CUT 1: 00:00:00:00

[Cuts into discussion of photos on display boards]

MAD:…And who’s this?

JS: That’s already in Central Park. We were visiting with one of my aunts, so here we are sitting on some sort of, you know, one of those fountains. And that’s me. [MAD: Okay.] That’s my cousin Nick, and they lived on Liberty Street…And sister Helen, and sister Julia.

MAD: Now this is the graduation from PS 29?

MS: (over MAD) That’s…Yes.

MAD: And what year was that Mary?

MS: Um, God!…

MAD: You can tell us later.

MS: See a lot of these things, the dates are not registered anymore. I have to look up on my record. But ‘53…

MAD: Which one are you? [MS: Right here] In the middle!

MS: Yeah. Fifty-three is when I graduated high school so going back…Cause I pretty much, from PS29, if we were there a year, and I was, you know, pushed ahead and sent to high school without knowing too much English believe it or not. So they must have had hope for me! (Laughs)

MAD: They must have indeed!…And okay, and this is in the neighborhood you say?

MS: That was, yeah, my…father’s sister. And my father lived with her until we came, and they lived on Liberty Street, Liberty and, what is it? Greenwich? Not West, Washington, and then Greenwich I think, yeah. So it’s Liberty and Greenwich, where the Twin Towers were built.

MAD: And what was her name?

MS: Christina Simak (spells it).

ER: And you maiden name was…?

MS: Hlinka (Spells it).

MAD: Okay, so this is auntie…

MS: Aunt Christina. That’s her son, Nick, yeah. That’s Helen, Julia and Mary…[MAD: you’re on the end this time…]

ER: Two sisters and a brother?

MS: Just sisters.

MAD: This is a cousin…[MS: Yeah…] …And this was when you graduated…?

MS: This? I was honored, being…pretty or whatever. (Laugh) {MAD: Not a graduation? Okay.] No! This is one of those Miss, you know…We went to church on 10th Street in Lower East Side…It’s St. Nicholas Church. It’s Orthodox, or at that time, I mean, you know, when we came from Europe we were Greek Catholic. And when we came here my father, you know, they went to church where they spoke the language, so that was one of the churches that, uh…and it still is – It’s very energetic.

MAD: And that’s on 10th Street?

MS: Tenth Street and Avenue A.

MAD: And is that a particular ethnic Orthodox church or just orthodox church?

MS: It’s Russion, or…They call it Russian because…although we’re not Russian, but it’s the Eastern part of…Eastern Rite, what they would call.

MAD: Okay, so this was a church function?

MS: This? Yeah it was! It was youth – The Carpatho-Russian Youth. (laugh)

MAD: DO you remember how old you were then?

MS: Um…Someplace I have the writeup, a little thing that was, you know, published…’53? ’54?…I don’t know. I’m not sure. But I could, you know, I could find out from my records…

ER: Now I didn’t get a recording of this first bunch that you were describing…

MS: Yeah. This is [mic. gets closer] my maternal grandmother. Her name was Maria, and that’s me! I must’ve been about a year old. And that’s my mother and me. I was part of a picture, but I just sort of took it in. And that’s my mother, and the three of us, and that’s the little wooden house that we were born in and raised, [Paper crinkle] and we lived with our paternal grandparents for about, uh, ten years. Before we came, the war broke, and it was not possible to, you know, get us over, so…

MAD: And your father was already here by then?

MS: Yes. My father left 1937. But first he went to Canada because he had a brother there. And he spent, I don’t know, about a year or two there. And then, he had, what, three sisters in New York, and Christina was one of them. So then he came down from Canada to New York and that’s…

MAD: Did you want to show us the next…(turns to next panel)

MS: (off mic) It’s a little life story…

ER: Are you going to hang these somewhere…?

MS: Yeah. Yeah. I have so many and I get most emotional seeing…

MAD: Oh sure. Of course! (pause MAD takes pictures)

MS: So that’s my, my husband. And we started dating. That’s him.

MAD: What was his first name?

MS: Richard.

MAD: And how did the two of you meet?

MS: At a dance…Well, it was Upper East Side. That used to be very, um, a lot of Czechs and Slovaks lived like in the 60s, 70s, then further up was German, Italian, you know, the whole kinda…[ER says something]…Yeah. There were, you know, sections where people just…um…

MAD: Was that your wedding?

MS: That was our wedding, yes. [MAD: Wow! How pretty!]

ER: Are you sisters…?

MS: Yes. That’s uh, where’s Helen? Helen is here, and Julie is there. That’s one of my best friends, and that’s…I met her in high school and she was also Slovak descent, so we became very good friends naturally, you know, speaking the same language! And that’s how I got to go to the dance uptown instead of 10th Street and stuff, and that’s how I met my husband because he lived in that neighborhood. And even though – He was born in New York, but when he first went to school he didn’t know any English, because at home they only spoke Slovak.

MAD: So he was Slovak and how do you define your ethnicity?

MS: I’m also Slovak. It’s just the religion that’s…I don’t know how they, the Orthodox, you know, puts us into that Russian, Carpatho-Russian, uh, group.

MAD: Oh, okay, yeah…And where was this?

MS: It was at a dance on 10th Street. (laughs) They had a hall, and well they still do, under the church, and they had a lot of dances. So then I brought him down to my side of the street! (Laughs).

MAD: And what’s this?

MS: I became a gymnast! (laughs) [MAD: Wow!] After I married Richard, he was a gymnast with Sokol, and that was on the Upper East Side, like 73rd. I still go to a gym, once a week – TJ Sokol Hall on 71st Street between York and 1st Avenue. So once a week I go – A little stretching, and a little minor…

MAD: And where is it again did you say? Is it in the same location as it was then?

MS: This was different. There were quite a few. There were quite a few halls. Naturally they came down, because they built all those skyscrapers down there.

MAD: And where were you?

MS: Right, I’m right here…(pause)

ER: You’re having to hold that pose! (Laughter)

MAD: And is this Richard?

MS: That’s Richard, yeah.


CUT 2: 00:11:50:02

MAD: And this was…

MS: That was my shower party…[MAD: Your bridal shower. Wow!]…Bridal shower, yes.

MAD: Was that held on the Lower West Side by any chance?

MS: This was held where he lived on, you know, 70th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. And they had a – It still exists – There’s a Chinese restaurant. They had a hall. And his parents were the supers in that building then.

MAD: And this is the (?)?

MS: That’s us – Honeymoon.(laughs) Two kids! We were both (the) same age. As a matter of fact, he was born on the 23rd of February, which is tomorrow, and I was born, same year. I was born in April on the 23rd. So we were – I was always teasing, “Oh, you and old, you know…bag!” (laughs) “Too much, older than me!”

MAD: And how old were you when you got married?

MS: Twenty-one. Legal age, but (laughs)…

ER: Where did you honeymoon?

MS: Florida. Just…you know, it was nice. So that’s…Our next, next was…(picking up next photo panel)

CUT 3: 00:13:37:11

MS: (Mary Ann takes pictures) That’s just, you know, first giving baths to my first one, Richard, that’s my second one, Michael, and, you know, little pictures of them.

MAD: That’s cute…Now was that here?

MS: Yeah! Right on the front step. Yeah. Right.

ER: How long have you lived in this building?

MS: Since about ’51. Yeah we…It has changes a lot. You know.

MAD: Was there a Slovak population around here?

MS: Uh, well there’s a Bohemian Hall only a couple of blocks on the other side of the highway and there were some Czechs and Slovaks, but I think the way we wound up in Astoria is my parents worked for JP Morgan, cleaning, and whoever they worked with lived in Astoria. And I guess, you know, they talked about moving from Downtown, which, you know, we had to at some point, or they wanted to. Because we only had downtown – Well, we had a living room, kitchen, and one little bedroom maybe. Just the bed fit in there, and so, you know, and they wanted to move somewhere to have a little more room and…

MAD: What was your address? Did you have just one address on the Lower West Side or did you…[MS: Lower East Side?]…Lower West Side?

MS: Oh, West Side! Yeah. Yeah. It’s 135 Washington, corner of Albany. It’s still there. It has not been built on that lot, or at least the last time I, we went there. It’s still empty.

ER: Right. That’s where DeutcheBank was.

MS: See, I mean they, you know, after we left and the old buildings were torn down they did build something else, and I don’t have good, you know, I don’t remember what it was.

ER: I think it was DeutcheBank…Yeah.

MS: And then they tore it down.

ER: Yeah it was DeutcheBank, because 130 is across the street. 130 is still there. [MS: Yeah] It’s next to the, um, 90 West Street is 130 Washington, and so…

MS: Yeah, it’s right – corner Albany, and across…[ER: Liberty…] Well Liberty is further up, 2 blocks, or at least it was then.

ER: Yeah. Okay. Or it might be where the W is now.

MS: No. Well, isn’t W on the, uh…

ER: W is between Albany and Cedar…[More irrelevant talk]

MS: It’s from Albany going North, not South. It’s Albany going north, towards the fountains now. [More talk about location]…Yeah…That I don’t remember…It is empty. I know that.

ER:…And you went from there to here.

MS: To here. That’s it. [MAD takes pictures]…And now we’re the little guys. Everything else is going up…So that’s…and the last one (referring to the last photo panel) is pretty much now.

CUT 4: 00:18:45:02

MAD: Oh that’s a beautiful picture…

MS: This?…Oh that one…That’s my granddaughter.

MAD: So that’s you Mary, in the middle…

MS: Yes, and that’s how we look now. That’s Helen, Mary, and Jullia.

MAD: And where do Helen and Julia live?

MS: Farmingdale.

MAD: Do you get to see them often?

MS: Uh, you know, not too often. I don’t drive anymore, so I’m sort of tied, but we, you know, we used to go there often enough when my husband was alive.

MAD: What’s your granddaughter’s name again?

MS: Angelina and Amelia.

MAD: Oh, there are 2 little girls?…Oh…

MS: Two of them. Yeah! Oh yeah!

MAD: So who’d this over here?

MS: This? I think that’s Amelia. That’s this little one. (laugh)

MAD: And that’s Angelina?

MS: And that’s Angelina. And that’s my younger son, Michael.

ER: And are both of your sons overseas?

MS: No. Michael is here. So he pretty much has the headache of watching (me). (laughter)…And that’s my son Richard, and Angelina.

ER: How is it that he wound up back over…?

MS: After Michael graduated college, I don’t know why, he thought, that was when the Berlin Wall that was coming down. And he thought that might be an interesting place to be fore, whatever, experience. So, he, after he graduated he went overseas, and spent a couple of years there, believe it or not. He tried even developing some business, but it was not easy because the laws were not, you know. It was still under the Communist regime, sort of, even though they already were being freed, but the laws were not there for you to, you know, really settle down and feel comfortable. It was still not, uh…And while he was there he wound up in Prague, again, continuing his trip. And Richard, who was still going to school here, he was going to law school, he went to visit him. How…he connected with some English law firm over there, and they hired him for the summer, and that’s it. He worked for them once he graduated, and that’s where his life…And then Michael come back.

MAD: So tell me again who’s in this picture.

MS: Here?…That’s my son Richard, my daughter-in-law Michaela, like Michael but with an A at the end “Michai-el-ah,” and that’s Amelia, and Angelina…

MAD: Does Michael have children?

MS: No. He’s not married…

MAD: And tell me about these two pictures.

MS: These?…That’s the gymnastics group and these are the senior women that’s part of my group. So we get together once a week and we do gymnastics, or you know, at this point it’s stretching and a little, you know, lift. But we also learned to dance. And then we performed at the exhibition that they have every year for the little kids and you know, the old ladies with dance.

MAD: And they have that at the gym? [MS: Yeah]

ER: Is it a folk dance?

MS: Folk dance. Yeah. Yeah. And I love that. I really am, you know…If you weren’t here I usually tune in to my computer. The modern music just does not do anything for me, okay? So it’s mostly the old-fashioned music – the music that maybe I grew up with, or you know.

MAD: SO where do you find it on YouTube?

MS: Yeah YouTube! Oh so many! Yeah. And in our language! A lot. Yeah, there’s so much there that it’s…

MAD: And the bottom picture?

MS: Well, this…I get dressed every year. We have a Slovak festival down in, it used to be I don’t know if they will continue, but it’s, like, for many, many years already – 30 some odd years – down in Holmdale, New Jersey. There’s a…What is that? The CN, kinda bank, and they have, you know, grounds where festivals like fairs and…So that’s where I get dressed. I was totally in my costume. [MAD: That’s great!] Yeah. And you know, other people from – My mother’s sister here, and you know, friends.

MAD: Now these costumes that folks wear today to the festivals are they very similar or very different from what your mother and your grandmother wore?

MS: They’re pretty much the same. I think, you know, my mother – They only wore these costumes on Sunday, special occasions. Work, during the week, it was, you know, similar, but not colorful. It was more, you know, sort of navy blue with little flowers or some kind of, you know, much simpler. And, you know, naturally, that was good. People didn’t, you know, women didn’t wear (whispers) bras, so the vest was a good, you know, (laugh) thing to keep yourself together. (Laughs) [MAD takes pictures] So that’s my life story…

ER: Not quite! We have a lot to talk about…(laughter)

CUT 5: 00:26:33:10

MS: (cuts in the middle)…I worked for the American Stock Exchange. I have a picture where I was posting some of the prices on this big board. Um, where else? I worked for this insurance company on William Street – Liverpool, Royal Liverpool. Yeah. I don’t think it’s…I don’t know if it still exists. Oh! And then I also worked for Dupont! For almost 10 years!

MAD: Where were they?

MS: And they were located Empire State Building. Yeah. Fourth. And it was the textiles, you know.

MAD: Mary do we have your verbal permission to use this interview in our archive for the public and possibly for the radio?

MS: Uh, well I..I mean, unless it would cause any kind of uh…

ER: We would get your approval…

MS: Yeah. I would like, you know, I would want to see what it was before I would say, “Oh definitely.” You know, in today’s times, I don’t know.

