Wheeling Spoken History Project: David Javersak
Interview with David Javersak
Title: A Historical Perspective
[ Date: June 27, 1994; Interview #: 96-012 ]
MICHAEL KLINE: Could you start out by telling me something about where you were raised and something about your own family, your people?
DAVID JAVERSAK: Sure. I grew up in Weirton, West Virginia, just to the north of here. My father spent 35 years in the steel mill. My mother worked for a branch of Stone and Thomas. Both branches of my family came into the upper Ohio Valley because of the opportunities in the steel mill. My father is one of the few who stayed. Most of the rest of his family moved on to Ohio. My mother's family stayed, and most of them ended up working in the mill or in something related. If you lived in Weirton, the majority of the people either worked in the mill or their economic activities were related to the fact that the mill was there. I mean, that's the classic company town probably in the 20th century. In fact, almost everything in Weirton was originally put up by the mill, which, by the way, is a study in itself, if you can do it, which you can't, but-- (Laughter).I spent eight years, in terms of summers, in the mill even after I started teaching at West Liberty State College. I put myself through college by working in the mill, supplemented my meager West Virginia income by working in the mill. So I think I have an appreciation for the kinds of things that go on in terms of an industrial background, which is probably one of the reasons that when I had an opportunity to do a study on labor for my doctoral dissertation, I took that, despite the fact that I'd never had a course in labor history, and went through it from there. Except for a year and a half that we spent in graduate school in Hawaii, I've lived all of my life in the Upper Ohio Valley, teaching students and trying to explain to them the role that their areas played in the history of the nation, not only in terms of the economic role that it's played, but to see this area as a prism by which you can study the history of the United States. And I think that's worked pretty well.
MK: Who was your mother's family?
DJ: Her last name was Hinyatti. They came from the Mon Valley, the Donora area. Her father was a CIO organizer. They came into Weirton. Weirton, of course, as a company town, had no use for the CIO, so he eventually would leave, in fact, abandon my mother's family. A couple of the children were already grown, and she was in high school at that time. Interestingly enough, as a result of her father's attempted labor activity, she could never get a job for Weirton Steel. That's just the way it worked. You know, even today Weirton Steel has its own company union, the ISU, of which I used to be a member. My father, as I said, in 35 years, never went out on strike, never lost a day because of a layoff either. That's one of the reasons. But, if you take a look at this area, not just in terms of Weirton, but most of the other towns down through and including Wheeling, you'll find a large number of eastern central Europeans who came to this area for the same kinds of reasons. They came because there were steel jobs or mining jobs, glass opportunity or pottery opportunities, you know, the heavy industry kinds of jobs that this area was known for in the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th century, really down to, oh, I'd say, the early 1960s, and the changes were ongoing by then. In places like Weirton, those changes weren't really noticeable until the 1970s. But in places like Wheeling, Steel mills were closing or downsizing. And, of course, a lot of the other activities, whether related to glass or pottery and those things, were changing. So fewer and fewer opportunities. What's happened, I think, in this century is that the generation that came into the valley for jobs, they're watching their grandchildren leave the area for the same reasons that they originally came, because they're leaving the area for jobs.
MK: Was it your Grandfather Javersak who immigrated then ?
DJ: My grandfather came to the United States in 1902, Christmas Eve, came in from--he was born in Croatia, outside of Zagreb, walked across Europe to Hamburg, Germany, got a boat, came to Ellis Island. The examining officer happened to be Croatian, so my grandfather went right through, and within 24 hours of landing in New York, he was already in central Pennsylvania. I'm not sure exactly what contacts he had there, but for years he was a miner. All of my father's family--and there were ten children who survived childhood--seven of them are still living--they were all born in some coal town in south central Pennsylvania, just south in the Johnstown area. When my father refers to his childhood, he always refers to the mine shaft, that he either grew up in number four, number three, number two, someplace along those lines. In the late '20s some of those coal mines and coal areas were hit with some closures, and as a result, my grandfather who then would have been in his--let's see, he would have been 42 at that time, picked up the family and came to Weirton and found jobs in the steel mill. Eventually, my father, his father, one, two, three uncles worked for Weirton Steel. My father and another uncle stayed in the mill, both of whom retired from the mill. The rest of the family moved to Ohio where my grandfather bought a farm. He would have then been in his 50s when he bought the farm. And he decided that giving the difficulty of economics in the late '30s, early '40s, there should be a place that the family could come back to. They never had a farm before, and they opened a dairy farm, and that farm is still in the possession of the family now. I have a cousin who runs it. He does it the easy way. He rents all the land to a big farmer and let's him do all the work.
MK: Your grandfather's name was--?
MK: First name?
MK: Your father?
DJ: Matthew. My brother--Matthew. His son--Matthew. Although, interestingly enough, my father is not the firstborn male. He was, I think, the third male, but he was the Matthew. I guess maybe they didn't think they were going to have that many children. But my grandmother had 12 children, two died in infancy--ten including my father, none of whom ever finished high school. Even when they came to Weirton, they all will--including the girls--will all leave high school probably by the time they're 16.
MK: What was your grandmother's story? Who was she?
DJ: She was also Croatian. She was seven years older than my grandfather, and I'm not sure of the exact circumstances of her coming to this area. She also had other members of her family that came. Interestingly enough, on both sides of my family, mother and father, they both tended to work in steel mills or coal mines. There are still members of my mother's family in the Pittsburgh area, south of Pittsburgh, the Duquesne, Braddock area where they eventually worked in the steel mills. I mean, those were the kinds of jobs that were available to the Eastern Europeans as they were coming, particularly at the turn of the century. Although my mother's family came a little earlier. They were probably among the first wave of the new immigration. They came in the early 1890s. My grandmother would have been about eight years old or so when she came. I grew up in an atmosphere in which most of that was not ever discussed. I'm not sure why. Anything I know about my grandparents came as a result of my asking after I was out of college or actually in college before my grandfather died, and that was 1978. My maternal grandfather I never knew. As I said, he had abandoned the family, and actually the only time I ever saw him was when he was dead.
MK: But your Grandfather Javersak was responsive to your questions about his--?
DJ: Generally, yeah. Yeah, you give him a little cajaffa, he'd be responsive to about anything, yeah. He was a character; he was a character. The family is still interesting, in that, even despite the fact that they're all--I think the youngest now is probably 73--through all that time, when they were in good health, would all come out to the farm periodically, at Easter. You know, you would find seven or eight of the ten children at any one time out in the farm. They would come periodically, particularly in the spring and the summer when the weather was good. I had an uncle who just died last month, and until maybe the last month or so of his illness--he had all kinds of ailments--but he was taken care of by his sisters, who, by that time, their husbands had died. This uncle had suffered a disability as a result of his being in World War II. So when he returned from the service in his mid 20s, he returned with some kind of disability. I've never really been quite sure what it was, but the family always took care of him. I mean, it was that kind of opportunity. It was a place that, you know, you were expected to come back to, if you needed, you know. And then when you would show up on the farm, you left with the vegetables that were, you know, fresh out of the garden at that time or a fresh chicken or a side of beef or whatever else that you needed, and you had that kind of a relationship.
MK: It was really a nice instinct your grandfather had about that. I've heard of that before.
DJ: Yeah, part of the problem came because there were six sons. The oldest daughters had married, one was living in Pittsburgh, one was living in Islip, New York, another one was in Detroit, and the boys were having difficulty finding jobs, particularly in the '30s and in the early '40s as they were coming into adulthood, and several of them tried to get jobs in the automobile plants, Ford and so on, and it didn't work, so my grandfather concluded that, well, you have to have some kind of fail safe system, so that's when he went out and bought the farm. It was a gorgeous farm, probably bought it for a couple thousand dollars, and you're looking now at a place that--there are actually two separate farms--about 240 acres total that would be worth now, you know, a couple hundred thousand dollars, if you could sell it. Unfortunately, it's in that part of Ohio where most of the farms are now abandoned. That's why we've made some arrangements with a couple of the big time farmers out there to take care of the fields, because that's the only way you can keep the fields in shape, if somebody comes in and plows them and sell them. Yeah, that was his way of looking out after the family.
MK: Were there any things about your own upbringing, your own childhood, that were distinctively Croatian or any traces of that--?
DJ: No. Neither the Croatian which is my father's side--he was all Croatian. My mother was all Hungarian. No. It always amazed people when they meet me with the last name that I have that I'm not Catholic. Everybody else in my father's family is Catholic. He is not. When he met my mother, he became a Protestant and joined the First Christian Church in Weirton. So we really grew up in kind of a real American family. Hungarian was never spoken. My father would speak Croatian, but only when he went out to the farm. And, of course, as his parents got older or died, that increasingly, I've noticed, my father now is no longer able to say more than "sit down" or a few other things from Croatian. It's just not there.I don't remember any particular holidays that would be celebrated with anything that we could say was an ethnic flavor. Very few of the foods that we ate were really ethnic foods, a couple of them, stuffed cabbage, you know, that we always had. In fact, there were kids in my neighborhood who thought I ate strange food because we ate stuffed cabbage and kielbasa and halushka which is fried noodles and cabbage. But, no, there's really nothing distinctive. I mean, as I think about my ethnic heritage, I'm an American. I mean, that's the way I was brought up. There was nothing that was-- Not a hyphenated American, not a Croatian-American, not a Yugoslavian-American, not a Hungarian-American. We were American. I don't know whether that was a result of the way my mother was brought up or not. And I say that because my mother, who is recently deceased, she was probably the dominant parent in terms of that, in terms of the decision-making, but did it in such a way that my father thought he was. (Laughter) That was the thing that I always appreciated about my mother more than anything else, that she convinced my father that he was actually making some of those decisions, where everybody else knew that that certainly wasn't the case. You know, she had determined that. She knew how to play the role of the past generation woman in terms of deferential to the husband, but at the same time she got things done.
MK: She wrote the program.
DJ: Yeah, that's right, she wrote the program. And I think my father probably knew that, but he was just as content to deal with it that way.We grew up in a, you know, in a typical good old American "Father Knows Best" kind of community, although my father didn't wear a suit coat every day. You know, when we went out anyplace and we went to church, my father always had a homburg, and we had a good suit, and we always were dressed. We grew up in that kind of atmosphere that you dressed when you went out. You didn't wear jeans to school, and you didn't take time off from school. My favorite memory about school--and I told this at my mother's funeral to try to show the kind of person she was. Back in the days when we had to go up to the health service in New Cumberland, which is the county seat of Hancock County, for polio shots, so we went up one day--that was all afternoon--we were coming home, my mom looked at her watch as we were coming past the school and noticed that school wasn't out yet, and she said, "David, you'll have to go back." And I said, "Mom, school's almost over." She said, "I couldn't deal with those teachers." My mother was the PTA president of every school that I ever attended. I think she thought that would keep me in line. It didn't always work. And I said, "But it's stupid to go back. You know, I'm going to be embarrassed." She said, "No, no, you have to go back." So, you know, the dutiful son, I went back. And I can see it. This is the fifth grade, Mrs. Pierce's class, I'm opening the door, and I can see Mrs. Pierce look up at the clock, and my chair was on the window side which is opposite the door, so I had to walk all the way around, and just as I sat down, the bell went off for school to be out. I mean, for my mother, that was the kind of thing that we had to do; we had that obligation for school or for church. You know, if we went on a vacation--it didn't make any difference where you went--if it's Sunday, you had to find a Christian church and you had to go. So those were the kinds of things. But real typically, you know, "Father Knows Best" kind of thing, nothing really ethnic or anything along those lines.
MK: Did you have brothers and sisters?
DJ: I have one brother who is three years older who lies in Georgia. He has been out of the area since he graduated from high school, has no interest in coming back whatsoever, and every time he comes he's convinced of all the reasons that he left in the first place.
MK: Which were?
DJ: That it was just kind of a stifling kind of area where it lacked in the kinds of economic opportunities. And in his prospective, it's probably true. He would not have been able to find the kinds of jobs that he's had. He's in environmental safety and loss prevention, that kind of area, lives in Georgia.
MK: But for you it was different?
DJ: Well, I think it was different for me because I was able to find a job that I wanted to do from the very beginning, and that was to teach in college, and I happened to hit an opportunity, happened to be at the right place at the right time. In the summer of 1969, a job opportunity opened at West Liberty where they knew me because I had graduated there two years ago. In August, trying to fill a position, rather than advertise, they called and said would I be interested to teach, and I said sure, and 25 years later I'm still there. You know, it's those kinds of things that, I think, demonstrate, when you study history, how much of history is absolute chance at being in the right place at the right time. I always use two examples of chance in history, mine and Gerry Ford being President of the United States. I mean, how else could Gerry Ford have ever been President of the United States except given the set of circumstances, you know, between '72 and '74. There's no other way that he would have been President of the United States.I'm not a believer in any kind of great laws in history, and I think primarily because I can see in my own lifestyle, and that's the way I teach history--is to try to have students look at the history of a nation or a city or state from the prospective of their own lives and how much change has occurred in their relatively short lives if you're dealing with college freshmen. And I think it works pretty well. So, you know, my reason for being here primarily by chance. I really didn't expect to stay in the Ohio Valley all that time. And had I been in some other area, I may not have been permitted to stay here. I may have gone someplace else. I was offered a job right out of college with an industrial department at Weirton Steel and turned it down without a moment's hesitation, because I couldn't imagine working for a corporation, not in 1967. A liberal college student didn't go to work for a corporation in that time. Had I taken a job like that, my chances of working in this area probably would have been reduced. I probably would have been someplace else.I'm just trying to think of the other kinds of economic opportunities that are here that would have permitted somebody like me to stay. Although, I think I'm the last generation that was able to come out of high school and go into the mill and find an industrial job. I think increasingly that's not the case. They're just available. Some people will find them, but the majority of the people won't. That's true in Wheeling or Follansbee, Weirton or anyplace in between. They're just not there, so you have to leave. That's why our population continues to decline and we're likely to decline. I don't see the decline as being as precipitous as it's been in the last decade, but I also don't see that it's going to re-increase dramatically. I think we've probably reached our little plateau. Unfortunately, it's a plateau that's lower than the plateaus that we had reached previously. But, again, that's what history is all about. I mean, history is replete with the ups and downs. You know, not all communities-- If you're familiar with Lowell, then you know the problems that we're talking about.
