INTERVIEW WITH SHEILA FAERBER and EILEEN VOGEL by Shirley Ricci
November 23, 1996
SR: This is an interview with Sheila Faerber and Eileen Vogel, the date is November 23, 1996, at 10:00, and this is on speakerphone. So we’ll start by…I’d like to know from you when were you at Hunter College? We’ll start with Eileen.
EV: I was there in 1954, and I went to the uptown campus. I graduated in 1954, that’s right. I started in 1950, I should say, and I was uptown for two years at the uptown campus, and then I was downtown for two years.
SR: What was the difference in the campuses?
EV: Oh, uptown is like an out of state campus. It’s got the green, rolling lawns and separate buildings, and it’s really like a Cornell or something like that. The buildings are magnificent there.
SR: Do you know if they still exist?
EV: Pardon me?
SR: Do they still exist?
EV: Yes, but not as Hunter. It’s not Hunter any more. I forget what it is.
EV: Oh, it’s Lehman College now, right.
SR: So it’s still part of the City University of New York?
EV: That’s right.
SR: Then the time you that spent at Hunter College as we know it now, were they the later years?
EV: That’s right, that would be 1953-4.
SR: Why did you…
EV: You had to go down for the last two years, that was the way they had it set up at that time. You were only allowed to go there when you were in freshman and sophomore year, and then you had to switch to the downtown campus for your junior and senior years. That’s how they set it up at that time. And when you picked your majors and your minors, then you went downtown. At the beginning it was just the liberal arts courses uptown, for the first two years. That’s how they differentiated.
SR: All right, so we’ll bring Sheila in now, because then we can talk about some arts.
SF: Okay, this is Sheila. Hello. I went downtown, from 1956-60, I was at downtown campus. It’s just a building, it’s like a big, tall office building. There are 16 floors. You’re there. You go there now, do you attend there?
SF: So I was there for four years because I was an art major, and art majors had to go downtown. Art majors, music majors, nursing majors, home economics I think, they all had to be at the downtown building for the four years. There were no requirements, there were no special requirements at that time. You could go uptown for four years if you wanted to. But if you were a particular major, you had to go to the downtown campus.
SR: What year was that?
SR: Were there guys attending college then?
SF: Yes, but most of them were art and music majors. It was definitely coed. I think it became co-ed in 1956.
EV: That’s right, in 1956 it became co-ed. Well, 1955.
SR: Eileen, you were there before it was co-ed?
EV: I started uptown without any guys there, and it became coed I think it was the second year, I think in 1955 it started co-ed.
SR: You had mentioned previously to me that things changed at Hunter because the guys…
EV: Oh, definitely, it was a definite change in attitude with the girls. Everything was different. They started dressing differently because the guys were there. And I think it distracted a lot. I was very unhappy with it. I was much more relaxed having it an all girl school. I really enjoyed that much more. Once the guys came, it was a whole different attitude about the place.
SF: Did the standards lower because of that?
EV: No. Just the attitudes, because…you know, the attitudes, the way people dressed, even the way the girls reacted, you could just see it.
SR: What sort of subjects were they learning?
EV: Pardon me?
SR: What sort of subjects were they studying?
EV: The boys? Well, it was liberal arts, so they took a smattering of everything just like we were doing. It was no different. They had to do what we did.
SR: Sheila, when you were there, the guys were already there. Were there many more guys in the art classes than there were…
SF: No, there were more girls. There were more females than males. What I wanted to say was though, that I think…and Eileen can back me up on this…I think that the boys started coming as part of the GI plan.
EV: That was earlier. In fact, we have an uncle who had gone there. I think it was back in 1947 or even before that. They did have a GI bill there, on the uptown campus. And GIs were allowed to attend there. Then that stopped for a while and it became all girls again, and then they admitted guys upon graduation from high school. That’s the way they worked it.
SR: So then, Sheila, if the girls were in the art classes and the guys were there, were they treated any different?
SF: No. It was wonderful. I was very, very comfortable there, and I didn’t see any difference at all. I have a feeling maybe it was because they were just very creative. We were all very creative people, and that was just the attitude.
EV: Well, I think that you had nothing to compare it with. I had a year of all girls, and I knew what it was like, and then I saw the change when the guys came in. But you never had it all girls, you went right from high school where it was co-ed into the college that was co-ed. But you see, I had the year of all girls.
SF: That could be very, very true. I didn’t think of that. But that was the feeling that I got. As I said, there were just a few trickling in who were not music and art majors, the boys. And the ones…we were all very close, because it was a really tight knit group. We spent the time…the music and art departments are on the 15 and 16 floors and they were solely music and art. At least it was then. And it was very close, a very close group, very friendly people, very down to earth people. That’s what I remember.
SR: What about the professors that taught you the art subjects?
