CGP Community Stories

Dorothy Smith, November 15, 2015

Title

Dorothy Smith, November 15, 2015

Subject

Georgia Technical Institute
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Croatia
Spurbeck's Grocery
Atlanta, Georgia
Segregation

Description

Dorothy Smith is the wife of Roger Smith, who owns Spurbeck’s Grocery in Cooperstown, NY. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and was one of the first women admitted into Georgia Tech in the 1950s. After receiving her degree in Materials Engineering, Dorothy worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where she made diamonds and other crystals for experimental use. She moved to Cooperstown, NY with her husband when she was twenty two and has lived in the area ever since. Currently, she works at Spurbeck’s where she runs the cash register and is the face of the store.

Dorothy reflects on her experience as one of the first women admitted into Georgia Institute of Technology and the only woman working as an engineer in the crystals laboratory at Oak Ridge. She also describes her experience as a wife of a small business owner and mother. She describes her travels abroad including a trip to visit her relatives in her father’s hometown in Croatia.

I interviewed Dorothy at Spurbeck’s grocery, the business her husband owns, while the store was closed. Her husband, Roger, can be heard in the background vacuuming and cleaning the store.

Creator

Karissa Carlson

Publisher

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

Date

2015-11-15

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Coverage

Upstate New York
1950-2015
Cooperstown, NY

Interviewer

Karissa Carlson

Interviewee

Dorothy Smith

Location

Spurbeck's Grocery
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

DS = Dorothy Smith
KC = Karissa Carlson

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

KK:
This is the November 15, 2015 interview of Dorothy Smith by Karissa Carlson for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course, recorded at Spurbeck’s Grocery in Cooperstown. At our last meeting, you said you grew up in Atlanta. Could you tell me about that? What was it like growing up in Atlanta?
DS:
Well, that was a long time ago. When I grew up there, Atlanta was a small city. It’s now a large metropolitan area. My father was a professor at Georgia Tech, that’s why my family was in Atlanta. Where we lived, which was six miles out, was farm and forest, and now, of course, it’s all developed and condominiums. When I go back to Atlanta, I say you could drop me in 99% of it, and I would have no idea where I was. But I did grow up there and went to school there. I also graduated from Georgia Tech.
KC:
What was it like going to Georgia Tech?
HF:
Well, at the time I went, it was shortly after girls were admitted. Girls were not admitted to Georgia Tech. They were supposed to go to a liberal arts school. So there were fifty girls and five thousand boys, but that didn’t seem to make any difference. I took all the same courses. I graduated in Materials Engineering and never had any problem and never really any harassment or anything. So it was a good place to go to school, and I enjoyed all of it.
KC:
Why Materials Engineering?
DS:
Well, that’s hard to say. Actually I was interested in chemistry, but the chemistry program was still closed to women because there was a similar program at one of the other Georgia state schools. So I took materials. It was ceramics and metallurgy at the time. It’s now combined to materials. And I was interested in that. You know, when you go to college, you don’t really know a whole lot. You just pick something. But I did graduate in that program and worked afterwards at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories growing crystals. So that was the time where growing synthetic crystals was still in the research stage. Of course now they grow diamonds and all – whatever they want. But we were doing research on that.
KC:
What kind of crystals?
DS:
Well, they were growing diamonds at the time. It was before industrial diamonds were done, and I actually was with a project that grew a quartz crystal and a little [unclear].
KC:
What would those be used for?
DS:
Well, quartz crystals were used in the needles in the old LPN record players. And that’s what they were trying to [do]. I mean, now I don’t know that they, everything is so advanced than what it was.
KC:
How long did you work at Oak Ridge?
DS:
Not very long because I met Roger, and we came up here. And I didn’t work anymore. I like to say I retired to Cooperstown at age 22.
KC:
Tell me about how you met your husband.
DS:
Well, we were both in school at Georgia Tech. He was on the VA – the program after the GI Bill program. And we both happened to work in the College Inn. I worked at the bookstore selling books, and he worked in the print shop running off the new graphs and stuff. And I would do mock-ups for the timecards and other things, as part of the College Inn program. And he would run them off on his machine – old fashioned.
KC:
