In early June of this year, Iowa City was among the many Midwest towns and cities hit by floods. As the Iowa River rose, parts of the city were evacuated and the water left homes and significant portions of the University of Iowa campus severely damaged. Just four months later, I traveled to Iowa City with fellow Facilitator, Kate, to record conversations as part of the University of Iowa Library’s flood story archive. During three days of recording we heard about dangerous waters, last-minute evacuation, and the devastating damage to homes and buildings. But what we also heard again and again was how people came together in the days before the flood.
Facilitator Carolyn Bancroft (bottom picture) challenged newcomer Ryan Murdock (top) to a game of bowling. Despite a strike late in the game, she lost and he sent her home to New York. Ryan and facilitator Elaine Davenport will continue on with the booth to its next stop – Garden City, Kansas.
Participant Marge Benson brought in this picture (above) of her and six of her sisters. The Seven Spies Sisters Dance Revue performed comedy, sang, and danced tap, ballet, and jazz all over the United States in the 1930′s, and were billed as the largest all-sister dance group in the world. Marge (pictured below) was interviewed at the StoryCorps MobileBooth in Ames by her sons Bob and Curt.
Last night, we visited participants Jim and Cindy Pease for dinner and a walk in their woods. After enjoying fresh tomatoes and Cindy’s dill-pickled green beans, we took a tour of their vegetable garden, restored prairie, duck pond, and woods.
Jim is a professor at Iowa State and the wildlife life specialist on “Talk of Iowa.” He also has built over 40 birdhouses on their property.
We rode a diesel train down the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad, which is run by the Boone Railroad Historical Society in Boone, Iowa. The track was laid in the 1890′s and it runs almost parallel to the Des Moines River (see below), which is unusually low because of the dry weather this summer.
We took a trip to Lowville, NY recently to take a look at the “windmill farms” that are becoming an important part of the economy of the north country region. These gigantic, elegant structures are the subject of much debate among farmers, tourists, and builders. We first heard of their existence from one of our participants, Michael Swamp, who is the business manager of Ironworkers Local 440. Many of the union members are from the Mohawk Indian Tribe, a community that has a long history of working with tall steel in this area.
Everyone loves StoryCorps, including the Shriners. If you look carefully, you’ll see the StoryCorps MobileBooth right in the Heart of the Shrine! This parade was part of the Iowa Shrine Bowl in Ames this weekend.
Yes, StoryCorps is in Story County, Iowa. And about 15 miles north of Ames is Story City, home to one of the few wooden carousels left in America. It was built in New York and shipped to Story City in 1938.
It may be hot, but the sunsets in Iowa are spectacular. We caught this one on our drive back from Peterson’s Pits, a local swimming hole.
We experienced a severe thunderstorm tonight complete with 40 mph winds, torrential rain, and lightning. Forunately, a temporary evacuation of the booth did not deter participants Bob Bourne and Joan Grabenstetter. Bob is the director of the local public transit system, CyRide. He and Joan waited through the storm and we were able to record Bob’s stories about his career in transportation.
Participant Sherri Adams describes herself as a “scavenger.” She brought this instrument to the interview and afterwards, demonstrated how it alters her voice.
The MobileBooth is now parked on the corner of Main Street and Burnett in downtown Ames. Our arrival coincided with the first ever National Special Olympics. Several of our first interviews were athletes, volunteers, and families. Pictured below are facilitator Elaine Davenport with Marlene, Sara and Gary Cummings. Sara won a silver medal in unified soccer.