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183 Conclusion Remembering Craw The Craw is gone, as are most of its longtime residents. Surface assumptions would suggest that individuals “remember” only the span of their own lives, a common perception of the nature and constraints of human memory and thus of oral history. However, this vague perception ignores the crucial role of traditional, or public , memory in the process of constructing individual and collective historical identities. The subjects of many of the narratives of Craw existing in contemporary historical consciousness extend well beyond the temporal limits of the tellers’ own lifetimes. John Fallis, the legendary “King of Craw,” was killed in 1929. Most of the individuals interviewed in this collection were young children when this event occurred. Although they did not necessarily recollect personal experiences with Fallis, they knew a core set of narrative details that they freely offered regarding Fallis’s life. Stories about Fallis are just one example of the many components of esoteric knowledge necessary for ongoing participation in this particular community. Stories are passed on through generations and woven into the fabric of collective identity. In fact, the transmission of knowledge through space and time is integral to cultural experience. The act of transmitting this traditional knowledge in communicative events, including oral history interviews, frames contemporary worldviews, informing, defining, and redefining shared identities and thus simultaneously creating and perpetuating community, even in memory. From the neighborhood’s beginnings, public perception of Craw selectively focused on the criminal aspects of the neighborhood’s reputation . Crime remained prominent in the ongoing reformulation of the public memory of Craw as expressed by neighborhood outsiders and, to a surprising degree, by many of those former residents whom Wallace interviewed in the early 1990s. Even though Wallace’s 184 CRAWFISH BOTTOM interviews were consciously and intentionally framed to elicit countermemories , both interviewees and interviewer found themselves collaboratively recalling narratives reflecting both extremes of the neighborhood’s remembered past. They talked nostalgically about the closeness of the community but concurrently celebrated historical reputations that made the neighborhood extraordinary from a historical perspective. Nostalgia in these oral history interviews is consistently balanced by the real and the sensational in individual memories. The newly expressed countermemories deconstruct historical memory of the neighborhood and bring a reconstituted public memory into balance. The physical destruction of this particular neighborhood did not suffice for local urban renewal advocates, who wanted to dispose of the memory of Craw along with the physical neighborhood. Farnham Dudgeon told the press in 1965 that there were “too many people thinking of the area as ‘the Craw.’” He predicted that public memory would soon forget the neighborhood and hoped that “when our kids grow up they will never know ‘the Bottoms’ were there.”1 Dudgeon was wrong. It has been thirty years since urban renewal erased the physical presence of the neighborhood, and Craw is not forgotten. The former residents of the neighborhood, Ron Herron, The neighborhood’s destruction as urban renewal begins. Courtesy of Nell Cox. Conclusion 185 James “Papa Jazz” Berry, Jim Wallace, and I have all attempted to insure otherwise. The narrative reconstruction of Craw creates a community in memory. Shared identity in this community originally emerged from the experience of growing up together in the Bottom; that experience resulted in the formation of a shared cultural frame of reference , a shared sense of place, a shared repertoire of community symbols and stories. Jim Wallace’s oral history project empowered former residents to challenge dominant public memory and reclaim their community-based identity. Historian Michael Kammen writes that communities reconstruct their past according to the needs of the present.2 In the spirit of James “Papa Jazz” Berry’s printed defense of the neighborhood, Wallace’s project enabled former residents to gain some sense of control over historical meaning and articulate a more relevant and “usable” past.3 For former residents, this past gave meaning to their present and provided an ongoing connection to a long-cherished place. Jim Wallace’s oral history project reframed the neighborhood narrative in the public sphere. As John R. Gillis notes, “Commemorative activity is by definition social and political, for it involves the coordination of individual and group memories.”4 Commemoration occurs on three levels of Jim Wallace’s oral history project. First, remembrance occurs between the interviewer and the informant; as the interviewer, Jim Wallace became an active participant in the commemorative event. Commemoration also occurs at the community level as isolated individuals come together—although not physically in this...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813134093
Related ISBN
9780813134086
MARC Record
OCLC
781438527
Pages
236
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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