Inside Appalachia's Broommaker Film Will Be Screened at Library of Congress

Sep 22, 2017

Eighty-seven year-old Jim Shaffer has had his hands busy since 1946. He is the last commercial broom-maker left in West Virginia. People from all over the country have come to see, and take home, some of Shaffer’s work.

A short film about Jim Shaffer is being screened at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress later this month at an event called "Reel Folk: Cultural Explorations on Film". The video was produced earlier this year by Inside Appalachia, in collaboration with the West Virginia Folklife Program

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we listen back to Jim Shaffer's story. We'll hear other stories about Appalachian artisans and folklorists who say holding on to Appalachian traditions matter.

The Last W.Va. Broommaker 

Shaffer has witnessed the craft industry in Appalachia change over the years, and he’s seen synthetic plastic brooms replace most of the handmade straw brooms that used to be fairly common.

“The broom industry is fading out. I suspect another five to seven years, you won’t see another straw broom in the store,” said Shaffer.

On Saturday, Sept. 30th, Shaffer’s story, called "Building A Broom By Feel: James Shaffer of Charleston Broom and Mop Company", will be screened to the public at the Library of Congress on Saturday as part of the American Folklife Center’s ethnographic film festival.

The event is taking place in the James Madison Building of the Library of Congress, on the 3rd floor, in the Pickford Theater. The screening is free and open to the public.

Appalachian Salt Rising Bread

Bakers Susan Brown and Jenny Bardwell have been working to document the recipes and stories of salt rising bread over the past few years. Their new book is called Salt Rising Bread: Recipes and Heartfelt Stories of a Nearly Lost Appalachian Tradition

Sorghum Farming and How to Eat Sweet Sorghum Molasses

Sorghum making in Tennessee
Credit Fred Sauceman

Sorghum is a type of sweetener that has a long tradition of being grown throughout Appalachia. We’ll travel to Muddy Farm Tennessee, where the Guenther family grows and produces sorghum. The family is featured in a film called, "Sunlight Makes it Sweeter: A Story of Sorghum," directed and written by WETS's Fred Sauceman.

The Struggle to Stay

Credit Reid Frazier

Over the past few weeks, we’ve met Dave Hathaway, his wife, and his new baby Deacon. We’ve shared in their struggles with money and job hunting. At this point he’s gotten used to his new role as a stay at home father. While they’re still worried about money, Dave enjoys spending time with his baby son. But what would happen if he got offered a job out of state, away from his family and away from his home? Find out this week on our ongoing series The Struggle to Stay

We’d love to hear from you.  You can e-mail us at feedback@wvpublic.org. Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. Inside Appalachia is produced by Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd. Patrick Stephens is our audio mixer. Suzanne Higgins and Glynis Board edited this episode. Jesse Wright is our executive producer.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from the West Virginia Folklife Program, a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council, and WETS in Johnson City, TN.

Music in this episode was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Dick Spain, Robert Johnson, Ben Townsend, Podington Bear and Teresa Brewer. Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their Album Songs of a Tradition.