I interviewed my grandmother on the phone while I sat in my living room. She didn’t really know about it beforehand, but retired people tend to have a lot of time on their hands. Certainly enough to talk on the phone for an hour.
My grandma is 79 years old, but she’s got as much energy as ever. She’s a very social person who loves to talk, joke, and laugh. She likes a good conversation so much that she’s even willing to put up with her idiot grandson and answer all his questions, even with actual enthusiasm. Although her white hair is of average length, her height is a few inches below that. She grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, but she lives in Berkeley at the moment. She usually slips a joke or two into whatever she’s talking about, and occasionally gets a little off-topic.
“How have advances in technology changed the way we live?” “I certainly love the computer. I can read the New York Times and jack up the print size.” She likes how much easier it is to keep in touch with people, and how you can walk around while talking on a cordless phone. She’s glad you can reserve books online at the library without having to go look for them, and appreciates online shopping and how much quicker and easier it is than wandering around a store.
“What specifically has been the most useful?” She likes the computer the most because of all the different things you can do on it. One of her former favorites was the landline, because you could hang up when someone knocked on the door, whereas you had to respond to letters. She also really likes the microwave because she doesn’t really like to cook.
“What did you do in your free time when you were a kid?” “Read, hung out with my friends, watched tv once it was invented.” She says it was mostly like what kids do today. She played tennis in high school, and spent a lot of time begging her parents for a cat. She remembers the feeling of excitement she’d get on a snow day, waiting as the radio listed all the school districts. Then she’d go sledding and have snowball fights.
“What do kids do now that you would have wanted to do as a kid?”She would’ve wanted the technology we had now because she loves her computer and it took a very long time for her mom to get a tv because she thought the antennae was ugly.
“What big world events were most memorable when you were growing up?” World war two. There was a lot of rationing, and everyone had big shutters to block out the light so bombers couldn’t see their houses. Everyone thought they lived near something that the axis would want to bomb. She would collect scrap metal in a wagon, and donate it to help the war effort, although she doesn’t know how it helped. She remembers beating on a pan in celebration when the war ended in Europe, and trying to drive downtown to go celebrate and getting caught in a massive traffic jam when the japanese surrendered.
“Out of all that, what stood out to you the most?” She remembers when the japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Hitler declared war on us, although she wasn’t all that scared then because of how young she was. She remembers when Roosevelt died because it was the first time she ever saw her mother cry.
“Are there any interesting stories about our family history?” We had an ancestor named Lytle. Thanks to his brave actions, we are related to President Richard Nixon, although we are related very distantly. I am his great grandchildren’s ninth cousin. Grandma’s mother died before she learned of her relation to him (she was his sixth cousin), and he was her least favorite president. There was no one on Earth who she hated more.
“How was life different during the cold war?” “Everyone was getting pretty nervous about Russia, what with all the stuff about the Iron Curtain. Russia was trying to prevent us from dropping food off into Berlin.” She lived in Germany for a while during the Cold War, inside the british zone. She was close enough to the border that she could see the guard towers, always with three soldiers in it. I guess it is harder to bribe three people than two. Still, people would try to get across, by parachuting and even pole vaulting, but mostly by using fake papers. Anyone over 65 could come and go whenever they please, because the east germans didn’t want to have to pay their penchants.
“Were people afraid the nuke was coming at any second or did they just sor of get on with their lives?” They just got on with their lives. A-bombs haven’t been dropped since World War Two, and they may never be again. Supposedly, President Truman hadn’t been told about the now famous Manhattan project until he became president, and then he had to make the call to kill so many people once he was in charge.
I learned a lot from the interview. The most surprising was my relation to President Nixon, and I think the most interesting was how President Truman wasn’t told about the Manhattan Project. It must have been very strange to see that massive wall dividing Berlin, with guard towers watching you as if you were some common criminal.