Local personal histories needed

By Clyde Davis: Local columnist

This article had its genesis in a conversation with my mother-in-law. I bought her a book, which was really a compilation of articles from the Santa Fe New Mexican, spanning the paper’s inception in the mid 1800s until the 1950s. This got her to thinking and talking about some of the things she had seen in the 1930s and ’40s.
It evolved from that point due to another chat I was having with some people in their 80s, beginning around a train that was carrying bombs during World War II and sustained an explosion near Taiban. Then those two men began talking about working as ranch hands in the 1930s, and so on the discussion went.
My point is this. Too often we allow the senior adults in our society to slip by unnoticed, perhaps even unappreciated, without remembering that they can recall, and reconstruct, a world very different from the one in which we live.
Even though 50 or 60 or 70 years does not seem so long ago, it was a vastly different New Mexico than the one in which we live now. It is our responsibility, and our privilege, to listen to and learn of this world from the older adults in our lives.
Oh, you can read a history book and learn about the great events of the ’20s, ’30s or ’40s. But what is that worth, compared to the daily memories of a young man cowboying during the Depression years, or a Spanish girl growing up north of Santa Fe in the 1930s?
Anybody can read a history book, but the real world of a time and place happens in the lives of real people.
I would like to do something unique with my freshman English classes, and I am asking my readers to cooperate with this.
I would like to have my students interview persons over the age of 70 about the world in which they came to adulthood.
It can be their grandparents, but it can be someone else as well; not all of them have grandparents and not all the grandparents meet the second criteria.
The person they interview has to have been born in West Texas or New Mexico.
Now that doesn’t negate the memories of someone born in Wisconsin or Ohio. An assignment just has to have parameters, and those are the perameters for this.
(Oh, yes. If you were born somewhere else but spent most of your childhood here, that would be included too.)
The upshot is this: We are doing a lot of our focus on culture, diversity, personal history, etc. — that is the curriculum. But what I am looking for are senior adults who are willing to come to my class, or meet with my students, and talk about what their Southwest was like in the ’30s, ’40s or even ’50s. I know my readership includes some folks like that.
You won’t get any reimbursement — well, maybe lunch — but the knowledge that you are helping pass on a piece of heritage and history to some 18-year-olds that they will never learn off the Internet.
How about it? Call me at 762-3041 or e-mail me.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: