Studs Terkel



The Story of our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It

The following is taken from a blog written by a former local politician who has a different source of facts than me. Everyone has a right to their own opinions, but not their own facts. I have no objection to his twisted description of me, but his questioning of my lack of wisdom due to my age struck a cord. If you would be interested in reading his blog, Google Don Cooks and read the Sierra’s Dragon’s Breath. I read it and find it interesting. The following is part of a picture of me.

“He is a good example of a democrat without logic.  When I read his tripe it is apparent to me he has no idea what politics is about.  Even though he says he has been around the block (meaning he is old), the block he is talking about must be pretty small.  Maybe the lane around the house?”

As we age the one thing that almost everyone fears is the loss of independence. We spend our infancy, childhood and adult years trying to achieve the valuable prize of independence. However, as we age we may lose the ability to drive, to make decisions and to do many daily activities by ourselves. Unfortunately, it is human nature to take for granted the many things that we do on our own each day. I’m still able to read and write, but have slowed down in this area. My short term memory has diminished, but my memory of the distant past has become clearer.   

My son brought me one of Studs Terkel’s books written in 1994, “Coming of Age”; The story of our century by those who have lived it. For those not familiar with Studs I will write a thumbnail sketch of him as have been a follower of him since the 1930s.

Studs Terkel has built a career on the hunch that pretty much everyone might be worth trying to talk to: the rich and famous certainly, and burglars and murderers and Ku Klux Klansmen – but most of all the teeming unexamined mass of American life in between.

Armed with a tape recorder, he has interviewed hundreds of people, producing a series of books that tell the story of the American century verbatim, and from the ground up: day-labourers, poor farmers and gangsters for Hard Times, his book about the Depression; everyone from steelworkers to hookers for Working, about the realities of employment in America; and his Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicle of the second world war, The Good War. They are the sound of a nation spontaneously unburdening itself to the first person who had thought to ask.        

 I have read most of his books, but this one brought back many memories. He died in 2008 at 96, but considered him one of my contemporaries. His interviews were limited to people from 70 to 96 years old where I fit in.

 Think of what’s stored in an 80 or 90 years old mind. This is the reason I write more about history than opinions as besides being 89 I’ve been an avid student of history.   

 Many of these people are no longer with us and the few left from my generation are about to disappear. With them we will lose a first hand source of an interesting era. The blocks I traveled around were extensive; from depressions, prohibition, many wars, overt racism, Anti Semitism, popular bank robbers, silent movies and on and on. Terkel’s book brings out the experiences of these through the eyes people from different stations in life.

 I like to talk to young people as find them interesting and keeps me more understanding of today’s culture. My disappointment is they don’t appear to be interested in history and ask few questions about the past.

Most of my grandchildren don’t read my blog and they are the generation I write for.

 It is the malady of our age that the young are so busy teaching us that they have no time left to learn.–Eric Hoffer


3 responses to “Studs Terkel

  1. I am also a fan of Studs Turkel. The people that live through the history are the best reporters of it especially after time has passed and they have experienced the outcome within their lives. I know that being a teen during the Vietnam war I view it differently then those that only study it. I remember how tense we all were watching people we knew being drafted. I remember the scenes of war on the nightly news, (which has now been been censored because the government realized how damaging that was). I now see documentaries and read books on the subject and I realize how little we really knew about the decision makers and their motives. It is a part of history that I lived.

    I appreciate your blog and all that it brings to those that read it. Your age and experience added to your study and interpretation gives a good educated account of issues and raises important questions.

  2. Vicki Sue McKinnis

    I am sorry that you have been the victim of such a small person that he “attacks the person rather than keeping the arguments to ideas.” I find your blog interesting and appreciate the information and opinions you share. However, I am afraid that I must be grouped with those who have lost interest in what’s going on in the government. It’s hard for me to even watch the news anymore, as it increasingly appears that the media is controlled by “those in charge.” We are not given the truth about what’s really going on and important decisions are made behind closed doors without our input. To keep our minds off the “hijackers of our government” the media keeps us fighting amongst ourselves and blaming opposing political parties for the problems being created due to the graft and corruption of those actually making the decisions.

  3. Even if young people are not interested now, writing it down makes it available for them when they realize the value of it. Thanks for making a difference and writing.

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