Saving the Sounds of Earlier Times

We use the Edirol from Roland to create MP3 and WAV files

We use the Edirol from Roland to create MP3 and WAV files.

Since a large part of the county’s 20th century history was documented and recorded in sound and moving images, the Historical Society started preserving collections of these artifacts.  When the appeal first went out for help in capturing these largely forgotten treasures a few years ago, a range of new contributions came in.  There was the magnetic tape containing the emergency communications radio dispatching from the 1963 plane crash, provided by Rosemary Culley.  The news director of Elkton’s full service radio station, Jane Bellmyer, located 1970s radio shows that aired on the station and someone else allowed us to copy a 1950s broadcast from the Holly Tree.  Using modern digital recording equipment, we rescued these fleeting sounds of history, creating audio files that are played on modern listening equipment and the Internet.  . Recently we rescued two additional groups of audio recording from the 20th century. The first was a series of 1980 cassette tapes of Ruth Ann Johnson interviewing her mother Ruth Crothers Ewing.  Mrs. Ewing passed away at the age of 97 in 1993.  She was a 1913 graduate of Calvert Agricultural High School and a 1918 graduate of the Drexel Institute of Technology.  Her professional career included work as a dietician in Philadelphia and teaching at the high school in Calvert.  On those four tapes, Mrs. Ewing vividly recalls life in Cecil County through most of the 20th century.  There are memories of Woodlawn Camp Meeting Ground, Rising Sun, World War II, Calvert Agricultural High School, family and lots more.  It’s one thing to read historical accounts of these local events, but to hear Mrs. Ewing actual voice recounting the experiences of a lifetime, is priceless from the standpoint of understanding earlier eras. The other one was a large stack of long-playing vinyl albums that were recorded during graduation ceremonies at the Calvert Agricultural High School in the late 1930s and 1940s.  In those old records, the school principal, George E. Gifford, teachers, guest speakers, and members of the class approach the microphone to say goodbye to their beloved high school and offer remarks about the future.  These young people from the greatest generation facedunsettled times for the recordings started in the middle of the Great Depression and continued through World War II.  Thanks to Mrs. Alberta May for giving us the opportunity to digitize those recordings.  We still have some restoration work to do on these aging audio, but while we work on that click here to hear an audio outtake with this post.  This sound is from the class of 1939 at Calvert High School.  All the recordings will be posted on the Historical Society website as soon as we finish this work. Before the 1900s our history was largely silent, but in the 20th century sounds and movies became common, as events were recorded on magnetic tapes, vinyl records, 8mm film, and aluminum discs.  As time, deterioration, and technological obsolescence put these fleeting sounds at risk of being lost, we’re trying to save these sounds of the past before they’re permanently silenced as the last century grows distant.


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