StoryCorps Comes to Brooklyn

The national oral history project StoryCorps is coming to Brooklyn Heights, and wants your suggestions of who they should talk to next.

The format is simple enough: two people interview each other in the special StoryCorps reporting booths (one is in Lower Manhattan). The tapes are then archived at the Library of Congress, and participants can take a copy home. National Public Radio also occasionally broadcasts portions of some interviews.

A StoryCorps researcher, Eve Claxton, said they are looking for those special Brooklynites with a fascinating story to tell — or just one you could happily listen to for hours.

And, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, Claxton said they are particularly interested in finding the “greatest love story in Brooklyn.”

“We’re looking for larger-than-life local institutions, oldest residents, anyone with a disappearing business or skill, but above all, real talkers,” Claxton said.

Anyone have suggestions for the program? Comment below, or submit nominations to

Off the top of our heads, there’s easily Otis Pratt Pearsall, who along with his wife, Nancy, and other preservationists helped landmark Brooklyn Heights in the 1960s. Or Charlie Dolan, who, at 89, still goes to the Eastern Athletic Club six days a week, and has lived in the neighborhood his entire life minus his tour of duty in Japan during WWII.  And, who could forget Rocky and Tom at the Cutting Den inside the Clark Street train station — as barbers at the 83-year-old shop, the men have heard more tales about the neighborhood than anyone. (Whether they can retell their stories, however, is a different matter.)

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  • Neighborhood Observer

    A great talker and wonderful story teller with deep roots in the Heights is “Pete” VanWagoner Valentine (I think I have her name right) who lives in one of the two very narrow houses on Willow St (between Orange and Cranberry). Her next door neighbor, “Dr. Bob” might be a good person to join her in the conversation. And, around the corner on Cranberry is Richanda Rhoden, an artist, and widow of John Rhoden, amazing sculptor, whose work she displays in a small window in their carriage house home. The three generations of the family that owns the Variety Mart are one of the few businesses on Montague Street that actually own their building — a smart move that probably saved their business.

  • henry & state

    The ladies who ran Long Island College Restaurant – The Sullivan/Fernandez family has been in the neighborhood over 40 years.

  • AEB

    A woman named “Pete” VanWagoner Valentine with a next door neighbor called Dr. Bob?

    Are you sure, Neighborhood Observer, that they’re not the work of David Lynch?

  • Leefamsince WWII

    Yes, I also raise a Big vote for this fascinating Lady!
    Her name is Olga “Petey” Valentine.
    She lives on Willow Street between Orange and Cranberry.

    Petey is a wonderful story-teller and has lived here in Brooklyn Heights pretty much all her 70(?)+ years.
    I’m not sure how long her furry companion Minkey has lived here though.

    Petey can also be found at Plymouth Church; attending services or reading stories to the children.

  • Leefamsince WWII

    Over the weekend, I was corrected and told Petey is over 80 years young.