NPR StoryCorps

John Marboe is a Lutheran pastor who grew up admiring his local garbage collectors in Alexandria, Minn. When times were lean for his family, he decided to take on some shifts hauling trash.

At StoryCorps in Minneapolis, Marboe tells his 13-year-old daughter, Charlie, that he's been hauling trash since she was about 8.

Vernon Dahmer was a black civil rights leader in the mid-1960s, when Mississippians were still required to pay a poll tax in order to register to vote. In January 1966, the successful farmer and businessman publicly offered to pay that tax for black people who couldn't afford it.

That night his house was firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan. His wife and three of his children were at home.

When Kayla Wilson was 15, her mom — Wendy Founds — was in prison serving a three-year term for felony drug charges. When Founds was 15 she started using drugs, and at some point became addicted to methamphetamines.

"When I asked Mom how she got started she told me that after her Paw-Paw died she was just mad at the world and mad at God, and that's when she told one of her ex-boyfriends that she wanted to get high," Kayla said during a 2006 visit to StoryCorps with her grandmother, Teri Lyn Coulter-Colclasure.

When Founds got busted, she was at home, Kayla explained.

This holiday season, it's estimated that more than 45 million people will board airplanes by the time the year ends. With that many people on the move, delays and disruptions are inevitable, and with them come disgruntled passengers.

That space between happy passenger and dissatisfied passenger is where Fred Taylor Jr. worked for 15 years in customer relations with Southwest Airlines.

On Dec. 24, 1956, when Judy Charest was 3 months old, her father went to take a shower and when he came out, Judy and her mother, Marguerite Hunt, were gone.

"She had driven to the Shelby Street Bridge, and with me in her arms, she jumped 90 feet," Judy recounts for 90-year-old Harold Hogue during a recent visit to StoryCorps in Nashville, Tenn.

Harold, who worked as an engineer with the Nashville Bridge Co. at the time, was part of a group of people who ran to the river after someone spotted her mom floating in it.

As a child, Francisco Ortega lived in rural Tijuana, Mexico, 100 miles south of where he lives with his family now.

"We were so poor, but I used to say my mother kept the best dirt floors ever," he told his 16-year-old daughter, Kaya during a recent visit to StoryCorps. "They were the cleanest dirt floors in the planet.

Dr. Joseph Linsk grew up on Atlantic Avenue in the uptown section of Atlantic City, N.J., in the early 1930s. It's an area where he's spent most of his life and where he practiced medicine starting in the 1940s, specializing in cancer and blood diseases.

Now 94 years old, the former hematologist and oncologist is failing in health, as he battles Parkinson's disease. This grave illness, however, is only one part of a perennial struggle Linsk faces. For more than 80 years, he has kept a secret. And it's one about which we're kindly requesting your help.

Robert Sanchez first met Fred Davie in 1998, in a small, windowless room at Sing Sing Prison. Sanchez was there serving 15 years on a drug conviction; Davie was a Presbyterian minister, who was teaching there in a theology master's program.

It "didn't look like much of an educational setting," Sanchez laughs. He was studying toward his master's in theology, sitting there with 16 men, most of whom were serving sentences of 15 to 20 years. "But that room created magic."

Mary Ostendorf met her partner, Leslye Huff, in 1983. At that time, like so many LGBTQ people then, Mary didn't tell her family. And Huff went along with it.

"You took me to meet your mom," Huff tells Ostendorf, recalling their relationship's beginnings in a conversation with StoryCorps. "She was short like me, and pretty vivacious. She and I sat and talked and I thought the makings of a pretty good friendship was beginning."

Saboor Sahely grew up in Laghman, Afghanistan, with a large extended family.

"I vividly remember there was a lot of happiness and joy in eastern Afghanistan," Sahely, 65, tells his youngest daughter, Jessica. On a recent visit with StoryCorps, he tells her about the lessons of community he learned there.

"If there was a wedding, the entire village would show up. And you felt very welcomed to go into each other's homes, and we knew who had what for dinner every night and if we didn't like what we had for dinner, we all went to the neighbor's house."

Looking for a diversion from divisive political conversation this Thanksgiving? StoryCorps suggests using its smartphone app as part of its Great Thanksgiving Listen project.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Her mother was an immigrant from Mexico. Her father was a foreman at a food-packing plant. She and her four siblings were raised together in a small trailer in the late 1960s.

So, when Alicia Beltrán-Castañeda's family was finally able to afford a house of their own, it was a special moment.

"I remember watching my dad paint the walls, and just thinking, 'This house is so huge!' " Beltrán-Castañeda tells her own daughter Serena Castañeda, on a visit with StoryCorps in Salinas, Calif. "I loved my room. And I had a nice full-sized bed and my pink cover and my dust ruffles."

Every day, visitors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., leave objects in commemoration of the thousands of names inscribed on its wall. Medals, dog tags, even pajamas and countless other items — there have been hundreds of thousands of them left at the memorial since its dedication in 1982, and still today you'll often find them laid out at the base of the memorial's long, reflective surface.

Duery Felton did, too.

In 1967, after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Hartmut Lau deployed to Vietnam. During his deployment, he earned a bronze star, a silver star and a purple heart.

He describes his time in Vietnam matter-of-factly: "You perform the mission that you're given. You do your job and then you either perform well or you don't."

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