CGP Community Stories

Erika Heinegg, November 17, 2012

Title

Erika Heinegg, November 17, 2012

Subject

Immigration & society

Description

Erika Heinegg is a German immigrant living in Oneonta, NY. She was born in 1934 in Plӧn located in Schleswig-Holstein, the northern-most part of Germany located between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and bordering Denmark. During the World War II, her family sold hats and gloves to the Navy and Marine cadets that were stationed at Great Plӧn Lake. Many restrictions were put onto the people in terms of food and supplies.

When she was 18, she left the country to find her future in nursing. After spending a year in Sweden and a few years in England, she married and moved to North America where she first spent a few months in Canada on Lake Superior before moving to Rockland County in New York. In New York, she worked for 10 years at Nyack Hospital in Nyack County before moving to Delaware County where she was forced to earn her nursing degree as her experience in England was not accepted. She experienced several instances of discrimination based on her nation of origin. She worked in public health for Delaware County for 10 years while she took night classes at Russell Sage College in Albany for her Master’s Degree in Epidemiology.

After Delaware County, she worked simultaneously at Albany Medical Center in discharge planning and as the Chair of the Nominating Committee for the New York State Nurses Association in Albany. She worked there for 4 years before her husband’s health began deteriorating; she moved back to Delaware County to nurse him.

She now is a member of the Continuing Cooperative Adult Learning program in Oneonta as well as a member of the curriculum committee of the same organization. She is on the administrative board of the Catskills Symphony and is involved in both the Otsego County Sailing Club and the Adirondack Mountain Club. She also aided in the creation of the Plains at Parish Homestead, a retirement community in Oneonta, NY.

Creator

Cassie Cavanaugh

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2012-11-17

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28mB
audio/mpeg
28mB
audio/mpeg
20mB
image/jpeg
1.5mB
document/doc
66kB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

12-001

Coverage

Oneonta, NY
1934-2012

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Cassie Cavanaugh

Interviewee

Erika Heinegg

Location

60 Plains Drive
Oneonta, NY 13820

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2012
EH = Erika Heinegg
CC = Cassie Cavanaugh

[Start of Track 1, 0:00]

CC:
Today is the November 17th, 2012 interview of Erika Heinegg by Cassie Cavanaugh at 60 Plains Drive, Oneonta, NY. Erika, can you describe to me where you were born?

EH:
Yeah, I was born in a small town in the north of Germany that's located close to the Baltic by Kiel, approximately 80 kilometers from Hamburg. The town is [in] a beautiful area called the Ostholsteinische Schweiz which means it is an East Holstein-Switzerland. The area doesn't have the Alps, but it has meadows and beautiful lakes that are wonderful for swimming and recreation. It also was used during the war as testing grounds for the unmanned u-boats. But that was a great big secret, and it did not come out until after the war. We didn't know why so many restrictions were put on people around that lake, the “Grosse Ploener See.”

My parents lived on Main Street. They had a small business. My father learned the trade of making hats and gloves and sold fur coats. My mother was a seamstress, she was a Damenschneidermeisterin. She had a Master's in the creation of costumes. The town had two beautiful churches when I grew up. Music was a big part of my upbringing. I learned to play the piano and sang in the choir. We did pageants through the church, and we gave concerts. It was a beautiful way of growing up even though there were many restrictions because of the war. [WWII] Above all the houses was a castle that at the time that I grew up was a boarding house for young students that had graduated from high school and were going for the abitur. It's called a Gymnasium in Germany. How do you wish to continue?

CC:
You mentioned restrictions a few times. What sort of restrictions were imposed?

EH:
Restrictions? During the war? Actually during the war, we could not swim in the big lake. Nobody could get near other than certain areas. One could walk by the lakefront but not go in the water. No boats could be used on the big lake. But there were many other small lakes surrounding this big lake, so we did not suffer in that we, as children, could not go swimming. However, there were restrictions in the sense that we had little access to equipment for sporting events. That was all taken away and stored unable for us to get to. Those were some of the restrictions. Of course, there was limited clothing and limited means of purchase. Food could not be imported. All we had to eat was what the Germans could produce on their land. As children, that didn't seem to faze us too much. It was only after the war when I saw the first time what a banana looked like. I had never tasted one; it was a revelation.

