Terminal Milwaukee “Barbershop” Recap

If there was ever a place you’d be sure to hear a story it’s a barbershop; making it a perfect location and theme for the third installment of our Terminal Milwaukee series. The series’ central figure, Tom Crawford, seemed right at home at Satin Wave Beauty Salon and Barbershop, our chosen location. No wonder; his father was a barber and owned his own shop, another reason we were gathered among sinks and hair dryers on Friday, September 9th.

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The series celebrates Tom’s life and storytelling skills throughout the Milwaukee neighborhoods in which he has lived and worked. While Tom’s connection brings us to each location, his spotlight is always shared with the community and those who have and continue to make it vibrant. Friday’s event highlighted the Capital Heights neighborhood, but it also featured the community of barbers and stylists that has grown in, around, and through Satin Wave, located at 6446 W Fond Du Lac Ave.

Throughout the night historian John Gurda shared historical insight on the neighborhood and the African-American community in Milwaukee.

Satin Wave is a family business, started by current owner Ronnie Sherrill’s grandfather, the first black Master Barber in Wisconsin. Ronnie, and his family, including his sister Dianne Pratt and her husband, former acting mayor of Milwaukee Marvin Pratt, shared the history of the establishment, their family and their involvement in the neighborhood.

Ronnie’s other family, the men and women who have worked at Satin Wave, gave their perspective on the business. Toby Harrison, Jackie Brinson and Omar Mustafa told of their starts behind the chair and the ups and downs of their careers. Penny McGee of a nearby salon told the story of starting her business and confirmed a rumor about stylists for the audience. “The thing I love about being a hair stylist is working with the community,” she said.

It was no surprise that several stories offered by audience members were about the unease of childhood haircuts. Ex Fabula’s Leah Delaney told of a father/daughter bonding experience at the barber that resulted in something like a pompadour on her head. Nathan Kilen explained the science of getting the right place in line to get the good barber versus the distracted barber, and the sacrifices his dad’s hair made to that end.  Connie Moreadith, in town visiting from North Carolina, recalled her brother’s fear of the clippers. From his screaming, the whole small town knew when he was in the barber’s chair. “It was not the happy scream of a pig who fell in fresh mud,” she explained. Dianne and Marvin Pratt’s granddaughter, 12-year old Ayanna (our youngest storyteller to date) told a captivating and humorous account of her first relaxer and “the way of the salon.”

As in all Ex Fabula events, stories also touched on the odd and the touching. Bob Pothier shared tales of unfortunate haircuts in Samoa. Michael Heider’s father had grown up in the neighborhood and spent his childhood playing along Mud Creek. When Michael’s father died he scattered his ashes in the creek. “That was his idea of heaven and that was the best I could do to get him there,” he said. Lamont Smith wrapped up the community storytellers potion of the evening with an homage to barbershops saying what we had all come to believe throughout the night, that the barbershop is always somewhere real personal and a barometer of the community.

The evening culminated with Tom Crawford telling of his father’s career as a barber. From his basement to his own shop, we learned how Tom’s father navigated life behind the chair and Tom’s ever changing hairstyles.

Don’t miss the next installment of Terminal Milwaukee, Saturday November 5, 8 p.m. at Sherman Perk coffee shop. The theme will be “Intersections.”


Recap of Terminal Milwaukee – All in a Day’s Work

by Ex Fabula blogger Steph Kilen
photo by Kat Berger

Ex Fabula Terminal Milwaukee project’s first full-length event, “All in a Day’s Work” was not work, but pure joy. Held at Club Garibaldi in Bay View on Saturday July 23, the stories of the evening celebrated the neighborhood and detailed the odd, humorous and difficult experiences that can go along with occupation.

The evening began with a pre-event cookout at Groppi’s, during which John Gurda, John and Anne Nehring, and others shared the story of G. Groppi’s market, a Bay View institution.

Milwaukee historian John Gurda kicked off the evening at Club Garibaldi with the story of the founding of Bay View. Built around a growing iron industry in 1868, Bay View was Milwaukee’s first suburb, incorporating as a village in 1879 and joining the city of Milwaukee in 1887. John provided historical interludes throughout the evening telling of Bay View’s important role in the labor movement of the late 19th century, a once inhabited Jones Island and his own connections to Bay View – from childhood to the beginnings of his career as the man to put Milwaukee’s history on paper.

Bay View and Club Garibaldi were chosen as the setting for this event because Tom Crawford, the central storyteller in this series that follows his life in Milwaukee, frequented the club after working as a longshoreman, loading salt on the docks of Jones Island when he was young. Several other longshoremen shared their stories as well. “Poet, musician, longshoremen and free spirit,” Harvey Taylor admitted despite his years working on Jones Island, he is “more interested in the commerce of story than the moving of cargo.” Tom Tolan’s experience as a longshoreman was more that of “young working class heroes who grew up in the suburbs,” having started as a longshoreman in 1969 then leaving to go to Woodstock. He shared some of the “salty” language he heard during his stint and what passes for a koan in the world of longshoremen. Tom Schwark, the third former longshoreman to take the stage, told of a neighbor with a similar name and several more uncanny similarities.

