Growing Up on a Small Farm in Jefferson Township - A Visit with Woodrow Wilson Wolf
by Claudia Watson Copyright 1997
I interviewed Woodrow Wolf on a chilly February evening in 1997 at his home in New Lebanon, Ohio. Although Woodrow was 85 years old, he still worked part-time in a downtown Dayton parking facility. Born in 1912, he grew up in Jefferson Township in a landscape of neatly tended small farms owned by people who depended on the blessings of good weather and the productivity of the soil to provide the food and cash they needed to feed and clothe their families. The Wolf homestead was a subsistence farm. They raised corn, wheat, oats, hay, clover, strawberries, apples, and a variety of vegetables, as well as a few hogs. Their six acres of carefully cultivated Spanish tobacco served as a primary source of cash to buy those things that could not be produced on the farm.
The Happiest Part of My Life is Just Helping
by Claudia Watson Copyright 1996
Adelaide Hand was 102 years old when I interviewed her in September of 1996. What must it be like, I wondered, to look back on a century of memories? In 1894, when she began her life journey, horses and mules ruled the roads, their slow, plodding nature keeping daily life to a manageable pace. Through the years she watched as speeding automobiles gradually replaced four-footed transportation and paved roads and superhighways wound their smooth, gray ribbons across the landscape. She began a life of service to others while she was still a child, attending national events that spawned the Civil Rights movement and becoming acquainted with Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Dubois, Mary McLeod Bethune, and other famous black leaders of the day. She lived through two world wars – first, the war that was said to be “the war to end all wars” and then World War II, which brought human suffering to levels surpassing even that of the previous conflict.
“It was a time of sharing, a time of giving” - A Visit with Elinor Sluzas
by Claudia Watson Copyright 1990
I interviewed Elinor Sluzas at the Amber Rose restaurant, which she opened in a restored multi-story frame building on Valley Street in 1990. Formerly known as “Sig’s General Store,” it was built by Sigmund Ksiezopolski in 1912 and was for many years a social center for the Polish community. The Amber Rose is a destination restaurant. As Elinor said, “It’s not likely you’re going to be driving down Valley Street and say, “Oh, let’s go to the Amber Rose!” Its warm ambience reflected the personality of its owner. As we talked, music played softly in the background, diners communed contentedly over carefully prepared ethnic cuisine, and, occasionally, customers dropped by our table to say “hello” or to compliment Elinor on their special dining experience.
You Can If You Try - An interview with JoAnn Fritz
by Claudia Watson Copyright 1998
I interviewed Ms. JoAnn Fritz as part of a small oral history project I conducted in 1998 when she was sixty-six years old. Born in 1932 during the early years of the Great Depression, she, like many children, grew up largely unaware of her lack of material possessions and economic wellbeing. Although she faced numerous challenges throughout her life, her sense of humor and buoyant optimism served as powerful tools that made defeat unacceptable.