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Jeff Barnouw | Amphitheatre Drive


March 19-21 Del Mar and the Del Mar Historical Society welcomed close to 100 members of the Southwest Oral History Association for their annual meeting. The idea for the visit went back to last year’s meeting in Tempe where three oral historians from the DMHS (Tensia Trejo, Annie Duval, and Suzi Resnik, with technical support from Rob Healey) gave an enthusiastically received updating on their ongoing work. (See “History Speaks!” Sandpiper June 2014 for an account of that meeting and review of the history of DMHS oral history [OH] projects.)

The first day was devoted to a Community OH Workshop at the Library. An idea promoted by the DMHS is that OHs and particularly collective projects like the “Beach Stories Project” initiated by Lynn Gaylord and developed into roundtable sessions by Susie Good Stevenson, who grew up on the beach, or the recently inaugurated OHs of various Del Mar non-profits, can promote a sense of community and a critical awareness of how we came to be where (and maybe how) we are.

An Opening Reception Thursday afternoon at the Powerhouse included remarks by Mayor Al Corti and DMHS President Larry Brooks (on some of the vicissitudes of the Powerhouse) as well as a very entertaining presentation by new Councilman Dwight Worden. He had been for years the City’s attorney and drew on his experience for close-up sometimes hilarious glimpses of beach controversies and the J. David Dominelli ponzi scheme fiasco. One of his points was that OH often provides the tang that objective narrative history skates over. And it doesn’t let us ignore or harmonize conflicting views so readily.

The Powerhouse was also the site of the Friday luncheon where the keynote address was given by Barbara Harper of the Friends of the Powerhouse. Joe Harper, President and CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, added some colorful remarks about Del Mar and the track.

In addition, TensiaTrejo was awarded a “Special Achievement” award - a complete surprise - on Friday for her many years of collaboration with SOHA. ---

On Friday and Saturday the annual meeting proper offered an array of panels focusing on community projects involving Native American, Mexican-American, Chinese American, and Southeast Asian American communities, as well as “The Queer Gayborhood,” and operational OH issues. In line with the conference theme, “It Takes a Village: Building Community Through Oral History,” many sessions emphasized the connection with current concerns.

One home-grown session featured Mai-Lon Gittelsohn (“Chop-Suey and Apple Pie”); another had Suzi Resnik and Rob Healey discussing with Jan McMillan their interviews of her for a forthcoming OH, titled “Getting It Right: Honoring the Narrator’s Wishes in the Digital Age.” Venues included the Library, the Powerhouse, the Winston School, St. Peter’s Church, and Hotel Indigo and the Clarion Inn, the meeting headquarters. L’Auberge hosted Saturday breakfast and the Plenary Session following, where Dr. Paul Ortiz, President of the national Oral History Association and Director of the Samuel Proctor OH Program at the University of Florida gave the plenary address, and annual scholarships and mini-grants were presented.

The meeting concluded Saturday afternoon with a silent auction and a performance “Showcasing Fringe Narratives: Grassroots Latina Activists in Southern California.”

I was surprised by how young many of the participants were, graduate students or even undergraduate, for whom OH is an important tool for the study of all sorts of subjects. A young woman from Alaska studying the ups-and-downs of commercial fishing there, for an eventual Ph.D. Others from different parts of Texas with whom I shared experiences and acquaintances. All seemed to relish being in Del Mar and to appreciate the welcome – the weather (after the recent heat) cooperated – and the sunset.


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