During our Mobile Stop in Wilmington, North Carolina husband and wife JoAnn and Irving Fogler came and reminisced about their little bookstore, The Bookery.
JoAnn told what she calls “The Bible with the Wide Margins” story: A customer came to return a Bible for not having wide enough margins. JoAnn told him “I can see the margins are a little too small, you give me this back and I’ll send for it personally.” When he came back a week or two later JoAnn presented the Bible to him by opening the book slowly, letting the pages fan out in a grand way. She said, “See, these margins are wide, they are so wide the company said it is going to go into the Guinness Book of Records!” The customer was very pleased and every time he came by the bookstore he would remark, “This is a bookstore that really follows through.” JoAnn explains, sometimes it is not what you say but how you say it. He never realized that JoAnn had presented him with the same bible he had returned!
The Rangeview Library District and Anythink Libraries, an Institute for Museum and Library Services‘ 2010 National Award winner, hosted StoryCorps for three recording days at their Wright Farms branch in Thornton, Colorado. During our visit, Pam Sandlian Smith, the district’s library director, and her good friend, Sharon Morris, recorded a conversation about Anythink and some of their formative memories at other libraries.
Pam remembered a little boy who visited the Denver Children’s Library many summers ago while she and Sharon worked there. He saw the unused story hour room, its stage and hand puppets, and asked Pam if he could hold a show there at the end of the week. Sensing an opportunity, Pam obliged with one condition: He had to keep the room tidy.
San Francisco has been the historic port of entry for immigrants from Asia. North of Market Street and next to Chinatown was a community that came to be known as Manilatown, and it was made up mostly of single men often working as migrant laborers and residing in low cost hotels. Urban renewal in the 1950′s and 60′s moved these residents, many of them WWII veterans, to the South of Market area, or SOMA. Manilatown was devastated: Ten full blocks of low-cost housing, restaurants, barber shops, markets, clubs and other businesses that benefited a Filipino community that numbered around 10,000 people were destroyed.
More recent development, including the Moscone Convention Complex and Yerba Buena Center in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s, once again displaced these older Filipinos as well as younger immigrant families. Even so, there is still a considerable Filipino presence in SOMA. Murals depicting Philippine history and community decorate the SOMA neighborhood walls. Also, nearby streets are named after Filipino heroes – including a street I have walked by many times, called Lapu Lapu, named after a Pilipino warrior that killed Portuguese colonialist Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
A few blocks away from StoryCorps’ home in San Francisco’s South of Market Neighborhood is the Bayanihan Community Center. Bayanihan is a valued element in Filipino culture that means mutual assistance and mutual caring. The Center exists to strengthen the social, physical, and economic well being of the Filipino American community and the South of Market community with special attention to the underserved segments of the community.
I’m constantly surprised by participants. Ideally, as a StoryCorps facilitator you throw all presumptions out the window. But we’re human, so when Brad Kimbrough, 31, and Bill McLaren, 67, arrived at the StoryBooth, reflexively I thought, “Ok, father-son, or perhaps (forgive me Bill) grandfather-grandson.” Neither turned out to be true. Bill and Brad are best friends.
Introduced by a mutual friend, Bill and Brad initially bonded over their love of the television show Battlestar Galactica and it evolved into a friendly barter system. Brad wanted to learn how to cook and Bill “couldn’t do a thing with computers.”
When Bill had a bad fall and injured himself, Brad didn’t hesitate. Bill recalls the common refrain of friends and relatives. “People would say if you need anything call us. But I’m not gonna call. You (Brad) didn’t say that. You said ‘who’s taking care of you?’ I said, ‘I’m ok.’ But you said ‘I’ll be out at two o’ clock’ and got on the train. You didn’t say if you need anything call. You knew I needed things.”
The 2010-2011 academic year marked the 225th Anniversary of Friends Seminary, a Quaker K-12 school in Manhattan. As part of the celebration, alumni and former teachers and staff gathered to reconnect with old friends, share memories, and see all the changes that have happened at Friends. StoryCorps was on hand to record some of these reunions and reminiscences.
