Oral History Interview with Jessie Tucker
Oral History Interview with Jessie Tucker
An interview with Jessie Tucker, mother of Vassar Assistant Professor of Drama Shona Tucker, on March 31st, 2013 about the suit jacket she wore for her wedding, which took place on her lunch hour on January 29, 1953, in Chicago, Illinois. She also discussed her life together with her husband, their children, and their various moves around the country.
March 31st, 2013, 6:30 PM
For Better and For Worse
27 minutes, 35 seconds
Â© Vassar College Costume Collection, 2013. Items in this collection may be used for teaching, classroom presentation, and research purposes only. For more information regarding reuse, reproduction and publication of these items, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Strong House, South Apartment, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Emily: My name is Emily Goddard. I am here with Jessie Tucker for the Vassar College Costume Collection Wedding Dress Exhibit. It's 6:24PM on Sunday, March 31st and we are at Vassar College. So first things first, could you just tell me a little bit about your wedding?
Jessie: Bless you. It was not actually a wedding of sorts...it was...we just decided on this particular day, my husband at the time, before he was my husband...was...worked on the railroad with the Chicago Northwestern Railway Company out of Chicago and he was a porter. And they would go, some of his trips were assigned to Omaha or [Ypsilanti], Michigan or Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wherever the trains went at that particular time if they needed someone, you know he was on a roster. And so, it was not definite what day he would be in, what day he would be back, whatever. So this particular day was January 29th, that he knew he would be home. And so we decided that particular day, but I worked. I worked with Illinois Public Aid Commission and it was downtown on sixty north and south Chicago. And since my lunch hour, I guess it was from twelve to one, I asked a couple of my friends, girlfriends from Murphysboro, Illinois--I'm from Southern Illinois--and they were also working in the loop and we had agreed to meet over at the courthouse, City Hall, which was I believe on Clarke street. I was on Ragdaw and Lasalle, and Clarke street is a block over. And City Hall is a block over from where I worked. And so, we met at the lunch hour and my husband to be came and we...I guess we had already done the procedures, you know previous stuff that we'd had to do. That was kinda a long time ago. And we met at my lunch hour and went before Judge (Trafy?) and they assigned judges for particular courts. They didn't necessarily have to be located in Chicago. I think he was located somewhere down state. After we got married, my lunch hour was taken, I went back to work, since my lunch hour was taken with this ceremony, and my girlfriends went back to work too. So we didn't even take time for lunch. And my husband went to a movie, I don't know which movie he saw. And so we met after I got off from work that particular day. So that was January 29th, 1953. And I was 18.
Emily: Woah. That's a good story, so it was pretty quick. Just in and right back to work.
Jessie: Mmhmm. We had been dating for a while. I met him through one of my cousins.
Emily:Did you have any sort of ceremony?
Jessie: No. We we're going to have a party afterwards, but somehow we never got around to it. Chicago in January is very cold.
Jessie: And so, we just never got around. I was gonna have a honeymoon sometime. We were married 59 and a half years and the honeymoon never came. We went on vacation, but never anything such as a honeymoon. It was all very, very practical. You know?
Emily: That still sounds like a...it sounds so nice.
Emily: So do you remember where you bought your dress?
Jessie: I remember where I bought the dress. It actually was a suit. Let's see it was in â€˜53.
Emily:What we have is the jacket, I believe.
Jessie: You have the jacket?
Jessie: It was kinda boxy, with the sleeves cuffs come out here. And some...that's it! And it has some buttons down the back similar to the ones down the front. And I bought it at the pollyannaish shop I believe on Madison, in the loop downtown. It was a famous place for shopping. Sort of like the boutique. And I particularly liked it, the straightness...the skirt was very straight and the small houndstooth. And it lasted well. I had really forgotten about it. Shona liked my retro clothes and they fit her well. It was the pollyannaish shop, I believe it was on Madison. And I purchased it. And at the time I think it must have cost around 125 dollars, which was one of those you could have laid away and saved till you had enough money and then gone and picked it up. Cause I was making 50 dollars a week as a clerk typist for the Illinois Public Aid Commission. And there was an agency that dispensed public welfare throughout the state. It was, you know, at that time they called it aid to dependent children and indigent families.
Emily: It's amazing how much you remember about the experience.
Jessie: You know, I just really had to put my memory cap on.
Emily: So you mentioned a little bit about why you chose it. But do you remember anything specific about why you chose this particular jacket? This particular outfit?
Jessie: Well it really wasn't intended to be a wedding outfit. It was intended, I was at work. So it just happened to be what I wore that particular day. If I had thought about it, it might have been something fancy. But it was not, it's just because it was a working day and this was what I wore.
Emily: You know, why did you chose to donate this particular jacket?
Jessie: I gave it to Shona, and she was the one who donated it. I had totally forgotten about the jacket and that I had really given it to her. It was some time ago. At the time we were the same size and she liked my retro clothes. I bought a number of things from that particular store. And she was able to wear them. And why she thought it was worthy to donate it, I don't know. But it must have been a good omen because we were married a long time. Inexpensive to the extent that we didn't have the wedding. It was just...as I said none of the family was there, just my girlfriends.
