Camera Rolls: 311:47-52
Sound Rolls: 311:27-29
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Anna Kruchen, Jerry Gawura, and Stella Brown , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on May 9, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.*
OK. Let's start what we were just talking about, what the neighborhood was like, what Detroit was like in the early, in the '20s. Do you want to start, Jerry?
Sure. I remember as a child that we had a very sort of integrated neighborhood.
We had the Poles. We had the Lithuanians. We had Finnish. We had Scotch. We had Italian.
** And it just seemed like we were a family. I mean, as a child, I never felt any problems getting along with any of them. True, we lived, at the time that I remember the most, in Dearborn, and that was a segregated city, so we had no blacks to, to live with, that I had to experience any of that. I was too young when I lived in Detroit, because we moved when I was seven into Dearborn with my parents in 1926. And therefore I just remember little parts about going to school in Detroit, and there we had an integrated classrooms. But by the time I was seven we were out. And these were very hardworking people, because I remember our Polish neighbors had ten children. They have five boys and five girls, and the middle set was twins, a boy and a girl. I'll never forget that. [laughs] And the Lithuanians were just like my parents. Not too many children, they had two girls. Mom had two children, a son and a daughter. And I remember the Depression times, with these children, the ten especially, when we went to their house, I shall never forget this long as I live, the mother prepared the food for the father. They had the biggest frying pan I had ever seen in my life. [GESTURES] It was that big. She would make a piece of meat in that and make a lot of gravy. He would eat the meat. What he didn't eat, she would eat, and then all these kids on a small table, about just the size of the frying pan, had a chunk of bread in their hand, and they were all kneeling by this table dipping into that gravy. And that's what they had to eat. Now, see, my parents were a different... I guess they were very I would say more involved in, in the, days of people having equal rights so that we never had that kind of a situation. I always felt these kids were, I don't know, subdued. The only time that they ate well, because they had a garden, and they all worked in the garden, was during the summer and the fall time, because they planted, they dug up their potatoes, their tomatoes, and they did then do the canning, and that's when they did have food to eat. But otherwise, during the times when there was out of season... I'll never forget that. That is something that will stay with me all my life.
Anna, you were talking about how you had to speak so many different languages. What, tell me all the different languages that you, that you spoke back then.
What did she ask me?
Mom's hard of hearing. She asked about how many languages you had to speak. I think it was mostly Russian and Ukrainian.
Russian and Ukrainian and Czechoslovakian, all Slavic language I could speak.
Is that because of the neighborhood you lived in?
Yes. I'd been talking in the neighborhood, we have it for quite a bit. We'd been organized, so if you going out of the house, and you're leaving your house, you always, "Watch my house." And the neighborhood is got to watch each other's house. We lived together, the nationality didn't make any much difference to me, only the nature of the people who work. Like she was talking about Polish people, like the oldest boy named Joe, he used to say, "Oh, Mrs. Kruchen, I wish you would be my mother," because their mother was not educated at all. And their [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] make the whiskey, so they were kind of drunken. So that's why he wished, up to today, he understand me very well. He wished he was, I was his mother. That is what I will tell you in the name. The rest Lithuanian, and they didn't have no problem with them. They all like one family living, the whole block. That's all I could tell you.
Stella? Are you, you're from Detroit originally, or—
No, well, we, I was born in Europe, and my mother, my dad come here first, and then six months later my mom and myself. So we moved in Bridgeton, New Jersey. From there we moved to Vineland and my father died when I was four and my brother was about six months old. And my mother remarried a good person, of course I asked my step-dad why he never adopt me, he said those days they didn't think of adoption, but, you know, how to raise you. But, you know, he was a, a good person.
When did you move to Detroit?
When I was five, my father got a job here. You know, at that time they had a lot of the jobs were coming in. He worked in Kelsey-Hayes, and he lost his fingers, six fingers, three here and three over here in the factory. At that time, they did have—if I can remember correctly, he was given seven dollars a week while he was home from that accident. And he didn't, you know, he didn't get anything for the fingers, the, at that time.
