West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society
Interview Transcript of Wanda Klimek (“WK”) and Kathryn Dec (“KD”)
(of Virginia) – At Wanda Klimek’s House, Dearborn
Friday, June 15, 2007
INTERVIEWER: I’m just going to start out by doing a little introduction. I’m going to say that we’re here at the home of Wanda Klimek.
WK: Klimek, K-L-I-M-E-K.
INTERVIEWER: And her daughter, Kathryn Dec.
WK: Kathryn, K-A-T-H-R-Y-N.
INTERVIEWER: And today is Friday, June 15, and we’re doing this interview for the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society to preserve the history of Mrs. Klimek and her family, and particularly the family business, and also to record the history of the immigrant trunks that we have as part of our archives in our society. And we started out by looking at a beautiful photograph of a store, the family store.
WK: Grocery store.
INTERVIEWER: Grocery store, that was located at 3800 Lovett and Magnolia in Detroit. And the lady in the center is Wanda’s sister, and her name was, or is-
WK: Emily. We called her Mildred.
INTERVIEWER: And she’s no longer living, is that right?
WK: No, no, she passed away. So did my brother.
KD: January 15, 1920.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, and then this is Mr. Gabrys on the right.
WK: Yes, that’s my father.
INTERVIEWER: That’s your father. And do you know what year your dad was born?
KD: He was born November 1885.
INTERVIEWER: Born in November of 1885?
KD: Yeah. I think it was the 24th.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. And the young man in front of him.
WK: That’s my brother, John.
INTERVIEWER: And his date of birth?
KD: April, was it the 13th? It’s 1927. Your birthday was on the 15th.
KD: So his was when?
WK: April 11th?
KD: Eleventh. You’re right. April 11th.
WK: He’s no longer living. He passed away.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. And the lady on the left looks to be a customer.
WK: Yes. I forgot her name.
INTERVIEWER: Now this was a grocery store and a meat market?
INTERVIEWER: Well, before we go into that, though, I want to know your date of birth, Wanda.
WK: September 23, 1918.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, that’s the year my dad was born.
WK: Is that right?
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. He was born October 26, 1918.
WK: Is that right? Still living?
WK: Oh, he passed away?
INTERVIEWER: He passed away in ’98, yeah. And you were born in Detroit?
WK: In Detroit.
INTERVIEWER: Your whole family was born in Detroit?
WK: I’m sorry?
INTERVIEWER: Was your whole family born in Detroit? All of your siblings?
KD: Your siblings, yes. Your parents, no.
WK: Yes, I think, yes. No, my parents were immigrants.
INTERVIEWER: And your mother’s name was?
WK: Anna. My father’s name was John.
INTERVIEWER: And what was your mother’s maiden name?
WK: Pajor, P-A-J-O-R.
INTERVIEWER: And where were your parents from?
WK: My mother was from the southern part of Poland.
KD: She was from a village. She was from K?nty, which is spelled K-E-N-T-Y.
WK: No, Katy’s K-A-T-Y.
KD: It’s both ways, you can spell it both ways. [LP NOTE: Kathryn later confirmed that the correct spelling is K?ty, and on the present-day map it is south of Brzesko and more or less north of Nowy Sacz. There are several K?ty’s in Poland.]
KD: And Dziadziu was from a village named Krowia, K-R-O-W-I-A, Krowia Gora, G-O-R-A. Now he was from the Russian section of Poland. That’s where he was from.
INTERVIEWER: Do you know when they came over?
KD: My grandmother came December 8, 1913. She landed at Ellis Island. And my grandfather came in July of 1913 to Montreal, Canada. And he stayed in Canada and must have worked. I haven’t found out where he worked. I did find, or I did get the manifest. I did see that, on the ship that he came on. But he must have known somebody in order to stay there and work because he did not come to Detroit until April of 1914. And I remember in looking at the St. Aubin’s list, he came across with three hundred dollars. That was a lot of money.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my gosh.
KD: So he must have worked very hard.
INTERVIEWER: Sure. And then he met your grandmother here in Detroit?
KD: Um-hum. They were married July 1, 1916, at Assumption Parish.
INTERVIEWER: You’ve done a lot of research.
KD: Well, that stuff was easy. That stuff was here. You know, that’s the problem. When your relatives only come here in 1902, that’s the earliest one I have. You know, you can only get so much from the records here, and now you have to go back to Poland.
INTERVIEWER: I’ve done that, too, and it’s very difficult. You have to write in Polish, and you get the information back in Polish.
KD: I was lucky enough that for some of these, the Mormons microfilmed the church records from the villages. So for my dad’s family, as an example, I can go back into the 1700s. My dad’s mother and father were both from the same village. And from my grandmother’s, it’s sporadic. I have some. I’ve seen my grandmother’s baptismal records. In fact, we found that my grandmother had two sisters born before she was born, who both died.
INTERVIEWER: So they were married at Assumption, and then they had the three children.
WK: They had three children.
INTERVIEWER: And where did you live when you were a child.
WK: On Lovett and Magnolia.
INTERVIEWER: Did you live right above the store?
WK: We lived above the store, yeah, um-hum. We lived right above the store.
INTERVIEWER: And did you, were you always members of the Assumption Parish?
WK: Yes, my mother and dad were married there. We were all baptized there. I went to school there, I graduated from eighth grade.
INTERVIEWER: And your siblings all went to school there?
WK: Not my brother, no, my brother-we came already here to Dearborn. I don’t know what-1940.
WK: No, ’39. No.
KD: You moved in ’41.
WK: ’41, yeah. We were married in ’39.
KD: He was almost ready to go into high school. So where did he go to elementary school?
WK: Around here somewhere.
KD: No, he couldn’t. When they moved here in ’41, Uncle Johnny would have been thirteen already.
WK: I don’t remember.
INTERVIEWER: Now, what do you remember about the store?
WK: It was hard work, for one thing. It was a lot of hard work there to do.
INTERVIEWER: You all worked in the store?
WK: Yeah, we all worked. Matter of fact, I should have finished my education. I wanted to go to-well, I was going to Commerce High, Commerce at that time, and I had to come home because my mother needed-my mother needed both of us. Those were depression years, yet. Don’t forget, that was like ’37, ’38. And my mother worked real hard. It was my mother who had the head on her.
INTERVIEWER: The business mind?
WK: Business-minded, yes. I don’t know, she had such a good mind. She was like a computer mind. All they took was butcher paper and write out the list because everybody bought on credit, and she could go up and down that. And my sister has a very good mind, too. And they were playing cards, she goes from right to left, she doesn’t go this way, like that. She was very good at that. But that was because my mother-well, they had registers and things, but it isn’t like now.
INTERVIEWER: Most of the women did have very-
WK: Good minds.
WK: Didn’t they?
WK: They sure did.
INTERVIEWER: Because they ran the household, and that was a difficult thing.
WK: Yeah, well-
KD: We’ve always asked why they bought a grocery store because the stories I had heard was my grandfather was a tool and die maker.
KD: And yet when I saw the immigration list, where he had to list his occupation, he put down he was a tailor.
WK: He was not.
KD: And I said to my mother, did he sew anything?
KD: She said he couldn’t sew a button on. But that’s what he had down.
INTERVIEWER: But did he actually write it, or did somebody write it for him?
KD: Well, of course, the purser, you know, they ask you, you know, what-and I have to say those Canadian records are very exact because you had to list your occupation, where you came from, you had to list where you were going and who you were going to. You couldn’t just stay in Canada unless you knew somebody there, unless somebody had a job for you. And if you were just passing through, because I read a lot of people who sailed to Canada only did that because that’s where the next ship was leaving in port. If they were in Bremmon or Brussels or Hamburg and the ship was going to Canada, they went. And those people that were traveling on, on the ship’s manifest, it would say, you know, the ticket for the Grand Trunk Railway, or they have a ticket for the Canadian Pacific, like to go out to the West Coast. So, why he put tailor I have no idea.
INTERVIEWER: Do you suppose it could be that it got mixed up in the translation because he could have said tool and die maker and they could have translated it tailor because of the difficulty in the language?
KD: It could be. And yet, there has always been a question in our minds as to whether the name had always been spelled G-A-B-R-Y-S. And when I was looking at those Canadian immigration lists, I prayed that it would be clear. And it was absolutely spelled that way, and when I was in Poland and got his baptismal certificate in the church, saying G-A-B-R-Y-S.
WK: It’s that “S” with the little clisk [sp?] on top. That would make it “?” [makes the “ch” sound].
KD: And it amused me because almost all the tailors were Jews.
KD: So, why he would put that down, it doesn’t seem likely. [LP NOTE: Kathryn later stated that her mother believes they bought the store and her father changed occupations because his eyesight was getting to be too poor to do fine detail work.]
INTERVIEWER: I would suspect that he said tool and die maker and they didn’t understand him.
KD: Maybe they didn’t know what tool and die meant.
INTERVIEWER: Because the accents were so thick back then. That’s why a lot of times the names got slaughtered when they wrote them down, too.
KD: Yeah, I was going to ask you, Mom, when they bought the store, and you would only know this from conversation, was it already a store? They bought the business from somebody else?
WK: Oh, yes, it was a store.
KD: It was a store already.
KD: And where was the nearest store?
WK: Oh, there were a lot of them. There was one on Jackson and 29th Street, and Wysocki’s had it off of Buchanan. There were a lot of stores.
INTERVIEWER: I brought this for you to browse through. These are some programs from the Laur Dancing Society from the ’40s and the late ’30s, and they have tons of ads in here for stores and other establishments. And this is-
INTERVIEWER: Yes, the B-Sharp Club, which was a musicians’ club. This is from the ’50s.
WK: Oh, there were a lot of picnics.
KD: See, by that time, they didn’t have the store anymore. Because they sold the store in ’41.
INTERVIEWER: But I thought-these are kind of interesting for you to see what was in the same neighborhood.
WK: Oh, yeah. Did you-were some of your people, did they belong to the West Side association meeting? Because I remember my mother’s-
INTERVIEWER: The West Side Businesspersons’ Association?
INTERVIEWER: I’ve heard of it, and somebody recently sent me information about it, but I’m not sure-I know that my family weren’t members because my dad was a musician and a factory worker.
WK: Because I remember my mother, my dad never danced, but my mother did. But they always win the Silver Strovee [sp?] Ball, which would be, like in New Year’s, isn’t it? New Year’s Eve? St. Sylvester’s Ball. They had a lot of activities. Of course, us kids couldn’t go. But I remember my ma loved to dance. My mother was very outspoken and a great person, she was. She was beautiful. But anyway, I remember them going. And then they had the West Grocers, one up on Wesson and Michigan Avenue, and that’s where you would go and get your supplies you needed for your shelves or something like that. But like fruit men, Mr. Kretman or Krefman [phonetic], who was Jewish, because 29th Street was all Jewish. We had a synagogue there, and then right on Magnolia we had a Bolsheviki [ph] there, and then on Bangor we had all black people. So we really had a diversified neighborhood. [LP NOTE: Kathryn later stated that her mother told her that the Krefmans or Kretmans lived on 28th Street, and Mr. Kretman/Krefman delivered vegetables to the store in his truck. Also, Wanda later told Kathryn that there was a Jewish synagogue on 29th Street, which she believes is still there. Wanda also remembered Diem’s, which sold shoes, and Mateja’s, which sold religious goods.]
INTERVIEWER: Somebody else told me-
WK: No problems, and no problems, we ever had.
INTERVIEWER: Somebody else told me that was the way it was, too. And everybody got along.
WK: We never had no problems, and of course, Germans are noted for their domesticity, you know, so we had a lot of Germans, and they belonged to St. Boniface, probably on 24th Street somewhere there, and my father was so generous and good. If the meat, you know, not having refrigeration-so what meat he had, sometimes and he would give it to Mrs. Briske or Briski [phonetic], and then they would bring a pot of food or something for my mother and dad and us kids and all that. So that was a great help.
INTERVIEWER: Who was Mrs. Briske?
WK: She lived across the street. They were German. We had a lot of German people here.
INTERVIEWER: How do you spell that, Briske?
WK: B-R-I-S-K-E, I think it was, if I remember correctly. And then we had Professor Kleinschmidst, who belonged to the German church on Buchanan.
INTERVIEWER: How do you spell that?
WK: K-L-E-I-N-S-C-H-M-I-D-S-T, is that what it is? Does it sound like it?
WK: Well, see, he would come into the store, and he wanted beets.
WK: My mother said, beets? She went to the window there and picked up a bunch of beets and says, these are beets. And that’s how my mother learned English a lot because she spoke English, she had to, in order to get rid of all the-people would come in, you had the baker man, the pączki man. He’d always come and bring all the bread and that. Then you had a milkman who brought all the milk all the time, and candy. Candy, my sister used to go to the store and get candy for the-
INTERVIEWER: Now, where did this Professor Kleinschmidst go to church?
WK: He lived on Lovett. Oh, he went to church, I think it was a Gethsemane [ph] Church on Buchanan. He was a nice guy. And then we had a lot of Germans on our street there. We had Kleins, and I don’t know who the other people were.
KD: My mother can still kind of go down the street and tell you who lived where.
INTERVIEWER: It’s amazing. You know what would be fascinating would be to take you on a ride down that street.
WK: Oh, they’re not there, those buildings now.
INTERVIEWER: I know, yeah.
WK: The stores are not there.
INTERVIEWER: Just through the neighborhood. I did that with a man who still lives in the house he was born in, Eddie Niezgoda. I took him on a neighborhood tour, and he pointed out where everything was.
WK: That’s near St. Hedwig.
WK: St. John
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. St. Stephen’s. Yeah, he’s actually in the St. Stephen’s Parish, but it’s not far from St. Hedwig.
WK: Yeah, well St. Stephen’s and Our Lady Queen of Angels and Holy Redeemer and St. Hedwig’s, they were all-St. Casimir, they were all around us. I don’t know why I didn’t go to St. Alphonsus or St. Casimir. I don’t know how I ended up at-because probably Hazel Walker, who was German, and had a-went there to school, and probably my mother sent me there, but that was foolish. I had no car fare money, sometimes you had to walk all the way downtown. But anyway-
KD: But my mother, the street they lived on, just this side of the Boulevard-
WK: Yeah, this side of the Boulevard.
KD: And we went there one time coming home from downtown. Thank heaven it was drizzling so no one was outside. The neighborhood is awful.
WK: Oh, yeah.
KD: The only thing that looks good-Now, the lot where my grandparents had the grocery store, in which case, they never owned the building, somebody else owned the building. But there’s nothing on the lot, it’s just empty. But across the street, my dad’s sister lived. And that house looks good.
INTERVIEWER: I’ll be darned. So they rented the building, is that right?
WK: Oh, yes, the woman, Mrs. Beryl Dawson, she lived up in Marlette, Michigan, she owned all that property, all those little, on Magnolia, there were like little terraces. And then she owned the house next door to us. So we paid only twenty-five dollars a month rent. But my mother and dad had to have the house painted and do all the work, and I keep always repeating myself, I had to walk down in a rat-infested cellar and pick up a bucket of coal, and then walk up the steps and then pour it into a nickel-plated, you know-does anybody tell you about those celluloid-
KD: Ivy glass.
WK: Yeah, those little glasses there. And the pipes were going like all across the wall over here. They were red hot. And we had wallpaper and curtains. We never had fires. How come we never had any fires? Now you’ve got the fires all over, and-
WK: I don’t know.
INTERVIEWER: Maybe because the wood wasn’t as old back then? Some of those old buildings now, the wood is so old and dry.
WK: Yes, yeah, dry.
INTERVIEWER: Just a spark ignites them.
WK: That’s right. Well, those were old buildings, too.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, they were.
WK: They were old, but she didn’t do anything, other than just come and collect once a month. She’d come and collect once a month.
INTERVIEWER: Mrs. Beryl Dawson?
WK: Dawson, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Where did she live?
WK: Marlette, Michigan. She owned the property.
INTERVIEWER: Gee, I wonder how she got to be so wealthy.
WK: I don’t know, but she was a tall, stately woman and she would just come and overlook everything. And I often wondered. Well, anyway, that was something.
INTERVIEWER: Boy, she was industrious. Okay, so, now, so everybody worked in the store.
INTERVIEWER: Did you get up in the morning before school and have to help in the store, or did you go school and then come home-
WK: Oh, sure.
INTERVIEWER: –and work in the store.
WK: Yeah, yeah, we had a long, long walk. Nobody drove us to school. We would walk [inaudible]. It would be like from Michigan Avenue to Warren Avenue, that’s where we had to walk in the mornings. Oh, yeah, that was a lot of work in that store. And then, when Prohibition came, you know, there was nothing on the shelves in the stores. Then when Prohibition was lifted, and that’s when all the breweries came, and you sold all those beers, or bottles, what is it, for a dollar, I think it was? Zynda’s [ph], and Stroh’s, and Auto City. There were a lot, a lot of kinds, of brand names. So that’s where-and then it wasn’t Lotto’s, what did they call that? I can’t remember. When you bought your-
KD: Just called it numbers.
WK: Box numbers. They’d come and they had your box numbers. And that’s where they accumulated some money. So what they saved, they came to Dearborn and bought this house.
WK: Eighty-five hundred dollars they got this house with. And I lived upstairs with three children and an infant. And we were only supposed to stay for a little while because we were going to get property and go on our own, but like everything else, men weren’t working.
KD: Well, the war broke out.
WK: Yeah, and then, well, the men were working during the war period, yeah.
KD: There were no houses to buy.
WK: Yeah, but you couldn’t buy any houses.
INTERVIEWER: Not a bad place to live, though. Not a bad place to end up staying. I mean, it’s a gorgeous house, gorgeous neighborhood.
INTERVIEWER: And did your dad butcher all the meat and everything?
WK: Yes, we had Mr. Miloch, Mr. Miloch who would come and bring, you know, if my father ordered a hind, he’d come and bring it on his shoulder. And if he wanted liver and all that stuff, you know, then he would bring it. And I don’t know who cut it up for him. I think he had to do that.
INTERVIEWER: How do you spell Miloch.
WK: Miloch, M-I-L-O-C-H. I think that’s Miloch, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Miloch, that means love.
WK: He was such a good guy. And then we had somebody who would come and take orders of what kind of sausages you wanted, and he was from Kowalski’s. And that’s a long time ago. So they’d order it, and then it was delivered. Yeah, those were hard times.
INTERVIEWER: What do you remember about the Polish customs and your life in your home?
WK: Not much because my mother and dad didn’t practice them because they were busy in the store all the time. When it came like Good Friday, I remember they-they were doing some work in the house or something or in the store or renovating something. No, not-my mother didn’t follow the-
KD: What did they do for Christmas?
WK: They worked hard. We didn’t go anywhere.
KD: How did you celebrate Christmas?
WK: Just by going to church and that’s all.
INTERVIEWER: They were probably in that store all-every day.
WK: Yeah, oh yeah.
KD: Because I know some, like my husband’s family, they celebrated with the seven courses, you know, the fish.
WK: No, my mother never-my mother and dad never did that.
KD: I don’t ever remember my grandparents-
KD: –doing that or-
WK: There was never no time.
INTERVIEWER: If you were in a business like that, you were constantly working.
WK: See, that was a wooden floor, and that’s all sawdust [pointing to the photograph of the interior of the grocery store]. I had to wash that floor many times, and then we’d put nice, fresh, clean sawdust on there.
KD: What did you sell in the store?
WK: Well, over here, there was, like-like you go to some of these stores in West Dearborn, they have the barrel stores, you know.
KD: Bulky foods.
WK: Bulky foods, yeah. Well, if she wanted black-eyed peas, well, then, you’d sell her the peas and beans, and things like that. That was all loose. And then on that wall there, there was all like paper products, toilet tissues. And on this side was all canned, cans. Not too many, but there were cans. There was coffee. This, over here, was all coffee, Chase & Sanborn coffee.
KD: So there-coffee was sold in a jar or a can.
WK: Yeah, can, yeah. Maxwell House and all of that was also in a can. But like rice, you could sell it bulk at that time.
KD: And I remember you saying you had Oreo cookies.
WK: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And Hostess-Hostess, we had that was on another-we had all those Hostess-
WK: Yeah, we had those. Now, see, this is Silvercup Bread [pointing to the photograph]. You needed biscuits. And these were all loose cookies, like sometimes you buy them in the stores now. Well, that’s what they were. Fig Newtons, there were Fig Newtons, [inaudible] kettle cookies, which you don’t like.
KD: Windmill cookies.
WK: Windmill cookies.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, I remember those.
WK: And these are soda crackers. Yeah, see that. Those were soda crackers. And here’s all the Heinz products. And then this is red tobacco because we had a counter over here where you could buy all the loose candy, like Mary Janes and soldiers, and all that. And then that’s what they had. I don’t know what that sweet music is. And the soap products, too, there was like Super Suds and Rinso.
INTERVIEWER: I remember Rinso.
WK: With dishes in them. [Laughter] Everybody’s got dishes.
INTERVIEWER: Now, what about-
WK: This was all milk and cottage cheese and sour cream in here.
KD: Did Dziadziu have śledzę [sp?]?
WK: I made the śledzę [ph].
KD: How did you make them?
WK: Well, you go to the market, my dad would go to the market and buy the barrels of Bismarck herrings, and then I’d have to clean them, take out the milkers and mash that up, and put a lot of onions in there, and then put them on this-I don’t see the connor [sp?] there, because this is a connor [sp?] here, see? And you put them up there. This was for potato chips, Kathy. That’s how they sold potato chips. [LP NOTE: Kathryn later stated that her mother said the herring were bought at the Western Market, which she believes was on 18th Street and Michigan Avenue. The market is no longer there. Other items her mother later remembered the store carrying were Oneida biscuits, Lorna Doone cookies, and Wonder Bread.]
KD: Oh, my gosh.
WK: Loose, like that. And so the śledzę [sp?] were there, and everybody bought the śledzę [sp?]. They bought one or two of them. I think I only made about ten or twelve of them.
INTERVIEWER: This is all fresh bread? [Still looking at the photograph]
WK: Yeah, that’s all from the bakery.