MK: Is the liberal politics a part of your upbringing?
DJ: Actually, as I think about it, we didn't discuss much in terms of politics. My father was a supporter of Franklin Roosevelt, but I think they probably voted for Eisenhower in the 1950s, but probably supported Kennedy in the 1960 election. I'm going to guess my father voted for Reagan at least once. So politics is not that important in terms of my upbringing, but I think both of my parents were registered democrats.
MK: Did you say that you came out of college with liberal--
DJ: Well, I don't think anybody-- It would not be unusual for somebody in my generation who went to college in 1963, and by the time they were finished college, with the buildup of the Vietnamese War and the antiwar movement, civil rights movement, I think probably the majority of college students were more liberally thinking than they would be, let's say, in the 1980s, and there was less of an emphasis placed on money, I think, in the 1960s. I mean, if you look at the polls that have been done about students, along the question of, "Would you rather make money or make a contribution to society?", in the 1960s, I think the majority of college students would probably say "Make a contribution to society." By the 1980's they're saying "Make more money." And partly that's a reflection of the changes in society that took place at that time, and you can see those in education, you know. You had people who were going to college even as late as the 1960s, not necessarily as an economic statement, but to improve themselves. I think increasingly now college education is seen as something that's to make more money. I mean, because that's what they've been hammered with. And, as a consequence, education becomes much more technical, much more training, and less given to the kinds of things that are important to the careers of both of us, and that would be the liberal arts and history and humanities.
MK: Well, it's a pretty natural thing then for you as a scholar to begin to look at the story and the issues of labor in the valley?
DJ: Well, I've always had an interest in the area. I've always had an interest in the working class. I wouldn't say it was necessarily to labor. But, again, my choice of a doctoral dissertation, for example, was, again, one of those serendipitous kinds of things. I had originally proposed--you'll appreciate this--I had originally proposed to do an oral history of Polish-Americans in the Weirton area because there are so many of them. I wrote up a prospectus--this would have been late '75, early '76--and took it around to the history department of WVU, and said, "This is what I'd like to do for my dissertation", and nobody would let me do it. They said, "Oh, no, no, you can't do that." They weren't yet-- WVU has always been a little behind on things. So I finally got disgusted and went down to see the department chair, and I said, "All right, what will you let me do? You obviously have something in mind. What is it?" And at that point they told me to go see a senior member of the faculty who thought he had a dissertation topic. When I went to see this gentleman, he said that there is a whole bunch of information on something called the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly in the archives of WVU, why don't you see what's there? That's basically how I did my dissertation. So I went over and looked around and I called him. I said, "There's enough." He said, "Okay." And that was how I did the dissertation. It turned out to be the most marvelous dissertation because there were no secondary sources. There was nothing that anybody on the committee could read that could give them any insights in terms of what I was doing, so I was on my own. You know, I didn't realize when I started, but probably by the time that I was finished writing the draft, I thought, "Hey, wait a minute. I ought to do pretty well on this." And it worked out pretty well. That interest in labor history then kind of got me involved in the history of Wheeling, because one of the things that I had to do for a dissertation was something that was local. My wife did not work. We had two children. I could not afford the expenses of any kind of long distance research, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to do Polish-Americans. This worked out even better. The minutes were all in one place. The other information on microfilm, in terms of newspapers, and the fact that when you're dealing with the working class, you're not going to run into a lot of memoirs or papers and so on. So I may have the record of the shortest bibliography of any 325-page dissertation. It's only three pages, maybe, something like that, because there are no secondary sources at all. And that got me involved in other aspects of local history.
MK: So what did you find about that. Can you talk about the dissertation a little bit in terms of--?
DJ: Well, what I found interesting, as is true in anything else in history, labor has changed what it is that it does. And by that I mean, so often the contemporary labor unions seem to be solely identified with economic issues, the case of money and benefits and job security. In the 19th century, and I looked at a period in Wheeling from the 1880s to 1915--the labor union was housed just right across the street here in this parking lot next to the United Bank over there--they were interested in the person who was the laborer. So they were interested in education. They were interested in voting rights. They were interested in the overall quality of life. One of the things, I think, that caught my attention is how pervasive that labor interest was in the overall life, so that when you take a look at the kinds of issues--yeah, they were interested in strikes and arbitrations and so on, but they were also interested in libraries, they were also interested in how the government went about its duty. The first water filtration system for the City of Wheeling came as a result of the labor unions, primarily because the city government proposed to spend money to pave a couple roads. Well, in 1913, almost nobody owns a car. And should you spend your money paving the road for the elite or should you spend the money on a water filtration system, particularly at a time when typhoid was such a major health issue. The labor unions, particularly the Trades Assembly, pushed the first water filtration system in the City of Wheeling. One of the things that I tried to emphasize and have done it on many occasions in other public forums is to show the evolution of the labor movement from what it was in the latter part of the 19th century to what it is today. And to suggest that maybe that one of the reasons we have a decline in the number of people in the labor unions is that labor unions have been relatively successful, that they have accomplished the majority of the things that no longer are union labor anyhow, are poverty victims, where at the beginning of the 20th century, the average worker was on the margin of poverty in the United States. You know, the average coal miner at the turn of the century was making maybe five or six hundred dollars a year, where as Andrew Carnegie was making that a second--well, actually, he was making a heck of a lot more than that in a second. And that's one of the things that I think was interesting.That period in the history of Wheeling, the latter 19th, early 20th century is the period in which Wheeling was probably the most vibrant in terms of its history. The population was growing, the businesses were growing, the city was a vibrant area for public theater, for music, the development of--I guess, any kind of measure that you would want to look at. In my own teaching, I call this period--Wheeling, the premier city of the state and by any standard of measure, whether it's population or economic activity. You know, one-third of all the industrial activity in the State of