|Interview conducted by Blake Bell for
"I Have To Live With This Guy!"
TwoMorrows Publishing, 2002
Child of the 50s
BB: I was interested in talking about your background growing up as a child and what kind of influence your parents had over you.
JE: Well, Im a child of the 50s. My dad was in the service, so for the first eight years of my life, I lived in many different placesHawaii, Washington, DC, North Dakota.
BB: Was he Navy, Army?
JE: He was in the Navythe Navy Band. He was in the Navy when my parents met. He got out, but then Korea happened. He was called back, although he didnt go to Korea. When he was finally transferred to the San Diego area, my mom said, "I dont care where you get transferred next, Im not leaving here." (laughter) Ive been in the San Diego area since 1954.
BB: You were about eight or so?
JE: Yeah. Its pretty much where Ive grown up. My parents were both from the midwest, North Dakota and Indiana. They had the midwest outlook on things. We lived in a little suburban community in a town called Chula Vista. My brother, Gary, still lives there. All of the things that people love about the 50s is what I grew up withwatching all the great TV shows, listening to the 50s music, from pop music to rock and roll, seeing the 50s monster movies and cartoons at the Saturday matinee. I thought that was a great time to grow up.
BB: So what were your main pop culture influences of that time?
JE: You mean aside from music and TV and movies? I did a lot of reading. Once I got old enough to start having real preferences, I gravitated toward science fiction and mysteries. I read avidly from the library. First I checked out all the mystery novels for kids. I then started checking out books from the adult library when I was 12 or 13, and getting gothic mysteries and classic works like Edgar Allan Poe and the complete Sherlock Holmes.
BB: Where did you pick this interest up? Were your parents artistically inclined?
JE: My dad was a musician (clarinet and saxophone) and my mom was a housewife. I was very much the independent type, and my mother would get mad at me for reading all the time. "Every time we go to somebodys house for a birthday for your little friends, you have to go where the books are." I just was an avid reader. Whenever they would have reading contests at the library in the summer, where if you read so many books you got a prize of some kind, Id always be in the top level.
BB: Did you dabble in art in those days? Did you try a lot of writing in those days?
JE: I became interested in writing in junior high school, when I was in what I call my morbid period.
BB: Your morbid period? They had that back in the late 50s?
JE: It was around 1960. My friends and I would write things and use pseudonyms. My one friends pseudonym was C. Sick. I was Rapid D. Mise. (laughter) We would just write stories and song parodies. In the creative writing section of my English class, I prided myself on the fact that I could take any topic and write a morbid story about it. For instance, we had to write a story from the viewpoint of an inanimate object. I told the story from the viewpoint of a butcher knife used to kill somebody.
BB: So, these kids todaythese Goth girlsthink they invented it. You had that 40 years ago.
JE: Well, we didnt wear all black! Another creative writing assignment was to pick a picture from a magazine and base a story on it. I chose the picture of a little boy and his rabbit. In my story the boy poisoned his parents because they were mean to the rabbit. At that time I was reading Richard Matheson books like Macabre and Robert Bloch stories. I would read all of the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies. I was also a Mad magazine fanatic. During the 50s, Mad was the comic magazine you had to have25¢ cheap. And I went nuts over the Ballantine paperbacks that reprinted the early Kurtzman issues, like The Bedside Mad and Son of Mad.
BB: Do you remember reading comics in your preteen years, like regular comics?
JE: Occasional comics. I dont think I ever really bought comics. Friends or cousins would have them and Id sit and read them. I can remember reading "Mary Jane and Sniffles" stories (laughter). My favorite, that I did buy, was Katy Keene. I loved Katy Keene comics. I got as many as I could. My only attempts to draw things were trying to do paper dolls and pinups for Katy Keene. It was a thrill decades later to meet the Bossman, Bill Woggon, who created Katy Keene.
BB: Superhero comics never interested you as a kid or teenager?
JE: Not really. My biggest influence was Mad. I would write Mad-type material for the high school paper, especially "Primers" of various school-related topics. When I was a senior I became the editor for the paper. Then editing became my life. (laughter)
BB: Thats where your editing started? Back in your high school newspaper?
