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Interview with Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian

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Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian
Interviewed by: Gregory Smaldone
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 4 May 2016
Interview Setting: Binghamton, NY

(Start of Interview I)

GS: This is Gregory Smaldone with the Armenian Oral History project at Binghamton University in Special Collection’s Library. Would you please state your name for the record?

JK: Jerry Kalayjian.

GS: And Jerry what year were you born?

JK: 1934.

GS: Okay, where were you born?

JK: Here in Binghamton, New York.

GS: And you lived here the whole your life?

JK: Except for ten years, yes.

GS: Okay, what was the– what were your parent’s names?

JK: My mother was Siranoosh. She used Sarah. My father was Avak and he used George.

GS: And where were your parents from?

JK: My mother is– was from the city of Sebastia, Sivas in Turkish, and my father was from a small town called Everek which is now called Develi and that is south of Kayseri, modern day Turkey.

GS: When did they come to America?

JK: My dad came in 1913 to avoid conscription. The Young Turks opened up the army to non-Turks and he was smart enough to get out. He was going to go back, but after the genocide there was nothing or anyone to go back to. So he came in 1913. My mother came– she is a survivor of the genocide; young, strong and lucky. She came here in 1921.

GS: Okay, how did she make her way here?

JK: Her step-mother’s brother, who was living in Philadelphia sponsored my mother, her sister, her step-mother, her step-mother’s sister and a woman who ended up becoming Mr. Gebegian’s wife, it is the gentleman who was in Philadelphia who sponsored the five of them to get them over to this country. And he did not have the money. He had to beg, borrow and steal the money, and the way it worked is when– if somebody came over and got married, the new husband would pay back the cost of bringing the woman from– wherever she came from, you know, to this country.

GS: So, it was pretty common for people to have wives brought over?

JK: Yes, potential wives, yes absolutely.

GS: Was it, like the whole system of arranged marriages or was it just– culturally accepted that marriages were arranged and individuals were all practicing this?

JK: Well, there was no such thing as we know here of meeting, dating, falling in love and getting married. Marriages were always arranged. Some of them worked out very well, some of them were disasters but divorce did not exist. So you were stuck with one another for life, but the arranged marriage was a very common thing. In fact, it was the only thing as far as I know that existed in the Near and Middle East. You know, so, yeah, there was standard operating procedure.

GS: Was that the case for you and for like your generation?

JK: Oh, no. We did the normal American thing, you know. You met a girl and you dated her and fell in love with her and you married her.

GS: What about your sister?

JK: Ditto, both sisters. I have two, well I had two. We lost Berjouhi a few years ago, unfortunately.

GS: Okay, so you grew up– So, did your parents attend university or high school?

JK: No, my father according to his story, he was ten years old when his father died. And he stopped going to school at the age of ten because he had to go to work to help support the family. My grandfather, my mother’s father had to be a little bit unusual or nuts. He wanted to send all his children, male and female to college, but the genocide ended that for my mother, she was in school in 1915 it was end of her schooling– formal schooling– you know because the genocide started in the spring, so when the school year was over, I should know but I do not remember, May, June they were on the road you know on the march south towards ̶

GS: What did your father do for work in the United States?

JK: I do not know what he did before they came to Binghamton. [phone is ringing] Okay, she has got it. She will not let me turn it down because her hearing is bad, she wears hearing aids, you got to have it up high and I find it, I am going to–

GS: So you were saying about what your father did.

JK: Yeah, I do not know what he did in the early years but the family came here from Phil– I was born here but my sisters were born in Philadelphia. They came here in 1932, I think to Binghamton. And here he worked for Ballard & Ballard Dry Cleaner. He was a presser– pressing cloth and if you have not heard of Ballard & Ballard, it is a Kradjian family and there was the forerunner to Bates Troy, they bought Bates Troy later. And he worked there in the (19)30sand (19)40s. Before that, I know he worked in a coffee house in Troy for a while that his first cousin ran. That’s Troy, New York.

GS: So he worked with the Mr. Kradjian then?

JK: He worked with who I call Uncle Arsham, Uncle Kegham. Yes.

GS: Wow, Ara was actually one of the first people here that I interviewed.

JK: Okay, Ara’s dad and uncle. Yeah, Ara and I grew up together. He is six months or something older than I am.

GS: I love finding the connections now.

JK: Oh, it is just a small community, you know, everybody knew everybody. I will not say everybody was friends with everybody, but everybody knew everybody.

GS: Okay, so– did a lot of Armenian people work at Bates Troy?

JK: I would say several, well your great aunt; her husband was there, John Bogdasarian. My brother in law’s brother, Ed Sareydarian worked there before he went to IBM. My dad, another Uncle Avak Karibyan he left to go on a business for himself. I am sure there is more but you know several Armenians in the community worked for Arsham and Kegham.

GS: Okay, did your, your parents spoke Armenian, obviously?

JK: Yeah, Turkish and English.

GS: Armenian, Turkish and English? Did they speak Armenian in the household, did they speak Armenian to you in the household, did they speak Armenian to you?

JK: Yes.

GS: And so you and your sisters all spoke Armenian?

JK: Yes.

GS: Was it just a product of having them raised in an Armenian household or did you attend Armenian language school?

JK: No, I do not think we had anything like that here. Would have in Philly or New York, but did not have in small city like Binghamton. So, and when we heard Turkish, if our parents wear speaking Turkish it was meant to keep us in the dark. You know, it is none of their business or we do not want them know what we are talking about.

GS: Would you say that you spoke predominantly English or Armenian in the household?

JK: Oh, growing up as a kid, primarily Armenian.

GS: Was it difficult for you to learn English when you went to school or did you have enough English that it was a simple transition?

JK: I did not have a problem because I had two older sisters. I was bilingual but my sisters in Philadelphia did not speak a word of English when they started school and down there, this is back in the (19)20s– no kindergarten– so the age of six started first grade and they were a year a part, thirteen months. So when they started school, you know– foreign world, foreign language.

GS: It must have been scary for them ̶

JK: I am sure difficult.

GS: Did they ever talk to you about it?

JK: Just other than the fact they did not speak English they had difficulties, you know, learning English but at six year old is still pretty good.

GS: Okay, so growing up in the Armenian community here would you say that your friend–

JK: I am sorry–

GS: So I was saying, when you growing up, you say that you mostly socialized with Armenian children or did you also have American friends as well?

JK: I would say– oh god, how do I– maybe fifty-fifty, sixty-forty, American friends along with the Armenian friends.

GS: Were they separate groups or did they intermingle?

JK: No, for the most part separate groups I would think. Yeah, I grew up with a ̶ what I consider an Irish Roman Catholic neighborhood. I was– I did not realize this until I grew up but I was the token Protestant, the token black or person of color. I was the token of a lot of things. Because a lot of blue-eyed blond redheads running around and me.

GS: So, did you, you were raised– so you were a Protestant, you were raised protestant, not Armenian Orthodox?

JK: I have always considered myself a Protestant and my mother considered herself a protestant, my dad probably did not. We went to the Armenian Church but there was no priest. So priest would come in three or four times a year. So maybe we get to church two or three times a year. That’s not a great basis– a foundation. And so we would go, like a lot of Armenian families, to the nearest Protestant Church. So, Baptist church for a while, Methodist church for a while. In fact, I became baptized at Methodist.

GS: Okay, now like you said this was something a lot of other Armenians did. Would the Armenians tend to conglomerate with each other at Baptist or Methodist Church services?

JK: I was probably the only Armenian at the Methodist Church that I was aware of. The Baptist Church, there may have been a family or two. Seems to me the Hakimiyans may have gone there. They were Protestants and they may have gone there. No, there was a lot of congregation but it was social rather than religious that I am aware of.

GS: Okay, um, what other ways did your parents try and make your household Armenian besides just speaking the language?

JK: Well I do not know if there is anything conscious but obviously the language which is a great deal of the culture and the food, you know?

GS: What kinds of food would they make?

JK: Well Armenian food, obviously. They– my mother, my dad did not do any cooking. My mother was a good cook and a great baker and we ate very well primarily because we were poor. I did not realize until I grew up that all the stuff we ate because we were poor is now gourmet food. You know, not much meat, a lot of fruits and vegetables, you know, and all the traditional Armenian cooking and at its best, Near Eastern cooking I think is equal to the best French or Chinese cuisine. I do not think it gets a fair shake, but I am biased.

GS: Fair enough. Now, after you finished– you finished high school, correct?

JK: Yes.

GS: Did you go to college afterwards?

JK: Yes.

GS: Where did you go?

JK: I went to Harper.

GS: You went to Harper College?

JK: Yes.

GS: Wonderful, what was your graduating class, what year?

JK: Well initially, it would have been (19)56 because I started in (19)52 but I left, hung out, worked went into service and then I came back so then my second graduating class would have been (19)62.

GS: Okay. Where did you– what branch of the service were you in?

JK: I was in the air force.

GS: The air force, during the Korean War I believe?

JK: Technically but the war was virtually over by the time I got in. Congress says I am a Korean War veteran and who am I to argue with them. I did have the GI Bill when I came back which helped immensely because I lived at home free room and board for my mother and I took care of everything else.

GS: Were you classmate with George Rejebian?

JK: No, George is– he is my first cousin if you did not know. His mother is my morakuyr.

GS: Morakuyr, can you explain a little bit more?

JK: Morakuyr is my mother’s sister.

GS: Okay.

JK: In Armenian, it is nice because when you talk about an uncle or an aunt, if you use the proper Armenian, you know the relationship.

GS: Morakuyr, I always just said mukur.

JK: No it is morakuyr. Mother’s sister is what you are saying.

GS: We always, I think our family we just kind of squish it together we say mukur, like Alice was mukur Alice–

JK: Okay, okay. But, you know, unlike in English if you say uncle or aunt you do not really know what the relationship is.

GS: Yeah, that is a good linguistic term. It is useful.

JK: But, George is, he is five years older than I am. He will be eighty seven in August.

GS: Yeah, I just interviewed him Monday.

JK: Okay, I was going to ask you if you got to George, all right.

GS: What did you study in college?

JK: I was a History major.

GS: Very nice to hear. I am myself. Um, so, when did you get married?

JK: 1962, September 8, I just had to think for a minute.

GS: So it was after you came back from the service and after you graduated?

JK: Yes, yeah, I did not meet my wife to be until after yeah, until after– definitely after service.

GS: How did you meet her?

JK: I had just come back from a year in Mexico City going to school and I was out on a night in the town and I ran into an old friend and she was with somebody I knew, and there was this other couple and Nancy introduced Annie and I and that was the beginning of the end I guess. And Nancy introduced us several months later a second time. Damn Nancy, and then we started dating and you know one thing led to another and we fell in love.

GS: Now, Annie is not Armenian, correct?

JK: Oh, obviously not, no she is English and Irish.

GS: Now, did you– did your parents ever put any pressure on you to marry an Armenian?

JK: No, but my mother certainly would have appreciated it, and as I told her, you know if I got out of Binghamton, I got to New York or Philly or Boston where there is a ton of Armenians it could happen you know, but we are not in Armenia, we are in the United States. So the odds are not very high.

GS: Did you want to marry an Armenian?

JK: If I had my ̶ sure, you would have– I realize this now, I may not have when I was in my twenties– the more you have in common the easier it is, the odds are better that you are going to have a successful marriage. There are a lot of bumps on the road. I do not care who the hell you are unless you are lying through your teeth. And you know, and they say the more commonality is at the right word you, the chances are that you will make it a little bit easier. We had a lot of problems, obviously most of her personality but because I came from a very different cultural background and my wife did and she quite frankly adapted very, very well or very easily but then our son is blessed– was blessed with two great wonderful magnificent grandmothers and that helped a lot too.

GS: Of course. Um, tell me about your son, when was he born?

JK: He was born 1968.

GS: So not long after you were married?

JK: November 15. Well, six years. [laughs]

GS: Not too long. Now, did you– where was he baptized?

JK: My wife was raised a Roman Catholic and she wanted that, I said fine no problem and the– So he was baptized in a Church that no longer exists I think it was, Oh, God what is the name of it? The Church, the Roman Catholic Church on the circle in Johnson City but it is no longer Roman Catholic Church. It got closed a few years ago and I cannot think the name of it at the moment.

GS: Oh what can you do? Did you speak Armenian to your son when he was growing up?

JK: A little bit, not much.

GS: Did you– why did not you want– did you want to teach him Armenian and it just never materialized or did you make a conscious decision not to, you know, specifically raise him to be bilingual?

JK: No, it would have been very difficult and I am sure it was mostly laziness because my wife Ann suggested I speak to him in Armenian so he could learn the language but it– a lot of it was laziness. And again I never went to school, I cannot read or write a word of Armenian. So the Armenian I knew was what you learn in the home as a child. So at best, it may have been third or fourth grade level and quite frankly now at eighty-two I am forgetting because I do not use it very well once in a while with my sister but you know it is getting lost, let us put it that way. It was at its best when I was in Mexico City because there is a small Armenian community there and I was able to deal with them in Armenian and my generation quite frankly were trilingual. You know anybody went any education spoke Armenian and Spanish of course and English. So it made it easy for a lazy person like me to rely on the English and the Armenian.

GS: So, did you, did you want your son to have a sense of his Armenian– of Armenian identity?

JK: Oh, absolutely, absolutely.

GS: So how did you ̶ how did you managed to instill that?

JK: Well, I do not know if I did anything consciously but just the fact that I am pleased or proud, thankful, I guess, that I am product of two cultures because I think– not because it is the Armenian culture but two cultures I think are advantageous. And it was talked about– the genocide obviously– because my mother was a survivor of the genocide, is very much a part of my life, my existence and the fact that the Turkish government for three generations has denied it happened, plus all the lies and the balderdash. So, you know, it was– and he went to the Armenian Church, you know, on occasion. He went to Sunday school there, you know, my mother would talk to him a little bit in Armenian. He was not interested. Kids are not. You know, once you are inundated and then you do not have a choice, but I have been accused of being an Armenian by non-Armenians and I guess part of me is, you know.

GS: What would you identify yourself as?

JK: Well if anybody asks, I am an Armenian-American or Armenian– a American of Armenian descent.

GS: What would your son say to that same question?

JK: Probably the same thing.

GS: Probably the same thing?

JK: Yeah. He is also fond of his English and Irish side, but you know he is also very aware of the fact that he is of Armenian descent and he carries the surname. You know anybody, you know, look at the name says Oh– You are one of those. [laughs]

GS: So, what was the– how strong was the Armenian community when you were growing up? Did it seem like it was a coherent hold did it have regular meetings? Was there a sense of solidarity?

JK: Well there was– you are probably aware of this–there were two camps. I am born in (19)34 I think in (19)33 unfortunately someone who is a member of the Tashnag camp, or party, killed a Bishop in New York City in the Church–

GS: Let us pause on this, because I wanna get a better graph on this. Can you explain for us what, who the Tashnags are?

JK: Well the Tashnags are a late nineteenth century political party– Armenian political party as are the Hunchaks. They were– both had socialist roots. I do not really know the early differences. I am not that well versed but they were I think kind of friendly until (19)33 when this gentleman killed the Armenian bishop and that created a split among the Armenians. The Tashnags and the Hunchaks, or the pro-Tashnags and the pro-Hunchaks, and it was kind of ridiculous since were are such a small tribe but the sad thing is, that is what is still in existence since today ̶

GS: Even in this community?

