James Madison University
Shenandoah Valley Oral History Project
Oral History Interview With: Pat Morrison
Interviewer: Amy Larrabee
Place: Waterman Elementary School, Harrisonburg, VA
Date: April 21, 2006
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General topic of interview: This interview discusses the narrator’s childhood in Harrisonburg, VA, her marriage, her children and her work experience.
NARRATOR: Pat Morrison
DATE: April 21, 2006
INTERVIEWER: Amy Larrabee
PLACE: Waterman Elementary School in Harrisonburg, Va
Birthdate: Max Meadows, VA
Occupation: Food Service Technician
Pat Morrison grew up in Harrisonburg, Va with her mother and four siblings. She married at 17 and moved to Fairfax, Va for a year before her husband and she moved to Germany for his military career. She had two children by her husband before they divorced. She began work in food service after her divorce and has remained in that field ever since.
This interview covers the narrator’s youth in Harrisonburg, Va in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The narrator discusses changes to Harrisonburg, including the integration of schools, building of I-81, the expansion of JMU, as the development of strip malls, and changes to the school lunch program. The interview also covers such matters as marriage, health, and insurance as they pertain to the narrator.
Larrabee: Hi this is Amy Larrabee its April 21st at 4:30 and I’m interviewing Pat
Morrison at the Waterman Elementary School- Hi Pat thanks for meeting with me
Morrison: Hi Amy
L: Um, and can I have you agree on record to being recorded today?
M: I agree to be recorded.
L: Ok, super. So to get started on sort of on your background information- where, where were you born?
M: I was born in a little place called Max Meadows, Va. it’s down in SW Va., near Woodville, below Roanoke…
L: Ok, like by car how long would it take to get there?
M: Probably about three and a half hours, something like that.
L: Ok. And tell me about your parents, their names, you know where they grew up maybe.
M: Ok, my mother’s name was Mary Edna Talbert Golden and my father’s name was James Harvey Goldman and they were from there- that area. Basically when I was born my mother lived in a small town named Hillsville, Va., which is just adjacent to Max Meadows.
M: Um, her parents were farmers and her mother was a full Cherokee Indian from NC and my parents were divorced when I was 4 and we moved here.
L: With your mom?
M: With my mom.
L: Did you have siblings?
M: I have two brothers and two sisters- two sisters are older, one brother is older and one brother is younger than me.
L: Now did you keep in contact with your father at all?
M: No, my father moved across the country and we lost contact.
L: Ok. And what brought your mother up to the Harrisonburg area?
M: Well, basically I asked that- I asked my sister that yesterday because I really couldn’t remember- my mother has passed away- she said that we were actually going to Baltimore, MD where we had relatives- and when we got to Harrisonburg the bus broke down and my mother apparently met a lady who offered her a position and we just kinda stayed here.
L: And so what was the position?
M: Uh, she worked in a restaurant, she was a restaurant waitress.
L: Now did she ever remarry?
L: So what was uh, what was life like growing up in your household- with your mom and your siblings here in Harrisonburg?
M: Um my mother worked a lot- my oldest sister, she’s actually about thirteen years older than me, so she was, she was getting ready she did work too- and then my younger sister kind of took care of me and my bothers we just kinda stayed at home, and um…
L: And how old were you when you moved here, again?
M: I was about four.
L: You were about four, ok- do you remember having- I can imagine with your mom gone there was a lot of work to be done around the house- did you have certain chores that you were assigned to, or?
M: Basically I think that we had to do – uh, you know help with the cooking, help with the cleaning- just pick-up, you know, I don’t remember doing laundry or anything. And, I know that where we lived there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood, so I recall being outside a lot, we were outside a lot.
L: And, um, where did you first live when you moved to this area?
M: We lived on a street called Broad Street, which has really gone downhill in the last few years. It’s, really- I was by there not too long ago and its not in very good condition now- but it was a pretty nice street back then, yeah.
L: Super- and you know I forgot at the very beginning to ask you when you were born. What year you were born?
M: I was born in 1951, so I’m 55 now.
L: Ok and you moved to Harrisonburg when you were about 4
M: About four.
L: Ok, um, what do you remember about other relatives- besides your mom? You know, you moved away and you didn’t get to Baltimore so…
M: Right. My Mother had three brothers and two sisters- one of the sisters died before I was born, so I never knew her. My other Aunt lived in Baltimore, and I did know her, you know through my growing up years. She passed away in 1975, so I remember going to her house and she actually had a club foot- you know what that is? It’s where your foot is backwards.
L: All the way?
M: Uh, huh.
L: Oh my goodness!
M: Your foot is actually backwards- and back then they did not have an operation for that- so she – she lived her whole life with a club foot. My Uncles- um, my one Uncle and Aunt who lived in? Va. – Which is still in SW Va. I saw them fairly often- and he didn’t pass away until- probably about – I’m trying to remember now probably about ’92- so he was around for a long time and we were pretty close. My other two Uncles I didn’t have a lot of contact with, but my mother went to see them occasionally after we were older.
L: Uh, now you said your grandmother on your mother’s side- right? Was Cherokee, full-blood?
M: Uh, huh.
L: Do you remember stories wither from your mother or siblings- anyone who remembers stories maybe about any discrimination she faced?
M: I don’t think that she actually did in that area- it was- the place that I’m from is not too far from the NC border- and I think that there were probably a lot of people there- if she did it was when she was younger and I never heard that.
M: No, never heard that- and she actually passed away before I was born too, so I did not know her- and so did my grandfather- they both passed away in the late ’40s so I didn’t know them. I was very interested to find out after my mother passed away- we came across a picture of her and her siblings when they were younger.
M: And the sister who died when she was- before I was born- looked exactly like my older sister when she was young- and I never knew that.
M: It was almost identical the way that they looked.
L: That’s interesting.
M: So- that was interesting to find out.
L: That is interesting.
L: Wow- uh, ok, so what was uh, what was school like here in Harrisonburg when you first moved? Did you like it? – was it…
M: I actually went to Main Street Elementary- which is now the municipal building- I went there till was in second grade and I really liked it- although my first grade teacher, I can still remember, she used to hit one of the students on the hand with a ruler- until the little girl’s hand was bright red- and I’ve never forgotten that. And my second grade teacher was great- and actually in second grade we went to the library and if you could write your name you could get a library card. And that’s – that- I got a library card in the second grade and spent a lot of time in the library after that.
L: Uh, huh- now is the library the same location as it was…?
M: It’s just right around the corner- it still has the original building at the back but right around the front they build a new building onto it-
L: Oh, ok.
M: So, and I always thought it was cool ’cause the library was built the same year I was born- I always liked that.
L: Very cool.
L: Uh, so what sorts of- did you spend a lot of time with friends? Were allowed to go out with friends a lot, or?
M: Well, we had quite a group of young kids in the neighborhood and we played a lot. I remember my mother used to have to have to practically beat us to make us come in at night, you know. Back then, excuse me, in Harrisonburg you really didn’t have to watch your kids like you do now. And I remember when I was little I could walk to the library by myself, I mean my mom would let me do that. Now, I would never have let my daughter walk to the library alone and I always felt like, you know, it’s really a shame that the world is so different now- because we knew the alleyways and the bi-ways and the candy stores and- you know, we had a lot of freedom.
L: Uh, huh.
M: We really did- and we would get up in the morning and play with the pets and go outside and hang out with our friends and get the boys to eat mud pies and… and just have a good time. And we could run around the neighborhood and you didn’t have to worry about some guy picking you up- I mean I’m sure it happened- but we didn’t think about it and my mother didn’t worry about it like I- like I did.
L: With your – your daughter.
M: So- it was sort of a carefree childhood I would say- even though we probably- looking back on it- we were probably what you would consider poor. We had food, we had shelter, we had clothing and, you know, so everything was good in our world.
M: We had what we needed, yeah.
L: Super… I’m gonna [check the recorder].
**** Next track***
L: Ok, we’re back. Um, so tell me about your young adulthood- so I- you know- sort of into like junior high and high school years and how that changed- and maybe friendships were changing… or?
M: Well, after second grade they actually built a new school, called Spotswood Elementary, which is here in town, uh, so I started to go to school there. I went there from third grade to seventh grade- we did not have a junior high then- and we had no buses in Harrisonburg for school buses so you walked to school, unless your parents drove you. And we went to school even when it snowed. We did not have snow days, because…
L: Because you could walk and not have to drive.
M: Yeah- and basically we walked to school. Uh, I really enjoyed school we had a great time- I had some really good teachers. In fact my fourth grade teacher actually taught here at Waterman and just retired a few years ago- she was great. And um, I – I think I just really have good memories about that. I had a couple of friends who lived near me who went to the same school so we hung out together- and um, in fifth grade- fifth grade was a good year- I didn’t really care for my teacher but we had a good year that year. Sixth grade we actually worked on a magazine for the school year- for Spotswood. We worked on a magazine and wrote stories and everything for that, and that was fun. Seventh grade the Beatles came to America, and all the girls went Beatles crazy-so we drove our man teacher, which was the first man teacher I ever had- we drove him nuts because we decided that each of us in our little group would take one of the Beatles names, and I was John- -I remember that. And we used to- we even put pictures up in the wall- he would go out of the room and we would put pictures of the Beatles up on the wall and he’d come back in and, “Oh why did you girls do that?” So, we kind of drove Mr. Lowe nuts for a while, but we had a good time with that, and um we enjoyed it. And we all went to high school then in eighth grade, we started high school- so we were all kind of together- and loving it because all the senior boys were so cute, you know and… – that was like in ’63, so it was still- I would have to say back in ’63 it was still I guess what you would say innocent time, and innocent time the drug craze hadn’t hit the sixties hadn’t gone nuts yet, and um…
L: What was the, um – what were race relations like in this area at that time? Around your growing up?
M: Yeah. In eighth grade I don’t recall having any black students in our school. In ninth grade I think we got our first black students- and excuse me- I personally don’t recall any problem with it, because I had always- I mean where I lived there was a black community adjacent to it so we had always known black people- we had always, you know…
L: But they had been in their own separate school?
M: They had been in their own separate school, which was Lucy Simms, um, I think they called it Effinger (?) School and then it became Lucy Simms school- but I mean if there was tension I don’t recall it- at that particular time. I think later on a few years down the road there was some tension. And I think the students who actually started there were older- they weren’t like freshmen or eighth graders, they were like maybe juniors or seniors.
L: Sure, ’cause that would have been a hard transition anyway- let alone the race.
M: And then it just kinda seemed like, you know, every year there were more students there and for me personally it never bothered me, you know, because I guess I’d always been around people of different races and my mother never really said, you know, these guys are bad or those guys are bad or whatever- so it didn’t bother me, I was just like, “Ok, they’re kids, they go to our school, big deal.”
L: Right. So you said a few years down the road there started to be some tensions? Do you remember any specific…?
M: I think later on- I think it was just a combination of everything that was happening at that time in America, you know Vietnam and people protesting, and people starting to take drugs and then you know you started getting people speaking out about discrimination- they started coming forward more, and I think really, in a lot of towns that made it worse.
M: To hear about it.
M: I think if they would have been more low key about it.
L: Sort of not stirring things up.
M: Yeah, I think it kind of stirred it up in some of the towns. I don’t recall it ever being bad to the point that, you know, anybody was hurt…
L: Do you remember any specific incidents?
M: I do remember a fight, but it was actually between two black girls- they were fighting each other- so, you know.
L: Oh, ok!
M… It was like, “Ok, we don’t care.” And I remember, in fact I was talking to somebody just the other day about her at Spotswood elementary- and it’s kinda weird I ended up in food service- the manager at Spotswood Elementary was a small little black lady and, you know, she was very, very, nice and I never thought anything about it- so, it just, you know. I guess, basically when I look at a person I don’t really see their color, you know, and I don’t really dislike or like someone because of what other color- but, you know, if they’re crappy to me- I don’t like ’em! – whether they’re pink, purple, black or green, you know, I’m just not gonna like them.
M: So I didn’t really, I guess I really didn’t pay that much attention to it. I think another thing that happened back then, as more and more black kids came into the school- I think what caused some of the problem was that some of the girls- white girls and black guys stated going out together- and some of the people did not care for that back then, you know.
M: It, it- I think that caused some of the tension.
L: Uh, huh.
M: But again, I don’t think it ever escalated to, you know, anybody getting beat up or hurt- it was probably just, you know, verbal talking, so.
L: Ok. Um, how about your first boyfriend, do you remember your first boyfriend?
M: I didn’t have a lot of boyfriends, I was kind of a- happier staying home reading a book. And I know on Sundays a lot I watched football- my Dolphins- and -we had sports day today, that’s why we’re dressed like this-
L: Oh, ok.
M: Um, I remember many Sundays sitting in front of the TV watching football and doing homework, you know, and I was fine with that. I think I actually didn’t even have a boyfriend ’till maybe a junior- and it wasn’t an intense relationship it was just kind of, you know, like we would go out to the movies or something or.
M: We used to have these places here in town like the burger joints.
L: Uh, huh.
M: And you could drive around them, you know, they were drive-throughs. And the big thing was to drive over to Kenny Burgers and drive around Kenny Burgers 50 times or, you know, drive to drive to Biff Burger and drive around Biff Burger and see who was sitting there. And kids would park there and sit on their cars, you know, and you drive by and go, “hey.” You know see who was out and maybe if you had money you go in and buy something but um… we didn’t have money very often, I know out where Buffalo Wild Wings is now, there was a place called College Esso- it was a service station.
L: Uh, huh.
M: And we used to go in there and count our pennies to buy gas, because gas was like a quarter a gallon, you know.
M: And we’d get a gallon of gas- and it would us around Kenny Burger the rest of the evening so, it was kind of like, boring, but that’s what everybody did- we just kind of drove around Kenny Burger and then- if you knew somebody who worked there you could go in and maybe they would let you have a burger for a little less.
L: Right, right.
M: So it was kind of boring- it was kind of like what you see in the movies, you know, where the cars drive in and- and drive around.
M: And Harrisonburg was so much smaller then, I mean, what you see now is just an explosion of what Harrisonburg was. Downtown had stores
M: It had clothing stores, it had five and dimes, it had, you know, shoe stores and – you went down town, we didn’t have a mall.
M: We had no mall- and now, before you actually get to the mall, um- there was nothing out there, I mean it was just like our town stopped and there was nothing out there except farmland and open areas and so, you know, town was small, it was compact- and, so it was really kinda cool to have a small town like that- it kind of- I don’t really like what’s happened to Harrisonburg, I really don’t. And um, it was a very good town back then, I think – for me, anyway, I enjoyed it… so…
L: Um, you mentioned drugs, and I notice- a lot of times- watching TV around here it seems that there’s quite a drug culture.
M: There is now.
L: Ok. When do you think that sort of sprang up?
M: My personal opinion- and this could be, I mean this is just only my opinion and it’s probably just what I observed- JMU used to be Madison College and it was all girls. And I personally feel like it started when they went co-ed. I think that when they went co-ed a lot of people started coming in from the bigger cities it seemed like to me.
L: Makes sense.
M: And I think that’s when, when they started bringing them from the larger places.
L: That was the ’70s?
M: It would have been before that, I think they went co-ed in… I’m trying to think
L: I go to school there and I don’t even know.
M: I think they went co-ed about- was it about ’68 maybe, maybe ’69, I’m thinking ’68, something like that.
L: Ok, and so that must have been a dramatic change in the population here- do you remember?
M: I don’ t think that it blew up too quickly- but, you know, suddenly you’ve got- you know, its not Madison College, just the little girl’s school that it was- I don’t even know what the population of the school was then but it was pretty small- I would think it would be pretty small and uh, I think that when the guys started coming in- I don’t know whether they advertised more and people started coming in- I, I don’t know how that whole thing worked.
M: That they started getting more and more and more students and bigger and bigger and bigger and became a university and the whole thing- but I think that- the few people I met from there through friends, you know, and… I think they were the kind of guys who…
L: Uh, huh.
M: You know, had connections and maybe knew some people who, you know- I think that they probably came from high schools where there had been a lot of drugs.
M: I’m sure that Harrisonburg high had drugs too, but I think it was small at that time- I mean , I just don’t remember people having drugs, and it could have been that just my friends didn’t have drugs ’cause we were broke, but um- I don’t remember them, I mean.
L: Now what about I-81- I hear some people saying a lot of it maybe is because of this major highway-
M: I remember when I-81 was built.
L: And when was that?
M: Oh- good grief- I can’t remember what year exactly but I remember when they were building it.
L: Uh, huh.
M: And I think that- that kind of put Harrisonburg more on the map- because we started getting more traffic, we started getting- I think that the dramatic amount of people who were traveling through here, because- well I don’t even know when 95 was built, I don’t know if they had 95 then, but you know– just the smallness of the town that I recall I think people would drive through on 11 and just keep going, or 42.
M: And then 33 of course- we kind of have all those roads here- but I think that when 81 came it started bringing more commerce- of course, even the crews that came in here to build 81, you know, that was an influx of people.
M: So, I think that did have a dramatic effect on Harrisonburg, yeah.
L: Yeah, I would imagine.
M: Well more people, you know, suddenly we have a sign out on the interstate- have a sign, you know.
M: So, if you’ve got a sign people are going to stop- sooner or later.
L: You’ve got those burger joints…!
M: Yeah- and then again you started- I guess we started getting more restaurants to handle more people coming through because tourists are going to stop. And there are- I’m sure that people did come through here because we have the Civil War things that people are going to come to- it’s a beautiful area.
M: So, you know, we started opening up for campers and things like that, I guess.
L: Uh, huh.
M: And- I think it did have a dramatic change- effect on Harrisonburg- which is not a good thing, in my opinion- I like the little town.
M: I really did.
L: Yeah- so what do you think of Staunton in comparison to Harrisonburg today?
M: I think Staunton has been able to stay smaller longer- but I think they’re on the upswing now, I think it’s starting to really build up up there–’cause if you go up there now, even if you go downtown, I mean, you know, two seconds later here’s a mall, here’s a mall, here’s a mall, Wal-Mart, you know- it’s just expanding like Harrisonburg did, but I think they managed to maintain it much longer.
L: Uh, huh.
M: There’s a little town about six miles from here called Bridgewater, have you ever been there?
L: Yes, yeah.
M: Bridgewater is starting to do the same thing that I think Harrisonburg did- a few years ago in Bridgewater they did not have any fast food restaurants at all- now they have McDonald’s, now they have Hardy’s, so I think it’s starting to come there, yeah. If you want to see a town that reminded me of Harrisonburg back when- except for the fact that they don’t have the commerce that we had downtown- it would be like Dayton.
M: Dayton is still small…
L: So cute.
M: Yeah and the main street there is just kind of, you know, calm and- and that’s how Harrisonburg used to be here — I was just broken hearted when Woolworth’s closed.
L: Where was Woolworth’s?
M: It was downtown where Calhoun’s – Calhoun’s restaurant was…
M: And it was there for years, and years, and years, you know, and if you needed something you could go to Woolworth’s and get it- and then we had a five and dime called McCoy’s which is where the Kids Museum used to be- and then we had the Charles Store next to that. And the big building across the street from WHSV used to be- that whole building used to be a clothing store called Jo-Ney’s (?).
L: Oh, it was?
M: Yeah, top to bottom, all of it.
L: Oh, my goodness.
M: Yeah, top to bottom that was Jo-Ney’s, so- it was lovely- it was a lot different yeah- you could, you know, stroll downtown- now you go downtown you see maybe ten people- on a good day.
M: I miss the good old days- but then I didn’t live here for a long time so, a lot of it changed while I was gone.
L: Oh, now where did you go?
M: Well, when I got married my husband was in the military.
L: And how old were you when you got married?
M: Uh, 21.
L: And how did you meet him- just go back a little-
M: Just at a party.
M: We met at a party- in Staunton yeah.
M: And he joined the military soon after.
M: And then when he finished his training, and all that, we got married in 1972 and then we moved to Arlington- he was stationed at the Pentagon.
M: When we moved to Arlington and we lived there for a year and then we went to Germany yeah- we were over there until ’76 – and my son was born in Germany he was born in ’75 in Germany – in V (??) — that famous hospital you see where they take everybody-
L: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
M: Yeah, he was born there.
L: And what’s his name?
M: His name is Michael Morrison.
L: And what’s your husband’s name?
M: His name is Forrest Morrison- and we are divorced.
L: You’re divorced, ok.
M: Yeah, so- and then we lived in Germany until ’76- then we came back and we actually lived in Annandale, because he went back to the Pentagon.
L: Oh, ok.
M: Annandale’s in Northern Va.
M: He went back to the Pentagon and uh, his parents lived in Roanoke so when we would visit we would kind of stop here- go to Roanoke- come back and go home.– and we lived down there for- till about ’79 and then we moved to a town called Dale City, which is near Woodbridge, VA.
M: And we lived there till ’86 when we got divorced.
L: Now did he change jobs, is that how you moved to…?
M: No, we just decided to buy a house, instead of live in an apartment.
M: So we bought a house in Dale City. And it was a community that was planned out to kind of just be a commuter community.
M: The guy set it up where there was A area, B area, C area, D area as you went down the road- um it was like- we lived in Forrest Dale (?) which was F- and the day we moved into our house- further out the road, where they were starting to build more houses two ladies were killed in a trailer.
L: Oh my gosh…how?
M: The day we moved into the house two ladies were murdered- and they were with the real estate office that was selling the new houses- so it didn’t make me feel too safe there.
L: Oh my goodness.
M: But it was a nice community and we actually lived on a cul-de-sac- where the kids- I had my daughter there in 1980-
M: And they had tons of friends, tons of friends, you know, their age- and it was just great there. I did not work, a lot of ladies did not work there and so…
L: So once you got married you didn’t work at all?
M: I worked the first year till we went to Germany.
L: Ok, and what did you do?
M: I, I worked at- well where we lived in Arlington- we lived in a high-rise and then right below us there was a shopping center so I worked at Best Products- I worked there for a year- and I helped with the displays and labeling and freight and all that kind of stuff.
L: Uh, huh.
M: And I liked that Best, it was fun- but then after we came back my son was little so I did not work- until we got divorced- I did not work at all.
L: Now did you miss being out working or interacting- I mean did you get to get out a lot, or was it…?
M: No, we didn’t go out that much. We did have friends in- you know, and we, we had some people we had met in Germany actually which were sent back here- so we knew them. The area where we lived most of the couples were around our age- most of them had, you know, a couple of kids so there was a lot of, you know, there was a lot of social interaction there.
L: Uh, huh and did you keep in touch still at this time with your girlfriends from high school- and junior high?
M: No, we kind of drifted apart.
M: Yeah, we kind of drifted apart.
L: Did they get, married around the same age as you? Do you know, or?
M: Um, one of them got pregnant.
L: Uh, huh.
M: And got married straight out of high school- and I see her occasionally here now, you know, but we’re kind of like – “Well we need to get together and have lunch or dinner or something.” But it never happens.
M: And another friend that I know- she lives in a little town called Linville- I see her every now and then- she’s married with no children and, you know, it’s always, “I’ll call you, we’ll get together, I’ll send you and email, we’ll talk,” but- you know, it kind of never happens either, so… our lives are different.
M: And I really enjoyed being a mom – I loved it – I just liked being the stay at home mom, I loved to cook, I loved to sew and I would make the kids clothes and um, I really enjoyed trying new recipes so, you know, I became really really good at cooking, I, you know, I even considered going to a school and becoming a chef because I really enjoyed it so much but- that never transpired so…
L: Um, so what led to…..? [Someone came into the room] so what did you do for work after the divorce?
M: Well basically I started this- I started this because it was- back then…
L: And you moved at that time…?
M: Well when we got divorced my husband actually was being sent back to Germany so we agreed to kind of hold off on the divorce until the kids, you know,- till he came back and he could be here and we could, you know, work it out between us and the kids were not upset everything.
L: How old were the kids when you?
M: Six and eleven and so he went off to Germany and I said well I think I’ll move back to Harrisonburg- which upset my kids greatly- they really didn’t want to move.
L: Right- all their friends…
M: My son was in middle school and he really did not want to go back to elementary because at that time 6th grade was still in elementary here- and the schools down there were a little more advanced- so he would come home and say, “We’ve already done this- we’ve already done what we did in school,” you know, “I’m furious” and his friends that he had known since he was three he had to leave- and he was- he became very depressed- he suffered from a great deal of depression. My daughter was easier because she- she’s she has a more outgoing, extroverted personality and so she was great, you know, she was fine- made new friends and was happy- my son for that year really did not make any friends- at all. He went to seventh grade- we were living with my mom for a while-he went to seventh grade and he would come home and throw his books and just, you know, “I hate this place, I wanna go home.” You know, very furious and then toward the middle of seventh grade he started making some friends and he’d, you know he began to be better – but for a while there we had a really bad time with him.
L: Do you think a big part of that may have been the divorce and not having his dad around, or?
M: Well, he and his dad were never that close, Michael’s- he, I think the fact that he was- his first five years were spent mostly with me, you know, and we didn’t have, we didn’t have his sister then- I think that he was closer to me, you know, so – no, I don’t think it was so much his dad as leaving his friends- leaving the world that he knew and- we moved there when he was three so- that was his world from three to eleven- and that was tough leaving what he’d known for eight years.
M: And then, you know, he was doing violin – he’d been doing that for two years and then we came down here and of course the schools here did not have violin- at all. I had a terrible time trying to find him a teacher- I did find him a teacher for a while, and then she moved away- so that was another thing that was taken from him, you know, so he just- he felt like he lost his whole support system there– and I mean he really loved the family and being near the family- but I think that was his biggest problem was just losing what he had, you know, so…
L: Right. Wow. So you- did you come to work at this school, at that time?
M: No, I actually went to Spotswood where I went to elementary school- I worked there for a year and a half.
L: Uh, huh.
M: And then a position at Harrisonburg High School came open and I went there- and I was until last year.
M: This is my first year here.
L: Oh, ok.
L: So how long were you ay Harrisonburg High?
M: From- well, let’s see I worked there from (?) I was there probably from ’90 until 2005.
L: And what made you decide to leave?
M: Well they opened the new high school.
L: Oh, that’s right.
