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 Hitlers 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.
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.
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 shouldnt call it the olden days -- couples, even if they
didnt get along, stayed together for the sake of the children;
I dont think that was always very wise. If two people really
cant get along, why drag it on? Finish. Finish it up,
and thats it. Its probably hard on children, but if
a marriage isnt any good, children feel that too. And they
Today we live in a different
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. Its less of a commitment; its
almost a business deal. And if it doesnt work out, you quit.
Like today, people dont stay on their jobs for extended numbers
of years. If you are many years on a job, they wonder, whats
wrong with them? They couldnt 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.
Do you think marriage
is still necessary?
I think so. I think
so. Its... I dont know how to explain that. Its
Our first meal, we had
to eat on the ironing board. We were waiting for the kitchen table
to be delivered. Thats how we started
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.
Of course, now the law
has been turned upside down. We cant eat without the television
on. We have a little set in the kitchen.
Its not an easy
thing to talk about, to discuss. I dont know, its so
many years, and so many things have happened; and you lose track of time.
All of a sudden its 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, thats the most important
thing in life, really. So well see how far we can go.