Keefe Family

Dolores Keefe – My Choice

Sophia Keefe’s interview with her grandmother Dolores Keefe for a school assignment in May of 2009 regarding an important choice she had made in her life.

Julia Kasmar with daughter, Dolores.

My name is Dolores Keefe and I was born May 14th, 1928. Here is the story of my choice in life.

The Great Depression

Since I was born right before the 1930’s you probably know that I lived through it. It wasn’t that hard for my family in particular, or really the whole neighborhood, because everyone had the same things.

1929 -Julia Kasmar with daughters Margie and Dolores. Son Robert is in the background.

Toys for us were either made ourselves or we didn’t have any. Our parents did not have the time or the money to be able to buy us simple playthings.

As for clothes, no one had that many things to wear. For girls, we had a school dress, a play dress, and a party dress. Boys had the same sort of thing except they had shirts and trousers.

1931 – Left to Right: Barbara Jalma, Margie Keefe, Theresa Jalma, Dolores Keefe and Robert Keefe. Dolores’s Grandma Rose is standing behind them (Julia’s mother).

Schools did not give out much paper homework because we couldn’t afford to print it much. Instead, we would take turns at the blackboard, one at a time, solving the day’s problems. Our subjects were arithmetic, English, social studies, and science.

After school we would go to the soda shop and buy a Coca-Cola, it was the new drink. The bottles were served ice cold and were glass, so you could see the condensation dripping down the sides. They tasted wonderful.

But the best part were the tin bottle caps that we collected. We would save them up until we had five of them, and then we would give the caps to the man behind the counter and he would give us a pad of paper, which said Coca-Cola in big letters on the top. He would also give you a pencil. Everyone wanted one of those. It was the way that the company got money. 

After school, a child was selected to clap the blackboard erasers. We had a schedule to find out whose turn it was to clap the erasers.

I remember that I was in the school orchestra. I played the violin and loved it immensely. I loved the sound it made and smell of the wood and everything about it.

Dolores’s Violin

We had concerts a few times a year, and once a year, we would put together a record of our songs and of us playing them. That was very exciting. And all of the children looked forward to the time of year when we got to record ourselves.

We did not have any city busses, but we used trolleys, which had tracks all through the neighborhood. Because the trolleys could not turn, it was a drag to get home because the engineer would have to get out of the trolley and pull the cables to turn, which took quite a long time.

Trolley in Minneapolis.

The dentist in our city was one of the first dentists to use fluoride for mouth hygiene. A bunch of children would get our teeth cleaned, and then we would parade in a big group all around the neighborhood and smiling at everyone to be able to show off our beautiful white teeth. The dentist used us to advertise his new way of cleaning teeth. The people who saw our beautiful teeth would send they’re children to that particular dentist, and maybe even go to see him theirselves. That was basically the depression for me.

World War II

Then came World War II. It was much different than the depression was. I was in high school during the war. High school was 9, 10, 11, and 12 just like it is today.

1942 – Left to Right: Margie, Dolores’s Grandma Rose, Robert, Jeanne and Dolores.
Dolores and Jeanne with parents Luke and Julia Kasmar.

It was true that girls did not listen to all the information about the war.  We had no telephones, but we did have radios. Boys listened way more than the girls and all the time. This is because right after they got out of high school, they would be drafted to go and fight for our country.

Dolores’s brother Robert served as a Private First Class in the Army. Sent stateside after sustaining injuries on the troopship heading for Europe.

As a matter of fact, three boys quit high school early. They went to the army lied about their age, and were sent overseas to fight. In a matter of months all three of the boys were killed while fighting. All of my schoolmates and us were shocked because we had known and been friends with these boys. And this was a very weird feeling to hear that one of your schoolmates was dead, killed in battle.

After high school the girls had a matter of three career choices. One was marriage, which I was not considering at all at the time. Nursing and secretarial work were the other two choices. When I got out of high school I signed up for the Navy. But, just on the boat going in, I got sick on the water and had to go back to land. So the Navy was out.

The next job I applied to was an airline stewardess. I also failed in this attempt because my eyesight was not perfect, and I had to wear glasses. You had to have perfect eyesight to be able to work on the airlines. After that, I applied for the job as a nurse and finally got in.

I was a surgical assistant for a doctor. I did that job for a pretty long time. It was strange that I could get on a boat, turn green, and start vomiting, but I could perform a surgery and cut some one open no problem. I spent years as that and still I did not think once about marrying. But then I met Richard Keefe. 

Remember my saying that I wouldn’t get married? Well I lied. I have to admit that it was a conflict to make this decision. I loved Richard with all my heart, but I did not know if wanted to get committed. Well I decided that I did want to do this.

Wedding Day – November 21, 1953

So I got married, and had ten kids. Julie was the first, and my only girl.

Julie Keefe – born August 27, 1954.

A few years later I was pregnant again with twins. But something went horribly wrong. They were five months premature. The doctor got them out of my stomach, but a few hours later they died. I was heartbroken.

It was very hard for me. I think what made that easier was the fact that I still had Julie back at the house waiting for me.

Years later my first son was born, Mike. And after Mike came Paul. After Paul, Tim was born. A few years later after Tim, Tom arrived, and then Jim soon followed. Nick was born then, and finally Greg, the youngest.

Although he is years younger than all of his siblings, Greg grew to be at LEAST a foot taller than all of them.

Greg and Jim

What everyone enjoyed were all the birthdays we had. We had a thing called “Treats Around the Table” so everyone would get a gift even though it was only one person’s birthday. We all liked that. It also kept everyone from complaining.

Treats Around the Table on Julie’s birthday in 1970.

 Most of my kids were born during the Korean and the Vietnam War. To tell you the truth, I paid little attention to the wars because I was very busy raising a family and taking care of the house. To tell you the truth, I don’t even remember which one happened first! I did not even know anyone that was in it. It was nice to be able to ignore a war when it is going on, and pretend that people aren’t getting hurt every day.

Since Julie was the only girl, she moved out soon after she was married and she lives in Colorado. Mike married Liz, and they now live in Delaware with 10 kids of their own. Paul married Jodie, and has 4 kids. Tim married Diane and has 4 kids also. Tom has two daughters, Heather and Crystal. Jim married Deb, and has 4 kids. Nick is not married and has no kids. Greg has two daughters. So I have many grandchildren.

My Choice

I simply decided that I could not live without my husband. I stopped working when I married.

Dick and Dolores Keefe at Tim and Diane’s wedding in 1984.

As for the twins, they would have been in their 50’s today.

By Jim Keefe

Jim Keefe is the current artist of the Sally Forth comic strip. From 1996-2003 he was the writer and artist of the Flash Gordon comic strip. A graduate of the Joe Kubert School, Keefe likewise teaches Comic Art. Teaching and speaking engagements include SVA in Manhattan, Hofstra’s UCCE Youth Programs, and most recently the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.