Archives for oral history

Local History: Remembering Jack Harrington

Local history legend Jack Harrington passed away on Sunday, May 14, at age 97. As a tireless advocate of preservation and conservation (historical and environmental), Harrington knew more about White Plains than just about anybody. To learn more about his life and legacy, check out his oral histories on our website or contact the White Plains Historical Society.
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Art Bennett

Art Bennett (alto saxophone/flute) was born and raised in White Plains. Art was active in the ‘Loft Jazz’ movement in New York City during the 1970’s. This subsequently led to appearances at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls and other New York venues. Art has performed with many notable musicians such as Lonnie Liston Smith, Rashied Ali, Roy Brooks, James “Blood” Ulmer, William Parker, Marion Meadows and an impressive list of musicians in the Free Jazz art form. He was also a member of the New York Musicians Organization (NYMO), which secured grants to provide musical education programs,
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Jack Harrington

Jack Harrington arrived in White Plains in June 1951. He moved here on assignment from the insurance company he worked for. During his long residency in White Plains, Jack has done a tremendous amount for the preservation of historical resources and the conservation of green spaces. Barbara and Rod Carlson, two active members of the White Plains Historical Society and knowledgeable students of local history, conducted these oral histories over a period of months. The creation of the Greenway, the politics of urban renewal, the character of White Plains, and the importance of historical preservation are some of the topics
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Johnnie Pantanelli

Colonel Johnnie Pantanelli knew two things when she graduated from Scarsdale High School in the early 1940s. First, she wanted to fly airplanes. Second, she liked driving motorcycles even though her mother and aunt tried to tell her riding was not a proper hobby for girls. As you will hear in this oral history, Johnnie (her given name is “Joan”) did not listen to anyone who tried to discourage her and charted a determined, adventurous course from an early age through her 90s. Johnnie joined the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. The CAP is the official auxiliary of
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Categories: Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Karen Smith

Dr. Karen P. Smith is multi-faceted. Before her career as a professor, she served as principal of two schools in Yonkers and the Director of Integration for the district. She was handpicked by a superintendent for the Director of Integration job, an honor that came during Yonkers’ conflicts with the federal government over racial inequalities in the city. As principal to children whose schools were transformed over the course of the summer of 1986 and ambassador to their (sometimes angry) parents, Smith faced numerous challenges. Interestingly, she recalls few conflicts between students and says she spent most of her time
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Categories: Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Aurelio Saiz

Did you know that Juanita Castro, Fidel’s sister, spent a night in White Plains? That story and many others come from Aurelio Saiz’s oral history in which he describes moving with his family to White Plains from Cuba. The Saiz Family lived in a building on the corner of Main Street and Mamaroneck Avenue at a time when dozens of businesses had elaborate storefronts and narrower streets still accommodated two-way traffic. His bedroom windows were directly across from the marquee of RKO Keith’s Theater! Saiz is a great storyteller. He conveys a vivid version of growing up on the streets
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Jazz Fest 2016 Pt. 3

We are thrilled to continue our partnership with ArtsWestchester, The City of White Plains, and the White Plains Business Improvement District on White Plains Jazz Fest 2016! Below is a third set of clips from the People & Stories Oral History Project. Each of the clips below includes stories and music from musicians who live locally, but have performed all over the world. Tom Van Buren, of ArtsWestchester, co-produced the interviews. Check out the Jazz Fest 2016 webpage for tickets and more information about all the great music happening September 20-25, 2016 in White Plains. Here’s a link to our
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Jazz Fest 2016 Pt. 2

We are thrilled to continue our partnership with ArtsWestchester, The City of White Plains and the White Plains Business Improvement District on White Plains Jazz Fest 2016! Below is a second set of clips from the People & Stories Oral History Project. Each of the clips below includes stories and music from musicians who live locally, but have performed all over the world. Tom Van Buren, of ArtsWestchester, co-produced the interviews. Check out the Jazz Fest 2016 webpage for tickets and more information about all the great music happening September 20-25, 2016 in White Plains. Here’s a link to our
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Jazz Fest 2016 Pt. 1

We are thrilled to continue our partnership with ArtsWestchester, The City of White Plains and the White Plains Business Improvement District on White Plains Jazz Fest 2016! Below is a special set of clips from the People & Stories Oral History Project. Each of the clips below includes stories and music from musicians who live locally, but have performed all over the world. Tom Van Buren, of ArtsWestchester, co-produced the interviews. Check out the Jazz Fest 2016 webpage for tickets and more information about all the great music happening September 20-25, 2016 in White Plains. Bob Baldwin (keyboardist, composer, producer,
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Kenny Lee

We are grateful to start our collaboration with White Plains Jazz Fest and ArtsWestchester on a good note–with an oral history by Kenny Lee, whose life and music are important parts of White Plains history. Lee is known to different people for different things. Some know him as a trumpet player and band leader of the Kenny Lee All Stars. Others know him as a detective with the White Plains Police Department. Lee was born in White Plains and, taking after his father, started playing trumpet at an early age. He played in the White Plains Schools in the jazz
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: YWCA GEMS