JE: Yep. Thats when I decided I was going to major in journalism in college.
BB: I guess it was the early 60s?
JE: I was in high school from 1961 to 1964. If you saw American Graffiti, which was set in 1962 in California, thats pretty much what life was like in Chula Vista. We even had Wolfman Jack on the radio.
BB: Were there issues of a woman wanting a career and advancing beyond secretarial school at that time?
JE: I didnt encounter anything like that.
BB: A lot of the wives Ive talked to, like Adele Kurtzman, talked about that you were led towards secretarial school or towards being a housewife right out of high school.
JE: When I took the aptitude test in high school, the counselor said, ""Well, basically from your aptitude test, you can do whatever you want to do." (laughter) "Your scores were high in pretty much every area. Pick anything you like and were not going to pinpoint for anything for you."
BB: Your parents supported you in all of this?
JE: My parents just said, "Well, figure out what you want to do and do it. Thats whats most important." So, I never had any pressure to go after a husband or to learn a female career or anything like that.
BB: What was your goal in journalism schoolto be a journalist, to be an editor?
JE: My goal was, I didnt want to have anything to do with newspapers, especially after studying them for four years. (laughter)
BB: Why would you say that? In terms of the slant they would take or because of the production?
JE: The lack of journalistic integrity., I realized that the kinds of students who were taking journalism were the kinds who were out there writing for newspaperswhich accounted for the fact that most reporting was superficial and facts were rarely accurate.
What I wanted to do was be a magazine editor. That was my goal. There were three or four courses geared toward magazines, so I took all of those. One was a magazine article writing class. We had a great teacher who had worked at the New York Times. To pass the class students had to market eight articles and sell at least one. We learned that you dont start off sending everything to Esquire and The New Yorker. I sold articles to places like College Store News, Grit, The Dairy Man
BB: How many of those did you end up selling?
JE: I sold all eight. Several of them were actually to a syndicated newspaper column about college life. Since I was in college, that was easy. (laughter). I was also taking pictures, because photography was part of journalism. I really got into photography as a result of that, so I would do the photos to go with my articles.
Life, the Universe, and Everything in the 1960s
BB: Was it in college that you met your future husband, Dave Estrada?
JE: I met Davey in my last year of high school. We were in the school band together. He was a year younger than I. He kind of affected what my interests were. Up to that point I had been just cruising along. I was taking the easiest classes and getting As in them. I had journalism for one class, band for one class, English for one class, civics, and gym. All the other kids were taking chemistry, Russian, Latin, calculus, physics. I wasnt taking any of that stuff because I was going to be in journalism, so I didnt need to know any of that other stuff! (laughter)
|BB: Why do you say Davey changed your interests?
JE: He was interested in a lot of different things. One of the first questions he asked me was, "So, what do you think the meaning of life is?" (laughter) I was like, "Umm, my favorite color is blue!" (laughter) He made me actually think about things.
At that time, he was into jazz, big. I would go over to his house and hed play jazz records for me, and he gave me lots of interesting books to read. So I started to actually think about, "You know, Ive reached that point in my life where I better start using my brain."
We went together all through college. We spent all our spare time focused on books and music. I majored in journalism and minored in philosophy and English. Thats when I read all of Ayn Rands works. I read The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, all her nonfiction work. We enrolled in the Nathaniel Branden Institute and went to all of the sessions offered in San Diego. These were courses, several weeks long, where each week wed go to a location and listen to taped lectures with a group of other people. The courses were on topics like economics, the history of philosophy, aesthetics, and they were taught by as number of people associated with Rand. We belonged to what was called the Students of Objectivism at San Diego State, and we subscribed to the newsletters that Rand and Branden published.
|Jackie edited this collection of essays when she was just out of college.|
|BB: What drew you to her books initially?
