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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins 241 Pugh Hall Digital Humanities Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 35 2 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness acc ounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, S POHP recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Suggested corrections to transcripts will be reviewed and processed on a case by case basis. Oral history int erview t ranscripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript i s written with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and form at I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information abo ut SPOHP, visit http://oral.history.ufl.edu or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. May 2015
TMP 063 Interviewee: Diana Swenson Interviewer: Jes Baldeweg Rau Date: October 24, 2014 B: Hello I am Jes Baldeweg Rau an d I am here with Diana Swenson. And today is October 24, 2014. I am w orking on behalf of the Samuel Proctor Oral History P rogram from the University of Florida. I am here in Ma thews County L ibrary in Mathews County, Virginia. Diana the recording. S: My last name is Swenson, S w e n s o n, and my first name is Diana, D i a n a. B: Wonderful. Okay, so just some good introductory questions just generally where ? When you were born? General information. S: When I was born? I was born in the 30s in New York in Staten Islan d. M y mother and father are both from Mathews and all my family, all my relatives were from here. Relatives that I knew were all born in Ma thews. The names of my family are Hudgins, Powell Sa dler, Knight, and let me think what else Diggs. So am a member of the D A R and of the Daughters of the Confederacy through the Knights and dying to know whether they were really k nights originally from England which maybe I can find out. Right now I worked on it. Okay do you want me to start with Virginia ? S ome of the certain things in Virginia? B: Oh absolutely. Please. S: Okay well mother first. M s family is from Cricket Hill , and she was born in 1906. V ery pretty woman W ent to school here ; she had some stories from back when. W e had a piano in the house there one of those upright pi anos and my mother told me they had a very small living
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 2 room until they added onto the house, and she told me they used to dance have dances in the living room and parties and everything until around the time Billy Sunday, if yo I believe he came to tow n and everybody stopped dancing because they were big Baptists. A nd she was friendly, very friendly with a girl whose father had a boat. L Clemmy Travers H e carried pineapples He used to go get pineapples in where, Cuba? I guess or wherever And apparently there was a piano I t hink it was a piano or an organ o n that boat. And he had enough money. T hey had been in a house long after he died. T hey had I believe, an original Tiffany l amp and I think there was a dirt floor i t know. Germans own the very large piece of property. But they had a Pierce Arrow, which appare ntly was an expensive car at that less how my mother used to go to schoo l in Mathews [La ughter] was in this Pierce Arrow. Which was pretty nice. W e had one of the only phones on the road there and that w as quite a thing in those days. T hat was the ring a ding three times or whatever and my grandmother knew everything that was going on in the county because people would come to use the telephone. And also sometimes she would pick up the telephone and you could hear things. [Laughter] Okay o do with this Billy Sunday, I think my father was Methodist, my mother was Baptist and they would cook on Sunday for a while because of the religious aspect of it. M y great grandfather on my side Ch arlie Sad ler had a bug eye which is quite a thing. And I finally got a little picture of it up on the . w what you call it, stilts or
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 3 whatever, when they were trying to work on it. And he made he did very well. H e made a lot of money on o ysters, and those were sailboats. A fter he was older he worked on the James River in an oyster house. They used to watch the oyster houses from an oyster house and I believe he may have carried a shotgun I now. Back to the old times people used to steal oysters so you had to B: Oh really? S: An d he lived in Hilton Village in Newport News and he would come home when working. M y other my grandfather on my mot waterman also. He was a crabber fisherman and then things go t very expensive I guess for him. I t was too expensive for him to do what he loved to do and he became like a lumberjack. T hey did a lot of lumbering here in the 30s and a l ot of the big trees were cut. A : they would cut for the hey took a lot of lumber for that. They kind of scal ped the county. L et me think now here . got a little story if interested in history A nd I think this kind of int eresting and people should know: dates, but my g reat great grandmoth Chickahomin y, I believe half Chickahominy M y grandfather looked very Indian W e all do actually. I M y mother used to go to the reservation, a nd then my aunt who was her younger sister what happened was in around 1917 I believe somebody passed a state law that there were two races: white and black. [Laughter] Anyway
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 4 belie they changed the law I have not looked it up w, you could find it I guess. A nd it was around the time when Pocahontas b ecame the heroine in everything. I t was a Virginia state law, not anywhere else that I kn ow of but in Virginia and they changed the la w Goes to show you . Okay r, my father grew up very poor. H is father died and my grandmother had to come back to Mathews and his father who is my Civil War conne ction was a soldier on the Confederate side in the auxiliary from Mathews. There were quite a few of them. They went as a group, I think. And he lived and he came back from Appomattox he came back barefoot ; the story sometimes is barefoot from Appomattox P ossibly B ut by the time they got back that family used to have a lot of property actually at one time, but the Civil War just killed ever ything and everything was gone. A nd then to make it worse he had only daughters no s ons A nd so my father came back to live with his grandfather and grandmother. And he worked H e was a hard worker the man I love h e had a lo t of stories and one of them I never knew what pulling fodder was, but I guess it was fodder for horses and cow s a nd whatever. Later on I knew. B ut he loved to say pul l ing fodder. A nd he delivered Grit was a newspaper H e did that delivered Grit on horseback. Used to say they used to put the crabs on the land. N obody ate crabs at that time at least in his family and they used to put th em on the land for fertilizer. T And he used to go clamming and he A nd he had to have bags of clams around his neck and if he ever stepped in a hole h ut he d
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 5 swim till he married my mother. A nd he was already almost a sea c aptain. A What happened was why he went to sea about sixteen I wen t to, which may have only been I e had the most beautiful handwriting and he loved to write, loved to wr ite letters. He just loved it. M y mother got so much mail from him; thrown away some and whatever. He said tha t they used to farm potatoes, and the boats used to come here to go to Baltimore to take the potatoes or wherever they went, Norfolk, Baltimore. A nd one time they came back and they told him money for the p otatoes to pay for the freight. A to that anymore [Laughter]. A nd he went to I think it was Portsmouth because everybody had friends in Portsmouth or Norfolk or somewhere that worked in the shipyards or on the boats. So he got a job painting on tugboats. T started and then he worked himself up. And at one time he was the youngest captain on the easte rn coast. He became captain at twenty eight years old and he was the youngest ca ptain until the war came younges t person to been made captain. D uring the war they made a lot of people capt ains when they were very young. There was a lot of problems getti ng people in those positions during the war. Anyway le t me see what else we have here . Personally I remember coming here in the summ ertime and with my grandmother. A nd there was a place called ou may see the theatre N Grand Ole Opry, but people thi but that was
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 6 only Ice Cream P arlor if you want to call it that, and that was the great place in town well right near house. T hey had the best chocolate malt when I was a young girl, kid. A nd they used to play a song called Cigarettes Whiskey & Wild Wild Women T hey had a loudspeaker and you could hear that for about two miles. A nd practically every night I would go to sleep to Cigarettes, Whiskey & Wild Wild Women And later on that became like a d ating place a teenager kind of thing A get pink lemonades and what you do with them was your choice. [Laughter] Y ou ride round and round and round and go f rom there to the Mathews Courth ouse cause those were the only places much to go in. O kay. B: You say you did it, your choice? What was your choice? S: [Laughter] I think we ha is that was because and people would bury their bottles by a stump. B: Oh really? S: At least [Laughter] B: It sounds legitimate to me. S: Yeah? I Do you have any questions yo u want to ask me? B: Oh absolutely. S: Oh the other thing was, nowadays homes, but back then back in the oh I guess up until the 60s when we had
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 7 the first nursing home here in Mathews everybody had a gr andmother or a mother up in the upstairs bedroom or in the downstairs liv ing room that was sick and old. A nd you went to visit them and everybody took care of them, and that was the way it was then A nd I guess it was that wa y probably all over the country . B: say your family was very family oriented? S: To a point, yes, yes I would. B: t as much so today? You think S: Oh and then they had the church functions and just about everybody went to church. I mean it was very unu sual not to go to church B: Which one? S: That one right next to us. ng to be buried. I have a burial m y family is Baptist, and our generations at the plot at Mathews Baptist Church. We have an obelisk cause Charlie Sadler did very well and he wa s very prominent in the church. A Sad ler, Powel l, Hudgi ns, and t my will to be buried in Mathews Baptist Church. I hope somebody does that. B: Y ou sa id you had Civil War connection. W hich part of your family again? S: grandfather. B: Have you heard
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 8 S: No, I wanna tell you and that is very interesting, I think. N obody talked about the Civil War. B: Really? S: ow , we had and I did not know until recent ly cause I wanted to be in the D A R A nd I had to do a lot of digging because this a burn ed county which means that the Yankees burned the reco rds that were sent to Richmond. A records Y ou have to do it by bible, bibles, or I did it by land grants T know th e family had a lot of property. A nd the land grants very cute. T hey had house s drawn on them and everything not land grants but land that was passed from father to son t hey accepted that, and that way I could prove my lineage. Because it used to be very loose, but ri ght the D A R. And so I did have to do kind of work for that although it was all done I did mostly all of it here. Except to get a connection with my grandmother to get my grandmothers wedding license T hat I had to track and I find it here and I had trouble with that. So we were thinking and thinking s dead and we finally determined and we found it in, actually, Annapolis because they got married in Baltimore, but all the rec ords were taken to Annapolis. I found it on microfilm and apparently she had left here and gone up there to marry him. A nd he was from here but he worked on a boa t up there in Balti more. And yeah that was kind of interesting, cause I cause you have to have it now
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 9 in kind of black and white. So but nobody n o, the Civil War all I knew was that they were pretty poor when he came back. A nd I know the house i s gone that he lived in but yet my house where she grew up as a child is still here because everybody lived. T hat seemed to be what they did : married and then the until they had enough money to buy a house or build a house or whatever. B: The couple would live with their parents? S: The married couple, and probably the child. I mean we had my great grandfather s house up until the 90s and my mother was born there. B: Now which side of the family which parents ? T S: Who would they live with? B: Yes. S: I guess whoever had the bigger house. I guess you know. I know my nts for . know how years. I know in the house when they built their house. B ut t he land came through the father. T hey lived with the mother s parents but the land came through the father I think it always had to depend on who had w hat, who had resources. Luckily, my cause he left his and my father my father was kind of quite a character. H e did very w ell working in the Me rchant M arine and at one time he had enough money he had General Motors stock. A nd I said, oh gosh if he had just kept it! H e had General M otors
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 10 stock in the 20s, early 20s and he sold it to buy I think two diners in Brooklyn. A nd I think he ha d a girlfriend ther I And he sold the stock to buy the diners and then the diners went broke. B: No. S: [Laughter] So then he went back to the sea or continued doing that, cause much more money doing that And I guess he came into town. A t that time he had a very nice car. I like that story I f you see the pictures, you might see the pictures of Mathews in those years, so he met my mother pr obably 1926, something like that, 26 27. I mean he would have only been twenty six years old and ready had all these adventures. A nd he had a nice new car, okay ? S o that was it. [Laughter] So they met each other, dow ntown Mathews, and then they corresponded and then they got married in 1928. Yeah. So it was a nice story ; hey were a very interesting couple. Yeah he was quite something and so I love to talk about him. When I talk about him I smi le. You know? The others my mother I kind of get sad, but my father I just . had a great life. A nd I will tell ya, and the ending story to that i s my father drowned in Florida. A nd after all that, going through all t hat war scene and rumasque and plan e s, ships going down around him and everything. B ut he proba really drown; probably something happened. He was eighty two, yeah and he probably had a n attack or something you know. B ut he drowned in about four feet of water, five feet of wa ter. I t was a very poetic thing I f anything were wrong with him
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 11 B: Would you mind talking more about your father? He seems like an interesting figure. S: Interesting person? Okay see, what else? I told you about his childhood. I think he liked the ladies, liked the girls. [Laughter] I think he was engaged about three times when he was a teenager. B: My goodness. S: But anyway, he waited for my mother and he was a very gregarious person very generous. Loved to come visit his family dow n in One mo and he would dress all up [Laughter] and get all dressed up and go down. He took care of his mother you know supported his mother. A nd he had a couple of aunts down there and they all lived qui te close to each other T he four sisters lived quite close to each other. see when I used to go down. T hat was on his Hudgi ns side I never . saw that many of them, the family although they were down there. A nd just recently I for that. I looked for Hudgi ns when I did my D A R and there were too many Hudgi ns. E very other person was named Hud gi ns at that time, and I just do it Hudgi ns side, but there he is. He was in the navy on my R oland Hudgi ns N o not his name. Oh I kn ow it, he was in the I Rol and I like, Rol Hudgi ns. And he was in the navy and apparently he was older and had alrea dy had children and everyth ing. A nd
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 12 apparently that was quite a good position. They were woodworkers H e was a cabinet maker I guess, B: A cabinet maker ? S: ay, a carpenter. A cause they nee ded those people. B t know much about him. talked about him, but like I say going to that many oo much. I think somebody did yeah the Smith man Somebody was hung. But the Civil War did except for the fortune the money that disappeared they came back and . who died and w ho probably never got over it. A what I think is the worst thing, because it was bad at the end with the Daughters of the Confederacy, now all of sudden everybody wants to join the Daughter of now we have a reason you know a reason for being tre B: mind, a little bit about the Daughters of the Confederacy. S: The Daughters of the Confederacy? B: Yes. Your involvement. S : My aunt was because my great grandfather was in the Civil War they organized a group here called the Daughters of the Confederacy, I think they
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 13 organized it in the 19 10s my aunt was not a charter my au nt Maude, her name is Maude Digg s, was the only one of the sisters that joined it, but she did become a member back in those years. And then they disbanded T here probably I guess, or whatever, so they disbanded it. And in 1998 a couple of people got together . T hey started to form a chap ter and I am a charter member b ecause I was in the D A R so the y knew. T here were about sev en or eight of us and we had to st ruggle to get that many people. A nd now we have about thirty maybe people because now all [Laughter] t to see that flag. S o we use some thing called stars and here and wherever you want to. W hy not? B: So to those people that are resentful to the flag when they see it, what is your argument to them when they ask? S: History. B: Right. S: e a history major like yourself. [Laughter] I would love it and this is going to be true story and you might find this interesting. B: Oh I probabl y will. S: Okay. I went to school in Jersey City, I grew up in Jersey City. I am very J ersey. I did work all my life. M y working life most of it was in Manhattan. Of course, then I woul hat was great. I worked in the bigg est law firm at the time, and I worked in the biggest advertising agency when I
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 14 worked in New York. However . w hat am I talking about here now? trai n of thought with the history. O h yeah things is it s history. I hate to say get over it, it is history. That was then, this is now A nd those guys I wrote some poetry about it, and I like my poetry about my feelings about wha t it was. And those people who want to . well, my poem i s like : they left a life the only life they had ever known and they wanted to protect it and hardly anybody was invol ved in slavery here. I guess they wan ted they went with their friends, they went off to war like a lot of people do. Yeah that it had to happen, and the stories are rampant and you can celebrate them. Yeah, I orthern right? Yeah. O h t hat was what I was going to say: w hen I went to school and I loved ancient history, I loved Roman and Greek history. Really And I was a p retty good student at the time. A nd then was like very succinctly, the North is good and the South is bad. A d in school and I knew my great grandfather was in I always knew h e had been in the Civil War. A nd I had mixed feelings you know? I said, no bad you know? Y eah s es that part is mean ingful. B: receiving an education in the N orth and then being yourself related to the S outh. S: And I will tell you Mathews if you talk to people, this was a one of the most rural areas you could imagine. I would go and my family we used to go to all the play s. I used to go to all the plays in New York when I was a child. We had a
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 15 friend fro m here whose family was in the I do the oyster business was very big here. A nd my mother had this very friendly t ype person and this lady went to Barnard back in the [ 19]20s from here, from Mathews. A nd she worked at Bonwit Teller actually a store in New Y ork. A nd she used to take us to all the plays. I can tell you plays that I saw when I was f ive years old and dinners at all these restaurants in Manhattan and whatever. I hold New York City I mean you know New York City T the ul timate. If it goes in New York. [Laughter] Y eah I know the difference, I do know the difference, and then I come to Mathews and it was so totally different. i t was jus o I do have th ose two worlds. M y mother was from here but she moved in those worlds and it was fine. She could handle it and yeah, I suppose it was a very interesting childhood to have those perspectives on it. Yeah grateful for both. A nd I decided to live her e lived here in the 40s. It was too different. N ow become very w e have a lot of military people, we have a lot of very wealthy people in the county. There were al ways some people that were well off, whole different kind of place. B: So why not ? W S: Oh because it was so different from New York. [Laughter] I know the difference. Yeah it was. Yeah. Oh, sure . I thin k my on my side we had the one of the only phones, we ha d the bathrooms and everything. B ut my relatives in Onemo my gran hey had the outhouse Yeah, and that
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 16 was true with her sisters too until, I t the think I wanted that. [Laughter] So my great grandfathers they had a car early on, but not everybody had that. They were still riding horses. I do were doing. B ut m aybe they were . I never really saw a horse and buggy, I My grand he drove I think she tr ied and she drove through the back of the garage or something like that. [Laughter] So she used to ge t everywhere with other people. They used to take her or she would walk. B: S: Yeah, yeah that hey sai d no. A nd she loved to go. She loved to be everywhere, but you had some I guess very interesting people here at that time. people start dying that were living here. I mean before it c hanged I think the war probably changed it here, because people came back from other areas having lived and traveled in other areas, New York particularly. B: Which war specifically, you think? S: World War II Oh yeah. That made the biggest change here and then a lot of people went to work in the shipyards and that kind of thing. Before that it was mostly farm transp ortation to go other places. So al most everybody here and there you h ad somebod y working on the rail roads and that was a big deal because the n they
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 17 traveled. T hey could travel on the railroads. But if y Y Norfolk was the place I r em ember that, and Williamsburg . do you? B: Which story? S: [Laughter] Will iamsburg used to be where the well there still is a mental insti tution. A nd I think u ntil and Rockefeller d eveloped I was familiar with Rocke ouse in Florida and very f amiliar with him. And I think it was in, the 30s 40s they wanted t o improve the Rockefeller image illiamsburg as it is today. Because Rockefeller was the richest man I think in the world when he died. B: I believe so yes. S: It was in the billions. He died in the 30s . I ca now. He bought the house in Florida, Ormo nd Beach, and he died there, right in that town I lived in. In fact go every year. And before that Williamsburg was where they used to take pe ople to the mental institution. A nd as long as my father lived if he said that he meant crazy house. take and the s tory is right near where I live county, but the water at the Chesapeake, my creek goes to I live o Creek g oes out to the Chesapeake Bay. Y ou keep going, and they used to pick up the people from right near. T F rom that land
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 18 there, right near where I am, and take t hem on the boat to Williamsburg whe n they had to be taken somewhere. Yeah. you think? B: Yeah S: I t was just something that stays with re a child. Y ou probably get threatened with it or something. B: S: B: Yeah. Do you have any other sort of stories like that about the area? Cause I know this area is so rich in s tories, folklore. S: The folklore I wish. Y eah I wish I did. Y ghost s so know that. No I know some body here who has a story about oing to come in. I wish I did, t hat I had seen somebody I can say tory, but I remember this great grandfather of mine . s is th at I know was a memory I thin k everybody has that: d id I really remember it or is it from people telling me? But I really really remember this and when he was dying and I remember sitting by a clock and they were keeping me I was a little girl, and they were training me not having to make any noise, not that I was a noisy kid I have that clock and I also have this i s not from here but it is here. I have two
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 19 clocks I have that one that I sat by when my grandfather was dying and I have the clock that I heard . the other one, a radio clock. T he first one is a grandfather s clock, this is a radio clock, and I he ard Pearl Harbor on it. I heard, ant cause I was little, but I remember my father was home at the time. M y aunt lived with us and there were several people there and I remember h earing it. A nd that clock is the one thing I have kept with me, to the house to my house which I am trying to sell. [Laughter] B: Some advertisement. S: Yeah and then I brought it to my house and I will always keep it. Y ou know funny but the clock still works. So that was quite a thing and I do remember that and I remember the house A nd we had my great grandfather s house we had until the early 90s o sell. s a definite memory. Yeah. B: S: The what? B: like what you childhood was like growing up? S: [Laughter] Oh my childhood, yes I, E arl iest memories there are in the house we lived in upstairs. E verybody had like a lot of two family houses and we were upstairs and then my father bought a house on the same street. And because of the war I gue ss they knew the war was coming my father was go ing to take a ship ou t of Mississippi. L it must
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 20 be what is now Ingalls Shipyard but I started school in Pascagoula Mississippi and I remember that very well. And we went down there for the summer I guess M y mother put me in a Catholic school b ecause you had to be six years old to go to the public school and she wanted me to start at five, because of the Jersey schools. So she started me in a Catholic school. B: Really? S: In Pascagoula T hat was the beginning of my schooling yeah. O h yeah and I do remember this : we rented a house and my mother rented a house and then some body lived in the house with us t hat wa s also going to be on the ship. A nd he had an airplane. He had one of those paper airplane s. airplane, it look ed like a paper airplane as I remembe r it. A nd they were very light and I remember flying when I was about five years old flying over the gulf to a sand island. T passenger and I think he had to mak e three trips cause as I remember I was by myself with him S omebody else might have been there but I do remember being in the plane and flying over those islands in the gulf from Pascagoula. And I remember fishing down the re with my parents and catching, I think it was stingrays W e used to [inaudible 42:24 ] stingrays. A nd I rememb er going to school. Yeah. S o I started school there and then came back to Jersey and we had the house and then I went to school there A nd then every summer we would come down here. A nd then when I was old enough to stay with my grandmother I wou ld stay with her in the summer. A cause I was getting to be a teenager and then I became and then did have a
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 21 year her e where I was dating down here. A nd I did meet a lot of people then and I spent the summer here. I told you about going round. B: Right. S: Driving around [Laughter] and the pink limeades and the Cherry Point Cherry Point which is gone. I but it was a wonderful wonderful place to go swimming All the boats used to come ; if you had a boat you could bring it there or swim. A nd that disappeared with Hurricane Hazel and people could bring little yachts. A cousin of mine had a yacht and you could bring it right to the shore. I t was just like being in the Caribbean. Yeah then but it is like the Caribbean. Yeah I remember that. good things about here that I remember unerals a lot of funerals. That was it. I guess people were always going to funerals. That was a big thing. A nd churches, church es and the funera ls and not so much the weddings. I don Or maybe I had been here when they were getting married. what else? B: Well N orthern schooling, summers here, family here, many differe nt adult figures in your life S: Yeah. very lucky person. B: Yeah, and then Catholic school involved with that. S: Just briefly.
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 22 B: Briefly. S: But I do remember Sister I used to c all her harmonic Monica. I called her Sister Harmonica. B: S: That was the s ister I had in Catholic school. I can still picture her. Yeah and she had the punishment and that little school was I remember there was a boy in the class and she wo uld draw a ring on the board, a chalk ring and he had to put his nose in it. And stand there with his nose in this chalk ring. B: As a punishment? S: Yeah like opposed to sitting on the dunce stool, he had to stand there with his nose in this, I never did. [Laughter] B: No, you were a good student? S: I was a good student. I was a good student, till I started wanting to be out all the time. B: Oh yeah? Then you became a bad student? S: Then that took over. Yeah. B: Wow. S: D o you want to know this story of me? B: Oh absolutely, please. S: This is not to do with Mathews. I think this is a funny story. My mother we always had everybody in here, everybody in Mathews I they
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 23 had to have a piano. B ut as long as they had a piano all the girls had lessons and all the girls could play. It was just a natura l thing you did, I think in those days. A nd in fact we have an organ e have a to somebody. And anyway, we used to go t o old I loved old movies vintage, like I guess you w ould call them vintage movies. B: C lassic films. Yeah. S: And the theatre that we went to one of the movies I saw was The Great Waltz I think I have it now on tape and Johann Strauss. A nd I loved Strauss music I thought it was absolutely beautiful. And I said, oh I want to take piano lessons. S o my mom said, okay if you want to take piano lessons first time I expressed an interest in it even though we had the piano. So anyway ou ause she had a better ear for music than I did, and I go, no sounds fine to me. [Laughter] A nyway I did this about six months I wanted to l earn to Tales from the Vienna Woods, nd so anyway what happened thi s man I was taking lessons from, I think he was Russian. Barnab a s or something like that A nd he was very foreign anyway and he ca me to see my mother. A nd he said, Mrs. Hudgi ns offered a job in Hollywood to music or directing music or whate ver it was but it was Hollywood and he said, I could recommend another teacher for your daughter but fr wasting your money and his time. [Laughter] I love it! So my mother said, I think
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 24 I learned to play whatever that one I loved, Tales B: You accepted it, that you accepted your piano days S: That I was terrible. B: You we re terrible. S: I was terrible. I was terrible, but I did learn to play a few things. Then I took up painting. Then I became an artist, I was a little better at that. But I was probably ten years old at the time. Yeah it was funny. B ut it was funny. But he was going to Hollywood, so he was a pretty good teacher I guess. He had been highly recommended. B: for children, or daughters, to be able to have music lessons and things like that tha t that was a standard practice . do you think that was common place for other activities that it was the children were expected to perform certain things not to stra y from the norm? S: in the summer, not going to school a wild child raised by his mother died when he was born actually, and he was raised by an aunt, my grea t aunt. A ould spend all my time with him. W e would ride bicycles, he had a play house, things like that in the summertime that I would do. A nd I did go for, they did have swimming lessons here, I did do that. She got me there somehow, my grandmother, caus e not having a car was a little w e were kind of confined. B ut my aunt had a car and I
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 25 had the most wonderful dog of my life. My aunt had a dog name d Rex, and that was a big thing. I used to love to see Rex, I had loved that dog. B: What kind of dog? S: He was a Collie particular. L oved Collies, and we had there was a lot of property there. The re was twenty five acres, and right across from where I live now. And I used to want to spend all my time with Rex I loved the dog, and I thin k most children would do that. There was a lot of play with other children. In fact, I just made contact now with a girl that I knew when I wa s a child and she comes back in the summer. And so yes I do rem ember childhood stories. And of course you were friendly with people who lived near you, cause of the transportation situation. I was very very friendly with a boy and a girl. I think she was little older ; he was a little younger. And t hey had their grandmother live and people live d close. T hey all live d near each other, and the grandmother and the grandfather were there and then the mother. T hey had what they call Banta m Banta m Chickens and they had the most wonderful yellow cat in the world and you could dress the cat up and you could roll the cat around in a baby carriage or whatever. I loved that cat, and so I was with them probably every day robably with them because my grandmother was friendly with their grandmother. So it was very easy to be together. H around. O I think id I think was playing. T hey had the animals and probably did some work like shelling peas or picking corn. And we had a man m y grandmother, we had a couple
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 26 that I am trying to sell, and they used to let people use th e land if you hen the people would farm it for you or they had use of t he land. And we always had corn fields, just about everybody had a cornf ield. everything was fresh. if everybody had chicken my husband likes to say he goes, well you had a leg up cause you got chicken right off the farm, free ranged chicken and free ranged eggs and tha t kind of thing. And everything was pretty much that way; everything was fresh that you got here. You ate cucumbers and corn and fish. I guess people would give you fish or you could always b u y mother and father were around. B: Oysters? S: at oysters for a long long time. N o stew, and we always had them and I never liked them what else did they have ? C rabs, oysters, fish, clams. I guess I ate clams yeah, and we had that and everybody had a ham. What they would do is buy a ham. Y ou always had ham, so you know you co uld always have ham or was ham and chicken. B : Well seems like you lived very different lifestyles from when come down here during the s ummer and when you go back up S: : my mother being a very hostess with mostess kind of thing and she loved to cook
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 27 and she loved partyin g, she loved to eat. A nd during the war we were like a w ay station and all these people would come from here, mostly Merchant M arine and they would come to our house to have dinner or sometimes stay over because everybody passed through New York for one reason or another. And when they were there it was like open house. And the house was always full with and never know what was going to be there, cause there were always people. A there or not beca use they were friends and then of course, my aunt lived with us too. So yeah she got married in 40. Y eah so she was there all during the war too and people knew her. So they had a lot of that going on and my mother would try to cook crabs for people and we would have crabs running around the kitchen. S he tried to get the kind of thing that everybody would like from here. And so anyways very social and yeah so I remember that as a child. B ut I know that I di child and [Laughter] these are all house at any given time. B: You need more kid s You need more people your age. S: Yeah, so I was with adults a lot. A lot. A nd t hen I would have my favorites w ho I liked. Yeah but I guess it was . yeah. B: Would you say there was any culture shock between when you had to go from schools like here? S: I think about it now.