What led you to living in Cooperstown? I know you said your husband is from Cooperstown?
DS:
Yeah, yeah. His family goes back several generations. Well, I was job hunting after I got out of school, and I had an interview at GE [General Electric] in Schenectady. So we came up – he drove me up. So we came up here. And later after we got married, we were up here for a month or so because we eloped and got married up here. And I just liked it so much here as compared to Atlanta – was getting too big already at that time. So we went back down to Georgia, and we were there for six or nine months. And I said, “Why don’t we just go back to Cooperstown?” So we did.
KC:
Tell me about getting eloped. You didn’t have a wedding?
DS:
Well, we had a very small one here. His mother actually put on a little reception. The building next door used to be the Redman Hall. And so we had a little reception there. And well, my parents were staunch Catholics, and of course Rog is not Catholic. And I wasn’t very inclined towards religion, so we just decided that rather than having a big hassle, we’d elope. So we came up here, and his aunt and uncle were the witnesses and were married by the justice of the peace. Very simple.
KC:
How has having a family business affected your family life?
DS:
You have to remember that at the time we came up here, his grandfather was – who started the business – was still running it with the help of his mother. His grandfather died – we came back up in ’62 – and his grandfather died I think in ’67 and his mother took over. And then she ran it. She and her husband ran it for most of the time that my kids were growing up. So I was a stay-at-home mother. And we had a house out in the country with a garden and a dog and all that stuff. So we really weren’t here at that time much. All my kids were gone away, I guess, at least into college. And his mother – who was still running it – his father had died by then – his mother was still running the store pretty much by herself. He would help out a little. He was the postmaster, and he’d stop after work and would load the coolers and stuff like that. And then she fell and broke her hip, and at that point, we moved into being here full time. And then in 2000, she decided to transfer the store over to Roger. So then we started in 2000 actually as total owners full time. He retired from the post office in 1991. That’s actually when we started spending quite a lot of time here, so that’s been about 24 years. It’s been his store officially since 2000.
KC:
Do you see the store continuing to be a family-run business?
DS:
Well, at this point, our daughter-in-law, our son’s wife, they live here. Right across the street from us. She runs the sub shop. At this point, they have two or three businesses on their own. And I’m just not, don’t see them stepping in to keep it going, at least the way it is. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. The other three children are not here. Well, Randy is, but I don’t think he would. Nobody wants to work 70 hours a week and be stuck here the whole time.
KC:
How have you liked it?
DS:
I’ve liked it fine. Like I said, I was a stay-at-home mother. I didn’t work until we started here. I like coming in every day. It’s like a big family. We know all our customers, and it’s a nice social thing. Everybody’s happy, and we don’t get any complaints like a lot of other businesses where it’s stressful. I like it. I would keep going as far as I could.
KC:
Tell me about your customers. You said it’s like a family. Do you get to know the customers one-on-one?
DS:
Yeah, yeah. A lot of them go back a couple of generations. Their parents or grandparents were coming to this store when his grandfather and mother ran it. They bring their grandchildren in to see the penny candy. We have the people who work around here plus the old times. We have – because of our cheese that everybody knows about – extra aged cheddar. We have a lot of people who are only here in the summer, the wealthier people who live around the lake and go south in the winter. We see a lot of them in the summertime, not so much in the winter. It’s much quieter in the winter.
KC:
How has tourism in Cooperstown changed over time?
DS:
Well, until the last couple of years, when the distillery opened, and our cheese was used in the restaurant, we didn’t see too many tourists up here. It was more out of the way, and the local people would come because they wouldn’t have to deal with the parking and big wads of people down the street. The main change I see in the tourism is when the Dreams Park came – the baseball camps. And everyone was expecting it to be kids camps, the kids would show up, and that would be it. But it didn’t turn out that way. Whole families come – they use it as a week’s vacation, and see the Hall of Fame. So there are a lot more people around. We get some up here, but there’s a lot more people around all twelve weeks of the summer season than there used to be. There used to be just people to see the Hall of Fame, but now it’s a lot of the people that come to that Dreams Park camp.
KC:
How has tourism affected the store?
