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THE MAKING OF POWER FOR THE PARKINSONS
by Dr. Ephraim K. Smith

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Now over sixty years later, how could this story be retold -- with the loss of all the family members, the disappearance of the farmstead, and the deaths of all of the major participants in the making of the film? Fortunately, there were surviving Parkinson grandchildren: Ruth’s children (Sara A, Brannan, Thomas L. Brannan, David Brannan, and Rick Brannan), and two of Bip’s children (John W. Parkinson and James L. Parkinson). Without their support and encouragement (and their willingness to be interviewed), this documentary would not have been possible.

With the assistance of Sally Brannan, Smith was also able to interview Tom Brannan (Ruth’s husband). Tom, after serving in the US Navy in World War II, had married Ruth in 1948. Although not in good health at the time of the interview, Tom shared some memories. When he was in the Navy, Tom had some tattoos put on his arms. Then he met and fell in love with the beautiful daughter of Bill and Hazel Parkinsons. During his courting of Ruth and later even after they were married, Tom would wear long shirts to cover up the tattoos when they came out to the farm. Even when he was out there working in the fields helping the family, he would not remove his shirt despite the stifling summer heat and humidity. Unknown to Tom, the kind-hearted Hazel already knew about the tattoos. She finally told him that it was no longer necessary to wear a long sleeved shirt. Not surprisingly, Tom had only the most cordial and respectful feelings towards Bill and Hazel – who, he said, were fine people. Hazel, he recalled, was a great cook.

But the interviews provided more than just personal information. Jim Parkinson, Ruth’s son, recalled his mother talking about the difficulty Hazel had in keeping the same clothes in the exact order on the clothesline. As Ivens and his film crew were on site for two months, these clothes had to be set aside, not even worn at all, and then put on the line in the exact order for proper continuity. For a farm family with probably not a large wardrobe of clothing, this was a bit of an inconvenience.

Sally Parkinson, Ruth’s daughter, shared her mother’s recollections of Hazel’s true feelings about her old wood stove. Even though one of the most effective scenes in the closing segments of Power and the Land shows Hazel smiling as she put pies in her new electric stove, Sally remembers Ruth saying that her mother actually preferred her old wood stove. Hazel, according to Ruth, thought that she could regulate the temperature more easily with the wood stove. This old wood stove, Sally Brannan noted, remained in the Parkinson residence until the property was sold.


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