This week the class learned about Oral History from Michael Frisch and Judith Weiland. We also had the pleasure of having Michael Gordon and Jasmine Alinder join us for some extra insight into the ins and outs of completing oral history interviews. These four individuals were able to give the students a few pointers as to additional questions to ask, how to approach the interviewee, and basic legal and ethical concerns that we should be aware of when in the field. Even though these insights were great to discuss within the classroom, the student's could not fully understand their meaning until we were conducting the interviews. Over the week, I was able to conduct two interviews and sit in on a few more.
The largest thing that I took away from this entire experience is that the people of Thurston Woods have a diverse history and we are only able to capture a fraction of that. As I mentioned last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a woman named Laurie. She had lived in Thurston Woods for thirty years, purchasing her home while an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. Her family's heritage is that of German, but she did not feel as if the family was German. This was extremely interesting to me when I heard her tell stories about how the family goes to Havenwood Forest on a regular basis to snowshoe, cross-country ski, picnic, hike, etc. You see, the German people are known for their relationship with nature, mostly the relationship they have with forests. Unbeknownst to Laurie's family, they had taken with them a HUGE part of their culture.
Another woman that I spoke with was the secretary at the Agape Center, Charise. She is one of the most light hearted, good natured, and sweetest people you could meet. She has worked at the Center for many years and has seen many people come and go during that time. She told me stories about how many of the children that use the after school and summer programs grow up, marry, have their own children, and send those children on to the same programs. Charise told the story of how one individual came into the Center one day to speak with her. He discussed how he had gotten in with the wrong crowd and ended up in jail. Because of the respect he had for Charise, he was extremely embarrased when he told her his story and was looking for her forgiveness. Although she was not his mother, he looked up to her as if she were.
It is wonderful people like these two women who make up the community of Thurston Woods. It is truly sad that our group can only get the chance to speak with a small percentage of them; getting only a fraction of the stories that are out there to tell.