Monday, April 12, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: A Wedding and a War

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 after my grandmother has finished discussing her graduation from high school.


Interviewer: So what did you do? You’re out of school.
Sissie: Nothing
Interviewer: You didn’t go to work then either?
Sissie: When Mel graduated I worked for him
Interviewer: From Law school?
Sissie: Yes. I worked for him from August until January. Or September until we got married, then I quit.
Interviewer: What year was that?
Sissie: We started in ’36, and we were married January of ’37. I worked about four or five months.
Interviewer: Helping him do…
Sissie: I did secretarial work. I took up typing and shorthand in high school.
Interviewer: Well that was great. Was it useful?
Sissie: It was useful. I never got paid for it.
Interviewer: But it was useful. (pause) Alright, you’re planning your wedding. Where did it take place?
Sissie: At my mother’s home.
Interviewer: On San Bonita?
Sissie: On San Bonita. And it was an afternoon wedding. And it was a very small wedding, just my friends and a very few relatives.
Interviewer: Did you have a rabbi?
Sissie: Yes, Rabbi Thurman.
Interviewer: Where did you belong to Temple?
Sissie: UH
Interviewer: Down the road? Was it there on Skinker then?
Sissie: No, it wasn’t on Skinker at the time. But I went on Skinker, though, but it wasn’t there. Oh, it was there when I got married.
Interviewer: Yeah, but not when you went to Sunday School. Did you go to Sunday School?
Sissie: I went to Sunday School on Skinker. We helped build that.
Interviewer: Where was it located before?
Sissie: I think it was on Vernon.
Interviewer: So did your brothers go to Sunday School?
Sissie: Yes.
Interviewer: Were you particularly religious?
Sissie: No.
Interviewer: But you kids were confirmed.
Sissie: We were confirmed, all of us. Neither one was Bar Mitzvahed.
Interviewer: Just your normal reformed arrangement.
Sissie: Right. And we had an unusual wedding. A friend of ours came in and catered sandwiches or what have you at my mothers, and then all our friends, we went out that evening. Dutch treat. I think it was the Coronado Hotel.
Interviewer: Dancing?
Sissie: No, for dinner. That was our big wedding. Mel and I were supposed to leave, we were going to Chicago. And it was such a heavy snowstorm we just stayed in town at the hotel.
Interviewer: Because you couldn’t get out.
Sissie: Right.
Interviewer: Did you ever get to Chicago that time?
Sissie: No.
Interviewer: You canceled
Sissie: We canceled everything. And we didn’t go away until the following summer to the Ozarks.
Interviewer: He was working hard.
Sissie: Yeah, he was just starting his practice. He had just started.
Interviewer: You were not going to work, even for him.
Sissie: No.
Interviewer: He retired you?
Sissie: I don’t think he wanted me around there to be honest. I guess he started making money, he didn’t need me.
Interviewer: So how did you spend your days?
Sissie: I hate to tell you but all I did was play cards or shop or what have you. I had a baby after we were married a year and a half.
Interviewer: Where did you have your apartment?
Sissie: We moved in with my mother when we were first married. With my mother and father. Then we moved to 6200 Cates.
Interviewer: In an apartment.
Sissie: Yes.
Interviewer: After you were pregnant?
Sissie: [yes]...
Interviewer: Alright, so, you’re not too productive at that time.
Sissie: No, I’ve never been productive.
Interviewer: Yes, you sound very to me. But then you get your first child. And you move into your own home.
Sissie: Well, yes, Cates.
Interviewer: So what changes in your life, anything?
Sissie: Well the changes in my life was when Mel went into the service...


