CGP Community Stories

Anne Evans, November 17, 2013

Title

Anne Evans, November 17, 2013

Subject

Anne Evans
Oneonta (N.Y.)
New York
Southampton
England
Wales
Horses
Horse riding
Geography
North Llandudno
World War II
Farnham
Surrey
Slates
School
Rounders
Baseball
Soccer
Field Hockey
Ponies
Private School
Dating
Pick up
Motorcycle
Double summer time
Alton
Dance
Aldershot
Married
Marriage
Divorce
Nursing
Hospital
Shelter
Anderson Shelters
Air raid shelters
Flashlight
Batteries
sirens
Blitz
Subway system
Doodlebugs
Doodle bugs
Germans
V-1
V-2
Death
Torpedo Alley
Submarine
Atom Bomb
Hydrogen bomb
bikini
Radioactive fallout
London Times
Messages
Newspapers
Utopia
Kibbutz
Communal existence
America
Little black book
House calls
Culture shock
heat wave
New York
Staten Island
Coney Island
Hot Dogs
Ship
Queen Elizabeth
Cunard
SS France
Postage Stamps
Cabin Class
Steamer Trunks
Stamp Collection
Nannies
Whinge
Horse Racing
Gambling
Riding School
Merrylegs
Bay
Newspaper Advertisements
Teaching Hospital
Career
Teaching
Consignment Shop
Déjà vu
Deja Vu
Sexism
Bank
loans
Business Loan
Cooperstown
Auction House
Christie's
Phillip's
Sotheby's
Retired
Retirement
Volunteer Work
Certified
Certificate
Philanthropy
Dinner Party
Mary Janes
Julie Andrews

Description

Anne Evans was an active member of the Cooperstown community before her recent move to the Plains at Parish Homestead in Oneonta, New York. She was born in England in 1931 and immigrated to the United States with her husband and three children in June 1966. Evans talks of her childhood experiences. What it was like for her living in England during World War II, her love of horseback riding, her typical school day, what it was like to lose a family member to the war, adapting to air raids and bomb shelters, and her experiences dating. She also details her experience sailing to the United States and her struggle to adjust to America after her disastrous first day in New York. Evans talks about almost joining a commune, her work life as an entrepreneurial business owner of Déjà vu, her encounter with sexist bank policies, and ends with a delightful story regarding famous actress Julie Andrews.
I interviewed Anne Evans in a private room at her home in the Plains in Oneonta, New York. She was very excited to participate in the oral history project. I chose to take the opportunity to ask Evans about her life, emphasizing her immigration to the United States and her career.
Mrs. Evans carries a distinctively British accent, evident in some of the Briticisms and turns of phrase used throughout her oral history. I have done my best to keep them intact, only having to remove some grammatical redundancies. It is impossible to accurately reproduce the energy of her tales and because of that, researchers are encouraged to consult the audio recordings.

Creator

Stephenie Walker

Publisher

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

Date

2013-11-17

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28.5 MB
audio/mpeg
28.5 MB
audio/mpeg
28.1
image/jpeg
40 MB
3872 x 2592 pixels
text/docx
55 KB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Sound
Sound
Image

Identifier

13-02

Coverage

Upstate New York
1931-2013
Oneonta, New York

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Stephenie Walker

Interviewee

Anne Evans

Location

Plains at Parish Homestead
163 Heritage Circle
Oneonta, NY 13820

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2013

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]
AE: Anne Evans
SW: Stephenie Walker

