Almost 30 years after the last time a series of oral histories was conducted with longtime Sarpy County residents, a second round is under way.
For the past three months, Sarpy County Museum Executive Director Ben Justman, with the aid of volunteers, has conducted occasional interviews with residents across Sarpy County. Five interviews have been taped so far — one each with Papillion and Gretna residents and three with Bellevue residents. He said an interview with a Springfield resident who worked at the Glenn L. Martin Bomber Plant at Offutt Air Force Base during World War II is scheduled.
The interviews have aired on Bellevue Community Television and are available for viewing at the museum.
“It’s something I’ve done in other places, and I felt it needed to be done here,” he said. “The ones that were done all those years ago are great, but it’s time to do them again.”
A series of interviews with Bellevue residents conducted in the mid-1980s and collected under the title “River City Recollections,” offers rich testimony about life in Bellevue in the first half of the 20th century.
The new series, Justman said, will continue that effort and extend it to the rest of the county.
He said Anne Koch of Gretna has provided her memories of life in the western Sarpy County city, while Jim Miller of Papillion has put his long experience in newspapering on the record.
Miller, together with his brothers George and Jack, inherited ownership of the Papillion Times, Gretna Breeze and Springfield Monitor from their father and covered central and western Sarpy County until the early 1980s when the papers were purchased by the Omaha World-Herald.
“Jim was able to tell us how he used to ride his bike from one end of Papillion to the other and then hit a cornfield,” Justman said.
“That doesn’t happen today. He was able to tell us about life in Sarpy County during the Depression, World War II and the Cold War.”
Among the Bellevue residents interviewed are retired Air Force Maj. Gen. William Doyle, who retired at Offutt Air Force Base in July 1989 as deputy chief of staff for intelligence at the headquarters of Strategic Air Command.
Doyle was instrumental in relocating the Strategic Air Command Museum from its longtime home in Olde Towne Bellevue to Ashland, where it is now known as the Strategic Air and Space Museum.
Other subjects have been Paul Hartnett, longtime Bellevue state senator, and Bob Sullivan, a veteran of World War II who fought at the Battle of the Bulge.
Justman has a list of potential interviewees, but is eager to add to it.
Oral interviews, he said, are an ongoing and long-term process at any museum.
“Bellevue lost several important residents this year, and the clock is racing on many more,” he said.
He said persons interested in recording their memories, or recommending someone, should call the museum at 402-292-1880.