I recently took many, many trips down memory lane. These weren’t my memories; these were memories of dozens of people, most of whom are no longer living. The majority of these memories were captured in articles, books and magazines more than 50 years ago. Some were even captured in newspapers a century before that.
All of this work was done for book recounting the history of Boone County, Indiana. The book features stories of individuals, locations and legends. There’s a tale of two Civil War-era teens in a graveyard prank, a remembrance of young twins who tragically died a few years apart, and a story of military veteran Anson Mills who sold his company and used a portion of the windfall to update the water system in his hometown. Some, like Mills, were pulled from the subjects’ own memories. Others, like the deaths of the twins, were recorded in detailed obituaries posted in their father’s newspaper. Dozens of other tales were reported in the Boone County Magazine, a monthly and bi-monthly publication available in the 1970s and 80s that provided glimpses of county history interspersed with some current happenings and interviews.
My trips into the memories of others began several years ago when I was creating scenes for a local haunted history event called GhostWalk. The event features short vignettes based on true stories and performed by locals. Creating these stories and undergoing this research led to the connection to create the book in the first place.
One of my goals in creating stories for GhostWalk has always been to help educate people in an entertaining way. Knowing a little more about our communities and the people before us can help us better appreciate the small details that are usually overlooked: the wavy brick buildings, the covered windows of a tavern that once displayed carriages, a stained glass window of a former library.
Another goal by recounting these stories for GhostWalk – and now the book – is to recapture and highlight some of these memories that are almost lost. If some of them can be reaffirmed every century or so, perhaps there’s a greater chance that they won’t disappear completely.
Capturing memories is not always the case over the course of history. Decades ago I had the opportunity to record my grandparents’ stories, yet I didn’t appreciate the urgency. Now that opportunity is lost. When I was a journalist for the local weekly paper, I hoped that I could make up for it by telling the stories of some local residents. Several of those people are no longer with us, and I can only hope their memories will be around for others to appreciate.
The funny thing about memories is that they aren’t always correct. Our memories become faded and bent over time, sometimes reappearing in a different time than their true place. They may be biased, they may be protective, yet often the emotion connected with the memory is real. These emotions can drive our understanding of place and time. In my Boone County research, I encountered conflicted or omitted information in several circumstances. The real truth perhaps is less about fact-finding and more about perspective. The emotion behind some of these circumstances – frustration, sadness, annoyance – still came through despite the truth. That can be more telling than the facts themselves.
When my book is released in April, I anticipate others will enjoy these varied trips through the memories of others. Perhaps it will inspire someone else to take their own trip down memory lane, and record it before it disappears forever.