Interview: Alice Bunish (ab)
Medium: Audio and video tape
Date: April 5, 1998
Place: Wabash Avenue in Marion, IN
Collected by: Brian Arledge (ba)
ba: State your name and where we are.
ab: My name is Alice Bunish and we are at my home on Wabash Avenue in Marion, Indiana.
ba: And the date?
ab: April 5, 1998
ba: Do I have your permission to use audiotape?
ba: And videotape?
ba: And do I have permission to submit this to the Marion Public Library?
ba: Why don’t you tell me what your family life was like before the war.
ab: Well before the war, we were very poor, we were just coming out of a depression and we hadn’t gotten very far by 1941. My family had four children, mother and father. My father worked in a foundry and my mother of course was home. And the family was together. In other words, a little different than today. We ate together for instance. And everything was more neighborhood, neighborhood grocery, and neighborhood gas station. We did more things together, I guess than that I guess like pop popcorn every Sunday evening. We had our regular school. During those years my sister and I went off to college and that was a sort of thing difficult thing to break away from your family. I think it was just that we were together, we were a family!
ba: I think you mentioned this some, but what kinds of things did you do for entertainment?
ab: For entertainment?
ba: Were there kids in the neighborhood?
ab: Yes, neighborhood children played together a lot. And other than that we didn’t have much entertainment. Movies were coming in then. I mean they had come in before but they were beginning to be attended more from the late 1930’s into the 1940’s. And of course, the problem was that very few people had ten cents to go to the movies. Other than that we went to church together.
ba: Was it a big church, or was it more of a community type of thing?
ab: It was more of a community type thing. You know, it was more of a community type thing. A little one here and a little one over there. That’s about all we did for entertainment. We didn’t go very much. My family didn’t have a car so we couldn’t travel anywhere to speak of.
ba: How did your life change during the war, were there people in your family that went to war?
ab: Yes, I have two brothers. My older brother was 4F for a while and then it got to be 1944 or so and they were taking anybody who could walk and so he had to go. And he was in the Battle of the Bulge, which was very hard on the family knowing he was over in that terrible battle. And the other brother was younger so he was just getting ready to go to Japan when the war ended in Europe. Of course, we were anxious to have them get that settled so he wouldn’t have to go to Japan. And of course they also talked about having the ones who were in Europe go to Japan. Well after having come through all that you didn’t see your brother have to go to Japan then. But as it turned out they dropped the bomb and that stopped the war. But it effected all the family life. That’s all you thought about, you read the papers, and listened to the news on the radio. It effected your life in that you couldn’t get a lot of things, like sugar, meat and gas. You’d have to take toothpaste tube in to get another tube of toothpaste. You saved your grease and took it in for something. That was when the war first started. I don’t remember doing that later say in 1944 or 1945. Somehow they must have gotten that changed. Even at first, I was in college when the war started, I think everybody remembers where they were on December 7, 1941 where they were. I was home from college that day and heard it on the radio that afternoon. It was just stunning. And they did try blackouts for a while at the college. I don’t know why, the government asked them to do it for a while, and that didn’t last very long either. Of course, prices began to escalate and women went to work and that made a lot of difference. A lot of people went to work because you could get jobs.
ba: Did your mom go to work?
ab: Yes, she went to work in a factory. It wasn’t war work. In Marion, it was a lot of war work. I don’t know about my hometown of Peru, which is 35 miles away. Everybody was asked to plant a victory garden. It was called a victory garden because they could raise some of their own food. In the 1940’s, I noticed you had asked something about the social life changing, there were lots of movies in the 1940’s, lots of people going. Of course, they had the USO’s for the soldiers but we didn’t have those here. There was a lot of dancing. That was something people liked to do a lot in the 1940’s. They had hops at school. I don’t know if they have those now but they had after school hops. And social life…I suppose it would be different from others. We kept going to church and kept our family together, you know it wasn’t separated a lot even with the work. We had our regular hours and our family life together.
ba: What about the community, you said it was a close community before the war, what about during the war?
ab: Well people went so many ways, I mean even women went into the WAC’s and WAV’s. So it got to be a lot of separation of families and friends. And they went other places to work too, where there was war work or something like that. So it sort of separated a lot of families.
ba: You had mentioned something before about rationing the food supplies.
ab: Yes you had to have stamps for sugar and meat and gas. You couldn’t buy shoes. I was married in 1943 and I wore house slippers for shoes because you couldn’t buy a pair of white shoes. If you could buy shoes, you wouldn’t buy white ones because you wanted something you could wear more than that. I heard someone say that every time you saw a line forming at a store you got in it. You didn’t know what they were selling but you knew it was something scarce. You couldn’t buy hose, I remember that. You couldn’t go to the store and buy any article of clothing that you needed. You’d have to wait until it came in. There was quite a scarcity for a while. But I don’t remember feeling deprived of anything because most people of the people had so little during the 1930’s that whatever they had in the 40’s was more than they had in the 30’s. That’s all I can think of now that I have written down. See…I was over here in school. My family was in Peru. I didn’t feel the effects of the war, I felt it but not as much as if I had been at Peru and seen those lists of casualties that were friends of mine during high school.
ba: Did you end up getting a job or anything when the war came?
ab: Yes, after I got married I ended up working at the music store here in Marion. As the war ended I was working there so I never did any war work. Now my husband was deferred because he was doing scientific research, he was in the service.
ba: Can you tell me about that research?
ab: I don’t know what it was, I guess it was sort of secret or something. It was at Anaconda Cable here and you know that they used a lot of line and cable in many of the things. So I don’t know what it was. I do know it was something that was deferred.
ba: What was life like after the war? Did things return to normal or...?
ab: Well, it took a while. There were so many things that you hadn’t been able to buy, refrigerators, cars, everything of that sort. You put your name in for those so you wanted for a chance to get that. I remember we got our first car in 1948. You see the war ended in 1945 so it took that long to get a car. Then things began to change a little. The boys all came back from service. And they hunted for jobs but you see there were plenty because of all the need built up by the war. And we had quite a few places here in Marion, like Thomson Consumer Electronics but it was Farnsworth after the war.
ba: What did they do?
ab: Televisions and radios and things of that sort. In fact, I have a Farnsworth up in the attic. And I forget how long it took us to get a refrigerator. You just got a little at a time like that. Then, of course there was a housing boom because it was very hard to get a house during the war. And a lot of new houses went up and a lot of new developments. That across the road from me was built in the early 1950’s. Well we built this one in 1952. The difference in Marion in 1945 and in 1955 was really pretty great.
ba: Do you remember any of the significant differences?
ab: Well the housing is the main thing. And all the new people coming into Marion to work in these different places, and of course, the Fisher Body when it came in, its now CPC, that came in and that made a big difference in the town. They brought in a lot of jobs and that meant more building and more people. You’d notice this in your neighborhoods and in your churches all the new people coming in.
ba: Was the neighborhoods still close knit, was it like it was before and during the war?
ab: No, I don’t’ believe the neighborhoods were the close knit neighborhoods they used to be.
ba: What about shopping centers?
ab: They came in, in the 1950’s. We didn’t have them; everyone went downtown in the 1940’s. Saturday nights was just down at the main part of town, the business district. People all over really. To see the downtown now and think of what it was in the 1940’s, its just like night and day. There were just throngs of people every Saturday night downtown. Then the shopping centers came in. I remember my husband saying they called Marion the city on the move, they’re moving from the main business district right out to the Bypass. That’s just what’s its done, into the shopping centers. Of course, we have more now; they just kept building more and more. It started in the 1950’s. And they started having to build more schools because of all the children. There were a lot of new churches.
ba: Did you have any children?
ab: Yes, I have two girls. One was born in 1948, and one was born in 1952. They were in school in the 1950’s, in grade school.
ba: Can you remember what that was like for them or do you remember any stories?
ab: Well at that time this part of Marion was out of the city so they had to go to a little school out here, a two room school. There were four grades in each class but the oldest one went to it. But it was a very good school, you could learn from the other classes. And it was called Mt. Olive and there was a Mt. Olive Methodist Church just across the corner from there. It burned unfortunately. And a man who had been a long time member of this county, Jesse Winger, was one of the teachers. That’s one of the old familiar names in this town. He was a very good teacher. And then they went to Sweetser and over to Oak Hill. Then this part was taken into the Marion schools. So then they had their choice of finishing at Oak Hill or going to Marion. One finished at Oak Hill and the other finished at Marion.
ba: What were some of the long term effects on your family? I mean, like you said your brothers were in the war, did they have any scars or mental scars?
ab: My older brother, the one who was in the Battle of the Bulge, he didn’t talk much about that, he didn’t talk about that until, oh, maybe 5 or 6 years ago. That was quite a while. He just didn’t want to talk about it. He came back and got himself a job in our hometown of Peru. He just didn’t say a whole lot about it. And the other brother went to Japan then, he didn’t go to war in Japan because the war was over by then. He was just with the occupation troops so there wasn’t much to that. My brother, the only thing I remember is that his feet, his toes got frozen, in that battle. That was pretty miserable. And he talked about guarding President Truman’s plane when he came over for something or other, one of those conferences they had. But that’s all he’s ever said about the war.
ba: What about the effects on the other members of your family, your mom or your dad, your sister?
ab: Well we were all pretty concerned. My father was rather quite, but I think it affected him very deeply because he had been in the First World War and been wounded in that war. So he knew exactly what my brother was going through. My mother was of course was a typical mother. Very concerned and worried, a woman of great faith, faith in her prayers. My sister graduated from college, she was teaching school when the war began. It was difficult getting places because they didn’t have cars. However, in Marion as far as getting places in town, there was an excellent transportation system, the streetcars.
ba: Can you tell me more about that?