West Virginia was in the City of Wheeling at the turn of the century. Forty percent of all the labor was in the City of Wheeling at the turn of the century. It had that vibrancy to it. Population was growing. You could see the trains coming in and out. If you see pictures from that period, you'll see that downtown was just jam packed with people and vehicles. Depending upon the year, you can see pictures that have trolleys and horse transportation and the early automobiles and Main Street and Market Street just packed. And that would be generally true, I think, probably down through the 1940s when cities were still the focal point of people's economic and commercial activities. That's no longer the case. I mean, we have that--what's that word for it now--the edge city, you know, we're out in the suburbs. Even commercial activity are done outside the city perimeters. You know, you only have to go to a place like Tyson's corner outside of D.C. to know exactly what it is. That's a phenomenon that geographers have been studying now in that area. That's one of the things that interested me as a historian when I'm dealing with students who have grown up in this area. They've grown up in this area at a time when Wheeling has been in decline, and just to try to demonstrate to them that they lived in a very vital community. The fact that it's no longer vital anymore is not necessarily anybody's fault--and that's difficult to get across because this generation also has grown up at a time when they believed somebody has to be at fault, you know. I see those bumper stickers, "Don't blame me. I voted for such and such," you know, that kind of mentality. I think they don't understand the forces of history, the natural evolution of things that things do change. As things change, people's tastes change, that effects the kinds of things that people build or kinds of services that are provided, and that can have drastic effects on particular communities. You know, you may no longer be in the right place at the right time anymore. That may be unfortunate but probably nobody's fault. I don't think it's anybody's fault that Wheeling Steel doesn't have the number of employees that it does. I think it's better to examine that by recognizing that the United States only produces maybe 15 percent of the world's steel. So, if that's the case, 85 percent of it is produced someplace else, so we're not going to be producing it. One of the things that I mention to students in terms of change and how that affects a community, if Wheeling's name were known to large numbers of Americans, it probably was known because it was on the top of their garbage can. Well, people don't use metal garbage cans anymore. They use plastic. They don't rust. They don't dent. They're easy to deal with. They're lighter to pick up. They last a lot longer. So we change how we do garbage, that can affect one industry. What happens when you have an industry that's based on promotion of tin cans, like in Weirton? Well, what if you don't use tin cans anymore. Or the other one in Wheeling. What's going to happen when the majority of people decide--even more people decide that smoking or chewing tobacco is no good for you? What happens to Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco? What happens to the Marsh Wheeling Stogies? How's that going to change the economy? It's going to have an impact here.
MK: So you were saying when we started off that there are fewer people in Wheeling now.
DJ: Yeah, Wheeling will reach its population peak in 1930. The present population of Wheeling is approximately what the population was in 1890. The city in 1890 was physically smaller than it is in 1990. Remember, in 1890, areas like Woodsdale, Elm Grove, Warwood, those areas would not be included in the City of Wheeling. So demographically, this area has suffered major reversals. All of Ohio County now has fewer people than Wheeling did itself 60 years ago. The loss of population is a direct reflection, I think, of the economy. The fractures to the economy, I think, start in the 1930s with the depression, with the flood of 1936, and that's also the same time that we can see the impact--although it would take a while for it to come back--but we'll see the impact of foreign competition. If you look at some of the newspapers from the 1930s in relationship to one of the prime businesses in Wheeling at that time, the J. L. Stifel and Sons, Calico Works, one of the things that they saw in the mid '30s was increasing competition from Asia in cloth. Well, of course, with World War II, that put an end to some of that competition and Stifel was able to continue in business. By the mid 1950s, after the war is over, after the Korean War is over, that competition comes back, and eventually Stifel's will in effect go out of business in 1957, and that's one of the things that will do it. I mean, even today, if you take a look at the vast majority of clothes that Americans wear, they're made all--I've forgotten what it was--over a hundred different countries produce clothing that Americans wear. Well, that has an impact on a company like the J. L. Stifel and Sons. Now, they didn't make any cloth here. They just printed it and dyed it. But that's going to affect the kinds of business that they do. So you'll have a couple hundred people lose their jobs. Another example that I use of how the economy's changing is transportation. At one time Wheeling had like 80 miles of streetcar tracks at the beginning of the century. But as late as the 1920s, there are probably 400 people in Wheeling whose employment was directly related to the streetcar as conductors or brakemen or repairmen or so on. So that when you change how people get around, you lose 400 jobs because we no longer use a trolley system.
MK: Do you know any old trolley car people? Are they all gone?
DJ: I would imagine if there are some who are still here who worked on them, they would be really old, because the trolley cars have been gone for a long time, probably since the '40s sometime. I'm not quite sure about that. There is some information on the trolley union, and I can't think of the exact name of the union. But I discovered the information down at the Teamsters Hall. I was down there doing some work and ran across all this information on one of the locals and contacted the people at the WVU, and eventually they came up and took banners and the whole bit, and they took them back to Morgantown. To me, I thought that was a better place for them since that was a better archival place than anything here. So there may be some information there in terms of people. But, again, that shows the evolution of a community and how people's jobs are going to be affected in terms of those kinds of things. And that has a big impact, I think, here.If you want to see some of the changes that have occurred in Wheeling, just take a look around and look at all the areas now that are parking lots in downtown, and that will give you an idea. Well, you know, let's face it, this whole idea of Victorian Wheeling is a duel-edge sword. On the one hand we have a wonderful community because we have this old architecture. But the flip side of that is the fact that, had you had industrial growth in the city, this stuff wouldn't be here because it would have been torn down. It would have been torn down 50 years ago, but there was no reason to tear it down. So the remnants of the community that we now have, I think, is a further reflection of the economic decline that the area's had in the last--well, really, last 40 years. Even as late as in 1950, the Wheeling metropolitan area was the number one area in terms of population/industrial activity, and since then it's gone downhill pretty rapidly.
MK: In the state?
DJ: In the state. It still exceeded Charleston, Huntington areas, both of them.
MK: Can you talk about how other transportation--other trends in other areas of transportation?
