Mathilda Tibby Brown and Barbara Brown

Recorded October 24, 2007 Archived October 24, 2007 39:25 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: GCT004375


Barbara Brown interviews her mother, Mathilda Tibby Brown, about her career in Suffolk County Family Court, and about being the mother of four children.

Subject Log / Time Code

Tibby’s surprise 80th birthday party.
Working at the Suffolk County Family Court, how court officers started to have to bear arms, the women picketing for equal pay as the men, camaraderie of working there.*
Views on retirement, volunteering at the community cinema.*
Motherhood, having wanted 6 kids (is mother of 4), lessons. How her life was different than her mother’s.
How money was handled in the family. Barbara’s dad wore a suit every day he was unemployed so the kids thought he was going to work.
Tibby’s experiences moving from Brooklyn to New Jersey to Long Island. Running for office in New Jersey.
Being a mother during the Vietnam War
Tibby wanting to be a “Granny Brown” (her mother-in-law). She describes how she was a modern, liberal woman.*
Remembering the World’s Fair.


  • Mathilda Tibby Brown
  • Barbara Brown

Recording Location

Grand Central Terminal


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00:04 I'm Barbara Brown. I'm 54 years old. Today is October 24th 2007. I'm sitting here in Grand Central terminal in the storycorps booth with my mother.

00:25 I'm Mathilda Tibby Brown and I'm 82 years of age.

00:32 And today's date is October 24th, nineteen.

00:38 Oh, no 2007 scuse me, and I'm I am sitting in Grand Central Terminal terminal with my daughter Barbara.

00:49 Who's going to interview me? Right? So we were talking about you wanted to talk about both raising children and about your work life. And you said right off the bat that your favorite experience your favorite memory with your 80th birthday party. So what is it about that that's lingers for you. I should elaborate elaborate. First of all, it was a surprise. I never expected it and all four children playing the whole thing at a hotel and Barbara.

01:27 Gave me the the wish the memory memory by death chart is I have to explain it. It's everyday every child put in memories. They wrote it and every day for a whole year. I was able to pull out memories and then I was getting out of slowly getting out of him. So they all sent me more and so consequently I said to my son I'll be running out of it again, and he said to me don't worry Mom you can use the same things over again because that's what he said and Allison wrote a song.

02:14 And all four of them saying it to the tune of what was that tune to Frank Sinatra. I did it. No Strangers in the Night Ranger. That's right. I know Allison Road it right and it was really so great. Everyone had most wonderful time Barbara made a a decorated a whole big sign for me and and was just just straight in a but I really felt bad because I didn't know and I wasn't even have a fancy dress. I just wore an everyday kind of thing and didn't blow the pictures. You look beautiful. I mean we noticed it was an outstanding outstanding evening right afternoon rather and I have remarks

03:14 Everybody afterwards. We'll have they all had a wonderful time. So that was after we'd already left home. And then we did that telebration. Are there things you think about that her favorite memories from when we were all home together.

03:32 This so numerous. Hi, I just

03:37 School graduations birthday parties

03:43 There's just so much that they achieved and did all for all four of you that said so it was great. If you were to give us like, you know like that.

04:04 The

04:07 Fairies in the Disney stories say here's your child. They can you can have one wish for their lifetime or something. What would you have wished for you for us a children? Yeah. Oh health happiness long life. I know perseverance and your Fields everything that that that you are capable of I see that now so I don't have to I really don't have to worry anymore you all of all four of you are to have you stopped worrying about stupid little things because remember Larry's to say he would make that button for you. That would say don't worry Mom. So you really stops worrying about us now.

04:59 I'm really let me say I'm confident that you all can take care of yourselves. But it sometimes someone calls and said something occurred. I feel I feel.

05:14 Say it about certain things, you know, but I know that you handle your problems all of you and you do it very well. And I know that because nobody comes to ask me what should I do?

05:32 We were talking and you said you wanted me to remind you to talk about when it comes to working the court officers bearing arms.

05:47 What's that story? Well, when I first started working at the court, they could office has never had to bear arms, but it's one of their clients a shot at one of the judges and so consequently the court offices of bearing arms, and they also now have the what he called before you go into the court that yeah, they have to pass the metal detecting metal detector and that went on for a while until somebody discovered at the outside door. We had a big flower pot with a plant, you know, it's almost like a tree and we found knives and their guns weapons that the people who are coming to the court do they have to go through the metal detector and they left it out there.

