Helen Christopherson’s father was a street sweeper in Cedar Rapids after he, his wife and two children moved to the United States in 1913. After settling in their new country, the family grew by two more youngsters.
Helen has many fond memories of watching her father work on his projects in their basement, and how he would always carry a nickel in his coin purse so he could give it to her to get an ice cream. She remembers how he would time his route so that he would be in front of J. C. Penney’s to see her as she went into work. “He grew up an orphan,” she said.
Helen’s stories were full of love, resilience, hard work, humility, family, dedication and integrity; she told them in a matter-of-fact way, not one of attention seeking, revealing the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
The interest in saving stories of individuals, communities and organizations continues to grow, but with each passing day stories are lost. There are many disparate initiatives around the country focused on gathering people’s stories based on a common characteristic, e.g., war experience, cultural background, etc. As a national museum, it is our hope to be able to play a key role in the efforts to gather, archive and share stories of Czech and Slovak experiences by partnering with and complementing the work of organizations around the country. Funding will be key, of course, but our team is looking at the prospects and talking to potential partners. Our mission speaks to celebrating life and connecting the past to the future — stories are, and will be, the mortar that holds it all together.