Mary Lee Schmall – Part 1
Mary was born in 1933 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was born in the beginning of the Great Depression. She talks about what it was like to grow up in those times and how her paresnt were able to support a child even through the hard times.
MARY LEE SCHMALL:
INTERVIEWER: It’s March 9, 2011, already. I don’t know where the time goes.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I know.
INTERVIEWER: And I’m here with Mary Lee Schmall. you don’t mind me asking, when and where were you born?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: February the 8th, 1933, in Baltimore.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I was a Depression baby, so I was a big surprise.
INTERVIEWER: A Depression baby meaning– oh, OK.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Meaning people weren’t anxious to have children.
INTERVIEWER: Because of the economy, obviously.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm. Although my father was very fortunate in that he worked at the gas– well, and then it was the electric– consolidated gas and electric company. And during the whole Depression, he just missed– he was furloughed for two days, so he always had a job.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: So he was very lucky.
INTERVIEWER: When you say furloughed for two days meaning?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: They– you just didn’t get paid for two days.
INTERVIEWER: So then he was able to work three to get what? Work someplace else for a little bit?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Oh, no. He didn’t do anything.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, oh, oh, I’m sorry. [INAUDIBLE].
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, because he was only off two days through the whole Depression, whereas many people didn’t have jobs like now.
INTERVIEWER: I see what you’re saying. OK. So before the Depression– during all of that, he was only out of work basically for two days.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Two days, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Well, that was a very fortunate thing, wasn’t it?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: However, times were so much simpler. And I never– I never took anything for granted material-wise, because nobody had that much stuff–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: –as we have now, as we feel we have to have. And so we lived very, very simply, and because you never knew when it was going to end. Like even nowadays, if you have a job, your business merges with somebody else, and you’re suddenly out of a job. So you always have that hanging over your head. And so we lived very simply, although we were certainly all right. But I didn’t know that, because I was little. I didn’t know.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I shouldn’t have worried.
INTERVIEWER: Just normal for you, right. Everything’s just normal for you.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah. I shouldn’t worry. And so I didn’t have many playmates, because there weren’t that many children born then on purpose. There was only one little girl in my neighborhood my age, and I still keep in touch with her. She lives in Florida.
INTERVIEWER: That is phenomenal. That is wonderful.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I know, I know.
INTERVIEWER: How special.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, I should say. And so we would play together, and I lived in the city, and at that time, it wasn’t so built up. And there were woods next to us, and you know, it was just like living in the country, moreso than living in Westminster today.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, really? That’s an interesting comparison.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Because you have those horrible places like Meadow Creek. You know? And so it was really kind of rural, almost rural rather than suburban.
INTERVIEWER: Even though it was the city.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Uh-huh. And then it was a restricted neighborhood that I lived in.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Only Gentiles could live there. And then, of course, the war came, and that changed a lot of things. You had money, but there was nothing to buy. And then the Jewish people moved into the neighborhood, and, of course, everybody was all upset, all upset about this, because you said, you know the next thing coming will be, at that time, the Negroes, which is exactly what happened, actually. And there was a little boy that I was in the second grade with, and he lived at 3507 Altamont Road. I lived at 3707 Altamont Road, and you know that I still keep in touch with him.
INTERVIEWER: Again? That is wonderful
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm. We went all through school together, even through Western Maryland.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, really?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And then he joined the army, and he came back to Western Maryland as a member of the ROTC. Now I didn’t know this. And my childhood nickname was Toothpick.
INTERVIEWER: Your childhood name was Toothpick, because you were always–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I was always skinny.
INTERVIEWER: Like you are now. You are still.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And I was walking across campus, and I heard, “Hey, Toothpick.” Oh, that could only be one person.
INTERVIEWER: So that was a complete surprise for you.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Like a shock. You had no idea
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Oh, yeah, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: One of those as soon as you heard his voice, you [INAUDIBLE].
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: You’re like, I know who that is.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Toothpick– that’s got to be Lil. And so, so it’s really– I’ve got some old, old friends. I mean, these are people I’ve known for over 70 years. It’s amazing.
INTERVIEWER: It is amazing, and it’s rare.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm.
INTERVIEWER: That is so rare.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: But people are so mobile now. It used to be you moved into a house, and you stayed there your whole life. I’ve only ever lived in two houses in my life.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. So the house–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: My childhood house. Of course, then I lived on campus at Western Maryland. And this house– I’ve lived here since ’61.
INTERVIEWER: Wow, OK. Great.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: So I’m kind of immobile.
INTERVIEWER: You are. Well–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I mean, you know, I experienced a stability that most people don’t have now.
INTERVIEWER: Now going back to growing up in that era, being a Depression baby, I should say, so then did that instill, obviously, some certain, if you will, values of money– saving?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Oh, yes, yes, yes.
INTERVIEWER: You know, keeping– not wasting.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I can squeeze the most out of a dollar of anybody, because that’s the way I was brought up.
INTERVIEWER: Right, right.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I mean I just don’t spend money that easily, unless it’s something that– oh, excuse me– something that is lasting. Like my mother always said to me, you always buy quality, not quantity. So if you can afford money for a dress or shoes, make sure they’re the very best you can afford. And rather than buy two pairs, you buy one.
INTERVIEWER: Buy one really good pair that’ll last.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Really good. And that has served me quite well.
INTERVIEWER: That’s sound advice you’ve taken along with you throughout your entire life.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: That it’s always in my mind. And I mean, I had a friend who was going to buy all new furniture for her living room, and she wanted me to come with her. I said, Nancy, I’ve never done that in my life. I just can’t imagine buying a whole new room full of furniture. It’s just foreign to me. I buy one piece at a time. And when we moved into this house, we owned a sofabed and a piano.
INTERVIEWER: That was it?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: That was it. And everybody said, you’re moving into that house with a sofabed and a piano? And I said, well, it’ll come. It’ll come. And we certainly have managed to fill it up.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, yes. I mean, and I’m looking around even now. You have beautiful things, and these aren’t just your everyday pieces of furniture you just buy at a local furniture store.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: No, no, no, no.
INTERVIEWER: You know, you’ve got beautiful, beautiful things. It might be even safe to say antiques, a lot of antiques in this house?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, yeah, I have a lot of antiques, yeah. But I didn’t buy all of them, but we did buy some. But one thing at a time, and it didn’t bother me that a room was empty.
INTERVIEWER: Well, because you appreciated– it sounded like you appreciated the idea of what you know you would get in time when you could.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We didn’t need everything immediately.
INTERVIEWER: Which is so not how it is today, right? Even including myself– I mean, I know [INAUDIBLE] this generation of just now, now, now, me, me, me, gotta have it, gotta have it.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Now my son is a little bit like me, but he’s the kind who as soon as something new comes out in the market, he’s got it. And that distresses me, but it’s not my money, so he can do what he wants.
INTERVIEWER: Well, let’s step back again, back to the childhood. Now I know you said how, you know, you went through the different times where different populations, you know, were coming in. Did that have any of effect good, bad, or otherwise like to you and your family? I don’t know what maybe your thoughts were at that time.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, now, about the time that all this was happening was the time when I was going away to school, and I think once you hit 18, you go away to school, that’s– you’re almost separated from that other life of yours. You go on to something else. So it didn’t really affect me that much.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of schooling up until that point? So you went off to school, and by then, you’re referring to college, right?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm.
INTERVIEWER: So what was schooling like for you prior to that?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, I went first to an elementary school that was an experimental school in the public system. They would push, push you. They were always– the teacher was always giving me special things to read. It was really a very– it’s called– it was School 18 on Dirt Park Drive. No school buses– you had to walk to school, and it was a long way from my house. And it was very competitive. We had a lot of Jewish people. As a matter of fact, on Jewish holidays, only two of us came into school. And we had big classes– 40 people.
INTERVIEWER: In one class?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, yeah. But there was no discipline problem.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah. I mean, we would not have thought of misbehaving. It was such a different era. I mean there was a lot of respect for the teacher. And that’s the only reason that they could have that many people. And also, in fact, I gave this article to my son. We collected money and bought a fighter plane for World War II.
INTERVIEWER: Really? What– your school, your class?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Our school, our school.
INTERVIEWER: Collected money–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And the pilot came back to speak to us, and there was an article in the paper, and I had saved it. I gave it– I gave my son a lot of World War II things, because that was certainly a very significant time to be alive.
INTERVIEWER: Yes, absolutely.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And what I can remember is the front page of the paper, and they would have a map on there. And as Hitler would go across Europe, it would be blacked in. And I can remember how afraid people really were, especially living so close to Washington and Baltimore being a shipbuilding place. We were very concerned. We had, you know, the air raid drills.
INTERVIEWER: Did you?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And we had to go down in the cellar and had big cloths across the windows so that light wouldn’t shine outside, because you got fined otherwise. And we still had gaslights on our street. Baltimore was the first town to have gaslights and the last one. And my father, you know, worked for the civil defense or you know, volunteered. And he was in charge of turning out the gaslights on the street.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my goodness.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And then we all hunkered down in the cellar until the all clear came. And so we had the air raid drills. Also, at that time was the big polio scare. I can remember a girl in my class had got polio, and–
INTERVIEWER: Aw, little Jackson.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: –we were, we were really concerned.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I can remember that we all had to wear identification tags to school.
INTERVIEWER: Every day?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Every day.
INTERVIEWER: Every day.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And if you didn’t have your identification tag on, you got into big trouble.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And this is something I still have. My mother gave me a silver disc with my identification on it to wear on Sundays when we went to church or went out. But you always had to have your identification on, especially in school.
INTERVIEWER: Did you find that– you said since it was more of an experimental kind of a school, so something special, how were you selected– was it something you were selected for or something your parents just were like, I want you to try this?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: No. It was in a neighborhood. It was in a nice neighborhood. And my best friend went there, because her parents were in education, and they particularly wanted for her to go there. But it happened to be the closest, almost the closest school anyway.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK. So logistically it made sense–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: It gave you– it sounds like this type of school was giving you a better education, more experience even then.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, well, and as I say, there were a lot of Jewish people in our school. And they’re real achievers at that time. I guess they still are. And so you get a lot of competition, and that kind of spurs you on.
INTERVIEWER: Keeps you motivated, to, to, to do your best.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: But again, I guess that’s carried with you.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: However, I used to get in trouble, because I was Miss Goody Two Shoes, and when the teacher went out of the room, I was in charge of taking names of people who misbehaved.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, so how did that– did people– well, you said people didn’t misbehave too much, right, back then?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, no, except when the teacher went out, and I was in charge. Then they thought, oh, well, you know, we’ll give her a hard time.
INTERVIEWER: But did they? Did they give you a hard time like–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Some of them did. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Wrote down a name, and then you sort of turned someone in.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, and some of the boys would even try to scare you and things like that. And I had this boy in the neighborhood. I called him an ectomorph.
INTERVIEWER: An ectomorph?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, he was, and he was always trying to scare me too, because I was so shy, and I was just easily frightened. My sister was eight and 1/2 years old than I was, so I was almost like an only child.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK. Was that your only sibling?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And so I was easily frightened. And of course, they knew it.
INTERVIEWER: They took advantage of that one, huh? They knew how to get you.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Now your schooling– OK, so that was elementary?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Uh-huh.
INTERVIEWER: Was the School 18?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: School 18, mm-hm.
INTERVIEWER: So then how did that differ? Like did you go on to like the secondary, the middle school?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, junior high, we called it. I went to Garrison Junior High School, and that’s kind of a– I don’t really remember much about that.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: It’s really strange. And you went there for a couple of years, and then I went on to high school. And I had a choice between two. One was a co-ed and one was all girls. And all my friends were going to the all girls one, so I went to the all girls school, which was Western, which at that time was a very, very good school too. And I was editor of the newspaper and, you know, did a lot of stuff there on the student government and everything.
INTERVIEWER: Lot of exposure to a lot of good things.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And I won the German prize at graduation, and we graduated in long white gowns with red roses.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, sounds lovely.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, well, can you see doing that today?
INTERVIEWER: No. No. Nope, not at all.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I mean, we were young ladies.
INTERVIEWER: That’s how you–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, that’s what we did.
INTERVIEWER: That’s what you demonstrated. Well, then growing up, like going through that, like I said, it sounds like you had a lot of opportunity. You had a lot of opportunity growing up. I guess that’s safe to say?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah. When I started taking piano lessons when I was six years old, and it was before I had [INAUDIBLE] about math or fractions, and my piano teacher really kind of taught me fractions– 3/4 time and that sort of thing. So that’s where I got my first math–
INTERVIEWER: Math lesson is from your piano teacher?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, yeah, uh-huh.
INTERVIEWER: Very nice, very nice.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And so I used to earn money by babysitting– a dollar a night. Good money.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And we had a friend who was a musician, and she used to accompany recitalists, and there was a recital hall down in Baltimore, and I forget what it was. But I used to turn pages for her in the recital, and I’d get paid there. So I was always squirreling away money. So I always had money. My father would come, can you lend me a couple of dollars before payday?
INTERVIEWER: How wonderful, Right, right.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: So I was pretty busy as a kid. I didn’t do much in athletics. I was not athletic at all. And then I had a– developed this thyroid problem when I was 13, and I wasn’t allowed to take gym.
INTERVIEWER: Oh. Oh, OK.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: So what I did was play the piano for the dance class.
INTERVIEWER: In lieu of taking your gym class?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Uh-huh.
INTERVIEWER: OK. All right. Well, that was– you probably enjoyed that a lot more anyway.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, right, because I didn’t care for all that other stuff. Although we did play a lot of badminton. We had a badminton court in our yard, and all the people in the neighborhood used to come around, and every night in summertime we’d all play badminton.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, that’s nice. So your house was like the house to go to. You were the star.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, I guess so. I mean nowadays, people would have a pool, but in those days, there was– and then we had a victory garden during the war.
