Ann Lynch, December 3, 1993
by Marc Stein. Copyright © Marc Stein 2014. All rights reserved.
I interviewed Ann Lynch on December 3, 1993, at her home in Center City, Philadelphia. I no longer recall how I made contact with Lynch, but it is possible that Barbara Gittings and Kay Lahusen provided me with her contact information. I spoke with Lynch by telephone in 1997 and in 1998 I received several letters from her in response to my request for a photograph to use in my book City of Sisterly and Brotherly Loves; Lynch sent me one photograph from 1962 and one from 1996. In 2013 and 2014, I unsuccessfully attempted to locate Lynch. In 1993, she provided me with the following biographical information:
Date of Birth: 14 October 1926
Place of Birth: Baltimore, Maryland
Place of Mother's Birth: Annapolis, Maryland
Mother's Occupation: Equestrian (died when Lynch was nine months old)
Place of Father's Birth: Croyden, England
Father's Occupation: Sales manager; semi-professional actor
Race/Ethnicity: White (English American)
Religious Background: Episcopalian
Class Background: Upper Class
1926-38: Baltimore/Annapolis, Maryland
1938-39: Glenside, Pennsylvania
1939-41: Baltimore, Maryland
1941-46: Reisterstown, Maryland
1947-50: Baltimore/Annapolis/Easton, Maryland
1950-55: Baltimore/Towson, Maryland
1955-56: West Philadelphia (46th and Spruce)
1956-58: Center City (10th and Pine)
1958-61: New York City, New York
1961-65: Boston, Massachusetts
1965-??: San Francisco, California
19??-85: Los Angeles
Marc Stein Interview with Ann Lynch, December 3, 1993. Transcribed by Katharine Bausch, Abby Schrader, and Marc Stein.
MS: I thought I would start by asking you to say a little bit about your childhood and your early years. I know you were born in 1926. Can you give me a little background on your family and your early years?
AL: Surely. Well I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. And the first thing that I was told, when I was nine months old, was that my mother had died. She had had a heart attack. She was unhappy in her marriage and she rode horses. And so she was riding horseback and then that evening she went to bed and told my father she had indigestion. And the next morning, he served her breakfast in bed and she keeled over on the tray and had a pulmonary infarction. It was sudden and I have no recollection of her. And so my father didn't know what to do with a nine month year old baby, so my aunt and uncle said they would take me in. But they weren't too keen about it because they didn't care for my father. He was a man who had no integrity. I guess these days you'd call him a sociopath. He had no conscience. In 1929, the depression was on. And my father was from England and he had never worked a day in his life. His father had money. His mother had died when he was an infant and he had a stepmother. And he was a miserable child. So when he left England and came to this country, he got a job selling used cars and he hadn't seen a lot of money for a long time. So he pocketed the money and he was in jail. He said to the people there, “Get my brother‑in‑law. He's rich, he'll bail me out.” And that's what my uncle did do. But they never spoke since. So from nine months until twelve, I was with my aunt and uncle in a brownstone in Baltimore and in Annapolis in the summer. I was raised along with my first cousin, Hallie. She was four years older than me and we were treated differently. We were not seen and not heard as children. When company came, we were paraded in front of the guests, that sort of thing.
MS: You said the family was pretty well‑off? Upper class?
AL: Yes, in spite of the fact that that was during the depression years. My uncle was in investments and in investment counseling. My cousin was very kind to me. She could have said things to me like, “You're not my sister. You're not related to me. My parents took you in.” But she never talked that way. She was a totally nice person. But she went to private school and I chose to go to public school. I think it was because I felt that I was an imposition on my aunt and uncle. I could hear them saying things like, “I wish to god Ann's father would come and get her off our hands.” Or they'd say to me, “You'll never amount to anything. You'll be just like your father.” That sort of thing.
MS: They would say that to you?
AL: Yes. And my uncle was a very severe, cold man who gave orders. He was verbally abusive. And my aunt was a masochist, so they were well‑matched. It's the sadist and the early Christian martyr.
MS: In those years, through age twelve, did you have any sense of yourself as being sexually different or did that come later?
AL: Well first I want to say briefly that as a child, I had a lot of problems. I banged my head against the crib and I postured and I twirled when I walked. I had certain habits and ticks. I was maladjusted. They had a school psychologist examine me when I failed the first grade and they said, “She's not retarded. She's blocked.” But it fell on deaf ears. When I was about nine, I had friends in the neighborhood and I used to play with them, a brother and sister. And a new girl moved into the neighborhood and we got together. And we said, “What should we play today?” This new girl, her name was Jane Giessen, said, “Today we're going to play dress-ups.” I said, “What's dress- ups?” And she said, “Oh you know, we put on mother's high heels and put on some lipstick.” I said, “You may play that, but I'm not.” And I walked home and I started to cry. I thought, “What's wrong with me?” That's when I knew that I was different. Then when I went to summer camp and away to school later on, I found out what was wrong with me.
MS: Now why did you not want to play dress up?
AL: I considered myself a tomgirl. I hung around the boys. I didn't beat them up, but I preferred the company of boys to girls. I didn't have any dolls and my uncle seemed to encourage me to be like a boy. When company would come, he'd have my cousin curtsey and have me bow. Or he'd sit outside on his little patio in Annapolis and say, “Come on, sit with me. Those women don't understand anything.” And he'd give me a glass of bitters and soda and he'd have an old-fashioned and talked to me as though I was a boy. I don't consider myself really masculine. I consider myself androgynous.
MS: You earlier said that something did happen later on when you were in school.
AL: What do you mean? You mean coming out?
AL: I went to boarding school. Nine-tenths of the faculty were lesbians. I was in love with about twenty people at once. I mean to be gay and to be in boarding school was to be in heaven.
MS: What was the name of the boarding school?
AL: The Hannah More Academy in Reisterstown, Maryland. It was an Episcopal school for girls. And they had mottos like “simple, sensible, and thorough” or “may our daughters be as the polished corners of the temple.”
MS: How did you find out that the teachers were lesbian?
AL: Because a lot of us had crushes on them and they'd encourage that.
MS: How would they encourage it?
AL: Well if you wrote a teacher a note, she might answer. The same way with seniors, older people. And there was a Latin teacher and a gym teacher and they were together a great deal. And I was on telephone duty one day and I had to go to the gym teacher's room to tell her she was on the phone. And I knocked and then I knocked again to put a note on her bureau, because I thought she was not there. And there she was in bed with the Latin teacher. That sort of thing. And the headmistress would get up and say, “There are too many crushes going on in this school. It just must stop.” And of course it spread like wildfire after that. She was fanning it. So actually those years in boarding school, besides being gay and having crushes on twenty people at once, were the happiest years of my life because I wasn't with my aunt and uncle. I wasn't with my father. And I felt safe and secure. Where most kids were homesick, I was sick of home.
