Thelma Gross

Thelma was born in 1913, in Baltimore City. She talks about what it was like to grow up as a child in the early 1910s.

Transcription

JIM MAYOLA: Good morning. It’s Monday, July 12, 2010. My name is Jim Mayola. We’re in the Express Studio of a community media center, and it is my pleasure to be interviewing Ms. Thelma Gross. Let’s start with what year were you born? You just celebrated your birthday.

THELMA GROSS: Yes. I was born in June 12, 1913. In Baltimore City, in the hospital of which no longer exists. South Baltimore Hospital.

JIM MAYOLA: Baltimore in 1913. Did you grow up in Baltimore City?

THELMA GROSS: No, I didn’t. We moved to Baltimore County quite early. But I do you remember that in the house that we lived in in Baltimore City, we had gas lights. No electricity. Nothing like that. We had gas lights.

JIM MAYOLA: And you would light the gas lights in the evening?

THELMA GROSS: Light the gas lights in the evening. And the street cars was most con— transportation that you’d have.

JIM MAYOLA: Very interesting. And how old were you when you moved to Baltimore County?

THELMA GROSS: Nine years old.

JIM MAYOLA: OK, so you actually did spend some time as a little girl in Baltimore City.

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: So you were in Baltimore City until probably 1922, -23, something like that?

THELMA GROSS: Yes, something like that.

JIM MAYOLA: What was Baltimore City–

THELMA GROSS: Wait a minute. That’s, that’s– yeah, I guess so.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. So what was Baltimore City like as for a little girl? In 1920’s?

THELMA GROSS: We would uh bounce balls, play with dolls, play with paper dolls– paper dolls were very big.

JIM MAYOLA: Very popular.

THELMA GROSS: And uh– yeah. Run, jump, do all the things that young kids do. But, there were no playgrounds as such.

JIM MAYOLA: Hmm? OK.

THELMA GROSS: There were no organized things except in the Catholic Church. For one day, on Saturdays, in the Catholic Church they had physical ed for everybody. And we had horses, and– and the balance beam and that sort of thing. That was one day in the week that was organized. That’s the only thing that I remember that was organized.

JIM MAYOLA: Otherwise, you played on the streets then?

THELMA GROSS: Right. Played on the side walk. Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Was there a–

THELMA GROSS: Or in the backyard. We did have a backyard.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure. Was there a lot of traffic in those days?

THELMA GROSS: Very little.

JIM MAYOLA: Very little.

THELMA GROSS: Very little.

JIM MAYOLA: Now did you live right downtown? Do you remember the address?

THELMA GROSS: I remember the address. It was on Milton Street or Milton Avenue, and it was in the 1500 block. It was um not too far from Gay Street, which runs down there. Not too far from Hoffman Street, where I lived. It was in, I suppose, the eastern part of Baltimore City.

JIM MAYOLA: Part of the city’s really changed, hasn’t it?

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Have you gone back to see what the house looked like?

THELMA GROSS: No, I haven’t.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah?

THELMA GROSS: I’ll tell you, we– I have moved around the country so much that uh I- I just haven’t gone back.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure. What did your parents do? What kind of work did they do?

THELMA GROSS: My dad was a newspaper man. He worked for the Baltimore Sun–

JIM MAYOLA: Oh, OK

THELMA GROSS: –for 41 years. Mom just stayed home and took care of the family and the house.

JIM MAYOLA: And how many brothers and sisters?

THELMA GROSS: I have one brother and one sister. I had.

JIM MAYOLA: So your dad worked for the newspaper and took care of a family of five?

THELMA GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JIM MAYOLA: And did fine?

THELMA GROSS: And he made, when he first started out, $18 a week.

JIM MAYOLA: $18 a week?

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow.

THELMA GROSS: And my mom told me, when we went to the store, she said– at that time when he was making $18, so we– she would could go to the store and buy a pound of pork chops for $0.10.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding?

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Do, do you have any idea what your rent was then? I mean, I don’t–

THELMA GROSS: Well we, they bought the house–

JIM MAYOLA: Oh, they did? OK.

THELMA GROSS: But I don’t know anything about that.

JIM MAYOLA: You don’t know what the mortgage rate?

THELMA GROSS: No, I don’t.

JIM MAYOLA: Can you imagine?

THELMA GROSS: But it couldn’t have been very much–

JIM MAYOLA: NO.

