The following is a spontaneous interview videotaped by Leon Goodman, Jr. and conducted by Eva Castle Goodman with Margaret and Leon Goodman on their 60th wedding anniversary July 28, 1994 in their home on Honolulu Street, El Paso, Texas. Although it is transcribed, we have tried to be faithful to their speech patterns.
Eva: First, tell us what today is.
Margaret: Go ahead, Daddy.
Leon: I don’t remember, (laugh).
Eva: What’s today...your anniversary?
Leon: Oh, yeah, this is the...we been married how many years? … 50? … no, 60!
Leon: Sixty years!
Margaret: That’s a looong time.
Eva: Tell us about 60 years ago.
Leon: Oh, sixty years ago…can’t remember that far back …That’s a long time.
Eva: You know what? We need to go a lot farther back than sixty years ago today. When did you first meet?
Leon: How did we meet?
Margaret: Well, I was at a dance with my Daddy and a girlfriend of mine. Daddy always took us to dances. And so when we went home, we always went home with Daddy.
Leon: He used to throw you around like you was a rag doll. (laughs)
Margaret: We won the dance contests.
Eva: You and your father?
Margaret: Me and my father. We would enter all the dance contests, and we would win. And then some friends, they were both of our friends, the men worked at the shop with Leon, and I went around with his sister when I was in high school, and they came by and Leon did not have a date that night, and they came by and wanted to introduce me to Leon and wanted me to go on a date. Well, my policy was, when I was with this girlfriend and my Daddy, I always went home with my Daddy. So, I didn’t go with him.
Eva: So how old were you then?
Margaret: I was fifteen. Then I didn’t see him for a long time. Then this girlfriend … I had a date and we were looking for a date for her, so we called Leon. And after we called Leon, we went out to a dance and Margie was my girlfriend and she came to me and she said, “Margaret, your date Jesse is taller than you are, and Leon is shorter than I am, and you’re short, why don’t we swap dates?” (laughter) So, we went out to get in the car, she got in the front seat with Jesse, and I went to the back seat with Leon, and that’s how we happened to start going together. Then in the meantime, one of my neighbors had a boy that was older than I am and we started to chumming around together and Leon, he didn’t fit into the picture at that time, but later on, this other boy’s mother broke us up, so he said, “I’m not going with Margaret anymore, why don’t you go by and see her?” So Leon called me and we started going out and we been going out for over a year and I was sixteen by that time and then we went out for a year after that and I turned seventeen and we got married on the 28th of July 1934. And that was the beginning of the end. (laughter)
Leon: When were we living on Cotton Street?
Margaret: Oh, that was when Leon was born. We were living on Wyoming Street and there was a big palm tree out there, and we always called that our ‘date’ palm. It was a palm tree, but we called it a date palm because we always parked the car by the tree, and so we called it our date palm. It was where we sat and talked. When I was sixteen is when I went to Los Angeles with my mother and brother and sister and friends, and then we went up to Utah, and you were just finishing your apprenticeship with the railroad, and I expected you to be moved to Florida with your mother and brother and sister. But, you wrote me a letter and sent it to Utah and you said you would still be here when I got back. So then we moved out on Octavia street.
Eva: Did you have your own place from the start?
Margaret: No, cuz right after we got married he got laid off from the railroad. He finished his apprenticeship, but he got laid off, so...
Eva: Wait, let’s go back, tell me about your wedding…
Margaret: Well, we went out that morning and picked some wild geraniums on the sand hills and picked some roses and came back and decorated the house, and Bishop Arville Pierce married us and Leon’s grandfather was at the wedding and he signed our wedding certificate when we were married.
Eva: Who else was there?
Margaret: My mother and father and his (Leon’s) mother and grandfather and we had refreshments and opened up some gifts…
Leon: At that time my mother was running a boarding house to try to put food on the table and that’s where we would live.
Margaret: She rented out these rooms and we had this one corner room, but we went to the motel that night and the next morning we got up and didn’t stop for breakfast and we went to his mother’s for breakfast. As soon as we stepped into the house he said, “Margaret, you’re no guest around here anymore. Now you’re family, so get busy.”
Eva: What was the motel?
Margaret: It was the Franklin, of all places.
Leon: Well, it was as good as any.
Margaret: Well, it was a pretty nice motel at that time. The first night at his mother’s house we had to move some of our stuff up there, and I have a little cedar chest, I still have it, and when we put it on the dresser he said, “Here’s the money we have left. Here is ten dollars. Put it in the cedar chest and if you need it, you use it and if I need it, then I’ll use it.” So, that’s what we had. We started out our marriage with ten dollars.
Leon: I thought it was twenty.
Margaret: Well, we gave ten to the motel…(laughter) Then, he got laid off and took a job on the bridge gang.
Leon: Y’know the company was very good to us. If you got laid off of one place they could make a place for you someplace else. It may be less pay, but it was something to do.