The “All in a Day’s Work” theme inspired a wide range of stories. Ex Fabula co-founder Leah Delaney told of her “near death” experience as a duck boat tour guide in the South Shore Marina. Ex Fabula regular Conn Hagen shared yet another of his drinking mishaps as a bakery delivery guy with a severe hangover. Michael Heider lamented the time as a photojournalist he obeyed the police and didn’t take a photo of the man they were bringing out of a building after an arrest: Jeffrey Dahlmer.

First-time storyteller Beth Bojarski told a tale of artists in the corporate world and how a kitchy mascot they had adopted turned out to be a very expensive (and somewhat smuggled) piece of “art” owned by upper management, delivered to the wrong department. Steph Kilen shared adventures and disappointments of a cub reporter and why she now always wears sensible shoes to work. Patty Prichard Thompson delighted the audience with memories of her mother and the tools of her trade doing upholstery for Milwaukee airlines. Patty’s mom was “an industrial strength lady” who carried everything she could ever need in her huge purse, but everything important in her five-hook bra.

Folks gave Bay View its due at the event as well. Lisa Goldman explained how she sees the narrative of her life through the neighborhoods of Milwaukee. Dale Nook told of how having lived in Bay View for 30 years, he just recently is getting to know his neighbors through his involvement in the Bay View Neighborhood Association and other grassroots organizations on the south shore; an involvement possible now that he is retired. Meghan Koven said, “When you’re in Bay View, your neighbors always have your back, ” and then illustrated it with the tale of how she and some out of town friends were rescued on a cold winter night.

The terminal Milwaukeean himself, Tom Crawford, took the stage for the last story of the night. Tom’s varied vocational career started in December 1976 when he realized at 17-years old that he would need to go to school, go into the military or end up in the factory. His first choice was the military. He told the recruiters “I really wanna blow shit up,” took the test to be a combat engineer and got the highest score. On the day he was set to leave for basic training, he found out an old hip injury made him ineligible for service. His father having made the demand of a pay stub to be able to continue living at the house, Tom began his life as a workingman. After a couple false starts at Pizza Man and a factory, Tom ended up at a foundry. Just three hours on the job, he found himself holding up a man whose arm had gotten stuck in a machine. While desperate to quit after a tragic first day, he reluctantly stayed on at the foundry for two years, after which he discovered “the most romantic and amazing manly experience anyone could ever have” working the docks on Jones Island where he spent the next ten years. Tom’s story, like all Tom’s stories, like all good stories, was punctuated with laughs and gasps from the audience – the best of an Ex Fabula experience.

The ride through Tom’s life and the amazing diversity of experience and character in Milwaukee continues at Terminal Milwaukee’s next event: Friday, September 9th, 8 pm at Satin Wave Barbershop.

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Ex Fabula’s “Terminal Milwaukee” Storytelling Series Highlights Bay View with “All in a Day’s Work.”

The first, full installment of Ex Fabula’s new storytelling series, “Terminal Milwaukee” will take place Saturday, July 23, 8 p.m. at Club Garibaldi, 2501 S Superior St, Milwaukee. Through the “Terminal Milwaukee” series, Ex Fabula will see Milwaukee through the eyes of a lifelong resident, Tom Crawford, and visit the neighborhoods he grew up in and worked in over the years.
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The series began at Ex Fabula ALL STARS 2011 season finale on June 2nd at Turner Hall. In addition to Tom’s story on the evening’s them of “Secrets and Lies,” the show included the unveiling of the Terminal Milwaukee video trailer. This is the second in the seven-event series and the first to focus on one of the five distinctive neighborhoods of Milwaukee that tell the life story of Tom Crawford. Tom came to this project as a standout storyteller from Ex Fabula All Stars 2010 and a self-described “terminal” Milwaukeean. The story theme for the July 23rd event will be “All in a Day’s Work.”

Club Garibaldi was specifically chosen for this event because Tom would frequent the club after working as a longshoreman, loading salt on the docks of Jones Island when he was young. Furthermore, Club Garibaldi has a rich 100-year history, still serves as the meeting place for the Italian Garibaldi Society, and is a cultural destination in the Bay View neighborhood. Tom’s visceral personal stories are gripping, vivid and filled with detail and affection for the neighborhoods they are set in. This event, like all the Terminal Milwaukee events, will also feature storytellers preselected from neighborhood residents. Finally, Milwaukee historian John Gurda will contribute historical vignettes to each event throughout the Terminal Milwaukee Series.

