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Legacies Project Oral History: Joyce Plummer

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 10:14am

When: 2020

Joyce Plummer was born in 1931 and grew up in Flint, Michigan. Her mother was a registered nurse and her father taught public school. She recalls the impact of the Depression and World War II on her community. Plummer attended Flint Junior College and the University of Michigan and went on to get two Master’s degrees. She taught English for 10 years before becoming a reference librarian at the Flint Public Library for 20 years. Later in life she married Robert H. Plummer, whom she had met at Flint Junior College.

Joyce Plummer was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2008 as part of the Legacies Project.

Transcript

  • [00:00:09.01] SPEAKER 1: We're interviewing Joyce Plummer, and it is July 14th. All right, so Mrs. Plummer, if you could please just say and spell your name for the camera.
  • [00:00:20.05] JOYCE PLUMMER: My name is Joyce, J-O-Y-C-E, Plummer, P-L-U-M-M-E-R.
  • [00:00:26.90] SPEAKER 1: All right. And we just need to ask you a few demographic questions first off so we can sort the information that we get from you. So what is your birth date, including the year?
  • [00:00:38.63] JOYCE PLUMMER: June 10th, 1931.
  • [00:00:42.64] SPEAKER 1: How would you describe your race or ethnicity?
  • [00:00:46.21] JOYCE PLUMMER: Caucasian.
  • [00:00:48.76] SPEAKER 1: What is your religious affiliation, if any?
  • [00:00:52.77] JOYCE PLUMMER: I'm a lapsed Unitarian.
  • [00:00:55.62] SPEAKER 1: All right. What is the highest level of formal education you've completed?
  • [00:01:05.32] JOYCE PLUMMER: Two master's degrees plus.
  • [00:01:08.22] SPEAKER 1: All right. And so you attended some additional schooling beyond what you completed?
  • [00:01:13.18] JOYCE PLUMMER: Mhm.
  • [00:01:13.49] SPEAKER 1: All right. What was that additional schooling?
  • [00:01:19.12] JOYCE PLUMMER: I took extra courses at the University of Michigan beyond my two masters, and I spent two summers at Bread Loaf School of English, which is connected with Middlebury College in Vermont.
  • [00:01:35.96] SPEAKER 1: All right. What is your marital status?
  • [00:01:39.73] JOYCE PLUMMER: I'm a widow.
  • [00:01:40.20] SPEAKER 1: All right. How many children do you have?
  • [00:01:44.26] JOYCE PLUMMER: I have none of my own. There are stepchildren.
  • [00:01:50.68] SPEAKER 1: How many siblings do you have?
  • [00:01:52.81] JOYCE PLUMMER: One. I had a half brother, who is deceased.
  • [00:01:59.32] SPEAKER 1: What would you consider your primary occupation to have been?
  • [00:02:05.26] JOYCE PLUMMER: Reference librarian, although I taught school for 10 years in addition to-- well, I should say previous to my work as a librarian.
  • [00:02:16.96] SPEAKER 1: All right. At what age did you retire?
  • [00:02:23.28] JOYCE PLUMMER: 53.
  • [00:02:27.08] SPEAKER 1: So that concludes the demographic questions. So this next set of questions is about your childhood and your school years, so up until the time when you graduated from college, actually. So to begin with, where did you grow up, and what are your strongest memories of that place?
  • [00:02:50.03] JOYCE PLUMMER: I grew up in Flint, Michigan. General Motors town. A number of my relatives worked for General Motors. In fact, my grandparents came to this city from World War I or so because of the factories there. They came from New York State.
  • [00:03:22.86] SPEAKER 1: All right.
  • [00:03:24.03] JOYCE PLUMMER: I don't know what else.
  • [00:03:25.34] SPEAKER 1: OK, we've got some other questions to help you along. What was your house like?
  • [00:03:32.02] JOYCE PLUMMER: We lived in a nice residential neighborhood in the northwest corner of the city, although we moved quite a bit. We didn't own houses, we rented them.
  • [00:03:53.08] SPEAKER 1: All right. How many people lived in the house with you when you were growing up, and what was their relationship to you?
  • [00:04:01.47] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, there was my father and my mother, and I had a 2 and 1/2-- a brother who was 2 and 1/2 years younger. However, my parents were not getting along very well, and there were times when my father was not in the household, and there were times when my brother was not in the household. He was being taken care of by one of my mother's sisters. And there was a time when my mother and I were living with my grandparents during those years between my birth and early-- by the time I was through elementary school, I had been through all that.
  • [00:04:47.57] SPEAKER 1: What was your family like?
  • [00:04:52.55] JOYCE PLUMMER: It's hard to say. My mother, who was a registered nurse, was hardworking. She had to work. She was very strict and very stubborn, but that helped us get through our tough times. I was born in 1931, right in the midst of the Great Depression, so things were tough all over. And then to have the family split up made things even more difficult. But we managed. As I mentioned, there was a lot of help from family. Her family.
  • [00:05:34.61] SPEAKER 1: So your mother was a nurse. And what sort of work did your father do?
  • [00:05:38.93] JOYCE PLUMMER: He was a teacher in the public schools [INAUDIBLE].
  • [00:05:44.41] SPEAKER 1: How would you describe your relationship with each of your family members?
  • [00:05:50.30] JOYCE PLUMMER: My father I didn't really know very well because he was in and out. As I said, my mother was caring and careful in bringing us up, but quite strict. And I think both my brother and I would say she was a stubborn person, too. She had enough gumption to do what she had to do.
  • [00:06:18.20] SPEAKER 1: She had to I bet.
  • [00:06:19.23] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yeah.
  • [00:06:21.53] SPEAKER 1: All right. So what was a typical day like for you when you were growing up?
  • [00:06:27.20] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, what age are we talking about?
  • [00:06:29.69] SPEAKER 1: Let's say-- were your days fairly similar when you were in elementary school and middle school and-- when you were going to school, what was--
  • [00:06:41.12] JOYCE PLUMMER: OK, elementary school. Because things were so sort of topsy turvy in my personal life, I concentrated on school, and always was a very good student in school because that was my life, really. And then I would play with the neighborhood children, as most people did in those days. We just played in our own neighborhoods. There was no place to go for activities and organized sports, so we'd roller skate or play kick the can or those kinds of things, hopscotch and so on, right on the street where we lived.
  • [00:07:31.66] SPEAKER 1: Can you describe the chores or duties you had at the time?
  • [00:07:35.66] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, by the time I was 10 years old, I was doing the weekly house cleaning and the laundry because my mother was working full-time from then on, all the way through until I left home to go away to college.
  • [00:07:57.86] SPEAKER 1: What were your favorite things to do for fun?
  • [00:08:04.33] JOYCE PLUMMER: Reading. A lot of reading. We'd go to the Saturday matinee movies at the neighborhood theater. For 12 cents, we could see a feature, a serial, cartoons, news. And we had to walk to get there because we had only 12 cents. And it was probably a mile and a half or two to get to the theater from where we lived. But it was in the neighborhood. It was still in a residential area.
  • [00:08:50.04] SPEAKER 1: Do you remember any interesting fads or slang at the time?
  • [00:09:02.03] JOYCE PLUMMER: Not really. Nothing until World War II came along. And then there were expressions like Kilroy was here, and there were songs that everybody was repeating like "Mairzy Doats," things like that. But I can't think of any personal expression that I used a lot.
  • [00:09:28.63] SPEAKER 1: Like if something was cool, would-- you guys didn't use the word cool, did you?
  • [00:09:33.34] JOYCE PLUMMER: No.
  • [00:09:34.50] SPEAKER 1: Did you have another word you used instead?
  • [00:09:40.33] JOYCE PLUMMER: Just bad, lousy. Didn't have anything like they have today.
  • [00:09:49.47] SPEAKER 1: What did you guys dress like at the time?
  • [00:09:53.15] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, nobody wore slacks, the children as well as adults. I mean, adult women. So I wore dresses to school, or a skirt and blouse, depending on how far along we're talking about in the school experience. And that lasted right through high school and college that we'd dress that way. Oh, I guess we wore shorts in the summer when we were playing around the home.
  • [00:10:36.28] SPEAKER 1: Were there any special days or events or traditions that you really enjoyed as a child?
  • [00:10:43.11] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, Christmas was very important, decorating the tree. Something I liked to do was to watch the other members of the family put the decorations on. And I just liked to watch. I don't know if that's--
  • [00:11:04.52] SPEAKER 1: Yes, [INAUDIBLE].
