Archive for the ‘Scrapbooking’ Category

Grandpa – Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days…

by Sherry Stocking Kline
First published in the Wichita Eagle’s Active Life Magazine – April 2002

Getting Grandpa to talk about the “good ole’ days” really isn’t as hard as you might think. All you have to do is set the stage, bring along some props, and be prepared with plenty of questions.

Pat Gaddie grew up listening to her Grandpa Sam tell his Irish jingles, share stories about blue racer snakes chasing him through fields, and the wagon trip he made in 1902 when he was eighteen and his family moved from Tennessee to Oklahoma.

“He lived next door to us when I was small,” Gaddie said, “and when I was eight or nine years old, he used to tell stories to entertain me.”

How to Keep Them Story Telling…

Not everyone enjoys reminiscing, but if your Grandpa (or Grandma) does, here are a few tips to keep them story telling.

Decide what you want to know, make a list of questions, then ask the most important ones first.

What’s your priority? Is it facts, figures, dates, and places, the who begat who and where or when, or is it the stories that you want to hear?

Are there family legends that you want to verify or clarify, or do you want to hear how he proposed to Grandma, laugh about the night he and his bride were chivareed, or see D-Day through his eyes?

Set the stage.

Old photographs and family memorabilia are great memory triggers, and can prompt a flood of memories, so bring out the high school play bills and yearbooks, wedding photos, and photographs of the plane Grandpa  flew in the service. When he shows you the photo of his first car, be sure and ask him about the job he took to pay for it.

Take field trips to old schools, cemeteries, and other meaningful places, and travel to Grandpa’s hometown and drive by his old schoolhouse. You may learn who put the snake in the teacher’s desk, the story behind Grandpa’s nickname, and more.

Remember that Grandpa’s dates may be approximate, as he’ll likely remember events as happening “the year of the big blizzard, the summer of the drought, or just before Beverly was born”.

Bev Malone interviews older family members to flesh out stories and verify the information.

“The best way to get the stories flowing about family members is to ask about people and things, not personalities,” Malone said.

Make sure your cameras, and audio or video recorders have fresh batteries, and take along spares. If you need an extra memory card for your cameras (or film) be sure to take that along, too.

“Recorders can make people nervous,” Malone said, so she breaks the ice by asking, “Do you mind if I tape this? My brain can’t keep it all in my head.”

Take notes, just in case technology lets you down, and transcribe your notes as soon as possible.

Need help with your list of questions?

There are books that can help, such Emily Anne Croom’s “Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook” with questions tailored for different decades in history, and Janice T. Dixon’s “Family Focused” with question lists and suggestions to help you conduct interviews and gather information.

What’s Dixon’s advice in “Family Focused” to interviewers?

“Be relaxed, don’t interrupt, don’t contradict, and don’t ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no.”

“Keep the flow of conversation going,” Dixon said, “you can go back and ask questions later.”

Gaddie cherishes and shares her Grandpa Sam’s stories with her family, a process that can add valuable information to your research as well as give you new questions to ask.

With a little planning, the next time you visit Grandpa, you may learn more about your grandfather, your parents – perhaps even yourself.

Journal Your Summer Photos Now!

by Sherry Stocking Kline
first published in Wichita Eagle’s Active Life Magazine – September 2000

Now that summer’s over, and you’ve got a shoebox full of vacation, grandchildren, wedding, and graduation photographs, it’s time for you to preserve those memories between the pages of a book, like a pressed flower, to be enjoyed again and again.

So where do you start first?

“Get some history attached to those photos,” said Bob McCreary, “that’s the first and probably the most important step.”

McCreary and his wife Kathy co-own Scrapbook Garden, Wichita, Kansas. McCreary said that Kathy carries photographs with her in her purse and whenever she has a few minutes while watching television, waiting for the doctor, or waiting to get a driver’s license she sorts photos and makes quick notes on the back with a photo safe pencil.

Once you have them sorted, McCreary said it’s really a quick step after that to put the photos in an acid-free, lignin-free photo album, and then “journal” or tell about the photos.

Each year, Gerry Reimer does a summer vacation album, and adds more pages to her all-Christmas album.

Journals Don’t Have to Be Elaborate…

Reimer said not to let your friends’ elaborate journals scare you off. “Streamline,” Reimer said, “get the photos on the page, and get the people identified.”

“First of all,” Reimer said, “Tell yourself it’s o.k. not to use all the photos you have.” Reimer said to choose pictures that tell who you are and where you were at that time, and be sure and include names and dates in your albums.

“I don’t keep a travel diary,” Reimer said, but Reimer said she jots down a few notes, picks up ticket stubs, colored brochures, saves travel itineraries and whatever else they might want to use in their vacation albums.

Reimer said you’ll know what you want to do, and what you don’t, after you finish your first book. Reimer’s first photo album was her wedding album.

“We’d been married 49 years,” Reimer said, and I didn’t like our wedding photos, so I had a wonderful time cropping off what I didn’t like and journaling about the pictures.” Reimer said she does “bullet journaling”, or writes short statements under most photos, saving long stories for special photographs or events.

Start With Recent Photo’s…

Bonnie Loewen, Creative Memories consultant, said the easiest way to get started is with your last roll of film while your memory of the event is fresh, and work your way backwards.

Tell A Story…

Loewen said to tell a story with words as well as with pictures. How were you feeling? What was going on in the family, and the world? Loewen said even the current price of bread and gasoline will be interesting to future generations.

Loewen said to write as you would talk, don’t worry about punctuation, and write a sloppy first draft. You can re-write it later, Loewen said.

Answer the Five W’s – Engage the Five Senses…

Think about the five senses and the five W’s, advised both McCreary and Loewen, adding that it will make ideas for captioning your photos come easier. Just remember to answer the questions who, what, when, where, and why questions, and engage the emotions by writing about how something looked, sounded, tasted, felt, and smelled.

