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Turtle Rescue, Future of Local Newspapers, Tom Bodett

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
July 2, 2023 3:03 pm

Turtle Rescue, Future of Local Newspapers, Tom Bodett

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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July 2, 2023 3:03 pm

Hosted by Jane Pauley. In our cover story, Lee Cowan reports on efforts to rescue endangered sea turtles, by air. Also: Ted Koppel looks at how some South Carolina newspapers are finding new strategies to survive; Kelefa Sanneh explores the legacy of jazz great Louis Armstrong; Faith Salie visits the woodworking shop of writer and NPR essayist Tom Bodett; and Roxana Saberi takes a spin through the history of the Ferris wheel.

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Make a strong start to a better you. Get started at cerebral.com slash wondery. That's cerebral.com slash wondery. I'm Candace DeLong and on my new podcast, Killer Psyche Daily, I share a quick 10-minute rundown every weekday on the motivations and behaviors of the cold-blooded killers you read about in the news. Listen to the Amazon Music exclusive podcast, Killer Psyche Daily, in the Amazon Music app. Download the app today. Good morning.

Happy 4th of July weekend. I'm Jane Pauley, and this is Sunday morning. You've probably noticed the number of newspapers across the country has been declining for years. More than a quarter of them lost in the past two decades. It's no surprise that the absence of local reporting makes a world of difference for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is the lack of oversight of elected officials. But all is not lost. Ted Koppel introduces us to some courageous communities pressing on.

Travis Jenkins is half of a two-man news gathering team running a weekly newspaper in Chester, South Carolina. There are not many non-government jobs mentioned in the Constitution, but ours is. It was put there by the founders for a reason, because they understood government is not going to police itself. There's a movement afoot in South Carolina that reminds us why the men who drafted our Constitution were so determined to protect a free press.

That's ahead on Sunday morning. Then it's on to America's ambassador of jazz. California takes a closer look at the life of the man who brought jazz and joy to millions around the world, the one and only Louis Armstrong. In his seven decades in our society, Louis Armstrong did just about everything and went just about everywhere.

What a wonderful world. His first passport. 1932. And his last passport. 1967. The one very plaintive, but then the one at the end is like, I had a ball. Later on Sunday morning, Louis Armstrong around the world and back home.

Lee Cowan is looking at efforts to save our endangered sea turtles, a heroic battle stretching from land to air to sea. Even if you travel a lot, you've probably never seen an airline passenger. Welcome aboard. Quite like this. Do you ever think that they know that you guys helped them out? I think so. You do? I think so. Turtles are smart.

Flying critically endangered animals who don't have wings of their own. Coming up on Sunday morning. Faith Salie checks in with author and radio personality Tom Bodette. Plus a look at the midway attraction that still has us going in circles. A story from Steve Hartman. Opinion from historian Mark Updegrove.

And more. It's Sunday morning, July 2nd, 2023. And we'll be right back. Hi, I'm Lindsey Graham, host of Wondery's podcast American History Tellers. We take you to the events, times and people that shaped America and Americans. Our values, our struggles and our dreams. In our latest series, union victory in the Civil War ends centuries of slavery and begins the era known as Reconstruction. The federal government begins the difficult task of restoring a shattered union and political leaders struggle to integrate millions of newly emancipated African-Americans into a racially divided society. Black Americans fight for social and economic equality, but they soon encounter violence and political pushback. Follow American History Tellers wherever you get your podcasts.

You can listen ad free on the Amazon Music or Wondery app. They're among our most endangered creatures, fighting to find their way back. Lee Cowan shares an inspiring tale of survival. At first glance, this can look like a morgue. Sea turtles, limp and motionless.

But if you look close enough, what might look like a corpse offers a slow glimpse of life. Those turtles all washed up in Massachusetts this past December on the windy beaches of Cape Cod Bay. They were nearly frozen to death. The turtles, especially today, 38 degrees, if that turtle sits out for two or three hours, it's going to die.

It's just not going to recover from that kind of shock, from the cold. The problem, though, isn't so much the cold as it is our everwarming oceans. This has been the hottest spot for turtles, too.

