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Preserving tales of the past for future generations
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One of the most flattering compliments I am given is when someone tells me that they envy my writing skills.

I have learned to say a polite “thank you,” but I really just write like I talk. We ought to all do that.

Through the Internet, I have discovered generations of ancestors I wasn’t sure about. I heard bits and pieces of conversations about aunts, uncles and cousins I never knew, but nothing was written down.

In a day and time when many have a computer, this is a perfect time to write down stories and anecdotes about your family.

Jimmy Hill, a friend of mine who lives in Dawson County, told me that he is writing a book for his grandchildren. Jimmy has some great stories, including those about his mother, who started a business making dumplings.

He got the idea for his memoirs from Garland Thompson, another mutual friend who lives in Douglas. Mr. Thompson has already penned his history book.

My father never talked about his wartime service, but in the past year I learned he was truly a decorated hero. I wish he had been willing to tell us more, but his records are now telling that story for me.

My mother was born dirt poor into a sharecropper’s home. I have heard her tell stories about tracing their feet on an old piece of paper so some organization might help them get some shoes.

One day, some relative of mine might want to know that.

I keep a glimmer of hope that our communication in the future might consist of more than a text message or a 140-character tweet.

I can remember family gatherings where after a meal folks would sit around and talk. I was a bit too young to understand, but I wish I could playback a tape of those conversations. The responses ranged from raucous laughter to shaking one’s head in disbelief.

Conversation, the way we knew it, may not be on life support. But it is ailing and in need of some tender, loving care. Talking to one another is downright healthy and we need to do it more.

In the 1970s, we were devotees of “The Waltons” on CBS. One of the regular features of every episode was John-Boy Walton writing his memoirs on a tablet. No, not an electronic gizmo, but a genuine printed tablet with blue lines on the paper.

My parents never missed an episode, but would often comment that the Waltons had it a lot better than they did in the Depression.

It is important you realize a couple of things about memoirs. First, you may have to explain to them about things such as getting just three channels of television and having one wired phone in the hall. You may also have to explain things that came and went, such as VCRs and 8-track tapes.

This is not your last will and testament. Don’t write things like instructions to bury you in your powder blue leisure suit and wearing your cowboy boots. They may not find your memoirs until you are in the ground.

By the way, if you are asking to be buried in a leisure suit, please send me a copy of your memoirs. I always need good column fodder.

I have written many of my childhood memories in columns over the years, but I think my friends Jimmy and Garland have the right idea in recording the stories of their respective lives for someone to read in the future.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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