What’s Your Thanksgiving Memory?

Thanksgiving Day is less than a week away. I'm certain that each of us has a favorite memory of past Thanksgivings. My memories include the aromas of traditional menu items that I seek to duplicate, a mental snapshot of who snoozed away after the feast, how we played cards until someone was caught "cheating", and tidbits of table conversations that made us roll our eyes.

Holidays can be meaningful time to begin capturing the stories of our elders. StoryCorps has anointed the day after Thanksgiving as National Day of Listening. Make this part of your holiday tradition. We need more efforts to encourage this type of listening.

Make Thanksgiving a LifeCatching moment. Grab your video camera or a digital audio recorder. Place it near the elders and ask the simple questions: What is one of your happiest memories of Thanksgiving when you were growing up? Who cooked the meal and what was served? Who cleared the table and what did everyone do after eating?  Using holidays as prompts is a great way to get at the stories

Let me know how it goes by sharing your stories.
Be thankful for the memories. They can smile in your heart. Record it and save it. Don't let it fade away. Make this a LifeCatching Thanksgiving.

Join the LifeCatching Memory Vault Beta Test

It has always been in LifeCatching's master plan to provide online Memory Vaults. We're happy to announce that it is becoming a reality. During a limited period of time, we invite you to join us at no charge. We simply ask for feedback.

What is a LifeCatching Memory Vault?

Technologies have rapidly influenced how I prefer to record clients telling their stories. Long ago, I happily ditched audio cassettes for digital recording devices.
While I enjoy the sound of the human voice, seeing the twinkle of an eye or a wry smile while chronicling an experience can be as telling as hearing the words. However, lugging video equipment and lights is not for me. But I do belong to the world of point-and-shoot, flash-memory video cameras. My bag of oral history tools includes the Flip video camera. (The Flip has its competition, but, for now, this is what I own and work with.)

The oral history sessions with my clients are not meant for YouTube or other similar sites. We capture memory assets for the private use of the client. I serve as the narrator's guide in recalling life experiences. I record the interviews and then deliver the raw, unedited, recordings to them on DVD or CD. These materials can then be transformed into polished projects like books or videos.

I always urge the clients to archive the raw recordings for future uses. I inform them of the limits DVDS and CDs and encourage online archiving in a memory vault. It's a good place to backup in this time of ever-changing technologies. Video may upload slowly right now, but I strongly believe in storing important videos and photos in an online repository.

For this reason, I began working with partners to provide such a place on LifeCatching. We call it the LifeCatching Memory Vault. It's a private, secure online storage account where you decide when and by whom your memory assets can be viewed. It's like a safety deposit box for your memory assets, a destination for backup and storage of your most important videos and photos.

Do you hear me listening?

As those of you who follow me know, I am heartened by the enthusiastic response I get from those who engage in LifeCatching Conversations-especially my work with the elderly.
Last week at the Oral History Association Annual Meeting, I was honored to present on my LifeCatching work. I spoke about the importance of listening to the elderly, of creating situations where they can reminisce and retell their stories without fear of eye-rolling, judgment or challenge. I also explained how LifeCatching is teaching people to be engaged listeners when working with our seniors and how we are incorporating the latest technologies at LifeCatching to make this happen in an easy, efficient and economical manner.
At the end of my talk, when I asked, "Do you hear me listening?" the audience nodded in agreement and a lively conversation ensued. It was an invigorating opportunity that spurs us on.

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With my follow presenters-left to right: Nicole Wright (Canada, Museum of Moments), me!, Rob Perks (British Library Sound Archive) and commentator Natalie Fousekis (California State University, Fullerton.

Thank you Carl Herman, wherever you are.

TV Early Memories Stamps

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Remember the Cohen movie Fargo? Not since Sheriff Marge Gunderson's husband Norm's mallard design for a three-cent stamp was chosen by the Postal Service have I noted the designer of stamps! I noted your name, Carl, as the designer of a hot new release of postage stamps. As I look at the sheet of TV Early Memories Commemorative Collection sitting on my desk I do not see a page of forty-four-cent stamps. I see a page of memory prompts.

As I see the faces of TV's earliest married couples, I thank them for showing the funny side of marriage: Ozzie and Harriett, George Burns and Gracie Allen, The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy.

I smile at the faces of men who were caricatures of themselves: Red Skelton, Phil Silver and Groucho Marks; and western heroes like Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger; and the forerunners of Sesame puppets like Kukla, Fran and Ollie and a fellow on strings, who beckoned us to shout, "It's Howdy Doody time!"

Yes, these 44-cent stamps are sitting on my desk and I can't bear the idea of separating them from each other. There are iconic images of Lassie, Dragnet's Sgt. Joe Friday, and William Burr as Perry Mason. I can hear the voices of Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone as they introduced dramas that teased my young brain with their mysteries and suspense.

There are stamps that salute Dinah Shore, Steve Allen of The Tonight Show, and Milton Berle of Texaco Star Theater. But it is Ed Sullivan that I (and a million others) will always thank. He brought the Beatles into our house-a memory that my younger brothers will never let me live down.

Ok, I'm not screaming and crying about four mop headed boys any more, but I am reminiscing about how innocent, and entertaining, TV was back then. And I am not certain that I will be able to peel a single one of these stamps off the sheet and use for a bill.

That begs the question: Do you remember when you had to lick postage stamps? Did that end when George's fiancé died on Seinfeld from licking envelopes?

Next on my agenda

Oral History Association Annual Meeting

This week I'm off to the Oral History Associations Annual Meeting in Louisville, KY. The theme this year is Moving Beyond the Interview.

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On Thursday, I will be doing a presentation on being an entrepreneurial oral historian. The title of my talk is "Do You Hear Me Listening?"  I'll demonstrate how LifeCatching has evolved from an observation about the importance of saving human stories to a book to a process and company. I'll talk about how valuable it is to give every person the opportunity to share their life experiences and how easy it can be to save those for posterity. Watch this space for more updates as the week goes on.