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NORFOLK WOMEN'S ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

JEAN E. FRIEDMAN, COORDINATOR
INTERVIEW 6

On side one -- part of an interview with a 70-year-old white Jewish female who had lived in Norfolk for one year at the time of this interview. (Remainder of side one blank). On side two -- entire interview, as recalled by interviewer.
(Interview taken at Jewish Community Center).

Interviewer: Kathleen Bolt

Transcribed: 26 October 1984
ODU ARCHIVES


I: How long had you belonged to the union?

W: How long? God knows.

I: When did you join?

W: I don't remember I got to look at the card. I don't remember. God who cares? They can find that out back in New York.

I: But this wasn't back in the Thirties, forties?

W: Later. '67 you see. And I was going to buy myself a little house they have for the senior citizens.

I: In N.Y.?

W: No, in Lakewood, New Jersey. Yes, you ought to see it. A three - room apartment. From 1970 until now I could have been almost paid up if I could but I'm glad I didn't take it. First of all, I haven't got the money. The second thing I can't, I have to hold this head a certain way. Now it's coming all the way down.

I: This is from your arthritis?

W: The arthritis and the knock. I got such a knock.

I: You were single in the 1920's?

W: Yes, in the Twenties I married.

I: 1920 you married?

W: Yes.

I: You didn't work and your husband was employed?

W: Employed.

I: You didn't work though when you got married?

W: When I got married?

I: And he helped you with the children?

W: Oh yes.

I: Do you have to go now?

W: No. I don't want to bother you.

I: Listen, I've still got plenty more questions to ask you.

W: Like I said, when I came here 2 years ago.

I: You've been pregnant just two pregnancies. Two pregnancies; a boy and a girl. How old are your children?

W: My daughter, unmarried, will be 53 in July.

I: And your son?

W: He is six years younger than her.

I: So you had your little girl first.Did you have to do anything to prevent pregnancy?

W: Nothing. I wanted. He didn't want to. I was so green in those years. What a dumb-dumb.

I: Your mother never told you?

W: My mother never told me and my mind is to take care of my mother's family. You see what I mean? My husband took such care. I didn't know a thing. I was a greenhorn. It's a shame. The books I read and I thought I knew everything.

I: And then you found out.

W: I found out I didn't know nothing. One day I read a book in the car. So I was hiding it because it was only for nurses and doctors. What are you hiding it for? Is it so interesting? So, I closed it.

I: How old were you then? You were married then?

W: No, I was a young girl.

I: Did your mother tell you about … before you got married?

W: I was so dumb.

I: Did you mind your husband's taking precautions so you wouldn't get pregnant?

W: He didn't even mind.

I: You had planned on having any more than just the two? Did you want more children?

W: I would love now two children more.

I: You would've had four then.

W: Boys don't bother me. I came after I had my operation... I came in and stayed with my daughter. Now from '58 that was when I had a tumor when I went to the doctor. When I called him up I explained to him how I feel so he examined me and said if I was you I'd get rid of it. You know, I don't care to get scared. So, I made a appointment with a big doctor who thought who he was, the best doctor in the world. And he examined me.

I: So you had to have a hysterectomy? Did your husband want children?

W: Well, he didn't even want my son either, the second one. Because I'll tell you why. My sister lost her children. The very first one came from school, right in 1920 they caught the European disease. She called the school Friday. Monday she was supposed to be on the stage. And she was so proud -- a little girl seven years. Monday she was already dead. So, she said, Pauline you've got to have another child. So, I started to nag him. Well, he said, why do you need more children? I said, I'll have company in the house. That poor boy, now he had heart trouble. When he was a youngster he was an active child. I used to go to work and he used to go bicycle riding. We went to Gimbels. You know where Gimbels is?

I: Yeah.

W: My brother used to be the head man of sales. They really made him what he is today. He gave my brother's name and he ordered a bike. My brother had to sign for it. I went and he told me. I said, what the heck are you doing? Where am I going to get so much money? Well anyhow, got the bike, like you said, from here to Richmond back and forth. He was so active. He bought a house. He made the house, believe me it looked so beautiful, so different. He put in a swimming pool. Believe me they can't afford it now. Something happened. Last month he called me up if I could give him a thousand dollars.

I: This is your son?

W: Yes. I said where am I going to get so much money? I said, I'll give your wife my bankbook. What she did to my bankbook! And let her get money. That was the very first time when they bought the house. Here I am alone, my husband just died. I'm trying to get ahead and how false. Her brother and sister supported her father and they bought them a house. They give them $20 a week each that's forty dollars a week besides the (inaudible). If he get Social Security and she gets Social Security and they come to me.

