Agnes Babich and John Babich

Recorded July 25, 2009 Archived July 25, 2009 39:59 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: LMN001624


Agnes Babich is interviewed by her grandson John Babich about growing up in an immigrant neighborhood in New York City, her family, work and travels.

Subject Log / Time Code

AB talks about growing up on the west side of manhattan in a neighborhood with a large immigrant population.
AB talks about meeting her husband.
AB describes working for I.M. Pei.
AB talks about parenting vs. being a grandparent.
AB talks about the countries she’s traveled.


  • Agnes Babich
  • John Babich

Recording Location

StoryCorps Lower Manhattan Booth


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00:03 I am John babich. I'm 15 years old today is the 25th of July. I'm at Foley Square New York City and I will be interviewing my grandma.

00:16 I'm Agnes fabich. I'm 8 years old. Today is July 25th 2009 on Foley Square in New York City, and I'm the grandmother.

00:31 So, where did you grow up Grandma? I grew up on the west side of Manhattan.

00:37 What was the area the neighborhood of many immigrant groups my parents emigrated from Croatia?

00:49 And there were people who came from Poland from Greece from other parts of Europe and they were people from Ireland Armenia.

01:06 Forget all the people but there we were all first gen and the children were first-generation Americans. So we were all we all had the same problem literally, but and this was sort of the tail end of the depression to

01:25 So a lot of people were out of work a lot of us didn't have much but in fact, most everyone didn't have too much. We were all had the same experiences was the neighborhood different after the talent of the Depression was over it started to pick up because more and more people got jobs Sunquest then the second world war started and that gave employment to a lot of people

01:58 So I'm

02:04 What's interesting?

02:08 Who are your favorite relatives back then?

02:11 I didn't I didn't have no we had an uncle on my father's side who visited occasionally in Croatia. Yeah, but you had like friends we had what we with the neighbor that he had many friends.

02:34 Who is your best friend back then Armenian sisters? And I was fascinated with their culture cuz it was very different from now as I love their food and their music and the way they took bats, you know, they would sit in a bathtub with a pail of water and a rough cloth.

02:58 And then empty that water out and take a real bath. I mean they were it was fascinating and

03:06 I took a bath when I stayed with him that way. Yeah. Yeah, I don't like folk cultures and stuff like that. I've always liked soft music and and that's where I developed my love of folk music from living in that area.

03:39 So I'm

03:41 As you got older you went to high school and then because it was Washington Irving High School. We had students from the Lower East Side from Riverside Drive from Chinatown from Harlem from the Bronx.

04:05 All parts of the city and we had to have a certain average to be admitted and the emphasis really was everyone wanted to learn and it was very exciting those sort of a school for gifted people you because you had to be scared to be intelligent starting a fridge and it was it was fascinating. My background has always been with a lot of different people from different background. So you're very open all Races and help people, right? So you graduated high school and then what did you do? I work during the day and I went to City College at night.

04:49 And what city is that went to the barouche college on 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue for what and then he became like a secretary. I worked as a secretary. When did you meet my grandpa? I met him at the Yugoslavia American home. It was a cultural center.

05:20 And I met him because we were I was part of the course and we were raising money for you to solve War relief. We would send medicine over. What year was this? This was I met him.

05:35 I think it was 1940.

05:39 6/6 something like this a long time ago. Why did you like him? Like what I thought he was very intelligent and we had the same sort of bad news was he is and he was also a musician he played for the dance group and he also played for the course. So that's how I got to know Hindi Groban as ethnically diverse not as much as I did too, but I'm not too clear about, you know, exactly.

06:22 His experiences then you heat his mother was widowed when he was about three years old, so they had a very difficult time.

06:34 And when did what year did you guys get married? We got married in 1949. So you was born my daughter was born in 1953 and your father was born in 1956.

06:57 A while ago that's a while ago. And what was life like when Andrew was born like the home life of for you guys while he my husband and Father John was working and also going to school so we didn't have a lot of money but we we were okay. Yeah if it was a nice day at home for a while. I stayed home. Where does he go to school? He went to school to further. He he he had been in the electro mechanical designer and he liked the Cooper Union to further his education. And you know, I had I couldn't because I was I was a full-time mom. Yeah, right.

07:50 But you were working at the New York Public Library then know that was my choice. I was way off while we were at where we working OU were just when my children were in school, but as they got older I took a job at the New York Public Library secretary. It was very exciting. It was like working for the United Nations. I was very it was very exciting working there and it was the beginning of a career path for me working there.

