The recent special exhibition entitled “When I’m Sixty Four” at the Wignall Museum of Contemporary Art at Chaffey College in San Bernardino County, California gave a chance for local seniors to recount some of their life stories on video. And how astonishing those stories turned out to be!
Originally conceived as an oral history project involving Storycorps, life story video specialists Your Story Here LLC stepped in to video record twelve remarkable stories from locals 64 years and older…
The result is a treasure trove of personal and cultural history, and a 20 minute documentary produced and edited – pro bono – by Your Story Here entitled “Here I Am – Extraordinary Lives in the Inland Empire” which will shortly be playing at the exhibition.
Each participant brought a unique blend of history, circumstance and perspective. And prompted by a slate of questions put together specially for the project by Your Story Here and Professor Catherine Bacus from Chaffey College’s Gerontology program, the stories just came tumbling out:
Blind in one eye from a childhood accident, Gordon A. never expected overseas duty – avenging Pearl Harbor. So he decided to get married. Eleven days later, and for the next 25 months, he was on board ship fighting island to island all the way to Okinawa. He laughs now at the improbability of it all.
Meanwhile, Aiko U. – born in Arlington, California and a loyal American high school junior – was being rounded up by the FBI, along with her family, to be interned in the Arizona hinterlands for the duration of WWII. Asked if she was made about what had been done to her and her family she said, “What could we do? It was the government”.
Not all the “When I’m Sixty-Four” life stories recorded to video are dark. Mary Martha B. remembers learning to drive when she was just nine years old – and getting her license shortly after. “I was tall as a child,” she shrugs.
Pat Y. grew up poor in Pittsburgh. “It was like Cinderella Man”, she says. “You know, we were so cold we had to use our coats as blankets” Her ticket out was dance. And when Pat was just seventeen she won a place with the famous Ice Capades and went on tour all across North America.
These stories are exactly what life story video is all about. They reveal fascinating aspects of our seniors that most of our younger folks simply have no idea about. They come from “ordinary” folks who went through extraordinary circumstances and achieved extraordinary feats. And they shed a fresh and startlingly personal light on that most dramatic of centuries – the Twentieth.
As that warm Fall Saturday at Chaffey College wore on, the stories kept coming: Arpad S. from Ontario defected from Soviet controlled Hungary by stealing a MIG17 and flying it to Belgium! The plane is now at the Smithsonian. Sadly, Arpad’s friend was shot down flying his own stolen plane in another direction. Once in the US, Arpad built a successful career as a software engineer.
As a boy in his native Italy, Alta Loma resident Fred R. dodged Allied bombs, only to be saved by the enemy – a German tank commander. Tall, proud, and still obviously very strong, he tears up now to remember that fateful day. “And I don’t even remember his name”.
And Donna A. from Claremont tells how she capped a life time of service by helping to usher in democracy in South Africa. The trip, where she got to meet Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, was just another instance of Donna and her husband’s tireless community service initiatives.
Each of the participants will be presented with a DVD of their entire interview from Your Story Here Life Story Video as well as a copy of the short documentary: “Here I Am – Extraordinary Lives in the Inland Empire”.
If you have a story worth preserving, why not give Your Story Here a call?