Marion McClatchy and Susan McClatchy

Recorded February 5, 2009 Archived February 5, 2009 41:26 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY004996


Marion McClatchy (78) is interviewed by her daughter Susan McClatchy (44) about growing up in Bogota, Colombia.

Subject Log / Time Code

Marion was born in Bogota, Colombia; father was British, mother was Colombian; parents names
Marion describes her father; story of her father telling her son, Robert a story
story of how her parents met at a gala banquet in Bogota at the Ritz; “How happy will be the man who marries you.”
jokes Apita would tell; story of Apita cheating on cards with her grandchildren
came back from boarding school a different person; called a “gringa” in Colombia; 37 first cousins


  • Marion McClatchy
  • Susan McClatchy

Recording Location

MobileBooth West


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00:04 My name is Susan McClatchy. I'm 44 years old. Today is Thursday, February 5 2009 and we are at the East Los Angeles Public Library in Los Angeles, California. I'm here today interviewing my mother Marion McClatchy.

00:26 My name is Marian McClatchy and my age is 78 and Counting and today is February 5th of 2009. And we're in Los Angeles in East Los Angeles, California.

00:43 Very good. So just start out mom. Can you tell us where you're from? I was born in Bogota Colombia.

00:54 And you know why I was born there because your mother was pregnant. No because she was there at the time. I'm glad to hear that. And my mother was Colombian and my father was frightfully flight today British mid-victorian type of Englishmen. Do you know what I mean? I do, okay.

01:16 Great Tso.

01:19 Let's talk about them a little bit of first of all, you tell us what their names were. My father's name was Ernest Frank wise and my mother's name was Christina David do and what did we call them? I mean we kids not you you well because when you first met them, you could not say Abuelita or apolito. It came out this being Abita and abito Ranch has no no meaning in Spanish at all, right. So actually I didn't name them that but no will do your sisters your older sisters who were the first one they couldn't pronounce Abuelita. What you hear is a pita

02:19 And the name stuck and everybody calls them that call them that forever. Ethos. Okay. So tell me a little bit about puppy throwing up pizza and

02:36 Well, my my father was absolutely very correct for him. There was no.

02:46 Black and white No, Gray, everything was either black or white and he knew the distance to the millimeter between this point and any other point and he knew the date and he knew everything one time. When when your brother Robert was 14 years old. My father was telling him a story of something that he had undergone then and he said on the 17th of October 1942, whatever and Robert stopped him and said, how how do you know it was the 17th of October because it was a Tuesday silly my mother on the other hand. She didn't even know or care what century she lived in I don't think she ever believe that the Earth was not flat.

03:46 Telling me I can see is flat and she lived in the world of poetry and she refused to write beautiful poetry. So you have completely different people who live very happily all of their lives. Okay, so I am going to lead you into a story about accounting.

04:09 Accounting and groceries till the story I'm talking about knowing you were a child because I think the story that illustrates really beautifully what you're just the character qualities of both the people in a piece of better than anything else. It's about a pitot keeping account of all the grocery bills in wanting to know how much money was going out the door for groceries and repeat this manner of accounting was she he wanted for the receipts from her right as so I forgot about that Noel I didn't cuz it's a wonderful story. Can you tell us a story of one time when he asked her to bring home the grocery or defend her X number of dollars every week for expenses that you bring me back the receipts and then he would know exactly how much money

05:08 Could keep records of everything my mother not being a fool. She would go grocery shopping at the supermarket when we were living in Los Angeles and she would pick up all the receipts from the for the from the ground that people throw up and have them over to my father and he would be very happy because I hate that he could not count and write them down. This goes back to his first career as a banker where in England he used to work for Banco de londres America Del Sur Bank of London and South America and the bank sent him to to Bogota to work in the branch there. Right, but she didn't collect the receipts on the floor to deceive him, right? She had other why did she did she collect the receipts from the floor to make him happy exam?

06:08 Shut up. Was to do have an exact accounting how much she had spent.

