Duluth, MN Duluth, MN
Duluth, MN Duluth, MN

Bob & Patti, Duluth, MN - married 1956

During my college years in St. Paul, Minnesota, when friends and I would travel up to the northern part of the state, we would stop at the Duluth home of my friend Brian Turner’s parents, Bob and Patti.  Bob, a teacher at Duluth Central High School, usually sat in his armchair, smoking his pipe and reading his newspaper, only occasionally breaking his contented silence with a pithy word or two.  Patti, on the other hand, was usually in motion, making sure that we were well provisioned for whatever adventures we had in mind.

Two decades later, when I arranged to visit them for this project, I found few changes.  Both of them looking as youthful as I remembered them, Bob had a newer chair (in which to enjoy his retirement), had given up the pipe and taken up scuba diving; Patti prepared a full lunch to enjoy as we got re-acquainted and set about our interview.



RF:

Why are you married?

Patti:
(After a long pause.)
 Why not?

Bob:
Well, that was the thing to do back in 1956 or 5.

Patti:
Yes.  All of our friends were married.  And you had your families early.  I didn’t worry about an education.

Bob:
No, and mine was pretty much finished by that time.



Bob:
We got married...  then we moved to Virginia, Minnesota; my wife there gave me an ultimatum.

Patti:
Finally.

Bob:
I was into the…  I’m not sure what type of lifestyle you’d call it up there.  It was the ranger lifestyle, as they call it in Minnesota?  Where the men do their thing and the women have to just wait and hope.  That’s pretty much what it was sorta like.

Patti:
Stay home and take care of the kids and…

Bob:
(Pause.) So after six years up there…  (He bursts out laughing.)  …of my selfishness, which I have to agree, I was very selfish back in those days.  And of course, a large part of marriage is the fact that you have to learn to compromise.  And then you have to accept at certain levels that you can’t make some changes in people, but you do.

Patti:
But it was either… leave the range
(Bob laughs.) …or, "you stay, I leave."

RF:
Were you serious about that?

Patti:
Very much so.
 Very much so.  The range people are different people.

Bob:
They have a male attitude.

RF:
So how did that fit into your feelings about marriage at that time?  As a young person?

Patti:
Well, it was a problem.  Well, because of the male thing.  They would go skiing on weekends, and then they would go to this—

Bob:
Bar.

Patti:
Little bar, and play cards all night.  And it got to the point where you get tired of having full responsibility all day long, of kids, and so you just put up with so much, and then you say, "okay, things have to change."  And they did.

Bob:
They did. I had no problem with it.

Patti:
Yup.  Yup.

RF:
Did you
think they were gonna change?

Patti:
No doubt in my—yeah, I really did.

RF:
You didn’t think you were gonna wind up leaving.

Patti:
No.  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.  In those years, you worked it out.  You didn’t necessarily say, "well, it’s so hard here, but things have to be better here."  Because they really aren’t.  And when you have nothing, you know, when you’re depending on two people, it makes a big difference.  I mean, I had no education, there was no place for me to go.  Except home.  Never would have happened. (She laughs.)

Bob:
It’s one of those things, when you’re a 22-, 23-year-old male, particularly back in the ‘50s, you don’t realize what to expect to start with.  When you are suddenly becoming…
a husband.  And shortly after that, having a child.  At that age, it’s total naiveté.



Bob:
I enjoy people contact basically when it’s my choice.  I enjoy time by myself.  For either reading, or out at the cabin watching the birds and the animal life, or whatever.  Just not thinking, if nothing else.  Conversations, I find, are
necessary for many people because we are afraid.  We fear that losing contact, because we don’t feel that we’re strong enough to be by ourselves.  So we go out and we find things to do with people, and be with people.  And I don’t need that kind of stuff.  Whereas Patti enjoys people.  She talks on the phone for—ahem…  (Laughter.)   My idea of a phone conversation is about thirty seconds or less.

Bob & PattiRF:
Tell me how you handle disagreements.

Bob:
Well, that’s simple.  Patti’s a saint.  There’s no doubt about it, see.  So whatever she says goes.  
(He laughs.)

Patti:
There’s no… he will not, he will not argue.

Bob:
We don’t argue.

Patti:
No.  He will not do it.

Bob:
We’ve never argued.  That I can think.  I just walk away.

Patti:
He just won’t.  And as far as disciplining the kids, I can remember twice.  That he really disciplined the kids.  He just sorta left it—

Bob:
Put the responsibility on you.

Patti:
Yes.  But.   But you never challenged what I did, either.

Bob:
No.  What you said went.

Patti:
Yes.

Bob:
(Laughs.)  If my wife’s not happy, I’m not happy.

Patti:
Nobody’s
happy.  If I’m not happy, he’s not happy.

Bob:
It’s that simple.

Patti:
So he makes darn sure that I’m happy.



RF:
How do you define a marriage?

