Millie Jennings, November 13, 2008

Title

Millie Jennings, November 13, 2008

Subject

Baptist church
marriage
children
pregnancy
family
World War II
switchboard
Bassett Hospital
Ambassador to the Hospital
Childcare
Shortstop Restaurant
Cooperstown, NY

Description

Mildred "Millie" Jennings has lived in the area around Cooperstownm, New Your all of her life. She was born January 29, 1931. She married her husband in 1950, and had three children. They have lived in the same house since their marriage, purchasing it just before the house was demolished, and renovating it themselves over time. She is an active member of the Baptist church.

During her life, Millie has worked in a range of careers, with the most prominent being the Chief Switchboard Operator at Bassett Hospital during the 1970s and 1980s. Bassett Hospital is one of the largest employers in the Cooperstown area, and at the time of Millie's employment already employed over one thousand doctors. She was elected Ambassador to the Hospital in 1992, elected by her peers. Millie also owned and operated a nursery school in her home during the years 1962 to 1969.

Millie's memories range from childhood to raising her own family and working at the same time. Some of the most interesting parts of her interview concern her memories of her own family, and times in which she lived. Millie talked about games she played as a little girl, and jobs she had. She recalled Cooperstown in the time before it became an overwhelming "baseball town" in the summer. Speaking of her own children, Millie gave insight into how pregnancy and childbirth was treated in the 1960's and 1970's. Millie also spoke about her own marriage in 1950.

Throughout the interview, I refer to Mildred as Millie, which she prefers. I have made some changes to the transcript where Millie has requested. But throughout my editing of the transcript, I have decided to leave in certain points where Millie named dates wrong, because that is part of her character. I also chose to mark points of laughter to help bring Millie's personality on through.

Creator

Cynthia Walker

Publisher

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

Date

2008-11-13

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Cynthia Walker

Interviewee

Millie Jennings

Location

Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2008

MJ = Mildred “Millie” Jennings
CW = Cynthia G. Walker

[Start of Track 1, 0:00]

CW:
This is Cynthia Walker interviewing Millie Jennings on November 13, 2008 at Millie’s home in Cooperstown, New York. Hello, Millie, how are you?
MJ:
I’m doing fine.
CW:
Good. Let’s start off – why don’t you tell me about your parents?
MJ:
My parents…Well, my mother was a cook. And my dad worked for the Village of Middlefield as a road worker; later in life he worked for the Clark Estate, took care of their dogs. My mother was a great cook from around this area, she did a lot of cooking in a lot of the restaurants here. My parents were mother and father of thirteen.
CW:
That is a lot! [Laughter] What were their names?
MJ:
Nellie, her maiden name was Page; and my father’s name was Orlando.
CW:
And when were they born? [Laughter] If you can remember?

MJ:
If you give me a second I’d be glad to get that information for you. [Looking through a genealogy book] My father was born June 28, 1891. And he passed away on November 9, 1967. My mother was born July 29, 1900; and she passed away on January 25, 1973.
CW:
Now, what is this book that you’re looking in? Did you make that?
MJ:
Actually, my mother died – it says 1973 here – but it was 1974 when she passed away. This book here is a book of birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, a lot of genealogy in this book that my husband put together.
CW:
That’s a lot of work.
MJ:
Yes, he worked very hard on this. Yes, he did.
CW:
Now, did your parents live in Cooperstown all of their lives as well?
MJ:
No. We lived for a time in Middlefield, New York. In the Village of Middlefield, New York. But my father was born, I think, in Springfield Center. And my mother, I think, was born on Murphy Hill, but I’m not quite sure on that.
CW:
What was their heritage, or background? Your heritage, actually. It also applies to you. [Millie asks for clarification] The countries that they came from.
MJ:
They were born here in the United States. Their parents…some on my mother’s side came from England, I think. They came over on the Mayflower. My father? I don’t know. [Laughter]
CW:
So when were you born?
MJ:
I was born January 29, 1931.
CW:
1931.
MJ:
Mmm-hmm. And I was born in the house over in Bowerstown, the house right next to the bridge. On this side of the bridge. [shows with her hands]
CW:
Oh, I know where that is. Yup. 1931 was only a few years after the Depression started. Did you ever experience anything from that?
MJ:
No. I wouldn’t know. [Laughter]
CW:
And who named you?
MJ:
My mother and father.

CW:
Do you know where they got the name from?
MJ:
My mother…I believe my mother had an aunt, her name was Mildred. And my middle name is named after my grandmother, my mother’s mother.
CW:
What is that name?
MJ:
Lucy.
CW:
Lucy. I like that. Now, you said you had brothers and sisters.
MJ:
I do! [Laughter] There was thirteen of us in the family. I was the middle child, there was six older and six younger than I.
CW:
Oh wow, right in the middle.
MJ:
Right in the middle. [Start of Track 2, 5:00] I had four brothers, and eight sisters.
CW:
What was that like, growing up?



