Wheeling Spoken History Project: Michael A. Nau
▼ Interview with Michael A. Nau
Title: The Price of Progress
[ Date: June 21, 1994; Interview #: 96-015 ]
CARRIE KLINE: Can you start by ... well, would you mind telling us when you were born?
MIKE NAU: I was born in 1950, Feb. 25, 1950
CK: tell us where that was ...tell us about your people
MN: I was born in Wheeling...my father's family originally came over from Germany and settled in the North Wheeling part of Wheeling. I grew up and spent 25 years of my life in the eastern part of Wheeling, which we call East Wheeling. It's centrally located next to the central business district.
I: When would your father's people have come over and why?
MN: Well, I'm not exactly sure when they came over, uh, most of the Nau family probably can be traced back to German descent and probably all came over at the same time. One of the things that's interesting; there's not a whole lot of Nau's that live in Wheeling so you would think that they're all related and I would guess that if you go back far enough in the family tree that you know they might have some relationship but the current generations, there are three Nau families in Wheeling and we're not related at all which is pretty unique because it is not a common name.
CK: What would have brought Germans over to Wheeling?
MN: Well that's difficult for me to understand because I'm not a history buff and I've never really traced our family tree but if you look at the history of Wheeling there are a lot of people of German descent which settled in Wheeling and I think a lot of those folks were brought here because of the type of industry that this area offered with the glass industry. A lot of them were coal miners and then a lot of them were in the retail business; they were grocers, they were fruit vendors, so they settled in different areas of Wheeling, North Wheeling and Center Wheeling primarily.
CK: Was your father raised in one of those neighborhoods?
MN: Oh yeah, he was raised in North Wheeling and when my father was alive we lived in the central part of town. He was born and raised in North Wheeling; his family then moved to East Wheeling and that's where I was born and that's where me and brother and sister were born and raised. In fact, one of the things I always thought was unique: a move for us was a move from one block to another block in East Wheeling. People just didn't migrate beyond neighborhoods when I was a kid. Very rarely did someone move out of East Wheeling to another location in Wheeling. It seemed like you just moved from one block in the neighborhood to another block, and that's how we grew up. We grew up on 16th Street, then we moved up one street to 15th Street, then we moved across the street on 15th Street so our roots are really tied to the central part of Wheeling.
CK: Which they called East Wheeling?
MN: Yes, uh huh.
CK: Well who made up that neighborhood as you were coming up?
MN: Well, originally as you look at the people at some point people who were born and raised in Wheeling either had their roots in East Wheeling, Center Wheeling or North Wheeling. A lot of professional people today, the doctors and the lawyers, have at one point lived in East Wheeling, so at one time in the history of Wheeling, East Wheeling was the place to live. So I don't know that you can say that one particular group, you know, made up East Wheeling. I think at some point everybody passed through that part of town. You know, I've talked to an awful lot of people who when you talk about East Wheeling and you know the different streets and that would say, "Oh yeah, I remember that. In fact, my father used to live on 14th Street," or "When I was a kid I grew up on 15th Street," so it really isn't uncommon if you talk to many folks that still live in Wheeling at one point they had some ties to the central part of town. (69) _back to the Nau family
I: Could you go back and talk a little bit about your own family more? Talk about your mother and her people?
MN: Oh yeah. My mother was different. Her family came from a different part of Wheeling than my father. My mother's family came from the Elm Grove/Edgington Lane area and spent most of their life out what we call 'out the Pike' and I can remember pretty vividly when my mother and father used to talk about moving and my mother wasn't really a downtown person. She really didn't enjoy living so close to the downtown area because of how she was brought up. And she always said that you know that she would like to move out of the central part of town and go out the Pike or out the grove or some place like that. But my dad had some real strong feelings about keeping the family centrally located because his parents lived in East Wheeling, his brothers lived in East Wheeling so my mom kind of put up with it. When my dad passed away, I could have bet my life that the first thing my mom wanted to do was move out of East Wheeling and in fact that's what she did. But Wheeling is a small community and even if you weren't from East or Center or North Wheeling you still had a lot of ties with the other areas. You know I can remember as a kid we had our turf at the Elks Playground. But we would walk out to Edgington Lane and play ball out there because a lot of our friends lived out there. They in turn would come in to the Elks Playground but you always had...you always had your own turf where you felt really comfortable. I know when we'd go to a visiting playground to play with friends of ours it wasn't like being at home. You know you just couldn't wait to get back being at home because it was almost like you were out of your element, even though it's a small community and people intermingled, you just felt comfortable where you grew up and I think a lot of people felt that way, particularly about East and Center and North Wheeling.
CK: Can you talk more about what it was about those places that made you feel at home?
MN: I think a lot of it had to do with everybody knew everybody in the community. It's not that we didn't know the people out the Pike or out the grove but when you grew up in that type of environment, everybody was a neighbor. If you lived on 15th Street your neighbors also were 16th 17th and 18th street. I mean, everybody knew everybody in that part of town, and it wasn't uncommon to walk down the street and you'd see all these people sitting out on the sidewalk in their lawn chairs. And as you'd pass them they would say 'hi' to you, you know, because they knew everybody, uh, you know it's not like today where you have a mobile community where everybody gets in a car and, uh, you know, my kids are that way, uh, they would not think about picking up a basketball and walking to the playground to play ball. You know, if you stick them in a car and you take them somewhere, you know, that's fine. When we grew up, we did everything within our own neighborhood primarily. It was the rare occasions when we'd go to another playground and play ball. And I think a lot of the people, even the adults, got attached to the neighborhood. So it wasn't really uncommon that everybody that lived in the neighborhood knew everybody else, and there was a closeness unlike today because you have a more mobile community than you did back in the 50's and the 60's. (127) - role of neighbors Counter (144) - neighborhood vendors
CK: Well what role did the adults play in watching out for one another's kids -- did they do that?
MN: Oh yeah, I used to ... I still tell my son that I can remember probably at the age of four or five years old, going over to the Elks Playground, but my mom really wasn't concerned about having me over there because everyone else was over there, and the parents would sit out on the sidewalks and you were always within eyesight, you know, and it wasn't like you had to constantly monitor where your kids were, because the whole neighborhood did that. It was not to see 20 or 25 kids with maybe five or six of the parents sitting out on the porches or the sidewalks just watching what everybody's doing. And again, that was the closeness of the neighborhoods. (Neighborhood vendors -- 144) Something I was thinking about the other day that you really don't see today that you had back then, and it talks a little bit about the neighborhoods: a lot of the businesses would come to you, and I give you a couple examples I can remember the fruit vendors. They would bring their trucks into the neighborhood and they would literally park their trucks in the center of the street, get out and announce that they were here, and then everybody in the homes or the apartment buildings would come out to the truck and they would buy their fruit. The same thing with the Jewel-T man; he had his little route and he would come top everybody's home....
CK: The what company?
MN: It was the Jewel-T Company and they sold all different spices, and they even sold some knick-knacks for the walls and that, but they would come to you as opposed to you going to them, and that kind of brought the whole neighborhood together, and you know, little things like that you don't see today.
CK: Who were some others? Who were the fruit vendors?
MN: Oh I can remember Anthony Purpura. He was the biggest, course he lived on our street. And their, it was he and his brothers, they may have had three or four trucks that went in to different neighborhoods, and it was kind of unique because a lot of the neighborhoods that they centered their business around were the inner city neighborhoods, the east, the centers and the south Wheelings. You really didn't venture out into the Pike area or to the Grove to do things like that. But I always thought that that was pretty neat, you know. I could always tell when Mr. Purpura or the Jewel-T man was coming because, you know my mom would, she would prepare for it. There were certain days that they came and you expected them to be there and that's how you did business back then.
CK: How did she prepare for it?
MN: Little things like making sure that she was at home when they came because they always came at the same time. Just things like that, you know. You didn't want to miss the fruit man and you didn't want to miss the Jewel-T man, because they weren't going to be back probably for another week. And people back then didn't go to the grocery store to buy their fruit. You bought it fresh off of a fruit vendor and that's just the way it was back then.
CK: You're probably not old enough to remember the ice man coming, are you?
MN: No, I don't remember that, I remember my mom talking about it. But I don't remember.
CK: But milk was delivered.
MN: Oh yeah, milk, I can remember setting out the empty glass jugs on the porch and the milk man would come in the morning pick up the empty and leave a new one and stuff like that. Oh yeah, that was pretty common, you know, you don't see that today.
CK: Did you buy your meat from a street vendor too?
MN: No. We had it was very rare that my mom and dad would shop at a Kroger store or at a big chain store. Most of the food was purchased from the local grocery store. And if you can imagine this, within a four block area we probably had four grocery store, one on each block, and those people made a living at it too. Today you just couldn't compete in today;s market, but that's what everybody did. You didn't go to the big grocers, you stayed within y our neighborhood and that's where you did your shopping. You know that was pretty common back then. And then when the big chains came in, the Krogers and the A & Ps things started to change and it became very difficult for the local vendor to compete and that was unfortunate because that was a part of the community, the local neighborhood stores were really a part of the community, but they're a rare animal today.
CK: What were the names of those stores?
MN: Well, Neely's grocery was probably the most common. It still exists today. You had Neely's, you had Moore's Grocery, you had oh Oakey's which was a produce and meat store, you had Mary's Grocery Store, Ross's Grocery store. As I say, within a four block radius you may have had between four and six of those grocery stores, and it wasn't uncommon to go to one store and buy something and then go to another grocery store right down the street and buy something else. You know, we used to do that -- Schaffer's Bakery used to be in Wheeling and on Saturday mornings I can remember very vividly my parents would make the rounds. They would go to Neely's, get what they needed, they'd go to Oakey's, get the meat, and some of the produce that they needed, then they'd go to Schaffer's Bakery to get bread and rolls and stuff like that. And that happened every Saturday, every Saturday morning you know it was like a tradition. Today you don't do that; you get in the car and go out to Kroger's and you do your shopping once every two weeks and that's it.
CK: Would you go on these adventures?