08:26 What was it like back then the library was it is it is it the same at that time? They didn't have the computerized credit card catalog. And what is the same way way you'd pick like the card and then you give it to the person cuz I think that's how it works out working in the research libraries, which is to the library at that time had to research libraries and Branch library system and I worked in the research libraries where it wasn't people didn't take out books early. So they would they would come into the various divisions and use the material there. But the branch library's which is the other part the New York Public Library that was branches in Manhattan Bronx and Staten Island. There was a secretary secretary to the head of preparation Services. We acquired all the books that was for all the divisions. We acquired the books.

09:26 Catalog them and also

09:30 Also sent them to the bindery to be bound that kind of thing.

09:39 And you love doing that. Yeah, but cuz I had to handle also Personnel records for all the 200 people in the division and I interacted with them all the time. So I'm I like I'd like I'd like working with people and so it was very gratifying that would distribute the paychecks on payday and everyone was happy to see me. So it was fun fun to be liked and producing to do something that people enjoyed your love for a job where you deal with people had to do with your upbringing where you are with so many different people. I think it did.

10:23 So and then after the New York Public Library, where did you work? Well, I was promoted to assistant to the executive director of Metro witches.

10:37 We've ran training programmes and education programs for librarians and housed in the New York Public Library was still part of the New York Public Library and I would did that for about five years and then I was promoted to benefits manager which meant dealing with all the people who work for the library books a lot of the research libraries in the whole Branch library system to do like all their paycheck and health insurance Blood Bank a 401k which they called tax-deferred annuity program back then back then you and what year was the great promoted to that. I was promoted to that job in 1979 and stay there until 1984.

11:32 I reached took early retirement. Is that when you started working for mr. Pay or is that her and then not long after that? I was asked to fill in for a friend of mine working for the IM Pei Architecture Firm.

11:50 Who is this friend of yours? I'm who I met in high school. She was away on a North Fellowship. So I filled in for her and then if it's three weeks and then after that, they asked me to to stay to handle. Mr. Pace archives. His archives was scattered and various locations in the office location. So I can I organized all those files and records for him. And then he asked me to stay to handle all of his insurance is personal and his expense accounts for his various jobs. He had jobs in Japan in France, so I had to convert the

12:46 It's his expenses. It's here. If it was Japanese different currency into the American dollars. Does he like he was he was a lot of fun. He didn't like paperwork. He didn't want to do it. He he he just wanted to design and we would sit down at the end of the day and he'd give me all of his expenses. Sometimes he would forget some of the slips and I would say to him, you know, we have we have to send these bills to the client and if we don't send the bills, we're not going to be reimbursed and he would look at me and say, oh I'm so sorry. He he and no matter what you did for him. He would always say thank you is extremely gracious.

13:45 You kind of had to like play mother for a little bit, but he was just very delightful person and a great sense of humor. You remember anything you said that was funny. Yeah. I was walking with him down the hole and he said, oh I'm getting old. I don't I can't walk so fast and I'd save a why do I have to keep up to you? You're getting old time for me to keep up with you I was so that was funny. But you work there for how many years I worked for him for 7 years 7 years. Did you like that job better than the New York Public Library. But I still have met a lot of his clients people would come in from Japan from from France from

14:43 China everywhere. So what year did you stop working there?

14:49 I stopped working there. Let me see 92. I took my second retirement. It was my second retirement.

15:01 And then you started volunteering of her and then I started to volunteer at the volunteer Center face down in this area and the sound town area. That was Giuliani Giuliani was mayor at that time. Yeah, and then and then when Mayor Bloomberg was elected, they spaced out that office and transferred all the operations to the internet everything. We had three employees in the rest were the rest were volunteers.

15:50 What was it like working at the mayor's office. Normally they come in contact with people who wanted to volunteer for various reasons and of all ages start with 15 age of 15 minutes. Yeah. Yeah, you were there. I can't you came a couple of time to get your sister.

16:22 Do you want to volunteer their my sister Lucia and her husband with his name is very tall tall building tie up green and red Jello.

16:53 So you so you volunteered there or how many 8 years 8 years and then at your full-time Grandma take care of you, and your brother would go up to Putnam County where you live and stay for a few days at a time then later. You would come and your brother would come and we'd run around and have a great time.

17:25 I know you took care of us as we were growing up. What was it like taking care of my dad and my aunt when they were going up to being a grandma. I think everybody says that it's you were worried a lot with your children. Not that you don't worry about your grandchildren, but I think you have a tendency to spoil your grandchildren. What was like Andrea like when she was growing up?