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Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing, and she works full time in digital media with a large cable network. When she isn't at work, blogging, or washing someone's socks, Katie enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large and totally impractical, 113-year-old Victorian house.

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Capturing Your Family’s Oral Traditions on Video

By Katie Allison Granju |

Hank Allison

Me with my Dad.

My family took a whole lot of still photos while my siblings and cousins and I were growing up, but for whatever reason, there are virtually NO home movies or videos of any of us as babies or kids. There are a few scratchy audio recordings of us performing for our parents as toddlers and preschoolers, but that’s about it.

And the same is true for our parents and grandparents; nobody was taking videos or shooting home movies of them either (although since my Dad was a TV anchor and reporter, I have lots of great video and audio of him covering the news, just not of him at home). I would absolutely love to have video of the grownups in my life sharing some of the songs and poems and rhyming games that were part of my childhood, and have become part of our family’s oral history.

In my mind, I can hear my grandmother singing the silly songs  ”She Sat In the Window”  and “I Went to the Animal Fair” to me just like it was yesterday (and just like her father sang to her when she was a girl, and like I sing to all of my kids now), but I sure do wish that I had video of her singing these songs and others we loved so that I could watch and remember, and so that I could share the home movies and pass them down to the next generations in our family.

As for my Dad, he also had some favorite silliness he liked to recite and sing for us.  There was The Siphonaptera, which he taught me to recite back to him when I was very little. And he could keep me enthralled for long stretches by reciting from memory every word of “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” In the mornings – well into the years that my younger brother, sister and I were cranky teens – he would cheerfully rouse us from bed each morning with the annoyingly happy “Good Morning to You” song.

But our absolute favorite recitation from our father as kids was when we would all three BEG him to scare us silly at bedtime with his dramatic,  tension-filled, drawn out version of a certain Shel Silverstein poem, which goes like this…

The Slithergadee has crawled out of the sea.
He may catch all the others, but he won’t catch me.
No you won’t catch me, old Slithergadee,
You may catch all the others, but you wo–

My little brother and sister and I would all be bathed and in our jammies and piled into one bed or another, and my father would creep around and speak the words to the poem veeeeeeeerrrrrrryyy sloooooooowwwwlllyyyy as we all giggled and squealed in anticipation of the BIG ENDING when he would pounce on the bed to grab and tickle and throw us in the air as we shrieked with glee. And then it was off to sleep.

We LOVED “Slithergadee” as kids, and now, all of us do the same thing that our father did with us at bedtime with our own children, his grandchildren. My older children were able to enjoy knowing their Grandpa Hank until 2008, when he died very suddenly, and Henry loved to have his Grandpa put him to bed with a little scary Shel Silverstein, but for my two youngest, who are only five and two years old, the only way they know their Grandpa Hank is through the stories and songs and poems I share with them.

I may not have home movies to share with the kids of my father performing “Slithergadee,” but I sure do love that I was able to capture this video the other night of my two youngest reciting the poem at bedtime for each other. My Dad would love this.



Want to capture your own family memories on video? We’re giving away two Sony Handycams! To enter for a chance to win, simply comment on this post with an answer to one of the following question: What parts of your own family’s oral history do you wish you had captured on video? Or if you have a parent or grandparent on video or home movie sharing a special song, story or poem from your childhood, what is it?

Want a chance to win weekly prizes like a Sony Handycam or a $200 Disney shopping card?Enter to win here!





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About Katie Allison Granju


Katie Allison Granju

Katie Allison Granju is the married mother of five children, ranging in age from toddler to teenager. In addition to blogging for Babble Voices, she also publishes her own blog, Big Good Thing. Katie also enjoys working in her flower garden, riding her bike, and feeding the chickens she keeps in the backyard of her family's large Victorian house. Read bio and latest posts → Read Katie Allison's latest posts →

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17 thoughts on “Capturing Your Family’s Oral Traditions on Video

  1. Jamie says:

    You’ve inspired me to record my grandmother telling some of her favorite nursery rhymes to my kids- thanks!

  2. Wendy says:

    My grandparents called us on our birthdays and they recorded the conversations on cassette tape. They have both passed on, but I so wish I had a video of our recorded calls when I was a youngster. I have the tapes and I love to listen to our conversations, just wish I could see them again (and not only in my head!).
    Your girls are gorgeous and silly, perfect!

