Record Your Story For Posterity at Story Corps

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For 14 years, StoryCorps has collected the oral histories of ordinary people across the country — recording a wide swath of Americans from all walks of life. It has published five books. Its recordings are housed in the Smithsonian Institution. As its core principals state, StoryCorps treats participants, no matter their background, with dignity, care and respect. Red River Radio listeners enjoy the segments, just before my modest pieces air on Friday mornings on Red River Radio (redriverradio.org, or 89.9 FM in the Longview area, 88.9 in the Lufkin-Nacogdoches area.

As a journalist for more than four decades, I have always maintained that everyone has a story to tell. The value of oral histories cannot be overstated. People get to tell their stories in their own words, without the filters of a third party taking down what they say and then writing a story, choosing what to include and what to leave out. There is great value in that type of journalism, of course, but StoryCorps has proven the worth of letting folks be interviewed by someone they trust — a family member or friend.

There are a number of people I wish I had recorded over the years, people no longer with us. Sam Malone was my mentor when I began publishing community newspapers in my mid-20s, in the early 1980s. He was an old-school country newspaper editor and printer, with a cigar perpetually stuck in his mouth, a bottle of whiskey in the desk drawer and a shotgun in the corner of his office. He had founded the San Augustine Rambler, which I bought and published for five years.

Sam was a wonderful storyteller with a great voice. He produced a daily 15-minute radio show for a local station. But after 35 years, many of those stories have faded from my memory, tales about his service as a Marine at Guadalcanal, growing up in West Texas, covering the Kennedy assassination in 1963. I recall the bones, but the meat of those stories is gone.

Arthur Weaver ran a small convenience store in Nacogdoches and was one of the leaders of the civil rights movement there in the 1960s. I photographed him for a story in the Nacogdoches paper. Now I wish I had also sat down with him and recorded his experiences. I am certain he had some fascinating stories to tell.

My maternal grandmother came to America from Quebec, Canada, and lived in N.H. until her death at 93. Again, I wish I had learned more about her childhood growing up in Sherbrooke, how she learned English — always spoken with a thick French accent even 70 years later.

Doubtless, there are people in your lives whose experiences should be recorded for posterity. Or perhaps it’s your story that should be preserved. People who live in the Red River Radio listening area have a chance to become a part of StoryCorps and preserve those memories for posterity. The StoryCorps mobile Airstream recording studio is now parked in Shreveport at the Broadmoor branch of the Shreve Memorial Library, where it will remain until November 12. Red River Radio is partnering with StoryCorps and hosting its month-long visit to the area. A press event to kick off StoryCorps’s visit here will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the Broadmoor branch, 1212 Captain Shreve Drive.

It is not too late to make a reservation to record your story in the StoryCorps sound booth. But do so soon, because the slots are filling up fast. Call the 24-hour toll-free reservation line at 1-800-850-4406 or by visiting storycorps.org. You can find out more at redriverradio.org.

Who knows? Maybe someday we will hear some of your stories on the Friday morning segment. Regardless, you will know that the story of your loved one — whether family or friend, mentor or protégé — will be preserved for posterity.

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