+1 For Oral Histories

Glenn Reynolds links to an article on oral histories.  In 8th grade, my son had to do an oral history of someone in my family.  I bought him an mp3 recorder, one of those little dictation things they sell at Staples or Office Depot, and he recorded about 4 hours of interviews.

My dad passed away last week, but due to dementia lost the ability to discuss his life long before that.  My dad had an amazing life, growing up in a tiny house in Depression-era Iowa and eventually running one of the largest corporations in the world.  He never talked about himself.  Knowing him, one couldn't imagine him writing a memoir.  In a day where executives hire PR agents to puff them up in the press, my dad scoffed and derided the practice.  He bought all his casual clothes at Sears until his teenage daughters made him stop.

So the only history we have of him in his own words wouldn't exist if a wonderful teacher hadn't assigned him the project.


  1. Hawkeye:

    So you have Iowa roots! No wonder I have been a fan for so many yea

  2. NL7:

    I'm sorry for your loss. Maybe you can write a bio in his honor.

  3. steve:

    As a longtime reader, I'm sorry to hear of your family's loss. My thoughts are with you.

  4. Barbara S. Meyer:

    Thanks Warren. Mom

  5. tjic:

    I'm sorry for your loss, but thank you for a great and inspiring story.

    What company did your dad run?

  6. grasspunk:

    My condolences for the loss of your father. And that's quite an experience for your son. I wonder how making this oral history helps his character grow over time.

  7. TigerHawk:

    There are a great many extremely successful former Iowans. It is the Hawkeye State's blessing, and its curse.

  8. nehemiah:

    I am sorry for your loss. What a wonderful opportunity for your son to delve more deeply into your family's history. A Blessing!

  9. David:

    I'm sorry for your loss. May his memory be for a blessing.

    I'm very glad that you have this oral history.

  10. Randomizer:

    My experience was similar (without the dad-running-a-major-corporation part) My dad was born in a Pennsylvania coal town in 1919, worked at CCC camps during the depression, then was a ball gunner in a B-24 in WW II. He never liked to talk about it. He wanted to talk to his kids, grandkids and great-grandbabies about our lives.

    The public high school I teach at in Ohio decided to do a Veteran's Day presentation. It was shaping up well, so I asked Dad if he'd consider coming in to talk to my class. He wouldn't bite, but did agree to let me interview him on video. I didn't have much time or a camera better than VHS, so it was rough. I intended to repeat the interview when I could get a digital camera, but Dad past away that summer. My students appreciated the video because it was a real person talking about life at war. With Facebook and Youtube, the video has gotten a lot of exposure amongst friends and family. I'm glad I did what I could, and strongly encourage my students to talk to the old folks in the family, and get it recorded before its too late.

  11. Bill G:

    I am sorry about your dad. It's hard to lose your dad no matter what. I really like your blog.