Ruth Lewis and Lon Cseplo

Recorded July 29, 2009 Archived July 29, 2009 44:11 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: DDB000551


Ruth E. Lewis (84) tells her grandson, Lon Cseplo (39) of her family’s life during the Great Depression and later during World War II. She shares the story of her mother’s coming to the United States by way of Ellis Island and stories of her own travel adventures as well.

Subject Log / Time Code

Ruth describes life during World War II and remembers her male relatives’ military service.
Ruth remembers meeting her ex-husband George while working as a soda jerk.
Ruth remembers their family trip to Yellowstone National Park.
Ruth shares the happiest and saddest moments of her life.
Ruth tells Lon of her mother’s family’s coming to the United States.
Ruth shares her thoughts on being a grandparent.
Ruth shares her memories of Lon as a kid. “You were the one who loved books,” she remembers.
Ruth shares her advice to those growing up during the current economic times and describes her life during World War II.


  • Ruth Lewis
  • Lon Cseplo

Recording Location

Akron-Summit County Public Library

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:03 Hey, I am Lance up low my ages as of today is 39 today is July 29th, 2009. We're in Akron, Ohio, and I am interviewing my grandma.

00:23 I'm Grandma. My name is Ruth b for Elaine Lewis. I'm 84 years of age. This is July 29th, 2009. We're in Akron.

00:38 And my partner is my grandson lawn. Happy birthday line.

00:49 What grandma for so I want to thank you for coming out at this is a great honor for me to have you here. We've talked over the years so much a lot about about you and and your kids but I'm kind of interested more in a you as at during your childhood was wondering if you'd care to share with me anything that comes to mind regarding you as a child and okay, I quite remember the Depression years and hit my parents pretty hard. We were maybe one of the fortunate ones because my grandparents had a farm and they brought produce. They brought chickens. They brought eggs and milk. My dad did a lot of hunting.

01:43 My mother did a lot of canning. She had a fruit seller in our basement with shelves. They were lined with canned goods and my brother and I are at that time. I was about eight years old. We picked a lot of strawberries and then when blackberries were in we picked a lot of blackberries and my mother can whatever Surplus she had we grew up in an area that was being developed. We called it the allotment there were three roads and there were about five homes built on them at that time. We in the winters. We went down to the end of the road. It was called and it was a golf course.

02:37 I called home. Anyway, we were permitted we were permitted to do skiing on the hill there. So we had a good time. Yeah, and so it in your family then it was your parents who all live together my mother or my dad my brother and myself. I had one brother and he had a rabbit called Brownie and I had a big huge black cat.

03:13 Did they get along? Well, what of your neighborhood and stuff? How would you describe your home? What was it? Like where you grew up? Well, it was a new home or three-bedroom home to stories which was usually the kind that were built then yeah quite a nice house. Yeah.

03:47 And numb so

03:50 I guess I'm a bit older you.

03:56 We're talkin in Ohio high school age and stuff as a certain War wonder what life was like for you and your family and summer and around that time. Okay at the time I graduated high school in 1943 and just before that World War II hit and a lot of the boys in my class left and they only had six more months of school to go but many of them including my husband-to-be and my brother.

04:36 Got your my husband went into submarine service. My brother was in the Army Corps of engineer stationed in England and they got their diplomas after they were in the service for just a few months. And I remember it was quite a sad thing at the 25th class reunions the Give the names of all the boys that were killed during the war there were about 30 of them. So that was kind of a sad reunions your your class about how large was your class size means 432 it was a big school. I think maybe around 250, but I'm not too big. Yeah, you mentioned that one of the people that you that you met with her husband-to-be.

05:35 If you could tell me more about how you met George. Okay, I was a soda jerk in quite a large ice cream profession. And I remember he came into the store with a group of his friends and

06:00 They left shortly after one of his friends came back in and he said George wants to know if he can walk you home after work tonight. So after that, yeah when I leave actually got married and we move from the city back out to the country. We had a farm and that's where you came into my life. And we had a herd of cattle shipped in from Fargo North Dakota Kota. They were polled herefords the steers and we fatten them up and sold them about a year later.