06:45 And we discovered all this and brought it into the court. Nobody claims them and the since then they removed at plant with the the tree so they have no place to hide their weapons.

07:03 I remember when you heard that the men Court officers were making more money than the women who are called court clerks and next thing I remember I was coming home.

07:22 Visiting and they were picket signs all over the house and tell me about that. Well Court offices and we were also considered peace officers, but we made much less money. So I thought we should pick it because if the office staff doesn't come into work.

07:46 They can't get things done and it was successful. We sat down we had a we had meetings and they find they've raised our salaries to the extent that we doing the same job is the court officers wasn't there a thing where the court officers had to carry a gun? Yes, I couldn't do it. So I got a year what he did was acting judge promedy gave me. I'm the only one who didn't have to carry a gun. He gave me a waiver. That's it. Didn't you? Why do I have this memory or is this just some crazy thing of you talking about going to the firing range? Did you have to go to the 5 no date? Whoever has the gun has to go.

08:34 Every 3 months to touch with fire the gun I couldn't do it. So the women that are there now and all your friends. They all go to the real sisters have to if they had carry a gun and they have to I don't hide anything. You wouldn't even want a gun. So all those women the boobies are all not now then when I left the hope, they're wearing clothes changed. They don't the office staff do not have to carry guns are not listed as peace officers anymore. Did they lose pay because I know they didn't know you said that one of the things that

09:20 Just makes you feel terrific is when they say.

09:26 That after you retired that you had been there the best supervisor ever made me feel great. In fact family court was like a family and and I still see them retired. I think 11 years now and and I see all of them we meet the luncheons and and so on and it was such a great great place to work with 100 women. It was what made you a great supervisor?

09:54 I don't know. I never received ones that weren't so great that the women didn't like it's true the Lori you're not used to do the work for one woman because she wasn't lazy when I think that she work to the best of her ability, but it wasn't wasn't really so we would stay afterwards and get her work done for her. She still working there.

10:18 Even as a supervisor you did that either. Yeah. Yes. Yes. I did I did and

10:29 Do you think that's part of like what you did to know when it's just the camaraderie that young women older women mothers young girls dating. That's the whole group seemed to Mel's in 211. Great office Realty.

10:49 Was a delight I didn't want it. I did not want to retire but they

10:55 They made it. They gave me such a great incentive that I would have been stupid to stay. They gave you an incentive in that you could get all the coffee. You want to drink at the community Cinema Community Cinema in all the popcorn off.

11:14 Oh, I didn't realize they to the top corded 200. I volunteer at the community Cinema in Huntington and do office work for them sending out the mail and I get to see if movies free and popcorn and the coffee is included. Nice. That's a good retirement. I have my entertainment just taken care of right right my my money from the court my passion. So it's a good life before you retired that you were really nervous about retiring because before you retired you were a department head and after you retired you a really worried that people would just treat you is like some little old lady did that happen? No.

12:04 No, I have a group of friends that are socially we meet for breakfast every Sunday morning. Right? I have a few groups Saturday nights for this and it's just being active. So when you were younger and you surprised me a little today when we were planning this cuz I know you always thought you were going to be a mother but you also said you knew you were going to work and I didn't think you knew you were going to work. You really screwed it I thought back then women thought they were just going to be mother's I know but it worked out I doing the PTA and then they offered me this job in a part-time in Elizabeth was in that school. So I what is a what is a young woman? You thought you would always work to

12:59 I never thought that far ahead. I never did know.

13:05 Just happenings. I think I told you Barbara. I don't thinks just full.

13:16 In place, but I also remember you said you didn't have a kid till you'd already save their money for college. Now. That doesn't sound like somebody who doesn't always read that cuz that's just sort of an amazing but works out right? So when you were younger and you were figuring out like I know sometimes you said you wanted you guys were thinking of having six kids. Yeah. So kids was going to be like your big thing. Yeah, right cuz I know I didn't realize till I had them if you all right good kids nice-looking, you know, and so will want them to have six but I had that heart attack and the doctor said for is enough, but I remember you calling me up once after Sophie and I had visited and you would look at me instead of God.