DJ: Well, the biggest thing that I see there is that Wheeling is a classic example of a 19th century city that grows because it happened to be situationally well located. You know, geographers always talk about site and situation. Site meaning the local geographic characteristics. Situation meaning the relative location. As the United States grew westward in the early part of the 19th century, Wheeling was well-placed. It was on the river. All the towns and cities that grow in the 19th century, the Chicagos, the Clevelands, the Cincinnatis, the St. Louises and so on, all grow along some water way, okay. Then we get the road that comes through, the bridge. Those are all advantages. The railroad is another advantage. Well, by the 20th century, the population centers of the United States have moved westward. Transportation changes in the point that railroads can move much more rapidly than they ever did, so the through lines can go right through Wheeling or past Wheeling. Roads follow into this use--National Road will follow into this use until really the 1920s until the development of the truck, that we rebuild the road, and of course, we'll change it then to Route 40. By that time, of course, we're in the early stages of air transport. Wheeling won't have an airport until the early 1940s, and by the time the airport goes in, air traffic has made another step beyond that. Planes get much bigger, so it's going to be difficult to land those here because you don't have the land to put in an airport. I mean, if you've ever been to the Ohio County Airport, you recognize that they had to shear the tops of hills off to get that in. Now, in the 20th century, instead of having advantages in transportation, you have disadvantages. You have no railroads. Railroads--a lot of them are still profitable in the United States, particularly areas like the Southern Pacific. But there are no railroads really serve Wheeling, a couple that back in or come in part way. The interstate highway system doesn't serve Wheeling very well. The access into the city itself is relatively poor. I-470 takes people around. You can't fly into Wheeling. So whatever advantages that transportation had in the 19th century, those advantages aren't here anymore.(Side one of the tape ended.)
MK: You were talking about the river.
DJ: Well, even the tonnage on the river is down, so there aren't any of the transportation advantages in the 20th century that there were in the-- Well, the way I explain it to my students is, if you were taking the old National Road and you were coming out of Cumberland, Maryland, you could expect that every five to seven miles you could find a town of varying size that would have some kind of facility for you or your wagon or your horse, and that's why, if you go along the way, you'll see that they're about five or seven miles along the way. In the 20th century those towns in between the big towns are meaningless because you can fill up the car, and a modern car with a good sized tank can go 400 miles without stopping. Now, that means that you can get on the interstate in Washington, Pennsylvania, turn your air conditioner on, adjust your seat, put your cruise control on and have a very comfortable ride, and there's no reason for you to stop until you get to Columbus. And then you stop because two hours is enough time, and you get out and you do something, and then you get back in the car. So what happens is that people aren't going to stop in these little communities. And if you're not on the interstate, your community will not grow, and you can see that all along the way. Even places like Wheeling, there's no reason for it to grow because it doesn't--there's no real big connection here anymore. At one time you had a road and a river that were a nexus of transportation. That's not here. This is a place now you pass through. You know, it's not a place that you stop. So an advantage in one century is not necessarily an advantage in the next century. So Wheeling, I think, suffers from that. We found that out three years ago. We tried to off-load an Abrams' tank down in South Wheeling, and we needed to have a crane that was big enough, and we couldn't take it to Blaw Knox because the tracks weren't very good. The next biggest crane was over in Martins Ferry. And the only way to get a train from South Wheeling to Martins Ferry is to go up to Pittsburgh and around and then back down the other side. It takes a day and a half. From where that track was to where the crane was was two and a half miles. You could have done it in the 19th century, but you can't do it in the 20th century. It's just not there. The facilities aren't there.You got a classic example. There's a 1908 building right across from here. If you wanted to go anywhere any America, just get in the B&O Railroad and you could make the connection. Now, the closest rail line's in Pittsburgh. You have to drive an hour and fifteen minutes. So that's a real disadvantage.
MK: So this is an example of why it's hard to find anybody to blame for Wheeling's decline because everybody fills up in Washington, PA, and they don't have to stop again until--
DJ: (Laughing) Well, I think that's one of them. I think modern technology. Modern technology affects communities like that and affects smaller businesses. It has that kind of impact to it. You know, in the 19th century you had concentration of steel industries in the Pittsburgh area or in the Youngstown area. Well, now, you can basically have steel mills anywhere you want them. I mean, we bring in ore. We use ore to make steel. We bring in the ore from Chili. So, I mean, we've overcome a lot of the advantages.The reason that Carnegie located his steel mill where he did was, he said, you could find the coal and the limestone and the iron ore all around the Pittsburgh area, and you take advantage of the resource that you need the most of when you make steel, and that's water. You know, for every ton of steel--I forget--you use many more tons of water to process the steel, so Pittsburgh was a good place for that. Well, that's not the case anymore. And, besides, we change the kinds of materials that we use. You know, when we change the kinds of products that go into an automobile, you affect the steel industry. If you're not using steel, let's say, to make a bumper, then you don't need as much coal to make the steel. Then it affects the coal mines. You know, then you have that snowball effect. Unfortunately, it's a snowball that's going back the other way. And I think that's true with other kinds of things in terms of automation.I think there are some other things that have affected Wheeling. I've never been convinced that Wheeling has had the kind of leadership. And maybe the classic example--and you've probably heard it--25 years ago was an attempt to put in the Fort Henry Mall in the north part of Wheeling with the flag ship place like Stone & Thomas, the Civic Center up there connected by walkways and underground parking. I mean, the plan's around, and the city father's in Wheeling said no. They couldn't imagine people going out to a mall and shopping. In any kind of organization or operation, the successful ones are those in which some visionary is able to look into the future and figure out what's going to be there, whether it was an H. G. Heinz, you know, who could figure out that you can make millions by packaging condiments like ketchup or pickles or, you know, the people who can revolutionize the cereal industry or a company like Gillette who originally begins making razors continues to expand his business because they keep redefining what it is that they do. In Wheeling, to me, the most successful company--it's still a relatively small company and not very far from here--it's called Berry Supply, and they supply kitchens. You've probably seen it. It's down there by the Civic Center. That company's been around since 1822. That's 172 years old. What they've done--in fact, the last time I knew, they didn't know how old they were. They thought they were only around since 1877 because they've been in that same spot. The difference is that they do kitchen work primarily now and along those home improvement lines. But originally they sold cordage and other kinds of supplies to the steamboats.You know, historians have been studying business a little more in the last 25 years. One of the things that they've demonstrated is that the successful companies are the ones who continue to redefine themselves, and sometimes communities have to do that, and you have to have some kind of foresight to be able to do that. I think Wheeling missed some chances. Maybe they wouldn't have worked, because there are other communities that have had downtown malls. People's tastes change, you know. People don't like trying to find parking places in downtown. You know, they like to come in and get under the roof one time, and then-- Because basically what a mall is, is a reconstructed Main Street. It just has an artificial environment, has a roof over it and it's air conditioned. It's a reconstructed Main Street. I mean, really, a mall is nothing different than what we have here on Main and Market. It's just in one place, you know. It's a more comfortable environment. But every other town in the Ohio Valley has had the same kinds of difficulties. As bad as Wheeling's downtown is, Steubenville, Ohio, is even worse. You could let off a howitzer down in Market Street on Steubenville in any given day and not harm a soul. In fact, I'm not even sure there would be enough people there that would notice that there was a big bang. And yet, when I was a kid, we'd call that going to town. I grew up in Weirton. If we went to town, we weren't going to Weirton; we were going to Steubenville. My wife who grew up in a town just south of Weirton, Follansbee, she always got dressed up, white gloves and, you know, the Mary Jane's, and the whole bit, and that's how you went to town.