ER: But. Okay. But we would need your verbal permission just to have the interview as an archive. Can we…[MS: Okay]…So can we have your permission to have this in our archive?

MS: Alright.

ER; Alright so, if you could phrase it yourself, that, “I give you permission…” so that we have this as our legal way of…

<S: Yes. Okay. I agree to give you permission to use this interview with me for the archive, whatever…oral history of my life.

ER: Okay. Now. And in the future, let’s say we might do a book, or a radio thing, or even a documentary, we will then revisit you to get permission.

MS: Definitely. I would definitely want to see what was being written or what was being shown, you know. Yeah.

ER: …And we’ll send you the transcript when we’re done.

MS: Oh. Okay.

CUT 6: 00:29:42:23

MAD: And where was your family originally from Mary?

MS: At that time it was Czechoslovakia. Now it’s, you know, they split, so now it is Slovakia.

ER: We jumped ahead, so just for the record can we have your name and can you spell it, and if you’re willing, your age and your profession again…?

MS: Okay. My name is Mary Seewald…(spells last name)…My maiden name was Hlinka (spells it), uh…Oh eighty years. I’m going to be 81 soon, in April.

ER: You profession again?

MS: Um, Secretary, then I took even shorthand. There weren’t too many towards the end of the, uh, when I worked the new secretaries came in without any shorthand, so I sometimes had to go from officer – they didn’t want to use the computers so I would travel from one office to the other taking shorthand. Pittman! (?)…

CUT 7: 00:31:22:20

MAD: Where in Czechoslovakia did you come…?

MS: …The name of the little town is Litmanova (spells it).

ER: And you were there till what age?

MS: Twelve.

ER: So what happened? You father first came? Do you want to tell us how everyone came over to the United States?

MS: Well, it’s a very beautiful area of Slovakia, but it’s mountainous. There wasn’t much land, you know, they had so much land that they can use to grow crops. And…my grandfather had 9 children. So the children had to move because there was not enough for them to feed them. So once you got married, even before they got married, they left. And if they knew someone in the United States that was the place to go. Everyone wanted to go. You know. So my father naturally, had to also move because he, you know, we were…he was raising a family and there was really not much there for him to stay. Although my grandfather was very disappointed because the son, you know, that they usually leave the land to was not coming back. He always thought that he would come back after, and…

ER: Did he have other siblings that stayed…?

MS: Oh yes. All the boys left. All the, you know, but he had three sisters that stayed in the town.

MAD: And what was your father’s first name Mary?

MS: His original name was Vasil (Spells it). But when he came here, changed it to Charles. Why? Don’t ask me. I think, must’ve been where other Vasils that came here prior to that maybe had a hard time with, you know, with the name. People didn’t…was not familiar, so they changed it to Charles.

MAD: And you mother was Julia? [MS: Julia] And what was her maiden name?

MS: (Spells it) Dzadik. There’s a lot of consonants in a lot of those names.

CUT 8: 00:34:15:23

MAD: So when did your father come here?

MS: 1937.

MAD: And was anybody here that he knew at that time?

MS: Well he originally went to Canada – Toronto. And her had a brother there. And he, he stayed with him – His brother had, what do they call? You know, people that do grass cutting, you know, and all the…

ER: Landscaping.

MS: Landscaping. Yeah. He had landscaping. So he was up there helping him with that. But then I suppose they must have communicated with the sisters down here. Yeah. “Come on down. There’s jobs.”

ER: So when did he come to the city?

MS: To New York? Um, ’37, ’38, ’39 maybe? Maybe.

ER: And where was it that he wound up living when he came here?

MS: With his sister, on Albany. Not Albany, Liberty.

ER: Do you know the address?

MS: Um, I…Maybe 127?…It was, you know, between, off Greenwich. And there were quite a few people living in that area.

MAD: So did the sisters go down to the Lower West Side because there were other Slovaks living there?

MS: Yes. Yes. Definitely. Yeah.

ER: And the family he was joining, how long had they been living there before that? Do you know?

MS: His sister Christina, um…Gosh. My mother, 1935, she got married in 1934. Maybe since about 1933? Because my mother and his sister Christina were the best of friends. And when Christina left – his sister – then my father went to marry my mother (laugh). Yeah. But it’s a small town. Yeah.

MAD: And then you and your sisters and your mother came in what year?

CUT 9: 00:37:03:08

MS: ’48. February 9th.

ER: Did you not see your father for about 10 years?

MS: Yeah. He was a complete stranger. I felt sorry – I’m thinking now, I felt sorry for him. Suddenly he’s three girls. Yeah. (Laughs) Yeah. And it was hard for my mother, that’s, you know, when I think of it.

ER: So let’s start now with your father when he went to New York. What did he find himself doing…?

MS: Uh, Cleaning. Porters. Porter.

ER: And in what type of establishment, do you know?…

MS: Well, at the end it was JP Morgan. That’s when I wound up there too, because of a good, you know, medical care and whatnot. So, but I don’t know. He had, he had part time jobs too besides working as a porter. They, you know, he worked cleaning, I don’t know, I know dentist’s office…He…Same thing with my mother. My mother had a couple of jobs.

ER: Usually in the same neighborhood?…

MS: Yes, yes! Yeah. And I think that’s why they, they kept in that area because it was easy for them. They could go to work, come home to eat, lunch or whatever, and then go back again. You know, it was close enough that they were able to manage that. They didn’t make enough to, you know, go out dining, that’s for sure. So whatever was at home was…

MAD: And they didn’t have to worry about the cost of transportation either.

MS: That’s, that’s another. Yes.

CUT 10: 00:39:18:03

MAD: So your family lived at 135 Washington Street once you father came over…[MS: Correct.]…? And that was your only address on the Lower East Side?

MS: That’s the only one. [MAD: And that was a rental I imagine?] A rental.

MAD: Okay. Do you remember how much the rent was at any point? [MS: No.]

ER: Can you actually say that in a sentence…’cause she’s prompting you…?

MS: Okay. Uh…When we came here in February of 1948, my father rented an apartment at 135 Washington Street, which was close to Albany, [the] corner, and we lived there for I guess, 2 or 3 years before we moved to Astoria.

ER: So now, why don’t you tell us about when you first came? First of all, could you speak any English? [MS: No.] Was it overwhelming? Tell me about your feelings were when you first came.

CUT 11: 00:40:19:18

MS: Uh, If I can remember, and I get, uh…We wanted so much to come, uh, that when we came we only knew how to count to ten. And I don’t know who taught us to count to ten, but that was the extent of our English. Luckily, you know, being that there were a lot of our people living, the Slovak people, living in that neighborhood, that there was no problem of communication with, you know, even the children at school. And they were always very helpful. I mean, we went in there and if we didn’t understand they would try to, you know, translate whatever. So that was a comfort, the fact that, you know, there were people speaking our language.

The school system – I mean, it was terrific that, you know, we would be, the teacher would be teaching in English, and she would assign whatever they were studying and then while they were doing whatever she assigned she would take us to the back of the room and was working with us learning English.

ER: How old were you again?

MS: Twelve.

