The American Journalism Historians Association. It’s one of my favorite organizations. The group hosts my absolutely favorite convention.
What does all this have to do with “Rebels on Lake Erie,” the documentary?
It’s hard to find lots of southern voices in Akron, Ohio, today.
About 90 years ago, it wouldn’t have been a problem. Thousands came up from West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas in search of jobs in Akron’s thriving rubber factories.
Southern twangs were a familiar sound in virtually every Akron factory, church, store and bar.
Things have changed in Akron. The richness of the Southern drawl is rare around this Midwestern city.
And that represented a real problem for me – and the documentary.
I needed lots of Southern voices, voices of prisoners at Johnson’s Island, voices of conspirators, voices of the Confederacy.
Where can you find that many Southern voices?
How about Tucson, Arizona, in October 2010?
That’s when the American Journalism Historians Association held its convention.
And there are LOTS of Southern gentlemen in that organization, scholars who are more than willing to help out a Midwesterner in search of a Southern drawl.
Did I need a voice of Decimus et Ultimus Barziza, the blustering belligerent Confederate prisoner from Texas? Patrick Cox, director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, volunteered for the challenge – and lived up to Decimus’ bravado.
David Sloan of the University of Alabama was typecast as the intellectual college professor/Johnson’s Island prisoner Luther Mills.
The young Glenn (Pete) Smith Jr. of Mississippi State became Capt. Joe Barbiere of the Gayoso Guards.
Jim Martin of the University of Northern Alabama convincingly portrayed Edmund DeWitt Patterson of the 9th Alabama.
With some elocution advice from his Southern wife Katie, Leonard Teel of Georgia State offered his interpretation of the depressed Col. D.R. Hundley of Alabama.
But who could portray the Confederate spy John Breckinridge Castleman?
Jim Aucoin of the University of Southern Alabama agreed to do it, although he never thought he had much of a Southern accent. When you see the documentary, you decide.
David Davies, an Arkansas native who teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi, served as Johnson’s Island prisoner Lt. Horace Carpenter of the 9th Louisiana. David can make the word “damned” stretch across five syllables. Unfortunately, you won’t hear that in the documentary. When we had to cut the last three minutes, David’s “damned” was sacrificed. Contrary to what many might say, that “damned” edit didn’t make up the whole three minutes.
The soft-spoken David Copeland of Elon in North Carolina served as Capt. William M. Norman of the 2nd North Carolina.
I’m no audio specialist – and I wasn’t going to have any help when I did the audio recording in that hotel in Tucson. Yet with some training from UA Communication engineer Rick Kent, the newest version of audacity on my laptop, a blue icicle and one of the school’s better microphones, I was ready for the challenge.
The staff of the Hotel Tucson went out of their way to find a quiet location, where all the voiceovers could be recorded.
I can’t say the process was seamless. I ran into one technical snafu but engineer Rick Kent, back in Akron, talked me through it. I must have done pretty well because our audio editor Gabor Smith hasn’t had too much work to do on the voiceovers I recorded in Tucson.
It’s kind of nice to know that AJHA isn’t just an organization where you present research. It’s a place where friends help each other out.
As a result, “Rebels on Lake Erie” is a documentary that draws on talent from across the nation.
– Kathleen Endres