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  • Writer's pictureSue Hinkel

MO-TELL Register Interview: Bobby Norfolk

Interview by Sue Hinkel

1.Tell a bit about you. Vocations, hobby, family

I love long walks in Nature so I can meditate,ruminate, and contemplate. As a former National Park Service Ranger and Naturalist, it has been part of my DNA for the last 40 years to do this. That background has allowed me to embrace the teachings of the Indigenous People of North America.

They had a "Mystical" connection to the 4 elements of Nature and as I went deeper into those studies I found that we humans are caught between the making of money and the care of the planet. That is the reason we are still using 18th century technology to power our vehicles, businesses, and homes.

Sherry my wife is vegetarian as I am and we strive to honor what I call the 5 Basic Precepts:PROPER: Nutrition/Sleep/Exercise/Breathing/Mental Attitude.These things have served us well in the "current climate" or "new normal" we find ourselves in today!

My two brothers Paul & Wil ( I am the middle kid) are doing their best to stay healthy also. Paul is an avid and prolific writer/Storyteller and Wil is retired from Mallinkrodt Chemical Co in St. Louis..

My son Damon and his wife Monique have a beautiful smart 10 year old daughter, Mikaylah Grace.

2. That is your interest in Storytelling? How did it begin?

I did not find storytelling, it found me! I was in my senior year at UMSL pursuing a double Major in History and Journalism when a classmate recommended I go to the Arch to apply for a Summer job as an National Park Service Ranger. I had no idea what that was nor did I know the Arch was a national monument, but I did know I needed a Summer job!

After an hour interview, the chief ranger asked if I could start the next day! Caught off guard by the sudden twist of fate, I told him I had already signed an agreement to be a camp counselor at Camp Sabra, a Jewish camp in Lake of The Ozarks. He looked at his desk calendar and I knew I had blown the opportunity but he looked up and said; " Can you start the Monday after you return to St. Louis? We signed the deal, and the job lasted from the Summer of 1976 for the next 10 years!

In 1980 Ron Turner and Lynn Rubright banded together to create a storytelling festival in St.Louis that would model the National Festival in Jonesbourough,TN and the site they chose was the Arch museum which as God & fate would have it, was my work site! Some of the best storytellers in the nation came to the museum and the epiphany dawned on me. I could take living history, my background in stand up comedy,and acting with the St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre and roll it into a genre I called; "Storytheatre!"

I asked to be off Monday and Tuesday to work with a group called Young Audiences Inc. and got my wish to work in the St. Louis School system. Actor Chris Limber, who was hired by The Arch admin. to portray Mark Twain saw my guided tours in the museum and said I should apply for a position with YA and that set the next stage for my development.

I resigned from the Park Service in early 1987 and in 1988 I went to Chicago's North Shore to perform on the same stage as the legendary Jackie Torrence and the next chapter in my career was set. She became my mentor and introduced me to her record producer and booking agent.Later I hired ex-Park Ranger Jan Dolan to be my executive assistant first and then my agent.

3. Why did you decide it was important to a member of Missouri Storytelling? How can MO-TELL improve?

Two people kept asking me to join MO-TELL and I finally gave in. Theywere Sue Hinkel and Perrin Stifel. They both are relentless in getting people to do their bidding and I fell under their spell!

I feel MO-TELL could improve the organization by getting more involved in virtual telling while keeping some of the traditional parts of storytelling. I, being "old school" still prefer the paper newsletter. It still appeals to me!

4. What tellers have been influential in your life?

Jackie Torrence.

5. What is your favorite story, movie, song?

My favorite *Movie & book is Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. J.K. Rowling proved with the introduction of the Dementors that her Work was beyond kid entertainment.

My favorite *Story is Wiley and The Hairy man- I love the jump story genre and I can do 4 in that 1 story!

My favorite * Song is Head To The Sky-by Earth,Wind & Fire!

6. Favorite Trick or Treat Joke? Memory of Christmas? Valentine Memory?

Trick or Treat joke- Adam & Eve and Pinch Me Tight went over the river to see a fight, Adam & Eve came back from the fight, who was left to see thefight? (when they say pinch me tight, I oblige) :)

Christmas- As a kid making snow cream with freshly fallen snow caught in a large dish set on the window sill, vanilla flavor,sugar, and Pet Milk!

Valentine- Making hearts and handmade cards in grade school arts & crafts class!

Favorite vacation- Looking down the caldera of an active volcano in Indonesia and visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando,FL.

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