Videographiespreserve family stories in time

Published on Thu, Feb 22, 2007 by Tara Nelson

Read More News

Videographies preserve family stories in time

By Tara Nelson

Whatcom County resident Russell Hicks had just finished his night watch shift and eaten breakfast when the explosions started.

Hicks, who at the age of 18 had just entered the U.S. Navy, was aboard the U.S.S. Oglala, a U.S. Navy minelayer docked at the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard, during the Japanese air attack on December 7, 1941.

Hicks, who admits he had been more into girls than keeping up with newspapers, said he and his crew first thought the explosions were routine given their proximity to a military testing site.

“We were thinking ‘oh those nutty flyboys, what are they doing now?’” he said. “But when we looked out the porthole, all we could see were airplanes and a big red ball.”

Hicks is recalling his story on a one-hour DVD recorded in 2004, a few months before he passed away. The video was recorded for a $5 fee as a community service by Birch Bay residents Don and Illa Dickerson.
Because of this, his grandchildren will still be able to hear him tell his story.

Dickerson said he especially enjoys hearing the living history as told by war veterans,

“It’s hard to get these men that were in the second World War to talk about their experiences,” he said. “And once their gone, the stories are gone. We’re not doing this for our entertainment, although we do enjoy being able to listen to them.

“And of course we don’t do an awful lot of editing because we don’t want to cut into what their saying.”

But while not everyone is a Pearl Harbor survivor, Dickerson said he thinks we all have a story to tell.

“This is the perfect thing for me to do,” he said. “It’s good for families to have these. I also wanted to justify having the equipment and I thought this would be a good way to do it.”

Don, a retired lead mechanic with United Airlines, said he started his video hobby as a teenager when he and his brother would make movies at home.

Later in life, he and Illa became involved in several movie clubs, competing in movie-making competitions with other groups from the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas and once building a sound editing studio above their garage in their Santa Clara, Calif., home.
“It was a little like a theater,” he said.

In 1986, the couple moved to Anacortes after reading about the San Juan archilapego in a magazine.

The Dickensons had owned a boat in San Francisco Bay and liked the idea of being on the water. But they sold the boat when they realized the boating season here was much shorter than in California and, 15 years later, they relocated to Birch Bay.

Dickenson said while he and his wife didn’t care much for the snow, they loved the mountains, the trees and the water in Washington.
With Don working the lighting, sound and video equipment, Illa conducts the interviews, asking questions about where an individual was born, where their parents are from and their schooling.

If a person brings in still photographs, Don can also edit those into the video, she said.

While they prefer to film the video in their home because of the lighting arrangements, they are willing to travel within a reasonable distance.
They are also flexible with regards to allowing other individuals to conduct the interview.

Senior video biographies are available for $5 per DVD. At this time, the couple does not charge a fee for the interview services.

The Dickensons can be reached by calling 371-7848. Their web site is