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Interview with Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian Jr.

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Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian, Jr.
Interviewed by: Aynur de Rouen
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 21 February 2017
Interview Setting: Binghamton, NY

(Start of Interview)

AD: Yes, so today is February 21, 2017. And I am interviewing with Jerry Kalayjian Junior.

JK: Junior. That is right.

AD: Yes. Yeah. So now I want to ask you to pronounce your full name for me.

JK: Well my given name is Gerald Michael Kalayjian Jr. But I go by Jerry.

AD: Jerry.

JK: As my father did.

AD: Okay. So when and where were you born?

JK: I was born in here in Binghamton, November 15, 1968. I think at Binghamton General Hospital. That is interesting. I am not sure which hospital I know I was born in Binghamton.

AD: Yeah, that must be right. Either Lourdes or Binghamton General.

JK: It was not Lourdes. So it must have been in-

AD: Yeah.

JK: Yeah. It had to be Binghamton General.

AD: So and you grew up here?

JK: I grew up in Johnson City.

AD: Okay. So how, how would you describe of your childhood.

JK: Oh, interesting, in hindsight is, you know, pushing fifty and having children of my own almost idyllic at the time I was, I think I could not wait to get out of this area. It seemed like there was nothing to do as a child it was boring is dreary. And in hindsight, it was almost perfect. Almost the entire family on both sides are here in this community. So I saw my grandparents all the time. My aunts my uncles, cousins. There was, no there was no crime to speak of. You know, you I walked from kindergarten I walk to school like a mile or more than the things today that might get arrested for letting your kid walk to school. Now it was it was very pleasant, very good. I was lucky in that regard, I think an only child so I got maybe a little more attention that I might have wanted, but [laughs] overall, I was it was a good childhood. I was lucky.

AD: So the did you think you were like any other American kid in your school?

JK: Oh interesting. Um yes and no. For instance, this is a little embarrassing, but the only people that I knew who had toasters, I thought I thought toast was Armenian. For the longest time I thought toast was I know it sounds silly, but we had a toaster. My aunt's had toasters. And I am sure other people had toasters, but I never saw other people have toasters. So that and even though I am English and Irish and my mother side the Armenian without question I do not know looms larger. I mean, I am only half Armenian and yet, in terms of what identify as hell that is obviously how I look, I do not look very English or Irish. There is a freckle here somewhere.

AD: Yeah.

JK: But the Armenian and identity is larger in my mind, in the front of everything. So it was definitely a bigger piece of my growing up, I mean there was there were food, food is probably the first way in which things started to differentiate. Even though like sandwiches my mother sent me to school with you know, all my friends had white bread and you know cheese and ketchup or like damn, maybe a slice of ham and some mayonnaise and I came in with these bag woods with you know, vegetables, cele-not celery I am sorry, cucumber lettuce and you know, good big thick sandwiches that by the time I was, I was in middle school, I when a boy really starts to eat, you know, and we were just kind of ̶ I was bringing six or seven to school I was eating four but I was selling to because of my friends wanted it you know.

AD: Selling sure.

JK: Right yeah selling a small entrepreneurial spirit there. But the ̶ I was exposed to different foods you know the ethnic foods we would if we traveled restaurants, you know, we would seek out or if we just last night, my parents, we were driving, to have dinner with friends and drove by a place over on the west side that was a Czech restaurant they had never seen before. My father was all excited. It is always to try to see what it is. So I felt like I was constantly I never felt is an outsider by any means. But there was an exposure to culture that I do not think all my friends had, you know, that there was a prisoner lens that the world was looked at and looked through. And, you know, it was it was a thing of excitement or interest or curiosity.

AD: Yeah, so did you have like, in your school, let us go back to elementary school, were there like some kids like some immigrants or some, you know, fairly, or like first-generation, like Polish or I do not know ̶

JK: Yeah we had, um so I am forty-eight. So 19, late (19)70s. I am in fifth fourth, fifth into sixth grade. And we had a large influx of Laotian kids and families coming in from an after effective. And in Viet ̶ I think we had some Vietnamese and Laotian kids. Again, impact from the war in Vietnam. Everybody of Eastern European origin had been here a few generations at that point. There were no people of color Johnson City was remarkably white.

AD: No because that falls ̶ that, that was the time of the [indistinct] ̶

JK: The [indistinct] yeah. Yeah not in our school district. I think one young man was African American in our graduating class with a couple of three Laotian kids and the rest of us were ̶

AD: So when the people ask you at school or, or if they cover that kind of like ethnicity or family history, you know, like, what is your family history or whatever? I mean, did you identify yourself as you know, my paternal side is Armenia or something?

JK: I would not have used paternal until I was older but Armenian, English and Irish, and kind of descending order of percentages, but and then I would have to explain what Armenian was and where Armenia was because nobody knew what Armenian was, it was before the Kardashians well and unfortunately, you know, Kim Kardashian is a [indistinct] ̶

AD: Yeah I do not know if that was a good thing or not but.

JK: Well before that, it was Dr. Kevorkian. So depends on how you look at his work, I guess. And I have to explain, you know, where that was what that was. People were like are you Italian or Cuban. Apparently I am dark enough that it could be a lot of different things. So people would asked and I'd say Armenia and they would be like wow where is ̶ Because at that point, it would have been part of the Soviet Union was not its own country. Had not been in the history, you know, in the front page of the news for a hundred years people did not know.

AD: No, no.

JK: And even now, they might not really.

AD: No not really. So, but your last name? I mean, were they asking you like your teachers, or did they have hard time spelling, pronouncing it?

JK: Oh, spelling for sure. And they would have been ̶

AD: Okay. Yeah, no, no.

JK: They would have been certainly mispronunciation and I know, I am not sure about Elementary School. I am just getting to that age where that is starting to get fuzzy. But certainly Middle School, teachers would ask, you know where that what is that? Where is it from? And I would explain that the I-A-N means son of kind of the O in O'Brian the Mac in MacDonald and supposedly Kalayji is the ̶ was the artisan who would have recovered the pots after the copper wore away. So we were told ̶

AD: That is right. We ̶ Your father and I look at some images.

JK: Oh you looked it up?

AD: Yeah.

JK: How interesting oh very cool.

AD: Yeah, yeah we did.

JK: It is funny I never thought to do that in this age of Google and the internet, but so yeah there would have been mispronunciations, misspellings galore.

AD: Yes so these are ̶ So apparently your great, great grandfather. He was, they were probably was a family business.

JK: Right.

AD: You know. I was talking to my Kurdish student yesterday and I was telling him that still is a-a this is ̶

JK: Something that still is viable.

AD: It is.

JK: Life, um, profession.

AD: That is part of a guild, you know, artisanship. So and you just learn, you know, start.

JK: Father to son, to daughter.

AD: Exactly, exactly. Oh even ̶

JK: My aunt has one of those I have not seen it years but I know she used to have it out on her coffee table a very large sized, almost saucer ish pan or platter of that size ̶

AD: They were using to cook because you know when they cook they have to cook like is there in a bigger pot type of thing even, even now I mean it is like the culture you somebody make more, more of it.

JK: Oh yeah there is never enough.

AD: Yeah, it is never right. So that those were like, but now in in today's culture. I have a like little I do not have it here. It is in my mother's house. It was like a water pitcher type of thing ̶ copper. But it is ̶ it, it does not make that function anymore. It is preserved as a like an ornament, you know ̶

JK: Something pretty to look at.

AD: Exactly because it is old. But that is, that is what it is. So I am sure in Anatolia in Asia Minor Still, this is like people still take their big pots.

JK: Well but some of these images certainly seen.

AD: Yeah, new.

JK: You know the black and white that might be rare to but these look like new photos that ̶

AD: Even that does not look old. I mean, I am sure this is-

JK: That is wonderful.

AD: Very current I do not know where he is.

JK: You know it is funny you say ̶

AD: Yeah, look, it is two thousand fifteen. So somebody ̶

JK: So there is still [indistinct]

AD: He went here, he was ̶ He had an interest and he wanted to go and so these are the people. He does not mention the area. But so he is still doing it.

JK: That is neat.

AD: I mean, I am even sure you can still find these people probably it is like dying out, but ̶

JK: Thank you for showing ̶ I never ̶ I cannot believe I have never thought to look it up.

AD: Yeah. So that was the ̶ that was the job.

JK: I look at what sillier things I will tell you.

AD: Well, you never thought about it probably so but this is, this was the job.

JK: That palace look at that. Yeah, it is funny you mentioned like always having more and more food my, my mother's mother, you know just daughters of the American Revolution eight to seven-eight ancestors on the Mayflower. The stories from because my. My uncle is a first generation Italian. And so my aunt married a first generation my mother obviously did and apparently the story is like in the (19)60s, she could never took me years to understand that she did not. She was always worried she had not cooked enough. Because they were both depression era babies. They were both grown men in their part and they would whatever's on the table they would eat. You just ate whatever was there and you kept eating. And she could never cook enough and it took her long to realize that she did not have to keep cooking. She could stop him when he was done they would be done and it would be okay. But there is different cultures you know?

AD: Yeah.

JK: You have a small servings and very different.

AD: So even though your mom is not Armenian, but she like your sandwich. Obviously she was making your sandwich.

JK: Oh yeah absolutely.

AD: So she got into that.

JK: She did no question. Yeah pilav, lahmacun. There was one little black mark against it. And apparently you do not like lahmacun?

AD: Yeah [laughs]

JK: But you know.

AD: I never did it is weird.

JK: Not really, yeah everyone likes what they like. My father loves this stuff.

AD: I know we discussed that.

JK: She never made, my aunt's the family cook Manooshag I think your student may have interviewed.

AD: No, I went.

JK: Oh you interviewed? Okay, I knew so somebody did. And she is always like theology the things that take hours and hours to prepare. She, she would be the one to do that. I do not know that my mother ever did those. But a lot of ̶ the ̶ I guess easier dishes were certainly you know, we had a lot. Without question, pilav is a staple. Lahmacun as a kid was a staple. But yeah no she definitely ̶

AD: Oh they were making lahmacun at home?

JK: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

AD: Okay. So that is one item like in, you know, growing up you always go buy at the kebab store.