M: Out on- whatever the name of that road is I’m not even sure.
M: And its way out of town and I- I was getting older and the work over there is very difficult- the high school is very difficult to work at its a lot of heavy lifting – a lot of, you know, rushing around very intense work- you don’t get much of a break or anything- so I just said, you know, “I’m getting a little older, I’m tired.” And another thing is the kitchen over there is really tiny.
L: Really, in the new school?
M: And- really- it’s really small- so just at that time.
L: It’s alright we’re getting the real sounds in the background.
M: Yeah, but at that time I just decided I wanted a change so I went and talked to Andrea who’s our director- and just told her I didn’t feel like I really wanted to go out there, you know, they were getting a lot of new personnel- a lot of new people were coming- and I said, you know, at the high school we had a huge turn-over of people anyway and I talked to her and I said, you know, I think its time for me to either move on or move somewhere else- and I said, you know, if nothing comes open I think I’ll be quitting and trying something different- and so she said, “Well don’t quit now, you know, we’ll see how things work out.” And it just so happened that the day I was down at her office Mr. Painter who’s the principal here had emailed her and said I think we need more help next year- so there actually was only a part time position open here.
L: Uh, huh.
M: And she said- she called me and said I’m making it full time and its for you- so I said, well, I’ll give it a shot, you know.
M: So and its worked out fine here, I like it here- it’s much less intense- its, you know, much easier on the body.
L: Sure- and it must be- what’s the difference working with such a different age group?
M: Well I really really liked the high school kids.
L: Oh really?
M: I really did- and in all the years that I worked there I would have to say that I had a problem with maybe a handful of kids.
M: They were great- I mean the kids who went through there I know they get a bad rap.
M: But they’re not- they’re really aren’t – they were always sweet to me and I think you get back what you give – we shared a good rapport and I, you know, I think that you have to treat them the way you would like to be treated and I never really saw those kids- except, you know, a few times you’d see a fight break out, out in the eating area- but not where I was.
M: And the majority of them were very polite, very friendly, you know, I even see some of the kids now and they go, “Hey how are you doing,” you know. And of course my son was there for a while when I was there- but he was, you know, “That’s not my mom.”
L: Right, right.
M: And then when my daughter came, you know, she was like “this is my mommy” you know, everybody knew I was her mommy- she loved it and of course all of her friends would say, “hi mommy”- so I became Katie’s mom, not Pat anymore.
M: So, it was good there, I really liked it but again- it is more labor intensive, it’s a harder job.
L: Now why is it- why is it more labor intensive- why is…?
M: Well there’s- there are a lot more things that you fix and there are a lot of things that you have to do that are kind of unnecessary but you have to do them because they tell you to do them.
L: Like what?
M: Well for one thing we had a freezer here- like down the hall- and then we had a little freezer like that one in the kitchen- well everyday we would have to take all food from here and move it to here so that the next day we could move it from here to here and prepare it.
L: Instead of waiting to the next day and getting it from the one…
M: Right- so, you know, your back here and your picking up 300 pounds of boxes and putting them on a cart and taking them and picking up 300 pounds of boxes again and putting them in another freezer- so.
L: Just to take them out the next day and prepare them…
M: And it’s my understanding that even though at the new school they have a freezer here and a freezer here, she still makes you take the food from here to here so that it can go here the next day- go figure.
L: Yeah, ok- extra work.
M: There were just a lot of things that needed to be done that were kinda silly- but the manager was…
L: And how long was that manager at…
M: Oh she’d always- she was always there the whole time so…
L: Did you get along with her?
M: Yeah, because I can pretty much get along with anybody if I have to- and, you know, I was actually the oldest employee there- because people would come in and work a day or two and go, “This is not for me, this is hard”- you know, they didn’t- they thought you came in and stand there and you put a little food on the tray and.
M: .go away, you know.
M: They didn’t realize you had to sweep and mop and do dishes and, you know, fix food and lift heavy pans and, you know, things that were very labor intensive and so they would come in and work a couple days or two weeks or a month and they’re out of there- I think that the whole time I was there- there were maybe one or two people who are actually still working for food service.
M: And staying more than a couple of years, I mean it was just like you never knew- and there were days when I would go in there and the manager would be there and I would show up and until the part time showed up at 10:30 it was her and me- so, you know, that’s difficult because you’re trying to get everything done and you’re always rushing- always rushing around, you know, some days you had no break, some days you had a five minute break.
L: Oh my gosh.
M: And yeah- so it was just a situation that I though it was time I got out of- so last year – I mean year before that- my daughter and I actually went to Blue Ridge and took some classes, you know, so I got certified as an administrative medical office assistant- and I thought well, my daughter’s working as one now, and I thought, you know, maybe its just time I did something different – I think the reason I started this job was because the kids were small, and I really couldn’t afford babysitters- and this job was advertised for housewives who wanted to work while their kids were in school- that’s the way this job used to be advertised.
L: Oh, ok.
M: You know, you don’t want to pay a babysitter, you wanna work outside the home.
L: School hours.
M: School hours, yeah- and you’re off when your kids are out of school, spring break, Christmas, you know, you’re off.
L: Yeah, my mom worked in the schools when I was growing up.
M: Yeah, so it’s really good for that kind of situation, so now the kids are both grown- its not so important anymore.
M: And I think another reason I took this job was because I knew how to cook, I knew how to clean- these are things that you know if you’re a housewife type person- and even though my husband- my ex-husband was a computer programmer systems analyst and we were one of the first people to have a little home computer, you know, they didn’t have the internet back then but we, we did have a home computer- the world had changed, you know- when I quit work nobody had a computer, they still had typewriters.
L: Oh yeah, right.
M: You know, and nobody knew what those were- and even though I could type a little bit, you know, I’m like “I’m not touching a computer, I don’t know what to do, I’ll break it”- so you know it was a totally different work environment that I would have had to gone into.
M: And there aren’t a lot of resources if your, you know, getting divorced and you don’t have a lot of money there aren’t a lot of resources to suddenly go back to school and learn something different so I kind was like – I can do that, I’ll do that.
L: So hard was the decision to get divorced, I mean how did that…?
M: Well it actually became pretty easy after a while because I found out that he had actually impregnated another women.
L: Oh my gosh.
M: Yeah so it was pretty easy it was like, “Ok we’re done, we’re not going to wait till you come home, its over, its finished.” You know…
L: Had there been some sort of relationship going on for a long time…or?
M: Well there had been a relationship that I actually never had any proof of but I suspected that there had been a relationship- yeah, so, you know, when I found that out I was like huh I don’t think there’s any reason to wait till you come back…
L: And did he tell you?
M: No he actually didn’t I found out by myself which was, you know, not much fun yeah so… but…
L: So it was an easy decision?
M: Yeah, it was an easy decision.
L: It had to be done.
M: Yeah- it was easy for me it wasn’t really easy for the kids.
L: No, I can imagine- and did you tell them, or did he tell them?
M: He never even told them when he got married again- he had the kid and got married and actually came back to the states because his mother had a- she had cancer and his mother had she had an aneurism in her brain that hemorrhaged and went into a comma and we were, you know, with her and at her bedside and he flew back in and he had already remarried and had the kid and just a few days before he had had the baby and he never told the kids at all.
L: So is that the first time they saw him?
M: It was the first time saw him since he had left – they found out about it much later.
L: Uh, huh.
M: Yeah, actually they found out about it after he came back to the states and wanted to have visitation – and he’s kinda like, “Well I guess I have to tell you know because you are coming to my house that you have a half sister and a step mother,” which didn’t make for the nicest situation there and they never bonded and they well- it just didn’t work out.
L: So they don’t really have much contact with him?
M: None- now my daughter still has contact with her half sister and her half brother, but not the parents- no, no and the half sister is calling my daughter and telling her that her situation is very difficult right now, yeah- so my – my daughter is very upset about that- but she turns 18 in a year and her boyfriend actually is going to JMU now. They live in Dale City- oddly enough they moved back there.
M: Yeah, so my daughter is still in contact with the kids but not the adults, they don’t want any contact with the adults- so, yeah.
L: God, that must have been very hard for the kids, I can imagine-
M: Well, they’re both grown now and my son he’ll be 31 this year- he graduated from JMU actually, yeah.
L: What did he study?
M: He was an English major- and my niece who’s a teacher told him not to become a teacher- she said, “Don’t be a teacher.” He’s- he likes- ultimately would like to be a writer, wants to be a writer but right now he- while he went to college and after he got out of high school he worked at Costco and so now he’s a supervisor at Costco and he’s making more than teachers make- so he’s going to stay there for now- and he writes on the side and, you know, stuff like that so…. he’s out at- he’s actually out at JMU at lot he’s involved with still a lot of groups out there – guilds and whatever they have out there I don’t what they are, yeah.
L: And how about your daughter… you said she’s…?
