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America Works Podcast
10 minutes | Jun 3, 2021
Bernardo “Bernie” Piña, Fresh Produce Salesman. Nogales, Arizona
Arizonian Bernardo “Bernie” Piña is the sales manager at Ciruli Brothers, a family-owned fresh produce import company in Nogales, Arizona. For generations, the city of Nogales, which is located directly on the US-Mexican border, has been a major port-of-entry for the buying, selling, and shipping of fresh fruits and vegetables imported into the US and Canada from growers throughout Mexico and Latin America. If you, like most Americans, enjoy eating fresh produce from Mexico, it probably came through Nogales. Mr. Pina, a third-generation produce worker, tells folklorist Nic Hartmann what it’s like to be a salesman in Nogales’ vibrant and close-knit produce industry.
9 minutes | May 20, 2021
Jim Mercer, Commercial Marine Diver. New Bedford, Massachusetts
Underwater marine diver Jim Mercer describes his year-round job checking, maintaining, and repairing commercial fishing boats in and around the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts. It’s a unique, challenging, and dangerous job. Jim, who grew up in the New Bedford area, is totally committed to it. He is interviewed by Madeline Hall-Arber from the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center as part of the American Folklife Center’s Archie Green Fellowship project “Working the Waterfront: New Bedford, Massachusetts.”
10 minutes | May 13, 2021
Kim Spicer, Electrician and Wire-Women. Queens, New York
Electrician and journey wire-woman Kim Spicer is a proud member of The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local #3, in Queens, New York. Kim talks about how she tried numerous other, less fulfilling jobs before apprenticing to become an electrician and why she loves it. She touches on her training, some of the tasks and skills involved in her work, her daily on-the-job routines, and the challenges of being a woman in a traditionally male trade. Kim was interviewed as part of the Archie Green Fellowship project “Illuminating History: Union Electricians in New York City” by fellow electrician Jaimez Lopez and artist/documentarian Setare Arashloo.
10 minutes | May 6, 2021
Jennifer Sgro, Nurse Practitioner, Night Ministry Bus. Chicago, Illinois
This episode features Nurse Practitioner Jennifer Sgro, who works with The Night Ministry in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1976, The Night Ministry provides housing and healthcare to people who are homeless or who are living in low income situations. Sgro talks about providing healthcare on the Ministry’s Outreach Bus, which travels to a different low-income Chicago neighborhood every evening. In this thoughtful interview with documentarian Margaret Miles, Nurse Sgro talks about her job, her career, her clients, and the satisfaction she finds in her work.
14 minutes | Apr 29, 2021
James Hensley, Port Pilot. Houston, Texas
Houston ship channel pilot Captain James Hensley has the daunting task of guiding giant ocean-going ships into and out of one of the world’s largest and busiest ports. The famous Houston Ship Channel is 52 miles long and in some places incredibly narrow. His is not a job for the faint of heart -- there is literally no room for mistakes! In this interview with folklorist Betsy Peterson, Captain Hensley talks about learning and practicing his highly-skilled occupation, his family’s longstanding maritime traditions, becoming one of the first African Americans to be officially credentialed as a captain, and the pride he takes in his work.
11 minutes | Apr 22, 2021
Heather Campbell Hill, Funeral Director. Raleigh, North Carolina
Funeral director Heather Campbell Hill of the Renaissance Funeral Home in Raleigh, North Carolina is interviewed by folklorist Sarah Bryan as part of an Archie Green Fellowship from the American Folklife Center to document funeral services workers in the Carolinas. Although relatively new to her profession, Heather’s dedication and compassion to help people during, as she says, “the worst times of their lives,” is reflected throughout her interview. She talks about learning her profession, Death Cafes, Green Burials, and facing the unknown. A note to listeners: although not explicit, Heather’s interview does include discussions of death, bereavement and funerals.
9 minutes | Apr 15, 2021
Sarah Fortin, Fish Net Maker. New Bedford, Massachusetts
Fish net maker Sarah Fortin was working for Reidar’s Trawl & Scallop Gear Marine Supply in New Bedford, Massachusetts when she was interviewed by oral historian Fred Calabretta from the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center as part of an American Folklife Center funded Archie Green Fellowship project. Fortin, who grew up in the community, talks about learning her trade, the skills she needed to master, and the challenges she sometimes faces as a younger female worker. She also told us about the vibrant community of fellow workers who continue to make New Bedford one of America’s most important and vibrant fishing ports.