JK: It is weakened because well, the old timers are gone and the young timers, the kids they are (19)80s and (19)90s, so it is kind of fading but it was there and I ran into it everywhere I went. You know, I did not run into it in Mexico but that was a very small community.

GS: Where did the Ramgavars fit into this?

JK: That is a third political party I do not know much about them, and seems to me there is another one that I– whose name I cannot think of, but the Hunchaks and the Tashnags are all we– all we heard about here and my parents, thank God, were not political, although my father I think would have probably considered himself a– drawing a blank– not a Tashnag– Hunchaks. But I was probably the only kid who was friends with other kids the other young kids, ten, fifteen years old on both sides, because there was no social interaction.

GS: Really?

JK: They were split, they had– I did not see this obviously, but I was told about it–t hey had fights in the Church, they were literally thrown out, “the Tashnag side,” quote-unquote. You know and it was very, very–

GS: Expelled or just like physically thrown out one time?

JK: Expelled and physically thrown out.

GS: Wow, so there was a period of time when both parties would attend the Church but after that split it was only people who were Hunchaks?

JK: Yeah, and the Hunchaks were primarily–this is probably too simplistic but pro-Russian, pro-Soviet Union because they had allowed a small Armenia to exist. The Armenia’s Soviet Social Republic and the Tashnags were more for free independent Armenian and they were more anti-Soviet, anti-communist, anti-Russian.

GS: They both hated Turkey?

JK: I am sorry?

GS: But they both hated Turkey?

JK: Oh, yes, obviously after the genocide there was no question about that but to stress, it was the Ottoman Turkish Empire, Modern day Turkey which is only a small fraction of the old Empire.

GS: Of course.

JK: But, so, you know, it is and I encounter this every place I went, you know, in the states and it was unfortunate. And I tried when I was seventeen, eighteen, nineteen to try to bring the youth together through the church from the two sides.

GS: How did you try to do that?

JK: Well, we had some kind of a youth group that I was a member of and I do not really remember what we called ourselves and I brought up the fact that it would be nice if we could get the teenagers from the other side with us and vice versa and we could have done it but the adults at the church had their rules and regulations. You had to do this way, that way and the other way. And what they were asking for was capitulation, surrender from the other side and that’s not how you bring people together. And I knew that my friends over there would say, hell no, you know I just wanted to bring us together socially, you know, culturally, call it what you will.

GS: Did you find that the divide had settled or lessened when you came back from the army, the air force rather?

JK: Air force, shame on you! No, not really. No, it was still there and–

GS: But it is relatively gone today you said.

JK: I think so; I do not think anybody thinks much about it. There is still a separation but some of the other side quote-unquote “the Tashnags” will come to the church occasionally. You know, but they are now, they are old people, they are (19)70s and (19)80s and (19)90s. The youngsters obviously the parents are all gone, but you know there is probably some ill will still. I would n0t be surprised.

GS: How do you– so you said that this kind of exists in all Armenian communities that you have been to?

JK: That I have heard of or read about, yes. Overseas and here.

GS: So do you think that the Armenian diaspora is sort of a coherent whole or do you think that there are several this different Diasporas in each community that they exist?

JK: Well, I cannot speak with authority but I am guessing there are various factions, various groups, you know, I am sure it is lessening but, it is still there a great story– I had an uncle who was on the Parish council at St. Peter in Watervliet which is Troy, New York. And the Tashnags’ side, to use that term Antelias, the Hunchaks’ side adheres– follows Etchmiazdin and the other group, the other side is Antelias in Lebanon they had a fire–

GS: These are religious designation, yes?

JK: Well, Antelias is a community in Lebanon ̶

GS: Oh okay.

JK: And Etchmiadzin is outside of Yerevan and it is like the Vatican of the Armenian Church, the Orthodox Church…

GS: That was what my church was, an Etchmiadzin ̶

JK: Yeah, that is you know– and our Catholicos is there, the Armenian Catholicos and he is like a Pope.

GS: Okay, so as you were saying.

JK: Okay, meanwhile back at the range– where the hell was I?
GS: The Etchmiadzin –

JK: The Etchmiadzin where the Catholicos is the head of the Armenian Church. He is the first among the equals because there is a Catholicos in Antelias also but he is–well they are supposed to be equal but Etchmiadzin is the–is like our Pope. The only differences, really is that he is not infallible in matters dealing with the church whereas the Pope is considered infallible in dealings with the Roman Catholic Church.

GS: That was actually how the Bishop of Rome first asserted his authority over the rest of the bishoprics he said “I am the first among equals.”

JK: Ah, okay, I do not think I knew that.

GS: Yeah, it is interesting that we have the Catholicos outside Yerevan use the same term.

JK: Yeah, well I know if he does officially but that’s the way it works out. But any way, Okay, the Antelias, the Tashnag church burns down. Now these people grew up together, so they know each other, and the St. Peters said well you can use our church in the interim, you know, we will make adjustments and arrangements and this went on for a while and everybody was getting along quite well and they had more manpower, more people, and they also realized if they merged and joined, they would have more people and more money and both Parish Councils thought this was a great idea and they were willing to move on in and become one church until it went up to the bishops and the archbishops on both sides who absolutely no way in the blazes would tolerate this–

GS: And this is the Binghamton Parish Council?

JK: No, no. This is Troy. Troy, New York.

GS: This is Troy, New York.

JK: Troy, New York. No, we have only had one church here. But up there, there was a large Armenian community, at least three or four thousand. So they had two churches. And they tried very hard to come together– my generation– and the bishops and the archbishops on both sides would not hear of it. And I call that ego, power, greed but anyway that’s life.

GS: Do you think the Armenian community in Binghamton has gotten stronger or weaker?

JK: Weaker. It is very small. The immigrants are– almost all gone. The only one I can think of is Hagop’s mother and she is in her nineties and her minds is gone. Hagop [Jack] Injajigian you probably, Jack ̶

GS: Yeah, I actually interviewed him as well.

JK: Okay, he– nice, nice, nice young man. Yeah, so you know, it is the community is I think slowly dying out as is the church. And I am not a church goer so I am– I plead guilty.

GS: All right, that is about all the question I had. Thank you very much for your time.

JK: Okay!

(End of Interview I)

Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian
Interviewed by: Aynur de Rouen
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 11 February 2017
Interview Setting: Binghamton University, NY

(Start of Interview II)

AD: Okay, so today, today is February 11, 2017, and I am here with Jerald Kalayjian. We will go ahead and talk about your family history, so can you give me your full name just for the record?

JK: In English it is Jerald Michael Kalayjian. In Armenian, it is Jirayr Michael Kalayjian.

AD: Okay, so who gave you the name?

JK: The American name came from my sisters when I started school.

AD: But originally, your mom or your dad?

JK: No, my mother named me Jirayr, well they agreed which was rare but they named me Jirayr.

AD: So, when were you born?

JK: April 4, 1934.

AD: And where were you born?

JK: Here in Binghamton. It what was then City Hospital.

AD: So, okay. Are you the first generation Armenian, uh, in your family?

JK: Yes, my parents were immigrants.

AD: Okay, so when did they come? Do you know?

JK: My father came in June of 1913. He came to avoid conscription. The young Turks had opened up military to non-Muslims, non-Turks and he was not interested and he came over, I do not know how long a period he was planning on staying. He came to avoid the draft and then he was going to go back. There was nothing to go back to after 1915. So he never went back after the Armenian Genocide. My mother would have never come here. A very comfortable middle class existence in the Sivas/Sebastia in, uh, in modern day Turkey, and because of the genocide, again she was– she had nothing; everything was gone and she was fortunate enough to get to this country and she came in January of 1921, and her comment was I was hungry for over five years and she ate her weight to, she was a little thing, but she ate her weight to a hundred and forty some pounds. So I guess she was a butterball as a young woman but then she lost and got back to her normal weight. [laughs]

AD: So, how did she make it? How did she, you know–

JK: Get here?

AD: What I mean how did she survive the genocide because she was there when it was happening?

JK: She lived through it. I always tried to tell her it was because she was young and strong. I do not mean physically; intestinal fortitude– a very strong woman– and luck. And as much as I have some strong negative feelings about the Turkish government to this day, there were, lack of a better word, righteous Turks, righteous Kurds who helped the survivors. And I am sure most of the survivors without help would not have made it. And to put this in context, if you were caught helping an Armenian as a Turk or a Kurd, you would have been killed and your home would have been burned to the ground. So, you know the people who helped were really risking everything.

AD: Yeah, but, you know, they were living together, let us say their neighborhood, right, they were living together. So then the order came, how can your turn back on your neighbor, your friend of how many years right?

JK: Because your life is on the line and that is scary.

AD: Yeah but I also heard stories that people felt, you know, how cannot I help my friend.

JK: I am sure some of that happened. I know that my mother told me that Turkish friends of her father, my grandfather, came to him and said, you know we are hearing rumors we do not know what but some bad stuff is coming down the road. There is going to be some trouble, some problems, why do not you become a closet Christian, and then your home and your business and your life and your family will go on like nothing is happened. And I would have– being me would have said that sounds very good. He said, no I cannot do that. He paid with his life. I am not sure if it was a smart move. I do not think so.

AD: So, did your mom– so your father does not have an experience of this–

JK: No, his family was killed or was butchered, murdered, whatever you want to call it, but he was in this country. Most of them were in the Ottoman Empire.

AD: Okay, so let me talk to you about your father first, so, the family, his family felt– he was from Sebastia as well?

JK: No, no he was from Averek which is now called Develi. And it is a city when we were there twenty years ago, thirty to thirtyfive thousand, it is south of Kayseri– the city of Kayseri.

AD: Okay, okay the city of Kayseri. So, he just ran away, he did not want to stay and–

JK: He wanted to avoid conscription into the Turkish Army.

AD: Okay. So, was he the only one run–?

JK: From his family?

AD: From his family.

JK: Uh, he had a first cousin who was here before him. Uh, another Kalayjian, it was his mother’s brother’s child. My grandmother, Kalayjian married my grandfather Kalayjian from another– I do not know from where he came or what country, pardon me, what city he came from. So two Kalayjians got married which is interesting. I would love to know more about it, but he had come to this country before. There are few cousins here but I– the only one I knew was his cousin George who, when I knew him, lived in Philadelphia.

AD: Okay.

JK: And he was another fine oud player like my father.

AD: Oh, really?

JK: Oh, yeah, yeah. Good, really. I am not being biased. Excellent musician, not a great father or a great husband but an, an excellent, excellent musician. He played from here. You know he was just– I have his old oud.

AD: Do you have any recordings?

JK: Uh, yes but I have not played them, so I do not know how good or bad they are.

AD: Yeah!

JK: I have them though. I have some tapes and I have some seventy-eight rpms.

AD: Wow! Yeah. So, that is interesting. So, he– so and then he found out that his family was killed during the massacre.

JK: Yeah. I do not know if he knew specifics but obviously the Genocide made headlines in Europe and in North America and the Armenian community would have known about it– certainly–that they were being slaughtered, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. So, I say there was no reason for him to go back. And if he had gone back, he would have been persona non grata because some Armenians did go back and, you know, they realized they were in the wrong place.

AD: Yeah.

JK: Extreme Turkish nationalism.

AD: Oh, yes. So, did he come directly to US or did he–like how did he come here? Did he go anywhere else?

JK: He took–I got to be careful. He got to Konya, took a train from Konya to the coast but I do not know where, got on a boat and came to Ellis Island.

AD: Okay, so, he directly came to US.

JK: As far as I know.

AD: Okay.

JK: Unfortunately, I cannot track him because he came under somebody else’s papers.

AD: Oh!

JK: So, he was one of those illegal immigrants [laughs], and so there is no records of him– his name, I do not know what who he–it was a friend and they obviously look something alike because short dark, stocky [laughs] foreign looking– but he came in somebody else’s papers which makes me think he was very close to I think the age was twenty when they started conscripting, you would know better than I, and he came here in June. He would have turned twenty, if we have the right information, in April, no pardon me, no I guess it would have been, oh! June or July. So he came here right around his birthday.

AD: I see. And then he moved to Binghamton because–

JK: No, he first went to Detroit and worked at Ford for a short time. His cousin George was in Troy, New York at that time. And a cousin died–this is all he ever told me–and he left Ford in Detroit came to Troy for the funeral and stayed. And right at that time Mr. Ford cut the work day and the work week and started paying his employees five dollars a day which was huge money back then.

AD: Okay.

JK: All the– his peers thought Mr. Ford had lost his head but what he was doing was good business. One, he had almost a hundred percent turnover and he wanted to keep his employees. They lasted less than a year. And he wanted his employees to buy Ford automobiles. So he increased the pay, he cut the work week and it was almost a nirvana but my father stayed in Troy his cousin, George, was running a coffee house which you should understand–

AD: Yeah.

JK: And he stayed there worked with them and I am sure they both played the oud there, you know, which I would have loved to have heard and he was in– uh– he was there for a number of years and then at some point they went to Philly, I do not know when they went to Philadelphia, both of them.

AD: Both of them–

JK: Moved to Philadelphia from Troy, New York. And unfortunately he met my mother in Philadelphia.

AD: Unfortunately? [laughs]

JK: Unfortunately, yes. He should have stayed a single man. You know, he was not husband, father, family material. He really was not. And when I told him that when he was in his eighties, he got mad at me, I am telling him the truth [laughs] but they met in Philadelphia. My mother was, unfortunately, a widow with two little girls.

AD: Okay.

JK: And she thought they needed a father, and my dad was, um, personable smooth charming. He was an entertainer, you know, [coughs]. And she bought his song and dance and she married him.

AD: What was his name?

JK: He was Avak Kalayjian. He became a citizen. He worshiped his first cousin who was few years older, and he– I do not know if he was George in Armenian, but he used George. So when my father became a citizen, he became George Avak Kalayjian. He named himself after his first cousin.

AD: Okay.

JK: And they moved to Binghamton in, they got married in (19)31 and they moved to Binghamton– my mother and my father and my two sisters–in (19)32, I think, and then I came along in (19)34.

AD: So, when– what did he do? What was his job before he came?

JK: I do not know what he did before he came here. When he came here, I think he learned the trade– or –profession whatever you call it in Philadelphia he was a pressor, pressor of clothes in a dry cleaner. And he had a job here, you may have heard the name of the Kradjian locally, Uncle Arsham and Uncle Kegham, not related but they are my parent’s generation, and they were–my American friends thought I had a couple of hundred of uncles and aunts. I only had one uncle and aunt but Uncle Arsham and Uncle Kegham offered him a job if he moved to Binghamton. My mother’s sister was here and her husband, and so they moved to Binghamton in thirty-two. He wanted to come here, my mother did because Philadelphia was the big city and this was, I am translating here but this was like the boondocks [laughs] Binghamton, you know a small town, sleepy, out of touch but they came here in thirty-two and we have been here ever since basically.

AD: Okay, so he worked for that–

JK: He worked for Bell and Baylor Dry Cleaners back in the (19)30s and (19)40s.

AD: Okay. Then, did he change his job or he continued?

JK: No, he worked in other places, doing the same thing.

AD: Doing the same thing! Okay, and then, how about your mother? But I need to go back to her story back in Sivas, so her family faced– so is she– who survived in her family?

JK: She, and a– her younger sister, two years younger than her.

AD: And how did they survive? Where did they go?

