Personal narrative of Betty Straughn
From: Betty Straughn (bs)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: Tuesday, May 04, 1999
Place: Home of Betty Straughn, 1503 Oak Dr. Marion, Indiana 46952
Collected by: April Raver (ar)
00:38 ar: Ok, I am April Raver. This is Tuesday, May 4, 1999 and this is being recorded at 1503 Oak Drive. I am speaking with Betty Straughn. Please state your name.
bs: Betty Straughn
ar: Do I have your permission to interview you?
ar: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to Marion High School?
ar: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to the Marion Public Library?
Oral History of Betty Straughan
01:08 ar: All right, Would you like to tell me about your family life in the 1940s?
bs: Well, I graduated from high school and uh I wasn’t quite 18 and you couldn’t very well get a job at that time so finally, I went to a root beer place out at 36th and Washington called Butter’s Root Beer and while I was working out there over, um, Labor Day, Miss Clepper called me from the office, from the telephone office, and I went to work out there the day after Labor Day. I worked up there for two years and, uh, then I had the chance to go on a PD export at Farnsworth and, uh, I worked there for uh a couple years and I met my husband and we were married in ’44 and I went to live in Washington DC for the remainder of ’45. It was late ’44 when we were married and I lived there and when Dick got, uh, released from the Navy we came back to Marion. Started – we lived in an apartment – finally was able to build our home.
02:38 ar: What do you remember about high school? Were you in any clubs or anything?
bs: No, I played in the band for a few years and uh I didn’t get bad grades. I got a – and I took a secretarial course and, um, kind of just a – I was – I – I’ve never been a joiner of anything.
ar: Do you have any special memories of graduation?
bs: No, course then we wore formals and a –
ar: What were they like?
bs: I can show you a picture.
03:21 ar: ok (pause in tape) There we go.
War time memories
bs: And he had taken the group out there to eat and heard it on the radio.
ar: Ok, that the war had started?
bs: Yes, well that they had bombed Pearl Harbor. And uh I think it was the next day before the president declared war on – if I remember right.
ar: And, uh, Did you no anybody that had to go off to war?
bs: No, Well, yes, um, there had been uh several, well one of the fellows was killed at Pearl Harbor, that was here in Marion. His name was um Pearly I think. But and uh there were several from our class that had to go and course I hadn’t met my husband yet but he was in the service when I met him.
ar: Ok, Do you remember the last day of the war?
bs: Oh yes, Oh yes, I was in Washington DC. We were living there and uh, we had an apartment with an elderly couple with a daughter about our age and uh we went down, she and I, went down to the Navy Department, to meet Dick. We had to walk home. We walked down there too and uh it was quite a mess.
04:56 ar: What was life like during the depression? Did that affect you at all?
bs: Well, not really. You see the, it fell in ’29 and I was seven years old and uh luckily my mother, and my father was dead at the time, and uh my mother and I lived in with – she and I lived in with my grandparents and uh we always had enough to eat, maybe not elaborately but we always had enough to eat. And mother always managed to have a job.
ar: That’s good. So did you guys have the ration stamps and all that?
bs: Uh, I can’t remember during the depression but we had ration stamps during World War Two.
Marion during the War
ar: Uh, do you remember any specific places in Marion during that time, like any stores or anything?
bs: Oh, you mean during the war?
ar: Yeah, yes during any of that time, the 1940’s.
bs: Oh, yes, there was Resneck’s Clothing Store, and there was the Paris and there was the Boad, and um, the Meyer’s Jewelry and Roessler and uh the New York Candy Kitchen and yes we had the dime stores: Woolsworth, Kresge's and Newberry’s and um I think Penny’s was – was down town at that time. We had a Hoosier Meat Market. We had uh four theaters.
ar: All right, What was your favorite place? Did you have one specific place that you liked to hang out?
bs: Well, we usually went to work, when I was working for the telephone office uh we would um usually go to one of the drugstores. Get a coke.