SW:
This is Stephenie Walker interviewing Anne Evans at her home in the Plains in Oneonta, New York, on Sunday November 17, 2013 for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s oral history project which is part of the Research and Fieldwork course. Now, Mrs. Evans, I thought we would start with a brief overview of your childhood.
AE:
Oh. When I was born? Where I was born? That kind of information? Okay. I was born in Southampton, which is in the county of Hampshire in England in 1931. I think I lived there with my mother and father. Maybe not my father. He was a merchant seaman, so he was away a great deal of the time. But certainly with my mother and her family. And I remember being moved to live in London with my father and mother and my brother, who was born thirteen months after me. His name is Peter, and we moved to Southgate which is in north London. That’s where I spent time before I went to school at the age of five, which is the required time that you go to school in England. Not a private school. It was a public school. I was there until 1939, when the war was starting. Then we went to Wales, north Wales, a place called North Llandudno.
SW:
Which war? World War II?
AE:
Yes! World War II, that is. We left London and went to live in Wales, as I said. I went to school there. Of course they only spoke welsh, which I had no clue what they were saying. It was before the war, things in the country—unless you were in a town—things were pretty basic and we had slates to do our work on with a slate pencil. Do you know what slate is?
SW:
It’s like chalkboard.
AE:
Yeah. When you want to erase it you just rub it out. That’s where our lessons were recorded. I didn’t gain very much because I didn’t understand a word of what was being said. Then from there I went down to live with my grandmother in Farnham which is in Surrey. That’s in southern England. By train, about an hour and a half from London in what they call the Home Counties. She lived in a lovely house. She had moved there because the war came. She didn’t want to stay in London where she was living. I went down there. Then I went in to an English school which had been evacuated from London to a school in that area. A very well-known school. So, my education was caught up if you like. If it’s ever caught up. I’m not sure.
SW:
What was that like, traveling, going from school to school because of the war?
AE:
Well actually, it wasn’t bad. I didn’t find it disturbing at all. People were very friendly. Everybody was on the move, it wasn’t just me. Everybody was in a transition, so I wasn’t amongst people who thought that’s strange that I had come from another school in that short time. No, everybody was doing that. The whole country was on the move.
SW:
You said that it was simple in this school; what you had. Was that the same with living conditions as well?
AE:
Simple?
SW:
When you talked about the slates.
AE:
Oh. No. When I went to the new school in Farnham which is where we were in southern England it was very ordinary. Very sophisticated, if you like, in comparison. There were books and pencils and everything you would require. It was a very fine school. Not primitive in any way. By today’s standards, it would be exactly what you would find today as far as the basic requirements.
SW:
Could you describe a typical school day.
AE:
Typical school day… Most children in those days walked to school in England. There were no buses. Totally unheard of. Not even thought of. We walked to school. It depended on how far you had to walk. I didn’t have to walk that far. When you got into school you went into the cloak room where you hung up your clothes—your outdoor clothes—changed your shoes into indoor shoes, and everybody had a shoe bag on their peg under their coats. You could put your outdoor shoes in there. If they were muddy you put them underneath, but usually you put them in there. Then you went to your classroom just to have attendance. Then everybody went down to school prayers because in England school and prayers are not divided like they are here. If you did not want to hear prayers or your parents did not want you to hear the school prayers, which were Episcopalian, then you could wait outside or you could stay there and not join in with the hymns or whatever it was. It was no pressure. After that, you go to various classes depending on what it was. They were split up by bells. You hear the bell ring—I imagine it was the same here, I don’t know—and then you go to your next class. At 11 o’clock or 11:30 would be break time and everybody was given—you went to pick it up—there was a third of a pint of milk. Everybody had that regardless of family’s income. It was in a bottle. You drank it. Put the bottle back. Went out to play. The end of that, the bell would go. You’d come in for more lessons until lunch time. There were no school lunches, you had to go home. You had to walk home and have lunch and come back. In the afternoon it was mostly games. Now, I played hockey. The boys played soccer. In the summer it was tennis and rounders which is similar to your baseball. In fact baseball came from rounders. Then you go home. You might have a lot of homework, you might have none. There wasn’t a tremendous amount of homework as I remember it. As you got older of course the pressure was there, but I’m talking about being maybe ten years of age. So, that would be a simple day.
SW:
And when you say hockey, is that the hockey I’m thinking of?
AE:
Field hockey.
SW:
Okay.
AE:
Yes, I was a school captain. Later. At that time I was just an ordinary player. Very fast.
SW:
What were your obligations as the captain?
AE:
Well you had to keep the team together. There was none of this Rah, Rah, Rah that you get here. None of this… We were interested. Parents were interested but not what you see here at all. None of this craziness about “I have to be on the school team.” My job was to make sure everybody had the right equipment, that they wore it properly, and that you observed the rules of the game, and worked with the referee. It was all that you had to do.
SW:
Was there anything else that you did for fun?
AE:
I was very interested with horses all my life, so I did a lot of riding which eventually led to show jumping which I did when I was a bit older. I would say twelve. Yes, horses were my life.
SW:
Did you live near a farm or was that-?
AE:
I wasn’t on a farm. No, I did not live on a farm. We did have a horse, and we had a donkey and we had animals, but it was just a suburban property. Quite large. Quite a bit of land with a lake. It was very nice.
SW:
What got you started with the horses?
AE:
What got me started? I was always interested, from a very young age. You’d read about horses. You’d read stories like Black Beauty or any of those wonderful stories. That’s what made me interested. Riding in those days is very different from what I see my grandchildren do here. Where everything because of the insurance laws is so regulated—and so boring, quite honestly—riding around and around in a paddock. We didn’t do any of that. We went where we wanted when we wanted—unless it was private property and they said “no trespassers.” Other than that you’d ride in the woods. You’d ride into town. No restrictions. None of these awful rules that they have now. I can understand the rules.
SW:
Were you ever in any competitions?
AE:
Yes. I did a lot of show jumping. Won a lot of prizes. Yes, I was a competitor. We used to take the horses—ponies actually—in a horse box, which is a van, and go all over the place. Spend the day. Come back. Mh-hm. I was very fortunate. I didn’t have to really look after the horses. We had a groom at the stables who would do the brushing and the cleaning of the tack. It was great fun. We had enormous fun.
SW:
Did your friends participate with you?
AE:
Oh yes. Oh yes, you didn’t do this on your own. Yeah. Friends from school. My cousin who would come up at the weekends from where she was living. She was at a boarding school. She and I started school together at one time. It was a convent. Not because of religious affiliation but because it was a good school and our parents put us there. [CHUCKLE] she was very naughty. She was expelled because she threw an ink pot at Sister Madeline who was one of the teachers. So, then she went to a boarding school for girls—which was a nice school. It shows you how archaic things were in those days. As you went into the property there was a sign on the gate which said “St. Clare’s,” which was the name of the school, “A School for the Daughters of Gentlemen.” Sounds like out of Jane Eyre, but it wasn’t. I’m talking about 1942. Seems like the dark ages to you, but it’s not that long ago. [CHUCKLE] You would never get a sign like that now.
SW:
Do you remember any other teachers? Other than…
AE:
Yes, we had a very nice—from another school—I remember Ms. Nelson very much. She taught Geography. Because in those days the subjects were taught in—slightly different than we have. We had Geography. We had History. We didn’t have Social Sciences or anything like that where it’s all lumped together as my understanding now. No. Everything was divided. Geography was a favorite subject for me. I like filling in the rivers. Doing the trees. Doing where the coal mines were. That was very interesting work for me. So yes, I remember her very well.
SW:
Do you feel that tied in with the horse riding?
AE:
Not particularly.
SW:
Could you talk to me about dating when you were younger?
AE:
With boys?
SW:
Mh-hm.
AE:
Didn’t have anything like that specifically. We had friends. I had friends who were both male and female. We went together as a bunch, really. I was 16 when I went to my first dance with—asked by a boy and my mother approved.
SW:
Mh-hm.
AE:
In those days it was very different from now. It was a formal dance. They were all formal. You wore a long dress. The boy would have to pick you up at the house and take you home. Not like now.
SW:
Was it important that your mom approved?
AE:
Oh, it was unthinkable if she—you just automatically did it. I’m sure there was groups that didn’t do that, but in my particular milieu that’s what you did. On one occasion I had been with a friend, Mary Dalton. We had been over to the town about 15 miles away. We had taken the bus there to do some schooling with the horses. We were going in a show and there was a trainer there. We had put the horses there for a week or so. They had daily training, but we would go after school. Take the bus and go over and do some work. Well, coming home that particular night, I remember quite clearly, we missed the bus. The one we wanted to get back. So, we were sitting on the side there kicking our heels. In those days it was light until about 11 o’clock because they had double summer time. It didn’t go forward one hour; it went forward two hours. That was to help the farmers get the harvest in or whatever they were doing. So it was daylight. Bright light until about 11 o’clock at night, so we felt perfectly safe. Not that we ever felt we weren’t safe, but our parents would make us feel—you know--you have to be in at a certain time. Which we thought was absurd. Anyway, we’re sitting there kicking our heels and two soldiers came by because there were soldiers stationed everywhere during the war in that particular part of England. Southern England. There were big camps everywhere. They were on motorcycles. Motorbikes. One was obviously an officer. The other was a private. But anyway, they stopped to talk to us as soldiers always do, and we thought that was “very cool” as you would say today. Then, still waiting for the bus, we had a conversation. We were admiring the motorbikes. They were military bikes. Not big flashy ones like they have now. One of them said to me, “Would you like to have a ride?” Like a jerk. Very dangerous thing to do. But, you know. I said, “Oh fine. That would be lovely.” I got on the back of the bike, on the pillion, and we went off. It was a lovely ride. It was fine. Thinking about that now, anything could have happened, right. Mary, my friend, she did the same thing. We could have been raped. We could have been murdered. These things happen, and you read about them all the time. Not then, but you do now. Things have so changed. But, we went off carefully and had a great time and then they brought us back safe and sound. Still talking. Then the bus came. We got on the bus and they said “Where are you going?” and we said “Well, we’re going to Alton.” That’s where I lived. That’s where Mary lived. So, they followed the bus on their bikes. When we got off the bus I went to walk home and this one fellow, the officer, walked with me. He said, “I’ll come home with you. See you home.” I said, “Fine.” So, we walk home. He leaves the bike at the gate. We had a long drive up to my house. [CHUCKLE] We go in and my mother said, “Hello.” [CHUCKLE] and I explained who this fellow was. I said, “Well, we just met and he’s came back with me.” She said, “Oh that’s fine. You go and make tea.” She wanted me out of the way. She wanted to speak to him. Obviously he was fine because she didn’t throw him out and say, “How dare you accost my daughter.” None of that. He became a friend, and he invited me on a couple of occasions to go to dances at the Officer’s Club in Aldershot, which was a big town. I agreed to go and at the last minute I decided not to go, which was cowardly of me. For some reason I didn’t feel that I could do that. Even though he was a nice fellow, and my mother said “It’s fine. He’s a nice young man. Don’t worry about it.” I just couldn’t. I guess because it wasn’t on my territory at home.
SW:
Mh-hm.
AE:
So that’s the end of that. But that was really—wasn’t a date. It was a pick up. If you will. He picked me up [CHUCKLE] and I went like an idiot. I went with him. Anything could have happened. I mean, I cringe at the thought now. The young, you do these things.
SW:
Did you ever find out what your mom said to him?
AE:
No, not really. Never asked her. I knew I shouldn’t. I knew they were chatting. He was probably all of twenty-one. He was a young guy.
SW:
How old were you at that time?
AE:
About sixteen.
SW:
Could you talk to me about when you met your husband?
AE:
I met him at a party. A twenty-first birthday party. A mutual man that we both knew, but I didn’t know him [her husband]. This fellow, Sidney, was having his twenty-first birthday party, and he invited me to come. Of course I went. When I was there I was introduced to this fellow. We got on very well indeed. Then afterwards, Sidney—he’s the fellow whose party was it—“I thought you and Basil would get on well. That’s why I wanted you to come and meet him.” And we did. We eventually got married.
SW:
What were your initial thoughts when you first saw him? Met him.
AE:
Well, he was very presentable. He was tall. He was slender, if you like. He dressed well. Had very good shoes. Had neat hands. Clean fingernails. Nicely dressed. Was a great sense of fun. Told wonderful stories, and was not just into himself. He was into whatever was going on around him. Had a very inquiring mind.
SW:
What did your parents have to say about him?
AE:
Well, when we got engaged, I was in London. He was a medical student at a very good teaching hospital. I was a nursing student at a very good teaching hospital, so we had a lot in common. Then, when we did get engaged, well, he asked me. He said, “Well, I want to speak to your father.” I said, “Of course.” So it was arranged that we go down to where my family were living in Alton. Took the train down, and I introduced him. He spoke to my father. My father [CHUCKLE] said, “Fine, anything to take her off my hands.” He didn’t say that.
SW:
[Chuckle]
AE:
At all. They were lovely. Everything worked out beautifully. So they liked him very much and they knew he had good prospects and he would always be a good provider. Which was very important--to them.
SW:
What led to the two of you getting married?
AE:
Well, that’s what you did in those days. You didn’t go live with somebody. You never were alone with them really too much. We decided. We’d been together about… Two years? It was about two years. When I finished my nurses training, I said, “Okay.” We can get married then. He still had his medical degree to get, so he was still a student. We decided we could do it, so we did. Simple as that. I guess we wanted to sleep together. [CHUCKLE] We couldn’t do it before that. Well, of course we could have done it, but there was no opportunity. Simply wasn’t available.
SW:
Sorry to back track a bit, but you mentioned the war. Was there anything specific in how you felt it affected your life?
AE:
Well, in actual fact it was a very ordinary time because our parents were obviously aware what was going on. They were very involved in all of that. But, they were very calm. I think children—and certainly my brother and I—were not alarmed by what was going on because they never showed any kind of alarm. They were very sanguine about everything as far as we were concerned. I think, as most children, you take the tone from your parents. Although we had an air raid shelter which everybody did. They were given them. They were called Anderson Shelters. They were made out of corrugated iron. They were delivered in pieces and the family had to dig a foundation—which we did in the back of our property—and you erect it in that. You went down into a shelter. My mother, as most people did, made them comfortable inside. You had bunk beds, and you had… not candles because candles can be dangerous. You had lamps with a battery, so you always had to have a good supply of batteries both outside and inside the shelter because there were no lights—no street lights allowed. No lights from the houses. Everything was blacked out, so you had to have a little torch light and it had to be very small. Battery. A very small one. Not a big one. Flashlight. A small flashlight. Just enough so you could see where you were going. Batteries were very important and they were very hard to get. People would buy them and hoard them. There was always a shortage of number 8 batteries. I remember the number. They made it comfortable so when the sirens would go—this was when we were living in London before we went to Wales—our parents would get us up and they’d say, “Time to go to the shelter.” So, you’d put on warm clothing—which was always available at the end of your bed—and quickly went down there. You got into your bunk bed and went back to sleep. It was very smooth. There was no panic. Fortunately, for us, because there were areas that were very heavily bombed in the blitz. That was not that scene at all. There were lots and lots of families as you probably have seen—reading—that went into the underground. What do you call it here?
SW:
The subway system?
AE:
Subway! Yeah. They slept in the subway on the platforms. They had rows and rows of bunks. Tiers of bunks. They would go down there, and it became a ritual for them because they could not stay up above ground when the sirens went. It was horrendous. Horrendous. Families became very friendly with other families. It became, sometimes, like a bit of a party down there. The kids would not necessarily be going to sleep. They’d be running around. Yes, for us, it was not a difficult time. I don’t know how my mother managed, but she did. We always had food. When we moved to the country of course we didn’t have any of that. Until the doodlebugs came, and then we did. But, on the whole it was pretty exciting because we had so many troops stationed around us. They’d be walking around and marching around and the trucks would go in full of soldiers who would whistle at any young girl walking around. That, to us, was fun. We loved being whistled at. [WOLF WHISTLES. CHUCKLES.] So, yes. It wasn’t that disturbing.
