Monday, September 15, 2014

Solano Stroll: History through Community

Sunday was the 2014 Solano Stroll.. An acquaintance had suggested "It's been done.. hasn't it??" and then remarked on how his family had attended in the past and even the kids had been in the parade. Sure, I said.. but this year would be different.


Different for me, at any rate: I would be supporting it as a member and volunteer with the Berkeley Historical Society. I've been volunteering a bit in various ways here and there with the group since earlier this Spring.. and although I wasn't sure I was ready to be thrown into a wolves' den of people (crowds of strangers and unfamiliar situations tend to make me a little anxious unless I know someone..) I was more than willing to give it a go. For as much as new experiences can make me anxious, I still love to try new things, and learn new things.

While I knew what to expect as an attendee of the Stroll, I wasn't sure I was knowledgable enough to support the Society the two hours I was there. It turns out I had nothing to worry about.. I was surrounded by knowledgable associates that were there at the ready whenever a question was too much for me.. Mostly I just chatted people up, sold postcards of various views of Berkeley, some neat B&W pix, as well made change, shared out membership pamphlets when requested, and just had Fun!

Being at the Stroll in this capacity put into play one of the aspects of history that I love.. the tactile aspect. Yes, it's "going to places" where historical things happened.. One can visit Philadelphia or Baltimore as I have, or Charleston or St Augustine, (as I also have many years ago) and see where things happened and be told what and who did what where.. but the bit I'm talking about is more subtle than that.


Walking Solano, you see the theatre, the shops, you talk to people who live there and are part of the community. You take in their experience. You take home your own memories and photos of things you saw or experienced. Whether it's the neat hat I purchased at a local shop or a Solano Stroll poster I took home a few years ago.. the ephemera and memories.. You look around and know people have shopped here before, lived here before.. memory ghosts ..that walk the sidewalks and commune with neighbors and shopkeepers.

Listening to the people yesterday that were fascinated with the panoramic image of Berkeley that the Society had on display (and for sale) was a pleasure. Discussion, sometimes heated about which building was missing or where someone's home was or which street they were looking at.. Learning by listening, learning by viewing.. Learning by holding the things that came before and being part of it myself. It's more than just visiting a park or a city. It's experiencing and opening yourself to those around you and the stories they share.. Being part of the community engagement. Yes, there's a lot of nostalgia mixed throughout these stories.. but so is some truth.

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