In the Fall of 2014, nineteen students from the University of San Francisco were paired with twenty-one homebound seniors served by Meals On Wheels of San Francisco. Over the course of four months, the students and the seniors got to know one another and, with digital recorders (and some coaching) from StoryCorps in hand, the seniors talked about their life stories.
Professor Ryan Van Meter conceived of his Introduction to Oral History curriculum as a way to embody the idea of “storytelling as service.” And as these students from younger generations have learned first-hand, the act of listening can be a powerful and transformative way to serve: by listening, we provide a counterweight – individually and collectively – to the isolation and invisibility which many homebound seniors experience.
The recordings from San Francisco Seniors Remember will be archived by StoryCorps at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, and we’re privileged to be able to provide here a glimpse into the lives of San Francisco’s homebound seniors – in their own vibrant and unique voices. San Francisco Seniors Remember is about young and old, aging and remembering, storytelling and listening, the history of individuals, families, San Francisco and the world. At 68, John is the youngest senior involved in the project. At 97, Marian is the eldest. Here you’ll find everything from the Summer of Love, gay San Francisco, and artists at work to life-long San Franciscans, immigrants, emigrants and more. It’s their heritage, and ours.
“The tradition of oral history proceeds from the premise that ordinary people have within them extraordinary stories worth recording and preserving. These stories provide rich, vivid and intimate counterweight to capital-H History — the well-known names, dates and events typeset in encyclopedia and cut into monuments. By listening to the spoken recollections of a life, we are able to stand closer to the witnesses who lived when what we now understand as “History” happened the first time around. The students in this project attempted to empower their storytellers to recount the most detailed and reflective versions of their histories as possible. In this way, senior and student together were the creators of a historical artifact.”
-Ryan Van Meter, Professor