Sunday, November 02, 2008

An Oral History

I read yesterday that Studs Terkel died. He was 96-years-old, and honestly I didn't know he was still alive. But reading the article got me thinking back - I first heard about him in Mrs. Wilson's Honors Junior English class. (The one we were always late to because we didn't get off the field from marching band practice in enough time.) We read some of Terkel's work, and I believe listened to some interviews that had been recorded for it and published as well, then had to complete an oral history project on our own. Most people in the class talked to members of their family - grandparents or great aunts or the like. All of my relatives lived pretty far away, so I interviewed a couple older members of the church that m family went to.

Although I don't now remember his name, I remember specifically talking to one man who was close to my grandfathers age. He talked to me about living through the depression, about what families sacrificed to make ends meet. He was a young man at that time, really a boy, at an age where he should have been in school, but talked about going off to do day labor instead. Dropping out of school to work doing anything he could to make a few dollars to help his family eat and survive. He talked to me about the war that followed and how he ended up joining the army and going off into WWII. And that his story wasn't dissimilar to many of the young men his age.

Looking at that story from where we are today, it lends an interesting new perspective. And makes me wonder, will we in 40 years, tell similar stories? Will we come together as one country and get through this? Or will we will continue to divide ourselves economically, politically, socially... so that some tell stories or poverty and pain, while others tell stories of great wealth and the bounties of capitalism?

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