JoAnn Van Vranken, November 18, 2009

Title

JoAnn Van Vranken, November 18, 2009

Subject

Cooperstown, NY
Military Spouse
New York State Historical Association Library
Farming
Family Life
Family Traditions

Description

JoAnn Van Vranken was born on April 4, 1959 in Cooperstown, New York. As a child she lived on a dairy farm and after graduating high school she attended SUNY Morrisville for an Associate’s Degree in Secretarial Science. She married in 1979 and moved to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico with her husband Bob who was in the Air Force. With him she moved to Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York, where she had two children, and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona before returning to Holloman Air Force Base. When her husband retired, they returned to New York, settling in Edmeston. She got a job at the New York State Historical Association Library nine years ago.

Mrs. Van Vranken’s recollections include growing up on the farm, celebrating Thanksgiving as a child, meeting her husband, and describing the many places she lived and worked resulting from his being in the Air Force. She also discusses her children and reflects on being the third person in her family to participate in the Cooperstown Graduate Program's Oral History Project. Her grandmother, Verna Schielto, was the first in 1977 and her aunt, Marjorie Schellhammer in 2008 (her interview can be found on this website in the Fall 2008 Oral History Project collection).

This tri-generational family participation in the oral history project provides unique insight into one family’s life in Upstate New York. It will surely be of interest to scholars interested in the area, scholars who study family units, and especially to Mrs. Van Vranken’s family. Her story is important in and of itself because it chronicles the changes in Cooperstown over the course of her twenty year absence, the trials of being a military wife, and stories about growing up on a dairy farm and the desire to get back to her roots. It will also be of importance to anyone doing an institutional history of NYSHA.

Mrs. Van Vranken speaks passionately throughout most of her interview, but was reserved when trying to find the right words to express herself. I have chosen to edit out false starts, both at the beginning of her answers and within them. I also changed tenses, particularly the verb to say, from says to said, at the request of the interviewee and for clarity. I also deleted the umms, sos, and you knows throughout this interview, but have left a few where it was deemed appropriate. All of this was done to allow for clear understanding of the transcript. I have noted the laughter of Mrs. Van Vranken and strongly encourage researchers to consult the actual recordings to experience the tone of this interview, especially as she describes her family and recounts family stories, a key component of the interview.

Creator

Maria Pease

Publisher

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

Date

2009-11-18

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.5mB
audio/mpeg
27.5mB
audio/mpeg
16.2mB
image/jpeg
200x200 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image
Text Document

Identifier

10-091

Coverage

Upstate New York
1959-2009
Cooperstown, NY
Holloman Air Force Base, Alamogordo, NM
Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, NY
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, AZ
Edmeston, New York

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Maria Pease

Interviewee

JoAnn Van Vranken

Location

NYSHA, Route 80
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2009

JVV = JoAnn Van Vranken
MP = Maria Pease

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

MP:
This is the November 18th 2009 interview with JoAnn Van Vranken by Maria Pease for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Oral History project conducted at the New York State Historical Association’s Research Library. So JoAnn, just for the record can you state your full name and your date of birth.

JVV:
JoAnn Carolyn Lindberg Van Vranken and I was born on April 4, 1959.

MP:
Alright, now you were born here in Cooperstown...

JVV:
At Bassett Hospital.

MP:
So I know you have pretty much been here growing up.

JVV:
Yes, when growing up, I was in the area.

MP:
Can you tell me about growing up in the area?

JVV:
Well I grew up in Edmeston, New York, which is about 20 miles to the west. Oh, scratch that, that’s where I live now. I grew up in Burlington, which is 15 miles to the west, but we went to Edmeston School. It was a country setting and I grew up on a dairy farm. I had, there’s 5 of us in the family as far as children, there’s 3 boys and 2 girls, I’m number 2. And pretty much summers were spent on the farm. Even when I was in high school, I didn’t just take off with the car and go. There was always something to do, we had to pretty much stay at home. So that’s, you know, my life here, it was, just growing up on a farm.

MP:
Do you have any favorite memories of growing up?

JVV:
On the farm?

MP:
Yeah.

JVV:
Oh yeah. I mean I have a younger brother and I used to have to watch him. I was in third grade when he was born. So being on a farm, my mother had an active role in the farming, and so I was the one that had to watch my baby brother Neil, and we would go up in the woods, build forts, I mean we would be gone all day long, up in the woods and we would watch my younger siblings. My older brother was usually the one helping on the farm, but sometimes we had to help unload the hay too, so it’s not like we were playing all the time. We did help unload hay, and it was not ones that were kicked in, my father had to stack them and we had to and so you know it was a flat. It was different than it is now as far as unloading hay. We had a really fun time especially in the summertime, wintertime we were in school, so, but we used to go up in the woods with my brother and I would keep them occupied and then whenever supper was ready, my mother would go out and honk the car horn and when we heard it honk three times, it was time to come home. So we were pretty free, we had like 100 acres that we could just play around on. I enjoyed growing up on a farm. Okay.

MP:
Now, so you were one of five.

JVV:
Uh huh.

MP:
Did you have other family members in the area growing up?

JVV:
Oh well yeah, we had an extended family also. My grandmothers, well, my father’s mother lived down here in Cooperstown, my grandfather died before I was born, and then my parents bought the farm from my grandmother. So gram was out here, but she would be over every Sunday for dinner. She’d come on over. We always enjoyed it when grandma came to visit. My mother’s mother and father lived up the road from us, about two miles up the road, so we saw them more often. We spent, you know, if mom needed to go shopping, grandma was the one that watched us. And then I had, and of course, my grandmother on my mother’s side had her siblings. She had 3 sisters and 2 brothers, yes there were four girls and six of them all together in the area, so I had them too, pretty much one of them anyway, Aunt Wilma, Wilma Scott. We would spend a lot of time with her visiting with her. On the late bus coming home from school, sports runs at night, they didn’t drop us off at our house. There were drop off points in the district, and this one was in Burlington Green and Aunt Wilma and Uncle George lived in Burlington Green. And we would go over there, the bus dropped us off and we’d go to their house and use the phone to call mom, “we’re up here, can you come and get us.” And Aunt Wilma would always have cookies for us, or popcorn, she always had a snack. And it didn’t have to be her own nieces and nephews, it was anybody who was on the school bus that got dropped off, any of the kids in the community. They always knew to go to Aunt Wilma and she would have something for them to eat, and Uncle George, he had Parkinson’s, and he always enjoyed the kids coming and stuff. So we had them and I knew all of my great aunts pretty closely, as far as on my mother’s side. Because my father grew up in Long Island. He was born in Brooklyn, he grew up in Queens and in 1948, when he was a junior in high school, his parents bought a farm, the farm that they live on now and moved upstate. So they were downstaters that moved upstate, so most of his siblings, well, we did meet a lot of his aunts and uncles, they would come up to visit but I didn’t see them quite as often, maybe once or twice a year, and his cousins I would meet them, but not as often as I did my mother’s cousins because they were here. Her aunts were here, and my mother’s brothers and sisters were in the area, so I grew up with them, we were very close, we saw them two or three times a year at least. And my father’s sister married when she got up here, so she was in the area also, so I did see them a lot. It was [a] pretty close knit [family]. I did know my great aunts very well, [got] to visit with them, and my mom’s cousins and their children, I knew them. Is that okay?

MP:
Now with it being close to Thanksgiving, how did your family celebrate the holiday with such a big family?

JVV:
With a big family? Well, we had to split it up between mom’s side and dad’s side. You know, I forget about Thanksgiving as far as how we did that. Well see, when my father’s side, I think we got together not on Thanksgiving day, we’d get together another day, like the Sunday after, whenever. I think we always got together with my mother’s family on Thanksgiving day, and that was a big one because my mom had two sisters and a brother, so there was four of them and there was 19 grandchildren, so it was a house full. So we got together and I think we took turns, mom and her sisters and her brother, they took turns having Thanksgiving. And then being with my dad who only had one sister, it was one or the other places and they would take turns having it. So we never really, we were always at somebody’s house. It was pretty much on Thanksgiving day with my Grandmother and Grandfather Schielto. But if, you know, with 19 grandkids running around it gets pretty, [laughter], but we were very well behaved grandchildren, by golly, if grandpa spoke, you didn’t continue what you were doing, that’s for sure, but it was, it was fun. And I’m still close to those cousins, there’s 19 of us, and we have lost one, one’s passed away, and I’m one of the youngest of those 19, since my mother is the youngest in her family. That’s how we spent our Thanksgiving.

MP:
Did that throw you into a different role being the second oldest of your family but being one of the youngest of the extended family?

JVV:
Yeah, I guess. Cause, well the other ones, were Fred was 10 years older, the oldest of those cousins were 10 years older than I am. I didn’t really know him that much, but his sisters, which were the next ones as far as age wise, they came over and watched us in the summer time too. So I got to know them then we spent summers with them or I spent summers with them, a week or two in the summer with my Aunt Margaret. So I don’t know, they were just like big brothers and sisters to me I think, I think that you saw, you didn’t see them everyday, you know. It’s kind of, you know, I never thought of it that way dear, you’re making me think here [laughter]. I was the youngest and they were older and I looked up to them, so I guess they were kind of the older brothers and sisters that I [didn’t have], or older sisters, cause I did have my brother. [He] is a year older than I am, [so they were] older sisters that I could look up to and ask questions, that type of thing. But then again I was the oldest of my group, so I broke my parents in, okay. [laughter] You know, when it came time to... It’s like there were things I couldn’t do dating or going through high school that say my brothers and my sister who are four and five years younger than I am could do when it came to that point because I broke my parents in [laughter]. I guess I would be considered mom and dad’s kind of wild child. [laughter]

MP:
Is there anything you did in particular that may have broken them more so?

JVV:
Well I don’t know, it was just, it was, okay, in the school there was the prom, okay, and we were always, my mother always said, you couldn’t, and with our prom and senior ball anybody in the school could go, you buy a ticket, you could go, from junior high through high school. Cause it’s a very small school, 41 in our graduating class and that was about the average. So then there was a fundraiser for those junior and senior classes, so they were trying to get as many people to go as possible, but my parents always said no, cause I had a friend we were eighth graders and he asked me to go. I was a sixth grader, no my parents’ rule was you had to be at least in junior high to go, and my little brother, which is fine, I went, and then I think it was the eighth grade when I went for a friend of mine asked and we went. But my brother was in sixth grade, who is four years younger and later and he said he wanted to take, he had a girlfriend, they were good friends and he wanted to take her to the prom just to get dressed up, and my parents said, “well, you are going to have to ask JoAnn because she couldn’t do it at your time,” so they gave me the responsibility and of course, Eric, I couldn’t tell him no, so I said, “sure you’re fine, it’s all right, you can take care of yourself.” I don’t know, I just, I mean Bob and I would stay out late and come in late and I don’t know, I think I just broke them into realizing that it’s okay, nothing’s going to happen. So, when my other brothers and sisters came along and got older they had a little more freedom, I think, than I did. All right, and anyway. This is so hard.

MP:
All right, so after you finished high school you moved on to a certificate program. Can you tell me about that?

JVV:
Oh, high school, no I went to [an] associate’s program at SUNY Morrisville. It was an associate’s in Secretarial Science, we went that was the first time [I] moved away from home. I mean I had Bob, my husband or my boyfriend at the time, which is now my husband. We were dating, so I wanted to go to a school close by because he was a farm boy and he was close by. Heaven forbid if I moved away. I didn’t want to go too far away so we went to Morrisville which is an hour from home. Which was fun, and I really enjoyed it. It was a fun two years that I was on my own, and I had a roommate from day one she moved in and she has been my best friend ever since. She is from Rochester and she was in the same program, and we, to this day, my kids call her Aunt Maryanne. We have kept in contact the whole time. I mean I did my partying and she was there. We went to her house, we went to Rochester on the bus. She came to my house, you know it was, and we of course went partying too, together, so, but yeah I enjoyed being away from home, away from mom and I guess. It was my first time away, actually, it was probably the only time I’ve been really on my own because a month after I graduated from college, from Morrisville, then I got married. So that was my two years of wahoo! [laughter]. So, but you know I never used it, it was a medical, it had more of a medical emphasis and I never really used it. But, I got that certificate, that paper, that diploma, so that really helped. I had people look at that, I guess, I don’t know.

MP:
So you got married a month after you graduated, how long had you known your husband prior to that?

JVV:
We had been dating for three years, and I had known him for four. We knew each other, and he was a senior in high school when I was a junior, he was a year ahead of me. And we had a class, accounting class together. And our accounting teacher Mrs. Lomas [phonetic spelling] every time she would change seating, every couple weeks, so that we didn’t get too comfortable with the person next to us because then we would start talking, but it was so weird because every time she changed it. Bob was somewhere in the immediate vicinity of where I was sitting. So anyway, we always blame Mrs. Lomas [phonetic spelling]. Bob graduated and we never went out during this time, but when he graduated then that summer he called me up wanting to know if I wanted to go out and we did. So that was in ‘76 and we got married three years later, so it was in ‘79. So we had a nice long engagement, well a year long engagement but we did date for quite a while before. I consider 3 years a good healthy time to date before you get married. Nothing rushed. So, then a month after I graduated we got married and we moved to New Mexico two days afterwards. By golly that was a learning experience because we had no phone, of course there were no emails and computers. I had to write a letter to my mother. We did call collect once a week, just so they knew we were still alive. But, you know, we had to do it, we had to do it on our own. Money was tight, but there was no running home to mom. We did it. By god, we bought 30 dollars of groceries, 30 dollars of groceries would fill a cart of food for [us], and that would last us two weeks. There’s no way you can do that now, thirty years later. So, yeah. So anyway, yes, and then we moved to New Mexico we were there for a year and a half. Was it a year and a half? We got married in ‘79, no, we were married in June of ‘79 and we moved back to New York [in] March of ‘82. He was stationed at Griffiss, and in New Mexico we were stationed at Holloman Air Force Base just outside of Alamogordo, New Mexico which is, it was a nice place, a nice quiet [place]. It was cheap, so you know we could find a place to rent off base, and I think any place else I think it would have been really hard for us to get a place to rent, but you could find cheap places in Alamogordo. Who wants to move to Alamogordo, New Mexico? There’s not a whole lot there. And then, yeah, in ‘82 we moved to Griffiss when Bob got stationed up in Griffiss, Rome, New York and we were there for five years. Both kids were born there, we had two children, Vanessa in ‘84 and Gerrit in ‘85, 18 months later. Because Vanessa was born in July and so Gerrit was born at the end of ‘85, so it’s not like yes, so, anyway, 18 months later end of December. Do you want me to keep going to where we lived all those times or do you have other, just let me go, right?

MP:
We can go wherever you want to go.

JVV:
Okay, so we were there for five years, that’s my first taste of working in the library. Oh, because when we lived in New Mexico the first time, I got a job working at White Sands Missile Range for a contractor that was doing testing on a new weapons systems called the MLS which is the Multiple Launch Rocket System, which is like they took a tank body and put a six pack on it. It was like a shoot and scoot, it was like they shoot the rockets and then they take off so that the enemy, they’d be gone by the time the enemy could figure out where the rocket came from. So I ran the weather data. They just looked at it that I had gotten two years of college, they didn’t look that it was a secretarial or that it was no computers, but that was my first taste of using computers. That was when you, if you did a program you had the little cards you had to punch out and then you ran them through the whole computer. It was the very beginning of computers; at today’s standards that was just so primitive, but I got some experience working that, running and entering the data for that, for the testing, And then so when we moved to Griffiss and I was looking for a job, the library there, Jervis Public Library, was automating their catalog and they needed to take it enter, we had to do data entry and a lot of the books they had there. We had to assign them bar codes and everything and so when I applied they said “oh you’ve got computer experience,” so it was not that they wanted me to enter weather data but I was familiar with computers for that time. So they said, “oh yeah, we got a job for you.” I worked there part time, worked nights and weekends and then during the day entering the data until we got it, the collection, automated. But we were there for five years, which was good, I worked there almost the whole time we were stationed at Griffiss, and it worked out good, cause I worked nights and when the kids were born, my husband worked days, so the kids were never really at a babysitter, so that worked out. My feeling was [that] we didn’t have kids to have somebody else raise them. So we worked our schedule to where the kids were, one of us was with the kids, and whether I ever saw my husband during the day, oh well, we’d just wait until the weekends to catch up on things. So we were there for five years and then my husband went to Iceland. He got orders to Iceland for a year, and we were going to go, but he got there and he hated it. He just did not like Iceland; I don’t know why. It was going to take us, the tour was going to be 18 months, two years, no it was going to be two and a half I think, two and a half years. And at the time he was going, the extended tour was going to be 18 months, so he was either going to go 18 months by himself or two years with the family. So we felt, well, we could, we’d go, the family would go to Iceland. So he got over there and realized, it was during the first, it was at the time when the U.S. Navy was doing an escort service in the Persian Gulf. I think it’s because of the Iran and Iraq War, and so a lot of the guys in Keflavik where Bob was stationed, which that’s my husband’s name, I don’t know if I ever said that, was a Naval Air Station and with Air Force stationed there. So a lot of the Navy guys were extending for Iceland cause they didn’t want to do escort service in the Gulf or in Southeast Asia or wherever. So it took longer for the housing, for the families to open up. People kept extending and extending, so it got to the point where it was going to be at least six months before the kids and I could even get over there, and another three months for our household goods to get there. So that’s a total of 9 months. Well, in the meantime, the tour had been changed from a long 18 month tour to a twelve month tour, so he said, ‘I might as well just do the 12 months here by myself, and we’ll go somewhere else later.’ And that was fine cause he hated it there. Didn’t want him there any longer than he had to be. And it could have been because we weren’t there with him, that’s another thing. So when he got done at Iceland, so the kids and I never went to Iceland, but he got orders for Tucson, Arizona, Davis-Monthan, and so in...he lived in Iceland in ’87 to ’88, and then in ’88, when he came back, we went to Tucson. And we were there for five years, lived on base. [It was] very good, loved the climate down there. It was beautiful. One of my cousins lived down there, so that was nice we had family down there. We’d go over there for holidays or they’d come over, we’d celebrate birthdays together, my kids were pretty close to them because they had no children. And then when I got down there, I worked at...well, our deal was I’d get two years off, that I wouldn’t work. I would make sure that the kids got settled and, they were, we got in a routine before I went back to work, and after my two years was up, I got a job working. They built a McDonald’s and my husband kept going ‘you know you need to really look for a job.’ I said ‘well, yeah, yeah, yeah, I am, I am.’ He goes ‘you know they’re building a new McDonald’s off base, you could probably get a part time job there.’ So just to shut him up I applied, and I got the job. I was making biscuits on Saturday morning, I had to be there at like four o’clock in the morning. By god, that’s when I started drinking coffee, because I had never drank coffee up until that point. My parents never drank coffee, my grandmother, my father’s mother, kept trying to get us to drink coffee and [bleh], but by god, when I was having to get up at four o’clock in the morning I started drinking coffee. And I didn’t like it so I started looking for another job, so I got a job at Sears Telecatalog, where when you call up over the phone and, course you’re too young to, cause they don’t have that anymore, with Sears it was the Sears Roebuck you used to call up, call on the phone and place orders, and we had, there was a call center there in Tucson, so I got a job working there, taking catalog orders, which was fun. I worked nights when the kids, when my husband was home and we didn’t have to pay a babysitter, cause I didn’t really make that much money but at least somebody, we always worked it that most of the time where I was working separate times than my husband. And so I liked, I got that, I quit the McDonald’s job that was [pfft]. I think that was just the prod that my husband was hoping for, so I would go off and get another job, get a job period. And then my cousin that was down there, she said, “you know we could use some work.” She worked for a credit card processing company and she said, “you know, they’re looking for somebody to work part time during the day,” cause I was working nights, she said, “so would you be interested?” Now it was just before Christmas, it was a few months before Christmas, I said “well sure,” the kids were in school and I could work there while they’re at school and then work at night too. So that’s what I did, [I] worked in the charge back department. When somebody questioned a charge on their card, then we worked on behalf of the merchant, so if somebody questioned a charge then we had to pull up and do the proof, show that “okay nope, the card was there, it was swiped, they made the charge, the card was actually used,” or “nope, must be a...” cause I learned a lot about credit cards. The number on the front is not always the number on the barcode, the bar swipe thing, so I learned there was a lot of fraudulent cards out there that I didn’t realize that. But we worked on the behalf of the merchant, worked it with the card holder’s credit company to clear up any problems there was. So I worked for there and then I finally said, I asked them, it got to the point where I really liked it, working there and I said to them that, “I would like to

[END OF TRACK 1, 29:59]
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

JVV:
... Cause it was just temporary and I told them I would like to really work permanently there, part time, and then I wouldn’t work at night cause the kids were getting older and so that’s what I did, I switched over to that. So then I worked there and I enjoyed that, that was fun, and then... Tucson... And then my husband got...his unit was downsizing or something, and so there was a list. We’d been there going on five years and there was a list of names that when job openings they were going to “okay, there’s this job in this place, this is the list of people that we were going to offer the job to,” so there was a job that came open in Alamogordo again at Holloman Air Force Base and it was getting to the point where our daughter was going to have to go school off base, to school, I think that was sixth grade. She was third grade and I think fifth grade was going to go off base to school. And Tignale Junior High, which is a really rough neighborhood in Tucson, and we didn’t want that, so we were going to pick our... We were looking for orders, we were hoping to get out of there so she wouldn’t have to go to that school. When the jobs opened up at Holloman and it was offered, I don’t know if it was offered to Bob first, but he was the next one that they offered it to, we talked about it, “well we’ve been there before, we knew the area, it’s a good, quiet, small, city that shouldn’t have too much trouble.” So we took the orders, because we didn’t know the next job that comes up they might make him take, and who knows where that was, at least we had some idea of where we were going. So we moved to Alamogordo, which was his first active duty station and it was his last because he retired from there. We were there for six years, he retired, and we moved back to New York to be closer to family because both sets of parents were getting older, and I was talking to Vanessa, my parents came out early to get the kids in the middle of the summer, got them back to New York to start school. Cause we didn’t want them to start school in New Mexico then after a month or two get moved to New York and then maybe get moved because we were going to go up to Watertown, Bob was going to go up there to get a job which is up on the Canadian border, so we didn’t want to keep moving them through the school year, so we thought, “well we’ll start them in Edmeston then they would only have to move once during the school year.” Well that was a mistake, because they got here and then in October when Bob and I finally got here, they told us, “mom and dad we do not want to move we like it here, we don’t want to move.” So we felt that, “well, this is a good transition, they did very well,” so then we started looking for jobs around here, which there wasn’t a whole lot. Bob got a job and then I got a job. I substituted at the school for a year, that was only, if there was no school, then I didn’t get paid because I didn’t go in, cause I was just a permanent sub and I needed something more steady, because of the fact that we needed to get a mortgage. I needed it on paper that I’m making X amount, not X amount maybe this month and nothing this month, I needed, because I didn’t get paid in the summertime either. So I applied to a bank, well, I applied for this job the New York State Historical Association, I saw the opening and I was sitting there going, “oh yeah, I’ve worked in libraries.” Oh, down in New Mexico when we got stationed there, I worked at the school and I was the librarian at the elementary school because you didn’t have to have an MLS to work in the elementary school you were overseen by a librarian who had the MLS, but we were just like we were kind of considered library aides. But we just had our own elementary school that we dealt with, took care of. I had the experience working there, so I thought this library job here I said, “oh, another library job. I must be destined to work at a library.” So I applied, and it took them a while but they called me in for an interview and I didn’t hear, and I didn’t hear, and my brother who had a friend working in the bank he said, “well, Lisa needs help. Do you want to work the bank?” “Sure.” So by golly, I no sooner took that job and I worked there a week, and Wayne calls up he goes, Wayne Wright, who is now my boss, says “we would like to hire you.” I said, “ Well, I already took another job, but let me get back to you on that one.” So I found out that the job at the bank was not going to be full time and couldn’t guarantee the benefits and stuff, and so Wayne said there was benefits and vacation time, so I gave them my one week’s notice and then I started working here and I’ve worked here for nine years. [Shew] That took me a while.

MP:
Now, so you’ve been here for nine years, what is one of the biggest things you’ve seen change?

JVV:
Staffing. The library has lost a lot of staffing. Well, compared to what, I only know that since I’ve been here they’ve lost, there used to be somebody here who did acquisitions, Adele. And then she left and I took over her job and we really haven’t gained or lost, we’ve only lost that one position since I’ve been here, but to talk and listen to Wayne who says, all these people that used to work here and then when one person left then somebody else that was here took over that position, so it’s gotten to the point to where we’re down to just four full-timers, five I guess now with Evan. We have five full-timers, but there used to be like twice as many working here. So that is the big thing as far as the library goes. The cut back on staffing and making due with what, you’re just gonna have to buck up, but sometimes you just can’t. You can’t just do everything that they want you to do with the staff you have. So that’s why when you guys moved into the building, when CGP moved into the building, we whined and complained and we got Sarah, we got somebody to work part time at the front desk, so that I could do because I took over acquisitions from Adele when she left, still doing the interlibrary loans and still the reference questions and the public service, but at least I’m free to move around. Like before I was stuck at the desk because when I got here I was front desk. I did interlibrary loans and public service, that’s it, and reference questions and everything. But then when Adele left, I took also the acquisitions part, and I just couldn’t do both and be at the front desk all the time. I had to be in the back because you’re there for the people to ask questions and so if you’re in the middle of trying to balance a budget and you get interrupted it just throws you off. So as far as that, staffing, the library here has always been the stepchild as far as with the New York [State Historical Association]. To me it’s one of the more important things, as far as the organization goes, because of the fact that you can’t have an exhibit without the library. The curatorial staff uses the library for research, for interlibrary loans, but I don’t think that we’re treated to that respect. We were told, “okay you have to make X amount of money.” Well, who thinks that a library is going to be making money, it’s not a money making business. We’re here for support and not to... I mean we bring in what we can, but it’s from research fees, but it’s been like that the whole time, I don’t think it’s ever changed. I just hope that things would be a little bit better, but with new administration and I think it did a little bit, but I still don’t think we’re treated as important as I think we are. The place hasn’t really changed that much other than when somebody leaves, you don’t replace them. Which is I think...with a lot of non-profits lately, “well if we can do with one person, then we’re not going to replace the other person.” I think that’s all.

MP:
So what do you like best about working here at the library?

JVV:
Oh I love the people. And I do like my job. I like that challenge of finding a book and seeing if I can get it in. I love ordering books, finding the books, talking to people and just, I love my job. I love the people. I don’t always like the bullshit that we have to put up with in some respects, but I do love the people. Now I couldn’t say [that] I’ve always been a very outgoing person. When I first got married, I was very quiet and shy. I stuck by my husband’s side, but being a military wife and when they take off and go, you can’t be like that. So over the years, and we’ve been married for thirty years, I have become very outgoing. I mean my husband he would go to, when we were in New Mexico last time, he was sent a lot of times. Out of a three year period, he had spent a full twelve months in Kuwait doing “Desert Watch” is what they called it at the time, so he would be gone three, four months at a time, and even when he went to Iceland, I had to rely on myself to take care of things. I couldn’t and it was funny, because when he got back he says “we never hear from your wife, she never calls up. We’ve got all of these wives calling and whining and complaining, ‘when are they coming back.’” They go “we never hear from her.” And it’s like, well we lived off base, I had a friend that her husband was not military, her husband worked for the gas company, her kids were the same age as mine, so I think that I had that support. But I had to learn to do things on my own, or I had to deal with things, so I think that got me more outgoing than say if he was home all the time and I had him take care of everything. No, I had to take care of it, a lot of stuff, so I think that’s one thing about being a military wife when they’re gone. Not just when he went to Kuwait, he also went TDY two or three months, he’d go to Las Vegas, he’d go to Florida, he traveled the country, I never traveled the country, but he did. I had to take care of things at home so that’s how I think being a military wife, I learned to...so I’m more outgoing. If I needed something I wasn’t afraid to ask, I just looked into it and did it. So I’m not the shy quiet bride that I was thirty years ago. I have become more outgoing and I really enjoy talking to people, and it doesn’t matter if I know the person when they come in the front door, I can talk to them, and not jibberish either, it’s about work but I’m not shy, I don’t shy away, I don’t sit back and just let them talk to me. I’m usually the first one to approach them and say, “okay, what can we do for you,” and I think that’s just helped me over the years, being a military wife because I was moving around and I had to meet people. Every time we moved we changed friends, so I had to either sit at home and cry, or just get out there and meet people and I usually got out and met people. So anyway, that’s what I really like about my job here is the people, the students, I mean, there has not been, well, I can’t say. I’ve been here for nine years, working here for nine years, and there might have been one or two students that we, eh, they just were not my favorite, but for the most part though, I felt the students were great. When we first got back and I was substituting at the school that I worked with seventh graders, eighth graders, elementary, I’m sitting there going, ‘I’m going to kill them,’ because they just...I wouldn’t put up with it in my own kids, but in school you had to deal with it a little bit differently than what you could do with your own kids at home. I’ve gotten a little frustrated about dealing with kids that age because “it’s because I said so” is, they’re just going to look at you and laugh. But dealing with graduate students, they’re adults, they’re young adults and they’re here for a reason and I try to help. It was just so much easier dealing with graduate students than dealing with seventh and eighth graders. So I really enjoyed that portion, I’m glad that we moved. I mean that I’m working with young adults instead of [laughter] junior high. Okay, yeah it’s the people. I really like the people here. Security guys, I’ll walk in I knock on the door, I always say hello to them and they’re some people that just walk by them and just don’t say anything. Look, they’re there, they’re people, you got to say “hi” to them. You know, they’re staff, facilities guys, they’re staff, you people, we all work together for one common goal and that’s, so you gotta talk to them. They’re no better than the rest of us. We’re no better than them I should say or anybody else, we all should say. Everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us, so you’re no different than us, I guess. Okay.

MP:
Okay, so you were gone from Cooperstown for...

JVV:
Twenty two, well from the area we were gone...I married in ’79, we left, we didn’t come back until 1999. Twenty years.

MP:
What’s one of the largest changes you’ve seen in the area?

JVV:
In Cooperstown? When I grew up in Cooperstown, we would come to Cooperstown and go shopping, there was a J&J Newbury’s they had a wonderful fabric department downstairs, toy department. You could go shopping at J&J Newbury’s and get whatever. And then there’s also the Capital Counter that you’d get a lunch, there’s hardware stores, shoe stores. Uncle Albert, my father’s sister’s husband, had a barber shop on Main Street and he cut my bangs when I was a kid, cause mom could never get them straight, so every once in a while she’d bring me over to Uncle Albert’s and he would trim my bangs. And there was a grocery store. There was one baseball souvenir shop, Woods, just down between Pioneer and right next to Auger’s Bookstore and that was the only baseball souvenir place there was in Cooperstown. And when we moved back, I could not believe how many baseball places, I mean the theater for God sakes. We used to come over here to Cooperstown to the movies. We watched “The Absent Minded Professor,” grandma would come and get us, and we’d go [see] “Absent Minded Professor,” “Shaggy Dog,” mom took me to “My Fair Lady.” When Bob and I were dating we brought my younger brother and sister over and we saw “The Rescuers.” So then I come back and it’s a baseball souvenir place... It’s a theater for God sakes, and how many baseball stuff do you need? So that really is a shock to me, and I think a lot of it, from what I’ve gathered from talking to people is that, it wasn’t like that until Dreams Park, that baseball camp that’s south of town in Hartwick, came in. So then all the baseball, cause then you had the influx of all the players and their families, so of course there’s a, I don’t want to say need...but there was customers, so I guess they felt like they could support all of these baseball places on Main Street in Cooperstown. I don’t remember the amount of people that come in now than compared to thirty years ago when I was growing up because it didn’t matter what time. You could come to Cooperstown, you did your shopping, you could get a parking spot on Main Street, but it’s just much different now. I usually can get a place in May, but then I won’t go down on Main Street like to go to CVS until after Labor Day, because you can’t find, it’s just too crowded. It’s just, for a small town it’s just way too crowded, but I think that’s the biggest thing as far as Cooperstown goes. There’s also in the outer areas, out in the rural areas, less farms. Where I was growing up, the road on a six mile stretch, there was, I think I went through and I counted about nine or ten farms, I mean working dairy farms that were actually shipping milk. There are two, and my brother’s, my folks’s farm, is one of them and the one right next door, but the rest have all been...people have sold out. A lot of it is the kids didn’t want to continue to farm. So it’s just sad, this is an agricultural area and the farms are just depleting big time. I mean my father-in-law was a farmer, his farm that he had when my husband was growing up is still a working farm, but there is a lot of them where they’re just not, and the farms the barns are falling down, that’s really sad for me to see that happen. People buy from the city, cause property downstate is so much more expensive than up here, they get up here and go, “oh, this is a bargain,” so they’ll buy farms and property just for a summer home, and then they may come up once a year and then they don’t maintain it and then it falls down. But then people will go “oh, well we can get somebody from the city to buy this place,” so they drive the prices, they set the price high. Well, the people living here, grew up here, have jobs here, cannot afford these places because it doesn’t have the wage base to support it. So that’s kind of the...and I shouldn’t say this because my father was one of those first influxes from the city, but he moved up here and they moved up here and they lived up here. They didn’t buy the land and just come up once or twice in the summertime. They moved up here on their own and this is their home. I can’t say that he was the start of it, I think a lot since 9/11, a lot of people have, and even before, they want to get away from the city, they have their problems down there, so, “ah let’s buy the land upstate,” not realizing, yeah, you got to maintain this, but there is a lot of places that just look abandoned. But again, the price of property. We wanted to buy this one place when we moved back, we wanted something with land. We didn’t want, we lived in the city in New Mexico and we wanted land, we wanted space, we didn’t want to be close to our neighbors. This one place they wanted like $300,000, like, “what are you talking about, this is twenty miles out of Cooperstown. This is over in Burlington, it’s country.” “Oh yeah, I’ll get somebody from the city to buy it.” It’s like, “fine,” so we ended up getting ten acres from Bob’s father and we put a modular Cape Cod on it and we love it. It’s out in the middle of, we’re far enough, we’re within a mile of the hamlet of Edmeston, but we’re close enough to the village where we can walk and if I wanted to go down and get the mail, I can walk, but we’re far enough out where we’re outside of the lighting district, so we don’t have to worry about a lot of traffic and a lot of noise and stuff. So I think that’s a big, big thing in the outer parts out of Cooperstown, is the decline in farming, which as growing up on a farm, it bothers me. We’re the salt of the Earth, farmers are. Okay.

MP:
So throughout the interview one thing that’s been really big is family.

JVV:
Mhmm.

MP:
You talked about growing up, can you talk about your children?

JVV:
Yes, I have a daughter, twenty-five, Vanessa, she is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina down in Chapel Hill majoring in Analytical Chemistry. She’s married, she got married a year ago to someone that she’s known for two or three years. When she worked summers at New York Central in Edmeston, it’s an insurance company, she worked in Jay’s department and they started dating and one thing led to another. When she went down, she graduated from Nazareth College in 2004, she started that summer, she was going to start down at UNC, she was accepted, and he went with her. And I was kind of glad because she was going to a place I had never known and there would be somebody there, so if she wanted to come home at night, someone would make sure that she was home at night. So he went there, so I figured that, “well, gee, that must be true love.” He uprooted from his job, he had a good job at New York Central and moved to North Carolina without a job, just to be close to her, and he got a job doing the same thing at the insurance company but at a pharmaceutical company. So they were down there for two years when they got married and he is a good guy. I couldn’t ask for a better son-in-law. Then we have son Gerrit, he’ll be 24 next month, and he’s still trying to find himself. He graduated high school in 2004, tried Morrisville, to do electrical engineering, no electronics engineering and they kind of asked him to leave. Well no, he did and then he decided he wanted to do...he had gone up to the state fair with friends and talked to an Air National Guard recruiter and he goes, “you know, mom, I kind of would like to do that, take some time off from college and get into the Guard.” I said, “well, that’s fine,” cause we always wanted him to, we figured he’d wanted to go into the service, but we wanted him to get two years of college under his belt before he went in. My husband wanted four, but I was more realistic with two and so I said, “sure.” So he went to the Guard business. When he came back, a traditional Guard is one weekend out of the month and two weeks out of the year, so when he came back and got all of his training out of the way, he went back to Morrisville and then he didn’t, then he didn’t. He transferred, then he decided, “well, I’m going to transfer to Mohawk Valley,” which is the same program. So he went there, he tried that for a little while. So now he’s changed jobs, he was in munitions and he just got done training and now he’s going into computer networking through the Guard, which is a good marketable skill on the outside. He’s hoping to get into the Guard full-time, which I guess we should have let him go to full-time Air Force when he got out of high school, because I think that he would have been happier and not worried about pushing college. When he is ready, he’ll go, but hopefully some of the credits that he’s earned he can get his Associates through the Community College of the Air Force, knock on wood. But they’re good kids. We’ve never really had any problem with them. Vanessa, when we moved back from New Mexico, like I said they were really happy in Edmeston, she had to laugh because when mom and dad took them into see the guidance counselor, she asked Mr. Brophrey, who was the guidance counselor at the time, who was, when I went there, the social studies teacher, so he knew me. I didn’t have him in a class but he was teaching there. She goes, “well how big, how many students are there in Edmeston?” And Jim says about 600, K through 12. And she goes, “but...

[END OF TRACK 2, 29:59]
[START OF TRACK 3, 0:00]

JVV:
...but that was the size of her freshman class down in New Mexico, so she came from a school that was high school four times the size of her whole central school. And she said to me later, “you know mom, it’s so nice to be able to walk down the hallway in school, hold your head up high and talk to anybody. You knew everybody in the hallway no matter what grade they were in, you knew them, you could say hi to them.” I said, “what do you mean, honey?” She said, “well in New Mexico, when you walked down the hall, you looked at the ground, cause if you made eye contact with the wrong kids, you were afraid, because there were gangs. And then when you walked in the bathroom, if certain people were in there you turned around and walked back out again, you didn’t stay.” I said, “for God sakes, that’s no way to go through high school.” So she was petrified her freshman year at Alamogordo and then come to find out a few weeks ago, she used to skip school. [She] was sitting there going, “oh yeah, Angie and I used to skip school.” And “how come I didn’t know this.” She said, “well we’d get home and when they left a message on the answering machine, we erased it.” and it was before Caller ID so I couldn’t go through and see who had called. So I said, “oh,” She goes “yeah mom, if I hadn’t been skipping school probably in freshman year I probably would have been valedictorian in our class in Edmeston.” Cause she was like fourth in the class in Edmeston. I said “oh, okay.” Things you learn, six years down the road. After I heard that, I was so glad we left New Mexico and got here, because I don’t know what would have happened with Gerrit, though, I mean he’s just, I don’t know if you worry so much about your daughter, but guys will tend to, I just would have worried about him. I think she would have been all right. So things could have been so much different, she might not be a Ph.D. student if we stayed in New Mexico. She might have barely passed high school, cause if she couldn’t go to school, so I guess things happen for a reason. Anyway. So that’s my kids. I think they’ve really helped them moving around, same with me they’re pretty outgoing. They’re two different kids because Gerrit, when we moved from Tucson to Alamogordo, he was in the second grade, we took him to his room and he goes, “see you mom,” he sat down at his table and, “see you mom, see you guys later.” Dropped our daughter off, he was second, dropped her off as a fourth grader and we put her at her desk and there was a girl there right next to us crying, so she didn’t want to stay. I said, “honey, you’ve got to stay.” So we made her stay and my husband and I were walking down the hallway and pretty soon there was these arms wrapped around my arms, “mom, don’t leave me.” It was the hardest thing I had ever had to do, I said, “honey, you have to stay.” So we took her back to her room, put her back in her chair, and it got better. She was fine, after that, and she’s always been that way. Gerrit, he’ll try anything new once, he’ll just go for it. She, “no I don’t want to do that,” and we have to make her do it and then once she’s done she’s like, “oh this is fun, why did I ever?” So that’s my kids, they’re two different kids, and I guess kids that’s the way they are, you can’t treat them [the same], they aren’t a mold, but they’re really good kids. I’m not disappointed, they have never disappointed us. They might have exasperated us at times, but they never really disappointed us. We’re happy with them. We’re proud of them, the people they turned out [to be]. Okay.

MP:
Now I have one more question for you since we are getting to the point where it’s been an hour.

JVV:
Oh really? Oh wow.

MP:
Now you are not the first one in your family to have done an interview for the CGP program. Your grandmother and your aunt have both done it. How does it feel to be carrying on this sort of family tradition?

