Historian Produces Hicksville Documentary
“There is no boring history, there’s only boring historians. And Hicksville Library does not do boring history.”
These are the words of James Janis, a Hicksville historian who has worked in the Hicksville Library for more than a decade.
This past November, more than 100 community members gathered at the library for the premiere of Janis’ documentary God Only Knows What We’re Fighting For, Hicksville and The Great War. Produced and narrated by Janis himself, the film walks viewers through a tumultuous time in Hicksville’s history while World War I was occurring overseas.
The documentary starts with the war, how it started, what was going on in Hicksville at the time and notable people in the community are introduced. The film continues with what those people were doing as the U.S. became involved in the war, and their stories then work to move the narrative along. An assortment of aspects of the war, like the flu epidemic and the Battles of the Meuse-Argonne, are covered, and the film concludes with the war ending and the fate of those Hicksville residents who were introduced at the start of the story.
“It’s important to preserve our history both local and national,” said Janis, who spent three weeks recording his narration for the film. “It helps keep them alive. The [documentary] is commemorative to these people who did tremendous things. Hicksville has its own history and it’s interesting and it shouldn’t be forgotten.”
Janis wasn’t always looking to create a documentary, though. It all started with historical display cases he was asked to create for the Hicksville Library. These cases would show the historical ties between Hicksville and notable events in history both domestic and overseas.
This eventually would turn into spending about five hours a day performing in-depth research and collecting information that would later result in creating slideshow presentations that dove much deeper into what Janis had been creating for the display cases.
Upon presenting these nearly two-hour-long Hicksville history programs in the Hicksville Library’s community room, viewers requested having a version of the program they could take home and rewatch at their leisure. With the help of Daniel Russ, who provided an abundance of technical assistance, and Roseann Acosta, who designed the DVD’s box and disc art, Janis obliged and the rest is history—literally.
“The programs are a way to bring to life an aspect of Hicksville history and to commemorate people who lived during that period,” Janis explained. “Their voices and stories get lost, but we get to preserve them. I think we’ve done something very innovative in preserving local history.”
To watch Janis’ documentary, borrow a copy at the Hicksville Library, or for $8, purchase a copy for yourself at the circulation desk.
What do you think of preserving Hicksville’s history? Let me know at aeichler@anton