Preserve Your Handwriting, too…

McCreary said and its faster to use a computer to journal, but it’s not as personal, so he said not to be afraid to write in pencil and go over it later with a permanent marker, or even cover up mistakes with cardstock.

“Some people don’t like their handwriting,” McCreary said, “but people years from now will cherish seeing the handwriting of the person who made the journal.”

Scrapbooks can help bridge the generation gap, so along with vacation, wedding and family photos, include stories and pictures of military service and other events to help future generations understand the times you lived through, and what makes your family special.

Ordinary Days are Important…

Loewen said it’s also good to make pages of what an ordinary day was like in your family, too, not just the special events. “And make a signature page,” Loewen said, with your name, date, who the album is for, and why you did it, “it’s kind of like signing a quilt.”

If you have a lifetime of photographs ask for help from your family. Reimer said that kids and grandchildren are great to help photo captions.

McCreary agreed, “it’s good to get family members involved.”

“Make it a fun activity,” McCreary said, “have everyone sit down and talk about the photos, and try to communicate some of the emotion.” You get different perspectives of an event by talking to different people.

“It’s really exciting that people are making a legacy and trying to pass on their roots and their values,” Loewen said, “values can be lost in one generation if they are not preserved.”

“People will forget you in one generation if you don’t tell your story,” Loewen said, “you can make such a difference in people’s lives with a scrapbook.”

“In a sense,” Reimer said, “your whole book is the story of your family.”

Photographing Your Family History

by Sherry Stocking Kline
Wichita Eagle’s June 2001 “Active Life”

When Tammy Pontious’s great-grandchildren look at her family history scrapbook many years from now, Pontious doesn’t want them to see stiff, posed photos of people in their Sunday best clothes. She wants them to be able to see what they were like when they were working and playing.

“The key is to carry your camera with you,” said Pontious, who keeps her camera handy and often carries it along when she drives her daily school-bus route. “You’ll have missed opportunities if you don’t.”

Bob McCreary, who co-owns Scrapbook Garden, www.scrapbookgarden.com, with his wife Kathy, agreed. Many people keep one of the “point-and-shoot” or disposable cameras that take remarkably good photographs handy, said McCreary, adding that for a clearer photo with a point and shoot camera, you must aim the focal point of the camera at someone in the group and not at the background.

Because photographing people in front of a simple background is often better, Pontious looks at the background before snapping and decides if it will help tell the story or just clutter up the photograph, though with today’s digital software, it’s fairly simple to crop out, blur, or even replace an unwanted background.

Close-up’s are great for people photos and eliminating distracting backgrounds, but check your camera’s manual before taking one, advises Kodak.com, as some cameras cannot focus closer than four feet from the subject.  When using a flash, you need to check your flashes’ useful range as well. For many cameras, anything past 10 to 12 feet is a dark blur, as any concert goer can attest to after snapping photo after photo only to get home with photos of a shiny bald head about eight feet in front of them.

Pontious, who calls herself “a picture fanatic,” said you need to take lots of photographs.

“You just can’t be stingy with the film,” Pontious said, “for $8.00, you’ll probably come up with two or three photos that you’re in love with.”

For sharp, clear photographs, hold the camera steady, and try Pontious’ technique of visualizing the photo before gently pressing the shutter button. Pontious said she also tries a variety of different and unique angles, works to capture candid facial expressions, and likes to catch her family’s silhouettes in profile shots.

Pontious also ‘stalks’ the wildlife on their river farm, catches her dogs in silly poses, snaps her mom relaxing on the porch swing, and her husband and son while they work, hunt, and fish.

“That’s our lives,” Pontious said. Our descendants may say, “look what great-grandpa did back in those days.”

“You know the old saying about 1000 words? There is a lot of information that finds its way into a photo almost by accident, and sometimes it becomes significant to us later.” McCreary said.

“It’s candid shots of people doing things that tell the story of our lives,” McCreary said, “if Uncle Ralph was a farmer – take a photo of him on his combine. If someone hunts or fishes a lot get a photo of the big catch.”

To avoid that squinty-eyed look outdoors, photograph people on overcast days or in the shade using fill-in flash to highlight faces and chase away the shadows. Pontious said her favorite time of the day to take outdoor photographs is in the early morning or late afternoon, and said that she also likes to photograph subjects using the warm, natural lighting near a window.

“I just don’t like what I end up with at high noon,” Pontious said, “the photos all end up looking washed out.”

Pontious said that she looks for little situations and happenings, but she also works to create photographic events.

How does she do that? She sets up fun events for people to enjoy. One event that yielded some favorite photographs was a tea party she held for several laughing and giggling young cousins while she sat the corner of the porch “click, click, clicking away.”

McCreary said that while you are capturing your family in photographs, don’t forget to photograph your home(s), inside and out, and your yard, farm, barns, and outbuildings that are a part of your life today, and may be only a memory someday.

Pontious treasures the family resemblances she sees in the photographs of grandparents that died before she was born. She said that many of their photographs have been passed down from one person to another, from one generation to another, from trunks to attics, and came on covered wagons from there to here. She feels she is handing down a family history treasure to her son Dallas.

“A photo can tell you everything in the world,” Pontious said, “emotions, social status, whether they were rich or poor, lifestyle, facial features, looks and personality. What I would hope,” Pontious said, “is that it will tell them my values, hopes, dreams and what I accomplished.”

Someday she hopes that her descendants will look at her family history book and read the anecdotes, stories, and poems that are woven throughout, and will choose to preserve it, and hand it down again.

“Who knows where they’ll go in my son’s journey,” Pontious said.

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