veteran oral historY
"Every veteran has a story. Go find that story."
I didn't even have to go find the story. The story came to me at dinner tonight.
"Where are you from?" the retired major general asked around the table at the Korean War Veterans teacher conference.
"Where in North Carolina?"
"In Mecklenburg County?"
"Garinger High School?"
"No, but I know people at that school" (shout out, Mr Tornfelt!)
"I'm a graduate of Central High School in Charlotte, North Carolina class of 1954."
"I know that school! It's Central Piedmont Community College now but Central High School is still chiseled into the stone of the building"
"It used to be on Elizabeth Avenue."
"That's the one!"
"I quit high school in Georgia and joined the army. When I returned from the Korean War, my mother had moved from our small town in Georgia for a better job in Charlotte. She worked at a place called Belk's"
"We still have that. Don't you have a Belk's here?"
"Yes. She told me, 'Look, when you come home, don't come home. I've moved. Come to Charlotte.' So I got off the bus and knew no one. I lived at 1021 West Trade Street. I delivered the morning papers for a paper called the Charlotte Observer."
"We still have that!"
"The paper's still there? The editor of the sports section was a man named Furman Fisher."
"He's probably long gone."
" He later became the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I delivered the Charlotte Observer 6 days a week plus Sundays and I charged my customers 40 cents a week for home delivery.
I went back and got my high school diploma from Central High School. The principal's name was Mr. Ott. He saved my life. The little town in Georgia where I'm from didn't offer courses for college prep. I wasn't prepared and I was two years older than all the other students. He took me under his wing and he called Georgia Tech and he said, 'Look, I've got a Korean War veteran here and he still needs college prep Algebra and Chemistry and I'm gonna give him a semester of each and send him to you and you admit him.' He knew the man, see? And that's how I went to college and it saved my life."
Major General John McWaters went on to earn his engineering degree from Georgia Tech and then returned to the army to serve another 38 years as a combat engineer.
"I built a lot of floating bridges. Distinguished visitors crossed my bridges. Eisenhower went across my bridges. You know the bridge that got blown up in the movie The Green Berets with John Wayne? We built that bridge."
What stories are your students missing out on? Get them involved in oral history.
Below are get started links from the conference. Sample questions, interview and filming tips and permissions and waivers are available from the organization.
I am Lisa Gurthie the PD facilitator at Piedmont IB Middle School. She specializes in tech and arts integration, interdisciplinary, holistic education, and unschooling school to make it more real and relevant. One day I will modernize my "about" page. Check out the other blogs on this site for Lesson Ideas, Celebration of Good Teaching, and Piedmont PD