Ninety-one-year-old Santa Monica resident Millie Rosenstein and son Paul tell of a lifetime of political activism. Connie Alvarez and mother Blanca discuss Blanca’s struggle crossing the U.S. border from Mexico while she was pregnant. It is people such as these with a fascinating story to tell that StoryCorps wants to hear from.
StoryCorps is a nationwide project intent on amassing oral history of the United States and its culture. The project was started in 2003 and intends to collect 250,000 interviews over a ten year period using four traveling silver Airstream trailers that serve as recording booths — two permanently in New York and two traveling the country.
One of the booths started it’s first visit to the Los Angeles region Monday, January 9th, at Wilshire Boulevard and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, where it will remain until Sunday, February 5th. Stories are being collected weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Clips from the interviews conducted in Santa Monica are aired at 4:44 p.m. Mondays on KCRW 89.9 FM radio, the project’s local sponsor. StoryCorps is the brainchild of radio documentarian Dave Isay and his Sound Portraits nonprofit radio documentary production group. The project is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Saturn automobiles.
The recorded interviews are archived in the Library of Congress’s National Folklife Center in Washington, D.C.
Though many of the stories collected by the project are overwhelmingly socially- or politically-relevant, they don’t necessarily have to be, says Piya Kochhar. She and Jackie Goodrich are the interviewers at the booth in Santa Monica.
“We’ve interviewed all types of people — homeless people, grandmothers with their granddaughters, newlyweds and co-workers with interesting stories,”says Kochhar. “What we are really looking for are heartfelt stories. “Sometimes there are people who feel strongly about paying tribute to someone while they are still living.”
Interviewers and interviewees schedule an appointment and sit and make a digital recording in the booth for 30 minutes to an hour. The storyteller is then given a CD of what was transcribed.
Some memorable stories collected this month in Santa Monica include two Japanese-Americans who served in the American army during World War II while their parents were held at an internment camp. The two talked of experiences ranging from their war stories to “smooching” with a future wife in the backseat of a car, Kochhar says.
A 62-year old magician’s assistant spoke of the experience of her husband dying and the “moments of real magic” she has experienced in her life.
A Korean man paid tribute to his uncle, who had been murdered in a grocery store.
Kochhar and Goodrich have heard war stories and stories about helping with the homeless problem on Skid Row.
“I’m usually very surprised by the stories I hear, and I’ve learned you never can judge and never predict just what kind of stories someone might have to tell,” says Kochhar.
Information, (800) 850-4406.