MS: This was from when you were age twelve to when you were what?
AL: Thirteen to eighteen. I failed the first grade. Maybe it was going on nineteen even.
MS: Was there a lot of sexual activity going on between the girls in the school?
AL: Not really. We had these huge showers with people of the same sex, which was a big deal. And we used to go up to the sitting room, which was near to the infirmary, and dance on a Saturday night to the strains of the hit parade. And I think number one on the hit parade for years was "Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week." And I really enjoyed the dancing and writing notes and things like that.
MS: But there wasn't much sleeping together?
AL: No, I don't think so. My first crush was a feminine woman and she was a day student--there were about ten--named Victoria Campbell Clark. And she used to come to school with long blonde hair and a flower in her hair. She was the May Queen and she was also a horsewoman. But after her, I got interested in my biology teacher. She had a cleft in her chin. But she had a reputation. She'd have a senior every year. And when I was a senior, she invited me to her room and I was scared to death. I wanted to go and I was afraid to go. It was a real case of avoidance-approach. And I finally went into her room and there she was in men's pajamas and she patted the bed and said, “Sit next to me.” My heart was in my throat. And she was playing Brahms Symphony Number One. And I don't think I stayed too long. And the next day I did something very unusual. I wrote her a note and told her that I wasn't a homosexual. Because I was reading everything, all the books. I was reading Krafft‑Ebing and Havelock Ellis and The Well of Loneliness and all these books that were out.
MS: How did you know about those books? Were people talking about them?
AL: Word of mouth.
MS: Do you think you used the word homosexual in your note to her?
AL: Yes, I didn't know the word gay.
MS: Why did you write that note?
AL: Because I was frightened. I was gay, but to have a teacher hold your hand to classical music and wearing men's pajamas, it was just a bit too much. But afterwards I regretted it, because I kept trying to get her attention and she just ignored me from that day forward. She wrote in my yearbook, “Well Ann, what you didn't learn here, you'll find out later and I'm referring to a private matter.”
MS: Oh wow. What do you recall about reading Krafft‑Ebing and Havelock Ellis and The Well of Loneliness? Were they helpful?
AL: Not really, because they said things like “deviation from the norm” and “neurosis” and “emotional immaturity.”
MS: Did you think all those things about yourself?
AL: I did. I mean I had a bad opinion of myself from an early age.
MS: So the books confirmed that?
AL: Yes, but it didn't stop me.
MS: How about The Well of Loneliness? Did you have the same kind of reaction to that?
AL: Well I found it was a book that I could really relate to. I related to Mary Llewellyn, not Stephen, I believe her name was. To the more feminine woman.
MS: Even though you had grown up a tomboy?
AL: Right, but I considered myself, in spite of having a lot of emotional problems, feminine, but a strong feminine person. So therefore I was more attracted to stronger women. As George Bernard Shaw says, “A lion with a roar is always attracted to a lion with a louder roar.” I find that fits me very much. I do not like females. I like women.
MS: So you left boarding school, then, when you were eighteen or nineteen, you said?
AL: Going on nineteen.
MS: Did you go to nursing school straight away?
AL: The next fall. Then I went in training in the hospital I was born in in Baltimore. And I found nurses' training very difficult, because my aunt and uncle had servants. I had never made a bed or anything. And I had a heck of a time learning to make a hospital bed, giving enemas, and doing treatments. But I fell madly in love with a classmate. She was a strong silent type, no makeup, short dark curly hair, and a sterling person. Her name was Mary. And we were together constantly. And people would come into our room and find us even lying on the bed together. Now Mary and I never did anything. But we didn't have to. Just being together was enough. So it finally got out. People were beginning to talk and so one of us had to go and since Mary was the niece of the nursing arts instructor, I had to go. And I remember the Director of Nurses writing down that I was emotionally immature.
MS: And was that just a substitute word, do you think?
AL: I feel that they were just being tactful. Or perhaps they couldn't use the "l" word. I mean I was gay during the dark ages, let's face it.
MS: So that must have been devastating for you.
AL: Tragic. I went to Mary's wedding and she wore her mother’s wedding dress and she has very broad shoulders. She looked ridiculous in it. I had to kiss the bride. And she had married the very first boy she went out with. And they moved to Richmond. And I have no idea whether she's gay now, whether she's happily married, or what.
MS: And you weren't dating boys during this time?
AL: I wasn't interested in boys at all.
MS: So you left that nursing school and you started up at another school the next year? Is that what happened?
AL: Right and I graduated in 1950.
MS: So you were at that second nursing school from '47 to '50?
AL: That was on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It was a small hospital and I decided to get my act together and straighten out and date. But I just wasn't interested in men and I was more interested in women. And I was interested in an RN and she was close to a woman doctor, so the three of us palled around a great deal. The woman doctor was an alcoholic. The RN was suicidal. And I just tagged along with my problems.
MS: Was this the trio that you said had the nickname?
AL: Yeah, the townspeople called us the three queers.
MS: What do you think they meant by that?
AL: Well Dr. Virginia was very masculine and so was the RN. And I suppose I was sort of androgynous. But she didn't walk; she marched.
MS: Did you start to date during that time, the late '40s?
MS: Yes, men.
MS: So did you have any involvements with women while you were in that school?
AL: With the RN, but that was just hugging and kissing, because she had a lot of conflict about being gay. After I graduated from training, I later learned that she had committed suicide. And Dr. Virginia was an alcoholic and I imagine she drank herself to death. I survived.
MS: Yes you did. So in 1950, then, you finished nursing school and what did you do then?
AL: Well then my uncle, who was the head of the board of directors of the Anne Arundel General Hospital in Annapolis, he and my aunt suggested that I maybe nurse at the Annapolis Hospital. And that was an exciting time in Annapolis because St. John's College was there. It isn't just a Naval Academy. And it was a time when there were a lot of interesting people at St. John's: the Van Doren boys and Glenn Yarbrough and Hemingway, Jr. And I didn't mind dating St. Johnny's because they were more interested in what is life, what is death, and they didn't have much time for dating. And in dating St. Johnny's, I met some gay women and that's when I discovered my first gay bar, in Baltimore, about a year later.
MS: You were dating the guys from St. John's?
AL: Yes, because they didn't bother me sexually. They were more deeply intellectual.
MS: And how did you find this first bar? Was it through the gay women who you met?
AL: Yes, this nineteen year old gal in Annapolis. We drove up to Baltimore. And I was twenty-one or twenty-two and they wouldn't serve me, but they served Jenny.