What kind of neighborhood did you live in?
Well, I lived in the same neighborhood on the West Side. But then after, I did move after I married, I lived on the East Side. My marriage is interracial. And I lived there. That's how I know everybody, both sides. Well, you know, my mother, all this talk about how tough it was in Europe, you know, she used to tell, tell me things, you know. That's why people in Europe were running for, to get better, but it wasn't just what they thought it would be, you know.
I didn't tell you my story all. I didn't tell you that when I come into this country, I come in 1912, I was 16 years old. I come into this country, and from then on I've been working, going to the homes with the people. And so, and that's the way I, how I live. My husband died 1954. I had my child born in New York, and then we come into Detroit when Ford announced he was going to pay $5. So all the people from New York come in. Those window cleaners, they come into Detroit, because they're going here to not from the stepladder up. So that's what my story is, whole life, beginning. And I kept on working together with the people. To me, was no nationality different, they're human beings, that's all, as long as they alive and good, I enjoyed them.
Well, Stella was talking about her dad losing fingers in a job; my dad lost fingers on the job. And that was because he was working in a shop that was making purses, pocketbooks. And they make that clamping, that edge on there with a metal, and the punch-press got his fingers cut off, too. So when he came to Detroit from, you know, the story I get, he couldn't get the job at Ford's for $5, but he did get a job working in a box factory. Of course, he was making nowhere near the money at that time that, these men at Ford's were getting five dollars a day. So I remember some of the, you know, harder times that—like Mom used to work for the railroad track, cleaning the cars, the passenger cars. People getting off, you know, for their stations, and she would be going in to work to clean them, as they go get ready for the next departure.
Let's talk now about—
Excuse me, we're going to start again, OK? So let's talk about the Unemployed Councils. I'll start with you, Stella. You want to talk about how that they were organized, or tell me just a little bit.
Well, I'll tell you the, what happened when Ford started laying off people. And when they, like,
people at one time were losing their homes. They used to evict them. So we used to go in there, we used to go there and fight for people to stay in the, in their homes.
** If you remember, she could remember, too, that this Mitchell's, they had a home that, he lost his job in Ford's, and they, they to evict them, so they had a great big demonstration right by the house. I mean, that block, the blocks were just full of people. And when they tried to, they got the police there, so then some, some of the people, some of the men got shot, and they put them in the patrol wagon. They had patrol wagons, and they pushed them all in the patrol wagon to take them away. But they were such a fight. I was inside a house, and this was really funny, they even put, they would threaten us tear gas and all that. So they had water, tubs of water laying around the house, so if they shoot, they get the bombs in the side of the house, that they would, that, get that bombs out with the, with the water.
What kinds of people were involved in the Unemployed Councils? Who, who went to those meetings?
Well, ordinary people that were laid off from their jobs, you know, I mean that there's many people there didn't have anything to eat. I could tell you about one guy that I knew had hung himself because he was so hungry so many times until he lost his mind. And he was a very brilliant young man at the time, but he just couldn't survive on nothing, that, he just seemed like there was nothing to him, you know. He's just, he's just ate what someone would offer, give him something, you know, and that. And he lost his mind, and he went to an empty house and hung himself.
Can you remember how the meetings used to, what you would do at the meetings, who would call the meetings, or give me some idea of what...?
Yeah, they had, they had people that was, in fact, people were all working on the, you know, some were speakers, some weren't, you know. But as far as fighting, they all could fight. I mean, they really fought for what they needed. I mean, they, they, when you have, when you go hungry... I could remember one time when I lived in North Detroit at the, the, I sent my husband, I said, "You go and get something to eat," because we didn't have, we had a little flower so that work, the one that work, get welfare, she'd come over and make me show what I got. So I showed her the flower, I said, "You want to eat that, you go ahead." And she, you know—the worst part is that the women did a lot of fighting, because they were protecting their men. I could remember Mary Gosman, that when she protected Chris Alston, that the police, they had, they didn't have these trim policemans [sic], they had great big husky men. And Mary, they start shooting at Chris, and Chris was jumping the fence, like I said, that he was just, just jumping up and down. And Mary grabbed the, grabbed that policeman, and he had to let go, had to stop shooting, because she, she really fought. And Mary was a big, you know, as far as a fighter, she was. When the, you know, her book isn't lying a bit, because I've been reading it about three times, and I keep forgetting what I read, so I go right back at it. But she, she was that type of person. She just wouldn't take no for an answer. And, you know, by her being Jewish, she, you know, like when she was born in Ukraine—
If you can, you, you talked a little about you remembering your mother going out on street corners and going to the meetings. If you could, you know, I'm going to ask Jerry.
Well, we used to talk—
Wait, no. They're asking me, then they'll ask you.
So if you could tell me something about what you remember.
Well, all right, well, I remember when I was a kid my mother being so much involved with the working people that we were on quite a bit when were younger. And of course being older I was in charge of my brother, but that was a different story. The only thing I remembered is that my mother was so always involved, rushing here or rushing there, and getting involved in, in block corners and street corners to make talks about getting organized to help each other. And that, if, like when Stella said about families being evicted when they were, heard about families being evicted, that's when they would really congregate, and especially go from door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor, and ask them to come to this meeting so that then they can go to the house to try to protect these families, try to keep them from being evicted. In fact, a number of times they would take some of the furniture back in the house. I mean, I, I was at a couple of them, standing at the side, there, because Mom would take me with her in a lot of places that she went to. And they would actually go in and take the furniture back in, and these guys would have to come and take them back out. It became a confrontation sometimes between the ones that of course were forced to take them out and the ones that were bringing them back in. And that she would try to get people to give some kind of help. There were, because she was involved with the Ukrainian club, and that's how she became, I guess, involved in the Unemployed Council, because they had to get to people that were already organized. To try to get the movement to go to do things. And that's what she would always be involved with.
Can I interject? When you're talking, say, "My mother..." Because we're not going to know who she is.
OK, my mother.
Anna, I want to ask you about the Hunger March. What do you remember about that day in 1932, the Hunger March?
The Hunger March, yes. Well, I was there. Naturally, I was the so-called organizer of the Ukrainian groups up in, all over, Muskegon, Lansing, and then making speeches, so I went to this march. I was there. And when I was there I was stood, and the, on the street, when we march, and Joe York was up on the kind of fence, and he called to me, "Anna! Anna! They got me!" And he put his hand on his chest, he showed me that he got all... I want to go to him, but the people that was marching with him won't let me, because they said, "If you go on the other side there'll be, you might be killed, killed. We need you over here." So I didn't went to him personally. But Joe York was killed at that march. That was my story of the march, when I, I understood very well.
Stella, you were at the march that day.
What are your memories?
my memory is that people start running like crazy, and I didn't know what was happening but I know one thing, that the tear gas, I didn't know even, I didn't even realize they were shooting.
** You know, later on I knew about that, but right then... but then I, this, we used to have, you know, I told you about Bill Goetz, that was Bill Goetz that I told that he hasn't eaten much, you know, that his mind went. His older brother, he was quite a bit older than him, he stood up and kept hollering at people, you know, to go forward. And the bullets were flying around. I didn't even know it, you know. And, and he, and it was very windy, and while, when he was flying, he had bullet holes all over his coat, but didn't hit him. He, it didn't hit him, because, you know, we were even laughing about it later, you know, how lucky he was, you know.
His name was Al Goetz.
Yes, I read about him.
OK, let's go back, Stella, let's go back over again when you were at the Hunger March and just what you remember. Let's do that.
Well, you know, I was running, like everybody else. And there were children there, too. But, but I can't seem to remember too much, because in the first place my eyes were, you know, for about two days I could hardly see through them because it was watering too much. But that's about I could remember. I remember people, I don't know, they, I remember they even come to after we, it was over, they even come to my mother's house, you know, some of them, you know.
