Interview with Katherine McIntosh and Norma Rydlewski
Interview with Katherine McIntosh and Norma Rydlewski
Interview Date: March 9, 1992

Camera Rolls: 318:12A-15
Sound Rolls: 318:7-8
Interview gathered as part of The Great Depression .
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Katherine McIntosh and Norma Rydlewski , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on March 9, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.

*
INTERVIEW
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[camera roll 318:12A] [sound roll 318:7] [slate marker visible on screen]
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QUESTION 1
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Show 318, take one.

INTERVIEWER:

We're talking to Norma Rydlewski and Katherine McIntosh about their mother and their experiences. I guess what I'd like to get first of all is, starting with you Katherine, I want to get a sense of what kind of woman your mother was. What does it take to live through that?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

My mother was a strong lady, very proud lady. She believed in, "You work for what you get. You're not going to get something for nothing, and always be honest." She loved us children very much,
** of course, as her life can tell. I mean, she raised us all to work, be proud of what you got, and if you can help someone else you do it, not always just for yourself.

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QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

Norma, you were the young child, the baby in the picture, so really this was probably your world, where you grew up. What were your first memories?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

I would say probably my first...I don't remember any part of the picture, but my first memories were probably, I remember being in Shafter. We did live in Shafter for a while and this was probably, maybe I was three. I don't remember the year, but I can remember...we lived in a camp. I think the name was Oblander Camp. Is that right Katherine? It was Oblander Camp, and my first memory is that I had mud in my mouth and my mom is yelling, "Norma! Norma Lee! Norma Lee!" And I remember, "I've got to get this mud out of my mouth because Mom's going to really be upset." She tried to keep us as clean as she could and watch over all of us, so that's my first memory, and from there on in it was kind of fading in, fading out. I suppose most people's memories are, but I remember just moving all the time. We moved. Even as a little child I remember we'd load up and load what we had up: the tent or sometimes just a mattress or whatever we had, and we'd load that up and went to the next camp. But I can remember that being really young, and I remember thinking, "We're not going to be here very long, so we're going to go on down the road."
**

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QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me a little bit about your impressions of your mother during that period.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

I relied on my mom a lot. My dad was around then, but my mom was really the strong one. My mom made the...she didn't say she made the decisions because my dad...in those days the women didn't make the decision. But my mom was the one who went out and found the work. My mom would talk to the farmers and make the arrangements for us to all go work, and then she'd get us together, we'd get up at like four in the morning, we'd all head out to the field. I always considered my mom very, very strong. Looking at her, in the pictures a lot of times she didn't look like a beautiful woman, but she really was. We always thought of her as a very beautiful lady, and she was somewhat plain, but I think the main thing I'm trying to get across is that she was a very strong lady. We really relied on that.
** We knew that when we got up in the morning that there was going to be work, or there was going to be food, and the reason it was going to be there was because my mom was going to see to it that we were going to be able to survive that day.

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QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

Katherine, you were four at this point in 1936, so at what point were you out there helping the family? When your mom would organize the work when did you go out?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

I would say probably as soon as I was able to go down to the fields with our mother. She would have us children, like when Norma was born there was no time. She was pulling Norma on the back of a cotton sack. Or she'd leave us and we'd pick potatoes or vegetables or something. One of the older children was left from the fields to take care of the little ones, and then as soon as we were old enough we would go down through the fields, especially when we'd pick cotton, we would pull the cotton out of the stock, you know the cotton's in the stock, and we would pull it out and lay it in front of her, and as she came along she would put it in. Then we graduated from there. As soon as we got up, say six or seven years old to what you call a gunnysack, which is like what potatoes or onions is in now. Anyway, we would graduate then to that. We got our own sack and we would follow in front of Mom and pick cotton and put in there, and then Mother would put it in to her bag and drag it up to the cotton wagon and weigh it.

