Jean Shea, December 6, 2013

Title

Jean Shea, December 6, 2013

Subject

Oneonta State University
Syracuse, New York
Oneonta, New York
Motherhood
Dating
Divorce
Parenting
Technology
Jewish
Syracuse University
Skiing
Hallmark Cards, Inc.--Collectibles

Description

Jean Shea was born in Syracuse, New York, on May 10, 1928. Shea had a happy childhood growing up in Bradford Hills, east of Syracuse. Living on the edge of the Jewish neighborhood, she discusses the religious diversity in her community. She tells stories of rites of passage, such as obtaining a driver’s license and dating.

Considering education to be of paramount importance, Shea elaborates on the changes in schooling from her days as a student to being a parent with children in school. She attended Syracuse University herself and all of her children went on to pursue higher education. After working a year at the Internal Revenue Service, she married and became a stay-at-home mother of six children. Her husband worked for a telephone company and they moved around New York State before settling in Oneonta.

Shea’s recollections explain the day-to-day activities of living in town. She offers her insights regarding home life, dating, sex, marriage, divorce, and parenting. She analyzes the use of technology as a means for parents to increasingly police their children. Seeing the present day as allowing more freedom of choice than in the past, she explains how providing children with their own freedom is beneficial.

I interviewed Shea at her home in Oneonta. Once an avid skier, Shea remains active through many bridge groups; a gym membership; and many hobbies, including backgammon and collecting Hallmark ornaments, tops, and marionettes.

Creator

Emily Hoffman

Publisher

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

Date

2013-12-6

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.4mB
audio/mpeg
27.4mB
audio/mpeg
23.2mB
image/jpeg
1.03mB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Sound
Sound
Image

Identifier

13-03

Coverage

Syracuse, New York
1928-present
Oneonta, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Emily Hoffman

