John Marboe and Charlie Marboe

John Marboe is known to many as Reverend Doctor Garbage Man. He’s a Lutheran pastor, a professor, and a garbage hauler.

Growing up in Alexandria, Minnesota, he admired his local garbage man. In fact, he was friends with that man’s son and regularly played on the edge of the city landfill, marveling at the treasures people would discard.

garbageman1After finishing his graduate degree in 2011, times were lean for John’s family. So he took a job hauling trash and before long, he discovered some surprising connections between his work on his garbage route and his work as a pastor.

At StoryCorps, John spoke with his 13-year-old daughter, Charlie.

You can learn more about John on his blog, Rev. Dr. Garbage Man.

Originally broadcast January 20, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo: John Marboe on his garbage route. Courtesy of John Marboe.
This StoryCorps interview was recorded as part of The American Pilgrimage Project, a partnership based out of Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs that is devoted to gathering stories of religious faith. Author and Berkley Center senior research fellow Paul Elie is the project director and Adelina Lancianese is the project assistant.

Ellie Dahmer and Bettie Dahmer

During the mid-1960s, Vernon Dahmer was a successful black farmer and businessman in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was also a civil rights leader and had served as the head of his local NAACP chapter. This work often made his family a target of threats by the Ku Klux Klan. Despite the danger, Vernon worked to help register black voters in the community.

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Although the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act gave racial minorities equal access to the right to vote, the state of Mississippi still required residents to pay a poll tax when registering, impeding many potential black voters. And so on January 9, 1966, Vernon publicly offered to pay the poll tax for blacks who wanted to register but could not afford it.

That night, the KKK firebombed his home while he was inside with his wife, Ellie Dahmer, and three of their children—Bettie, Dennis, and Harold. Vernon exchanged gunfire with the attackers and held them off so he and his family could escape. He later died from injuries he sustained in the fire.

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Ellie went on to serve as an election commissioner in Hattiesburg for more than a decade, continuing the work that she and her husband had started. It took more than 30 years for Samuel Bowers, the Klan leader who ordered the attack, to be convicted of Vernon’s murder.

At StoryCorps, Ellie and Bettie, who was 10 years old at the time, remembered the night Vernon was killed.

Originally aired January 13, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: The charred remains of the Dahmer home and car. Courtesy of Moncrief Photograph Collection, ID #513, Mississippi Department of Archives & History.
Middle Photo: Ellie Dahmer (L) and Bettie Dahmer outside Ellie’s home, which was built in the same location as the house that was destroyed. Credit: Roselyn Almonte, StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: Ellie Dahmer holds a photo of her late husband. Credit: Roselyn Almonte, StoryCorps.

Julie Taylor and Fred Taylor

Each year as the holidays approach, airline companies brace themselves for record numbers of travelers, flights, and inevitable delays. And when flights are interrupted, airline customer relations officers like Fred Taylor step in to deal with angry customers.

taylor3 For 15 years, Fred was the Senior Manager of Proactive Customer Communications for Southwest Airlines or, as his daughter lovingly calls him, “The Sorry Man.” He created this department in 2004 in response to fliers who were impacted travel by issues, from the most mundane weather delays to scary airplane malfunctions and unruly passengers.

For example, Fred explains that if an engine shuts down because parts of the fan blade come apart, it makes a lot of noise and creates plumes of fire that come out of the back. This is a fairly common mechanical issue, but it can be terrifying for the passengers aboard who don’t know much about planes. That’s where Fred came in. 

On another memorable flight, a woman combined alcohol and prescription medication in order to deal with her fear of flying. As a result, she took off all of her clothing and starting chewing on the seat bottom cushion. Fred says he had to apologize to the other 137 other passengers who were also aboard that flight. 

Fred came to StoryCorps with his wife, Julie, to share his experiences as a professional apologizer.

