June 25 VCOOK-Fountain Square Oral Histories book 8.5x11

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  • RESPECT MY STORY

    A COLLECTION OF ORAL HISTORIES FROM

    RESIDENTS OF FOUNTAIN SQUARE, INDIANA

    BY VIRGINIA COOK

  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    -3-

    Autobiographical memory may be an emerging capacity, along with the understanding of self. ~Fivush & Haden (2003)

    !is book began as a tool for educational purposes, but it quickly became more than about recording oral histories for prosperity. Sure, seniors living in Fountain Square have a right to share their stories about growing up in a distressed community, even if they haved lived ordinary lives and dont qualify as public figures with adoring fans who want to know all about their personal shortcomings. Telling these 14 seniors stories makes a differencemade a difference to me. Why? Because they are not only sharing history from their vantage point, they are sharing themselvesoffering up fantastic, painful, sad and wonderful experiences that make them vulnerable to faceless others who might criticize and judge them in the process.

    In creating this book, I have undergone a journey myself. I have been humbled by these seniors stories, and my faith in humanity has been rekindled. I connected with each senior one-to-one, and the overall experience left me a better gerontology student and a better person spiritually. I learned that despite the increased connectivity we have with Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceTime and Facebook, followers of todays social media platforms still have a limited perspective on interpersonal communications. !ere is so substitute for the personal, human interaction you get in communications face-to-face, skin-to-skin. Social media followers cannot witness the facial expressions and body movements of the storyteller, and cannot hear the voice inflections when the elder storyteller is emotionally in-the-moment. Sharing oral histories face-to-face is more personal, allows more human connectivity. Its more than one-dimensional storytelling of social mediaits adding a second and third dimension to witnessing and relating spiritually, emotionally and intuitively to a storyteller. You feel the passion, you see the story unfold from the witnesss own lips. You experience with him what the storyteller has seen, felt, heard, and intuit for yourself whether he has reinvented his own past to make it more manageable in old age, or whether he has learned something additional about himself from sharing the experience aloud.

    I cannot guarantee that these shared elder stories will be moving. But I can guarantee that I will tell them truthfully as they were related to me, and hope that they stick in your mind, providing random thoughts that make you question your own life experiences, and making you wonder if you might write them down yourself for sharing in the future.

    Some of the seniors depicted have powerful stories to convey, others just a chronological account of their life from birth to present. Some participants are memorable, others less so. But despite their varied backgrounds and circumstances, all have a real story to tell. And whether you like the storyteller or not, whether you like the experiences they share or not, you have to respect their story because it is genuine. It is the story they lived, an account from their own experience about the events that make up their own personal life journey.

    !ere several people I need to thank for helping me complete this project. First, a big thank you to my family and my husband, who propped me up emotionally and financially to complete this project and my degree. I also want to thank my mentors and friends at UIndys Center for Aging and CommunityTamara Wolske, Sharon Baggett, and Amy Magan. You all gave me valuable input that I took to heart!

    I also owe a debt of gratitude to Elaine Cates of the Southeast Indy organization, and to the Fountain Square Salvation Army for allowing me to crash many of their Wednesday luncheons to get closer to the seniors in attendance. Finally, I want to thank the numerous seniors who allowed me to glimpse into their personal lives for the sake of this project. Many were not residents of Fountain Square (and are not included in this book) but they came for the better lunches offered on Wednesdays, and shared with me their personal stories. Regardless, all the seniors I encountered expressed a genuine interest in sharing their stories to better their community. !eir willingness to talk about their intimate family and school experiences will provide others a chance to see how life in Fountain Square, Indiana is remembered, and opens up a new dialogue with community residents today.

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................... 3

    History of Fountain Square........................................................................................................................................ 5

    Cynthia ....................................................................................................................................................................... 8

    Clara and Don Stepp .................................................................................................................................................. 9

    Clara Boyd ................................................................................................................................................................ 10

    John .......................................................................................................................................................................... 12

    Phyllis ....................................................................................................................................................................... 16

    Lester ....................................................................................................................................................................... 18

    Lula ........................................................................................................................................................................... 20

    Theatres from the Past ............................................................................................................................................ 23

    Sue ............................................................................................................................................................................ 24

    Mildred and Robert Dycus ....................................................................................................................................... 26

    Mary D. ..................................................................................................................................................................... 29

    Ronnie Haig .............................................................................................................................................................. 30

    Katie ......................................................................................................................................................................... 31

    References ............................................................................................................................................................... 32

    -4-

  • History has always fascinated me. While conducting my own geneological research, I stumbled on a book by Dave Isay called !e Ties that Bind outlining the beginning of StoryCorp in 2003. StoryCorp is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to document real life experiences of people who want to honor, recognize or share personal experiences to benefit others. As of December 2013, StoryCorp had already cataloged more than 50,000 storiesmany shared on NPRs airwaves. I was intrigued by the stories I heard and read. Like Isay, I consider life stories and storytelling to be a significant way for people to share individual and community experiences. While studying for a Masters degree in gerontology at the University of Indianapolis, I researched peer-reviewed studies that support the use of reminiscence (through storytelling) to promote wellbeingespecially among our elders. Many seniors reach a stage in life called generativity when they want to give back to their families and community as a means of easing the way for future generations. !e famous psychosocial researcher Erik Erickson, in speaking about life review, coined the phrase generativity to mean concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.1 Gerontological researchers Phillips and Flood (2007) studied the role of creativity and its implication for aging successfully. !ey concluded, Creative endeavors are desired by adults, and have comprehensive positive health benefits.2 Life stories and life journaling are ways to share elder wisdom with others. !e Indiana State Museum and Storycorp, Inc. both have ongo-ing programs allowing Hoosiers to record their own stories to promote Hoosier lifestyle, folklore or community-shared events for historical and educational purposes. Many Hoosiers have already participated in these projects. Yet, many elders living in underserved communities lack a viable method to leave written or oral legacies for family or community con-sumption. My opinion, based on research from Mercken, Heinstra, and others studying elder reminiscence, is that seniors from all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds can benefit (sometimes cognitively, emotion-ally, and/or socially) from participation in storytelling and life review.

    !e exchange of memories and stories offers neighborhoodresidents an enjoyable activity during which age