MS: Where was the bar?
AL: That was Paul's in Baltimore. There was another one called the Pepper Hill on Gay Street.
MS: Was it an all women's bar or was it mixed, men and women?
AL: I think that both bars had men and women in them and they were frequently raided. We kind of got used to that.
MS: So you started going regularly?
AL: Not regularly because Annapolis is about hour and a half's drive from Baltimore, but occasionally.
MS: Were you ever there when it was raided?
AL: No, but I was there. Having been in boarding school with all these lovely lesbians, then I discovered the lesbians in the bars and they were quite different. They were cut from a different cloth. “Hey Mo, where's Jo?” And I walked up to this one woman and I said, “Well here I am,” and we were in New York two days later.
MS: Did you get involved with this woman?
AL: Yes. We ended up in Jamaica, Long Island, New York, until my cousin somehow found out where Jenny was, the nineteenth-year old gal who led me astray, and Jenny knew where I was staying in Long Island. So my cousin found me. And we went and spent the night in Greenwich Village at the Holly Hotel. And my cousin said, “Ann, don't you think you might need to see a psychiatrist?” I said, “No, but if it would make you feel any better, you could go.” Oh I was terrible. I said, “I'm fine, but if you're having a problem, you can see one.”
MS: Tell me about crossing that class divide. That's what it sounds like you're describing when you went to that bar.
AL: Absolutely. I felt like Ann in Wonderland, but I really didn't like it too well after awhile. It began to wear thin. People say things like, “I love you. You know dat, don't you?” It's pretty illiterate. Matter of fact, I think there's a book that just came out, written by a woman, a couple of women, in New York or Pittsburgh, called Leather Boots and Golden Slippers?
MS: Oh right. They're in Buffalo.
AL: That's it. New York.
MS: Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold.
AL: And I've seen the book at Border's and I know what it's about, about the working‑class lesbians.
MS: That's right.
AL: And I said, “Alas, it would be the ones who were not working class who would be reading the book and not the working‑class lesbians.” I thought that was funny.
MS: Was there a kind of butch/fem role-playing?
AL: Absolutely. I was conditioned in that direction.
MS: And which role did you play?
MS: What did that mean? How were you supposed to dress and how did you dress?
AL: Well I dressed in a sort of casual, semi‑tailored fashion. But this woman who took me to New York, she did not want me to make love to her. She apparently just liked to negotiate the whole thing. I understand lesbians today take turns and share and there's not as much role-playing, but that's the way it was back in the dark ages.
MS: What would the butches wear in the bars?
AL: Pants. Jackets.
MS: And you would be wearing skirts?
AL: I would be wearing slacks, too.
MS: Slacks with what?
AL: Blouses and sweaters, more feminine.
MS: And did you have relationships with the women in the bars or was it just that one time?
AL: With this woman I went to New York with. I think after that there was nobody else.
MS: How long were you together with her?
AL: Not long, maybe six months. Then eventually I moved on to Philadelphia.
MS: You moved to Philly, I think we figured out, in 1955?
MS: Why did you move here?
AL: To get to know my father, because I had met him when I was twelve. He had married this woman and I came home from school one day and there they were. My aunt said, “This is your father and this is your new mother and they're going to take you to live with them.” And I figured they were glad to get rid of me. I went. I didn't want to go and they didn't say they had wanted to adopt me. I didn't find that out until much later, that they wanted to adopt me. They never mentioned it to me at all.
MS: So that was when you were twelve, but you ended up going to boarding school?
AL: Yes, when I was twelve. And then my father and stepmother and I went to live in Glenside, Pennsylvania for a year, but they didn't get along. And I certainly was not happy. And they separated and my stepmother took me to Baltimore and we stayed in a hotel and she had a Pekinese dog and turned tricks. I wasn't too happy with that arrangement. And so Hallie, my cousin, has a great aunt who lives on the periphery of this Episcopal boarding school that my aunt had gone to, my cousin had gone to, and I wanted to go there, too. I wanted to get away from being with my stepmother. And I knew that my aunt and uncle didn't want me to come back, so I got into Hannah More.
MS: I see. So then in 1955, you hook up again with your father in Philadelphia?
AL: I attempted to get to know my father when I moved to Philadelphia. And we had dinner a couple of times, but he would just tell jokes. He would never talk about himself. I really know very little about my father. I knew that he had a job. He was a sales manager at the Globe Ticket Company and he was president of the Plays and Players. He was a semi‑professional actor and he took me to the Plays and Players. One night, he had drinks at the bar and he stood there and said, “You know, this place is just full of fairies. Just look at them all over there.” And one of them sashayed over to my father and said, “Well Mr. Pusie, we know your daughter Ann. She goes to Maxine's and has dinner.” My father called me up and said, “You know, this town's too small for the two of us. Why don't you move?” And I moved to New York.
MS: Can we talk a little bit more about Philadelphia since my interest in so much focused on Philadelphia.
AL: Certainly, certainly.
MS: You were in Philadelphia for three years?
AL: Yes. I got a job working at the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital as a psychiatric nurse.
MS: I see. How did you find Maxine's and the gay bars of Philadelphia?
MS: How did you learn about them?
AL: How did I find them? I suppose I asked. That was an easy thing for me to do. There's an old trick. You can go to a town and go get your hair done and when you get a hairdresser, you can check him out and say, “Do you know where any gay bars are in this town?”
MS: Is that what you did?
AL: Or you can even ask a policeman. I was very nervy.
MS: So is that what you did?
AL: Yeah. I got directed to the Surf and that's the only one I can remember at this moment.
MS: And Maxine's, you said.
AL: Yes. That was more of a restaurant. The Surf was a gay bar.
MS: Was that mostly men or mostly women?
AL: It was a women's bar and they had a sign on the wall saying, “Women in pants shall not dance.”
MS: I've heard that before.
AL: They were always afraid of being raided.
MS: So that's why the sign was up? Did anyone pay attention to it?
AL: Not really.
MS: Do you know who owned the Surf?
AL: No. Yeah, as a matter of fact, there were a couple of women that owned it, but I wasn't aware of it then. I discovered that much later, like in the present. So I'd go there and I met two very nice girls. They were celebrating an anniversary, like their eighth or ninth, and we became a trio and did everything together and had dinner together at Maxine's and all that.
MS: Was the Surf also pretty much a butch/fem scene?
AL: Pretty much so. Yes. Where I worked, at the Institute at the Pennsylvania Hospital, most of the nurses were gay.
AL: Oh yes. The head nurse.
MS: Why do you think that was the case?
