W: My age is. 55.
I: How old were you
when you were married?
I: And how old was your
I: What year were you
W: October 13, 1941.
I: Now, did you have
a job when you graduated from high school?
W: No. I didn't work.
I: Were you employed
during the Depression?
W: Yes. I did not
work until I had one year of business school which was, well, the Telephone
Company was impressed I had been to Business School. They gave me a
test and I passed it. And they employed me to work in the Plant Department
and after I was employed I found out I made a very high grade. In fact,
there were three of us employed at the same time and two of us made
extremely high grades and I was one and the other girl, it took her
about 75 minutes and it took me 50 minutes. Actually it took me about
25 minutes but I was ashamed to hand my paper in.
I: What happened about
this test that you did so well you got the job?
W: I was employed
by the Plant Department which kept me from working in the Traffic Department
which--the bad hours. So, I had an 8 to 5 job.
I: Good. Do you remember
what your salary was?
W: Yes. $15 per week.
Very good work.
I: How long did you
W: I worked until
1941 at which time my salary was $22 and when they found I was going
to resign at the end of the year they decided not to give me a raise
until I raised cane about it. Then I got $23 a week. But then I learned
to raise cane in public. You know. Speak up for my rights.
I: Would you generally
do it alone. Did you find any support from the other women you were working
W: From the other
Well we didn't discuss
salaries with each other. That was just not done. The way I found out
I was to get a raise was one of the girl's who came from the Traffic
Department, the same time I did said, Did you get your raise? And I
said, No. And she said, I got mine. She said maybe their not going to
give you one because you quit. I said, thats what they think. Because
I might want to come back and I might want to come back for a dollar
more in salary. So, I went and talked to the union representative, it
was a company organization we all belonged to and I forget whether we
paid dues or not but we belonged to this company sponsored union.
W: You get paid if
you were absent for a day it depended whether or not on your boss if
you got paid. You were suppose to have three years service or five years
service before you got paid for every day you had off for sickness.
But it just depended upon your boss a lot. You were paid at the discretion
of your boss. Well, actually they knew if you stayed home for hangnails
or if you had to be sent home because you were dying, which was my case.
I worked four years without missing a day for unaccounted sickness and
one day I came to work with a fever and a chest cold and they sent me
I: Did you have any
education beyond high school?
W: One year of business
I: How long did you
remain single after high school?
W: Oh, lets see. I
graduated when I was 16 and remained single until I was 23. Lets see,
7 years. I was 18 when I went to work.
I: What was your father's
occupation in the Thirties?
W: My father? Now
my natural father died in '30 or '31. I really can't remember but he
was in the Navy and prior to that he was totally disabled from WW I.
And from 1923, approximately 1923, he started getting sick and he was
sick for 6 years and I think it was '30 or '31 when he died. It was
January and I can't remember whether it was Jan. '31 or January '30.
I'm not really sure. I'd have to go and look at the headstone on his
grave before I could say. I keep forgetting. It was pleasant for him
to die because he was my best friend.
I: Were you very close
to your father?
W: Very. You have
to be when he was sick for six years from the time you were five until
I: Did he encourage
W: Yes. Oh, my father
was great. He was one of these people who said if either of you want
to smoke when you get older you can. Women in England smoke. And my
mother thought that was perfectly terrible. Of course, she broke down
and smoked after a while herself. (Laughter).
I: Did she? When did
she start to smoke?
W: Oh, I don't know.
I knew about it after my father died. She may have bummed his cigarettes
while he was still living because he wouldn't of frowned upon it. But
she was brought up with a very strict family. They didn't believe in
playing cards and all such things but she believed in playing cards.
I: What did your father
want you to be?
W: He didn't really
care. I think he would have liked it if I'd been a schoolteacher. I
don't know why. I think he would have liked it because his stepmother
was a schoolteacher. I don't know what his mother was because she died
while he was quite young. And she died in a fire. You know, a lot of
people used to die in fires because they'd fall in and she fell into
a fire and died of burns. You know, burn infections and I don't know
much about her. His father married his aunt. Married her aunt who was
a little older than he. His Aunt Laura was his stepmother and Aunt Laura
was a schoolteacher.
I: Do you think you
were maybe living out your father's dream by school teaching?
W: No. I'm way away
from my mother and father. Both of them are dead and no, this was something
else. That's another long story. (Laughter).
I: How many children
were in your family?
W: Well, there was
my natural brother and I and when my mother remarried a couple of years
after my father died -- it wasn't quite a couple of years, that's why
I resented my stepfather so much. She was married a whole five years
before she had my little brother. She was like 16 when she had me and
18 when she had my brother. No, she was 17 when she had me and 19 when
she had my brother. And then 35, I believe, when she had my little brother.
He was my half-brother.
I: What religious affilication
were you then in the Thirties?
W: A Methodist. As
strange as that may seem. We lived near a Methodist church.
I: Did you go to church
every week, were you a regular?
W: Just about.
I: OK. How about your
W: Ethnic? I don't
really know. My mother's family had been here a good while. I really
don't know much about my father's background. I know I very dearly loved
him and nothing he could do was wrong because he couldn't do much. (Laughter)
Nothing he could think or say was wrong as far as I was concerned. It
was sort of a mutual agreement. I couldn't do much that was wrong either.
I: Well, was he interested
in your reading?
I: Did you talk about
what you read?
W: Yes. Once I was
having difficulty with geography and he thought this was perfectly terrible.