Bob:
Well, being the heterosexual that I basically am, I consider it between a man and woman, as the first priority.  Nowadays, in our modern generation, I’m not sure what some people would call marriage.  After that, you need certain things in common.  Then it’s a matter of time passing, and evolution
(he laughs.) and compromising, and feeling each other out and learning a little bit about it.  You don’t want to get too much into the psychology of things, but—how much does one understand one’s own self  sometimes, let along even pretending  that you can comprehend another human being?  We’d all like to maybe look back and have done some things different, but fortunately, as far as I’m concerned, things have worked out so well that I’m… ecstatic.   (Laughs.)

Patti:
That’s true.

Bob:
And it’s basically because of your patience early in our marriage, and one of those things, and—

Patti:
You get the rewards at the end.

Bob:
That’s for sure.  It’s been great.

Patti:
Mm-hmm.

Bob:
How many people, particularly health-wise, can start scuba diving at the age of 67?

Patti:
I enjoy having him scuba diving.  And being home.  (They laugh.)  So I can do my thing.  See, when he’s gone, then I do my thing.

RF:
Which is?

Patti:
Putting my pajamas on, maybe at 4:00, and sitting in front of the TV with my crafts.  Or going out to lunch with my friends.

Bob:
Pure excitement reigns in our house.

Patti:
Pure excitement, yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.



RF:
Let’s talk about the institution of marriage in America a little bit.  How do you see the institution faring these days?

Bob:
Well, I think that the main thing is that—maybe I’m wrong, but I think that the young people today want everything now.  So that means that if they
do marry, they both have to work.  To accrue the monies that are necessary for whatever their so-called wants and desires are.  So instead of being able to say, looking back and saying, "well, I spent 10-15 years to get to the point where I can now do the following," I feel that that’s happening a little more.   And I’m still of the dinosaur age where I feel that it’s the male’s responsibility to take care of the family financially.  And however well or poor that is, that’s the way it’s gonna be.  The young women nowadays, of course, won’t appear to agree with that adage anymore.  So they go out and have to fulfill themselves, in work.  And of course, they—I don’t know—they don’t consider householding being work anymore or something.  I don’t know what that is. I would think the greatest challenge for a woman is the family.

Patti:
And I would think it’s hard to start having your family so late in life.  We were so lucky to have our children when we were young.  When you start a family at—

Bob:
Forty…

Patti:
Forty years old…  Boy, that is not an easy thing.  It is not going to be easy for them at 65 to be still rearing children.  But you don’t know that until you’ve experienced that.

Bob:
No.  No.  We’ve always said if we had to it all over again, we’d do the same thing.

Patti:
(Overlapping.)
 Do the same thing.

Bob:
Same thing.  Marry young.  Marry young.

Patti:
I think some of these people think it’s so much easier just to call it quits rather than to work on it.  Every little bump in the road; and there are bumps in the road, so you might as well grin and bear it, and get over ‘em.  Yeah.  I sometimes feel for the young people.  Well, because, too, of the stress of two jobs.  When you’re working all day, coming home, and then dealing with families, or whatever—

Bob:
Well, dealing with guilt, I would think, would be a large sense, too, for a female.  I’m not sure if I’m talking on my head or not.  But I would think that women would feel partly—maybe they feel guilty.  Because they’re trying to do two things at once, and they can’t.

Patti:
That I don’t know.

Bob:
I don’t know.  And the mere fact that we’re shipping all of these kids off to somebody else to raise.  That’s totally different.  That was completely foreign back in our years.  Nowadays, it’s an accepted thing.  That you have somebody else raise your child.  Mind-boggling.  Back in my days, the only ones that did that were the extremely wealthy.

Patti:
But then it was somebody coming into your home…

Bob:
Yeah, you had a nanny.

Patti:
But one thing I will say for our young males nowadays.  Boy, they certainly do a lot more, help-wise, (Bob chuckles.) than in our era.  Nowadays, they’ll cook and clean, and take care of kids and change diapers, and that wasn’t necessarily true in our years.

Bob:
No.

Patti:
And I think that’s wonderful.  I think it’s wonderful.

Bob:
Our society is to the point where it’s… on the lip.  Of going down.  Rise and fall of empires.

Patti:
It’s gonna be interesting in the next, let’s say, ten years.  Reading on a Sunday paper: how many 50-year wedding announcements are there?  You’re not gonna hit that.  We feel we are a minority.  We look at our friends.  Lot of ‘em are in their second or third marriages.  You know?  I think we are really a minority.

RF:
What do you see as the future of the institution of marriage?

Patti:
Well, it’s gonna be fine.  Marriage is gonna be around for ever.

Bob:
You’re an optimist.

Patti:
I certainly am.  It’s going to be fine.

RF:
And as a legal institution?  Is it still necessary to have that marriage certificate?

Bob:
Apparently not.  Since the legislators are making new laws continually to adapt to same-sex marriages, and so on.
(Laughs.)

Patti:
But you know, you wonder about the kids.  I know it’s hard on some of the kids that are from divorced families, single parent families.  Okay.  So how are the kids treated, say, if they’re a child of people that aren’t married?  That are just living together?  And I don’t know that.  Are they treated any differently, or is it just sort of matter-of-fact?