I have written two history books Vancouver’s Glory Years (Whitecap Books 2003), co-written with Henry Ewert, and Vancouver’s Trolley Buses 1948-1998. Both feature never-before-published photographs and examine the sociocultural impact that public transit had in shaping Vancouver and the lives of its residents.
While working at BC Transit, I conducted oral history interviews with retired transit employees and included historic photos and stories in the employee newsletter.
I researched and wrote historical articles for The Greater Vancouver Book edited by Chuck Davis:
The History of Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC:
Early Coastal Explorers to Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest:
After graduating in History at the University of British Columbia, I worked as an oral historian in northern Ontario for the Ministry of Natural Resources. It was fascinating to interview old trappers, loggers, and prospectors and to document stories about horse logging and life in the bush in the 1930s and ’40s.
I talked to men who thought nothing of carving their own paddle if they needed one or making their own snowshoes. I heard tales of a foul-mouthed blacksmith who could create much-needed horseshoes on the spot in the backwoods. I interviewed a retired fire spotter who pored over forests from an open-air plane in search of flames. I learned about forest fires and how German POWs in northern Ontario, put to work in logging camps, were popular with local women at weekly dances.
It was wonderful to meet rugged men and women who had forged livelihoods in the challenging bush of Canada’s north. My job was to document the human history of Wakami Lake Provincial Park. Besides writing weekly history articles for The Chapleau Sentinel, I wrote material for the park interpretive programs. Through theatrical reenactments, we brought the region’s characters of old to life, inviting campers to “meet” them on an evening walk in the woods. That work was fun. My research also provided background material and helped identify artifacts for the park’s outdoor museum.
Here are excerpts from the interview transcripts and report that I did:
In another oral history study, I interviewed residents of the classic fishing village Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia on Canada’s east coast. My mandate was to document the impact of tourism on this much-visited coastal gem and write a report for the Atlantic Center for the Environment/Quebec-Labrador Foundation, based in Ipswich, MA. I wrote the article “Life in a fish bowl” for Atlantic Insight magazine.
This SoulCollage card that I created, which represents the historian part of me, features an image of the first streetcar in San Francisco.
What is oral history?
This living form of history records people’s memories and anecdotes through sound (and sometimes visual) recording. It allows people to share their personal experiences in their own words, maintaining the richness of their language and unique forms of self-expression. It gives a voice to those who otherwise might not be heard.
FAMILY AND COMMUNITY: Save your cherished stories
Consider oral history interviews. One thing that makes them different from regular questioning is the lack of leading questions. Unlike a reporter, the interviewer does not try to influence the subject’s perspective.
A great way to start: Dig out old photos. They will inspire great stories and bring back old memories. Don’t let those great stories of old-timers in your family and community disappear. Once they die, the stories are often gone.
For further information, try these resources:
For an excellent example of oral history, try the Foxfire series of books, one of the first popular series written. Each volume has a different editor.
In these engaging books, a teacher in Appalachia transformed his classroom into a collection of fascinating folklore and practical tips. He had his students share and record what they learned at home, from log-cabin-building and mountain crafts to faith healing and moonshine recipes.