Marie Adamczyk Kroll

March 13, 1986, Oral History Interview

(Jeanette Tuve, interviewer)


Excerpts from Original Electronic Text at the Cleveland Memory Project, presented by the Cleveland State University Libraries.


A second-generation Polish American, Marie Kroll grew up in Cleveland before World War II, and she continued to be active in the Polish-American community there through the 1980s.

JT: Mrs. Kroll, . . . where were your parents born?
MK: Both of my parents were born in Poland. My mother in Krakow, and my father in Rzeszow.
JT: Thank you. Did they come to America together?
MK: No. My father came to United States. He had two brothers and a sister.  And he came as a teen-ager here to United States in 1904, and my mother came in 1910.
JT: Why did your father come?
MK: Because he was all alone in Europe and his family went abroad. Those older than him were here, so they said, "Let him come and be with us," so the family would be together.
JT: And Why did your mother come?
MK: My mother was the only child and her mother says go to the United States if you want to better yourself.
JT: So she came alone?
MK: Alone, yes.
JT: That must take a lot of courage.
MK: Yes, it did.

JT: How did your mother and father meet?
MK: At a social function. There was a lodge that had a doings, social function, and my father and mother met at this dance up there. And they got acquainted and they started going together. . . .
JT: How did your mother happen to come to Cleveland?
MK: She knew friends here and they started her. When she came in from New York they told her to come in to live with them. She stayed with them until they found a job for her. So there was no, at that time in 1910 when she came, there was not very much work for girls her age. So she started in housekeeping for this doctor.
JT: And how did your father happen to come to Cleveland?
MK: He had two brothers here living and his sister was here.
JT: He came directly to Cleveland?
MK: Yes, he came directly to Cleveland.

JT: What was your father's occupation?
MK: First . . . he went to work for Superior Foundry on piano plate. They used to make piano plates. . . . Then when he got married he got sick and his lungs were being damaged by the foundry stuff so the doctor says you better change your job or get out of there if you want to live. So then the family says "Why don't you get into some business?" So my father bought this property. . . .
MK: It was a home, and he built up the two stores in front. And ever since then he was living here, and his family. Raised us girls here in [the Warszawa neighborhood]. We went to school here and ever since then I'm still here.
JT: What was the business?
MK: . . . First of all, when he built it, it was a tavern. But then when prohibition came in he changed it because he couldn't sell beer or liquor, it was just near beer. So he went into groceries and cold cuts
and candy and like milk and dairy products that he sold.
JT: How did your father like the idea of prohibition?
MK: He didn't like it at all. And he says that the women got the power to vote and they are the ones that ruined our country with prohibition, because then after while people were making liquor, people were getting blind and sick, you know, because a lot of them didn't know how to make it and they thought they were making good stuff and it just ruined their health. So a lot of them were just getting sick, so my father didn't like it ever since then.
JT: I might point out to your father that the prohibition amendment to the Constitution was No. 18 and woman suffrage was No. 19, so prohibition came first. But I know that most men felt like your father did.

JT: Do you remember what year you started working for the Alliance of Poles?
MK: 1935 in September. . . .  And then I was also in plays and dramas over there because one of the officers over there had the youth, got them together and he would make plays, you know, certain plays years ago that they would perform. So we used to perform, and then we used to travel, like to Akron, Ravenna, Toledo, Youngstown, and we would perform gratis, you know, and the people that had the show they would charge admission and have like a fund-raiser. So we were just helping out different places as a fund-raiser for different lodges or clubs.
JT: And having some fun at the same time.
MK: Yes.
JT: Did you continue this after you were married? Did you work for the Alliance of Poles for many years?
MK: No, [not] after I got married, that was during the war, because I got married in 1942.

JT: Did you ever think seriously on going with anyone outside the neighborhood? Or anyone who didn't speak Polish?
MK: Oh, yes, I went with other nationality fellows. Yes, I went with quite a few.
JT: Would you have married one if you had fallen in love?
MK: Maybe I would, I don't know.

JT: But you married a Polish fellow, and then he was in the army for three years. . . . And you worked while he was in the army?
MK: Yes, but I didn't work for Alliance of Poles. I worked for Republic Steel.
. . .
JT: Good. And then when the war ended you quit?
MK: Yes. My boss was very much disappointed because I was like as asset to them. Because the job I did replaced a fellow , and I says since war ended and I am going to be back home to take care of my household, I says to my boss that he should give the job back to the fellow that I replaced.
JT: How nice of you. Would you have liked to continue the job?
MK: Yes, I would have, but my husband says we were looking for a home and to start housekeeping so it would be hard to work and try to keep house.
JT: Your husband wasn't interested in having you continue work?
MK: No.

MK: So then what happened: My mother was ailing. She had arthritis. So . . .  then my mother says "How about you taking the business over?" [She owned a tavern, and] she was going to sell it to my husband.  That's when we went ahead and purchased the business from my mother, so then my mother, lived with us together and that's when I started to have the family. I worked here and since then I am still here.
JT: That's wonderful. And you worked sometimes [for the tavern] too?  When you were needed or on a regular basis?
MK: Regular basis, because we operated a kitchen. When the foundry needed food so they would corne to the corner or the other business across the street. They had a choice, wherever they wanted. So every morning I had to fix lunches and every day something else on the menu.
JT: The foundry is right down the street here?
MK: Right there.
JT: Right out your back window. You didn't even have to go out of your house to serve them.

JT: What is the purpose of the Alliance of Poles?
MK: It's a fraternal organization. It's an insurance. Life insurance and we have different term insurance, and we help out. We have scholarship funds that we issue to our children for a better education, to better themselves.  We help with mortgage loans to our members, and we also have credit union where people invest money in credit union. Then we help if you want to remodel your home or purchase a car so people have somewheres to get a loan from. . . .
[And] Yes, we have a beautiful auditorium in this area. It's well occuppied with different functions. Like now during Lent we have Broadway players that perform, I think this will be the last week for them. They have a play going on, "You Can't Take It With You." And they have very nice plays, like "Sound of Music" "Fiddler on the Roof," there's a few nice plays that the Broadway players perform.
. . .
JT: What other social activities do they sponsor?
MK: Oh, next month, April, we'll have a bowling tournament.
JT: Do you have a bowling alley?
MK: No, we don't. But we have member groups that go to other places like bowling alleys that are equipped. So our bowling tournament now is going to be in Lorain, Ohio. And in August we're going to have [it] in Toledo, Ohio. . . .
JT: All of your social life could revolve around the Alliance.
MK; Yes.
JT: Has it for you most of your life?
MK: Yes, it did.

JT: Do you think,well you answered this, that your oldest son retains the culture more than your daughter.
MK: That's right. She's the baby of the family, my daughter.
JT: We are hoping to show in this study that it's women who pass down the culture. Does your daughter do the [Polish] cooking?
MK: Yes, she does.
JT: Good. Did your children marry within the Polish community?
MK: Yes, they did, but my second son, his wife isn't Polish, she's Slovenian.
JT: That's close.
MK: Yes.
JT: So it is your daughter who continues the cooking?
MK: Yes.   
JT: And she will probably teach it to her daughters.
MK: Probably.
JT: But it is your older son who continues the language and more of the tradition?
MK: Yes. He even has at his bank branch there a charwoman that cleans, you know.  So sometimes he doesn't know how to spell certain things he wants to tell this woman because he won't be in the bank when she comes in, what he wants her to do, so I have to spell certain words so they're not misspelled for the lady when she comes she'll understand what he wants her to do. So she made a remark to him, she said, "Oh, how nice you speak Polish."  But he says she should know that my mother spelled it for me.



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