April 1993: A small village in Sicily prepares for the first visit of 78-year-old baseball legend Joe DiMaggio to the town where his parents were born and raised. Flags are strung, feasts prepared, nearly the entire annual budget of the town is spent preparing for the homecoming of the Yankee Clipper. Hundreds gather at the airport in Palermo waiting to greet their “native son.” But he never comes.
As construction commenced on the largest building project since the pyramids, questions and controversies swirled around Lower Manhattan. How tall? Why two? What’s a slurry wall? A kangaroo crane? Where are the small businessmen going to go? What’s a world trade center, and who needs it anyway? Guy Tozzoli, the Port Authority visionary behind the building of the Twin Towers, had an inspiration—”Construction Guides.” Friendly co-eds in mini-skirt uniforms were posted at corner kiosks on the site to inform an inquiring public and put a pretty face on a controversial issue.
This story is part of the Peabody Award winning Sonic Memorial Project, an intimate and historic documentary commemorating the life and history of The World Trade Center and its surrounding neighborhood, through audio artifacts, rare recordings, voicemail messages and interviews. The Sonic Memorial Project was produced by The Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with NPR, independent radio producers, artists, writers, archivists, historians and public radio listeners throughout the country.
The Sonic Memorial Project began in October 2001 as part of the Lost & Found Sound series. We opened a phone line on NPR for listeners to call in with their stories and audio artifacts relating to the Sept. 11 attacks and the history of the World Trade Center. Hundreds of people called with testimonies and remembrances, music and small shards of sounds.
Combining interviews, voicemail messages, audio contributions from listeners, oral histories, home videos and recorded sounds of all kinds, the Sonic Memorial Project team created a series of stories for broadcast on NPR’s All Things Considered.
These stories and contributions from listeners across the country can be heard at the Peabody Award-winning website SonicMemorial.org where you can explore the archive, contribute your own sounds and stories, and immerse yourself in the Sonic Browser, an interactive soundscape of stories and audio fragments.
Robert King Wilkerson (aka Robert Hillary King) was imprisoned at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana for 31 years. Twenty-nine of those years he was in solitary confinement. During that time he created a clandestine kitchen in his 6×9 cell where he made pralines, heating the the butter and sugar he saved from his food tray over a tiny burner concocted from a Coke can and a toilet paper roll. King and two of his friends started a chapter of the Black Panthers in Angola Prison during the 1970s. King’s case was overturned in 2001 and he was released. He lectures around the world and makes candy — which he called Freelines — to bring attention to issues of prison reform and the plight of The Angola Three. King was living in New Orleans during Katrina, refused to leave his dog, and weathered the storm in his apartment. Two weeks in, his friends from Austin bought a boat and went in to get him.
1/4 pound butter
5 pounds sugar
1/2 gallon or 3 cans evaporated milk
1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 ounce vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 pounds pecans
In a huge pot put all ingredients except pecans. Heat on a high fire, stirring continually so the mixture doesn’t boil over. Stir until the mixture is a caramel.
Pour onto large greased sheet pan, then add pecans. Allow to cool a bit, until you can handle it.
Using a spoon, whip the mixture. “Talk to it, show love to it,” says King.
Either leave completed mixture in sheet pan to cool entirely, or before it’s fully whipped, use a spoon to remove the mixture into smaller rounds, placing them on a second sheet covered in wax paper.
King warns that “candy has a mind of its own” and varying temperature and humidity can effect the result. Makes 25 3 1/2-ounce pieces
King’s book, From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Robert Hillary King, tells the story of King’s remarkable life: his childhood in Louisiana, his teenage hobo years in Chicago, his pursuit of a boxing career, and time spent in solitary at Angola Prison. Buy it from PM Press.
Brave Heart Women’s Society
Hi. My name is Brook Spotted Eagle. I belong to a women’s society on my reservation in South Dakota. The Brave Heart Women’s Society. My mother is one of the founding grandmother’s who has brought it back to life. Over the last 100 years we’ve lost a lot of our ceremonies. I’ll have to check with the elders, but when I saw the Hidden World of Girls I thought it would be amazing to share with other Native women the Isnati coming of age ceremony for our girls. Give me a call if you’re interested. Thanks. Bye.
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White Swan, South Dakota
On a wide grassy bank of the Missouri River on , Brook Spotted Eagle stands watching five young girls raise a tipi. The girls are taking part in a four-day coming-of-age ceremony revived in the 1990s by the Brave Heart Women’s Society.
