xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Cody Michaels (CM): All right, interview starting March 26, interviewers Cody Michaels and
Nicole Leison (NL): Nicole Leison.
CM: And your name please?
Heather King (HK): My name is Heather King, and thats H-e-a-t-h-e-r K-i-n-g.
CM: Okay. So, Heather, you and I have discussed this in previous correspondence, but you are the assistant curator here at the Dunedin Historical Museum. Is that correct?
HK: Thats correct. Yes.
CM: Is there any way in which that position has connected you with this oral history project? Is there any motivation for participating? Is there an overlap?
HK: Absolutely. I mean, being an assistant curator, I am a public historian, and oral history is a huge part of public history. So being involved in public history makes me want to do things like oral history because theyre so connected and because they are things that help everyday people, whether theyre you guys or someone outside, understand history a little bit better. So absolutely there is some overlap.
CM: Digging more specifically, is theresince this is, of course, an interview where we are interested in knowing more about the Celtic and Irish American historical communities, is there an element of that in your work?
HK: Being Irish American or having a Celtic background?
CM: Well, I guess, first of all, are you of Irish American descent or other Celtic descent?
HK: Interestingly, I always grew up knowing that I was Irish. But recently, my mom has undertaken some genealogy research, and she discovered that my grandfathers father was actually from Scotland. So its new information to us that were actually Scots-Irish, and we never knew. So very recently found that out.
CM: Now, going back to the museum, is there a distinctly Celtic element to this museum? We have not had time to look around.
HK: This museum, honestly, not so much. Dunedin itself has Scottish history, but it is truly only in name. The people who named our lovely city Dunedin were two Scotsmen from Edinburgh, Scotland. They came here in 1878 and opened up a general store, and the area was actually called Jonesborough [sic] at the time.
A man named George Jones had taken it upon himself to name the area Jonesborough. So [J.O.] Douglas and [James] Sumerville, the two Scotsmen, decided that they wanted to put in a post office.
They petitioned Tallahassee to put in a post office, and with that petition they had to have a name, so they decided to call the town Dn ideann after Edinburgh, Scotland, which was their hometown. We tell that story, and thats really how the Scottish heritage is here.
CM: Yeah, yeah. I noticed, driving up here, there is a Scotland Boulevard directly behind the museum.
HK: Yes, there is a Scotland street.
CM: Yes, yes. And theres a few Scottish flags around here. And, of course, I believe there was a Scottish pub.
NL: Yes, an Irish pub, too, I believe I saw.
HK: Flannigans, yes. Its really interesting that we dont really have Scottish history, more than a name, for the city itself, but Scottish people have really congregated it here and made it their own. There is so much Scottish heritage now that really came later, but its here now.
NL: They heard the name and couldnt
HK: Maybe, yeah. They were like, You know what? That sounds Scottish; Im going there.
CM: Lets see. So what drew you into Dunedins history itself? Is there any particular reason Dunedin?
HK: Not really. Im actually from Pittsburgh. My husband was offered a job down here a few years ago, so we moved down to the Tampa area. We were just driving around, kind of looking for some place that was a little more homey since were from a smaller area up north. We just kind of stumbled into Dunedin and just found it and loved it because of its small-town atmosphere. So thats what brought us here.
CM: Now, going back again to previous correspondence, you said that when you found the slightly inexplicable Celtic American community down in the Tampa Bay area, it eased a cultural shock.
HK: It did. Im from Pittsburgh, which is predominantly an Irish Catholic area. It is not very diverse. So, like, everyone I grew up with and knew from school and everything was Irish. Wed have heritage lessons in elementary school, I remember. They would say like, Who is Irish?
And everyone raised their hand. But coming down here and seeing that Celtic community and seeing, like, the parades we have here have bagpipes and people in kilts and stuff like that; its very different down here from up there, but that was the one link, that it had the same Celtic background. It was really interesting.
CM: Right, right. Now, going off of that, this community that is around here, it sounds like they throw parades and various events. So I assume its a very strong, its a very close-knit, integrated cultural community?
HK: Absolutely. Yes. Its interesting, when we have events down here, no matter what they are, whether its Halloween or Fourth of July, there are people marching in the parades with bagpipes and in kilts.
