Jeanine Schoemaker and Lois Karr

Recorded September 8, 2005 Archived September 17, 2005 01:23:11 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX000560


39 year old woman interviews her 72 year old mother about her upbringing, having a family, and her career as a teacher.


  • Jeanine Schoemaker
  • Lois Karr

Recording Location

MobileBooth East


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00:04 I'm lowest car. I'm 39. Today is September 8th 2005. We are in front of the st. Louis History Museum and I am the daughter.

00:22 My name is Janine Shoemaker. I am 73 years old as of last Sunday the 4th of September today's date is the 8th of September and I am inside of an Airstream parked in front of the History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, and I am the mother of the interviewer.

00:48 Someone tell me what your earliest memory is all I was thinking about that and I don't have any really early middle before 5. I don't remember kindergarten. Remember the name of the kindergarten teacher Miss Hall, but I remember a birthday party when I was 9 years old my very first birthday party with friends and they came for lunch and Mom had fixed a grab bag in the center of the table with ribbon streaming out and you pulled your ribbon and you got what was on the end of it. So, that's really my earliest memory is when I was 79. That was a happy memory. Cool. How would you describe yourself as a child? Were you were you happy?

01:39 I did. I don't know whether I was happy. I did a lot of escaping in in books mom and dad fought a lot and that was scary. And so I escaped in books and but I did have friends on both sides of me Nancy lived on one side and Joyce lived on the other and as you know, those two friends are no longer with us. So what was it like with all those people living in the house? I've seen Grandma's house. I know it's really small how many people were there and how well at the time that I was growing up when we moved in the house in 1935, March of 1935. I was 5 years old.

02:30 Almost and a while to see anyway was 1935 and I guess I was two-and-a-half. Excuse me. And Shirley was just a baby because she was born in January 1935 so far five years. It was just the four of us. The only problem is that architect you had to go through Mom and Dad's bedroom to get to the only bathroom in the house. And then when Shirley was 5 years old, Adam Allen was born and and

03:10 I was eight when he was born and then the next baby I was 13 and she was in the crib.

03:19 And then I was 15 for the next one.

03:23 And if they were still like babies your crib and things like that and then I was 17 when Linda was born, but I left home at 19. So I was not living at home when Barry was born and he was born three days after my 20th birthday. He was born 7th of September seem you don't really crowded except we just had the one closet and so the girls all hung are closing and we had a dresser with about five or six drawers each person got one drawer. That's where you kept your your underwear and your spice and everything you got one drawer.

04:07 Do you have a favorite sibling?

04:12 I did not feel like a sibling to Shirley. I felt like I was she was like my living doll to play with and mother tells me I don't remember this but she tells me that surely didn't get in trouble because I remembered the things that I got in trouble for and protected her I would say no to her before she could get in trouble. If I did feel like a sister to my brother Alan. Yes, I really did for all the rest. I was sorta like surrogate mother you think about that 13 15 17. And so and I did a lot of baby sitting and taking care of that kind of thing. Do you have a favorite sibling now what you say? Are you closest one of your sisters or it's it's an absolute blessing that I've developed a relationship with all my sisters you think about it? Linda was 2 years old when I left home.

05:11 Little girls were two four and six

05:15 And up and now that we're married women where grandmother's were were mothers were grandmother's I really connect with my little sister Linda my sister Shirley who I would fight with we don't hang up the phone without saying I love you. So my sister Norma, I I like for one reason. My sister. Julie is getting much more conservative as she gets older. So there are certain subjects that I do not bring up. I didn't know that I have friends like that. Yeah windows don't talk about that.

05:58 Did you get into trouble when you're grown-up? What was the worst thing I ever did I I I don't know what the worst that I do. Remember get my father had a razor strap and I do remember I must have been bad enough that I got spanked by a right there with the razor strap, but my sister Shirley would start to cry before she ever, you know, before you said over my knee and so she didn't get much of a spanking. I was one of those stubborn he's not going to see me cry he can't make me cry and then of course, I got a Horse Pike.

06:40 Oh, I must have done something to deserve that. You don't remember what you did. I just remember the kids. Now, you mentioned your best friends. So they and what were they like where they you know, where they the same with a different did you like one for one reason. Yes, Nancy was so even going and as we grew up together you remember my memory. I was 2 and 1/2 Nancy is exactly two years older and one week in September and Joyce was a year-and-a-half older and when we play dress ups, and of course, that's what you did in those days. You play dress-ups because they were older I was always the maid they were the princesses and they got to go to the ball. I do remember one time that Joyce really upset me and I I was just pummeling her I was using my fists and but Joyce and I were really closer than Nancy and I but as we be

07:40 Mature women but Nancy's husband

07:44 Was such an easy-going man and he called me this year on my birthday when you were little girl and one time we left Nancy and bills and he always workgroup you didn't know that was the name and you said I like that man with the stand up hair was always comfortable at Nancy and Bill's always comfortable, but I just seem to be a little closer to Joy. She's the one that gave me a surprise 16th birthday party, but there were times when I would get so frustrated with Joyce as a mature woman. I wouldn't hear from her they be in Florida and she would and I called me and C&C. I'm going to divorce her friend I had and she is very accepting very easy going and so they each brought something to my to my life and and I miss them both.

08:45 Did you have a nickname growing up? I got a nickname at camp and the nickname is started being bugs because I guess I was silly and then it was changed to buzz and all through high school. I was buzzed all through college when I was made a fake queen and college the headline said Buzz Fisher crownme fake queen and as you know, my high school class is going to have its 55th reunions this month on the 24th. And when the phone rings and someone says Buzz, I know it's somebody that I've known over 50 years. So NM Lie by Buzz. Well, I guess because I was busy I was in everything.

09:33 I just want to be a part of everything. Just wanted to be involved.

09:41 Did you know what you wanted to be when you grow up when your kid had no idea. In fact, my father suggested I would probably go into the secretarial area the thought of going to college nobody in my family had even graduated from high school. My mother didn't my father didn't his brother didn't so the fact that I was going to even graduate from high school was interesting and so my father wanted to make sure I took typing in high school and the stenography and then we had to take those aptitude test and I was told what you'd make a good teacher. Yeah, right.

10:26 And then when I talked about going to college it seem to be a threat to my father. I might get to know more than he did. And so when I left home at 9:10, I just finished my first year and I paid my own way through college and I teaching is one of those areas lowest you never really know that you love but until you do it and so I truly enjoyed my years of teaching.

10:58 That's what I was when Adam and I are driving really fast. Can we go around a curve? I'll tell him hold your hats and don't stand up and I know that you used to say that to me, but I don't know where that comes from. Where does it come from that comes from the Forest Park Highlands V amusement park in St. Louis right on Oakland? Where now Forest Park

11:21 Community Junior College dance there's a reason it was an amusement park and that office building that has the curved it's to emulate the roller coaster and the roller coaster was called the comet and you'd get on the comet and the pulley would pull you up slower and slower you'd get to the almost to the Tip-Top and there would be a sign that said hold your hats and don't stand up and then you'd go to any time that I think about going on an adventure. I say and my boys and girls in first grade, but ask me. What is that part of our history?

12:13 So where is where is Grandma and Grandpa's family from your mom and dad wear their family for I don't that I looked at that question and thought well, I don't really know a lot of history. I know that my grandma Fisher.

12:29 Was her maiden name was longer. So that was German there but are named Fisher was spelled the English way rather than Fischer, which is considered the German spelling. My mother's family has been in this country for hundreds of years her maiden name was foot and the historian Shelby Foote is a distant relative. So I think her family came as been in this country since

13:03 Well, maybe 1637 1639 that kind of thing. But in my mother was from a strong strong stock of women pioneer women strong women and in fact sheet said when I was widowed at such a young age, she said where you can be strong, you know, you come from a long line to strong women. I mean, we've been here for twenty-five Generations. You know, how many generation date nights at all the generations 25 years. Don't give me that the pilgrims didn't land till 1620. She said I'm ducking 16. It's 2:37 or so. So close my mouth.

