Life Story – Why Not Make Yours?

Doc Makes a Life Story Video Documentary in Retirement

By Jane Lehmann

Doc Wylde had a wild time growing up. Like most kids of his generation, the only time he spent inside was to eat and sleep.

Impassioned naturalist

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Doc started out as an impassioned naturalist. Not the airy-fairy tree-hugging kind, but someone who camped out, fished and hunted all his life. Now 83 and living in Southern California, he traveled as a child along the Ortega Highway in the family’s Model A Ford for vacations on the San Juan Creek. As a young boy, he scooped fish out of the creek’s shallows by hand, trying to save them from the summer heat by moving them to deeper pools.

Doc knew that he had lived a kind of privileged life. Not a lot of the luxuries, mind you. But he was a boy at a time when being a boy meant being outside from dawn till well after dark. When being a boy allowed you to carry a rifle and get up to all kinds of things well beyond the prying eyes of the grown-ups. It was this thinking that, much later in his retirement, began to make Doc think that he should make a life story video and tell the whole story.

Wild honey
As Doc recalls in his life story video, vacations were almost always at the family cabin on San Juan Creek. He used to collect wild honey from the hills, being extremely careful to avoid the cougars. Later, he would give Elynor his Sigma Chi Fraternity pin during a USC pledge party at the cabin (properly chaperoned of course.)

Doc is also part of a growing number of seniors who are preserving their life stories with private, personal history video documentaries – known in the industry as “video biographies” or “life story videos”. Doc created his life story video so that future generations would know his story. “I want them to know something about me and our family history. This life story video is something that I can leave them.”

Doc pretty much made a success of everything he tried in life. His persistence is legendary, as Elynor attests to in his life story video. But in retirement, he found his mind increasingly turning to his early days.

Thermal pools
Like the time when he and his friends (and their girls) used to sneak into the thermal pools along the Ortega Highway. The thermal pools were part of an old spa, which had been boarded up a long time ago.

Another story Doc recounts in his life story video is the time he went out shooting quail. Not hitting any birds, he volunteered to use his posterior as a test target for his suspect shotgun. (“I was wearing jeans,” he say, to avoid being considered too idiotic.) It turned out that the problem was not the shotgun, and Doc had some difficulty in sitting down for weeks after.

Biggest regret
Perhaps the most unpleasant memory Doc recalls in his life story video documentary comes from the Second World War. Doc was too young to serve by just a few years. But he was big enough to get into trouble. So he let his friends talk him into breaking into cabins along the San Juan Creek. They got in, got out, and Doc became very popular giving the booty away at school. Then the sheriff arrived and Doc spent two weeks in the OC lock-up. “It sure taught me a lesson,” he says in the life story video. “I never broke the law ever again.”

Life Story Historian
As well as being a naturalist, Doc is a historian. Not the pipe-smoking, tweed jacket wearing kind, but someone who has photographed, filmed, processed and preserved his own personal history and the history of his family. Over the course of decades, he has created an archive of more than 10,000 photographs and over 50 hours of film and video footage.

Doc has never been afraid of the new technology. He runs a sophisticated computer setup with multiple screens and more drives than you could poke a stick at. He flits from one program to another and pops disks into computer drawers with as much ease as some folks lob coins into slots.

So making his own documentary in his retirement – with a little pro help – was always a natural fit for Doc.

Life Story Videos “They are increasingly common” says Jane Lehmann, co-owner of Your Story Here Video Biography and Regional Marketing Coordinator for Southern California for the Association of Personal Historians. “Seniors are realizing just how extraordinary their lives and times have been. The 20th century saw some pretty dramatic events after all. And seniors are routinely being told by their children that their stories are important and well worth preserving with life story video documentaries.”

A life story video will typically run for around 60 minutes and combine interview material with personal and archive photographs and video footage. (Although in the case of Doc Wylde, his life story video ran to around 100 minutes over two disks – one for his personal life and one covering his business life.) Depending on the requirements of the story, there may be narration and there are always chapter breaks as well as music, captions, a DVD menu and a custom designed DVD box. Life story videos can be posted to the web.

The end result is an “A&E” style private video documentary that becomes, for many people, their most important legacy. People learn more about making their own personal history documentary, and the different product options available, by asking questions, phoning around, and researching Life Story Video on-line.

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