Announcer: It’s Friday, time for StoryCorps, recording stories that have shaped the lives of everyday Americans. Today we’re going to hear from Bert and Ernie, muppet-Americans living in New York. They were young children when New York’s muppet integration program began, and both remember busing from their neighborhood in Brooklyn to a primarily human school on the Upper West Side.
Bert: We were the only two muppets in our grade in the busing program. It was a huge opportunity, going to a school with regular children!
Ernie: Well, I don’t know, Bert. I- I didn’t always like it. We had to wake up early in the morning.
Bert: It was worth it though. Muppet schools weren’t always so good then. They’d only have half the alphabet for the students to learn, and maybe four or five numbers. And you’d always have to share the letters. So I was “Ber” on Mondays and Tuesdays, and “T” the rest of the week. And then we got to the human school, and boy oh boy- they had all twenty-six letters, for everyone! And more numbers than you can even think about.
Ernie: Uh-huh, Bert. That’s true. That’s when I learned about the number 8,243,721.
Bert: That’s when I first found out about the letter “W”! You need the letter “W” to say “walrus”, you know. So you can imagine what we were missing out on.
Ernie: That’s right, we used to have to call them “alruses”.
Offstage: *squelching noises* Arp arp arp!
Bert: We used to call him “Alt”. Remember when I got you that “W”?
Offstage: *happy arping noises*
Ernie: It wasn’t- wasn’t always fun, though, Bert. Remember when you tried to start a “W” club?
Bert: Oh, we don’t need to talk about that, Ernie.
Ernie: Bert- Bert and I were the only ones who came to the meeting. Some of the popular children said really mean things about him. And then they started calling him “Alpha-Bert”, and they’d draw letters all over his sweaters and his locker and his books.
Bert: I didn’t mind being called “Alpha-Bert”. The alphabet is great! They probably- anyway, they probably didn’t mean anything by it.
Ernie: You minded it when they drew a giant “L” for “Loser” on your favorite sweater, Bert. Anyway, I guess- I guess human children don’t like letters and numbers as much as we do.
Announcer: Friends Bert and Ernie, in New York City. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.