Interviewee

Jean Shea

Location

181 Blend Hill Rd.
Oneonta, NY

Transcription

JS= Jean Shea
EH = Emily Hoffman

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

EH:
This is the December 6, 2013 interview of Jean Shea by Emily Hoffman for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course, recorded at her house, 181 Blend Hill Road, Oneonta, New York. Jean, could you tell me a little bit about your childhood?
JS:
I never had any traumatic incidences, so I can’t write a book. It was very normal, I think. There were three: my brother, my sister, myself. I was the youngest. My mother and father [stayed together]. In those years everybody stayed together, so your family was a family.
EH:
So you didn’t see many divorces during that time?
JS:
No. People stayed married whether they wanted to or not, especially Catholics because divorce was not in the picture. But my mother and father seemed very happy. I don’t think there was any turmoil.
EH:
Was religion a big part of your childhood?
JS:
I was Catholic and you went to church every Sunday no matter what. So I guess it was. In high school, the sorority took one Catholic. I guess that it was true. Catholics were not thought of as highly as WASPs. [Laughter]
EH:
Tell me a little bit more about the sororities in your high school.
JS:
They had one sorority that took only Protestants. They had another sorority in the parochial school that did take some Catholics out of the high school. Then they had one sorority that took one Catholic a year. I felt so honored. It kind of bothers me now to think that I thought [it was] so great that they picked me. I worked with old business to see if they couldn’t take some more Catholics. By the time I graduated, they took two, but they couldn’t be from parochial school. So I accomplished something, I guess. It’s a weird concept when you look back, because you seem like all your friends. It’s stupid. Of course, it doesn’t change. Every war is caused by religion, from the Crusades. Why can’t people just keep their religion to themselves and their group?
EH:
Was there a lot of religious diversity in your neighborhood?
JS:
I lived right on the fringes of the Jewish neighborhood. All my friends, pretty much, were Jewish. I had my birthday party at twelve and I think there were maybe one or two Christians that came. The Jews were really quite prosperous. I asked why they were so much smarter than we were. She said their parents tell them that they have to be smarter than we were when they started school. We never cared in grade school if we were better, but they were getting better than all of us. They tried harder. Yes, I was very close to the Jewish community. They were friends until we went to ninth grade. My best friend said she couldn’t be friends anymore because she had to be friends with the Jewish people. I was crushed. Her father had a leather business. You get discriminated by the Jews and the WASPs. [Laughter] I had many close friends who were Jewish. In the high school I went to, all the Jewish people in Syracuse pretty much went there. They were bussed there. They called the football team “the Hebes,” the Hebrews. It’s interesting.
EH:
It was in Syracuse that you grew up?
JS:
Syracuse, New York
EH:
Did you live right in the center of town?
JS:
No, we lived in an area called Bradford Hills, which was east of Syracuse. It was a very nice area. It was a long way. You walked a couple miles to school. I always think you walk to school uphill both ways. We were allowed to cross Route 5 and 20 by ourselves. Now, you have a guard at every corner. We probably walked up 160 stairs, I think, to get to the top of the hill after you cross the highway. We never thought anything about crossing streets, and now you have all those crossing guards. You go to school and it’s a wonder they don’t take every kid by their hand across the street. I think parents became much more hovering. Is that the right word? [Laughter] This generation, they can’t even go to the next door neighbor.
EH:
What are some of the things you studied when you were in school?
JS:
We went through grades one through six, which was elementary school. Then you went to junior high, which was seventh and eighth. Then you went to senior high, which was ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth. I think they had pretty much the same courses. No computer ones. Typing, I guess, would be comparable. I was very upset when my kids were in school that BOCES came in and took all the courses. When I was in school, we had mechanical drawing. We had plumbing, electricity, chemistry, physics, and the ordinary courses. My kids had typing, then they cut it from a year to half because you had to go to BOCES if you wanted a whole year. I think BOCES kind of ruined the education for the average high schooler in today’s world. We didn’t have a BOCES then. We did have high schools that you could go to, like vocational school.
EH:
BOCES is a technical school?
JS:
Yes. Here, they run a bus to BOCES. It’s in Milford. They don’t encourage the smarter children to go because they’re supposed to go on to college. Now these go over and learn a trade. They learn to be a plumber. They learn to do nails. They learn to cut hair. When they graduate from high school, they have a trade, which I think they do in Germany to this day. They always have. You learned a trade and you’re graduating. You’ve never heard of BOCES?
EH:
No.
JS:
It’s a school all by itself that the kids go to half the day. I think there are some that you go all day, but they go half of the day. They take the bus. Most children don’t want to be on the BOCES bus because then you’re considered a BOCES, which kids at that age, in high school, don’t like to be.
EH:
You, when you were in school, decided to go onto college, right?
JS:
Yes. It was kind of automatic. You went to high school and Syracuse University was there. I went on to Syracuse and graduated from Syracuse University.
EH:
What did you study there?
JS:
I majored in anthropology and minored in English. I would’ve like to have been able to go away to school but they didn’t do that as much when I was growing up if you had a college in town. Today it seems like you have to go away whether you can afford it or not. It’s lonely when you live in a college town. I lived about three or four miles, maybe more than that, from the college. You walked there a lot because you didn’t have your own car. Today you go to school and everybody has their car. Then you used to just walk.
EH:
So you lived at home with your parents?
JS:
I lived at home with my brother and sister. They both went to Syracuse. My brother was drafted into World War II and went into the V12 program. Then he went to St. Lawrence. My sister and I both graduated from Syracuse. My mother graduated from Syracuse and my father. My mother’s mother graduated from college and was a teacher. In those years, women weren’t that encouraged to go. She had two sisters. One went to be a seamstress. The other went for cooking. So they went to special schools for that. Education was a very important thing in my upbringing. You just went whether you wanted to or not.
EH:
When was it that you left home?
JS:
When I got married. I didn’t get married the year after college. I got married the following year. That’s when I left home. I would’ve liked to have been in today’s society where you can go anywhere you want with your boyfriend. In those days, I was hell bent on getting out to Colorado to ski. I was on the ski team for four years and that was my love. They changed things. You couldn’t just go off with your boyfriend. That would’ve been a real “no-no.”
EH:
Well why not?
JS:
I know. Why not? I guess because there was no pill. [Laughter] The pill changed the world. I remember going up to see my friends that were up at Lake George. So, three of us went, three couples. One couple was married. We had to say we were married or they wouldn’t let us stay. I remember leaving it and she kept calling me “Mrs. Shea.” Of course, I didn’t pay any attention. I thought she probably realized we all weren’t married, but you just didn’t do that. In fact, when we left on our honeymoon, the first place we stopped was in Ohio. They wouldn’t let us stay in the cabins unless we could prove we were married. After you get married they don’t hand you a marriage certificate that day. So we couldn’t stay there because we weren’t married. Can you imagine that happening today? It was a much stricter world. I think it is better with the freedom they have today. I would’ve like that. Then you could’ve slept with a lot of people, [Laughter] instead of the one you married. I’m only kidding.
