The Memoir Challenge: Write One!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Today, I challenge every writer, no matter the genre normally preferred, to capture just one memoir albeit your personal journey, stories from an elderly relative or that of an antique, a local building or pillar of the community. Why? Because we're losing our history, that's why.

In this throw-away world where media moguls promote multiple tips on how to organize and clear out the clutter, everything from grandmother's hats from a bygone era to family heirlooms are being tossed, given away or sold. And unfortunately, by the time today's young adults grow tired of the interior designed cookie cutter look of their pristine environments, and figure out the importance of their own personal history, it will be too late.

Writers are in a unique position to preserve and protect familial stories. And they should.

Since the publication of We Bought A WWII Bomber, I have been inundated with folks sharing wonderful stories from their elderly relatives. When I ask if someone has written them down or recorded them, I usually get a blank stare followed by, "well I guess I should." Trust me, if you don't do it, you'll never remember them nor will they be there for your children and their children. This came home to me many years ago, after my mother passed away. She had been the one person--every family has them--who knew who was related to whom and the details of family stories real or imagined. She was always there so I never thought much about that history. After she passed, there was no one to ask. The stories were gone.

Today, I was informed of the passing of 100-year old Maj.Arval Streadbeck, the WWII Captain of the B-17 bomber who was the focus of the story of the "Buy a Bomber" program. Then Capt. Streadbeck, ordered his crew of six to bail in dense fog not knowing what was under them. Because of his orders, his crew survived and lived to continue to serve their country when seven other bombers that crashed that same day produced different results. Fortunately, I was able to use his expertise and insight into the crash shortly after meeting him in 2015. Mentally sharp at 99-years of age, he edited the chapter on the crash and wrote the most wonderful foreword for the book. Now his legacy will live on for his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Even though I had only known him for less than two years and through a few telephone calls, his passing has left me profoundly sad. His story will live on, not only in the pages of this book, but also in an historical marker that will be placed near the crash site.


None of this would have been possible if someone hadn't decided to tell this story.

So whose story can you tell? Surly there are family stories that need to be captured. And who better to do it than YOU a writer? It shouldn't matter if you never publish it. How many wonderful stories or starts to stories are sitting in your files right now? I'm guessing quite a few. So why not add some more but this time, take them from real life, your life or the life of a family member; something important that tells your history as only you can do it. Unless your history is something extraordinary, it's unlikely that a traditional publisher would want it. But so what? You can always do a photo book or self-publish it via one of the print-on-demand (POD) online publishing houses, places willing to help you publish a book for little or no cost, or you could just file it on your computer, but I encourage you to print it off and store the copy with important papers just in case no one can figure out your passwords or technology changes to the point where stored information is inaccessible at a later date.

So get out that digital recorder and start capturing those stories. You never know when something in your history might make history itself.

Have you written your memoir yet? If every writer wrote just one memoir, think of all the history that would be preserved!

*****

Memoirs written by Sandra Warren:

We Bought A WWII Bomber: The Untold Story of a Michigan High School, a B-17 Bomber & The Blue Ridge Parkway. 
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUmxqhIpadI

Hidden Casualties: Battles On The Home Front, By Sara Raye with Sandra Warren, Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/jgg2t6v 

When Duty Called: Even Grandma Had To Go, By Dianah Kwiatkowski as told to Sandra Warren 
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/hyxuv62


Author of Arlie the Alligator and other books for children and adults!








The Parachute Wedding Dress

Saturday, February 4, 2017


     If there is one garment cherished above all others, it has to be the wedding dress. Most young girls plan for years and dream of the dress they will wear on their wedding day. For many, no expense will be spared, even though the dress will only be worn one for little more than twelve hours. More than any other garment, from that day forward, the wedding dress will carry the memories and promises made to each other in front of family and friends.
     During World War II and shortly thereafter when fabric was scarce, brides were forced to be resourceful. Some wore their Mother's dress, altered to individual preference, some wore their Sunday best suit or dress, and some created gowns out of fabric brought home by their husbands, fathers, brothers or sons returning from service in Europe or the Pacific. That fabric used was the beautiful silk from military parachutes.


     In 1947, one year after Maj. Claude Hensinger returned from WWII, he proposed to a gal he'd known since childhood. Instead of an engagement ring, he handed her his most important possession - the one that saved his life during the war - his parachute. He handed it to her and told her to make a wedding dress out of it. She did and the stunning dress pictured here is the result. Years later it was worn by their daughter and then their daughter-in-law after which it was donated to the Smithsonian where it is on display for all to enjoy.
     "And did you know a young girl made a wedding dress out of one of the pilots' parachutes?"
This was both a statement and a question I was asked over and over again by folks I interviewed while writing We Bought A WWII Bomber. The second half of the book is about the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in Meadows of Dan, Virginia where townspeople came to the aid of the crew forced to bail as the plane was going down.

     The source of the rumor began when Captain Arval Streadbeck, the last to bail when the B-17 bomber ran out of gas in dense fog, landed in the mountains near a farm a couple miles from the crash site. The Barnard family was up doing morning chores when they heard a tremendous explosion. The father went out on the back porch and heard someone calling out. He was able to find the injured Captain and lead him back to the farmhouse. The Captain limped into the house carrying his parachute. The word is, he handed his parachute to Jesse, the oldest Barnard daughter and said, "Here, make a wedding dress out of this."
     Vera, the youngest of the Barnard girls, confirmed the first part of the story but said her sister never made the wedding dress. You see, the Barnard girls had a brother who was in the United States Army Air Corp. When he came home on leave and saw the parachute, he told his parents they had to send it back to the Captain's military base. So Mr. Barnard packed it up and sent it back to Lockbourne Army Air Force base.
     I wish the rumor of the parachute wedding dress had been true. I would have loved to include the story, complete with photographs, in the pages of the book. Instead, I added the story to other mythical gems that grew out of the day a B-17 bomber, circled the historic Mabry's mill twice and crashed in a pig lot in a tiny Virginia mountain town.

     Do you have a story and/or a photograph of a wedding dress made from a parachute or another unusual thing? I'd love to hear about.

Leave a comment, tweet or share and I'll put your name in a hat to win a copy of We Bought A WWII Bomber.

*****
Parachute Wedding Dress story from The Vintage News  https://www.facebook.com/thevintagenews






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About Me

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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