Archive for February, 2012

Updated Project Proposal

Since I posted my initial idea I have done some research and gotten a better idea of my interviewing prospects in the area, and this has changed my research question a little.  I initially wanted to research why individuals without a connection to the area such as work, education, or family would choose to retire in the area.  With a little more perspective I’ve realized that this ‘displaced’ group of individuals is probably smaller than I thought, and focusing on retirees with no attachment to the area could limit my view of the people who retire to Williamsburg.  I am instead going to explore why people  retire in Williamsburg despite being from elsewhere, with a focus on those with no family in the area if possible.  In my research on and relationships with retired persons I’ve found that there’s a certain checklist of things people consider when choosing a place to retire.  These things include climate, property values and tax policy, availability of medical facilities, proximity to family, things to do, type of community, and others.  In my interviews I would like to determine how people chose Williamsburg and if any of these factors is a certain ‘tipping point,’ or if reasons vary widely among individuals.  Furthermore, I would like to research how important institutions in Williamsburg, such as Colonial Williamsburg, the College of William and Mary, and Busch Gardens, contribute to the definition of community or bring people to the area.  Do any one of these stand out more than the others?  I will explore these questions through oral history interviews with retirees in the area.  Finally I would like to use my ‘library research’ to explore how Williamsburg fits into the national context of retirement.  Is Williamsburg different or unique relative to other areas of the country, region, or state?  Why or why not?

Focusing my Project – Getting Energized …

Well, the peer interview crucible test is completed, and I am excited to be continuing the process of focusing my project proposal.  I have been in contact with several retirees in Williamsburg and administrators in the senior community who are providing great feedback about my research objectives.  For my project I will concentrate on seniors who are presently living in place at home in the Williamsburg area independent of any retirement, independent, or assisted living communities.  I want to know how retiring at home differs for today’s seniors from the experiences of their relatives during the time period between WWII to now.  I anticipate having to rely on previous research about retirement for baby boomer parents who may no longer be living.  I will also rely on oral histories from current retirees about their family member’s retirement experiences.  I want to learn more particularly about what challenges retirees face across all income levels regarding housing, medical care and insurance, and other services that assist with management of day-to-day living concerns.  How do these issues differ for today’s retirees?  What accommodations will be or have been made in the Williamsburg community to prepare for an increase in the retirement population over the next 20 years?  Also, what has contributed to improving or not improving the retirement outlook for seniors?  What factors make or have made the quality of retirement better over time?  How are “boomers” and their parents managing retirement living decisions in the 21st century?  What are they doing that enhances their experience?  I hope my research will reveal a dynamic community of “aging-in” retirees at all income levels who enjoy their retirement with an improved quality and outlook than was experienced by their relatives.  So far my inquiries have revealed that some seniors are managing to create a retirement experience that is very satisfying as a result of good planning and a supportive community experience.

Brief transcript review

I have to say that, unlike Will, I am not a fan of transcribing. Moreover, I discovered that it’s important to conduct the process in a private, secluded space; attempting to transcribe on the first floor of Swem or any public place where you might see someone you know (which is almost everywhere in Williamsburg) is a bad idea.  I can’t tell you how many times I was interrupted, which is a reason why it took me a bit longer than most to complete the assignment. Regardless of the interruptions, I found the recording to be of good quality with most of the words and ideas discernible and clear. I didn’t familiarize myself with the technology to help with the transcription for this interview since it was fairly short (approximately 11 minutes), but I definitely intend on using it for the upcoming peer interview and for the project.  I imagine the software would have made the process less time-consuming as I had to continually start and restart segments where the narrator spoke too quickly, or when I was debating on whether or not to include a comma or ellipsis. There was a time in the interview where I didn’t feel it necessary to include parts, like at the end of the interview when the narrator gave a full back and forth dialogue that almost said the same thing over and over again. Still, I included the full dialogue.  The only time that I was unable to transcribe the words was at the end of the interview when a phone call cut off the narrator’s dialogue and the voice of the interviewee was masked by the sound of the ringing phone.

Transcribing…in all its glory

I have transcribed before when I worked for my high school newspaper, but it was just quotations that were a few lines at most. Tone and retaining the voice of the narrator didn’t matter as much as recording the words that came out of his or her mouth. Not surprisingly, transcribing an oral history is much different.  It took about two hours over two days with an extra day for checking my work and making brief changes, which is not bad. However, I’m not excited for transcribing my real interviews, especially since I’m starting to learn that my love of asking questions is going to make them quite long!