SF: They were wonderful. Some of them weren’t, but most of them were.
SR: Who were the nice ones?
SF: The famous artists. My famous artist teachers. Well, you have the picture there, right?
SR: I have.
SF: So you see…did we give you a list of who they are? Robert Motherwell, who was a very famous artist, who at the time was married to Helen Frankenthaler, another artist. He was very annoyed. You could see it in his whole attitude. He was very annoyed. He was just there to make money, to earn some sort of a salary to keep him going, because he was a lecturer, and his whole body language showed that he just couldn’t wait to get out of there. He kept looking at his watch and he kept rubbing his forehead as if he were saying, oh my God, when the heck is this going to be over?
EV: He wasn’t a teacher, that’s it, you see. He wasn’t set up to be a teacher.
SF: There were others who were artists who…is this my phone? Is my phone making noise?
SR: No, it’s not bad.
SR: It is making a noise.
SF: (inaudible) as I talk. It’s hissing.
SF: I’m trying to change my position, but I can’t…isn’t that funny, all of a sudden? Is this better? I’m standing up in the middle of the room. William Baziotes – this is not in that picture – he was a very famous artist at the time, he was hanging in museums, and he was so wonderful, so down to earth, and we used to take our breaks together from the class and go out into the stairwell and smoke cigarettes with him. He was just wonderful. He was the best.
SR: He taught you painting?
SF: He taught painting, all different kinds. There was oil painting, water color…
SF: Well, charcoal wasn’t a separate class, but (inaudible)
EV: But I remember your charcoal work.
SF: And he taught painting. Then there was Richard Lippold, who still I think does wire sculpture. He’s hanging in the Four Seasons Restaurant, and he was in some museums. He does wire sculpture, like a Calder, and he was also very, very nice. Not as sociable. Baziotes, he was the most sociable of them all. And Richard Lippold was just a wonderful, wonderful man, and then there was Gabor Peterdi, he’s pictured in there with the dark mustache.
SR: What’s the name again?
SF: Peterdi. He also taught painting. He’s another artist. Then there were others who were…weren’t as personable but they were nice. And then there was one teacher who taught, who isn’t in the picture, a younger man who taught interior design, because I majored in commercial art and he was the one who told us, you do realize that for the first two years of your careers you’re going to be gofers. You know what a gofer is?
SF: Since I was graduating on June 14 and getting married on June 19, and at that time a lot of women believed in staying home and having their babies and being housewives, that’s what I was thinking, and I never went into the art field.
SR: So you graduated, you got married.
SF: I got married and I became a receptionist in the business and I never continued in the art career. I mean, I did art for volunteer work. I did some for my synagogue and some for an organization that I belonged to. I did monthly bulletins and things like that, but never as a career.
SR: Did colleagues, peers of yours (inaudible)
SF: I only know of one. I only know of one who worked, who graduated with a bachelor of fine arts (that’s higher up than I was) and that was what they called the 44 credit art major. She only took art. And she worked under Richard Lippold, and she went into sculpture, but I don’t know whatever happened to her because I never followed anybody.
SR: What was her name?
SF: Marilyn Perrera.
SR: What year would that be?
SF: She graduated with me.
SF: In 1960. I think she might have graduated in January, 1960, but I have it in my yearbook. If you’d like, I can take a look, but it was in 1960. It was either January or June.
SR: How long did Robert Motherwell stay there? I don’t believe he stayed too long.
SF: I don’t know. He was there for the years that I was there, and I don’t know when he left.
SR: He taught you art history?
SF: He taught me art history, yes.
SR: How did you find him?
SF: He hated every second of it. He couldn’t stand being there. He was just there to support himself. It looked like he was there to support himself so that he could get some money to finance his art career.
SR: How about his wife, did she teach there?
SF: No, she didn’t teach there, but at the time, that’s when he was married to her and I understand that he’s not married to her any more.
SR: What sort of materials did you use for your paintings?
SF: Oils. Is that what you mean?
SF: Not acrylics. Acrylics weren’t out yet. So I used oil, pastel, charcoal, water color, then we did sculpture.
SR: Who did you take sculpture with?
SF: His last name is Rubins, and he’s there in the picture. I think he’s the one all the way over on the right. I don’t remember his first name, but there was nothing special about his personality or anything, or what they taught. They were pretty good. Life drawing, we had these nude models. There I felt a little uncomfortable at the very beginning because there were boys and girls in the class, and they were nude models just sitting there. Until after the first couple of times, then I realized hey, this is art, and this is what I mean about how comfortable we were. Nobody said anything. This is art and these people were there making a living and being very bored sitting there for an hour.
SR: Did they ask you to do large pieces or small, in terms of scale?
