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Barry Schrader


I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

Give a gift of history-your story

By Barry Schrader..................................December 10, 2004

There is never a better time than during the holidays when families gather to do an oral history or video history of your parents or grandparents. This is a wonderful gift to them and future generations, something each person listening to it will cherish. If you are 55 or older, then have someone in the family tape you.
If you already own a video camera, then use it by going to a quiet room and inviting the interviewee to share 60 or 90 minutes of family history with you. Try to limit the interview to just two people-you and the interview subject. Unless there is a memory problem and it is desirable to have a spouse or sibling present to help jog a failing mind or toss out anecdotes that will make the story more interesting (like, do you remember the time you and grandpa shot that skunk and gram had to bury your clothes under the outhouse?).
If you want to do an audio history, then borrow or purchase a cassette tape recorder that has a handheld mike and a tape counter so you can see how much time is left on the tape. Use a 60 or 90 minute tape, as the longer ones tend to stretch and wear out sooner. You can always have an extra tape on hand in case your interview warms up the last 10 minutes of tape and you need to plop another one into the recorder. Always keep the mike about 2 or 3 feet from the subject who is talking, then turn it around when you are asking a question. If there is only a built-in mike, make sure it is placed on the table between you so both of you are 3 feet or less from it.
To get a generic list of questions, go to the Smithsonian Institution website at www.folklife.si.edu and print out the Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide. If you don't have a home computer, then go to your local library and ask for help in finding the site on their computer. You may also add questions of your own, in case there is a famous ancestor, or maybe a World War II or later veteran in your family. Or you have some ties to the "old country" that need to be explored. Make sure the tape recorder is working so run a test message of you both talking for 30 seconds, then rewind and start for real.
There can be no better gift to your family than an oral history tape or video that will last for generations. You may want to have it converted to CD or DVD for longevity.
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Now let's talk about stocking stuffers, displays or programs that will please the local history buff on your list:
--In Danville the Museum of San Ramon Valley has an unforgettable Christmas Memories display, including classic toys from bygone eras, plus three decorated trees with ornaments and presents from 1890s, 1930s and 1950s. They also have gifts at all prices.
--In Dublin you have to look hard for historical gifts, but try to find a copy of Virginia Bennett's book entitled "Dublin Reflections." They are having a program at 7 p.m. today (Dec. 12) at Old St. Raymond's of handbell music by the Bay Bells, but bring a cushion for the hard pew seats. Also today from 1 to 4 p.m. they are holding a Homespun Holiday Workshop for kids to make crafts and ornaments. Call 833-6645 for more details.
--Pleasanton's Museum on Main has a Christmas display in their Fireside Room. They also have Nancy Eddinger's Pleasanton scenes cards on sale.
--Livermore's Heritage Guild just got in their batch of 2005 history photos calendars at the Carnegie Building. They also have a Carnegie Building holiday ornament for sale plus may other stocking stuffers.
--Sunol has a great local history book "A Place Called Sunol" by Connie DeGrange and her father Allen. She tells you all about Bosco, the Little Brown Church, and the Water Temple, among other interesting stories. Try finding it at Towne Center Books in P-town.
--Now my gift to you is a brand new website with my back columns, plus more history mystery answers, and the complete text of my first historical trivia book, "Will the Last Person Leaving Livermore Please Unscrew the Bulb in Fire Station One." I will have the web address before Christmas.

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The "history mystery" question for next week is: Who played Santa Claus in the Pleasanton and Livermore Christmas Parades this past Saturday night, and who used to play Father Christmas in Danville?

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The columnist can be reached via email at :


or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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