Thursday, January 21, 2016

Interviews with Trapper Bud

For the past two or three years, as many of you know, I have been tweeting the diaries of Bud Murphy, my grandfather, who spent a decade, starting in 1929, trapping with his father in the Northwest Territories. When I finished with those I dove right into the diaries of his dad, Matt Murphy, who went up for one season in 1925/26 and then again when Grandpa went with him.

I've also been putting up photos, not only ones that were taken by Grandpa, but some that have been passed on to me by others, and tweeted great information and questions and answers from readers, people who have turned this project in family history into a crowd-sourced project of local history. A wider scope, with Grandpa and then Matt still at the center of the view, has opened up tales and vistas I did not think possible, and I am grateful every day for the opportunity to share and to sometimes have that spirit of sharing reflected back on me and my family.

Heck, I even sometimes get phone calls from a gentleman who knew my great-uncle Neill, and we chat about his own time in Yellowknife and the people he knew.

Today, I'm pleased to be able to share another level of that history with you.

Somewhere between 1984 and 1986, after my grandmother Elda Murphy died, my father George and I sat down with Grandpa and interviewed him, on tape. I've been sitting on these tapes all these years, and found them (at least, I hope I found all of them. Can't be sure, and you'll see why in a moment) at the same time I found the diaries.

But tapes that are 30+ years old are not guaranteed to work, and I didn't want to just throw them in the one tape deck we still have in the house and discover I had created a disaster. I also had an old computer and didn't want to digitize things and, again, discover that I'd caused even more problems. So I researched what was the simplest way to turn these tapes into digital files, and then, about a month ago, I bought a new computer. Then I bought the cord to move the interviews from the deck to the computer, brought the deck upstairs, hooked up everything...

...and still almost screwed up. Badly.

Two tapes went into the Tape A spot, but both got chewed up.

The good news, though, is these tapes weren't the interviews with Grandpa. No, they were music, both by friends (and so still irreplaceable). I grabbed a third tape and put it in Tape B, and everything worked.

And so, fingers crossed and breath tightly held, I put in the first tape, hit play on the deck and record on the computer, and watched (not listened, since it was transferring in silence) as steady lines turned into jumping sound waves. Everything seemed to be working.

And so, lucky me, lucky family, lucky you. What we have in the following link are four separate files, all from the same interview, my Dad and I sometimes asking questions for clarity, but mostly listening to Grandpa talk about his time in the NWT.

I do warn you in advance, though, that it's Amateur Hour at the Murphy household. This was all done on a Toshiba boombox I had had since I was about 15. No external mic. Whenever a tape ended I would jump up to flip it over or put in a new one, but Grandpa would not stop talking. Sometimes I'm able to reel him back, sometimes not. In the meantime, there's a fire crackling in the background. Sometimes (including early on) the phone rings, or the dog barks, or my mom interrupts. But really, not only are you hearing the history involved in Grandpa's early life, you're also witnessing the chaos of a suburban Edmonton home in the mid-80s, so think of that as a kind of history as well. Less interesting, frankly, but it's still there.

Finally, let me state what a joy it has been to sit and listen to Grandpa's voice again. He died in 2004, and while I could hear his voice in the back of my head when I was inputting his diary entries, this is definitely different. The discovery and recovery, even though I knew the tapes existed, has been a real thrill. My regret now is that I didn't do the same with my other grandparents, and I hope that at least some of you, as you read this, will feel the spark to go out and start collecting your own family history.

Part One is here.

Part Two is here.

Part Three is here.

Part Four is here.

You can access all four in one place here.

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