Virginia McConnaha Kranz, Lisa Kranz Meuser, and Dave Kranz

Recorded April 20, 2008 Archived April 20, 2008 40:14 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY003888


Lisa, 44, and Dave, 52, interview Virginia, 80, about growing up on a farm in Illinois and meeting her husband, Dick.

Subject Log / Time Code

Earliest memory: stuck head through banister, hearing chimes for the first time.
Had plenty during the Depression, but some did not.
Attending high school during WWII.
Meeting husband; she was a secretary at the hospital, and he was a reporter who would call in for statistics. Their first date was at a murder inquest.
Their honeymoon was a motor trip to New Orleans, first time she saw segregation and the ocean.
Since Dick’s death, doesn’t laugh as much.


  • Virginia McConnaha Kranz
  • Lisa Kranz Meuser
  • Dave Kranz


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00:05 My name is Lisa Kranz muser I am today 44 years of age. Today is April 20th 2008. I am seated in Sacramento, California with my brother Dave and my mother, Virginia.

00:19 On Dave Kranz. I am 52 will be 53 in a couple weeks. I am here on April 20th 2008 in Sacramento with my sister and my mother.

00:31 And I'm Virginia McConaughey Kranz. I has recently had my 80th birthday. It's April 20th 2008 and I'm with my children Dave & Lisa in Sacramento, California.

00:48 All right. My let's start by talking about your early years when tell us about where you were born. And when where you grew up with no Nana's the Warrenton Road.

01:05 In February in a snowy night and I lived in that my family lived there for about until I was three or four years old and then we moved up the road to the pieces. We say and onto the embarrass Road and I grew up there Edgar County Eastern, Illinois in the middle of the state about halfway between Chicago and st. Louis. They always said, what's your earliest memory?

01:44 I do remember the house.

01:47 Where I was born and my older sisters were born there, too.

01:52 And I remember they were always I remember having my

01:58 I've stuck my head through the faster the staircase and they are to watch some men who were putting wallpaper on the walls and on my head was stuck and I remember that they rescued me and my mom was you know, well, they got me out of there, but that's about the only memory I have of that house. And and and then I remember the moving day because I was taken to a neighbor's house and and stayed with her during the day and older lady in and she had chimes in a doorway of the house and when she'd walk through the doorway, she had a little white hair with a little knot on the top of her head and she walked through that doorway in those times with play and I'd never heard the Chimes pay for it. So that impressed me to move.

02:54 Well, I think that's a the farm was going to be sold part of the farm that we lived on. So my my Dad decided to move and those were Hard Day's, you know that was in the middle of the difference between 32 and then they live there for I don't know how many years until they retired and moved into town around being Redmond. So did your father ever own any Atlanta farm? Where was he at 10 or more primary land that wasn't his but he also owned he had old 40 or so Acres that was his own that he farmed to that a joint of the farm where we lived in so what what was he growing?

03:45 Corn and beans mostly at that time and he he had cattle he had pasture land and he raced him Catalan and hogs for our own benefit, I guess but he raised cattle to sell the reason being that soybeans. Do you have any memory of the depression? Were you aware that it was tough times? I knew yes I do and and people used to come there was a railroad track near the house and people used to come and my mom would feed people who you know hobos who are traveling on the railroads and they they didn't ever come in the house, but she took some a plate of food and they set out on the porch.

04:32 I think a thing I told everybody else.

04:39 So what was it like growing up?

04:43 Well, I had three older sisters and they made it interested if nothing else, but it was but then they were quite a bit older than I was and then after that after they left home. It was lonely Farm in a lot of ways because we weren't near you know, while we were only a mile and a half from town. So it wasn't that bad but it was different than if you'd had lots of neighbors close by but we were always in touch and we always knew what was happening and we always had a telephone and and lots of people didn't know we always had a radio lots of people didn't so we were we were you know, we were okay and we raised our food primarily so we had plenty but a lot of people didn't have plenty. So what chores did you have to do on the farm? Well, I used to I used to shell corn for the for the livestock then we had a car in Shelor and that was a dirty Dusty job and I used to pump the water. That was a big water.

05:43 Kanken and until there had to be water in the water tank all the time. So those are two things that I remember to tiresome things that I remember. I never learned to milk because my mom told me not to ever learn to mail. So she did that because she had to do it in the size when dad was in the field, you know long hours in the summertime Jenner have to cook help cook meals. No, I never did either that's where older sisters came in handy lots of ways.

06:13 Tell us about Diva and debe.

06:17 They were my magic Mary Playmates your sisters. I think that was probably before they were always busy with.