M: She’s 26 now and she works at a doctor’s office here in Harrisonburg and she’s not married, she lives with her boyfriend- she’s not married. My son is not married either- he just bought a house though so he’s in the area- but he’s not married either- I don’t think whether of them are in a hurry to get married- which they had such a good example why, why rush, you know.
L: Yeah – do you think – do you see uh- notice like a different trend- I mean even though your kids, ok their not married and your thinking it’s something to do with their parents- but a trend today with young people at the marriage age waiting longer and longer?
M: Oh yes.
L: And why do you think that is?
M: I think some of them are career oriented and some of them don’t want children- and I think it used to be years ago that they wanted you to be married to have children, you know, there was a stigma attached to not having children in a marriage. And a lot of people don’t want children now- my son says he does not want children. And he has a girlfriend, you know, and she’s actually a JMU student but- I don’t think he’s in any rush to make the relationship legal. And I think that probably if he did want children it might change his mind- he probably would say, you know, lets get married- but at this point, you know, I don’t think he’s in any hurry- and my sister bothers my daughter all the time she’ll say, “Why don’t you two get married, you’ve been together, you know six years whatever.” And my daughter just says, “I don’t want to get married, I’m not interested in getting married.” You know, and her boyfriend is a nice guy he’s a karate instructor- and you know, they- they’re happy together, so why mess it up? And it’s easier to get out of that kind of relationship- not messy, it’s not expensive.
L: Uh, huh.
M: You know- I went broke getting divorced.
L: Now does she want kids someday?
M: I think she will- maybe one, not more, no I don’t think she’ll have more than one, possible two but she’s not into a big family, no.
L: To sorta change gears, because I was just thinking about this, did you have any uh, that you can think of- role models when you were young, you know when you were a teenager or before, like growing up- someone you looked up to- either personal or on the national- famous person or…
M: No, I really don’t recall anybody.
L: And do you remember any- you know, like any defining moments like something you know major that happened in your youth that sort of changed your outlook on things in some capacity?
M: I don’t know how much it changed my outlook but I know when President Kennedy was shot- I can still remember that day so vividly I was on school patrol back then they had school crossing- you know, safety guards- and they came and got us out of our room- we were in 7th grade then.
M: And they came and got us out of our room cause back then every room did not have a TV- we only had one room that had a TV and they took us down to the TV room to watch it and then, you know, we sat there and the coverage was very disjointed and, you know, nobody knew what was going on and everything- and then they came on and announced that the president was shot- and we had to go- two of us- myself and another girl had to go outside and put the flag at half mast- and when we went outside it started to rain- and that day is just, it’s just imprinted on my memory because, you know, it was such a horrific thing to happen- and we were so young and of course, you know before that when he was doing, you know we always had those mock elections at school
M: Remember those?
M: And we had had the big mock election, you know and everyone was like, “Don’t vote for that creep over there.” You know we want him, and you know, I remember I thought he’s the first presidents’ been cute- they were all so old and ugly- “We like him.” And I remember that that was just a devastating event for the rest of the year- everybody was just really down about that an, you know, I think at that time except for the early war news that was coming back- because it was very small back then um, I think we were sending advisors maybe and that’s all there were- you didn’t see a lot of violence going on- we were starting to get into some riots you know, some black things that were going on but it was small, it was small it was just starting and it wasn’t the media age that it is now-
M: I mean we didn’t- here in Harrisonburg we had one station and then the cable moved in and I think you had maybe five or six stations so we didn’t have CNN we didn’t have FOX news and all those- and we were just not, you know, everyday we were just not inundated with all that, you know, people were killed here- a plane crashed here-and everything. So I would have to say that seeing something like that on TV was an impact because we had not really seen much of that.
M: Of course as time went on it got worse and worse and worse but – and now its just like, you know, people go, “Things are so horrible.” And I say, “Things have always been horrible- you just didn’t know about it.”
M: You know, they always had earthquakes in Pakistan- but we didn’t know about it in Harrisonburg- we didn’t, we weren’t aware of it until you know…
L: Didn’t have that live coverage.
M: Yeah, maybe a week later you might see a little blurb in the newspaper and but you haven’t see a mountain of dirt and rubble on top of children- so so that was – I think that would really have to be something I saw that I don’t think I’d ever seen before was media coverage of a big event like that-yeah.
L: How about, when Watergate happened do you remember having feelings?
M: I remember Watergate- well I was not happy with Nixon anyway because as soon as we went to Germany .
M: The week I arrived in Germany the first time- he deval- he devalued the dollar against the mark so my money was worth less, so I was not happy with him anyway- and I arrived in Germany and they’re like, “You used to get four marks for a dollar and now you get three and a half.” So I was poorer already- and I always kind of looked at Nixon and thought he’s talking out of the side of his mouth, you know, and he was not one of my favorite people ever.
L: Uh, huh.
M: So yeah that was a big scandal but it didn’t really make the impact on me because I think I thought he was a crook from the beginning.
M: I never really cared for him- and then of course then there was so much going on- and I think the year that he actually retired was when my son was born- or the year before that so I had a lot going on in my life- and then again we were in Germany.
L: Yeah, right.
M: So it wasn’t a big issue with us the way that it was here in the states- it wasn’t really, you know.
M: Pushed that much over there, I think they kept it low key among the Americans-
L: So what year again did you come back to the states?
M: I came back to the states in ’76 late ’76.
L: The oil crisis?
M: Yeah, oh yeah I remember the odd even days- if you had a odd license you could get gas one day and if you had even another day and you were limited to a certain amount and we’ve come full circle because here we are again- you know, its very difficult for people- I’ve been- I was really depressed this year because of the price of oil – I have oil heat and it was very expensive and I though, you know, thank god that I ended up with enough money to pay it… but so many people- I just wonder how they made it.
M: Have to wonder how they made it- because I probably paid double what I paid last year, yeah- yeah it was very very expensive and I just- how do some of the elderly people even heat? So we’re back there again- and we have our war again so, you know- it just keeps- I guess its true life is a circle.
M: You know, cause we’re back here again and history repeats itself- clichés but they’re true.
M: And now we’re back there again and my kids are going through some of what I went through- which is sad- and of course, you know, we had the draft back then, you know, I did know a young man who was drafted, went to Vietnam and was killed. And a couple of years ago when my niece and I went to the Holocaust Museum I went to the Wall and saw his name, which is very sad – it’s a sad place,
M: You know, and the Holocaust Museum’s a sad place too.
L: I know it’s a very powerful….
M: I remember going to Germany and I thought, you know, I ‘m not going to like these people, I’m not going to like them at all- because, you know, I was a history buff and I really, you know, had read about it and knew about it and I thought these people are just gonna- yuck, they’re gonna suck – they’re gonna be awful- and they’re not, they’re great, they’re great. I – we lived in a very small town called Vick(?) the first , you know, while we were there and we were the only Americans in the town and we lived in the basement of a fairly new house- they had put a basement apartment in to rent- it was an older couple who had an eight year old son- and he had exquisite manners, he was an amazing kid. And they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak German and we got along like a house on fire, I mean it was great. And my husband had gone away for 17 days on a field exercise which they called (?) and I was alone with these people and we had a blast- I mean they fed me, they took me to carnivals- we had a great time.
M: Yeah they were awesome people- and he would bring down his pictures- he was actually a prisoner of war in Russia during the second world war he was just, you know, wehrmacht he was a foot soldier guy- he had to do what they told him- he hated the Russians- they were great, they were great people and I love them we had a ball there. And you know, that’s a preconceived notion that you go there and you think- “they had to know about it, you know, they let it happen.”
L: Yeah right.
M: And then you get there and you’re just like, “These people are awesome they’re just like you and me and they, you know, they did what they were ordered to do so they really didn’t have a choice either.”
L: But you could never actually talk with them about it directly because you had the language barrier?
M: Yeah, and my ex-husband was a fan of Hitler’s – I hate to say that- but he was something of a war buff and he, he really did not hate Hitler because he was raised in a family where his mother would make slurs on other people and cultures and he would do the same thing, so it really didn’t bother him, you know. I think he was kind of like a lot of people- “Oh it was all a hoax- it really didn’t happen.” Yeah.
M: So he,
L: Did that bother you?
M: Yeah, greatly because I was like “uh uh, no.” So we had kind of agreed to disagree on that.
M: He was also a Civil War buff- which you know, I liked that part- we would go around and visit Antietam and places like that- but.
M: We kind of agreed on that- but the German thing- uh uh. So but the people were great, they treated me great and, you know I really enjoyed Germany- it’s an awesome country, a beautiful, beautiful country.
L: So if you could go back and visit you’d go back…?
M: In a minute, in a minute – yeah I’d love to take my son there and let him see- because he actually had dual citizenship.
L: Does he still?
L: That’s interesting.
M: When you’re born there, even if you’re born in an American hospital you get a German birth certificate, you’re a German citizen, yeah.
L: Does he have a desire to see… to go?