  3. Laura Wallace says:

    I love Shel Silverstein’s poems and stories! So do our kids. Erin was thrilled to know the answer when one of his poems was a clue on “Jeopardy” the other night!

  4. Chris Hill says:

    I have precious precious audio recordings of my grandfather telling stories from his childhood in Knoxville. I recorded them on my cellphone and the quality is not as good as I’d like. I’d love to get these stories on video before I don’t have a chance to. Everything about them are just priceless…the dialect (only heard in men over 70 in the East TN/West NC area) and the obsolete language like “river slicks” (stones), a “poke of candy” (bag of candy), and thief grabbers (police officers)….AHH…I need these on video.

  5. Ayun Halliday says:

    I really wish I had a video record of my grandmother (born and bred in Hopewell, Indiana) talking on the phone, ending every conversation not with goodbye or all right, talk soon, but “twill see”.

    A regionalism that even in the 1970s seemed like an anachronism.

    Twill see….


  6. MJ says:

    I wish I had the toasts that were given at my wedding on video. I didn’t get a videographer for the event, but now I sort of wish I had.

  7. suburbancorrespondent says:

    I wish I had a video of each of my kids at age 2. I miss my 2-year-olds so much!

  8. Annie says:

    When I was a teenager, I asked my grandmother how she and my grandfather met, and it was a great story–which of course I have now forgotten 95% of, and they are longer with us. I so wish I had video taped that conversation.

  9. TinaK says:

    I wish I had more silly moments.

  10. Caitlyn says:

    I wish I had ANY videos of my childhood. I seriously do not have a single one (and I am only 27 so they were fairly commonplace). I know my family didn’t own a video camera, but I can’t help but wonder why it never occurred to anyone to borrow one for even the most special of occasions.

  11. LaurenL says:

    We have several videos my family converted recently to DVD’s of me and my brothers and sisters. The current family favorite is one in which we are trying to convince my brother, adorned with arm floaties, to jump into the pool. I’m swimming in the water, telling him how much fun it is, he should be brave, do it! I set up a floating raft and told him to just jump onto the raft – that’s not so scary! He finally musters his courage…takes a leap….and I yank the raft away from under him just before he lands leaving him completely and unexpectedly dunked in the water. It’s pretty hilarious now, but he was not very pleased with me at the time. I suppose that’s not really a song or poem, but it is definitely the epitome of my relationship with my siblings – we are always pushing each other to be better, try things outside our comfort zones, and proving to each other that we can do it without a safety net. Maybe just arm floaties.

  12. Lacey Jane says:

    There is one film of my mom and her family when she was about 6. It is silent because it was made a long time ago, but there was music added to it later. I love this film because it lets me catch a glimpse of her childhood, but it also breaks my heart to watch it because out of the 8 children my grandmother birthed, only 5 are alive today, and now that I have a child of my own, it physically pains me to even think about such a great loss.

  13. Emily @ Live Renewed says:

    This post makes me kinda sad, I lost my father in April and I was just thinking yesterday that there are things that I wish that I would have recorded of him to share with my kids. We often forget how precious those memories are until we don’t have the chance to record them anymore. So, it’s a good reminder to take as many videos and capture as many memories as we can now, and not let them slip away. And what an adorable video of your kiddos!

  14. Meghan says:

    My cousin and his girlfriend “interviewed” my 95-year-old Grandmother last year, which is amazing to have regardless, but is all the more special because her health has since taken a turn for the worse and we don’t have those opportunities any longer. It’s an amazing thing for us to have.

  15. laurenjimeson says:

    That is a really great idea! I’d love to get my grandparents reading stories to my daughters. What an awesome memory to have.

  16. Katie says:

    I so wish we had videos of when I was a kid. My mom and dad read to us every single night and now being able to read those same stories to my child is one of the greatest gifts. We don’t have a fancy video camera, but now we can use our smart phones to capture some of the moments I wish I had from my childhood.

  17. Danielle Smith says:

    I cannot even tell you how much I love this…. My mom has been recording my grandmother telling stories about her life…. I can’t get enough of it.

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