THELMA GROSS: –to support a family of five on $18 a week, you know.

JIM MAYOLA: Amazing. And that was probably good wages back then?

THELMA GROSS: Oh yes.

JIM MAYOLA: He was doing alright.

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Did he walk to work or did he catch the street car.

THELMA GROSS: No, he took the street car.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

THELMA GROSS: And I remember one time we had a very bad snow and he had to walk all the way home–

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm. Wow.

THELMA GROSS: Because the street cars stopped running.

JIM MAYOLA: They stopped running. Did you ever remember riding the street cars as a child?

THELMA GROSS: Oh yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah? Tell me about that experience. What was that like?

THELMA GROSS: It– it was ah very unpleasant because a street cars had a definite smell, like um rubber burning.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

THELMA GROSS: And it was very unpleasant. I remember my brother always got sick on the street car.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding?

THELMA GROSS: So I’d have to get off if he was with me. We’d have to get off and walk because he couldn’t st–

JIM MAYOLA: He couldn’t stand the smell? Yeah, there’s a smell that is associated with the leather and the rubber and then there’s the electrical part of it because–

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: –if you’ve ever done model railroads, you can smell that smell.

THELMA GROSS: Yes. It’s the same smell.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Yeah. Very strong. Very interesting. So then when you were nine years– so you went to school– you started school in Baltimore City though?

THELMA GROSS: Yes, I did.

JIM MAYOLA: Where did you go to school?

THELMA GROSS: School number 85. And my cousin was also in the same school. They lived quite close to us.

JIM MAYOLA: So you went to the first what four grades? First, second, third–

THELMA GROSS: Ah. Yes. Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: In Baltimore? And then you moved out to Baltimore County? What was that like?

THELMA GROSS: Uh– that’s very interesting. We lived at the end of the street car route– the street car turned around and went back down, and uh we had a cottage. Was very nice.

JIM MAYOLA: Was this in Reisterstown?

THELMA GROSS: I beg your pardon?

JIM MAYOLA: Reisterstown?

THELMA GROSS: No. Overly.

JIM MAYOLA: Overly? OK.

THELMA GROSS: Overly.

JIM MAYOLA: But you were still in– in– in a community?

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: You weren’t in the country? You were in like a town?

THELMA GROSS: Yes, we were in a community. Yes. We weren’t in a country.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. And so you started a new school?

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: In the fifth grade? So you were about 10 years old?

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: And how was that? Was it– I’m sure it was different?

THELMA GROSS: It was not too different. No. It was very nice. I had to make all my friends, of course.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm. Sure.

THELMA GROSS: And then, when I went to high school, I went to Towson. And we were bused there, of course. And that was interesting. Because uh you met all new people, and you had to make all new adjustments, and was very, very nice.

JIM MAYOLA: What year did you graduate from high school?

THELMA GROSS: 1929.

JIM MAYOLA: 1929– the year of the stock market crash.

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow.

THELMA GROSS: And I can tell you that in the classes, we began to get a lot of new students because there were parents who couldn’t afford then to send their children to private school. But they were all going public school. So we met a lot of new people.

JIM MAYOLA: So even as a child, when you were– well not a child, but as a young person about 17-18 years old, you started noticing some changes in our culture where parents and families couldn’t afford what they used to be able to afford–

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: –and the economy was already starting to turn around.

THELMA GROSS: It was very bad. It was very bad then. I re– I remember one girl that I know was in a convent school, and she came to school dressed like you would dress in a convent school– with all black on, black stockings, and black shoes– until she acclimated herself and knew that this was not the thing to wear to school there.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. Right. Yeah.

THELMA GROSS: But uh– and then we had quite a number of boys who came.

JIM MAYOLA: So you graduated in 1929. How large was your graduating class? Do you remember?

THELMA GROSS: It was less than 100, I know. It was less than 100.

JIM MAYOLA: And that was Towson High School?

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And Towson is a huge area now.

THELMA GROSS: Well, there were four high schools at that time in Baltimore County. Towson, Sparrows Point, well [INAUDIBLE], Catonsville, and Hereford. There were four high schools.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow. What did you do after high school?

THELMA GROSS: After high school I went to teacher’s coll– well, it was called normal school then. And that was two years. And uh then I graduated in ’31.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. And after that?

