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The University of North Carolina presents listen America directed by John Clayton and produced by John A lay for the University of North Carolina communications center Erwin director. To do this series we went to 13 of the top authors in this country and asked them if there was something that they would like to say at this time to the people of America. One of these authors was William Saroyan to introduce this program Mr. Serai and provided us with this preface. I have a number of favorite miracle stories from the days when I attended Sunday school at the first Armenian Presbyterian Church in Fresno California. I'm thinking of stories that were told by Sunday school teachers. The one I remember most vividly is the one about hunger. Many mouths to feed a few small loaves and a few fish. There was a hungry multitude. There was very little food but somehow everybody ate and was filled and there was food left over. The man in the whale The Man In The Lion's Den these are also favorites but I like best the one about the loaves and
the fish. I believe this story implicitly. I still do. I tend to believe rather than to disbelieve. I find that it is more sensible. Even though I believe the story from time to time to this day I wonder how it happened. There appears to be a secret which every man needs to understand for himself unravel for himself. Make reasonable for himself. I believe in secrets too excepting the ones that are kept by spies or those who are afraid of spies. I do not consider such secrets authentic secrets. I believe everyone knows all about them and only pretend not to have the details which in the end are necessary anyway. Miracles of one sort or another happen every day. Let's see if we can reveal the secrets of one of them. Thirty five years ago when I was nine I saw the Fresno Evening Herald every afternoon along with thirty or thirty five other small boys from the poorer neighborhoods
of the town. Let's pretend one of these boys went about shouting headlines under the name of an Tonio Terra Nova. He was fourteen the oldest of six children. His father had rented a house across the southern Pacific tracks on C Street. He was a laborer. He worked in the vineyards the orchards and the packing houses. Even so what he earned didn't go very far. That's why Antonio was selling papers and Tonio shared with his father the responsibility of keeping a large family well-fed and healthy. One went her during the influenza epidemic and Tonio father fell ill which is the basis for this play because the family happened to be named Terra Nova. Please don't expect anybody in the play to be a caricature based on popular ideas of the talian American families. It was winter a lot of people were getting the flu. A lot of people were poor and worried and might easily have given over to despair. But nobody I knew was a character of any kind no matter what
his name happened to be the macaroni Mary called them. Or I. Yes Nicholas. What were they. There was no need for you to worry nobody goes hungry horse left Florida there is plenty. Where is he is he stays later and later everyday to bring home a few nickels more. I've got to get up in the morning and go to work fly. No you did that you got up too soon. You didn't get better last time. This time you must leave everything to me and I'm told I'm tired of being sick. You've got to forget everything until you are better again I can't
forget you must try. What's left to eat. Florence will you rest if I tell you. Yes. Do you promise. I promise what do we have in the house for my children. Macaroni with tomato sauce with cheese with salt. Oh. You got to get up. I've got to go to work. Nicholas you promised. You must put everything out of your mind. You must rest you must sleep. You must begin to get better I am better. You see. Let me go fly so I can stand alone. Bring me my clothes high I'm better. Always said the best way to get over a sickness is to pay no attention to it just go to work. Samus have a look at your fellow. I wish I wasn't a human being you know of.
Get back to bed. No don't speak don't think just leave silly. A man like me like me a man like that sick like that. Man like that. Babies how will they live. Make us a man like that he sleeps for if he wants to my wife. It's so nice to sleep for. Yes and yes. I WANT TO MY WAY sleep. One two.