CC:
Were you an only child?

EH:
I had two siblings. They were born eight years after my presence. A brother and a sister, they were born within thirteen months of each other. They were so much younger, I really had little communication in the sense that when I was eighteen years of age and left Germany, my brother was only ten, and my sister was nine years old. Because I left Germany and did not return other than on brief vacations, to this day my communication with those two siblings although they are in Germany is limited. We have grown completely apart from one another in outlook on life and that is certainly something that I regret except that those are the circumstances of growing up.

CC:
Did they remain in Germany then?

EH:
They are in Germany, ja!

CC:
How was your family or your town, other than the u-boat training, affected by the war?

EH:
Well in the very beginning, my father was doing quite well. His business allowed him to sell things to the military. The military was the navy and marine cadets that were educated on the lake where the secret equipment was developed. The marines needed hats and gloves, although not coats. Also the medals [and] awards, those products he sold. So he was doing better except that he was then conscripted into the army, into the Wehrmacht, and went to the Russian front. Although he was already older, he worked in the volkssturm. He had also been in the first world war.

My mother was the sole breadwinner at the time. She had both the store and her own business. For a while, it was alright, but then it began to deteriorate because we were not getting supplies. After the war, 1945, the business for military equipment was no longer necessary. Of course, then supplies began to dwindle.

CC:
What did your family do after the war then?

EH:
It's amazing the resources people come up with when there is a need. For example, in the hat business, because men in that time wore hats and gloves far more so than probably in this country, they needed to have their old hats cleaned. My mother had quite a business of having these dirty old used hats re-freshened. She did not do that personally, but she was a middleman in this. Women needed their clothing altered, and young ladies needed to know how to learn all this. She had students who would come to her and learn the business of sewing, of repairing. For example, a coat that had been worn by a person was taken completely apart, turned inside out, and put back together again, and that made an almost new coat. It was just incredible.

We had a garden in the back of our house that bordered onto a stream, a creek, and we planted our food there: potatoes and all the vegetables. We had, I would say, at least 10 - 15 fruit trees, from apples to cherries to pears, various kinds of different apples--and plums--that would grow and ripen at different times which was most enjoyable for us kids. Many stories of a neighbor having a plum tree, I remember. Our neighbor was a shoemaker--he was older and we used to make fun of him--I was with 4 or 5 young girls and the plums are the Indian type plum that are beautiful for baking. They were ripe, and he hadn't done anything about it. So we kids thought that we would shake the branches and help ourselves to some of these plums. We saw him coming from far away and put the plums into our underpants and ran away, and as he was coming, all the plums were falling out. I remember that was such a funny, great story. I was between 7 and 8 years of age.

CC:
How do you think it influenced you with your mom being the sole breadwinner growing up?

EH:
Always my whole life, my mother has been my example: for resilience, for dedication, for ingenuity. I have taken that with me. I have always wanted to be like her. I once mentioned it to a professor of mine at Hartwick College [Oneonta, NY]. And that woman was maybe the first saying 'Well you are very much like her.' I thought, well maybe I am doing things right. My mother was my idol.

CC:
When did you leave Germany?

EH:
I graduated in 1952 from high school. My mother thought maybe I should go for two more years for my abitur graduating in the Gymnasium. But my father did not like that. I have always been very much interested in being outdoors. I could not see myself working at a desk. I don't like discourse, and I didn't like it that my father would not agree to this. So I decided to see what I could do with the outdoors. Had I been a male, I would have gone into forestry, but that was not available to women. I also thought of maybe I would like to learn about biology and be part of the biologic oceanographic experience because we had that available for men, not for women.

So I decided I am going to go and explore what women do in agriculture, to learn the whereabouts of all that is entailed in household, in gardening, in raising of animals, and organization. The Germans have a program of an organized two year practicum and then two more years of theory. I thought I'd go for the practicum first. As it turned out, it was a very good move on my part because for the rest of my life, those two years have helped me live where I wanted to live. For example, to come to America, we chose a 20 acre piece of land that was very much an area for homesteading, and I just loved it. I lived there for 40 years, and it was just everything I've ever wanted to do.

CC:
When did you leave Germany?

