“That’s What Happens When You Fly Too High…”

Ruby Fessler was born in Chicago on September 16, 1937 to Rudi Fessler, an immigrant from Vienna, Austria, and Ida Beldy, an immigrant from Hungary.  Rudi worked for a trucking company.  Ida cared for their four children and was also a breeder of Shih Tzu poodles.  Ruby graduated from high school, but says she didn’t […]

July 16th, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

He Asked His Family to Find Him a Bride

Francisco Alvarez was born on September 8, 1913 in Cuba to Felipe Alvarez and Maria Acosta.  Felipe worked as a chef in Havana, and Maria cared for their nine children, of whom Francisco was the oldest.

Francisco was an extremely intelligent child and was able to attend a couple of years of high school before he […]

July 9th, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

The “Poison Powder”

Dariya Zelenko was born on September 1, 1914 in a small village in the Ukraine.  Not much is known about her early life except that her maiden name was Dariya Kozel and that her parents were farmers.  She apparently did not have any siblings and received little to no formal education at all, instead helping […]

July 2nd, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“Little But Mighty”

Minnie Conrad was born on November 2, 1905 in Florence, South Carolina to Irvin Julian Wentworth Lewis, who was of English descent, and Victoria Edmundson, who was of Swedish descent.  Irvin, it seems, was quite the Renaissance man and worked as a musician, a music teacher, a photographer and even a pharmacist at times, making […]

June 25th, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“Rats as Big as Cats!” and Other Stories from the Wonderfully Philosophic Oscar S. Cohen

Oscar S. Cohen was born on June 11, 1921 in New York City to David Cohen, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, and Gladys Feldt, a native New Yorker.  David worked as a shoe salesman, and Gladys cared for their two children: Oscar and Oliver.  Oscar describes his parents as extremely intelligent and remembers that his mother […]

June 18th, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“She Was Happiest With a Drink in Hand.”

Vlasta Di Stefano was born on January 21, 1910 in Chicago to Bela Hrabe and Lazar Dragic.  Bela was an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, and Lazar emigrated from Yugoslavia.  The two apparently met at Ellis Island and, though they initially went their separate ways, they wrote letters to each other for the next year or so.  […]

June 11th, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

Reunited . . . Christmas 1933

Hana Jezek was born on September 25, 1922 in Brezova, Czechoslovakia to Bartholomew Jezek and Irena Vedej.  Bartholomew was a soldier and was always on the move with the army.  It was in one of the little villages he traveled through that he met Irena and fell in love with her.  They eventually married and […]

June 4th, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“He Was Never The Same.”

Felix Dubicki was born on July 12, 1928 in Chicago to Izaak Dubicki and Anontia Grzeskiewicz, both immigrants from Poland.  It is thought that Izaak and Antonia met and married in Chicago, but Felix isn’t sure.  He knows that his father worked in Chicago at a tannery and that his mother cared for their four […]

May 28th, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

Many Sisters Named Aurora

Aurora Sienkiewicz was born on April 5, 1911 to Giovanni and Rosa Corvi, both of whom grew up in the same small village in Italy.  Giovanni’s and Rosa’s families lived near each other, and the two of them often played together as children.  The story goes that one day when Giovanni was passing by, Rosa […]

May 21st, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“I Didn’t Have the Best Life, But I Made It.”

Chester Williamson was born on July 18, 1930 in Greenwood, Mississippi to Walter Williamson and Ethel Jones.  In the early 1940’s, the family moved to Chicago to look for work.  Walter found a job working in a steel mill during the day and later started working in a restaurant at night.  Ethel, meanwhile, cared for […]

May 14th, 2020|Novel Notes of Local Lore|