DJ: Yeah, but that was Steubenville. That was the big place. Had elevators. (Laughter) See, Weirton didn't have any elevators. I mean, Weirton was just a relatively small town, so you had to go over to Steubenville to have elevators. That was the mark of a big department store, whether or not you had elevators, you know. And interestingly enough, if you go to Steubenville, you'll see the same kinds of things that have happened no longer businesses. And we have that here. I mean, we've got vacant lots on the corner of Market Street and Fourteenth. I mean, that tells you that there's not enough business activity going on or you wouldn't have--well, you have a lot right next to this building that was purchased for, you know, 50 or $60,000 or $70,000, which sounds like a lot of money for a lot, but not in an urban area. I mean, and it's still--you know, we're not going to do anything with it. There's just nothing that can be done. And the only reason that the Independence Hall was able to acquire it is that nobody else wanted it. What are you going to do with it? Are they going down the L. S. Good building? which is another former department store. And my understanding is that's supposed to be a parking lot. That doesn't bode very well for the continued growth.
MC: What are some of the other notable businesses that come to mind dating from the '20s and '30s?
DJ: Well, most of the meat packing is gone. I'm just trying to thing of the ones. Parts of Wheeling Steel are still about, the corrugating plant. Most of them aren't in the city proper. You know there were--I'm just going to guess off the top of my head--as late as the 1920s a thousand people who worked in the meatpacking industries in Wheeling, those are all gone. There are no potteries; there's no glass. The Marsh Stogie Company is still around. But you have to understand that at one time, over it's history, there have probably been several hundred tobacco producing companies. And the number of people who work in Marsh Stogie is down. I've predicted that Marsh Stogie will be out of business by the turn of the century, simply because I can't believe that it's product is continuing to find the clientele for it. Of course, the Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco, they've been around for well over a hundred years. Again, that's, to me, a problematic area, too. Although we've addressed the issues of smokeless tobacco, I'm not sure we've brought it home. And once those findings come in that it's leading to gum disease and cancer of the lip and other things, and the tongue, that's probably going to have an impact, too.Other ones? Let me see, just off the top of my head. Stifel is gone. I can tell you all the ones that are gone. You have some smaller areas-- Well, Stone & Thomas has been around since 1847. But from what I can see, they may be in trouble. I mean, they've closed their men's store and moved it into the basement. They've closed the store in Weirton; they've closed the store in Fairmont. And I've heard some rumors that some of their other stores are not operating very well. But, you see, people's tastes have changed. People used to go to department stores for all kinds of things. Now, you got the K-Mart, Wal-Mart. How many places now can you buy--instead of going to it--you can buy in a catalog, the L. L. Bean, the Chadwick's, and all those things. I mean, the home shopping, you can shop without ever leaving the comfort of your home. Those things all have an impact on the kinds of businesses that are operating. And it's probably cheaper to do it that way. The building that you need is a warehouse. You don't need all the display areas, you know. Most of the other department stores--Stone's is one of the last left, and, you know, that's been around for--it will be 150 years in 1997. So the economic area is not very rosy in that respect. I don't mean to be a pessimist or a doom and gloom guy. I mean, I'm just trying to be the honest historian in terms of the way I look at it.I think one of the problems that Wheeling has--and, again, I only know this second hand, because I frankly don't go into those circles--but it seems to me in talking with some other people, that a lot of people in the local business community are waiting for some big business to come in and rescue them, and I don't think that's the case. I don't think that's going to be the case in most places. From what I can see, businesses that might rescue you have abandoned somebody else. You know, it's like those textile companies that left New England and bailed out some of the southern states back in the '40s and '50s and now some of those are closing.
MK: They're going south of the border.
DJ: Uh-huh. Well, they're going other places. But the nature of the economy has radically changed, it really has.
MK: What does this mean for Wheeling in terms of this move toward becoming a national heritage area?
DJ: Well, that, I wish I knew. Again, this is a very personal view. It seems to me that communities that want to rely on history or parks or tourism as their salvation have reached the last resort stage, because they can't find anything else to do and they're grasping at straws. I think those things are good compliments to an economy. But, again, I think if you look at the demographics, you can make the extrapolations of what's happened to the economy. Probably 40 percent of Ohio County is over 55. I don't know if you've noticed that in areas. I'll bet if you hold meetings, everybody is relatively older, okay. School populations continue to drop. The other thing that shows a change, and it's a corollary to the number of the age population. I think in the last census, there are 2500 more women than there are men. And if you look at the Wheeling's population a century before that you would see the reverse, that there were more men than there were women. That's why we had so much prostitution in this area. You know that. And any time you have a viable prostitution, your sex ratio is out of kilter. There are more males than there are females, and, as a result, you're looking at illicit sex a little more. So I think those demographic figures, which aren't studied enough, are really the true reflections of where the economy is. Because people's decisions about where they stay and where they live are determined by their ability to find adequate compensation.One of the things that I look for--one of the little quirks that I have--is I like to read wedding announcements on Sunday papers. And what I'm looking for, I'm looking for graduates of local colleges and what their major was and what they're doing with it. And generally speaking, one of the conclusions that I've reached is that many of the people who want to stay in the area, who have graduated from any of the local colleges, only maybe have a one in two chance of working in the area in which they studied, or they are taking a job that is not commensurate with their training. You know, they're substitute teachers instead of teachers. And the pay off is that they want to stay in the area, probably because they have family and because they know it, but they're not able to find the kind of economic opportunity that they could find if they moved someplace else. So that's a trade-off. So I read those little things.If I ask my students, typically on the first day, "How many of you expect to stay in the Wheeling area after you've graduated from college?" Typically, you have one, two or three hands, and, generally speaking, those hands are female, and they're likely to be older female. Older meaning, probably older than 25, and their husbands probably are gainfully employed, so there's no reason for them to leave.But I can see that in our prospective. We have a son who was graduated from West Liberty. He was the only male to be graduated that year with a degree in elementary education. Eighty-seven percent of elementary education teachers are female in the United States. So that a male teacher is a commodity that is in short supply. His uncle was the superintendent of schools in Brooke County. And you know the way public school systems work in terms of finding jobs, and he didn't even bother to apply in Brooke County. He has a job in Virginia, and he has a job in Virginia because there are no jobs in this area and almost no jobs in West Virginia in those areas because the nature of the economics have changed dramatically.You know the three R's in West Virginia are reading, writing and Route 77 to North Carolina.
MK: It used to be Route 52 north.