Yeah. Biologist Bob Prescott, so we'll close it up, director emeritus of the Massachusetts Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellfleet, says the Gulf of Maine, which includes Cape Cod Bay, is now one of the fastest warming bodies of ocean water in the world. Now, turtles like warm water, but they're staying up here too long.

By mid-November, the temperatures start to drop too fast for these cold-blooded reptiles to handle, and volunteers are finding more and more of them washed ashore. You see the movement in the flipper? In a hypothermic state like this.

How's he doing? Can you tell? This time of year, you can't tell. It's called cold stunning. They may come in looking dead. They revive. They go to the aquarium, and a couple of days later, they crash.

We'll put them in the box, and that'll start to get them stabilized. All sea turtles are in real trouble, but by far the worst off are these, Kemp's ridley turtles, the most critically endangered sea turtle in the world. Since the 70s, they've been washing ashore, about a few dozen per year. The first turtle I found was 1974. But these days, Prescott says, Now, you know, we're up over 750, 760 turtles, and it started a month ago. They've traveled a long way, unwittingly into danger. Their nesting grounds are thousands of miles to the south, along the warm beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. What we're looking for is the tracks left in the sand. Where Donna Shaver has spent her life trying to help the species rebound. If we don't help save this species, we lose a piece that enriches us. How big are the eggs themselves? The eggs are about the size of ping-pong.

She's the head of the Turtle Rescue Group at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas. There's a whole variety of things that can harm them, from oil spills to boat strikes to red tide, entanglement and debris, ingestion of debris, all of those things. Which is why all that urgent care they're getting, back up north, All right, little buddy. is more important than ever.

Let's get your picture taken. Most have at least some degree of pneumonia. There's definitely a little bit of fluid in the lungs here. Some are so bad, they have to be put on ventilators just to breathe. But they're also suffering from a lot of other things, fractured bones and dehydration, for example. He's okay.

He came in yesterday, so he's still pretty early in the treatment process. This is the Animal Care Center for the New England Aquarium, a state-of-the-art facility just outside Boston that specializes in treating cold-stun sea turtles from Massachusetts to Maine. They have an 80% success rate at bringing these turtles back from the brink. It's moving a little, huh? This Kemp's ridley came in with barely one heartbeat a minute. Anything?

No. But biologist Adam Kennedy says for such a small marine turtle, they are remarkably resilient. Because of this, they will likely give another round of epinephrine, probably atropine as well. Treatment can last up to two years, but Kennedy can really only manage between 40 and 80 turtles long term. And with the warming waters, hundreds are now getting trapped every year. And that's just too many four-flippered patients for any one rehab to oversee.

It's basically a mass casualty event. They need other hospitals to help. But that left Bob Prescott with a question. How do you get a turtle from here to there?

The answer? Give turtles a ticket to fly. A happy reptile makes for a good passenger.

Ken Andrews is vice president of a unique nonprofit called Turtles Fly 2. This is in a lot of ways like a life flight. It is a life flight.

It's a medevac flight, absolutely. Turtles may not be meant to have their heads in the clouds, but there really is no other option. There's no agency, there's no staffing, there's no funding, there's nothing there to make this mission happen. And these turtles will die if somebody like Turtles Fly 2 doesn't jump in to help.

It could never happen unless hundreds of pilots were willing to volunteer their time, their planes, and their fuel to rush the rescued turtles to willing rehab facilities all around the country. Where do you guys get your funding? What funding? I wish.

We desperately need it. Our pilots that are flying these missions are pulling a million dollars out of their pocket to fly these missions every year for us. On this particular mission, Ken, with his dad as co-pilot, will fly more than 2,000 miles from Boston to Atlanta, then on to Gulfport, and finally Dallas, dropping off 44 sick sea turtles along the way in hopes that one day they'll be well enough to be released. All right, I've got some temps for you guys. Ninety percent of the turtles that we've moved to rehab have ended up back in the ocean.

Overall, everything looks good. All right, buddy, get out of here. These lucky passengers landed at the Texas Sea Life Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, back in 2021, courtesy of Turtles Fly 2. Could you do this without them?

