Audio Features | St. Louis Public Radio

Audio Features

Feature-length audio news reports from St. Louis Public Radio reporters.

Nazi guards force Jewish prisoners on a death march during World War II. The fifth man from the right is Leo Wolfe, who survived the Holocaust and co-founded the Holocaust Museum & Learning Center with Tom Green and Bill Kahn.  4/15/19
Holocaust Museum & Learning Center

Paula Bromberg was a Polish Jew whose family was seized by the Nazis, forced to live in the Lodz ghetto and later sent to the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. She was sent from there to another camp, where she was exploited as slave labor. On May 6, 1945, her camp was liberated by the U.S. army near the end of World War II. She was the only one in her family who survived to see freedom.

Bromberg met her future husband, Harry, in a displaced persons camp after the war. They and their young child resettled in St. Louis.

Decades later, she told her story to Vida "Sister" Goldman Prince, with a tape recorder rolling. Bromberg died in 2013.

After years in storage, the interview on that tape — and those of 143 other Holocaust survivors with ties to the area — is now online.

Provided by Tornillo: The Occupation

St. Louisan Elizabeth Vega loads up a rental van with screen printing materials, Sharpie markers, and a box of flowers. She’s packing for a protest more than 1,000 miles away.

The Chicana poet and artist has become one of the region’s most recognizable activists in the years since the shooting death of Michael Brown sparked an ongoing protest movement. Alongside a collective of artists and activists, Vega often demonstrates against police violence using big banners, colorful drawings and papier-mâché puppets.

Don Marsh resigned suddenly last month from his longtime postition as host of St. Louis on the Air.
File photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Don Marsh, the longtime host of St. Louis Public Radio's talk show, resigned after his managers challenged him on at least three occasions about his comments regarding women.

Marsh acknowledges that he has said things that others consider inappropriate, but he doesn't think he has done anything improper.

The veteran journalist’s departure has caused a stir in St. Louis, where many listeners of St. Louis on the Air have expressed outrage that the station did not try to keep him, and Marsh said he is the victim of an overly sensitive staff. The episode points to the changing standards in an evolving workplace.

Staff Sergeants Bradley Miller and Rafael Agosto are one of the teams from Fort Leonard Wood in the Best Sapper Competition.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

“Sapper” is the Army’s nickname for the combat engineers who take on a variety of duties all centered around clearing the way for infantry to get where they need to go.

The name comes from the French word “sappe,” meaning to undermine and collapse a wall.

This week, 50 two-person teams of sappers from around the world are at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks to compete against each other in an event designed to test the wide-ranging skills a sapper needs.

Jess Jones is the education liaison at the Transgender Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital. A recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling in favor of a transgender student was "was a great surprise for me," Jones said.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri Supreme Court ruling from earlier this year is giving advocates hope that stronger protections for transgender youth in school will soon follow.

A transgender student sued the Blue Springs School R-IV District for access to the bathroom and other facilities that aligned with the student’s gender identity. The state’s top court ruled in late February in favor of the student.

A group known as Better Together is proposing a plan to merge St. Louis and St. Louis County. They're planning to get the measure on the 2020 ballot.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

The group Better Together submitted its proposal for a merger of St. Louis and St. Louis County in January. The plan calls for a statewide vote in 2020, when Missouri residents would decide on the future of the city and county. The plan would consolidate several municipal functions including police departments, a prosecutor and an assessor.

Residents of the city and country continue to have question regarding the merger, which would consolidate several key functions of the St. Louis and St. Louis County region.

Ralph Toenjes carries game-used baseballs during an Aug. 16 game from the Cardinals' dugout to the Authentics Shop in the right field concourse of Busch Stadium.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Editor's note: This story was originally published Aug. 22, 2018.

What happens to all those used baseballs the umpires toss out of games at Busch Stadium?

After Keith Duncan of St. Louis submitted that question to our Curious Louis feature, we went to the Aug. 16 game between the Cardinals and Washington Nationals to find out.

