In September of 1957, MinniJean Brown, left, walked into Central High School amidst much public scrutiny and vocal harassment as one of the Little Rock Nine. In October of 2006, MinniJean visited the booth with her sister, Phylis, to talk about how MinniJean’s expulsion from Central High broke up the family. After allegedly dumping a bowl of chili on a white student’s for harassing her, MinniJean was sent to New York to attend a new high school. Phylis explained in the interview how the desegregation process, although integrating the schools, separated her from her sister. While MinniJean was in New York, Phylis was left alone dancing to the records that she used to dance to with her beloved sister.
Earlier that week, facilitators Ryan Murdock and Mitra Bonshahi visited Central High to soak in the atmoshphere of such a pivotal place in history. Ryan and Mitra decided to make the excursion after hearing about the desegregation process in Little Rock. What a surprise and honor it was for them to have MinniJean in the booth a couple days later.
This week infamous Boston storyteller, Brother Blue, visited the booth with his wife, Ruth. Brother Blue is well known in Cambridge where he tells stories to all who will listen in Harvard Square. He is also a minister and has a PhD in playwriting. He dresses in blue from head to toe, and is fond of saying “storytelling is God: to God, for God, of God, from God. It’s a way of life.”
Back in Little Rock, we found a bit of nature in an unexpected place: The Peabody hotel.
Every morning, promptly at 11 am , Duck Master Lloyd Withrow gathers the famous five ducks from their “Royal Peabody Duck Palace” upon the roof of the hotel and escorts them down the elevator.
Lloyd uses his brass duck-head cane to lead them towards the fountain as John Philip Sousa‘s “King Cotton March” resounds thoughout the lobby.
The ducks then walk upon the crimson carpeted steps to enter their pond where they will spend the rest of the day until they are called back to their palace at 5 pm. What a hard life these ducks must have!
Over Columbus Day weekend in Boston, MobileBooth East really became about family. Facilitator Pat’s husband, Gene, and facilitator Maddy’s mother, Rolla, both came for a visit. Here they are explaining StoryCorps to all the family’s that passed us on the street. Since both have participated in interviews and have loved ones working in the booth 24/7, they really understand the project!
86 year old Johnnie Tyson, pictured right, laughs with her niece, Sandra Fleming, after their StoryCorps interview. Johnnie shared with us her experiences growing up during the Great Depression with the disease of obesity. Johnnie was born weighing 13 lbs and grew to 329 lbs by age 15. But thankfully, in the 60′s, the government approved intestinal bypass surgery, and Johnny was able to shed the extra pounds. “You accept life if you’re wise” she quipped, but as you can see here, she always approached life with a great deal of laughter. You go girl!
On Monday, facilitators Pat and Maddy teamed up to interview Edgar and Hana Krasa, pictured here. They had both survived the concentration camps, and met in Prague after the war. They were, hands down, two of the sweetest most personable people ever to grace the booth. When asked to define their relationship, Edgar shrugged and jokingly said, “Eh- tolerable.” But the love between them was overwhelming, as was their goodwill.
George Brown drove his mother, Virginia Alexander, to the booth for an interview even though at the age of 99, she takes the wheel herself at times. Another sign of Virginia’s vivacity is that she boasts still having 5 original teeth. “The Three A’s” have been Virginia’s key to a long, prosperous life…
…Here she is after her interview chatting with our next participant, Leonard Griffe. Upon learning that Leonard was a mere 91, Virginia proudly declared, “Well, I’m 99!” – and then proclaimed that “Activity, Attitude, and Apple juice (slightly fermented)” were the Three A’s that kept her living long. We’ll toast to that.
The booth sat under the clear blue Arkansas sky the morning of opening day. The curved facade of the Cox Center is a remnant of the days when the building served as a warehouse for Thomas Cox & Sons Machinery Co. The railroad tracks ran right past where the booth sits now.
KUAR’s Laurie Pierce brought in her 11 year old son, James Richard IV to find out how he’s adjusting to his first year of Junior High. When asked about teasing his younger brother, James mentioned that he usually gives him “noogies and wedgies – you know, the classics.”
93 year old Lucile Shivley came in with her friend Patrick Watson to talk about her late husband, Charles. During the interview, Patrick discovered that Lucile has always wanted ride a motorcycle, but has never had the chance. He confided to us that he plans to set up a ride for Lucile’s 94th birthday on Oct 21. Vroom Vroom!
Before we said our goodbyes, Lucile confessed that “I think if I had a choice between talking and eating I ‘d chose talking… That is until I got hungry.” Now that’s what we like to hear.