MN: Oh yeah. My mom --- we lived very close to the Elks' Playground, and my brother and I, that's practically where we were raised, in the playground. I mean from the time that we got up until the time that we went ot sleep at night we spent every waking moment in the Elks' Playground. And if my mom needed something at the store, she'd come out on the porch or she'd, uh, raise the window up and she'd yell for my brother and I, and we'd have to stop our basketball game or baseball game or whatever and we'd go to the store. But that wasn't uncommon you know, everybody did that you know and the stores were so close like I say they were located in the neighborhood that your parents really didn't worry about you going by yourself. I remember that if you got 25 cents or if you got any money the first thing you did you went to the store and you bought a bottle of pop or a candy bar; you know you could buy a bottle of pop for 12 cents and you could buy all kind of candy for a nickel and that was a big deal for us and every kid knew when you had money because if you walked into the store they'd be lined up or they'd be sitting on the steps and the first thing you did, if you walked out the store with a bottle of pop, you always put your thumb down and you'd say 'Thumbs down' because if you didn't and someone saw you with a pop they'd say, 'Thumbs up' which meant that you had to give them a drink of your pop I mean that was just the rule. And they did that with everything. If you had a candy bar -- 'Thumbs down on my candy bar' if you weren't quick enough there'd be three guys with their thumbs up in the air and you had to give them a bite of the candy bar, you know, and that was just a tradition. But everybody did that.
CK: Do you have any idea where that tradition came from?
MN: I think if I had to guess that's probably unique to East Wheeling, I mean you know, we did it as kids. I don't know that any other groups in Wheeling did stuff like that. But again, all the kids knew every --- each other. I mean, we didn't necessarily have to go to school together, uh, but we did everything else together. You know, they didn't have to be your best friends but that didn't matter; they were part of the neighborhood. And all the neighborhood kids were like a big family, so it didn't matter how good of a friend they were, you know, that was just the rule.
MK: Were there other things like that that you can remember?
MN: Oh yeah. My brother and I had paper routes, and it was a lot different than today. Today my son has a paper route but he doesn't go you know outside a couple block area and that and they deliver the papers and drop them off at the house and all that, and you only collect once a month. Heck I can remember as a kid they would drop the papers off at Riley's Newsstand which was a little place where you'd go and buy magazines and candy and stuff like that. And we would go and wait for maybe an hour for the paper truck to drop off the papers but in the meantime the owner of the little store would let us read comic books, you know, to fill the time and all that. But all the kids did it. All the kids had paper routes, you know, and if you were one of the unfortunate ones that didn't have a paper route, you'd go around with someone else and that person would buy you a bottle of pop or he'd give you a nickel for helping him. You know so it was like everybody did it, you know, there was no way if you were a boy growing up in East Wheeling at some point you had a paper route that was just part of growing up; you had to have a paper route. And like I say everybody int he community did it
MK: Did they have those little wooden paper wagons?
MN: Well, no, we didn't have wagons. We had paper bags like we do now. But it was a lot different then. You would have to go out and collect every week; you'd have to take your collection and pay your bill down at the paper company. You know, at first they used to come out every Saturday morning. The district manager would come out to your house and he'd sit down with you and you'd count out the money and you'd pay your bill and stuff like that. Today it's totally different I mean it's more of a business than it is ... back them it was sort of like part of growing up, you know. And like I talked about the Jewel-T man and the produce man --- the newspaper company was run the same way --- they would come to you, you know. You'd go out and do the collecting but you know every Saturday morning your district manager would come to your house, set(sic) down, have a bottle of pop or a cup of coffee and you'd count your pennies out and you'd pay him for the bill. All that stuff is gone today; I guess that's progress.
MK: Did the gypsies ever come to town --- sharpen scissors, or?
MN: I don't remember too much of that, no. We didn't have --- we didn't have a lot of people going door to door doing stuff like that. Most of the people like I say were pretty established in the community, uh, and you knew when they were going to be there and you knew what to expect and that so --- we didn't have a lot of hawkers and peddlers or anything like that.
CK: Were there certain characters that you remember from delivering the paper or other encounters?
MK: Uh, not really, 'cause, like I say, you knew everybody. And you know you delivered in your neighborhood although back then you may have had anywhere from 60 to 80 customers, because a lot of the buildings, there were apartments in the buildings so you may have delivered five papers to one building. Today, the routes go anywhere from 20 to 30 papers and there's less interaction with the people today than there was back then. I mean, even people on your route, they would have the change counted out for you, they knew when you were going to come to collect, so they'd have their little -- the little old ladies would have their purses with their change and they'd have exactly 57 cents counted out because that's how much a paper was a week, 57 cents. You know if someone gave you 75 cents, and told you to keep the change, man, the first thing you did, you took that quarter and you stuck it in your pocket because soon as you got done collecting you were goin' to the store and you were gonna buy baseball cards and a bottle of pop and a bag of potato chips, I mean, you had it made if you had a quarter (laughs), but today it's just totally different. One of the things that we used to do as kids, and we used to look forward to it. We used to have these yo-yo champions that would go around to different communities and they'd put on these yo-yo tournaments, and uh, every Saturday, I don't know the guy's last name, I can't, I can't remember his last name but his first name was Gus, and he was like the world yo-yo champion. and he would come every Saturday at Riley's Newsstand, like six o'clock in the evening or seven o'clock in the evening, and there may be 10 guys standing in the sidewalk and we'd have a yo-yo tournament and we'd have to do different things with the yo-yo. And part of the prize was, whoever won, you either got a yo-yo that was carved out by Gus, he used to carve like flying birds on your yo-yo and stuff like that, and it was really something that everybody looked forward to. But again, everybody did it. Everybody played with a yo-yo. You know, it was like Saturdays, you know ... that's where you were going to be at six or seven o'clock. You were gonna be in a yo-yo tournament.