That’s where we found Ralph Toenjes hard at work, happily greeting fans at the Authentics Shop, located behind center field. Toenjes sells memorabilia, including used baseballs, fresh from the field. During games, it’s his job to fetch baseballs from the Cardinals dugout every two or three innings.

Eltoreon Hawkins works on a house in the Walnut Park West neighborhood of St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Eltoreon Hawkins has made it his mission to help St. Louisans buy vacant, city-owned houses.

The 25-year-old contractor bought his first home from the city’s Land Reutilization Authority when he was a student at Harris-Stowe State University.

Dr. Janet Kavandi and Commander Steven Lindsay during the STS-104 shuttle mission in 2001. It was the Missouri native's third and final spaceflight.
NASA

Dr. Janet Kavandi has orbited the earth more than 500 times yet admits she’s a little nervous about being inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The Missouri native said that’s because she has to give a speech.

“I don’t usually get nervous about talking to any particular group of people, except for my peers,” she said.

David Reisenleiter works on the bowls of corn cob pipes at the Missouri Meerschaum Company in Washington, Missouri.
Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

Phil Morgan delights in showing visitors around the oldest corn cob pipe factory in the world — the 150-year-old Missouri Meerschaum Company in Washington, Missouri.

“I mean, it's a corn cob pipe, so it’s definitely a fun business to be part of,’’ said Morgan, the company’s general manager.

The factory is still housed in its original red-brick hulk of a building sprawled along Front Street, above the Missouri River. It produces about 700,000 corn cob pipes a year — “handcrafted and made in the USA” — and ships them to customers across the United States and 70 countries.

A child and an adult leave Farragut Elementary School in St. Louis's Greater Ville neighborhood in Jan. 9, 2019.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

For more than a decade, the St. Louis Board of Education met every month in a school library, gym or cafeteria across the city with only the most diehard public-education watchers in attendance.

Despite keeping up appearances, actual control of the city’s public-school system had been forcibly handed over to another body more than a decade ago. The board has been disenfranchised since a 2007 state takeover of St. Louis Public Schools amid rising deficits, falling academic performance and revolving superintendents.

 Joe Hanrahan (left) and Shane Signorino co-star in Midnight Company's "Popcorn Falls," opening Thursday night and running through April 13.
Midnight Company

Even after 40 years on stage, St. Louis actor Joe Hanrahan still relishes the nervous anticipation of opening a show. Each time he prepares to step into the spotlight, he asks himself, “Can we pull this off?”

Hanrahan, who co-founded the Midnight Company theater ensemble in 1997, has spent much of his career starring in one-person shows or playing multiple roles in shows with small casts. He thoroughly enjoys the prospect of rapidly switching between different characters onstage, say, from a 12-year-old girl to a misogynist older man.

It’s thrilling and also terrifying, especially just before the curtain goes up, like taking that first step onto a tightrope.

MARSfarm CEO and founder Peter Webb standing next to a chamber he built to grow basil at the St. Louis Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

At the St. Louis Science Center’s GROW exhibit on agriculture, a metal box casts violet light on a dozen basil plants.

A St. Louis-based startup called MARSfarm built the growth chamber, which it calls a food computer. The company’s instructions on how to build them and program small computers to grow produce are posted online. The small team that runs MARSfarm is also teaching high school students in the St. Louis area how to build them.

The startup aims to help astronauts grow crops on Mars. But since that’s years away, the company is focused on teaching people how computer technology can be used to help address the increasing demands for food on Earth, said Peter Webb, MARSfarm’s founder and CEO.

Sarah Schlafly, co-founder of Mighty Cricket, measures cricket powder on March 14, 2019 for a batch of dark cocoa oatmeal at Urban Eats Cafe.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Sarah Schlafly isn’t squeamish when it comes to eating insects.

For her, crickets are just “land shrimp.”