06:27 Do you know what their own chores and their own lives to and sell that I just

06:34 I created them talk to him and everybody worried about me alot. What kind of things would you do?

06:47 Oh, I'd

06:50 They're worth.

06:51 Anything with wheels, I like I roller skate. I learn to roller skate when I was very young and I got little concrete there was around I roller skated and I I had a good friend who lived a few New York. I start say miles, but it wasn't that far. But we used to walk to each other's houses. And then she played the piano silliest. She played the piano and we'd saying and you know, it was it was a good life. There was I've all I've had a very good life. I don't have many complaints Chris Connelly what happened to her what I say or whenever I go back to Illinois. She's still living on a farfan, Illinois. She's had a good life too. Interesting. What the what's your best memory of childhood?

07:43 My best memory

07:46 Well, I think it's probably when all the family would come for Sunday dinners. A lot of times all my mom's family would be there or we'd be somewhere together and I had a lot of girl cousins and we had really good times together.

08:08 My I had their my grandparents. My mother's parents had 21 grandchildren and 18 of them were female. So I was right at the end of the line is so we we did we know we played games and and

08:26 We had a good time together. What kind of dreams would you play?

08:32 Tag and hide-and-seek and you know the usual things and I had one one girl cousin who was just about my age and when we gather at my grandparents home, they had an old brass bed in one of the one of the knobs at the end of the bedstead was loose and came out and we still leave notes to each other than in that place that we were we wouldn't always be there at the same time, but we'd leave notes in with hurry to that. Take the post off the bed. What would you want to do anything? But just something to know that, you know to be in touch with each other what the what would be a good day for you when you are a kid growing up on the farm. What would be if you had an ideal day what kind of day would it be?

09:32 What kind of meals?

09:36 The weather always played a lot in what happened to your not so

09:42 I don't ever remember that there was any part of those somewhere to go somewhere with a big deal. So we always look forward to go into town and my for a few years. My dad would go to to the livestock sales on Thursday. Sometimes and Mom and I would go to the movies and you know the matinees and see Shirley Temple and that kind of thing. So that was a big.

10:10 Be happening. Where would you go? I'm going to Paris, Illinois. How long would it take you to get there? It was probably something like that. So your mom drove know my mom didn't drives and say she never did learn to drive with my dad would drive us there enough leaving enough to the movies. I know if I walk from the sale to the movies. Is that what you did, but I think he dropped off and picked us up and then we will have ice cream after medal gold medal Gold Ice Cream Parlor. So when did you learn to drive to learn to drive on before I was old enough to drive?

10:54 Because of because my dad needed me to drive so and I will I'm sure you've heard that I used to sit on a C10 with a pillow on top of it so I could see out and I because I run errands for him and take him.

11:14 Ho take his lunch to the field to him sometimes and take him water jugs, and sometimes even go into town the back way stay off the main roads and get him a piece of equipment farm equipment or whatever because he didn't have a hard Hired Man a lot of the time during the during the war because they weren't available. So I had to kind of feel in a little bit and especially my my older sisters weren't there anymore Hornets home anymore?

11:50 About to probably about the time I started High School, which reminds me that I was in high school the four years of World War II from 1941 to 1945 which was

12:05 So, okay. So tell me about being in high school.

12:11 During that time you were in a small high school, right? It was a lot during those four years to a lot of people left, you know, some somebody's Choice mostly by choice I suppose but a lot because there were jobs other places and

12:31 And just for patriotic reasons to if ever, you know, there weren't any men around your school and how many when we say it was so small High School how many how many students were in the high school, But I just know that from my time that my older sisters were there there were lots bigger classes and more students at that time that by the time that I was there in those War years and then in the early fifties the school closed because there was not enough attendants and they combined.

13:17 Several of the high schools of from the small towns and built a new school.

13:27 Will you the valedictorian I was yes.

13:32 Do you still have your speech now? I don't think so. I don't think so.

13:39 So, how did how did what was it like to be in high school during World War II?

13:48 Well, it took him parrot two other times of course gas rationing couldn't buy tires. I mean, there's just work not that well, there was all kinds of rice and food rationing.

14:04 You couldn't go get in a car and go places like princes. My sisters had before me you know, that they've gone they always knew had could go and drive the car and go wherever they wanted to go, you know within reason. My father was pretty lenient about things like that. And that just was not available then.

14:26 Where were your sisters during that time? There is place is my oldest sister and her and her husband lived on a farm not too far from us and I did they did go summon. I did get to go with them and my my sister Edie was her husband was in the service and then far flower. She came home and was at home during those times to but then eventually she went to be with him. And and then my my sister Mac went to came to California with Ed when she came so that she could get a lot better job here then she could back in, Illinois.

