About Audio Legacy, or
Why I do what I do
My name is Janet Nahirniak and I am Audio Legacy. I could spend a bunch of time telling you doing about my business and about what I do, but for right now I think it’s more important that you understand WHY I do what I do. It’s the WHY that matters. So, I’m going to tell you a story.
The story is about a man named James McKeever. The reason I’m telling this particular story is because I’ve heard similar ones from various families many times and I know that everyone has a story that’s just as important to them-- somewhere in their family, even if they haven’t heard it yet. I’m telling THIS one, because it's meaningful to me. James McKeever was my grandfather.
Anyway, Jim was born in 1886 into a dirt poor Irish family. His father was a drunk, so much of the work fell to the boy. One of his many tasks was to fetch and milk the family’s cows every morning and evening, which he did with the help of his younger sister, Sadie. Unfortunately, they only had one pair of shoes which wasn’t a problem in the summer, but in the spring, the fall, and the winter, it was pretty horrible. With one pair of shoes, and two sets of feet, a choice had to be made. Sadie was younger, she was a girl, and when your feet get really, really cold, they hurt-- badly. So, Sadie got the shoes. What Jim would do is send his sister to the barn to get everything ready for the animals because it was warmer in there and then he would run out to the pasture as fast as he could. Sometimes, the cattle would be lying down and he would stand for a moment or two and warm his feet on the spot after they left. And that’s how he’d make his way back to the barn-- jumping from warm spot to warm spot. Unfortunately, there weren’t quite enough of them and even though his feet were fairly tough by this time, they’d still ache and ache. You can imagine.
But, Jim never complained, and I certainly never heard this story from HIS lips-- he wasn’t the kind of man to moan and groan about what once was-- but his feet gave him trouble his entire life. They were a really strange kind of colour and they swelled up ferociously. I’m sure you can see why.
Now... fast forward about a hundred years. My daughter was in school and it was Thanksgiving. The teacher went around the room, asking student after student about what they were grateful for. She got a variety of answers: a new snowboard, a computer, a gameboy… You get the picture. When the teacher got to Anna, my daughter answered that she was grateful for shoes. The teacher who was very young thought Anna was being flippant and reprimanded her, but she wasn’t being flippant at all. She really WAS grateful for shoes. But, then, SHE has heard the story… the teacher hadn’t.
And THAT is why what I do is so important. Not only is it a wonderful thing to know the people you come from, but the story I just told speaks to the nobility of all of our families... to hardships untold and the overcoming of them. Because that’s who we are. We come from immigrants and pioneers. From people with guts and gumption and hope. It speaks to who we are as a nation and what we can be. And we can’t let it get lost. Every day, people are passing away and these stories are passing with them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people say, “Gee, I wish I had asked this while they were still alive.” Or “I wish my children could have known their grandparents as people.” Or “I’d give anything to hear my loved one’s voice again.” Well, I try to fix that. I record these stories, in the words and voices of their tellers, so that your children, grandchildren and great-great grandchildren can know them as people.
I first became involved with personal oral histories (which is what this is called) over 30 years ago with the Historic Sites Branch of what was then Alberta Culture. Following that, almost ten years ago, I started doing interviews for the local University’s folklore department. These were both great opportunities and I did manage to interview hundreds and hundreds of people, but it was frustrating because we could only talk about certain topics, with certain ethnic groups, and often their stories ended up in a dusty archive, far away from the families to whom they would mean so much. So, Audio Legacy was born.
What is it I do exactly? I travel to people’s homes and guide them through an interview process designed to give an overall impression of that person and where they came from. We talk about all kinds of things: family stories like the one I just told, their growing up years, how they met their spouse, and what makes them tick as people. The interview is recorded. I process it, upload it and create a portal for families to access. I can even transcribe the recordings if you want a written account or scan personal items: pictures, birth certificates, recipes, homestead records, report cards, or what have you. The end result is something precious.
Anyway, I couldn’t imagine not knowing MY family’s stories. I want to help future generations to know theirs.