EH:
I left Germany in 1954. I had graduated from that two year practicum, and I went to Sweden where I wanted to see what happened in other countries. [Germany] was too restricting. Another aspect I had looked into after I graduated from high school is nursing. My grandmother had a very difficult illness. She had cancer of the bowel and needed a colostomy. She could no longer stay in the hospital because her condition had become chronic, and no equipment was available for colostomy care after discharge from the hospital. It was the saddest thing that I can imagine. I was 9 years old at that time, and I couldn't help. It was awful. So I decided maybe what I wanted to do was to get into that aspect of care. However, when I looked into it, I was told that under the circumstances, there was a 6 year wait to get into nursing school. As a young woman, that was much too long a time to wait for.

So I left Germany altogether in 1954 and went to Sweden. There was a Baronial couple living in a great big house--I don't know what they call it in this country, a mansion?--and around the mansion was a 400, 500 acre farm that was managed by a squire. The squire's wife who was supposed to do all the caring for the staff was in and out of a mental hospital. I was asked if I would go there, and I did. I worked for them for a year. It was a wonderful experience. I learned a little bit of Swedish but not much. I love the Swedish flag to this day. It's such a beautiful sunny light blue and yellow flag that appealed to me much better than the red, black, and white of the German flag at the time with the swastika.

I met a young lady who was working in the mansion. She said a friend of hers was in England being a nanny to a hotelier in Southend-on-Sea. She could get me a job in England. I thought that sounds great. I had had 6 years of English in high school, so I could understand some English, but I couldn't speak it very well. I definitely wanted to learn more. So I went to England after my year [in Sweden] in 1955/1956. I took evening classes for English in the local college. We all had to give our stories, and I had mentioned that I liked nursing or liked the idea of it and [the instructor] said there were two local hospitals in Rochford and in Southend-on-Sea and that if I applied, he would give me a recommendation. They were delighted and I could start immediately. The program had three months of seminars and three months on the floor and then three more months of seminars and three months on the floor in a progression of three years to graduate as a staff nurse. I became a student nurse.

The nurses’ house was beautiful. For the first time, I had this gorgeous room to myself with huge windows overlooking a nice landscape and gardens. We had a cleaning woman coming by once a week. The bathrooms were communal. 4 or 5 nurses the communal bathrooms with a little kitchenette. The instructors were called Sisters which is one step up from the staff nurse. They were very kind, very understanding and wanted us to succeed, so it was a very enjoyable environment.

I also met my husband during that time who was allowed with five other students to present Shakespearean Plays. They were members of the “Royal Shakespeare Society.” We got married in 1957 and wanted to emigrate to Africa. He wanted to go to Kenya. I had had a friend from Nigeria in the class of nurses and thought I wanted to go to Nigeria. But we decided that maybe we would go to Kenya together. When he wanted to apply and see what kind of job was available for him, he found out it was not really an advisable move at all. We went to Canada instead where he had applied for a job.

We had an apartment overlooking Lake Superior, and it was awesome. The weather was something we had never experienced. So cold, -40 degrees with a blue sky and sunshine. That was something England never had. We had woolen clothing which at those temperatures was not too good. At that time, we had never seen nylon padded clothing. We were in Canada not very long when my husband got notice that he had a job in America. He went to see the people and was enamored. They wanted him badly. We had to get visas to get to America which took about 5 or 6 months. In America, wewent to Rockland County by the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York State. We bought our own

[Start of Track 2, 0:00]

EH:
house with the help of his employer and decided that this was a good time to start a family. We had two girls and lived in the house for 11 years. When the company he had been working for was sold, the large corporation badly managed it. The small company went bankrupt. My husband had to find another job. Teaching at the State University of New York at Delhi in the Veterinary Science Department. At that time, I decided--my youngest daughter was 4 years of age, ready for kindergarten--that I would take some college classes at [SUNY] Delhi to first of all see how my English would hold out. I passed, so I decided that if I can pass, maybe I should go on. I found out that 20 miles away was a college that was offering nursing.

I decided this was my opportunity to get a nursing degree because my English experience was not accepted in this country. I think I started in 1972 with a few classes here and there and went full time in 1974 and graduated in 1977 from Hartwick College's nursing program. I thought this was going to be a very good opportunity because what I really wanted to do was be in public health. I was accepted to the public health nursing service in Delaware County in Delhi.

