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 continue a transcription of a family history tape recorded in 1987 between my grandmother, "Sissie" (Feinstein) Newmark, and a professional oral historian. This section begins with my grandmother talking about what happened after my grandfather came home from World War 2.
She begins to talk about her children and grandchildren, and so I have edited or left out a few of those sections, as I have decided not to blog about living relatives.
Interviewer: Did you join any volunteer groups at that time? Not to do with the war, but just community service.
Sissie: I was active with B’nai Brith
Interviewer: What did you do
Sissie: I think it was through Mel though, after Mel got home, are we at that stage now?
Interviewer: All right, let’s get him home.
Sissie: All right, he’s home. He got very active with B’nai B’rith. And as a result I think we were still with my mother. We were, and he became secretary, so I did all the work.
Interviewer: That was a great organization, how do you describe what they did?
Sissie: What B’nai B’rith does or what I did?
Sissie: Well, what I did was we ended up with basically for the mailing. At that time it wasn’t a paid job. It’s a big paying job now. I would get out their mailings on the addressograph machine, which we also moved into my mother’s home.
Interviewer: How big was your mother’s home?
Sissie: It wasn’t that big, but she made room for anything we wanted.
Interviewer: Darling woman.
Sissie: Yes. I did that, and I think at the time I took care of the checks too, but I wouldn’t swear to it.
Interviewer: So you were busy?
Sissie: I was busy then, and when I couldn’t do it, my sister-in-law Belle would help me, as she too was still living at my mother’s, until my brother came home.
Interviewer: He came home later?
Interviewer: All right, so…
Sissie: Dull, wouldn’t you say?
Interviewer: No, I think you had to cope with a lot of things.
Sissie: Yeah, it was rough.
Interviewer: In small quarters.
Sissie: Fortunately, my mother and Dad could afford it at the time. They made the best of it. And Mel’s mother and father were there every night. They had two sons in the service. Three sons in the service. So they had nowhere to go, or nobody, they were at my folks every night. When I say every night, I mean every night.
Interviewer: You really do?
Sissie: Yes I do. They were there every night.
Interviewer: You mean like for dinner?
Sissie: Dinner and sitting around.
Interviewer: I’m glad they could do that. It was nice for them.
Sissie: Mel had the kind of a mother everybody adored. In all the years I knew her she never said one bad thing against anyone until the day she died. Everybody loved her.
Interviewer: So that was special.
Sissie: She really was a special person. And my kids idolized her. She was the kind of a person – you could hurt her and she would never say a word.
Interviewer: She had good balance.
Interviewer: All right, you’re back in your own quarters on Southwood. And how much later was your third son born?
[...their third son was born about ten years after their second son...]
Interviewer: So you’re busy with a baby again.
Sissie: Yes, and I had ___ because Mel wanted to become President of B’nai B’rith. And I told him if I had to have a reason to be home nights, I wanted a baby.
Interviewer: And he said OK.
Sissie: So I went to the doctor, and the doctor said you’re fine, have it. The next month I was pregnant.
Interviewer: That was nice.
Sissie: I really planned on two together. I was all of I think 37 at the time. But it was a little rough going, so I settled for one more.
Interviewer: Well, that was good, though.
Sissie: I’m very happy.
Interviewer: Did you stay in Clayton?
Sissie: ... [in 1955] We moved to Payson.
Interviewer: What hundred?
Sissie: 701. We lived there for 23 years.
Interviewer: Terrific. Where is it?
Sissie: That’s in Olivette. We loved it. We worked…I shouldn’t say we worked hard there, Mel worked hard there. We had a gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous corner lot, with landscaping, shrubs.
Interviewer: It was beautiful.
Sissie: It was beautiful.
Interviewer: All right, when you say Mel wanted to be President of B’nai B’rith, he did become.
Sissie: Oh, yes. They wanted him to become President.
Interviewer: And you helped.
Sissie: Of course, I always helped him.
Sissie: I helped by letting him go to all the meetings, while I was raising three kids.
Interviewer: He was out a lot
Sissie: He was out a lot. He says he was at meetings, but who am I to say whether or not he was.
Interviewer: Sure he was.
Sissie: I know he was.
Interviewer: To run the organization.
Sissie: He was President of B’nai B’rith, he’s been President of the temple, he’s been President of Washington U alumni. I mean he was President of anything he’s ever been in.
Interviewer: That was what he liked.
Sissie: He loved it. He was good at it.
