Sunday, May 14, 2017

Taking an Oral History- The Tapplys

Charles and Ellen Tapply, White Horse Beach, 1931
You may recognize this picture from a previous post. I'm posting again today because the time period is right for what I'm sharing.  Long before I began to do any actual research into the family, I realized how important all the photos, letters, objects and memories are. I had heard someone talk about sitting older relatives down and recording their memories. How I wish I'd started sooner! In 1994 my mother sat down and made two tapes where she recorded things she knew or could remember about both sides of her family. The records and dates are nice, but the memories are priceless. I haven't listened to the tapes since my mother's death- too hard. Listening now I hear things in her voice I never noticed and hear details that didn't resonate with me then. So on Mother's Day, I share this one memory with my Tapply family.
"My earliest memories as a child are tied up with the Tapplys...my mother did have to work during the depths of the Depression. She spent a lot of time going on temporary assignments (she was a secretary) in downtown Fitchburg in offices. I got passed from grandmother to grandmother, but a lot of the time was with my Grandmother Tapply. At that time, they had moved to Pearl Hill, had build a house on Pearl Hill and their youngest son, Bob lived with them. I enjoyed going to visit my Grandmother and Grandfather Tapply. My grandfather, who my mother portrayed as a very stern, patriarchal, somewhat dictatorial father, had mellowed to a bald-headed gentleman with a salt-and-pepper mustache and wire-framed glasses and a brown coat-sweater that he wore most of the time. He loved to hold me on his lap and he was very kind to me and gave me candy. I used to go shopping with my grandmother and grandfather. We drove down from Pearl Hill and parked right beside the Rollstone Church on North Street and Main. I sat in the large, old, black touring car- I think it even had Isinglass windows -that my grandfather drove.
A touring car with Isinglass windows
My grandmother marched herself up Main Street to do her shopping. This woman had borne, bear in mind, 12 children but she was very energetic. She was a small woman with her hair piled up on top of her head -she still wore it long. Sometimes she would take me with her, but most of the time, I sat with my grandfather and watched the world go by. He was a very pleasant man. He died when I was seven year old and he was buried from that same Rollstone Congregational Church."
Somewhat later..1945...but it gives you a sense of the place at that time.


Reviewing these tapes has reminded me that it's time to digitize them and put them someplace more safe. That's the project for the summer, I think.
Now a challenge to the Tapply cousins: Oh, how I wish we had done this when Charlie and Bob and Prim and Bea and Bess were all still alive! But it's not too late. I challenge Jon and Mark and all the other Tapply cousins to pick an older relative and sit them down. We still have Janet, Bette, Chuck, Buzz and Launa, Warren, Norm and many others. What could they share?
One of the latest issues of Family Tree Magazine gives some tips for how to interview older relatives who may be shy, or tongue-tied, or who need some prompting:
1. Start with the oldest family members
2. Use old photos to trigger memories
3.  Go off topic - you never know what might pop up.
4. Get it on tape or video

They suggest starting with open ended questions and allow them to ramble.
Tell me about your childhood home.
How did your family celebrate holidays when you were a child?
What is your earliest memory?
For a list of suggested questions, you can read at the magazine site and Ancestry has the full list of tips and explains them further here.
Ok Tapply cousins, I've done my bit and I will share more from those tapes here later. Now it's your turn. Please, please send me an audio file or video to share. Think how priceless these will be.

2 comments:

  1. I'll try to sit my Dad down in my recording studio after loosening him up with a few beers and get him talking about the old days but he wasn't born until 1941 so....

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