Caitlin Haskett (00:00:00):
The following interview with Joan Scheur was conducted by Caitlin Haskett on behalf of Bryn Mawr College as part of the project "Mid-Century Jewish Martyrs: A Collection of Oral Histories." It took place on July 10th at Joan's home, [redacted], New York City, New York. To begin with, can you tell me a little bit about where you grew up and what that was like?
Joan Scheuer (00:00:28):
Yes, I can. I was born in 1921. That makes me 98, as you probably realize, in New York City, and then my family moved to the suburbs. We lived in Scarsdale. It was, when we came there, a very mixed community now that I think of it. My family had much of the issues of being Jewish in a non-Jewish environment for a while, but they paid very little attention to it I thought at the time. I went to school there for a few years, and finally my mother sent me to Fielston. I don't know whether you know much about it. It's a high school in the Riverdale area of the Bronx, a very beautiful campus, and a wonderful school. She thought that I would get more out of it, which indeed I did. I loved the school and was very progressive at the time. It had good art and very interesting teachers came there. That was a good high school experience for me. I have twin sisters, they're four and a half years younger than I, and they're very active, very cute children. I enjoyed them when we were young, but I was not part of their lives very much because four and a half years makes a lot of difference at that age.
Joan Scheuer (00:02:54):
My life didn't really get going until I got out of college, you know about Bryn Mawr. We can discuss that in more detail if you like.
Caitlin Haskett (00:03:12):
Yeah. Can you tell me about what your parents did growing up, maybe what your father's profession was?
Joan Scheuer (00:03:20):
He was a lawyer. He never wanted to work for a firm. He was not financially very successful, but my mother's family was quite affluent by that time. They helped us move out of the city when I was eight to Scarsdale. They helped us get established in a little house in Scarsdale. As a family, we were very lucky in the Depression years.
Caitlin Haskett (00:04:15):
What about your mother? Did she stay at home with you?
Joan Scheuer (00:04:18):
She stayed at home. She was a pioneer educator. She helped start something called the Children's Book and Play Association, something like that, with a woman named Clara Blitzer, who was also well known in the early childhood education field. They were quite pioneering about what they did and tried to do for kids. She was a creative person. I think she either ran for congress one year or tried to. She was pretty active. My father was a supportive man. He did a lot with me, and we went fishing, and we did fun outdoor things.
Caitlin Haskett (00:05:35):
Joan Scheuer (00:05:44):
Caitlin Haskett (00:05:46):
What was your religious background like growing up?
Joan Scheuer (00:05:52):
It was Reform Jewish exposure. They sent me to Sunday school. It was held in a church, so we went to the church every Sunday, and made clay figures of people who lived in tents who were supposed to be our ancestors. It was not a serious Jewish study, and nobody ever, because there was no Israel at that point.
Caitlin Haskett (00:06:40):
Joan Scheuer (00:06:40):
I didn't learn much about being Jewish. However, my family, my parents' friends that they saw in the area were mostly Jewish. The whole county around that town was our field of collecting other Jewish families for social contacts.
Caitlin Haskett (00:07:22):
Did you ever go to synagogue for religious services or celebrate Sabbath at home, anything like that?
Joan Scheuer (00:07:31):
No. We did not celebrate Sabbath at home. We did go to some things like they had social events that brought us in contact with other Jewish families, but not on a religious basis that I remember.
Caitlin Haskett (00:07:59):
Caitlin Haskett (00:08:06):
Maybe we can shift now in talking about the decision for you to attend Bryn Mawr. Do you remember how it would decided that you would go to Bryn Mawr?
Joan Scheuer (00:08:16):
Well, I graduated a year ahead of myself, and that framed everything. I had to make college applications on my own, and I had visited Bryn Mawr. Of course I thought it was beautiful, if nothing else it's beautiful. I didn't particularly want to go to a girl's college, but it was the first college that returned my application with an acceptance, so I grabbed it. That seemed to settle everything. I'm not sorry. I think I got a great education there.
Caitlin Haskett (00:09:33):
What did your family think about your choice?
Joan Scheuer (00:09:40):
They always just sort of supported me. They didn't have much of a decision role in the choice. They were very glad that I got accepted, and that was fine. Did I get any financial help? I did get maybe partial help, but that might have relieved my father a little. He was not doing too well, but my mother's side of the family was doing quite well. They were pretty generous to the next generation. They certainly made it possible for us to live as well as we did. We had a little house in Scarsdale, and ... no stress.