MJ:
Well, I never knew my…I never knew my brother, my oldest brother ever being at home. And I don’t ever remember my oldest sister living at home either. And there was a brother, there was another brother that I don’t remember being at home either.
CW:
Oh wow. Did you ever all get together?
MJ:
We have family reunions. I have pictures of family reunions.
CW:
So did you ever have to share a room when you were younger?
MJ:
Oh yeah. There probably was three of us in a bed a one time.
CW:
Oh wow, yeah. [Laughter] Were you close with any of them?
MJ:
Oh yes. Yeah, I’m particularly close to one of my sisters now, Betty. We’re great friends.
CW:
Good. Me too, with my sister. Do they all still live around here?
MJ:
No, my oldest brother passed away, and then I had…let me see. [Flipping through genealogy book] There’s four gone, I think. My brother Fred lived in Virginia. And he has passed, he passed away in 1972, I believe. [Flipping through genealogy book] And my brother. My brother Chet, he died in 1994. And my brother…my sister, Gladys, she passed away in 1999. (CW: That’s pretty recent.) And my brother Fred, he died in 1971. And my sister Wilma, she passed away in…let me see if I can find it. [Flipping through genealogy book] I’m not at all organized.
CW:
That’s quite alright. Neither am I. [Laughter]
MJ:
She passed away, three years ago it was? She had cancer.
CW:
Did any of your brothers take part in World War II?
MJ:
My brother Chester was in World War II. He served over in…he was overseas someplace, and he got a medal that I never knew that he’d gotten until after he passed away. He was a staff sergeant. My brother Frederick was in the service, and my brother Herman was in the service, and he served over in Italy. And my brother David, he was in the service, too, but that wasn’t World War II. When was it? [Shrugging]
CW:
Do you remember anything at home, during World War II?
MJ:
No.
CW:
You must have been kind of young. Tell me about the home that you lived in, when you were a child.

MJ:
One of the homes I lived in when I was a child…The one that I remember, was the one in Middlefield. And I probably [Start of Track 3, 10:00] was in the range of six to ten, maybe? That we lived in that house over there. And I remember that I went to a one room school house.
CW:
Really? (MJ: Yup.) How was school?
MJ:
Well, it was okay. There wasn’t too many children, you know, in that area. But we filled the school.
CW:
So you said your mother was a cook. Did she always cook at your house?
MJ:
Yes.
CW:
Do you remember your favorite meal?
MJ:
Back then, anything we got to eat was “favorite”. [Laughter]
CW:
Do you have any favorite memories of your home, or your family and parents? Anything that sticks out to you?


MJ:
Well, there was so many of us kids around. I think Christmas was always the happiest time. And back then, we were lucky if we got an orange and a pair of stockings, and a pen and a pad to write on. We were very lucky.
CW:
Did you decorate your house, a tree, and everything?
MJ:
Yes. We had a tree, and we made our own decorations out of paper, and made the strings, you know.
CW:
When you were younger, did you ever get into any trouble with your parents?
MJ:
Oh no. I was a model child. [Laughter] No, I never remember my mother or father, either one of them, hitting us children. I’m sure they probably did, or wanted to, but…
CW:
Now, did your extended family live nearby? Your aunts and uncles, did they live around?
MJ:
Yes. My grandmother…right now, or back?
CW:
When you were little.
MJ:
My grandparents lived probably a mile from where we lived. They had a little farm. And my aunt lived not too far from us.
CW:
Do you remember any family illnesses or crises that ever happened?
MJ:
We all had the childhood diseases, but I don’t remember any great illnesses during our childhood. It was more when my parents were older.
CW:
What were your friends like at school?
MJ:
My friends. Oh, we got along good. We played, played at some of their homes after school. It was a very, very tiny village, so we seemed to get along really well. Of course, everybody has their ups and downs. I remember if somebody wouldn’t let us play ball with them or kick the can…[shrug]
CW:
What kind of games would you play?
MJ:
What’d we play? We’d get a tin can, put it in the center, and somebody would kick it and see how far it would go, and then we’d run and hide, or do whatever. And we played ball, and jump rope.
CW:
Was there anything else to do in town?
MJ:
No. (CW: Nothing?) Well, they did have a roller skating rink there.

CW:
Did you do that?
MJ:
Yeah, and they used to have dances, too. And we used to go to the dances. Put on a big show. [Laughter]
CW:
What kind of clothes did you wear to school? [Start of Track 4, 15:00] Or anytime when you were younger?
MJ:
About the typical. Dresses. We didn’t know what a pair of slacks was ‘til we got older. [Laughter]
CW:
Did you ever think what you wanted to be when you grew up?
MJ:
Well, not really. No. I was just lucky to grow up! [Laughter]
CW:
Did you ever have a summer job? Were you allowed to?
MJ:
We used to pick beans. We used to go out, as a child, we used to go out and dig up dandelion greens, and go around house to house and sell them. You’d be surprised how many people like dandelion greens when they were first coming up, before the flower came on it. Also blackberries, we used to pick blackberries and strawberries.

