The Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund hosted StoryCorps for two days last month, for an Military Voices Initiative (MVI) Door to Door recording day. We facilitated interviews with family members of fallen servicemen from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The conversation not only gave family members an opportunity to memorialize their lost loved ones, but to connect with other families who were there to remember their own. However, not everyone was there to remember lost loved ones. (more…)
Last month, StoryCorps Door-to-Door braved traffic on the I-95 corridor to visit Mount Holyoke College for its annual alumni reunion. At this women’s college, graduates ranging from the class of 1943 to the class of 2009 gathered to consider what it means to be a Mount Holyoke woman, how they’ve carried Mount Holyoke into the world, and what the college’s future might hold. (more…)
José C. Massó III was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1950. As a child, he grew up in Puerto Rico as well as Japan (where his father was stationed with the U.S. Army).
José started college at the University of Puerto Rico, but he decided to come to the United States to pursue a degree in journalism. He ended up at Antioch College in Ohio. José was excited to come to the United States, and thought he had many advantages: “I came armed for success in a sense that I already knew how to speak English and I knew a lot about United States history and culture. I was a baseball fan. I knew about music.”
José remembered his first day at Antioch:
I was having lunch and an African American called me the “n-word.” And I said, “Why are you calling me that?” And he said to me that I didn’t look Puerto Rican.
And I said, “What’s a Puerto Rican supposed to look like?” He said, “Well, they don’t look like you.”
That was my first day on campus, and I thought, “What was that?” On a very progressive, liberal university campus, that was the last thing I expected.
Within a week, I went through a series of shocks having to do with race, language, and culture. I realized that I knew more about the United States than the United States knew about me. And it was the moment that I decided that maybe my role was to be an educator.
After Antioch, José moved to Boston and taught at Copley Square High School. He also pursued his passion for communications and music by starting a radio show on WBUR called ¡Con Salsa! with José Massó. More than 34 years later, José still hosts ¡Con Salsa! and has devoted his life to education, communications, music, and politics.
José′s interview was recorded in partnership with the Latino Professional Network.
This love story begins in, of all places, Las Vegas. “I came to the United States to be an entertainer,” said Sally Habana-Hafner. Sally was an 18-year-old college student in the Philippines when she heard about an audition for a Philippine Festival Show in Las Vegas. Months later she found herself dancing on a Vegas stage. “It didn’t last very long because it was too decent a show.” Sally laughed. Her career as a Vegas showgirl lasted one glorious year in which she got to hang with Elvis and Sammy Davis, Jr. among other Vegas entertainers. Frustrated by the Vegas lights, Sally quit showbiz to go back to college where, as fate would have it, she met her husband, Jim Hafner.
The National Bureau of Economic Research recently made it official. We have been in a recession since December of last year. The longest recession since the Great Depression. Up and down we go: gas prices, Fannie, Freddie, stocks, your 401k, the auto industry. What if we could change the idea of “economy?” What if your ability to rake leaves for an hour could earn you a haircut?
Where are the Door-to-Door Facilitators? We’re on the road collecting stories from all over the country. Last Sunday, Anna Walters and I ventured out on a three-day whirlwind trip through New England, making stops in Bedford, New Hampshire, Boston and Springfield, Massachusetts for the Memory Loss Initiative. As always, the people we met are the best part of our trips, so I feature all of them in the slide show below. Enjoy! And look out for more posts from the Door-to-Door team.
I would like to thank all of our partners and participants at each organization. Your warmth and kindness was wonderful.
Sonam Lama was trained as a stonemason in his native Tibet. He worked as a volunteer apprentice to a master stonemason rebuilding monasteries after the cultural revolution. When Sonam moved to Massachusetts over 20 years ago, he started by volunteering to rebuild an old New England stone wall for a friend, and from there his reputation grew.
Paul Bloom’s father grew up in Lithuania at a time when all young men were subject to the draft. Like many Jews, he had to hide in his basement to stay safe. After marrying, he and his wife escaped across the border, crossing an icy river that reached up to their necks, and eventually traveled by boat to meet up with his father, a Hebrew teacher in Springfield, Massachusetts. Paul’s father became a peddler, selling thread, needles, and other products door to door. Wanting to move up in the world he went to New York to learn to repair umbrellas. At that time, people spent good money on umbrellas, sometimes buying ones with handles of silver and gold.
Photo: Paul Bloom/Jewish Historical Society of Western Massachusetts
“How has your life been different than you imagined?” Brianna asked her mother.