13:53 But I I think there's there's English. I think there's Scottish. I think there's maybe some Welsh this on both sides or more on my mother's side. I think there is some German on on my dad's side.

14:11 What were your grandparents like? Well, I was afraid of my grandpa my grandpa. Now you're too young to know but the president of the minor Union was man named John L Lewis and we don't have as many minors as we did when I was growing up. In fact, there's a famous picture. We're President Roosevelt's wife.

14:38 Went down into the mines because her husband had Polio. He couldn't go down in the mines. His name was John L. Lewis said he had these very Fierce curly eyebrows. My grandpa Fisher had Fierce curly eyebrows, and he was a Gruff man. He didn't know how to be real gentle. But my grandma I was my grandma's girl and I really like my grandma she wore corset.

15:11 And she used evening in Paris perfume, and it was maybe

15:19 810 years ago. I smelled this smell and I was immediately a little girl in my grandma's bedroom and I kept following this smell and it was evening in Paris perfume. And so but then when I became a professional

15:39 My grandfather really admired the teaching profession and so we had a relationship of mutual respect but growing up my sister Shirley. She was afraid Grandpa sheep tickle him. She'd go up and I would be Grandma's girl, but Anna and I don't know my didn't get to know my mother's parents at all because her mother and father were divorced and think about that that was very rare and my grandfather got all four kids. So I don't know all the details the bad and I know that my grandpa foot would come to visit us sometimes but he always kind of smelled a little funny. I realize now that it was alcohol that smelled I didn't know that then but he was the kind of he would be I guess inebriated, but he would be that kind of sloppy love.

16:39 You call me as little janini girl and want to hold me on his lap. And so I did not know him. Well.

16:49 Tell me about your college experience. When did you why did he start I started in January 1946 and graduated in June 1950. This was Harris Teacher's College. It was before Harris and stole that that time there was there was still segregation. So you had Stole was the black teachers college and Harris was the white Teachers College and

17:19 Tuition was all of $25 a semester and and there were times when I had to borrow money for that because I had an apartment and I lived in a boarding house with a friend and paid for my books and everything, but I loved college and you had to go for a year 4 and 1/2 years because you had one semester where you were interning in the schools of St. Louis now in those days, they didn't promise you a job in the city schools. But if you graduated from Harris teacher's college and you passed your state exams. You were very very qualified to teach School in the st. Louis Public Schools, and that's what I did when I graduated.

18:07 Can you tell me about your first kiss?

18:11 I cannot tell you about my first kiss. I don't really remember it.

18:18 I was thinking I remember a date with Richard Baker Smith and we went on the Grand Avenue Streetcar down to the Fox Theater. I remember that is a movie theater and

18:35 I just don't remember my first kiss. How did you meet my dad?

18:42 I was out of college.

18:44 And I knew your father in high school because he was a half a year behind me and he wrote for the school paper and I was a class officer in my class. So he knew who I was and I was invited to a wedding and I didn't have a steady bowl and I was looking good in those days. I remember wearing a white knit dress and a big black hat and he was an usher and by the way that couple can and Olga Smith have already sent in their money and they will be at the reunions on September 24th, but he was an usher and he said well hi was I said hi Jack. I knew who he was but he's had two years in Korea.

19:33 And I've finished college and I finished my first year teaching. So this was June of 1955 I guess and

19:45 He asked if he could take me home because I came on the bus and Streetcar.

19:51 And another fellow I had already asked me Jack told me later. He went over to that guy and said I am taking her home and if I have to take you out back and fight with you, I didn't know that till later and then I left to be a camp counselor in northern Maine. I had one date with him and then I went to northern Maine for 8 weeks, but he did right?

