StoryCorps met Leslie Salazar and Bill Sears during a recording trip to Los Angeles, California. Leslie and Bill met at Cedar’s Sinai Medical Center when Bill, a cardiac patient liaison , formed a friendship with Ruben Salazar, Leslie’s father. Leslie and Bill came to StoryCorps to remember Ruben’s life and his final moments.
Leslie reflected on Ruben’s life and the legacy he leaves behind for his family.
“My dad was a phenomenal man, the son of a immigrant father. My dad created everything on his own, from the time he was 18 he had nothing. He broke a cycle of drug addiction, alcoholism and gang violence and created an amazing family tree that will continue to flourish.”
“You also told me how he sang in the desert at nighttime.” Bill spent a lot of time with Ruben in his room, listening to stories of his military service and career as an air-traffic controller. Bill became an adopted member of Ruben’s family, learning about the family’s traditions.
“That’s the one thing I miss, he would play guitar and ukelele.” Leslie recalled, “he taught us all Mexican Folk songs.”
Ruben passed away at Cedar Sinai medical center and the family guided him through his last moments, being present as he took his last breathe. Leslie and her family sang Ruben’s folk songs in the hospital after his passing and later had a bonfire and send off for him on his favorite beach in California.
“I think if your dad was looking down he’d say wow, how proud he is of you.”
“I think he is very proud of his family”
Though it was the difficulty of losing that brought Leslie and Bill together, their friendship remains strong and they continue to bond over the memories they share.
StoryCorps Legacy provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories.
It may be too late to say ‘Happy New Year,’ but it is the perfect time to congratulate the Institute of Museum and Library Services 2011 National Medal winners. This year ten institutions have been recognized for excellence in this field. As part of the National Medal award, each organization receives three recording days with StoryCorps. Luckily for my co-facilitator and I, our first trip brought us to sunny Los Angeles, CA, to the Japanese American National Museum. Not only was the trip a welcome respite from the cold New York weather, but also the stories of the volunteers and staff of the museum are an important part of a history that many have forgotten.
During World War II, the United States government removed thousands of Japanese families from their homes in California, Washington, Oregon and several other states and sent them to internment camps for the duration of the war. Allowed to take only minimal possessions, families were sent as far away as Minnesota and Arkansas. Many families never returned to their original homes. Determined to preserve this little known history, a group of grassroots activists started the Japanese American National Museum in 1985.
Over the last twenty-six years, the museum has evolved to not only includes stories and exhibitions of the Issei and Nisei (the first and second generation of Japanese Americans, respectively), but also works to create bridges with diverse communities in an effort to tell the full American story. It was a privilege to record the stories of staff and volunteers who breathe life into the museum’s mission everyday.
After the break, read about how the museum became one couple’s matchmaker.
At Braille Institute Library Services, we had a number of great storytellers with compelling stories, one of which was Charlie Grover, who began dabbling in photography over twenty years ago while in the US Air Force. He bought a cheap 35mm film camera, taught himself film developing techniques and created a few techniques of his own.
Not long ago, Charlie developed a type of visual impairment that causes loss of central vision, making it difficult for him to recognize details and peoples’ faces. However, Charlie has turned this disadvantage into an advantage. “For all those decades that I would occasionally carry around a camera and then put it away for months or years, I was just recording things, I wasn’t taking ‘art pictures.’ I didn’t have an eye for such things. What eye I have for taking a picture has really developed since my blindness has developed.”
How does Charlie see differently now? Since losing part of his vision, Charlie can no longer drive, so he walks to many places and during his walks, he notices more of the world around him. As Charlie describes it, “I slowed down, slower pace through life, slower pace through the world and a more intimate contact with it. So you start seeing things. The change in my vision has made me see things differently.”
Please visit With a Different Eye, Charlie’s website, to view his photographs.
Last week, Door-to-Door Facilitators, Gaspar Caro and Naomi Greene, traveled to Los Angeles, CA for three recording days with the Braille Institute Library Services. Due to the library’s outstanding service, Braille Institute is one of ten winners of the 2009 National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). In addition to a cash prize, each winner received StoryCorps recording days in recognition of their excellent work within their communities.
Braille Institute provides services for blind and visually impaired individuals in the Los Angeles area. Braille’s library consists of more than 90,000 audio titles. Besides audio tapes, Braille provides braille books, audio listening devices and a host of other services. Although the weather in Los Angeles was not at it’s best, inside the library, we were greeted with nothing but sunshine from the library staff and the participants. Below is a slideshow featuring a few of our participants as well as the inner workings of the library’s vast collection.
Thank you to all the participants who shared their stories, proving that although one is blind, one is not necessarily limited. Also, a very special thank you to library staff members Tina, Kokoi and Siran for making our three days run smoothly…and for sharing information about the best restaurants near the library!
