Woodrat Podcast 27: Harold C. Myers, a kid from the Vulcan

Harold Myers and family
Harold as a boy, left, and in the center front of the photo on the right, with his brother and father, both named Walter, his mother Georgina Dresch, and his grandfather Valentine

Harold C. Myers (1914-2003) was my maternal grandfather, A.K.A. Pop-pop. Today I present part of an interview my brother Steve tape-recorded in 1997, subsequently digitized by Jeff Suydam. Pop-pop’s description of his childhood, first in the little “coal patch” called the Vulcan on Broad Mountain near Mahanoy City, then in the steel town of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, is full of great details about the way people used to live, and the way boys in particular used to almost raise themselves, spending many days away from home on fishing or berrying expeditions, or building go-carts and pipe bombs and generally running wild. Pop-pop was unusual both in his love of reading and his love of the outdoors, two things he definitely imparted to his oldest daughter, my Mom. I’ve selected and edited the best parts of his earliest memories, and really wish we’d been able to record more. If you have elderly relatives or neighbors whose stories have never been recorded, I hope this will inspire you to preserve something before it’s too late.

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Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence)

13 Replies to “Woodrat Podcast 27: Harold C. Myers, a kid from the Vulcan”

  1. Hey Dave,

    Speaking of preserving family history, who has all the geneology information that Pop-pop compiled? We should get it into an electronic format and uploaded to a geneology site before it gets misplaced.


    1. Hi Matt,
      Don’t know if it’s the stuff you’re talking about, but I’ve already mentioned to Bruce and Marcia that I’d like to compile everything they have so anyone who wants copies can have them. :)

      1. It should definitely be digitized, no question about it. I guess I saw Pop-pop’s genealogical writings as primarily a creative outlet for him, but it’s possible that some of his surmises have basis in fact. One way or another, it needs to be preserved.

        1. I think someone (Bruce? My mom?) made photocopies of everything and gave them to anyone who wanted a copy. I know I have a copy in a manila enveloped somewhere. Probably in storage in the US since it was in my office before we moved and most of that is in storage.

          1. Matt,
            Dad, of course, never finished his genealogy, but he did compile a lot of good material in a carefully-organized notebook.
            In Nov. 2003, four months after his death, I took Dad’s notebook to Kinko’s in State College and had them make the best possible photocopies they could. Many of Dad’s pages contained faint pencil notations, but they did a good job capturing everything.
            I had them make a copy for everyone in the family who had asked for one, including Linda, Gary, and Hal plus others. I have a copy, produced by the copy shop, if anyone has lost their own, so another copy could be made in State College.
            Scanning the entire notebook would be an excellent, but time-consuming task. I’m not volunteering–our scanner is very slow. The notebook is around 100 pages long. I think Pam may be interested in such a project sometime. Bless her! A faster scanner would be in order, however.
            I also have the original CDs that Jeff made from Steve’s original tape, but Dave has done such a good job of editing it, I’m not sure anyone will want a copy of the original. But let me know if you would like one. This Podcast certainly captures Dad’s style. Wonderful guy.

  2. This was great. Harold’s enjoyment of his own recollections (and telling them) was half the fun of listening. The specificity of place, the exuberance of boyhood despite what many might consider “hard times,” and the connection with nature were a delight to hear.

    My husband, Buck, is 73 and a natural storyteller. His memories of childhood, such as hiring himself out as a fishing guide on the Escambia River at age 11, how his grandfather preacher and politician father railed at one another, skinny dipping and floating stolen watermelon’s at Carpenter’s Creek before it was destroyed to build a highway, how his granddad lost the family farm in the Depression and became a policeman and then a fireman in Mobile, Alabama, and many more, including how he would catch snakes and skin them to make himself belts — well, I just want to be sure we get these recorded for future family archives.

    Listening to this recording galvanizes me to action. Do you have any suggestions, Dave, for the best way to do it? Video camera? What would you use if you were doing this type of life interview now?

    1. Hi Beth – I’m glad you enjoyed this! Buck’s stories sound even more exciting. I should think video would be a good way to go, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a digital audio recorder, too, and get them in a couple of different formats. The difficulty is not knowing what file types will last, and certainly there’s no one best way to store them (DVDs and CDs can decay, hard drives can crash, etc). Online pioneers in audio, for example, were all excited when Real Audio players came along, but now everything’s shiften to MP3s thanks to the iPod revolution. Ten years from now, it might be something else. So my instinct would be to record in video and audio and preserve in multiple formats in multiple locations.

      1. I read somewhere that Archives Canada not only keeps mulitple formats of many of its electronic records, but also stockpiles dozens of each kind of machine so that in the future all its records will still be readable.

      2. The multiple formats and multiple places makes sense. Possibly one additional storage place where (theoretically anyway) “moth and dust do not corrupt” for video could be “in the cloud” with Vimeo or some other type of retrievable “cloud” file storage solution.

        1. Yeah. You can upload video to both YouTube and Vimeo, of course, for extra protection. YouTube, being owned by Google, probably will be around for a good long while, but who knows? These podcasts are stored on multiple servers in Automattic’s cloud, which is a paid upgrade at WordPress.com.

  3. Very interesting and definitely worth doing and preserving. Your grandfather sounds like a marvellous person.
    I did video recordings of both my parents, and audio as well of my father, talking about their lives. But I wish I’d done it much earlier because, especially in my father’s case, he was very old and rambles on, so it doesn’t give a true picture of the person he was in younger years. Your excellent example, Dave, makes me think about doing some editing of the recordings I have.

    1. Natalie, Pop-pop got even worse after Steve made these recordings, but there was still a lot of rambling — I did at least as much editing for this episode as I do for an average podcast, about six hours’ worth. Sometimes I could barely understand the stories myself before I cleaned then up — the closing story about canoeing down the effluent pipe, for example.

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