Personal narrative of Joyce Maidenberg
From: Joyce Midenberg (jm)
Medium: Audio tape
Place: Home of Joyce Maidenberg, 910 Berkely Drive, Marion, Indiana 46952
Collected by: Jenny Reto (jr)
00:00 jr: I am Jenny Reto. This is April 29, 1999. This is being recorded at 910 Berkley Drive. I am speaking with Joyce Maidenberg. Please state your name.
jm: My name’s Joyce Maidenberg
jr: Do I have permission to interview you?
jr: Do I have permission to submit this interview to Marion High School?
jr: Do I have permission to submit this interview to the Marion Public Library?
Oral History of Joyce Maidenberg
00:30 jr: Now in 1940 you were getting ready to leave, um, elementary school and go into high school?
jm: Right, right. Mhmm, actually I left elementary school in 1939 when the war broke out in England.
jm: And then, um, I went to, um, junior high high school - the equivalent of the same here, um, that was, uh, boys and girls coed. And, um, I was starting, uh, and then the war really started to involve, uh, people being called out. The teachers, mm, male teachers, all suddenly disappeared. They were even going into the service and, um, then the bombing began. I lived in Bristol, which was quite a large city, and, uh, the bombing started and one night, uh, the Germans flew over and they dropped incendiary bombs, which, um, the burn, they burned the whole of the center city.
jm: And my school was, um, up in flames. It was burned as well, so now then when I was up all night, of course, but when I went to school, uh, the next day, the school was no longer there. We were transferred to, certain classes were transferred to different schools
1:50 jm: and that’s what happened. Then the, uh, bombing became very, very severe, and, um, actually we had a bomb that fell in between our, my house and the house next door. But un . . ., but fortunately it was about ten o’clock in the evening, and we could hear it. We were sitting down between the two houses, and, um, we were very blessed it didn’t go off. It was, um, a time bomb, and we were taken out of the house and, um, evacuated the whole area. And the bomb squad came and eventually, uh, they, um - we were gone for about three or four days. They took the bomb out. They took it away and exploded it, and we were very, very lucky. My mother and father decided then and there that I should be sent out of Bristol, which as I told you was a big city
jm: And I went to stay with an aunt and uncle who lived in the countryside as tiny little village. And there I went to a girls' school. It was completely all girls and, um, it was about three miles away from where I lived and most of the time I would ride a bicycle to school. And, um, when I graduated, came back to Bristol and, uh, everything, um, well, there was a lot of damage. And, um . . .
3:17 jm: Uhh, of course, everything was rationed and, um, I started to work then and I became an apprentice as a hair dresser (laughs).
jm: Can you believe it? And, um, uh, the apprenticeship lasted for about, uh, three or four years. You had to learn a great deal. I really don’t even know if they do anything like this. There was no school involved. You just . . . to a shop, and you learned everything that you could. It was very different then from here,um.
jr: Um, do you remember what the, what the store was called?
jm: Unfortunately I don’t remember the name. Y’know, it was such a long time ago (laughs).
4:03 jm: In the meantime, our synagogue, um, we had, um, I would call it a conservative synagogue. Um, they, we would entertain servicemen during, um, particularly Saturday - it was Sundays - and we would have, uh, tea dances and things like that and the whole of the Jewish community was involved. And any servicemen that could come, they could be Canadian, American, English, whomever, and that’s where, um, I met my first husband. And then he was, uh, then he went to France, and, um, I kept in touch with him. And then he came back to England and was stationed there for a while. And, um, then the war ended and, of course, he came back to America and, um, finished his schooling. And then in a couple of years, we kept in touch, and I came over to marry him.
Um, my first husband and I were married in Brooklyn, and we lived in Brooklyn for five years. He was a social worker at a county hospital there and then was transferred to Northport Long Island to a Veterans Administration Hospital. And we lived in Long Island for five years. And, uh, two of the children were born in, in the New York area. Then we, um, he was offered a position of chief of social service at the VA hospital in Marion, and, uh, that’s how we ended up coming here. That was in 1957, and, um, he was chief. He, uh, went, uh, David was born here, and, uh, we, we stayed in Marion. He was, uh, very involved civilly. He was president of the, um, YMCA; um, he worked at a health clinic. He did many things. Uh, uh, he just was very involved here.
