Student Reflections: Christine Caudill

As a student historian, this has simply re-ignited my passion to learn and hear more from people who have lived through various time periods, even in the recent past of about a hundred years. I am more dedicated than ever, I believe, to trying to capture and interview whomever I can, even if it is not video recorded. I also want to record somehow both my own memories and those of my age group and younger. Things that I remember and forget are so historical, such as 9/11, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the end of the cold war; what it was like living under the threat of nuclear war, how people reacted at the prospect of Y2K, etc. Interestingly enough it makes me want to turn into a roving journalist again, asking anyone I come in contact with the things that they think majorly influenced them or their lives.

We all have a story to tell. Many people out there have a lot of stories to tell. I also have really realized and been impacted recently at how many traditions and stories we are losing/have lost because the world has become so much smaller and time crunched. Years ago people sat around on Sundays or holidays and retold the stories that they remembered from their youth or different times in their life. That doesn’t happen anymore at all. People in general do not seem to have time to vest in other people’s lives and they certainly don’t have time to sit around and listen to old war stories or the ‘good ole days’. Especially as our society ages and passes on, we are losing so many stories, so many memories. Even people who are under fifty who are alive today have no real connection to history before them. I believe it is our duty as historians to capture as many stories and memories as possible. I know that my children love to hear stories of how my mother had to park her model-T car backwards up a hill so that they could drift start it, and other comical and serious memories. The world today seems to be speeding by at such an incredibly fast pace that it seems we are in danger of not even having a ‘collective memory’. But, of course, what I think is just as important, is the individual and their personal story. To me, that is history.

Student Reflections: Chris Valis

What’s meaningful for me is how raw and emotional some of the interviews were. Ray Lancelotta had a great story talking about how the [Vietnamese] locals would pick through the American military’s waste for food and other discarded items. I also found the normal, everyday stories interesting. I enjoyed the story from Mike Bennett about how he would go into town to buy fresh baked bread but had to cut it open first to scrape out the flies that would get stuck in the rising dough before he ate any. I was personally impacted by the interviews in such a way that I have learned not to assume anything about anyone. The interviews are so different on so many levels. No two people have the same story to tell. I never really looked at the person before, just people as a whole. The interviews are extremely interesting and make me want to participate in more. The hardest part is finding a person who wants to be interviewed. I think it’s important to build up some trust with the narrator before the interview takes place. The individual person is where the interviewer is really going to strike gold; I highly doubt one could interview more than one person at a time and have the same results.

This oral history project changed my notions about the 1960’s. When I was younger I thought that every young person was involved in the anti-war movement. I now know that’s not true. When I was trying to find people to interview, most of them said they really didn’t do anything of importance. They all had pretty normal lives. Some went to war, some went to college, and some didn’t do much of anything. I’m not saying they don’t have great stories to tell, but it would be like me interviewing someone living in any decade.

Student Reflections: Mary Tocci

The interview with Charles Gill, Jr. gave me an insight into the history taking place when I was in my teens, and it also gave me a new meaning to the Vietnam War, a moral and psychological significance. It is one thing to see it on the television, I recall the shock and horror that I felt when I saw it for the first time. However, when the person sitting next to me or in front of me is a living person who was actually involved in the war; it makes me realize how precious life is. The oral history reaffirmed my conceptions of the 1960’s history and the Vietnam conflict experienced by Charles and his fellow Marines. It was indeed a turbulent time and the war was a different type of war than had been previously fought. I can imagine all the confusion and the refusal of soldiers to fight, while people at home were protesting, and the military were hearing conflicting reports from the “Commander-in-Chief” and anti-war demonstrators. Just as the Vietnam War changed me; it changed most Americans.

Student Reflections: Kelsey Butler

For me history has always been the most fascinating subject to learn about, but many people find it hard to relate to. Reading about something in a book isn’t the same as learning about it from someone who has been through it and you can ask them questions about why they chose the actions they did. Oral history in my opinion could enhance learning about history because there is a connection between what is being read about in a book and relating it to real life. Talking to people that you know very well, and learning about their lives during a major national event, allows you to find examples that can cause something in your mind to click and have a moment of epiphany and think, “oh now I understand”.

I gained a lot of understanding of how the way my mom grew up impacted how I am today and that it comes from this period in time when my family was not even allowed to buy property in the town of Bel Air because they were black. Now I can’t go to the mall without at least one person asking me if I’m a Bond because my family is so well known. They went from working in cafeterias to working in amazing careers and without anything but a high school education in my grandmother’s case. If more students were taught to learn history by connecting the past to the present and how their lives are the outcome of those events it would make history easier to understand and remember.