I: It's probably easier to come to you.

W: When she got married, the first thing was the money. She wanted to live with me, take the same room with my son, you know, because I have a big apartment here. My husband said, No Pauline, you take them in I'm going to walk out because you come in and start to wash the dishes because she's a slob.

SUMMARY OF ENTIRE INTERVIEW # 6

Interview of Pauline Shultz, stated age 70 years old, white, Jewish, female.

Age when married 28; age of husband, 35. She was employed outside the home since age 16. Mrs. Shultz seems to be a little bit senile. Her dates were a bit foggy. Her information varied from talking about her present problems to the past. However, when confronted with direct questions I felt she answered fairly truthfully and fairly honestly. She quit high school against her parents advice and went to work in millinery, working with feathers. The year she gave for her first going to work and being married was 1920 so there is some question about her stated age, but several times during the interview she said she was married in 1920. Her salary when she first started working at age 16 was $12 per week. Her father's occupation in the Thirties; he was unemployed. He had been a professional man throughout her life. He was employed as a pharmacist then opened his own restaurant. He was, became ill with cancer early 1922 and died in 1928. She's Jewish. She was born in Palestine and immigrated to this country with her mother. She's the oldest child. They had six children. Mother stayed here for a period of -- she's kind of vague on this, it's kind of hard to understand. A period of six years as near as I could figure. Three children, three daughters. Then she returned home. The woman kept saying her mother's family was very, very wealthy. She came from a very, very wealthy family. And the mother's family sent for the mother. Also interesting to note, the mother was deaf and dumb at the time of marriage.

Patient's address in the Thirties: she was married and living on Church Avenue in Coney Island, New York. Presently she is living in Norfolk with a daughter. She belongs to the Jewish Community Center in Norfolk, has been here for about a year, not too pleased with the situation. She is widowed and living with her daughter. It's interesting to note and I failed to mention it, both her parents were immigrants from Palestine to the United States. In her mother's case, she immigrated twice. The father came over to the United States first, settled in New York and sent for mother. Mother came to New York, bore three children, was sent for by her parents, returned to Palestine and then again immigrated around 1904. She said her brother was born in the United States and all the six children the mother had are U.S. citizens, born here. So, her second return to the United States was in 1904 and she did take her three children back to Palestine with her. Mrs. Shultz seems to be well - oriented to time, person & place. She does show some signs of senility but no real confusion. It's more of the matter of drifting from past to present pending on dates. I don't believe she is fabricating dates and feel she is a pretty reliable historian. She didn't exactly tell me how she met her husband, but they'd married when she was 28 and he was 35.

She quit working however at the time of marriage, feeling very strongly that her place was in her home and to take care of her husband. Her husband was employed at the time, self-employed, was a painter. She's a widowed lady since 1967, spoke very fondly of him and seem to be very lonesome without him.

He was, a good man, he helped her with her children. Did she feel like she ought to work? No. She felt that her place was in the home taking care of her husband and her children. Did her husband have to share the housework? Of course not. She kept it spotlessly clean, you could eat all her floors, etc, etc. No, she did not have outside help. Interestingly enough, when I asked her who budgeted the family money she was very surprised. The first week that her husband came home he handed her a sealed envelope and in it was his whole paycheck and she said, "Shultzie, you should take out what you need for your allowance and then give me what you think I need for the house." But Shultzie felt no. He gave her the entire paycheck every week or his entire income every week and she handed him his allowance. She was vague and unaware of the income in the Thirties. They did hit hard times, very hard times, till the point where she did end up on state welfare in New York City. She didn't tell me how much she made on welfare only that she paid all of it back. She did pay the welfare department back and she was on relief for 15 months. Also, they were renting their home at that time. She was good to her landlady. Her landlady was good to her. She was unable to pay rent but paid every cent of the rent back after the Depression. The landlady was happy to have her she was a good tenant, etc, etc, etc.

She had two children born in 1922 and 1928. Her husband was not working steadily and their income was drastically cut. He was taking jobs as he could find them. Did not work for WPA or CCC or anything like that. She seemed hesitant to talk about her change in lifestyle during the Depression. Evidently, she had been fairly comfortable before the Depression and really kind of hung her head down when she admitted she was on welfare and had two children to feed. And she did mention that when she took the train into New York City, into Manhattan, down to Broadway to obtain broache, something like that, that you do with hats, to obtain some of those feathers, piecework type, to take home, she said she had a box as big as the table. It was 6 feet tall. That she carried it back on the train to take home and work all day with. She was paid l0 cents a day to work on these feathers. Her husband objected to this and she did not do this more than two times.

