More Memory Triggers – Your Young Adult Years

I recommend a book by Patricia Ann Case called How to Write Your Autobiography: Preserving Your Family Heritage. In it she poses questions to trigger your writing. They are arranged and grouped in a logical way, so you can progress through your life memories and get them onto paper. You don’t write in the book, but she suggests numbering your pages as you write to keep it in sequence.

For the young adult years, she asks questions like these:

  • Whey you reached your young adult years, did you see changes in your family’s way of life from the time when you were little?
  • How did those changes affect the family?
  • Were there modern conveniences added by your family by this time?
  • What trends did you see like people moving to the cities or away from the cities or other influences?

Be sure to visit my weekly posting of Writing Triggers for Family Memories .


Writing Prompt – The First Time

This topic lets you choose from a varied range of memories. Choose one and write at least a page about how you felt on that occasion.  Aim for being specific, not abstract. Think about what you observed, what the surroundings were, what other people were there and describe these things.

Here are some topics to choose from (or come up with your own):

  • 1st day of school
  • 1st job
  • 1st kiss
  • 1st time driving a car
  • 1st time living alone
  • 1st child

Thanks to Exploring Our Lives: A Writing Handbook for Senior Adults by Francis E. Kazemek for the ideas here.

1950s Memory Triggers

If you grew up in the 1950s, here’s a website created by the Ames Historical Society that will instantly transport you back to those days. Be sure you have the speakers turned on for your computer. Have pen and paper ready to note down fleeting thoughts that you’ll want to write about later. Maybe you’ll chose to write about your favorite songs from that decade or learning to dance in your friend’s basement with a 45 playing on the boxy record player. Perhaps you’ll write about your comic book collection that your mom threw out one day and you’ve never forgiven her for doing that.

Whatever memories this 1950s site triggers, you’ll want to write it down even if it’s just fragments. Later you can expand or connect these to make a more complete picture  of your life at that time.

Cindy, Karen, Ginger, Susan Martin in 1950s

Here I am with three of my sisters in the 1950s.

Memory Triggers – Really Old Stuff

This arrived in my inbox when I checked my e-mail. It brought back some memories and I’m sure it will start you thinking of some topics to write about. I’ll put the whole thing in here. Pick and choose what strikes a chord with you. Maybe pull together all the references to old toys and games and write about those. You could also write about memories of the family dinner table, cleaning your plate and how that went in your family.
Here it is:

‘Someone asked the other day, ‘What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?’
‘We didn’t have fast food when I was growing up,’ I informed him.
‘All the food was slow.’

‘C’mon, seriously. Where did you eat?’
‘It was a place called ‘at home,” I explained. !
‘Mom cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.’

By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to suffer serious internal damage, so I didn’t tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table.
But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his system could have handled it :
Some parents NEVER owned their own house, never wore Levis, never set foot on a golf course, never traveled out of the country or had a credit card.
In their later years they had something called a revolving charge card. The card was good only at Sears Roebuck. Or maybe it was Sears & Roebuck.
Either way, there is no Roebuck anymore. Maybe he died.

My parents never drove me to soccer practice. This was mostly because we never had heard of soccer. I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow)
We didn’t have a television in our house until I was 19.
It was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at midnight, after playing the national anthem and a poem about God; it came back on the air at about 6 a..m. And there was usually a locally produced news and farm show on, featuring local people.

I was 21 before I tasted my first pizza, it was called ‘pizza pie.’
When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off, swung down, plastered itself against my chin and burned that, too. It’s still the best pizza I ever had..

I never had a telephone in my room.
The only phone in the house was in the living room and it was on a party line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people you didn’t know weren’t already using the line.
Pizzas were not delivered to our home But milk was.
All newspapers were delivered by boys and all boys delivered newspapers –my brother delivered a newspaper, six days a week. It cost 7 cents a paper, of which he got to keep 2 cents. He had to get up at 6AM every morning.
On Saturday, he had to collect the 42 cents from his customers. His favorite customers were the ones who gave him 50 cents and told him to keep the change. His least favorite customers were the ones who seemed to never be home on collection day..
Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies. There were no movie ratings because all movies were responsibly produced for everyone to enjoy viewing, without profanity or violence or most anything offensive.

If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren Just don’t blame me if they bust a gut laughing.