SF: Whatever we wanted. Not really very large, large enough just to handle, to be able to lift and walk around with, not anything for walls or anything, you know, for frescoes or anything like that. It was just…
SR: Did they give you a set format with a particular project in mind?
SF: Well, the set project might have been that there was a model up there for anything, for sculpture, for painting, for anything.
EV: Still life.
SF: Still life, right. If you wanted to do it, you did it. If you didn’t, you made up your own, from your own imagination.
SR: So it was lifelike or real, or you could do abstracts?
SF: You could do anything you wanted.
SR: Anything you wanted?
SR: How were you graded?
SF: Also textile design. Then you went into the commercial part of it with textile design and lettering, and stage design and costume design. As a matter of fact, do you know something? My sister…that teacher’s name was Mrs. Luetz. I remember that name.
EV: It was in my book.
SF: Yes. She’s in my picture also, but I didn’t know her name until I saw my sister’s book. I think it’s Lutz or Leutz or something like that, and she taught the stage design and there was another lady down, sitting down, Mrs. Linwood , I think her name was. She taught like lettering and costume design, you know, they were into the costume and commercial and costume and stage design, and
EV: (inaudible) and Sheilaâ€¦ were the art people used for the “thing” project to do…
EV: They used professionals for that?
SF: No, we did it ourselves, that’s what I’m saying. With the art people…
EV: The art students. You people were the ones who did the scenery. The art students did. They don’t have the same projects any more at the end of the year. I don’t think so.
SF: No, they stopped when I was…I think they didn’t have it any more when I was a senior. Do you know what we’re talking about?
SR: Not really.
SF: Thing was a show that was put on by the students at the end of the year, from each year, and a group of people, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors would put on shows, and they would compete against each other to have a winner. I don’t know why, but it was just a thing that we did, a college project that we all did, a volunteer thing, and it was just fun to do and we made our own costumes and we made our own set designs and it was all out on a stage, and we used professional music, but we made up our own words, and we had…
EV: Where did you get the words for it? The words that you used when you use a known song, but then you put in your own words?
SR: Like improvise?
EV: No, it’s not improvise. I can’t think of the word. That’s par for the course.
SR: This was all students at Hunter would join in with this, or just…
EV: Anyone who wanted to volunteer in your year, you would volunteer and you would practice with them, and then there were costumes that you wore. Each year…you just sat on benches. That’s the way you had to do the performance. Except for the leader.
SF: Maybe Arnie could bring my book and give her pictures of things just to show what it is.
SR: Yes, that would be great.
SF: As a matter of fact, I’m in it. I, Sheila, said I’m in one of the pictures in the book. But you see now, Eileen didn’t volunteer in those things, I did. I loved it, I really thought it was great. The spirit was wonderful and we really enjoyed doing it. We had a “leader”, she would stand up in the front and make sure everybody was singing, lead us in song.
EV: And she’d jump around and do her own little dance for everybody while she was leading the rest of the group.
SR: You used to watch it, Eileen.
EV: Oh, it was wonderful to go and see, it was the greatest show, it really was.
SR: This was open to the public?
EV: I don’t think so.
SF: Our parents went, I think.
EV: It probably was, but I don’t think too many people might have been interested in anything like that, because it’s really unprofessional. It’s really amateurs just putting on a show. But the art group…
SF: I mentioned it because the art group was the one who did the scenery. I sort of remember that. And the lighting and all that. I didn’t even really think of that because being the art major and being in it, I guess I never thought of it as being anything special, but I guess it really was, because the art people did it. It just came naturally to me, just joined in and helped, and I made costumes and the guys were able to lift the heavier stuff, they put up the scenery although there were a lot of people who volunteered to paint it while these plaques were lying on the floor. So it was a fun thing to do. That was the competition.
EV: What was the prize, though?
SF: I don’t even remember.
EV: Some kind of award.
SF: I don’t even remember. I don’t even know if there was a prize.
EV: It was just an award, you know that for that particular school year, or let’s say, through to 1983 that the seniors won, or the juniors won, or whoever won. It was just one of those things.
SF: It was really like a fun, innocent, school thing in school. It was just a fun thing to do. I guess you see how little made us happy. We just had an award, who knows, maybe it was even as much as putting up on a wall on a plague, this class won for this year. And you know something, the leaders of that competition usually not only were very popular in the class, and that’s why they became the leaders, but they also stayed very popular because I remember our group for the seniors was Sally Jane Height, she was the leader, and she went into show business after that.
EV: Sally Jane Height?
SF: Yes. Heit, or something like that.
EV: Now she’s in show business?
SF: She was ,I know, years ago.
EV: She’s an old lady now.
SF: A chanteuse or whatever.
EV: She’s my age now, of course.