MAD: And how long were you in PS 29?

MS: I assume that from February to the end of the year, and next year. So it was like a year and a half.

ER: I’m gonna make you say that in a whole sentence again.

MS: Okay. We came here in February of 1948. So then, you know, we immediately went to school. So that was the, to the end of the, that year, school year, which is what? Usually June, May-June, and then the full year, following year when I graduated.

ER: And so you started mid-semester, and you had to sort of…jump right in?

MS: Yeah. Well, yeah. Yeah.

MAD: Were there children of other nationalities in your class…?

MS: Oh yes! Yes. There were Greek, there were Syrian, there were Irish, Italian. There were other, yeah, uh, Chinese. Yeah. A Chinese laundry was right on the bottom of our building.

ER: I think we met the owners at one of our reunions…

MS: Did you?

MAD comment unintelligible…”Was that Yung?”.

MS: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yeah.

ER: I might even have a picture of the son.

MS: Uh, huh. Oh and Gummy Yung (?), Gummy Yung graduated with me. (laughs) And they actually lived in the uh, in that, the laundry. Yeah. In the back of the laundry. The front was laundry, you know, where the reception, and the back was their apartment.

ER: Now I gonna have you talk about the school. I want you to tell me the name of the school and where it was.

MS: It was PS 29. [ER: Say “My school…”] My first school in America was PS 29 . It was located on Washington Street, corner of Albany and West Street. It was not very large compared to what schools are today. It was, you know, a not too large school. We had the usual, you know, assignments, and once a week we had, uh…Oh, what are they called? Where we would get in the auditorium, carrying flags and getting dressed in a certain, you know, like white shirts or uh…What do they call…?

ER & MAD: …Assembly?

MS: Assembly. Yes! Yes. And that was pretty interesting, because we didn’t do that in Europe, so that was, you know, Pledge of Allegiance, you know, God Bless America. And so that was…And I’m still, uh… You know, I still think the Pledge of Allegiance is such an important thing in our, for our society and we seem to be uh, you know, going away or doing…Because it makes you feel like you belong to something. Okay? It makes you feel that, you know, it’s something that you want to be part of. So…And God Bless America, always. That’s how I feel.

I, uh, you know, like I said, my grandfather was not very happy that my father did not return. But I always say, “Oh, thank God they didn’t.” Because, I mean, people live everyplace. But I’m not sure that, you know, we would have had what we – Not that we’re rich, you know. We’re not. You know. My parents worked hard as cleaning and porter. I mean, they worked hard, but in general I think they raised decent human beings and then we raised decent families for ourselves.

ER: You had quality of life.

MS: Yeah. Yeah. I say that in today’s times I’m so glad that I grew up when I grew up, because I think we had so much more. Not in what we had. Because we didn’t have much, but just the atmosphere, just the connection that we had with other people, just, uh, you know.

Always, my father, you know, having three girls – what do you think our first gift was? A sewing machine! (laughs)

MAD: And you learned to sew Mary?

MS: and we…Oh yes! Oh! I mean, uh, yes. The three of us. So most of our, you know, when we were teenagers and stuff most of our clothes, or at least the dresses were homemade. Even for my mother. I sewed a lot. I sewed a lot.

ER: Not anymore?

MS: No. My machines are in the back. They’re sitting.

CUT 12: 00:48:01:08

MS: I uh…My hands, you know, are beginning to wear. If I try to do it starts crimping up and IO can’t sew. You know. Yeah.

MAD: If we can go back to 135 Washington Street for a minute. Can you describe the building? What kind of a building was it?

MS: It was a walk-up. We were…Let’s see, first, second, third, four flights, uh, four flights. So we were on the third floor. The roof was used for laund…for hanging clothes and you know, my mother washed the clothes in the room, you know, in the apartment. It was…She didn’t…I don’t even know if            there were…laundry, uh, you know, machines anywhere then. But they would…

MAD: Did the building have a stoop?

MS: Uh, no. There was no stoop. There was just right off the, yeah a walk in. Yeah.

MAD: Did you have your own private bathrooms in each apartment?

MS: No. It was one bathroom for the front two apartments. It was just the seat, you know, and then another for the two back. There were two front apartments and two in the back.

ER: So what was the size of the apartment?

MS: The living room, uh…If I remember. Maybe not as wide as this, but, you know, that was the living room, the front, and then a kitchen. In the kitchen we had the bathtub which was also like the table, because it had one of those uh, covers. Yeah. And then we had a stove that you had to warm up water if you wanted to take a bath, and – Wooden burning – wood-burning stove. Uh, what else?

ER: There was no hot water.

MS: No

ER: And the bedroom?

MS: There was one bedroom towards the back, but it was like, practically just the bed fit in there and you walk in and, you know, there was really not much room there at all.

ER: So the kids slept in the living room probably?

MS: Yeah. We had one of those sofas that, sort of opened up. So the three of us…But that was no problem, because when, where we came from we slept together! (laughs)…And…

MAD: Did you ever see your grandparents?

MS: Back? Uh, my grandmother passed away and we did not, I did not see her, but we did see, after I was married we, my husband and I went back and my grandfather was still alive.

MAD: That was your father’s…?

MS: My father’s father, yeah, And even my mother’s father was still alive. We have a large family there. You know people had, people had lots of children. So, you know, the family is still there and uh, I go, you know, whenever I go there it’s like a memory lane. I walk, when I can I walk up and down the street. I mean there’s just two, two, one main street and there’s uh, you know, little side streets. But, you know, it gets to the point where now you don’t recognize too many people. The older people even that you should recognize we’ve gotten older so we’ve gotten old, so we…But I would just walk up and down that uh, and I would say to them, “Could you tell me your name? Who are you? You know. I’m so and so and I’m here on a visit. I’m…(laughs)

ER: When were you there last?

MS: Uh. Three years? Yeah…So it was, you know, young people, I would say, “At least tell me which family you belong to.” You know, because in a small town there were a lot of Hlinkas. Like, and there were a lot of other names that were duplicates because they stayed there. So they would, in order to identify which family, they had another name. And usually it was like, maybe, uh, original grandfather, like mine, was “Noufray” (?), which was, you know, somebody was named “Noufray” going back I don’t know how long. So if you say, “I’m Hlinka Noufrayova (?) – because that’s the ending in the Slovak –they know exactly where you came from. The house, it’s there. (laugh)

ER: And more than likely if you ask…they might be related…

MS: Most people are related in a small town. After a while, you know. And those, you know, the early years, people didn’t travel outside of the town so they married in the town. Now it’s quite different, you know. Young people are being educated and travelling and moving around, so it’s no longer just, you know, the towns. You have relatives all over the place.

CUT 13: 00:54:31:20          

MAD: Mary I wonder if you could speak to two points. One being, how you and the other young people of various ethnicities got along in the Lower West Side, and what was the general response of Americans to your ethnicity?

MS: Because the majority of the children we of the Slovak, you know, there were, you know, others, and we, I mean, we got along fine. There was absolutely no, you know, I’m just thinking. My gosh! There was no problem with, with playing on the street. We used to play ball against the school. It was like, a little ledge, and hit the ball and run around. You know, it was no problem, absolutely no problem.