But a man like that. He die. Sometimes he doesn't sleep now. We are all sleep Nikolaus. Antonio yes we are here in the kitchen your father and. Your father is asleep. Yes mama. Your supper. Your father is very sick. The worst yet worse than last time March he got up again he wanted to get dressed to go to work again like last time. He fell down so afraid to sleep. He thinks he won't wake up. You sit down now and eat. I better get a doctor mom what can a doctor do given medicine. There is no medicine maybe there
is. Look in the paper every day the rich die the same as the poor they have doctors medicine nurses when they die. Open the paper. I know I read about it every day. But we got to do something. You can come home and and eat and go to sleep every night. You want to sit and talk with me while he sleeps. Sure I do mama. While we wait. But we've got to do something besides just sit and talk don't we. What can we do except talk so he can hear us. He can hear you you know he's asleep but he hears us and he wants to hear us. We've got to speak softly until he is over the crisis then. Then he'll get better. This time for sure Antonio there's nothing else we can do there. There is no medicine for this sickness. You set down a need now and you and I will talk until your father comes to the crisis and hears us talking
and begins to get better. Softly he hears us softly voices which he knows so well. All right. Is it good. Yes it is mama. Macaroni and salt water. I don't know. It's very good and the water of California is very good especially here in the sun Joaquin Valley. They sense the best water in the whole world it is good water it's almost a food. The salt in the water together with the macaroni makes you feel good to eat at three of them together. Did my father eat. Did he have some. He would if he could. All day he drank lemon juice and hot water to make him sweat. They say the food goes of the sequence when he's been sweating all day. I've changed a bit. They say that's the way. Here they are raw chicken soup. They say that's good too. Oh it's good but Lemon in water they're the best. I heard this long ago.
I didn't bring home very much macaroni for tomorrow. I didn't sell any papers. The news was good. I can't say I was many when the news is good. I said only 12. I brought home only 30 cents worth £2. Will it be enough for everybody tomorrow. Do they like. Oh yes. Do they still like oh yes. After three weeks of nothing but maccaroni three times a day. Are they all right. Yes it's very good. The salt in the water with a fine paste. But it's all you really need. Yes if it's all you've got tomorrow if I sell more papers if the news is bad and they buy more papers I buy something to go with it. Tomato sauce or a little cheese. There's still a little sugar in the morning with a little sugar it's fine for breakfast scrambled lots of water. Oh it's like a cereal. Yes it's very good for breakfast. And then for lunch I put in much more water much more salt so I just good it satisfies longer and then it's like I think so yes. And then for supper a little less water but a little more salt so that it will be heavy so they'll sleep well and they do yes they do.
I do too and it's very good. If we had all of all tomatoes cheese I mean I could cook at 30 different ways instead of just two or three. I know mama. I mean I'm almost a whole month and nothing else. I never would have believed it could happen just from day to day too. We don't absolutely have to though do we. I mean it's because you won't turn to anybody for hope. Or we could go to friends we could borrow money but that's not the way everybody has his own troubles the troubles of a family should stay at home. It is better. Yes. Not everything eating satisfies the hunger of the body but that is not the only way. All the best. What is the best hunger best hunger is for something we need so we can begin to be something a little better than just bodies that need food. To be hungry for things we don't need. Well that's only being greedy and there's no way anybody can satisfy greedy hunger. A man with everything in the world with a greedy hunger would die
star. Yes we hunger for things we need so we can live happily and die happily. How can anybody die happily momma dying is wrong if we have hungered well and learned to satisfy the true wrong then when the time comes for us to die it is not wrong it is right and good and even beautiful. You don't mean papa's going to die. No we won't let him. You and I talking. He isn't ready to die yet. Oh he's lived a good life but it is not time for him yet. You can hear a sigh I know and I want him to know it is not time yet. I want your father to know it is not time yet for him to die. I want my husband Nicholas Terra Nova to know he must stay alive. Suppose he can't hear his mom will pop in he can hear I know he can. How do you know. I heard my husband when I was dying.
I didn't know you ever said I was when you were let me see if I can tell you about it. Yes let me see if I can tell your father about it too. I want my husband know how it was with me that time. I've never told him. Maybe I can tell him now. I hope you can hear his mom you know he's listening. And when I tell him he will come to the crisis. But instead of sleeping forever he would wake up. He will remember will stay alive as I was home great class. This to me now I'm telling my son about the time I too wanted to die. To rest to sleep forever. San Antonio Terra Nova. It is not too soon for you to know about the death.