INTERVIEWER: OK. Can you describe that for me?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, you planted your own vegetables and everything. And also, I can remember when I was little, a man from Hampstead would come down once a week to sell his eggs. And then a huckster would come around in a big red truck, and he would have fresh vegetables, and he would come around a couple of times a week. And on Fridays, he had crab meat. And so he’d come right to your door, because usually people only had one car. It’s not like Mom could go to the store. My mother wouldn’t go to the store anyway. She would not go. She would not even go out of the house to take a walk.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: She was supposed to. The doctor said she was supposed to walk, but she felt it was unseemly to be seen on the street.
INTERVIEWER: OK. So she–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: So she, you know. Then my father would take her to the grocery store on Friday nights to get other things, but as far as vegetables and eggs and milk– of course, milk was delivered to the door. And the milk had the cream on top. It wasn’t homogenized. So if you were having company, you’d take the cream off the top for the coffee. And I mean, it was so different. And then, of course, we had ice boxes rather than refrigerators. And the ice man would come through with his horse and wagon in summertime. We would go down there when he came through, and the mothers would buy a chunk of ice. And there were all these little ice pieces left over that he’d let us eat.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK. So you enjoyed that then?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Oh, I loved that. And then the scissor grinder would go through.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my goodness. Explain that, please.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: He would come and sharpen your scissors and your knives.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And I remember he had all this stuff hanging on him, and he’d walk through the alley, and people would run out with their knives and everything to be sharpened.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. That’s so– oh, my goodness.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I mean, it was so different.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, it is. Just listening to you, I can’t even imagine. I mean, it sounds wonderful, really.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, it was. And my father, who died in 1988 at the age of 88, he said, you have no idea what living through this period has done to me. He says, we had horse and buggies. And now there are men on the moon. He says, I can hardly absorb that.
INTERVIEWER: Well, I guess too, going back to living through that era, and then when you became ready to go on to college, and then you went to which college? Western Maryland?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Western Maryland.
INTERVIEWER: OK. How different was that for you?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: It really wasn’t different, because Western Maryland at that time was a very religious middle class college. These are people that’d come from similar backgrounds, and Westminster was a very rural town. I mean, every Friday night the farmers would come into town, and you’d see them standing around the corner. That was a big night for the farmers to come into town. And we never went downtown very much. We had a laundry service, where we could get our sheets done, but we would have to hand wash our clothes, unless you went home every weekend and took your dirty laundry with you, which was a popular thing to do.
And then I think when I was a junior, somebody opened up a laundromat on the other side of town. And we would go walking all through town with these laundry bags to do our laundry.
INTERVIEWER: That was probably exciting.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, my gosh, a laundromat. Look at that, you know, because I could remember at home, my mother had a washing machine with the rollers, you know, on top.
INTERVIEWER: And I guess, I’m assuming too by the way you’ve described things growing up, you were probably– did you have like– I’m going to go back a little bit– did you have like set things that you were responsible to help your mother with in the house, or?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Not– weeding the garden, which I hated to do.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I hated that. I don’t recall I really had much, because she was home all day. And you know, I had to do my homework and practice the piano, so I didn’t really do much in the way of chores, except weed the garden.
INTERVIEWER: So those were your main responsibilities, because they wanted you to obviously do well?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, right. Well, I think this is one thing– I think there are many things that are wrong with life today. This is one thing I think is wrong is that we overprogram our children, so they don’t have time to focus. And they come to college with this attention deficit crap, and I don’t know that it needs medication. I just think we need a different focus on things. We’re all going in too many directions at one time. And there’s not enough time for original thought.
INTERVIEWER: That’s a very valid point.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And of course, they want to throw computers at kindergarten kids, practically.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, they do. Yes, they do.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And they get the idea that all the information is in this box. And when I was teaching at McDaniel, I asked one question after one of the labs that required them to use relationships with what they had done in the lab. They couldn’t do it. Mrs. Schmall, where is this written down? I said it’s not written down. It’s up here. It’s not on the computer. I said somebody had to use their brains to put it on the computer. They think it’s push a button.
INTERVIEWER: And there it is, yeah.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And this I think is wrong if you’re in education. I think that’s very wrong. And the politicians say, oh, yes, we got computers in the school. Sure, they have to know how to use them. I’m sure computers are wonderful, but they’re like everything else. They’re abused.
INTERVIEWER: Yep. That’s a very valid point. I can attest to that watching my son grow up and how he is spread so thin.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm. And they wonder why they’re stressed out. Well, no wonder.