MAD: What about when you went out the get a job or in other situations outside the neighborhood. Did you encounter any prejudice or…?

MS: I mean sometimes kids, you know, kids will be kids. They would call you greenhorns because those were the, that was the word that was for people who came to this country – “Greenhorns” – and I used to say “I’ll show you!” You know! (laughs) So, you know, I just tried so hard to, you know, when I finally went to high school, I went to Washington Irving High School, and they had double sessions. So, naturally I still didn’t know English. And I would go into classrooms and sometimes wasn’t sure exactly, you know, what was being taught. So I would ask, I would ask them if I could repeat the other session. I could come back and sit in the classroom just to repeat the uh, and of course they were delighted (laughs). They thought, “Oh boy!” (laughs)

ER: Studious!

MS: So I spent a lot of time in school. You know, it was like, all day.

ER: That must have been very challenging for you.

MS: Well it’s because I wanted to I wanted to learn! We wanted so badly to become part of, to be American. That was the thing. Be American. We wanted to leave the other, you know, part of our life and join the Americans. So uh, that’s all of us, you know, my sisters too. We uh, you know, we did well. In studying, in Washington Irving it was, I was on the Arista, which is the honorary. So once I learned enough English I was competing.

ER: You were on the rise.

MS: Yeah. Yeah. And I uh, one time in the English speech class. There were, you know, kids and we would naturally be learning the sounds of the English language, which the European – the “rrrruh!” (rolled r sound) – is that rolling whereas the American it’s the – “Ruh.” You know. Or double-u. There was no double-u. It was “Vuh!” So you had to learn how to “wuh” – the blowing, that kind. But, you know, there were kids that were born in New York in that classroom, and I couldn’t understand how is it possible to be born in New York and not know proper English or proper sounds.

ER: Did your parents pick up on English very well or did they struggle with it?

MS: Well my father, being that he was here already 10 years, so he understood. But they never learned, you know. My mother learned from us, you know. Because when we, uh…Down in PS 29 they told us, ”Now you go home, and you speak English. And you speak English to your mother too.” And we would say, “Oh, but my mother doesn’t…” And they said, “She, you know, you will learn faster and your mother will learn.” And it’s true. So my mother learned English from us. And when my mother worked, naturally she learned what was necessary from, you know, people that she worked with. And she was such a pleasant lady, my mother.

My father was a little tough, you know. When we came, the three of us, we didn’t have too many shoes over there, so now we come here and we have, you know, shoes for Sunday and shoes for everyday to go to school. And, you know, girls, I guess we were to, you know, quick to leave the house and we would sort of leave the shoes all over. Well, he had us (laughs) cleaning up putting the shoes in the closet, and (Laughs)…

ER: A disciplinarian.

MS: Yeah! Yeah.

CUT 14: 01:00:46:18

MAD: Mary, what are some of the events or activities that you remember from the Lower West Side? [MS: The what?] Events or activities…[MS: Events?] …or celebrations?

MS: Well one thing was, um, Trinity Church had um, on Fulton Street, they had, uh, Oh gosh what was the name of that – where actually they had a recreation room for children. They even had a doctor there, nurse, so that if, you know, if you had, they had the facility there. And Christmastime we would get gifts. And we got dolls! And I think that was probably the first, you know, real doll that we had when we came here from Trinity Church. Oh gosh…

ER: They were given to you?

MS: Christmastime. Christmas gifts.

 MAD: And this was the center that Trinity had on Fulton Street?

MS: On Fulton Street. And…

ER: Was the Downtown Community House still functional?

MS: Uh, I’m not…It wasn’t something that I was familiar [with]. I think that may have been more for boys, or men. You know, I know that they had, uh, somebody was boxing down there, one of the young men. And they played, you know, ball, volleyball, or whatever. But I was never in that uh, in that area for activities. It was the Trinity Church, and of course then our church on Sunday.

ER: And tell me where your church was that you went to.

MS: Well we, on Sunday we would go to 10th Street which is in Manhattan, Avenue A, but we would also go to the Trinity Church. And summertime they would take us to a summer camp out on Long Island. Oh, what was the name of it? Seaside?

ER: Do you know where on long Island?

MS: Uh, gee. I should have prepared. These things are beginning to slip away. And…

MAD: And that was a Trinity program down there?

MS: Yes. Yes. Yes. And they had pretty, you know, nice grounds and we stayed there for 2 weeks. Played ball, went swimming. That’s where I learned how to swim. With jellyfish! (laughter)

ER: Tell me about places that you would play around. Did you visit Battery Park often? Were there places that you went just in the neighborhood to amuse yourselves. And what did you do?

MS: Uh, I remember going to Staten Island to the pool, because there were no facilities in our area, so if you took the ferry over to Staten Island the pool was within a short distance walk. It may still exist. I don’t know. That was…And of course Battery Park was always, you know, a place to get together with the other kids, also City Hall. City Hall at that time, now it’s sort of gated, so you can’t go in there, but during my time it was, I mean, you could walk up the steps, we used to walk up and down the stairs in front of City Hall. And people would, you know, especially on Sundays when they didn’t go to work, the parents would be gathering there as a group, and the kids were roaming around the City Hall area. So that was…

Anything else? Uh…At some point a little later, again Trinity Church had, but this time it was on Greenwich right below Trinity Church, there was some sort of hall they had in the basement and they had socials, right close to the American Stock Exchange, in that block. I don’t know if they still have it but, yeah.

ER: And can you think of any other things that you would do, after school, or…?

MS: No…There was a candy store that we used to visit all the time – George’s Candy Store – on Albany Street. And that’s where everybody would gather, more or less. You know, buying candy if…And then the older kids would play ball right on Albany, you know, from the whole block. The other side now is some kind of hotel or something, but there was this great big strong building on that corner, and we used to sit on those steps and watch the ball game.

ER: Was it like stickball or…?

MS: Stickball. Oh yeah. Just stickball.

ER: [talks]…I’ve seen a picture of what was there…

MS: Uh huh. Oh yeah. It has such thick, you know, and they took that down, they (laugh)…And of course we, we played ball where we would hit the, the ledge on the edge of that building, the school. “Pchooosh!” After a while we would come home and our arms were hurting! You know. “What were you doing?” “Well, we were just playing!” (laughs)

ER: I guess it’s like handball!

MS: Yeah, but you hit it, you hit it against the uh, naturally we tried to hit it hard so it would go far away, then…(laugh).

MAD: Sounds a little like stoopball, when you play on the stoop…

MS: Yeah! Yeah. Probably. [MAD: Same idea.] Uh huh.

CUT 15: 01:07:58:04

MS: And then I remember going to uh…When uh, it’s Christmastime, when they would have the uh, jumping off the edge of the Greek, the Greek church. They had that, where they, where they would throw the cross into the river and young boys would dive into the – This was crisp cold, yes! – They would dive in to get the cross. And that was a big thing when you were able to dive and come out with a cross. That was, you know, you were the hero (laughs). So that was…I remember that.

ER: What about Easter festivities…?

