In early February, Door-to-Door escaped winter in New York City and went to record interviews with the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Florida. The museum was a 2012 recipient of a national medal from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. Through the interviews, we got a look at the many wonderful aspects of the museum’s programming. From artists to volunteers; educators to musicians; and students to curators, we heard about how MOCA has worked to make contemporary art accessible for people across Miami.
On our last morning, Jill Hernandez and Anya Wallace, good friends and coworkers, came in to talk about their role in Women on the Rise. As a young woman and art student, Jill had become passionate about feminist art, at one point making a film about the experiences of women in Miami. After graduating from college, she went to work at MOCA. One morning, Jill heard a story on the radio about an increase in the number of young women being detained in juvenile justice centers, and decided that she wanted to start doing programming at some of those centers.
As Jill began going to the detention centers, she was nervous, because she didn’t have a clear-cut plan or agenda. However, “things just happened” as she started to meet the young women there and talk about the artists whose work she would present to them. Their reactions, she says, were the best part, as the girls were bringing a wide range of experiences to their readings of the images. She remembers that the conversations they had “not only showed me what the art could teach the girls, but how the girls challenged what the work is, or what I think about what the work is.” The second year of the program, they received a grant from the Women’s Fund Network, and it began to take off.
Jill and Anya met later, at a Women’s Studies conference, and found instant friendship. Anya had been working with young women in Savannah, Georgia, and remembered feeling that their meeting was serendipitous. Anya was also surprised by finding someone who shared her feminist perspective “not just on working with girls, but how we connect with them.” Shortly after meeting, Jill offered Anya a position at Women on the Rise. When they began to talk about their favorite memories from their work at the program, it turned out they shared quite a few. Reflecting on their work, Jill said, “I know it feels good to write something. I know it feels good to make something. I want to give girls a space and a reason to do that.”
Micanopy, Florida is a small town in Alachua County, just outside Gainesville, and is known for being the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of the young adult novel, The Yearling. It is also the current home of Ginny Beam, another woman devoted to her love of storytelling. Ginny was interviewed by her friend, Sally Stein, during StoryCorps Door-to-Door’s visit to the Alachua County Library District in Gainesville.
This trip was a result of the Alachua library’s being awarded the National Medal by the Institute of Museum and Library Services as one of ten outstanding institutions in the country that excel in community service and outreach. Dedicated librarians like as Ginny are the reason libraries like this thrive and remain a hub for all members of the community.
Amidst a sea of young adult books, language arts textbooks, and teachers from all parts of Florida, two English teachers sat down for conversations with the mentor-professors who trained them in graduate school. They came to record their stories for StoryCorps’ National Teachers’ Initiative, which celebrates the brilliant and courageous work of teachers around the country. StoryCorps partnered with the Florida Council of Teachers of English (FCTE) to record for two days at its annual conference in Orlando, Florida.
Cari L. Sadler, who had just completed her seventh week as a teacher, interviewed Joan F. Kaywell, her professor at the University of South Florida (USF) College of Education. Joan told Cari about her relationship with her mentor, Ted Hipple, and described the Ted Hipple Young Adult Literature Collection, a collection of autographed YA books that she started to honor Ted after his death. Cari pointed out that Joan honors Ted the most by passing onto her students the support and respect that he gave to her. Cari confessed that while Joan intimidated her early on, she is now inspired to maintain academic rigor by Joan’s example and teaching.
During the month of August, my co-facilitator Naomi Greene and I visited the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, FL. MOSI won the National Medal Award, awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the ten best libraries and museums around the country.
MOSI’s core ideology is to make a difference in people’s lives by making science real for people of all ages and backgrounds. During our visit to MOSI, we recorded interviews with people that share their love and passion for science with all the museum’s visitors.
Julie Fooshee (L) and Hadley Andersen (R) took time out of their very busy day to sit down and discuss their research and work at MOSI. They have amazing jobs. Known throughout the MOSI organization as “interactors,” Julie and Hadley spend a lot of their time in and around the museum’s 450 exhibits. Julie describes an interactor as “…a little bit of everything. They play, they teach…they are tour guides. Everything.” Interactors are the people that make the exhibits and the information come alive for the patrons.
There is a lot of love in Pensacola, Florida. I don’t remember the last time so many pairs of fiancées came to the MobileBooth to talk about their impending nuptials.
Amanda Miller and Scott Greenberg met at the party of a mutual friend. Amanda had just returned from the Czech Republic and was not looking for a relationship, but Scott was not daunted, he wooed her until they became “official” three months later. The true test of the relationship came a few years later when the couple moved to Miami and had to manage job searches, law school, and living on a tight budget in an expensive city. “It was easy for the relationship between [Amanda] and me,” says Scott. “It was just the external circumstances that were difficult and we teamed up and made it through.” Amanda agreed, “That was the hardest point for me, but I think that it was the best time too because it was when I actually realized that when things did get hard we were going to be fine.” Amanda and Scott get hitched on April 10, 2010.
When Penny Steffens first met Melissa Featherstone she thought, “OOOOH! I can’t stand her!” Melissa thought Penny looked at the world through rose-colored glasses, but eventually, with the help of their mutual friend Pearl, the two got to know each other a little better and started going on sailing adventures and beach excursions. Now those rose-colored glasses are one of the things that Melissa loves about Penny the most. “We had no idea that we had a future together beyond friendship,” says Melissa. Penny and Melissa say “I do” on June 11, 2010.
After meeting at a photo shoot, disc jockey Dallas Peel and journalist Keri Holt had a very rocky start to their relationship. Dallas served as the model for the photo shoot and Keri wrote the article that accompanied the photos. She misspelled Dallas’s name in the article and when he discovered the error he told the listeners of his radio show that he would give a pair of concert tickets to the first person who identified the mistake. Apparently there was more than one mistake, which led to heavy criticism of the article on the air. Keri fought back in a fiery response article, and the war was on. After a few weeks of battling over the air waves and via the printed word, Dallas offered an olive branch and asked Keri and her coworkers to a conciliatory dinner at an Italian restaurant. Keri’s coworkers bowed out at the last minute but Keri forged ahead. It was over dinner that Keri and Dallas buried the hatchet and on June 26, 2010 they’ll be tying the knot.
Traveling the country year round, we hear all kinds of stories from all kinds of people as Mobile Facilitators. We bear witness to moments of joy, sorrow, and spontaneity between loved ones, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and the like. By listening closely to these stories and conversations coast to coast, I often find myself thinking, “Hey! I want to do that with my own family!” StoryCorps participants remind me daily of the importance of preserving my own family stories. In fact, participants often ask, “Have you ever done your own recording?” Luckily, I have had the opportunity to record conversations with my grandmother through the StoryKit program, and my godmother at the Lower Manhattan Booth in New York City. Up until last week, though, there was still one very important person I knew I wanted to participate with: My mom, Mary Culver.
Tempted by the warmth of the Sunshine State and eager to get an inside look at what I’m up to everyday, my mom made the trip from our home in Guilford, Connecticut to the East MobileBooth in Pensacola, Florida. In preparing for our conversation, I soon understood why participants often come into the experience feeling nervous about how they will possibly be able to pack in all they want to talk about in just 40 minutes! There was so much I wanted to ask my mom – both to hear old stories retold, and to ask some questions I had never thought to propose in the past. She gladly rehashed the story of meeting Julia Child and humored me by singing the songs she and her siblings made up about their childhood pets. More than anything she said though, the entire experience reminded me of just how special my mom is. She is a jack-of-all trades – an avid knitter, an incredible cook and baker, and a talented artist, among many other things. More importantly, my mom is loving and unbelievably selfless. I think she sometimes gets down on herself for being a stay-at-home mom, but I am quick to remind her that what she did, and continues to do (raising my sister, brother, and myself) is work too – not only hard work, but incredibly meaningful and important work as well. I tried to ask her how she got to be such a good mom, in hopes of discovering some secret formula I could use if and when I become a mom, but I think it just comes naturally to her.
Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps, StoryCorps’ new book, arrives in bookstores on April 15, 2010 – just in time for Mother’s Day! Help StoryCorps in celebrating American mothers from all walks of life and experiences. I know I’ll be celebrating mine!
The East MobileBooth made its way to the Panhandle and is now parked in downtown Pensacola, Florida. Spain, France, Great Britain, the Confederacy, and the United States have all claimed the city at one time or another during its 450-year history, which is why Pensacola is now known as the “The City of Five Flags.”
Opening day was hosted by both First United Methodist Church and our friends at WUWFÂ 88.1 FM and featured guest speakers Nancy Fetterman, a community activist and coordinator of the Public History program at the University of West Florida (UWF), and UWF Associate Professor of History, Dr. Patrick Moore. Both speakers shared their thoughts on the value of telling stories and the impact the practice has made on their lives and on the communities in which they have worked.
MobileBooth East kicked off the first stop of 2010 amid the palm trees and students of Miami Dade’s Wolfson Campus. On an unseasonably cold day in Miami, outdoor heaters warmed the crowd as we snacked on guava pastelitos and café con leche.
While in Miami, MobileBooth East is partnering with WDNA public radio to record the stories of Latino and Hispanic communities as part of StoryCorps Historias. And we were thrilled to welcome new Mobile Facilitatorâand Miami local-Virginia Lora to the road.
For the first conversation of the day, Mercy and Manny Quiroga talked about family. Manny began the conversation by sharing memories of his father, Manuel Quiroga, who Manny remembers as a strong, determined man, “with great hands.” Manny particularly remembers the time that his father sawed through a ficus tree in their backyard in Havana, Cuba. Fifteen feet in diameter, the tree was so large that its roots were interfering with the house’s plumbing. Manny’s father only had access to a tiny pruning saw, so he spent every Saturday and Sunday for two years sawing, stroke by stroke, through the ficus’s huge trunk.
To escape New York City’s falling temperatures – and to record a few stories for the Memory Loss Initiative – the Door-to-Door team visited Melbourne, Florida’s Leeza’s Place and Joe’s Club, two local adult day care facilities in Brevard County.
In Melbourne, word of mouth was a magical thing, on our last day of recording we met England native Geraldine Condon, who was brought to Joe’s Club by her daughter and son after reading of our visit in Florida Today.
Some of Geraldine’s favorite memories took place in Kent, England, where she remembers time spent with family on St. Margaret Bay at her grandmother’s home. Later, during World War II, amid the fighting and her travels as a nurse with Queen Victoria’s Nursing Service in the Bradford Royal Infirmary, the possibility of happiness outside England serendipitously made itself known.
After numerous assignments throughout the United Kingdom and North Africa, Geraldine was sent to Rome, Italy. “It was there I met a certain American Army officer, and we clicked,” she remembers. “Jack G. Condon.” Geraldine and Jack’s first date and engagement (and having six children!) were a blur, she says, but she will always remember Rome because her marriage to Jack was the first to take place in the war-torn city after the American troops’ arrival.
Two weeks ago, the MobileBooth East headed south for the winter. Outrunning a weeklong Nor’easter on the Virginia coast, Mobile East pulled into Jacksonville, Florida to be greeted by snow cones, outdoor chess games, and 80-degree weather.
Geographically speaking, Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S., boasting miles of open beaches and waterways. We kicked off opening day in the heart of downtown. Jacksonville’s Hemming Plaza-originally a village green-was the first park in the city, and is now the oldest.
Frances Kinne inaugurated the booth with the first conversation of the day, but Frances has been the first of many things. She was the first woman to become president of a Florida University when she took the position at Jacksonville University. She later became chancellor, and then chancellor emeritus. Frances shared stories of living in China, Japan, and occupied Germany while married to her husband Colonel Kinne, during World War II.
Alton Yates joined his daughter Toni Yates in the StoryBooth soon after. At the age of nineteen, Mr. Yates left his hometown of Jacksonville to serve in the Air Force. While stationed in New Mexico, he joined a research division studying the effects of g-forces on the human body. He did this by becoming the division’s “human guinea pig,” literally placing himself inside rocket sleds for testing. Mr. Yates remembered coming home from the relative egalitarianism of the military to return to a Jim-Crow era Jacksonville. He still has a scar on his head from an injury he incurred at a Civil Rights demonstration. The demonstration took place in front of a Woolworth’s department store that still stands downtown, not far from where MobileBooth East sits today.
