Ethnic Women of Cleveland
Helen Karpinski Recording & Transcript
Listen to the interview as you read along.
- INTERVIEWEE: Helen Bernice Karpinski
- INTERVIEWER: Jeanette Tuve
- DATE: April 8, 1986
- PROGRAM LENGTH: 104:57 min.
JT: Mrs. Karpinski, what was your maiden name?
HK: Helen Bernice Olszewski.
JT: Thank you. Where were you born?
HK: I was born on October 7, 1899 in Cleveland, Ohio.
JT: What part of Cleveland?
HK: It was Marselina Avenue at that time, but now it's East 71st Street, and I was baptized at the Sacred Heart Church on 71st Street.
JT: Where were your parents born?
HK: They were born in Poland, and my mother was born in a little village where her parents had a business; it was called an inn and her name was Ann Grabowski; then she married my father John Olszewski. He was from a family that had a lot of land. They were landowners and he Worked on the land in Poland.
JT: When did your father come to this country?
HK: In the late 1890's. It was maybe, could be, maybe in the late 1880's.
JT: And why did he come?
HK: Well they were married and he was going to be drafted into the war and you know at that time Poland was divided into three parts and where my folks lived was under Russian rule, and of course if you were drafted you were drafted into the Russian army and that is one thing he didn't want. And, his two older brothers also came for the same reason. They came here to Cleveland to avoid being drafted into the Russian army.
JT: Why did he come to Cleveland especially? Because his older brothers were here?
HK: Were here and they had a business here. My mother came too, with one child at that time. My oldest sister was born in Poland.
JT: Did they plan to stay permanently in this country?
HK: Oh yes, yes. We lived in Cleveland, and at the age of 4 or 5 we moved to Reynoldsville,Pennsylvania, where I really grew up.
JT: Why did they move to Reynoldsville?
HK: We have very close relatives there and my uncle sold the business, so father thought that instead of looking for a job here, he thought, maybe he could do better in Pennsylvania with my cousins because they promised him a job. So we moved there and Dad was a foreman in the Wishaw Mines. There was a little city called Wishaw. He was the foreman of the Wishaw Mines.
JT: Did your family come back to Cleveland, then?
HK: Oh yes. Well, no. I was there until 16. We lived there until I was 16 and I went to school there. And then we came, then I …the girls…my sisters, three sisters. Two sisters and myself came first and then my family followed us.
JT: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
HK: I had 6 brothers and there were 5 girls. My mother had 14 children. She raised 11, and out of the 11 she raised I was the fifth one. And so, we had a large family.
JT: What languages were spoken in your parents' home?
HK: It was Polish and my mother taught us Polish and of course we spoke English, too.
JT: What were some of the other Polish traditions in your parents' home when you were a child?
HK: Well, of course you know we always honored—being a Roman Catholic—we always honored the Roman Catholic Church holy days and, of course, the great celebrations were at Easter and Christmas. Those were our great celebration days because we honored the Church holy days. And at Christmas time, having so many brothers, they would go out and cut our tree for Christmas and it was a large tree. Having 11 children we had to have a big home and so we had a very large room to put the Christmas tree in. Those are the days that we always celebrated. And Christmas Eve, Mother, with her beautiful dinners, had her table set with fish, because that was the holiday food and her pastry, and of course you know my mother was an extraordinary person. I don't know whether we can find one like her now. Because, having so many children,she also had a cow, chickens, hogs, and ducks, and she sewed for the children too. So, at Christmas time we would have the fish and, you know, we had soup.Mother used to make what we called beet soup and what is called Borscht in Polish. But Mother made it extraordinary because she would sift the soup from all the containers she had put in before and just serve it with potatoes and it was an excellent soup for Christmas Eve and she would have this table set up with all this homemade food. She was a great baker with the babka, you know. It's coffee cake made with raisins. And, you know, raising chickens,she had about 8 or 10 eggs in it, so it was a delicious coffee cake. Babka we called it. And she preserved so many different types of fruit so we would have fruit too. So that would be on Christmas Eve.
JT: Did you exchange gifts on Christmas Eve?
HK: No, we waited for Christmas. After the children all went to bed, Mother saw that each child had one little gift. And we would trim the tree with oranges and popcorn. We would thread the popcorn and make the paper into little paper ornaments to hang on the tree, because it was such a large tree. And there were apples. Because we had apples and a good many of them. So that's what was the trimming of the tree. But the gifts were all laid so that Christmas morning when we got up the first thing we would do, is Mother would dress us to go to church. That's the first thing, our obligation. Then when we would come from church, the Polish families, they would divide an oplatek. An oplatek is a wafer, a really fine wafer that each child and mother would break while they would wish each other Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year. And then on Christmas Day she would have ham, because she would butcher a hog. She'd have ham and Polish sausage. You didn't eat meat on Christmas Eve. We would have all that on Christmas Day dinner. So there again was this beautiful table she would set and with all these different things on it. The Polish sausage is Kielbasa, you know we call it. It's homemade and it's delicious. And so we would have that and we again had different pastry that Mother would bake such as bread and we'd have the homemade butter. Mother used to churn her own butter, you know,because she had a cow, and so we would have a great table set for Christmas dinner.
JT: Your mother was a busy person. And Easter was another?
HK: Yes, Easter was another holiday that we greatly celebrated. And Mother, at Christmas, she would dress us up. Christmas day she would see that each one had a new outfit. First thing we got up we'd dress in our new outfit and go to church. Then when we came back she would have duck that day and the ham and the sausage and all the beautiful pastry again. You know, there would be chrusciki. They're called angel wings, you know, they are delicate and break easily. But Mother made them and she also made paczki, which is like a jelly doughnut but in them Mother would put prune preserves in it and powdered sugar on top,and she'd make them the day before. And I will never forget how she would line them on the ironing board, you know, so they'd raise. And then she would, she would bake them and they were delicious and she would have them ready for Christmas dinner. So all this different pastry would be there. You had your choice of whatever you wanted. It was just a grand table to come to.
JT: I would think so. Were there any other holidays that were special?
HK: Those were the special ones that…The American holidays we, you know, the Fourth of July, we always celebrated all the other holidays too.
JT: Did you celebrate May 5th?
HK: I think it's May 1st, isn't it? The Polish..
HK: Yes, we would…there would be some activities in somebody's home on that day. Yes.
JT: What were some of the others? Easter was a long holiday wasn't it?
