The Historical Society publishes a blog and plans a book on the accounts of the inhabitants of the fire of Almeda
Almeda fire stories collected by the Talent Historical Society since November 2020 are beginning to appear on a blog and will be published in a book later this year.
“Talent: Town In Flames” contains stories, as well as photos and videos, that cover the event and the recovery from the fire on September 8, 2020.
So far, the organization has collected 58 stories, more than a dozen videos and other materials. Written contributions came from 36 adults and 22 students.
Pacific Power provided a $2,500 grant to the company to help prepare the blog. Last week, the Talent City Council voted to allocate $1,500 from its discretionary fund to help publish the book.
The society’s board members were all still quite stunned when they met in November after the fire, recalled Debra Moon, outreach coordinator and grants administrator for the society. Two of the members had lost their homes.
“We went through our business robotically. Then we all looked at each other and said we need to document this for the story,” Moon said. “We all voted unanimously that we had a responsibility to do this.”
“Talent: City in Flames” currently includes a story in Spanish, with English translation, by a student from Talent Elementary School; a poem and a story from an adult. The blog can be found at talenttowninflames.blogspot.com. Other documents will be published on the blog in the coming weeks.
The story of a Spanish-speaking student Moon remembered told the story of a grandmother who could not speak English or drive and who was caring for a number of children on the day of the fire. He recalled how the children had to intervene in the situation.
The Pacific Power grant helps prepare material for the blog. The Talent Historical Society is an all-volunteer effort with board members and others volunteering time to fundraising efforts thus far.
“A lot of stories have come from our members who receive the (quarterly) newsletter,” Moon said. Out of 160 members, 30 contributed after editor Myke Gelhaus made a call. All contributions will be published on the blog.
Video recordings of fire memories were made by THS President Willow McCloud. Those who did not want to be videotaped were interviewed by Moon for articles. So far there are seven videos and three interviews.
In addition to the THS videos, students from Marcel d’-Haem’s Talent Middle School class also contributed videos and artwork.
Moon and Talent historian Jan Wright held online meetings with students due to COVID. The pair gave instructions on what makes history, the types of questions to ask, getting the facts and interview techniques. This effort produced seven videos.
In addition to family members, the students also interviewed a hospice worker, a firefighter, an animal shelter worker, and then THS board chairman Ron Medinger, who lost his home.
Work has only just begun on the book. It will be a color publication with an improved paper cover. Submissions for printing are being sought and cover design is underway. The city grant will help with layout, formatting and production.
A first print run of 100 copies of the color publication is planned. The book will be slightly marked up in cost to help pay for the printing of a second edition. The size of the book and the number of pages have yet to be determined.
“We have to be a bit more selective with the book. We want to represent all factions in our community,” Moon said. “The fire made us realize the diversity of our community and the people hardest hit.”
Stories selected for the book will appear in English and Spanish. All documents on the blog site will also be in both languages. Talented city councilors urged representation from all groups in the city when they approved their award. Talent’s public arts committee has also expressed support for the projects.
An exhibition in the museum will be the third part of Almeda’s representation of the company. A grant will be sought from the Oregon Historical Trust to fund the construction of display cases that will house items in an exhibit called “Liberated Archives.”
Among the objects already collected for display are a melted paperweight, a partially burned newspaper and a painting damaged by smoke and heat.
THS continues to collect materials. Only two adult submissions have been received in Spanish, and the group wants more. There were no submissions from companies, another sector the company wants to represent.
The names and addresses of the authors will not be used on the blog or in the book. People wishing to share stories or articles should leave a message on the company’s phone at 541-512-8838.
The Phoenix Historical Society has some fire stories and photos on display in their museum, but would like to collect more items. Part of an Oregon State Library grant funded the purchase of a display case and fan display board for fire materials.
“We just don’t want things to be forgotten. We want people to remember what they had,” Dorothy Cotton told the company. Documents can be mailed to the Society at PO Box 1466, Phoenix, OR 97535 or emailed to [email protected] Cotton can be reached at 541-261-5118.
Contact Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at [email protected]