Here in San Francisco, California we have some really great news:
Due to popular demand-and the generosity of our host, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, our StoryBooth has been extended through October, 2010!
To celebrate, we’re having a party.
Please join us at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on Sunday, November 8th from 2-4pm to listen to never-before-heard highlights from year one of our San Francisco StoryBooth-and toast to year two!
More information can be found here, on the Museum’s website. We would love to see you there.
In addition, reservations at the San Francisco StoryBooth are now open through February, 2010. We still have some open slots on the calendar, so now is the perfect time to make a reservation to record a conversation with a family member over the holiday season or schedule a Valentine’s Day surprise. Reservations can be made through our website or by calling 1-800-850-4406. Interview times go quickly, so make sure to sign up now.
It has been a true honor to listen to Bay Area stories for the past year, and we are beyond thrilled to have the chance to preserve even more stories from this incredibly diverse community.
Come visit us at the booth one of these days, okay?
WHRV 89.5 FM welcomed StoryCorps to Norfolk, Virginia on October 22, the eve of our 6th year of listening.
Our friends at 89.5 FM not only set up a huge banner over Waterside Drive announcing our arrival, but they also provided music and food for guests at our opening day. Of course, the best part of any opening day is the stories we hear from our participants.
Brenda H. Andrews interviewed her friend Andrew I. Heidelberg about his experiences as one of the Norfolk 17, the first group of black students to attend previously white schools during desegregation in Virginia. One day, when 12 year-old Andrew was coming home for dinner, there were two women and a man from the NAACP at his family’s home. They wanted to recruit Andrew in their efforts to get African-American students into recently desegregated schools. Andrew agreed to participate but had no idea what to expect. Months later at age 13 was his first day at Norview High School. Despite the tremendous prejudice he faced on a daily basis from white students at Norview, he knew he would graduate. “I didn’t want to let them make me quit,” he said.
A tale of triumph over a different kind of adversity came from Ray Evans who spoke with his daughter Debra Matthews about what it was like to be a child evacuee in England during World War II. His separation from his family found him in foster home after foster home, some of them warm and loving and others awful and abusive. Ray also talked about the bittersweet moment when he had to leave his final foster home-a wonderful, caring place-to return to his family.
Mr. Heidelberg summed up the message of both stories when he said, “Quitters never win and winners never quit!”
Ever since I started working with Frank Kingman at the San Francisco StoryBooth, I couldn’t wait to hear some of his stories. He claims he has none, then whips out a tale about working on the railroad and earning the nickname ‘iron man’ because he would do the most difficult and most hated jobs. This sort of detail changes the way you think about a spry 63-year-old who does yoga and brings you bags of delicious peaches from a friend’s orchard.
The opportunity arose to hear more from Frank when he brought his niece, Jo, into the StoryBooth. Frank and Jo spoke honestly about regrets and second chances in life. Frank told Jo that having her in his life is a ‘wonderful gift.’ The love and understanding he and his niece explored during that 40 minutes was a beautiful thing to witness. It strongly reinforced why it is so incredibly important to sit down with the people you love and have a conversation.
I can only say how honored I felt to be a part of it and to have an opportunity to know my colleague and friend better.
Today was our first day of recording at our newest StoryBooth in Atlanta, Georgia!
Everyone at StoryCorps is excited to have a StoryBooth in the South, especially the Atlanta team: Lillie Love, Anthony Knight, Lola Ibitoye, Katrina Singh, and me! We are thrilled to be recording and preserving the stories of the South for our nation and future generations to hear. And we are very grateful to 90.1 WABE for hosting us for our first year in Atlanta.
We spent two weeks training and learning the ins and outs of StoryCorps. We learned how to record stories and archive them for the Library of Congress.
The St. Anthony Foundation is a refuge where thousands of people come each day in need of some form of help. Whether it be food, clothing, medical attention or technology training, the Foundation has been striving for the last 50 years to ensure that San Francisco’s Tenderloin residents have access to resources and a community they can depend on. It’s an experience to walk down Golden Gate Avenue, where the Foundation is located, on any given day and take in the surroundings: people sleeping in doorways, waiting for hours outside the Dining Room in a line stretching around the block at lunchtime, ambulances and cop cars whizzing by every so often.
Outside of StoryCorps, I work at St. Anthony’s Technology Lab where our mission is to educate people and familiarize them with the technological tools of the 21st century. Many of the clients who come in have served sentences in prison, are recovering addicts, or have just never had the confidence to actively learn how to use a computer-much less navigate through the internet. I like to think of the Lab as a melting pot; from Cairo to Kyoto, Sweden to New Orleans, it is as if 60 people from across the globe were selected at random and placed on the 3rd floor of 150 Golden Gate Ave. In other words, it is a perfect place for StoryCorps to capture a wealth of experience and emotion.