JK: Well, they were put on the road in the spring of (19)20, pardon me, (19)15. I want to be careful, May or June I am thinking– I am trying to remember what she has told me or what I have read over the years–and they were on the road and I used to hear about her principal, she worshiped her principal Mary Grapheme, and I did not know that until I grew up and did some reading and research that she was truly historical figure. She was the principal of the American Missionary Schools in Sivas/Sebastia. And when the Turkish government, the Ottoman Turkish government said all the Armenians are hitting the road we were relocating them to a safer place which was the deserts of Syria–Dier ez-Zor. She did not want her kids to go and she fought with the government and she lost and she said I am going with them and they said no you are not and she said yes I am. And she went on– went with the Armenians as far as Malatya and at that point the Turkish army put their foot down, and no you are not going any further. So they sent her back to Sebastia or Sivas. And she died and she is buried there. I wish I had known that. If a grave site is available I would have liked to have visited when we were there but she’s in many things if you read about the Genocide, the famous blue book that the English government put out in (19)16, she is one of the major civilian people that are– that is in it.

AD: Yeah.

JK: For some reason my grandfather was not happy with the Armenian schools. So he pulled his kids out and he sent them to the American Missionary Schools. The why, the where for, I do not know, and you know this of course there was no public education. So if anybody got to go to school, it was a private school and it also meant that you had a couple of dollars, a little bit of money because if you did not have any money, you obviously could not pay for the children’s education. And the thing I find fascinating about my grandfather, besides that foolish decision he made to not be a closet Christian, although I do– I have heard tales where people became closet Christians and became Muslims, they converted and they were killed anyway later because they were not trusted. So, you know, who knows but anyway, my grandfather wanted to send all of his children to college, unusual, the boys also the girls–

AD: Wow!

JK: And he– for in education at least he had to be way, way out of his time.

AD: Yes.

JK: But this was his goal. This is what he wanted to do. Obviously my mother’s education was interrupted by the genocide. So from Malatya, I am not sure exactly where they went but I know they ended up in Antep, Gazi Antep for a while and this is all on foot. Then they ended up in Halab [Halep in Turkish], Aleppo Syria today and then Beirut.

AD: That was what I was thinking.

JK: Yeah, and they were in orphanage or orphanage-like certainly in Beirut, I think in Hallab, and perhaps even in Antep but I am not sure my mother unfortunately and I have talked to other people the women especially, but even some of the men, there is no time frame, day, month, year, you know it is all one jumble. Nobody can tell you I was here the summer of (19)15 and I was here the winter of (19)16, you know, we do not know. She was kidnapped once. I cannot remember if it was a Kurd or an Arab now, because she had some interactions with both and my great grandmother who was still alive at this point, they were stopped in a village or a small town and she went looking for her Siranoosh, my mother, walking the streets yelling her name, and would you believe my mother heard her–

AD: Wow!

JK: And responded, the other side of the wall [laughs] and my grandmother found her and– pardon me, my great grandmother, this would be my grandfather’s mother and she convinced the people that she would take care of Siranoosh. They wanted to– she was sick at the time, they wanted to make her better and marry her after their son, and that she would, you know, take care of her, make her better and bring her back. And they bought her story and she took my mother and you know they were together again. It is a bloody miracle. [laughs]

AD: Oh My God, yes it is.

JK: You know, but I do not know one-time grandmother– great grandmother– my great grandmother had to go to the bathroom and she had somebody to keep an eye on my mother and her sister. She went to the bathroom, couple minutes away behind a tree or bush, who knows, came back and my mother’s gone. Somebody had taken her and again she found her. You know, it is–

AD: Very interesting!

JK: You know, my mother saw people, shot, killed like being stabbed, drowned. They were going along the Murat ̶ , Murat river, for quite a while and some of her stories were horrendous just what she saw, you know, and for no reason other that they were not Turks, they were not Muslims, you know, this extreme nationalism which overtook the young Turks unfortunately, but you know they got to Beirut, now they were relatively safe and just my mother and her younger sister are left and her step-mother. My grandmother died shortly after the birth of her fifth child, yeah, and my great grandmother said after a few years, I cannot take care of these kids, I am getting old; you gotta get a wife to my grandfather. So, he saw the logic in this as you know the men would have had nothing to do, nothing to do with raising the children.

AD: Yeah.

JK: And, so he remarried and I just recently found out that my step-grandmother had just given birth, before, just before the march when they had to leave Sebastia/Sivas. I knew she had a baby boy I did not realize it was so soon. So, she was maybe a week from giving birth and that child again died on the march, only a couple of weeks old–

AD: Of course.

JK: So, anyway, they were in the nursing home– they were in the [laughs] I am sorry, in Beirut in the–Aman aman aman [Oh my, oh my, oh my in Armenian and Turkish] ̶ distracted–you are reaching for a word and you cannot come up with it– they were in the–

AD: Orphanage–

JK: Orphanage, thank you, thank you thank you. They were in the orphanage and my step-grandmother had a brother in America, in Philadelphia, and the group at this point; it was my step-grandmother, her sister, my mother, my morakuyr, my mother’s sister Dikranouhi and another woman who was destined to be Mr. Jazvejian in Philadelphian–destined to be his wife. So he arranged to bring the five of them to this country. Now, he did not have any money but the way that was done was that you would beg, borrow or steal the money to bring them over. They are all going to get married obviously and that man who married the women would pay for the journey. So he paid the money back to my uncle Mr. Jazvejian and he would return the money to whoever he had borrowed from. So, he, make a long story short, he brought over four of them. My aunt could not leave Beirut because she had an eye problem. I always get trachoma and glaucoma mixed up, but one of them that would keep you out and the other one you could come in. The one would keep you out. So, she could not come in to Beirut and she stayed there for eight years and my mother and her husband in Philadelphia supported her for that time. They sent I do not know how much but ten or twenty or thirty bucks a month to Beirut so that she could live and do whatever she did.

AD: So, she stayed alone over there, and everybody left? She stayed there.

JK: Well, with other Armenians but not family.

AD: Not family. Huh!

JK: Yeah, not family. And she was there for eight years and finally my mom’s first husband tried to adopt her, you may or may not know this but in (19)23 and (19)24, (19)20-(19)23 and (19)24 the American government basically slammed the gate shut on immigration. They only wanted North Western European stock basically. They did not want Southern Europeans, they did not want Eastern Europeans, they did not want Mediterranean types, they did not want Near Easterners, and they did not want far Easterners. So it became very difficult to get into this country. So he tried to adopt her and he could not do that. And finally what they did is she could come Havana, Cuba. And they found somebody here in Binghamton. And my uncle was admittedly a very good looking man and a successful businessman. He was a shoe repair person but he was one of the old-timers he could make a shoe from scratch, you know, he was good, he was gifted and if you did not believe me, you could ask him, he would tell you [laughs], but he went to Havana, married my aunt and they came back to this country. And that was how she got here. She got here in 1929, is that right. Yeah. (19)28, (19)29 somewhere near.

AD: Okay.

JK: Oh, so that was how they got to this country. And my step-grandmother remarried to a wonderful man and she had three kids and one of them is still around, Uncle Russ is [laughs] four years older than me.

AD: They came here too?

JK: They are in Troy. It is not a blood relationship but it is, you know, my– the only grandparents I had, because two of my grandparents died of natural causes and the other two were killed in the genocide. So I did not have any grandparents except for my step-grandparents in Troy.

AD: Wow! So, so your mother left Beirut, how old was she then? She was so young right?

JK: As far as we have determined she was born in 1902. So she was nineteen or approaching nineteen when she came here.

AD: Okay so where did– so she got married–

JK: In Philadelphian 1921, February 21.

AD: Okay, so she arrived and then she met your father over there?

JK: No, no, no, no Manoushag and Berjouhi’s father.

AD: Oh, wait. So, your mother was married before?

JK: Yes.

AD: So, where did she marry the first time?

JK: That was in Philadelphia in February 1921.

AD: What happened to that man?

JK: He, unfortunately [coughs], excuse me, died of mastoiditis I think in 1929 and of course twenty years later a couple shots of penicillin, and it would have been–

AD: I know.

JK: You know, but that is life. He was by all accounts a good man. My mother said she had eight wonderful years in Philadelphia after the genocide she was, you know, very happy, good family. She was comfortable had more food than she could eat and she after being hungry for over five years, I can understand that if she said they never got meat, the orphans, but the staff would get meat and you could smell the meet cooking but they could not get it. They never got it. This is in Beirut, you know. That was when things were good, for getting on the road, you know, her grandmother, my mother’s grandmother now would swallow the gold and when she had a bowl movement, she would pick the gold out and swallow it again because they were– they had little money when they started, but they were being robbed, you know and they were being sold things at outrageous prices when they could do that. They were kept, really kept, deliberately from food and water. The couple instances where they had bought water in probably the goat skin or in sheep skin bag and the– they were not the army– uh, gendarme, that is French though it is–

AD: Gendarme.

JK: Gendarme, there you go. Gendarme– would come along with a sword or a dagger or something and just slit the bags and the water would be dispersed on the floor, on the ground so they could not be drunk, but my mother told us a great deal. I wish I could remember it all. My father never told us a thing. I did not know anything about his family until the last time I talked to him before he died. I found out he was one of six or seven kids, did not know that. Did not know anything about his family, nothing.

AD: So, after her first husband died, she married your dad–

JK: Two years later, she married my father.

AD: And then she had two children.

JK: She had two daughters, two little girls.

AD: And, what happened to them?

JK: Well, we became a family. We were raised as brothers and sisters; never half-brother, half-sister.

AD: So, how many kids your mom had with your dad?

JK: Just me.

AD: Just you?

JK: Yeah.

AD: Oh, so the sister I met was from the–

JK: First husband; same mother, separate fathers.

AD: Oh, so you were the only child!

JK: Yes, and only because it was a horrible marriage and my mother foolishly thought well maybe if he has a child of his own, you know because they are his step-daughters, if he has a child of his own it will be different. It was not to be–

AD: Was he like having other women, what was–

JK: No, he lived like a single man. Well I do not know if he had other woman, I– possible, I do not know. But he was abusive verbally. I think he could live with that. He was physically abusive.

AD: Oh! To all of you or just your mom?

JK: To my mom, I do not think much to my sisters. No, he probably only– he beat me once, you know, and he loved me in his own way, you know, he until the day died he always kissed me, hello and good-bye on the cheek and I hated it because he was a wet sloppy kisser. [laughs]

AD: But you know people, males kiss each other in Turkey.

JK: Oh, yes, no I had no problem with that, I am a toucher, I am a hugger, I am a kisser. I told my son when he was a little person I said until I die I will hug you and I said if you do not like you– tough get used to it [laughs] and we still hug. He kisses me more than I kiss him. But, yeah, we hug every time we see each other.

AD: Because the Western culture you just shake hands, there is no hugging, kissing.

JK: Yeah, I know. We are getting a little better in this country, a little better.

AD: Yeah, okay, so he just was not around as a dad, husband?

JK: Well, he was– How can I put this? A couple of times I have seen him under the influence of alcohol. When he was drinking, he was the sweetest, gentlest, nicest man. And I told him that, I said you should be drunk all the time. I was, you know, maybe a teenage, ten, twelve, fourteen something like that. He was a wonderful person and that was the real him because I know alcohol does away with the inhibitions and who you are comes out. Many people go the other way; their obnoxious, arrogant SOBs when they are drinking or drunk. But he was, uh, who knows, you know, I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, he was not that nice and he was not as my mother said, I cannot say he was lazy, he was hard-working. He was a gambler, you know. This is the depression when everybody, most everybody is poor, and he might only be gambling a couple of bucks a week but that was an enormous amount of money when you were maybe working for five or six or seven dollars a week. He gambled. My mother was amazing. She could save money out of a penny. So thanks to her we were able to live. You know, there is times now when I remember– realize, occasionally, I am a little kid now, she would not eat–no I am not hungry and sure she was hungry but if she ate there was not enough food for the rest of us. So she did not eat so that we had something to eat. You know, her husband and her children. So we were poor. Thank God, we have come a long ways from that.

AD: Yeah, so your mom did not work?

JK: Not initially. I think it was during the World War II she finally went to work. I was in school and I was, I guess a fairly responsible, yeah I had to grow up faster than a lot of kids. And we grew up faster back then than today. Today’s kids are cuddled until they are thirty or forty [laughs], at least in this country but so she went to work. She worked in a bakery. She worked in a plant that made clothing for the war effort, for the military. She worked in two or three ports in the hospital in the kitchen I think. She did several things.

AD: So, what was the language in your household when you were growing up?

JK: I mean in first, my parents spoke Turkish, unfortunately when they wanted to keep us in the dark. Because I could have learned the third language just as easily as a second language. So when they were speaking Turkish we knew it was something they considered personal, private was none our business. [laughs] You know, so, there were three languages because my sisters are quite a bit older and they were fluent in English. My parents were trilingual but my mother’s English was– got pretty good because she worked outside the home but she refused promotion at work because she would say you know Armenian; in Armenian you say it, you can spell it, she said that does not work in English. I would say no mom English is not a phonetic language, you know and if she wrote something, if you read it out loud, you know exactly what she said but if you did read it out lout, what is this, her spelling was awful. She never went to school in this country.

AD: Turkish also is phonetic language, so she was fluent in two languages that they both are–

JK: And English must be horrible for a non-English speaking person. And my father, his English was not good because he worked too much with Armenians. So he could speak Armenian or Turkish, he did not have to speak English, but yeah once I remember shortly before he died I do not know what it was but he picked up the newspaper and he read a paragraph to me in English, and I said God that is good! Very little accent, I understood every word perfectly, I said I am surprised dad, you know; “what good is this” he said I did not understand a word, “I do not know what I read”. I said– he regretted it later and as he is an old man he said I should have learned English and it was stupid but, you know, that is– sixty years too late.

AD: So, your first language was Armenian?

JK: Probably. Well, my sisters were speaking English and Armenian to me. Because they were eleven and twelve years older than I am.

AD: Okay, so but when you went to school?

JK: I was bilingual.

AD: English took over then?

JK: Even before, because I was– at two or three I would have been outside playing and my American friends all spoke English, you know, so–

AD: You did not have Armenian friends?

JK: Not in the neighborhood, no. Not where I lived. You know, within half a mile or a mile maybe but when you are little kid you do not travel that far.

AD: No, no.

JK: You know, get to be eight or ten years old, then yes you do.

AD: Okay, so were– did you have Armenian friends?

JK: Oh, yes. And they are almost all gone. They are almost all dead.

AD: But you did not just have Armenian friends; you had like American friends and–

JK: Oh, yes.

AD: So, did you know what was Armenian when you were growing up?

JK: Yes, I think so. I am not sure how but just the fact that there is an Armenian community. There is some place to go almost every weekend, you know, and because my father was the fine oud player and entertainer, we were invited everywhere [laughs] because they wanted him come with his oud, of course.

AD: Okay, what kind of music was he playing?

JK: Armenian, Turkish, you know, and I remember I was asked once, this is out of context but, what school was he a Turkish oud player or Arab oud player; and– or the Arab school or the Turkish school. I do not know if I know the difference but I said well, I am assuming Turkish since he grew up in the Ottoman Empire, and you know, modern day Turkey, and he was good. He was very good. I remember once George ̶ who was little younger than me was a fine oud player from Philadelphia and he made the oud a respectable solo instrument which was really great. And he was well educated and he came here to Harpur. This is gotta be in the seventies probably and coincidence my dad and I were both there separately and I saw him and I said what did you think of this guy, and he said I knew his father in Philadelphia, he said he is fine technician, he– but he lacks soul.

