Veronica (Vera) Bozek Interview – January 15, 2005

West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society
Interview with Veronica (Vera) Bozek (“VB”)
Of the Former Bozek's Funeral Home - Martin Avenue, Detroit, MI 48210
(Formerly Konkol and Lappo Funeral Homes)
With Gabriel Solano (“GS”), Neighbor

January 15, 2005

VB: Oh, I wish my mother-in-law was over here . . . . How you would love that woman. Oh, my god. I learned all the business from her. She had two daughters but her two daughters were nothing inclined with in the business until I came into the picture when I married my husband. She-that woman just loved me, you know. Oh, my god.

INTERVIEWER: You were blessed. Let me start out by just putting on tape that we are here at the former funeral home, Bożek Funeral Home.

VB: No, this was Konkol, formerly.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, originally it was Konkol.

VB: Then it was Lappo.

INTERVIEWER: How do you spell it? How do you spell Konkol?

VB: K-O-N-wait. K-O-N-Konkol. K-O-N-K-O-L.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, and then it became-

VB: Then it was Lappo, L-A-P-P-O.

INTERVIEWER: Are those both Polish?

VB: Ah, wait a minute. Sort of, but no, I don't think so. I think this Konkol was German, and Lappo, he was sort of mixed, gentleman, when he married Mrs.-Miss Konkol, because she came from home, Konkol, and she married Mr. Lappo. Then her family put him through school and he became a funeral director.

INTERVIEWER: I understand.

VB: And then they were running this place.

INTERVIEWER: I see. And when did you purchase it?

VB: And then we, my husband and I, we bought it in 1948, Honey.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And what is the address here?

VB: Where?

INTERVIEWER: This address.

VB: Over here?

INTERVIEWER: Um-hum.

VB: Oh, that's 4016 Martin.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And we are here, this is an interview with Veronica.

VB: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Bozek.

VB: Bozek, right.

INTERVIEWER: And it's January 15, 2005, Saturday, and we have Gabriel Solano with us, who was wonderful enough to introduce me to you and to let me know about this wonderful history here. And we are recording this history for the West Side Detroit Dom Polski Historical Society. And the intent and the goal of our society is to preserve the beautiful history of this Polish-American neighborhood so that others going forward, future generations will know about it.

VB: I would give anything if this neighborhood was the same. I would give anything in the world. Ah, it was so beautiful to live here. It was so beautiful. I loved all the people. How I loved my people! Oh, I can't even talk to anybody now. We've got such funny people.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me your husband's name.

VB: Walter.

INTERVIEWER: And when did you marry Walter?

VB: Nineteen-forty. We were married at St. Hedwig's Church. That's where I went to school over there. He did, too.

INTERVIEWER: What year was your husband born?

VB: Ah, wait a minute, wait a minute. Nineteen-1912.

INTERVIEWER: And when did he pass away?

VB: Pardon?

INTERVIEWER: When did he pass away?

VB: Oh, let's see, nineteen-I forgot everything already. Wait a minute, wait a minute. When did he-it was about-he passed away in 1968.

INTERVIEWER: And you don't have to tell me this if you don't want to, but would you mind telling me when you were born?

VB: [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: You don't have to. [Laughter]

VB: [Laughter] Maybe it would be better if I didn't.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

GS: Go for it, Veronica.

VB: It's not going to sound so bad.

GS: It's so important.

VB: Because I'm a real old lady, you know?

INTERVIEWER: You are not.

GS: So go for it. I'll walk over here and let the ladies-

VB: No, no, that's okay. That's all right. Come on back over here. Come on.

INTERVIEWER: It's a state of mind. It's a state of mind, anyway.

VB: Pardon?

INTERVIEWER: Age is a state of mind.

VB: I don't know, I don't know, Honey, but-oh, I don't know.

INTERVIEWER: Now, where did you grow up? What street did you live on?

