Lois Bareilles

By Alyssa

Lois Bareilles #1

1. Where were you born?
I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the oldest of 4 children.  My mother and father were both born in the U.S. during the 1890s, but both sets of grandparents came from Scandinavia.  Mom spoke Swedish to my grandmother when she didn’t want us kids to know.  I still do Swedish cookies at Christmas.

2. Tell me about your family.
Since I was the oldest, I had to be the babysitter.  We were an ordinary family.  We always ate Sunday dinner in the dining room on our good dishes and had company on Sundays.  Our aunts would bring their families over for Sunday dinner or we would visit them.  I still keep in contact with all the cousins.  Children were meant to be seen and not heard.  Especially in public, on the streetcar or in the grocery store, children were silent and courteous, had manners.

3. What was growing up like for you?  
Going to high school, the dress code for girls was skirts.  It was very cold in Minnesota.  To keep warm on the way to school we’d tuck our skirts into ski pants worn under our coats.  We wore overshoes, too.  My school was 2 ½ miles from home.  In summer I walked to school and in winter I would take the streetcar.

I used to sneak up to the attic and read instead of doing my chores, and then hide my book under the mattress.  My mother would find my books while cleaning but never said anything.  She was less strict than father.  She told me many years later.

When I was two years old, we moved to St. Paul, across from a large park surrounding Lake Como.  There was a zoo, a greenhouse, a conservatory.  In winter we would skate on the lake, and in summer we would picnic there.  We had “powwows” where we would roast hot dogs and marshmallows.  My front bedroom window overlooked the trees in the park.

I went to school dances, I was never a wild jitterbugger, but I enjoyed traditional dances like waltzes.

4. What memories stand out for you about the Great Depression?
I didn’t know we were in one.  We never discussed politics at the dining room table.  My parents didn’t discuss money with us.  We always had a telephone, a house, food, and a car.  We had an ice box on the porch, and the ice man would come and bring more ice.  We lived in a large house for six people, and heated it with coal in winter.  There wasn’t an abundance of clothing.  You had enough; you wore what you had to wear.  Father always had a job; he didn’t work every day but he was employed.  All our relatives lived in similar houses.  We were a typical middle class family.  We read a lot.  My folks were readers so I grew up reading.   We had the newspaper, morning and evening editions.  We listened to radio programs such as Lux Radio, Easy Aces, and Mr. Keene.  I did notice that things got better for us closer to the 40s.

5. Tell me where you were and what you did during World War II?
I graduated high school in 1942.  After high school, I got a job in a bank.  I have always been geared toward money and bookkeeping.  When the war came, I joined the Army Signal Corps for a year in Washington, D.C.  Three girls from the bank and I all went together.  They were recruiting girls from all over the U.S.  We stayed at Arlington Farms, a girls’ dormitory.  There were 4 dorms and 10,000 girls in each dormitory.  We worked at Arlington Hall at big encryption machines with toggle switches, encoding messages for men in the field.  I met my husband, Don, in Washington, D.C.

How did your life change when the war ended?
Don came home and we got married on February 16, 1946 in the middle of a blizzard in St. Paul.  Don apprenticed as a machinist at Mare Island, and we moved to Vallejo in 1948.  We had two sons, Steve and David.  In 1955 we moved to a house on Tennessee Street and raised the boys there.

6. Your most vivid memories of:
• Cold War – It was a conflict in the news, on television, but it didn’t interfere with your living.  That was the conflict with Russia.
• The first moon walk – It was pretty wonderful!  We all watched it.
• Assassination of JFK – He was killed on my parents’ 40th Anniversary.  We were in Minnesota visiting them.  Everyone was shocked.
• Vietnam War? – My sons were in the Reserves.  They were activated and one of them went to England.  Neither went to Vietnam.
• Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.? – I admired him, but I wasn’t involved in the marches or protests.
• The 50s? – I spent the 50s raising kids and a dog or two!
• The 60s? – I love to volunteer.  I was a docent at John F. Kennedy Library when it opened, and I have continued volunteering until today.  I am the last charter member of the Friends of the Library still on the Friends Board.
• The 70s? – Don retired in 1977 and we started traveling.  We logged 173 days in Great Britain, and we traveled all over Europe and the U.S.  We traveled to France within 35 miles of where the Bareilles family came from.  We traveled to Norway, Sweden, and Germany.  I have been to London 11-12 times since 1977.  I’ve seen quite a few plays and musicals there including “Phantom of the Opera” and Agatha Christie’s “The Mouse Trap”.  In my travels in England, I attended a National Dollhouse show featuring dollhouses from all over the world, and it was fascinating.  Since then I have acquired a lovely dollhouse which I have redecorated twice, and hand crocheted a rug for one of the rooms.
7. What do you think has been the most important invention of the last hundred years? Why?
For most Americans, I’d say medical improvements.  Of course, the television and computer were major inventions.  The discovery of penicillin antibiotic and the Salk polio vaccine has saved so many lives!  And medical progress is still expanding, and finding new ways to improve the quality of life.

Lois Bareilles and Alyssa8. If you could pass on any advice about life to the newest generation of your family, based on your experiences, what would it be?
Be kind to each other.  People can be shockingly unkind.

9. What book had a big influence on you?
I love to read, I have read many books, and I feel most inspired by the Bible.

10.  What major life event did you experience that changed you?
World War II.  I graduated high school in 1942.  A year later, so many of the boys were dead and gone.  World War II was hard because we lost so many people that we knew.

Also, 9/11, because it showed Americans how vulnerable we are.

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