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Oral history interview conducted by Patricia Pasick
August 07, 2014
Call number: 2013.001.01
PASICK: So Linda, thank you very much. I'm here with Linda Ball, and it's August7th, 2014, and we're in Lakewood Ranch, Florida, in Linda's home, and beginning to talk to one another about Brooklyn, and what it was like to be Filipino-American in Brooklyn. So thank you very much for agreeing to do this.
BALL: Thank you for doing it with me, my cousin.
PASICK: That's right. Linda and I are cousins. She was raised by my father'sfirst cousins, in her teenage years, after her parents passed away, she and her brother Richard, who was interviewed previously for the Brooklyn Historical Society Project. So we have a bit of a formal way of doing this--
PASICK: Which is to say your name and your birthdate and where you were born.
BALL: Okay, my full name is Linda Ann Pineda Tochet Ball and I was born on1:00[date redacted for privacy reasons], 1943 in the Bronx, New York, um.
PASICK: Okay, and, um, your address here, in Lakewood Ranch.
BALL: I live in Lakewood Ranch, Florida [address redacted for privacy reasons].
PASICK: Ok, great. Well, Linda, you and I have talked at length now about ourjoint experiences within our families, what I remember about you, what you remember about me. And part of what I've shared with you is my deep and abiding interest in understanding Filipino-American life in Brooklyn, especially because it seems to date that, uh, Filipinos married Caucasians in Brooklyn, near the 2:00turn of the century, in ways that were not possible in the rest of the United States. So, in a sense, my grandparents, and your grandparents were pioneers. So I'm curious, and the Historical Society is curious to document these experiences among the first, um, the children of the progeny of the people who were first inter-married in Brooklyn. So you have an interesting history in terms of intermarriage. Before I even raise the topic, did you feel like someone from mixed heritage from the very beginning, or is this been a new idea for you? 3:00
BALL: Well it wasn't until later in my teens that I actually realized that therewas a difference. Uh, where I was raised in the Bronx everyone was from a different ethnic group. So I always fit in. I always felt that even though I was half Filipino and half Hungarian I belonged with all the Greeks, all the Italians, all the Jewish kids, and we all got along fine and nobody had any discrimination at that time. Blacks were welcomed, Puerto Ricans were welcomed, and it wasn't until later on that uh when you got into junior high or high school that things started changing a little bit.
PASICK: Okay, okay. Well maybe uh at some point you can, if you're comfortablesharing those experiences I think it would interesting for people to know, because you're making note of something that I haven't thought about that, depending on what borough you lived in, your experiences as somebody uh who's 4:00Asian-American, could be different.
BALL: I never really, uh, thought I was different. Uh, I had, uh, a really goodfoundation because of my Filipino heritage. We were always surrounded by Filipinos.
BALL: We had Filipino food, my father was a very good cook, and my uncle was avery good cook who was his brother, and they were always in the kitchen.
BALL: So I always had a very good feeling about Filipino food, about Filipinopeople because we would have friends that were Filipino that we would see and be with, and I always felt comfortable being Filipino, more than Hungarian because we were surrounded more by Filipinos than by Hungarians.
PASICK: Okay, go ahead with that story, so that was the roots part of it.5:00
BALL: Those were the roots.
PASICK: Would you bring your elementary school friends over to the house? Werethey exposed to Filipino food, or, er--
BALL: No, uh, we didn't really have them for dinner. We basically didn't havechildren in the house because where we're from, in the city, everyone played in the streets. Those were very happy times for me.
PASICK: I see.
BALL: We had a very nice situation where we lived in the Bronx, in a five-storyapartment building that had a huge courtyard. And all of the stoops were right in the middle of the courtyard.
PASICK: I see.
BALL: So whenever you came out of your apartment, you'd go down your stoop andyou'd be in the courtyard, which was a very safe area for children to play.
