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Legacies Project Oral History: Carolyn Houston

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 9:46am

When: 2020

Carolyn Houston was born in 1925 and grew up in Lakewood, Ohio. She spent the majority of her working years as a homemaker and mother of four boys. During World War II she was a nurse’s aid, and she was a secretary in Stanford’s civil engineering department to support her husband’s graduate studies. Her children grew up near Dexter, Michigan. After she divorced her husband in 1980, Houston worked at Rackham as a secretary to the associate dean. She married Bill Houston and moved to Pittsburgh in the late 80s, but returned to Ann Arbor in 2001.

Carolyn Houston was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2008 as part of the Legacies Project

Transcript

  • [00:00:08.86] JARED FRANCE: This Jared France interviewing Carolyn--
  • [00:00:13.32] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Houston.
  • [00:00:13.84] JARED FRANCE: Houston, that's right. I knew it was you. Please say and spell your name.
  • [00:00:18.55] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Carolyn, C-A-R-O-L-Y-N. Houston, H-O-U-S-T-O-N, like the city.
  • [00:00:25.09] JARED FRANCE: Gotcha. All right. What is your birthday, including the year?
  • [00:00:29.38] CAROLYN HOUSTON: June 19th, 1925.
  • [00:00:34.02] JARED FRANCE: How would you describe your race or ethnicity?
  • [00:00:38.54] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I'm English, Scotch-English.
  • [00:00:41.79] JARED FRANCE: OK. What is your religious affiliation, if any?
  • [00:00:46.43] CAROLYN HOUSTON: None.
  • [00:00:47.20] JARED FRANCE: None?
  • [00:00:48.35] CAROLYN HOUSTON: I've been in several churches, but at the present time, none.
  • [00:00:51.82] JARED FRANCE: OK. What is the highest level of formal education that you have completed?
  • [00:00:57.09] CAROLYN HOUSTON: I graduated from college.
  • [00:00:58.76] JARED FRANCE: Did you attend any additional school beyond what you completed?
  • [00:01:01.43] CAROLYN HOUSTON: No.
  • [00:01:02.84] JARED FRANCE: What is your marital status?
  • [00:01:05.24] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I am widowed at the moment.
  • [00:01:10.01] JARED FRANCE: How many children do you have four?
  • [00:01:12.09] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Four.
  • [00:01:12.46] JARED FRANCE: Four. How many siblings?
  • [00:01:15.08] CAROLYN HOUSTON: One.
  • [00:01:15.68] JARED FRANCE: One.
  • [00:01:16.19] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Still alive.
  • [00:01:17.06] JARED FRANCE: Sister or brother?
  • [00:01:18.52] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Sister.
  • [00:01:19.04] JARED FRANCE: Sister. What would you consider your primary occupation to have been?
  • [00:01:24.62] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Housewife.
  • [00:01:26.48] JARED FRANCE: Were you ever paid to work outside the home?
  • [00:01:28.83] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Yes.
  • [00:01:30.20] JARED FRANCE: What did you do?
  • [00:01:31.73] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I worked as a secretary when my husband was in graduate school.
  • [00:01:38.08] JARED FRANCE: How long was that for?
  • [00:01:39.90] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Four years. And then I was a housewife again, and then I was divorced, and then I was a secretary again for seven years in order to get medical insurance.
  • [00:01:51.35] JARED FRANCE: Oh.
  • [00:01:52.79] CAROLYN HOUSTON: And I did some editing also on the side.
  • [00:01:57.32] JARED FRANCE: What kind of editing?
  • [00:01:59.21] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Of papers and manuscripts and things like that from the university.
  • [00:02:06.85] JARED FRANCE: OK. Awesome. We're going to go ahead and get started here with the childhood and school years. I'd now like to ask you some more detailed questions about your life. Let's start with some memories about your childhood up until you finished college, right? You went to college, right? Where did you grow up and what are the strongest memories of that place?
  • [00:02:29.30] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, which was a large western suburb of Cleveland. And my father worked in Cleveland at the telephone company. And we always lived in the same house, for 23 years until I was married. And I had a very happy childhood and did a lot of things, had a lot of fun.
  • [00:03:01.10] JARED FRANCE: How did your family come to live in west Cleveland?
  • [00:03:04.65] CAROLYN HOUSTON: In Lakewood?
  • [00:03:05.30] JARED FRANCE: Yeah. Oh
  • [00:03:06.44] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Because, my father worked for the telephone company. He was from New York State.
  • [00:03:10.22] JARED FRANCE: And he went over there for a job opportunity?
  • [00:03:12.94] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, he graduated from New York University and he worked in Philadelphia for a while for the telephone company, and then he came to Cleveland and was very happy there.
  • [00:03:23.88] JARED FRANCE: OK. What was your house like?
  • [00:03:26.84] CAROLYN HOUSTON: It was small. It was like a lot of houses in-- with a front porch. Lakewood was a big suburb and very middle class suburb for the most part, although along Lake Erie, it was a little more upper class, but it wasn't the fanciest suburb in Cleveland. And it was a very nice house with three bedrooms and one bath, as usual in those days, and a basement.
  • [00:04:01.79] JARED FRANCE: A finished one?
  • [00:04:02.72] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Hm?
  • [00:04:03.07] JARED FRANCE: A finished basement?
  • [00:04:04.94] CAROLYN HOUSTON: No.
  • [00:04:05.64] JARED FRANCE: Oh.
  • [00:04:07.46] CAROLYN HOUSTON: A basement with a fruit cellar and a coal bin, where the coal was shoveled in to heat the house.
  • [00:04:15.83] JARED FRANCE: That's cool. How many people lived in the house when you were there growing up?
  • [00:04:20.84] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Four of us.
  • [00:04:21.98] JARED FRANCE: What were their relationship to you?
  • [00:04:24.71] CAROLYN HOUSTON: My mother, my father, and my sister.
  • [00:04:26.27] JARED FRANCE: OK. What was your family life then? How did you guys get along?
  • [00:04:32.21] CAROLYN HOUSTON: We got along fine. My sister was four years older so I always felt a little distant from her, and have been on my life, really. And then my aunt, who taught in Canton, Ohio came up every weekend, and so there were five of us there every weekend. And my great aunt lived down at the corner of the street, so there was that relationship. So there were really six people in my family.
  • [00:05:07.61] JARED FRANCE: OK. I know you mentioned your father worked for the telephone company. Did your mother do anything?
  • [00:05:13.91] CAROLYN HOUSTON: My mother was a housewife, as most women were in those days. I didn't know anybody, any woman, who worked.
  • [00:05:22.84] JARED FRANCE: Wow. There's a lot working now.
  • [00:05:24.98] CAROLYN HOUSTON: [LAUGHS] I know.
  • [00:05:26.33] JARED FRANCE: Amazing. How would you describe your relationship with the other family members, than aunt and the--
  • [00:05:33.57] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, fine. Fine. I particularly liked my Aunt Hazel, who was unmarried and the teacher, because she was more modern than my mother. She wore more modern clothes and she had a little more-- she taught in the high school and was a little--
  • [00:05:50.73] JARED FRANCE: More exciting.
  • [00:05:51.70] CAROLYN HOUSTON: More exciting. And she went to Europe once, which was very exciting in those days, you know.
  • [00:05:59.26] JARED FRANCE: All right. What was a typical day like when you were growing up?
  • [00:06:04.93] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, gosh. Well, I walked to school, walked home for lunch, and walked back to school in grade school. And then the same. Junior high school, we had lunch. And there was one high school in the town. I think the town was about 80,000. It was a big suburb.
  • [00:06:31.53] JARED FRANCE: For a suburb, that's very large. Can you describe the chores or duties that you had during that time?
  • [00:06:39.48] CAROLYN HOUSTON: I don't think I did anything. [LAUGHS]
  • [00:06:45.45] At home, you mean?
  • [00:06:46.57] JARED FRANCE: Yeah.
  • [00:06:47.26] CAROLYN HOUSTON: No, I wasn't really responsible for my clothes. I kept my room. I'm a fussy housekeeper, so I--
  • [00:06:57.21] JARED FRANCE: You're better than me there. [LAUGHS]
  • [00:06:58.79] CAROLYN HOUSTON: So I always keep places clean, neat.
  • [00:07:04.89] JARED FRANCE: What were your favorite things to do for fun?
  • [00:07:08.23] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, in the summertime, we belonged to the Clifton Club. If you know Lake Erie, there aren't many beaches along like Lake Eerie. It's all cliffs down to the lake, except for this one beach in Lakewood.