The first 6 weeks or so--I don't know whether it was 6 weeks or 6 months--was sort of a trial period. When I had that interview, my superior took me into her car outside the building and told me that I could work for the county. She found nothing wrong with my performance except that her father had told her that I should never be promoted. If I were to accept that, I could work in public health. When I asked why I would not be promoted, she said, 'Because you are German. My father doesn't want me to promote you because you are German.' In 1977, there was very little one could do about that, but I had my children. My husband had a job, so I had to accept that position. I wanted to be in public health and the hospital was not an option. I would have gone into operating room service because I worked for 10 years in Nyack Hospital when we lived in Rockland County, but they would not accept that. So public health was it. It was very nice because public health nurses had a separate car that they could use to drive home and use for work during the day.

They were 10 difficult years because I went for night school to Albany to work on a Master's program at Russell Sage [College], one class at a time. I thought well, if for nobody else, I do it for myself. And I did. There was one episode when my boss needed an epidemiologist, well she wanted one of the nurses who was working--we were 10, 12 nurses working in the department. I was taking a master's degree program in epidemiology. She said, 'No, no you can't. I want you out of here. I don't want you to continue.' She made things extremely difficult.

For example, at the end of a day's work, one had 5 or 6 charts to record the visits. I'd put them on my desk to work on during the hour before going home, and unbeknownst to me, she had taken a piece of paper out of one chart and kept it. With not having a reference, I never noticed that I did not chart this particular visit. This was not just once; she did this on several occasions. As an example. [She] came later and accused me of not filing [the chart] properly.

A colleague of mine at the immunization clinic, for example, was supposed to be overlooking what I was doing and came back and told completely wrong stories that I had not given the correct dosage or at the correct time to a child, and it was false. It was found out that she had just said these things on many, many occasions. My supervisor lied at a conference about something I had said. I was very angry and stood up and said, 'You are lying.' And she admitted it! She admitted to everyone that it had been a lie. At that I said, 'I'm done with having worked here.' That's all she wanted. She didn't care how I did it as long as I said, 'I'm leaving.' That was after 10 years, she was gracious enough to allow me to stay there 10 years, so I was still part of the pension system. You had to be there 10 years in order to get a pension after you left.

So I do have a little pension out of that job. I went to Albany Medical Center. Oh, no, there's more to that. There is another aspect of this: a group of nurses in a county can get together under the New York State Nurses Association. We were district 15 and got together to have little conferences to keep up with new data. A person from the New York State Nurses Association in Albany came to visit us, and she liked my performance and asked me whether I wouldn't want to work for the offices in the New York State Nurses Association in Albany on the nominating committee. What I had to do was write a little article about what I would like to see in nursing, and my name would be put on a ballot, and nurses voted. At that time, the Nurses Association had approximately 30,000 nurses, and 30,000 nurses voted for me. However, the first elected person to the chair of the nominating committee turned the position down because she wanted to be president. So I became the chair of the nominating committee of the New York State Nurses Association.

At first, nobody in Delaware County really knew what that was all about, so everything went fine. I was chair for I think 2 years. Then I was asked to run for Director At Large with the New York State Nurses Association, and again I was voted in by the nurses. But all of a sudden, that was too much for my boss who got the personnel director involved that I was politically involved in the system and that they did not like that.

CC:
I'm sorry, could you describe what you mean by politically involved?

EH:
There are two branches to the New York State Nurses Association. One is to promote the conditions of nursing, to give every nurse the ability to be in the pension system, to have a better curriculum in some of the colleges for nursing, to see that RNs [registered nurse] and nurse's education be improved. Education and the conditions are sort of two different branches. My superior felt threatened, so even more pressure was put on me to try and resign which I eventually did.

Because of my connections in Albany, when I had left the position, I wanted to be a discharge planner. I thought that was going to be great. The nurses from Russell Sage Nursing program suggested I go and apply to Albany Medical Center for discharge planning which I did. I worked in Albany, but it meant to leave Delaware County. I had a little apartment and would go home on weekends. If I once in a while had weekend duty, my husband would come to Albany, and we would explore what Albany had to offer. We thought maybe we would like to have a condominium in Albany and go to Delaware County only on weekends or so. However, that sounded exciting at the time to myself, but because I was the outdoors type, I really didn't like Albany all that much. It was a great thing to have had the opportunity, but in the spring, it was much too dusty from the gravel that was thrown on the streets in the winter [which] flew up into your faces if you wanted to walk on the streets. It was not something that really appealed to me and the traffic and all the people. So it was wonderful every weekend to go back to Delaware County and have fresh air and the green grass.