I was finishing up my last days in the New York City offices in early January before shipping out for our East Los Angeles Historias stop, when I received a phone call from Shifra Teitelbaum, director of a youth organization in South Los Angeles named “youTHink.” She was interested in getting her youth involved in Historias, our initiative to collect stories from Latinos. After a few hours, we had made a plan to record for a day at Southern California Library — a people’s library dedicated to documenting and preserving the histories of communities in struggle for justice.
Recently those plans became a reality. At the library, students from youTHink came with family members and friends to talk about their experiences living in Los Angeles. Iabeth Briones came with his brother, Eliseo Monclova, and talked about the time he spent living on the streets with his mother. (more…)
Pilar Hernandez de la Rosa arrived at our East Los Angeles MobileBooth nervous about what to say. It’s a normal feeling for participants to have when we usher them into our slightly cramped-but charming-recording studio. Yet, it wasn’t long before Pilar began reminiscing about her native Tepec, Mexico telling her daughter, Loana del Pilar Valencia, about her mischievous childhood activities, her mother’s strict code of conduct, and growing up in a family of eight.
The conversation took a turn when Loana asked her mother about her love of music.
Pilar said, “Empezó cuando escuché a Elvis Presley por primera vez en Acapulco, MX.” [It all started when I first listened to Elvis Presley in Acapulco, MX.] “Mi mamá me decía, ‘¡Pilar, ni entiendes lo que está cantando por que no entiendes inglés!’ Y yo le decía que no me importaba. ¡Me gusta la música!” [My mom would tell me, 'Pilar, you don't even understand what he's singing because you don't understand English!' But I would tell her, 'I don't care. I love the music!']
StoryCorps Historias launched its East Los Angeles, California stop with a vibrant outpouring of support from host radio station 89.3 KPCC and local supporters Farmers Insurance Group. With a picturesque backdrop of sun-drenched lawns and the glistening East L.A. Public Library pond, guest speakers took to the podium to talk about why Historias is an invaluable initiative for the Latino community in Los Angeles.
Teofil Schintee and his friend, Jordan Sugar
The year was 1979. The place was Romania. Teofil Schintee made a decision to leave. He did not tell his parents. He did not tell his friends from the University. He did not tell a soul. Secretly he began to practice swimming. After work, on the weekends, any spare moment he had, Teofil would swim in the Danube near his childhood home in Caransebes. Late one evening, Teofil watched from the river bank as the Romanian border patrol boat chugged upstream and out of sight. He dove into the Danube. “As a child I would swim in the Danube and I would always look at the other side and I was curious to see what was on that other side.” More than three hours later Teofil crawled ashore to the former Yugoslavia. He had nothing but the clothes on his back, all of his savings in a plastic bag, and a Bible.
Jordan Sugar, a close friend of the Schintee family, brought Teofil into the WestBooth to record the story of his escape. After many months, and many close calls with the authorities in Yugoslavia, Teofil was able to come to the United States as a refugee. He credits his journey to the grace of God. During the months spent in refugee camps and in those cold moments paddling across the Danube in the dark he never stopped believing. He never lost faith.
Last week MobileWest pulled into sunny southern California and parked at the East Los Angeles Public Library. The trailer sits in an idyllic spot next to a pond where Angelenos fish, toddlers waddle after ducks, high school students turn up the radio, and one can always find a cart selling elote (corn-on-the-cob) or shaved ice.
We kicked off our stay in East Los Angeles with two powerful stories. Miyo Ukita brought her mother, Nellie Mitani, into the booth to share her experiences in the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. Nellie was living with her husband in Fresno, California and remembers the moment she heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. “That was the saddest time in my life.” Nellie and her husband were ordered to evacuate Fresno and sent by the government to an internment camp in Arizona. “Here we were, citizens of the country and we were treated like enemy aliens.”
On Wednesday, StoryCorps facilitators Brianna and Yuki recorded at Keiro, an assisted living facility for the Japanese American community located outside Little Tokyo. Many of the residents are second generation Japanese Americans born in the Los Angeles area, who were relocated to desert internment camps during World War II. Robin Nakabayashi (pictured first in slideshow, with friend and Keiro Administrator, Beverly Ito) is a long-time volunteer at Keiro. He was ten when he and his family were sent to live in a camp built on the Colorado Indians’ reservation near Poston, Arizona. They lived in long barracks made of wood and tar, and grew small gardens in the desert ground in between the rows. When Robin returned to Poston for a reunion many years later, he was surprised to find that the desert landscape where the camps stood was quite lush. The Colorado Indians told him they had learned from the Japanese how to cultivate the dry soil and over the years had created a green landscape out of the once barren area.
Facilitators Brianna Hyneman and myself opened the West MobileBooth’s doors in MacArthur Park in the Westlake neighborhood of downtown L.A. Westlake is currently the most densely populated neighborhood in Los Angeles, with most of its community originating from Central America. In the 1980s and 90s, MacArthur Park was notorious for its high crime rate and gang activity. Now the park is a much safer place where people bring their children to play. Soccer fields (just outside our booth) attract hundreds of players and spectators on the weekends, and the police station that once stood watch in the park is no longer in use.