Telling our stories. To each other and the worldMonday, April 28, 2014 by: Carol Martin
It began with an idea to capture personal biographies of Saultites.
But, when Wendy Hamilton met with Cathy Shunock at the Canadian Motor Hotel back in April 2011 the project morphed into something much bigger.
Something that 's taking on a life of its own.
The Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie project has been three years in the making and is about to officially launch a website with links to narratives by Saultites who have moving, entertaining and sometimes difficult stories to tell about our community.
The first interview was with Dorothy Kucher who, with her sister Jane Barsanti, operated the Root River Golf Course clubhouse from the mid 60s through several decades.
"I had wanted to capture the stories from James Town, stories I grew up listening to and continue to hear today," said Shunock. "So that's where we started but it's grown much more from there."
She and Hamilton hired videographer Gary Huckerby to bring an element of professionalism and sophistication to the project and, about a year into it, Karen Montgomery-Jones joined Hamilton and Shunock to form a volunteer committee steering the process of capturing stories from Saultites.
"Sault Ste. Marie needs its oral histories archived," said Montgomery-Jones. "The essence of a city is its people and the stories of those people."
Hamilton said interviews are often done in the subject's home because that is where they feel most comfortable and some of the stories they tell are difficult.
Stories about wartime memories both in the Sault and abroad, depression era memories, stories of racism in the Sault and so much more has been dealt with in the 40 interviews about to be released.
Shunock, Hamilton and Karen Montgomery-Jones say they hope to establish the project with a more formal and sustainable structure and that it will continue long after they are gone.
"It just keeps mushrooming," Hamilton said. "We made a presentation to a group of men at the Marconi club and 13 out of 13 of them signed up as soon as we finished."
It seems like each person the committee interviews gives another five or six names to follow up on, too, she added.
Last fall the committee finalized an agreement with the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library that will see the interviews archived at the library and available to anyone with access to the internet.
The site, hosted by the library, will be officially launched on Wednesday, April 30.
To mark the occasion the Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie volunteer committee, in partnership with the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library, will be hosting a reception by invitation that will include people interviewed, their families, members of the media and others.
For more coverage on the Oral History of Sault Ste. Marie project, head to LOCAL2.ca.
The full text of a release on this project and the upcoming launch of the oral history videos follows.