06:19 I just love that story. I think this had the time you told it to me. It was actually when you were you were in Bogota when you were a child. She you said that she told you to go out in the parking lot and pick up the receipt this room and she told you to pick it up because it would make your father. So happy it's of course. He likes she thought he just liked all these little pieces of paper to Disney's Magic. How did the first meet?

06:54 My father had already been involved working for the bank of the laundress for about four years and during that time he had to learn.

07:07 Enough Spanish to be able to communicate very well and on the business the bank sent him to a Gala dinner about Gala banquet at the hotel which it was a white tie affair and white tie and Tails in this is a 1928. So he must have looked like a little bit like whatever they were worrying at the time.

07:41 Fred Astaire dancing with Tails and a white tie in it that kind of thing. And so he arrived and he gets to sit next to this beautiful young woman and he's already been in the Hispanic country long enough that when you see a girl you want to hit on you don't scribble your telephone number and hand it to her and say here call me. She knew that when you approach a young woman, you have to tell her beautiful things. So in broken Spanish after he's sitting down next to her.

08:23 She turns and says to her.

08:28 In broken Spanish. She says how happy will be the man that will marry you get Feliz Cyril hombre Casado con usted senorita and my mother used to love telling that story because she's looked up at him and she said

08:52 You didn't hear my name.

08:56 My name is Christina David the day in between the name first name and a surname and Plies married to somebody called me do right.

09:09 And

09:11 She used to tell us that when she said that.

09:17 She still do turn pale and looked around to see where's the brute coming to pound on me? But that's not the point of the story. The point is that they met on the 10th of June and they they were married on the 10th of November and my mother's birthday was the 10th of December. So for all of the years that they were married.

09:48 My father would always bring a special gift for a special offering of some kind on the 10th of every month to celebrate the 10th, but that night at the hotel Ritz. He went home and he wrote to my grandparents in England tonight. I met the girl. I'm going to marry.

10:14 And at lunch time with all her brothers and sisters the next day.

10:21 My mother announced last night. I met a gringo and if I don't marry him, I'm never going to marry anybody else and he's going to call me today at 2.

10:36 Why my uncle Alejandro, my mother's youngest brother who was a great joke store and prankster and he didn't say anything. I didn't make any comment he put on his hat and he's has okay. I'm going back to the office and he called her at 5 minutes before 2:00 and keep food on I need to Spanish with a with an English accent and he said to her I have not been able to sleep since last night because I'm thinking of you all the time and my mother with her heart beating she says hi too and he kept her he kept her for the next 25 minutes and my mother bless her heart. She swallowed the bait a hook.

11:36 The line and the Sinker and the fishing pole. I think I'm I don't know that part of the story. I don't know what secrets from her heart. She spilled on her brother when he couldn't handle it anymore after 25 minutes he loved and he's an idiot. My mother was livid absolutely Furious. She called him the son of an unmarried woman. I don't know what else she called them and she hung up on him. She was Furious.

12:22 Five minutes later the phone rang again.

12:27 And my mother told it was her brother calling again. So don't bother me. Don't bother me anymore. I told you she called him several names. I'm sure.

12:43 And so and then she waited around for a call that never came.

12:50 Fortunately for me two weeks later to two weekends later quiet by coincidence and by chance because without that I would not be shooter. My mother was a garden party with her friends and some of the family at the country club in Baroda and that's where my father played golf often and she saw him out there with his golf club walking around and she marched up to him and he she said you said you were going to call me and he said yes I did and you called me of this another time and was from a firm that they agreed to to get married and

13:44 All lives of 52 years of their life that they live as husband and wife very happily every 10th of every month. My father would bring a special offering to celebrate the temps, very sweet. Yes, and that very sweet guy, but he didn't frighten her off. I mean or she didn't frighten him off. I should say she did because he didn't he didn't he didn't call at 2. Like he said he would very punctual right, right.

14:25 So were there any jokes to tell on my mother used to tell us a joke or two? It wasn't just your brother at the time that she was. I think it's genetic. I think so too because I don't know it really is. My mother was the daughter of of French.

14:51 Descendants of a French family

14:54 And a Spanish from Spain mother trying to sing. The French. This is a this could be a family Legend the Frenchman whose name was.

