Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My First Interview

And so I trudged on. I remember first calling my Uncle Merv – my Dad’s brother. He was over 80 at the time. I don’t believe that I had spoken to him for at least 20 or maybe even 30 years. He and my dad had split somewhat after he and my father had ended their partnership in the family company, California Optical Leather Company – a company that manufactured eyeglass cases – a company that was started by my grandfather, Mervyn Marks, Sr. in the late 1930s. He had started making key cases out of leather and had the good fortune to get a contract during the Second World War to manufacture eyeglass cases for Ray-Ban, who was providing sunglasses to the Air Force. More about that later.

Uncle Merv was probably my first “older relative” contact. All of my Mother’s “blood” relatives had passed. And I seemed to have more of an interest in my Father’s side of the family – probably because I knew so little about them. I was closer to my Father’s family anyway – since I had worked at the “Shop” as we called the company since I was little.


When you talk to your relatives, especially your older relatives, you need to keep in mind that they are likely to get names and facts wrong. Regardless, write this stuff down, because even though they might tell you that Maxine was Al’s daughter, when Maxine and Al were married to each other, or that Uncle Max was skinny when he was fat, the names and memories matter – you can always link things up later – if you are lucky!


Remember that many people, including your relatives, have things in their past that they do not want to divulge, not necessarily because they are ashamed of it, but more so because it may be a painful memory. So ask, but push gently. Maybe some day they will let you know, maybe not. The relationship is more important than the information; don’t let your zeal to get at the information ruin the relationship.

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