After a while, the health of my husband deteriorated rapidly. I decided I would go back to Delaware County and nurse him whilst he was ailing.

CC:
Did you notice any other immigrant groups that were getting treated similarly?

EH:
No. Discrimination is apparent in many, many branches. Well, when we first came to this country in 1960, we were involved in a theater group, the Elmwood Theatre in Nyack. Some people of dissimilar backgrounds were discriminated about. What happened was, my husband was Catholic. I was Lutheran. When we got married, we got married in a little chapel next to the hospital in Rochford. The priest, who was a monk, when he heard that I was a Lutheran and my husband was a Catholic, he moved his chair 12 feet away because he was afraid of us going to infect him or something and almost didn't want to marry us. But those were scenes that people lived with, and fortunately, 30, 40 years later, we have learned a little bit more not to do that but still it took a while. We had to learn. Everybody had to learn these things.

Discrimination against colored people versus whites. One nurse in the hospital I was working in ICU was a colored woman who had children. She was absolutely wonderful. She worked so hard; she tried so well. I told her one day how much I admired her, and she broke down and she said, 'Oh, but nobody here likes what I do. I am hanging on with my fingernails to keep my job.' I didn't ask why. I knew why they didn't. She was colored, and the staff was white.

Men in nursing were also discriminated against. This is far more acceptable now, but early on in my career, they were not really thought to be capable of being nurses.

CC:
Why do you think that was? Specifically in what I'm asking about men not being capable of being nurses.

EH:
Well many patients were women, and how does a man take care of a woman who has given birth. This is part of nursing, maternity patients or patients who have problems of hygiene. They felt that men versus women, women were more up to be caring. Men didn't know how to show compassion the way women do. [There are] good men who know how to care and do things. I mean, physicians: there are good and bad physicians. Physicians were mainly male.

CC:
Did you notice the same sort of discrimination against you when you were in Sweden or England?

EH:
Well, that's interesting. No, I must say. Not at all in England, of course, because the English have the colonies, and England was accepting anybody from the colonies. In fact, they went overboard to be accommodating. That was something I had not experienced in England, and in Sweden, I never got close enough to people to experience that. No, I did not find that kind of discrimination in those countries. Germany, of course, was a different story altogether. How about the Germans and the Jews?

CC:
What do you mean by England went overboard?

EH:
Overboard to accommodate people from the colonies? It was probably a bad term. I should probably not say that. Nurses ahead of my three months period seemed to be accepted without question to do things that may have been in some cases a little early, a little premature, responsibilities. I had such a good time in England that I'm sure everybody else did as well. I just was very impressed with the way they educated their nurses. I've never, ever had such an experience as when I was a nurse in England. It was very wonderful. One example, I was newly married, and it was not common, but nurses and staff were sometimes given free tickets to concerts. My husband was given two tickets to go to the Royal Albert Hall for a concert. I went to the Sister, saying I had these tickets had to be in London by 7 o'clock, and I would not come off duty until 7. She said, 'Go. I'll find somebody else.'

Now, I cannot imagine such a thing happening to me when I was in nursing [in New York]. Even if I had the free time in Public Health, my boss would never have done anything like it. As a matter of fact, when I went to the end of my 10 year period, she came to me and said, 'You never took a sick day in all the 10 years. You're the only one who ever did that.' I happened to be extremely healthy in those days, but the point being, she also said, 'I thought you'd taken all your sick days, and all the days that you ever have off.' It was prejudice that she just expected things the way she wanted to see them.

CC:
How did that make you feel?

EH:
I just shrugged it off because it was ongoing. I never expected anything good out of her mouth. It's just, I knew that it was all contrived, and I knew better. It was unfortunate though because it did limit some of the things that I was doing. It could have been a beautiful job. I loved going out to see the patients. The patients enjoyed and felt good about my presence with them,

[Start of Track 3, 0:00]

EH:
how they were progressing in their homes and whether everything was all right or could things be improved. I felt I was contributing to their wellbeing. This is what I wanted to do. This is what I was educated for. That's how it should be. It was only in the office that it was not pleasant.