SW:
You mentioned doodlebugs. I don’t know what those are.
AE:
Oh. Well, at the end of the war, the Germans were very clever in inventing rockets. Of course, the rocket program we have now all came from that. They used to send over a rocket. It was called a doodlebug for want of a better name. It had an engine rather like a drone. It was very small, probably a bit larger than that cupboard over there. It had an engine. They would fire it from the coast of France because they had invaded France and taken over Franceby that time. So they’d set up the rocket sites there and they would fire them. Now, you’d hear the doodle bug coming—you could hear the motor—you couldn’t necessarily see it if it was higher. But if you looked up and you heard it, you were safe because the minute the engine cut out, that’s when it would drop. What it was, was a flying bomb, actually. Whatever it hit would be destroyed no matter what it was. Could be cows in a field. Could be a building. Could be anything. If you heard them coming you were okay. If you didn’t—if it suddenly stopped—you had to run for shelter. Now that was called a doodle bug. And the V-2s came after that. The V-2s didn’t make a sound. They were just rockets. Huge rockets, that were bombs again. They would just zoom over and explode anywhere, so you never knew. They were very frightening. Where we were we were okay because they weren’t aimed at our area. Occasionally you’d get the stray one, but that was because the rocket didn’t do what it was supposed to do. It went in the wrong direction. As you know, mechanical things don’t always work as they’re supposed to. If the mechanism wasn’t tuned exactly, they could go anywhere. And that was the V-2. They didn’t have a nickname, but the doodlebug—you know. They were made fun of to make everything light and less menacing. You make a joke of things. [START OF TRACK 2, 0:00] Doodlebugs, but that’s what it was. Thank God you never knew.
SW:
Yeah. About how often--?
AE:
Doodlebugs?
SW:
Yeah.
AE:
Well, I don’t know because I didn’t actually experience them. I heard them going over. I don’t know how many times a day, but very frequently. They came at night as well, which was even more scary than with the V-1s because suddenly you get a bomb coming out of the sky. An uncle of mine and his family had a direct hit from one of those V-2s, as they were called. The whole family was destroyed including the house and everything. It was very sad. So, that was a nasty thing that happened.
SW:
How old were you when that happened?
AE:
Oh I guess I was, what? Born in 1931… 1942... I don’t know. How old would I be? My math is horrible.
SW:
1931… 1942? It’s eleven.
AE:
Yeah. Eleven, twelve. Something like that. My cousin Monica, her father was in the merchant navy on the patrol. The North Sea patrol when the supply ships were coming in from America bringing in food. The German torpedoes were there. They called it torpedo alley because if you know anything about the shape of the North Sea between America—North America—and England you can see the shape of it. There was that passage that they would take, and the German submarines would be there lying in wait. They would sink them. My uncle, that’s Monica’s father, his ship was sunk. So, of course he was blown up by one of these torpedos. Not very pleasant at all. Other than that I don’t think we had any other. No. None. Nobody else in the family was directly killed by the war.
SW:
How did that impact your family? Losing them.
AE:
Didn’t impact me at all. Did it impact my mother and my father? I suppose it did, but they never betrayed any… You have to understand, English people do not show their emotions. There’s none of this [MOCK GASP] carrying on. Not at all. You have it, but you don’t show it. Might be a bit tearful, but that would be it. I’m always amused when I watch things on television. The hysteria that accompanies—and I don’t mean to say this rudely, but—[LAUGH] you see the hysteria. Somebody goes to the hospital. The whole family comes and there’s carrying on and wailing and behaving so poorly and the doctors can’t even do their work because they’re—“Is he all right? Is he gonna live?” You see none of that in England. You do here. That’s why I think—God forbid, any of that situation should happen here. I don’t know what would happen to the world here. They have no control. That sounds rude, but I don’t mean it to be rude.
SW:
[WHISPERING] It’s fine. [NORMAL VOICE] Could you talk about emigrating from there to here?
AE:
From Great Britain to here? Well, it was in 1966. Just before that we were living in England. My husband and my two children—well, three. Happened to be three, but at that time two children. We were all very concerned. It was the time when everybody, every country, wanted to ban the bomb. If you read anything about that period, it wasn’t so much here, but certainly in Europe and certainly in England, there were marches. Big marches to ban the bomb. The atom bomb and the hydrogen bomb. They were being tested out in the southern pacific. That’s where the bikini came from. Do you know the history of the bikini?
SW:
I know a bit.
AE:
The bikini is [CHUCKLE] very brief swim wear. They tested those bombs at the Bikini Atoll. It was very hot out there so people were in… Short hand for a silly story, but in any event, they were testing all these bombs and the fallout was not just happening there. The fallout was coming because of the winds. The westerly winds, the easterly winds whatever the winds were. They would bring all the fallout there, the radioactive fallout, and affected the grass. The cows were eating that. That was being passed through the milk, so there was a big ban on all these food products. Never happened in this country, but certainly in England and in parts of Europe it was. People took that very seriously. They wanted to get rid of these bombs. They didn’t want anything to do with them, and didn’t want any more testing. At that time my husband and I were very concerned—along with other people of our age—that we were involved in this. This was terrible. We wanted to move away. Certain meats you couldn’t eat because the cows and the pigs had been eating all that food. You know, from the grass and that. We were very restricted. We felt we were restricted. My husband said, “You know, I think we should think of moving out of this country. We should perhaps go to America.” I said, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe.” At that time he saw an advertisement in one of the London newspapers. The equivalent here would be the New York Times. This was the London Times, which is a very conservative paper. A very well respected paper. If it was in the Times of London, God had spoken. That’s how it was. On the front page, funnily enough, there was no news. In those days the newspapers were quite big. Much bigger than they are now. They didn’t have to save print like they do now. On the front page were all these advertisements, personal advertisements, the kind you might find now at the back of a magazine that would say, “Wanted. Blonde girl.” You know, interests. Personal. These were all personals. Not necessarily looking for a mate, but it could be anything to do with your life. Anybody that had a secret message to pass on would be in a personal. Like, “Call Mary. Three fifteen. You know the number.” That might be a spy’s message. These were the sort of things people used to put everything in there. So, he came home one day and he said, “You know what I saw in the Times today?” There was an advertisement for people of every discipline who are dissatisfied with living conditions now here and want to get away from it all. To get together and find an area where it would be safe to live. In other words a kind of utopia. We were young in those days. “Ah. Sounds wonderful. We should do that.” So I said, “Well, are you going to go to the meeting?” He said, “Yes, indeed. I’ll find out about it.” I did not go. I said, “Well, you go and check it out.” Which he did do. He came back and said, “Oh, this is what we should do. We should definitely do this. It’s a marvelous group of people. Very intellectual group. Good educations. What they want to do is get together. They’d have somebody who is a doctor—which I am,” by this time he was. “People who know plumbing. People who know electricity. Duh duh duhduh. Education. Bit of everything, and we could set up a community.” Sounds wonderful. He said, “Okay. Sounds—we’ll check it out more.” Which he did do, and in the end they threw him out. Because—[LAUGHS] as I said, he had a very enquiring mind. You weren’t allowed to take any personal belongings. You just took what you had. You wouldn’t take any paintings or any—you might be able to take the bible and that was it. He had a wonderful collection, a very large and important collection of stamps. He’s a stamp collector, so he brought this question up. He said to them, “um… well I have this important collection and it could be considered educational because the stamps have all flora and fauna and all sorts of things on them. This could be used as an educational project. Could I bring them?” “Well, Doctor… Okay!” He was allowed to do it, so that was good. Then another time he went in and he said, “Well, we haven’t discussed corporal punishment. What kind of punishment would there be?” “Oh, doctor Hyman, we’re a civilized, intelligent group of people. Why would we need punishment? Need punishment.” “Because people are people, and I think this is something that we should be discussing.” “Well, okay. Well, maybe… you know.” And this and that. He said, “Well what about—.