Social Media Column: Tweeting granddad’s WWI words from the front

Published in the November 6, 2012 issue of The Edmonton Sun.

Linda’s social media column can be found every Tuesday in the Edmonton Sun.

Tweeting granddad’s WWI words from the front

“Hard going back to WWI front after leave. So darned homesick on boat, notion to jump overboard, but I’m OK now.”

– George ‘Black Jack’ Vowel


She began the project on Nov. 1, as a way to educate and inspire a younger generation about a topic that’s dear to her.

“I was hoping it would help people understand the sacrifices of their forebears,” Larson said.

She chose Twitter as the platform because she felt it would be the most effective way to connect and she also says her grandfather’s journals and letters read like tweets themselves.

“He didn’t have much time at the front. He was trying to survive, so it’s like little tidbits that are perfect for tweeting,” Larson said.

The realities of war as told through the eyes of a young man from Hanna, Alta., are being put front and centre on Twitter, by his granddaughter Jackie Larson, an Edmonton Sun journalist.

As Remembrance Day approaches, Larson is tweeting as her grandfather George ‘Black Jack’ Vowel (@BlackJackVowel), based on letters and journals he wrote nearly 100 years ago from the trenches of World War I, 1914 – 1918.

In just a few days, Larson has had a number of people reach out to her over the tweets.

“I’ve heard from a couple of educators who say ‘this could be cool for my kids’ so that was gratifying and just some sweet little tweets, people saying, ‘thank you’ and ‘we will remember you,’ like they’re actually replying to Black Jack. It’s very gratifying,” she said.

Her own children are even paying closer attention now that their great-grandfather’s words are being posted on social media.

“I think this is in their language. It’s something that seems to have crossed over this digital barrier where it’s getting through and it’s effective,” Larson said.

Black Jack wrote about his experiences throughout the entire war. This has given Larson a lot of material to work with – and a lot of tweets to post.

The tweets aren’t chronological and she’s not sure if she’ll stop tweeting after Remembrance Day. In fact the social media project has already grown to include a George Vowel Facebook Page where people can find photos, links to WWI resources, and posts longer than the 140 characters Larson is limited to on Twitter.

“If a class wanted to ask him questions, they could friend him on Facebook and he could answer their questions. I just thought it might be a neat learning tool,” Larson said.

Black Jack’s insights are fascinating and the tweets are a must-read especially as Remembrance Day nears.

“You wear a poppy and see these little flashes come across that sort of bring the season home a bit,” Larson said.

Some Tweets of the Week

@CorinaGanton: My #yeg challenge for the day will be to see if I can use ETS for all of my adventures. I am unconvinced but perhaps it’s possible.

@BrownAristotle: A quick trip to Costco has managed to ruin my faith in humanity. It’s a pepperoni sample, not the last piece of food on Earth. #yeg

@Ben_in_yeg: Am I the only one? When I see people using a payphone, I have just this uncontrollable urge to lend them my cell phone! #yeg

@KelseyLydynuik: I would like to thank the lady who gave me her visitor parking spot and pass for the day – good people are still out there!! #yeg #NAIT

@jangle: Watching the snow from inside my warm apartment with a cat in my lap and a cup of coffee. This is how to do winter. #yeg

Click here to read the column on the Edmonton Sun website!

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