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Oral histories: Museum to begin recording stories from Ravalli County residents

Bob Hafer and Greg Marose will soon be collecting oral histories from the Bitterroot Valley as part of a collaboration between the Ravalli County Museum and American Legion Post 47 Hamilton.

A bit of Bitterroot Valley history dies almost every day.

You catch glimpses of it reading the obituaries in the daily newspaper, where a few sentences summarize a lifetime of stories about life in this valley and beyond.

A new collaboration between the valley’s chapter of the American Legion and the Ravalli County Museum hopes to capture some of that history before it disappears.

Starting sometime in August, Ravalli County Historical Society board member Bob Hafer and American Legion Post 47 commander Greg Marose Sr. will begin sitting down with longtime residents and valley veterans to record memories of times long past.

The oral histories will be captured using a video camera paid for in part by the American Legion post. The post donated $300 toward its purchase.

“The American Legion post has been a great partner in moving this project forward,” said Ravalli County Museum director Tamar Stanley. “Capturing military stories from veterans here in the valley will be an important part of this project.”

Marose has spent a good deal of time researching the best way to go about capturing those oral histories after being invited to join the effort about five months ago.

“I’ve always like history,” Marose said. “When I worked for Anaconda Company years ago, I really became interested in the history of this state as I delved into its past.”

Both men want to help ensure the lives of people who have helped build the Bitterroot Valley community aren’t forgotten after they die.

“The true history of this valley is really in its people,” Hafer said. “We’re going to need help finding the people to interview.”

The American Legion and museum are asking local residents to send in nominations of people they believe have a compelling story that should be captured to share with future generations.

Nominations can be made by calling Stanley at 363-3338 or by email at rcmuseum@qwestoffice.net .

“We will have a committee that will sort through the list of candidates,” Stanley said. “From there, we’ll set up interviews. It may take months, or maybe even years, to get through them all.”

The men hope to start doing interviews in August. The sessions are expected to last an hour to an hour and a half.

“If need be, we could do more than one session with a person who has a lot to share,” Hafer said. “Seniors will get seniority when it comes to developing the list.”

The men will use a format for some of the interviews that could lead to them being submitted to the Library of Congress.

“We have all sorts of sample questions that we can use,” Marose said. “The Library of Congress has a standard format and questions. … We’ll consider a person’s background and their connection to the valley when we put together the questions. Of course, we’ll ask veterans to tell us about their service.”

Recorded in a digital format, the oral histories will eventually be made available for the public to hear.

“Everybody has a story to tell,” Marose said. “We know there are people living in the valley from all walks of life who have had interesting experiences or heard stories from their parents and grandparents that might be lost someday.”

“That’s what we hope to capture,” he said.

To make that happen, the two men need to find the right people to sit down and visit.

“We have the expertise and the equipment,” Stanley said. “We are now looking for the who.”

Reporter Perry Backus can be reached at pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

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Associate Editor

Reporter for The Ravalli Republic.