And all of theI forget what theyre called. I dont remember what theyre called, but theres like a guard society that does security for all of the events, and they have the kilts and the swords. Its really neat to see. Ive never seen that before. That was different from up north, but its really cool.
CM: It sounds like its got a very Scottish tinge to it, then. Is there anything distinctly Irish about the community down here that you know of?
HK: I dont think so. I think its pretty much Scottish. I know that Flannigans is Irish, but the culture down here is probably predominantly Scottish.
CM: Now, is that primarily on this side of the bay, or is that all throughout the bay area?
HK: I dont know; I dont know much about the other parts of Tampa.
CM: All right. I suppose, going back to an earlier topic, you mentioned, in your elementary school days, you said that in Pittsburgh you had heritage lessons. Could you elaborate on what you mean by that?
HK: Oh, those are so long ago. But I distinctly remember them being in elementary school. And we always had the history of Pennsylvania classes, and we also hadI think it was probably a part of that classbut we would have heritage. Like, people would talk about their heritage, and they would teach about heritage for the area.
I specifically remember them saying, Who here is Irish? And everyone raising their hand. I dont know why that stands out to me so much, but it does. I dont really remember anything other than that.
CM: Theres no distinct lessons of the history of Ireland or the Irish immigration?
HK: No. Honestly, no. Its funny, in preparation for this interview, I was actually talking to my mom a little bit yesterday about our Irish history. I said, Do you remember, when we were growing up, did we do anything particularly, stereotypically Irish? And she said, Well, you took Irish step dancing classes when you were little. Do you remember that? I said, Vaguely.
My cousins are actually still really into that. It didnt stick with me. But other than that, not really. We did the Irish step dancing when I was little, and we always celebrated St. Patricks day, of course, with the corned beef and cabbage. But that was really it. Irish is just something you were. Its not something you really celebrated. You just were.
NL: I suppose then, besides the parades and stuff like that, is there any way that the Irish American community here congregates or any ways where you specifically participate in it?
HK: Here in Dunedin? I dont know. Not me, specifically. I know theres just such a strong tie with the Scottish history here. Like, they have their Highland Games, and they have other events like that. But not really for me.
CM: I wanted to go back to the topic of family, if you dont mind. You say you were talking to your mom recently, as well as your cousins are still really into the step dancing. Do you know how far back your Irish, or as you recently discovered, Scots-Irish heritage goes?
HK: Yeah. So that was something I actually called to ask my mom last night because I was like, Theyre probably going to ask me that, and I dont really know. She actually has done work with genealogy, trying to see how far back it goes. She was able to get back to my grandfathers grandfather was born in America, so it wouldve been his family.
So my three-times-great-grandfather was the one who came to America. We dont have dates, and we dont know where they came from. Weve been trying to really trace that, but the records start in Ellis Island. Theres nothing from before in Ireland, which made me say, you know, in the next couple of years I would love to take my mom to Ireland and see what we can find.
Shes really interested in that. So yeah, I know my three-times-great-grandfather was the one that came to America, and his son was born here, and he worked on the railroad, and my grandfather was also born here. He worked in the steel mills. I was asking her, actually, because the Irish were treated so terribly when they came here, if she ever heard her family talk about that.
She said that they were very proud. They didnt want to talk about that, of course. But she said my grand pap would talk about how he remembered his father coming home from working on the railroad and just being upset because he was abused all day long. It was just absolutely miserable, and its just so crazy to think about, and its sad.
CM: Right, right. Now, that would be inyou say the railroad and the steel mills. Im guessing that was in Pittsburgh.
CM: So your family, when they moved here, they moved right there.
HK: Yes. It sure seems like it, at least.
CM: Now, I know you said that dates are kind of fuzzy. Is there at least an estimate? Three-times-great-grandfather?
HK: Well, my grandfather was born in the early 30s, so I dont know. Wed have to count back generations. If he was born when his father was 20, and he was born when his father was 20. I dont know. We could probably get to a date that way, but Im not sure. Maybe the early 1800s, mid 1800s?
CM: Yes. Somewhere in the 19th century.
HK: Yes. I would guess the mid 1800s because that was really when the huge influx of Irish came.