One of the pairs who participated in StoryCorps was Ed Randolph and Rachel Jones. Ed started working at Friends in 1977 as a receptionist, one year before Rachel enrolled as a ninth grader. He learned a lot while on the job, especially about Quakerism. “I enjoyed the lifestyle of simplicity and not striving beyond your means,” he says. “Silent meeting was one of my favorite things here. Just to sit and be with yourself and be still.”
StoryCorps Door-to-Door set out to record the stories of yet another one of the best museums in the country: Explora, a science center and children’s museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Sandia Mountains were a welcome change from the city skyline and when we stepped into the building, we knew why Explora earned a National Medal Award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Simply put, Explora is an amazing place to play and learn for children of all ages.
Like many of our participants, kindergarten teacher Mariam Martinez remembered when she first developed an interest in science. During a third grade field trip to the Museum of Natural History in New York City, a museum docent talked with the children about the Eskimo people and asked the class to look for an element missing from the Eskimos’ jackets. Mariam told her friend Sara of her classmates’ reactions to the observations she shared with the docent. “Everybody looked at me like how did you know that. And I thought, my observations are good. So, that was my initial interest in science, making observations.”
As a kindergarten teacher in Albuquerque, Mariam helps her students make their own scientific observations. Sometimes the students visit Explora where they can touch the exhibits, play with the parts and learn about the science that surrounds us all.
In 1926 Cator Woolford (a principle founder of the company that would become Equifax, Inc., Retail Credit Company), and his wife Charlotte created a magnificent and vast 33-acre estate in the Druid Hills area of Atlanta. They named it Jaqueland. And although the Woolfords could not have imagined that one day their beloved home would serve as a respite for caregivers visiting sick and, in some cases, dying family members, their legacy of philanthropy, giving and love permeates every square inch of the property. Today, that legacy lives on as the Atlanta Hospital Hospitality House (AHHH).
Founded in 1981 by several members of the All Saints Episcopal Church, particularly Tom and Carolyn Clark (the first Chairman of the Board and Executive Director, respectively), the AHHH has worked hard to “provide a ‘home away from home’ to outpatients and relatives of patients hospitalized in 21 Atlanta-area hospitals.” In a comfortable and elegant environment, the organization “offers lodging, meals, supportive companionship and comfort from a committed staff, volunteers, and fellow guests, during what is often a crisis period.” (more…)
The San Francisco StoryBooth has been at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) for the past two and a half years. I began as a volunteer soon after the opening of the booth – a StoryCorps greeter, but without the orange vest. Four months later, I was offered the opportunity to become a StoryCorps facilitator.
I have particularly enjoyed the fact that our booth is located here at the CJM. It’s the first time a StoryBooth has been housed in a museum, and because of it, we have many benefits not available to other locations: we are sheltered from inclement weather, restrooms are nearby and the building that houses the CJM is remarkable architecturally. But by far, one of the greatest benefits is the variety of people coming to our booth and to the CJM. They reflect the great diversity of San Francisco and the Bay Area, and through them I encounter a cross section of our society that I otherwise would never have a chance to meet.
Nancy and Joe Stoner came into the Mobile East Booth in Wilmington, NC to talk about their work with Carolina Canines, an organization that trains dogs and their owners to volunteer in the community. Nancy and Joe have trained four therapy dogs in the last ten years. Throughout their conversation, Nancy and Joe’s love for their dogs and passion for their work filled the Booth.
In addition to taking their dogs into hospitals and hospice centers, Nancy and Joe have been active in the Paws for Reading program. The second graders that Nancy and Joe work with are called out of regular classes to spend special time in the school library, where they read out loud-not to a teacher or school librarian, but to a dog! (more…)
Facilitator Daniel Littlewood and I traveled to West Bloomfield, Michigan to record stories of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library community. Michigan’s weather greeted us with a cold front, but the library staff, patrons and participants were plenty warm and inviting. Brenda, our on-site contact, gave us a tour during the first day. Besides their large collection of books, the library boasts a state-of-the-art computer center, outdoor patio space near several nature walks, and a magazine corner with a fireplace. According to the West Bloomfield residents we spoke to, the library is their home away from home, which may be one reason the Institute for Museum and Library Services gave the library one of ten National Medal Awards.