JK: When I ̶

AD: You do not really make it in the ̶

JK: There was no store out here that you could, you know, find it. When I moved to Boston, I moved to Watertown, not quite realizing I was moving into like little Armenia, and the yeah, yeah you could buy all of it just walk out and go to any little mom and pop shop around the corner. Around here if you wanted it, you had to make it yourself. Or you ̶ I do not know, my aunt lived in ̶ my other aunt lived in New Jersey, just outside New York City. And so sometimes if we went to visit we would find things there but ̶

AD: I want to continue about your childhood, but I, I do not want to forget. So when you moved in Boston area, did you particularly move in the Armenian district? You wanted to ̶

JK: It was accidental. It was completely accidental ̶

AD: So you were not looking for Armenian.

JK: No, a friend of mine from college was there and I was ̶ had finished one job and ̶ further upstate New York and he is like Jerry come to Boston and I am like, okay, I will come to Boston and we were looking for places to live. And we found an apartment in Watertown. That was ̶

AD: And he is not Armenian?

JK: No, he is, he is ̶ Well he is adopted, so he is not really sure but his parents are English, Canadian. And it just ̶ it, it-serendipity, we ended up you know, literally a block from where the concentration of all the storefronts are with ̶ you know, I was walking around ̶ I am a little slow-walking around I am like, that sounds familiar. Well you know people talking in Armenian all around me I am like, why have not I this ̶ and then I finally put it together after a couple of days that you know ̶ that this is you know, Armenian, everyone around me is Armenian. And it was wonderful after that.

AD: So did you engage with the community like did you go introduce yourself.

JK: No, not really. I have. It is interesting. My father would call himself a Christian. And because of the genocide, we have had this conversation feels like he had to be ̶ like there was an obligation a moral obligation to believe and to follow that path because his grandfather had died for it. And, but we never ̶

AD: We never, I never discussed that ̶

JK: Yeah, because ̶

AD: So, what ̶ He sums it up as the religion not ethnicity?

JK: The combination ̶ Apparently as the famous story goes my grandfather was one of two photographers in Sivas or Sebastia as the Armenians call it. And because of that, or for any other number of reasons, I guess, was well connected in some way with the-the Turkish community, I guess or had enough inroads that he was warned that trouble was coming and convert ̶ you know you can be a closet Christian, but convert and save your family. And apparently, on the grounds of faith refused, would not do it. And for whatever reason that my father, and I do not think I knew this until I was an adult, and I do not really remember how it came up, probably in a conversation because I am not a person of faith. And I remember questioning things pretty early on in at least one case, giving a parish priest fits. Though my father he felt like he had to be somehow like he owed it. And there is no question in my mind. I have read things about Holocaust survivors and their children and the children had a certain amount of guilt over what their parents experienced, despite the fact that as a child you could not-and he has some of that like-I do not remember what the technical term would be.

AD: I am, I am sure ̶

JK: But he feels ̶ That more than just [indistinct] sat on the back of his mother, but, you know, there is an obligation or should ̶ It is interesting.

AD: I mean I am sure religion was an important factor I mean look at today. This is twenty first century ̶

JK: We have not grown past the ̶

AD: I am sorry, it is like, it is standstill. Why cannot we just move forward? I am sure there is an aspect of religion because people were very religious at that time. Certainly, that area was religious.

JK: Oh, sure.

AD: I am certain of it ̶ But I think there are other like ̶

JK: Oh there is certain other factors historically speaking.

AD: Economic factors. I think to me that is like a bigger factor because ̶

JK: Oh I think so. I think ̶ Being an amateur historian, if you will, my grandmother, we do not know how old she was. Her period had not started.

AD: Yeah.

JK: At the beginning of the genocide. So we are figuring she was thirteen ish, maybe.

AD: Yeah, probably.

JK: But you know, so all the stories are filtered through a child's memory even as she was telling them as an adult. In fact, we just found out her stepmother, her sister and her stepmother survived ̶ the stepmother move ̶ made several moves to Troy, New York and had a new family. And I forget how it was over ̶ I was Facebook messaging with a cousin and my grandmother's stepmother had ̶ would have been so if my grandmother's thirteen she was maybe twenty something ̶ she was young woman ̶

AD: Yeah.

JK: But apparently they had seen my gran ̶ my great grandfather's body his body had been discovered, which was something this chunk of the family had never known. So I mean I am assuming the stories my grandmother has are valid, but through the lens of a young girl who may have been sheltered from some of it.

AD: Oh yeah.

JK: You know, you worship your parents at that age. You know, so my father sacrificed himself and you know, the altar of faith. I do not ̶ How much veracity there is to that, but that is the story.

AD: We did not really discuss the religion aspect.

JK: We, we ̶ I never-my parents never went to church. I mean, weddings, funerals, you know holidays.

AD: Okay so you were not a regular church going ̶

JK: No my aunt would take me.

AD: Okay.

JK: My aunt would come pick me up, Manooshag would come pick me up and bring me so I do not know if it is, you know, they say like if your pants do not go you just tend to stray, but I was seven, eight years old and, poor father George. I started asking about, I still had questions that did not make ̶ And part of it for me was the genocide. Like, here is this horrible, terrible thing. How could an all-powerful loving God, let this happen? So I do not know, at some point, ten, fifteen years later, that conversation probably led to me figuring out finding out my father felt he had to be a Christian or, you know, in his heart in his mind, despite the fact that he is not a get up and going to church kind of person he feels obligated.

AD: Yeah, no, no, that is ̶ That is understandable. Absolutely, absolutely.

JK: It is interesting. It is curious how the mind works. But yeah, makes sense to me.

AD: Yeah. So you did not ̶

JK: Oh I am sorry so the original question ̶

AD: Engagement ̶

JK: I did not engage in the community. No, I did not so I mean, I was never I worked as a kid here. But there was a Sunday school program up through I do not know, my teens, and I had a ̶ I had a morning paper route-getting up at five, six. In the morning delivering the local paper at that point, and I wanted ̶ And I am a teenager and surly and crumpy and like any other teen and I did not want to go anymore. My parents let me stop. So that that connection is not as strong as it would be. I have had cousins who are immersed in all things Armenian and ̶

AD: Yeah?

JK: Oh, absolutely. If you really want there is a family reunion coming up in August, we could really hook you up.

AD: When in August?

JK: I think the first weekend it is the fourth or the fifth. There is seventy-seven up and cousins are coming back into town.

AD: For them. I will not be-

JK: I would have to have a camera out ̶ I am not sure.

AD: Oh, you know what ̶ Can you send me the dates.

JK: Sure, sure.

AD: Because around that time, I will be coming back. So with jet lag from ̶ I will show up and [laughter]

JK: Yeah we could absolutely do that.

AD: Yeah, oh so family reunion.

JK: Yeah we, we did it, it has been a number of years. My mother coordinated it the first couple times. We rent a pavilion in one of the local parks. Because at this point, everybody has pretty much left town and my father and my aunt are the only two of that generation left. And everybody in my generation lives elsewhere. You interviewed George Rejebian and he has got two kids that will be coming back. Gary and Vivian. And then ̶

AD: Yeah I need to give you this ̶ Well, I am going to email you the CD because ̶

JK: Sure!

AD: We need to also edit yours ̶

JK: Absolutely.

AD: But do not you worry. That is no problem.

JK: Thank you, thank you.

AD: Yeah. No problem.

JK: And then George's sister, Margaret, who died. And he is twenty, twenty-one, she died almost twenty-one years ago. Her three kids should be coming back into town to so you know the same generation as myself. And they are descended from my grandmother's sister. Two of them, the two survivors ̶

AD: Okay.

JK: Who came to this community and so yeah you, you are definitely ̶

AD: Bunch of Armenians. Yeah.

JK: Yeah, yeah.

AD: Yeah so did you learn any Armenian, from your dad or from ̶ Oh how close were you with your grandmother? Because she was still alive.

JK: Oh she was ̶ Yes, she was alive. She died in ninety-two. So I was in my early twenties.

AD: Yeah.

JK: I am going to have to stop and do the math but and she had, had dementia for probably starting when I was early mid-teens. It was starting to slip the memory and by the ti ̶ there was some wonderful experiences where we would visit her in the nursing home and she thought I was my father as a boy and she thought my father was her father. And you know, so the conversations got pretty interesting. And then at one point, all this all this, all the staff and the nursing home were all Turks and she was totally paranoid and ̶

AD: They were Turks?

JK: They were but she ̶ You know someone with dementia or Alzheimer's they get paranoid.

AD: Ah, okay, okay.

JK: She would have her cardigan stuffed with you know, tissues and all kinds of interesting things. And she was, you know, really, really distrusting ̶

AD: But, you know, that is interesting.

JK: ̶ Of the staff.

AD: The fears ̶

JK: Oh.

AD: ̶ She was still going through.

JK: Absolutely. And her memory was gone. She would not know who we were but the earliest. And I have read since that that is how it works. Early memories are the ones that last the longest. But yes, so she had those fears. No question but yeah so we were very close. She used to babysit me as a kid and she wanted to teach me Armenian, and I think again, I think I was just a punk kid and I was not interested and I could kick myself now. The opportunity just to be bilingual, even if in a relatively small way, when which would not have a ton of interaction but ̶

AD: Were you close to her?

JK: Oh, yeah. She, she was the figure that, you know, she was the matriarch. There is no question and just, I do not know, I have always been very conscious that and I teach history. I talk to my kids about, you know, the past influences the present in that, you know, I, I exist because this horrible thing happened. You know it is ̶

AD: That is right.

JK: There is an existential irony there that, you know, the murder of my family led to me. You know, my parents never would have met my grandparents would not have met ̶ My grandfather immigrated before the genocide. So yeah, we were close, no question. We would visit her at least once a week. And when she had her apartment, and then when she was in the nursing home, so it was frequent. But yeah, she wanted to teach me I did not want to learn and I do not know why my, my mother still chastises my father every now that you should have taught him. And I do not know, if it was laziness on his part. I do not think so ̶ That is maybe he did not think it was important.

AD: It is laziness.

JK: I think, well he is ̶

AD: It is. I am certain it is laziness.

JK: No question about it. But whether it was conscious or not. But yeah, no ̶ I mean, I took a ̶ when I lived in my town. The local church had a, had a course and I signed up and took a semester and learned pretty quickly that ̶ I am a fairly bright individual that languages are not how my brain is wired. So much work.

AD: It is.

JK: And I know a few words. And unfortunately, most of them apparently are improper.

AD: Oh yeah.