AD: Yeah, well that is what makes the music great right. I bet he was playing like classical Turkish music because like really the oud [ud in Turkish, short-neck lute-type, pear-shaped stringed instrument] players– they call them oudee [udi in Turkish], like the one who plays oud like oudee Arak for example.

JK: Because, you know, a lot of folk music, and he played some odds; for the ladies he would play polka’s, so the ladies could dance the polka, now obviously that is not Turkish or Armenian [laughs], but primarily Armenian-Turkish music.

AD: Yeah, was he singing as well, or just playing?

JK: Yes, no he also sang, he was a heavy smoker, and I never, to this day I do not really like Near Eastern singing because, there is usually the nasal quality that I do not care for. He did not have a bad voice but it was that, that cigarette voice which I do not really–it was passable. He sang better than I do but that is not saying much, [laughs]

AD: Yeah. Yeah, no the singing is different in that part of the world.

JK: There are some good voices. I have heard some but it is, you know.

AD: It is not the voice the way they sing, you know the performance, it is like it is just different. It certainly is different. So, your mother was not a happy woman then?

JK: With my father no. She was unhappy for, they got married in (19)31, for nineteen years she was unhappy. In 1950, my father left and my mother and I were very happy.

AD: Oh, he left? Where did he go?

JK: He went back out to Detroit. A lot of Avereks were there; people that he knew. Maybe, who knows, maybe even distant relatives. I do not know. And he went to Detroit, he was out there for about seven or eight years and he came back to Binghamton.

AD: And moved in with you?

JK: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

AD: Did they divorce?

JK: Much later, I got my mother a divorce. I pushed her to get a divorce. I thought it would give her peace of mind, and I was wrong because divorce is not part of the culture. You are married to your spouse–

AD: For that generation I think–

JK: Until the end. And I thought what would help them she gets divorced, and so I pushed it and she divorced my father in the late sixties I would say. I do not remember exactly after I came back from Buffalo; so (19)68, (19)69, (19)70, somewhere in there. And it did not make any difference, and my father in his head was married until the day he died. And of course he did not think– he thought he was a good father and a good husband.

AD: So, where did he live when he came back?

JK: He had a little apartment on Loral, Loral? Loral Avenue.

AD: I mean did they see each other or?

JK: They may have accidentally at church. Did they communicate, did they talk? No.

AD: No?

JK: No. They were not very friendly. And I understand why? [laughs]

AD: So, who died first?

JK: My father.

AD: What did he die from?

JK: He died bare heart. He had a massive, massive heart attack when he was about seventy, he had been smoking for sixty years. He was a heavy smoker; at least a pack a day when he was playing and partying, three, four, five packs. And they said, you know, you gotta stop smoking or you are a dead man, and I thought he is not going to stop. He stopped.

AD: Oh!

JK: He stopped, took him two or three years to get over it, at least. And then he lived to be, he died in (19)77, I think, we think he was born in 1893. So he was eighty-four years old, you know–

AD: When he died.

JK: He said if I had taken a better care of myself, said I had lived to be a hundred, he said I was not very smart [laughs].

AD: How about your mother?

JK: She lived to be, we think she was born in 1902 and she lived to be ninety. She died in 1992. And I should qualify this age business, as my mother– women especially did not know when they were born. And birthday in the Armenian culture, I am told, not important. Saints’ Day is more important, your Saints’ Day than your birthday. And my mother said, you know– everything was in the family bible; births, deaths, marriages in the home but was not important. All she knew was each of the two kids were two years apart. You know, is that twenty-one months, is that eighteen months, is that twenty-six months, you know but they did not when they were born and I tried to figure it out and she had not hit puberty when the genocide started. And of course I am thinking here in the States I am saying okay, puberty is twelve, thirteen. So she must have been eleven. She was born in 1904. Well later as I got a little older, a little smarter, little more aware I realized, well puberty is coming earlier and earlier and it would have been later a hundred years, a hundred ten years ago and it is in the old world different diet, different health care, so we decided, probably she was probably more like thirteen rather than eleven, making it (19)02 and all the paperwork we could get, records from my– step-grandmother who had some stuff, she brought them as her daughter which they were in a sense– but she was not old enough to be their mother really, you know, she was, let us say ten years older that was not the same thing. And there were different dates and 1902 made the most sense, it could be 1901, you know, my father claimed he knew his birth date. The men seemed to but something the Armenian men seemed to do and I do not understand it. They made themselves, not all of them but most of them, younger.

AD: I see.

JK: I came here at twenty, I tell people I am eighteen, or I came here at twenty-five I tell people I am twenty-three. I do not know why. But it was a common thing. And then so what happened years later; social security comes along. Now you are an old man, you are in your sixties, you are retiring, all this time, you made yourself two years younger, now you have get to wait two years to get your social security. So they tried to re-establish their correct age. Some succeeded, some did not. My father, his story to me is when he was in Detroit, he found a priest from Averek who said he baptized my father [laughs], and it was not 1895, he was born in 1893. He swore to this, and the government accepted it. So he was able to make himself two years older after all these years and saying he was two years younger. It is interesting, and when I found out, I thought conscription was eighteen, then I found out that conscription was at the age twenty. I said then, then I believed the story because why he would come here two years early. He had a pretty good life back there, you know, most of them did not come here if they had a decent life. You know, my mother told me, she said, you know, if somebody got in trouble, it was never a woman, it was always a man actually. If somebody got in trouble, the family– if they could have afford it would send him to America. We do not want to dishonor the family name. And if they did not have the money, they would beg, borrow or steal from relatives to send him to America. We had an undertaker in New York City, he seemed like a very, very nice man and we would visit, and they would come up here, we would go down there, and my mother said, she did not know what the story was but something had happened before the Genocide and they had sent him to America.

AD: Good thing something happened–

JK: Yeah, he lived. Yeah, he got married, he had family, he had a life instead being you know, but it was–I find it fascinating, it was interesting. And my dad unfortunately was a– I do not want to say professional, he was a liar and because of that, and my mother, I have fight not to lie other than, if you asked me about how a dress looked on you and you obviously love it, I am going to say it looks very nice, even if I think Oh my God what did she do, but no I try very hard, but he lied, he lied, he lied, and he lied and that in a relationship whether it was a husband-wife or parent-child, uh, it was destructive.

AD: It is.

JK: You know, you cannot count on anything, the person says. You do not know what is true and what is not true.

AD: Was he nice to your sisters?

JK: Not, really. Remember I was six when Manoushag married, so she is out of the house, and I was almost ten when Berjouhi went in the navy in World War II. Now, Manoushag, he did not bother Manoush once; different personalities. She could ignore him, she could figuratively, not literally, figuratively tell him to go to hell. Berjouhi had a– she just could not stand him. She would start shaking if they were in the same room together. She hated him. She hated him, and he did not like her particularly but that was normal I think, if you do not like somebody it is reciprocated, if you like somebody it is reciprocated. It is not a conscious thing. There was something there– my nieces Berjouhi’s daughters think that there may have been some sexual abuse, and I said really. I said I do not know, I do not think so, but who knows. And Berjouhi would never say boo. So, and we lost her four years ago unfortunately, but she hated him. It– just amazing. She just, Manoush did not like him but there was like night and day because two different personalities.

AD: So, he was not liked in your family, was he liked in the Armenian community?

JK: People who did not know him well, I am sure they liked him because he was friendly, personable, outward-going and because of his music he was exposed to all socio-economic levels of people and he blended in or fit in easily. So, I would think yes. I would think most people would like him unless they got to know him very well and then you get to know oh he has got this little problem with the gambling or you cannot really on his word, but you would have to know him well, very well to know that. But I would think most people would like him, yeah.

AD: So, your mother, did get any money from him because?

JK: Oh, no, no, she was better off than he was. [laughs] She did not have anything but he had less. [laughs]

AD: So, how did she raise you? She worked?

JK: Oh, when were child they were together, forgive me.

AD: No, when they split?

JK: Oh, no, when they split, no because she was working and I started a paper boy at the age of eleven or twelve so, the couple bucks a week I made took care of me, took care of my clothes, you know, my mother provided room and board. Just like I say I put myself through a college. Well I did it in away but my mother provided free room and board, so without her free room and board I would not have gotten to school, you know.

AD: Wow! So, your mom really did not have a good life! Did she?

JK: She did after 1950, after my father left.

AD: Or before 1914? She had a nice life.

JK: She had a good life until 1915, they were not wealthy, do not misunderstand me but they were comfortable. They had their own home. My father, my grandfather, pardon me, was a one of the handful of professional photographers in Sebastia/Sivas and they had some farmland outside the city where they tenant farmers, they did not get any money, but they got part of the crop, maybe five percent of the crop or something. They had some kind of a mill, my mother told me that the government would let– would not let them use, again, outside of town, grist mill, flour mill, some kind of a mill. I do not know, but you know they had a comfortable middle-class existence for the time and place because you say middle-class existence, people think twenty fifteen or twenty seventeen, no we are talking 1910, 1915– big, big, big difference, you know, world, home, animals lived on the first floor, families lived on the second floor, no window or plumbing. You know, they had a little stream or creek that ran through the back yard. Well it ran through many back yards. The outhouse was over the stream, and I remember telling this to my son, and he said dad eventually that has got to end, how about the person on the end [laughs], they going to get all the body waste from ten, or twenty or thirty families [laughs], but, you know, she would have never come here had not been for the Genocide she would have stayed in Sivas. And my father was going to go back. It would give you an idea that people introduced my mother and my father in Philadelphia, my mother is a young widow with two little girls and we went to visit them from Berjouhi’s home in New Jersey, they were living in Pennsylvania but not in Philadelphia, nice, nice people and they had not seen me since I was a kid and they apologized to me for introducing my mother to my father; we though he was a nice man [laughs], we did not realize, and I said that was okay. You know, it is done, it is past, and I said if you had not introduced them I would not be here.

AD: That is right.

JK: And you know that is a nice gift. [laughs]

AD: That is right.

JK: You know, but so I think most people would have liked my father but he should have stayed single. He should have stayed a bachelor.

AD: So, your father left, and then you continued to live with your mother, and–

JK: Lived with her basically until I got married, just like in the old country. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, exactly. So, who did you marry to?

JK: Married to a young– well she is an old woman now, she is seventy-eight; Ann Harding Sullivan. She is English and Irish, but Sullivan is the surname, so you think she is Irish. She is actually slightly more English.

AD: But not an Armenian girl?

JK: Oh, no. No and as I told my mother, and she understood when her mind was good, I say mom we are in Binghamton, there are a few eligible young women, but they are like my sisters. How do you date or fall in love with your sister. You know, you have known them your whole life, you can do that. I said, you know, if I get of town and go to New York, Philly or Boston or some place, I said where there is thousands of Armenians who I do not know, I said I am liable to run into a little nice Armenian girl, and it happens. If it does is wonderful. I said but I am living in Binghamton, you know, we are not in Armenia, and she understood that and–

AD: But she wanted an Armenian girl?

JK: Oh, sure. Sure. I did too. If you, if you had asked me I would say yes. And with fifty-four years plus of marriage, I can tell you that we were both and better off if we married somebody like ourselves instead of somebody so different. Cultural differences are huge, and my wife, I came from economic station down here, socially we had basic, simple middle class values but economically were are down here my mother and I, and her family was upper middle class. I keep telling people I saw the big red brick house on top of the hill and I thought I was moving up; I did not realize that all the money was long gone before I got there– but anyway. You know, she came from a very different background, and I am sure her parents were not happy; wonderful people, my mother-in-law was. Excuse me I am getting emotional, she was a wonderful, wonderful person but they had to look at me and when he looked like a foreigner [laughs]– but this is America, they are the Americans. I just got off the boat really. My mother-in-law, her family went back to the Mayflower. You know that is an American-American. My father-in-law, his grandparents, I think, were the immigrants from Ireland but they were good people and they did not have a choice, they accepted me. And they–my mother-in-law especially grew to love me– I am getting emotional again– but she said I taught her about family, the concept of family, ah–it was not what she was used to, but she liked it. You know, that she was family, she was my wife’s mother, and she was my mother. And that was the way I was raised, you know, he was my wife’s father– dad was– he was my father and they use first names. I got engaged and my father-in-law says: Jerry, you can call me Jack. I said, no I am sorry Mr. Sullivan I cannot do that, I will not do that, you are Mr. Sullivan, I said when we got married I will call you dad which is what I did, you know, that would be awful calling him by his first name!

AD: Well, that is the culture. So, what did your mother do after you got married? She lived alone?

JK: Yep, yeah, yeah she lived alone, and well she was alone I was in the service, she lived alone, I went to school in Mexico City for a year she lived alone, so we lived in Buffalo for four years, and I came back [laughs], came back as my mother in her mid-sixties and her health was not good and I said, Anne you know I really think I should be there, she might need me, or she will need me, and I said you mind moving back home. She said no, it sounds great. So, we moved back to Binghamton. I am worried about my mother’s health. She lived another twenty-five years. [laughs]

AD: So, let me ask you this, when your mother got like really sick, really old. Where did she live?

JK: Well, there was a senior citizen’s apartment at Isabell Street, next to the Governmental complex, Isabell Street and there is a twin building on Exchange Street, ten stories and they are for primarily senior citizens of limited means, and she wanted go there and I did not think it was a bad idea but I was concerned about the people, very honestly. She said go, checked out. I said okay. So, I went down and introduced myself in the office and blah, blah, blah and they took me around I met a few people, and they showed me few apartments and I went back, said okay mom, I said they are [Armenian word], they are decent people, and I said if you had to live there okay, and so she moved in there and she was there as long as we could keep her there unfortunately her mind started to go, some form of dementia, and if we had not been so close it would have been another year or two before we would have realized that I am sure, and I am sure it started at least a year or two before we realized it but we spoke on the phone every day, I saw her Friday afternoons, I had a job where I could do this. I always said it was mom’s time. I would go see her and we go through the weeks mail and I write her checks or pay her bills, and make her donations whatever, you know, she wanted or needed. And we get caught up we talk and stuff. So, I knew her intimately and I knew her habits, and things started to not make sense. And I said something to Manoush, my sister here, the other sister Berjouhi lived out of town and so we were fortunate there was a– he is still here– he is retired, there is an Armenian psychologist here and we contacted him: Nurhan would you see my mom?

AD: What is the name?

JK: Nurhan Fındıkyan.

AD: Nurhan is a Turkish name.

JK: Well, he was born and raised in Turkey. He came here later.

AD: Fındıkyan?

JK: Fındıkyan, and fındık is–

AD: Hazelnut.

JK: I was going to say some kind of a nut, yes, okay and so he checked her out and he said, you know, I cannot be absolutely sure we took her to a neurologist too, but he said I think it is some form of dementia. She seems to be a bright lady, but you know, she is getting old, things are happening. And the thing I also remember I said what do we owe you, “no, no, no” he said, ahh [gasps] he said I cannot take anything from a survivor, I cannot charge a survivor, he said I cannot do that. I said thank you very much because he spent a couple of hours with her, you know, and we did that because we thought she would be more comfortable in Armenian, well in his case they guy spoke fluent Turkish, you know, then in English–English is her third language after all. And so we found out she had a problem and we did what we could to keep her in her apartment as long as we could; meals on wheels and Manoush was there probably every day, and she finally got to a point where we had to put her in a nursing home. She could not live alone–

AD: Yeah, she needed to be monitored.