INTERVIEWER: So right. So sometimes less is more, that old saying.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, now I did go through a period of my life that I was going in many directions at once, because I had a church job. I had my job at McDaniel, and I used to do shows on the side.
INTERVIEWER: Piano shows?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: A Broadway– you know. I worked for Mount St Mary’s. I worked at Francis Scott Key. I did Theater on the Hill, and I did September Song. And one spring, I had a show at Mount St Mary’s and one at Key, and they were kind of at the same time. I would work all day at McDaniel, come home and get dinner, and rush to Key for rehearsal from 6:00 to 9:00. At 9 o’clock, I’d get in the car, and I would go to Mount St Mary’s until 1:00, come home.
So I went through a period of my life where I was overly scheduled. And then I used to accompany the kids that went to the state competitions, and I mean, I was doing all kinds of things. And everybody says, what are you going to do when you retire? I said, absolutely nothing. I’m having more fun. And as a child, I had this crazy sister. And I used to try and hide from her as much as I could, and I had a dollhouse, and I had my room. And I would go up in my room, so I spent a lot of time alone, and it’s not a bad thing.
INTERVIEWER: You enjoyed your own company.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, it gave me lots of time to sort things out. What do I want out of life? You know. And we had lots of good role models at that time. That’s what I think is so wonderful about Kate Middleton is that I think she’s going to be a wonderful role model for young girls, other than Lady Gaga.
INTERVIEWER: Understood. Who were your role models then?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, my role model later on after I grew up and started, you know, got married and things, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy.
INTERVIEWER: OK. Very nice.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And although Audrey Hepburn was a career woman, she was kind of a home kind of person. And certainly, Jackie Kennedy was. And Grace Kelly gave up. Nothing wrong with being a housewife, because you really are running a lot of stuff, juggling a lot of stuff, and molding it into your own.
INTERVIEWER: Now growing up in the time that you did though, would you say your family situation was unique in that it sounds like your parents, they really did, they wanted you to learn and explore and do things like that with different opportunities. So back in that time, was that a little bit out of the ordinary? Because most– a lot of women then, weren’t they more geared to just do it? Like once you’re a mother, being married.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Right. Well, yeah. My father didn’t want me to go to college.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, he didn’t?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: No, he didn’t. He said, you’ll just end up washing somebody dishes anyway. He was very much against it.
INTERVIEWER: Because he saw you– he thought you should just stay focused on home life– husband, family, whatever.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah. He felt very strongly about that. And when I went to college, my mother got a job at the old Stewart’s department store. And he raised such a ruckus that she had to quit in a week.
INTERVIEWER: So she got the job, what? To help afford you to go to college?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, because at that time, there wasn’t financial aid or anything. You paid. And while it wasn’t much, your salaries weren’t much either. So it’s the six of one, half dozen of the other. And so he– and my sister became a widow at 42. And he did not want her to go to work, which was a– she had five children. And she had a real financial problem, and had she gone to school and finished her teaching degree, she would’ve had a pension. She would have a life. And he did not want her to do it. And he used to finance a lot of things for her. And so he had– he was very, very old fashioned. He thought it was a disgrace for your wife to go to work. So that’s why they didn’t understand me at all.
Jackson, no. And my husband used to say, you know, I think they gave your parents the wrong baby.
INTERVIEWER: But yet you were, I guess it’s interesting just from what I’ve heard you say so far, because you were encouraged, I mean, you know, to play the piano and then different opportunities you had through school and things like that. But so what– did you know early on in your life that you wanted to take a different route than what your father’s expectations were?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: No, I didn’t– I knew I wanted a certain kind of life. I knew I wanted to get married, but I never had any boyfriends. Somebody had to get me a date for the senior prom, because I never had any boyfriends. And even at college, for the first two years, everybody would go to the dances, and I’d be back in the dorm. I just– I had lots of boyfriends but no boyfriend.
INTERVIEWER: Right, understood.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And so I wasn’t making out too well in that area. But–
INTERVIEWER: You just hadn’t met the right person yet.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, yeah. It just hadn’t clicked yet. And I went with Craig for two years, and then on graduation day he dumped me. Everybody else is getting their little diamond rings. I got dumped.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, jeez.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: So I was pretty devastated, and he went to Korea, and he started writing to me at the end of his tour. And when he came back, then we became engaged, and got married and moved to Chicago, which is another whole unbelievable part of my life.
