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What are Boomers doing to set the Record Straight?

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Baby BoomersWhat are we Boomers doing to set the record straight?

In the course of research for an upcoming class I’ll be teaching on 20th Century life in America I have naturally encountered considerable material on the Baby Boomer generation. I am a “boomer” and while I know I have already lived through some of the most historically important events in American history, I have not really given much thought to how those events have been interpreted by the generations that followed me; Generation X,Y and Z. Well, based on the very preliminary research I’ve done, it seems there is a considerable debate brewing about the perilous conditions we boomers have passed on to those who follow us. Clearly there seems to be no shortage of “boomer bashing” opinions out there and while I defend everyone’s right to have an opinion I am left wondering if some of the “ranting” is perhaps a little short on sources; specifically, the actual interpretations of boomers themselves.

Have we given our subsequent generations enough data from which to make informed interpretations? Do they know how you experienced the 60’s or 70’s and how the events of those periods influenced the person you became? Do they know the rights they take for granted were not easily attained? We have the information; we have the memories and recollections. Are we documenting it, sharing it with our families, and helping to set the record straight? Look around your house; there are memory triggers everywhere. A photo, a piece of jewelry, a knick knack or piece of art; the list is endless and quite often simply looking at those “things” can trigger memories of a time long past. It is in your memories that a new interpretation of the event resides and you alone can help set the record straight.
Remember, you should be Saving History…because your story is priceless.

 

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Where will we keep our clues?

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2014 at 1:46 PM

letters on england print book

 

Where will we keep our clues?

I am currently researching the impact the 18th century book publishing industry had on Enlightenment ideals. You can read some of that work here: 18th Century Book Sellers and Promoters. In the research I’ve discovered that books were quite a growing industry at the time; little wonder with Enlightenment ideals spreading and the ability to print becoming faster and less expensive. When looking at how specific ideas were spread, historians generally look to the written works and period advertising; in essence what was being promoted and how did publication numbers react. One interesting place researchers found incredible clues were in the actual books themselves. Not the content but rather the book owners own notations. Hand written comments and musings scribbled in the margins very often shed insights into what readers were influenced by and how it made them feel. For me, those little tidbits are invaluable; becoming in fact primary sources in themselves. We all have our own books, some gathering dust on shelves, others packed away in boxes, and still others on nightstands and tables. Some we have read and re-read and within them are our own musings and handwritten notes in the margins. They hold our thoughts on the written word, what it meant to us, how it has inspired or challenged us; all becoming a tiny embellishment to our own story.

letters on england kindle version

Though physical books are still published and libraries still exist we cannot deny their numbers are not what they used to be. Today a good percentage of our written word is digital. Kindle, Nook, e-Readers, and audio files have brought the written word into a whole new dimension and to a much broader audience. These are wonderful times but I am left to wonder where will we keep our clues? Where will we jot down our thoughts and musings about a passage or phrase? We can annotate in e-books and add our notes to a file but where will those e-books be after we are gone? What digital traces will remain to embellish my story when I am no longer here to tell it? It is something to think about and as more and more of our lives become digital; it is something we may want to plan for. Remember, you should be Saving History…because your story is priceless.

Replete with Memories

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Isabella at 95

This is a picture of my dear friend Isabella. She is 95 years young and runs circles around me. I took her to a small Puerto Rican restaurant for lunch where we indulged on pasteles; a treat I have not had since my grandmother passed away. OK, maybe they were not as good as grandmas but they were delicious and my lunch partner more than made up for it. As we sat there eating, way more than two people should, it occurred to me that I was dining with history; both on our plates and across the table from me. I’ll explain;

Isabella was born in 1918, World War I was just ending, the US economy was still strong but heading for a serious nose dive, Wilson was in the White House, and a dime would buy a gallon of gasoline (with 2 cents left over)! I could sit here and list the changes she has witnessed but I think we get the picture. The list is long, she has seen much transformation; in the world, in the material objects we produce, and in the beliefs and attitudes we harbor. As a historian I wanted to rattle off dozens of questions…who, what, where, how, when, why, they kept popping into my mind. I refrained, asked a few, and enjoyed the meal. We’ll be together again on Monday and I’ll ask a few. As a World War II veteran (she was a medical doctor during the war) she attends the veterans group that is part of the oral history project I’m working on. I want to learn all I can from this valuable resource, this remarkable woman.

The other thought of history, the one on my plate, was the meal itself. It had been years since I’ve enjoyed that kind of food and before swallowing my first bite I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen. The smells, the sounds, the hours I spent watching her cook; I was there and the memories came flooding back. That’s the amazing thing about our sense of taste and smell; they also hold our memories. So I ate, I marveled at my lunch partner, I thought about my grandmother, and by the time I waddled away from the table I was replete, with history, with fond memories, and with great food.

