CGP Community Stories

Eleanore MacDougall, November 15, 2012

Title

Eleanore MacDougall, November 15, 2012

Subject

Cooperstown, NY
Welfare Department
Foreign Service
Mozambique
Tanzania
Burma
Boston, MA
New York, NY
Washington, D.C.

Description

Eleanore Ellsworth MacDougall was born at Bassett Hospital in Cooperstown, New York in January, 1935. She was the oldest of three children in the Ellsworth family. Her 2 brothers are Bob, a physicist, and Paul, a chemist. Her grandfather, Ralph Ellsworth, founded Ellsworth & Sill, a clothing store in 1902. It is still in business today n Main St.

A native to Cooperstown, New York, she attended Cooperstown Central School from Kindergarten through High School. While at school, she took piano lessons from a local teacher, Mrs. Simon Acoutin. MacDougall became an accomplished young pianist, but went on to attend Radcliffe College for one year and Boston University for 3 years, ending with a BA degree.

While in Boston, MacDougall dropped out of college and pursued secretarial training at a small school. Her first job was with Shreve, Crump & Low – a prominent china and jewelry store in Boston, but moved to New York City and worked at Columbia University and took evening classes at the Julliard School of Music. Later she worked as a social worker with Welfare Department (working with approximately 50 families in East Harlem in the 1960s). While in New York, an old childhood friend looked her up and they soon were romantically involved.

Eleanore married Hugh MacDougall on December 26, 1970 at Christ’s Church in Cooperstown, New York. The reception was at the Tunnicliff Inn on Pioneer Street with a less-formal family reception at her family home at 8 Lake St. Soon after the wedding, MacDougall left the United States for Mozambique where her husband’s assignment with the Foreign Service. They served in Mozambique, Tanzania, Washington, and Burma throughout the next 15 years.

While living overseas, MacDougall continued to help others in need. Though her duties kept her busy with social engagements, MacDougall found time to engage with the community and work with local charities. After Hugh’s retirement, the MacDougalls returned to Cooperstown.
Once retired, MacDougall was able to focus on her first love, music. MacDougall’s involvement in the local music community included singing or playing the piano and organ for various churches and musical shows.

MacDougall most vividly recalled her feelings about her family and the community of Cooperstown. She spoke fondly of her father and mother, credited them as educated and intelligent. She also spoke about her 2 younger brothers: Bob and Paul, who both attended Yale; Bob became a physicist and Paul a chemist.

Creator

Meghan Evans

Publisher

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

Date

2012-11-15

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.5mB
audio/mpeg
16.1mB
audio/mpeg
27.5mB
audio/mpeg
15.5mB
image/jpeg
5.7mB
transcript/docx
75kB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

12-008

Coverage

1935-2012
Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Meghan Evans

Interviewee

Eleanore MacDougall

Location

8 Lake St
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2012

EM = Eleanore MacDougall
ME = Meghan E. Evans

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

ME:
This is the November 15, 2012 interview of Eleanore MacDougall by Meghan Evans for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork Course recorded at 8 Lake St, Cooperstown, NY 13326.

ME:
Hi Eleanore.

EM:
Hello, Meghan. [Laughter]

ME:
Let’s start with your childhood. Can you tell me about your childhood?

EM:
Well, I was born in 1935 at Bassett [Hospital] in Cooperstown. My mother had been a teacher at the Knox School. She taught French and she administered the various tests needed by the school. My father grew up in this area and very much loved the countryside and nature. He worked in a bank. But every year in November, he also took a hunting trip but he also took a trip to the north woods as a vacation. He was also a Cooperstown Village Trustee. I admired both my parents tremendously. I think they were both wonderful people.

ME:
Did you have any siblings?

EM:
Yes, I did. I have two brothers. I am the oldest. Bob is the second oldest. He was always a very thoughtful person and involved in various projects. If you see the doors down there, that used to be his photographic studio.

ME:
Oh wow!

EM:
He learned how to develop his own films. He also belonged to Boy Scouts. And my second brother, Paul, became very interested in chemistry; our third floor has a chemistry lab. He also was a Boy Scout and attended Christ Church.

Both my brothers went to Yale on a Cooper Family scholarship available here, in Cooperstown. My brothers both graduated from Yale the same year because my older brother Bob had a tour in the army. He was posted in Japan for 2 years, which was a fascinating experience for him. Both my brothers graduated from Yale the same year, and my parents and I attended the graduation, which was nice.

Let’s see. My brother Bob went to graduate school at the University of Rochester in physics and he has been a working physicist all of his life (teaching and research). He taught at George Mason University in Northern Virginia for many years. Bob has also in addition to classes, has traveled a great deal, attending meetings of physicists all over the world. At this point, all of us are over 65 years of age, but Bob is still a working physicist.

Hugh and I did not have any children, but Bob has had three sons. Two of them, Erin and Andrew, now live in Pittsburgh and they both have creative jobs and are married with young children. The third son traveled in Puerto Rico and then went to Venezuela and wrote articles for U.S. newspapers. He met a Venezuelan girl and married her. So we have a very charming Venezuelan girl in our family. For the past three years they were visiting Brazil, but they are right now back in Venezuela. For a while he wrote excellent newspaper columns for American newspapers. It has been quite an exciting career.