BALL: And we would stay out there, Richie and I and all our friends, we'd call6:00each other from downstairs, we'd call up to the third floor, wherever they were we'd call them, "C'mon down and play, can you come down and play?" Everyone would come down, we'd play all these games, we had so much fun. We'd play hopscotch, and potsie, double-dutch jump rope, uh, ring-a-livio, which was a lot of fun, Simon Says, red light green light, Johnny ride the pony. We'd even do roller skating around the courtyard and at the time the roller derby was very popular, so we'd pretend we were in the roller derby, and I was always Toughie Bazoon, who was on the Brooklyn team.
PASICK: [laughter]. Would you say the name again?
BALL: Toughie Bazoon. [laughter] I thought she was tough.
PASICK: I see.
BALL: And she was tough, very tough.
PASICK: This was a roller derby-er.7:00
BALL: Yes, we used to watch it on television all the time.
PASICK: I see.
BALL: And we used to play a lot of games with our pink Spaulding balls. Everyoneowned a ball. We had a lot of games with our balls, and our dolls, and our wagons. It was just a big playground for us, and we really didn't venture out except to the candy store. With a penny or two, we'd run off to the candy store.
PASICK: And school, was school also this sense that we're all getting together,we're all getting along, we're all a big group or was school different in the Bronx?
BALL: No, 'cause all the kids are the same age, or a year or two older likeRichie my brother and we all went to the same schools we knew all the teachers so it was really a great family area, a comfort zone there that, as I look back 8:00now, I'm glad I had.
PASICK: Do you remember in school describing yourself as Filipino or was thatlabel and those definitions really not relevant for that time?
LB : I don't recall. I don't recall being singled out as being Asian--
PASICK: Or describing yourself?
BALL: No, no one really asked me what I was that I remember.
PASICK: I see.
BALL: So I don't recall the kids being interested in that.
PASICK: Um, hmm, okay. There was a change, though. What happened in Brooklyn?
BALL: Well, there was a slight change. You get a little older, you start findingout about people's heritage, the name-calling starts.
BALL: Like in Junior High, and uh, we'd make fun of people--and I was part of ittoo, I can't say I wasn't--but you know we'd make fun of the Irish people. Their 9:00nicknames were the Micks.
PASICK: Um, hmm.
BALL: The Italian people were called the Guineas. And the Spanish people werecalled the Spics. It was kind of a derogatory thing. We did look down on each other at that point, in school, in junior high.
PASICK: Um, hmm. Was there a name that you were called, or other Asians were called?
BALL: Well, it's funny because I had--I have--the almond eyes, so they didn'treally distinguish between the Asian groups, so I was always called the Chink.
PASICK: The Chink.
BALL: Or the Jap [laughter].
PASICK: The Jap, yeah.
BALL: They didn't really know about the Filipinos. I don't there was even a namefor them, because they weren't too aware of them. So it was those kind of things. But it was harmless, we all did it. It was just something we did. 10:00
PASICK: Sure. Part of the age.
PASICK: Do you think that any of the increase of that had something to do withbeing in Brooklyn as opposed to the Bronx? Because of where the neighborhood was, or because by this time your parents had passed away?
BALL: Right, right. Uh, no, because when I moved to Brooklyn--
PASICK: How old were you?
BALL: Nine, I was nine.
PASICK: So you're still in elementary school.
BALL: In fourth grade, yes. I remember going to school, because it was themiddle of the year, it was after school had started so--
PASICK: May I interrupt? Your father died second, right?
BALL: No, my father died first. He died on September 18th, 1952, okay, and hehad high blood pressure and he had a cerebral hemorrhage and a stroke, and my 11:00mother died six weeks later, she had ovarian cancer and she had suffered with it for maybe two years, that I can remember. She had one surgery for a stomach tumor, but it returned and she succumbed to it. She was only 39. My father was 43.
PASICK: Um hmm.
BALL: And that was very sad and that was a very hard time.
PASICK: Sure. Of course.
BALL: And we were fortunate not to be put in the system as orphans. My AuntMarion took us in and that's when we moved to Brooklyn because that's where she lived, and she was my mother's best friend.
PASICK: So it happened very quickly, the move to Brooklyn?