  • [00:11:05.35] JOYCE PLUMMER: --common, but I enjoyed that part, just watching it take shape, you know, as all the decorations. And of course, in those days, you used these-- well, it wouldn't be plastic, it would be like what we call aluminum foil now, icicles on the tree. And so one at a time. It took forever to decorate a tree. But I let the other folks do it most of the time. I liked to watch.
  • [00:11:42.48] SPEAKER 1: When you think back on your childhood and your school years, what important social or historical events were happening at the time, and how did they impact you and your family?
  • [00:11:53.70] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, as I said, we were living through the Depression. Money was very tight. The day of Pearl Harbor was interesting because my brother's birthday is the 11th of December. And it just happened that a number of my mother's relatives were at our house to help celebrate his birthday because it was a Sunday, and that's when the family could get together. And all of a sudden, somebody heard on the radio the news of the great-- I mean, there were a lot of aunts and uncles. I think my grandparents were there, too.
  • [00:12:31.85] But somebody had the radio on, and we got the news. Well, we knew that life was going to be different from that point on. A couple of my cousins were in the service, but none of-- and my uncle on my father's side was in the service, but none of my relatives were sent overseas. So there were no injuries or deaths close to our family. And my father was old enough with the family so that he didn't have to go anyway.
  • [00:13:23.58] Then the next thing that really sticks in my mind is the death of FDR because he was the only president I'd known, having been born one year before he went into office. When he died in '45, it was just a real blow. And then the next thing that really hit me-- and I still live with it-- is when I heard about the atomic bombs being dropped. I think that was the-- you know, because we didn't know what was going to follow after that. But luckily, it was nearing the end of the war.
  • [00:14:21.55] SPEAKER 1: All right, well the second part of the questions covers a pretty long period of time. It covers the time from when you graduated from school up until when you retired, or when your spouse retired, whichever. Yeah, so we can talk-- we're talking like anywhere from 20 to 40 years here. So after you finished school--
  • [00:14:48.83] JOYCE PLUMMER: You're talking about high school.
  • [00:14:50.72] SPEAKER 1: --yeah, we can start with high school-- where did you live, starting with after you graduated from high school?
  • [00:14:55.83] JOYCE PLUMMER: All right. When I graduated from high school, I was near the top of my class, and I received a scholarship to the local junior college. They had a junior-- they would call them junior colleges then. Flint had one. So I lived at home and went to school there for two years. And then after the first two years, I received a regents scholarship to come to the University of Michigan.
  • [00:15:22.17] So I came down here and lived in a dormitory, and worked in the dining room to help put myself through school, and worked every summer at a summer resort to help pay my expenses. And got my bachelors degree, and majored in English to be an English teacher. And then I began teaching. My first job was in Albion, Michigan at the high school there.
  • [00:16:02.03] It was not the best experience. The principal gave me five sections of the same course. You stop to think about it, you're teaching the same thing five times each day. By afternoon, I didn't know what I was saying, which people I'd told things to or, you know. Also, I had all the same grade, of course, because it was the same course. It was the tenth graders.
  • [00:16:40.79] And the ninth grade teacher, who'd had them the year before, had the same setup. Everybody in that grade was in her classes. She had been a very poor disciplinarian, so they were wild by the time I got them. Of course, ninth grade is a little wilder. Anyway, that age is hard. Eighth and ninth grade are hard, I think.
  • [00:17:10.45] So I had an awful time. But I stuck it out for three years. And each year was a little better. And I also, even though I was still given the same course, all the time, five times [INAUDIBLE] and then during the end of the third year, my principal from my own high school back in Flint wanted me back to teach because they had an opening to teach English.
  • [00:17:42.82] And so I did go back for my fourth year of teaching back to Flint, to my own high school. And I was teaching along with some of my former teachers, of course. And it was an overcrowded situation because nothing had been done during the war as far as construction. And there was much more population.
  • [00:18:10.76] And so the first year, I didn't even have a room of my own. I had to move throughout the building for each class. And that made it very difficult because I couldn't put anything on the Blackboard until I got in. And by the time I got there, the students would already be there, and so discipline was hard.
  • [00:18:34.72] Anyway, things got a little better there. Finally, after the first year, I told the principal it was impossible, and that I had to have a room. So I did get a room, and some really good students from them on. That was about the time that the Russians put up Sputnik. And that shook up the educational system in this country. We've got to make sure we can keep up with the Russians.
  • [00:19:04.54] So they emphasized doing extra things for the college-bound students. So I had senior English college prep classes, along with a few of the others, too. At least that school was able to mix my schedule so I didn't go nuts teaching the same thing all day. And I had some very good students there. In fact, one of them is now Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, just as an example, although he didn't do very well in high school. But he must have grown up after that.
  • [00:19:52.12] SPEAKER 1: So you lived in Flint.
  • [00:19:55.28] JOYCE PLUMMER: Until--
  • [00:19:55.78] SPEAKER 1: Until--
  • [00:19:56.74] JOYCE PLUMMER: --until as a junior I came to the University of Michigan.
  • [00:20:01.45] SPEAKER 1: Right, right. And then you--
  • [00:20:03.39] JOYCE PLUMMER: Then when I graduated, I started teaching. But I used my summers to start work on my master's degree in English.
  • [00:20:11.57] SPEAKER 1: Gotcha.
  • [00:20:12.88] JOYCE PLUMMER: And I kept teaching at my alma mater, you might say, in the high school until I got so I wouldn't take that anymore. And one reason was they put a new wing on the building right outside my windows. And so I had a very difficult time making myself heard above the noise.
  • [00:20:44.47] And then the principal called me in one day and said that two families had complained because the boys had not received high enough grades in Senior English. They had been given C-pluses. And I had all these terrific students. And according to my work records, they were C-plus students.
  • [00:21:18.32] Well, he said the families knew that they had to have Bs to get into good colleges. Of course, my theory was that you have to learn in order to stay in the good colleges. But he changed the grades. The principal changed the grades. So I decided, well, I'm not going to keep this up.
  • [00:21:42.04] So I applied-- because I had heard of other people doing this-- I applied to teach children of our armed forces overseas. And I imagined that I would go somewhere in Europe or Turkey maybe, because I knew that we had bases various places.
  • [00:22:07.75] After all the paperwork-- and there was a lot of paperwork. They tried to trace my life back to age 5, I guess, to make sure I was a loyal citizen and all that. Anyway, they approved me. And they sent me a letter. We have an assignment in Japan. You have 48 hours to let us know whether you want it or not [LAUGHS]. So I thought, hmm, I'll probably never get over that way unless I take this job. And so I did.
  • [00:22:44.98] And it turned out when I got there, it was a base about 50 miles northwest of Tokyo. And a train went right by the base. So we could go right into town if we wanted to. And it turned out that the high school math teacher that they'd hired was somebody that I'd been in high school with back home [LAUGHS]. I made a lot of friends over there, too-- the other teachers. We had a lot of fun.
  • [00:23:17.22] And every time there was a vacation period-- and there were many of them. The government workers have more time off than most other people-- we always just got going and took a trip somewhere so we could see other places. So we traveled all around Japan.
  • [00:23:36.28] And during our Christmas vacation, we went all the way down to Singapore and everything in between, Hong Kong and Bangkok. So I saw quite a bit of the Pacific area. And I was just there one year.
  • [00:23:54.77] Oh, there's something I left out. Back in the earlier years, my mother remarried when I was between 10 and 12 maybe. It's hard to pin all these things down at this date.
  • [00:24:16.98] But a neighborhood boy that she'd gone to high school with appeared. He'd come back to town. He'd been living other places. And he was not married at the time. And they got together. And so she remarried.
  • [00:24:34.70] Well, it turned out he was an alcoholic. That's another reason I decided I wanted to do the overseas bit, because life at home had gotten too bad with his problems. She had a hard time picking them, I guess, because she had trouble with the second marriage, too.
  • [00:25:06.90] During the year I was in Japan, he died. So I decided that I would come back after the one year instead of staying longer. But that year in Japan was really most interesting, lots of fun and nice.
  • [00:25:24.87] SPEAKER 1: What year was that?
  • [00:25:26.67] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, it was '61-'62 school year. And what's interesting, too-- a lot of the military people assigned various places-- and this was true on the air base where I was. I observed they take the wives and the children and the whole family if they're assigned these various parts of the world. Most of the families would just stay on the base and do things on the base.
  • [00:25:59.80] They had a movie theater. They had bowling alleys. They had everything just like home. The teachers looked at it differently. This was our chance to study the world.
  • [00:26:11.79] And all our free time-- if we had just an hour or two, we'd go outside the base and walk among the farms, little Japanese farms and the little villages around us. And then every time we had any long weekends or anything, we'd take off and go see other places in Japan. Or as I said at Christmas time and our spring vacation-- where did we-- oh, spring vacation, we went and covered the rest of Japan that we hadn't seen before, all the way to Osaka, which was quite a long ways from where we were living.
  • [00:26:57.13] Where were we now? We have got me through my bachelors degree and my master's degree. I was still teaching in Flint, I think, when I got my masters. Yeah, it was '57. I didn't go to Japan till '60-something. So I had my master's degree then.
  • [00:27:25.00] And right after I got back, I think, were the two summers I went to Vermont with another teacher that I became acquainted with. And that summer school experience out there was fascinating, because they didn't have just the Middlebury College professors. They brought in well-known poets, writers from all other universities around the country.
  • [00:28:04.23] And I could name the names of some of them. But it wouldn't mean anything to you now, because it's so far back. But we had fascinating courses and instruction.
  • [00:28:16.35] Plus Robert Frost lived right down the road. He was still living-- quite old. He was in his 80s. But at least once each summer, he would come down and spend time giving a little lecture and talking freely with the students there.
  • [00:28:37.11] And there were students from all over the country, of course. But it was sort of like Ohio-- or Iowa. Isn't it Iowa, where people go for writing courses-- graduate work? Well, anyway, it was a fascinating place to be.
  • [00:28:58.73] After I left my own high school, when I decided not to teach there anymore, I decided I'd try a different kind of teaching. So I applied at some junior colleges. I didn't get in at my own in Flint. But the one in Battle Creek hired me. And I went over there and taught for just one year.
  • [00:29:35.04] And I was quite disappointed in the students I got. Everybody is required to take freshman English. And I had some folks that weren't really prepared for college work. And it was quite disappointing, except for the fact that they did, the second semester, give me a special course in the history of the English language, which I enjoyed doing, because I had a few interesting people-- really interesting people-- for that.
  • [00:30:16.42] And after that year, I had begun to wonder whether grading papers all the time and trying to surmount the obstacles I met in teaching were the thing. Maybe I should investigate some other professions. So I went back to Flint, to my mother's house, and thought about the direction that I could go.
  • [00:30:47.09] And so I contacted the newspaper in Flint. It made sense. I had a master's degree [INAUDIBLE]. Don't have any journalism courses. We can't hire you at our newspaper.
  • [00:31:03.21] So I went to the television station. Same thing-- no journalism-- you wouldn't be any help here. That makes no sense at all, but anyway. So the third idea I had was the public library. So I put in an application there.
  • [00:31:24.53] And one of the names I used as a reference was the person who ended up being my husband later on. Mr. Plummer-- Dr. Plummer-- happened to be the dean of students at the junior college when I was a student back then. We're backing up a ways.
  • [00:31:50.73] And I wasn't in any class of his, although I think he taught sociology as well as being the dean of students. But I got to know him, because he was finishing up his doctorate. And he hired me to work some extra hours on Saturdays to help him get his statistics together.
  • [00:32:15.35] There weren't any computers in those days. And you did everything by hand. And he, being a very outgoing person, was always talking to me instead of letting me work. He want to get acquainted.
  • [00:32:31.64] Anyway, so I was already working for the dean of women. I always had to work, all the way through school. And she recommended me to him. So I helped him quite a bit my sophomore year, my second year at the junior college. And then I went on with my life. And he went along with his. He had a wife and children at that time.
  • [00:33:07.01] After my year at the Battle Creek-- Kellogg Community College is what they call it over there. I wonder why they call it Kellogg? We all know-- I went back to my mother's house. And that's when I decided I was going to investigate these other careers.
  • [00:33:32.94] Well, the director of the library called me in for an interview. And he thought I would make a good what they called trainee. There was a real shortage of librarians in the '60s. This was early '60s.
  • [00:33:50.73] And so the Flint library, among others around the country, would hire people with good academic backgrounds but not the library courses to work and learn at the same time, and take either extension courses in the evenings or summer school. And they would give us time off to go to summer school. So that's what I did. I started working on my library degree.
  • [00:34:21.42] And they put me in the reference department right off, which was great fun. It was a lot more fun than teaching those high school students and the junior college students, too, as matter of fact, because I didn't take any work home at night. I worked very hard when I was at work. And I had to work two nights a week, because library hours are extensive.
  • [00:34:48.93] But it was such fun, because you'd get a phone call. And you have no idea when you answer the phone what a person's going to want to know. And you have to know where to look to find the information. We didn't have computers to go to then. We had to use books, government documents, magazines, whatever. We had indexes to various things to track down information.
  • [00:35:17.70] And before long, they made me the head of the business and industry department, which wasn't my field. But once you know the tools for a librarian, you can do anything. And so I was even buying the books, choosing which magazines we were going to have in the collection.
  • [00:35:43.98] And so I worked at the Flint Public Library for 20 years. I'd already taught 10. And I worked there 20.
  • [00:35:54.75] During the course of that 20 years, a friend of mine-- I'd run into her at a shopping mall or something-- she said, I'm going to have an open house during the holidays. And a very dear friend of ours is going to come over. And I wonder if it would be all right with you if I introduce you.
  • [00:36:25.08] And so I said, sure. That's fine with me, because I knew her and her husband well enough to know that any friend of theirs would be a nice person. Well, it turned out that this person was Dr. Plummer, whom I had worked for.
  • [00:36:44.91] In the meantime, his wife had died of cancer about a couple years before. And he was dating a number of people in Ann Arbor. And he had a friend in California. And he had people all over the countryside.
  • [00:36:57.93] But anyway, we were both surprised. And the woman who had the party was just flabbergasted, because she had no idea that we knew each other. And both of us first said immediately, I know you.
  • [00:37:16.97] And so we spent that whole party just sitting and catching up on things-- what he'd done and what I'd done in all the intervening years. This was 20-some-- let's see, from '59-- yeah, 20-some years that I had any direct contact with him. I'd seen articles in the paper about him as his career had advanced and so on.
  • [00:37:45.76] But after that party, I went home and wrote him a letter and said it was nice to see him again. He wrote back. We started writing back and forth. We started visiting. I was in Flint. He was in Ann Arbor.
  • [00:37:59.87] At that time, he was-- the current campus of Washtenaw Community College had just gotten started. They had started at Willow Run, very small. Then they got this property, which was an old apple orchard-- maybe you've heard the story. I don't know-- where they currently are and have been expanding ever since.
  • [00:38:25.13] But anyway he got in when they were first starting the new campus. And he was hired to hire all the social science faculty and be one of the faculty. So that's how he happened to be in Ann Arbor. And he was living here when I met him at this party, and we started getting reacquainted.
  • [00:38:52.27] So we dated. But he was dating other people along the way. And after a while, we got down to two-- the one friend in California and me. He knew he wanted to remarry.
  • [00:39:15.58] But when he put it to her that-- did she really want to be married or not, she said, no. She'd never marry anyone. And that settled that. I had already told him that he had to make up his mind, or I wasn't going to spend any more time wasting my time, you know?
  • [00:39:35.65] Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that somebody I went to high school with had proposed to me way back when I was teaching in Albion in my first teaching job. But I didn't think that would work out. And so that was the only other romantic thing, you might say, in my life.
  • [00:40:00.13] SPEAKER 2: I'm going to stop you there.
  • [00:40:12.50] SPEAKER 1: So do you remember exactly where and when you met your husband for the first time?
  • [00:40:21.64] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, I met him when I was a student at the junior college, because one of my jobs was working for the dean of women. And I was club room manager. That was my title. Well, faculty members and outside educational people came there for luncheons sometimes. I had to serve the luncheons.
  • [00:40:49.84] And my future husband was always involved, because he was dean of students. And of course, the president of the college was there too. But I knew him. But anyway, I ended up working for my future husband. That's where I first met him. And then, as I said, 20-some years later, I met him at this party.
  • [00:41:10.39] SPEAKER 1: That's remarkable.
  • [00:41:11.36] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yeah.
  • [00:41:11.85] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. So what was it like when you were dating?
  • [00:41:15.73] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, we did a lot of interesting things. We-- when he came to Flint, there wasn't all that much to do. I mean, I'd cook dinner for him. And we'd talk or watch TV or-- we didn't go places much in Flint.
  • [00:41:37.89] But, boy, when I came down here on the weekends that I had the chance to come down here, we would bike in the Arb. We would walk in the Arb. And we started going to football games. He had tickets to the football games.
  • [00:41:53.65] And when I was a student here, I didn't go to very many of the football games, because I was working so much that I had to study. And I didn't understand the game. Once I started going with him, I got to understand the game and really enjoy it.
  • [00:42:13.24] So and I-- and then there were some other people from Flint who had retired down here from the Flint college. So our friends were friends that we knew from Flint to some extent. And then we lived in Huron Towers, the big-- over by the VA hospital. And there are a lot of university related people that live there. And so we made a lot of new friends there too.
  • [00:42:45.32] And we-- now, this was when we were dating. You want to know after we were married? Are we ready for that?
  • [00:42:58.54] SPEAKER 1: Sure. And you can tell me, how did you get engaged? And what was your wedding like?
  • [00:43:05.08] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, we both decided when the final other possibility was out of the picture and that I was the one left and that I wanted to marry him and he wanted to marry me-- there was 16 years' difference in our ages. I was considerably younger. But he was such a physically and mentally active person that I knew we would have a good life together.
  • [00:43:46.19] But I also knew he was likely to die before me and I might end up having to take care of him, which came to pass. We'll get to that eventually. We knew the great age difference. But we decided it was worth it.
  • [00:44:08.70] Now, the wedding-- we had-- I had 50-some years of life behind me. And he had 60-plus years behind him. We had friends and relatives all over the world. And we said, no, we're not going to have a big wedding. This is impossible.
  • [00:44:31.15] So what we did was we went up to my mother's church. By that time she had retired to Petoskey. And the Methodist Church up there was a new building and very nice. So we had just our immediate families and had the wedding up there. And there were a total of 16 people at the wedding.
  • [00:44:55.47] And that was fine, because we absolutely needed no gifts. It was ridiculous to even think about wedding gifts. We didn't even have formal invitations, just ordered a cake and flowers and arranged a dinner at the Bay View Inn up there along the lake. And that was it. And it was memorable.
  • [00:45:23.89] SPEAKER 1: Now, you said that you didn't have any children, correct?
  • [00:45:28.01] JOYCE PLUMMER: That's right. I was 53 when I was married-- a little late [LAUGHS].
  • [00:45:31.95] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, just a smidgen. All right, so tell me about your working years, like when you were working.
  • [00:45:39.33] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, I've told you quite a bit about that already.
  • [00:45:41.82] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, that's true. Yeah, yeah.
  • [00:45:44.01] JOYCE PLUMMER: As I said, I became head of one of the departments, because the departments were by subject, except for the cataloging department, which-- and so on. There was the section where all the novels were. They called it general reading. And then there was general reference. And there was art, music and drama. And there was a film department.
  • [00:46:08.61] But I had the business and industry department. And I had about four or five librarians working under me, one clerk, and several students. And as a department head in a library-- well, any kind of a job where you supervise-- you have to know the work of all the other employees in order to have a tight ship, as they say, which was no problem for me. Every time somebody was sick or on vacation, I was able to fill in. And it was no problem. I got along fine.
  • [00:46:58.76] And by the time I-- well, when we had decided we were going to marry, we decided we wanted to be sure that we weren't jeopardizing my pension. So one spring, when he had a day and I had a day off, we drove over to Lansing to the Michigan Teacher's Retirement Office. And I said I wanted to know how much longer I needed to work before my 30 years, which is when you can start drawing your full pension.
  • [00:47:41.02] And so the lady said, oh, all right. If you want to sit here a few minutes, I'll check this out for you. So she did, came back shortly, and she said-- this just about blew us away. She said, you have 40 days to work, beyond July 1. This was in about May of 1983 that we were over there.
  • [00:48:09.22] And I couldn't believe I had my 30 years. But then I stopped to think. The librarians-- the whole library, in those days, was under the board of education, just like the Ann Arbor library used to be under the board of education. But the state law was changed, taking the libraries out from under boards of education.
  • [00:48:32.32] So I was working 11 months a year instead of 9. So I was accumulating retirement time much faster--
  • [00:48:41.87] SPEAKER 1: Oh, yeah.
  • [00:48:42.14] JOYCE PLUMMER: --being a librarian than when I'd been a teacher. And that's what accounted for the 30 years being there so fast [LAUGHS]. Of course, that made it great.
  • [00:48:58.01] So I went back to the library and told our director. And, oh, he thought I was crazy, stopping before I needed to, to go and live in Ann Arbor and to have fun, married to somebody I wanted to be with. He wasn't looking at it that way.
  • [00:49:16.97] He was thinking of the money I would be missing by not staying on, because there were certain benefits if you waited until you were 65 in the school system. But as long as I had a full pension coming anyway, and he was still working at that time, there was no problem.
  • [00:49:41.93] So anyway, I was given a nice retirement party. And we-- as I said, our wedding was up in Petoskey. And he had a beach house on Lake Michigan between Luddington on the north and Pentwater on the south. Do you know where the area is?
  • [00:50:04.99] SPEAKER 1: Yes.
  • [00:50:07.21] JOYCE PLUMMER: In fact, it was a two-lot piece of property, just gorgeous, but an old house. The cottage itself was built probably in World War I. And so it was kind of rundown and creaky. And it needed stuff done all the time.
  • [00:50:28.30] And he had put in the septic system. He had dug any number of wells over the years. This was when his family was young and his wife was still around. The two of them had kept the place going.
  • [00:50:49.67] So even after we were married, we'd go up there for the summers. And it got to be a little too much for him after a while. By-- what year would this have been-- 1993, '94, somewhere in there, we had a problem with the septic system. So he opened up the septic tank and got down inside it in all that crud--
  • [00:51:35.10] SPEAKER 1: Oh, my goodness.
  • [00:51:36.02] JOYCE PLUMMER: --and found out there were tree branches in the pipes. And he took care of that. But then he had trouble getting out, because by that time he-- let's see. This was in '94. He would have been-- he was born in 1915. Subtract 94 from 15. What do you get?
  • [00:52:08.02] SPEAKER 1: 79?
  • [00:52:08.96] JOYCE PLUMMER: 70s, yeah.
  • [00:52:10.60] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [00:52:13.03] JOYCE PLUMMER: So we both realized it was time to give up the property up there. And we didn't even need a realtor. He went down on his bike. He was still riding his bike. He went down the road to the convenience store one Sunday morning to get some milk.
  • [00:52:33.99] And there was a-- well, what we'd call a young man, waiting while his wife bought a couple of things inside. And he started chatting with him, because he talked to everybody. He was so outgoing. And he said, do you know of anybody who would like some lake property? And the man said, well, we do.
  • [00:52:59.56] It turns out that his wife's family had been going up to the lake that-- what do you call-- inland lake that's right not too far away from where our cottage was, for several generations. And so they were very familiar with the area. And they were up there visiting her family-- the reason we happened to run into them.
  • [00:53:26.39] Well, that afternoon, they came over and looked at the place and were very interested. And within a few weeks, they decided they wanted it. But they said we could be there the rest of the summer to give us the whole summer to finish things out and decide what we wanted to take out of it and leave there and so on. What we ended up doing was taking just our clothes and left all the tools, the boats, the furniture and stuff there for them.
  • [00:53:58.81] But since then-- he was a lawyer realtor from Illinois and just rolling in money-- since then, they tore the old place down. And they've got a year-round house that is like a McMansion up there on the property now. But it's made to look Victorian, with the pillars and the porches and the tower at one end and everything, which fits into the landscape very nicely. And so it's-- I'm very satisfied with what they did with it.
  • [00:54:39.51] And since then-- at the time they bought it, they had no children. But now they have three. And they're going to have it for generations, I'm sure, unless the waters come up and wash everything away. But there's still quite a bit of land between them and the water.
  • [00:55:02.54] SPEAKER 1: So-- oh, go ahead.
  • [00:55:04.55] JOYCE PLUMMER: Where are we now?
  • [00:55:05.60] SPEAKER 1: Well, when you think back to your working life-- just take a couple steps back. During your working life, what was a typical day like for you?
  • [00:55:19.22] JOYCE PLUMMER: I would get to work early before the library opened, because there were a lot of things I could do and get done quickly if I wasn't interrupted, like look at new books that were coming in for examination. And my various staff members were assigned certain subject categories. And I would sort those and get them ready for them or take care of memos on my desk or something that I-- because I spent very little time at my desk, my little office desk.