[production discussion]

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QUESTION 5
NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Mama was really a strong woman, and what she would do in cotton fields is that she would stuff her cotton sack full. I mean, like, she would weigh up and it would be 80 to 100 pounds. That was a lot, maybe more. As a child I don't remember, but I do remember thinking there would be [unintelligible] when my mom would go to weigh the cotton. I don't know if you've ever seen it, they don't do that anymore, but what you'd have is a long cotton sack that came across your chest like this, and it went out like 50 feet, 75 feet...it might not have been that much but it seemed like it. She'd stuff that cotton in there, and then when it was time she'd shake it down like this, and then you throw it up over your shoulder and you carry that to the wagon. When you get there then you put it on the scales and then my mom would walk up the steps and shake it into the wagon. So she would out pick almost any man in the field. Then she'd go right back, and that night then she'd have to go home and take care of the kids and cook the dinner and wash the clothes. So I always remember thinking of her, "I just wish I could be that strong." But I don't know that we ever accomplished that.

INTERVIEWER:

Let me ask you something else Norma. Obviously your earliest memories are traveling and staying in the fields and helping your mother. Both of you did, the whole family did. As a child, did that make you feel like you had to be really responsible, that you couldn't just go and play, that you really had to help out?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

I think, for my sake, I felt both. I felt responsible, I felt that we had to do what was right. My mom was very strict about things. You had to be real honest. If you ever stole anything you got into lots and lots of trouble. We had plenty of time for playing. Mom saw to it...she was strict but she allowed time for playing, and so if you were sick you weren't expected to work in the field. But I felt like it placed an extra burden on us, and the fact of looking out for the younger kids, it placed an extra burden on us knowing that if we did anything wrong it would reflect back on Mom.

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QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

But what I'm trying to say...maybe Katherine you could answer, is did you have a sense that you really had to contribute, that the whole family was...?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yes, yes.

INTERVIEWER:

Say, "I felt I had to contribute."

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

I felt that I had to contribute, all of us did. That was our way of life. If we wanted anything, of course we all hoped our life would get better, which it did when we got older. Anyway we followed the fields. We knew when we got there...now Mother sent us to school when she could. Now when we lived in Shafter we all went to school. I can remember one place we lived there in Shafter, and then I would say I was about 11 years old, 11, 12, and I can remember Mother used to make sauerkraut. We had a big barrel she'd make pickles in. That's when really I think our life...that's when Mother got tired of traveling so much and moving around so much. So when we left Shafter and came to Modesto, that's when the Hammonds Hospital, they turned it into a state hospital. So Mother went to work out there in the laundry, and she worked out there for oh, what, Norma, about 10 years? Something like that. Then she quit.

INTERVIEWER:

Let's cut.

[production discussion]

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QUESTION 7
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Take two.

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me, Norma, a little bit about, you know you said your mother gave you time to play—OK, that was a false slate. This is a real slate.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Well, our world was, we really didn't have a lot of toys. I don't remember ever having a bicycle in my whole life. In fact, I can ride a bicycle now but I can remember being 12 and I couldn't ride a bicycle because we never had one. Basically when you move every few days you can't take the toys with you, so I remember having almost no toys. But the thing we did have is we made do. Kath and I played jacks and we made our own jacks out of black walnut shells, and we had an old hard baseball that was our ball. So I don't remember having any toys. I must have had dolls, but I really don't remember any. So we just made do with sticks and whatever was in the yard, or you know the rocks and the clods. We made a lot of things out of dirt clods. Other than that I don't remember any toys.

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QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

Katherine, you were mentioning when we were talking earlier about this trunk, about taking the trunk. What was in the trunk?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Our clothes.

INTERVIEWER:

What else?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

That was it. Clothes, and what...valuables we didn't have. Oh, I guess Mother kept papers and stuff like in, but it was mostly clothes. In fact, I remember one time we were living in Firebaugh picking cotton, and Mother had this camp stove sitting on that, and I guess it got hot and she opened the trunk, and when she did everything burned up that was in that trunk. I remember that. I mean, I wasn't very old but I remember that.

INTERVIEWER:

That was a big thing when you don't have hardly anything.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yes, and there was clothes in the other trunk, of course, but in that trunk was what we had. I mean, that was it. I can remember when I got older I used to take care of the other, smaller children then, when the other children got married, and I can remember, we lived in a tent, and I used to take water and sprinkle it on the dirt floor.

[cut]
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QUESTION 9
[change to camera roll 318:13]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Norma and Katherine take 3 three.