CC:
So did you did experience any discrimination with patients?

EH:
No. [With] the patients in Delaware County, I don't know that there was anything that I could discriminate on. I mean a patient is a patient. You take care of the patient.

CC:
I meant a patient who discriminated against you.

EH:
There are patients who find something at fault, but those are misunderstandings that can be cleared up. There was one time I was accused of having run over a pole or something like that. It turned out that it was not my car. It was somebody else's car, a car from social services. Because my boss was always interested in finding fault with what I did, she made a big deal of it. But that was the office, it wasn't patients.

CC:
When did you lose contact with your family, with your brother and sister?

EH:
Well in 1954 when I left Germany, I went home for that Christmas, but I was home for a week. Then I went back from Sweden, from Helsingborg, I went by ferry from Helsingborg to Grossenbrode over the Baltic and then to my parents's house. That was one Christmas. Then I went to England. I didn't go back to Germany except with my husband in 1958, in autumn of 1958 when we decided that we were going to go to Africa, to leave England, let's say. Then we went to America and for 8 years, I was not able to go back to Germany. Then I went for a couple of weeks at the most because I also spent some time in England the first time. The way one could get a plane ticket was from New York to fly to the furthest place, and my parents’ home was the furthest place. You could make stops. For example, we flew from New York to Paris because my husband had a conference in Paris. Then I flew with my older daughter, we flew from Paris to my parents's house whereas he flew from Paris to his mother's house in England then came to my parents's house, to Germany. You could do that on one ticket. You didn't have to hop, skip, and jump in those days, back in 1963, 64.

Flying was a lot more fun then. It was great. It was beautiful. I took my daughter with me. We walked in Paris on the Seine and took a boat ride on the Bateau-Mouche. [laughter] It was beautiful. We went into Notre Dame Cathedral, and there were nuns collecting money. They had really little money belts the way a driver or a collector on the bus has these pockets with change in them, and you put the pennies and the nickels and the dimes and the quarters into this. My daughter loved the idea of giving a few pennies to have the nuns bless her. Daddy several times had to give her some pennies. I wonder whether she remembers that. I'll have to ask her.

These are very nice anecdotes. Paris was fun. I wanted to buy perfume, a real nice French perfume: Balenciaga was a big deal in those days. So my husband came into the store with me, and the young mademoiselle was showing different smells. I had selected my perfume, and I turned around and looked at something else. And apparently--this is what I was told--this mademoiselle said to my husband, 'Et pour monsieur?' And he, 'Me? Me? Me?' 'Oh,' she said, 'Oh yes.' So she poured a little bit of perfume on his wrist and on his other, and then she went 'Ahh.' And then he says, 'I want a gallon of perfume.' [laughter] That is his story, a French story, and a beautiful story. [laughter]

After 8 years, my siblings were still at home, I guess. Or came, anyway to visit when I was there. After that, I would go to Germany every five years on my mother's birthday which was in August, of course. 24th of August was her birthday, so I would go over there. But because we had the children, we had the animals and the house, we couldn't just leave. We didn't know anyone who could take over for us whilst we were gone, so we had to go over individually. I would go over to see my mother; he would go over the next time to see his mother in England. So it was not often that we went to Europe together.

We had our boat and we spent every weekend that we could sailing together, sailing with the group on Otsego Lake, racing in our highlanders. Later then we got a tazar, and after that we got our catalina where we could sleep in the cabin. We didn't have to drive back to Delaware County every Saturday-Sunday. We could spend the weekends at the lake. The kids got a big tent and could sleep in the tent. It was wonderful, wonderful summers. [We'd] sail to the opera in our boat and trailed our dinghy and anchored outside in the water and paddle to the shore, trying to find our way. People thought that very romantic. Which it was. My girls, though, never really liked sailing as much. They were afraid. They had other things they wanted to do.

CC:
What do they do now?

EH:
My younger daughter is working as a director of catering sales in the Marriott Convention center in downtown Philadelphia. And my younger daughter works for social services in Otsego County.

CC:
Do you see them very often?

