Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Local and Regional History

Like it or not, we are all historical characters. This may be easiest to comprehend for those of us caught up in a war or some other giant catastrophe. But it is always true--whatever history is. (If it is something that takes place in time, for instance, then just what is time?)
Like the writing of poetry, and of books in general, the preservation of history is a magical concept for many people. People who would not dream of reading poetry, or novels, or history, dream of writing great poems, or novels, or histories.)
I think, though, that the pull of history is deeper and more real than the others. And that the people who understand that they live in history and who respect it, have a deeper and richer and more entertaining life than most other people. I remember, when I was in the seventh and eighth grades, I went to school in a former chapel in my township; and when I had a chance I'd sit in the library at the back of the room and read the books local people had donated to us. One of these--and I enjoyed this most--was Fred Brenckmann's old history of my native Carbon County.
Brenckmann certainly was not one of the great historians; but he was very interesting nevertheless. He told me stories that had happened, not in ancient Rome or Egypt--although I found those places interesting too--but in New Mahoning, a mile away; or in Summit Hill, two ridges to the north. It was chiefly his influence, I think, that made me in turn an historian of Carbon County. (My book is called "Smokestacks and Black Diamonds: a History of Carbon County, Pennsylvania." If you'd like to know more about it, contact me.)
Meanwhile, look around you. Books on your town, parish or county are everywhere. Read a few of them. You might become positively addicted to your heritage.

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