We could not do this without their help, no question. You're ready to go, huh? I think so, yeah. Veterinarian Tim Tristan, the director here, says it took a while, but with good care and the help of volunteers, these turtles are now finally ready to go home again. If they can make it through our front door, we have a pretty good success rate with getting them turned around and getting them back out to the wild where they belong. You seen a sea turtle before?

A crowd gathered at the beach of Padre Island. Most never get to see a Kemp's ridley turtle. There are far too few. Everybody wants to see some turtles released, right? But on this day, there were a few more.

Biologist Donna Shaver says this release is modern conservation in action. They take with me their hopes, hopes for the next generation. There are few privileges that I have ever been offered. Look at this. Quite like this one.

How cool. Look, buddy, you're going home. We humans have not always been kind to the sea and those who dwell in it. All right, buddy, go home, bud. But on this day, it was humans. Certainly not me, but hundreds of veterinarians, biologists, volunteers, and, yes, pilots, who all came together to give these critically endangered sea turtles what they rarely get. A second chance.

Who says you can't go home again? A study by Northwestern University tells us the United States is losing two newspapers every week. A sobering statistic, not without consequences. Senior contributor Ted Koppel takes us to South Carolina, where some papers are being published. The paper is being published. The paper is being published. The paper is being published. Senior contributor Ted Koppel takes us to South Carolina, where some papers are finding a new way forward. The historic city of Charleston, South Carolina, is home to the oldest daily newspaper in the South. Back in the days of the Louisiana Purchase, when Napoleon was making news, it was reported right here. The original newspaper began in 1802.

That's amazing. 221 years. These days, Pierre Manigault owns the paper, which is now called the Post and Courier. He's the latest in a long line.

My great-grandfather bought into it in 1896. Making his the fourth generation now to own the paper. You haven't heard, Pierre, but newspapers are done.

They're finished. I heard the rumor. But instead of cutting back, Pierre Manigault is bucking the trend, hiring more staff, expanding digitally across the state, and investing heavily in, of all things, a state-of-the-art printing press.

Family ownership means he can do, more or less, what he wants. Are you really in it anymore to make money? No. No.

The short answer to that is no. This is not the business to make money in. It once was, as you well know.

These presses printed money. But it's a different world. One in which an estimated 70 million Americans now live in what's come to be known as a news desert. The counties in yellow have just one newspaper remaining.

Those in red have none. What happens in those communities, absent a source of reliable local news and scrutiny of local officials, can lead to the spread of disinformation and corruption. We see what happens when communities lose their newspapers because it's happening all around us. I think it's very important to have not just a newspaper, but a very good newspaper. Here in South Carolina, 10 local newspapers folded their print editions back in 2020 alone.

And even among the ones that survive, many are shoestring operations in cities like Chester, to form a textile hub that hasn't quite recovered from hard economic times. The weekly newspaper is The News and Reporter, and one half of its reporting staff is editor Travis Jenkins. Myself and my reporter Brian Garner, we're it. And what do you cover? Everything having to do with Chester County. So, literally, if you show up at our office and say, hey, I just caught a 60-pound catfish, would you take a picture of it and put it in the paper? We absolutely do it.

But then we also kind of pride ourselves on doing more deep-dig, heavy-lift investigative pieces that a lot of papers our size aren't able to do anymore. The county supervisor is indicted for trafficking meth. Trafficking meth? Yes. The sheriff is indicted and removed on corruption charges.

A councilman is removed from office by a judge for having a past criminal record he didn't disclose. How do you have the time to do that? It's difficult. Head 40 miles south and you'll come to the small town of Blithewart. That's Barbara Ball. She owns the local weekly paper, The Voice of Blithewart. She manages the paper, writes for the paper. Hi.

How are you? Papers? Yep. And that's her delivering the voice to businesses around town. Barbara, most publishers have got someone to do this kind of thing for.

Right. Your vast staff is not available to deliver the papers? I'm pretty much the staff. The family pitches in. Husband Keith was up a good part of the night getting the paper ready for distribution.

How it works. Daughter Ashley, her main job is as the paper's designer. And Rufus Jones here, he's the former mayor of nearby Ridgeway. He gets a small stipend to deliver copies of Barbara Ball's other paper in neighboring Fairfield County.

