Second Interview Insert Key
Introduction of Interviewers
My name is Leah and we are conducting an interview with Max Garcia and the date is May 9th, 2002, and the location is San Francisco, California, and the interviewers are the Oral History class, the teacher is Deborah Dent-Samake and the cameraman is Howard Levin.
We would like to get a sense of your childhood and the way you lived before the rise of Hitler, so can you describe how you lived as a child.
In Amsterdam where I was born, in Holland, we lived in a blue collar neighborhood. I'll begin by describing to you what our apartment looked like which was a walk-up apartment. It was three stories up - ground, first, second, and third. The only convenience for the people on the third floor was a dumbwaiter, whereby you could put your groceries on the dumbwaiter, go upstairs, and pull them up. My sister and I lived in one bedroom, because there was only two bedrooms in the place. It only had a water closet, a toilet. It had no showers, no hot water, none of the convenience that you are acquainted with here. We had a very kitchen, which was a sink, cold water, and a little top next to the sink. There was another little table where there were two gas burners where my mother did the cooking. That was it. There was no linen closet that I can recall, there were no built-in closets in the apartment. I think my mother and my father had one armoire, which is a vertical coat closet. We walked up the stairs everyday, down, and up and down. All our playing was done in the street in front of the house or around the corner.
When we had to go shower we went to the public bathroom which was a block away. We would go shower, men in one section, women in another section. When you were a small boy you went with your mother into the women's section. And we did that once a week. You wore the same clothes every day of the week until Saturday, when you went to the shower or to the bathhouse and then you got a new set of, or, clean set of clothes for the next week. So, basically, I had two sets of clothes, and that's the best recollection I have of my time growing up as a very youngster.
What sort of school did you attend?
We attended grammar school, which was a block and a half away from my apartment. There were two grammar schools adjacent to each other. The school that I went to was called the Graaf Floris School. Count Floris was a very important personage in Dutch history. It was located on a little, round, oval square, which was basically a garden concept, opposite the school. While I was going to school, they built old folks' housing which was one story houses with little garden plots in front. It was a sixth grade school, from first through sixth.
And the teacher, every class started with a teacher, and that teacher stayed with the class for all of the six years, and she or he taught us everything--grammar, Dutch, arithmetic, reading, writing, all of the things, history, that teacher was totally, it was a total teacher. She or he would know after about one year, what each of these students were capable of that were in his or her charge, and, in my case, the lady who was my teacher lived about four blocks away from the school, in a house that she and her husband had, a very, very small like, expanded cabin.
If you were sick or missed a week of school or two or three days of school, because of a cold or what have you, she would take you after school to her house, and would bring you up to date of all the classes that you had missed while you were sick, and she would give you milk and cookies, and this became like a second parent to you. And I dare say, this woman had a tremendous influence on my life that I still, in many ways, adhere to.
What chores did you have to do?
Well, I didn't have any chores at home because Mother didn't do anything but be a house frau. She, there were no maids, as I said, we had a living room, two bedrooms, a toilet, and a kitchen, and we ate in the kitchen. That was all. My mother had to clean that, that's about it. So, and then she did all the laundry, and the ironing. That was all done at home. My mother would have to take the laundry, boil it in water, boil the water first, and then she would scrub it with the scrub board, and she would hang it outside the kitchen window in the back garden, on a line, to dry. And if it required ironing, she would have to heat the iron on the gas top, you know in the kitchen where we would otherwise would do cooking, and that's what she did, and so chores for us, for the children, there were none.
Did you play any games, or do things for fun?
Yeah, the kids as I said a while ago, all the neighborhood kids were in the same condition, they all had the same size of apartments, their folks, and so everybody played in the street. Now, you must understand, when I grew up, in the late twenties, early thirties, those streets were practically empty of any motor vehicles. There were no autos to speak of, at the most you would find is a person on a bicycle. Sometimes a vendor would come through the blocks or to the streets, shouting that he had fresh fish, or he had some, lets say chestnuts, roasted chestnuts in the winter, in the fall, or a flower man would come out with fresh flowers, that's the kind of vehicle that you would see. Most of that was hand pushed. He would push the cart. So, children could easily play on the streets because there was no danger being overrun by a car. We played games out there like normal kids, they make them up.