My Nanna Betty Wortes – An Emotional History Report

Betty Wortes in the late 1940's

Betty Wortes in the late 1940’s

Choosing an interview subject for my emotional history report was by far the easiest part. My Nanna Bett is a fantastic storyteller, and an incredibly generous person and I knew she would be happy to sit down for a couple of hours and share her stories with me. The problem was choosing which story I wanted her to share.

At first I thought it would be better to focus the interview on a sad topic. I thought of asking her about the loss of her husband to pancreatic cancer 11 years ago or her two month stint in hospital following a fall that left her with a broken hip she will never fully recover from. However as I thought these ideas through I came to realise that Nan is in her prime storytelling form not when she is remembering sad moments from her life, but when she is sharing happy, funny memories from her past.

With that in mind I decided to ask her about her career in hairdressing. She had told me a few stories before about studying at the Tech in Ultimo and owning a salon in Tumut, but the knowledge I had was brief and I knew she had more hairdressing stories to tell.

The second problem was working out how to use the equipment. I had only ever recorded interviews on my phone, but wanted to record quality audio for this assignment so I organised to borrow a Zoom H1 for the weekend I was planning to visit my Nan. Looking back now I wish I had spent more time practising with the equipment. One of the major problems with my recording was having clunking from microphone movement in the middle of a good piece of content I didn’t want to cut out. In the future I will know to wait until my interview subject has stopped talking before moving the microphone away, and not to take my headphones out in the middle of the recording.

One risk I faced in this task came from interviewing a relative. There was a chance that my Nan would start answering a question without providing enough background information, because she was telling the story to her granddaughter who already knew the context behind the story. As it turned out Nan was brilliant in this regard. She responded to questions with answers like ‘my husband Cliff’ rather than Pop and described the places and times she was discussing in detail.

On the other hand, I thought interviewing Nan at her place would be easy but I had a problem as soon as I arrived. Nan had rearranged the chairs in the lounge room for us, putting a two metre gap and the table in between where we were sitting. This left me too far away to capture her answers clearly on the microphone. I moved my chair round to the other side of the table and sat next to her instead, so the microphone was only at arm’s length when she was talking.

When it came to the editing stage, I had an immensely difficult time cutting an hour recording down to two minutes. There were so many angles that I wanted to cover, and it was impossible to include them all. I originally planned to include a sad aspect in the report however it didn’t link with the rest of the two minutes of content and left the story sounding disjointed and confusing. To overcome this I rearranged the structure of the piece, removed some of the content and filled up the gap with a shorter excerpt.

This assignment has taught me that audio interviewing is a difficult process that takes experience to produce quality, as well as incredible patience when it comes to the editing stage. If I were to tackle the same assignment again I would have headphones in for the entire interview so I knew when there was interference with the recording. I would also be careful with the wording of my questions, asking them more clearly so they were suitable for inclusion in the final cut.

Overall, I found this assignment both enjoyable and challenging. I am incredibly glad that I now have an hour long recording of my Nan sharing memories from her life. This is something I probably would never have considered doing if it wasn’t for this assignment and will cherish it forever. I have gained a valuable understanding of the basics of preparing for, recording and editing an audio interview and I now feel better equipped for future audio assignments.


Betty with her grandson Andrew who she says always needs a haircut

You can listen to the interview on SoundCloud


It was rare for a woman to own her own business in the 1950’s.

My Nanna, Betty Wortes was one of the few women who did; running her own hair salon in a small town in the Snowy Mountains called Tumut.

Over a few cups of tea she shares the story of her career with me.

In: ‘It’s so different hairdressing now to when I started, completely different…’

Out: ‘So that product was never used again’.

Duration: 2.05

Emotion canvassed: Happiness


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