Tom Franko Interview
PeopleInterviewee: Tom Franko
Interviewer: Zach Weddle
PlacesZephyr Community, Floyd County
Various oral history documentation materials and media
- 22 page printed transcript and digital file
- 68 minute mp3 audio file
- candid photos; respondent photos
- catalog record
- student interview-based short film: “Zephyr – Many to One”
As a back-to-the-land advocate, Tom migrated with his family from Pennsylvania to Southwest Virginia in the 1970s. Tom was soon drawn to the social fabric of Floyd County, which led to his becoming one of the founding members of the Zephyr Community in the late 1970s—a group of like-minded families purchasing land together. Tom describes his early years with recollections of the Food Cooperative, the Barter Faire, and seasonal celebrations such as the summer solstice, as well as the county’s low-key pace of life at that time. Several families have homes on twenty-nine shared acres, and although there are communal costs and shared labors, including road, pond, and field maintenance, each family holds an independent life. In Tom’s view, the supportive group dynamics make the communal operations of Zephyr work well. Tom related a group communications technique, “We call this a talking stick. And once somebody has the talking stick then they have the floor. They have, they get to say whatever — if they need to rant, or if they need to cry, it’s their story. . . . It’s worked for us.” And when asked what advice he might give to young people, Tom replied, “Be present. Be present when you’re making a decision. Be present when somebody’s addressing something with you. Don’t just say something because you think somebody wants to hear it.”
Keywordstalking stick, co-op, economy, tourist, gatherings, equinox, solar power, lunar, pond, fires, loan, softball, volleyball, vegetables, social media, consensus, pottery studio, midwife, photovoltaic systems, road maintenance, cluster, battery, timber-frame, cemetery, poem, Christmas, goats, house-raising, sawmill, snow, ducks, identical twins, revelry, Maypole
Tom Franko, originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, describes himself as a child of the sixties, becoming interested in ideas that were out of the mainstream, such as yoga and small communities. That interest, and the ideals of diversity, enticed his family to Blacksburg in 1976 to join an intentional community there. Tom was soon drawn to the social fabric of Floyd County, which led to his becoming one of the founding members of the Zephyr Community in the late 1970s—a group of like-minded families purchasing land together.
The Community and Neighborhood oral history series was directed by the Floyd Story Center at the Old Church Gallery, where the complete archives are held. Tom Franko’s interview was conducted by Floyd County High School student Zach Weddle, as part of a student team in the Roots with Wings project. The project was guided by a collaborative community-university partnership with Dr. Melinda Bollar Wagner, Radford University Anthropology Professor Emerita, whose students took on the role of mentors in the production of these place-based interviews. Generations will be enriched by the recordings of all who shared their memories. Thank you all.