THELMA GROSS: Then I got a job teaching, in Parkville. And one week after I started teaching, my sister was driving me to Towson because I wanted to pick up some, supplies and someone hit us and we had a very bad accident. I was thrown out of the car. And had a bad concussion. And at the time, I had a fractured kidney, but nobody knew it.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

THELMA GROSS: They couldn’t decide on it.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

THELMA GROSS: They um took x-rays of my head and didn’t take x-rays of anything else.

JIM MAYOLA: Oh no.

THELMA GROSS: But it took me quite a while. And I– I did go back to the end of the year.

JIM MAYOLA: To teach again?

THELMA GROSS: To teach again.

JIM MAYOLA: What grade were you teaching?

THELMA GROSS: Fourth.

JIM MAYOLA: Fourth grade?

THELMA GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JIM MAYOLA: Nine-year-olds?

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: Ooh. OK.

THELMA GROSS: Nice.

JIM MAYOLA: Yes.

THELMA GROSS: Nice age then.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah.

THELMA GROSS: Then.

JIM MAYOLA: Then. So how long did you teach?

THELMA GROSS: Altogether, I taught 41 years but they weren’t in Baltimore County. I taught in Prince George County because um my husband was going to University of Maryland. So I taught in Prince George County. And then, he was in the Navy so I taught in California, Montana, Colorado,

JIM MAYOLA: You’ve gotten around?

THELMA GROSS: Oh yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Well being a military wife will cause that to happen, won’t it?

THELMA GROSS: Oh yes. Well, that was because of World War II.

JIM MAYOLA: Tell me what it was like in Baltimore County during the Depression?

THELMA GROSS: Very bad. Very bad. Uh, our neighbor, who was a builder, lost his business. He had five children. And we tried to help everything we could. They survived. And he did labor work and everything he could do to support his family, but it was rough. It was very rough.

JIM MAYOLA: And I guess you saw a lot of that in the community?

THELMA GROSS: In the school, especially, when– then when I was teaching. There were children who couldn’t find shoes to wear to school. I remember I took a pair of shoes off my brother’s feet and gave them to a little boy in my class because he– it was wintertime and he didn’t have the proper shoes to wear.

JIM MAYOLA: People were just getting by.

THELMA GROSS: And– and– and people who would normally have supported their family well, just couldn’t find a job and were probably living hand to mouth just, just as they could. It was very rough.

JIM MAYOLA: Did you find that a lot of people in the community who were– who were getting by, would help those who were just getting by?

THELMA GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JIM MAYOLA: People seem to–

THELMA GROSS: Yes, I did. The communities would help each other.

JIM MAYOLA: So that lasted for a good while?

THELMA GROSS: Yes, it did.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. The uh– The depression hung– hung around, they say, until basically until World War II started. It was really tough times.

THELMA GROSS: That’s exactly right.

JIM MAYOLA: But you were teaching during all that time?

THELMA GROSS: Yes, I was.

JIM MAYOLA: And then you’ve met your husband. When you meet your husband?

THELMA GROSS: Well, I had gone to school with my husband. And, so we knew each other, we had– not really well, but we had known each other. Went to the same schools.

JIM MAYOLA: And you got married. What year did you get married?

THELMA GROSS: In 1936.

JIM MAYOLA: 1936. And he then– was he in the military then? Or–

THELMA GROSS: No. No. Just in the military during World War II.

JIM MAYOLA: And was he drafted?

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. And where did they have him stationed?

THELMA GROSS: Well, he was in the Navy as [INAUDIBLE] first, and he went to, uh– they sent him to Lakehurst. And uh he was learning to be an aerographer And then, uh, he got a commission. And that was interesting because well the minute he got a commission, he couldn’t go back to the barracks, you know.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. Right.

THELMA GROSS: So he couldn’t get any of his clothing or anything else. All the sailors that lived there had to pack everything up for him. And he– they packed all his clothes, everything, and they set it outside for him.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding. And so then he got his commission and he was relocated?

THELMA GROSS: Relocated him.

JIM MAYOLA: To?

THELMA GROSS: To Virginia Beach. Well, uh, Little Creek, where they were going to put him on the ship for uh, uh, gun crew. Before that was over, they put him back into civil affairs. So he went to the University of Virginia for awhile. And then, they sent him to Harvard to learn Japanese.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding?

THELMA GROSS: And, ah, that was rough.

JIM MAYOLA: I bet.