“ “You really won’t need it because there won’t be anything other than a reprimand. That all won’t be necessary, and the disfavor of the rest of the group.” A pie in your eye. So, he said, “Well what about murder?” “Oh, Dr. Hyman. How could you even suggest murder with this group?” He said, “Because things happen.” He said, “And we’re a mixed group of men and women. Supposing if X’s husband went off with Y’s wife and it led to a murder.” Well they were horrified at this idea. Anyway he pursued it—as he would. They eventually said, “Well, I guess in that case we would have to send them off in a boat.” He said, “Well if that isn’t capital punishment I don’t know what is.” So they said, “Dr. Hyman, we see you’re not suited for this group.” They threw him out. [LAUGHS] So, he came back and he said, “It ain’t for us.” In actual fact, they did make a group, and they first of all went to Israel to see how it would be like living in a kibbutz—which is a communal existence. You probably are aware of that. How you have nothing except what you have. Everybody has the same property. A utopian kind of society. They work hard and they wanted to see how this worked out. They were there for about five maybe six months. They said, “Okay we know how to do this.” Then they got the money together ‘cause these were well-heeled people. They weren’t just anybody off the street. They got the money together to buy an island off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia which was good because in that area they weren’t getting any fallout from these atomic testings. So, they went there and they were there I suppose for about ten years. They did very well. Then they sort of broke up and went their ways, but, it did work out to begin with. So then he said, “I’m going to see if I can find a practice to join in… anywhere.” Because being trained at a London teaching hospital, once people were trained, they went off to all parts of the world. It’s the English way. You don’t stay here. You go off. So, he wrote to many of his friends who had gone off in the ten years he had been in practice. The first answer that he got sounded interesting. This was in America, so he said, “I’m going to go over and check this out.” He went to visit this person. Came back totally seduced. He was here for about three weeks. And said-
SW:
In the United States?
AE:
United States, yes. Sorry. To New York. This is where the letter had come from. He came back totally seduced because he was working in the national health system, which is a wonderful system but it was very restricted in certain ways. If he had an interesting case he would pass that on to a specialist in the hospital and that’s the end. You didn’t see that patient again. Because they’re not your division. Well here, you could be an internist and you might send your patient to be treated at a hospital but you were still their doctor and you could go in and visit them and see what was going on. You could even have x-ray equipment in your own office. You could do this and you could do a lot of stuff in your own office. He was seduced by this. “Oh, this is divine. This is what I should do.” He said, “If I can pass the exam, this is what we’ll do.” Well, he did, so we packed up. We came to New York, and he set up practice with this fellow. Didn’t work out. The fellow was practicing medicine in a way Basil did not like. He had a little black book. When he introduced my husband to that [LAUGH] he came back and he said, “You’ll never guess what so-and-so showed me today.” I said, “No. what was that?” He said, “The little black book.” I said, “Well what does that mean?” He said, “I was told by X, ‘these are house calls you should make. You’ll find them interesting.’” These were women that he could go and have five minutes pleasure with. Ten minutes pleasure. He said, “This isn’t the man for me!” [LAUGHS] So, he started his own practice. That’s what happened. That’s why we were here in America. For me, it was not pleasant because I didn’t understand anything here. The money was different. The cuts of meat were different. The driving on the other side of the road was different. It was very confusing and I didn’t care for it at all. But, after a bit it was okay. I have to go excuse myself.
[Break]
SW:
Here we go. So you mentioned a little bit about culture shock moving into the United States.
AE:
Well yes. Because it was [CHUCKLE] it was totally different from what I had experienced all my life up to that point. We arrived in June, 1966. I believe there was a heat wave in New York at that time. Very, very hot and I had never experienced heat like it. None of us had. It was like coming into Dante’s Inferno. It was unbearable, and of course we didn’t have the right kind of clothes. We were wearing the kind of clothes we would have been wearing in England in June which is not heat wave at all. A bit like this. [GESTURES AT SWEATER] Of course we were dying of the heat. We came by ship, and when we arrived at New York Harbor we were being met by an aunt and some cousins. The time we got off the ship was about, I don’t know, I suppose about… We were up at about five because we came in under the Verrazano Bridge at about half past six in the morning. We came through, so we had to be up very early before that. It was a very long day. We got up—I think we actually got on land, if you like, at about—I don’t know—half past eleven or so. A quarter to twelve in the morning. Blazing heat! Inside the… what would you call it? The shed. The big shed we went into. It was even hotter. It was stifling. All the noise and the clatter. I had this aunt who was meeting us and she’s a very impatient woman. Every so often we would hear over the loud speaker--because they were looking for our luggage and everything—“Would Doctor and Misses Hyman, please make themselves known.” This would come over the thing because she went up to wherever it was, harbor master, and said “I have to find my niece! She’s just arrived from England with her children!” Very excited. Very hysterical woman. [LAUGHS] She just took over the command. Every so often we’d hear this voice and finally we got everything together. Then this cousin would come to pick us up. She [Laughs] and her husband, who is also a physician. They had brought two cars because there we were five of us and then all the luggage. She said, “Well we have to go to Coney Island. That’s the first thing you should see.” Okay. You do as you’re told. You pile into the cars and you went to Coney Island to eat hot dogs. It was this blazing heat and so much traffic and the smells of everything and the fire engines going and the police sirens. We’re standing on the sidewalk eating these hot dogs. And [SIGH] I thought, “This is a scene out of hell.”
SW:
[LAUGHTER]
AE:
“What am I doing here? This is horrible.” Then, we had tours. We got back in the cars, and she toured the whole area. We had to see all this. Then we had to go to Staten Island where they were living. We got to Staten Island. By this time it was about four or five in the afternoon. They had horses, because in those days Staten Island is not like it is today. It was very bucolic. The bridge had just gone up—Verrazano Bridge—and the developers were starting to come in. At that time the farms were still there. They had horses and they knew that I liked to ride. Her husband, Bob, was also a rider. That’s why they had their horses. [Laugh] He said, “We have to go riding now. I know you like that.” I thought, “That’s the last thing I want to do. I’m exhausted.” But, okay. You’re polite. You say, “That would be lovely. How splendid.” So, quickly, fished out some warm trousers and went riding. By that time it was now five o’clock and we’re going over the golf course. They had a trail around there, and the mosquitos are coming out. Then we were all bitten to death, and I thought, “I don’t believe this is happening.” Can’t believe it. Then, of course my children were used to going to bed at six o’clock. That’s what they had grown up with. That was the routine. Now it was gone six o’clock. They hadn’t had supper or anything, so I said to Mindy, the cousin, I said, “Can you tell me what the dinner arrangements will be? I’d like to give the children their supper and they can go to bed.” She said, “Go to bed? It’s daylight. Why are they going to bed?” I said, “Well, I think they need to go to bed. They’re tired.” “Well I haven’t made the beds up or anything yet.” Oh God. This was awful. So anyway, that was the beginning. Then my husband had to go in to do some more tests. He was gone all day and I was left. That part of Staten Island was very wild. It was all woods and everything. I was left in this wooden area. God, what the hell am I going to do with myself and the children? But anyway, things worked out. They always do you know.
SW:
[LAUGH] Yeah.
AE:
Just have to grit your teeth and get on with it.
SW:
You mentioned you arrived in the US by boat.
AE:
By ship.
SW:
By ship. Could you talk a little bit about that?
AE:
Well the ship was lovely actually. We were supposed to have come on the Queen Elizabeth but Cunard went on strike, so they put us on the SS France. It was a luxurious, beautiful boat. Superb boat. We were going cabin class, which was very nice. Not first class, but it was the one below that. We had a very nice cabin and the children had a cabin next door. The postage stamps—my husband’s famous collection—had to come with us in our cabin because they shouldn’t get lost. I mean these were huge steamer trunks. The kind of thing you would send kids to camp with. Huge. Filled with stamps. The ship was very luxurious. The children were very well taken care of. Julian, my youngest, was only 18 months old. They had nannies that came and took the little ones. Put them in that part of the ship where they were. Keep them out of sight. No noise. Which was great. Very interesting. This wasn’t an English ship, this was a French ship, but they had the same criteria. Children and servants always kept at the top of the house. If ever you go to—well you know. You’ve been to Europe. Weren’t you? You were in Germany. Is that right?