SF: That’s ancient. And Joan Masket, I think she was the leader of the class just in front of us. I guess Sally Jane Heit must have been our junior leader, and Joan Masket was the senior leader at that time, and she’s very active in the…still at Hunter with the graduates, the alumni, that’s the word I wanted. What kind of paper are you writing? Is it for art majors? For college graduates? What is it?
SR: This is an oral history of Hunter College and people’s experience. Really mostly the arts scene at the time in New York City, and the experiences that you had at Hunter College, whether you were a professor or a student. So these are your experiences of being students.
SF: As part of the classes, one of the requirements was…well, different requirements for each class, but visiting museums, and we would have to report back or write papers on what we had seen, or like that. The teachers never really let it be known publicly, or they didn’t flaunt in our face that they were famous artists that were hanging in museums, but we happened to see them as we walked through the museums, and it became really like part of my…that was what I did for four years. It was a wonderful four years. It was a wonderful four years, wonderful, wonderful four years. I really felt comfortable, and the people were so nice. It was very enjoyable for me.
SR: Do you remember who the chairman was at the time?
SF: The chairman of what?
SR: Of the art department.
EV: That would probably be in your year book.
SF: No, it’s not in my year book.
EV: It’s not in the year book?
SF: I looked, it’s not.
EV: You don’t have names. I have names written down.
SF: Eileen’s year book from 1956, they just have…
SF: They just have the chairman of the department and the name under it. In my book, in 1960, they just have (inaudible). In my book they just had all the teachers of the department, with no names.
EV: That was silly, so you forget.
SR: Sheila, can you remember what the art scene was like in New York in the late fifties, sixties?
EV: Like down in the Village?
SF: It wasn’t as wild as…is that what you mean by down in the Village?
SF: No. I really wasn’t too much a part of that scene.
SR: Did you have any like cafes and restaurants that you guys would hang out in?
SF: No. We never did that. I don’t know if they did that afterward. They might have. I could see them doing it afterwards because…
EV: You were still students then really when you came down to it.
SF: We were very busy taking the subway train to get to our classes, and to do what we had to do, and then we would have breaks and we would play bridge and do things like that, but we would stay in the building. We always stayed in the building. We used to look across the street. The Russian embassy was right across the street on 68th and Park.
SR: That’s what it is?
SF: Yes. There’s another one, I think, a couple of houses away, but we would look over there and say gee, I wonder what they’re doing. And that was it. That was the excitement. And Eleanor Roosevelt was also housed in one of the buildings, I think probably, at the time, because she was a member of the UN, and I think she was living right across the street also on Park Avenue.
EV: I didn’t know that.
SF: Yes. At my time, anyway. I just found it very innocent. It was just a fun time.
SR: You enjoyed yourself.
SF: We all did, we all loved it. But as I said, it was the art majors and the music majors, there were some nursing students and some home economic students who we were friendly with also. You know, during our breaks we would get together in the student lounge and we would play bridge and it was just a fun, innocent time. The morals were so different from today, that it’s difficult for me to even comprehend today. Today’s morals. It was just a fun time.
SR: Your fellow students that you had art classes with, did any ever get to exhibit any of their works?
SF: I don’t know. As soon as we were all graduated, as far as I know we just went on our own lives. I got married, and everybody was doing other things. There’s one person who I graduated from college, who I’m still friendly with, who I went to kindergarten with. We went through school together, we went through college together, we went to each other’s weddings, and we’re still friendly to this day. As a matter of fact, one of her daughters, her daughter just got married, and she’s still friendly with a few people who we went to school with. But I’m not (inaudible)
EV: I think if you look in the library, Shirley, you might find all these year books, because I see in Sheila’s book here they have a Roosevelt House, which is on Park Avenue, and I’m sure that that’s the building that Eleanor Roosevelt was in. I’m just trying to read this quickly. That is probably still there and probably still called Roosevelt House.
SR: Eileen, when you left college, you didn’t get married?
EV: Yes, I did, right away.
SR: You did?
EV: Right. I graduated in 1954 in June, and I got married in August.
SF: To Arnold.
EV: To Arnold.
SF: Right, and I got married 5 days later. Can you imagine my parents?
EV: Five years later?
SF: Five days after I graduated from college.
EV: I thought you meant for me.
SF: I graduated like I said, June 14, and I got married June 19.
SR: Did you do something with your degree?
SF: No. Then I didn’t get a job all summer. I just lounged around all summer, and then in September, I got a job as a receptionist in the garment center in New York, in Manhattan, and that’s what I did for a couple of years until I had my children.
EV: My father wasn’t happy about that. He wanted her to use her art degree and do something. But it just didn’t work out that way.
SR: We’ll never know now, will we?
EV: No, I think she might have become a great artist then. We have her paintings around, I still have them in my house.
SR: You do?
EV: Yes. I have some of her earlier works.
SR: What does it look like?