  • [00:55:58.87] I was out at the reference desk. I took my hours out there just like everybody else did. That's the only way to know what your clientele is and what people are going to be wanting to know. So when it came to purchasing materials, I would know what was most in demand, what was necessary to buy to spend the money wisely.
  • [00:56:24.88] So I was on the go all day. But that little extra even 20 minutes or so in the morning was a big help to get me started. And then I would stay in-- the library opened at 9. And I would go home at 6 if I worked the day shift.
  • [00:56:44.20] If I worked the night shift-- which I took my turn along with everybody else, two nights a week-- then you come in at 12 and work until 9. And everybody has to take turns working Saturdays. And being the head of the department, I had to make out the schedules to try to please everybody.
  • [00:57:05.44] And when it came to holidays, you take turns getting certain ones, also on the basis of whether somebody lived nearby or had to take a trip in order to get to their family or whatever. But that was all part of the job, too.
  • [00:57:30.52] SPEAKER 1: So while you were working as a librarian, what were your personal favorite things to do for fun?
  • [00:57:43.28] JOYCE PLUMMER: I always did a lot of reading. I biked then, too. I did some bike riding. I had flower boxes in the summertime outside my apartment. By then, I was living in an apartment. Go to the movies occasionally. Not really very sociable-- my husband really brought me out.
  • [00:58:23.22] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [00:58:24.28] JOYCE PLUMMER: He was good for me.
  • [00:58:25.58] SPEAKER 1: That's good. When you were an adult, out of school, do you remember what kind of trends or fads were going on then?
  • [00:58:42.63] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, the Beatles came in it in the '60s, of course. But they didn't affect me. I was aware of them. But my nephews by then, my brother's boys, were just all agog, you know? They had to have everything that the Beatles did.
  • [00:59:02.73] And not too long ago, I gave this one nephew a day calendar that was a Beatles calendar, because I knew that he had been so interested back in his youth. And now he's 50-something years old, so.
  • [00:59:23.34] SPEAKER 1: Are there any special days or events or family traditions that you really enjoyed during your adult life?
  • [00:59:32.17] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, still Thanksgiving and Christmas. By the time my mother was living in Petoskey-- she'd retired up there. Not only did she have a cottage up there, but she retired up there-- I'd try to get together with her. And then when I started going with my husband, he would join us. Even before we were married, he would spend the holidays.
  • [01:00:05.38] And since she had that place up there, before I was married to Dr. Plummer, I was-- and then we were going to our place on Lake Michigan. I would spend some of my vacation time up in Petoskey, in the Bay View community up there. I had an aunt, another one of my mother's sisters, who had a place up there.
  • [01:00:40.58] Originally, there was a lot of hay fever in my mother's family. And they went up there originally to get away from the ragweed that's in the lower part of the state. And it helped quite a bit. I did not get any of those allergies, fortunately.
  • [01:01:00.43] SPEAKER 1: When you think back on your working adult life, what social or historical events were taking place then? And how did those impact you?
  • [01:01:11.68] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, backing up again, the year I decided I didn't want to teach anymore, I didn't have a job. But that's when I was looking for jobs, going to all these places that said I wasn't qualified before I ended up at the library. I had my application in at the library that fall.
  • [01:01:41.29] But I decided, well, I got to do something. I can't just sit around the house. So I got hired by the major department store in downtown Flint, which isn't there anymore. It was called Smith Bridgman's-- double name.
  • [01:01:57.56] And the building was owned by Mr. Mott, the Mott that had all the money that did so much for-- we got the hospitals here and a lot of-- just about everything in Flint with his name on it.
  • [01:02:18.71] And I was hired to work in the hosiery department. And that was before the time of pantyhose. Women were still wearing regular stockings, nylon stockings.
  • [01:02:30.97] So I was selling Hanes hosiery in November of 1963-- it was '63, wasn't it-- when somebody stopped at the counter and said, the president's been shot. And of course at first, must be just-- can't be true. And then we kept hearing it more and more. And this was about midday.
  • [01:03:06.79] And then they came over the PA system and said, we're closing the store. Everybody went home and turned on their TVs. And the whole weekend, we watched what happened. And that was Kennedy, of course.
  • [01:03:25.92] And that was a memorable time, too. I'm wondering if anybody else has mentioned that? Have they?
  • [01:03:34.11] SPEAKER 1: No, actually.
  • [01:03:35.75] JOYCE PLUMMER: Oh.
  • [01:03:37.63] SPEAKER 1: Let's see. This next set of questions covers the time from when you retired up until now. So tell us about, let's see, any moves that you made. Well, when you retired, you were living in the cottage, correct?
  • [01:04:02.22] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, no. I had an apartment in Flint, which I dismantled, of course--
  • [01:04:07.09] SPEAKER 1: Right, yeah.
  • [01:04:07.67] JOYCE PLUMMER: --because I was moving to my husband's apartment here in Ann Arbor, in Huron Towers. But some of my belongings ended up going to the cottage.
  • [01:04:17.08] We were married in August. So it was about the end of the summer. So after our honeymoon in Petoskey, we drove to the cottage and dumped some things off.
  • [01:04:31.20] And then interestingly enough, we went to a high school reunion of his in Indiana. He was from Indiana-- Bedford Indiana, southern Indiana. And he'd planned on this. We'd talked about it, that I would go with him, of course.
  • [01:04:49.71] And he had registered me with the name of GiGi instead of Joyce, because he wanted to have an exotic name for me. He knew there were a couple of women that still had their eyes on him.
  • [01:05:04.79] [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:05:06.41] And there was this one in particular. When we got there, she was just so disappointed, because they had received the news that he'd been widowed.
  • [01:05:20.09] SPEAKER 1: Oh, yeah.
  • [01:05:20.58] JOYCE PLUMMER: And so that was kind of an interesting way to sort of start out our marriage. But anyway, when we settled down in Ann Arbor, we did all kinds of things. We went to the concerts. We went to football games. We went the Power Series. We went to-- yeah, all kinds of things, and then still kept going up to the cottage in the summertime.
  • [01:05:45.94] SPEAKER 1: So and then you moved here after the incident with the septic system, correct?
  • [01:05:53.44] JOYCE PLUMMER: It was a year after we'd sold the cottage that we began to think about Glacier Hills. Glacier Hills was advertising in the newspaper. They had four times a year open houses, inviting people to come in and tour the place.
  • [01:06:17.28] And we thought that we would like living in this kind of a community, because we would make new friends. We would have all kinds of activities. And he was a real go getter, you know? He wanted to do things all the time.
  • [01:06:36.61] And so we came to the first open house. And when would that have been? '94-- well, anyway, mid-'90s. And we were really impressed, because they had the residents leading the tours around the place. Now they have a staff doing it. And I think it's much better when the residents show you around, because they know what people are interested in, because they're--
  • [01:07:10.71] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [01:07:11.16] JOYCE PLUMMER: --living here. The things that are important-- where is the laundry room, all these things. And we were impressed with the first open house we came to. And within a month or six weeks, we decided to come over and sign up. And we were told that it'd be about a two-year wait.
  • [01:07:40.17] But being as organized as always, I decided maybe it's a good idea to start going through cupboards and closets and drawers, and start sorting things out, because if we're going to be moving-- it's not going to be too much a change in space, because we were living in quite a small apartment in Huron Towers. And the one we got in, in the Manor over here, was just about equal, except we had almost no kitchen facilities here the way the setup was originally.
  • [01:08:15.48] In fact, I'm the only one in the Meadows, I think, that has lived on both sides, as well as spending time in the nursing center. But we haven't got to that yet.
  • [01:08:30.80] Well, it turned out that only 11 months later, they called us. And they said they had an apartment we could look at. And so we came over and looked at it. And we decided we'd want it, because it faced east. It looked out over the residents' gardens. Do you know where that section is?
  • [01:08:52.15] SPEAKER 1: Yes.
  • [01:08:52.59] JOYCE PLUMMER: Where those carports are? We were on the fourth floor, looking out that way towards the east. And we always liked to face the east. Our apartment in the Huron Towers faced the east, too. And we liked the sunrises. And so we said, OK.
  • [01:09:11.17] And this was in November. We moved in here on December 18, a week before Christmas. And I had already bought, wrapped, mailed all of our packages, including cookies I baked, down to our Christmas cards, and got us ready to move. So we were able to spend our Christmas here very comfortably.
  • [01:09:42.39] SPEAKER 1: Oh, wow.
  • [01:09:43.64] JOYCE PLUMMER: And so we were here after that.
  • [01:09:48.31] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [01:09:48.76] JOYCE PLUMMER: And that was December of '95. So this is my 12th year here, altogether.
  • [01:10:00.76] SPEAKER 1: So do you plan to spend the rest of your life here at Glacier Hills?
  • [01:10:04.87] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yes, because I am going to be taken care of. I mean we pay to have a deal on nursing care if we need it. And in fact, if something happens to you while you're living here and need nursing care, you get a discount from what outside patients get. And so I would like to die in my apartment and not go through-- but we never know, do we?
  • [01:10:40.73] SPEAKER 1: So how did life change for you? When did your husband retire? Did he retire after you married him?
  • [01:10:49.06] JOYCE PLUMMER: He was still teaching part time. He was teaching night classes-- I can't remember if it was one a week or more than that. I don't remember for sure-- even after we were married, at the Washtenaw Community College. And then finally, I made him quit, because snowy nights in the middle of the winter-- it really worried me.
  • [01:11:17.39] And the last year that he did that, I went with him and sat in the library and did things while he was teaching. And we decided that that was enough of that. But he was in his 70s before he quit teaching.
  • [01:11:39.11] SPEAKER 1: And how did life change when he quit?
  • [01:11:42.31] JOYCE PLUMMER: Not a great deal, because he wasn't working full time. Oh, something else we were doing with our time all along the way-- we were taking Elderhostels. And we were taking courses at the Turner, Living in Retirement. We were taking writing classes, both of us. And then the Elderhostels were in all kinds of subjects.
  • [01:12:14.77] Oh, by the way, during these years we were getting acquainted and then during our marriage, he was developing a strong interest in Carl Sandburg and his work. And he had read all the six volumes on Lincoln that he'd written and, of course, also was familiar with the poetry.
  • [01:12:40.80] But Sandburg also wrote children's stories. He wrote-- he did collections of folk songs. He-- I mean, it goes on and on. The man was just into all kinds of stuff. And so my husband got so interested. One of our trips, one of our-- well, even before his first wife died, he'd been down to Flat Rock, the last place that Sandburg lived.
  • [01:13:11.49] But we really started the research after we were married to get him prepared to give programs on Carl Sandburg, which he did start. And he gave about-- oh, I can't count them-- between 30 and 50 probably, a lot of them here in Ann Arbor at churches and here and at service clubs. And at the Writing in Retirement, he did one.
  • [01:13:40.15] He got a wig that he had cut so that he had the hair hanging down. You know how Sandburg's hair always looked? He really did look like him. And a suit-- a sort of formal-looking suit-- in fact, he might have used his own old tux for that, and bow tie. And he did that for several years.
  • [01:14:09.77] And then the kinds of Elderhostels we went to, we just picked things that sounded interesting. We travelled several times to Great Britain. And we did all-- our first one was in Michigan. But then we spread out. And we did a number of them in Indiana and Michigan. And we did as far south as Florida-- Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Colorado.
  • [01:14:46.23] And next month, I am going to take one on my own that is following the Lewis and Clark expedition, going all the way to Oregon.
  • [01:14:57.03] SPEAKER 1: Cool.
  • [01:14:57.83] SPEAKER 2: That'll be really fun.
  • [01:14:59.19] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yeah.
  • [01:14:59.46] SPEAKER 1: Good for you.
  • [01:14:59.94] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yeah.
  • [01:15:01.23] SPEAKER 1: So how has your life changed since your husband passed away?
  • [01:15:05.17] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, let's take the time he was ill. He-- near Christmas time of-- I don't know-- 2002, 2003, he just wasn't acting right. And he was vomiting. But it wasn't food coming up. It was sort of phlegm coming up.
  • [01:15:38.16] And this was right during the holidays. And I just couldn't figure that we'd get any help. His regular doctors wouldn't be around right at Christmas and New Year's. So the day after New Year's, that second day of January, I took him to emergency up at the U of M.
  • [01:16:03.14] And it was fairly early in the morning. And they gave him tests. And they examined him. By 4:30 in the afternoon, they said they were going to do surgery. He had a mass in his abdomen. And they needed to operate.
  • [01:16:21.41] So there I sat. Fortunately, I had knitting with me, or I would have gone completely up the wall, because that was such a terrible day. So they told me where to wait while they were doing the surgery.
  • [01:16:35.48] And after that was over-- it was about 8:30 at night by then-- a woman surgeon came out and said, we're sorry to tell you that there's this mass in his abdomen we can't get at because of the arteries and things that are around it. We can't cut through. And we assume it's cancerous. So he will have maybe two or three days or maybe couple weeks to live. You can imagine how that hits somebody.
  • [01:17:16.01] So the first couple nights, I stayed with him at the hospital. And they ran all these tubes and everything, you know? And he got through that. He started to heal. And his bowel system begin to function. And they said, as soon as it was clear that he was able to eat, get food through him, they would send him to Glacier Hills and that I should get hospice and wait and see how long he lasted.
  • [01:17:49.31] Well, that's what we did. But he started to get better. He healed from the surgery. And it wasn't cancer. It couldn't have been cancer, because we had pictures taken a year later. And the mass hadn't grown. And it hadn't affected him.
  • [01:18:07.65] The only thing was that he was developing Alzheimer's. And so he lived for five years over here in the nursing center. And during that time, I fell, broke my wrist. And it was minor. But I did have to go to emergency.
  • [01:18:32.18] I had been pushing him around in his wheelchair, even though he got so well he was able to walk with a walker all around the halls over there. But when we went outside, I took him in his wheelchair. Well, I took him all around, down around the pond and everything, until my back gave out. I got sciatica so bad I ended up in the hospital.
  • [01:19:00.66] And after that, I just didn't touch his wheelchair. I couldn't do it. I didn't want that brought back again. So ever since that happened-- that was during the course of the five years. It was toward the end. I guess it was the last year that he was alive that I couldn't push him. I had to-- he was back on hospice, because he started to deteriorate.
  • [01:19:29.52] His Alzheimer's was getting so bad that at first he couldn't walk anymore. And then he couldn't stand by himself. And then eventually, he had to have help eating. And so it was almost five years where I was over there every day doing nothing else but looking after him.
  • [01:19:56.60] And he died in October of '07. That would have been last year, not quite a year. And we had a wonderful memorial service here.
  • [01:20:14.54] Friends that had known him back when he was teaching in Flint sent messages. In many cases, they couldn't be here. But we had somebody read their messages. And family members, grandsons that he helped through college, spoke.
  • [01:20:40.71] And then I finished it up by talking about things we'd done here together. But the things we'd done here together made quite a long list, because when we moved in here, we were both full of vim and vigor still.
  • [01:20:56.34] And in the summertime, we had a raised garden right near the south end of the pond. You know, there's a stone bench that's still there, sort of hidden by pine trees down there. And it was that area where we had this garden that was raised up about this high.
  • [01:21:16.78] And we'd call it our M garden, because we always put in blue and yellow flowers. And we shaped the M so that anybody walking anywhere around the pond could see that M. And we did that as long as we could.
  • [01:21:33.94] SPEAKER 2: We reached the end of the tape.
  • [01:21:49.01] JOYCE PLUMMER: I mentioned we had our garden every year. And then during the summer of 1996, the Olympics were in Atlanta. So we decided, he and I, that we would sponsor Olympic games for Glacier Hills.
  • [01:22:06.63] And we had lots of stuff, because we had our own croquet set and bocce set and Frisbees and all kinds of-- and we had a little basketball thing that was just-- the backboard was just so big. And the basketball was like this.
  • [01:22:24.99] So they were all things that the residents here-- even the ones in wheelchairs could do some of this stuff. And this was before the Meadows was built. So we had a lot of meadow out here to have our activities. And we bought ribbons for first place, second place, and third place for the winners. And there was a great deal of participation.
  • [01:22:48.31] And they had the PA system set up to play the "Star Spangled Banner" every time the winners were announced. But of course, it was the "Star Spangled Banner" every single time because [LAUGHS] they were all American winners.
  • [01:22:59.73] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, you're all American.
  • [01:23:01.80] JOYCE PLUMMER: So we had a lot of fun with that. And I got involved in writing articles for our monthly newsletter. When I lived in the Manor, they had an eight-page newsletter that was assembled by the staff. But the material was partly contributed by the residents.
  • [01:23:29.80] And I had already been in a number of writing classes and taught of course, too. And so I was interested in working with the paper. And so I started contributing articles.