  • [00:07:20.61] So you had to belong to this one club, which was a separate club, and it had tennis. And I played all summer, really, with my friends at the beach. I also took piano lessons. That took up a lot of my time.
  • [00:07:40.77] JARED FRANCE: Did you actually enjoy those?
  • [00:07:43.38] CAROLYN HOUSTON: I was quite a good pianist at one time. I'm not anymore, but I was then.
  • [00:07:49.38] JARED FRANCE: Neither am I. I took a couple years of piano and basically lost it.
  • [00:07:53.84] CAROLYN HOUSTON: I took quite a few. In fact, I took one year here.
  • [00:07:56.40] JARED FRANCE: Really?
  • [00:07:57.42] CAROLYN HOUSTON: But it didn't work very well because there were no practice rooms for people who weren't in the music school or anything.
  • [00:08:06.64] JARED FRANCE: Were there any interesting fads or slang words at that time? Like you know, kind of crazy clothes or funny words you say?
  • [00:08:17.83] CAROLYN HOUSTON: No. We were very conservative people. My mother made a lot of my clothes. You know, it was a conservative place.
  • [00:08:30.87] JARED FRANCE: How would you describe being conservative, in terms of how you dress?
  • [00:08:35.52] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, you don't do far out things and you don't experiment too much. You followed the rules.
  • [00:08:44.51] JARED FRANCE: Like dresses, or?
  • [00:08:47.61] CAROLYN HOUSTON: We wore skirts. Nobody wore pants in those days, except you wore ski pants to school to keep your legs warm, and then you had to take them off, underneath your skirt, you know. They weren't very cute, but they were practical. Sweaters and skirts and saddle shoes and socks, that's the way we dressed, all the way through college, really.
  • [00:09:16.73] JARED FRANCE: Wow.
  • [00:09:17.63] INTERVIEWER: What about if something was cool? You guys probably didn't use the word "cool," did you?
  • [00:09:22.59] CAROLYN HOUSTON: No, we didn't.
  • [00:09:24.05] INTERVIEWER: Was there another word you used?
  • [00:09:28.13] CAROLYN HOUSTON: I can't think of anything. I may think of it later.
  • [00:09:33.04] INTERVIEWER: OK.
  • [00:09:33.53] JARED FRANCE: All right. Feel free to let us know. Were there any special days, events, family traditions that you especially enjoyed when you grew up?
  • [00:09:44.14] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, we all love Christmas and Thanksgiving. My mother went all out for Christmas and then I always did when I was married. Those were the main celebrations. Oh, we went back and forth to my relatives, one in New York State and one in Nebraska, and those were fun.
  • [00:10:11.88] JARED FRANCE: Thinking back on your childhood and school years, so birth to college, what important social or historical events were taking place during that time, and how do they personally affect you and your family?
  • [00:10:28.05] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I think I was a junior in high school when Pearl Harbor occurred. And of course, that affected the boys. And they signed up for V-12 or V-5, or something, which Army and the Navy, which put off they're going to war, but it meant that they were going to when they got to be 18.
  • [00:10:55.86] And so that that affected our lives. And of course, there was rationing and that affected things. You know, we didn't have butter. We didn't have gas. We didn't have many things. But as far as the war went-- and I and I volunteered at the hospital to do really nurse's aide work, from emptying bedpans to rubbing backs. We did a lot of things that there weren't nurses for.
  • [00:11:30.72] And then when I graduated high school, a lot of boys went into the service, and two or three of my friends were killed, and that was at the time of the Battle of the Bulge. And then when I was in college, the boys kept started coming back. My first couple of years in college there weren't very many boys around, except the ones who hadn't been accepted.
  • [00:11:58.16] Well, there was a Navy contingent here and there was an Army language, Japanese Army language school here. Not very men on campus, so the girls got along [INAUDIBLE]. It was more exciting when the boys came back.
  • [00:12:19.65] JARED FRANCE: I bet, huh? All right. Moving into adulthood, work, marriage, and family life. This set of questions covers a relatively long period of your life. So from post-school, all the way up until your children left home and you or your spouse retired from work. So it could be like 40 years here. After you finished school, where did you live?
  • [00:12:47.16] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I lived at home for a while and I worked for a while for an advertising agency, and then I got married to, really, my senior high boyfriend. And we went to Palo Alto and he got a graduate. He had gone to Kenyon College in Ohio and he went to Stanford for a graduate degree, a PhD in political science.
  • [00:13:19.83] And I worked at Stanford in the civil engineering department and loved it. I had a wonderful time. I majored in social work, which I never did. Tried to get a job several times, but I wanted to work on campus so I gave that up. And then we moved to-- he went with the Federal Mediation Service and we moved to Falls Church, Virginia for a couple of years. And then he was stationed in San Francisco and we moved back to California and lived in Redwood City, California.
  • [00:14:03.48] My first child was born in Arlington, Virginia. My second was in Redwood City, California. And then we moved back to Washington, where he was with the Mediation Service. And then he met someone here who is head of the Institute for Labor Industrial Relations here, and he wanted to be replaced. And my husband came to replace him at Michigan and taught poli sci at Michigan and was head of this Institute.
  • [00:14:46.04] And we lived out in Loch Alpine. Well, while we were in Virginia, I had two more children, two more boys. I have four boys. And we lived out in Loch Alpine, which was a great place, out toward Dexter, sort of half way to Dexter.
  • [00:15:08.66] JARED FRANCE: Like our Dexter in Michigan?
  • [00:15:10.23] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Your Dexter. Yeah, and it's on two little lakes, and it was just a great place for four little boys to grow up. And my two older boys graduated from Dexter High School and my two younger ones went to Greenhill School.
  • [00:15:30.36] Then in 1980, I was divorced. And as I said, in order to get medical insurance, I went back to work and I worked at Rackham as a secretary to the associate dean, who was a wonderful woman. And then I remarried and moved to Pittsburgh. He was the lawyer in Pittsburgh, a tax and estate lawyer, trust and estate lawyer. And for 12 years we had a wonderful life, a gorgeous home.
  • [00:16:13.74] And he was a sailor. And in 2001, just before the towers fell, actually, he died up in upper Lake Huron. He had a heart attack and died while sailing with some friends.
  • [00:16:35.60] Then I didn't know quite what to do. But Ann Arbor I'd lived for 28 years, and I love Ann Arbor. And although none of my children are here, but I had a very good friend who lived over in the manor and I decided to come here. So that's, in a nutshell, my life.
  • [00:17:02.34] JARED FRANCE: OK. OK. I'd like you to tell us a little bit more about your married and family life. First, you can tell me about your first husband. Where did you meet him?
  • [00:17:20.82] CAROLYN HOUSTON: In high school, as a senior in high school.
  • [00:17:25.55] JARED FRANCE: What was it like when you were dating?
  • [00:17:29.34] CAROLYN HOUSTON: [LAUGHS] I guess it was all right. I don't know.
  • [00:17:33.34] JARED FRANCE: It must have been.
  • [00:17:34.20] CAROLYN HOUSTON: He went in the Navy so I didn't see a whole lot for quite a while. He went to Kenya for a while, and it was fine.
  • [00:17:47.84] JARED FRANCE: Tell me about your engagement and wedding.
  • [00:17:52.65] CAROLYN HOUSTON: We had a nice wedding and we were married in Lakewood. And then next day my aunt had died and so we had their old Dodge, which isn't even made anymore. And we were married late December and drove to California.
  • [00:18:14.18] JARED FRANCE: From Ohio?
  • [00:18:15.02] CAROLYN HOUSTON: From Ohio. And it was a terrible time. We practically skidded across the middle of the country, you know, because it was ice.
  • [00:18:23.64] JARED FRANCE: Yeah.
  • [00:18:25.77] CAROLYN HOUSTON: But oh, I'd never been to California. And arriving in Riverside, California, I just thought we were in heaven. It was just gorgeous, you know, after this wild trip.
  • [00:18:38.63] INTERVIEWER: A good place to be in December.
  • [00:18:40.91] CAROLYN HOUSTON: It was wonderful. We had a very busy life. You're asking me about my family life?
  • [00:18:52.37] JARED FRANCE: Mm-hmm, yeah.
  • [00:18:53.60] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, with four young kids, you have a very busy life. I don't know whether you have lots of siblings, but--
  • [00:19:01.88] JARED FRANCE: I have one sister, six years younger, so.
  • [00:19:06.29] CAROLYN HOUSTON: And in Loch Alpine, everybody was the same age. So everybody had lots of kids in those days, many more than they have now. And we had a tremendous social life, almost too much of a social life with the parents.
  • [00:19:27.35] We had beach parties. We had parties every weekend. We had bridge. We had everything. And the kids could go to the beach and do what they wanted to out there. It was a very nice life.
  • [00:19:46.25] We moved into town. We moved from there to [INAUDIBLE] We lived there for 14 years, which was very nice, in order to be a little closer to Greenhills, 'cause I was having to transport the kids to the Greenhills.
  • [00:20:02.66] JARED FRANCE: Can you tell me some more about your children and what life was like when they were young and still living in the house?
  • [00:20:13.83] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, were very busy. I enjoyed my children. Loch Alpine is on a golf course so they all played golf and they all swam, and they were very active in the-- Loch Alpine Country Club had a pool and they competed against the kids in Ann Arbor and all over again. So that was very busy, too.
  • [00:20:47.57] And my two older boys were in the band, and they all took instruments and played instruments of some kind, which they don't anymore, except one was taking up the guitar and is very good at it. We just had a very good life.
  • [00:21:21.98] JARED FRANCE: OK. Can you tell me some more about your working years as a secretary?
  • [00:21:31.21] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I enjoyed being a secretary, and I think most people don't realize how important they are. They really keep officers going.
  • [00:21:41.83] JARED FRANCE: Mm-hmm.
  • [00:21:43.39] CAROLYN HOUSTON: And I didn't find it demeaning at all, which I think a lot of people think it is sort of demeaning, but I don't find it so. I often say to people that the best thing I ever took in school was typing in 7th grade, which stood me in good stead. Still, 'cause I'm now doing a newsletter here in the Meadows and still typing.
  • [00:22:13.33] JARED FRANCE: What was a typical day like during your working years?
  • [00:22:17.89] CAROLYN HOUSTON: My working years? Oh, gosh. Oh, well, see, they were so different 'cause I didn't stay in the same place. When I was at Stanford, it was wonderful. It was so relaxed you couldn't believe it. We'd have the girls in the office and the engineering school would all go out and have coffee and sometimes the professor would have to come and find us. We were having such a good time.
  • [00:22:50.26] And then we'd meet our husbands and everything and sit in a circle in front of the union and have lunch. And that's really where I got my education, was from other graduate students who taught nothing but graduate work and everything. I feel I learned more than I did at the University of Michigan.
  • [00:23:15.40] And when I worked at Rackham, as I say, I was divorced, and well, I had a lot more energy then I got up early. And then I started going with Bill Houston, and he came up or I went down to Pittsburgh every weekend for five years. And I can hardly believe I did all that and worked all week.
  • [00:23:47.82] JARED FRANCE: What did your family enjoy doing together when your kids were at home?
  • [00:23:53.31] CAROLYN HOUSTON: We did everything together. We had picnics together. Some of us golfed together. My husband did better at that than I did. And we were a family.
  • [00:24:15.32] JARED FRANCE: What were your personal favorite things to do for fun?
  • [00:24:20.39] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, I like to play bridge. I like to sew. I used to sew some of my clothes. I used to enjoy that. I'm very domestic. I do needlepoint and I sewed and I cleaned and I made things for the house. I like to cook. I like to give parties.
  • [00:24:46.34] JARED FRANCE: I like to eat. I like to be at parties.
  • [00:24:48.49] CAROLYN HOUSTON: [LAUGHS] It was very busy, and then just keeping things going, you know. Until now, I've never had someone to clean for me because I was too fussy and I really didn't want anybody around. So I was busy, and I liked it. I had a very good life.
  • [00:25:14.87] JARED FRANCE: During this time in your life, were there any interesting fads or slang? Had the clothes changed and the lingo?
  • [00:25:23.18] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, we wore shifts, which were dresses that were just sort of straight down. It's the Jackie Kennedy look. That's what we looked like. And whatever she did, we did. No, there weren't really, not like there are now.
  • [00:25:46.87] JARED FRANCE: Can you find the words that your kids were saying?
  • [00:25:51.71] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, they probably wouldn't have said them in front of us.
  • [00:25:54.88] [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:25:57.61] Not that I know of.
  • [00:26:02.57] JARED FRANCE: Are there any special days, events, or family traditions that you enjoyed during your adult life?
  • [00:26:08.15] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I said we enjoyed Christmas.
  • [00:26:14.65] JARED FRANCE: How is it different being the parent instead of the child during these holidays?
  • [00:26:22.97] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, you have control, I guess. You do all the work, that's the difference. I still have the fanciest Christmas tree that ever existed, because I have so many of my mother's things and she used to put practically everything. And I've made a lot of ornaments. I'd blow out eggs and decorate them with jewelry, and stuff like this. That's the kind of stuff I liked.
  • [00:26:53.29] JARED FRANCE: All righty. When thinking back on your working adult life, what important social or historical events were taking place and how did they personally affect you and your family?
  • [00:27:08.20] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, of curse, the few years leading up to my divorce were rather tense, shall we say. I thought a lot about that because I don't know what the boys thought about it.
  • [00:27:40.50] They got involved once when they had to, one of my sons did, because he was living at home and going to medical school here because he was living at home. And it must have been very difficult, but they never said anything about it to me. I think they understood.
  • [00:28:04.55] JARED FRANCE: OK. We're moving on to part 3, which is later life, which is beginning with probably your husband's retirement or when all the children had left home until now. So it could be another 23 years here. Tell me about any moves that you made from the beginning at this time until you moved to Glacier Hills.
  • [00:28:33.74] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, as I've said, in 1980 my husband and I were divorced. And I stayed here for another 10 years, although I was going back and forth to Pittsburgh a lot and working. And then I moved to Sewickley Heights, which was a suburb of Pittsburgh, when I was remarried. I was remarried in Pittsburgh.
  • [00:29:06.55] And my children, I think, thought my new husband was great, and so that was fine. We had a house big enough to accommodate everybody so they could all come at one time and see us. And then my husband died, which was a terrible shock. Policemen coming to the door and saying, it's Mr. Houston, and I knew immediately. What else could it be? It was terrible.
  • [00:29:57.18] JARED FRANCE: Where do you hope to live for the remainder of your life?
  • [00:30:00.16] CAROLYN HOUSTON: [LAUGHS]
  • [00:30:00.41] JARED FRANCE: Do you hope to live here? Do you like it here?
  • [00:30:03.21] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I have a very good time here. I moved here, gosh, let's see, February of 2003. And in December of that year, we started this newsletter that we have every month. I don't know whether you've seen it, but it's a great accomplishment. And we have it every month and I'm the editor.
  • [00:30:30.90] And I came to Michigan thinking I was going to major in journalism, and sort of got sidetracked. Couldn't find anybody to talk to, for one thing. And I have a little staff and we meet every month, and then we talk about current events in the newsletter, and it's very nice. And it keeps me very busy, which is fun.
  • [00:31:05.51] And the people here are great. There are a lot of very smart people here and accomplished people here. And it's loaded with women, of course, mostly widows, very few single men, and couples.
  • [00:31:26.39] JARED FRANCE: We just spoke with one earlier, a couple.
  • [00:31:30.50] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, who did you speak to?
  • [00:31:32.10] JARED FRANCE: Bob and Anne [INAUDIBLE].
  • [00:31:33.59] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, yeah. Well, he was notorious. [LAUGHS]
  • [00:31:40.78] He's our star.
  • [00:31:42.62] JARED FRANCE: Yeah. He was absolutely fascinating. How has your life changed since your spouse passed away?
  • [00:31:52.17] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, tremendously, you know. I got rid of the household furniture and moved here. But I feel like this is a family now. I mean, I know people. We know each other. We care about each other. If something happens to one of us, we care about each other. The only problem is people keep dying.
  • [00:32:27.24] And one of my favorite quotes that we put in the newsletter was one of the older ladies-- the older ladies, we're all older ladies-- said in this little voice, we're all terminal. And we about died laughing at that. Of course, we all are once we're born. That's the only sad thing about it, people drop out and go to the care center and die.
  • [00:33:08.74] JARED FRANCE: What is a typical day like here at Glacier Hills?
  • [00:33:14.40] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I try two days a week to go to the wellness center and exercise. And I've never exercised really before in my life as such. And otherwise, I spend a lot of time on the computer, and I enjoy that, doing the newsletter and other things. And I don't know, have dinner.
  • [00:33:49.32] JARED FRANCE: What does your family enjoy doing together now? Do you guys get together?
  • [00:33:54.43] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, we try to get all together once a year. They're all over the place, one in Akron and one in Washington and two in Virginia. And so we're going up to the Homestead up here on Lake Michigan, the 26th of this month, for a week.
