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The best understanding of America begins or so it seems to us with the realisation that this nation is young yet that she is still new and unfinished. And even now America is man's greatest adventure and time and space. The University of North Carolina presents American Adventure. A study of man in the New World. His values and his characteristics who he is what he believes what he lives by. American Adventure is produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the Educational Television and Radio Center written by Johnny Lee directed by John. Today's program presents William Waddell as Marshall and builders on the river.
Back in the heart of the Depression. Back in 1932. There was a man who lived with his mother and his brother in a shack in a shack town on a river in a southern state. And he built a house. Not just an everyday sort of house. It was one of the most wonderful houses ever built in this country. This is the story of the man. And his mother and his brother. And the house. You're Why don't you go down to the river and help your brother would. I don't want to. You're going to sit here and mope. Be quiet. Don't you talk to your mother like shut up. Got any coffee. No not for the likes of you. Not for a man to look sad all day you sleep at night. You're looking at that joist about the window that I put him straight. I think I'll get my hammer in just a minute.
So ever since we come to this town to this house nobody wanted. You've been a pounding on it. Let it be I got a headache no you ain't got no headache ma. When the river floods It'll twist the house again and let it be let it all be. The whole country is in a fix. Your paw worked all his life. He got a grave for it. We've never had nothing and we never will. I'm going to fix that joist ma Marshall but told me to be a carpenter you can't expect a carpenter to live in a house like this. Well then move uptown if you're a carpenter. Go get a job. No there's no jobs around. Dr. Foreman a been house to house everything. The foreman they say your job Kaufman's boy. I say what if I am and they don't answer me. I don't know of any place I can get a job where nothing I can do about that. Sometimes I think the only thing to do is to go ahead and build myself a house. I just say I said build myself a house where right here on the river where you live. I got one son but I can get it I can find some somehow. Look Ma I'm a carpenter a governor gets set
around the house not in a house like this. You don't make sense. Wouldn't you like to have a well built house a house that square and solid. I could build it I think I could lay out a room fairly large timber 15 say. Then I could put a little kitchen next to it and you know the other side a room for you big enough for a cart and your clothes and would you like to have a room all your own ma. Well Marsha that I don't know where you would say you would Marshall you not to do it all Markham all that kind of talk. I gotta find me a level in the square I got just a hammer and saw and Marshall the river and flood nettle all go well so your ma I got to go up town I gotta find me a level in the square. It's just that I'm a carpenter ma don't you see a carpenter livin in a no good house and I can build a good house Ma for you and Tommy and me. Credit MR. This is 1932 and I don't give credit these days
unless I know the man I'm dealing with. Well my name's Marshall and Kaufman you lived in this town long all my life. Where you live now I live in a country where three miles out where I live by the river. Sorry boy if you was me you would loan nothing to anybody lived in that shanty town would you. Look I think I can pay you next month honest. Sorry boy folks and Shanty Town of their cause they can't pay. Ever. There was a large building going up on the corner of Taylor and Manning streets. Marshall went down there as he did periodic Lee and asked for a job. He was refused. He went to another place where he thought a house was going up and when he got there he found nobody on the job. Neighbors said the man that was building the house had to stop because he didn't have any money. That afternoon marshal walked back to the river at a place about two miles above
the settlement in which he lived. He waited on the riverbank for wood to drift down. That afternoon two pieces drifted down but there was another man on the other side of the river and he and Marshall had a fight out in the middle of the water for one of the pieces. When Marshall got back to the bank with it he was so weak he decided to go on home. The next morning he examined the driftwood and found that it was warped. It was just good for Berg. He went back uptown to where the building was going out. Just a minute if I don't want what you got in your hand what you doing with my level I'm just lookin at it. I gotta make one. Put it down all right and jab Kaufman's boy. Yeah I thought so. Still in my liver lay and look mister I never stole nothin in my life you mean it for to day I mean never no part either I just got to build a house and I've got that too so I gotta make some. You say you got to build a house yes I don't believe you
said I'm going to build a house. Are you going to build a house but you ain't got enough money to buy a level that's right. Get off my land Kaufman's boy you don't make sense to me. The next day and the day after Marshall spent clearing a place on the river bottom for his new house. He selected his high land as he could but there was just so high one could go before he hit the railroad tracks. Beyond that it was privately owned. Marshall cleared the land well then he sunk some holes in the ground. This took another day because the ground wasn't thought out yet. All right Tommy how many river rocks you got. Up and. Down Rockville and did this at all. Oh here I tell you what we got to do. You and me has got to get enough rocks from the river to fill up these eight hole solid and we've got to pack him down with clay. Why we're going to rest a house on them.