My youngest brother Paul studied chemistry and became a professional chemist in a photography company. He married and had one daughter Kate, who graduated from Wellesley College. She is now a major in the Air Force as is her husband, Adam. Right now, they are both posted in western Texas, and they have two young children, ages 5 and 2 children. I am proud of all of them.

I attended the Cooperstown Central School from Kindergarten through Grade 12. I was president of my eighth grade class.

I took piano lessons from a wonderful piano teacher. Mrs. Acoutin taught me piano for a number of years and became reasonably advanced. Music was always an important part of my life. In Cooperstown Central School, I accompanied choral groups. I’ve done a fair amount of accompanying in my life both in high school and later on with various groups and churches. Let’s see. For about six years I took organ lessons with Ray Paradise in Oneonta and became a rehearsal pianist and organist at the Baptist Church here in Cooperstown. I actually attend the Episcopal Church, so I returned there. Right now, I sometimes sing in the choir at Christ’s Church and attend most of their music events and am supportive of those. I hope to resume playing the organ in the not too distant future.

ME:
You mentioned being a Girl Scout.

EM:
Oh yes.

ME:
Can you tell me a little more about what that was like?

EM:
Yeah. Let’s see. This of course was after school. They would meet I think once a week. They had a list of badges you could work; there were five or six activities that you participate in in order to earn a badge. I worked on a number of badges. In the summertime, also there was a Girl Scout camp about 6 miles up the lake on the east side. I attended for one week during 2 or 3 summers. Scouting work and other things also involved hiking in the area. I became quite familiar with the wooded trails up on the top of the mountain to the east of Cooperstown.

ME:
Yes!

EM:
I have made various trips in my lifetime up there. Not recently. [Laughter] It’s a really steep climb up there. You have to be careful walking around. Its quite fascinating going to Natty Bumppo’s Cave.

My father, I mentioned, grew up here on a farm. He loved nature, the countryside and wile animals. We had a plot of land in Pierstown, which we used to call “The Farm” in quotes. It wasn’t a “working farm”; it was just a place we went to and had picnics.

ME:
Right.

EM:
It was really very nice, completely in the countryside…a beautiful place. My father, for a conservation project, had planted a number of trees on that particular plot of land, and now the land is a forest. [Laughter]

But, when we were little we went there, my parents, brothers and I, we would have picnics there when the trees were really little – about table height. They were growing. So that’s really fascinating.

After graduation from Cooperstown High School I attended Radcliffe College. I completed one year of Radcliffe, which is good, but I did not have a solid enough academic background to continue and also I needed to work. So I attended a small, secretarial school in Boston, near the Boston Public Library. I became a secretary. Sometimes I worked for secretarial agencies, as a substitute secretary. My first job, though, was at Shreve, Crump & Low, a store selling fine jewelry and china. I was a girl Friday there. Over the course of one week I’d go to several departments. They would dictate letters and then I would type them out and give it to them. It was quite fascinating working there. They were very nice people.

For a year I started out living with my grandmother. Then I moved to a YWCA on Berkley Street in Boston, which is a residence for young girls. We had individual rooms, but we shared meals together. I met a lot of people my age, which was nice. We went to various events in Boston. In fact, they had some lovely, wonderful concerts open to the public at that time. I have fond memories of those. I really enjoyed Boston.

ME:
Did you participate in any of the concerts or festivals as a musician?

EM:
Yes, thank you. I actually joined the MIT Choral Society. At one point we actually sang in Boston’s Symphony Hall.

ME:
Oh, wow!

EM:
[Laughter] Aaron Copland composed a choral piece that he later came to conduct at in a concert. So that was a very exciting experience.

ME:
[Unclear]

EM:
I moved to New York and I worked for a while at Teacher’s College in Columbia as a secretary during the day and music courses at Julliard School of Music in the evening. Then I took a short training course and became a caseworker for the Welfare Department that was located in East Harlem. Being a caseworker involved working at the office and visiting people in their homes once a year. I would walk around the neighborhood, and I was carrying a little black book, which was sort of a safety measure. I worked as a caseworker for 2 ½ years.

Then Hugh came along. His mother grew up in the same school class as my father. He [Hugh] actually grew up in New York and he looked me up. Then we decided to get married. This occurred before I completed the 3-year training period necessary to go on for Social Work Graduate work in the Welfare Department. So the timing was not too bad.

ME:
Ok.

EM:
It was very exciting marrying Hugh the day after Christmas, 1970. We were married here in Cooperstown at Christ’s Church. The reception was at the Tunnicliff Inn in Cooperstown.

ME:
How did Hugh propose?

EM:
Oh. Well, let’s see. Hugh’s parents had a sort of country home in Connecticut. So we would go there to sort of make sure the building was occupied during the summer. He very gallantly got down on his knees and proposed. [Laughter]

ME:
Awe.

EM:
[Laughter] Which is very nice!

ME:
Awe.

EM:
It was very sweet of him.

ME:
Did he ask your Dad ahead of time? Or…

EM:
Yes he did.

ME:
Tell me more about your wedding. Was it very traditional?

