Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Anna Lavin, July 14, 1982

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Strikes in Philadelphia in 1913

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Partial Transcript: --storm Saturday, and we were caught between nineteen--between 20th and 21st.

Segment Synopsis: After some small-talk, Lavin describes a large cloak makers strike by the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union in 1913. She remembers the union sent inspectors by train to Vineland to make sure none of the work was done in Norma.

Keywords: 1913 Cloak Makers Strike; International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (Philadelphia, Pa.); Labor strikes; Norma (N.J.); Norma, New Jersey

Subjects: Employment; Labor disputes; Labor movement; Labor unions

00:02:24 - First automobiles

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Partial Transcript: I remember the first automobiles we saw.

Segment Synopsis: Lavin remembers reading about automobiles before she first saw one. She shares how, when she had no work in the shop, she worked in a cannery near Norma. She then recounts her first experiences riding in an automobile: a long ride to Elizabethtown, where the owner asked some boys for money to take them home. A police officer ordered him to take the boys back for the same price he charged them to go out. She shares that she lived 3.5 miles from Vineland so she had to walk.

Keywords: Canneries; Cars; Elizabethtown Pennsylvania; Norma (N.J.); Norma, New Jersey; Parvin State Park; Perdue Cannery; Perdue Chicken; Vineland (N.J.); Vineland, New Jersey

Subjects: Automobiles.; Employment; Transportation

GPS: Winslow Junction
Map Coordinates: 39.665643, -74.847215
00:07:40 - Recollections of Norma and Vineland, New Jersey

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Partial Transcript: And Vineland was a big shopping town then.

Segment Synopsis: Lavin remembers what it was like living in the small town of Norma, near Vineland, New Jersey. Vineland was a shopping hub, but there was nothing more than a place to purchase groceries in Norma. She remembers living in Philadelphia during the First World War but has no recollection of Bolsheviks.

Keywords: Bolsheviks; New Jersey; Norma (N.J.); Norma, New Jersey; Vineland (N.J.); Vineland, New Jersey; Winslow Junction; World War I

Subjects: World War, 1914-1918

GPS: Norma, New Jersey
Map Coordinates: 39.497935, -75.087457
00:09:38 - Jewish institutions in South Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Now I was, uh, always, uh, union-oriented because of my aunts who were here long before I was born--well, before I, I was born.

Segment Synopsis: Lavin shares that she was always "union oriented." Lavin remembers going to a preschool run by the Salvation Army on Front Street, in Philadelphia. Lavin says her family spoke Yiddish in the home, and her father learned English when he lived in Russia. She then talks about the Jewish institutions of her childhood including the Neziner Synagogue on 2nd near Catherine, The Jewish Sheltering Home for the Aged, and the Hebrew Literature Society where she took out books.

Keywords: Bainbridge Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Front Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Hebrew Literature Society; Jewish Sheltering Home for the Aged; Labor Unions; Neziner Synagogue; Salvation Army School

Subjects: Education; Employment; Jewish children; Jews--Identity.; Labor disputes; Labor movement; Labor unions; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

00:13:27 - The Jewish community in South Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: When you were, um, young, then in the city, there were still many more Jews coming in from Russia and Poland--

Segment Synopsis: Lavin talks about Jews continuing to come from Europe to Philadelphia to settle in South Philadelphia. She recalls the market stands around Head House Square, near 2nd and South Streets, where she bought silk stockings. Lavin then talks about how there was no need for automobiles in her neighborhood. Lavin then talks about present day topics such as her health as a diabetic, the weather, going grocery shopping, and more.

Keywords: 2nd and South Streets (Philadelphia, Pa.); Bainbridge Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Head House Square; Jewish immigration; Kosher food; South Philadelphia

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants; Jews--Identity.; Neighborhoods.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

GPS: Headhouse Square
Map Coordinates: 39.942199, -75.145353
00:19:45 - Experience with landing in Philadelphia off the boat

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Partial Transcript: Now my aunts--now my grandfather bought the, the--our passage at, I think it was Rosenblum, or Rosenbluth?

Segment Synopsis: Lavin recalls that her aunt and grandfather bought her ocean passage on an installment plan for $28 from Rosenbluth Travel in South Philadelphia. Her family arrived at the Washington Avenue Immigration Station and they rented furnished rooms. Immigrants were not allowed to keep their shoes upon arrival as everything needed to be fumigated, so her family threw their shoes away. She recalls buying shoes from a local store near 4th and Bainbridge. She also remembers a dispensary (pharmacy) where they purchased medicine when a family member was sick.

Keywords: "Jewish Times"; 4th and Bainbridge Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Bainbridge Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Chain migration; Dispensary; Ellis Island; Living conditions; Rosenbluth Travel; South Philadelphia; Washington Avenue Immigration Station (Philadelphia, Pa.); immigration journey

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants

00:24:28 - Lice, bathing at home, and public baths

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned when you--(coughs)--when you arrived that they fumigated the clothing.

