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.
This week I conclude a transcription of a family history tape recorded on December 29, 1987 between my grandmother, "Sissie" (Feinstein) Newmark, and a professional oral historian. After spending about five minutes discussing her grandchildren, the interviewer asks my grandmother to talk some more about her parents. The transcript is below. The notation [ ... ] indicates passages have been removed for this post.
Interviewer: Tell me about your mom and dad, their later years.
Sissie: Well, my father had about three or four heart attacks during his lifetime. He died when he was 77 years of age. But I think he had a beautiful life. My mother died on her 75th birthday. They had already celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We had a beautiful party at my home. And, I can’t really think anymore about their later years. They had sold their home. They lived on San Bonita. My mother had gone to the bakery shop, and while she was gone someone had knocked on the door. She had gone to Watkins, while she was gone someone came to the door and said that their neighbor had bought a place next door, would my father be willing to sell it. About 5 o’clock that evening he called Mel and says “Mel I’ve got to see you right away, I just sold the house.” Mother almost had a stroke because she adored her home. Then they had no place to move. So they ended up moving to an apartment in Canterbury. They took a little 2 bedroom apartment there. But they were very happy there. I took their little dog that my father was very attached to.
Interviewer: He was just ready to move?
Sissie: Well, I really wanted him to move.
Interviewer: So it wasn’t a bad idea?
Sissie: No, it was a good idea.
Interviewer: And it was an opportunity
Sissie: Right, right. But of course my mother would always, but basically always had her own home, and here she’s renting from someone.
Interviewer: It was time.
Sissie: It was time. My father drove up until the day he died. Well, he drove himself to the hospital the first time. They were at my home every day every morning bright and early just to say hi. He’d work in my garden and work around the patio.
Interviewer: Did he really?
Sissie: Oh he loved it.
Interviewer: This was when you’re out on Payson.
Sissie: On Payson, yes. He was on Canterbury, which wasn’t too far. They’d come out there and he’d scoot around and clean the hedges. He loved it. Then we’d sit out in the garden and he and I would talk and we’d sunbathe for hours.
Interviewer: You had a great time.
Sissie: Yeah, if I left town they’d move in and take care of the kids.
Interviewer: You had it made.
Sissie: Oh I did. I always, I never had to have anybody watch my kids. They’d always either stay at my mother’s home, or they’d move into my home. Then after my father died I made the mistake of making my mother move in with me. She was never really happy there, and she lived for two more years.
Interviewer: But she would have rather stayed where she was?
Sissie: She would rather have been alone. But she didn’t see too well. She had glaucoma later on. And I was happier. You know, I had help. I wanted her.
Interviewer: Where are they buried?
Sissie: At United Hebrew Cemetery.
Interviewer: So they had a good life together?
Sissie: I think they did. When I was very young they traveled a lot. Going places you don’t even go to today, like Cuba. And things like that. I think it was through the Shriners or Elks.
Interviewer: But Cuba was a fun place to go to.
Sissie: Oh yeah. They used to do that. They’d leave us. I don’t remember who we stayed with. I guess my aunt. I think they had a good life.
Interviewer: Have you kept in touch with your brothers?
Sissie: Yes, in fact I invited her to come spend time with me in Palm Springs. My sister-in-law Belle, her name is Belle too. Our brother’s wife. She’s going to spend a week with me there. She’s visiting her daughter in Los Angeles now.
Interviewer: That’s lovely.
Sissie: [... ] I just saw my brother, Seymour. We call him Uncle Babe. Everybody calls him Babe. He’s in Sanibel, and on our way to the cruise we stopped off there for a couple days.
Interviewer: He lives there?
Sissie: No he lives in New York, but they were visiting, staying in Sanibel for awhile. So Mel and I went there and we celebrated his 70th birthday with him.
Interviewer: Do your kids know all their cousins?
Sissie: Oh, yes.
Interviewer: They’re all in contact.
Sissie: They know them all. Unfortunately we don’t see a lot of them. [ ... ]
Interviewer: So the family is still together, even though you may not all be
Sissie: Oh yeah, I talk to my brother at least once a week. My older brother passed away, it’s been 18 years…17 years…18 years already. He died in his early fifties.
Interviewer: But his wife you’re still close to
Sissie: I’m not real close, but we talk all the time. I don’t see her as often, I work. But I called her in California the other night. It was her birthday.
Interviewer: Well, that’s good.
Sissie: We’re good friends. We keep in touch with each other all the time. My niece calls me from California. We’re always a close family. And I’m very close to Mel’s brother, Harold. [ ... ]
Interviewer: So I want to thank you. I think you had a very special life. And you and your husband are continuing to have one. I wish you a happy new year, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to interview you.
Sissie: Well, thank you for coming here.
1) I love the story about my great grandfather's impromptu decision to sell the house. I wonder what their address on Canterbury was, as I lived there for a few years. The distance between Canterbury Road and Payson Drive would have been slightly over 2 miles.
2) My great grandmother, Annie (Blatt) Feinstein, didn't die exactly on her 75th birthday, but it was only two and a half weeks later.
3) Herman Feinstein was a member of the Shriners, a subset of Masonry. I've previously posted a photograph from their 1928 trip to Cuba.
4) Sissie's brother, Bernard Feinstein, passed away in March of 1968. This interview was in December of 1987, so it had been over 19 years. His widow Belle (Hoffman) Feinstein was my godmother.