StoryCorps Facilitator Gaspar Caro and I traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, as part of the National Teacher’s Initiative to record the stories of public school teachers and students in the area. St. Louis is one of 20 cities participating in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate Initiative, a multifaceted initiative focused on building the knowledge, understanding, collaboration and resources required to improve high school graduation rates.
We had the pleasure of spending one day at Shearwater High School, an alternative school that helps students attain their high school diplomas and prepares them for college. Walking through the hallways of Shearwater, you are greeted with hand-painted signs of uplifting messages, like “Life is what you make it.” It is a place where young people who have faced serious obstacles in their education come for a second chance.
Beth Bender (L) and Amy Horton (R) are friends and coworkers at Gateway Institute of Technology High School in St. Louis, MO. They recorded with StoryCorps.
StoryCorps’ National Teacher Initiative took me and my co-facilitator, Naomi Greene, to St. Louis, Missouri, to record with public school teachers. During our stay, Gateway Institute of Technology High School Principal Beth Bender recorded with her friend, co-worker, and fellow teacher, Amy Horton.
After sharing stories about her childhood and school day memories, Beth broached the elephant in many classrooms and school hallways: sexual orientation. In doing so, she described the importance of strong student-staff relationships and the challenges she has faced as a principal who is also a lesbian.
Missouri Historical Society Director of Communications Donn Johnson gives StoryCorps an enthusiastic send-off.
After three fantastic weeks in St Louis, the StoryCorps EastBooth bids a fond farewell to the Gateway city. Onward to Kentucky!
Jasper has over 10,000 radios, a selection of which are on display in his Cherokee Steet shop in south St. Louis. He used to live in an apartment on the second floor but filled it with radios and had to move out. Radios are his passion and he prefers collecting them to selling them. Instead, he sells tropical fruit gift baskets. Facilitator Rani Shankar eyes an array of tabletop radios.
Jasper says that every radio has a story. Here, he adjusts an old breadboard set playing through a horn speaker.
This was our second trip to the Museum in as many days. Despite a professed sadness over parting with his radios, Jasper was kind enough to give Facilitator Nick Yulman and MobileBooth Operations Manager Matt Ozug a good deal on a couple of bakelite beauties.
Almost every StoryCorps participant in St Louis told us not to miss the City Museum. Pictured here is the Monstrosity, a tremendous outdoor playground fashioned out of scrapped vehicles and salvaged architecture. On weekends the museum stays open until 1am- we stayed to close the place.
The inside of the museum is a maze of tunnels and elaborate passages. The building, once a shoe factory, now houses a variety of wonders including a circus, underwater caves, a dinosaur dig, and the dramatic 2-story system of slides shown here.
Facilitator Rani Shankar considers taking the plunge in the Monstrosity.
Every Tuesday night, the Missouri History Museum hosts a free outdoor concert at sunset. This week, a crowd turned out to hear St. Louis’ own L.L.C. perform some classic soul.
L.L.C. sings “Love Train” as we watch from the (love) Airstream.
Last night was St. Louis’ annual Hot Air Balloon Glow in Forest Park. Dozens of balloons, assembled in the park, fire-up in rapid succession to create patterns of light.
At the Balloon Glow, we ran into StoryCorps participants Shelley and Paul who were enjoying the spectacle with their daughter.
Today, the Balloons are racing above the city.
On the way to and from the booth, we’d been noticing this dramatic building: the Moolah Temple. A place of worship? A museum of Egyptian relics? The meeting hall of some secret society? We decided to explore and were pleased to discover that it’s…
A bowling alley! Built in 1912 for the Shriners, the Temple was recently converted into an entertainment complex, also housing a movie theatre. Above, facilitator Rani Shankar, bowling under her nom du pin “Trixie”, tries for the spare on the “New York” lane.
As the sun set over the Mississippi we pulled into St. Louis, MO.
We’re situated at the Missouri History Museum, originally the sight of the 1904 World’s Fair’s main entrance. The Jefferson Memorial Building, seen behind the booth, was built using proceeds from the Fair. While duly impressed by the building, we are even more taken with another product of the St. Louis Fair: the ice cream cone!