06:43 But I we had many many things. I mean horses goats of chickens. We even had nine mink. Yes. We had nine mink. Unfortunately, I disease struck one and we lost them all the

07:11 What would you say in a can of growing back then two year relationship with George? What would you say is where some of the best times and perhaps some of the more difficult times in your relationship if you'd care to share

07:27 Of course in in the years that I was married, we were divorced after 35 years of marriage we had good times. We one thing I remember real. Well, we took our four kids. I had two sons and two daughters. We went to Yellowstone and it was it was a nice trip the bad times. I don't think I'll go into. Okay, that's fine. Like I said if you want to put you on there, so I wonder what you mentioned your your trip to Yellowstone and that was that was the main trip that you can recall from the six of you together and stuff going out. I'm wondering if you'd if there's any memories that you had that you like to share about that on something in the various towns.

08:27 He had a lot of what I called tourist traps one was an Indian dance. That was I'm sure put on for the tourists, but I'm sure they were Indians but the one

08:43 Main thing that I remember

08:46 Was early in the morning and we left the motel and very was July but it was cold cold that morning and down the road way far in the distance. I saw something coming toward us down the road.

09:06 Well, it turned out that it was a cattle Roundup. So we were parked with the car and the cattle were running on both sides of the car. And I remember at the very end. There was a family must have been the husband and the wife.

09:30 Two little kids on their own horses and they were big big horses and they were doing just fine. So that was not a tourist trap. That was authentic. Yeah about whole Burger where your kids been around 12.

09:53 And the youngest was maybe five or six.

09:57 So it'd be quite an adventure for them really was it really was? Yeah and a couple of times we couldn't find a place to stay. So I was there and the desert we had a tent and which I wasn't sleeping. I said no, I'm sleeping in the station wagon. Thank you, but we can hear coyotes howling during the night very rugged and then coming back home. We went through, Texas and I said, okay. I want to stop somewhere for a real steak dinner and it just happened that we were on Route 66.

10:38 And

10:40 It it was very very interesting. It was good. I mean it was a very good steak and they served it on a wooden plank.

10:49 So is that that was authentic in with you bring me up food here and I'm thinking about a current family project that we're working on being being a cookbook morning. Were there certain dishes certain menu items certain things that you really associate with maybe your childhood ears or maybe the the Warriors or did he have any particular favorite meals? I don't think I had any particular favorites. I think I just like food just name at all. Well good food. I'll eat I don't want anything out of the ordinary, LOL. But yeah, I'm just a good eater.

11:37 What if we could be maybe a little little more General? I'm wondering if you might speak to one of the happiest moments of your life that you can be, you know, any of any of the any age but it's is there some experience that you find particularly happy?

12:04 Well, I think so. My first son was born George was still in the service. He was out and I believe San Francisco Bay or maybe it was farther south waiting to be mustered out of the service and after my son was born because he wanted a boy, of course his buddy aboard this ship was a radio man, and he said he was standing on the deck and he saw the lights flashing of of a message coming in Mason next thing he knew the radio man was running up to him saying you have a son so it works out good. I was happy about that.

12:59 The curse of juxtaposition to that question is what about the what about our said I said time saddest moment.

13:09 July 4th 2004. I lost my daughter my oldest daughter to a very fast-moving cancer belongs in the liver.

13:23 And it lasted maybe about four months before she died course. That was the saddest.

13:35 Daughter's name was Terry. She was on her birth certificate. It was Terrell. Teryl.

13:46 You never knew that long though. I do you never

13:56 I guess some what some

14:00 If you could pick somebody somebody perhaps that has been a big influence on your life.

14:08 Or perhaps something is there. Is there something that you can point to as who like basically who's been the biggest influence on your life if you are or what? I don't know. I was a switchboard operator receptionist for 12 years for one company in 2 years for another company and getting away from the farm. And when I knew I could do the job and I enjoyed it so much and I think they gave me just a lot of confidence.

14:47 And it said the job that you mention serger switchboard operator farming. What's up? Haven't you had raising four kids raising not raising but babysitting for five of my grandchildren on a regular basis seeing you off to school thing you get off the bus at the farm and I enjoyed every every minute of it. Just watching you all grow up. And now I had 10 grandkids now. I have nine great-grandkids.

15:32 I love them all and no one's here.

15:40 Okay, I'm not going to get that idea. I guess maybe we can change gears here and I'm wondering about the traditions in the family. I'm I mean, I I can think of one, but I'm wondering from your perspective what's are the Traditions you think are most associated with your family and you know your kids your your grandkids and great-grandkids and probably eventually great great gang, of course the usual z z Christmas celebrations

16:22 All the birthday celebrations. I do remember having dinner at my grandparents and it was out always always plum pudding that was brought in.