  • [00:34:14.50] JARED FRANCE: That'll be nice.
  • [00:34:15.86] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Yeah. And we've gone to the Homestead in West Virginia, or Virginia, I guess it is. And we've got places like that. But my oldest son Paul said, I want to go back to Michigan, so we're going to the Homestead.
  • [00:34:36.03] JARED FRANCE: I know you mentioned that you enjoy doing the newsletter here, but what else are your favorite things to do for fun?
  • [00:34:46.96] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I have a new friend that I see now, and we have a good time together.
  • [00:34:59.39] JARED FRANCE: Here at Glacier Hills, are there any slang terms or unique social customs that you experience?
  • [00:35:09.46] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Slang terms. I don't go in-- you know, we use the term is cool and whatever, some of the things that you say, but we're not a generation that had, as far as I know, had a lot of slang terms.
  • [00:35:26.86] JARED FRANCE: Do you tend to use the ones that you may have said a long time ago--
  • [00:35:33.23] INTERVIEWER: Like "nifty."
  • [00:35:34.11] JARED FRANCE: --like in your childhood years.
  • [00:35:36.05] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Like what?
  • [00:35:36.85] INTERVIEWER: Like "nifty" perhaps.
  • [00:35:40.48] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I never used them. I know the words.
  • [00:35:44.47] INTERVIEWER: "Spiffy," "snazzy."
  • [00:35:47.78] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Not really. Not really.
  • [00:35:56.90] JARED FRANCE: Are there any special days, events, or family traditions that you really enjoyed doing this time in your life?
  • [00:36:06.29] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, my life is separate from my family now. They include me, you know. I went to my son's for Christmas, and I met two of my boys and their spouses in New York a couple months ago for the weekend on my birthday. My friend and I went on a cruise last year, last winter. And I don't know. It's a different world for me.
  • [00:36:54.90] JARED FRANCE: Are there special events here at Glacier Hills that you do with your friends here?
  • [00:37:00.93] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, yeah. They try to have really nice things. They had a nice 4th of July party out on the patio, and they're going to have a 35th anniversary celebration, I understand, in October. Oh, every other Friday, we have a wine and cheese. They can't seem not to be able to call it a cocktail party. So it is just wine, but it's a thing before dinner, where you have wine and hors d'oeuvres and people get together.
  • [00:37:37.35] The problem here is that people have a fair amount of money, evidently, because everybody has another home, or some have two. So they go to Arizona and upper Michigan. And so a lot of people aren't here in the summertime because they have cottages that they've always had and go to their cottages in the summer. So there aren't as many of us in the summer. And a lot of people go to Florida and Arizona in the winter. But I'm here all the time. [LAUGHS]
  • [00:38:15.84] JARED FRANCE: It's a great facility.
  • [00:38:18.03] CAROLYN HOUSTON: It's very, very nice, and Andy is marvelous. everybody is very nice. Hardly anybody who causes--
  • [00:38:32.73] JARED FRANCE: All right. When thinking back on your later life, after retirement to the present, what important social, historical events were taking place and how did they affect you personally?
  • [00:38:46.98] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, unfortunately, I don't think they affected me personally. That's the trouble with having wars. They don't affect very many people. I think if we realized how terrible it is, we wouldn't have them. But historical events, I don't know. Kennedy being shot, Martin Luther King. Those were totally disrupting things, and we didn't know what to make of that.
  • [00:39:25.54] And of course, the September 11th was unimaginable. My son at the time, my oldest son, worked for the Pentagon and was in the side next to where the plane hit. And we couldn't get hold of him all day, and we were all calling each other and calling him and couldn't get anybody.
  • [00:39:57.38] It was a terrible day, just impossible, crazy. But other than that, it doesn't affect us very much. I guess what I think is that we shouldn't go to war.
  • [00:40:18.40] JARED FRANCE: When thinking back on your entire life, what was the most impactful historical or social event?
  • [00:40:32.55] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Impactful social or historical event.
  • [00:40:35.43] JARED FRANCE: Historical or social.
  • [00:40:39.17] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I guess World War II because I knew people who were in it were fighting. And then my divorce.
  • [00:40:54.88] JARED FRANCE: Once again, thinking back over your entire life, what is the one thing you're most proud of?
