Rare Book & Manuscript Library
 

Gail Mary Killian and Stephen Desroches sound recordings, 1970-2003

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: OHAC
Bib ID 14439340 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Killian, Gail Mary, 1953-1988 ; DesRoches, Stephen
Title Gail Mary Killian and Stephen Desroches sound recordings, 1970-2003
Physical Description 23 audiocassettes
Language(s) Collection is mostly in English with some recordings containing Polish.
Access

Access: Open

Arrangement

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in two series. The series are based on the provenance of the interviews. Within each series, recordings are arranged chronologically.

Description

Scope and Contents

The majority of the collection's interviews were taken by Gail Mary Killian and document her life in the 1970s-1980s as a woman living with Down syndrome in Eastern Massachusetts. Killian recorded her birthday starting in 1970, and many recordings capture the conversations that took place at these celebrations, which were attended by family members and neighbors. Topics discussed at these parties include music-related gifts received by Killian; rock music and Polish folk music; television shows and movies; employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the region; work at the United States Postal Service (her father's employer); and happenings in their local community. The family also sings together, both in English and Polish. Also included are recordings made by Killian during her daily life. Killian was an avid music fan, and she records thoughts on rock bands such as the Beatles, Journey, and Van Halen. Portions of the local New Bedford, MA radio program "Polish Happy Hour" are captured on tape.

The collection also contains three oral history interviews by Killian's nephew Stephen Desroches, who donated all tapes. One interview is with Desroches' grandfather Stanley Killian, taken in 1991. This interview documents Killian's experiences in World War II. A second interview was taken in 2003 with three relatives of Desroches: Stanley Killian (grandfather), Eugene Killian (great-uncle), and Helen Killian (grandmother). This interview covers the experiences of their immigrant parents, the Great Depression, World War II, and their thoughts on politics and social issues at the time of the interview. Desroches also interviews Schuyler "Ted" Meyer, the police chief of Provincetown, MA, about Meyer's experiences in law enforcement in an artistic Cape Cod town.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Conditions Governing Access

Access: Open

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright by the Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2018

Related Materials

The item "Diary and notebook of Gail Mary Killian" (GDP / 165) is found in the Great Diary Project of the Archives of the Bishopgate Institute, London, United Kingdom

Custodial History

Stephen Desroches was immediate source of acquisition for all tapes. They were gifted to the Oral History Archives at Columbia in 2018. Desroches is the nephew of Gail Mary Killian. Eighteen tapes were created by Killian and five were created by Desroches

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Finding aid written by David A. Olson in 2020, incorporating description provided by donor Stephen Desroches.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Interviews Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Oral histories (literary works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sound recordings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Beatles Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Depressions -- 1929 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Down syndrome -- Social aspects. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Journey (Musical group) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Police -- Interviews. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Polish Americans -- Social life and customs. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rock music -- Social aspects. Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Gail Mary Killian (March 30, 1953-August 11, 1988) was a recording enthusiast with Down syndrome who lived in Eastern Massachusetts. She received a tape recorder for her birthday in 1970. Recording her birthday each year became an annual tradition from 1970-1984. She also recorded daily life and visits from friends and neighbors, including her best friend Denise. Killian was an avid music fan, who enjoyed rock and roll and traditional Polish music. Her interest in documenting her life and the world around her extended to other media as well. She retained every greeting card that she ever received, kept a diary, and recorded every movie and television show that she saw by annotating TV Guide.

Stephen Desroches has worked as a journalist in Provincetown, MA on Cape Cod. He received a degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 2002. Desroches has worked to preserve and document his family's history, both by interviewing older relatives and by stewarding the tapes and diary of his aunt Gail Mary Killian until their donation to archives.

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Gail Mary Killian sound recordings, 1971-1984

18 audiocassettes


Box OHAC C9 New tape recorder / Rusty, 1970, 1 audiocassettes

Gail Mary Killian discusses favorite television shows, her dog Rusty, and her favorite books. She also discusses the Beatles at length with a friend.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's birthday (1971), 1971, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's birthday celebration. Discussions include Killian receiving a Beatles album as a gift, and Killian teaching older guests the slang term "bread" meaning money.


Box OHAC C9 Tape labeled "Not Clear", circa 1971-1972, 1 audiocassettes

Recording of teaching the baby to talk and a conversation about employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Taunton and Fall River, Massachusetts.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's 19th birthday, 1972, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's nineteenth birthday. Highlights include Killian's baby niece saying new words and adults trying to get the baby to make a peace sign.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's birthday (1973), 1973, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's birthday celebration. There is a conversation about work for the United States Postal Service, as Killian's father and neighbor worked for the USPS. Guests sing "Happy Birthday." There is also a conversation about polka music and dancing, both of which were popular in her neighborhood, which was a Polish enclave.


