Priscilla remembers her first Pike Place Market experience in 1952 shortly after she and her family made the long journey to Seattle from Nebraska. “When my mother first took me to the Market, we shopped for potatoes, onions, and other produce at a little corner stall,” says Priscilla. “The owner was a very kind Italian gentleman. Still, I was timid, and I hid under mama’s skirt. I remember the owner looking down at me, and opening up this piece of strange fruit. He offered me a slice and I still remember the smell of that strange new fruit. It was very sweet and wonderful. Neither my mother nor I had ever seen a fruit like this. When he noticed our puzzled faces, he smiled and said ‘this is a tangerine.’ With that, my mama found her first friend in Seattle.”
Pamela remembers coming to the Market as a young woman with her friends. “When I was growing up in Seattle’s suburbs, I would visit the Market in the evening,” says Pamela. “We bribed one of my friends to take us; with Coca Cola, candy and 35 cents worth of gas. To us, the Market at night was just like a haunted house. We loved coming here when most of the shops were closed. It felt like our own place to explore.”
Sharing stories with one another is a way to record our culture and connect communities. In today’s world where communication methods require a screen, there is still a place for oral tradition and Pike Place Market is an ideal place to capture stories of community.
This summer Pike Place Market Foundation piloted a six-week storytelling workshop called “Voices of the Market” with seven seniors from our community, including Priscilla and Pam. Three participants are Market residents and all attend cooking classes and access the Senior Center and Medical Clinic in Pike Place Market.
Workshop participants met once per week with co-facilitators, Dana Gould, The Market Foundation’s Food Access Program Coordinator and Jennie Moore, a community volunteer.
“The purpose of the workshop is to build community, share the incredible stories of our community members, and teach people how to tell a compelling story so they can become advocates for Pike Place Market,” says Dana.
The workshop was themed around food, so each person drafted a personal, food-related story about the Market. Weekly rehearsals, feedback, and group discussion guided each participant to a final five-minute long story, and the workshop culminated with a live storytelling event at Storyville Coffee on June 17.
“Every participant developed an appreciation for one another’s background and experiences that have led them to the Market community. They worked through the challenging steps of preparation and rehearsal, all in good spirits and with laughter. This is a new experience for all of them and they’ve shown incredible bravery,” says Jennie Moore.
Dana and Jennie hope to expand the workshop and host a series a few times per year with different themes, and develop a mentorship program to teach peer-to-peer storytelling skills, and they dream of developing a future Voices of the Market podcast.
“I can’t tell you how much FUN I’ve had!” says Priscilla. “Hearing from our group has been such a wonderful reminder of how important Pike Place Market is to our pasts, but to our present and future too.”
Quang, Nhu-Y, and Sarah, three other participants, are first-generation immigrants from Vietnam. Michael, a Miami native, has lived in Seattle for 20 years and comes to the Market’s cooking classes regularly. Jessica, who spoke at our Care for the Market Luncheon in March, just moved into Pike Place Market after being homeless since 2009.
Thank you, Priscilla, Pam, Quang, Nhu-Y, Sarah, Michael, and Jessica for sharing your stories with us!