OGDEN, Utah – Beginning this month, the Stewart Library Special Collections department will conduct oral history interviews as part of its “Business at the Crossroads” project, launched earlier this year and are asking to the public to help identify people to interview.
Business at the Crossroads is a multi-phase project that will document Ogden’s downtown businesses since World War II. The first phase of the project began in April when Special Collections hosted an event at the Ben Lomond Suites where community members were able to scan their historical photographs.
“The community’s response to that event was just what we hoped it would be,” said Sarah Langsdon, associate curator of Special Collections. “We scanned nearly 150 photographs, and already they’re helping us piece together new aspects of 25th Street’s history.”
She gave the example of Bee Hive Candy, once located at 200 25th Street, where Lucky Slice Pizza currently stands. Descendants of the shop’s owners brought several photographs and shared stories about the business with Special Collections staff — a business that Langsdon said she hadn’t known about previously.
She hopes the community will help as her department moves forward with the next phase of the project: gathering oral history interviews with people who have lived and worked on 25th Street.
“This project is a rather broad one, which makes it difficult to contact specific people about being interviewed. That’s why we’re putting the call out there: we need your stories,” Langsdon said.
Four WSU history students have been selected to help with the interviews: Avery Pince, Jordan Chavez, Woodrow Johnson and Lorrie Rands. In addition to conducting the oral history interviews, the interns will also research the buildings and businesses of 25th Street.
Rands will have the specific task of gathering information about the Red Cross Canteen housed in Union Station during World War II. The Canteen opened in the spring of 1942, and during nearly four years of operation, local women staffed the canteen 15 hours a day, seven days a week. Providing cookies, sandwiches and hot coffee, the women served more than 1.6 million soldiers traveling across the United States. Rands is hoping that someone in the community remembers working in the canteen, or has more information about the volunteers.
“It’s amazing what these women were able to accomplish and the time they gave on a completely volunteer basis,” she said. “Most of these soldiers just wanted a feel of home, and the volunteers gave that to them. If someone can help us flesh out these stories, I’d love to talk with them.”
Work on Business at the Crossroads will continue throughout the summer, culminating in a photographic exhibit that will open at Union Station April 4, 2014. The public is invited to contact Special Collections about oral history interviews by visiting library.weber.edu/asc/speccoll or calling 801-626-6540.
Business at the Crossroads has been generously funded by a Faculty Collaboration Award from the Hemingway Faculty Development Trust. This program has also received funding from the Utah Humanities Council and Utah State History.
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