EM:
Yes, it was a very traditional wedding at Christ Church here in Cooperstown. I had a beautiful white dress. I walked up the aisle on my father’s arm. The ceremony just went along. Then I moved over to Hugh’s side and he kissed me. After being declared man and wife, we walked down the aisle. Then we all attended a reception at the Tunnicliff Inn. Later there was an informal gathering at home, but that was mostly for family

ME:
Did you go on a honeymoon?

EM:
Yes. Our honeymoon consisted of travel in northern Italy. We went to Florence and Italy, some of the museums, and Paris mostly and London. Then we flew over the African continent to Lourenço Marques, the capital of Mozambique.

ME:
Which was your favorite? Do you have one?

EM:
Well, I liked them all. [Laughter] I was really fascinated with Italy. I didn’t tell you, my father took up painting as a hobby and he really, really just loved it. When I was in Boston University I took a history of art course. It lasted two semesters (a year or so). I had learned a lot about a number of the world famous paintings that were in Florence, Italy. So one of the places we went was Florence, Italy so we could take look at all the paintings I had seen. Which was very nice. We were in Rome. (P.S. I took a trip to Europe on my own before I was married).

ME:
Oh, ok.

EM:
I just had a vacation from work [for] two weeks. I just went to Europe.

ME:
Where in Europe did you go then?

EM:
Again, I went to Florence. I looked at a lot of the paintings at that point. I showed Hugh some of them, but he hadn’t had the course. [Laughter] So he didn’t respond the way I did. We had a really lovely time.

ME:
Did you go by yourself the first time?

EM:
The first time I went on my own, which was rather [uncommon]. I didn’t know people well enough to invite them to come along with me. I just went on my own. It was a little lonely at times, but I managed. People were very nice. I stayed in rooming houses.

ME:
Can you explain what that is? I’m not familiar.

EM:
Well, here people would have a house and they would rent out individual rooms for a week or a few days or something like that.

ME:
Ok. Hmm.

EM:
So, I paid rent as I went along.

ME:
All right. Hmm.

EM:
I was living in private houses pretty much. Although there were also a few hostels for travelers and I stayed in some of those too. On that trip I went to Venice and Florence; I spent most of my time between those two places, and I did see a bit little of Rome.

ME:
Did you travel with your family at all [unclear]?

EM:
No, I was on my own completely.

ME:
Ok, I meant at any point in time…

EM:
Yes.

ME:
…as a child or a young adult.

EM:
As a child, my father was working all the time so my mother took us on trips to New York City. We actually stayed and used Hugh’s family apartment.

ME:
Oh.

EM:
They weren’t there at the time. So we saw a lot of the major museums in New York: the Metropolitan, the Museum of Modern Art, and others. There’s a bus from Cooperstown to Port Authority in New York, it’s a daily bus that still runs back and forth. So that’s how we traveled down there and I’ve made several trips to New York that way [laughter] through the Catskills. It’s a nice place. I grew up in a small town, so it was really exciting to see all the museums and the symphony. I went to one or two jazz evenings, but I didn’t really know anybody to go with so I didn’t do that too much.

I did live in Boston for quite a while. I ended up taking some modern dance class with dancers trained by Martha Graham.

ME:
Oh, really? Do you remember whom?

EM:
He was one of the male dancers in the Martha Graham Dance Troupe. He was teaching independently at the time. It sounded interesting, so I signed up and took classes. It was really quite exciting.

ME:
Did you dance in festivals or concerts then?

EM:
No, no, it was just a class.

ME:
Ok, just a class. [Laughter]

EM:
Just a class, yeah. I don’t think so. In fact, that man thought I was very graceful. [Laughter] In fact, as a child I used to dance around to music in the house here, you know. And I had studied music, so that’s probably what he noticed. [Laughter]

I became interested in yoga; they had classes there mostly through the YWCA, a young women’s Christian organization…

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

ME:
Yeah, uh-huh.

EM:
…in Boston and New York. I didn’t do as much there [in New York]. Let’s see. I had my own apartment. For a couple of years, I lived with about 4 or 5 really nice people near Columbia University. That’s when I was working there, at Columbia. Then I developed a boyfriend that was on the West Side of New York. Then he moved to the East Side. So I moved over there. I thought it was wise to have my own place. So I lived quite close to him. But it was a very small apartment on the third floor of a house. I had three rooms. The lady right across the hall had three rooms, too. And there was another person living further on down the hall. The buildings weren’t large. That was a nice experience.

ME:
Tell me more about this boyfriend that you moved for. Do you remember his name?

EM:
Gosh, I can’t even remember! It was a long, long time ago; it really was – 40-some years ago. He was an artist, sort of a bohemian kind of person.

ME:
Wow.

EM:
For a while, I was his girlfriend and then we sort of drifted apart. But he was nice. He had had a lot of really interesting experiences among various artists of all sorts in New York City. It was interesting. Occasionally, we would hold Sunday evening gatherings. I would produce refreshments and various people we knew would come.

ME:
Would you play music for them? Would you…

EM:
Well, I didn’t do that very much. He didn’t have a piano…

ME:
Ok.

EM:
[Laughter]…and that was my instrument. [Laughter] Although I did take a few guitar lessons, which was nice. But I didn’t become accomplished in the guitar. I could play a little bit.

