Nana's Wicker Back


Nancy-Ellen sculpted characters from her book “Nana’s Wicker Back.” The title references the scarring pattern on her own grandmother’s back from whippings as a slave. “These women are bought and sold [many were bore] into slavery who were regarded as mules or just property. Yet I wanted to depict that they had spirits, they had souls, they fell in love, they cried and some were very overt in personality some were very quiet and timid. And I never know what I’m going to make. As I start pushing clay, they start telling me who they are.” Nancy-Ellen. Watch video interview here

Million men marched


Kelly Starling Lyons, an author of African American theme pictured books, shared her stories with students at the J.S Jenks Middle School in Philadelphia in celebration of Black History month in February.

One Million Men and Me is based on Lyons attending the Million Man March in Washington, DC in 1995 and seeing a little girl there with her father. In Lyons’ eyes the little girl looked like a princess surrounded by a sea of princes and kings. Lyons has met several men who were moved by their participation at the event to become leaders in the community. Watch Million Men interview here.

Tea Cakes for Tosh, coming out this fall, was inspired by her grandmother who recounted baking cookies called teacakes growing up and grandmother’s stories of her own grandmother’s family who would pop the cookies in their mouths while working out in the field. In Lyons’ re-working, the ancestor is a plantation cook who baked the cookies and, despite being forbidden from keeping any of them, snuck some for the children to eat so they could have a taste of freedom. Watch Tea Cakes video

Ellen’s Broom is about the legalization, during Reconstruction, of the marriages of former slaves. Marriages were not recognized and slave husbands and wives could be sold apart. To show their commitment to one another a slave couple would jump over a broom. In Lyons story, Ellen questions why her parents want to keep the custom. Jumping the broom is a link to the past, and, like other contemporary couples, part of Lyons and her husband made it part of their own wedding. Watch Broom video here.


Sackbut - built it, plays it

Sacbut, made it plays it

Nate Wood, a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in trombone, makes his living freelancing with various baroque music groups, mostly in Europe. He also has two of his own period instrument ensembles, the Habsburger Camerata specializing in 17th century music and Mandragora, a 16th century Renaissance wind band.  And he builds some of his own instruments, true to historical design. Here he plays snippets on his hand built sackbut and slide trumpet. Columbus, Ohio.

Watch video here



He last saw "Humoresque" in 1946

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That was 1946. I was about 16 then. AND WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION? I loved the movie and I haven’t thought about it since until I looked and saw that it was playing here tonight. It’s interesting – about two-thirds of the way through the movie, I remembered what the ending was. It is a great movie. WHAT MOVED YOU MOST ABOUT THE MOVIE? As I look back, how great the music was at the time. Not just John Garfield, Joan Crawford but Oscar Levant. By the way, that was him in real life the way he was. He complained all the time he couldn’t sleep. Those were his lines that were really him. Ross Reese at the screening of Humoresque, at the Chestnut Hill Library Tuesday night film series. Watch video here.

Spider bit her on the cheek and...


As she slept, a young woman was bitten on the cheek by a spider. But it wasn't a spider and if it was, it wasn't any ordinary bite. It became inflamed and, alarmed, she went to the emergency room. The doctor, too, was alarmed. An x-ray revealed that whatever bit her had laid eggs and they were beginning to hatch and work their way out through her skin. Or so it was according to a story retold with convincing feigned veracity by Linda Lee, a folkore PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania who was giving a talk on urban legends at the Chestnut Hill library. Watch video here.

Personalizing grave monuments


Gallagher Memorials has been at the corner of Ivy Hill Road and Cheltenham Avenue, across from Holy Sepulcher Cemetery for more than 100 years. In that time, the use of marble has given way to using granite, imported from as far away as India or China or quarried as close as French Creek, Pennsylvania. Granite lasts much longer, “forever,” according to Manager Larry Conroy. Computer assisted technology now allows personalized engraving of scenes or depiction of hobbies dear to the deceased or even a carving of the departed’s own visage.IMG_4482.JPG

Watch video interview here.



Daughters of Confederacy honor civil war dead


AS A YANKEE- WE GENERALLY ASSOCIATE THE CONFEDERACY WITH SLAVERY. IT’S HARD TO OVERCOME THAT. “I understand that. Yes, slavery was a very hot topic back then you could say, even twenty years prior to that, even, especially in the Kansas-Missouri border states, the abolitionists and all that went on out there. It was fought more- states’ rights started everything, I feel. The South wanted to do things their way and the North wanted to control that and that’s what fueled the fire for South Carolina to secede from the Union to begin with. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING IN THE UNION TODAY? “I love it.” THINGS WORKED OUT FOR THE BEST? “Who knows what it would be like? Nobody can say it would be better or worse but it’s still a great country.” Kimberly Mauch, president of the Turner Ashby chapter, No. 184, United Daughters of the Confederacy of Winchester Virginia, is the blood descendant of four men who served, and some of whom perished, in the Confederate forces in Missouri: her great-great-great grandfather Blair McGee and his brothers Daniel and Hugh, and her great-great grandfather W.C. Jarret. The pins on the ribbon she wears bear their names. She began to take a particular interest in her civil wartime heritage when she was eight years old. To be eligible to join the Daughters, she needed to muster evidence of her blood connection and of her ancestors’ service. She was able to do this partly through the narrative of one of her forbears' slaves, collected during the 1930s by the Federal Writers Project, part of the Works Progress Administration. Confederate Memorial Ceremony, University of Virginia Confederate Cemetery, Charlottesville, Virginia.

Jim Reed restores 1943 telephone


HOW OLD WOULD YOU SAY THIS PHONE IS? “It’s stamped inside. I think it’s like 1943.” HOW IS IT THAT YOU CAN FIX THIS PHONE THAT I TRASHPICKED SO IT STILL WORKS WITH MODERN TECHNOLOGY? “It’s definitely a statement about how our technology creeps along slowly. Luckily our technology is backwards compatible which means they’ve added new technology but haven’t phased out the old stuff yet although I think they always threatened that your old phones wouldn’t work. But it never happened.” Jim Reed, Chestnut Hill. Watch video interview here. 

Tales of a hippie bus driver


In the 1996 Olympics, the Lithuanian basketball team arrived without uniforms because they were too poor to buy uniforms so the Grateful Dead offered to buy them uniforms and what they bought them had the Dead insignia, the skull, playing basketball and it was tie-died. I got this at the Olympics in 1999. A lot of Lithuanian social clubs sell this t-shirt. CAN YOU MODEL THE BACK? I don’t know what it says back there…For 8 years in California I worked for a hippie bus company. We did cross country trips, national parks, we went to Baha, Alaska, all through Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala. WHAT’S A HIPPIE BUS COMPANY? They take an old coach and pull out all the seats, set it up with bunk beds, tables that collapse down in to bunk beds. And the back, say two-thirds of the whole bus is all one big foam covered platform. You take off your shoes and leave them there and crawl back onto the platform. They called them camper tours. They had another name for them I can’t think of right now. AND THESE DAYS YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING A LITTLE MORE CONVENTIONAL? Just a tiny bit. Anita Fackenthal. Watch video interview here.