Sisters, OR Sisters, OR
Sisters, OR Sisters, OR

Sid & Harriet, Sisters, OR - married 1939

In the spring of 2002, I was awarded a writing residency at Caldera, a remote artist community 17 miles from the central Oregon town of Sisters (pop. 911—a number I was seeking respite from at the time).  Craig Eisenbeis, a local writer who had published an article mentioning my visit to the region, offered his parents, Sid and Harriet, as potential subjects when I got to town.

Both only children descended from Northwest pioneer stock, Sid is a retired oil executive and Harriet a retired teacher.  Their home sits on a two-acre lot full of Ponderosa pine and ancient juniper trees, and abundant bird and animal life give a constant show outside their picture window.



RF:
Why are you married?

Harriet:
Well, when we got married, goodness… everybody was getting married, whether you really wanted to or not.  Quite a few of my friends just decided that—they’ve usually stayed with ‘em, even so—but everybody, it was just the thing you just did.

RF:
It’s interesting that, whether it was something you really wanted or not, it still stuck.

Harriet:
More so than now, yeah.

Sid:
Well, my interest in what I was doing, aside from my work, was around the home; the family; the social activities; and those all come with marriage, to me.  A single person… those just aren’t really available, in the same sense—

Harriet:
No.

Sid:
—that they are when you’re married.  It’s a whole different life.  I just wanted those things.  And I got ‘em.  It’s as simple as that. We got married right out of University of Washington.  We just sort of matched up for each other.

RF:
Had you been in relationships before?

Sid:
No…

Harriet:
Nobody I  wanted to marry.

Sid:
We both belonged to a fraternity and sorority, and I met her at a fraternity dance.  And just hit it off, real good.  And we’ve been good ever since.  There wasn’t a big wedding.

Harriet:
No, and in those days, they weren’t weddings like they are now, and I never wanted one anyway.

Sid:
It was just a family wedding, in Seattle, at the University.  We came down to Portland, where we rented an apartment; where I was working.  I went to work for Chevron right out of school, in 1937.

RF:
Then children came along?

Sid:
Well, Craig was our only natural son.  After that, she couldn’t have any more kids.  So then we adopted a daughter.

Harriet:
Of course, having the war going on did not assist getting a family right away.

Sid:
No, ‘cause we hadda go to war for three years.

Harriet:
Yeah.

Sid:
I went to work for the Coast Guard.  I went overseas with the 7th Fleet. General Macarthur’s command.  And was there for quite a while, while Macarthur went back to the Philippine Islands.  We were in several invasions, and so forth.  Especially the Leyte Gulf and the Philippine Sea.

RF:
Harriet, were you teaching school during that time?

Harriet:
Yeah.  I think living through the war like we did makes a difference.  Because we were separated for… quite a while.

Sid:
Almost three years.

Harriet:
It makes you just kind of glad to settle down, you know, get back on an even keel.  Perhaps you overlook more things, I don’t know.  But I do think it makes a difference.  And we were very glad when it was over.  We had rented a house in Portland, while we were gone, and sublet it.  We bought it after the war.

Sid:
I was able to avoid going to San Francisco, where I could have gone…

Harriet:
(Laughs.)  Yes.

Sid:
and probably should have, but that’s fine—‘cause I enjoyed it more where I was.

Harriet:
Maybe we could have made more money someplace, but… it’s fine.  We were always comfortable.

Sid:
I was more interested in my family, and living where I wanted to, than I was in getting to be a big shot.  However, I did fine and worked there for about 40 years.  I worked in Accounting for a long time and then she got to teaching school in Lake Oswego, and we raised our family there.  She taught kindergarten half a day for twenty years while I worked there.  I have a hard time explaining anything that’s unusual about our marriage, or why we did this or that, because it just fell into place.  And it’s just natural, and it’s been fine from the beginning.

Sid & HarrietHarriet:
He’s been exactly like I like.  I’ve never regretted marrying him.  And I could have married some other people, too!

RF:
Had some other offers?

Harriet:
(Laughing.)  Before, yes. But not after.

RF:
Can you describe a little bit about what it is that you like?

Harriet:
Well, I could stand a little more… what?

Sid:
I could be much more… oh… outward-going, and—

Harriet:
I’ve never been overwhelmed with gifts, and that sort of thing.

Sid:
I could never be particularly interested in giving her presents and things like that.  And I still am not.  I just say, whenever she wants to get anything, "get it." And she does.  It’s as simple as that.  She had to adjust to me in that respect.  Because I wasn’t a person who’d shower her with jewelry, and flowers and all that kind of stuff.

Harriet:
I just got used to it in time.  Didn’t bother me.


RF:
What would you say is the purpose of marriage, and has that changed?

Harriet:
Well, it’s certainly a background to work from.  Towards what you wanna be, and somebody that helps you.

Sid:
I don’t think people today look at marriage, on the whole, quite the same as we did, many long years, sixty-some years ago.

Harriet:
Ha, ha.  No.

Sid:
And they don’t have the same values, all of society has changed so much.  And their opinions and interests and everything have changed with it.  It’s understandable; in some ways it’s very good, and in some ways it isn’t  so good.  The sense of home values is being lost.  Compared to the way it used to be.  And things that’re being developed around home, and your children, and raising your family right… they just don’t do it the same way they used to do it.  Little things.  The thing that they’re losing  is the sense of family unity.  We talk about the families nowadays having so much more available to them to do, and diversified activities... that weren’t around when we were young.  When you get all that and put it together, it ends up with a different perspective of life than the way we used to have it.  And in some ways, we don’t think it’s so good.  But then, life has to go on, and has to always keep changing.  And that’s what it’s doin’.

RF:
Do you think marriage is still necessary?

Sid:
Most certainly is. A country like this is—

Harriet:
When you get old.

Sid:
—really founded, and based, on marriages.  Families.  When you have a free society.

RF:
Well, there’s alternative families now.  There’s different kinds of families.

Harriet:
Yeah.

Sid:
Yeah.

Harriet:
Well, I think that’s fine if it works, you know.  But some people just can’t stick with anybody, you know.

RF:
And you think having the institution of marriage remain intact helps that sticking process?

Harriet:
Yes.  People don’t always expect to stay married.  We did.  I never thought of getting a divorce…  Maybe he  did sometime... (laughs.)

Sid:
No, I never did.

RF:
Why do you think that this change has taken place?

Sid:
It’s because we were brought up that way.

Harriet:
Yeah.

Sid:
In stable families.

Harriet:
Yeah.

Sid:
We didn’t even think  of things like that.  When we got married, we intended to stay that way, and we did, and we liked  it.  That’s why we’re not too good of a subject for some of the stuff you’re asking, because it was so simple.  There’s nothing to talk about. (Harriet laughs.)