ME:
Right.

EM:
So, that sort of ended. But I was on my own, in my own apartment on the Upper East Side. Then, I took a job in the Welfare Department. East Harlem was just a little bit North; so I could take a bus ride right to work. It wasn’t too bad.

ME:
Tell me more about being a social worker.

EM:
…a social worker in East Harlem?

ME:
Yeah.

EM:
Right. Ok.

ME:
Was it scary? Or was it wonderful?

EM:
[Laughter] I always thought it was very interesting. I found it very interesting to meet people from various [walks of life]. East Harlem at that point had a number of people from Puerto Rico who had moved there. So I learned some Spanish. We traveled around. It was a fairly poor area, East Harlem. There were some blacks there also, but most of the people were Puerto Rican. The Welfare Department provided a monthly check for people; it was just mailed to them. This was mailed by the Welfare Department for the entire city; it was just mailed out. But Welfare workers would go and get to know the various people. I think I had about 50 people on my caseload, or something like that. You were supposed to make a home visit at least once a year, maybe twice a year. I can’t remember at this point exactly how often it was. So I would make these home visits one day a year. But then most of my contact with them was because they needed more money or their check didn’t come or things like that. I spent quite a lot of time making sure that they were well served by the Welfare Department. It was interesting.

I was with about 4 other caseworkers in a “Unit” and we all sat in a row. [Laughter] The first floor of the Welfare building was for visits with the clients, the people who were receiving welfare. Then we’d go upstairs and we’d fill out lengthy forms for each little [request]. There was a row of people in my unit. Then our supervisor had his own desk. He would have to approve and sign whatever requests I made. So that was part of the effort too. Then we had various other offices for various needs – employment, housing, etc. [Sigh], I can’t remember exactly. But most of the time we were up there at our desks. So people could come into the Welfare office building on the first floor and request to see me, in which case I would go downstairs and talk to them and write out extra checks if they need[ed] them, that sort of thing, or requests for extra checks. The Department itself actually made the checks, but I did the paperwork providing all the detailed information about why the request was needed. But monthly checks just simply were mailed out. But if people’s situations changed, we had to change the paperwork governing the issuing of the checks. It was a bureaucracy.

ME:
[Laughter]

EM:
But I liked being there. I sort of missed leaving my [laughter] work as a caseworker when I married Hugh. Then we had this wonderful vacation in Europe. Then we went to Mozambique and we settled in. And lo and behold, I had servants in Mozambique. [Laughter] Which was a sort of strange experience for me. Some people may have had servants at home, but I didn’t have servants. They were, for the most part, really, really nice people and they had worked for Americans for quite a while. They informed me [laughter] about all the things that needed to be done, and I listened.

In Mozambique servants did a lot of the grocery shopping, but in Tanzania I went to the market and did some of the shopping. But they didn’t like that so I did less of it later on, during our tour there.

In East Africa, the country, it was colonized by the English. Well, there’s South Africa, which was independent when we were there, but previously both Germans and English had been colonial rulers. In Mozambique, the Portuguese were colonial rulers when we were there. In Tanzania and Burma, the English had been colonial rulers. In Mozambique and Tanzania there were English Clubs. That was where many [of] the international people, diplomatic corps wives, would go. There’d be meetings of various sorts, swimming and sports and a variety of things.

I made an effort to meet all the delegates from all the embassies. There were just a few embassies in Mozambique, which was still a Portuguese colony. But in Tanzania, there were about 20 countries represented, so that was really quite fascinating. They had an organization to hold meetings and have meetings so that people could get to know each other. They also did various charity work.

There was an organization that provided money for people who needed money and that sort of thing; these were for the local Tanzanians. So, it was an interesting way to get to know a number of local people.

ME:
Right.

EM:
I spent quite a bit of time with that. Now, of course in an embassy, there are 7 or 8 officers and there were 7 or 8 American wives there. So, they would have parties too, or gatherings for various events. If someone in one of the departments had an American visitor, they’d hold a party as we did too. When Hugh had American visitors for his section, I gave parties.

The most amazing one was in Tanzania, when there were American experts on earthquakes [that] came to visit and talk to local Tanzanian experts on earthquakes - who of course knew, because they had earthquakes now and then [laughter]. So, one of the most interesting parties I ever gave was my “earthquake party” for visiting Americans so they could meet their Tanzanian counterparts. Which was really quite successful.

ME:
Can you tell me what a typical day was like living in Mozambique or Tanzania?

EM:
Well, once again you have to get used to servants in the house [laughter]. I mean, when you come downstairs and breakfast would be served. [Laughter] I mean, you didn’t have to do anything.

ME:
Yeah.

EM:
Then, Hugh would go to work. He would travel to work in the embassy, which was in another building downtown. So, after breakfast, I’d go and talk with the servants and find out what they had in mind. I would let them know what social obligations we had incurred, whether or not we would be out at a party or whether or not we had to give one.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
Then we’d figure out the food and they would go shopping. Sometimes the servants themselves would go shopping, and sometimes I’d go shopping – it varied with the situation. Then, we had to provide food for our own meals. But they were very experienced; the cook especially was very experienced. His wife made our beds. We didn’t do a thing! [Laughter] I didn’t lift a finger! [Laughter] But they really did a very good job and we appreciate all the services they provided for us.

