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.
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.
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.
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.