As a historical author, I obviously have a love of history related things! 😀 That can take the form of reading other historical novels, visiting a pioneer village, learning about historic people and events, reading historical plaques when I visit places, or perusing displays of old-fashioned items.
And old photographs are definitely intriguing (because a picture is worth a thousand words after all 😉 ).
But one of the most important ways to learn about history (which is sometimes overlooked!) is to hear stories straight from the mouths of people you know. People who were born a few generations before us that lived when times where different.
How much things change throughout the decades. What was considered “normal” in our grandparents days is different than what is considered normal now. Household items change, expectations, money, entertainment, transport–day to day life in general! 😀
The historical events of the time also have an impact on shaping the lives and memories of those who lived through them. Two of my grandparents were born just after WWII and one of my grandmothers was born towards the start of the war when people were still recovering from the Great Depression (she grew up with 10 siblings in a house lined with hessian). But no matter what era someone grew up in, people are still people. People with feelings, thoughts, hopes, dreams and families like us.
There is so much to be learnt from previous generations! The choices they made affect how things are today. And history has the tendency to repeat itself.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
My mum’s mother is great at telling stories (not just from her childhood but also about her parents and other relatives). She is so full of information and is great at remembering the little details. She weaves tales full of character and life! When she passes on one day, a great wealth of family history will go with her 🙁 So my sisters and I over the years have gone through stages of writing down what she tells us–either by asking her specific questions and writing down the answers or just by doing our best to record a random story that came up in conversation.
I’ve got documents on my computer in a folder called Stories from the Past on a number of my grandparents and great-grandparents.
They include things like:
- who cut their hair
- the mischief they got up to
- the average family size
- the type of clothes they wore
- the way they made-do with what they had
- and lots of other special memories
There’s stories of an embarrassing petticoat saga, hated chores, milk and bread deliveries, houses without electricity, “fights” over which neighbour got to collect the manure from the delivery horses (to go on the garden), rabbiting, and paint-stripping gone wrong (yep, the entire building burnt down!).
Here’s one story I thought I’d share with you about my great-grandparents!
The Second World War was raging when Nana and Pa Snowy got married. On advice from Nana’s parents, they didn’t buy a house. Instead they lived with her parents, because there was a high likely-hood that Pa would get conscripted.
Sure enough Pa was called up. He, along with many other brothers, sons, and sweethearts, went to the local army camp near Victoria Park. There were a whole lot of corrugated-iron sheds where the soldiers slept, and the entire camp was surrounded with a high fence that resembled an old tennis court. Once the soldiers went in, they were not allowed out–not even to see family!
Nana and her sister rode their bikes everyday from their home to the army camp. She would stand outside the fence and yell her surname over and over until someone heard and passed the message around. There were many others doing the same, each trying to find someone they loved.
With the fence between them, Nana and Pa stood and talked. The army camp didn’t tell the soldiers what was happening, because they didn’t want the news to be spread around and fall into the wrong hands. Everything was top secret.
One day after seeing Pa at the fence, Nana said, “Goodbye, I’ll see you tomorrow.” But when she went the next day, they were all gone. During the night, they had carted all the men away. Nana didn’t see him again until he came home from the war.
The past is the key to the future.
And I wanted to share a song that goes along with this post.
Let’s listen and learn from those around us who are willing to share their stories and wisdom–if only we’d take time to listen and take note. 🙂