JK: Yeah, you know, if, and it was easy because she always said, when I get old put me in a nursing home, put me in old-folks home. She did not want to live with us, because she was thinking of us, but I had a friend of mine, dear Ruth, is gone. She was the assistant administrator at Willow Point and we were having trouble getting her to a nursing home. She was not skilled nursing and she was kind of falling between the cracks, she was more like assisted living and I call Ruth and I said Ruth I got a problem; do you think you can help? And she said well, this is the county home; she was a little more flexible than the private homes. She said maybe we can. I will send somebody to evaluate her and they were– they evaluated her and she called me back a couple weeks later and said, Jerry we can take your mum. I said you got a place, and she said yes. I said okay, and thank God for Ruth, she was a sweetheart. She was a Hagopian but she was, her name was Bustard she married a half-Armenian named Hagopian. But she was not a Hye, that is what we call ourselves; Hye is Armenian in Armenia–Hye, H-Y-E. So, if you see H-Y-E on a license plate–

AD: That is Armenian.

JK: That is an Ermeni [Armenian in Turkish]–

AD: Ermeni, yeah.

JK: So, she was just a wonderful gal. Her husband, eh, but she is a wonderful gal. He is still alive, unfortunately we lost her. So mom was in a nursing home for ten years.

AD: Wow!

JK: A long time; age eighty to age ninety.

AD: Oh! Wow! That is a long time. And you just watched her going down?

JK: What else could we do? Manoosh was there almost every day. I would go at least, again, every Friday. Every Friday afternoon for twenty-five years was for mom, and I would go periodically other times. And they were wonderful, and they would call us when there was a problem and sometimes, in the middle of the night I had to go over there, or Manoush had to go over there, or we both go over there to, you know, help solve the problems and when we put my mother there, I said I want you understand something, I said we are going to be pains in the ass. We are going to be here, we are going to ask questions, we are going to make requests, we are going to be involved, we are going to be looking over your shoulder and I just want you know how we operate. This is who we are and they said that is wonderful, it is so much better when we usually see, they drop mom and dad off and you never see them again and that does not make sense to me but anyway. How can you do that? So she got good care, not perfect care, but she– no one gets perfect care, even at home, you cannot get perfect care. She had a good care, and it dawned on me later because we were there all the time, subconsciously, and then everybody knew that Ruth the assistant administrator was a close personal friend of mine. I am a little slow these things going on me very– after the fact and I said oh God everybody knew Ruth was my dear friend, you know, that would make a difference too. I mean she got very good care–

AD: That is good. So, how many kids did you have?

JK: Me, personally, unfortunately only one; our son. I say that because in those days they never checked the man, today they check the male when you have problems reproducing. And Annie had problems, endometriosis, in fact she has endometrial-cancer if I am saying that right now, so far now everything is okay but, you know, but I keep telling her we all are going to die and we do not have a choice. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, one way or another, something, right we will die of something.

JK: Yes, when I got my prostate cancer about ten years ago, our regular physician Dr. Darlene said, Jerry she said, at your age you do not have to worry, something else will kill you first. I said oh, nice to know, thank you [laughs]– but anyway–

AD: So, what is his name, your son?

JK: He is a Junior, Jerald Michael Kalayjian Junior.

AD: Okay, no Armenian name.

JK: No, but the family call him Ji Ji Ji which is the nick name for Jirayr, we– I am sure the Turks do this too, nicknames. I call him, he was the Muk, Muknik which is a little mouse, you know when he was a baby, and it stuck, and he is still the Muk, when I said the Muk, everybody knows, everybody in the family knows who I am talking about, even though he is forty-eight years old and he is two hundred pounds but he is– you know–

AD: He is two hundred pounds?

JK: Yeah, I am two hundred pounds.

AD: You do not look like two hundred pounds.

JK: He is two hundred pounds, he lost– he got, he got fat, my kid. He was two forty, I said honey, I said, you got to get rid of it, you get older, you cannot get rid of it, it is not how it looks but it is not healthy, forty pounds of extra weight– now he is looking good.

AD: But you look good for your age.

JK: You know what it is, I picked the right parents and grandparents. [laughs]

AD: Here you go.

JK: Dumb luck, the call it dumb luck. I tell the Americans it is the olive oil.

AD: That is right.

JK: We do not eat that much olive oil but that is what I tell them anyway. But anyway, where was I, the Muk okay, one kid and Annie had a lot of problems and she went to wonderful specialist in Syracuse and as my cousin Mike said, my cousin Margaret, his wife and my sister Manoushag worshiped this man. And Mike said to me look Ji Ji, she said, if they both worship him, he has get to be special [laughs] so it is a good place take Annie, go, go, go, go! [laughs] And so, she went up there and they treated her for a while, she had a surgery and they said okay, Anne or Mrs. Kalayjian, you can go home now and have babies. Well, we could not and until this day I am convinced that I may have had a weak sperm, lazy sperm or whatever they call it. You know that I was part of the problem, but we do not know that and I think we are lucky we had a kid under the circumstances. Because she said, hey you know, if we are going to have a kid, we should get keep, I was twenty, no, no, no, no. God I am getting– she was twenty-eight I was thirty-three, something like that.

AD: That is young.

JK: And I said, oh you know you got a point, bang she got pregnant which is thank God because I want to kill him occasionally but he is my best friend and he is obviously an extremely important part of my life.

AD: Of course. So If I see him, where is he?

JK: They live in almost to New Hampshire, north of Boston.

AD: Oh, okay. So, if I see him, if I ask him like who are you, would he identify him as Armenian?

JK: Yes.

AD: He would?

JK: He probably say, Armenian-English-Irish, but Armenian yes. Well, he is half-Armenian. We count him. My grandkids, they are a quarter Armenian. He cannot count them as Armenian.

AD: No?

JK: No.

AD: Really?

JK: No, a quarter? No, no. Half, yes. When you are a quarter, you know, you are– they are amalgam, they are the United Nations. [laughs]

AD: I do not know; I mean that is in the ethnic background–

JK: Oh, yes. My newest grandson is– he looks about as Near Easter as my wife. There is nothing about him that would say Armenian Near Eastern.

AD: Yeah, but you never know these genes–

JK: Oh, that is true.

AD: You may have a child–

JK: With black hair and brown eyes! [laughs] No you do not know but in my mind if my counting ethnic group, if they are half, they belong to the ethnic group, but if they are a quarter, you can identify, you know, culturally with one or another, but a quarter is only 25 percent.

AD: Still, I think they need to identify themselves. I personally think–

JK: Okay, I hope they remember that their part Armenian. My one niece who is half Armenian. This is Berjouhi’s daughter, Deb. She thinks of herself, this part Armenian, her daughter, Ellen, now who is a quarter Armenian, she thinks of herself as part Armenian, but other niece Pam who is half Armenian, probably denies it.

AD: Yeah, everybody is different.

JK: You know, it is a– and her children do not have a– oh she is a grandmother now, for God’s sake. She does not– they do not, I do not think they know. They knew Nana, Berjouhi was an Armenian but I know how far it is gone because for whatever reason she has pulled away from the family. So–

AD: Well, I am not nationalist at all but I think I grew up in that culture and it makes me different and then my daughter is introduced to that culture and I hope she will introduce it to her children. I do not, I doubt she–

JK: Well, she is half Turkish.

AD: She is half Turkish.

JK: Yes, I forgot because just assume you are married a Turk for some reason.

AD: No.

JK: But I hope, yes.

AD: Do you know what I mean. I mean not that every–

JK: You should know who you are and be proud of who you are.

AD: Exactly. Because that brings something else right, like we, the family you taught your mother-in-law about the importance of family, right, so that comes from that culture, I think.

JK: Oh, yes, no question– No, the American concept of family which is mom, dad and the kids, that is immediate family, and that is ridiculous.

AD: So it is in that thing too about that nucleus family vs traditional family.

JK: Yes, how do you not count first cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents? That is all–

AD: Or even friends, or your neighbors, you know, it is just like part of one big–

JK: Yeah, the Abashian family, Cathy’s uncles and aunts, father, grandparents for me, they were like family.

AD: That is right.

JK: You know, they– we spent so much time together, and they were good people, wonderful people. And Cathy, I am biased, I think she is a sweetheart, you know, yeah–No I hope love will conquer all but I am not going to hold my breath waiting.

AD: No, no. So let us talk about food when you were growing up.

JK: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful I was fortunate that my mother was a good cook, great baker I did not know that until I grew up but she was a good cook and I did not realize because it is the 1930s and (19)40s and we are poor, that what we were eating is today in fashion is gourmet food [laughs]. And I thought eating a lot of fruits and vegetables because we could not afford meat, [laughs] you know, I would–

AD: So, you ate Armenian food growing up?

JK: Oh, yeah. But one story I get to tell you since you are talking about food. This community, this area has a lot of Eastern European people, Slavic people here, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Russians Ukrainians, on and on and on, and these people obviously we lived together, And my mother made kolaczki very good kolaczki and I enjoyed it, I liked it very much and I got to high school, tenth grade in those days. And I met a lot of first world kids, Slavic background and then I realized, oh it is an Eastern European pastry, it is not Armenian. I thought it was Armenian because my mother made it. Actually most of the Armenian women made it, but of course the neighborhood was a Czech or Russian and that is good, what it can– Can you give me the recipe and you know went back and forth [laughs] but you know, I am fifteen years old, oh it is not Armenian, I thought it was Armenian, what do I know, but, yeah, we ate well, to give an idea, my dear wife who lived in a different world, very comfortable; they eat baloney in their sandwiches– who would eat that stuff?

AD: [laughs] Not me!

JK: We proved you tinier for careful call because as you knew in the ̶ you know in the Near East, you live to eat–

AD: That is right.

JK: You do not eat to live.

AD: No.

JK: And so, you know, food was very important and, you got– my mother always bought the best that we could afford, now we could not obviously buy port house stakes but, you know, you ate well and, God I went– I did not really– I took– I am slow. I went in the air force and the food was horrible! Well I did not realize until maybe twenty years later, they used zero spice. There is no spice, none. So, pepper on the table but no spice. So, everything is very bland and everything is overcooked, well that is okay but everything is very bland and most people who were in the service put weight on. I did not put weight on, how can I put weight on. The food was lousy, the food was really bad. They had ice-cream, they had milk, peanut butter and jelly so you can make a sandwich and they had salad and when the food was really bad that is what I ate. Occasionally, it was okay but oh God it was awful but see I did not, I was not thinking well I am a product of two cultures and I have had the benefit of Near Eastern cooking which in my opinion at its best, is the equivalent of the best in the world. I think it is right after the French and the Chinese who you always hear about, at its best I think it could compare even though I know you do not lot much of them, shame on you for that! [laughs] but–

AD: That is a personal, I am not a big meet eater but I do eat kebab, you know.

JK: Well, that is nice! [laughs]

AD: When I am in Turkey ̶ lahmacun for some reason it never appealed to me.

JK: Well, I guess it depends again like anything else who makes it and how it is made.

AD: Yeah, yeah.

JK: Because the Turkish restaurant in Johnson City, do you remember them?

AD: Yeah, they were not good.

JK: Oh well see the first couple that owned it–

AD: The first one, he was from Black Sea, the one with blonde hair. His wife–

JK: His wife was bleach blonde.

AD: Yes, but he was kind of light complexion, he was from Black Sea region. Osman or something like that his name was, I do not remember. He was making the bread over there do you remember the bread. That was good like he was just taking the bread out of the oven–

JK: And he had somebody from Turkey, a Turkish gentleman middle age who made the lahmacun–

AD: I did not eat the lahmacun.

JK: Oh, but it was good, the lahmacun was good, my opinion–

AD: No, probably it was but I was eating– I ate other stuff over there and it was good. So, the second owner, I heard he was very bad.

JK: We only ate once or twice, and he was not there that long, and then a third ownership came in, a Turk and an Armenian going by the names. And we never got there.

AD: I have never ̶

JK: They were there few months and then they closed. And the second one stopped serving lahmacun and right away I said black mark against his name [laughs] because I walk in there and the guy who made the lahmacun, I did not know his name, he did not know mine but he recognized me and he started making the lahmacun for me. I told him how I liked it, you know, I liked a little spicy and I like it, I do not like it well done, well cooked– I mean, the bread I do not want the cracker for the bread, I wanted to be soft.

AD: Yes, I mean it should not be too crunchy the bread, it should not be crunchy.

JK: Yeah, I am sorry that it did not last. Now why I do bring it up to Turkish restaurant–

AD: We are talking about food that is why.

JK: Oh, okay but, rather tell you about the lahmacun, I am not sure but because remember I told you the Turkish students and he had students as waiters and waitresses–

AD: I know.

JK: The first couple. There is some kid in there from Turkey.

AD: I got a student worker like my visit over there, I hired a couple of students.

JK: Okay.

AD: Yeah.

JK: But I asked him I said, you are Turkish is this cooking as good as mom’s back home, and they said yes. And I said, oh, well maybe the food is good. We went there probably half a dozen times and we enjoyed it, you know.

AD: The lady, the first owner, she was making all these meze [appetizer in Turkish] kind of food and she was not bad.

JK: But I enjoyed it, I do not know–

AD: So, what were you eating growing up? What was your mother cooking?

JK: A lot of ̶ which is stew-type dishes of various kinds, obviously a lot of pilaf, the rice pilav more than bulgur pilav. And did not realize until I grew up that in the old country they would have eaten much more bulgur pilav– rice pilav was for special occasions. You know, parties or weddings or whatever. Obviously, shish kebab, I am trying to remember, boreks or various sorts again baklava was special, baklava, sarayburma.

AD: Sarayburma. [laughs]

JK: Kadayıf, I love kadayıf, but I do not know my mother made much of that. That is later in life but the sarayburma and the baklava was the special and of course I liked the way the– I think maybe was the Harputsies made the baklava which is the thick heavy chewy and of course the ̶ looked down their nose that and that is what I liked, used to irritate my mother but anyway. My taste was in my mouth–

AD: So you got married, so did your wife learn how to make any Armenian food?

JK: Yeah, she knows, she is a pretty good cook. I think she is slipping a little bit but you know that is a life. But she is a pretty good cook, and she, you know learned some of the basics, the shish kebab, the pilav of course. My son loves pilav, he eats it like he never seen it before. I should not say my son, our son, I had very little to do with him. It is the woman who deserves all of the credit. If we had to carry a fetus to term and deliver there be much few people of the world– I am sure, on a side, I just think, nothing to do with sex, I just think that women’s body is just a little bit, or the female’s body just a little bit fascinating, you know, if we are ice cream the men are vanilla you are at least Neapolitan. I mean, oh God, but what else does she– oh there was a dish my mother used to make that I love, and I do not know what it is called but it was the almost the throw away parts of lamb and she browned it with spices and onions and parsley and– I do not know what it is called but I just loved it. And it was the– what is the word I am looking for? It was almost lamb that you could not eat, you know, it was the worst part of the animal and rather than throwing it away, nothing was wasted, nothing, I mean nothing.

AD: Of course, yeah.

JK: It was– and she does that for me. I am trying– God! You know I left my mother’s home in 1962 that was a long time ago, but we have köfte, the– it is like a hand grenade, it is hollow– Well, that is the–I do not know who to describe it. It is got the filling–

AD: Yeah içli köfte.

JK: İçli?

AD: İçli köfte, means it has something in it.

JK: Okay?

AD: Köfte which has inside, like something in it. İçli köfte.

JK: All right.

AD: I think in Arabic culture they call it kibbeh.

