John Lauer and John Lauer

Recorded March 8, 2008 Archived March 8, 2008 37:07 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: GCT004804


John Lauer, Jr. interviews his father John “Jack” Lauer, Sr. about growing up in a coal town in PA and about how he met his mother.


  • John Lauer
  • John Lauer


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00:05 My name is John oral. Our Junior. My age is 47. The date is March 8th. 2008 location is Grand Central Terminal and the relationship to my partners my dad the interviewer.

00:27 My name is John oral our senior.

00:31 And this year I will celebrate my 80th birthday. I am currently 79 the date is the same as John mentioned. It is March 8th.

00:42 And

00:45 We are in Grand Central terminal.

00:49 And I'm being interviewed by my son.

00:53 So, okay so Dad when when and where were you born?

00:59 I was born October 29th 1928 in Ashland, Pennsylvania. Small town in the coal regions was eastern Pennsylvania rather than Western Pennsylvania and eastern Pennsylvania in the cold. Was it hard to go homes in cooking stoves as opposed to the software, which is more of an industrial field interesting place to live from the stories that you tell me. I didn't know any different but I am looking back on it now. It is provided a lot of fun and enjoyment looking back. We still do it regularly your mother and I

01:45 Who who are your parents?

01:49 My parents were Finn and Bess.

01:53 Best died when I was 1 year old it so I never really knew my mother.

02:00 What did she die of?

02:02 Near as we can tell people in those days died of a quote on quote of natural causes. We believe that it was probably a heart condition that was probably undiagnosed up until that point, but it did counter very quickly.

02:19 But your dad after that ensure that your relationship to your dad miss you guys broke crew pretty close at what we did when we moved in with my dad sister and her family.

02:31 And he and I shared a bedroom. I was obviously still in a crib to begin with.

02:41 But we can't we stayed pretty close between being sent back and forth to grandmas and aunts and uncles to spend the day. I spend a lot of time with my dad and your DUI. I recall a story where you had some resentment about some knickers that you got at Christmas time from Walnut. I lived with my dad in that day and that stayed without a mother for a long. Of time, but then he sent me the kindergarten and he met and married my kindergarten teacher.

03:18 Who I didn't like and she didn't like me and name or name was Marianna.

03:28 She was an interesting person very strong-willed.

03:36 She insisted on having her own way on a variety of things and one of them was that I needed a new suit.

03:43 And it was made of a very coarse hairy scratchy weave and the trousers were knickers the kind the fashion right below the knee. I hated them couldn't stand the suit didn't like the way that knickers felt on my my bare skin on my legs so that evening I was sent to bed early and I had a bit of a fever anyway, but I remember waking up in the middle of the night and I really had to go to the bathroom and I unfortunately didn't make it.

04:19 So I messed my brand-new Necker's more or less on purpose. I'm well in his last name is Arianna water.

04:37 So did she say what she your stepmother for? She was my stepmother until she died. Did you ever go to like her anymore respect your point of view on a variety of things.

04:51 But like or love if I find that a little difficult.

04:58 She was closer to some of my kids one in particular not John, but John has a sister Kris who is older than me, but the Mariana and Chris were pretty good buddies.

05:11 And they got along famously.

05:14 Did you never achieve that level do you have any siblings?

05:19 I didn't have any siblings. I had that I had a couple of cousins about Uncle Phil. Well, yes, but they the cousins I had I think more of us believes in the true sense of the word after my mother died and I lived with my aunt and her family. She had a daughter and a son the daughter was older than I and the son was also older than I tell who are they are the best singers who were the bench singers?

05:49 That was a jean and Jim and I think of that my siblings and yes after my dad married Marianna water which we talked about a minute ago.

06:00 They did have a son Philip.

06:04 Has since passed away also now that the bensinger's tell me about the hardware store. The bensinger's wear it part of the hardware store is a tweet with the ER that was your grandfather's hardware store the hardware store and two apartments above where each of the two kids live with my father and his sister. That's Eva Eva, right but the hardware store which I could play the ground floor and much of the buildings behind. It was a hardware store and it was a John Jay Lauer hardware company can have as your grandfather. That was my grandfather John Jacob John Jacob Grant.

06:47 And he

06:49 He insisted that he's were in the old days when you took an inventory on screws. For example, you didn't just open the door the drawer and estimate. Well, there's a hundred or so in their you counted them one by one.

