The Heights Remembers

The Oral History Project

Putting a face to history—that’s what this project is all about. With grant money from the National Endowment for the Humanities, our challenge was to find a way to make the study of history more relevant to the lives of middle school students and to incorporate technology into humanities teaching. Two history teachers at Hogg Middle School in Houston, Texas—Michel Hinton and Shelly Hulbrit—were willing to take on this pilot project.

What if we looked for history in our own backyard? What could our families, neighbors and the larger community tell us about history from their own experiences? With the recent completion of the John H. Reagan World War II Memorial on Heights Boulevard, the personal histories of folks from our own community seemed a great place to begin.

The first step was to learn how to gather oral histories. Dr. Louis Marchiafava, a professional historian with the Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston Public Library, visited Hogg Middle School to teach the students how to do this. The second step was for the students to do background research on World War II as a whole.

Through the help of several veterans’ groups, and local newspapers such as The Leader and The Houston Chronicle, we were able to get the word out that we needed Heights volunteers to share their personal stories about World War II. For the many kind people who stepped forward, we are very grateful. The eager ears, eyes, and minds of nearly forty seventh grade students were filled with recalled experiences, photos, and memorabilia from many gracious people.

Melinda Wolfrum, a Rice University history major, organized the materials, edited the hours of videotape, and interviewed the students about what they learned during this project. With the help of two other Rice employees, Tom Bisciglia and Eric Rombokas, exerpts of the videos are available on the Internet so you can hear first hand Heights residents’ memories of World War II. The design of this booklet and the Web site were beautifully crafted by another Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning staff member, Donna Smith. Final editing was done by Ann Lugg. It was truly a team effort that began with middle school students wanting to know more about history.

We take pride in sharing with you this product of the students’, teachers’, historians’, and technologists’ efforts.

Leslie Miller
Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning
Rice University
September 2000