Capturing Your Family’s Oral Traditions on Video

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!





Article Posted 4 years Ago

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