07:17 ar: Ok, um, is there anything else that you remember about the 1940s?
bs: Well, anything in particular you want to know about?
ar: Um, were you involved with the Easter Pageant?
bs: No, but Dick and I went several years but I never was involved with it. We liked our basketball games.
ar: Did you go to those?
bs: Went to – Went to them. And came home hoarse.
ar: Were they a lot different from now a days?
bs: Oh, yeah, I guess – I guess they were. Of course the boys are much taller and the rules have changed a lot like they can’t get down in that, uh, under the basket and stand for more than three seconds. Why, I think at that time, if they had a tall boy they would kind of put him down there and they’d (inaudible). We did go to one of the state tournaments. I think that was early in the ’50s and we lost in the afternoon. I remember that.
08:25 ar: You always seem to remember the losses. Did you guys have a car?
bs: Um, We got our first car in 49.
ar: And what was it like, do you rem-
bs: Well, it was a 1946 Plymouth.
ar: Did you ever use the trolleys?
bs: Oh yes, I rode the streetcars and then the buses many, many times.
ar: What, what were they like? I mean I don’t . . .
bs: Well, you’ve never ridden on a trolley?
bs: Well, of course they, they would usually go to an end of the line so they would have to change the trolley from one end to the other and the motorman would always go from one end to the other and he would turn all the seats. Going one way the seats were one way and going the other way, they were back the other way.
ar: So they would literally turn the seats around?
bs: Yeah, they would just – so you were never riding backwards. And one of the great jokes that a lot of young boys used to play on the motormen was they would uh grease the tracks on the hills and uh I think they would even pull the trolleys sometimes if they could and of course and when – if it wasn’t hooked up why, they couldn’t go. I can’t remember when they did – when they changed from trolleys. Uh, they were five cents and the school kids could get a book. I think it cost 32 and a half cents to ride the trolley and uh I remember uh we were living in our apartment, it must have been the in late ‘40s or very early ‘50s when they changed from the trolley cars to the buses and uh, then they got into financial troubles when they get with the buses.
ar: What kind of financial troubles?
bs: Well, uh, you know there wasn’t much maintenance for a streetcar and then there is all the maintenance on the buses and everything.
Vacations with Grandparents
11:54 ar: Do you remember taking any specific vacations?
bs: You mean as a kid or . . .
bs: Us, no, people didn’t take vacations like that. My grandparents had some relatives over in Ohio, and, this is much before the ‘40s though, and we used to go over there and visit them maybe for a few days, but uh people didn’t – didn’t go on vacations like they do today.
ar: How did you get over there?
bs: We drove.
ar: You drove?
bs: Uh huh.
13: 32 ar: Um, what were the prices like in the stores during . . .
bs: Oh boy, very, very cheap by compare. I remember way back during the depression, my grandma used to have a fit if her grocery bill went over five dollars. Imagine what you could eat today for five dollars. That would hardly buy food for a day, let alone a week . . .
bs: . . . for a family.
ar: What kind of houses did you live in?
bs: We had an apartment and uh, its been since torn down and we were able to build this house. And I’ve lived here for 45 years.
14:57 ar: Wow. Do you remember Matter Park?
ar: What was it like?
bs: Well, they had – they had animals. They had a monkey island, and they had bears and uh they had the grandstand and then just swings and those kind of things. They had the pool. The streetcar used to go out there and make a loop and go back then.
ar: Um. (pause) Did we have the library then?
ar: Was it much smaller, or …
bs: Oh yes, you know where the old part is, you know what would be the old part? It’s the part that is right on the corner of Sixth and Washington streets and then they built that new part from the entrance way now on down Washington Street but I used to go there and study a lot.
16:52 ar: Um, was there any segregation during that time that you recognized?
bs: Well, yes, there were sort of sections in town where the blacks lived and nothing like, I don’t think, nothing like there was down South but I think we were pretty much segregated, although I have always gone to school with black kids.
17:22 ar: Do you remember any factories or anything like that?
bs: Yes, We had a lot of factories.
ar: You did?
bs: Yes, we had uh the Atlas foundry, We had the Spencer-Cardinal, um, Plant. Farnesworth has been named – uh I think it started maybe as Bruno Factory, if I’m not mistaken, and then it went to Case and Farnesworth and then RCA and then what they are today. There might be some that I’ve sorta forgotten about but we had that, and we had Delta Electric, and um, we had the Marion Malleable and the Atlas, I said the Atlas, and we had the Coke Foundry, we had Anaconda, Foster Forbes, Rutenburg, um, oh, I can’t begin to name them all but we did have a lot of factories.
ar: So the city was basically built around factories?
bs: Yes, the city uh, well they had a gas boom way, way back and that drew a lot of people, and they didn’t think that gas was ever going to give up and uh, (pause) We – we – at that time we had what they called the York Inn out on West 16th Street and uh people would come from far and wide I guess for that. That was before my time.
19:22 ar: Do you remember anybody famous coming to Marion?
bs: Well, Fairmount would like to say Jimmy Dean. Um, I think Truman was here once. And Billy Graham, he wasn’t here but we had a crusade here and Ralph Bell, I think, was the speaker. I’m sure there’s been other famous ones but – oh Hillus – he was one of the, I don’t know if he was a representative or senator but he was from Kokomo and I know he has been in Marion.
Joining the Church
20:20 ar: Were you involved in the church back then?
bs: Dick and I joined the church in 1953. I helped out with the kindergarten class for several years.
ar: What was that like?
bs: Well, it was a lot different from what it is now. We had a lady come from the Presbyterian office and she sorta stream lined our education and this was before we had our educational building. You know the part I mean that was built on . . .
bs: And, but that was sorta the beginning of having ole little stove and refrigerator, and not real but toys you know for them to play with.
bs: I know Benny and I . . . I and Dick helped with crafts or did crafts. I know Benny and I . . . Dick helped with crafts or did crafts. Benny and I . . . Dick and I would sit up on Saturday nights and do the crafts for Sunday morning Sunday school. We had about twenty to twenty-five kids in the Sunday school class.
22:46 ar: That’s a good amount. Do you now what kind of jobs your husband, er, uh, held?
bs: Yes, when he first came back from service he went back to work at Farnesworth . . . that’s where he had worked before and then my dad and mother had Ballowgrip and Equipment and they wanted Dick to come out there and go to work. So Dick went out and worked for my stepfather and then eventually we took over until we retired.
ar: Where did your husband go during . . . while he was in service?
bs: Well, at first they were on the East coast and they went to Iceland and Ireland and then they went down, and I believe that that might have happened before the war, because he was in before the war, because he said they were in Cuba the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed and they came through the – they called it the Big Ditch – the Panama Canal and up the west coast and then they made his ship an attack transport so he was at Guadalcanal and Bouganville and Saipan, and Leyte and he made them all.
25:23 ar: Do you remember the lynching . . .
ar: . . . down on the square? What do you remember about it?
bs: Well, I know that there were a lot of people awful ‘fraid after it happened and uh I – ‘course I wasn’t down there to see it but uh, it was kind of a bad thing to think that Marion is remembered by that, but it did happen.
ar: All right.
bs: I think that happened around ’30 or ’31 and see I would of only been about eight or nine years old.
26:06 ar: What elementary school did you go to?
bs: I went to Lincoln, but not the Lincoln that is out there today. Uh, this was a big uh eight room, it had six rooms in it but it really was an eight room square building with wood floors, and then I went to Martin Boots, and then I went to high school.
ar: What grades were at the elementary schools back then?
bs: One to six.
ar: And middle school?
bs: Then junior high was seven, eight, and nine and then high school was ten, eleven, and twelve.
