News Article: 50-year marriages are museum pieces
- News Article
Victoria Advocate Online
27 Jul 2004
50-year marriages are museum pieces
July 27, 2004
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