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Conversation with Margaret F Kiepler

Kiepler, Margaret F.
Rubenson, Lisa
Date of Interview: 
Dad in show business; details about plays in the 30s and 40s
Marge Kiepler talks acting and about her parents' and their influence on her.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Lisa Rubenson interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
LR (Lisa Rubenson): I have a little paperwork. This is just, um, a consent form that says we're going to talk about and hopefully you can tell me a story of, either, a story you remember reading or hearing as a child-.
MK (Margaret "Marge" Kiepler): Mm Hmm.
LR: -A story that, um, you remember hearing in your family, or your neighborhood, or stories that you told yourself, that you told your children and then your grandchildren. If you, uh, can think of any sort of special stories, we're, we're collecting stories so we can, uh, look at the way people talk and the way people tell stories \\ when they talk. \\
MK: \\ Yes. \\ What a very nice, uh, subject matter.
LR: Yeah, I think so. If that's all right with you, can you sign your name there and I can fill in the date.
MK: Yes, yes. Here's my name right here. [Long pause]
LR: Let me move this a little closer to you.
MK: And you'll fill in the date, of course?
LR: I sure will.
MK: Is there anything else?
LR: Um, well if you want to, you don't mind me getting personal.
MK: \\ Not at all. \\
LR: \\ Where were you born? \\
MK: Pardon?
LR: Where were you born?
MK: Down in Ridgewood, Queens.
LR: Where is that, Ridgewood Queens, New York?
MK: New York, \\ yeah. \\
LR: \\ OK. \\ And you don't have to answer this question but what's your birth date?
MK: February 17th.
LR: Oh. That's my mom's birthday.
MK: 1922.
LR: Really?
MK: I'm proud.
LR: That's wonderful.
MK: I figure if God lets me live this long, I've got to be thankful for it.
LR: [Coughs] Oh, yeah. You're doing something right. [Coughs] Excuse me.
MK: That's all right. I get those tickles, \\ too. \\
LR: \\ Yeah. \\ Now I understand you were, your occupation was, uh, Rockette, did I, did I hear correctly?
MK: Well, not, I wasn't quite as good as a Rockette, but I was in the show business.
LR: OK. Well, you don't get to talk to show business people every day. Did you, um, as far as your education, what, um, what's your educational background?
MK: My, my last part was high, I graduated from high school.
MK: I would liked to have had more of an education, but you know what? I think I received more of an education, the way I lived-.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: -With people and show business and all of that, I think I had more education than if I had gone to a college.
LR: I'm sure life experience sometimes is all, is uh, sometimes even more important.
MK: Well to me it is, because I've been able to converse with people that are much more knowledgeable than I am and speak right along with them.
LR: Right. [Laughs]
MK: And it made me so proud of myself when it was all over and I think, "I was able to actually converse with these, this person," you know?
LR: That's right, it doesn't take being in the classroom necessarily, it's the life experience that counts.
MK: Exactly, I told that to my daughter and, and my, my son. I said, "Just remember one thing, going to college is a wonderful thing if you can, but if you can't, you can make your own college."
LR: That's right.
MK: Just, just listen to people, talk to them, understand, and soon you'll be as knowledgeable as if you had gone to a very high college.
LR: That's right, that's good advice. I wish my mom had said that to me, because here I am, still being in college. [Laugh] Let me scoot this over, because it's kind of behind you.
MK: Oh, OK. Sure.
LR: I'm new with all this technology here.
MK: Yeah.
LR: Um, well, if you wanted to think about maybe a, you know, give a minute, don't, don't have to rush through it, but can you think of any, uh, good stories, maybe one of your favorite stories that you like to tell, or maybe a story that was told to you when you were a child, or.
MK: Oh, my gosh, there's been so many, let me think now.
LR: [Laugh]
MK: What would be on the tip of my tongue? Uh, golly, I guess the most wonderful part of my life was with my, my dad was in show business. He was an, an actor.
LR: Oh, good. \\ Yeah, tell me about that. \\
MK: \\ And uh, \\ he, he, he started when, well my dad was just an ordinary person like to start out [background noise] ( ) and um, he, uh, my daddy was, uh, fortunate enough to get a very good position in New York with a big company and, um, small at first but then became big.