HK: Yes. You know, Easter, when I think about it, and I recall Easter Monday. Easter was the lovely day to celebrate and Easter Monday was called Dingus Day. And that was the day boys would get little switches and when they would see the girls pass by they would hit them on the legs. And, of course, we would start running because we thought that was fun, you know. It was all a tradition that they had. But the surprising thing was that there'd be a group of boys and we'd think that they're waiting for us to get close to them, but we couldn't see the switches. And here they were all small. They were sitting on them and the minute we got up to them, out would come the switches and of course we al ran. And that was the fun. They would always catch up to us and give us a little switch on the legs, you know. That was Easter Monday. But Easter Tuesday, it was reversed now; the women's day it was. So each woman was allowed to sprinkle water on the men. And I recall this one time my cousin came in and my father was just having his breakfast, and she sprinkled some water on him and it was a great sprinkle of water and he was so furious because while he was eating she sprinkled this water on him. But she says, "Well, I wish you a happy year, a hug and a good holiday." Because that was included into the Easter holidays. But those were some of the fun days after Easter celebration.
JT: That's interesting. Were you in any group singing?
HK: Oh yes. You know they had a Polish fraternal organization in Cleveland and in Reynoldsville,and and they would get the girls who had pretty good voices and they would teach us how to sing Polish. And our manager was very good, and we sang in Polish when these groups used to have a celebration, we would go out and sing for them. I don't know how good it was, but they would say it was lovely: so that's why we would go to the little surrounding towns too, this manager took us. My sister and I both were in the singing group and we thought we were excellent singers. But we learned a lot of Polish songs that way too.
JT: Was there any traditional dancing? Or dramatics?
HK: Well you know, in these little towns, what is there to see? You have to make up your own parties. So the Polish group would volunteer. Somebody that had a big home would volunteer their home and these…the Polish…the parties would come in and they would hire a musician and he would play and they would dance and have refreshments at the same time. So we, having so many children, had a big home, would let them have our home to come and have this celebration. That was just an entertainment that they organized themselves, you know, and one of my cousins, my first cousin, she was the belle always of this dance because she loved to dance and you know they would dance the Polish waltz, it would be a lovely Polish waltz, and of course the polka and the mazurka. And then she'd put on this tango and she always led the procession. She would howl and she would turn around and we youngsters thought that was grand, but we could never dance on the floor with them. We'd have to go to a corner. And we'd be dancing. There were so many of us, we'd be dancing there in the corner and that's how we learned to dance some of the Polish dances. But, now when I'm speaking about my cousin—she was just the leader of the dances. She knew how to dance and there were quite a few single Polish men that came from Poland that knew some of these dances. So you see we had a real good dancing team there. So that was very enjoyable too. We would try to have it about twice a year in different home in Reynoldsville.
JT: Did you have a national costume?
HK: No. We never had one. Not until I came to Cleveland.
JT: Did your mother have one?
HK: No, she never had it. You know, she was raising children, she couldn't afford them, see.
JT: It sounds as if you had a very happy childhood.
HK: It was.
JT: As your brothers and sisters grew up, do you think that your sisters retained more of the Polish traditions than your brothers? Or is it about the same?
HK: Well, we were both brought up the same way, and they all…we all followed the traditions. First my mother taught us and to this day it's followed. You know that's a long time. You know I was born in 1899. So those years… but still we make the Kielbasa, the Polish sausage because there's nothing better than to make something yourself. You see my mother taught us that. In fact, I have my mother's machine that she used to make the Polish sausage. You know we grind it. Of course, you know, when I make Polish sausage I have my daughters helping me and my grandson helps me, and you see that goes on down. They like it. In order to have to…be able to get some, they have to learn how to make it. So my grandson knows how to make it too.
JT: Well, we'll get back to that.
JT: As a young girl you went then to church in Reynoldsville and then you came to Cleveland when you were 16?
JT: Were you active in the church as children?
HK: Yes. I was in a play. You see I went to St. Mary's School and I was in a play in St. Mary's School. Every holiday the Sisters would have a play of some sort and I happened to be in it quite often, and my brothers too. My brother..my one brother Johnny had a beautiful voice so they…he was always in the singing and I was in the singing with the girls.
JT: Was that in Polish or English?
HK: No. That was in English. We only had one Catholic church and all nationalities went to that. See, the Polish songs were from the Polish fraternal organization.
JT: Can you tell me about your education? You went to St. Mary's High School?
HK: No. I went to St. Mary's grammar school and then I went to Reynoldsville High School. And then during vacation when I was 14 I used to work in a silk mill. I went to…we worked in a silk mill. There was one silk mill in Reynoldsville and that's where I worked.
JT: What sort of work did you do in the silk mill?
HK: Well, I…each one would have what they called a loom. It was an electric machine and you had to watch it because you had t o thread a sort of a instrument you had to put thread in it and it would run through the other material and it would make silk. See, so there I operated one of those looms to make silk.
JT: Interesting. Did they employ many young women?
HK: Yes, yes they did. And they started off at 14. You had to be 14 to work there and then a lot of women went back there and worked on these looms to make…the silk was beautiful. Because it was a long run of silk and you had different colors when you makemade them. But the hours were terrible. The hours…you had to be there at 6:30 until 6:00 at night.
HK: And that was before the…
JT: Now this would be around 1915, "'14; World War I?
HK: That was World War I, that's right…that was just…yes… See then, that's when the silk mill closed and we came to Cleveland at 16. But that was the first job I had.
JT: That's interesting. I don't know about silk mills. The hours were very long. Was the pay adequate?
HK: It was all piece work. The silk that came when you were finished you got paid for that piece. It would be a roll. A roll of silk.
JT: Was it a union shop?
HK: No. No.
JT: But there were women there who worked there all their lives?
HK: Oh yes, yes.
JT: Did very many men work there?
HK: Some men. And the men always were in charge of the machines in case something went wrong with the machines and the men would bring the material for the machine for us to weave, you see.
JT: I expect you didn't plan this to be your lifetime career?
HK: Oh no, I didn't. And especially the hours. But those were the hours and they were very long hours.
JT: And you came to Cleveland when you were 16. Did you work in Cleveland?
HK: Yes. I… the first job I got was with Joseph & Feiss. My sisters and I…they took the three of us and we worked at Joseph & Feiss at that time and later on I went…
JT: I've talked with several ladies that worked at Joseph & Feiss and it seems that they enjoyed it.
HK: Yes, I was at…first…when I first started they…there was a certain work they had me do, like cutting a little thing on the coat lapel and then they promoted me and made me a checker. Then I would check how many clothes…you see at Joseph & Feiss they gave you a bundle of…say coats, or whatever it was and then when you got through I had to check how much work. That was piece work too, there, see. How many coats you got through with. I would put it on a paper or card, you see, and send it to the office. So that's… I really got a promotion there.
JT: Those workers were unionized weren't they, at some time?
HK: Well, I don't think at that time they were. I really don't.
JT: How long did you work there?
HK: Well, it seemed like about a year and a half only, and then I went to the K.W. because they were doing automobile things. And I was…
JT: The K.W.?
HK: The K.W. Yes. It was the K.W. on East 30th there. It was called the K.W. Ignition and they were making little boxes for, I think it was for the automobile or was it for TV or radio, I don't know. But anyway it was…and we would…that was piece work too. See.
JT: Mostly young women working?
