Nancy Stalzer and Kathy Kubik

Recorded August 24, 2005 Archived August 24, 2005 40:36 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX000459


Kathy (30) interviews her mother, Nancy (61), about her childhood and raising a family.


  • Nancy Stalzer
  • Kathy Kubik

Recording Location

MobileBooth East


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:07 My name is Cathy kubik. I am 30 years old. It's August 24th. 2005. We are in Chicago Outside The Field Museum and I am the daughter of the person. I will be interviewing.

00:25 Hi, I'm Nancy stalzer. I'm 61 years old today is August 24th 2005 were in front of the field museum in Chicago, Illinois, and I'm the mother of Cathy kubik.

00:41 Okay, Mom. What is your first memory?

00:45 My first memory I think is when my sister Cheryl was born and my mother was picked up and our dinner table and rushed out the door in my father's arms and my grandparents said not to worry should be back in a few days and when she came back she had my sister Cheryl.

01:07 What neighborhood in Chicago did you grow up in we lived Southeast we lived at 89th and normal and I went to Rider grade school. And if we had lived there when I went to high school would have been Calumet High School.

01:24 So what is your ethnic background?

01:28 I'm French. I'm Irish Danish and a little bit Dutch.

01:36 What was it like growing up in Chicago in the 1940s? It was a lot simpler back. Then. We didn't really have TV. I can remember when TV was invented which is really really sick to think of it. But we played outside our parents would say go outside and it's what we did. We played outside we made up wonderful games. My neighbor had a field and we every day we would try to build a fort and we just had a really nice time growing up. I left my childhood.

02:14 Did you have a favorite game that you played?

02:17 Well, when we weren't building a fort we played Hopscotch and when I got into a grade school, we had different seasons four different games. There was the season of yo-yos everybody had to have a Duncan yo-yo. Then there was a season for peashooters. There was a season for jump rope everybody jump rope at the same time was kind of silly when you think of it now, but that's the way it was you had a certain time for things.

02:48 So you can play hopscotch in the winter time one know because he have to go outside to play house. Sketch sketch was my favorite game. What was it like having a working mother at that time? It was different. I think I was the only student in my class that had a mother that worked and when the teacher would say we need mothers to come in. I would always say, oh I can't my mother's working because she couldn't come to the class and all that cuz she was at work. So it was a little hard because I wanted her to be there with all the other mothers.

03:28 Did that affect your family life and your free time to or did you have to take care of your siblings or?

03:37 Well, yes, because when I was 11, my mother had her last baby A little boy my brother Charles and there was nobody there to take care of them. But me and we lived with my grandparents and so after school, my mother would work nights. I would have the baby and then I would have to cook dinner for the grandparents and plus which take care of my two sisters.

04:05 So I couldn't really go out with my friends after school. If and I couldn't join clubs and what have you with school cuz I had to be home.

04:15 Do you think this made you grow up quicker than the other kids?

04:20 Maybe but back then we were family and we all it was everything was done for our family. We had a small family and I never felt like I was being picked on I never thought it was just something that had to be done some but you know, somebody had to stop in there and do these things so it sounds like family is very important to very important.

04:43 And now that will hear your mother and you stayed home with us. So I wonder if that has something to do with with your family values. I always wanted to I hope that would be able to have children and stay home with them. So when they came home from school, I was I would be home and they would never come home till like a dark house and cold housing. And so your father made a good living and we were able to do that.

05:15 When you were younger, did you get into any trouble? What was the worst thing you did?

05:21 Well, I used to know I think I was pretty good. I really didn't get into trouble. I never told my mother known my entire life.

05:32 Is that the kind of trouble you mean you never got scolded for anything? You never gotten, you know, I had to stay after school never in school. I was very good in school. I guess the the worst thing I did. I was mean to my sister Barb. We are closer in age and I was really

05:53 She aggravated me and that we're best friends now, but at the time I used to pull her here, you know means things and yes, so I guess I'm sorry about that now but we laugh about it her and I how many siblings do you have? I have my sister Barb. She's 3 years younger than me. And then my sister Cheryl is 4 years younger than me. And then Charlie is I was 11 when he was born.

06:24 Were there any Hard Times?

