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Second Sundays Seven Seventeen PM Story-hour

Jim Cooke, who has been the host of the Second Sundays Seven Seventeen PM Story-hour for the past 14 years, has a story to tell about how SSSSSH got started if you ask him.

Cooke, who took a liking to the art of storytelling, thought it would be a great idea to bring national storyteller Donald Davis to his local church to entertain whoever might be interested. Expecting a few folks, he was surprised when 108 people showed up to listen. Out of that gathering, came the idea to have a story swap for a few months.

Fourteen years later, SSSSSH is still going strong, bringing in 15-20 eager tellers and listeners on a monthly basis from all over the Bay area.

The operation is full of that homestyle, small-town atmosphere that exudes out of the participants of Cooke's monthly storytelling gathering. Cooke is proud of the fact that "advertising" is done only through word of mouth, bringing in tellers from as far away as Egypt and an Irish isle to share myths, folklore, fairytales, elder tales, legends, tall and urban tales, poems, and other stories. Cooke's monthly event is held in the local church in Tiburon, where regulars tell me the fireplace goes strong on winterly nights while listeners gather around to listen to oldtimers tell tales.

The crowd is mostly older folks -- you can see them practicing on their supportive crowd of story-teller friends before trying the real stories on their grandchildren.

Cooke said that the reason he started storytelling was that he believed there was a family storyteller in most families but none in his family -- he only knew one sentence about each grandfather. This family theme is continued around the night -- in honor of Mother's Day, Cooke has everyone introduce themselves as well as share short anecdotes about their mothers. Half the room has a story or two to share.

There are also some younger storytellers who use theater techniques and act out their stories as well others whose work seems more geared to little kids although there are none in the room.

The only rules in the house are that tellers cannot read off a paper (Cooke says this is because the problem with reading is that readers lose contact with the audience) and that first-time storytellers are limited to five minutes.

Everyone is extremely friendly -- the moment I stepped out of my car, a regular offered to show me to the storytelling room. I ended up sitting next to the featured storyteller, who chatted amiably with me without ever mentioning he was the featured teller for the evening. Many folks came to talk to me during the break, curious about the newcomer in their midst. If you're in the mood for some hometown chattin', SSSSSH will be your haven.

Second Sundays Seven Seventeen pm Story-Hour
Congregational Community Church
145 Rock Hill Drive, Tiburon, CA
Every 2nd Sunday night at 7:17pm
Info: 415.461.8199 or e-mail [email protected] All ages, $2 donation