ab: They would run at least every 15 minutes. You could get a transfer and could go anywhere in town you wanted. Anyway, they were very regular, on time, so there wasn’t any problems getting to any place here in town here. Later in the 1940’s they changed to buses. The people got cars so that’s why they had buses, which effected the mode of transportation because people had cars and didn’t ride the streetcars. They were very good transportation. We got our car in 1948 and in 1952 people had them. You could trade your car in; there were plenty of them around. In the 1950’s our children were in school and our lives centered on that. Now our family was still a family unit. We didn’t go very many different ways. We went to church and lot of school activities at Oak Hill. That’s about all we did in those years.
ba: You said that movies were starting to come in. Did you go to any of them?
ab: A lot of them in the 1940’s because there wasn’t much else to do in the 1940’s. We went to a lot of them. We didn’t go to that many in the 1950’s. In the 1950’s the television came in and that made a big difference. There were to us, then, there were wonderful movies. Maybe people would laugh at them now but they were good, they were very good.
ba: Do you remember what your favorite movie was, what it was about? Or what the typical movie was like?
ab: I always liked the musicals. There would be big extravagances, beautiful clothes, beautiful music, and everything about them. Another thing about the 1940’s and going into the 1950’s were the big bands. Like the Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey, and Spike Jones. Did you ever hear of him? He was very funny. Of course I’ve always been interested in music. Cole Porter was very popular. But all that sort of changed with the 1950’s. When the television came in that really changed a lot of things. For entertainment, that was what people did then. Now, I notice that people go to the movies again. You would have thought movies would die out but they didn’t. Most people watched television. I forget when we got our first television, maybe it was 1952 or 1954. I think the most important thing was our family life to me.
ba: Do you have any pictures or anything?
ab: Yes, I brought several things that pertain to the 1940’s and 1950’s. And we can look at those if you want to. I worked in a music store in the 1940’s, from 1943 to 1948. And these were some of the music that was popular at that time. People bought a lot of records. On Saturday nights, the store would be just jammed. The Hills Brothers were popular here with albums and single records. Eddie Deacon and his piano was the father of (indistinguishable). This was very popular – Glen Miller. Everyone liked his music. Boogie Woogie was very well liked, and of course Bing Crosby was the top singer. And Spike Jones was one of the funniest people you could imagine. Some of music was "Together", which was about a war song, "God Bless America" by Irving Berlin. Irving Berlin was popular for a long, long time. "Old Buttermilk Sky" by Hogy Carmichael, the Indiana writer, Gorge Gershwin music was played a lot, and Frankie Carl was another one of the leading pianist. Here’s another one, "The White Posted Billboard", of course about England. Boogie Woogie, that was played a lot. "Pass the Biscuits, Miranda" by Spike Jones and Cole Porter, anything by Cole Porter was played a lot. This was typical of the music of the 1940’s. We had theatres at that time in downtown Marion. The Lyric and the Luna was on East 3rd Street. The Paramount was on Washington and this is a picture of the Paramount. And the Indiana was on Adams and this is a picture of the Indiana. They were very well attended in those years. Here are three of the railroad stations that were here at that time. There were many trains that went through. This is the Pennsylvania and this is the Cloverleaf on East 3rd Street, and the Big 4, across from that. This is the way the courthouse looked when I first came here in the 1940’s. It had a nice dome on top with a statue of justice on it. This was the glass block downtown which had many offices called that because it had glass all around it and businesses in it. And this was the high school that one of my girls went to. Freel and Mason on the north side of the square was a very popular drug store. In the 1940’s, this was the Civic Hall they called it, City Hall we call it now. This was in the Indiana Theatre again. This was a building on the corner of 3rd and Boots Streets, the northeast corner called the IOOF Building, which was a very beautiful building. It was designed by a man from Marion, Burt French. This was building was still here in the 1940’s, it was called the Commercial Club Building. I remember it from the early history of Marion. The Commercial Club was a group of people who promoted Marion. This county jail was still in use then. This was the YMCA at the corner of Boots and 5th Street. This was the way the hospital looked at that time. Then in the building campaign of 1955 they added a little more here. The main hotel was the Spencer House. This is the way it looked in the 1940’s. It was near the coffee shop and dining. And then they had a Marion Hotel over on 5th Street. This is the interior of the Marion Hotel. This is the Waterworks as it was in the 1940’s. This was a hardware store that had been in Marion for many years which was still here up until the time they started building the shopping centers and then they moved out of the middle of Marion. One of the main furniture was the Kelly Furniture Store down on 2nd and Washington and that’s where this chair came from in 1943. This was the Marion Conservatory of Music, which was torn down shortly after the 1940’s. Here the Congregational Church, which was right behind the Library that, is no more now. But it was a very interesting church. Out at the bandstand at the Veterans Hospital, on holidays people would take picnics and they’d have band concerts and hundreds of people would go out, enjoying the day. And this was typical of the day, the number of people that went out. This was Bill Conners, and he was the manager of the Indiana Hotel. And he always went by each morning with this dog.
ba: You said furniture was kind of hard to come by?
ab: Yes, furniture was very hard to get during the war.
ba: Was it expensive or was it just like now?
ab: No, not expensive, just scarce. In fact, we were very fortunate to get a couch and a chair. And it as it turned out, the couch only had springs in half of the seat. We found that out later and that was because metal was very hard to come by.