INTERVIEWER: The bakery came and supplied you with that?
WK: Yes, they supplied that. And then over here were all the pączki. We were little, and he’d would always say, pączek, he’d always call us little pączek. Yeah, he made-but we didn’t sell any cakes of any kind or anything like that. Oh, yes, we did, the turnovers, or something like that. But then we had chickens, too. You know, you’d buy live chickens and they had to be, heads chopped off and feathered.
KD: Did you have ice cream?
WK: Yes, we had ice cream.
WK: Over here, the ice cream. We scooped it out.
KD: Tell Laurie what the kids are always amazed at when you tell them about during the depression.
KD: The cash register.
WK: There was nothing in it.
KD: There was no money in it.
WK: There was no money.
KD: Everybody was buying on credit.
WK: And then when I went to work in a little place because Fido [sp?] and Marian were working there, they asked me to go to work there, so that was all piece work, and what check I got I handed over to my mother and dad. When I got married I had nothing. [Inaudible Polish phrase] Nothing.
WK: [Laughter] When you tell the kids, you know, I had nothing, I had nothing to save, or nothing because you gave all your money away. Do you hear that often?
INTERVIEWER: Oh, yeah.
WK: Yeah, you do. So that was the era that we were living in.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. It’s amazing how people survived then and built what they built.
WK: Isn’t that?
INTERVIEWER: The churches, when I see the churches.
INTERVIEWER: I’m just amazed.
KD: And when you go to Poland. Have you been there?
KD: It’s the same thing. You go into these villages that are small, and you see this church that looks like about the size of a cathedral, and every wall, if it doesn’t have gold on it, it’s painted. It’s just amazing how many altars there are, how many devotional things to the Blessed Mother. I keep thinking-because in the three villages we went to, all those churches were started or built in the 1400s.
WK: Tell her about the-
KD: What’s that?
WK: The ones that opened up, those big-
KD: Oh, well that was in, that was in Krakow. But, you know, I looked at these churches, and I thought, well, it had to have been the nobility, whoever lived in the area, that probably built the church. But still, they’ve been added on to so that many of these churches, there are parts of the original 1400 church that still survived.
KD: And I think that these immigrant people, they just duplicated that, it was just so important to them.
INTERVIEWER: That was the most important thing.
KD: Absolutely. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: If you didn’t have that, you didn’t have life.
KD: And when we saw the film that you had, was it Sweetest Heart of Mary where they took out a mortgage so that they wouldn’t lose a church, that was fascinating to me.
WK: Yes. They did, they gave everything to God.
KD: I was going to ask you, were there any other stores to buy things in besides the mom and pop stores?
WK: Well, they had hardware stores.
KD: I mean, but there were no other grocery stores.
WK: I just told you those that I knew that lived-
KD: Just the mom and pops.
INTERVIEWER: Were there like an A & P?
WK: Oh, no. We had nothing. That was the beginning because the woman that, a couple of doors away on Lovett there, she was going back to California, that’s where it all started, all these chain stores, so that was coming. When we were leaving, that’s when those stores were coming in.
KD: So that would have been about 1941.
WK: 1940, yeah, that’s when they were coming in. They were telling us about how big the stores are and all of that because on Michigan Avenue there was the Jewish store on 31st, where she had like food stores and all of that. There were a lot of those. They were along Michigan Avenue there. Then there was Rosenberg’s, which was a department store. But, there were further down, towards Warren Avenue, there were like on Herbert and those stores, there were grocery stores there. But we didn’t know them. I don’t know if my mother and dad knew any of them. They probably did, but I never heard them talking about them. Now, this, a store like that, it really confines you, just to work and-it’s hard work. And then they lost, they lost a home on Martin. They lost a lot of money in credit when they moved. Like they all did. The banks were failed.
INTERVIEWER: So they moved from there, and-
WK: They moved from there and they moved here.
INTERVIEWER: But what about the home on Martin, you said?
WK: Oh, that was early in the ’30s.
KD: That was-
WK: During the depression.
KD: But that was an investment property, wasn’t it?
KD: They weren’t-they didn’t live there.
WK: No, no.
KD: So they didn’t live there, so-
WK: They lost the house.
KD: They must, it must have been an investment.
INTERVIEWER: Maybe my grandparents rented from them.
WK: Is that right?
INTERVIEWER: Because they lived on Martin.
WK: They did?
INTERVIEWER: They rented. They lived on Martin, they lived on Tarnow, they lived on Clayton. They moved, every time the rent went down a nickel, they moved somewhere else to get the cheaper rent. They just kept moving around.
WK: It was Martin and Clayton there was a Placówka.
INTERVIEWER: What is a Placówka?
WK: Placówka is like we have Polish posts.
KD: A meeting hall.
WK: My mother, my mother helped the Polish soldiers who were in the Polish Army in Europe. But coming here, they had nothing, and some of them needed, because of their health. So my mother used to wear a monderuk [ph]? I think there was a picture in one of your books, where they had that cap, like, and that. My mother was in parade. They did an awful lot of charitable work for them, bought refrigerators or food, whatever they did. If they had a picnic or something, I think it was in Wanda Park, I never went there because I already had a family and children and all that. But my mother-and then they came and they wanted that monderuk [ph], probably to hand it to somebody else. It was a real nice cape.
KD: It was a cape. Yeah.
WK: It was a real nice cape, yeah.
KD: It was light blue.
WK: Light blue, yeah.
KD: And I used to sell poppies with her. They always used to sell-and they were the light blue poppies.
KD: And they always sold those on Memorial Day weekend. It was the Polish Veterans. My grandmother was smart. We stood in front of the bank.
KD: [Laughter] Manufacturer’s Bank.
WK: And when there was Tashmoo-
WK: You had to go and sell-
KD: Bob-Lo. We went to Bob-Lo.
WK: I thought it was Tashmoo.
INTERVIEWER: How do you spell that Placówka?
WK: Placówka. Wait a minute. P-L-A-C-O-W-S-K-I.
KD: It was kind of like a meeting hall.
WK: That’s all it was.
KD: You know.
WK: Yeah. Yeah, and they had a few of them. Those were, there were a few of them. I think-
KD: Was that the one that was two floors? It was two floors, and they had a bar downstairs?
WK: Could be, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: I’ll bet my grandmother was there.
WK: Was your mother like-
INTERVIEWER: I’ll bet my grandmother was there with your mother.
WK: Oh, I’m sure.
INTERVIEWER: I’ll bet she was because that’s right in the heart of their neighborhood.
KD: Because I-
WK: Because that’s where there-
KD: Because I think they rented those places out for showers and things like that, and I think that’s why, you know, I-when I learned to drive, there were a lot of times where I would drop my grandmother off, like at Dom Polski, or Placowski, or whatever.
WK: Oh, Dom Polski. That’s [inaudible].
INTERVIEWER: What do you remember about Dom Polski?
WK: Working at weddings, and my mother and dad. My mother, they were always there for other events, I can’t remember. But they did-they did go there a lot.
KD: You said they used to go to a ball, or a big dance there.
KD: And that’s-and that’s why, because-I belong to that Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan, the PGSM. One of their magazines that they sent out has a whole list of the East Side Grocers’ Association, and they listed the grocery stores and the owners, and florists and attorneys, and everything like that, and that’s why when I sent you the e-mail, I thought, did you run across anything for the West Side?