INTERVIEWER: So basically, for him, just to step back to him, I guess that old saying, you don’t know what you have– you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone, I guess. So he moved away–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, he wasn’t ready to settle down. And so when he got ready to settle down, you know, that was– yeah, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Then you met him at Western Maryland? He was a student there as well?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah. Funny thing, there were only 600 students there then. Very small. I knew all his friends. I didn’t know him from Adam.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: The first two years, if somebody said Craig Schmall, I would’ve said, who’s that? And then I switched from a chemistry major to a biology major, and I was in class with him, and that’s when I met him. But it’s really funny, because I had no idea who he was.
INTERVIEWER: So you graduated from Western Maryland what year?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: ’55.
INTERVIEWER: ’55. OK.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I just had my 55th reunion.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my goodness.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: You know.
INTERVIEWER: That’s fantastic.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, one third of our class is dead.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And another third are in walkers or whatever. I mean, it’s just really pathetic. But that’s the way it goes. You can’t live forever.
INTERVIEWER: No, that’s true.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: So you know, Western Maryland was a very different school than it is now. However, I have the feeling that some of the young professors there now feel that nothing happened until they arrived on campus, and that’s very wrong, because we had a group of professors who were world travelers, even though they didn’t make very much, and had nice homes, and were interested in a lot of– we had an English professor who was an opera buff. I mean, and they were just really liberally educated people.
INTERVIEWER: Now are you referring to when you were still a student?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Student.
INTERVIEWER: At Western Maryland, you could see that in your professors.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm.
INTERVIEWER: Very good.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And we used to have the National Symphony every year come up. And all the professors would be there with their wives. There were many affairs like that in which they would come and interact with the students, which I didn’t think you have now. But everything’s different. Everything.
INTERVIEWER: Now you graduated in ’55. Then what did you see for yourself then at that point?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, I had a job waiting for me at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the clinical chemistry lab. So that’s what I was looking forward to going. I thought, well, jeez, maybe I’ll marry– I’ll meet a doctor. And I loved that job. I couldn’t wait for Mondays to come. I loved it so much. It was really interesting. And I worked there for three and 1/2 years, until I left for Chicago.
INTERVIEWER: Which I can tell from what you said before that’s a whole story in itself. So if you want to tell it, you go right ahead.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: OK. Well, Craig was going to chiropractic school, and so we moved out there with all our belongings in a little U-Haul thing. And my mother said, well, you certainly are going to take your silver serving dishes and all my wedding presents– silver and all this stuff. So we had all this stuff packed in this little trailer. And we lived in the slums.
INTERVIEWER: In Chicago?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yes. So of course, we took them back home as soon as we could, because it was a kind of neighborhood that you couldn’t go out day or night even then.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yes. And I worked at Cook County Hospital, which was the pits. And it was six blocks away, and Craig would take me unless it was 10 below, and then the car wouldn’t start, and I would have to walk.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, so if it hit 10 below, your car wouldn’t start. That was just a given.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm. Yeah. And we lived in a converted Baptist seminary, and our apartment consisted of two little rooms, but no running water or bath. We had to share a ladies room with 100 other women, and the prostitutes from Madison Avenue would come up.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And the man across the hall had a gun collection and beat up his wife all the time. And people would get murdered and raped right under our window. I mean, it was horrible. It was horrible.
INTERVIEWER: Even then? And this is what time frame?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: 1958.
INTERVIEWER: Now when did you get married then?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: 1958 in January.
INTERVIEWER: 1958, and then?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, we went to Bermuda for our honeymoon, and then moved to Chicago.
INTERVIEWER: For him to go to–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: For school. And he was in school for three and 1/2 years. And so what we did was we went down to Maxwell Street, and I don’t know whether you know anything about Chicago.
INTERVIEWER: I do not.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: OK. If somebody steals something from your house, on Sunday, you go down to Maxwell Street, and you can buy it back.
INTERVIEWER: I’m staring like what?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: This is Chicago. Anyway–
INTERVIEWER: Wait a minute. I have to ask.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, the thieves all go down to Maxwell Street with their stuff. And if you lost something in a robbery or something, you can go down and look for it there.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow. So–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: It’s like a flea market for robbers.
INTERVIEWER: For stolen– so it wasn’t like– did the police get involved so no one was–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Oh, no. The police are the worst of all. Yeah.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah Oh, yeah. They’re terrible. I mean, it’s just such a crazy city. When we drove into the city, the first thing we saw was a little boy in a boy scout uniform with a screwdriver prying open a parking meter.
INTERVIEWER: That was your first–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: That was our first impression.
