|Photo by Tom Debley|
As my bi-monthly public bus "tourists" gathered at the entrance to the Visitor Education Center on Tuesday I noticed that recently-retired Kaiser historian Tom Debley and his companion were among them. That was noticeable because they had both been along on our last tour only two weeks before.
I remembered that this had, at least momentarily, caused a few seconds of concern -- as I wondered briefly if my remembrances of the era of WWII would stand up under his professional scrutiny of the period over the many years that he headed the Kaiser Heritage Department. After all, I've come lately to the field, and -- though I don't pretend to be a formal "historian," I do speak with authority -- but only after using existing studies from scholars (Quivik, Litvak, Archibald, etc.) who have published doctoral papers and masters theses -- combined with my own memory of those dramatic times.
I need not have worried. Within the first half-mile of my interpretation, once we boarded, I'd completely lost the fleeting discomfort and was well into my presentation without losing the rhythm or my confidence.
The tour takes roughly two-and-a-half hours to cover the many scattered sites that bear the history of the Kaiser home front story with a running commentary that places me in context of the experience.
It ends with a return to the Visitor Center for a viewing of the 15-minute video that specifically tells the history of Richmond during those years. It's entitled "Home Front Heroes," and fills in any gaps that may have been overlooked on our tour. This is followed by a 15-minute commentary as I place my personal story in context and bring us into the present.
By this time I've forgotten that Tom and his companion were among the guests, and that this was his second tour in two weeks! Had I thought of that the "willies" would have surely returned.
As my talk ended and the Q&A invited, Tom was the first to speak:
I allowed myself to fully appreciate the implications of his comment. I savored his words. He was expressing his approval, and an appreciation of the fact that I am doing good work."Has anyone yet videotaped your talk, Betty?"
... and at 93 I'm still developing new edges to grow from!