HK: Yes. And the men were always in charge though. The men were in charge and the women were doing the work But..then…so.. then from there I went to the Telephone Company. I worked at the Fairmont Exchange and I was very…and I liked it very much. And they promoted me. I was only there three months and they promoted me to supervisor. So I was very happy and I was there until 1924 when I got married. So after I got married I resigned.
JT: Would you have like to continue after you got married?
HK: Well, you know, yes I would have and they called me so many times to come back, but my daughter was born in 1925 so you see I had my hands full with my oldest daughter Gloria.
JT: Whom did you marry?
HK: I married John Karpinski that I had met at one of the ladies auxiliary's dances. And he'd just come back from winning a... he was what you called a pugilist. He was a boxer.
JT: Not a professional boxer?
HK: Yes, he was later, but not at that time. No at that time when I met him, and he was quite a show. Everybody went up to him, so they introduced me to him. But that was just when I met him at this dance. And later on we got together and we kept on going.
JT: Did he speak Polish?
HK: Yes he did. He spoke better than I did, because he went to Polish school here in Cleveland.
JT: So you spoke Polish together?
HK: At times. But it was always…Yeah
JT: Spoke Polish.
HK: Polish, yes.
JT: Did you go with other young men who weren't Polish? Did you ever think of marrying anyone who wasn't Polish?
HK: I never thought of that. I never thought of that at all. I went with different men, yes. Even when I was 16 I went with a young man and he wasn't Polish. But it's just the friends you meet at times that you to with them but that doesn't say you're going to marry them, you know, it's just friends we had.
JT: Did you have a Polish wedding?
HK: Well, I don't think you'd call it a Polish wedding, because it was more Americanized. But we had all our families and friends. It was a beautiful wedding, but it was…
JT: It was American, but it was at a Polish church, St. Casimir's.
HK: Yes. As the years grow, you go into the American tradition and do things the way you like.
JT: Where did you and your husband live after you were married?
HK: We lived right on 82nd first. Our first apartment was on 82nd right off Wade Park Avenue.
JT: Were there many other Polish families living there?
HK: No, no. We knew Mr. Dureen who owned it and he was a friend of the Karpinski family and so he had a vacant suite and he told John about it and that's where we lived. The first home we had.
JT: What was your husband's background in education?
HK: Well, he went to Spencer School here. And he, I really don't know very much. All I know is that he went to St. Casimir's and then he went to Spencer School. So that…
JT: What was his occupation?
HK: Well, he…when he was…You see, he was boxing most of the time and he went to Sweden.
HK: And, in fact the Cleveland Athletic Club sent him to Sweden and he won and in fact I got some trophies of his and silver that he won, the championship there, see. So, in his early years that's what he was doing. But after we got married he worked as a clerk in the County Surveyor's Office. John McWilliams was the County Engineer and that's where he worked.
JT: Was that a Civil Service job?
HK: It wasn't at that time, but it was later, yes. It was a civil service.
JT: Had he been active in politics?
HK: That entire family was when I married and they were so active in Democratic politics. See, they had a business. His family had a business on Sowinski Avenue, and a lot of people would come from Poland and would always land in Mr. Karpinski's, Father Karpinski's home, see, and he would keep them until they got a place to live or received a job. And he was quite active. Because when Newton D. Baker was, they tell me all this—when Newton D. Baker was a candidate for mayor he came in and made a speech in his business place. And they had a pool table in there and there was so many people there that he got on the pool table to make the speech. And they tell me that Mother Karpinski was furious to have a candidate come up and ruin her pool table. But those are some of the…we would laugh at that you know. But I suppose that Father Karpinski encouraged him or he would never have got on there. Because there were so many people…and men…there were men there, see. That's all men. And so you see.
JT: This was before women had the vote.
HK: Yes. Yes. And, I suppose maybe that's the reason Mother Karpinski was mad, because all men there taking over her home. But he was…so that's how I got into politics. Interested. And as the years went by. In fact, when I married John that's all I heard and they…I started…I worked the..They asked me to work in a booth, in a voting booth, you know. And that's where I started. And then, of course, they elected me Precinct Committeeman of the…it was in the 21st Ward. That was down on Superior. Then I was elected Ward Leader and so the years went by, and then they asked me to…when I was a precinct committeeman they asked me to join the 21st Ward Democratic Club, so I joined and was elected an officer later.
HK: And then I was elected a Ward Leader. So that…those years were going by so fast. And I was quite active in the ward and the committee asked me to run for Council. Well, I thought I'd be very fine in Council. And, in fact, I was the first woman ever nominated for Council in the City of Cleveland.
JT: What year was that?
HK: Isn't that funny? I don't remember the year.
HK: In the 40's. And, I happened to beat the incumbent that was in there; of course, I wasn't elected. But I was nominated, and after the nomination, of course, the men would always say what is one woman going to do with 30 men. They were afraid of me, you know. I don't know why, but so, I…that was an experience for me though. But, however, now the women after that had courage and ran and were elected.
JT: Were some of them friends of yours?
HK: Yes, oh yes. Mary Sotak said that…or even tells my daughters that it was my initiative to go in to Council, you know to be a candidate for council that encouraged her to go,but she was elected. But the times were changing you know and the women got their rights.
JT: What did you do beyond running for council?
HK: Well, I just took care of the three girls. They were all going to school.
JT: I read that Mayor Anthony Celebreeze gave you an award and appointed you to the Cleveland Civil Service Commission.
HK: That's right and I served as Chairman of the Civil Service Commission when the …in the years…yes, and he appointed me and I was Chairman of Civil Service and that was quite an experience for me. I liked that. But you see, my children were older already. The oldest was going to college so that I could do that; the youngest was in grade school.
JT: How long did you do that?
HK: I worked under Mayor Celebreeze and then Mayor Locher when Celebreeze went to Washington. When Mayor Locher came in he reappointed me. There were four years and I ended up with Locher and Locher appointed me for another four years. So really it was eight years I was at Civil Service and I liked that because so many things came up. Can I tell you about one incident?
JT: Please do.
HK: It is always in my mind. There was a young man who took the examination for a policeman and he came from a family of nine and he lived in one of the parts of Cleveland and he passed the examination. But you know they had a committee that would go out…a policeman that would go out and investigate his home. Well, the…when the investigators came back to the Civil Service their report was, "Oh, the home was so untidy. The children were running around barefooted." And I thought, me with 11 of us and this poor boy passed that hard examination and they didn't want to put him on the list. Well, that's one time a woman's heart was in for the boy because he was capable and he passed the examination and we put him on. So that was my…And I'll never forget. I felt so sorry because this boy, why should he pay for what that committee found in the home. You know that was his parents' home. But they thought you should…they just didn't want to … I was so happy that I could help one person, one person to the job that he wanted and he passed and he was put on the fireman…I think policeman roll, policeman roll. That was a policeman. Yes.
JT: That's a nice story. What were some of the early ballot issues that you worked on?
