Personal narrative of Jane Miltenberger
From: Jane Miltenberger (jm)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: Wednesday, April 28, 1999
Place: Home of Jane Miltenberger, 1003 W Ninth Street, Marion, Indiana, 46952
Collected by: Lindsay Fernandes (lf)
00:00 lf: I am Lindsay Fernandes. This is Wednesday, April 28, 1999. This is being recorded at 1003 W Ninth Street. I am speaking with Jane Miltenberger. Please state your name.
jm: Jane Miltenberger.
lf: And I am Lindsay Fernandes.
lf: Do I have permission to interview you?
lf: Do I have permission to submit this interview to the Marion Public Library?
jm: Yes, you do.
00:30 lf: What was everyday life like in the 1940s for you?
jm: Well, my childhood was a lot of fun, a lot of play. Mother was home. My father was a fireman. And we, the neighborhood children and I, played. We just had, um, a lot of fun. It was a happy childhood. We, um, uh, the neighbors, we would get together in the evening at one of the neighbors’ homes and sing. The mother would play the piano and we would sing or we’d go in the back yard and play croquet. It, as I, um, it just was a happy childhood.
01:10 lf: Did you feel that you had enough money when you were a child?
jm: I grew up, uh, we were poor, and it was during the depression, the latter part of the depression. Everyone was poor. I didn’t think we were poor, but I guess we, we had enough food. Uh, we, we did have, um, uh, what we called tramps and hoboes that were men that were out of work that would come to the back door that we would feed. Mother always fed them. And, uh, but I’m sure everyone was poor, but we didn’t consider ourselves poor.
01:50 lf: When you went to Marion High School, what was it like?
jm: I went to Marion High School when it was on Nelson Street. I graduated, uh, there. Um, I think there was around two hundred in my graduating class, which at that time was considered pretty good size. Um, we had good teachers. They were strict. Um, I had, we had good times. I worked, um, in the office on my, um, study hall periods. I usually helped in the Dean's office, and that was fun.
lf: And what did you do for fun your high school years?
jm: Well, in that time at Marion High School we had a lot of dances. We had dances at the, um, YM, the old YMCA that is, is, uh, no longer there. And, uh, the music was at that time the big bands so everybody danced, and, in fact, we would dance in the gym at noon time. If we got back before we had to go to class at lunch, we would dance. And, and the ball games, the basketball, the same things that kids do now, and we had, um, uh, what we call the Easter Parade, which, uh, we crowned a Easter Queen, as a, from the high school, and that was the big event of the year.
lf: You talked of the Easter Pageant, could you explain more about that?
jm: This was, this was the Easter Parade. This was the Easter Parade. This was a high school fun show. It wasn’t, uh, the Easter Pageant. It had nothing to do with the religious, uh, side of it, but it was called the Easter Pageant [Parade]. And all the students got together and, if you could do this or that, you were, uh, in it. And the groups would get together and form dances, and we would do our little dance out there. And, and like I say, there was a Queen and her court. It was, I suppose you could call it sort of like, uh, you had the Homecoming Queen now, is that right? Well, we had our Easter Parade Queen.
04:10 lf: I see, O.K., and what kind of jobs did you have during that time?
jm: Well, of course that was during, uh, WWII when I was in high school, and everyone worked. I worked, uh, at the catsup factory, which was Snider’s Birds Eye Catsup Factory. I worked there summers. That was out off of Home Avenue (dog bark), off of Lincoln Boulevard on Home Avenue. I think it’s just a storage area now. And, uh, that was, uh, during the war and, uh, in fact, they would have, uh, they would bring in German prisoners to work there, too. Now, I don’t know where the German, or where their camp was, but they would bus in the German prisoners and, uh, they would do part of the work at the factory. Of course, soup was a big item you had to have for all the men overseas, and so everyone worked. 'Cause the men were gone, the women worked. My mother had her first job outside the home during WWII, and she worked out there also.
05:20 lf: And during WWII, what was Marion like?
jm: Um, well, we had sugar rationing. We had gasoline rationing. We had meat rationing. And, um, uh, it was just a busy place. Like I say, all the women went to work. The men were drafted or enlisted so, uh, uh, you didn’t, uh, you just had to go in and fill out, in for the men.
And if, course this was before nylon hose. We had silk hose, and they were very scarce during the war because the silk went into, to, uh, parachutes and what not. So if we ever saw - there was a hosiery store downtown on the square - and if we ever saw a line there, we said, "Oh, they’ve got a supply of silk hose." So we’d always get in the line and, and try to get some of them.
And then, um, we had blackouts. Uh, that’s what they were called 'cause, uh, we didn’t know who was going to bomb us. We, we didn’t know, uh, when Pearl Harbor, when they struck on Pearl Harbor. Uh, they just made everybody afraid. We didn’t know where they might strike next. But, uh, so we would have blackouts and everybody had to turn out all their lights and, and had, uh, block captains that would go around and make sure you had your lights off. I, I, course that wouldn’t do any good now with the, the smart bombs and everything they have, but that was so the airplanes wouldn’t see the town. You know, it’s all blacked out.
There was a lot, the, uh, and then there was, um, of course, everything aluminum went to the war.
Or, uh, and there was, um, the big motto, "Uncle Sam wants you" so you, the men, all, all left.
And they, um, there were, we sold, there were a lot of, um, war bonds sold. And people would come to town. In fact, did you ever hear of Abbot and Costello?
jm: They came to town and they were on the courthouse square selling war bonds and they’d put on a show and they were fun. And, and everybody - you only had quarter a week, and school, or a dime - you bought stamps and filled your book. And then when they got the book filled, you had a war bond. So, everybody contributed what they could to the war effort.
