“…in earlier days, walk along the street in Chicago and be mobbed by people wanting to talk with him. He welcomed them all, and made slow if any progress to wherever he was going.”
He was working. But, he didn’t see it as working. He just loved talking to ordinary people, especially the working people — hearing their stories.
Friendly and Neighborly like
Listening, Remembering, Talking, Remembering, Listening, Memory — Working…
Louis “Studs” Terkel, Provider Guardian, (May 16, 1912 – October 31, 2008) was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985 for “The Good War”, and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago.
Terkel was acclaimed for his efforts to preserve American oral history. His 1985 book “The Good War”: An Oral History of World War Two, which detailed ordinary peoples’ accounts of the country’s involvement in World War II, won the Pulitzer Prize. For Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression, Terkel assembled recollections of the Great Depression that spanned the socioeconomic spectrum, from Okies, through prison inmates, to the wealthy. His 1974 book, Working, in which (as reflected by its subtitle) People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, also was highly acclaimed. Working was made into a short-lived Broadway show in 1978 and was telecast on PBS in 1982. In 1997, Terkel was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. Two years later, he received the George Polk Career Award in 1999. [Wikipedia, revised]
Friendly, outgoing, neighborly – in a word, Providers are gregarious, so much so that they can become restless when isolated from people. They love to talk with others, and will often strike up a conversation with strangers and chat pleasantly about any topic that comes to mind. Friendships matter a great deal to Providers, and their conversations with friends often touch on good times from years past.
And they are outstanding hosts or hostesses, knowing everyone by name, and seemingly aware of what everyone’s been doing. [Please Understand Me II]
‘Over the years Martin Luther King, Billie Holiday, Tennessee Williams, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong and Dorothy Parker, among others, have sat where I am now, face to face with the best-loved figure in Chicago. Woody Guthrie used to stay in this house. True, that was in the days before you had to bellow at Terkel in the kind of voice that, given a calm night and a favourable wind, might be audible across the state line in Indiana. It’s ironic that a man who defines his role as “listening to what other people tell me” can’t work his hearing aids any better than he could his tape recorder, a device he could never be trusted to operate unaided.’ — Robert Chalmers
Growing up in the depression, his parents ran a rooming house in Chicago that also served as a meeting place for people from most walks of life in the city. Studs Terkel credited his understanding of humanity and social interaction to the tenants and visitors who gathered in the lobby there, and the people who congregated in nearby Bughouse Square — Stud’s neighborhood and home for most of his life of 96 years. Wanting to be a concierge at a hotel at one time, he chose to be trained as a lawyer, graduating from the University of Chicago Law School. However, being a Jew he had trouble getting a job and besides he realized that really wasn’t his calling, so he had to scramble. He had worked for the Works Progress Administration‘s (WPA) Federal Writers’ Project in radio for a time. In the tradition of an old-line liberal activist, forever partisan and loyal, Studs has railed against jim crow, capitalism, corporations, corrupt politicians, among other political and social heresies in his mind needed to be talked about. He signed many petitions for the cause of the day. That activism made him a target, and was investigated by a McCarthyite as part of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1953. Studs refused to give evidence against other left-wing activists and he was blacklisted and his television contract was canceled. He had been an avid and very early supporter of liberal causes: civil rights, labor unions, government programs for the poor. He had supported Roosevelt’s New Deal and was enthralled by John F. Kennedy.
All Guardians share the following core characteristics:
- Guardians pride themselves on being dependable, helpful, and hard-working.
- Guardians make loyal mates, responsible parents, and stabilizing leaders.
- Guardians tend to be dutiful, cautious, humble, and focused on credentials and traditions.
- Guardians are concerned citizens who trust authority, join groups, seek security, prize gratitude, and dream of meting out justice.
On his last public interview, with Edward Lifson, before Studs Terkel died at the age of 96, just before Barack Obama won the election of 2008, when asked what he would say to Obama, he ranted in a loud voice over the telephone:
I’d ask Obama, do you plan to follow up on the program of the New Deal of FDR?
I’d tell him, ‘don’t fool around on a few issues, such as health care. We’ve got bigger work to do! Read FDR’s second inaugural address!’
The free market has to be regulated. And the New Deal did that and they provided jobs. The government has to. The WPA provided jobs. We have got to get back to that. We need more reg-u-la-tion.
I was just watching Alan Greenspan, he’s an idiot, and by the way so was Ayn Rand!
Community organizers like Obama know what’s going on. If they remember. The important thing is memory. You know in this country, we all have Alzheimer’s. Obama has got to remember his days as an organizer. It all comes back to the neighborhood. Well, I hope the election is a landslide for Obama.
“For Studs, there was not a voice that should not be heard, a story that could not be told. He believed that everyone had the right to be heard and had something important to say. He was there to listen, to chronicle, and to make sure their stories are remembered.” Gary Johnson, Chicago Museum
Hey, tell them I’ve got the new books coming out! The first one is called P.S.It’s got a great interview with James Baldwin, when he came back from exile in 1961. And one with Yip Harburg, ya know him? He wrote “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”. The way we’re going, that song could be written tomorrow!And the second one is a reprint of Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression. That one too could be written tomorrow.I’m very excited by the idea of a black guy in the White House, that’s very exciting.“I just wish he was more progressive!”