HK: Well, you see, being a ward leader….there was a woman ward leader in each ward, and I was elected chairman of the women ward leaders because on the ballot was going to be an issue to sell the Municipal Light Plant and , of course, the Democratic Party and the women were all against it, because some of the women lived in the district where they were using municipal light. So I organized the Democratic woman…the 31 Democratic women and each one in their ward went out to defeat the sale of the Municipal Light and we won. So you see those are…
JT: In the 30's.
HK: That was in the 30's you know. And that, and you know to this day—that was in the 30's and this is 86 and they still want to sell that municipal light plant. But we…I don't know, I think the people know we need competition and that was very fine. So we won that election.
JT: Were you ever active in politics outside of Cleveland?
JT: Did you ever go to a convention? Or anything like that?
HK: Oh yes. You know, when I was precinct committeeman, I believe that Bernice Pike, who was a suffragette and she was the head of the Democratic Women's Club. So she asked me to join the club. I did. Then later on she asked me to join the Federated Democratic Woman of Ohio. So I did too. I was interested in women's activities, and Elizabeth Gorman who was a parliamentarian, a teacher, an Ohio legislator, you know, and a very, very good friend of mine. Bessie and I were very good friends, and she was a brilliant, educated woman and she encouraged me and she was parliamentarian of the Federated Democratic Women of Ohio. So, I joined. And we used to go to meetings, and I used to meet these other women all over the state, and there were so many brilliant women through the state. You never know until you meet them in a group and each one tells their story and you see how brilliant they are. And so in 1967, was it, I received the Federation…I was elected president, I think it was in 1967, I was elected president of that Federation after serving on a lot of…you know you have to serve on a lot of committees and offices. The first job I had in the state federation was Chairman of Resolutions. Well, there were so many brilliant women coming in there. I accepted it because the president asked me to. I said, "Well, now, how am I going to get a good resolution to present to the state." Who do you suppose I selected to help me? Harry Payer. I don't know if you remember him. He was…
JT: How do you spell…
HK: P-A-Y-E-R. He was a treasurer under Franklin Roosevelt. President appointed him Secretary of the Treasury. See. And so I thought, "Oh well, he knows quite a bit." And he was so lovely to me. He helped me draw up these resolutions, and everybody at the Federation was so stunned that I offered such fine resolutions. He was Treasurer of the United States. His name was on the paper. On the dollar bills. And…but presenting this lovely resolution that Harry Payer helped me organize or write, was outstanding. And then I was Recording Secretary. And I think the hardest job of any office is Recording Secretary. And I suppose, like a dunce I accepted it. I was Recording Secretary, then I was elected vice president and then I was, in 1967, elected president of the State Federation. And you know, to me, that's quite an honor. You had to work your way up, but I did. And the women respected me and I was elected president. And you know under my presidency, I thought I had to do something that I'd always wanted and that was to have a woman on the state ticket. So knowing a very good friend of mine was the State Chairman, Pete O'Grady—I went to Pete and said, "I want a woman on the state ticket." Because I was already going to be president. I was vice president. And he said, "Helen, all right, I'll help you." But he says, "I'm going to tell you something. You have to select the woman." Well, I thought, "Well, I can do that." So I called a committee all over the state of Ohio. I appointed, when I was president, I appointed this committee and I told them to turn in names of women who would like to serve on the state ticket for an office…for an office in the state. Then we had several women. Then it came down to two only. So out of the two we selected Gertrude Donahey. And Gertrude, not only was she nominated but she was elected. But you know there was a trick in this too. Even after we got the name we had to see that she was presented into these different counties. You know there's 88 counties in Ohio. An so from each county there would be several delegates to come to the convention, so I made them a committee of one...
HK: ... and said now when you go back to the county and if there's no one representing Gertrude Donahey, no matter what meeting it is, I said, you get up and just say 5 or 6 words and just say that you're here representing Gertrude Donahey, not to forget Gertrude for Treasurer. And that went all over the State of Ohio. Each woman…Do you know that later on women came back to me and said that that was the first speech they ever made in their life and one said she was so glad she did it because the following year she was elected to the Board of Education in her community. And then later another said she ran for council. They ran for different offices in their counties as a result of what they learned working in Gertrude's campaign. The candidates that ran for state office from the City of Cleveland would come back to me and would say, "Helen, every place I go a woman gets up for Gertrude Donahey." But that was the …God must have given me that initiative and the insight to know that you have to get into the counties. The women in the convention meet twice a year from all of the 88 counties. So I thought, "Why don't they all take part?"
HK: So really, Gertrude was presented..and..she was presented by the Federation. The whole Federation. You had to work that out you know. You had to present it to the Federation for them to accept her and that's how we…because we don't endorse candidates in the nominations, see, because there are always so many candidates in the primaries. But when it came to Gertrude, she was a member of the Federation, so we presented her and that's how we got away with it and got her elected. But after she served for 12 years, then we had a new woman treasurer, Mary Ellen Withrow. And I was co-chairman of her Cuyahoga County campaign for her, and that same tradition went on for Withrow, Mary Ellen Withrow. These women were already some of them possibly older women, but there were still younger women coming in that took over this through the 88 counties and she was elected and she is now State Treasurer.
JT: That's interesting. Did you know Judge Florence Allen?
HK: Yes, I knew her.
JT: Well, you know her campaign for the Supreme Court in 1922 was mostly done by women and women apparently voted for her and elected her.
HK: Yes. Yes.
JT: Anything else about politics?
HK: Conventions. Yes. You know. Of course, you know, in 1932 I was quite active in the Democratic Party; I was a delegate to the Roosevelt Convention and that was a thrill for me because I never attended one of those national conventions. So, as the years go by. It would take too long to go on…but I just want to say that I was able to go to Roosevelt's. I was a delegate. I was a delegate-at-large. I was an alternate several times. Truman, I loved Truman.I thought he was a family man. That's my impression about Truman. And of course I've been to ones that've lost, like Stevenson. I thought he was a very educated man..I went to his, Truman and then Johnson. I liked Johnson too very much. And of course we all idolized John Kennedy. We thought he was grand. And do you know that I went to a pre-convention to select a candidate for president after Johnson, and at this convention—it was in Tennessee—and some man come up to us from Cleveland and he's introducing himself, and he says "I'm Jimmy Carter." And he spoke to us informally, and I thought that was so lovely of him to come up to us and you know, what he said, what he was telling us and he said, you know, "I'm going to be a nominee." After he left we all looked at each other; never heard of him, never saw him. And I came home and I said, "He's going to be the next president." And my grandson repeats my early prediction. I just got that impression. Because if he went to these Cleveland women, well…Ohio women…and gave his story, I said, "he evidently meant to woo the women too." Because there was something about Jimmy Carter that you had to like.
JT: Yes. He was an honest man.
