Today turned out to be an informal "family day" at the booth in Sarasota, FL. While participants usually come in pairs, these participants had supportive family members waiting outside, eager to hear the results. Eva Frank (second from left) was interviewed by her daughter Lynne Brolly (center, holding her son) about her experiences growing up in France during World War II. This weekend was a family reunion for them, with relatives coming from as far away as Hungary. After hearing about the interview, Eva’s sister (in white shirt) decided that she would do her own at a StoryCorps booth in New York, where she lives.
Another former New Yorker, Astoria Nickerson came to the booth with her son Drew. In tow were Astoria’s husband and new baby Josh, who waited patiently outside the booth while Drew interviewed his mom about what it was like to become a single mother at 18. Now in law school, Astoria told Drew, "We did it together."
The first time we saw Ruby C. Williams, she was wearing a smart black suit, a bright white shirt and a skinny black tie. She had dressed for her interview, where she talked about her life as a folk artist. She was discovered 15 years ago by an art curator who was driving by her farm stand on Route 60 in Bealsville, FL and noticed the brightly colored sign Ruby had painted to attract customers. The next day we had the pleasure of visiting Ruby on the small farm that has been in her family for over 100 years.
It was hard to miss Ruby’s brightly colored sign, but it was the sight of her waving at our passing truck with an armful of rutabaga that let us know we had arrived. Any concerns we may have had about interrupting Ruby’s work were quickly assuaged by her warm welcome and insistence on showing us around her farm. She led us to a small cluster of mobile homes where some of her relatives still live. A pen of goats and Canadian geese stood not far from a small congregation of well-used tractors. But the main event was Ruby’s fields, rows and rows of collard greens, mustard greens, leeks, sweet potatoes and rutabaga.
And like every good Floridian, Ruby had citrus – tangerine trees, orange trees and grapefruit trees. Here Facilitator Nelson Simon gets some tips from Ruby on the benefits of picking “the high ones.” We left with arms filled with Ruby’s gifts.
Ruby took us through the shed where she stores her countless works of art. She showed us some of her favorites, the works she would never sell. She told us that sometimes her ideas come in dreams and sometimes “from the Good Lord.”
After a brief hiatus for the holidays, StoryCorps rolled into Sarasota, FL for our first stop of 2006. With great support from WUSF, our local NPR affiliate partner, we parked the booth on sunny St. Armands Circle, just a pretty drive across Sarasota Bay. St. Armands was first developed in the 1920′s by circus impresario John Ringling. Sarasota is the winter resting ground for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and home of the famous Clown College. Dotting the periphery of the Circle are plaques commemorating past circus legends.
Sarasota also marks the initiation of Facilitator Nelson Simon, who has taken the baton from outgoing Facilitator Nick Yulman. Here Nelson chats with a native Floridian whose son had come in to interview him about his days as a professional diver.