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…)