JK: I asked it was a parish priest, unfortunately, who was teaching and I, and I said my father says this all the time wondering what this means and he turned bright red. I am like oh okay, I get the idea. [laughs] I do not think my father has a direct he probably does have a direct translation, but apparently it is fairly crude and ̶

AD: And he also knows some Kurd-Turkish curse words because he said ̶

JK: Well the rumor is, is that all the curse words are Turkish they are not Armenian, which I am sure is ridiculous, but, you know, somehow Armenians a pure language and we stole their curse words, because we are not going to have our own which seems silly, but that is the ̶ what gets [indistinct] around.

AD: You know it is like, I mean, they borrowed from each other obviously.

JK: Oh, sure.

AD: You know, not just curse words but everything ̶ I look at that ̶ food. It is all shared.

JK: Oh abso ̶ the whole area, yeah.

AD: Yeah but language ̶ My observation and you know, I also read other people's work not just particularly Armenian community but like a lot of immigrant communities. Language is the very first thing people lose, even though they do not lose the identity.

JK: That is interesting.

AD: But language is the very first thing.

JK: This that part of the assimilation?

AD: Yeah.

JK: Okay.

AD: Yes. And that is the very first thing it goes out. Even though, now you look at people I mean, I have like a conscious effort for my daughter and she is talented in languages and, and ̶ but at some point, growing up, she did not want to speak Turkish so at that time, her Turkish went down. And then my mother was extremely, like, strong-willed woman and then her criticism, and so she was like, okay, I guess you will never shut up. [laughs] So and then like her Turkish is like, constantly growing and like she can write, she can read, you know, it is like ̶

JK: That is wonderful.

AD: It is going but it is still ̶ English is her first language naturally growing up here. But as I said, it has ̶ It happens like very first thing is the language.

JK: The language goes, interesting.

AD: And what stays is the food and the dance or you know this.

JK: Yeah.

AD: Family gatherings and stuff like that. So that is the kind of stuff people tend to keep
but ̶

JK: The cultural pieces.

AD: The cultural pieces stay but language so do not, do not be so hard on you because ̶

JK: Oh no it is just more of a ̶ You know I wish.

AD: Yeah I know and everybody says that you know oh I wish if that was the case, and especially in this country right I mean this is ̶ Immigrants, all immigrants.

JK: Well we are supposed to be but what is going on these days, It is a little embarrassing.

AD: I know.

JK: But ̶ not a little em ̶ it is embarrassing.

AD: I know.

JK: It is frightening.

AD: I guess if you are not Russian you are not ̶ or Slovak. [laughs] Especially female, female Slavic race, is okay.

JK: It is awful, yeah. Other than that, forget it! You are no good.

AD: So.

JK: No it is ̶ I thought we ̶ it is interesting and the ̶ [indistinct] is I thought we had perhaps in my lifetime progressed, certainly there was all these racism and other isms.

AD: Oh yeah, yeah.

JK: But I kind of thought we have gotten to the point where we all acknowledged that alright you might feel that way. But it is embarrassing and it is bad and we are not going to let it out in the open. And, oh man, the last year is just ̶

AD: I know.

JK: Remarkable because there is too many people who think it is okay to have it be out ̶ spewing their [indistinct] and their hate.

AD: It is unbelievable, it is unbelievable. It is like ̶

JK: That is ̶ I know we are doing something else here but I am curious as someone who is a woman who is of a different culture speaks a different language. I mean, I would think you would be feeling that perhaps more than others.

AD: So you were telling me about your grandmother's faith? How was she? Was she religious ̶

JK: She was and it is interesting ̶ She did not always go to church. She did not have a chance ̶ she never learned how to drive. That is interesting I never asked why. Because my aunt would come pick me up ̶ Why we did not go pick my grandmother up, but she often would not go to church but very, very strong faith.

AD: Oh she had a strong faith?

JK: Oh very much so very, very much so. And why ̶ she ̶ that is funny. I all these years you think I would have asked that question why she did not come to church more often as well. But there is no question her faith was, was a huge part of her I can remember. She had like a one room efficiency, but not long before she went into nursing home. And she had, had some kind of, I do not ̶ God it has been so long ̶ I do not know if she fell, or she had a tendinitis, but there was some issue with her arm and at one point, she really could not raise it. And I can remember her saying to me “Look Gerard ̶ “And, and you know, she could not raise her arm all the way up. And so she was concerned, it had just been prayer. You know that it made the difference somehow for her.

AD: No I mean ̶

JK: And she, she would talk to me about it. When we would go visit ̶ There will be professional wrestling on TV she ̶ you could not tell it was not fake, or that it was fake. It was real. She loved the professional wrestling. I do not know why or where, but, you know. And she would, you know, she would talk to me about her faith in Jesus and these things. And from that, I know and from my father's stories that yeah no question she came through with a stronger, stronger faith, whether it had a connection to her experiences ̶

AD: But also generation, I mean, my mom is like, into religion, you know, I mean, her mom was even more religious.

JK: Yeah, I think it seems Yeah.

AD: Generation also makes a difference. So it looks like in my family, her generation it ̶

JK: Gets a little less and less.

AD: Faded away, yeah. But in some other ̶

JK: That is interesting.

AD: ̶ Families

JK: Because I, I know some of my cousins again my generation they are my second cousins and full Armenian, ethnically genetically ̶ are still pretty involved in their churches where they are, now whether that is a cultural piece or faith based piece or it is, I do not know, I think there is some with the Armenians, it certainly can be so interwoven and it is hard to separate the two for some people I do not know. That is interesting.

AD: Do you know what I am thinking with your grandmother? Maybe she did not like going to church because not every person likes going to church and, and pray in public and how was how was her English was she comfortable communicating?

JK: That is a good que ̶ I mean she certainly ̶ that is interesting because again, my memory is that of a little boy. I mean, we certainly were able to communicate. You knew she was a ̶ sort of remember secondary English speaker. There is no question that ̶ and not even just an accent, but you know, so maybe she was not as comfortable and as fluent.

AD: Did, did ̶ So she read the bible was in English? I know I am asking ̶

JK: I do not ̶ no that is a great question. I do not know.

AD: We need to ask your father. I am sure she had a bible, right?

JK: She ̶ yeah. And I bet you it was not a ̶ the only reason I think it may have been ̶ and I have no evidence really for this. But we have got a ̶ at one point she wrote out her story in-twelve, fifteen, twenty pages handwritten and it was in Armenian, so she could read and write Armenian and then we had some translate it, we all got like a, you know, typed up copy of it. But um, so I bet you her Bible would have been an Armenian.

AD: Yeah.

JK: So she could read, right ̶ I bet she was ̶

AD: So I do not know if she ̶ I am just thinking.

JK: But that makes sense in a common sense.

AD: She could not follow the priest.

JK: Well and ̶ at least in our Armenian Church it was everything was in Armenian. The liturgy all in Arm ̶ oh ̶

AD: Oh it was Armenian ̶

JK: As a little kid I was like oh ̶ and ̶

AD: Oh really?

JK: And they were not ̶ They were not these short Protestant services you know the kids would go and we would go to Sunday school and we would come back out and the whole thing was in Armenian and the music was I kind of liked the music The music was good and the incense was wonderful, but just you know in English I might have been bored you know, Armenian I did not understand it.

AD: How is it now? Is it still in Armenian or ̶

JK: The last time I wa ̶ And it has been a number of years is probably ̶ Oh God, I bet you it was somebody's funeral several years ago. Last time I was in an Armenian Church for the service. It was both ̶ No, you know, it was just a few years ago, the parish priest we had here left-went to California. And then I am outside of Boston, north of Boston. And there is obviously a large number of Armenians in eastern Massachusetts. And in the neighboring town of Haverhill Father George came back to help them ̶ came back east. And his wife's from Haverhill originally, and I went to see him two, three years ago. He was there for like six months. And it was both it was Armenian and English, which would have been nice when I was a kid because I might have gotten more out of it but. [laughs] I do not ̶ you know, just ̶

AD: Because then you do not understand what they are saying.

JK: Not a word ̶ nothing, nothing at all. You know it is ̶ Yeah and it is, it is not like it was like a ̶ I do not know like German where I might have-sister language where I might have picked up something ̶ nothing related ̶

AD: But same thing with you know for non-Arabic speakers who follow Islam.

JK: At a mosque ̶ everything is in Arabic.

AD: Everything is in Arabic.

JK: So even if ̶ that right ̶ that is it alright. So I never felt like you were in Turkey, the Imam would be preaching in Turkish, no? He is in ̶ speaking in Arabic.

AD: Okay Imam preaches in Turkish I think, not that I ever went to ̶ Yeah, I went to a lot of mosques. But I am an architectural historian, it was all for [laughs] ̶

JK: All about the building. Oh ̶

AD: The building or like, oh what element is carrying this dome? Was it a good transition? I mean is like all technical. That is, that is what I ̶

JK: Oh neat!

AD: I did. But as far as I know, you know, during this ser ̶ when he talks to the people it is in Turkish, but all ̶ these prayers, let us say somebody dies, okay. And then and there is this prayer. You know, when, when they buried the individual then there is the Hoca, you know, the religious entity comes home and then prays-

JK: And that is in Arabic.

AD: Yes. That is all in Arabic. You know?

JK: Interesting.

AD: And you have no idea what the script is about.

JK: That is fascinating.

AD: Nothing, nothing. So there are ̶ I think I, I think some people ̶ so what happened was in 1950s ̶ I am sorry, before 1950s, after the Turkish Republic was found ̶ Atatürk and his followers, it, it was during his follower's term. They said you know what ̶ you know, the call for prayer, Ezan, you know, five times a day, there is a call and originally it was like the Hoja goes to the minaret and then calls for the prayer. And that was all in Arabic. You know, the God is the greatest, you know, Allahu Akbar ̶

JK: Sure.

AD: It starts like that. But then they changed that to Turkish I have never ever heard because I was not even alive then ̶ This happened like in 1930s. So the call was because they were like criticizing, you know, we do not ̶ It is Turkish and it needs to be in Turkish. And then we were in the 1950s when the Democrat Party ̶ It was like the transition to multi-party system. And, and his motto was like “Oh yeah, you know, olden days the great Ottoman the” ̶ So he brought back the religion aspect ̶

JK: Interesting.

AD: To get votes because at the end of the day, the country you know, other than big cities, they were like extremely religious.