15:09 And then your father continue to farm. He would have been one of his 50s at that.

15:20 Well, he was forty when I was born. So I was there he would have been 57 or so. I was out of high school at Seventeen member the start of the war very well because my sister Edie and her husband were at the house at Sunday afternoon. We were all having dinner. I believe when I think the phone rang as somebody called us to tell us and then we turned on the radio on and heard about it and I mean for saying to each other well that's you know, that's that for every man who heard the news that safe was thinking. Well, that means he's going into the service and then he did, you know, he was on the farm so

16:10 I suppose he got a deferment for being on the farm. They could be at least for a while. A lot of them went anyway, but

16:24 He had done his own Farm there. So he didn't go into the service with the rationing during the during the war was your father able to get the gasoline. He needed and said he had a special permit being a farmer that far the farm equipment and also for you know the vehicles but yes, he was but you didn't wasted I mean, you know, it was they figured it out pretty well, I think.

16:56 So

16:58 As you were coming towards the end of high school. What were you thinking you're going to do?

17:04 Well, there were a few things it by investigated and I will let you know. I won a scholarship because teachers to Eastern Illinois Teacher's College in Charleston, but I didn't want to be a teacher I will end. So I remember going to Terre Haute to the TWA office because they were just beginning I think Coast-to-Coast flights and and they had the stewardesses and and flight attendants and I was really interested in doing that. I thought for a lot of great life and and I I went and investigated and got literature and learned that you had to be a registered nurses that time to be a flight attendant. So there that one that that was the end of that career because I didn't have any more desire to be a nurse than I had to be a teacher in that was about all that was available at that time.

18:02 So what did you do? Well, so there was a job available to me before I graduated that I didn't even know about but there was a actually a registered nurse who worked in a hospital in Urbana, Illinois, and she had a sister who lived in Redmond who knew my parents and her sister came and asked my parents if I'd be interested in going there to work as a secretary at the hospital. They needed a secretary and a bookkeeper and this was the Champaign County Hospital. And how far was that from home? Probably something like that.

18:47 And so I save my dad are and said oh, yes, she would be of course. So I had a job before I was ever out of high school and I had thought then that maybe I go there for the for the summer and then do something else in the fall that cuz University of Illinois was there and and I was still

19:09 Opander in the Eastern Illinois College to and and Ethel my sister Ethel had told me she'd help me if I wanted to go there. But by the time the fall came in the war was over part of it was over already and then so I just I never did you do on that job?

19:35 What's the day like?

19:37 Pretty boring most of the time I did I did Keep.

19:45 I did have to keep a set of books and and I did a lot of phone work and and that kind of thing that it was not a very particularly.

19:55 Exciting or so you work in administration at the hospital. Where did you live? I live I lived on the hospital grounds. There was a a nurse is home. And I and I had a room there. So I had to say. My dad taught was so great about it was it I've had a salary and I had my room and board but there was a dining room in the hospital my meals were tarnished to me. So he thought I could save every dime that I need.

20:34 What was your salary $75 a month in room and board? I never forgot that it did go up a little as I proved to be satisfied.

20:46 How long did you work there?

20:48 I worked there until I was married.

20:51 And afterwards I file after I was married.

20:55 So, how did you meet this person who became Our Father? Well, he was a student at the University of Illinois. And he sort of was in and out of school a lot. He would you had a few problems managing to stay in school and he always had a part-time job at one of the local newspapers and he worked on The Daily Line and I became sports editor of the daily lion died. And so he he always would would have work, you know.

21:28 And

21:30 He used to he one of his jobs as he was he call the hospital for Vital Statistics everyday for births and deaths. And so I start talking to him on the telephone and he made me laugh. He just said the funniest things said I wasn't that was how it got started things you said.

21:55 He tell me how he you know, well, we were always trying to describe each other to each other, you know, so we had some kind of a clue and he said he had red hair and and I I don't remember but you know.

22:11 Well, you know your father he you can imagine some of the things he would say and then at that at Christmas that Christmas which I think must have been the Christmas of 1947.

22:25 He came actually with a box of candy to give to some of the people that eat that he spoke to on the phone and I'd already gone home for Christmas. So I missed him and that was a big disappointment to me, and I'm sure to him too.