You know, anybody that had been in the Navy. He came from Louisiana
and lived in the country and got away from there when he was 17. He
finished what was called country school then. He got away from there
and got into the Navy for the purpose of getting an education and seeing
the world. And he went to, boy, I can remember him telling me about
going to Liverpool, England and going across the Atlantic Ocean in a
zigzag pattern to keep from hitting mines and things and he was on a
destroyer. I remember going on a destroyer in the International Navy
Review in 1957 or something like that. And the 50th. No, not the 50th.
The 350th anniversary of Jamestown, something like that and they opened
the Naval Base to everybody with the International Naval Review. Pardon
the expression. (Laughter) They had these destroyers and all kinds of
ships you can go on and our guide was about 6' 4" and the poor
fellow kept hitting his head on the pipes and kept ducking and I had
to duck. He (her father) thought the Navy was great. He was all of 36
when he died.
I: Did he discipline
you? I really don't understand what Navy fathers are like.
W: I don't either
because the stereotype of them to me is so different than my own father.
I never remember my father ever landing a hand on me but I was only
five when he got sick. I can remember one time he popped me right on
the seat and I screamed and cried and carried on. And I probably did
something terrible. I remember him chewing me out one time because I
took some dishes to throw up against the Oak tree to break them. He
saw me doing that and called me in and asked me what in the world I
was doing that for? And I said I was going to get some new ones for
Christmas -- and these ones were old, you know. Santa Claus brings me
new ones. He said well you're destroying something that's- your own
property and I don't condone it. And don't ever let me see you do such
a thing again.
I: Were they family
W: No. They were little
toy dishes of my very own and that's why I was highly indignant that
he called me in and told me not to break 'em. No regular eating dishes.
Oh Lord, he'd kill me.
I: Where did you live?
W: I lived in Craddock.
I: Craddock? Where is
W: That's what was
Norfolk Country and is now Portsmouth.
I: OK. And you live
in what area now?
W: Now I live in Cherokee
Heights in Norfolk.
I: OK. Do you remember
any movies you used to go to in the Thirties?
W: Yes. I remember
going to see Tom Mixx and all those people and I used to go with a little
boy who used to live in the neighborhood. His father took him to see
all of the Tom Mixx shows and things like that. I remember going on
Friday night. And I also remember seeing the first talkie.
I: What was that?
W: Al Jolson &
the Jazz Singer. It was so strange to look up and see those ghost singing.
You know, you had looked upon them as just being pictures. Not really.
It was definite in your mind that this was all make believe. You know,
how you see these things with English captions and they speak everything
in French. The English subtitles. Well, that's that way it was then.
You saw the little English subtitles there. If you could read real fast.
I: Tom Mixx you say
in the silents?
W: Oh yeah! Tom Mixx
and somebody else and I can not remember -- Hoot Gibson! (Laughter)
I: I remember him. He
W: I can remember
seeing these tales and pictures from movie magazines and things that
got into the paper. And I can remember seeing a beautiful little dollhouse
that was made for Thomasine Mixx. You'd never forget that name.
I: You read magazines
when you were a kid too?
W: When I got a chance.
I: Oh, they weren't
W: We didn't buy them.
Once in a while you'd get a hold of such a thing. She had a beautiful
little dollhouse. It was so pretty.
I: Did you see any of
the Garbo movies?
W: Yeah. I remember
seeing "Back Street" and several of those things of that type.
I: Why did "Back
Street " stand out?
W: Oh, because it
was full of innuendoes. And you really didn't understand it because
nobody had sat down and told me the facts of life anyway and I must
have been didn't know what in the world, there must have been something
wrong with what they were doing and I knew he was married and all that
was a non-no.
I: How old were you
when you saw Back Street ?
W: I don't know. I
must have been a teenager. I felt so-- when I look back and see what
kids now 16, 17, 18 are doing, knowing and seeing, I think I must have
been horribly retarded.
I: How did you raise
your children differently than the way you were raised?
W: I told them things.
When they asked me things about sex I told them and we could see sex.
I: You didn't talk about
that sort of thing at home?
W: Oh no, no, no.
Whenever I asked my mother anything she'd change the subject and she'd
say I'll tell you when you get old enough. Or I'll tell you something
or what do you want to know that for you're not getting married?
I: How did you find
out about it?
W: Well, one day,
lets see. I was a grown woman. This is almost incredible. But I was'
19 years old and a friend -- one girl was the same age and the other
was a year younger than I. We got on bicycles and rode around. At that
time I lived in Norfolk in the Lafayette Area. We lived on Blair Avenue,
which is across from the poorer section of Winnona (SP?). (Laughter)
This one girl lived over there in, Blair near where I did. The other
one lived at Nesterbrook. (SP?) But we got together every afternoon
that we could, particularly in the summer because they were overweight
and I wasn't. I was thin, very thin and we got together after supper
and took long rides on bicycles. And I thoroughly enjoyed it, lost five
pounds and they didn't lose one ounce. (Laughter) Because we always
ended up at the Drug Store getting a milkshake. I didn't gain. I lost
I: Is this how you learned
W: 0ne day, several
days, we ended up at the girl's who lived in Nesterbrook (SP?) Her mother
had very carefully & patiently told her all of the facts of life.
And she was just - she thought that it was the funniest thing in this
whole world that neither of us -- we knew where babies came from but
we didn't know how they got there in the first place. And she very meticulously
told us and we were all of nineteen. And of course, we believed her
because she knew what she was talking about and if she told us anything
I guess we would have believed it.
I: What was a typical
W: A typical date?
You went to the movies.