Growing up isn’t what it used to be, is it?
MEMORIES from a friend :
My Dad is cleaning out my grandmother’s house (she died in December) and he brought me an old Royal Crown Cola bottle. In the bottle top was a stopper with a bunch of holes in it.. I knew immediately what it was, but my daughter had no idea.. She thought they had tried to make it a salt shaker or something. I knew it as the bottle that sat on the end of the ironing board to ‘sprinkle’ clothes with because we didn’t have steam irons.. Man, I am old.
How many do you remember?
Head lights dimmer switches on the floor.
Ignition switches on the dashboard.
Heaters mounted on the inside of the fire wall.
Real ice boxes.
Pant leg clips for bicycles without chain guards.
Soldering irons you heat on a gas burner.
Using hand signals for cars without turn signals.

Older Than Dirt Quiz :
Count all the ones that you remember not the ones you were told about.
Ratings at the bottom.
1.. Blackjack chewing gum
2.Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water
3. Candy cigarettes
4. Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles
5. Coffee shops or diners with tableside juke boxes
6. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers

7. Party lines on the telephone
8 Newsreels before the movie
9. P.F. Flyers
10. Butch wax
11.. TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning. (there were only 3 channels [if you were fortunate])
12. Peashooters
13. Howdy Doody
14. 45 RPM records
15. S& H greenstamps
16. Hi-fi’s
17. Metal ice trays with lever
18. Mimeograph paper
19. Blue flashbulb
20. Packards
21. Roller skate keys
22. Cork popguns
23. Drive-ins
24. Studebakers
25. Wash tub wringers

If you remembered 0-5 = You’re still young
If you remembered 6-10 = You are getting older
If you remembered 11-15 = Don’t tell your age,
If you remembered 16-25 = You’ re older t han dirt!

I might be older than dirt but those memories are some of the best parts of my life.

I Resolve to Write

I’ve been reading back through my blog and felt good about my progress in a variety of activities and projects over 2009. Of course, there’s so much more I want to accomplish. I guess this is what life is all about, having goals and dreams and working towards those. Without these, life would be pretty dull.

I didn’t write down any specific New Year’s resolutions this year. It would have been the usual eat less, exercise more, etc.  Now that we’re a few days into 2010, I think I’ll take “writing more” as my motto for the year. To be specific, I want to:

  • write enough eHow articles to earn $400 a month on that site
  • create/write enough Squidoo lenses to earn $100 a month on that site
  • write enough essays on Helium to achieve a four star rating there (requires a minimum of 100 articles, which rank on average in the top quarter)
  • write some Helium marketplace essays where I can earn more money there
  • write weekly writing triggers to post on my blog for my writing group
  • finish editing the paperback edition of my dad’s book and get it published on Blurb
  • encourage my mom in writing her memories of her adult life for a third book (tentative title: Gail, All Grown Up)
  • resume the weekly family memory writing group this summer
  • teach a class in Creating a Family Biography Book (scheduled for June in Kittery, Maine). Here’s the class description “Virginia Allain, a retired librarian, self-published her mother’s memories of growing up in the 1930s (My Flint Hills Childhood) and a collection of family memories about her father (Clyde Owen Martin). This freelance writer and avid photographer can show you how to gather, organize, write and self-publish your own family stories using the latest print-on-demand method. The session includes how to trigger your memories and those of family members and to capture them on paper. She will demonstrate use of’s BookSmart software to create a family biography and make it available in paperback and/or hardback. To get an idea of the finished product, you can preview her books at”

I guess that’s enough to keep me busy in 2010. Wish me luck in carrying all this through.

Oops, I almost forgot. I also want to write in my journal every day.

Memory Trigger – Writing Christmas Memories

Christmas isn’t always as happy a time as we would want. Do you have a memory of a Christmas that disappointed you? Were your expectations for a certain gift not fulfilled? We’re you unable to be with loved ones? Write about the circumstances around that disappointment. Tell why you fixated on that anticipated gift and what it meant to you. Try to figure out why it wasn’t forthcoming and explain that situation.

If you spent a Christmas away from home, write about how that happened. Describe the setting where you celebrated the holiday and how it was different from your family gatherings. If you were able to salvage a merry Christmas from the situation, explain how you did that.

Other Christmas memory triggers could be about:

  •  too much snow
  • unseasonably warm
  • away in the military
  • after a recent loss
  • while unemployed
  • other financial difficulties

Here’s an example of a memorable Christmas captured in words by an online friend, Nancy Carol: Christmas Without Mama

Nancy Carol

Time for Another Memory Trigger – Autumn

Think back to your childhood and September days. How did you feel about going back to school after the summer? Describe an experiece of meeting a new teacher. Do you remember how you dressed for school and did you take a lunch?

 What activities did you share with your family in the fall (leaf raking? apple picking? hay rides? pumpkin patch?).

Tell about the change of season where you lived and how you felt about that.