Stories told by Susan about Susan or Susan's family
[contains iPad info] My Mama pointed to a name on the page of the 1940 census. “This is the boy who – at age 9 – told me the facts of life.”
She pointed to another name. “This was the best teacher I ever had. Ever. And I had some good teachers.”
Her fingers traced a triangle shape on the map where two streets intersected. “This is where we played baseball. There were only two bases. See? First base, Second base, Home.”
These are some of the stories that came out when I interviewed Mama about her memories of growing up. I used the 1940 Census as an oral history question generator and memory sparker.
This article is my description of what I did to use the 1940 Census as the inspiration for an oral history interview. I describe it all – from finding the census pages, to working with printing out image data, to what I used for my audio setup, to interview techniques, to a listing of all the topics discussed, to some iPad file transfer tricks and lessons learned.
The idea for this site got its start about 6 years ago from a scrappy little cassette recorder with a built-in microphone and a battery compartment door held shut by a band-aid. That cassette recorder–along with several blank tapes and spare batteries– was given to my grandfather on his 99th birthday by his son. “Dad, use this to tell stories about what you’ve experienced in your lifetime,” my uncle said. Three and a half weeks after that birthday, I arrived back east to spend a few weeks with Grandpa in the dead of winter (He lived alone in a house in upstate New York). One night, I grabbed the recorder from the shelf, popped in a tape, thumbed the red record button down, and said, “Okay Grandpa, what is the meaning of life?”