Through the years I've had several conversations with people here about Oral History. This won't be a long Diary, but I did what to write something up on the topic. I don't know who first came up with the idea, but the person I know that talked about it 24/7 was Pulitzer Prize winning history professor T. Harry Williams.
As maybe the best Civil War scholar of all time he realized that quickly those who had fought and been alive during the war were dieing. He felt it was one thing to have their words on a printed page, but wouldn't it be better to have a recording of the interview. To be able to hear their voice. For the rest of his life he recorded anybody and everybody he could, which eventually became the materials at The T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History at LSU.
The thing is in 2011 it is so stupid simple to do, to record somebody so we don't lose our history, we all should be doing it. I'm going to talk about that a little below the fold.
My father is a pretty wealthy man, so finding a gift that he will like and actual use is hard. If there is something he wants, well he already owns it. A few months ago he came over to help me with a project at my house. I noticed he had an "old school" micro cassette recorder he was using to take notes.
Now my father helped me build my first computer in 1982, so he isn't scared of technology. So why the heck wasn't he using a digital recorder he could plug into his computer and download and edit the content?
Well I got him one for Christmas. Very nice Sony for like $45. Heck most of you could just use your phone if you wanted, so it isn't expensive.
Go get yourself one and start recording oral history. Maybe it will just be your mother talking about your great grandfather. Your grandfather talking about fighting in WWII. Your aunt talking about marching in anti-war protests in the late 60s. Heck it could be your 85 year old neighbor talking about going to school in a horse and buggy. Sometimes the little stuff makes for the best story.
The person doesn't even have to be famous, cause I bet pretty much everybody you know has an interesting story (actually many stories) to tell. Somebody just needs to ask and record it. Cause the saddest thing of all, if nobody does this then they'll be lost to the dust bin of history when they pass away.
Oh and one last thought. I've done this a number of times and something kind of cool happens that brings a tear to my eyes. I've heard it time and time again, when I interview say an 85 year old women and she says, "nobody has ever asked me to talk about my life."