INTERVIEWER: Your first impression of Chicago. Oh, my goodness.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I mean, it’s a wild place. And so we went down to Maxwell Street, and we bought a sink and two big five gallon jugs. And we made up a siphon from our lab experience, and we had a just of water on top of the refrigerator, which we bought for $15. And then we had this hose going into the sink with a funnel and an empty jar underneath. So we had running water.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. OK. All right.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Crazy. And then he’d have to empty it.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, genius.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I mean, every time you wanted a drink of water or wanted to wash your hands or something, you’d have to go down the hall, and this guy was throwing his wife all around, and you just never knew what was going on.
INTERVIEWER: So you wanted to stay inside in your apartment as much as possible.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah. So that was quite an experience.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, it sounds like it. So did those three, three and 1/s years seem like forever?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I said if I’m ever terminal, I’m going to come out here and live, because every day seems like a month. It was just awful.
INTERVIEWER: So then what were you doing then?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I was working in a lab in Cook County Hospital for six horrible months, and then I got a job at Rush Presbyterian, which was across the street. There was a big medical center right near there with the University of Chicago Med School, University of Illinois Med School, Loyola School of Dentistry, several hospitals, and so I just walked across the street and applied for a job, and I got one there, and it was a very nice hospital.
INTERVIEWER: What about any kind of social activity that you would try to get involved in? Or did you, like I said, outside of work you just kind of stayed put because of the area?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Not really, yeah. We would get free tickets to the symphony through the hospital. We would go there. But of course, we didn’t have any money to do anything really, because he didn’t get the GI bill. When he was in Korea, they rescinded the GI bill because he wasn’t there doing combat.
So all these people who had been in the service but had never gone to Korea were getting the GI bill, and he wasn’t. And so they used to call the day they got their checks Craig Schmall Day. He’s going to be so mad. Anyway, I got him a part time job in the lab, and he was on call 15 nights a month. And he would get $10 if he got called out. But of course, going out in the middle of the night in this neighborhood–
INTERVIEWER: Was it not worth the $10?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: You just hoped that he wouldn’t get called.
INTERVIEWER: Did he much?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Half and half, I guess. Yeah. But it was $150 a month, which seemed like a fortune.
INTERVIEWER: Sure, absolutely. So then that’s, let’s see, to 1961.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, and then we came here.
INTERVIEWER: That’s when you came to Carroll County.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, well, actually we lived in London for a little bit with my parents, because he had to take the board exam. And while he was preparing for that, I went back to Hopkins and worked for a little while. But we had bought the house, and we used to come up and work on it. And we likely bought it in April, and we didn’t move in until September.
INTERVIEWER: April of ’61?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Uh-huh.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Because the place was a mess. It had been empty for a year and 1/2, and the shutters– and the weeds were this high, and the shutters were all lying around. And all the radiators had burst, so it was full of dirty water, so it was a lot of work.
INTERVIEWER: How did you come to find this house then?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Somebody in town told Craig about it. It had a for sale sign on the front, but it wasn’t close enough to the house that you would ever see it. So that’s how.
INTERVIEWER: So not a lot of takers, obviously. People didn’t know.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: No, no, unless you’re from Western Street you wouldn’t know. So we embarked on that little challenge.
INTERVIEWER: Was that part of the intrigue was because– or was it just simply this is just what you could afford at the time, or?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, it was $18,000, and we didn’t think we could go over 15, so we said, well, we’ll try it. But the mortgage payments are $100 a month, and we didn’t have enough for a down payment, so we had some stock in Maryland National Bank– it wasn’t Maryland National Bank then I don’t think– that we took another loan on, and that helped us with the down payment. Because at that time, you had to have a third down.
INTERVIEWER: A third?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Did you really? Oh, OK.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And of course, we were out of towners and very suspect. I mean, if you weren’t born in Carroll County at that time, you were not worth it. So in fact, when the realtor called the oil company to come fill up the oil tank, they said, well, can you guarantee we’ll get paid for this?
INTERVIEWER: They just assumed because you weren’t from here that you weren’t going to live up to your responsibility.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Yeah, and we were very suspect. And so I mean, of course, it’s much different now, because it’s not such a closed community. But even though we had been to the college, that was an entirely different entity from town.
INTERVIEWER: That didn’t give you– knowing that you were alumni from Western Maryland–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: That didn’t count, no, no, especially when they found out we had moved from Chicago. Oh, my gosh. We might as well have said, you know, Iraq. Well, it was kind of like Iraq as a matter of fact. I mean, Chicago is one crazy place.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, I’ve never had the opportunity to go.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, it would be an interesting place to visit. The curator at the Shedd Aquarium had married a girl from [INAUDIBLE] Town that Craig knew, and we used to go there, and he’d let us go behind the tanks and feed the fish and things. And they were very nice to us. But we used to go– we joined Saint James Cathedral, because we’re Episcopalian. And a very famous composer was the organist there, but I didn’t realize until I opened the bulletin and said, oh, my gosh.
