Monday, February 26, 2007

Memories from my youth

We visited with my brothers and their families on Sunday. Unfortunately, my kids and their families couldn't attend. They missed out on some reminiscences and some fun.

I seem to recall events from my childhood and youth in a general way. for instance, when I was about 16, my brother and I went downtown on a Saturday and found a KDEO radio station "sweater girl" in an elevator, and won $25 (it was a station promotion). That's the extent of my memory - we did it, we won, hooray.

My brother, who is three years younger than me (but we often did things together), remembers more detail. We went downtown with my friend Paul, who had a '49 Ford tricked out, and sneaked into the San Diego Club (a men-only club) to play handball. As we were going up in the elevator, a female employee in a lavender cashmere sweater got on. After some consultation, my brother asked if she was the KDEO Sweater Girl. She responded that she was, took his name and phone number, and he received $25 for being in the right place at the right time. $25 was a big deal in 1960 for a young teenager, even if he split it three ways. My brother says he even remembers what the young lady looked like, and he said we were all focused on the sweater for some reason.

There were several other stories like that last night - one of us remembered more about an event than the other two.

It struck me that I, and other researchers, might be missing out on significant family history if we rely only on our own memories, or the memories of just one family member. We should strive to gather family memories from all of the family members we can.

One problem that is fairly common with family interviews is that some people will protect themselves, their siblings, or their parents, and not tell negative stories about people. Only by using multiple sources can you really gather all of the memories.

Age and gender make a difference too. My Aunt Geraldine was her mother's youngest child and lived with her the longest. In her mother's later years, she was her mother's confidante, and heard all of the stories from her mother's point of view. Aunt Gerry was objective enough to realize that her mother's stories promoted her mother's view, and told me not only her mother's view but also her view on the cassette tapes she made for me about 15 years ago.

Aunt Gerry and her sisters (or their female children) told me consistent stories about my father's love affair, and the outcome of it. My father's only brother said that it didn't happen (protecting him? or just unaware?). Who should I believe? I think the story rings true, but I value my uncle's view - perhaps he was unaware of the event since he was newly married and the girls kept the secret. I wish I had my father's version of his life. Unfortunately, he died in 1983 before I started doing genealogy research.

Have you had experiences like this? Have you written down your memories? Have you asked your aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and parents about their lives and family events?

No comments: