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Charleston, WV, West Side, Part 1: History Laid Down Like Shellac

We take the show to Charleston West Virginia’s West Side neighborhood to visit a family barbecue joint, a country music jamboree, a faith-based after-school program, a women’s drug recovery house, and a bustling Goodwill headquarters. Plus, conversations with an activist preacher, a vacant-home rehabber, an open-eared neighborhood planner, and a retired theater technician who’s projected more than 50 years of movie history.

Special thanks this episode to West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard, The West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Multiple Voices: From WYPR and PRX, in collaboration with the West Virginia Folklife Program, it’s Out of the Blocks: one neighborhood, everybody’s story.

Charleston is a big small town.

Yeah, you wouldn’t walk down the street in New York City or D.C. saying, “Hi!” to everybody, okay? But you do that here in Charleston and in West Virginia.

We just find it more comfortable here. It’s not so pushy and it’s not so busy.

You talk to some people, it’s a wonderful place. You talk to me and the people that I’ve been working with for forty years and they’d tell you it’s a hard place if you’re black and it’s doubly hard if you’re poor. And it’s triply hard if you’re black, you think with your own mind, you have your own ideas and you’re willing to stand up and speak truth to power.

From producers Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick, with West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard, Out of the Blocks: Charleston, West Virginia’s West Side—right after this.

Adrian Wright: She’s getting sauce and the sides ready. My son is prepping wings. We’ve got all the sides ready—baked beans, collard greens, sweet potato casserole, cabbage, green beans, mac and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw.

Aaron Henkin: What can or can’t you tell me about the sauce?

Ashley W.: Ah, it’s a secret. That’s what I can tell you about the sauce.

Adrian W.: We’re on the West Side of Charleston, Dem 2 Brothers & a Grill. Adrian Wright.

Ashley W.: Ashley Wright. I am Adrian Wright’s daughter.

Adrian W.: All the meat is out on the grill. Used to be an old propane tank, then cut into it to make a grill. We’ve got two racks. You’ve got the bottom rack, the higher rack… You move the meat up so it can slow-cook.

Ashley W.: The best smelling corner in Charleston.

Adrian W.: We’ve got chicken breast, pulled pork on here, ribs on here, getting ready for our lunch rush.

Ronald Blanks: Every day of work is just coming out here and feeling at home and cooking on the grill.

Adrian W.: This is Ron—grill man.

AH: You’ve got the rest of the crew working inside the kitchen. You’re outside every day.

RB: Yeah. In the cold, just getting it done.

AH: But I guess you’re right next to a pretty major heat source, this smoker.

RB: Yeah, it feels pretty good. It actually warms me up, keep me crispy all day.

AH: Who’s this guy?

Ashley W.: This is a neighborhood dog. I was actually just telling them about him. He comes every morning, so he gets the scraps. He might get a pulled pork bone or a rib bone and he’ll take it and run off, so…

AH: He looks very well-fed. A very well-fed pit bull.

Ashley W.: Yeah. [laughs]

AH: He’s tearing it up! Bones and everything!

Ashley W.: He’s got the best meal in town compared to the other dogs.

Adrian W.: I grew up right here in Charleston, West Virginia. Played a little football in high school one year, ended up winning player of the year at Virginia Union, I signed with the New York Giants and then I caught on with the Bucks I was with the Bucks for three years. Stayed there for 26, lived in Tampa, moved back when I came back to see my mother and I seen she was having problems, so she had dementia, so we just sort of made a grill and a hot dog cart and put it here on this corner and the rest in history. It just took off from there. Matter of fact, she’s still living. She’s 96 years old, just turned 96 in August. She lived with me and I took care of her. I never went back. As a kid, I loved to cook and I’d be in the kitchen with my mother even though I played basketball, football out but, you know, I just loved cooking and never did go to culinary school or nothing but it helped me pay my way through college, you know? When you’re in college, you need a little extra money so I used to sell barbecue to the football players and everybody on Sundays, you know, so it was just something I loved to do. This ain’t work to me. This is fun. It ain’t work. I could do it all day. I was told that this barbecue place wouldn’t work over here on the West Side because it’s basically a trouble area, but the same people that told me it wouldn’t work come every day, you know? And, you know, the best thing that happened to me was my two kids moved up here from Florida to help me with this business,

Ashley W.: When I was younger, I remember telling him that I did not want to work in barbecue. I didn’t want to smell like smoke. So, that is one thing that he never really lets me live down. But that was just it. I’ve seen him do this a couple times and it’s just amazing to see how his hometown basically embraced him.

Adrian W.: To build this thing and to see it grow? You know, we going in our tenth year now and it’s just been good. 

Cindy Bird: I’m gonna sing a little bit of a Merle Haggard thing. “Silver wings, shining in the sunlight, roaring engines, headed somewhere in flight. They’re taking you away and leaving me lonely. Silver wings, slowly fading at the side.” My name is Cindy Bird. We’re here at West Side Jamboree in Charleston, West Virginia. This is a great place to bring your family and dance and listen to the bands. There’s different bands every week and it’s really a joy to come out and entertain the people. 

Jack Dunlap: Cindy? Fantastic entertainer. But yeah, there’s a lot of talent in the state of West Virginia. A lot of talent. My name is Jack Dunlap and I am the leader of the Outlaw Country Band. This is a family-oriented thing. We do it every weekend. As you can see, we have a good crowd. We always do and everybody that walks in that door is family. Everybody. And I’ve always said that if you can put a smile on somebody’s face or put a tear in somebody’s eye through a song, then it’s worth it all. It’s worth it all.

Steve Mullins: It’s amazing, it really is, that they recognize the songs. That means that we’re really playing them right. That’s always a good thing, you know? And as soon as they hear the first note, usually they just flock to the dance floor. It’s their favorite song, you know? I’m Steve Mullins. I play the fiddle with a six-piece band—I think it is tonight—and this is a non-profit that we’re playing here and all this money that we make is donated to families that burn out or have lost one of their loved ones and can’t pay the funeral bill and things like that. That’s what this place does.

JD: And every time I’ve ever asked the guys to do a benefit for a certain person or a certain organization, then they always come through and so does this crowd. They always come through.

SM: And these people are not—most of them—aren’t married. This is a place for elders to come get together, you know? And if you’ve lost someone, then it’s the perfect venue for coming in and meeting someone else because these girls aren’t… They’re not a bit afraid to walk up and say, “Hi, my name is so-and-so. Would you like to dance?” You know? They’re pretty devious, too. They watch when someone breaks up and they’ll get their man. [laughs] It’s funny to stand up on stage and watch all this go on but it’s amazing, really.

Darrell Brown: Yeah, there’s a lot of single ladies here. Some of them are divorced, some of them have lost their husbands, but everybody’s willing to dance. I think I’ve had thirteen tonight.

AH: Thirteen different dances?

DB: Thirteen different dances and I think I’m about shot. I think I’m about to go home. [laughs] I’m Darrell Brown. I come up here every Friday and Saturday night. The wife was coming up with women in a group and she got to where she learned to dance and really liked it. So, she told me, “You’re gonna have to learn to dance.” Well, you know how that goes. The lady talks, you listen! So, we took a few lessons around the valley here and really got interested in it and we’ve been doing that ever since. She now has dementia and can’t dance but she tells me I can dance with anybody I want as long as I go home with her.

AH: You’re late to the dancing game but you’re a long-time musician.

DB: That’s right. The harmonica. I’ll play you a little tune.

AH: You’re in good shape for 86 years old.

DB: Well, thanks.

AH: What’s your secret?

DB: Never drank, never smoked. I think that has a lot to do with it. But I’ve got a good wife and it’s enjoyable to just be around her. We’ve had a good life. I couldn’t ask for better.

AH: I always feel like everyone I meet I like to consider my teacher for the day. You got any words of wisdom for me about life? I’m all ears.

DB: You learn to say, “Yes, ma’am,” and “I’m sorry,” real early in marriage and it works. [laughs] I’m living proof of it. 

Teresa Brown: Well, my name is Teresa Brown. We are at the 2nd Avenue Neighborhood Center and we are doing homework hour right now.

Student 1: Here. We are here today.

Student 2: H-E-R-E.

Student 1: Hear, like, “I hear a strange noise.”

Student 2: H-E-A-R.

AH: You are surrounded by six kids. You’re helping six kids with six different homework assignments all at once.

TB: Exactly.
Makayden: My name’s Makayden [11:57?] and I go to school at Mary C. Snow. I’m nine years old. I’m in fourth grade and I like studying art and math and reading and stuff.
AH: It sounds like Ms. Teresa helps a lot of different people in the neighborhood, yeah? How would you describe Ms. Teresa?

Makayden: Like, a good person but sometimes, like, I play around and sometimes I have to sit down and stuff… But she helps a lot of people.

TB: I love these kids and I give them everything I got.

Makayden: Our Father in heaven.

Multiple children: Our Father in heaven.

Makayden: Hallowed be thy name.

Multiple children: Hallowed be thy name.

TB: Well, this program got started back in 2001 when the city of Charleston shut the building down and our pastor, Reverend James Ealy, took the building over and I stepped in and have been running it ever since, free of charge. 

Reverend James Ealy: It just keeps a good thing going. One time, I think we had about a hundred and fifty kids going to the after-school program. Reverend James Ealy. Back in 2000, this was headquarters central for the drug problem in West Virginia and so, we decided we were gonna go out and take our ministry to the street. And so, then the city decided to give us this building because the drug folk had taken over. So, we decided we were gonna try and break it up and we still got a long way to go but we really did accomplish an awful lot. So, that’s how we ended up with this building. 

TB: I love Reverend Ealy and he knows I have his back. He’s a wonderful man. If it wasn’t for him, there wouldn’t be no me. I’m gonna tell you that right now. I was a hot mess. I was the mess in the street that he came out and saved and I appreciate that from the bottom of my heart. And let’s see how long… I’ve worked for him for twenty years, unpaid. So, I gotta have some kind of love for him.

AH: I learned something important about this group, and that has to do with a decision you all made about whether or not you were gonna take funds. I wonder if you could explain the importance of spirituality in what you’re doing and the dedication that you have to keeping this a spiritual-based program.

RJE: We were coming up for an audit. So, we were getting this money from the city, and I’m saying, “What a wonderful thing to do is for to invite the people in where we’re feeding the kids.” You know? And for a lot for the kids, this was the meal of the day for them and so, we just thought this was going to be great for the people to see us feeding the kids and all. And they would line up and they would have to say a Bible verse and then offer a prayer. And when they prayed, the people that were doing the audit, they said, “Reverend, you know you can’t make them pray.” And I’m saying, “Well, this is who you are. If you want to keep your money, then keep your money and we’ll make do.” So, we’ve been making it.

TB: I’m not going to compromise who I am and what I believe over someone else’s money.

Makayden: For Yours is the kingdom…

Multiple children: For Yours is the kingdom…

Makayden: And the power…

Mulitple children: And the power…

Makayden: And the glory…

Mulitple children: And the glory…

Makayden: For ever and ever. Amen.

Multiple children: For ever and ever. Amen.

Donald Moore: There’s so much junk in here, you can’t see anything. Here’s a projector that I rebuilt and here’s where you’d project through this. And then you’d have these rollers to film guide them through here so you didn’t have any weavers or anything.

AH: Tell me your full name?

DM: Donald Moore. Company here is called Moore Theater Equipment. You know, we put in theaters from scratch. We converted, we added screens, and my father and I started it in 1962. He passed away in 1966 and I’ve been at it all these years. 53 to be exact. 

AH: Do you remember what the first movie is you ever went and saw in a theater when you were a kid?

DM: Let’s see… My dad had fifteen theaters at one time, so I saw a lot of movies. It was probably some of the old westerns. Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry, and… The industry was all cowboys and Indians, basically. There was a few horror pictures, a few mysteries, and what have you. But predominantly, it was all that, you know?

AH: Tell me about your growing up under your dad’s wing and growing up and actually learning what he did, how he did what he did, and learning it for yourself.

DM: Yeah. I would help him and watch and learn and what have you. I’d always get to do the scrub jobs, you know? Clean up this mess, clean up that mess before you could work on it, you know? So greasy and dirty. But I learned a lot and it was interesting and… He was born in Portsmouth, Ohio and he only had a sixth-grade education. He went to work in the theater as a projectionist when he was twelve, thirteen years old. The reason he had to quit school was he had a younger brother and sister that he had to help take care of and what have you, and he said, you know, it was really tough and winters were bad and he said he had a little old broken down wagon and he’d go out and walk the railroad tracks and pick up coal and take it back and they’d burn that for heat.

AH: He went from being, like, a teenage projectionist helping to pay his family’s budget to an entrepreneur who ended up owning fifteen movie theaters.

DM: Yeah. Yeah, he did and they were all in coal camps. They did what they called “bicycling film” back then. You would bring a movie in and you would show it at this theater here and once it showed there and everybody’d seen it, they moved it to the other theater and they moved a new one in here. So, one movie went around for fifteen weeks to what they called the circuit. You take one out, you put a new one in. And they all just made a circle.

AH: When did you officially go out of business?

DM: The first of January. I’m seventy years old, and when digital came a long, it just changed the whole world. Yeah, I guess it’s like you’re used to playing baseball all your life and then all of a sudden, you start playing basketball or soccer or something different and it’s just not the same animal that it was, you know? It’s just totally different.

AH: What’s the future of this space and all the stuff in it at this point?

DM: I’m hoping the lawyer next door will want to buy the building and tear it down and make a parking lot! I mean, I don’t need it anymore. It served its purpose as far as I’m concerned. It was a good living. You stay in the same business for 53 years… That says a lot.

Multiple voices: It’s Out of the Blocks: Charleston, West Virginia’s West Side. One neighborhood, everybody’s story.

Fran Gray: My name is Fran Gray. We’re currently at Recovery Point in Charleston, located on the West Side. It is a 9 to 12-month absence-based program. Our participants live here the entire time. There’s multiple parts of the program: there’s detox, there’s OTS 1, there’s OTS 2, Phase 1, and then a 3-month after-care portion and they are not allowed to leave until we actually have an approved home planned for them. We currently have 111 girls in the main facility. We have an 8-bedroom house right across the street and then we have a 24-complex apartment out back, so there’s typically about 146 women here at any given time. I was actually a participant here back in 2016. I was the first graduate of this program, so I started out with detox and sort of worked my way up to the director’s position now. It’s really comforting to talk to someone and be like, “Me too. I’ve been there, too. Exactly where you’re at.” Most of the women don’t believe that I’m in recovery and I like that. They think that, you know, they can just see that my life’s gotten significantly better and can’t—in that state of mind—imagine. I came from a small town. There was no drinking, no drugs in my house. No one ever smoked. I got into a car accident back in 2010 and I was prescribed opiates at that time and put on a drip and morphine and I had never used any type of opiates in my entire life. I had no idea that you could even get addicted. I was actually very judgmental towards people with addiction. I always imagined that person as the hobo under the bridge drinking a bottle of… That’s what I thought it was. You know, I always did really well in school, had scholarships and everything else to go to college. But when I got into college after my car accident, after the opiates, I started drinking because I started remembering that feeling with it. I had lost my job at that point, I had lost my scholarships, so it just kind of went off from there. I ended up getting with a boy that was using at the same time, too, and I was trying to save him essentially from it. I remember actually yelling at him to get up and suck it up because he was going through detox because I just didn’t understand. And at that point, I don’t know, I got to the point where I wanted to try to see what he was choosing over me. And from there, it just went off. I used IV heroin. First time I used heroin was IV and I was instantly addicted. I used IV for about 18 months and then what ended up happening was I got into trouble. I had a petty larceny charge, so, you know, I was looking at a situation where I was I was looking at ten years in prison. From there, I was given a choice. I could either go to treatment or I could stay in jail for a really long time. So then, November 14th, 2016, I came here. So, I went through here and graduated and took a program on our position here and recently—about five months ago—I moved into the director’s position. I’ve actually, you know, working through here and finding myself, I learned a way to choose me and I, you know, have a new relationship today and I actually had my daughter, too, while I’ve been in sobriety and who’s absolutely wonderful. I swear, she’s like the best baby ever. And I don’t know. I’ve got to be not only stable in my family’s life now and not worrying my mother to death and my father to death. You know, I’ve been able to build my own family from there, too. You know, I’m stable now. I own a house and that’s something that, you know, has been a great achievement of mine and, you know, to be a really good mom has been another achievement of mine.

Matthew J. Watts: Well, I’m a native West Virginian, born and raised in the southern West Virginia coal fields in Fayette County, but I’ve lived here for forty years, actually. My name’s Matthew J. Watts. I’m a senior pastor at the Grace Bible Church of Charleston, and so when I became the senior pastor of the Grace Bible Church, I persuaded the church to move to the West Side of Charleston, that the need was the great because of the challenges and the fact that it has the highest concentration of African-Americans to live anywhere in the state of West Virginia was another pull for me to come to the West Side. I think what it’s up against is a history that is couched in slavery, discrimination, marginalization, exclusion and exploitation. The West Side was established by a slave plantation. Places like Hunt Avenue where the Hunt were slave owners. Quarrier Street, a major street downtown that is also part of the West Side… slave owners. Summers Street… slave owners. The Patrick Street Bridge… slave owners, right? And that history was basically totally ignored and no one talked about it. And so, it helped us to begin to educate the community how to counter to all set, a hundred and fifty-five years of history that’s laid down like shellac in layers, right? I walk a lot – that’s why I’ve got this, you know, walking suit on, right? I had this heart attack last year and I’m serious about my health and so forth. I see the pain of poor people. I see the pain of black people in particular. My wife and I moved in on the street at the time that was the toughest street on the West Side of Charleston, West Virginia about six years ago. I felt like I had to do that because I feel like I’ve got to feel the pain of the people. Their pain is gonna be my pain, their problems are gonna become my problems, because if it is, I’ll become more creative, more disciplined, more determined and more resolved, more courageous to try to do something about it. So, by the time I get to the pulpit on Sunday morning, I know that some of my people are experiencing that pain as well, and so I look out on my congregation and I see them out there and I know the people whose son is in prison, I know the grandmother across the street raising her granddaughters because her daughter has her problems, and so what I see in my congregation is I see incredible resiliency. We have kids in our church that have been dealt a tough hand. You know, some of them have fathers in prison, some of their fathers are dead, some of my kids don’t know who their fathers are… But they’re going to school every day and they’re trying, right? And they’re solid citizens in school and they have every reason to say, “I’m mad at the world.” Right? …And be wreaking havoc in the school system. And we just got the report cards and we’re just so excited because they all did well. Their resolve also motivates me in terms of the human spirit. So, you keep trying to do the best you can every day.

Bob Hardy: It is what it is, you know? It’s a two-bedroom with a single bath and a full basement, so it can accommodate a family of four relatively easy. You see, we had to strip the walls down because they were plaster and they had all-metal windows in that we took those out and put in new vinyl windows. We’re redoing all the plumbing, all the water supply lines anyway, and maybe some of the drainage work might have to be redone. My name is Bob Hardy. I’m the executive of Charleston Economic Community Development Corporation, which is in this neighborhood to improve the quality of affordable housing. 

AH: What do you estimate is the vacancy rate in this neighborhood right about now?

BH: Probably about forty to sixty percent. And the reason it’s that low is because a lot of houses have been torn down. Housing is the key, and right now we’re trying to create an opportunity where people can not only have safe, decent affordable housing, but they’ll be able to buy the houses because the investment you have in a house is the greatest investment that you’re gonna have. Trying to find decent homebuyers or renters is maybe one of the most difficult situations that you get into. For one thing, when you deal with low-wealthy people, they don’t have the confidence that they’ll be able to borrow money. So, we try to see if there’s any subsidy funding—something that would help buy the mortgage down. If we can rehab a house for $70,000, it’s better than building a new house that’s gonna cost $100,000 or $125,000 because you can get the mortgage rates down to what people can afford. I grew up on the hill, so the West Side is like my front yard, and my dad—being a former schoolteacher and stuff—during the summer when he wasn’t teaching, his main thing for me and my three brothers was, “Ya’ll keep this yard clean!” So, you know, over the years I just grew to think of the West Side of my front yard, so it just got in my blood to try to do something to make it better or bring it back to what it was when I was a youth, and that’s taken me since 1994 up to today. But we still suffer from disinvestment from the powers that be, and until that investment comes to the forefront, we’re gonna struggle. We’ve made some progress and I think we’re headed in the right direction. Just how much longer is it gonna take?