CW:
Where?
MJ:
Just go out in the fields, cow pastures, or any place.
CW:
Did you like any sports when you were younger?
MJ:
I can’t remember that I…I wasn’t a sporting enthusiast. Only after school when I’d go outdoors and play.
CW:
I was thinking about the activities you might do in Cooperstown. Do you remember the first movie you ever saw?
MJ:
No, I don’t. I don’t remember that first movie. We didn’t go to the movies until we moved to Cooperstown, and we didn’t move to Cooperstown until I was eleven years old. And then we had to earn the ten cents to go to the movies, or you didn’t go. Not when you come from a big family.
CW:
How did you earn the ten cents? By allowance, or what we were talking about before?
MJ:
You’d have to do something around the house. Babysit, there always seemed to be a baby around. [Laughter]

CW:
Do you remember any of the movies that you’ve been to?
MJ:
Not really. I’m not really much of a movie person.
CW:
Was the theater the one down here? [pointing in direction of Let’s Go Theater on Main Street]
MJ:
The theater downtown, yes.
CW:
What kind of music did you enjoy?
MJ:
Oh, I used to love country music, back then and I still do today. Gene Autry was my favorite. “You Are My Sunshine” was the biggie. [Laughter] “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was another one.
CW:
Did your family have a TV all during when you were growing up?
MJ:
Are you kidding? No. We never had a TV ‘til after I got married. Let me see, our first television was somewhere around 1954. But my mother-in-law and father-in-law had a TV, and we used to go down, on Saturday night, and go to their house and watch Lawrence Welk. But that was after we got married.

CW:
When did you learn to drive?
MJ:
It was after I was married. And it was after, let me see, it was after…it almost seems to me it was around ’56. 1956, I think it was after my second child was born. (CW: Really? Wow.) Yes. Well, I had started before. I think it was after we were married. We were going up a hill and it was stick shift, using the clutch, and we were going up a hill and I was driving and it stalled, and I said, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” And I put the brake on and got out, and my husband took over. [Laughter] And I didn’t drive again until later.
[Start of Track 5, 20:00]
CW:
So your husband taught you.
MJ:
Yes.
CW:
Did you have to take a driver’s test?
MJ:
Yes.
CW:
Did your family have a car?
MJ:
Yes.

CW:
What kind of car did they have, do you remember?
MJ:
Chevy, I think. I don’t know.
CW:
How did you all fit at one time?
MJ:
Of course we weren’t all at home at the same time. But we hardly ever went any place.
CW:
Going back to your husband, how did you meet your husband?
MJ:
Well, he worked at a local store downtown, McEwan Hardware. And he had just gotten out of the service, I think it was. And so he started working at McEwan’s. And I worked at the little Shortstop Restaurant down on Main Street. And he used to come in for soup, or ice cream, or something in the afternoon. I knew him at that time. But then one night, on Saturday night, there was a bunch of us going to go to a dance. And I think I was about eighteen, around my eighteenth birthday, anyway. And a bunch of us went to Cherry Valley to the dance, and he was one of the fellows that went to the dance. (CW: That’s nice.) Yep. And he didn’t dance.
CW:
Oh, he didn’t?
MJ:
Nope. I used to love to dance.
CW:
So when did, after that, when did you decide to get married?
MJ:
Well that was in 1940…I was eighteen. [Pause to work on calculator] 1949. And I turned eighteen then.
CW:
And that’s when you decided?
MJ:
No. We went together for about a year and a half. And I think it was, we got married in August of 1950. And I was nineteen and a half when we got married. So it was in the spring of 1950 when we decided we’d get married.
CW:
Now, you both decided? Or did he just ask you?
MJ:
Well, as he’s always said, he had to marry me so he could get some sleep. [Laughter]
CW:
How did your parents react?
MJ:
Oh, they liked him. Nice guy.
CW:
What did you say your maiden name was?
MJ:
My maiden name is Bridger.
CW:
Alright. Did you ever think about – there’s a lot of discussion in today’s society about keeping your maiden name or changing your name – did you ever think about that?
MJ:
No. Not back then. Back then you took the man’s name. Whether you wanted to or not.
CW:
Tell me about your wedding.
MJ:
It was very simple. We got married in the Westville Baptist Parsonage, with a Baptist minister. His name was Mr. Miller, Reverend Miller. And there was just the couple, our best friends that stood up with us, with all of our brothers and sisters, [Start of Track 6, 25:00] and my mother and father, and his mother and father. And we had a very small reception with just family and a few friends, at my aunt and uncle’s home over on Route 166. Not too far from the Baptist Parsonage, over there in Westville.
CW:
So were you both Baptist? Did you grow up Baptist?
MJ:
I grew up Baptist. And he was Universalist, I think. I’m not sure, but I think he was Universalist.
CW:
So, after you got married, what were the struggles of starting out on your own?


