Frank Rafa, Maureen Rafa, Amy Rafa, and Jillian Wesley

Recorded July 26, 2014 Archived July 26, 2014 51:06 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: chi000775


Maureen (57), Amy (41), and Jillian interview Frank (100) about his life and growing up in Chicago.

Subject Log / Time Code

Amy asks Frank what if feels like to turn 100 years old. He says he felt fine until about 96 where he feels he has changed physically.
He recalls checking into a retirement home when he was 80 not expecting to live this long.
Frank feels family is key to a long life
Amy asks about his parents. His mother didn't speak English and they were Poles living in an Irish neighborhood in Chicago.
He talks about his time as a Civil Serviceman. The CCCs
Frank met his wife in Chicago and recalls dancing with her at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago where a lot of the Big Bands would play.
He remembers moving a lot when he was young.


  • Frank Rafa
  • Maureen Rafa
  • Amy Rafa
  • Jillian Wesley

Recording Location

Chicago Cultural Center

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:03 My name is Jillian Rafa. I'm 33 years old. Today is July 26th, 2014. We're at the Chicago Cultural Center, and I'm here to interview my grandfather.

00:19 My name is Amy Rafa. I'm 41 years old.

00:24 It is July 26th, 2014. We're at the Chicago Cultural Center, and I'm here to interview my grandfather.

00:35 I'm Maureen Rafa. I'm 57. Today is July 26th, 2014. We're at the Chicago Cultural Center, and I'm here to interview my father.

00:53 My name is Frank Raffa. I'm a hundred years old. Today's date is July 26th, 2014 as it were located at Chicago Central Center. I related survive granddaughters and I John Ritter.

01:27 So Grandpa, what does it feel like to be a hundred years old? Do you actually feel different than you did when you were 50? Yeah, I think I feel I feel different even from the 96. How is in great shape, but until I was 96 and this is something broke inside of it. And then after that I kind of went down a little, you know, I had to give up stuff like that actual 96 hours of walking and pulling the golf cart and I'll let you know. I feel the same that you did when you were 50 like nothing nothing much had changed.

02:26 Do a lot more walking and stuff for that. You told me you told me once that because you got married a little later. You didn't know if you would live to see certain events. Why don't you tell us a little bit about the fiery tired? Of course, we looked at retirement homes. We were looking at one is like four blocks away and I figured out who I should retire and move four blocks. So so we had to get up at this Franciscan village, you know, we move there. I was 84 and I figured

03:23 That's how you get a tigress pretty good. You know and I figure 84 how much time have I got to know where I should have kept your car like you had it under 60 years when you were younger, didn't you say you didn't know if you'd see Amy and Jill graduate from high school.

04:01 Like I said, I didn't know all I got is going to last but I got I got buried hours 38.

04:20 Yeah. Yeah. Well, I was 37 when I got married. So do you think you think I can make it as long as you do I have to do to make it as well with the weather coming out with these bills has more and more people in their 90s. So by the time you get up to your very core hotter easy. Yeah, since we're a little bit older.

04:54 How we can make the best of the rest of our journey.

05:00 Well, I think I think it's a family as the old saying there's an old saying I read in the paper. It is a harsh word roller sports section. He's the one that started all star game and he used to get the letters that there was something new that you know, he had three or four letters. So I didn't know I was writing ever said that it's nice and Ronnie and the things your body can buy but it's nice to remember two things that money can't buy like a good family and good friends advice because it's true.

06:00 What your family have a kid? If you don't have a kid, you always end up at the church or something, you know where every is involved? Yeah. Yeah, how do you think the world or your world? Our community has changed our things are things different or the same from when they were from when you were young man before you could do.

06:36 It was just say, you know, if you're good figure, whatever is it going on now would be just going on next year, you know, but the dollar exchange your everyday.

06:52 Of course, I got her players just not just read read it here in Airplane a single played Baby live burgard buy it.

07:12 Because he would let it burn by Red. He married her father was a sure. Lexico.

07:26 So what are you got married bought a house and all that and she says she's so happy. They got a lot of his nose with his fingers.

07:46 Can you tell us a little bit about your parents?

07:55 Well, I really had no leadership. You know what I mean by mother couldn't speak English or talk English, you know, so she could have a really

08:10 Sairat, I see this sign or something like that all over my father cuz reasons pretty good, you know speak English, but your your mother Couldn't Write polish either. She couldn't ride it. Alright to write her debut. Don't try to eat you. She's just

08:37 And then you ask to water. How did she get these recipes and stuff one of the things I used to wander or I used to go to dances, you know as she always pressed my iPad says stuff like that and I are in our biggest Irish keto or a crease course is a person that doesn't know how to read or anything. Where is it Irish neighborhood a lot of people around so she was when you were in in the Civilian Conservation Corps, was that the first time you were away from home.