07:07 Hey, did you ever have a nickname on your grown-up?

07:13 Seem to remember when we went up there somebody calling you Jackie.

07:17 Well, I got Jay. I think you think that was a diminutive of Jack is Jackie Diane. And anybody that was a jacket got Jackie at one point or another credit the only nickname that they had a nice girl. That was Jackson for a while.

07:34 Here naked grandma eats hold me story on the way up on the train about your grandma and Walter dying and your uncle goody being overseas. Yeah, your uncle goody was Mariana's brother and his brother and he served in World War. I was in the Army and he was in the army officer in charge of the military police on the island of New Guinea.

08:06 And they had a disagreement there. They're their mother and other young lady that you referred to my step-grandmother.

08:16 Was terminally ill.

08:20 And her daughter Mariana, my stepmother was trying desperately to get goodie a good windmill water to come home early so that he could get there before his mother passed away.

08:35 Goody was reluctant to do that because if he's staying another two or three weeks, I forget which now his term being overseas was over and he would come home and not have to go back if he came home on an emergency leave. He would have to turn around and go back when the emergency was over.

09:00 And they had a disagreement on that subject which lasted the rest of their lives. They never spoke again too bad, but your grandmother used to you did chores for her and she would leave you I did leave you some money on the silver. She was she was a terrific lady. Her name was Anna.

09:22 Anna Atlanta filled water

09:27 Angie

09:30 Conjured up some jobs for me to do most of which were made up.

09:35 There's enough time. Is it depression and was a depression and but every Saturday afternoon.

09:42 On the window sill in her kitchen. She would leave $0.17.

09:47 And the local movie theater was just a half a block away and the $0.17 covered the price of admission to the matinee. Usually a western it also is enough to go to the nickel are for a candy bar at the same time. And that was my recompense for enjoying my assigned chores DMV area of the country that you grew up in is some very unique.

10:16 During the Depression or a lot of characters that that came out of there and we mention this before and then I'm going to run through some names here that people should really know about some unique characters who was slip Durkin.

10:31 Slim Thug and was one of the Town drunks.

10:36 And sleep lived about a half a block away up a steep hill in the back of the house and he managed somehow or other to get him sows just about every day.

10:47 And everybody know who slept darken was because he sang as he walked back and forth and went up the hill the best Slip dirkin story that I can remember. Is it as he went by buzzer Graber his house one day mrs. Graber who was very neat and had an Immaculate yard came out front and said slip Durkin if you or my husband died poison you

11:14 And slept around it looked at her and he honest-to-god said mrs. Graber if you were my wife I'd take it. How about this?

11:29 Snapdragon was a tall angular bony man. Who is the product of working in the mines for a while until I think I don't know what got the better of him the booze or the coldest the coldest but he was not a young man at the time when all this happened. He was I would judge today that he was probably in his sixties.

11:57 But Skipper Kelly Kelly was one Islip darkens cohorts.

12:03 Scrubber and no place to live.

12:07 But we had a moving van company.

12:10 Strangely enough the name of the company was James Hoffa.

12:14 No relation, he's not buried in Giants stadium Jim. Jimmy Hoffa had a moving company and he kept his van in this big warehouse and in the back of one of the vans.

12:32 What was the score score Burke County live? He had a couple of all those big old blankets that you wrap around Furniture so you don't damage and when you move and that was his bedding pretty warm, probably a good commodity back down on a I think the Divine smelled pretty good to occasionally. I don't want to spend too much time on all characters, but there's some other names like rats Welch Rights was one of the funniest guys in town rats live to the very top of town and he would struggle his way. He was a drinker as well. We had a lot of drinkers. It's a myth that eating maggots way down in front of Charlie, Brooker Stallone.

13:17 And I he would lean on the parking meter and get into a conversation with the parking meter in this would begin in the afternoon and sometimes last through dinner and I never ran out of something to say Bruiser Fallen Cruiser Bruiser fall in one of the funniest. We used to call him 45 degree Fullerton. And the reason for that is he walked into town. He lived at the southern end of this little town and he would walk into town late in the afternoon or early evening and as he walked he leaned back so far that he was almost on a 45 degree angle with the sidewalk. The town should know is is goes down the Mountainside and we have two sides go up two more. He'll like Mountainside very steep steep. Terrain and Sally spiernagle spear noggle Sion the saloon.

14:17 At the end of town down at the First Street, which is was the site of the primary school at 4 that part of town. We had three primary schools and across the street from the first grade school as a bar and this was Sally spiernagle.

14:37 Establishment and Sally had several distinguishing characteristics certainly not the least of which is the largest breasts I think in the county and it became quite a quite an occasion for some of the drunks to come into town or even those that works no drug spectacle and to take bets on which one Wade how much found it and after the argument got into a wedding for money. Sally would definitely take off her blouse and a Brazier and way one of them to show everybody how much they weigh but I was Sally's Packer's bar with here. I'll name a few more cuz I want to get too. Did you see her ever? Yes, and how much did they weigh?

15:37 They must avoid I would guess three or four pounds of Peace. Anyway, there's a huge shity Edinger. Let's see. I forgot a couple nux Strunk.

15:58 And I'd like nuts was actually a pretty normal kind of a guy nut sizes name. That's the greatest name I've ever heard in all of this truck boys had their was hexed drunk and there was nux Strunk and there was Gump.

16:16 Nux dated the girl across the street from us and that's how he will use his name quite often and he became part of our conversation Walmart on story and I want to ask about mom. There's there's a woman named.

16:35 Mrs. Mary obenhaus, can you tell me the story of your dad used to this was one of my father's favorite stories Mary open house some of these names that sound like they're made up. They're not they are real names.

16:51 But Mary was a very very short person and statue is Miraflex. He is she must have approached dwarf them.

17:01 Because her legs were so short and my father used to say about her that Mary was so disturbed by this that she considered suing the borough for building the sidewalks too close to where at

17:14 Can you tell me about the high school you went to?

17:22 Went to Ashland high school public. This was a public high school. It was the public high school in town. We had one other High School st. Joseph Catholic or your mother. Would it school?

17:37 I went to Ashland High which had no distinguishing characteristic except like so many other small-town schools is gone. The building is gone. Everything is gone. Now, what would you what would your classmates say about Jack Lauer? I haven't they remember you. Do you think I think there were three or four of us in there that we're reasonably popular. I was a lousy athlete never did make any of the sports teams next two of us, but I am I did play in the band.

18:11 And I was the editor of the yearbook and ran that it was an actor in the class plays and that kind of thing. I think I think most of the people in the town. That would remember me Widow take me to Friendly person. Was it at that time that you met mom?

18:32 When you were in high school know it was when I was aware of your mother and her family your mother. As you know is a 1 of 10 children. That's the Ross family. They they had a Bing Bang Boom and didn't waste any time but they had 10 kids. So everybody knew they were sort of famous in a way because they were on musically inclined and your mother and several of her sisters sang a lot and sang locally at the church socials. And what's up, if you could just say mom's name and her name is Lillian Ross. Petronella Ross version half Lithuanian. That's right, and she had to mention 10 siblings and she sang with her sisters, Ella Marie and Isabel Isabel.

19:32 Virginia villere see you met her post High School in World War II was on and I was I'm just old enough now that I got into the Navy before world war declared over.

19:55 And that was without ever getting shot at but I was there in time to get the GI Bill of Rights following World War II, which paid for my college education Right Guard one weekend. He came home for I think it was an Easter weekend. There was some holiday weekend, and I was a local party at the home of Peter and Isabel Loper.

20:24 And I was asked to bring several girls out from town to their home.

20:30 And your mother Lillian was one of them.

20:34 And now we started holding hands and chatting and talking and dancing and I remember I kissed her. Goodnight first time.

20:45 Have you kissed anybody since

20:50 Excuse me. You got me there boy.

20:56 So

21:02 Such a nice story.

21:08 Okay. So now you started dating mom now, I want you to tell me the story of them.

21:16 My grandfather Tom Ross who worked in the coal mine and was also you working too, is he was also a music teacher, but he also kept close watch over his his girls and you came up to visit once in and he was asking you about Tom Riley who I did was going to date one of Mom's sisters. I thought I wasn't up to and I don't know whether you with this was after I married your mother or just before but it was all sent either way and I went up to pick her up when evening and your grandfather.

21:52 Summarize Lillian's father was sitting on the porch having a beer.