This just gets me out of the house. What is it you find in this newspaper that you don't find in the New York Times? I prefer this paper because it's the truth and it's what's happening in the county.

That's why most people get this paper. You won't be surprised to learn that Barbara Ball does not do it for the money. But sometimes out of the blue, she gets some very generous donations. I will get checks from people. I've gotten a thousand dollars.

Really? I think most people realize that we don't make a lot of money. We don't make any money.

And I think a lot of people think if we weren't here they might not know what was going on. Coming up with the money to pay for real reporting, that's a problem they all have in common. From the small rural communities to the big city paper in Charleston owned by Pierre Monaco. Newspapers were a great vehicle for advertising.

That's gone. So now you have to go back to what the roots of journalism are, and that's content and information that people can't get anywhere else. Do you actually think that anybody cares anymore?

I think they do. How do you know? Well, we opened up a fund through the Community Foundation where people could pay for the newsroom expenses associated with our investigative journalism. We set a goal of $100,000 in 100 days, and we raised about five times that. $500,000 from readers who wanted to support the work of award-winning investigative journalists in this newsroom, led by Glenn Smith, the special project's editor. He has a team of five reporters, including lead project reporter Tony Bartlemey. In 2021, it occurred to Tony and Glenn that they could use a part of the donated reporting fund to help some of those small, struggling newspapers in other parts of South Carolina. They could collaborate to everyone's mutual benefit. We actually spent some time working on a pitch.

Remember, we wrote that out. We came in with a lot of humility and said, hey, we're putting together this project, we're calling it Uncovered, and what we like to do is investigative stories, and you can collaborate with us if you can and if you want to. Travis Jenkins from the Chester News & Reporter was the first reporter they reached out to. Tony Bartlemey told me, hey, we're about to drop this story, and we do mention Chester Sheriff, and I don't want you to feel like we're invading your turf and trying to Bigfoot you, so here's literally everything I've got from where we investigated Chester Sheriff. And later on, when the sheriff was going to trial, we had some trouble staffing that trial, and he was going to that, and we shared reporting on that, and the pieces that we produced were so much better for the collaboration. The Uncovered project ultimately involved 19 community newspapers across the state.

Two papers have since folded. The stories ran in Charleston's Post and Courier and were available to all of the local partners, including the Voice of Blythewood. Barbara Ball, her local school superintendent, had basically taken over the narrative of town.

I'm not going to deal with you. She wanted to see his financial spending records. It came to us. Some governments are just great. They're very open, and then there's others that do have things to hide, and it's very hard to get information. She'd been quoted, I think it was $300 for these records, and she didn't have that, and so we offered to pay that, and they ended up just giving it to us when we got behind her and got a really good story out of it. What is it they provide other than money and muscle? For our story to be on the front page of the Charleston Post and Courier was huge. It substantiated that we're a good newspaper, that we turn out good work.

I don't know some of these towns. I know nothing about them, but these people do, so why don't you take the best of both worlds, put them together. We all get content, raise the alarm, and hopefully make our state a better place. In the last few years, our corruption work has exposed a half a dozen public officials from sheriffs to prosecutors. It's triggered more than 10 state investigations and audits, more than 100 stories that have exposed conflicts of interest and cozy deals. It's really that cumulative effort that ends up creating that culture of deterrence that prevents future misconduct. And readers seem willing to pay for that extra effort.

Over the past two years, Pierre Manigault's Post and Courier has raised more than $1.7 million to fund their investigative work and local partnerships. Ten years from now, are newspapers going to be a thing of the past? Time will tell. I think there's a second life for newspapers. I think that we'll survive this. It's an evolution, and newspapers just need to evolve to the new digital world, and I think we're well on our way to doing that.

Travis Jenkins has a different measure of success. His readers can renew an annual subscription of his paper for $29.99. Somebody took the time to take this mailer. One of them returned the offer with an editorial comment. In between the spaces on our little mailer, it said no. I do not want to, and I'll have to do a little judicious self-editing here, I do not want to subscribe to your bleeping paper. Y'all are the most up in everybody's bleeping business newspaper I've ever seen in my whole bleeping life.