SW:
Mh-hm.
AE:
Well if you go to their big stately homes you’ll notice the nurseries always at the top of the house. The servants slept at the top of the house. Out of sight out of mind.
SW:
Hm.
AE:
Because the nannies looked after the children. God knows what they did. They weren’t always so good. They would—from the gas fires—they would give the children a whiff of gas to make them sleep. Not unknown at all. Or a little brandy. Or a little gin in their feeding bottle to make them sleep. They didn’t’ want to be disturbed by screaming kids. There were some wonderful ones, but a lot of them weren’t so wonderful. You never knew because they weren’t anywhere near you.
SW:
Was it just you and your children or did your husband come with you by ship?
AE:
No, he went. We all went as a family. En famille. My husband and I had one cabin and the children, the three of them, had the one next door. There was a communicating door. So we traveled. The journey in those days took six days across the Atlantic from South Hampton to New York. It’s the same time now, actually. It’s no quicker.
SW:
Did they have activities on the ship?
AE:
Oh god yes. They had for the adults, lots of marvelous things to do. For the children they also had a lot of games they would play with them. There was wonderful swimming. There were things like treasure hunts. Oh, they kept them occupied. They knew they would have to keep them well occupied because if they were just, you know, making a fuss and being whingey and miserable the parents wouldn’t have a good time either and they wouldn’t travel that way. Then there were other ways you could travel. You could fly, but it seemed to us, we had so much luggage that it was better to come by boat. Also it was an experience that we thought would be fun. And it was! We met nice people. We had wonderful food. We had our own table in the dining room for six people. We asked for a table of six. Which we’ve always done when we’ve done it, you know. We’ve been on these round the world cruises six times. We would always ask for a table of six. Four was no good because you could be stuck with dummies. Two is boring when you’re with other people. Six is fine. Dilutes. Eight is too many because you can’t really talk to everybody, but six is a good number. Like when you go out for dinner with friends, six is a good number. Eight is no good. It’s too big and too noisy and everybody orders something else. It’s a nightmare. Six is a good number, so we had a table of six. Breakfast you’re usually on your own. The food was exquisite and lovely and you’re waited on hand and foot. Eleven o’clock we would be outside on the decks walking. Everybody would walk the circumference of the ship about four times. That would be a mile, so you got your exercise in. There was table tennis. Bridge. A lot of people would play bridge. They had dance classes. In the evening after dinner—people would dress in those days—you had to take evening dress with you, as we did when we went on the cruises. We had to dress every night except on the weekend. You had a tuxedo and had long dresses. Then they would do horse racing which was a gambling kind of game, but a fun thing. You had horses that were made out of plywood and painted. Are you understanding what I am saying?
SW:
Not real horses. Yes.
AE:
No, they weren’t real horses, but you would move them on with sticks.
SW:
Oh. Yeah.
AE:
And you would have to get a dice. If it said five, you’d move them five paces. I mean it sounds very futile and silly, but in actual fact it was fun. We’d all had a wonderful dinner. We’d all had some wine, drinks, whatever, so everybody was relaxed. Horse racing was a big fun thing to do, and we had entertainers. There was always something to do. A wonderful library in these big ships. I don’t know about carnival cruises. Probably not. But the big important ships, Cunard and Holland-America, they had wonderful libraries. You could spend every day in the library. Yes it was enjoyable.
SW:
Could you talk to me about the work you’ve done career wise?
AE:
Well I’ve done a few things. When I was about 14—well, I told you I like to ride. A friend of mine, Gillian—Gillian Murray—her mother had a riding school, so they had some horses. I had my horse, Flicker, and the use of another pony called Merrylegs. I said to her one day, I said to Gillian, “Why don’t we have a riding school of our own just for young children? Both you and I could teach them quite easily.” So we did. It was called The Black Bay Riding School because her pony was black—it wasn’t really black, but it looked black—and mine, Flicker, was bay which is a chestnut color, which has a black mane and tail. Brown with a black mane and tail. Called a bay. That’s why we called it the Black Bay. It was fine. We painted a wonderful sign and we put it on the gate of our property. A neighbor came by and complained to my mother. “This is a residential area! This is not commercial. They have to take it down! I’m not living next to a riding stable!” Riding school actually. My mother said, “You’ve got to take the sign down, but you can do an advertisement in the newspaper.” Which we did. We used to teach children to ride. Get very little for it, but that was what we did. That was the first thing. Then after that, when I was waiting to go up to the hospital I had been given a place at… To get a place at a teaching hospital—one of the good hospitals—was like getting into a very good college. You had to apply, and you were lucky if you got a place. You had to write essays and do all that stuff. It wasn’t just a question of saying, “Please can I come and be a nurse here?” No. Not in those hospitals. I wanted to have a good training. While I had about a year, [START OF TRACK 3, 0:00] not quite a year, I worked for a funeral director. What would you call that here?
SW:
I think that’s what they’re called. Funeral directors.
AE:
A what? Funeral director? Yes, I would be the woman that took messages and, you know, was a useful person. A dog’s body, if you like, in the office. I did that for a while. Then I started my training. When that finished, five years later, I was married. I got married three days after I left the hospital. Wasting no time with that. Then I had my first child, so I was home. Then I got bored with that so I put him—quick as I could—hated being at home after a year. Not my thing. I mean, it was okay. Children are okay. They’re lovely, but I’m not happy just sitting at home and making pies. That’s not me. As soon as I was able to get him in a nursery I went back to nursing as a surgical assistant in a local hospital. I did that for a while. Then [CHUCKLE] I got fed up with that. They didn’t have the same standard that I was used to at a first rate teaching hospital. I said, “I can’t work here.” I was irritated by so many sloppy things that they were doing, so I stopped that. Then I had another child. One of the synagogues near us was starting a nursery school. I had an RN which was a qualification you could use to teach or to be an assistant in one of these nursery schools. So, I applied for that and I got that. I worked there for a while teaching kindergarten, but it was really like play kindergarten. I mean, there were no real lessons. I did that for a while and then I came to America. I still had, at that time, an 18-month-old child, so I had to be home with him. As soon as he was able to go to school he was in school. What did I do then? I did a myriad of things. I could never stay home. Then I started a business with a friend of mine. She called me one day and she said, “I am tired, sick and tired of giving away my good clothes to charity. We get a tax write off, but I don’t see that. My husband gets that, so I never actually have money in my hand and I’m fed up with doing that. I think we should go into a business of having consignment shop.” You know what that is? You have them here. You have them in Oneonta. They are shops that sell used clothes, but they have to be very good quality. They have to be dry cleaned and have to have every button on. In those days, and this was 1972, people were very conscious about labels. A good label. [Faint muffled noise. Editor’s Note: Turns out it was music from the movie Les Miserables playing in the room across the hall for the other residents of the building.] I don’t know where that noise is coming from. I’m sorry. It’s irritating for you.
SW:
No, it’s fine.
AE:
You can hear the music. So, I said, “Well yeah. I am. It would be lovely to get some money.” A consignment shop means that people bring you the clothes and you inspect them, say, “Oh yes we can probably sell this.” You settle on a price and they say, “Okay. How long do I have to leave them?” Well, you leave them until they get sold but the length of time actually shouldn’t be more than two months. If they haven’t sold in two months you take them back. Because we don’t want them. We give you a third of the selling price. For instance, supposing something sold for three dollars, you would get a dollar. We would get the two dollars. The interesting thing is this: When people give you their clothes there’s no way they want to take them back, so they leave them. Say, “Well, we’re not taking them back.” So, we’re at liberty then to do what we like. Which meant we could take them to a charity and our business would get the tax write off. We were winning both ways, and the other seductive part of that is that you don’t have to get an inventory together. You don’t have to go out and buy stuff to put in the shop. People give you stuff. They give you first rate clothes. I said, “That’s a good idea. Let’s do that, but we have to know a little more about it.” Now in New York—they still have them—on Madison Avenue there are two very, very up market consignment shops. One is called Encore and the other one is called Michael’s. Society people who have to have very good clothes that they have to turn over because they can’t be seen in the same dress at the same red carpet thing more than once. They may be three or four thousand dollars. In those days that’s a lot of money. Now, they’d be twenty thousand dollars’ worth for a dress. You would take it to Encore and they would sell it to somebody who would like it; have a wonderful label, all perfectly great to wear. Maybe, if it was three thousand dollars that you paid for, in those days, they would give it to you for maybe 700 dollars. Which was a huge bargain. Pay 700 dollars for this 3,000 dollar dress. Now of course it’s [unclear]. We said, “Okay.” We called them and said, “Look. We’re starting a similar business nowhere near your territory. This is on Staten Island. You’re on Madison Avenue. Could we come and pick your brains?” They said, “Oh, absolutely.” They realized there was nothing to interfere with their business. So, we dressed ourselves up in our very best clothes, polished our shoes, and off we went. They were charming and lovely and gave us all the information. That’s what we did. We started that business. Okay. We had to come up with a name, so we thought, thought and finally we came up with Deja Vu. Which, as you know, means “we’ve seen it before” we’ve experienced it before. These were all second-hand clothes. We told our friends we were starting this business, consignment business, because we had good friends and we knew their clothes were very good quality. As were ours. We bought very good clothes. We didn’t handle shoes because they make a shop look a little tatty. And, no pocket books. Just clothes. Suits and dresses and pants and blouses. We told them and they said, “Oh yes. We have stuff.” I said, “Good. Bring it down to us. Make sure they’re dry cleaned and everything is perfect.” Which they did. So, suddenly we had a shop full of wonderful stuff and we didn’t have to spend any money. Then we had to find premises. We did find them at a very good rent. This warehouse was turning into a shopping center. So Joan and I, I said, “Let’s get dressed up, put our best bib and tucker on, go and see this guy who is running it. And we did. We were eyes and teeth and so charming and lovely. These gorgeous women came in. He didn’t know what hit him. He was happy to let us have a very good space at hardly any rent. We were very lucky that way. The only big fly in the ointment was: in those days you couldn’t get a business loan unless your husband co-signed it. Couldn’t do it in those days. Which made us pissed off, it really did. I said to Joan, “Well come on. Let’s go and see the bank managers and see what we can do. Eyes and teeth again. Let’s do it.” So, like idiots we went in. The eyes and teeth did not work. They said, “We’re so sorry. Your husbands have to cosign this.” Which they were willing to do, but we wanted to be responsible in case the whole venture fell on its face. We didn’t want to lose their money. So, we had to go to them for them to cosign the loan. We had money of our own. She and I had a little bit of money, so we used that plus the loan. The husbands, apart from signing their name, they didn’t have to give us any money. We got the shop going and that was good. We ran that from 1972 until about 1976. In the mean time I was also studying how to be a family therapist at North Richmond Mental Health Clinic, and also the hospice. I was doing that as well. I was doing many things and I had a very, very good house keeper. There was always somebody at home for the children. The children actually weren’t so little any more. Charles and James were going to a prep school in Jersey. I had to drive them. We had a carpool. Went back and forth. Julian was at a local school. Then he went to a school in Brooklyn. Packard Collegiate, which was a very good school. Private school. The kids were being educated at a very high level, and they were being looked after physically. So, that was that. Then I had to go and have a back operation, and Joan did not want to do the business on her own, so the business folded. Then I went to work for Clinique and Chanel. The cosmetic firm in New York. I had training in both disciplines. Those cosmetic firms, you know, are very good with the training they give you. You don’t get paid by the store because they’re all units inside a store. When you walk into, say Macy’s, and you see a Clinique counter, well that is everything to do with Clinique. Nothing to do with Macy’s. You don’t get paid by Macy’s. You don’t get your hours from Macy’s. All to do with Clinique and you get paid purely on commission. That’s the arrangement. They give you a very good training. I did that and I worked for them at Christmas season just as pocket money. After that they ask you to do inventory. Not for me. I’m not doing that, so I quit. Then the next Christmas I worked for Chanel. Did a wonderful training there. Their cosmetics are very good. Very pure. Very good indeed. [LAUGH] Very overpriced, but they all are. You’re getting a good product. And then I went through a divorce. I got married to my present husband who was a physician. Not a physician. He was an eye surgeon. He did a basic training and then went into a specialty. We came up here to Cooperstown. From Cooperstown we moved here two years ago. A nutshell. More than you need to know. Much more than you need to know.
SW:
How did you meet your second husband?
AE:
We were mutual friends on Staten Island. The medical community is very… what’s the word I’m looking for? Incestuous. Everybody knows everybody else and we all do things together, so that’s how I knew him. I knew his wife. I knew everything about his family. He knew about us. We were friends.
SW:
How did you take the transition from New York to Cooperstown?
AE:
It was fine. I was ready to do that. I like Cooperstown. It reminded me of where I lived in England. It was very easy. No problem. I didn’t know anybody. When we arrived we didn’t know a soul. We arrived on Christmas, and it was cold and it was miserable. But, that was okay. I didn’t mind that. I had worked before that at Phillip’s in New York. Phillips is a big auction house like Christie’s. There’s Christie’s and Sotheby’s and Phillip’s. Philip’s has a branch in New York. I got a job there ‘because I always had to have something to do. I worked there—1980 to 1985—so I was there five years. When I came up here and I didn’t know a soul I went to every organization I could find just to do scut work. I went to the museum. I went to the Baseball [Hall of Fame]—all those places, and the certain nice shops. I said, “Look, I can stuff envelopes. I just need to meet people. I won’t do that sitting at home. I need to be out and about.” I volunteered for everything. That’s how I got to know people and they got to know me. After a bit you sort the wheat out from the chaff, and you make a life. Because I knew I could never trust my husband to do that because men don’t do that kind of thing. He was at the hospital. He did his work, and he came home. They don’t do that. Women do that. They have facility for doing that, but men don’t really do that too regularly.
SW:
[UNCLEAR.]
AE:
They will never make a phone call and say to another fellow—at least maybe the young ones do-- “How about let’s have lunch.” They never do that. Women do that all the time.
SW:
Mh hm.
AE:
Women can do that. They have that inborn quality to do it, whether they are shy or not. When they get desperate enough they’ll do it, but they’re not going to sit home and just twiddle their thumbs. Men will do that! They’ll read the paper or they’ll read a book forever. Especially when they are retired. You’ll hear that from a lot of women whose husbands are retired. They’re always there. Whereas a woman needs to see other people. They would never pick up the phone and say, “Okay, Bill, why don’t we have lunch today?” No. they don’t do it. Sorry. I’ve digressed.
SW:
It’s fine. I know you mentioned that you worked in museums and stuff. Was there any other volunteer work you did?
AE:
At the galleries. Yes. The Gallery 53. Very involved with that. At the hospital I was a volunteer in the hospital; one of the pink ladies that ran around, you know, doing things. Oh. Gerald and I, when he was retired, he only worked at the hospital for a year. He didn’t like it. Very different when you’ve had your own practice, run your own things than when you work for an institution. He didn’t care for it. He was retired. I had wanted to take the master gardener course at Cornell, but we were always away in the winter. We used to go to Portugal for the winter. One winter we decided we would have the kitchen redone, so we had to be home. I said, “This is an opportunity to take that course. Why don’t you do it with me? We’ll do it together.” He’s there anyway.
SW:
[Laughs]
AE:
Was there. He said, “Okay I’ll do it to keep you company.” So, we signed up and we used to go once a week for three months. It was from here to Ballston Spar to do this course. It was fascinating. At the end of the three months we got our master gardener’s certificate. Fabulous. The other thing we did was to be ombudsman at the nursing homes around here. We did the training for that. We got our certificates. I said to Joe, “Wonderful for the obituaries. Member of… member of… member of… did nothing, but we were members of these things.”
SW:
[LAUGH]
AE:
So, those were the volunteer things we did out here.
SW:
Mm hm. Could you talk to me a bit more about your experience living in Cooperstown?