06:26 Well, we never had much money, but we never really knew we were the same as everybody else. I would think the X and there wasn't a lot of money. We lived like a working neighborhood and

06:43 I felt we had as much as everybody else.

06:48 What did your father do my father worked for the phone company?

06:52 He was a lineman in when he started but then he got a job in the office. He was very smart and he would do training.

07:02 And how did him and your mother meet they met in high school. They met at Parker High School.

07:11 Was he her first love?

07:13 I think so.

07:17 Yes, I think he was should they were married and then he went to war and I was born and then when he came home I was 2 years old.

07:27 So I was born when my mother was 19.

07:31 And how long did they were they together before they got divorced?

07:36 They were married, but see if they got married in 1942. They divorced in 1956 or 7.

07:47 Did this affect your family dynamic?

07:51 For the better, I think because when they were together towards the end they were fighting all the time and we are eyes real.

07:59 On the edge and. My father has terrible temper. So we were really happy when it was finally over and we could go live with my grandparents.

08:11 So you lived with your grandparents and their house? Yes, we lived with them and their old house and then we bought another house. He thought it would he would wanted to move to a nicer neighborhood. And did you like that house better than the house you grew up in.

08:28 No, I like the old neighborhood better. It had a beautiful Park the park had its own library and I could just walk a half a block and get all these books and read them and there were a lot of shops in the neighborhood. We move to is more residential.

08:45 And I had to take a bus to school and in the old neighborhood I could just walk.

08:51 So tell me about your grandparents. How did they meet?

08:55 My grandparents met in California. My grandmother was 16 and living on her own and she had a room and she work for the Pantages Theater. And that was a theater that had all kinds of Vaudeville acts and my grandfather came from Denmark and his sponsor was an uncle that owned a hotel in California because to come to this country you needed a sponsor in a job waiting and so his room must have been very close to my grandmother's and they would pass each other on the street and he asked my grandmother out and she said definitely not because he spoke with an accent and he had blonde long curls and this was not for her and

09:50 Anyway, one day she was in her room and she heard some commotion outside and she looked and my grandfather had bought the sheet music to Alice blue gown, her name was Alice and he was singing the song to her and that's how she started to go out with him.

10:06 In an event, they married and they had my mother and then when my mother was a few months old, they took a road trip from California to Chicago and my grandfather became a plaster.

10:21 How did Grandma shape you as a person and his mother?

10:26 Well, Grandma was very kind. She was quiet and she loved her family. She would do anything for her family and she was like a lady I think and one of the grandkids came along she really enjoyed them and always wanted to be close to them and do things with them and I knew this so that's why we always went on vacation with Grandma. We always took her along.

10:58 Can you tell me when you first fell in love?

11:03 Well, I fell in love twice one time. I fell in love and married and that was a complete disaster. So then thankfully I fell in love a second time and with your father and he was I knew the minute I met him that he was the one he was just the most wonderful person.

11:25 And he turned out to be a wonderful husband and a wonderful father. So do you believe in love at first sight?

11:35 Well for some people maybe I knew right away. I didn't know if I would marry your father because I had decided I was never going to marry. It was just so silly a piece of paper in all this and I was perfectly willing just to live with him, but he wouldn't have it. So we had to get married, but I think there is love at first sight but I don't think that's necessary for love. I think you can fall in love you after you're friends with someone for a while.

12:03 How did you and dad meet?

12:06 We met on a blind date my sister Barb and her husband wanted to fix me up with your father. And I said no I did not want to go on a date but my brother-in-law insisted can basil and so off we went on a date and I was so upset about it that we finally we found a restaurant and we went in and I was got sick. I was so sick. I push my way through a crowd of people something I would never do in my entire life sat down at a dirty table and had all the waitresses giving me an evil eye and then your father came to see what was wrong and then I threw up on him. Yes. It was wonderful first date and I thought never going to see him again. I really don't care. I just want to go home, but he came around some, you know, it wasn't there last date that didn't scare him away. No.

13:04 Is that how you knew he was the one?

13:07 No.

13:08 Although when I think back yeah, I should have known he was the one it was just I just knew he was so he was like perfect perfect for me.

13:19 How did he propose?