He went to Three
Rivers on the bridge gang , and I went out one weekend and it was cold,
had a little house that wasn’t very well heated and we liked to froze
that night and then when I came home I stayed with my mother and
father, and I was
going to go to school. By the time he left to go in the bridge gang he
check for forty five dollars. He gave his mother fifteen and he gave me
and he took fifteen with him onto the bridge gang. That’s what we were
on and I used the fifteen and started taking a cosmetology course. So,
finished that and I worked at Martins and I got pregnant. About the
time I got
the job I was pregnant, I couldn’t work over the…they thought I ought
around more so, they put me on the manicure table and I couldn’t stand
smell of the stuff, it made me sick so I had to quit. A friend of mine The state board was on for the next year
I didn’t go get it because I didn’t have the money to pay my way to
I didn’t get my certificate or my license. Later on I had a friend that
she would have helped me because she was a state examiner and she would
helped me get my license if I had only told her about it.
Then he got laid off from the bridge gang and Leon was born and he didn’t have a job. Then he came in one night and said he had a job for fifty cents an hour cutting up gondolas. They were sent to Japan. and came back to us as bullets.
Leon: We knew that at the time.
Eva: What are gondolas?
Margaret: It’s kinda like a coal car.
Leon: It was a steel car. Y’know we talked about this, about the war coming up. We all knew it and so eventually the Japs….
Eva: When was this?
Margaret: 1936, no 1935, so, we had our first Christmas with Leon, Jr. in our new apartment. We got an upstairs apartment over a grocery store, and then he came home and said he got another job and he went back as a machinist and he was getting 86 cents an hour.
Leon: That was the wage at that time. It sounds awfully small, but that was the standard wage for this work as a machinist.
Margaret: And then we saved a little money and made another move and moved out close to the shops and when the five minute whistle blew he left the house and went over and clocked in. We stayed there 'til Leon was about 16 or 17 months old. We left him with his grandmother and we took a trip down to Mexico City and Veracruz and we were on our way to Guatemala and we had to wait for the train, but when the train came in from Guatemala, the people looked so haggard from the heat, cuz this was in July and it’s hot down there. (laughter)
Eva: Was this a delayed honeymoon?
Margaret: No, we were with Elmer and Clara Hatfield. They were living downstairs in this house by the shops and we were living upstairs. It was just a vacation. Leon was a year old when we went to Mexico. By July we bought a house on Luna Street, and that house we paid $1800 for with $200 down and the payment was $20 a month. We paid that out and sold it for $6,205 (10 years later).
Leon: We found out a way to make money even when you’re sick (laughter)
Margaret: We began to save up money and bought a Model A Ford for $100. But, in 1937 we sold that and bought a 1937 Chevrolet, but we drove that 'til it fell apart, almost, in fact we put it in a garage one time and we didn't have enough money to buy extra anti freeze and that night we had a hard freeze and the next morning the freeze plugs were sticking out on a chunk of ice.
Leon: I took that engine out and got a new engine so we had a car with a new engine.
Margaret: We drove that thing until up to the 50s and then bought when we turned that in and bought a 1952 Ford. In the mean time we had John. John was born 5 years after Leon was born, then Bill was about 2 ½ to 3 years after that and Jim, 15 months later. When Jim was about 1 ½ years old we bought a place down on the farm, because all we had was a bedroom, a sleeping porch and a basement. Then we bought the house on Glenwood and later on in 1955 we began to remodel that and put an apartment in the garage and then a year later we built a duplex on the lot.
Leon: She got a job and she had enough money to pay ½ down on this duplex.
Margaret: Everything I made, we saved…
Eva: What kind of job?
Margaret: Well, I started out working with Stanley Home Products in 1950. By 55 we had this duplex built. We rented that, it paid for itself. The house we lived in, we moved out of it and bought a house on Edith and rented the big house on Glenwood and then we paid it all off. Paid off the house on Edith and in 1984 bought this house on Honolulu. We’ve been here 10 years and this is our 60th anniversary. I don’t know whether I could go through all that again. (laughter)
Eva: What would you say is the significant landmark in your 60 years together.
Margaret: Well, one thing was having the children. We had John and he went to Guatemala on a mission. Leon went down to meet him and they toured all around Guatemala.
Leon: To me that was a kinda high point. I went down to see him after his mission and he was not released yet. They were saving him for a translator. (not only Spanish but the native aboriginal language)
Margaret: They got home and Leon’s mother was sick in Brownfield and Leon went to Brownfield to see her. By the next January she was really in bad shape. She died December the 31st. We went up there in the snow, it was so deep up there and I was working with Popular Dry Goods at that time, and Jim went with us up to Brownfield. (looking at Leon, Jr.) You were living in Los Angeles at about that time, John got off his mission and went back to BYU. Bill and Jim were going to college and they graduated in 62 and 65. I may have all these dates a little bit off. Then we started to go and visit grandchildren.
Eva: How many grandchildren do you have?
Margaret: At least 14 and I’ve got 4 great grandchildren. Leon, Jr. had a daughter, Dee Anna, and she had a daughter and that is one of the oldest great grandchildren, she’s about 15 now and lives in Spokane, Washington. John got married about a year after he got off his mission and he had seven children, now they’re having children, so that’s where my great grandchildren come in. Leon married Janie and she had two children, Kim and Steve and he had Dee Anna. Now Steve is married and he has two children (plus two later) … counting grandchildren…eight great grandchildren So, we really started something! (laughter)