Castner, Charles

76 min.
Owen, Thomas
Transcription available:
Interview Number(s):
Charles B. "Charlie" Castner, who was 83 at the time of this interview, discusses growing up in the Old Louisville and Crescent Hill neighborhoods in Louisville, Kentucky; significant 1930s and 1940s rail trips; and his life-long interest in documenting railroad and street rail history—including involvement with a local railfan group starting in the early 1940s. He touches on his father’s role prospering Gamble Brothers, a local manufacturer of wood furniture parts. The narrator also traces his prep-school education at the McCalue School in Chattanooga, TN., college years at Washington and Lee University, and his development as an accomplished boogie-woogie/jazz pianist. Castner reviews his years in the Marine Corps and U. S. Army Reserves in the Korean War era and family, including his marriage to Katie Heathcock. His work as a script writer and producer at WHAS Radio in the 1950s and almost thirty years in public relations at the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company are also discussed. The interview concludes with his role in the preservation of the L&N Records at the University Archives and Records Center at UofL as well as over twenty-five years as a volunteer there assisting researchers in their use. In the second part of this interview, he discusses his longstanding interest in exercise and physical conditioning as well as how in the late 1930s he acquired (influenced in part by two Louisville African-American brothers)–a love for performing jazz, blues, and honky-tonk music. He also recalls the various musical groups he played with as a student at Washington and Lee University and back in Louisville. The interviewee also describes his wife Katie’s role in the family, her background and musical interests, and later debilitation from dementia . Castner discusses his three children, their lives, careers, and musical abilities, as well as the sexual orientation of his daughter and his participation in the 1990s in the Louisville chapter of Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians. Finally he recalls his closeness to his brother and sister and his lifetime interest in passenger rail.
Railroad history, Personal history