13:23 Well, it wasn't romantic. He had come here. He said he didn't propose at all. He would say, oh when I get back from the war will get married or he would say when we're married will do this. So wasn't a proposal and then when he did come home, he was home for three weeks and he said, you know, my father said if you're going to marry that girl you better grab her now, so he's so sweet. Do you want to get married? And I said, well, I guess so so that's how well he proposed.

13:56 So he left for Vietnam shortly after you met.

14:00 When I met him he was in basic training, so

14:05 He left for Vietnam a year after we met a little bit more than a year because when he came home from Vietnam he was done with service and you had to be in 2 years then.

14:18 Did you write letters while he was away? Yeah, I wrote him everyday and he wrote me everyday.

14:25 And I still have his letters.

14:28 Unfortunately, he doesn't have my letters. They never didn't come back with him know he was so happy to go. We just left everything his little pants his blankets everyday. They're all over there still.

14:43 When he came back from the war was he different in any way.

14:48 You know, he wasn't different at all.

14:51 He was exactly the same.

14:53 I was different a little I was a little funny and it took me a while to warm up to him again.

15:01 Hot. So how long was he in the war?

15:04 A year he was in pleiku.

15:07 So when you saw him again, it was a little different erised felt.

15:12 Yeah, he didn't feel any different. I felt not any different towards him, but I was just a little.

15:20 Shy I guess I don't know if that's the word but where were you married? We were married in Grandma's parlor.

15:31 What did you wear I wore a purple suit we want I wanted while I really didn't want to get married. But if I had to I just wanted to go to City Hall and get it over with but but dad's mom said no he have it in the part my parlor so to please her. That's what I did.

15:53 And how many kids do you have? I have four daughters.

15:59 How did you feel when you first find out you'd be mother?

16:03 I was really happy. I always want to be a mother. I wanted to be a mother when I was in kindergarten. I couldn't wait to be a mother.

16:11 So yeah, I was really happy.

16:15 How has being a mother changed to?

16:20 Well

16:22 I don't think it's changed me.

16:27 I don't think it's changed me at all.

16:30 Well, I mean you're worried about the kids you're always thinking of them is something wrong or you know until your life is always around you no revolving around the kids now, so I guess it's change.

16:47 How did you choose my name?

16:49 Well, it was always important. I always wanted to know the name of the baby and if the baby was a boy was going to be Michael after your did so that was no challenge but thinking of girls names. So your sister Chris. I always wanted Christine spelled with a K and for you. We didn't know we were thinking and thinking and in March. We are playing around Irish records and I'll take you home again Kathleen came on and then we decided Kathleen.

17:24 And how about Kara?

17:26 Your father named her because we're thinking again. I don't remember we never had to think of a guy's name and he said and he was looking in a baby book and he saw Kara with a c and I now we had to keg names and he says Kara with a K and that's how she got her name.

17:45 And then Missy

17:48 Well when we were going to have Michelle, I had to have an emergency C-section and that was a terrible thing to have a seat. It was horrible and I told your father while you have a daughter. It's going to be Michelle or some K name. I don't really care but I'm not going to do this again. So so now she you know, he got his Michael Michele.

18:13 How did Grandma feel about becoming a grandmother my mother while she was? Yes, you really loved all her grandkids and she would come over the day. All the kids came home from the hospital, and she was always calling and stopping by. Yes. She was really happy and even grandma stalzer was Rose really happy.

18:36 When did Grandma die and from what?

18:40 My mother died in 1989 she died of ovarian cancer and she had gotten sick in October and they found out it was cancer and she had her first chemo and she loved your father and I you know, she really loved your father and she insisted that he come with her to the hospital sleep on the floor so he could protect her and what he have you cuz she had he had like she had he had all these bad nightmares when she had to get it and so he did and I think maybe she would have gotten better except and she had the stroke and soul cancer.

19:27 Out this major operation for that and then the stroke.

19:32 Now she was going to recover from so many things so then she died in April.

19:39 Do you ever have any dreams about her?

19:43 When I think of I think of her all the time, we have movies of her on vacation and their videos and I hear it's really hard sometimes to hear her voice when I hear her voice that said I you can watch silent movies and they're really nice. But when you hear some of these voice, you know, you're in another room and you hear that her voice, but I think it for a while and

20:07 It's I have good really good feelings about her.

20:11 Do you have any Traditions to honor her?