Caitlin Haskett (00:11:05):
What do you remember about your first year at Bryn Mawr and getting to campus and experiencing college life for the first time?
Joan Scheuer (00:11:16):
Yeah. Freshman week was a little like freshman week here. I just remember we had a lot of fun because we were assigned houses, and I landed in Rhodes. It was brand new, and what was called the smoking room at the time downstairs was not yet painted. They let us paint it, so we had a great time with that with a few people, and of course that was all very hilarious way of getting to know people. Then the first person I ran into was Louisa Horton, who is a terrifically outgoing person. She ended up as an actress, she had a career in acting, and at the time she and I and a few others were immediately set to work on a freshman play of some sort. Do they still have that? Uh-uh (negative). Well, it's a good idea, because it brings kids together, and we were very busy with that. It was some nonsense that you were supposed to keep something secret, and our secret, you were supposed to have some animal that the other class wasn't supposed to find out about. Our animal was a man, and we made him into a Western Union boy. We had a lot of fun, I remember, but anyway, it was just a kind of lark.
Caitlin Haskett (00:13:42):
How did you find the man to turn into--
Joan Scheuer (00:13:45):
We rented it. We literally engaged a Western Union young person, who was baffled but willing, and instructed him as to what he was supposed to do, and that it was some kind of a stage and performance that Louisa Horton was definitely the star of.
Caitlin Haskett (00:14:13):
Did you hide him on campus?
Joan Scheuer (00:14:15):
Caitlin Haskett (00:14:16):
Do you remember where?
Joan Scheuer (00:14:17):
No. I don't remember those details, but that was part of the fun. That way I did get to meet people, and I didn't worry much about who else was going to join us.
Caitlin Haskett (00:14:59):
You had a solid group of friends forming from the very beginning?
Joan Scheuer (00:15:03):
Well, in those days you were friendly mostly with the people in your dorm. Where do you live?
Caitlin Haskett (00:15:11):
I lived in Brecken for two years, and Rockefeller last year, and I'll be in Rhodes next year.
Joan Scheuer (00:15:17):
Caitlin Haskett (00:15:19):
Yeah. What was it like living in Rhodes? You mentioned that it was new.
Joan Scheuer (00:15:25):
Well, we thought it was wonderful, we loved it. We had nice new rooms, it was brand new. I had a pretty big room. My family was pretty indulgent, and my mother got my lots of clothes, which I didn't need. The room was, oh how you decorated your room was very important. Is it still?
Caitlin Haskett (00:16:08):
Caitlin Haskett (00:16:10):
How did you decorate your room?
Joan Scheuer (00:16:12):
I just remember the colors. I don't remember the furniture was anything special. It had green and orange, and they said in the advice to incoming freshmen to bring a teapot, I had a teapot. Never used it much, but that was recommended. I think they made some effort to put you in touch with any neighbors you might have in your home environment, but that didn't come to much. After that freshman week, I think we just got down to business and started having classes. Yeah. So
Caitlin Haskett (00:17:43):
What do you remember about academics at Bryn Mawr and the classes that you took?
Joan Scheuer (00:17:50):
Oh, I do remember, I was interested in economics and politics. I remember going out to dinner with the economics professor, early. A few of us went with him, and he asked some funny questions like, "Why are you here?" Which we thought was pretty self evident, but he didn't think in terms of professions. He thought that, he didn't realize that we were interested in what kind of work we would be doing as a future. I know most of the people who went to dinner with him that night, which I cannot remember who they were, were sort of surprised and he was sort of surprised. He thought we were just there for finishing school or something, I don't know.
Caitlin Haskett (00:19:29):
Do you remember how that dinner with the professor came about? Was it--were you in a class with him?
Joan Scheuer (00:19:34):
It was pretty casual, I don't know. There were a bunch of us, it wasn't that he selected anybody in particular. It just seemed very natural, you go into town and find a coffee shop or something. He was married, he had a wife who was given some assistant professorship duties, like tutorial duties or workshops of some kind. She was not very good, she couldn't answer questions at all, poor lady. At that time I guess I had sorted out some other people on campus who were interested in the same subjects, but ... oh, I know what happened. I submitted some articles to, there was a literary magazine, and it was a newspaper we called it. I got very involved in that. In fact, by the time I was maybe a sophomore, I was editor of both of them. I gave a lot of time to it. Do they still have it?
Caitlin Haskett (00:21:25):
Yeah. What were your responsibilities as editor?
