StoryCorps Door-to-Door traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit Levine Children’s Hospital for three recording days. During these days we had the opportunity to listen to the stories of current and former patients and their parents, as well as hospital staff.
We set up our recording equipment in the hospital’s Family Resource Center and listened to stories of resilience and hope. Children came in to talk about what it felt like to confront death and spoke of how the strength of their families and friends helped them through. They spoke of finding fun and laughter inside the hospital walls. Hospital staff talked about being the support of parents and children, of how the babies of strangers become their own. They recalled falling in love with babies and experiencing the loss of them along with their parents without losing sight of the other children that still needed care.
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…)
A grandmother can be a vibrant source of care and inspiration. She might warm our milk, teach us that hard work is important, or remind us that our place in the world is just as important as anyone else’s.
When Orlando Ortiz (right) — a native New Yorker from the Bronx — recalled visiting Puerto Rico during a trip after he graduated middle school, one very distinct person shimmered beyond everything else: his Abuelita (Grandmother) “Salu.” When Orlando visited the Mobile Booth, he described his grandmother to his partner, Paul Tantillo.
“[Salu] was more casual. She smoked cigars. When she needed a handkerchief, she’d get the hem of her skirt, bend over and blow on it.” He laughed. “[She] was very contemporary. She always cut her hair.”
And to Orlando, his Abuelita “Salu” provided a concept that he’s carried on throughout his life.
“For this to be a world, there has to be everything in it. It’s like, the universe has everything in it.”
“Why did she say this?”
“Well, I think she knew I was gay. It was her way of saying ‘that’s alright.’ You accept everything just the way it is because it’s all part of the world.”
In my short time here in Asheville I have learned that one thing’s for certain: there is always a guitar close at hand, if not a banjo, a mandolin, a stand-up bass, and a fiddle as well. The Hominy Valley Boys walked by the booth during our stay and were gracious enough to play us a little tune. A little send off, if you will. As the accursed expression goes, all good things must come to an end, and sadly, our stay in Asheville has wrapped up.
Stories are rich in Western North Carolina and it seems that nearly everyone has come in to the share a bit of themselves with us. It has been a privilege and an honor to hear tales of tobacco farming, mountaineering, snipe hunts, immigrating from Moldova, love at first sight, the beginnings of All Things Considered, the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking the Appalachian Trail, losing a daughter, adopting sons, getting older, fighting in World War II, going to Klezmer Kamp, weaving, throwing clay, joining a sorority... the list goes on and on. We have only scratched the surface. Keep on recording your stories, and stay tuned to WCQS to hear what Western North Carolina sounds like.
Enjoy some shots from our time in Asheville…
Need a haircut? Like bluegrass? Head over to Drexel, North Carolina. For over sixty years Lawrence Anthony and David Shirley have been cutting hair and playing tunes at the Sanitary Barber Shop on Main Street.
Lawrence Anthony and his son, Carroll
What started out years ago, with Lawrence and Drexel’s sheriff whiling the time away with their guitars, has turned into a scene. Each Saturday, anywhere from five to well over 30 musicians will gather to jam in the back of the barber shop, in, as Lawrence likes to call it, “the pickin’ room.” People have come from all over the county and even as far as England to listen.
David Shirley and his son, Philip
Driving into downtown Drexel, you can’t help but notice empty storefronts. Both the Drexel Furniture Factory and the hosiery mill have closed, and so have most of the stores that line Main Street. The barbershop is a bright spot for the community, a place where folks can gather and the music’s free of charge.
Seven years ago Bryce was at the top of his game. He had just made the biggest sale of his career as a car salesman and he wanted to celebrate. He hopped into his car and headed to a friend’s house. “I was going around a back country road doing too many things at once and I ended up going down a cliff.”
Bryce was in a coma for 28 days. Doctors said he never wake up. But Bryce did wake up. To see him walk and talk today you would never know how close he came to dying. Yet he suffers from what he calls “the invisible injury,” brain injury trauma. His short term memory is faulty, and sequential thinking and timing are hard for him. “Since my car wreck, I’m not quick enough to be a salesman,” he told his friend and advocate Karen Harrington during his StoryCorps interview. Bryce was gracious enough to share his story along with other survivors of brain injury trauma who live in the Asheville area.
Post accident, Bryce has become what he calls, “a student of patience.”
“Every time I approach a decision to make, I have before-car-wreck-adrenaline-junkie-Bryce and then I have the more reasonable, let’s-figure-it-out-Bryce. And every time I make a decision I have to have a committee hearing. My favorite analogy is: I’m out at a swimming hole and and I ask myself, ‘What do you want to do, pre-car-wreck-Bryce?’
“‘Well I want to go to the top of that waterfall and dive from the top of that rock.’
“‘What do you wanna do post-car-wreck Bryce?’
“‘I’m happy sunbathing on the beach.’