DS:
Well, like I said, not too much. We don’t get too many. Our business is not based on tourists. We don’t get too many up here. We are out of the way. We don’t really advertise in any of the tourist things. We get a lot of references from people who’ve had our cheese in one of the restaurants, and then they come up here and want to get it. And a lot of the businesses refer them up here if they want a beer because we do have the largest beer selection in the area. So that’s about it. Other than that, we’re very small – a grocery store. People are used to supermarkets now. Although you could easily survive off of everything we have, it’s not a supermarket. When they come to shop, say for a Dreams Park family for the whole week, we send them to the supermarkets. Because they can get more of what they need there.
KC:
You mentioned the beer cooler. When and why was it installed?
DS:
Well, Roger’s grandfather always sold beer. That was why he had a beer license. And that was what he sold. And the large cooler, here, that was here when I came here in 1962, so I think Roger’s grandfather and father installed it. The compressor and the doors came from the old Clark meat market. When the Clarks had gotten grasslands cattle and sold meat. The meat market was in the building that’s now the [Clark] scholarship office. And when they gave that up, I guess later it became the scholarship office. That’s still part of the Clark – the Clark Scholarships. They bought the door and built the cooler. And then later on, I don’t know how many years ago now, maybe 15, we expanded it out a little bit bigger, rebuilt it. And it’s been reinsulated over the years. But it’s a walk-in cooler, which you don’t have. It has the old door, so people like to see it. The businesses will tell them about it, and they come up. They walk in, look around.
KC:
Tell me about how you’re involved in the store. Tell me about your daily life working in the store.
DS:
Well, Rog [her husband, short for Roger] comes in and opens up at 8. I don’t come in usually until 9:30. I do chores at home and then run errands – go to the bank, go to the grocery store, whatever. So I usually get here about, between 9:30 and 10. And pretty much, I run the cash register and cut the cheese. I’m the one that, when people come in and want a pound of the cheddar, I cut the cheese. Now, I do stock and other things, but mostly I have to be up there because if you’re going to run the cash register, you can’t disappear for too long. So that’s basically what I do. Our daughter-in-law runs the sub shop, of course I ring stuff up. But she makes the sandwiches and serves the people. And then I ring them up on the cash register.
KC:
Have your customers changed over time? I know it’s mostly local people. But has the customer base changed at all or has it been mostly those people?
DS:
Well, it’s pretty much stayed the same. Like I said, some people grow up and then move away. But then new people replaced them – the workers. We have a lot of locals from the county office building, Bruce Hall, the railroad, some of the other businesses that come for lunch or stop after work and get snacks or beer. No, I’d say pretty much, except for the addition of a few more tourists in the last couple years, it’s the same. Not the same people, but the same kind of people. It’s corner grocery store kind of clientele.
KC:
How have you seen the store itself change over time?
DS:
It hasn’t. It’s painted the same color it was when I was here. We added the deli counter, that’s new. And the coffee – the serve yourself coffee. That wasn’t here when we came. I guess we put that in after his mother wasn’t here anymore. But it’s the same. Everything’s the same. We keep it spruced up and repainted. The one big thing we did do – if you notice the front, it’s the old siding and wood. That was covered over with aluminum siding when we came here. And we removed all that and had the front restored. We have a little certificate from the historical county thing for restoring the store. So that’s about the only thing that’s changed. Everything’s pretty much the same.
KC:
I want to go back to Georgia Tech. What did your father do at Georgia Tech?
DS:
He was a professor of Mechanical Engineering and the head of the Mechanical Engineering department for a few years. And then he retired there and then he went to Georgia College where he was dean. And then after he retired there, he worked under the State Department program that establishes engineering schools in other countries. He established one in Bagdad, Iraq, which I’m sure has been blown to smithereens. But he lived in Bagdad for a couple years and in Seoul, Korea. He was there for establishing an engineering program. And then when he retired from Tech, they moved up here. They lived next to us up here too. Because my brother was still in the Navy, and he moved around. Or else they might have moved to San Diego, but they came here. He graduated from Stevens Institute [of Technology] in New Jersey and got a Master’s degree there. And later on in 1950, he went to Purdue University and got his PhD at Purdue.