The hardest part of the transcribing was anything requiring a judgement call. I was not sure where is was necessary to put “ums” and “uhs”, especially since Paula used them a lot. It was also difficult to transcribe some of Mr. Beck’s thoughts since he had a tendency to start a sentence, pause, and then start it over again, or repeat words as he tried to gather his thoughts. It was a learning experience though, because I never realized how many run-on sentences and “ums” people put into their speech. It made me start listening to and analyzing my own speech and realizing that I am the same way. In the end though, I put “ums” in for Paula because I felt it was important to show her nerves for some reason. I included Mr. Beck’s “ums” only when it seemed like he was struggling to think of something (like Fredericksburg, for example). I included some of both his and Paula’s sentences restarts and repeated words and used ellipses to mark where they started a sentence over since that was the only technique that made sense in my head. I also used ellipses to mark small pauses and where the person trailed off. I’m going to have to come up with some new techniques, but hopefully my readers can understand them for this particular transcription.

For names that I did not know (there were three of them), I googled them first and then bolded them in the transcript. I’m pretty sure all my name spellings are correct, but the bolding will show the reader that I’m not completely sure they were correct since I did not have the opportunity to ask Mr. Beck to clarify. I added a few bracketed words of my own to make the sentences grammatically correct. I marked anything that I could not make out as [indistinguishable] and with any overlap, I put the first person’s full comment first and then the second person’s full comment. I consider myself fortunate to have only two people really talking on my part of tape, especially after reading transcription reviews of people in the past class who have had to deal with six people talking over each other.

My biggest problem with transcribing an oral conversation was retaining any aspects of tone. I feel like it’s impossible to show on the transcribe where Mr. Beck emphasized certain words or where his voice got softer. It also made it harder to punctuate sentences since I want to try and preserve these meanings as much as I can. You also really can’t show any trace of his Boston accent without really making a parody out of what he says. I tried to put things like “gonna” since that would be understandable, but any of the nuances were too difficult to be recorded. After thinking about this idea, I’m starting to really value what Portelli said about how important the spoken word really is. Writing words down eliminates the real meaning behind what was said. It seems like the human behind the speech is gone and was replaced by a machine typing words. I  definitely suggest that, if possible, future researchers both listen to the recording and read the transcript so they can see the words and hear all the emphases, accents, and emotion behind the words that I can’t make evident on the page.

With the indexing, I think that I had an unfair advantage, because I made the stupid mistake of not fully reading the assignment sheet before starting. As a result, I did the transcription before the indexing. When doing the index, I felt like I didn’t have to listen to the interview fully, because the second he started talking about a topic, I thought, “I know what’s coming. He’s going to talk about hitchhiking to Boston” or whatever. This process is completely different from the experiences in class, because there, I actually had to listen to the interview and make a judgement call about what was important enough to write down, instead of already knowing.

I could tell this interview was Paula’s first, because she sounded nervous and like she did not know exactly how to ask her questions. There were a few instances where she jumped on Mr. Beck with another question after he finished a story and didn’t appreciate the silence or the chance to let him follow up with whatever he was saying. There were also points where the silence seemed awkward and it was evident that Paula was trying to figure out what to ask next. Other than that, she was very understandable and asked interesting questions that she connected to each other relatively well. Hopefully, further experience helped her not be so nervous!

Transcription Practice Reflection

I initially listened to this interview a few weeks ago, and I didn’t have any trouble understanding what either of them said.  I did not hear any great pauses or bad grammar when I listened to Paula interview Susie or Donald Beck.  When I sat down to transcribe a ten-minute clip of Paula and Mr. Beck’s conversation, however, I heard a whole bunch of things that confused me.  For one, both Paula and Mr. Beck tended to trail off in their sentences instead of finishing them conclusively.  They also tended to restart their own sentences and phrases a few times.  I’m using the term ‘sentence’ here pretty loosely, too.  There were several names I did not recognize, which led to awkward guesses on spelling.  There were also times people spoke over each other, or to people in the background.  It was hard to for me to decide how to express the difference between someone trailing off and someone being interrupted.  I went with an ellipsis for trailing off and a dash for being interrupted, but I’m not sure how much this makes sense on paper!  I was unsure about noting all of times the speakers said “um” or “uh” and noting when there was background noise or laughter, etc.  I remembered from reading sample interviews that the ones without too many “ums” or directions read much more smoothly, but when I was transcribing it felt insincere to edit what had been said.  I did my best to put on my paper what I heard, as closely as possible.

