November 30, 2012

Vintage Family Friday - My Grandmother: Part Two

[Just to let you know, I updated part one with a few more pictures of grandma when she was younger. Now, for part two of the interview!]

What did you do after you graduated?
After I graduated, my Father would not let me stay in the city and work at Moir's Chocolate Factory. In those days you had to be 21 before you could lead your own life. So I went back home & within 2 months I decided to work at the Woolen Mill where they had automatic weaving looms, but the manager was afraid to let a deaf person operate them as we would not hear when a problem started, also had automatic wool carding and spool winders, etc. But they wanted me to weave samples on a small hand weaving loom before a design was selected for the automatic looms. One time it was khaki for army uniforms. Another time a beautiful creamy yellow material of a lovely design was selected and cut and sewn together into a princess style coat and the Town presented it to the present Queen Elizabeth (back then, Princess Elizabeth & husband Prince Philip) when they visited our town after leaving Halifax, by train around 1951.

In between & more often I mended the materials after they were woven on the big machines. The rolls of cloth were put on 2 pulleys or bars and I would look them over until I came across a section that lost a thread which could be anywhere from a few inches to a couple of yards, studied the patterns and wove in the missing threads by hand using a large needle.

[Grandma, 22 years old.]

When we moved away to another town, I worked at the local bakery that made assorted cookies, chocolate mallows and even bread in another section down the hall. I worked like Lucille Ball did in her comedy, packing the cookies in a box except I did a great job and mine did not fall over the edge to a box below. I let some go because they were already broken. They were packed quickly and easily by using both hands and pushing lets say 8 or 10 together like in a row and lifted that up by pressing hard and placed in the boxes. Sometimes we put boxes together and ready for packing.

We moved again and the only job I found was as a Mother's Helper with a lovely family. She treated me like a younger sister, having only brothers. While there, I bought a typewriter & took a typist course through correspondence school from a Vancouver University, and practiced in the evenings. I was graded by mail and a local high school graduate was appointed to time my word typing speed with a clock under her eye when she gave me the go ahead. Years later, it came in handy as I worked on key-punch jobs (now called data entry).

Two years later I went to Halifax & got a job hand weaving Nova Scotia tartans, mainly 12 lady's scarves or 10 men's scarves a day.

What were some of the frustrations you experienced while trying to fit in the hearing world?
I felt left out of circles, sometimes, I was shy anyway. People usually talked past me unless it was comments applied to me, but I always kept busy embroidering, reading, knitting, even sketching. My Mom always said I was an artist, but I did not pursue it, and of course I daydreamed a lot. Felt lonely at times until I started going to dances with Marie a fellow worker at the wollen mill, who became a good friend, and I was always asked for a dance, polka, jive, swing and waltz.

Then my two sisters asked if they could come, first time for them. We went on both Fridays & Saturdays to the IODE one night and the Fire Hall the next night. It was fun to dance and socialize.

[My grandmother in 1956]

How old were you when hearing aids became available for deaf people?
While I attended the deaf school a brother and his sister arrived around 1945 & both wearing hearing aids. They were not slim and narrow like the ones of today or behind the ear, and the ear molds were hard. We called them rich kids because they could afford them.

One day my father came home from visiting his mom & said Granny bought you a hearing aid. It had long wires that got in my way. I carried it my pocket but the cacophony of sound was disturbing as I had no instructions and probably had it set too high. I could hear my own breathing, and footsteps sounded like elephants marching. The crackle of clothes moving & the breeze blowing on my hair near the hearing aid made sounds that would drown out the words when people spoke.

I found if I carried it in my hand it was better. One day we were on our way to the circus and a girl stared and asked what is she carrying and was told that it was an aid to help me hear more. She was fascinated and asked me if I knew what they were saying, I answered yes, from the right ear only. We were still 2 blocks from the fair and I said I hear music and they told me it was from the circus. I wore it for a while until the battery went dead and could not find any in town at that time so the hearing aid ended in the drawer until we could order some batteries and was forgotten. I was around 14 yrs old then. I believe it went missing some how and I never wore it again, may be a young sibling played with it as we were a large family.

Bought 2 behind the ear aids when I was 24 and married. I found them a bit bulky and heavy. They did not seem to work any better than the one I had years before, so after a while stopped using them too.

