Estelle Vitopil

This interview was conducted by Allen D. Judy on November 11, 2003 in San Antonio, TX. as part of Palo Alto College’s History 1302 – Fall 2003 class.

Introduction

Estelle Murrie Vitopil was born on March 12, 1915 in San Antonio to Joseph and Amanda Murrie. Estelle grew up in San Antonio TX and had one brother, Sid Murrie. Her father,Joseph, died when Estelle was three years old. Joseph died October 18,1918 of Influenza, and her mother,Amanda worked as an interior Decorator. In 1942, Estelle married Frank J. Vitopil from Bryan,Tx. They were married during World War 2 in St.Charles Louisiana and had one child on the way before he left. My mom is the second oldest and she was born in 1947 in San Antonio. Estelle has three daughters: Sharron, Marilyn(mother),and Janice. Estelle has 7 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. She is a republican and favors George Bush. As of right now, she is 89 and still more alive than ever. She still works ’til this day. She is employed at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital off Babcock Rd. She is a nursing assistant and helps out patients in wheelchairs mainly. She is very religious to the upmost and that is considered her hobby ’til the day she passes. She is a lady of dignity and honesty and has been through the hard times of American life; Estelle Vitopil is my grandmother. I chose to interview her on the topic of “Women” because she has worked her whole life and has never once complained about her life. I interviewed her at her house in the Woods of Shavano Park, across from Clark High school.

Transcription

How was life in the city during the 1920’s?
Life in the 1920’s was quiet… it was like what we have now; just more simple. We had more discipline in those days then we have now in children in adults both. In that way it was a lot different than what it is now… there’s no discipline now, I don’t see it…sorry.”

Did you attend school and at what age? How was school?
I went to school when I was five years old and I was in kindergarden at that time and I attended a catholic school in the downtown area. It’s name is St.Mary’s and it is still there…it is really a downtown momument to the city of San Antonio. I liked school, whether I liked it or not I went.

How did you get to school as a young girl?
I walked to school, my mother was a widow. We had no automobile and come rain or shine; I had a bother that was two years older than me and he and I would walk from our home to the school downtown… rain or shine.

Did you have chores and if you did…what chores did you have around the house?
My mother had me do a lot of little house work. By nine years old I cooked supper for us.

If you had to wash the clothes, how did you wash the clothes?
We washed them in a tub and you rubbed them on a board and rung the the water out; you hung them on the clothes line and when they were dry you ironed.

Did ya’ll have vacuums…did you vacuum the house…was that a chore?
Got on my knees and waxed the floor and dusted the funiture with polish.

What about the lawn?
My bother and I cut the grass. We took turns in cutting grass and we had quit a large yard. I was about ten years old when I started doing the lawn moing.

What year did you graduate High school and at what age?
1932 and I was sixteen years old when I graduated from High school.

At what age did a teenager get a car, if so who paid for it?
We never had a car. When my brother got a car, my mothter paid half on it. It was a second hand car and she paid half and he paid half and his exact age was probably eighteen years old… but it wasn’t a newcar. I never got a car. I don’t know how many years I was married before I drove a car.

Did you attend college and what college?
I did not attend college. I went to a business school though.

What did most women do after High school?
Well, in those days you got a little job of some kind usually, just various things. But not everyone went to college as much as they do today.

What fashion was in style as a teenager?
What sytle…well I can tell you that they’re not like they are today. There are
no morals today and we had morals in those days. You didn’t wear naked clothes! ou were fully covered, believe me! A lot of people even wore hats when they went to town.

How much did things cost compared to now?
Clothing you mean…we had more inexpensive clothing than they have now, now clothing is more expensive. My mother made most of my clothes up until I had a job and I could afford to buy myself something. We had the milk delivery man to bring our milk and I forget how many times a week he came. The price on them were anywhere from 20 cents for a quart.

Growing up, did you notice any discrimination against any ethnic group?
Yes the blacks…like if you were in a street car, in those days the buses were called street cars, they had to always sit to the back of the street car. They couldn’t sit in the upfront seats. You witnessed this? Oh sure..I saw this a lot, the colored people had to sit to the back of the bus or street car.

What types of jobs did women occupy?
Well they worked where ever they could get a job, as long as it was honest work. Any job is alright as long as it’s honest. And it just depends.. they worked in little stores in the downtown area like creces and just lots of little stores.

Did they work in mens positions after World War 2?
Well, World War 2 was many years after being a real youngster. Where ever there was a job they got it or they took it because they had to work and jobs weren’t that plentiful.

Do you remember the Stock Market Crash of 1929?
I know we had a crash, but I don’t know details about it.