CM: Right. Thats what I was thinking as well. Now, growing up, aside from this recent discussion, did you have any family stories that you can recall that relate to this?
HK: My mom would always talk about Irish wakes. I have a really big family, and she would always talk about remembering going to the Irish wakes, and you dont leave a body alone at the Irish wakes. So she would always talk about, she remembered when her grandmother passed away. She was like eight.
Her grandmothers favorite color was purple, so she was dressed in this bright purple dress. And Debra liked her feet to be covered when she was sleeping. So they left her feet uncovered, and she said, I remember, you never left the body alone. So my family had to stay overnight with it, and then the next day, someone would come and relieve us. And it was an interesting story that she would tell.
I dont know why or what the moral was. I mean, maybe to scare us. I dont know. Aside from my family, though, my husbands family is also an Irish family. And his family is the one with the traditions. They are very, like, superstitious Irish. They do, like, you never put a hat on the bed; you never hang anything on the doorknob; you always exit through the same door you entered, all of that. They are fun to visit.
CM: If I recall correctly, again referring back to previous correspondence, you mentioned that you yourself are most familiar with the element of superstition.
HK: That would be why.
CM: Is it entirely due to your husbands side of the family?
HK: Yes. Absolutely. They are so funny about it. Like, if you walk inits his grandmother. Shes the superstition matriarch. If you walk into the house, even if you hang a grocery bag on the back of the door, No, no, no, no, no. You dont do that. That signifies that theres a dead body and its a bad omen.
Bad luck will befall you if you dont exit a room through the same door you entered, so always have to do that. Shes a character. Every meal comes with whiskey and potatoes, every meal.
CM: Not to deviate too strongly, do you know much about that side of your family? I suppose, your in-laws?
HK: I dont. I was actually asking him last night if he knew, and I know that his aunt has done their genealogy and has been able to trace it for a long, long time, even findingI dont know if it was a report or something that was handed down, but during the time when the Irish were very much abused, they had a family member that was hung from a tree.
And he was found hanging with his knees on the ground, and they knew it wasnt a suicide because there were just different brands of cigarette butts all around him. So they think that someone did that to him, and that was a kind of product of the times. Its very sad, but thats what happened to Irish.
CM: Did he have any idea when that was?
HK: No, no idea.
CM: Interesting. Now, the sounds of it, it sounds like the Irish nature of your family heritage has, at least in the subconscious level, impacted you and your husbands familys identities. Is there any manifestations of this aside from justI know you mentioned your family does not have too much tradition aside from St. Patricks Day
HK: Actually, one thing that was really interesting to me that I noticed growing up, that is kind of similar in myself, is that my grandfather was a very strict, very straitlaced guy, and he grew up in a family that was very stereotypically Irish. Like, all the family events ended in drunken brawls and everything like that.
So that affected him so much, though, that he decided that he didnt want to be that. And he never drank. My mother doesnt drink. I dont even drink. Its not that I think its awful and I dont want to, its just that, thats what I grew up with. And I think thats why. Its just that he had those Irish roots, and that influenced him to kind of be different than what you think as stereotypically Irish.
CM: And that was your grandfather.
HK: That was my grandfather, correct. He is one of, like, you see himwell, he passed away about nine years ago, but that was an Irish guy. Like, short little guy with bright, white hair and the flushed, red face.
Now of course, I didnt get it so much, but my mom and my brother have the pale skin and the freckles and the green eyes. They look Irish. I think, too, having an Irish background has really affected me and how I want to continue my career.
I work as a historian, and I really want to pursue a PhD to be a historian, so that I can study Irish immigrants and the working class and that shift during the progressive era of how Irish immigrants were treated so poorly and kind of became the backbone of working class America. I think its because of my background.
CM: So this has influenced your both professional and academic careers.
CM: Did it by any chance have any influence on your entering the museum field, do you think?
HK: Not so much. It really took me a lot of time to kind of figure out what it was that I wanted to study, and I always knew that I loved history and I wanted to do something in the history field. As an undergrad, I worked at the Carnegie Museum as a student worker in Pittsburgh.