We recorded stories from residents of diverse backgrounds who utilize the library’s resources in a variety of ways. When Melba Harris was laid off from her job as a medical technologist, she had the opposite reaction of most people. As Melba remembers, “Being laid off was one of the best things that happened in my life. In being laid off, I learned who I am. And who I am is being resilient to what life brings me and being happy [with] whatever life gives me because this is the only life that you have.” (more…)
I love jump roping. It’s one of those things that can, in a heartbeat, take me back to childhood and make me burst with pure joy – like jumping on the bed or eating a giant ice cream sundae. That’s why I mostly think of jump roping as a recreational activity, at most a way to get a little exercise or train for other sports. Until I met Ho Ting Lam, that is. He came to the San Francisco StoryBooth with his teacher at San Francisco International High School, Elizabeth de Rham, aka “Ms. Elizabeth.” (more…)
When StoryCorps Atlanta thinks of its few “regulars,” Dave Hayward’s name is right at the top. Through his organization, Touching Up Our Roots: Georgia’s LGBT History Project Initiative, Dave is committed to capturing the stories of Atlanta’s sizable LGBTQ community, and he has recorded a whopping 14 conversations with StoryCorps Atlanta since we opened in October 2009. Dave describes Touching Up Our Roots as an LGBT history project that “preserves, promotes, and publicizes the contributions LGBT people have made, and make to, civil rights, civic and neighborhood organizations, and culture in Atlanta and in Georgia.” Equally important, he advocates the value of preserving these stories and exemplifies the StoryCorps mission, “to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.”Through his organization, Dave has had conversations with an impressive variety of Atlantans who identify as LGBTQ. One of his earliest conversations was with Greg Daugherty. Greg talked about growing up in Black Mountain, NC (just outside Asheville), coming out, and losing his long-time partner. Greg also talked about living in Atlanta since 1978–playing softball for sixteen years with Atlanta’s first gay softball team, the Blue Knights; working at the Academy Theater as a performer and house manager; helping to organize endless numbers of AIDS fundraisers; and, for the past fourteen years, owning a publishing company that publishes the Atlanta Show Guide as well as other theater programs and playbills. Of his StoryCorps experience, Greg recently said, “I wasn’t there (in the booth) just for myself. I realized as I was talking that I needed to leave something for those coming behind me, the younger LGBTQ generation.” (more…)
Eli Clare (above left) arrived at the booth with his recording partner, Aimi Hamraie (above right), an Emory graduate student who uses Eli’s books as teaching tools in her classes. Eli’s books, The Marrow’s Telling: Words in Motion, and Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness and Liberation, look at the body, queerness, disability, race, gender and sexuality in ways not explored before.
Barely 15 minutes into the conversation, Aimi read a quote from Eli’s book, Exile and Pride, “Our bodies are not merely blank slates upon which the powers that be write their lessons. We cannot ignore the body itself, the sensory, mostly non-verbal, experience of our hearts and lungs, muscles and tendons, telling us and the world who we are.” Using this quote as the backdrop, Aimi asked Eli what his earliest memory of his body was, and what his sensory experience of the world had told him about who he is. (more…)
The Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, Mississippi is one of 10 museums and libraries awarded with the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. StoryCorps Facilitator John White and I made the trip south to provide the museum with one part of their reward: three Door-to-Door recording days.
We had a great time wandering inside the museum during our lunch hour, lucky to enjoy its many exhibits, like The Orient Expressed and Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Freedom Riders. But while walking the halls of The Mississippi Story, an ongoing exhibit, we got a surprise: Hanging on the wall was the portrait of one of our own participants, called “Tee.”
StoryCorps’ Door-to-Door Department visited Madison, WI, to record at the 50 Years of PeaceCorps in Africa Conference. Friends María Moreno and Ephrat Livni are two returning Peace Corps volunteers who recorded an interview with us during a break in activities.
