It started as an idea...
In 2012, local writer Jim Farfaglia stopped in at the Fulton Library and asked to speak to its new director, Betty Mauté. “I had just published my first book of poems and was looking for ways to share them with the public,” Farfaglia remembered. “I thought the library would be a good place to have a reading.”
Though Mauté was busy acclimating to her responsibilities at the library, she welcomed Farfaglia into her office, where the two had a long talk about Fulton, its residents’ needs and the world of literature and writing. Farfaglia expressed his weariness at hearing so much negative talk about Fulton’s decline due to a major loss of its industry base. “I knew Fulton was still a good place to live, raise a family and make friends, so I was looking for a way to spotlight that through my writing.”
As Mauté and Farfaglia continued their conversation, they brainstormed ways to help Fultonians capture the good they remembered. “Eventually,” Mauté explained, “we settled on a project with a goal to help people share their stories of their time living, working and spending leisure time in Fulton. We would collect stories as memoirs, and if we got enough of a response, we’d publish them in a book.”
Then became a project...
By 2013, the Library had a name for their endeavor: The Memoir Project. Mauté launched a series of presentations to explain the Project to Fulton service clubs and senior citizen residencies. Farfaglia offered to lead writing classes for those who had a story to tell, but weren’t sure how to go about it. A few Fultonians interested in the Project didn’t want to write, but were willing to tell their stories. They were audiotaped, with library volunteers typing the interviews and Farfaglia weaving their stories into memoir form. Several participants moved forward on their own to write a memoir, and by the end of its first year, The Memoir Project had collected 41 stories covering a variety of Fulton topics.
The book that resulted from that first year, “Fulton: The Stories From Our Past That Influence Our Future,” was a small town success. To celebrate, the library started a tradition of honoring the local memoirists with a party. In addition, the whole city was invited to a book launch event. Proceeds from book sales helped continue the Memoir Project, which in its second year decided to offer a theme for people to write about: Schools and Businesses. Another 44 people wrote a memoir (and some from the first year offered to share a second story). In 2014, “Fulton: The Businesses and Schools That Built Our Community” joined the Project’s first collection on bookshelves.
By the third addition of the Memoir Project, Farfaglia and Mauté were seeing the need to expand their two-person team. They recruited Kathy Andolina, who’d already been serving as a Project proofreader, to serve as co-editor. More volunteers were brought onboard to type memories that people had about their beloved Fulton. In 2015, “Fulton: The Community Services That Built Our City” told 37 stories of firefighters, EMTs, recreation leaders and elected officials.
News of The Memoir Project spread and by 2016, more people were stepping up to help it continue to grow. Fulton writers Jo Ann Butler and Joe Abbate, both who’d contributed multiple memoirs to the earlier projects, joined. Among their talents were Butler’s research techniques and Abbate’s expertise in graphic design. Mary Cardinali Kimball, a retired teacher who’d contributed a memoir, approached Farfaglia at the celebratory event for her year’s book to offer an idea for the next Project theme: Fulton veterans of war.
Not only did Kimball come up with a winning theme, but she also agreed to conduct extensive interviews with many aging veterans who would have had difficulty writing a memoir. Mary sat with dozens of men and women to hear their stories, which were turned into memoirs by Abbate, Andolina and Farfaglia. Published as “The Heart of Fulton at Home and Abroad: World War II and The Korean War,” 52 veterans or their loved ones became part of the Memoir Project family.
The Project took yet another turn when it chose the topic The Dizzy Block, a look back on Fulton’s once thriving downtown. Library Activities Coordinator Dawn Myers was brought on to develop unique methods of promoting the theme, including a reenactment of the Dizzy Block streets, put on display at our city’s Municipal Building.
While the Dizzy Block’s single-block area was home to dozens of stores and gathering places, most people with memories of it in its heyday had brief stories, not full length memoirs. The decision was made to gather all stories, short or long, and weave them into a longer narrative of old-time Fulton. Sixty-six people told their stories of shopping and socializing in the book “…take a walk around the Dizzy Block,” published in 2018.
And is now a treasured and unique community effort and collaboration.
As of 2019, The Memoir Project’s total number of participants tops 200, ranging in age from 15 to 102. And the beat goes on, with the latest version of the Project committee including Fulton Library’s new director, Caroline Chatterton. The committee has set its sights on the topic of Fulton churches, with Project members researching the grand buildings that are or were once home to parishioners, recalling the spiritual leaders who profoundly influenced their followers, and reasons why Fulton was a great setting for strong communities of faith. Stay tuned for news on how this develops.
The Stories From Our Past That Inspire Our Future
Lake Neatahwanta is a natural treasure of Fulton and just one of the many places Fultonians reflect on whenever they remember their city. Fulton: The Stories Form Our Past That Inspire Our Future is a collection of 41 memoirs written by those who have come to love Fulton and now share that love through their rich recollections.
List price: $6.00
The Businesses and Schools That Built Our Community
Forty-one stories that take us inside Fulton’s factories, family-owned businesses and neighborhood schools, as told by the people who made them a success!
List price: $6.00
The Community Services That Built Our City
In this book about services to the Fulton community, writers tell about infamous Fulton fires, groundbreaking police investigative work, ever-changing and ever-challenging shifts in city government and a myriad of community services for young and old alike.
List price: $6.00
The Heart of Fulton at Home and Abroad: World War II and The Korean War
In the 1940s and ‘50s, cities both big and small across the United States felt the impact of war. Fulton was one of those small towns that experiences its families being broken apart, some temporarily and some forever. As one lifelong Fultonian aptly stated, “It affected everyone because we all knew someone going off to war.” Every soldier has a story; each family at home has theirs. For the first time in Fulton’s history, a sampling of those stories has been bound together in honor of those who served.
List price: $13.00
…take a walk around The Dizzy Block
Long before we travelled to shopping malls and started making purchases online, the city of Fulton had a place where you could find almost anything you wanted. There were stores for clothing, shoes, hats, stationery, candy and treats, tools and hardware, magazines and newspapers, gifts and jewelry. Lunch counters provided tasty meals. You could take your special someone to the movies, attend concerts with friends or join a dance class. Storeowners knew your name and helped you make selections. And every Christmas, window displays inspired children’s dreams. Join us as we travel back in time to this special place Fultonians called “The Dizzy Block.”
List price: $15.00
All proceeds from the sale of these books goes to the library to fund future memoir projects. Order your copy of one or more of these books today! To order, please stop into the library or contact the Fulton Public Library at: (315) 592-5159.
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The Churches of Fulton, NY throughout it's history!
The committee has set its sights on the topic of Fulton churches, with Project members researching the grand buildings that are or were once home to parishioners, recalling the spiritual leaders who profoundly influenced their followers, and reasons why Fulton was a great setting for strong communities of faith. Stay tuned for news on how this develops.
Interested in contributing to the next Fulton Memoirs Project? We'd love to talk to anyone who would like to share their memories with us. Contact the library at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 315-592-5159.