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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Betty the Vintage Tour Guide ... .

I'm again guiding tours of the scattered sites that constitute this developing new national park. So far this summer I've conducted 3 2-hour bus tours with 3 more scheduled between now and the end of August. In the process I'm meeting some very interesting people -- some of whom are older -- having had parents who were the veterans of WWII or of the home front mobilization. Some are young workers from local green businesses now located in the restored Ford Assembly Plant, one of the sites included in the park. Many of the elders are coming back to revisit that history and to contribute what they can to the stories. Younger visitors are learning for the first time in most cases what happened here and are deeply impressed with what they're discovering. We're building ourselves a park, one story at a time, and the park visitors are checking in to help in that effort. This is such a fascinating phase in park development.

Interest is high, but for the most part the visitors are coming from outside the immediate community. Visitors from the university and nearby colleges and folks from the area's museums are beginning to turn up on the guest lists, and that is both cause for celebration and makes for just a bit of insecurity. After all, my stories are generated from my memory bank and not from objective study. My analyses come straight out of personal living history and -- though I'm confident in the telling -- there is still that fear of seeming too audacious for my own good.

Read back over my California Historian article today after avoiding doing so since it was published earlier this month. I've had the magazine sitting atop my desk, propped up on my copy holder so that I can see it, but have been unable to make myself read it for fear I'd be disappointed or embarrassed in some way.

It will be posted soon on my web pages so that it will be available for you to see within a few days; and then I'll want feedback -- if you'll be kind enough to take the time.

Meanwhile, I must admit that after spending some time with it this afternoon, I came away feeling that I've made my case adequately. There is nothing therein that I would want to change. It reads well and gives a fresh insight into those eventful years.

I recognized a consistency in my on-the-bus interpretation along the tour route and the content of the article. Truth as I lived it comes through loud and clear.

I will be curious to learn what you think of my claims.

I felt confident enough to have forwarded a copy to one of yesterday's guests -- a noted author and a professor in the Black Studies Department at the University of California. Maybe I, too, can now claim to be an historian. After all, I once found myself listed by the National Women's History Project as a cultural anthropologist -- and I had to check the dictionary to figure out just what that was!

Truly, these are remarkable times.

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