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History comes alive thanks to oral history program

Thank you, Theresa Truchot, for inspiring me to connect my historical dots. I read your first book, “Charcoal Wagon Boy” written in 1952, in about 1955, when I was in Dorothy Stafford’s fourth grade class at Forest Hills Elementary. She made us read the book but it was fun because it was about boys — Eben Sutton and Silas O’Connor.

Boys were everything to fourth grade girls. Never mind that the book was really about the iron smelter and early pioneer life in Oswego. I finally figured that out some 60 years later. I think this revelation was the first two dots I connected. The next dot I connected was that Charles Towt Dickinson told you stories about hauling charcoal in his ox cart from the fire pits in Tryon to the smelter. You jotted down his musings and used them as the basis for the book. In fact, you dedicated the book to him.

Fast forward to 2010. Lake Oswego’s centennial was being celebrated. Your book, “In Their Own Words,” originally published in 1976 was updated and reprinted in honor of our city’s 100th birthday. The book is an anthology of personal interviews arranged and conducted by you about people who observed and/or participated in the making of Oswego’s history. It is not a history book, but it reflects history.

As a newly elected Oswego Heritage Council board member, someone suggested I read “In Their Own Words.” I begin connecting the historical dots. There were people, places, events in the book I had read about or had some contact with — Edna Farmer, Mary S. Young’s home on Twin Point, Lakewood School, Mary Goodall, Willa Worthington, the Durhams, just to name a few.

More dots connect when I started to write for the Jottings from 5th & G group. I met your daughter “Tonsy” (Hortense) when I first joined Jottings. She was an active member of the group and of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center for years until her health started to fail. I was really excited when I found some wonderful old scrapbooks Tonsy kept of every article every Jotter had ever written since the group began in 1993. Like mother, like daughter: You enjoyed history and collecting stories; so did Tonsy. More and more dots connect: Tonsy’s husband was a familiar face at Forest Hills because he worked for the school district and I went to Lake Oswego High School with two of your granddaughters.

Fast forward to 2013. The dots are really starting to connect. A vision is beginning to form. I wanted to pick up where you left off; I wanted to write a sequel: “In Their On Words 1960 to The Present.” In November 2013, I enrolled in a How to Tell Your Story class at Lakewood Center. Although seemingly unrelated, there is a connection here.

The Lake Oswego Library hosted a mini storytellers fair. That’s where I discovered that our library has an oral history program! I spilled my dream of becoming the next Theresa Truchot to reference librarian Alicia Yokoyama. Alicia worked on the second edition of “In Their Own Words” and is involved in the current oral history program along with reference librarians Carissa Barrett and Fawn McGee. The three of us met. Eureka! We were all on the same page. They were thrilled to have an enthusiastic native Lake Oswegan on board; I was thrilled to be following in Theresa Truchot’s footsteps. I had found a way to realize my dream.

Being part of the library’s oral history project, which I fondly refer to as “In Their Own Words II,” has connected many, many, many dots for me. I really enjoy conducting the interviews. Hearing personal stories about living in Lake Oswego makes the past come alive, not only hearing them the first time, but being able to listen to them again and again, thanks to the world of digital media. Every oral history interview is transcribed and made available on line.This means I can actually hear Theresa’s voice telling her own personal story as well as hear her conducting the interviews for “In Their Own Words.” Ask a reference librarian how you can access this fantastic resource.

There are many more historical remembrances to be collected and preserved. When the phone rings and the caller says “I’m an oral history volunteer from the Lake Oswego Library” please say yes to telling your story. If you would like to be part of the “In Their Own Words II” project, call 503-534-5285.

Nancy Dunis is a member of Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.



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