The Great War revisited
Wanted: Seniors willing to share their stories.
There’s a new, national effort to get World War II veterans’ experiences down on tape while the vets are still around to tell their stories.
And here in western Nevada County, a program is getting under way to get high school students in touch with seniors, be it for oral history interviews, skill sharing, or helping students complete their senior projects.
The U.S. Congress created the Veterans History Project in October 2000.
The legislation calls for the Library of Congress American Folklife Center to collect and preserve audio- and videotaped oral histories of all veterans as well as other documents, such as letters, diaries, photographs and home movies.
Anyone can participate by calling a toll-free number or logging onto a Web site for an informational packet explaining how to go about it.
Then, once you’ve compiled the interviews and other documents, ship them off to the Library of Congress, where they will be stored in acid-free folders and containers to prevent deterioration.
The name of every person who’s interviewed will appear on a Web site. Researchers will be able to consult the materials, and selected portions will appear on the Library of Congress’ popular American Memory Web site at
Getting someone’s history down on tape can be a lot of fun, said Ron Sturgill, director of the Grass Valley Video History Museum.
Sturgill is a Nevada County native who videotaped about 100 longtime county residents in the 1980s. He had just moved back to Nevada County and wanted to get in touch with people he’d known as a child.
“I’m glad I did it,” said Sturgill, who talked to old gold miners, loggers, sawmill workers, storekeepers – “just good, honest, hard-working people.”
“Boy, do you learn a lot of history,” he said.
“At first, they’re scared because they got a camera in their face. And then, after that, it’s just like you’re a part of the family,” Sturgill said. “After they get relaxed, they have a good time.”
Among the people he interviewed were former Sheriff Wayne Brown, who’s now dead, and Jack Clark, a popular Grass Valley man who worked in the mines and has served as a parade marshal.
Some of the tapes are at the Doris Foley Historical Library in Nevada City.
“A lot of ’em, when the people passed on, I give ’em to the family,” said Sturgill, who kept copies of the tapes at the museum.
The Grass Valley Senior Center is kicking off a program called “Student to Senior Outreach.”
The idea is to compile a list of seniors who have stories to tell, skills to share, or would like to mentor high school students.
“We are really working on a concerted effort to try to bring the generations together to get to know each other,” said Norm Nomof, a retired physician who’s helping head up the effort.
Bette Worth, who runs the senior center, said, “Everyone has a story to tell.”
Get on board
– To learn more about the Veterans History Project or get a free kit explaining how to record an oral history, call (800) 424-3410, or log on the VHP Web site at
– Seniors: Got a story to tell? A skill to share? Want to mentor a Nevada Union High School student? Call Bette Worth at the Grass Valley Senior Center at 273-4961.
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