EH:
Did your parents also enforce this dating?
JS:
I don’t think I ever heard my father raise his voice. He was very mellow. My parents were very mellow. My father was a lawyer, but he was a lawyer before lawyers made money. He had real estate. He had an apartment house that every relative, I think, lived in at one time or another. My mother had been a teacher. When she got married, she didn’t work. Most of the time, you had at-home mothers, in those days anyway. Pretty much when my older children were growing up, we have a summer place on Lake Ontario and when school got out, we would go there for the summer. When school started, we’d start the day after because my husband never liked driving on the holidays. Our kids always started school a day late, but nobody cared. Now [with the] next generation of kids, then mothers had started working. You didn’t spend the whole summer at camp because there was nobody doing it. When our kids were there, everybody had family and there were kids. It is much different because both parents are working usually.
EH:
You were a stay-at-home mom?
JS:
I was a stay-at-home mom. Loved it! [Laughter] I worked for the Internal Revenue [Service]. I worked at Board of Education at Syracuse. When we got married, we went to Colorado. My husband still had schooling left. We went out there. We were going to stay there, then I got pregnant and I wanted to go back home. He went to Syracuse and he finished graduating. Then I worked at the Board of Education before I delivered. Before I got married, I worked that one year at the Internal Revenue. That was the end of my working.
EH:
What did you do to keep yourself busy?
JS:
I had six children. [Laughter] I had four in five years. I got pregnant ten months after we were married, then I had four children in five years. I did take library courses at Syracuse University too. I thought of being a librarian but it was a five year course and I just wanted to get out. I subbed in the school system in Oneonta as a librarian when they wanted me. That’s about the only work I did.
EH:
Would you say there were certain expectations for mothers when you were staying at home with their children?
JS:
No, because all their friends’ mothers were staying at home too, for my first group of children. The first four, all of their mothers were home too. By the time I had the last two, I didn’t much care what anybody thought. So those mothers who were working, it’s too bad. [Laughter] I had no desire to. My husband had a job. He worked with the telephone company. They’re always moving you. We were in Syracuse. We went to Utica, then we went to Massena. We went to Oneonta. We lived in a great colonial house, which is great for a lot of children, right in the heart of Oneonta. Then when my husband got transferred, he quit moving. He moved. He worked in Binghamton. He worked in Utica. He worked in Syracuse at the end and he’d commute every day. We quit moving. My saying to him was that when you stop coming home every night then we move. [Laughter] He kept coming home every night so we didn’t move.
EH:
Was there a reason why you decided to stay in Oneonta?
JS:
We loved it. In Massena, it was an industrial town. They’re blue-collar. You had the Alcoa plant and they had the Chevrolet plant. It was very blue-collar. When you moved to Oneonta, you had two universities: Oneonta State and Hartwick. It was much more cultured and had many more things going on. You certainly wouldn’t want to live in a town this size if they didn’t have two universities, except Cooperstown. We thought about moving there. That’s a very nice place as you know. Then they’d have to commute every time to Oneonta, so we moved to Oneonta. Not sorry. I still like Oneonta. The nicest thing about staying in your hometown, you keep all of those friends that stayed in your hometown. When you start moving around from city to city, it is very hard to make friends. It takes a good year to really make any friends. It’s easier not to move, but harder on my husband.
EH:
How did you make friends when you moved?
JS:
A lot of times through the parents of your children’s friends. It is very hard to make friends. I made a neighbor friend. You think, yourself, how many new friends have you made at your new school? How many outside friends have you made? You really have to put yourself out there. When you’re moving around, people don’t want to make you their friend is what I’m told. It is because then you are moving away. So when you are traveling and moving, the people that live there don’t pay attention to you. They don’t want to be bothered with you because next thing you know, you will be going on to your next endeavor. I think it’s hard. If you move into a new neighborhood, you meet your neighbors, I guess. I was trying to think. I don’t have any neighbors here, but I like the view. [Laughter] I certainly wouldn’t want to live here with children.
EH:
How did your children handle the moving around?
JS:
When we moved from Massena to Oneonta, my daughter was five. She was in kindergarten. We moved around Halloween. She locked herself in the upstairs bathroom of the house and wouldn’t come out. She’s old enough to unlock the door. This is moving day and the movers couldn’t open the door from the outside. We had a ladder. The mover man went up on the ladder, went through the window and unlocked the door. So I don’t think kids are really that happy moving. So they were five, four, seven, and eight [years old]. I think children like to stay where they are. I don’t think they like moves. They’ve got to make friends all over again too. I think if you can be in one spot, it’s much easier for you and your family, as long as you like it.
EH:
Did that affect their schooling at all?
JS:
No, because they never moved again. When we moved from Utica to Massena, Utica had half grades. You started school in January so you’d be in 1-1 then 2-1. When we moved up to Massena, they didn’t do that. They wanted to move my son up a grade. I said no, because socially [he was not ready]. You’re kids are smart anyway. My son was valedictorian of the sixth grade. Kids adjust, if your kid has gray matter. Not every kid. You can’t push knowledge where it isn’t there, but if your kids have gray matter, school was never a problem with any of them. They never had any homework because you were able to do it in school. Today, kids come home with homework. It’s ridiculous! My son went over to France right after he graduated from high school, so he’s going to a French school. He says it’s so stupid. He says they go until five o’clock. He said, “I never went to school until five o’clock and I’m smarter than most of them.” The son that goes to school all day isn’t any smarter, it just makes it easier to have a sitter while they are working. I am not for all this zombie education today.
EH:
What were some of the things your children did when they were not in school?
JS:
We lived, as I told you, right in the center of Oneonta. After school, they could walk down to skating. We had skating then in Neahwa Park. They get to ride their bikes. They could go play by the railroad tracks and flatten their pennies. Of course, you didn’t know what they were in. I lived where they could just walk anywhere. They could go back to school and play games. They just came home from school. I always tried to be there when they came home from school because that’s the only time kids are ready to talk to you. After that, they are anxious to get on to what they’re doing. Our house was kind of a meeting ground, which was nice. I got to meet all the kids in high school because their friends would be living out a little bit so they’d always be going out and coming back to our house. Within four, within five years, we had a lot of action, which was nice. They had a pretty normal childhood too. Unfortunately, no poverty, which makes your story much more interesting, when you have to struggle. [Laughter] Fortunately, we never had to struggle, which I guess makes a big difference in life.