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

Katherine, you were going to tell me the story of how you came to be there.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

But I remember, I'd get the dirt floor in the tent so it was almost down to the hard pan, they called it, and we would move, but I kept it clean. It was always nice and clean, and I used to do most of the laundry on the rub board.

INTERVIEWER:

Tell me what you remember about coming to  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] .

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

I don't remember, I don't remember much about it. Like I said when I was younger I think I might have just...

INTERVIEWER:

You were just starting to tell me, though, about how...

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Oh, the story, yes, that I heard. One story was, and the story first was told that Mother was selling the tires off our car to buy food, and my mother denied that. My older brother said that the radiator on our car had blew up, and when this picture was made they, him and I guess my two brothers had gone into town to try to get the radiator welded, and that's what we were doing there. But we were like everyone else. We were looking for work.

INTERVIEWER:

And you were pretty much stuck there until...?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yes. The truth to the story is that's what it was. But when the story first came out they said Mother was selling the tires off her car to buy food for us children, and that was false.

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QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

Let me go back to what you were saying about going to school. Was it real hard to get to school? Did you have a chance to go to school as much as you wanted to when you were a kid?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

I remember going to a lot of one room schoolhouses. I remember doing that.

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QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

How did it feel going to school for a while and then just having to leave and go to another school?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Well, Shafter now, when we were younger and we stayed in Shafter from the time I started the first grade up until we left Shafter there. Like I said I was about twelve—

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

We didn't stay there.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

I know, honey, but we'd go back and forth, you know, but I remember going to the first grade, and the last I remember I think I was in the second grade in Shafter when we left and moved around, and we went back, but not for very long periods of time.

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QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

I mean, did you look at other kids who got to go to the same school every year and think, "Why can't I do it?"

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yes, yes.

INTERVIEWER:

Tell me.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Well, you know other children...in fact Mother used to make homemade buns, and that's what we'd take in for our lunch. When we were stopped somewhere where she had a stove or something to cook on, and we couldn't afford the lunch meat that went in them, so we would mash up potatoes to put in them, and we would take a carrot or celery and we would get to school and pretend, you know, the celery was just as good as the other kids' desert. And the other kids would trade us their sandwiches for our sandwich because it would be those big old homemade buns Mother would make.

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QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

Norma, tell me a little bit, how did it feel not having the same chance to stay.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

It wasn't a very good feeling.

INTERVIEWER:

Start one more time. I'm sorry to interrupt you.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Growing up—

INTERVIEWER:

Start with, "It wasn't a very good feeling."

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

It wasn't a very good feeling to arrive at a new school, because I counted, by the time I was in eighth grade, I might have miscounted but I counted 50 schools. I can remember starting the first grade, not being able to being able to complete that, starting the second. This was real important to us, to try to continue to get an education but unfortunately when you work in the fields they pull you out and you have to be there to pick the fruit. So when you get to school you weren't dressed as well. You might be clean but you weren't dressed very well, and the local people really didn't welcome you because you weren't a taxpayer. Looking back, in my situation, my life now I understand it, but I didn't understand it as a child.
** So your friends were your brothers and sisters, and I think it's really true if you grow up in a large family that you don't always have a lot of extra friends because you have your brothers and sisters to rely on. And we still do that. So I remember arriving at school and being embarrassed; I didn't really want to go because we just never looked as good as some of the kids did, and you'd start, just get in the class, the teachers would start working with you, you'd think you start to get caught up and then they'd yank us out. It wasn't their fault. They had to make a living, but they took us on down the road. Sometimes we'd get in within a month, or we'd wait two months. So it wasn't really very good. A number of us, some of the kids weren't able to finish school. Some of them dropped out very early. A lot of our brothers and sisters, my sisters, a lot of my sisters were married very young because it was like the thing to do. So it was very difficult. It was not something that I remember with any fond memories.

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QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

You talk about not being welcomed at the school because people weren't taxpayers. That's something that grown-ups are concerned about. Would that translate to their kids? Did the kids that lived there think there was something the matter with you?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Oh of course.