Joan Scheuer (00:21:30):
Oh, my big responsibility was to go into the printer and either write the headlines or help set the type. I got my hands really deep into that, and thought it was very important. We chose what articles, what to write about, and we had quite a good group there from all over the campus, not just Rhodes. I had contacts of friends, like Barbara Coolie. Do you know who she is? MacNamay family. Yeah, and others that were active. We thought of things. We had to decide what to write because what is
Joan Scheuer (00:22:36):
there to write? But we
Joan Scheuer (00:22:38):
did invent a lot of things
Caitlin Haskett (00:22:44):
What kind of things did you write about?
Joan Scheuer (00:22:46):
Well, one time we crashed the art museum in Marion that didn't allow students. Then we had to get in surreptitiously, and we got Barbara Coolie in. We wrote it up. Oh, and then what happened was Pearl Harbor, and Vincent Sheen was giving a speech. He was a well known journalist of the period, and he was invited to dinner before his talk at this park. She was the president, and so I was invited, and a few other students. He told the whole assembly that the Navy had been practically knocked out at Pearl Harbor. This was a huge scoop, so we published this in great glee, and claimed to have beaten the Philadelphia papers at that. Also I had got to drive him back to town or something. Anyway, it was a big excitement about Pearl Harbor. Then we had to go to work on the war effort, so we had plenty to write about. It was interesting times.
Caitlin Haskett (00:24:46):
What do you remember about the effects of the war on campus life?
Joan Scheuer (00:24:54):
The first thing that happened was the professors started leaving. The first to leave was the art professor, because he knew Japanese. Then other people, including my, well this was four years. This was my senior year. How are we jumping so fast to senior year? '41, because I went and started at '38.
Caitlin Haskett (00:25:47):
It's okay, we can jump around a little bit.
Joan Scheuer (00:25:49):
Caitlin Haskett (00:25:59):
You were talking about professors who left.
Joan Scheuer (00:26:02):
Yeah. My economics professor, Miss Northrup, left without saying anything, giving anybody any addresses or reading my honor's thesis or commenting. That went like, nobody ever read it. When I later wanted to apply to law school, I could not find her. I had absolutely no recommendations about what I had achieved as a student. I don't think I'll ever forgive her for that. Yeah, a lot changed because we lost several good professors. Then things changed until we graduated and we found out all of a sudden we could get jobs right away, because the men had all been drafted or were subject to the draft. By that time people's boyfriends and brothers were being drafted. It was pretty stressful for many people.
Caitlin Haskett (00:27:52):
The war really only influenced the end of your time at Bryn Mawr? Do you remember if people talked about or were worried about what was happening before Pearl Harbor and the US joined?
Joan Scheuer (00:28:06):
Yeah. They were very worried. It was very stressful, and many people were very personally engaged because it affected everyone. We had a real draft, it didn't just mean that, the way it is now, so voluntary army. That many people involved, but almost everybody. Oh and the day that Pearl Harbor happened, my classmate who lived in the same floor was listening to the Philharmonic as I was in my room, she's listening in her room. It's announced that the Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor. The Philharmonic is interrupted, she stepped out of her apartment, I stepped out of my apartment.
Joan Scheuer (00:29:35):
Her father was an admiral in the Navy at Pearl Harbor, and she was engaged to some young man on the ship. That was a very tense time. For a week or 10 days, she didn't hear. That woman is Ellen Stone, who is well known philosopher today, and married Professor Weiss, the professor of philosophy. Quite dramatic stories there. We were thoroughly shocked, shaken. That went on, well I guess that was towards the end, but at campus from the moment that the war really took a turn, I think everybody was involved. Not much time for religion.
Caitlin Haskett (00:31:20):
No. Yeah, I want to shift gears a little bit and actually ask about religion. What was it like being Jewish on campus? Did you know other Jewish students at all or anything like that?
Joan Scheuer (00:31:36):
There were not too many, but I knew who they were and, uh, there was no gathering place or services that were held or anything within sight that I can remember. Uh, but I had a close friend who came from Philadelphia who was Jewish. So, uh, we, so I, she either we had, Oh, and the boy was going out to the verse when I was at freshmen was not Jewish. Uh, he was a scientist, uh, w but one thing did happen. There was a student named Goldberg and she asked me to go with her to some, uh, event somewhere where there were Jewish boys, some sort of a school or something like that. And we, and I said, yes, I would have went. And it was horrendous for both of us. Cause these boys hadn't seen girls. They didn't know how to treat the girls. They were very young, it was a disaster that wasn't helpful, but that was a horrible experience. Uh, I mean they really chased. It was very unfortunate. Did I meet any Jewish boys there? No. Haverford, I didn't see much of Haverford boys, but some people did. Later my daughter went to Bryn Mawr and she has a whole group of Haverford friends. I don't know that there's a Jewish temple or ...