09:37 Early thirties late when he's a lot of people aren't working and they were going any place you don't electrons that one of the things I always think about is

09:55 Were you ever got to pay for it all?

09:59 I don't know whether we're at the radio turns on but I figured how did I find out about going to the Sea season at cuz one day or $5? I don't know where I seen it with the next day. I was there signing up.

10:21 Did you know what did you know what you were in for when you are done get involved. If you don't it's set up like a dollar you're shooting each other.

10:42 Or something

10:44 We're a reason to get out of the city and go do something. Are you Siri's Zane? Grey books as it's your heart. It's all about the West. You know, so you're going to get that in your head, you know, so weird weird Roosevelt come out that we're going to go out with something like that. I had a lucky because a lot of them never got to see Wisconsin or something or I got to go to the state of Washington has every right to California as it's Idaho, Idaho such a place where

11:34 Truck used to come by the railroad tracks just brought our food something like that. There were no roads or anything cuz you don't stay at the railroad tracks, but where you are.

11:59 That's right or Break It all living situation. When you were there when you turn off like at four chairs and is a have these floors that wood floors is the funny part of it is when we were getting $30 a month. We got 5 as a 25

12:37 And the soldiers that were already are we were already getting $21 a month.

12:45 . After the first world war was the war to end all wars, you know, so they let the RV go to be surprised if the guys there already are we you could someone get straightened out and you can buy your way out, you know, as it was as stated clearly says that a go towards that if it's too bad, of course.

13:20 What day do they're going to get in the war and then they start Drafting and people and it's writing about what does CiCi's was the first trading I really had, you know, we had

13:43 Choctaw toiletries, how long was it between the CCC and you and listing?

13:55 When you went into the army.

14:01 Are the area is it is already ours is shredded at 200C last 15 minutes at 15 months with the CiCi's. Okay, then I wear to Trinidad for True years. So I think I was 4444.

14:26 SARS as fact I was just it was as big as Europe. I was never ours is I need a bodyguard Duty yet in in Trinidad.

14:44 Lasers

14:47 Trinidad

14:49 What day did civilians in Trinidad at Coastal God's so they eat his seventies or keep up the military in Trinidad? Right? I got the release salad package already. Are we there yet?

15:37 Like we did you they were going to get any Yari or the war. They are taking anybody. In fact, I was a machinist but I didn't have much experience, but they were taking anybody they were trained your you don't in fact, I was living in Davenport that I was work. This Rock Island Arsenal and I remember coming out of the movie Davenport and here. A Lobby.

16:16 GI sliding you up cuz there was a military movie so they got you all the guys works out for you up right there. Yeah. In fact, that's where I signed up. You know that I had it transferred over here.

16:41 But that there was right. We hurt your good years are your Healthy years? So, you know what? I mean you could

16:50 6 box office

16:55 I remember.

16:58 River ride around ride around 1932 Babe Ruth children was a satisfyer you don't

17:14 There is the big news there was early thirties on that. Right right from there. I waited at CiCi's, you know.

17:24 Alright Zillow know how I read a bottle of you know, it's you versus relief Reddit describe when you first went to California with the ccc's.

17:55 Washington mountains at its September Saturday to snow already so and sorority California and I don't take it out of the train and we got there early in the morning and everybody was talking about. Where is that California sunshine and stuff like that? Well, we're here by the time I got through everything to do black scars. It was like 10:11 that it was really warm. But over there they expecting us they build barracks.

18:41 And I didn't we came to her just read the orange blossoms recovered off. You know, it was a little taller Ohio they call golf course and all that but I remember where you're sick going to go to Tower. What's the week to see a movie? You don't ya can you can you tell us a little bit about how and where you met grandma?

19:26 For watching it was a bad night terrors.

19:31 You're like so as you sleep and all that.

19:36 All those friends she had her husband were going to the trade on and they insisted that she go along with them. I think she told me she was driving and she couldn't get in touch with the others to cancel. Otherwise, she would have cancelled because the weather was so bad that the dryer better as a party part of it is

20:08 You can park at his streets are that deal and I-5 parking and Ally the Hedgehog taking her home and I'm going to drive the alley.

20:34 The Trianon of a dance a dance hall Trinidad and Eric got her to dance halls. And you know, yeah dance with gray.

20:50 That night you matter. Oh, yeah. She told me she had to run her. I told her I belonged to the Casey's didn't you both know the same guy said she trusted you cuz you knew somebody she worked with her something. She worked in the same office with this guy, you know, he's the bills me up so early.

21:50 We got married a year later and then had some really bizarre Dad like is a little kid.

22:07 I cried. What was what was what was Billy like as a little kid?

22:13 He was a cute kid who buys his girl woman who's had cute kids. What was a marine like, is it possible girl? Yeah. She's got a lot of different things. You don't flies. Are there what time I used to smoke cigars in my pocket.

23:13 Forgot about her. That's right about Billy and the trains and Mom. Do you remember that where you're watching the train go by?

23:34 Oh, yeah.

23:38 This is a trade Gore Vidal.

23:41 Who were sopped it's a trade. You know, it's goodbye. So, I don't know what your father was doing that he missed that you know, he was all Workshop Reese's Wars that try all they can come back another one just like it said, you know, when is Jimmy Graham say something like train come back and then it came back we used to it. You always took us on vacations as kids. What was one of your favorite trips when we were little that you took us on

24:33 Well

24:36 Oh, I would text you.

24:39 Are we waiting to see the statues? I mean Mount Rushmore pop-up trailer.

25:00 Put your tits up and there's a there's a busy season. If you put your arms out your text, you have it it it it except pretty crowded, but they said I really don't know where we went to the Badlands Red Door condition of the car. There was as August, you know, so we stopped is a bad as they run up to grade a billion fall down one of the cliffs when you're taking his picture.

25:57 What was it like getting a car? I mean that must that must have been different from like when you were a kid when you finally got a car.

26:10 You wouldn't believe this but I think I worked with somebody he had a 2017 Chevy coupe / of the songs for 25 bucks and I bought it and he got rid of it was used in oil but water would start again. So I had four.

26:48 I wish I had it for over a year and I saw this for $25.

26:57 Birthday car still going to ball games that I have about the 6-inch guys have it stopped has the least you can do is stay off the boulevard.

27:20 Is it is it true? I thought Aunt Maureen told me one time that you learned English watching TV when he went to school. He didn't want you to know English until he went to school yet. He did. Otherwise I rather then when we go to Bush's on Sundays, everybody be talk and polish and we didn't know what you were saying.

27:58 Brigadier red out of the blood soup

28:09 Chocolate soup but I didn't maybe Billy fell for that was my favorite food. Didn't you move a lot when you were a child? I figured.

28:26 I figured removes Ted X in my Ford first 40 years. Yo say it's cheaper to move to pay rent because they got take it in and would so really sick how you know where to buy that. I was born across the street from the Stockyards.

29:10 Veteran veteran movie about 3 or 4 blocks

29:20 Like I said, you were moving back and forth 44th would twice.

29:30 Is 47th and Ward first time I ever was border. We had a lot of house said that there is your truth is I see this woman come out with the bag and I do know is of babies and that was a good wife. She might have five or six dates said that week and she probably got a show of the dates mixed up. You don't know this 4047 Norwood.

30:20 Spoil the Grenadian spoilage to United Albany or near Morgan you own a house. Did Isis taking it? Because the Skype? Yeah, he was an entertaining guy raise a Scottish to go into the water bill. Is he a horse and wagon?

31:20 Water sprinklers. Are you go down the alley right now our brothers and sisters was it? Was it a very crowded house and noisy?

31:51 Drive to brothers were going to go help put all the oldest one. I think he was just drinking from J1 to kick you out of school. There's all kind of trouble that so he always had problems. In fact it is it up here is hurt my sisters and his army. And here's three guys three healthy guys, so I came home. I reset your bed, but sadly, I don't know how they got out of it, but they got a lot of us are brother.

32:41 You will ride to the doctor about your body doc didn't take off and go on adventures outside of the house. You kind of like spend your day outside.

33:11 Would you you know like when you were in school you'd be out of the house. What were you doing? What kind of like activities would you guys do to hang out? Yeah, yeah.

33:28 Is it better to take I remember I was never told.

33:34 I should be home at a certain time. I'd say out. So the last guy with a hole that I went home then she sometimes spend the night at the beach. Oh, yeah, I did. What year on a Friday night we go to the beach take a large fire rock like you guys pictures that are as good as red sure. You don't drink during prohibition. Didn't you see them rating a speakeasy down the street from you in the summertime?

34:33 Guys who walked out of the streets and they are FBI guys if they see smoke coming out of your chimney the New York cook it up. Beer wires. Every other guy. We had a warehouse or about three blocks from us was loaded with beer barrels and barrels as a raid is that

35:12 Chavales and Spilled a beer and some of the beer don't let it go to waste. Are there any other major world events that you remember very clearly or you remember sort of how it it changed people or the people around you?

35:53 They are a little different you know it.

35:58 Their prayers had control over the pretty good.

36:07 The Hardys they could never went to the lake is like I did go get all their parents his parents to do whatever you wanted to do. I want to go to the lake I wanted and you were able mean you had that kind of Freedom. Nobody. Like I said, don't forget Jovi pressure or the street lights goes out of you better. Hurry all the guy you said colored light the lamp.

37:07 Pick it up Joe horsebit, or they were dice broken.

