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11 1 Stories of Community and Work in the Redd Center Oral History Program jessie l. embry Historian Jessie L. Embry discusses how community and work are two themes of the oral history projects she has conducted at the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies. A very personal reason for doing some of the interviews was that she wanted to preserve family history and understand how her family reflected larger regional and national experiences. The interviews were more than personal documents . Embry used them in books and articles to explain a larger historical setting. Other scholars have also found them useful for their research. As with all sources, these scholars’ themes and their conclusions have sometimes been very different than Embry’s. The research would have not been possible or as rich without the opportunity to talk directly with the interviewees. looking back on my forty-plus years doing oral history, I believe interviews have been a valuable enterprise for my family, for my own research, and for other scholars. Because I work for a western studies center, my focus has always been on the American West. Oral history has been invaluable in documenting the towns and cities in the West and the larger communities of occupations, religion , sports, and ethnic groups. Although there are many themes 12 jessie l. embry in the oral history projects I have conducted and directed, two of the most valuable are community and work, and they fit the common threads found in this volume. These authors and I explain how people whose voices might have been completely lost are remembered as their stories are recorded. These individual stories complicate and add more layers to the simple stereotypes of life in the American West. In my experience, oral history often starts at a basic level—the desire to know more about oneself. I grew up in North Logan, Cache Valley, Utah, and I have lived much of my life in Provo, Utah. I am a product of the western myths of open spaces and the individualistic “can-do-it” attitude. I am also a product of the Mormon community support system. I show the dilemma many westerners face. Beyond that individual focus, I do oral history to flesh out my family history and understand my roots. My favorite interview is still the one I did with my father, Bertis L. Embry. He had always wanted to write his history, but he never put it together. When I sat down to interview him, I asked the first question, and he talked for three hours. I went back several more times and collected a total of eight hours of tape. At the time it seemed like a lot, and yet I sometimes wish I had asked him about other areas of his life. I am always glad I got some of his stories before dementia took over his mind. My father was a product of the western American dream. His story fits Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier model. He came to Utah from Tennessee because his parents were seeking a community of Mormons and better work opportunities for themselves and their children. The West provided the open space and land for the Embrys that Turner suggested led to American democracy. My father ’s story adds some interesting twentieth-century twists to the narrative. My grandfather did not homestead on free land. Instead, he developed a business trucking fruit and cattle. He and my grandmother wanted more for his children and, like Turner, believed that the new frontier was education.1 My grandparents relocated to Logan, Utah, so their children could attend Utah State University and live at home. It was a belief that continued for at least another generation. In our home, we understood that education was the ticket to a better life. Stories of Community and Work 13 My grandparents bought a home in a Logan neighborhood known locally as “Little Berlin” because many of the residents were immigrants and spoke German. Most of them were from Switzerland and not Germany, but the Logan residents did not recognize the difference. My grandparents felt very much a part of the community and were accepted by the Swiss Mormons not only because they shared the same faith but also because they came from a similar lower-middle-class background. The connection to the community was strengthened because my father had served a mission in Germany. He met some of the Logan Swiss immigrants’ children while he was on...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816599271
Related ISBN
9780816530175
MARC Record
OCLC
859161562
Pages
360
Launched on MUSE
2013-10-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
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