KC:
What did your mother do?
DS:
She was just a stay-at-home mom. It was just me and my brother, but in that generation you were able to do that – one person could work and then you could survive fine. My father was always – thought that women should stay home and take care of things at home. Unlike right know, where everyone has to work one or two jobs to survive unless you’re a real higher paid professional. But she just stayed home. We were all fine.
KC:
How did he feel about your decision to go to college?
DS:
Well, he was for it. We were always encouraged, same thing with my brother who’s a graduate of the Naval Academy, but I think he was surprised when I picked engineering. We never talked about it much, and when it came time to decide where I’d go to college, I said “Well I want to go to Georgia Tech and take science and engineering,” which is still my main interest. I’m more interested in that than, say, literature. He was happy. I graduated fourth in my class of 1,000, so I didn’t do too horrible at Georgia Tech. Like I said, there were 5,000 men and 50 women.
KC:
What was it like being one of very few women in Georgia Tech?
DS:
Well, school – see I didn’t live on campus. I lived at home because of my parents, so I didn’t have that problem. But basically you just went to class and did the work. I’m sure it would have been a little more difficult and different if I had lived there. There was a women’s dormitory where the women could stay and most of them – I’m trying to remember how many of them actually lived – I think it was about half-and-half. Half lived at home, half lived in the dormitory – women’s residential thing, it wasn’t really a dormitory, it was more of a house. I don’t know. Like I said, I never had any problems.
KC:
You never faced any adversity or push-back from any of your male classmates?
DS:
No.
KC:
Were you treated any differently by your professors?
DS:
Not that I could pick up on, no. No. There were some, a couple, that had – because women had only been admitted three years before I went there. So the poor professors hadn’t had much experience in that either. And there were a couple, you know people said “Well, they don’t do.” But I had those professors, and there never was a problem. I just felt if you did the work, you know, they had to give you the grades. So, no I never. Surprisingly enough when you hear about all that, I never experienced that.
KC:
Was Atlanta segregated when you lived there?
DS:
More than I realized. I read now about the history of blacks and segregation. There were black people, or you know Negros then or – even worse – the N word. But, you know, they fit in. Of course because of the fact that it was a southern city, they kind of fit into the structure. And when you grew up with that, you didn’t know any different. There weren’t any black professors at Georgia Tech. So I didn’t grow up with that class of black people either. Or we didn’t have maids or anybody who did anything for us. Like I said, when I read some of the things now about what was going on, I say to myself “That’s when I was there.” And I really didn’t know that. I didn’t know that was going on. But you know, you’re young, and you don’t pay attention, only pay attention to your little circle of things that you do.
KC:
Where there any black students at Georgia Tech?
DS:
No. Blacks were admitted after women. The year after I graduated, which was ’61, they were admitted in the fall of ’61. So there are black students there now. Men and women. But no, there were no black students when I was there. That really didn’t register either. I don’t know. I suppose I should’ve thought there should have been some there. But, like I said, when you’re raised in that whole atmosphere, you take that as normal. You don’t know. Like I said, I never even thought about it. Like why aren’t there any black students here?
KC:
How long did you work at Oak Ridge?
DS:
It was less than a year. Oak Ridge is more than the atomic bomb. Especially by the time I got there, which would have been 1960. I worked in the summer then I was hired afterwards. But there was a lot of stuff going on, growing crystals was one of them. My uncle, my mother’s brother, was one of the financial administrators of the Manhattan Project. So he was kind of who got me the interview for the summer job that I took. And I stayed with them when I was up there in the summer. I lived with them. So that was how I got into it. You had to have security clearance and everything. And I had all that. My father had security clearance too for some work he had done at Georgia Tech for the war and engineering stuff and everything.
KC:
Did your uncle ever talk about his work?
DS:
No, not much. No, no. About the Manhattan Project, no. That was still pretty soon after that had happened. Well, 10, 15 years. But he had not been in Chicago where the base was but in Oak Ridge where the reactors were. And he actually died of bone cancer, which they figured he got from the radiation, but back then they didn’t know how bad radiation could be. But that was after I had been there. I was already up here.