Didn't sign it, didn't put a return address, but I wish he had because I wanted to write him and say, man, thank you. That's the best compliment anybody's ever paid us. Inventor George Ferris has no small claim to fame because it was Ferris who, you might say, reinvented the wheel. Roxana Saberi takes us for a spin. For many, summer fun means thrill rides that soar, swirl, and defy gravity. But if you need a break from holding your breath, there's one attraction that lets you catch it. The Ferris Wheel, a slow-moving salvation.

What goes up must come down. From all that speed. What was your favorite part about the ride? The top part.

You could see, like, everything from up there. It's been turning for more than 130 years. So why is it called Ferris? Not many people know about George Washington Gale Ferris. Paul Dureka is the director of exhibitions at the Chicago History Museum. Who was George Washington Gale Ferris? An up-and-coming engineer in the early 1890s. He'd been born in Illinois.

He moved to Pittsburgh. And it's around this time that the announcement goes out that the World's Fair organizers in Chicago are seeking a large-scale attraction. One that would top the pièce de résistance at the previous World's Fair in Paris. What a lot of people were responding with were designs that were very similar. Well, just build a bigger tower than the Eiffel Tower. But it was George Washington Gale Ferris who had the idea to make something on a similar scale but allow it to move. Legend has it he was inspired by watching a water wheel turn. He believed all along in the science, in the engineering, and he knew that it could work. Even though it hadn't been done on that scale before.

Even though it hadn't been done. In less than six months, his wheel opened to the public in June 1893. The steel structure was massive, climbing 264 feet with 36 cars, each carrying 60 passengers. At the time, it was the tallest object in Chicago.

Today, an ice rink sits in its place. What was the reception when the Ferris wheel opened here? It was an experience unlike people had ever really had before. You sort of lose yourself in the experience as the world below you faded away and then suddenly came back into view and faded away again.

It's a sensation that endures to this day. There are enormous wheels worldwide. In London, Las Vegas, and this one in Dubai rises more than 800 feet. This is the brains of the operations. We paid a visit to the command center at the Dream Wheel in New Jersey. What's the blue line? So the black line is your wind speed, the blue line is your relative humidity, so there's a lot of moving parts.

No pressure. David Moore is the Dream Wheel's general operations manager. The original Ferris wheel was steam driven. We are 100% electronic.

No steam, no hydraulics, just all electronics. What makes a wheel so enticing to engineers like yourself? The size, the movement, and it's a pure work of art in the sky spinning with people on it enjoying themselves. We're just naturally drawn to it, both as just people but also writers and artists. Professor and author Karen Leves captures its whimsy in her children's book Stop That Yawn.

We met her at the famed Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, running since 1920. There's just so much juice in the image for all these contrasts that it has, for this sort of old and new and delightful. It appears in so many things.

You bought our apartment? The wheel has its place in popular culture. From the romantic in The Notebook. You want to ride the Ferris wheel? To the menacing with Orson Welles in The Third Man.

Don't think they'd look for a bullet wound after you hit that ground. As for the original, Paul DeRica says it came to a halt soon after the Chicago World's Fair. Nobody wants it, so they decide basically to dynamite it, and that's the sad end of the original Ferris wheel. They demolished it. They demolished it. And out of over 100,000 parts... All right, let's see what's inside. This bolt... That's much larger than I thought it would be. ...is one of the few pieces that remain. What Ferris built also broke him.

He went bankrupt, got typhoid fever, and died at age 37 in 1896. But all these years later, his invention keeps spinning, bringing a smile to Ron, Tom, and Cougar Peck. How are you related to George Washington Gale Ferris?

He is our great, great, great, great uncle. Ferris family members couldn't resist taking a ride on the Centennial Wheel in Chicago. When you see all the kids getting off of this wheel and other wheels, how does that make you feel? Very proud.

The tradition's carrying on. What do you think George Ferris would think of all the wheels around the world today? George Ferris would not be surprised at all about the popularity of his invention. He had complete faith in himself.

He knew it would work. As he surveyed the world and looked at things like the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island or the London Eye, he's like, see, I told you so. This is a great attraction. It really does give you pause, time to pause. Yeah, absolutely. Let's just hang out up here for a while.