We know houses in this hole any down rest and all rock Come on boy and all war talk. Miles is going to rest on a rock. That's all way to build a house don't just see on a rock. Three miles to town every day looking for a job every morning house to house looking for work. And once in a while Marshall would get the whole man's land in the furrows sort of cut weeds out of a copperhead patch. But when he could find no work he would look for. Any kind of work. But are you doing back here boy. I told her to do so. I'm wondering if you got any scraps of wood around the building here that I made humans for your house. Yeah my house had no lumber to give away of or no sell but if you got some scraps like this in here where that piece of wood a mourner foot long and I have it and that other piece some of these other scripts around here I got to build a house Mr.. Let me
tell you something this is the only piece of wood I got out of that house. Can I have it. Don't laugh at me Mister ol I'm a carpenter. Same as you I had a drunk for a father. He got sent up once but I never drank and I never hurt nobody. Then I'm asking you to let me carry off some of this waste wood is made make good wood boy I see your city and I would want your cooperation and I expect there just let it rot. All right but don't take anything except scraps under two and a half foot long. Yes thank you. And I never get picked up the other day and how she had been. I mean Atlanta believe you know I don't know where you can get a level low I figured a level out yesterday down at the city dump you did. I got a small bottle here in a pocket. You see a square bottle with a cap going to fill it with water and put a cap on it and then fasten the bottle to a good
straight piece of wood and if the air bubble inside the bottle comes to the center I reckon it's level little to nothing the way it has to be level. Exactly. Well then go fill it with water and we're tested again mime to see at 4 o'clock Marshall and the foreman found the bottle could be used as a lever at 5 o'clock marshalled collected several small scraps of lumber. He picked up as many of these as he could carry and started the three mile walk. So I tell you my what I've done. QUESTION And it gets I don't want to hear about that had this film on. He's about six foot four and he's been a good all these lies you can tell that most folks and he give me all that was good. So we give you the wood little pieces of wood and I ask him if I could pick up nails around that the man dropped or rather didn't go in straight and had to be pulled out and he said it be all right to tell your mind it's beginning to look like it will be hard to build this house marshal all day your brother's been going back and forth to the river collecting rocks.
Barry comes now he ain't strong marshal this food house is something neither one of us likes. Come in Tommy to do that build up a rock marshal good I got good news for you boy I got some wood. I seen it. Course it's little and we're going to have to sink some more holes cause I can't span more than five feet even nailing the pieces together here goes in more just a few more miles should you listen to me. Don't take his house away. It's all of God. That's all I can do and I've never wanted to do anything so much in my life I can help Tommy cure the wrong way I see that you do. But it seems it seems to have no point to me as it has a point Tommy. Everything does if it's what you just have to do. The next day Marshall and his brother went into town carried back would they
after that they made two trips carry wood. After supper Marshall wanted to go back for another load but Tommy said no that he was too tired. Tommy went to bed his mother went to her bed. But Marshall sat up thinking about his house. Then about 10:30 he heard footsteps in the yard and hurried out. What's he doing here. Three men stood there their arms loaded down with the wood Marshall had brought from town. Marshall picked up a piece of two by four and faced them his eyes seemed to be deep in their sockets and he was breathing hard. Once killed a man for stealing from him they sent him up for him to kill the man that takes away one piece of wood. So the men put the wood back where Marshall had stacked. Then they went away. They didn't say anything at all. The next day was Sunday and the mother said that Tommy couldn't work on Sunday so Marshall carried rocks from the river and filled up two more. There were 14 holes now and only eight of them through the next day Marshall and Tommy carried wood from Tom for four more
days they made two trips a day. Or four carat rock from the river at night. After one load on Friday Marshall thought they had enough wood for the frame of the small house a lot of wood margin in it a lot of backing too. Oh I got to do is nail it together and put up a frame here. All we gotta do course or we do that we've got to look for nails need a rafter nails. Come on Tommy we're getting are built right on Marshall and Tommy found 517 nails that night Marshall straightened them and the next morning bright and early. Now Tom I were ready to commit you aim to nail in pieces together to strike the first name for the frame. Let me have one of the best names here yeah I want to be Tommy which you go in straight or bat straight I reckon it's a sign. See what your hands shake in form I had to sign for the whole house. I stand back. He just drivin a nail Marshall stem back I got it just right.
