On a rainy night this week in Portland, Teddi-Jann Covell brought in her great-aunt Mildred for an interview. Mildred was a member of the WAVES, or "Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service" during World War II. She brought along with her her original uniform (designed by Christian Dior!) and this photo of her younger self.
Wendell Isaac’s employer gave him time off to participate in StoryCorps with his caseworker and friend, Rita Flynn. Wendell shared with us the difficulties he faces in Kansas City after spending 25 years in prison since the age of 17. Thanks to Rita’s help through the TurnAround Program, Mr. Isaac found a comfortable apartment and a well paying construction job. Hats off to that…Or maybe hats on, in this case.
On September 5, StoryCorps announced a collaborative arrangement with the WTC Memorial Foundation to honor the stories of lives lost on 9/11.
On our way to Kansas City last week, we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial. As the 5th anniversary of September 11 approaches, and away from our home in New York City, we were reminded of suffering around the world.
Here, facilitator Mitra Bonshahi stands underneath the Gates of Time overlooking the site where the Murrah Building once stood. The two Gates are engraved with the numbers 9:01 and 9:03, designating the time in between when the bomb exploded and lives were changed forever.
One hundred and sixty eight chairs dot the south lawn, representing each life lost on on April 19, 1995. The chairs illuminated by the sunlight are arranged in rows that correspond to the floor on which the victims worked.
The shallow depth of the Reflecting Pool brought us a sense of serenity in what was once a place of destruction.
Resting on a terrace, The Survivor Tree is a ninety year old elm that endured the blast. It has become a testament to the spirit that has lived on in the face of such devestation.
Through StoryCorps, we are exposed to the personal side of a public suffering. We hope that by truly listening to each other, we can bring some meaning to such tragedies.
It was a quiet, sunny morning in historic City Market before opening day in Kansas City. City Market Square has been a site for horse trading, political rallies, revival meetings, medicine shows and circuses since 1856. And now the StoryCorps booth has joined the ranks of such oddities where it is nestled among a variety of restaurants, shops, the famous Arabia Steamboat Museum, and a bustling farmers market.
Host station KCUR did a terrific job of getting the word out for StoryCorps’ arrival – by mid morning, City Market was buzzing with excitement for our first interview.
Our first participants shared some thoughts with reporters outside before they headed into the booth. Nazir told his daughter, Samara, about his life as a young boy living in India, then escaping to a war-torn Yemen. Nazir described the day he finally arrived in the United States as the happiest day of his life.
Getting ready for our second interview, facilitator Ryan Murdock helped long time radio personality, Walt Bodine, and his son Tom, get comfortable to the cozy confines of the MobileBooth. Walt shared many funny stories from his 50+ years as a radio personality, including the time when a fellow announcer fell asleep in the middle of a morning broadcast.
KCUR Music Director and host of Sonic Spectrum, Rob Moore, spun some tunes as our successful first day came to a close. A perfect end to a great day set the tone for an exciting stay in Kansas City.
After a lovely drive through Vermont and New Hampshire, the MobileBoothEast is now safely tucked away in downtown Portland, Maine. The booth’s home for September is right underneath the historic Eastland Park hotel, which has been kind enough to provide lodging for our Storycorps facilitators as well. Opening day awaits!
As outgoing facilitator Lisa Janicki rambles off towards Lake Champlain, incoming facilitator Maddy Nussbaum arrives to join the MobileBooth East as it bids farewell to Burlington and heads on to Portland, Maine.
(Legal note: The above photo is a reenactment. All rambling by Storycorps staff is conducted safely on the sidewalk.)
As we drove along historic Route 66 from Amarillo to Kansas City, we drove past some curious roadside attractions.
And let us present to you… The Leaning Tower of Texas just outside of Groom, Texas.
Further out, we saw a wind farm harnessing the plentiful wind on the high plains.
And last but certainly not least, we saw this cross dotting the horizon as we headed east. At 19 stories tall, it is the largest cross in the Northern Hemisphere. Now stay seated, we know the excitement can be overwhelming.