Let the spinning wheel fly. You've probably heard the name and the voice. With Faith Sehle, we check in with Tom Bodette. Is this just like extra sandpapering?

Well, what it is, it's instead of sanding. This woodshop is a place where Tom Bodette can remove some of life's rough edges. And take three. Hi, Tom Bodette trying to understand this and take four. Upstairs from the woodshop is Bodette's home recording studio. Hi, Tom Bodette somewhat in knots over this new hairstyle called a man bun. Motel 6 began providing a clean, comfortable room. And that's how you may know him, as the voice of Motel 6.

I'm Tom Bodette for Motel 6. And we'll leave the light on for you. He's been leaving the light on for 36 years. That line was an ad lib. This thing that my mom always says when I come home is we'll leave the light on for you.

They go, oh, yeah, try that. His father deserves some credit too. Way before Bodette appeared weekly on NPR as an essayist that led to his discovery by the ad agency for Motel 6. His father made it clear to him that life was about figuring out how to get things done. He was a mechanical engineer in Sturgis, Michigan, where Tom grew up. And he spent my entire childhood repairing that house. And it really wasn't until later years that I recognized that my dad didn't know what he was doing.

I think the way my dad thought about things is if somebody could build it, then somebody could fix it. But in Oregon, 20-year-old Tom Bodette didn't quite figure out how to restore the electricity to his cabin, which involved climbing a pole to reach the power line. So I went up and I grabbed the lever and it blew me off the pole and practically blew my arm off and stopped my heart. Then when I landed, it revived me.

That's what they think happened. How do you think that accident changed you? I have a hard time remembering the Tom Bodette I was before that accident. He was a very cautious individual.

By the time I got healed and out of the hospital and had survived those burns and that pain and all of that, it was like, what else can you show me? Then in Alaska, for 23 years, he fished, built homes, and began writing seriously, eventually producing seven books, mostly about his adventures there. And in Alaska, he became somewhat famous for his Motel 6 commercials. But in Alaska, it's like that's all they had, right?

You were it! Yeah, so it was kind of a big deal, which was embarrassing. He also did a considerable amount of drinking. In 1992, you got sober.

Yes. His first marriage was falling apart, and he vowed to be a good father to his then seven-year-old son. I mean, there's a whole lot of reasons to do it, but in fact, it just feels better. I wake up in the morning, I feel great, I'm not cranky, and that was my new drug. Just not being high was my high for a long time. What was it like to move from Alaska to Brattleboro?

It wasn't that different. There's the same kind of people here, same kind of culture. People who know how to do things.

So here, in rural Vermont, Bodette crafted his third act. And if I just met you and said, what do you do? How would you answer? I'm happy to say, because this is new, that I would say I'm a woodworker. It took me a long time for me to admit it, that that's what I am. Why? I don't know. Was I a little ashamed of it?

I'm not sure. And I'm a pretty good writer, I'm an okay radio guy, I'm a really good woodworker. He built this really good coffee table.

It's one piece, and because it's bent the way it is, it sits on three legs. He made this fireplace mantle from cherry. This is a beautiful piece here. He doesn't sell his work, has no interest in facing deadlines and clients. I'd rather give it away. Or go from being a joy to a job. Exactly.

I can't do that to this, not this. But he does share his love of woodworking. I think people want to feel like they know how to do things again. I really do.

In 2019, he co-founded Hatch Space, a non-profit center in Brattleboro where anyone can share tools and ideas. Is it fair to say that woodworking has helped keep you sober? Oh yeah, absolutely. I owe my sobriety to woodworking, and I owe my woodworking to sobriety. I could not do woodworking if I was drinking.

I could not do it. And I love it so much, I cannot give it up. At the age of 68, Tom Bodett says it would be fine to spend the rest of his life working in this woodshop. That's the advantage of already having died once. On your tombstone, will it say we'll leave the light on for you?

I have promised my loved ones to haunt them for the rest of their days, if it does. He was one of the most beloved entertainers of the 20th century. California remembers Louis Armstrong, the musician and the man. He answered to Pops, Satchmo, and Louis, but he called himself Louis. I like to say Louis. Louis, not Louis?

