Maxwell Library's Remembering Camillus project seeks interviewees

Quick - what was the name of the little store where your grandparents used to go for penny candy? You can't remember?

In the case that your grandparents are not around to tell you, wouldn't you wish that they had left a written or oral record of their memories?

This is the goal of Maxwell Library's Remembering Camillus oral history project. Interviewers are recording and archiving stories and reminiscences of community members to preserve the true history of the town. Modeled on National Public Radio's Story Corps, the program was started in 2008 with a grant to purchase digital recording equipment. People have shared their stories on subjects as diverse as the history of Little League in Camillus, memories of cherished friends, co-workers, and pastors, and daily life in a very different world.

The project is getting a boost this summer with help from Syracuse University intern Catherine Varonko. Varonko, a senior majoring in history and anthropology, will serve as Maxwell's oral history coordinator through August.

A native of Massachusetts, she knows first-hand the importance of preserving family memories. Her family immigrated from Russia and, like so many immigrants, strove to bury their European past.

"We didn't even know our real surname," Varonko said. "It was only after I studied Russian in high school and was able to read the Cyrillic letters on a grandparent's tombstone that we discovered the true spelling of our name."

Varonko is finding potential interviewees by reading old newspaper articles on Camillus, listening to previous interviews, and following leads and recommendations. She may contact you, by phone and/or letter. If she does, please consider joining the growing number of storytellers in Maxwell's archives.

Camillus resident Art Peterson answered the call. Peterson moved to Camillus more than 50 years ago, to work in the growing radio and television industry. At that time, he began carving scenes and statues out of wood. In his interview, Peterson spoke about building his new house in Camillus, working in radio and television, and growing as a carving artist.

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