Oral History Newsletter XIV
Editor: Chrissy Pearson
Oral History Luncehon
The familiar setting of the Canoe Club in downtown Hanover was the site of the Fall 2009 Oral History Luncheon on November 10. Thirteen oral historians, both new and old -- including two members of Harvey and Myrna's first MALS 191 Oral History class in 1994: Mike Beahan and Nancy P.Silliman, gathered to share stories of travel, thesis projects, and plans for the future. The mix of previous, current, and future oral history students provided a diverse and engaging backdrop for the casual get-together underscoring the continuum/community that oral history is in MALS.
Works In Progress
Among those currently working with Harvey on Myrna on independent study and thesis projects are Jessica Lindsey and James Gauthier.
Jessica Lindsey, a Detroit native, is at work on her thesis: "Shutting Down Detroit" which tells the human stories behind the economic recession in "The Motor City" where the near collapse of the automotive industry has left thousands of people unemployed. Many of Jessica's interviewees refer to their city as "the Ground Zero of the Great Recession."
Here is a sample:
"We eventually had to go on food stamps and wick for our baby. I was very thankful for that, but it was the hardest part. I would go to the grocery store and run into someone I knew in the aisle and be embarrassed that we couldn't afford to feed our family. Then at the cash register they make a big deal of it because they don't always know how to process it. Then the clerk calls for the manager on the speaker, announcing to everyone that we were using food stamps. It was really embarrassing and uncomfortable, but I knew that I needed it and I knew I had to feed my kids with it, so that's why I would just bear my pride and go for it."
James Gauthier is at work on an oral history thesis focused on the Loring Air Force Base in Maine which closed down in 1993. It features the voices of both military personnel and civilians at the base (including James' father) recalling life on a strategic defense locale that no longer exists but whose story is being preserved via the memories of those who lived it.
Keeping in Touch
The award for making the longest trip to attend the fall luncheon goes to Matt Lazar who came all the way from Tulsa, Oklahoma to join his fellow practitioners. Matt is currently interning at a small private equity firm and is pursuing teaching opportunities in the Tulsa-area.
In his recently completed thesis: "Cleveland and the Browns: An Oral and Narrative History", Matt focused on the phenomenon of "fandom" and the relation of fans to a locality, specifically the Cleveland Browns football team and the City of Cleveland. Narrative, oral histories, and commentaries from secondary sources uncovered memories and perceptions that illuminated the unique connection between Browns fans and Cleveland over the past six decades detailing how and why the intensity of team support prevailed even as the city's fortunes declined.
Frommers Travel to Europe
Several days prior to the fall luncheon, Myrna and Harvey returned from a trip that included visits to Rome, Venice, the Dolomites and Vienna all of which will provide additional entries in their collection of oral histories pegged at a book they are working on which documents life in Jewish communities -- old and new -- in the European Diaspora and Argentina.
Harvey has completed his manuscript for a massive oral (138 VOICES) and narrative history on Fenway Park to be published by Abrams/STC. The book's prologue is by Don Pease.
Get Well Kathy
Everyone missed former Newsletter editor Kathy Fortin who was laid low by severe neck pains. We hope she recovers quickly and completely and look forward to seeing her at the next Oral History gathering.
To Tom Neeley who's been accepted to a Ph.D. program at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Upcoming Oral History Events (dates to be announced)
- Oral History Workshop: Scheduled for early March, open to current students and those interested in taking MALS 191: "Preserving the Past: Oral History in Theory and Practice"
- Spring 2010 Oral History Circle
And Special Thanks To:
Nate Berger for his wonderful example as former Oral History Newsletter editor.