EH:
Did all of your children go on to college?
JS:
Yes, they did. My oldest one had a very serious automobile accident in his senior year of high school. He still limps. He broke both legs and arms. I mean very serious. He was going to the University of Colorado. They told him to come the following year that he would have to take some courses. While he was in his wheelchair, with the big extensions on it, he took two courses at Oneonta State. At that time, they didn’t have any ramps. Nothing was made for wheelchairs. You couldn’t even get in the elevator because there was a lip. You couldn’t get in any of the doors because there was a lip. I’d get the wheelchair. My child was ten months old and I was always throwing him in his lap. At that time, you didn’t have to have sixteen chairs. You just had a car seat over the front seat. We had a station wagon and you could sit three abreast, if you had to, in the front seat. You didn’t have all this stuff we have in the middle now so that you lose a third of your front seat today. Cars only sit five. In those days, they used to sit six. What did you ask me?
EH:
That’s a good question. Whether all of your children went to college?
JS:
He went to Colorado for two years. He was an avid skier. He tried to go back to skiing but he had metal in his ankles so he couldn’t ski as well. He came back to Albany State so he could go visit different doctors around the area to see if they could do anything about his legs. He graduated from Albany State and then graduated from law school in Miami. My next son graduated from Oneonta State and then he went to graduate school for forestry and landscape architecture. He had six years. Our daughter wasn’t that keen on going to school so she went to Oneonta State for one year. They took her to visit Buffalo and then my husband said nobody should go to school in Buffalo. She went to Oneonta State for a year and then went to Cayuga Community College. She was majoring in criminology then she went to Otswego State and got her degree in criminology. She said she couldn’t do that because nobody ever tells you the truth. You work with the juveniles and it’s almost impossible. She had two seven year olds who shoplifted at the drug [store]. The parents didn’t want them back. They wanted them to be put away. She decided not to do this. She graduated from Otswego. My son, Bill, went to Hobart, then took some courses at Syracuse University. Then he went to the University of Chicago and got a degree in economics. My next son, he wanted to stay at Oneonta State because he’s got a 232 bowling average right now. Bowling he loved. He was on a team at the Holiday so he didn’t want to go away. I told him that he had to live there because he had to meet kids. He is very outgoing. He became Mr. Oneonta. Somebody got him to sell the football parlays. He made money doing that because, he knew everybody at the university, until somebody stole his money. [Laughter] Sad, isn’t it? He thought that everybody was great. He graduated from Oneonta State. He graduated a math major because he was going to be an engineer. Everybody had more time than he did so he gave up the engineering and got a math degree. He decided he wanted to be a school guidance counselor so he went to Hofstra for, whatever, two years. He went to Queens Community College for the undergraduate courses he needed. At the same time he was taking the undergraduate courses, he’s going to graduate school.
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
He got all these courses from Queens and he graduated from Hofstra. My last son went to Geneseo. He went a year to France, then he came back and went to Geneseo. He majored in French literature. He went there, then he graduated from there. He stayed near there, knowing his band was going to make it. Of course, bands never make it. Then he went to Mexico, or Guatemala. Then he decided he wanted to be an acupuncturist. He taught school down in Fort Lauderdale. He taught the Haitians. He had his own trailer. He played the march at the graduation. He said, “Mom, I can’t be a teacher. I can’t.” He had one child then. I said you have all of these benefits. He said, “Yes, we have our children at home.” He had a second child. Off he goes. He marches to his own drummer. He went to acupuncture school for two years in Santa Fe. He’s an acupuncturist. They all got a lot of education. I am such a firm believer in education. I don’t care whether you are a girl or anything. I just figure that they can’t take education away from you. Get all the education you can. I don’t know how I feel today with these new dorms they are putting up with their own gyms. I like when you can live off campus with your boyfriend. We’ll go back to that again. It’s a new world. My last son had a child before he was married and then he got married. By his generation, everything had changed. Today, it’s even better. I have a granddaughter that’s unmarried and their child is three and she has no intentions of marrying the father. They have their own apartment. Today you don’t have to get married. I’ve read the statistics. It is common. She’s in her twenties, twenty-four. She doesn’t want to get married. She said, “Why would I want to get married?” You don’t have to get married anymore, which is good because then you don’t have to get a divorce. Divorces are messy. [Laughter]
EH:
How did you and your husband handle your children when they started dating?
JS:
I think fathers are very protective of who daughters date. I don’t think you are that protective of your boys when they’re dating. I can honestly say I have never yelled at my children and I have never hit a child. I might have, when they were two or three, slapped their hand if they were going to run into the road or something. I’ve never spanked or hit any of my six children. When they were teenagers and they came home drunk, I waited until morning. I was smart enough that you don’t talk to them. There’s no percentage in talking to them at that time. We’d have six cars on the road in the summer. They’d each have to have their car to get to their work. We’d call them summer rats and we’d get rid of them in the fall. They all chose to work. Today, the kids don’t seem to have the part-time jobs. Our kids had part-time jobs in high school. All of them did by choice. They worked at Carol’s. One worked at Hartwick. One worked at state parks as a lifeguard. They all worked every summer and even when we all went to camp for the summer in the teenage years. They worked, painting picket fences. They all worked. They worked when they were in college. That was pretty common. I worked when I was in college. I chose where I worked though. I worked at what they called the corner store at Syracuse University because below the corner store was where all the athletes lived. This way I thought I’d get to meet [athletes]. [Laughter] I did. I met my husband.
EH:
Was he an athlete?
JS:
No, he was very poor. His mother and father were divorced. When I was looking at the roster of the kids’ sports, I said, “Jeepers! Look at how many of these parents are divorced. That’s a shame.” He said, “Nobody felt sorry for me.” In New York State, you could only get a divorce by adultery. They were the only kids in school with parents who were divorced. They went to Valley Academy in Syracuse. He’d live with the father then they’d run away and live with the mother. I don’t know much about his childhood because he very seldom ever talked about it. He really is the only child in his family that ever went on to education. He joined the Marines for two years because he only had to go for two years and he’d get four years education. He graduated from Syracuse University. He started at St. Bonnies. When we were married he had two years of school left. He had a much different life than I did. He had the wicked stepmother that you read about. That’s why they kept running away. His father was a policeman and he never had any time. He had no relationship with his father. He ran into a lot of things. He got the football award and walked to his father first then his mother was mad. I say it’s very difficult, especially when you’re the only kid in school. It was just he and his brother. His brother went into the service at sixteen. He had a much different outcome than my husband.