THELMA GROSS: That was really rough. And from there, he went to– Boston was lovely. We were stationed in Boston. That was wonderful. Wonderful restaurants, and the Scollay Square with all the seafood. It was very colorful. Very, very nice place to be. And we had, um, a home with these people– we had an apartment with these people who were owners of a food market, and they were just wonderful to us. So, they brought roast to us, and just did everything very well.

JIM MAYOLA: So how long did your husband stay in the military?

THELMA GROSS: Until 1946.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. So he–

THELMA GROSS: ’46.

JIM MAYOLA: –stayed right through the war then?

THELMA GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JIM MAYOLA: He learned Japanese. Did he ever get to Japan?

THELMA GROSS: Yeah. Not– yes, he went to Japan, but he wasn’t stationed there. He’s stationed in Korea. And he was in Korea for a year– civil affairs. He got out into the countryside and did a lot of work with Japanese farmers. I mean Korean farmers.

JIM MAYOLA: Now you didn’t get to go–

THELMA GROSS: No.

JIM MAYOLA: –with him there.

THELMA GROSS: I could have gone if he’d stayed there. Some of the men were staying in Korea for, uh, work after the war, but he didn’t– he came on home.

JIM MAYOLA: Your husband got out of the Navy, what did he do for a living?

THELMA GROSS: Well, first of all, he went back to col– to school and got his master’s. And then he worked for the Department of Reclamation.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

THELMA GROSS: And then, he and his brother decided they’d try ranching in Colorado. And that didn’t work out very well.

JIM MAYOLA: It’s hard work.

THELMA GROSS: It is hard work and– well, he knew hard work ’cause he grew up on a dairy farm, but um, it was just a little too much. So he came back and worked for the Bureau of Reclamation again. And then, he went back to teaching.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm. OK.

THELMA GROSS: He liked teaching so–

JIM MAYOLA: Now you were in Colorado then, or did you move back here?

THELMA GROSS: Oh, we moved back here.

JIM MAYOLA: And what year would that have been?

THELMA GROSS: Ehhh. ’51-52– I’d say around ’55-56.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. So the middle–

THELMA GROSS: And we stayed in Baltimore County and and I taught in Baltimore County until ’56– ’66. Then we moved up here in Caroll County.

JIM MAYOLA: So from ’56 to ’66, you were in Baltimore County and you were teaching, and then you moved up here to Caroll County. Whereabouts in Caroll County?

THELMA GROSS: We lived in Frizzellburg.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm. I know exactly where that is. Have you– have you lived there ever since?

THELMA GROSS: No. Um. We lived in Frizzellburg for eight years, I think. We had a very old home. It– that was a nice experience. It was a beautiful home. Had been built in 1860 and we remodeled it all, and it was very nice. It had 22 inch stone foundation.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow.

THELMA GROSS: And the inside walls were brick. All of them nine inches thick. It was beautiful home.

JIM MAYOLA: What was the origin of the home? Did you know?

THELMA GROSS: Yes. The family that had built the home still owned it and they sold it to us. And the man told us that it– the bricks had been made right there on the place, and his family had owned it. However, they had let it deteriorate and it was rented, at that time. And it had no amenities at all. Like one spigot, one couple electric lights, but not many. No indoor plumbing.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

THELMA GROSS: You know.

JIM MAYOLA: One cold water faucet was it. Yeah. Very interesting.

THELMA GROSS: But, uh, it wa– it was a lovely house. You didn’t need air conditioning in that house.

JIM MAYOLA: I’ll bet. It was nice and cool.

THELMA GROSS: Lovely porches, you know. It was very nice.

JIM MAYOLA: So, then where did you move to Mrs. Gross?

THELMA GROSS: Texas.

JIM MAYOLA: No kidding?

THELMA GROSS: Oh yes. Texas. And, we had a ranch– 75 acres. And now, imagine you see, we’re 60 years old.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

THELMA GROSS: We had sheep. 150 sheep.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

THELMA GROSS: I liked Texas very much.

JIM MAYOLA: Where–where in Texas ’cause Texas is a big state.

THELMA GROSS: We were in Round Mountain. Now that is like um 12 miles north of Johnson City.

JIM MAYOLA: OK.

THELMA GROSS: And, south of Marble Falls, if you know. The Texas Hill Country.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah, the Hills.

THELMA GROSS: It’s a pretty part of Texas.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Sure.

