Chuck Olmstead interviews Patriot’s Landing resident Eleanor “Jimmie” Shapiro, who was born in Boston and went to Sergeant College at Boston University, becoming a physical therapist. She married Sumner, who went to the Naval Academy.
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
This special answers for elders podcast honoring military veterans is sponsored by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is sear EA gecom. This is Jeff Homestead. I’m here at Patriots landing in Dupont, Washington, and with me today is a lovely lady. Her name is Mrs Jimmy Shapiro, and Jimmy, I want to welcome you to answers for elders today. Thank you. Well, you have a name of a boy for your first name. Your actual name isn’t Jimmy, it’s eleanor, but you’ve been called Jimmy for a long time, I guess, Oh my height, all your life. So it’s okay with you, I’ll continue the tradition and call you Jimmy. It’s fine. So where were you born? At least born in Boston, Massachusetts, and Boston wow and and did you grow up then in Massachusetts? Yes, I did, instance in the same area. Well, that twenty finding my house and north of Boston in a city call Lowell. Lowell interesting. Well, I’ve been in Lowell actually and toured the old the mills there in Lowell Massachusetts, and the university is there as well, it’s a lovely city. So that’s the city you grew up in. Yes, very nice. So what was life like for you in Lowell back in those days? Well, probably like any other child, went to school where you part of a big family. Not a big family really I had. I had a wonderful mother and father and one sister. I see. Yeah, so went obviously probably went to school and went to high school. What we were some of your activities for High School? Where you in the sports or were you into what types of things? Music? We had probably a different kind of thing from most schools. We had Indian clubs. Interesting, do you know? Well, I think I’ve heard of them, but tell me about that. Indian clubs are something that you pick up and twirl, and so it was like a almost like a I know what you’re talking about. They’re like almost look like a bowling pin in some ways. Right. Well, no, yes, I guess. Uh Huh. They’re they look more like, I would guess a beer. Uh Huh. They around at the end, MMM and long, MMM, and you twirl them. Interesting. And so you are the captain of the team. I was a captain in the team, in the team, and interesting. And how many girls would be in a team. Usually it was all done through the gym class. I see. MMM, MMM, so it in modern days it would almost be like what a dance club would be now. What the what what it would be like for cheerleaders and that sort of thing, except it prosily it was a it was a sports club, right. Yeah. And so what year then did you graduate from High School? You know, I can’t think but that I think I can readmember the year I graduated from Carly. Okay, what year was? That was in one thousand nine hundred and forty five. Forty five would have been for years before then and I gratulated my so you were very familiar then, at that time, of what was happening in World War II and, of course, Pearl Harbor and and all that. So what do you remember about? We would have been just probably seventeen, eighteen years old in forty one, nineteen forty one, when Pearl Harbor happened. Tell me about what your experience was when you heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Is Very upset because an attack on his country’s just terrible. My father was a doctor and he was in he went into military service and he was in the South Pacific during the war and of course we were all concerned, but he was okay, he came back, HMM, and we were very happy about that, I’m sure. Well, that was then just you and your sister and your mother at home and of course, as a teenage girl, seventeen, eighteen years old, I mean, you had a full understanding of what that was about. Yeah, you weren’t a child. So I’m sure it was pretty traumatic for you to know that your father was in the South Pacific. And was he was he a certain now a doctor, he was just a general practition general practitioner, and so then he served in the service, I’m sure, as a doctor. Yes, a medical doctor. Yes, what was life like for you during the war and World War Two? I’m sure on the East Coast there were there a lot of concerns about invasion from on both coasts, actually, from Germany from the Easton and the Japanese from the West. So I’m sure in the Boston lowle area there was a lot of concern and and for security in the in the at that time. I would think. Yes, absolutely, and I live did school, so at least my mother and my sister, of course, we look concerned. HMM, about everybody? Sure? So you would have known some of the boys from high school that probably then entered into the service quickly. I might as I have viewed other veterans, many of them were right out of high school, seventeen eighteen years old. Were after Pearl Harbor, entered the service almost immediately they did. So tell me what happened after. Where did you go to