37:29 Forget you

37:34 Well, then you should deliver it when I was little to the house cuz I used to chase the Milkman down the street and yell ice and then they throw a big black ice.

37:56 Did the

37:59 It's a gallon of his brother and the creepers come up to the top and it survived my brother.

38:17 Trailers at this where you at? A lot of candy melts to hurry River Sports your whole body.

38:30 You just leave it out of the table and she flies president Robert. Do you remember the time you brought Uncle Kuba and Aunt Lil to be with you sing because nobody was at a place you don't so when I was working at that Rock Island. I was living with these people.

39:04 Highest-paid, I forgot how much I had a room and then do my laundry so I brought Kuba and my sister wrote for vacation. How old were they then?

39:27 Because there huh?

39:30 They had surgery exert over the force. You don't regret it horses.

39:43 Kuma fell asleep, and we couldn't wake him up. So little I had some horses that first cigarette he fought I worried that we would you cry this ahead of us and I could see box it up and you could see the space.

40:17 Did you take them did you take your younger brothers and sisters out a lot?

40:27 No, I didn't know my brothers.

40:35 That they're all probably nobody went on vacations back. Then there's other guy do it. He works for the city. Sorry. He had a good job, but the rest like I said, we went to the lake.

41:08 But I I I got to say there are you were here at 82 22 22 a year healthy.

41:22 These are good times, you know? Yeah, but I remember you being healthy for a long time. I mean when I was little you were chasing us in the yard. I mean know when I was little you were probably

41:38 What in your sixties and you were chasing you would run after me in the yard and you push me on the swing. So I mean that's pretty good for you know, 60s and 70s.

41:56 You're avoiding if c-56 lets me in 73.

42:09 The rears are rational So This Is the End School. I was babysitting you get a swimming pool. Remember? Yeah driving around looking for a park with a pool we can find one. That's at

42:43 What was Jill like as a little kid girls are good?

43:04 You're rehearsing all the time. So

43:09 You're getting ready trouble over that way.

43:14 That's true. I remember when I was at rehearsal you give me a quarter so that I could call you.

43:21 Well, I remember once I was yours taking piano lessons at 103rd right at the railroad tracks at the Georgia border. So I think we were going to pick you up but you couldn't get it at all when he was locked up. I gave water worse or you were at the Woodville.

43:51 I remember this like you're waiting for us.

44:01 To call Billy and I

44:03 When we'd be out playing.

44:07 You know on the front porch and whistle.

44:15 We aren't we only have one minute left. Is there anything else you want to tell us?

44:27 No, I just said.

44:30 There's a lot a lot of it was in his thirties for me. You don't 30 sided or has ended yet.

44:47 Well after you get very yes, it's sold out. It was all your travels and being actor. Yeah, I got it all do you know if its 32 CC's 15 rods to years of Trinidad and I didn't say the same place you think walking everyday helps? It's supposed to help with ID.

45:28 Yeah, but you're off on a hundred King like 5 days a week at a lot of the next block. I see this woman. She's working 7 days a week rain or snow. I figured she could George Thorogood I so that I started walking everyday.

46:11 What time?

46:14 Your grandma and I used to in the winter time we go to the big house and walk.

46:23 Resource is what time I couldn't make it. So she decided she's Walk Alone.

46:30 All Oreos she got to the end.

46:34 This Celestial this is like a pork chop stir. So she got to the end and start going back at you or somebody called somebody this is in the winter to see it. This woman went out on a porch. You don't know see what the weather was like whatever key to get in and luckily I believe in at these cars and they're waving back at me and you saved that woman's life.

47:25 Yeah.

47:26 And anything you eat anything you eat you eaten. Do you think having a drink every day helped?

47:35 Why are you doing something different everyday Frozen sandwiches pizza for pizza's great. Bad for breakfast. You know, you think your good attitude has helped you live a long time. I would think I had a good attitude. Yeah, I was.

48:16 I would just I would say I was a loser, you know what I mean? Good attitude about everything so we can't we can't bottle it up and put it like a secret Frank's secret to living to 190 s get a lot of answers on that my sister Jenny Dolph

48:55 She's deities.

49:00 I can't see I can't hear I don't want to I don't want to do to go to the rock shop or twice a week on the bus has got the state if I glass what's that say about two hours because they drop you off every Walgreens at you.

49:29 So you guys just keep moving. That's what it sounds like Jenny you just keep moving.

49:40 Will you been a great role model to us? Dad and how to live a good life?

49:48 I don't know what to say. How about how about thank you. Thank you Grandpa. Thanks for coming to talk to us. Yeah, cuz my pressure sucks eggs. I didn't think of you. I remember things around the thirties, you know.

50:21 Yeah, you heard my Prime that was Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey.

50:35 Auntie V. We all radio stores that sold radios. She was fighting they had a garage is a hot first start and lot of people will be out there listening is a fight.