Personal History

The recollection of one's own life. May or may not include Oral History, but it's closely related.

My (our) StoryCorps Adventure

image Last Saturday I finally did what I’d wanted to do for two years – experience what it’s like to conduct a StoryCorps in-booth interview. I wanted to sit in one of those cool AirStream trailers, complete with the facilitator and the two microphones, sit across from someone whose stories I want to hear, and leave with one of the two audio CDs that are created during that time (the other CD goes to the Library of Congress).

Mix one part logistics (or how to find the StoryCorps booth and why you should arrive extra-extra early) with one part Los Angeles Parks department malaise, with another part tech geekery, with two parts interviews, and another part Olvera Street visit (first time in 50 years!), and a ton of pictures, and you’ve got our day.

Alternate titles for this story could be: “The Kitchens Family’s Excellent Adventure,” or “The Out of Towners,” or “No country Recreation Department building for old men…or young boys.”

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 29, 2008 in • InterviewingPersonal HistoryStoryCorps
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Letters from the Attic: 1918 Flu Epidemic Edition

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[click to enlarge]

December, 1918. The nation is in the midst of the flu epidemic. My grandmother Florence and her sister Doris are both living in Boston, far from home–Billings, Montana. Doris caught a cold and wrote about it to Mama. I have the reply; it’s a letter from Mama and clipping from page 2 of the Billings Gazette. It provides a glimpse to us, 89 years later, of what surviving the flu was like. Including how, exactly, Vick’s VapoRub works.

The letter, dated Dec 10, 1918, begins thus:

Stapleton Bldg
Billings, Mont
Dec 10, 1918.

Dear Girls,
Both your letters came today. I was sorry to hear of Doris’ cold and also worried. Why didn’t you use the Vaporub as I told you? I have never known it to fail to break up the “flu” and it has also cured pneumonia. It is just as it is spelled Vapo rub, Doris asked once how to pronounce it.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 15, 2007 in • Letters in the AtticPersonal History
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Ringing in the New Year with some Resolve

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My new year’s resolutions come in two parts– things I personally resolve to do with my own family history, and things I resolve to do on this website. Ideas for personal resolutions come from that inner nagging or cringe sensation (why is it nag and cringe rather than simple drooling?), and ideas for the site came from a fabulous afteroon this past week brainstorming with a friend about this website. Disclaimer: I don’t know if all of these are resolutions, but here’s my ongoing To-Do list.

Interview Dad. I’m going to sit down with my Dad and interview him. (I’ve done some interviewing of Mom this last year – you mighta seen the 3 minute movie I made from a story my Mom told me.) I interviewed my Mom last Mother’s Day, but I’m not going to wait until Father’s Day to interview my Dad. I did show him the forms and materials for the Veterans’ History Project, so he’s got an idea of what we’ll talk about.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 31, 2006 in • AfterwardsDo it: YourselfGenealogyHousekeepingPersonal History
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“I’m so glad you did this. So glad.”

Doc M's mom with her dorm mates at UCLA in the 1940s

Those are the words my boyfriend Doc M said to me as we listened to his mother talk about her life. Two years ago, I recorded an interview with her. Three nights ago, we heard that recording for the first time since I– well, we– made it.

My boyfriend’s mother went into the hospital in early October. She died two weeks later, on October 19.

(This story, in addition to saying something about recording family oral history, is also an explanation why there’s been so little activity on this site recently.)

Over the weekend, Doc M worked on a first draft of the eulogy for his mother’s memorial.

Now, Doc M is an engineer; what comes naturally to him is stuff like reading over my article on analog and digital and then saying, “wait a second. I don’t know if that illustration is correct.” We google the mathematical algorithm for digitizing, and he– right then and there– jots it down, and starts working through the math. Just like that! I’m amazed. But writing? No, that’s what I do. He’s often said, “I’m not a writer.”

But he is a son, and there’s a eulogy that must be written.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 30, 2006 in • AfterwardsPersonal History
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My Mother tells me about HER mother

On Mother’s day, I talked with my mother… about her mother. My grandma went to Massachussets Institute of Technology and graduated in 1920. She was a whiz at calculus.



(if you can’t see the movie, Click to Watch the Video )

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 29, 2006 in • Personal History
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