Golden, Victoria — An Orphan Train Survivor

Between 1854 and 1930, it is estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 children were involuntarily put on Orphan Trains, and “placed out” in the southern and western United States.  Both protections for the health and safety of these children and record keeping of who they were, where they went and accounts of what happened to them are sketchy at best.

William Delos Vansteenburgh was one of the last of the “placed out” children on an Orphan Train.  At age four, he and his slightly older brother with whom he virtually lost contact, were “placed out” from Pennsylvania, after their mother died in 1930. William had clear memories of being loved and treated well until then.  After a long train ride he was removed from a station platform in Gallup, New Mexico, by Henry and Eleanor Walters, a childless couple. They gave him their last name, repeatedly abused him and treated him in a most wretched manner for five years.  He successfully ran away at age nine and was then free to create a unique adventure and life for himself until he died in Santa Rosa, California, in 2017.

Victoria Golden, our guest in this edition of Radio Curious, met William Walters in 2012. Intrigued by his story and keen memory for details, they met most every week for the next four years. Golden recreated his story into a memoir: “A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains.”   Told in the first person, each page of Golden’s book could be a stand-alone short read.

Victoria Golden, also of Ukiah, California, visited the Radio Curious studios on July 24, 2018.  We began our conversation when I asked her to describe the kind of person that William Walters was.

The book she recommends is “Educated: A Memoir,” by Tara Westover.

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Mark Mello, Reflections on The Underground Railroad—What now?

New Bedford, Massachusetts, a sea port located in the southeast corner of Massachusetts, at the base of Cape Cod is the locale of our program. Early in New Bedford’s history a group of Quakers from Boston moved there and “New Bedford became a safe haven for formerly enslaved African-Americans” who had been able to escape bondage.

stories of those who safely arrived in New Bedford on the Underground Railroad are presented at the 34 acre New Bedford National Historical Park in the Old Town section of New Bedford.

This two part series on the New Bedford Underground Railroad with National Park Ranger Mark Mello was recorded on September 2, 2016, with the sound of wind and street traffic in the background. Part one begins with a historical perspective of the Underground Railroad and the way in which New Bedford, Massachusetts was a safe haven for former slaves.  Part two begins with Ranger Mello’s story of Nathan and Polly Johnson, a free black couple who lived and worked there–he as a pharmacist and she a confectionary.

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover; “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare.

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Mello, Mark –The Underground Railroad in New Bedford, Massachusetts

New Bedford, Massachusetts, a sea port located in the southeast corner of Massachusetts, at the base of Cape Cod is the locale of our program. Early in New Bedford’s history a group of Quakers from Boston moved there and “New Bedford became a safe haven for formerly enslaved African-Americans” who had been able to escape bondage.

stories of those who safely arrived in New Bedford on the Underground Railroad are presented at the 34 acre New Bedford National Historical Park in the Old Town section of New Bedford.

This two part series on the New Bedford Underground Railroad with National Park Ranger Mark Mello was recorded on September 2, 2016, with the sound of wind and street traffic in the background. Part one begins with a historical perspective of the Underground Railroad and the way in which New Bedford, Massachusetts was a safe haven for former slaves.

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover; “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare.

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Sisk-Franco, Caleen — Puberty Rights of the Winnemem Wintu

In this edition of Radio Curious, our assistant producer Christina Aanestad is the guest host in a conversation about puberty rights for young women within the Winnemem-Wintu tribe in Northern California. This visit with Caleen Sisk-Franco, the Spiritual Leader and Chief of the Winnemem-Wintu was recorded near Mt. Shasta, California in August 2010. In the last few years, the tribe has revived an ancient ritual, the Puberty Ceremony-which honors and celebrates a girls transition into womanhood.

The “Middle Water People” are a small tribe near Mount Shasta, in Northern California. During World War 2, they were relocated and their homeland was flooded to make the shasta dam. Nearly 80 years later, the tribe has reinvigorated one of its ceremonies, there, called the Puberty Ceremony, which honors a girls transition into womanhood. For 3 days and nights, men sing and dance on one side of a river, while the women, pass on traditions to girls on the other side.

But holding a ceremony on stolen land can be a challenge. The forest service refuses to grant the tribe private access to their ancestral land along the McCloud river, because they are an “unrecognized” tribe. Their ceremony is held with recreational boaters driving by, and camping as the tribe holds it’s right of passage. Under the guidance of their Chief and Spiritual Leader, Caleen Sisk Franco, the Winnemem-Wintu have sued the federal government to protect their rights and their ancestral land. She describes the puberty ceremony and it’s importance to their way of life.

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Silha, Stephen — The Puckish Whimsical Life of James Broughton

The puckishly whimsical life and times of poet and film maker James Broughton is the topic of this edition of Radio Curious in a visit with Stephen Silha, the producer and director of “Big Joy,” a biographical film of the life and times of James Broughton.

Broughton believed that in order to live an authentic life we each should follow our own weird. He says:

“I don’t know what the left is doing said the right hand.

But it looks fascinating.”

And:

“I may be infecting the whole body

said the Head

but they’ll never amputate me.”

Stephen Silha and I visited by phone from his home near Seattle, Washington on Mother’s Day, 2014.  He began our conversation by telling us what drew him to make a film about his friend James Broughton.

The book Stephen Silha recommends is “The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon,” by Tom Spanbauer.

The music in this week’s edition of Radio Curious is “Twirl” by Norman Arnold, from the movie, “Big Joy.”