6:21 jr: Um, okay, well, during the war what did you guys do to keep people’s spirits up? - because I know I'd be really scared if there were . . .
jm: Well, we were frightened. Every time the sirens went, we had to -really we had, um, air raid shelters that we built in the garden with the - and they put grass over the tops so it just looked like a hill in the garden. Um, and we would go underground like rabbits and light candles under there because everything was a blackout. And, um, we were sick of these shelters, but the air raid sirens went so often you finally got to the point that we just didn’t go in them anymore. We stayed in the house. We got underneath the stairs and, of course, in school. Um, actually most of the air raids took place at night so we were at home.
jm: Um, people still they went to the movies a great deal so that they knew what was going on. In those days, uh, never even showed two full length films but they would show, um, newscasts of everything that was going on so we were aware of what was happening the rest, in the rest of the world
jr: So it would kind of be the equivalent of news and TV today?
jm: Similar, right, uh huh. It would be 15, 20 minutes of different things that were happening all over the country, the world and that sort of thing that brought it. But, um, everyone went to the films, the theatre.
Um, what else did we do? We had bicycles, and everyone went biking. You’d go out into the countryside and we lived, uh, right close to, uh, um, a beach area and, um, we’d ride our bikes there.
Um, there was a lot of dancing, ballroom dancing, and, um, I took lessons with my brothers and a whole group of, uh, young people. We go dancing together in the evenings or tea dances. A tea dances is like when you’d have tea and they’d play music and you’d dance at the same time.
Um, what else can I say. That was really all we did. I mean we played games at home; um, we’d play a lot of cards . . .
jm: . . . playing cards, that sort of thing, um, dominoes and things like that but actually, uh, um, at night, of course, we didn’t have television so we listened to the radio.
jr: To the radio?
jm: Right, and phonograph records. We used it that way. I belonged to a Jewish youth group, and we would get together and play tennis, um, things like that
9:08 jr: Um, was it, was it more difficult for you being Jewish rather than, just rather than not being Jewish and living during the time?
jm: Actually not. Um, I didn’t run into any, um, anti-Semitism.
jm: Actually, in Bristol there was not a very large Jewish community, quite small, but again - like the one in Marion - they were very closeknit.
jm: And we would spend a lot of time, uh, at each other’s homes, uh, visiting each other and, um, that was, uh, I mean, there was no petrol around to run us around. Most of us didn’t have cars anyway, uh, during the war, and we didn’t travel very much after the war. Um, uh, I went to London. I would visit different places like that but I didn’t get to Europe. While I was still living in America, in England, until I returned afterwards, two years later.
10:08 jr: So what was what was the change like to go from living in England all your life to living in Marion, Indiana?
jm: Brooklyn? Oh, to Marion, Indiana? Well . . .
jr: Or just into America in general?
jm: Into America, it was, it was quite, um, a culture shock moving here, especially to Brooklyn, um, but the people were very, very friendly. And, um, of course, I missed my family, um, but you had so much here. Remember we had had rationings for years and years and years. Even after the war, we still were rationing, but, of course, my mother did all that. One thing you’ll be interested in, Jenny, um, I didn’t practice cooking because I couldn’t. We . . .
jm: . . . couldn’t afford for me to ruin anything.
jm: (laughs) And there were times, of course, we had no gas, no electricity, and my mother would, uh, have to cook on a - we had coal, uh, stove - and my mother had to cook food that way. Um, we were rationing. We lived in an area where lots of little shops and we lived next door to a, um, we called it "green grocery shop" where they sold just vegetables and fruits. And, um, every once in a while we were fortunate enough to get some oranges or bananas, which were very scarce. And, uh, we’d hear the doorbell ring, and we’d find a little bag of something inside our door. So we really did appreciate food, that sort of thing - fruits. Um, there was not enough rationing to do very much baking and so, uh, um, we were short of everything. So when I came to America, you can imagine when I passed a bakery . . . there was so much food . . .
jm: . . . everywhere. And, um, I, I, I should tell you but I arrived on a ship. I went to San Hempton. I was on the ship for 10 days to come over here. The ship broke down. It landed, and we got here. Uh, my future husband, Abe Zukkerman, um, met me, of course, and the first thing he did was take me to a Jewish delicatessen. You’ve been to those, haven’t you?
jm: And he bought me a corn beef sandwich, which I, it was so much meat in this corn beef sandwich that I, it was something I, we would eat in a whole week.
jm: The whole, the whole family would eat. I couldn’t eat it all. I mean it was just too much. I would just say there was just an overabundance of everything. I mean our clothing had been rationed so, um, here we came to stores where everything was free. I mean no rationing needed so that this was really something. Um, everything was so big here.
jm: (laughs) Wherever we went, eveything was so big. Actually my sister-in-law put it in a good way. She said, "Not only is a, is everything so big here, but, uh, even the potato chips." I mean, they didn’t have those in England.
jm: (Laughs) Um, so, um, well, then I learned to drive over here. Of course, we had a car, um.