Let me have you start again and just, and say when you were at the Hunger March, that, you told me before that you remember people running around and the bullets flying and...
Yeah, yeah, there were bullets were flying but I didn't even notice it, you know, like know that people were running around like crazy. They were, you know, I guess a lot of them didn't know what was happening. You know, that's something so funny after I remember lot of, you know, that these people were crying and hollering and I, I just didn't know what to think. I really couldn't figure out what was going down until afterwards.
Why, why were you, why did you go to the Hunger March?
Well, I belonged to Unemployed Council, and, and we used to, and we used to work with people that were on the welfare, and they couldn't get there welfares. We used to go there and, you know, help them out, you know. That, it was such a, hard to explain, you know, I mean, because people were all hungry then, at that time. There's very few people had jobs. You know, not only that, but it, I could tell you about my dad's friend. He worked in Ford's for years. And then once he come over my father's, he says, "Mike," he got himself drunk, and he says, "Mike, I love you," you know, they were buddies, he says... and I didn't pay attention to him, and he went, you know, and the bank closed, and all the money he had was gone, beside no job. So he lived about, I think, on 52nd Street. He went home and got him, got a gun, and shot himself. You know, people were shooting themself [sic], they hung themselves, you know, because there were, they just couldn't go through all that, you know. I mean, there's a lot of them that like, like even this young guy Billy Goetz, he hung himself in an empty house, you know.
What did you expect to accomplish that day? Did you have...?
Well, the unemployment or food, that's what people were fighting for, for food and unemployment [sic] and a place to live. There's a lot of people didn't have a place to live. Just like they have now homeless right now. But, you know, it's a, you know, those people don't understand that people have to eat and they have to sleep, and they've got to have a place to, to get along. Because you'd go, I'd go to Ford's Hospital here, and I'd see a sign, where they'd carry a sign and they says, "I'll work for food." Now, you know, that's ridiculous. Why shouldn't we have enough food, that we have enough, and they, you know, things that they could let people have, but they've got, they have homes, they—
I think I'm going to interrupt you now, because that's the current, and we want to stay in the past.
But and now I want to ask Anna, if I can, why did you march that day? Why did you go to the Hunger March? Why did you go to the Hunger March that day in 1932?
You asking me?
Oh! I was in the group of the people, progressive. So, they organized that group to go march, because
we'd been seeing so many people losing their homes, losing their, lot of things that they have, and no job.
** As she say it, no meals, no nothing, no place to sleep. Well, that's why I, I went in that group to march.
Who organized your group?
I did. [laughs] I was the chairman of the Ukrainians groups in the whole Michigan. And I was having the groups in Hamtramck and in East Detroit and Dearborn and all over. So I was the chairman and I was in it, and that's what we organized, this group to go for march. The same thing, we organized a group that went to Washington to get Social Security, to get—
OK, I'm going to interrupt you there, because that's later on.
Can I interrupt here? I think Mom is just, after all, she is older, and, but, a lot of the people in our neighborhood that worked at Ford's, they had jobs. The Lithuanian family, the Polish family, and there was another Polish family behind us, now they all worked at Ford's, and we knew what the trouble was that they were having. And in the Ukrainian club were a lot of the fellas that did work at Ford's. And this where all this kind, you know, became more prevalent, because of the fact that we organized it but they became more involved because they were involved with Ford's. And they needed the jobs. They need the families to support them. And we were having—because I remember my parents, even though my dad didn't work at Ford's, because of his hand they wouldn't hire him, and he got this poor job. We never did go on welfare. They were very proud. We never got on welfare. But I do remember they made sure we ate even though my mom and dad maybe never ate. But they made sure, we'd just have bologna sandwiches or something, and Mom used to cook a lot of soup, which of course was the main stay of our, you know, of our food for our family. And therefore they took so much to heart, because it involved people that we knew that she knew, and that I knew as a kid. The kids that they, you know, it, it involved them, like this poor family of ten, I mean, I, I'll never forget that family, because they really went through an awful lot. I mean, their clothes were not like as good as my clothes, even though, thank goodness, my mother could sew. And like she said, this mother of this Ford worker was not educated, she had very little education, and yet all these children, well it was hard to supply for them. So, therefore, it took to heart, and, like I say, my mom was very much involved with people all the time. Knowing or hearing anything in the neighborhood, blocks away that she would hear or find somebody that was being evicted, and they would go and try to do something to prevent that. And I think that's why all this, you know, was so much in her, and this being the, of the Ukrainians, and being such an involved person, that's how they got involved in that Ford Hunger March. And it was—
Did you go to the Ford Hunger March?
No, I was just going on thirteen and I was not involved. The only thing I remember, as I say, when Mom came home, she was very much with, you know, her eyes were red and teary-eyed, and all that she had gone through. And of course the only thing that I remember then is being, going with her to the hall where the bodies were laid out from, to go to that funeral. I'll never forget, because to see at my age so many people, I just thought the whole world was there, because there were so many people at the funeral to, that, you know, when you walked down the, the street, it was just jam-packed. Now, I remember that very vividly.
Tell me more about what you remember about the funeral.
Well, like I say, I remember going up the steps in this hall and seeing the men that were laid out. For some reason or other, maybe because Mom had mentioned about Joe York being shot, I remember seeing him in the casket. He was quite a tall fellow, and he had kind of a light brown hair, and he was not very heavy, he was kind of slender, and I remember him the most. Now, I remember Anne Leny's brother, because he was chunkier. And I do remember him, because I was always a chunky, so I remember him being on the chunkier side, dark hair. And I, I can see that in my mind. The other two I don't really remember, but those were some others stayed in my mind. And I do remember, like I say, the, the—
We're just about to run out of film.
OK. I wanted to ask you what your memories are of the funeral.
Well, I'll tell you that the funeral, I, I stood guard there, you know, most of us did, you know, I guess, I don't remember how long, an hour, or whatever it is, and they used to change. And when Curtis died, Curtis Williams, I didn't know Curtis but I knew his brother. Well, I did see him when he was dead at, they, they had guards at, you know, guards for him.
At the first funeral, though, the big funeral march...
Yeah, the, well, we, I'll tell you, we, from Ferry Hall we marched to Grand Circus Park. And from there I, if I remember correctly, they took, they had the bodies moved to Woodmere Cemetery, and with so many cars going, but I understand, I didn't go, but they wouldn't let everybody in, in the cemetery. And I could remember that much, you know. They wouldn't let everybody, they just let few cars go and the rest, they closed the gates on them. They had these big iron gates.
Thank you. Anna, I wanted to ask you to, if you would, if you would repeat the story to me about when you were at the Hunger March and you saw Joe York get shot. Could you tell me that story again?
I was stood in there, what did that street...?
Yeah, Miller Road. That he marched to it, and he was on the other side that went over the gate to the forge. And
he was up on the, like, on the fence, and he see me, I was on the Miller Road. And he yelled to me, "Anna! Anna! They got me!".
** And he put his hand on the chest and he said he, they got him. So afterwards I want to go to him, but people that I was marching with, they won't let me go [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] said, "If you go over there, the other side, they may kill you. We don't want to lose you yet." So I didn't go to him. But, I see him there, where he fell, and he was hollering, "Anna, they got me." That was all I could tell you. And the, the same thing was, noticed me over there, from the, that group, and they also say, "Anna! We are here!" So that was all I could tell, remember. Maybe if this'd been done ten years ago, I would remember more, but since now—
That's great, though. Really, really.
At ninety-seven years old, my memory is not there like it used to be.
That's great, though. Jerry, I wanted to ask you—
It's, I want to say it. We have so many people, we have two builded [sic] homes, Ukrainian and American, and a [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] in Dearborn. We've been having a lot of people. Today we haven't got hardly nothing.
Just American-born youngster, like she is, but it happened that she married a Ukrainian guy, so she keep on. And the other the, that married different nationality—
I wanted to ask you, you mentioned on the phone when we talked to you before that your mother took you to meetings. I was wondering what you, tell me what you remember about—
About the meetings?
Well, about going. Tell me about—
Well, going. Well, like, Mom, as you have heard, being very active, and being in charge of this area from the Ukrainian club, very much left with us. Every time she went somewhere, most of the time we were with her. As Stella had said, she remembers dragging the two kids, because I have a younger brother. And therefore we were always involved. It was not easy sometimes for a kid, because I was always athletic. Even today at 73 I'm still playing volleyball and softball. So it was not easy for me to be going to a meeting all the time and listening to a lot of discussion. But I do think that that had a big impact on me. Especially as I got older, I began to appreciate more all the things that she had gone through, and the benefits that we have gotten from people like her and Stella and, you know, others in that age bracket, of what they did.
What do you mean when you talk about meetings?
Well, the thing I remember about meetings is, you know, people getting up and talking about, you know, the problems that they were facing at that particular time, you know, because sometimes they were talking about not only the Ukrainian culture to, you know, get that, but they were also talking about the problems, that they needed to get jobs, they needed to support each other. So these are the kinds of things I you know, I remember as, as a child listening to them talk, that they had to be well organized just in order for them to get any benefits, and that's what the main part was, for them to be organized so they can get benefits, because that's how she felt. That you could only get things done is if you had people with you, behind you. Individually, it was hard to do anything. So that was her main goal.
Can I have you say that once more, and instead of saying "she," you say, "My mother understood that you had to be organized." Be sure to look over at Leslie.
I remember going to meetings with my mother, who was very active in the Ukrainian organization, because she was in charge of this area.
And my mother always was involved in meetings, whereby there was problems. A lot of it had to do with the heritage of the Ukrainian people, the culture, and yet at the same time, everybody had some problem, because the fact that they didn't have the education, they didn't know the language that well, so they had to be more organized in order to be able to get anything. And that was a theme that I remember my mother always saying, "If we want to be
able to get anything, and to be able to get some things done, then we've got to be together to do this. Otherwise, we're not going to get anything done, singly.
** It had to be showing the people that we are organized and that we mean to get better conditions for our people." And that was the gist of a lot of the meetings that she went to, because not only the Ukrainian club, but of course the Unemployed Council, and that's where they got a lot of the, the understanding from, the Unemployed Council, as to what was going on all over the city. Because her being involved with the Ukrainians and then other groups that were involved, the Lithuanians, the Italians, the Russians, every group, Romanians, all had their own organizations, and going to the Unemployed Council, they learned from each other, and my mother was involved very much in this, because of learning to be with the other organization, the other groups, that's how they become so involved. That's how I think my mother became so involved in the Hunger March, because these people had the same problems, so they all decided to do something about it.
Sorry, I should say that was great. [laughs] OK, thank you.
Isn't that nice to have somebody to remember me.
She knows that she was left all alone in the house and "Don't you dare touch that" and "Don't touch this—"
—just be a child.
Sometimes I felt a little bit neglected, that's true.
I wanted to ask you still about how the, the Communist movement in Detroit, at that time, did you know about it? Were you aware of it?
Yeah, I belonged to the YCL.
Could you tell me what that is?
That's the Young Communist League.
Let's have you start out, "I belonged to the Young Communist League."
Yeah, can I have you start again and say "At, at, at that time," and then tell me what years even, if you like.
Well, I was about eighteen years old, but you know, one thing,
Let me stop you. Just say, "I was eighteen years old and I was a member of the Young Communists," and then go on from there.
Well, we used to help, we used to have, especially when I lived on the West Side, there was a great big group. It was, I think it took up practically a whole auditorium, that's how much young people we have organized there. And there was, you know, most of them were at the Ford Hunger March at the time, but one thing I want to tell you that women used to play big parts in it, young and old, for one reason, that they used to attack men more than they did the women, and the women used to defend the men. They used to do dirty tricks on some of these police. And I mean they would, the policemen were more afraid of a woman than they were a man, because they'd beat up on the man, where they would, had to think twice before they'd touch a woman. And I mean that they, women, were very vicious about that. I could remember one time we went to the welfare in North Detroit, and the guy spoke up, you know, about food. And when he got through, you know, the police start chasing him, so the women got him, and got him away from there somehow. Nobody knows how. Then this is what makes me laugh now. The guys, they say, "Which," the police say, "Which way did he go? Which way did he go?" And, you know, and apple man said, "That way." And he was selling apple at the corner. They have Lotsky's furniture now but that used to be a show there. And when he did that—
—those apples were flying all over the street. These women really got them. They really got him.
I'm going to ask you to please tell me that, you know, when you were eighteen years old, you joined the Young Communists League [Note: Name of organization is Young Communists League]. So if you could say that for me, so they'll hear that on the film.
Yeah, when I was eighteen I joined the Young Communists League [Note: Name of organization is Young Communists League]. And then, then I worked with the Unemployed Council, and I would meet, I've been all over, like, I'd work with East Side and West Side. That's how I happen to know people.
Could you tell me again, "When I was eighteen, I joined the Young Communist League," and then could you tell me why? But start with, "When I was eighteen."
When I was eighteen, well, I, well I used to listen to my parents, especially my mother, she was very, a person that she always talk about Europe, how tough it was, and, you know, how they all come here to better themselves, you know. I know my father come first, and six months later we come, and we settle in New Jersey, Bridgeton, New Jersey. And then we moved to Vineland. It's just like from here to Dearborn, you know, that's how far it was, you know, that, those little towns. And then when my father died, we moved to Detroit. So she kept telling me about life itself, you know, I mean, because she went through a lot of hell and, and...well, I guess it was more for my mother that my mother used to tell me, and she was a type that didn't, she couldn't stand people suffering. So, you know, and she even told me about how she had to live in Europe, you know, and how we have to try—
—to do a little better than what we did over there?
What were the, what were the Young Communists doing at that time?
Well, at that time, they were doing the unemployment work, I mean, you know, they were even putting people in homes and things.
I'm sorry, can I interrupt you and ask you start again, and could you say that at that time the Communist Party was, so we know who "they," we don't know who "they" is, so they'll hear that on the film?
Oh, the Communists? Well, they were people, they were working people, you know. They really were, you know, they, that's, it, it meant like an organization that you get together and you discuss, and you help other people to, you know, get on the welfare, we did an awful lot, and then see that their homes, if they're thrown out, that they, that the welfare got the people to, you know, to a home and to, that they had something to eat, you know. It, it was a, you know, I mean, it's just the suffering of the people, you know. They come here from different parts, different countries, and they were suffering just as bad. That some had little jobs and like if they got laid off...the banks closed up, all the banks were closed, and people lost whatever, you know, they had their savings. And, you know, European people are very funny. They try to save for—
—like say tomorrow, and there's no tomorrow.
Can you just say to me again, "My mother explained the Russian Revolution to me, what—"
Yeah, what she explained to me—
Let me stop you. I need you to say, "My mother—"
Well, my mother, well she told me about the revolution in Russia, you know, and I was a kid at the time when the revolution was in Russia. And my mother explained why people fought over there to better themselves, because people were, they didn't have anything. They had little land, and, and, and that's what they had to live. And they went, they had to sell their eggs to get a few pennies out of it, you know.
Jerry, I wanted to ask you if you could you repeat the story that you, that we talked about earlier, about your neighborhood, and how you had lots of different people, there were Russians and Ukrainians... If you could tell that story again about when you first came to Detroit.
