Bronx, NY

Jacques & Jean, Bronx, NY - married 1949

A friend who teaches a drawing class at the YM-YWHA Senior Center in Riverdale invited me to speak to his class about my project.  Among them was a polite, well-groomed gentleman named Jacques.  A German-born Jew educated in France, Jacques fled Hitler’s aggression and returned to fight as an American soldier in World War II (he was wounded and captured at the Battle of the Bulge).  He and his wife, Jean, who had also fled Europe before the war, met in the United States and married.  He spent 37 years as the head of foodservice operations at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx before retiring in 1991.  They have two children.


Jacques:
My family originally came from Germany, and we lived on the French-German border.  On the German side of the Rhine, in southern Germany.  When Hitler came, we moved to France... and I served a brief stretch in the French army when the war broke out.  I came over here in 1941, and I joined the American army in ‘43, and went to Europe and saw battle there, and I was an American prisoner of war in Germany, and I came back, and I got a job and eventually got married.

Jean:
It was the thing to do.  Get married.  I think everybody at that point wanted to be married and eventually raise a family.  And become Americanized, so to speak.

You know, in the olden days -- I shouldn’t call it the olden days -- couples, even if they didn’t get along, stayed together for the sake of the children;  I don’t think that was always very wise.  If two people really can’t get along, why drag it on?  Finish.  Finish it up, and that’s it.  It’s probably hard on children, but if a marriage isn’t any good, children feel that too.  And they suffer.

Jacques:
Today we live in a different culture.

Jean:
Different.  Altogether different.

Jacques:
There are many other things in our daily lives have changed compared to fifty years ago.  And this is one of them.  Marriage is today a different institution than it was fifty years ago.  It’s less of a commitment; it’s almost a business deal.  And if it doesn’t work out, you quit.  Like today, people don’t stay on their jobs for extended numbers of years.  If you are many years on a job, they wonder, “what’s wrong with them?  They couldn’t find anything better?”  I see today young people -- especially in the technology field -- after four or five years, they change jobs.  And this is also reflected in the establishment of marriage.

RF:
Do you think marriage is still necessary?

Jean:
I think so.  I think so.  It’s... I don’t know how to explain that.  It’s not freelancing.


Jacques:
Our first meal, we had to eat on the ironing board.  We were waiting for the kitchen table to be delivered.  That’s how we started…  We always eat dinner together.  Even when the children were growing up.  We always ate dinner together.  But now, today I see our younger families, they come home at different times, and they eat at different times.  When we lived together and our children were grown, we always ate dinner together, and no television.  The television was turned off while we ate.

Jean:
Of course, now the law has been turned upside down.  We can’t eat without the television on.  We have a little set in the kitchen.



Jean:
It’s not an easy thing to talk about, to discuss.  I don’t know, it’s so many years, and so many things have happened; and you lose track of time.  All of a sudden it’s 25, 30 years, you see the kids are growing up, they have grown kids.  Where did the time go?  Where did it go?  So we just keep muddling along every day, like we have been doing.  And as long as we stay well, that’s the most important thing in life, really.  So we’ll see how far we can go.

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