Skip to main content
Libraries

Manooshag Artzerounian Seraydarian

:: ::

Transcription

Armenian Oral History Project
Interview with: Manooshag Artzerounian Seraydarian
Interviewed by: Gregory Smaldone
Transcriber: Cordelia Jannetty
Date of interview: 28 April 2016
Interview Settings: Endwell, NY
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(Start of Interview)

0:03
GS: This is Gregory Smaldone with Binghamton University's special collection Library, Armenian Oral history project. April 27th 2016. Can you please state your name for the record?

0:15
MS: Oh, Manooshag Seraydarian.

0:18
GS: Ok, Manoosh. Where were you born?

0:20
MS: I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

0:22
GS: In what year?

0:24
MS: 1922.

0:26
GS: Who were your parents?

0:28
MS: My parents was Siranoush [Zopabourian Artzerounian Kalayjian] and Osgan Artzerounian.

0:34
GS: And where were they from?

0:36
MS: They were both from Sebastia but they met in Philadelphia.

0:41
GS: Why did they immigrate to Philadelphia?

0:44
MS: Well, they had a sponsor that lived in Philadelphia and that was how they happen to go, they were in Providence Rho– that was their landing– Providence Rhode Island. And then from Providence Rhode Island, they went to Philadelphia and they went directly to my father’s brother's house. They kept roomers and that was where they took my mom and that was where she met my, my grandmother knew her right away, and that was where she met my dad and that was how they married, you know.

1:30
GS: What were there reasons for coming to America from Armenia?

1:33
MS: Well my father came to America to make money and go back to Armenia but he came and the war started and that was where he– they never got back to Armenia.

1:42
GS: What about your mother?

1:44
MS: My mother came because they were orphans and they were brought to Beirut and I am hazy here. And then from there they went to Providence Rhode Island, they went to Philadelphia and then they stayed there for a while and they met their sponsor who was [unintelligible] and my mom stayed at my uncle's house because they knew my grandmother.

2:28
GS: Okay, what did your parents do for work?

2:32
MS: Well my mother's father was a photographer and that was what he did, but his brother was a butcher. So– and their name was Kasabian. And my grandfather was the photographer and he said I am not a butcher so I am not going to use that name and he changed and got one that is a real tongue twister Zopabourian.

2:54
GS: Oh my–

2:55
MS: Yeah. [laughs]

2:55
GS: Did your mother become a photographer as well?

2:56
MS: No.

2:57
GS: Did she work?

3:01
MS: My dad had a little hardware store and she learned to run the little hardware store. My dad worked for Budd Manufacturing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He worked during the day. When he came home at night if there was, wanted somebody to have a screen door hung or whatever they would buy from him and would take him and he would put it on the house, you know.

3:31
GS: Did your parents go to school, high school, college?

3:37
MS: No, my mother went to, no that was my aunts, they could all read and write Armenian and English. I know, my mother went to adult education courses at night and I do not really know how my aunt did it but dollars to donuts that was how probably how she got into that. But she played the piano and my father played a violin. And in fact we still have his violin.

4:13
GS: Oh my God, I will have to see that. Um, so you said your parents both spoke Armenian.

4:18
MS: Yes, they spoke– also understood it, Turkish.

4:21
GS: Okay, do you have any siblings?

4:24
MS: I have a brother and my sister passed away. Yes.

4:28
GS: Okay. Did the– and what is their ages relatively to you, are they older, younger?

4:34
MS: I am the oldest.

4:35
GS: You are the oldest?

4:36
MS: My sister was two years younger and my brother was twelve years younger.

4:39
GS: Okay, did your parents speak Armenian to the three of you when you growing up?

4:45
MS: They spoke Armenian and we were not allowed to speak English in the house.

4:49
GS: You were not allowed to speak English in the house– that was the entire ̶

4:52
MS: We had to speak Armenian–

4:53
GS: –For your entire childhood?

4:56
MS: While we were living at home we spoke Armenian.

4:59
GS: What were your parents’ reasons for that?

5:02
MS: Well they wanted to keep their, they wanted to keep their heritage. They did not want to lose it because we were growing up in an American country and it is easy to get involved with the American language because that was where we were going to school. In fact, the school was, my house was here and the school was here at the corner, Hamilton School on Spruce Street in Philadelphia.

5:33
GS: Did you– was there a large Armenian community where you grew up? Yes?

5:38
MS: Yes, there was. Philadelphia had a big Armenian community.

5:42
GS: Was it geographically like centralized, would you say that you had neighbors who were all Armenian or you were kind of scattered around?

5:49
MS: Well, there was parts where there were like West Philadelphia had a lot of Armenians but we also–my dad had friends in North Philadelphia, and we used to take the trolley to go see them and they had a yard goods store. And that is a rare industry to get involved in.

6:09
GS: Was there an Armenian church in Philadelphia?

6:13
MS: We did not have a church but they rented it from the Episcopal Church. And my grandmother she was in her eighties when I was born. She would walk over to our house and get us and take us to church in the morning to the Lutheran Church. And at night she would take us to the Protestant church. So we grew up in both.

6:37
GS: Why would she take you also to the protestant church?

6:40
MS: Because that was the other church she wanted to go to church, and she wanted her children to learn about the Bible. Now when you go to the Protestant church you learn more about the bible.

6:52
GS: Okay, now going back to the Armenian Church services did you had an Armenian priest?

6:58
MS: Yes.

6:59
GS: And how regular were the services?

7:02
MS: You know I do not remember that but they did not have their own church for a lot of years, and by that time we moved to Binghamton.

7:13
GS: Okay, how old were you when you moved to Binghamton?

7:16
MS: I was about ten years old.

7:18
GS: Okay, when you were in Philadelphia did you ever attend Bible school or Armenian language school?

7:25
MS: Oh, yes. I went to Armenian school and I was doing so well in Armenian school and my father said you cannot go anymore because you are not doing well in English. [laughs]

7:35
GS: Now was this Monday through Friday Armenian school or was it a weekend?

7:39
MS: There were certain days when we had Armenian school, I cannot remember it now. And I know that the teacher was a friend of my mother’s. She used to stop at the house often. In fact, her name was Nectar but I do not remember her last name.

7:55
GS: Okay, let us discuss when you moved to Binghamton. Did you still attend–was there still an Armenian Church service that you could attend?

8:04
MS: Here?

8:04
GS: Yes.

8:05
MS: Oh, once or twice a year.

8:08
GS: That was very infrequent. What was that transition like for you?

8:11
MS: We thought, we thought that this was a very strange area when you come from Philadelphia and Binghamton was a little [unintelligible]. Hole in the wall and there were quite a few Armenian families and of course politics were involved, very strongly then–

8:37
GS: What sort of politics?

8:40
MS: The Hunchags and the Tashnags.

8:43
GS: And the Ramgavars?

8:45
MS: And Ramgavars. I never got involved with that, we were friends with all of them. [laughs]

8:49
GS: Would you say that growing up you hung out mostly with other Armenian children or did you have non-Armenian friends as well?

8:57
MS: We had both.

8:58
GS: You had both? But were they distinct groups of friends or were they intermingled?

9:02
MS: One friend I do not remember her, her parents were Russian I think, but whoever was, we had a big Armenian community, you know where we growing up. And then we went to school here in Binghamton on the south side of Binghamton.

9:25
GS: Did you still attend Armenian language school in Binghamton?

9:28
MS: We did not have such, we did not have an Armenian–

9:31
GS: –But you and your siblings spoke it fluently, though, by virtue–

9:34
MS: Yes.

9:36
GS: Okay. What were some other traditions that your parents would maintain in the household maybe, were there certain foods they kept?

9:47
MS: You know they did not have birthdays, they had name days. They celebrated name days. So if you had a name day, but since my dad was here in the United States long enough and so he told my mum when our birthday came a long that she got to have a birthday party for us. And that was strange to my mother. But I remember her doing it and there was a family that lived on Walnut Street in Philadelphia and that family had several children they were invited to the party and, oh, what were their last name. In fact there is a doctor here that is– what do they call them when they try to find out what is wrong with them?

10:41
GS: Diagnostician?

10:42
MS: Something like that. His last name was the same as my girlfriend that lived there but I lost touch with them. Once we came to Binghamton, I lost touch with them, ones in Philadelphia except for my cousins.

11:00
GS: Okay. Did you and your family celebrate Armenian Christmas as opposed to traditional Christmas?

11:05
MS: We did both.

11:06
GS: You did both?

11:07
MS: Uh-huh

11:07
GS: Was it, did you celebrate both with the community or was it one with the community and one by yourselves?

11:14
MS: I do not know how you would–the churches–because we lived across the street from a Baptist Church so we would run over to the Baptist Church–

11:25
GS: On the 25th of December?

11:26
MS: Yes, In fact went there regularly because we did not have regular Armenian services. If we had services twice a year we were doing well–

11:37
GS: Did you like that in Binghamton; the Armenian community had their own church even if they could not have their regular services?

11:44
MS: It did not matter to me.

11:45
GS: It did not matter to you? How frequent would you go to church for events other than church services?

11:46
MS: What was that?

11:47
GS: Would you go to the Armenian Church in Binghamton for events other than church services such as dinners, gatherings?

12:00
MS: Oh, sure. We still do.

12:02
GS: Like what sorts of events?

12:06
MS: Whatever holiday comes along, you know, we go into that; whether it is Easter or Christmas, you know, we do– we celebrate those days with the church.

12:22
GS: So let us go a little bit more into your adult life. Did you go to college? No? What job did you get when you grew up–

12:34
MS: What did I do?

12:35
GS: Yes.

12:35
MS: I got into hairdressing.

12:37
GS: Okay.

12:38
MS: And I did not stick with it very long. [laughs]

12:40
GS: And you stayed in Binghamton?

12:42
MS: Yeah, we stayed in Binghamton and I met my husband in church and he came from Michigan.

12:50
GS: Huh, He was recently moved when you met him?

12:55
MS: Yeah

12:55
GS: How old were you when you met?

12:56
MS: Eighteen.

12:58
GS: And how old were you when you got married?

12:59
MS: Eighteen. [laughs]

13:01
GS: Was it just like a quick marriage, did your parents have a hand in it?

13:06
MS: Oh, yeah. Yeah. They all came money was scarce; there was no such thing as a big wedding. The engagement party, it was a small party in the church hall. And the parents did some baking, making [unintelligible} whatever. And that was a small engagement party. And we never had a big wedding. We just went to an Episcopal Church. My sister stood up for me. And we got married. The parents came. We just walked in and walked out. [laughs]

13:46
GS: How did you feel about being married? You know.

13:51
MS: I did not give it much thought. That was just part of life.

13:54
GS: It was just more what is expected how it was supposed to be.

13:57
MS: That is right.

13:58
GS: Did you and your husband stay in Binghamton yes?

14:02
MS: Yes we did.

14:03
GS: Did you continue working after that?

14:06
MS: Oh, I found part time jobs and then I did a lot of volunteer work.

14:11
GS: What kinds of volunteer?

14:12
MS: Oh, I worked in the boys and girls club. I worked for RSVP I worked at the Catholic Charities; I did a lot of charity work. I enjoyed it. I did not have to go to work.

14:27
GS: What was your husband’s profession?

14:34
MS: He was a [laughs] ̶ There is a name for he did. But he worked in the payroll at IBM.

14:42
GS: Human resources?

14:44
MS: I cannot remember now what they called his job–

14:47
GS: But he was just a back office administrator? Sure.


15:03
MS: And of course there was– those were the war years so there was a shortage of men and he was one of the few that was that he got– they did not take– they did not draft him.

15:14
GS: They did not draft him– Was there a reason or he was lucky?

15:17
MS: He was just lucky.

15:18
GS: Okay. Did you two have any children?

15:22
MS: Oh, yeah we have two sons.

15:24
GS: What are their names?

15:26
MS: Richard and Robert.

15:28
GS: And how old are they now?

15:27
MS: They are in their seventies.

15:29
GS: Okay. So it was shortly after you were married that you had each of them?

15:34
MS: Yeah, we were married three years when Richard was born, and then another three years when
Robert was born in ‘forty-six.

15:43
GS: Okay. Did your husband speak Armenian?

15:45
MS: Hardly.

15:46
GS: Hardly? Did you try– did you teach your children Armenian?

15:50
MS: No.

15:51
GS: What was your reason for not doing so?


15:54
MS: I really did not like the idea that– I could not speak English when I was growing up. And I did not want them to grow up like that. I wanted them to know the English language.

16:08
GS: So you did not send them to Armenian school and you did not speak Armenian with them?

16:10
MS: That was unfortunate that I did that, that was how I thought then because we lived in such a tight community, I did not like that part of it.

16:21
GS: Was most of the community in Binghamton speaking Armenian at that point?

16:26
MS: Some of them spoke Turkish quite a bit. There were those who spoke Armenian, and some of them–and the Protestants spoke Turkish more than the other groups.

16:39
GS: So there was a significant Protestant Armenian community within the Armenian community.

16:44
MS: There was. Uh-huh.

16:45
GS: So, would you say that it was not important for the sake of community, identity that one speaks Armenian?

16:57
MS: Yeah.

16:57
GS: So, what were some– did you try and still maintain your– a sense of Armenian identity for your sons when they were growing up?

17:06
MS: Oh, yes.

17:06
GS: How would you do that?

17:09
MS: We were involved in any Armenian, anything in Armenian that was being done we went to all of the affairs, picnics or whatever. You know, we were always with the Armenian groups because we went to the– My children went to the Methodist Church down here, because my husband worked Saturdays and Sundays. I could not drive them to Binghamton, I never had the car. And then after a while I started going back to the Armenian Church once I was able to drive and I started taking my children.