Remember the days when children were born in hospitals for less than the arm-and-a-leg charged today? Well, technically, Phyllis Hart doesn’t either, but during her visit to StoryCorps, she proudly displayed her proof from 1925.
The StoryCorps Door-to-Door team has had quite a busy February, with the completion of its first month-long Door-to-Door event sponsored by Florida Hospital in Orlando, FL. With eighteen hospitals located throughout the state, 2009 marks Florida Hospitals’ centennial celebration, and as a gift to its employees and local community, StoryCorps was brought in to record a story for every year of the institution’s history.
One-hundred stories in a month? Mission accomplished – and then some! Of the 108 stories shared, Phyllis’ family memories of her 1925 birth in the formerly named Florida Sanitarium are quite remarkable. “I don’t remember it, of course, but I have pictures of the building. It was like a framed house, very small.” Seeing Phyllis’ mother’s hospital bill made it that more memorable:
14 days’ room and board – $75
10 meals – $7.75
Tray service – $0.60
Physician service – $15.00
Medicine and supplies – $05.17
The total cost of Phyllis’ world debut: $103.52.
Now 83 years old, Phyllis misses more than the cheap price tag on childbirth. “Wouldn’t that be nice? When you have a baby you have two weeks just to lay there.” she says.
Ask Casey Gonzmart, fourth-generation owner and operator of Ybor (EE-bore) City’s Columbia Restaurant what to order and he’ll answer “The Cuban.” This is the now famous and widely imitated sandwich that, Casey explained during his StoryCorps recording, is not so much Cuban as it is Tampa. The sandwich itself embodies some of the history of Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood where the MobileBooth has been recording stories for the last month.
“I am from islands remote and untouched
from history sung
from genealogies passed down through generations.
I am from a place of no written word.”
–From Origin by Moana
Voices from Inside is an organization based in Western Massachusetts that brings writing workshops to women in prison and formerly incarcerated women. Moana, who participated in the program and now teaches the workshops, came to StoryCorps to record a conversation with her daughter. A keeper of journals her whole life, Moana wrote her first poem in prison and found it to be “an avenue to speak deeply about yourself which doesn’t expose too much of yourself.”
Moana and daughter Jillian after making her recording in Greenfield, MA
Alisa Guthrie, 30, brought her husband Christopher Cogle, 36, to the StoryCorps MobileBooth and interviewed him about living with Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy.
Christopher explained that as a student in medical school he learned he could die suddenly of his type of muscular dystrophy. However, thanks to his heart donor, he has about another 30 years to raise a family with Alisa and continue putting his medical expertise to work with his cancer patients.
When asked about meeting Alisa for the first time, Christopher recalled, “I was instantly in love with you. I actually felt like it was irresponsible of me because I didn’t want you to hang your hat on someone who wasn’t going to live.”
Alisa assured Christopher that she wouldn’t want it any other way responding. “I don’t see it as a burden. I feel like I live fully and wholly with you. I thank you for that.”
It is such a joy to see communities working together to bring StoryCorps to their town. WMNF community run public radio (a member of Pacifica‘s listener supported community radio stations) is our partner in Tampa, Florida to bring StoryCorps to the Ybor City neighborhood. Started in 1979, the station became Florida’s first community radio station. “WMNF celebrates and promotes the creative, cultural and political vitality of the local community.”
The East MobileBooth is parked in Ybor City, formed when Vicente Martinez Ybor opened a cigar factory in Florida to make his Cuban cigars. WMNF, the Ybor City State Museum, YCDC, Artist and Writers, and Tre Amici’s coffee all stepped forward to make StoryCorps feel welcome from great promotion and community outreach to restaurant recommendations and cafe con leche! The history and hospitality of this area is palpable, and we expect some great stories.
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.
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.
The Jewish community in Florida is largely stereotyped as a legion of Northeastern bubbies and zeydies transplanted to the warm, south Florida climate. However, the swampy wilds of north Florida have been home to a growing Jewish community for hundreds of years.
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.”