20:17 And I and your father was an English major and a journalism minor and he wrote wonderful letters and he met my train when I came home from Maine and that was it. I was I was his girl and I don't think he thought I was his girl, but I knew I was so I met him at a wedding, but I knew him in high school. So it is that how you knew like he was the one from his ladders or yes. Yes, and and and he ate his sense of humor. He would make literary allusions and we both knew he liked the movies he read

21:01 Hannibal cabulary

21:05 Now his mother tells me that Korea changed his personality and my best friend Faith who you know and your mind might think of his auntie faith faith tells me that she's privately told him if you hurt her. I'll kill you.

21:25 But I just knew he was the one so how did he how did he propose? How did he ask you to marry? It wasn't very romantic at all. I'll tell you it was February.

21:38 He was working far. I think the Illinois Central Railroad as a passenger agent and handled tours and our maybe he was at McDonald Douglas. Maybe there now was just McDonald then but he said I have to put in for vacation.

21:57 When do you think we ought to get married?

22:03 Until we came up on November 2nd because the teachers convention was in St. Louis that year. So Thursday and Friday, there was no school and then the following Monday was what we called Ben Armistice Day 11th of November in the schools were closed. So I'd have an extra I'd only be away from my class 3 days and and that was the end of it. I started saving money and he never said another word about this wedding and I'm thinking hey fella, you know, I've got to buy address. I've got to get this I've got to get that end in June.

22:42 School was out.

22:45 And he came by one night and was given me a hug and a twisted by Arthur. Hey, what are you doing? And he slipped the ring on my finger and but I wish I'd had it for school. I could have showed it off.

23:02 So tell me about your wedding day.

23:06 Well that big Lazy Susan that I brought to the family gathering at Uncle Red's birthday party that huge Lazy. Susan was a wedding gift and we were married at 8 on a Saturday night. And I already had the apartment that we were going to be living in this doorbell rang and here stood this little man with this huge package and I've got a sweatshirt and old pants and he said are you the bride and he gave me this big present which of course I only use for big crowds, but it does

23:48 I bought my dress down town of faith and Joyce were my only two attendants. Shirley was couldn't be one of my bridesmaids because she was expecting Sherry in January. And in those days if you were expecting you were not a bridesmaid or abroad so I went to Salem Church and dressed at the church and faith and joy stressed at the church. It was a beautiful evening. It was just cool enough that if women had a fur shrug or fur scarf they could wear with a suit that night and looking at the black and white pictures because in those days 1957 you had black and white pictures of the women all have hats on.

24:44 And

24:46 And then we had a reception downstairs in the church, which was sheet cake punch nuts and mints and and it was over by 10:00. So that's the kind of wedding and reception we had.

25:05 2

25:07 What was the best thing about teaching?

25:15 To really see.

25:18 The light bulb go on.

25:22 In a child's mind went o

25:26 That these letters made these sounds and these sounds made these words and these words together.

25:37 Made sense. So that was there was a part of me that I thought, you know only I did that and I've been blessed Louis. I have some parents who truly to this day 2005 think their children would not have learn to read if they hadn't had me and there were other end that's not realistic but their other parents that wouldn't give me the time of day and that's not realistic either. So it's somewhere in between but I really I really loved what I was doing and either a downside is it's an awful lot of work. It's an awful lot of work. Your father was not being sarcastic. You know. I took Mary John I was already a dedicated teacher

26:27 And one night he said when do you think you'll be through with that? I'm making these big charts and I said, well, I don't know he said well, I was wondering if maybe we could have a conversation. So I brought a lot of work home. Remember that grown up. So yeah, it's it's it's a it's a hard job and you can't learn and Teachers College how hard it is, but if you want to do a good job

26:57 He put a lot of energy into it at school too. I don't know when you did that or where you went or what prompted. It's all right. Well when your father died, I got a phone call from one of the teachers in Kirkwood because I had taught in Kirkwood at Robinson school before you were born. And she said do you need work?

27:20 This was the week that your daddy died. We hadn't even buried him yet and I didn't really know.

27:28 But see the school district was smaller than it was more Humane than and so I had interviews set up. Your daddy was varied on Friday the 19th of April.

27:42 And I have an interview on Monday with a principal at the Parish school, which is no longer there. And then on I had a print and he said mrs. Shoemaker. How long have you been a widow?

