A few years before he passed away, I had a chance to interview Scorchy Tawes for Chesapeake Life. The chronicler of life and lore of Delmarva mentioned that he still had files of people and stories he never had the chance to cover before he retired. It would have been terribly rude of me to ask to have access to those files, but I thought about it then and since. Now, like Scorchy, most of those contacts are gone forever.
Delmarva is a fragile thing in that respect. Isolated from the mainland of Maryland and Virginia with most of Delaware also removed from the metros to the north and west, it developed its own culture and traditions. That’s changing as technology and communication homogenize the planet. The things that make this place unique are vanishing and with them, some of our soul goes, too.
Preserving the legacy is the goal of a project of the Worcester and Somerset County Libraries. Using a grant from the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, they’ve started “Your Story: A Digital Storytelling Opportunity.” Once a month people with stories about the region from the past are invited to come and record them. The idea is to create an in-depth picture of life here from 1914-2000.
“We want to capture the stories so future generations can see and hear them,” says Lisa Outten-Stant, who runs the adult programs and public relations for the Worcester Library System. “We are looking for older people who remember what the county was like. There were so many jobs, like canning or the railroads. What the towns were like. What life was like.” There are World War 2 veterans who have their memories of the war and what it was like leaving here and then returning, and members of the Civilian Conservation Corps which was deeply involved in the agriculture during the Depression.
The response has been encouraging. Not only are people calling to make appointments for their storytelling, but “we get calls saying ‘You need to talk to so-and-so.’ Most of the time people come to the library but if someone can’t get here, we try to take the equipment to them.”
All of the recordings are up and running at the Ocean Pines branch of the library. Lisa says the new material is added after every recording session, and it’s an on-going project which will continue as long as the grant money lasts or can be renewed.
The next opportunity is Feb. 24 at the Berlin Branch. Other sessions are set up over the next few months at Snow Hill and Crisfield. You need to call to make an appointment and to get the whole schedule. 410-632-3970, 410-208-2910.