MJ:
The first thing we decided to do was to buy a house, and this is the house. But it was about ready to be torn down. (CW: Oh! Okay.) Windows were out of it. So we did not move into this place…we got married in August 1950, and we moved in here Christmas Eve of that year. My husband fixed up two rooms; the living room and the dining room area, but we used that dining room area as a kitchen and our bedroom. (CW: Oh, wow.) And he also had, he had made the bathroom. And we moved in here, and we lived like that for a few years. Well, not for a few years, I don’t know how long we lived like that. And then he fixed the kitchen area. We used to go to the back room, do my dishes in a sink with a dish pan. Oh yeah, we were backwards. [Laughter] It was livable, and we did alright.
CW:
How did you choose this house, even when it was being knocked down?
MJ:
Well, we were looking for a place. And we had gone out in the country and looked for a place, and we just didn’t find anything. I don’t know, the price was right, I guess.
CW:
Where did you live in between August and December?
MJ:
With his parents. Outside of town. He worked, and I worked, and we were only there at nighttime, so…
CW:
That’s true. You were both at the same – he was still at the hardware store?
MJ:
He was still at the hardware store, and I worked as a waitress. I worked at the Shortstop restaurant for quite a while.
CW:
Did you like waitressing?
MJ:
I did. That was one of my first jobs, as a waitress. I used to work at the Knox School, when the Knox School was here, where the Otesaga is today. I worked there when I was fifteen, until...well, I worked there a couple years. But I also worked part time at the Shortstop. And then after I got married, I worked full time at the Shortstop.
CW:
So when your husband was re-doing the house, did you have any say in what you wanted? Or, did you agree with him?
MJ:
Oh, I agreed with everything he wanted to do.
CW:
Is this remodeled from what he originally did?
MJ:
Right.
CW:
It is remodeled? Okay.
MJ:
Yes, he put the addition onto the house. Our bedroom upstairs, he put that on.
CW:
Talking about the church, what is the service like on Sundays?
MJ:
They’re very good. We have the best pastor. [Start of Track 7, 30:00] He really is good.
CW:
Has he been there for a long time?
MJ:
Fifteen – he’s going on his sixteenth year here.
CW:
Wow, that is a long time.
MJ:
It is. Usually our pastors last about six to seven years, and then they move on. But he’s staying with us.
CW:
Good. That’s good. Do you have any Christmas traditions you do with your family?
MJ:
Our tradition here is that our kids come home. But now it’s getting so that we’re a little too old to…but they are still coming home for Christmas. We’ve always had a tree, and decorated, and as my one grandchild says, “Grandma, it’s tradition that we come to your house.”
CW:
Describe Christmas when your children were younger.

MJ:
My daughter, she was always sick on Christmas. With ear infections. Always. I’ll tell you, it was clockwork. They always had enough, you know. We went to church, and they got dressed up, usually in their newest clothes they had. And then we would go from our house here, to my parents’ home, and then we would go from my parents’ home to his parents’ home. And that’s how Christmas was every year.
CW:
Tell me about your children.
MJ:
My children? Gary’s our oldest, and he is fifty-seven. And he has an insurance company just outside of Cooperstown, here. And he’s doing very well, and he’s married. They have a daughter, Jessica; and they have a son, Christopher, who is our great-grandson. And she is a schoolteacher in North Carolina; Lexington, North Carolina. And so is her husband, Mark. He’s a music teacher. But Jessica is a third grade teacher. And they teach in a school that is migrant – a lot of it is migrant workers. She says sometimes you get teaching them and the next day they’re gone. That’s the hardest part. But they’re both very dedicated. (CW: That’s good.) Christopher is now in first grade. And my son Chip, or our son Chip, his name is really Charles. And they live right next door. He’s married, they live right next door here. And they have two children; Adam, who is twenty-five, and he’s in Missouri working, and Kerri, she went to college down in Bronxsville. She graduated from college in May, and she has not been able to get the job in her sports management that she wants, but she’s a nanny. She worked as a nanny for four years of college down there, and now she’s got another nanny job, and she says, “it’s money”. And then our daughter, Susan, she lives in Catskill. She works in Albany. Now Chip worked for the [Start of Track 8, 35:00] State of New York, and he had a bad accident in October, so he’s been laid up for a while.
CW:
Is he getting better?
MJ:
He’s getting better. He’s been hurting, but he’s doing okay. But Susan has got two daughters; Bernadette is twenty-seven, twenty-eight? And Colleen is twenty-five. And her husband works for the 911 call center down in Kingston. And Susan works for Albany Envelope out in Albany. And they’re all doing very well.
CW:
Good. How did you choose your children’s names?
MJ:
Well, Gary, his name is Gary Steven, and back when he was born there was a fellow on television, it was a newsman, and his name was Gary Steven, and I just liked it. Because my husband did not want him named after him. You know, like Gerald. So, “Gary” was the closest. Because everyone back then called him “Jerry”, my husband. And Chip was named after two grandfathers: Charles and Orlando. And so that’s why we call him Chip, “chip off the old block”. [Laughter] And Susan Marie, I really don’t know. I just liked the name, and so we decided on Susan Marie.
CW:
Were they all born in Cooperstown?

MJ:
In Cooperstown, yes.
CW:
At the hospital up there?
MJ:
Yes they were.
CW:
Do you remember anything about that?
MJ:
Well, I went into the hospital for Gary, it was on a Saturday, and they kept me, because my water had broken, and they said, “Anytime, anytime”. Well, he wasn’t born until Sunday, Sunday afternoon. And then when he was born, this woman came in to have her child, and they pushed me out of the delivery room so they could deliver this woman’s child. [Laughter] Yeah, I remember that. But Chip, I don’t know, he wasn’t very…and Susan too, I didn’t have any – of course between Susan and Chip, I contracted rheumatic fever. So when I got pregnant with Susan, in fifty-eight it would have been, the doctor says to me, “you know, you never should have gotten pregnant”, because of my heart. And I said, “well, nobody ever told me that!” [Laughter] So anyway, she’s healthy, she’s fine. (CW: Good.) But her birth was simple. And I had to stay the full seven days in the hospital because I had to have a penicillin shot every day. Because of the heart, rheumatic fever.
CW:
Now, what does rheumatic fever do?
MJ:
It affects the heart. Rheumatic fever comes from strep throat. So anybody that gets strep throat better take care of it.
CW:
Should watch for that, yes. Was your husband with you in the hospital?
MJ:
When they were born?
CW:
Yes.
MJ:
He was there, but at that time they didn’t allow husbands in.
CW:
That’s what I was wondering.
MJ:
They didn’t allow them in there. Nope.
[Start of Track 9, 40:00]
CW:
So, when all of your children were young, did you still work?
MJ:
Well, I worked for a while, and then I was taken sick, and then I used to have a babysitter for the two boys. And then after Susan was born, I didn’t go out and work. Let’s see. I started up a daycare center. (CW: Oh really?) And I took care of a lot of kids. [Laughter] Some days I used to have twelve kids at a time. They wouldn’t allow that today. Not unless you had help, and I never had any help. But I took care of a lot of kids from around town, now that I see have grown up and they have their own families, you know, that are grown up.
CW:
Was it right here? [pointing to Millie’s house]
MJ:
Right here, yes.
CW:
When did you start that?
MJ:
It was probably in 1962, I think it was.
CW:
How long did you have that?
MJ:
I had that from ‘62 until I think it was ‘69. And then this one family had lost their mother. Actually he was my husband’s boss, his wife passed away, and he had a family. The oldest girl was in college, and the other kids were going to school, except the one, they had a baby at home. She was about one and a half, I think. And they offered me the job. And I said, well, if you can give me the money I make a week babysitting, I’ll consider it. Well, I had to take a long walk, and think about it and pray about it. So I quit my day job here, and went to work for them. Kept their house clean for them, and started dinner for them at night. I only worked there for a year, and then he remarried. And after that, I went to work at the hospital, on the switchboard.
CW:
That actually brings me to my next question. What was that like? I know I’ve seen in movies everyone plugging in all these things…
MJ:
Well, when I started to work at the hospital on the switchboard, they had just changed over from the plug-ins to actual push-button. You know, back to the real life. And I worked there part time. I went over to watch and to train, and the second night I come home and I called up the boss and I said, I can’t do this. I said, I just cannot do this. And she says, oh yes you can. She says, you be back here tomorrow morning. And I said, well, alright, I’ll try one more time. And after that, I was there for twenty-three years. But I worked there part-time because I had two children still in school.
CW:
Right. Now, how did you find out about that job?
MJ:
About that job? Well, Barbara Skinner, who worked at the hospital and she worked on the switchboard during the noon hours, and I saw her one day. Actually, I took care of her children when I was babysitting. And she says, Millie, they’re looking for a switchboard operator, why don’t you go and apply for the job? And I said, oh, I couldn’t do that! She says, yes you can, if I can do it, anybody can do it. I said, well, okay. So I went over and I applied for the job, and that’s how I heard about it.
CW:
What was the typical day like?

MJ:
Busy. Back then, it was busy. ‘Cause they only had one switchboard operator on at a time. And at that time, you answered [Start of Track 10, 45:00] everybody’s phone. I mean, calls come in there and then you put them to where they go. And same way with any calls going out of the hospital. You had to place those calls for those people. And their pages, if somebody wanted somebody paged, you had to do the paging for them.
CW:
Wow. It must have been confusing, to begin with, anyway.
MJ:
It was, it was. Plus that, we used to send the ambulance out.
CW:
Really? That’s a lot of stuff going through one area.
MJ:
Yes. But I was there seven years part-time. It was around seven years. And then I became Chief Switchboard Operator in 1982 or 1983, in that area, until I retired in 1993. The day I turned sixty-two was the day I retired. And in that time, I was also chosen as the Ambassador of the Hospital in 1992.
CW:
Was that the article that I was looking at the last time I was here?
MJ:
Yes it was.
CW:
Tell a little about that, for people who don’t know.

