by Mark Ollig
It was Monday, Dec. 8, 1941
“Music played from the radio while my father swept the floor and I was cleaning off a table, when unexpectedly, we began hearing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s voice,” my mother told me.
She recalled her father stopped sweeping, as they both listened to Roosevelt’s words to congress.
“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” President Roosevelt said.
A memorable impression stayed with my mom after Roosevelt finished this address to congress.
“My father was holding the broom with the handle touching the floor; he lifted the broom and pounded it down onto the wooden floor; the echo could be heard reverberating around the room as he raised his voice saying; “My God, we’re at war!” my mother said, while raising her own voice for emphasis.
I asked if she would like to hear President Roosevelt’s speech again.
With my smartphone, I did a quick search, and within seconds, my mother was watching and listening to Roosevelt’s Dec. 8, 1941 speech from nearly 75 years ago.
Mom closed her eyes and nodded several times during the speech; remembering when she first heard these words as an 11-year-old.
Roosevelt finished his address saying; “. . . a state of war existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.” Mom paused, and then softly repeated the words her father said.
While recalling the days of World War II, and how her family lived during this period, she remembered the name of a famous US soldier; Audie Murphy.
Murphy was the most decorated US soldier during World War II, and received every military medal of valor the US Army had.
“He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I went there when we were touring in Washington, DC,” mom told me.
Online, I located a wealth of pictures, video, and information on Arlington National Cemetery, Audie Murphy’s biography, and photos of his white marble headstone and US flag, which I showed to her on my smartphone.
Both of us watched a YouTube video of Audie Murphy’s 1955 appearance on the TV game show “What’s My Line?”
Mom told me about the time when she and her sister, Marguerite, visited The USS Arizona Memorial, in Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, in 1994.
On my smartphone’s display screen, I showed her videos taken Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, during the Pearl Harbor attack.
We also listened to radio news bulletins from that day; some of them she remembered hearing.
I showed her video of the current memorial site over the USS Arizona, and the local surroundings she and her sister visited 22-years ago.
I could sense her satisfaction in being able to see it once again.
Not only are historical events, places, and famous individual endeavors being preserved online, our own personal memorable events can be archived, too.
I wrote a column about the Vanderbilt News Archives Library Feb. 26, 2007, located in Nashville, Tenn.
They held a collection of the nightly news programs broadcast by the national television networks of ABC, CBS, and NBC since Aug. 5, 1968.
In 2007, many of these programs were being stored on VHS (Video Home System) videotape cassettes, and could be loaned out for a modest fee.
While looking through various broadcast titles, I remembered something about one of my siblings and a CBS Evening News broadcast.
It had to do with Eugene McCarthy and his presidential campaign in Minnesota during 1971.
McCarthy had made an appearance at Mankato State College, where my brother was enrolled.
Using Vanderbilt’s search engine, I found the VHS cassette tape number describing CBS News reporter Jeff Williams’ brief interview with a young college student by the name of Tom Ollig.
This interview was recorded for the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, and was broadcast Dec. 2, 1971.
No one in my family had ever seen this interview.
Our parents usually watched the CBS Evening News; but for some reason, they were watching the NBC News broadcast that Thursday evening.
I sent my request to Vanderbilt for the recording of the Dec. 2, 1971 CBS Evening News broadcast, and it arrived two weeks later.
In 2007, yours truly was living in Buffalo, Minnesota.
After watching the tape, I drove to Winsted and showed the video to Tom (who watched it twice), and to my mother, who was very surprised upon seeing it.
Before sending the VHS tape back, I made some copies (with permission).
The video is now saved on the non-profit website: Internet Archive, where it will remain digitally preserved.
You can watch it here: http://tinyurl.com/OlligCBS. Tom’s interview begins at the 3:47 time-stamp.
Mom still enjoys watching (and singing along with) the Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli versions of “New York, New York” I occasionally play for her over YouTube.
Indeed, many memorable moments are being preserved online; within the clouds of the Internet.
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