I: When did you start
W: I was about eighteen.
I didn't date much. (Laughter) I really didn't. Usually you went to
the movies. I did. Or after -- when I started dating Ed, whom I married,
we went out dancing together and most of the time we dated with another
couple. We did this to save gas and expenses and then it was a lot more
I: Well, when did you
start dating Ed?
W: I was 21.
I: And that was in the
W: Late Thirties,
I: So you generally
went out. Did you drink?
W: Some, not much,
not much 'cause I didn't know much about drinking 'cause we had eggnog
I: Would you say among
your friends there was drinking?
W: Mm-hmm. Not very
heavy drinking but there was some and everybody drank beer but me. I
can't stand it till this day. I have to get mighty upset before I'll
take a dose of beer.
I: Lets see, you were
working when you met your husband?
W: Yes, at the Telephone
I: You went together
for 6 --
W: A year and a half.
I: Oh! A year and a
I: Did he expect you
to give up your job it you were married?
W: Mm--hmm. Oh, yes.
Typical Male Chauvinist. (Laughter)
I: Why? It was during
W: It was just before
the war. Yeah, we heard the great news of Pearl Harbor over the radio
one Sunday when we a couple, two couples, over for dinner. And we sat
around and cried on each others shoulder. We knew we were in the War
then and we were.
I: What did your husband
do when you first met him?
W: He worked for the
I: He worked for the
Telephone Company too?
W: He did work on
I: But times were tough.
Would he have appreciated that second salary?
W: Yes. But he had
some of these old-fashioned ideas that had been ingrained in him and
his family that Mama doesn't work and that she stays home & minds
the house and eventually she has children.
I: And you felt that
W: Yeah. I did and~1t
didn't. Hell, I don't know what I felt. I felt it would be nice to have
a second salary but I felt it would be nice to stay home and do these
dippy things that women do. Sit home and read home magazines and eat
strawberry & creams and sew a fine seam. Ho-ho-ho.
I: Did you ever think
about having a career when you started out?
W: Well, my career
was sort of cut short when my father died. Our salary was cut back a
little, quite a bit, and my mother remarried. We were pretty well set
then and my stepfather worked for the city of Norfolk. He worked as
a fireman. And we moved over here and we rented a house and he decided
the car he had, a coupe, wasn't big enough for this family. If he asked
us we would have said keep the old car because we loved it. It had a
trunk and you'd prop that trunk open and it didn't get in the way of
his vision and my brother and I put poles and things in there and could
see where we were going instead of where we'd been. And we loved it
and besides we were insulated from adults. And in a car you're not insulated
from other adults and we liked this. In fact, children when I was a
child were more insulated from adults than they are now. Well, kids
have to be taken everywhere they go now and we sort of made that adjustment
with people getting further and further away from public transportation.
And I don't know why it is but Little League baseball was unheard of.
Imagine a father teaching a kid to play ball. You learned how to play
ball by playing ball. You learned a whole lot of things. I used to detest
being around a whole bunch of adults and I got away from them every
chance I could get.
I: Do you remember any
talk about generation gap?
I: Did you resent adults?
W: No, not really.
Probably I did. I probably didn't like them much. I thought they were
crazy. They liked to sleep in the daytime. They liked to sit down a
lot and they liked to tell you not to do things that were absolutely
natural. For instance, my mother stand -- you don't have any ink. I
couldn't stand to let an ink bottle -- I would have had to pick this
up and see what it was and turn it around. I had to know what that was
and what that was. But if my mother had been in here she would have
given me this look to go over someplace and sit in a chair, find one,
anything. Just sit down and behave yourself and keep your hands off
athings. And to me it was absolutely natural. They were like magnets
anything that was just sitting down there by themselves not bothering
anybody. Have you ever seen these old lampshades with the fringe on
I: Oh sure.
W: Well, we had one
with regular fringe and it was my delight to go to those little scallops
and take them in my palm. The fancy ones had beads. We didn't have one
with beads because my mother would have went crazy. I would have went
(inaudible) all the time with those beads. She sort of frowned on things
like that and she wasn't as bad as most adults. Anything you were doing,
stop and sit down.
I: Did they ever talk
to you besides your father that was able to understand you?
W: My father treated
me as though I was another adult. You know, radio came in there somewhere
and we listened to the radio and we educated ourselves with music. We
listened to musical education programs, they had some of them nice classical
music coming on for everybody to hear, you know. We listened to things
like Amos and Andy.
I: Were you a tomboy?
W: Yes. Oh I loved
to ride my bicycle. That was the best thing in this world.
I: How did your mother
feel about this?
W: Well it was alright.
See, there was a little girl in the neighborhood three years older than
I. She was small. She didn't grow as fast as I did and she was my mother's
idea of perfection and I had two places I wasn't to go. One was the
highway, George Washington Highway and the other was Afton Parkway,
which was the main drag and I wasn't to go on those streets. I could
go on other streets because I could stay on the sidewalk there.
I: But she didn't mind
your riding with your friends?
W: There were probably
a lot of places I went that she wouldn't let me go had I told her I
was going. I learned to ask forgiveness rather than permission. (Laughter)
If I were caught, you know.
I: That's interesting.
That the first child would have that much freedom.