AL: Well back in those days, women became nurses or teachers. They got what you would call traditional jobs. I don’t know, for some reason, there were nurses there that were gay. Generally they were head nurses or supervisors. And there was one private duty nurse, because I did private and staff at the Institute. She was quite masculine and I was quite taken with her. I thought she kind of liked me. And I admired her for like a year and then she finally invited me to her apartment for drinks. And after the second old-fashioned, I blurted out that I was in love with her. And she, being a psychiatric nurse, handled it very smoothly. She said, “Ann, I love you, too. I'm very fond of you, but I'm not gay.” I was surprised. That really surprised and disappointed me because we were on the night shift and we'd play Scrabble. And after that my hands shook and it was visible.
MS: Were you afraid that someone would find out?
AL: I was uncomfortable with her after that.
MS: So it wasn't so much that you were afraid that you would lose your job?
AL: Oh no. It was the rejection. I mean it was a kind rejection, but it was a big disappointment.
MS: People knew that there were other lesbians who were on the job?
AL: Right. And I didn't try to hide it; I was just myself. Sometimes I'd be wearing a little beige jacket with a plaid lining and one of the patients would say, “That's a cute jacket.” And I'd say, “Yeah, it's a boy's jacket. I got it on sale.” And yet there was another RN and she eventually asked me to share an apartment with her. She was Italian. Her name was Anna Maria Capiello. And she didn't walk. She undulated. She was very sexy and very feminine, earth mother. And yet she would put notes for the masculine patients on their breakfast trays. And she got called down to the office about her behavior. I got away with murder. It's weird, because she thought she was so hidden. It was so disguised with Cappy. She never wore slacks. But I liked her as a friend and she asked me to share an apartment with her and I did. She had a boyfriend, but she was more interested in women. And one night I saw her in the Surf. I said, “Anna, what are you doing in here?” She said, “Oh I came in here to make a phone call.” I thought, “That’s really funny. That's really funny.” I never forgot her.
MS: Did anyone ever lose their job at work because they were lesbian?
AL: Not that I know of.
MS: Were the bars ever raided when you were in them in Philadelphia?
AL: No, except one time I was in a bar. I can't remember the name of it. If you said it I'd say, "That's it." But I cannot remember. And I met a couple, a guy and a gal, and they were not in uniform. And they told me they were in the Navy. And the gal was very sweet and she asked me if she could have my phone number. And I said, “Certainly, so when you're in town, we can get together and have a drink.” She was younger than me. I just thought she was sweet. I wasn't interested in her. And then months, months, months later, I got called down to be questioned by somebody from the Navy. They asked me if she was a lesbian. I was shocked. I said, “What are you basing your assumption upon?” They said, “Well she only goes to movies with women.” And I sat down and I just gave them a lecture. I said, “Listen, if you're a small‑town girl, you go into the armed service. Naturally you're going to go to the movies with your girlfriends.” I said, “You're away from home for the first time. You really don't know what the score is.” By the time I finished talking I had this man convinced that she was alright and I was alright.
MS: So that was very clever of you.
AL: She had been raped. That's how it all started. But I'm sure they were always on a witch hunt in the service.
MS: What do you mean that's how it all started?
AL: She was raped.
MS: In the military?
AL: She must have complained and then they must have reported her and said she was a lesbian.
MS: How did you find that out?
AL: This man gave me the information. This is why he called me in for questioning. I was in her phone book. Those witch hunts were going on all the time.
MS: Do you remember any of the other bars? You mentioned the Surf and you said Maxine's. Did you go to any others?
AL: There were a couple, like the Music Box. Does that sound right?
MS: Yes it does.
AL: As I started to say, I really don't like telling my story because it requires looking back and I really enjoy living in the present.
MS: Well I hope it's not too difficult. You were living, while you were in Philadelphia, in Center City?
MS: And did Center City seem to you to be a gay male neighborhood or a lesbian neighborhood?
AL: Both. And it was much nicer. It was safer. We didn't have the drug culture. There were more coffee shops and art exhibits and lots of interesting people. When I was in boarding school, I would visit my father in the summer here in Philadelphia. And I went to the movies one afternoon and I came back and there was a note and two hundred dollars. And he said, “Have a nice time. Have gone down to Cape May.” It was a Monday and he just left town and left me. I was fifteen. We lived on Panama Street. I think it was near 22nd and Delancey. There were two, what I thought were old maids, living in the house next to ours, Hannah and Dorothea. And they invited me to supper. It was a Monday night and it was raining. And they were furious with my father for abandoning me. And then there was a knock at the door. And there was this woman and she came in. She was small and bright. And she was the kind of person you meet that a child, a dog, a man, a woman, anyone would just fall in love with her. She was absolutely dynamic. Her name was Eleanor Paul and I fell head over heels in love with her. I can remember her phone number. She lived near here.
MS: Did you become friends with her?
AL: Yes. Her phone number was KINGSLEY 2038 and she lived at 1901 Ringgold Place, right near here. And I was terrible because I was fifteen and she'd come home from work and I'd be sitting on her doorstep.
MS: How old was she?
AL: She must have been in her thirties and she had a housemate who was away for the summer. She worked downtown and she was an artist. And she was very masculine. And I was mad about Ellie. It was a summer romance.
MS: Did you ever tell her?
AL: She knew it. She knew it.
MS: Did anything ever happen?
AL: No. She wrote in my autograph book. Those were the rage. “It's the last page, but let's hope it's not the last of our friendship.” And she mentioned something about "go marry," that sort of thing.
MS: Do you think the old maids, the ones you described before, were trying to fix you up with her?
AL: No. She was just a friend of theirs. And in retrospect they weren't old maids at all. They were in a relationship.
MS: And I had asked about the neighborhood. Where was the neighborhood? All of Center City or particular parts of it?
AL: Around Rittenhouse Square. Ringgold Place is a few blocks from here.
MS: I mean what part of Center City was gay or lesbian?
AL: Oh all around Rittenhouse Square and around 12th, 13th, Broad.
MS: What was Rittenhouse Square like in those days?
AL: It was very interesting. I think the beatniks were around then and gay people and fashionable people and poor people.
MS: Did you spend a lot of time in the Square?
AL: Again yes, because I was always watching for Ellie to be coming home from work. Incidentally, through the years, I would hear about her and I would get really excited. My heart would start to beat real fast. I would just miss her. And that was funny.
MS: Did you ever go to any of the coffeehouses around Rittenhouse Square? The Humoresque or the Proscenium or the Gilded Cage or the Artist's Hut?
AL: The Gilded Cage, I've been there. And there was a bar on Rittenhouse Square called the Bucket of Blood, the Bloody Bucket. And that was mixed, gay and straight people.
MS: And you would go there?
AL: I remember that, yes.