JK: Oh, it is very similar, yes. The raw kibbeh is what– we call it çiğ köfte, ham köfte, ham köfte–

AD: Oh, çiğ köfte is the raw meat that is very common in– I do not thing Arabic culture, that is Anatolian, Asian minor, I do not know.

JK: Ok, but the Arabs do have it.

AD: Do they?

JK: Yeah, the Syrians, the Lebanese–

AD: They do?

JK: But my mother told me, Sebastia/Sivas did not have çiğ köfte, ham köfte, the raw meat, they did not have it, I do not know where she picked it up, it is from somewhere else, and again you realize–

AD: Maybe they do, I do not know çiğ köfte, maybe yeah, because how make the raw meat eatable with lots of seasoning so that comes from the Southern, you know they use more seasoning, southern part–

JK: Primarily, onions and parsley but the use and they use bulgur with the very, very, very fine bulgur to make it, you know, stick together–

AD: And they– depending on the region, they either fry it or they boil it.

JK: I am talking about the raw, uncooked.

AD: Uncooked!?

JK: Uncooked, it is delicious! Delicious!

AD: Okay, I was thinking this, this thing.

JK: You are making me hungry with all this.

AD: [laughs] Yeah, this. So–

JK: No, this is, and the Lebanese, and the Syrians, they go crazy with their parsley which I did not like as a kid, I loved it but it is–

AD: Really? Oh, I love parsley, dill and mint.

JK: Okay, the first two yeah, mint is–

AD: So, it is like this. So, what did they put in it?

JK: No, no. it is– it would be– I am not an artist, if it was in my hand, it is like a rectangle and it is not because it is made with bare hand, so you squeezed together and it is like a rough small hand grenade. And it is raw meat. And very, very, very fine, the finest bourghul you can find. Because I know bulgur comes in three or four at least different sizes. Some people call it, qeema. Does that ring a– because that does not sound Armenian to me. I wonder if it might be Turkish.

AD: This is çiğ köfte [showing an image].

JK: Okay, okay. I have never seen it with the lemon or the lime. It looks like–

AD: Oh, that is the decoration.

JK: Okay, this looks like the çiğ köfte or ham, ham is uncooked. Ham köfte, and I love that I can eat that until the cows come home. That is so–oh it is so good.

AD: Okay, tell me how you spell it?

JK: Oh My God!

AD: No, no. Let us see. Let us go with it.

JK: Well, spelling.

AD: What I mean is– What did you say?

JK: Hm? Çiğ köfte?

AD: Not, çiğ köfte, this is çiğ köfte [showing an image].

JK: Okay, Khema–

AD: Okay.

JK: K–

AD: Reima?

JK: No, it is K–Oh God, because I do not use that–would it be K-H maybe?

AD: Okay.

JK: K-H-E-M-E or M-A I am not much help I am sorry.

AD: Oh God look what we have come up–

JK: So I do not know if that is Armenian or Turkish.

AD: It is not Turkish.

JK: Then it must be–

AD: No, I do not see it. I said köfte, but I guess we do not know what that is.

JK: Khema köfte curry. That is getting close.

AD: That is Indonesia, what is it? Indian,Indian.

JK: That is what I guess. Where did we get the Indian from? Oh you are looking here. Why I do not try reading? [laughs] The curry should have given me a hint.

AD: Yeah, but it is okay,–

JK: There is another köfte here– Khema, khema, but it is–

AD: Khema–

JK: This is khema.

AD: Is that what you are trying to say, khema?

JK: I do not know.

AD: Khema [kıyma in Turkish] means ground beef.

JK: See, it could be because I am repeating what I have heard–

AD: Khema is–

JK: My mother did not– my mother and father never used that term but– and you probably know this but there are different dialects of Armenian.

AD: Okay, now I am going to teach you something about Armenian culture.

JK: Okay.

AD: So, this is ̶ the name is topik

JK: Ermeni?

AD: Yeah. Because I want to pull it that is why, because it is an Armenian dish but this is, this– okay this a perfect thing. This is number one meze like when you go to the drink, teverna type of drink rakı.

JK: Awful stuff.

AD: Eat for hours, you know, talk fast, that so this is actually chick peas [showing an image]. So they make it– I guess, uh so they use chick peas, potato, tahini and onion, little– what is those little ̶

JK: Soğan.

AD: Yeah soğan on. And then so, they make that dough looking thing and then I am going to go back to this thing, so they put inside so when you cut it you have this. This is like ̶ very famous; you see this is what is inside.

JK: It looks like dough in the outside, isn’t it? Is that dough?

AD: But it is not dough.

JK: Oh, it is not.

AD: Something mixed with– like chick peas, mashed ̶

JK: Like a paste, okay.

AD: And then.

JK: You should know I am not a cook. [laughs]

AD: But this is like very famous, uh, very famous, uh, Armenian dish.

JK: Now, what it is called?

AD: Topik.

JK: Topik, okay.

AD: But you cannot find that in Armenia, you know Yerevan or whatever, because that is the culture in Istanbul, those Armenians came up with that. You know like regionally differences.

JK: Oh, yeah.

AD: Kind of like dolma, but–

JK: Wait a second, forgot about we had a lot of dolma.

AD: Yeah.

JK: The potato, the squash– not the potato, listen to me– the tomato, the squash, the green pepper–

AD: So, there is like, the pine nuts and then this, what is the name of that– it is not raisons, the tiny one–

JK: Currant maybe?

AD: Currant and then, kıyma, [laughs] so that they stuff it they make it like this round topic, it is kind of like something chubby– So, there you go.

JK: All right! Can I– excuse me for a minute? Where is the nearest restroom please? There is one nearby, I hope.

AD: Of course, yes. There is one nearby!

JK: We need a key? Wow!

AD: Yeah, this is, uh, special collections, so and then–

JK: Oh, I did not realize–

AD: Yeah, but no one is working, so when you come back we can just knock the door I will open it.
[Indistinct distant voice]

JK: I read about some people I did not realize they still existed. I met a Laz [a predominantly Sunni Muslim Kartvelian people of Caucasia who live mainly in Turkey] in North Eastern Turkey, and I said oh God, they exist, oh, I read about them, you know, they are ancient people that they used to– I do not know that they are still around.

AD: Exactly, that is right.

JK: Did not you say your family was from Trabzon? Yeah, we were there.

AD: Yeah. You know what, I have never been there.

JK: It is a– because we went up, we drove up to the Black Sea Giresun, I think and then we went East to almost to the Georgian border then we turned inland. And went to, I cannot remember all the places– Ardahan, Kars, Ardahan ̶.

AD: I have never been in those places.

JK: I was told–

AD: Please help yourself, after all that–

JK: No I am not hungry, thank you. But, uh, no it is a– I was–we were told that Western Turks look upon Eastern Turkey, as, I do not know–

AD: Backward?

JK: Yes, it out west like we looked at the West a hundred years ago, that was the wilderness and the East “cultured.” [laughs]

AD: Yeah, the thing is that was intentional, that was intentional, they–

JK: Because of the Armenians and the Kurds?

AD: Yeah, because that part of the country was left that way because of the population-mix over there, yeah, that was all intentional.

JK: Okay, yeah I do not think I knew that, that it was intentional, I just thought it kind of happened.

AD: Oh, yeah. Because it is like I mean all these– especially Kurds, millions of Kurds still living in there, I mean–

JK: Oh, now. Yeah.

AD: You know, so that was intentional.

JK: So, I was going to ask you something, and it came and went.

AD: Oh, I am sorry.

JK: No, no, it is not your fault. It is being an old man, you know. As the body is wearing out and breaking down, so is the mind. Damn– I– it– maybe it will come back.

AD: Oh, it will come back.

JK: Yeah.

AD: So we were just– so, with your mother or with your father, did you always speak Armenian? Like what was the language?

JK: When my father, I am trying to remember, [laughs] because he left 1950 when he left, the last time I lived with him. I think I spoke mostly Armenian with him. I think with my mother overtime I was speaking more English than Armenian, but we would go back and forth; certain words are better in language A than language B or vice versa.

AD: How did you call her?

JK: Oh, she was mom.

AD: Is that how were you calling her? Mom?

JK: Yeah, mom or mama.

AD: Okay, mama.

JK: Once you became a grandmother, she became granny and my oldest nephew just turned seventy-four. So, I was an uncle at eight which was a big deal when you are a kid. All my friends were nine and ten, they are not uncles, I am an uncle wow! But mom, mama.

AD: How about your father?

JK: He was hayrik. Hayr is father, hayrik is the diminutive of father. He was always hayrik but my mother was– I do not remember ever calling her mayrik, or mayr. I may have but I do not remember it. But it was mum, mama, you know. I used to pick on her and her answer, she was special for me. Anything that I have to offer that is good, worthwhile, positive I give my mother credit. My love of music, I am assuming my dad because when I was in the womb I would have heard the oud. I mean he played it every day for at least fifteen or twenty minutes. Every day he played a little bit. It was his escape time or whatever. So, I love music and I love strings I assume it is because of him and the oud.

AD: So, did your mom, because she was around, did she teach any Armenian, either Manoush or your other sister or your kids’ sister?

JK: Teach Armenian?

AD: Armenian.

JK: Well, my sisters were fluent–

AD: No, their kids–

JK: Oh, her grandchildren, I am sorry. She tried a little but kids are usually not very bright, and they– no, no, no, they are not interested that the Muk said that, you know, he should have paid attention, or he should have been more interested because he, I think of the five grandchildren, he is probably the one who most feels like an Armenian, or thinks of himself as an Armenian. I may be wrong, you know, it is hard to get in somebody else’s head but I think he is the one who says yes, you know, he is Armenian.

AD: So, nobody married with an Armenian, none of your sisters–

JK: Manoushag did.

AD: Okay, her husband was Armenian?

JK: Yes.

AD: I do not remember I was there but–

JK: Well, you know, he was– when you were there, he was already gone.

AD: No, I mean I interviewed with her, I do not remember the details.

JK: And he was also from his family, his parents came from Sivas/Sebastia. The city again, because as you know, vilayet [city in Turkish] is also the same name and I did not know that when I was a kid [laughs]. I did realize that there were two Sivases, you know there was the city and there was the state, the province, but–

AD: Yeah, at that time it was like that, in during Ottoman Empire.

JK: It is still, isn’t the vilayet still?

AD: There is a city but at that time so much I was just helping, you know Grace, right?

JK: Baradet, yes, yes.

AD: I do not have it open. I was– I am translating something for her.

JK: Oh, okay.

AD: Yes, and so this is a military dismiss paper but she is like puzzled because this was from her mother and–

JK: It is in Turkish I think, I take it.

AD: This.

JK: Oh that is yeah. That is the old Arabic script–

AD: And I am not really good at it, so but I have someone helped me, but I am still trying to make it. So it is like this Harput area, like what falls under, so I was just ‘Çarşanca’ is this area it falls under the–So it is like I was just checking and then there is another document–

JK: So, her mother had some papers,

AD: Wow! She had some papers.

JK: Yeah.

AD: And this other paper is a passport. This thing, I knew it, when I look at this, I said this must be passport, because– and I was right and it is a–

JK: I did not know she had this stuff.

AD: Yeah, I think that is her mother’s passport.

JK: A nice lady, her mother and my mother were friends.

AD: And then Gonca Bey, Antagül, so that is the name, gonca is like a little rose, a rose bud.

JK: Oh, okay, okay.

AD: So I think that was what her mother’s name.

JK: You see, many times I did not know names.

AD: I talked to her; I want to go visit her again. So, yeah.

JK: She is a nice gal; she is older than I am. So, she has been– my God. She is six years older than I am. Yeah she is even older than my cousin George. So, that means she is, wow! She is older than I realized it. She is eighty-eight going on eighty-nine. I do not know when her birthday is but because she was born in (19)28 but it is– most people do not have anything. It is nice. I did not realize that she had some papers.

AD: Yeah, she had some papers. She said years ago, her mother got her birth certificate translated in the Turkish Embassy in D.C and then she said these are not important so when I was over there, I said let me have them. I will see what I can come up with. And so it is interesting stuff.

JK: Her mother had a birth certificate?

AD: From, yeah, Ottoman Empire.

JK: Wow! Because I have been told, I do not know how accurate this is that–

AD: Somehow she managed to have it with her.

JK: Things were– record keeping was not that tight, that strict, that careful. I remember my uncle saying to me taxes were based on the males in the family. So if you had a lot of sons, you going to paid more taxes. So people with a large family, let us say you have a couple of daughter and four-five sons, well when you are, that son comes along, you do not bother, reporting the birth to the local authorities, so you do not have to pay additional taxes. So there is a lot of game-playing going on–

AD: Oh, I am sure.

JK: I do not know it is accurate, but that is one person’s–

AD: Well, maybe that is true especially in rural areas. Maybe in cities it is a little bit different. People were more like, you know, following up.

JK: It would be easier to play-games in the rural areas than in the urban areas.

AD: That is right, because, I mean who is going to go check on them, you know, and that education was not mandatory. We are talking about Ottoman Empire, you know, so they are not going to know. So, that I think in rural areas, yeah.

JK: Because that is the first time I have heard of that generation having a birth certificate; that does not mean, you know–

AD: Her mom got her birth certificate translated in Washington D.C. in Turkish Embassy when she was alive and she said this is not important. So, my investigation shows one of them is a teskere, military dismissal paperwork someone who completed the military duty and then they were discharged– discharge paper.

JK: So it is got to be a male.

AD: It is a male. She was like shocked. Because she was trying to figure out, who that is, but the name I gave her–

JK: Okay, it was not her brother certainly, so it had to be, I do not know I guess it is interesting.

AD: She definitely thinks it is not her father because as the years like twenty-year difference, then if it is not her mother and her father, then someone I guess in her mother’s family. I do not know when I go–when I finish everything, I will just go visit her and will go over. And then the other one is definitely a passport.

JK: Well I hope I remember to ask her, [laughs]

AD: Yeah, I say okay Grace how did it turn out, what happened what it was all about. That is neat, that is nice to have this stuff. I have got some papers, let us see, it is after the empire’s gone, well it is 1920, (19)21 that my step-grandmother came over with her two daughters, and they were her step-daughter but I am assuming that is in French, it has been a while since I looked at it, French and maybe, maybe Arabic but I am not sure.

AD: It must be Ottoman, just like this one, with Arabic letters.

JK: Well, the Ottoman Empire still existed in 1920, (19)21 but–

AD: That is right.

JK: But yeah, okay.

AD: No, because French was the secondary language and a lot of Armenians knew how to speak French but also the government, you know like how like English is kind of international language–

JK: Now–

AD: French was that way.

JK: Then–

AD: So, it must be Turkish written with Arabic alphabet, with Ottoman Script or Ottoman I should say because that is why some different kind of Turkish let me tell you, I have a hard time understanding–

JK: Oh, really?

AD: Oh, yeah.

JK: And in a hundred years there has been that much change!

AD: Huge! Huge!

JK: I mean the alphabet has been changed.

AD: That is the other thing with Turkification efforts like purifying the language and replacing Turkish words with Arabic ones and stuff like that.

JK: Yeah.

AD: And then, Ottoman is like, first of all the alphabet which does not fit in Turkish language, in Arabic there is only one vowel, and in Turkish language we have eight vowels, how are you going to make the words. [laughs]

JK: Oh, okay.

AD: Yeah, so, and there is like no sentence structure, it is like farming, if you could start, and keeps going, going so you kind of–you know what I mean, there is no sentence end and the other sentence starts– it goes on like this.

JK: Okay, yeah again–

AD: It is interesting.