Segment Synopsis: Lavin talks about how common lice were among children when she grew up because everyone lived in such close living conditions. Her family members each had a bath on Friday afternoons. Her family had a water tap, which was an improvement from bathing outdoors filling a tub from a hydrant. After washing hair they fine-combed their hair to remove lice. She recounts how the first child home would have clean water for the bath. She recalls accompanying her aunt to public bath houses, which she enjoyed, aside from being naked in front of strangers. Women bathed on Thursdays, while men bathed on Fridays before the Sabbath. She then discusses the differences in homes that had running water and those that did not.

Keywords: Indoor plumbing; Lice; Public baths; Public housing; South Philadelphia

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Health.; Hygiene.; Neighborhoods.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

00:31:46 - Obtaining birth certificates and citizenship papers

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Partial Transcript: When you were, um, a young girl then in Philadelphia, and you were traveling around, or walking around different parts of South Philadelphia...

Segment Synopsis: Lavin recalls getting a birth certificate for a younger sister and discovering another family with the same last name in Weccacoe Square. She recalls how births were often done by a midwife and people had to pay for birth certificates. She recalls having to go into City Hall to get a birth certificate for her younger sister. She then recalls a family member who died during the 1918 flu epidemic. She also recalls going to City Hall to get her own citizenship papers and being tested by Judge Gordon.

Keywords: Birth certificates; Childbirth; Citizenship papers; City Hall (Philadelphia, Pa.); Influenza Epidemic of 1918; Judge Gordon; Weccacoe Square

Subjects: Citizenship.; Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants; Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919

GPS: City Hall, Philadelphia
Map Coordinates: 39.952405, -75.163680
00:37:24 - Purchasing living room furniture

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, but I, I, uh, I really enjoyed life. Always.

Segment Synopsis: Lavin talks about life in a neighborhood where nobody had more than anyone else. She recalls musicians practicing on her block on Lawrence Street early in the morning. She recalls fondly how her family purchased a ten-dollar living room suite of five pieces that she had coveted in a store window. She remembers the pride they felt once they had it.

Keywords: Broad Street and South Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Lawrence Street; Saving money; Street cleaners

Subjects: Dwellings; Families.; Housing.; Neighborhoods; Neighbors.

00:42:32 - No theft / Trash collection

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Partial Transcript: Were there any problems with theft, Anna?

Segment Synopsis: Lavin talks about how there was no fear of theft and families often left their doors open without fear. She also talks about how trash was swept into the middle of the street or the gutters and street cleaners came to collect it once a week. There was very little trash due to nothing being put in plastic. Food leftovers were put in a box in the back of the house and was taken by the street cleaners. The street cleaners were often Italian.

Keywords: Italian Americans--Philadelphia; Street cleaners; Theft; Trash

Subjects: Dwellings; Families.; Housing.; Neighborhoods; Neighbors.; Refuse and refuse disposal.; Sanitation.; Waste disposal sites

00:46:38 - On being poor

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you another, um. Did you ever walk down to the Italian neighborhoods?

Segment Synopsis: Lavin talks about her experience with the Italian neighborhood where she took sewing lessons at Torah Hall, and how nationalities normally stuck with their own because everybody was poor.

[Audio fades in and out.]

Keywords: Italian Americans; Italian neighborhoods; Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; Sewing lessons; Stenographers; Torah Hall

Subjects: Finances; Neighborhoods; Neighbors.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Poverty; Race relations

00:50:48 - Family finances

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Partial Transcript: Did, did the family save money then?

Segment Synopsis: Lavin talks about how her family pooled their money and her mother paid the bills. Each family member could then spend their extra money. Lavin used her money to pay for a car to take her to work and her sister used her money for nicer clothing. She shows Hardy some objects such as commemorative pins and union paraphernalia.

Keywords: Family expenses; Saving money

Subjects: Families.; Finances; Poverty

00:53:39 - Birth, sickness, scarlet fever, quarantines, and death

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Partial Transcript: When a child was born in the family--

Segment Synopsis: Lavin recalls that births occurred in the home with a midwife. Her father wrote down the birthdates in the family Bible. Lavin regretfully notes that her family disposed of her father’s possessions after his death. She remembers when her two- and four-year-old brothers died of scarlet fever. The doctor called for a police wagon to bring the boys to the hospital, and then came to report that they had died. She shares that her apartment was quarantined and fumigated.

Keywords: Childbirth; Death; Influenza Epidemic of 1918; Quarantine; Scarlet fever

Subjects: Diseases.; Families.; Health.; Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919; Physicians