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News Article: 50-year marriages are museum pieces

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  • rebellous_99
    News Article Victoria Advocate Online 27 Jul 2004 50-year marriages are museum pieces July 27, 2004 BARRY HALVORSON Victoria Advocate FLATONIA - A chance
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 4, 2004
      News Article
      Victoria Advocate Online
      27 Jul 2004

      50-year marriages are museum pieces

      July 27, 2004

      BARRY HALVORSON
      Victoria Advocate

      FLATONIA - A chance reference to a newspaper feature published more
      than 80 years ago prompted Jamie Steinhauser to find ways to preserve
      the history and culture of her new hometown.

      Steinhauser, an employee of the E.A. Arnim Archives and Museum, is
      working on an exhibit celebrating local couples who have been married
      for more than 50 years.

      "I'd been working here for a little over a year when I read a
      reference to a 1923 article in the San Antonio Express about Flatonia
      being the 'Town of the Golden Weddings," she said. "I knew that my in-
      laws (Otto and Helen Steinhauser) had been married over 50 years. And
      I know that weddings, particularly in a small community like this,
      are something that people like to talk about. So I thought it would
      be interesting to do something for the museum."

      What she didn't expect was to develop such a strong interest in
      becoming an amateur historian. It started when former Flatonia school
      librarian Mrs. W.W. Mueller found the Express-News article. After
      that Steinhauser started running, in her monthly museum article, a
      call for Golden Anniversary couples interested in her project.

      "I started doing interviews in March," she said. "And I cleaned out a
      section in the museum. At first, I didn't get a great response and
      was calling and begging people to interview. But then word got out
      and it took on a life of its own. I think that people who were
      initially reluctant to talk started to worry they might get left out
      and started calling."

      In each case, Steinhauser said, she records interviews with the
      couple or a surviving spouse of a 50-year marriage and is then
      transcribing them into written documents. She soon learned recording
      an oral history was more work than she first realized. Her next
      realization was just exactly how interesting that work could be.

      "It takes me about three hours to write out every hour of tape," she
      said. "But then I really started enjoying the stories. Some were from
      people I didn't know that well and some from people I really do know,
      like my husband's aunt and uncle, Gertrude and George Mica. Now when
      I read their accounts, in the back of my mind I hear their voices. It
      gives me goosebumps sometimes."

      While still working on the Golden Wedding Exhibit, which will run
      through December, Steinhauser is already planning her next project,
      capturing the memories local residents have of World War II.

      "I don't just want the war stories," she said. "I want all the
      stories. What it was like when the men weren't fighting. What the
      families were doing back home to aid the war effort. What it was like
      for people waiting for their loved ones to return. These are pieces
      of history that I don't want to see lost. When these people pass
      away, their stories are gone and there is no getting them back."

      Steinhauser has also realized that part of preserving history is
      learning from it. She said there are a number of life lessons that
      she's already picked up from her current project.

      "The fact that people stayed together that long is one of them," she
      admitted. "I didn't realize that people made it to 50 years. I
      figured they just didn't make it. Then I moved to Flatonia with my
      husband, who is originally from here, and I encountered my first
      celebration of a 50-year marriage. What I've found is that it is
      really sad that the divorce rate is so high because people today
      don't have that example anymore. They hit a rough spot and don't
      realize that it is just a rough spot and that marriage is an entity
      that is bigger than the individual parts and the needs of the team
      should supercede the needs of the self. I learned a lot doing this,
      particularly how little material things really mean and how important
      family really is."

      The E.A. Arnim Archives and Museum is open Wednesday through Friday
      from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-3 p.m., and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. Groups
      can also make individual tour reservations by calling the museum at
      361-865-3455.
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