ME:
Sounds like all you did was have parties!

EM:
Well, that was about it.

ME:
All the time! [Laughter]

EM:
Well, no, no, no, no, no. There were also various organizations, the charity groups I went to. In Mozambique, the YWCA had various classes of various sorts. I also studied Portuguese, language classes. So we studied those. In both places there was a club, a recreation club. They had [a] swimming pool and tennis. A lot of the Americans spent a lot of time there. They were quite active tennis players. I should have been, but I wasn’t because I had contacts with the local people. I focused on those rather than playing tennis. [Laughter] I didn’t play tennis very much. But most of the other American wives did play.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
Occasionally, the Ambassador’s wife would have all the American wives over for a tea or coffee in the morning. And occasionally we would make local trips.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
I just can’t remember…it was a long time ago. [Laughter]

ME:
Well, tell me more about your engagement with the community. Did you play music with them? Or…

EM:
Well, we did…

[Doorbell rang. The interview paused here to receive Meals on Wheels drop-off.]

[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]

ME:
This is part 2 of an interview of Eleanore MacDougall on November 15, 2012 and we were talking about Mozambique.

EM:
Yes, ok. Oh, dear. Mozambique was governed by the Portuguese, by people from Portugal. It was an overseas colony for them. At various times we met a number of really interesting [people], some of them were very important and some were just workers. It was very, very pleasant to meet most of them. I really enjoyed their company. That’s about it. [Laughter]

ME:
Are there any traditions from Mozambique that you…

EM:
Oh, I see. Oh, yes. They had a very active arts center. That’s because there were several talented African painters. Things sort of developed and there’d be various gatherings to open up his shows and things like that. Oh, dear. [Laughter] Probably, if I put my mind to it, I’d recall a lot more than I can right now. [Laughter]

ME:
That’s fine.

EM: Yes.

ME:
Don’t worry about it.

EM:
It was some time ago, about 20 years ago, 30 years ago.

ME:
So you moved from Mozambique to Tanzania then?

EM:
No.

ME:
Ok.

EM:
No, we came back to the United States for about 6 or 8 months. Hugh was studying Swahili, which is the language spoken in Tanzania. I was given permission to take the class also. So we both studied Swahili.

About a third of the way through the class, Mozambique’s situation became quite dramatic. The people who were there hadn’t been there very long. So Hugh was called back to help out.

ME:
Oh.

EM:
What was happening was that Portugal was giving up its role as colonial master. So there was just a lot going on as the Mozambicans developed their own government. Hugh went back, [sigh] I don’t think I was there then. But he did go back, which was probably very helpful because he had had a full tour there before so he knew all the ropes about who to inform about what and that sort of thing, you know. So he was probably very helpful.

Also, when he was in Mozambique he would occasionally take trips upcountry to the interior [of Africa]. Mozambique was a very long, narrow country sort of like Chile on the west coast of South America. In the northern part, there was a river with a strong current and the Portuguese developed an electricity-producing station there. So, Hugh took several trips up there at various times. He was up there.

ME:
Were you back in the States then by yourself?

EM:
Yes. Then he returned and continued with the Swahili class. It also included cultural classes. They’d tell us about the tribes and tribal life. Tanzania was run by Africans. It was not run by European colonialists, it was run by Africans. That was a change for us.

ME:
Right.

EM:
We were studying Swahili and learning about Tanzania, which was interesting. Tanzania is a really beautiful country with a government by the people, really very nice. As I mentioned before, there were about 20 countries diplomatically represented in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It was also a very interesting country in which to travel because the world’s major game parks were in the northern part of the country, towards the border of Tanzania and Kenya. So we made a trip to see elephants, chimpanzees, and all the animals in real life. Lions are fairly ferocious animals. [Laughter]

Oh, gosh. At one point, we visited a Tanzanian national game park and stayed in one of the cabins set up for visitors. The wild African lions and other animals were outside at night! It was quite exciting. There was a tribe of Africans, the Masai, who lived close to the game park. Our driver knew the roads. Hugh and I were both sitting in the back, so we’d drive along, and see various African people just going about the business of their life. I remember observing several young African men hunting, another spot, we saw a pride of lions.

ME:
Right.

EM:
They didn’t have tigers. [Laughter] We were just visitors.

ME:
Right.

EM:
Well, Hugh did [volunteer at the game parks]. Hugh, I think made a couple trips with some of the people who were wardens at the national game parks. We were there and realized they needed monetary support, but that was about as far as we could help out.

ME:
Right.

EM:
They ran the game parks.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
Some people in Tanzania grew up in the countryside and knew the animals in the wild.

ME:
So tell me about where you lived in Tanzania. Did you have…kind of an apartment? Or a house? Or…[incoherent]

EM:
Hugh was the number 3 in the embassy, so we were placed in a lovely two-story house in Dar es Salaam. We slept upstairs and used the downstairs for our meals and also social gatherings. Occasionally, people from the Tanzanian government actually came to visit. When Americans came to visit, we gave fairly large dinner parties in the evening. Once some American experts on earthquakes came to dinner and we invited Tanzania’s government experts on their earthquakes, which was successful.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
One party I remember, there were people actually in the various offices in the Tanzanian government involved with policies for caring for the animals. So they came and they met Americans who were in similar positions. That was a really an exciting party. I mean they really connected. Which was very nice.