M: I think that he would love it- but he doesn’t like flying- he just flew to Seattle for a job interview and he said- I said, “Mike how’d you like flying?” He said, “Flying was ok but I’m still not sure men were meant to do it”- so, you know, yeah – no he’s not fond of flying but maybe if we drugged him- you know- give him something he’d fly- – I think he would really enjoy it and he’s into all that medieval stuff, so, you know, the castles and all that.
M: He would really get a kick out of those
L: Yeah, yeah- I meant to ask you before- so the most of the time when you were married you were- you were staying at home taking care of the kids- did you husband ever help out with any- anything around the house -chores or taking care of the kids- I don’t know- diaper changing or anything like that?
M: I learned to be a plumber and a carpenter- I could do anything you wanted done- I could do plumbing I could do carpentry if there was a repair needed to be done I could do it- I would replace the wall sockets, the light switches- I can still do it now but I have severe arthritis so it a little harder, but yeah- I learned all that because no – he was not Harry the Homebody- he couldn’t do it. He was the intellectual – he was very intelligent but my mother said that he had no common sense and he was the dumbest smart man she ever met- yeah that’s how she…
L: Did she say that in the beginning or at the end of the….
M: Well after she knew him a little better – in the end she offered to kill him- she said, “I’m an old lady I won’t live much longer – let me kill him” I said, “No mother you can’t go to the after life with that on your conscience.”
L: Oh man!
M: Yeah- she did offer that, but I wouldn’t let her.
L: So what was your – what was your wedding like was it big was it small?
M: It was very small – it was a small wedding- and just basically a few friends and family- and then we just had a very small wedding trip- we went to Williamsburg stayed for a week and came back home and actually we went to Arlington because he was already there- and we went to Arlington and lived there- and we did- we were poor- we actually – the first year that we were there for a while we had blow-up furniture in the living room.
M: Do you remember that? Its back again- its come back yeah we used to laugh about that we had blow-up furniture- we had an armchair and a couch- it was blow-up red furniture so.
L: But you liked the DC area?
M: Yeah, we lived in a high rise- which I had never lived in a high rise before on the 7th floor and you could look out the window and see the Washington Monument and 95 was like kind of down below us- and so- it was nice, yeah I liked it down there.
L: And you were there about a year?
M: A little more than a year and then he got transferred from the Pentagon to Germany-
L: Now when you came back here to work -after the divorce -what was the pay like- I mean was it enough to- that you felt….?
M: No, no I could never taken this job if he had not been paying child support- because when I started here the pay was like $4.25- yeah and I had to start part time-
L: So you didn’t get benefits.
M: No, no benefits, so for about- well the kids still had benefits through him- yeah, they had benefits and for about – well until ’90- that was like ’89 when I started here -cause I didn’t work- I did a couple of small jobs before I started here like a telemarketer and stuff like that- but when I started here, from ’89 basically from the time we separated and got divorced I didn’t have any insurance or benefits or anything until like ’96.
M: ‘Cause you couldn’t afford them here- they’re expensive- yeah so yeah, I was kind of like in limbo land and if I had become very ill I would have been in a lot of trouble, yeah.
L: So as a part time employee you couldn’t get benefits- when did you go full time?
M: I went full time in ’93 because back then when I first started people stayed- and then suddenly it seemed like the older people left and then when they started getting a lot of younger people in that’s when the turnover was tremendous- it was very, very, you know, kind of like a turnstile- people would come in and people would go out- you barely got them trained before they left- so yeah it took me- now you can kind of come in most of the time and get full time-
M: But back then.
L: So once you went full time you had the option to get benefits?
M: You had the option to get benefits, yeah- the pay didn’t go up a lot but-
L: Now did the- -did the school system pay, you know, was it sorta like they pay half and you pay half?
M: Uh, huh-
M: They still do.
M: Although I started getting insurance in ’93 and since that time my part of the payment has more than doubled- yeah in- well ’96 I got insurance so- in ten years it’s more than doubled.
L: Wow- did they change carriers?
M: No, I think they kept the same carrier- I think what happened was it started expanding and started getting more and more and more employees and more and more and more people started getting older and having kids and so they’re, you know, its like a closed system- what we pay in is what we take out- its just managed by Anthem- and so if we have a shortfall then next year they raise the premium and then of course one year they came up with the gastric by-pass and so a lot of people had that and it tremendously expensive- really hurt our insurance a lot- and that year our insurance went up 20%- and this year they actually announced that we’ve done ok, they’re not paying for the gastric by-pass anymore , they’ve taken that off the table- it will not be approved by our insurance carrier – and so its not going up this year.
L: Do you have a prescription plan with that – is that – do you think it’s good?
M: When it started it was petty cheap – its gone up some now but compared to a lot its very good- compared to some other plans its excellent coverage – they’re pretty good about paying anything diagnostic stuff like that– I’ve been real lucky even though I’ve had a lot of health problems I have not had to be in the hospital since my daughter was born except you know like in and out surgery. So I’ve been really blessed with that just keep on chugging along thing.
L: Now do you foresee retirement in the near future? Or is it just something you’re not thinking about yet?
M: I’m kinda probably gonna take it year to year now-this year went pretty good its almost over – and I felt like after I got back into the elementary school routine – I felt pretty comfortable here – and so next year I’m gonna start the year out here, see what happens- so unless something drastic happens I’ll probably stay next year -its more a combination of –my health if I can continue to physically be able to do it.
M: If I’m physically able to do it I’ll probably do it ’cause I really like the hours – I really like the hours and the thing that allows me to work here even though the pay here is very bad – it really is, it’s very poor pay for what you do.
L: Yeah probably for the amount of years you got in this business.
M: They average like fifty cents raise a year- one time a year its very poor pay – the hours and the insurance are factors that keep me here – but um thee thing that allows me to stay here is my ex is paying. I had a really bad lawyer and he got away for thirteen years without paying me. Yeah- I was pretty much on my own for thirteen years he did pay child support but he wouldn’t give me any of the benefits that I was well actually I was entitled to some of his retirement is what he’s paying – about 2000 I got in contact with a lawyer right outside of Dale City, VA who was awesome and he said were gonna fix this. So he fixed it and so you know he did tell me he said and soon as I told him the judge I had – he said you don’t have to say another word there’s no way a woman ever got a fair shake in his court.
L: Oh my gosh.
M: He said he never ever ever gave a woman a fair shake – and he said that when that judge retired his office threw a party.
L: This is down in?
M: [?] in right outside well right outside of Dale City Woodbridge area and he told me he said when Sheldon Smith retired we threw a party he said we were so happy he was off the bench because he was just hated. And I was like he might with my luck I get the one crappy judge who hates women you know so all that stuff through for all those years of duking it out because he actually asked for custody of the children – we went through a huge custody battle – and if he had won custody my mother would’ve killed him because I would have let her.
L: You wouldn’t stop her for that?
M: I would’ve let her- yeah so it everything I got from the sale of the house – lawyers and much more than that – so.
L: So now in 2000?
M: It took me thirteen years to get back to court to get a settlement from him to start getting a part of his military retirement – he’s retired, yeah.
M: So that’s the only reason I can really afford to work here – that’s coming – now if he croaks and its stops I’m outta here.
L: So when he dies?
M: when he dies its gone – he has to pay till he dies – but I did my lawyer my lawyer did get a backup that if he dies before a certain time I get like a third of his life insurance so we do have that in writing – to make up on the back portion that he owed me so that that covered the back portion that he owed me.
L: I see, I see.
M: So don’t get ever get married and divorced – make sure before you get married.
L: It’s tough.
M: It is- you mean you’re going along and your life is ok and then the next thing you know bam – its different and I think the hardest thing is trying to get back into the job – when the world is different – the world has passed you by and I told my daughters that you know when I made her go she went to the college for a year and quit – it wasn’t her thing.
M: When I made her go back to school and learn something – I – this is not going to go away – there will always be healthcare – you know – you’re gonna have some sort of healthcare forever.
M: And even if you get married – if you get divorced you can support yourself – go back to work and support yourself – so – I never wanted to see her in the position I was in where the world was so different you now- I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on – really and now when my son bought his first computer, I turned it on one day and didn’t know how to shut it down – and I thought he’ll never know I touched it – I didn’t know you had to shut it down – he came in and he’s like, “Turned on on my computer didn’t you mom .” I said, “How’d you know that.” He said, “This is what you do – so he said touch it all you want if you break something I’ll fix it.” So I taught myself how to do computers – I just got on there and fooled around with it and said this is how you do stuff and I’m gonna learn it and so I did.
M: Yeah and then a couple a years after that we got computers here – now we used to have the old NCR things.
L: Yeah I noticed out front there’s a computer at the checkout.
M: Uh, huh so we got computers here, you know, and that’s another reason my boss at the high school liked me around because I knew hw to do the computer and she didn’t, you know, she’d say, “I have to download a file come here and do it.” So I just taught myself how to do it, and I figure you gotta learn it because it’s out there.