People & Stories was thrilled when Rhonda Brooks and Candi Poinsette, of the YWCA, reached out to collaborate on an oral history project about the history of the GEMS. GEMS stands for “Girls Empowered Through Meaningful Support” and has existed in one form or another for over 40 years in White Plains. GEMS strives to assist girls in the White Plains community in becoming self-reliant, competent, caring and healthy. It does so by providing relevant engaging activities in the areas of cultural awareness, health and wellness, college and careers, and self-esteem. Current members of GEMS met with alumni to learn
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Lord Judah & JCA

This is the first time People & Stories is presenting a produced oral history, and it’s for a good reason. Lord Judah is the artist behind H.I.P.H.O.P., which stands for Highly Intelligent People Healing Our Planet. H.I.P.H.O.P. is many things. It’s a philosophy for engaging with social issues, a mobile-teaching unit, and an artistic collective. H.I.P.H.O.P. is combining music with a social justice mission through teaching workshops with young people and support for local artists. Lord Judah and JCA mix their personal stories about coming up in White Plains with insights about how to find a place as an artist
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Renee Cohen

Renee Cohen has things to say about White Plains. If you’ve read any of the newspapers or voted in any elections since the mid-1970s, chances are you’ve encountered Renee. In this oral history she describes coming to White Plains in 1967, her choice to live an environmentally-conscious life, and the many civic projects she’s been a part of. Asked what she would like to see more of in the city, she said, “I just like a mix.” Her perspective as a frequent, long-time pedestrian in the city is insightful–if you usually drive through White Plains, Renee will make you think
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: The Mosleys

Brandon Mosley took the question posed by television show “Who Do You Think You Are?” seriously and set out to discover how he came to be in White Plains. His mother told him stories about his great-aunt’s successful cosmetic company in Harlem, his grandfather’s influential role in White Plains public schools, and his great-grandfather’s life as a preacher in North Carolina–and he discovered many more. He wrote a history of his mother’s (Marcia’s) side of the family in The Tree That Shades Me, which he self-published. In their oral history, Brandon talks about the process of discovering his family’s history
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Goes National!

Kevin Tidmarsh and Saahil Desai, students at Pomona College in California, investigate the stories of early students of color at their school in the first episode of Hidden Pomona, “Stranger In A Strange Land.” Drawing on Leola Bryant’s oral history in our People & Stories Collection, Tidmarsh and Desai chronicle the impact White Plains native and Pomona alumnus Eileen Johnson had on the lives of African-Americans.
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Dennis Polanco

Probably known to most White Plains residents as “Mr. Polanco,” since that is what students in his English classes at White Plains High School call him, Dennis Polanco is in fact much more than a teacher. He is a father, musician, and community leader who has great insights into our city.
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Categories: History and Oral History.

History, Art, & Community

People have been using our White Plains Collection and local history programs to create some great projects lately! Students from a Community Design class at Purchase College taught by Warren Lehrer partnered with the White Plains Business Improvement District and the Library to create designs for poems written by Judith Sloan. Art In Vacant Spaces can be seen filling the windows of storefronts along Court Street, Martine Avenue, Main Street, and Mamaroneck Avenue. Inspiration for the poems was drawn in part from historic photographs in the White Plains Collections (check some out online!) and oral histories from People & Stories.
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Categories: History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Peter Stone

In this interview, Peter Stone and interviewer Rod Carlson show us what People & Stories is all about. Stone has been in White Plains since September 1950. He grew up in a house his family built in North White Plains and, when he was a kid, walked the five miles into downtown. White Plains’ rich ethnic mix made a strong impression on him. Stone served as Chairman of the Humans Rights Commission from 1995 to 2008 and also worked as a management consultant in freight transportation. He describes himself as a “middle class, happily married grandfather viewing the world as
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Categories: History and Oral History.

People & Stories Oral History Project: Kevin Doherty

Kevin Doherty grew up in White Plains as part of the post-WW II baby boom, a group that, in his words, “causes problems wherever we go.”  Doherty has done much more than just cause problems though-he raised a family in White Plains and spent many years as an educator with BOCES.  A member of Union Hook & Ladder and a blues aficionado, Doherty also has strong connections to fascinating political and cultural strands of White Plains history.
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Categories: History and Oral History.

Everyone’s a Historian: Community History Day

At White Plains Public Library, we believe in sharing historical authority with the community.  So last Saturday, we created a space in which everyone was a historian.  No one person has a monopoly on the past and no single narrative could possibly tell all our stories.  We all have knowledge of the past, it’s just a matter of sharing and using it! Several community members brought items from their personal collections to be digitized and added to our online collection.  We had a diverse group of people, from life-long White Plains residents to current and past members of government to
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Categories: History.