JK: Religious. Sure.

AD: So in order to get votes, so then they turned it back to Arabic so it is still Arabic, you know?

JK: That is fascinating.

AD: But even if it is like in Latin alphabet, let us say some, you know, you buy the Quran, but it is like ̶ It is that alphabet. You know, the letters are Latin, but the text is still Arabic. So you do not you still ̶

JK: So that you can sound it out perhaps but you do not know what it is.

AD: I mean, the only difference is you just look at the ̶ let me see. This is from another Armenian lady I was just helping to ̶ So this is Ottoman actually this is not Arabic. But it is like ̶

JK: Is not that beautiful?

AD: Think this ̶ I think this is, is Quran and it is all written with this letter.

JK: Right.

AD: Although when you put this in Latin, I can read it, it is ̶ This, this is it, you know, I, this is old Turkish, but I still can read it.

JK: And so there is another connection between a lot of Turkish and ̶

AD: This is in Ottoman ̶ Like your grandmother or, you know, or family history if they had any documentation from that time period.

JK: It would have been like that.

AD: It is Ottoman, or old Turkish, written with Arabic script. And I know a little bit it is very hard. But I can still if when you put in Tur-in Latin letters, alphabet, it makes sense. But with Quran even if you look at the text written in Latin alphabet, it is still Arabic.
And if you do not know Arabic, you have no idea.

JK: No idea what is going on.

AD: Same thing ̶ I think that was the case with Latin, you know ̶

JK: The Catholic Church, yeah.

AD: The Catholic Church.

JK: The 1960s I think.

AD: If you do not know Latin ̶

JK: Couple thousand years of Latin and-

AD: Then you do not know what is going on now you read it is like, oh it is like, the law is this that, you know it is like the Matthews, Corinthian, whatever, you know, it is like, you read, you know, you can follow what it says.

JK: Which is a little helpful. [laughs]

AD: Yeah, it is helpful, yeah.

JK: If you are interested. Yeah, for sure.

AD: Yeah. But that was the whole point, I think behind Islam to, to keep the unity. So that is why ̶ It is like ̶ it needed to be ̶ like in Arabic language.

JK: The same ̶ That is interesting.

AD: To, to keep that unity but Turkey ̶ pe-nobody understands unless you are Hoja or something you know ̶

JK: Right unless you have got the education which has got to be fairly rare I would think. I mean especially Islam is worldwide like if you are in Indonesia, and it is an Arabic, I cannot imagine.

AD: They do not speak Arabic or look at Russia, you know, those Chechens or whatever ̶ They do not speak any Arabic or ̶

JK: I would not think so.

AD: Or Bosnia or whatever.

JK: Right.

AD: They do not so yeah it is interesting.

JK: So it is interesting. Islam never had its Protestant Reformation.

AD: No never it was never reformed.

JK: Wow.

AD: Yeah, yeah. So, interesting, I never knew Armenian Church was in Armenian.

JK: It was here. And a couple other times I have been ̶ It has been in Arme-again, maybe father George is a traditionalist in some way in that, you know, he because my father is at eighty-going to be eighty-three. So Father George is in his seventies I would think so I mean, he is that generation. Maybe there is ̶ maybe there is a you know that traditional piece of holding on to the, the language and the culture maybe a younger priest would, would speak in English I do not I have ̶ It has been a long time since I have really spent any time in in an Armenian church at least on a regular basis.

AD: Yeah. Really interesting.

JK: Yeah.

AD: Yeah. So oh so little by little this Armenian-Armenian-ness [laughs] was like given to you ̶ not ̶ it, it was just natural, right?

JK: It was, yeah it was.

AD: It was natural it was not like oh well sit down you need to remember who you are. It was like that it was just always natural.

JK: It was always like I was surrounded by it, if you will. I mean my father is a ̶ is a history buff without question. So there is, I do not know half a dozen bookshelves filled with, with books and I do not ever recall a time being like sat down and told about the genocide or told about my grandmother's story.

AD: Yeah.

JK: But it was just kind of there. And, you know, as I was a teenager, in into my late teens, early twenties, you know, I would have a ̶ some people drink or buy drugs, I buy books, books are my drug, like my crutch or my, my vice.

AD: Yeah.

JK: And a used bookstore is, you know, like a treasure hunt. And there used to be a place here in Johnson City, one of the old factory buildings, where it was there tens of thousands of just in bins and use books, and so I do not know, I am thirteen, twelve and I am going through and I found a copy. My father has still got it, of the treaty between Turkey and Armenia in like 1919 or 1020. It was World War I ̶ was over and it was Armenia had a brief year and a half, two-year independence, kind of, and then there was there was so there was a treaty sent. It was and I found that so at that point and twelve, thirteen years old and I am aware enough, I know enough for the story to go ooh this is something I want to get I want to hold on and bring home. Yeah, it was just kind of it was part of the fabric of I do not know, it is almost like a foundational mythical-

AD: Yeah.

JK: Foundation story in the family that, you know, like, on my mother's side, you know, literally, we can go back to the Mayflower and see the family history took us back to the Domesday Book, and one, one branch of the family and what was that,1066? In England, so I have always felt like, you know, on one side of it stretches off but you know, the genocide is kind of a ̶ it is a beginning point, but it is also an ending point because the it is as far back as any of the history goes. And so whether it is a ̶ it is giving me my awareness of history and love of history, or vice versa, I do not know that is always been the seminal story. My grandmother was a seminal person and even in times when my ̶ I have a twenty-year-old daughter, and when she was a teenager, she was hell on wheels. Gave us a real run for our money. And you know, there is moments of parental anxiety when you are like, “Oh my god, what am I going to?” Like I my grandmother ̶ she ̶ I will never be as strong as durable or-well, I do not know, I suppose if you are put in that situation, you never know who you are going to be. But still, it she has always been a source of inspiration like alright if granny got through that I can get through this. This, this does not even compare.

AD: Exactly.

JK: You know what I mean, so it is, it is yeah, it was always there. And the so about the church aspect of it was kind of there I mean, it was a weekly thing, but it was, I do not know, I always felt a little bit in that sense, that that is maybe the only place where as a kid, where being half Armenian came up. And it had more to do with the fact that I was not for whatever reason they baptized me in the Roman Catholic Church. My mother was ̶ grew ̶ was raised a Roman Catholic. So even though the churches accept each other sacraments but I was not baptized in the Armenian Church so I could not take communion or something like that. I forget it has been long enough that it is fuzzy.

AD: I, you know what, I totally do not know these rules.

JK: Yeah I do not know that ̶ There is just so many. God I, you know, it is kind of crazy.

AD: Yeah.

JK: But, but if there was a place where I felt slightly like I was on the outside it was it was within the Armenian Church.

AD: Because to be all the, the church people there all hypocrites. I do not want to ̶

JK: Yeah well, well no, no I, I am in a similar place at least intellectually I think a lot of just silliness. You know, it is like you know, oh yeah. Because in some of the churches they split over, like the tiniest from the outside looking in the tiniest pieces of theology. Like, that is what you are arguing about. Really?

AD: Yeah.

JK: Like come on. People die over there. It is ridiculous.

AD: And also like it is like ̶ is not it like church is supposed to be God's house right? Is not it like is not it all ̶

JK: Supposed to bring people together.

AD: Right it, it is open to people, right? So like if I walk into Armenian Church will they take me open arm or without asking me who I am what I am what I do?

JK: It would depend on the person I would think.

AD: No that, that is not any church so it ̶ that is how it should be ̶

JK: If you are lucky enough that the right person greets you at the door.

AD: Exactly. No I mean, to me, when I look at the, the meaning of it, it is like any, any, either Jewish, whatever they call it, kingdom ̶ What is it? I do not even know ̶ temple. Is it temple?

JK: Oh the synagogue.

AD: Synagogue. Either synagogue, church or mosque. I mean if I walk in if I want to be there and I want to be loved and whatever I do not think you should ask me what I am what I do, but it is not like that. Oh are you Jewish? Are you Christian? Are you this? Are you baptized? Who cares? I came here. I want protection. So help me.

JK: Yeah.

AD: I feel vulnerable. But it is not ̶ It never works like that.

JK: Rarely, rarely, rarely, every now and then you read about someone or you hear about somebody who had that has that attitude or had that attitude but ̶

AD: Yeah.

JK: I think that is extremely rare.

AD: And then it goes down to something and it is like, are you ̶ I remember somebody told me like, especially the Catholic Church, like, you cannot even baptize your child unless you are ̶ that ̶ it ̶ registered at that church. I am like, what kind of stupid thing ̶ that is ̶

JK: I think it is better than it used to be. Like my grandparents, because my grandmother was English. My grandfather was Irish, English, and Irish descent. They were not allowed to be married in the Catholic Church in front of the altar. They were married in the rectory next door. And so we went back, I do not know, eighty years or more at this point, when my parents got married in the Roman Catholic Church, because my father by some quirk of fate is a baptized Lutheran, because when he was a kid they did not have a parish.

AD: Your fa ̶ oh ̶

JK: They did not have a parish priest.

AD: Oh yeah, yeah they did not.

JK: So somebody would come in on a monthly basis.

AD: Okay.

JK: And for whatever reason. I, I think he had a neighbor or something. He, he was probably ̶ because he is pre ̶ as you might have guessed, precocious and really outward going, and you know, would ask questions and, and some of them are like a friend, you know, the parents said oh well you come with us and so he got baptized in one of the Protestant churches. So they were, they, they did not have to be in the rectory, but my parents got married in the church, but not at the altar. They were like down and in front somewhere. I ̶ You know, so I mean there seems to be some progression towards a gradual acceptance of things. But it is just-it does seem like uphill battle.

AD: I do not know. It is like ̶ really interesting. So religion was ̶ so did you hate going to church when you were a child?

JK: When I was little?

AD: I mean was it boring for you?

JK: It was so ̶ as I got older was bor ̶ and again as I got into my teens and I was getting up at four in the morning to deliver a hundred and fifty papers I was like you know in conflict with you know I am tired I want to come home and go to bed. You know, I finished the program, you know that they, which was church history, Armenian history and theological stuff. But at first, when I was younger, I mean like the incense even, you know, smells like one of the things that really triggers memory. So I do not know what actual incense it is, but you know, that is powerful and smoking. That-at least there is something about I do not know if you have ever been in a Protestant church. It is very ̶ My father was a Baptist minister. Like there, there is no adornment there is no cross there is no just a little bit ̶

AD: No in, in ̶

JK: But like the Catholic and the Orthodox.

AD: In the United States whenever I walked in, in a church it does not give you any feeling but in Istanbul whenever I went to church because the incense whatever church you go does not matter Armenia, Greek ̶

JK: Greek, any of the Orthodox.

AD: Italian, whatever it ̶ There is this ̶ you like ̶ it is very mystic.

JK: Yes.

AD: You know what I mean?

JK: That is a good word. Yes.

AD: It is like you feel different you know or whenever you go to mosque it is like because this like really architectural mar ̶ architecturally marvelous structure and it is like when you walk in you kind of feel this peace in your ̶ but it, it ̶ same thing with church or any church like when you walk in. It is like interesting. I did not get a chance to tell your father, but when I was doing my master's degree in Istanbul, a very, very close friend of mine, she is Armenian, and we were like working together, but it was her project. So she wanted to locate the Armenian churches along the Bosphorus, you know, straight in Istanbul.

JK: Yeah, absolutely.

AD: And so I was doing something else. So she came with me to do my part. And then so and I went along with her. So and I am so happy I did because it was so interesting. This, mini ̶ I mean, I do not know how many Armenian churches I went, and there were like a lot of them. And I would never guess I had no idea. We had that many Armenian churches in Istanbul.

JK: Still?

AD: Yes!

JK: Because my understanding is that a lot of them are ̶

AD: Still.

JK: Well, my father and his ̶ My aunts went back about twenty-one years ago because I would have gone except my daughter was about to be born a couple months later.

AD: Yeah.

JK: And I have seen some of the pictures were like, you know, it has been converted to ̶ in a couple cases to a mosque in some cases, you know, just to ̶

AD: No.

JK: A warehouse or just you know, another.

AD: Not just.

JK: And some of them had been torn down.

AD: Just like the Sofia you know Hagia Sophia which was like the ̶

JK: Oh, that is, yeah.

AD: That is the, that is the ̶ It is a ̶ it is like a museum. I mean it is, it does not represent any faith whatsoever. It is just ̶

JK: I always thought it was still a functional mosque.

AD: No.

JK: Oh.

AD: No, no, no, no, no. Long time ago. No, with the Republic, they kind of separated themselves from religion.

JK: Well that I knew. I knew the Turk tried to secularize and modernize or westernize maybe is a better word than modernize.

AD: Yeah. Yeah, no. They, they ̶ that is why they came up with this gray wolf and all that, you know, they wanted to go back to the Turkic roots and stuff so they separated themselves from religion. But ̶

JK: So I am curious as an architectural historian, did you find that the base of architecture was kind of like there is a template, they just kept repeating it with the Armenian churches?

AD: Yeah, yeah.

JK: Okay. Because when we, when I was in high school, my aunts, and my father, we went to what was then Soviet Armenia, George and Azerbaijan. And I, you know, as a kid, you know, something old around here is maybe two hundred years old. All of a sudden, I am in these structures that are, you know, thousand, fifteen hundred years old. That was remarkably awe ̶ inspiring but after you have seen like one Armenian ̶ Ancient Armenian Church, like, they clearly had a template that they just ̶ there is no there was no variation that we saw.

AD: Oh yeah.

JK: There were several that we went to and they were wonderful but ̶

AD: Absolutely.

JK: It was, you know, had its own look it was I thought relatively unique. It did not look like a, you know, a Roman or ancient Catholic Church or any of the Europe ̶ Other you know, more Western European churches. But they were very, very, very similar to one another with the exception of one that had been literally carved out of solid rock.

AD: Yeah.

JK: It was on the side of a mountainside and apparently they had it was all one piece of rock it was ̶ That was amazing.

AD: Well, this, this is the biggest one in Istanbul. Üç Horan [19th-century Armenian Catholic church located in Istanbul, Turkey] this one.

JK: And is Ermeni is that Armenian?

AD: Yeah, your father knows. He knows. Okay. Let us look at images. Ah ̶

JK: Yeah he is ̶

AD: So this is like the, the, the most famous one in Istanbul, the biggest one too, ah. So, so this is the inside ̶ like a lot of wedding ceremonies ̶

JK: So that kind of architecture does inspire.

AD: Yeah.

JK: Because the Protestant churches are just so plain.

AD: Yeah, but I mean ̶

JK: And simple.

AD: Being over there. It is just like, but the churches Megi and I went along the Bosphorus they were not like ̶ big like this.

JK: No that is like cathedral sized.

AD: Okay. This is like really large but it was like so amazing to me that I had no idea they were small churches, and they were majority of them were still functioning.

JK: Oh really?

AD: I mean I, I am talking about in 19 ̶ We did that project either in 1988 or in ̶ I think it was 1988. Yeah. Ah, so that was just amazing. I was so happy. I do not know if anybody because that was not my interest but I, I, I was so hap ̶ Let me see. Maybe, maybe somebody did some work on that. I do not think so. Okay, there is something all the Armenian ̶ or maybe I should say ̶ oh come on work with me. Okay, this is the whole list. It says. Oh, this is Greek. Okay.

JK: Anglican-protest oh so this is ̶ So there are a lot of Christian churches. That is interesting.

AD: This is just in Istanbul but this is not a good ̶ This is all what is it ̶ Catholic. This is not a good list, but this is Wikipedia, I mean what do you expect anyway.

JK: Well it gives you an idea though.

AD: Yeah, but I am sure. I am sure if I am in a catholic-so there is a lot of Armenian Catholic churches, too. So I mean, if I want to do research, I can find that. Look at all these.

1:01:12 JK:

AD: So maybe the Luther-Lutheran also works with Armenians. You know what I mean?

JK: Could be ̶ I never realize ̶ I was until I moved to Watertown that there were Armenian churches other than the Armenian, Episodic Orthodox because there was a, there was a Roman Catholic Armenian church in Watertown this is out of the seven or eight Armenian churches within a, you know, mile square mile.

AD: Yeah, I mean it ̶ ` to me, it makes sense that there are a lot of churches because I mean, there were a lot of Armenians that, that ̶ we still have a Armenian population but we do not have Greeks. I mean, they were just literally wiped out of Istanbul. Because of you know, end of World War One, Greece wanted to take piece of Turkey, you know they divided so that, the ̶

JK: This is the early 1920s, right?

AD: The hatred toward Greeks in Turkey is still very alive. It is, I am not kidding you. But, vice versa, and I love Greeks, I love ̶ I mean, what is the difference? Seriously, what is the difference? And I know I have Greek ancestry ̶ my past. I mean, it is impossible not to have it ̶

JK: Well it is my father's talked recently about doing one of those DNA swabs and you know, you get your genetic and I am sure that, you know ̶

AD: No, I am ̶

JK: People think they are this and you find out you got a smattering of a number of other things.

AD: I know. Yeah, no, I am looking at the geographic region where my ancestors came from that was like Greek Pontus Empire. And therefore [indistinct], how can you have that right? But uh, you know, politically people have that. But you know, there is still Armenian population in Istanbul.

JK: That is interesting, I knew there was some I guess, I, I would not have anticipated that large a population that would support that many churches.

AD: I think there are more Armenians than Jews I am thinking in Istan ̶ I think Armenian still has the highest number as far as like the non-Muslim ethnic groups go. So, so other than religion as so when you are like in high school college, were people asking about your because of your name?

JK: Because of the name, every now and then you would run into somebody who just kind of like, you know, where you from? You know that I do not know, my face would strike a chord. And it is interesting when we were in the Soviet Union. It is funny the things that stick in your mind, but there was, we were in Georgia, going through some-and it is an Armenian-American group. Everybody is a hundred percent Armenian. There is a couple spouses, who were not at all Armenian. And there is me who's half, and the tour guide, and I, I am a seventeen year old boy at this point and the tour guide was really pretty. So I am already kind of like paying attention to her anyway [laughs] and for whatever reason.

AD: Was a, a Russian ̶

JK: Georgia was a Georgian and was just my recollection, my aunt talks about it every now and then was like, I had the quintessential Armenian face I looked-and she is probably spent two-three minutes just which of course I ate up at the time. There is this beautiful woman telling me I look great. Okay, I ̶ That is fine by me. But so and my aunt was like, wait a minute, he is half English and Irish. What about the rest of us. But you know people see what they want to see, I guess. So I ̶ Certainly, gosh, you know, once you would like, you know, left home, meeting new people. People would ask like, Yeah, what, what, what kind of name is that and so every now and then we will get it ̶ you know like somebody on the phone you telemarketer or are you calling credit card something or other and they are like, oh, what kind of name is that? And I am like oh its Armenian. And usually I get a where is Armenia ̶ Oh well the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, you know, eastern Turkey that part of the world. But it still happens once in a while, but certainly as a kid.

AD: So then you got married. And then you got your kids and stuff. So how do they, do they ̶ like your daughter ̶ twenty year old daughter ̶ does she identify herself with Armenian?

JK: She does. Despite the fact that, you know, she is a quarter Armenian ̶ Again she has the name, at least for the time being and, and she is kind of got the look. She is just sort of darkly complected I do not know if the features are particularly Middle Eastern Armenian but she identifies with it. I am trying to think what does she do ̶ There was something ̶

AD: Her last name is Kalayjian, right?

JK: It is, yeah, absolutely.

AD: So the last name definitely ̶

JK: Oh it certainly identifies her. And oh gosh, there is something right there. A thought that is almost wanting to be ̶ Jeez.

AD: Her complexion?

JK: Middle age is killing me. She told me a story like in the last year that she would run into ̶ oh I know what it was. She, she has been working ̶ had been working at a grocery store in the deli. And this is in Lewis Delaware, which apparently is a relatively touristy area. And in the summer, they get a lot of Russian Ukrainian kids from Eastern Europe who come on a student visa, they work they send the money home and then they go home. And it was she had a ̶ she ran into kids who knew who Armenians were for the first time. You know, Because she has never ran into somebody who knew what an Armenian was before and of course, the only people that know are from you know, that part of the world. And she was kind of tickled by that, that, you know, she finally ran into somebody who knew what an Armenian was. And you know, she did not have to explain where what or how or why all that was. So yes she seems to identify despite the fact that you know, in terms of the generic suit is a minority of who she is at this point, but she does. My son who is fifteen now is adopted, and he is Mayan, Mayan. You look him ̶ He looks right off like one of the temples he has got the classic Mayan face. So I do not ̶

AD: With an Armenian last ̶

JK: With an Armenian last name right being raised in a very generic, non, you know, classic non-cultural soup of things. And then it ̶ my, my little, my two year old he is a little young to figure it out. But people say he looks like me so I do not see it is funny. When my daughter when she was little, there was pictures of her four three and me at the same age it could be interchangeable.

