Thanks for the memories: Memoir class proves to be a family gift

June 2012 Posted in Other

By Brenna Wiegand

Writing Class
Mondays, 10 a.m.
Silverton Methodist Church
203 W. Main St., Silverton
Wednesdays, 2 p.m.

Mount Angel Towers,
1 Towers Lane
Mount Angel

Instructor Pat Love:
503-845-2419

The result is the next-best thing to sitting at grandma’s side, soaking up tales from a mysterious and bygone age.… but that was hardly what Cheryl Arbuckle had in mind when she agreed to ride along with her pal Marjorie Paulson to a weekly writing course at Silver Falls Library.

Instructor Pat Love, now 82, has been teaching creative writing in the area for decades, nearly always with an autobiographical slant.

Arbuckle, now 91, attended Love‘s classes for five years.

At the time, though, she eschewed the course name, “Write Your Life Story,” and thought it sounded assuming and somewhat daunting.

She confesses to doing – starting – many assignments at the last minute and that she rarely heeded the week’s writing “prompt.”

Her instructor remembers.

“She very seldom used my prompt because she had her own program – writing about the war years – and was quite dedicated to it, becoming pretty prolific,” Love said.

“But a lot of people don’t have their own agenda and giving them a prompt can be very helpful,” she added.

Handwritten drafts and typewriter turn-ins now fill two fat folders that Arbuckle’s daughter Cherry Hoffman plans to put in book form.

It is, after all, the story of her mother’s life.

The recent Palace Theatre fire brought one such essay to the surface.

Through the eyes of a spunky 16-year-old, we imagine the workings of the newly opened, state-of-the-art Palace Theatre.

It was the 1930s and Cheryl one of its first “usherettes.” (See her Looking Back piece on page 22.)

Maybe the time is right for Cheryl to have another look at those “assignments.”

She just hasn’t been the same, she said, since the passing of her husband Fremont – the love of her life – just two years ago. Her friend Marj Paulson passed away just a few days later.

A little at a time, she can peek back – to the days before everything – anything – was captured on video, back when even photos were a rarity.

Like how they met – yell leader and football captain. …Or how an embarrassing mistake only revealed the depth of character her future husband possessed.

Later, she’d recount Fre’s interactions with their children, fleeting moments in a chain of time that for a moment may be scooped up and held to her heart.

“I do think there is an advantage in having written them because it’s right there in black and white what happened,” Cheryl said. “We didn’t have (home) movies and stuff like that, and if you try to piece it together later, well…”

“Theirs was the love story of the century,” Cherry said, “and mom has put together a lot of the history around those early years.”

She and her brother David Arbuckle would like their mom to get writing again, prompting her with the tales she’s told but has yet to spin in pen and ink.

People often ask Cheryl how she stays so young looking.

The Palace Theatre Fire of 2012 and Cheryl’s ensuing hunt through nearly 200 essays yielded both the Palace Theatre piece – and the answer to the question about staying young.

“It depends on who you marry,” she said.

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