MS: Tell me about Maxine's. You said it was primarily a restaurant?
AL: It was a bar/restaurant, a very small restaurant. And it's now called Raffles. And it was mostly men, but Hank and Jean and I would go in there, and because we were sort of collegiate looking, clean cut, and behaved ourselves--we weren't the beer‑bottle‑breaking diesel dykes that they objected to--we were always welcome in there.
MS: Who were Hank and Jean?
AL: These were the two gals I met in the Surf who were in a relationship.
MS: Oh right.
AL: And I became the third member, the third wheel, until Jean started to get interested in me and I was getting interested in Jean. So I said to Hank and Jean, “I'm not going to see you for awhile,” to get rid of that, to get over that problem. And eventually we resolved it.
MS: Were there any other parts of Philadelphia that you recall that a lot of gay people lived in?
AL: No, I stuck to Center City and then I lived in West Philadelphia, near the Institute, where I did private and staff nursing.
MS: Did that seem like less of a gay neighborhood than Center City?
AL: Less of one? Oh yes. There were more families out that way.
MS: I see. I asked, I guess, if you had any trouble with the law. The only thing you described was that Navy incident.
AL: And apparently I handled myself very well, although inside I was very apprehensive.
MS: I am very curious about what things were like between the lesbians and gay men of the 1950s in Philadelphia. Do you recall your sense of the relationship?
AL: Well I feel the gay guys did not like gay women. I have a theory about being gay. I find that gay women identify, especially women who come from poorer families, with truck drivers. Gay men, they may come from poorer families, but they identify with beauty and art. So even if they haven't got the money, they'll go to concerts and they'll go to the library and they'll read and they'll keep up with the movies and the theater. The women are more interested in driving trucks and stomping around and getting in fights. I mean the dichotomy is just amazing. So I was always more comfortable with the gay men, which is unusual, but then they saw me as more of their peer and they didn't feel threatened by me.
MS: You were more comfortable with them because you were also into the arts and all of that?
AL: Exactly, exactly. I had no problem, but a lot of women I've seen come into men's bars and I have seen them practically be asked to leave or frozen out; no one talking to them or paying any attention to them.
MS: You saw that happening?
AL: Yeah. Some of the guys could be really, what I would call, piss elegant. They'd stand and hold their head up high and look disdainfully down on these dykes that somehow have invaded their territory.
MS: Did you ever get seen like that or treated like that?
AL: Never, because I wasn't that kind of a person.
MS: Do you think they treated fems better than they did butches?
AL: Yeah, but if a woman was too feminine, they would feel that she was just a fag hag, that she was just using the fellas. That she wanted the adulation, the coat held, and the cigarette lit, but that she really wasn't gay. She was a phony. But yet more comfortable with the gay men because she knew if they took her home, she wasn't going to have to defend her virtue or anything. So they used each other. But they had contempt for fag hags. I think they have a new term now, but it's the general idea.
MS: Do you remember the first gay man you ever met?
AL: Yes. It was George Kent Bellows, our glee club teacher at Hannah More. They called him Bubbles Bellows. He wore loud socks. He sashayed and waved his hands. What more can I tell you? He was the first.
MS: And what about after that? Do you remember the first you met in Philadelphia?
AL: Yeah, I was in my teens. I was visiting my father at Christmas-time and we had gone to a Christmas party. And there were lots and lots of polished people standing around drinking, having hors d'oeuvres. And I was quite young and there were some other youngsters there, but I would have nothing to do with them. I got interested in a married couple. The woman was very masculine and the husband was very effeminate. And my father finally called me aside and said, “How is it that every time I see you getting enthusiastic about someone, it's one of these damned queers?” Well I didn't realize it, but I was just feeling at home. I think it's like gravity. You're drawn toward certain people, you're kindred spirits, and it's a non‑verbal thing. It just happens.
MS: And you think that worked between gay men and lesbians?
AL: You mean that recognizing of one another?
MS: Yeah and the gravity.
AL: Oh absolutely. Even women who are discreet and who don't dress as a caricature of a man, there's that something there. When you meet someone, they look familiar to you, as though you should know them. And I have learned that if I see someone interesting that I want to meet, I want to talk to, I've come out by saying, “Should I know you?”
MS: That's wonderful.
AL: And that way you get a very positive response.
MS: If you had wanted to buy something like The Well of Loneliness in Philadelphia, where would you have gone in the fifties?
AL: A paperback bookstore.
MS: Any bookstore?
MS: Were there any particular bookstores, though, that you could go to and feel comfortable?
AL: I truly don't remember.
MS: O.K. Any other businesses or restaurants?
AL: Well yes, there was a restaurant that I loved. See I worked nights and there was a wonderful restaurant where I liked to go and have a lovely lunch on my day off. It was Helen Siegel's Restaurant and it was on Walnut Street. And there was one of those figures outside the restaurant. It looked like a coachman. I don't know exactly what you call it. But anyway, Helen Siegel owned the restaurant and she was always there, making sure that the people got good service. She didn't walk around; she strode around. So I would always go in and have a martini. I would make it last until dessert, because the martinis were just pure gin. And I would follow her around with my eyes. I just enjoyed seeing her so much. And I'd hear stories, like she was a golfer or she had just flown to Hollywood and spent the weekend with Joan Fontaine or something very glamorous.
MS: Did a lot of lesbians hang out there?
AL: Oh no, it was a regular restaurant, but I was attracted to the owner. I remember that well.
MS: I have one more question about the bars. Was the butch/fem scene in Philadelphia in the late fifties much different from what you had found in Baltimore?
AL: The same. Absolutely.
MS: Things weren't breaking down in any way?
MS: You left Philadelphia in 1958?
AL: And moved to New York.
MS: And why did you leave?
AL: Because my father really felt he'd be more comfortable if I weren't here because I was raining on his parade, as they say.
MS: Did you have any conversations with him after that bartender made that comment?