Caitlin Haskett (00:34:52):
I don't, I'm not sure.
Joan Scheuer (00:34:53):
A place, there was something.
Caitlin Haskett (00:34:57):
I'm not sure if there was one around when you would've been at Bryn Mawr. There's a couple on the main line now though. You mentioned your friend who was from Philadelphia who was Jewish. Did she ever go back into the city for services or anything like that? No?
Joan Scheuer (00:35:21):
Caitlin Haskett (00:35:25):
How did you get to know her?
Joan Scheuer (00:35:30):
I can't remember. I don't really remember.
Caitlin Haskett (00:35:46):
What was she like?
Joan Scheuer (00:35:51):
Joan Scheuer (00:35:54):
She was interested in the same things I was, I thought she was not, I can't remember what she majored in but it wasn't economics, because people who majored in that I can count on my left hand, four people was all. Oh, I know what happened. During the summer, four of us went to work for the government in Washington DC. We all were loaned a house in Washington by a friendly Bryn Mawr alumni, and it was beautiful, and we had a very nice time. One woman had a blind date, and he walked in. Oh, she was such a good looking, beautiful girl. He walked in and I was in the living room, and he asked where she was. I just knew they were going to end up getting married, they did. It was nice time, that was Margie McGrath. Not Jewish, nobody was Jewish in that group of economists.
Caitlin Haskett (00:38:01):
Caitlin Haskett (00:38:02):
people in Rhodes? Did you have any friends in the dorm who were Jewish?
Joan Scheuer (00:38:15):
Well, Ellen Stone was not Jewish. Her father was an admiral
Joan Scheuer (00:38:26):
Joan Scheuer (00:38:29):
She ended up the top of her class. She had brilliant red hair. Who else was my friend in the dorm? I don't know. I wouldn't have searched around for them necessarily, but there weren't so many Jewish students at the whole college.
Caitlin Haskett (00:39:06):
Joan Scheuer (00:39:12):
Caitlin Haskett (00:39:15):
Did you feel like religion factored into the way that you interacted with other people at Bryn Mawr even if you weren't seeking out Jewish friends?
Joan Scheuer (00:39:26):
Well, you're getting at something. There was a little, I felt a little tension about the people I admired and who were working on the newspaper when I got there. Some of them were clearly ... they clearly had a problem with my being Jewish. Which I put down to social snobbery, they were very old family, waspy people. I did notice that, but I didn't get the idea that there was a lot of antisemitism there. We were so protected from it.
Caitlin Haskett (00:40:41):
Sort of in a bubble on campus.
Joan Scheuer (00:40:46):
Yeah. Everywhere, yeah.
Caitlin Haskett (00:40:50):
Tell me a little bit more about what you experienced from the older people on the college news. Yeah, what was that like?
Joan Scheuer (00:41:03):
I was curious about them. This woman would talk about her social standing and her family history, mainly her family history. She'd make it
Joan Scheuer (00:41:34):
a little too clear that I could never aspire to anything like that. I don't know. You sniff it out, I can tell you, but she was the only person I noticed that. I don't think there's so many people like that.
Caitlin Haskett (00:42:13):
Did you ever discuss religion with any of your friends on campus?
Joan Scheuer (00:42:18):
Probably, I don't remember making an issue of it because oh well. It's the sort of thing we talk about. I'm trying to think about some of the people as I got a little older, because I was more interested, I was so interested in this, getting the college news out and the other things I did, I didn't worry about religion. We talked about philosophy. We talked philosophy and we had good discussions about same sort of, who am I discussions one does have. Paul Weiss, the philosophy teacher, was Jewish. He and his wife were pretty hospitable, and they'd have people in their home, invite us and others. I'm sure he didn't pick out the Jewish students, but I think the Jewish students were very comfortable with him. One's relationship with the professors was very
Joan Scheuer (00:44:32):
important when I was there, because they did open their homes and they did develop individual personal relationships with students. Is that still true?
Caitlin Haskett (00:44:52):
Not that I've experienced so much. Who were some of the professors that you became close with?