“What were you thinking when I was born? How did you feel?” Nathan asked his father, Colbert, at the MobileBooth in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“As a 16 year old, being a teenage father, and not having any real concept of what a father looked like, or not knowing what he sounded like, I guess I was really nervous and scared,” Colbert answered.
Colbert now raises Nathan as a single father. As a kid, Colbert remembers that he and his friends had a common bond-most were growing up with single mothers, without fathers in the picture.
“I am so proud of you because you have allowed me to be a father. I am proud of you for allowing my voice to still have meaning in a time and place when our fathers’ voices are becoming echoes. You could have used ‘growing up without a mom’ as a crutch and you have not allowed that to happen. I am also proud of you for allowing me to bring other kids that have been in really rough situations into our home,” Colbert told Nathan.
StoryCorps participants arrive at our MobileBooths from all across the country. Usually their residence corresponds with where our MobileBooth is parked. But don’t tell that to these recent participants in Colorado Springs, Colorado!
After driving through snow and sleet, MobileBooth West pulled into downtown Colorado Springs, CO and set up shop in front of the Penrose Public Library. KRCC General Manager Delaney Utterback and Producer Noel Black greeted us warmly and looked on with excitement as we wedged the MobileBooth into its new home. And if a big shiny Airstream trailer wasn’t enough to announce our arrival in town, KRCC went to work producing a short web video providing the curious community with an inside peek as to what StoryCorps is all about.
Set at the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains and the base of the famous Pikes Peak, sprawling Colorado Springs is home to quite a number of institutions and attractions, including the United States Air Force Academy, NORAD, Fort Carson, Focus on the Family, Colorado College, the United States Olympic Training Center and Committee Headquarters, Seven Falls, and the Garden of the Gods National Park (to name a few!). Our partner organizations are just as vast and numerous, including PEAK Parent Association, PHAMALY Theatre, Partners in Housing, the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado Springs, African Americans in Gerontology, Pikes Peak Community College, Future Self, and more. Given the wide range of various places, communities, and organizations, MobileBooth West will soon be filled with an equally diverse array of participants, life experiences, and stories!
So far, so good, in Colorado Springs!
If the title of this blog post is a familiar phrase to you, then you, like StoryCorps Participant Chris Parm and myself, are probably a comic book fan. The “healing factor” refers to the super powers of one of Marvel Comics’ most popular mutant anti-heroes, Wolverine. This particular character has feral tenacity and an ability to heal from virtually any wound or disease.
Chris was born with a condition called V.A.T.E.R. Syndrome which has compromised the health of his kidneys and led to two surgeries and frequent infections throughout all of his 18 years. While Chris has not had the benefit of a mutant power to help him through the lifelong challenges of his condition, he has had his own kind of healing factor: the love and support of his family, which includes his mom, Jennifer Murray, and his grandmother, Anna Armstrong, who accompanied him into the MobileEast Booth.
Chris’ love of heroes with complex personalities, like Wolverine, the Incredible Hulk, and Spiderman speaks to his own belief that the good and the bad sometimes go hand in hand. “There is darkness in everything, in everybody, but within the darkness there is a glimmer of light,” says Chris. “If you can find that light you can help it shine. I think the light is what we all call faith. If you just believe in it the darkness will go away.”
With the first days of fall, the East MobileBooth headed west from Akron, Ohio to Grand Rapids, Michigan-the last stop on an unofficial “Great Lakes Tour” that also featured Erie, Pennsylvania and Rochester, New York.
The MobileBooth is settled on the banks of the Grand River just outside The Public Museum. Among other artifacts, the museum houses a 1920′s Driggs Skyla biplane. Grand Rapids native John Shipman (below) came to StoryCorps to describe his first taste of flight in one of those planes as a ten-year-old farm kid growing up during the Depression. Now, John likes to visit the museum just to see the plane and get lost in the memories it calls up.
A guest post by Margaret Crandall, one of our amazing San Francisco StoryBooth volunteers. Good luck, Margaret, and thank you! Thursday afternoons just won’t be the same without you.
Last December I was laid off from my dot-com job. It was a blessing, really. A kick in the pants to do something more rewarding. I found that something in StoryCorps. I went to a wine-and-cheese StoryCorps event at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum, and was so impressed by the project that at the end of the evening I cornered Sarah Geis and demanded to volunteer. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my new-found free time.