AL: I had a couple of bad scenes with my father. The very last scene I'll tell you about. My moving to Philadelphia to get to know my father turned out to be a bitter disappointment because he constantly embarrassed me. There was an RN working at the Institute, who turned out to look like me. Her name was Susie Schlegel and we became friendly. And she was beginning to think that she might be gay. At any rate, for some reason my father had invited me to dinner and said to bring Susie. And my father was a gourmet cook. He had a basement apartment at 2100 Delancey Place. So Susie came. And my father was an amateur photographer and was showing Susie all the pictures he had taken. And then he said he would like to take her picture. And so she was flattered and she posed for my father. And then he asked her if she wouldn't mind lowering her bra strap and various things and I got very uncomfortable. At any rate, she had no compunction about showing a couple of pictures that were décolletage. And my father enjoyed taking her picture and there was a lot of laughing and joking and then she had to leave. After she left, my father turned to me and said, “I didn't have any film in the camera.” He was that kind of a person. I disliked him intensely for that. And then another time, we'd been to a cocktail party together and we came back to his apartment. And he was in the bathroom and when he came out, he hadn't even zipped up his fly. And he said that I looked like my mother and he started for me. And I got terribly frightened. I grabbed my coat, I grabbed my purse, and I left. And I never saw my father after that. When I was living in Boston, he was getting older and asked me if I would come and share an apartment with him because he was getting older and he was getting lonely. And I told him I could not do it. I said, “He never took care of me. Why should I take care of him?” It's just one of those things. My father was a hollow man with no conscience. He used people. And people liked him at first. He was charming, but as they got to know him, they dropped him. He had very few people. I came back for his funeral. He had very few people who were really his friends.
MS: He must have known a lot of gay people, being in the theater.
AL: Oh he did! A lot of the members of the Plays and Players were gay and he objected to that. In fact, there was a man who was connected to Plays and Players who's gay, Kirk Merrick. I think he was also the head of the Art Alliance and my father was always making remarks about homosexuals.
MS: What would he say?
AL: Well he just felt that the gay males were not men, that sort of thing.
MS: Did you ever go to house parties when you were in Philadelphia? Gay house parties?
AL: No. I did come back to Philadelphia when my father died.
MS: When did he die?
AL: In 1965. I had spent the summer as a camp nurse. And at the end of the summer you get paid and I went to Ogunquit, Maine. And it was there, sitting and having a drink on the porch of the Ogunquit Hotel, there were two women sitting there talking. They looked older than me. They looked like they might be gay. And they looked very interesting. And one of them said Eleanor Paul's name. And I nearly jumped out of the chair, as though I had been goosed. I said, “Do you know Eleanor Paul?” They said, “Oh yeah, she's a close friend of ours.” My heart started to beat in that crazy way. At any rate, I had been in Ogunquit, Maine, for a few days and I got a call one evening around seven. And it was a doctor from the Bryn Mawr Hospital who said, “I'm sorry to tell you, but your father was in a serious accident. He was driving a sports car and wrapped it around a tree. We're not sure he's going to live the night. Can you come?” And I said: “Doctor, I know this is going to sound very cold‑blooded. I'm here in Oginquit, Maine, and I'm on vacation. What I want to do is call you in the morning and see how my father is. Can you understand that?” He said, “Of course I can.” I said, “I just don't want to dash there tonight.” So he phoned me the next morning and said, “I'm sorry to tell you, but your father died during the night of a heart attack.” And I breathed a big fat sigh of relief. Then I called my aunt and uncle in Maryland and told them and my aunt said, “Thank god he's dead.” What can I tell you? That was the response of people. So I had to arrange for the funeral and I know I got an advance from my father's lawyer here in Philadelphia.
MS: An advance from the estate?
AL: Yes, from what little my father had left me, because he spent all the money he made. He didn't save any money. He was very consistent. And I stayed at the Bellevue Stratford and I just had a wonderful time. It was almost as though I was celebrating. I had to get a minister for the funeral and they asked me my father's denomination. I said, “Well he's an Episcopalian, but he's really an atheist.” So this minister had been trying to reach me on the phone, but I was out having a good time. And he finally got hold of me. His name was the Reverend Justin S. Lehman, M.D. He turned out not only to be a minister, but a psychiatrist, as well as gay. And I thought, “I don't believe in god, but this is god‑sent.” Because I could talk to him about how I felt about my father and not feel guilty about being relieved that he was dead.
MS: And was he helpful?
AL: Oh yes. I sent him a lovely gift. I noticed that he smoked and I sent him a leather cigarette case with his initials on it.
MS: How did you learn that he was gay?
AL: He told me.
MS: Were there any other psychiatrists you ever saw in Philadelphia?
AL: Oh no, that was the only one. And that was because he was the minister who was going to perform the ceremony. It really seemed heaven sent, the whole thing.
MS: Well tell me about leaving Philadelphia. You said that Hank and Jean saw you off?
AL: By this time I was living in Boston.
MS: I mean if we can go back for a second to when you left Philadelphia the first time, in '58.
AL: Well I had gone to New York.
MS: You left after that encounter with your father in the bar?
AL: Oh absolutely.
MS: Why did you pick New York?
AL: Because I used to go to New York, to the Village, and I love New York. And then from New York I moved to Boston. And then when my father died, I came down and arranged for the funeral.
MS: So let's talk about New York for a little bit. You were in New York from about 1958 to 1961? Did you find life in New York to be quite different from Philadelphia?
AL: New York is a bigger city. It's a little confusing. And you don't get to see all parts of New York, especially if you don't drive. I got a job at a psychiatric hospital because that's what I knew. And I got a job at the Payne‑Whitney Clinic. And I lived near there; I don't recall where. And then I met a woman who was a phys. ed. teacher in the Village and I lived with her.
MS: How long were you together?
AL: Oh just a couple of years. And then from New York, I moved to Boston. Because when you're a nurse, you can get a job anywhere. So it was very easy to move and keep getting jobs.
MS: What were things like in Boston? I think you've told me that one of the things about Boston was that you met Barbara Gittings while you were there. Is that right?
AL: That was when I was getting ready to leave Boston. When I was in Boston, I fell very much in love with a gal I met at a camp for professional and business women, called Camp Kokatosi in Raymond, Maine. I met her and she had been engaged to a fellow for eleven years and was wondering what was wrong with her. And we met and I gave her my phone number and I was quite taken with her. Her name was Mary Mackie. That was in August and she didn't try to get in touch with me until the following January. And said the reason why was that she had had her appendix out, but she couldn't understand it; she still had pain. And I knew a gay doctor in Boston and he sent for her surgical records and they said that she was full of cancer. And Mary died a year after we met. It was tragic because we were both in love. And I did not go through the normal grief reaction. I didn't cry and for fourteen years after that I had a terrible time relating to gay women. I think I was unconsciously afraid if I met someone I liked, they'd die on me. So I had to have therapy and it took fourteen years. So I only associated with gay men, no gay women. Fourteen years to get over it.
MS: Starting when you were in Boston?
MS: Where would you hang out with gay men, in bars?
AL: Right, right, for companionship.
MS: And did you find that the gay men in Boston treated you fairly well?
AL: Oh absolutely. I really had a good relationship.
MS: So it was while you were there that you met Barbara? Do you want to tell me about that?
AL: When my father died, I had means to travel. And so I was going to join Daughters of Bilitis in California.
MS: How had you heard about it?
AL: Because Barbara Gittings had founded it. And I don't know why she was in Boston. Maybe her family lived in Boston.