26:48 ar: Well, thank you very much for your interview. It really helped a lot.
bs: Did it?
ar: Yes it did.
bs: If you would like to take this, just make sure I get it back, why you are perfectly welcome. If you want . . .
ar: That would be fabulous.
bs: . . . this was put out by June McKown, Do you know her?
ar: No, I don’t.
bs: Her husband is, was a lawyer and he graduated with me and here are some pictures of Marion. There’s old Kresges, this is the corner of Fourth and Washington Street.
ar: The square.
27:51 bs: Uh huh, the square and here is a picture of the band.
ar: From the high school?
bs: Yeah, I don’t have any idea which, this is in later years. Uh, when I first joined the band we first had sweaters and capes.
ar: (laugh) What kind of instrument did you play?
bs: Clarinet. But if you would like to take this and uh look it over maybe – you know out by the dam?
ar: Uh huh.
28:29 bs: That was the –uh –the flour mill that’s out there. And this was out in the park. They had it in the historical building out there and it got full of termites and everything and I guess they took it out and uh destroyed it. Weaver is uh just across – just a few houses now but that was out off of 37 and you go west.
ar: Was it a black community?
bs: Yes, uh huh.
ar: Did you ever visit there?
bs: No, I’ve been through it. There was the old Spencer Hotel. That’s where the Grant County Community Building is there. But maybe your mom and dad would like to look through that.
29:35 ar: What colleges were here? Were there any colleges here?
bs: Uh, Marion College was here and then there was a business college too.
ar: Well, that’s a really nice book and I really appreciate that.
bs: You can take this along with you to if you want to. I wish I could find that book somewhere. But to me see these even go back even farther than I can remember, but this might be 13th and Washington. You know, something like that.
30:19 ar: Are these houses?
bs: Well, residences. See the Hostess House was a doctor’s house at one time. I don’t think he was ever married, and I think he built this for his wife or something, but I think they told me he was never married – never got married. It’s a beautiful old home.
ar: Yes, it is.
as: Let me go out in the family room and see if that – I don’t think I took it out there.
ar: All right. (pause in tape)
bs: . . . published and his daughter got it published for him.
ar: And what was his name?
ar: Ok. (pause)
bs: I had it laying on that chair for quite some time and I thought aww this doesn’t need to be out and I’ll put it here.
ar: Did your family ever do any farming?
bs: Uh huh, no.
32:22 ar: You were all business? What banks were here?
bs: Well, the new bank – the Union Planters Bank was Marion National and down on the other corner was the First National and uh I think maybe there was a bank over on the – where the uh Star Bank is on the east side of the square. I think there was a bank in there, but I think it went under with the depression.
ar: Did they treat the banks back then like they do now, where you could just go and get money like you do now?
bs: Well, no I don’t think money was that easy.
33:27 ar: Do you remember anything about the politics back then, like the elections and . . .
bs: Well, we had elections and uh it was both Democrat and Republican. They kind of took turns.
ar: Was there a lot of campaigning?
bs: Oh, we didn’t – I don’t think they ever put signs out in their yards like they do now. You know, being in business we just couldn’t very well say we were one way or the other, and so we just we did very little advertising for anybody and we’ve never had a sign in our yard.
34:26 ar: Were there any boats on the Mississenewa River back then?
bs: No, I don’t think uh because I don’t think – I think the dam was there. I can’t remember uh when that dam was put in.
34:47 ar: What about railroads? Were there a lot of ….
bs: Yes, there was the Pennsylvania and the Baltimore and Ohio and then the one down on East Third and Fourth Street. That’s been several different names. I think its Norfolk and Western now. I don’t know but its been that and its been New York Central and uh …
35:19 ar: Did you guys wear all this fancy clothing back then?
