Marjorie Keck | Interview 1 | March 8, 2011

Oral History Center, UC Berkeley

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0:00 - Intro/Family history/a child of The Depression

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Segment Synopsis: Marjorie discusses her family history including her grandparents' emigration from Europe and business endeavors, her parents, and being a "child of The Depression."

Keywords: 1906 San Francisco earthquake; Berkeley; Cal/UC Berkeley; child of The Depression; European immigrants; Frauenverein; Gantner & Mattern knitting goods company; German immigrants; German Methodist Church; J.J. Pfister Knitting Company; post-WWI; San Francisco; Swiss immigrants; Switzerland; The Great Depression

Subjects: Community and Identity Education, University of California Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

14:15 - Attending school with different ethnicities/the acceptance of children/Eating during The Depression

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Segment Synopsis: Marjorie discusses how much she enjoyed the diversity of the schools she attended. Eating during the Depression.

Keywords: 1930s; Berkeley High School; Black; Chinese; different ethnicities; Japanese; Longfellow School

Subjects: Community and Identity Education or University of California Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

27:21 - College at Cal/Pearl Harbor

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Segment Synopsis: Marjorie discusses her college experience at UC Berkeley; her husband and his travels with the military; Pearl Harbor during her finals; how Asians were treated during that time; the somber atmosphere.

Keywords: 1940s; Cal/UC Berkeley; December 1941; education; Japanese internment camps; military; Pearl Harbor

Subjects: Community and Identity Education or University of California racial prejudice Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

47:32 - WWII, her husband, and the merchant marines

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Segment Synopsis: WWII; her husbands travels with the Merchant Marines, continued.

Keywords: 1943; Japan; Merchant marines; Pacific; shipyard; WWII

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

52:57 - Finding employment/Women and diversity in the workplace

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Segment Synopsis: Marjorie discusses working at Heinz Factory, women and diversity in factories, rations, and share-the-ride programs.

Keywords: canning factory; gas; H. Heinz Company; Heinz ketchup; military; public transportation; rations; share-the-ride; women in factories

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

66:50 - Married life in Albany during the housing shortage and rationing/Hometown vs. city life

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Segment Synopsis: Marjorie discusses married life in Albany during the housing shortage, rations, censorship, and mass emigration to Northern California for work in the shipyards.

Keywords: 1940s; 1942; Alameda County; Albany; canning; censored letters/censorship; Contra Costa County; coupons; El Cerrito; emigration to California; healthcare; housing in the Bay Area; Kaiser; ration books; rations; shipyards; victory gardens

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

81:36 - Wartime Finances and the United Homefront community

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Segment Synopsis: Marjorie talks about the united Homefront community and the financial climate during wartime.

Keywords: Child of the Depression; money; patriotism; unity; war bonds; WWII

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

88:54 - Changes/American attitude of self-sufficiency/importance of education

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Segment Synopsis: Marjorie discusses how the war changed her community; general attitudes; her feelings about bombings, death of FDR, UN Conference; Albany's high-quality schools.

Keywords: 1940s; 1944 Port Chicago disaster; Albany schools; attitudes towards women in college; bombing; change; FDR/Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Harry S. Truman; Hiroshima and Nagasaki; UN Conference

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front

100:41 - Waterfront development plans/Growing up in Berkeley and childhood visits to San Francisco.

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Segment Synopsis: Marjorie discusses the history of longstanding plans for waterfront development; how the army used the waterfront as a parking garage; the importance of the racetrack; and places of interest that she, her family, and friends walked to; childhood adventures in San Francisco.

Keywords: 1940s; 1950s; Army parking garage; Berkeley; Chinatown; ferry; Fisherman's Wharf; Golden Gate Bridge; Golden Gate Park; Japanese Tea Gardens; landfill; Marina; museums; opera; polite culture; public transportation; racetrack; San Francisco; streetcars; the Paris of the West; waterfront

Subjects: Community and Identity Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front


KECK: People who are ninety years old, I'll tell you, are people who want to talk about their youth and their experiences because we know it won't be forever.

REDMAN: That's right. Okay. That's very interesting. So I'd like to start today by just asking you to share your full name and when you were born.

KECK: Marjorie Bertha Pfister Keck. My maiden name was Pfister, and that was P-F-I-S-T-E-R. It's a Swiss name. I was born on the twenty-first of March, in 1921, in Berkeley, California.

REDMAN: You were born in Berkeley.

KECK: West Berkeley, yes, below San Pablo.

REDMAN: Okay. Okay. So tell me a little bit about the house that you grew up in?

KECK: All right. My family--my father's family, both families--Mother and Father were both born in San Francisco. They were teenagers when the earthquake hit in 1906.


REDMAN: Is that right? Wow.

KECK: And my grandfather Pfister, my father's father, was a businessman. He was a knit goods manufacturer. He had a big factory, a store, and a beautiful home in San Francisco, all of which, by the time three days was over, were burned to the ground. My mother's family, my grandfather there was a baker. He had a bake shop in San Francisco, on 7th Street, between Minna and Natoma. My mother said-- She was sixteen at the time and my father was, I think, eighteen at that time. He was a freshman at Cal. But to go back to my mother, she said their house above the bakery and the bakery were in ashes in an hour. That was it. My mother's family had a rental building that they owned in San Francisco, and a 2:00few months after the earthquake, they were able to get into it, so they had a place. But my grandfather in my father's family did not have anything like that. So they came over to Berkeley and my grandfather built a building that is still there, at the corner of 8th and Parker Street in Berkeley. It's on the southwest corner of 8th and Parker, a big building. It doesn't look like the original building anymore because it's all beautifully fixed up, but still and all-- The house I was born in, they built across the way, on the corner, on the southeast corner of 8th and Parker in Berkeley. I was born there, in 1921.

REDMAN: Did your parents talk frequently about the earthquake?

KECK: Oh, yes. My mother, especially was very good about earthquakes. I have her on tape.

REDMAN: Oh, really? Wow.

KECK: So if you want some of that, I can easily give you information. She was 3:00very good about it. She was sixteen and my father was, I think, just eighteen and he was a freshman at Cal. He wanted desperately to get over to Cal, to the university, even after that terrible earthquake that shook everything. Their place was still okay on the first day and the second day; the third day is when it burned. But everything burned. Well, anyway, you asked me about the house I grew up in. My mother and father were married in 1917, I believe. In 1919--it was after the war, after World War I--they had a baby on the way, and then my mother got that Spanish flu and the baby died. They managed to keep her alive, 4:00though the baby died. Two years later, I was born, and I was born in that house on 8th and Parker Street. My grandfather had passed away when I was just a week old--no, a month old, I'm sorry--on the twenty-first of April, in '21. I think my father always said, "Yes, he lost his business twice." And he said, "I know he died of pneumonia, but I think he died of a broken heart." Because he had worked so hard. He'd come from Switzerland when he was, I guess, maybe twenty-five, something like that, and brought some machines that he had probably invented, knitting machines, and he set up a big-- And he was the J.J. Pfister Knitting Company, in San Francisco, for many years. Well, be that as it may, all 5:00right then. You ask about the house.

It still is a house, not where it originally was. When my sister was on the way, in '23, my father had had to declare the company bankrupt because there was no other way. There was a very big depression after World War I, and it eventually got to the point where people couldn't pay my grandfather and he couldn't pay his bills, so they went bankrupt. Okay. Anyway, they moved that house. They sold the building, but they moved the-- They bought the house themselves, and they moved the house from 8th and Parker in Berkeley, jiggled it around to Dwight Way, and up Dwight Way and over on Mabel and around to Derby Street, where it still is. Eleanor and I, my sister and I, grew up in that house. My father 6:00always laughed a little bit when he told the two of us about coming up. He said the house was put onto rollers, onto big logs that were under the house--on the street, but under the house--and then they were pulled by one mule, up the street to San Pablo, over to Dwight Way, and then up Dwight Way to Mabel Street, and over Mabel Street. Of course, there weren't nearly as many houses then at all.

REDMAN: I'm still thinking about the poor mule! [laughs]

KECK: Think about it. My dad said what they did was--and it worked out very easily, I guess--rolled it up, and then when the house was pulled off the rear roller, then they moved it to the front, you see. So that was how they did it, all the way.


REDMAN: I see, okay. That's pretty incredible.

KECK: [laughs] That was the way it was done.


KECK: And he said even then, there were some wires--probably electric wires; now, this was '23, there were probably some electric wires. I don't know what company it was; I don't know if it was PG&E then or not. But they had to lift them up so that the house could go under it, you see. These are the stories that we heard.

REDMAN: That's pretty incredible. We got a little bit of a glimpse in your telling me about the house, about what your parents were like, just as people. Can you tell me some recollections of what they were like as people?

KECK: Oh, yes. Yes, they were wonderful parents. They were so good to my sister and I. Rather strict, but they did it in a way that we didn't realize it was being strict. [laughs]

REDMAN: Okay, okay. Were they religious at all?

KECK: Yes, yes.

REDMAN: What denomination?

KECK: Yeah, denomination? It was a Methodist church, and they had met as young 8:00people, in a Methodist church in San Francisco, a German Methodist church. My mother's family were from Germany, my father's family were from Switzerland, so German was a common language for them. They spoke perfect English, there was no problem whatever, and so did everybody else. But when people came to the United States in those days, they learned English fast. That was the thing to do. So everybody spoke English, even if it was with a slight accent. Mother and Father did not have an accent at all. They were Americans. They were born and raised in San Francisco.

REDMAN: And did they continue going to church then in Berkeley?

KECK: Oh, yes, yes. No, they still went to San Francisco.

REDMAN: Oh, they did? Okay. So they stayed in the same--

KECK: They stayed in the same church, yeah.

REDMAN: So when you were growing up, as a young girl, did you spend a lot of time in San Francisco?

KECK: We went because my mother's family was still in San Francisco. [chuckles] 9:00I always tell people--they hardly believe it nowadays, people who don't know about the years that I was young in--if you went to San Francisco, you walked up from our house on Derby Street to Sacramento Street, and you got on a Key Route train and you went to the Oakland Mole, and then you got on a ferryboat, and in twenty minutes you were in San Francisco. Then you got off the ferryboat and then you took a streetcar. The streetcars came and circled around in front of the Ferry Building. Then you took the right streetcar to get where you were going. The streetcars took you everywhere in San Francisco then, all streetcars. Then we would the streetcar out to-- My grandparents lived on Laguna Street, 10:00across from the park. I try to remember the side streets, the main streets, but I can't remember them, I'm sorry. Anyway, by the park. It was a nice place. They had this three-story set of flats. You didn't call them apartments then, you called them flats. They had the top flat, I remember. My sister and I used to toil up those stairs, I remember. So that was interesting. But we did go frequently, especially in the summertime, we would go to visit our other grandparents. Because my grandmother, my father's mother, lived with us all the time. She stayed in the house. My mother and father took care of her. She lived to be eighty-eight years old. I was grown up, believe me, before she passed away. But she had a lot of stories, as much as she could tell me.


REDMAN: So did she struggle a little with the language barrier?

KECK: No. She spoke with an accent, but she knew-- She had Swiss and she had German and she had some French.

REDMAN: Oh, wow. Okay.

KECK: Yeah. In Switzerland, you learn everything. She was a grown woman when my grandfather left San Francisco and went and brought her back, married her and brought her back. German was a language that was in our family. I got so that I understood everything everybody said, but I didn't get so good with everything, but using a lot of the language. I regret that very much. I do. I wish I had learned more.

REDMAN: Now, did the Great Depression affect your family in any particular way, do you remember?


