Across four generations

Published 8:26 am Friday, March 19, 2010

Fourteen seniors in Linda Soucek’s Dual Enrollment English class at Franklin High School received an interesting assignment recently: to plan and conduct an interview with an elderly citizen, the results of which they were to use to compose a journalistic story of the conversation.

This would all amount to practice for their Senior Project interview, an important component of the class. An underlying purpose was to compare the lifestyle and values of people four generations apart via “the oral tradition” — the passage of literature by word of mouth.

The subject was Archie “Big Zeke” Soucek, Linda Soucek’s father-in-law, a man of 96 years who grew up on a farm established by his father on virgin prairie following the Oklahoma Land Run of September 1893. Big Zeke went on to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, and by the end of WWII in the Pacific he was serving as gunnery officer on a battleship.

Retired Capt. Archie Soucek’s stories about his life left the clear impression that there is much about people that has not changed in four generations, but there is much, also, that has.

Students’ notations about his comments recorded:

■ “There was a profound message to be yourself and to work hard for what you want. Growing up in the time of the Great Depression and living in the area of the dustbowl made Captain Soucek resourceful and hardworking”

■ “After telling us, with a slight chuckle, his family was poor, he told us an important motto stating if we don’t have something we want, we should work for it or make it ourselves”

■ “He made the best of everything and regretted very little, adding ‘you can’t take it back’”

■ “I thank Big Zeke for taking the time out to inform students like me that I am the only one who can determine my future.”

It is good to know that our current generation of youths can be influenced by some of the lessons and values of earlier generations when the opportunity presents itself.