MS: Easter I don’t remember too much down there. But then we have, we have, you know, Eastertime, 10thStreet. Yeah. We have, we bake bread. We bring a basket of food to church for blessing. So that was, we, you know, we baked at home – Paska(?). And we would take, you know, Kielbasa, and ham and cheese and butter and eggs in a big basket. I still do that, believe it or not. I still do it.

MAD: Do you still go to St. Nicholas?

MS: Uh, yes. Yeah.

CUT 16: 01:09:48:09

MAD: And where did you shop in the Lower West Side…?

MS: Well, that was a problem. There was not much…There were just small, uh, small grocery stores. There was uh, right on the corner of our building, was a small grocery store. It was Deravianik’s (?). And then where my aunt lived, Liberty Street, there were, I remember going there for milk. I don’t know, it was a couple of cents cheaper than the one (laughter)…And that was, that was not…We had to come back and come to the door where the neighbor, and it’s people that you knew.

ER: So you snuck around (?)…?

MS: Well, no, but I’m thinking now (laughs). But, you know, they would send us a couple of blocks down to get milk because it was a couple of cents cheaper.

MAD: Was it (?) to get everything she needed for the Slovak cooking in the neighborhood or did she have to go out of the neighborhood?

MS: Um…You know that much…I think a lot, some of it, some of it, you know, especially baking maybe they didn’t have all of the ingredients down there , but I think most…Yeah, I mean we had that terrific, uh, where they had all the, uh…Washington Market. Yeah. And we had friends whose father had one of those markets, and we would go with our friend and we would come home with lots of fresh fruit and stuff.

 ER: So you’d go there every week or so…?

MS: Oh yeah. Yeah! Yeah.

ER: What do you remember about Washington Market? What was it like?

MS: It was a lot of, you know, a lot of…I mean most of the stuff was on the sidewalk like. You know. So you walked around and I mean we didn’t walk around too much as buying. We would go and visit this one father and he was, you know, he would send us out with goodies, so we were always looking forward to [it]. But my father would go and buy a bushel, a bushel full, a bushel of apples. And we would have a bushel of apples. And that went pretty fast because where we came from, any fruits that were available were probably taken off the trees before they even ripened, because there weren’t that many. So we didn’t have, we didn’t have. So when we came we were like, another thing. Yeah. He would, we would sit down to eat and he would put a loaf of bread on the table and it disappeared. Where do you think? Each one of us would take so many slices, so we would – It was ours. Because, where we grew up we ate – The whole table was with adults and children and if you were not fast enough   to take whatever was, was usually a big, big, you know, a plate of whatever they were serving, with adults, and if you were not fast enough you were hungry. There was no, you know, “Eat. Eat!” No. It was, you had to take whatever you (want) pretty fast because it disappeared.

ER: I know that very well cause I’m from a family of 6 kids and we would always fight over getting the food…

MS: (Laughter) So when we came here we thought, “Oh gosh!” You know?  We, you know, we want to make sure that we get our share, so it would disappear. And he would say, “What happened to the bread?”  (laughs) Well we have…You know.

Funny things that, you know, that you think how, you know, what makes us tic? What we remember, how we behave a certain way because how we grew up. So…

I always uh…I always considered myself very lucky that I was brought up in, you know, even on the other side – Poor. Poor! Because, you know, when I, when we came here, and, you know, I mean this was rich! We had everything. We, you know, we didn’t have to take it off the thing. And so, you know, when people used to say, “Oh, we grew up poor!”          You know, even at work, after I worked, sometimes in the office we would start discussing, like, you know, your experience. And this guy, he would say, “Oh, we didn’t have, we couldn’t go skiing because we didn’t have skis.” I says, “You’re kidding!” (laughs) So that was poor, because you couldn’t ski?  I said, “Yeah. We used to take a bench out of our mother’s, you know, the kitchen, that we sat on and we would go out and that was our, you know, way of skiing.” There was no skis. So…

It’s just some, you know, some things like that that you think, “Oh, poor…” That’s another think I think sometimes today. I wish people would be more positive in their thinking instead of saying, “Oh you poor thing.” Because that’s how the person starts feeling. “You poor thing.” Instead of saying “Just look at how beautiful you are! Just look how the, the things that you can do! Just go out there and do it.” Instead of saying, “Oh, you poor thing. You’re this or you’re that, and that makes you handicapped,” because that’s exactly what happens to people. They become handicapped, because, yeah, because they feel they’ve been wronged, they’ve been, you know, instead of building them up to say, “Hey, you know, you could really do it. You know. Just keep going.”

Just like now, I’m having problems walking a little and my back is uh, going, but I keep saying I can’t give up. I’ve gotta go. I’ve gotta go for a walk everyday, because if you start, you know, feeling handicapped and feeling sorry for yourself. So sure I could lay around and do nothing, but you’ve gotta…So that’s my life story. (Laugh)

CUT 17: 01:17:54:17

MAD: Mary, to backtrack a little, do you remember the voyage coming over? Remember the trip over?

MS: Yes! It was a beautiful ship. Queen Elizabeth. I mean it was just beautiful. Um…

ER: Can I stop you? Can you make it a whole sentence again?

MS: Okay. We uh…Travelling from Czechoslovakia we travelled by train all the way to, and I’m…the edge of maybe Luxembourg? Somewhere where we took a small boat and crossed over to England. And Queen Elizabeth was the ship – Beautiful ship! – was the ship that we travelled on from England to New York.

ER: How long did it take?

MS: Maybe 8 or 9 days? It was, you know, not short. But we had the bottom level, so we probably didn’t rock as much as the rest of the ship (laugh). I do remember that we were not behaving, maybe not bad, but we were so amazed at the elevators in the ship going up and down. We had those elevators going (laughs) crazy because we would stop and the one on top, you know they were at different levels, and we would push the buttons and had them going. You know. We, after a while somebody did say to us, “Now you don’t do that!”

ER: That was the first time you’d seen an elevator!

MS: Oh yeah! It was the first time we saw many things. As far as food, um, we would go into the hall where we were supposed to be eating, and we would sort of look around to see what was on the plate of other people, and if somebody, you know, “What would you like?” we would say, “That!” You know.

MAD: Did you sense any trepidation or fear on your mother’s part…?

MS: Oh, my mother! My mother was sick! My mother was hardly out of, you know, the room. She was really not well, you know. She was seasick. And probably, you know, just travelling, coming from a small town, never having been out of the comfort, you know, from a little town, to a, you know, a city or so, and with three kids. And my middle sister was a little mischievous. Like she would…Not mischievous, but in a sense, curious.

ER: What sister was that?

MS: Julia. She would, you know, go to see what’s happening there, and then my mother said, “Where’s Julia?” “Well we don’t know where she is.” Oh my God, well she found, you know, when she finally got hold of her she was, you know, what? What today you would get in trouble for. (laugh)

So we, we, uh…In England we stayed overnight in some hotel. Don’t remember much about it. And then got on the ship. How we got there I really, honestly don’t remember.

ER: Tell us about when you came into New York Harbor and where did you land?