“I was part of the first group who went through this Isnati coming-of-age ceremony 13 years ago,” Brook recalls. Brook’s mother, Faith Spotted Eagle, is one of the women who re-established the Brave Hearts. With American and European contact many such societies and ceremonies have been lost over the last 100 years. In 1994, Faith and the Brave Hearts interviewed grandmas from three states about what they remembered of the Isnati coming of age ceremony.
“In the old days,” Faith Spotted Eagle says, “as soon as a girl had her first moon, her menses, she would immediately be isolated from the rest of the camp and begin a four-day ceremony where she was taught by other women. So we symbolically set up one camp a year and have the girls come in for four days.”
In traditional Yankton Sioux culture everyone had a niche, a role. One of the roles of the women who were part of the Brave Hearts was to retrieve the dead and wounded from the battlefield and help the families. “In a way we are doing the same thing today with the modern day Brave Hearts,” Faith Spotted Eagle says, “bringing back our people from emotional death.”
Thunder cracks in the distance as the girls, dressed in long skirts and tank tops, unroll the canvas tipi. This is where they will sleep together for the next four days, away from the rest of the camp. A group of grandmas and aunties yell instructions from the sidelines: “A little to the north, to the north! Hurry up girls — before the rain comes!”
“Most women’s tipis have 13 poles because we have 13 moons in a year,” explains Judy Drapeau, a grandmother who helps every year. “That’s why we call it a moon camp because it’s a special time for women to learn about themselves.”
“The first thing you need to do is put up your own lodge, you need to have that strength to house yourself,” says Marissa Joseph, 21. Adopted at birth, Joseph spent a large part of her youth bouncing between relatives.
“Childhood was really rough — lost, floating and drifting.” “By my early teens, I was a pretty strong alcoholic. I didn’t know who I was and what I needed. I really wanted to not live anymore. The summer of my 14th year I went through Isnati. I felt like I was found.”
Feeding The Girls
During the four days, the girls cannot touch food or drink. They are fed by their mothers and other women in the camp. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to do this,’” says Kiari Worldturner, 16. “Your mom has to feed you and give you water. I didn’t like my mom. I didn’t trust her.”
Marla Bull Bear, who has been through the ceremony with her daughter, says the feeding feels a little like heartbreak — “that bittersweet feeling.” “It’s treating them like a baby one last time before they become women,” she says. “No longer would she be my little girl to feed anymore. You really begin to start the foundation of what that adult relationship is with a mother and daughter.”
On the second day, the girls pile into the back of a pick up truck to gather traditional herbs and medicines. Faith Spotted Eagle points out a little plant called “too proud,” and yellow cornflowers, which have roots that when ground up are used to treat toothaches.
The girls pick buffalo berries and armfuls of wildflowers and women’s sage for the bouquets they’ll carry at the womanhood ceremony.
Teresa Heart, a Brave Heart grandmother, arrives in the afternoon and sizes up the girls. For the past 13 years, she’s made the girls’ ribbon dresses for the ceremony. “I didn’t have this when I became of age,” Teresa says. “Growing up at a boarding school, they came from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and they took us. I must have been five. And I didn’t see my mom and my grandparents for nine years. When I was older, they assigned me a little first grader and I had to teach her English. I’d braid her hair and take care of her. Then they’d switch everybody all around and I’d get another little girl. They wouldn’t let us get close to each other.”
The Camp Circle
Just before dusk, Marissa Joseph arrives to teach the girls how to make ceremonial food — dried buffalo meat jerky with buffalo berries.
“Every year I try to teach what I know, bring that back to recreate that feeling I felt,” she says. Older Isnati girls return year-after-year to feed the younger girls and teach them ceremonial songs and beading.
Throughout the days, the elders talk to the girls about modesty, courtship, pregnancy — and suicide, a serious problem on the reservations. “At times we have a nutritionist come in and talk to them about eating right and not just drinking Gatorade,” Brook Spotted Eagle says. “About not being afraid of doctors and having to get a check up. Sexual abuse and incest can pose a huge problem within families. There’s no easy way to talk about these issues, so you just have to get them out there. And we’re always talking about this concept of a camp circle. We can’t be attacking each other and doing this mean girl’s stuff.”
Madonna Thunderhawk, an activist and long time American Indian Movement advocate, sits watching the girls as they learn how to bead their small leather medicine bags. “As a grandmother and great grandmother, I just wanted to come and spend a few hours,” she says. “This is part of what I need to do. At one time, all of this was underground. We only got the American Indian Freedom of Religion Act in the late ’70s. So we had to stand our ground to have these things out in the open again.”
The Fourth Day
On the last day, each girl spends time with her mother or an auntie in the tipi. The older woman bathes the girl in sage water and talks to her about her birth, her young days — and her future. Kiari World Turner says her mother washed her hair and told her about when she was a little girl: “Good stories. I guess we found each other.”
In the late afternoon, dressed in their ribbon dresses, moccasins, and beaded regalia, the girls are introduced to the community as women and members of the Brave Heart Womens Society. More than 90 girls have taken part in the Isnati Awica Dowanpi Coming of Age Ceremony in the Ihanktonwan territory over the past 13 years.
“When I went through Isnati, my grandmother gave me the name Gray Eagle Woman,” remembers Marissa. “My sister’s name is Stand Strong Woman. She’s the baby girl and she’s lived a hard life as well, and she’s been able to stand strong. It only seems fitting that you would change your name with where you are in your life. The Brave Heart Society, these grandmothers, this connection with these girls I’ve made. This is my sixth year into it. I’m like a 6 year old trying to live a new life. I’m still pretty new to a lot of things.”
Horses, Unicorns and Dolphins
“Horses, unicorns and dolphins are kind of like a girl’s fantasy,” says eleven-year-old Sally Rose Reiker. Sally is a horse girl. She’s been riding since she was 6 months old strapped in a baby carrier on her mom’s back. “Every girl wants a unicorn. Every girl goes through the stage where they want their own horse.”
The idea of creatures that possess the imagination of young girls is something that intrigues Laurel Braitman, a graduate student in the history of science at MIT who writes about animals and what we think about them.
“Horses, unicorns and dolphins are borderland creatures; gateway animals to other worlds,” says Braitman. “They help us imagine other ways of being. They let us be cowgirls and oceanographers and mermaids and princesses.“
“We don’t really like princesses that much,” says seven-year-old Allie McKenzie. Allie is one of triplets, she and her sister are in love with horses and dolphins. Her brother likes sports. “Princesses are not as exciting as horses and animals and the show called Flipper.”
Dolphins—Sleek, Power, Speed
“Dolphins capture your heart,” says Chelsea Berman, 21, who works at the Monterey Bay Horsemanship Center where she began volunteering when she was 13. Her love of horses is only rivaled by her love of dolphins. “I swam with dolphins. When they take off and swim and they’re just pushing you with their nose or they’re pulling you with their fin. It’s power.”
“It’s like the mermaid fantasy, that you can just live in the ocean and not have to have anything,” says Georgetown University Professor Janet Mann who has been studying bottlenose dolphins for 23 years.
Mann has gotten hundreds of letters from girls who are in love with dolphins. Sometimes the girls’ mothers write for them. “Hi Janet. My second grade daughter Emily is crazy about dolphins. She has to do a small biography project at school. While her classmates are choosing the likes of Thomas Edison and George Washington, she wants to do Janet Mann, dolphin researcher.”
“Sometimes they say they want to be me,” says Mann. “I think it’s like what I went through as a girl when I first wrote to Jane Goodall. I just wanted to do what she did.”
Dr. Mann observes that a lot of girls with childhood illnesses become very interested in seeing dolphins before they die. One little girl from central Australia who died at age eight, requested that her ashes be scattered with dolphins.
“It’s this notion of being able to move like that through the world,” says Mann. “That’s what both dolphins and horses have in common. Sleek, power and speed.
Horse Power that has a Heart
For Sally Reiker, horses are more than just a hobby—they’re something she can’t live without. “When I look at a horse I look into myself. I see myself in their eyes. It’s just who I am. I want to be free and I want to leave my worries away from me just getting on and riding and leaving my bad memories on the ground.
Long-time horse woman Domenique Gioia says, “To be in control, or out of control on a galloping horse is a wild feeling. You are one with it. You just feel the power underneath you. And that’s part of the attraction.”
Peggy Orenstein is the author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture.” There’s always been a lot of speculation about why girls love horses. Is it about power, is it some Freudian phallic thing? What is it? I think horses and unicorns and dolphins are the girl expressing her own power through these very dynamic, strong creatures that they’re identifying with. They’re all active, they’re all sources of power and motion and transformation.”
National Velvet, collections of Breyer model horses, posters, bedspreads, t-shirts, movies, stuffed animals, anything with a horse on it. Eleven year old Danielle Altizio thinks about horses all the time. As she pours feed into a bucket she talks lovingly about her horse Grendal. She spends every minute she can with him. “He’s just always there if I need him. I just know that we can do it and that we’ll do well.”
When Chelsea Berman is confused or frustrated she turns to her horses. She believes that much of the attraction for girls is that horses don’t judge you. “Horses don’t talk back. They don’t have mean things to say. They’re not going to yell at you if you didn’t clean your room or give you the cold shoulder if you forgot to return a phone call.”
Chelsea’s boy friend doesn’t understand her intense feelings about horses. “He’s a car freak,” Chelsea tells us. “He loves the power that a car gives him. “Horses are similar, big machines, but this is the horse power that has a heart.”
