Forgotten History – StoryCorps
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“I Never Let Anything Stop Me”: One Woman Recalls Her Determination To Go To Space

When Wally Funk was 8 years old, she jumped off the roof of her barn while wearing a Superman cape, hoping to fly. That desire never left her, and as an adult she became a pilot and flight instructor. But for Wally, the ultimate destination was always outer space.

She almost got the chance to go in 1961. That year, she was part of a group of female pilots who took part in tests to determine if women were fit for space travel. The project was run by the same doctor who developed tests for NASA astronauts. The women, who became known as the Mercury 13, passed many of the same tests as the men, but never got to go to space. 

More than half a century later, Wally Funk hasn’t given up and at the age of 82, she’ll be joining the crew on the New Shepard rocket, which will be launching on July 20th, 2021. She’s expected to become the oldest person to reach space, beating John Glenn’s record set in 1998.

In 2017, she came to StoryCorps with one of her flight students, Mary Holsenbeck, to talk about her time training to be an astronaut.

Exif_JPEG_PICTUREWally and Mary, circa 1993. Photo courtesy of Mary Holsenbeck.
Top photo:  Wally, circa 1960. Photo courtesy of Wally Funk.

Originally aired August 4, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was rebroadcast on July 9th, 2021 on the same program.

“There Was Always Music In The House”: Memories Of Luis M. Moreno, A Father And Prolific Songwriter

When Luis M. Moreno was around six years old, he encountered a fayuquero or traveling vendor who had a little guitar up for sale. The family story goes that Luis wanted the guitar and the vendor, seeing that Luis was just a small child, told him the guitar was his if he proved he could play it. After fiddling with the strings for a while, Luis played a little tune, and the vendor gave it to him.

This moment marked the beginning of a lifetime of music for Luis. 

He drew inspiration from all the things he lived. Born in 1899, he became an orphan at the age of 8 and grew up seeing other musicians perform in the cantinas or taverns of his native Mexico. Then, the family tales say he was conscripted to fight in the Mexican Revolution, and after being shot in battle, he immigrated to the United States, settling down in California in the first half of the 20th Century. 

Photo: A young Luis M. Moreno

That is where he met his wife and creative partner, Carmen Moreno. Together they were known as Los Moreno or El Dueto de los Moreno, famous for the Mexican folk music they performed on the radio and in venues throughout the Los Angeles area.

More than a century after their parents’ birth, his daughters, Rosemary Selzer and Carmencristina Moreno, now 67 and 81, came to StoryCorps to share their memories of growing up surrounded by music, and the bittersweet legacy that their father left behind.

Photo: Carmencristina Moreno and Rosemary Selzer in March 2021
Top Photo: Carmen Moreno and Luis M. Moreno performed under the name of Los Moreno or El Dueto de los Moreno

Originally aired March 26, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“He Did His Own Eulogy”: An Eyewitness Recalls Dr. King’s Final Speech

In 1968, more than 1,300 Black sanitation workers began to strike in Memphis, Tennessee, demanding better working conditions and fair wages. Clara Jean Ester, then a 19-year-old college junior, joined the protests in solidarity.

Photo: A young Clara Jean Ester, who graduated from Memphis State College, now known as the University of Memphis, in 1969. Courtesy of Clara Jean Ester.

When Clara wasn’t in school, every spare moment she had was spent on the picket lines or at the strike headquarters, Clayborn Temple. And later that year, Clara witnessed Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his final speech in Memphis. The next day, she was at the Lorraine Motel when Dr. King was assassinated. 

Clara, now 72, sat down for StoryCorps in Mobile, Alabama, to talk about bearing witness to Dr. King’s final days.

Top Photo: The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN, a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. From left to right, Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King, and Ralph Abernathy. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly, File).

Originally aired January 15, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

The ‘Heart’ of Heart Mountain: Japanese American Internment Through The Eyes Of A Child And His Unlikely Friend

On February 19, 1942, ten weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the forced relocation and incarceration of more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent on the West Coast. Families were taken from their homes and placed in internment camps, where they spent the remainder of the war as prisoners.

Shigeru “Shig” Yabu was just ten years old when he and his family were evacuated from their San Francisco home and sent to Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Cody, Wyoming.

At 87, Shig came to StoryCorps with his grandson Evan to remember the thing that came to define his experience as an internee — adopting and caring for a bird named Maggie.

In 2007, Shig wrote a children’s book, titled Hello Maggie, about his experiences as an internee. To hear more of Shig’s story, check out the StoryCorps podcast.

Top Photo: Evan Yabu and Shigeru Yabu at their StoryCorps interview in Camarillo, CA in September 2019. Photo by Rochelle Hoi-Yiu Kwan for StoryCorps. 
Middle Photo: A mid 1940s snapshot from the barracks at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Cody, Wyoming. Public Domain, Department of the Interior. War Relocation Authority.
Bottom Photo: Cover illustration from ‘Hello Maggie.’ Courtesy of Shigeru Yabu.

Originally aired February 21, 2020 on NPR’s Morning Edition.