Marjorie Wonderly

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Personal narrative of Marjorie Wonderly
From: Marjorie Wonderly (mw)
Medium: Audio Tape
Date: Tuesday, April 27 1999
Collected by: Scott Sylte (ss)

0:05 ss: I am Scott Sylte. It is April 27, 1999. We are at 1313 Robert Avenue. I am speaking with Marjorie Wonderly. Please state your name. mw: Marjorie Wonderly

0:30 ss: Do I have your permission to interview you?

mw: Yes, certainly

0:35 ss: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to Marion High School?

mw: Yes

0:40 ss: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to Marion Public Library?

mw: Yes

Oral History of Marjorie Wonderly

Marjorie's Life in the Early 1940s

0:55 ss: In the early 1940s, what was your life like.

mw: Well, I worked, started working then for a purchasing agent as his secretary, and a lot of our work consisted of government forms, to, for the allocation of copper an all of the raw materials that the company used. That was part of my job; of course, dictation and filing, the ugly word filing. And then my job moved from Jonesboro, Indiana, to Fort Wayne to the corporate headquarters, and, uh, that was on Wall Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My job continued there for the same boss until he was moved to another facility, and then I stayed and advanced to secretary for the vice president of Essex Wire and continued in that job for five years more or less (laugh) until I came back to Marion to get married.

2:30 ss: So what did you do on Saturday nights in the '40s?

mw: Well, when I lived in Fort Wayne, I usually came home to visit my mother and brother and sister. And since most of our guys were in the service, we would a lot of times go bowling. And if we weren’t bowling, we would go to one of the, well, for me, well, it was the Moose where my father had been a member and I could get in and my girlfriend was a member and we would go there and listen to the band. And we girls danced together because there weren’t enough men to go around. And those men who were there were married and all the way and so we girls danced together and it wasn’t unusual. Nobody thought anything about it.

3:25 ss: How did you get back and forth from your job in Marion to Fort Wayne?

mw: By bus. Lots of buses ran constantly in those days, and they were always full, always. Some weekends my roommate and I would take the train to Chicago, and I remember one trip that I stood all the way 'cause it was full of soldiers. I had lots of knees, offers to sit on knees, (laugh) guys. That, um, that’s how crowded travel was at that time. And then my roommate and I would go up there occasionally, not often, but then that time we were in there we were standing all the way.

Marriage and Family

4:25 ss: When did you get married?

mw: Well, I got, I was married in 1947 after my husband had come home from the service. D-Day was in August of '45. But we weren’t engaged or anything when he went away. And then after a brief time in Marion, he went to Oregon to visit, be with his sister for a while so when he came back, we got back together again and married in September of 1947. And I had met him at my original job on Jonesboro.

5:20 ss: How soon did you have children after you got married?

mw: Well, I had one boy in 1949.

5:35 ss: How did you and your husband share the parenting roles?

mw: Well, if I remember, I did most of it. He helped feed him and play with him and entertain him (laugh). I was so busy, but after about two years, no, after we were married a couple of years, we went to, my mother lived with us, so she helped a lot with taking care of him actually. He was a good father.

6:35 ss: Did you guys have your own house immediately after you got married?

mw: We lived in an apartment, an upstairs apartment, um, for two years, I guess, and then we bought a house on Washington Street in the 1400 block. It was a duplex and we rented out the upstairs five-room apartment and that paid the payments on our house so we lived there free for about fifteen years till we bought our next house. And we had our down payment for the next one, and we lived there only ten years. And then we moved to this house, and we’ve been here 23 years.

7:25 ss: Where did you work after you and your husband got married?

mw: I worked briefly at what was the Marion National Bank. and that job led into a job with Bell Fiber Products because Mr. Bell owned the bank at that time or had a majority stockholder. And through the bank I got a job then with Bell Fiber and first I was secretary to the secretary of Bell Fiber and then I later worked for the CEO and owner and the president of Bell Fiber.

8:30 ss: What did you do in Marion on Saturday nights after the war?

mw: After we were married, we didn’t have much money for entertainment. After, of course, we got T.V., why that was mostly our entertainment - didn’t go to dances or anything didn’t go to bars but a movie occasionally was about the extent of it. We would go to the lakes. We had friends that went to the lakes so we spent weekends there many, many times.

9:10 ss: Do you have any stories about something that happened at the lakes?

mw: Well, one time our sorority group spent a week at the lake and one of the girls has a small child and she was stepping out of the boat onto a pier and fell in the water because the boat kept shoving out away from the pier. I got a horrendous sunburn on a very cloudy day. I didn’t know the sun could burn through the clouds. I went to sleep on the pier and burned the back of my legs. I could hardly sit down for a week or so.

10:10 ss: What lake was this?

mw: It happened at Maxinkuckee lake. It’s up by Culver, Indiana. We also spent time up at Lake Barbee.