14:16 It's so hard. It's so hard to have a kid. Imagine if it's like for what was it really hard? It's up to you. It was hard. It's hard to have for little kids in a batch in a row can basically with the meals, you know, the cooking the cleaning keeping the house and also PTA, you know, but it was really good. I was busy those years and it will I was happy, you know, it worked out. Yeah, I didn't help you with your homework like mrs. Hendon, but you did it yourself.

15:00 Well, I hope this is sending other he is sick.

15:09 And she'll Think Loud City brown thinks I'm a great mother. I have my kids with their homework when you look at Parenthood. Do you look at your work life or something? Are there any like big lessons that you kind of learn that was Illuminating for you to kind of made a difference in your life things that I remember for example, all the mother's sitting around and they were all arguing their kids wouldn't ever have long hair their boys. And you said something to them like never say never write the writing's like the fact that then my son comes home with head down and stuck in your head as kind of lessons that you held onto.

16:01 I don't I don't really think so. My mother's life was different. She she prepared a meal that had to go to the store to my father, you know to help my father and we really and we will manage the house and nosy help with the cooking Patel. Will you everybody pitched in the family? That's how it was done then, you know.

16:34 And I couldn't help me with school work because she she hadn't gone to school herself. She came here when she was in her teens and he hadn't had any schooling so but it worked out and we had family families were closer than in fact by train father bought the house and and we lived upstairs is for live dance that you know, the whole family lives in the house. So it was a good secure a single life. I had all of us did really used to say that

17:14 Granny was the one who like she kept things together that she was really a smart Savvy woman. Do you think she was the business woman in the house my father ran this to store but my mother rough she took care of the financial and things like that. She was the warrior about money. My father didn't worry. He knew my mother would take care of it. And yeah, so, how do you think you and Daddy were

17:45 That way will you like the Emmy? I know you he and I know he didn't care what I did, but he I remember going shopping one day.

18:05 Add Water what a bargain I got with someone to see what he says is think of what you would have saved. If you didn't go to say I remember there was one time Daddy had so many deductions for savings that he had no paycheck and he came home something like that. Yeah, he was a good provide. We we lived in a lovely house. We had the food was plentiful, you know was a it was some really good life.

18:45 Even during the times like I remember you said that when one of the contract didn't happen and dad was unemployed that he would still get his suit.

19:01 Before we all went to school.

19:04 So that we would still think everything was normal and he was going to work. Yeah, he was he had to appear like he was still providing at that time what you know, when he started work at Grumman, he he left the previous job in New Jersey and we came to what we came to Long Island and

19:34 He gave up his his his insurance Right medical. You have a physical. He had a physical and found out he had a hernia and they would not hire him and so he takes care of it. I don't think you knew that. No, so he had he was hospitalized at the hernia operation. We paid for her with and started work a drumming. So when we first moved to Long Island Dad wasn't working. He would have any Reformation. Yeah.

20:14 When you tell me about moving cuz I know that was a big upheaval for you from New Jersey, England to New Jersey to Long Island. Yeah, well.

20:32 This move was leaving Brooklyn to go to for New Jersey and the fact that didn't fare too. Well there I had to

20:43 Had a Little Lamb

20:46 Despondent despondent, I had to go to doctor BG and he took care of me. It was I didn't feel like it I saw uses up a house with our whole family and but then I came to I realized I did very well myself. Dad was still traveling to to to New York. Right? And I really I felt I wasn't the storm and I was okay still make a difference if you later on like that you were tough and strong or yeah. Yeah, that's why she moved back to Long Island could handle it. Like you ran for office and you want to ride your stinking that was just the most amazing thing and I would bring in for show-and-tell your certificate that you'd won the election office of price history.

21:46 Like pink paper. I remember like mauve that he has a train ride. It was the school you kids were all bright and the school system in that District was really beautiful because it was the the Catholic school was the largest diocese in state of New Jersey. So parents sent their children to the Catholic school. So nobody cared for was happening in the private and the public schools. So that's what I did. I figured I'd run for office then and we I do something about the schools but as it turned out,

22:22 Didn't work out what you like to do is get jobs for friends in the tax office.

22:31 That was it via of a woman. God Guard from the children cross the road or something. That was it, but it's funny but it's still you went from seeing this problem in this place. Will you supposedly felt despondent and you ran for office and you one? Yeah, I mean, I think it was yes. I think the woman who ran against me was Redd Redd I was breakfast.

23:04 I got elected. Yeah, I did.

23:09 Are we I just don't have but I don't remember her first name anymore. It's long time ago. I think I still have one of the little well with her kid was Richie Richie read over to right? I remember that now.

23:24 So are there any things you regret? We had a really you sound like you had a Charmed Life. I don't regret anything. You don't waste your time thinking about regrets when there's so much good, you know that overshadows that the whole thing, you know.

23:44 I don't think I regret it. I just I regret daddy dying so early, you know, I think he could have could have enjoyed life more things like that. That's about the only thing.

23:59 Right. Otherwise, I think I'm blessed right for kids right? I know Sophie. I have a wonderful granddaughter in in Alaska 15 years old.

24:18 And life is good. So right now if you could do anything you want to anything in the whole wide world. I do do anything I do it. I do it say when I think I have everything I need. I don't aspire to fix things. I can travel. I can visit all you kids all the time, you know whenever and it's a good life.

24:52 That's it any places you want to travel still too or if you so many I know I know about list.

25:03 Where did I want to go? I want you to go to Greece. You haven't been to Greece. You know, that's where I want to go. How good you want to go to Allison went to Israel with me. I love Greece and Italy when I went with Phyllis, but they don't have decaffeinated coffee there and they don't have no and they don't have what he called it the sugar. How'd I know?

25:45 Had I known I would have been prepared.

25:48 But I didn't know but it was a good visit there, right?

25:53 So

25:55 You were we were telling some stories before about like when you met dad and I'm still intrigued by the idea that like there's all these guys you were dating who would die on Michael we die in your corner and and that you pick Dad and

26:20 Who is more intelligent? You know Barbara Dad was right. She was going to college and the others were just hangers-on. You know, Dad was really and he was just a nice guy. And so when you guys like you found out that your pregnant with Larry the first time, what did you think? What did you do Fiona you were about to hear you plan to we can have seen around face and hear him. I wanted a girl.

26:54 I wanted a girl. I just had that feeling I wanted a girl and when I had Larry dad comes into the room and he's smiling Isis. It's a boy, you know, he says if I'm glad you had anything and then I used to feel terrible that he even wanted a girl. He's so great. You know was good and then bing bing bing and Elizabeth. I had a boy's name picked out for I didn't know what happened on the girl, which I have Robert. I was going to name Elizabeth and and Grandpa Grandpa Brown said I said, I can't think of all so then when she was born I said have to think of a girl's name. So bring a brown said I can give you ice it snow.

27:54 The name Elizabeth because you didn't have a girl's name picked out names Elizabeth and then you girls wanted to give the name and you picked Ellen right side made Alison go along with that cuz my dog remember I wanted to name her Gerber and you made me change the domain name before we fax the crib is in Larry's room, right? Yeah. He is he like always when she cried at night. He was there before me. He was really good with Elizabeth.

28:32 He'd make a good father Larry. Unfortunately, he yeah, he's not but he wouldn't I think make a good V. Well, I think we would all make good parents. Why do you why do you think that?

28:47 How about us at all? Because he he well, I think every one of your favorite Elizabeth a little you know, though.

28:57 Mom loves me more everybody is the same but different times in life something occurs, and I'm closer to one child at that time because the situation that doesn't mean that that I have favorites. I have all my kids are so lame, you know, I was thinking we were talking before about you.

29:30 Met daddy after he came back from World War II and then I also have a very clear Memories of Us during the Vietnam war in the morning about Larry. What was it like to be a mother was terrible, you know, cuz Larry told me he had to land at immigration status. He was going to go to

29:56 Canada right rather than go to fight and he he was in medical school. They would have never taken him but he left he left and turned out he has such a high number. They didn't want him. Anyway, I remember us all sitting the whole family in front of that television set when the numbers were being picked on Larry's Was Alone number. He didn't say that was fortunate, but they also remember something about some conversation that we would all move to Canada if Larry had to go to Canada, so he wouldn't be alone. This is just isolate that split our family decided.

30:41 You don't remember that.