I just loved the museum atmosphere, and thats really what brought me here to museums. But later, as I did my masters and dug around and got to look into my own past, thats when I decided I would work with that.
CM: Right, right. I suppose, going back to family then, you said that the earliest records you have and the earliest that you know about, your family was railroad workers and steel mill workers. Do you know much about how that changed over time? Those were your first relatives here. Do you know how that would eventually progress? What your grandparents and then your parents and ultimately?
HK: This is something I think about a lot because I think immigrant families, especially, were really focused on progression. And my grandfathers grandfather came here with nothing and was absolutely dirt poor and worked on the railroad, and his son also worked on the railroad.
But then his son, my grandfather, became more of a skilled worker and worked in the steel mills and was able to come up from being so poor that they couldnt afford anything, to raising a middle class family with six kids. And from there, my mother went to nursing school and became a nurse.
From there, I went to college. So I think thats a lot of what I want to study, is the progression thats happened and, not to go off topic, but I could talk about this for a while. Not to go too off topic, but being from such a blue collar, working class city with predominantly Irish immigrant families, it seems like its kind of stopped with my generation.
People have, and Im sure its not my generation, Im sure its probably previous generations, but theres so much, all of a sudden, pride in being working class and being the ones who overcame whatever they overcame to build themselves up from being these immigrant families. I think its a little misdirected these days.
I think theyre taking that pride and kind of misdirecting it, and instead of doing better than the previous generation, theyre just kind of staying. And the world is moving on and becoming technological and kind of passing them by. But its really something thats happened where Im from, so its interesting.
CM: This is the phenomenon youve noticed. Would you directly link it to peoples pride in their cultural heritage?
HK: I dont know. I definitely think thats part of it. I dont know if thats all of it. Thats what I want to study. Ill let you know in four years, maybe five.
CM: Well wait for the dissertation.
HK: Yeah. But that is what I want to study, and I think its because I have that immigrant background and came from the working class, and we all worked our way up. So Im interested in it.
CM: Right. Now, just for the sake of keeping things in a clear, linear fashion, you said that it was your grandfather who worked in the steel mills and was a skilled worker. You said, if I recall correctly, he was born in the 1930s.
HK: He was born in the 1930s, I believe early 1930s.
CM: And your mom was born?
HK: My mom was born in 1959.
CM: Okay, okay. So he would have been working in, probably, the 1950s to 60s and et cetera?
HK: Yes. He did serve in Korea, and then I believe he began working in the steel mills beforehand and returned when he came back.
CM: All right. Lets see. Somewhat of a deviation but relevant, I know your family is mostly from Pittsburgh. Has anyone else in your family moved down to Florida?
CM: It is just you and your husbands family?
HK: Just me and my husband, and his family is entirely from Pittsburgh as well. Most of my family has never left the area. I have an uncle in Virginia and an uncle in Ohio, but the rest are still in Pittsburgh.
CM: Now, you mentioned, back in Pittsburgh, theres still this clinging to a working class, blue collar identity. Has this persisted in your family, have you noticed?
HK: Yes. Well, the early generations, yes. In my husbands family, entirely yes. But in my family, I mean, my grandfathers grandfather was a railroad worker, and my grandfather worked in the steel mills. My mom was a nurse. Thats not like an engineer or something like that. But my brother and I both went to college. In my husbands family, theyre all blue-collar workers.
His grandfather also worked in the steel mills. His cousin works on the railroad now, in the union. His brother is a welder. He left the blue-collar profession, but, for the most part, they stayed. And everyone we know, too. Were the only ones, honestly, out of all of our friends, who have moved on. Its crazy to think about that, but its true.
CM: Yeah, yeah. Now, I suppose since, as you mentioned, the local community down hereas you are the only members of your family that have moved down hereI know that the community down here in Dunedin seems to have that very oddly Scottish tinge to it. But have you found it easy to culturally integrate, in that sense?
HK: Yes. People are so nice down here, and theyre so friendly. They really want you to belong. If youre walking down the street, people want to say, Hey! Hows it going? You know, everything like that. One thing that Ive really found about living down here is that so few people are actually from here.