Yeah man, I have too much respect for that guy. Documentary filmmaker Sasha Jenkins and jazz pianist Jason Moran have been immersed in Louis Armstrong's recordings and artifacts for years. His first passport. 1932. Right, and his last passport. 1967.

The one very plaintive, then the one at the end is like, I had a ball. Moran is the curator of the new Louis Armstrong Center in Queens, New York. He liked to say that he was born on the 4th of July, even though apparently he was not. Armstrong was actually born on August 4th, 1901. This idea that many African Americans were still patriotic in spite of the way America treated them is something I think is really important for people to understand about Louis Armstrong. To me, he just embodies what it means to be an American. I've heard a lot of reel-to-reels of pops just talking, everyday life recordings. This humanity comes true. In his documentary, Louis Armstrong's Black and Blues, Jenkins explores how Armstrong and his trumpet navigated Prohibition, the Great Depression, World Wars, the Civil Rights era.

You're the most famous person in the world and you're black, but there's still places you can't go. I mean, that must have been a real mind trick. What's the meaning of a cat? A cat can be anybody, from the guy in the gutter, to a lawyer, doctor.

He shared what he knew with Edward R. Murrow. But if he's in there with a good heart and enjoy the same music together, he's a cat daddy. Terry Teachout, the critic, called him a joyous genius who confounded his critics by refusing to distinguish between making art and having fun. He had fun making art, for sure. You know, I think he felt very privileged to be able to be who he was and express himself the way he did.

I mean, he just loved it. And audiences loved him. I mean, he's one of the few people who has hit decade after decade, not only of his own compositions, but especially how he covers songs.

His Hello Dolly went to number one in 1964. He changed the way people heard Cole Porter and George Gershwin. He had something for everybody. I mean, not many people in this era or any other era had the level of talent, diverse talent, that he had.

The genius trumpet player and singer was also an actor, though he mainly played himself. Well, hello. Look who's here. Dolly, this is Lewis. Hello, Lewis.

Dolly, it's so nice to have you back. Who else would you want besides the real Lewis Armstrong in your movie, right? Is his role in some of these films to supply a kind of jazz credibility to the film?

To supply credibility to the film in general. I mean, no one was cooler than he was at that point. Whether it's Bing Crosby or others, they look to him for cues, for style and the way they sang to the way they dressed, the way they spoke. Mr. Armstrong, could you please tell us how you became the world's leading trumpeter? Well, son, when I was a little boy like you... Armstrong grew up in an institution, the Colored Waifs Home in New Orleans. While there, he came across a cornet, a cousin of a trumpet. He explained how we learned to play while visiting a classroom in West Africa. And I was fortunate enough to run into a kind man by the name of Mr. Joe Oliver.

And he was nice enough, he would help me in his spare moments, which proves that if we'll help one another, you just can't miss. By the time he was 21, he was living in Chicago, playing the jazz clubs. By 1928, he recorded his own version of a tune called West End Blues. He just does this kind of fanfare of this kind of revolutionary technique on the trumpet. It remains one of jazz's most influential recordings.

Cold, empty bed, springs hard as lead. Offstage, he didn't always get star treatment. I wished I was dead, but I used to be so black and blue. When he started playing at certain hotels, he said, look, I ain't going to play unless I can stay. And so that in and of itself is activism. But by the 1960s, some people found Armstrong's big bright smile a bit too ingratiating. This guy was completely misunderstood.

Misunderstood how? Well, I think black folks didn't necessarily think that he was for the cause, as they say. There's nothing wrong with being an artist who smiles. But in the time in which he was an artist smiling, it was the thing that was misunderstood. There was an expectation of seriousness in the 50s and 60s, in jazz and maybe in black culture more broadly. And so he was perceived as maybe not that serious. Yeah, the times have changed, but he pioneered this whole sound. Like, you think he's a joke, but this thing that you're so serious about came from him.

Like, did you forget that part? When you see pictures of that famous smile, you can't help but also notice the scar on his lip. Testament to all those decades of trumpet playing.

He sustained so much damage, he really sacrificed for the instrument and for the art. I see trees of green. Armstrong's 1967 version of What a Wonderful World is his most popular recording. The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky.