Marion High School

10:40 ss: Backing up a little bit, tell me about your days in high school.

mw: I didn’t have a lot of outside activities. I guess I was terribly shy. Unfortunately, I look back now and think how sad I am that I didn’t sing in the glee club or do a lot of those. I belonged to a Spanish club and a girls' club. They called it Girl Reserves. Now it would be Girl Scouts. And I loved school. Probably didn’t miss more than four days of school in my entire twelve years of school. I was incredibly healthy. But I loved school. I loved math. I got good grades in math.

11:45 ss: Did you go to basketball games?

mw: Oh, yes, yes. My father was a basketball coach along with being principal of the school and a teacher so I started to learn young to appreciate basketball games.

Secretarial School

12:10 ss: After high school, did you have any secondary schooling?

mw: Well, I did go to secretarial school (business college they called it then) for a year was all the course was. Then several years later I took some courses at Ball State University - which was just general courses, a lot of things - economics, some law, some English. I don’t remember what else; it has been a while.

The Square

13:00 ss: So, at this time, where did you do most of your shopping?

mw: Most of it in Marion. A lot of times on the weekend my husband and I would go to a mall maybe out of town and shop; mostly it was in town.

13:25 ss: So what kind of stores were in Marion at this time?

mw: I wish I could remember all of them, but mainly our shopping was downtown around the square. And I worked at the dime store while I was in high school onSaturday nights. The people were just from wall to the curb filled with people. It is almost unimaginable now when you look back at how many people came to town on Saturday night - farmers, everybody. That was the thing to do because all the stores were open. If you did nothing else but just walk around and around and around and see all your friends and stop and chat with them, but I worked during that time. We had four dime stores at that time.

14:30 ss: Around the square?

mw: Around the square.

14:35 ss: What other kinds of stores were there?

mw: Oh, there were men’s clothing stores, women’s clothing stores, drugstores, the Spencer Hotel, banks - three banks, two furniture stores, and what else, shoe stores. Penney’s, department stores were on the square at that time.

Economic Realities

First Car

15:25 ss: So when did you buy your first car?

Mw: My own or my husband's? I didn’t own a car until, in my own name, until my husband came back from the service. He needed a car. There weren’t many available at that time because all the boys were coming back at the same time, and they all wanted cars. So he bought one that had been in a wreck so we had a friend fix it up presentable and usable until maybe two years after we were married and we traded it in. But for me, my own, we didn’t have a second car for several years. My son was in college actually.

Rationing Stamps

16:25 ss: Did you have to use rationing stamps during World War II back when you were working as a secretary? What was that like?

mw: Well, we did have rationing. Gasoline; they rationed sugar; they rationed meat. You had coupons for what you needed. When the coupons were gone, you just did without until you got your next ration of coupons. They rationed shoes, I remember. It wasn’t a real hardship for my roommate and I because she had the same coupons I had and so between us we did fine as far as sugar and coffee and meat was concerned.

Matter Park: "A Booming Park"

17:30 ss: What was Matter Park like?

mw: Well, it was a booming park. It had some animals, bears, monkeys, birds, a swimming pool, rides, slides and teeter totters and swings. It was a fun place for we kids. We begged to go there a lot and go swimming. They had a nice swimming pool there at that time.

18:20 ss: How did you get transportation to Matter Park?

mw: Well, lots of times my girlfriend and I walked. And when I could, I borrowed my brother’s bike, and we rode our bikes out there. But, if we begged enough, my mother would take us out.

18:45 ss: Did you ever ride the trolley cars when they were in Marion?

mw: Oh, yes. But not a lot 'cause they didn’t really - I had to walk four blocks to ride four blocks to get to town so I never did that. And it was inconvenient for school so I always walked to and from school. They just weren’t convenient. But I did ride if I was going out in south Marion but not a lot.

Work and Pay and Prices

19:25 ss: What was your salary like at your job?

mw: Well, by the time I left Fort Wayne to get married, I was making fifty dollars a week, and then I got married and didn’t work for a year or so. And then I went to work at the bank, and the bank only paid me thirty dollars a week - which was a big shock. But that was the difference between working in industry and a bank and Fort Wayne and Marion. And actually my husband was only making fifty dollars a week when we got married.

20:20 ss: So back then was fifty dollars a week a good salary?

mw: That was average, and, of course, the prices were comparable to the salaries. We paid a lot less. A pair of shoes, I guess you could get for between five and ten dollars and if you were lucky and weren’t hard to fit. And bread and milk was a lot cheaper. I think when we were married, don’t remember. I can’t go back that much.

21:15 ss: So did you have any jobs other than a secretary?

mw: No, all my jobs have been secretarial except the time that I worked in a dime store during high school.

Marion: "A Good Place to Live"

21:40 ss: So on a final thought, what is your overall feeling about Marion in the 1940s

mw: I think all my life Marion was a good place to live. I’ve enjoyed and thought it was a wonderful place to raise children. I’ve felt they have, had good schools and proud of the education that I got and my son got. It was very good.

22:15 ss: Thank you