Its really interesting. So many people come into the museum, and Ill say, Hey, where are you visiting from? All over. Very few people come in here actually from here. I think this is so interesting, but it does give me something to talk to them about because Im like, Yeah, I moved down here too.
CM: Right. Every local is from somewhere else.
CM: Now, how did you discover this community? Im kind of curious because I know its kind of visually evidentfor posteritys sake, driving into Dunedin, it is easy to see the physical manifestations of this Scottish identity: the Scottish flag everywhere, the Scotland Boulevard.
HK: The kilt shop.
CM: The kilt shop, quite. But how is it that you actually met this community? Are there actual cultural centers? Is it just the events that you meet people through?
HK: Do you mean how we found Dunedin?
CM: I suppose how you found Dunedins cultural heritage and community, like the sense of community here.
HK: Yeah, there are a lot of events, and people always, like, if theres an event here, everyone encourages you to come to the event. Its posted everywhere. There are signs everywhere. There are banners everywhere. We advertise everything. So its really just that people put things on, and they want people to come to them.
They advertise, and theyre very friendly when you get there. And you see that as soon as you walk into any event here. You see the Scottish heritage. So many people say, like, Why is there Scottish heritage here? Whats going on? Then it just kind of goes on by word of mouth.
CM: I believe you mentioned earlier that its kind of nominal Scottish heritage in Dunedin. By this, do you mean to say that its more of a traditional, its kind of assumption that Dunedin has a Scottish heritage? Or is it that there is actually a large Scottish community here?
HK: I think, historically, its an assumption. People come into the museum all the time and say, Whats the Scottish history here? And we always say that its in the name. Thats really all there is to it. Like you said, because of the name, I think people were attracted to it as a Scottish destination, so it built up out of being an assumed Scottish place.
CM: Right, right. Because, as you mentioned, every local is from somewhere else.
HK: Yes. Its funny, though, we do get a lot of people now who come from Scotland to winter here. We are sister cities with Sterling, Scotland. And the past provost of Sterling winters here. Its just kind of snowballed, I guess.
CM: Now, these Scottish snowbirds, if you will, how do they find the community? Do they feel at home here? From what youve experienced, have they made themselves a part of the community when they come down as well?
HK: Absolutely. I think that Ive never really experienced a place like here, where if you move here, youre part of the community. People are so welcoming here and so warm here, and they want to know your story. And thats really odd for me, being from up north, where people are a little colder and they dont really want to talk to you.
Im more used to that, personally. Its very nice here. Its not for me exactly, which is a weird thing to say. But the people are so warm, and they want to know your story. And if you find someone who is from Scotland, they want to talk to you about it, and they want you to be a part of their culture, and they want you to ask them questions.
Its just really interesting. The boxcar next door, on the trail, the owners are from Scotland. I went in there for the first time the other day, just to see what they had, get some lunch. And I noticed that they had Scottish accents, and I asked them how long theyd been here. And they wanted to talk to me for like 20 minutes about their lives and all about, you know, We just love it here; its amazing here; people are so nice.
And they were just going on and on and on, and I was like, I want my sandwich. I want to go back to work. But thats how people are here. Theyre very nice, and theyre friendly, and theyre forward. They want to talk to you, they want you to be part of the community, and they want to share their community with you.
CM: Is that true of both localswell, I suppose a better question would be, are there actual local locals? Or is it the case where everybody has moved here and kind of made this their home?
HK: There are locals. Its really interesting. Im from Pittsburgh, obviously, which Ive talked to you about, which is a large small town. Pittsburgh is a very small town kind of city. One thing we always said about small towns is that theyre very nice, but for the most part, a lot of people in them are just people that really never moved on. And there are a lot of people like that here in Dunedin that are locals.
Theyre the people that, they know everyone, and they know everything thats going on, and they love to tell you, give you the scoop, to gossip with you about everything. And when youre in a small town up north, though, people arent welcoming, and they dont want outsiders. Here theyre different. They do want outsiders, which is interesting. So yes, there are locals. But they want everyone to be a part of their town, Id say.
CM: Its a very assimilative kind of small town.
HK: It is. It is. Its very assimilative and diverse, and its a great atmosphere. Its very different than up north.
CM: Right, right. Now, this atmosphere, would you say this extends exclusively to Dunedin? Does it extend further into Pinellas? Have you encountered that?
