Back in 2005 I was working on a video project concerning some old community minstrel shows my father was in when he was a kid. Among many other people, I interviewed my father’s mother Helen — my grandmother — who was then age 94. The sound you hear on this podcast is from the video I took of Grandma Helen in 2005. A small portion of the podcast features some audio of a minstrel show recorded sometime in the 1940’s on an old wire recorder that evidently someone in the neighborhood owned. Listen, and you’ll hear my father sing a solo number!
This is probably very similar to the actual wire recorder that was used to record the audio of the minstrel show you can hear in this podcast.
Mostly, this interview with my grandmother concerns her memories of the neighborhood as it began and the community building they built and the activities they did to raise money for it. I wish now, of course, that I had asked her more important questions about herself and her husband and what life was like when she was younger, but at the time I thought all we had was time. I was sure I would be recording her again, but Grandma fell into a decline and just before Thanksgiving of 2007, she passed away at the age of 96. She was a wonderful person and a fabulous grandmother to me. I miss her a lot. I hope this episode of the Smellcast will inspire you to record the words of your own relatives. Ask them about your family’s history — you’ll be glad you did.
Magnetic wire for the wire recorder!
My grandmother’s maiden name was Nelson, and she was very proud of her Irish roots. The show art is a photo I took of her in 1977 as she was sitting on a stone fence bordering a farm in Ireland. My father, mother, brother, myself and grandma traveled there for three weeks and toured the southern part of Ireland. It was a very memorable and precious family time for us all. With St. Patrick’s Day nearly upon us, I thought this would be a nice time to present this interview of my grandmother to you.
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Click the link below to listen to the Smellcast, episode 159.
The Smellcast/Episode 159