Joan Scheuer (00:45:02):
Well, there's Paul Weiss, then there was a German professor who is not Jewish. They were very warm. There was a woman that was the daughter of a Jewish scholar who Bryn Mawr invited to come to teach. The Jewish scholar died, her name was Ruth Fiesel. F-I-E-S-E-L, I think. This was a tragedy for that girl. She was so needy after the death of her mother. She was, we all tried to help her but she never really ... I guess she did finally get back readjusted and back to finding out who she herself was, but there were episodes like that, that you could say we're products of the war. It was really terrible.
Caitlin Haskett (00:46:41):
Was Ruth a classmate of yours?
Joan Scheuer (00:46:51):
Yes. Her whole story I was pretty close to.
Caitlin Haskett (00:46:57):
What was she like?
Joan Scheuer (00:47:13):
It took her several years to find out, to mature. She was devastated. I don't blame her, she was totally lost in every way. She didn't have a surrounding family, and she had to adopt really a new country. They came from Germany, so that was a Jewish drama. Can I think of any others? Oh, and by the way, Louisa Horton my freshman associate didn't last. She left after the first year, and came to New York to be an actress.
Caitlin Haskett (00:48:35):
Is that why she left?
Joan Scheuer (00:48:38):
Yeah. She did pretty well. She was right. She did the right thing. To me, I thought it was an enormous leap, because I thought so much about the things we were learning and finding ourselves. She already knew herself.
Caitlin Haskett (00:49:10):
It's impressive at a young age.
Joan Scheuer (00:49:11):
Caitlin Haskett (00:49:15):
Shifting gears a little bit, what do you remember about your social life while you were at Bryn Mawr? What kind of things did you get up to with your friends?
Joan Scheuer (00:49:27):
Well, if you talk about dating-
Caitlin Haskett (00:49:30):
Joan Scheuer (00:49:30):
... as I said, my first year I went out with this young man who was I think at Penn. I did go to some of the fraternity things, and they were very segregated. I didn't like that much.
Caitlin Haskett (00:50:00):
Because they were segregated or for other reasons?
Joan Scheuer (00:50:10):
I'm not sure. Maybe I didn't like the people in the fraternities, or the fraternity I was at, visiting, at the dance or whatever it was.
Caitlin Haskett (00:50:33):
What about after your freshman year? Did you continue to date while you were at Bryn Mawr?
Joan Scheuer (00:50:40):
Yeah, but not ... oh in the summer, because we had this summer in Washington, I had some dates. It was that Navy guy I went out with. Not Jewish, I don't know. I had some dates but not a real social ...I wonder if I went home at all. It wasn't, I must have. I must have gone home, and then at home in Scarsdale, I had a pretty extensive social life with, there was a temple and there was a Jewish dancing school where they arranged dances so we did have that very important, big dances. We dressed up and got into a long dress, and I had a whole group of young men there, one of which I was very close to for a number of years. I guess that was the real social piece of it.
Caitlin Haskett (00:53:45):
You think, do you remember going home during the school year or just on breaks do you think?
Joan Scheuer (00:53:54):
Well, what does that mean, on breaks?
Caitlin Haskett (00:53:56):
During spring break or winter break.
Joan Scheuer (00:54:00):
Yeah, sure. Those were when you would have the dances and the other things, and see that group of people, and young men and women. Women too, had lots of friends there.
Caitlin Haskett (00:54:18):
Joan Scheuer (00:54:29):
That was much more specifically Jewish. My parents, they would be the sons and daughters of my parents' friends, mostly.
Caitlin Haskett (00:54:50):
Did you feel like it was a big change from the community you had at Bryn Mawr? Yeah, what was the similarities and differences between the community of friends you had in Scarsdale and the friends you had at Bryn Mawr?
Joan Scheuer (00:55:13):
Well, the friends I had at Bryn Mawr were not Jewish and for the most part the friends I had at Scarsdale were all Jewish.
Caitlin Haskett (00:55:41):
Would you talk about different things or do different things together? Anything like that?
Joan Scheuer (00:55:46):
Nothing different. People are the same.
Caitlin Haskett (00:55:50):
Fair enough, I was just curious.
Joan Scheuer (00:55:51):
Caitlin Haskett (00:55:55):
Caitlin Haskett (00:55:57):
Do you remember when you were a senior, approaching the end of your time at Bryn Mawr, what were your expectations for what you were going to do after you graduated?
Joan Scheuer (00:56:10):
I think I thought I was go to law school. This was in the back of my mind, I think. I know it was later, but also I wanted to work with the union movement, which I did. Yeah.
