StoryCorps: Samuel Scarnato

Sep 23, 2010

Eighty-year-old Samuel Alfonso Scarnato of New Orleans has achieved academic excellence in obtaining a PhD in education. It didn't come easily to a boy growing up in the Depression in western Pennsylvania coal country.  He remembers attending a one-room schoolhouse where his eighth-grade class consisted of three students. He was in charge of keeping the classroom fire going in the cold months, and received a dollar a month for his efforts.

Scarnato had a paper route and helped his father with gardening. But even in those hard times, he and his friends managed to have some fun. In this April 11th conversation with his daughter, Joni Kobrock, he looks back to a day in 1938 when he got some batting advice from the best player in the world. It was the last thing he expected when he and a friend went to a ballpark one day in Butler, Pennsylvania.

ALSO: In this extended conversation, Samuel Scarnato, now 80 years old, remembers leaving his one-room schoolhouse after completing the eighth grade to work at hotel in Butler, Pennsylvania, a few miles from the family home. Through the intervention of a teacher, he not only got the hotel job, but a chance to finish high school. He later went on to attain at PhD in education. In this April 11th conversation with his daughter, Joni Kobrock, he talks about that teacher, and the job that changed his life.

StoryCorps New Orleans interviews were recorded by StoryCorps, a national project to record and collect stories of everyday people. This excerpt was selected and produced by WWNO producer Eileen Fleming, with support from the WWNO Productions Fund and from Villere & Co., managing the investments of New Orleans' families for almost 100 years. Listen again at or at