INTERVIEWER:

How would they respond?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Oh they just didn't play with you, and I can remember being different places, you know, we were pretty tough kids because we learned to take care of ourselves. Mom taught us one thing: you look out for your brothers and sisters. So what you'd find at the school sometimes they resented you, and they'd find you in the bathroom or they'd find you on the playground and kind of push you around. That didn't work too well with us because we pushed back. But we weren't very big kids, you know, we were small, but we learned to take care of ourselves. But they didn't welcome us, and the teachers weren't really bad because I always strived to learn, and I went back to school in later years and did a lot of different things, but I remember thinking that I very seldom had a teacher who really would sit down with me and say, "You know Norma, if you'd try this," because a number of us were very good in math. All we needed was that little extra pat on the back, little extra help. We really, I can't tell you that we ever got it.

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QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

Katherine, what do you remember about problems at school?

INTERVIEWEE:

Making fun of us, the way we had to dress. Like I said, we were clean, but we had our clothes, we might have one or two dresses. I remember one time I had this pair of brown shoes, and I used to put cardboard in them because they had holes in them, and I polished them shoes, though. The top was all shined, and I had these two dresses, and boy I used to go home and wash them and we didn't have an electric iron. We'd have to heat our ironing on the stove, but I'd iron them and we went to school clean. We were clean. I remember them making fun of us.

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QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

Would people call you "Okies" or what?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Oh yes. All kinds of names. Of course I was red headed, and they called me "Red Headed Peckerwood." And I'd fight back. One time I hit this girl at school. She called me a name, and without thinking I slapped her. So I got a spanking, and then they used a ruler and she hit me on the back of my legs, I told her, I said, "I won't be back tomorrow. When I tell my Mama she won't send me back to this school again." So I went back to school, and I wasn't going back. I thought of everything. "I can't go back after telling that teacher." But I went. I didn't dare ditch school, but it was hard after telling her my Mama won't send me back. But she called me a name and I slapped her.

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QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

The memories of working in the fields and the problems at schools, those are all hard memories. When you think about the good things of that period what comes to mind?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

I don't have no good memories of that period, none whatsoever. Maybe that's why I blocked most of it out of my mind. My two oldest brothers used to sit and tell cute stories, things they did when they were kids. They're the ones we used to really love to listen to. You'd get them two together, they were real close, and you'd get them together and they could tell cute stories, things they'd done, so it was...but as far as myself goes, I have no good memories of it, none at all, none.

INTERVIEWER:

You survived.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Oh, yes. I can remember, too, the last time we left, before we left San Jose and came to Modesto. I was sick. Oh I was about 13, I guess, 12 or 13, about that. They put me in the hospital, almost had dysuria, and they put me in the hospital. I was in there three weeks. Well, during that time Mother moved to Empire, outside of Modesto here, and when they released me from the hospital, they had to get a hold of Mother, and it was about three days later. Mother had to get on the bus from here to come to San Jose to get me, and the doctor came in one day and was teasing. They're going to have to start giving me shots again and find a home for me. I just burst out. It was scary. I thought they'd left me behind.

INTERVIEWER:

That's about the worst.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

I remember little stories, you know, after I got older.

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QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

What about you, Norma? Obviously you were younger, so your experience comes later in the decade. Does it just strike you as a sort of continuous, hard struggle, or were there any...?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

I think its a hard struggle, but I remember some good times. All the brothers and sisters, we all had good times together, and we played together, and Mama was kind of a fun person. She looks very serious, and she was, but she was a good storyteller. We'd go to the movies, and the big thing was when the carnival came to town. You know Mom would load us all up, I don't know how she ever did it, but she'd get us to the carnival. So those things, she tried to incorporate some fun into our lives. In those days, we visited. We had other friends around other areas, and we'd go over and we'd spend the night, and I can remember thinking, we used to sleep on the pallet, which is quilt, and everybody had quilts. So we'd go to peoples' houses, and that was a big treat, to go to someone's house and sleep on the pallet that night. The grown ups would visit. Nobody drank, and I don't even know if anybody smoked much, they couldn't afford it. So it was just fun for the kids. We'd go out and we'd play kick the can. I remember playing kick the can and hide-and-go-seek and simple games, because we didn't have any toys so we relied on each other. So that's about what he had.