JK: The rule in Central Asia, the language, right– that was where it came from, isn’t that where the language would have come from?

AD: I really do not know; I am not a linguist.

JK: No, I know that.

AD: So, to me the language was spoken in Anatolia is like mixed of different languages, the people who lived there.

JK: Well, that makes sense too, after a hundred of years–

AD: You know, because, if that was a language, then Turkish should sound more like Mongolian and it does not. I think it is just mixed, you know, with Armenian, Greek–

JK: Kurdish, Assyrian, Arab.

AD: Kurdish, Assyrian, Arabs, you know, is like a mixture– I think it is mixed, along with people, along with people.

JK: Unconsciously or subconsciously you borrow.

AD: Absolutely.

JK: Yeah, you are living together, you know.

AD: Absolutely.

JK: Interesting.

AD: Yeah, you just, and that languages something people leave at first, you know, that is one of the first things people leave behind You know, when they moving to new culture, very first thing they leave behind is the language. Like, look at your case, and then when I talk to Kurdish people, or all the research I read is that the very first thing people adapt is the new language.

JK: But I was born here, so, and I am forgetting the Armenian that I knew because I do not use it, but my mother, you know, when her mind was going, first she forgot English, then she forgot Turkish, she never forgot the Armenian. It was interesting.

AD: Because that was the first language she was taught.

JK: That was what she learned as a baby, as a child– uh, yeah, and they thought [laughs], the nursing home near the end, they thought she was swearing at them because she cannot speak anymore. I used to say mom you are speaking Armenian or you are speaking Turkish, you have to speak English, oh and she would switch, well then she lost that ability, and so she is upset obviously and she is saying something and my sister says, my mother does not swear, that was not like her normally, but who knows and what was she saying, they do not know, and she said [to the nursing home staff]– is it something my mother used to use a lot, she said, ̶ is it something like eş ̶ eşşek. That was it, you know, oh she was just calling you jack ass she is. [laughs]

AD: Eşşek is Turkish.

JK: Yes, eş is Armenian, eşşek is Turkish but both of them– there is a lot– I know maybe a hundred or two hundred Turkish words because–

AD: Because of her–

JK: Well because, yeah, well my father I think, I really he was Turkish speaking first, Armenian speaking second, but I heard a lot of Turkish growing up, because most of the Armenians or at least a lot of them spoke Turkish, not all maybe, many of them did and so I heard a lot of it and then the old-timer would say, I know it was not true but the Armenians did not have any swear word or curse words–

AD: I am sure that is not true. [laughs]

JK: Of course it is not! But when the Turks came in, they brought their swear words and curse words with them and the Armenians learned them from the Turks. No, even as a kid, that does not sound right to me–every language has its language, but it is a–

AD: But that is natural if they something like that, after what they went through, I mean I do not blame them, of course they say things like that–

JK: It is just balderdash, no, and I know, I can swear in Turkish, but obviously that is not for mixed company, you know, but not my first cousin George speaks fairly good Turkish because he spent a lot of time with his dad who was from Hajin and he spoke a great deal of Turkish, and he also spoke the Hajin dialect which sounds like Chinese.

AD: What is Hajin?

JK: I wish I could tell you the name, it has been changed now, it is no longer Hajin, it is in–

AD: That is why we have this.

JK: It is North East of Adana in the mountains; Adana, Tarsus, Mersin of the North East corner of your country [laughs]–

AD: My country–

JK: Yeah, well it is your country. I am familiar with it but I do not know it.

AD: Okay, Kilikya, is the ancient name of that region–

JK: Yes. We say–

AD: Hajin, Hajin–

JK: Okay, the Armenians say it is Hajin; H-A-J-I-N–but it is now called something else [Saimbeyli]–

AD: And then, apparently there was a massacre.

JK: This is Adana area, okay, yeah I am guessing, well today it may not be fifty miles or a hundred miles from Adana but, you know, in those days it would have taken a few days–

AD: The new name is this, Saimbeyli.

JK: That is it, that is it. That is the new name. That is ̶ You are right. That was where my uncle was from, and the language– so he spoke Turkish and Armenian and English and the language he spoke, here you go– here we are.

AD: There you go, yes.

JK: Yeah, Adana would be down almost on the Mediterranean, there is our lake, which you claim [laughs].

AD: Well you know what, who else is also claim that, right?

JK: The Kurds probably, of course. I am not sure who was there first, we only been around three thousand years maybe, so I do not know.

AD: People’s Lake, people’s.

JK: The only thing I can say is I had a wonderful, wonderful meal overlooking the Lake in a Kurdish restaurant and I just– it is funny I cannot tell you what I ate, but it was– God this is good, I am really enjoying it. So, wonderful meal and we went out to Akdamar, there is an Armenian Cathedral there out on an Island and that was interesting and, as I said we were– my group, we started here and we were through here and up in the Black Sea here, over here and around. The only time we flew to Kayseri which was a big city when my dad was a kid and then from Kayseri we were on bus and then we I think from– did we take a plane from Malatya to Ankara back to Polis, Istanbul if I remember, but we covered four thousand miles and most of it was in a bus–

AD: Wow!

JK: And, we got to see a lot of Turkey and Diyarbakir [laughs], we stopped at Kav–kav– how do you say it?

AD: Kervansaray.

JK: Kervansaray, the Saray I have– Okay, it is an old one, wandering around and I had to go to the bathroom, so I went behind it to relief myself and I came out, I am with my sister’s now, Soviet Union my son was– I wish I could have taken my son, this was going home but he just got married, just had a baby. His wife, understandably would have killed both of us and I would have to pay for it but I wish I could have taken him with me but, anyway, I come out [laughs], there is nobody, the bus was gone [laughs] they left me. I said gee my sisters really love me [laughs], they really–But I was in a such good place, I had my camera’s, I had my money, I had my passport, I had everything I needed. I was happy, and I just started walking down the road, and after a while, they realized I was missing [laughs]–

AD: They came back?

JK: They came back for me, yes. But it was funny, I– you think I would have panicked, I do not speak Turkish, I am a foreigner I am in a– in a kind of a rough area of the country because of the Kurdish problems–

AD: Yes, exactly.

JK: Yeah, but I was happy. I was happy.

AD: Oh, that was nice.

JK: But you know, we had a wonderful time. We really did. And of course, Near Eastern hospitality, people were wonderful. I had a merchant in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; I figure it is one of the first indoor mall in history.

AD: Yeah, yeah.

JK: But he was selling knock-offs and that is common, Rolex watches, but usually they pass it off as the real thing. He is telling me it is a knock-off, and I figured out it was a knock-off but it was a good one, and he said it is a good quality and we got talking, and– person to person. He is a Turk, I am an Armenian. And he said if the governments would get out the way, he says we could get along. It is the damn governments.

AD: Yeah, it is just political stuff, absolutely, absolutely.

JK: But I remembered him telling me, they are knock-offs– I am saying I have never heard anybody tell me it is a knock-off. He wants me think I am buying the real thing for ten cents on the dollar [laughs].

AD: So, your son has how many kids? Three, wow!

JK: [Yeah, three] He and his first wife had a daughter. She was cute, personable, bright troubled but unfortunately, she is twenty. And I love her dearly, but, and she has come along way but I got my fingers crossed. I want her very much to go back to school and we have told her, my wife and I told her, and I have told her we will back her, you know, her mom and dad I know cannot really afford to send her to school but they can do something to help, she can do something to help, and then grandma and grandpa will pick up, you know, it is important and she has a good mind I hate to see it go to waste, and–

AD: Yeah, she is so young–

JK: Yeas, keep my fingers crossed, and then the Muk and his first wife adopted a young man from Guatemala. He is going to be fifteen next week, and he is a good kid but he is painfully shy, painfully, painfully, painfully shy. But he is a Maya Indian we have been told and the– like I said he is a good kid, of course I love him. He is a few shades darker than I am but it does not bother me but I guess he is aware of it, he made a comment when Obama was elected that here is the president whose skin color is like mine or close to mine, interesting. And they unfortunately got divorced and the Muk remarried. His first wife was thirteen years older than he. His second wife is thirteen years younger than he.

AD: Wow! So, thirteen is the magic number for him.

JK: I do not know. So the first wife is old enough to be the second wife’s mother. And she is a dear and they– for a lot of reasons– I think made a very stupid mistake; part of me is a very sentimental idealist but I also have a strong practical streak. And in their situation they had no business having a child, but she wanted a child and the Muk said okay, so now we have another grandson who is about twenty-two, twenty-three months old.

AD: Okay, baby.

JK: Yes, he is a toddler, he is a darling little boy but I am very practical I told you, and you do what you could afford to do, not what you cannot afford to do. Well, they are happy, they are madly in love with one another and so now we have a third grandchild, and I hope my son is around when he graduates from high school and I hope my son is around to see him graduate from college–

AD: How old is your son?

JK: He is forty-eight now.

AD: Forty-eight.

JK: Yeah, he is a teacher.

AD: He is a teacher.

JK: He has got two master’s degrees; he is a bright young man.

AD: What does he teach?

JK: Actually now he is teaching fifth grade or sixth grade–

AD: Oh!

JK: Yeah, he did want high school, he wanted middle school and that was–he was there for a while than he got bumped down into the grade school because he has been told by some seasoned professionals that if you going to reach a child, you gotta do it before high school. High school is too late. So, he wanted to deal with younger kids, and I said everybody always told me middle school, junior high school in my day is the worst time or area to teach kids but that was what he wanted, and I spent the day once when we are up there, this is ten or fifteen years ago, and I made sure it was okay with the school and him and I went and I said in the back of the class for a day and watched him, you know–

AD: That is nice.

JK: Yeah, it was neat. I told the service, I realized it–

AD: Yeah, I did not even ask you what your occupation was.

JK: Well, I– mostly I sold insurance and in some investments–

AD: Okay.

JK: Probably, I would say mostly–I work here in the insurance business first in claims then in sales. So basically insurance.

AD: Tough job, insurance. What kind of insurance?

JK: Life, some health, accident, you know, property casualty, mostly life and as my brother in-law he was very successful as a broker said, we look upon insurance as being very tough, nobody wants to spend a hundred dollars for life insurance but they will invest a thousand dollars which may they lose. They want think about that. It is the mindset.

AD: Off the record maybe I need to ask you about that stuff, because I never understood that insurance business.

JK: I could try to be helpful in general terms. I have been retired twenty-three years so, a lot has changed, you know, I have forgotten things, but generally I could help you.

AD: Of course generally.

JK: Absolutely.

AD: So, oh! So, and your son is the teacher? Nice.

JK: He is now in Massachusetts, the money he is making, if he was making it here, would been an entire different story because the dollar goes for much further in Broome Country than it does in Massachusetts. He has got a house that might bring a hundred thousand here, two seventy, two eighty up there. I mean it is just outrageous, outlandish! And I want–see I feel that a parent is supposed to help a child through college, at least the four-year degree. And I do not mean blank checks but I mean helping the child, and I do not know if they can do it. You know, it bothers me. I know how much we have helped him, you know, and I do not mind, listen; if we go to a nursing home, our nest egg is gone, if we do not we go to a nursing home, there will be a little inheritance, but you know at thirty or forty we did not have what we have today, naturally. But, so I worry about those things. They do not obviously. [laughs]

AD: Obviously, yeah. No, I understand your points. Certainly.

JK: But then there are people say know, you graduate from high school, you are done. If they want to go to school, they can do it. They can do it on their own. I do not know how, not today, not in– not in our culture.

AD: No, not in our culture.

JK: You know, my nieces, this is Annie’s brother’s children–in the twenty years between the Muk and them, it tripled the cost of a private school education in this area, the North East. You know, it cost us about seventy grand, the twins, their twins are going at the same time. It was a hundred thousand dollars a year for the two of them–four hundred thousand bucks. Who has that kind of money?

AD: Yeah, I know.

JK: You know, they went off to a private school and a good school but that is not the point. They are– one is attorney now, the other one has not gone further with their education but you know it is– either it is going to be only the wealthy can go to school or there is going to have to be some change in our system.

AD: Yeah, well I think Cuomo was proposing something for college education.

JK: Well, thanks to Berny Sanders, yeah–free tuition to state schools. Tuition only now. That is not books, that is not room and board–

AD: Well, that is a start, right.

JK: Yes, but this is a society that is center-right and I think short-sighted and selfish that is how see it. And you know, we– my son wanted to go a private school, I said I do not know if we could afford it. I said but he wanted badly, he picked the school, he went to Hardwick, up the road here and I said we will try and see what happens. We managed but I said you know if you had a sibling–

AD: Which one did he go?

JK: Hardwick College, Oneonta.

AD: Oh, yeah, yeah.

JK: And it was a good experience for him and I was impressed with some of the professors. There are some good people up there who were there wanted to teach, not nec– not necessarily to publish, but there is a difference, although I am realized publishing is important if you want tenure and you want to make a name for yourself and have a nice paycheck every month [laughs]–

AD: Absolutely.

JK: Which is important, but we are getting off the beaten path here but I hope there will be changes because I was able to go to school, well I had the GI Bill and I had mom, free room and board for three years, I mean, you know. That was a– if I had to come up with money for three years of room and board I could not have gone to school.

AD: That is right.

JK: You know–

AD: That is right, I mean, and you stay with your mom until you are married just like living in Ottoman Empire right?

JK: [laughs] That is the reason I did it. No, not really.

AD: No, but that is what people do, it is more economical, you now, if you start working, you save your money when you get married, so you can have some, you know, to spend on your expenses, whatever.

JK: Well, thanks for dear old mom. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, so but your mum was close to the girls as well?

JK: Oh, yeah. No, we were, we still. There are only two of us left now. We are very close-knit family, very close-knit family. The only people that I have ever known that were closer than my mother and my sister’s and I were my step-grandmother’s children.

AD: Oh! Really?

JK: And they were also, they were the youngest was the male, two older daughters. The three of them were unbelievable. I have never seen anything like it. Very, very close.

AD: So, you kept in touch with them?

JK: Oh, yes, yes. No, they are family, you know, and, oh yes. We have–we have always stayed in touch with them. Marge and Rose are not gone but Russ has still left, and he has– I better be careful, if I am not mistaken, I am going to be eighty-three in April, I think Russel will be eighty-seven in June I think. He is four years older than I am.

AD: Okay, so they are all first generation Armenians right?

JK: Yes, their parents were immigrants. Coincidence my step-grandfather was also from Sebastia/Sivas–nice man. I really liked him. Very pleasant.

AD: So, what I see here is like the survivors when they arrived this country, you know as young adults or teenagers or whatever, so they all married with Armenians, pretty much right?

JK: Oh! Yes, if not a hundred percent, very, very, very close. Out of necessity, you want to be with the people that you know at least culturally. Most of them came penniless. Let’s not kid anybody. My father came with some money, I remember telling me that he had it around under his clothing, you know, around his waist.

AD: Because he arrived before the Genocide–

JK: Yeah, 1913, and we did go, my son and I and my wife, and my sister-in-law went to Ellis Island, the old Ellis Island when it was in ruins. And that was a phenomenal experience, and I said God, I am walking in my father’s footsteps. I went up the staircase that he had come down. It was a group and everybody in the group was either first generation immigrant like I was or there were a couple of them maybe in the second generation and we had a few that were actually, who had actually come through Ellis Island. They were immigrants, and one Jewish gentleman was in a wheelchair, he had his family with him, and I am not sure why he asked me why I was there and I told him, and I said my father had come to avoid conscription from the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and he said that was why we came. They were all, until Jews from what is now Syria I believe if I remember correctly, and his older brother was going to be conscripted, and they wanted to avoid that and they came to America. He was a kid, he was like you know four, five, six years old or something, you know, but it was a wonderful, wonderful experience because the new one is worthwhile but it is like new Museum. This is– was the original buildings and in there some places they are falling down, falling apart, you had to climb over, rubbish and rubble and, you could almost– hear the footprints, the footsteps–

AD: Absolutely.