EH:
Would you say a lot of boys at that time were joining the service?
JS:
He went in right after the war so he didn’t actually fight because World War II was pretty much over when he went in. We graduated from high school in 1946 and he went in 1946. You figure that [1945] is when the war ended with Japan. The other war, I think, ended a little sooner. He didn’t get any fighting. Being poor, he joined the National [Guard], what do you call it? Anyway, when you come out of the service you can be a part of the service. I forget what they call it. He got called back on the Korean War. He had been a football player at St. Bonnies and in high school, what have you. He had a bad knee and fortunately he got out. It bothered me the Marines never paid him for the six weeks he was in the service. Then he came back. If you can imagine this at St. Bonnies. He’s not Catholic. The professors there, the Franciscans, caught him up on every course so that he didn’t lose that semester that he went back in the service. Can you imagine them doing that at a school today? Each Franciscan teacher caught him up on his French, his history, and everything. They caught him up for the six weeks so that he never lost a semester of college.
EH:
Did they do that for every student?
JS:
I don’t know. I say it was St. Bonaventure’s, a different world. I can’t imagine them doing that at many schools. They wanted him to catch up when he came back. They tutored him and gave him everything he needed. He finished the semester. Unreal!
EH:
Did you know him at this point?
JS:
St. Bonnies? He went there two years. As I say, he wasn’t Catholic. He was their Protestant boy. He went to St. Bonaventure’s just to play football. I always thought that was so interesting that they’d do that. I said to him that he could use that money. He says, “Yes, but if they don’t have to see my name again then they can keep their money.” So he never got paid. He had a much harder life because he had to pay for everything. He had to do everything for his whole life. He had a very mixed up childhood. At the same time, he was the most handsome, most popular, and a very outgoing guy. He graduated in January then he “PG-ed” and then he graduated again in June so he could play football, or play whatever spring sport I guess you play. Lacrosse I think he played. He had an entirely different childhood. I know all about the wicked stepmother. She was a terrible lady. If my husband was smart, his brother was not as smart or didn’t care. She’d go lock him in the bedroom so he’d stay there to study. He would go out the window and run away to their mother’s. Bob would find out he’d gone, so he’d go out too. The father would get them back and they’d be forced to live with the stepmother again. It’s kind of hard. His mother worked in a laundry. She didn’t have any money. A lady that worked there with her, they got an apartment so the kids could live with. The two of them together could pay for the apartment. The kids would come and live with her for a while. He probably would have a better story. He was a fun-loving, wonderful person. I think today marriages, they break them up too fast. In our generation, I always said to Bob that if you leave me, you take all six kids. So that I get the freedom. I won’t be the mother that takes all the kids and I’d visit them. I’m only kidding. It’s just so different. If they decide to get a divorce, they go get a divorce or then they marry someone who is almost like the person that they just divorced, has the same traits and even sometimes almost look like them. I think if they gave it a longer time, there wouldn’t be so many divorces. I think in our generation, I don’t think anybody could go through life and not wish they were single. I know some of my friends deny that but I think that, to me, there couldn’t times that you wished you weren’t married. You know, you just don’t go get a divorce. You still love them. Life is good, but I don’t know what you do with abuse. I was with a lady yesterday who has been married four times. Her father’s abused her. I’m thinking you seem like such a nice lady. Your life is such a mess. Her sister’s child bipolar and in Las Vegas and her sister doesn’t have enough money to send for her to come back. There is so much out there that could happen to you. Four husbands… that would be a pretty good story. [Laughter] When you have kids, some of his and some are mine. I think of mine as being very normal. I’m very laid back, as you can tell. I have very good relations with all of my children and their spouses, which is a plus. As long as you decide to never fight with anybody. If they can’t make it to Thanksgiving, then make it the next Thursday. My son’s wife, she came here one Thanksgiving. Her brother was supposed to go to her mother’s. Her mother calls up crying because her brother got mad her. They’re divorced. Everyone’s parents are divorced. My later kids married. They have to go to three holidays. When they go home, they have to go to three families for Thanksgiving, three families for Christmas. I always thought it was good that we stayed married because you only had to go to one then. I say that those generations now, divorce doesn’t mean much. You get divorced and then you get remarried. Nothing wrong with it, just that it’s a different concept. You can let me know in a few years what happened to you. [Laughter]
EH:
You mentioned World War II. You were in high school?
JS:
I graduated in 1946. The war started in 1941? Pearl Harbor was in 1941.
EH:
What was it like growing up…?
JS:
When I started college, all of the veterans were coming back. All of the schools let them in whether they belonged in or not. You’d have a citizenship class with hundreds of students. You’d go into an auditorium and the person would speak. You’d go off into groups and they would have a graduate student. It was very different going to college in my first couple of years because of the veterans all coming back. There were so many of them. One of them came back to high school and I think he was the only kid in high school with a car. Of course, he was older than everybody else in high school. Some kids had to come back from the service and finish high school. So it was different. My sister was two years older than I was. She dated a lot of service men. They’d come and they’d stay at our house. By the time I graduated, the service-men were pretty much out.
EH:
Do you remember any rationing or special war efforts?
JS:
I remember we used to have war bonds. I know when I started working, you always put so much money that they took out to buy war bonds. As I said I lived at home when I worked in Internal Revenue. My father said to take out, I think, a war bond a week and to give it to him for staying there, which was good. When I got married, he gave me them all, which was nice. He never planned on keeping them anyway. I think it was [feeling] that you were contributing. So then he gave them all to me when I got married, which was nice. Those were war bonds. What else? I didn’t volunteer. I didn’t do any volunteering for the war effort. It never occurred to me. I think I was more interested, in those times, in my life and my dating. I think sometimes until you graduate from college, your life is you. You’re not thinking of anybody but yourself. I think sometimes you don’t realize it, but your life is more important than anything else. I remember when my sister got married, I was the maid of honor. She got married the day after Christmas. I couldn’t wait for the reception to get over, which was slowing down about two or three, so that I could go skiing for an hour or two. That was my goal. I didn’t care about [unclear]. I know that when she had her first child, it was in January, which was winter. I never got up to a hospital to see her. It didn’t occur to me. We were very close, only two years [apart]. I saw the baby came home, but it didn’t occur to me to say that I’ll sit with your child. I think that’s true of most. My husband, when you say about teenagers, his big thing was is the car okay. You wouldn’t go to sleep until all the cars were home. I’m a late night person anyway, so I was always up when the kids came home. I’d be up watching television or reading. Still, to this day, I don’t go to bed until about one o’clock at night. I am a real night person. I’d always be there when they got home. I remember he was at Geneseo when he called me and said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is the car is fine.” He was never in the car. He’d fallen and had a concussion. We had a flood at camp and my daughter was working up in Watertown, but she was staying at the camp. I said, “Where’s the car?” She said, “Here I trudged through all this water to get to the camp.” He was always very concerned. We used to make jokes. I think that’s a hard thing to have teenagers and driving. Still today that’s a hard concept for parents, because you worry so about them having an accident when they go out, not much in the daytime.