21:59 So I joined him and I had a beer with him. Was that a growler know that was no heat to he was known to have a growler to a growler is a beer with whiskey poured into it. But as we sat there and the conversation got around to

22:19 Hey your grandfather asking me. What do you think of Tom Riley the young man? That's updating your

22:26 I guess we were married your wife's sister Val. I said, oh, I think he's fine.

22:35 I used leather fully shit. But other than that, I think he's in that he slapped his leg and he said so are you so how did you propose to Mom?

22:53 I did somehow or other right? I feel like we sort of agreed on it too busy holding hands and trying to kiss each other and whenever we got close by and it was just a matter of time.

23:11 I don't think I ever got down on my knees. And it matter fact. I had no money. I was on the GI bill at college.

23:20 And that paid tuition room and board and I think $24 a month or so, that doesn't go very far. You can't buy diamonds that way.

23:32 Hellboy so

23:36 Do you have do you have any advice for free for young couples such as I'm not so young but I'm younger than you are for newlywed such as myself and Kim my wife I was going to say you finally gotten around to doing the one thing that we've been encouraging you to do for a long time. And that's to find the right young lady in Mary and you did that and we're very happy about that, huh?

24:05 You made the right choice and she's a terrific lady any advice for us.

24:11 Do you do whatever you're doing? And don't forget to take care of yourself?

24:18 So I want to move on to working cuz this is a important thing you work till you said you went to college in the GI bill that got you into Muhlenberg College which today? I remember you saying you don't think you could have gotten into but you haven't you get your job your first job. I think if you'd if you go back to the end of World War II the United States was in a retooling situation industry was building their building factories. Appliance business was pretty good and try to recover from World War II

24:59 And most of the big companies that had an eye toward the future. We're doing a lot of hiring as matter fact, they sent interviewers are on to some of the colleges to talk to some of that senior fellows that would be available for employment at the end of the year. And the one of them was the DuPont company.

25:20 And I thought well, it's really little point in my going to talk to somebody that's with a chemical company because of my degree was in English literature.

25:31 But I take a while. I'll go just for the heck of it, but I did in the more we talk they were in the business of getting people ready to start up. The world's first polyester planned if you can believe that.

25:45 And then they are going to need people to man that plan and to form the core for an organization to supervise the operation.

25:55 And the more I talk the better it sounded and I wound up taking a job with the Divine Comedy where I stayed for 35 years for the initial job was my initial job was a student operator.

26:15 Where is that Aaron's Auto is that there are nylon facility in Seaford, Delaware what you do there?

26:22 Actually operating the machines random machines that create. Create an extra methylene diamond and gas and I can still remember that and then and then we moved then you move to Kinston North Carolina to Kinston because while we were with a nylon plaid they were building the new polyester playing in Kinston, North Carolina and we moved there.

26:52 Were you born then? I'm going to send them to you ignore to do around Christmas Seaford Seaford. She was born in the in the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford, Delaware. And then we move back to Wilmington back to Wilmington, Delaware.

27:21 Remington Delaware, and then you got a got a job working in the Empire State Building. Well, I did there was a lot of stops in between but a technical service activity calling on the mail just bought a product that had a problem with him or needed some help running them.

27:43 And the

27:45 Finally, I came to the New York and began calling on the Garment industry to try and encourage the use of more of our products in the

27:53 Then the products that they made what I'd I have to ask you because I mean not many people get the chance to work in the Empire State Building. What was was it a thrill? I still think of it as my building. That was terrific. I had an absolutely enormous office at one point.

28:12 Make a note panel testing with leather couches and I felt like I was Top Dog and King in the mountain on the 4th floor. I would have a stop building. I love that. I have to ask you you told me a story about a guy that came to work for you named Sufi Arnett and I have to ask the story about his first time here, you know, those who fear he is done with us and every Christmas we hear from Sophie and he calls or writes he lives on Long Island. Now. He too is retired. Sophie is from Turkey.

28:50 + 9

28:53 He tells the story than when he first came to the United States.

28:58 He was a new very little English.

29:02 And he was sent over here to begin working for the DuPont company and to

29:09 He was put up in a hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

29:13 And he decided to go out and explore the town on foot.

29:20 Emily said I was very careful. I can imitate his accident I think because he really has one. I was very careful to make sure that I knew where I was to begin with. So I wrote down the names of the street on a piece of paper the intersection of so-and-so and so-and-so.