Originally aired December 30, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Judy Charest and Harold Hogue

On December 24, 1956, Marguerite Hunt drove with her 3-month-old daughter, Judy, to the Shelby Street Bridge (now called the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge) in Nashville, Tennessee, got out of her car, and with her baby in her arms, jumped 90 feet into the cold waters of the Cumberland River.

charest3Harold Hogue, an engineer with the Nashville Bridge Company was at work in a nearby building and happened to see the incident unfold through an office window. Immediately, he and his colleague, Jack Knox, ran to the river and saw Marguerite in the water holding onto a piece of rebar pleading for someone to save her baby. Jack jumped into the water and grabbed Judy, swam back to shore, handed her to Harold, and headed back into the river in an attempt to now save Marguerite. Harold rushed Judy to the first aid station in the Nashville Bridge Company building and left the infant in the care of a nurse; with help from others, including Harold, Marguerite was saved as well.

When Judy Charest was 21 years old, Marguerite was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was also the first time Judy learned of the Christmas Eve incident on the bridge. Jack passed away in 2005, and Marguerite died in 2015. Recently, Harold told his grandson about the rescue and he was able to track down Judy allowing them to meet again almost 60 years after Harold helped save her life.

At StoryCorps, Judy and Harold discuss both of their meetings.

Originally aired December 23, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above: Rescuers pull Marguerite Hunt onto the shore of the Cumberland River. Harold Hogue is in the foreground in a white shirt, dark pants, and wearing a watch. Originally published Christmas Eve 1956, photo courtesy of Mike Hudgins/The Nashville Retrospect.

Francisco Ortega and Kaya Ortega

Growing up in rural Tijuana, Mexico, Francisco Ortega was among the youngest of his family’s 10 children. In 1975, his parents made the difficult decision to leave him and his siblings in the care of his beloved aunt, Trinidad, and move to Los Angeles to find work. Once there, his father worked as a busboy and his mother as a seamstress in a clothing factory; each month they sent back money for food and clothing.

francisco-1978-1Only about 6 years old when his parents left, Francisco was an intuitive, energetic, and excitable boy. He spent hours playing in the hills and fruit orchards of Tijuana, and chasing rattlesnakes with his dogs. He also acted up a lot and often gave his aunt a hard time.

He didn’t see his parents for nearly three and a half years, and couldn’t understand why they left. He missed his mother terribly but through hard work his parents became more financially stable, and in 1978, 9-year-old Francisco joined them in Los Angeles.

At StoryCorps, Francisco—who works to strengthen relationships between the Los Angeles Police Department and the community—shares memories of his childhood in Tijuana with his 16-year-old daughter, Kaya, and tells her about the day he left Mexico to reunite with his parents in Los Angeles.

Originally aired December 16, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above: Francisco and his younger sister Ana after arriving in Los Angeles in 1978. Photo courtesy of Francisco Ortega.

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: characters@storycorps.org 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.

Fred Davie and Robert Sanchez

Robert Sanchez (right) is a social worker who helps people coming out of prison find work and get the support they need. He has a unique understanding of his client’s struggles because in 2001, Robert was released from New York’s Sing Sing Correctional Facility after serving 15 years for a nonviolent drug offense.

Robert has also recorded StoryCorps interviews with those who have helped him over the years, and in March 2010, his conversation with Felix Aponte was broadcast on NPR. More recently, he sat down with Fred Davie (left), a long-time mentor and friend to thank him for the spiritual support he has provided.

A Presbyterian minister who heads the Union Theological Seminary, Fred met Robert in 1998 when he was visiting Sing Sing and Robert was working towards his master’s degree in theology. They struck up a conversation and made an instant connection, and after Robert’s release, Fred helped him navigate the difficult process of finding work, interpersonal relationships, and fatherhood.

They have both remained outspoken about the importance of providing guidance and support to individuals following their incarceration, and together they developed the Ready4Work reentry program which provides mentoring and job counseling to former prisoners to help with their transition and avoid returning to prison.

At StoryCorps Robert and Fred remember their first meeting, and discuss how their relationship has grown since.

Originally aired December 2, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Leslye Huff and Mary Ostendorf

Leslye Huff (left) and her partner, Mary Ostendorf (right), met in 1983. Leslye was open about her feelings for Mary and wasn’t shy about publicly showing her affection—even on their first date. Mary felt less comfortable with public displays of affection and had not told many people in her life about her sexuality, including her family.

When Mary introduced Leslye to her mother, Agnes, they did not immediately reveal to her the nature of their relationship, but during that meeting Leslye felt a connection with Agnes. “I liked her. She was short like me, and pretty vivacious. She and I sat and talked and I thought the makings of a pretty good friendship was beginning.”

Later that year, days before they gathered for Thanksgiving, Leslye picked up the phone and told Agnes the truth about her relationship with Mary.

At StoryCorps, Mary and Leslye discuss what happened after the phone call and how their relationship with Agnes changed in the years that followed.

Originally aired November 27, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

Saboor Sahely and Jessica Sahely

Saboor Sahely grew up in eastern Afghanistan’s Laghman province. He remembers the village in which he was raised as being like a big family, with neighbors coming and going freely from each other’s homes, sharing food, and attending one another’s celebrations. On hot summer nights they would sleep on their roofs entertaining each other with stories late into the night. That is also where he first heard about America, planting a desire to one day come to the United States.

sahely1In 1978, a long Afghani civil war began, and Saboor’s family, fearing that he would be unable to soon leave the country, urged him to go to the United States. He had already been accepted to Utah State University, and when he arrived in New York City, he only had with him a suitcase, the phone number of a relative he had never met, and a few hundred dollars. He used the money to purchase a bus ticket to Logan, Utah.

In Logan, he got a job as at a restaurant as a dishwasher and quickly moved up to cook, eventually becoming a district manager. But the restaurant ran into financial problems and closed. Saboor used the money he had saved to purchase the building, and in 1983 he opened Angie’s Restaurant—named after his then 2-year-old daughter.

Starting 26 years ago, Angie’s Restaurant began offering free meals to the Logan community on Thanksgiving. Saboor came to StoryCorps with his younger daughter, Jessica, to talk about his life in Afghanistan, and how the lessons he learned continue to inspire him.

Originally aired November 25, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda and Serena Castañeda

Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda grew up in Salinas, California, in the late 1960s. Her mother, Beatriz Béltran, was an immigrant from Mexico, and her father, Manuel, worked both as a foreman at a food packing plant and as an overseer of migrant farm workers.

castaneda2Their family of seven lived in a small trailer, but by working multiple jobs, Manuel was able to save enough money to buy a plot of land on which he built a house. Alicia vividly recalls sitting on a 1950s metal stool in their living room, watching her father paint some of the walls goldenrod, and others Pepto-Bismol pink.

Manuel died when Alicia was 13, leaving their mother to raise the children alone.

Beatriz began working for the Salinas City Elementary School District as a bilingual liaison for Spanish-speaking families and the administration, and later became a coordinator for migrant worker families. Through her job, she saw the poverty many migrant families lived in.

Alicia was not as familiar with the lives of migrant farmworkers until she came home one day to find that her bed was missing—she was furious. With all of her older siblings away at college, Alicia had finally gotten her own room, and she loved her bed, which had a pink cover and lace dust ruffle. When she confronted her mother, Beatriz explained that she had given the bed to a family that had recently arrived in California from Mexico, and Alicia remembers telling her mother that she did not understanding why that was her problem. Without explanation, Beatriz told her to fill shopping bags with canned food from their pantry.

Together they drove to a house where Alicia’s bed now was, a one-room shack with a dirt floor like the ones occupied by so many other migrant worker families. There they met a woman who was laying on Alicia’s bed with her newborn baby surrounded by her four other children.

At StoryCorps, Alicia told her own daughter, Serena, 13, how meaningful that experience was for her.

Originally aired November 18, 2016, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Photo of Beatriz Beltrán courtesy of Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda.

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Each week, the StoryCorps podcast shares these unscripted conversations, revealing the wisdom, courage, and poetry in the words of people you might not notice walking down the street.