This is a story of many stories. It is a story of Danish sailors and family feuds. Of marriages, deaths, gunshot wounds and stormy rescues. This, believe it or not, is the story of Lopez.
Lorrie Harrison and Alie Smaalders are here to make sure you hear those stories. They, in partnership with those at KLOI (Lopez’s own radio station) are on a campaign to record, broadcast and archive the “once upon a time” side of Lopez. Both women have varied professional histories involving academia and communications and are therefore trained in the value of narrative. As they sit in Lorrie’s front room discussing their KLOI show “Once Upon an Island”, it is clear they share a love of the island and its history. The show is a dedication to these loves. Since the first show in October 2008, Harrison and Smaalders have been identifying Lopez Island ‘old timers’ and interviewing them for their stories. The results have proved to be delightful and illuminating. “It is an opportunity to hear what Lopez was like once upon a time” says Harrison, describing how each story brings meaning to the Lopez landscape. As she drives the island roads, now she sees houses that play a part in the grand history of the place. “It has deepened my sense of home” says Harrison.
The pair began their interest with island histories with the book “ “Kindred Spirits”, which Harrison wrote with photographer Greg Ewert and Smaalders edited. Harrison describes how, after the publication of the book, a checker at the market would often comment that there were still many more stories to be collected. “Ruth at the grocery store” she smiles, “would say ‘Lorrie, people on Lopez are dying and their stories are dying with them. Dont wait. Write another a book.’” Harrison said it was not the right time to write another book, but she, admits, “I thought Ruth was right.” It was during the two hour drive to Seattle which prompted Harrison’s KLOI revelation. The station had started that April, and as Harrison says, she realized it would be the perfect medium for story telling. “I called Alie the second I got home” she says. By October of that year, they were on air.
The two have perfected their “Lopez Home Companion” style of interviewing. “We try to be gentle” says Smaalders. Interviews are held at home, or in a comfortable environment. Smaalders explains how this puts people more at ease, “i dont think it would go very well at the the radio station”, she says “it could be a little daunting.” Lorrie elaborates by saying that some choose not to be interviewed, but most “love to tell their stories as much as we love to hear them.”
Perhaps the greatest benefit of the project is that now, other people will be able to hear them for years to come. The stories produced for “Once upon an Island” are becoming available at the Lopez Library, filed on cds with the audio books.
KLOI’s Lorna Reese has been archiving many of the radio station’s shows and making them available by podcast. But for those without a listening device, the library will continue to stock the growing audio book archive of Lopez narratives. There are also plans to produce “Lopez Writers Read” and “This Strange and Wonderful World” for library use.
And so what of the gunshot wounds and stormy rescues? You’ll have to go listen to the cds to find out.