27:55 I said it'll be a week tomorrow.

27:59 And then I had an interview with Mr. Smith at Kaiser school who had a first grade opening and he hired me on the spot to start school in September and that this is April. So I had almost 6 months to to grieve to to be ready to teach school and your grandma your grandma Shoemaker was still with us and she said well, are you happy, honey?

28:29 No, I don't really feel anything. I went to that Principle as he was retiring and I said you really took a chance on me hiring me so soon after I was tragically widowed. He said I didn't take any chances Janine. I asked around you already had a fine reputation.

28:53 So you went to grad school will and then I was told that my BS degree was not going to be enough and it was a good second income but with your daddy gone and we'd only been 10 months in this house and you were 25 months old. I didn't know whether you're going to need orthodontic work or whether you're going to need this or that and you had that hip dysplasia for a while and the superintendent didn't ask you said you will get your master's degree.

29:26 And so I began I taught that first year. I thought the kids knee and then I began that Summer of 69 at Webster University and I had my masters by the time you were ready to go to kindergarten as I look back. I don't know how I did it. But you know, I don't know how you got your message either during the test answers.

29:52 It really helped us financially at that time in the district when you got your Master's it really paid off financially. So that was the incentive. Yes. Yes. Yes.

30:06 When did you find out that you'd be a parent?

30:09 Well, I was teaching at Robinson school. And in those days the Kirkwood School District insisted that you have a physical exam before your contract was valid and so I went for my physical and the doctor said was there anything that you want to talk about it so but I think you ought to know that I'm entering menopause and he started to laugh and I said well, I don't think it's funny. He's hopeful Jeanine you're too young as well. I don't know what else it could be because your daddy been told by an eminent urologist that he was the most sterile male. He'd ever examined.

30:54 And I said, well, I don't know what else it could be it so we'll have to do a urine test and he told me that I was pregnant. I could not believe it. He said but I know what your history Janine I wouldn't tell anybody about this is I truly said what can I tell my husband? Yes, you can tell your husband and that night. We just looked at one another.

31:21 And there was a Playboy club in St. Louis on Lindell Avenue back in those days and I think Jack must have had a membership we went there.

31:31 Can we just could we have a conversation then? We stop and look at one another I couldn't believe it. And do you have been trying I guess is that how he had the urologist? Tell him? Yes. Yes, because we've been married almost 10 years and my doctor told me that they done everything with me that they could do that didn't cost a great deal of money and that it was time for Jack to have a test and he was reluctant. Maybe he suspected. I don't know he and his sister are almost 10 years apart. Who knows but the and maybe the urologist knew that this hardheaded German needed.

32:15 To be told facts straight out but in the medical profession under so many thousand.

32:23 So we didn't call you Florence Chadwick Louis, but I said to the doctor how can that be? And he said just takes one strong swimmer? Cuz I don't know what the forest have I can lose was the first woman to swim the English Channel tell me about having me about your labor experience. Was that like, I know I remember you told me that you had a cigarette in the delivery room, right? They let you smoke then right? Oh, yes and but it was the first day of spring and you weren't due to the next week and it was the it was beautiful day. The birds were singing daffodils Were In Bloom and I went to the bathroom that morning.

33:12 But I begin to start a drip.

33:16 Drip

33:18 Was not having any kind of labor contractions or anything like that and but I did need to sit with on a towel and and then I began middle of the afternoon began having some contractions in check. So I'm calling the doctor and so we got to the hospital Deaconess Hospital. There was a parking place right in the face. It was just here it is the first day of spring there's a parking place and I could hear the nurses Whispering they're bringing in an older mother I was 33 and and so they're bringing in and in those days for your first child at 33 you were considered old. I don't remember the pain Louis. I don't remember because in those days and you'd asked me about that. I remember the doctor saying now Janine when you bear down like that, I see a lot of black hair.

34:15 And then the next thing I know they put I guess oxygen nerve or a mask on my face breathe deeply and the next thing I know you're born.

34:28 Do you are knocked out X?

