“When I was 4 years-old, my mother told me that I could be the first Black President of the United States. I should have told Barack that.”
Both of his parents were college graduates. A teacher by profession, his mother brought a then two-year-old John Hope Franklin to the one-room school where she taught in Rentiesville, Oklahoma. She sat him in the back of the room with only a pencil and paper as his babysitters. Day after day, his mother would educate the many grade students left in her care while John occupied himself with the utensils left responsible for his own care taking. One day his mother decided to take a look at John’s paper. Not only had that pencil and paper kept John quiet, it had served as a depository for what he was learning. At two, he was able to read write and do the homework his mother had been administering to the other children.
Sometimes people have the misconception that StoryCorps is just for “old people.” While it is priceless to record the memories of those older and wiser than us, it can also be equally valuable to record the voices and thoughts of the young. We believe everyone has a story to tell, and sharing a personal story can be worthwhile for both the young and the young at heart. 10-year-old Jose and his mom, Yvette (who wouldn’t divulge her age), came into the StoryCorps booth in Gainesville after spending a morning at the Alachua County Public Library.
On Monday, November 17th, the Lower Manhattan StoryBooth opened its doors to the public, inviting area organizations and passersby to learn more about the StoryCorps project and tour the StoryBooth.
Visitors were offered donut holes, hot cider, and literature on StoryCorps and our upcoming National Day of Listening. Eight inviteesóthe Museum of Chinese in America, South Street Seaport Museum, National Parks Service, African Burial Ground, Tsingtao, Charles Wang Health Center, Eldridge Street Synagogue, NYPDóand about four times as many curious pedestrians stopped long enough to hear a StoryCorps pitch, add their names to our mailing list, and treat their ears to some New York stories. We witnessed the fruits of our labor right away when a NYC Parks & Recreation employee was spotted spreading the word to people on the opposite side of the park.
This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.- Elmer Davis
On November 11, the MobileEast team facilitated a very special Door-to-Door recording at the VA Medical Center in Lake City, Florida. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that it was the first Veterans Day when I have ever done anything to honor our servicemen and women. But having spent the day with a few of them, I now feel committed to recognize their bravery, sacrifice, and their stories every year.
At the VA Medical Center I heard the story of former World War II POW Arthur Chadwick and the emotional first visit that Robert “Bobcat” Pate made to the Wall, years after his own return from Vietnam and his long journey out of homelessness. I also heard stories from Rob Marietta and Paul Gibson who credit their friendship and their survival to their strong faith in God. Of course, anyone familiar with StoryCorps knows that you do not have to go to a VA hospital in order to hear the stories of men and women who have made sacrifices for our country through their involvement in the military. We hear from fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, daughters and sons, and sisters and brothers who have all been affected in some way by their own service or the service of a loved one. Sometimes the first conversation these men and women have with loved ones about their experiences during times of war take place in a StoryCorps booth. No matter what those conversations reveal, what pride or pain, what sadness or joy, it is an honor and a privilege to help those conversations take place.
After listening with just a little bit of envy to other Facilitators’ accounts of proposals in the booth, couples documenting their engagements, newly weds coming to the booth right after taking their vows, I facilitated my very own newly engaged couple last week — as you can see, they are absolutely precious.
Leiana Miller and Tony Meister filled the booth with infectious young love. I predict that they will keep each other singing, dancing, and laughing for many years to come.
With the economy doing nose dives and cartwheels, I may never make it to that posh, luxury retirement I so richly deserve. But even if my 401K goes the way of Friendster I can at least pretend to live the good life while MobileEast is in Gainesville, Florida. I had been hearing about our Gainesville accommodations for months, but had no idea how lovely and….pink our temporary address would be. As we turned onto the driveway, after a very long drive from Virginia, we came across a series of antique street lamps surrounding a gazebo that faced the back side of the house’s veranda and one of two second floor balconies. Needless to say, I was impressed.
When StoryCorps participants arrive at one of our recording booths, we provide them with a list of suggested questions for getting the conversation going. One of these questions gets at the very beginning of someone’s story: What is your earliest memory?
The following are just a handful of the many earliest memories we’ve recorded. Some are stories, some are snapshots, and some are a child’s perspective on larger historical events. What is YOUR earliest memory? Share it in the comments section below!
“My earliest memory is standing by the stove and my mother peeling white potatoes on a little green stool, a chair with the back broken off. And she let me stand there and watch her. And she’d always give me a piece of the raw potato and I just loved it.”
- Betty Livingston, age 71, in Indianapolis, IN
“My grandmother swimming fully clothed in the river and doing backstrokes.”
- Oscar Velasquez, age 74, in Abilene, TX
“My earliest memory was the day WWII ended. I have a very vivid memory of being a young, young child in the back seat of a convertible and seeing adults do things like run and scream and jump, things that were very unusual for adults to do.”
- John McReynolds, age 64, in Logan, UT
On Saturday, October 25, the San Francisco team set up shop at the Moscone Center to talk to women of all varieties who had come together for a common purpose: self-empowerment, inner-fortitude, and to see the Queen Bee herself, Oprah Winfrey (cue theme music).
The first few weeks in Gainesville have been eventful! We had a great opening day on the University of Florida campus that was the subject of quite a bit of coverage from the local press. Opening day was followed by the Gator Growl and the thorough trouncing of the Kentucky Wildcats by the Florida Gators (Kentucky 5, Florida 63! CHOMP!). After a week of fun on campus MobileEast moved to the Alachua County Public Library on October 31, just in time for Halloween. Thanks to the Alachua County Commissioners, the holiday is now also known as “StoryCorps WUFT-FM Day.”