Milwaukee historian John Gurda at 2011 Ex Fabula All Stars

This particular evening will also feature a a pre-event barbecue at Groppi’s Italian Market. The barbecue will highlight Groppi’s as another terrific asset to the Bay View neighborhood and John Gurda will share some historical insight on the 100 year old market that calls itself a “Bay View Tradition.” The barbecue begins at 6:00pm and will continue until 7:30pm, with food and beverages available for purchase. Groppi’s is less than one block from Club Garibaldi.

Throughout the course of the Terminal Milwaukee series, audience members will have the opportunity to share their memories and experiences in the neighborhood. The series will be documented in audio and video form and these will be shared throughout the year-long project. There is a suggested donation of $5 at the Club Garibaldi event to support this project and Ex Fabula’s mission of connecting storytellers with live audiences.

“Terminal Milwaukee” is funded in part by a major grant award from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin. The WHC receives funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

Click here For more information about the “Terminal Milwaukee” series or call Amy Schleicher, Project Director, at 414-840-3930.


Storytellers for Ex Fabula ALL STARS announced

photos by Kat Berger.

our fabulous poster designed by dwellephant!


We’re thrilled to announce the line-up for the upcoming Ex Fabula ALL STARS event, which will take place at Turner Hall on Thursday, June 2nd, at 8 pm. This grand finale event of our second season will feature stories told by the ALL STARS – storytellers who were voted Audience Favorites at this season’s monthly events. Tickets are available for $10 at http://www.pabsttheater.org/show/exfabulaallstars .

The 2010-2011 ALL STARS are:

Brooke Maroldi (October, “Confessions”, www.ournextthing.com)
the Duo of Isaiah Rembert and Clifford Smith (November, “Neighbors”)
Bob Murray (January, “It Gets Better”, www.facebook.com/dateamerica)
Scott Heaton (February, “Valentine/Anti-Valentine”, ohscotty.tumblr.com)
Anja Notanja (March, “Emergency”, www.anjanotanja.com)
Amie Losi (April, “Theory & Practice”)

Each of the ALL STARS will share a new, ten-minute Solo or fifteen-minute Duo on the theme of “Secrets & Lies.”

The evening will also kick off “Terminal Milwaukee”, a seven-event series that will lead audiences through five distinctive neighborhoods of Milwaukee following the dynamic life story of Tom Crawford. Tom was a standout storyteller from Ex Fabula All Stars 2010 and is a self-described “terminal” Milwaukeean. As part of this kickoff, Tom will share a story on the theme of “Secrets & Lies”, Milwaukee Historian John Gurda will reveal some “secrets and lies” about our beloved Milwaukee, and the Terminal Milwaukee series video trailer will be screened for the first time.
“Terminal Milwaukee” is funded in part by a major grant award from the Wisconsin Humanities Council. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin. The WHC receives funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.


Ex Fabula Awarded Wisconsin Humanities Council Grant, Embarks on Project to Highlight Local Tales Told by Your Neighbors

We are proud to announce today that Ex Fabula has received a major grant award from Wisconsin Humanities Council to help fund our upcoming special community storytelling project – Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Narrative. The project is a seven event series that will lead audiences through five distinctive, but underappreciated, neighborhoods of Milwaukee– following the dynamic life story of Tom Crawford, a regular Ex Fabula storyteller and “terminal” Milwaukeean.

The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin. The WHC receives funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin.

In the fall of 2009, the five founders of Ex Fabula began organizing live events in Milwaukee to provide meaningful shared experiences for individuals from different communities in the city. The fledgling organization was called “Ex Fabula” – Latin for “from stories”. Through Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Narrative, Ex Fabula seeks to build a greater awareness of the diverse and rich Milwaukee culture often bypassed in these neighborhoods, building a stronger sense of community between Milwaukee natives through the social power of story.

Each event in the series will take place in one of the featured neighborhoods where Tom and other neighborhood natives will share their true personal stories in the Ex Fabula tradition; during which, noted Milwaukee historian John Gurda will weave threads of the neighborhood’s culture and history into the background. The series will resolve in a live radio show on WMSE and a final live storytelling event at Alverno’s Pitman Theatre in April 2012.

A documentary of the project is planned of the featured Milwaukee neighborhoods.  Partnering with Ex Fabula in the endeavor are WMSE and Alverno Presents. Events will also be held at Turner Hall and four yet-unnamed sites in each of the featured neighborhoods.

Turner Hall, Photo by Kat Berger

The trailer for the Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Narrative project will be unveiled at the Ex Fabula ALL STARS grand finale event on June 2nd at Turner Hall, serving as the kickoff event for the series.
Until June 2nd, Ex Fabula has two remaining storyslams in their second season: March 16th at the Stonefly Brewery in Riverwest, and April 12th at the Bay View Brew Haus.

For more information about Ex Fabula or the Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Narrative project, go to www.ExFabula.com or call Amy Schleicher, Project Director, at 414-840-3930.