29:41 And he said finally after walking for about 45 minutes to an hour. I got tired and decided it was time to go home. So I reached in my pocket and I got that piece of paper out and I looked at it and I took it over to the nearest taxi and I looked down and I had written walk and don't walk.

30:05 Are there any you spend a great deal time commuting as a lot of people in New Jersey do in the sort of an important thing at the time there at the trains were not he did very well or ventilated and there is almost no communication system, but they did have a bar car. And do you have any communing stories that you I never I never got to be a part of the bar crowd and the BART car crash and that we had to pay an extra Buck or two a month or something to get to stay in the club car. And the only time you had an opportunity on the way home is on the train stopped on the way bound to Red Bank where we lived.

30:53 That you ran out of electrical power halfway down and you had to stop and change engines and hook up a diesel to take you the rest of the way.

31:02 And some enterprising bartender at that point erected. I think I better just for that purpose because every time the train stop the men would pour off of that drain and dash into the bar to come up with at least two bottles of beer and taking the rest of the trip home. I'd like to move Ian to ask you about your religion.

31:27 What it what is your religion? I am a Roman catholic christian and

31:34 What do you think is the most profound spiritual moment you've ever had?

31:44 Probably

31:46 When I became a Catholic your grandmother Ross was my sponsor.

31:55 And she and I went up to the order of Nativity Church in Fair Haven.

32:02 And father brightsky was the priest.

32:06 And he reached out to offer some blessing to me as I accepted some of these vows and as he reached out she thought he was trying to shake hands. So she grabbed his hand and almost pulled in by the step on the other but I remembered that is a little bit of humor involved in something. That was a pretty big moment of my life. I've become

32:34 Very involved in our local church

32:38 And I feel stronger about it now than I ever did before.

32:42 So I had to how do you think you'd want to be remembered that?

32:47 I think is a helpful person with the

32:50 A kind word to say about most people.

32:55 And to be a little bit more understanding and I need to be

33:00 More grateful

33:02 For some of the blessings of the Fallen Highway

33:07 I will probably have lived longer than most of the people in my family and I had one grandfather grandfather Lauer lived to be in his 80s.

33:17 But he was the oldest.

33:20 Do you regret anything?

33:25 No.

33:27 I don't think I do that's good. I think there are some other trips are the roads that we might have explored.

33:35 But I've had a lot of fun. I'm very grateful.

33:40 We had three children.

33:42 Six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren and we're both still here. I think that's an achievement in early and keep practicing.

34:00 Well, thanks Dad. You're welcome. I love you.

34:05 Love you, too.

34:10 You have a

34:12 We have a few minutes left if you want to use it. I wanted to just a couple questions. I wanted to ask I loved hearing about your town all the characters. You were describing. Nothing Ashland. Yeah, why do you say over there? Such great names. What is the best describe what when you close your eyes and think back on the town life. Like what do you what are the first things you imagine it looking like remember it looking like

34:39 For a while ago and it was a cold sound to begin with and cold hands have a tendency to be dirty.

34:46 A lot of gray call Dustin that kind of thing around it and actually was not like that as you drove in you drove into a very nice Hoffman Boulevard in May to swing onto Center Street to main drag and wear some big beautiful old home some of them Brownstones some frame.

35:09 But it it was a very yet. I have some very happy thoughts about that hometown.

35:18 I think you and I wanted to ask to while you're both here on cuz we have a few minutes left. Why don't you just take a moment to tell your dad what he means to you?

35:30 He means the world to me and talk to him a great deal to me. I think we're a lot alike in a lot of ways that.

35:45 I never guessed. You know, I work very hard.

35:49 They're not from you.

35:53 Good with people if they're not from you see the stuff for me.

36:03 Butter

36:04 I think I have a pretty good sense of humor got that from you and actually your part at your party or personalities kept me in an employee with people with jobs and in good relationships with friends and kept me from being a shot person.

36:27 That's helped me a great deal.

36:31 And I love you very much. Hope you're going to be around for a while.

36:38 Cuz I plan to me, I hope so to say I love my from your mouth to God's ears. I appreciate your comments.

36:54 Thank you for there. Anything else you want then?

36:58 Thank you. Thanks.