AD: Really?

JK: Which I was worried for her at first because I am a reasonably attractive male but as a female I do not think I would do too well. [laughs] Luckily for her, it has worked out. But, yeah no I do not see it. I think he looks like my father and a little bit, but we will see what happens with him. You know how he ̶ And he is blond. He is darkening but he had blonde ̶ my brother in law; my wife has got brown hair and is fairer than I am in terms of her skin color, but apparently my brother light was blonde as a little boy too.

AD: Yeah interesting.

JK: Yeah because like where would this blonde kid come from? I do not know ̶ Some talk about a recessive gene from like your ancestors ̶

AD: Yeah exactly.

JK: Come popping out from somewhere. My mother is obviously fair English and Irish.

AD: Who knows what happened between those ̶

JK: No, you know, the caucuses you know they remind me of [indistinct] for a couple thousand years came through. So ̶

AD: Absolutely.

JK: Well that is why I am looking forward to my father's genetic test to find out.

AD: Yeah exactly.

JK: You know a little Tatar, a little Mongol a little Greek a little ̶

AD: Who knows, who knows.

JK: Absolutely.

AD: That part because Sivas especially is right beneath Black Sea region. It is right there so ̶

JK: Right so everybody.

AD: Anything could happen. So that is ̶ So do you cook any Armenian food or anything? Did you learn anything?

JK: I have all the recipes. My ̶ One of my cousins talked to my aunt Manooshag and her mother, [indistinct]. And so there is a, there is a binder with all the family recipes in them. I make my own matzoon, yogurt. I do not ̶ What is the Turkish word for yogurt?

AD: Yoğurt.

JK: Oh so it really is the Turkish word.

AD: Actually. I think phonetically whatever or linguistically yoğurt is a word from Turkish language. Yeah, I think but ̶

JK: Sounds good to me.

AD: I am not a linguist. Somebody told me but I never looked for it. It may be true, but the way we pronounce it as 'yoğurt'.

JK: So it is a really soft g.

AD: There is a soft g, yep.

JK: But I mean that I mean, I am not a cook, I, I love to eat, but I really like it when other people do the work.

AD: Me too, yeah.

JK: You know? And I, I wish I did ̶ Had more of a motivation because I do not know maybe it is being a guy maybe. I do not know. Maybe it is just innate laziness, but if it is, you know, a sandwich is easier than doing all the preparation.

AD: But everybody likes cooking.

JK: No, but I love eating. [laughs]

AD: Me too.

JK: It would be a nice combination. You know if I liked to cook but somehow I have the recipes. I am trying to think I have tried a couple things over the years, but the for the most part, no. I do not do any of the cooking so.

AD: Well I mean some people are into kitchen you know they like cooking and so it is ̶

JK: No it is, I am re ̶ If it comes out of a box that is more my speed.

AD: Yeah?

JK: You know, unfortunately.

AD: Easy.

JK: Easy. Yeah.

AD: Yeah. So you went to Armenia but you have never been in Turkey?

JK: No, I would love to go back. And again, I would have gone with my father my aunts and would have been (19)96, 1996 they went because that was when my daughter was born. So she was born in August and they were ̶

AD: [Indistinct] I do not know ̶

JK: Yeah, they ̶ let us see how they ̶

AD: Not Sivas. Sivas is- [indistinct]

JK: No but, they spent some time in eastern Anatolia.

AD: But every, not every area I would not go but ̶

JK: Especially with an American passport these days I do not know, I would ̶

AD: I travel with American passport, I have a dual citizenship but ̶

JK: Oh nice.

AD: Because of my daughter, I said, “What am I going to do? We will go different lines,” you know. So I got ̶ That is my only reason.

JK: That is a good one.

AD: I mean I am glad I did who knows I would maybe never allowed back to this country.

JK: Well, yeah, right? But Turkey is not on that list so you would be okay.

AD: But you never know [indistinct] overnight [laughs]. So and I said, Well, let me just do that. And I did have my daughter was like almost two years old and then we went we had to go to the ceremony and then I have pictures that she got so bored. She was all over me. And so, but then I said, okay, well let me just go ahead and get her a Turkish ̶ uh, my mom was like, "Get her a Turkish citizenship too" you know, like I said, okay, whatever. So then I did that too because ̶

JK: Gives her more options.

AD: You do not know, exactly. And she plays tennis. Hey, you know what if she wants to enter an international events? Yeah, it is easier to make it from there than here, you know?

JK: Sure.

AD: And then ̶ And maybe I can get them to pay for stuff, you know?

JK: Why not? Absolutely, yeah.

AD: My husband is like, Oh yeah, that is the mentality. That is part of the role I am like yeah that is a good thing.

JK: Oh yeah. One of my mother's friends who is-is waspy as my mother is. What did she say ̶ something about why do we ̶ and she made for generation ̶ something about you need wasps because somebody has to pay retail because you know, the Armenia is talented ̶ how about that what do mean ̶ got to figure it around why am I going to pay full price? Of course not.

AD: Of course not.

JK: Absolutely. Why would you?

AD: Never ̶ I never ̶ unless it is like something I need medically.

JK: Oh well that is different.

AD: You know what I mean? Or, or ̶

JK: But in terms of ̶

AD: Or it is something that she needs to a have it for school that I cannot wait for a sale.

JK: Yes, yes.

AD: I would normally wait.

JK: Yeah of course absolutely.

AD: [laughs] She has said that that is the only time. Never, ever ̶ It is like a sin for me.

JK: Absolutely, absolutely.

AD: Like buy something for her. [laughs]

JK: Got to haggle, got to wait, got to shop.

AD: That ̶ There you go. And then it is like what clothes so what is the big deal? I would never spend ̶

JK: No.

AD: Full price. No, not at all.

JK: But yeah no, I would love to get there someday and it ̶ And because they were able to from stories my grandmother` had told them, they know the street that she lived. And so they were able to walk the street. She walked in and they apparently it is a bank building now. But they were somehow able to figure out where her church was.

AD: But I told your mom, your father if they know the name of the street, okay, I know it requires a little bit of research, but in Ottoman archives all the ̶ You know, the maps can be retrieved.

JK: Like the census? Really?

AD: Yes, yes, yes. I mean, I, you will not be able to find ownership records, because they would not want to ̶ then you can say, Hey, this is my father's, but you can at least see how the neighborhood look liked.

JK: Oh wow. That would be neat.

AD: Oh yeah.

JK: That would be really neat.

AD: And then ̶ See, to me, this is the sad part in your family history. Your great grandfather was a photographer. It is like, “Where are those photographs?”

JK: They have got ̶ My aunt has a couple with his stamp on the back home. The how those survived.

AD: Yeah but all these photographs he took so where are those? So I mean ̶

JK: One would assume ̶ I mean, we have got a couple that one would assume they were mostly destroyed I would think, and most photographs do not last a hundred years.

AD: Well, they were put somewhere. Is there any like, I mean that requires research, archival research.

JK: Interesting so you thi ̶ there is a possibility you are saying that?

AD: There is a possibility.

JK: Really?

AD: Yeah, yeah, I mean, but someone who is speaking Turkish needs that kind of research, you know, probably go to Sivas and ask questions, you know, like there like is there any collection for the photographs related to you know, early twentieth century, you know, like, research can be done, but you will not be able to find the ownership record. No, you cannot. That I am sure that is not accessible. So, some information, not everything. I know, some information ̶

JK: Well that is interesting I would not have thought there would have been anything available.

AD: Yeah. And the other thing is, is like, there are different records, you know, there are court records, birth records. I mean, maybe.

JK: Really?

AD: That ̶ Oh, yeah!

JK: Because I guess, and this is, I suppose this is really this is our arrogance a little bit ̶

AD: It is all written like this so-the top one ̶

JK: Sure but that ̶ we have always assumed, and again, this really is maybe American arrogance that, you know, it is kind of at that time, you know, in the backwards part of the world of the world, there would not have been as much record keeping. I do not think it was ever thought that birth records ̶ Because we never knew how old my grandmother or sister were they guessed my grandmother took her ̶

AD: If they were registered of course, see that was the other thing were they registered.

JK: But that then it was even a possibility. That is fascinating.

AD: It is yeah ̶ It is like timeframe like late nineteenth early twentieth century like, oh, were the records like old records even before the Republic ̶ Sivas ̶ So the research can start ̶ Sivas ̶ probably from there it will either go to Ankara or Istanbul or both. Because where the records were kept, or are being kept by the Ottoman, because that court records a lot of people do research related to court records.

JK: Oh wow I had no idea.

AD: Oh yes, yes, yes there are ̶ It is like a ̶ but I do not know how much you can find.

JK: Oh no but that there is even a ̶

AD: Yeah, I do not know how much you cannot find.

JK: ̶ Possibility.

AD: But yeah research can be done. I mean, I did not hear in your research in that regard, you know, the Armenians in Sivas region. But that again, that is not my interest.

JK: Sure.

AD: But I know you know, like, I know, some of my friends look at like, they deal with labor history. So they were looking at a lot of documentation and it was showing like how, like a lot of non-Muslims. Like for example, I remember one record, it was discussed. They were not happy the, the foreman was not treating them fairly. He was a Muslim Turk and like how they got together, signed the petition and went to court and the court found them, right, you know, like, interesting I mean normally you are like, really, that was like eighteenth century court.

JK: That would have been like a rare thing to hear, labor never wins.

AD: I know. I know. So they were like they were not happy with the foreman's treatment. So the workers ̶ They just complain and then I do not remember the complaint anyway, they were found ̶

JK: That is fascinating.

AD: You know they ̶ The court favored them or it made a decision according to their ̶

JK: Right, now that is interesting.

AD: Yeah. So I mean, there are things but I do not know. But property ownership ̶

JK: Oh, yeah no.

AD: ̶ You will not find that.

JK: And you know it is and I do not know where my father has his perspective from but that, in a way, there is truth to it to evidence that, you know, yeah. Certainly, what happened to our family, you know, was propagated by the Turks and yet my grandmother's stories there were Turks who saved her. So it is and we have never felt like I do not know like Turks a group are like evil bad it was just individuals and you know ̶

AD: Absolutely there are good ones, bad ones.

JK: Well in any group right? Absolutely. Which is what always appalled me about again hearing the some of the survivors in my parents’ generation in the church hall was a little kid some of the anti-Semitic stuff they would spew could you people you survived ̶ How are you saying this? You have lived the horror show?

AD: Yeah, well you find that everywhere right?

JK: Well you do, you do but I do not know. Maybe you hold your own group to higher standards than you do others.

AD: I know, I know. But how interesting your grandmother like when dementia like fully affected her. I mean that shows even though she lived she survived.

JK: Yeah.

AD: But like what a toll it was on her-

JK: Clearly had a ̶ Yeah.

AD: ̶ Mind so she is going back there.

JK: Yeah and was very par ̶ and part of the paranoia is the dimension but still that, that was ̶ she had a roommate at the nursing home, who was ̶ dementia was like this woman was everything was perfect, everything was happy. Nothing was wrong. And with, with my grandmother. The worse it got, the more afraid she got, the more paranoid she got. And we were often talked about like was that is that your brain chemistry is that their experiences as younger women as kids you know did that form somehow what you de ̶ evolved back into ̶

AD: Oh yeah.

JK: I do not know it was because my grandmother was very angry very paranoid, very worried. And you know, it was they were it all Turks, all Turks, they were going to ̶

AD: So how was she normally ̶ like before?

JK: Oh, the sweetest, warmest, lovingest little old lady. She, she had ̶ She went through more like so she, she survived the genocide. And I am sure my father told you some of this but was got married was brought over married. My two aunts were born and the lost husband to ̶ It was some eye problem he had an operation complication that he died, that she lost her hardware store to the depression. And my grandfather was not a good guy. Really.

AD: That was what I heard.

JK: Yeah.

AD: Did you meet him?

JK: I did ̶ He died when I was nine, I think.

AD: Okay.

JK: And so was, I think abusive to my grandmother, not to my father, or my aunts, but gambled. I do not think he was a drinker, but gambled a lot gambled away money. And I would think most of the old men from that generation would have been tough by our standards and then and then some of them just went beyond. And my father hated him by the time he was a teenager. So even those stories that my grandmother was always up on this pedestal as this object of adoration and worship almost. And I think he moved out when my father was sixteen. So you know, she has had a series of ̶ And the story I am told about why they even got married. So he was kind of courting her. And she was maybe sort of ̶ I mean, you know, she was looking for a husband, probably given the time and the place. But he appar ̶ She came home and apparently this is like, my dad was born in (19)34. So this is like circa 1932. She came home and like he was in her bed. Like he has broken in and then today in 2017 this would be an appalling thing to have happen. I cannot imagine what it would have been like, you know, eighty years ago. To some degree, apparently, like felt shamed into, like she almost had to, because otherwise her reputation was going to be compromised.

AD: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

JK: Yeah, so not a ̶ not a good guy. And then, when I was born or my mother was pregnant with me because he had lost his grandparents, my father never had grandparents. But the stepmother grandmother in Troy, but you know, he was very conscious of the fact that I should have as many ̶ I should have all my grandparents, and so yeah, I do not even think he ̶ I am pretty sure he was not even invited to their wedding. But he said, “Okay,” look, you know ̶ The here are the parameters. This is what you can do this what you cannot do ̶ you talk about my mother in any way. You are done. You are out. You are gone. Any otherwise gone? You are done. But he ̶ For all intents and purposes, he was a good grandfather.

AD: Yeah?

JK: My recollection is really wet, sloppy kisses. Which seems to be a family trait. He, he never learned to drive he walked everywhere. And he always, always had candy. Had Whitman sampler bars of Hershey's chocolate. On his gravestone it says the Candy Man.

AD: Really?

JK: Yeah. He lives in a like a one-room apartment over by Recreation Park. And it was I think there was a shared bathroom so like each of the rooms has one common bathroom.
I do not know what he would have done for meals because there was no kitchen. I was only there a couple times. I remember being there after he died when we were cleaning it out. And then he had a refrigerator that was not plugged in. But it was literally top to bottom filled with. It is just it was unbelievable. And I can remember being upset that my father was going to throw it all away, I am like what are you doing? It was like Halloween like three years of Halloween all thrown together it was amazing. I But I think ̶ It was a not a great place, I think there was some bugs and things caught up. But so yeah, as a grandfather, he was fine. But he was. He was born 1893. So he was like eighty-four. And I am like eight. So I was pretty young when he died.

AD: So ̶ Was he speaking in Armenian with you?

JK: No it would have been English, would have been English. So my grandmother went through a ton of stuff and still came out as this really warm, loving, trusting, and always preaching and pushing love and tolerance. One of my father's favorite stories about her is here on campus, there were protests against the Vietnam War. And she wanted to march and you know, said bad back legs, I do not know. She had those crutches where they ̶ The cups are on the wrist. And there was at least one where he did not let her go because he was worried it was going to get too violent but others where he' would bring her and she would march and she was like, “You know, those, those north Vietnamese boys have mothers too.” And so you know, she could have been a horribly bitter woman given all of her experiences and she somehow managed to have a positive outlook, despite it all.

AD: That is, that is the geographic region. It is all in ourselves. We like to protest and do things, seriously.

JK: Is it really?

AD: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yesterday, my daughter was doing homework. She needed to have a presentation for the ̶ Like how Harlem Renaissance impacted today's society. So and then so I ̶ we discuss and I ̶ and then ̶ she was like, well, how about, you know, like, the protests and stuff. So she found some images and the my husband goes yeah, that was ̶ That came from you. [Indistinct] [laughs] So same thing with your grandmother.

JK: That is funny.

AD: Good for her.

JK: And clearly had a social conscious. That is funny ̶ That I never, no one has ever made that connection for me that, that part of the word protest is we are going to tell you what we think ̶ well, to tell you what we think you maybe should have made the connection. [laughs]

AD: That is right.

JK: Because there is no question. It was an interesting dichotomy growing up with the two family cultures because my father's side of the family and everything is on the table. I love you. You are a horse's ass, I mean everything. It is just all out there, there is no, you knew where you stood at all times and places and I have never said, you know, there is no expression of anything whatsoever. It is, it is funny to remember sort of made the connection that yes [indistinct] the government is going to know where the people stand.

AD: So I heard your grandfather was a good musician.

JK: Yeah, he played the oud. My father still has it I believe.

AD: Yeah, yeah he said he had it so did you have any musical talent? Like an ̶ any instrument?

JK: I played the saxophone through grade school up through actually up through high school it was one of those things. I was always ̶ It was laziness again, you know intellectually in I feel like the guitar has always been an interest. And in the-and part of my thinking alright simply I might pick I could learn to play [indistinct] but yeah, never, it never went anywhere. It is twelve strings. It seems more complicated than six no I am sorry. It has got an odd number of strings, is it eleven?

AD: I have no idea, I have like ̶

JK: I believe it is I think it is odd numbers. Yeah, I think that is what my father's I have not seen it. It is sitting in a cabinet if ̶

AD: If I say ud ̶


AD: How do you ̶


AD: Okay see I wrote number ̶

JK: Well I bet you ̶ I bet if you did O-U-D you would probably find it. I am sure there is multiple spellings.

AD: Usually its ten but eleven. You are right, I guess that is the most common kind.

JK: Interesting.

AD: Yeah.

JK: And I know I heard him play a few times as a kid. But my father has always said that he was really, he was really quite good.

AD: Yeah. That was what this ̶ What he told me too.

JK: He also said because he was not a drinker. But said it was re ̶ Like two or three times when like, he would get really sad. He was a real sweetheart.

AD: Yeah, that was what he said.

JK: He was a real good SOB the rest of the time but ̶ Which is interesting because I tend to think sometimes do different things yeah but alcohol tends to bring out the real you so it makes you wonder why this is the other way around, usually, like you put on a good show than a drink and, you know, the angry drunk comes through.

AD: So your grandfather did not go through the genocide your grandmother ̶

JK: No lost all of his family but no he was here ̶ 1910.

AD: Yeah so he did not experience what your grandmother experienced.

JK: I do not believe so.

AD: But to me surely, she had a like hard life, you know.

JK: Yeah.

AD: She survived.

JK: No question.

Then married and nice man, he dies and then marries this man.

JK: Who was not a great guy!

AD: Yeah. And so no longer and like when dementia hit she was having all these nightmares and you know ̶

JK: It made sense to us.

AD: Because she had a hard life.

JK: Yeah, she really did. I-I was-I have always been impressed because I do not ̶ well, and again, you never know but I just do not think I would be so positive. You know, if I would had that many negative experiences, I think I would be much more jaded and ̶

AD: Non-positive I do not even ̶

JK: [laughs] Yeah no it is easy to be negative. Yeah. I do not think there is any question.

AD: I call myself realist though. [laughs]

JK: Yes now that you pretend that you are putting a positive spin on it when you say that.

AD: Yeah.

JK: I know exactly what you mean.

AD: But you are so negative like no I am realist like I do not like sit on this pink cloud and dream, you know it is what it is so ̶ Yeah, so it is it is a very sad life.

JK: Oh, yeah, no question, no question. Because she lost, you know, siblings, parents.

AD: Because your father also, you know, describe like, you know, they did not have very much money so she had to, you know, work. So, I mean, all through her life she struggled

JK: Yeah. I think ̶

AD: One way or another so ̶

JK: Yes, yeah. No question and it is funny he looks back and says he had a great childhood. And I suppose to a certain degree, some ways he did I mean, he is certainly [indistinct] his brother. But yeah, I think about my grandfather and I think about the relative poverty they grew up in. I do not know, maybe it is that positive coming through.

AD: So you know, family is like very important thing in that part of the world.

JK: No question.

AD: No matter what ethnic identity you have.

JK: Yes.

AD: And that definitely is true for Armenian culture. So, is that growing with you, too? I know, your father said, you know, that togetherness being a close-knit family.

JK: Oh, yeah.

AD: So is that continuing? Like, how good are you with your daughter, for example, like ̶ How is your relationship with her?