HK: Well, that's just..then he came up to us…he wanted to know us—in fact, I've got a picture taken with him—and he, you know it was my thought…and of course you know I was to Jimmy's, Jimmy Carter's convention. The best one, I want you to know, was the last one. The Mondale—and to have a woman as vice president. I thought that convention would burst. It was so unanimous—glad, because there were so many women at this convention. You see, now there's a rule. You've got to have as many women as men, so that's where the women come in, and in certain states if they go over sometimes there is one more woman than a man because they divide them up. And I was so happy because there were so many women that took over that convention when Geraldine Ferraro was nominated. That was a pleasant thought. To me it was the grandest thing that could have happened that we had a woman nominated for vice president.
JT: Do you think it will happen again?
HK: I think so. I think so. I really think somebody would say to me, "Why not president, Helen?" I'd say, "let's get a woman first." I'd say "Let's get a woman vice president first." I think so. I think that..I'm going to tell you, I really think that a woman would…isn't for wars. She'd want to settle with peace and settle it the best way she could to have peace in this world. And I think it takes a woman to do it. I really do. Oh yeah, I forgot…I even went to Muskie's. And you know, to me Muskie was outstanding because he was of Polish descent. His name was changed, you know. His father changed the name, so he went by the name the father had changed, but he was of Polish descent and he was a wonderful man too, but he lost. That was another convention I was able to go to. So really…but then on top of all this in 1980 the State Chairman appointed me to the Democratic National Committee. You know that's in Washington, where the delegate…you have to be a delegate to go to DNC meetings. And there I met and learned so many things because you meet people from all over the 50 states and it was quite an experience for me and I served until 1985. That was another educational experience for me.
JT: That's a wonderful record. Anything else about politics?
HK: Well, it…I tell you, I say, because I'm growing older this is the last thing I'm going to do. This is the last thing I'm going to do. But somehow somebody comes along, and "oh, all right." So I belong to the Women's…and I'm one of the oganizers of the Women's Cosmopolitan Democratic League. And so…
JT: That's a county organization?
HK: That's a county organization, too. So they wanted to hold something outstanding. Well, somebody had to chair it, you know, take over the chairmanship. So I said, "This is the last thing I'm going to do." So I'm trying to keep my word. So this was when we honored four women of Ohio. And you know, Mary Rose Oakar is our…one of our congresswomen, but in Toledo they have lovely Marcy Kaptur. Marcy Kaptur is the congresswoman in Toledo.
HK: Yes. And a brilliant woman. A young, educated woman and she's of Polish descent too, you know, and she still lives in the same ethnic neighborhood in Toledo. So we thought we'd put these four women in. And you know, now that we're in the unions you know, one of our women who is of Polish descent was elected vice president of..vice president down in Washington, of the Communication Workers. And you know to have a woman as a national vice president in a union is quite a thrill. And she's a personal friend of mine. The fourth woman was Mary Ellen Withrow.
HK: So you see, we thought we'd all agree to recognize all the state and national women from Ohio and give them a little donation for coming and give them this recognition. So that was my last project that I…
JT: That's nice. That's a nice one. I read that you got an award in 1965 for community service from the Baptist Ministers' Association.
HK: Oh yes. You know, you know, I received an award before that. I received recognition because Mayor Celebreeze appointed me on the Civil Service and at that time I was the past president of the Cosmo Women's League and they honored me there because of the appointment. Then after that I received a recognition from the Baptist Ministers for the community service that I had donated. So I go down the line.
JT: Is this a good time to shift over to the American Polish Women's Club?
HK: I was going to tell you the awards. In 1965; oh, in 1974, yes, in 1974 I was honored… In 1974, after serving as president, the Federated Democratic Woman of Ohio honored me as the Ohio Woman of the Year.
JT: How nice.
HK: And I have a trophy there that they gave me. So, I was thrilled with that. Sometimes you think after you leave the presidency everybody forgets you, but they didn't. Where was I?
HK: 1982 was The American Polish Women's Club. They honored me at a recep…We have a dinner and for the work that I have done in the past years for The American Polish Women's Club. Then in 80, the following year I was honored…What was that in '83 I had done? Oh, yeah. The Ohio Women's Hall of Fame. I have a recognition plaque from them for being a political organizer through the years…for so many years a political organizer. So the Women's Hall of Fame, The Ohio Women's Hall of Fame gave me a trophy for that . Then, in '84 was it? The Ohio Polonia Foundation recognized me for the work I have done for the Polish groups and for the community. That was quite a thrill because that's an organization that awards all their funds for education. And I love that. And I told them I loved it. And they were very…they knew I was interested in education because of my daughters. And they gave five awards. A Schmidt award is for a physician. Different awards they give. That's a worthwhile foundation. I admire the work they do.
JT: You must have been proud to win that.
HK: Oh, I was. Then on top of that. Not only receiving that award, but I want to tell you I was installed at the Knights of Pulaski. You know Casimir Pulaski was a general in the Revolutionary War and he died in Savannah, Georgia, although he came from Poland to fight for the Revolutionary War. So, they knighted me a Knight of Pulaski, you know. And that was so special because I… They had a sword there. Father Chalwert had the sword and I had to come over, and they knighted me as a Knight of Pulaski. That was sort of surprise to me. I had to smile when I saw this sword, you know. He said something that women were never knights.
JT: They're Ladies.
HK: That's what he said. But, he said we had to appoint you as a Knight of Pulaski see. So, that was a very…that was a thrilling appointment too. I cherish those things.
JT: Yes, a remarkable record of awards. I'm sure every one was deserved.
HK: You know I skipped one thing and I treasure that. I hate I'm keeping you so long. But, I treasure this because under DiSalle…
JT: Governor DiSalle?
HK: Governor DiSalle, Mike DiSalle, yeah. I was awarded…I was appointed to the Electoral College…
JT: The Electoral College of Ohio?
HK: Of Ohio, yes. And, I have the book here with…See this is the entire Electoral Committee from Ohio that went. Coleman was our State Chairman there. 1964 isn't it?
HK: 1964, and then of course I was put on the committee. I was on some committee on the rules and ways. Is that it? Does that make…? There. I was appointed to the Electoral College. That was quite a thrill too, you know.
JT: I should think so.
HK: Those were also educational fields. Maybe it was politics. But, that's our country, you know. I was so happy that the Governor had selected me and I was put on this committee.
JT: Well, the Electoral College is a very important link in our democracy.
JT: Well, perhaps we could turn then to the American Polish Women's Club.
JT: And, I know that you've been very active in that. And as I understand the Club is a part of the Federation of Women's Clubs and it does a great deal of volunteer work and community service and preserves the Polish traditions.
HK: Yes, it does. It's also affiliated with Catholic…No, not the Catholic…The National Council of Catholic Women. So, those are the two organizations we're affiliated with.
JT: When did you join and how did you get involved?
HK: You know, in 1924 I was married and my sister-in-law was married to a Dr. Rosinski at that time. She was one of the founders of the American Polish Women's Club. This was just a group of women organized in 1922 to form this American Polish Women's Club. And, you know their purpose was to preserve the Polish traditions and customs. But, as the years go by they organized to work and raised funds in the community for the things that are needed in the community. So, in 1924 I was married and I joined that club in 1924. So, the years go by and there were so many things that they were doing and I liked the purpose of it. And, so for one example, just last month The American Polish Women's Club held a party…a large party in the Alliance of Poles Hall for the proceeds to go to the restoration of the St. Stanislaus Church because that's an historical site now and needs repairs. So, they held this party and they gave a check for $1,000 to the pastor of St. Stanislaus for restoration. Last year we gave a donation to St. John's Cathedral for restoration there. Then several years ago, we purchased two electric machines that are page turners. If anybody is ill and they can't hold a book and they can't turn the pages they can use this electric machine. It will do the work for them. We donated it to the Cleveland Public Library because they're the one who said they need them. They only had one and if the one was gone nobody else could use it. So we purchased one and then another. Two at the same…no, one at the same time but, twice we gave them. Through the years we've done exceptional good service for the community. Oh, when I was appointed by Mayor Celebreeze to the Civil Service Commission…when I became Chairman I had to give…they had to give an oath about the truth of whatever their remarks were, the story they were going to tell us. They had to take an oath and give us the truth. and there was no flag in the Civil Service Room.
HK: So, I went to The American Polish Women's Club and I asked them for one. They agreed.They go a beautiful silk flag and under it say, "Donated from The American Polish Women's Club". Mayor Locher was mayor at that time. So, he came in and I have pictures with Mayor Locher and this entire big committee coming down to present the flag to the Mayor of the City of Cleveland for the use in the Civil Service Room. If these women know what they want to do, they'll go out and do it. And, that's what I like about The American Polish Women.
JT: Good. Then, their volunteer work and community service is mostly local. Do they do anything for Poland?
HK: Yes. Then I must tell you when I became president of The American Polish Women's Club, that was in '71, 1971.
JT: The History says from '41 to '43 you were president.
HK: That's right. That's it. You know I'm getting the years mixed up. That was when the second world war was. So, the first thing I did was to organize a committee to sell war bonds because that was the procedure at that time. Sure enough, we'd go down to Taylor's Department Store. They had this big window and the volunteers came in and we just got it for one week there. We sold war bonds. It was very successful. In the meantime, later on, we also sold in the Polish neighborhood, we sold war bonds. Then, the women volunteered…I got a committee to volunteer to go down to St. John's Cathedral canteen. We had a canteen down there. And you know one day we selected as Polish day. We bought all the dinners for the soldiers and sailors who were to come in. The Bishop came in and he thanked us. Oh, it was so lovely. These women were just glad to do these things for our country, you know. Later on we sent pastry down there…homemade pastry…to the canteen. Also there was a canteen in the terminal tower. That was a permanent one. They were always calling for cookies, so the women would volunteer to bake for them too. We did our share in baking. But, at the same time, when we were doing these things we had to get a group of volunteers from The American Polish Women's Club to go down to the Polish Hall and fill in the baskets or bundles of clothes and things to eat, and canned goods to be shipped to Poland. Because at that time Poland was bombed and especially a part of Warsaw that I saw in later years when I visited. Still some of the sections show the bombing. But, they would send it to the children and the people that needed it so bad. There were many packages we would send out…of clothes because they needed everything.
HK: Medicine, oh yes, medicine was one of the main things they needed so much there. We would pack these packages and send them on to Poland.
JT: What were some of your other accomplishments as president of the Club?
HK: You see, I was only in there two years and the war bonds, the canteens really occurred during my term. I think…that I can recall…it took all my time because that was the war year. But after the war years then we started again. You know, before the war we would have the members of The American Polish Women's Club give their homes for card parties in order to raise funds so that we could order a bust of a woman in the Polish Gardens. Madame Sklodowska Curie, who won a Nobel Prize, was our woman. So we thought that would be the bust that we wanted. After the world war we started…resumed having these card parties again. That's how we made the money to..well extra money to raise this bust. We did get a sculptor. In fact, I have the sculptor's picture. We presented it to the City of Cleveland. Mayor Burke was mayor then. He accepted it. The women were quite honored we would be able to select a bronze bust of Madam Sklodowska Curie. So those were…
JT: You're still very active in the Club?
HK: I've been active for a great many years. Now there are other committees in the cultural… Yes I'm still active up until…this will be…they'll be celebrating their 65th anniversary. I've been in there since 1924. But, I did want to tell you about…I'm also active in the cultural gardens. The Cleveland Cultural Gardens is a federation of the cultural gardens and that's where we presented the bust. But this has been going on since the first world war. Because the City gave them this parcel of land on East Boulevard, and the Polish Garden is the first one on St. Clair and East Boulevard. I was an officer on the Cleveland Cultural Garden Federation. For the past ten years I've been Treasurer of the Cultural Gardens. I don't know why I take these offices, but I just seem to want to keep on going working in them. We're trying to restore the gardens to their former position because so much damage has been done. However, we'll get it done.
JT: Do your daughters belong to the American Polish Women's Club?
HK: Indeed they do…three of them. I have three daughters. I should have told you when I was married.
JT: We'll get to that.
HK: Right, yes, and my daughters belong to the American Polish Women's Club and they work with the Cultural Gardens too…federation. They are quite active. My second daughter, who is an attorney, she spoke to the American Polish Women's Club on wills. They were quite interested in wills upon your death to get the undertaker somehow…they were quite interested in that. They wanted to be buried right and they wanted…she told us lots about the wills. Different wills that are made for different items.
JT: So they can make a donation in their wills to the Cultural Gardens, or?
HK: They didn't bring that up, just wills in general. So many women don't have wills.
JT: Oh, I see. Do you belong to any other women's organization?
HK: I belong to fraternal organizations. I belong to the Alliance of Poles. I belong to the woman's organization…the Alliance of Poles is men and women. But the women's organization is the Association of Polish Women. They have their own building on Broadway. But I also belong to the Polish Women Alliance of America. That has its headquarters in Chicago. I am a financial secretary of a group and my daughter is the president of the group and one is the treasurer of our group. It's divided into groups. We have group 88. And so I'm the financial secretary, the one who does the most work in the group. You have to collect the money and send it to Chicago. Those are the three fraternal organizations, and I belong to the Ladies of Columbia. I'm a paid up member there. That's a Catholic fraternal organization of Ohio, it's the Catholic Ladies of Columbia. So those are the fraternal organizations to which I belong. I did belong to the PTA when the girls were going to school and I belonged to the Notre Dame Guild when they were in Notre Dame Academy during the school years when the girls were going to school.
JT: Now, if we could go to your home. How many children did you have?
HK: I have jus the three girls. Gloria Joy, she's Battisti now. Mercedes Helen Spotts and Diane Karpinski. She's married now, just got married to Peter Levitsky. She's going to continue under Karpinski because of her profession.
HK: Diane Karpinski because of her profession.
JT: In your home when your children were little, did you speak Polish?
HK: Well, we'd go to mother…Gloria knows more about speaking Polish than the rest of them do because my mother died later so she didn't have anybody to speak Polish to. When Diane used to go over to mother by that time she would speak English to us. But, when Gloria was born…so Gloria knows several words in Polish. She understands more than she could speak. The younger understand a little bit…not as much as Gloria. But Diane went to a Polish class at Cleveland State for a very brief period, and she can sound out words she reads.
JT: Did you continue the singing?
HK: No, you get busy in other work and you don't continue singing.
JT: What Polish traditions did you continue in your home when your daughters were young?
HK: Well, we still do. We all come here to my home and we…at Christmas time we break the oplatek, the wafer. We greet each other, share it with each other. Then we…at Christmas and Easter we all help make the homemade sausage, the kielbasa. At Easter I still greet each person, starting with the youngest, with minced boiled eggs. We kiss and each takes a piece and gives the season's greetings. Those are some of the things I learned from my mother. The girls…we always have the celebrations of the holy days of the church. We always celebrate the holy days of our Roman Catholic Church. We have dinners here and breakfast on Sunday after church.
JT: Any other traditions that you continued in your home when your children were little?
HK: Yes, they have costumes…Polish costumes.
JT: Oh, do they?
HK: Oh yes they have.
JT: Did you make them?
HK: Oh no, we got them from Poland. They have the costumes. They follow the same tradition but it's sort of Americanized now too.
JT: Were they in any dramas or plays or anything like that?
HK: When they were in Notre Dame Academy they were. They were quite musical. They used to play at St. Thomas's. When they would have a recital they were pianists. So, they would play in the recital. Those were…
JT: That wasn't Polish.
HK: No, that wasn't Polish, no.
JT: We expect Polish people to be musical. It's the only country I know that ever had a musician for a president.
HK: Oh yes, Paderewski. Diane is still a good pianist. She loves music. And we all hop to a polka when we hear polka music. Gloria or Diane or Mercedes may just suddenly twirl me through the living room.
JT: Where did your girls go to elementary school?
HK: They went to St. Thomas Aquinas. And then they went to Notre Dame Academy. Gloria and Mercedes are graduates of Notre Dame College also, and Diane, she went to Ohio State.
JT: And then law school.
HK: An then, of course they went to Cleveland State for law. Gloria went for her Masters at Loyola University in Sociology. Mercedes received a Masters in Public Administration at CSU. And Diane received an M.A. in English from O.S.U. Diane and Mercedes both have degrees from Cleveland State Law School.
JT: Are you still active in the church?
HK: Oh, not as much as I used to. I support it. But, I'm getting older now.
JT: How about your daughters?
HK: They are busy with …you know, it's surprising. They're home was in St. Thomas's and the one girl still…Mercedes still keeps in contact with St. Thomas. They go to these… they still have sort of a reunion. They keep up with that, Gloria goes down to Notre Dame reunions.
JT: How about…you have one grandchild?
HK: I have two grandchildren. I have two boys. They're Mercedes' boys. One is an attorney and he just got promoted to a position and he had to go to Chicago. So he's in Chicago practicing law.
HK: He's in maritime law and he's a graduate of The United State Merchant Marine Academy. He's practicing law there now. He knows how to make kielbasa. He said, "Grandma I want to learn."
JT: Did your daughters all marry within the Polish community?
HK: In the Polish community?
JT: Did they marry Poles?
HK: No, no, no, none of them.
JT: None of them, okay. Well, you say your grandson makes kielbasa, how about the daughters did they do any cooking?
HK: Well, they still have me. They come over and help me.
JT: But I'm sure they can carry on then and do it themselves. Do you read any Polish magazines?
HK: No, I don't. I'm not that good in Polish. I can speak Polish. I receive Polish magazines. They are half English and half Polish now. So…my mother, she was an extraordinary person.
JT: She sounds like it.
HK: After putting her children to sleep and after sewing in the evening for them she would want to read. She was a great reader and we would get her books from the 79th library because they had Polish books there and she loved Polish books. She read quite a bit and informed us of a lot of things.
JT: How about your husband, did he read Polish books and papers?
HK: Well, he could, he could but he never…over the years he didn't.
JT: Your husband has been dead some time?
HK: Yes, since 1956. Thirty years ago.
JT: Do you correspond with anyone who lives in Poland?
HK: In Poland? Yes, oh yes. My two uncles that I spoke about, later on…see they went to Chicago when they sold the business. They went to Chicago, they never married and they went to Chicago and purchased a lot of machinery from McCormick's Harvest Machinery. They had a big plantation... I don't know if you'd call it a plantation but it's a lot of farm land. He had all this new equipment, the two of them, sent to Poland so they would have all this machinery there. Well that's when the first world war broke out. So, the machinery was all taken by the Germans One of the uncles died but the other one was living. So what does he do? He gets himself a wife and he has one son. So, he is our cousin and we went to visit him. Now I have a cousin and he has children. One—Wanda—visited us a few years ago. Gloria and I visited Poland about four years ago. It was surprising because my cousin resembles our family. We found the church that my mother and father were married in and do you know that we went to an office to get their marriage certificate. And, we have that and she was married at 17 and dad was twenty-two. We have all that information. The little church, it's so nice that it's still standing there. It's made of wood. It's interesting to see mother's home and father's home. But those are just some of the things that we visited.
JT: How do you feel about the American policy towards Poland? Are you in agreement with what our government does as far as Poland is concerned?
HK: Well, they need help. I don't think they're getting any at all. You know, they're under Russian rule and it's hard... it's hard for the people to do anything. They are tired of fighting…getting bombed over there on the same night my folks. Can I tell you this? My cousin... my one cousin…she…they came in and they took her. They took her husband first during the Nazi war. Then they came in and took her. But, they just…she said they just come in and take you and you never see each other again anymore. She said they put her in…they took her to Germany and they put her in some plant to work. She came back and she said, "What is there here to live for?" Poland is either young children or old. The in-between are all gone. You have to wait until the new generation comes in. It's sad, it's sad what these wars do to you.
JT: Did you visit any of the historical sites in Poland?
HK: Do you know…yes, yes, we went to Warsaw. But, the building…these people have gone through a lot and still they contribute and build…rebuild. Like Stare Miasto it's called…Old Town. It's bombarded and it's all built up.
JT: And they built it as a replica of the old?
HK: Yes, you heard that. While we're talking about Poland, Gloria and I, we were in Rome. We went to the elevation of one of our Cleveland Polish boys.
HK: He was auxiliary Bishop John Krol and he was elevated to Archbishop…Cardinal. He went to Cardinal and he is now stations in Philadelphia. He was elevated to Cardinal. While in Rome, you know, it's surprising what memories you have after years and years after school. Do you know that I knew the name of the river that ran in Rome. And then, the catacombs…I read all about them in ancient history. The Coliseum…you know you see these things that you read about…to me it's so surprising that one can remember so far back. Sometimes I repeat to the girls the poems…we used to learn so many poems.