Well, I, I remember, of course, first, as mother, my mother said, coming from New York, we did live in Detroit. And I do remember going to school in Detroit, and this was a very integrated, with blacks as well as all the other nationalities. But, then we moved, when I was seven years old, we moved to Dearborn. And we had an integrated neighborhood. We had the Poles. We had the Lithuanians. We had the Finnish. We had the Scottish. We had the Italians. And the Romanians, in the, in the family. So, but there were no blacks, because at that time we didn't realize that Dearborn was not, you know, open to, to the blacks. And—
Sorry, excuse me one moment. We're going to start over just the, listing the, yeah, yeah, OK. I'm sorry. Could you start again by saying, "In the, in the Dearborn neighborhood we had," and go ahead and list everyone?
Well, when we moved to Dearborn, then we became into a neighborhood of poor people, but they were all of different nationalities. We had lots of the Polish people there. We had the Lithuanians. We had the Finnish. We had Scottish. We had Italians. And we had Romanians. So we were a family. I do remember all of us children, we had a great time. We didn't have a lot. We had a tin can to play with, or we played tag, or...as my mother, when we were starting to go to school, and during the summer vacations, my mother had open house. We had school every morning in our house during the summer time to keep us occupied. So it was really amazing, when I think back about that, for my mother. In fact, it was a principal at my school sent her a thank you card, because these children—
—were doing quite well, because they were already able to be—
We're going to start with Jerry, and I want to ask you, during that time period, near the Hunger March and all that, what were your fears then? Do you have any, and remind us that you were a little girl, and you can say, "I was little girl..." What were you fears?
Well, when I was a little girl at the time of, you know, the 1930s, things were getting a little bit tough for the families that were in our neighborhood. We did happen to be the poorer section, because in the—they call that the East Dearborn area, which was the poor section. And being, you know, going on thirteen and that, I, I relied on my mother a lot for things. And of course with her being involved, I got to know a little bit more about the fact of how everybody was having a bit of a rough time making their house payments, keeping up the, getting enough food for their family. I felt that my parents were doing very well considering the circumstances. Like I said, they were hungry, sometimes, and made sure that we ate. I was just afraid, I think, more for my mother, because of her being such an active lady. And, you know, learning more after the march, I think that came to my mind more, that we were lucky that nothing happened to her. I'm not realizing at the time how, you know, nobody, I guess, knew what was going to be at the Hunger March, how it was going to turn out. It was just going to be a parade to put in demands of wanting certain things, you know, unemployment and benefits for the people. And to turn out that way was, after you learn about it, it was really scary for, for realizing that I could not have had a mother. She could've been one of those that was killed.
Stella, if you could tell me at that, around the Hunger March time in the early '30s, what fears did you have?
I have no fears. I'm, I was always that way. I never feared things. I got in the fight and I seemed to fight it out. That's about it. When I was even a kid, I don't know why, but that's the kind of person I am.
I had, I don't why, I still don't have fears, you know, like a, get scared about something. I...
Great, thank you. Anna, I want to ask you, around the Hunger, around the time of the Hunger March in the early '30s, do you, did you have any fears for yourself, for your family? What were...?
No, well, first I, I guess I was too young yet to worry about it. But I know that we have to do fighting for the benefit, for the better life. I see that people didn't have no homes. They didn't have nothing to eat. I used to go and ask them, "What can I do to help?" I've never been unemployed.
I work in the laundry, and the railroad station wherever I could get a job. I was—
If you could go through and say, "We lived in Dearborn," and the neighborhood, you know, list the neighborhood, then at the end say, "But there were no blacks or Jews."
When mother and of course my father and my younger brother, when we moved to Dearborn, I was just seven years old at that time and going to grade school. We lived in this integrated area with the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Romanians, the Finnish, Scotch, and Italians. And, going to school, I will say that we were of the lower level as far as the poverty goes, but we all managed to live together. Going to school, I do not remember there ever being a black in my class, or even a Jewish person in my class. It was mostly all Slavics and very few Finnish, but Lithuanians and Poles and some Russians. That is what I remember going to school with. We did not have a complete integration. We were without the blacks to grow up, to understand, and without any of the Jewish people in our school.