It’s been an exciting first week for MobileBooth West in Peoria, Illinois. Carl Scott joined us after spending a couple months in Brooklyn, New York at the StoryCorps office. We got to know each other over a game of Scrabble and some Swedish Fish. (We found out – upon dictionary investigation – that zag can actually be its own word, separate from zigzag).
Opening day in Peoria came with amazing fanfare. There were refreshments, press, staff from our partner radio station, WCBU, and curious onlookers who wandered over from the nearby Metro Centre Farmer’s Market. There was also a ribbon cutting ceremony with the biggest pair of scissors any of us have ever seen!
The first story of the day was told by Mrs. Jessie Banks, who will be 101 years old later this month. Her energy was amazing as she remembered what it was like to be the only teacher in a one-room schoolhouse during the segregation era. Her grandchildren have all learned from her.
George Banks was also a teacher and tells his grandmother, “You speak with a whole lot of common sense. When you taught there were no curriculums readily at hand. You made up what you wanted to teach. I’ve used that common sense approach in my own career.”
When Mrs. Jessie Banks left the booth with her family, she was greeted by an entourage of reporters also wanting to know her story. “I’ve never had this type of fame before!” she exclaimed.
One reporter was the Peoria Journal Star‘s Fred Zwicky, who also produced this brief YouTube video on the StoryCorps presence.
Peoria is known for many things: It’s the home of Caterpillar Inc. It’s got it’s own metaphor that roots back to Vaudeville days (“Will it Play in Peoria?” is now a phrase asking whether a new product will appeal to the general public). It is also the birthplace of Susan G. Komen, namesake of Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. And now, StoryCorps has become part of Peoria history by opening our MobileBooth doors in Metro Centre.