I can’t begin to tell everyone how much I have enjoyed conducting interviews for our oral history program, Restoring Voices. I had three interview sessions during the past two weeks alone, two of which were with Charles Schubert, one of San Antonio’s most respected preservation architects. I met with him at his Southtown office on an overcast Tuesday morning and we enjoyed a very pleasant conversation as I set up my recording equipment.
Before we officially began with the interview, Mr. Schubert was a little unsure as to how much he would contribute to the recording. I assured him that once he got going he would see exactly how much he had to share, and that’s exactly what happened. After about fifteeen minutes or so he realized how long he had been talking, he laughed and asked how much more he should keep talking. I said, “You can keep going, this is great!” Mr. Schubert had so many fascinating stories about his life and career in preservation that I returned the following week to finish up the interview … and the entire time Buster, his black lab lay at his feet taking the whole thing in.
The next morning Amanda Ochse was kind enough to come to Villa Finale where we settled in for an interview in the Library. Mrs. Ochse, whose grandfather was C.H. Guenther founder of San Antonio’s Pioneer Flour Mill, lived in King William from 1928 through 1952. She too thought she would have very little to contribute, but two hours later we agreed to set up another interview where she could share her stories about Fredericksburg. During the interview Mrs. Ochse talked about growing up in the neighborhood during a time when no one locked their doors or windows; a time when neighborhood children got up at 4am to watch the circus and all its performers parade their way from the railroad tracks, through the streets of King William, and to their performance area downtown.
I am very grateful to Mr. Schubert and Mrs. Ochse for taking the time to share their remembrances for this project; these interviews are true treasures for many generations to come. While I understand that sitting in front of a microphone may seem intimidating to some, it is my hope that many more will volunteer for an interview and thus contribute to the documentation of the history of the King William neighborhood, the city of San Antonio, and the work of Walter Mathis.
When asked what he would tell people about his experience with the oral history process, Mr. Schubert said it was a positive one. He added that he was relaxed and didn’t feel at all intimidated knowing there was a working microphone in front of him. Mr. Schubert doesn’t consider himself a talkative person, but once he got going he admitted not having a difficult time at all with the process.
If you know of someone who would be a good candidate for an oral history interview, or would like to volunteer yourself, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.