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 28 B: In hindsight. S: I guess kids are very easy J ust cause I went to a play with some star one weekend a bathroom or a refrigerator she had an ice box. Nah and I liked that. I like that y ou had a lot of like A attract the bugs. be in the B: Sitting in the dark. S: in the dark. Yeah, yeah, but it was nice; we used to hear you know Bobw hites and Whip poor wills and that part was nice. Now we I think they did when they were younger b there. S to Rex. I loved that dog. And the cat, I remember the cat and the dog. [Laughter] Yeah it, but it used to go the . the baptisms. T hat was always a big thing in the summer, ca use they waited for the summer. A nd because my grandmother was so involved in the Baptist church d go to all the b aptisms and see the people dunking. T hey get dressed and du nk them in. That was one of the social occasions I guess and then you ate. T he Sunday school picnics, and I went to Sunday school on Sundays. Everybody was involved in the churches. The
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 29 churches were such a I mean they still are, but not as much as they were then. Th en I guess you could really say everything revolved around those churches. B: Well then looking back now at the luxury of hindsight, what would you say is the most striking difference socially when you would go b ack and forth to North and South? What would you say looking back now, like, wow those are two very different things about these two different cultures essentially? S: The thing that I say about myself I go, maybe I should apply for a grant or something b ecause I was always a minority. I was a minority in New York in New Jersey, all my friends were second generation Catholics all Catholics or Jewish and I grew up with Italians mostly ever ybody was Italian at my school Italian, Polish, and Jewish. And to ethnic background, be cause everybody knew they were Italian or maybe know about the Jewish kids, but the Italians all knew where they were from, and I My mother used to s ay, well if anybody asked you tell them you met the boat. [Laughter] I think that was probably one of the big gest things was that the kids and not that it was so, that they pushed there was no discrimination Nothing. T you read so much about bullying ? W I never saw it. I never saw it when I was growing up ever. Never saw an ybody doing anything like that. Everybody was some were smarter some w ere less smart, but nobody ever i atter. B:
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 30 S: nder about nowadays: what is going on with that kind of thing? Because as far as I remember everybody accepted everybody else, very easily. Now I was lucky because I was a good student and I have any problems, and w e had teachers [Laughter] . we owned a two story house, and upstairs were teachers, so some of them did know me. W ell one was a speech teacher and she would come to my school. So everybody would know sort of through her who I was, cause she was very friendly with my mother. So I guess I had a littl e leg up there too. But no, just being . and loving my teachers really I thought. E xcept one. B: Just except one? S: Yeah that was a big thing fo r me was school. But then I never wanted to b e a teacher when I got older; of you with the history major. B: Maybe. Yeah S: Did you specialize in something? B: I like, I prefer Western European history. S: Western European. B: Yeah. [Laughter] S: I gotta think, so you were talking France? B: Oh yeah France, Germany, England, Spain. I wish we could talk for hours cause this is absolutely compelling S: Thank you.
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 31 B: So u nfortunately we anything you want to end off on? S: Well I appreciate the opportunity to talk about these things often you do, you can. I ca n talk about it with my husband, but most people they got their own lif e. T so this is nice in that way. An d these are the things that I do ta lk about, and sometime I would somebody had suggested I put these stories about my father I am going to do it on a casual basis, but I is that they ause the Merchant Marine were n ot recognized, well still not B: S: The subject, and be the title is, Served in the World War II Merchant Marine com missioned by somebody to do it. A nd I have his name somewhere but very very very nice. And you may be interested in looking it up because that is a fascinating a you may not getting a chance but over at well, you useum here, an d there is a book over there which has a lot of things that happened, like who died who was in the fires who had to put out a fire and whatever. My father was have a copy of it there called Nor Death s Dismay e was very proud of b eing in that book. He loved it ; my mother was so jealous.
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 32 B: Well well advertise the book, but again today is October 24 , 2014 and I really appreciate your time and thank you a lot. S: Okay Jes, thanks. Wel l, good luck with all of this. B: Absolutely. S: sit there? B: use it This is really good information. S: Cause then all of that anybody knowing or hearing. A nd some of them know it and whatever Yeah, I do feel very lucky. I really do. I feel very privileged that I had an d then I had a whole other life time with travelling with my husba nd. H e went to teaching so we could travel. And been in Africa for four another I want to do a book on. We backpacked not backpacked exactly but we went around South America on my Spanish three months. We used to do that. So had this feeling t hat whatever else comes been the worst year not been a good year. B: Maybe we can do again another interview of you. I feel like I can do hours of interviews with you. S: Well nursing home, but I appreciate that. B: Well thank you again.
TMP 063; Swenson; Page 33 S: Good luck in your life. B: And that concludes interview. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Zubin Kapadia, March 2015 Au dit edited by: Jessica Taylor, March 2015 Final edited by: Jessica Taylor