Grandma told about the first time she heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio. She told about how during the Depression she and her friends shared precious copies of the Nancy Drew books because there were so few books to go around. Papaw told about his grandmother and her feisty sense of humor. He told about his other grandma and grandpa who lived on a farm and the tire swing in their yard that he loved. They told all these stories across a table covered with photos and you listened to every word. These stories have taken up a special place in your heart, and you want them to survive. Keeping stories alive about someone in your family that was a witness to history is so important to you. And in order for our family history to survive, we need to pass it on to the younger generations.
If you like classic television, you’ve surely seen The Andy Griffith Show. In one of my favorite episodes, Andy gets stuck in a bind with his son’s teacher over History homework. The teacher gets so frustrated with her students’ apparent lack of interest in their History studies that she is on the verge of quitting when Andy steps in and tells the boys that they don’t want to learn about all that “dull stuff” anyway –about “Indians, and Redcoats, and cannons, and guns and muskets and stuff.” The boys get all excited that Andy seems to agree with them, and then they pause, turn, and look at him quizzically. Then one pipes up: “What about Indians and Redcoats and cannons and muskets and guns and stuff?” Andy brushes it off, saying, “Oh, you know. Indians and Redcoats, and you know…history.” And with that, the boys are hooked.
Andy then engages the boys (and his deputy, Barney Fife) in a heart-pounding rendition of the tale of Paul Revere, and with every word, the boys’ eyes grow wider, their jaws drop further, and they are drawn more and more into the story. “He says the British is comin’, the British is comin’, get your guns, we’re gonna have us a revolution!”
When Andy is finished, they demand to know just where he got that story! Andy just replies, “Oh, your history book.” But the bait is already sunk. The boys have been won over. History had come alive for them through the power of storytelling, and they wanted to know more.
(If you want to see the entire episode, it’s called Andy Discovers America, you can find it here: <https://archive.org/details/Andy-Griffith-Show_Andy-Discovers-America> The excerpt I discussed starts at the 10:05 mark.)
Life is a series of stories. Our ancestors’ lives were a series of stories, stories that eventually led to our stories. Our lives have been a series of stories, and our stories led to our children’s stories, and so on… the story never ends, it only evolves. But these stories can be easily forgotten if we do nothing to preserve them, and they can only be preserved within the memories of our young ones. There were times your ancestors probably picked up their son or daughter on their knee and told them the story of the time they did this or that. Pa Ingalls in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series was an expert storyteller. Laura preserved those stories in her books, always just as exciting as when Pa told it to her, and now children all over the world have an intimate glimpse into the little stories of people who lived one or two hundred years ago, who, if they had not passed on their stories, would be lost to the mists of time.
Every child loves a story. They love to be told stories, they love to read them, to watch them, to tell them themselves. The story is the way to preserve our family history, that of our ancestors, ourselves, and our children, for our posterity, for humanity.
And that is what this blog is for – to capture these stories, the little stories, the stories that make up our lives. To teach our children the importance of listening, of learning, of passing on, the stories of their elders, and the stories of themselves – the stories that make up their family. This is a place to learn how – how to discover the stories, how to preserve them, and to share them with others. A safe place to share stories. Stay with us for ways to make it happen, and bring your children along. We’re excited to have you along for the journey.
Welcome to Storybook Ancestor—
Let’s tell our stories!