StoryCorps 504: Love and Work
[MUSIC – The Gaturs ”Gator Bait”]
MG: You can get a lot of things out of work. For some people it’s satisfaction; for others it’s a headache; and then there are some people who go to work one day and they find love.
[TAPE – Carol Mittlestadt (CM)]
CM: It was Tomas’s job to make the pancakes every morning. So I went to pick up my platter, and now the pancakes were in the shape of hearts.
MG: In this episode, we’ll hear about people who found that special someone while they were on the clock — whether it be in the kitchen or somewhere else.
[TAPE – Susan McClinton (SM)]
SM: I came into the topless bar that you were bouncing to compete in amateur night.
MG: And we hear from people who make other people’s relationships their business — literally. I’m Michael Garofalo. Stay with us as we find out what happens when your heart and your paycheck cross paths after this short break.
[PROMO – NPR/Invisibilia]
[FUNDER – Cancer Treatment Centers of America]
MG: Welcome back. This episode is about love and work, and what can happen when those two things mix.
We’ll start with a couple who were thrown together by chance at a summer job.
It was in Wisconsin Dells, a popular tourist destination in the southern part of that state.
Tomas Kubrican, who’s from Slovakia, took a job at a restaurant there.
And took notice of a waitress named Carol Mittlestadt.
[TAPE – Mittlestadt and Kubrican]
Tomas Kubrican (TK): I got this job at Paul Bunyan Restaurant as a cook. In the same year Carol picked the same place for her summer job as a waitress.
CM: When I saw Tomas, it was on my interview. He was sorting silverware in the kitchen.
TK: She caught me eye and I got immediately interested in her. But she thought that I have some mental disorder.
CM: He just kept staring at me all the time and never saying anything.
TK: My English was not good.
CM: I just thought he was a little bit odd, and I kind of felt sorry for him. And one day I went to pick up my pancakes, and it was Tomas’s job to make the pancakes every morning. So I went to pick up my platter, and now the pancakes were in the shape of hearts. So then I knew something was really up.
CM: Our first date I decided to take him to a concert on the square where the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra was playing. At one point the mood turned really romantic and he turned to me and he said.
TM: ”I’m sick of you”.
CM: And I said, what?
TM: Basically what it’s translated from Slovak language, that’s how we say I’m love sick. But you know, it turned out a little different, so.
CM: I heard I’m sick of you.
TM: Reading her facial expression I realized that, uh, it probably doesn’t mean the same thing.
CM: I decided to give him a second chance anyway.
TM: Our wedding date actually was exactly three years later.
CM: Tomas’s parents came from Slovakia. You know his parents couldn’t understand English so we decided to say our vows in English and in Slovak. So, the day came and I said my vows in English, and it came to the part in Slovak, and I said, ”I Carol, take you Tomas, to be my wife.” Tomas cracked a little smile.
TM: In Slovak, husband and wife is a very similar word.
CM: To this day, we still tease each other that Tomas is my wife. [LAUGHS]
TM: It’s kind of another thing to laugh about now.
[MUSIC – Monk Higgens ”Heaven Only Knows”]
MG: That was Tomas Kubrican and Carol Mittlestadt in Milwaukee.
Next we’ll hear about some folks whose business is love.
Bill Shifrin started selling wedding rings in New York City’s diamond district back in 1947. He recorded this interview with his son-in-law when he was 90 years old and STILL on the job
[TAPE – Shifrin]
Bill Shifrin (BS): Hi. I’m Bill Schifrin and I specialize selling wedding rings to the public and I have such a good time doing it.
I’m always working 24 hours a day. When I would see a couple on the street, kissing, in a clinch, I would tap their shoulder–the fella–I would hand the fella a card. You know why? Because married couples don’t kiss on the street.
Years ago, it used to be very busy on Friday afternoons. The couple would come and he would let her pick a wedding ring and give me a check as a deposit. Monday he would come in alone and say, ’Tear up the check, we changed our minds. But thank you for a beautiful weekend.’
I had a girl once who wanted to buy a wedding ring for her fiancée. She says, ’Tell me, if he doesn’t like it, can I give it back to you?’ I said, no, this is a custom job. I’m making the ring special for your fiancée. She gave me the order and gave me the deposit and said, ’This is what I want engraved in there: No refunds. No returns.’ I couldn’t get over that.
I’m married 66 years and I still get along with my wife. Met her in a dance and I had to go into the army. Got married on a furlough. Went to the jewelry store, got the plainest wedding ring. Seven dollars. My lucky day.
I always wondered, Who invented this that if you get married you have to have a wedding ring? Somebody figured out something, and it worked for me.
[MUSIC – Raymon Scott ”Manhattan Minuet”]
MG: Bill Schifrin in New York City. He passed away in 2013
So Bill worked with people at the START of their marriage. Now a little forgotten history from Nevada about an industry centered around the END of marriages
In 1931, Nevada passed a law that made it the easiest place in the country to get a DIVORCE.
All you had to do was establish residency, which took six weeks.
So, people flocked to Reno — to stay in resorts called DIVORCE RANCHES for what became known as the RENO CURE.
Beth Ward and Robbie McBride’s grew up on one of these divorce ranches; their family owned one called the Whitney. And in this interview, they talked about life among the divorcees.
[TAPE – Ward and McBride]
Beth Ward (BW): Most of the guests came from New York, New Jersey.
