Monday, April 13, 2009

memories lit the corners of Jim's mind: the old home and a horse named Teddie

In 2004 Mike and I made a project of turning two audio tapes of my Uncle Jim's memories of his mother and father into three audio discs. From the original tapes recorded from my uncle's running narration Mike created tracks for the discs and we named the chapters according to topic, resulting in 17 tracks on disc one, 16 on disc two, and 10 on disc three. I created a fourth disc loaded with 21 separate folders of old family photographs and also created music slide shows for a select amount of the photos. We made some 25 sets of the project for family members which was my contribution to the family story.

With the renewed interest in preserving the oral history of this country (see The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide) I've decided to share some of our family project here at my blog from time to time, and not in narrative order.

James H. Swearingen, Jr. -- my Uncle Jim, the narrator of this "report," as he refers to it in the tapes-- was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1901. His memory was fully in tact when, at age 80, he sat in his study and recorded these memories. He died three years later.....of a heart attack, out in his garden in Mill Valley, California.

I wrote introductions for each folder in the photo disc and am including the one describing the shots that accompany this short narrative. My first offering from the family project describes their Early Kansas City days, specifically the horse Teddie.

This memory runs 3:28

The house at 17th and Topping in Kansas City, Missouri. My grandmother, Nellie, is holding Teddie's reins, Jim (the narrator) to her left. Next to Jim is Marshall leaning against older sister, Marjorie. Other sister Pauline is probably the other young woman in the carriage. The woman and the boy standing are unknown.
(My mother, the baby of the family, was to be born years later in Berkeley, California.)

Teddie with my Uncle Marshall left and Uncle Jim (narrator) right.

My grandfather had two daughters from his marriage to his deceased wife, and my grandmother raised them as her own. I adore this photo of Pauline with the family dog, Rastus, and horse Teddie.

I wondered what 17th and Topping looks like today, and studied the cross-street at street view using Google Maps. It shows a mixed neighborhood of older homes in various states of repair/decline, some light business, and a small townhouse development. I think I located the correct corner based on the description in the for sale newspaper ad published in 1913.........



dmarks said...

It's great to record that while you can.

If you need to make more copies of the 4-disc set in the future, you'd probably cut down on hassle by ripping the audio tracks to MP3s and then burning the MP3s and the images onto a single DVD which is then a lot easier to copy, mail, and keep track of than 4 CD's.

Mibsy said...

Absolutely wonderful post and I can't wait to hear more of Jim's narrative. How fortunate you are to have those photos and recordings!

RB said...

Beautiful photographs. The first part of a my response to the blog award is on my blog. More coming soon!!

Looking to the Stars said...

Lydia, This is sooooooo Cool! You are very lucky that your Uncle did these recordings. I love every pic and every word :)
I believe every person has a story and you have a very rich one indeed.

Mark said...

This is great stuff, thanks for sharing so much!

Erin Davis said...

What treasures! I wish I had recordings from my grandfather...

Marie Reed said...

This is phenomenal! What a treasure:) You're so lucky to have these family photos and audio files! The story of Teddie the dark cherry bay just comes alive!

Buddha said...

Hi Lydia
I am back from my spring vacation and trying to catch up with my blog and all.
First let me wish you a belated happy Easter!
Then let me tell you how nice is to visit your blog again.
You never cease to amaze me.
I am vicariously enjoying your memories like they were my own.
Thank you so much for sharing!

Lydia said...

dmarks- Thanks for your comments and suggestions. When we made the initial sets we used audio and media discs that we thought more people could utilize. A couple of years later Mike did make a DVD of the whole thing. I'm not sure, however, that anyone would be able to print photos from it.....maybe so. :)

@Mibsy- It makes me happy that you enjoyed it! For sure, it is a look back in time for all of us. :)

@RB- Thanks much. I saw your post, great as usual, and don't feel any pressure from me to wrap that award thing up. I received a Kreativ Award last week that I know I must do something with also.... :)

@Looking to the Stars- I thought of you when I was working on this post because of your strong ties to your own history. So glad you like this!

@Mark- So great that you appreciate it. thanks. :)

@Erin- Yes, these are treasures. I do, however, have a problem with clutter. It's one of the reasons we did the project: to free me from the neurotic sense that I must safeguard each and every item in all the photo and document boxes. In so doing I do appreciate the memories in a new way.

@Marie- I agree it's wonderful to have the old photos and those tapes my uncle created. As would be true for anyone I have my favorites among his stories. Teddie is one of them, most definitely! :)

@Buddha- Welcome back from spring break! I appreciated that you scheduled some posts ahead while you were actually away.
I'm vicariously enjoying these memories too. By the time I was a young adult and saw Jim the last time he didn't relate any family stories to me. He was living very much in the present and that made him seem ageless and timeless.....

Hattie said...

That house was so charming and the people so attractive. The past is a different country, isn't it, as they say.

singamaraja said...

Singamaraja reading your blogs

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

God this post takes me back - when we were kids we used to sit with our grandparents, switch on a tape recorder and ask them such inciteful questions as "what can you see out the window?"

Knowing my dad they're all on record somewhere...

We must have been horrible oiks come to think of it!

Melinda said...

What a wonderful idea, Lydia! I have to say--even though I don't know your family, I really enjoyed listening to the audio of your uncle, while perusing through your old photos. I love old photos anyway--there is something very magical about the early days of film.

This is such a great idea that I am actually thinking of doing this with my mom. She's got some amazing stories of living through the depression. It would be great to pass this on to my nieces, nephews, and my cousins kids also.



sharryb said...

Hi Lydia,
I've sort of abandoned my blog friends (and my blog) of late. I love your new heading. Your documentation of your family is such a gift. I'm about to visit my parents and love to hear about things like how they met and stories of when they were kids. My children and grandchildren will be there too. Four generations. We are blessed.


Lydia said...

@Hattie- That's a great saying, and one I hadn't heard before. Sure is fitting for these shots. :)

@singamaraja- It is delightful to have you visit my blog! I will return the favor now.

@DFTP- Did your grandparents realize that you were goofing around? Maybe they just considered it all attention. In any case if there are records it would be fun to hear them these years later.

@Melinda- Thanks for finding something of interest here. I think it would be so great for you to record your mother's recollections of the depression. I heard many of my mother's stories about the depression but they exist only in my head, not a good thing.....

@Sharry- Hey stranger! Just kidding because I know how you are wrapped up in your practice, and I think that is wonderful. The visit with your family sounds rich; I know you'll enjoy every minute of it.

the watercats said...

What a cool thing to have!.. and a beautiful horse!.. I just visited some relatives that I haven't seen in years and it was so nice to re-connect. You're really lucky to have such a thing.

Kim said...

What you are doing is so amazing. I wish I had thought of that while my grandparents were alive. And to pair it up with pictures is even better. I have so many old pics that I have no idea what they are.

Lydia said...

@the watercats- Thanks much; I wish I had a horse like Teddie. You're lucky to have horses!
That's wonderful that you had a reunion with family members.

@Kim- Isn't it sad and somewhat aggravating to have those photos of unknowns, especially when said unknowns are most likely related to you? There are lots like that in my picture trunk. Although my mother, through the years, would tell me who those people were she never wrote the names on the back of the photos -- and now the info is lost to the ages.

mythopolis said...

Absolutely wonderful! It is amazing and sad the way our own family histories disappear over but a few generations, unless people make such efforts as this. Excellent project!!!

Lydia said...

Thank you for reading this post! Your comments mean a lot to me, because this was indeed a huge project. So worthwhile, though.



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