AE:
I found Cooperstown quite delightful. I found the people were very helpful and nice. I think the fact that I had come up from New York and had come from London was in my favor. I think they like to hear me say things. The novelty does not wear off. I was a willing person to do all sorts of things, and that was helpful. We also, because we were involved in the galleries, we also were very philanthropic and were generous to them. Sponsored a few shows. That made work, and we entertained a great deal. I love to entertain. Not here so much, obviously, but in our own home, which is a lovely home if I say so myself—which I shouldn’t. It was a very gracious home. We had many, many dinner parties. Many. At least once a month. I mean very, very formal dinner parties. With help. I used to have somebody come and help me. I would do the cooking, but they would do the serving and everything else. I didn’t want to do any of that. Afterwards I found somebody who did wonderful cooking, so I didn’t even have to do that. That was good. We had a lot of friends that way. Not just because we gave dinner parties. They gave them too so it was a two way thing. We were involved in the opera. Very involved in the opera. Again. In a physical way and in a philanthropic way. That took up a lot of our time. We loved it. We still do, but we don’t do what we did before. We don’t have the strength any more. Now it’s ten miles even further than when we were in Cooperstown, so now we only go to matinees. Cooperstown for us, was delightful. Physically and mentally. Oh yeah. We enjoyed Cooperstown. I was very sad to leave it. I still go up there at least once or twice a week. It’s only half an hour for goodness sake. You know. Still meet people for lunch. Go to the hospital there. No. still have our associations. Tuesday afternoon, you know, at the library, they have a knitting group. People go and knit and gossip and hear all the news. Any age group. By the way if you need the rest room it’s just around the corner.
SW:
I would like to finish up with talking about what you’re doing now and your plans for the future.
AE:
Plans for the future? Stay alive.
SW:
[LAUGH]
AE:
What am I doing now? What am I doing now? Very little. Nothing in fact. I don’t do anything.
SW:
No volunteer work or anything like that?
AE:
Nope.
SW:
Just hanging out with friends.
AE:
Yeah. When they’re here? Sure. What do I do? What’s interesting? I think I’m not doing anything. I read a lot. That’s about it.
SW:
Okay. Well I’d like to thank you very much for your time
AE:
Well you’re very welcome.
SW:
In helping us with this oral history project.
AE:
I can’t imagine how it’s helped.
SW:
[LAUGHS] Was there anything you’d like to-
AE:
To add?
SW:
Say. Mh-hm.
AE:
I can’t think of anything. I think you covered everything very well. Anyone could always talk at length about all sorts of things in ones family. One’s family is very interesting to oneself, not to anybody else of course. I was talking to my youngest son this morning. I do every Sunday morning. We talked about two hours, maybe three. He lives in Manhattan in the Village. He says, “Well what are you doing today?” I said, “Well I’m going to be doing this project.” He says, “but what is that?” I told him and he said, “Oh my God. Are you going to tell her about this and this?” I said, “No.” He said, “Why not? Why not?” I said, “Because I don’t think that would be of any interest.” He says, “It’s fascinating!” I said, “No, only to us in the family. Not interesting to anybody else.”
SW:
Well what was it? Maybe it is.
AE:
[LAUGHS]
SW:
Now I have to know.
AE & SW:
[Both laugh]
AE:
Well, there are many things. One he was thinking of was at my 21st birthday party. Julie Andrews—the woman who sings—was at that party. She and her parents. How did that come about… well I was at the hospital doing my training. Again, I like to get involved with things. I happened to be a head of the student nurses’ association. I was involved in that because what did that mean? It meant that the student nurses had all sorts of activities that were very enjoyable. One of them was local dances. I was involved in that. I was elected by pressure. You better elect me to be the head. I could arrange whatever I liked. It gave me carte blanche to do a lot of stuff. One of the dances I was arranging—one of the other nurses I knew--very nice—said, “You know that girl who’s starting to sing with her parents, Julie Andrews?” I said, “No.” She said, “Oh. Well she’s about fifteen, sixteen, and her parents, Ted and Barbara Andrews are on the stage and they sing duets.” You know, for the singing classical duets. “Now their daughter, Julie, is singing with them. They’re actually neighbors of mine where I live at home. You know you’re always looking for entertainment. Why don’t you get her to come up and sing?” I said, “Oh I don’t think so. Maybe the parents. I don’t think in the middle of our dance more medical students and law students from around--considering how I knew how to get these guys--[CHUCKLE] would be of interest.” She said, “Well I don’t know. I think you should try it. See. If you’re stuck think about them.” Okay. I did get stuck. Which she knew would happen. I said to her, “Give me their phone number so I can contact them.” I spoke to the parents. They said, “Well we don’t think it’s something we can do but our daughter would be wonderful, just wonderful for young people. If you don’t mind we’ll bring her, but we won’t perform. Julie can.” I said, “Okay. Do I get to hear her first?” They said, “No, no. It’s not necessary. She’ll be just fine.” I said, “Oh. Well, here’s this young girl coming. I have to get somebody to look after her ‘because I’m going to be busy running around.” A very good friend of mine, a law student, Michael. Michael Beckman, who is now a QC—that’s Queen’s Council. Very high in the law offices.
SW:
Hm.
AE:
I said, “Michael you’re coming to the dance.” He said, “Yes. I have to don’t I?” I said, “Yes you do indeed. I need bodies there and you are going to have a very special duty. No, privilege.” “Why?” I said, “Because Julie Andrews is coming.” He said, “Who’s Julie Andrews?” I said, “She is phenomenal.” I had never met the girl. Gave him the whole spiel. I said, “I want you to, when she comes, I’ll introduce her, After her parents have said hello and gone. You’ll please look after her. Make sure that she has lemonade or whatever. Make sure, after she’s done her performance, ask her to dance! You know. Be polite.” He said, “I know what to do! Do I have to?” I said, “Yes. Please. I owe you one.” “Okay.” That’s not true. Because in England we don’t have that expression “I owe you one.” I’m saying it now because it just came right out because that’s what I meant. So, day came. The parents arrived. All good looking people. They have with them this young girl. Tall and skinny. Wearing ankle socks and Mary Janes, you call them. Shoes. Black patent leather and a short dress. Frilly dress. She looked like eleven dressed up like that. Oh God. Anyway. Deed was done so we had to go through with it. She was very sweet and very nice. Then I get Michael. I said, [STRAINED] “I want to introduce you to Julie Andrews.” He took one look at this girl. He swallowed. Made the polite noises. The correct noises. Then they had the dance. Well half way through we had to have the entertainment. I introduced her, and this little girl comes trotting on although she was quite tall. Came trotting up with her ankle socks—she looked such a baby—and she started to trill and sing operatic music. She had an extraordinary voice at a very young age. They were not good. The parents. They made her sing more than she should have been singing at that age. It can really do damage to your voice, which it did later on as she has found out. In any event, they all stood back and I could see they were horrified at having to listen to this girl trill away. She did what she did and they clapped very politely. Okay. After that she did a few dances with Michael. He trotted her around and introduced her. He did the right thing by her. She was fine. She and I became quite friendly. She was actually a really sweet person. I felt very sorry to put her through this, but she didn’t mind at all. She was performing and that’s what she liked to do. Then it came up to my 21st birthday and she knew about it. I said, “I do hope you will come.” She said, “Oh I would love to but I have to bring mummy and daddy.” I said, “Of course. They will bring you along. They would be driving. So they came to the party as well.” My aunt and uncle—the one who was so forceful when we arrived in America, it was at her apartment in London—a very beautiful apartment— she insisted on staying. She said, “Because I don’t know what you young people will get up to.” I said, “We won’t get up to anything.” “But uncle and I will stay.” So the parents came. Julie Andrews’ parents came. I introduced them. My aunt sat there talking to them. She was bored to tears I could see that, but she insisted on staying. Julie Andrews [NOT AUDIBLE] she did not sing. She said she would but I said, [WHISPERING] ”You really don’t have to it’s all right.” Julian thought that was a very funny story. You know, Julie Andrews—who is now a big star—at your 21st birthday party. You got her to sing at party. You know, one of those things that just happen. Those are the things that a family can enjoy and they’re enriching when you tell these stories when people say, “Tell us about so and so. Remember you told us. Tell us again.”

Duration

00:30:00 - Part 1
00:30:00 - Part 2
00:29:32 - Part 3

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

Citation

Stephenie Walker, “Anne Evans, November 17, 2013,” CGP Community Stories, accessed August 20, 2019, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/161.