John Butterworth: Skepticism is there for a reason and I think the best we can do today is to listen to people and to say, “Okay, what would you do if you were in my shoes?” My name’s John Butterworth. I’m a neighborhood planner with the City of Charleston Planning Department. Urban renewal of the ‘60s and ‘70s was very master-plan-based, right? They kind of depicted this whole, you know, “We’re gonna take this whole city block and knock down this house and renovate this house and displace poor Ms. Johnson,” and whatever it was. That’s not the way redevelopment happens, at least not these days. It’s much more organic with a land reuse program that we’re trying to build now. We want to be able to respond to abandonment when it occurs, right? And so, if someone walks off from a property, we want to be able to intervene. But if they don’t, let’s figure out how to keep them there and make their lives better. So, I think that sort of nimble approach where we’re not trying to master-plan a community, we’re not trying to tell them who they need to be. We’re trying to respond to instances of blight where they happen, and if that’s a house that tragically catches on fire and needs to be demolished because it’s mostly burned, we need to jump in. If it’s a vacant lot where the house is long gone, you know… Right now, we’re working on big ideas about how we try to make reinvestment the right choice there. When I look at a map of the West Side, you know, I see all the data nerd stuff where you have, you know, blight condition surveys and census tracks and zoning districts and all the things that city planners geek out about, but the most effective thing that I’ve ever done is hopped in someone’s car when they said, “I need to go show you something,” and go for a ride and you will learn more in that hour or two than you can in… You know, I’m a data nerd. I love maps, I can dig into census data with the best of them, but riding around in someone’s pickup truck with a bullet hole in tailgate… That’s how you understand a neighborhood and that’s one of the things that I hope makes me better at my job.

AH: You’ve got bales of clothes that are, like, fifteen feet high here.

Essie Yolanda Jackson: Yeah. People will buy those by the pound and that money goes right back into our program. My name is Essie Yolanda Jackson and we are at Goodwill Industries of Kanawha Valley on the West Side of Charleston, West Virginia.

AH: You guys are in-taking clothing that goes to a lot of Goodwill stores all over the region.

EYJ: Yes! We have twenty counties just in this surrounding area. 

AH: And over in the other room is… It looks like a massive sorting operation going on here.

EYJ: It is, in fact, that. That’s exactly what it is. So, this is where people can learn about being detail oriented. 

Billy Carter: I do clothes, I take clothes off the rack, I sweep the floors, unload and load trucks… My name’s Billy Carter. I wanted to do better in life and get on the right track and I talked to her about it and I ended up here and it’s been good so far, you know? Sometimes she gets on my nerves, but Essie’s a good woman.

EYJ: He is one of our stand-outs. He has been through our soft-skills class and he’s one of my favorites because I get to pop him upside the head sometimes. [laughs]

BC: It’s been a little bit of difficulties learning, adjusting and learning a bunch of stuff but she’s always there to lift me when I’m down, so it’s all good, all joy.

AH: Most people think of Goodwill only as second-hand clothing shops, but really all of the work that everyone does here is supported by this operation, this warehouse that we’re standing in right now, yeah?

EYJ: Yeah, we are supported by our retail operations, so that includes here, everything here feeds into the stores, feeds into people coming in, buying stuff from the stores feeds back into the program. This is my classroom. I teach all of our career-development courses here. I do curriculum-development, lesson-planning, all of that good stuff. We look at the seven soft-skill cluster. We mostly focus on the functional resume. We try to arrange interviews for them—mock interviews, real interviews—here on site and they’re evaluated on things like eye-contact, posture, so that way, as we’re continuing to work together, I’ll know what areas to focus on when we’re working. My students are people from different backgrounds, so I’ve got people with disabilities, people coming in after incarceration, young people just starting out, and so you know that if they weren’t in this place together, they probably would never meet. It’s an amazing thing, it’s probably my favorite part of the job, just watching them go from complete strangers to supporting one another.

