Her List of Must-Haves for Life in America: Sheep Shears, Blankets and Silverware

Bessie Skalicky was born on March 11, 1901 in Polhora, Slovakia, a village at the foot of a mountain near the Polish border.  Her parents were Jozef and Aneta Jelen.  Jozef worked as a lumberman, and Aneta managed their farm and raised their six children, two of whom died, however, one being Bessie’s twin brother, […]

June 27th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“Stay With Me…”

Michal Havelka was born on March 28, 1898 in Chicago to Michal Havelka, Sr. and Ivana Beran, both immigrants from Czechoslovakia.  Michal’s father worked as a house painter, and the family lived on Pulaski Avenue in the city.  Michal says he can still remember when Pulaski was a dirt road and horses and buggies were […]

June 20th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“We All Have Questions…”

Evelyn Feldman was born on October 31, 1922 in Chicago to Russian Jewish immigrants, Aron and Riva Mayer.  In Russia, Aron worked as a tailor, but once in Chicago he went into the “junk business,” which involved going around with a horse and wagon collecting, buying and selling used goods or metal scraps.  Riva stayed […]

June 13th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“For God’s Sake, See Reason!”

Lois Wright was born on March 23, 1911 in Chicago.  Her parents were Thomas Wright, who was on the Chicago Board of Trade, and Ida Carroll, who stayed home to care for their eight children: Pearl, Thomas Jr., Joseph, Roger, Frank, Mary, Lewis and Lois.  Three of the boys – Thomas Jr, Frank, and Lewis […]

June 6th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

Kindred Souls

Irene Miller was born on November 4, 1913 in Chicago to Slawomir Kotwica and Maria Pestka, both of whom were Polish immigrants.  Slawomir made a living as a tailor, and Maria cared for their eight children: Louise, Josie, Ralph, Jack, Louis, Irene, Dick and Kenny.  Maria actually gave birth to an additional three babies, but […]

May 30th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

Sharecropper’s Daughter

Sadie Margaret Perez was born on January 21, 1931 to Mississippi sharecroppers, Leland Brown and Flora Jefferson.  Flora often worked in the fields beside Leland despite the fact that she had fifteen children:  Dwayne, Jeannette, Abraham, Lila, Della, Rosalie, Elbert, Forrest, Irma, Eula, Winnie, Sadie, Alton, Dewey, Merle, and Clinton.  Usually only seven children were […]

May 23rd, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

She Overcame Her Stutter . . .

Annie Flemming was born on November 18, 1900 in a small town in Wisconsin.  Her parents, Myrtle Jones and Howard Gilman, were of English and Irish descent.  Howard worked in a flour mill, and Myrtle worked in a tailor’s shop and also cared for their four children: Minnie, Ralph, Annie and Hazel.  According to Annie, […]

May 16th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

“Something About the Eyes”

Barbara Bianchi was born in Chicago on February 9, 1922 to Polish immigrants – Wislaw Gawrych and Olga Kobylinski.  Olga worked long, long hours sewing table pads in a factory, and Wislaw worked as “a splitter,” a job he had done from the age thirteen, which consisted of “splitting” hides for jackets, shoes, gloves, etc.  […]

May 9th, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

From the Set of Gone With the Wind and Walt Disney Studios to an Internment Camp

Rosemary Tsukuda was born in Santa Cruz, California on March 10, 1913 to Japanese immigrants. Her father, Chihiro Hayashi, left Japan as a young man in search of adventure. His travels took him to Australia and then to California, where he found work as a gardener and mechanic for a wealthy man in Santa Cruz.  […]

May 2nd, 2019|Novel Notes of Local Lore|

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|