Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Mary Jean Spallino Interview
Narrator: Mary Jean Spallino
Interviewer: Rose Masters
Location: Lake Forest, California
Date: May 20, 2015
Densho ID: denshovh-smary_3-01-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

RM: Today is May 20, 2015. I'm Rose Masters, and I'm here at the home of Mary Jean Kramer McCarron Spallino, who was a high school teacher at Manzanar. Also in the room is Kristen Luetkemeier, who is running the video and taking notes. Mary, do I have your permission to record this interview?

MS: Yes.

RM: Excellent. So I just want to start at the beginning, which is when and where were you born?

MS: I was born in Minneapolis, and when I was one year old my parents moved to Los Angeles.

RM: What's your birth date?

MS: June 18, 1919.

RM: And what was Minneapolis like when you were born there? I know you don't probably remember it, because you were only one, but what kind of city was it at that time?

MS: Well, I think it was a nice city. My father was a doctor and associated with the hospital there. I think it was a very nice city. I have gone back many times since and it's certainly developed into a very nice city.

RM: What made your parents decide to move to Los Angeles?

MS: My dad's health. They gave him three months to live; he lived until he was ninety-seven. [Laughs]

RM: Oh, my gosh.

MS: In those days they didn't know that much about the heart. He had, like, a murmur.

RM: And what was it about L.A. that would have helped him?

MS: Well, there's not the rigorous climate, you know, the snow and all that. Mild climate.

RM: What did your mom think about moving to the West Coast?

MS: Oh, I think she was happy about it, they both were. It was a good move.

RM: What were your parents' names?

MS: My father's name was Edward and my mother's name was Imogene, I-M-O-G-E-N-E.

RM: Were they both from Minnesota?

MS: No, my mother was from South Dakota. My dad was from southern Minnesota, down by Rochester.

RM: Do you know how they met each other?

MS: Yes. My dad, after he graduated from medical school, went to Huron, South Dakota, where he met my mother.

RM: So you moved out to the West Coast when you were one years old.

MS: Yeah, 1920.

RM: 1920. Did your dad continue being a doctor out here?

MS: Yeah. He taught... he practiced, he kept his office until he was eighty.

RM: Where was his office, what part of the city?

MS: Santa Monica and Western, in Hollywood.

RM: Did your mom ever work?

MS: Only as a homemaker. But she did a lot of work, believe me. She was a wonderful cook, and a very bright, intelligent woman.

RM: Could you describe what your dad was like for us?

MS: Yeah. My dad was stubborn and had an inquiring mind. And, well, I don't know, you either liked him or you didn't like him.

RM: Did your mom -- I'm curious, it sounds like your dad must have gone to school since he was a doctor. Did your mom end up going to college?

MS: Oh, yes. She went -- they used to call it normal school, yes. And she became a home ec., we would call it a home ec. teacher now, and she did teach for, I don't know, in a little country schoolhouse for maybe a year or so. And when she married, she was just twenty-three, because there was seven years' difference my parents' ages.

RM: So your mom was a teacher.

MS: Well, yes, but a very short time. And, of course, in those years, and then with the Depression, why, women stayed in the home.

RM: Did you have any siblings?

MS: No.

RM: An only child.

MS: Only child. And I was spoiled, there's no doubt about it.

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 2015 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.