BC: It gives me guidance and structure, because I’m waking up at 6:30 in the morning, preparing myself to be out the door by 7, 7:30 and looking forward to being around my peers and learning the assignment for the day and it makes me feel personally, like, a better person.

EYJ: After he finishes our sixty-day paid training program here, he will also be finishing up in our good host program and right there is where we jump start his career because we have an idea of what he’s good at and what he’s interested in, that sort of thing, and so, this is his time to get ready before I push him out of the nest. 

AH: Congratulations.

BC: Thank you, I appreciate it.

Multiple Voices: You’ve been listening to Out of the Blocks from radio producer Aaron Henkin and music producer Wendel Patrick. Special thanks to West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard and the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. You can podcast this series and check out photos online at wypr.org/outoftheblocks. Aaron and Wendel want to thank all of us who took a leap of faith and shared our stories and our lives. For WYPR and PRX, this is Charleston, West Virginia, West Side—signing off.

AH: Coming up next time on Out of the Blocks, we’re back on the West Side in Charleston, West Virginia for some more great stories. We’re going to meet a local barber, a community gardener, an antique collector, a symphony clarinetist and a basketball legend. We’re also going to visit an auto shop, a local carryout store, a girl scout troop and a neighborhood elementary school that’s got a dedicated staff including these two, who not only work together—they are housemates, too.

Walter Tucker: Hey, Axelle, come here. Come! My name’s Walter Tucker. I’m one of the musical directors here at the Marcy C. Snow West Side Elementary and I’m Axelle’s handler, which is our therapy dog. He travels to all the classrooms with our counselor, so he gets the opportunity to interact with all the children here in the school. Yep, he’s sniffing the mic… One student of ours that was coming in in the morning, an autistic student… He would cry every morning and he would come down the hallway and when he would see Axelle he would stop crying, and so every morning that student would come down to spend, like, five minutes with him and then he would stop crying and be ready to go back to class. Good boy. There we go. Tired pup. I call him my little bear. 

AH: Axelle the therapy dog at Mary C. Snow Elementary School and more next time on Out of the Blocks. Special thanks this episode to the NEA, the National Endowment for the Arts, whose support makes it possible to bring Out of the Blocks to Charleston and other towns across the U.S.. Thanks, also, to you for taking the time to listen. If you appreciate what you hear on this program, do us a favor and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or just tell a friend. Thanks for listening, thanks for spreading the good word about this podcast, and we’ll do it again soon. Out of the Blocks is supported by PRX and produced with grant funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, The Hoffberger Foundation, Patricia and Mark Joseph Shelter Foundation Inc., The Sana and Andy Brooks Family Fund, The Peale Center, and the William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund, creator of the Baker Artist Portfolios, online at bakerartist.org.

Aaron creates and produces original radio programs and podcasts for WYPR. His current project is The Maryland Curiosity Bureau. Aaron's neighborhood documentary series, Out of the Blocks, earned the 2018 national Edward R Murrow Award. His past work includes the long-running weekly cultural program, The Signal, and the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings series, Tapestry of the Times. Aaron's stories have aired nationally on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Wendel Patrick has been referred to as "David Foster Wallace reincarnated as a sound engineer" by Urbanite Magazine and as "wildly talented" by the Baltimore Sun. He has been referred to by XLR8R magazine as "a hip-hop producer that could easily make any fan of Squarepusher, Boards of Canada, or Madlib flip out." The alter-ego of classical and jazz pianist Kevin Gift, Wendel Patrick is rapidly making a name for himself as a producer to be recognized. His five albums, "Sound:", "Forthcoming", "JDWP", "Passage" and "Travel" were all produced without the use of samples, with Patrick playing every note of every instrument. What is perhaps most astounding and perplexing to listeners is that there are actually no instruments...he crafts all of the instruments, and every note, electronically.