MJ:
The Ambassador to the Hospital is somebody that, you’re picked for a month, and, actually it’s just somebody puts your name in, and says why you should be the one to have the ambassador. And I guess the reason they picked me was because I took care of business. [Laughter]
CW:
That’s always good.
MJ:
I always tried to be very friendly and never got upset with anybody, and tried to keep my cool.
CW:
I’m sure you would have to, to be a switchboard operator.
MJ:
Oh, absolutely.
CW:
What were the hours that you worked at the switchboard?
MJ:
When I was part-time, I worked, some days I would work midnight to eight, and then there was a shift of four to twelve, then there was another shift eight to four. So I would work, taking their days off, or if they were on vacation or something like that. I would fill in that time.
CW:
How old were your children when you were doing that?
MJ:
When I was doing that? Well, let me see, Susie must have been, well, she must have been ten, she was in her early teens, eleven maybe. Eleven, up until she graduated, I stayed part-time.
CW:
Did you ever want to stay at home, or did you like working?
MJ:
Well, I liked working, but we needed the money. But also, you have to be home when your children are home. That’s a biggie.
CW:
Where was your husband working at the time?
MJ:
He worked for McEwan Hardware until 1960…there was a year that he went, that was when Gary was small, he went to work in Schenectady, and GE for probably less than a year. And that got to be bad, so the store that he had worked at, McEwan Hardware, wanted him back. And so he came back, and he said the only reason he’d come back is if they’d put him in the shop. Where he could work, not in the store. And that’s what they did. And so he worked there until [Start of Track 11, 50:00] 1968 or ‘69. Then he and another fellow went into business for themselves. Doing anything, really; carpentry, installing furnaces, they did all that stuff. Anything. Electrician, anything. And then after that he went to work for New York State Historic Preservation.
CW:
Oh, really?
MJ:
Yes. He was a supervisor there until he retired in 1984, I think it was. When he turned sixty-two.
CW:
Was that the retiring age then?
MJ:
Well, he would have stayed longer, but it was too stressful. It got to be too stressful. I think it was around eighty-four or eighty-five that he retired.
CW:
Where did he learn to do all this?
MJ:
By himself. He worked with some fellows at McEwan’s that helped him, showed him. We never had a repair man, or anybody, come in this house until they had a recall on our dishwasher. And we had to have the Sears Company come in to change the door that they had recalled. And the man could not believe that nobody had come in. He installs everything.
CW:
That’s very talented.
MJ:
Yes, we used to call him Mr. Fix-It. [Laughter]
CW:
Do you have any memories of your children when they were little?
MJ:
Oh, there were a lot of things going on. Learning their first ride on a bicycle. We were always together, you know? We were always together. Did things together. They had friends, our back yard was always filled with kids. They used to have a lot of baseball games out in the back yard, a lot of football games out in the back yard. Back then, we had a lot of kids up and down the street, and if the neighbors wanted to know where their kid was, all they had to do was come to our back yard, they were in the back yard.
CW:
Did you all ever go on any family trips anywhere?
MJ:
Yes, we used to go, when our kids were little. When Gary was little, I think he was probably six months old or so, we went to Watertown. And Thousand Islands. Every year, our vacation time was the last week in August. Last week in August over through Labor Day. And then as our family grew, we took a trip to Frontier Town, and from there we went to the Bronx Zoo. Yeah, we traveled a little bit. Not much, because we didn’t have much money, but we always seemed to save for that special week.
CW:
Have you two done any traveling since you were able to retire?
MJ:
Oh yes. We have taken bus trips to…well, we went on a bus trip to Florida, that was very nice. To Tennessee. [Start of Track 12, 55:00] And we’ve gone out to Daytona. Not Daytona, Dayton, Ohio. We went out there, and we traveled to Michigan, we went to Michigan. We’ve done quite a bit of traveling.
CW:
These were all on buses?
MJ:
No.
CW:
Did you fly sometimes?
MJ:
No, we drove.
CW:
Drove? Wow. Have you ever taken a plane anywhere?
MJ:
I’ve never been on an airplane.
CW:
Do you ever think you want to?
MJ:
Well, if the occasion arose, I would. But I’ve never had the reason to go on an airplane, so.
CW:
Where did you go in Florida?
MJ:
On the bus trip we went to, where did we go? That had to have been back in eighteen…[Laughter] 1981. ‘81, ‘82. I can’t remember now.

CW:
Did you go to the coast at all, or was it more inland?
MJ:
We went to Disney World. That I do remember.
CW:
Did you like that?
MJ:
Yes, but I don’t like the crowds. I mean, standing in line, that was the worst part. Standing in line.
CW:
Yes, definitely. Let’s see. Well, a little something to do with Florida, I guess: do you remember the moon landing? The first moon landing with Neil Armstrong?
MJ:
I remember it, yes.
CW:
You watched it on the TV?
MJ:
On the television.
CW:
Did that, well, sometimes it affects people and some just watched it. Did it affect you?
MJ:
I just watched it just to watch it. To see him do it.