EH:
Well I'm going down for Thanksgiving to Allison's, to my younger daughter's house. Her German in-laws are coming. She married a German man, and his parents are coming for Thanksgiving. So we are all going to be together except my older daughter and her husband are staying up here. They're not coming down this year. But then we will all be together for Christmas at my house. My grandson is coming back from Afghanistan. He is done with his tour in Afghanistan and back to try helicopter flight training. I don't know where he is going to take that training. At Christmas time, he is coming back. He will go back to Fort Drum in upstate New York and then come and spend time with us here. So that will be a hectic time. It will be great, have everybody back.

CC:
Are you making any preparations for his homecoming?

EH:
For his homecoming? His father wants to help him buy a car. He will be staying with me for a few days, and then he will go down to his father in Maryland.He'll see his father for a little while. I'll take the yellow ribbon off. [laughter] That's my preparation. I have a yellow ribbon out there till he comes back. It'll be great to get together and hear all the stories.

CC:
How long has he been over in Afghanistan?

EH:
9 months. He's been 9 months. I have a story before he was deployed to see him up at Cape Drum. [I was] driving my car to Utica and then up Route 12 to Watertown--that is several hours, 2, 3 hours drive on Route 12--and I think while I drove a little faster than 55 at one point when I was clicked by a policeman. I immediately knew he'd objected to my speed. I drove and waited for him on the side of the road, and he wanted to know where I was going and did I know how fast I was going. I said, 'Actually, I don't, but I knew I was going faster than was permitted.' And he said where am I going? I said, 'Well I'm going to see my grandson who's being deployed to go to Afghanistan. And he said, 'Oh, then go. Go.' [laughter] So I got no ticket. I've told that to friends. They tease me now, 'Now be sure you tell the policeman your grandson is going to Afghanistan.' So thanks to Jacob, I didn't get a ticket.

CC:
What activities do you engage in now?

EH:
Say that again.

CC:
Sorry. What activities do you engage in now?

EH:
Actually, after my second husband died in 2002, I befriended a woman here in Oneonta. Actually, before. I was a member of the Continuing Cooperative Adult Learning program which is here in Oneonta. That's how come you and I are talking because of Taylor Hollis who's in the program. Now I am on the curriculum committee for CCAL, and Taylor is too. Taylor is a treasurer for the board. Because I'm on the curriculum committee, I'm also on the board of the CCAL. And what we're doing is every 6 months put a new calendar together into a program with all the facilitators giving little seminars. That's what the curriculum committee is. It's a very stressful and involved job.

I'm also a member of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). I hike with them. 2 years ago, I was president of ADK. A Friend from ADK put me in contact with the man, Gordon Roberts, who was searching for 15 years to try to find a place where the Plains community could to be started: the Plains at Parish Homestead. Because of my connection with the originator of this, Gordon Roberts, I was very early on able to select the place where I wanted to have this condominium-type house. I guess they call it townhouses or patio homes. I selected to have this kind of view and southern exposure.

Also because I'm a member of the Sailing Club in Cooperstown, the members are responsible for things to go right and get cleaned up and get put into shape. There is always something that needs to be done.

I am on the administrative board for the Catskills Symphony. Classical music is my relief, my forte, my pacifier. It's everything. So Chuck Schneider and his symphony are very dear to my heart. I have quite a few friends who are musicians. I'm also on the board of the First Night events. First Night is December 31st and 1st of January of the next year. And I help the person who is organizing it with some ideas and little things that need doing. What else am I doing? Well, anyway, it's so much that I can't attend all the lectures that are offered that I would like to attend because I just don't have enough time.

CC:
Is there anything else I have forgotten to ask you or anything else you wish to talk about?

EH:
I don't know. [laughter] I don't know. No, I think I've spilled all my beans.

CC:
Okay. Then I'd like to thank you for taking the time to talk with me and to tell me about your life. I really appreciate it.

EH:
You're very welcome. I thank you for taking the time and effort to do all this.

CC:
You're welcome.

EH:
So we can help each other.

Duration

30:00 - Part 1
30:00 - Part 2
21:22 - Part 3

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

Citation

Cassie Cavanaugh, “Erika Heinegg, November 17, 2012,” CGP Community Stories, accessed February 21, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/126.