W: I wouldn't of had
all this freedom. My mother would say I'm not going to let her go there
and I would (pretending to cry) say Daddy, she won't let me go such
- and - such a place and he'd say not go on out-of the room and I'll
talk to you in a minute. He'd say, why can't she go? (Her mother) Well,
I don't know what's down there. Who's she going with? And all this kind
of stuff. And oh why don't you let her go? Every place the tide come
up around here. We used to want to go fishing with bent pins and things
like that and just pull gudgeons out of the stream. And I'd want to
go down there but she wouldn't want me to go because I would get into
quick -- sand and all this stuff. But there wasn't any quicksand.
I: Did your mother treat
your stepbrother any different?
W: They spoiled him
I: He could go anywhere
W: Well now, he was
about five when I left home. He wasn't born till I was 18 and then when
he was 5, 6. Yeah, about a year after I was married his father died.
His father used to spoil him just beyond belief.
I: What about the relationship
between your and your mother? Did she encourage you?
W: Well, yes. My mother
thought I was the smartest thing on earth. (Laughter) I learned how
to talk before I could walk and it was no wonder. I was around her five
brothers and sisters and they would. The first sentence I learned to
say with gestures was, "Give it to her." Because everything
I would want they would say, "Give it to her."
I: Did she want you
to get married?
I: Why not?
W: Because there was
no man on this earth good enough for me. Nor my brother. Nor my other
brother. No women good enough for them.
I: Did she give you
any advice about dating?
I: None at all?
W: I was sort of like
on my own. Oh, she gave me a lot (to) advice after I came home. Like,
what did you do and so on. What did you do? And what made you stay out
so late and things like this.
I: Did your mother want
you to go to school?
W: Yes. But they couldn't
afford it by the time. My stepfather got a cut in salary after they
bought a house and bought a new car. And were firmly entrenched in the
house. We were almost evicted because he got a salary cut. And if our
little pension hadn't gone up me would have been in bad straits. But
we always had plenty to eat. We didn't really suffer in the Depression
really. I have never known what its like to be hungry and have imposed
this upon myself to lose weight and this wasn't during the Depression.
I: Did any of your family
or friends or people that you knew have hard times?
W: Well, yes. My mother's
sister. Her husband worked in the Navy yard and it was during WW II
that he was promoted and he was just on minimal salary and he was doing
clinical work in the Navy. When the war came along they started making
money hand over fist. They made up for lost time. He's still living
and he's been collecting from the government for a whole lot more than
he ever paid into it.
I: Did your mother prefer
a domestic life? She didn't work?
W: No. She worked
after the war. After everything almost that she had was gone. She got
a job working. She did work with the Navy Exchange, then she quit that
job. Well, she got various other jobs after that, sales and things like
that. This was a sales job but it was a better job.
I: What about your marriage?
Did your husband share any in the housework?
W: Oh yeah.
I: What sort of things
would he do?
W: Mostly it was giving
the babies baths and getting them off my necks when I was about to scream.
I: Did he do any housework?
W: Yeah. Yeah. He
has taken that sometimes. You know, he'd scrub the floor or something
like that. He still will do that kind of thing.
I: Did you have outside
help at the time?
W: Well, when my second
child was born I had what I finally found out ten years ago is called
Post-partum neurosis. And it's natural with some people. It's this trapped
feeling and I started having aches and pains and I finally broke down
and went to the doctor sobbing and told him I ached all over. And he
said go home and get yourself a maid and get out. Get somebody to take
those kids and then you could get a maid that would come in and keep
the kids and do some housework for you and the thing I hated worse than
anything was the ironing and we've all been relieved of most of that
now. It wasn't a day to soon that they invented wash and wear (Laughter)
I: Who budgeted the
W: Well, he did at
first and now we don't exactly budget it but I usually write the checks
and deposit the money and sort of keep a hand on the finances. I keep
a looser hand than he did. But we - a lot of the savings we have disappear
before I see them otherwise it would just disappear period.
I: I gather then, there
wasn't much Conflict over money?
W: No. Not a lot.
Sometimes I wished he'd buy something for inside the house rather than
a load of dirt for the lawn. But we had that kind of a lawn (Laughter)
that you had to keep buying loads of dirt for.
I: I guess where you
were employed in the telephone company you worked mainly with other women?
W: No. I worked with
men and women. In fact, there was something like 12 girls in the office
and 24 men. That's a pretty good ratio.
I: It's interesting.
If you had gotten married while you had that job do you think they would
have relieved you.
W: Well, I did get
married while I had that job.
I: Oh. And you remained?
W: I remained there
till the end of the year. From October to the end of the year and then
till the end of the year. Then I worked part - time when they called
me back during the war. Four children were born. Jinx was born on my
second anniversary incidentally.
I: Did you have ideas
about feminism then? You know, were you aware?
W: I was aware that
we had at least two women in the office that were brilliant and there
was a third one that was very quietly brilliant. The two of them, want
me to turn this off? Somewhere along there. I think it was after the
children were born you know, I had to stay home anyway so I did quite
a bit of reading. And I read a lot about these women. One of my favorite
people: the one who comes along in the Women Temperance Union -- What
was the one, the hatchet lady?
I: Oh, Carry Nation.
W: Carry Nation. I
think she was -- (Laughter)
I: You got a kick out
W: I think she was
just great. I think we should of had more women like her. I really do.
W: I don't know why.
Well, I do know why too. Because I don't know if you've ever seen anyone
in the throes of alcoholism, you know. They're really in bad shape.