EH:
How did you keep track of them then? Today we have cellphones.
JS:
I’m so glad we didn’t have cellphones. I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a child, I would just dismantle my phone when I went out for the night. Seriously! I think it’s terrible. You knew when you got a phone call that something serious was going on. [Laughter] Uh-oh! Why are they calling? I don’t think you need to keep that, you know. None of my kids turned out to be drug addicts. I don’t think you need that. I think they need the freedom. You find out interesting things they did at the dinner table, like driving to Florida in one day and coming back the same day. I think, basically, your kids are good. They don’t want to. Fortunately, I didn’t have any problem with any of them. So I say, the best is a calm, easy existence. But if you choose not to fight them, explain to them maybe they shouldn’t do what they did. The next day, try to explain to them at that time. Most kids turn out okay, even if they have wildness in their childhood. They all seem to turn out okay. They join the world normally and have their kids and their families. My kids are very laid back too. I don’t think I’ve heard any of my kids yell.
EH:
Did you spend a lot of time together as a family? Did you get to go on vacations, for example?
JS:
Oh, yeah. We’d go to Florida [for] Easter vacation. Our friends would fly down, with their two or three kids. We would ride down, a lot of the times in two cars when the kids got older. Eight of us would go down in two cars. We’d stay at a place called East Wind for two weeks then we’d go over to Disney World. We were going down with our friends and we were going to rent this one corner place in the motel near the beach. It was all planned and then when she found out that we had six kids, she told me that she didn’t want us. She didn’t want anybody with that many kids. Then we found this place at East Wind and it was really very nice. Some family that lived there asked if we’d rent from them next year. They didn’t care. Our kids were never screamers. We are not abusive to the environment.
EH:
So it wasn’t a hotel that you stayed at?
JS:
It’s a great big condominium, “condos.” They were renting them because it was just being built. They were renting them hoping that you’d buy one. My sister is very wealthy and she lived in Fayetteville and had all of these wealthy friends. All of these friends were going down to this place called East Wind, right near Daytona Beach. When they didn’t want us at the other one, so she said, “Why don’t you just go?” So we did. Then they banned some families from coming because the kids gummed up the elevators. We didn’t know. A lot of those people didn’t buy their condo but we rented there for maybe four years.
EH:
You mentioned that your oldest son skis. Did you ever go skiing as a family?
JS:
Yeah. That’s the first thing I had my husband buy after we got married. Skiing was going to be my whole life. We started our kids skiing right here in Oneonta. We’d go on the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. We joined when they were very young Scotch Valley as members. Yes, we skied then. Did I say my son was going to be, I thought, a professional skier? That’s why he was going to Colorado. My daughter, she’s an avid skier too. My daughter’s son is at Mammoth Mountain in California. He was at Whiteface. He was a paid ski patrol. Now he’s gone to Mammoth out in California. That’s his life. He’s twenty-nine. Then he does what every skier does. He [does] carpentry and those kind of jobs in the off-year. He’s really a professional skier. All of my kids are avid, very good skiers. We can’t afford it today. The ones that are married on Long Island, she said that if you decide to go skiing then you’ve got to rent all of the equipment. It’s just too expensive. My daughter, her kids, they have a membership at [unclear] Mountain. She lives ten minutes from there so her kids got to ski. It’s very expensive. I think, in relation to money, that it was expensive when we skied. It’s always been an expensive sport. It’s never been a poor man’s sport. How many black people do you see on a hill? A tad racial but I don’t mean that derogatory. You’ve got to have money to ski today. It’s $100 to ski at Whiteface. That’s without renting your equipment. If you’re a skier and you go up to Whiteface for the day, it’s $100. Where he is at Mammoth, if you go there for the day, $100. You have got to have $100 and if you don’t have the ski equipment now you’ve got to rent it. That’s a pretty expensive day, but it’s still a great sport.
EH:
How did you first get into skiing?
JS:
It’s interesting. The girl that lived a couple houses away from me was my closest friend. She was younger than I was by about a year or a year and a half. She is one of these outstanding people. She was president of her class at Middlebury. She went Pierre S. DuPont. Her father worked for DuPont. She was the first girl president of Pierre S. DuPont high school. She was very outstanding. Her father was a salesman. Her father and mother, they were just as outgoing. She was just an exceptional person. She could do everything better than I could. We went to my only week of camp, Camp Fire girl camp. One time I went away and I never went away again by choice. It was awful. She was a whale and I was a dolphin. I could never beat her at anything. We learned how to play bridge and we played backgammon with her parents. She asked me to go skiing so I had my father buy me some skis and drive me to the end of our street, after I left there after dinner. I practiced on this hill that was at the foot of our street.
[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]
I practiced and practiced and practiced. My father would wait in the car and then he’d drive me home. Finally when I thought it I was good enough, I said yes, I’d go skiing. She didn’t even hardly know how. I thought I can do one thing better than she can. After that, at twelve years old, skiing became my life. We had a place in Syracuse called Drumlins that you belonged to. You paid a membership and you could ski and skate for free. You’d hitchhike out to there. You could hitchhike in my day. You could hitchhike. You could get out and ask for a ride. Girls don’t do that today.
EH:
It wasn’t considered dangerous then?
JS:
I never thought of it as dangerous. We’d go out to Snooks Pond, which was quite a few miles from where I lived. My friends and I’d go out and get up on Genesee Street, which probably a mile walk. That was a highway. We’d just hitchhike and get as near as we could to Snooks Pond and go swimming, then hitchhike home. When I was in college, we went skiing at Tuckerman’s Ravine at Easter time. I was going to go to my brother’s. He went to Yale. I was going up to New Haven. My mother and father were going there with my aunt and I’m going to meet them in New Haven, never thinking that New Hampshire and New Haven are in different states. My parents just assumed I’d be able to figure it out. So we got down from the mountain, my girlfriends and I, a part of the ski team, and we hitched a ride. We hitchhiked. We’d see where people were going when we came down the mountain and if they could take the two of us. Of course, it wasn’t that hard. You don’t realize how nice looking you are when you’re twenty something. Everybody wants to give you a ride. [Laughter] We never had any problems finding rides. Nothing traumatic ever happened. Today you couldn’t do that. I don’t think. We lived a good mile before you could get a good bus line to go to downtown Syracuse. So you’d walk a mile and then get on the bus and go downtown. Go to the movies. Nobody kept track of you. I never kept track of my kids. They’d tell you where they were going and you’d assume, right or wrong, and what that does. Tell all of these people your kids will turn out fine. [Laughter]
