Oral History Program for Collington

Alistair Cooke, journalist and great story teller, was able to weave separate threads to provide prospective and insight to his chosen subject. His tone and cadence were compelling in his weekly, much loved, Letter From America. Alistair Cooke has left us with a rich resource of observations and ideas which ran as a commentary through his years.

People have frequently asked us (Jenny and me) for our reasons for moving to Collington. The location is near Washington, DC with its cultural offerings, Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay, Johns Hopkins, an interesting array of transportation with rail, Metro, and three airports, not forgetting, of course, Wegman’s.  The people are low key and thoughtful, socially aware, experienced in very diverse areas of personal and professional exploits and not only respectful of individual autonomy but reluctant to become the center of the discussion. We have enjoyed hearing the life stories of our new-found friends. And so the notion of an oral history program, at Collington, has gradually emerged in which our personal and professional histories could provide interest and value to others as well as to our families.

With these thoughts in mind, my feelings of guilt and inadequacy have become increasingly troubling when I think of my mother’s stories; so many, so clear, so diverse, and so unrecorded. Among so much else, it was my mother who tried to give me her insight into the need for personal forgiveness, one of the hardest but most needed of our higher center functions. My mother was born into an intellectually rich but economically poor family. Her mother (my grandmother who I never knew) had a deep commitment to disadvantaged children and worked with Dr. Bernardo when he created the Dr. Bernardo Homes for Orphans. Her father was a typesetter for books and for sheet music. This my mother’s background and her own curiosity set the stage for her interesting but challenged life which sustained her through some very difficult times.

Living in a community such as Collington, we should be able to provide the resources and expertise to make the recording and transcription of our experiential “stories” easier than doing it on our own. A small sound studio with an interviewer of sufficient experience to explore our life and times is within our capacity. The recording, which could also be put into video format, could be transcribed with voice recognition technology. The script could be then heavily edited and fashioned into chapters of a memoir or compiled into video episodes. If well annotated and indexed these “offerings” could be searchable allowing for the broader and deeper picture of our community’s identity. With the continued influx of new people, a program like this could have some substantial longevity and perhaps we could even establish a tradition.

For the twenty-five years of Collington’s existence, a particular genre of people have been attracted to live here as residents. It is arguably our greatest resource and strength as a community. What better feature to put front and center to our future. In commercial terms, we can and should become differentiated in the marketplace based on the very special qualities of our people and the amenities of our location.

By contrast, the services we currently have and which are planned, exist in the majority of other CCRCs. In time, we will be able to at least equal their standards and spectrum for these resources. However, it is our unusual, if not unique, combination of people and place which can make the difference between simple adequacy of retirement to one which would add luster and personal confirmation to our daily lives. Anyone interested?

Peter Fielding

Cottage #5111

Phone: 301-541-5096






3 thoughts on “Oral History Program for Collington

  1. Have been thinking along these lines as well. There are several colleges and universities in the area we might engage in pursuing such a program.

    1. Richard – Such a good idea! One of my paying jobs in graduate school was typing up a long oral history of someone who -if I recall correctly – was one of the founders of the Southern Railway – and my own father’s interesting story- in the Middle East most of his career – was recorded in interviews and turned into a book. So clearly this is a ‘natural’ for many folks at Collington. It might be helpful to find someone who could provide a ‘framework” in which interested persons could begin to think about this. There is a skill to doing oral histories. Perhaps we can also consider what might be defined as ‘vignettes’ of people’s lives rather than full birth-to-present treatment in full.

      Jeanne Barnett

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