KC:
Did you enjoy working there?
DS:
I enjoyed the work. I guess another reason I’m here instead of Atlanta is that I’m a small town person. I like the small town atmosphere. And of course that was a huge organization at the time. And that was one of the reasons why I wasn’t interested in working at GE either because it’s just too big. I didn’t like big. I like small. The work was fine. The people were good, but there again, no – other than some of the lab technicians making snide comments – I never had anything from my boss or any people that was ever harassment or putting me down or anything. So I didn’t have that experience there either.
KC:
What were some of those snide comments, if you don’t mind me asking?
DS:
Well, any comment that a man would make about a woman. About your looks or… and I was fairly young and good-looking [laughter]. So, you know, you always got comments. They were no different than any other comments you get from walking down the street, especially in a big city like Atlanta. Whereas the higher up people never did that – my boss or any of the other administrators in the program that he was in. I never had anything like that. Every now and then you’d get whistles and catcalls and snide remarks.
KC:
Did it ever make you feel uncomfortable?
DS:
No, no.
KC:
Did you ever tell them off?
DS:
No. Just ignore them. Just walk by. Walk on by.
KC:
You were in a higher position than them…
DS:
Well, yeah, because I was an engineer working in one of the research programs, and they were like, if you had one of the little – when we did the growing of the crystals, there used to be a little metal autoclave. And you’d put sand in it or quartz or whatever, and then you’d take it down and they’d have to seal it up. And then they would put it in the high temperature oven. It would simulate high temperatures like when the Earth was being created and all those minerals were being created. And so you’d have to take it down and give it to them. And have them re-do it. So those were the people that I came in contact with every now and then.
KC:
Did you work with other women?
DS:
No, there were no other women in my department at the time that I was there. So, no.
KC:
Any black people..?
DS:
No, no. I’m sure there must’ve been some working in the facilities, but there were none in the group that I worked with or the engineering group.
KC:
Why did you leave Oak Ridge? Was it a temporary position?
DS:
Well, yeah. And then like I said, I met Rog and then we came up here and got married. And I wanted to move up here. So I said “Well, I’m going to go move up to Cooperstown.”
KC:
Tell me about your kids.
DS:
Well, I have four kids. The oldest one is a daughter. She lives up in [unclear] New York. And she works with a program like ARC. So she manages that. Outworkers would see the people in the various residential facilities. My second son, Steven, lives here. He’s a restoration contractor, and he does a lot of specific restoring of buildings and building of million dollar houses. Our third son is Randall, and he graduated from Stevens. And went out to California and got his master’s. He worked in Silicon Valley for several years. And then he got fed up with all that and came back here, too. And the fourth one – the youngest one – is a doctor in Boston. He’s a radiologist. So they all went to college, all graduated college.
KC:
Did you encourage them to do so?
DS:
Oh yeah. Although we didn’t force them. But it was just, the whole family dynamics just revolved around education. They had to go to school. There was no messing around. They all played sports, though. Every one of them played sports – the whole four seasons of sports. They take after Rog is that way. I never played any sports. [laughter]
KC:
Did you encourage them to get graduate degrees then?
DS:
No, not specifically. But if that’s the way they want to do… Like I said, basically a teacher, one’s a carpenter –
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]
the one that does the specific work, crafting. And one’s an engineer, and one’s a doctor. So there’s four. And none of them went to Georgia Tech. [laughter]
KC:
Did you want them to?
DS:
No, that didn’t matter. We have a granddaughter – one of my daughter’s – she went to Atlanta. And she ended up leaving Georgia. She was accepted into architecture. She ended up going to another school because the company she was interning with paid for that school, and she graduated in environmental building. Now she works in Atlanta doing that. But that’s as close to Georgia Tech as they ever came.
KC:
You said you liked the small town atmosphere of Cooperstown. What else do you like about Cooperstown?
DS:
Well, the fact that there’s so much available here. I mean it’s a beautiful historic town, and the school system is good. And the Clark Scholarship program – all four of my kids got Clark scholarships to help with college. And it’s a small town, so you get to know most of the people. And you can walk down the street and say hi to everybody. And you’re not afraid for your life walking around or doing anything. The countryside is beautiful. I do like pretty countryside and stuff. Plus, you have all the cultural things. You have a good hospital. You have the Glimmerglass Opera and the museums and just so much stuff you normally wouldn’t have in a town this size.
