Monday, February 1, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Grammar School, and Child Labor

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.  If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

I'm nearing the end of a transcription of a tape my grandfather, Martin Deutsch, his older brother, Ted, and their sister, Berta (Deutsch) Freed recorded in 1977. I'm 2 hours into the tape, and at this point they're recalling grammar school in Hungary and in Chicago, as well as odd jobs they did to earn money.  (I think Berta is still in the room, even though she doesn't contribute to the conversation.)


Martin: I was going to ask you about education of the family down in Europe. You remember going to school there at all?
Ted: Oh sure, I went there, I went through sixth grade. I was going to graduate grammar school.
Martin: Now, was it a public grammar school, or was it Hebrew?
Ted: It was a public Hungarian school.
Martin: It was a public Hungarian school. Was it compulsory for everybody to go to school?
Ted: It was compulsory, we had to go. Every morning I’d walk from the house, the distance would probably be around maybe four blocks away.
Martin: Which wasn’t very far. Wasn’t close to town. You’d probably have to cross that street, that river.
Ted: No, we didn’t have to cross any bridge or climb any mountains. It was in the…I would go four blocks one way, and then turn around and come back. I wouldn’t come into any mountains. And go to the school that would be another two blocks, a winding street.
Martin: Was it a one-room school?
Ted: Yeah, it was a one-room school. I remember in kindergarten I went to, we used to play with sand in the yard of the school. Then we would all gather in the room. The boys were separate and the girls were separate.
Martin: And you think you went as high as what, sixth grade?
Ted: Sixth grade.
Martin: Because you weren’t that old. You started I imagine at six years of age.
Ted: I was six years when I started. It would have been in 1908 I would be six years. And then 1912 that’s four years. I started at five years.
Martin: Oh is that right? I don’t believe I went to school there, although I was five years.
Ted: At five years you started.
Martin: I don’t believe I went to school.
Ted: I’m thinking of Kindergarten, too, see. Started in 1907 to 1912, if I had been there one more year I would have graduated. Sixth grade is the limit.
Martin: Now I know Ed went to school there for a year or two.
Ted: He went there.
Martin: Of course, Jean went there for several years, didn’t she? She graduated.
Ted: She graduated because in sixth grade you graduated. But I went five years.
Martin: Now, we’re back in this country again, we’ve covered all the relatives as far as we can of mother’s and father’s, and the miscellaneous cousins maybe. But bringing us back again into the Claremont Avenue home, I think is where we were first. What would we do to make a living for six kids and then seven with Al who was born here in 1913.
Ted: 14.
Martin: 1914. All right, even before Al was born we have kids here from one year old, Bert was one year old I think to Jean was about thirteen or so.
Ted: Yeah.
Martin: 1900 or so was her birth, so she was about thirteen. So, what did we do? Dad didn’t work too hard, that is he wasn’t able to work too hard, he wasn’t able to make a reasonable living for that size family. What happened in there? Ted, you didn’t go to work, you went to school, when we came here. The rest of us went to school.
Ted: We all went to school, but when we reached thirteen years of age, we all, all of us got jobs.


Martin: Of course, thirteen years of age was the legal formality of going to work.
Ted: No, it wasn’t. You had to be fourteen, but we got jobs that weren’t covered by…
Martin: We got odd jobs.
Ted: Odd jobs like selling papers. I had a paper route. I had a milk…
Martin: How old do you think you were when you got a paper route?
Ted: Thirteen, after school.
Martin: Well, you got it even before that, you didn’t wait until you were thirteen.
Ted: Well, I was passing for thirteen.
Martin: I know I didn’t wait until I was thirteen, I sold papers when I was 7
Ted: Maybe you did, I didn’t, because I was eleven when we came.
Martin: That’s right.
Ted: When I was 12, after school I got a paper route.
Martin: You worked for the milk man, I know that.
Ted: In the morning, early morning before school I went to help out with the milk man.
Martin: Did you ever work in the grocery store?
Ted: Yes, after awhile, I got a job in a grocery store.
Martin: Yeah, I recall that you worked for Suchers father, you told me that.
Ted: That’s right. The dentist?
Martin: I followed up I guess because you got better jobs all along and left your newspaper route and I know I had a newspaper route when I was seven or eight and I worked in the grocery store at the corner when I was seven or eight or nine and I worked for the milkman for long years. I would get up at 4 oclock in the morning to serve the milkman and get home at 7 oclock and then rush to school about 8.
Ted: And in the summertime I would get a permit to work, they would give me a permit.
Martin: Before you were 14?
Ted: Before 14. And they would, I would get a job. And Dad had a job somewhere in a mustard factory and I worked in there. He was washing bottles, and I helped him.
Martin: Ed worked, I know. And Ed had a feeling that he didn’t like to go to school or something he wanted to work, and help out.
Ted: That’s right, but he had to go to school. He got jobs after school the same way we did. He graduated grammar school, and he didn’t continue.
Martin: He didn’t continue.
Ted: When he graduated grammar school he already had a job before that. He got a job in the
Martin: I forget what he did at first
Ted: At first, he did the same thing we did, he had
Martin: He had the milk job
Ted: The paper route, and the milkman, but when he was past 14, and he could work, he got another job with the grocery store, delivering groceries
Martin: I see. Ultimately, you were first to get a formal job working for the newspaper
Ted: Well, when I got to be sixteen, that would have been about three years later, uh 1916. Or, 19…It was 1916 because Mother, when we came out raised all our ages and years so we could get a job earlier.
Martin: Yeah.
Ted: So I passed for sixteen and I got a night job with the Chicago janitor as a copyboy.
Martin: Yes, now, you were the first one to get a job. Of couse, Jean was working at the time.
Ted: That would have been around 1916
Martin: Jean had been working
Ted: I don’t remember where she worked, but she had a job, she was working, and Dad was still working
Martin: So between us, I guess we
Ted: We did all right. We didn’t have to have any help from charity. We never got help from charity.
Martin: I think we did all right. In those days a dollar a day wasn’t a bad salary.
Ted: Even if I made – of course, on the paper route I made 50 cents, and in the morning I’d make 50 cents [with the milkman]
Martin: I recall some of us actually peddled candles and little odds and ends
Ted: Yeah, we did that
Martin: selling door-to-door.
Ted: That’s right, we did that too.
Martin: I recall that.
Ted: I did some of that, and Ed did some of that. And if we made a dollar. If I made a dollar a day that was good money in those days.

While I am definitely grateful for everything they talked about on these tapes, there are things I wish they had spent more time on.  Their childhood and teen years in Chicago is one of them. This section provides a glimpse.  It's hard to imagine, age 8 or 9, waking up at 4 am to deliver milk for the milkman.

It appears my grandfather, and his brother, Ted, both started doing odd jobs about 1 year after their arrival in America.  Possibly after their brother Allen was born, and the family's status in America was secure.  Ted would have been 12 in 1914, and my grandfather 7, so it fits their memories.

No comments: