I wish I had tried harder to convince people to record stories and recollections of their parents. Initially, I was suggesting that people record members of what Tom Brokaw called the Greatest Generation.
Wikipedia: The Greatest Generation is a book by journalist Tom Brokaw which profiles those who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as well as those whose productivity within the war’s home front made a decisive material contribution to the war effort. The book popularized the term “Greatest Generation”, which has now become a synonym for the G.I. Generation in the United States. Brokaw profiles those who came of age during World War II in the US, stemming from his attendance at the D-Day 40th anniversary celebrations. In the book, Brokaw wrote, “it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced”. He argued that these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the “right thing to do”.
Newspaper obituaries used to be filled with tributes to people who had landed at Normandy or who had fought in the jungles of the South Pacific. Now, almost all of those people are gone, but stories never end. Today’s older generation has their own stories to tell of Vietnam, civil unrest, and the almost every day changes brought about by technology.
The younger generations want to build their own stories and histories, but by listening and recording their own memories and those of their parents they can leave a legacy . . . a chain of people that extend both backwards and forward in time.
I’ve recorded numerous video sessions of interviews for personal and business anniversaries and remembrances. For my own family I recorded hours of interviews with my aunt and uncle from Alaska. We flew them down here. They stayed at our house and we recorded their stories for three days. My uncle was the little brother of my mom and her twin sister, my aunt. I really regret not recording the two of them. That would have been fun, but I never got around to it.
I know, I know . . . people never seem to find the time to record or even tell their own stories. However, StoryCorps on NPR is making it easier for people. An oral history project called The Great Thanksgiving Listen encourages people to record interviews with loved ones over Thanksgiving weekend. I listened to several over the past two weeks. They generally bring a tear to the eye. “Touching” doesn’t even come close the feelings expressed when listing. NPR and StoryCorps has an app to make it easier for casual stories.
Here is an example: “This story comes from a special holiday installment of StoryCorps. It’s derived from a recording that comes from The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Every year, StoryCorps asks people to interview each other over the long weekend using their phones. For more information on how to participate, visit Storycorps.”
Thanksgiving is over for 2017, but there is still time to record your own stories. StoryCorps travels around the country recording. Generally, it’s a two person deal. My friend Jan Runbeck and I talked about volunteering and helping our community. You sit facing each other at a table inside an Airstream trailer. It seems a little strange at first, but soon it just feels like having coffee or a soft drink and chatting with a friend . . . which is all it really is anyway. But don’t wait to be called.
Please, record those who have made a difference to you. It doesn’t have to be earthshaking. Listen to the mailman story. Enjoy . . . and share.