On Monday, April 30, my two freshman Honors World History classes had the most marvelous experience. We walked to the Fuller and Levi Gould houses and spent the day with 21 veterans and civilians of the World War II era, interviewing them about their experiences during the war years.
To the editor:
On Monday, April 30, my two freshman Honors World History classes had the most marvelous experience. We walked to the Fuller and Levi Gould houses and spent the day with 21 veterans and civilians of the World War II era, interviewing them about their experiences during the war years. The event was amazing, and something my students will not soon forget, not only because they have been busy transcribing the tape recordings and organizing their notes into biographies, which will soon be completed, but because the stories that they heard and the memories that were shared are so much more vivid and relevant than anything that I could tell them or that they could read in a textbook about the war.
This unique experience was made possible by a true community effort, and my students and I would like to publicly thank those who helped to make the event a success. Donations from Honey Dew Donuts, Domino’s Pizza, Corner Deli, Liberty Bell, Sweet Spot, Shaw’s of Melrose and Foodmaster, as well as 100 sandwiches made by Mrs. Savarino (whose husband served in World War II and whose grandson was one of the students on the trip) served as the basis for breakfast and lunch. Additional monetary donations from attorney Anna Bastian, attorney Judith Clark and the dental office of Solomon and Wright funded the rest of the meals, as well as helped to pay for decorations, and tapes and batteries for the tape recorders. The tape recorders themselves were purchased with money provided by a Melrose Learning and Understanding Needs Community Help (LAUNCH) grant and an extremely generous donation from retired Melrose High School principal Dr. Daniel Burke. The local Army National Guard, Navy, Air Force and Marine recruiters provided notebooks and writing instruments for students to take notes during the interviews, and Kabloom donated flowers to thank the interviewees for their participation.
This event would not have been possible without the cooperation of a number of individuals and community organizations who did the “legwork” of bringing together all of our interviewees. Jack Beckley from the Council on Aging was invaluable in getting the ball rolling and Eileen Olsen filled in seamlessly when Jack needed to take some time off. Alice Barber from the Fuller and Levi Gould houses provided the meeting space and personally recruited a number of folks from those residences to join us, and Mike Marciello from the Veterans Service Board was helpful in spreading the word and bringing in additional veterans. My personal thanks go out also to Barbara Murphy from the Fuller and Gould houses and to Carl Sacco, the father of one of my students, who chaperoned the trip. They helped to pick up food, set up the meeting spaces, and generally served as extra eyes and ears (and, in Mr. Sacco’s case, as a videographer), and helped to take a great deal of stress off my shoulders.
And last, but most certainly not least, my students and I would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks to the veterans and civilians who took the time to share their experiences with us. It is now every day that students can actually see and touch history. The stories, memories and artifacts that were shared on April 30 have made history come alive for these students, who are literally still talking about their interviews. (In fact, several of my young men informed me the other day that it was Charlie Reynolds’s 77th birthday, and several of my young women informed me that John Murphy’s birthday is this week.) Some of my students have been so inspired by this event that they are either currently in the process of interviewing their own grandparents (one as far away as Bulgaria!) or are planning to do so in the near future.
The excitement, the participation and the community support for this event far exceeded my expectations, and I am truly grateful to everyone who has helped to make a long-term dream of mine come true. Hopefully we can make this sort of “living history” exchange a yearly event! Thank you again to all who were involved.Lisa Lord Social Studies Department Melrose High School