MK: A generation earlier I guess it was marble shooting...
MN: Oh yeah
MK: You didn't do much of that did you?
MN: No, marbles weren't that big although there were ...there were some kids that did that. Yo-yos and baseball cards, I mean we used to play with baseball cards like nobody's business. We used to set them up against the wall, and we'd throw one and if you knocked the one that was standing up down, that was yours, so you made sure that the one you stood up against the wall was one that you were willing to give up. And back then you know, Mickey Mantle or Carl Yastremski and that ... baseball cards didn't have a value. You know, we played with cards, not like today. People buy cards as investments today. we used to take them and put them in our bicycles, and we used to get a clothespin and double the card over and stick it by the wheel and as the wheel went along it tic-tic-tic-tic-tic-tic you know it made a real neat sound. Today you wouldn't do that. I can remember with a friend of mine. We'd sit at home and we made up a baseball game with baseball cards and we'd sit there and we would play for hours. This little game that we made up. Today, you know, kids are a little afraid to touch a card because if you get a smudge on it or something like that it goes down in value, you know it's just totally different.
CK: What was the game?
MN: We would just take like teams and we'd have different pl;ayers and we would write on a little piece of paper like a ball and a strike, a fly-out a home run and we'd put 'em in a baseball hat and then we'd just pick, start picking out, and you know, if it said you were out, you know, that was one out. If it said you hit a home run or a triple we'd move that player over, you know, around the diamond to third base and that, and we'd just play a baseball game like that, we'd just keep pulling things out of a hat. (414 -- Other traditions & girls)
CK: What other traditions did you have in the neighborhood? Games, known things that you'd say or do at different times.
MK: What did girls do?
MN: You know I was trying to think about that the other night -- what did my sister do? You know it was strange because the girls and the boys really didn't, we didn't play together because we had, you know, we were all sports oriented, and that. And I don't remember a whole lot about the girls when I was growing up. Now there were girls in East Wheeling, I would imagine (laughs) you know they had their fun time too but it was like the two never mixed. So I really don't know. And I remember my sister used to have her friends over at the house but they didn't go to the playground or anything like that because that's where the guys were, you know, there wasn't a whole lot for them to do.
CK: Would they play outside at all?
MK: Had hula-hoops hit by then?
MN: Yeah, they had that kind of stuff.
CK: What kind of stuff?
MN: Well, we had hula hoops, we had pogo sticks you know that you jump up and down, and that kind of stuff. Most of the girls I guess when they were younger would stay in their own block and that and they'd play together out on the sidewalk, and that, but and as they got older they got more involved in cheering in school, and those types of things, but I don't remember them venturing out of the neighborhoods and playing with the boys certainly we didn't have any interaction with the opposite sex like they do today.
CK: Sounds like it would be more fun to be a boy, you'd get to go further.
MN: Well, I tell you if you grew up in East Wheeling, if you were a boy that was probably the best place in the world as a kid to grow up. You know, I mean everybody did, everybody played sports, One of the things that we used to do in the evenings, we had this game that was called five-pin, and don't ask me why we called it five-pin but what it was it was catchers. Where one guy was it and he had to chase everybody else and he had to catch everybody else. And when you caught somebody you had to hold them and say five-pin. And then they became part of your team and they helped you catch everybody else. But we would go throughout the neighborhood and we'd hide in people's entrance doorways, we'd hide behind cars, we'd hide behind bushes and yards and that. Can you imagine if kids did that today in the neighborhood? You know, they'd have the police force chasing them. Uh, but back then most of the adults in the evening were sitting out on the sidewalk and they'd watch you play, you know. And they didn't mind if you hid in their entrance way or behind their door or anything like that. Just totally different. Now sometimes the girls did play in that, but basically it was again, everybody in the neighborhood doing it.
CK: What did you tell us the other day about suppertime, the suppertime calm that would come?
MN: Oh, you know, well everything started at the Elks' Playground I mean that was the gathering point and the focal point for all the activities. When you got up in the morning the first thing you did you went down the Elks' Playground. That's where you made your plans for what you were going to do the rest of the day and that evening. SO our parents knew that if we weren't at home that's where we were going to be. And if it was lunchtime or dinnertime they wouldn't come down to get you, they would come out on the porch and they'd yell for you. You know, 'Come home, it's dinnertime!' So you know, you'd stop doing what you did, ran home, ten minutes later you'd be back down at the Elks' Playground. You know, all you did was go home, eat what you had to do to survive and then ask to be excused and bang, you were back down at the playground. But that's what you kind of lived for, every minute you spent down at the Elks' Playground because that's where all your friends were going to be.
CK: Was there a general call that seemed to go out at the same time, different names or how did that work?
MN: Well, no, like my brother and I, we lived on 15th Street and my aunt lived on 15th Street but her back porch faced the Elks Playground so if my mother wanted my brother or I to come home, she would call my aunt, my aunt would go out on the porch, she'd yell, 'Michael, Bobby, your mother wants you!' And zippo, we'd go home. But it was like they had a little system worked out. (School --- 519)
CK: Did you ever go to school? Were you ever not on the playground long enough?
MN: Oh, yeah, yeah, we went to school. Course we went back then you didn't take a bus to school and your parents didn't take you to school, you walked. We went to grade school and it was the neighborhood grade school, high school was the neighborhood high school. Back then we didn't have consolidated schools like they do today. We had Warwood High, Triadelphia High, Wheeling High, Wheeling Central. You know there were all neighborhood schools. Like the kids up in Warwood had a school up there. The kids that lived in the center part of town either went to Wheeling High School or they went to Wheeling Central, but everybody walked there, so big thing for me was once I graduated from high school and went to college I got to drive. I got to ride in a car to go to school. But that's what you did. (541 --- Different Neighborhoods)
CK: When you occasionally went to different neighborhoods as a child how would you get there?
CK: Did you family own a car?
MN: Yeah we owned a car but back then you were lucky if you had one car to a family. It was very, very very rare that you had two cars, and it was very rare that you had a family where both the mother and the father worked. The mother stayed home and took care of the home, took care of the kids, and if you wanted to go somewhere it was always that you had to ask your parents to take you. And it was just a lot easier for us as kids to either walk or we'd thumb. We'd thumb a ride. I mean today, you just wouldn't see kids out on the street, you know, trying to bum a ride to somewhere, but back then it was pretty common. But again you didn't have the fear of someone picking you up that you don't know because most of the people you knew them. And you really didn't have that fear about hitching a ride because you knew the [people back then. But yeah, if we went out to Edgington Lane we'd walk the tracks, the old railroad tracks would take you through East Wheeling and take you through the tunnel and take you out to the Pike, so that's what we did. And I can remember even my grandfather, every day would walk the tracks from East Wheeling to a little ...there's a little neighborhood bar out in Clator where he and some of his friends would meet. Now, Grandpa was retired but he would walk the tracks every day and occasionally he would take either me or my cousin or maybe the both of us and we'd walk the tracks with him. And I mean that was kind of special too, but that's how you got around. (588 --- Grandfather)
CK: What was this grandfather's name?
MN: Frank -- Frank Nau. Yeah, but every day he would do that. Now in the winter time he'd have to drive his car. But you really looked forward to the spring and the summer. that's how you got around. Even when we'd go to play baseball down at Tunnel Green, we wouldn't walk on the sidewalks or anything. We'd go right down to the railroad tracks and we'd follow the tracks out. (600 --- Trains & Tunnels)
CK: Were the trains operating then?
MN: Uh-huh, sure.
MK: Was it dangerous in the tunnel?
MN: No, no there were little places in the tunnel where if a train was coming, you know you could get off the track, and there were little, like alcoves, that, oh yeah, you go out there today and, well, I don't know if they're still there. I remember growing up as a kid, every tunnel had them, and that was part of --- We used to enjoy sometimes, we'd go on excursions and that's what we'd do. We'd walk the tracks and we'd walk through the tunnel and we'd go over the hill and that and we'd spend a whole day doing that...just exploring an area where we hadn't been before. But we always knew we could get back to the center part of town just by following the tracks. I mean, you couldn't get lost. It was almost impossible because the tracks led you throughout Wheeling. So you never worried about, 'Well, gee whiz, if I get out here, you know and I don't know where I am...'; you'd just look for the railroad tracks and you followed them, and you know, always made it back home.
CK: Where would you be going that would be far enough to thumb then, if you could walk it?
MN: Well, from here to Warwood, for instance, was a pretty good walk, so you'd have to thumb out there. Sometimes we'd thumb out to Wheeling Park, you know, places like that. But most of the time, yeah, we walked. You know, it wasn't uncommon to see us with our basketball shoes, carrying a basketball along the tracks, going out to look for a game.
CK: So how many of you would be on these excursions?
MN: Oh, sometimes just two of us, sometimes there would be four or five of us, you know. But we talked about the railroads, where my grandparents lived on 16th Street, the railroad tracks went right next to their house. I mean, if you were standing out in the yard, that's what we'd do. Typically the trains would come through at certain times during the day, and the kids would line up and they'd watch the trains, and we'd try to count the cars as they go by. And the railroad went right down 17th Street; it went right in the middle of the street, so you know, they had to stop traffic and they used to have the little gates that would come down and that, and first the lights and the bells would go off to let you know that a train was coming. Well, if you were on the street, what you'd do, you;'d just stand there on the sidewalk and watch the train as it went by. But it went right next to my grandparents' house. And you would think that that would be bothersome, but it really wasn't. You know it was just, ah, they got used to it. You know sometimes you'd have a train coming along with fifty and sixty cars and there'd be even more than that, and they made a lot of noise, you know, but no one in the neighborhood noticed it because that was part of life. You know, you may have three or four trains a day that came through there so you know, you just stopped what you were doing and you'd watch the train.