[roll out]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, yeah, we're going to change.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

We're real talkers here Michael.

INTERVIEWER:

That, that's good.

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QUESTION 19
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 318:14] [change to sound roll 318:08]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Roll three, take four.

INTERVIEWER:

When, before we were talking, before we did the interview, we were talking about when things finally got better. When did things get better in your family's life?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

I think they got better around probably in the early '40s, not until the war came. Our life just continued the way it was, and by that time a lot of people were getting settled in and, you know, up and down San Joaquin Valley people were settling in. But in our case, it didn't seem to get much better until maybe the early '40s. And my dad worked for one of the shipyards for a short while, and then my mom got out of the fields finally and got into working as a waitress and cook. She was very good, she was very quick with her hands, very hard working, long hours, so that was a way that she made her living. And then in later years she, when we finally moved to Stanislaus County in Modesto, she went to work for a state hospital, it was a psychiatric hospital here in Modesto, and so that was a real step up for her since she had very little education, but what she did have was a lot of hard work that she knew how to work.

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QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

Well, I'm wondering, before the war came and things got better, you know when you live your life you just live everyday and it goes on and on, but did your mother or did all of you have a sense that things would get better eventually, or did you know if it was always going to be like that?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Oh no, we always thought it would get better. My mom really, I can't, my... would, would get discouraged, but she never really gave up hope. And I think that she left us with that legacy, because we don't, we've always felt things would get better, but you're going to have to work for it, you know. You just can't sit down and think that somebody's going to hand you something, and she always told us that. And what she did give us was the, was that, "Just keep working, just keep plugging away, you'll finally get there," and that was her theory. And up until she died, I mean even after she was too old to work in the restaurant, she'd go out and she'd try to get a job, and she'd get very discouraged when no one wanted to hire her if she was too old. So in even later years, even when she was in her 60s, she even opened a small, she opened a small restaurant, did things like that. So she tried really hard, she never gave up until the day she died. Even then she always talked about getting a part time job, she didn't, but if someone would have hired her she would have gone and worked.

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QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

Well, but I guess, let me ask Katherine, your mom believed things would get better if you just worked and kept on going, but what do you think would have happened if the war hadn't come along? Would it just have been more of the same?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Well, I think mother was getting to the point to where she was tired. She was tired of moving, pulling us children around. She told me [sic] step-dad that she wasn't going to, this life couldn't keep up, she was going to find something, and like she did. She came here to Stanislaus county, went to work at the state hospital, and she told him, "That's it, we're not going no more." And, which they did after that for a short while, but she just, she made up her mind.

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QUESTION 22
INTERVIEWER:

Did she have a sense that she wanted something better for her kids?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Oh yes, yes. She was very proud of all of us, very proud of us.

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QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

Tell me, let's move a bit to the period, I know it's a sad time, when your mom was sick and finally someone in the family decided to ask for help from the public.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yes.

INTERVIEWER:

Talk to me a little about that.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Well, when mother first got sick, like Norma said, she was diagnosed with this colon cancer about two years before and my older sister knew this, but mother wouldn't let my sister tell us. My older sister kept trying to get her to go back to the doctor and she kept saying, "No, I'm OK. That doctor doesn't know what he's talking about." So she began to lose her, in other words, she'd be walking or something and she got to where, which was 'cause I guess in the veins in her neck clogging up, and she'd go to talk and like, she'd lose her speech, and her leg would give out.

INTERVIEWER:

Excuse me, I don't want to interrupt you, but what I was really interested in getting you to talk to me a little bit about was the kind of response when someone in the family finally decided to ask for help.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Well, that's when after she got, after...she went in the hospital and they did the surgery, and she, the blood clot went to the brain and paralyzed her. And of course we couldn't keep her in the hospitals, and none of us could take her home at that time because all of us was, we had family, we all had to work. And at that time we had her in a rest home here in Modesto, and we felt that she wasn't getting the care she needed. And we each one of us would, we didn't want to tell the other one, we all felt like we'd let her down putting her in that rest home in the first place. And then so finally my brother's wife suggested they take mother home, because my brother owned a business.