ME:
Did you engage with the Tanzanian community on your own? Or…

EM:
Well, I did more than other people did.

ME:
Ok.

EM:
There was an international women’s group who met monthly and developed charity programs for an orphanage. Occasionally we would visit the orphanage and also meet the Tanzanians involved in its management. Actually, I was very lucky, one of the Tanzanian ladies directing the program and I became quite friendly.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
So I really had a Tanzanian friend…

ME:
Wow.

EM:
…which was really very nice.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
I was really quite pleased with that, really wonderful. I even visited her in her home a few times.

ME:
You mentioned that part of the work you were doing was with orphanages. Did it bring about any regrets about not having children? Or…

EM:
That’s a very good question. I was really focused on the needs of the Tanzanians.

So it was probably very sad that I didn’t have children. That’s true. Right now, I’m sorry I didn’t. [Laughter] There seemed to be an awful lot to do, you know. I was sort of [in] a position of responsibility. We were number 3 in the embassy and so on. I think if I’d been here in the United States, I think we would have had children.

ME:
Right.

EM:
Yeah. But I really felt I had duties, obligations. But that’s too bad.

But, because I got to know the Tanzanian lady, the Americans and the diplomatic corps [had a friendly relationship with the community]. We even had a series of meetings with Tanzanian ladies where the international community brought Christmas presents for Tanzanian mothers who didn’t have very many toys for their children.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
So we had a party like that. That was interesting for them and helpful for them and a very positive meeting. The Tanzanian lady had visited the United States earlier in her life and she enjoyed that. So we became very friendly. I visited her in her home.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
She came to our house. We had a sort of “Help the Children” kind of party and the international community, including the Americans, brought gifts for children. We had a children’s party. [Laughter] That was really very interesting.

The period I was there was very, very productive. It was mostly because I was friendly with the Tanzanian lady who organized an outreach program to contact wives and members of the large diplomatic corps.

ME:
Wow.

EM:
It was the International Year of the Child, worldwide. Then, when we were in Burma, we got used to an Asian society…

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
…as opposed to an African society, that took a fair amount of doing. [Laughter] It was a very beautiful country, absolutely beautiful country. We lived very close to a place called the Shwedagon, which was a large, open air Buddhist temple known throughout the country. We have some pictures from Burma, so you can see all sorts of [things]. Burma was a very religious country; they had lots of pagodas. The Shwedagon was a very large outdoor temple; it was used by the entire country as sort of the center for Buddhism. It was open and they had shrines and so on and you could walk around and see things. In fact, if you want to go, we have a picture of the Shwedagon,

ME:
Sure.

EM:
…a painting of it. It was really very nice. I seemed to be more actively concerned with the charity work in Tanzania than I was in Burma. I helped out but I wasn’t involved in organizing it the way I was in Tanzania. The Americans had various meetings [and] gatherings, the American ladies, and then there was sort of an international group of international diplomatic ladies who met in Burma. They visited to the various Burmese orphanages. We would make donations to them, you know. Contact with the Burmese wasn’t quite as close as it was in Tanzania. That was the sort of thing I did. [Laughter]

I was the one American who could do this, in a position to do it. Although in Burma, I think other Americans got involved in more charity work.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
But most of the other Americans spent most of their time at the club, which included [a] swimming pool and tennis courts. So that’s how they spent their days.

ME:
Right.

EM:
I didn’t do that nearly as much, I made an effort to go out and just meet the locals. [Laughter] ‘Cause I thought that was more important, at any rate.

ME:
Can you tell me about where you lived in Burma?

EM:
Yes.

ME:
Did you have a house there as well?

EM:
In Mozambique and in Tanzania and in Burma we lived in government housing. In Burma, practically everybody was in government housing. The government had bought up a sort of community of small houses. We weren’t in that community; we were sort of downtown. I would call it a mansion [laughter]; it was a beautiful house. In Burma, the Americans lived near each other, they were neighbors, [and] they all went to the club. Fortunately in Burma, the Americans also had their own Burmese friends and contacts, which was really very nice. I liked that. I didn’t know many of them; they knew them. They had a lot of local contacts, which was very good.

And also in Burma, at least once a week we’d go shopping in the big, local market. They didn’t have grocery stores, just open markets – like Farmers Markets here.

ME:
Ok.

EM:
Have you been to the open-air market in Cooperstown?

ME:
Yup! Uh-huh.

EM:
Well, that was the sort of kind of market that we would go to everyday to buy our food. They didn’t have any grocery stores. Sometimes our household help would go down there and sometimes I would. I’d go usually once a week, at least. There were many, many stalls with all sorts of interesting gifts. So it was really quite a fascinating experience to go there and look and see what was there.

ME:
What did you think of the local cuisine?

EM:
Oh, well we…

ME:
Were you experimental?

EM:
Yes, yes, we were reasonably experimental.

ME:
Good.

EM:
I mean, don’t forget we lived in a house with servants and they produced a meal for us every night.

ME:
Right.