Caitlin Haskett (00:56:59):
How did that, wanting to go to law school or work with the unions compare to what your classmates wanted to do? Do you know?
Joan Scheuer (00:57:12):
It depends which classmates. Some of them were in the same track, and others not. When we got the offer to work for the government when the war started, that became pretty clear. Everybody wanted to work for the war, and I took a civil service exam. Right away, jobs opened up because I was on the civil service list. I was amazed, we were all amazed that we could get jobs right away, because we were Depression kids.
Caitlin Haskett (00:57:58):
What kind of work did you do in the civil service after Bryn Mawr?
Joan Scheuer (00:58:03):
When the war started, I worked for the War Production Board. I got a job in an office where we were allocating scarce materials, steel, aluminum, and one other. I got a job right away, and then I met people there.
Caitlin Haskett (00:58:43):
After Bryn Mawr, you started working and then you mentioned you went to law school eventually.
Joan Scheuer (00:58:48):
Caitlin Haskett (00:58:50):
You didn't? You wanted to but you never did?
Joan Scheuer (00:58:52):
No. I didn't go to law school, I am not a lawyer. I worked for a union during the war because the unions had a no strike pledge during World War II in the beginning. They had a lot of paperwork, and they were overwhelmed. I went to Chicago and started working with a guy who was helping a union. That's how I started working for a union, or the union. Yeah. I worked for more than one.
Caitlin Haskett (01:00:02):
I know this is a big question, but maybe we can fully shift gears and talk about just what your life has been like since you graduated. You've talked a little bit about the beginnings of your career and working for the union, but if there's more you want to share about that or just anywhere your life has gone.
Joan Scheuer (01:00:21):
What happened finally, I was working in Chicago, and that was really work. Finally I realized I should go home to mommy. Why? Because ... anyhow, I decided enough of this. I'm going to go home. I can't remember exactly, something happened in the war, like it had to do with a change. Peace came. That was basically the idea, so I went back to Scarsdale, but it wasn't Scarsdale anymore. The family had moved to Manhattan, and so I ended up where my parents were in an apartment where they barely had room for me. Summer came, and my sister
Joan Scheuer (01:02:20):
and I were invited to the country club Saturday by a friend of my mother's, and we drove down from where we were spending the summer. That's how I met my husband.
Caitlin Haskett (01:02:53):
He just happened to be at the country club that day too?
Joan Scheuer (01:02:55):
No. It was a party for him, and my mother, this is the truth of it. My mother had, she went to Barnard. They were in the same class at the college, and they knew each other, so they knew there were a couple. One family had boys and one family had girls, we were the girls. My sister and I came down to this country club where the party was being given for my husband. I think it was his birthday, husband to be. That's how we met. I'm going to have to go to the bathroom, I'll be right back.
Caitlin Haskett (01:04:00):
You mentioned meeting your husband and then you just said that your marriage is a main focus in your life.
Joan Scheuer (01:04:07):
Well, I said the main part, but I meant not chronologically. I spent most of my years as a married wife and mother. Now I'm a great-grandmother. Yeah. I have eight great-grandchildren and 12 grandchildren, something like that. It's quite wonderful.
Caitlin Haskett (01:04:45):
You first had to have children to have grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Did you raise your children in New York? Yeah, did you raise your children in New York?
Joan Scheuer (01:04:57):
Well, no. We lived most of our married life in a suburb called Larchmont, which is about 20 miles from here. It's on a large
Joan Scheuer (01:05:18):
body of water, the Long Island Sound, so that my husband was a real boat lover. That became a big part of my life, and my children's lives. I've had some tragedy, I lost my eldest son when he was a grown man, and had himself three children, and was a very important part of our lives. That was sad episode and didn't go away, doesn't go away. Otherwise it's pretty fascinating watching everybody grow up, and it goes by very fast. My husband, when we met at that party, last seen at the party at the club, he was much more Jewish than I. In fact, he became quite active. He was president of the Board of the Hebrew Union College, which trains rabbis.
Joan Scheuer (01:06:58):
We had pretty active life in that circle. I know a lot of rabbis now. He was also always such an avid boater that we owned a large sailboat, and sailed on it every summer with our children, with our friends. You could sleep on the boat, it's a big thing. We managed it ourselves, I had to learn to do that. I learned to love it, and we went once all the way up to Canada with it. We brought our family in and our kids. Most of my children liked to sail, but one in particular never did. He's the one who, he lives nearby me and I see a lot of him now. It's been very gratifying, I've enjoyed the present, which still keeps me close to them. I'm very lucky.