Interviewer: You remained members of United Hebrew?
Sissie: We’re still members. Mel’s the Past President...
Interviewer: ...what did you get interested in?
Sissie: Bridge and Mah Jongg and shopping. No, I had a home to run.
Interviewer: Did you take out any projects?
Interviewer: And your girlfriends were you same girlfriends?
Sissie: Yes. We all remained the same girlfriends, and none of them ever worked, that I know of.
Interviewer: Did you take up any sports?
Interviewer: You had other interests.
Interviewer: Your husband was President of this and that.
Sissie: Everything. Anything you can name, he was President of.
Interviewer: But he enjoyed it.
Sissie: He loved it. He loved it.
Interviewer: All right, so, after they grew up – did you go into your travel business at that time?
Sissie: I went into my travel business when – we were on a cruise and came home. We were in Florida. And I had been looking for something to do. I didn’t know whether I wanted to go into charity work, or do something with my time. I was getting bored. And we were reading a paper there and there was an ad for a travel agent in St. Louis. And Mel says, ‘You know, you’d be good at that.” We had been on a few cruises and been places. So when we came home, the next day I called this travel agency. First Travel at the Creve Coeur Bank. And I had an appointment with him that day, and he hired me immediately. Because I guess he checked out Mel’s name, and knew that I knew a lot of people. But I told him I had never worked a day in my life. He says, ‘you’re hired.’ And I stayed with him about a year. And Herb Torgove wanted me to come there.
Interviewer: You had met him?
Sissie: He belonged to our temple. ... And they propositioned me to come there. We were just getting ready to go on another trip. I really learned nothing while I worked at Creve Coeur Bank, but once I started for Herb I started at the bottom and ended up practically managing, really managing the place. And that’s been about fifteen years.
Sissie: But I was, what, middle fifties when I started working? For a person who never worked.
Interviewer: And you watched the computers come in and all the changes?
Sissie: I watched all that. But I don’t work the computers. I just handle the leisure travel. Cruises, and tours. I don’t touch. I can do the air report, and all that. But I can not read a computer.
Interviewer: But I mean you don’t book their airlines through -- somebody else does that for you?
Interviewer: So you developed a group of people who want to travel, as you say leisure.
Sissie: I basically have my own clientele.
Interviewer: So it works out.
Interviewer: All right, so that’s been fifteen years.
Sissie: A good fifteen years. Let’s see, ’73…
Interviewer: What parts – some of the parts of the world you most enjoy on your trips?
Sissie: Well, I guess I’ve enjoyed almost anything we’ve done. I loved the French Riviera. I took Mel there. I did, literally take him there for his 70th birthday.
Interviewer: What fun.
Sissie: He loved every minute of it – just the two of us went. We had a gorgeous trip. We spent a week in Nice. And around. And then we took the train to Genoa and picked up the ship there for two weeks. Took a cruise, and then train. That was great. I loved Venice.
Interviewer: You’ve seen a lot of Europe.
Sissie: Oh, yeah, quite a bit.
Interviewer: Have you been in the Pacific?
Sissie: Yes. We did Australia and New Zealand this year.
Sissie: Oh, it was gorgeous. So far this year we’ve done that, and we’ve done Mexico this year, and Alaska this year.
Interviewer: Been a big heavy duty year.
Sissie: And we just came back from a cruise!
Interviewer: So you travel a lot.
Sissie: I try to work a couple of months, and then we take off. Fortunately Mel is in the position where he can – if I say don’t take any cases or do anything for that month
Interviewer: He’ll say fine.
Sissie: He loves it.
Interviewer: So you travel with your children, too?
Sissie: No. We either travel with friends or Mel and I. Our kids don’t want us anymore, they’re all grown. Someday if I live long enough I’d love to do it with my grandchildren.
Interviewer: Well, let’s talk about your grandchildren, right now.
And there follows about five minutes that will not be posted. I'll finish up the tape next week.
1) My grandmother never worked a day in her life, except of course, when she was working. All the exceptions she comes up with throughout the tape, whether working in her husband's office, or volunteer work, naturally, prove the rule. She may not have had a career until late in her life, but she was not unfamiliar with an office.
2) If she did start with the travel agency in 1973, she was 59 years old.
3) She never does explain what B'nai B'rith does. The agency is a service organization dedicated to community service and welfare activities. Current activity includes sponsoring low-income senior housing, assisting victims of natural disasters, and helping to fight anti-semitism.