30:44 Well, it's funny that that I would have that maybe that's something that you would have done. No, I don't think is very proud of our family that we were all going to go do that. So I don't I don't know. It was very hard for me to pack up and move as you understand to this present day and Barbara. It's just very hard to pack up and go somewhere else. I would rather stay where I am to put that on the record Alison. Okay, so tell me now things that you think about like

31:29 Your parents like with memories. Would you want to make sure Sophie knew about that where she came from?

31:38 Oh, we have the best to offer her.

31:41 Really? Well, she'd have to think of something that you know, she'd never met them. I'm just wondering if there's something about that sounds fortunate, you know, because I know my grandchild, you know and end such a good feeling well, but what would you want to tell her about your mother and your father something or how you grew up? It was very good. My name is Carol was the only yet grandchild at that time and they all fixes lavished affection on her. That's probably her problem today. But really they could not do enough. They would babysit they'd watch the baby said he was working, you know, and then he was in the service Style.

32:32 And didn't see her until she was at a year-and-a-half-old when he came home from Europe and so many lizards with us in the house my mother she was the married one. We were all single and everybody we could not do enough for Carol to visit very pretty baby. She was and just when you thought you wanted her you wanted to be a granny Brown mother-in-law. Why do you want to be a granny Brown? She was she was a really had a modern mind. She she was never worried about what other people do what she went out and did it whatever has to be done until she raised five kids and educated them and

33:30 That little man. She was to call him little man, but my mother my mother-in-law was.

33:47 Put Mater modern address. What was that attitude? What was that? She dressed Martin clothes. She even had the pictures in the living room. I don't think you ever saw them. They were of news. She had those women. This is a memory coming back arched back snake. Nothing surprised. I come from and those days, you know, my mother had an overstuffed couch survive a granny had a square box he kind of thing and she was extremely Liberal Liberal mind and I admired her for that really see my mother had the protection of her family cuz they all lived together.

34:44 Rites and if the decision had to be made everybody get together, but my mother-in-law was alone. No husband, right and she made the decisions and she raised them and did a good job.

34:58 The way is Evelyn doesn't think so. What is Aunt Evelyn thing right? That's true. Okay.

35:17 Cheap alumbra, the whole world's going to know I was history. I think I'm changing my name.

35:26 Good store. I mean, this is a good history. I think that's what don't let that was in there. So are their favorite. I was thinking some some favorite stories of all of us as a family Raz-Kids some things that that has so many I can't even

35:55 Thank you, cuz periodically recently the shirts that I got you kids. What is Larry saying? It's the printing is the right is that mother always loved me best. And he said the other three were misprints something like that because I was thinking some of their was

36:21 All the times you went to the World's Fair was I right that Dad took Monday was kids day and kids were free at the New York World's Fair. And so he took his vacation and Mondays during the whole time and we always went in and you meant that Sugar guy guy when we went everywhere later on. It was the next year at the F. You know, the 1939 World fit my mother never had coffee in the house. It was either post them or milk or orange juice and I had a 1939 the school took us to the World's Fair.

37:03 And I had my first cup of coffee at the Maxwell House building and I love coffee, but I'm not one of you kids drink coffee. You know, what cuz you smoked and drank coffee ride will a mind it was always cigarettes went with coffee. I cured myself of that habit. When is the Surgeon General said, it's smoking Timeless harmful to your health, right? I get rid of it. See how good I am girls.

37:33 That said we see how good you are.

37:38 That is good as is you really so it's a good place for us to

37:47 Wrap it up. Please do something you want. Okay, this is your bit of posterity. What do you want down here ma?

37:53 Other than that you want me to say mom instead of my I'm sure you're the one who said when I said to you don't say my call me mother. I know I was there and you said you want me to call you mother. You can call me daughter, and I know that but I never knew you.

38:14 I like it. I got you through it. I got used to it. So long time passes before I hear that, you know, you will so far away.

38:25 Right

38:27 I can't do nothing. I really could complain about so many good things that happened but my memory is not too maybe that's why I think it's a good thing but the really truly is it good life and you kids are all of you are wonderful.

38:52 Close, you know and I have a good feeling I told you you're all responsible adults and doing nicely. What more could I could I ask for when you want that for Sophie?

39:08 Yes, absolutely, right? You don't have to marry a rich man today. You can make your own.

39:17 Give all my life right now.