She evidently had some contact with that didn't she? Of her husband
or somebody. It would make you want to smash them sometimes. I had a
brother- in-law and he's dead now. But my husband used to have to go
get him out of bars and everything. His wife would call up. I don't
know that this is what he needed but she would call up and it wouldn't
make any difference if we were going out. If we had company. All plans
were dropped and he would go looking for his brother. And this I thought
was nice and loyal of him and all that kind of stuff, but after awhile,
I got to think, duty is one thing but maybe there's another facet or
two to duty. I used to say, would you like a hatchet? when he'd leave--(Laughter).
I: Did anyone you know,
were they involved in any women' s groups? Did you ever hear of any feminist
groups in the Thirties? Like lobbying, child care, League of Women Voters?
W: Well, I probably
wasn't listening. I heard of the YWCA and I realized that that was an
organization for women that were displaced from rural areas into city
and I thought that was a very good thing. I was aware of that. That
was the only thing I guess I was aware of.
I: Did you feel that
women ought to work?
W: I felt that they
ought to work if they wanted to. And I sort of felt that way I felt
and the way I feel to this day was I had a choice. I could either marry
some guy and go home and stay safe or else I could get out and battle
the world. Or I could have stayed in the world and battled the world.
Or maybe I could have done both. But I was pretty content to stay home
with my kids. Sometimes I wasn't when I found I didn't have several
changes of clothes. Several less that I felt that was necessary, but
we were poor.
I: But you had worked
for how many years?
N: Five. And I had
everything I wanted to wear, you know. And some trips and things like
that. We had trips after we were married too but it wasn't quite the
same thing. Well, right away we didn't have trips because it was like
now, you know. We didn't have any gasoline.
I: Oh. What did you
W: We had rationing.
I: What did you do with
W: Oh by the time
my kids were born rationing was over and that's when I learned to drive.
1945. I had driven but not really. My stepfather -- he was peculiar.
I was thinking about him, coming up here. (Laughter) He was a little
different. Are we almost through? You mean we've been talking for 90
minutes? My stepfather was a person who wasn't exactly law abiding.
He didn't do anything really outside of the law but he saw no reason
for me to go down and get a drivers license and he wouldn't go with
me to get one. Well, I couldn't go by myself. He taught me to drive
and he'd let me drive that car anyplace I wanted to. I was scared all
the time when I was on the road --no drivers license -- I could have
been up the creek. You know, he did things like that. His ideas were
not compatible with some of mine. I was a kid that when I went in the
grocery store I didn't even steal grapes.
I: But other kids did?
W: Yes. Well, I thought
that's okay if your mother lets you do it. But I thought my mother would
kill me. And if there's one thing my mother -- I don't believe I would
take anything. Did you see the thing of Archie Bunker and them when
Edith went out with the wig on her head and she wouldn't take anything
that didn't belong to her and that was one thing Archie knew about her.
And there was a kid in our neighborhood who used to snitch candy from
the stores and we used to think she was absolutely terrible.
I: Do you think that
was ordinary kids snitching things or do you think it had to do anything
with the Depression?
W: No. It was a certain
kind of kid that would do this and a certain kind of kid that wouldn't
do this. Now, most of us, I don't know. It might have something to do
with deprivation though because this kid wasn't deprived of anything.
Actually, at the time, but she was a child that was orphaned as a small
child and they treated her just as though she had been their own kid.
In fact, if anything they over did it. They spoiled her a lot. But it
may of been because she felt deprived.
I: OK. I just want to
get back to feminism. Did you like Eleanor Roosevelt?
W: Yes. One of the
greatest women in the whole world. She really was. I saw Eleanor Roosevelt
at the Center Theater one time when she was here. She was so much prettier
when you saw her.
I: Was she?
W: But the time I
got around to seeing her she was quite and old lady and she stood in
this characteristic stance of hers.
PART II -- Side 2
I: How many children
do you have?
I: Had you ever done
anything to prevent pregnancy?
W: Yes. I went through
the doctor to learn the little tag ends I didn't know just before I
was married and to find out if I was healthy and all that kind of thing
and a friend asked me what I was going to do if I was not. And I said
I'm not going to get married among other things until I was healthy.
(Laughter) But he confirmed my suspicions I was healthy.
I: Did you have sexual
W: No I did not.
I: Was there any friction
between you and your husband about birth control?
W: No. He didn't want
to have any children right away either.
I: Did you want to have
children right away?
W: Oh, I didn't care
but he didn't want to because he felt we weren't financially able. So,
since he was handling that at that time, I thought you know better than
I: When you were dating
were you familiar with contraceptive techniques?
W: Oh, I heard something
about it but I wasn't really familiar with it. No. I was a grown woman
and had children before I saw one of these rubber devices men used.
I don't even know what you call them but I had never seen one of those
till some married women showed me one. And it was all kind of rolled
up and it looked strange. I wasn't really sure how you would use it.
I: So, you and your
friends didn't talk about that sort of thing?
W: That's probably
where I heard something about it. From girlfriends, I mean. You wouldn't
of thought about talking about such a thing in front of a man at that
I: Did they use contraceptive
W: Yes. Yes they did.
I: What did they generally
W: The ones that were
out for everything they could get. They usually used that sort of thing.
I: You don't really
know to much about it because women didn't say what they used?
W: Actually, some
of them I imagine would talk an awful lot about that kind of thing.
I never talked in the office about my own personal life. When my mother
had the baby I had been working there about two months and they knew
my mother was-- going to have the baby the day after she had it. I didn't
tell anybody my mother was going to have a baby.
I: Was pregnancy a kind
W: No. It's just that
I didn't think it was any of their damn business and the one thing I
did learn in this business office was to keep you mouth shut and your
ears open. You've got two of them and only one of them.