INTERVIEWER: I haven’t yet, but we have a man who’s just been voted in on our board of the West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society who is also in PGSM, Bill Gorski, and he’s done tons of research on the West Side. He’s got 3,000 slides that are at the State Archives in Lansing. He’s very interested in getting the West Side caught up with the East Side. So you’re going to start seeing more stories about the West Side in the Eaglet. I think it’s the nextEaglet that comes out. And this is one of the things I’ll ask him about, and we’ll start looking for things like this and see what we can dig up. That’s what our society is for. I haven’t come across anything.
WK: Does it mostly would be grocers, or it could be anything? Mostly grocers?
INTERVIEWER: It would be West Side Grocers Association?
KD: Well, there was-
INTERVIEWER: There was one.
KD: You told me that there was that.
INTERVIEWER: And there’s one poster in my film, there’s a picnic and it’s sponsored by, I think, the West Side Butchers’ Association. The picnic is sponsored by them. So I know there was one. So we’ll do some digging and see what we can find.
WK: Because another-but this was in Dearborn, people who owned the Red Star Coal Company, they were very popular and very well known, but that was in Dearborn.
KD: Now, didn’t you tell me that you have a couple friends, and maybe their in your seniors, that their parents either delivered to you at the store or were somehow connected with you at the store?
WK: I can’t recall.
KD: What about the coal? Was it the coal that they delivered?
WK: Well, it was Red Star Coal Company.
WK: They’re the ones who delivered it.
KD: And the milk. You knew who owned-
WK: Proctor, Proctor Creamery.
KD: Proctor Creamery, but you knew the man.
WK: Beretta. Beretta.
KD: Yeah, Mr. Beretta. And that’s why when I looked at this thing, the very last ad here in this book-
WK: Proctor Creamery was very well known.
KD: Yeah, the very last ad here, Mom, is Proctor Dairy, and that’s Mr. Szczepanski.
WK: Oh, yeah, that was-
KD: Yeah, Mr. Szczepanski-
KD: My father’s father was a milkman all his life, and he was a milkman for Proctor. His whole delivery area was Michigan Avenue to Warren from like McGraw or Wyoming to Livernois.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my gosh.
KD: And his father was there long enough that he was already delivering to second generations.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow.
KD: And when he started delivering milk, he had a horse pulling the wagon.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my gosh.
KD: So that was the first thing I saw was Mr. Szczepanski.
WK: Well, Mr. Szczepanski, this was way after, because this was-it was never Proctor -Liberty Dairy. See, that’s on Grandy Avenue. Is that on the West Side? I mean, on the East Side?
INTERVIEWER: Grandy is East Side.
WK: East Side, yeah.
WK: Well, see, we only know them as Proctor Street, and that was Mr. Szczepanski.
KD: No, the dairy was on the East Side because he had to come all the way-
WK: Oh, was it? I didn’t know that.
KD: –from the East Side to the West Side, yeah.
WK: But I know we always heard of them in conversation.
INTERVIEWER: How do you spell this Mr. Beretta.
KD: Either that or-I would guess B-E-R-E-T-T-A.
WK: Oh, he was so funny. He was a real nice guy. She was Laur. My sister danced with the Laur Society.
WK: But I have no pictures of her. I used to have them, with the ballet master. See, years-
INTERVIEWER: If you ever come across them-
KD: Well, we don’t know-
WK: I’m sorry?
INTERVIEWER: If you ever come across them, let us know. Maybe she has them, I don’t know.
KD: You know, it was funny because when my grandmother went to Europe, she suffered a stroke while she was there. This was in 1970, and when she came back to the States, she only lasted about three weeks. However, when my mother came to the house, drawers had been cleaned out.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, no.
KD: Things were gone. And my mother doesn’t know what happened to them.
INTERVIEWER: That happens.
WK: Krakowiak dances. [Inaudible]
KD: But my mother, you know, they-she and my aunt often talked about the families that-they all have large families, you know, next to the store, across the street, you know, ten children, here, seven children there.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, yeah, everybody had big families.
KD: Yeah, and they all got along very well, and my mother always used to say my grandfather was a lousy butcher. Because I asked her-
WK: He was.
KD: I said, did he go to butcher school, or things like that. [Laughter] I mean, to just buy a grocery store. And she said no.
INTERVIEWER: But you just learned.
KD: You just learned.
INTERVIEWER: You just did it to survive.
WK: He was not a good butcher.
KD: Yeah, and we were talking to somebody the other day. Oh, we were talking to my cousin because my dad’s sister lived across the street from the grocery store, and that’s how my dad met my mother because he came to stay with his sister for a while. But anyhow, my cousin Bernice that we talked to the other day, she’s now eighty-five, and she remembered, she said Busia had a book where she kept all of the charges.
KD: On credit. And then the people had a little book, you know, that they would write down what they bought.
KD: So, you know, for a long time they just carried all of that. And then, when-when was that, like Busia was already in the house here, was that-you know, probably the late ’40s. Somebody came to the door and asked if they had owned a grocery store, and she said yeah. And they wanted to pay the bill then.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my gosh.
WK: Before she died she wanted to pay her bill.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my goodness.
WK: I don’t know who that lady was.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, isn’t that beautiful.
WK: Isn’t that something?
KD: Now, with the trunks-
INTERVIEWER: Can I ask you one more thing before we go to the trunks?
INTERVIEWER: Because I want to get this on tape. What you told me when I came in about the ice. Tell me that story about the ice that was delivered into the house.
WK: The Borin Ice Company.
INTERVIEWER: How do you spell that?
WK: Borin Ice Company. Okay, he would put a ladder up against the building and he would carry blocks and blocks of ice on his shoulder. You know, we had some real hot days. And he would carry like 2,400 blocks of ice up that ladder.
KD: No, pounds of ice. Yeah.
WK: Yeah, yeah. They were big blocks, big blocks.
INTERVIEWER: And so it went upstairs.
WK: The back-it what?
INTERVIEWER: It went upstairs?
WK: Yeah, he had to go up a ladder.
WK: Because the store was on the level and the upper level was part of the ice, well-
INTERVIEWER: It was the big ice box?
WK: I don’t know how he got up there, whatever, like I said, he just got up on the ladder.
INTERVIEWER: But the upper level was-
WK: And filled that up and that ice is what cooled the-cooled this-
KD: Was it part of the upstairs where you lived?
WK: Well, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, so there was a room up there where the ice went?
WK: No. Wait a minute, wait a minute. There was the store. And then you, your bedroom was above that ice door.
KD: Okay, so there must have been something between the first floor-
WK: Yes, exactly.
KD: –and the second floor where you put the ice.
WK: Because, yeah, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: In between.
WK: And during the winter months Jack Frost painted all those windows it was so cold. Yeah. See, and there wasn’t much space in there, though. You know, you just had milk and other stuff here. I don’t think we had ice cold beer or anything, I don’t remember.
KD: Where was the meat?
WK: Well, there, too.
KD: I mean, there wasn’t a separate locker like a door that Dziadziu opened to push the meat-
WK: No, here’s the door, the door was right here [pointing to the photograph].
KD: And that’s where he kept the meat?
WK: Yeah, you just opened it up and you went in there. And had it on hooks or something. There wasn’t much space there. But there was enough, well, you know, I don’t think he sold meat like you do now, you know, because they would go on Michigan Avenue and buy a lot of grocery stores.
KD: Now, if-on a day, or a week, how much meat do you think Dziadziu would sell? How much meat would a person buy if they came in? Like Mrs. Mack or one of those-
WK: Yeah, she mostly bought ground meat. And that’s another thing. My-see, there was a grinder here, over here. We had no electrical grinder. You had to grind this on a big machine that was right on-behind that over there [pointing to the photograph]. See, there’s a shelf over here, well, that’s where it was.
INTERVIEWER: I remember we had one of those at home.
WK: Yeah. Well, yeah, a lot of women did their own grinding of meat, yeah. But I don’t know how much because-but he was there quite frequently, Mr. Miloch, you know, if you got low on meat or something, he’d come and ask you, what do you need, and he’d check them and ask them. I don’t think they did a lot by phone conversations because they would come and ask what you want, and then, then it would be delivered.
KD: Did you have a phone?
WK: Yeah, we had a phone. It was in a, like a box. And then my aunt lived here on Reuter [LP NOTE: Reuter Street in Dearborn, the next block from Jonathon, per Kathryn], and when I would call her, there was a grocery store here on Reuter on the corner there, somebody had to go to my aunt, who lived right over here, to tell her, and then she had to come over there just to talk to us or to me. [LP NOTE: Kathryn later clarified that when her grandmother would call Wanda’s Aunt Katherine Butkowski, who lived on Reuter Street in Dearborn, Katherine had to walk several blocks away to the local grocery store to get the call since she didn’t have a phone. Somebody from the store would come and tell her she had a call, and she would walk down to the store.]
KD: Do you remember the phone number?
WK: No, I don’t remember the phone number.
WK: But that was something, the phone number, yeah. But we did have a phone. Matter of fact, yeah, that’s true because when Finkowski’s used to live there, and when they, they had a message, I had to go way over there to let them, to come-to come and answer because somebody was-because they didn’t have no telephone.
KD: And where did Finkowski’s live?
WK: The middle of the block of Lovett. And when he came to pay the grocery bill and he had a check, that was big money. My mother had to go to the bank and cash it because he worked for Borg-Warner’s.
INTERVIEWER: What was his name?
WK: Finkowski, Finkowski. Yeah.
WK: F-I-N-K-O-W-S-K-I, yeah. That was big money when you brought home a check. Yeah, there was very little money. And then, what was that-I was talking to Ken about that one time, what they had in place of money.
WK: Script, that’s-
WK: Script, that’s what they had. Do you remember, did anybody talk to you about script?
WK: They didn’t?
WK: There wasn’t any money. They paid by script. Now, I don’t know how they worked that out.
KD: Now, that was when the banks-
WK: When the banks were failing, yeah. So that must have been in the late ’20s.
KD: That would be-that was the late ’20s, early ’30s.
WK: Yeah, yeah. All the banks like Kronk’s and all them, they all failed. But that-that’s, yeah, there was no money at all, it was all script.
INTERVIEWER: Script, just like S-C-R-I-P-T?
WK: I think so, yeah. Should have saved some of them, no?
KD: I’m sure some of it’s around.
WK: I’m sure you could still find it. I’m sure some of it is around.
INTERVIEWER: Somebody saved it.
WK: Yeah. Now you want to go to the trunks?
INTERVIEWER: The trunks, yes. Maria Golec. So, she came here, she had the trunks shipped here, this Maria?
WK: Um-hum. You tell her.
KD: Well, I-
WK: I answered the telephone.
KD: Well, I asked my mother when I saw the picture of the trunks. Now, I remember when they came here, but I said, Mom-
WK: They, not the trunks.
KD: Yeah. I don’t remember when the trunks came, but I remember when they came and they lived here. I said to my mother, why did they come here? I mean, if they came here, there’s got to be a relationship of some kind. My mother didn’t know. She had to call a relative. We found out that Maria Golec’s father and my grandmother’s father were brothers. And when I get back home, I could find his name out because I did-I did find out that my grandfather, my mother’s father had two brothers. His name was Vincent, there was a brother Matthew, and I can’t remember the third brother’s name. But it’s that third brother that would have been the father of Maria Golec.
WK: Yeah, but I was in the living room, my mother had guests or something, and the phone rang, and I answered the phone, and-
KD: Well, and-but there must have been some communication with Busia and Golec’s.
WK: Oh, I’m sure.
KD: But there-it wasn’t a surprise that they were coming. It may have been the day or the date that they arrived. But I think she-because you couldn’t come without a sponsor.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, exactly.
KD: And so she had to have been the sponsor for them.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember when this was?
KD: Well, it was after the war. We moved in 1950, so it had to be between ’46 and ’50. You know, if you ever got to speak with the son-now, my mother’s tried to call him several times.
WK: No, I can’t get in touch with him.
KD: Where does he live, Westland, did you say, or Dearborn Heights?
WK: No, on Proctor, on Proctor.
KD: Oh, okay.
WK: Nobody’s answered, and the daughter.
KD: I’m trying to think-I was born in ’40, and I’m thinking maybe I was seven or eight, so maybe ’47, ’48, somewhere like that.
INTERVIEWER: Now, was it Maria and her husband?
WK: And a child. They had a child.
KD: They had both-did they have both children, or just-no, they just had Fred.
WK: No, they had two children. Stephanie.
KD: The second one is Stephanie. Now I don’t remember her.
WK: No, but they were in the living room and I answered the telephone, and that woman said on the phone that if we don’t-somebody don’t come to pick them up, that she was going to bring them here in a wagon.
KD: So my dad had to go and pick them up.
WK: Yeah, and bring them here, and they stayed in the basement. Well, they lived in the basement, and my mother took care of them until-I had wonderful parents-until she established them with a home someplace near Central. I’ve only been there once or twice.
KD: What was the name of that street?
WK: I don’t know.
INTERVIEWER: St. John.
KD: St. John.
WK: St. John.
WK: I think it was St. John.
WK: Yeah. But, but now the mother and father have passed away, and the daughter is living elsewhere, which I don’t know. The mother lived in Westland. I visited her a couple of times, and she died, so-
KD: She died when, 19-
WK: Oh, just a couple of years ago.
KD: Just a couple of years ago.
WK: Yeah. I never got the-nobody called me or anything like that. But that was a surprise when she showed it to me, that trunk.
INTERVIEWER: Isn’t that amazing how you found that on the Internet?
KD: Yeah. Well, I go to the genealogy site every now and then because sometimes they have an interesting article to read or something like that and I just wanted to see-and they also have, one time I went and my mother and I had gone to the Mormon place up on-
KD: Woodward Avenue. But now there’s one in Westland.
INTERVIEWER: Yes, I know.
KD: And they listed on the site, the tape that they have at the site in Westland because with those tapes, if you rent them three times, most of the places will keep it there permanently. Like the ones that I’ve looked at that have, you know, important information for me are in the Mormon one in Newport News, Virginia.
WK: Are there a lot of trunks that they’ve discovered to put in a museum?
INTERVIEWER: Not that I’m aware of.
KD: Did the trunks have anything in them?
INTERVIEWER: No, they were empty. What’s really amazing is that the house that they were in was owned by Hispanics.
WK: By whom?
INTERVIEWER: A Latino couple.
INTERVIEWER: And they’re-they happened to be friends of mine, and they happened to be very passionate about the Polish culture, and that’s why they saved them. Anybody else may have just pitched those trunks.
WK: Yeah, wouldn’t they?
INTERVIEWER: And Gabriel, the man who had them, died right after the-well, the same day the Pope died. And his brother Frank is on our board, so that’s how we acquired them. He donated them to our society in memory of his brother.
INTERVIEWER: And, you know, that whole thing is so miraculous to me because people who are moving into those houses down there, you know, and even the old Polish people who are moving out, their children are coming in, moving their parents out, and a lot of times, I would say 99 percent of the time, none of this stuff means anything to the kids. It’s ending up on the curbside. This type of thing is just being thrown away.
WK: Yeah, all old pictures.
KD: And I wish my grandparents would have had more things that they could leave as mementos. It just seemed my grandparents came here and they wanted to be Americanized, they just wanted to be Americans.
INTERVIEWER: They were proud to be Americans.
KD: Yes, they were. Now, my grandmother came, she was fifteen. My grandfather was older. When he came into Detroit from Canada, my grandfather was twenty-eight years old already. So, you know, and he probably came with nothing. But I just envy these people who have, you know, all of this memorabilia because we even dig through pictures, you know, they’re in short supply.
WK: This was taken from a sepia kind [pointing to a photograph], but my son-in-law took it from the sepia part, but she had the full wedding group.
KD: Yeah, my mother had one of them, a wedding picture, but my mother took this out of the group photo because he felt that they looked better on this, so I sent this to my mother for Christmas.
WK: My mother was eighteen and he was thirty-two.
INTERVIEWER: Look how beautiful they were.
WK: And this is-and she wants to know what is this [pointing to a medal in a photograph].
KD: I’m trying to find that medal. My husband has blown it up and-
WK: And there’s my mother, my dad, and this is me. Look at that dress. And my mother was dark, she had dark hair. They called herciegonka [sp?]. See how dark she looked. Those people from Galicia, a lot of them did look-
KD: Well, gypsies, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: That’s beautiful. And you know, as little as they had, they took pride in how they looked.
INTERVIEWER: They always got photos, thank goodness.
WK: Oh, my mother was a bridesmaid nineteen times.
KD: Yeah. And then my grandfather never went back to Poland. And the story he always told us was he had been in the Austrian Army, which surprised me because when we went to Poland, he was actually from the Russian section. So he must have gone to Krakow or Warsaw or someplace so that he was in the Austrian Army. And he used to tell us he was in the cavalry. Well, he said he deserted. And so my mother and I were at the Mormon center out on Woodward Avenue, and on Thursday afternoon at that time, they had a gentleman who was a Polish genealogy specialist. And my mother was asking about that and saying that he said he deserted. And he asked my mother, he said, when did he come here, and we told him the approximate time, and he said, no, they didn’t desert. They came here because most likely he had been in the service already, but war was looming and they were going to be called up again, and they didn’t want to go back into the army, so they left. And so when you think about it, my grandfather was twenty-eight when he came, so he probably already fulfilled his military obligation.
KD: So I’m trying to find out what that medal represents.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, that would be so interesting.
WK: This is my mother, and this is my father.
INTERVIEWER: Look how handsome he was.
WK: Yeah. I don’t have that-I have another picture of that, but-
INTERVIEWER: He looks like a movie star. And she’s so beautiful.
WK: Yeah, she was very outspoken.
INTERVIEWER: Very elegant.
KD: He used to always tell my grandmother that, you know, in English terms, he was from the city, she was from the country. [Laughter]
KD: Or a town mouse and a country mouse. But now when we find out where he was actually from, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. But the area that my grandmother is from is north of Lubitz___ [sp?], and it’s beautiful farmland. It’s gorgeous farmland. So my grandmother was lucky enough, when she was here, she brought her cousin here. We always thought my mother just called her aunt, you know, because they were from the same area. No true. We went back and found that my grandmother’s mother and Katherine Butowski’s mother, they were sisters. They were both [inaudible]. So they are related. But anyhow, she brought her cousin here, and they lived right on the next street from them. So that was family. But we can’t find else about my grandfather. He never talked about family, and I keep asking my mother, why didn’t you ask?
INTERVIEWER: Well, you don’t think of it.
KD: Well, and my grandmother came here, I always thought this was a wonderful story because my grandmother had a friend, and we don’t know if they were from the same village or not. And this friend, what was her last name, Mom?
KD: Bernice Grandac’s [sp?] mother.
KD: Bernice Grandzc’s [sp?] mother. Anyhow, she came to America. Now her husband had come before her, had come to the Detroit area. And they were married in Poland, they were already married, but when she came on the ship she was pregnant. So she got to Ellis Island, and they were calling her husband to come get her or arrange for transportation. They couldn’t find him. What they didn’t know is he wasn’t in Detroit. He went to Flint because the auto industry was hiring in Flint. They couldn’t find him; they sent him back to Poland because she was pregnant.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my gosh.
KD: So they sent her back to Poland, and what interests me is, it’s not, you know, today-they send her back to Poland, where does she land, not in Poland, either in Hamburg, Germany, you know, Breman, or Brussels, or you know, and I said, how did she get back to her country? Did she have enough money to get back to her country? But anyhow, she went back to Poland, she had the baby in Poland. The baby was born in September of 1913, and now she wants to come back to America, so she talked my grandmother into coming with her to America. So my grandmother was fifteen years old, and she used to always say to Bernice, don’t ever try and lie about your age, I carried you on the ship, I know how old you are. So she took care of that baby for a while on the ship, and they both sailed together here to America.
INTERVIEWER: Now did she eventually meet up with her husband?
KD: Yeah. Yeah, they lived in Flint. My mother and, you know, the family, they used to go visit in Flint.
INTERVIEWER: Can you imagine how horrible that would be to come all the way on the ship pregnant and not be able to find him and have to go back?
KD: But see, there was a daughter left there who never came to America.
WK: And my mother kept those families on, so did I, for thirty, thirty-five years, sending all these parcels, all that money, built their homes there. So my mother, half of her lifetime spent in Europe, took care of them.
KD: And my grandmother did go back. She went back in 1936 before the war. Her mother and father were still alive then. And then she went back a couple of times after that. But, yeah, I mean, I wish I would have asked so many questions. Oh, the other thing my mother was saying about the church. I can remember when we would have family dinners or whatever, and let’s say it was Easter or whatever. My grandfather would go down in the basement in order to shave. And he had this Polish box. You know, it was round, and you opened it up, and it had a mirror on the inside like on an easel, and he would set that up, and then he had a brush and he’d have to have his soap.
INTERVIEWER: My dad had that.
KD: And he shaved with a straight razor. Well, then he’d start telling me about Poland, and he’d be talking in Polish, and he would tell me in Polish, “Oh, child, if you could see this church in Krakow,” and he’d be crying. He’d be crying when he would say this. Well, I saw that church two years ago, and it is absolutely magnificent.
WK: Kościół Mariacki.
KD: Mariacki. It is from the 1300s, and the Turks were invading, and they tried to warn the villagers so there was a trumpeter in the bell tower. He got an arrow through the neck and died while he was, you know, trumpeting the call. And so every hour on the hour, the trumpeter-
WK: Did you hear that?
KD: Yes. Yeah.
KD: And you know who plays the trumpet up there? They’re all firemen.
WK: All firemen.
KD: They’re all firemen. But every hour on the hour they play the melody that the trumpeter was playing.
WK: I cried because I was reminiscing when my father was telling me, and it really was like you say.
KD: And behind the altar they have a beautiful scene of the Blessed Mother and all of the-and I believe it’s carved out of linden wood. It’s carved out of linden wood, and then they have these big three doors that go over it at night. Now, supposedly they close it like at six o’clock.
WK: It’s huge.
KD: But we went to church there on Sunday. They had a six-thirty mass. And so it was still open when we went there for church.
WK: They’re about as big as those windows there.
KD: Oh, much, much-
WK: Much bigger.
KD: Much bigger than that.
WK: Oh, yeah, I think they are.
KD: And up higher.
WK: Up higher.
KD: Up higher. And then on the sides, there’s all these like stalls, you know, and I’m sure that was where the clergy sat.
KD: And my mother was saying when she went to the church in the village where my grandmother was from, when my mother went in ’66, there were no pews in the church.
WK: But there were pews on the side. That was only for the clergy.
KD: For the clergy or for the nobility? But everybody else stood.
WK: You know, the church owned a lot of property in Poland at one time, and then it distributed a lot of that property amongst, I don’t know who, but they let a lot of that property go. So the church was very powerful at one time in Poland. Still is, isn’t it?
INTERVIEWER: It is.
KD: But when we saw those churches-because I’ve never been to Sweetest Heart of Mary or, I think I’ve been in St. Hyacinth’s, but that’s the only one. They’re absolutely magnificent.
INTERVIEWER: They really are. And I had an experience last weekend, I went to St. John Cantius in Delray. Have you ever been there?
WK: No, but I heard. I had neighbors who belonged. They were neighbors.
INTERVIEWER: It’s not a huge cathedral, there’s nothing really big and ominous about it, but that experience of going there is really transforming because it’s literally in the middle of this huge, massive plant. This waste water treatment plant is everywhere, and here’s St. John Cantius sitting in the middle of all of this. You literally walk out the front door, and there’s barbed wire in front of you and fencing, and it’s all around. And the church is so beautiful, and you just wonder how this church could have stood there for thirty-three years in the middle of all of this.
WK: Thirty-three years?
INTERVIEWER: Yes, they put in the waste water treatment plant in ’74. They knocked down all the houses and put in this big plant. I mean, it’s all you see for miles and miles, smokestacks.
WK: I never heard of that.
INTERVIEWER: The church was founded in 1902, and it was built, the present building was built in ’23, and it’s closing in October.
WK: Is it?
INTERVIEWER: So if you have a chance to go before October, go and see it.
WK: There’s still a lot of nice old churches around.
KD: Do you remember a lot of stores that were on Michigan Avenue?
KD: Yeah, like when you were growing up.
WK: Sure, we went to Rosenberg’s, we went to Diamond’s. Diamond’s, we went for dresses, when you bought your wedding clothes. And there was a shoe store, I forgot the name of that.
KD: What was the hat, the millinery store?
WK: The millinery stores, yeah. There was one next door to Kramer Theater.
KD: Did Aunt Sophie own the millinery store when you were living on Lovett?
WK: I think so, but I don’t know where it was at. But there was, there were millinery stores. Next door to the Kramer Theater. Kramer Theater, confectionery store. But that was further.
INTERVIEWER: What was the theater?
WK: But that was further up already.
INTERVIEWER: What was the theater closest to you?
WK: Krystal. The Krystal Theater.
KD: Was there anything next to it, or was it just, like were you-
WK: It was on the corner, across from it was, I think it was Kinsell’s or something like that.
KD: When you come into Lovett-
WK: No, Tensell’s [sp?], Tensell’s [sp?].
KD: When you come into Lovett, where was the Krystal Theater, on the right or the left?
WK: North of, west of Lovett.
WK: Going west.
KD: On your right.
WK: Yeah, it was on the right.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember Theatr Ludowy on Michigan Avenue?
WK: Which one?
INTERVIEWER: Theatr Ludowy, it was a Polish theater.
WK: Yeah, yeah, Ludowy. Yeah, I forgot where that was. That was-it was, I thought that was on Warren Avenue, no?
INTERVIEWER: No, somebody told me it was on Michigan Avenue, like east of Junction.
WK: Wasn’t that the Royal? Royal Theater? There was a Polish theater.
INTERVIEWER: On Warren?
WK: No, no. On Michigan. They used to have Polish films there. It was Royal, though. Ludowy, Ludowy was-Dom Ludowy, I think that’s where they had dances and everything. I may be wrong on that. But I think that’s where they had children’s dances, the krakowiaki, and adult classes, I mean little grown-up, boys and girls, I guess that’s what they were. Yeah. Dom Ludowy. There was a Laur Society. I think that was on Warren. I don’t remember that too much. I was already married and I had three children, and we were busy with them. My mother and dad lived down here, and it was a busy life.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the Cunningham Drug Store on Michigan Avenue?
WK: Over here on Michigan? Oh, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Michigan and Junction, wasn’t it?
WK: Well, we had one here, too. But Michigan and Junction? On Junction, it was south of Michigan on the left, toward St. Hedwig.
WK: Yeah. Um-hum. Oh, yeah. But I can’t remember any Polish restaurants that were around there. The further up towards Livernois, there was the Warsaw, but I don’t think we had any out this way, Polish restaurants.
KD: Did you ever go out to eat?
WK: No, no. Not that I remember. We never had-
INTERVIEWER: Didn’t have the money.
WK: That’s right, yeah. Nobody went. I can’t recall. Until later on when people were working, and then when McDonald’s and all those stores started popping up, well, then that was-
KD: Do you remember much about going to school at Assumption? Did you start there or did you go to school anyplace else?
WK: I was going to-I went to Newburgh School on 29th and Jackson, and then I went to Assumption. I don’t know why my sister-I think she went, but I don’t know what-whether she dropped out, I don’t know why, she didn’t like it or what. But I stayed until, what, eight years. And we had all our classes all in one room. All in one room. We learned grammatica [sp?], and historia biblina [sp?], and all that stuff. We learned it all in Polish and in English. Isn’t that something?
KD: Did Busia and Dziadziu in the house speak Polish or English?
WK: Well, yeah, Polish and English. When the Polish friends would come, then it was all like-like Jane Barbinski [sp?]. Do you know Jane Barbinski [sp?]? She belongs to the Polish society. When her father would come, he was a lovely-yeah, there was a lot of Polish their talk. But, no, they spoke-they spoke both English and Polish.
KD: Because I always thought my mother knew Polish because they spoke it at the house all the time. And my mother said, no, she learned a lot of Polish when she went to Assumption. On the other hand, my father, his parents never learned to speak English. They always spoke Polish. So my father spoke Polish at home all the time. But that was in a coal mining town in Pennsylvania.
WK: Yeah, there’s still a lot of Polish families where the parents never anglicized, never became citizens or anything, and they never wanted to go back to Poland. I don’t know why. Because I guess they were poverty-stricken. They worked hard.
INTERVIEWER: Where in Pennsylvania?
KD: My father? He was from Rossiter, which is near Punksatawny [sp?]. And his father came in 1902, and he brought his wife over. The child was already born. My aunt Pauline, my dad’s oldest sister, was born in Poland, and they, my aunt Pauline and her mother came in 1905. And then there were other children who were born here. But I was very lucky with my dad’s family, like I said, because the Mormons microfilmed. I didn’t know anything about my father’s family until I remembered my dad had an uncle who was a priest. And there was a priest in Dunkirk, New York, and I called, and they said, yes, Father Clement is buried here in the cemetery. So they gave me the phone number for the diocese of Buffalo because that was their diocese, and lo and behold, the nun said, I’ll send you what I have in the file, and in the file was a copy of his baptismal certificate, which gave me, number one, the name of the village. Nobody in my dad’s family knew the name of the village. And then I got the name of his parents, my great-grandmother’s mother, and so forth. And so that was a real godsend. And then to find out that in their wisdom the Mormons had microfilmed all of this, I couldn’t believe it. And those records go back into the 1700s.
WK: Have you ever been to Ellis Island?
WK: You haven’t? You must go. When you go to New York, you must go.