LR: Uh-huh.
MK: The outfit's cutlery store was his business.
LR: Oh.
MK: They did cutlery and sold cutlery and it went very well with it, with it. I was so proud of my daddy.
LR: Mmm. That's neat.
MK: Oh, yeah. I just I, I looked up to him.
LR: And how did he get from cutlery to show business?
MK: He, um, loved acting-.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: -And decided he wanted to be an actor so he, he studied it-.
LR: Ah.
MK: -And he went through it and he did a wonderful job and he, he really held himself high in, in the position he was in. And um, and he suddenly decided he wanted go into a regular, ordinary business where he could provide for his family because you can't depend upon show business.
LR: That's, \\ that's true. \\
MK: \\ I mean \\ when you first start, you know, so he went into, uh, he, he decided he was going to, he was going to work for a living.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: And he did that, and supported a wonderful family, was able to buy a beautiful home, did all the things that a person that was wealthy could do and he wasn't wealthy.
LR: OK. Well, you must have gotten the bug, though.
MK: \\ Oh, I did. \\
LR: \\ The show business bug. \\
MK: I did. Oh, I loved it, just loved it.
LR: Tell me about how you started to, to think about becoming you know, getting into show business. \\ Did you \\ used to go with him to-?
MK: \\ Well, well, \\ my dad inspired me-.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: -Because we would do acting together. You know, he would present me to himself and him to me and we, we'd have a little show, show business at home every so often, and he kept up with his mental thought of, of it and as a result, he put his mental thought into mine.
LR: Oh.
MK: And we just got along so great.
LR: [Laughs]
MK: And then the day came when I decided I wanted to go into show business and I did.
LR: Well, you make it sound easy. Tell me how that, how that happened.
MK: I just decided that I wanted to, uh, to do something like that and I, I met a very nice man that I knew could support me and I wouldn't have to worry about financial part of it.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: And so I says that I'll, I'll study my classic, which I loved, and my husband will take care of me as far as the financial part is concerned.
LR: Good, good plan. [Giggles]
MK: I got along fine. Yeah.
LR: And, and what type of show business? Dancing? Or singing? Or \\ just acting? \\
MK: Just \\ dramatic. \\
LR: Hmm, oh, OK.
MK: Dramatic acting. That's what I loved. You know, all the drama.
LR: Well, tell me maybe about some of the, uh, auditions or some of the plays or.
MK: Oh, yes, now there was one that my father was very, very fond of. It was called A Fool There Was, and he did a marvelous job of portraying, portraying a man who made it, was a fool, you know.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: And uh, but he became very, very, uh, knowledgeable and, a person that everybody got to like and all that came into his, his particular program for himself-.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: -He did for himself.
LR: Uh-huh.
MK: And I was so proud of him. Boy, he didn't have to go to college.
LR: Right.
MK: He did it all on his own.
LR: Hmm. Good role model there.
MK: Yeah, that's, that's what I thought. That's why I told so many young people that I met in my lifetime that would say, well I, I'd love to go to college, but I can't afford it. I says, if you can't afford it, that doesn't mean you, that you can't go to college. I says, you just find the, the most inexpensive way of \\ getting, your education-. \\
LR: \\ Mm-hmm, Mm-hmm. \\
MK: -And just work on it hard. And it helped some of the people I knew.
LR: Now what, um, how long did you, uh, act? How long were \\ you in the business? Show business?
MK: \\ Oh, three years. Just three years. \\
LR: \\ Three years? \\
MK: Yeah, on and off, because I had a wonderful job with the Bulova Watch Company.
LR: Oh.
MK: Yeah. So I decided I didn't want to give that up.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: So I did the show business stuff, as you called it stuff, in those days, uh, on the side. And I enjoyed, I had fun.
LR: [Laughs]
MK: That was my fun part.
LR: What were the people like and were they?
MK: Oh. Show people are wonderful people, and you just, you just can't imagine how much you get out of it until you're in it.
LR: Yeah.