VB: Ah, I am formerly here from the west side, from St. Andrew's parish on Larkins.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. What's the address on Larkins?

VB: Fifty-eight-seventy-one, 5873. It's a two-family house. It's a big house, right behind St. Andrew's Church.

INTERVIEWER: And where did your husband live growing up?

VB: On Junction, across the street from St. Hedwig's Church. That's where he was brought up.

INTERVIEWER: What school did you go to, St. Hedwig?

VB: He went also St. Hedwig, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. How did you meet your husband, at school?

VB: I met my husband, I'll tell you how. We had a bridal shower at one of those homes on Junction. I forget the name of that hall now. And at that bridal shower, that's where I met my husband.

INTERVIEWER: Did you fall in love with him right away?

VB: Yeah. Oh, yeah. [Laughter] Well, if I tell you, you know what he did? Oh, my god. You know, he must have forgot my address or my telephone number when I gave it to him, and this was on one Sunday. He was going from Michigan on Larkins Street, looking for me, way from Michigan, way down to McGraw, from house to house, looking for me.

INTERVIEWER: How romantic.

VB: Can you believe that? So when he come to the house where I lived, my brother answered. And my brother says, “Say, Vera, ah, there's a gentleman over here by the name of Walter Bozek.” “Oh,” I says, “Oh!” [Laughter] I says, “I know who it is!” I says, “Yeah, I met that fella',” I says, “at the shower.” So then, I says, “Bring him in, bring him in.” So my brother says, “Come on in, come on in, Wally.” So he came in, and this is how it all started.

INTERVIEWER: That's a beautiful love story. [Laughter]

VB: [Laughter] And to think he walked from house to house, that whole, Honey, that-and, oh, my god, that was about three blocks.

INTERVIEWER: Wow. He was determined.

VB: He sure was, you know? He must have been.

INTERVIEWER: I'm going to back up just for a minute. What were your parents' names?

VB: Bochenek.

INTERVIEWER: How do you spell that?

VB: B-O-C-H-E-N-E-K.

INTERVIEWER: Those were your parents' names?

VB: Yes, that was Mr. and Mrs. Adolf Bochenek.

INTERVIEWER: Adolf?

VB: Adolf.

INTERVIEWER: A-D-O-L-F?

VB: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: That was your father?

VB: That was my father, and my mother's name was Rose.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. And do you know-well, what were Walter's parents' names?

VB: Walter's parents' names, his mother's name was Anna Bozek, and his father's was Clements.

INTERVIEWER: C-L-E-M-

VB: C-L-E-M-E-N-T-S, Clements Bozek.

INTERVIEWER: Is Bozek B-O-Z-E-K?

VB: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: That's what I thought. And you got married and you had your reception at the Dom Polski?

VB: At the Dom Polski. I had 1,000 people over there at the wedding.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have a breakfast after your church ceremony?

VB: I had a big wedding. I had breakfast and supper later on in the evening reception, too.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have the breakfast at the Dom Polski?

VB: Everything at the Dom Polski hall. You see that Dom Polski hall? That's the one. We had that whole hall, downstairs and upstairs. That's how many people I had. Oh, my god, I had such a big shindig.

INTERVIEWER: I have to see those photos from your wedding one of these days.

VB: I'll show them to you. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: So then you got married, and then you-were you-where were you living after you got married?

VB: We stayed for a while at my mother's house, and then-until we bought the place here.

INTERVIEWER: And when you bought this place, you bought it with the intent of running it as a funeral home?

VB: Oh, of course, yeah, oh, yeah. Oh, this home was nothing like this. You'd be surprised, if you ever saw this place when we bought it, I can't believe it that I was able to do all of this and fix it the way it is, you know? Because it was like a real ordinary home. I don't know how they were running the funerals. Well, a long time ago, you know, they did not have in the chapel, people laid out. Only I used to go with my husband to the home and deliver the bodies. And then we had to go every day, check on them, and see if everything was fine until the day of the funeral, until we buried the body. Get it?