20:14 Well, every we always go to the cemetery and visit her and my grandmother there together and my grandfather and is close to Mother's Day as we can go and is close to Christmas.

20:29 But now we've started to include everybody. So now we're talkin 3 hours go to all the cemeteries now, we can't slide anybody so we have to go to the mall.

20:40 Is there any picture in your head of Grandma that you see all the time? Is there anyway you remember her?

20:47 I remember her in the backyard with all the grandkids by the pool watching that everybody was okay and smiling and that's how I remember grandma.

20:59 Did she believe in an afterlife?

21:02 She wasn't religious but she alright she believed in fate and she would always say when it's your time. You'll go. I I think she probably did.

21:11 How do you think she would want to be remembered?

21:15 Well, I think she would just want to be remembered and have people think kindly of four and would just think of her and talked about her every now and then.

21:26 Do you recall your last interaction with her before the stroke?

21:30 Yes, we were rough. We had taken her to a new doctor and he was very optimistic. This is before the stroke and she was laughing Barbara and her live together and she was laughing because the doctor giving her a brochure and and if there was a table set with a silk tablecloth in a rose in a vase and all this and it was to make caregivers make an attractive dinner for their loved one with cancer and she was laughing and she says fired. This is why I'm not eating look at you don't set the the table like this and we were all laughing about it and then it was a few days later.

22:10 Your father went over there to give her a little Christmas tree plant that we had gotten it. I think you got it from your high school and she wasn't up yet. And Barb says G. She's been sleeping a long time in your father mannion, and she was laying on the floor cuz she had the stroke and then they had to call the paramedics.

22:31 If you could talk to her right now, what would you say? I would say mama you've missed so much Ryan. She would have loved Ryan and

22:43 I would just want her to come over and we could talk and and

22:50 Just talk

22:55 I'm study genealogy. How does it make you feel that? We're memorializing grandma or talking about her here. He said makes me feel really good because doing genealogy. I found all kinds of relatives that I mean. I knew we weren't aliens so we had to have relatives but and so I've met these wonderful people and I think it's really important to keep a record because then they're lost forever and with the genealogy all these little bitty cousins and all this I found and now they're in our family tree and they're written down and there if I know a little story about them they're in there and we'll always have that and it won't be lost.

23:41 And they won't be lost and forgotten then like they never were here.

23:46 How far back can you trace our family? Well, let's see.

23:51 Lorentz, 615-8541 side the the ones like the Danish one that's not going so well because it's hired with the Danish records the Irish records and then the French records, but the ones that came here early enough and were like in Maine and Pennsylvania. They have terrific records and then you can look at wills and everything so I can trace them back a little bit better than the ones that came later.

24:25 Is there a what's the most interesting genealogy find that you come across? Well, I guess it would be the French side because I found that my great-grandfather came from France. He was a small boy and then his mother died and his father couldn't take care of all the children. So he's put his family up and send them to live on farms and then then

24:56 That particular them the grand great-grandfather joined the Civil War when he was like 15, he lied about his age and him and his brother were in the Civil War and then then I have traced them to where you ended up in Wisconsin and he married near the family. And so I guess it's really interesting that my relatives were in the fighting in the Civil War. And another one was fighting in the Revolutionary War and all cuz it really brings history alive when you think somebody that was related to you was over there fighting.

25:39 If you could do everything again, would you do anything differently?

25:44 Well, I probably wouldn't marry my first husband.

25:49 But I'm sure you learned something from that experience.

25:55 Or learn to stay away from all right. Well, yeah, but when I married him, I love them.

26:02 But them yes, so if I could like I never really think of that first when I unless somebody brings it up. I have forgotten completely, but I would change that.

26:18 That's proud. Maybe I would.

26:21 Join more things that you kids to school. I joined for Missy because she was the last baby and when you were growing up there was I was I was going to have a baby and so maybe I would have done that more.

26:33 Maybe I would have been more outspoken.

26:36 Well, you are always doing crafts for school projects. And yeah, I did that but I was more quiet.

26:45 Yeah, but you always made our house a place where people could come and you know, yes, I like people. Yeah, we always had our house was the house for the parties and they have because we were the first one they have a house and so we had all the parties and that way I couldn't I couldn't clued both sides of the family your father and your father's side and my side and then we didn't have to hurt anybody's feelings.