college? I went to Sergeant College, which is part of Boston University. And so what happened after college? The war ended. The war ended and I was a physical therapist. I worked for the government. My patients were boys who had come back from the war and it was a very satisfying job that I had because I did feel that I was helping the boys and men come back from the war with problems. I’m I’m sure there was less of understanding about the impact psychologically on on the wounded. Now we know it is post traumatic stress syndrome, but they didn’t really weren’t really able to articulate it that well or under totally understand it, were they know in those days? Yeah, so were you more or less managing some of the physical issues? are where there’s some sort of mental issues that you also dealt with. It was mostly physical problems that I dealt with. So how long did you do that for? I did that for four years and I was married after four years. And where did you meet your husband, Soontob be husband. His name was sumner. Where did you right? Where did you meet him? Summons and live it in the law and we live very friendly with her family. I was home one day and his an called and said, may I send my her nephew, nephew hmm, over, and I shook my head no. My mother was answering the telephone and my mother is said, of course, ha ha ha ha. Oh, yeah, that’s how we met. Interesting. Well, apparently they had some insights that you didn’t have at the time. He Yep, moms can be that way, can’t the yes, they can, so can I ants. That’s right. So how long did you and and sum their dates before you got married? We dated as long as we could because he was entering the Naval Academy. If you go to a enaval academy you have to be a single individual, so we had to wait for years. Wow, you were very patient woman. You must have been worthwhile waiting for you ice so after the Naval Academy you got married. Yes, and what was his first assignment? Is First assignment actually was in this area. I think it was Bremerton. So you came? That was his first assignment after we were married. Actually, Uh Huh. So you can’t, did you? Were you able to come out to Bremerton with him at that time? I came to Bremerton by myself. It seemed like at that point I was always find myself. Well, that’s the life of a navy bride, isn’t it? Yes, I guess it is. I hadn’t. I hadn’t realized what it really was until after I was married. Uh Huh. And what was his what was his assignment? That, if you do on board, I think he was. He was assigned to Bremerton and I think it was a submarine. That he is first assignment. At that point we had our first baby, a child, and I can remember Bremerton very well because it rained and it rained and it rained. The first day of Sunshine, I took my daughter and her little carriage, I took her out for a walk and we went up hills and down hills and up hills and down hills and finally we there was a drug store at the bottom of one of the ail’s and that was wonderful because I bought her some ice cream. HMM, and we turned around and I went up and down and up and down and just before I reached our home I looked down and she had one shoe on. Oh My, I couldn’t believe it. I’ll say. I turned around and again, off and down at the drug store. The Ohn no smile at me and held up for shoe. My father, I knew you’d be bad right, and I was. But then I turned around and finally, up and down. I got home and I was so tired. I can remember just sitting down in the kitchen and my husband walked in and he asked how my day wise and I started to cry and he laughed when I told him what had happened and I was so angry that he left. It was really funny. Those are good memories, aren’t that? They are, they are. Yeah, so after Bremmerton, where did you go next? Back to New England. We had no home at that point and he was a wardship, so I stayed in New England with my mother and Dad for several months. Then when he came home. He was stationed in Virginia. I went there to join him. Well, you you describe something to me that I loved. Maybe here a little bit more about you. You when you got married to a navy man, you didn’t really understand the the time of separation. That was something that I think all military people deal with, but especially back in those days, because now you have the communication, you know, emails and and skype and all of those video and cell phones and all of those things, you can have contact, but in those days, especially on board ship, I’m sure that that the letters were few and far between. Probably yes, and then maybe when you got letters, you might get what three, four, five letters all in a row. Right, it happened. It was really odd. He was on an aircraft carrier and he invited me to go on the carrier and of course I went. was able to take me aboard the carrier and I always thrilled because I’ve never been on a ship before. We met the captain. The captain invited me to dinner and I hasn’t said, sir, does that include me? It did. Sure, I told the captain that I was I just didn’t know much about it. Then Navy