Listening Brings the Past Alive
Showcase interviews Chaplain Bob Crabb
The Rev. Bob Crabb, of the U.S. Navy base at China Lake, launched a “Ministry of Listening” to record and preserve the personal life stories of members of the congregation. He enters the stories into Story Corps, the American Folk Life Center, Library of Congress. Showcase asked him to fill us in on the project.
Showcase: How did you get the idea?
Chaplain Bob: I heard an interview on NPR from StoryCorps.org and was fascinated. The Story Corps project is a mission to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. I was thinking that I knew a lot of people both military and civilian who had amazing life stories and I wanted to make sure that their stories were preserved.
Showcase: In what format do you record?
Chaplain Bob: In all my interviews, I have recorded on a handheld recorder and/or a cell phone recorder.
Showcase: How long is each?
Chaplain Bob: About one hour long and I do very little editing. In one instance I combined the introduction from a handheld recorder with the main interview (cell phone recorder) because of the poor quality on the cell phone recorder.
Showcase: How many have you done?
Chaplain Bob: Four and I currently have at least two other people I would like to interview. One is a retired octogenarian Navy Sailor and the other a recently retired Sgt. Maj. of Marines.
Showcase: What sort of questions do you ask?
Chaplain Bob: For example, I asked a Lt. Col. of Marines:
Before we get into your Marine Corps Career Sir – growing up in your household, what are some of the things that stand out in your memories of life?
I have heard you speak about your parents and especially your father’s impact on your life. I also know that your father retired from the Marine Corps. Can you tell me about your parents and particularly your relationship with your dad?
You attended the Naval Academy. How did you find life at the Academy? Prior to considering the Naval Academy and the Marine Corps, did you have any other career or life aspirations that did not include the military?
Eventually, you had to make a decision about joining the Corps. What did your family – especially your Dad – and friends think of your decision?
Showcase: Who was your youngest subject? Oldest?
Chaplain Bob: My youngest was about 35 and my oldest close to 60.
Showcase: Anything that caught you off-guard?
Chaplain Bob: I always try to ask at least one intentionally breakthrough question. For Marines I will use this as the last question: “What does ‘Semper Fidelis’ mean to you? Also, one time, a Marine described a situation of trying to get his unit in combat through a road that was mined with IEDs. That was an intense narrative.
Showcase: How can people see/hear what you’ve done?
Chaplain Bob: I have all the recording on CD. I always give the interviewees the option to submit their interview to the Story Corps Archive, the largest born-digital collection of human voices and housed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
Showcase: Anything you’d like to add?
Chaplain Bob: These projects take a lot of work and planning, but I have always found them very rewarding. The interviewees have all reported that it was very meaningful for them as well.
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