By the time I was around 35 and more deaf and self conscious about misunderstanding many words and giving wrong answers like this joke: "Oh, you have new hearing aids, What kind is it?" and I'd answer, "It's 2 o'clock" Oops! I was truly ready for hearing aids and bought them and they were the best ever to come on the market and by 1983 traded them in for slimmer ones, same brand. When they wore out, bought another set, in 1998, in grey to match my hair.

[Grandma with her daughter Rachel (my mom), May 1960.]

How about your age when you got closed captioning?
For me, closed captioning was discovered around 1983. That was the beginning of my addiction to television. Hardly watched it before as I got so frustrated. My family got their first black and white set around 1954. It seemed to me that they kept it at a whisper. Later when I first saw Elvis Presley, I wished the music was louder, but it was quite muted. The only time I would watch anything, it had lots of action. So when CC came out, I enjoyed tv more, watched what my grand daughters liked, then later All My Children soap opera and I was hooked. Soon along came old rerun movies with added cc's which I could enjoy more than when shown years before.

Even with hearing aids, I need cc and always lip reading but some words are not clear when people talk to me so they have to spell the word especially on the phone or re-phrase them. It's hard work, so you struggle and feel personal distress. Some time people think I only hear when I want to which is wrong. Often I have to really concentrate if they slur their words or talk a mile a minute.

[Left: Grandma & her best friend Betty Lou (from Deaf school) in Halifax. One month before getting married, April 1956 - age 24. Middle: Grandma and her daughter Rachel (my mom), age 32 and daughter 4 years old. Right: Grandma and her granddaughter (me!) before she knew I was deaf too, Quebec 1981.]

How old were you when you got your first TTD/TTY?
Hmm! I believe I got my minicom not long after I discovered CC in the early 80's. It's a great way to communicate with other deaf people. One day I would like a better one with built in printer that holds a roll of paper, great to check what the other person said at the other end after a long conversation for answers or when not able to remember what was said. But then maybe it is probably better just to use a computer nowadays, if person at the other end has one.

How do you feel about sign language?
When one of my sisters watched my deaf grand daughter, age 9 at that time, and I communicate together on & on in Signed English and I was saying each word also, so my sister would not be left out, she asked "Do you actually have that many signs?" I said sure, practically every word in the dictionary. It is definitely not just "Me Jane and You Tarzan", She was so impressed, even more so when my younger hearing 7 yr old grand daughter signed expertly too. Their mother urged every one to use Signed English and oral speech together for the deaf child's benefit. It's the reason to-day she is so fluent in english be it signed or written & clever besides.

[side note: Zoée here - I have to say that i don't think the fact that I signed in Signed English is the reason why I am fluent in English. Sure it didn't hurt in my case, but I think I owe a lot of it to reading books, really (I was a total bookworm!), and I think i would be just as fluent if i was raised using ASL.]

[My grandma at a party full of deaf people. Grandma is the one in the very back, wearing a white hat.]

The sign language in my time was MSL (Maritime Sign Language), with a blend of ASL and lots of finger spelling. We were not self conscious about signing at all, and my younger sister and I used finger spelling as a secret code so no one knew what we said or just to show off! which was fun. But in some small towns, I noticed some deaf people in a store using only a few gestures half hidden so as not to attract attention. In big cities in the east they are more open about it. Although I think the best place to use sign language is out in B.C. where the deaf are truly loved and accepted without question, it seems to me. And people eagerly take courses in sign language. I feel proud to sign in public.

I also know how to communicate with deafblind people via (finger spelling) on their hands. There were 2 deafblind girls with us at the Deaf School, and a third deafblind woman past middle age who lived there permanently year round. In the summer she had friends or relatives who had her for the summer months at their homes. She spent a lot of time knitting. Once she made snuggie bloomers in a green color to keep warm in winter months when outdoors. A school matron taught her and always fixed her dropped stitches.

That poor woman had a forehead full of permanent lumps and new bruises, caused by us girls when running and shoving the heavy steel door outward to run up or down the stairs, not knowing she's sometimes on the other side, feeling for the handle to open it on her way to the sitting room. Gosh, the guilt I felt when I did it once and never shoved the door again. I was more cautious as I just ached for her. She would clutch her head and cry & cry. Oh My! that was awful.

[The end! Looking back, I really wish I had a second interview with her to go more in depth. Ah well. Remember, if you can interview some people in your family, do it and share the post with me!]

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