KECK: I remember yes, it did; but then it didn't. You just adjusted. I remember not very long ago, saying something, I forget what it was. And he said, "Ha-ha. That's a child of the Depression." You didn't throw anything away. But we had a house with a mortgage on it, and somehow the mortgage kept getting paid. It did, it got paid. My father still had his job, but his income, his pay was cut in half.

REDMAN: Is that right? Okay.

KECK: Just in half. He had a job with a knitting goods company in San Francisco. It was Gantner and Mattern. Mr. Gantner and Mr. Mattern had come from Europe--Germany, probably--and worked with my grandfather and he taught them the knitting things, and then they set up their own business--in San Francisco, too. So my father worked for them after he no longer had his own business there, 13:00their own business in Berkeley. So he went to San Francisco every day of the week, because you worked for five and a half days then, for a company, and then he went to church on Sunday. He always went to church. Sometimes we kids went, but it was a little difficult to take two little girls clear to San Francisco to get to Sunday school. I remember in church, it was always in German. So they always had a little book or something, paper for us to color, because we didn't always understand what they were talking about. But even so, we were there. But most of the time, my father was the one that went to church. But my mother belonged to the women's society. Oh, I'll remember it in a minute; it's a German word. I'll think of it later. The Frauenverein, that was it, the woman's group, 14:00the Frauenverein. She went every month to the Frauenverein meetings and such with the church. So yes, we did have a lot of religion in our growing up.

REDMAN: So were your parents active in any other societies or organizations?

KECK: No. We really couldn't do much, since we were-- My mother was the PTA president, that might've been what you mean.

REDMAN: Yeah. So that would've been when you were a little older?

KECK: Yes, when I was older. We went to Longfellow School in Berkeley. Really, it was a very good school to go to, really good. We lived, as I say, on Derby Street, within a couple of blocks of San Pablo. It was not the elegant part of 15:00town. The elegant part of town was above Shattuck Avenue and to the north a little bit. There were still a lot of vacant lots then. I remember that, as we were growing up, that finally, across the street, houses were built, you see? So it was early Berkeley. Not the first early Berkeley, but early Berkeley as far as that particular part was. But the thing that was special about Longfellow School was that there was more than one ethnicity in the school. I have always been so grateful for that. Oh, so grateful to have met all these-- All these kids, we were just kids together. Japanese, black kids, a Chinese or two. So what? Kids don't care. My best friends looked different than I did, but we were 16:00in the same school. So what? But I've always been grateful that I never had to bear a burden of being different from somebody, because we were all just kids. It was great.

REDMAN: And it then made it easier, as you grew up, to get along with other groups.

KECK: Oh, no problems. No problem with people who were of different ethnicities. My folks never made a problem of it, ever. They never, ever commended our-- What am I trying to say?

REDMAN: They never sort of complicated that?

KECK: They didn't complicate anything or act as though they were better than anyone else. Never. Never, ever. Not that.

REDMAN: So that was for grammar school.

KECK: Grammar school and up to junior high school. Then into high school, you 17:00got with people that looked at other people. What is the matter with you, I thought. But that was what I learned. I learned that way, and I've been grateful for it ever since.

REDMAN: Interesting. So then tell me about what high school was like. Did you have any favorite subjects? What were the other students like?

KECK: Well, everybody was pretty much alike. We came from a different part of town than a lot of them. But everybody was friendly. Berkeley High School was a friendly place. The teachers were very good, I remember that. I enjoyed it. It was a good mile for me to walk, but that's what we did because there was only one high school and it wasn't down in our area, that is for sure. Let's see, it was in 1932. The class I was with in Longfellow School graduated in '32; it 18:00would be June of '32, to go on to junior high school. And we went to Edison, which was up close to old Grove Street then. We were there for a year and a half, and then Long Beach had a tremendous earthquake, and all of the schools that were made out of brick in Long Beach fell apart. Well, fortunately, it was an early-in-the-morning earthquake. So the State of California, as I recall being told, was not going to let anybody go to a brick school anymore. And that was what Edison was; it was a brick school. So we were divided, the classes, depending on where we lived. Where we lived sent us to Burbank School, which was 19:00on University Avenue, closer to where we were living. Then we met the kids who came from below San Pablo and were then in that school. That was a great school, too. There were some excellent teachers. I remember some of them very well, especially the algebra teacher. Boy, she was good! Anyway, Miss Martin, she was something. Anyway, people still remember it. I can still talk to a few people left from those years, and remember Dora Martin? Yes, I remember. [they laugh] She didn't give you ten things to work at, going home with your homework, you had twenty-five. She made you understand.

REDMAN: So she made you work.

KECK: I got an A in algebra. I didn't do that with the rest of the math, but I got an A in algebra. Oh, she was good. That was Burbank. Then high school was 20:00really great, and some of them were very nice. I remember some of the ones that were English teachers, and there was also German spoken, too, and taught. I could speak German better than most anybody in the class, because I'd been hearing it all my life. Because my mother and father spoke excellent English, but they also spoke German. My mother told me, laughing one time, she said, "Well, we used to speak German so that you wouldn't understand what we were talking about, but then we had to spell it," she'd say. [they laugh] So all right. So my sister and I caught on, I guess, to whatever it was. But that was fun. Growing up was good. We had this lovely, big house. It had four bedrooms. My grandmother had one, my mother and father another, and Eleanor and I had the other one, and there was one left in the back. There were four bedrooms in that 21:00place. One in the back, and that was sort of for piling stuff in. Then when I was eleven, my grandmother in San Francisco passed away, and then a few weeks later, my grandfather was at the door. My aunt was still taking care of them, my mother's middle sister, but he was at our front door. He says, "I've come to live with you." So that was interesting. Well, we still had one bedroom. So he came to live with us. He was the baker, and he was almost blind. So I learned very early, how to take care of older people. I really did.

REDMAN: Is that right? Okay.

KECK: I really did, yeah. He was a jolly man and very friendly with everybody. All he needed was someone to take him when there anything that might trip him up; you had to make sure he wasn't going to trip. But then my sister and I were the ones--me especially, because I was the older one--we would take my 22:00grandmother, and later, my grandfather, for walks. We'd take their arm and walk all around, several blocks, and bring them home again, you see. So that's what we did.

REDMAN: Okay. Now, I'd like to ask a little bit about food. That's going to be a little bit of a theme throughout this interview, I suspect. But do you recall what some of the meals would have been, growing up and the family get-togethers?

KECK: Oh, yes. Yeah. We always had--well, almost always had--fish. No, I'm sorry. Meat, and then fish on Friday. My mother always was very good about fish on Friday. We weren't Catholic, we just had fish on Friday; that was all there was to it. But she was a good cook and her mother was a wonderful cook, too. So we had plenty of vegetables. And we had a backyard full of berry bushes and fruit trees, and also chickens.


REDMAN: Is that right? Okay.

KECK: In those years--and especially in our part of town--you could grow chickens. We had chickens and fresh eggs. And in February, when the fresh eggs are more plentiful, why, our neighbors could buy-- My mother was very generous with it; they insisted on paying, so she let them. The extra eggs.

REDMAN: They'd pay a little something?

KECK: They'd pay a little something for the eggs. I remember neighbors saying, oh, your eggs are so beautiful. They're so big and golden. They were. We always had fresh eggs. No problem. And occasionally, a chicken dinner. But we had fruit trees and berry bushes. We had apricots and we had peaches and we had apples and we had cherries.

REDMAN: That must've helped a little during the Depression.

KECK: Oh, gosh, yes. We didn't have any problem because my mother gardened a bit. I remember we didn't have a car, that was one thing, because we couldn't 24:00afford a car. So okay, we were paying that mortgage, remember. So my mother had a fruit peddler that came around with his truck. On the back of the truck, he had shelves, I guess, built up, and he would bring fresh vegetables and stuff. Two or three times a week, he would come in and my mother would buy them. So we always had fresh things. But many a time, we planted stuff and then we could have fresh tomatoes or fruit of any sort off the trees, as I say. Mother always canned it. We had plenty of canned berries and Mother made jam, too.

REDMAN: Sounds like a diet pretty high in fruit and vegetables.

KECK: It was high. But then I remember, as I say, we didn't have a car. So my mother had a meat man, we called him, who had a business down on San Pablo 25:00Avenue, and he would deliver the meat. She'd phone and she'd order what it would be, and he would come and deliver it. So that was that. We had, well, beef and we had lamb and we had our own chicken, so we didn't go without food. We were well nourished, I'm sure, because we both grew up just fine. Mother believed in good food, believe me, she did. And her mother, too, before her. So food was not a problem for us. Especially during the Depression, we didn't have a problem with food at all. We could eat what we wanted. But I don't think we were very fussy about what we ate, but it was always good. We always had spinach--I remember chopping the spinach--and plenty of vegetables. Mother always fish on 26:00Friday, and that was the way we did it. She would pick up the phone. I remember when we first got that phone, oh, that was something. And I remember the first radio, when radios first came in. I was an older child. Not that old, but up in my years in grammar school. The first radio we got was a crystal set, and you had to listen through earphones. We thought it was wonderful. But Mother mostly listened to it. She'd sit there in the evening, after she had put Eleanor and I to bed, and she'd sew, mend the stockings and do all the stuff, and listen to this stuff. My father once turned it on and we were able to hear something far away. Maybe it was something at Bethlehem, some bells ringing or something like that. Oh! That was fascinating. Clear across the world. Oh! That was new, 27:00completely new. We didn't get a radio until we were a little bit older, but we eventually got one. And then you spent your time listening to the radio. But my mother and father, they kept it low, as far as time given. You had to do your homework first; that was all there was to it.

REDMAN: Okay, okay. So now tell me about your decision to go to college. Was that always something that you knew was going to happen?

KECK: Yeah.

REDMAN: How did you end up choosing to go to Cal?

KECK: [laughs] It was the cheapest.

REDMAN: Oh, really?

KECK: Believe me. I never thought of going anywhere else. No. We didn't have the money to go-- I didn't even realize people could go to other colleges. It didn't even dawn on this old head. I just didn't. But I was able to get the grades in Berkeley High to go on to Cal. I was very proud. My father, as I say, had had 28:00one semester at Cal; and then after the earthquake, his father had to have him in the business, didn't want him to go back to school. So that was that. Eventually, after we were grown up somewhat--we were still in school--he got to finish and get his degree, by attending a college--and I don't know the name of it--in San Francisco, in night school. At night, he was at school. It took him a few years to do it, but he was able to get his degree. That was very good.

REDMAN: Tell me about what it was like then to start taking classes at Berkeley and ultimately, choosing your field of study.

KECK: Well, I don't know why I ever chose the field of study. I was interested and I said I was interested. I did a lot of reading. I was a reader, boy. My 29:00mother said to me one time, she said, "I'm going to nickname you Often, because that's what I have to call you, often." Because I'd get my nose in a book and I was gone. I read everything in the house. Some of them, I didn't know what I was reading, but I tried anyway. But at any rate, that was me; I liked to read. My mother and father talked about when I went to Cal, so I rather expected that was it. And my grades were such that I could enter Cal, so I did. I liked small children, so I decided I wanted to be something with children. I wasn't sure I wanted to be a teacher, but I did want to work with preschoolers. We didn't call them preschoolers then, but little children. So that's what my field was. But I have to say that when I got to Cal, there were so many interesting, interesting subjects to be taught and learned. Oh, I was fascinated with it. I could've gone 30:00to school for years.

REDMAN: Do you remember some of the types of classes that you took or the different-- You said that there were so many interesting things. What were some of those things that stand out, if anything?

KECK: Well, I did take some German classes. I learned then, and I still say, that when you want to learn a foreign language, you listen to it spoken; you don't look at it on a book. You should have it spoken to you, then you're going to understand it better. That's my understanding. Let me see. There was one class that was-- and I can't even think of the name of it. That's terrible. When you get to be this old, you forget things.