As 2013 comes to a close and we all look, with anticipation and hope to 2014, I hope you can take time to enjoy a good meal with a great friend and remember. Saving History…because your story is priceless.

It’s Always Better Late Than Never

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2013 at 9:26 AM

items from the flat
I am not an avid moviegoer; not that I don’t like movies or popcorn, I just never seem to get around to it. Last year I remember seeing an article on a documentary that won several foreign film awards and was right up my subject alley; the Holocaust (I’m an adjunct professor teaching WWII). No one I knew was keen on seeing it; English subtitles were not a real lure. So, I never went though kept it on my list of “movies I’d like to see.” Earlier this week one of my sons got Netflix and while he scrolled through the lineup to show me everything he could watch I caught a glimpse of it… “scroll back” I shouted and jumped to my feet when I saw the title; The Flat!!!
the flat poster
Directed by Arnon Goldfinger it is the story of the long and shocking process of clearing out his 98 year old grandmothers flat in Tel Aviv when she passed away. She and Goldfinger’s grandfather immigrated to Tel Aviv (then Palestine) in the 1930’s as a result of the mandatory invitation to leave their homeland of Germany; not an uncommon request/demand of Jews during that era. Considering the events of history, they were certainly fortunate to be alive. Despite living in Tel Aviv for nearly seven decades, the grandparents never mentally left Germany and the apartment was clear testament to that fact. Barely fluent in Hebrew, everything in the apartment was in German.
In the weeks it would take Goldfinger and his family to go through the flat to dispose or disperse of the items accumulated over a long lifetime they discovered the family history never shared or spoken of. Curious and shocked, Goldfinder set out to unravel the long hidden details around a well developed friendship between his grandparents and a Nazi official; can you say Odd Couple? How a young Jewish couple, expelled from Germany came to visit Palestine with a Nazi official was, to say the least a revelation, even to Goldfinger’s mother who knew nothing of this friendship her parents maintained. Despite the fact her own mother (Goldfinger’s great grandmother) was a Holocaust victim, despite the fact that this “friend” was highly placed within the Nazi Regime, and despite being expelled from their own country, Goldfinger’s grandparents remained close to this man and his family, taking other trips, and maintaining a rich correspondence. Now, can you say unbelievable???!!! But it is true and had Goldfinger not been assigned the difficult task of clearing out the belongings of a departed loved one, this story would have been lost.
Goldfinger emptying cabinet
In one scene several family members descend on the apartment to empty draws, closets, and cabinets. Amongst the piles and trash bags each held some object they were left to wonder about. “Why did they have this”, “what was it for”, “who gave it to them”, “I never knew this”, “why did they keep this”, and similar thoughts raced through all their minds and mine as I watched. I paused the file and looked around my own den at all the stuff and books and things. Would the scene paused on the screen be repeated in my own home years from now (hopefully many years from now)? Would my family know why I’ve kept the things tucked in my draws, closets, and cabinets? More importantly would they know my stories? I heard myself answer out loud; “NO, not unless I do something about it.”
The 20th century has been marked by incredible global change, perhaps more than any other time in recorded history, but it is fast disappearing. The relationship Goldfingers grandparents maintained with a Nazi official reveal that our interpretation of conditions and events is perhaps incomplete; there are other bits and pieces that remain untold, packed away in someone else’s draws, closets, and cabinets. Maybe yours, maybe mine. The point is there are untold tales and recipes, and stories, and an endless list of information, information that will bring to light a more complete story of history. The process does not have to be overwhelming and by all means the process should not be tackled after we are gone. The clues surround us but the details are within. Don’t leave the interpretation to others after you pass.

You should be Saving History…because your story is priceless.

Saving Memories

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2013 at 11:41 AM

photo recovery

 

 

It is Memorial Day and across the United States many of us will gather with friends and family to honor and remember our military and their service to our country. It’s a day of parades and BBQ’s; it’s a day to share stories and plenty of pictures. In Moore Oklahoma, where residents and scores of volunteers are working to restore the city after last week’s deadly tornado, they will also gather to remember our military as well as their neighbors whose lives were so tragically touched that day. It will take weeks for search and rescue teams to comb every last nook and cranny of the tornado’s path. While volunteers tirelessly search for trapped victims they are also busy gathering bits and pieces of the heart and soul of a community; the family pictures and keepsakes flung far and wide. Volunteers arrive at the Moore Community Center carrying bags and boxes filled with the valuables, mementos, and photographs; hundreds and hundreds of photographs.