08:00 lf: What was the attitude toward women and in general?
jm: Well, before the war (laughs), the war I’m calling WWII, um, women married, had babies, and stayed home. That was just, if you went to college, you were either a teacher, a nurse, that was just about it for women. Or, uh, now when I graduated, I graduated from high school with a, a office work. It from high school so, so I went to work in the offices after I graduated from high school. And, um, uh, that was just the way it was. Nobody bothered to argue the point, you know, should I do this. But during the war, like I said, the women just went to work in the factories. They built airplanes. They built, you’ve heard [of] Rosie the Riveter. That’s where that got started. And I think from that day on the women had found they could do it. I mean it (laughs). But up until that point, I think, it just was expected that you got married, stayed home, and raised your family. And that’s what I have always done, and I’ve never regretted it at all. But, uh, it’s a different time now. Women can do whatever they want to do, and I’m for them.
09:10 lf: Do you remember your first television?
jm: Well, we didn’t get our first television 'til 1951. Uh, up until then, when I was growing up, it was our radio. That was the, put your ear to the radio. But, yes, that was after, I, uh, I was married, and, uh, we had our, uh, oldest son. 'Course our youngest son wasn’t born 'til 1952, and he never was, remembers being without television, but it was an old black, it was black and white and the little screen and we, and it was so snowy. You’d think, "Oh, I think I see something there." It was, the reception was so bad. But we were thrilled. We thought it was wonderful.
10:10 lf: How did your music career take off?
jm: Well, it really, I started taking, uh, piano lessons when I was about eight years old. (Max, her husband, comes in the door.) And I took them 'til I was about eighteen. And it, it’s just, um, something that I like to do, and I play whenever I get a chance. And through high school, I did a lot of, uh, uh, accompanying the band members that wanted to do solos - I would do that - and / or play at something at high school. But, uh, it’s just been something I like to do.
10:40 lf: Did you meet your husband during the 1940s or . . .
jm: No, well, I met him in the late 1940s. I did not know him during the war. 'Course he’s from Wabash County, and he was a sailor. He went in the navy. And I didn’t know him then 'til he got out of the navy. And we got married in 1949.
11:00 lf: Do you have any other stories you would like to share about the depression or family life or anything like that?
jm: Oh, well, it just, uh, I did, we took dance lessons. Everybody wanted to be Shirley Temple. You know Shirley Temple? Well, she’s a little, uh, I think a little younger than I am. But when, uh, we were young, we took my brother and sister - now my brother, uh, and sister were older - and we all took dance lessons. And we, uh, had little costumes. We had, our dance teacher would put on shows, and we would dance and, and have a good time. And, um, uh, none of us turned out to be Shirley Temple, but I think it was good training. I was about four of five when we started taking dance lessons. And I’ve, uh, um, long forgotten all the tap steps and all, but it, it was good training I think.
And I did want to tell you about my brother if that’s all right. Uh, he joined, uh, after, uh, Pearl Harbor day. He, um, went right, he was, uh, working downtown, and he right away joined the air force. And he ended up being what they called a bombardier navigator. He graduated from both schools. And he flew the, uh, out of England. He was stationed in England.
And he was, his airplane was shot down over Europe, and he was taken prisoner by the Germans. (husband dialing phone) And he was a prisoner of the war for about fifteen months, 'til the end of the war, uh, uh. (husband talking on the phone) And, uh, the, he was in a prison camp in northern Germany. And, um, uh, when the Russians came through, they liberated him. And he, he was not treated too well. He had a lot, he had a lot of stories. He had since died of, of heart problems. But, uh, he had a lot, they weren’t too nice to him, but, uh, he survived. He lost some, some friends in the, uh, when the airplane crashed. They didn’t all get out, but he got out. But they all didn’t. But, uh, he was, uh, he, I don’t know how many missions he flew, but he flew quite a few missions over Germany before they were shot down.
lf: Was your family really relieved when he came home?
jm: Oh yes. Yes, he, he was the oldest and the, uh, uh, 'course the, the big brother. And, um, yes, my father had been ill for years but he, he, um, managed to make it 'til, he was going to make it 'til, um, my brother got home and he did. But, uh, uh, he, Joe, my brother - Joe Stuart was his name - um, married and had a family, but he died when he was fifty-two. But, uh, but we always thought it was probably something that, that, from the prison camp. He didn’t get the right food and all of that. But, uh, he, he was the idol of the family. (laughs)
15:00 lf: Well, that is all I have.
lf: So, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule.
jm: All right, I don’t know if I gave you anything to work with or not, but . . .
lf: Yes, you did. It was wonderful.
15:20 jm: Um, like I say, my childhood was so happy, with, uh, growing up in the neighborhood, and the kids don’t have that today. We had the freedom. After school I had to come home and practice the piano. That was the first thing I had to do, for an hour every day. And then I was free to play and do whatever I wanted 'til dinner time. Then it was do your homework. (laughs) But, uh, uh, it was, it was a good time.
The, the uh, when I was, uh, really young, there weren’t that many automobiles that went up and down our street. I was born in North Marion, and raised in North Marion. And, um, uh, we would play baseball, football, all out in the street, and every once in a while somebody said, "Up, here comes a car," so we all get out of the street. But not like today. You wouldn’t dare do that anymore. But uh, yeah, it was, it was fun. I had loving parents and a good home life.
17:05 lf: Ok, thank you.
jm: I think I’ve talked enough now. (laughs)
lf: (laughs) Thank you so much.
17:15 jm: Oh, yes.