Two and a half years of diligently collecting oral histories from local pioneers paid off when the Warner Robins Oral History Project Committee, a division of the Warner Robins Convention & Visitors Bureau, was recently recognized at the state level for a job well done.
Tommy Stoner (USAF retired), Michael Chaloult (USAF retired), Dianne McMichael (RAFB retired), Sara Paulk (Houston County Library System director), Jen Colvin (SE Little League Director and CVB Chair) and I received the 2017 Award of Excellence in Archival Program Development By Or In a Local Government Repository.
The award was presented to us Oct. 26 at the Georgia Archives building in Morrow during the 2017 Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council Archives Awards annual meeting. Seated with us was legendary UGA Coach Vince Dooley, who received the Award of Excellence in Research Using the Holdings of an Archives for work he compiled with Samuel Norton Thomas Jr. and Monica R. Gisolfi.
Other partners involved with the oral history project include the Warner Robins Rotary Club and Flint Energies, which granted funds for the project; the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, which trained the committee in Smithsonian standards and practices for collecting the oral histories; the Houston County commissioner and library system, and the City of Warner Robins.
“Those interviews revealed some really good stuff about the early days of this community,” said Stoner, a member of the Warner Robins Rotary Club, which provided funds for purchasing a computer and other materials.
In a similar project, he and fellow Rotarian Michael Chaloult interviewed original members and presidents of the club to gain an oral record of the club’s history. Those interviews may be viewed at the Warner Robins Rotary website www.warnerrobinsrotary.org.
The Warner Robins Oral History Project interviews are available online at dlg.galileo.usg.edu/AboutDLG/HomePLACE.html; at any of the three branches of the Houston County Library System; or at the Elberta Depot Heritage Center, located on Armed Forces Boulevard North next to the E.L. Greenway Welcome Center.
Some of the stories collected reveal details about an African American Minor League baseball team in the 1960s called the Warner Robins Jets; German and Italian prisoners of war who were detained locally during WWII; farmers watching flight training (including crashes) over their fields in the 1940s; and recollections of a family that lived close to the base that left an ironing board and iron on the front porch for young soldiers to use. There are many more moving stories of the people who grew the community into what it is today.
Georgia HomePLACE is supported through the Georgia Public Library Service . “Partnering with Georgia HomePLACE has allowed the interviews to be made available worldwide,” said Sara Paulk, who applied for an award. “The library staff transferred and manipulated the data so that the interviews could be viewed on a variety of computers, and also created a table of contents for the overall project,” she explained.
The Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council was established in 1993and created the Outstanding Archives Awards in 2003 to recognize individuals and organizations for outstanding efforts in archives and records work in Georgia. Its stated goal at the official website www georgiaarchives.or/ghrac is to “ensure that Georgians of all ages are made aware of the significant historical records located statewide, enhance the preservation and care of these treasures, and improve the access that Georgians have to their records.”
Georgia Archives, 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, hosts on-going exhibits and free Lunch & Learn Lectures.It is open for research from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.