15:09 Pierre rack Dooby Doo

15:13 Is supposed to have that would be my great great grandfather and he's supposed to have been of French mineralogical engineer who helped Ferdinand de lesseps build the Suez Canal and then when that was finished they came over to start work on the Panama Canal towards the turn of the century and after 2 years that French company failed because you know the climate in the technology and yellow fever and malaria killed about 10,000 people. So he stayed in Panama.

15:59 At that time Panama was part of Columbia and then he came over and settled in mediation. And that's where she married my my great-great-grandmother know the thing about the jokes. Is that the French man whose name was David do was his mother was the baroness. So we'd the vast size and from the device and family. I have records going back all the way to 1614, but the name of the vessel.

16:43 Is

16:46 Is the sort of mix-up of a of a French word signals that means to make fun to play games and to make fun of people. So when I say my mother making jokes all the time is genetic and it can go back all the way to the first. The first barrels of that name who was a prankster or a joker. So that's what I'm putting it up because all of my uncles and my cousin and some of my children are also great jokesters and holsters and pranksters. I think it's due to the first Court Jester in the family.

17:36 But there were there were some jokes at Pizza Pizza used to tell cuz she was in you remember one of them. Well, I guess

17:48 When when you wear around? Yes, I remember one. Okay, because when when they would come and visit us in California

18:02 It's my mother wanted to play with her grandchildren. She was delighted but her hurting Jewish was very weak around the knees. Do you know she's never did masterit and 1 time with you and Robert and I don't know who else you were playing cards and Robert came and told me Mom a pita is she cheating she would want to win that every game so she probably she was cheating. So I went and whispered in her ear.

18:45 You know, you better stop cheating because the kids are noticing she loved and stiff. No no, no. No Robert came and told me Mom Noah Pizza is cussing because she told him for you. Tell your mother. I am shiting. I do not shoot I do not have to shit. Why should I have to do that's about the extent of her though. I don't remember her speaking English at all.

19:28 I don't ever remember being able to talk to her because she was more comfortable in my father was absolutely impeccable Spanish. So the Spanish that she was able to develop and be so articulate without a trace of a gringo accent or anything like that. My father was in the British diplomatic service.

19:53 And since my mother was not an English woman. She did not ship her children away to boarding school at the age of 5. I don't come back until you're a human being 17 and she kept us with him. So my sister and I we went to school in Columbia. We went to school in England and then we went with them wherever my father was posted and we lived in Brazil and Spain.

20:29 Ian friends in Turkey

20:34 And then they sent him to be the British Council in Los Angeles and it was while he was in Los Angeles that all of you kids were around. All right, but but they did ship you off to boarding school when you were fourteen. I was fifteen right and I must have been a pain in the ass because this is yeah. I think my mother had that done enough of me, you know teenagers, you know in Shakespeare's day the word teens, you know what it means the word teen and

21:15 In Shakespeare's day, it means grief and I didn't yes. I think it's in Romeo and Juliet. I have so much teen they don't mean somebody that's it for certain age. So much grief is what it meant. So I don't know when we changed it into a number before the team, but that didn't work out. So tell us about that. I said what has happened that was so that was what you were just saying when we already here in the car you were saying that muddy lose your cousin Mary Lou's had said that you came back from boarding school a different person and what tell us about that will when I was experiencing and this 15 we're going back to 1946 England has just six months finished the second world war and the

22:13 The foreign office in London called my father to come because during the War years you stay wherever you were posted yet. They didn't move people around so he's been in all through the whole length of the war and before that he was already in Bogota in the embassy and in the in the January of 1946 the foreign office in London called him to come to England and find out what's going on over there and I still remember the day when my mother was in her bed reading the newspaper and he came in to say goodbye as he's going to the office and and and he told her then that he's going to have to go to England and she says

23:06 Why don't you take Mary and with you and fever in school? She didn't kiss you did really nice. Of course. She did that. Wow. I'm shocked know I would have assumed it would have his British that it was his vocation about this. This is a 15 year old teenager who has never known what it is to make her bed or pick up after herself because the servants are always doing everything and watch this isn't helping the guitar. No, don't get my hands dirty like that and he comes and he drops me off with my grandparents who had just undergone 5 years of the London Blitz and stuff like that and England was still under severe rationing.

