WALTER K. - AGE 93
I was born in Jersey City on 12th street right before the entrance of the Holland Tunnel. I spent most of my life in Jersey City. For a living I worked for a lamp company where I was a receiving clerk and then head of the receiving department. I worked there for 32 years. I was drafted into the army for WWII and went to North Africa, Sicily and Trinidad. I was not involved in heavy fighting; I was in the military police. I used to direct the troops to the front lines.
I loved my experience in the military. I liked being the jokester; to keep the men happy. Going overseas I did imitations of President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. We had a convoy to protect us from German submarines, but of course you never knew what was going to happen. Everyone was frightened, so I imitated different people and made different sounds to make everyone laugh. It kept everyones mind off their anxiety. I was very popular because I could entertain everyone.
I also worked in a funeral parlor for 25 years. I was a body remover and I helped out with other things in the funeral parlor. No embalming, I didnt have a license for that. I also worked in the parking lot and directed people where to go.
I have found that you have to work hard to make a dollar in any way. It was hard to make a dollar in those days. I was laid off from my job, and my wife was having a baby. It was tough to make a living. I had to find a backbreaking job in a company that made tar paper. But then my other job called me back. I was grateful for that.
I had three children. One died when he was struck by lightening in his 20s. My daughter had one child, Andrew, who got married and had two children. My other son has two children, a girl and a boy. They are both married. My granddaughter had her first child this April.
I dont like being 92. I have arthritis; physically it is difficult. I like to dance; I cant do that anymore. I used to do Karaoke here, but my voice is giving me trouble. I loved singing. I wanted to be in the USO but then my troops moved to Africa.
I have lived here for 15 years. I have a good social life here, but lately I cant participate as much as I would like. I enjoyed myself until I was about 90, when things started to go down hill. My routine is what keeps me going. I get up, make breakfast, do things around the house. Then I watch television, have my lunch, take a nap, and have dessert. Afterwards I watch the news, and more TV in my pajamas until 11. Then my wife comes in.
My wife is 86. Even the priest said in church, You married a young bride here. I was 26 when I got married. My wife is the best cook around. She makes a beautiful presentation.
I see my family about once a week. My daughter lives near Sparta and
she brings us groceries or whatever we need.
I went to high school for just two years. When I look back, I wish I hadnt quit. I regret that I didnt go to college. If I could do things over, I would never have worked as hard as I did. I was always at work before the starting time to get my paper work set. I was part of the union, but people used to call me a scab. I just wanted to make sure I was prepared. You were supposed to start at eight, not before eight. My son went to college and he is now a judge in Newark. I wish I had finished school and become a lawyer instead of having those backbreaking jobs.
I also wish I had learned to use the computer, but it is too late for that. Everyone talks about it and it is so frustrating. I would have enjoyed Facebook so I could keep in touch with people.
I think the world now as opposed to 50 years ago has changed for the betterit is always on the go. But I think it is terrible that people take drugs and sell it to the youngsters. I think things have improved in science, there are more medicines that cure diseases. In a few more years you will see that they will get rid of cancer. I think technology is a positive thing. We got people into outer space. I cant tell whether or not human nature has changed, but it should.
Here is my advice to young people: Listen to your mother and father,
number one, and make sure you get a good education. Dont take
drugs or smoke; you will have a good life then.
Interview conducted by New Jersey artist Janet Boltax
for this exhibition.