MS: It was I think up in the ‘50s, maybe 52nd or 53rd Street, somewhere in there, that the Cunard lines…but we were.

ER: [Interrupts!] What about when you saw land? Did you go by the Statue of Liberty?

MS: We, we were probably getting ready to get off and we were on the bottom level, so I don’t think we even knew that there was a beautiful sight to see. That I don’t remember. So, unfortunate that somebody didn’t uh…There were, you know, there must’ve been somebody on that ship that sort of looked after us, directed us to go to lunch or to…There had to be, you know, but they probably didn’t tell us that we were passing the Statue of Liberty or any of that. No. That did not happen. We just landed and we got off with what we brought with us was…Oh my mother brought some stuff, like uh, pots. Why, why she needed, but, you know. Yeah.

ER: Was you dad waiting for you?

MS: Yes. Yes. And, you know, and family. And then uh, another thing that I remember too. I mean, coming, it was exciting, it was, but we didn’t know our father. You know. So it was still kinda, a feeling that you have to get to know your own father after you’re already 12. I’m a teenager practically, right? But, you know. I think he had more, more probably fright than we did in a sense (laughs).  Then, because there were relatives living close by, you know, when my father brought us uh, brought us here, he didn’t normally need to show people that he was working and he was, uh, able to take care of us. He had to get relatives to sponsor, to say if he could not take care of us, these relatives signed an IOU to, whatever that was called then, to the government, yeah, saying that if my father was unable to, yeah, support us that they would help.

And these same people had television. I remember going to watch Uncle Berle, Uncle Merle…? [ER/MAD: Uncle Miltie!] (laughs) Milton! (laughs) So we would go to their house and we would watch that program, and then we would go home. (laugh)

ER: So when you got off that boat, just a little bit more about the trip home, your first trip to the neighborhood, what was that like? Can you describe it…?

MS: Uh…I don’t remember too much. The only thing is that, there was a big snowstorm here, one of the biggest, before we arrived. So I do remember piles of snow. But that was not anything unusual, because where we came from, lots of snow, so it wasn’t anything, “Oh my gosh!” You know? But nothing that I could say we, or do I remember that, you know. Somebody must have driven us, you know. It had to be because we had some, you know, luggage coming. So somebody drove us, but who? I do not…You  know, too bad I didn’t ask these things of my father. He would’ve filled us in.

And, uh, what else? [Mic. hits here] My aunt lived on Liberty and her in-laws lived in the next house and we would go visit them because they were on the top floor over the roof from one to the other. Yeah.

ER: So from your house to their house where you lived, or were your aunt…?

MS: My aunt, where originally my father lived with her until we came.

CUT 18: 01:27:05:11

MAD: And did you have to leave Washington Street because of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel construction?

MS: Uh, It was already, you know, kind of uh, saying that people will be, yes. But I think, you know, my father wanted to buy a house, so we had more room. And uh…

ER: So before the eminent domain was coming around your dad had already decided that you were gonna move?

MS: Yes. Yeah. So we weren’t sitting there and they told us, “You’ve got to get out tomorrow.” No. No.

ER: …Say it in a sentence…

MS: Okay. So we…Because, you know, three girls needed a little more room than just one bed, I guess he felt that, you know, he needed to get us either an apartment or a house, and I think one of his friends at work suggested that Astoria was a nice place, or at least they thought it was, and – and it is nice – Um…So, you know, he went with them, and I don’t know even if it was a real estate agent, or whoever showed. So we moved. We moved before the deadline that they set where people had to move.

ER: Had you already heard that people had to move though? Were you hearing about it?

MS: There was. There was some talk that uh, you know, uh, people would be moving, but I, you know, didn’t pay attention. Probably my parents would’ve known more then. I was more interested in, you know, boyfriends. (laughs) I’m only kidding! At that age…

ER: How old were you? [MS: 12! So I was]…But you were 12 when you came…[MS: When I cam. Yeah.]…but when the issues came up about moving how old were you…?

MS: Well I was already going to high school. So, um, 13, 14?

MAD: Was this house newly constructed when you moved here?

MS: Actually, they bought it from another family, so it was already constructed. It was just a few years old.

ER; This is the same house?

MS: Yeah. Yeah. Same old house. (laughs)

ER; So you father got the house, and tell us about the move and all the preparations for moving and what it was like here when you got here.

CUT 19: 01:30:11:06

MS: Well we didn’t have, really, uh, too much to move. You know, we had that one, one couch that the girls, you know, we slept. The bed was, they didn’t take the bed. The bed was one of those iron, you know, big beds, you know, just. So they didn’t take…I don’t remember having it in this house. SO I guess they left it there. Other than that there was nothing there for us to take, you know, a table? We had an ice box, you know. There was not much to take. So we, I don’t remember moving, except that we wound up here. So they…

ER: DO you remember what the neighborhood was like?

MS: Yes! I mean, all these buildings didn’t exist. This was a little, you know, a little, like farmhouses on a corner here. Just right on the corner there was a beautiful little, little house that these old ladies lived there, and, and you know, everything has changed.

ER: That got knocked down.

MS: Yeah. I mean everything.

ER: So how many of the houses like this were here when you moved here that are still here on this block?

MS: There’s one house further down, there’s a house that’s still there. And coming here there’s the…They actually split one of the, and it’s a newer house than ours. There was a 2 family home and one of the owners sold and whoever bought it now wants to go up so they split the house. Yeah.

ER: And did they knock something down over here…?

MS: Yeah. There’s a, you know, at the end of, what, next, that’s the house that they split and so at the other side of that house, or the 2 family still stands, and then the rest, like I said there’s one more down, further down the corner. The rest is all going up like crazy. Construction unbelievable! And we sometimes have a hard time – I don’t drive so I don’t have that problem, but, uh…

MAD: It seems like a very convenient neighborhood…

MS: Well it is. The subway system, you know. Yeah. And we have lots of, you know, lots of stores. Nice. Walking distance to supermarkets, restaurants galore. You know that’s one thing, is today I don’t think too many people cook. You know? That reminds me. Maybe, I don’t want you to run away because I baked a cake! (laughs) And so when we’re finished…(laughter)

CUT 20: 01:33:59:16

MAD: Is there anything else you want to share with us Mary? Any special memories of Washington Street, or of your family…?

MS: No. It’s just that every time I go to that area, you bet your boots that I stop on that corner and I look around. Or whenever I take somebody down I would take them to that spot and I would say, “This is where we lived. This was our first step.”

ER: What other establishments do you remember on those blocks? Were there shops or newsstands, or anything?

MS: Oh, yeah. Hudson Tubes. Hudson Tubes was, because those days, uh, weekends that was dead. We had the town to ourselves. Today I think it’s not so anymore. It’s crowded. Huh? Crowded…[ER: Certain aspects of it are still that way…]

Yeah? But then it was so, Hudson Tubes was where I guess where the trains were, but, you know, on weekends those shops would close and there would be, some shops were open, but that was our Hide & Seek (laughs) playground, you know, because we would go there and we were able to go, you know, there were different little nooks, that..

MAD: Is this underground?

