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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Storytellers Recall Fond Memories of ‘Heroines’ for Mother’s Day



Stories range from hilarious to poignant

By Shirley Hawkins
OW Staff Writer

They were stern, yet they were loving. They were wise and quietly supportive. They were brave and they were funny.

In honor of Mother’s Day, the Vineyard Senior Citizens Center’s Storytellers will pay tribute to their mothers, mothers-in-law, and grandmothers during “Tell Me a Story,” a collection of personal life stories that will highlight the glory and the magnificence of the women who influenced them. Other stories recall long-ago times and places that live on in the memories of the storytellers.

The spoken word concert is a showcase of stories conducted by professional storyteller Barbara H. Clark, who has been instructing seniors in techniques for turning their rich memories into compelling stories for an audience for four years.

The collection of stories recall women who were “quiet heroines” in the lives of their relatives. In Making Life Better by Barbara Murray, the storyteller recalls her mother, a “quiet lady with a shy sense of humor” who could “give directions that would make a drill sergeant proud.”
“I remember her saying to me, ‘Barbara Lou! Try not to get your butt spanked today!” laughs Murray.

Murray recalls the “small kindnesses” that her mother would do for her. “I was a finicky eater, so she would make me a small banana pudding without the cooked bananas,” Murray recalled. But what Murray remembers most about “Ma’Dea” was that she was a “great teacher” who always coached and cheered her and her brothers and sisters on from the “sidelines” of life.

Vivian Oxford recalls getting her tonsils taken out at the hospital at five years old and watching in fascination her dead grandmother and grandfather reaching out to her and motioning her to the “light.” “I never told mother that I saw grandma and grandpa,” recalls Oxford.

In Goodbye Central Avenue, I Love You, Roylene Walker recalled “sitting on our porch and sharing our dreams” with friends and family in the early 50’s and the sudden talk of integration when the grownups began sitting around the kitchen table and discussing “Jim Crow” and “covenants”.

Walker recalls that her parents decided that instead of attending Thomas Jefferson High School, Walker would be attending Manual Arts High School in the fall. It was her mother who made the final decision that Walker would attend Manual Arts and who made her memorize her aunt’s address who lived near the school so that Walker could attend.

Walker recalls she was reluctant to leave her friends at Jefferson and recalls the “hostile stares and discrimination” she encountered at Manual Arts. “We left to do battle, and I was too young to realize that we were part of a larger battle,” recalls Walker, who recalls with a trace of regret leaving the familiar world on the east side. “I never got a chance to say, ‘Goodbye, Central Avenue, I Love You,’” Walker recalls.

In Nothing Beats a Failure But a Try, Marilyn Hunt recalls her struggle to learn chemistry symbols that she needed to get into nursing school.

It was her mother who stressed to her that she could not fail the course, because “her sisters were looking up to her” and she needed to “set an example.” That was when her teacher suggested that she put the chemistry symbols to music and make jingles out of them. “I put all the chemistry symbols to hillbilly songs,” recalls Hunt, “and I hummed and sung my way through the exam.” The teacher gave me the biggest smile and said, ‘Nothing Beats a Fail But a Try!” laughs Hunt.

“Tell Me A Story” will be performed at the Vineyard Senior Citizens Center on May 17 from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information, call Barbara Clark at (323) 292-2666.

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