MS: They're from Maryland. But she might have been travelling for the DOB.
AL: But she came to see me and I think she thought I was a student, because I was a school nurse at the Belmont Hill School. It's a prep school for Harvard. So I said I wanted to join DOB in San Francisco. She and Kay came to see me. I think they wanted to make sure I was eighteen or whatever you are supposed to be.
MS: But do you remember how you had heard about DOB originally?
AL: In Philadelphia. They had newsletters and stuff. They had a magazine they put out. I think that's how it happened.
MS: Do you remember the name of the magazine?
AL: The Ladder.
MS: Oh so you were reading The Ladder.
MS: Do you remember when you first encountered The Ladder?
AL: No, I don't.
MS: Were you a subscriber? Did you get it in the mail?
AL: I don't remember.
MS: O.K. So you must have written a letter to Barbara or something like that, so she knew about you.
AL: Yeah. At any rate, she and Kay came to see me in Belmont, Massachusetts, and I invited her to spend the night in the infirmary. I think we had snow or something. And I enjoyed meeting them.
MS: Did they stay over?
AL: Yeah, they did. I put them in the infirmary.
MS: Did they want you to start a chapter of DOB up there?
AL: Oh no. See I was going out to San Francisco.
MS: You were moving.
AL: And they had a DOB chapter out there and I wanted to join it. And they wanted to make sure that I was eligible because I put down my address as Belmont Hill School. They thought I might be a student. So we turned out to be peers.
MS: So you came through Philadelphia, then, on your way out of Boston, on your way to San Francisco?
AL: Right, Hank and Jean, my friends in Philadelphia, wanted to see me off to California. So I went to California by way of Philadelphia. I took the Vista Vision Dome Train from Philadelphia to Denver and then flew from Denver to San Francisco.
MS: Did you do anything with Hank and Jean while you were in town?
AL: I just stayed at their apartment and they saw me off.
MS: Where did they live?
AL: They lived at that time in Germantown. And they weren't getting along so it was very awkward and tense.
MS: Had Germantown become something of a gay neighborhood back then?
AL: I don't think so, no.
MS: So then you ended up in San Francisco and then Los Angeles through the sixties and seventies and part of the eighties?
AL: For twenty years. I had to get the West out of my system.
MS: So what were the most important things that you can tell me about those years for you?
AL: Well I went to San Francisco. My father had died. I had enough money to make the transition. I was going to be gay and I was going to have a happy life. It didn't turn out that way at all. I was miserable. I was very lonely. I married an alcoholic. I didn't know he was an alcoholic until after we were married, because he was a periodic alcoholic. And when he was drunk, he was gay, so we'll say a latent homosexual, an alcoholic homosexual.
MS: When did you get married?
AL: In San Francisco, for a year and a half.
MS: Do you remember the year?
AL: I think it was around '70 to '72.
MS: Did you know that he was gay before you got married?
AL: I felt that he could be gay and I didn't know that he was an alcoholic when we got married, because he was a periodic. He drank like every four or six months. So when he drank, he would become interested in other men. Or he'd start off getting drunk and saying, “I married a lesbian,” like that was his cross to bear. I think that we had sex in the year and a half that we were together twice. So it was just a bad decision on my part to marry Jerry. I did it more for companionship.
MS: So DOB San Francisco hadn't worked out for you when you moved out there?
AL: No. I really wasn't over Mary's death. I had a lot of anxiety and I just was in my own way. Because when you go someplace you take yourself with you. And I just wasn't terribly happy. I married Jerry because I was lonely and I guess he was lonely. And it was a big mistake. But I had the sense to rent the furniture. And when he became physically abusive when he was drunk, that's when I decided to move to Los Angeles. And I did. But I went from the frying pan into the fire, because when I got to Los Angeles, I was depressed and didn't know it. I was hyper, agitated, and depressed. And I was orienting two hospitals for night duty. And the Director of Nursing at one said to me, “I think you are depressed. I think you need to see a psychiatrist.” He didn't make any recommendations. I didn't know a soul in Los Angeles. And so I made the mistake of calling the Los Angeles Psychiatric Association for a recommendation. I didn't think to call a teaching hospital, like County Hospital, to get a referral. And they recommended me a doctor in Beverly Hills and I took four buses and I ended up in Beverly Hills for a six o'clock appointment in the evening and the doctor said, “Put on your coat. We're going for a walk.” I thought, “Well this must be a new kind of therapy.” I was needy and I went along with it. And we ended up in a bar and he gave me Valium martinis. And the next thing I knew, it was morning and I was in his office. I didn't have any clothes on. And then it was downhill from there. I was in ten hospitals in the next few years for depression and suicide attempts. By the time I got my act together, it was too late to sue the doctor, because the statute of limitations was up. And I was better by then.
MS: You told the people in the hospital what had happened?
MS: And they didn't encourage you to press any kind of charges?
AL: Well they felt that because I was gay, he might retaliate. I was living with Grace then and I didn't want to go after him in a relationship with another woman. I didn't want to jeopardize a relationship.
MS: Do you think he attacked you because you were a lesbian?
AL: I think he saw me as needy, as vulnerable, and as physically attractive. I dressed very nicely, I had white gloves. I had a hat on. He was very dashing. He was younger and he saw me as very precarious, as though I was near a breakdown. So it was very easy and he was a very authoritarian individual. He just said, “Put on your coat. We're going for a walk.” And with the first martini and sitting in a bar in Beverly Hills with this man asking me all these questions, I had no self-esteem whatsoever. I was eating up all the attention. I kept looking at my watch saying, “Aren't I taking up too much of your time? Don't you have other patients?” I said at one point, “This is like Christmas in May” or whatever the month was. I don't know. I was a perfect victim. It was a perfect setup.
MS: So you obviously weren't working.
AL: It was really tragic. After that I didn't want to nurse anymore. And I was incapable of it. I had lost all my confidence. And I had a lot of anxiety, a lot of phobia, and I was terrified of everybody and everything. It took me years to learn that it was myself that I was afraid of. I couldn't sit in a movie without shaking. I couldn't sit in balconies. I had trouble getting on escalators. I had trouble talking to people. I was just a quivering mass of protoplasm. And I had an excellent psychiatrist. I had had him quite a few times during all those hospitalizations. He was unorthodox. He gave me what I needed, which was love. For example, in my last interview with him, I said, “I wish I had something to remember you by.” And he said, “Well what would you like?” I said, “Well I know what I would like would be a picture, but that's ridiculous.” And he opened the drawer and he pulled one out for me. He had one for me. And in my relationship with Grace, he came to meet Grace and her mother and had dinner. He was unorthodox. He treated me like a relative.