THELMA GROSS: It is. The wild flowers are gorgeous.

JIM MAYOLA: Yes.

THELMA GROSS: But uh–

JIM MAYOLA: Sheep raising is hard.

THELMA GROSS: Yes,it is. Yes, it is. But, uh, we built– had to build a house. We bought the end of a ranch– of a large ranch, which was over 5,000 acres and we just bought the end of that. And all our neighbors had 5,000 acres–

JIM MAYOLA: Wow.

THELMA GROSS: –or 3,300 or something, and we were a little guys there on the end.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm. How long did that last?

THELMA GROSS: Well, until my husband died. And then I stayed two years and it began to get too much for me to cope with, because I was 80, and, and uh fences, and repairs, and all this. So I sold the ranch and came back here.

JIM MAYOLA: But your husband loved it? Your husband loved it? He love the farming?

THELMA GROSS: Oh yes.

JIM MAYOLA: He was– that was where his heart was? So that was– that was wonderful for him?

THELMA GROSS: It was.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Fantastic. OK. But a little bit too much for you by yourself? So you decided to come home?

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. So you came back to Caroll County.

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: Again.

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: Where did you settle this time?

THELMA GROSS: In New Windsor. At uh– the um– I have a condo out right in New Windsor. In–

JIM MAYOLA: The big city of New Windsor?

THELMA GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JIM MAYOLA: Isn’t it a lovely place to live?

THELMA GROSS: It is. It’s really lovely.

JIM MAYOLA: Yes. It’s like going back in time.

THELMA GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JIM MAYOLA: Just so nice. Umm– What- what do you like about Carroll County? What can you tell me about Caroll County that you–

THELMA GROSS: For me Caroll County means peace. I don’t know why. It just means uh, it’s a lovely place to live. It is not a big city, but there are still amenities, you know.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure.

THELMA GROSS: You still have wonderful restaurants. You still have a movie. You still have uh good stores– department stores. You still have that. But you didn’t have the clutter and the mess in the city.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. If you wanted to leave some advice for somebody who uh was just coming up today– somebody, let’s say– ’cause you had talked about getting out of high school when you were 18 years old–

THELMA GROSS: I was 16.

JIM MAYOLA: OK. Wow. OK. And you were just starting out your life– just getting started as an adult. Um. You had the whole world ahead of you, and it was– it was a different world than it is now– if you were going to offer some advice to a young person who was just getting out of high school now, or just getting out of college and getting ready to start a family and a career, what advice would you offer them?

THELMA GROSS: Do the thing that you are happy to do when you’re choosing your life’s work, because if you are not satisfied in what you’re doing every day, then you won’t be ever satisfied.

JIM MAYOLA: That’s wonderful advice. That’s such good advice. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, after a while it–

THELMA GROSS: Nothing works well.

JIM MAYOLA: It becomes a burden Yes. What great advice. What kind of changes have you seen, umm– I know Baltimore’s so much different than it was when you were a little girl, um, huge changes there– but if you could think back to when your first impressions of Carroll County in the way it is now, can you think of wh– what the most profound changes you’ve seen in the county? What are the–

THELMA GROSS: Um, possibly the uh, more people, more development, less of the farming community–

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

THELMA GROSS: –which I think was Caroll County to me. I mean, it was a agricultural community. Now there’s more of the industrial type of thing moving in.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah, we had a lot of agriculture. We used to have– you know, everybody sort of lived off of the farm, especially when you were a little girl.

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: It was probably unusual– you grow up in a family where your dad worked for a newspaper–

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: –but many, many people were were related in some way to farms and agriculture.

THELMA GROSS: Yeah.

JIM MAYOLA: You said your husband was a dairy farmer.

THELMA GROSS: My husband was. Yes. He grew up in a dairy farm, and he lived in Baltimore County. And Baltimore County was rural then, as Carroll County was, even more so than Baltimore County.

JIM MAYOLA: Well, it’s been fascinating talking to you, Mrs. Gross. Is there any other stories that you’d like to share with us? Anything that you can think of, um, that you’d like to share? Um. Something special that might have happened to you as a little girl? Or something that happened to you and your husband?

THELMA GROSS: I’d like to tell you about the Indians that lived in Montana and Colorado.

JIM MAYOLA: I would love to hear that.