Sissie: Mel went into the service the following year. But we were already living on Tulane at the time.
Interviewer: So, you’d moved. Where?
Sissie: 7200 Tulane.
Interviewer: All right, so you’d been raising the kids. And being involved with them.
Sissie: Yes, and playing Mah Jongg and bridge. Isn’t that awful?
Interviewer: No, it sounds like fun.
Sissie: It was fun. I had a good life.
Interviewer: Why not? I think it’s terrific. So when he goes to service, what do you decide?
Sissie: Well, then we move in with my mother.
Interviewer: You and the kids.
Sissie: Two children. Move in with my mother.
Interviewer: Was the house big enough?
Sissie: Well, she made it big enough. Not only did I move in, oh no I think my brother lived upstairs at the time. No, but my sister-in-law moved in with her one.
Interviewer: Your brother’s wife?
Sissie: Wife moved in
Interviewer: Which brother?
Sissie: Bernard. Ben. He was in New Caledonia, and Mel was in New Guinea. And I moved in with my folks. And Belle [Bernard's wife] moved in with my folks. And just made every room count. And at that time I was working for Mel. No, I was working for B’nai Brith. And Mel! Yeah, I closed up his office. I worked hard now that I think about it.
Interviewer: See, you forgot!
Sissie: I did work! At that time I ran his collection department, and I ended up doing it from home until we liquidated everything.
Interviewer: Because he was gone.
Sissie: He was gone.
Interviewer: You had to really close up everything.
Sissie: Yes, he had to close up everything. He had to start fresh from scratch when he came home.
Interviewer: So you managed to the final things that had to be done.
Sissie: Right. He was gone for almost two years. Right, I was with my folks the whole time, and when he came home, we moved to Southwood, I’m back in Clayton.
Interviewer: Yeah, you’re back in Clayton. Where on Southwood?
Sissie: 6300 Southwood.
Interviewer: So you’re near them still.
Sissie: Yes.
Interviewer: Alright, during the war, did you do work for the war effort, or whatever that was called.
Sissie: No.
Interviewer: Well, so, you had a lot of girl friends who were in the same situation you were in – their husbands away.
Sissie: Yes.
Interviewer: Did you ever join him?
Sissie: No, I went out to join him when he was coming home from the service I went out to Los Angeles. But he was delayed enroute. I think it took him six weeks to cross, or five weeks, but in the meantime I had left my children with my mother and father, and then we got word his brother was killed in the service. I was home then, or I came home. There was no point in meeting him. Then, where are we now?
Interviewer: Well, you were alone and involved with your children and living with your mother. And did you get out to California to meet him?
Sissie: Well, yes I was out there for three or four weeks waiting for him
Interviewer: And he was delayed
Sissie: He was delayed, and I had no word from him. I no more than got home we heard he was in the states.
Interviewer: Should have stayed another day, yeah, your kids needed you.
Sissie: Right. I think I remember I still had a little one.
Interviewer: Yeah, right. Very little.
Sissie: My little son, Steve, he was very young.
Interviewer: Was it easy living with your parents, did it work out?
Sissie: It worked out. We had to make it work. The only money I had coming in was what Mel made being in the service. And my folks were so attached to my children, and with my niece, that it all just worked.
Interviewer: They all had fun together. The kids.
Sissie: They got along. We made the best we could....
Interviewer: Did you go up to Shaw Park swimming pool?
Sissie: Did I go?
Interviewer: With the kids?
Sissie: Oh, sure, they used to go there. That was part of Clayton summer camp.
Interviewer: So that was good.
Sissie: That was excellent. At that time I think it cost a dollar for the summer.


1) "UH" is short for United Hebrew. The oldest congregation in the St. Louis area, it is mentioned prominently in St Louis: The Jewish Americans a recent 60-minute special produced by the local PBS station. (I'm not sure how long it will be viewable online.) Photographs from the 1927 move to Skinker Blvd are included. Before that it was at Kingshighway and Enright. (10 blocks south of Vernon.)

2) My grandmother says she married my grandfather in January of 1937. This is a small fib. There was a wedding ceremony then - and for decades everyone in the family thought that was when they got married. But they really got married in May of 1936, by a justice of the peace, around midnight in Waterloo, Illinois.

3) I find parallel events to be interesting. My paternal grandmother went to Los Angeles for a few weeks to wait for her husband to return from the war. My maternal grandmother went to Palm Springs, Florida to wait for her husband. Though my maternal grandfather was to be stationed in Florida for a year, so his wife and daughters moved to Florida to be with him. My paternal grandfather wasn't stopping in LA, so my grandmother had just gone out there to meet him. I believe she had both friends and relatives there, so she wasn't alone during those three weeks.

4) I like how my grandmother insists she never worked a day in her life, and as the interview continues, she keeps remembering exceptions. They weren't 'regular jobs.' She basically saved my grandfather the need to hire a secretary in his early years as a lawyer. But I don't think that was completely uncommon.


Jo said...

John what an interesting dialogue you have here. How fortunate to have something like this and to be able to share it. I have joined your group of Amanuensis Monday posters. Here is my link to my first article.

Thanks for the great job you do with your Weekly Genealogy posts and this Amanuensis idea. Love it.

Dean Richardson said...

I'm going to try following your example and your meme. Here's my AM post for today:

Thanks for the inspiration,