INTERVIEWER: Yes. Do you-

VB: It was so different, like it is now.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the funeral processions that they would have with their music.

VB: Oh, yeah. That was Adamus-what's his name? Oh, wait a minute.

INTERVIEWER: You remember Stanley Adamus.

VB: We had the musicians, the hall, and we used to walk to church, great big funeral, oh, god. We had always 500 to 1,000 people, every time I had a funeral. I don't know where all those people come from. Honestly. And we would be walking to the church. We used to have Father Czubaj, pastor at that time. He was a wonderful, beautiful pastor.

INTERVIEWER: How do you spell that?

VB: He should be remembered. Father Czubaj, C-Z-U-wait, B-A-J. Yeah, Czubaj, yeah, Paul Czubaj, his name was Father Paul, Paul Czubaj, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Now, did you have brothers and sisters?

VB: Oh, yeah. I had two brothers, but they passed away.

INTERVIEWER: What were their names?

VB: Michael and Joseph Bochenek.

INTERVIEWER: And sisters?

VB: And my sister, Maryusz [sp?], and me, that's it. And me, that's all.

INTERVIEWER: Did Walter come from a big family?

VB: Walter, yeah, he came from five of them. They had five children and in my family we had four. Wait, his oldest sister was Verna, then was my husband Walter, then was Marie Clements, then was Frank Bozek, that was his brother, then was wait a minute, who was the last one? Oh, yeah, Clements, then was Clements Bozek. He was the youngest one.

INTERVIEWER: What do you remember about the Dom Polski? Did you go to a lot of dances there?

VB: Oh, god, yeah. Oh, every week. Sometimes I used to have a policeman walk me home, way out on Larkins from Dom Polski. Walking, you know? But that wasn't that far. I used to walk from here to downtown. I used to walk, that's how strong I used to be. Would you believe that?

INTERVIEWER: You're still strong.

VB: To walk so far?

INTERVIEWER: You're still strong.

VB: Oh, god. Ah!

INTERVIEWER: And where else did you go to dances in the neighborhood? St. Stephen's?

VB: Hey, we used to have-St. Stephen's, St. Andrew's, on Gilbert here, Gilbert Hall, wait a minute.

GS: That's on the corner of Gilbert and Clayton.

VB: Yeah, yeah, you're right, Honey. All around the neighborhood, we used to have dances going. Oh, Our Lady Queen of Angels, here, too . . . . Well, that was my church after I moved here. But I come more from St. Hedwig, St. Andrew's, St. Stephen's, and then when I moved here, then I got into here yet, okay? But I'm from the neighborhood from here, the whole neighborhood.

INTERVIEWER: So you-after your husband passed away, you ran this business yourself.

VB: Myself. I got another fellow with me. I had my shingle, he had a shingle on the wall, and I was running the funeral home, for all these years by myself, Honey. I don't know, I think of it now, I says, how did I do it?

INTERVIEWER: Yes. Do you remember the other women in the neighborhood who were business owners, like do you remember Mrs. G. Meisner, the glassware and bar supplies lady?

VB: I've heard of them, yeah, I've heard.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the Central Creamery?

VB: Yeah, I remember that, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: That was-

VB: That's a long time ago.

INTERVIEWER: That was Gorczyca.

VB: Oh, there was Michno's over there, that business bar, across the street from St. Stephen's Church.

INTERVIEWER: How do you spell that?

VB: Michno, M-I-C-H-N-O.

INTERVIEWER: Michno's Bar?

VB: Michno's Bar, it used to be, yeah. Now, it is still a bar but it's a different name.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the Grzesik brothers and the Grzesik family?

VB: Oh, Grzesiks, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Grocery store?

VB: Oh, yeah, my god . . . .