REDMAN: Oh, that's fine.

KECK: There was one class that I had to take in the psychology part of it; if 31:00you wanted to work in towards psychology, you had to take this. There were two classes, one about human beings and the other about animals. What would they call that? Oh, boy.

REDMAN: Human psychology?.

KECK: No, it wasn't. It was animals, what animals did. Anyway.

REDMAN: Zoology versus anthropology?

KECK: It was a zoology class. Thank you, that was it. It was fascinating. So I took the zoology class. I wasn't getting A's anymore; I think I got a B or a C in it. You had to work a little harder. But at any rate, that was one of them. I took several English classes, too because I was interested in that. I was a reader, and anything that you could read, I was interested in. I took some German classes. Again, I say German classes should be spoken German first and then reading it.


REDMAN: Did you happen to take any classes in anthropology?

KECK: I think maybe I did one. It's hard to remember all that I took. I was there for four years and that was it.

REDMAN: Do you remember, what were maybe some of the important things, the most important things that you were supposed to learn, when studying childhood development at Berkeley? Were there some overarching theories or ideas that they really emphasized?

KECK: [chuckles] Those are fascinating questions. I don't know how to quite answer. The things that helped the most in learning about children was when I was in the classes that had me up at the preschool up on Bancroft, up high that way, when I was there with the children themselves. But we learned a lot about health. There were a lot of classes about health and mental abilities. We 33:00studied classes about children with mental problems, about people with mental problems. I remember once we were taken by one of those classes, one of the psychology classes, up into the area up Russian River way or up further north from here. There was a facility that had children who were not completely all there upstairs. I remember the kids that were there were just delighted to see everybody. Anybody, I guess, and all the time. They were friendly. I remember once in a class, we had been told that a certain situation with a child who had mental problems showed that they had a crease down the middle of their tongue. 34:00So we asked some of the kids to stick out their tongues. Well, they didn't look much different than anybody else's tongue. But the thing I remember that was [laughing] is that one of the other students, my friend, was sitting there with her tongue stuck out, too [they laugh] and she had a crease down the middle of it. I never forgot that. That was so funny. It was so silly. But at any rate. There were some very good professors, excellent professors. I can't remember names, so don't ask me.

REDMAN: That's fine. Now, my very limited understanding of childhood development at that time is that there were a lot of really important ideas coming out of John Dewey and some of the pragmatists at the University of Chicago and at Columbia. Was there ever any talk about those individuals? Because I knew there was an experimental school at the University of Chicago. It sounds pretty similar to some of the stuff, the hands-on learning. Did you do a lot of the 35:00sort out-of-the-traditional-classroom learning, where you--

KECK: Not that I remember.


KECK: There was everything mostly that-- It may have been; I just don't remember it. But it may have been, or they may not have said it as something from outside.

REDMAN: Right. Yeah, that's a long time ago.

KECK: Yeah, that is a long time ago, believe me.

REDMAN: So let's talk about December of 1941. On the phone, you said that Pearl Harbor was bombed in the midst of your December finals.

KECK: Yep, that's right.

REDMAN: Can you tell me about that experience?

KECK: That was something, I'll tell you. That'll bring in my husband, the man that I eventually married, because he was out in the middle at that time; in the middle of the ocean, is what I mean. It was a Sunday, a beautiful Sunday in Berkeley, and I was teaching a Sunday school class at Trinity Church, which is on Bancroft, very close here, just across the street from the men's gymnasium area. I left the church and came up to do some studying. I remember I went 36:00into-- There was a drugstore on the corner of Telegraph. Yeah, on the corner. It's all campus now, but it was right on the corner of Telegraph, just a short block before you get into Sather Gate. And the man behind the counter told me about it. The first thing I thought was, my goodness, Lee is in the middle of the ocean.

REDMAN: So you'd met him?

KECK: Oh, we'd been going together for a while, yes. We had been going together for a while. We were in school together. We were in high school together. Anyway, and his folks belonged to the same church that I went to, and we met in those things that kids did. There were a lot of things that went on that you could join and do things. But he had gone-- Let's see how I can just explain 37:00this. He had finished two years of college and had his AA degree, and he wanted to attend a mechanical engineering school or a special engineering school in Oakland. It was a private school, and therefore, cost a lot of money. He didn't have the lot of money, so he was going to earn it. And he had a neighbor, where they lived in Berkeley, who had been a Merchant seaman for many, many years and was always telling about all these adventures. So he thought that was something. At that time, they were paying well to be a Merchant seaman. So he was able to obtain a way that he could get in. His one problem was that he was color blind, and most Merchant seamen can't be color blind; but they needed men and he had engineering training, so they were glad to have him. Anyway, he finished the two years and he went to sea. He had been about two years at sea, been all around 38:00the world, everywhere. He'd been everywhere. I remember his saying they were up and down the coast of South America, Chile and such, and he thought, ooh, I'm going to get to use my Spanish, that he'd studied in Berkeley High School. He said, "I got in there used my Spanish, and they didn't know what I was talking about." [Redman laughs] Now, that's something. But at any rate, I knew that he had written to me and had written to his mother. He'd written to me and I knew that they were close to the Philippines. I learned the rest of this afterwards, but I knew that he would be coming home within weeks, anyway. They started from the Philippines and Asia. The ship had a cargo, a huge cargo of Philippine 39:00mahogany. Those logs are huge and very heavy, and they won't fit in a ship hold, which is down in all those big places, the caverns below. So they were chained to the deck. All these big, huge logs were chained to the deck. They were starting to get home, to go home across the Pacific, and the captain was warned, don't go across the Pacific. This was before Pearl Harbor. So they sent them down through the Indonesian islands and down to north of Australia and into the South Pacific islands, and they landed at Fiji. Well, they didn't have enough good oil--because those ships all burn oil. He said the British wouldn't sell them the fancy oil. Well, what do you say? Well, at any rate, the good oil. 40:00Anyway, they got some, but it wasn't very good, so it was the kind of oil that they would have to shut down the motors, the engines, in the evening and clean all the motors and everything, from the oil; then they'd start out again, you see. The captain had some good oil, but he was using up this other stuff. They limped up the Pacific, he said, and then they hit a tremendous typhoon. Tremendous typhoon. And it lasted more than one or two days; it was a tremendous thing. The ship was just buffeted. What happened was that some of the chains broke, that were holding these huge logs, and the logs pounding down put a hole into the deck.

REDMAN: Oh, my!

KECK: And therefore, all this water in the deck, and this slowed them down even 41:00more. Finally, the captain was very wise and he said, "We're going to put into Pearl Harbor." They reached Pearl Harbor on the morning of the seventh.

REDMAN: Oh, my goodness!

KECK: Yeah, they did. But they were out far enough that they were not in the area where the submarines were. He said around them, though, they had heard many, many maydays. "Mayday, mayday, mayday," ships being torpedoed, ships in terrible situations. Many people just died, just burned up. That was the way it was. So the captain--again, a very wise captain--said, "We're not going to sit around here." So off they went, and they limped again across the Pacific, up to Portland and they made it to Portland. There was no food left on the ship by the time they got to Portland. They were all hungry. He said the only thing in the 42:00food locker was the steward, and he was sweeping it out. [Redman laughs] So that was that. They made it to Portland. I think that's most of what this is. Anyway, the food was all used up. But the company agent met them, with a couple of hams and a crate of eggs. He said it was the best food he ever ate in his life.

REDMAN: I can imagine. So then I'd like to hear if you had the sort of personal worry of what was going--

KECK: On that morning. Well, then I knew, I knew then, that he would be-- I think I'd gotten a letter from the Philippines--I think so; I remember--because I knew he would be into the middle of the Pacific by that time. It scared me. It scared me something terrible. But what can you do? You spend your time praying, I suppose. You just sit and worry. Anyway, I was very, very relieved when he 43:00called his mother and then he called me, from Portland. They'd arrived. Then that ship came down to San Francisco and he signed off the ship. The ship went back up to Portland and it was torpedoed.

REDMAN: Oh, my.

KECK: It was one of a few torpedoed ships on the Pacific coast. A lot of them in the middle of the ocean, but in the Pacific. So that was it. Let's see.

REDMAN: Now, how about some of the other students at Berkeley at the time? So was that your second to last semester? Were you slated to graduate in the spring, in May?

KECK: Yeah. That was in '42. I graduated in '42.

REDMAN: Okay. So that must've disrupted a lot of plans of your classmates.

KECK: A lot of men. A lot of the men, especially the ones in the ROTC, were gone. They weren't there to graduate. A lot of them. And a lot of my friends in Longfellow School were Japanese, and that made a problem. They were in ROTC. So 44:00they were the ones whose families got moved into the camps, and still, they had to be fighting. But they did a marvelous job, I guess. But I haven't seen any of them for a long time. I remember, it was a few years ago, we had something to do with a renewal of the friendships. Some of them were there, but I haven't seen any since, and that was a few years back.

REDMAN: Okay. Let me ask about Japanese internment. You said you had a lot of friends. I'm curious if you had any strong feelings about that when it happened, or if you were kind of caught up in your own life at that moment.

KECK: Well, you learn not to talk about it, really. But I remember I had a few arguments with people. My father finally told me to shut my mouth.


REDMAN: Is that right? Okay.

KECK: I remember, though, it was my good friends, kids I'd grown up with. Oh, I can't remember it now. Let's see. I did something here. No, I didn't write that down. Oh, yes, what I started to say. There was an Asian man coming along at Cal; we were going into class. He had a sign on him that said, "Chinese."

REDMAN: Oh, wow.

KECK: That's what they did. They put a sign on him that said, "I'm a Chinese, not a Japanese."

REDMAN: Wow. Okay, okay.

KECK: So that was that.

REDMAN: Let me ask, then, about finishing up that last semester. Were you thinking more about the war? Were you thinking about your future and finding 46:00work? Were you just thinking about your studies? That must've been a pretty distracting thing.

KECK: It was, it was very distracting. Yes, it was. It was hard to do. As I say, all of a sudden things changed. You didn't have the free, open years ahead of you at all; things were different. The men were gone, most of them. They were just gone. People had to do things that they hadn't expected to ever have to do before. Thousands of people came into California. Tremendously. They really changed the whole culture. The whole culture was different. They came into California to work, like where the shipyards are. They came for many, many reasons, and a lot of them were in the military, you see. A lot of them left from the Pacific side, because we know all about the Pacific; people in the 47:00Atlantic, that was way back there and this was the Pacific. But it was a lot more sober than it ever had been. You just didn't do anything. The graduation was in the Greek Theater, and there were not very many people there. Mostly women. Mostly women.

REDMAN: Mostly women. A lot of the men had left.

KECK: A lot of the men were already in the military. Yeah, that was right, yeah. That was it.

REDMAN: Well, I'm going to stop and change tapes, and then we'll continue.

Begin Audiofile 2 03-08-2011.mp3

REDMAN: So then when we left off--

KECK: We left off and he was in the shipyards, all right.

REDMAN: Okay, so he returned--

KECK: And then I have to tell you, then, what happened. And this should be on the thing, too. The draft board sent another letter. Because he had been not 48:00drafted, because he was in the service with the Merchant Marine, and they need them desperately. Is that one?


KECK: Oh, it is? All right. All right. Okay, then I'll go this way again, fine. He had worked and he was not drafted, because he was in the Merchant service, and that was something that was a very necessary thing to do. He learned about the shipyards. And he was a welcome employee, because he knew so much about what to do, especially with the rigging and such. He worked in the shipyards for about a year, and he worked night shift, mostly. We were married during that time. A lot of people from the United States, all over the United States--and I've said this a few minutes before--came to work in the shipyards and the other 49:00thing. But in late '43, the draft board sent another letter, come join us. Greetings, come join us. The draft board. So he checked with the Maritime Commission in San Francisco, and what they said, I will quote. "Sorry, we saw him first." [Redman laughs] And I'm quoting. [laughs] So back he went to sea, and he had to be at sea until the war was over.