EM:
…an American meal.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
But we would ask them to make local dishes; I asked them to make local dishes and they did. I even served them for gatherings. We also went to restaurants. They had a few restaurants in Burma.

ME:
Did you travel outside of Burma while you were there?

EM:
Yes, we did. That’s a good question. In order to get to Burma, the airplanes from the United States and Europe fly into Bangkok.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
Bangkok is a very, very posh, modern city with lots of traffic, but all sorts of possibilities. There are also interesting Thai museums to go to and Thai houses and Buddhist temples to visit and that sort of thing. So we usually do a certain amount of tourism while we were there. But also they had very comfortable hotels with modern cuisine, although local Thai food was also available and was tasty. Now, Hugh made a lot more trips than I did, I mean, because he attended meetings of various sorts. The people in Southeast Asia got together quite a bit…[laughter]

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
…often in Bangkok. So Hugh would travel to Bangkok for meetings a lot more frequently than I did. But I made several trips to Bangkok. Then, Hugh figured, quite accurately, that we were just across the border from China. So we took a vacation and visited China.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
We saved ourselves all the airfare back and forth across the Pacific. [Laughter] In China, we were very lucky. We went to Beijing, I’m not thinking at all, and a couple other cities further south. We saw a fair amount of China. I remember quite vividly sort of standing in a market and a Chinese man was sort of looking at us as if he wanted to learn more about Americans.

ME:
Oh.

EM:
What’s very interesting is that this year, 2012, the Chinese people held a meeting and chose the top 10 officers for the entire country.

ME:
Hmm.

EM:
They are determined to be the most modern, [producing] the most material things for everybody in the world.

ME:
Wow.

EM:
And they probably will be in the next 10 years. [Laughter] You know, I mean, they are really eager to improve their standard of living. But I remember standing, I think it was at a market or something, this man just sort of looked at me as if he said, “Well he wanted to be American!”

ME:
Oh. [Laughter]

EM:
It was really, really funny, really amazing. They’ve progressed amazingly. They are very, very hardworking and capable people.

[START OF TRACK 4, 0:00]

EM:
Burma was very close to China; and there was a big Chinese influence among the Burmese. So one of the people who worked for Hugh had children who were finishing high school and going on to college. So, we met them and that was insight into the very ambitious academic programs the Burmese have. That’s very, very encouraging.

ME:
Did you take any classes in Burma? Or…

EM:
Yes, I studied the language.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
I can’t remember. [Laughter] It was a long time ago.

ME:
Yeah.

EM:
It was approximately 30 years ago.

ME:
Uh-huh. What about the music? Is there any Burmese music that you remember?

EM:
Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Burma has its own music, which is lovely.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
It’s really lovely. I enjoyed listening to it tremendously. I think we have some records or tapes of it.

ME:
Ok. Good, good. Was it hard? Did you find it difficult moving from place to place so much with the Foreign Service?

EM:
Well, no. First of all, when you’re assigned you just know that you have a lot of work to do. [Laughter] I mean, you’re moving. It’s simply a matter of moving.

ME:
Right.

EM:
I mean, you have to buy more clothes for the particular climate involved.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
Make sure you have enough pots and pans with you.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
Although, I think in Burma I think they had a collection of pots and pans [laughter] for [us].

ME:
Ok.

EM:
We didn’t have to bring too many in Burma. And I think we traveled. We had bought some sort of official American diplomatic plates…

ME:
Ok.

EM:
…American Embassy plates. So we traveled with those so when we entertained, there were the plates.

ME:
Right.

EM:
We didn’t have to a [laughter]…

ME:
…try and take those…

EM:
…to try…[laughter] get local people to make them or anything. No, no. So we traveled with them. We were sort of in traveling mode when we moved from Mozambique to Tanzania. I mean, we had almost everything involved. But then, after Tanzania, Hugh had a post in Washington. He did quite a bit of traveling on his own. So, we had a period in Washington. But then when we went back to Burma, it was a fair amount of doing to reassemble all the…[laughter] all the dishes we needed and so on. Although, sometimes they just stayed in the houses, I mean, enough service for 20 or whatever stayed in the houses. We didn’t have to carry them back and forth. And I’m trying to remember. Burma had some dishes in the house, but we also brought our own additional dishes too [laughter]. And also, the dress code for Burma was a little different than for African countries. I had to buy more clothes for Burma. But it was all very exciting. I feel very honored that I had the opportunity to travel there…

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
…and meet so many interesting Americans and American officials coming through and also meet many interesting local people. I really appreciated it. I enjoyed it.

ME:
So where did you move after Burma?

EM:
We returned to Washington. After Burma? Well, we bought a house. Hugh had one more posting in Washington. About a year after we got back to Washington, my mother, who was living in this house, right here, became ill. So, I came up to see her. I traveled back and forth between Washington and Cooperstown.

ME:
Mmm.

EM:
After Hugh finished his last post down there [we moved to Cooperstown]. Well, I was back and forth too. Hugh decided it would be wise to buy another house, and we bought a house on Elm Street. So we moved in there. So I could come down and visit her everyday, you know and make sure everything was all right. I was sort of supervising everything. There were local nurses who could come and work with her during the day, you know, and also at night. There’s a lot of at home help, at home care available.

