Keeping memories alive

By Carol / September 17, 2012 /

Everything that happens has the potential to trigger memories. Some events define a moment in time for many people. Other events may mean something to only one person. In all cases, memories stay alive because someone tells the stories over and over.

My mother was our family’s memory keeper. She worked mainly in pictures, creating an album for each of us each year. When I wrote my childhood memoir, the memory keeper mantle passed to my shoulders. Meeting another memory keeper, seeing how they keep and share their stories, is always a treat.

Memory Keeper Wayne Christgau shared memories with me at The Surf.

Last week, my husband and I visited the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. The Surf is famous because Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens played their last concert there before boarding a charter plane that crashed shortly after takeoff. The Day the Music Died.

As interesting as seeing where these icons of 50’s music spent their last hours, was meeting Wayne Christgau, Surf historian. Each area in the Surf tour elicited a story about Buddy Holly and a story about Wayne’s life.

Wayne’s first visit to the Surf predates Buddy Holly and it predates his memory. His parents brought him there when he was only three years old so they could dance to Count Basie and his orchestra. The blanket his mother wrapped him in to sleep that night hangs in his office. It’s over 100 years old. Wayne does remember his second visit, when he was seven years old. He remembers a box of colors he couldn’t have, the sandwich and cookies he ate, the feel of his mother’s coat keeping him warm as he fell asleep.

The Surf Ballroom named to National Registry of Historic Places

The stories he told were so interesting because they were so vivid and so personal. The Buddy Holly stories are more memorable because Wayne’s stories are part of them.

The Surf Ballroom was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in September 2011. Wayne’s role in keeping the memories of the Surf and Buddy Holly alive were recognized when he was inducted into the Iowa Rock’n Roll Music Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

Every family has stories that are worth keeping. How that happens is unique to each family. I’m curious. How do you preserve your stories? Does your family have a memory keeper? Are the memories kept in pictures, songs, journals, told orally or written down?

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  1. Janna Shay on September 17, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Terrific post. I liked hearing your story of visiting the Surf Ballroom. What an interesting place. I live in Northern California and been to Clear Lake and never visited the Surf Ballroom. I’ll have to make a point to stop there next time I’m in the area.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on September 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      Thanks, Janna. The Surf is a ‘must see’ when you get back to Clear Lake. You’ll feel as though you stepped back 50 years in time. Be sure to check out the Green Room.

  2. Becky Gjendem on December 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    I am the family memory keeper, and I’ve got dozens of photo albums and scrapbooks to prove it. 🙂 I have fallen behind, though, in recent years. I need to catch up!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on December 11, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      I can relate, Becky. Everyone knows I’m interested in history, so I’m the go-to person for everyone to give family mementos to or to ask me to do things. I have all Mom’s photo albums. She did an extensive album for each year. They are an awesome library to be responsible for.

  3. Gina Stoneheart on August 12, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    What a lovely post, Carol. Most of my family members are advocates of photo albums, but my mother and I also keep journals. There have been many stories passed down through word of mouth, however, I try to write as much as I can down because I won’t be able to tell them as well as my mother and grandmother do. Now, it’s so much easier to keep everything digital. One day, I’d like to scan in all of our pictures and do something really special for the entire family. Thanks for sharing!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on August 12, 2013 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks, Gina. My mother was very big on photo albums, but she shared stories orally as well. I wish I’d done what you are – writing those stories down right away to get the exact turn of phrase. Scanning is a big task but that strikes me as the next step for all of Mom’s photo albums. So much to do!

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