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• Speaker  • Trainer  • Consultant  • Coach  • Facilitator  • Emcee  • Storyteller
(AKA Yellow Legs,
Mary Beth Washington, and Mary Stoffel)
By Craig Harrison DTM, PDG
Companion piece to Craig's August, 2006
article in
The Toastmaster

"I stepped on a pin, the pin bent,
"And that’s the way the story went."

Photo by Ed Washington, Calgary 8/06

85-year old Storyteller Mary Beth Washington was born in Huntsville Alabama in the shadow of a big mountain with no name. According to a Native American legend an Indian maiden was being pursued by many suitors. Her elders advised her to "Say No" to each and thus they named mountain Saino Mountain.

In her lifetime Orunamamu has told and taught in many school districts, at museums, on commuter ferries and trains and especially on her stoop in the Rockridge district of Oakland, California.

At Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science she's known as Yellow Legs (named for yellow leg warmers she dons when telling the story of local birds). In Toastmasters in the United States and Canada she is known as Orunamamu - a regal name of Nigerian origin. "The O is for respect" she tells new friends.

When Orunamamu tells tall tales she always considers the audience. And she mixes a lot of her own life into stories. "It comes out of you." She continue: "some people get older, myself - I grow older." She is always dressed in layers: scarves, hats, walking cane, a story bag and feathers ("A feather, a soft and lovely feather, a feather is a letter from a bird.") Each article of clothing is a prop, and can come off at any time for the purposes of a tale, tall or true. Among her bag of storytelling techniques: surprise and shock, the twist to a story we think we all know, and a mischevious smile as she intimates secrets of the world as we thought we knew it.

"We can all tell stories in and out of school. You don't have to be tall to tell tall tales, but a good imagination comes in handy. Practice on your stoop and then go tell it on a mountain. And of course, in short order you can tell tall tales during Table Topics."

- Orunamamu, as told to Craig Harrison

N.B. Orunamamu can be experienced in person early many Thursday mornings in Oakland California at Lakeview Toastmasters.

Check her out on YouTube:

© Copyright 2006 Craig Harrison. All Rights Reserved.

Past District Governor Craig Harrison, DTM of Oakland California's Lakeview Toastmasters (2767-57), is also a board member of the Storytelling Association of Alta California. He founded Expressions of Excellence!™ to provide sales and service solutions through speaking.

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contact Craig by email: Craig@ExpressionsOfExcellence.com
or by phone: (510) 547-0664.

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