A few days ago, I was in a local office supply store when an older gentleman made eye contact and decided to show me what he was working on. He had some old pictures of a train that ran Blue Creek in the Elkview area. He was having them laminated and explained that when he was a kid, he didn’t ride a bus to school… he rode a train. It was a cool story and a fascinating little piece of history. Why he chose me to share it with, I have no idea. I guess I just look curious.
I have a degree in Journalism from Marshall. After school, I worked in local newspapers for a few years, first in Matewan and then writing for the Metro/Neighbors sections of Charleston newspapers. I quickly discovered my favorite part of the job was human interest stories and features. I really enjoyed talking to people and listening to what they had to say.
Flash forward 25 years and one of my favorite projects is to collect oral histories. Oral histories are recorded memories. They can be about early childhood, work experiences, war experiences or family life. It is extremely important for families to record the memories and voices of older generations so those memories are not lost.
During FestivALL 2015, I’ve been asked to coordinate collecting oral histories around Charleston June 22-26. (We’re planning to do some person-on-the-street interviews on the weekends, too). The FestivALL Oral History Project seeks to collect oral histories from everyday Charleston residents and those who live in the surrounding area. Where appropriate, we’ll direct oral history interviews with questions relating to life in the Charleston area, (earliest memory, connections to the river, etc.) but will leave the oral history up to you.
We’ll use excerpts from these recordings to develop a multimedia documentary and memory wall. Participation in that portion of the project is voluntary and not required if you want to have your oral history recorded.
I’m still looking for a couple locations who are interested in hosting a day of recordings. So far, we are recording at The Clay Center (June 22) and Emmanuel Baptist Church on the West Side (June 23). We can set up to record in churches, libraries, community centers or wherever. If you’re interested in hosting the FestivALL Oral History Project, send me an email. I’m asking that the location sponsors maintain the schedule for their location to keep people flowing in and out.
If you want to have your story recorded as part of the project, watch the FestivALL website for details on locations and contact information on how to sign up. Each interview will take about an hour..