13:30 jr: Um, so when you came to Marion, what kind of different things did you do then?
jm: All right. Well, Marion was so completely different than New York, of course.
jm: It was, um, I was, everything was on a much slower pace, you know, everything. And, um, again people were very friendly. Uh, I got involved with the, um, schools. I was secretary of the PTO, PTA. That, um, we, um, did a lot of things with various people from the Veterans Administration, and, um, we went to Chicago, which . . .
jr: So you traveled a little bit more then?
jm: We traveled much more, yes, and from then on, yes, uh, huh . . .
14:27 jr: Um, did you have, you had people like family members in the war?
jm: Mhmm, my brother was in the service. My father was, uh, an air raid warden. And he would have to, um, go to a certain office and every evening and then would walk in the neighborhood to make sure there were no lights being shone, that there were blackout curtains, and, of course, if there was an air raid, he would make sure that people went to shelters.
15:00 jr: When you talk about blackout . . .
jm: You're not sure, well, no light was supposed to be shining through any window, uh, during the war.
jm: Everything was complete, was complete. It was a blackout. It was completely dark. And if you were out in the street, you could use a flashlight as long as the light was to help you walk, as long as the light was flashing on the sidewalk, but there were no lights. All the lights were out - no street lights.
jr: So what time, I mean, they didn’t do this during the day? Just what once it got dark outside?
jm: One, it was everything was very dark. As a matter of fact, I think we had blackouts, um, in America in certain areas. I’m not sure where, but, um, they did because they didn’t want the planes to see any lights to, um, y’know, from above so it was very, very dark. A good thing was it gets very dark in the summertime. I mean it’s dark in the summertime late. Uh, it’s still light at 10 o’clock.
jm: So that was fine. Um, we kept busy. I mean, every time the siren went off it was a very frightening experience, and the bombing was very, very - it was horrendous.
jm: It was very, very scary. And, um, when I went into the country to live with my aunt and uncle, they, I think they, uh, just one bomb was dropped, um, a few miles away. But there in the little villages, fortunately there was not any damage - not an awful lot anyway.
17:35 jr: Um, where did your other siblings, where’d they go because you went to live with your aunt and uncle?
jm: They stayed . . . well, my brother was in the service.
jm: And my other brother lived at home, and he helped my father in the air raid as an air raid warden as well. Um, and people just kept going. It’s a, it’s, it was amazing! People helped each other if they were in need. Uh, if somebody had house damage, people pitched in just as you see on a television now. Everyone cared about each other.
jr: Uh huh.
18:12 jm: They would sing songs in the air raid shelters just to, y’know, just to keep up the spirits. Um, I did a lot of reading. You just knew that you had to keep going. When we finally pulled into the harbor in New York - and we all got up very early to see this - and to see the Statue of Liberty. It was absolutely wonderful.
jm: Very, very exciting. And then the immigration people came aboard and checked us all out, and we didn’t have to go through Ellis Island, which they did before the war, years ago, so that was very, very exciting.
19:09 jr: When you were on this ship, were you, were there just people from all over?
jm: All over. Well, a lot of people, um, were coming over to be married. Um, it was called the Marine Marlin, that the ship was called. And there were a lot of people who were coming from New York at the time. Um, after the war they were coming over to relatives from Europe - from, uh, well, from different places - from France and Poland. And they were being sponsored by their relatives in America, and the ship was absolutely packed. Again, um, we're, we're in the ship in a bunk. There were ten of us in one room sharing, y’know. It was like bunks, and actually, uh, again, they, they had so much food.
jm: It’s, it’s just something we were just not used to the quantities of everything. Um, I made friends on the ship, and I am still in touch with, uh, quite a few of them to this day. They went to different parts of America. It’s an amazing country. We, uh, I think it was in the, uh, '70s. We took a whole month and we drove across the country and that’s when you truly do appreciate this wonderful country.
20:43 jm: Have you done that?
jr: No, um ,I’ve been to like New York and stuff like that.
jm: One of these days I hope . . .
jm: I went to L.A. and San Francisco, and on the way back I went to Utah. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip.
21:11 jr: Well, thank you very much.