It's A Gray Area: Live and preserve your heritage

At this point in my life, I have lost my grandparents and parents and all of their siblings. So as far as who the "elder statesmen" are on my side of the family, my sister and I are now the ones.

Fortunately, before they died, I was able to tape record my mother and her siblings singing the songs that I heard her and them sing when I was a child, and also my father telling some of the stories and poems he had recited during my childhood. So their voices and some of our heritage have been preserved.

In addition, my father also took the initiative during the later years of his life to prepare what he called his "letter to his grandchildren." This consisted of about 12 volumes of photo albums and scrapbooks with his written explanations tracing the history of many of the ancestors on both sides of our family, providing some of their letters and mementos, telling some of their stories, and identifying their pictures that had been kept in shoeboxes for years.

What a gift, because once my parents and their siblings were gone, the bare pictures and effects would have meant almost nothing to us. But with my father providing their names, dates and backgrounds, an important part of our heritage was preserved. This was so important that we caused the letter to be transferred onto CDs, with each of our children receiving a copy. (The original "letter" was donated to the Bancroft Library at the University of California, as they are interested in preserving California history of all kinds.)

I strongly suggest that you take similar actions to preserve your heritage. While there is still time, interview your grandparents, if you are still fortunate enough to have them with you, as well as your parents, their siblings, and other important people in your lives. And record the interviews in audio, or even visual form, while they tell about your family's history, noteworthy stories, songs, or whatever they and you feel would be interesting. I guarantee that you and your family will always be grateful to have those recorded memories and conversations!

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Upcoming Heritage Festival

And speaking of living your heritage, remember my Feb. 6 column in which we discussed the upcoming Heritage Music Festival? Well, that event will be held from noon to 7 p.m. May 22 at the Heritage Museum of Orange County. Please be sure to join us and be a part of a truly wonderful and bonding family occasion that will increase your family's heritage.

Three excellent bluegrass bands, as well as one big band, will perform.

Stephanie and Luke, who are unbelievable on the fiddle, guitar, banjo and mandolin, will stage a children's concert at 1:15 p.m. The big band A Wing and a Prayer will then perform at 2:20 p.m., followed by Stephanie and Luke again at 3:25 p.m. with their bluegrass music, the Dennis Roger Reed Band at 4:30 p.m. with great cowboy blues music, and then Folding Mr. Lincoln will perform at 5:35 with their fiddle-driven folk music.

Before the concert, Chief David from the native tribes of Orange County has kindly agreed to give his ritual blessings upon the festival. In addition, there will also be a delicious barbecue of tri-tip steak sandwiches and more, plus a great craft brew beer and wine garden, as well as community tables for other nonprofit organizations to show you some of the good things that are continuing to happen here in Orange County.

And now comes the extra special family part, because all through the afternoon we will have fun and educational events and demonstrations for children. Among them is a demonstration at the Heritage Museum's working blacksmith shop, storytellers, hands-on adobe brickmaking, mounted officers from the Santa Ana Police Department, a vintage 1921 fire engine, native tribal exhibits, a caricature artist, children's art classes and more.

The Heritage Museum is next to the Godinez High School in Southern Santa Ana, which is on Harvard Street just off Fairview Road between Edinger Street and Warner Avenue and between the San Diego (405) and Garden Grove (22) freeways. You can get more information by calling (714) 540-0404, or visiting http://www.HeritageMuseumOC.org.

As a disclosure, I have joined the museum's board of directors, because this is a gem of a place that has not yet come close to reaching its full potential to serve our community. But with this annual family event we are getting closer. And we are also grateful that this heritage event is scheduled to be recorded in documentary form by some film school students at Chapman University.

JAMES P. GRAY is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, the composer of the high school musical revue "Americans All" (Heuer Publishing), and can be contacted at JimPGray@sbcglobal.net, or through his website at http://www.JudgeJimGray.com.

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