24:06 And he dropped me off with them and it was her idea. I don't think he didn't he didn't Factor so many years. He hadn't been to England for almost 20 years. Okay.

24:27 So they enrolled you in what school was the Scandal that you were in the other room and in school that was a girls school that was run by a Swiss Congregation of nuns and 1/2 of the nuns were german-swiss the other we're french-swiss and the other half were Irish. I guess I didn't learn any message either but I learned French and German and a little bit of an Irish accent, isn't it? And

25:09 And he left me there and has he left me as he left me there. He is. He's saying goodbye until he's very stiff and starchy and I suppose your mother told you all about men and I said no.

25:28 What about that just do whatever you want. But whatever you do, never never never marry an Englishman who hasn't been out of England at least four years. Why not? Well, I wondered about that too and and the first day in school and I'm wearing my school tie and my white shirt and not to nitpick called it and there's I'm approaching there was three girls standing over there and an eye over here that they're saying that comes that South American Girl.

26:09 And then

26:12 As I got nearer one of them asked me. Where are you from?

26:18 And I say I said from Colombia vs British Columbia my cousin lives in British Columbia in Canada in South America and South Africa. My grandfather is a missionary in South Africa couldn't get out of the British Empire and then I understood what my father meant because they they had this very narrow view of the world. If it wasn't part of the British Empire doesn't exist and then something very interesting happened this that I would have been like a 9th grade. I would have three years before I graduate from high school.

27:08 But in the school that I was attending involved with that we went to school from 8 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon and half days on Saturdays and I was carrying 12 or 10 or 12 subjects. We weren't there to socialize we were there to learn and when I went to the school in England, I find it. It's like here mad science language arts, social studies and foreign language and PE and I don't know where Pete me comes up and I couldn't make subject. So I was able to finish the three years into and at the end of that I took the bottom was cold in those days the Oxford entrance examination and I passed it and that's equivalent to 2 having finish.

28:08 High school, but by then my father had been transferred to go live in Brazil in Belen dobaara at the mouth of the Amazon and we were there two years and then two years in Salvadoran bhaiya and you've been in baia. What was it you were doing and buy you. Why don't you tell them what couple of you. Because this is not my story is your story about so you were in school there for three years and years only finished three years into and I'm on my way with lived in Brazil and Brazil. I studied and learn Portuguese. Let me stop there because we're was

29:08 Betty at that time your sister she was still in that I have been attending in Bogota after 2 years and 48

29:32 In January 48, I went back to Bogota and I was there for a month and then we all moved to Brazil and that's when when you were saying before that that Mary Lou said that I went to school I went to school in England and I came back a different person. I don't know what it was as she meant that was good or that was bad and we can't ask her anymore. So that's funny because when you were in school in England the girls, they're called you that sells American girl, but when you were going to school in Bogota, didn't they call you bringa?

30:18 Yes, that's yeah, that's um, that's one of the things that I have. My mother was one of

30:30 9 brothers and sisters and that my generation there are 37 of us first gustin's there were right and because I was not a hundred percent Colombian because I have this Gringo Linda because they used to call me or frankly. I always felt what is this? I don't belong here because I'm not a hundred percent and where I sort when I when I went to school in England that then then they would say bro that maybe this is where I belong now, so I come to find out that it's much better to me like a hybrid or like a like a month and have these two different races attached to me there fish nor fowl.

31:30 So let's

31:36 Change the subject and how did you and Papa first meet you tell us about that another?

31:45 50 years ago. It was last December 28th just 50 years ago. I was in Phoenix. Arizona teaching was in call the American Institute for foreign trade Thunderbird field.

32:06 In Arizona

32:09 And it was a graduate school where people would get a bachelor's or a masters in foreign trade.