17:53
GS: Did your children end up going to college or going to the workforce?

17:58
MS: Oh no, both my boys went to college.

18:02
GS: And what do they do now? Or did they do for career I assume they are retired at this point.

18:06
MS: Well, my son Richard was vice president of Lockheed Martin in Manassas, Virginia.

18:12
GS: Wow.

18:13
MS: And my younger son was a social worker for Broome County.

18:16
GS: Okay. That is wonderful.

18:18
MS: Yeah, I have two nice boys. [laughs]

18:22
GS: I do not doubt it for a minute–

18:24
MS: I got to say that. They are two nice boys. Yeah we were blessed, very lucky. And my son Richard he could turn this house down and put it back up together again even though that is not his job.

18:41
GS: He can build?

18:42
MS: He can build.

18:43
GS: Just like your grandfather?

18:44
MS: Oh, well my grandfather was a photographer he did not work with his hands.

18:48
GS: So it was your–

18:50
MS: Oh my father, yeah it was my father.

18:53
GS: So what–do you recall any distinct differences between the Armenian community in Philadelphia and the Armenian community in Binghamton?

19:05
MS: There is no comparing.

19:06
GS: No comparing? Why not?

19:14
MS: I was not aware of the politics in Philadelphia, but when I came to Binghamton; there was a big difference and their attitude between the two political parties, which we did not appreciate. We did not appreciate that because we had friends in both groups.

19:34
GS: Do you think that the Armenian Diaspora is one large community or do you think it is several smaller communities within each city or state?

19:44
MS: You mean in here?

19:45
GS: No, the entire diaspora like all Armenians living outside of Armenia?

19:50
MS: I would not know that.

19:53
GS: What is your perception though? Do you think that Armenians are Armenians wherever they are? Or is it?

19:58
MS: I think so. I think so.

20:00
GS: Yeah? So even though there might be differences between the community in Binghamton and the community in Philadelphia?

20:05
MS: Yeah.

20:05
GS: There is still that cohesiveness. How do you define being Armenian, or what is the most important part of your Armenian identity?

20:12
MS: It is my heritage. It is just my background. It is my family. I am very sensitive to the Armenian needs–and it is an important part of my life. I grew up as an Armenian and the English part came when I started going to school, which was very–and that was very important for my father for his daughters to know the English language and understand it.

20:44
GS: Okay. Do you think that the Armenian Community in Binghamton is getting stronger or at risk of losing its identity now?

20:55
MS: I think the university has helped. We have some nice people coming from the–young people coming from the university. I think that has helped our church grow a little, otherwise, if we do not have young people, there is not going to be an Armenian church. And you know the Armenians bought that church, it was a Presbyterian Church, and they bought it from the Presbyterians a little over a hundred years ago.

21:32
GS: Interesting.

21:33
MS: I think there is a block on the church with the date on it.

21:37
AD: So, when you were growing up, because your name is Armenian, were people asking you like what is your name? Like where are you from or anything like that? You have an Armenian name, first name.

21:52
MS: I have an Armenian name and I kept it. You know what, I tried ‘Violet’ for a while and then I was going to school. The teachers just could not say Manooshag, and I thought to myself if they cannot say Manooshag that is just too bad, that is what my name is. And I would not change it and I went through school with Manooshag.

22:15
AD: But were they asking you?

22:18
MS: Yeah, I got all kinds of questions.

22:19
AD: So you were telling them it is an Armenian name?

22:22
MS: Yeah.

22:22
AD: Did they know what is Armenian?

22:26
MS: They did not know. What do us kids know? I grew up as an Armenian but you know those who are not Armenians would not understand the ties that we have to it. You know no matter what I do, even though I am born and raised in America, the Armenian part in me is very strong.

22:48
AD: Yes. So, did your parents want you to marry with an Armenian guy?

22:54
MS: Oh, yeah.

22:55
AD: They did not want any American.

22:57
MS: No, but my sister married an odar [stranger in Armenian] And she married the nicest man you could meet. He was a wonderful wonderful man. And, of course, with time my mother realized they do not have to marry an Armenian to be happy. You know, that was their choice. That was my sister’s choice. And of course my sister joined the navy. That was war years. She was a wave. And she went to Harper–Hunter College–in New York. And she promised my mom she would not go overseas but because my mom had to sign papers for her to join the navy. And yea so, anyway, they worked it out.

23:47
GS: Did your sons marry Armenians?

23:50
MS: My one son is married to an Armenian; the other one married his schoolmate. Unfortunately, she died from cancer, a beautiful, beautiful girl. And so I have three granddaughters from her.

24:03
GS: Did you want your sons marry other Armenians or–

24:07
MS: No, I would not. I would not do that.

24:11
AD: How do your grandchildren identify themselves? Do they think they are Armenian or American?

24:19
MS: The one that lives in New York says the Armenians are very expensive. Any affair they have, they are very expensive but she has a cousin that lives there also. So, she is in touch with some of the, oh in fact, two of them are there. Two or three of them are there in New York. And the other one is in California and so she has some contact with an Armenian neighbor. The youngest one I do not think she has any contact with any Armenians.

24:55
AD: But how do they identify themselves? American?

24:58
MS: Oh, sure they are Americans. I am an American too.

25:04
AD: But you said you are an Armenian!

25:07
MS: I am Armenian but actually, yeah, that is my heritage.

25:11
AD: But do they mention they are of Armenian heritage?

25:14
MS: Well, if they were questioned they would but I do not know if they would just come out and say I am an Armenian. I do not know that, I doubt it. But I know that my oldest granddaughter lives near an Armenian family, so in California. You know you have to have somebody that knows something about Armenians for them to get interested.

25:44
AD: So, what kind of food your mother cooked when you were–?

25:49
MS: My mother? [coughs] You know, she grew up in an orphanage so she did not know how to cook until she got married. Her sister-in-law taught her how to cook. My grandmother taught her how to cook. She did everything. She made yalancı [dolma], she made köfte, she made börek, name it. And she made the best she knew how to roll out the Baklava dough. She used to go to my aunts because my aunts had a great big dining room table and she would roll out the dough. They would start like five O’clock in the morning and she would start rolling out the dough and my aunt would do the baking and, you know.

26:31
AD: Did she teach you how to cook Armenian food?

26:35
MS: Oh yeah, my mother cooked Armenian food all the time.

26:38
AD: No, no you.

26:39
MS: Me?

26:40
AD: Yeah.

26:40
MS: Oh I cook Armenian foods. I cook anything. I cook Italian.

26:47
AD: So, did your parents speak English well or?

26:54
MS: My dad spoke English well. My mother learned it. We would, as we were walking along. She would stop and pick out the letters and then she would ask us to pronounce it for her. This is in Philadelphia. And she was very interested in learning. That was a one plus with my mum. That she really had a desire to learn English language. She tried. She even tried to get a driver license. But she never went through with the whole thing. [laughs]

27:28
AD: So, did they have just Armenian friends to hang out or did they become friends with American neighbors?

27:38
MS: Well, they had naturally mostly with Armenians. My mother started working and she made some friends at work. In fact, I have pictures of some of the people she worked with. They were very good friends. And they have all passed away now. I know my mother had some American friends.

28:01
AD: And you had mix, you had both mixed American friends as a kid, as a child, you had both American and Armenian friends?


28:15
MS: Oh, yeah.

28:15
AD: So, how was your house when you were little? Was your house decorated with Armenian stuff, you know, like, did you have friends coming to your house when you were young?

28:38
MS: Yeah.

28:38
AD: Would they ask anything, like was there anything in the house resembling Armenian culture?

28:46
MS: Well we had Armenian literature, Armenian newspaper coming. You know that type of thing.

28:51
GS: I am assuming you had oriental rugs in the house?

28:54
MS: I could not read it by my grandmother could. My grandmother taught us how to read by reading the bible. I had a wonderful grandmother, very sweet.

29:07
AD: Did you had like any, did your mother for example do crochet or–

29:14
MS: My mother did a lot of crochet.

29:16
AD: Okay, so was she putting that out in the house?

29:20
MS: You know, I have some upstairs on the dresser. She did needle work. I do not know if I have any right here now. Let me see. My mother did a lot of needlework. It takes me a while to get my legs going.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview

4/28/2016

Interviewer

Gregory Smaldone

Interviewee

Manooshag Artzerounian Seraydarian

Biographical Text

Manooshag was born in Philadelphia to Armenian parents and later moved to Binghamton when she was ten. She worked as a hairdresser and did a lot of charity work, including volunteering for the Boys and Girls club. She currently resides in Endwell and has two sons, Richard and Robert.

Duration

29:41

Language

English

Digital Publisher

Binghamton University

Interview Format

Audio

Rights Statement

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.

Keywords

Armenian; Turkey; Church; Armenian community; Family; Politics; Traditions; Christmas; Charity work; Diaspora; Cultural identity; Food; Binghamton.

Files

Citation

“Manooshag Artzerounian Seraydarian,” Digital Collections, accessed February 6, 2023, https://omeka.binghamton.edu/omeka/items/show/616.