Both her mother and father encouraged her to have a career and they wanted her to go on to school and college and were very, very upset when she quit high school to work. She said that she just wanted to quit high school, she wanted to work, she was tired of going to school. She remained living at home but she just did not want to go any further in school. Her mother was disappointed and according to what Mrs. Shultz said, she helped a great deal with the other children in the family and her father was ill at this time and her income contributed to the support of the family. Her mother encouraged her to marry and wanted her safely married. She should find a good husband, she should start a home, she should have children of her own and so on and so forth. Interestingly enough, she didn't marry until she was 28. She said her mother never worked, never showed any desire to work, that the woman's place was in the home, taking care of husband and child. She felt she was very, very close to both her mother and father, especially to her father. Her father was a very important person in her life. I asked her if her mother talked to her about sex or anything like that and she said no her mother was deaf and dumb. But she did quote unquote do the best she could. Several times Mrs.Shultz used the term she was a "greenhorn" when she got married and she can remember reading a book on the subway going to work. The title of the book she does not remember, nor does she remember the author. But it was a book like doctors and nurses should read and she was reading it on the subway and keeping it hidden and she said you know how they rubberneck in New York and they were looking over her shoulder and she was trying to hide it and commented on her reading a dirty book. Her knowledge of sex before marriage was nil or so she claims. Her husband was skilled in this department. She was pregnant two times. Her husband interestingly enough did not want children and Mrs. Shultz always wanted six. They did agree to have one child and she had a daughter and was very happy with this. She wanted more but her husband didn't and she was content with that until her daughter was six or seven years of age and her sister lost her child. She did not have a child to replace it and talked to Mrs. Shultz and said its so terrible if you ever lost your child as I did you'd be heartsick. You really should have another child. And upon the advice of this sister and her own feeling she did put pressure on her husband to have another child and he did agree and they did have another child and it was a son. I asked her what they used for contraceptives, she said her husband took care of that, he was a real gentleman. And I said, Well how did he take care of it? She said, Well, we didn't have the pill then he used those things, what do you call them -- rubbers. And I about died, she said, but he was always considerate, and he always took care of these things. He told me if one of them broke. And I said, what did you do if one of them broke? And then she did take a douche to prevent a pregnancy.

She wasn't afraid of getting pregnant because her husband did take the responsibility of practicing contraception. She wanted children. She wished to have a larger family. Her husband wasn't too keen on the idea. One was fine with him. She said there wasn't any friction, it was his decision, he had to support them, and she pretty much went along with him until the death of her niece or her sister's child. Then she did insist upon having a second child. That's really all of the pertinent information I could weed out during the interview. The interview lasted a little better than an hour. Most of the time she appears to be a very lonesome woman, lost husband in 1957, had been fairly independent living in NYC with her husband. They seemed to have a close relationship. She's moved from her apartment. She did continue to live in her apartment for several years after her husband's death alone. A great many friends were around her, people that she had grown up with as it were. And now being forced because of age and infirmity to Norfolk uprooted from her friends and familiar surroundings, with a daughter that is really not too happy to have her. I think she'd be worth interviewing if you'd direct her back to specific questions and specific answers and get her to stop talking about what is happening in her life now. She's quite honest and really quite candid. I think she'd be willing to come for another interview and I just really think with patience, you could find out a great deal. She says she's too old to care what people think now. What she did, she did, and she really is willinq to talk about it and maybe just part of her loneliness and not finding friends here that she is willing to talk to anyone that will listen. She'd answer about any question you ask her so I think it would be worthwhile looking into anyway. I also think I'm going to look into majoring in tennis.

In listening to the tape through, I noticed a contradiction I didn't pick up the first time. And that was, she did tell me she was born in Palestine and then going back there and living there with her mother's people and then later in the interview I guess I'm as confused as she is, or she confused me, that all six of her mother's children were born in the United States. So, I don't really know which is the story. The early part of her life was confused to her. A lot of people chasing back and forth, not knowing which country she was going to settle in. So, I don't know if she was born in the United States as she claims, or if she was born in Palestine like she claimed in the interview, recorded as such. Also thought it was cute that I lowered my voice when I started to talk about the contraceptive information. I guess it's a holdover from the Thirties.

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