STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
She grew up Newark, N.J., the oldest of four children. Her parents were immigrants from Europe. As Mary tells her son, Charles, her parents managed a modest life for the family, until an accident changed everything.
MARY VAN BEKE: But when Mama couldn't feed us anymore, she had to place me in a home where I would work for my keep, and I would come home every other Sunday. And this is how we tried to survive.
CHARLES VAN BEKE: How long did you work for that family?
VAN BEKE: Two years, 'til I was 16. Mama worked across the street from there, washing clothes. And it was a hot summer day, and she was walking down the street. And I ran to the front door and called her in, to visit with her.
INSKEEP: Don't ever let the help come in the front door. And I said, I don't want to work here then, if my mother can't come in the front door. And I packed my little suitcase and came home. I can remember that so well.
INSKEEP: That's 94-year-old Mary Van Beke with her son Charles at StoryCorps in Knoxville, Tennessee. Their interview will be archived in the StoryCorps collection at the Library of Congress, and you can get the project's Podcast at NPR.org.
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