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Cherney, Darryl — Who Bombed Judi Bari?

In 1990, Earth First! activists from Mendocino County were on a road trip to rally support for a summer effort to help protect old growth redwoods in northern California. For years prior, logging practices took well over 90% of the original redwood growth in the area. Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari, the organizers, were in their car in Oakland, California, on May 24, 1990 when a bomb exploded underneath the driver’s seat where Judi Bari sat.

She and Darryl Cherney were immediately arrested suspected of bombing themselves. Although charges were never filed against the two, authorities have yet to locate the bombers. They sued and won a jury award of four million dollars against the Oakland Police Department and the FBI, Federal Bureau of Investigation, for violating their 1st and 4th amendment rights.

The film, “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” produced by Darryl Cherney, attempts to answer the question posed in the title and examines their struggle with law enforcement in finding the real bomber and chronicles the history of the local environmental movement here, in northern California.

Christina Aanestad, the Radio Curious assistant producer spoke with Cherney about the film he produced and his experiences resulting from the bombing. They visited on March 29, 2011, at the studios of KMEC radio, inside the Mendocino Environmental Center, a hub for social and environmental movements, including Earth First! They began when Christina asked Darryl Cherney to describe the attempted assassination against him and Judi Bari.

The book he recommends is, “The Alphabet Versus the Goddess” by Alan Shlain.

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Reuther, Sasha — The United Auto Workers Union: Its Effect on American Life

As we all know every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  The reaction, however is not necessarily equal in time or unity.  It’s often spread over time with serial impacts.

In this edition of Radio Curious we focus on the treatment of workers in the automobile industry in the United States beginning in the early years of the 20th century. The story is portrayed in “Brothers on the Line,” a film about Walter, Ray and Victor Reuther, three brothers from West Virginia who organized the United Auto Workers Union beginning in the 1920s. With access to the National Archives, the Wayne State University Labor History Library and family records, Sasha Reuther, Victor’s grandson, directed the film.  It chronicles the working conditions and the successful strikes at the big three auto plants in Michigan; the political power of the United Auto Workers Union, and its involvement in the civil rights movement.  It also explains why Detroit, Michigan became the richest city in the United States in the 1950s.

Sasha Reuther and I visited by phone from his office in New York City on May 7, 2012.  We began when I asked him what happened once the automobile became a useful, if not necessary tool of life.

The book that Sasha Reuther recommends is “U.A.W. and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945 -1968,” by Kevin Boyle.

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Krol, Debra — Native American Art of the Southwest

Founded in 1929, the Heard Museum’s mission is dedicated to “educating people about the arts, heritage and life ways of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, with an emphasis on American Indian tribes of the Southwest.” Committed to the sensitive and accurate portrayal of Native arts and cultures, the museum successfully combines the stories of American Indian people from a personal perspective with the beauty of art, showcasing old and new hand woven baskets, Kachina dolls, other art and cultural objects.

The museum showcases the art and regalia of Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Yaqui, to name a few.  More than 2,000 items make up the museums exhibition.  Artwork ranging from pottery, baskets, beadwork, dolls and paintings are on display.

Our guest is Debra Krol, the communications manager who shared portions of the Heard Museum with me on December 10, 2011.  We began our conversation with Krol when she introduced us to the Heard Museum and the unique features that reflect the evolution of south western Native American art.

Debra Krol recommends two books: “Ishi’s Brain,” by Orin Starn, and “Indians, Merchants and Missionaries: The legacy of Colonial Encounters on the California Frontiers”, by Kent G. Lightfoot. Our interview with Orin Starn may be found here

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Jenkins, Clay & Jefferson, Thomas –The Author of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States of America, is respected by some as one of the leading political theorists of American history.  He conceptualized a government originating in the households of the individual citizens, and stemming from a questioning and rebellious public, requiring, he believed a primarily agrarian population.

Our guest in this archive edition of Radio Curious is Thomas Jefferson, personified by Chautauqua scholar Clay Jenkinson.  We met in Ukiah, California in May, 1994, and discussed what has changed in the United States since Mr. Jefferson took office as President in 1803, and the concepts he believed necessary to maintain a democracy. 

The book Mr. Jefferson recommends is  “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” by Thucydides, and the book Clay Jenkinson recommends is “In the Absence of the Sacred,”  by Jerry Mander.

This interview with Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, as personified by Chautauqua scholar, Clay Jenkinson, was recorded in the studios of Radio Curious on May 21, 1994.

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Magruder, Kate & Shirley, Dame — Women and the Gold Rush Part One

When word that California had gold in its creeks and streams reached the United States of America in 1848, fortune seekers from all over the world soon began to arrive by boat, covered wagon, and on foot. Some people made their fortunes by selling provisions or services and very few actually found enough gold to take home. Louise Smith Clapp of Amherst, Massachusetts, using the name of Dame Shirley, wrote detailed and vivid descriptions of the life and ways of the gold seekers and of mid 19th century California. In this two-part program, we will talk to Dame Shirley in the person of Kate Magruder, a Chautauqua performer and participant with the California Council for the Humanities Sesquicentennial Project, Rediscovering California at 150.

The book Dame Shirley recommends is “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.” Kate Magruder recommends “Days of Gold,” by Malcolm Rhorbough & “The Shirley Letters,” by Dame Shirley.

This interview was originally broadcast on March 16, 1999. 

Click here to listen to part one or on the media player below.  Click here to listen to part two.

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