KECK: Yeah. Because see, the ships were then close to the fighting. They were really very close. And let's see how I have written something down here to remember it. He was on ships involved in many of the maritime islands--Saipan and Okinawa and Tinian and-- Well, I don't remember; I'll have to look at my calendar to see some of the names. But the names were familiar to everybody, because the American Navy was working at these islands. One by one by one, they 50:00conquered the islands. And the ships that were carrying the supplies had to follow them right away. So they would be starting to attack an island, maybe a day or so, and then the ships had to come in with supplies. There were Japanese planes over them and everything, so some the ships were bombed. He was lucky.

REDMAN: So was this, in large part, a pretty good geography lesson for a lot of people in the United States?

KECK: I think so. Yes, I think so.

REDMAN: Places that they were unfamiliar with before, suddenly they're reading about in the newspaper and they may have a personal connection, like a husband who's over in the region.

KECK: Yeah, that's absolutely right. The Navy did a lot. Oh, they were hit all the time. The ships would come back to the United States, or back maybe even to 51:00Hawaii, and get things to take again. But mostly it was the United States. Then they would meet all together; a whole group of ships would be together, ready to sail. There would be a destroyer, or maybe two, keeping them all together, and they would start out in the morning. The long way around, because there were many of them. But they would start from Portland or San Francisco or something, but they'd start like that. He said it was funny, though, because going across the Pacific, they'd sort of get a little further apart and a little further apart, and by nighttime, he said they were far enough apart that they really couldn't see each other sometimes. And in the morning, the destroyer would have to, like chickens, gather them all together then and keep them going together. But that's what they did. They were the ones that were right there with the 52:00supplies. As I say, the names of some of these islands were very well known to a lot of people around here because people were in there.

REDMAN: So was a lot of attention, then, on the West Coast, focused on the Pacific and news of the Pacific?

KECK: Absolutely. Absolutely. The whole thing. The West Coast was focused on the Pacific, that's right.

REDMAN: So there may be this sort of vague German threat, with Hitler, but it was really focused mainly on the events in the Pacific.

KECK: Anybody in an airplane was probably headed for Germany, but not all of them. We had pilots here, of course, a lot of them. But it was the Pacific. It was the Pacific war with Japan. That's where Japan is.

REDMAN: Yeah. So now let me ask about you at this time. You've mentioned that a 53:00number of places in the Bay Area really struggled to find new employees, because--

KECK: Yes, that's right.

REDMAN: --so many people were finding this high-paying work at Kaiser.

KECK: Exactly, exactly.

REDMAN: Did you ever consider working at the shipyards?

KECK: No, because I didn't have a car. I didn't have a car. So let's see now. I have something here that I was going to say a little more about his being-- Here, if you want the question, I can come back.

REDMAN: Oh, sure.

KECK: If you want me to answer that question, I can come back at it. I worked for the H.J.-- or the H. Heinz Company. It isn't there anymore, I don't think, but for years, it was at the corner of San Pablo and Ashby. Big, big business. We remember as kids, when it was time for tomatoes to be ripe and ready for something, for being consumed and prepared, the whole neighborhood down there 54:00smelled like ketchup.

REDMAN: Oh, really? Okay.

KECK: It really was great. And Heinz Ketchup was delicious. If you bought ketchup, you bought Heinz. It was close. We were only two blocks from San Pablo, and only about three blocks or so over to Heinz, so I could walk. When I graduated, I had some bug that had--oh, what do they call it? Anyway, it made me a horrible sore throat and I was in bed for a few days, maybe a few weeks, I guess. But at any rate, I wasn't able to get a job right away. When I did get better, I tried Heinz, and they were glad to have somebody. So I went to work there and I was in the little building that did the hiring. Heinz was desperate 55:00for help. They didn't need that kind of help year round, because they didn't get food ready for year round, the fruit and the vegetables to be processed. But when they did, and when you have a harvest ready, you do it because it's not going to keep up. And Heinz was always very particular. They did things right. Harvest time, as I say here, means the product is ready and it's got to be processed while it's fresh and of top quality. Heinz has always been noticed for top quality, and they were desperate for help. So here I was, with two or three other people, in the little building outside of the main building, that did the hiring and such. We even paid people from there. Some of the workers were there for years. They were people that lived in the area and knew that when this 56:00particular harvest came, they had a job. They weren't there all the time, but that was what they did. There was no, let's say, advertising, and some good talking on the radio did some good to get help, but there was no TV then; that was before television. The radio helped a little bit. But some women came from towns out of this area, because they realized the problem. There was another problem; gas was rationed. People were allowed about 240 miles a week, with that amount of gasoline.

REDMAN: Some commuting from someplace--

KECK: It was rationed; you had to take a bus or a streetcar. I guess there were buses by than. But anyway, gas was rationed. There were a lot of things 57:00rationed; I'll talk about them a little bit later. But several people would come in one car. You saw a lot of people, not just one person driving, but there'd be five or six people in the car.

REDMAN: Sure. So there was a pretty active share-the-ride program, right, that the government encouraged?

KECK: Absolutely. You shared the ride. That was definitely it. That's a good word for it, because that's what it was and that's what people said. You had to really understand all the time. Some women from areas that knew the situation might come for a week or so, and some men, also. And a lot of those men were people who already were retired, and they would come to work. Also there were people from the military, in Oakland and in Alameda, who might have a day or so off, who would come to work.

REDMAN: Is that right? Okay.

KECK: But they could make maybe one or two days. They were always very good. They would work. And we'd sign them in; and then when they had to leave, we'd pay them, you see. It wasn't every two weeks or every week.


REDMAN: So it could be a pretty quick turnaround.

KECK: Exactly right. But the biggest idea was from a Heinz man. He dreamed this one up. The company sent a big truck--and it was mostly to San Francisco--to a city or state office that gave people a job for maybe a day or so. They would go early in the morning, and the truck would come back when there were ten or fifteen men in it. Then I would sign them in, or whoever was with me, we would sign them in. I don't know if they fed them breakfast; I think they fed them lunch. But they would work for that day and then we'd pay them that night, because you weren't absolutely sure they'd be back the next day.


REDMAN: Right. So it was all kinds of people.

KECK: All kinds of people. And they knew they were helping. They really did. They had to help carry the big boxes and containers. There were some people lifting, some women at the counters that you worked on preparing food, because you always had to take this food, whatever it was, and trim it or do something with it, because that's just the way you do canning. I know because I worked in a canning place, earning money. It was up in the valley. But I was earning money to go on to college. This was a year or so before, you see. So anyway, there were regular workers who came to work, women and men. But the regular workers came to work, and there were some of them that-- There was one little lady I remember, I don't think she weighed more than 100 pounds. She was a person that 60:00really ran the place. They were working on their big, long tables, with their gloves and all the rest of it, the hair covered and their aprons and everything. [laughs] It was a law that women could not lift more than, I don't know, twenty pounds or something like that. Well, she couldn't read, she said, so she'd lift them. [they laugh] Anyway, I think they let her do it because somebody had to do it.

REDMAN: Right.

KECK: She kept lifting the boxing and keep the work going. That was the right thing.

REDMAN: So let me ask. So it sounds like there was a pretty even distribution of men and women when you started at the plant. Is that correct? Or were there more women or more men?

KECK: More women, in what I saw. More women, in what I saw. There probably would be people bringing stuff--farmers, no doubt--or people going to farms and 61:00getting the fruit and the vegetables, because Heinz did a lot of stuff besides ketchup.

REDMAN: So it was all kinds of vegetables and--

KECK: Whatever was ripe. It was what came ripe, yes.

REDMAN: Okay. And those vegetables would then be canned.

KECK: They would do something, either make soup with them or can them or do something, whatever they did.

REDMAN: Okay. You wouldn't actually produce the ketchup, you would take that and send that somewhere? You would take the fruit, prepare it, and then send it somewhere? Or do you know?

KECK: No, they produced the ketchup.

REDMAN: Oh, they produced the ketchup.

KECK: And the jars. They did, yeah. They did, yeah.

REDMAN: Okay. So I'm curious about these temporary workers. We talked about the massive number of people coming to the Bay Area from all over the country. Some of them couldn't read and write, some of them had only so much education. Then 62:00getting temporary work on a day-to-day basis and seeing all kinds of people, was there ever any tension between the regular workers and the temporary workers? Or did people more or less find a way to work together?

KECK: They found a way to work together. I never saw any tension. I really didn't. I wasn't really looking for it, but-- I worked for Heinz, I don't know, maybe not quite a year, I guess. We were married and I still was working for Heinz, and I had to go early in the morning, and I had to depend on a bus. My husband at that time, because we had married and I still was working at Heinz, and he was-- I left before he got home in the morning, from the shipyards, and he had the car, you see, so I had to take the bus. And sometimes they were waiting for me to get there, which was too bad, but I was at the mercy of the bus company. But I did the best I could. You just did what you could.


REDMAN: Do you recall about how much you were paid at that time?

KECK: It wasn't very much. I don't really recall, but I don't think it was a dollar or so an hour. I don't really remember.

REDMAN: Okay. So at Kaiser, there was this massive day shift, a swing shift, and a night shift. How about for this type of work? Sometimes there would be work, with this fresh fruit, and sometimes there might not be as much work. So how would the shifts be managed? Do you recall anything about that?

KECK: No, I didn't have a lot to do a lot about that, as far as managing the shifts. I just knew when they came in and didn't come in.

REDMAN: [over Keck] So would you be just told to come in?

KECK: But when you finished a set of fruit or vegetables, then you were finished for a while. Sometimes there were things that were pretty steady, but most of the time it was, the harvest is here; you finish the harvest and that's it. 64:00There always were people working there, but not in the big groups that were there during the harvest.

REDMAN: All right. Do you happen to recall what you might've eaten for lunch on a standard work day?

KECK: I probably took a sandwich. I probably took sandwiches and fruit, something like that, yes.

REDMAN: Okay. Okay. Just curious about that. So did you join a union? Was there any--

KECK: No, I didn't have to do that, no.

REDMAN: Okay. So was there any union activity at the plant?

KECK: There might've been, but what I was doing was not part of any union, because there were only two or three of us in the group.

REDMAN: Okay. Now, was the plant mixed, in terms of race and religion?

KECK: I imagine it was, yes. Yeah, there was.

REDMAN: Okay. But you maybe weren't--

KECK: Nobody thought a thing of it. If people would come to work, they came to work. That was good.

REDMAN: Okay. So people maybe didn't talk about where they were from?

KECK: Not to me so much. Sometimes they would say something. Mostly, they were-- 65:00Well, they were either from this area or up in a farm area, which was still farms out that way--


KECK: --who came in. The people that came in from far away headed for the shipyards and those kinds of jobs, not Heinz, because they weren't paid as much at Heinz as they would've--

REDMAN: So it was more people from California, you'd say, definitely, then, at Heinz.

KECK: Yes, they were people from the area.

REDMAN: Okay, okay. I'm curious about how men and women related in a plant like that, in terms of either sexism, or, on the other hand, if there was every any hanky-panky between the people working at--

KECK: If there ever was, I didn't know anything about that. It never occurred to me. It never came up, as far as I know.



KECK: It could have, but because I was not in the plant most of the time-- I did go in there once in a while. Once they even put me working in there, because they needed some work and I knew what to do. But that wasn't a point.


KECK: Nobody ever thought a thing about that.

REDMAN: Okay. So then the last question along these lines, were there any rumors, or did you know anybody personally at the time who would've been considered gay or homosexual?

