By Teresa Nguyen, RCHS HistoryTeller
Orson Wells said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” Considering all the rewarding experiences I’ve had in my position as History Teller at the Rock County Historical Society, I could easily end the story here. What a pleasure to be in such a role to catch those stories, like a fisherman’s delight when he sees hundreds of sparkling scales upon retrieving his net from the water. Storytelling is like the ancient art of weaving a tapestry. And the RCHS Story Squad’s collection continues to grow into a tapestry of rich colors, woven from flowing words and intriguing recollections of those who have made Rock County what it is today.
My in-depth interviews have spanned the spectrum of residents in careers from farmers to business owners, veterans to nurses, politicians, teachers and even philanthropists, whose wonderful support is helping to revitalize Janesville’s downtown. Their common denominator is not only a love of Rock County, but a deep respect and glowing pride for this place we call home. Like brilliant stars on a summer night, their civic dedication is clearly revealed through their stories of local involvement and hopes for the future of our community.
Each month I change the quote in my email signature and this month’s quote is by Christina Baldwin, author of the award winning book, Storycatcher: “Words are how we think, stories are how we link”. In her novel, Christina explores the idea that storytelling is the foundation of being human, that there is a vital need to re-create a sacred common ground for each other’s stories. Over the summer, the Story Squad has grown its wings, and our mission to gather stories and connect with people is soaring. Our “History in Focus” theme is beautifully realized as we share stories over the web, on our story wall at RCHS and support our community at local events around the county. How fitting that our Rock County Historical Society expands its role as keeper of our community’s stories, in step with its mission to preserve our local history. We truly are linking the past with the present
While attending shows at JPAC over the years, I’ve always wondered what school must have been like in that beautiful, spacious, old building overlooking the Rock River.
My curiosity will finally be satisfied as our next Story Squad project will focus on collecting memories of the old Marshall Junior High. The Janesville Performing Arts Center, JATV and the Rock County Historical Society are collaborating on the production of “Tales of Old Marshall”. We have already gathered stories of eccentric teachers, gym class walks over the bridge to the bowling alley, school dance romance and tween mischief. Local actors will present these stories in a fun, nostalgic one-hour play at JPAC on September 29th. If you attended “Old Marshall”, please send your stories and memories by Labor Day to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our community is not simply an assortment of buildings, businesses and roads, but rather a collective group of unique citizens who belong to this area, with common interests and a common culture. Our little corner of the world is made closer, interconnected and more cohesive by discovering our commonalities. Stories really are how we link, and in my role as History Teller I look forward to meeting more amazing people and gathering more fascinating tales.
Consequently, as pleased as I am with the progress of my work at RCHS, the story cannot possibly stop here. YOU might be next in sharing yours!