StoryCorps

Fridays during Morning Edition

StoryCorps provides Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

Since Dave Isay founded StoryCorps in 2003, the organization has provided more than 100,000 Americans with access to a quiet booth and platform to record and share interviews about their lives. These Conversations are archived at the U.S. Library of Congress.

At the heart of StoryCorps is a simple, timeless idea: provide two friends or loved ones with a quiet space and 40 minutes of uninterrupted time for a meaningful face-to-face conversation that will be preserved for generations to come. StoryCorps seeks out the stories of people most often excluded from the historical record and preserves them so that the experience and wisdom contained within them may be passed from one generation to the next.

Clara Jean Ester was a college student at Memphis State College in Tennessee when she bore witness to a series of pivotal moments in civil rights history.

As a junior, Ester joined the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968, alongside African American sanitation workers who were calling to demand better working conditions and higher wages.

Before Julie Andrews first sang "A Spoonful of Sugar," its songwriter found inspiration for the iconic Mary Poppins tune in an unlikely place.

The late Robert B. Sherman wrote it with his brother, Richard; many of the duo's songs are featured in classic Walt Disney films. At StoryCorps last month, Robert's son, Jeffrey, said that it was telling his father about getting the polio vaccine as a child that sparked the lyrics for the famous song.

Jeffrey, now 63, said his dad had a way with words.

Editor's note: Jasmyn Morris, who co-produced this interview, is a distant cousin to Rose Liscum. Gert Uhl is Morris' great-grandmother.

Rosella "Rose" Liscum died at 101 years old last week in Ogdensburg, N.Y., after contracting the coronavirus, following a long, full life.

Back in 2012, Liscum, 93 at the time, sat down for StoryCorps with her daughter, Marlene Watson, then 66, to reflect on some of her memorable relationships with loved ones and her own unrelenting spunk.

A Gay Veteran Remembers Serving In Silence

Dec 26, 2020

Decades before openly gay Americans were legally allowed to serve in the military, Joseph Patton, a gay man, served in silence.

Patton, who died earlier this year at 83 years old, sat down for a StoryCorps interview in 2019 to talk about a time in his life that brought him both pride and pain.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1955 at age 17, keeping his sexuality a secret for the entirety of his service.

"My dad told me going in the service would help me be a man," Patton said.

But his reasons for joining the Navy were a bit more lighthearted than that.

Since grade school, best friends Jamie Olivieri and Yennie Neal-Achigbu have been inseparable.

As 2020 comes to a close, Olivieri and Neal-Achigbu, both 37, reflected during a recent StoryCorps conversation on how their friendship has helped them, especially this year as they navigate pandemic life.

The two met in elementary school in Yonkers, N.Y., but became close friends in eighth grade. Since then, they've always had each other's backs — literally.

Sharron Frontiero was a young lieutenant in the Air Force when she first filed a lawsuit against the federal government on the basis of sex. It later came to the attention of a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who signed onto the case in 1972, setting up her first appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Frontiero, now Sharron Cohen, was the plaintiff in Frontiero v. Richardson, in which she sought a dependent's allowance for her husband. That same benefit is owed to wives of male members of the military according to federal law.

It wasn't until this year that 90-year-old Kenneth Felts told his family that he is gay — a secret he'd kept for more than 60 years.

In July, he spoke with his daughter, Rebecca Mayes, about his first love. Having so much alone time during the coronavirus pandemic, he told her, "drug up all these memories from the past."

With the help of his family, Jorge Muñoz has spent the last 16 years cooking hot meals for day laborers looking for work on the sidewalks of Queens, N.Y.

Since he was young, Jorge has looked for ways to put food in the hands of those who needed it, as his sister, Luz, recalled in an interview for StoryCorps last week.

As the holidays approach, family is on the mind of many. For Kenneth Tan and his mother, Olivia Tan Ronquillo, memories turn to her mother, Crescenciana.

They called her Lola.

She was no stranger to making sacrifices for her family. She spent her life caring for three generations.

Lola grew up in the Philippines, and in 1982, in her 60s, she moved to San Jose, Calif., to live with Olivia – after helping to put her through years of nursing school — and help raise Kenneth and his big sister Audrey.

Heeding his own advice, Anthony Fauci and his wife, Christine Grady, will be spending Thanksgiving this year apart from their loved ones. It's the first time none of their three adult daughters will be home for the holiday.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military and their families.

As an Army chaplain, Maj. Ivan Arreguin has seen many overseas deployments during his military career. But earlier this year, his medical unit, along with others, were deployed to New York City during the height of the area's coronavirus pandemic.

For more than three decades, Scott Macaulay, a vacuum repairman in Melrose, Mass., has been hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for people who have nowhere else to go — a situation he found himself in after his parents' acrimonious divorce.

His tradition started in 1985, when he put an ad in the local paper, offering to cook Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen guests. Macaulay, 59, realized his family most likely wouldn't get together for Thanksgiving that year, and he doesn't like to eat alone.

This episode of StoryCorps originally aired in 2011.

When she was 16, Ella Raino, who goes by "Ellaraino," met her great-grandmother, Silvia, for the first time. And Silvia had plenty of stories to tell. She described being a teenager, much like Ellaraino — and seeing the Civil War, and slavery, come to an end. At StoryCorps in 2011, Ellaraino spoke with her friend Baki AnNur, about her visit with Silvia, who was 106-years old at the time.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military and their families.

Former Army Spc. Garett Reppenhagen has always loved Halloween. Even during his year-long deployment to Iraq in 2004, he still found a way to celebrate.

Cherie DeBrest, 50, cast her first ballot nearly 30 years ago and has voted in every election since.