KECK: Nobody ever thought of it.

REDMAN: Nobody even thought of it. Okay. So there wouldn't be--

KECK: Never. Never, ever. No. In fact, when it finally did come up--that was only a few years ago--I'd think, what are they all making a fuss about? If they are, you are; that's all there is to it.

REDMAN: Okay. So there was never any talk about it.

KECK: Nothing, no.

REDMAN: Okay. Interesting. All right. Tell me about your living situation at the time. I understand that it was very hard to obtain housing in the Bay Area during--

KECK: My husband, before we were married, had bought this little house. This was 67:00the money that he was going to use to go to college with. But he bought this little house up here in Albany. It was just a little one-bedroom house. But we were able to move into it, after we had to wait-- See, we were married in late November of that year; it was '43. Was it '42? '42. We were married in late November of '42, and we had this little house. But there was somebody living in it when he bought it, and they didn't have a place they could move to, because there were so many people in town. There was nothing for rent. Finally--I don't know how it worked--we knew some people who were real estate agents and they helped us a little bit. They said, "Oh, there's one coming here." There were two or three steps in the whole thing, but eventually, the people got out. Then my husband was able to clean up, paint and do everything, and we moved into the little house. It was a nice little house. It's still there.


REDMAN: And that was in Albany?

KECK: Yeah, it's in Albany. Yeah, it's up on Key Route. No, it isn't Key Route, it's-- Oh, I tell you, the old brain isn't hearing anymore.

REDMAN: That's fine. So we'll return to the plants in just a minute, but I want to ask what Albany was like.

KECK: It always has been a hometown. That's the one special thing about Albany. People care for each other, they're friendly. I remember when I was there, a young war vet-- not war veteran. I wouldn't say a war widow, that isn't what I'm meaning, thank goodness. But the fact that my husband was, quote, unquote, in sort of the "military" and away. The people were so kind to me. They were just kind as they could be.

REDMAN: So would people go out of their way to be nice to people who might have--

KECK: Yes. Problems, yes. They were. They would go out of their way. And Albany 69:00has always been like that.

REDMAN: Now, I'd like to contrast that a little bit with El Cerrito, because what I've heard a little bit about El Cerrito is that a lot of people, when they'd get off from work from the Kaiser Shipyards, or on payday, they'd go spend their money in some of the bars.

KECK: Yeah, there was all things. What do you call them? Where the prostitutes are down there, there were-- In El Cerrito, you could almost get cornered, but not in Albany. It wasn't in Albany.

REDMAN: Okay. That's interesting to me. So there was kind of a dividing line there.

KECK: There was a dividing line, yeah. People in Albany didn't like that.

REDMAN: Okay. So there was more of a hometown feel in Albany. And it strikes me that El Cerrito, based on the descriptions, it kind of sounds like what Las Vegas is today; kind of anything goes. There was gambling, there was drinking.

KECK: That's right, there was. There was that. You sort of stayed away from El 70:00Cerrito. But eventually, it cleaned up and then people moved in. Families moved in, and they weren't going to have that. Eventually, it just cleared up completely.

REDMAN: Okay. So now Albany and El Cerrito seem pretty similar.

KECK: Pretty much the same, yeah.

REDMAN: Yeah. Okay. Interesting. So any other thoughts on those kind of seedy places?

KECK: Well, see, that was into Contra Costa County and we're still here. You live in Albany, don't you?

REDMAN: Yes, yeah.

KECK: Yeah, you do. It's still Alameda County and there were certain restrictions of some sort; but in Contra Costa County, those restrictions weren't there. So that was what happened. I vaguely knew about it, but that's all. I never thought about it.

REDMAN: Okay. So people like you knew to maybe stay away from--

KECK: You didn't have to go there. Solano Avenue had plenty of things on it. The Safeway was on the corner, just very close to where we lived, on the corner of Solano and-- I can't remember the name of the street we lived on. It's the main 71:00street going that way. It goes past the junior-- no, it's--

REDMAN: The elementary school? The Ocean View? Not Buchanan. Anyway, but I'm curious about that sort of world contrasted with what Albany was like at the time. That's very interesting. So how about you in your off hours, then, your sort of down time? Did you have any particularly favorite activities that you did?

KECK: My garden.

REDMAN: Your garden.

KECK: We had victory gardens, all of us. And I had been raised in a house with a big backyard and we gardened.

REDMAN: So there was a tradition of gardening in your family. But then during the war, everyone was encouraged to garden. Now, the other sort of interesting 72:00thing is that I've interviewed people who lived in Oakland, in apartments, and they weren't able to garden.

KECK: They didn't have a garden, no.

REDMAN: So a lot of people in Albany, then, would've had a garden, is that right?

KECK: Yes, yes. Everybody had one.

REDMAN: Okay. You said pretty much everybody.

KECK: Pretty much anybody. Anybody who could had a garden.

REDMAN: Okay. And do you remember what you grew in your garden?

KECK: Sure. Beans and peas and tomatoes and potatoes and greens. You might grow lettuce and spinach. I didn't do too well with that, but the other stuff, I did fine with. It was really good. And my mother and father still had big stuff coming out of their ears. So we didn't have any problem at all. Food was rationed. But it wasn't bad. Let's see. I wrote down something in here. Oh, there was something in here I had to-- Well, all right.


REDMAN: Oh, no, that's fine. I wanted to ask you a question about ration books.

KECK: Yeah, all right. I found one upstairs. I maybe could find it, but--

REDMAN: Is that right? Okay.

KECK: --I don't want to get up right now and stop this.

REDMAN: No, that's fine. So the ration books were these tan booklets.

KECK: Little tan booklets like this, yes. It had coupons.

REDMAN: Little tan booklets. And inside, they had coupons.

KECK: It was a coupon for milk-- not milk, but sugar, for sugar. And if you wanted sugar, there was no problem whatever. If you were going to can, you could get extra sugar. Food was rationed, but not severely. Sugar, meat and coffee were rationed. And gasoline was rationed. Most people solved it by, as I say, with the gasoline, by filling one car with people a few times a week, and then 74:00they'd share that time. A little more than a year after that, we had a baby and I discovered all of a sudden that even a new baby could get a ration book.

REDMAN: Oh, wow.

KECK: I used those coffee coupons to get some maybe assistance, to have people come and take care of the baby once in a while.

REDMAN: Okay. So now, my understanding is that sort of the letter of the law may have been that you were not to exchange the coupons; but in reality, people did it all the time.

KECK: What difference does it make? Yeah, what difference did it make? I never heard that, what you just said. I never heard that you shouldn't.

REDMAN: Okay. So the other thing that I'm a little confused by is that these ration books, they have these little blue stamps that might have an image of a plane on it or a truck on it. How could you tell what was for sugar and what was 75:00for meat?

KECK: I don't think you'd need to worry, because the people in the stores knew exactly what it was.

REDMAN: Ah. So you'd just hand the book over.

KECK: You'd ask what you could do, if you could buy sugar, and what did you need. But I did a lot of canning; my mother had all this fruit and stuff. My mother and dad, they would bring me the fruit, just bottles of it, bags of it. So I asked for rations, for sugar rations. You'd get almost all you wanted.

REDMAN: Wow. Okay.

KECK: There was no big problem.

REDMAN: Okay. So rationing never--

KECK: Never bothered us. It didn't bother me, anyway. I doubt if it did others. Because there were just two of us. And then with a baby, and then my husband was at sea, he was gone, so it was just me and I had all the food I needed. [chuckles]

REDMAN: Yeah. So tell me about having a child at that time. I know that Kaiser had implemented quite a healthcare plan for its employees. What was the process 76:00of having a child like at that time?

KECK: There was a hospital. It was Albany Hospital; it was on Marin Avenue, I think, and that's where I went for my first child. It was just an ordinary hospital.

REDMAN: Okay. Okay. So it wasn't unusual in wartime?

KECK: No. Oh, no. A whole lot of people had babies. A lot of babies. A lot of them, yeah.

REDMAN: Interesting. So your impression was that the baby boom was starting.

KECK: Oh, boy! Really, [chuckles] after the men came home, that's when it started. Because my oldest son is a lot older than a lot of other people, you see.

REDMAN: Okay. I see. Yeah.

KECK: So that's it. My girls and my younger son are in the middle there. So that's it.

REDMAN: Interesting. So we've talked about this a little bit, that a lot of people were moving to the Bay Area at that time.

KECK: Tremendous number.


REDMAN: From places like Iowa and Arkansas and Oklahoma. Did you have any impressions of this new influx of people?

KECK: Impressions? Let's see. Not much. A lot of the people that came here came from the South. A lot of them came from the South to work in the shipyards. They were desperate for places to live. Desperate for them. People piled together. We weren't in any sort of a situation where that would really have something to do with us, so we didn't-- We made friends with just about everybody; but we couldn't do anything else. As I say, my husband was away, I had a baby. I worked for a while, and then after a while, when the baby was almost due, I quit. But 78:00that was the way it was. We worked in the victory garden. You grew your own food and you canned it, too. That was it.

REDMAN: Okay. So now, it seems as though canning is something that spread throughout the entire-- your childhood.

KECK: Women did it. It wasn't new in my generation at all. It wasn't new. People canned fruit and vegetables. They did. I didn't do the vegetables as much as it was the fruit, but I could can fruit. Vegetables require a lot more heat and for a lot longer time than the fruit, because the fruit has the sugar in it and that helps. But people did what they could. A lot of the boys that I grew up with 79:00didn't come back. And that was one thing that really hurt. That was something you just learned to accept.

REDMAN: Did you learn about what had happened to them gradually? Or did you kind of, at the end of the war--

KECK: Well, both. Both of them. Sometimes a friend would say that her brother didn't come back or something like that. Once in a while, it was somebody's husband that didn't. But when you're sitting in that situation, you learned that this is what's happening.


KECK: And there's not much you can do about it except just keep on going.

REDMAN: So it was a very real and tangible reality.

KECK: It was a very real thing, that's all there is to it. I remember my husband would write to me, and oh, sometimes it was weeks and months, sometimes three or four, five months before I would hear. And he was able to get a letter and it 80:00would be sent home, sent back here. Sometimes he would send a letter and there'd be stuff cut out of it, because it was--

REDMAN: Censored.

KECK: Censored.


KECK: I do remember one time, though, he said, "You will get this and this." I would get some pay, his pay from the company, it would be sent to me. I don't know if it was $50 a month, something or other; it wasn't much. He said, "Remember, you have to understand, you'll only get one of them." Well, I knew what the one was, what the time was, so then I knew when he was coming home." But he wouldn't dare put that in the letter, not dare. Because one of the big things about those days was that you didn't talk about what the military was going to do, especially a ship. You weren't going to talk about anything about a ship leaving or coming in or anything. You just didn't do it. It was the same 81:00with the Navy. Even more so.

REDMAN: So let's say you're working in the garden and you see your next door neighbor. There wouldn't have been a conversation like, do you know when your husband is coming home?

KECK: You wouldn't say it. No, you wouldn't say it.

REDMAN: Would they ask if you had gotten any letters or anything like that?

KECK: That, sometimes. You could talk about something, but that was all.

REDMAN: Okay. Interesting.

KECK: It wasn't the fact that you just couldn't talk, because people would talk just innocently and say, oh, my husband such-and-such and they're going to leave for such-and-such. Well, somebody hearing it, anything could happen.

REDMAN: Yeah. Yeah. So let's see. We talked a little bit about healthcare. Let me ask, what were people doing with their money? Did you have the impression that a lot of people were saving? I know a lot of people were going to El Cerrito and gambling it away.

KECK: Oh, but most of the people didn't. I really don't know anything about it. 82:00I'd like to be able to answer it, but I don't know. I don't know.