THELMA GROSS: I became very interested in Indian culture, and Indian things, and turquoise jewelry, and– The Indians in Montana were Sioux Assiniboine. And uh I have a school there that I still help support for Indian children. It’s more like um a boarding school. But, uh, we had Indian boys who were my husband’s helper. And we encouraged them to go to college, and one of our boys did. Got there on a scholarship. And uh, one of the other boys who had been in the army– he had been in intelligence– he was– you still have– he was uh going to start ranching because the government would give him a bull and five heifers, so he was going to start his ranch.

JIM MAYOLA: At this uh boarding school, did they teach the Indians trades?

THELMA GROSS: Yes. Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And how did you learn about the school?

THELMA GROSS: Well, they had advertised for a teacher, and I had applied but I didn’t realize that they wanted a teacher to live in the school. And it was 50 miles away– of course in Montana, 50 miles is nothing. I mean, you drive hundreds of miles to go to shop.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure. Yeah. But it was a little bit of a commute.

THELMA GROSS: It’s, it’s too– it was too much and I didn’t know how long we would be there working for the government– you never know.

JIM MAYOLA: But you still–

THELMA GROSS: I still support that school.

JIM MAYOLA: Sure. Yeah. Very interesting. And so what did you learn about the Indian culture?

THELMA GROSS: Now I was more interested in Colorado, too. The Indian culture, uh the cliff dwellers– you know, the Hopis and the Navajos have all these rules of diet, of marriage, of all– The– it is a cultural society of ruled society. People think the Indians are wild. They aren’t. They had– they have better culture earlier than we did.

JIM MAYOLA: A very structured society.

THELMA GROSS: Very. Very structured. And uh beautiful, beautiful uh art. The rug weavers, and the pottery makers, and the jeweler’s– the jewelers are fabulous. And they, they used to use these little wooden drills to work on the turquoise jewelry.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. Everything was done by hand.

THELMA GROSS: Everything. And in– in some cases it still is– in some cases.

JIM MAYOLA: So I understand, Mrs. Gross, that you had an opportunity to have tea with a celebrity. Can you tell me about that?

THELMA GROSS: Yes, I had tea with the Lady Bird Johnson in Texas.

JIM MAYOLA: You did?

THELMA GROSS: Uh– Our– a friend of mine belonged to the garden club that Lady Bird Johnson belonged to, and that they were all invited to the ranch to uh have tea and that they were allowed to bring one guest. So I was invited. And we got to the ranch– of course the ent– the entrance is way down from the house– and there was the Secret Service man who– we had to send in our name, address, and any information about ourselves beforehand– so he checked us off the list. Each one of us he asked what is your name, you know, and we– there was a camera right there that took the pictures while we were entering. So we got to the ranch, and the house is not palatial. It’s a very nice cottage and it’s very well decorated, you know. And there was a butler. And they had this huge, I suppose you’d call it a bonus room, where Lyndon Johnson had all his saddles, and they had a bar there. And uh, we had a very nice tea. Lady Bird is very gracious person. She’s very nice and she made it a effort to speak to everyone personally. And uh, well I enjoyed every minute of it.

JIM MAYOLA: I bet you did. So you actually got to meet Lady Bird?

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: How nice. Wow.

THELMA GROSS: And she’s a very gracious person.

JIM MAYOLA: Yes, she is.

THELMA GROSS: She’s done a lot for Texas wild flowers. She has that big center to grow all the wild flowers, you know, and get the seeds, and– Texas does a good job of planting wild flowers along the highways.

JIM MAYOLA: Right.

THELMA GROSS: They’re very beautiful.

JIM MAYOLA: It’s a beautiful state. It’s a big state.

THELMA GROSS: Mm-hmm.

JIM MAYOLA: Fascinating. What a great story.

THELMA GROSS: Tell you another one. It’ll illustrate what happens during the Depression. My mother and I was shopping in, in uh Baltimore City during the Depression, and I had– she had bought me a pair of shoes– we paid $5 for the shoes and that was a lot of money in those days.

JIM MAYOLA: Very expensive. Yeah.

THELMA GROSS: So we went into this 10 cents store to get something, and I put the shoes down and turned around to buy it, and when I went back, there were no shoes.

JIM MAYOLA: Mmm. Somebody had–

THELMA GROSS:It was just a matter of seconds–

JIM MAYOLA: Somebody had stolen your shoes.

THELMA GROSS: –and they were gone.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. Wow. ‘Cause somebody else needed them, desperate. Mm. I bet your mom wasn’t happy?