CK: Even the adults?
MN: Oh yeah.
MK: Fascinated with the trains, I guess.
MN: Absolutely. I don't think there was ever a time, unless we were playing basketball or something and uh, but if you were doing anything else and the train came by you'd stop doing what you were doing and you'd watch it. There was just something about the train coming through the neighborhood that you know, everybody wanted to see the train.
CK: People dream about climbing aboard, or did you?
MN: There were some guys that would try to climb aboard, but no, we really didn't have an interest in doing anything like that. We were just fascinated by the train. And I guess our interest was just watching it go by. You know, nobody was really mischievous enough to try and jump one of the cars or anything like that. I don't ever remember that.
CK: East Wheeling was where it was all happening anyway.
MN: Well for us it was. You'll talk to people who grew up in South Wheeling, and they'll tell you the same type of stories. [END SIDE ONE -- BEGINNING SIDE TWO] (718 / 0)
MN: I talked about all the adults int he evening. It was sort of like you could predict what everybody was going to do because we did the same things all the time, even the adults. At 5:00 when people came home they ate dinner. Today they eat dinner and they're either going to a ball game with, taking their kids somewhere or that. Back when I was a kid, you ate dinner, your parents got their lawn chairs, and if they had a porch they sat out on the porch. If they didn't they'd take their lawn chair and they'd sit out on the sidewalk. But everybody on the block did it. You know, and that's where you got to know all your neighbors, and I can remember my mother and father sitting out on the front porch and there would be the Gompers who lived next to us sitting out on their front porch and they'd carry on conversations back and forth. And then there would be my aunt and uncle, and the people that lived across the street sitting out on their lawn chairs on the sidewalk carrying on the same conversation across the street. But that's just the way it was and that happened every night. And like in the wintertime, you'd wonder, well what do these people ...these people must go nuts in the wintertime cause they don't have people to talk to. What they'd do, my mother, when she got the kids off to school, she'd go over to my aunt's house, and then some of the other neighbors would come over and they'd sit down and they'd drink coffee, and that's how they carried on their conversations. In the evening, the same thing. You know, you couldn't sit out on the porch so what do you do. Well you go to your neighbor's house, and everyone else will come there and then, you'd just carry on the conversation like that.
CK: Is that men and women together?
MN: Oh yeah, yeah. That was the adults. So I knew if I came home from school and my mother wasn't there, I knew to either go over to my aunt's house or to go over to my neighbor's house and she would be there. You know, sure enough. You did more things as a family I think because again you know my mother didn't work, nor did any of the women back then. You know you only had the male that worked in the family, and uh, the spouse stayed home and took care of the home and the kids and consequently I think the family unit meant a lot more back then than it does today because you don't have the two parents going off and working and trying to support a family. I can remember almost every weekend on a Saturday evening we always knew when my mom and dad were going to go out and buy ice cream or something because we'd be down in the playground and we'd see our car coming up the alley and I knew doggone well that mom and dad are taking a drive and we're going to stop and we're going to get ice cream. You know and we were teenagers and we were still doing it. We'd see 'em coming up the alley, Dad would stop the car, we'd run up, we'd jump in it, and sure enough, we'd take a little half-hour ride, and always at the end of the ride there was a treat. You either stopped at a Dairy Queen or I forget what they called it back then, but you knew you were going to get your ice cream or something.
MK: A drive-in?
MN: Uh, yeah that was the other thing that you did as a family; on a weekend you went to a drive-in. I mean it wasn't uncommon to see everybody everybody at the drive-in. Today they don't even have them anymore. I think there's one left in the whole area and I can remember just a couple of years ago telling my kids, 'Well, let's go to the drive-in.' They said, 'What are you talking about, the drive-in?' I said, 'Well, it's this big place where you get in the car and you watch a movie.' 'From the car, Dad?' I said, 'Yeah, yeah, you know, it'll be fun.' They hated it! They said, 'My, why would we do this when we can rent a movie and stick it in our VCR?' Well, the whole point was when we were kids, you all did it together. You know, when we went to the drive-in, my aunt and uncle took their kids and went to the drive-in. And the two cars would park next to each other, you know, and it was like, we brought the neighborhood; everybody went to the drive-in, so we're doing what we would do at home anyways, you know. And that's what I meant about the family unit. I guess we weren't as mobile as we are today so consequently I think we did a lot more together than what people may do today.
CK: Was there a drive-in in East Wheeling?
MN: No, you had to go out, uh, there was one out in Elm Grove and that's where most of the people went, and there was one up past Warwood in Short Creek, but you went there. And we had movie theatres and if you, when you got older, if you had a date I mean that's what you did. You went to the movie theatre and you went to Kahle's Pharmacy afterwards, then it was Elby's.
CK: What pharmacy?
MN: Kahle's Pharmacy; used to be in downtown Wheeling. I mean there were certain places where as a teenager everybody went. Kahle's was one and then
MK: Did it have a soda fountain?