L: I’m still not a very technical myself, I mean I..
M: I didn’t mean the technical side as much as using it, so I could not fix it, but Michael has a friend who can – so if anything goes wrong, it’s actually one of the first friends he made here, they’re still good friends- I call him and say get your butt over here Griff? I need ya, so he’ll come over and work on it for me
L: Uh huh, super.
M: And the kids have, I’d day after they adjusted you know and made friends – they had a fairly good childhood except for the fact that they had to go visit their father.
L: How long did that go on?
M: It went on until my daughter was 18.
L: And they would never enjoy it?
M: They would cry, scream, miss things, you know, there would be something they wanted to do and he wouldn’t give them…
L: How long were these visits?
M: A weekend.
L: How often?
M: Every other week.
L: Oh you’re – oh wow.
M: Twice a month yeah – see my son got to stop a lot earlier than my daughter.
M: And he quit, and the bad thing was never really did anything with them down there, they would say he watches football, we just hang out – so it was hard on them but when they were home it was my mission to make sure they were okay like my son – there were times we setup to three in the morning, just you know talking you know and calming him down and just letting him vent, ’cause he needed to.
M: Yeah, so you know, I guess you could say I devoted all my free time to them – yeah, now they’re gone, they’re out on their own and I have my cat, which my son stuck me with.
L: It was his cat?
M: Yeah he stuck me with it.
L: So how was it having them leave? Was that hard?
M: No I think he was ready to leave, he stayed home a little longer than some because he went to college and quit and then went back to college , so he was kinda like I’m hanging out here cause I have no money, so he was actually 24 when he moved out – and I think he was really ready to go cause I was you know not – he didn’t have the freedom that he really needs, and he actually moved back home a little while last year, because his lease ran out and he wanted to go to another town but that fell through, so he’s like, “My lease ran out I have nowhere to live.” So he moved back in for a while, and believe me when he bought his house he was ready to move out, yeah he was ready to go.
L: Yeah right.
M: He’s a night person; I’m a morning person, so we didn’t, we weren’t on the same schedule there – but we get along really well, he’s a lot like me, loves books loves to read you know. And my daughter she moved out when she was about 21 and lived wither some girls for a while, did that whole thing, so yeah I think she was ready to move too.
L: But they both live in the same area still so you get to see them around?
M: Yeah they were over for Easter dinner, and I said all the foods on the table pack it up and take it home, cause I can’t eat it, I have what’s called psylliac (?) disease, and its an autoimmune disease, you can’t have anything that has glutton in it – and glutton is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats.
L: So like everything?
M: Like in everything.
L: Oh man.
M: It’s like in everything.
L: How long have you had this?
M: Well basically I’ve had it – I’ve been diagnosed with it since 2000, but I probably had it a long time before that, I had symptoms of it but they say that on average it takes about 11 years to get diagnosed with this because doctors didn’t know it, its a disease that’s very, very old, I think that the first mention of it is 200 AD or something, it was first mentioned in a medical book or something, but doctors discount it, they don’t really diagnose it.
M: And now, I had never heard of it, I’m like what? I have what? I’ve never heard of this, now in the last couple years though it’s really, really becoming advertised and getting a lot of publicity so.
L: So people recognize what they have?
M: They’re recognizing it now, we have a teacher here whose son has it.
L: Now, what happens if you were to eat something with gluten?
M: I get sick.
L: Really sick?
M: Various things, I , it has a lot of side effects, I get stomach problems with, or I have the skin form too so I’ll breakout, that’s called dermatitis hepetaforimus (?), so I’ll actually get a skin rash, I get the intestinal problems, but if you don’t stop eating it – it can cause a lot of things like lymphoma of the small intestines, you know, it has a lot of things that go with it, it can cause peripheral neuropathy you know nerve problems, left untreated some people even become schizophrenic, you know it has all kinds of you know just horrible things, they give you the worst case scenario.
M: There’s like a million things you can get from it, it was difficult to adjust to, because I was just getting to the point where I lived on my own and didn’t cook anymore and I could do the microwave meals, and suddenly I can’t do the microwave meals, you know. I have to go to the health food store- no bread, no cereal, no soup, no pasta which killed me, so now you know I have rice pasta, I have potato pasta, I have bread made out of alternative grains like rice and sorghum and soy and stuff like that.
L: That’s gotta be a lot more expensive?
M: It is expensive and for a while there when I was first diagnosed the doctor just told go home and go gluten free and I’m like, you know, “What?” Gluten to me was what you develop in the bread to make to it elastic, you know, ’cause I was a baker- and he’s like, “Go home and don’t eat gluten.” So thankfully, through a couple of the health food stores, I met a couple of people in the area who have it -and they kinda guided me a little bit for a while. They were very helpful, and then I found out we have the– out in Seattle they have a gluten society, they have one in Nebraska, they even have a support group at UVA, so, but I mean it’s- it’s out there now, people know it, but they’ve actually said that a study that a doctor at the University of Maryland did says that one – one out of every 133 people in America is an undiagnosed psilliac.
L: Out of, one of out how many?
M: So that’s a lot of people to have it, it’s actually, you have to have the gene to have it – yeah, I figure I got it through my mother’s side because my grandfather was of Irish descent, very big in Ireland, very big in Italy oddly enough with all the pasta.
M: Very, those are two countries were there’s a lot of it.
L: That’s interesting – speaking of help, I was curious what you think of the program, the meal programs in the schools you’ve worked at.
M: I’ve seen them become more and more fast-food as years have gone along; we made a lot more food when I first came.
M: We made a lot a more stuff from scratch, we would get ingredients and put it together.
L: Like what sorts of things would you make that now you don’t?
M: Well we used to make spaghetti from scratch, we used to make lasagna from scratch, we used to make you know.
L: You’d actually make the pasta for spaghetti?
M: No, no, no.
M: I mean like the sauces and stuff.
L: Oh ok.
M: We used sauces in cans, and we didn’t have as many chicken nuggets and stuff as we do now, you know, it just seems like suddenly you’ve got more pre-made food coming in.
M: Yeah, at one time we even got pre-made pizza crust in but then we would put the toppings on and make the actually pizza, now its all frozen, it just seems like things are more gearing toward more fast-food, and I know they’re trying to turn it around a little bit to get more fresh vegetables and more fresh fruit, you know in the diet, but for a while there I think it was like chicken nuggets a lot, a lot of sandwiches, hamburger, hotdog, more convenience foods, and.
L: So things like mash potatoes were probably instant and.
M: There was a time when they used to actually do the potato peels.
L: Yeah right.
M: And yeah now they’re instant, the gravies come in instant, the canned green beans, the frozen corn, so it’s a little you know, which I guess its ok because we have less staff and we have less time.
M: We do still make the rolls, we make the bread, we make that, but they added things like breadsticks which are frozen, basically the only thing we make from scratch is probably the rolls.
L: What do you think about the health food for the kids, I mean, has it become this more packaged, prepackaged, is it less healthy?
M: Well I, I -we don’t fry anymore, we really don’t fry foods anymore, we don’t fry the chicken, we don’t fry the chicken nuggets, they’re all baked, we don’t even fry the french fries.
M: And the new director has pulled french fries pretty much off the menu except well now here we only have them maybe once every month and a half. We have them very rarely, the high school I think has cut back to like two days a week, and they do still fry them, but its only like two days a week, so I think she’s trying to get rid of fried foods, even the chips the they put in the vending machine are baked now. They don’t put like you know the fried chips, they’re all baked, and we still give them the chocolate milk and everything but they don’t realize it’s like one percent milk.
L: Oh yeah right.
M: The chocolate milk is low fat.
L: The chocolate flavor so they’re.
M: Like chocolate milk, but its like one percent milk, so it’s very close to skim.
L: Sure do they still have whole milk though?
M: No, they do not have whole milk here, we have fat free milk, low fat milk, chocolate milk, and then they brought out a flavored milk, which is also low fat milk, but it just has a flavor like strawberry or vanilla and then sometimes we get orange, it’s all low fat.
L: Now how about soy?
M: Well they don’t really have soy milk, if we had a child who requested it I think we can get it.
M: But at this point I don’t think anyone has requested it.
M: We do have a few kids who are lactose intolerant so we give them juice as opposed to milk, but I think she’s trying, some of the burgers now, some of the sausages now, they have soy in them, they’re not all beef, they have vegetable protein, and soy and stuff in them, and the hotdogs are actually turkey.
L: Wow really.
M: They’re not beef anymore, they’re turkey.
L: Wow – do they taste like turkey? or do they? Or are they flavored?
M: I don’t know, I haven’t eaten one.
L: Are they injecting them with some kind of flavor that’s.
M: The kids love them so they must taste pretty good, I don’t eat meat cause I’m a vegetarian.
L: Gluten free vegetarian?
