“Ethnic enclaves made Gary. I never realized how many nationalities there were until I came here.” Carrol Vertrees
Cindy Karlberg’s relatives put together a 46-page manuscript entitled “Memories of the Family” that includes personal reminiscences of Cindy’s maternal grandparents Michael and Susanna Guba. Michael was born in 1884 in the town of Stancya in Austria-Hungary. Susanna Seesock was born eight years later in the Slovakian village of Cigelka. After coming to America, she initially lived in Pittsburgh and Chicago before moving to Gary, where she met Michael, whom family members called Aupo. After they got married on October 25, 1913, at St. Michael’s Byzantine Slovanic Rite Church at 410 W. Thirteenth Avenue, the first of their nine children, Michael, Jr., was born exactly nine months later, on July 25, 1914. Aupo, who worked at U.S. Steel, built the family’s first home at 1310 Buchanan. Cindy’s Aunt Margaret recalled that it was painted orange with white trim. Margaret remembered a collie dog Bobby and a mean goose that bit her leg. She’d bring home books from a library at 15th and Madison for Aupo to read – in English, Slovak, Russian, and Hungarian. He also loved jigsaw puzzles and to sing.
Margaret recalled: “Before the cold winter months came, my parents worked together stringing dried mushrooms and peppers along side the wall in the small [sand floor] basement my father built. I remember the parents preparing pickles and setting them in a large barrel. My Dad stored potatoes, and I remember sitting on the basement steps wrapping apples for the winter.”
Susanna was a good cook who loved to bake. Margaret recalled: “My mother was very proud of her kitchen. She always wore a clean apron when she did her baking, and she had all her pans so very clean – so was her kitchen. There was nothing tastier in the morning as we were getting up than the smell of freshly baked bread. For breakfast we would have a slice of bread with butter and jelly.” Susanna did the laundry (hanging clothes outside to dry in good weather and in the attic in winter) and also sewed. Margaret recalled that she had “a foot pedal sewing machine and made us pajamas and we would sew the buttons on them.” Susanna was also the family disciplinarian. Her dad never spanked her, but Susanna did, mostly for fighting with sisters.
Margaret’s younger sister Marion, born in 1922, said they had a nice back yard with a garden and a shanty with one side for coal and the other for chickens. U.S. Steel made land in East Gary available for garden plots, and most Saturdays Marion would go there with her dad. She recalled: “Ma would pack us a lunch, and we’d take a wagon [that Aupo had made] and walk all the way to Clay Street.”
The Gubas lived near Dixie Dairy, and Marion sometimes watched employees bottle the milk. “Just before we left,” she remembered, “they would always give us a small bottle of milk.” At a bakery on Grant owned by two Lithuanian brothers Marion and siblings would watch bread and rolls go into large ovens and each get a free roll. Marion’s brother Michael, Jr., was an usher at the Palace Theater and would come home with potato chips or caramel candies for his little sisters. A neighbor, Mrs. Danielovich, would give the girls homemade root beer and baloney and let them look at the funny pages (comic strips) in her newspaper.
After the family moved to Glen Park, Marion noted, the family started attending St. Mark’s, but for holidays they usually went back to St. Michael’s. Aupo became an American citizen in 1936, a source of pride for the entire family. Daughter Margaret, 17 at the time, described him as a slim man about 5 feet five inches tall with black hair and grey eyes. Like many families during the Great Depression, the Gubas struggled to get by. Aupo didn’t believe in government relief (although his eldest child found work with the Civilian Conservation Corps). He resoled everyone’s shoes, friends as well as family. It seemed that every time the Gubas managed to get on top of their bills, one of the kids would fall ill, Agnes with tonsillitis, for instance, or Ruthie with asthma.
Agnes Guba, born in 1927, recalled playing simple games at home such as Old maid and Pick Up Sticks. Her dad made a pretend stove by turning a cardboard box upside down and painting burners on the top and an oven on the side. For a play cupboard Susanna put a curtain around an orange crate.
Cindy’s mother Ruth, born in 1933, was the youngest of nine children and just 15 when her mother, Susanna, died at age 56. Aupo, Ruth’s dad, died in 1956 at age 71. In a statement about her parents Ruth recalled:
“I can see myself going on the streetcar with [Mom] visiting relatives or friends in downtown Gary from Glen Park where we lived in a pretty brick house. I think back and see her baking and cooking big dinners and eating in the dining room. She had long, deep brown hair (very soft), and I can see myself combing it with a large white comb and putting it in a bun or braids that went around her head. She made clothes, and I can see myself standing on a chair in the dining room. Mom would cut out the armhole and it would always tickle me – I would be afraid she would cut me but she never did.