MN: Yeah, when it went out of business there was an Elby's that went in there, and if you did anything, like if you had a school dance or something like that everybody would go down to Elby's then. I mean if there were a hundred kids at the dance, there would be a hundred kids at Elby's because that's where everything went. If you were going home on a bus, the bus would pick you up there, if not your parents would pick you up there. Kids still do that today, I mean, they go together, but it's a lot different, you know. We would meet at Elby's and back then they had the outdoor drive-ins where you'd pull up and you'd talk to a speaker but you'd never leave your car, you know, and a waitress would come out to you and carry a tray with your food on it, and you sat in your car, just like you see in the old-time movies, and that.
MK: The tray would hook to the window?
MN: Oh yeah, yeah. But that, and that's everybody did that.
CK: So it would be like a private date, just you and your date having a meal in your vehicle.
MN: Well, it was but you didn't go out just yourself. It was very rare that if you had a date, that you and your date would go alone. I mean, you always doubled with somebody. And you would always hook up with some of your other friends. Again, most people did the same thing. We'd go to the show and we'd go to Elby's afterwards. And you could bet that there would be four or five of your buddies there.
CK: Were you maybe more interested in your buddies or just as interested in them as the date anyway?
MN: Well, I think kids back then were a little different in what they do than what kids are today. We were so involved in I guess finding our own things in our own way. Again, sports was a big part of life, and we didn't start dating until a lot older than what kids do today. And I think it's good because I looked at my daughters as they grew up. Some of their best friends were boys, and it wasn't uncommon for them to go go a boy's house or to have a bunch of boys over with the girls, you know, and they kind of intermingled. Back when we were kids, we really didn't you know. Even when we went to dances, it was like the boys on this side of the room and the girls on this side of the room. And then at the end of the dance they'd always play a slow dance and you'd get up enough nerve to go over and ask a girl to dance, and bang, that was your whole evening. You know, so you spent the whole evening talking to the same guys that you talk to day in and day out, and the girls talk to the girls that they talked to and you never intermingled until right at the end of the dance, then you know, you'd dance with them and bang, you'd go home and tell your parents, 'Boy, I had a great time!' But you didn't do anything that you wouldn't have done if you'd stayed home. Today kids are a lot different, I mean boys and girls interact with each other and they seem to develop friendships a lot earlier than what we did when we was kids.
CK: But what about the fast dances?
MN: Nobody fast-danced. And you know, when you were in high school, if you knew how to fast-dance, everybody would stand and watch you. But nobody wanted to be the guy that got out there and fast-danced. The girls danced with the girls. The guys would stand there and watch and we'd chatter back and forth to each other and the girls would be out there dancin', you know. Guys just didn't fast-dance, you know. If you danced, it was a slow dance, and then, the older we got we started to do a little like the cha-cha and stuff like that. But no, fast-dancing, you left that up to the girls. (856 --- Grandparents)
CK: Well, I was kind of curious about your grandparents back in your neighborhood; did you spend much time with them?
MN: Oh, yeah.
CK: Frank Nau, and what was your grandma's name?
MN: Loretta. Everyday we would get out of school. We'd go home, change our clothes before we went to the playground we always went to Grandma and Grandpa's house. always. And Grandma would expect myself, my brother and my cousin. She'd always have, uh, we'd call it pop, it was you know, like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. She'd always have pop in the house, because, you know, she knew we were going to be there, uh, we'd set down and we'd spend maybe a half an hour just talking to Grandma. Sometimes we'd play dominoes, you know. That was always a fun thing to do. If she'd be sitting there cutting up her noodles, uh, because you didn't buy store-bought noodles, you made your own noodles back then. And she'd be sitting there cutting up her noodles. As soon as we came, push that aside, got the dominoes out. We'd have our pop and our Oreos sitting there, and we'd play dominoes for about a half an hour. Then we'd go over, by that time, all of our buddies would be home from school, and we'd be ready to start our activities over at the playground. But yeah, that was a must, as soon as you got home we went to Grandma's.
CK: Even in high school?
MN: Oh yeah, We did that probably until we got out of high school.
MK: What had been his life's work.
MN: Uh, he sold insurance. And I'm not sure what company he was with. I want to say Prudential, but that's what he did.
CK: Is that what your dad did as well?
MN: No, my dad worked for Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. In fact, he started to work for Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel when he was in high school. And back then, that's what everybody did. I mean, the steel mills was very very big in this area and if you were a kid growing up in the summertime you could probably expect to get a summer job at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. I mean, that's where most of the guys worked because their parents worked there. Their fathers worked there. So my dad, he went to work when he was in high school, then right after that he started to work full-time. And of course then there was a little period there where they had to go off to war. When they returned, he went back to work for Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. But most of the people did. They either worked in the steel mills, or they worked in the coal mine.
MK: What was his job?
MN: Well, when he first started to work there he was a clerk, but then he got into production control, where he would ship the steel off to different companies. But there were different grades of steel and that, so he had to know, depending on what type of business they had, what grade of steel to ship them. He did a lot of metallurgical work.What does that mean?Well, again, a metallurgist knew the type of steel and the different grades and that kind of stuff and you had to know that to determine what kind of steel went to this business, you know, to produce their products and that and that's what Dad did.But all of his brothers worked at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, and that wasn't uncommon.did they like their work?Oh, yeah, yeah. I had never run into anybody who worked for the steel company that said, 'Boy I just hate to get up in the morning to go to work. You know, everybody did, because that's what the family did. Your whole family worked at the steel mill. Now I will say that towards my dad's later years, it got to be a struggle then, because the whole complexion of the steel industry started to change. And it became very stressful because it was so competitive and the area was beginning to lose ground and it wasn't any fun, the latter years, because of that. But yeah, everybody looked forward to working at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel.