EH:
What was it like for you after they had all grown up and left home?
JS:
We kept thinking that they’d all grow up. The way my family was, we had those four in five years. Then in four years we had another so you’re home again. Then in four years we had another. Well now I had my child at forty… forty-one. I gave it much thought when he left because I was forty-five or six. I never noticed the empty nest because now the grandchild. My older children were having children and getting married because there are seventeen years between my oldest and my youngest. Living alone can be very lonely but I try to stay very active.
EH:
What kinds of things do you do now?
JS:
I play a lot of bridge. I am a very good bridge player. [Laughter] I play lots of bridge. I started a bridge group forty-six, forty-seven, years ago, of twelve women. It’s turned into a fantastic lunch. Everybody’s responsible for one time. That’s lasted forty-some years only because I decided to be a monarch. You could never get, if one dropped out of the group, ten women to agree with who you put in. I tried that and they’d always have something to say, so I just tell them who the next member is going to be and they don’t seem to mind. It’s lasted that long. Most groups don’t last forty-some years. In fact, it just went yesterday and we had an excellent lunch and bridge. I play in two duplicate bridge groups. Other than that, I go to the gym. I belong to the Fox Care. I go there on Tuesday and Thursday when I’m not playing bridge. I think the other bridge groups that we didn’t play in the summer or winter. We’d start in the end of September and then we don’t play in January, February, and March then we don’t play in June. So we get twelve times in, so you have a lot of free time. What else do I do? I don’t do a lot else.
EH:
You collect things.
JS:
My kids keep saying I’ve got to do something, but just don’t open a drawer and empty it. I’m going to be up there. I’m going to drop something on your head. I do collect things. People think I’m nuts. I should belong, my daughter-in-law said, to Hallmark rehab, because I have been collecting Hallmark ornaments for the Christmas tree. I don’t do it anymore because I’m too lazy, but I always had a fantastic Christmas tree, huge and just full of these ornaments. I only, mostly the Hallmark ornaments, that do things, make music. In fact, in my house at Christmas, there was hardly a spot that wasn’t covered in Christmas ornaments.
EH:
Christmas is a big deal in your family?
JS:
It wasn’t growing up. I don’t know. I can remember Christmas Eve. My mother and father would go next door and I’d put the tree up by myself. This was when I was older and living at home. If we wanted a tree, my father just got a tree and set it up and then I trimmed it. Christmas was never that big. I started collecting the ornaments. I was always kind of into ornaments. I couldn’t wait to get down to Lord and Taylor’s and Sak’s and see their Christmas and get some ornaments. Then I got collecting Hallmark. I collect my marionettes. Pretty much they all do something. I collect my tops. My windowsill has a lot of things. In fact, this past time when my kids came up from Long Island, their kids played with the stuff on here, the gyroscopes and all. They took the gyroscope and spun it on their head. They had a wonderful time with it. Most of the time, they kind of ignore it. I play with them, off and on when I’m sitting there. I can’t help myself. I started buying marionettes and I still can’t get through without spending at least $600 on Hallmark every Christmas. I tell them it’s better than if I collected Hummel figures. It’s a one shot deal, a one season deal. I guess I am kind of compulsive. My son said he was going to give me a computer. I said, “I don’t want a computer.” I said, “My friends don’t have computers so there is nobody I’m going to e-mail and all of that stuff. I don’t want a computer.” The next year came and he said, “I’m sending you a computer.” I said, “Well, don’t send me a computer. I don’t want it.” He said, “Well, stick it in the garage. I’m sending you a computer.” I said, “If you do that, be sure and send me a printer.” He said, “I can’t send you a printer because then you’ll just inundate me with junk.” He says the printer comes with it. It sat in the garage for probably three, four, five months. One of my lady friend’s husband, she and he came up and set up the thing. My other favorite game is backgammon. I probably play backgammon every night for like thirty minutes while I’m watching television. I started playing backgammon. So I’m trying to talk to the person and talk to the person. I complained to my daughter, “It’s ridiculous. They go out to lunch and you don’t know where they are and they haven’t played. I talked to them. Have you pressed Enter? I’ve never heard of Enter. Nobody said that you press Enter for everything. Then I learned to press Enter. Then I went to a garage sale. I never went to a garage sale until I was like seventy or more. I wished I had gone earlier. I could have a lot more junk. I went to the garage sale and this kid, he must have been like twelve, and his mother. There was a typewriter there. Now that’s what I used when I went to work. He says, “Where’s Enter?” Fantastic, right? I could never set the clock in my car and my brother says just stop, ask any teenager. They’ll just go in and set it for you. I usually leave my clock wrong. Somebody wants to set it, I said don’t bother setting it. It’ll be right the rest of the year. My computer has crashed twice. No idea why. I don’t need a phone. What do I need a phone for? My daughter says you should have a phone because if you are stuck somewhere in the snow or something, with you getting older. She didn’t say that, but I mean you should have a phone. So I said okay. She gives me a cellphone with Verizon. I don’t get any service here. My son, Bill, came up and he got good service with his iPad or whatever he had. He gives me the iPhone5. I’m here with this iPhone5 and people out there are dying for it. I don’t do anything on it except play backgammon. [Laughter] Nobody calls me on it because I don’t have it on. They get disturbed. Now I have texting. I got laughing so hard because my son, Bill, gave me the phone and he pays the thing. I text him this long text and he said, “I never received such a long text in my life.” I said okay. They had a comic and I cut it out in the funny papers. The kid said he got a text from his father. He said, “He’s just old. He doesn’t know what texting is,” because he had sent him this long text about coming to dinner. I sent that to my son. I don’t get reception here. It used to be on dial-up, which was awful. I got an aerial and everything but I don’t get good reception. I want to talk to the lady. What’s her name? System? Sirius?
EH:
Siri
JS:
I want to talk to her so bad. If I want to talk to her, I have to go out to the mall. If I go to the movies sometime, I’ll sit there on the bench and talk to her and ask her things. I don’t get reception. That’s the one thing I don’t like about where I live is that I don’t get good reception and probably never will.
EH:
What kinds of things do you ask Siri?
JS:
You’re supposed to ask her, “Will you marry me?” You ask her funny things too and she gives you funny answers. I asked her how the movie was and what she knew about the movie. She’s kind of fun to talk to. I know if I had it and it really worked, I’d be on it more than for just games.
EH:
Is it hard to transition to use technology?
JS:
Yes, because I don’t know the ins or outs. I’d have to ask the six or seven year old or the eight year old. My grandchildren they’re so into texting. I remember one texting at the table last Christmas and her mother getting mad at her. “Don’t text at the table.” Wait until you get up. I think it’s taking over their lives, the younger people. I saw a kid when I was in Florida. I go to Florida for about three weeks. He was on his little skateboard. He couldn’t be maybe ten or eleven. He gets up and talks on his cell phone. He’s probably telling his mother, “I reached here.” I don’t think that parents need that, that kids need to be that taken over. I like the freedom where they could go. I can see why you don’t want your kids crossing the streets and walking home from school. They don’t let kids walk home from school. Our kids walked to and from school in Oneonta. My son lived here in Oneonta and made sure there was somebody met her and picked her up every day after school. It’s amazing! I never gave it two thoughts, not giving my kids all the freedom. I never had a curfew growing up. People had the curfew. You were home by such and such a time. I remember our car broke down. I was probably about seventeen or eighteen. I was in high school. We were in Auburn. Not one of those kids I was with dared call their parents because they knew they were going to be home late and they were so worried. I just called my father. It was about thirty miles away. I said, “We’re stuck in Auburn and nobody dares call anybody. Can you come pick us up and drop the other kids off?” He did. I don’t like curfews because it puts too much pressure on the person. Oh, I’m not going to make it! Oh! I used to just see what the latest curfew they had when they were talking about it in the car and I’d just join that one. I didn’t want to say I didn’t want to say I didn’t have a curfew because all of these kids would think my parents didn’t care. They cared. I never had curfew for my kids and they’ll come home reasonably. I don’t think people need that pressure. My kids had a lot of freedom and they come and go when they wanted to. They didn’t have any curfew.
EH:
Do you think there was a sense of safety in your community that you didn’t worry about them?
JS:
I guess so. I never gave safety a thought. I think whatever community I was in, I would think it was safe. As I said before, if I had to live on the fringes, I think my upbringing would be different and my kids. You don’t give any of that a thought. I never thought of the people out there. I’m sure all of those things are going on. Now it’s more publicized. We never had the freaky uncle that came and molested you. I didn’t have any extended family. We only had my sister and brother, so our kids didn’t have any. I never had anything to deal with. We didn’t have eight kids and pets and one of them be screwy. That’s a play on words. I don’t have any real exciting [stories]. I do think that people don’t give their kids enough freedom today. My son was saying, he’s in Long Island, if he lived across the street from the school, they’d make the kids take the school bus because they couldn’t cross the street. School buses? We never had school buses. As I said, I walked a couple miles to school. I never thought of it. Everybody walked to school. Miles! I wasn’t the only one. I walked many miles to college, long miles to high school, and long miles to elementary school. My father would give us a ride and it would be winter. He could get to the school by going flat without having hit the squirrel hill on the East Street coming into Genesee Street, but no. He always had to see if he could make that hill, of course. He couldn’t and we’d always be late for school. You’d just soon he didn’t drive you. When I got my license to drive, my father worked in the state tower building downtown. He’d call for a ride and he’d say, “You come or your mother.” If he’d come out for my mother, she might never get there for late. Once I got my license, I never drove my father ever again. I’d pick him up and move over and he’d drive. Same with my mother until she got older and I drove. My father died younger. Once I got my license, I never got to drive with them again. When I got my license, my father asked if he could ride with us. The guy that was doing the license said, “Do you care if your father?” I said, “I don’t care.” I said to him after, “Why did you want to go with me?” He said, “Because your sister hasn’t got her license yet. I thought maybe I could help her to see what they did.” I was supposed to wait until my sister got her license because she’s two years older, but she didn’t get her license until after she got married. She was teaching school and she’d have to get on the bus to get out to Solvay. Then she decided to get her license.
EH:
Did everyone want to get their license?
JS:
I did, but obviously she didn’t. My son, we had to make him get his license. My husband got him a job with the telephone company one summer. He says they’ll never let you behind the wheel of the truck or anything ever, but you can’t have the job unless you’ve got a license. So then he went and finally got his license. We lived right in the middle of town, right in the heart of Oneonta, so nobody ever really needed a car. My kids weren’t that anxious. They didn’t care. I was gung ho. I just wanted mine so bad. I’d go pick up my girlfriend. I had like an hour after dinner, so I’d take the car and drive over there. We’d go joy riding. Her father said, “Please, don’t come over. I don’t want you to come. I don’t want you taking her. I don’t want you to come.” I thought, “Oh yeah. Okay.” I’d come every night anyway. I just wanted my license. Nobody else in my family cared when it came to sixteen birthdays. We never let the kids get their license until they finished drivers’ ed. at school. They couldn’t [get their license] when they turned sixteen until they had taken driver’s ed. because they gave you a discount on your insurance. We thought it was good training. We’d teach them too. They all knew that they had to finish driver’s ed. in school before they could get their license, so that was just a given.
EH:
We are about coming up on time here. Was there anything else that you would like to share?
JS:
I think interesting things like movies were so cheap. They used to have serials in movies that you couldn’t wait to go to the next Saturday to see what happened to poor Pauline. [Laughter] They always had two movies. You had your own movie and then you usually a B movie. Today you have one extra-long one. They used to have penny candy, and that’s not anything they have now. Gas used to be so reasonable. We used to get three gallons for a dollar. You think about all that. Everybody always says money has improved in value so it all equals out. I don’t really think it does equal out. I used the radio. I can remember listening to Ma Perkins in the middle the night or Mr. Anthony, who you’d tell your problems to. I knew he’d be on at about ten, which means you’d listen to him in bed. Radio was a big thing. You’d go to the beach. You’d bring your radio with the batteries. Life has changed so. I think these big cars are roomy but those big, old, roomy cars were much more comfortable. The seats were much better. What else? I guess the freedom, as I stressed, was better. I will master some of these electronics. I can’t even visualize the future with the internet. Things happen and immediately they have a video of it. You can’t even trust your friends at a party. You’re going to be on Facebook the next day because they took a video of it. I don’t like the idea of Facebook because I understand that when you apply for a job after you get out of college, they go look. Or to get into college, they check your Facebook. Your Facebook has now become your life and whatever you’ve posted on it. You say well nobody can get into this part. Those people can get into anything they want. You just think they can’t get in and see these things you don’t want them to see. I do think it’s too much intrusion in your life today.
EH:
Thank you very much!

Duration

29:59
30:00
25:21

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps
128 kbps
128 kbps

Files

Citation

Emily Hoffman, “Jean Shea, December 6, 2013,” CGP Community Stories, accessed November 30, 2020, http://www.cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/156.