MK: And many, many of my friends, my girlfriends, they'd say, "What are you getting out of that?" And I'd say, "If you only knew." I says, "I'm getting so much." I said, "It's all in, right in \\ here." \\ [Touches her heart]
LR: \\ Mm-hmm. \\ It takes a different kind of person that \\ goes into that. \\
MK: \\ That's right. \\
LR: Can you think of any funny, you know, kind of funny stories or anything about that time or-?
MK: Oh, yeah. I'm a birdbrain. All those people, I can't remember.
LR: Now those, are, are those your, uh, relatives out there on the shadowbox? Are those your grandchildren or your \\ nephews? \\
MK: \\ Oh. \\ Where do I have that?
LR: There's some pictures outside in front of your \\ door. \\
MK: \\ Oh. \\
LR: I'm just wondering, do you ever tell your, your \\ grandchildren, or your nephew-.\\
MK: \\ Oh yes, oh, oh, yes. \\ I, I tell them \\ lots of things. \\
LR: \\ -Good stories? \\
MK: Mmm.
LR: What are their favorites?
MK: Well, almost everything, you know. They, they didn't push me into any one particular phase of my, my life and love-.
LR: Yeah.
MK: -You know, but um, they, they were excited and we would portray, 'cause I'd say, "Oh, all right, let's make a play up today. You be so and so and I'll be so and so," and they enjoyed that.
LR: Yeah.
MK: And then when, when they were in school, it helped them ( ). When they were in school it helped them a great deal in dramatics.
LR: Hmm, so they were also interested?
MK: Yeah.
LR: It's in the blood, huh? [Laugh] Would you mind if I just shut the door for a little bit?
MK: No, \\ please do. \\
LR: \\ Because the background noise \\ might, um. RECORDING PAUSES THEN RESUMES Do you have children?
MK: A boy and a girl, yes.
LR: Oh. And where do they live?
MK: Oh, let's see now, where are they living? They're such scatterbouts.
LR: [Laughs]
MK: I can't remember ( ).
LR: You just get postcards from different destinations? [Laughs]
MK: Yeah, that's wherever they are now, I can't, and my mem-, this is the worst part of my life is my memory.
LR: Oh, I know. It's hard to.
MK: My memory has faded a great deal.
LR: But, it sounds like, you know, certain parts of your memory, are, I mean that's the beauty about memory is that, it, you know, certain parts are tricky and then other parts are as \\ clear as anything. \\
MK: \\ That's right. \\ I, I say this all the time to my, myself. I say, "How come you can remember so much of this and not anything of that?" You know?
LR: Hmm, it's interesting, isn't it? RECORDING PAUSES THEN RESUMES
MK: Well show business was my only, my only real past that I love, you know.
LR: Hmmm.
MK: I enjoyed that immensely.
LR: Tell me what it was like, uh, I guess it was in New York, wasn't it? \\ New York City? \\
MK: \\ Yeah. \\ New York.
LR: Tell me what it was like at that time.
MK: Oh, well, it was difficult at first, you know, you know you have to work.
LR: What year was this? I mean, when you were ( ).
MK: Oh. I was, let's see now, right now. Oh, I'm so stupid ( ).
LR: You were born in, in-.
MK: //1922. //
LR: //-1922, // right? So, you were, uh, oh, you see I'm not a math major, but um, you're not, you're not quite 80 yet, are you?
MK: Well, I'm, I'm in my 70's.
LR: Yeah, so you're 78, does that sound right? Yeah.
MK: No young chicken.
LR: Well.
MK: But I'm still moving.
LR: You are doing great, if you ask me. [Laugh]
MK: [Laughs]
LR: Um, so let's see, at what time, how old were you when you first got into show business?
MK: Oh, let's see now, when I first started, was it, it was after, after, uh, I, graduated from school. Uh.
LR: So you must have been like 18 or something like that?
MK: Yeah, I was, I was just about 18 years old when I became mostly interested \\ in, uh, \\ dramatics.
LR: \\ Mm-hmm. \\ Was the war going on then, \\ World War II? \\
MK: \\ Yes. \\ Yes it was.
LR: Ah, so what, ah, I was trying to think what it must have been like \\ in New York \\ at that time.
MK: \\ Oh, exciting. \\ Very exciting-.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: -Very exciting. I mean, all you had to do was meet someone that was in the same category as yourself, and you had a conversation going like crazy. And it was wonderful, because you'd pass one another back.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: Whatever you learned or whatever you were doing, and you could sit there for hours talking, about it.
LR: [Laugh] Did you have, ah, certain, were you interested in, in film at that time, in movies and, or were you more interested \\ in the stage? \\
MK: \\ Uh, it \\ was just starting, as a matter of fact I'm dating myself. Ah, it was just starting to come out into the open, the dramatics-.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: -Was, you know most of it, the dramatics, was when my father was in show business. It was, there wasn't anything like the, the theater. It, it was theater but it wasn't like it is today on television-.
LR: \\ Right. \\
MK: \\ -Or anything \\ like that, you know, so I mean, anything that I got, uh, any knowledge of drama was through Daddy. \\ He inspired me. \\
LR: \\ So he was probably more interested \\ in playwrights then.
MK: Yes.
LR: Um, who were some of your favorite plays? Did, did you have a favorite?
MK: Well, the most favorite one of all was Daddy's and mine was called A Fool There Was.
LR: Oh yeah, you mentioned that.
MK: You've heard about that?
LR: Yeah.
MK: Hmmm.
LR: I'm not sure who wrote it but.
MK: It was a wonderful story. Oh, I forget myself. But it was, it's a wonderful uh, thing to know about certain plays that you loved-.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: -And the drama of it all, you know.
LR: What do you think about the theater today?
MK: It's probably better than it ever was before in history. I mean, I think that mankind has made so much of his brain, today than he ever has before, and, that's, I think that's the greatest compliment that we can give to mankind, that his brain became more intense as the years went on.
LR: Mm-hmm. What do you, ah, did, are you a big movie fan now? Do you like to rent movies or I, I guess you have some movies here, do you?
MK: Yeah, I, uh, a little bit. I'm more interested in hard drama.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: That, that's what I like, you know, people who go. [Raises back of hand to forehead in typical melodramatic pose]
LR: [Laugh]
MK: [Laugh] That sort of thing. The hand movements and the drama and the, "Oh, my," you know. [Laughs]
LR: Well, were you, uh, I'm not sure what the, the timing would be, you would have been pretty little but, were you interested in the silent film era? Did you use to watch some \\ of those? \\
MK: \\ That was \\ just before I got into it, the, the drama, the sound. My, my dad was in the silent film.
LR: Oh, yeah?
MK: Yeah. And he did a very, very good job. Besides, he worked as a, uh, man in a store, you know.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: He worked for Hartford's Cutlery and he did a very good job. But on a sideline it was his drama. He loved that, and that's where I got it from, 'cause he'd come home at night and he'd have his dinner and all that and then all of a sudden something would come up about talking of plays or whatever, and the next thing you know I could see Daddy going, ( ) Margaret. And I'd say, "Here we go again." [Laughs]
LR: So what were, what were some of the stories he would tell or the caricatures that ( )?
MK: Character plays, that was it, drama, drama, real drama. All kinds, you know.
LR: Yeah.
MK: I can't even remember anymore.
LR: Oh, it's probably a lot between, uh, what he did and then what you went on to do.
MK: Oh, gosh, yes.
LR: What, um, you're, do you have grandchildren?
MK: Yes, two grandchildren. Yes, boy and girl. Well, man and woman now.
LR: Yeah. [Laugh] When they were little, I guess this is a, a question, um, that kind of ties into our project but when they were little, and I'm sure you spent some time with them, did they ever say, "Tell me a story?"
MK: \\ Oh, yes. \\
LR: \\ And \\ did you ever make up some stories and-?
MK: Oh, yeah. Oh, I could lie like anything.
LR: [Laugh] Tell me something that you \\ would tell them. \\
MK: \\ I'd say anything, \\ you know, that came into my mind, I would, I can't off the top of my head right now but, ah, whatever, uh, I thought would be, um, dramatic to them, I would tell them some sort of a story about whatever it was. It could be about a dog-.
LR: Yeah.
MK: -Some doggie that did this, and they'd be so intense listening to what I, this lie I'm telling them, you know. But that's the way stories are.
LR: Oh, it's fiction, it's not lies. [Laugh]
MK: Fiction is fiction. The greatest thing on earth. [Long pause]
MK: My father would never say not to talk about this or that play because they, they're not good at blah, blah, blah. No, everybody was good. That's the way he felt. In their own light-.