She Marshall you near drove that plane into the world straight to see if it's a good son. He's going to be so hard after this. Everything had to be level and straight and plumb with Marshall's house. So it took a while to put up the framework. On days when it rained he would go to town and gather more nails and other pieces of wood he needed pieces of wood better than those he had and then the frame was finished. The skeleton was up look at the hand. Good Lord what do you think I bet it's there you see I never never thought I'd see a thing like that. They said we couldn't do it. All the people been snickering at us. Shake a frame. Try to shake it. Not too hard. See he's solid and when we get the boards nailed to the outside it will shake it all. You'll see when we go to get some more boards. We have to go to make a trip to town again. When you want to start it's just three o'clock you want to go now. Tired boy.
No I ain't I don't get tired I can see the house. Will Marshall and his brother carried board from town and piece them on to the framework to make the roof and outside walls. It took a long long time. It took longer because both he and his brother often would try to find work because they needed money to buy food. But soon the garden the mother had planted came in with squash and beans and corn the boys put all their time into the house carrying wood finding nails piece by piece a hammer blow by hammer blow and there she stood. A naked thing without windows or doors or paint or a roof covered but solid and straight and true from the floor to the peak of the wooden roof. Mr. Moore you come from more names Noah.
I come to ask you about a problem. ABEND look and while I've been building something that might do for a roof over my house yeah I need a tan roof I figure I don't want danger from fines here. I got nothing more. Do you know where I can get some tin you know. Not unless you buy a gun grabbing to the neighbors you can find in the woods graps. We're going to have many more witchcraft at a house a no good without a roof to cover you know. Well I'm just as can be that I got no tan. Yes. How do you do it ma'am. Scenes and pieces attend stacked up outside the house. Could I do something around your place to pay where they had about 60 pieces of man at the side of the house with a cover over most. What can you do young man I can carpenter or clear my mind I think. Well I gotta go Rajab back it
needs fixing. Yes I saw that from the street. It's a right big job bad garage at lanes and lanes bad if you want to fix the garage you can have the tan but ma'am it will take two three days to fix that garage I'd say well what do you want to do. Got nothing else but to fix the garage. Just prop it up and take the team in all right no on Prop it up. I'll fix the garage ma'am for the team. I told you before you started you couldn't build a house. I know you did. You got how many pieces a 10 from that woman. Well 45 member Austin for three days work you and your brother we got a good deal more and you found 20 more pieces you say in a garbage dump. So you got 45 in 20 60 65 65 pieces how many you need about two hundred two hundred could know we needed that many Marshall. Yeah two hundred and not another place to find where you put all this work in a house without a roof cover is
no good at all. But what you done was well done Marshall to your Tin Tin Tin Tin Cans a total tear away. All of us away is there. How many times I heard you Paul say that he said he was going to save money. So was me and him and you boys could have a proper life after all. You know how much money your Paul headed for Cristo you told us once it was a thousand dollars one thousand and twelve dollars. My my and then that man took it but nobody could prove it. He would smile like when he passed you Paul he said nobody could prove it so your pa got mad after awhile and he done a terrible thing a terrible thing. Better do I let the money go than ruin himself like that. Better to let your house go Marshall than to beat your head against a stone wall. I told you I know you didn't own it right marshal of the house. Yeah
just run away. Yeah there's something you can put on the roof. How about reeds or just weeds and stuff. Roof ain't picked enough to make that work burn anyway most likely. I'm sorry son or life would work as cheap nowadays. For a whole week after that market with no mirrors near my house but I couldn't find any other work to do not even the hole in the garden. Money was scarce in 1932. It don't seem right does it. What the House let it be. What do you mean let it be. You get going hard on something and then the car tracks in. You can't just stop you gotta crash into something ain't you. Well let it be I said. Good thing is the inside of the house. Why look Marshall. We could get us some cardboard and put it inside cardboard and hard to find the roof leaks water lead away at the cardboard. Do you mind if I go get some cardboard and put it up. I'll do it right Marshall I'll find some tax
and do it right then maybe we can paper over that. You want to help me Marshal. I'll go uptown right now and try to get some tax from somewhere and I'll bring back a lot of cardboard. Let it be know I ain't got to do all we can we've done all we can knowing we can put up cardboard for the wall it'll all go with the rain. I don't know about that I just know we gotta do all we can. We can't stop now can we marshal the boy brought back two pockets full of tax and as much cardboard as he could drag from town towing it on a wide board he pulled with a piece of wire he found a wire cut his hands. Tommy made three trips for cardboard then he cut it in the proper wits and tacked it on the walls. Four days later the house was papered with wrapping paper he had found at the city dump. The next two days he and Marshall sat around waiting for the rain but it didn't rain. You think a good storm would ruin the cardboard. I don't know I guess it will Marshall. Maybe we could think the house. Why paint that confound I know just what else we got to do.