“And I have to mediate between the two sides of myself, so I go halfway up the rock and jump in feet first. It’s not that this isn’t something that everyone goes through. It just seems that much more dramatic to me. On top of the patience that I have with myself, I accrue the debt of patience or lack of patience from society.”
Today, Bryce no longer sells cars but makes art. He has sketch books full of sculptures and paintings that he intends to create. His dream is to open an art space for people with disabilities. “It’s the first decision that I have made in my life that has come from my heart and not from the desire to make money.”
Rose Clark is 98 years old, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she bounded into the StoryCorps MobileBooth in Asheville, N.C., to record an interview with her son Gary. Rose is a true mountain woman, born on a farm in the middle of Blue Ridge Mountains. One of eleven children, she and her family ate off of the land. Rose began milking cows as soon as she could walk. “The only thing we bought was coffee and sugar,” she said.
Rose Clark and her son, Gary Clark
Rose met her husband at a revival at the Baptist church. Shortly after they married Rose moved with her husband to a logging camp where she cooked for the loggers near the Qualla Boundary. “I didn’t do nothing but cook for those men. All work and no play.”
She has been caring for people her entire life. She kept a garden for her family. “Hoed it and canned it myself.” Milked her own cows, churned her own butter, gathered her eggs, baked her biscuits and then she would go to her parents homestead and do the same for them. At one point she was tending three gardens — helping out her brother’s family, working her own kitchen garden, and still caring for her mother and father, while raising two of her grandchildren.
The secret to a long life according to Rose, is hard work. “Hard work never killed nobody, if it did, then I’d be dead a long time ago,” she said. But I think the secret is her giggle. A sweet little laugh punctuates the end of her sentences. She is all smiles. And her son is quick to point out, “those are all of her own teeth.”
Donald Hudson and Noblake Taylor met for the first time outside MobileBooth East, ten minutes before they recorded a StoryCorps interview. An appointment had opened up at the last moment, and I had invited them to fill it.
Though they had just met, they had some important things in common, including the fact that they are both homeless.
“How long have you been homeless?” Donald (L) asked Noblake (R). Noblake answered that he began living on the streets in 2002, after being incarcerated for nine years. Many of the family members he was close to have passed away.
Donald’s story is a bit different. “I had to get some eye surgery. I continuously went to see doctors and couldn’t work. I lost my job.” Donald also went through a divorce and left his house to his children and ex-wife, he said. “I’ve always told my ex-wife and my children that I would be homeless before I would allow them to suffer.” (more…)
Snow Rahlen came to Greensboro, N.C., in the summer of 1994. She came from the Montagnard community in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Over 5,000 Montagnard people live in North Carolina – the largest population in the world outside of Vietnam. Snow brought her longtime sponsor and friend, Celia Shankle, with her to have a conversation in MobileBooth East.
Snow described her journey to the U.S. 15 years ago. On the way, there was a flight delay in Taipei, Taiwan. A couple hundred of people that came with her on her flight slept in the waiting room at the airport. “Changing flights takes a lot of faith,” she said. “All you have to do is carry your ticket and they tell you where to go. Just the airplane journey prepared me a lot for being in a new country.” (more…)
Kemba Bloodworth and Jenna Weiss-Berman finished their ten week North Carolina tour in the lovely Outer Banks with some recordings for the StoryCorps’ Memory Loss Initiative. The recordings took place at the Gem Center in Nags Head, North Carolina, a wonderful day program for people in various stages of memory loss. Above, StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative Coordinator Mitra Bonshahi (L front) and facilitator Kemba Bloodworth (R front) eat lunch with the program’s participants.
Among the interview participants were Jerry and Jane Smallwood, who met in high school but didn’t marry until many years later. In fact, after Jerry left for the Navy, they both married other people. But through the years they couldn’t stop thinking of one another, and they were finally reunited. Jerry was injured many years ago when the plane he was piloting crashed, which was most likely the cause of his memory loss and Aphasia, but he hasn’t let his ailments stop him from taking walks on the beautiful beaches of the Outer Banks with the love of his life, Jane.
Jenna and Kemba are now in New Bern, North Carolina and it is HOT! 80 degrees today, to be precise. New Bern is the home of novelist Nicholas Sparks, as well as the inspiration for his romantic classic The Notebook. And I (Jenna) am staying in a home (above) on the Neuse River, with local New Bernian Zelma Peter, that bears an uncanny resemblance to the home that Noah built for Allie in the movie version of The Notebook (one of my personal favorites).
StoryCorps’ East MobileBooth is now in Beaufort, North Carolina, a quaint, beautiful seaside town. We parked the booth at the harbor, where we can look out the window and see wild horses on a nearby island and dolphins entertaining fishermen (I’m not kidding–it’s actually that idyllic here). We are working with Public Radio East to collect the unique stories of locals. Click here to listen to some of the stories we’ve recorded in Beaufort and at the Camp Lejeune Marine base while we’ve been working with the station.
