StoryCorps opened in Oklahoma City to a windy autumn morning in front of the Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall. Oklahomans welcomed us warmly even though the weather kept it a little chilly in the Booth.
Mary Sosa and her daughter Stephanie Armstrong came to the MobileBooth through our partnership with the Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma, an organization that helps develop active communities through leadership training and grant assistance. Stephanie was most interested to find out what her mom was like before she became the president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association: “Were you a troublemaker as a child?”
“When I was 4 years-old, my mother told me that I could be the first Black President of the United States. I should have told Barack that.”
Both of his parents were college graduates. A teacher by profession, his mother brought a then two-year-old John Hope Franklin to the one-room school where she taught in Rentiesville, Oklahoma. She sat him in the back of the room with only a pencil and paper as his babysitters. Day after day, his mother would educate the many grade students left in her care while John occupied himself with the utensils left responsible for his own care taking. One day his mother decided to take a look at John’s paper. Not only had that pencil and paper kept John quiet, it had served as a depository for what he was learning. At two, he was able to read write and do the homework his mother had been administering to the other children.
On their last day in Lawton, Mitra and Andrew left the MobileBooth with KCCU General Manager Mark Norman.
December is “Happy Happy Repair Month” for the West Booth. Technical specialists will travel from New York to Mr. Norman’s home in order to prepare the trailer for its 2007 tour.
Irrelevant side-note: Mr. Norman’s house is located in the “dead-dog center” of tornado alley.
Andrew and Mitra dropped most of their StoryCorps holiday bonuses on a brand new John Deere tractor that they have now driven back home to New York City and parked at StoryCorps’ newly-constructed Agricultural Machinery Emporium.
Andrew and Mitra are happy to be home, but sadly all blog activities will have to be postponed till after the holidays. See you in the new year!
Andrew and Mitra took a trip out to the Lawton/Ft. Sill Veterans Center, where they conducted a series of StoryCorps interviews with World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans.
Pictured here is Carl Farmer, who served in the military during WWII before working as a quarryman for thirty years.
Then there was Paul Odle who lied about his age to join the Marine Corps at 15.
He now writes a syndicated column and has 18 books to his credit. He had just finished a new short story before sitting down with us at the microphone.
Our last participants, Hoyt Leon Starr (on the left) and George Stanga (in the middle), had met only 10 days ago when George became Hoyt’s new roommate. Despite knowing each other for a short time, they became fast friends due to the fact that they both served in the Marine Corps.
When Hoyt asked George what lessons he learned in life, George gruffly replied, “There’s a time to bark, and there’s a time to wag your tail.” Like an old friend, Hoyt nodded in agreement.
Andrew and Mitra spent a couple of days relaxing in the Ouachita Mountains of eastern Oklahoma.
Upon entering their log cabin, Mitra and Andrew took on traditional, American Gothic-style domestic roles. Mitra set about preparing dinner, but had to stop when it became clear that Andrew was incapable of starting a fire. As the night progressed, it also became clear that Andrew was incapable of finding kindling, setting up the kindling that Mitra found, or transferring hot kindling from the stovetop burner to the fireplace.
In the end, they huffed and they puffed and they failed to build a fire.
In the morning, Mitra and Andrew took a hike in the mountains.
While on the trail, Mitra sat down to take in the scenery and enjoy the fall colors. She pondered such questions as “What is the meaning of life” and “What’s better, a fried pickle or fried Mars Bar?”
On their way back to Lawton, they visited Mt. Olivet Cementary or better known as Showman’s Rest in Hugo, Oklahoma.
Hugo has been the base camp for many circuses every winter, and a few hundred showmen and women are now buried at the cementary in town.
As in Donnie Charles Carr (picture on the left), you can take the “Okie” out of the circus, but you can never take the circus out of “Okie.”
Paticipant Marquetta Brown came to the booth to reminisce about her earliest memory. At 3 years old, she was chosen to be the bride in Wetumka, Oklahoma’s reenactment of Tom Thumb’s wedding.
Tom Thumb weddings became a hit after circus showman P.T. Barnum discovered the 25 inch tall Charles Sherwood Stratton at the age of 4. By the time he was five, Stratton — using the stage name “General Tom Thumb” — was touring the U.S. singing, dancing, and impersonating Cupid and Napoleon Bonaparte.
On February 10, 1863 Tom Thumb, now 2 ft 9 in, married fellow little person Lavinia Warren (pictured on the right), and soon after, small towns across America were putting plays on of their wedding with children as the lead roles.
The tradition continued well into the 20th century. In 1928, Marquetta (pictured on the left) was chosen to play Lavinia because of her “curly hair, rosy cheeks, and rosy knees.” But don’t think those rosy caps were easy to come by. Marquetta’s mother applied blush to them daily.
About half of the 10,000 Comanche in the United States reside in Oklahoma. Known as the “Lords of the Plains,” many Comanche call the rolling plains of Lawton their home.
On our first day of interviews, two Native American women visited the booth to record their lives and preserve their heritage.
The first, Weckeah Bradley, was one of the few Native American women to serve in the US Marine Corps during World War II. Now retired from the tribal judiciary, she makes traditional baby cradles for her friends and family.
Facilitator Andrew Wilson then interviewed Arlene Asenap, a descendant of Quanah Parker, the last Comanche chief.
Arlene’s grandfather, Herman, translated English to Comanche at a mission church for 24 years until his death in 1960. Herman is pictured here (far left) with his congregation.
Arlene explained in her interview that circumstances in the mid-twentieth century discouraged her from learning her people’s language. However, her grandfather passed on his native language to Arlene by reading her Comanche hymns when she was a little girl.
The moment the StoryCorporals arrived in Lawton, Oklahoma, the KCCU leadership and local media were on hand to record the ceremonial application of the local radio station’s KCCU sticker to the booth. We were pleasantly suprised by the early welcome, but perhaps it makes sense, given that StoryCorps is now in…The Sooner State.
That night, the booth stood majestically at attention underneath the midnight blue sky as it awaited opening day.
Taking a cue from the lead song in the play Oklahoma! (which also became the state song in 1953), what else can we say, but Oklahoma O.K.