Box OHAC C9 Helen Singing, 1973, 1 audiocassettes

Gail Mary Killian records her mother Helen snoring (the tape's title is a play on the snoring as "singing") while the Boston Red Sox game plays on radio. Recording also includes playing Partridge Family records and singing along with the baby.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's birthday (Birthday 21; 1974), 1974, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's twenty-first birthday celebration. Recording is comprised of conversation and singing in Polish.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's birthday (Birthday1974; 1974), 1974, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's twenty-first birthday celebration. Recoding includes discussion of "Tonight Show."


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's birthday (Birthday 1976), 1976, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's twenty-third birthday celebration.


Box OHAC C9 Various artists / Talkin' and Radio, circa 1977, 1 audiocassettes

Recording of Gail Mary Killian and friend listening to Foreigner and Journey and talking about which rock stars they think are cute.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's 24th birthday (24 years, 1977), 1977, 1 audiocassettes

Recording of Gail Mary Killian's twenty-fourth birthday celebration. The recording includes a discussion of "Charlie's Angels" and Farrah Fawcett. Killian receives tickets to see Andy Williams, Jim Nabors, and Bobby Vinton. The family sings Vinton's song "Melody of Love" and Polish folk songs.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's birthday (1980), 1980, 1 audiocassettes


Box OHAC C9 Journey captured, 1981, 1 audiocassettes

Gail Mary Killian speaks with a friend while listening to the new Journey and Van Halen albums. The recording also captures a segment of "Polish Happy Hour," a local news and music program for the Polish community broadcast on a New Bedford, Massachusetts radio station.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's birthday (Gail's birthday, 1982), 1982, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's birthday celebration. Topics discussed include a neighbor's granddaughter being accepted to Yale University, increased Portuguese immigration to Taunton, and talk of a new video arcade in town that has Ms. Pac-Man and Space Invaders.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's 30th birthday (Carol's house, 1983), 1983, 1 audiocassettes

Recording of a surprise party at Carol's house for Gail Mary Killian.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's 30th birthday (Party at home, 1983), 1983, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's thirtieth birthday celebration. Topics discussed include a mean priest, labor issues at the United States Postal Service, changes in tourism patterns on Cape Cod, and a substitute teacher in the town who is blind. Killian receives records by the Go Go's and Toto.


Box OHAC C9 Recording of Gail Mary Killian's 31st birthday (Happy birthday 31st, 1984), 1984, 1 audiocassettes

Recording documents Gail Mary Killian's thirty-first birthday celebration.


Box OHAC C9 New Bedford polka program, undated, 1 audiocassettes

Stephen Desroches oral history interviews, 1991-2003

5 audiocassettes

Box OHAC C9 Oral history interview with Stanley Killian, 1991, 1 audiocassettes

This interview with Stanley Killian (1922-1999) was conducted by his grandson Stephen Desroches. The inteview was taken when Desroches was sixteen for a high school assignment in which students were to ask older family members about World War II. The tape incidentally contains a recording of Desroches narrating the movie Jaws II.


Box OHAC C9 Oral history interview with Stanley Killian, Eugene Killian, and Helen Killian, September 27, September 29, and October 3, 1999, 3 audiocassettes

This interview with Stanley Killian (1922-1999), Eugene Killian (1920-2012), and Helen Killian (1922-2015) was conducted by Stephen Desroches. Stanley and Helen were Desroches' grandparents, and Eugene was his great-uncle. At the time, Stanley had terminal brain cancer, and when Desroches visited he would record conversations of all present. Topics discussed include the Great Depression, World War II, and the experiences of their immigrant parents. The Killians also share their views on contemporary politics, including gun control, healthcare, the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, and the Democratic and Republican Parties. They also discuss social issues such as divorce and couples living together before marriage.


Box OHAC C9 Oral history interview with Schuyler "Ted" Meyer, 2003, 1 audiocassettes

This interview with Schuyler "Ted" Meyer was conducted by Stephen Desroches in 2003. Meyer was Chief of Police in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a small community at the tip of Cape Cod known for its art colony, eccentricity, and large LGBTQ community. The interview covers life in Provincetown, LGBTQ issues, and his previous experience as police chief in Richardson, Texas. Richardson had a large Muslim population, and Meyer discusses issues around keeping the Muslim community safe in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.