Cisco College Oral History Collection

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Biographical Sketch: Dr. Duane Hale, professor at Cisco College, began requiring his history students to conduct oral history interviews in 1995. This assignment, titled “In Pursuit of the American Dream: An Oral History Project Linking Past, Present, and Future,” has continued every subsequent semester. Hale teaches US History (and occasionally Texas History) primarily at the Abilene campus of Cisco College.

Size of Collection: 148 boxes; 5,341 interviews

Scope and Contents: The collection consists of over 5,300 interviews conducted between 1995 and 2019. Interviews are rooted in the Big Country region of Texas (Abilene and surrounding counties). Interviewees primarily were born between 1920 and 1950 (but include subjects born between 1898 and 1985). We estimate over two-thirds of the interviewees were born in Texas with many second or third generation Texans, but there are also interviewees discussing growing up in Mexico and across the world. Topics focus on early childhood recollections, family and home life, personal beliefs, marriage and children, technological innovations, changes in urban and rural environments, military service (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam), and remembrances of historical events (Kennedy assassination, moon landing, Nixon resigning, 9/11, and 2016 election). Of special interest are interviews from subjects born during the Dust Bowl, growing up on farms across West Texas, as well as sharecroppers and migrant workers. This collection has an internal database that can be searched by the A/V archivist. To find out more about specific locations, dates, topics, keywords, or subjects, contact the SWC/SCL.

List of Questions provided to students by Dr. Hale:
1. When were you born?
2. Where were you born?
3. What were your first memories?
4. Tell me about your parents.
5. Tell me about your brothers and sisters.
6. How about your grandparents and aunts and uncles.
7. Is there any family stories that you remember?
8. What is the best time in your life at home?
9. Remembering bad times at home.
10. As a young person what was your favorite thing to do?
11. What kind of clothes did you wear?
12. Things you like to do and hated to do.
13. What was your greatest ambition?
14. The first loves of your life.
15. What do you believe or don't believe?
16. How did you make your first money?
17. What traveling did you do?
18. About your marriages: how many times and how long?
19. How many children?
20. What do you wish for?
21. How old were you when you learned to drive and first car?
22. What is your opinion about this time in the world?
23. Tell me about the inventions and world events while you were growing up.
24. Do you have any political views?
25. Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?
26. Were the 60's any different for you than other times in your life?
27. What kind of advice would you give your grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

Summary of Project, written by Dr. Hale, included on release forms provided to interviewees:
"Webster has defined history as what has happened in the life or development of a people, country, institution. Others have said that unless we study the past, we are doomed to relive it. American History courses seek to record and pass on to future generations the story of this country--- its institutions, its leaders, and its major historical events. In this way national pride and patriotism are passed on to people of future generations. Greatly lacking in such courses are individual histories, histories of people who have sacrificed and worked all their lives to support the American dream. Missing too are community histories, regional histories, histories of various vocations and avocations. Most of the material in this latter area has gone unrecorded. It dies with the people who lived it.
Because we believe that great lessons may be learned from individual histories, community histories and regional histories, lessons which may help future generations know how to adjust to change, how to endure hardships, how to not give up, but hold on to the American dream of success, we seek to preserve the valuable oral history of the Big Country Area of West Texas. The stories may include: ethnic groups, stories about the World Wars, the Great Depression, the Changing from an Agrarian Society to an Urban Society, going from the Horse and Buggy to the Space Age in One's Lifetime."

Link to Finding Aid on Texas Archival Resources Online: [forthcoming]