Pat's Prompts...

Each month, Pat offers a unique prompt hoping to help us record our memories and histories. We hope these are interesting to you and possibly give you the nudge you may need to write something down. Enjoy reading these prompts and some of the responses to them. If you have recorded a memory because a prompt here that you would like to share, we would love to include it here!BIGS Website

Pat's Prompts - January 2023

January is the season for writing thank you notes! Who in your history would you like to thank?

A friend of mine says that the first person she thought of was her sixth grade teacher. I thought of my father; I miss our long talks linking seemingly disparate elements found in abstract concepts. He gave me a love of language.


I thank BIGS and Helpline House as my first two volunteer opportunities after I retired.  I joined BIGS in 2008; they were recruiting for board candidates and reached out to all new members.  Since it didn’t require any genealogy expertise, I volunteered.  It has been a rich experience of collaborating on projects and plans ever since.  At Helpline House I worked at the front desk — fielding all kinds of calls and inquiries.  What both of these organizations offered was a way to contribute to community, solve problems, in partnership with others. ~ Betty Wiese


Pat's Prompts - December 2022

Most of us know how precious photos of our ancestors are to us. Pat’s Prompt for December urges us to recall our own memories and preserve them.  

“Choose a favorite photo of one or two persons, of an object, or a location.”  

Write several sentences describing the photo. Not only tell who, what, why or where the photo was taken, also add relevant details that show. 

Below, you will find Pat’s fascinating example and some further prompts to get you going. As always, we hope this prompt will help you in recording your own family history. 

The year is 1976 and the place is Fairbanks, Alaska. The picture is of me with my two sons aboard a passenger car of the Alaska Railroad. We’re on a Pre-School Train trip from Fairbanks to the nearby village of Nenana. The drive on the Parks Highway is 55 minutes, but this round trip by train will take four hours, plus! Long before we boarded, four year old Casey had dibbed the window seat. David, nearly 3, who had never been seen in public without a hat, is riding shotgun when a photographer from the local paper, The Fairbanks News Miner, came down the aisle. The photo he snapped was published in the next day’s paper. Life in a very small town has very big reward.

Here is Andy Hoskins’ response to the November prompt: “What sound do you treasure from your childhood? Do you wish you could replicate the sound?”

“I came into this world on a foggy November morning at Children’s Hospital in San Francisco. The foghorns were calling out from the Golden Gate Bridge as my mother and grandmother hurried to the hospital, so I guess the sounds of the foghorns have been with me even before I arrived. At the time of my birth, my parents were living with my maternal grandmother in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff neighborhood, just west of the bridge, above the Golden Gate (the strait that connects the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, and where the bridge got its name). While there were numerous other foghorns around the Bay, it’s the horns on that famous bridge that I hear in my memory.

 As a child, I loved the sound. It was a comforting, reassuring sound somehow. I remember sitting with my grandmother on the window seat in her upstairs bedroom looking out at the fog and listening to the horns. “The sounds help the ships’ captains guide their ships safely under the bridge, in spite of the fog” my grandmother explained.

Later, I learned that there were air horns on the bridge’s southern-most pier as well as on the center pier. Incoming ships would navigate between the two piers while outbound ships would go to the north of the central pier. Given that the Golden Gate averaged more than 770 hours of fog in a year, the fog horns played a critical role in helping ships avoid colliding with the bridge and each other.

Over the years, when I no longer lived with my grandmother, but visited often, I came to think of the foghorns as part of the romantic nature of my favorite city – the bay, the hills, the bridges, the fog. Now I live on Bainbridge Island, and when I hear the ships’ horns call out on a foggy morning on Puget Sound, for just an instant I am taken back to my city by the bay!”

 This link will let you hear the older foghorns of the Golden Gate Bridge, now replaced with modern technology:


Pat's Prompts - January 2023