EV: It looks unprofessional.
SF: You just did that because I’m her sister.
EV: You can see it was a learning experience, early on, but it was very nice. I hung them up in my house.
SR: Who influenced you?
SF: Me, Sheila?
SF: Who influenced me? My father. My father stood over me with a whip. I don’t know, I think it was probably him. I’m sorry it’s not more romantic than that, but I think that’s what it was.
SR: So you didn’t particularly like…did any artist, his work, draw you into the type of work you did?
EV: No. I just…
SF: You just really continued school as if it was high school extended. Most of us were like that at the time, only we were…what should I say…amazed at how the requirements of course were elevated from high school. In high school, you know, you used to hand in a paper, and most of the time you got a good mark on it. I remember the first year that I was there in my English course, I had to write a midterm paper on Algernon Charles Swinburne, who was a poet. And I spent Saturday after Saturday after Saturday at the NY Public Library on 42nd Street, and I worked so hard on it, so hard, and I got a D on the paper, and I was absolutely torn apart by it because I had never, ever in all my school years gotten a D, and here in college I got a D. Of course, that was the primary…not the primary, the required course, the first paper. Then she tore it apart and showed you how to fix it, so you went back and you redid it. So of course I raised my mark up, but for me to have gotten a D, and this was a rude awakening, you see. People thought it was just an extension of high school, and it wasn’t. People didn’t know how to study, we all found out we didn’t know how to study, because we were never taught that in high school. It was a shocker when we saw how you were supposed to behave in college.
EV: The way I describe it is, people who are going into college…
SIDE TWO, Nov. 23, 1996
EV: I was just wondering if you were interested in any of the social side of Hunter, because we had a lot of organizations and clubs, and like the newspaper and the Wisterians, which is the yearbook, and each subject had a club, like the archaeology club, the biology club, the Spanish club and things like that. But we also had sororities and fraternities and house plans. House plans were on a little lower level than the sororities. A sorority is a national organization, and a house plan is just local.
EV: And I belonged to a house plan and it was just great. Sheila didn’t belong to anything.
SR: You had enough to do with your painting.
SF: I did.
SR: That’s interesting.
EV: So that was an interesting fact, and we used to set up parties with another group, with another house plan from another college. We used Roosevelt House a lot for that. They’d give us some rooms there and we used to use it because it was more comfortable, with couches, and it was a more pleasant setting than just having it in the school.
SF: Eileen, let me ask you something: did your house plan move downtown, like all the girls in one group – they moved down together?
EV: Right. We all started in uptown Hunter, probably the second year, and then we all moved downtown, and we were still together throughout all our college.
SR: Were your subjects fixed, that you had to follow a certain course?
EV: You mean in the house plans, or you mean in the whole school?
SR: In the whole school, so that when you moved down to next subject or your next course, that all you people were all the same people you’d had the last course with?
EV: Well, there were required courses, they were called required courses that you had to take, and with some of the classes that you had to take, there were what they called prerequisites. So in other words, if you were taking a course in biology, let’s say one day you had to take a course in chemistry and then you look at the literature for that course before you sign up for it, and you say oh, gee, I have to have a semester of biology and a semester of anthropology or something.
SF: I think you meant socially, did we move from one class to another.
EV: Is that what you meant?
EV: No, we all had our own thing. We were all different majors and we all did our own thing educationally, but socially we were together and we were friendly outside of school, so we became friendly outside of school even though some of us lived in different areas. I lived in the West Bronx, and I had a lot of friends, most of my friends in fact who were in my house plan lived in the East Bronx, and we didn’t have cars in those days. So when we get together it’s either by bus or by train. But it didn’t matter to us, it was just part of life.
SR: What did you do in these house plans?
SF: Don’t ask. (inaudible)
EV: No really, we just had parties. We just liked to meet guys from other schools, and we did, and some of us did meet guys from other schools. I think one of them, as I remember, one or two of the girls in my house plan even married some of the guys that they met at a social event. But most of the time it was parties. Either the guys had the parties and invited us, as a house plan, or we had the party and invited another group. You know you didn’t go to bars then. You did a lot of this kind of socializing in school. We would never go to a bar to meet a guy, not in those days.
SR: Sheila, did you have the same sort of thing?
SF: I didn’t have that kind of a social group, but it’s true, I was (inaudible) it’s the morality I think, that’s the only way I could describe it. We didn’t do that either, we didn’t go to bars. I spent a lot of time every Friday night, I went to a roller skating rink and I met all the same group of people there, and we became very friendly, and you know, you would meet boys. I think it was more innocent. I mean, people really did the same things that they’re doing today, but they didn’t talk about it, they weren’t as free to talk about it, but I think that in general you have to say that it was a much more innocent, fun time. Just looking at the back of the Wisterian, which is the year book, and I see pages on class history. You would find a lot of information there.
