Roz Kingsbury & Suzanne Newton

Mrs. Newton recalls radio and the movies

Mrs. Newton and Mrs. Kingsbury on the Roosevelts

Mrs. Roz Kingsbury was born in 1922. She lived in Ipswich Massachusetts until she went away to University. Her father ran a factory and three banks, and her mother was very involved with serving the community through charity work, especially through the hard times of the thirties. Some of her fondest memories are of the times her family spent at their summer cottage in Ipswich, swimming and sailing on the ocean with her friends and brother. As a child she spent a great deal of time outdoors, and was very upset when the Hurricane of ’38 sunk her family’s sailboat. Her father was involved in politics and so growing up she learned a lot about the political situation of the time and has been interested in politics ever since.

Mrs. Suzanne Newton was born in 1920 and spent her childhood in Winchester Massachusetts. Her father was the pastor of a Unitarian Church, and her mother spent a lot of her time and energy in the church as well. She and her sister still live together. As a young girl she played a lot of tennis and enjoyed going to the movies. Although she is a very soft-spoken and courteous lady, she told us about the rebellious side she had as a youngster, sneaking out with friends at night and getting her whole class to drop their rulers at the same time. Her first year at Smith College was 1938 and the famous hurricane made her first few days there very memorable.

Q: This is David Schneider and Galen Hammitt and we are interviewing Mrs. Roz Kingsbury and… what’s your full name?

Mrs. Newton:  My name is Suzanne Newton.

Q:  And Mrs. Suzanne Newton, on May 8, 2008, for the Wayland High School history project.  So, how old were you in 1929?

Mrs. Newton: Oh, my… I was 9 years old.

Q: Oh.  And you, Roz?

Mrs. Kingsbury: I was born in ’22, so let’s see, it was—7.

Q: And, where did you live during the Depression years?

Mrs. Kingsbury: I lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Q: Uh-huh.

Mrs. Kingsbury: And that was my hometown until I went to University.

Q: So what were your families like?  Did your parents work, both of them?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Yes, my father was head of a hosiery factory and he ran three banks.  And my mother stayed home.  But she was full of charity activities.  She spent most of her time helping others.

Q: And, Mrs. Newton, where did you live during the Depression years?

Mrs. Newton: I lived in Winchester, Massachusetts.

Q: And what about your parents, did they both have jobs?

Mrs. Newton: Not my mother, well in a way she had a job.  My father was a minister, a Unitarian minister.

Q: Oh really?

Mrs. Newton: Yes

Q: I’m a Unitarian too, actually.

Mrs. Newton: Good.  And it’s quite different from nowadays, when minister’s wives can have their own careers, but my mother was very much a part of the church and the alliance and she headed up things.

Q: Did you have any siblings in the family?

Mrs. Kingsbury: I had a brother, and he went to University—Boston University.

Q: During the Depression?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Yeah.  And let’s see, he was an accountant, and then when he grew up ran the business.

Q: And did you have any siblings?

Mrs. Newton: Just one sister, and she was just a year and a half older than I.  And we live together now in a retirement community.

Q: When the Depression hit, did your parents get laid off or did they have to alter their jobs at all?  Did your mother sort of shift from being a more of a homemaker to make up for that?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Well she did a great deal of charity work during the Depression, and she started a children’s hospital in Ipswich, and then my mother and father bought a house in Ipswich and made a nursing home because the hospital in Ipswich couldn’t take in many people and so we had to get some kind of a nursing home set up and that’s what they did, spent a lot of time… and money, and so forth.

Q: And did the Great Depression affect your parents… were they fired?

Mrs. Newton: I feel as if it really didn’t touch my family very much.  I don’t remember hearing about people who were suffering, and even though my father was a minister, it didn’t seem as if people in the parish were affected very much.  I think it was that Winchester was just that kind of community that there weren’t people who didn’t have the means to live.

Q: Sounds like you were pretty fortunate then.

Mrs. Newton: I know, I feel badly about that.

Q: What were some of the sorts of things that you remember about your childhood in general; anything from games that you played or favorite foods that you had?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Well in the summertime we went to a summer… colony you might say in Ipswich, and stayed in a cottage.  My father was head of a group of cottages called “[Thefees]?”, or houses in trust, and we used one of those.  We had a wonderful time, we were right on the water, and we learned to swim, we had boats and we had sailboats so until I went to university, or college as we called it then, we spent the summer that way.  I did some babysitting for relatives—children, but that’s about all as far as work was concerned.  It was all fun.

Q: And do you remember what sort of food you ate?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Yes indeed, my mother had a wonderful helper and my mother was a great cook.  So together, they provided the meals and organized… it was like a team.  I don’t remember too much about doing anything except spoiling a clam chowder because we had extra guests to come and I thought it wouldn’t be enough so I just poured in more milk and of course that spoiled the chowder.

Q: Were you able to keep the helper all through the Depression?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Oh yes.  It was a very close community so a lot of help, and we had doctors and businessmen, bankers, which my father was very much involved in.  I remember being glad to help, I had to go out and give the Christmas presents to people who were in need and that sort of thing.  It was good for me.

Q: And how about you?

Mrs. Newton: Yes… ask me a question.

Q: Well, back in your childhood, what did you do for fun?

Mrs. Newton: Well our neighborhood was a very close community.  We had friends who were right across the street or nearby and I can remember playing dodge ball.  We just loved getting out and doing things like that.  In the summer, we used to go down to Rhode Island and we swam and played tiddlywinks at night.  It was all community oriented.  I was thinking, reading that question, one of the things we liked to do was to sneak out at night.  It seemed like we loved to “put it over” on our parents.  And we would know just where the creaks where on the stairs and we would go downstairs and go out early, very early and go to somebody’s house who wasn’t there at the time.  So that was another amusement.

Q: Do either of you remember… did you go to movies much?  Or listen to the radio, were there radio shows you remember listening to?

Mrs. Kingsbury: I remember listening to the radio.  And we had a very squawky radio with a big horn on it.  But we were outdoors most of the time; we lived on the saltwater.  And we hiked a lot.  We walked everywhere, and there was a wonderful lighthouse down on Crane Beach.  Have you heard of Crane Beach?

Q: Yeah.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Well the lighthouse I guess is not there anymore.  How long since you’ve been down there?

Q: I think it was probably two years ago maybe.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Was the lighthouse there, do you remember a lighthouse?

Q: I don’t remember.

Q: I don’t remember a lighthouse last time I was there either.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Ok well then it’s moved back, but it is on a creek.  Sand dunes and sandbars, that’s where people go now.  And there’s a lot of fishing off the breakwater in Ipswich and Ipswich Bay.  So it’s wonderful life, it always has been for me.

Q: Did either of your families have cars when you were growing up, and did you keep them through the Depression if you did?

Mrs. Newton: Have what?

Q: Cars.

Mrs. Newton: Cars!  We did have cars, yes, and we did have them during the Depression.  I don’t know if this would fit but I remember driving at one point when I was going to school in Cambridge and I remember driving to school everyday, that would have been high school, and I remember having an accident and not thinking much of it, and I wondered afterwards how my father could survive knowing I was out there driving.  But I didn’t get into any serious trouble.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Did you have a license at that time?  Did you get a license?

Mrs. Newton: Yes, so I was at least 16.

Q: So you drove yourself?

Mrs. Newton: Yes, and I remember that after school, because I was the one with the car, we used to do silly things, like put masks on and drive along and we had a lot of fun in the car.

Q: In terms of popular culture, were there any forms of music or sports that stood out to you in this time?

Mrs. Kingsbury: As far as I’m concerned, it was swimming and teaching children to swim.  That was on the ocean.  Then I was sent to sailing camp to learn how to sail.  When I reached camp, I found out that I was the only one who knew how to sail, because I had a sailboat before I went to sailing camp.  That was a good experience because I was responsible for all these kids and their sailboats.  That was a little mistake on their part, and the girl scouts who were running the program.

Q: Were there any sports figures that were like heroes to you, or any actors?

Mrs. Kingsbury: No… I never saw a movie until fairly recently that I went to the movies.  I don’t know why.

Q: How recently?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Oh maybe… 10 years ago. I just wasn’t interested, it’s not something I would do, I’d be outdoors all the time and then be with my family at night.  And we had a lot of “family families” together… neighbors, and then a lot of relatives around, a lot of relatives visiting.  We had family in Maine, family all over the place, so I guess I just remember that sort of thing.  But my grandfather was a professor at the University of Massachusetts so he pretty well taught us the things that we wanted us to maintain.  And just think, when I went to college, as it was called, I know I rode horseback and that sort of thing.  I went to the University of Massachusetts, it was called “Mass Aggie”, and do you know what Aggie is?

Q: No…

Mrs. Kingsbury: Massachusetts Agricultural College, it’s a land grant college, and my grandfather was the head of the Chemistry department.  I spent 4 years there, got my degree, and went into being a nutritionist and teaching college students nutrition, like from Tufts, and that sort of covered early on and until now.  Now I’m retired.

Q: It seems like neither of you were touched too personally by the hardships of the Depression, but do you remember any relatives who were in tough situations, or neighbors?

Mrs. Newton: Could I just talk a little bit about the movies?

Q: Oh, sure.

Mrs. Newton: I remember enjoying radio a good deal, especially when a program called Charlie Chan, I remember picturing it in China, and always wanting to listen to that.  There was something called Roses and Drums, which was about the Civil War.  And then with movies, I remember that they impressed me very much so.  I remember there was one movie, it was probably a murder mystery movie, and I remember that a hand came out from the wall and grabbed some jewels from a woman’s neck. And for several years afterward, I slept with the pillows close up against me.  And then I can remember there was another movie in which someone lost their sight, and I remember worrying about that for a long time.  So those entertainments were pretty vivid.  I’m sorry, you asked me something else?

Q: Did you see Gone With The Wind or the Wizard Of Oz when they first came out?

Mrs. Newton: I did see it, but I don’t have the same vivid impression of it as I did some other movies.  I remember Camel Kade that was Noah Coward’s story of a family and I remember that there was a scene in which a couple had just gotten married and they were standing on a boat, looking out and being completely happy and then they turned and went away, and the boat said “Titanic”.  There was a big lifesaver that said Titanic, and I never forgot that.

Mrs. Kingsbury: You’ve seen that movie Titanic, haven’t you?

Q: Yeah.

Q: On a more political side of it, do you ever remember listening to the radio and hearing the President or somebody else speak on the radio?

Mrs. Newton: I remember hearing Mrs. Roosevelt speak, and that was in Washington.  I don’t remember any very strong impression of her as a speaker because I remember that people used to sort of make fun of her voice, that she had such a strange way of speaking up and down.  I think I didn’t realize how important a person she was, and how really influential until much later.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Let’s see.  My father was head of the Republican State Committee for a long time, and he would invite certain people down to our cottage in the summertime, and they would have meetings, and I remember that; the governor and maybe a couple of senators and so forth in our small cottage on the water.  They liked to have it year round.  That’s about all I remember, that just listening was how I became sort of interested in politics, as a matter of fact.  I learned a lot about the political situation, how it’s organized and so forth.  It’s interesting.

Q: Do you remember any of the president’s programs, that he was installing to try to alleviate the hardships of the Depression, like the CCC or the WPA?

Mrs. Kingsbury: I remember them, but probably not why, hearing about them.  I remember the CCC and the clothing that was passed out, and how they worked in the woods doing other such things.  But I was pretty busy with my family and my father and he was very anxious to have us, with my brother, listen to what he did as a banker.  And then we did have a problem with the Bank Holiday, that was the tough one.  That was very interesting.  I was sent out; I couldn’t drive but I could walk, and I was sent out to take things to people, and help them and my mother was organizer of the Baby’s Hospital in our area, so she spent an awful lot of volunteer time there.  And I don’t know it seemed to me like I was always kind of busy.  And I was sort of a tomboy, I didn’t have much time for friends, they seemed to me further away.  But I did take music lessons.

Q: What kind of music lessons?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Piano… I wish I had played the guitar though.  I didn’t even know what a guitar was, let alone thinking it was a good thing to play.  Do you play guitar, anybody?

Q: No, unfortunately.

Q: Suzanne, did you know anybody in the CCC or anything like that?

Mrs. Newton: Oh, you’re wondering about… well the one I remember was the WPA.  I knew that was a government program, and I can remember people fixing sidewalks and doing that sort of thing, but I didn’t have a broad understanding of FDR’s programs at that time.  Is it OK to answer something I was thinking about?  At some point, something came up about tennis… about favorite sports.  That was one of the biggest positive things in my life, was that there was a man in Winchester who just decided that it was important for girls to have something that they could be proficient in.  He would get us up before school and take us over to practice tennis, and then we would go over to Longwood and play in the tournaments for under 15 and I just remember lying awake at night I was so anxious to be good.  It did develop that that was my one sport and it was just a big part of my life, tennis.  I just wanted to throw that in.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Super!  Spent a lot of time there too.  Wonderful.

Q: Can I ask a question?

Q: Sure.

Q: I’m really interested to know about what did you guys wear?  Did you have special clothes for school or for playing or stuff like that?  Did you always wear skirts?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Let’s see, that’s kind of a hard question.  In the summertime, for a number of years, we wore what was called “beach pajamas.” Do you remember the beach pajamas?

Mrs. Newton: Yes.

Mrs. Kingsbury: They were cool.  It was like a regular pair of pajamas, but I don’t know, women did because it was cool.  Not cool the way you think, meaning great, but cool.  And I swam a lot so I had a proper bathing suit, meaning I didn’t have to wear a life preserver and that sort of stuff.  Some of my friends had to wear a suit that had floaters in it, and that was their life preserver, so just getting into a suit, you had tubes that were flotation.  But I didn’t have to do that because I could swim.  I just spent the summer in the water and the winter skiing, let’s put it that way.  We skied a lot in the winter.

Q: Do you ever recall seeing a “Hooverville”… did you use that term?

Mrs. Newton: No, I don’t know that.

Q: It was sort of a community of people who had been hit really hard by the Depression, might have been out of work.

Q: They didn’t have homes; they sort of lived in shacks.

Mrs. Newton: Oh, really.  No, I don’t remember that.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Was it a plan of Herbert Hoover?

Q: No…

Q: It was more sort of attributed to the fact that Hoover was President at the start of the Depression.

Q: Well as we’ve studied, there was sort of a lot of bitterness against Hoover because he didn’t do very much to try to stop it, so it sort of an ironic thing.

Mrs. Kingsbury: He wasn’t creative, that’s right.  I heard a lot about that.

Q: Roosevelt started a lot of large construction projects, like the Hoover Dam.  Do you remember a lot about those being built?

Mrs. Newton: I don’t remember that coming into my life at all, I’m sorry.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Yes, I went to see the building of the Hoover Dam.  My father and mother took us around a great deal in this section of the country, we went to the Hoover Dam and the big lake and the falls… Yosemite Falls, some of the parks.  We spent a lot of the summers doing that.

Q: I know you said your father was a minister.  So how did religion play a role in your life while you were young?  Did you ever alter how important religion was according to the Great Depression?

Mrs. Newton: The connection with religion and how it affected my life?  I felt my relationship with my father was very comfortable, I loved going to church and seeing him in the pulpit.  I really admired him.  He never made much of religion at home, we didn’t have prayers, it was just a normal kind of comfortable family life.  I always just stayed a Unitarian, I never went through any religious time where I thought I wanted to change my beliefs, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing but I did stay with that faith.

Q: Did you go to church often as a child?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Yes, we went every Sunday.  Unitarian church, or what it was called in those days.  That was very important: to go as a family, and sing in the choir, and that sort of thing on Sundays.  There were a lot of members of the family who we would visit and have dinner or supper.  It was a way of checking up on the older members of the family.  My father was always worried about mother or grandmother.  So there was a lot of visiting.  Some of it was fun, other times we had to sit through it.

Q: Do you have any memories of school as a child?  How did that play a role in your life?

Mrs. Kingsbury: It was wonderful, as a matter of fact.  I enjoyed school very much.  There wasn’t a kindergarten or what you might call a “first grade”—children of a certain age would gather in a school in my town.  Let’s see, how long was it before we had more of an organized situation?  It took time.  So they sent me to a day school, a private day school.  Then I went back to the Wayland High School, Ipswich, I should say, not Wayland.  I stayed there for maybe one or two years and then went back to private school, then university.

Mrs. Newton: I just have a memory of… I think I never tried to act up or do things against the rules, but I just remember that in 6th grade I tried to get everyone to drop their rulers at the same time.  And Mrs. Dresser found out about it and she made me stay after school and make drawings of rulers.  That stayed in my mind.  Otherwise, I never protested anything and had a good time in school.

Q: What kinds of classes did you take?  Was it unusual to go to college as a woman?

Mrs. Kingsbury: No, not at all.  I was just slated to go.  I enjoyed it very much, and they wanted me to go to one school to which my mother went.  I didn’t want to leave my grandfather’s home so I stayed with my grandfather and went to Massachusetts Agricultural College.  He was a wonderful man; he organized all the animal nutrition for the state of Massachusetts.  That was very very important and I was quite enamored with what he was doing, so I stayed around with him and then finally went to the University and finished.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the charitable work that your family was doing; the hospitals and nursing homes that they were establishing?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Yes, my father and mother organized a nursing home.  At the time they did it, my mother and father together bought a home and the people who were having difficult times would be taken there instead of going to the hospital.  They would have a sort of nursing home.  It wasn’t called a nursing home, but it was a home for people who needed to be housed, more elderly people.  My mother helped to staff the babies’ hospital, and she was always there… I guess I was too.  I enjoyed helping her, and she was very active in Red Cross activities.  I don’t know, she was very active.

Q: And do you think that a lot of the people who were admitted in this home were affected badly by the Depression?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Right, I would say so.

Q: So you said that you helped out your mom in the hospital… did you ever have a job for pay while you were a child?

Mrs. Kingsbury: No, never.

Q: How about you, Suzanne?

Mrs. Newton: I couldn’t think of any job that I was paid for except when I really started work.  Did you say you were asking about college, school experience?  I was thinking about how when it was time to go to college, I really didn’t have much confidence and I just went to the school that my family thought would be the right school.  Looking back I wish I had been more confident at that time and reached out and decided to do something I was really excited about.

Q: Was there something in specific that you were thinking of that you regret not pursuing: any specific field?

Mrs. Newton: No, I think I was just following the rules and not really developing any definite tendencies until afterward. I did love singing, my mother was a singer, and eventually when I came along and she could play the piano, I started singing some of the songs that she had liked, Schubert and Shuman and the German Leader, and that was one of the most exciting things that I had done in my life, really.

Q: Where did you go to school?

Mrs. Newton: Smith College.

Q: During those years, do you remember hearing much about world affairs?  The rise of Hitler or…

Q: The Japanese or anything like that?

Mrs. Newton: I just remember that I went abroad with my family, before this, and we stayed in England in a lovely manor house.  There was a German young man who told me that very disturbing things were happening in Germany, and that was the first hint I had of the coming war.

Q: So you said you were interested in politics, right?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Yes.

Q: How did you see Franklin Roosevelt during the time period?

Mrs. Kingsbury: My parents didn’t like Franklin Roosevelt.  They tried to explain why, and I guess I learned a lot in that period, through the family and the neighborhood I lived in.  They felt he was on the wrong track.

Q: Did they think he was too liberal, too conservative… or they just didn’t like him?

Mrs. Kingsbury: I’d say probably too liberal.  I could never figure that one out.

Q: And in your family or community, was Roosevelt popular?

Mrs. Newton: I really don’t think we talked about politics.  That was the sad thing that we never did really discuss it.

Q: But you were saying you recalled Eleanor Roosevelt right, from the radio at least?

Mrs. Newton: I did see her in person, when she spoke at the church in Washington.  That was during the war, this might be a bit later than the period you want to discuss.  But I was in Washington, I went into the Waves, and heard her speak.

Q: Because you both grew up in Massachusetts, do you have any memories of the Hurricane of 1938?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Oh… I do.  That was a bad one.  I have great memories of it.  My parents had left my brother and me; I was 16 at the time, in the care of a neighbor.  They were a man and wife, who said “We’ll keep an eye on her”.  When it struck, the roof of our cottage went off, so we were taken into another family’s home.  Our boat sunk, and that bothered me a great deal to wake up in the morning and see the mast of the rowboat turned over; fortunately we didn’t have the outboard motor on the boat.  My parents were up in a fishing camp that they did ever year without being contacted or able to be contacted, nobody knew what fishing camp it was.  Anyways, we bailed the boats out and went on from there. It was quite a storm.

Mrs. Newton: That was the year I went to college, up to Northampton, I just remember that we didn’t have any electricity in the first few days that I went up to college. That was sort of an exciting memory.  Our summer home down in Rhode Island, the area was very devastated but our house wasn’t harmed.

Q: Along with sort of single events, do you remember the World Fair at all, in New York, in the 30’s?  Did you go to it?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Yes, I did go.  I had a roommate who had a home on Long Island.  How I did it, I don’t know, but my father gave me the car and I drove to Long Island to see her and visit her.  It was vacation time, so I did that.  I don’t think I could whack my car out of a paper bag now, I think “How did I know how to get down there?”… I guess I could read a map or something.

Q: And what was the fair like when you were there?

Mrs. Kingsbury: The fair was very interesting, extremely interesting.  My parents did come later.  I thought it was kind of exciting.

Q: What kind of things did you see there?

Mrs. Kingsbury: They had all kinds of exhibitions.  They had a wonderful swimmer, I can’t remember her name, but you probably all know.  She did a lot of swimming, which was fun to watch.  There were so many things to observe, and I met friends who were in the same class in school.  We had great reunions, and it was good.

Q: Did you go to the fair, Suzanne?

Mrs. Newton: No, I haven’t been to any of the big world fairs.

Q: Do you remember hearing about it at all?

Mrs. Newton: I’m afraid I didn’t.  I know I was aware, but I don’t remember any special incident when I learned about it.  I’m sorry.

Q: That’s fine.  Do you think that the Great Depression sort of has lasting effects in America today?  I know you weren’t affected too grievously, fortunately.

Mrs. Kingsbury: I think that we all recovered from it.  I was fortunate to have it not hurt me, in other words I was not hungry and I did learn a lot helping other people, that was the big thing for me, to learn that I could be of help and I always liked to help somebody.  It was fun helping people and I guess I’ve done that ever since.

Mrs. Newton: It seems as if we’re heading perhaps in the same direction again, that is worrisome.  I had never thought about it as connecting with today until I began thinking about it in connection with this program.

Q: We’ve learned that some people today are a bit more frugal it seems than people who didn’t experience the Depression, that we spend a lot more today on things that are not really necessary.  How do you think we’ve changed since the Depression?

Mrs. Kingsbury: That’s a hard one.

Mrs. Newton: Gee, I don’t know.

Q: Were your parents really frugal, and did they sort of instill those values in you?

Mrs. Kingsbury: Well, absolutely.  They were people who did things for other people, and so I learned the lesson there in many ways.  It was sort of a thing that for me was interesting and felt good.

Q: All right well, I think we’ve covered all our questions.

Mrs. Kingsbury: You have done a very good job.

Q: Thank you.  And thanks for coming here.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Glad to do it, it was very nice.

Mrs. Newton: Thank you very much.

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