Alachua County Commissioner Cynthia Moore Chestnut did the honors by announcing the official proclamation before stepping into the booth with her son Christopher.
“From the moment it begins beating until the moment it stops, the human heart works tirelessly. In an average lifetime, the heart beats more than two and a half billion times, without ever pausing to rest.“ -The Human Heart
“What did it feel like touching death?” Alisa Guthrie asks her husband, Dr. Christopher Cogle.
During his medical fellowship, Chris remembers walking quickly with other fellows from a lecture hall to the hospital. Chris had a pacemaker. “Being shocked by a pacemaker feels like Mike Tyson or Mohommad Ali coming up to you and punching you in the chest. It’s so powerful it drops you to your knees. It could happen at any time.”
One of the greatest rewards for me as a StoryCorps Facilitator has been the opportunity to soak up the wisdom and insight shared between the four walls of our StoryBooths. While sitting in the corner, taking notes, running the recording equipment, and listening closely, I hear stories that help me better understand my own life, and prepare me for experiences that are still aheadÃ³ marriage, parenthood, serious illness, or even the death of a family member. So, it was a delight to be a fly on the wall when Natalia Karplus, who is expecting twins, brought her mother Elena to ask her questions about parenting and motherhood.
Elena’s savoir faire and love as a mother were made evident through stories from her four pregnancies, memories of raising three girls and a boy, and this bit of wisdom, “Sometimes you’re so task oriented with a baby that you forget that they just like to be talked to.”
“I feel so lucky to be going through this, and have you to talk to about it,” said Natalia through her end-of-interview tears. To which her mother responded, “It’s going to be empowering. It will make you feel like you can do anything in the worldÃ³ and you can.”
Larry Kilgore has two passions: Horses and Dick Bardon Pawn Shop. The pawn shop was in Larry’s family since 1906. He closed its doors in 1986, 80 years later.
Larry’s uncle, Dick Bardon, came from St. Louis to Tulsa in 1904 driving a covered wagon that he won with gambling money. When gambling became illegal, he opened the doors to a pawn shop. Bardon was well known for his philanthropy, handing an $80,000 check to the struggling Board of Education and saying, “I have no intention of living in a town that can’t pay its teachers.”
Larry took over the pawn shop in 1967, leaving the cash registers from his Uncle Dick’s ownership on display. (more…)
Sara and I just missed the off-ramp. As we discuss how that could have happened and take an unexpected detour, I feel the excitement welling up inside. We start heading up an inclined expressway. At its precipice, we are greeted by the bright lights of our new destination. My cell phone rings. It’s Alex.
When Ben Greene described his wife, Deborah, as “the stunningly beautiful but somewhat irascible redhead,” it was clear that true love was flowing within the room, throughout the C.E. building of the Ukpeagvik Presbyterian Church, and in all of Barrow.
The Greenes not only have a profound love for each other, but also for the wilderness, which is why they choose to make their home in Alaska. They were living in Anchorage when Ben got the opportunity to move to Barrow and work for the North Slope Borough Planning Department, an opportunity so unusual there was no way he could turn it down.
“After all,” says Ben, “how many people do you know are given the opportunity to live amongst an Inupiat whaling community 300 miles north of the Arctic circle? You get to see a very unique slice of life and you get to participate.” Ben and Deborah have been in Barrow since May.
In April 2008, Mary McVicker Scroggs arrived at the Pere Marquette Hotel in Peoria, Illinois. The occasion was one of celebration. Mary was being honored by the American Red Cross for her work with drunk drivers and was presented with the Heartland Hero award for citizenship. It was both a triumphant and eerie moment for Mary. The emotions were mixed. It had been four years since her last visit to the Pere Marquette; four years since the day she had unsuccessfully attempted suicide.
Our San Francisco StoryBooth is now official. On Sunday, October 26, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay traveled out west to officially launch our StoryBooth at the Contemporary Jewish Museum and to read from his book, Listening is an Act of Love. Special thanks for all their help to Connie Wolf and Lisa Chanoff from the Museum, and to Matt Martin from partner station KALW (whose adorable daughter Reba definitely stole the show).
As we continue listening to incredible stories here in the Bay Area, our thoughts are turned to master oral historian Studs Terkel, who passed away earlier this week. For more on Studs, see here, here, and listen here. We will miss him greatly.
Ten-year-old Ida Cortez is special. Just recently relocated to San Francisco after surviving Hurricane Katrina, Ida is in a new school, on a new coast, and making new friends. Ida’s mother Kim Wargo brought her in for an interview to talk about leaving New Orleans and to share her experience living with and learning through dyslexia.
Nancy Wright and JD Wright came into the booth to talk about Nancy’s mother, Frances Guy Ericksen, known to JD and his siblings as Gaga. An extravagantly generous tipper and the inspiration for the “Frances Ericksen Memorial Tip,” she passed away in January of 2008 but left behind a loving family and many, many stories of her life, her love and her faith. Frances was raised in the church. Her father was a Methodist minister and enlisted Frances’ help as an organ player at funerals when she was a young girl. As a mother Frances tried to share her devout religious beliefs with Nancy, but as Nancy grew older and took a different spiritual path their differences began to take their toll. Nancy recalls one argument that became a turning point in her relationship with Frances.
Gator Nation: ?g?-t?r ?n?-sh?n noun. 1) a community of people composed of multi-ethnic, religious, political, socio-economic backgrounds that are bound together by a mutual love of University of Florida football, tailgating, Florida sunshine, and all things blue and orange. 2) a collection of folks who know how to have a good time and perhaps how to do a keg stand.
I am sitting in the booth on our first full day of interviews. The sun is shining, as it does constantly here in lovely Florida,? and a slight breeze is blowing when two UF students walk past the booth. This is what I hear: