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Evelyn Bath oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Jessica Merrick.
Tampa, Fla. :
b University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 transcript (18 p.)
LGBT oral history project
Interviewee name is a pseudonym, used by request of the interviewer.
Interview conducted March 2, 2009.
This is a transcript on an oral history interview with a lesbian who lives in a gay/lesbian retirement community in Florida, the first such community in the United States. She tells her life story, discussing her career and family and describing how she met her partner. Most of the interview focuses on life in the community: relationships with neighbors, social activities, how people help out when someone is ill, etc.
Social life and customs.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
LGBT oral history project.
y CLICK HERE TO ACCESS DIGITAL TRANCRIPT
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2009, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.
! LGBT Oral History Project Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: L34 00003 In terviewe e : Evelyn Bath ( E B ) Interview by: Jessica Merrick ( JM ) Interview dat e : March 2, 2009 Interview location: Undisclosed Transcribed by: Jessica Merrick Transcription dat e : March 12, 2009 Audit Edit by: Maria Kreiser Audit Edit dat e : April 24 20 09 Interview Changes by: Christine Toth Interview Changes date: June 2, 2009 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit dat e : July 21, 2009 [Transcriber's note: The following changes have been made at the request of the Interviewer: pseudonyms are used throughout the Interview, the use of ellipses indicates that material has been removed, names of persons not directly connected with the Interview have been replaced with pseudonyms, identifying geographical details have been removed.] Jessica Merric k : Today is March second  and I'm talking with Evelyn Bath. So, t o start out, tell me a little bit about yourself. How'd you grow up? Evelyn Bath : I was the oldest of six children and I lived in New Jersey and stayed t here until I was eighteen. Ju st a normal childhoo d w ith my father working a low level government job. And my mother didn't work ; s he was a housewife. She was really intelligent and she was antsy being a housewife s o sh e wasn't very happy. We moved into a community that at the time was just lots of open land but it turned out to be a very wealthy community and we were not. (laughs) So we were at the we weren't poor but we were at the low end of the people there. But it was, you know, just a typical childhood. It wasn't anything unusual. Ups and downs of course but my parents stayed married the whole time M y mother died when I was twenty four and my father died in 1987 when I was I can't remember how old I was at that time After my mother d ied my father remarried about fou rteen months later and he moved to West Virginia. By that time I was married. JM: Okay. Tell me about your career. Do you still work? EB: No I don't wor k anymore. I worked for about thirty four and a half years in education and I taught second grade first I taught nursery school. I was in the guidance
# department. I taught kindergarten f or ten years, and I taught first grade for seventeen I always think of my self as a first grade teacher; t hat was my favorite job. Then I did IST, which is i nstruction al s upport t eacher 1 And then I taught gifted. So I JM: The full spectrum. EB: Yes and nursery school for two years. So yeah I did a lot but all up through fifth grade. JM: That's great. EB: Yeah, I loved the teaching part. JM: So can you tell me about the major turning points in your life? Have there been any points wh ere you look back and you think that they stand out? EB: Well, one of the major turning points was I was married when I was twenty two JM: That's so young! It's a mazing! EB: I know! (laughs) It seems like it, but it didn't seem like it at the time. It just seemed that's what you do. In fact I was proud that I finished college because so many of my friends had gott en married before they finished. S o I didn't feel like it was young, but it was. JM: A lot of people are still doing it like that today, too. EB: Yeah, that's right. And I just thought, W ell this is what all nice girls do, you know, get married. And he was a very, very nice man. Unfortunately a fter we were married for about three years, he became mentally ill t hrough no fault of his own ; it just had been in his family. And [he] went through a lot of diagnoses, but probably he's bipolar in some fashion. So we were married for twenty three years. We were married for ten years before we had a child. And in that t ime I got my m aster s and then I got my I just got my m aster s before I had my child. And I just had one chil d. And then when she was about eight years old I think, I went back and got my d octorate. JM: What' s your daughter's name? EB: () She's twenty seven now. So I think probably the biggest turning point for me really, was obviously I couldn't have done this without having a child but she was really bright. And the guidance counselor at her public school said "Y ou really need to think about sending he r to private school. There is n't enough for her here." So I looked """""""""""""""""""""""""""""" """"""""""""""""""""""""" "$%"&%'()*+(&,%-."'*//,)("(0-+10)"10./'"02*+-(0"-%2"()-&%",(10)"(0-+10)'"(,"-''&'("'(*20%('"31,"-)0"-(" )&'4",5"5-&.&%67"
8 around at different private schools in the area because I didn't want her to board anywhere. I enjoyed her; I didn't want her to go away until she had to go to college. So I found a private school after interviewing a whole bunch of different places. I found a private school not too far away called Perkiomen [School] And it was the best thin g I ever did. It was wonderful, n ot only for her I t was a really good school for her. It was only about 250 kids, five through twelve s o she got a lot of attention, a nd also was able t o do a lot in the school. She was a big wheel in the school She graduated she was val edictorian and all that stuff JM: Wow. You must be proud. EB: She was in everything. She really was good I n fact, I ended up paying a nd then she got huge scholarships to Vassar [College] So I ended up paying more for her to go to high school than I did for her to go to college. JM: Sounds like you lucked out in that situation (laughs) EB: Yeah, yeah! (laughs) JM: It's worth it. EB: It really was worth it. So the big turning point was sending her to Perkiomen because not only did she have a marvelous education, and all the way through, and really, then she got to go to Vassar, which I wouldn't have been able to send her to Vassar if she hadn't gotten those huge scholarships but that's where I met Carme. Carme was her music teacher. She was department chair. So that was a big turning point, naturally. (laughs) And JM: That explains all of the musical instruments. EB: Yes, yes, a ll the musical instruments. So she was department chair, and I met her first I r emember her when I went for registration and we had to be interviewed by the teachers and everything and I remember her doing a presentation for the fifth and sixth grade. And she was st anding up there and I thought, Oh my goodness! She was so young, for such an important posi tion. I thought she was about twenty eight years old you know. She was this real small, little person with this big bow in her hair, (JM laughs) j ust reall y cute. Well in reality, she's four years older than I am. (laugh s ) But she l ooked really really young at the time! (JM laughs) And I just met her there. And a couple years later I realized she had graduated from the same college that I did u ndergrad. She had graduated just she had graduated in June and I came in September. But she knew my husband because she was d ating the fraternity president of t he same fraternity that my husband was in. So she knew
9 JM: A small world. EB: I t was reall y strange. It wa s a small world. So t hat was funny. So we just I just met her then. And then a couple of years later she well, sometime while we were there she asked [my daughter] to audition for a children's honors choir down for Washington that was goi ng to sing in Washington, D.C. And s o she had to practice with [my daughter] to get the music all learned and everything. And I would go up there every Saturday mornin g to help her practice. Meanwhile [my daughter] was going to art school so it was a sort of thing, that I would go up there a nd I just started getting acquainted with her. And that's how we got acquainted [my daughter] being excellent in music. That's what it was. JM: That's neat. So, can you tell me about I see you've got some you've got a I forget EB: [My dog] JM: Te ll me about everybody who lives in your house. EB: Oh okay. JM: [Your dog] s definitely on the list. (dog pants) EB: [My dog] is. At first when we came down w e came d own about a year and a half ago, a nd at that time I had two little nineteen year old dogs, () and () and an eighteen year old cat. (laughs) (to dog) D oes that mean you ? Uh oh. I think that means I have to take him out to go to the bathroom JM: Oh, sure Pause in recording JM: So, w e took a brief intermission for a [dog] potty break (EB laughs) and we're back here again, March second talking with Evelyn Bath I think you were just telling me about everybody in your house, and [your dog] got excited because he was in part of it. EB: He heard his name, yes. He's the most important thing as far as he's concerned. And then Carme. Her real name is () b ut up north they either called her () or some people called her [by her initials]. And I didn't real ly never really liked the name () ; it sounded like a biker babe ( both laughs) So when we got down here, at the ti me, there
: were three different () So okay, what could we call her? O ne of her fri ends up north used to call her (), j ust shorten it s o I thought Well, h ow about Carme ? And she thought that was cute, so tha t's we call her down here. JM: That's nice. EB: And all the doct or's offices they still know her as () But that's what we call her around here. JM: So, w here did you live before you moved into the neighborhood? EB: We lived up in a place called Pennsville sorry, Pennsburg, Pennsylvania. It was about halfway between Allentown and Philadelphia. We lived there I lived close by in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. JM: Schwenksville? (laughs) EB: I sn't that an awful name? (JM laughs ) That's oh, that's an awful name! And then w hen [my daughter] started going to Perkiomen and she was in high school, the upper school, there were so many activities she wanted to be involved in that I want ed to move closer to the school, because otherwise I was about twenty five minutes away. So, m y husband and I were going through I wasn't going to go through a divorce. I thought, What's the difference? I'm not going to get married again What do I need a divorce for? But then I saw his mother had written him a letter and he had it on his dresser and it had the name of five different lawyers on it. And I thought, Whoops. I better do someth ing about this before he does, b ecause I was making I was the highest paid teacher in the district because I had my doctorate and no ot her teacher had their doctorate So, I wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to start paying alimon y or child support or something, even though I was keeping [our daughter] I said, "There's no problems between us ; why don't we just share a lawyer and ju st get a no fault type of thing? So that's what we did. So I moved up to Pennsburg in an apa rtment real close to the school, so she could walk to school. JM: Were you and Carme together at that time? EB: We were together let's see Y eah, we had gotten together really in 1994 and this was ninety six , I think. No that's not true. We were together in ninety four , I know that. I count the days from April 30, 1994. JM: Very specific! (laughs) EB: Yes! (laughs) But it was sometime really in May that we really got together a s a couple in ninety four  And I'm trying to remember exactly when I moved up
; there. I know I didn't move up there until ninety no, that's not true L et's see. She went to P erkiomen in ninety one  ninety two . It must have been in ninety three  when we moved up there. JM: So moving was that also sort of your coming out? EB: I was I didn't come out. In fact I never came out until I was down here. JM: Okay. EB: We were completely cl oseted b ecause after a while I'm trying to remember the exact timing and all. B ut how we started living together is, I was in the apartment, and my ex husband had also moved up to the area. He was losing his job and all sorts of things, because h e was really not well at all; he really was not doing well. And then he finally got h e got thrown out of hi s apartment for being too weird, truly; j ust being too odd. So, I told him and b y that time, Carme and I were together. So I just told him, I'm sure I c ould move in with Carme And I let him use my apartment and I continued paying the rent at the apartment and I just said, "Well, if you 're able to keep the dogs here keep the dogs here, and you can have the apartment So that's what I did for a couple o f years, a nd then he came into an inheritance and moved and bought a small condo minium back in Schwenksville But meanwhile JM: That was really nice of you to do that. EB: Well I guess. But he was a nice man. He really was. It wasn't anything like he didn't cheat, he didn't tak e drugs, he didn't smoke. It wasn't that he drank; i t was just something in his genes. It was jus t bad chemistry. So I thought, I 'll help him out by doing this. And also it meant that so I moved in with Carme People didn't know it for a long time because although she lived in a house that school housing she was on the other side of campus so people just gradually started learning that we were living toge ther. But they just saw us as two middle aged school teachers sharing e xpenses. That's what they saw it as. I'm sure a lot of people knew the score. But as long as we didn't talk about it b ecause both of us would be in danger of losing our jobs especially her because she was there's no such thing as a contract at a private school. You're just going year to year well, there's a contract, but it's just for a year, a nd they can let you go at any time. While I was there they let one young teacher go because they didn't like the fact that she was living with her boyfriend on cam pus They said, Y ou can't live with your boyfrien d on campus. JM: So they definitely wouldn't like you and Carme. (laughs) EB: No.
< JM: Wow. Goodness. EB: So we knew that had happened so we just kept it low key. We were just good buddies. I call it our buddy mode. W e were out of our buddy mode only two weeks in the summer because we go t time s hares up in P town 2 for two weeks. (laughs) Otherwise we were just best friends. That's all it was. JM: It must have been really nice coming here t hen EB: It was wonderful. JM: feeling like you could just be yourself. EB: It was incredible. It was the best. So aside from [my daughter] going to Perkiomen the second big thing to go back to your original question JM: Okay. Yeah. (laughs) E B: T hat was the second turning point A ll I did one time is Google in "gay and lesbian retirement quite a while a go, and lo and behold, [the community] came up. We came down here and we looked at it, and at the time all they had were the triplexes. They were very small. I don't know if you've been in I don't think you've been in a triplex. JM: I don't think so. Is that back here in Phase II? EB: They're right over there. JM: Okay. EB: They are in Phase II. JM: Not the one that Josephine and Beatrice live in? EB: No, that's an other duplex like mine. But as a matter o f fact, you can see a tri plex from right in my (laughs) computer room. J M: Okay. EB: That's one of the triplexes. So, it's very small and i t's all they had. They had the single family hous es, which are at the other side, but there were none for sale. And all they had were these triplexes, so we said, We like the place, but we can't live there, e specially we've got he r grand piano. """""""""""""""""""""""""""""" """"""""""""""""""""""""" # "=),>&%+0(,3%?"@-''-+1*'0(('?"-.',"4%,3%"-'"A= B (,3%?C"&'"-"/,/*.-)"6-D"'*EE0)")0',)(7
F JM: This is a nice spacious place here. EB: It really is. This is perfect. So we left and less than a week later the real estate woman who was here at the time called back and said, "We're thinking of making duplexes that will be on the same plot b ut instead of dividing it into three for triplexes, it'll just be divided into two ." So she sent me the plans and we said, "We love i t. This is great." We put down a thousand dollar deposit. JM: And then so, they started building it after you ? EB: Yeah, after, so it was sight unseen. But w e had seen the triplexes, we had seen the location a nd we had seen the work that they were doing. JM: All online, or d id you drive down and look at it? EB: No we did come down. We didn't drive, w e flew down. JM: Okay. EB: So, w e were down here twice to see it, but we never saw it built until we got here But what we did, what was really nice, was she said if w e were the first ones to buy and since she kne w we weren't coming for a while in fact, we didn't think we were coming until June of 2009 and she said, "We'll just use your place as the model home a nd office And then we would pay for your condo fee and we would pay all the utilities." I thought, Yes! T hat sounded good to me. So we did that and then she wrote the contract for a year and a half. She was positive it would be sold within a year. She wrote it for a year and a half. So, w e did have it for a wh ile and then the economy tanked and everything. But what really happened before the economy tanked is somebody didn't do their job a nd they lost they let the permits run out. JM: Oh, no. EB: Somebody wasn't watching. It was just really aggravating. T hey let the permits run out and i t was a long time before they got the new permits. So m eanwhile, they had all these deposits that they had to give back b ecause the place would've been sold you know, if the permits hadn't run out. That was very, very sad JM: Now there's, what, eight empty places? You think that because of that? EB: Up at the other end there are three empty places, houses. The re's one over here that's empty, a nd then ther e's a few lots. Yeah I g uess there might be as many as eight homes.
G JM: That's the number I saw on the website, so maybe it's (inaudible) ; it's not updated ) Do you think that if that hadn't happened that everybody would be ? EB: I am certain this place would've been sold out. JM: That's too bad. EB: That was really aggravating. It was really really really sad. JM: That's too bad. EB: But anyway I forget where I was going with that. (laughs) JM: Well, y ou were talking a bout, when you first looke d down here EB: Oh, yeah. JM: which made me wonder about how what kind s of things you were looking at when you first came? W hat were you were you checking out to make sure they had or didn't have? EB: Well, t hey said they were going to have a pool a nd so we were disappointed when the pool never happened. And t hey said they were going to have a pool and clubhouse S o we were a little disappointed but I think I wasn't as disappointed as some other people here. Some other people were not just disappoin ted but angry. They felt like they were lied to. But I'm a little bit more pragmatic. And because our first priority really was to live in a small development, and be able to know everybody. That's what we really wanted. We wanted to be able to know eve rybody W e like d the fact that it was on one f loor, that we had no more steps. I was so thrilled to have n o more steps (JM laughs) And t here is the club I don't know. T he big development down the road it's just [a short distance away] has a wonderful pool. JM: Oh, okay. And you can use their pool? EB: W e can use their pool, and it just costs 275 dollars a year for both of us t o use the pool t hat and the hot tub and we can use the fitness room there too. So I've got for 270, it would be a lot more expensive it would go up. O ur dues would go up a lot more than 275 dollars a year to maintain a pool and clubhouse, because we are so small. We're not like one of these great big developments that's dividing it with 150 other people. There's JM: But you like that. That's what drew you here, you were saying?
!H EB: I like d the fact what drew me here really was the fact that it was small. I like d that. And when we got down here, the light is different. I don't know if you've ever been up have you been up n o rth? JM: A little bit. But it does seem brighter in Florida (inaudible) EB: It's bright down here and it's clean. It's so dingy up there in the n orth. Plus we are so happy to be done with ice and snow! I cannot tell you JM: (laughs) Especially tod ay ; there are some people who a re having snow days from school. EB: Oh, a wful awful! We are so happy to be down here where it's warm. So, t he weather drew us down here, the size of the community, and we just did not know how wonderful everybody turned out to be. This is just absol utely fantastic, j ust wonderful. You know, I said before we had to be closeted up there. And so even though we did have friends, we couldn't tell our friends anything. We did have one lesbian couple that lived back in Schwenksv ille. But even then you know we s till had to be a little bit tip toeing. JM: Did they know? EB: Yeah, they knew. They were the only ones. But everybody else where we lived our best friends we had to be closeted from. JM: That's so hard. EB: And yeah, it really is very very different. And then we came down here and when Carme got sick you realized how the community just surrounds you with love. They're so helpful. Everybody wants to help. I've gotten food P eople brin g over without me saying a wor d, they just bring over food O r people are always asking me, "Can I walk [your dog] while you're at the hospital?" Or, a couple of times I don't drive at night, so people drove me over to the hospital at night and then picked me up a coup le of hours late r. Everyone is a nd they just want to know A nother neig hbor over here, she made Carme two hats that she can wear since she has no hair now from the chemo [therapy] So she made hats for us. People are just so good. You know, th at whole box is filled with cards. JM: Oh, wow! EB: Our next door neighbors Rock [Wales] and Max [ W ales] over here every week bring flowers and send a card Every week t hey send flowers over to the hospital. Just people are just so incredibly kind. They're just wonderful. Someo ne over there ()
!! who is a really great photographer she took all of these photographs and an album of a bunch of other photographs because I said that we JM: Oh, t hat's a great picture. She's playing the piano. EB: Yeah, and the one that's over on that table over there. Because I said that we didn't have any photographs of us. We didn't have anything. And so she came over and she's a really wonderful photographer and she took a bunch of photographs. And then they're just wonderful, really. And t hen ()' s partner had some operation on her foot. () hates to cook, s o people made up a schedule and every two days they brought a casserole to () so she wouldn't have to cook. So JM: Who started the schedule? EB: Well she happened to say () actually said, "I want casseroles!" (JM laughs) You know, I think she was half kidding. So Katherine [Kline] one of the girls on the other side, decided she'd get together and start making a schedule. S he made a schedule and sent it out "W ho would like t o do this?" JM: Email? EB: Yeah just email ed, "Who would like to sign up for casseroles?" So people wrote made up a list of stuff. People do things for each other all the time. There's two women over here, () and () and they're much older than we ar e a nd they really don't have the resources to do very much. They grow tomatoes on their front porch, and () gave me three tomatoes the other day. That's something that they can do. JM: Those are the best, fresh tomatoes. EB: Yeah. People are just so wo nderful. They are just incredible. JM: It's so nice to hear. EB: I'm so glad we're down here. I left teaching two years early. I sort of had it up to here (laughs ) with I think this No Child Left Behind law 3 that they have for teaching is the worst thing that ever happened to public education the worst. And it just means that all you're doing is teaching to the test. You're teaching for a tes t or whatever. T hat just got me fed up, so I left teaching two year s early and took a 6 percent cut in my retirement fund, but it's the best 6 percent I ever spent. And we came down and I'm so grateful we're here, with Carme being so sick. I'm so gra teful we're here in stead of up n orth, because I know even though people would [say] "Oh I'm so sorry to hear about your friend, y ou know i t's a different support. """""""""""""""""""""""""""""" """"""""""""""""""""""""" 8 "I,"J1&.2"K05("L01&%2"3-'"/-''02"&%"#HH#?"-%2") 0M*&)0'"'+1,,.'"(,"-2E&%&'(0)"-"'(-(0 B 3&20"'(-%2-)2&N02" (0'("(,"-.."'(*20%('7
!# JM: Right, right. It's much different when people say she's your friend as opposed to everybody knowing who she really is to you. EB: Yes. Yes. And the n we joined well, I never did join, but I go to the Unitarian church down here in [nearby location] not very far, and I joined the choir there. So I really enjoy tha t. And of course the Unitarian church is very open, too Most the people th ere there's still a couple of people that are, "W ell, how is your friend?" b ut most people there know. I think they're older people that just can't bring themselves to say any more (laughs) But they go to the Unitarian church so they know! ( both laugh) But that's really nic e. And she was ho ping to become the accompanist, b ecause the accompanist who is there right now is eighty years old, but he's really failing. He's not really able to do the to accompany anymore, so that's what she was hoping to be able to do the accompa nying But I'm not sure she'll be able to do that, even if she gets well this time I just don't know whether she'll feel as if she can commit to something b ecause it's practicing two times a week. JM: Yeah, that's a lot. EB: She loves playing. In fact whenever I get any new music she always makes copies so that she can play the music for me and help me practice and all. But I don't know about actually committing to accompanying. But she was hoping to do that that's what's disappointing That's why s he quit the band, which she really, really loved, too. (sighs) I just want her to come back well. JM: Yeah. So when you came for your first visit down here, did you meet some of the neighbors then ? EB: Yes we did. As a matter of fact, t he woman who () who was the real estate agent down here she was really really good. She took me around to meet some of the women. JM: Does [she] still live here or ? EB: She doesn't anymore. It's too bad because she was really good. But she was a very strong woman and at the time the other woman who was the trustee here was a very strong wom an too and they just butt heads. So () left. But she was really good. I am certain that everything would be sold if [she] were still he re. She was really goo d with marketing and everything, but s he's gone. But s he took me around to meet some of the people and that was really fun. At the time they weren't having parties and it was only the houses up there. I n fact, I'm not sure if there was anybody I don't think there was a nyone living in the triplexes at the time who is still here. I don't think there was anyone b ecause () and () came after that. And
!8 nobody lived there; that house over there was the guest house so people who just wanted to see the community would come and stay there. JM: They c ould stay the night and stuff ? EB: Yeah, they would stay. JM: Was that what you all did? EB: Yeah, t hat's what we did. That was nice. JM: You said there were no parties yet? When did the parties start up? EB: There mi ght have been parties up front but I don't know about them. There weren't any at the time. JM: Are parties mostly sort of official like on a website or are they more you know, word of mouth? So and so is coming? EB: I'm the social committee chairpers on of this end () so even thoug h we're one community, we have two separate documents. For instance, t he single family houses up there are not allowed to rent. They have it written up in their documents that t hey can't rent. But back here we're allowed to rent. Also, we have different sets of rules so that if we get insurance with our condo minium fee. So w e have a higher condo minium fee but with that comes all the insurance If anything i f there's a fire in the house, we're responsible for the contents but the community is responsible for the outsides and everything, and the roof. So i f the roof starts caving in the community has to pay for it w hereas t hey don't have that insurance up front. So w e have two different sets of documents. A lthough we're sort of separate, we're still one community, so most of our parties are together. We just have lots of different at the dro p of a hat, you know, we have a party. JM: Seems like it yeah EB: Yeah. We have one for Mardi Gras We're going to Max [ D are] and Ernest [Marc] are having one for St. Patrick's Day. Then we're having one at the picnic grove for Cinco de Mayo. JM: Oh, wow. EB: We'll have w e're having something in April called a mini p earl, a petite p rix. I t's like we're going to the cul de sac up at the houses and we're having those toy remote control cars! ( JM laughs ) We 'll have a race around the cul de sac (both laugh) It's j ust an excuse to get together. We have the regatta, toy boat r egatta every summer. We'll have something for Memorial Day, I'm sure. We hav e something for last Labor Day,
!9 we ha d a continuing we had a picnic out there between Rock and Max W.'s o ur next door neighbors and us. We had picnics out there. So w e just have all sorts of things. () and () always have the big one at Christmas time and they had Carme play () used to be a professor of music up at West Chester [University of Pennsylvania] but he 's eighty five with bad arthritis so he can't play anymore. So, h e a sked Carme to play Christmas carols and we sang and had a big thing. Most of our parties are all potluck ; everybody chips in and brings stuff. JM: Yeah, otherwise it'd be so expensive. EB: Yeah. And sometimes there are some private parti es where we have smaller things, l ike we had something at Christmastime. It was just a few people. And New Year s, just a few people a nd maybe a group had their own small private parties. But most of them are everybody. And everybody's alwa ys asking each other for di nner, ( both laugh ) a ll the time. I w ent over to Rebecca' s house for dinner last night. We 've had Josephine and Beatrice over I don't know how many times ; a t least a dozen times. () and () have us for dinner. JM: So who's the best cook? (laughs) EB: Let's see. () 's a grea t cook (laughs) She's a really good cook But everybody let's see. Marge [Kirchner] and Pa t [Landry] have breakfasts. They've had two or three breakfasts. Rock and Max W. had breakfast one time for a bunch of us. And we go out to di nner at restaurants. You know a group of us will go out JM: How's the city? Is this a fun place to be? EB: Yeah [nearby location] is really large. It's so sprea d out. I think it's about fifty three thousand ; I think I looked it up on the web There's a lot of restaurants A nd we're close to the hospital we're only [a short distance] from the hospital, which is really great for us, a nd [a short distance] away from the Unitarian church that I go to And then down a ways in [nearby location] there's an MC C church a Metropolitan Community Church, so I imagine maybe a few of the people go to that around here. JM: Sounds like you like the [local] area. EB: I really do I really do! And we're so close to the G ulf [of Mexico], so the [nearby beach] is about [a short distance] away JM: Not bad at all. EB: Yeah. It's great it's really I feel like I'm on vacation every day h onest to goodness. I mean, when we go w hen Carme was well, we would go to the pool every single day. And she'd be in the pool even if it was seventy degrees, she'd be in the
!: pool. M e, I'd be in the hot tub (laugh s) So I'm just sitting there looking at the palm trees, there's an alligator on the other side of the fence JM: Here, in this lake here? EB: the gulls Not in this one, but where we go to swimming, you know, there's an alligator on the other side He's out there sunning himself and the gulls are going around and the egrets are looking for scraps and I'm thinking, This is parad ise. This is absolute paradise. I love it. And I think the people who 've lived here all their lives don't know. ( both laugh ) JM: How beautiful it is. EB: Yeah yeah When you come from dirty (laughs) JM: Cold. EB: S moggy and cold, yes. We still kept one of our scrapers. It was fun ny, because a couple of weeks ago, there was actual ice on the windows, and when we got up it got cold enough No one could scrape their cars that they had left out overnight ; they didn't have a scraper (laughs) But [I] l ove it down here. I just want Ca rme to get well so we can enjoy it again. JM: So, d o you think that the community has changed at all since you moved in w hether it's, you know, the community here in the neighborhood, or in [nearby location] ? M aybe it's gotten bigger in the past few years? EB: We haven't really lived here long enough. We came down in June of 2007. So we really haven't lived here long enough to see any changes in the larger community. In this community, some people have moved in, which is really really nice. There ha ve been a couple w ith the economy do ing so bad, so poorly, there have been three houses of the single family houses that have foreclosed which is very very sad No foreclosures back here partly because we can rent. So, there's JM: Has anybody done tha t yet ? Have they needed to rent them out? EB: Yes we had two () and () bought here, and I guess they must have either bought for either investment or thought that they would move down here at retirement and never have moved down But they did rent out their place and then their renter died a few months ago. But there really haven't been any changes. We've gotten I think, more social things just because more people have moved in an d we have the changes of pets. When we came down here, I started a pet directory. So I went around and I got the pictures. People sent
!; me pictures of their pets and I put that on and I put a little blurb about each one of them. So we have a pet directory. And people are JM: Is it up on the web? EB: It's just a PDF [P ortable Document Format] file so I sent it to whoever wants it. You know I hadn't even thought of putting it up I wouldn't even know how to put it on the web! But we're in the p rocess of changing the website, because we really the webmaster that we had b efore really wasn't doing a very good job of it, because she was ill. So we're taking it over now ourselves, and we're in the process of changing it. So it will still be [web address of community]. JM: And then there's a dot org [.org] too. EB: There's a dot org, and t hat's mostly for the other houses, the single family houses A nd it also on that website has the houses that are for sale up there. So that's really a good one, that's the marketing tool for them. But we go to there because that's where we can get the ne wsletter that we have, and the calendar that's on there. Like Allison [Hershey] who lives up front, she has a l esbian spirituality potluck every month. (laughs) So, uh JM: So what, do you pray; do you meditate ? EB: I haven't gone to it (whispers) cause Allison's a little weird. ( both laugh) But, yeah, I think they do meditations, and they do some sort of and I guess they do prayers and things like that. But she has one. JM: So it's open to all religions, then? EB: Yeah, yeah. JM: How about I was wondering, for the renters around here, are there rules about who's allowed to move in, a bout I don't know, 'cause you said there was a straight couple that lives here. So I wondered if EB: Yeah, yeah. In fact, there was another straight couple there, in the single family houses. They bought it originally because their son was gay and they thought he might inherit it when they were gone. JM: Oh, okay. Was he young when they bought it? EB: I don't think so. I never met them but from what I understand, even though they thought they would be able to fit in the community, and the wife was pretty good with the community, the husband really was not very comfortable. He would say things like, "Well I know all about you folks, t h at sort of thing.
!< JM: "You folks." EB: Yeah. He was a military man s o that explains it all. So they did move out even before we moved in here and they let their house go into forecl osure. It' s a cute little house, you know; it'd be great. It's a n ice little house JM: Other than the dad or the husband having some E B : Issues. JM: i ssues d id anybody did the other neighbors the people lived here, have issues with them? EB: No, no! Now, I must admit the people who live back here, [the other straight couple], are wonderf ul. They are really wonderful. In fact, t hey went to look at a nearby development and then they just saw this and they came over and then liked it a whole lot better A n d we told them right up front, This is a gay commu nity. Hey, we don't care! They're just fine. We just love them. They are wonderful. Now at first, their next door neighbors were not real pleased about them being a straight couple. But they'r e the only ones. And now they "O h, if everybody is if straight people li ke () and (), that's fine. But they were nervo us about that. They felt like, We moved into a gay communi ty and this is what we wanted. But nobody else feels that wa y. Everybody else so that's one, one couple who feels that way. JM: Has that e ven ed out at all, or is it still pretty tense? E B : No they're fine ; they're fine with it now. Sort of like a straight couple learning that their next door neighbors are gay and then eventually getting to feel that they're okay. It just had to go backwar ds. But they're great. () is wonderful with landscaping and plants and everything s o he helps his neighbors nearby and he does all this planting A nd his wife is still working they're both still working. He's working for () and she's a teacher. JM: Ar e they younger? EB: Uh, not much younger yeah, I guess [the wife]' s younger but [the husband] 's around our age. Maybe he's in his middle fiftie s. So they're all ages. I guess the oldest p erson who lives here is eighty five and then there's I guess the youngest is around fifty JM: Okay. Was the r ule that one person has to be fifty five ? EB: It is I think it might be at the other side. But we are not a retirement I think we don't go under those guidelines. And we wanted to change but it costs mo ney to change, to be an actual fifty five and older communi ty where one person has to be fifty five It
!F costs money to change it and then you also have to get agreement of the tax ing board. Means t he school district would have to approve us being able to be a f ifty five and older, which means they lose money. JM: Oh, right. EB: And in this economy, I am certain they are not going to be (dog pants) JM: He [the dog] wants to be interviewed too EB: Yeah, he wants to eat your recorder! (both lau gh ) Sorry. JM: That's funny. EB: Sorry. JM: So, I think you might have touched on everything already, but just in case you have anything to add or talk about What do you think about all the things that w hat do you find the most important about living here? You talked about community ; is there anything else? EB: The people. JM: Yeah? EB: Because it sounds like a marketing term but we really emphasize the community and the neighborhood here. Because you can definitely buy less expensive homes you know, in the area with more amenities maybe e ven a home with a pool if you wanted to. But these are extremely well built homes first of all w hich are really nice, because when a some guy came to see if we could get a mitigation for our wind insurance, and h e came and was doing the building inspection. He said, "These are really well built ; they're like bunkers." So it's really well built, but most of all it's the community. They are just everybody is just so wonderful. And what I'm really pleased to find out is there doesn't seem to be any backlash anymore for us being a gay community. I think there might have been a little b it of vandalism a few years ago, b ut there hasn't been any since we've been here in June of 2007. So I think that has gone away b eca use we stay fairly low profile. Although we have a big rainbow flag it's in the back now a nd we're not flying it from a big you know, pole. JM: Did you have to move it because of something ?
!G EB: No, they just have it in front of the office, where the office is. So that's where the office is. And nobody is walking around like Wigstock 4 you know. I really think that's what they expected, [that] we're really weird, and we're not. We're just I like to call us picket fence lesbians you know? (laugh s ) JM: (laughs) Picket fence lesbians ? EB: Well you know how everybody wants the suburbia n [lifestyle], with the white picket fence sitting around? You know? We're just like everybody else, paying our taxes and everything. And we had a civil union up in V ermont when that first became possible back in 2003. But a couple a few couples here actually went to California JM: Really? EB: before Proposition 8 5 came and they got married out in California But we didn't do that, we didn't go to that extent bec ause it didn't really matter legally. That's what 's really disappointing is the fact that the biggest thing is healthcare. We have to pay so much more in healthcare than a straight couple. It's really aggravating. JM: Really? Okay. Well, you'd know all a bout that, especially now. EB: Yeah, yeah. W e have to pay twice as much. JM: So I mean, it's not on your school ? EB: No t on mine, no. She has her school was kind enough to allow her to stay on their policy. And I was in a public school so I'm getting a pension from public school which is the o nly way we're able to live here, is my public school pension and her S ocial S ecurity. I'm not old enough for S ocial S ecurity yet but she is. JM: So h ow would you describe the neighborhood as a whole, in terms of the kind of people who live here? Are they you were talking earlier about age, saying you knew about eighty five to EB: Yeah that's the oldest There' s a man who's eighty five, who lives up there There's nobody I think the olde st person here at this end is seventy eight Describe it? Kind. Very bright people, you know, they're all professional people JM: I noticed that. A lot of people I talked to you know, I was describing what I was doing for my thesis and they said Oh yeah, I wr ote my dissertation on this, too. """""""""""""""""""""""""""""" """"""""""""""""""""""""" 9 "O&6'(,+4"&'"-%"-%%*-.",*(2,,)" 2)-6 "50'(&>-."(1-("P06-%"&%"(10" !GFH' 7 : =),/,'&(&,%"F"3-'"-"J-.&5,)%&-"P-..,("/),/,'&(&,%",%"(10"I,>0EP0)"9?"#HHF"0.0+(&,%"(1-("0.&E&%-(02" '-E0 B '0Q"+,*/.0'R")&61("(,"E-))D?"31&+1"(10"J-.&5,)%&-"S*/)0E0"J,*)("1-2"-..,302"0-).&0)"(1-("D0-)7"T10" /),/,'&(&,%" /-''02"-%2"P0+-E0"0550+(&>0",%"I,>0EP0)":?"#HHF7
#H EB: Oh really? JM: Yea h, p eople were very w hen I go home to talk to my family you know, I have to talk abou t it in sort of a different way, cause they because nobody in my family went to college, but EB: Oh! JM: coming to this party here, everyone's like Oh, yeah, we've been there and done that I teach college (laughs) EB: Absolutely. Everybody JM: A mazing EB: Well when you look at it, you realize how much it costs to buy to purchase a home here and tha t that makes sense. Very very bright people. Very caring people e ven though you have differences in this and that. And we've had little squabbles mostly because somebody wants to do some landscaping a nd somebody else doesn't like the landscaping That's been the biggest problem, which is crazy They are r eally crazy. But people here are just stand behind one another. It's just wonderful. Now we do have one man here who just wants to liv e here. He's gay and I've never (sneezes) JM: Bless you. EB: E xcuse me I've never even met him. I've never even seen him. JM: Wow. EB: And I think I saw him once. And he works down at () He does something backstage there. But he just lives his life ; he does n't come to any of the meetings, c ause we have a meetin g once a month a business meeting At the other end, they only have it once every three months but we have one once a month. I think it's more like a social thing than anything else. JM: Business. EB: Yeah yeah. I mean, w e do do business. I'm the sec retary I take minutes ; we do all that stuff. We have a regular treasurer's report and everything B ut people are just incredible here. That's all I can say is the people. They mean everything. They are an extended family. I'm lucky because my daughter is definitely okay with me being a lesbian. She was thrilled.
#! JM: Really? EB: I think it's more like, "Ooh, you're cool M om!" ( both laugh ) When she found out she was really thrilled. JM: How old was she? EB: She was a freshman in college when I told her JM: Is that w hen you moved here or ? EB: No that was way before I moved here She was absolutely thrilled. And her husband's family is thrilled. We're like the stars when we go there. They all want to pla y Newly wed Game 6 with us. I mean (laughter ) they just think we are the coolest people around. You know, ultr a liberal and all that. But not everybody feels that way in their family. They are many people that are estranged from their family because they'r e upset. (inaudible) JM: Sounds like it's really important, then, that you talked about how it feel s like a family, that people can come here and feel that way. EB: Yeah it is R eally truly. JM: So you were telling me about all the different parties and events you have. (EB laughs) Are there ever differe n t events for women and for men? A re they mostly always together ? EB: We well, Allison with her lesbian spirituality thing, that is just for women. And often JM: Do you think the guys feel left out? EB: No. They don't feel left out at all. (laughs) Also, Rebecca again up at the other end, she has every Saturday night, she has movie night and she just gets Netflix movies 7 and just a bunch of us go over and just watch a movie. And so far, it's only been women. But it's not JM: Not officially women? Okay. EB: Yeah, it's not. And Rock and Max W had us had women over for breakfast a few ago and it was just the women but then they turned around and had one for just men. So Max D. and Ernest had a dinner just for men the other day. """""""""""""""""""""""""""""" """"""""""""""""""""""""" ; !"#$%#&'()$*+,# "&'"-"6-E0"'1,3"&%"31&+1"%03.D"E-))&02"+,*/.0'"-)0"-'402"M*0'(&,%'"(,"20(0)E&%0" 1,3"30.."(10D"4%,3"0-+1",(10)7"U("5&)'(")-%"&%"(10"!G;H'"-%2"+,%(&%*02"&%(0)E&((0%(.D"(1),*61"#HHG7 < "I0(5.& Q"&'"-%",%.&%0"VWV")0%(-."'0)>&+07
