Original Published on Jul 13, 2022 at 08:42

By Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It is important to remember historical events that have occurred — as Winston Churchill stated, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” 

That is why Emily Hembrough, Art, Culture and Events Coordinator and Meghan Brennan, Communications and Projects Coordinator, are working together on a project to preserve the history of Taber and those who have lived within the town. 

“The oral history project is a branch out further from the veteran banner project,” said Hembrough. “We’re starting with veterans this year and we’re hoping to interview six to eight living veterans from Taber or the M.D. of Taber, and compile it into many, many, different things. The biggest is a documentary that we hope to play at our Remembrance Day ceremony this year as well as creating smaller clips that we could share tidbits of information from veterans. We’re going to do walking tours of the banners that are going to  have key quotes from these histories and the application forms. We’re hoping that with the documentary and with getting the oral histories — there’s a really good Canadian history grant that is for publications. If we have these oral histories, potentially in future years we can turn them into small books about Taber and area. The first chapter will be about veterans. Which is a very good start to a history book about our town.” 

Hembrough further went into detail about how veterans can apply to have their stories recorded within the oral history project. 

“The application forms are on our website (www.taber.ca/veterans). It’s free to apply for any veteran who wants to be a participant, but it does have lots of checkboxes of what they’re willing and hoping to participate in. Whether they actually be filmed, or if they just want to have an audio-only interview, or if they only want to present photographs, memorabilia, or a written application form of a story are all welcome. We hope to get lots of applicants and around a really good diversity of our veterans in our community to create  those what I think is an amazing project for veterans.” 

Hembrough continued to discuss the importance of this project for the town. 

“The main thing that comes to my mind is the fact that many of our veterans are elderly and a lot of people our age haven’t lived through what they lived through. We live freely but we live freely because of these veterans, so it’s a good project for us to learn from, a good project to just remember what they did, and a good project to preserve the stories of these men and women will hopefully share with us. We’re hoping, with their permission, we will be able to share it (their stories) with our local schools, our local museums, and our legions, and there’s a similar project Canada-wide that we’re hoping to share with our whole country. I think it’s a very important time to get it before we don’t have the veterans to be able to speak of their stories anymore.” 

After this, Hembrough discussed how this project has a deadline for applications. 

“There is a deadline because we want to have the project completed and ready for the first time at our Remembrance Day ceremony. We’re hoping to have all applications in by the 26th of July — there are still (14) days left. I do have a few people that I’ve already submitted applications or verbally told me that they want to participate, but we’re hoping to get
to them by the 26th so we can finalize the six to eight that we will actually video. Then book those interviews so that the videographer has the time, and the editor will have the time to create the documentary before Noember. It seems like a lot of time but it’s a lot of work so we just want to get it done and make it a really good project.” 

Brennan took a moment to discuss how they are approaching this project and mentioned the importance of receiving these stories to preserve. 

“We welcome all veterans to apply, and of course, just because they might not be chosen in this round doesn’t mean that their stories are not important,” said Brennan. “They will be on our radar and we will work to preserve their stories as well. Obviously, as time goes on, as we said, our veterans are ageing where it’s going to be sort of a triage process for picking the veterans as time is of the essence. It’s deeply important to hear these oral histories because it’s preserved for future generations.” 

Finally, Brennan spoke on the historic significance of recording this history, orally and their own reasoning and why this project is important. 

“Oral history predates the written word, so this is one of our most historic ways of keeping our traditions alive and our stories alive. That’s what we hope to do with future generations so they can hear directly from the people who lived these experiences because we live in free history now, but it came out of the pain and suffering of a lot of people. We need to hear that and also we know it is sometimes difficult for veterans to talk about their experiences. The town is very cognizant of that, so we will have supports available for anybody chosen to be interviewed, so there will be mental health support through family and community support services. There is the option that if they are not comfortable videoing, they do have the option of just voice recording or providing it written to make sure that our veterans are always comfortable and feel respected.” 

This item reprinted with permission from The Times, Taber, Alberta