Emily: So you never had any sort of...did you ever have any sort of party with the family of anything like that?
Jessie: No. Went home and told everyone we got married.
Emily: Wow. That's really great. Do you remember how you met your spouse?
Jessie: I was about to tell you that. I'm from southern Illinois--Murphysboro, Illinois--if you've ever heard of Carbondale.
Emily: I haven't.
Jessie: It's the University--Southern Illinois University. Well it's six miles from Muphysboro and it's sort of in a final part of Illinois. Illinois comes down with a small lower part. And I, at age 16 I graduated from high school. And I had two uncles who lived in Chicago. And before I graduated I took the civil service exam and I scored rather high--I think it was a 96 on the test. I got a card from them telling me I had passed the test and when I had come for interviews at the commission and so my uncle was coming through town I suppose and took me to Chicago. Chicago's about 350 miles from Murphysboro Illinois. So I got ready to go to the interview, and I passed the interview and got the job. My uncle had a son, who was friends to this young man. I remember my cousin would tell me that â€˜I have a friend, his name is Booker Tucker Juniorâ€™ and I said â€˜That's the silliest name I've ever heardâ€™ because all those rs in it, and he was saying that he was very smart and that so...my cousin brought...he had a newborn baby and he brought his friend over to see the baby and I was living in the same residence with my uncle, but I had my own room. And the rent was 8 dollars a week. And we had use of the kitchen and the bathroom on the side. It was a three story building and there was one apartment on this side, there was a hallway in the center, and then the same thing on the other side. And these places were flat, they had been apartments. But then the landlords sold single rooms, so everybody had a room although I was there with mostly families. And I was sitting at the kitchen table eating and my cousin brought this young man in and he said â€˜Jessie, this is my friend Juniorâ€™ I think he called him â€˜Junior.â€™ And I said â€˜Helloâ€™ and we spoke, and that was all that. And he came back another time...after seeing the new baby...and he came another time with my cousin. Then the next time I heard from him, this was in the summer of 52 I believe, this same young man was coming over because he had a cousin that had come back from school and was working in Chicago and he told, my husband, who was still just a friend, that he was looking for a nice girl who went to church and was kind of quiet. And he said â€˜I have just the girl for you.â€™
Emily: Your husband said that?
Jessie: My husband to be. He said â€˜I have just the girl for you.â€™ So he brought his cousin over and we went probably to a movie or to a park or something. All three of us. And then he brought the cousin back again several times and then the cousin went away to school and then the husband, the boyfriend, kept coming back and coming back and coming back. So the next time he saw his cousin he said, my husband's name is Booker, â€˜Booker what happened to that young lady you introduced me to?â€™ He said â€˜Man, we're married!â€™ So cupid got caught! And then I think by that time we'd had our first child.
Emily: When was that?
Jessie: It was later in the year.
Emily: That's great. So how long were you dating before you got married?
Jessie: Probably six months.
Emily: That's cool.
Jessie: Yeah, about six months. He would come over when he was in town and we'd go to the movies or he was 4 and a half years older and our relationship was different in that girls at my age didn't talk about the same thing. He had the caliber, and the experience. He talked about the planets and you know scientific things and current advances. And to me, I think I was impressed that he was not just â€˜How are you? let's go hereâ€™ He had conversation--always really good conversation. But I found out later that he wasn't as deep as I thought he was, but I was 16 at that time. (laughter) Must of met him when I was 17. Yeah.
Emily: So, did you move in together after?
Jessie: Well, we moved...I continued to work. I had two children--probably lived in that area--in that building. But then we moved from there.
Emily: And that was near Chicago right?
Jessie: In Chicago, this was in Chicago. Then we moved to the University of Chicago area. 52nd and Hyde Park area. We stayed there for about 5 years I guess. Then my husband was studying to be a radio announcer. And he got his certificate and his papers and then he started the job search. His first job was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and so we moved there. We stayed there 5 years and the third child was born there. From there we moved to Louisville, Kentucky. And that's where Shona was born. And so everywhere I've been married I had a child. So we ended up with four children and he was in radio and TV and had a successful career and I moved because he moved, but I became an administrative assistant, and a paralegal to an attorney--and I did that for 25 years or more and then I went to work for the Presbyterian Church USA when it moved to Louisville and from there I worked in another law office for 12 years. So I'm retired, and it's not bad. I think if he had been in good health I would not have retired. He passed October 3rd, 2012.
Emily: I'm sorry about that.
Jessie: It has been a long relationship. He got Alzheimer's and dementia. Alzheimer's is a long good-bye. He left a long time before he really passed, because you can't say â€˜Remember when such and such happened? Do you remember so and so?â€™ When the person tells you â€˜No,â€™ you don't have anywhere to go in the discussion--that's closed. Because even if I tell him he couldn't relate to it.
Emily: I'm sorry to hear that.
Jessie: Also, Alzheimer's gives you a warning long before you know the actual date...the time. You have time to get prepared. If you can get prepared...it's not like a sudden passing.
