Chapter 4: Move to Community, Marriage to Harry
14:58:42:25 - 15:04:57:25
Lisa: What do you remember most about that day?
Janet: Freedom. Now we're into '76. That was freedom, that was the freedom year because when I moved into the community living arrangement they said I would have a roommate. I did get one at the end of April. May the 8th UCP had scheduled a ballgame with the residents, the clientele they had, and I happened to go. And so I got home late [the game] was over around 9pm where Tom lived and I said I was staying over cause I don't feel like calling a cab to go home, it's too late at night and there's nobody there right now. So here a gentleman comes knocking on the door at 11 o'clock and he - I said, "Come on in." He came in, says, "Hey man here's your chocolate chip cookies" and then he says, "Well, hello there." I went "Hi, how are you?" So he goes, "Oh, I'm only gonna stay for five minutes, I'll get you your coffee [and] I'll be out of here." Guess what, he stayed a half-hour and he was quite taken with me and I, so he left.
About a week later I went over to see my friend to see what he needed done and he was in the restroom and I found his phone number, you know how when you're waiting for something and you look around to see what you can see, well I found his phone number with the 'H'. And I said, "Thank you." He goes, "What for?" I said, "You'll find out." So Harry came up and Tom was still in the bathroom so I wanted to get some information out of Harry. I said, "Okay, how old are you?" And goes, "Guess." I said, "come on", I said, "Okay 30." He goes, "no, I have a girl, a daughter the same age as you are." And I said, "How old are you?" He goes, "I'm 49." I said, "Okay." So when my friend got out of the restroom, [I] went down to Harry's place and I saw on the telephone there was no number and I said, "I'm gonna get this guy yet." So I ran on off the phone number and Harry goes, "Where'd you get that number from" and I said, and he looks at the friend and he goes, "Did you give it to her?" "No I didn't give it to her", and then Harry remembered, "I know where she got it from, off the TV." He goes, "You shouldn't be snooping around like that." And I said, "You have a nice apartment" so we set a date up, it was June 7th, a little less than a month after I met him and I called him up and I says, "I can't come over." He goes, "why?" Well something to one of the residents, there was an accident and I was asked to stay. So we ended up talking 12 hours and in the 12 hours three things happened, he asked me to marry him and I said, "Why, I don't even know you." He goes, "This phone call could get expensive" and I said, "Yeah it could but I'll help pay half." He goes, "Get out of here" and the police started knocking on the door because the phone was off the hook. So I said, "Harry I gotta' get off because someone knocking on the door again and I don't want it to be the police." Sure enough it was the police. So, and he says, "You okay?" I said, "Look, can't anybody talk on the phone for 12 hours." But anyway I later found out what happened. But anyway, August I got the rings and asked him, first question I asked was, "Will my finger turn green?" and then the second question was, "Where are my new shoes?" and Harry says, "I should take the shoes back and take the rings back. I said I would marry you, so stop it."
15:05:07:20 - 15:09:22:05
Lisa: Janet, I'm wondering if you can describe Harry for me. Was he a person with a disability? Was he not a person with a disability? Was he tall? Was he short? Tell me how you would describe him.
Janet: Um, first of all his name is a giveaway. His name was Harry James, his mother named him that 'cause he was a twin when he was born. He only weighed one pound but Harry grew up to look like Peter Falk and also ___. Harry looked exactly like his twin. You know if you know the character Colombo, Harry was his double down to the glass eye on the left side. Yeah, Harry had, he was blinded in one eye cause he had a business he had to give up, it was a printing business and a bucket of ink, hard ink, fell down and hit his right eye, I mean left eye and for a week he didn't know it that was in there and he lost the eye but they did get him an eye transplant. But he was on his way to California and I told my friend, "He ain't going nowhere." He goes, "Why?" " 'Cause we're getting married." He was, "What, I thought you were gonna marry me." "Sorry, no. Uh-uhn." But Harry was a little guy, more like a rag mop or as we called it a "short shit". No he was a short guy about 5' 4", 5' 5". Anyway, he was a nice gentleman, a bit of a dry sense of humor, he was funny. All the ladies loved him where we lived. One joke was he, they had a petition before we were married and a lady went to the office, the front office while I was, Harry dating me and the lady said, "Will you sign this petition." He goes, "well, what's it for?" And she said, "To keep the young folks out." He goes, "Well this young folk [you're] talking about, I'm marrying her. She's gonna be my wife " and that shut the whole building up. But anyways, moving forward I don't even visit there three times before I got married which was right after Thanksgiving. And I told, um, UCP I was getting married, I even went back to AVS, too, and told them I was getting married. Everybody was shocked, they thought I was pregnant. I said, "I'm not pregnant. I got married cause I love the guy." He was gonna' take care of me and I never want to come back here again.
15:09:22:10 - 15:11:06:00
Lisa: Janet, how did your family react, not only, to the news of your marriage but just the idea that you were now living independently on your own in the community.
Janet: Okay. I asked the school not to tell my parents anything. I didn't want them not to say nothing. I said I would do it on my own. Um, three months out of the institution that's when I called my mom and by that time Harry and I were engaged and I said "Well, I got news to tell you, two of them. One, I don't live at AVS no more, I've been out for three months and plus I'm engaged to be married." So the following weekend they're down at my place. Harry was down there as well as the roommate and the roommate couldn't shut up. She goes "Your daughter's engaged." They go, "What?" I said "Yeah, this is Harry." So instead of saying 27 years older I said 17 because in the '70s you weren't allowed to have men older than you too old and I didn't want to tell them the truth.
15:11:06:05 - 15:15:11:10
Lisa: What was their reaction?
Janet: Like, actually they were happy. You know why? Cause I wasn't their responsibility and I swore up and down when I got out of AVS I wasn't gonna have, I wasn't gonna have then depending on me or I depend on them and I found out later that a lot of children who had parents like that, they were told to get rid of the children, put them away, forget about them but then there was some families that do love their children and kept them home. And anyways I went to programing at UCP when they were downtown and I met a board member and she asked me how was the program and I said they were fine. I said, "someday I'm gonna' be where you're at." She goes, "where?" On the board and as I got into more programing with UCP they started teaching us to be advocates by socializing, by getting out, going to restaurants we were taught how to raise money for Disney World trips, for New Orleans trips, to be our own advocates. And meanwhile, like I said, I had moved in with Harry and people took to me like they did to Harry, but I still had to prove myself plus I was supposed to start going to community college. I went for four years and the reason I went for four years cause I want to take my time and it took me, um, whatever the test to get into college, here I was real smart, I was 14th grade level, reading level with, I needed some developmental courses in English and some math. And then I took up psychology and I finally got an Associate's Degree in Psychology and, and now I don't have the license but it has helped me throughout the last 38 years because I'm still dealing with people with disabilities. I'm still dealing with seniors who have disabilities. I'm still working with seniors who depend on their husbands for everything and they don't know what to do after they passed. So Harry and I were the big leaders, and now I'm the big leader. And the joke is I'm also on-- I'm a Commissioner on the Board of Directors of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, and now I'm making policies.
More Interview Chapters
- Childhood and Family
- Move to Allegheny Valley School
- Janet's Fight to Further Her Education
- YOU ARE HERE: Move to Community, Marriage to Harry
- Reflections on Life, Career
About Janet Evans
AVS School, Boards, Cerebral palsy, HMS School, Institutions, Marriage, Mental retardation, Self-advocacy