KC:
Do you ever do any outdoor things in Cooperstown?
DS:
I don’t very much, no. I mean we have the house – I worked out in the yard. We had a big garden. We don’t anymore because we don’t have anyone home. And we don’t have too much time here. I was not into sports or any of that. I like the outdoors, but I don’t really do anything sportswise.
KC:
Do you ever take a break from the store? Do you ever give yourself a week off?
DS:
We used to – When his mother was here, and she could spot while we were gone. We traveled. We’ve traveled around in Europe. Every country except Switzerland, we’ve been to. Norway, Sweden, Alaska, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand. So we did travel then. We’d go for like two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall. The last four years, we haven’t done it. That’s mostly because of the hassle of flying. I just don’t like, you know, for a vacation, I just don’t like what you have to deal with the airlines now. So we kind of quit doing that.
KC:
Is that like with the security checks?
DS:
Yeah. And just the fact - the airlines get more and more uncomfortable. Plus, if something happens to one flight or one plane, there’s no back up. There’s no extra seats. There’s no extra flights. You just always worry that you’re not going to get. We used to take tours – we would sign up for tours at places – and you have to be there on time. So it just became a hassle. That part of it wasn’t fun anymore. So we just decided we’re not going to do that.
KC:
Why did you make that commitment to travel a lot?
DS:
Well, we just enjoyed traveling a lot. My parents, they traveled a lot after my father retired. They traveled much more extensively that we did. They went to – we haven’t been to South America or Asia. Mostly because of the weather. It’s too hot. They traveled to over 100 countries, so they went to Russia – and they didn’t go to Iceland. They traveled, and they took us. My father was born in Croatia, and they took us back to the hometown where he was born in Croatia. So that kind of started us on traveling. We just enjoyed traveling. Enjoyed seeing other countries.
KC:
What was your favorite country?
DS:
Iceland.
KC:
Why?
DS:
Well, it’s just so wild. I don’t know but I’m just fascinated. I always liked geology, so you know, the great rift goes through there. And then the glaciers. And, there again, I’m more interested in seeing the countryside than the cities. Although we did see the cities. When you go on the tours, you get to see all the big cities. But I liked to look and see what the countryside was like in Iceland and Australia – they have very distinctive countrysides.
KC:
Would you go off the tour to explore the countryside?
DS:
Well, yeah if you had a free day or something. But mostly, no. It was just the tour included. That was the one thing I liked about tours – you didn’t have to plan it yourself. They took you to places that were popular or were the most famous places or whatever. Then you’d drive along in a bus. I didn’t sleep in the bus. I was looking out the window the whole time – just to see. We drove across the United States three trips, so that’s six back and forth. Same thing – just driving and looking at the countryside. Took a different route each time just to see what the country looked like. And so that’s basically… When we travel, that’s what I like looking at.
KC:
Do you know any foreign languages?
DS:
No. My father knew Serbo-Croatian, and my mother was Belgian. She could speak Flemish. But when they came over here, the attitude then was “well you’re an American now. You’re American – speak English.” So they never taught us any of the languages when we were young. We could’ve known languages. And I do regret that. I wish I knew Croatian more than the dozen words that I know. But no, no I don’t speak another language.
KC:
Did your children go with you on these trips?
DS:
No, no. Now, after my father died, and I got an inheritance, I did take the whole family. We went for two weeks. And my brother too, so there was like eighteen of us, and we had our own tour of Croatia and then a town where my father came from. And we still had family members there that I correspond with. My mother’s family in Belgium, she had no idea where they went or anything. His family, there again, came from a very small town, and she came from Antwerp, big city. But his was a little town, maybe a little. It was a coastal sea resort town. So after he died, I thought he’d be happy to know that everybody went.
KC:
Tell me a bit more about that trip.
DS:
Well it was a contract. We had a tour company out of New York through AAA. Tony (?) set it up through AAA. That would put together a trip. So we had already been three times with my father, so I knew where I wanted – what I wanted – people to see. So I basically set it up, and then she made all the arrangements. We had our own bus. A small, you know, 18 passenger. Yeah, it was pretty full when we were all in there. A bus and a guide – our own guide. And she made all the arrangements for the hotels and everything. We started down in Dubrovnik (sp?) and made our way up the coast to Lavrane (sp?) which is almost to Italy. That’s where my father was from. And then we went into Slovenia and flew out of Slovenia back home. So we saw everything along the way there. We did go into Montenegro. When my father took us, it was Yugoslavia. So it was all still one country. You just had to get one thing. For those countries, like after, you know, Serbia had been in that war. And so we didn’t go into every former Yugoslav province, but we went to four of them. Like I said, he was from Croatia, so we went through Croatia.
KC:
Was it emotional seeing the place your father had come from?
DS:
The first time we went, yeah, yeah. He didn’t go back after they came to the United States for 40 years. So it was very emotional for him the first time, but we weren’t alone then. It wasn’t until about then or when we went along with them. When the kids were grown and out of school and didn’t have to have somebody at home with them. They were all in college.
KC:
You never visited the town your mother was from?
DS:
Yes. We took a tour – a boat tour – of Belgium and the Netherlands. And I did go, we were in Antwerp for a couple of days. But I didn’t have an address or any idea where she was from, but we did go to Antwerp.
KC:
Did you have an address for your father?
DS:
Yes, oh yeah. The houses - matter of fact, he owned part of two houses in Croatia that he deeded over to the relatives that live there now. One down in the town where he was born and one up on the hill where his grandfather, yeah I guess his grandfather, built up on the hill. And so yeah and several other places his cousins lived in Lovran that’s the name of the town. So yeah we had all that information and were able to see all that. When we went, we would visit, with my folks would visit with their houses. When we went with the whole bunch, we had a dinner. We had it down at the pier. There must’ve been forty people – all relatives. Because we said “pass the word – whoever you could get that wants to come. We’ll have a little get together dinner.” So we did that when we were there.
KC:
How was it...
DS:
Good, good. [laughter] It was nice to see - because some of the people we had seen 15 years before when we went with my folks. They had grown up, and they had had kids. It was quite the experience for everybody. To go back and actually be able to see all the relatives from Europe.
KC:
Do you stay connected with them today?
DS:
Yes, a number of them died now. They were my father’s age. They were his cousins. But yeah I guess there’s like three that I still - they don’t speak English. So when I write, I do a few words in Croatian that I know. And then I’ll write in English. But they have people, like their grandkids, they can all speak English and translate English. I just write a little note, and then it gets translated.
KC:
Would you go back?
DS:
Yes we would. Except, the ones we really knew, two of the families had died. Both people have died. The one, you know had just gotten older and die. A couple of them had gotten unexpectedly sick and died. So there wouldn’t be that many people to visit. But Croatia is a nice country to visit and tour. The kids always said they would go back. It’s been, I guess, six or seven years now since we all went. But everybody’s so busy, you know. It was hard enough the first time to get everyone together. So my guess is we probably won’t go back again, but we would go if the opportunity presented itself.
KC:
Do your children travel too? Do they get the travel bug from you?
DS:
So far three of them. The oldest daughter hasn’t traveled as much. But Randall, well, he did a lot of traveling all over when he was in Silicon Valley. Because he was in marketing, so he would go especially to the Asian countries. And the son that’s a doctor – they’ve traveled all over. And now our son here, Steven, has some friends that travel, and they make their own plans to Germany a few years ago. They are going to Ireland in the spring. A little different travel. We prefer the tours, but they go on their own. The friends spoke German, so that was fine. That’s the other thing about going on your own when you can’t speak the language. You know, you’re kind of lost. And of course when you go to Ireland, they speak English more or less. [laughter] You have to get used to the accent. It takes a couple of days. So they are going to be going to Ireland.
KC:
How do you celebrate holidays as a family?
DS:
Well, we try and get together. Like, three out of the four will be here for Thanksgiving with three of the grandchildren. And then at Christmas, my guess is that at Christmas everyone will be here at one time. But the kids are grown up. Their kids are grown up and have their own jobs and stuff, except for the three little ones. And so it’s virtually impossible to get everyone together.
