On their last day in Lawton, Mitra and Andrew left the MobileBooth with KCCU General Manager Mark Norman.
December is “Happy Happy Repair Month” for the West Booth. Technical specialists will travel from New York to Mr. Norman’s home in order to prepare the trailer for its 2007 tour.
Irrelevant side-note: Mr. Norman’s house is located in the “dead-dog center” of tornado alley.
Andrew and Mitra dropped most of their StoryCorps holiday bonuses on a brand new John Deere tractor that they have now driven back home to New York City and parked at StoryCorps’ newly-constructed Agricultural Machinery Emporium.
Andrew and Mitra are happy to be home, but sadly all blog activities will have to be postponed till after the holidays. See you in the new year!
Andrew and Mitra took a trip out to the Lawton/Ft. Sill Veterans Center, where they conducted a series of StoryCorps interviews with World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans.
Pictured here is Carl Farmer, who served in the military during WWII before working as a quarryman for thirty years.
Then there was Paul Odle who lied about his age to join the Marine Corps at 15.
He now writes a syndicated column and has 18 books to his credit. He had just finished a new short story before sitting down with us at the microphone.
Our last participants, Hoyt Leon Starr (on the left) and George Stanga (in the middle), had met only 10 days ago when George became Hoyt’s new roommate. Despite knowing each other for a short time, they became fast friends due to the fact that they both served in the Marine Corps.
When Hoyt asked George what lessons he learned in life, George gruffly replied, “There’s a time to bark, and there’s a time to wag your tail.” Like an old friend, Hoyt nodded in agreement.
This week facilitators Jason Reynolds and Jonah Engle brought their field recording equipment to Govans Manor, a senior’s center in Baltimore.
It was a full day of stories rich with wisdom, insight and Baltimore history.
Thanks to all who participated and helped make the visit a great success.
Here are some of the participants who shared their stories, Ms. Ballard, Ms. Childs, Mr. Wiggins, Ms. Brown and Ms. Murrill.
Andrew and Mitra spent a couple of days relaxing in the Ouachita Mountains of eastern Oklahoma.
Upon entering their log cabin, Mitra and Andrew took on traditional, American Gothic-style domestic roles. Mitra set about preparing dinner, but had to stop when it became clear that Andrew was incapable of starting a fire. As the night progressed, it also became clear that Andrew was incapable of finding kindling, setting up the kindling that Mitra found, or transferring hot kindling from the stovetop burner to the fireplace.
In the end, they huffed and they puffed and they failed to build a fire.
In the morning, Mitra and Andrew took a hike in the mountains.
While on the trail, Mitra sat down to take in the scenery and enjoy the fall colors. She pondered such questions as “What is the meaning of life” and “What’s better, a fried pickle or fried Mars Bar?”
On their way back to Lawton, they visited Mt. Olivet Cementary or better known as Showman’s Rest in Hugo, Oklahoma.
Hugo has been the base camp for many circuses every winter, and a few hundred showmen and women are now buried at the cementary in town.
As in Donnie Charles Carr (picture on the left), you can take the “Okie” out of the circus, but you can never take the circus out of “Okie.”
Paticipant Marquetta Brown came to the booth to reminisce about her earliest memory. At 3 years old, she was chosen to be the bride in Wetumka, Oklahoma’s reenactment of Tom Thumb’s wedding.
Tom Thumb weddings became a hit after circus showman P.T. Barnum discovered the 25 inch tall Charles Sherwood Stratton at the age of 4. By the time he was five, Stratton — using the stage name “General Tom Thumb” — was touring the U.S. singing, dancing, and impersonating Cupid and Napoleon Bonaparte.
On February 10, 1863 Tom Thumb, now 2 ft 9 in, married fellow little person Lavinia Warren (pictured on the right), and soon after, small towns across America were putting plays on of their wedding with children as the lead roles.
The tradition continued well into the 20th century. In 1928, Marquetta (pictured on the left) was chosen to play Lavinia because of her “curly hair, rosy cheeks, and rosy knees.” But don’t think those rosy caps were easy to come by. Marquetta’s mother applied blush to them daily.
Jack Mayer Willen was interviewed at the StoryCorps booth by grandson Bruce Willen.
In the 1920ies, Jack was an aspiring actor, but then came the Great Depression and Jack needed to find other means of income.
76 years after passing the bar, Jack is still practicing law, but he’s lost none of his passion for storytelling, in the booth, he recited word for word the poem “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” which he used to declaim over 80 years ago.
At 97, looking back on a rich life blessed with 3 children and several grandchildren, Jack says “Someone up there was looking out for me”.
Facilitators Andrew and Mitra made an expedition to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, just outside of Lawton, to get in touch with the Land and its Beasts.
During their eight-mile trek through the refuge, they passed through verdant forests, arid plains, and canyons.
A major feature of the Refuge was the Prarie Dog Town where the robust rodents were fed their newly found favorite snack: health-nut granola bars.
The buffaloes at the Refuge constitute the nation’s first protected bison herd.
This particular buffalo, better known as Buffalo Bill, is the biggest and baddest bison on the block. Buffalo Bill is intimidated by nothing — not even StoryCorps Extended Cab Trucks.
View this video to see Mitra meeting her first buffalo.
