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NORFOLK WOMEN'S ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

JEAN E. FRIEDMAN, COORDINATOR
INTERVIEW 14

Life experiences of a 55-year-old Norfolk female. Includes work history, sexual history, and sexual attitudes, with a focus on sex roles of the 1930's.

Interviewer: Jean E. Friedman

Transcribed: November 7, 1984
ODU ARCHIVES


W: My age is. 55.

I: How old were you when you were married?

W: 23.

I: And how old was your husband?

W: 27.

I: What year were you married?

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 work?

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 with?

W: From the other women?

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.

I: Benefits?

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 home.

I: Did you have any education beyond high school?

W: One year of business school.

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 11.

I: Did he encourage you?

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 ethnic background?

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?

W: Yes.

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 plates?

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 that?

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 was funny.

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 allowed?

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 five pounds.

I: Is this how you learned about sex?

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 date like?

W: A typical date? You went to the movies.

I: When did you start dating?

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 fun anyway.

I: Well, when did you start dating Ed?

W: I was 21.

I: And that was in the Thirties?

W: Late Thirties, yeah.

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 on Christmas.

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 Company.

I: You went together for 6 --

W: A year and a half.

I: Oh! A year and a half?

W: Mm-hmm.

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 the war?

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 Telephone Company.

I: He worked for the Telephone Company too?

W: He did work on the outside.

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 way too?

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?

W: No.

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 them?

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 to death.

I: He could go anywhere he wanted?

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?

W: No.

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?

W: No.

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) for me.

I: Who budgeted the family money?

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 of her?

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 do?

W: We had rationing.

I: What did you do with the kids?

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 of Tape

I: How many children do you have?

W: Two.

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 relations beforehand?

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 do.

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 time.

I: Did they use contraceptive techniques?

W: Yes. Yes they did.

I: What did they generally use?

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 of taboo?

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?

I: No.

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 seriously?

W: Yeah.

I: What about your wedding night? You had known about the facts of life but did you know what to expect?

W: No. I don't think anybody knows what to expect if they haven't done this exactly before. (Laughter).

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 it. (Laughter).

I: I'm very glad to here that.

W: I rather enjoyed it and yet it was rather strange.

I: Through you mother would you expect--

W: My mother enjoyed sex.

I: She did? How did you know?

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 religious background.

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 you imagine?

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 mind?

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 way?

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 double standard?

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 an affair?

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 friends?

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 fairly recently?

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 an abortion?

W: No. Never had a miscarriage or anything. I don't know what all you call it.

I: Did any of your friends have abortions?

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 about.

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 people abortions.

I: That was in Norfolk, this nurse?

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 way?

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?

W: (Laughter)

I: How did you learn about menstruation?

W: My mother told me. My mother did tell me about that.

I: Before?

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 experience?

W: No. As far as I was concerned it was a mess. Just something messy that happened every month.

I: You had no particular reaction?

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 to wash?

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 active then?

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 about anything?

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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