32:19 And they also had six weeks intensive course that was gold a key man course in which employees of American companies who had a branch abroad somewhere would send one of their employees for those six weeks to learn the language of the place where they were going to be working and living and I was that semester of 50 years ago 1958. I was teaching them that the key man course, it's 8 hours a day for for the six weeks the people who are there they hear nothing but the language that febrero name, they don't speak anything else. They don't hear a word of English. They don't read it's all in The Language by the third week they're having nightmares but there have

33:19 Kingdom in Arabic or in Spanish or in French and when they come out of there they come out without a trace of a of a an accent from another is it's a miraculous but by the same token if you don't go out and start using it as fast as it went in there will come out. So I was teaching that class and the wife of the one of the employees for the 3M Company said to me marry and you know what the next group that comes along. There's a real neat guy. His name is Al McClatchy and he is Peachy.

34:03 Pichi Pichi in those I got stuck to me and I was not teaching the next group, but when that group had been there five out one week already of their six weeks. I have been to go into the cafeteria one day and I sold 12 of them seated around the table.

34:32 And I walked up to the top of the table and not I still there and I said which one of you is out McClatchy because I understand you were Peach and red face at the end of his head and to cut the story short 5 weeks later when he finished his six weeks.

34:57 I left with him and we were married two weeks later in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. And that night. We went to start up married life in Puerto Rico. And what was Christina and Graciela were born in San Juan and then we move back to New York. And you and Robert were born in Long Island. And now that I think of it all four of you are Islanders and and then we came to live in Fullerton and Frank your youngest brother was born in and flirt. So so it was love at first sight and we would have been married.

35:42 50 years last December 28th. Yes, when they wanted me to ask you a question about Monday your granddaughter wanted to ask if she said so that was a quick courtship that we use saying that was 5 weeks from the time you met till the time you married this. So but then they wanted me to ask you about about someone that you would left behind about another man that you had been so tell us about this other man when we wish why not?

36:24 Because when I took that plane without go back to New York, I used the ticket.

36:34 OfferUp for the same airplane makers that Christmas I were supposed to go to to another another town in New York another city in New York to get officially engaged to somebody else.

36:51 And what was his name? But your plans changed real and you know the rest of the story. Yes. We had a very happy life just like my mother and father is amazing and and there's five of you to Bear to Bear proof that we had to happy Merry and so is there anything else you wanted to add?

37:34 No.

37:36 Is there anything else you wanted to talk about? No, I think we're out this time. Right I list. Yes. I wanted to tell a story about you. I don't know when you're worried about me when you were.

37:52 5 years old and it was the time.

37:57 That to go to kindergarten right?

38:02 That summer before the the September where there's school would be beginning for you. You sat on the couch in our living room and talk to yourself to read you really did and so when I went to register you at the Sierra Vista School in Placencia, I talk to mr. Mendel the principal and I said, mr. Mendel Susie already knows how to read and he smiled at me and he said yeah, but she's like that year old kindergarten mothers think their children know how to read he called me a week later.

38:42 And he told me his your daughter doesn't know how to read we're going to give her a whole battery of reading test and she he called me again later. You had tested 4.6. That's 4th grade in the six months.

39:03 Until they moved you out of kindergarten into the first grade and you were on your own.

39:11 And then when you were in the fourth grade I get a notice.

39:17 Susie is reading below grade level so high I hit the roof and I went to the teacher whose name we will not mention either and a nice. It's how can she be reading below grade level in the fourth grade when she did tested for 4.6 in kindergarten? Oh, I didn't know that and what she had done. Have you ever heard her to read know? She said so how did you determine and what she had done she had spread out a whole lot of books on the table because she figured all of you would pick out your reading level of a book and you were always interested in nature and you pick up pick up a picture book that had elephants and tigers and bears on something like that. And that's how she

40:17 Determine very shortly after that you said to me?

40:24 Mom, I want to learn all about animals, but I don't want any teacher to teach it to me. I want to learn it by myself. And and here you are you tell if your cat is always on The Cutting Edge of educational Innovation and that was experimentation. So I'm really grateful that we had an opportunity to spend this time because you have so many wonderful stories to tell and I know most of them I've heard all of these but I am really grateful that we have had this opportunity to actually record them. I have to thank you for making this possible because you made a 48-hour trip just to be here from from where you live in Maine and Bar Harbor Road again tomorrow.