Robbie McBride (RM): At the end of their six weeks, Mother would go to court with them and testify that they’d been a resident at the ranch and she had seen them every day.
BW: And many of them said, ”Well, you can just testify that I was here the last two weeks” and offered her all kinds of money. But she’d say, ”Oh no. Oh no.”
RM: Mother liked to have things nice and smooth and no fussing and fuming.
BW: Had one guest who cried for six weeks. Any time a man would walk by, oh, it reminded her of Joe. And we finally saw Joe and I don’t know where the tears came from. ’Cause he was no prized package; I can tell you that. But as a whole most of the people who came there, they wanted a divorce so there wasn’t an unhappy time for them. They just thought it was great that there was someplace they can come to get one.
RM: An awful lot of them had plans for after their six weeks.
BW: When they’d check in, they’d say ’my cousin will be with us.” They had somebody in the other room waiting to walk down the aisle with. And six weeks later of course they were married.
RM: [Laughs] Listening to stories from the guests I think we probably thought many times, ”I sure won’t make that mistake!” [both laugh]
BW: Robbie had a good marriage with her husband. And I’ve been married and divorced and then re-married. The man I remarried–his wife had been there for a divorce. He came over and asked me out for dinner. Next thing I knew I was married, so it was the greatest move that I think we ever made.
[MUSIC – Tammy Wynette ”D-I-V-O-R-C-E”]
MG: That’s Beth Ward, with her sister, Robbie McBride, in Reno, Nevada. You can see photos from their parents’ divorce ranch on our website, StoryCorps.org.
In our final story we’re going to meet a couple who found each other AND their calling
Philip and Susan McClinton are both biologists who live near Cody, Wyoming and do work in Yellowstone Park.
Today, Philip is a reptile specialist. And growing up in Texas, his first love was actually snakes. He claims that at one point as a teenager he kept over 1,000 rattlesnakes in his bedroom. He belonged to a rattlesnake club — the Venomaires — and even took his dates out into the desert to catch snakes.
[MUSIC – Ramsey Lewis ”Hold It Right There (Wade in the Water)”]
[TAPE – Philip McClinton (PM)]
PM: After you’ve been to theaters, you’ve been to movies, you’ve been out to eat, you’ve done all that young people can do. That gets pretty stale. I wasn’t wealthy, I wasn’t gorgeous, and I didn’t have a lot of money, so I had to come up with some other way to get dates and keep them interested.
MG: Philip was never one to hit the books. In fact, he didn’t finish high school and as he got into his 30s, he was a little bit lost.
PM: I had become quite a bit of a loner by then. I did nearly everything, and I still do, alone. And to be quite truthful, I trust snakes much more than I trust human beings. When you look at a rattlesnake, you know that if you reach down to the rattlesnake, it will bite you. With human beings, you don’t know what they are going to do. You may not have to try reach to them and they might try to bite you.
MG: Things started to change for Philip, when, one night, while he was working at a bar, Susan walked into his life.
Susan McClinton (SM): I came into the topless bar that you were bouncing to compete in amateur night—because there was a prize at the end. And at the time I had two children to support, so I needed the money. I remember at one point you said, ”I’ll keep an eye on you.”
PM: I thought, She doesn’t belong in here she didn’t need to be in this place.
SM: And I think that was the beginning of our relationship. You said, ”I am going to take you rattlesnake hunting.” I thought you were absolutely out of your mind, but I had so much fun, I thought, Hey this is something I might want to do on a regular basis. And I remember at one point telling you that I had always enjoyed science and school. And you said, ”Well, why don’t we go back to school.” And I said, ”You’re crazy.”
PM: Neither one of us had anything but a 9th grade education. I’d tried 10th grade three times, and I couldn’t cut it. And we didn’t think anyone would take us. And I said, ”Call them and ask.” And they accepted us on probation. We took all of our courses together.
SM: You didn’t know anything about school. And I recall several times when you told me that you just didn’t think you could make it anymore. And I would always tell you, ”I’ll get you through it.”
PM: And we were both working on biology degrees.
SM: Remember cell biology, I drew a diagram and taped it up in the bathroom on the mirror, so in the mornings you’d have to look and learn it from there.
PM: Without your help, I’d have never gotten through this, because a lot of it I just plain didn’t understand. But I think the thing I am proudest of is that you finally did things that you never dreamed you could do. And you did them so well. You turned into a fine field biologist.
SM: I guess I learned for the first time that I really was a person of worth. You know, after my life started out so bumpy, I never thought we’d get a college degree. And if you hadn’t come into my life, I think I would have ended up in a very bad place.
SM: It was a rescue romance, is what we called it, because we saved each other.
MG: That’s Susan and Philip McClinton in Cody, Wyoming.
And that’s it for this episode.
These stories were produced by Nadia Reiman, Katie Simon, and me.
The podcast is produced by me and Elisheba Eitoop.
Find out what music we used on our website, StoryCorps dot org where you can also make a reservation for your own interview.
Thanks to all of you who have been leaving us review on iTunes — they’ve been a kick to read keep them coming!
And don’t forget you can leave a message for someone you hear on this show by calling our voicemail line.. It’s 301-744-TALK that’s 301 744 T A L K.
This has been the StoryCorps podcast I’m Michael Garofalo. Thanks for listening.
[FUNDER – Cancer Treatment Centers of America]
[PROMO – NPR/Up First]