## But most the time it's women who get together and it's not because we're exclusive I t just so happens like there's a bunch of us who go out to breakfast every so often, about once a month or so, and we just go out. M ax W asked the other day whether he could go and we said, Yeah remember there's going to be nine women but you're welcome to come! ( both laugh ) Cause his partner was going to be doing something else and he didn't want to be by himself. And we said Yeah you can come. And we go out to dinners sometimes and it happened to be just women. So m aybe the guys go out to dinner and we don't know about it. But it's not exclusive. We're not saying Okay, women! (laugh s ) JM: Yeah. Because you were mention ing before about how you weren't really interested in liv ing in an all women's community, because you like EB: No, I like the diversity. The men add a lot. They really do. I would hate to have not have known Rock and Max W. who are just so wonderful. I'd hate not to know them. Yeah there's some really terrific guys here. JM: That's great. So, a re there any negatives to living here or anything you'd change if you could? EB: I think the only negative is the fact that I'm s o far from my daughter. That's the only thing. She lives in Pennsylvania, where we came from. She's coming down next week. JM: Maybe y ou'll show her the weather, and see EB: Yeah, they've been down here a number of times. In fact, they've been at every time they come, there's a party going on. They always go to the parties so everybody down here knows them, (laughs) knows who they are. But [my daughter's husband] can't stand the heat. [My daughter] would move down here in a second. She would love to move down to Florida. But [her husband] doesn't like it so hot. So that's the only negative. But when we lived up there where they were, she was on the other side of campus. I wouldn't see her much more than I see her now b ecause she was so busy. So eve n though I that's the only negative, is missing a few of our friends up north. But other than that, no. No negatives. This place is great. (talking about dog) Oh, he's just playing with it. (JM laughs) Those are his bags that I take out. JM: So do y ou do anything outside of the neighborhood ? Are you involved in any sorts of organizations or clubs ? EB: Well we were in the community band as I said. And I still am in the church choir, the Unitarian church choir I still do that. B ut those are the only thi ngs that we're involved For a while I was involved in more things. I was involved in a program where
#8 I took a dog from the [ guide dog school ] and took him to an elementary school on Thursday morning and would read to the kids JM: I think Josephine does that too. EB: Yeah, that's who got me started on that, so JM: That s ounds like fun. EB: Yeah that was fun B ut then when Carme got sick I had to stop because I had to take her to too many chemotherapy things JM: And then, I was wondering what kind of words do yo u use to talk about yourself, or living here? Whatever what do you normally say gay or lesbian or w hat kinds of words do you like to say ? Or do you just not use those kinds of words? EB: No I don't use the words I guess because we're here we don't need to. JM: Don't have to talk about it? EB: I probably don't make a deal about it unless people already know that we're lesbians. And then I would say, "We live in the first lesbian gay and lesbian retirement community." So I'm really proud that that's true, but there are so few of our friends that were open to that, you know, I just keep quiet. We just live down in [this n eighborhood ]. That's all it is. It's j ust where we happen to live, and some people might not even notice. Like, my ex husband and his sister came down just the other day as a matter of fact. They came for dinner and they probably didn't notice that all of the couples are the same sex. (laughs) They probably didn't notice. And my family came down here and I 'm closeted to most of my family, too. And they came down for Thanksgiving the first Thanksgiving we were down here. And I'm not sure they noticed anything, because I have a couple of Bible belters that are in my family. Didn't make a big deal about it. S o if they know, they don't talk about it. JM: So if this place didn't exist, where might you be living instead? EB: Oh dear. (JM laughs) Well we used to talk about that before we came down here a nd I don't really know. We probably would have stayed up there j ust because we didn't know any better. I knew I couldn't try to follow my dau ghter around, cause I never knew where she was going to be. And when I first told her we were moving down she said, "Mom, Florida! T hat's so stereotypical!" ( both laug h ) JM: But it's nice! EB: It is ; it's beautiful!
#9 JM: That's why everybody does it. EB: I am so thrilled that we live here. So I am so thrilled that [this neighborhood ] exists. It is the greatest. We used to have timeshares up at P town, but when we moved down here we gave them up, b ecause what do we need to be in P town now? We did P town for, like, nine years, so we know P town backwards and forwards, and prices were going up A nd just we don't need it anymore ; we're down here. JM: How long do you think you'll live here then ? EB: I don't envision leaving. JM: Okay. You're set. EB: We're set. We're set. I'm pretty much of a w e're pretty much homebodies. Carme used to she did travel before I met her; she's gone to Europe a few times and e verything like that. So she doesn't need to travel anymore. I'm pretty much of a homebody that doesn't really like to travel very much We want to go to Disney W orld JM : ( laughs) Not too far to travel. EB: Isn't that hokey? JM: Disney's nice, though; you've got to go. EB: Yeah, yeah. JM: Is there anything I haven't asked you about or mentioned that you want to talk about? EB: Gosh I can't think of anything. JM: Okay. Do you have any questions for me? EB: No. I don't think so. JM: Okay. Well, that's all I have, then. EB: Not on the record; it would just be like, "Oh, my God, do you have any pets?" ( both ) JM: Okay, I'll take it off the record, then. (both laugh) p ause in recording JM: So something's very cool (laugh s)
#: EB: This is very cool you know how I said that my in laws my daughter's family all thinks we're really great? Well my daughter' s husband is a sperm donor for two lesbians who live in Philadelphia. JM: That's really great. EB: And he's done it twice. So e a ch of the women is named (). One is () and the other is (). He was the sperm donor for (), a nd she had a baby. Name is (); h e's about three years old now. And then he was a sperm donor for () JM: And they're a couple? EB: They're a couple. Cause () couldn't get pregnant a second time b ecause they tried and so now he's sperm donor. So, these bab ies will be half siblings. JM: Yeah, that's really neat. EB: [My son in law] will be their father. So, I think that is so cool. That is really JM: It probably has a lot to do with him knowing you you think ? EB: Mmm, I don't know he' s pretty he was a theat e r major, so ( both laugh ) So I think he was this liberal to begin with. I still th ink that is so cool that my son in law did that. I think t hat is really great. [My daughter] was a little bit hesitant "He has two children, and we don't have any yet!" ( both laugh ) But it was just more like, "Oh darn it l ike, she wasn't jealous or anything. They go down, and so t hey're godparents for these kids I think that is so neat. So that wa s what I wanted to tell you JM: Thanks for telling me to turn it back on! (both laugh) That's good. End of interview