EV: Do you go to Hunter College?
EV: Why don’t you try the library there?
SF: That’s what I said to her, I told her that.
EV: I thought you were saying the 42nd Street Library.
SF: No, the Hunter library.
EV: I’m sure they must have a record of all these year books, and if you go through it I think you’ll find a lot of information. Right here, in class history, it says that this was a time of discord, this was a time of harmony, and the discord was harmony and the harmony discord. You see, in 1956-60, the world was in a whirl, a world repetitious in a singular world. Eisenhower began again and we began anew. I mean, you’ll find a lot of information here that might help you, and there are pictures there, too, if you need it for the sixties. You’ll be able to make copies of pictures in the other yearbooks that we don’t have.
SR: Yes, that’s true. I’ll take a look, see what they have.
EV: Definitely. There must be a section where they have them all.
SR: So basically you enjoyed your stay at Hunter?
EV: Yes. We loved it. Although to tell you the truth, I wanted to go to an out of town college, and my father said he just couldn’t afford to send me. Hunter at the time cost us $10 as a bursar fee for my first year. Books were free at Hunter. The other city colleges you had to pay for books, but we had free books. We used to stand on line at the beginning of the year and wait your turn to ask for all the books you needed for all your subjects.
SR: What about materials for art work? That’s…
EV: No,that we paid for ourselves.
SF: That’s different. But I wanted to talk about money for a minute. This is Sheila again. When I went to Hunter College in 1956, it cost us $15 a semester for each semester, and then in my sophomore year it cost $17 for a semester, and then in my junior year it was $19 a semester, and in my senior year it was $21 a semester, and we were outraged. Again, we got our books free and we would stand on line and wait for these books and we were just so annoyed because the books that they loaned to us (inaudible) might not have been in good condition, and people might have written notes in the corners, in the margins, and we were very annoyed. And then to make matters even worse, and I’m being very sarcastic, they sent a notice around saying that in the following semester – this is after I would have graduated – they were going to have to buy their books. We couldn’t believe it.
EV: And I had a friend from my house plan who volunteered her time at the book place, and every time one of us would come up, we’d say make sure you give us a good book now, one that it’s in good condition, and then we’d think we were lucky. We would return the books at the end of the semester. That’s another thing about innocence and about honesty and about morals. We returned them. We didn’t try to sneak and hide them and keep them. We returned them, because that’s what you did.
SR: So Sheila, you didn’t use your degree at all?
SF: No, I didn’t.
SR: Eileen, did you use your degree?
EV: Yes. I was a teacher for 25 years. I’m retired now. I’ve been retired for 4 years, and yes, I always wanted to be a teacher, so I knew the direction I was heading. I wanted to go to Oswego, which was the state teacher’s college, but as I said before, my father felt he just couldn’t send me. So I ended up at Hunter, that was my second choice, but I was very happy there.
SR: You got a job immediately you left?
EV: I got a job. I graduated in June and I didn’t get a job right away. I got a job I remember in October. I started the day after Columbus Day.
EV: 1954. Right. I started October 13, right after Columbus Day. So I was just a month outside of the full term.
SF: Let me tell you also that I don’t know what it’s like now, but at the time when Eileen and I went to Hunter College, there was no education major. You had to minor in it.
EV: Right. I was a psychology major, but an education minor, but the education minor was even more credits than the major. And the student teaching came at the end, and that was…I forget how many credits that was now. I think it was 6-8 credits or something like that. But I graduated with about 128 credits…no, 130 credits, I think, from a major and a minor. So it was really like two majors, but they just wouldn’t say that it was a major.
SR: When you were interviewed, people were inspired by the fact that you had been to Hunter?
EV: Yes, definitely. Hunter was a very renowned name in education. It was known as a teacher’s school. It used to be a normal school before it became a college.
SR: It was called a normal school, wasn’t it?
EV: What’s that?
SR: It was called a normal school?
EV: Yes, it was called a normal school.
SF: What does that mean?
EV: That’s the way they referred to a teacher’s school, it was a teacher’s college.
SF: I wouldn’t want to go to a school that was called a normal school.
SR: But you’re an artist.
SF: That’s right. I’m not normal.
EV: That’s true. So it had a very well founded, grounded name in education. I’m so proud of that fact that I’m a Hunter grad.
SR: Did you graduate with a good GPA?
EV: Yes. It wasn’t the best, but…
SF: Eileen Joan Krakow Vogel was what they called a studier, oh did she study. And she would keep me up at night and I would just want to close my eyes. We shared a room, and I would want to…no, she has to study. I wasn’t the studier as you could probably tell.
