Having received the National Medal, the highest honor awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Stark County District Library in Canton, OH, invited StoryCorps to record the stories of its patrons. During our visit, Sarah Elizabeth Studer interviewed her grandfather, Paul “Juni” Studer, about his life and some of the lessons he’s learned in the business of sign making.
Paul, called “Juni” by those who know him, began making signs while working in his father’s restaurant in Massillon, OH. While speaking to his granddaughter, Juni described the town’s local culture. “You have to like football. It’s the thing that makes the whole place go.” While working for his father, Juni made signs that listed each local Friday night football game, along with the rival team. His work became known throughout the community, and soon, Juni landed a job at Adam’s Sign Company.
In the beginning, Juni loved his work at the company, but as his job changed, so did his love for his work. After a misunderstanding with an important sign order, Juni and his wife, Dolores, decided to go into business for themselves and opened Studer Sign Shop in the garage of their small home in 1962.
After almost forty years in business for himself, Juni has learned one thing. “You’ve got to like what you do,” he told his granddaughter. “Your future depends on your attitude on Sunday evening. You probably had a party on Friday, went to the movies on Saturday, and now it’s Sunday evening. Are you gonna say ‘Oh no! Another week’ or are you gonna say ‘Wow! Tomorrow is Monday and I’m gonna accomplish this. If you can end up doing something you like, then you’ll be a success.”
Brenda Hunda is an invertebrate paleontologist at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science. She grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada, where there are a lot of dinosaur fossils. During her StoryCorps interview, Brenda told her friend and museum volunteer, Bob Bergstein, that she knew what she wanted to be from a young age.
My mother would tell you that I wanted to be a paleontologist since I was three, even though at the age of three I didn’t know what it was called, but I certainly knew what dinosaurs were. I never grew out of the phase of knowing all the dinosaur names and having all the dinosaur books.
After studying at the University of Alberta, Brenda came to the United States to work on her Ph.D. at the University of California – Riverside. While at UC Riverside, Brenda started coming to Cincinnati over the summers to do research. After finishing her Ph.D., Brenda moved to Cincinnati and got a job at the museum.
After driving two days from New Orleans, MobileEast arrived in Dayton, Ohio where Supervisor Whitney Henry-Lester, seasoned Facilitator Jeremy Helton, and I were warmly welcomed by staff and members of WYSO, our local broadcast partner in the Miami Valley.
On our first day of recording, an enthusiastic group of participants made their way to the Booth, in front of the Schuster Performing Arts Center in downtown Dayton, and introduced us to the area by sharing their stories.
One of the first participants was Margaret E. Peters who came in to interview her friend and colleague Willis “Bing” Davis. During the interview, Mr. Davis shared stories about growing up in East Dayton’s small African American community. In the 1940s West Dayton could boast a significant African American population, but only about 200 African American families lived on the east side of town, he explained. The four streets around Diamond Avenue, with their community center, church, and playground, created a unique environment for its youngest residents. “The extended family concept of the South and Africa was prevalent all the time, which could not have happened in a larger community,” he said. “Someone you hardly even knew could chastise you and correct you right there, take you home and tell your parents exactly what was going on,” he remembered.
But both Margaret and Bing agreed that the smallness also meant a lot of camaraderie and mentoring from older members in the community. Bing talked about his high school teacher and coach, Dean Dooley: “More than a teacher, he was there, he talked with my family, talked to my mother, aunts and uncles, to point me in the right direction.”
Akron, Ohio. Birthplace of the rubber tire as we know it. Goodyear. Goodrich. Firestone. The American Trucking Industry. Hometown of Alcoholics Anonymous, Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, the new wave band Devo, and basketball player LeBron James.
We cut the StoryBooth ribbon in this historic city on a cold day in front of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. WKSU, our public broadcasting host, warmed up the crowd with coffee and pastries while former Deputy Mayor Dorothy Jackson and Reverend Dr. Ronald Fowler christened the booth with the first conversation of the day.
