Remembering history

Cristy Clark Hedgpeth is next up in PLAC Speaker Series on July 18

Sometimes history can be lost.

That is a lesson that Cristy Clark Hedgpeth learned a few years ago, and it’s a lesson she will be sharing at the next installment of the Pearson Lakes Art Center’s Speaker Series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18.

Clark Hedgpeth is a longtime Des Moines Beach resident who recently authored a book about the history of the Iowa Great Lakes titled, “Okoboji: Over 160 Years of History and Images.”

The book and idea that sparked it is one of the topics that Clark Hedgpeth will discuss in her upcoming talk at the PLAC.

“I will obviously be talking about the book, but the main thing I want to focus on is people working to remember history. That’s how I started this whole book,” Clark Hedgpeth said. “Back in ’01 my mother passed away and another one of our longtime friends did as well. My friend and I got to talking and were sad about how much history was being lost.”

So Clark Hedgpeth decided to do something about it.

“We sold our house in 2015 and my husband retired in 2016 so I needed a project. Someone said, ‘Why don’t you write a book about Okoboji?’ It made perfect sense,” Clark Hedgpeth said. “No one had written about the history of Okoboji since 1954 with ‘White Men Follow After.’ Nothing that wrapped the whole Lakes area in its arms.”

She had previously written a book about the history of Des Moines Beach, so she felt that a project like this was right up her alley.

She connected with local historian Mary Kennedy, who helped her connect with many others who were helpful during the project and along the way, Clark Hedgpeth found a new passion — recording oral histories.

“Every time I turned around there was someone else there to talk to,” she said. “I would go and sit at their dining room table as they showed me their collections. It became imperative to me that these people were getting older and we needed to take their oral histories.”

The Spirit Lake Library bought a video camera to help with the task, and Clark Hedgpeth was able to conduct a number of interviews and save some oral histories of local Okoboji residents.

The importance of this is something she will be stressing in her talk at the PLAC.

“I will be talking about how important it is to sit down with your family and your friends and neighbors. That’s what you need to do whether you are a writer or not. Get the camera rolling and ask the questions that you’d be kicking yourself in the rear later if you never asked,” Clark Hedgpeth said. “Those people won’t be around forever.”