María, a Bronx, NY, native and professor in Madison, served in Mauritania, a North African Muslim community in the desert. After spending some time at her site, María rehearsed a comment about the moon in the local language; the moon was to be full that night, which she hoped to bring to everyone’s attention. When evening broke she and her hosts sat watching in awe of the moon’s light. “The United States sent a man there,” she said in her broken dialect and pointing to the moon. Her host father asked, “Now why would they do that?”
Peter White Public Library in Marquette, MI, was one of the ten libraries and museums honored with a 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services. Their award includes three days of Door-to-Door interviews, and Facilitator Gaspar Caro and I trekked the snowy shores of Lake Superior to record them.
We realized our time in the Upper Peninsula would be special when on the night before the recordings started, the library held a reception celebrating their IMLS National Medal and the arrival of StoryCorps, complete with a beautiful cake!
We recorded conversations with a grandfather and grandson whose family has used the Peter White Public Library for four generations, best friends who remembered having a little too much fun on some nights before working at the library, two writers and professors who overcame their fears of public speaking, and many more. Check out the faces of Marquette, MI, in the slideshow below.
Best friends Victoria Hyde and Lorraine “Stormy” Johnson recently got together at the Macon Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to talk about their friendship.
They met when Lorraine was in her husband Al’s band. “You didn’t like me”, quips Lorraine. “You thought I was frumpy. ” Victoria laughs. “I didn’t dislike you. I just thought you were boring!” Once they started talking they never stopped. They shared similar family stories, growing up with their grandmothers in Jamaica just one parish apart. (more…)
Earlier this year, we were delighted when Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who represents California’s 12th District, was able to take time out of her undoubtedly hectic schedule to come to the San Francisco StoryBooth to record a conversation with her longtime friend and advisor, Brian Perkins. The two talked candidly about her life, career, and harrowing near-death experience as a young aide to the late Congressman Leo Ryan, who was killed in 1978 on an investigative Congressional trip to look into allegations of people being held against their will at the Jonestown colony in Guyana. Congresswoman Speier, who was also shot in the attack that killed Ryan, was 28 years old when she accompanied him on the fateful trip.
Though she’s now talked publicly many times about the trip and the horrific attack that almost took her life, the images are still vivid in her mind. She recounted having a bad premonition about the trip, but deciding it was worth the risk; investigating the allegations of wrongdoing at Jim Jones’ now infamous colony was of utmost importance to Ryan. In addition, Rep. Speier saw few women at the time in positions of power undertaking such important roles in international affairs. She felt a sense of responsibility to be part of the fact-finding group. What they found at Jonestown was at first “impressive,” she told Mr. Perkins, describing the infrastructure they’d built. Soon, however, the uglier sides of the situation became clear. They were slipped notes from people wanting to escape back to the U.S. She mentioned that Jim Jones was clearly high on speed and other drugs during their meetings with him. (more…)
If you have ever been fascinated with Little House on the Prairie, wanted to live on the open frontier or wondered how early American settlers lived, then the Conner Prairie Interactive History Park in Fishers, IN, is the place for you. With its innovative approach to preserving and sharing United States history, Conner Prairie is a much deserving recipient of a 2011 National Medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. My co-facilitator and I had the pleasure of visiting Fisher, IN, to record the stories of the staff and volunteers who make Conner Prairie more than just a place where history comes alive. Check out the slide show below for photos from our trip.
On a Saturday afternoon in early February, not long after Atlanta had thawed from its week-long, frozen paralysis, girls from the Atlanta Girls School and the Global Village School met to get to know each other a little better. The Atlanta Girls School, a private college preparatory school, got an opportunity to meet girls whose lives, and in some cases families, had been torn apart by war. Many of the girls lived in refugee camps in countries as different as Thailand and Somalia. Now, here in the United States, they work hard to piece together the remnants of a former life to create a new and dynamic future for themselves, their families, and their communities.
These schools’ first-time meeting of minds and cultures produced many memorable moments. Students Meh Sod (Global Village School) and her partner Emma (Atlanta Girls School), talked about family activities and goals for the future. When Emma shared her family’s penchant for weekly movie-watching gatherings, Meh couldn’t relate. Her father died very young, and the Burma native’s life trajectory would land her in a refugee camp in Thailand before her move to the United States. (more…)