Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Interview with Grandma Garie

No postings since July...life has a way of getting in the way! But lots to think about during these many months that will surface in future posts. Today's entry is brought to you by Perri, who conducted an interview with my mother for one of her classes this past fall. When I'm old, I hope I remember as many details!

Oh, and happy Valentines Day to all my loves.

My Grandma Garie, 92 years old

Where were you born?
I was born in New York City, in the Harlem hospital on December 19, 1919.

What responsibilities did you have as a teenager to help with the family?
I had quite a few. My sisters and I had to be upstairs by 3:30 to 4:00 pm. We lived on the top floor of a five-story building because my mom did not like the idea of people walking on our heads.  My sisters and I peeled the potatoes and washed our hands.  We rotated each week who would set the table, take off from the table, and swept the floor. If my parents were not home yet, I would start my homework. Every week we all changed our linens. We cleaned the closets every season, and for holidays we polished the silverware.

Describe your family.
My father was a tailor, and my mother was a finisher in the garment industry. I was the oldest child and had two sisters. Helen is l to 2 years younger than me, and Miriam is 4 to 5 years younger than me. My grandma had 12 children when she was young. My uncles were married. I had an Aunt Lily who worked for the Hershey factory, where I helped package.

What kind of educational experiences did you and your siblings have?
I went to high school, college and graduate school. My sisters and I were in advanced classes. My sisters trained in schools for commercial subjects. When I went to Hunter College, I did not have to pay for anything except for the books. I was a science major who then taught science.  My sister Miriam went to college when she was older and had night classes.

How did you get to school?
I went to high school by trolley car. If I spent my trolley money, I had to walk. I commuted to college by train.

Any favorite teacher or subjects in school?
Oh yes. My gym teacher Ms. Pearl Satlien. She encouraged me to participate in as many activities as possible. On weekends, she took some of us to concerts, Broadway shows and dance groups and she paid. I got a very rounded background in Physical Education. I then majored in science because there was no Phys. Ed. major. I was also a gym teacher.

Science and music were my favorite subjects. My favorite science was biology. I loved singing and choir.

Did an historical event/situation change the structure within the family?
After my grandparents and father died, we celebrated holidays by my grandmas. But when my grandparents passed away, our family broke off into little groups to celebrate in different ways.

What was dating/courtship like?
Some levels were very difficult for me. The boys that I liked didn’t like me back. On the block I lived on, I liked Marty, but Marty didn’t like me, but his younger brother Julie liked me, so I liked him back. Seymour Weisberg worked for the New York Aquarium. It was my favorite date because he took me behind the scenes to show me what working at the aquarium was like.

Do you remember your first date? Where did you go? How did you get there?
Not really. I was a tomboy, so I wasn’t asked out on dates a lot. Instead the boys asked me to play sports and the girls asked me to play jump rope. The date with Seymour Weisberg was one of my first dates. We took the train to the aquarium.

What language was spoken in your home?
English. My mother and father spoke Yiddish when they didn’t want us to know what they were talking about. But we started to understand some of it.

What type of clothes did you wear when you were little?
My father was a tailor so he made us coats or something special to wear. In the Bronx Junior High School in the 1930s, we wore white middie blouse, a black tie, black skirt, and black stockings. No other junior high school wore this in New York City. We didn’t wear shorts to school, so we wore black bloomers under our skirts. We would also wear the bloomers for gym.

What were some of your favorite toys or activities?
I played jump rope, double Dutch rope, and the high lo rope game held by two people. The game was played by elevating the rope. We played ball games such as handball. The rhyme one two three O’Leary game was played with a ball. Clapsy was part of the one two three O’Leary game, where you clapped hands, or stomped your feet for stampsy clapsy. I played hide and go seek and box ball. We played potsy games with chalk. There were two variations: piece of folded can top or piece of class or a rock that was yours to use for the whole game. Potsy was the thing you threw.

How strict were your parents?
Very strict because they were both working. After school, we put our books upstairs and had a glass of milk and cookies and then we could go downstairs and play the previous games. We had to be back up in the house by 4:30 and wash our hands and set the table for supper. When I was older, I had to peel so many potatoes and put them in the water. I had to practice for one hour on the violin. There were no strict rules because we were doing things all the time and there was always homework.

Did your family go on any trips every year?
My father’s older sister and her family owned a farm in Fitchville, Connecticut. We would go there for two weeks and stay in Tanta Sadie’s facilities and work on her farm. We swam in the Connecticut River, hiked, picked wild strawberries, and watched the cows get milked. My mother and father had a house in Coney Island for about three years, and we went to school there. I went on the boardwalk and swam in the ocean. Also we went to Manhattan to visit Bubba on 98th street and Park Avenue.

How religious was your family?
My grandparents were very religious, and my father and mother were religious. We went to temple for the holidays. Momma lit the candles for shabbas. I didn’t really have any non-Jewish friends.