May 24, 2018
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Belfast Game Loft takes on Viet Nam era project

By Joni Averill

Viet Nam or Vietnam?

Even the correct or preferred spelling of the country’s name presents a conundrum for me, as did the era for those of us who lived through it.

According to the Embassy of Vietnam’s website, the country’s name is spelled as one word.

However, many other sites use two words and explain the reasons and history of the spelling.

My memory of that era, especially early on, recalls two words and, for purposes of this column, I am using the two-word spelling as do representatives of The Game Loft in Belfast, who are seeking interview subjects for its historical project: “1968: Gone But Not Forgotten.”

The Game Loft, a program of Spurwink Services, is an after-school program serving young people ages 12 to 18, offering socialization and academic enrichment.

The announcement of “1968: Gone But Not Forgotten” seeks individuals who were born between 1948 and 1952 who will share their memories from the year 1968 in an interview.

If you were in Viet Nam, or a war protester, or you have some other time period stories to share, you are asked to call Ellen Marlow at The Game Loft, 338-6447, or e-mail “to be added to our list of volunteer candidates.”

I had an interesting talk with The Game Loft director Patricia Estabrook, who explained the program to me.

“This is part of an eight-part curriculum on Maine history designed for high school students who are under-performing in high school,” Estabrook said of the project that’s funded in part by the Maine Community Foundation.

“It’s an enrichment program based on role-play.

“Our young people play young people who were alive during a specific period” which, in this case, is what we knew as the Viet Nam era.

“The program includes pre-colonization up to the present, if you did the whole series,” Estabrook explained of the project in which young people go through an era from “childhood to young adult life.”

“We try to cover a wide variety of experiences so that we don’t represent just one viewpoint,” she continued.

The Game Loft participants were trained in interviewing techniques at the Maine Folklife Center at the University of Maine in Orono, and are now ready to work with you.

“We want people from a variety of perspectives,” Estabrook said.

“We want people who said I was in Viet Nam and was proud I was there.

“We want people who said I protested and we should not have been there.

“And we want people who said it didn’t affect my life in the ’60s.”

The young people understand “it wasn’t a period where everybody thought the same thing,” Estabrook said.

“The kids will ask, ‘Where did you stand on political issues? Who was your favorite Beetle? What did you experience, and where were you at the time?’

“Everybody has a story that hasn’t been told.”

And these young people want to hear yours.

If it helps you make a decision to participate, Estabrook wants you to know that while these young people all are in school, “we are dealing with kids who may be failing in one course,” and this program can make a tremendous difference in their lives.

“We have underachieving kids who are sticking with it,” she said.

“Some are with us for two years. They come every week and really like it because this is very personal to them.”

“We really want people to come forward and tell us their stories,” she added. “It could be a healing experience to be respectfully listened to and know your story is important to us.

“You are not going to be criticized when you were a 20-year-old kid in Viet Nam.”

Estabrook reminds potential interviewees, “the further they go back, in their minds,” the Viet Nam era “was not only sex, drugs and rock and roll, but it was a time when people felt passionately” about many topics.

What a wonderful project.

I wish them well, and hope many of you come forward to offer your insight and help these young people learn as much as possible about what we went through during those difficult years.

Interviews will be conducted in July, and presentations will be made in August.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402;; 990-8288.

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