work, he went home. He left his work bench, like he always did and went out and got electrocuted that night. Well then, his co-workers built this monument stone to look like his work table and it's, it's kind of overwhelming.

Joyce Jeffries:  When I was working for Collegian, we had drinking water machines, you know, and all the mills rented them from us. Well, the McMillan Mill, which at that time was on Oolitic Road, is no longer in existence. They called one day and it was in the middle of August, hotter than heck and they were out of water. Well our delivery men was booked up solid and I said, well I, I wont have a delivery man for a couple of days, but I'll bring you some myself. So, I put six, five gallon bottles of water in the back seat of my car, which almost make it drag the ground. And, so I went over there and I pulled up to the edge of the mill, and this guy was standing there smoking a cigarette and I said, I have your water for your water coolers, do you know where to take it? He goes, yeah just drive across the mill. And I said, drive across the mill? He said, yeah. I started driving across that mill and I could actually feel the spirit and the men and the stone, I'm not kidding you, it was a spiritual experience. I mean, tears were running down my face.

Joyce Jeffries:  Because my neighbors had worked in that mill, you know. I don't think they understood the impact that they had. But that's why I wanted to honor the stone workers, because they just went and did their job every day and they built a nation. All these buildings and stuff that just monumental. I can, I can hardly talk about it even now, it's still just, I mean it was just, it was like I was in a holy place.

Alex Chambers:  You've been listening to Inner States. If you have a story for us, or if you've got some sound we should hear, let us know at WFIU.org/InnerStates. Speaking of found sound, we've got your quick moment of slow radio coming up. But first, the credits. Inner States is produced and edited by me, Alex Chambers with support from Eoban Binder, Mark Chilla, Michael Paskash, Payton Waley and Kate Young. Our Executive Producer is John Bailey. Special thanks this week to Joyce Jeffries, Jeeya Kim and Dorian Bybee andRachel Bahr's students at the Bloomington Academy of Science and Entrepreneurship. That's Nicole Dewar, Ambrose Lee, Lizzy Busch and Peyton Chitwood. Our theme song is by Amy Allsner and Justin Vulmar. We have additional music from the artists at Universal Production Music and Airport People. I want to acknowledge and honor the Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee people, on who's ancestral homelands and resources Indiana University of Bloomington, home of the WFIU is built, as well as the generations of workers, who built it. Alright, time to take a breath, and listen to a place.

Alex Chambers:  You've been listening to backyard birdsong, May 2020, Bloomington, Indiana. Until next week, I'm Alex Chambers, reminding you to secure your own mask, before helping others. Thanks for listening.

Inside the Bybee Stone Mill

Inside the Bybee Stone Mill (Alex Chambers)

This episode is called "Joyce Jeffries and the Cutters." But that’s not quite accurate, because those cutters don’t actually exist. I don’t mean the Cutters cycling team. They definitely exist, even if they were born from a fiction. But the actual cutters - the people who’ve worked in the quarries and stone mills of South-Central Indiana for a century and a half - I was chatting with some of them on a forum recently, and apparently they don’t call themselves cutters.

The folks on the forum said they were known as stoneys. And they figured the reason it was changed to “cutters” in the movie was that in 1978, calling them stoneys would have gotten them confused with stoners, and that would have made it hard to focus on the plot.

An industry veteran pointed out there are a lot more specific descriptions of who they are: stone carvers, stone cutters, planermen, gang sawyers, draftsman, estimators, secretaries, supervisors. “All,” he wrote, “with high skills doing their part to build spectacular limestone creations!”

This week we hear about the limestone workers of South-Central Indiana. Joyce Jeffries, who grew up and worked among them her whole life, tells us the stories. We also tour the Bybee Stone Mill with Dorian Bybee and his wife, Jeeyea Kim. But before that, we need to spend a few more minutes with Breaking Away.

If you’re from Bloomington, or South-Central Indiana in general, you probably know Breaking Away. If a movie can function as an anthem, Breaking Away is Bloomington’s. For me, the movie was a test that would determine whether I could stay. I had come to Indiana because I’d fallen in love. When I met my girlfriend’s family, and they heard I wasn’t from here, they sat me down and stuck the movie in the VCR. After it was over, they waited for my answer. Bated breath and all. I told them I’d enjoyed it - which was true - and they welcomed me into the family. Well, I also had to pass the Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday test, but we’ll save that for another episode.

