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Oral History Circle V

Editor: Maria Graham

On May 8, 2004, Kristen Getchell, a veteran host of Oral History Circles, once again opened her beautiful home in Quechee, Vermont to MALS oral historians who brought with them an impressive number of family members including half a dozen charming pre-schoolers and one golden retriever. The gathering, one of the largest since the Circle began, was well attended by students currently enrolled in the Frommers' ever-popular, MALS 191-- Preserving the Past: Oral History in Theory and Practice, now moving into its second decade.

The hostess wiht the mostest: Kristen Getchell with Victoria Saxton (right) and her parents and Pam Bouchard (second from left)

A number of oral historians who did not attend were busy out in the field. Among them was Brad Rathgeber who was in North Carolina for the weekend conducting interviews for his thesis on the transformation of hockey’s Hartford Whalers into the Carolina Hurricanes.

The afternoon commenced with a relaxing period of mingling and sampling from among a vast array of food prepared, New England style, in pot luck fashion. While the children enjoyed swinging on a glider out on Kristen’s deck overlooking the mountains, the adults renewed and made new acquaintances and discussed past projects and future plans. Seasoned veterans were interested to hear about the ongoing class and independent study projects, which include such diverse topics as the New England Marionette Opera (the country's only marionette opera, based in Peterborough, NH until a fire destroyed the entire enterprise in 1999) and the Jewish community in Claremont, New Hampshire. Students seemed smitten as ever with oral history's inherent, endless possibilities.

Left to right: Chris Strouthopoulis, Pam Bouchard, Maria Graham, and Shawn Coe with a "Little Miss Coe."

Toward the end of the afternoon, updates on thesis projects were presented. Kristen Getchell told the group about her forthcoming oral history of the economic decline that has hit Berlin, N.H. since its paper mills closed. Her project is bound to capitalize on oral history's ability to capture the stories of ordinary people living through times of great upheaval.

Christy Dietzel, who brought her grandmother along, had just completed her oral history thesis. It grew out of her experience as a Gold Award Girl Scout, and Christy hopes her work will make people more aware of the serious commitment girls make when setting out to become Gold Award Girl Scouts, and the leadership qualities the award instills.

Frank Possemato made it up from Boston just in time to share the lessons he learned while crafting his thesis, "The Militia: An Oral History." Frank acknowledged that a successful oral history thesis combines an author's writing skills with the stories told by the interviewees. Getting people to tell the good stories is more than half the battle, Frank said. He urged budding oral historians to "edit as you go along."

Pam Bouchard had just completed her thesis, "In the Company of Angels: An Oral History about Children Fighting Cancer,” a work that grew out of her MALS 191 class project followed by an independent study that was an oral history of women who survived rape and violent attacks. By interweaving secondary research from medical, sociological and psychological sources with her primary interviews. Pam succeeded in creating a mixed-media approach to tell the very difficult and often heartbreaking stories of these children and their families.

Christopher Strouthopoulos told the group he had recently checked out Baker/Berry's copy of "Quarry Hill 1969-1976 : An Oral History of a Time and Place" by Rebecca Armstrong which focuses on life on a commune during the 1960s and 70s in Rochester, Vermont and found it a true page-turner. Harvey added it is thus far “the only X-rated MALS oral history thesis." Whether you want to read this or other less titillating theses, there is a lot to be learned from our colleagues' work. Baker/Berry shelves all of the MALS theses together at LD 1447.7. Check them out!

Another "Little Miss Coe" samples the goodies with her Mommy, Jackie, looking on. Minerva Garcia is in the background.

Cynthia Asher arrived with the news that she and her family will be moving to New York City where she hopes to avidly pursue her interest in playwriting. Hanging around with a theatrical crowd, Cynthia said she has noticed the growing trend of oral histories being used in the performing arts.

As for our esteemed faculty, Myrna has just concluded an oral biography: ALWAYS UP FRONT: THE MEMOIRS OF HELEN FRIED KIRSHBLUM GOLDSTEIN which should be published over the summer.

And Harvey has been traveling all over the Northeast promoting RED SOX VS. YANKEES: THE GREAT RIVALRY. His son Frederic, who began his career in journalism at the “Valley News,” is co-author. The book has a very nifty oral history component.

Myrna Frommer (right) talks over old times with Kate Goldsborough from the class of 1994.

 

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