CW:
When was it? During the daytime or at night?
MJ:
You’re asking me? I don’t even remember. I remember it happening but I can’t remember if it was the daytime or nighttime.
CW:
Let’s see. You’ve lived here your whole life. I know it gets really crowded in the summer. I haven’t been here in the summer, but I’m sure it gets very crowded. Has it changed over the time you’ve lived here?
MJ:
Oh, my goodness, yes. Yes, yes. The stores downtown? We used to have maybe four or five grocery stores down on Main Street, and clothing stores, and we’ve got one clothing store now. There’s no grocery store. Well, I guess Danny’s, and CVS is really getting into it. But there was nothing like it is today. Now everything you see is baseball now. And I could care less. I’m not a baseball fan. I used to be a baseball fan, until it got overwhelming here. And I’ve been to the Baseball Hall of Fame once in my life, and I think that’s the day that I took my grandmother down there in a wheelchair.
CW:
When was that?
MJ:
My grandmother lived to be one hundred and two. Gosh, I don’t remember when it was.
CW:
What is it like at its busiest in the summer?
MJ:
The busiest? Well, number one, you can’t find a place to park down on Main Street, period. When you go down the street, to walk on the sidewalk, it’s unreal. They’d just soon push you off the street than to look at you. [Start Track 13, 01:00:00] But I stand my ground. Either they’re going to hit me, or they’re going to go around me ‘cause I’m not getting off the sidewalk for nobody. And I haven’t been hit yet, or I haven’t been knocked down, so. But it’s very busy.
CW:
Does the church get more busy?
MJ:
The church itself, we get some visitors, but not an awful lot. Not an awful lot of them. They use our parking lot. We have funds that come from that to help us pay for our fuel oil in the wintertime. Other than that, it’s just very, very busy. Don’t even try to drive down through there.
CW:
Speaking of the church, you seem very involved in the church.
MJ:
I am very involved.
CW:
Why don’t you talk about that.
MJ:
I have been the Chairman of the Trustees; at this day and point I am the Secretary for the Deacon; I am Vice President in the Women’s Guild; I sing in the choir. I look after the church when the minister is away. Just go down and pick the money up out of the mailbox and check their home, while they’re gone. Outside of that, usually if they ask me to do something, I’ll do it without too much of a fuss. I like my church, I like the church people. I’m very, very fond of the pastor and his wife. He’s just like another kid to me.
CW:
What does the Women’s Guild do?
MJ:
The Women’s Guild do? We have a meeting every…actually, we’re having a meeting this coming Saturday. They do a lot of things with the missionaries. We do missionary work, we have a luncheon or a dinner, covered dish. Basically we try to be helpful where it’s needed. We have a soup and chili luncheon every February, and that’s one of our fundraisers. We have a rummage sale in the spring. We used to have two of them, spring and fall, but us people are getting too old to handle two a year. [Laughter] Because all the younger ones are working, and you know, they don’t have the time, they have other things to do with their children and they’re more involved with family, which is rightfully so.
CW:
Let’s see, there was something I was going to ask you about that…Oh, what was that, you said Secretary of…
MJ:
The Secretary of the Deacon. The Deacons of the church are actually the ones that run, that have the say of the things that go on in the church. And so we have a meeting once a month, and they have to have somebody to take the minutes, so here I was. [Laughter] But I think it’s a three year office, and then you’re off of it, but I went in to take somebody’s that left, at the time,[Start of Track 14, 01:05:00] and I was still able to be voted back in for a third year time. So that’s what I’ve done.
CW:
Do you do anything else in the community? Or that’s good enough. [Laughter]
MJ:
Yes. Before I used to, when I retired I was a patient representative at the hospital for a couple of years, and I gave that up. And I belong to the VFW Auxiliary, and I’m not as active now as I used to be. But I try to help them financially as I can.
CW:
Good. You mentioned the hospital just now and it made me think. Is it, how does that big, huge hospital differ from when you were working there? Was it different at all?
MJ:
Yes. They built that new, the big, where the patients are? They built that in…well it opened in 1970, and that’s the year that I went to work there. In the new part of the hospital. And since then they’ve added the clinic building over there. So that’s…they were building that new clinic building when I was still working there. And now they’ve got all these outreach clinics. They’ve got I don’t know how many. Back when I was still working, they did have, maybe at the most four, and I’ll bet they’ve got twenty now. In outreach.
CW:
When you were working there, how did you keep all, did you just get used to it and keep everything straight, all the departments?
MJ:
Oh yes.
CW:
You just got used to it?
MJ:
Oh yes. I used to, back in the early part, I used to be able to recognize voices. Kids’ voices that used to call their parents. Can I speak to my mommy? And I, well, who’s your mommy? So I’d get around to finding out who, you know if they gave me a first name. Back then, see, there was only…there was less than one thousand employees there. Now there’s what, over two thousand, twenty-five hundred? I used to know all the doctors, you know, and got to know them quite friendly. But today, some of the older doctors that are there now still recognize me when I go. (CW: Oh, really?) Yes. Which is nice. They know that I’m still around.
CW:
Have you visited? Did you say you saw the – do you still call it a switchboard room?
MJ:
They call it a call center now. When I left over there…I think it was two years before I retired, we finally got a second operator. Finally. And today, they’ve got about thirty-five call center people that answer the phones over there. But they do a lot more today than I did. But I did a lot, back then, for one person. I was invited over, they asked me to come over and have a tour of the new call center. Which I did go, and they gave me a tour. And they had somebody there to take my picture. And they had Lisa Miller from the Oneonta Star, who was there, and she’s getting an article ready to put into the Bassett Works. So that was interesting, because [Start of Track 15, 01:10:00] they wanted to know what I thought about when I was doing it and today. And I said, I wouldn’t be able to do it today because I don’t like computers. And that’s all they got is computers. The mouse, and the screen. Although, we had a computer when I was working at the hospital later. I mean, probably during the middle ‘90’s, they got one.
CW:
So it sounds like, to me anyway, that you enjoyed all of the jobs that you had. Was there anything you didn’t?
MJ:
I loved the kids, when I was babysitting them. I really loved them. I got quite attached to some of the kids. And then I had a couple that the minute the mother come to pick them up, the first thing one would do is run into the bathroom and do whatever mischief he could do in there, which I didn’t find out until he’d gone home that night. But anyway, after that, he was ready to go out the door the minute the mother came in the door. But it was fun. The families, most of them worked for the hospital at the time. I even had a doctor’s child here. He was here as a resident, and after he got through work at night he used to come and sit down on the couch and wait for his wife to come to pick him up and pick the kid up. Yeah, most of them were nurses.
CW:
So was it anytime of day that they needed to leave somebody?
MJ:
I usually had them anywhere from six-thirty in the morning, and I think the latest was five-thirty. And then I had some kids that were just maybe the parents wanted a couple hours off to do something, they’d drop the kid off, or kids. And I only got a dollar a day. And if there was two children I got a dollar and a half.
CW:
Was there ever anything you didn’t like about your jobs?
MJ:
I don’t think so. The stress at the hospital job was…in the later part of the years it kind of got to me. But I loved it, I really did.
CW:
Sounds like it. Well, I guess, just the last question, do you have anything else that you want to share that I haven’t asked you about? I’m sure I’m missing something.
MJ:
I don’t know. I can’t think of anything. I think you’ve done very well. I can’t think. I’d be glad to show you a picture of my family.
CW:
Okay, that would be good! [Millie is looking for her pictures]
[Start of Track 16, 01:15:00]
MJ:
[Looking at picture] These are my nieces. This is my son Gary, son Chip, and my daughter Susan. This is our family reunion that we have.
CW:
Do you have these every year?