Breaking Away is about a group of boys on the cusp of adulthood and in denial about it. It’s about the tension between university students - Indiana University students in particular - and the local kids who, for one reason or another, couldn’t go to college. It’s about class, it’s about gender. It’s also about race, or at least ethnicity, in the way the main character Dave Stoller falls in love with the Italians, who his father can’t stand. Their foreignness is romantic in contrast to Dave’s life in a small Midwestern city.

The plot centers on the Little Five - and, for listeners not from around here, I should explain, that’s the Little 500. It’s an annual race that nods to the Indy 500, of course, but the Little 5 is on bikes. The men’s race is 50 miles, the women’s is 25, and the riders compete in four-person teams. In the movie, the local boys want to compete, but they have trouble qualifying as a non-university team. Against all odds, they make it into the race, and lo and behold - well, I won’t tell you who wins.

To my mind, the race isn’t actually what the movie’s about. The real tension is whether the boys are going to go to college or just keep living in the present, swimming in the quarries and hanging out. One of the things they’re trying to break away from is the limestone work their fathers did. In the logic of the movie, limestone is a dying industry. There’s no future there. College is the future.

The way they turn away from work where you’re actually making something, to white collar jobs that require a college education, sounds about right for the period. It was the late 1970s. The Midwest was deindustrializing. The rustification really took hold in the ‘80s, as car manufacturers sent jobs overseas, technology replaced steel workers, and major cities across the Northeast and Midwest hemorrhaged good jobs. Oh, and Reagan broke the unions by firing 11,000 air traffic controllers when they went on strike. He banned them from ever working for the federal government again.

This move away from manufacturing was in the air, and, as I said, limestone already seemed like a thing of the past. And no matter how much skill it actually involved, manual labor didn’t get much respect. Late in the movie, Dave Stoller’s dad has a moment of honesty about all that. He used to work in limestone, but in the time of the movie, he’s a short-tempered hustler of used cars.

I was damn proud of my work. And the buildings went up! But when they were finished, it was like the buildings were too good for us. Nobody told us that, it just felt that way. Even now I’d like to be able to stroll through campus and look at the limestone. I just feel out of place.

It’s the emotional climax of the movie. The scene where the father and the son finally start to understand each other. Where the father admits he wants his son to go to college. Because there’s no future in limestone.

You still swim in the quarries? Only thing you’ve got to show for our work is the holes we left behind.

I was curious if that idea of local kids as cutters still held water, so I went and found some high schoolers. Their English teacher, Rachel Bahr, had recently shown the movie as part of a unit about having a sense of place. The students thought things had changed a lot since then. They felt like locals actually had the upper hand against the college students, as Ambrose Lee put it. Lizzie Busch went farther, explaining that she has a friend who’s a student as a way of saying “They’re okay, those students. They’re human too.”

All four of the students I spoke with identified strongly as locals, but that didn’t guarantee a connection to the limestone industry. They hadn’t necessarily thought much about limestone at all before this unit. After all, it’s not as if it grows on trees. It forms in shallow seas where the remains of calcium-carbonate-based life forms accumulate over millennia, ultimately lithifying into a soft rock that becomes case-hardened and resistant to weathering after it’s been quarried, making it a desirable building material. It’s not just lying around - well, it kind of is. But it’s easy to overlook.

And I think the workers feel overlooked too. Like Dave Stoller’s dad, in the movie. Lizzie’s spent time at the Woolery Stone Mill, but she never saw it in action, and she said going there leaves “a nostalgia for something I’ve never even seen.”

How do you end up with nostalgia for something you’ve never seen? The legacy of limestone workers isn’t just holes in the ground. There’s a whole limestone campus in Bloomington. The old house I live in has a limestone porch. Limestone steps. But it’s not about the stone. Everyone who talks about Indiana limestone reminds you of the famous buildings it’s on. But the work itself was dangerous. And fairly anonymous. And as people move on to other things, away from it, there’s a fear that the stories are going to be forgotten, which means the people will be forgotten. That’s hard to face. So, in this episode you’ll hear some of those stories that might otherwise be forgotten.

Thanks to Joyce Jeffries, for the stories, to Jeeyea Kim and Dorian Bybee for the tour of the Bybee Stone Mill, and to Rachel Bahr and her students: Ambrose Lee, Lizzie Busch, Nicole Dewar, and Peyton Chitwood.

Music

Our theme song is by Amy Oelsner and Justin Vollmar. We have additional music from the artists at Universal Production Music and Airport People.

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