Archive for March 16, 2011

When “living memory” becomes “History”

I heard that term the other day when watching -what else- but the “History Channel”

I was once again watching “World at War”( both of them) when the narrator mentioned Claude Choules the last remaining WW1 veteran. A man who remembers the War, he is 110, but when he passes then World War 1 will pass from a living memory of those who fought in the trenches – like my granddad- to history……

A few days later I sat with my mother and daughter watching the King’s Speech As Nikki was asking my mum about what had happened “back then” and my mum recalled where she was, what she felt , how society frowned upon Mrs. Simpson , what she was doing when the King abdicated, how they felt when they saw the newsreels of them with Hitler, her memories of the now Queen Elizabeth as a youngster, I realized what a precious moment they were sharing a “living memory” not “history”.

I was glad I had persuaded my mother to write ” My book” and as revisionist history and sound bites take over in years to come of WW2 and of life back in the day at least Gavin will have an in the family “guide to those times”. And as my generation goes the way of all previous generations he too will have my thoughts and view of life in this time.

When the last WW1 veterans dies the memory of those days of life in the trenches, the conditions, the memory of comrades , of mud and blood, of victory and defeat and how it touched their young lives and shaped their futures will become “history”.

The last person who remembered rather than heard or studied those days but “lived” them will be gone. No other living person on this planet will remember …………

Lorain’s “living memory” of her pioneers and founding families has also passed into “history” a history that was deemed unimportant through the ensuing decades. Much of that history was buried on purpose – a double blow to Lorain.

In 1836 the village was honored by the legislature with a corporation charter by the name of Charleston and in the spring of 1837 the first and only charter election under that name was held. (page 213 History of Lorain County, Ohio)
The Ohio Railroad scheme resulted in total failure for this community. Such was the shame attached to such speculation that the people wished to revert back to the name of Black River and to thereby blot from record and memory the event.
Major Hammond wrote in the Black River Commercial
“It (Charleston) died without a struggle. It’s hotels were practically closed, it’s merchants departed, it’s warehouse were almost given away to farmers for barns and fences, and even it’s corporate organization was abandoned; it’s name blotted out by common consent, and it’s memory placed in the category of western paper city failures”

The Elyria Republican (N.B. Gates)

I wonder if the “keepers” of Lorain’s History the intrepid volunteers of the Black River Historical Society could follow the lead of Edinburgh and would Lorainites help them in a quest for memory?

The Living Memory Association was established in 1984. It is an Edinburgh based group that aims to bring people together through reminiscence and oral history work. We encourage people to become actively involved in their community, share their memories, learn from one another, feel valued and respected, and give their knowledge of the past to younger generations.

March 16, 2011 at 11:39 am 1 comment



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March 2011