The one thing I know about Gulfport is that everyone here has a story. The one thing I know about myself is that I want to know yours.
Before you stop and tell yourself, “Self, she doesn’t mean me. I’m not interesting. All I did was raise some kids/go to work/live here. I didn’t do anything of note”, hush. You are more intriguing than you realize, and, what’s more, your story matters, not just to the people who love you most, but to Gulfport. See, history isn’t just what the town council did or who founded the first whatever or what happened on what date: it’s people. You are people, therefore you qualify.
Don’t believe me? Think about the first people who lived here: they cut down trees, built houses, shot small game, and grew their own food. Honestly, I cannot conceive of something that interests me less than reading about someone planting corn. But yet, I do. We all do, to some extent, whether it’s Gulfport historian Lynne Brown’s book or reading snippets of memories one of the Facebook pages about Gulfport history (check out Gulfport Grown if you’re looking to reminisce). We all find other people’s lives interesting, admittedly on varying levels. Me? I’m a total voyeur. I love to peel back the outer shell of people’s lives and see what’s really going on with them.
In grad school we had to do oral histories. “Doing” an oral history meant talking to someone about their history and, as my professor put it, “teasing out the meaning of their life.” We interviewed people and then wrote up a description of what brought them to Florida and how living where they did shaped their life. I chose Bob Worthington, and we spent about an hour talking. I recorded him as I took notes, and later I used the recording to add more of his voice back into the story I’d written.
So, OK, most of you know some of Bob’s history – he’s related to the people who settled Gulfport – and perhaps you think that’s why I wanted to focus on him. Nope. I don’t care about his ancestry. I found – and find – him fascinating because he’s one of the few people who has spent most of his life in Gulfport, because of his passion for fishing, and because of his relationship he with his brother, Louie. Also, he was just different enough from me that he fascinated me. I didn’t judge him for our differences; I just didn’t understand him. The more I sat there and listened to him, through, the more I started to understand what escaped me before.
We printed an abridged version of his history in the Gabber, and many folks approached me and asked me about it, remarking that although they had known Bob for years, they didn’t know all of what I wrote. Not one person asked about the things that made Bob a local celebrity. They wanted to know about the smaller details.
They will find yours just as enticing. You make up the fabric of our history by being part of Gulfport, which makes my newest project something I hope we can all do together.
Come to the Gulfport History Museum and tell me your story. Please. I want to know your story. You are one of the most alluring people the world will ever meet, and I don’t mean that in some freaky self-help sort of way. I mean that in a history sort of way.
Come to the history museum any Thursday afternoon and just talk to me. I want to know why you came to Gulfport and why you stayed here, why you came back here, or why you left. We’ll chat for a while – about an hour. When we’re done, I’ll write your story. Some of them will run in the Gabber, but that’s not really why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because everyone here has a story about how they arrived here, and everyone here has played a part in shaping this community. I want to record our history through your stories so that two weeks, two years, or two decades from now, people can look back through them and see how Gulfport evolved.
Nowhere else have I lived has community mattered as much as it does in our town, and everyone who is part of ours deserves to have their part of our community’s story told. I’m at the museum every Thursday afternoon (2 p.m. until 4 p.m.), so either come in or e-mail me to set up a time. One more things: this isn’t political. I don’t care if you hate what I write in this space or love it; I just want to know more about you. Honestly, I would love to see some of the people who like me the least come through that door and give me the honor of telling their story.
Tell me your story, and let me tell the world. Because without your story, Gulfport doesn’t have one.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.