Luckily Sarah needed someone to meet and greet StoryCorps visitors on Thursday afternoons to explain the project, answer questions, and chat with people waiting to use the booth. Some people already knew about StoryCorps from NPR. Others had never heard of StoryCorps, and approached my end of the hall with looks of interest or confusion. Others gazed at the wall of photos next to me, snapshots of people from all walks of life who had recorded their stories in the StoryBooth (my favorite is the one of the guy with the little white dog), and asked me if StoryCorps was open to non-Jews. “Absolutely!” I told them. Others, often senior citizens, bashfully told me they didn’t have any stories to tell. I’d laugh and tell them that of course they did. Everyone has a story.
One part of this story begins in the 1980s, when Akron toymaker Michael Cohill met an 18-year-old archeology student named Brian Graham at a party. Michael told Brian that he had been digging up marbles at his toy workshop, which decades before had been a marble factory.
Naturally, Brian the archaeologist was intrigued. They made a date to continue excavating Michael’s factory, and then they expanded the search to dig through the catacombs in downtown Akron for hidden treasure. They succeeded in finding four little clay marbles. But when a parking deck downtown was removed years later, they found the ground littered with marbles and old penny toys. They also found the oldest penny toy in their now large collection, a small Santa figurine.
The other part of this story begins 100 hundred years earlier, in the 1880′s, when a man named Samuel Dyke started the production of penny toys in Akron. Before this time, toys were handmade and very expensive, a luxury afforded only by the rich. With Dyke’s mass production of toys, though, a new toy-buying demographic was created. Kids with a penny or two in their pocket now had something other than sweets to purchase. Samuel Dyke’s business boomed until he was making over a million marbles per day and shipping them around the country.
During our brief stay in Paonia, Colorado, we met all kinds of people. Young and old; mothers and fathers; uncles, sisters, cousins, and godfathers; auctioneers and farmers; DJs and musicians; potters, poets, writers, and artists; friends, mentors, teachers, and students; miners and midwives; travelers, scientists, and even Paonia’s Elegantly Attired Running Ladies!
While every participant who came into the MobileBooth was different from the next, each with their own story and their own voice, there was one thing almost everyone seemed to agree upon. There is no place like Paonia. Part of the beautiful North Fork Valley, Paonia is home to an assortment of community-run businesses, the best peaches you’ve ever tasted, an exquisite landscape, the sweet sounds of bluegrass music, and of course, KVNF Public Radio – “the nucleus” of the community, explained one participant. As KVNF Manager Sally Kane remarked, the North Fork Valley is “pastoral, abundant, and enlightening. [...] and it attracts people with huge hearts.”
Paonia may be a small dot on the map, but as participant Liz Lilien remarked, “sometimes that dot seems to shine.” And indeed it does!
Thank You, Paonia. Colorado Springs, here we come!
“I don’t know where this came from,” Sr. Paula Howard, Order of Saint Benedict (O.S.B.) told her friend Sr. Mary Nowell, O.S.B., during our Door-to-Door interview in Atchison, Kansas. “But I’ve always had this yen to paint.”
After decades of teaching and administrative work at Bethlehem University and Donnelly College, Sr. Paula retired from education in 1999. When asked how she’d like to spend her retirement, Sr. Paula said in passing that she’d always had the urge to paint and began taking art classes at her community’s Sofia Center. “I’d been listening to Bob Ross on television, and seeing him do these happy little trees, I kept thinking, ‘That looks really easy.’”
In the following months Sr. Paula experimented with different types of art forms but painting, indeed, stuck. What drew her closest to this method was the creation of icons, or storytelling through pictures of sacred characters and images.
“At my age, you don’t want to do anything if its not fun,” said Rose Brudno as she got ready for her interview at the StoryCorps East MobileBooth in Akron, Ohio.
Luckily, Rose seemed to have a pretty good time remembering her many bartending years with her grandson Joshua during their interview. After divorcing her husband in the 1950s, Rose moved to Akron with her three kids and took over the Zanzabar, a tavern in a working-class African American neighborhood where most of the patrons were employed by Akron’s rubber industry. Rose, a white Jewish woman from Cleveland, stood out for more reasons than one. Open 21 hours a day, the bar was filled at 5:00 a.m. with men from the rubber-factory night-shift, singing and dancing and breakfasting at the bar.
The Zanzabar became a center of political activism in Akron. Rose started organizing the hospital workers union, and she was active in the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests. Rose was arrested on several occasions for peacefully protesting in Washington D.C. and Selma, Alabama. When a so-called riot broke out in the neighborhood, Rose made sure the protesting kids had sodas and sandwiches.