27:11 What advice would you give me and my other sister is about raising your own kids when that time comes.

27:18 Will probably you will continue to work. So I think just make a safe environment for your family a cozy place a place they like to be.

27:33 Yes, I'm about there school try to get involved in their school. And so I'm sure you'll do fine.

27:41 I have no doubt about it.

27:44 Do you have any any dreams for your children and he helps?

27:49 I hope that they can do whatever they want to do and so far that's been what they have done. Yeah, so that's my hope that they can continue to live their life and do what they want to do and what makes them happy.

28:05 Are you proud of us? I'm very proud of all of you.

28:10 What is the most important lessons that you've learned in life?

28:15 To treat people kindly and nice and

28:21 And avoid people that are nice back and not to let it ruin your life or worry about it. Just you know.

28:32 Because I don't really think you can change people. So just surround yourself with people that you like and love and and have a nice you know time.

28:43 Is there anything that you've never told me but wants to tell me now.

28:49 No, I really don't have any secrets. I think I've told you when you anything and everything. I wish I did but I really don't have any secrets.

29:01 Is there anything about me you wanted to know but have never asked her don't know.

29:07 No.

29:09 Okay, so there's nothing about yourself that you think no one knows.

29:15 I don't think there's anything about myself the people. I think it if people know exactly who I am. Is there something that you wanted to ask me of her?

29:27 Well, I always wanted to know about the first.

29:32 Baby, that is still born. Okay. I had when your father and I got married.

29:39 It took a while to get pregnant and then I did and the pregnancy was wonderful except towards the end. I got really sick and the doctor said I don't know what's wrong with you, but you'll be fine and then the night that the bay the one night, it was our due date and I went to the doctor and I couldn't even walk. I had such a backache and the doctor said well, you're not he says I don't want to hear from you until you're screaming in pain.

30:12 And he saw you screaming in pain and I said no, but this was my first baby and he still wouldn't you not going to have a baby and so we went home and the next day I said your father, you know something I really feel horrible. So he took me to the hospital the doctor. So we'll tell her to go to the hospital but she's not having a baby and your father took me to the hospital and an intern came in and couldn't find a heartbeat. And so then everybody was running around nobody could find a heartbeat and then the doctor came in and he said he couldn't find the heartbeat and then from then on no, but he wouldn't let anybody come in to talk to me. No nurses. I was all alone. And then I accept your father and then you know, he kept checking me, but just a doctor nobody else and then he came in he goes, okay. It's no time to hear the baby. They didn't take the baby. They wanted the baby to be born naturally and

31:10 So the baby was born he was six and a half pounds and he was perfect except that he was stillborn and I thought the placenta was an adequate enough to sustain him. And when Missy was born the same thing that happened at the first baby happened to Missy, but I was in the hospital and I had better doctors and they had monitors then for the first baby. That was no Monitor and with Missy, they said something's wrong and that's when I had the C-section. So with the first baby if they had known there was a problem if I hit a C-section the baby would have been fine.

31:49 So when you are delivering did you know that it was stillborn at that's all I knew with. Nobody could get a heartbeat.

31:58 That and then they never let me see the baby and now they let the I think they let the parents see the baby. So to this day, I have no idea what that baby look like.

32:11 But they showed the baby to your father. But I guess that's my regret. I wish I had seen what the baby look like.

32:19 And then of course, he have all kinds of guilt cuz you think I should have known something was wrong. I should have said, you know something but

32:31 I didn't know they said that was normal.

32:36 So I'm

32:38 To think I was probably the saddest moment of your life.

32:42 Yeah, it was sad and then when people called friends and stuff, then you couldn't be staying on the phone you has that they were giving their condolences and he has a will have another baby, you know, so I had to consult them and then Grandma stalls or said some strange thing like her dad is good. The baby was probably retarded and all kinds of stuff. So it's better, you know, you don't have that and no but yeah, that was kinda hurt cuz you had to make everybody else feel good.

33:23 What do you think was the happiest moment of your life?

33:27 I think I've had a really lots of happy moments when all my kids were born.

33:33 When I see my husband going down a waterslide with his kids were little and now when I see everybody and everybody's having a good time and laughing and I just sit back and they say happy time.

33:50 How would you like to be remembered?

