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Eric Douglas: Family memories for West Virginia Day

It’s amazing how often we have to remind people from outside West Virginia that we are actually a state.

On the other hand, I did hear a clue on the television game show “Jeopardy” a week or so ago asking “What state got its directional name after it split off from another state in 1863?”

And a contestant got the right answer immediately. I took great satisfaction in that.

One of the greatest parts of being from West Virginia is the culture and history of this place. We have a unique background and way of being. Anywhere you go in the world, you are likely to see a West Virginia University ball cap or hear “Country Roads” played.

Too often, though, we downplay that history or try to ignore it.

On June 20 and 21, I will again be recording oral history interviews at the Culture Center as part of FestivALL. Participants can talk about anything they want and will leave with a copy of their own recording to share with their family. In the previous two FestivALLs and last year’s FestivALL Fall, I’ve recorded more than 50 individual oral histories.

When I talk about oral histories, people often say things like “You don’t want my stories. There is nothing special.” That’s rarely the case. Everyone has a story to tell, and those basic memories of family and growing up are exactly what makes recording oral histories important.

I am fortunate to do this, because I get to hear the most interesting stories and I learn so much every time we do this. I’m really excited to be recording on West Virginia Day, too. I am hopeful we get some cool West Virginia stories about what home means, too. I think that would go along nicely with the day (and the day after).

On a side note, was it coincidence that “Country Roads” came on the music streaming service I listen to while I wrote this column? Or the universe telling me I was on the right topic?

West Virginia Day is June 20. Don’t forget.

To make an appointment, contact Susan Scouras, Archives Librarian, at 304-558-0230, ext. 742, or This opportunity is sponsored by FestivALL and West Virginia Archives and History Library, West Virginia Division of Culture and History.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit or contact him at


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