ME:
Did your brothers come and help?

EM:
Yes, they did. But at that particular time in their lives, their children were still at home and they had full-time jobs.

ME:
Yeah.

EM:
You know, whereas I wasn’t really working. So I was selected [laughter] to come up here. But my brothers both made an effort to visit here and they’d come and bring their children on the vacations that they had.

ME:
Can you tell me about the day your Mom passed away?

EM:
It was right here in this room, she was still at home.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
That was very sad. She had not been terribly well, and there were some people working downstairs here with her and I was upstairs. And they said, “You need to come down because she’s not well, she’s going to die.”

ME:
Yeah.

EM:
They could tell, I couldn’t tell, but they could tell.

ME:
They could.

EM:
So I just sat there and held her hand and we chatted a bit. I just sat there and held her hand. I feel very fortunate that I was nearby and could do that. [Note: in Burma, some older Burmese women advised me to hold the hand of a relative who is dying. I remembered this and the feeling of closeness and comfort was beneficial.]

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
It was very helpful.

ME:
Yeah. At this point in time, were you officially retired when she passed?

EM:
I think I was [laughter].

ME:
Ok [laughter].

EM:
I wasn’t working. [Previously] then I sort of developed a few piano pupils in Burma. When we came back here, I started teaching piano. This was after my mother died…

ME:
Right, uh-huh.

EM:
…and after that. From Burma, I came back here and took care of my mother because she needed the care; she needed the help.

ME:
So tell me about teaching the piano.

EM:
Oh.

ME:
Sorry.

EM:
Well, let’s see. I started maybe 4 or 5 pupils all told, 5 or 6 pupils on the piano. Some of them were in high school. My best piano pupil was a very musical person, wonderfully musical. I bought music for them. Most of the time we were going through method books and also learning extra pieces. Now, I’d not had too much training in the teaching of music. I mean, I’d had a number of piano lessons myself…

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
I mean, I knew the sort of thing that happened. So that was an interesting transition. But I would have benefited, I think by more training in the teaching of music. But all my pupils graduated from high school and went on to college [laughter]. And I said, well [laughter]…and I’d been teaching them for 4, 5, or 6 years.

ME:
Wow.

EM:
I didn’t do it that long. Yeah, yeah. But when I was in Burma, also, I started teaching piano when I was in Burma, actually. They had a conservatory in Burma, believe it or not. The woman there said, “Well, you must have some piano pupils.” So, I developed piano pupils when I was living in Burma. Living here in this town, I mean, I would have benefited by more training in the teaching of piano, actually.

ME:
How so?

EM:
Well, there’s just a lot of techniques that can be used that really I wasn’t terribly aware of. But I did teach 4 or 5 people the beginning piano. Then they went on to college [laughter]. I think a couple of them may have continued on [with piano].

ME:
Ok. What’s your favorite song to play?

EM:
Oh, well, I haven’t even been playing in a long, long time. That’s just dreadful.

ME:
Oh.

EM:
So, I’m going to start and practice every day. Well, I like Bach. I like Chopin; I love Chopin Nocturnes; I really love [that]. Let’s see, Schubert, I like Schubert. I’ve played a number of his pieces. And these are the composers I tend to select when I’m playing for churches. After awhile, the Baptist Church didn’t have an organist, so I worked for them for about 5 or 6 years.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
So I learned their music, they have their own music. I learned a lot about their music and developed pieces I can play for preludes and postludes and so on. One of my brothers lives in Washington, and they had some good music stores in Washington so I would stock up.

[During this last remark, Eleanore’s husband, Hugh MacDougall, can be heard coming down the stairs and engaging in conversation with Eleanore. He came to check on the progress of the interview.]

ME:
Is there anything that you think we’ve missed?

EM:
Well, let’s see. Living in my family house, I can say that more and more I respect [my mother and father] them as people. My father enjoyed art, he also read a great deal. He was also very helpful. He was on the local board of trustees, the Cooperstown Board of Trustees. He just had a very full and interesting life, as did my mother. I mean, she did a lot of reading and research and taught reading and French, herself. It was a stimulating family to grow up in, I think, especially my brothers. Both of my brothers are very bright people. My brother, Bob, right now is doing research in Mexico, which is interesting, in physics.

ME:
Uh-huh.

EM:
I think it’s in physics, in science anyway. And he teaches at George Mason University there. He’s doing well. My brother, Paul was a chemist for a couple of companies. He was a good chemist. He retired from chemistry. He’s retired on Cape Code. So that’s where my brothers are. And we’re here sort of holding the fort so they can come and visit. [Laughter]. And I really appreciate my parents. They were both really good parents, very interesting people. So I feel very luck to have had them as parents. [Laughter] So that’s it!

ME:
That’s it!

EM:
Ok.

ME:
Well wonderful! Thank you so much…

EM:
Oh, thank you. Well, thank you!

ME:
…for letting me interview you. This was great.

Duration

30:00 - Part 1
17:33 - Part 2
30:00 - Part 3
16:52 - Part 4

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps
128 kbps
128 kbps
128 kbps

Files

Citation

Meghan Evans, “Eleanore MacDougall, November 15, 2012,” CGP Community Stories, accessed September 19, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/127.