Can you recall your life during the Great Depression because of the Stock Market Crash?
Well, it’s the same as what I’ve been telling you about. Jobs were hard to find and a lot of people were hungry. They didn’t have jobs, no money; I remember all that part of it. But when things got better they found jobs so they survived better. Some people lost their homes, they had little jobs, and they barely had money to buy groceries.

What did your mother do for a living?
She worked for interior decorating people. She made beautiful lampshades for lamps and one of the places she worked and did interior decorating was at the St.Anthony’s Hotel. She made all the drapes for St.Anthony Hotel…that’s really what she did.

What did your father do for a living?
He passed away in 1918 of a Pneumonia attack in the air, but the doctors said he had a heart problem…that his heart really took him. He had the Pneumonia so bad that whatever was weak in his heart is the reason he died. Influenza? Yes, you can say that, he died October 18. And at the time of his death he was Vice President of the San Antonio Brewery, where the Lone Star Brewery Pearl Brewery is.

When did you get married?
When did I get married…trying to think isn’t that awful. I am trying to think how old Sharon is(daugther)…oh I married in 1942 in Lake Charles Louisiana. Uncle Sam told us when we could get married. I married in this big church in louisiana, a Catholic church…in 1942.” The war was going on then, but you see granpa flew his missions and so at that particular day he had to be out at the base, we married, and then he took me back to where we were staying and he had to go back immediately to the base in Louisiana, the airbase, to report that morning. They didn’t give him any time, just a few hours for our marriage. I was real sick, but his daddy and mother came down and my mother came down with this girl, a friend of mine, that stood with us in the wedding; they came together on the bus to lousiana. We had a breakfast, my mother gave us some breakfast instead of a lunch or something because he had to be at the base at 11:00 that morning. We married at 8:30 in the morning and he had to be at the base by 11:00. So she took us to this nice hotel, she had already made arrangements with it to have a breakfast. So his mother and daddy, the girl who stood with us, and some buddys from the airforce, a couple of fellows, that stood with us at the breakfast. My mother furnished the breakfast for us and it was nice, in a nice hotel. That was my wedding.

As the Wife, did your husband tell you about World War 2?
Well he told me some things, but I never questioned him because I wanted him to forget it. He told me about living under the olives trees and eating dog meat out of the cans, thats what he called it because they were just rationed food in these cans. So they called it dog food at that time, the boys. The funny, comical thing that he told me about what they did one night because see they didn’t have barracks to live in. And to break the Monotony I think, I don’t know how many fellows went out in the country where they were living under these olive trees, they found a cow. They killed it and then they roasted it so they would have some decent meat. So that they knew what they were eating. I couldn’t believe they did that, but anyway.. they got by with it.
And anyway they roasted, BBQ’d it, and I don’t know when they ate it. And the cow, I don’t know how much they ate of it because a cow is pretty big. But that thing was a comical thing that they did. They didn’t do much comical things, they had fight. But, not much, common sense will tell you that you would want them to forget it. See a lot men to this day have problems with their head and all from witnessing this fighting and is an imprint in their mind and their heart.

As a Widow of a WW 2 Serviceman, what advice would you give the wives of todays GulfWar 2?
Well after being through the war, it’s tough on the family and you have to be strong.

Is there anything else you would to add to this interview?
Life was more simple back then, but today is a better place; life is better.

Analysis

I learned that oral history can give someone an interactive perspective on what really happened. You can see the expressions on the interviewee’s face about a particular experience, pleasant or not. Also, spending time getting to know someone’s past is really intriguing, especially when they are almost a century old. I learned a lot about my interviewee during the interview. I learned that she got married in the beginning of World War 2. Her dad, my great grandfather, was Vice President of Pearl Brewery in downtown San Antonio. And about the War, I thought that soldiers weren’t treated hospitable by the Military; they slept under trees because they had no barracks. I look at the topic the same now as I did previously. Women have played a vital role in the coming of the United States. I know that women differ now from the early 20th century. The topic was interesting, but all in all, women still strive to higher themselves in society.
As the past goes forth, you have to realize that wounds heal superficially. As I interviewed my grandmother, I saw that talking about her father really upset her. She was three when he died and she never got to know him. Also, when I brought up marriage, the first thing she addressed to me is where my grandfather died. She literally
pointed to the exact place where he fell over and died. That brought back pain as well. So those are the drawbacks. The benefits are small, but she at least got to tell her grandson about her life. Oral History,overall, is a great way to learn about the past, not necessarily their past. You can learn a lot about how life was for everyone and how it affected their lives later on. In my opinion, this project was an effective way of learning about the past of America.

Annotated Bibliography

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