Ira Lewis, 89 (L), and his daughter Margaret Ann Lewis Rose, 67 (R), were our first Beaufort participants. Ira grew up on Harkers Island, a very small island near Beaufort that only recently had a bridge built connecting it to the mainland. The absence of a bridge kept the island completely isolated for hundreds of years, which explains the roots and remnants of what is known as the “High Tider” accent of the islanders, a beautiful combination of Elizabethan English and a slow Southern drawl. (more…)
Our second week at Camp Lejeune brought in even more amazing interviews from Marines, their families, and their friends. Aaron (L) and Shawna Burciaga (R) came in with their first daughter, three month old Hallie Jean (M). They talked about meeting in high school and then meeting again after they had both been away to college and completed their Mormon missions. It was love at second sight, and they were soon married after a very romantic surprise proposal in Times Square. After six months of marriage, Aaron deployed to Iraq. They are now getting ready to move to Monterey, California, where Aaron will attend military graduate school, and where Hallie Jean will have fun in the California sun.
Aaron then sent in his friend Francisco Castillo (R) and Francisco’s daughter Amanda Castillo (L) in for an interview. Francisco told Amanda stories about his rowdy childhood and his love of exploring the woods, which included a couple of frightening but exhilarating encounters with bears. They also talked about Francisco’s wife, and Amanda’s mother, who is a Marine currently deployed in Iraq. She has been away since September and comes back this Friday, and Francisco has been taking care of their four children, including Amanda, in her absence. Amanda is very excited for her mom to came home because, among other things, she is an excellent cook. Cooking is not Francisco’s specialty, and, Amanda tells him, “I’m sick of eating steaks all the time!”
Facilitators Jenna Weiss-Berman and Kemba Bloodworth went along with the Mobile Booth on the five hour trek from Charlotte, North Carolina to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
We were greeted by our gracious Marine escorts Corporal Meier and Lieutenant Thomas, who both work in the Public Affairs Office at Camp Lejeune. We parked the booth in front of the base’s own department store, the Marine Corps Exchange.
Corporal Meier and Lieutenant Thomas then took a look around the booth.
Some of our first interview subjects were Marines Nick DiOrio, of CaÃon City, Colorado, and Patrick Fleischman, from the Bronx, New York. Both men are combat journalists in the Marines. Nick takes his video camera wherever he goes, and Patrick is a photographer. Patrick knew he wanted to pursue combat journalism, and he told us that he could think of no better way to do that than by actually joining the military and being among the people he wanted to document. Nick recounted his time filming the current war in Afghanistan, where he was exposed to an entirely new, different, and interesting culture and way of life.
Facilitators Kemba Bloodworth (L) and Jenna Weiss-Berman (R) rolled into Charlotte, North Carolina, to record the stories of any Charlotteans who would share them with us. We are working with Charlotte’s very helpful and supportive NPR station, WFAE.
Opening day brought in a wonderful array of southern charmers, including Alys Honey (L), 94, and her great great grand nephew, Michael Stuart (R), 11. Alys talked to Michael about how much the world has changed since she was his age. “You live in a world that I could have never dreamed of as a child,” Alys told Michael. (more…)
Recently facilitators, Nzingha Garner and Michelle Swinehart visited North Carolina on behalf of the StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative. All in all, we had the pleasure of recording stories at three unique organizations in Raleigh, Durham, and Asheville. Each day provided us glimpses into the true nature of hospitality, the kind that keeps everyone coming back for more.
At the Eastern North Carolina Chapter participants arrived hours early to chat with their support group leaders, Peggy Smith and DeeDee Harris (pictured above). There was so much laughter, we barely stayed on schedule. The next day, family members traveled hours to be present for their loved one’s interview at Duke University’s Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (pictured above). Last but not least, Memory Care provided us with the same loving care they deliver to their patients (staff pictured above). Thanks to everyone who participated in one way or another.
After 3 busy weeks in Durham, the StoryCorps Mobile booth travelled to the beautiful campus of UNC Chapel Hill for 3 days of recordings. This is the last stop for facilitator Jonah Engle who returns to New York after 3 months on the Mobile tour. Facilitator Veronica Ordaz will join the West booth in New Orleans.
StoryCorps facilitators Veronica Ordaz and Jonah Engle visited Durham’s JJ Henderson Housing Center. 90-year old Mildred Gattis who has lived at Henderson for 26 years recorded her story. When asked if she had any final words to share she sang a moving rendition of Amazing Grace.
UNC Chapel Hill is home to the Southern Folklife Collection which holds one of the country’s greatest collections of American folk music and popular culture. The Collection’s Director Steve Weiss kindly gave us a tour of the incredible collection.
While in Durham and Chapel Hill, NC the StoryCorps MobileBooth is partnered with WUNC the local NPR affiliate. Our wonderful host from the station John Blythe (center) walks StoryCorps advance coordinator Eliza Bettinger (left) and facilitator Jonah Engle over to the station located on the American Tobacco Campus.