and he said, of course. We had dinner with the captain, which was apparently very unusual. I would think so has been. It’s just an ends and it was very interesting for him. I told him about my life and he told me about life on the carrier HMM, and he he asked if I would like to see his quarters, HMM, and I said yes, I would sure. So he showed me his way. He lived to board ship and that was very interesting. It was interesting for my husband as well. So after thirty three years and what did what was your husband’s rank? He was what did he end up retiring? He ended retiring is we’re admiral. That’s all. He had some pretty big assignments then. Yes, what was probably one of his biggest assignments? The biggest was Moscow. We all went to Moscow. That was very interesting. The children went to school with people from every country imaginable. We met people from every country as well. So I’m trying to do the math. So that would have been what the late s or early s that you were in Moscow. The Way I remember Moscow is when President Kennedy died. We were there and the Russian people were very kind and when we would meet on this street, they would say that they were sorry to hear about that. The average Russian people were so nice. I can remember going into a bakery that was very near our house and they were two elderly Russian people in front of me, or I can’t remember. Back I held the door open for them and it was like I had given them such a big gift. They thanked me and thanked me. At that time I think people were not very kind to each other and I remember that so well. Well, you were in Moscow during a very stressful time and US and Russian relations. The the Bay of Pigs and the crisis and the Cuban missile crisis had just taken place in nineteen sixty two, and so in nineteen sixty three, just a year later, when the President Kennedy was assassinated. So there was a lot of stress going on and Soviet US relations at that time. So it would have been an interesting time to be there. Yes, how long were you in Moscow? Two years. It was interesting. After after your husband, when did your husband then decide to retire? After thirty three years? He was offered another stripe, in other words, he was often another year of duty. At that point. He had been director of Naval Intelligence. He said that he was tired and did I mind if he retired then as a rear admiral, and I said of course not. It was his job to do every day and he should do what he wanted to do and I could understand his being tired, because I was tired. Well, you had given a lot for your country. Both of you have. Well, we enjoyed doing it really, but I could understand his being tired. So he retired. My husband worked for another for a company, but for a few years we discovered that he was ill. He had ladder cancer, and it’s so happened that I also had ladder cancer. Our oldest daughter had leukemia and I used to drive my daughter from mcclane to Baltimore every day. We did this for almost for about five years she was being treated and thank goodness she’s fine of and today. Yeah, less her heart, but we it was a tough time. My husband had treatment for ladder cancer and I as well, and the State Department said it was from the hearing devices that they had. We had lived with. We did have a lot of hearing advices, hearing devices, but I don’t agree with that. I think it was the water because every once in a while in our apartment, as with other apartments, we were told to boil the water for a couple of weeks. Where we lived there were people from every country living in every apartment, and cancer was ripe with all those people after the war, because some of them came to the Naval Hospital, the American naval hospital, with their children. A lot of them. Their children had gone to the same camp in the summer as their Russian children and they came with I saw them at the Naval Hospital. I was called by a friend from another country with his son, and his son was are you always cancer? Cancer was just one thing that the kids came down with. Fortunately, just one of my children had that. Like my husband and I both had ladder cancer, and that’s what he died from. He died much too young, two thousand and six, but I’m fine. Don’t know why looked HMM, same here, here, here you are. What, Jimmy, I want to thank you for telling me your story, and very interesting story, about your life, in the life of your husband. I was watching your face when I when I said his name, Sumner Shapiro, because it lit up like it is right now so I can see that you had a good life with him. Not Easy, but wonderful. But a wonderful one and I want to thank you for telling me your stories today. I’m sure that there are a lot of stories just like mine. There are, and they’re all interesting. Thanks so much your life. This has been a special honoring Veterans Presentation of answers for elders, brought to you by carriage. For more information about carriage, the website is sear agecom.
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Originally published December 15, 2018