MS: So tell me about the relationship with Grace. How did that happen?
AL: First of all, Dr. Atkins was the one that got me to get over the fear of women after Mary dying. He suggested, perhaps, even if I wasn't religious, I might join Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles. That's the original one: MCC. That helped a lot. I joined the Church. I joined the chancellor choir. I got to know people. But I was still quite apprehensive and anxious because I had a lot of guilt. And I went to a Valentine's party at MCC and this gal said, “I feel horny. Do you want to go for a ride to the Big Horn?” That was a great big gay bar in San Fernando Valley. I said, “Oh, I'd love it.” And I said, “Now when we get there, you do your thing and I'll do mine.” I didn't want to impose on her at all. I didn't want her to feel that she was stuck with me if she wanted to look around. And it was there I met Grace. I thought she was a very nice person. And I liked her a lot. But I didn't want to be too obvious, so I just told her that I was in the book. And I was the third Lynch. So she called me and we had a couple of dates. I discovered that Grace was a babe in the woods. She'd never had a relationship. She was stuck with this mean mother who was deaf/mute. But I figured, I was lonely, I thought very highly of Grace, and so I moved in with her, even though I wasn't in love with her. I kind of loved her like a sister that I never had. She was interested in me. But the seven years were not too good because of her mother. And as long as Grace's mother is alive, Grace will not be in a relationship because her mother will intervene. She's the kind of person who, if Grace decides to go to New York, her mother would say, “Well when you come back, don't expect your dog to be alive.” She was vicious, impossible.
MS: But you were involved with her when you were living with her, right?
AL: Yes and I lost respect for Grace because number one, she couldn't stand up to her mother and it was a symbiotic relationship. I've always admired people stronger than myself and I'm pretty strong. I felt that Grace really wasn't the butch that I was looking for. She was more a sister. But we really loved one another. I have to say that while I was living with Grace, I made a suicide attempt and I nearly died.
MS: How did you try?
AL: I overdosed on anti-depressants. They are not foolproof.
MS: Is that what you had done before?
AL: During those hospitalizations, after I was raped, yes. And they took me to County Hospital. I think I was a red blanket case, which means that they thought they were going to lose me. I had stopped breathing. I woke up. I was getting IVs and I was attached to tubes and bottles and machines. But I pulled through obviously. And Grace and I went to see a therapist and generally they try to get you to stay together. They recommended that we break up. It was hard to leave Grace because I love her and we're friends. And we're in touch.
MS: You are?
AL: To this day, yes. And her mother is getting frail now.
MS: After you left LA I know you spent a year in Alabama?
AL: Yeah, I joined a pen pal thing for lonely lesbians and was writing to this woman in Alabama and I was so miserable and so unhappy.
MS: That was '85-'86.
AL: And she said, “Why don't you come down? Why don't you move in?” And I thought, “Well what have I got to lose?” I felt I had nothing to lose. Little did I know.
MS: She turned out to be?
AL: Nonverbal. If she didn't like something, she'd start to throw things. I was terrified of her. And she had a colostomy. She had every “itis” you can name: bronchitis, colitis, every itis. She was a walking time bomb.
MS: You got out of there not after too long?
AL: After about a year, I saved my money and I got out of there. And I decided, “Where am I going to go next?” I decided to come to Philadelphia.
MS: It sounds like your years back in Philly have been pretty good for you.
AL: Well I decided to stay in one place, keep my nose clean. I was terrified of drinking when I got to Philadelphia. I wasn't an alcoholic, but I was depressed and I knew that alcohol was a depressant. And I didn't want to commit suicide and I didn't want to go crazy. And I knew that they had gay A.A.; they have it in every city. And I was alone, so I decided to join A.A. so that I wouldn't drink. And make friends.
MS: Was that the first time you joined?
AL: Yes and I stayed for four years and three months. And I had a sponsor and I told Dan one day, I said, “I'm going to leave A.A.” I said, “I was never an alcoholic. I was mentally ill and I was afraid to drink.” He said, “I knew you weren't an alcoholic, Annie, that you were just crazy.” I said, “Oh thanks, Dan.” I really benefitted from those four years. I made a lot of friends. I know a lot of people from the program. I sub-leased an apartment after being at A.A. meetings for two days. They felt they could trust me. That apartment I had on Smedley Street, I subleased. And by the sixth month, I was treasurer. I had no trouble not drinking because I was never addicted to alcohol. I just needed the fellowship and the discipline and the friendships that I made.
MS: What have been the other things that stand out about your years back in Philadelphia?
AL: Peace and quiet. I'm saving money for the first time. I have my first pet, Butch. What other name would I use? And this is a real home. I've never had a home. I never felt that I had a home, in my aunt and uncle's houses, never with my father, and so this is it.
MS: You're able to pay for this with Social Security, is that right?
AL: I'm on Social Security. I get some help from my cousin, for which I am truly grateful.
MS: This is the cousin you grew up with?
AL: Yes, we're not that close. She's embarrassed about the way we were raised, because we were raised differently. I was treated like Cinderella. But I can understand it. My aunt and uncle really did not want to take me in and they hated my father. They gave me a lot of financial security, but no affection. And my cousin and I don't see much of each other, but we write and she sends me money, which I really appreciate. But for example, she has a family. She's been widowed twice, but she doesn't invite me to join them for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I think she thinks that what I have is catching, is contagious. But I'm O.K. about that because, as I said, when we were children, she was lovely to me. And she could have been a real snot.
MS: Well looking back on your long life….
AL: I don't want to look back. I don't know why I agreed to do this.
MS: Well why don't you look forward for me? Tell me what you look forward to.
AL: Well I'd like a buddy, not a sweetheart, someone to do things with. And if something developed, fine, but I think you're better off not looking for something like that. I want to continue saving money. I'm saving for a cruise. And because interest rates are as low as they are, it's going to take five years. So my goal is five thousand dollars, not much money, but that's a lot of money to save. And I have the bank take a certain amount of money every month out of my direct deposit so I don't feel it too much. And I would like to do commercials. I'm interested in the theater. I was voted the best actress in boarding school, but I've done nothing with it. I'm probably a chip off the old block, from my father. I want to lose some more weight. I have some agencies where they have auditions and stuff. I forget what they call it now, but I'm not ready. When you go to those things, you can't have a nerve in your body. You're not even supposed to sweat. So here I am back in Philadelphia in a charming efficiency apartment with my cat and my furniture and lots of friends and I am very content.
MS: That's wonderful.
AL: But a little scarred and a little leery of getting close to someone. I think that's understandable.
MS: Well thank you very much for doing this.
AL: It's been my pleasure. I survived it.