M: Gluten free vegetarian, that’s darn hard, it was like what do I eat, but you know down through the last six or so years I’ve come up with a lot of stuff and the internet’s really helped cause I can go on there and pull up a hundred recipes on the webpage, but the kids love the hotdogs and you know like today they had the chicken nuggets shaped like stars, so she’s trying to lure them into you know eat the stuff, but the thing that bothers me is that so many kids don’t eat it, they just don’t eat they’re lunch. A lot of food gets thrown away – that kinda bothers me, either they’re socializing, or they’ll go, “I don’t like that.” And, you know, they might eat the same thing at home but they won’t eat it here, so.
L: Do a lot of kids bring their own lunch?
M: Not too many.
L: So they majority are definitely.
M: The majority eat, absolutely, they get the lunch but whether they eat or not is a different story.
L: And what about the prices? Do you think the prices are fair?
M: The prices have gone up a little bit I think every year for like the last six or seven years, but they haven’t gone up drastically, you known its been like a nickel or a dime every year, and the, it well, its common news its in the newspaper all the time, the majority of the kids in Harrisonburg are on the free lunch program, there’s a huge number of kids who get free lunch, and that’s the news that’s in the newspaper, its no secret, they publish that, so, a lot of families, you know there are some kids that you look at them you’re gonna know that that’s their meal, they need it.
M: So they do eat it, but the kids are great here, they’re really sweet, they really are. I’ve liked it and enjoyed it, the other day a little girl brought me a picture, my first picture, I’ve been here all year and she handed me a picture and she always brings the manager a picture and I said, “I’ll give this to Miss Mary for you.” She said, “No that’s for you.”. “Is that for me? Finally? After all these months I get a picture?” – I liked that, they’re cute.
L: That’s great.
M: I’ll probably just do it year to year and see how it goes, see if my arthritis does me in or something else, if I can’t do it, I’ll quit.
L: Will you miss it? Will you miss the interaction? The daily.
M: I think I’ll probably miss the kids, yeah.
L: But you’ll be happy to stop working eventually.
M: Yeah well I probably wouldn’t be able to stop working totally, but I’d probably have to go to something else, something less physical, yeah but I think I would miss the kids, I think that seeing the new kids come in and the old kids leave all the time, I mean I’ve seen so many kids go through that high school system its just amazing, you know you kinda wonder.
M: Some of them you run into years later, oh I’m married and I have three kids, I’m like oh my god I’m so old now, you know because they’re married and have three kids and you knew them when they were.
M: .twelve, so its a shock, its fun, I do wish sometimes I had not stayed as long as I did, I think I could’ve done something different and then I was just kinda like well I got into that rut where I kept going back.
L: You mean, like the ten years you were at.
M: Yeah, yeah, I actually told my daughter the year she was a junior I said I’m quitting and I’m not coming back and she said oh mom come back until I’m gone.
L: Senior year?
M: “Yeah, you gotta be there till I’m gone.” And then I made the mistake of doing that.
L: Get sucked back in.
M: Sucked right back in, so I kinda, I was ready to go that year, ready to get out-listened to my daughter- don’t listen to your kids, they’ll ruin your life!
L: Now, do you have any regrets in life?
M: Yeah I do, I wish that, I , I wish that I’d gone to college for one, I really do. I think that what happened there was, where my family comes from, they weren’t big on education back there and back then, and so I was never really that encouraged, you know, to get educated.
L: It makes such a difference to get that support.
M: Yeah, that’s important, and back when I was actually in school I was one of the students who was you know a good student and made good grades but not really in the group that was shepherded through school, and so I was just kinda fell by the wayside in school. If there had been somebody there like a mentor who had said we can do this, we can get you grants, we can, they do that now.
M: They take kids who are, I guess, at risk kids and they mentor them and get them through that, and even like now they have the technical schools you know. We didn’t have that, we didn’t have any options, even of going and a learning a trade back then, so I think if somebody there in my life had said.
M: .do this different I probably would have, and I do regret that, and I kinda regret that I came back here.
L: To Harrisonburg?
M: Yeah, there were a lot more opportunities in Northern Virginia, for the kids, and I think there would have been more for me down there, and so at the time I was an emotional wreck and depressed, and I don’t think you should make major decisions when you’re in that position, but I did, and so.
L: But you had your family, your mom?
M: Yeah and I don’t regret the fact that I did get to be close to my mother, you know, all those years- because losing her has been really hard, so I think I did get to spend that time with her, you know, and I’m glad bout that – and I kinda regret that there was nobody there when I got divorced to say the world has changed but you don’t have to be you know the housewife and go to work at a cafeteria and become a cafeteria lady. You can learn something [said goodbye to someone], but you know at the time again it was desperation time, had to have money, had to have something to do, and so I kinda fell into this because it was best for the kids.
M: And then you know, you get in a rut and you keep going back year after year after year after year, so I do kinda regret that. I don’t really regret my marriage because it gave me the kids and they’re great, they’re great kids, you know. And we’ve had, the three of us together have had a good life, we’ve been happy. For a while there I did work two jobs, that was tough on them, but they were older, they were older kids then. And then of course with my daughter when she went to school here, I was working but if she would get sick they wouldn’t call me, they would call my mother, and she was retired then and my mother would just come and get her. When I got home she’d call and say, “I have Katie” – so I was lucky to have that support system.
M: I think that there was the road not taken back when I was younger and if that road had been taken I wonder you know what would’ve happened years later but you know, so I, that’s one of the reasons that you know when I got divorced the kids became my top priority to take care of them because I wanted them their lives to be better, and the depression that my son, he really just needed time, and with me, and talking and, and, so, I do kinda really regret that but, that’s in the past, and it’s, it’s, it’s, something that I think about but I don’t dwell on it, you know.
L: What do you most look forward to?
M: Sleeping! I do lot of that, I really do, you know I have a very small life now, I think, I pretty much come to work, go home talk to the cats, and fix some something to eat, do the dishes, do the laundry, I have a small circle friends and we go out sometimes -it’s hard for me to go to a restaurant to eat.
L: Yeah right.
M: And then church and things like that but life is very calm and not exciting or anything like that now, TV, reading books, and I taught myself to crochet.
L: Oh good.
M: I always wanted to do that, I’m not very good at it, you know but I crochet little blankets for the cats and little blankets for my niece for her dolls, so nobody complains if they’re crappy. Yeah I tried to learn that years ago and for some reason my brain could not you know look at it and say this is how you do it, and I would tell people I could make a chain to china but I can’t go backward to make anything that’s not a chain, so this past year for some reason, when I sat down and was doing it my mind said this is easy.
L: It was the right time.
M: Why didn’t I get it twenty years ago, but, you know, I went back and it worked- so, you know, I crochet whole stuff and I used to sew a lot, I don’t sew very much anymore, I used to make all my daughters clothes, when she was little, and I made clothes for my son and stuff like that, I really enjoyed that. I hang out with my little great nieces. My great niece and my great, great niece are the same the age oddly enough.
L: Oh my goodness.
M: Yeah so I hang out with them, you know they love me, yeah so no grandchildren but I have them, and they’re both five.
L: But you still might have grandchildren in the future.?
M: Well I’ll be too old and decrepit to take care of them. I told the kids when they have kids I’m moving to California, said you kids I’m moving to California ’cause I’m not babysitting. My daughter said I won’t let you baby-sit because you’ll fall asleep but.
L; You get to have fun with them and send them home.
M: Yeah, that’s what I do with my nieces, you know, they come over and stay a couple hours- and then they go home.
L: Yeah, that’s good.
M: So that’s fun but, you know – I get to Church on Sunday, that’s the big outing- shopping every now and then – Charlottesville to the doctor- so that’s about it so, it’s boring but it’s calm.
L: You’re content.
M: Yeah, I’m content and I can pretty much do whatever I want, you know, I don’t have someone sitting there saying is dinner ready? Did you wash my socks? you know, so I enjoy that aspect of it- I really do- and if I want to leave I can leave and if I don’t want to leave I don’t have to- and so I like that.
L: Have you ever thought about dating?
M: No, I never really got into that again- I think at the beginning would have been the time for me to do that, if I was going to do it- and I think at this point that those years are gone.
L: No interest?
M: Not really, no because I told Stella the other day- I said- she said her brother just got divorced- I said Stella I did my time- they even let people out of prison after so long – I did my time, yeah so I’m not into that anymore.
L: I see.
M: I’m done with that- and I can just, you know, as long as I can take care of myself financially I think at this point I’d rather not.
M: You know, have somebody else around who’s bugging me- if I wanna sleep I’ll sleep- leave me alone.
L: Yeah right- without having to cook dinner or whatever.
M: Yeah, I like it.
L: Great- it was so nice talking to you and hearing your stories.
M: Well- it was kinda boring, I think.
L: No- its wonderful, I love it.
M: It was funny.
L: Thank you very, very much.
M: Oh, your welcome.
-End of Recording-