The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies

Helwig A3

 

Appendix C: Subject 3

Subject #3, March 28, 2018
White female
Current resident of central Pennsylvania, has lived in many places in the United States
80+ years old
Has given more than $5 million to a charities, as part of personal and family foundation contributions

 

Dan: Subject #3, thanks so much for spending a few minutes with me today. I am doing a paper that will be about 30 pages in length. It will be first looking at altruism from kind of the genetic perspective, where does it exist in the brain and what parts of the brain influence it, and then looking at it philosophically, and then looking at it from a kind of sociological study, bring it all together with some of these orals histories I’ve got. 

Subject #3: I’m happy to talk about anything. I am one of those ladies that never is quiet.

Dan: Could you just give a little background like where you were born and raised and what your family did.

Subject #3: I grew up on a farm in (REDACTED) County near (REDACTED) and I actually spent my summers there with my grandparents. When my grandmother passed away my grandfather wouldn’t leave. So then we moved from the city of (REDACTED) and I was a preteen then. So the rest of my youth was on the farm.

Dan: So you’re growing up years were kind of on the farm, Your father, before you moved to the farm, what kind of work was he in?

Subject #3: During the Depression he was in a business that was making like, not plaster< but what do you put in house?

Dan: Drywall?

Subject #3: Yeah and then that went belly up during the Depression, and that’s the only thing I really remember about the Depression because my mother’s family were all farmers so we always had plenty to eat. But I always liked clothes and I wanted fancy shoes and I had to wear plain shoes that cost $1.98’s without any design, that’s how awful the Depression was for young people. The old people were worried about (bigger things). The young were sad because they couldn’t have the best of what they thought they wanted. So I can still remember those years. Didn’t like them.

Dan: Subject #3, as you got through your high school years did you tell me that you started working in retail?

Subject #3: I worked for Walden Book Company when they were in town. They were a New York firm but they rented space and department stores and ours was (REDACTED) of (REDACTED) and I am sure there was one here at your department store downtown as well and they would interview people to run them. Then you would get to go to New York because in those days, you sold greeting cards and they had rental libraries because it wasn’t like you could pick up a paperback book; there were none.

Dan: There was no paperback.

Subject #3: And when they did come out they that ruined our library… They would run a library, a rental of five cents a day or something and all the city people would come into your department store to bring your books back, which brought in more customers (to the department store) that sometimes might not be in there.

Dan: So, wow I didn’t know that so book stores actually ran rental libraries.

Subject #3: And you would charge whatever. Maybe five cents a day and another person would lower to four cents a day and you would have to beat that competition. Then I began going into New York to buy for other stores; they would rent space all over the East Coast.

Dan: You became kind of a buyer.

Subject #3: Yeah, it was like that. Seeing what was new. For a country kid, I would come to (REDACTED) and get on the train and go to New York and stay at the Algonquin Hotel.

Now I am going back to the 50’s. When I first met the boss there he was sitting with a movie star I met him in the bar room and I guess I still had a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch, because when they would ask me questions the actress would say “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” And, I thought, well what ails her? I didn’t even know what they were referring to. And, after years later when I learned what it was about…I should have smacked her because they really baited me when they discovered my Pennsylvania Dutch accent. But, I didn’t get it, of course, so I wasn’t offended until 25 years later.

Dan: How about that. But that must have been a real experience though.

Subject #3: it really made a different person and in those days I wasn’t afraid to do anything. The warehouse for the books like especially the children’s books you could choose what you wanted to have shipped to your department in (REDACTED) and I would get off that train where ever it would stop and I would get off to walk around and see what the town was like and it didn’t matter where it was and I was never afraid; you didn’t have to be afraid back in those days, at least I didn’t know you should be or were supposed to be, and then catch the train to go back into the city. I just felt like such a big shot; it was so wonderful for a farm girl to get out of town.

Dan: Refresh my memory, how did you and your husband meet?

Subject #3: Well, in our day there was a lot of dancing. I don’t know if you knew the ballroom down in (REDACTED)?

Dan: (REDACTED)?

Subject #3: Yeah. They would have a Friday night dance and they would have big bands come in and the first big band was Harry James that I went to see and I saved some money and the tickets weren’t expensive and I just loved…everybody danced then. And, Harry James was playing and he came out during intermission. I think he was probably going for a drink or something and I tapped his arm and I said “Harry, you’re going to be a star,” and he looked at me and said “Honey, I already am.” and kept on walking, like where did you come from. I didn’t know who I was talking to, I knew who he was. I didn’t know I was going to offend him by saying he was going to be star. I never forgot that because I thought I was such a big shot and when he said that I felt like a dumb farmer’s daughter...

…And we danced until they would leave. And, people cut in you really didn’t have to have a partner or anything. But, in the end, three years later everybody was hooked up with somebody you know or something.

Dan: So it was the (REDACTED) Ballroom that you brought you two together.

Subject #3: Well, he had a girlfriend.

Dan: Oh, he did.

Subject #3: And, we went up to (REDACTED) Park, did you ever hear of that?

Dan: Yeah, I’ve heard of (REDACTED).

Subject #3: And, they used to have a big porch and, uh what did they call those music machines that you put a quarter in?

Dan: Jukebox?

Subject #3: Jukeboxes, yeah, and you’d dance on the porch there. And, we took a group in our day. There would be a car with maybe 5 or 6 people in it. Not everybody had a car like they do now. And, we would all pile in and go up there and go to the park and then in the evening go over and dance on the log porch or the cabin porch there. My husband, I knew him from the group but I didn’t and he went down on a swing and he called to his girlfriend and said “Louise give me a push” she said “Aw, push yourself” And I thought, he’s pretty cute I’m going to push him so I did. Three months later we were married. And everybody said that will never last. So 54 years later I thought…yeah.

Dan: You kind of took it upon yourself to give him a push.

Subject #3: And, it wasn’t that heavy, it was kind of nice.

Dan: How about that!

Subject #3: And, it drove our parents crazy. They said well you don’t even know each other. 

It was such a different time and you were naive about a lot of things. You didn’t feel like you needed to know much about somebody. You just had to know if you liked them or not.

(Long story about renting an apartment, pushing a ladder over on a peeping Tom.)

Dan: And, how old were you then when you two got married?

Subject #3: 23

Dan: You were 23.

Dan: So, if you look back on the time before you were married and when you were living at home. Or, (REDACTED)’s folks and how they might have felt about altruism, helping other people, responsibility towards others. Do you have any kind of memories that helped to guide you?

Subject #3: Well, I think when you grow up…and I had one brother, I still have him; he has dementia, but, we would spend summers with our grandparents on the farm and there would be a wagon and horse come by and an old lady would get out, and I would notice that they were filling a mattress with straw. So this was a great grandmother who only spoke Pennsylvania Dutch. We never had a conversation. But, she would be dropped off and spend a month and do mending and be like a slave almost. And, it was family…somebody’s mother or something. But, then another wagon would come by a month later…it would be no longer than a month, and she would pack up her bag and she would go someplace and that’s what they did with the elderly family instead of putting them in some home…well I guess they didn’t have any money to pay for to be anywhere. So they just rode her around. And I remember, I thought it was so funny after she left that day, they took the mattress out of her bedroom and they set fire to it. Now, as an adult I think I wonder if she had bugs? I mean why would they burn it? But, I guess they wouldn’t know what else to do with it. Not give it to somebody else to sleep on. 

Dan: That’s amazing. When you moved to the farm you said you never had to worry about food but probably some families did.

Subject #3: Oh yeah. In our neighborhood in west (REDACTED) I remember there was a large family and they would take a wagon like on Tuesdays and I don’t know where they would go. I forget what it was called but you could take your wagon and get food. And, now today I was just with the woman who runs the health clinics here in (REDACTED) and I looked at what beautiful changes for poor people to come into these lovely health centers all over town…I would say I went in four of them because I support them and it was nice to see what I was supporting. And, they are run well…there are volunteer, well maybe everybody’s paid, but the people who come there I don’t think any of them can pay. But they get wonderful…well some of the doctors are here waiting to pass their tests and they’re from different countries and they do work free there. And, I think the patients might pay what they can. But, each one that I have been in and I’ve been in five now are run beautifully. And, most people maybe not most but a good deal of them are maybe Hispanic who have been patients there. I was in four. Now I think that was amazing.

Dan: Compared to the way it was.

Subject #3: Yeah. And I don’t know how it used to be, but I wasn’t here then. But to see what’s…and then last week…I support the foundation that takes care of disabled people. Have you ever been to that? 

Dan: I have heard of it but I’ve never been through it.

Subject #3: It blows you away. And now they are even going to start breeding their own dogs. And now I am interested in supporting the puppies and stuff…because I got lots of kisses from the dogs. I went down there so I thought I’ve got to keep them coming…they’re really sweet. It’s a wonderful place. No wonder everybody comes to (REDACTED). Because there is so much! If you don’t have anything there’s someplace to go for help.

Dan: I think that is true.

Subject #3: It’s amazing to me.

Dan: Do you remember anything from your growing up years about how your folks felt about charity or the church or supporting other people.

Subject #3: My memories are everybody had trouble supporting themselves.

Dan: Everybody was just having a hard time.

Subject #3: The people I knew…I wasn’t with, what they called the rich people. Because mother worked at home. A sewing factory would bring her like collars to deliver; so that she could be at home with my brother and me. So that she could earn some money.

Dan: Piece work

Subject #3: Yeah. And dad would take whatever type of job. And so I think moving on the farm was like an easy decision because you didn’t have much to give up.

Dan: You didn’t have much.

Subject #3: Yeah and so that was an easy decision to be there and make some money.

Dan: Right.

Subject #3: I saw how hard my mother worked. A farm lady just doesn’t work in the house she has the cows and the chickens and everything in the book plus going out to help in the barn and in the fields sometimes.

Dan: It was hard work.

Subject #3: It is, and especially hard for women. At least it seemed that way. I guess because I saw…and my dad like to ride…we had a riding horse and my brother would say “I’m having some guys over do you want ride with us”. I said “well we only have one horse.” And he said “Oh, Jim will bring some from their family.” And I said, “Are they farmers? And he said, “Who else do we know?” I was not interested in meeting a farm boy.

Dan: That’s how you could see it coming together. If you ended up marrying farmer, it would be a hard life.

Subject #3: That’s what I thought. I saw enough of that. How much you had to do. And for a woman, they not only had the house to do but they would help in the barn…threshing time and if they weren’t doing that they were cooking meals for the hired hands. It was just work, work, work. So, I knew I never wanted that for a life.

Dan: Yeah, I can certainly…

Subject #3: And, then my husband’s family owned the (REDACTED) Milling Company, (a feed mill). So when dad would have a load of wheat to take over to sell, one time I said to dad, “I’ll go along with you.” We would sit in lines in (REDACTED)…all farmers with their trucks lined up because it would take all night to get to the end and then the next day it would start all over again. So my dad said, “What do you mean you want to come along? Sit in a line all day?” And I said, “There is a guy I want to check out…somebody said that his family has this mill we are going to.” So he looked disgusted but I didn’t care I got into the truck and went. So I did that a couple of times. So the next dance we got a little chummier…it was like 3 months we dated and then we were getting married and everybody said you’re crazy you hardly know each other. 

Dan: So you and your husband end up owning the feed mill in (REDACTED). 

Subject #3: It was his family’s. (REDACTED) Milling Company

Dan: Right and eventually he sells to another company.

Subject #3: To ConAgra

Dan: And, then you guys end up going all over the nation.

Subject #3: Then he sold the company. He graduated from (REDACTED) College and that was back in 1940. And when he came home he said to his father, he said I’ve learned that this business of having a mill of running by water and all that, that’s all in the past. You have to have a new way of doing things. And his dad said well if that’s what you learned in college that’s why we sent you. So they had people come from Austria and redo the mill. The building still the same old building stone and everything and still the producer. It was all upgraded then. 

So when we had no children or anyone to pass it to in the family, and my husband said I would like to sell it and his dad said if that’s what you want to do. 

Dan: Right. So when you guys owned the feed mill in (REDACTED) and you probably started generating a little more income for the two of you. Did you start to become charitable at that time, the two of you, you and (REDACTED)?

Subject #3: No, they were not. They lived well but they never joined anything. (REDACTED)’s family loved counting their money. I noticed old timers like that that worked so hard or inherited it, they liked to see how much money they could have.

Dan: Just accumulated it.

Subject #3: And didn’t care about maybe a fur coat or a Cadillac but that was as far as they would go. And, I think like those ladies and they were farmers originally before that. At least their spouses were and they just cared about a few nice things and no debt and that sort of thing. They weren’t interested in joining a club or taking a cruise. They thought that was ridiculous. They just invested it and made more.

Dan: So the idea of giving it away never occurred to them.

Subject #3: No they were not like that. They kept it within the family and if the family didn’t need it, it went back in the business. So, it was our generation that blew it all, made it work or ended up with nothing…. …. After we were married and in the summertime trucks with farmers would line up all night long because they needed their money they wanted to sell their grain and move on. And I would work all night then with my husband because the other people who were doing those jobs had their day and it was just interesting for me to see how hard people worked and how much they needed their money and they’d want to be paid right away that’s why we would be open all night. And they didn’t want to wait until morning they wanted when they left to take their check with them. So you learn that life isn’t easy for everybody. People worked hard to get their money. 

Dan: Then you sell the mill to Conagra and (REDACTED) takes a job at other places.

Subject #3: Well, he said he’s retiring. I was playing golf in those days. And I played with one of the business executives from Conagra. And I said did you find a job for my husband and he said well I don’t think he wants to work he’s retiring. I said, he thinks he’s retiring. If don’t ever tell on me, I’d like you to offer him something. My feeling was whenever we’d meet somebody and get to know them well, he was always intrigued by a self-made person that worked hard…drove this big truck and had this big cement company or whatever, and I thought I feel like he should know that he could have done all of this himself, without help, but he could never be sure; is the way I felt. Because everything just fell on him. 

And not that he was lazy, he worked hard. But I’m sure always felt…that is the way I read it. He always felt that he never challenged himself.

(Stories about life in Kansas City, Michigan, moves and people.) 

Dan: I guess so. So did you … I know that (REDACTED) was probably charitable to his college prior to his passing.

Subject #3: Yes that was thing because he felt that really made him unique in his family. Not everybody did back then. The girls today … (scholarships she provides)… I sponsor them … they want to study in some God-forsaken country … they are not shy about anything. It’s just such a different time in the world. It fascinates me how smart women are. 

Dan: It’s a different time, for sure. After (REDACTED)’s passing, you continued to be charitable and even more so.

Subject #3: Yeah. Well, I was never in charge of anything so I didn’t even know what kind of heat we ever had. We never had a house payment; we never had a car payment. So I never knew anything he took care of that. And when my little bank account would be out he would put something in it. And, I don’t know why I never thought to ask but I think if you don’t have a family to share your future…you just don’t get to that point, maybe. At least we didn’t, so I thought when he passed away well I don’t know what will happen to me. He had everything just so taken care of then.

Dan: You didn’t need to worry.

Subject #3: I just … and he cared a lot about (REDACTED) College…and I was there just last night. It’s funny you should say that. There’s a young man here, I eat all my meals up at the diner, and he’s from Mexico and he’s such a smart young fellow and I was telling the college president about him. And they had a dedication for the new art department going in there and a dinner and so I invited this young man and he’s so smart. His father is the chef up at the diner and his mother is a bus girl and they barely speak English. But he doesn’t have his blue card or green which ever you need, and he’s so smart and he graduates from (REDACTED) high school here this year. And, so the president was really impressed with him too. 

And, it was so interesting after the dinner we were getting ready to leave. The young man said (REDACTED), I’ve never been to anything like this … it was so wonderful. He had even called the secretary of the college and asked how he should dress. He didn’t want me to know that he didn’t know how to dress and he looked wonderful. I was proud.

Dan: But I want to get back to some of the questions that I had. It sounds, Subject #3, like some of the decisions about charitable support that you make you just started to make after (REDACTED) passed away.

Subject #3: Yes. The only thing that we did together was things at the college, if they wanted a building or something. And when he passed away I supported things I knew he would like there which were buildings.

Dan: But you said he wanted to give to his alma mater because he … they had such a big role to play in his success.

Subject #3: Yeah.

Dan: So, since then you have been involved with charities in (REDACTED) counties, also. So if you look at it from an evolution standpoint, Charles Darwin came along and said the way species survive is by taking care of themselves, each one. And, the strong survive and the weak fall by the wayside. Well, it doesn’t make any sense to give things away from a kind of genetic standpoint right because why would you try to help some other person if your just trying to worry about your own survival. And when you said about the farm wives and the farmers not really thinking about giving it away because they were used to not having anything.

Subject #3: Yeah, that’s right.

Dan: So what has happened that made you say … you know what, I should be giving it away.

Subject #3: I feel that not having a family, why would I not want to share with somebody who is less fortunate? And, actually I guess in my heart, I feel like it was (REDACTED)’s gift. I just feel like you should share. It’s a warm feeling to know that you made life easier for somebody. And I have nieces and nephews and so did (REDACTED) and he set up trusts for them years ago. And I figure they have that and we’ll have it until the money runs out. I don’t plan on giving them another thing. Let them do for themselves. They do well enough with their trusts so … and they’ve had that already for fifteen years.

Dan: You said something interesting. You said it’s a warm feeling whenever you share with others and you make those kinds of contributions. 

Subject #3: You kind of feel like ok.

Dan: It makes you feel good about what you can do. 

Subject #3: Yeah, yeah. And just like when you go and see what buildings these people are working from and what they do to help people. It just is a good feeling to be part of it. I have a scholarship at every college, maybe just one at most of them…

… But, I was coming out of the show and some little old lady, I have trouble calling someone that when I’m a little old lady too, but she tapped me and said I have cancer and I said well I hope you are being cared for. So, this whole group, some of them knew that I have given money to the cancer institute downtown, and this old lady said, “Do you know if that (Subject #3 name) is still alive?” And we are all in a crowd coming out of auditorium and were waiting to leave. And I said yes she is. And she said, “Well she must be stupid giving her money away before she’s dead.” And I said, “Well I am (Subject #3 Name) and I’ve done a lot of stupid things but I decided to give it away now so I can see who benefits and I can feel good about it. Once I’m dead they’ll give it to anybody they think they can make an impression but I’m doing it while I’m alive.” After we got outside I think it embarrassed some people. She was so loud and ____ to me. And I said, “I bet tomorrow when she’s with her friends she say you won’t believe what I said yesterday.” 

Dan: So when you think about making gifts, you make a contribution to a college or to a health organization or a youth organization and you get to see the results of it you meet the kids or you meet the people in charge. It makes you feel good.

Subject #3: It does. It’s like if I wouldn’t have helped, it wouldn’t even be here. And then I forget about it. 

Dan: Ok, so let me give you a couple of hypotheticals. Think of ten friends that you have and think about how many of those ten friends would have the same instinct to help others as you do.

Subject #3: I think people with families have a different feeling about giving money away. They want it for their children. Most of my friends feel that way. If I didn’t have children they would say…like they are making up for what I do…they don’t do because of their children. And, I can understand that. Because if you struggled to make a lot of money and you have, say, four or five kids you wouldn’t want them to struggle that much. So that’s the reason I think for that.

Dan: So do you think most people that you can think of think primarily of first helping their children or grandchildren.

Subject #3: Yeah, to see that they get to school and college and start a business. They feel better about that. And I can understand that, I would feel the same way.

Dan: Which makes sense if you think about dogs or monkeys or whatever. They are going to think about their kids and raising their kids.

Subject #3: Yeah, that’s right.

Dan: That makes sense.

Subject #3: And I think that’s a big thing … I have some friends who are very generous with families. And, that’s a different story but most of my friends are glad to help their families in their business or start a business. And I am sure I would be that same way too.

Dan: So you think humans have a tendency to think first about their children or grandchildren and then if that is not something they have to worry about then they think about caring for others.

Subject #3: Yeah. Or they might have one special thing like their college that they give to something big and still not cut the kids out of anything. But just for ordinary people I think would pass your money to your children. I would feel that way, anyway. 

Dan: Would it make a difference to you Subject #3 if … let’s just imagine a situation where you were deciding to make a gift to a hospital but they weren’t allowed to put your name on it. Say the government passed a law and you couldn’t do that. Would that make a difference?

Subject #3: No, it wouldn’t. As long as in my heart I know. But actually most places that I give they want to put the name because they say well if (Subject #3 Name) can do it you know they want to match it.

Dan: Yeah.

Subject #3: And I think that’s funny but that doesn’t … that doesn’t seem to move me. I never cared. So when they say that … maybe they just make it up. But almost every place will mention naming to me. So, I’ve gotten so, sure, ok. So, it’s sort of humbling in a way but they always assure me it means something to other people but I’m sure it doesn’t because it doesn’t mean anything to me.

Dan: So Subject #3 if you had to make an argument that people are either born with this idea to help other people or they learn it from what happens in their lives either from their parents or from church or whatever, which do you think it would be. If you had to pick one or the other.

Subject #3: I think it would be what you see around you that … you could … if you had somebody that you felt you could make life better for, that that would be worth supporting, or if you find out what you could do to make their life better, most people would do it, and you wouldn’t have to have a big thank you or anything. That’s the way I feel about it.

Dan: Can you image you being happy just like your late husband’s mother, just holding on to the money and not sharing it?

Subject #3: No that isn’t who I am… … it’s like a fellow came up to me oh maybe a month ago and he said… oh, I don’t know what, I was written up for some building donation, and he said, “My God, I lived in Red Lion all my life, and I never knew the Barshinger’s had any money at all.” And I said, “They don’t any more. I have it.” And I thought that was a smart answer.