Iowa Archives - StoryCorps

“This is Ours Too”: A Father Instills a Sense of Belonging in His Daughter

When Erin Haggerty was just a teen, her father George Barlow moved the family from Union City, California to the stark, white landscapes of Iowa. At the time, Erin was excited by the prospect of moving to a new place. But she soon realized that, as one of the only Black teens in her community, life would not always be so picturesque.

Photo: (L) George embracing (R) Erin at her high school graduation in 1991. Courtesy of Erin Haggerty.

Erin spent years trying to find her sense of belonging in this new town. But overtime, she began to withdraw into herself. Her father George had always assumed Erin was just a shy teen; someone who kept to herself, was well behaved, and had no interest in high school parties. 

But in August of 2020, Erin opened up to George for the first time about what it was like being a young Black woman in Iowa, and how it was his words and kindness that saw her through those difficult times.

Top Photo: (L) Erin Haggerty and her father (R) George Barlow in 2010. Courtesy of Erin Haggerty.
Bottom Photo: Three year old (L) Erin with her father (R) George in 1975. Courtesy of Erin Haggerty.

Originally aired September 18, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

A Wife Remembers Her Husband and the Stress of Family Farming

Springtime is planting season on farms all across the country. The stress of the season can take its toll: farmers have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession in the United States.

For more than 35 years, Matt Peters grew corn and soybeans on the Iowa farm that his father and grandfather farmed before him. Then in May of 2011, at the age of 55, he took his own life.

His wife, Ginnie Peters, came to StoryCorps to remember him. She spoke with Trent Andrews, the man who took over the farm after her husband’s death.

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Today, Ginnie lives a few miles away from the farm where she and Matt made their life together. Now and then she returns to visit Trent and his family, who continue to work the 1,500-acre farm.

Top photo: Trent Andrews and Ginnie Peters at their StoryCorps interview in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 19, 2018.

Bottom photo: Ginnie Peters and Matt Peters on vacation in February of 2011. Courtesy of Ginnie Peters.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or just needs someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally aired May 18, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The Country’s Oldest Female BMX Bike Racer on Her Thrills and Spills

At nearly 70 years old, Kittie Weston-Knauer is the oldest female BMX racer in the United States.

When she started competing in off-road bicycle races, or BMX, in the late 1980s she was often the only woman on the track. It was her son Max Knauer, a championship BMX rider himself, who introduced her to the sport when he was ten years old.

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While Max, now 40, is currently retired from the sport, Kittie has no plans to quit any time soon. She looks forward to the day she can watch her grandchildren hit the track — and hopes Max will start competing again with them, too.

Top photo: Max Knauer and Kittie Weston-Knauer at their StoryCorps interview in Des Moines, Iowa on April 20, 2018.

Bottom photo: Max Knauer assists Kittie Weston-Knauer as she prepares to start her first-ever BMX race on Mother’s Day of 1988. Courtesy of Kittie Weston-Knauer.

Originally aired May 11, 2018, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

James Kennicott and Kara Masteller

Since 2003, we have broadcast hundreds of conversations that were recorded in booths across the country, but this week, for the first time, we present one recorded in the front seat of a 1994 Buick.

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Last month, Kara Masteller, 21, and her grandfather James Kennicott, sat together in a Waterloo, Iowa, mall parking lot and conducted a StoryCorps interview. They choose this location because James, who is 86 and resides in a local senior living facility, had no interested in sharing his business with any of the other people who live alongside him.

Their 16-minute long interview begins simply with Kara saying to her grandfather, “Tell me about yourself, where did you grow up?”

From there, Kara, the youngest of James’ 10 grandchildren, was able to get a man she described as unaccustomed to opening up about his life to briefly discuss his difficult upbringing. He then talked in greater detail about his beloved wife, Annie, who passed away in 2012 (seen above in a 1949 wedding photo), his work as a supervisor at the John Deere factory, the loss of his eldest son Chuck who suffered with Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as his thoughts on life and advice for others as they age.

In a separate interview with StoryCorps, Kara, a senior at the University of Iowa, remembered her grandfather as once being an intimidating figure in her life, but as they have both grown older and maintained their close relationship, she now sees him as fun, protective, and loving.

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He’s a man who enjoys joking around, dancing, shooting pool, and playing the penny slots at a local casino.

During their conversation, James also offers Kara advice on a happy marriage, “You gotta kinda like each other…if something happened just say ‘I’m sorry’ and get it over with and make up,” because “when you get married, it’s kind of like the two of you are one. You think the same.” And on life in general, advising her to “keep it so the days don’t just go by and that’s all there is, a boring old day…let life roll on…it goes fast.” You need to “roll with age, don’t worry about it, it’s coming. Enjoy life, it’s wonderful.”

According to Kara, after their recording ended (and they posed for the selfie at the top of the page), James continued to share memories with her about Annie before they grabbed a cup of coffee and headed over to the casino to play the penny slots together.

Click here to hear their full interview.

Click here to download the StoryCorps app and begin making your own recordings.

We’re just days away from the Great Thanksgiving Listen, StoryCorps’ initiative to preserve the voices and stories of an entire generation of Americans over a single holiday weekend. Open to everyone, it’s your change to sit down with a parent, grandparent, friend, neighbor, loved one, or anyone else who you are curious about, ask them questions, and listen. Click here for more information on the Great Listen.

Originally aired November 20, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

GTL_wordmark_orange background-03Photos courtesy of Kara Masteller.