Program will record an oral history of the area
CARBONDALE ” “History doesn’t repeat itself. However, history is how we foretell the future.”
That’s how gina (yes, little “g”) Sterrett put it, when asked about the importance of storytelling. For a second, the 74-year-old’s words hung there, sounding important and wise. And then she busted up laughing, happily breaking the grand image.
“I’m just making this up,” she joked, throwing up her hands.
Still, it was obvious how much she cared. A Carbondale native, seniors activist and radio personality, Sterrett is one of many helping coordinate KDNK’s Audio Stories program. In celebration of its 25th year on air, the radio station is setting out to record the history of the area, one personal tale at a time. Part of Sterrett’s job is to convince fellow longtime locals why this matters.
“The storytelling in this valley is unbelievable,” she said. “Unbelievable.”
Everyone wants to come here, she went on, but new arrivals can’t conceptualize this place before it had so many roads and fences and pastures. The history of the valley is its residents, she feels, and there’s no one better to tell it than the folks themselves.
“Storytelling is art form,” she added. “You have to be an ice breaker, and you have a story to tell, and you have to have a place to tell it.”
Sterrett, it seems, has those elements in spades. As she spoke from her living room, the self-described activist was generous with words about her past. She cautioned that most of it is probably printed in back issues of this paper, yet she shared it all the same.
“And the stories I have to tell aren’t the ones that are in history books,” she said, smiling.
She spoke of her mother, Beulah Miller, who arrived in Carbondale in 1920, just in time to cast her first vote. Sterrett told of being in second grade and how dazzled she was by her first “talkie.” She recalled some undated memory of looking down the Crystal River and seeing a large slab of marble floating away from the quarry. The piece was later used in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
She could remember being a teenager and seeing a girl thrown out of school because of an unplanned pregnancy. That kind of thing would never happen today, she explained, and her past is just filled with those sorts of massive shifts.
“That’s history,” she said.
And while she’s lived so much of it, she courteously rejected the title of “old.” Hopefully, she explained, age is something that just happens to your body.
“I’m not old,” she said. “My mind and my heart aren’t old.”
Soon after that, the conversation evolved and meandered, the way good talks do.
Sterrett mentioned such things as her hopes for senior services, the ease of modern-day communication, her disgust at credit card debt. Lastly, she spoke of her grandson, a 20-something kid, fresh from school. He’s now living in Carbondale and like everyone, is trying to find his place in the world. With him, as with local seniors, she’s trying to impress the same thing. Your history is what you make of it.
In her words: “You can’t just let life go by.”
So, why not record it?
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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