Sometimes my father would go to church twice on Sundays. He would go to the Broadway dime store and always brought something home for me. He did all the grocery shopping for my Mom. My father was a gentle man – I never saw him lose his temper. He was always working around the house fixing something. He made a swing and hung it in the basement for us. I can still see the scooter he made for me out of a wooden crate. I was very proud of it.”
As rich as the remembrances of Susanna and Aupo’s children are concerning their home life, they wish they knew more about their ancestors in the Old Country or how and why they emigrated to America. They are not even certain of their ethnicity since the areas of Austria-Hungary where their parents were from contained Slovaks, Carpatho-Rusyns, Hungarians, Russians, Ruthenians, and others. Historians would like to know more about Aupo’s work experiences in the mill and social life outside the family. Still, the materials that the family donated to the Calumet Regional Archives are a treasure trove for understanding the tight bonds that existed within working-class immigrant families.
Back to the present: Alissa spent Saturday with us. I excused myself to watch the Brazil consolation match with the Netherlands (another disaster for the home team, which lost 3-0), and Dave’s family came over for tacos and spring rolls. After dark Dave shot off the fireworks left over from July 4. Joining us were neighbors Austin (going into eleventh grade at Chesterton) and Schuyler (a server at nearby Applebee’s and owner of a unique pink VW).
Sunday we saw the final Chicago appearance of “The Last Ship” at Bank of America Theatre. The musical dealt with the decline of the shipbuilding industry in Sting’s hometown of Newcastle, England, something similar to the loss of industrial jobs in America’s rustbelt. The musical numbers. written by Sting, were terrific, and after cast members took a bow, there was a stir, and Sting emerged on stage. After thanking everyone associated with the production and the supportive Chicago audiences, he sang the title song, with cast members joining in. It was very moving and a thrill to see Sting so emotional after years of lethargy. Afterwards, we had dinner at a bistro with Dick and Cheryl Hagelberg and their niece Abby.
Drummer Tommy Ramone, the last survivor of punk rock’s pioneer band, died at age 65. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 12 years ago, the four guys from Queens called themselves the Ramones because it was the name Paul McCartney used when he checked into hotels. “I Want To Be Sedated” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” were part of Dave’s band LINT’s repertoire, and four of us won a TV at an IUN air band contest performing to “Teenage Lobotomy.” Our secret: the song lasted barely two minutes, while our competition (as Prince and Sister Sledge) wore out their welcome doing longer songs.
I watched an excellent documentary about David McCullough, who considers himself more of a storyteller than historian. Before tackling Harry Truman and John Adams he wrote books on the Johnstown Flood and the Brooklyn Bridge. His dad was a Republican who feared the country would go to hell after Truman upset Dewey in 1948. Thirty years later, his old man bemoaned the nation’s future with Jimmy Carter at the helm and told his son he wished “Old Harry Truman” were in the White House.
Eight days ago, somebody killed Gary police officer Jeffrey Westerfield, 47, in his patrol car after he responded to a domestic disturbance call. Friends say he was a model cop and family man with four daughters and father figure to his fiancé’s five children. He lived on Gary’s far west side, and neighbors called him the “Mayor of Black Oak.” Following a two-hour memorial service at Genesis Center, a huge funeral motorcade proceeded down Broadway. Standing on the corner of Thirty-Fifth and Broadway with Steve McShane and Chuck Gallmeier, I found it very moving. Police cars from Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, downstate Illinois and virtually every community in Northwest Indiana took part, including representatives from Chesterton, Portage, and Valparaiso. Flags at IUN are at half-staff, and campus police joined the procession or secured the route. A sudden downpour scattered the crowd; as Sheriff Roy Dominguez said on the day Chief Gary Martin’s body was laid to rest, the heavens wept.
NWI Times photos by John Luke
Several other grisly homicides occurred recently. A man killed his 80 year-old mother in the hospital and then stabbed to death his 88 year-old father in their home. In Merrillville the boyfriend of an airline flight attendant’s daughter killed 54 year-old DeCarol Deloney-Cain and stuffed her in the trunk of a car before abandoning the vehicle. In the Westerfield investigation no charges have been filed, but a person of interest is in custody.
At Gino’s for the History Book Club I sat with Judge Lorenzo Arredondo, Jim Pratt, and Joseph Gomeztagle (above), who is teaching a Fall Public Affairs course at IUN for SPEA. He asked about Anne Balay, whom he met two meetings ago, and we talked about how tragic it was that many Americans want to deport the children from Central America who have entered our country without official papers. Everyone missed Joy Anderson, whose mother recently passed away. Peter Thayer had fun with James Watson memoir “As I Knew Them.” I restricted my remarks to fun anecdotes in the book except when Thayer criticized TR’s handling of the anthracite coal strike (siding with the owners who felt property rights were more important than the public needs) and extolled William Howard Taft’s tenure as Chief Justice. I pointed out that it was unconscionable for him to have stymied (in Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Company, 1922) Congressional efforts to get rid of child labor.