CK: What do you mean it wasn't any fun the latter years. How did that change it for the worker?
MN: well, uh, I think that because of the potential for layoffs and ... Steel companies then ... back, I remember back when Dad worked there, the management was the same for a number of years, and then as the steel industry became more competitive different companies would come in and purchase different parts of the business and that. So there was a constant change in management and I think that became very stressful, at least for some of the old-time employees. And of course Dad, it became very competitive. And people for the first time in their life, faced layoffs. Back when I was growing up, boy, you never talked about getting laid off from the steel mill. I mean, you know, people back then, if they got, if they were fortunate enough to get on with the steel mill, that was a job for life. But that changed, ten, fifteen years down the road. It was no longer a place where you were going to be secure for the rest of your life. And for a lot of the older workers that was very difficult to deal with. And I can remember Dad towards his last years saying that boy you know it's really becoming a struggle to go to work now. Things are just evolving so quickly, that it was hard for a lot of people to deal with back then. And that really had a lot to do with how the community changed too. And I saw that even as a kid. (958) If I had to point to one thing that kind of took away the identity of the East Wheeling community, it was probably when the state came and they took all the homes from 16th Street and 17th Street for the interstate. You know, back then you really didn't realize what an impact that would have on the community but today looking back on it that;s when things started to change in Wheeling. And I can remember my grandparents. They had to be relocated because their home was one of the one that was going to be taken. I mean, they were devastated thinking that here they would have to move from a place that they'd lived for 35 years. You know, how were they going to deal with it, you know. And as a kid I couldn't relate to that because my little world was still going to be there, you know. I lived on 15th Street and it, my little world wasn't going to change a whole lot. But then after they relocated all of these homes, yeah, I saw the change, you know, even in the kids that I grew up with started to occur, because you didn't have that identity anymore. And the same thing was going on in the steel mills. some of the steel mills were beginning to close and that and it just kind of had an effect on the whole community.But I'll never forget when they took all those homes out there. Some of the places, like the Lanvis Cafe, Oakie's and all that, they'd just disappear. They weren't relocated; at that point they just went out of business and that. Neely's Grocery was one of the ones that remained in East Wheeling. And it wouldn't have been too hard for Neely's to say, 'Well, I'm going to go out to the pike or somewhere like that, but they stayed as part of East Wheeling. But a lot of that stuff was taken away.
MK: Sounds almost like the experience of urban renewal.
MN: Well yeah it was and people couldn't understand that that was part of the price you paid for progress. You know, nobody can argue the value of the Interstate systems, but we certainly did back then because that interstate took away our neighborhood, our community and it was hard for people to understand why that had to happen. Today, of course, my kids, they don't understand that. But I would suspect that if something like that happened to disrupt their lives, they would be able to relate to it. But that was part of progress back then, you know. Everything couldn't stay the same, although we wanted it to. We knew that at some point, you know, the older parts of Wheeling were going to have to be sacrificed to make a future for Wheeling and that's sort of the way that we look at it now. Things couldn't remain the same; they had to change and that was part of it. Unfortunately it affected most of the older parts of the community and that really led up to the development of the outer parts of Wheeling, like the Pike and the Grove and that ...that's when the population shifted out towards that area, because th inner city then, a lot of people were trying to get away from the inner city.
MN: Well, I think because a lot of the identity had been taken away, you know, when you did everything within your own neighborhoods, like you went to the playground, you did your shopping, you got your hair cut at the neighborhood barber shop ... take all that away, you know, there isn't a whole lot left to keep the community together. So then people started moving out, you know, to raise their families, looking for another neighborhood, another identity.
MK: Did they find it?
MN: I think so. The older ones, people, no.
MK: What happened to your grandparents; did they ever get over it?
MN: Well, they ended up in a high-rise up in Warwood. That's what a lot of the older people did. Back then the city had enough foresight to see, to make sure that there were high-rise developments, and most of the older people that were relocated, located in one of the high rises in the city. But that was difficult for them. I don't think my grandfather ever adjusted to it. Now my grandmother has, fortunately. But I don't think my grandfather, as long as he was alive, he ever adjusted to that type of a move. Now for me, it was difficult to move out of East Wheeling, but when I got married my wife was from a different part of town. And we started to raise our family, you know, we moved out to the Pike. Now, if I were to relocate my kids from that area, they'd probably feel the same way as I would've being, having to move from East Wheeling when I was a kid. So in that respect, a home is what you make it. Back then, we made East Wheeling our home, you know. That's where you were born and raised and that's where you wanted to come back to. My kids and a lot of other people, their home is out at Edgington Lane, or out the Pike and they feel the same way about that as I did, growing up in East Wheeling. That will never change.
MK: Do you really think your kids feel the same intensity about their neighborhood that you did?
MN: No, I don't. I think that part of it...they have never felt that part of it.
MK: Is there a much bigger turnover
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