JE: It just jibed with my unspecified thoughts and beliefs at that point. I very much believed in the individual and independence and not conforming to what other people say just because they say it. I had no interest in religion whatsoever. I didnt subscribe to any set of edicts that anybody wanted to give me. But up to that point I didnt have any coherent personal philosophy.
BB: Thats personal and intellectual. What about your political and economic viewpoints?
JE: I had not thought about economics at all until I read Rands writings. As far as political, I think I was sort of at the Republican end of the spectrum. I had been attracted to what Goldwater was saying. The level of discourse about politics in my high school had been pretty pathetic.
BB: Did your parents have strong political views?
JE: My parents were Democrats. My dad was a huge FDR fan. My mom really didnt pay that much attention to politics. She didnt really talk about them that much. I was a senior in high school when Kennedy was assassinated. For some reason, I wasnt too surprised. I sort of said, "Whats the big deal?" (laughter) At that point, I had already decided that it didnt matter who was president because of the way the government was structured. The individual person in that role didnt have that much influence. Being a self-centered teen, I was more concerned that the band competition we had been preparing for was canceled.
BB: That wouldnt have been a popular viewpoint to put forth.
JE: I was not a fan of the Kennedy family. I wasnt one of those people who thought they had ushered in Camelot. I didnt care about what Jackie Kennedy wore. (laughter) I just really didnt discuss that with people.
BB: What characters in the Rand novels appealed to you the most? Who did you identify with out of all of them the most?
JE: I really didnt identify with any of them, because I realized that they represented ideals. The only problem I had was I felt that no real person could be like that. The characters are something to try to live up to, but you couldnt actually be like them all the time because they had no foibles.
BB: When you met other Objectivists, as Im sure you must have, did they hold the same view or were they more extreme in the notion of really ratcheting (???) yourself to really live up to those standards? They have the same perspective you had?
JE: There were several hardcore Objectivists who thought everyone should adhere strictly to Rands writings and ideals. If you dared say anything that wasnt in the canon and wasnt part of 100% Objectivism, they didnt want to interact with you. (laughter) You get the look down the nose.
Rands philosophy was something that helped me gel my viewpoint on life. When I was able to do that, I could say, "Okay, everything fits. Objectivism shows how economics relates to psychology relates to aesthetics relates to politics, so everything makes sense." When I tried to talk to other people, I realized theyd have one viewpoint when it came to politics and a different viewpoint when it came to, say economics. They were contradicting themselves all the time and they didnt realize they didnt have a consistent outlook. I think thats because too many people swallow information wholesale without examining it. They get some beliefs from what their parents or religion told them, and other beliefs or attitudes from what their teachers or their friends told them. And when I tried to get them to see the contradictions, they would just get mad.
Of course, this was the 60s, when you started having the whole anti-establishment, counterculture, hippie outlook that got all the attention and that was supposed to represent what all of us thought in that generation. At San Diego State, that was maybe 4% of the population. (laughter) The rest of the students were just wanting to learn enough to go out in the world and earn a living, have a family, and they had no interest in love-ins or protests.
BB: So, you, as someone whos into Rand, viewed yourself as anti-establishment, yet these others, the hippies that were viewed as anti-establishment, were they like Ditko presented them? He presented them as anti-establishment, but yet, they had no interest of what drives the establishment
JE: What they wanted to replace it with was another version of totalitarianism. I actually put together a book that was called The University Under Siege. This was an anthology that included essays by several different Objectivist and Libertarian writers on the effects of student protestson how the protesters were protesting against things, but what they had to replace it with was not thought out. They were just disrupting things in order to disrupt things. They felt they shouldnt be responsible for their actions because, "Its okay for us to destroy property because we have a cause. Its okay for us to prevent other students from getting their education because we have a cause." I was certainly against the Vietnam War completely, but I wasnt one of them; I wasnt going to align myself with that kind of fuzzy thinking.
BB: So you viewed yourself as an anti-establishment person, yet you hadin comparisonsomething to replace it with?
JE: Certainly. The Jeffersonian limited-government approach that so many people today think is an incredibly radical and "unworkable" ideabut thats the philosophical basis of our country. Its a couple hundred years old.
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