We arrived safely to our new home in Boston, in front of the Public Library in Copley Square. The mobile booth will be here until October 17th, when we will move to Boston City Hall Plaza for a week. In Boston we are working in partnership with WBUR (90.9 fm). They will be airing StoryCorps clips twice a week on Mondays and Fridays during "Morning Edition." There are no reservations left, but keep checking the website for cancellations!
One of the classic StoryCorps questions is "have you ever experienced a miracle?" Well, on the last day in Portland, facilitators John and Pat found an answer. As Pat joined the tour (and facilitator Maddy) to move on to Boston, John miraculously learned to ride a bike. Here they are waving goodbye to each other and to Portland. They were sad to leave their new friends at BLUNT Youth Radio and WMPG, who had become like a family in Maine, but excited to move on to Beantown!
Before we left Kansas City, we took a long hard look at the Missouri River and felt some fleeting nostalgia for the days of Lewis & Clark.
Without a map or compass, facilitators Ryan Murdock and Mitra Bonshahi set off on their journey into uncharted waters.
As the crow flies Ryan and Mitra should have stayed on the “Big Muddy,” but somewhere along the line they veered off track and found themselves on the Arkansas River. Land ho! They soon saw the shores of Little Rock and knew immediately they had found their destination.
To their surprise, the booth made it to Little Rock just before sundown where it is parked at it’s new home in front of the Cox Creative Center, which houses a great used book store, coffee shop, and art gallery.
Lobstermen have long been central to the culture of Portland, Maine, as evidenced by this downtown statue in their honor. Pete Morse, a real life lobsterman, came to the MobileBooth with Blunt Youth Radio member Katie Freddoso to talk about his passion for the sea’s daily adventure, and pass on the best local spots to snag an authentic lobster roll.
As our stay in Kansas City drew to a close, we wanted to share some images from our lovely site in downtown City Market. Here you can see a wide variety of produce, plants, and people every Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday.
Kansan farmer and market seller John Goode proudly displays his favorite crop: Heirloom tomatoes. John joined us for an interview and joked how he’s been told that he has a “radio face.” He then went on to describe (in his best radio voice) the connection he feels with nature while tending the earth.
The market was always full of enticing smells…and sounds. These marimba players made our booties shake one Saturday afternoon. Luckily, Airstream made the MobileBooth soundproof, so the dancing was checked at the door.
We had many wonderful volunteers who helped us spread the word that we were in town. Here KCUR Program Director Bill Anderson chows down with volunteers at our thank you pizza party.
Just before the booth pulled away, we grabbed a picture with Kevin Alexander, our KCUR host. Thanks Kevin and the rest of KCUR for making Kansas City a great stop for the Mobile Tour! We will miss you dearly.
This week facilitators Maddy and John took their portable equipment to South Portland’s Long Creek youth correctional facility for an incredible day of field recording. Three pairs of incarcerated teens (including Melissa Bowden and Nicole Hycock, pictured above) shared their struggles with being "trapped in the system," and their simple wishes to get out of jail, get an education, and make an honest life with a family of their own. In the photo below Shane Hall showed us his tattoos, which he designed himself.
We were invited by Mrs. Betty Crow to record some stories at the Mutual Musicians Foundation in the historical 18th & Vine jazz district of Kansas City.
Established in 1917, many Kansas City jazz cats belonged to Local No. 627, an African-American musicians union affiliated with the American Federation of Musicians. The best KC jazz can still be found here on Friday and Saturday nights, starting at 1am and going till 5 am, way past our bedtime.
Drummer Horace Eugene Washington and Garland Smith (pictured here) shared their favorite memories of the KC jazz scene and their definition of music which Horace explained as “organized noise.”
Singer Myra Taylor and longtime friend Pearl Thuston Brown reminisced about their favorite gigs, recording sessions and neighborhood characters.
Pearl was quite the sensation as a piano player in the style of Erroll Garner, whom she once replaced on a New York bill when Erroll couldn’t perform.
Here Myra Taylor sings along with Charlie Parker (far left). The “Bird” was Kansas City’s most nationally acclaimed musician and he cut his chops playing at the Local 627 starting in 1936. At the age of 90, Taylor occasionally performs and even visits the recording studio. Her most recent album, My Night to Dream, was released in 2001.
Three’s company when we have each other…
…Excuse me, did you say something? I’m busy listening…
…Who said kids don’t pay attention…
….What better way to end a day than with a good bedtime story.
Portland has a thriving art scene, and is home to many galleries, theaters, music venues, and even a ballroom dancing school. On the "First Friday" art walk, all the local cultural organizations came outside to celebrate Portland. Some dancers tangoed on the stage outside the booth. Good things come in pairs: tango dancers, StoryCorps participants, and mobile facilitators!
When asked what she wanted to be when she grows up, Opal said “100.” And when Michael wanted to know about the happiest day in her life, she jumped to the occasion and replied, “right now- today!” Opal sure made our day.