16:39 Poured Brandy over it and they would light it and it was a beautiful flame and everybody enjoyed it, but I didn't like it. I didn't like the plum pudding.

16:53 I guess I really don't remember a lot of traditions other than the usual I'm surprised. You didn't mention New Year's Eve Bingo. Oh, okay. I babysat all my grandchildren on New Year's Eve and I had a party for all of you. So your parents could go out and kick up their heels for an evening. Yeah, it wasn't just any party and you always had

17:32 Do it look like sparkling wine, but it was really up just a beverage it wasn't wine, but I always got the sparkling grape beverage for you all this time. I've been bamboozled for prizes. I wonder if you could share some of your wisdom.

17:57 What are what are some of the important lessons you've learned in in your life?

18:05 I know you're probably too young too too too many.

18:13 I told you I put you on the spot. Well, I think.

18:19 And I get carried away with my talk sometimes but I think you know when when to talk or when to keep my mouth shut.

18:35 And I've done a lot of traveling to in my time my mother.

18:42 Should I go into that? No, please hurry Lily. I would love to hear about it. My mother was born in England and she came to the emigrated to Canada my grandmother and grandfather and my mother to be when she was about what I think about 6 months old didn't work out in Canada. So they moved to the west side of Cleveland and then eventually

19:08 My one aunt my mother's sister was born here.

19:13 And then when my grandmother was pregnant again, she wanted to go back to England to have her baby there.

19:20 And

19:22 On the way there.

19:25 World War 1 broke out and the ocean was loaded with German submarines, but they were told that

19:37 And no way could they go back to the states right away? They they were stuck there for I don't I can't tell you just how long but my mother and my aunt had a little bit of their education there, but my grandmother was told that at a moment's notice. She had to be ready to pick up and leave that our ship would be leaving so lately made it back to the States, but they had to go through Ellis Island. My grandfather had never taken a second citizenship papers.

20:16 So my grandmother was detained there from having the baby and she was always see sick and she was pretty sick. So it was sort of touch and go because she might have been sent back to England but my grandfather was there waiting for her and she eventually was released. It was okay. She was released. So I'm sure that somewhere on the wall at Ellis Island. There their names would be and I find it interesting my my youngest and who is only 10 years older than I am. She's 94 She always told me that the ship that they came over on was sunk on his voyage back to England.

21:07 So I ask my daughter to go online and I knew about the approximate dates and she found the names she found the the the ship that they were on and their names and the Manifest from the page before and the page after it was a copy of and my grandmother's name. Was there LCL cock my mother's Kathleen Alcock. My aunt's Gladys Alcock and then BBL cock. She didn't have a name yet. No name, but

21:50 That ship was not sunk going back. It was not it went on to become a troop ship and then in 1957, what would you say decommissioned? Yeah. Yeah. It was no longer in service after 1957. So I told my aunt and she didn't want to believe that you should know that ship was sunk. I said damn Nicki you want me to show you the papers is the name of the ship and know all the information, but don't bother me. My mind's made out of school.

22:41 Oh, my mom and dad were divorced then they remarried then they were divorced again when my mother had corresponded with her aunt's husband in England her aunt had passed away and he wrote to my mother after she was divorced the second time and he said why don't you come over here? Why don't you see my home and we could get married and you could stay here which they did and he was a wonderful step dad. He was just wonderful and

23:23 He never had any children and it was real funny. I mean we were real buddies. I used to tell him bill. Please don't start your food like that. He says hey, you know, how old I am he said here? I am, you know, and yeah and I was always on the heavy side and I hate to say it line, but you're going to pass the word around. I'm sure he called me Boodles baby, but he was wonderful and he was a retired railroad man. So he took us into whales he took us to Scotland and I was back and forth to visit my mom about five times one time. I went with my very good friend.

24:17 And she and I went to the Isle of Man which my my one grandmother my paternal grandmother her parents were from the Isle of Man. And so that's why I said I'm English. I'm wolfsheim manx and a lot of people don't even know what makes is think it's a tailless cat, but it's more than that. It's an island.

24:47 Yeah, so that was interesting and then we eventually went to see my husband's relatives. We flew to England then we flew to Zurich. And from there we went by train and we went to Yugoslavia. It was still Yugoslavia then and it was under Tito yet then.