  • [00:41:00.69] CAROLYN HOUSTON: My children.
  • [00:41:06.48] JARED FRANCE: What would you say has changed the most since the time you were my age to now?
  • [00:41:14.41] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, there's been enormous change in the way that we live. We live so much more easily, just the way we live. I was talking the other day about my father shoveling coal into the furnace. And electric stoves, computers, microwaves has made home life so much easier, and thermostats and gas heat, and blah, blah, blah. What was the other question? [LAUGHS]
  • [00:42:02.85] JARED FRANCE: Oh, that was it. Yeah. What advice would you want to give to my generation?
  • [00:42:11.94] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Slow down. I'm not really crazy about women working when they have children. I can't imagine putting my children under somebody else's care when they were little. When they grow up and are out of the house, that's another story. But I don't know, I guess I'm kind of old-fashioned about this.
  • [00:42:54.61] It also bothers me that people are always talking on the cell phone and always doing-- at Christmas time, my son's in-laws came from California, Los Angeles. They were either on the cell phone or on a computer all the time, you know, or wanting to go to, what's the coffee place?
  • [00:43:22.15] JARED FRANCE: Starbucks.
  • [00:43:23.20] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Starbucks, or go to the movies, or do this, do that. Slow down. Look around you. It bothers me that my grandson looks at a computer in the car when they drive places. Look at the scenery. Realize where you are. I don't know. I think it's overly sexual, too, and that bothers me.
  • [00:43:57.54] JARED FRANCE: Is there anything else you'd like to add that we haven't talked about?
  • [00:44:02.36] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Mm-mm. [LAUGHS]
  • [00:44:08.77] No.
  • [00:44:12.08] JARED FRANCE: We got plenty of time and plenty of tape if you have some stories or something you'd like to share.
  • [00:44:19.62] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, no. I've had a nice life. It's been complicated, but in many ways, I'm very glad I've lived various places. You certainly don't get in a rut that way.
  • [00:44:37.41] JARED FRANCE: Right.
  • [00:44:39.19] CAROLYN HOUSTON: And that's been good. And I've been able to travel, unlike my parents, who never went abroad, never went any place but to their parents' homes.
  • [00:44:56.83] JARED FRANCE: It seems like you got a nice mix. You got the Ann Arbor and the California and the Washington, Virginia kind of thing.
  • [00:45:06.10] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Yeah. It's been very interesting. I've had two interesting husbands, who were fun to be around and certainly weren't boring, I'll say that. I've never been bored, including here. I won't allow myself to be. I read the newspapers and read The New York Times and the Ann Arbor News pretty carefully, and I like politics.
  • [00:45:47.38] JARED FRANCE: Are you watching the election?
  • [00:45:49.31] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, yes. I'm worried about the elections.
  • [00:45:54.73] JARED FRANCE: What are your thoughts about it?
  • [00:45:57.49] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Well, I think that-- of course, I was for Hillary, so I'm very disappointed. And I think we're getting kind of a pig in a poke, but I hope for the best because I think we do need a change, in my opinion. I'm a rather staunch Democrat. So there's nothing else to do, I guess. Our government has gotten really to be a mess, overbudgeted, overward.
  • [00:46:46.86] INTERVIEWER: What changes have you seen in the government during your lifetime?
  • [00:46:53.22] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, I've seen a lot of presidents. I grew up in a very conservative family and a very bigoted family who, if you weren't Scotch or English, you didn't qualify, really. And I think that's one reason I'm a Democrat. It was very narrow. All government, practically, was socialistic. My father told me one time that libraries were socialism. Oh, gosh. [LAUGHS] That's the end.
  • [00:47:37.77] So I started out, of course, as a Republican, and then my husband was a Democrat and our friends were Democrats. And you know, at University, people often are Democrats. But I think a government for the community, rather than your own personal self, is what I want. Everybody should benefit.
  • [00:48:15.19] Oh, we've had a lot of good presidents. We haven't had very many bad ones, although I think we have a bad one now. I don't know whether he's an idiot or what, but this has really wreaked havoc on a lot of people.
  • [00:48:39.27] JARED FRANCE: All right. Thank you so much for your time.
  • [00:48:41.46] CAROLYN HOUSTON: Oh, you're very welcome. It hasn't been three hours.
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2020

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Carolyn Houston
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Redwood City CA
Arlington VA
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