He's got the strings, right? It's very, you know, beautiful and soupy. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world. A wonderful world. Was he out of touch? In 1970, Armstrong addressed his critics. Some of you young folks been saying to me, hey Pops, what you mean what a wonderful world? He makes a remix of that song a year before he passes. If lots more of us loved each other, we'd solve lots more problems. So he knows that there's a world that wants to dominate the space with hate.

And he knows that, you know, if I can talk about it from a love point of view, maybe that can help offset. Louis Armstrong and his wife Lucille lived in this house in Corona, Queens, which sits across the street from the new Armstrong Center. It's been preserved just as they left it after he died in 1971. Louis Armstrong is still drawing people in. When musicians come into a room and they play in a space that they cherish, right?

It's an offering. You know, I think about the ghosts all the time. Like, does he and Lucille come visit? Because I believe they do. Well, any musician has to spend a lot of time thinking about reverberation.

Yes. And scientifically speaking, maybe those reverberations fade over time. Maybe they never quite go away. They don't go away.

I mean, thankfully, they don't go away. Steve Hartman this morning has the story of another trumpet player and the sweet sound of remembrance. What would compel a man, a retired businessman, to become a street performer playing for bills in a bucket at the age of 83? Is it love? Loss?

Purpose? Yes, yes, yes. On her honeymoon. Larry Kingsley says the love part is Georgian, his wife of 23 years. Did she always put her head right there? Usually.

I liked it there. Unfortunately, she's also the loss part. Four years ago, Georgian was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

And the doctor says, you know, it's going to be difficult. I said, I know, but I'm married to her, so I'm going to be with her. And with her, he was. When Larry got out, the old trumpet he bought back in his Air Force days and started playing three times a week on a sidewalk in Cary, North Carolina. Larry says Georgian loved it, although she was confused.

In fact, she used to yell at him, why don't you get a real job, she'd say, assumed he was out here panhandling. Then Larry laughed it off, knowing that in a way, this had become his job, his mission. Every donation goes toward finding a cure. Every dollar, a fulfillment of Larry's newfound purpose. The day that she died, I played that night. But in my mind, I just say the show goes on.

After Georgian died last year, Larry started playing six nights a week. He has now raised more than $15,000 and has vowed to keep it up until Alzheimer's is just a memory. With Thursday's Supreme Court ruling striking down affirmative action in college admissions, whatever your views, it's been a landmark week. Commentary now from historian Mark Updegrove, president of the LBJ Foundation, about a similarly momentous day in American history. Fifty-nine years ago today, legal apartheid in America came to an abrupt end.

President Lyndon Johnson addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House. I am about to sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Let us close the springs of racial poison. Afterward, ours was a changed nation, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The back of Jim Crow, with its false promise of separate but equal public accommodations, was broken as America fulfilled its most sacred ideal.

All men are created equal. Since then, the Civil Rights Act has become as fundamental to our national identity as any of our founding documents, deeply rooted in the fabric of a nation that strives to be more perfect and to move ever forward. In a deeply divided America, where faith in government has ebbed and affirmative action is under siege, it's worth reflecting on the fruition of the Civil Rights Act as a snapshot of our country at its best. A time when Martin Luther King and an army of nonviolent warriors put their bodies on the line to expose the worst of bigotry and racial tyranny. When a bipartisan Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, joined together to overcome a block of obstructionist Southern Democrats who staged the longest filibuster in Senate history, forcing passage of the bill. And when a president put the weight of his office behind racial justice, dismissing adverse political consequences by responding, what the hell's the presidency for? Why did Johnson choose to sign the Civil Rights Act on July 2nd instead of doing so symbolically on July 4th as Americans celebrated Independence Day?

He wanted to sign the bill into law as soon as possible, which he did just hours after it was passed. And that separate date makes sense. The signing of the Civil Rights Act deserved its own day. Freedom! Freedom!

Because for many marginalized Americans, July 2nd was Independence Day, a day when every citizen became equal under the law. And that's something we should all celebrate. Thank you for listening. Please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at Wunderly.com slash survey.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-02 16:13:53 / 2023-07-02 16:31:51 / 18

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