I was impressed with how Paula conducted herself in the interview.   All of the “ums” I recorded might make her seem unsure of herself in the transcription, but in the interview it made her seem thoughtful as she considered how to ask a question.  Her questions left plenty of room for open-ended answers rather than yes or no questions.  A lot of them could be answered with yes or no, but her tone asked more than her words.  I wish I had been able to capture this on paper.  Also, Mr. Beck seemed happy to talk and never stiffed her with a one-word answer to a big question. She also was quiet enough to let Mr. Beck completely finish his thought before she asked a new question.  One thing was that there were a couple of times that I thought she moved on to a new, unrelated question even though there were things that Mr. Beck wanted to say about the first topic.  Specifically, after he told the story about the man he had driven home to a family having a party, he seemed to have more thoughts about the status of the American family.  It was less relevant to Paula’s research topic, but he seemed to want to talk.  The story itself was not relevant to Paula’s question, but after I reviewed the audio a number of times while transcribing it, I can tell that he wanted to tell it before she asked the question.  A lesson for when I interview people: they will end up talking about whatever it is that they want to talk about.  Listen!

Transcription Thoughts

I began my transcription process at home in Richmond. I had no internet for some reason or another (I believe my brother had screwed up the internet while trying to connect his Playstation) and was not able to download the software recommended to us. Before I began I thought I was doomed. Luckily, I found the process rather relaxing. At first I had trouble pausing and switching back and forth between iTunes and word but quickly found that my Macbook offered tons of time saving innovations for the project; I won’t get into them as I will start to sound like an Apple spokesperson. Needless to say, I think previous experience doing data entry really helped me keep up with the recording for the most part. Occasionally I would find that I wasn’t sure how to punctuate certain phrases; there were lots of repeated phrases and “ums.” For these, I decided the best course of action was to leave the transcript as close to a literary dialogue as possible. I realize this removes some of the meaning behind the words but we lose that anyway shifting from spoken word to written. I feel the transcript is here more as a means of quoting for easy use in paper; anyone actually attempting to understand what is being said in the interview should probably listen to actual interview. I did have trouble understanding some of the phrases in the dialogue and for these instances I made it clear I did not understand the word or words, while leaving a suggestion as to what I thought was being said. I also left out ambient noise, such as a clock that went off in the middle of the interview. This would have merely distracted the reader instead of adding anything worthwhile to the readers understanding.

I legitimately enjoyed transcribing the interviews. It offered a nice change of pace from the regular reading analysis I have to do for most classes but still was engaging enough to be interesting.

A Turtle’s Pace

I found my first foray into transcription challenging.  If it weren’t for Digital Editor it would have been a nightmarish process.  I found the speed controls helpful, but was aware that not all words translate well at slower speeds.  I discovered that with time I became a better listener and had to review less often as I typed.  There is also something to be said for establishing a familiarity with the patterns of speech used by the narrator and the interviewer.

I separated my transcription over several days and sat at short intervals to do the work.  I would review each of the prior transcriptions to check for accuracy; playing back the interview at normal speed and reading along with my draft.  I added the initals as a last step once I was satisfied with the accuracy of my transcription.

I enjoyed the process very well and was surprised at how much easier it became after multiple short sessions of listening.  I used noise cancelling headphones which helped me hear the speakers very clearly.

I decided to include most utterances and tried to capture the emotional affect of the speaker in the way he used his words.  For example, I noticed that Mr. Beck would repeat the first couple of words in his sentences if the subject was either difficult for him to share, or if he was particularly excited to make a point.  His Northern accent proved to be a little challenging on some parts of the interview, but I did not attempt to capture it in my transcription.  I did have to replay sections at various speeds and consider context in order the “translate” the words he used.

I wasn’t sure how to treat “side” conversations, like when Mrs. Beck spoke to her husband during his interview as she was leaving the house.  I decided to indicate that she spoke, but put a note that she was asking a question in the background and her voice/or his was softer than in the interview portion.

I think that Paula and Grace conducted the interview well overall, but I would have preferred fewer “ums” and “self interruptions”.  These interruptions occurred when they would start a question or statement and then interject another question or comment in the middle of making the first statement.  This happened when they were unsure of the question they were trying to formulate or information they were trying to convey to the narrator.

I hope I will be much improved in both my interviewing and listening skills by the time of my “real” interviews.  Thank goodness for the Digital Editor software – it made transcription much easier!

Preliminary Annotated Bibliography

Preliminary Annotated Bibliography:

Kimmel, Douglas, Tara Rose and Steven David. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Aging. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

I was very excited to come across this book on WorldCat (thank you, Sarah). It’s incredibly relevant and applicable to my project for it provides recent research covering a range of subjects regarding the processes of aging among LGBT individuals, particularly legal issues, retirement planning (how it converges and diverges from those of married heterosexual couples), and how the community is addressing these issues through institutions, including agencies dedicated to delivering services to the senior LGBT population i.e. SAGE which offers LGBT seniors in New York City much-needed clinical services and social activities. Additionally the book gives a historical context for the research on LGBT aging and the historical oppression in the lives of older members of sexual minorities.  An interesting study is whom senior gay men and lesbians turn to in times of crisis, in the absence of conventional family support systems. The bibliography of this book provides a number of interesting leads about LGBT aging that I plan to delve deeper into.

Knauer, Nancy, “LGBT Elder Law: Toward Equity in Aging,” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, 39 no. 1 (2009)

This article helped develop the idea of researching the level of homophobia and heteronormativity within the senior community and aging services.  It also provides a legal approach to the issues of LGBT anti-discrimination protections in private eldercare settings. Currently in only twelve states and D.C. (Virginia not being one of them) provide protection on account of both sexual orientation and gender identity. The drawback of this article is that it was published three years ago and is not up to date with recent laws like the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Johnson, Michael, Nick Jackson, Kenneth Arnette, Steven Koffman, “Gay and Lesbian Perceptions of Discrimination in Retirement Care Facilities,” Journal of Homosexuality, 49 no. 2 (2005).

This article studies the perceptions of discrimination and bias in retirement facilities and suggestions for how to change the often discriminatory attitudes LGBTs face from administration, care staff and residents of these facilities.  It also gives insight as to why these intolerant attitudes are present ie the perception of homosexuality as a disease as suggested by the medical and pathology community in 20th century America.  Not only does this research ask a lot of good questions addressing perceptions and remedies for discrimination, it also provides me with a methodology as I plan address the perceptions of discrimination in retirement communities in Williamsburg.

“Pension Plans,” Human Right Campaign, accessed February 5, 2012

This article from the Human Rights Campaign is intended to inform the LGBT community about the Pension Protection Act of 2006 that included provisions to extend new benefits to non-spouse retirement plan beneficiaries such as same-sex domestic partners.  This Act may not be relevant to the current retirees, but may be something to investigate with older, employed LGBT individuals who plan to benefit from this law to designate their partner as the beneficiary of their 401(k) plan.

Wilson, Claire, “Gay Retirement Communities Are Growing in Popularity,” NYTimes, last modified November 20, 2005,

This article in the NYTimes addresses the rising market for LGBT centered retirement communities.  Important points are made about LGBT individuals fearing discrimination and abuse in mainstream care facilities and how they are often forced back into the closet, and rarely allowed to share rooms even if in a same-sex relationship.  It will be interesting to see if any LGBT individuals living in retirement experience these fears and are consequently reluctant to be open about their sexual preference (a concern I have about finding people to interview in these facilities).  A question will be why Williamsburg and not a LGBT centered care center like RainbowVision referenced in this article.

“Diversity,” Administration on Aging, accessed February 5, 2012, Tools_Resources/diversity.aspx

The AoA has some great resources for elder LGBTs and the center is dedicated to educate mainstream aging service organization about the special needs of LGBT elders and helps LGBTs plan future long-term care needs. The site has information from LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN), a group of American Society on Aging that works to raise awareness about the concerns of LGBT elders and the barriers they encounter in gaining access to housing, healthcare, long-term care, etc.