And so we would go to church on Sundays, and then afterwards, we’d go around the corner to a little Italian coffee shop. They made espresso. We’d get espresso and a pastry, and then they had opera in the background. It was really very picturesque. So we did little things like that. We used to take rides up to [INAUDIBLE] and Winnetka to see where all the rich people lived. But other than that, we really didn’t do much, because we couldn’t afford it. I loved Marshall Fields. But they wouldn’t give us a charge card, because I was the one working, and Craig was the student.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, so they didn’t put stock into your employment.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-mm. And of course, it was before credit cards, and we didn’t qualify for a gasoline card, so everything was cash on the line, which was kind of interesting. Of course, you don’t build up a lot of debts that way.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: And when we moved home in January, and we needed a new battery in the car, so these friends of Craig’s said, well, we’ll put it in for you. You’ll save some money. They put it in wrong, and we didn’t get any farther than Gary, Indiana before the car wouldn’t run. And we were near a truck station, so we went in there, and they say, well, they could fix it, but we’d have to wait until the next morning until they got the part. And so there was our little car sitting, and there were huge trucks all around it. And they said, you can go upstairs and go to sleep.
So we went upstairs, and there must have been 100 beds in this place. And here we were, and I said, I’m afraid to go to sleep. [INAUDIBLE] coming in. And then we went through all these alternators and generators on the way home. We got to Akron, and we didn’t have any lights or anything, and we had to stop at a motel. And the man at the motel allowed us to call home. We thought maybe somebody could come get us. Nobody was home. We called everybody who we knew. Nobody was home, and he felt so sorry for us. And so he said, take my car and go out and get something to eat.
INTERVIEWER: That was nice.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: So we did, but we were so nervous that we got here, and the food just choked in our throats we were so nervous. So we came back, and the next morning, we woke up, but we couldn’t go out before the sun came up, because we didn’t have any lights in the car. We were so hungry. And that’s before– it was our stupid fault for not carrying food with us and water. We were so hungry, and we got to this little diner. And I saw orange juice. Please, right away. Oh, gosh, what a horrible– oh, and then on the way home, the muffler got a hole in it.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my goodness.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: We were really in sad shape.
INTERVIEWER: You were lucky just to make it back.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: I know, I know. No lights, a hole in the muffler, no gasoline car. It was really scary when you think at least if you have credit cards and everything, you’ve got something. We had nothing.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: We didn’t have that much money to start with, but we really didn’t have any money when we got home. So that’s why I went back to Hopkins and worked for awhile until he passed. And then the chiropractor in Westminster had a heart attack, and Craig came up and worked under his license for awhile. And then when the fella got better, he fired Craig. Here we are with a new baby and a house. That was a tragic time. I think one thing when you get older, you realize that these things, these awful things that happen along the way really aren’t so awful. You lived through them. At sometime it’s over.
INTERVIEWER: Right, and you get past it. It’ just in those moments, we think, oh–
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Oh, yeah. You think it’s the end of the world.
INTERVIEWER: So you had one son, and so at that point, you’re here in this house, just the three of you. Right? So then– go ahead, I’m sorry.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: All on the first floor, because we couldn’t afford to fix up the second floor. That was our bedroom.
INTERVIEWER: With your son too?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Mm-hm, with a crib. And we had a big black dog, and the grandparents were all upset, because they thought the dog was going to hurt the baby. And so we went to Ascension Church, and the priest there was very, very proper. High church it was then. And I said to him, I’d like to make an appointment to have my baby baptized before the dog eats him. So we had this baptism service, and when it was over this very staid priest looked at me and winked, and he says, well, we made it.
INTERVIEWER: I just want to interject. You have such a great sense of humor.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, you have to sometimes. It makes it a lot easier.
INTERVIEWER: But I love your sense of humor.
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, as I said to Craig when we were in Chicago, I said, well, you know, if I had the money, I’d take the train home. I wouldn’t stay here. I said, I don’t mind starting from the bottom, but this is ridiculous. And of course, I was 25. It’s not like I was a teenager. And I had been working on my own.
INTERVIEWER: So how old were you when you had your son?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Almost 30.
INTERVIEWER: OK. So that was a little different then at that time too, right?
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Right. Very much so.
INTERVIEWER: Normally, people would have been a much, much younger having their babies
MARY LEE SCHMALL: Well, most of the people got married right out of college, and so they were ready to go. And I was just kind of wandering around. But I’m not sorry. And then when I realized, I realized that I had no security. If Craig got sick, there would be nothing. And that’s when I started reaching out and doing little jobs here and there.