I got more than my required 125 pages
of transciption done last week on "Peter's Story." Total pages transcribed now comes to 426; I'm on Side 19 out of 23 sides of interview. I also have in hand four tapes of reminiscence that Peter recorded on his own, and he tells me he has more waiting for me when I see him next. In addition I have a box of Peter's hand-written reminiscence, which is hard to read for Peter's hand-writing deteriorated about the same speed his eyesight did. I also had a little bit of time last week to continue typing up the transcriptions, to a total of about 6000 words now. As I'm going along, I'm transcribing the materials for both the first part of the memoir, "Peter's Story," and the second part, "Honored Guest." Thus far I've only had to type material for "Peter's Story," but when I come to pages for the second part, I may skip them and come back to them later.
I'm pleased with my progress, but not so pleased as to think this is going to be a piece of cake. I think I'll be able to use some swatches of Peter's story-telling from the interviews pretty much as is after tweaking it for reading on the page. Yet I also recognize there are other chunks of it where I'll have to cut and splice and paste and smooth and poke to make the story move and the material fit the narrative we're creating.
Here's a little patch of interview about the vegetable peddler Peter calls his "Grandpa Joe," from a time early in the dark days of the Depression:
When I was about eight years old I worked in the barn behind our house in the old 3rd Ward of Milwaukee and I would take care of Joe Renello's horse special. He started to take me peddling with him during the summer months when I wasn't in school. We would start out about 5:30 in the morning; we would go to the Haymarket on Fifth and Vliet and Highland and Galena - eight square blocks of open area. Farmers would come there and sell their produce. They'd leave about 8 o'clock the night before with horses and trucks; they were truck farmers or truck gardeners. My eyes were astounded to see all of this for the first time. There would be potatoes - someone had a garage with potatoes. Goldman, he had vegetables in his garage; he'd store them and sell them to different stores too. We could load the wagon up with fresh vegetables and then we'd go to breakfast on North Water Street between Clybourn and Michigan. For a nickel you could have a stack of pancakes, maybe two eggs for ten cents. I would always save a cruller for the horse.
Then we would go peddling. Joe Renello was my adopted grandpa. He was good to me. He fed me always. Bought clothes for me. And I would take care of the horse.
I was a little miser and I started cutting down on the oats for the horse in the morning. I thought I'd save some money. One day we were on 6th Street and Wisconsin, and the horse fell. And Joe knew right away I was cheating on the oats. I got slapped. Finally we got oats and fed the horse. After an hour of standing still, the horse regained its power. I learned a lesson.
One route would be north from Center Street on Humboldt Avenue. There would be German families with big homes, and they'd have women who cooked for them in the kitchen. And I'd deliver the big basket of vegetables they needed. They always gave me fresh home-made donuts. I'd go delivering the orders from one house to another. Grandpa Joe would give me the order. We'd get back about 2:00 in the afternoon and park ourselves on Wells and Marshall Street, until about 6:00 p.m. We'd peddle food around that area. It was like a grocery store, only it was a wagon, a peddler's wagon. That was five days a week.
There's another, much more detailed version of this experience later in the interviews, but these paragraphs provide a pretty good "thumb-nail" of those summer days.