Had a plan for pain and I was thinking we could get some pain at the dump and scrape it out of cans out of a couple of hundred Gand we could get enough show we could find an old brush or two. We could make it real purty Marshall trying to get a fair color out of the mixture not easy to do. We could try but it'd take a couple of days. What do you think they use. What do you think ma. I've said my piece. No use trying voice there is use trying. I'm tired of hearing you say that mother is. Come on Tommy let's go get something. I think all these empty cans are right down here and somebody threw away our after Dan.. Yeah.
Here are a couple this is good. Not much left though. We need 50 at least. Got all colors Marshall will make something out of them. I'll stack them up over here then we can drain them into one or two of the paid Marshall. Here's a big one. Here's a for a 5 gallon can down the bottom let me see no pain in it. Do hear ya. What you reckon was in there. Smells like turpentine. Here let me know. Yeah. Are they any more. I expect so down to the plate pans one thin metal. Let's see. I don't what I think tell me what I think. I think maybe we could open up a can as big and cut out a good square tin. Yeah you do. I think so and maybe I think maybe we can. Looks like maybe we can to meet to Marshall one of the finest house in the whole river if we could all a carrying a rocks and would be worthwhile when it. I think what can I do to Marshall I think Rick can you hear me. I think we're going to finish this house they were going to build a house. Coming.
Into the present in there. Yeah clouds are still gather marshal Adam come let it rain over we got through the day they'll pull this river is done. Here's another piece of nail I hurry I felt the first drop of rain Marshall never mind you can see a long way from here on ARU see clean down the river see the outhouse Yeah I feel another drop of rain myself and there's a Noah his daughter a Martian and you had left me standing. Here ya you had to hammer didn't even better. It's coming down let it come up with rainbow mice there has been a serious there's a distance through and we're done. Brazier here with stones. So what the fuck was the most. Productive use
the. Word got out for word travels. Word got out about the house down in the shanty town. The new house with windows which had been put together from Broken Pieces of frames and discarded pieces of glass windows which closed all new levels. There wasn't a carpenter in the county who didn't come to see it. Sure sure sure. What can I say to you now you did it. Yes. And then as big as your building but Tommy and they did it in love for a while like we wasn't going to make it. What color would you call that has Marshall I don't know what color is that. It's sort of blue ain't it. We mixed all colors together and then we added some dye until we found we had the right color. So all right it's a solid house solid as a rock couldn't even shake the floor when I was in it. It's the finest house I ever see.
But what if the river I don't we stand and when the river goes down. Yes but the mud and all. We'll take care of it easy enough maybe it won't flood. Anyway we done the best we could that's right. Yeah well come see me when you need a job. So I said come to see me when you need to get a good artist carpenter and a good deal. But and I didn't mean as a man that does his work for the love of it. So he does it right. Bregman are easy to find. I just had to come. Yes go. Come to see me when you need a job. How come to see you tomorrow. Yes I sort of figured you would. What does it all mean. Everything changed. Even the children around here follow me around all the time just look at me. Ask them questions like you've got a secret or something.
No I got a job that all mean mom. I don't know but everything's a lot better nor Tommy and me done was build a house. American Adventure is written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton and is produced by the communication center of the University of North Carolina. Earl when the record these programmes are produced on a grant in aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters made possible by the educational Radio and Television Center an independent agency established by the Ford Foundation. They are intended for use by educational and commercial radio stations and this and other
countries and by schools for in-school listening purposes they are in almost all cases based on actual events. Today's programme builders on the river presented William Waddell as Marshall. Jean herring as a mother. Back with us Tommy and Johnnie Lee as a. Former. Others in the cast where Carl banners and kino. Cast members of American Adventure are students professors and townspeople of the university community. American Adventure is produced and recorded in the studios of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is the end. The radio network.
American adventure
Builders on the river
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
In the thick of the Great Depression, a man takes on numerous obstacles in his quest to build a house.
Series Description
This series studies the values and characteristics of notable figures from America's early years. It is written by John M. Ehle and directed by John S. Clayton.
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Social Issues
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Actor: Kuralt, Charles, 1934-1997
Actor: Waddell, William
Actor: Beckwith, Judd
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Writer: Ehle, John, 1925-
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-12-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:46
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Chicago: “American adventure; Builders on the river,” 1955-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “American adventure; Builders on the river.” 1955-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: American adventure; Builders on the river. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from