Monday, January 11, 2010

Students Interview WWII Veterans

This is what I did last weekend. The story (posted below) that resulted from the day appeared in The Floyd Press yesterday, November 15, 2007.

Last Spring Floyd County Historical Society archivist, Kathleen Ingoldsby, and Joe Klein, an integrative education advocate, traveled to Bland County to learn about Place Based Education from John Dobson, a Rocky Gap High School teacher. Dobson, a past winner of the McLaughlin Award for teaching excellence has been using Placed Based Education successfully for the past fourteen years. He teaches a class on History and Technology in which students learn to collect and archive oral histories from local residents.

“Place-based education is learning from what’s going on in your community through hands on experience. It involves geography, biography, culture, values, and learning directly from your elders,” said Klein.

This fall a collaboration of Floyd County High School, The Floyd County Historic Society, The Old Church Gallery, and Radford University resulted in the inception of an Oral History Pilot Program involving eight Floyd high school students who agreed to volunteer for the extra-curriculum project. About the benefits of such a program, Floyd County High School Principal, Barry Hollandsworth, said, “It ties the community together. Young and old alike all have something in common, and whenever we can connect them, it’s good for the school and the community.”

After the students participated in a follow-up visit to Mr. Dobson’s class, and then a visit to the Old Church Gallery, where local art and culture is showcased, their enthusiasm was peaked. In preparation to conduct interviews in the community, they began meeting weekly to draft questions, practice interview skills, and learn about taping technology. The group is being mentored at the high school by Radford University Anthropology Professor, Melinda Wagner; Anthropology graduate, Ashley Herwald; Kathleen Ingoldsby; and Catherine Pauley, director of the Old Church Gallery.

Last week the students conducted their first interview, which took place in the Old Church Gallery Suite, one of the new locally themed rooms at The Hotel Floyd. Another interview is scheduled for this week.

Although the overall project goal is to record a variety of stories about past life in Floyd County, the students are initially focusing on WWII Veteran histories. That focus got a jump start when the group was invited by the American Legion Auxiliary to meet local veterans at a VFW luncheon on Veterans Day.

Two students of the Oral History Project were able to participate. High School Senior, Donald Broome, and tenth grader, Dakota “DJ” Jarrell, first attended the Veterans Ceremony at the Courthouse where they took some video footage, and then the luncheon, held at the VFW Hall. After being introduced by Auxiliary member, Barbara Spangler, they explained the project to a full house of veterans and their families.

“My grandfather served in WWII, but he passed away before I could get his story,” Broome said. He told the vets that he was interested in the project to learn more about what his grandfather went through. Jarrell was initially drawn to the project because he wanted to learn about media technology.

After a lunch of ham, cabbage, and all the fixings, VFW Post Commander, David Poff, introduced the students to Willard Dulaney, a highly decorated WWII veteran born and raised in Floyd County. Mr. Dulaney agreed to an impromptu interview, which was conducted by Broome and videotaped by Jarrell in a corner of the noisy hall. Mr. Dulaney shared some of his experiences participating in D-Day and other campaigns throughout France and Germany. When Broome asked what stood out the most about his war experiences, Dulaney responded, “Will I ever get home?” It was a question ever present in his mind.

Later, at the Canteen, held near the staging area of the Veterans Day Parade, Dulaney introduced the students to his buddy Robert Bugg, assuring them that Bugg had some good stories to tell. Bugg, whose nickname is “Patton” because of a direct encounter with General Patton, was paired up with Jarrell for a brief interview before the parade.

Both veterans invited the students for a longer follow-up interview in which they plan to invite a third WWII vet buddy. Several other veterans also offered stories and signed up to participate in the project.

The students of the Oral History Program plan to produce written transcripts and edit audio and video versions of the interviews for storage in the Old Church Gallery Archives. A Story Center at The Old Church Gallery is an idea that is being explored. Future plans also include a database and webpage where residents can access written transcripts, audio, and video recordings of interviews. ~ Colleen Redman

~ Originally posted on on November 16, 2007.

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