Charlie Davis (shown here with his daughter, Stacey Davis Folmar, and with the legendary pitcher Satchel Paige) got his nickname from Charlie Pride, the country singer and one-time baseball player who was his roommate when the two played for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League, in the days before the integration of professional baseball. Pride came up with “Whip” after Mr. Davis, a pitcher, won twenty games in a row and relieved Paige in the East/West All Star game in 1943.
These days Mr. Davis owns and operates an auto repair shop in Cincinnati. He said in his StoryCorps conversation with Stacey that some of his former teammates were unable ever to talk about their playing days, because of the anger they had from playing in a segregated league. Davis says he understands this completely, but adds: “For me, it was still the best days of my life.”
Above, the splendid simplicity of the Cleveland Browns helmet; not to be partial, but we like their colors. Cleveland was a great Storycorps stop, thanks to the vivid storytelling chops of Clevelanders, and the top-shelf support the East Booth received from our partners at Ideastream, the coolest radio/TV hybrid station in the country.
Once back on land the facilitators readied the booth for its drive south to Indianapolis, where it will stay through September. Best of luck to Brady Quinn and everyone else in C-Town!
Kyle and Sally Hartman love to collect. They own about 80 cars, and decided drive Sally’s stylish mustang to Canton for their interview today.
StoryCorps has dedicated MobileBooth East to a champion of oral history (and our hero): Studs Terkel. In 2005, when this MobileBooth was in Chicago, IL, 94 year old Studs came inside and recorded his story. We are proud to have a beautiful new plaque on the wall of the MobileBooth to commemorate his great work.
We had a last-minute cancellation here in Canton, but thanks to Connie Meng (on-air host at North Country Public Radio), who announced the opening during her radio show, the slot was filled– by the honorable Ruth Finnegan Garner. Ruth was mayor of Potsdam, NY for 16 years. She has recently retired from her post, but remains deputy mayor. And she always wears a hat. On the right is Connie, who in addition to announcing open slots for us, has been a valiant volunteer. Thanks, ladies!
Lynde Ostrander is an 86-year-old farmer from Canton, NY, and a veritable expert on the history of farms in this area. He was interviewed today by his grandson, Neil Seeger.
This is Kyle Hartman. He stopped by the Booth today to check things out (he has a reservation to do an interview next week), show off his 1956 Ford truck, and make fun of our Chevy.
That guy in the center is Radio Bob. He’s the Chief Engineer at North Country Public Radio, husband of Jackie Sauter, and, just in case it’s not obvious from this photograph, a total rockstar.
We spent our first Friday night in the North Country at the Potsdam Summer Festival, dancing in the street while the Radio Bob Band lit up the stage. That’s Sarah Kramer tearing up the asphalt with Steven Sauter, son of Jackie and Bob.
We were invited to a lovely Barbeque in Canton, NY to celebrate the 4th of July.
Facilitator Lisa Janicki takes a swing at a croquet ball on the lawn of our hosts.
Jackie Sauter, Program Director at NCPR, baked a delicious cake for the party.
With help from the good people at North Country Public Radio, the StoryCorps MobileBooth East opened for business on July 6th. Many of our new neighbors came by to say hello and find out just what the silver airstream was doing in their town.
Two of North Country Public Radio’s finest: Ellen Rocco (Station Manager) and Jackie Sauter (Program Director), on Opening Day.
Sarah van de Water, the first participant of the day. Sarah is 92, and a retired teacher and librarian.
The StoryCorps MobileBooth has arrived in beautiful Canton, NY! We are parked in a great location, right on the Village Green.
StoryCorps participant and dear friend Fred Holdridge came by the booth this evening while we were cleaning and preparing for tomorrow’s journey to
Laura, a local organic farmer, dropped off fresh produce at the booth. She and facilitator Brett Myers pose with a yellow cucumber, which was later eaten with lunch.
With skillful driving from StoryCorps Advance Coordinator Zac Barr, we eased by this potential peril unscaithed and into our beautiful home on the Statehouse grounds in Columbus, Ohio.