Emily: Just going back a few years--you mentioned before you even got married that you lived with your uncle.
Jessie: My uncle. His name is George Hubbard. And then there was another uncle, and his name was Anderson Hill. It's all tied into the Northern migration into people of that extended family because my family--my mother and my father met and they grew up together in Mississippi and I believe my father heard about this place Murphysboro, Illinois which was a railroad town. And so he went there then he brought this family up. So when I went to Chicago, my sisters, after graduating from school, came and we lived together. So eventually all of us left the small town and went to work in Chicago, and my brother went to the service first and then he came back to Chicago and then of course he's moved back to California, but I have two sisters who live in Chicago and we're still very close. I'm 78 years old.
Emily: It seems like most of your immediate and extended family seemed to live pretty close together.
Jessie: Well, we make it close because I had 2 other children who still live in Louisville and the daughter has 3 children who've all graduated from universities and they're very successful. One is getting a master's in accounting in May and one of my granddaughters, the 40 year old granddaughter, she is getting her first degree and she is so happy because I tell everybody she just majors in big wisdom and good times in college. (laughter) the first time around...but she's always been very bright and I always told her how smart she was and she decided to go back to school she was striving to get that 4.0 and I believe she made it. So it's a happy occasion for us. I have two granddaughters graduating within 2 weeks time. One of the granddaughters graduated from the University of Kentucky as a pharmacist, so she's now a doctor. She's this tall. My grandson here Barack says I have a cousin she is grown, but she is little. She can't even make 5 feet. Her father calls her doctor shorty.
Emily: That's so great though, your family has always been so close.
Jessie: Family is very very important to us and we make connections as often as we can. Barack and I just got back from Washington, DC. I have a niece who lives there in Alexandria, Virginia. She's very successful and her husband. So we stay close together and as many occasions as we can find. Or we make up occasions to get together, so it's a very close family.
Emily: That's great. So just going back to the wedding, do you remember what your spouse wore at all?
Jessie: I believe he wore a sports coat and slacks and a tie. He was a very snazzy dresser or at least he thought he was.
Emily: Were you both interested in the fashion of the time?
Jessie: I was. I've always been fashion conscious. I always liked, not necessarily the latest thing, but the best of what I could get for my money. Like I said, I'd put in a lay away and go in and pick it up and go in to get it. So I've always been fashion conscious and try to wear things appropriate that look well on me. You can't wear everything that comes out! So, I think if I had to do it over again, I might have had a small or medium sized wedding--just with family though.
Emily: So, just getting into a little bit of details. You said you didn't really have any bridesmaids but that all of your girlfriends were there.
Jessie: Yes they were witnesses.
Emily: Yeah, do you remember what they wore?
Jessie: It was a regular...they worked in the loop also so it was just regular work clothes. Probably a suit, a skirt with a blouse and a sweater. So nobody was really dressed for a wedding--a wedding, wedding.
Emily: That's great. So that's about all the specific questions that I have but if you'd like to tell me anything more about your wedding, your marriage, just your life in general.
Jessie: Oh bless you. We liked living in Louisville because it's a city but it has a small town feel and the neighborhood where it was good to raise the children. We did a pretty good job with raising four children. The neighborhood is one that my children could go down the street to go to church, they'd go to church before I did because church members came by, met me, and took my children to church. Louisville is really a great place. If you ever get a chance really go visit it--it's very pretty.
Emily: I will.
Jessie: It was a good relationship, ups and downs, but mostly ups. It all has to do with positive attitude.
Jessie: It does. Without it you're lost. And not dwell on hurts, real or imagine, because that just holds you back. You could be pretty upset at the time but you have to work through them. Because you both may decide I'm not going anywhere because nobody else wants me (laughter) so you make the best of what you have and it works. It does. I'm glad I had that relationship, but since he's passed people ask me would you want to get married again? (laughter) No. I like the freedom I have. I do. After almost 60 years I think you're entitled to some time to yourself. Because it's all about pleasing the other person, really. Of course in the process you want to be pleased yourself but you're always busy satisfying, or trying to satisfy, somebody else. There's a joy in giving. But something you like to have some return to you. You know? All in all it was a good relationship, but I never imagined it would last as long as it did because when you're 16,17,18, 60 years is forever, you know? Who lives that long?! (laughter) So it was good. If I had to do it over I probably would've dressed up--really dress up for the occasion. But things happen, and in situations you just do what you have to do.
Emily: This has been fantastic!
Emily: Yeah, thank you so much for talking.
Jessie: Well thank you. I really hadn't thought about that jacket in a long time and I was happy to give it to Shona--she wanted it. I always liked to keep up with what the styles, but not the trends. Because some things people put on, they shouldn't wear!
Emily: It's a beautiful jacket. I'm really excited.
Jessie: Really? And at the time it cost about 110 dollars. It was wool blend I believe. The houndstooth was very small. It sort of has some Jackie Kennedy box style look.
Emily: Yeah. This has been so great thank you so much for talking.
Jessie: I hope you got something out of that.