LR: Uh-huh.
MK: -You know, their own light. That's, each person has their own perspective.
LR: Mm-hmm, and your mom, you said she was very open, did she?
MK: She was a real housewife.
LR: Was she?
MK: Yeah. Housewife type.
LR: Took good care of you? [Laughs]
MK: She sure did. And anything I did was perfect, in her eyes.
LR: I like her. She's good. That's kind of a mother's role, isn't it? [Laughs]
MK: Oh, she was, she was peachy.
LR: Was she a good story-teller, too? Was she?
MK: Uh, no, not so much. Dad, Daddy was the storyteller you know but Mom was right out there in the open, and, and she loved people and she had loads of friends. Oh, gosh, there was somebody knocking at our door all the time.
LR: [Laughs]
MK: And I, I, I welcomed that. I really did. I loved having people dropping in on us unexpectedly you know. You just ring the bell and that's the way we had it in those days where I lived. The bell was downstairs in the hallway.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: You'd ring the bell and from upstairs you'd press the button and that would release the door-.
LR: Uh-huh.
MK: -And then my mother would walk out, "Who is it?" And, "It's me." "Oh, come on up," because we lived upstairs, there was a downstairs and an upstairs, and, uh, "Come on up." Then the party began.
LR: [Laughs] That's neat. ( ) People don't do that anymore.
MK: No.
LR: They don't just kind of drop by unannounced, kind of, \\ you lose some spontaneity. \\
MK: \\ I think of this very often. \\ Very often I think of that. Like today if your friends don't just pop in on you, well, you take it or leave it, but in those days if they popped in, [claps] loved it.
LR: [Laughs]
MK: We loved to have company just pop in \\ unexpectedly. \\
LR: \\ That was a new audience \\ for you, right, you could-.
MK: Oh, \\ yes. \\
LR: \\ -Come out \\ and do your plays. Did you do that when you were little?
MK: \\ Well-. \\
LR: \\ Do plays \\ for the guests?
MK: -They, Mother and Daddy used to always have something to say, " Margaret, do so and so," and pick up one of the actors or actresses, the little ones, you know, small children type things and do such and such and I can't, can't remember today anymore but, ah, I'd do some little dramatics skit so that, uh, it made my father feel better.
LR: [Laughs]
MK: To know that his time wasn't all wasted when he was younger.
LR: That's right. You were going to pick up and carry on for him. Did you do, ah, much traveling? I know you said after you were in the theater you, you had a pretty steady job, but did you?
MK: Yes.
LR: Were you able to do much traveling?
MK: I, I had a very steady job but my husband and I were able to travel. We enjoyed getting, luckily we were able to afford a car, and we had our car and we went here, there and everywhere.
LR: What's some of, do you have a favorite trip that you took?
MK: Uh, we used to like to travel down to, down below New York, lower New York.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: We would go places. Wherever they had something that was, you know, uh, tasty to us-.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: -We would go do it, and that's where I learned to love dramatics.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: Through that. You know. \\ Through people. \\
LR: \\ That good sense of adventure? \\ [Laughs]
MK: That's right. And you find so much enjoyment in other people once you get into feeling that strength of other people on you, that you say, "Thank God that I, I fell into this pattern of life."
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: 'Cause there were some people who just didn't like dramatics at all. They didn't like anything at all that's ridiculous. I, anything that was ridiculous, I liked.
LR: [Laughs]
MK: I really did, because I was learning something.
LR: Yeah.
MK: You know. Other than what I learned in school, reading, writing, arithmetic.
LR: Uh-huh.
LR: Do you have any, uh, particular trips or vacations that you took that stand out as-.
MK: Yes.
LR: -For some reason?
MK: We, we were always on the road, Dad and Mom and I, and, uh, we knew somebody that was a friend we liked enough to ask, we asked them to come and they would, nine times out of 10, they'd accept.
LR: Mm-hmm.
MK: And we'd go places together, here and there, but not far. It was usually in, in, within New York state.
LR: You would go away for, on summer vacations and things like that?
MK: Yes. [Knock at the door] Come in. Entre.