DJ: Yeah, well, that was because it took you to Cincinnati probably. But there was a time when we used to say the three R's, looking at it from the local perspective, were reading and writing and Route 2 to Weirton. That was the largest employer in the State of West Virginia. They had almost 13,000 workers. Now they have about half that amount.We also forget how many jobs have been lost to automation of technology. You know, whether it's industrial jobs, machines do it, or whether they're even informational jobs that computers do the work. You don't need filing clerks anymore because it's all filed on a computer someplace. That has, I think, great impact on the economy. I guess I'm still pessimistic enough to realize that it's probably not going to change very much. I guess that's one of the things that bothers me about politics is, how much does an administration have on economics. And I've never been convinced. Presidents have either been blamed too much for it or praised too much for it. I think most of those forces are outside the ability of any presidential administration in a four or eight-year term to make a substantial difference to those things. You've got forces that are ongoing that I'm not sure economists know. I mean, they're so many decisions that are made economics that are based on individual psychology, that it's difficult t* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *d job of explaining historical change in our society. You know, so somebody has to be at fault. And there's always some politician who's going to take advantage of that and find somebody to be at fault for that situation. Then it turns out that, well, maybe it wasn't their fault after well. And I think that's been characteristic here.
MK: So with this whole of heritage area, you feel that you got some elements of desperation about it?
DJ: Well, I guess in my most cynical days I see it. On the other hand, I think it's important to maintain the historical identification for an area so that there can be some positive things. But I guess I'm afraid if we envision the National Park Service and all these designations as a way of drawing people in, and once it's all in place, we're going to see this reflowering, rebudding of this community, I think people are going to be disappointed. I don't think it's going to be there.
MK: Have you seen the thematic analysis by the Park Service?
DJ: I think I saw it some time ago, but I haven't had a chance to-- I've seen their various and so on. I mean, I talked with them last week about the river, and I said, "What are you going to with the river?" I said, "The river was a mundane, everyday activity of loading and off-loading and working and so on." Now, how are you going to handle that situation. What is it that you're going to put there that's going to attract people down there? I mean, one of the things that I can see is--I do a lot a little day trips out to Ohio or so on, and you have all these little towns, almost like theme towns anymore, like Dresden, Ohio, you know, where the make the Longaberger baskets, you know. There's the home of the biggest basket, and they have all these--but they've gone crazy over the craft shops. Well, after a while, where the hell do you put the crafts in your house. You're full of them. I mean, you know, they're nice, but it's too much of those kinds of things. Those aren't the kinds of jobs that pay the salaries by which people can raise families. Those are the kinds of salaries that can supplement a good income but not a substitute for a good income.
MK: You mean the service jobs associated--
DJ: Service related jobs. And what is it? We're now up to 70 percent of the jobs in the United States are service related. So that's the thing that we've forgotten, too. The blue collar worker in America has been a minority now since Eisenhower was in his first term. 1956, I think, was the last year that blue collar were the majority workers. I mean, jobs change. Who would have ever thought that they'd pay you to do what you do? (Laughter) It's true. You know, those things change.
WOMAN IN THE BACK: Do you have any kind of a vision for what this water front would look like or what this would include so it wouldn't be--?
DJ: I wish I did. I mean, I wish that I could have told those people the other day. One of the things that I suggested to them was that there are--you probably ought interpret the waterfront someplace and interpret the changes, the physical changes that have taken place in that area, because the river is not the same as it was 100 years ago. But I'm also aware that when you do historical kinds of programs, you're dealing with people whose major interest is not history, you know, who want to know a little bit about it, but they don't want to know all that you and I know about it, you know. Like our kids sometimes would not ask questions because they would get--they wouldn't get this answer, you know, the small answer; they would get the gigantic answer, when all they wanted was that little answer. You know, and they were afraid that their professor father was going to, you know, give them that professorial pontification, which that would just drive them up the way. And that's the same thing that you're dealing with, I think, when you got a public here, you know. When you just put in a park, who's going to go? Why? Were you there when the guy was talking about the carousel activity? I'm thinking, okay, am I just too cynical to see that that's going to attract people? But, again, I don't know; I don't know. I guess I'm also convinced that a lot of the problems that societies face are not always solvable. I mean, there always isn't an answer. There are some things that are better than others, but that doesn't necessarily mean that that's going to cure all your ailments. You know, let's fix Wheeling. Well, maybe Wheeling is not capable of being fixed. Maybe what you have is all that you're going to get. You know, I'm not sure people want to hear that. But we know when dealing with history that that's likely what's going to occur. I mean, even those areas in the United States that continue to grow--I mean, what is the quality of life in a place like Orlando, Florida, anymore when Interstate 4 across central Florida is just jammed packed, when they've reached the capacity in many of their public services. How long's it going to be before the sparkle is off that kind of area. You know, I wish I knew what to do with the waterfront. I don't know. I wasn't convinced that they certainly knew what to do with it. But it's interesting. I mean, I can show you a film made 30 years ago that they thought that the answer to the waterfront was what's there now, is the parking garage.
WOMAN: Did you show them?
DJ: Yeah. You know, it's called "Wheels to Progress". It was made by Ellis Dungan. It's available. It's a film that you ought to see, because it captures the moment of Wheeling in, let's say, 1959/1960, and it's depressing, because you realize that the real changes in this community have taken place in one lifetime. Really one generation. They've really changed it. I mean, it shows downtown with all kinds of people and cars and stores, and now it's not there. See, you're new to the area. You don't realize that as late as 1977 there wasn't even an exit at 218 out there where the mall is. I mean, that was just a field. The first exit in St. Clairsville was the one where you--right at the top of the hill and you get off where the gas stations are, and the next one took you into St. Clairsville on Route 9. So that's all grown up within the last decade and a half. And as that's grown, the area in Wheeling has gone down, the number of stores that have closed.
MK: This film "Wheels of Progress", does that set the stage for the kind of development, let's say, that tore down the old city hall and replaced it with what's there now?
DJ: Yeah, I think that's mentioned as a matter of fact. But, remember, the 1950s--the 1950s is never going to go down as a decade of great decisions for cities or great architectural--I mean, that building is what? It could be a warehouse for all I know. But in the 1950s, we had that mentality that progress meant that you tore everything down and started all over again. There were probably some problems with that building. I'm not sure. I don't remember because I didn't live in Wheeling at that time. When I came to Wheeling, I never came that far south. We always were up in the other end where the major stores were. So I never remember seeing it. I may have, probably went past it as a kid.
MK: The old city hall?