HK: Not really. I think Dunedins pretty privatized. We have surrounding communities, but we dont really do anything with them. Dunedin kind of keeps to itself. We have Clearwater below us and Tarpon Springs above us and Palm Harbor above us, and everyone kind of keeps to themselves here. Likewise, too, those communities keep to themselves.
CM: Right. So it is kind of a, not quite territorial but
HK: Its closed. Yeah.
NL: You can even kind of tell driving in. Its visually a lot different. It goes just from like a lot of hotels and more upscale stuff, and suddenly it like shrinks down into this tiny town. And its like, where did this come from?
HK: Yeah, exactly. Even between, like, Dunedins pretty small and nice, and then you have a stretch of road, and then theres Palm Harbor. And down below us, you have a stretch of road thats kind of like urban sprawl, but then you have Clearwater. So theyre kind of separated, and they definitely stay separated.
CM: Right. Because I know, even in Tampa, theres a lot of those Irish bands and Irish pubs and all the Irish, but nobody seems to talk to each other.
NL: Its almost like a mosaic. Youll be like, heres the Irish section, and heres the Chinese, and heres Middle Eastern. Its like patches but not reallythey dont really merge.
HK: Nothing together. Nothing cohesive. Its interesting how that happens. Thats what I keep saying. I always say that about being from Pittsburgh. It is the most segregated city. Like, there are different communities, but they dont interact.
CM: I suppose going to Dunedin itself, is there anythinghow far back does this community extend? Do you know? I suppose you would know, having worked at this museum.
HK: Like, when did people start coming here? When did it start being populated?
CM: Yes. Do you know much about the history of this community?
HK: Yeah. The community itself started forming in 1868. It got its name in 1878. It was really the late 1880s that northern families actually starting coming down here and wintering, and it was them that built Main Street.
In 1888, when the train was brought to Dunedin and the tracks were put in, between them building up Main Street from one end and this was the train station, having restaurants and hotels popping up around the train station, thats when Main Street itself really formed. It was the late 1880s and 1890s that people started populating, and community became a thing, and it went from there.
CM: Not to jump around too much, but you mentioned earlier, in your role asyoure assistant curator.
HK: I am assistant curator, correct.
CM: You mentioned, when visitors come by, they all want to talk.
CM: Are there any interesting stories that youve heard from the community then?
HK: I dont really work with people that much, by choice. Im not the best people person. Im trying to think if there are any good ones. I had a woman in here last week who wanted to talk, and it wasnt about the Celtic history or anything. But I thought she was interesting because she had been coming to Dunedin for like, I dont know, 10 years or something like that, a long time, during the winter.
And during the summer, she would go to Italy to trace her lineage, and I thought that was just so cool. Thats what gave me the idea of, like, I want to go to Ireland and trace my lineage; this is really cool.
CM: It seems like there is a large community here that has a very strong interest in their own cultural heritage, regardless of where that originates.
HK: I think that, too, is because we have a very old population, and retired people have the time to do that kind of stuff, which is great. So, someday.
CM: Would you say thatI suppose, going off of that, the Scottish community, the Celtic community in general around Dunedin, is it a predominantly elderly population that has taken an interest? Or do you see younger people?
HK: Yes. You know, the only young people that are really noticeable, especially at all the Celtic events, are the guards that have the kilts and the swords. Theyre usually younger guys. But for the most part, its older people.
I know, too, that the Scottish American Society is having a lot of trouble staying active because their members are so old, and theyre trying to get in a younger crowd. But there arent many younger people here. Its an older place.
CM: Right, right. Dunedin itself is kind of an aging population and so, you would say, is the cultural community.
HK: Definitely, yes. Theyre trying to make it younger, but its tough.
NL: I guess, too, since everyones moving from other places, if they are having kids or something, those kids are probably divorced from their cultural upbringing, the way the parents who grew up with it are not.
HK: Yeah. Exactly. I actually called my mom to say, you know, Why were we never raised with Irish traditions and stuff like that? I mean, we never moved away from it, but I was curious about that, about why they never really made it a prideful thing for us, like, You are Irish, you do this. Everything like that.