  • [01:23:48.67] And then the staff members changed over time. And there was going to be a lapse where there wasn't going to be anybody to do the newsletter. It came out once a month. So by that time, I had worked with it so much, I went in to the director and asked if they could put the program-- because it was a special page maker program-- onto my computer so that I could do the whole thing.
  • [01:24:21.13] So I was doing-- for six years, I did the eight-page thing every month, including the first year that my husband was ill. I don't know how I did it, because besides that, I had taken on running the library. When we first moved here, there was a woman who was really ready to retire from doing that sort of thing, because she was getting so old. So another former librarian took over the library.
  • [01:24:54.76] And then she got cancer and was very ill. And I promised her that I would take over the library for her. So for six years, I ran the library, which is really at least a half time job if you do it right. And then I was doing this newspaper.
  • [01:25:16.78] And my husband got sick. And the first year he was sick, I was trying to do it all. And I finally decided I'd have to quit, because I was getting so worn down.
  • [01:25:29.56] In the first place, they said he was going to die. And then he didn't. The emotions and feelings you go through with all this and not knowing how things are going to go-- so I gave up the work in the library. And I gave up the work in the monthly newsletter.
  • [01:25:54.09] And the monthly newsletter stopped. No staff member or resident took it up after I quit. So they don't have a newsletter in the Manor anymore.
  • [01:26:08.59] The other thing is that we had signed up to move to the Meadows, because we knew there were advantages to living over here. People had their own washers and dryers right in their apartment. You have underground parking and so on, living in the newer section.
  • [01:26:31.02] The month that he went into the hospital is the month that the Meadows opened. We couldn't move. So Andy, who's the director-- you probably met her. She's an angel. She's been here ever since I have in various capacities. But now, she's running this. And they put a good person in charge, all right.
  • [01:27:02.84] After two days of being with my husband in the hospital when he was first taken in, I finally came home to get some rest, some sleep. The staff had brought me breakfast, so I'd have a meal. And I was just starting to eat that breakfast, and there was a knock at the door. And Andy was there.
  • [01:27:28.13] And she said, don't worry, Joyce, how things go. You just wait and see how things go. We'll hold your apartment here in this part as long as is necessary for you to know whether you want to move and when you want to move.
  • [01:27:44.82] Well, the written deal is that you cannot hold an apartment for more than six months. But she was just going to ignore that, because we had no idea what was coming. Well, it turned out that I decided after a year.
  • [01:28:02.66] He was getting better. He had recovered from the surgery. And he was moving around and was quite alert, really. So I decided I'd make the move.
  • [01:28:22.67] And that was real easy, because the maintenance staff moved the furniture. And I hired one of the companions. You know, they have people that help people a certain number of hours a day. If they want it, they pay for it. I hired this woman for one day to help me with the move.
  • [01:28:44.15] And she stayed in the old apartment using a list that I had made of the order of pieces of furniture that were to be moved, what was to come over here first, what was next, and so on, because I knew how I wanted to fit things in the new apartment. And I didn't want everybody to be falling all over each other. So it went so smoothly.
  • [01:29:09.64] By that night, I had all the dishes in the cupboard. And the only things left were putting the books on shelves and the pictures on the wall. Moved in one day. So I only missed seeing my husband for one day at that point.
  • [01:29:27.75] But after-- did I talk about this earlier-- four years of his being over in nursing and my pushing him around in the wheelchair, I ended up in the hospital. So I couldn't do that anymore.
  • [01:29:44.55] And then in '07-- that was this last spring-- when I had my mammograms, there was problems. So my surgeon, who had already operated on my one breast, operated on this breast. And there were two kinds of cancer.
  • [01:30:09.55] One lump was removable. The other one was invasive. And after 10 days from going in the first time, he had me back in the office and said we have to take the breast. It's the best thing to do. And I said, remember I'm left-handed. I didn't want to lose the mobility in my left arm. And he said, yes.
  • [01:30:42.14] So I got through that. But I was in the hospital three days. And I was in the nursing center two weeks recovering from the breast removal. And my poor husband, I couldn't see him every day, of course, during all these things.
  • [01:31:00.95] But I did walk down a couple of times in my robe and pajamas to his room. And he didn't seem to be aware that-- by that time he was failing considerably-- that I was not in my regular clothes. But he was happy to see me of course.
  • [01:31:22.19] I had told him I was going to be away for a while, because I was going to have an operation. But by that time, his memory was so bad that it didn't mean much. But finally, one day, one of the volunteers wheeled him down to my room, which was just down the hall from where he was.
  • [01:31:43.10] And that really hit him, when he saw that I was on one of the beds. He knew that I had been sick then. He was really shaken up. I said, I'm all right. I'm getting better. So then I got back home and healed and started visiting him again. And then he died last October.
  • [01:32:12.95] But when you have that kind of an illness-- and I have talked to other spouses here, too-- your grieving takes place over a long period of time, so that when the death actually comes, it's a relief in a way for him and for me both, because I don't have to worry anymore what tomorrow is going to bring.
  • [01:32:47.57] So we had a-- as I said, I think, earlier, that we had a very upbeat memorial service. And there were 130-some people in the Hanson Room down here that came.
  • [01:33:03.19] SPEAKER 1: And how has your life changed since he passed away?
  • [01:33:06.57] JOYCE PLUMMER: Since-- I've gotten back to doing, well, my writing. In fact, during the whole time he was sick and previous to that, besides doing the monthly newsletter for Glacier Hills-- the person that was in charge of the Manor at that time, the manager of the Manor, suggested doing-- that maybe we should consider having an arts magazine as well as the newsletter, because people had turned in poems they liked or jokes or something and that sort of thing we didn't have room for in the newsletter. And so what did I think of the idea?
  • [01:33:51.83] And I said, well, that sounds good. I can do it on my computer. But I want some input. And first of all, we had to get residents together and think of what we'd call it.
  • [01:34:05.60] It'd be a conglomeration of stuff people wanted to share, their life experiences, or something they had read somewhere that they wanted to share with other people, or something that they had painted, or a photograph they took, or-- so we got together, some of us who had written stuff before.
  • [01:34:27.83] We had a haiku class at the time, too. That's something else I started. I got those women together. And we came up with the name of Ideas and Images. That's the name of the publication. And we decided twice a year was about the way to put it out.
  • [01:34:50.90] And that was nine years ago. And I'm still doing it all on my computer. I send out announcements about a month or six weeks before I want to put it together to remind everybody to turn in stuff. And then I do it on my computer. And we take it to a printer. And they get it free.
  • [01:35:19.29] And I've even received, in some cases, material from people in assisted living. And I've gotten one so far from a woman in nursing, who is mentally fine. She just can't walk. And so that's growing.
  • [01:35:38.12] And the administration has gotten so excited about it, they want to expand it. And they want to make sure everybody in the place has a copy. We were giving copies to everybody in the Manor and the Meadows. But now they want to include all assisted living and all the nursing residents as well, because it's good publicity in a way. They take it home. And then they can see something that was going on at Glacier Hills.
  • [01:36:08.27] But my goal at the beginning of doing that was it brings people together that maybe weren't acquainted before. If they read something that has been contributed, it helps bring the groups together. And particularly important now that we have the old side and the new side, the Manor side and the Meadows over here. We get contributions from both. And so people-- it's one way of joining the folks together better.
  • [01:36:48.67] SPEAKER 1: So [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:36:49.27] JOYCE PLUMMER: So I'm busy with writing.
  • [01:36:50.83] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [01:36:51.44] JOYCE PLUMMER: We have a book club. I'm in a book club. I usually do one book. I review one book a year for them. What else do I do with my time? Well, I keep in contact with everybody through my computer.
  • [01:37:12.59] There are only two people, one friend and one relative, who don't have computers, I have to write letters to. So half the time, now, or maybe even more than half the time, I type them and then just stick them in an envelope, because I'm not used to doing handwriting anymore.
  • [01:37:34.09] SPEAKER 1: Oh, yeah?
  • [01:37:35.26] JOYCE PLUMMER: After a while, you sort of lose the knack. My handwriting is getting terrible.
  • [01:37:43.36] SPEAKER 1: So take me through a typical day in your current life here at Glacier Hills.
  • [01:37:49.28] JOYCE PLUMMER: OK, the first thing when I get up in the morning, I take some medicine. And sometimes before breakfast but sometimes after, I do my bed exercises, which are to help strengthen my back and keep it from getting out of whack. I'm doing that religiously, because I don't want to have the pain that I went through before.