EV: I used to stay up to all hours of the night. As Sheila said, we shared a room, so I had to have the light on at my desk, and I tried to put books and papers over the light so that she wouldn’t get the shine from the light in her eyes. But it was really terrible that she had to put up with those conditions. But that’s how I was. I was at my desk. But you see, that was life, and it was accepted, that’s the way it was. Everybody made do, and it was family, and that’s what you did.
SR: So Eileen, you knew you wanted to be a teacher?
EV: Yes, from the time I was a little girl. My father was an accountant, a CPA, and he had access to a lot of paper, and he knew that I loved paper, because I always wanted to be a teacher and I loved the paper closet in school, and I always used to love to keep the paper packs straight. He used to bring me all colors of paper, and I used to pretend I was a teacher, and I would make my sister be one of the pupils, and any of the little kids on the floor. They used to come in and we used to play school and I was the teacher. Oh, my God. Do you remember that, Sheila?
SF: Now her daughters are in it, and now her granddaughters are in it.
SR: Sheila, did she try and teach you?
SF: Well, she was my big sister, you know. She was six years older than me and was always very annoying to me because she always made me do rigid things that I never wanted to do.
SR: Did you want to do the art degree?
SF: Yes, I loved it. I really loved it. The thing is though, at that time, if you weren’t really excellent or really…if you didn’t stand out in a group, you didn’t really think too much, you really had to be spectacular I think. I think the thing that was on most people’s minds were getting married and washing diapers, you know. I think that was just the times.
SR: The guys wouldn’t have been thinking that.
SR: So the guys…
SF: But I don’t know about those guys because I never really got into their heads. All I knew was that we just all had a very good time. We had drafting courses also for electrical engineering. I know Arnie, my brother-in-law, did drafting when I was took that course. I hated it, but Arnie helped me a little bit, and I got through it. As a matter of fact, in that picture of the group of art teachers, he’s in that group, too, Mr. Stimson, his name is. He’s the little guy, I think he’s wearing glasses and he’s wearing like a lab coat or something. He was one of my teachers, see what I mean?
SR: What did he teach you?
SF: He taught me drafting.
SR: Because you were commercial…
SF: Commercial art, yes. There were what they called 24 credit art majors, 44 credit art majors. The 44 credit art majors…oh, I was a 44 credit art major, that meant that you didn’t minor in anything like Eileen did. In other words, it was all art courses. And then there was the 60 credit art major, that’s where you graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, which is what that Marilyn Perrera did. There were very few of those. But they worked with the teachers, and they did a lot of extra work, and they were a lot more serious about their art than most.
SR: Did they paint in the same building?
SF: Yes. Or they would stay different hours, or they would work at home and bring it, but I doubt if they would work at home and bring it. They probably worked longer hours at school.
EV: Shirley, are you an art history major?
SR: No, studio arts.
EV: Studio arts. What does that mean? I don’t even know what that means?
SR: Painting. Not the art history. 44 credit.
EV: 44 credit?
SF: That’s what I did, and when I took…when I switched over from teaching art to secondary school students, I switched to commercial arts. That’s when I started taking all the other classes. Are they still in existence, these classes, drafting and lettering and stage design and costume design, interior design?
SR: I don’t see these courses offered, but I do believe that there’s a Professor Juan Sanchez who does book binding and they occasionally offer costume design, but these are not courses that are offered every semester, that’s for sure.
SF: I think it was wonderful then. We had such opportunities. We never even appreciated them, and they were just wonderful. But as I said, those were the commercial art courses, and then we had painting and water color and sculpture and metal design.
SF: Metal shop. Richard Lippold was in that, where we would learn how to do the welding and the Bunsen burners and all the welding stuff. It was terrific.
SR: You liked Richard Lippold?
SF: Richard Lippold taught that, among other classes, but I know he taught that.
EV: It sounds like it was more of a variety of choices back then than you have now.
SR: It does, doesn’t it?
EV: Yes, definitely. My goodness. I didn’t even realize how many different courses she took.
SF: That’s what I mean, it was just so full and so much fun, because it was something that you really loved, and that’s all we did. So who wouldn’t love something like that?
SR: Whoever is transcribing this, take note that we need more variety.
EV: Definitely, or we need the variety back again. They used to have it.
SR: That’s right.
EV: Lettering, did I say lettering?
EV: It was wonderful.
SR: Where did you keep all your supplies?
SF: Took it home with us. I had a big portfolio that I used to schlep onto the train and bring it home, and bring it back again the next day. I still have it in my basement as a matter of fact. One of those real big…with two black card sides, and it closed with a ribbon or velcro or something, and you dragged it home with you, too big to hold even under your arm, you know.
SR: What did you do with your oil paintings then?
SF: I gave them to some family, and a couple of friends, and I have some here. That’s all. I didn’t have an overabundance of those things.
SR: I meant when you were working on them, you couldn’t take that home every night.