Although we may have dropped 161 feet in elevation from Montrose, Colorado to Paonia, Colorado, spirits were high as StoryCorps’ MobileWest team geared up for two weeks of MobileBooth recording in front of Paonia’s brand new Pubilc Library, which opened in April of 2009. After a warm welcome from KVNF, Paonia’s “mountain-grown” public radio station, we hit the ground running in this small town of just 1,600 people. And although Paonia may be one of the smallest towns the MobileBooth has visited, it’s still big enough for community members to learn something (and meet someone) new everyday!
When participants come into the StoryCorps Booth, they often tell the story of how they first met. It’s not everyday, however, that participants meet one another for the first time at the MobileBooth! That is exactly what happened in Paonia, Colorado, at StoryCorps’ MobileBooth West when Marjorie Johnson and Marylee Hauze came in to tell their story.
Almost four months ago to the day of their scheduled conversation, participant Marylee Hauze came upon a letter to the editor in the Delta County Independent written by an “M.E. Johnson” titled, “A Mother’s Day Tribute.” Marylee was so moved by the article, she wrote a letter to “M.E.” thanking her for her words. Since then, Marge and Marylee have been exchanging letters as pen pals. It was September 5 that they met for the first time. After sharing lunch in town, they came to StoryCorps to continue their conversation face-to-face. It didn’t take long to understand why Marylee was so eager to make the acquaintance of Marjorie E. Johnson.
Akron, Ohio. Birthplace of the rubber tire as we know it. Goodyear. Goodrich. Firestone. The American Trucking Industry. Hometown of Alcoholics Anonymous, Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, the new wave band Devo, and basketball player LeBron James.
We cut the StoryBooth ribbon in this historic city on a cold day in front of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. WKSU, our public broadcasting host, warmed up the crowd with coffee and pastries while former Deputy Mayor Dorothy Jackson and Reverend Dr. Ronald Fowler christened the booth with the first conversation of the day.
When they imagine having an impact on future generations and how they will be remembered in the future, people often think of parenting children. But as these interviews from Erie, Pennsylvania show, there are many ways to leave a legacy.
Father Bob: A True Man
Jim Murray and his son Bob Murray came to the MobileBooth to talk about Father Bob, Jim’s older brother and a devoted priest. Jim and Father Bob are the two youngest sons in an Irish-Catholic family of five boys, all with big personalities. The other brothers became engineers, attorneys, and insurance partners, but Father Bob knew from the age of nine that he’d become a priest.
Jim recalled, “He was never a pastor…He was quiet. If we were in a room, and if there were thirty people in that room, I’d go around and meet thirty people and I’d remember who they were and where they were from. But if there were two people in that room that were hurting, and one was thinking about suicide, somehow they would talk to Father Bob. And he would make them feel better about themselves.”
In the Montrose Public Library, near the Libros En Espanol [Books in Spanish] section, we took over a study room and set up shop for a week-long recording session of 41 conversations in Montrose, Colorado.
The city of Montrose rests north of the towering San Juan Mountains at an altitude of 5,806 feet. It’s home to a diverse group of residents including long-timers whose families have been in the area for multiple generations, transplants from bigger cities looking for a slower pace, and nature-seekers wanting to co-exist with the beautiful Colorado landscape. And boy, is it beautiful!
Although we were only there for a week, Montrose Public Library gave us the full red-carpet greeting. A wonderful ice cream social – covered by Montrose Daily Press – was arranged by the library on Opening Day, and Library Director Paul Paladino formally welcomed us with open arms; KVNF news director Daniel Costello talked about the radio station’s excitement; and West MobileBooth Site Supervisor Whitney Henry-Lester thanked the crowd for their participation. Needless to say, we were very excited to begin!
Brookland is a neighborhood in northeast Washington, D.C. and is home to Catholic University (not to be confused with Brooklyn, New York, the home of StoryCorps). Brookland was also home to two brothers, David and Eric Toatley, in the 1950s. They came to StoryCorps to record their memories of the neighborhood.
“My parents moved [to Brookland] in 1946 and got the house on the G.I. Bill. And the blessing that I am showed up in 1947,” said David. His younger brother, Eric, quickly added, “And they improved it in 1951 when I showed up!”
Eric remembered Brookland as a diverse, middle-class neighborhood that was a great place to grow up. “Every house on the block had two or three kids, if not more, so you had plenty of playmates. You could just go from house to house all day long until the street lights came on and it was time to go home.”