10 minutes | Oct 8, 2020
Patrick Bovenzi, Race Track Worker and Horse Identifier. Tampa Bay, Florida
Originally from upstate New York, Patrick Bovenzi has spent his entire career as a race track worker, rising through the ranks to hold numerous official positions at race tracks across this country. Today, he is one of America’s very few “horse identifiers” – i.e., an expert who can assess and certify the identity of individual race horses. Mr. Bovenzi was interviewed by folklorist and Archie Green Fellow Ellen McHale at the Tampa Bay Downs Racetrack in Tampa Bay, Florida, on behalf of the American Folklife Center as part of her documentation project “Stable Views: Voices and Stories from the Thoroughbred Race Track.”
9 minutes | Oct 1, 2020
Sharon Sisson, Iron Worker. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago-based folklorist Bucky Halker interviews iron worker Sharon Sisson and her husband, iron worker Richard Sisson about their experiences as iron workers in the Chicago area. Their interview, which was recorded at Iron Workers Union Local #63 Headquarters in Broadview, Illinois, covers numerous topics. This episodes features Sharon’s experiences as a woman entering a previously male-dominated trade and a prank she played on a fellow worker to stop him harassing her in their workplace.
8 minutes | Sep 24, 2020
Shuly Amsel, Wig Maker. Brooklyn, New York
Shuly Amsel, an accomplished wig maker from Brooklyn, New York, talks about her successful wig and beauty business. She explains how she learned the trade and expanded her business from a small home-based shop primarily serving the women in her own Orthodox Jewish Community, to a high-profile business creating top-quality wigs and beauty products for celebrities and the fashion industry.
10 minutes | Sep 17, 2020
Richard Bludworth, Shipyard Owner. Houston, Texas
Houston shipyard owner Richard Bludworth of Bludworth Marine talks about growing up in his family’s shipyard, learning his complex trade, and the community of maritime workers that make Houston one of the world’s largest and most vibrant ports. A fine story teller, he relates some great on-the-job experiences, his love of the sea, why he likes working with “pirates,” and his pride in his home city of Houston. Bludworth is one of more than 50 Houston ship channel workers interviewed for the OFP “Working the Port of Houston.”
9 minutes | Sep 10, 2020
Joyce Vegar, Home Health Care Worker. Coos County, Oregon
Joyce Vegar, a dedicated home health care worker from Coos County, Oregon, talks about her pride and pleasure as well as her challenges in helping her clients remain in their own homes and communities. Vegar is one of more than 40 home health care workers interviewed by University of Oregon researchers for the “Taking Care” OFP collection. This moving episode highlights the enormous and over unheralded contributions made by workers in this under-documented profession.
9 minutes | Sep 3, 2020
Greg Vaught, Gold Mine Worker. Elko, Nevada
Gold mine worker Greg Vaught tells folklorists Meg Glaser and Charlie Seemann from the Western Folklife Center about how he came to work at a gold mine and his various mine jobs, including being the mine safety officer. He explains how he started using his musical talents to write humorous songs about mine safety and has become Newmont mining’s unofficial “Safety Troubadour.” And he sings an example of his work!
8 minutes | Sep 3, 2020
Jeff Hafler, Hair Stylist. Wonder Valley, California
Jeff Hafler, hair stylist and owner of The Beauty Bubble Hair Salon and Museum in Wonder Valley, California, talks to interviewer Candacy Taylor about how much he loves his job, how beauty salons function as impromptu community centers, and why customers confide in their stylists. He talks about his pride in working in the service industry and explains why having a vocation is often a better guarantee of employment than a college degree.
10 minutes | Sep 3, 2020
Barbara Miller Byrd, Circus Owner. Hugo, Oklahoma
Barbara Miller Byrd, the third-generation owner of the Carson and Barnes Circus based in the small town of Hugo, Oklahoma, talks about growing up in the traveling circus founded by her grandparents more than 75 years ago. She shares great memories and stories and offers in-sights into the colorful and complex occupations that are needed to sustain a traveling circus in contemporary America.
1 minutes | Aug 27, 2020
America Works - Series Preview
New from the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress: “America Works” features the voices of contemporary workers from throughout the United States talking about their lives, their workplaces, and their on-the-job experiences. Premieres September 3.
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