Putting the ‘Story’ back in History

Apr 16, 2015 | 5 comments

History Books

History Books

It came as a sort of epiphany to me recently to realize that I’ve always enjoyed history. I thought that it was one of my least favorite subjects in school – right up there with geometry and chemistry. It was all those battle names and dates that turned me right off. Still do.

Besides that, I never can get my eighth grade history teacher, Miss Timothy, out of my mind. For one thing, she was the first woman I ever knew who had a full-blown mustache. And, for another, I remember when she made Elsa Laine sit in the front of the room for the whole class period with a wad of bubble gum on her nose in punishment for disobeying the “no chewing” rule. No, history as I remember it being taught in school was not a favorite.

Papa and Aunt Dora circa 1896

Papa and Aunt Dora circa 1896

On the other hand, I could sit by the hour and listen to my grandfather and his sister talk about the days when they were kids back in the 1880s right here in Oysterville. Papa was inclined to talk about ‘the saints’ and Aunt Dora was more interested in the stories about ‘the sinners.’ No matter what, it was the stories I enjoyed – plus the great delight expressed in the telling.

So, when I was asked about the possibility of teaching a Continuing Education class at Grays Harbor College, I thought it would be fun to develop a course of study based on stories. Specifically, the stories behind our local history. Over the years, I’ve collected lots of them – stories about the settlers who came here, the hardships they faced, the adaptations they made. Like the stories I remember hearing in childhood, they are stories about the saints and the sinners who made this little corner of the world the place we call home.

GHC Columbia Education Center, Ilwaco

GHC Columbia Education Center, Ilwaco

I’m calling the class “Putting the Story back in History.” It begins (assuming anyone signs up for it)  on Tuesday, May 5th (5:30-7:20 p.m.) at Grays Harbor’s Ilwaco campus down at the port and will continue each Tuesday evening through June 23rd. Eight weeks of stories! And, did I say pictures? Historic photos gathered over the years that I hope will bring some of the people and circumstances to life – presented through the magic of computers and PowerPoint programs and other miracles of technology.

Bottom line: I’m hoping the class will inspire others to document their own stories. It’s the way history is preserved and enjoyed, or so I believe. I do wish Miss Timothy had known that.


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Land sakes! If I didn’t have jury duty I would certainly sign up for your class. Like you, I never liked history in public school, but I came to realize it wasn’t my fault. When I began community college I had a history teacher who made it come alive. I was married to a man at the time who loved history and once the bug bit, that was it. What is it about the thirst for the past? I certainly have it. I ordered a history book yesterday and I am NOT in want of books to read!

  2. Kitt Fleming

    I am already signed up and purchased my notebook just for your class notes! Looking forward to the classes.

  3. Cheryl Kocher

    Hi, Sydney. Just wanted to support your idea of teaching history through stories & wish you luck with your class! I was never a big fan of history classes in school with one exception: Mrs. Snow’s 9th grade Washington State History Class. She started every class with an interesting story about our history & had us hooked!!! Your students will love you, too!

  4. Caroline Miller

    Looks like you have some students already. Hope you have a great class. Sounds like fun.

  5. Claudette Tourtellotte Ferriter

    Yes, indeed, I sounds like fun!
    I often wondered if Miss Timothy wondered what Cleopatra did about her mustache!
    I also remember Elsa and the chewing incident. Saw Elsa, who is
    now Elsie, at the most recent reunion. She looks great and still as sweet as ever!
    Enjoy! C


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