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“It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

STUDS TERKEL — WORKING XI
ENTER SITE

Working: Then and Now
Radio Series

“Working: Then and Now” is the second component of the Working in America initiative created by Project& and Radio Diaries. The radio series, “Working: Then and Now,” launched with the pilot broadcast Labor Day 2014, with tremendous response. The pilot introduced the actual voices from Terkel’s field interviews for the acclaimed book, “Working,” for the first time ever. The full 12-part series aired in September 2016 on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition.

The radio series has subsequently aired on Chicago Public Media/WBEZ adding two newly produced pieces to the line up. It will continue to air on public media stations across the country as the exhibit travels. In fall 2017, an hour-long program including the best of the series and newly produced stories will be broadcast.

In the early 1970’s, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel crossed the country with a reel-to-reel tape recorder, interviewing people about their work. The result was a book called “Working.” It became a bestseller, has influenced people for decades and even inspired a Broadway musical…something rare for an oral history collection. Terkel’s “Working” struck a nerve, because it elevated the stories of ordinary people and their daily lives’ stories to the stature historically held exclusively by famous, wealthy and powerful people.

Until recently, few of Terkel’s actual interviews had ever been heard publicly — and most of the participants hadn’t heard them either — until Project& and Jane M Saks discovered they still existed with the help of the Studs Terkel Archives/WFMT. For decades, the reel-to-reel tapes were packed away in Terkel’s home office. We combed through them all to produce the series with Radio Diaries: “Working: Then and Now.”

Granted exclusive and unprecedented access to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel’s 1974 interviews, we profiled people originally featured in his book who are still living and a few others that are not as they sat down with Studs to talk. The series includes original stories from the field recordings and revisits these individuals joining them as they hear, for the first time, their interview and reflect upon the previous four decades living and working.

“Working: Then and Now” is part of Project&’s Working in America initiative that includes three components. First, is the photographic exhibit traveling the country to public libraries and public venues, the second component is the radio series, “Working: Then and Now” and the third, a living online archive, “Your Working Story,” where anyone can add their working story right here at Working.org or by clicking here.

Go to the “Your Working Story” section to add your own story and read others. With great thanks to our partners at the Studs Terkel Archives/WFMT, the Chicago History Museum and Radio Diaries.

  • INTRODUCTION
    Photo: Bettman Archive & Getty Images

    STUDS TERKEL

    Decades ago, author Studs Terkel traveled the country with a tape recorder, interviewing regular people about what they did for a living. The interviews became a book called, Working, and it struck a chord with readers because it revealed the dignity in the lives of everyday people. Project& and Radio Diaries listened to the interviews. Here, we present the best of what we found.

  • THEN
    NOW
    Photos: Detroit Free Press & Lynsey Addario

    GARY BRYNER

    Gary Bryner started working at a General Motors car plant in 1966, making $3 an hour. Six years later, at 29, he was the youngest president ever of Local Union 1112 of the United Automobile Workers in Ohio. Bryner led a successful strike in 1972 in response to the factory’s replacement of many jobs with robots to increase the speed of the assembly line. Bryner went on to work for the UAW International Union, until his retirement 11 years ago. He now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In his contemporary interview, he reflects on how factory work and the role of unions have changed in the past four decades.

  • THEN
    NOW
    Photos: Getty Images & Jane M. Saks

    RENAULT ROBINSON

    Renault Robinson was an officer in the Chicago Police Department, and one of the co-founders of the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League when Terkel interviewed him in 1971. As one of the few black police officers on the force, Robinson spoke openly and bluntly about the role of race in urban policing. Robinson was later part of a landmark lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department for discrimination. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Patrolmen’s League.

    Renault Robinson retired from the force in 1983, and still lives in Chicago. In his contemporary interview, Robinson expresses frustration with how little has changed in 40 years.

  • THEN
    NOW
    Photos: Courtesy of Eddie Arroyo & Bill Healy

    EDDIE ARROYO

    When he was first interviewed by Studs Terkel in 1971, jockey Eddie Arroyo had been racing for 6 years. He said it was the hardest and most dangerous job he’d ever had.

    Arroyo retired as a jockey in 1978 and was inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame in 1986. He still works in the horse racing industry at the Arlington Race Track, where part of his contemporary interview was recorded.

  • THEN
    NOW
    Photos: Courtesy of Sharon Griggins

    SHARON GRIGGINS

    Sharon Griggins was 17 and working for Illinois Bell as a telephone switchboard operator when Terkel interviewed her. Though it was a job that required talking to people all day long, Griggins said that there really wasn’t that much human communication. In the book, she appeared under the pseudonym, Heather Lamb.

    After working as a telephone switchboard operator through high school and college, she built a career in communications, marketing and fundraising for nonprofit organizations and is now the chief strategy officer for the Seattle Public Library Foundation. In her contemporary interview, Griggins says that her time as an operator made her a good listener.

  • THEN
    Photo: Historic Images

    HOTS MICHELS

    A hotel piano player frustrated by his future, Hots Michels, was interviewed by Studs Terkel while entertaining guests at the Hotel Sherman, where he worked for decades.

  • THEN
    NOW
    Photos: Courtesy of Singer Family & Jane M. Saks

    DUKE & LEE SINGER

    In the 1970’s, Studs Terkel interviewed Duke and Lee Singer at their auto repair shop in Geneva, Illinois. He found a story about fathers and sons working together, and the tensions within a family business. Four decades later, Project& and Radio Diaries went back and found the family business still intact -- tensions and all.

  • THEN
    Photo: Bettman Archive & Getty Images

    EDDIE JAFFE

    Eddie Jaffe was a press agent “legendary for his lost causes, chutzpah and angst,” according to his obituary in the New York Times. He represented Broadway and Hollywood stars. In his interview with Terkel, Jaffe looked back on his career and wondered if somehow he had made the wrong choice.

  • THEN
    Photo: Public Domain

    AL POMMIER

    Here, Lovin’ Al Pommier tells Terkel about being a parking lot attendant in Chicago.

  • THEN
    Photo: Public Domain

    BARBARA HERRICK

    In the ‘70s, Studs Terkel talked to an ad executive who explained how as a “token woman” she had to navigate the male-dominated industry.

  • THEN
    Photo: Public Domain

    HOMER MARTINEZ

    Homer Martinez, a gravedigger and caretaker, tells Studs Terkel about the unexpected joys of his job at Shalom Memorial Cemetery in Illinois.

    In the book, Martinez appeared under the pseudonym, Elmer Ruiz.

  • THEN
    Photo: Modified Image from Ankarin/Creative Commons

    THOMAS FISCHETTI

    Thomas Fischetti worked as a porter, a baker, a newspaper man and a drunk. As a private investigator in Brooklyn, Ruggiero was hired by companies to root out criminal activity. He tells author Studs Terkel about his job for the book, "Working."

    In the book, Fischetti appeared under the pseudonym, Anthony Ruggiero.