INTERVIEWER:

And was it them that made the suggestion to ask for help or...?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Don't do that. We can't, that's a family thing.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

No, no, no.

INTERVIEWER:

No, but I'm just, what I'm really interested in is not the dynamics, but really—

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

OK.

INTERVIEWER:

—the kinds of stuff you were telling me about, the kind—

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

There was—

INTERVIEWER:

You, I mean you thought people might help, but something else happened entirely.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Yes, well, there was a decision made, my, my mother needed round-the-clock nursing, and there wasn't really funds available to keep around-the-clock nursing, so the decision was made to, and the people were asking what's going on with mom, the decision was made that it would be televised that my mom was in this condition. So, when the news went out across the country...there was a lot of money that came in, sometimes fifty cents, sometimes a dollar. With every contribution that came in there was a little note, you'd see a little note sometimes just written on paper from paper sack, you know. And, but people would say, "This is all I have to give you. I'll send you some more money next month when I get my check." So, there wasn't, it was like people were just, no one, everyone remembered my mother. It really came as a shock to all the kids, I just couldn't imagine this could happen. There was some controversy over even doing this because my mom always taught us, "You just don't ask for help, you just do it yourself." After it was done, looking back on it, it was a very good thing to do because it shared my mom with the nation and it was an amazing thing. We'd just have hundreds of letters, my brother has them, and hundreds of letters with notes saying, "This is all I can afford, but you give me such inspiration. Your picture, I've looked at your picture, and I've been so inspired by your story, and we hope this will help, and take care of your mother. That's the right thing to do, to take care of your mother." And that didn't really help a lot because by that time there really wasn't any help. But the money was spent for around the clock nursing and later there was a lot of funds left which went to the hospice.

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QUESTION 24
INTERVIEWER:

Did you have any sense before that happened how important she was to people?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

No, no we knew that the picture was important, and we knew that, you know, we'd been contacted by different people and we'd seen it in magazines, in magazine and in the newspapers periodically if something came up, but we never really knew how my mom affected the nation. In other words, this picture, had people just looked upon it or is it just an inspiration for their life, how bad...I've had my own kids say, I'd say, "You know, I don't think I'd have gotten through that except I thought about Grandma," and that made a difference.

INTERVIEWER:

It's almost like she represented that whole generation.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Right, that's the way we felt about it, you know, being able to just keep going when things were so bad, but you know that you had to, there wasn't, you couldn't sit down and give up so you just kept going. And I think there's a lot of people who felt that way, but you know, for some reason this picture seems to project that.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

During that era there was a lot of people gave up their kids for adoption, you know, I saw it, and they, they couldn't take care of them so they just left 'em, you know, or take 'em and walk off and leave 'em because they couldn't take care of 'em. But mother didn't, she held us together and...

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QUESTION 25
INTERVIEWER:

Somebody told me that the people that ran out of energy and hope just died during that period, that they—

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yes.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

That's true.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

And a lot of mothers—

INTERVIEWER:

And that it was a choice between living and dying, and you didn't believe you could do it.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

My mother, like I said, a lot of women just gave their children up. They didn't, and she was pregnant for me when my dad died, and she went to work and supported us. And she said when my father died, they said he died of...asthma, but I think it was just hard work, you know, he was sick. But anyway, she, they'd taken everything she had and burnt it up out in the front yard. I mean everything. Blankets—

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Well, you supposedly had 'something" disease that—

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

—mattresses, yeah they thought asthma, well, it wasn't asthma then, TB, they said.

INTERVIEWER:

Well, there's that other thing called valley fever that a lot of people would get.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Oh, that's true, isn't it?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yeah.

INTERVIEWER:

That's like TB, that was real common.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

They burnt up her bed clothes, her blankets, you know, everything she had for us.

INTERVIEWER:

How did the, I guess, do you want to stop for a minute?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Mmm.

INTERVIEWER:

Let's, let's stop.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

It's real hard.

INTERVIEWER:

It is.

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

It's real hard—

[cut]
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QUESTION 26
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 318:15]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Take five up.

[slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

I just have a couple more questions to finish this stuff up. I'm trying to get a sense for both of you, maybe starting with Katherine, when you look back over that period, how did it change you? What really stays with you from that experience?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

To make sure, hopefully it never happens again, you know. But I feel if it does that, oh, I think I'll get through it, you know, I'll find something. I know when the plant here in Modesto closed where I'd worked at so many years it was scary because of my age. But I went out, as soon as I found out they were closing I had a job. In fact, I left there and went to—I had another job before I quit there and left there. A lot of people, they're still out there looking for work, and they're a lot younger than I was. But I think it reflects back to my mother, you know. You don't quit a job unless you have another one.

INTERVIEWER:

But I mean, it wasn't just you. It was millions of people in that situation.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yes, yes.

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QUESTION 27
INTERVIEWER:

Did the country change because of living through that?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

In some respects yes, I believe so. But like again, it's scary. It really is. If a depression would hit again, you stop to think, you don't know what the people would do. The work isn't out there. Everything is so automated. In fact, I even see the industry that I'm in now, there's a lot of automation that's eliminating a lot of people's jobs. It's scary, you know, during this...

INTERVIEWER:

I'm trying to get a sense of whether this country learned anything from going through that, or would we go through it all again, make the same mistakes?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Oh, well, I think myself, I'm a Democratic all the way, and I think we need a Democratic president in there myself.

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QUESTION 28
INTERVIEWER:

What do you think about the experience looking back on it?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

Well, I do think, looking back on the experience, I think we learned something from it. I think, however, had the War not come along I'm not so sure what would have happened. I think the saving grace was the War, which is unfortunate, but that's the truth. I do feel that, I can't ever see it happening in that sense again, but I think that the people, we would never go that far again. I think that we're in a position now that we know better. We have some safeguards. I think we have some safeguards that we didn't have then.

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QUESTION 29
INTERVIEWER:

The reason we're talking to you is because most people have forgotten what it was like. I mean, you're talking to the younger generation about what that was, so that they don't have to go through it. What do you tell them?

NORMA RYDLEWSKI:

I would tell them to remember that, if you have a job appreciate it. Strive a littler harder. I mean, show up a little early. Work a little harder. Also, I would tell you that, it's cliché, but there's no free rides. Another thing I firmly believe in, although I don't belong to one, I firmly believe in unions, and I'm going to tell you why: because we're seeing more and more unions go down the hill, and you look around you. In our own valley here we see a great deal that people are not able to get a job or they're working for $5 an hour, and if your rent is $500 a month, you can't live on five dollars an hour. So people need to look around. You don't just worry about yourself. Worry about the other guy. One thing Mom taught us is that, one of the things that she was involved in is that she was an early union organizer. Katherine remembers that more than I do, but remembers having meetings when we were living even in the fields. Mom was real interested in that because that was our ticket out, to organize the unions. I do feel, like a lot of people felt, the unions probably went too far. Now the pendulum needs to swing back. We need to get some common sense about this. But if we give up on the unions I do think that we're going to be in this situation.

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QUESTION 30
INTERVIEWER:

I didn't know your Mom had been involved in organizing. Tell me a little bit about that Katherine.

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Well, I don't really remember too much.

INTERVIEWER:

Did she tell you anything about why she got involved with the unions?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

For better money, better pay. In other words, I can remember, as I've said before, we had meetings. And then, if they knew you were trying to start a union you'd get hurt. So there were meetings in our home trying to organize unions.

INTERVIEWER:

People had a sense that it might help?

KATHERINE MCINTOSH:

Yes, yes. The same way with this one guy for the farm labor workers. They have better benefits now, more protected and everything. I'm like Norma on the union. I think the union isn't strong anymore because people won't fight for their rights anymore. There's too many people that will cross the picket line. There is too many people crossing the picket line to work now, and someone fighting for better wages. And yet, after they get the better wages half the people that crossed the picket line, its for their benefit too. Until they put a stop to that the union isn't going to get any stronger.

INTERVIEWER:

Can we stop for a second?

[production discussion]

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QUESTION 31
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Take six up.

INTERVIEWER:

I think we're about done, actually. What I'd like to do, I need to take a picture of just you looking at me.

[production discussion]

[end of interview]