JVV:
Ohh, it’s kind of neat. The first, and I didn’t realize my grandmother had been interviewed and we were going through the tapes. Wayne, see Wayne’s my boss, he’s very into family history, not just his own, but everybody else around him, so he knows who I’m related to. He listens and he picks up on that. Cause my Aunt Irene, my uncle’s wife, worked over at the Farmers’ Museum, she was a museum teacher, she was a weaver, so he knew her and he knew the last name Schielto. So one day, he was going through, he keeps track of all the oral histories and he was looking for something on somebody else and he’s going through his books and he goes, “Schielto.” And he comes up to me he goes, “do you know this person?” I said, “By god, that’s my grandmother.” He said, “yes, back in 1977.” I can’t remember, what student did an interview with her. It was after my grandfather had passed away in ’76 and I got to listen to it. So I went and got the tape player and the headphones and the tape and then listened to it, and it’s like going back in time. I could hear her refrigerator kick in, the one that hummed, the hum from that. I could just picture the refrigerator. She had a clock out in the kitchen, it was a mantel clock and that was clicking, and I could imagine myself, I can imagine listening to her, she’s sitting in her chair over one side of the sitting room and I could be sitting in grandpa’s chair right across from her. Just by listening to her talk, and there’s things she talked about that I didn’t know, cause they used to take the milk to the cheese factory there in town in Burlington. So there were things she did when she and grandpa first got married, or as a kid too that I didn’t realize, and the way things were. It was just, and then she got to talking about grandpa, and then she got really whispery and kind of choked up, she didn’t say so much because it had been about a year since he I think, no it hadn’t even been a year at this point. But it was just, I couldn’t believe it. I cried, sorry. But this must have been, I started work here in 2000, [so] 2002, 2003 and she had passed away in ’93, so it was about ten years after she passed away that I was listening to this, so it was like, it was kind of [inaudible]. And then last year for the oral history, my aunt, my mom’s sister who lives out here in Cooperstown who goes to the First Baptist Church, Marjorie Schellhammer, oh my grandmother was Verna Schielto, so she was interviewed by the graduates. I never listened to her and I was going to go to the presentation, but the thing was at night and there was something go on and so I didn’t, but yes, so yeah I’m the third. I guess you would say I’m the third generation since Aunt Marje is my mother’s generation so I’m the next generation of our family that’s being interviewed. And then grandma, let me do this real quickly because I want to, that Grandmother Schielto that was interviewed, she taught me to sew. So when she passed away, she had this big, old, wooden ironing board that was wrapped in a white sheet, sucker was heavy, but I would go up there for sewing, for her sewing class and I had to get that sucker out and it was heavy. So when grandma passed away, I got the ironing board that I had to lug out every time and that cabinet that her sewing machine sat in. Those are two things that really hold, that I had gotten, I think that’s the only thing that I really got from her, because with 19 grandchildren, there wasn’t a whole lot left. Aunt Wilma, the one I was telling you about, she taught me to knit. So I know how to knit, albeit several 4H projects that we did with them, and my grandma Lindberg taught me to crochet. So that’s the kind of oral history, I mean that’s my family, that’s how I growing up, that’s my remembrance of my aunts. They were a part of my growing up, they had some part of, my great aunts and my grandmother, they had some part of developing who I am. Not just my mother, who I mean she taught me to cook, there are other things that she taught me, but yes, that’s my family. They made me who I am, what I like to do, because I love to garden, my grandmother and grandfather, they gardened, they had flower beds, rose bushes, and so does Aunt Marje, that’s where she gets that from, she has the rose bushes and the flowers, she and her husband have flower beds, he’s passed away. So yes, that’s my, there you go. I’m carrying on the tradition. Maybe someday in the near future, maybe like 20 years from now my daughter will be able to get interviewed or maybe somebody from that generation will be able to get interviewed. But everybody else is pretty much moved away. Basically my family, are the only ones that stayed in the area. The rest of the 19 have spread out. They don’t live in this area, in what I would say, Otsego County. Well, there is one, Nancy. But out of 19 that’s not a whole lot who stayed in the area, the rest took off.

MP:
Well is there anything else you would like me to ask you, anything I should be asking you?

JVV:
I don’t know, I guess...get me started, I could start, but that’s how I remember growing up in Cooperstown, in this area. And there has been a lot of changes. I don’t always agree, I don’t think it’s always for the best. I mean cause I like quiet, and I like to be able to stroll down Main Street in Cooperstown in the summertime and not have to worry about people walking five abreast and not letting me go through, which I think is very rude. Tourists sometimes are very rude. So I want to start, elbow them and let me get out of the way. I do. Family is a big part, and I don’t think nowadays the extended family is utilized as much as they used to [be]. I mean my mom used to spend a lot of time with her aunts, and her great aunts, her grandparents, she spent a lot [of time] and I did too, but I think it’s gradually getting away from that to where...I don’t know. My kids know my mom’s siblings and my father’s siblings, not so much my husband’s siblings, maybe it’s just because I was closer to my aunts. Bob was not. His father, they grew up on the farm and they didn’t do a whole lot of, they would go once or twice to family gatherings, but there was always farm work to do, it was a different intensity, I guess you would say. Bob’s father was very, there was a lot of stress in their [family]. But my father was more of a, my parents were very frugal, I would say, if something broke they fixed it. Bob’s folks, on the other hand, went out and bought a new one, so they got deeper and deeper in debt. Farm equipment is not cheap, and so I think his folks had a lot of stress, financial, stuff that’s brought on themselves. My parents did not, they did not have the debt. So we were able to take time away to go visit family. We went to Rochester camping one weekend, out in the western part of the state to visit my father’s cousin that had a campground out there. Not too many farmers were able to get away for a week like that, but mom and dad had it to where it wasn’t. My uncle would come down and do the chores for a week for us, just so we could get away, not that we did it every year, but I do remember doing that, loading us up in the truck with the camper on the back and the kids we were all in the back. So we were able to do that, Bob’s family, they couldn’t get away like my family. Maybe that’s it, maybe it’s just the people, different situations, cause I grew up on the farm Bob was growing up on the farm, so he has a different outlook at farming than I do I think. But then again, he was a boy. He drove tractor and I didn’t drive tractor. I cooked supper and I had to help get the meal on the table, I watched the younger kids, so I guess my roles on the farming part was different than what Bob remembers. And he couldn’t wait to get away from the farm, me I enjoyed it. I liked it. But now, that he’s been away, and he’s come back, he doesn’t mind it so much. I guess you can take the boy away from the farm but not the farm out of the boy, no matter how unhappy you are at the time. Anyway. I ramble on, I tell you. [laughter] Get me talking, thinking about things. I did enjoy growing up on the farm, and we’re looking at buying some Alpacas maybe sometime down the road, so we’ll have animals and we want to have chickens and we got ten acres of land, we can grow a little bit bigger garden if the damn deer will stay out of it. I guess that’s what it is. When I was a kid, we grew everything, vegetables, mom froze all of the vegetables out of the garden, we never bought vegetables in the store. The meat we butchered, we had beef as much of that, so we got our, and of course the milk, all the milk you wanted to drink, so I think we were really pretty self sufficient and self reliant. You want to get back to it as you get older. I do. I want to get back to the point where we’re really more, you take, you’re more self reliant you’re not having to rely on others for you food and stuff. Put a windmill up and not have to worry about paying NYSEG either. [laughter] Okay.

MP:
Well thank you so much JoAnn.

JVV:
You’re welcome.

MP:
This concludes the oral history interview.
[END OF TRACK 3, 17:43]

Duration

29:59 - Track 1
29:59 - Track 2
17:43 - Track 3

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps
128 kbps
128 kbps

Files

Citation

Maria Pease, “JoAnn Van Vranken, November 18, 2009,” CGP Community Stories, accessed December 11, 2019, http://www.cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/35.