JK: Now, it is good. Like I said, the teen years she part of it was probably the div ̶ Well it was a phase that was the divorced with her mother and I and she probably threw her own spin on things. But no she is, no ̶ We are close. We talk, we text. No question. No family is very important. I mean, you know, not that friends are not important and you sometimes find friends who become family. You know, sort of surpass ̶

AD: Absolutely. That is another part of that, you know, culture, you know, like, you, you get so close to your family that they become like your family.

JK: Absolutely. But yeah no, no question. Family's very important. You know go out of your way to maintain an, you know it is tough because if there is a [indistinct] and she was living in Maryland, which is you know, far enough away that you, you really have to plan and budget, you know, to go down there and to visit or have her come up. That is the thing that I always took for granted as a kid. My whole family was here. You know, I saw everybody all the time. And I missed that for my kids if there is something I missed about that family is that you know they see my parents, I do not know, half dozen eight times a year and it is just because we are six hours apart. Cannot imagine being half a world away. That is got to be so hard.

AD: I, but I believe or not, I am like, unbelievably so close to my family.

JK: Yeah. But that makes it a bit harder, does not it to be separated?

AD: Yeah.

JK: I mean I wish I was around the corner.

AD: Yeah, yeah. So I mean, I go home every summer and ̶

JK: That is nice.

AD: Yeah, my daughter, you know, she loves going there. So and because she likes the culture. Because she is a very people-oriented person. I am not. Believe it or not. I grew up over there. I am. I never was. It is a personality.

JK: Sure.

AD: But she loves going over there. All these people around her and all the time. You know, the doorbell always rings, the phone rings. I mean, I do not even have a land phone anymore, but when I did, like she knew when the phone rang, you do not answer.

JK: [laughs]

AD: So and I was like I am so happy I am taking her home so she knows when the phone rang you are supposed to answer.

JK: [laughs] That is wonderful.

AD: [laughs] So, I always remember this movie. God who was playing in it one of my favorite actor ̶ It is like accidental tourists, it is this odd family. So they are eating dinner and the phone rings and one of the siblings had trouble. And then and they do not show up for usual dinner time. And then one person at the table says, “Well, what if it is ̶ such as such ̶ If something is wrong with him? Maybe we should answer the phone just in case just once.” And then the other answers well he should know better. He would ask that, like, let us say police or hospital to call the neighbor. And like ̶

JK: [laughs] Sounds familiar. Oh, gosh. That is funny. Yeah.

AD: [laughs] Yeah.

JK: Yeah so like ̶ Did you ever see My Big Fat Greek Wedding?

AD: Yes.

JK: Yeah, that was very reminiscent of, you know.

AD: Right?

JK: Oh, yeah it was like being home.

AD: Yeah exactly it is the same culture.

JK: Absolutely.

AD: That is why I was like ̶ I mean how can you ̶ yeah, that is so you, you know, the family. The ̶ You know, inter-dependency, you know.

JK: Absolutely.

AD: Be there, helping. So that is like, passed to you from your father ̶

JK: No question.

AD: Your grandmother.

JK: My grandmother abs ̶ All the way through. And as an only child, I think I am also, you know, I might be forgetting the whole Armenian piece, but you are very conscious of my connections with my cousins. Just because, you know, at some point in the next, you know, my parents are getting up there that, you know, those are going to be my next connections, you know, without any siblings, but yeah no, family is ̶

AD: So how is the ̶

Very important-

AD: ̶ Relationship with your cousins?

JK: Good, good. We ̶ I mean, these days, you know, everybody is what ̶ let us see Virginia, Florida, Colorado, California Chicago so I mean, everyone is pretty far from but with the modern technology, it is much easier to stay in touch Facebook, you know, things like that.

AD: Absolutely.

JK: So you know, you can keep track of kids and what is going on in people's lives and stay in touch. And what is I do not know ̶ We probably will not make my, my wife's pregnant with our ̶ with my fourth so we are not probably not ̶

AD: Oh really?

JK: Yeah.

AD: Wow so now you have a two-year-old and another baby is ̶

JK: Have another one coming out.

AD: ̶ When?

JK: About the time of the family reunion I mentioned so we probably are not going to ̶ We probably are not going to make it unfortunately.

AD: Oh wow. Little girl, boy?

JK: Little girl. Little girl, yeah.

AD: Aww. So no Armenian names? I for ̶ I was going to ask you that. Do you give any Armenian ̶

JK: [Indistinct]. It is interesting. No, I ̶ you know we never ̶ I would ̶ the whole Jr. thing stopped me initially from like, I wanted, I wanted my children to have like their own name. I did not. I do not know because well about the time I was thirteen my voice dropped a little bit. You know, people call on the phone and you know is Jerry home, yeah I am Jerry. We would get ̶ my friend ̶ everything would get confused. And that sense of identity of separating yourself ̶

AD: No, no, no I am not talking about junior, senior ̶

JK: No, no I know but that sort of that ̶ That initially kind of pulled me away from doing that kind of a thing. And so no I have ever thought or considered it, I do not, I would be interest ̶ I have never really considered it. Because I do not know, some of the names are short, you know, like, [indistinct] you know, short and simple enough. And some of them like, like Berjouhi, or my father's Jirayr. You know, for the typical American mouth, just, yeah, it is a lot to put on a kid. And even my, my two aunts eighty years ago, because I do not think they spoke English very well or at all when they started kindergarten. And they had these monstrously long names, which is one reason why all of a sudden that is where Gerald and Jerry comes from, they were not going to let because my father is eleven and twelve years younger than the two of them when he started school, they were not going to let him have the same experience of having a non-Anglo that nobody could say because that is Gerald's. I do not think it is on his birth certificate. I do not think that is technically speaking that is not his name. If you were going to get-on his social security card or on his, his birth certificate. But no, I for whatever reason.

AD: Let me see how he signed the consent form.

JK: I am sure he signed it G.M. Kalayjian.

AD: Yeah.

JK: This, this was ̶

AD: Uh, Gerald he signed it.

JK: No, that is me.

AD: That is you?

JK: That is my handwriting, yeah. Oh wait a minute ̶

AD: No.

JK: No, oh God.

AD: It is February 11.

JK: No that is absolutely him. That is ̶ he usually ̶ that is interesting. He usually does not write in all capitals. That is what got me confused.

AD: Yeah.

JK: That is my mother's influence. Wow. [laughs] He used to ̶ that funny.

AD: So ̶ Were you also close to your mother's side of the family?

JK: Yeah, very much so. Yeah. I ̶ again ̶ my grandparents. So my grandmother, my dad's mom would babysit-my grandmother, my mom's mom would babysit. So you know, I spent a lot of time with them growing up and it is ̶ yeah, I really was quite lucky in that ̶ and my aunt Manooshag is enough older that it was kind of had three grandmothers kind of dotting and taking care of me and cooking for me. Feeding me well my immediate family would not have had junk food, we would have just been all kinds of food. But you know, my, my mother's mother, mother mother's cookie jar and candy jar so. We would know where to go. But yeah know, both sides were close and tight. You know, we get together you know, at least well we visited weekly, at the very least, visited weekly. So no I have always felt very ̶ The older I get the more lucky I feel that I you know, did not did not miss much of that. Anything in terms of family. Other than having siblings.

AD: Yeah, well.

JK: Is what it is, you know.

AD: Now you have four.

JK: Yeah. I have never met a child who has had an only child. We all seem to want to have multiples. I do not know. I am sure there is something rooted in our only childness there.

AD: We are too. I have an older sister. She has one son. I have one daughter.

JK: That would be interesting. If I had to ̶ If I, if I was a betting man, I would bet both of them will have at least two children.

AD: Yeah.

JK: Because growing up as a kid being an only child, this there is some advantages. I had friends who had siblings and they would fight like cats and dogs. It was horrible. And I used to think myself lucky but as I have gotten older, like looking ahead to taking care of my parents or looking ahead to being without my parent, you know, like siblings would be a nice thing to have and to lean on. But it is what it is.

AD: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

JK: I do not lose sleep over but you know, when it comes up ̶

AD: Yeah and then I also see like, people with a horrible relationship, you know like their siblings ̶

JK: I was wondered about that. I always wonder like ̶

AD: ̶ They do not even talk ̶

JK: I know. I know.

AD: ̶ To each other. And I do not know.

JK: Seems like such a shame. Because again, it is family if you do not have your family what ̶ what ̶ not that you cannot have a fulfilled life or close relationships with people that ̶

AD: But people also do not talk like family members, you know, whether it is sibling you know, like they do not talk and um, you know, it is just depends on the person I guess.

JK: Yeah and how they were raised, I suppose. The family culture I bet.

AD: I see my daughter would have more than one child because she loves people and this ̶ She always had in this like tiny family.

JK: Yeah.

AD: You know what I mean like no aunts, or so many aunts.

JK: Well I mean as an only child I am always like, you know, both my parents have three and four siblings. But my first wife was one of three. But her ̶ Neither one of her parents had siblings. I mean, I have I have bumped up closely against families that are small and you know this. You know, people are type seems like you always wish there was, I do not know, maybe it is primal just the need for a large, protective, loving, caring group of people around you that we are all to some degree seeking. I do not know.

AD: Yeah, Interesting. So is there anything else you can think of ̶ Like growing up and, or, or when you became older? Anything like for your Armenian I mean anything comes to your head that I did not ̶

JK: No.

AD: ̶ You know, ask ̶

JK: No I do not think so. I am sure when I drive away, I will think of three things but ̶

AD: That is okay.

JK: But no, no nothing else comes to mind.

AD: Well, I am going to end this ̶

JK: Thank you.

AD: Thank you so much ̶

JK: It was a pleasure.

AD: ̶ For the interview. This is like really great. Seriously, it is like getting different perspective. Like what we do so I am just going to end this.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Aynur de Rouen


Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian Jr.

Biographical Text

Currently living in Massachusetts with his family, Gerald (Jerry) Kalayjian, Jr. is originally from Binghamton, NY. He is a second generation Armenian-American on his father’s side and he has English and Irish ancestry on his mother's side. He has four children, two girls and two boys. Jerry is a teacher in Massachusetts.





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Binghamton University

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Interview Format


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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; Culture; Family; Friends; Genocide; Turkey; Music; Language; Food.


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About this Collection

Collection Description

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 Jr.,” Digital Collections, accessed February 27, 2024,