The Great Thanksgiving Listen – StoryCorps
Triple your impact this Giving Tuesday! Donate by midnight, 11/30! Donate

Lola’s Work: What a Grandmother Taught Her Family About Love

To Crescenciana Tan, family meant everything. Her grandchildren called her Lola. And they grew up hearing stories about where she came from and the many sacrifices she made for loved ones.

Lola was born in the Philippines and survived the Japanese Occupation of World War II. After her father passed away, Lola, the youngest of four siblings, started working to support the family. She worked the rice fields in the hot sun. She rode to market in a cart pulled by water buffalo to sell dry goods. And when she became a parent herself, Lola left home to work as a servant to earn money for her children.


Photo: (L) Crescenciana “Lola” Tan with grandson Kenneth and daughter Olivia at their home in San Jose, California in 1990. (R) The family in Oakland, California in 2016. Courtesy of Kenneth Tan.

Eventually, after years of labor, Lola came to the U.S. in 1982 to help raise her grandchildren. She passed away in 2016, at the age of 96. She spent her final years in the company of her grandson Kenneth, who has immortalized her stories in the artwork featured here.

This October Kenneth came to StoryCorps in San Jose, California to tell his mother Olivia about the greatest lesson Lola ever taught him.

‘Dancing Shoes’: One evening during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, Lola attended a dance at a neighboring village. In the middle of the dance, someone alerted the crowd that Japanese soldiers had arrived. Fleeing for safety, Lola hopped onto the back of a cart and made her way home. Along the way, she dropped one of her red shoes. Painting courtesy of Kenneth Tan.

Top photo: Young Crescenciana working as a cashier at a local grocery in the Philippines in 1960. Courtesy of Kenneth Tan.
Bottom photo: (L) Olivia Tan Ronquillo and her mother Crescenciana at the Manila Airport in 1965. (R) Olivia and mother in Oakland, CA in 2016. Courtesy of Kenneth Tan.

Originally aired November 27, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Dr. Joseph Linsk

For the second year in a row, StoryCorps invited everyone to take part in The Great Thanksgiving Listen—our effort to collect and preserve intergenerational interviews over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. And while tens of thousands of TGTL conversations continue to be archived and listened to, one interview in particular has gotten us wondering: Is it ever too late to make amends?

1480098019980-1The day after Thanksgiving, Dr. Joseph Linsk was joined in his Atlantic City, New Jersey, home by his son Richard. Dr. Linsk, 94, whose practice once focused on treating patients with cancer and blood diseases, is now himself in poor health and living with Parkinson’s disease. During the recording, Dr. Linsk shared a story that he says has left him “smitten with grief” for more than 80 years.

When he was 8 years old, Dr. Linsk was playing with friends in the schoolyard when he unintentionally broke another child’s glasses. Needing to pay for their repair, he stole the money his mother had left for their family cleaning lady, an African American woman named Pearl. When Pearl asked for her pay, Dr. Linsk’s mother accused her of stealing and a young Dr. Linsk said nothing. His mother fired Pearl, whom he remembers as having a few children, and word quickly spread that Pearl was a thief, damaging her reputation and making it impossible for her to find work again.

There is also Pearl’s side to the story. How did this lie and the cover-up affect her and her family? Unfortunately, Dr. Linsk doesn’t know her full name or any further details about her family, but he did grow up on Atlantic Avenue in the Uptown section of Atlantic City in the early 1930s, so if you believe you know anything about her or any of her surviving family members, we would love to hear from you.

Contact us at: [email protected] or call us at 301-744-TALK.

Originally aired December 9, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top Photo of Dr. Joseph Linsk from 2011 courtesy of Stefanie Campolo and The Press of Atlantic City.

StoryCorps 452: The First Great Listen

UPDATE 11/17/16: With the 2016 Great Thanksgiving Listen a week away, here are highlights and lessons learned from the inaugural Great Thanksgiving Listen in 2015. (This podcast originally aired in December 2015.)

In this podcast, we hear stories recorded over the last few weeks by people who participated in the Great Thanksgiving Listen.

When we announced in September our plan to hold a Great Thanksgiving Listen, we introduced it as our dream, that over the course of a single holiday weekend in November, teens across the nation would take the time to sit down with an elder, a loved one, a friend, or anyone else they wanted to know more about, and have a meaningful conversation.

11010295_10153163668388622_3809697997272856092_nStoryCorps has done this before; in 2008 we launched the National Day of Listening. That was our answer to the day after Thanksgiving becoming widely recognized as a national day of shopping—“Black Friday.” The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a continuation of that project.

One major difference between the two initiatives, the National Day of Listening and the Great Thanksgiving Listen, is that we now have the technology to make listening and preserving your stories in the Library of Congress easier than ever. When we debuted the free StoryCorps app in March, it gave all people with access to a smartphone the ability to easily set up an interview, record it, edit it, share it, and then have it archived.

By any measure, the Great Thanksgiving Listen was a success. Over the course of a few days, tens of thousands of conversations were recorded, and more than 50,000 of those have been uploaded to the StoryCorps.me website and archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The stories that came in were revealing and funny and intense and personal. As we hoped, an incredible number of people sat down with their grandparents or another elder, who with a little prompting, shared their happiest and proudest memories, as well as difficult moments they overcame over the course of their lives. They also shared advice for younger generations that no matter how it was worded, essentially boiled down to a few simple recommendations: Treat others with respect, do a lot of different things with your life, be adventurous, and have a lot of fun because time moves quickly.

So before you know it, it will be time for the Great Thanksgiving Listen II. But until then, enjoy just a small bit of the great audio uploaded over the past few weeks.

podcastgtlbottom1

All of the above photos were uploaded to the StoryCorps.me website by participants in the Great Thanksgiving Listen.
Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Like Swimming” by Broke for Free from the album Leaf.
“FLT” by Pullman from the album Viewfinder.
“Thinking of You” by Gillicuddy from the album Gillicuddy Plays Guitar.
“Cass County Beauty Queen” by Alan Singley from the album Cold Truth.
“Chimera,” “Buddy Guy,” and “Light Touch” by Podington Bear from the collection Sound of Picture Production Library.
“Folk Psychology” by Nic Bommarito from the album Harp Fragments.