REDMAN: No, that's fine, yeah. But for you, were you saving that money or putting it towards this new house? Do you recall?

KECK: We were both born and raised in a time when you saved your money. Child of the Depression. Don't forget, that was it. I was eight years old when the Depression hit this country. That was in '29. We were well trained. It was something you had to do. So it was never a problem with us. We didn't spend money we didn't have to spend. That's all there was to it.

REDMAN: Okay. That's very interesting. Okay.

KECK: Child of the Depression.

REDMAN: Child of the Depression.

KECK: That's right.

REDMAN: Yeah. Now, it's interesting to think about that, that that sticks with you.

KECK: Forever.

REDMAN: One of the things that I thought about at the start of the interview is 83:00you'd mentioned that your parents had talked about the economic recession that took place after the First World War. From what I've read, a lot of people were concerned with the economic boom that was happening during World War II and they were saying, well, what if the same thing happens like after World War I? That may have seemed like sort of a distant memory; but on the other hand, you'd mentioned that this was something that your parents had talked about. So do you think people were generally just happy to be done with the Depression? Or do you think that there was any worry that this bubble may burst at any time?

KECK: You're talking about depression or the war?

REDMAN: At the end of the war.

KECK: Oh, I see, yeah.

REDMAN: At the end of the Second World War, were people thinking, okay, we may have come out of the Great Depression, but what if the same thing happens?

KECK: I don't remember as much. Well, as I say, I was only a child when the first depression happened. I was just a kid. I learned to be very careful with 84:00money then. And as I say, I was just a child. But you didn't go doing things that you really couldn't afford. You just didn't do it. We didn't own a car; we walked everywhere. But after World War II, there were so many people who had come in to California. There was so much going on that I don't think-- I don't really remember trouble about it. I don't really remember. I imagine some people had a problem, but everybody who'd come to California, they were going to stay. Not only did they like the fact of the better climate, but there were a lot of people around and a lot of new businesses were going up. So I don't remember much at all. As I say, my husband had to be in the service, so-called in the 85:00service, of course, on the ship, until the war was over. But he was home in August of '45, when the atom bomb was done. He was home them. But he still had to be at work. He still had to be in a ship. He was there. Let's see.

REDMAN: Can I ask just quickly, about war bonds?

KECK: I think we bought a few war bonds. Yeah, a few of them.

REDMAN: Okay. I know at Kaiser, there would be these little competitions for who could sell the most war bonds. Was there any sort of thing like that at Heinz?

KECK: No, not that I know of, no.

REDMAN: Okay. Let's see. I was going to jump back and ask a little bit about-- 86:00I've heard a lot about a feeling of patriotism or a general feeling of unity; that sort of, we're all in this together and we're all making sacrifices together. You talked about not talking about ships or letters, and that sort of being an understood thing. There might be posters reminding you.

KECK: You were warned about it many, many times, yes.

REDMAN: Okay. Okay. So tell me a little bit about that patriotism or that feeling of unity or kind of making sacrifices together, all at the same time.

KECK: We were all one. We were all in that war. It was the first time, I think, that the United States had been really attacked. Everybody-- Well, very few people that I even heard of--I read about in the paper sometimes--but very few people were anything but against getting back and getting Hawaii and all these 87:00islands back to the United States. We helped. Everybody helped. There was a real feeling of everybody helping. If you want to call it patriotism, that's what it was, yes.

REDMAN: Okay, interesting.

KECK: That is, yes. That's how we got through it. Yeah, we did.

REDMAN: Yeah. It strikes me that it must've been such a challenging time.

KECK: Oh, it was something. But we were all in it, that's all. Most of the men, there were very few young men home. Sometimes somebody had something wrong with themselves. But you were in the war, no matter what you were, some way or other.

REDMAN: Okay. So it didn't worry you at all when you were having the child and leaving Heinz then, to raise the child, as far as fiscal stability for your family or money issues?

KECK: No. As I say, we had saved money. My husband, in the service of the ships, 88:00which were all commercial ships, was making money. So that's how it was. He was out under the bombs, I know that, but the good Lord helped. He told me often that on the ships themselves, these commercial ships, there were guns fore and aft. He said he was one of the people that was assigned-- I guess there were several of them that were assigned at a certain time to be on guard with that gun. He said, "We learned to shoot," he said. "Sometimes there were Japanese planes above us," he said. "But somehow, we didn't get bombed."

REDMAN: Right. Okay.

KECK: So that was that.

REDMAN: Yeah. So we've talked a little bit about Albany and El Cerrito. Do you 89:00have any sort of impressions of what Berkeley was like during the war, how it may have changed?

KECK: Oh, sure. I was born and raised in Berkeley. It was like I described; everybody was in the war. That was all there was to it. I graduated and we were in the war. As I say, most of the men were gone. All the ROTC men were gone. The Greek Theater wasn't even full on that graduation day. I know my mother and father came, and I think Lee was home at that time, and he could come for a little while. But I remember seeing him, but he couldn't stay. I remember that. But that was that. But at any rate, I graduated. It was this rather odd graduation, but we did. So that was that. It was a really special time in my 90:00father's life, because he had really wanted to go to Cal himself, and to have at least a daughter that graduated--

REDMAN: Well, let me ask about that. So your parents were very supportive of you going to college. It may not have been the same way for a lot of young women at the time.

KECK: That's right, not every young woman-- I remember it was after I was married, and I think it was when I was in the hospital after my baby was born. [laughs] I remember this. It was in a ward. It was in the little hospital down there, Albany Hospital. It was on Marin Avenue at the time. This woman, we were talking, getting acquainted with each other. We'd had a baby. I said, yes, I'd been to college. She said, "You went to college?" I remember her attitude and everything. She said, "You went to all that work and all that money and then you 91:00just got married anyway?" That's what she said. That's what people thought sometimes, about women going to college. They never thought, well, you can train your children and all the rest of it. The idea of women going to college had not been something that was universally a good idea. It just wasn't. People thought, why should you do that?

REDMAN: Now, it seems to me that you had not only thought of college as something that might give you some sort of practical skill, but just sort of an intellectual endeavor, something that-- You just seemed to enjoy reading and enjoyed books.

KECK: That's right. I enjoyed it.

REDMAN: So in reflecting on that, when someone would say something like that to you, did it sort of just make you think, well, I also--

KECK: That's what you think; that's not what I think. [laughs]

REDMAN: Okay. Okay.

KECK: I would say, no, I learned a lot. I learned a lot about children, 92:00especially, and that was very good. There are so many things to learn. I could be reading a book all day long. But still and all, there were some very interesting, fascinating things at Cal. I was fascinated with it the whole time. I didn't take another year after I graduated. I wish I had. But well, I got married and that's what we did. Had a baby, and you're not going to go back to college then. I wish I had. But I learned a lot about children and I could easily help in a preschool. In fact, when my children were in preschool-- We have an excellent preschool in Albany here. We had four children, and so one by one, they were in the preschool. It was a preschool where the mothers had to 93:00give time. So I was there most of the time. [laughs] The twins and the younger son were less than two years apart, so I was there all the time when they were in preschool. But it was always interesting to me. When my kids were born, I never said if you go to college. It was always when you go to college.

REDMAN: When you go to college, that's right.

KECK: And they all went. You bet they did. In fact, my youngest son's a physician. Yeah, he's been a physician for about thirty-some-odd years.

REDMAN: Wow. Wow. Okay.

KECK: My kids are all in their sixties now.

REDMAN: Okay. Okay. I have a few more questions. I'd like to hear about your learning about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What were your feelings about that at the time?

KECK: That's a hard one.

REDMAN: Maybe your feelings have changed, maybe they haven't. I'm just curious.


KECK: I'll have to think about that one. Let's see. I think the first feeling that you had, that anybody had was, maybe this'll be the end of the war. The other one, I thought about all those poor people. I did. I felt bad about it. And the fact that I had so many Japanese friends. As I said, in Longfellow School, there were kids who had Japanese backgrounds and black backgrounds. They were all kids that were part of us. So you felt close. That was it. I thought myself, I thought, gee, maybe that's the end of the war. Everybody was praying for the end of the war.

REDMAN: Okay. Now, let me step back even a little more and ask if you recall FDR's death and what that may have meant to people.


KECK: Yes, it was a shock. It was a shock.

REDMAN: Because he had been president for much of your adult life.

KECK: Yeah, yeah, that's right.

REDMAN: Or much of your conscious life.

KECK: Yes, that's right. Everybody wondered what to do, and then Truman took over. That was Truman, wasn't it? Yeah, I think so.


KECK: In America, the basic idea of America is that we took care of ourselves, you see. The government would be such-and-such, but we had the right to take care of ourselves. That's how we felt, that we could get through this. That was all there was to it. That the president wasn't the most important thing. What we all did was the most important thing. That's what the feeling was, as I recollect.

REDMAN: So do you happen to remember hearing anything about the UN conference 96:00that was happening in San Francisco at--

KECK: Yes. Oh, it was something that we thought was special. It sort of simmered out, I know, but we were very pleased with that UN conference, yeah.

REDMAN: Okay. So people were happy to have that going on in the Bay Area?

KECK: I was, I know. I think so. I think people were. I had a bunch of kids, so I wasn't--

REDMAN: Right, yeah. You were pretty occupied.

KECK: I wasn't thinking about a lot of those things. We didn't get a television for several years, I guess. But I didn't have the time to listen to the radio or watch television. Television was very sparse, to start with, and I can't say that we did much with it at the beginnings of it at all. I didn't have time to look.

REDMAN: Two more events to ask you about that you may or may not know much about. But the Port Chicago disaster in 1944. There was a huge explosion.


KECK: Oh, yeah, there was that terrible explosion, yeah.

REDMAN: I've been told by some people that window shattered in Berkeley and things. do you remember anything about that?

KECK: Nothing happened to us. We were here in Albany.

REDMAN: Okay. Then in '46--so this is after the war--there was a large general strike that lasted a couple of days in Oakland, that virtually shut down the city--just for a couple of days, my understanding is. Do you remember anything about--

KECK: I don't remember it.

REDMAN: Okay. That's fine. So tell me a little bit about what your life was like, then, after the war.

KECK: Well, my husband came home.

REDMAN: Was that quite a relief?

KECK: Oh, gosh, yes. You never knew. Sometimes you didn't hear from him for months. That was great. He'd saved his money, we'd saved our money, and we were able to sell our little house--because a lot of people were anxious to buy--and we moved to another house up on Cornell, and we were there for several years. Then we moved into this house in '51.

REDMAN: '51. Okay. And how many children did you have?


KECK: Four.

REDMAN: Four. And you said they all went to college.

KECK: They all went to college.

REDMAN: And they're all in their sixties now.

KECK: Yeah, they're all in their sixties.

REDMAN: Okay. And two were twins.

KECK: The girls were twins, yeah.

REDMAN: The girls were twins. Okay. One of the last questions I'd like to ask is that one of the things that Albany's really known for is it--

KECK: Schools.

REDMAN: --high quality schools.

KECK: Schools, schools, schools. We have worked hard for those schools.

REDMAN: Yeah. Tell me about that.

KECK: Well, it always has been special because it's been its own school; did not belong to Berkeley or anything else. It's our own school system. We had, I think, three trials of getting things passed so we could pay for our own school and do things specially. I'm trying to think of the word that would be used when you--


REDMAN: Some sort of referendum or a proposition?

KECK: Well, it was a vote. What did they call when they have a special, small vote?

REDMAN: A special election?

KECK: A special election, but there's another name to it. Well, anyway, it took us three times to get a positive vote on an election to go ahead with increasing what we did for the schools. I remember, because my husband was in charge of one of those, I think the last one of the efforts that we did. And we finally made it.

REDMAN: Wow, okay.

KECK: We did it. My husband's also on the city council. That was something, believe me. But at any rate. I don't say I respect, but I truly understand what people who are elected go through. Because the minute they're elected, they're 100:00"crooks or they're doing this or doing that." They're standing around saying, what do I do next? [they laugh]

REDMAN: Right, yeah.

KECK: Even people that I don't particularly like in a situation, I feel sorry for them. No matter what, they can't do everything right.

REDMAN: Exactly. Exactly. So we're at the end of this tape, but do you have a few more things you'd like to say?

KECK: I was going to talk about my own growing up, but if you're at the end of the tape, we'd have to make it for another time.

REDMAN: No, I'll maybe start another tape here.


Begin Audiofile 3 03-08-2011.mp3

REDMAN: So just to finish up, I'd like to sort of selfishly ask about Albany, because I'm curious in that history. We talked about sort of the fight to get independence for the educational system, your husband's involvement with that. I 101:00understand the waterfront was also a pretty key issue--

KECK: [laughs] Oh, the waterfront. I laugh.

REDMAN: --that came up a little later, maybe. I'm pretty nave on that political issue. Can you tell me a little about that?

KECK: The waterfront is not something that came up later. The waterfront has been a discussion for years.

REDMAN: Is that right?

KECK: Oh, years. I remember being on committees--actually, since my husband passed away. He died about fifteen years ago. But since he passed away, I have been on a couple of committees. We make all these ideas and then they don't happen. And then in another while, there's another committee, and then there's another committee. The waterfront still hasn't been done anything to. It's a wonderful place. I'm not absolutely sure about this, but as I remember-- I know 102:00that the City of Albany donated that long area of dirt out there--

REDMAN: Sure, yeah.

KECK: --to the State of California. But the State of California doesn't have the money to do anything with it. That's basically, I think, at the bottom of the problem.

REDMAN: So for a long time, that was a landfill.

KECK: Yeah, it was a landfill and you could take things down there. I remember, though--I think it was when my husband was on the city council--there was a man who was from the state, I think, or maybe the county, was really working hard to get people to stop burning garbage down there. It was a hard thing to get over, because it was a good thing for people to get rid of their garbage.

REDMAN: Do you remember about what time this was? Was this in the sixties or seventies?

KECK: No, it wasn't that late. I think it was even earlier.


REDMAN: So even in the fifties?

KECK: It could've been in the fifties, yeah. Maybe even soon. I'm like some of your other people who are talking; I can't remember some dates here.

REDMAN: Oh, no, that's fine.

KECK: Let's see. I'm trying to remember. I can't even remember right now when Lee was on the council, what the date was. All right, dates have escaped me, I'm sorry.

REDMAN: No, that's fine.

KECK: I'm an old lady, and that's what happens to me. Let's see now. With the waterfront, we had some very fancy ideas from people from out of the city, who had ideas about fixing this and doing this and everything else. Some of them sounded good, but they always were put down. It would be very nice to have a 104:00beautiful waterfront out there, where people could enjoy it. But it's not happening. That's just all there is to it. People get all excited about it and say, we'll do this and this and this, but the money isn't there. Basically, that's that.

REDMAN: So you think it could continue to be improved on what the Bulb is now.

KECK: I should think so, yes. I know.

REDMAN: Do you know, just sort of curiosity, when the race track went in?

KECK: Well, I don't remember the dates, but I do remember before that time, before the racetrack was there. It was after the war, after World War II. The Army used to keep cars down there, as I recall. I remember in one of your things, about the boy that remembered the things that were installed down in 105:00that area.

REDMAN: So the machineguns.

KECK: Machineguns and stuff. Then there was something there that the Army used as a parking area or a place for Army things to be kept and such. But then after that, after the war, then the racetrack was able to go in. It really made a lot of difference, as far as money was concerned, in the city. It really did. It brought in a lot of money. In fact, the city existed on what the racetrack brought in. There's hardly anything now. I don't know, do they still race? I don't even know.

REDMAN: I think they do, but I don't think it's nearly as big as--

KECK: Nothing as big as what it was before. I was at the racetrack to a race once, I think. But it was not something that I did. I had a cousin who came and he was all delighted to go down to the racetrack. So he could go down to the racetrack; I took him down. But I sat there and thought, okay, what's going on? [laughs]


REDMAN: What's the big deal? Yeah.

KECK: Well, that's just too bad. It's just my old lady parts, that's all.

REDMAN: No, that's fine. So we've talked about a lot today. I just wanted to ask--this is a really hard question to answer--but in reflecting sort of on the war and how it fits into the story of your life, is there anything else that you'd like to share?

KECK: Well, I would like to talk about my growing up and the culture we were in.

REDMAN: Oh, sure.

KECK: That's what I started, when I said this would be a good idea. As I told you before, I was born in West Berkeley. My father's family had moved over to Berkeley after the earthquake and fire in 1906. That really was quite a fire, believe me. My mother had many, many stories of it. But in Berkeley, we had this house. I was born in that house. I don't remember it being there at all, except for one thing that was kind of odd. That is when it was moved, the house at 107:00first--and I was just two years old, two, two and a half--at first, the house faced west. That would mean that the sunshine would come in a certain way. When we moved the house and it was put up on Derby Street, it faced south. I still remember, at two and a half, being really confused about that. [Redman laughs] I really was confused about it. I still can remember feeling, what and why? What a little kid would think. Why doesn't the sun come in from there differently?

REDMAN: That's where it used to come from, why isn't it now? Right.

KECK: Yeah, that was a funny thing to do. But in Berkeley, it was a nice place to live. As I said, there were lovely people around. It was a different culture then than it tuned out to be, after all the war and a lot of people moved in. 108:00But in those days, as I say, we could keep chickens. People kept beehives, they kept goats. They made wine. I remember some people down the street from us who were Italians. They were wonderful people. Every year, they would have this huge load of grapes delivered to them. And automatically, every kid in the neighborhood was out there looking at what was going on. [coughs] I'm sorry. I'm going to have to cough for a while; turn it off. [audiofile may stop & restart] --would somehow accumulate, so the man would always look around--he had sort of a big grin on his face--and everybody would get a little cluster of grapes. Then 109:00he'd shut the basement door, the garage door. But they made their wine. As I say, they even had goats. We had the chickens in the backyard. But then it was a different culture. I was trying to think, in thinking of what to tell you about that. I remember it as a more polite culture. We did things that were polite, or we were scolded because they weren't polite. Just about every family sent their kids to Sunday school. All the children went to Sunday school. That was just the thing that was done.

REDMAN: And all different denominations.

KECK: All different denominations. Where they went didn't matter. But kids, on Sunday morning, they were dressed up and they walked to Sunday school. Or went with their family or something. But that was the way it was. It was a safe place 110:00to play. I don't think you'd think about things like that. We didn't think about it. It didn't bother us at all. Somebody showed me a state key not too long ago and said, "Do you know what this is?" I said, "It's a skate key." "Oh." [they laugh] Anyway, we could skate for blocks and nobody would ever bother us. We lived a good mile from University Avenue, and that's where the library was. I could go to the library and come back with six books, and nobody would ever bother you. It was just that people took care of each other. Until the war, when other people moved in, and it was something that you all of a sudden realized you just had to watch a little bit more. But my mother, as I say, was raised in San Francisco. In those days, when one went to San Francisco--and this was 111:00before the war--women wore gloves and a hat and their nice clothes, and so did the children. San Francisco was considered the Paris of the West. I remember after the war started--it was after the war, but it was a changed culture--that I saw something in the paper. I think it was the Chronicle. I was still at home. The Chronicle wrote and said something about slacks on Grant Avenue? [laughs] Slacks on Grant Avenue? You didn't do things like that in San Francisco. San Francisco was the city. You didn't call Oakland a city; that was just Oakland. San Francisco was the city. That's all there was to it.


REDMAN: The city. Okay.

KECK: That was basically it. Let's see. I was writing down here and I'm sorry that this doesn't blend in with what you want there.

REDMAN: Oh, no, that's fine.

KECK: Well, all right. As children, anyway--I'll talk about that--we went, maybe a couple times a month--to San Francisco. As I say, you had to walk up to Sacramento Street and get on the Key Route train. It was an orange one. The one down on 8th Street or 9th Street was a Southern Pacific train; it was a red one. You could go to the Oakland Mole on either one of them. My father had to take the Key Route train every morning, because he worked in San Francisco. It was about two or three blocks up from us, to walk. We would walk up and we would have hats on and our coats. Not gloves, but our best shoes on, and be clean. 113:00That's what we did. We had nice clothes. Couldn't afford very expensive ones. My mother made most of our clothes. So that's what we did. But at any rate, you got on the ferryboat. I had something in here that I wanted to say, because it was so funny. Eleanor and I, my sister and I, loved being on the boat. On a nice day, especially, because we could be outside. If we had been smart and saved some of the bread that we had eaten or dropped on the floor, we could feed the seagulls on the ship. The thing that I remember a lot about that is that-- I don't find what I was saying here. But at any rate, the thing I remember especially about that was that my father always brought along a lump of cotton. 114:00Because if you were going to feed the seagulls, they'd come over you, flying to get all this, and they'd always leave a little deposit on you. [Redman laughs] So that was the way it was. But we thought that was wonderful, to be able to feed the seagulls. You couldn't do it every time, but we did it. It was a different culture, as I say, and you didn't talk back to anybody. If you did, you were scolded. I saw my first movie when I was just a child. I think it first came on. It was the one that had Rin Tin Tin in it. My aunt took me to see it. That was the first movie I had ever seen. I didn't even know anything about it. I was quite impressed. But I remember Rin Tin jumped through a window. [laughs] That was something.

REDMAN: Do you remember about how old you were when you would've seen this?


KECK: I probably was about six or seven. Just a little kid. That, I'll have to figure out. Because by that time, it was the mid-twenties or toward the late twenties. Let's see. I was born in '21. So okay. So that was the way it was. I'm trying to hope here, to find something. Well, all right then, here we are. There were lots of exciting things in San Francisco. Since Mother and Dad were born there and knew the city well, on the days that they went to church, we all went over to San Francisco. Especially in the summertime, we could enjoy the city. I remember walking up and down in the Ferry Building. They had a big map of California. It wasn't just paper, it was with a little--

REDMAN: Sort of showed the topography?

KECK: The topography of California. It just fascinated us. We just loved it. I 116:00loved that one tremendously. But the city was fascinating. There was Golden Gate Park and Fleischaker Zoo and the Ocean Beach and Chinatown, the Marina, and the docks on the bay, and the Ferry Building. All of those things were very exciting to us. We didn't have a car, so we learned to walk early. There was the opera house and the museums and the picture galleries and the aquarium, and all the park gardens, and street cars that would take you anywhere. Just anywhere.

REDMAN: Did you go to some of the museums when you were--

KECK: Oh, gosh, yes! We went to the museums all the time.

REDMAN: Do you have some early recollections of--

KECK: Oh, yeah. I loved the museums, especially-- When you went to the museum, there were many fascinating things in there. I don't know if any of my grandfather's bathing suits were ever shown. I don't think they were. They 117:00should've been, because they originated in San Francisco. But I have a few of them yet. They are woolen bathing suits, with a skirt, for women, down to here. Then they were all one piece, except for the skirt. The skirt went over, so it came down to your knees, you see.

REDMAN: Wow. Okay.

KECK: Then you could wear shoes or socks, if you wanted to go up a-- But it wasn't like today, where you practically had nothing on. So that was what we did. Because my father worked at Gantner and Mattern, he made us, or had made for us, little swimming suits, which were not that-- They didn't have skirts on them. But then we could get into the water once in a while. It was usually an unusual time, when we could. But we went to the opera. My mother and father wanted us to know about the opera. It had to be the afternoon times, because we 118:00couldn't do it any-- The picture galleries and the museums were fascinating to us. Very fascinating. The Japanese Tea Garden, too. We always went there, went over that big, round--

REDMAN: Bridge.

KECK: Bridge, that's it. See, I was born and raised in Berkeley, before the bridges. See, that was it. I was in college when finally, the bridges-- Or not college, I just graduated Berkeley High when the bridges were completed. It changed the whole picture of the whole area.

REDMAN: Let me ask about that. These huge projects to build the bridges, and especially the Golden Gate Bridge becomes so iconic, in terms of architecture. Then also how it was built, using these government programs and New Deal programs. What do you sort of remember about the bridges being built?


KECK: Well, I remember how beautiful it was without the bridge, without the Golden Gate Bridge. I remember as a young woman--I was in high school by that time--I remember thinking, oh, it's so beautiful to see the mountains--the hills, I mean--and the sun setting through the Golden Gate. But it's beautiful with the bridge, too. It really is. I remember walking across the bridge when it was first opened. A girlfriend of mine took the ferry over and got around to the entrance to the bridge on the Fisherman's Wharf area. Then we could get up there and walk the bridge. We thought that was wonderful. I remember the girlfriend and I were looking. We were walking and it was windy. Golden Gate, it's going to be windy.

REDMAN: Yeah, it's often windy, yeah.

KECK: I remember some of the--let's see--the lights, I guess you could call 120:00them. They were rather like a lantern up there. They were shaking in the wind. She said, "Oh, that's not good. I'll have to tell my father about that." I thought, your father? What's he got to do with the Golden Gate Bridge? But that's what she said. I never forgot it. But I remember going over and back. We thought that was absolutely wonderful. Thought that was really great. The museums, we saw a lot of. And the opera house, we were taken. It was always a matinee time. We didn't see many, but we did see. I remember--oh, let's see--Madam Butterfly. I remember that one. And there was the other one. It's an 121:00Italian one; most of them are. Oh, well, that's all right. I remember, I just can't remember the name of it. And we'd go to the aquarium and we'd think that would be just wonderful. Just wonderful to sit around and see all that in the Golden Gate Park. We went on the cable cars, over to Fisherman's Wharf, and we always brought home a crab or something. We thought that was wonderful, too. We bought crab or shrimp or something. It was a different world. It was a different culture completely, when we were kids.

REDMAN: And the war more or less just changes everything.

KECK: Changed everything, yeah.

REDMAN: It brings so many more people in, changes the style of clothing people are wearing, everything. People, whether or not they went to church on Sunday, it seems like a lot.

KECK: Yeah, that's right. It changed everything. So many people with different ideas and different cultures that they were bringing in. That was basically what 122:00happened. It was a totally different culture at the other time. As I say, it was more polite. That was what it was. There were certain rules of behavior that you were held to, because that was what everybody did, you see. So that was it. My grandparents in San Francisco, my grandmother especially, wanted us all to be nicely dressed. She would comment if weren't nicely dressed. They called it a flat. They had flats. I never heard the word apartment until much later than that. But it was a flat. Let's see. Oh, another thing that was wonderful was Chinatown. Oh, we were thrilled--

REDMAN: Tell me about Chinatown at that time.

KECK: --with Chinatown. We always would go, can we go to Chinatown?


REDMAN: As a child, that must've been wonderful.

KECK: We would buy the Chinese candy, the little candies to take home. We thought that was special, too. We liked that. Sometimes we'd go down to Fisherman's Wharf. As I say, you could buy things. And we'd walk the Marina.

REDMAN: How about North Beach at the time? Because there have been some times that North Beach has been known as a desirable place for people to go, and then there have been other times where it seems to sort of-- I don't know if decline is quite the right word, but it becomes a place where things can be a little seedier.

KECK: It could be; I didn't know North Beach that well. But we didn't get over that frequently. Once I got married, there was no way to go over there with four-- One kid after the other.

REDMAN: Right, yeah.

KECK: But still and all, when we were children, we would walk down to North Beach and walk around. I remember that. It seems to me that after the war-- no, 124:00after the earthquake, there was a lot of damage at North Beach. Maybe I'm not remembering that correctly. I don't remember that exactly. At North Beach, you could get a good view of the bridge. Sometimes we would go down in that area, take the streetcar down to that area and watch the big ships come in. That was kind of interesting. But then you see, that all happened after I was grown up, really. As I say, we didn't have a car and you took the streetcars. In fact, when I was a kid, there were streetcars on San Pablo. There weren't buses then. You took a streetcar. The tracks were all the way, and they came along San Pablo 125:00and went clear out that way, way clear out into El Cerrito. No, beyond El Cerrito. But the only time we were ever in El Cerrito was because family cemetery things were up in that cemetery, so that's what you do. But we had to get off at San Pablo and walk up. But we learned to walk early; we didn't have a car. Let's see. My father and mother liked very much getting out with the family, the whole family, especially in the summertime. We would go, almost every Sunday, someplace. Golden Gate Park and the museums were a very great place. The Japanese Tea Garden was a very great place. When we were little kids, 126:00Mother and Dad would go to the German Methodist church and leave us with Grandma and Grandpa. As I say, my grandmother died when I was eleven, so then things changed after that. My aunt, the middle sister in my mother's family, did not-- [bell rings] Oh, dear, that's something. Better turn that off. [audiofile stops & restarts] Okay, so, you're just going to have to listen to me.

REDMAN: So where were we? Where did we leave off?

KECK: I don't know, I was trying to remember myself, where we were. We've been talking about my growing up in this area, and we were talking about the things that were in here, about the war.

REDMAN: We were talking about you going to San Francisco as a child.

KECK: Oh, yes. All right. We did, we did it a lot. As I say, my folks would go 127:00to San Francisco, not every Sunday, but especially in the summer, we would do as much as we could. Then we children would be at Grandmother's, and then my father and mother would go to church. It was close enough that they could walk. It took a little while, but they could walk.

REDMAN: So then you'd stay behind with the grandparents, often.

KECK: We'd stay with the grandparents. As I say, I was eleven when my grandmother passed away, and then my grandfather came to live with us. So that was a little different. But my other grandmother was at home and my grandfather was perfectly able to stay at home all right, so we still could go away. Sometimes we would have somebody pay attention to them when we left. But finally, one day when I was about sixteen, I guess--I was still in high school--I came home and my mother was away. I knew she was out for that day. My 128:00sister wasn't at home yet. I opened the front room door, the front door, with my key, and almost fell over, with the gas smell.

REDMAN: Oh, really? Okay.

KECK: Oh. My grandmother had turned on the gas to make coffee for my grandfather, and had never turned the fire on. If she had lit a match, that whole place would've gone up.

REDMAN: The whole place would've gone.

KECK: So I got them out of the place and brought them out on the front porch and aired the whole place out. [chuckles] You get to the point where older people can not be just depended upon. I hope I don't get to that point. [chuckles]

REDMAN: Right, yeah.

KECK: I really don't. But we did do a lot of going around. A lot of time, what we did when we had a Sunday afternoon was go up to the campus, up to the Cal campus. This is when we were kids. We'd go and sit in the Greek Theater. We 129:00thought that was wonderful. We'd sort of sit anywhere we wanted. Sometimes other people would be around; it didn't make any difference. Then we knew that there was a door at the back of the Greek Theater. You climbed up the whole back and there was a door there, and there was a path that led past the little creek, and you could get up to the big C.

REDMAN: Oh, wow. Okay.

KECK: And that's what we did. We thought that was wonderful.

REDMAN: Okay. Hiking all the way up there.

KECK: We hiked up to the big C. Once in a while, not very frequently, we walked up toward Grizzly Peak, and a couple of times, we climbed it. We thought that was very special. Oh, we were so proud of ourselves. We climbed Grizzly Peak. So that was very good. But my father, I think, and my mother, in that way, were saying, this is where you're going to come to school. [chuckles]

REDMAN: Okay. You'd mentioned earlier that that was maybe the only college that was in your mind.

KECK: Yeah. I didn't know there were other colleges, to be perfectly-- I think 130:00there was Mills College. I remember somebody, one of my aunts, saying, oh, I think you should've gone to Mills. I looked at her and I thought, why? [they laugh] Why would I want to go to Mills College? But I didn't. Cal was my college all the time. So that was what we did. But as a family, we did a lot of things together. We just did it by using these available transportation. That was the way it was.

REDMAN: Yeah. I did want to ask about that because in some other recent interviews, I've had folks talk about streetcars and fill with a sense of pride, in talking about the public transportation in San Francisco at that time, in particular.

KECK: Oh, yes.

REDMAN: So it seems like that was something pretty special about the city.

KECK: Well, you could get almost anywhere. You could get almost anywhere in San Francisco, with that system. The streetcars were there, and especially on Market 131:00Street, they would come and stop and you'd run into them. I remember there were little places you could stand. There were automobiles when I was a child, but still and all, you had to be very careful about it. But you waited, and pretty soon there was another car. They were there every ten minutes, most of them. It was ten, fifteen minutes and there was another streetcar.

REDMAN: Wow. Okay.

KECK: There were lots of streetcars, but the one you might want was maybe ten or fifteen minutes, you see. But you did, you came in and you sat down and you waited till you got there, and there you were. The conductors were very kids, especially to kids. They were very good. There was no problem, that I understood as a child, with the street cars in San Francisco. But I remember, too the great curves coming down Market Street. There were several tracks, like this. They 132:00would all come down Market Street and stop in front of the building, the Ferry Building, and then go up again and go up where they were going. That was what you did. You could get anywhere you wanted. Things changed, I know. But I think it was better than whatever they've got now, but I don't know San Francisco that well anymore. I haven't been to San Francisco in a long time. I can drive around town, but I don't drive to San Francisco anymore. That's the way it is. But as I say, it was a different culture. You went to San Francisco and you dressed the way you had to be in San Francisco. I remember at Christmastime, there were many, many windows that had displays in them. We would come over and look at all of them, with the City of Paris and the White House. Anything along Grant 133:00Avenue. There were theaters; I didn't know them as well. But the St. Francis Hotel. All of this was very special. We would walk up that way, just to look.

REDMAN: Now, one of the arguments that I've heard is that maybe one of the reasons why the style of dress changed so much during the war is that there were more people going to and from the shipyards, who were suddenly wearing blue jeans for the first time.

KECK: Absolutely. Absolutely.

REDMAN: Okay. Or coveralls or things like that.

KECK: You'd have to. You couldn't dress up to go to the shipyards. No way. No way.

REDMAN: Right. So I almost feel a little guilty now, because I'm wearing my Levi's today.

KECK: [laughs] No, you don't have to feel guilty. Why? You can wear anything you want these days.

REDMAN: Right. Yeah. Yeah. But that was something that you think played a part in sort of this change of how people--

KECK: It was a change. The war made a big change. It really did.

REDMAN: Okay. Interesting. Well, is there anything else you'd like to add?


KECK: I think I've done it pretty much, Sam. Let's see. Talking about how much fun it was to grow up in those years. I remember telling you about Rin Tin Tin; that was something special. [Redman laughs] But the city was fascinating. It was. And that was where we went, specially. Sometimes we went down in Oakland, to the park and to the lake, to the lake in Oakland. What's the name?

REDMAN: Merritt? Lake Merritt?

KECK: The Merritt, Lake Merritt, yeah. That was very nice. We did a lot of hiking, because that's what my father and mother did. We were fine all the time. We knew our way around Golden Gate Park; that's what we did. I think that was it. But it was a great time to grow up. It really was.

REDMAN: Excellent. Well, I appreciate your time today. Thank you so much.


KECK: You're very, very welcome.

REDMAN: Excellent, thank you.

[end of interview]