“I didn’t imagine that I would be in the forefront of new genetic revolution to diagnose more diseases than ever, but not be able to treat those diseases.”
On our first day of interviews in Springfield, Massachusetts, Brianna and Therese came to the booth to talk about their lives with Mitochondrial Disease. Therese was not diagnosed with the disease until 2001. Since then, she has become an advocate for the disease, organizing and educating locally and nationally.
The MobileBooth was filled with oodles of new mommy love as Tara Luce and Amber French told the story of the birth of their daughter, Isabel. Although Isabel is only 3 months old and may not remember this conversation when she grows up, it will be waiting in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to refresh her memory.
Last Monday, Facilitator Katherine Brook and I traveled to Newton, Massachusetts for a day of interviews with the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund. Above, Katherine interviews Cindy McGinty, who came to record memories of her husband Mike McGinty. Cindy always wanted to get married and have a family, but almost abandoned her search until she met Mike. As Cindy puts it, “we were each other’s miracle.” Cindy is one of many who lost a loved one on September 11, 2001. In an effort to honor their memory, StoryCorps and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum have partnered to record one story for each of the 2,981 victims of the terrorist attacks. Thank you Cindy and many others who shared memories of their family and friends. They are gone, but they are not forgotten.
“If you could pick a word to dip in gold and give to every child in foster care, what would it be?”
Last week, Jenna Weiss-Berman and Yuki Aizawa traveled to Northampton, Massachusetts (Jenna’s hometown!) to record the stories of foster children and adults formerly in foster care through our wonderful partner organization, Friends of Children, a child advocacy and support group.
Our storytellers spoke with wisdom beyond their years of the reality of being taken from their families and shuffled between foster homes that are often abusive themselves. One young storyteller described his fear of living under a stranger’s roof to “driving a car and losing control.” By the end of each day their stories left us angered, saddened, and with overwhelming respect for the children who end up paying for their parents’ mistakes. The human capacity for forgiveness never ceases to amaze — after surviving all, these children and adults were still sweet, smiling, and warm.
Thanks to all our participants, the Weiss-Bermans for hosting us, and Jane Lyons for organizing the Door-to-Door!
Friends Jane Lowey (L) and Dolores E. Doluz in front of the StoryBooth in Orleans, MA. Dolores talked about Queen St. in Dover, DE, her hometown, a thriving center of the community, and the elegant parties her parents would have when she was a little girl. After the children were sent upstairs to go to sleep the adults would end the night with ghost stories, though Dolores and her siblings would crowd around the air vent in the floor, getting scared out of their wits.
Very early Wednesday morning Naomi Greene and veteran mobiler Nick Pumilia flew from JFK to Boston, MA, and from there to Orleans, MA, on Cape Cod. There they joined Susan Lee on the beach. Sarah Geis, sadly, flew back to New York that afternoon.
Our interviews have been stellar our past week and a half in Orleans. Couple Katie Jackson (above right) and Brian Kehrl (above left) are soon to be married in a few days and are expecting a baby. They talked about moment they discovered they were going to be parents and their hopes for the future. And Sam Baker (below left) and Lucile Burt (below right) came in to interview each other about their decision to live and grow old together as friends.
We had a wonderful opening day in sunny Cape Cod, thanks to our partner station WCAI, the Orleans Historical Society, the Orleans Chamber of Commerce, and so many friendly passers-by. And look! A glimpse of the mysterious and elusive facilitator Susan Lee.
On our last day in Martha’s Vineyard, #1 blog reader (and facilitator-mother) Ruth Geis (R) came to the booth with her good friend Phyllis Brawarsky (L). Phyllis and Ruth were assigned to each other as freshman college roomates in 1966. In the booth, the pair talked about going to school in the olden days, before women were allowed to wear pants to class.
One of our most powerful interviews during our stay on Nantucket was between Greg Creedon and his mother, Regina Keightley. Both life-long Nantucketers, the recording took place in the house where Regina was born and in which Greg grew up. Regina told Greg about the island when she was a child, how she passed along notes to boys on the school bus via the driver, when she and some friends snuck into a military service club, and why her father, a former school superintendent, was such an influence on her and her love of teaching.
There once were two girls on Nantucket
Their plane was as small as a bucket
The island was merry
We saw the house of John Kerry
Oh what a day on Nantucket!
New to the East Booth: facilitator/celebrity homes maven Susan Lee.