Videos by vMix Member:storycorpswest
On the way back to Lawton, the StoryCorps team came upon the famous Oklahoman Joad family railway car, featured in the climactic scene of The Grapes of Wrath.
A few paces down the waterfront promenade from the StoryCorps booth, Herman Heyn has a powerful telescope set up. Passersby are invited to gaze up at the sky and Herman, a self described “Street Corner Astronomer”, explains what they are seeing. He sets up his telescope at Harbor Place year-round and tonight marks the end of his 19th year of doing this. Herman also travels to schools and clubs to share his passion for astronomy.
Facilitators Andrew and Mitra were invited to a benefit for the Lawton arts community at the former Fort Sill Officer’s Club, where several hundred prominent Lawtonians were in attendance.
Andrew was happy to be seated next Mary McClure. Mary is a former newspaper journalist and was the first participant to do a StoryCorps interview in Lawton. As the night went on, she explained that the art of getting rid of an armadillo in one’s backyard is best done with a sledgehammer.
One of the highlights of the gala was listening to the auctioneer’s call. Items up for bids included a grandfather clock and a weekend of pheasant hunting. The auctioneer talked real fast.
No, faster than what you’re imagining…
…Faster than that, too….
…Yep, like that.
To cap the evenining off, Andrew and Mitra, captains of StoryCorps’ traveling jitterbug squad, execute a difficult maneuver on the dance floor.
About half of the 10,000 Comanche in the United States reside in Oklahoma. Known as the “Lords of the Plains,” many Comanche call the rolling plains of Lawton their home.
On our first day of interviews, two Native American women visited the booth to record their lives and preserve their heritage.
The first, Weckeah Bradley, was one of the few Native American women to serve in the US Marine Corps during World War II. Now retired from the tribal judiciary, she makes traditional baby cradles for her friends and family.
Facilitator Andrew Wilson then interviewed Arlene Asenap, a descendant of Quanah Parker, the last Comanche chief.
Arlene’s grandfather, Herman, translated English to Comanche at a mission church for 24 years until his death in 1960. Herman is pictured here (far left) with his congregation.
Arlene explained in her interview that circumstances in the mid-twentieth century discouraged her from learning her people’s language. However, her grandfather passed on his native language to Arlene by reading her Comanche hymns when she was a little girl.
On Sunday we packed up the trailer and moved out of our luxurious digs in Boston. We had an amazing time working with WBUR, and will miss the great volunteers, the beautiful Eliot hotel, walking along the Charles, and of course, the participants we met along the way. Facilitator Jason Reynolds joins the tour for Baltimore, and Pat Estess heads home. Here they are hugging goodbye outside of the “T” (which is a great transportation system but can’t beat the NYC subway!).
The moment the StoryCorporals arrived in Lawton, Oklahoma, the KCCU leadership and local media were on hand to record the ceremonial application of the local radio station’s KCCU sticker to the booth. We were pleasantly suprised by the early welcome, but perhaps it makes sense, given that StoryCorps is now in…The Sooner State.
That night, the booth stood majestically at attention underneath the midnight blue sky as it awaited opening day.
Taking a cue from the lead song in the play Oklahoma! (which also became the state song in 1953), what else can we say, but Oklahoma O.K.
On their last day in Little Rock before they left town for their next mobile stop in Lawton, Oklahoma, Andrew and Mitra decided to visit the Arkansas State Fair. On arrival, both were intent on answering the question, “What makes a good looking hog?”
Mitra, now entering her ninth week on the road, went looking for a little affection from Marcellus the Goat.
Unfortunately, Marcellus is in a committed relationship to a prize winning nanny goat and declined to pucker up.
Andrew stands before a pile of giant turkey legs. In this picture, Andrew is concealing five turkey legs in his mouth. What a feat!
Continuing a nationwide tradition among MobileBooth facilitators, Andrew goes for a ride on a mechanical bull.
View this video to see the performance that won Mitra the 2006 Blue Ribbon for “Best Mechanical Bull Ride by a Person Wearing a Beret.”
Today a new facilitator, Andrew Wilson, washed upon the shores of the Arkansas River, strolled through the River Market, and claimed his right to replace Ryan Murdock on the StoryCorps Express. Initially, Ryan did not want to end his mobile tour, but when Andrew announced he had bought Ryan a first-class ticket on the famous “Little Rock/New York Low-Speed Trolley Line,” Ryan happily began his nine hundred day journey home, where he will work in the StoryCorps booths in Grand Central Station and the World Trade Center.
Before Ryan left, he said he already knows he’ll never forget his time on the road. He wants to thank the people of the Garden City, Amarillo, Kansas City and Little Rock for their hospitality, and his former facilitator partner, Mitra Bonshahi, for teaching him how not to dilly-dally.
…did drag us away from the booth for a few hours.
Participants Excy Johnston and Amy Gray Light invited us to visit their wild horse sanctuary just outside of Little Rock. The sanctuary is home to eleven wild mustangs who roam freely about the land.
Excy and facilitator Mitra Bonshahi drove out to feed the horses. While they paused for a picture, Ombre and his friend snacked on some hay straight from the back of the truck.
Here, a mother mustang protects her one-week-old filly from any danger that might lurk in the 38 acre land (including us, who she eyes cautiously as we sneak a picture).
Sorry, Rolling Stones, but thanks to Excy and Amy, nobody will be riding these horses someday.