StoryCorps adds thousands of stories to national archive
Nov. 30, 2015
The Great Thanksgiving Listen is over. Now anyone can listen in.
The nonprofit oral history project StoryCorps says its unprecedented national effort to collect thousands of one-on-one, intergenerational interviews over the Thanksgiving weekend was a success.
Schoolchildren using a StoryCorps smartphone app had uploaded 37,000 recordings to a publicly accessible, Library of Congress archive since Nov. 23. The stories can be heard at storycorp.me.
StoryCorps President Dave Isay said the project may reach not his goal of doubling, in one weekend, the 65,000 audio recordings StoryCorps has collected since 2003. But he says he's pleased with the results, nevertheless.
Students and their interview subjects talked with The Associated Press before and after Thanksgiving about their StoryCorps interviews. Here are their stories:
JFK ASSASSINATION DELAYED ARRIVAL OF TAP WATER
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy delayed the arrival of tap water at Mae Ridge's home in the rural western Maryland community of Leitersburg.
In her StoryCorps interview Friday with great-granddaughter Gabriella Rinehart, Ridge, 88, said she was six months pregnant with her fifth child, cleaning house and waiting for workers to finish her cistern when she heard a news report that the president had been shot on Nov. 22, 1963.
"I went out and I told the men that were working there what happened, and they just stopped. They couldn't believe it. I don't think they worked after that that day," Ridge said.
The cistern eventually was finished, and Ridge's husband Albert stopped making almost daily trips to nearby Waynesboro, Pa., to fill a milk can with clean water.
Gabrielle, 17, was surprised by her great-grandmother's undramatic recollections of historic events.
"I felt like she would have a stronger opinion, like, 'Oh, I was very upset' or something," she said. "But she just accepted it like, 'This is what's happening. This is the time that we're in.'"
MY RELIGION IS NONVIOLENCE
Sal Monteiro, an ex-con who was part of a deadly carjacking in 1992, made a big impression on Karl Lauture three years ago when he visited Karl's class at Moses Brown, a Quaker school in Providence, Rhode Island.
When Karl's eighth-grade teacher assigned a StoryCorps interview this fall, Karl decided to talk to Monteiro, now a training coordinator at the Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence.
In their interview, Monteiro expressed regret about dropping out of high school and being with a friend who fatally shot a man during the carjacking. Both men went to prison.
"I regret not having enough courage to tell my friend to stop what he was doing," Monteiro said during the 30-minute interview.
Karl said their conversation gave him new perspectives on family and religion. Monteiro talked about the preciousness of family reunions, something Karl hadn't considered.
"I get to see some family members about, like, every other year, and I don't really take in those moments," Karl said. "I think next time I get to see them, I'll really value it."
Monteiro, 43, also told Karl he doesn't believe he needs God or organized religion.
"If anything, my religion would be nonviolence," he said.
CHOPPING COTTON, BUSING TABLES PART OF PAST STRUGGLES
Long before Bennie Stuart led a small church in Chicago, he chopped cotton for $3 a day, cleared restaurant tables for $45 a week and did social work. But his most interesting job may have been his work as a boy in Arkansas. Stuart was paid in eggs.
He cleaned up yards for the elderly and would be allowed to take eggs from the coop. But that was no easy task either, since snakes and the occasional fox were his competition. He later sold the eggs at a local store.
"I needed the money," the 78-year-old minister said with a laugh during an interview in suburban Bolingbrook, roughly 30 miles from Chicago.
Stuart told his granddaughter Vanyce Grant about his struggles in hopes of further convincing her to get a good education.
"She has been blessed with great opportunities that I didn't hardly even dream of having," he said.
Grant, who aspires to be an architect, said she chose to interview her grandfather for the StoryCorps project because he always has something interesting to say.
"It was just surprising all the things I didn't know," said Grant, 15.
A DEEPER RELATIONSHIP WITH GRANDDAUGHTER
Lauren Bonner's StoryCorps conversation with her grandparents deepened their understanding of each other. She learned about the last time her grandfather Claude Gange saw his mother alive in Brooklyn, New York, two days before she was struck and killed by a car.
Lauren, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at the Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island, also listened to her grandmother Camille Gange's fond memories of growing up surrounded by her extended family in an eight-unit tenement in 1940s Brooklyn. They had no car or air conditioning but lots of love, Camille Gange said.
"I had all these aunts, uncles, grandparents doting over me constantly and I felt like I was the queen of the May," she told her granddaughter.
Claude Gange, a 78-year-old retired school administrator, said the interview with Lauren was a delightful highlight of his year.
"I think that interview really helped in opening up her to us. I think we may be more likely now to have conversations. We benefited from it tremendously," he said.
HOW IN TOUCH WITH GOD ARE YOU?
Rhiannon Leonard was curious about her boss Gary Himes' religious beliefs. She knew that he was active in the civic service club Ruritan, and that his chapter held an annual pancake breakfast at her church, the Brownsville Church of the Brethren in rural Maryland.
"I always knew that he believed in God but I wasn't sure how in touch with God he is," Rhiannon, 17, said. "I've never really figured out his denomination."
Himes, 69, paused before answering the question Friday in his kitchen. The kitchen is attached to the general store his family has run for more than a century. He said he was raised in the same church as Rhiannon but now follows his personal, nondenominational convictions.
"I believe in God," Himes said. "I think he's got a hand on this Earth. I don't think he controls the Earth. If you follow Christian teachings, you'll be a good person."
Himes said he enjoyed the fellowship of the church as boy, even though his parents didn't attend.
"Of course, everything wasn't right in the church but you had to be smart enough to pick out the good from the bad," he said.
'WE'RE GOING TO GO DEEP HERE'
Deborah Tipps was flattered when daughter Annabelle, 14, asked to interview her for a StoryCorps project. But as the conversation proceeded, "I remember at the time thinking, 'Oh, wow, we're going to go deep here,'" Tipps said.
Over the course of their 32-minute conversation, she revealed her transformation from an insecure, dyslexic child of divorced parents to the self-assured associate pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Henderson, Texas. She graduated from seminary two years ago, at 48, after overcoming her fear of public speaking.
"I spent a lot of time trying to do things that made other people happy," including earning a business degree at her mother's urging, Tipps told Annabelle.
As a child, "I felt so inadequate many times because I wasn't one of the smartest kids in the class," Tipps told her daughter. "But over time, I learned that really hard work and dedication and commitment is even more important than being smart."
AP writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this story from Bolingbrook, Illinois.
Follow David Dishneau at twitter.com/ddishneau. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-dishneau .