I finally got to go see my dad this week. I had plans to go several times over the last month and then changed my mind because of the weather. (It’s been a really bad winter!) But I finally got there this week…and I brought my laptop so we could start working on his memoirs. I turned the computer on and said, “Okay, Dad. Start talking.” And he did.

He’d get tired from time to time…and he’d stop because he “felt fuzzy.” But in that one afternoon I got ten single-spaced pages down. We didn’t cover a whole lot…we covered several “storms of the century” he’d lived through and the time he served in the public health service. That was it. Those were the things he wanted to tell me about first.

Most of what he talked about I’d heard before…but I didn’t know he’d been at Kennedy’s inauguration (that was when he was in the public health service in Washington, D.C. — I always thought it was incredibly unfair that my parents left Washington, D.C. four years before I was born…I could have grown up THERE, which would’ve been way more exciting than the small farm town where I did grow up). He and my mom and my grandparents sat in the second row, right in front of the podium Kennedy spoke from. (And one of those “storms of the century” occurred the day before the inauguration.) I also learned that my dad packed the medical bags for the emergency doctors who were stationed at each of the inaugural balls that night. Who knew?

I really enjoyed copying down what he said. And not just because he’s my dad…I think I would enjoy doing this for anyone. EVERYONE has stories. And I know there are a variety of organizations out there that help people record their stories.

So…I wonder how much of my dad’s story I’m going to be able to get down before he is no longer with us? I really, really wish I’d started this years ago!


Recording Dad’s Stories…

13 thoughts on “Recording Dad’s Stories…

  • March 14, 2008 at 2:54 pm
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    What a fabulous idea! I lost this chance with my family but I would love to try and get some of this from my husband’s grandfather. Kudos to you!

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    • March 15, 2008 at 11:11 pm
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      I just wish I’d thought of it years ago…I did think of it with my grandparents (though I only did it with one grandparent)…but I always thought 1) I knew all my parents stories (not true!) and 2) they’d always be around…

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  • March 14, 2008 at 3:40 pm
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    I did this with my grandfather before he passed away. Unfortunately when my son was ten, he found the tape and decided to record over it. 🙁

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    • March 15, 2008 at 11:12 pm
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      Oh bummer!

      I asked my grandfather to record a cassette of himself talking about his childhood when I was 12. I was a little horrified, though, when he talked about going down to the river to drown kittens. I SO did not need to hear that story!!!!

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        • March 15, 2008 at 11:15 pm
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          Ugh! Really? I wonder if it was a generational thing…especially with people who lived out in the country? He told it so matter-of-factly, like there was nothing wrong with it whatsoever…

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          • March 15, 2008 at 11:17 pm
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            They did it all the time. My great-aunt would do it with a pail in the backyard. AND this was in the city! I can’t imagine anyone doing such a thing.

  • March 14, 2008 at 5:55 pm
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    “So…I wonder how much of my dad’s story I’m going to be able to get down before he is no longer with us? I really, really wish I’d started this years ago!”

    You are preaching to the choir. I ran out of time before I really started getting stories from my dad. I’m glad you’re getting yours down, well done, you!

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    • March 15, 2008 at 11:14 pm
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      I feel like I’ve only just started…even though I have 10 single spaced pages. This is the stuff he thought to tell me first, but it just scratches the surface of what I really want to know. I’m afraid I’m going to run out of time, too.

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      • April 11, 2008 at 6:58 pm
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        In order to guide the process, I’d use a book of questions like “To Our Children’s Children” by Bob Greene or “Legacy” by Linda Spence or software like Personal Historian (www.personalhistorian.com) or LifeBio (www.lifebio.com). I taped some of my Grandma Thompson’s stories when I was a kid, but they were fairly random and, in retrospect, there are a lot of basic facts about her life that I never pinned down. I never heard any stories about drowning cats, but the Hillestads were definitely dog lovers, and I’m told that many family dogs were brought to be buried in Great-Grandma Hillestad’s yard in Owatonna. Somewhere I have a photo of 5 or 6 Hillestad dogs, all of a terrier-ish appearance.

        Chris the Librarian

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        • April 15, 2008 at 8:17 pm
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          Hey! Good to hear from you! Very strange to hear from you NOW because I was exploring your norskmom website recently. I got an e-mail from a young Hillestad girl who found me by googling her name. Her family comes from the Hafslo area, too, but her immigration date is not the same as mine (1879 as opposed to 1873). I can’t quite tell if she’s a descendant of Andrew or Iver…I haven’t been able to find the link (it’s been so long since I’ve looked at my genealogy stuff that I can hardly read my own scribbles), so I was trying to find it on your site. Still didn’t find it, though.

          Her great-grandfather is Andrew Hillestad, born in Norway in 1815. He was a school teacher in Norway, then came to the USA in 1879 (with his wife Johanna and 5 daughters) after he retired. Johanna died in 1884, then Andrew married Thora and they had six kids — Hannah, Evar, Hans and Anne (don’t know the other two). I do wonder if some of those dates are off because Andrew would’ve been 69 years when he started having children with Thora. Do any of those names mean anything to you?

          As for getting older relatives’ stories down…since this whole thing was my dad’s idea, I like the idea of just letting him talk so that he gets through the stories he wants to tell. But I’m going to look for those two books you mentioned…if he runs out of stories, it would be nice to have some direction to keep things going.

          It was my MOTHER’S grandfather who drowned cats as a small boy, not the Hillestads. I know it was a different time and different place, but it still bothers me to think about that. I come from a long line of dog-lovers on the Hillestad side. I’ve heard the stories of family dogs buried in Great-Grandma Hillestad’s yard, too.

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          • May 5, 2008 at 9:14 pm
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            As far as I can tell, there’s no immediate connection between this girl’s family and ours. Of course, if you go back far enough in a small community with limited mobility, everybody winds up being related one way or another. I haven’t had much time to do genealogy for the last few years. I think the last time I updated the website was 2003 or 2004. Besides working, I’m always running the kids to Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, confirmation, band practice, etc. Just this last weekend my daughter and I did the Humane Society’s Walk for Animals fundraiser, which brings us back to dogs. Both of my kids love dogs, too. It definitely runs in the family. Well, keep in touch and good luck with recording your Dad’s stories.

            Chris

          • May 9, 2008 at 12:31 am
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            I didn’t see the connection, either…but the genealogist in her family believes that her great-grandfather, Andrew, and our Christopher/Andrew et al were cousins. But then she said something else that surprised me…she has “lots of family in Amery!” Amery isn’t that big of a town. Were there other Hillestads there besides Ed and Guro?

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