I: Do you still feel
this same way?
W: It's the same way.
Now than then I'm more inclined to let off steam than I used to be and
I think this goes with aging and not caring what anybody thinks really.
And then I cared what everybody thought. If you told them everything
then they knew more than you did. They were one up on you.
I: Do you still feel
uncomfortable when people are talking about sexual things?
W: No. I don't feel
real uncomfortable. Now it depends. If you're doing this for scientific
research, yeah, I'll tell you anything you want to know. If someone
genuinely wants to know something, wants some advice for what its worth
I'll give them what I can. But if somebody is just talking to see what
they can draw out of me they can forget the whole thing. I'll tell them
something sassy and forget it. I have an all-purpose joke I tell men.
Have you ever heard this one about the 50 bees going along?
W: Alright. There
were 50 bees (this was before EXXON). 50 bees were buzzing along and
the leader said, we've got to stop and make a restroom stop. So 49 of
them went into the woods and one of them went to a gas station. Now
what does that prove?
I: I don't know.
W: That in every crowd
there's at least one SOB. (Laughter)
That's a good one
isn't it? It applies. When somebody starts pushing you, you can just
tell them that one and that's it.
I: Well then, I gather
you were, you dated your husband, your husband is the only one you dated
I: What about your wedding
night? You had known about the facts of life but did you know what to
W: No. I don't think
anybody knows what to expect if they haven't done this exactly before.
I: What was your reaction
to the first time?
W: I don't know. I
wasn't disappointed. On the other hand, I wasn't all that ecstatic.
Well, to tell you the truth, we went to Hungry Mother State Park in
October and those cabins had been a little cooler , you know. And they
weren't heated as we know heat these days, but it had a fireplace in
it. So, we lit the fireplace and the oven and everything in the world,
you know, and had supper before we went to bed. (Laughter) But anyway,
then we ran the shower quite a bit so it would get warm in there and
took showers and so on. And I tell you, when I got in bed my teeth were
chattering. Brrr. And I think it was nerves and the fact that it was
cold and everything else too. He was nice and gentle and affectionate
and so on and I wasn't upset by the whole thing in fact I rather enjoyed
I: I'm very glad to
W: I rather enjoyed
it and yet it was rather strange.
I: Through you mother
would you expect--
W: My mother enjoyed
I: She did? How did
W: She told me after
awhile. After I had been married awhile, she told me she did.
I: When was she married?
W: When she was 17.
I mean 16. 1917. 8½ months before I was born. (Laughter) Poor
mother! She hated to tell anybody that. But I was my father's and nobody
in the world could deny it and besides he was out to sea. That used
to embarrass her to death. Isn't that awful?
I: That's interesting.
What was your mother's background?
W: Well, real strict
I: Was she from a large
family? Where did she live?
W: My mother came
from up in the hills, way back there where I guess you'd have to swing
on a grapevine to get out. Way back there by Whitfield, Virginia. Do
you know where that is? Well, it's pretty civilized now. Quote civilized.
But my grandmother said she remembers coming around those hills, going
around the edge of a cliff to meet her father who had been drinking
maybe, you know.
I: Your mother's family
was a strong Methodist family?
W: No. No. No. No,
we belonged to a Methodist church because we lived near a Methodist
church but my mother's -- her father, my grandfather was from Portsmouth
and his family had had money but they didn't believe in education or
anything and he was illiterate. My grandmother had a good mind and she
would have been smart if her mind had been trained. She lived to be
83. I hope, pray to the Lord, that I inherited some of her breath and
depth. She was one strong woman. 6 kids and she made little underbodies
and drawers to match and put all the little underbodies on them. Can
I: Where did your mother
meet your father?
W: At church and it
was The Friends Church in Portsmouth and they are a Quaker Church but
they are no way I believe related to ordinary Quakers. They are more
or less holy roller types. I believe this, I don't know. Because I gave
them a wide berth.
I: She thought it was
very sinful for her.
W: Sinful unless you
were married. I can't see why it would be all that different but?
I: Did you become one?
W: I did because I
was brainwashed to think so. It wouldn't be for me, out of wedlock.
I don't want to pass judgments on anybody else.
I: How about on your
dates with your husband (I know you went out dancing and that sort of
thing) would you have approved of petting?
W: I did. Not only
did I approve of it, I did it. (Laughter)
I: Would you have married
a divorcee at this time?
W: I don't, I really
don't know. I didn't have any opportunities to find out so I don't know.
My mother would have raised holy Toledo. She really would have.
I: For religious reasons
or just 'cause the guy wasn't dependable?
W: I think more because
he wasn't dependable. You better find out why that first wife left him.
That's what I think I would have told Jinx too. (My daughter)
I: Did you want to marry
somebody with sexual experience?
W: No. Not necessarily.
It didn't make any difference to me.
I: It didn't cross your
W: Well, it crossed
my mind but I didn't care, you know. Of course, it crossed my mind.
I felt then that the nature of men was that they were all son of a guns.
That if I happened to get one, so what? The rest of them -- I didn't
have much choice.
I: Why do you feel that
W: I don't know. I
just heard. You know how when your a kid you'll listen and hear some
things. You'll think that some people that you think are the nicest
person in the world and you'll find out like I had an uncle, my own
mother's brother, and he left town to go out of town to work during
the Depression and I heard he had an affair with a woman. I didn't know
what having an affair with a woman exactly meant but I know it was something
bad. And I knew it had something to do with he probably slept with her.