This is only a work in progress, I suspect to find more relevant sources as I begin think more about my interview questions upon speaking to people in the community to address the issues prevalent in Williamsburg

Initial Bibliography

My project will focus on the Patriots Colony, a Williamsburg retirement community designed exclusively for qualifying military veterans and federal workers.  I would like to know both the history behind this community in particular and the history behind these kinds of exclusive communities in general.  In addition, questions as to why retirees choose exclusive communities in comparison to the reality of their current situation will be addressed. The last prong will look at the business model to see how it compares to a traditional (i.e. nonexclusive) retirement community in the Williamsburg area.

For research purposes, this means I will need to find residents from both kinds of communities to interview, to include administrators and care givers.  Any scholarly literature that I can find on the subject will be helpful as well, though at this stage most of my sources are internet based. 

Websites   Patriots Colony main website

I will interview residents who live there, administrators, and care givers if possible.  The basic idea is to gain a full understanding what kind of life people live in this kind of exclusive community, to include how it is financed.  The Knowllwood—the first military retirement community in the US, since 1962 in DC and doesn’t consider pay               The Fairfax Patriots colony.  Officers or gov. employees GS-7 or more  Brochure for Veteran only retirement community in DC  Military Retirement connection List of all Military Retirement Communities.  What is military Retirement?  What it looks like in terms of pay.  Military Officers Association of America

Books & Articles:  I still need to find scholarly works, if any, on veteran retirement and exclusive retirement centers.

2011  US Military Retirement Handbook

Bibliography Take 1

As I’ve started to narrow my topic, I’m starting to realize that most of my sources are going to have to come from oral histories or primary documents. Since I would like to shift my focus to fraternal organizations local to Williamsburg (since I’ve found several), there are very few sources available online or in books that would benefit my project. However, I’m still including sources about national fraternal and service organizations in order to provide context and a comparison to these smaller local organizations.

One of my questions for my project was to compare the number of various organizations in Williamsburg as opposed to places known as retirement communities. The Knights of Columbus website has a handy tool that shows in what cities they have councils. I’ve already taken a look at a couple of key retirement communities and found out that there are five councils in Naples, Florida and three in or around Sun City, Arizona. These numbers compare to just one in Williamsburg. Other organizations will hopefully have similar tools on their websites for comparison purposes.

The Masons are one of the fraternal organizations in Williamsburg as well as one of the oldest in the country. Their website includes an extensive history of the club in Williamsburg which can provide background information about this prestigious organization. The old home page (which is the first thing to come up off of Google) gives meeting times and contact information which will be helpful for contacting oral history subjects if need be.

The Pulaski Club, a group of 31 Williamsburg men who talk on the benches outside of Bruton Parish on Thursdays, is one of the local clubs I would like to focus on the most. Though their website does not offer that much information, it does give some very basic details that I can use as starter topics for my oral histories. There is also an article published in the 1990s that will also give some information and anecdotes that I can use as background knowledge.

Charles, Jeffrey A.  Service Clubs in American Society. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

This book, which covers the Rotary Club, the Kiwanis, and the Lions Club, will give me some basic background of how these groups were formed and what their missions are. Though I have not looked at this book extensively yet, I’m hoping that it gives some idea of demographics over the years that can provide some insight on how active retired people are in this types of clubs and the differences between members and non-members. Though it may not provide this type of information, it will like the Pulaski Club website, provide good background information

When looking through the Digital Archive,I found some oral histories with people that I know were members of multiple organizations such as Willard Gilley and Billy Scruggs Jr. I plan to listen to these oral histories to get a background of these prominent members of the community as well as ideas for new interview question, since I plan to use them as contacts for future oral histories.

In terms of other resources, there is a binder of local clubs and organizations at the Williamsburg Public Library that I plan to use to get basic information about local clubs such as the Pulaski Club and the Middle Plantation Club. This collection of documents will help to shed some light on how these organizations were formed and what they are doing in the community today which will help create questions to ask in oral histories. Also, the Special Collections at Swem has old documents for the Pulaski Club, the Middle Plantation Club, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and other organizations that can give me ideas for contacts and also provide background information and history that can help shape my project further.

Hopefully I’ll find more sources as I go on. I am still looking for some basic information about how activities help shape retirement and create a more positive experience, as there seems to be a lot of books on the subject. This information can help me understand what role clubs and activities have in a retiree’s life and may help create some ideas on their function in Williamsburg and why people choose to move here.

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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