KC:
They come back here?
DS:
Oh yeah they come back here. They come back for a weekend or something to visit. Now that Randy isn’t in California anymore, we aren’t that far away – Boston and upper Adirondacks. We get together. Everybody gets along. [laughter]
KC:
What’s it like living here during the summer when it gets really crazy in town?
DS:
Well, we pretty much just avoid downtown like many of the other locals. That’s why we’re fairly popular here. We get people who shop here. Even more locals in the summertime because, especially since the Dreams Park people have come, they just kind of take up all the space. And then the parking where you can’t park. But it doesn’t bother me. If you want to go downtown, it’s a block. We eat out a lot. Because we are here all day and then when it’s calmed down a bit. I don’t mind. And I think it increases the prosperity of the town a lot. So people are making money from all the money that the tourists bring in. So that’s a good thing. I think it’s a good thing. I think we would really be missing it if they weren’t here.
KC:
When do you get to go and enjoy the downtown? You said you enjoy the Glimmerglass and the museums. Do you do that over the summer?
DS:
Well, the museums and the art association and all. Most of them, if you’re members, they usually have member openings in the evening when we aren’t working. So we usually go to those a lot. We haven’t been to the opera in a couple years. But there again, that’s been more of a time factor. You know, we are here all the time. And someday you’ve got to do things around your own place. We’ve got a house and acres out, three miles out, it’s not that far out in the country. So it’s a matter of time to do stuff. Like I said, we do eat out quite a bit. So we hit the restaurants. [laughter] In the evenings. Yeah, evening’s a little saner than the daytime.
KC:
So you guys are open Monday through Friday, so what do you do on…
DS:
Through Saturday
KC:
Oh okay, through Saturday. So what do you do on Sundays?
DS:
You can see what he does in the morning. We clean, and I try to get the store loaded last night, so I wouldn’t have to do it. I check around, do stuff. Do stuff that you can’t do when you have to be up there all the time. Because as soon as I go somewhere to go do something, someone comes in. So then you can’t do anything that takes any time when you’re running the cash register.
KC:
What do you specifically on Sundays?
DS:
I’ll catch up on stuff around home. Like I said, we have a large yard. I’ll do yard work. And we have to go home this afternoon and put up the deer fence. Keep the deer from eating our shrubs. And he hopes to do the last mowing. So there’s always a list of chores that need to be done when you own a house. So in the summertime it’s more. In the wintertime, we might do – go for a ride or maybe do something else. But in the summertime, we’re just busy taking care of property or a house if you have a house. Any spare time I have, I like to read. Which is one thing I like about winter – it gets dark early so I can sit by the fire and read. I don’t have to worry about working outside.
KC:
What do you read?
DS:
Well, I subscribe to a couple of dozen magazines. I don’t read fiction. I read mostly - well occasionally I’ll read a fiction book if somebody really recommends it. But magazines and well - lay medical, lay science stuff like that. That’s what I like to read.
KC:
Do you still keep on metallurgy at all?
DS:
Well, a little bit, yeah. Because there’s a lot about it. And that’s a field now that all the materials, even textiles now, that’s all together. That’s what happened when they went to materials. Because they mix metals and ceramics, now resins and plastics and stuff that didn’t exist when I was in school. So materials is a pretty big field. And you read a lot. And I read about the research they do at Georgia Tech now and it’s just fantastic. And the biomedical research and you know they have a department there in that. So I get the Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discovery Magazine, several of the technical ones like So Tech because it comes out of Georgia Tech. And the major conservation magazines. I get half a dozen of those. About twenty four different [ones] - fortunately they don’t all come out all at once. I read the Heritage from NYSHA and that kind of thing. And the more time that I have, I’m always behind. I’m trying to think of the last book I read. I can’t even remember. I read the local authors. We have two or three in the area that are authors. And I read their things and local history. But I’m not huge into history or economics anymore. More science and nature.
KC:
Well, I think that’s it for today. Thank you for doing this interview. It was really great. And thank you.
DS:
Thank you for being interested.

Duration

30:00 - Track 1
21:56 - Track 2

Files

Citation

Karissa Carlson, “Dorothy Smith, November 15, 2015,” CGP Community Stories, accessed June 19, 2019, http://www.cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/244.