34:32 So, how did you pick my name? I just pick Louis. I I was thinking about that and was your father's name because he was Jack and I was Janine. I was going to stay with the J.

34:44 But my mother's name was Jane. We weren't named in you after my. And then I thought about Judy without jacket dated a girl named Judy before he dated May 8th. We were not giving you that name and and then I thought about Sally cuz I taught Scott Foresman. I taught Dick and Jane and Sally and puff and spot and the teddy bear.

35:12 Teddy bear what was the teddy bears named? My first grade class gave me a teddy bear and he said we're not naming her Sally. You know, I was I thought Sally Shoemaker was and finally said I think Louis Wings

35:29 Turns out that the doctor's nurse was named Louis to Jill. You can tell your husband she does and then Jean because my middle name and be taken to kind of go with Jenny. So that's how we came up with Louis and course. I didn't know that years later. I would know the history of a woman named Louis who would impact my life, but you were named Louis. What were the hardest moments you had when I was growing up.

36:01 Those those first two years you had your daddy and you two had a bond. Let me tell you about that Bond any baptism I've ever been to infant baptism. It's either the mother or the Godmother that carries the child not when you were baptized your father carried you.

36:24 Man, I guess if you've been told.

36:27 That you're never going to have children and then you have this child and so you had a bond the two of you and but then when I was at I knew it night if I didn't hear you he would

36:42 And of course you were breastfed and he would go and get you some times and bring you into bed for me to feed you. So that was listening at night. It was fear It Was Fear what if I do something wrong also trying to be both mother and father to be Superwoman to prove to the world that the circumstances of your fathers were not my fault. Nobody asked me that nobody told me that I just felt that

37:13 So it was it was a scary time and I know I screamed a lot and I yelled a lot, but I think it was fear-based. I wanted you to be perfect. So I'd be perfect.

37:27 You send cards to everyone to do all this do that.

37:33 I think I started doing that with my first graders sending them postcards in a way to go. You did a great job this week. And and then the birthday cards just followed and then your Aunt Shirley told me that all Marketa a program where you would get reimbursed sometime should get checks in the mail. It would help you buy more, So I'd like to find just the right card sometimes and so I enjoy doing that and I had a man tell me that I did I didn't see it as a service. I didn't see it. But he he saw it as a service that I remember birthdays and anniversaries and thanks and your dear friend. Barbie told me last year that

38:28 Ashley was so looking forward to birthday and all the card she would get and I was the only one that sent her guard cuz her grandma died and her aunts and uncles I guess just like your aunts and uncles didn't send you cards. So who is important in your life today? What are your joy is now so I'm sitting next to one of my Joys my grandson. You are a joy the fact that we have this relationship. Do you remember the Mother's Day card you gave me last year it said

39:06 The greatest compliment you can receive is When someone tells you that you remind them of me at the fall Classic this weekend. Someone said this is Lois's mother and so it's the relationship between the the joy that we have now, and I'm really learning to love the man that you're engaged. So there's never many joys. You have lots of friends right? Lots of friends. I also have a relationship with my mother now.

39:44 That I didn't have growing up and I do have now and we can tell one another we love one another and mean it and mean it.

39:56 How would you like to be remembered? Like if if people are just saying hello, it's me. And you know what How would how would you want to be remembered? What is as a vibrant woman as an energetic Woman as a woman who was open to new ideas?

40:14 As a woman who could always tell a joke and make people laugh.

40:20 A woman that people felt comfortable with

40:27 Willing to explore new ideas.

40:33 Good company and I think you are that you know, I do. I mean, I think there's so much like that you've done for me. I guess it.

40:45 I am who I am only has herself to you. Right well and cetirizine reaction to you, you know and sometimes as a result, but I am glad you remember that car because it is a high compliment it is when people tell me will you also told me one time you're gone to a party and you said Mama words to the effect that they did the best they could.

41:08 But they didn't decorate and do it the way you do it and I do give a party all these holiday decorations all label then marked.

41:24 I think that's about all I have. Thanks smile. Thank you Lois. What a treasure. Thank you.