A step back in time

Published 10:41 pm Thursday, November 13, 2008

Being a history nut I am always looking for personal recollections of the way life was — from accounts of local World War II veterans to the example of intricate craftsmanship in an antebellum home. The way times change and the speed at which our way of life has transformed over the past 30, 50, 80 years, it is amazing to me to be able to look back into time through the stories of those who lived it.

This week I interviewed two very different and unique men who, through their individual efforts, are contributing to bringing Marengo County’s history to younger generations.

Paul Gresham, one of the last surviving D-Day veterans in the county, and Linden’s Fire Chief James Creel, who is helping restore the city’s first fire truck.

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Gresham spent the day before Veterans Day as he has the past five or six years — recalling his experiences before an assembly of students at Demopolis High School.

Speaking to teenagers not much younger than he was in 1944, Gresham shared his story — a baptism by fire from boy to man in a matter of seconds.

Gresham was just a green 19-year-old when he stepped off a transport ship onto a Higgins landing craft facing Omaha Beach.

Creel is seeing a dream of his come to life with the restoration of the city’s original 1949 Ford pumper truck.

Creel said the fire department plans to use the truck for parades as an ambassador for the city, but his number one goal is to use the truck for fire prevention week at the schools.

Both men had very different pasts with very different occupations, backgrounds and stories to tell.

Both are similar in that they see what they have experienced as an opportunity to bring to younger generations a sense of pride and a healthy dose of respect for their local history.

It’s important we take pride in our past, the heritage and accounts of those who set the stage for life as we know it today.

Without their experiences and sacrifices life as we know it may be drastically different.

For those who have a story to tell, don’t hold back. Tell it. For those who need to listen – listen, enjoy and learn.

John Few is a news reporter for the Demopolis Times.