This summer, the Sisters of Mercy hosted StoryCorps Door-to-Door at their convent on Carlow University’s campus in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My co-Facilitator, Mitra Bonshahi, and I recorded stories with nuns from different congregations about their lives committed to service and the Catholic faith.
I met Sisters Rosella Lacovitch and Sally Witt, both Sisters of St. Joseph in Baden, Pennsylvania, who spoke of their work with the Sisters of Mercy. Sister Rosella reflected on her time teaching at a school in the 1970′s in the Hill District, an inner city, predominantly African-American neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
In August, StoryCorps Door-to-Door travelled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to record more stories of Cities Of Service members. On this trip, we heard the voices of the volunteers, non-profit staff, and community officials who work together on the Love Your Block Initiative, a program that funds garden renewals and community beautification projects. From volunteers to full-time non-profit staff, Pittsburghers work together not only to improve their city but also to inspire future generations to maintain Pittsburgh’s beauty. Stories were shared between co-workers, friends and even family members who work with one another. (more…)
For most job interviews, we prepare ourselves to talk about our career accomplishments, our strengths, and what we could bring to a company. However, if you apply for a position at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, they will ask, “How did you play as a child?”
Last month, StoryCorps visited the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, where the museum’s patrons, staff, and aficionados shared their own stories of playing as children and why they are all committed to helping this institution foster creativity and a love for learning in the next generation. It is no wonder why the Children’s Museum is a recipient of the National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
Facilitator Nadja Middleton waves farewell, having passed the facilitating torch to Lisa Janicki. The MobileBooth East pulls out of Pittsburgh and heads for rivers further north. Next stop: Canton, NY, in St. Lawrence County.
Frances Wise, a 91 year old StoryCorps participant, raised the fashion bar at a DUQ gathering at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh.
Jonathan Borofsky’s sculpture is planted right on the campus of his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. At the base of the pole stand 3 fiberglass figures and 2 StoryCorps facilitators. Michael Ramberg and his replacement Sarah Kramer gaze at the 80 foot pole erected before them.
The artist says he sees his piece as a “celebration of the human potential for discovering who we are and where we need to go”. As Michael leaves the mobile booth tour, he appears ready to tap into that potential and walk to the sky!
After moving to Pittsburgh a few years ago, Carolyn Lambert (right) started dreaming of life on the river and conceiving the Ohio River Lifeboat Project. With funding from community organizations and the help of talented friends, Carolyn renovated and furbished an eco-customized pontoon boat which she plans to drive down the Ohio river over the course of the summer. At each stop, those who have stories about the river will be invited on board to share them along with a potluck dinner. We had no stories to tell about the Ohio river but got invited for dinner nonetheless! Carolyn plans to record peoples stories and produce an audio documentary for national distribution. In the meantime we recorded her story at our StoryBooth.
Michael Bisegna (right) gave us an audio tour of the Carrie Furnaces in Swissvale, PA, where he worked for decades. StoryCorps was there to record him and George Brown (left) swapping stories of working in the steel mills. The Pittsburgh area steel industry was for a long time one of the world’s most prolific and attracted many European immigrants like Michael and George’s parents and/ or grandparents. Until the industry’s collapse in the 70s and 80s, steel mills were the area’s major employer and helped build the country’s infrastructure.
The Carrie Furnaces employed were part of Homestead Works, a steel mill site planted just outside of Pittsburgh, PA, extending for 3 miles along the Monangahela river and covering hundreds of acres. At their peak, these blast furnaces processed 1000-1250 tons of iron a day.
Today, organizations such as the Rivers of Steel Heritage Area which invited us to the furnaces, are lobbying to have Homestead Works incorporated into the National Park Service. The Carrie Furnaces are examples of early production techniques. The Pumphouse, another vestige of Homestead Works, was the site of the historic Battle of Homestead. (The 1892 battle ended with the repression of thousands of striking workers and is credited with stifling the US labor movement for decades).
Back at the Rivers of Steel headquarters in Homestead, PA, Nadja Middleton and Michael Ramberg facilitated a conversation between Edward Sninsky and his wife Anna Marie. They talked about loving the immigrant neighborhoods where they grew up, neighborhoods where sounds and smells of Europe intermingled. Ken Kobus (below & center) painted a romantic picture of the steel making process that both he and his father were involved in for most of their working lives.
We have heard many stories about how dirty Pittsburgh used to be when the steel industry dominated the area’s economy and life. It’s vegetation was quite barren we were told. Today universities, biomedical technology, health care, tourism, finance, and services have become the city’s major employers… and vegetation, most notably trees, have grown back! Pittsburghers passing by our booth and the Carnegie Library seem to enjoy the Mulberry tree planted right behind it.
After being interviewed by his sister at our StoryBooth, Richard Gray Storch showed us his garden. He cultivates vegetables and herbs on a plot of land beside the fraternity house that employs him as a chef. During his interview he talked about where his passion for food and gardening stem from. Growing up in Tulsa, OK, in the 50s and 60s, he said there was little culinary diversity. His palette would be awakened and stimulated during the regular family trips and excursions that took them out of state, through new territory, towards delectable discoveries. According to Richard, this was before homogenized fast food, when people ate and cooked locally.
declared Henry Belcher in our StoryBooth a few days ago. “What do you mean?” exclaimed his friend Major Mason III. Mr Belcher, it appears, was a professional “rappin’ and tappin’” dancer and to illustrate this, the gentlemen rapped a little for his friend. He also explained some of the routines he used to do as a member of the Six Sensational Sizzling Shoes and the Dancing Demons. Mr Belcher, a native of South Carolina where he grew up picking cotton, moved to Pittsburgh, PA, during the Great Migration. After years of “rappin’ and tappin’” around the country, from New York’s Apollo theatre to St Louis’ Plantation club, he finally returned here to settle down.
Our StoryBooth has now moved to Pittsburgh, PA and will be stationed in front of the city’s Carnegie Library until July 2nd. Over the weekend, while StoryCorps was recording people’s story, the public library celebrated storytelling with their Annual Summer Reading Extravaganza. Across the street, people converged on Schenley Plaza to celebrate the transformation of the space from parking lot to lush green lawn. For the occasion, the public was treated to the sound and sight of marching bands, human statues, circus performances, live jazz and reggae, puppet shows and free carousel rides. During one of their lunch breaks, facilitators Michael Ramberg and Nadja Middleton decided to go for a quick spin!