Thursday, February 24, 2011

Visitors of the Week: Steve and Linda Pautz from Norfolk, Virginia

We're always looking to learn about the many, diverse visitors who stop by the Tenement Museum each week. Planning a visit? Send us an email to be our next Visitor of the Week.

Our latest Visitors of the Week come to us from Norfolk, Virginia. Steve and Linda Pautz demonstrate that you can take a person out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of a person. After uprooting from New York City in the mid-1970s, the couple relocated to Virginia. Visiting the Tenement Museum has the Pautzes reminiscing on their own histories here in the Lower East Side.

Steve: We like the TV show “Cash Cab” on the Discovery Channel. It’s a game show in a cab. We were watching it, and a customer got in the cab and said ‘take me to the Tenement Museum.’ We had never heard of the museum before that, but my parents both grew up in tenements. My Dad went to Seward Park High School, which is just a couple of blocks away from here. This is where my roots are, so to speak.

Did you see any connections in our tenement versus the spaces that you remember from your childhood?

S: Absolutely. Not only do I remember parts of the tenement building itself, but we also used to shop here on Orchard Street.

Linda: My mother and I used to come down here when I was growing up. She’d do all her big shopping on Orchard because back then it was mostly run by local Jewish people. They were wonderful storekeepers, and they also had a great tradition. If you were the first customer of the day they had to make that sale. If they didn’t it was bad luck for the rest of the day. My mother knew that, and she would be camping out at the storefront. She was usually shopping for ladies’ undergarments. She would argue and say, “No, I’m not paying you $10, I’ll give you $5.” When they declined she’d take her things and leave, but then they would drag her back in and say, “Okay, we’ll give it to you for $5.”

Has it changed a lot from what you remember?

L: You know, it has and it hasn’t. It doesn’t look all that different.

S: As the neighborhood has changed from different groups moving in – German, Jewish, Latino, and etcetera, we come back to the city fairly often and see that things have changed but at heart it’s still the same.

Definitely. So which tour did you go on today?

L: “Getting By.” It was great.

S: A lot of the stories from the Italian family are ones that my wife remembers hearing from her grandmother growing up.

L: And just even the photos up in the apartments. Our Lady of Mount Carmel was very popular in Italy, and they would have a feast as they now have throughout the city of New York. I remember going to that and enjoying all of the wonderful food. My mother came from a small town in Italy where they celebrated, so it brought back lots of memories.

S: And my family is German, so…

How funny. Considering both groups are represented in that tour, that’s quite a coincidence. Do you have any other plans while you’re in town?

L: We’re seeing some plays. We’re seeing “Memphis” tonight, and we saw “The Addams Family” last night, which was fun.

Posted by Amy Ganser

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