MS: Oh yeah. Yeah.

MAD: So you were in the station more or less then. The station of the Hudson Tubes?

MS: Yeah. Yeah. And I don’t remember being chased. You know? So…(laughs)

ER: And what about, do you remember Radio Row and the shops there when it was Radio Row?

MS: I do remember the shops yes. But, you know, we, I don’t think we had a radio. [ER: Right. Right.] We moved here, we didn’t have TV for I don’t know how many years. We only had beds. The living room didn’t come until my father felt that he, you know, was able to pay his mortgage and whatever. Those were not, you know, so we didn’t have much of the furniture.

MAD: Do you remember any of the Syrian stores on the Lower West Side? [MS: Syrian?] Sahadi’s or…?

MS: Other than, uh, other than the very nice gentleman in the candy store, George, I don’t remember.

ER: Any other shops? Were there clothing shops that you went to?

MS: Well, well, yeah. On, somewhere on Fulton, or even more to the, you know, towards Broadway, because naturally when we went to, when we went to 10th Street or even City Hall there were shops, but do you think I remember?

ER: Well just if there were any that you went to that you liked or people you knew that ran stores in the area?

MS: There were also very nice stores further past Broadway. What was that, uh, and I think it still exists, uh, where they had dress shops and stuff, but do I remember names? No.

ER: …Whatever you can (remember). We’re just trying to get it out of you…

MS: Well yeah.

ER: And they don’t have to be facts, just a feeling…

MS: And you know it wasn’t that we shopped too much. So, you know. Like I said, you know, we were given a gift to work (laughs) – A sewing machine!

ER: So yeah. You don’t have to remember names or anything, but do you remember any restaurants or eateries, besides the candy store, a soda shop…?

MS: Well…There was. There was and now I forget because there was a Czechoslovak restaurant. There were a couple of them down in that area! There was (a) butcher, but you know, most of that stuff was done by my parents, so I didn’t go shopping to the butcher. I didn’t, you know, but there was, you know, a restaurant there. Oh, what was his name? Slovak…I don’t…

ER: It’s funny, now it occurs to me, you were 12 and you knew the candy store! (laughter)

MAD: Right! What else could you need Esther?…

ER: …I’m trying to think of anything else…We want to milk it all out of you while we’re here…

MS: Yeah. Yeah. Except, you know, once I think, you know, like I said I was in school all day long. So there was not that much room for, you know, then studying and whatnot. It’s, it was a full day, so there was not much for horsing around, although we managed always to do things (laugh).

I think I was a little like a tomboy, even though I was always short. Always. But sometimes I wonder if when you’re short whether you become tougher to stay in that, you know, company. Otherwise you’re left behind. So you were, “Here I am! I could hit the ball. I could…” (laughs) You know! It’s funny!

ER: …We got a lot of information out of you! (laughs)

MAD: A lot of wonderful stories

MS: Oh. It’s just..,

ER: Can you think of any…Do you have any stories of just, I don’t know, did you get into trouble with other kids? Do you remember anything that neighbors might have done that might have been interesting, and things that happened in the neighborhood that you can think of?

CUT 21: 01:41:54:18

MS: Oh, I mean…[ER: …even if someone passed away, that you have a story of…?]

You know, down, down there I don’t remember having a funeral parlor in that area. No. there was no, no such thing. No. So uh, most of it was in church if there were, you know, in our church.

We also used to go because, uh, you know, certain days – and I think there was such a thing as – kids would go for religious instructions, and because our church was, you know, who knows, you know, how far? We didn’t go. So we would go to Catholic Church. And that was, uh, where was that? That was passed Fulton I think somewhere. And it still…

MAD: St. Peter’s on Barclay Street?…

MS: Yeah. Probably. Probably. Because I know it’s still there. But that’s where we would go for some sort of instructions.

ER: But…did any of your friends, I don’t know…was there ever police activity in the neighborhood or…?

MS; No. No. I think it was such a…No.

ER; I mean I hate to think of tragedies per se, but those are the things that stick in your head. Was there ever a fir in the neighborhood…?

MS: No…No…And that could’ve happened with wood burning stoves, and stuff. So how did we manage to stay, uh, you know, safe? It was, you know… [ER talks about flammable building]…Yeah. So if you’re not careful…

ER: We already talked about what the building was like – You said you had a shared bathroom…?

MS: Yes. [ER: for two apartments?…In the hallway?] Yes. In the hallway.

ER: There was no fireplace?

MS: Oh, uh, in the front was a fireplace, yes. The living room Facing the street, Washington Street we had (a) fireplace.

ER: Did you use it?

MS: Fire…Oh, fireplace. I’m sorry! A fire uh…escape! (laugh) No fireplace! No, no!

MAD: There was a fire escape on the front of the building.

MS: Yeah. Yeah.

ER: Not in back?

MS: Maybe, but I don’t remember. We never got too, you know, because it was like the bed was really practically against the window, or, you know.

MAD: Did you ever sleep out on the fire escape?

MS: No. When we came here we used to sleep on the balcony here, porch.

ER: How did you deal with heat and cold weather, like extremes of temperature in your apartment? What did you do?

MS: Nothing. You know. Open the windows! (laughs) Even here we didn’t have air conditioning. Not for a long, long time.

ER: What about the heat…You had a heater in your apartment?

MS: Oh there you had the uh, kitchen, wood burning stove. That was the only…

ER: Did you have to gather around the kitchen to stay warm or did it spread out?

MS: I don’t remember that we sat, and we probably didn’t have too much time to really sit around the, you know, stove, maybe to sit down and eat, and take a bath – which was not, you know, in today’s times, we didn’t take baths that often. Really…

ER: You had to heat up the water…

MS: Yeah! So, uh, today, you know, you keep taking showers all the time and uh…

ER: Okay I think we’re good…

CUT 22: 01:47:07:18

MS: [CUT on in the middle]…were, I think he was playing the horses or something! (laughter)

ER: Where was that? Was there a place where…?

MS: Yeah, there was a…Oh, I don’t know if it was bookies. Well, who knows? You know. I just know that he did that a good part of his life, you know. He was, you know, he played the uh…(laughs) Cause whenever, you know, my aunt was looking for him, “Go and see on such and such a block.” That’s where, you know, we could find him!

 CUT 23: 01:47:55:20

MS: [CUT on in the middle]…uh…people, but we managed, you know. My mother, my mother had a pot of whatever, and that was, there was no choice, you know. Today sometimes they, one wants this, the other one wants that, then, no. It’s, you know, you had what was on the stove and if you didn’t like it well. And I think that’s good. That’s good.

ER: …Did you have relatives or people coming over that you ever took care of, or people visiting at your house much?

MS: Not down there so much. Here? Yes. A lot of…

ER: Did you have people who came over (from Europe)…that you sponsored essentially?

MS: Well, you know, today it’s not that easy, but those times they were able to come, and actually work. We had, you know, my mother’s brothers. Uh, We had quite a few people in our house living with us and working. And then they would go back. SO they would, you know, help themselves.

  01:51:27:02: END of INTERVIEW

















02:09:09:04: END of INTERVIEW