I’ve often heard it said that everybody has a story to tell, and I know this is true, but I have found also that we all have a yearning to tell our story. Also, we have numerous ways to do it: through voice, writing instruments and machines, through photographic and digital images that we make or assemble, and also through the pattern of our living, and in the things that we create. Truman Fields is a many-faceted person, and he has left plenty of evidence of his interesting story to supplement what he tells us in this book. He has been a persistent student, teacher and craftsman, a successful businessman, and an award-winning tennis player, a superb craftsman, and a public servant.
He was born in the center of the Appalachian coal fields, where he attended local schools until his father, perceived that Truman had a desire to learn more than might be possible locally, sent his reluctant son to Berea Foundation High School at the age of sixteen. There, in addition to the usual academic subjects, he began probing the complexities of electronics, metal-and-wood, and of course basketball and tennis. Without money, he was a half-day student, meaning he took classes for half the day and worked in the rest of the day for his room and board. Thus it would have taken him five years to complete high school, so ever restless and inquisitive, he decided at the age of twenty, to join the Navy for four years.
The Navy sent him to electronic school before assigning him to a destroyer tender. On this ship, he saw a great deal of the world. At age 24, he re-entered the Foundation School for a semester to finish high school, and then enrolled at Berea College. There he majored in Industrial Arts and played tennis so well that he was a finalist in several tournaments. In college, he met Joyce Barnes from Tennessee, and they were married. After graduation Truman taught in Louisville and then moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he and Joyce taught for 30 years. There, Truman also worked successfully part-time as a real estate broker and he coached tennis at Baldwin Wallace College. Joyce and Truman reared two daughters in Cleveland, and their grandchildren, who know little of life in the Appalachian Mountains, became the main inspiration for this book.
When Joyce and Truman retired from teaching, their love of Berea College and the
Berea community drew them back to Kentucky. Here they have managed several rental properties and developed home-building sights. Truman was elected for several terms to
Berea City Council, taught students, faculty, and community people to make furniture in the College’s woodworking shop, and coached the college tennis team. He also continued to follow the tennis circuits, winning many gold metals in his age class. Joyce has also been much involved in the arts and crafts scene for which Berea is famous. She and Truman are active members of Union Church, the mother church of Berea College. They are also generous supporters of Berea College in the knowledge that the lives of other young people from the mountains will be enriched there, as theirs have been.
In this book, Joyce and Truman’s grandchildren, and others, will learn much about the life Truman lived as a boy, about the one-room school he attended, his classmates, the games they played, the spelling bees, the sporting contests, the victories and disappointments in his budding life, his teacher’s and pastor’s vigorous efforts to teach right from wrong, and his own family history. Along the way, from Big Creek to Berea, to Louisville, and Cleveland and back to Berea, we learn Truman’s story and the events that shaped him from the lad on the cover in Happy Jack overalls looking with sharp and expectant eyes, to the disciplined tireless, teacher, public servant, athlete, auctioneer, craftsman, and student of all Kentucky things today. He’s been a little modest, however, like most mountain people, in telling his story. So keep in mind all that he has done, all his interests and involvements, as he remembers and tells you about his life in the heart of Appalachia.