The hunger for death that is in all of us which is almost as strong as the hunger for life. It was four years ago. Your father and I had been married only a year and and we just moved to this house 14 years ago. I'm 14 now. Yes of course I will tell you your father and I wanted to start our family with a son his name was to be Antonio Antonio. Oh yes your own name you. We had everything planned. At the proper time. I would lie down on the bed where your father is asleep here in this kitchen. And soon Antonio would be born. Your father would be your father. Your mother would be a mother. Her family would be started and I would get up and begin to take care of my family which is always been the hunger I have the hunger most women have which they live by. It was a time of life better life and more life
last that time again. And then suddenly Who knows. Something went wrong. What do you mean. It was a time for a new life to be born. Do you understand how a new life is started how it begins in the world has your father told you. Yes well the first night I was very happy even though the pain was great much greater than any pain I had ever imagined a human being could endure. The second night I was still happy and hopeful but I was getting a little afraid. Everything your father and I had ever hoped for seemed to be because of the pain. Different now changed. And once or twice I even felt angry at him. I even hated him I thank my mom. The pain the pain I can't even remember it was so great so so different so terrible. I didn't care about my husband or about anything or anybody in the whole world just myself
to be out of pain to be a young girl again not a wife not a mother just myself out of pain. He might not like what he hears. If you never told him before this is the time to tell him he will hear and live. Nicholas do you remember the first night Nicholas the second the third. Third it was. From Levy. Now I wanted to die to sleep to be out of the pain for ever. I didn't care about my husband anymore. I hated every party I hated everything. Pain does that the pain in women does that it is true so it is not ugly. But I hate it and I wanted to die. Most of the time I was out of my head asleep awake but I could hear.
That is what I want to tell your father about it. My grandmother had come from San Francisco by train to see if she could help the doctor bother to send her a telegram because after the second he did to do what he had tried everything. With was named. Doctor. I know him. He stopped me on my way home tonight. He wanted to know how we are. Your father wouldn't have him in the house again. Well you know all people are superstitious whether they believe it or not. Your father believed that I was having such a hard time. But of course it was and it wasn't anybody's anybody's fault that your father is sick now. Back into the. Doctor wanted more light so we could see what he was doing. But my grandmother wanted the bomb. It was only the lighted candle of.
My grandmother one of the men out of the room. Please get out and take the Doctor with you. Go away. You can do no good here. You will call me when I need a doctor. You will not be needed any more. What do you mean mother. What are you talking about. Get out both of you. Are you asking me to leave my wife. I have nowhere to go. Your time. She she wants to be alone with your wife. Perhaps together two women of the same family. A miracle perhaps to recall. Why must it be a miracle when a son is born to my wife. What is it that you have done wrong these two days. A young girl is to become a mother was there's a reason for my wife suffering one terrible mistake of you may position of the child is reversed it happens sometimes. I've done everything possible. You should have another made a transfer to a hospital long ago when I first told you the hospital.
This is the time of their lives are also saved and first born must be born in here is to make it a home. This is to be a family of many children. Doctor what mistake if you made to give the family such a poor start. You're tired Nicholas. I ask you again and again to rest to sleep. You're not doing your wife any got his wife when a new family is started. You must get both of you and leave us alone. She is my son's daughter. If she is to die it at least. Is going to do. I remember listening to them and then suddenly I heard your father's voice
shouting nobody's going to die. Do you hear. I believe he must be talking to me. And I became afraid of my husband's anger. And at the same time great. Tears my anger made me forget my own longing to be out of pain forever. I wanted him to go on talking away is not going to die. This is the beginning of a family of many children get tired and excited necklace. You must let me try to save the life of the child at least the mother of the child comes first. Both if possible if not the mother. My wife is not going to die. She is going to be delivered she is going to get up this family is not going to end before it begins. The floor of this house is going to know the wage of many Jews. Britain born of Florence. She and I are going to sit with them at that
table and eat and speak together. I cannot tell you how glad I was your father was so angry. I didn't want him to stop being angry. I didn't want him to stop shouting. I can't forget the pain I knew and I began to see the things he was shouting about a big family his children where all growing together in this house sitting at this table eating and talking. I began to believe this could happen could still happen. Like a miracle. If only he would go on being angry. I knew if he stopped if he went away or if fell down and wept I would never see him again nor my children. And then as if in answer to his anger I began to feel strong suddenly. I began to feel I would not die just as he said. I had stopped speaking or crying long. But suddenly I wanted to speak and cry again. I