DJ: The old city hall. But it was a gorgeous old--yeah. And there's so many of those type of buildings in Ohio, almost every Ohio county has that late 19th century--well, the one in St. Clairsville is an example or the one in Guernsey County in Cambridge. Those are all good examples of what we could have here if we wanted.One of the things that I've been told, and I don't know--I haven't studied it, and I have no way of really studying it--is that a lot of the people in Wheeling who have the where with all to make the changes aren't interested in making the changes, because it's, you know, it's the old money kind of thing. Now, I don't know how accurate that is. But that's a view on the part of a lot of people, that this is second, third, fourth, fifth generation wealth and they're going to do well no matter what the community does. So, if the businesses don't operate, well-- And, you know, if you spend all your time in the upper Ohio Valley, you do lose your perspective in terms of what's going on in the rest of the nation, in terms of growth, in terms of the demographic changes, in terms of the ethnic changes. You know, our son lives over around Manassas, and it was interesting for me the first time to go over there to realize the Hispanic influence in that area south of D.C. I knew that that influence was dramatic in some communities, but when you turn on the TV in Manassas, Virginia, and found two Spanish speaking stations, I mean, that was amazing. All the service personnel in the Hampton Inn in Manassas were Hispanic. I was just amazed at that. You know, I shouldn't have been. This area is kind of insulated from a lot of the changes that are going on in places like Southern California and so on. I think that's probably one of the reasons that nationwide you see the resurgence of the religious right, is that they are aware of the changes that are going on. And, you know, back in the '20s when we had the Ku Klux Klan and some of those other movements that we call political fundamentalism there, that was a way of trying to hold on to an America that they saw being lost. You know, that was the same decade that we went through, the same things about immigration that we're going through now, and, you know, some of those same social experiments. I think this religious emphasis and religious right is a reflection of the kinds of changes that are taking place. I'm not sure many of those changes are here, because Wheeling and West Virginia have very small minority populations. I mean, West Virginia is about one of the least ethnically diverse states in the Union anymore, very few blacks, very few Asians, almost no Hispanics. I think we're 94 percent Caucasian and very few Catholics throughout the state. I mean, you know, you follow this, we're closing Catholic churches, no one going.
MK: So most of the diversion is right here in--?
DJ: Well, that has always been the case. I think the Northern Panhandle has always been more ethnically diverse. The foreign born population, as late as 1970, was much higher in the Panhandle than it was in the rest of the state. I think that's reflected, too, in the kinds of last names that you'll find in communities like Weirton and Follansbee and Wheeling, the number of Catholic churches or Eastern Orthodox churches or Jewish synagogues and other things that you'll find in this area. Remember, Kennedy came into this area to West Virginia to see how an Eastern Catholic could do in West Virginia because we were so overwhelmingly Protestant. But in my neighborhood, you know, a name like Javersak was not unusual. You know, you go to a restaurant in some of the areas and they say, "What's your last name?" You say Javersak, and they give you this pained look like, "Oh, my God, how would I spell that?" You know. That's always been one of the things that I think has been one of our advantages is the ethnic diversity. But, see, ethnic diversity's changed. Ethnic diversity used to mean the different kinds of Europeans who lived in the nation. Now, ethnic diversity is Spanish speaking or Hispanic population, Asian population, you know, the immigrants from Central America and China and Korea, but no longer the European influence. I'm just trying to think, one of the statistics that caught my attention a couple weeks ago is there are more Muslims in the United States now practicing than there are Episcopalians. You know, we're changing in terms of those kinds of things. Just in Los Angeles alone there are a hundred and some thousand Iranians. I mean, it's just phenomenal to see. And maybe Los Angeles is the city to study in terms of ethnic diversity now. Whereas Wheeling, I think--Wheeling would have been a good prism of ethnic diversity at the turn of the century, in terms of the Europeans and so on. But it's no longer diverse enough.
MK: What did you observe or do you recall about urban renewal in Wheeling?
DJ: Again, most of that urban renewal took place at a time when either I didn't live in Wheeling or didn't pay attention. There were some attempts at that back, it seems to me, late '60s, early '70s, so I would have been then in my early '20s, early to mid '20s. And somebody in his early to mid '20s who just has a new baby doesn't pay much attention to those kinds of things. I knew that was a major issue, but I honestly never paid much attention to it, and so I'm not sure of all the arguments that went into it.
MK: You've been associated with a project called Wheeling on Wheels?
DJ: Well, actually, I've had a class that I've called History on Wheels. It was an experiential class that we travel around and study particular events or places at the place. So if I'm going to study National Road, I might go out, take a class out to the S-Bridge in Taylorstown, or if I want to study the statehood of West Virginia, I do it in this building, for example. If I want to study the river and it's role in Wheeling, I do it at the dam or on the bridge. Those kinds of things. But I've done a couple classes. I do a class in Wheeling history and I do a class--although I haven't done this one recently--it's Field History of the Northern Panhandle. That's where the name History on Wheels came from. We just packed in the van and off we went. You know, the class never met in a classroom. We were always on the road, traveling from Moundsville to Chester and every place in between.
MK: Well, I wish I could take that.
DJ: It was fun. The biggest expense was your lunch, because we ate out every day.
WOMAN: I'd just ask you to go back to the earlier statistic you 40 percent of West Virginia labor was in Wheeling at the turn of the century. What did you mean? Is that somebody who works for somebody else?
DJ: No, that means that the people identified by--there's a 1902 biennial report of the Bureau of Labor. It was a government office. They identified 10,000 workers in the State of West Virginia who are members of labor unions. Of those 10,000, 4,000 were in Wheeling. I did another calculation. I actually have some of that information out in the car. Twenty-eight percent of all the different locals in the State of West Virginia were in Wheeling. Now, those figures seem high, but only if you don't know the role that Wheeling was playing in the industrial activity in the state. So when you know that figure, those aren't as out of kilter as you would expect, because 1/3 according to John Alexander Williams, who did a study of West Virginia called the "Captains of Industry," he uses a figure of about 1/3 of all the industrial activity, in terms of investment, wages, profits and so on, were in the City of Wheeling. I don't know if you've ever seen William Boyd's History of the Northern Panhandle put out in the mid 1920s. It's not a very good book, but it has some interesting stuff in it, and one of the things it has in it is a list of all the businesses in the four counties in the Northern Panhandle by cities, and Wheeling's runs six and a half pages, single spaced, and it list the business and the number of employees by males and females. It really is a wonderful thing. And one of the things that I had some students do a couple years ago was to go through and see how many of those businesses are still in operation. And, of course, like 75, 80 percent of them aren't. So that's the area. This was a real labor hearth. I mean, the Ohio Valley Trades and Labor Assembly is the oldest central labor body in the United States. This is the home of Walter Ruther. At one time, the first four or five presidents of the State Federation of Labor were from Wheeling. The one-time national president of the Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, Tin Workers was from Wheeling.
WOMAN: Of what?
DJ: The Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel and Tin Workers which was the big steel industry union prior to World War I before the United Steelworkers took over. You know, and you had that kind of activity here. But if you lose your industrial base, you're going to lose a number of unions you have, too. There's no reason for them. Because unions, to me, are responses that particular people * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * tion that came out back then. And that's one of the things that he suggested in terms of how you look at unions and other kinds of things, as a response to new sets of circumstances.
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