22:42 And then

22:44 In January

22:49 A murder of a bartender who worked in a Roadhouse between Urbana and Rantoul and it was a big story and there was going to be an inquest into this man's death. Well, I guess they didn't know if he'd been murdered or what was the cause of death was or there would have been an inquest so he invited me to go to the inquest with him. He was covering the inquest and invited me to go which was do you know I wanted to go and so I agreed to meet him at a place called bunnies at the tavern called bunnies. It hurt bad. I didn't really want to go by myself to meet him since I I didn't know him so and he was describing hunt. I'm sure gave me a terrible description, but he's going to look like and everything and

23:44 I ended the gist of the story is I took a girlfriend with me and and she actually had seen him when he's come to deliver the candy. So that was when the event for my own protection girlfriend and I just said he never let me forget that you know that I I was I had to bring on our first date I had to bring a girlfriend with myself. So your first date was to an inquest and you met at a bar to go to the internet.

24:16 That's right. So that was the first time you saw each other. So what was your first impression and I remember and then I know that was in January because my my birthday was in February, and he he invited me to go to dinner for my birthday and he took me to the

24:42 Urbana Lincoln Hotel, which was the swankiest place in town and we had dinner. So I was impressed me a lot of Chicago boy, you know, they taking this little old country girl out was really something that what was that your first actual date?

25:05 I think we have to Camp music. Where did you ever go to any other requests? Well then how did how did okay, so

25:22 When did you start to think? Maybe this was going to be the

25:26 The the person you'd marry I was swept off my feet high dive new right away.

25:33 But I don't I had to wasn't so easy to convince him, But I did know because after I done to dinner I went when I went back to visit my family and I told my mother that I thought.

25:50 I wanted to marry him if I never had the opportunity.

25:56 When she say

25:58 What year was happy for me? You know, she's been wondering what was ever going to become of me, I guess.

26:11 Well

26:13 I think that I think that my sister Mac and her husband came and picked us up. Maybe cuz we didn't have a car he didn't have car.

26:24 And took us to a family gathering of some kind maybe the Handlery Union, which is a Bigfoot.

26:32 But I remember better meeting his parents and I do his scent reduction to my parents.

26:40 Well, it was it was intimidating for me.

26:44 And I took the train to Chicago and he met me at the 63rd Street Station and and it was New Year's Eve and we had he had a party planned for for me to meet his friends in Chicago and then we went out and went to the nightclub and and he had his father's car 38 Buick.

27:10 And we went when we came out there was a blizzard and it was snowing in the weather was really bad. And so we just got everybody home and went back to his parents home and they were worried, you know, because the weather gotten so bad in that length of time. So that's that was my form of how you met the first time after midnight or whatever on I've been to the house before he's taking me to the house before.

27:39 When you said it was intimidating.

27:43 Well, it always is I think when you you know, when you meet somebody's parents and you want to make an impression and and and and he talked a lot about his mother to and and Durga.

27:58 What scared you about it? Well, I know that she had a while he thought she had a quick temper and he weigh in and he could joke around with her, but not a lot of people could so and I know that.

28:13 Did she didn't tell she wasn't fond of the Irish, you know?

28:20 But other than that, but she was always very sweet to me and I didn't have any problems at all. Especially after I had children.

28:30 So you you so okay. So how was it decided that you were going to be married? And how did he propose?

28:42 Well, I think it was more Tsum than anything else. Well see you want me to tell the story about how I was caught out with somebody else. Is that what he calls for the weekend back fist in my parents and there was a fellow that I knew who was just a friend of mine and sometimes he would he would bring me back to to Champaign Urbana phone in a car because I didn't have a car and so and then we go to a movie or something and and and

29:15 And so that happened that weekend and I mean dick could never said anything.

29:21 About you know going steady, which was the thing to do then if you before you were engaged go steady. And so this is my friend Tom brought me back and we went to the movie and came out of the movie and we ran into Gene Shalit who was sticks roommate at that time.

29:41 So I thought well I'm a goner now, you know and and sure enough he went right home and it didn't mean anything. But anyways that syndic decided that he called and said are you my girl or are you not? Well, I'd like to be so that took care of that and I don't think I ever went out with anybody again. I might have gotten the car ride with somebody again. I don't know.

30:14 So then how did you decide to get married or who I how did he propose? Well, it was it was and I'm not sure the timing of when this was but

30:23 He was back in school full-time by that time and then he was working weekend jobs and stuff, but we didn't have any money and so is he told his parents?

30:36 That he wanted to go there that we wanted to get married his dad agreed to continue paying his tuition and everything and and so then that's when we decided he got

30:48 The rings that cost I told you through Bill Michael who are fragile gave me the Rings in a Subway, a coffee shop and under the subway in Chicago When I was your man tag, isn't that romantic? I like it. So then what point did you decide you were going to become a Catholic in order to get married in the church all about that time I guess.