Caitlin Haskett (01:08:45):
Did you have any career after you met your husband?
Joan Scheuer (01:08:52):
Oh yeah. I did, but what happened was I took ... in the '70's, let's see, I got a doctorate, a PhD. That immediately opened some doors, and I began working right away when I got the degree with the New York City Board of Education as a revenue person who studied the way the state was funding the schools, the way the federal government, very little money was coming in, and the city. How the schools in the city were supported. I worked at the Board of Education here for 10 years, which was too long. I should not have worked so long.
Caitlin Haskett (01:10:07):
Joan Scheuer (01:10:10):
Because I was in sort of a rut. Then I quit that and I began working with groups of people who were leaders of organizations that got together frequently. I was their financial advisor for another long set of years, so that was quite fruitful and very nice people there. That's what I did in between there and here.
Joan Scheuer (01:10:57):
Still have a lot of friends, those jobs people mix Jewish and not Jewish. It's been a very happy life. I'm very lucky
Caitlin Haskett (01:11:27):
What kinds of things do you spend your time on nowadays?
Joan Scheuer (01:11:34):
Well, here we are in this retirement community, it's another community. It's a lot like first week in college, you get to know the people, you sort them out. Here there are a lot of people who are not really well in one form or another. That leaves the people who are well who all kind of know who they are, and after you've sorted that out, what we do here, the biggest thing is they have a lot of activities. They even have things like figure drawing. I do a lot of art. I didn't tell you about that. I've always had that hobby or interest. That's my picture, I have some other pictures that are up. There are activities here, they have a lot of exercise which I like, so keep moving. I do something active every day if I can.
Caitlin Haskett (01:13:13):
Joan Scheuer (01:13:14):
Then we do things, and they have lectures. They have jewelry making, we did some, I liked that. We have some people like to have clay, they really try to get people to use their hands, their brains, and whatever they have left. Dinner is very important, every night you have to arrange your dinner especially so you have some social demands.
Caitlin Haskett (01:14:02):
There's no eating in your apartment by yourself?
Joan Scheuer (01:14:04):
You can, but they try to get people to make arrangements. They have set up the tables in the dining room for four. I think that is by the design, I think they know what they're doing here, so that people have to pay attention and arrange dinner. That takes half the day. They have the regular exercise programs, and they managed to bring some lecturers here. Somebody, there's a lady who does wonderful talks on opera and classical music that Preston Twanley, he used to do it for QXR. He was here last night, and movies every night so you can ...
Caitlin Haskett (01:15:29):
Yeah. Sounds like a lot of interesting stuff.
Joan Scheuer (01:15:31):
That's the idea, they keep people to their best ability occupied.
Caitlin Haskett (01:15:43):
Yeah. I realized, I never asked you about traditions while you were at Bryn Mawr. What do you remember about traditions at Bryn Mawr? I know this is a change of topic.
Joan Scheuer (01:15:53):
Well, I did certainly remember Lantern Night and May Day. Those stand out. Are there others?
Caitlin Haskett (01:16:11):
Yeah, parade night.
Joan Scheuer (01:16:11):
Don't remember that. Don't think we had it.
Caitlin Haskett (01:16:15):
Did you have a favorite tradition between Lantern Night and May Day?
Joan Scheuer (01:16:24):
No, they're very different but I liked them, and I ended up there.
Caitlin Haskett (01:16:28):
Joan Scheuer (01:16:32):
I didn't get it until a few years ago. I don't know what happened to the original lantern, but a few years ago, it was my 75th reunion, and my daughter had her 25th reunion. We decided to go down there, and they were very receptive, and they were wonderful. Is Kim ... who is the president of Bryn Mawr now?
Caitlin Haskett (01:17:09):
Joan Scheuer (01:17:10):
Kim Cassidy, yeah. Well, she was very outgoing and friendly to us. We had a wonderful reception. There was one other person in my year who graduated the same year I did. With her, her name is Christine. so we all ... don't ask me her last name, I've forgotten.
Caitlin Haskett (01:17:54):
Joan Scheuer (01:17:58):
So We had a great time. They presented me with that lantern.
Caitlin Haskett (01:18:11):
Joan Scheuer (01:18:13):
I'm very happy to have that, so I do care about traditions.
Caitlin Haskett (01:18:19):
Yeah. What do you remember about getting your lantern, the first lantern initially when you were a first year at Bryn Mawr?