The St. Louis-based entrepreneur co-founded Mighty Cricket in 2017, a startup that produces breakfast foods with an unusual addition: crickets. The company now sells several products at local grocery stores and online, including pancake mix, oatmeal and protein powder — all made with powdered, roasted crickets.


Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a late-winter chill in the house. A space heater is trying to do the work of a busted furnace. Angelina rubs the sleep out of her eyes as her mom gets her washed up and dressed.

It’s 8:45 in the morning. The 8-year-old is already late for school. She didn’t go to bed until after 2 a.m., because sleeping at her great-aunt’s home in the Walnut Park neighborhood in north St. Louis was not the plan. They couldn’t get into her mom’s sister’s apartment a few miles away. So it was back on the bus.

Lee Broughton is a former vice president of global marketing for the Enterprise brands. He also is the founder of a small brand strategy firm known as the Broughton Brand Company.
STL Made

A grassroots effort is underway to build up the St. Louis region and then expand that unified message of pride to other areas of the country. A key goal is to make the area more competitive when it comes to attracting jobs, students and keeping people here after they graduate.

Dorris Keeven-Franke leads several of Archer Alexander's descendants through a tour of Alexander's life. They're standing here at the Pitman family cemetery. The Pitmans were one of Alexander's owners.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

For the past 30 years, Keith Winstead has been tracing the many generations of his family history.

“When I first started genealogy, I thought I’d be lucky to go and find a third great-grandparent. I got pictures now of 10 generations,” Winstead said.

On a cold and windy day he was at Bellefontaine Cemetery with about 15 other family members who hail from different parts of the U.S., such as Louisville, Atlanta, New York and Cincinnati.

Poet Haki R. Madhubuti and musician Nicole Mitchell collaborated on a collection of poems set to music. 3/15/19
New Music Circle

Jazz flautist Nicole Mitchell was taking a break from college when she started volunteering at Third World Press, a Chicago bookstore and publishing house. That move sparked a lifelong mentorship with the press’s founder, poet and activist Haki R. Madhubuti.

Twenty years later, the two collaborated on a collection of his poems set to music. They’ve performed the material only a few times, and never outside Chicago. That changes Saturday, when they play a New Music Circle concert at St. Louis University.

Gov. Mike Parson delivers his first State of the State address Jan. 16, 2019.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

As the Missouri General Assembly hits its week-long spring break, lawmakers are mulling over what they’ve accomplished so far — and bracing for an array of items that haven’t reached the legislative finish line.

While lawmakers in both the House and Senate have been able to tackle issues that have historically stalled, such as curtailing the low-income housing tax-credit program, priorities that Gov. Mike Parson holds near and dear have run into opposition from his own party.

Unpacking Pritzker's Tax Proposals: Bag Tax

Mar 13, 2019

Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to create a host of new taxes to help balance Illinois’ budget — on everything from e-cigarettes to medical insurance companies.

NPR Illinois reporters have been breaking down those revenue-generating ideas. Today we’re looking at a potential tax on shopping bags.

Andrew Joyce won’t be growing any tomatoes this summer. His three-acre produce farm in Malden, Missouri, will lie fallow. The cause: damage from the weed killer dicamba.

Mary and George Hayes test the comfort level of a couch at the Home Sweet Home furniture bank on Feb. 27, 2019.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Mary Hayes cradled Tucker, a 15-year-old Boston terrier, tightly in her arms as movers from the nonprofit Home Sweet Home furniture bank maneuvered a donated sofa into her second-floor flat in south St. Louis.

“With the furniture coming, oh, gosh, it’ll be so wonderful,’’ she said, gently rocking Tucker. “It’ll take the emptiness away.’’

The furniture bank operates like a food bank: It collects used furnishings and housewares and distributes them at no charge to people in St. Louis and St. Louis County who are working their way out of sad yesterdays — homelessness, abuse, poverty.