Yeah. And this was bad. And I didn't see how in the world his wife could
stand him. I really couldn't. Yet, he was so nice. He was a nice fellow
and everything. After I got grown I realized that men seem to be able
to do and still have another facet to their character and be nice and
be sweet to children and provide for their families and tell jokes like
my uncle does.
I: Did you resent that
W: I resented it but
I sort of accepted it I guess.
I: You couldn't of seen
yourself for instance having the right conditions, running out and having
W: No. No. No. Because
everybody knew it when you did such things.
I: Did you envy men
for having that kind of freedom?
W: No, I didn't resent
it or envy it or anything. I just thought it was sort of strange. (Laughter)
I don't know what I thought about it really. I don't know if you want
to know this or not but I used to double date with a girl that I used
to think went to far with this backseat stuff. And, one day I told her,
listen, if you don't watch out, you are going to end up in a home for
wayward girls. And she told me politely to mind my own business, which
I did from then on but I said don't say I didn't tell you and that was
all I had to say to her.
I: But you remained
W: Oh yeah. In fact,
she got married and after her husband went overseas she had an affair
with a married man is what I heard. I don't know this. I heard this.
I: But she never discussed
anything with you about the guy?
W: No and you know
how you grow apart from these people. She was a person who had a great
sense of humor. I saw her Christmas shopping one year, and she stopped
and told me she had had a burglar in the house and I said you did and
she said yeah. And I said, What in the world did he take? 'Cause I knew
she was as poor as I was. What did she have to take? (Laughter) She
said he took a carton of cigarettes and some Aids. And I got tickled.
I knew what was coming. She was going to make a funny crack about it.
She said, if you see a thin smoke that's probably my burglar. (Laughter)
I: Did you ever consider
divorce while you were married?
W: Yes. Yes. Yes.
I: About when? Soon
after you were married?
W: No. No. No. You
want to know why?
I: Okay. If you want
to talk about it?
W: My husband drinks
a bit and a few times he's overdone it, you know. And in fact, it's
taken less and less to make him drunker and drunker, but I've decided
about two years ago, forget it. Either live with it or live without
it but forget it. But one time when the kids were little he got very,
very drunk and abusive, you know. His language and everything and it
was around Christmastime and I had invited about fifteen people over
for Christmas. And this was Christmas Eve that he decided to get on
his little high horse. An I would have left the next morning if I hadn't
had all those people. I would have gone somewhere. Gone to my brother's
or someplace and anyway, I lay awake all night. I couldn't sleep and
I lay awake and I thought you are an absolute jackass to lie here asleep,
you know, without sleeping. And I wasn't going to sleep. So, I tried
it again and couldn't go to sleep. I thought now while you're awake
why don't you do something and then I thought if I do anything I'll
wake the whole household. So, I decided I'd just lie there and think
and decide how I was going to handle this. So, I thought if he ever
acts like this again I'll have to leave. I can't keep my kids in this
kind of environment if he keeps this mess up. He didn't. This was a
one-time thing. Maybe he did something similar again but it was never
that bad. But I decided how I planned it step-by-step. And how I could
go and live with my brother. And my brother and my sister-in-law and
so on. And how I could make my way if I did. And I figured it all out
and then I went to sleep.
I: And that was just
W: No. That was when
the kids were about 12-13. See, they are just a year and a half apart.
I: Would you have considered
that when you were much younger? A year or so?
W: Oh no! I don't
think so. I felt like I was very much in love and it was I remember
very good years.
I: Have you ever had
W: No. Never had a
miscarriage or anything. I don't know what all you call it.
I: Did any of your friends
W: Did you mean during
the Depression or now?
I: During the Depression.
W: This was one of
the things I heard by going out of the room and remaining by the door.
I didn't have any friends. I didn't know these people but I had heard
of people who had abortions. Because I heard my mother and my aunt talk
I: You didn't know of
anyone that had one?
W: No, I knew of someone
who was a practical nurse who was supposed to be a person who gave other
I: That was in Norfolk,
W: No, she was in
Portsmouth. But I was in Norfolk when I heard it. But I can remember
hearing this and feeling dislike, like my uncle. 'Cause she was a nice
person otherwise. It was illegal. It was illegal and it could of been
unsanitary. I didn't know if it was immoral or not but I did know it
was illegal. I mean I heard it was immoral but as far as I'm concerned
it's not immoral.
I: You don't feel that
W: No. There's no
reason that it shouldn't of been legal because I mean, one of my neighbors
was Catholic and she had three children and she had a fourth pregnancy
and she went over to the hospital. Right over here at DePaul and she
was in the emergency room bleeding to death and she -- the sister said
just leave her alone. So the doctor said to her, how many children have
you got? And she said three. How old are they? He said, I'm going to
get rid of that sister. So he sent the sister somewhere, asked her to
do something or other and put her behind a curtain and performed one
of those quick abortions on her and cauterized and came home and live
to raise her children.
I: When did you change
your mind about abortion?
W: I don't know. When
I found out it could be done in a sanitary manner in a doctors office
that -- and I don't know when it was but for awhile it's been on my
mind and during the war I saw a lot of young girls having babies out
of wedlock and I read something about some woman who got raped and got
pregnant and they would do nothing. They would not abort her. It was
a plea for legalized abortion. There's been a lot written about it.
When it gets to Readers Digest it's been everywhere. And I think that's
where I read it.
I: What was it like
when you first discovered you were menstruating? Do you remember?
I: How did you learn
W: My mother told
me. My mother did tell me about that.