JT: You were talking about Barbara Fritchie.
HK: Barbara Fritchie, the poem goes "On a cool September morn" and goes on to tell about the army coming through and Barbara puts out the American Flag and the general said, "Who touches a hair of yon gray head dies like a dog, march on, he said". There are a lot of poems like that. I liked that poem and so I repeat it to them…what I could remember, but I did know the whole entire poem. The poems, they taught us poems, you know, like Abou Ben Adam…
JT: May his tribe increase…
HK: Yes, you see we had to memorize all those poems. The one you like the best you can remember parts of it. That's what I was saying about Rome. So many, many things were coming to my memory about ancient history…I had geography too. I liked history and geography when I was in school.
JT: So did I.
HK: You did too?
JT: Do you listen to the Polish programs?
HK: Yes, I do. She's a good friend of mine; Mrs. Stolarczyk. She has this assistant there who's helping her now. He's co-anchor now. The attorney; the new councilman. His father is the…
JT: Oh, Rypka?
HK: Yeah, Rypka. He assists her now.
JT: What do you especially like about the program?
HK: Well, I like the music. I like the…there's a lot of the Polish music that I do like and I know.
JT: Do you like the newer Polish composers? The ones who do rock and roll?
HK: Yes, I've heard them both. They're nice. I like the woman that sings. It seems it's some string instrument she has.
JT: Do your daughters listen to the Polish programs?
HK: Once in a while.
JT: But not as much as you do?
JT: How about your grandsons?
HK: No, they're too busy to listen.
JT: That is the end of my questions. Gloria, do you have anything else to add?
HK: The Civil Service.
JT: You had some other employment after the Civil Service Commission?
HK: Yes, yes, I did. I first started work as a teller when the girls were going to college. I took a position because I had to help out. Schools were very expensive and I wanted them to get their education so I went to work and the first position I got was as a teller in the old Cleveland Trust. And then from a teller the judges at Common Pleas Court asked me to be a deputy on the Jury Commission. Then I was appointed by Mayor Celebreeze to the Civil Service. Then from the Civil Service I went to the Tax Revision. I was appointed by the County Commissioners to the Board of Tax Revision. That was very interesting because you learned about property.
HK: I feel so sorry for the people that live in certain industrial neighborhoods that were very old like down in the Sowinski neighborhood or on Fleet Avenue, those were old, old homes but they would remodel them a little bit and they had knowledge of how to remodel. They would take out one window and put in one big window and remodel or enclose a porch. They always were charged for that. To me I felt that was work done by the person that owned it. I thought it was unfair. I learned…it was an education to me. Somebody has to pay taxes and that's the way they taxed their homes.
JT: You retired in '77?
HK: Oh yeah, then I retired in "77. I was at age 77. I worked until 77. I was retired at that time.
JT: And all three of your daughters work?
HK: Yes, they work.
JT: They have careers?
HK: They have careers. But I taught them to work in the vacation too. They worked at Higbee's and the majority of them worked during their vacation time at Higbee's. Diane, though, she worked at Cleveland Trust in her vacation time. But, I... they went to school and they'd contribute to some of their…well, not too much to their education. But they did their expenses. It costs to buy new clothes and so they helped out on that. So that's the way we always would…
JT: They saved money too?
HK: Oh well, I taught them, to save money is right because that's very important…sometimes people don't value…youngsters don't value the money that it costs to get that certain dollar.
JT: You have a beautiful home here on Ludlow. Is this in the City of Cleveland? Or is it in S haker Heights?
HK: No, it's in the City of Cleveland. This is the end of the City of Cleveland but we're in the Shaker school district. This Shaker Square area is in the Shaker school district but we're in the City of Cleveland.
JT: How long have you lived here?
HK: We moved here in '55 and my husband died in '56. So we've been here over thirty years.
JT: You were an air raid warden?
HK: Oh yes. I must tell you the story on that. You know, every job I took…or was appointed to, I completed it. So I went up the street…up and down the street. The laws were that you were to have no light at this hour. So your blinds were supposed to be pulled down and no lights at all. In this one home I knew them very well because they were on my street and the light was on and I had to report it and they were my friends. So, I reported it. They came back and told me they went to their aunt on the West side and they had one of these turn-on lights that came on at a certain hour and that came on and there was nobody home. I knocked at the door and nobody answered. I was afraid they just didn't answer me. She said, "No, we went to my aunt's for dinner and we stayed longer.""That's why…we forgot about turning off that…" They knew about it but they forgot to turn it…
JT: What did you wear on your head?
HK: Oh, I wore one of these helmets. You know one of these…
JT: A hard hat?
HK: Yes, I had a hard hat and sort of a cane with you. The girls all laughed because I would put it on and I went up…they were older then you see. But those are some of the things that you had to do if you wanted to help out. I didn't want anybody to bomb 88th Street. Are we through now?
JT: We thank you for an excellent interview.
JT: When we talked about your girls you didn't mention that one of your daughters was a trustee at Cleveland State University.
HK: You know you hate to talk about your own family but when it comes to education and appointments, you're very proud that somebody else sees the education…the work that has been done. Now, Gloria…my oldest daughter, Gloria Joy…she's Battisti now, she was appointed to the Pardon and Parole Commission by Governor Mike DiSalle. Then, Governor…later in the years, Governor Gilligan appointed her as a Trustee of Cleveland State University where she had served as Chairman of t he Trustees. So, it makes one proud that somebody else sees the accomplishments of my daughters to help out in the community.
JT: Well, you should be proud of them.
HK: Yeah. What about Diane? Oh, I want to tell you about my second daughter too. Mercedes Spotts now. She's the president…Chairman of the Board for the Shelter…East Side Catholic Shelter. There's one on 93rd Street. She has taken the Chairmanship and that's a tremendous job. She also is very active in the Bar Association. She helps out on their conventions and dinners. And Diane, the youngest one now, she's with the Attorney General's Office; she helps out in the Bar Association and chairs the Young Lawyers Section. She's a past president of the Women's Cosmopolitan Democratic League and an officer in the Federated Democratic Women. She seems to be following in her mother's steps taking an interest in politics. In fact, all my daughters…it seems that we're one family. For example, Gloria chairs the Finance Committee of the Shelter Mercedes founded and Diane is its legal counsel. What I do they help me with and then they do it. Now Gloria, years ago when she was a young girl, she was also with the Young Democrats of America and she was a delegate to one of the conventions. That gave her an understanding of conventions, too. She's been a professor at Notre Dame College and she's done many things that I'm very proud of. She is extremely active in social agencies of the church, from top to bottom, serving food at the Hunger Center and chairing committees of the Diocesan federation of agencies. I raised all my daughters to believe in the "little" people. They joke about this, but they've all been raised to serve their community.