31:16 Well, you couldn't you couldn't get married in the church in a church?

31:22 Unless you were actually but we're Catholic at that time and I wanted to be married in a church and care for tickly what kind of church it was but I did want to be married in church. So I took instructions and got we got married in the Catholic Church, which I'm sure pleased his parents a lot and it. I don't think it made that much difference to my parents. They were they were do you know my mom went to the Christian church in my dad had at one time but they were not regular churchgoers or anyting but didn't really make that much difference. Process take a few weeks. I think it was the summer before before a wedding in September.

32:04 So how long were you engaged then before you got married? I think that was in May and then we got married in September I believe so, what was your wedding day like

32:16 It was good. It went with the wedding was at 11 in the morning because my family had to come from Redmond and his family came from Chicago and then we had a reception in the afternoon and it was you know, it was it was nice. It was good. It was small, but it was nice for you were married in Champaign-Urbana Church in Urbana. I think you've been there for me. What what what did you do for your honeymoon, which is still the 38th. We drove went on a motor trip through the South and we were in New Orleans first time. I'd ever seen New Orleans and and sort of fell in love with it. I always really like Nora

33:17 But I was I was shocked. Like I said, I've told you before it's the first time I've ever seen segregation and so that really really was a shock to me.

33:28 I thought your first time seeing water to a water body.

33:32 Yes, except for the Great Lakes, I've seen the Great Lakes but but the ocean and we drove along the Gulf Coast with child assault was really beautiful

33:47 So you came back and dad was still in school. And did you see you kept working then or for awhile?

33:56 And so what happened when he graduated from college and

34:07 Then he is and he before he graduated while he worked on and off for the newspapers will their bana Courier the evening Courier and some for the new Champaign News Gazette. So he he was approached by the News-Gazette and asked to cover the campus for him and they had a campus office was probably to reporters in there and they just wrote about the University Inn. And so he took that job which Bettis you know for a while and then all the time he was looking for jobs elsewhere.

34:49 So he finally then it just by writing letters and calling people and hearing about you know jobs through other people when you say elsewhere. Were you and he targeting someplace he he he wanted to go more West and East I think that he wasn't interested in the East coaster are much in the South so he was riding places.

35:14 Denver Albuquerque, you know places like that and then he wrote to Amarillo and and the editor there was it was a graduate of the University of Illinois. And and so he was interested in him as a zit.

35:30 As graduate is University of Illinois. So he got the sports job there in Amarillo when I was born. He was a city editor he was but he when he went there's a sports writer and then they reorganized and he was sit I had forgotten about that. But yeah, he was City editor there. That's what happens if that's a good way to make page 1

36:02 What's your what's your favorite memory of dad so shocked since we had two boys, you know, and he'd come from a family of three boys and he just we just assumed you know, we all had a boy's name selected in there and we just assumed to be another boy has Richard, but he he came out and seen you came back into my room and he said as the meanest looking little girl I ever suck.

36:50 And he did love having a little girl.

36:53 He would she you know, I always had short hair and and War bib overall one time he brought her home and he said I wish you'd put her in something and make her look like a girl because he'd been to the service station and they thought she was a boy and he was embarrassed because he embarrassed.

37:18 So what other memories can you think of that are notable about Dad about Dad?

37:25 He always had a smile on his face almost always and he was he whenever after his death when people that knew him would ask me how I was and how I was doing and I'd say well, I'm just fine but I don't laugh nearly as much as I did, you know when he was alive, which was true. But I think about things he said he had his own vocabulary he and as you well know some of it was a little salty or everything he did and I can't think of anything all the lights would get furious with him. Sometimes I can't think of a bad thing to say about him.

38:12 You think I would be terms if you would use?

38:17 Well, I can't think of anything that's decent to say right off and how he felt about something and that's nine times Outta ten. That's what he said.

38:35 But he taught me an awful lot. I mean for you know things about about literature and about screenplays and and stage plays and he starts Sports. I didn't know anything about football until I met your dad and I had to to stay in conversations at the dinner table. I had to know about sports with two sons and and dick so I know about that. Yeah, I'm sure you did it in California, but the end he didn't particularly want to but then it was an opportunity sit and he was always glad that we made the move was Bob Freitas, you know your godfather who got us to, California.

39:25 Email about the opening here.

39:28 Set it up.

39:31 Any anything that you wanted to talk about that we didn't get to or any words of wisdom for the Library of Congress or the the people of America what time together and we obviously, you know, we liked each other and I think in our family as you all were growing up we did the same thing.

40:03 Other than that, that's about it. I can advise everybody to like each other.

40:12 I'd be a lot better world if we can.