Taming a Bad Boy?
When champion barrel racer Caterina Tadlock, was a student at Southern Oregon Community College, one of her writing teachers asked what it was with girls and horses. “He posed the theory that it was similar to taming a bad boy,” says Caterina. “I really disagree with that.”
Caterina wrote a paper for the class, “The Mystery of Girls and Horses,” which was also published on her sister’s website, The Ultimate Horse Site. In it she talks about how the image of the horse has changed. She says that in the past mostly men rode and broke in horses. Women didn’t have as many opportunities to form relationships with the animals as they do now. “Horses used to be considered tools for cowboys, a means of transportation for soldiers, and a matter of business for racehorse owners,” she writes. “Today, horses are mostly companion animals kept for pleasure rather than work or business purposes.”
The currying, the cleaning of the hooves, the mucking of stalls, the brushing of the mane and tail, the feeding of the horse. Girls are attracted to achieving the skills and level of competence it takes to care for a horse as well as to the nurturing aspects of the work.
“What this seems to be turning into in this generation is online pets,” says Peggy Orenstein who has been observing girls and their toys and obsessions. “There’s this whole world of online horses. It’s in its little stall. You have to feed it and brush it and change it’s hay, do all the things you would do with a real horse. And if you don’t, your horse starts to die and its little life meter runs out.”
Amazon Princess Training
Leah Creatura is a children’s book buyer for Bookshop Santa Cruz. “For me a lot of the horse craze was that I wanted to be an Amazon princess because I wanted to be Wonder Woman.” When she was a girl in the 1970s Leah read about Wonder Woman in her mother’s Ms. Magazine and then the television series came out. Wonder Woman is an Amazon princess and her mother is Hipolyta. She’s from an island and there are no men on the island.
“One of the parts of my Amazon Princess training was learning how to ride bare back,” Leah says. “I was going to a Y camp. I was very discouraged because they didn’t really understand about the Amazon Princess training. They would not let me learn to shoot archery on the horse.”
Peggy Orenstein notes the importance of having a place where what it means to be a girl is to be courageous and strong and the only one able to do this impossible task. “It’s the girl who can ride the horse, it’s the girl who’s Wonder Woman. It’s the girl who tames the unicorn.”
Unicorns—The Dreamland of the Horse
Along with her passion for horses and dolphins, Chelsea Berman loves unicorns. “They are like the whimsical, the fantasy, the dreamland of the horse,” she relates.
Unicorns are magical. For eleven year old Jennifer Green they symbolize dreaming and achieving. “I know that unless you believe in them they won’t show themselves to you,” she said. “They’re like a very pure spirit.”
Girls and unicorns have been linked in stories, art and on tapestries since at least the Middle Ages. One of the iconic myths about girls and unicorns has to do with the unicorn hunt relates Nina Shen Rastogi in her article for Slate magazine entitled “What is it About Girls and Unicorns? It’s More than Just the Horn.” In this myth the only way that a hunter can lure the unicorn is to bring out a pure young virgin, have her sit in the woods. The unicorn is attracted by the maiden’s innate goodness, her purity, beauty, and youth.
Rastogi says, “I think for many young girls, there’s a fantasy that some day you will be recognized as the secretly beautiful, magical thing that you are. It’s the notion that the unicorn will be attracted to something ineffable about you, secret from the rest of the world.“
When you’re small you’re more imaginative and open to possibilities says Laurel Braitman. “That’s maybe the most beautiful part of girlhood, knowing that you can’t actually be all these things but not being entirely sure.”
Route 66, the first continuous paved highway linking east and west was the most traveled and well known road in America for almost fifty years. From Chicago, it ran through the Ozarks of Missouri, across Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, up the mesas of New Mexico and Arizona, and down into California to the Pacific Ocean. The First road of it’s kind, it came to represent America’s mobility and freedom —inspiring countless stories, songs, and even a TV show.
In part II of Route 66, Studs Terkel reads from “The Grapes of Wrath” and comments on the great 1930s migration along Highway 66. We hear from black and white musicians including Clarence Love, head of Clarence Love and his Orchestra, Woody Guthrie and Eldin Shamblin, guitar player for Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys who remember life on the road for musicians during the 1930s. We travel the history of the road from its beginnings as “The Main Street of America,” through the “Road of Flight” in the 1930s, to the “Ghost Road” of the 1980s, as the interstates bypass the businesses and road side attractions of another era.
Produced by The Kitchen Sisters and narrated by David Selby.
created in Animoto
Photographs from The Library of Congress
created in Animoto
Photographs from The Library of Congress