Oral History Newsletter XVI
Editor: Chrissy Pearson
Photographer: Allen Sherman
Oral History Circle XVI
As Myrna Frommer said, "Oral History Circle XV is the most amazing one yet" referring to Neda Nobari's New Hampshire farmhouse, the site of the oral history event held this semester on October 30. And the breathtaking property with its exposed wooden beams, pristine hardwood floors and gorgeous picture windows overlooking multiple ponds and stunning pastoral views spread across some 300 acres was amazing indeed.
While Dartmouth homecoming festivities took place on campus, a group of over sixty people, including a blend of both novice and experienced oral historians, gathered for their own "homecoming," sharing stories of current and past oral history projects, theses, and proposals.
Neda, aka "The Hostess with the Mostest," described her initial reaction to the historic property she moved to a little over a year ago: "As we drove up the hill on that beautiful summer day, we went by Noda's blueberry farm with the line of cars parked on the side of the dirt road. I was already feeling the 'country life,' and I hadn't even reached the property yet. We drove up the driveway. I couldn't believe the beauty that was before me: the ponds, the trees, the wild geese, and the peaceful serenity that filled the air. It was pure magic."
The story of the farm is the subject of Neda's oral history project for MALS 191. "As I was researching background information on the property for this project, I learned that in 1978, of all the farms in New Hampshire, this farm, our farm, was chosen as the most beautiful farm in New Hampshire, by the Department of Agriculture" she told us. "The stories that have unfolded during my interviews have given me a new perspective on this property. Blue Mountain Farm or "Joonie Land," as we like to call it, is no longer just a beautiful land with impressive buildings. It is, in fact, Gaia, a living organism, a vortex of energy, a piece of heaven that I am privileged to appreciate and enjoy as its temporary steward. For that, I feel incredibly grateful."
The crowd felt grateful for the delicious buffet (spread out along the island counter of Neda's kitchen and on her dining room table) of quiches, egg rolls, dips and chips, and a tantalizing array of traditional ethnic dishes. After dining, all were directed to the basement and through an underground tunnel into the property's three-story barn. On the second floor, they assembled before a stage where the five-piece "Cliff Brodsky Band" (led by Neda's boyfriend Cliff Brodsky) performed the familiar and beloved songs of the Beatles, David Bowie, and Elvis Presley. The rhythms were so infectious, more than a few hit the dance floor.
In the thesis update portion of the Circle, James Gauthier talked about his oral history on the Loring Air Force Base in Maine, which closed down in 1993. James' project features the voices of both military personnel and civilians at the base. While Loring was one of the largest nuclear air force bases in the world, as James explained, to date, nothing has been written about the base's history.
In the following excerpt from James' thesis, Cathy, who was an executive assistant to the Base Commander Colonel Salat, refers to an incident where an Air Force tanker exploded in mid-air just over the border in Canada:
"I was driving to work that morning around 7:30am when I saw the plane go down. The Mounties put a cordon around the entire crash site and declared it United States territory inside the cordon. They put an American flag at half-staff in the middle of the US area and left it there the whole time they were securing and cleaning the site. This is the Canadians mind you, honoring our dead with our flag on their ground.
"During the recovery, there were Air Force Security Police patrolling inside the cordon and the Mounties patrolling the outside. Col. Salat was over there for the recovery, and that first night he was on a hilltop watching the recovery. He said all night long there were Mounty jeeps coming up the trail with two old ladies sitting in the back with steaming pots of food. Jeep after jeep came with food for the searchers, the guards and the soldiers.
"Col. Salat was amazed. He came back and told me he had never seen anything like it during his time in the service. He cried when he told me about the Canadians flying the American flag at half-staff and said 'I've never seen this kind of support, this kind of hands across the border stuff.'"
Marta Filip-Fouser gave a fascinating update on her thesis. Through the experiences of the 23 people who she has interviewed, Marta has uncovered stories of Jewish resistance to the Nazis during the Second World War. She explained the difficulty that she has experienced in getting people to talk to her about their experiences, but that she is thrilled with the interviews she has conducted, including the 10 that she completed in Israel last year. She is currently pursuing the prospect of interviewing several Danish Jews.
Tim Murphy, who is also working on his thesis, is, in a way, reclaiming part of his childhood. As Tim explained, he is writing his thesis on Camp Beckett, a YMCA summer camp in the Berkshires of Massachusetts that he attended as a child. Camp Beckett opened in 1903 and is the oldest summer camp in Massachusetts. Tim's thesis will include a history of the camp, as well as voices of those who attended and worked at the camp over the years.
Chrissy Pearson provided an update on her forthcoming thesis: "A Women's Collegiate Basketball Dynasty: Dartmouth College, 1972-2010" which traces, through oral history, the story of women's basketball at Dartmouth College beginning with the earliest days when Title IX first gave women the opportunity to participate equally in collegiate sports, through the 1980's when the Big Green won four consecutive Ivy League Championships, and up to the current era of the program.
Publication and Writing Front
Harvey is eagerly anticipating the publication of his "REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK, An Oral and Narrative History," on March 1, 2011, with a foreword by Don Pease.
Myrna continues to use oral history in her travel writing. Her newest work is "Dateline Vienna: The Jews Before - and After - the War."
Don Pease planned to attend and help celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Oral History Circle, but the day before the event, he was told he was needed on campus, - to accept an Alumni Award during the weekend's homecoming festivities.
A special thank you to Allen Sherman and Marion Nelson for preserving the Oral History Circle XV with their wonderful photography. Allen and Marion are continuing to work on their extensive oral history project that documents the artistic history and experiences of the island of St. Lucia.