  • [01:38:19.00] And it's important. I can even tell sitting. I have to be in the right kind of a chair. I have to do a lot of walking.
  • [01:38:29.76] Well, anyway, at 7 o'clock-- when 7 o'clock comes, I go down to the cafe to have breakfast with a bunch of us who go to early breakfast down there. And then I come back up and brush my teeth. And if I haven't done the bed exercises, I do them.
  • [01:38:50.17] Three days a week, I go down to the wellness center and work on some of the machines down there. And every day of the week, I walk either all the halls twice in the Meadows, which is almost as far as going around the property. If I don't do the halls, I do the property all the way around. So I get that walk in.
  • [01:39:17.06] And as I said, I do a lot of communicating with people through the internet. Now that I have more time, I'm going out to lunch with friends, things that I wasn't able to-- I felt that I wasn't able to do when my husband was ill. I just couldn't think of it. So I'm doing that.
  • [01:39:46.93] Last Christmas, I took the train out to California, where my brother lives, to spend Christmas with him, because it was the first Christmas that I had a chance to do that. And then, as I said, I'm going in August on this long Elderhostel all the way to the Pacific Ocean. So I got my life back together.
  • [01:40:14.60] SPEAKER 1: Good, good, yeah. Have you noticed any unique social customs here in the nursing home?
  • [01:40:21.79] JOYCE PLUMMER: The nursing home? Or you mean Glacier Hills?
  • [01:40:25.51] SPEAKER 1: Or just in general around Glacier Hills, I guess.
  • [01:40:28.46] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, one thing they have had ever since I've been here-- and it goes way back before that, because I did a history of the place for the 25th anniversary, which is now a long time ago. That was 10 years ago-- is this June picnic. They call it the resident family picnic.
  • [01:40:54.67] And they rent this huge tent that they put up out in back of the Manor. And they cook up picnic food and encourage everybody to come and everybody to bring their families if they're within traveling distance. So they serve about 600 people for that picnic.
  • [01:41:17.97] And I've gotten so tired of it, because I've done it so much. And it's so noisy and crowded and everything. They even bring over as many people as they can from the nursing center. It's just a mob scene.
  • [01:41:33.63] So they have it arranged so that if you don't want to go outside, you can eat in the Manor dining room and get the same menu and stay inside. So the last couple of years, I've been doing that. That's one of the traditions.
  • [01:41:51.33] Then both sides have parties for holidays, like New Year's Eve. As I mentioned, we both have-- both sides have their own New Year's Eve parties and Halloween parties. The Halloween parties here in the Meadows are great fun.
  • [01:42:12.04] My husband and I always dressed up for the ones, even when we lived in the Manor, because we thought it was fun to do. But we were some of very few that put on costumes. But over here, almost everybody wears a costume. And it's lots of fun.
  • [01:42:33.76] And then we have a Valentine party and St. Patrick's Day party. And what else? Oh, on 4th of July, Andy always comes in, even though she's not supposed to work, and gives us an ice cream social. So there's always something going on.
  • [01:42:53.45] And there are movies and lectures and things right here in the building. And I'm getting involved in things in town, too. I'm going to have symphony tickets for next year. And I got a chance to use some musical society tickets this year, when there were people that for one reason or another couldn't go after they'd already bought tickets. So this winter, I starting to get back into things that way.
  • [01:43:25.56] And last Saturday, a bunch of us went on one of the Glacier Hills buses over to Chelsea to the little theater over there-- Purple Rose?
  • [01:43:40.30] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, Purple Rose Theater.
  • [01:43:41.99] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yeah, and hit the Common Grill. So I'm doing things now. My life's come back.
  • [01:43:49.12] SPEAKER 1: That's good. All right, are there any special days or events or family traditions that you enjoy at this time in your life?
  • [01:43:59.96] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, there isn't anyone around, really-- I mean, nobody close by. As I said, I spent Christmas with my brother this past year. But I don't think I'm going to try it again. Traveling during the holidays is hell. Going anywhere nowadays is not easy.
  • [01:44:20.03] So I think I'll just stay here, because Christmas here is lovely, because the place is decorated just from top to bottom, one end to the other. It's just lovely. And the folks that stay are able to enjoy the holidays right here. And they, around Christmas time, have a lot of choirs and musical groups come in and entertain us too. So you don't have to go anywhere, really.
  • [01:44:53.22] SPEAKER 1: When you think back on this past period of your life from retirement up until now, what social or historical events happened during that time that have impacted you?
  • [01:45:15.37] JOYCE PLUMMER: Well, our decision to move here was, of course, important. And we're both very glad that we did, because we've made so many new friends. And even half the time during this period, my husband was able to really enjoy it, too.
  • [01:45:37.19] And then he had the care being right under the one roof. I didn't even have to go outside to go to be with him. So this place has had so many advantages.
  • [01:45:50.66] Now, historical events-- well, it depends on your point of view. I think the Iraq war was a horrible, horrible, horrible thing. And it's affected us in our economy. I don't know if there's much else that I'd point out.
  • [01:46:23.31] SPEAKER 1: When you think back over your entire life, what would you say is the one social or historical event that's most impacted you?
  • [01:46:32.77] JOYCE PLUMMER: I guess marrying my husband, to have a late marriage like that, that was so wonderful while it lasted.
  • [01:46:42.12] SPEAKER 1: Yeah.
  • [01:46:42.48] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yeah.
  • [01:46:45.06] SPEAKER 1: When you think back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
  • [01:46:53.81] JOYCE PLUMMER: I guess that I was able to be independent and successful in what I wanted to do. I wasn't restricted by family or race or tradition or anything. And retirement has been as much fun if not more than my working life, because I've been able to really do the things that are of most interest to me, like the writing and the editing that I do and the reading and the book reviews and those things.
  • [01:47:37.66] SPEAKER 1: What would you say has changed the most from the time when you were my age, so about 18, up until now?
  • [01:47:48.85] JOYCE PLUMMER: Whole attitude towards life. Our generation saved. I wouldn't be here today if I and my husband hadn't saved instead of spend everything that we had coming in. You couldn't live in a place like this unless you had money.
  • [01:48:12.39] And of course the cultural things, like the music and the movies and all those things, have changed so much. I like to watch Cary Grant and John Wayne movies. But the stuff that comes out today is so much different.
  • [01:48:37.63] SPEAKER 1: Yeah, it is.
  • [01:48:38.14] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yeah. And then all this technological stuff. It took me a long time to even get an answering machine on my telephone. Eventually, I got a cell phone. But it's only a cell phone. It doesn't do anything else.
  • [01:49:01.13] It's a Jitterbug. You've probably seen it advertised. And I really haven't used it except for once when I was on the train. I'm going to take it with me on this coming trip, because it might come in handy then.
  • [01:49:20.69] And then I've gotten so I can't live without the computer. I really wasn't much of a typist when I learned to type in high school. I probably would have been salutatorian if I hadn't taken typing, because that brought my grades down. But there was a class of 800-and-some students. So I was up there. But the darn typing kind of ruined my day.
  • [01:49:53.01] But those are the kinds of things that are so much different. And then the automobiles-- the car I drive now, I know how to use only about a third of the button that are on the dash, because things are so complex.
  • [01:50:14.82] SPEAKER 1: Yeah. What advice would you give to my generation?
  • [01:50:28.70] JOYCE PLUMMER: Work hard. Save. Have fun. You can't rely on somebody else taking care of you. You see why I put the things in the order I did. Work hard. Save. Have fun. The have fun comes after the other two. That means you first have to study, I suppose, to work to find a career.
  • [01:51:12.48] SPEAKER 1: All right, is there anything else that you would like to add that we haven't talked about, any stories you want to tell, or anything else you feel like you need to share?
  • [01:51:27.72] JOYCE PLUMMER: I think you've dredged out most everything.
  • [01:51:31.51] SPEAKER 1: We try. We try.
  • [01:51:32.78] JOYCE PLUMMER: Yeah.
  • [01:51:33.15] SPEAKER 1: All right, well, in that case, just thank you for participating. I think we're done.
  • [01:51:41.37] SPEAKER 2: Oh, yeah--
  • [01:51:42.27]
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2020

Length: 01:51:42

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Subjects
Teachers
Flint Junior College
Librarians
Flint Public Library
Glacier Hills Retirement Center
Oral Histories
Legacies Project
Joyce Plummer
Robert H. Plummer
Carl Sandburg
Flint
Tokyo Japan
Petoskey