They Brought Her Home and Put Her in a Warm Oven

Felicia Billings says she began life at a mere two pounds on March 17, 1915. She was born prematurely in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Irenka Jasinski,  a Polish immigrant who worked as a seamstress, and Lutz Mueller, a German truck driver, one of six or eight children, Felicia isn’t sure.

Apparently, the moment Felicia was born, barely […]

April 25th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“She Hated Men With a Passion!”

Jadwiga Jurkiewicz was born on December 26, 1906 in Pennsylvania to Polish immigrants, but she later changed her name to Judy Jurka. She was one of six children, including two sets of twins, of which Judy was one. At age three, however, Judy’s twin died, possibly of the flu epidemic. Then, when Judy was six, […]

April 18th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“We Hid in the Walls”

Violeta Salcedo began life during the days of the infamous Pancho Villa. She was born on October 4, 1909 in Mexico to Alejo Abascal and Yamila Villalobos. According to Violeta, her great grandparents were Spaniards who controlled much of what is now Mexico. Her immediate grandparents were thus landowners, as well as tailors, who […]

April 11th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

Living the Life of a Debutante

Elizabeth “Jane” Hileman was born on September 16, 1914.  Her parents were Mary Alice Newell and Cleveland Hines Hileman, both of whom had quite interesting stories, as well.
Mary was born in Ireland but immigrated to Port Huron, Michigan with her family when just a little girl.  Cleveland, meanwhile, was of Danish descent and was born […]

April 4th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

She Was Born “A Normal Little Girl”

Esther Matula was born in Chicago on August 13, 1929 to George Matula and Nicola Pacek, both of whom were children of Bohemian immigrants.  George was born in Chicago and worked as a “heat treater” in a tool factory, and Nicola, who was born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, cared for their four children: Vincent, Esther, […]

March 28th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

Waldemar Karlsson – 95 years young!

Waldemar “Wally” Karlsson was born on February 2, 1899 in Sweden to Ralf Karlsson and Beata Berglund.  Ralf was a farmer, and Beata cared for their ten children: Olov, Njord, Melker, Carola, Ebba, Waldemar, Breta, Niklas, Ludvig and Hulda.  As a young boy, Wally learned to play the violin and was often chosen to play […]

March 21st, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“I’m Losing My Mind…”

Jonas “John” Dusek was born on January 3, 1913 to Adolf Dusek and Valerie Janota, both Czechoslovakian immigrants who came to Chicago in 1908.  Adolf worked as a cabinet maker, and Valerie cared for their three children: Tania, Josef, and John.  When she was just thirty-one, however, Valerie died giving birth to what would have […]

March 14th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“Absolutely Full of Life”

Sara Arnold was born on January 27, 1900 to Vladan Medved and Terezia Novak in Zariecie, Slovakia. Vlad and Terezia immigrated to the United States in 1904 and settled in the Pilsen area of Chicago.  Vlad found a job as a machine operator at Western Shade Co. and worked there until he died in 1925, […]

March 7th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

Hated by Her Father Because of the Way She Looked

Zuza Gwozdek was born in Poland on March 16, 1909 to Przemo Dunajski and Wojciecha Jagoda, farmers just outside of Warsaw. Zuza was the third of eight children (Ula, Tosia, Zuza, Wanda, Olek, Miron, Stefania and Romana) and had the misfortune of looking almost exactly like Woujciecha’s mother, whom Przemo hated. By the time Zuza […]

February 28th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

From Professor of Physics to Janitor

Sasha Pasternak was born on March 12, 1946 in the Ukraine. His parents were Martyn Pasternak and Alberta Jelen.  Jelen, Sasha reports, means “stag” in Polish, and he seems very proud of his mother’s name.

Martyn was a Ukrainian Jew, and Alberta was a Polish nurse living in the Ukraine with an elderly woman she was hired […]

February 21st, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|