Interview with Helene Weaver
Broome County Oral History Project
Interview with: Helene Weaver
Interviewed by: Susan Dobandi
Date of Interview: 20 March 1978
Susan: Mrs. Weaver, could you tell us a little something about your early beginnings, your recollection of your childhood, where you were born, what your parents did and that sort of thing?
Helene: Well, I was born in Binghamton on Miles Street in the year of 1897 and a my father and mother parted when I was very young and then he had a business in a what was called Lestershire and a he remarried and I lived with—in Lestershire and I had a stepmother who was very good to me and a all her—she was a family of ten children and a I thought a great deal of my aunts and uncles and my father had a business for a good many years. He had to run a meat market in Johnson—in Lestershire and then it was changed to Johnson City in about 1916 I think. And I left school the third year of high school and went to work in a E-J office and while I was there they changed the name from Lestershire to Johnson City and then they christened a boat down in New York—Johnson City and I was one of the delegates to go. There was a delegate from each department E-J's that was taken and there was the ones by Mr. George F. & Mr. Harry L. took the second ones—the second highest and we went to New York and christened this boat. Had a wonderful time. (chuckle) There was a four of us girls together and we had—we didn't get any sleep all the time we were gone because we were having such a wonderful time and I worked until I was married. Then in 1920 and a we had—we were—we were buying an E-J home and when the home was finished we went housekeeping.
Susan: Do you recall how much you paid for that home?
Helene: $4,000—$4,000 and each month—yes you paid your rent—you paid some on your principal. Well, we—we a lived there 7 years and a my daughter was born in 1927 and in 1928 we sold our home and moved to Binghamton because my husband’s work was in Binghamton then and he had been an E-J worker and then he was working for Crowley Milk Co. is why we moved to Binghamton and he worked there two or three years and then he was—he went to work for Stow Mfg. He worked there ‘til he died in 1955 and a well my father sold his business the year I was married and he retired and he died in 1954. He would have been 83 years old in about two months and he died. (clears throat) Pardon me, then a—and then after my husband died I went to work at the House of the Good Shepherd. I had charge of the dining room and I worked there 4 years and then I retired at 62—and then I was a—they called me in for extra work whenever they needed me and then I knew some different people that they needed some help with meals and I used to go out and help them with their meals and do little things for people and then I took care of my grandson which was—he was born in 1956. I took care of my grandson and did this work and took care of my own home all at the same time and a I had a couple roomers in my home. They helped me with my rent and a then after my grandson was big enough so he could be left—I didn't do that anymore and then about 1965 I stopped doing any work for money and I moved here in the highrise in ‘68 and I got into the—into different things into volunteer work when they started the a Serve the ones that started the volunteer work and I worked for them until the R.S.V.P. took it over and I worked—I worked at the hospital every other week for 7 years and I have worked at the United Way for volunteer work and I have worked for the Office for the Aging and I worked for the A.O.P. Office, The Lawyers Reference and I was a cashier for the nutrition sight at the Y.W. for oh 6 years and a I've had to give it up because I didn't feel able to get back and forth to—to the project and I—the highrise I—I came in here when the apartment was brand new and I have been very happy here and it has given me more a chance to get to meet people and get out to do things and gives me something to occupy my time and help others and a I don't know as I know of anything more that I can tell you unless you have any questions you'd like to ask.
Susan: Mrs. Weaver, could we go back a little bit and a tell us a what life was like in Lestershire when you were a little girl growing up and the changes that you have seen in the community since the early days?
Helene: Well, when I was growing up it was—it's Johnson City now—but it was then Lestershire and I went to the Hudson Street school and I left my third year high school and went to work in E.J. office but when I was small I had cousins and we—we a had a big family and we were always together. The family was always together. We had good times and a if we wanted to amuse ourselves we had popcorn or pulled taffy or—or something like that we would play the piano and sing and we weren't allowed out at night until I think the curfew rang at 9 o'clock and we were supposed to be in by 9 o'clock and I can remember when if I was up to my cousins’ and I didn't get started home quickly enough and the curfew rang I was scared to death for fear the policeman would pick me up (chuckle) but I never did get picked up but a I always tried to be home. My folks were very strict with me and they tried to give me a good home and I had to mind my parents and I was taught that I shouldn't tell stories—tell fibs and not to lie and I should—should be kind to people and well as I say the—the a those times were so different from now I think but we thought nothing of it. I think that we were happier in our younger days than some of the young people now because before they’re 12 years old they've seen and had everything and we didn't. We went gradually getting things and so that when—and when we grew up there was still more things to take up our mind and our time and to for our enjoyment and a I was brought up to go to church and Sunday school and I thought I couldn't ever miss that was—that was one thing I didn't think I could miss prayer meeting or church or anything. I was brought up to live that way and a then when I worked in the E-J office I worked 10 hours a day 5 days a week that was from 7 to 6 and then on Saturday from 7 ‘til 5 and I got $8.50 a week and I thought I was rich (chuckle) and I gave my people $5.00 a week for my room and board and I used to think that well I was being punished that way but as I grew older I realized that my folks wanted me to know the responsibilities of handling money which I am very thankful for now and a I enjoyed working in this office there was about 50 girls in the office where I worked and I had—I did different jobs. I learned different things. I never was a bookkeeper or anything like that but I did—I did filing and I did orders and I did sample work. They made out samples with shoes and a I used to help on the inventory and when the First World War—I went out in the factories and sold Liberty bonds and I did I don't remember how many I sold at the time but I did very well. I did very well at that time.
And a now that I see that E-J's have gone I—I feel very sad at times to think that E-J factories are not working anymore because they did so much for Binghamton, Endicott and Johnson City and a George F. built the libraries and started the libraries and the dinners for people to eat—where they could go eat and they did so much for us and we had our E-J Chorus. I was in that some of the time and a but as I say it makes me feel very sad when I go down to Johnson City which I was down there a couple weeks ago and I see how Johnson City looked it just made me sick. I just said to my sister, “Oh I can't imagine what's ever happened to Johnson City.” But I think it’s just the idea that E-J's have just gone out because the Johnsons are all gone practically and a so though the times have changed so well I'm glad that I'm my younger days were filled with the way they were rather than the times now. I think that my life was—I've had a very sheltered life really because when I hear the things that go on that I never knew existed before and I'm glad that I never did know cause I don't like the thoughts like that (chuckle) so I guess that's about all I can tell you right off hand now of what happened.
Susan: Thank you very much Mrs. Weaver, it's been very nice talking with you.
Helene: Did I do all right?