Rachel Ames, who interviewed Raymond Lancelotta, talks about how the project affected her.
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.
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.
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.
In this clip, HIST 263 student Courtney Dwyer reflects on her oral history interview and how it impacted her understanding of the 1960’s and history.
I was personally impacted by a few of the interviews for the oral history project. I was raised by my grandparents, so I never really personally grew up hearing any stories about the 1960s because my grandparents had already grown up and decided their morals before that decade. It was emotional hearing about some of the struggle for equality for Civil Rights, such as Mrs. Jacqueline Hassell told us about in her interview, and how she even had a friend who was forever maimed and even almost murdered, just because of the color of his skin. Another key point that really stuck with me was when Mrs. Charlsie Brooks was telling me about the “Waiting Wives”, and how the Vietnam Veterans were criticized after they had returned home and they were not welcomed back with open arms. It blows my mind knowing our society could do things such as blaming the individual soldiers for the incidents that were happening in Vietnam, especially when we knew that there was a draft enforced then. I also found it amazing, when watching Mr. Fred Posadas’s video, the intense effect the counter-culture and television had on the entire world and how the message of peace and love traveled to many countries, and gave local citizens hope all around the world.
The Oral History project changed a lot of notions for me about the history of the 1960s, mainly because I never really knew any of the full stories. I’ve always known that Vietnam was a dark, debated time in our recent history, but I have never exactly known the reasons why. Mrs. Charlsie Brooks told me that she was not even allowed to tell anyone her husband was in Vietnam because some people would become hostile towards the “waiting wives”. I understand the anti-war movement and if I were alive back then, I too, probably would have joined among them, but it is insane to me for them to take any frustration out on the wife of a soldier who is overseas. Also, the part that will stick with me, out of all the interviews about Vietnam, is when Mr. Posadas was describing entering Vietnam and his quote, “War is horrible”. Another part, I remember learning more about Vietnam from Mr. Orlando Correa’s video when he was speaking about the draft and the draft lottery. I do agree with him that the lottery was a better choice of the two, but I am totally against any sort of forced military service. Mr. Correa also stated that towards the end of the 1960s, people started to question the war after finding out the Gulf of Tonkin had been exaggerated. The last part I want to bring up about Vietnam was from Patricia Lake’s interview where she confirmed what Mr. Correa said about people questioning the war and government.
For a very long time, I’ve been really into learning about all of the events that took place from 1950-1970s and even though many of the events that have occurred were dangerous and sometime very scary, I’ve always wished that I got to experience these significant events because it was such an influential time. Mostly all of the information our narrator, Richard Blackburn, provided has affirmed many of the notions regarding events that have occurred and that we learned about all throughout the class. This project has overall changed and impacted my overall approach to learning history because it gave me a more personal first hand approach to learn from rather than just a second hand approach and only learning through readings. I have really overall appreciated taking this class and learning more about the information that has interested me for the longest time. This class has also given me more strength in wanting to make an impact on others and influence something bigger than myself. Overall, this class has been a wake-up call for me to not only learn about the past but to learn more about the present and what we are doing that can help the future as well.