33:53 I hope it's somebody that never.

33:59 Did any harm?

34:02 Anybody

34:05 Or to the environment or whatever.

34:10 Do you have any stories about you know growing up with Grandma or about your stepdad that are interesting only will my my mother after my parents when she and my father divorce. She remarried somebody who we like them at first until we realized he was insane and one night. He got mad at everybody not me. He liked me but he took an egg and he wrote a people's and he said it was a rat and egg now. I don't know how he knew that but he took an egg for all the people in the family my mother and my sister is my brother. He wrote their name on it and buried it in the backyard and God knows what terrible things were to happen to them. But

34:56 So we left about that today.

35:00 My mother didn't stay married to him for two too much longer after the egg episode.

35:06 He said it was like an old Italian custom to do that.

35:10 Do you believe in and then curses are very superstitious? No, but I love to hear about curses and all that. I'm not superstitious. I think there's and when I hear ghost story, I hope there are.

35:25 I stayed at a bed-and-breakfast once and I said did you give us the haunted room and she said no and I was really I think that I wouldn't mind of ghosts not Poltergeist.

35:39 But you wouldn't leave your shoes on the table or anything like that. We did have a little thing that grandma said don't put your shoes on the table. It's bad luck and although I don't believe in things like that. I certainly didn't want to test it.

35:58 I love your kids are very superstitious or really just because you can't name anything else. I'm sure I could if I thought about it walking under ladders on that, It's like when I was growing up, nobody would walk under a ladder.

36:18 And if you step on a crack you break your mother's back, but you know, but you know ours was just the shoes to this day and really fruit that really sanitary to have your shoes and your table.

36:36 Maybe that's your bad luck. You get some.

36:46 Or any other stories you want to tell.

36:51 No, we say we have one little funny thing and nobody else has ever heard of it that when we get up to move from when you know, if we're sitting in a chair and we get up to get a glass of water or something. We say Flapjack and that means nobody can sit in your chair. You've saved it now. We just did it all the time. My grandparents did it my parents did it we all did it but now I haven't found one other person whose family ever did it?

37:20 So did they make it up? I don't know, but we all Safe Life check.

37:27 Tell me about lemonade Park. What is that while we had a pool for all these years and I finally got this raft that I loved and I was finally going to go every all the kids are grown, you know once and it was going to be my time to go into the pool in this Big Raft and the pool broke and your father said the pool is to come down and I'm not putting another one up and so I was seeing it for a while and I thought well when life gives you lemons so he took it away. We put up a canopy we have furniture out there and we have a little patio stones. And so we I just called lemonade Park.

38:06 Because that's where pool was.

38:09 Telex it out there then yes, I do. I like to entertain out there. I like to sit out there and read and yeah, I like it out there.

38:22 Tell me about the cottage Michigan your father retired because they offered him a pay out and I didn't think it was a good idea, but he couldn't really turn down a bayou and so he took the money and he put it on a and he's we've always wanted to have like a little place a little summer get get away. And so he put some money on this Cottage in Michigan and we can be up there Olive even in the winter. It's not just for the summer and we've all really enjoyed it and you've gone up with Jim in the dog and everybody has gone up there now and we've given keys out. So it's just a place where ever wants to go can go and it's really small but it's really the most adorable place and it's the way it's really nice when we have a pen to unfold and

39:14 Yeah, so that's really I love being up there.

39:17 I've heard people have caught pretty big fish out there.

39:22 Yes, they have I make pictures out of everybody goes to the cottage when they go for the first time. They have to stand with their hands out in front of them. Like they're holding something and then I will find fish pictures on the internet or in a catalog and then I all these huge things sharks and Eels and you name it and then I'll cut the people's hands in a way in the picture and inserted. So I'm really cutting and pasting by myself at the computer and then we have copies made so we have all these pictures in the cottage of all these people with really big whales they've caught everything.

40:03 That's nice. I was going to say we didn't talk about that you'd like to add know. Are you happy? Yeah.

40:13 Thank you. Thanks for let me interview you and Charlotte doing this. I wanted to talk about Grandma, but then I was going to the questions. I really don't want to know a lot about you as well. And I think you're very strong person. Like I thought grandma was very strong woman swell very much. Thank you. Thanks for asking me.