SF: We would leave them in the studio, in the classroom.
SR: And then it was quite safe and it didn’t get…
SR: …with the next class?
SF: It was safe. I never even thought of it. That’s what I meant again, no one would sabotage it. It was safe there.
SR: Was it a big art program with lots of students?
SF: It was a large program, but it was smaller than most. The music and the arts were strictly housed on the 15th and 16th floors. Is that still the way it is?
SR: No, we have 15th, 16th, and the 11th floors. And music on 4 and 5. They’re separate.
SF: No, these were together, and I guess it was smaller. But you see, it’s smaller, but there was more variety. That’s interesting.
SR: Well, okay guys, we’ll call this a wrap.
SF: I hope we gave you enough information.
SR: I hope so. What I’m going to do is let my professor hear it, and if he thinks that there are things that he would me like to elaborate on, maybe I could just ask another quick question or two, if there was anything he needed to know.
SF: Sure, just let me know. And we’ll get together again.
EV: I would suggest that you look in the library about these Wisterian year books and take a look at them and then you could get pictures out of them, you can make copies of things. I think that’s a very good idea.
SR: Good idea. Well, you’re very welcome, you guys, to pop down any time you like and look around at our facilities.
EV: As I said, I haven’t been there since I graduated, which was in 1954, and I know that they’ve added the other buildings now, and they’ve added the passover or crossover the street and everything. I mean I’ve seen pictures of that, but I’ve never been down there.
SF: Do they still have the subway entrance?
SR: Yes. You know that one of the guys, Arnold, worked with, designed the flyover bridge, don’t you?
SR: Yes. Who did that thing? Ed Rosen designed that bridge.
EV: Ed Rosen? Oh, my goodness. That’s interesting, very interesting.
SR: Sheila, just as a closing, did they do photography?
SF: No, they did not do photography. Let me try to get it straight, they did sculpture, three dimensional design and two dimensional design. I think that was part of the industrial arts, the commercial art classes. They did lettering, stage design, costume design, drafting…I’m going out of order, oil painting, water color…stop me if I’m repeating myself…I think maybe that’s all.
SR: Did they do silk screen printing?
SF: No, textile design.
SR: Did you make the textile?
SF: We didn’t make the textile, we just did the design and the repeat, we were taught that there’s a certain size roller when they manufacture and there’s a repeat and how to design something, design a fabric so that the repeat can be on the roller.
SR: Any lithograph or anything like that?
SF: No. I’m glad you’re asking, because then I can…I don’t think that there was anything else…the models, life drawing.
SR: Life drawing, yes.
SF: I can’t remember any more.
SR: So no photography?
SF: No. Definitely not.
SF: Well, we do have good facilities for photography.
SF: Really? Now that I’m thinking of it,
maybe they were starting something and I wasn’t interested in that. That could very well be. I’m not sure. I wouldn’t swear to that. It’s over 30 years. Now that I’m thinking of it, maybe there was something where some of the guys showed some interest. I don’t remember. I might be just planting these ideas in my own head. I don’t remember.
SR: Then art history, what sort of…
SF: Art history, that I would have. I don’t remember if there were special classes on like Renaissance and each separate era. (inaudible) my sister just picked up the other phone. This is it up here. I’m sorry, what were you saying?
SR: What did they teach you on the modern history?
SF: I don’t remember. I just remember that they gave us, or we had to buy, no they probably gave us like 4 x 5 glossies of all kinds of paintings and pictures of the paintings, and then we would have to….then we would discuss and learn about them.
SR: So they weren’t shown on a projector?
SF: They were shown on a projector, but maybe that’s where…maybe it wasn’t required…maybe it wasn’t given to them, maybe we had to buy them. Maybe I just chose to buy them, I don’t remember, to study with. And I tell you, I really don’t remember. I’m sorry. There were a number of lecture classes. I just can’t remember. One was definite…there was a required art course, there was one credit, and everybody in the whole school, you know, the whole student body took it, and that was that. That was like a general overview, and then the art majors had a number of lecture classes. We were so happy when they were over. We tried to get rid of those because of course we enjoyed the applied arts better.
SR: That’s the same story now, Sheila.
SF: Is it? And the teachers. Like I said, this Motherwell, I can just see him, like can you picture his body language, sitting at a table leaning on his elbows and looking at his watch with one hand and like rubbing his forehead with the other. He couldn’t wait until it was over, you know. So even he, it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable learning experience. However, it was a learning experience, we just familiarized ourselves with all of these things, and then when we went to a lot of the museums in Manhattan, and there were plenty of them, we reinforced it, we recognized it. That’s just about it. Sorry if I can’t help you any more, but I really don’t remember any more.
SR: You did wonderful. Thank you very much. I’ll speak to you later.
End of Interview