MJ:
We have a family reunion every year, and it’s always the same time. It’s the third Saturday in July. This is my oldest brother, he will be eighty-nine this month. There is my sister Hilda, who lives up in Fulton, and she is eighty-two. This is my sister and my best friend, she’s eighty, or no, she just turned eighty-one. And there’s me. There’s my sister Cora, who’s another good friend of mine. She’s in Texas right now. And this is my brother David, and this is my sister Wanda. David is retired, Wanda has just moved to Virginia with her daughter. She had a stroke and she’s not [shaking her head], this is another sister, Evie, and she’s had two strokes. She’s doing well, she has a hard time expressing herself sometimes, getting words out, you know. Things that she wants to say, and it makes her mad. And this is my sister Wilma who passed away, I think it was three or four years ago. And this is my baby sister Lois. This is from the oldest to the youngest.
CW:
Look at that.
MJ:
Now this is back when. This is my mom and dad. This was back in 1950 I think. No, it was later than that. That was my oldest brother, Chet. There’s David, and that’s my brother Herman who’s going to be eighty-nine. And my brother Frederick who’s passed, and my sister Gladys who passed away, and that’s my sister Hilda, and Betty, and myself. My sister Cora, Wanda, Evie, Wilma, and Lois. January of ‘59.
CW:
1959, wow.

MJ:
[Looking at another picture] And these are my nieces. This is my favorite niece. [Laughter] These two here. These are my favorite nieces. And this one here called me up one day, and she says, Aunt Millie? This is your favorite niece. And I said, you don’t sound like Phyllis to me. [Laughter] Nice bunch of kids. I got more than those though.
CW:
I’m sure.
MJ:
Oh my. I couldn’t even begin to tell you. [Putting pictures away] I’ll show you my husband’s family. This is when…this was back in 1944. This is his sister, Alice. This is his mom and his dad. This guy, Douglas, he didn’t want to be in the picture, so Gerald cut a picture of him. These three fellows have all passed away, and Dougie has passed away. And his dad passed away in ‘59, and his mother passed away in ‘74.
CW:
So you both come from big families, then.
MJ:
Yes, yes. [Start of Track 17, 01:20:00] Interesting! [Putting pictures away]
CW:
So, I’m done. Thank you for sharing everything. I want to thank you for participating in this, and giving me all of your time.
MJ:
Well, I’m glad I was able to do it. Happy to do it, although I don’t have a great memory.

CW:
No, that was quite alright. Thank you very much.
MJ:
I hope it was very helpful to you, and I hope it helps you in your studies.
CW:
It definitely was. Thank you.

Files

Citation

Cynthia Walker, “Millie Jennings, November 13, 2008,” CGP Community Stories, accessed May 21, 2022, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/16.