35:32 bs: No, uh, that had sort had gone out – I think that when out in the late seventeen hundreds – I don’t mean . . . (end of side of tape)
00:00 bs: . . . came the flapper stage.
ar: What was that?
bs: Oh, the shorter dresses and did you ever see anybody do the Charleston on. . .
bs: Well, course I am no dancer, but uh, and then clothes just keep evolving until that’s what we have today. I kind of wish that eveningwear, that the long dresses that we had back in the, oh I don’t know, ‘60’s maybe. I thought they were kind of neat to dress up in, but now people would look at you and think you were crazy.
ar: Did you ever go to any dances?
bs: Oh , no not really. Dick, he uh didn’t like to dance and uh so . . .
ar: This is a really neat book.
bs: Oh, we were just really thrilled with it . . . that we were able to buy one.
01:18 ar: Were there any floods or anything major?
bs: Oh yes, of course the big flood was 1913 and then about in the middle ‘50s, 55 or 56, something along in there, they had the dam or dike broke back of the Anaconda and it swept through there and uh it came clear up to the railroad. It didn’t come on downtown but it came up to the railroad.
ar: Was there a lot of damage?
bs: Well, I think that a lot of those houses that was down in East Marion were pretty well water logged.
02:03 ar: What was – did we have the courthouse back then?
ar: Was it still in the middle of the square…the same building?
bs: The same building. They probably – I haven’t been in the courthouse for years but I think they have probably done a lot of renovating in there since then.
ar: Ok, well, thank you very much for everything.
bs: Your quite welcome.
ar: I can return these to you tomorrow evening if you like.
bs: Well, you don’t have to return them this quickly but you know. Go ahead and take time to look at them and maybe your mother and dad would like to see them too… and if I find Steve’s book I will bring it to you.
bs: You know I put it away so I would know where it was.
ar: I hate when I do things like that. (pause in tape)
03:07 bs: Uh, Bill (inaudible) died this past year but he was quite – he was the head of everything and uh they put out a Survey every month or so, tells what news there is of the class and everything.
ar: What kind of things did they put in there?
bs: Oh, they – ‘course our age they were usually traveling or something like that and they would put in small bits and if people would write in and tell them what they had done, why they would put that in.
ar: Were there any big issues back then that were debated?
bs: You mean in the Survey?
ar: Oh, just in any – in high school.
bs: I can’t remember of anything.
03:57 ar: Was the Cactus still the yearbook?
bs: Yes, I’ve got all –I’ve got back (pause) Here’s my Cactus. But see Dick had two older brothers and I’ve got the Cactus back to – his brother gave me all of them but the year he graduated which was in ’34 I think and I’ve got them back through the twenties I think.
ar: Was that at the high school? That statue?
bs: Yes, uh huh, that out at the new high school.
ar: Where was the old high school?
bs: On Nelson Street, uh, just about a block and half west on - of Nebraska.
ar: And they tore it down?
bs: Yes, let me show you me. Where am I? Here I am.
bs: Yes! I used to do my hair up every night.
ar: I would love to be able to have curls. This is neat. I was looking through some of the old yearbooks and we have some in the Survey room and I was looking at all the people. (clock chimes)
bs: I don’t think uh, Barb Pack would be in here. I think she is to young. I mean I know she wasn’t in my class but you could go back to the sophomores and pick up a few but she is way too young for that.
06:06 ar: Was football big back then?
bs: Oh yes.
ar: Was it as big as basketball or bigger?
bs: Oh, I thought basketball was more because I liked that better. (laugh) But I’ve gotten to be quite a football fan. I like the pro’s and . . .
ar: Did they wear knee pads back then? To play basketball?
bs: Well, either that or maybe – see he’s only got one on and he doesn’t have any on.
06:44 ar: Did they have any academic team… like the quiz bowl or super bowl?
ar: Did you ever take any field trips?
ar: What was your school day like? When did it start?
bs: Well, I think it started around maybe 8:30, I am not real sure and we got out around three.
ar: About the same as ours.
07:12 ar: OK, Thank you very much!