Oral Traditions

by Charles McGrath


Like most people I always appreciate hearing and relating stories. This site provides us with an excellent vehicle for stories. Events and experiences from the past can be shared by all. In this way they are not lost through the passing of time. I think this forum allows all of us to have more appreciation for the past and especially Newark.

Telling stories is as old as time. As we all know prior to the written word this was the way facts and beliefs were transmitted. Most primitive people including the Indians used oral traditions. By this method they maintained their religious and cultural beliefs for thousands of years.

Oral tradition also kept alive our Christian beliefs for its first two hundred years. Not unlike most people I appreciate a story with a moral. The moral being the lesson to be drawn from the conclusion of the story.

I recently celebrated Mass in a a small rural Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. Preceding the Homily the priest told a story about a fifth grade teacher. This teacher gave an assignment to her students to be completed for the next class. The assignment was to obtain a story from their parents. In addition each story was to have a moral meaning.

This school was located in a farming community. The next morning when called upon the first student told the following story. Her father placed all of his chicken eggs in one basket in the back of his pickup truck. On the way to market he hit a pothole and the basket turned over. Most of the eggs were broken. The young student said the moral of the story is "don't put all your eggs in one basket."

The second student told about her mother anxiously waiting for the twelve eggs to hatch. She had all sorts of plans for the twelve new chickens. Only four chickens hatched from the 12 eggs. The student said the moral of the story is " don't count your chickens before they hatch."

The third student told a story about her father's sister. She was in the Air Force during the war in Vietnam. Her plane was damaged from ground fire and she had to bail out over enemy territory. She took three things with her. A bottle of whiskey, machine gun and a machete. On the way down she decided to drink the bottle of whiskey. When she hit the ground she was surrounded by 50 Viet Cong. She shot 40 of them before her ammunition ran out. She killed 9 more with her machete before its handle broke. She killed the last enemy soldier with her bare hands.

The teacher and the rest of the class was aghast at this unbelievable story. The teacher said to the student "what is the moral to your story?"

The student said "you don't mess with Aunt Karen when she's drinking."


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