THELMA GROSS: No she wasn’t.

JIM MAYOLA: Because $5 in those days was like $50 today.

THELMA GROSS: It was a money. It was money.

JIM MAYOLA: Wow. But somebody was walking in style.

THELMA GROSS: Yes. Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: We–

THELMA GROSS: And my mo– you know what my mother said, well I guess they needed them more than we did.

JIM MAYOLA: Yeah. I suspect she was right. You’ve seen some amazing things in your lifetime, haven’t you?

THELMA GROSS: Yes, I have.

JIM MAYOLA: People have no idea today, how easy we have it as a society.

THELMA GROSS: Oh. If you’d see how some of those Indians live out there, it it’s a crime. It’s a real crime. And on the reservation. It’s rough. Rough. Really rough. And I can see why they have a lot of problems with alcohol.

JIM MAYOLA: Mm-hmm. There’s no hope.

THELMA GROSS: Nope. There’s nothing.

JIM MAYOLA: The only hope they have is education.

THELMA GROSS: That’s it.

JIM MAYOLA: Get education and get away.

THELMA GROSS: And even if they get the education, if they can’t get out of the reservation, it doesn’t do the any good.

JIM MAYOLA: Right. So sad. But I think back to what you were saying about the Depression– you know, at that time in our culture, everybody was suffering. And we– we had nothing.

THELMA GROSS: No.

JIM MAYOLA: People just were barely getting by. And today we have everything.

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: People are so–

THELMA GROSS: People eh don’t realize, I mean– I remember I was telling you about the family next door to us, the boy was graduating from high school and had nothing to wear to graduation so he wore my brother’s clothes to his graduation.

JIM MAYOLA: So that he could look presentable when he graduated. When would this have been? What year? Do you recall?

THELMA GROSS: Hmm? My brother is 10 years younger than I am so, it would’ve been in the ’30s, I think.

JIM MAYOLA: But at that time people would share.

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: And people would help each other.

THELMA GROSS: Yes.

JIM MAYOLA: So that’s a change? That’s a change that’s happened in our cul–

THELMA GROSS: Oh. People don’t help anymore. And I– I was telling Lisa, I uh donate to the Carroll County Food Sunday, and they said they have had 6,000 people come in a month for help.

JIM MAYOLA: For food. Yeah It’s, it’s wonderful that they’re there–

THELMA GROSS: Oh yes.

JIM MAYOLA: –but it’s so said that their business is booming, and that there’s so many people that need assistance now, compared to the way it was.

THELMA GROSS: Oh yes.

JIM MAYOLA: Couple years ago they had half of that and they were busy. I don’t know how they keep up. I really don’t. And I don’t know where we’re going?

THELMA GROSS: I don’t either. I don’t either. Things are certainly confused.

JIM MAYOLA: I hope we’re not heading for another depression.

THELMA GROSS: I don’t know.

JIM MAYOLA: ‘Cause, I-I’ll tell you, Mrs. Gross, you lived through it and you know what it was like.

THELMA GROSS: It was rough.

JIM MAYOLA: It’s not what we want to go back to.

THELMA GROSS: There were people on the corners, selling apples and pencils just to support their family. See, I should have said that, but I forgot that.

JIM MAYOLA: You just did. You just did. You’d sell apples and pencils for a penny or two a piece–

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: –to try to get enough money so that you could have food for your family.

THELMA GROSS: Right. And that I know that people were uh riding the trains, like hobos, you know–

JIM MAYOLA: Hoping that they would get to another place in the country that they could find work and have a better life.

THELMA GROSS: They’re still doing that. I just read an article that men in the mi– in the middle west, where there is employment is sometimes up to 22 percent, men are going out to other states and traveling back and forth on the weekends so that they have a job.

JIM MAYOLA: So they go someplace else and work during the week, and then come home to their families on the weekends.

THELMA GROSS: Right.

JIM MAYOLA: It’s not a good way to live.

THELMA GROSS: No, it isn’t. No, it isn’t.

JIM MAYOLA: Well again, Mrs. Gross, thank you so much for sharing your stories with me.

THELMA GROSS: You’re quite welcome.

JIM MAYOLA: They’re very interesting and it was a real pleasure to talk to you.

THELMA GROSS: Well it’s a pleasure to be here.

JIM MAYOLA: Thank you so much.