Thankfully most of us will not experience the devastation of such a tornado but we should heed the warning. The keepsakes and photographs that represent our own history can also be lost. Whether to any number of natural disasters or simply lost to time, our history is priceless and we should make efforts to preserve it before it is too late. While the task of documenting a lifetimes worth of photo’s and keepsakes may seem unmanageable, it does not have to be. Start today, this Memorial Day. Take a moment to jot down the names and places in the photos, maybe even a recipe or two. Best of all, take advantage of digital technologies and cloud storage wherever possible. Start with today and work your way back in small chunks. You’ll not only safeguard your life story for future generations, you might stir up some fond memories in the process. Remember, you should be Saving History…because your story is priceless. Happy Memorial Day!

A Mini-Legacy in Under an Hour!

In Uncategorized on May 17, 2013 at 11:49 AM

ephemera

They are stored away in the dark corners of our attics, garages, and basements. Some have grown so large they require a place of their own; a storage locker! Others are small and manage to line our shelves and bookcases. They are our keepsakes and mementos and while they mean the world to us on an emotional level, they often challenge us on a physical one. Some of the “clutter” belongs to us and some we’ve inherited. Items once showcased on our refrigerators and too precious to “throw away” end up lovingly stored in a box. The ones we inherit are even more problematic. We know there is “stuff” in there that belonged to … (fill in the blank) and it might be important, it might be interesting, it might be junk.

We tell ourselves we are going to go through those boxes, organize them, and maybe even split them up for the kids (now grown). We are going to do that…we are going to do that…we are really going to do that. But we haven’t quite gotten to it yet. There are dozens of reasons why and at Saving History I’ve heard them all. Some valid (yes, there are only twenty-four hours in a day) and some not so much (those boxes have nothing to do with me). While your schedule may be overloaded and your life is generations removed from the contents of those boxes, there is a piece of your history in there waiting to be shared. You may be worried that a project of this type is far too large for your time-starved schedule.

Not to worry!!! Of course Saving History can walk you through any size project. Check out our website for the details. BUT, if you are brave and want to take little bites of that great big elephant there is an alternative; it’s called Legacy Stories and you can easily upload five photos and record a short three minute narrative describing each of them and Voilá; you have a mini legacy in under an hour!!! Cost…FREE. Yep, Legacy Stories is committed to recording the legacy of the 20th Century and so they provide the tools and shoe box storage for FREE. Yes, you can upgrade and get more space and yes, that will cost money, but you don’t have to. You can start small, you can dip your toe in the water, and you can leave an invaluable gift for the next generation. If you have questions I’m only an email away.

Remember, you should be Saving History…because  your story is priceless.

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2013 at 9:12 AM

I often attend lectures at the local library; their free and usually interesting. This past Saturday at the Tustin Library in Orange County California I had the opportunity to attend one of the better ones. Jessie Cozean spoke about his new/first book My Grandfather’s War: A Young Man’s Lessons from the Greatest Generation.
Like most of the other lectures, this one was about an hour, was held in the small community resources room, and drew a small group. The author was prepared, brought plenty of books (hardcover no less!), and presented in a very relaxed manner. No surprise, this was a personal story; and what a story it is.

Jessie’s grandfather fought in WWII, was captured during the Battle of the Bulge, and was held in a German POW camp for more than 100 days. Thankfully he was freed at the end of the war and able to return to his family.  Like so many others from “The Silent Generation” he closed that chapter of his life and moved into the next. Over the course of a long life he would on occasion revisit those days and share some memories with his family but the sharing was limited, reserved, and selective. This would change when the grandfather moved in with Jessie to convalesce from a serious medical issue; the silent war hero opened up and Jessie was all too happy to be the sponge to soak it in.

Not only did Jessie come to know the man his grandfather was all those years ago, but because his grandfather never threw out anything, he had a cache of documents and memorabilia that were invaluable for his research. For a historian those old musty boxes are the ultimate treasure. The experiences of Jessie’s grandfather are extraordinary and the book is a tribute worth reading but the story is shared by many others. How many other stacks of papers, boxes, and trunks contain the untold stories of other war heroes? How many basements and attics are filled with the keepsakes and memorabilia of ordinary men, women, and children who lived extraordinary lives? The answer is simple; ALL OF THEM. There are stories and details and lessons waiting to discovered, shared, and passed onto the next generation.


My Grandfather’s War: A Young Man’s Lessons from the Greatest Generation is a duel memoir interwoven with subtle life lessons developed in a war fought more than seventy years ago but remain vitally important today. They are unique to that moment but no different than the lessons waiting to be unpacked in your own basement.

Remember, you should be Saving History…because your story is priceless.

The story is usually bigger than we know

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2012 at 9:27 AM

On a recent episode of the History Detectives the historian researched a picture frame heirloom for a pair of cousins. Her understanding of the pieces background was that it was a piece of wood from the Lusitania wreckage found by her great-grandfather during his service in the Merchant Marines in Halifax. The other cousin believed the wreckage was actually the Titanic. Enter the History Detectives! After contacting a dendrologist to determine the origin of the wood, and several other experts of varying stripes, long story short, the wood was determined to have come from the main banister of the Titanic. In their research they found another woman with a similar piece but more important a photo of her own great-grandfather and the cousins great-grandfather; they served together and were there that fateful day to recover bodies from the Titanic. The research further revealed a third Merchant Marine who actually carved both pieces (and several other housed in various museums). Amazing!
Our stories are unique and each of our family histories is filled with tiny bits of information that further research can expand into remarkable historic narratives. We all have dozens (if not hundreds) of photo’s with unknown people, places, or things. We look at our distant relatives and wonder who those people are they are posing with! The greater the gap between the original date and today the greater the research challenge…but we can certainly do better today. When you take a picture be sure to tag it, describe it, list the who, what, when, why, where, and how. You think you’ll remember but you won’t and someday you will be here to recall. Remember, history is a collection of stories…and your story is priceless!
Saving History

Take advantage of the holiday rush

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 at 10:33 AM

The holidays are here; Hanukah nearly over, Christmas around the corner, and a new year looming on the horizon. If you are anything like me you realize right about now that your “To-Do List” has grown to impossible proportions. What used to be a short drive across town now provides enough time to complete an entire audio book (ah, note to self…keep ipod loaded with new audio books). There is no escaping it; we are deep in holiday mode and by January 2nd we’ll be exhausted and much of this will be a blur. However, there might actually be a silver lining to the time-starved cloud that surrounds us during this time; some profound opportunity to all this rush and madness.
Many of us will be out shopping and spend countless and precious time in retail lines. Instead of tapping an anxious foot, checking facebook, or staring blankly at the floor mulling over the many other things you need to get done before you can slip your shoes off, take a moment to offer a smile or holiday greeting to those around you. Maybe go so far as to chat about the traditions you hold dear during this time of year. Each interaction is in fact a learning experience and helps to broaden your own perspective. Who knows, you might even learn a new and creative way to use the dreaded holiday fruitcake!
History surrounds us and it resides within our memories and experiences. Take advantage of the family get-togethers to gather the stories of your loved ones. What was it like, who did they share this time with, where did they go? Answers to these questions not only add pages to your own family history but more importantly help bridge the generation gap. Invite your friends and relatives to share your meal via facetime or skype. Set a place at the table for your distant relative, prop up a laptop or tablet, and let them join in the conversation.
Remember, history is a collection of stories…and your story is priceless.

Cursive Writing Goes the Way of Latin

In Uncategorized on December 13, 2012 at 8:52 AM

The Los Angeles Times recently published an article about the dying art of cursive writing. Based on the article, most states in the country have already eliminated cursive or script writing from the compulsory standards and replaced it with keyboard proficiency. Of course few can argue the importance of keyboard skills. Today both standard typing and texting methods are used daily by most and in a time starved society getting better or faster at both is beneficial and yet despite the obvious benefits I find myself saddened and concerned for our future, or more specifically our ability to understand our past. As a trained research historian I have spent countless hours digging through archive materials. My work often requires reading letters, journals, and official documents to garner information and a large portion of that material is handwritten and usually cursive. While reading very old documents is challenging because of cursive styles of penmanship, I am at least “fluent in the language”.
I do not doubt that today’s records, and this includes personal correspondence, have transitioned to born digital format but there are countless records created during the twentieth century and even into the early twenty-first century that are handwritten and cursive. If today’s students (K-12) are not learning cursive skills, how will the future historians among them be able to read the documents my generation created? How will they read the firsthand accounts or letters created by those witnesses to history? Are we sequestering volumes of primary source material to the untouched corners of the archive? When we eliminate this skill we create a limiting boundary to knowledge and understanding. Latin seems to have suffered a similar fate. Once being the lingua franca it is now an all but dead language and yet historians encounter it daily. Lacking proficiency, most of us struggle trying to translate and understand the ancient past. Of course I am not proposing we resurrect Latin; I simply suggest we learn from our past and reconsider eliminating a skill set from our children’s repertoire. In fact, maybe we should keep it in the curriculum for a few more generations!
Remember, you should be Saving History because your story is priceless.

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