And she said, I really think its just because, you know, my grandpap was proud of his Irish heritage, but he also didnt like that his family drank a lot and got into fights and stuff like that, and he really wanted to separate from that. Little guy with white hair named John Francis since Im totally getting away from it. (laughter)
CM: Right, right. Of course. In your experience, from the people youve talked to, including your husbands side of the family, would you say thats characteristic of the Celtic American communities youve encountered?
HK: To want to get away from that, kind of?
CM: Or just a slow, gradual disconnect over the generations.
HK: No, I dont think thats typical at all, actually. I dont like that thats what happened in my family because, especially younger people these days, are looking for who they are. They want to have an identity, and its nice to be able to relate back to your heritage and stuff like that.
I dont have that, but he does. His family was really proud of being Irish, and thats why theyre working class, blue-collar people, and theyre proud of that. Thats why they have their superstitions and their traditions, and thats really engrained in him. He likes that about himself.
CM: In the younger generations in your husbands family, is that still going on, would you say?
HK: I would. I would say thats not really for a good reason, honestly, because my husbands cousins are very proud Irish, and theyre raising their young kids to be those blue collar working, like, We dont want you to go to college.
And thats not a good thing. But they do have that. Theyre really proud of that. So I guess it can be good, and it can be bad. Theyre not really doing it the great way, but at least their kids will have an identity, so.
NL: I guess, in that case, its like identity is being conflated with this kind of social status or this social role.
HK: Yeah, absolutely. Thats why I want to study it. I think its interesting.
CM: So from the sounds of it, then, this identity is linked primarilyin your experience, anyway, from Pittsburgh at least, especially with your husbands familyis linked more to the socioeconomic status.
HK: I think thats a huge part of it.
CM: Are there other elements to it? Is there a linguistic? Is there a religious element to it?
HK: Oh, religion, yes. I completely forgot about talking about religion. I cant believe weve left that out so far. (laughter) Let me talk about my family. My family was verytheyre Irish Catholics, and theyre devout Catholics. My mom grew up with, you go to Church every Sunday, and you wash behind your ears, and you dress up. Thats what Sunday is for. Sunday is for church.
And her parents, thats how they were raised. They were raised to be good Catholics. Â I mean, they got married and had six kids, and thats just what you did. And even growing up, for me, you went to church on Sunday, and if you didnt, you were punished. My mother is like her father, in that she is a devout Catholic, she is very strict, she is very straitlaced, she has that Irish temper.
My brother and I really resented that. Were not religious at all. We dont like church, and we dont go. But that was a huge part of growing up. You go to church on Sunday, and you pray, and you thank God for what you have, and you say a prayer before dinner. That was part of growing up because Irish Catholic.
CM: Right. Now, you mentioned that you yourself and your brother have moved away from that. Is that something youve noticed in your husbands family in the younger generation and back at Pittsburgh?
HK: Yes. Absolutely. I think thats a thing in general, that younger people arent religious anymore, but specifically people that had that really pushed on them at a young age dont do it anymore, which is interesting because my mother had it pushed on her, but she became very religious out of it.
I think its just a product of the times. We can say what we want and do what we want these days a lot more easily than she could. But, yeah, absolutely, younger generations are certainly moving away from that.
HK: I remember my mom even sayingmy grandfathers family is Irish Catholic; my grandmothers family was German Catholic, and my grandmothers sister, who was my aunt, married an Italian Protestant. And that was not okay. But yeah, when youre raised Catholic, you stay Catholic. Otherwise, that is not okay.
CM: And I assume that was still the culture, at least among the older generations back home. Even to this day?
HK: I dont know.
CM: Has it softened a bit?
HK: It has softened a bit. Especially, Ive noticed that with my mother. Since her father passed away nine years ago, shes really gotten softer with going to church. Â I think she still goes every Sunday, but we dont have to pray before meals anymore. We dont have to go, like when were home, she doesnt make us go, that kind of stuff. So that has softened, which was interesting.
I never thought she would, but she has. I think shes really questioned herself a lot and really looked inward because my brother is gay, and when he came out, that was a huge thing that she had to deal with personally. I think that made her relook at a lot of things. I think shes come out better on the other side, but she was battling a lot of probably Irish Catholic demons.
