Mrs. Molly (Meyers) Miller (Transcript Only)


INTERVIEWER: Sandra A. Remis
INTERVIEWEE: Mrs. Molly (Meyers) Miller
DATE OF INTERVIEW: March 14, 1986
I attended Senn High School about 61 years ago. The main building was the same; the wings were added later. They had "portables" to take care of the overflow. If you had class there, you had to go out in the cold. Even the portables were cold, especially if you couldn’t get a seat near the stoves which they had. My favorite teacher was a Miss Schier (sp?) who taught Spanish. I was very shy. One day I wore a peasant blouse. She admired it. When I told her it came from Romania where my brother and I went with our mother to visit, she had me go to the front of the room and tell the class about our trip in Spanish. I appreciated receiving that little bit of extra attention. It was a good school with a nice class of people. Our classes were large–anywhere from 30-40 in a class. If you didn’t want to re­cite, you could usually avoid it because classes were large.
We had a lot of school activities, too–assembly programs and sports, too. But things were flexible; I didn’t want to get my hair wet so I didn’t have to take swimming. We had language clubs, a drama club, and others, too. Bing Crosby’s first wife went to Senn. We had sororities and fraternities, too.
The neighborhoods were very nice at that time. The Edgewater Beach Hotel was a wonderful place. We lived in an apartment on Balmoral just a few blocks from here. The building is still there. It had only one bedroom for the six of us—four children and our parents. That was common then.
My mother and father came here because it was a pleasant neighborhood near the lake–nice people and good schools. My father manufactured lamps (although we never had a lamp in our house) and although he worked downtown, transportation was good, especially the El and street cars.
We were Jewish, but weren’t associated with any particular temple except for maybe the High Holidays. It was expensive to have a Bar-Mitzvah and people of modest means couldn’t afford it. Our friends were a mixture. We had Irish friends as well as others, and I think this mixture was good.
During my first marriage we lived on Hollywood, but we have lived at this present residence for twelve years. I like living here, especially because of the security. I wouldn’t dare go out on any street around here at night. Unfortunately, too many people who were formerly in institutions are now able to roam the streets and I don’t feel safe. I never carry a purse on the street. I guess Kenmore and Winthrop are improving, but they have been pretty bad. Bryn Mawr used to be such a nice street, but not anymore.
In my youth, we didn’t go to restaurants very much. If you went on a date, you might go to Sally’s on Sheridan, north of Devon. The Granada was lovely; the Uptown Theater was lovely. There was a restaurant where Wing Hoe’s is, called Stern’s Restaurant. It was Romanian and since my parents came from Romania, we used to go there. It was marvelous. Another good restaurant was Frank and Marie’s; today there’s a condo on that site.
Mundelein and Loyola have done much for the neighborhood, too. I think Mundelein opened in 1930.
The area west of Broadway is still quite nice because so many are still single-family dwellings. My own folks came to the area around 1922. My father came from Romania first, and then sent for my mother. Later, after her children were born, she, my little brother and I went back to Romania for a visit while my dad and two brothers remained here. We stayed for thirteen months. My little brother, who was only 2, came back speaking Romanian. I thought we were coming back with a little foreigner!
Stores were very different. There were no chain stores. Clerks waited on you. You simply told them what you needed and they assembled it. It was very nice. If you didn’t have your money, you would say you would bring it at the end of the week and they trusted you. Today it’s very hard to find a clerk to help you!
One day in the lobby of the Edgewater Beach Hotel, we saw Babe Ruth and his wife.
We went downtown often. Both Marshall Field’s and Carson’s had play rooms where you could leave your children for two or three hours while you shopped and they would be taken care of. You didn’t have to pay out money for baby sitters or nursery school.
One thing about the depression, everyone was in the same boat. There was no dis­grace about it–everyone suffered. My father was out of work for a long time and we all tried to help out. After I married, I worked for about three years to help my parents because they needed it. I was a secretary and worked when I could. It was wonderful when Roosevelt came along with new ideas. Much later, Social Security was started. Today, older people have social security and Medicare which help a great deal.
World War II:
During World War II, war bonds were a big thing. Children could bring quarters to school and get War Bond stamps to paste in a book. When the book was filled, it was the equivalent of a War Bond. Everybody wanted to help with World War II; it was such a patriotic thing to do. Recruiting officers were in every neighborhood. It wasn’t hard to get young men to sign up. It was easy to know what we were fight­ing for. There was great unity.