W: Yes, way before
I started. Way before it was necessary to tell me. All the other little
girls were getting breasts and little fat pads on their bottoms and
everything and all I was doing was growing hair. I was just growing
gobs of hair -- black hair. And I didn't think I'd ever get a shape
of any kind and these little girls who were developing weren't getting
as hairy as I was but they were menstruating. And Mama decided to tell
me. I didn't start till I was 14, nearly 15, I started on the fourth
of July and I don't think I ever missed one. I wasn't exactly regular
all the time.
I: It wasn't a traumatic
W: No. As far as I
was concerned it was a mess. Just something messy that happened every
I: You had no particular
W: I used to get this
worry beforehands all up tight about everything. They didn't know what
that was way back there. If they did I didn't know. I just was accused
of having a very bad disposition at that time. I knew a girl who had
cramps and fainted every month. I'd been with her when she had cramps
but I'd never been with her when she fainted. She was a good friend
but she was always with some else when she fainted.
I: Did you mother tell
you things like you can't go swimming?
W: Yes. I wasn't suppose
to wash either but I did 'cause I couldn't stand it.
I: You weren't suppose
W: You weren't suppose
to take a bath. Submerge yourself in water. You weren't. It was horrible.
So, when she wasn't looking I'd take a bath. My mother would say what
are you doing running that bath water up there for? And I'd say I just
had to wash my feet.
I: How about belonging
to any clubs?
W: I belonged to a
sorority. It was for business school girls. We had a great time. It
was a drinking society like everything else was. But we had a good time.
We found all sorts of excuses to go out and drink and eat.
I: Were you politically
W: No. I didn't vote
until after I was married but I was only 23. I was told to go get registered.
I was aware that I had to be but I just hadn't done it.
I: Were you always Democrat?
W: No. Not necessarily.
I voted for other people other than Democrats but it hasn't been to
often. How often do you get a chance to vote for a Republican? I didn't
vote for Scott. I didn't vote for that idiot. Did you hear the latest
one? What he would have done with the tapes?
I: No, I didn't hear.
W: Well, he said the
night before last, this has been on the boob tube that if there was
anything in those tapes to incriminate him, if he had been President
Nixon, he would have burnt the tapes. Nice guy isn't he? Now, we have
tape burners instead of book burners. Did you want to know what type
of contraceptive I used? I used a diaphragm. Yes.
I: Where did you find
out about --
W: The doctor told
me. He said come back in two weeks if you're not pregnant. He gave me
some stuff they advertise now in between pregnancies. Some type of contraceptive
jelly. Then use it with the IUD. The diaphragm is an IUD but it just
doesn't stay in you.
I: Were you worried
W: No. I didn't worry
about it. It wasn't to do you any good in the dresser drawer. I didn't
really worry a heck of a lot about it. My mother had a miscarriage.
And the only thing I didn't want was a miscarriage. She suffered all
night long. Having to abort or miscarriage? I don't know -- the proper
terminology because I don't know which she did. I know there's a difference
between one and the other or what they used to call miscarriage.
I: Do you think there
was a relationship in the Thirties between aborting and miscarriage? There
may well have aborted and they call that a miscarriage.
W: Well my mother
-- this was my mother's terminology -- my mother had a lot of terminology.
An inflicted person could be anything from having a tick to paraplegic.
You weren't to laugh at an inflicted person. Mama said it was a miscarriage
if you didn't cause it yourself and it was an abortion if you caused
it yourself or had somebody cause it for you. She would have said miscarriage
being she didn't cause it herself. But I think the technical term for
it was abortion because I think it was encapsulated but I'm not sure
it was under three months or just about three months or just about three
months. Something like that.
I: Was there anything
else you remember or you want to say about the Thirties that maybe --
W: We were all in
it together. Everybody was poor. There were a few rich people and you
were so glad to know them.
I: What did it mean
in the Depression?
W: Not to me. It wasn't
really depressing to me because I guess I didn't know any better. I
know I went up to school and Jinx had junior and senior prom or something.
We just didn't have them. There wasn't any such thing. And I went up
there and they had this auditorium decorated so beautifully. And I remember
standing there and tears coming in my eyes and saying oh this is so
nice. This is a result of affluence. Here I am a little richer, I've
had a child's teeth straightened. You know, things like that. I do remember
one boy came to work for the telephone company. He was 19 years old
when he came to work for the telephone company. When he came and he
had his teeth straightened after he came to work. I see kids doing that
now. But I was so happy I could get her teeth straightened before she
got grown. And now she was going to look great at the Prom. And it cost
a considerable amount. It just dawned on me that it might have been
gloomy during the Depression.
I: But you don't remember
it as this?
W: No. It didn't really
get me down. There's a better day coming. Prosperity's just around the
corner. They fooled me.
I: You didn't know to
many people that were unemployed?
W: I knew of people
who were unemployed and I knew people unemployed. But it didn't strike
close enough to home I guess. We shared with people. In fact, we had
someone related to my stepfather living with us all the time just about.
We had a niece one time. His sister who divorced her husband. Wasn't
that brave of her?
I: Did you know many
people who were divorced?
W: No. There weren't
too many people in my family there were some in my husband's family.
I: When these people
came to live with you did it disrupt the household or was there friction
in the family?
W: No because they
always slept in my room and I didn't fuss. I got along pretty well.
I: Your grandmother
didn't live with you?
W: No. She didn't
live with us. She was living but she didn't live with us. In fact, she
lived-- my children saw my grandmother.
I: Well I guess that's
about it. I feel that this was very interesting.
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