Oakland Archives - StoryCorps

A Blues Legend Reflects on 70 Years Of Ripping Up The Stage

Growing up in the Fillmore district of San Francisco, Peylia Balinton only remembers her mother playing classical piano at home. It wasn’t until she visited a friend’s house that she was exposed to Blues music. That was the start of a lifelong career on stage.

Concert posters featuring Sugar Pie DeSanto. Courtesy of Lorraine Balinton.

Peylia’s first performance was at an open mic at the historic Ellis Theater in San Francisco, where she soon became a regular. It was after one of these performances that she was approached by Johnny Otis, who immediately recognized her talent and asked her to record an album. Otis also gave her the stage name Sugar Pie DeSanto. 

Jim Moore and Sugar Pie DeSanto at their StoryCorps recording, on August 11, 2022, in Oakland, CA .
By Jo Corona for StoryCorps.

Sugar Pie came to StoryCorps in 2022 with Jim Moore—her manager of over 50 years—to remember how she got her start.

Top Photo: Sugar Pie DeSanto performs at the Apollo Theater in New York City, 1964. Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired May 3, 2024, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“We Knew We Were the Best.” Reflections from the First Black Marines of Montford Point

A group of Montford Point volunteers in their dress uniforms circa May, 1943. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1942, the U.S. allowed Black men to enlist in the Marine Corps for the first time. It was during World War II, and resulted in more than 19,000 Black recruits being sent to Montford Point, North Carolina for basic training.

These men fought for their country in the midst of the racism and prejudice they faced at home. They were essential to the war effort but did not recieve the same respect in uniform as their white counterparts. 

Many of those men are no longer with us, but their voices can be heard in the StoryCorps archive. One of those voices is that of Corporal Sidney Allen Francis,  a retired New York City police detective.  Sidney came to StoryCorps with his daughter, Candice, to talk about how his time at Montford Point shaped him.

William Pickens, Estel Roberts and Benjamin Jenkins at their StoryCorps interviews in Chicago, Illinois, New York, New York, and Dayton, Ohio in 2012, 2014, and 2010. By Leslee Dean, Mayra Sierra, and Virginia Lora for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired February 24, 2024, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. 

 

 

“My Mother the Performer”: The Life and Legacy of Dorothy Toy

In the late 1930s, Dorothy Toy and her dance partner Paul Wing made their Broadway debut after years touring on the Vaudeville circuit. In one of their earliest Broadway appearances, the duo, billed as Toy & Wing, performed in a musical review. That night, as Toy & Wing took their bows, the applause was thunderous. Dorothy later told her daughter that the audience got on their feet and applauded so vigorously the bandleader was forced to bring them out repeatedly – stalling the next act. Dorothy would say, she lost track of how many bows they took that night, but that they became a fixture on Broadway from then on.

Dorothy, Paul and a young Dorlie Fong dancing the cha cha during an encore performance. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.
Dorothy Toy and dance partner Paul Wing (Toy & Wing) posing at the Forbidden City Nightclub in 1950’s San Francisco. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.

Decades later, after founding her own dance company and touring the world, Dorothy Toy planned to visit StoryCorps with her daughter, to look back on a lifetime of performance. But she passed before that was possible. Dorothy was 102 years old when she died. She had suffered multiple broken hips and lived with dementia, but she considered herself a dancer well into her final years.

In March of 2021, her daughter Dorlie Fong came to StoryCorps to honor her mother. In that session she committed to tape many of Dorothy’s stories from a bygone era of Vaudeville, Hollywood, and Broadway. But beyond that, Dorlie described what it was like growing up backstage and finding connection with her mother the star.

Top Photo: (L) Dorothy Toy and her young daughter Dorlie Fong backstage in the 1950’s. (R) Dorlie with her mother on her 101st birthday. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.
Bottom Photo: Dorothy Toy performing in her home dance studio in front of a CBS news crew. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.

Originally aired April 2, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Francine Anderson

Francine Anderson grew up in rural Virginia during the 1950s. It was the Jim Crow South and “Whites Only” signs punctuated the windows of many businesses. Francine came to StoryCorps to talk about one night when she became aware of what those signs meant for her family.

Editor’s note: This story contains a quote where a racial slur is used.

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Originally aired August 18, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Left photo: Francine’s father, Frank Napoleon Anderson. Photo courtesy of Francine Anderson.
Right photo: From left to right, siblings Frank, Lynne, baby Ife, Francine and Tony Anderson, shortly after the incident took place. Photo courtesy of Francine Anderson.

John Klein and Bernice Flournoy

John Klein remembers meeting the love of his life, Mary Ann Allen, with her daughter Bernice Flournoy.

Judith Wilson

Judith Wilson tells her husband, Donald Kaufman, about a conversation that changed her life.

Cheo Taylor and Donald Taylor

Cheo Taylor talks with his father, Donald, about how his parents met while he was in the Air Force and she was a secretary on a military base. They dated for nine months and were married in December 1958, before divorcing in 1970 and remarrying in 1980.

Originally aired November 27, 2007, on NPR’s News & Notes and on April 11, 2008, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Mweupe Mfalme Nguni

Mweupe Mfalme Nguni remembers his first day at an integrated elementary school in 1965.