NPR's mobile storytelling unit makes a stop in Boise

StoryCorps sets up shop at City Hall.

kterhune@idahostatesman.comJune 11, 2013 

  • Tell your story

    The StoryCorps Airstream trailer is parked at Boise City Hall until July 6. Additional reservation slots to record your story are expected to open Tuesday.

    The program takes reservations over the phone at (800) 850-4406 or online at bit.ly/12gEEBJ.

    StoryCorps suggests a donation of at least $25 for each interview to help pay the project's operating costs. But participants who can't afford the donation will not be turned away.

Marilyn Shuler's mother was very proud that her daughter was born in a hospital. In Oregon during World War II, it was relatively rare.

"That was a big deal to be born in the hospital," said Shuler, now 73.

Shuler told the story of her life Monday to a NPR recording team that travels the country, allowing people to create a lasting record of the events of their lives.

The StoryCorps mobile recording unit, set up in an Airstream trailer, will sit outside of Boise City Hall until July 6 as part of the project's cross-country tour. The project has only visited Boise once before in 2008.

Shuler, the former director of the Idaho Human Rights Commission, was chosen as the first of 120 Treasure Valley residents to record their stories this visit.

She grew up in Portland during the war and was diagnosed with polio, a viral disease that often cripples its victims, when she was 10 years old.

There was little understanding of the illness at the time, Shuler said.

"You became social isolates after you had it, because they thought you might be contagious for a long, long time after you had it, which wasn't true," she said.

After the family moved to Salt Lake City, Shuler found herself barred from public school because her disease had left her unable to climb stairs.

"[I was] not able to go to public school, because the schools had five stories, so I had to go to a private Catholic school," she said. "The didn't have the kind of laws where all children could be educated even if they are disabled."

Shuler did not forget how it felt to be marginalized. After marrying and moving to Boise, she became involved with volunteering, even helping to run a kindergarten for low-income children.

Her drive to help others eventually led Shuler to a 20-year job with the Idaho Human Rights Commission.

The septuagenarian said she hopes Boise residents will take advantage of the project and record their tales. Reservations to record interviews can be made by calling 800-850-4406 or by visiting bit.ly/12gEEBJ.

"I hope people will come down and tell their story," she said. "You don't have to be famous, you have a story. That's what people are going to be very interested in the future."

John Hess, general manager of Boise State Public Radio, said everyone has a story to tell and the mobile recording studio is a way to preserve those tales.

"Most of these stories are personal in nature, recounting tales of triumph, heartbreak, discovery and redemption," he said. "They resonate with us. Because of the StoryCorps project, our humanity is on display."

A selection of the local recorded interviews will air on NPR.

City Council member Lauren McLean said the project is a way for Boiseans to look back at the past as the city reaches its 150th year.

"Ultimately, it is our stories of the last 150 years, and particularly the big changes in the last 30 that will help guide us through our next 150 years," she said.

The diversity of stories reflects the diversity of residents, she said. She added that she hoped people from all walks of life would get involved with the project.

"It's the oral tradition that is so often lost to history," McLean said. "When we can step back and listen to the tales of people like Marilyn, and others that are so important to our city, we hear more than what can read."

Shuler agreed.

"I love oral history. I think oral history is very important and I really urge diverse people to come down and record themselves," she said. "I think ordinary people have fabulous stories."

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

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