But last year, she decided to take it a step further, and started working at the polls in her North Philadelphia neighborhood.

Cherie's 18-year-old daughter, Naima, will be working the polls alongside her in Philadelphia this Tuesday.

In a remote StoryCorps conversation last week, Cherie spoke with Naima about what inspired her to get more involved in the voting process.

During the 1990s, in the tiny town of Parma, Mich., Bob VanSumeren lost his way.

He dropped out of high school and started abusing drugs and alcohol. When VanSumeren turned 18, his parents got a divorce, and he became essentially homeless, mostly couch-surfing at friends' houses. It was around this time that he and his high school sweetheart, Jillian, broke up. VanSumeren had fallen in with the wrong crowd.

Eventually, he robbed a gas station and a bank. He served nearly six years in prison for those crimes.

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military and their families.

During the 1918 flu pandemic, Blanche Reeves was living in rural Iowa when she got sick. Even though she was still recovering in November 1920, she managed to cast her vote in the presidential election.

Her determination to exercise her vote continues to inspire Blanche's daughter, Helen Merrill, a century later. In a remote StoryCorps conversation last week, Helen, now 91, told her granddaughter, Elizabeth Hartley, 27, how voting has become a "sacred thing" for her.

When her town of Leverett, Mass., went into lockdown, 60-year-old Jinny Savolainen wanted to do something meaningful with her time.

She lost her 32-year-old daughter the previous August from complications related to spina bifida, a condition she had since birth. Then, when the pandemic hit, Savolainen lost her job as a patient services representative in a medical office.

Lauren Magaña followed in her mother's footsteps when she became a social worker. It's been a most challenging year for both of them. They work mostly with elderly patients — those particularly vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic. But Magaña and her mom, Michelle Huston, have been able to lean on one another.

Huston, now 50, and Magaña, 26, first recorded a StoryCorps interview in 2018 — long before the pandemic had figured into their work — to talk about why they chose to enter a career in social work.

New York City Public Schools reopened part-time this week, but preparing to get more than 1 million children back to school, whether in-person or virtually, hasn't gone smoothly.

Last minute schedule changes have left parents, teachers and students frustrated and confused.

Fortunately, Emma Pelosi and Debra Fisher, who work with young children with special needs in New York City public schools, have been able to lean on each other during the chaotic moments.

When Erin Haggerty moved with her family from Northern California to Iowa, she was about to enter high school as one of the only Black teens living in her community.

She looked forward to the change in scenery. They first visited Iowa City during winter, when the small town was blanketed in snow.

"There was just so much open sky and everything was covered in white. It was really beautiful," Haggerty, now 48, told her father George Barlow, 72, during a StoryCorps interview last month.

Albert Petrocelli died from COVID-19 in April, at 73 years old. His death marked the second time the Petrocelli family was touched by unexpected tragedy.

Nearly two decades earlier, Petrocelli, a retired New York City fire chief, and his wife, Ginger, lost their youngest of two sons, Mark, in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

In a 2005 interview with StoryCorps, Albert and Ginger remembered Mark, a commodities broker who was just two days shy of his 29th birthday when he died.

Recently, Joe and Vinny Bianco have seen slow days at their tool shop in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The twin brothers took over Bianco Brothers Instruments from their father in 1992. Now, each of their own sons is working beside them, expertly sharpening knives and blades for a wide range of trades. They also manufacture instruments for a variety of different professions.

Despite the pandemic's impact on small businesses like theirs, the family looks forward to being in business well into the future.

As nationwide protests continue to inspire conversations about racial inequity in America, Ayim Darkeh is reminded of his not-so-distant past.

Darkeh, an emergency room doctor in New York City, spoke with his mother, Shirley, in June about his experiences with racism dating back to childhood.

The family moved to Westbury, Long Island, in the 1970s, where Ayim was one of the few Black students at his elementary school.

Growing up in East Los Angeles, cousins Martha Escutia and Marina Jimenez lived in awe of their grandfather, Ricardo "Papu" Ovilla.

Ovilla came from Mexico during World War II as part of the Bracero Program, which brought millions of Mexican guest workers to the U.S. to address the country's labor shortage.

Mike Rudulph was 20 years old when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He served during the era of "don't ask, don't tell," deploying to Iraq in 2003. Soon after he returned home from his first deployment, he logged onto the Internet and met Neil Rafferty.

"By the end of the week, we were saying 'I love you' over the phone," Rudulph, 40, said to his now-husband, Rafferty, 35, at StoryCorps in Birmingham, Ala.

For almost 30 years, T. Chick McClure and their father, Chas, were estranged. Then, four years ago, Chick reached out to their dad to change that. Soon after, their dad invited them on a two-week-long road trip to get to know each other again.

During a StoryCorps conversation, Chick, 49, and Chas, 73, talked about the trip that brought them back together.

For nearly a century, the Quander family has come together every year to honor and preserve their history — one that traces its roots back to the story of Nancy Carter Quander, the family matriarch, who was formerly enslaved by George and Martha Washington.

The 95th Quander family reunion was scheduled to take place just outside of Washington, D.C., this weekend. But because of COVID-19, the family decided to not gather this year.

Tomás Ybarra-Frausto grew up in the 1940s, just outside of San Antonio, on a ranch that belonged to his grandfather.

"The one thing that was instilled was traditions that were related to the land," Ybarra-Frausto, 83, told his friend Antonia Casteñeda, 78, in a StoryCorps interview from 2012.

An early memory tied to those traditions, he said, was an umbilical cord ceremony. "The umbilical cord they had taken away when you were born, it was in a little box," he said. "You got to pick where you wanted that to be buried."

Pages