CM: Right, right. I suppose that lends itself to the question of, do you know, politically speaking, your family history then? Because I suppose religion and politics and Irish heritage are intertwined in that sense.
HK: You know, I really dont because thats not something you talked about with your family. Its not something you talked about with your parents, especially. That wasnt okay.
CM: Right, right, right. Of course.
HK: A lot of things were not okay. I dont know if this isit probably comes from being religious, from growing up in a religious setting. But the parents are here, and the kids are here, and there are things you dont do. Like, your parents arent your friends; you dont talk to them like theyre your friends and stuff like that. I know my mother grew up like that too.
CM: So there was a strict family hierarchy.
CM: Has that extended? And, I suppose, tying this all together, do you see that changing nowadays in younger generations in the communities that youve seen?
HK: Yeah. Its appalling how kids talk to their parents these days, truthfully. And maybe thats just me saying that because I had such a structured upbringing, and this is right; this is wrong. You dont do this; you do do this. That doesnt exist these days.
Kids say whatever they want to their parents, and they treat them like friends, and they dont have parental roles anymore and stuff like that. Its definitely changed. That darned Internet and technology. Maybe thats what did it.
CM: Yeah, yeah. I suppose, kind of just going back to an earlier pointunless you had something further to say on this. But going back to an earlier point on the matter of religion, I know you talked quite a bit about the Catholic heritage. Now, I know thats instrumental to the Irish side, but here in Dunedin, tying it to local history, is there any sort of religious tone to the Scottish community here?
HK: I would say yes, but I only say that because of Cher downstairs. One of our volunteers who is also doing an interview, she has Scottish heritage, and she knows everyone in the Scottish community around here.
I know that she is a biglike, the church is every important, and shes a very prominent member of her church. I know that they do singing groups and all kinds of stuff like that. So I would say yes, but I only know that because of what I hear from her.
CM: Right, right. Do you know what denomination the Scottish community tends to be around here?
HK: Im going to say Presbyterian, but Im not totally sure about that, and I only say that because so many of our early settlers that came from the north and had the Scottish heritage that really snowballed the growth of the Scottish community, belonged to the Presbyterian church.
CM: Right. You mentioned having Scottish ancestry yourself.
HK: Yeah. Thats a new discovery.
CM: Since you discovered thatif I recall correctly, you only discovered that yesterday?
HK: I only discovered it through my mother yesterday, who had only recently discovered it herself. Shes been doing our genealogy for not that long now. She just started on it, but she just discovered that, and no one knew. Its so weird to think that.
But, I mean, my grandfathers passed away nine years now. And like I said, they didnt talk about stuff. Parents, you didnt talk to parents about stuff like that. You didnt ask them questions like that. So she never asked, and she didnt know.
CM: Do you know how far back that ancestry goes?
HK: No, I have no idea.
CM: Do you even know if they were from Scotland or Scottish in Ireland?
HK: I have no idea. Yeah.
CM: Its a gray area.
HK: Its a gray area. Maybe shell find something in the nextif she finds something today or tomorrow, Ill let you know. (laughter)
CM: Great, great. Okay. Do you have any questions?
NL: Not off the top of my head.
CM: I see. Well, do you have any further topics that weve covered youd like to elaborate on before we finish up here?
HK: I dont think so. I just think that, thinking about my Celtic and especially my Irish heritage, and Ive been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of months because Ive been really thinking about what I want to study because Im about to apply to schools, its really made me think about how my heritage has affected me as a person.
And I think that, thinking back on being Irish and thinking about all the suffering and the abuse and everything that affected the Irish community, has just really made me more driven and more interested in succeeding because my great-great-grandfather received so much abuse and so much mistreatment and everything so that I could be sitting here today. And thats just something that kind of hits hard as an Irish American.
CM: Yeah. So its kind of a resurgent identity.
HK: Â Yeah. Absolutely.
CM: All right. Any final thoughts?
CM: All right. Well, I think we are kind of winding down here. Thats all that Ive really had toI can really come up with in the moment. I want to thank you for doing this interview.
HK: Of course, thank you guys.
NL: Thank you.
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