University City senior Kaya Blount talks about being nervous for an upcoming college audition during a restorative circle in Latin class. "When you're just able to talk about it, it doesn't get to the point where it's harmful to you," she said.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

There are no desks in AP Latin class at University City High School. Students instead “circle up” by facing each other in plastic chairs.

As the stuffed animal, “Felix the Talking Cat,” makes its way around the circle, one student expresses worry about an exam later in the day. Seniors fret about pending college-acceptance letters. Another shares news of unexpectedly acing a test and the group cheers.

April Thomas (left) and Cory Lampkin (right) visited Jamaa Birth Village with their daughter Addisonkori in March. March 4, 2019.
Kae Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

Brittany "Tru" Kellman sometimes starts her day two hours before Jamaa Birth Village opens at 10 a.m., stashing diapers and snacks for the dozens of people who will come through the Ferguson nonprofit’s doors. She gives everyone a hug when she meets them.

Jamaa is different from other pregnancy clinics. It provides care for women of color by women of color. After traumatic experiences as a teen mom, Kellman was determined to create a better alternative for black women.

“Creating Jamaa Birth Village is a kind of a re-creation of the type of care and support I gave myself when the system failed me,” said Kellman, the center’s founder.

Singer and songwriter Gary McClure recently released a number of songs under the name Son of the Pale Youth.
Courtesy of Gary McClure

Gary McClure’s music gained him the notoriety and acclaim that performers strive for.

But it wasn’t until recently that McClure created something that made him satisfied with the experience.

After struggling to come up with a follow to his collection of hard-charging and melodic songs, McClure spent a weekend playing his electric guitar and crooning into a microphone hooked up to his laptop. The result was what he calls Son of the Pale Youth, which has a radically different sound than what he’s created in the recent past.

Last summer, Chantil was forced to leave the townhome she shared with her two daughters and her mother in Des Plaines. (We’re withholding Chantil’s last name to protect her family’s privacy.) Her landlord wanted to sell the building, and Chantil had only about a month to find a new home. Landlords, however, kept turning her down because of her credit, and her income. Chantil makes $12 an hour at a department store.

The Sumner High School football team huddles during the 2011 homecoming game against Vashon High School. The game attracts thousands of Sumner alumni to The Ville each fall.
File | Wiley Price | St. Louis American

Tory Russell has been roaming the halls and cafeteria of Sumner High School in a maroon Bulldogs hoodie, a laptop open in his hands. He has one question for every boy he finds: “Wanna play football?”

Russell, an assistant coach, is fervently trying to save St. Louis’ winningest high-school football program by getting kids signed up to play. Right now, the Bulldogs football team doesn’t have enough players to take the field. That means there’s a good chance this storied football program has played its last game.

Mailers from across the city for the 2019 Board of Aldermen races
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

While the race for the president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has dominated the lead-up to the municipal primary, voters in the city's even-numbered wards will also effectively select their representatives on Tuesday. And depending on the results, policy in the city could shift drastically.

Labadie resident and environmental activist Patricia Schuba looks at the Labadie Energy Center through binoculars.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Every Missouri utility that’s dumping waste from coal-fired power plants into massive pits in the ground has posted data that shows significant levels of nearby groundwater contamination, according to an analysis by the Washington University Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic.

Missouri has never regulated these pits, known as coal ash ponds, even though they’ve existed for more than 50 years.

An active coal-ash pond at the Meramec Energy Center in St. Louis County in February 2018.
File Photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

About 11 years ago, a small group of residents in Labadie learned that the power plant in their town owned massive pits of toxic waste known as coal ash ponds.

They discovered that the Labadie Energy Center — Ameren Missouri’s largest coal-fired power plant — has two basins packed with byproducts from coal combustion. The waste includes toxic, cancer-causing chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

For more than 50 years, utility companies have filled largely unlined coal ash ponds with harmful waste. But the state has never regulated them or required their owners to test groundwater nearby for contamination. A Washington University data analysis recently found high levels of groundwater contamination near the ponds.

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