25:09 And

25:12 It was the train seemed more like West Virginia. It was it was a pretty country and a we went to pick up some of my husband's uncle's because we had a rented car and it was strange. He could talk to them in Slovenian, but I didn't understand a word they were saying, you know, but I found out that it was a beautiful Farm on a hillside with beautiful horses grazing and his uncles told George that

25:53 It had belonged to an American he came over there and he was Raising horses there, but it was taken over by the Tito government. He lost it all, Yeah, and then eventually I went back to Europe with with my daughter and my granddaughter after she graduated college. Oh, and by the way, I want to tell you.

26:22 9 of my grandkids graduated college one of them just graduated from high school, but several of them already have master's degrees including you. Yeah several of them have Masters. So I'm very proud of them. Yeah, but we went to Italy and we went to Switzerland and France and then back to England. So I've done my share of traveling Canada Mexico. Yeah.

27:03 Enjoyed it all be today because I love to see the way people live and I love to see their customs and their way of dress and yeah. Oh, yes. Oh, yes, and I had a lot of nice wine and Italy and France know. I know I know you know, I'm not

27:33 DM stories about your mother and her ending up on Ellis Island. How did you come to know all this? Did she tell you for my my mother? I got it from my mother. She told me all of it. Yeah. Yeah.

27:51 So it's it's interesting and I've never been to Ellis Island. I'd like to look up you know the names what would you say your your private stuff in your life?

28:09 If you if you had to limit it to one or two door.

28:16 I hate to mention. I hate to say it again. I already told you my my grandkids. I'm proud of them. I'm proud of them without putting my neck out too far. I think I would say that the feeling is probably Mutual up on all of them. Do I am wondering what in your life Maybe?

28:43 Is different than what you might have expected is there well when I was in high school

28:52 I because I took a commercial course.

28:55 I really wanted to go with an embassy I wanted to travel a bit and I want to go to an embassy I didn't care where but I wanted to go to an embassy. Yeah, and then for a while I thought airline stewardess then I found out that at that time you had to be a registered nurse to be a stewardess.

29:21 I'm pretty sure this is what no. Nope. No, I wouldn't be that. No. So again, I'm learning a lot about you. Do you have any regrets?

29:43 Perhaps not traveling even more than you have or not being with the embassy or are there?

29:51 Any particular regrets that you care to share? I don't think so. I'm

29:59 I'm okay with the way my life turned out. I mean you're getting married and having the four kids and having the grandkids. And yeah, you're all just my whole life.

30:21 This is and please don't read anything into this question other than what I'm actually saying, but how would you like to be remembered?

30:31 CC that's an easy with Mom Mom. Grandma great-grandma.

30:40 I'd like to be remembered that way.

30:49 I guess for for those obviously well will be sharing this recording with others in the family. What time words of wisdom would you like to pass on to to anyone who might be listening?

31:08 Will muesli and my girlfriend told me this one time. She said, you know Ruthie situations can change was going through a particularly bad time in my life. And she said

31:26 Two or three years from now everything can be changed. Everything can be good. So just give us a chance. Give it a try. Just wait it out. And I think the good times outweigh the bad times really

31:41 But what about as a as a as a parent and grandparent great-grandparent perhaps someday great-great grandparent. What's what gives you I guess what's meaningful to you and being a parent and grandparent Etc.

32:08 What do what do you find as being the most meaningful part of of that relationship?

32:20 Just knowing I think that that you all have respected me, you know, yeah.

32:29 The sets that's meaningful to me. That's all I need.

32:39 1 that tie here's the question that you're probably driving but

32:45 Don't run. But is is there something you've never?

32:52 Told me or perhaps the other grandchildren that you'd like to is there. Is there something that you've never said that you didn't like to breastfeed.

33:06 They really put me on the spot. Yes you are cuz I don't know how to answer it and I'm not going to answer that. You have another question. Let's go on moving guideline. I wonder to about you were talking about.

33:28 About the travel that you've done in your life and discuss your work experiences and all.

33:44 I am wondering is there.

33:50 How do I put this?

33:52 Tiffany favorite stories may be from from traveling or work. That's that you could share with us.

34:09 Probably a couple.

34:11 I was a little bit late getting to work one morning and

34:17 I pulled into a parking lot parked my car ran in and open the switchboard just in time and sat there for maybe about 15 minutes, and I'll call came in for my Personnel department, and he said Ruth. Would you please page this license number?

34:38 Somebody left their car running in the parking lot. So I paged to the license number.

34:45 And waited for a few minutes and nobody called me. So I called Personnel back and I said nobody answered and I said can you describe the car?