BALL: Yes. The apartment was taken care of, and Aunt Marion took some of thefurniture and took us back to Brooklyn with her.
PASICK: What was the name of your school, in Brooklyn?12:00
BALL: In Brooklyn, oh my….PS 104 I believe. The one in the Bronx I remember,PS 112. That one stuck in my head. But I also went to a Catholic School in the Bronx. One had just been built, Santa Maria, and the nuns visited my mother and said that all the children were coming to the school, and we would like Linda to come. So she had me come to Santa Maria school for maybe a year. Because then in the fourth grade, I had to move to Brooklyn. So I was in Catholic School for maybe a year.
PASICK: I see.
BALL: But that was a nice experience, you know, being in a nice private schoolwith the nuns, and interesting, much stricter. [laughter].
PASICK: [laughter] So you came to Brooklyn, and you started with the other PS--13:00
BALL: PS 104
PASICK: Now Marion herself was half Filipino, and Herman was full Filipino, sointerestingly enough, in terms of the racial mixing in both of the families you lived with, it was identical.
BALL: Yes, yes. I mean, it was no change for me to go from oneFilipino-Caucasian family to another. To me, it was normal almost because in our families, everyone did that. No one was married Filipino to a Filipino or Hungarian to a Hungarian. It was always like that, a Caucasian--an Irish, German, or Hungarian--married to a Filipino.
PASICK: Um, hmm.
BALL: And so we were all mixed. [laughter]
PASICK: Now, I'm not sure how many direct memories you have of your mother, and14:00I certainly don't want to tax your memory nor your emotions and ask you to remember her, but--
BALL: That's fine--
PASICK: So she had a racial identity of her own, and Marion had a racialidentity of her own. Were they similar or different do you think when you think of the two women?
BALL: Pertaining to their ethnicity?
BALL: I really don't believe there was a difference, in that way. The thing thatI remember is that my mother was a very gentle person, very soft-spoken--
PASICK: Did she think of herself as more Filipino than Caucasian? Compared to Marion?
BALL: Boy, that something I can't answer. I have no recollection. That's a toughone. Because I was really too young to be aware of anything like that. 15:00
PASICK: This is tape two of my interview with Linda. So we were talking aboutthe difference between the woman you call Aunt Marion and your mother, in terms of how Filipino-ish they felt.
BALL: Okay, well my Aunt Marion was very Filipino, even though she was halfFilipino. Half German, half Filipino.
BALL: Her family leaned more toward the Filipino heritage. We would go toFilipino dances in New York, which were huge, and the whole Filipino community would be there. And I was always her partner because my Uncle Herman worked at 16:00night. He worked in the Post Office, in a night job. So she would take me to all these dances and she would teach me how to do the Peabody, and, oh I guess the waltz, the Charleston, I mean we would do all these dances. I was only ten or eleven but I thought it was great. That's where I learned to love dancing.
PASICK: Your mother, Ella, was the first Miss Philippines in 1930. Were youaware of that growing up? If so, how did that affect you? If you were unaware, how does it affect you now?
BALL: No, I was not aware until I was an adult. We did not have access to thephoto albums until then. I was certainly surprised, pleased and proud that my Mother was voted Miss Philippines and was in the company of Eleanor Roosevelt. What an honor and treasure to know her past. I wish she could have personally shared that with me and my brother.
PASICK: By genes, you are more Filipino than your mother, who was half-Filipino.How does that strike you? Was the idea of half, or three-fourths, or full, in terms of 'blood' ever spoken of in your family?
BALL: Yes, it was spoken very often. All of our family and friends shared thesame background. It was quite normal for me. I always felt half Hungarian and half Filipino.
PASICK: Your father migrated to the US, and yet he seemed to have kept in touchwith his family in the Philippines? How do you understand that? How did it affect you, that he kept that connection?
BALL: I believe most Filipinos that migrated to the U.S. were extremely familyoriented. They still are today. I have two cousins, once removed, that have a business in Australia and send money home to their parents (my cousins), in the Philippines. I can't say for sure that my Father did the same. I was too young. I know that we always had contact with them as children - sending photos and back forth. Now with the internet, we are all on Facebook still sharing photos of our children and grandchildren.