wanted to stay alive no matter how painful it might be. Slaughter and store right. I just remember you and I have begun to gather the family together. This helps. To write us. Or write. For the doctor. Who is a mom. I don't know and. This is his doctor Dr. Braun. Wait answer the door and you. Yes ma'am. You'll forgive me Mr another I would calling on some of my old friends in the neighborhood who are sick or you know I'm on the other side of
the lake here in the kitchen. This kitchen this is terrible. I thought I'd better look in. This sickness is very bad all over. It's very serious. I want to help if I can. Dr. Brawne Fiero My husband is very sick as sick as I was the last time you were in this room. Do you understand. I understand. The fact is I'm I'm afraid there's very little I can do except for the rest of you are you will. Mr. Stern over yes Dr. Antonio. I'm OK. Your other children this is turned over just as Nicholas said you would. And Tony will tell me a little while ago when we met on the street. I have just come from the Rosetta home. I'm afraid your neighbor Angela was dead. This is time now. Mike's father. Yes and yes. And Tony this is a very strange illness. The truth is there isn't much a doctor can do about it. I want somebody who's got it. Nicholas is
very sick I see as sick as Mr. Rose that I have you given him any medicine. Nothing. What food for several days almost nothing. Soup broth Memon juice and hot water. Has He perspired. Yes especially today. Yesterday only a little. Better. You appear to be all right Antonio. What about the smaller children. They're all in bed asleep. What have they been eating macaroons. What else. Hot water with sugar or sometimes with lemon juice or peeling. What else. Nothing but plenty of the macaroni. Sit down. No no thank you. How many children love a two more boys and three girls that will send you would it be a large family my sister and. Is my brother. Yes I don't know and don't you know we don't know very much about these things. I'll tell you a secret. We know a lot less about them than people
think. Try to get a little rest Mr. on Ovi. You're tired you have to go to bed. No I'm going to stay with my husband just as he stayed with me. I was telling my son about it when you came. Nicklas did more for my education and medical school which I could do something for him. So I look at the children. I won't wake them. I'll take you know don't bother I'll find my way around. Poor Mrs. Rose it. Poor Mike and all the others. Every day somebody new. Mama. You better talk to probably for years I know. Now it is like this. But then he held me in his arms and I kept waiting for Dr. Braun Farrow to help me because I wanted to stay alive. And I believed for the first time in a long time that I could because my husband was angry and was holding me in his arms.
Nicholas. NICHOLAS I put my arms around you now you. And this. Because it is not enough to start. A father and the mother must see their sons and daughters a grown up. With sons and daughters of. Their own. Many houses full of growing children. When you and I must see the children of our children equally. Together we shall see them make us. To cavil. Do you. Know. He's working. On. His. Will. Have I. Had a dream I had dreamed. Something so wonderful I had to wake up and tell you about it. And Tony Oh yes. I dreamed I was in heaven but do you know where heaven was my boy it was here right here in this room.
And my old friend Dr. Brown if you're out too late again Doctor I'm not going to die not yet I have I have a heaven to go to right here first in this very room. My babies however my babies are all well Nicholas Antonio here has been the provider during my illness. They've had nothing to eat but macaroni food are all in perfect health. It's good to see my old friends again. Goodnight don't go in that glass of wine for the doctor flour and snow no thanks Nick was and I have many houses to visit. Thanks. Thanks. Good night good night. Right I must change your clothes. I'm going to bed now and do any of.
You it helps the family very much. Good night my boy. Night. Good night good night and. This. And that. You know. How I know that many on my. Own. For the past half hour you have been listening to a program by William Saroyan. This is the last program of the current series listen in America directed by John Clayton and produced by John L. A for the University of North Carolina communications center Erwin director. Listen America is
recorded in the studios of the department of radio television and motion pictures on the campus at Chapel Hill. This is the Radio Network.
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Listen America
William Saroyan
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-nk36580g).
Episode Description
This program presents a play about a "miracle" by William Saroyan. Saroyan also introduces the play.
Series Description
A series of 13 programs featuring the works of selected contemporary American authors.
Broadcast Date
Media type
Director: Clayton, John S.
Producer: Ehle, John, 1925-
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Speaker: Kuralt, Charles, 1934-1997
Writer: Saroyan, William, 1908-1981
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 56-50-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:42
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Chicago: “Listen America; William Saroyan,” 1956-10-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2024,
MLA: “Listen America; William Saroyan.” 1956-10-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Listen America; William Saroyan. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from