A long time ago, before there were hybrid sports like chess-boxing, and rodeo sports like mutton bustin’, there was donkey baseball. Back in the good old days, kids made there own fun out of what they had. And when all you have is a donkey and a baseball bat, well, the choice seems obvious. What else to do, but ride the donkey around the bases.
Participant Wayne Snider told his daughter, Kathryn, about one of his first dates with her mother, Alma. She had come to watch him play a game of donkey baseball, and he was rounding first base when the donkey bucked him off and kicked him in the face. Despite the black eye and broken nose, Wayne and Alma made it to the aisle- this time without any donkeys present.
Lured by the promise of a free 72oz. steak, we visited the world famous Big Texan to see if we could down 6 lbs worth of meat within an hour. Elaine had her go at the Texas sized steak, but couldn’t muster enough appetite to claim victory.
After stuffing our selves silly, we cozied up on a rocking chair built for three. Our bellies were full as we rocked away, unware of the impending showdown ahead.
Full of cowboy spirit, we saddled up and moseyed over to Boot City, which boasts over 8,000 pairs of cowboy boots.
Mitra Bonshahi, the new kid in town, challenged outgoing facilitator Elaine to a good old fashioned duel. Elaine, a dedicated pacifist, turned her down, so Mitra took the reins and gave Elaine the boot out of Amarillo and back home to New York.
25 years after taking the stage alongside his hero Pete Seeger (see left), Rik Palieri came to the MobileBooth and shared stories of his adventures as a local folk singer (see right). After the interview Rik and his wife Marianna Holzer also gave us a copy of his autobiography, complete with quite a snazzy autograph:
|Dean Yates came to the booth with his 10 year old son, Choice. When Choice asked “What’s the strangest, funniest or coolest thing that happened to you as a musician?” Dean talked about the time that his band got to play a gig at the White House during the Ford administration.|
|Well, lucky for us, Dean’s current band, Insufficient Funds, was playing just down the street from the MobileBooth at the Polk Street Block Party. We had a chance to catch a few of Dean’s songs and bumped into Choice, who was in the front row cheering his dad on. We thought that was pretty cool!|
On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same sex marriage in the state. It didn’t take long for Vermonters Bobbi and Sandi Cote-Whitacre, who had already committed to one another in a civil union ceremony in Vermont, to drive to Provincetown, MA, and get married. However, soon after their wedding day, the Executive branch of Massachusetts government denied to honor same sex marriages of couples who were non-Massachusetts residents. Being the fighters that they are, Bobbi and Sandi contacted GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders), and subsequently became the lead plaintiff couple in a case against the State (Cote-Whitacre vs. Dept of Health of Massachusetts). They came to StoryCorps to tell this story, as well as the story of their relationship, which started in 1967. They’re pictured here holding a portrait of themselves from over thirty years ago. At a time when discrimination against gays and lesbians went largely unchallenged, Bobbi and Sandi were giving out copies of this portrait as Christmas presents.
Stephanie and Linden met through the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), where Stephanie came as a homeless woman, and Linden as an Americorps volunteer. The work they’ve done together at COTS includes staging a production of the Harold Pinter play, “The Dwarfs.”
This August brings the 12th Annual Vermont Latino Festival to Burlington. At the end of one of our shifts, we were delighted to stumble upon an impromptu performance outside City Hall by this Zumba Aerobics troupe. This teaser was a pre-cursor to a Zumba Aerobics workshop, held inside City Hall. Despite much encouragement from these Zumba stars, facilitator John Randolph did not join in, but opted to take pictures instead.
Our last night in town also happened to be the night of a HPPR Living Room Concert Series. We watched Randy Elmore play some mighty fine Western Swing on his fiddle. Pictured below are HPPR hosts Mary Palmer and Allen Bailey. Bailey, who sang and played guitar as part of Elmore’s band, also happens to be Marshal of Dodge City (check out that badge if you don’t believe us). The concert turned out to be the biggest draw in town!
The next morning, we packed up the booth, clicked our heels a few times and said our goodbyes to Western Kansas. We knew that we couldn’t leave Kansas without making at least a passing reference to the Wizard of Oz , but we had no idea we would drive right past Dorothy’s House in Liberal, KS. Does anyone else think those munchkins look familiar?