JK: It was. [getting emotional]

AD: Very emotional.

JK: Yeah, it was, it was neat, it was– we have been back to the new place, it is nice but–

AD: It is not the same thing.

JK: Not the same thing. It is like when I went to Armenia, Soviet Armenia. It was nice, it is Armenia, but it is not home. You know, and I realized that talking to them, to one of the folks here, I am going back fifty, sixty years, he had retired, I said would you like to go to Armenia. He said no, that is not where we are from– not where I am from, that is not home.

AD: I agree.

JK: And he said besides, he said, and I did realize my parents were both had some education, they could read or write, he said I cannot read or write a word in any language, he said, you know, how I am going to get around [laughs], and I said oh, I just assumed they all had some basic education, I did not realize that many of them did not. You know, they lived in rural areas where you have to have more money because there were no schools, you had to send your children to like a boarding school or they just did not have any money and mom and dad could not possibly send them to school.

AD: I think people mostly lived in Istanbul, they got more education.

JK: Oh, sure it is the big city–

AD: Yeah, I think that was what happened during that time because education was not mandatory.

JK: No, Sivas, when my mother was there was a city of about eighty thousand approximately. There were fifty thousand Turks, thirty thousand Armenians, when we were there in (19)96, it is about a quarter of a million, and I do not know if there is a hundred Armenians. We ran into a few, uh, looking for them but you know, as I asked a woman once, a Turkish woman, up at Colgate, there was the movie that what the hell is his name, Armenian-Canadian, Canadian-Armenian director, Atom– I cannot think of the gentleman’s name, anyway, they were showing it up there and she was asking some questions because she was incredulous that there was a Genocide and so I said to her, here is the proximate figures, fifty thousand Turks, thirty thousand Armenians today, there is a quarter million people and there is a few dozen Armenians, tell me where they went, if there was not a genocide, there should be now a hundred thousand Armenians for God’s sake–

AD: What did she say?

JK: She did not have anything to– she did not know– what could she say. But you know, but she was buying the party line that the government says, no there was dislocation, there was World War One was going on, there was a civil war, and the Armenians were accused of doing all sort of wonderful things, and I am thinking, wait a minute; they took all the arms away from the civilians, you know, you might have had a hunting rifle or a pistol or something, with our bare hands we did all this damage to the Turks! How did we do that? We are really a superior race! [laughs] It was– but of course if this is all you know, now when were in Turkey, nobody said they knew, but several people said we have heard things. You know, we know something happened, we do not know what. It was interesting! Even though the official story is that there was no genocide.

AD: They all know; they just did not want to talk about–

JK: You think, okay–

AD: Yeah.

JK: Yeah, because I know in Averek, Develi we were in, it is a mosque now, we were in an old Armenian Church and across the street Armenian–on a couple of the homes, and I think one was the priest home and I was thinking geez this is probably the church my father and his family went to a hundred years ago, or ninety years ago. And it was what amazed me is that it was huge, not outside, it did not look that big the way it was done and the way it was sitting.

AD: It was in Sivas?

JK: No, this is in Averek, Develi. It is today Develi.

AD: Averek, oh, Develi.

JK: And, it– remember, you may not know this. The orthodox Churches in the old world do not have benches. They do not have pews. You stand. You could have probably put a thousand people in this place. It was huge, huge! They let us in. They were very nice, and I just marveled at the size of it, you know, and again the majority of people would have been Turks not Armenians. We would have been a minority but–

AD: I do not know, maybe we would find something–

JK: Now, see my mother in Sivas, there were four or five Armenian Churches, and one of them–

AD: Yes, because it is bigger.

JK: It is a bigger city, more Armenians and they lived near the Cathedral and it is now gone, there are two banks on the side where the cathedral was but she said they lived right down the street from it. So I walked down the street, my mother, you know– it was right next to the “Down Town”, there is like not a square but like a square where the government buildings are in Sivas and the churches right off where the church location was right off from that but I wish we had, of course it would have changed in a hundred years or whatever but, I wish there was a number or a some kind of identifying, something that we say wow this is where my mother lived, you know, but there is nothing–we do not have any information just that we know where the Cathedral, the Church was and it was down the street so, was down the street a hundred yards or half a mile–

AD: If you knew the address, all those records are in Ottoman archives.

JK: Well, my question is because in many places I am under the impression, they did not necessarily let–like in this country we have two, four, six, eight– they did not do that. They did not number homes, and did they in the Ottoman Era? I do not know.

AD: Yeah, there is a record, like–when–my research was in Turkish Republic Period, so they had numbering system but, uh, for Ottoman, with name they were recording the property under the name, whoever owned, they were– and also think about this, they had house, they did not have apartment complex like–

JK: Oh, no, no, yeah–

AD: You know what I mean?

JK: Each person had their own little–

AD: So they were registered under people’s name.

JK: Okay.

AD: Because one time I did a research for Ottoman period, it was in Istanbul, I had to come up with a map showing the doctors–doctors’ offices–

JK: Hekim [Doctor in Turkish].

AD: Yeah. And then I– so it is – it was–it is registered under people’s name. And those records are in Archives.

JK: Yeah, but you have to have someone who can read the Arabic script, the Arabic Turkish–

AD: Yeah, there are so many people who can do that. I learnt some. I can read some but mine is not that good but there are so many people who can read. But you need to have some kind of information–

JK: You know, but I do not know the name of the street, I know what street it is but then my grandfather and I do not know why, the family–his brother was a kasap, a butcher, so that the family name was Kasabian and at some point he said no that was not the proper name and he changed his name. I do not know about my uncle, my great uncle to Zopaburian, he said Zopabourian is the proper family name, what it means, where it came from I do not have a clue–

AD: Zopabourian.

JK: Zopabourian, yeah but then in just give you an idea–

AD: What is Zopabour, I do not know.

JK: I do not know. I do not either. I have never heard of the name before or the word. That does not mean anything.

AD: That is not Turkish. Because Zapabour is not Turkish.

JK: No, it is probably Armenian but what it means I do not have a clue, but because– he graduated from high school in 1895, my grandfather.

AD: But that was a very high level education.

JK: Then, yes. Even here if you are high school graduate you were someone special back then or in Western Europe.

AD: For that time period that was a very high level.

JK: So, he and in that– again it is Armenian so I can read it. We have got a picture in one of the, not a text book but a history book that I have, and it is a graduate class and he is in it, but in that I have had someone who could read Armenian his name is Kasabian, okay, even though later he said that was not the proper name, and he changed it.

AD: So, every record in– whatever record is left in Turkey if they are there, if they are not touched, everything should be under that name, Kasabian–

JK: Rather than the change later. Yeah, and we have got –my sister’s got– she may have showed it to you–

AD: She showed us–

JK: A photograph with the back got my grandfather stamp in three languages.

AD: Yes.

JK: Yeah, and that was kind of neat, and I do not know if you ̶ probably do not remember but what is interesting is the photograph is of my sister’s uncle and wife; brother of their father.

AD: Okay, she was saying stuff I do not remember.

JK: Coincidence that he took their picture in the old country then– and before the genocide that family came, 1913, they came to Philadelphia, I do not know why, I do not have the clue but it was Manoushag and Berjouhi’s dad’s brother and he is the one who outlived all his siblings and his mother and he was the black sheep of the family, he was, from everybody, what everybody tells I knew him as a kid but he was a real SOB and a crook and abandoned and he was the one who lived naturally [laughs].

AD: Isn’t that life? Right?

JK: I guess, and he was not that old but I mean he was– yeah he was not seventy when he died, because I remember him when he died vaguely but I always got kick out of the fact that he took a picture of his daughter’s future brother-in-law. You know, I know it is serendipity but it is coincidence but you wonder about those things, you know.

AD: Yeah, absolutely.

JK: And I am told his wife was an SOB also, lovely woman, beloved according to that photograph. She is a lovely, lovely woman but I guess her personality was not lovely. [laughs]

AD: Probably, probably.

JK: Okay, I am off to be in path again, I am sorry.

AD: No, no, no this is the history, yeah, so now. What else I was going to ask, so you– so your son is accepting his identity as Armenian identity?

JK: Oh, yeah identifying as Armenian.

AD: His children? No.

JK: Annie, no. Annie is name for a grandmother. [laughs] She is, she identifies with it. I do not know if Mark does. He has got an Armenian name. But he is a Maya Indian, there is a wonderful proud history there. But he is adopted–

AD: He is adopted.

JK: You know, and he knows it. He is completely accepted, but I do not know because he is such a shy kid and such a quiet kid, I do not know what he feels, what he thinks. Adopted children sometimes, quite often have problems–

AD: Yeah, but your granddaughter accepts, or–

JK: Well she thinks of herself, as being parts of Armenian. Whether Mark does it or not, I do not know, and of course a little eşşek is he is, I mean, you know, he is [laughs]–

AD: He is too young.

JK: He is young, yeah, he is just a little whatever.

AD: And your son is being a teacher and all hopefully he will help his children, you know, especially the natural–

JK: All of them I hope.

AD: Biological children hopefully at least–

JK: Yeah.

AD: –Will continue to accept.

JK: Well no, he is a high, or he is part high, certainly. He was blessed, he had two magnificent grandmothers and he identifies with both sides, of course his grandmother is the English lady, the English woman. Grandpa was the Irishman and Dad Sullivan would not admit it but one of his four grandparents was English. I mean that is a no, no. That is– the English treated the Irish almost as badly as the Ottoman Empire treated the Armenians. I mean the English were, if you know your history, you know how they treated everybody in the Near East. The English were wonderful diplomats and liars [laughs].

AD: Yeah, you know, we are recording this so let me not talk about that [laughs], so off the record I can tell you how I think?

JK: I am sorry I forgot that is on!

AD: [laughs] Yeah, so, you wanted to go see the homeland.

JK: Oh, yes, my goal was, when I was young is I hope one day, I will have the money and I can take my mother and Mrs. Abashian, Cathy’s grandmother, and take them both back and well, it never happened. The day came when I had the money to go but–

AD: They were not there anymore.

JK: Well, no they were–no no, (19)80– (19)86 my mother was still alive, I am not sure Mrs. Abashian, Aunt Esgouhi died at a year or two before my mother, but they were old and sick and not well, you know, they would not have–it would have been impossible. So, the first trip, well the only Armenian we knew was the Soviet Armenia so we went there and actually we were there about three and a half weeks, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and it was exhausting but it was a wonderful trip. But that was a long time to live out of suitcase, God! And worthwhile, and my sisters and I went, and we took the Muk, I took the Muk. Took him out of school, he was a good student and no problems. I wanted to make sure they were not going to– because he was graduating, I did not want to–he was senior in high school, I did not want to cause any problems with the school–And they said no problem. I said give it to me in writing please [laughs] I wanted a letter from the school and they did and I gotta tell you this story, they gave him a textbook, so he could do some reading, why not. And he was taking a course on the Third Reich–

AD: Oh, wow!

JK: You know about Hitler and the Nazis and there is Hitler’s picture on the paperback cover and the swastika and all so we get to the Leningrad, that was where we flew in, and we go through customs and we had a young custom’s officer; eighteen, twenty years old, not more than a kid himself. He saw that book. He almost passed out. He went pale. I mean, the look on his face and I tried to explain to him, it was a textbook, it was anti-fascist, against fascism, and said– he cannot bring that in, he got his boss, he did not speak any English, and we did not speak any Russian and his boss came in and again we went through the same, they said no, cannot take it in. They gave me a receipt, they said when you leave the country, you can get it back, and we were leaving three and a half weeks later, I said I want to see, and I said can get this back, they gave it back to us. They had it but the fear, the shock it was so, so obvious and after my experience in the Soviet Union I came home and I said, the Russian people will never start a war with us. I cannot say that about the American people. American people are besides being ignorant, are something else, but we spoke to some people who said, you know, we do not have enough freedom. This is the days of Gorbachev. We do not have enough freedom. We want–we would like more freedom not as much as you have in America. You have a little too much freedom, but we would like more freedom. It was quite interesting and when you think that–and Americans, I know, do not know this but it is safe to say probably twelve to fifteen percent of the Soviet Union population was killed, forget the wounded, killed in World War II. These people really do not want another war and the government that is something else. The governments are you know–

AD: Absolutely.

JK: But it was just, we had a wonderful time but Armenia was–and what we did not really, completely understand is the Armenian we spoke–speak which is the Western Armenian is not the Eastern Armenian which is spoken in the Soviet Union. So, most of them could not understand us, and we could not understand most of them, uh–

AD: Different dialects–

JK: Oh, very, very different, uh, but we managed but it was very difficult, very difficult. But there are some people that their root come from the West or who spoke Western Armenian and Obviously there is no problem communicating with them but that was not true with most of them, and I think the Armenians in Northern, at least Northern Iran, Azerbaijan and Iran also speak that dialect or very similar– or again–we had trouble communicating–

AD: Yeah, well same thing with the Turkish. The Turkish they speak is different in Azerbaijan–

JK: But we had Turkish speaking people with us and they were able to communicate very easily, with the Azeris.

AD: Yeah, but it is not the same.

JK: I am sure you are right but I remember that.

AD: Basics, you understand them but some of those things are different. I mean they speak Turkish but the regional differences, I should say. The accent or, or the words they use.

JK: I know when I was in Mexico, my cousin would say they are from Argentina, and all I am hearing is Spanish from both of them but she is a native Mexican, they are not speaking Mexican Spanish, that is Argentine’s Spanish.

AD: Well, same thing with Arabic.

JK: Well, I am sure every language.

AD: All these countries, you know, the Arabic they speak in Lebanese is different, then Egypt is different, you know it is like, that is normal because ̶

JK: Look at this country, go to the deep South–

AD: Exactly.

JK: They sound strange to us and they think–they think we sound strange. [laughs]

AD: I know, I know. Well, I think I asked all the questions I had in my mind. Thank you so much for your time because it is almost five o’clock, can you believe that?

JK: Yeah, I talk a lot, I am sorry.

AD: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. So and if you want to add anything later on, I am sure we will see each other again, we can talk so I am just going to turn this off now.

JK: Okay, be my guest.

AD: Thank you.

(End of Interview II)

Date of Interview



Gregory Smaldone and Aynur de Rouen


Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian

Biographical Text

Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian is retired from insurance sales and is a first generation Armenian-American who was born in Binghamton. Both his parents left Turkey during the genocide. Jerry and his wife have a son and three grandchildren and they continue to reside in Binghamton.





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Binghamton University

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This audio file and digital image may only be used for educational purposes. Please cite as Armenian Oral History Project, Binghamton University Libraries, Binghamton University, State University of New York. For usage beyond fair use please contact the Binghamton University Libraries for more information.


Armenians; Family; Community; Genocide; Church; Binghamton; Turkey.



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About this Collection

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This collection includes interviews in English with informants of all ages and a variety of backgrounds from various parts of Armenia. The interviews provide deeper insight into the history of the Armenian culture through personal accounts, narratives, testimonies, and memories of their early lives in their adoptive country and… More

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“Interview with Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian,” Digital Collections, accessed May 28, 2024,