Joan Scheuer (01:18:30):
Very little. I don't remember it, it seems I lost it so I don't know where it is, but they replaced it. I do remember the business about May Day with the hoops, the seniors were supposed to give you, leave at your door. Do they still do that?
Caitlin Haskett (01:18:55):
Joan Scheuer (01:18:55):
I remember that, yeah.
Caitlin Haskett (01:18:57):
Do you remember who left you a hoop?
Joan Scheuer (01:19:00):
Yeah, I did get several, but I don't know that I remember who. I had some friends in the senior class, but I've forgotten their names.
Caitlin Haskett (01:19:19):
What else do you remember about May Day?
Joan Scheuer (01:19:27):
It's quite joyous. Oh, I remember W. H. Orden was hanging around our campus one May Day and just ... trying not to be noticed or noticed, sort of hiding against columns. I do remember that, watching May Day.
Caitlin Haskett (01:20:03):
Yeah. I guess people like to come for the spectacle.
Joan Scheuer (01:20:05):
It's a spectacle.
Caitlin Haskett (01:20:05):
Joan Scheuer (01:20:08):
A great chance to preserve those crazy moments. It still goes on, that's good.
Caitlin Haskett (01:20:30):
Yeah. To wrap up a little bit, I have two more questions. The first is what sort of influence do you the Bryn Mawr has had on your life? Or do you think it has had any influence?
Joan Scheuer (01:20:48):
I think it did encourage a kind of rigor, and I think that its graduates know the value of hard work and demand hard work. As for the subject matter opening up, I didn't get much out of it. As an economist, I got some of the language but I'm not a real economist. Had to be a school of finance economist. Maybe I never wanted to be. I'm not mathematical enough nowadays. I appreciate what I got out of Bryn Mawr, and when we went back, I was blown away by how beautiful it is. It's more beautiful than ever it was.
Caitlin Haskett (01:22:11):
Yeah. It's a gorgeous place.
Joan Scheuer (01:22:18):
Caitlin Haskett (01:22:24):
What do you think, if you can remember yourself when you were a senior at Bryn Mawr getting ready to graduate, what do you think that version of yourself would be surprised to know about the life that you've led since then?
Joan Scheuer (01:22:39):
Well, speaking of that, suddenly I remember being on the lawn at graduation with this Ellen Stone. She said something to me like, "Did you ever realize that your name makes you sound Jewish?" My maiden name was Gross. It suddenly came to me that she thought I was not Jewish, and didn't ever know, she got me a little wrong maybe. That was a funny conversation, at graduation.
Caitlin Haskett (01:23:35):
Where did that conversation go from there after she said that?
Joan Scheuer (01:23:39):
Nowhere. We were just standing with our families sort of awkwardly, and maybe getting ready to go to some event or parade or march or play with hoops, I don't remember that, but that kind of shocked me.
Caitlin Haskett (01:24:08):
Joan Scheuer (01:24:14):
It suggested that people didn't know I was Jewish, and maybe they would've acted differently.
Caitlin Haskett (01:24:24):
Joan Scheuer (01:24:26):
Yeah. Are there many more Jewish students there now?
Caitlin Haskett (01:24:36):
I think it's about 12% to 20% Jewish students now.
Joan Scheuer (01:24:42):
That's a lot more than it was.
Caitlin Haskett (01:24:49):
Yeah. All right. Before we finish then turn off the recorder, is there anything else you want to add in to this recording?
Joan Scheuer (01:25:01):
Well, just that as I look back on my life, it's mostly as a life. 63 years of marriage is a different life.
Caitlin Haskett (01:25:17):
Joan Scheuer (01:25:21):
Marriage and motherhood and family life. It's a little hard to remember.
Caitlin Haskett (01:25:35):
I understand that. All right, well thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today. It's been really wonderful.
Joan Scheuer (01:25:45):
Well, I enjoyed it.
Caitlin Haskett (01:25:46):
Joan Scheur interviewed by Caitlin Haskett, July 10, 2019
Oral history interview of Joan Scheuer (née Gross), Bryn Mawr College Class of 1942, conducted by Bryn Mawr College Class of 2020 student Caitlin Haskett on July 10, 2019 at Scheuer's home in New York.
Haskett, Caitlin (interviewer)
Scheuer, Jane Gross, 1921- (interviewee)
1 online resource (1 audio file (86 min.))
North and Central America--United States--Pennsylvania--Montgomery--Bryn Mawr
Jewish Mawrters Oral History Collection--http://archives.tricolib.brynmawr.edu/resources/bmc-rg12-ohj