34:57 They described my car. I thought they described my car sing sing in Paris went into the Louvre Anderson. What a beautiful Museum and my granddaughter had studied art in college. And so she and my daughter were on a head looking at paintings and talking about them and I kind of followed.

35:31 And of course all through Europe you notice if they're famous for all these statues, you know, which I didn't approve of some of them, Do you see that? We're referring to but I hear I am in the art museum and I stood and I was looking at this statue.

35:53 And I thought now I can't figure this one out.

35:58 I can't figure this out at all. And so I called Mandy my granddaughter over and I said Mandy.

36:07 What is the statue all about his grandma since you said that's from Aphrodite's hermaphroditus? What's that is a half man half woman.

36:20 I did no butts my granddaughter new.

36:29 Oh deer, yeah.

36:31 Something funny happened in England at my mom's house 2

36:36 The plumbing is quite different from ours, you know, there's so many things that are different there and my mother got her water supply from Claire Wyndham, which was quite a distance away, but it was the most beautiful naturally soft water that you could ever imagine imagine. So I love taking my bath there. You know, I my mom told me you just use all the water you want so get in the tub full of water you get in woods the water rises, but it was going down this whatever you call him, you know where I could be carried out of the tub.

37:23 And I heard my mother with her next-door neighbor and they were they were talking something over and they were real animated about it, you know, so I finish my bath went downstairs and my mother said do the strangest thing. She said it never happened before water was coming down and hitting the the roof of the little back porch it down to the floor down to the ground and I said whoops that was water from the tub. Can I can I sneak in at least one last question here and but it and it's kind of selfish, but hey, I'm the interviewer. So, you know when you have the grandchildren wants to interview they can sneak me know they can sneak in another one. I'm but I'm wondering maybe destroy perhaps that you

38:22 That involves me cuz after all I'm oh, yeah, there's Rancho. Oh, yes. You are the one who

38:32 Loved books you just love work. So you're just so happy when I could read you stories. Of course. Your favorite was I don't care Pierre and you listen to that story over and over and over one day. I was busy in the kitchen and I thought

38:51 Oh my goodness. What slime do when he's awfully quiet. You may be about 2 and 1/2 years old at the time. We walked into the living room. You're just sitting right in the corner of the couch busy reading your books and how strange that you became a librarian. How do in another another odd thing to this was sprayed around the. Of the Depression years or maybe shortly after our first telephone and when their telephone rang it scared me half to death and cute. Can you imagine that I would later become a switch button in before this interview started? I saw you turning off your cell phone. So well, you've come a long way.

39:51 I can only place calls and pick up calls coming in. That's all I do on my cell phone.

40:03 Thank you.

40:17 Well it still.

40:20 I've seen it with my grandkids. I see it with my daughter.

40:27 There's so much Foods. It's just thrown away and it's it's expensive. There's so much waste and I think I learned a lot of this from my mother because she carried it to the extreme. She saved every rubber band every piece of string everything, you know, but I think that we have to learn to conserve a little bit more.

40:54 Salaries are higher the

41:00 The little boy with a c not cost of living but the

41:07 You know things you learn to just spend your money because you're making more money, you know, you have to learn to conserve a little bit. I see an awful lot of voice. It bothers me, but zip my lips parents and their conservation of you all's resources or did it ever annoy you as a king ant

41:40 No, I didn't. I mean the style of living was so different then I didn't see too many excesses. And anyway, I just didn't see it.

41:56 So, I mean it's but I think I learned a lot of my mom's ways and conserving things, you know know know know know but they they did go through a lot during Depression years in fact

42:18 They lost our home but my grandparents had financed is so it went back to them so we didn't have to leave.

42:30 So and I just think my grandparents must have been.

42:35 Terrific farmers

42:38 My Grandad had a beautiful beautiful garden and he was told us kids you go down there and eat anything you want out of that Garden. So we'd pull a beautiful care it out and take it over and wash it off in the spring water and eat it.

43:03 What would be considered like of being treated? Like what was what was it for you that?

43:14 My other grandparents used to come out and they give my brother and I

43:20 Maybe a quarter or something and we were maybe about a mile down the road to the nearest.

43:30 Big big State Road, you know and just across the road was

43:37 Oh a little store. Maybe it was a little gas station to I can't remember but we take that quarter down an old boy, we buy about 5 candy bars. So that was a that was a big treat. Yeah and still is

43:56 Cheesecake cheesecake to thank you for doing this.

44:07 Thank you.