PASICK: It is said that mixed race women have a certain allure or attractivenessthat is appealing to men. Did you agree with that, and experience that?
BALL: Yes, the mixture of Caucasian and Filipino women are a good "fit"appearance wise. There is a certain exotic beauty that the women inherit.
PASICK: What do you believe about mixing of the so-called races, for the sake ofinter-marriage? Is it a good thing, challenging thing?
BALL: I think a mixture of any race can be a good thing as long as both partiesagree to respect their spouses culture and learn to accept each other's background.
PASICK: Can you imagine being mixed-race during your growing up years in otherplaces than Brooklyn? What about Brooklyn made it work for you?
BALL: I was exposed to many, many ethnic groups having been raised inBrooklyn. It was normal for me to be of a mixed race. Whereas, my children, who were raised in the Midwest did not experience the many cultures that I experienced. I learned to respect the different religions, as well as learn about and taste the food of each country. Everyone was equal and very interesting. I've always been proud of being a Brooklyn-ite with a mixed heritage. My neighborhood was a mixture of Germans, Greeks, Italians, Irish, Chinese, Filipinos and Jews. I still embrace them today because they worked very hard to make a life here.
Oral History Interview with Linda Ball
Linda Ann (Pineda) Ball was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1943. Her mother, Ella Santos, was born in Hungary in 1912, into a mixed family. Her maternal grandmother was Hungarian and her maternal grandfather was Filipino. Her father, Luciano Pineda, was also born in the Philippines, in 1908. She attended PS 112 Grammar School for two years and Santa Maria Catholic School for two years in the Bronx. After losing both parents to illness in 1952, Ball and her brother moved to the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn to live with their mother's godmother, Marion del Rosario (who was of mixed Filipino/German descent) and her husband Herman (a Filipino). There she attended PS 12, Montauk Junior High School (JHS 223), and Bay Ridge High School. After school she worked as a secretary for New York State Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz, and then as a secretary in the Patent Department of the Union Carbide Corporation. She married Louis Tochet and then relocated to Chicago, Illinois. They had two children, Noelle (born in 1965) and Peter (born in 1966). She and Louis divorced in 1983, and she then married Robert Ball in 1987, who had four children from a previous marriage: John, Jeffrey, Judy, and Jim. After his retirement in 1990, they moved to Sarasota, Florida.
In the interview, Ball describes her childhood growing up in a Filipino-Hungarian family in the Bronx, New York, in the 1940s. The area where she resided was very ethnically mixed at the time. She explains that it was not until junior high school (by which time she had moved to Brooklyn) that students started to categorize each other into different ethnic groups. She then recounts how both her parents died in 1952 and being taken in (along with her brother) by her mother's close friend, Aunt Marion, who was married to a Filipino. The interview was conducted by Patricia Carino Pasick at Ball's home in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.
Please note that the recording of the interview is cut short by approximately one minute. However, the remainder of the interview is available in transcript form.
The collection contains nine interviews (with eight individuals) who were part of a Filipino-American community that was located at 72 and 74 Johnson Street in the Downtown neighborhood of Brooklyn in the early twentieth century. In addition the interview recordings and transcripts, the collection contains digital images relating to some of the narrators.
CitationBall, Linda, Oral history interview conducted by Patricia Pasick, August 07, 2014, Patricia Carino Pasick collection of Johnson Street Filipino-American oral, 2013.001.01; Brooklyn Historical Society.
- Ball, Linda
- J.H.S. 223 The Montauk (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
- P.S. 104 (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)
- Pineda, Richard
- Filipino Americans
- Hungarian Americans
- Interethnic marriage
- Interracial marriage
- Public schools
- Race identity
- Race relations
- Racially mixed families
- Racially mixed people
- School children
- Borough Park (New York, N.Y.)
- Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
Finding AidPatricia Carino Pasick collection of Johnson Street Filipino-American oral