INTERVIEWER: To what do you attribute your strength and your ability to run this business? Is it because of your Polish heritage that made you strong, your faith, or-

VB: I tell you, all the Polish people around here just loved me. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: I believe it. You're a lovable lady. [Laughter]

VB: Oh, boy, I could write you a story. [Laughter] There was one lady, lived on-wait a minute, what was the name of that street? Let's see now, Lumley, over here. There wasn't a day she wouldn't call me. She used to call me every single day. But I think she died. And I says to this worker of mine, Danny, I have a little fellow here that helps me out, I says, Mrs. Kulik is not calling no more? And he says, no, I don't hear nothing no more.

INTERVIEWER: What was her first name?

VB: Ah, wait a minute. Mary.

INTERVIEWER: Mary Kulik?

VB: Yeah, Mary Kulik.

INTERVIEWER: K-U-L-I-K?

VB: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: The name sounds familiar.

VB: She lived by herself, Honey.

INTERVIEWER: She was on Lumley?

VB: Yeah, yep.

INTERVIEWER: And what are your children's names?

VB: I didn't have any.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, no children? Okay.

VB: That's what made it difficult on me.

INTERVIEWER: Sure, very difficult.

VB: That's why I had this fellow that I was running the place with, was a young fellow, but see I needed somebody younger, and him and I, so he would help me out, which he did. You know, so he worked for me all these years. Of course, I had others work for a little while, but-

INTERVIEWER: What was his name?

VB: John Burkhwat.

INTERVIEWER: Burkwhat?

VB: Yeah. He's not Polish, though, Honey.

INTERVIEWER: B-U-R-Q-U-

VB: B-U-R-K-W-H-A-T, just like Burk, and that What.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, Burkwhat.

VB: Yeah, John, first name.

INTERVIEWER: Is he still around?

VB: Well, yeah, he is but he's way out in Marine City. He's taking care of his mother. His mother is bedridden and there's nobody else to take care of her and he's living with her now, and since I closed the place, he says, well, he says that's it. But he calls me all the time. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: That's nice.

VB: Because he always tells me, he says, you raised me from when I got out of school and you hired me here. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: You took him under your wing.

VB: Yeah, yeah. But he'll tell anybody, he says, she raised me. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: That's a book right there.

VB: Yeah, oh, yeah. And he really loves that. He's so grateful that I did raise him, and he just-well, he was like my son, you know what I mean? He was helping me out and everything. Then I had another fellow helping me out. Now, I don't know what happened to him, either. He disappeared. Wait a minute. Donny, Donny Lutomski. He was a very good helper to me, too. I don't know now what happened to him. I've got to call and find out what's happening to him

INTERVIEWER: Now, did you ever take any dance classes at the Dom Polski or did you know anything about the ballet studio that's in there?

VB: No, no, that I didn't know, Honey, no.

INTERVIEWER: And do you remember-

VB: But I used to belong there to all those clubs, now, oh, my god.

INTERVIEWER: The Falcons-

VB: I better look up all my old policies and look them up again.

INTERVIEWER: The Falcons? Did you belong to the Falcons? The Polish Falcons?

VB: Yes, long time ago. Yes, I did. On Junction. I wonder if it's still there. Is it still there?

INTERVIEWER: I think the building might be there, but the Falcons is gone.

VB: And we used to hold good dances there, too, and dinners. Oh, god, oh! There's another one, I had, Skrzyniarz. But he's not there. They knocked his house down.

INTERVIEWER: Skrzyniarz?

VB: Skrzyniarz.

INTERVIEWER: S-K-R-Z-Y-N-I-A-R-Z

VB: Yep . . . . I was very close with him.

INTERVIEWER: He lived on Junction?

VB: No, he lived right here on-wait a minute, St. John and Waldo, Honey. They knocked his house down, so his daughter bought a house in Dearborn, took him over there, and now he passed away, now they're all gone. But now his daughter's still living now, you know.

INTERVIEWER: What was his first name?

VB: Wait a minute. What was his first name? Mr. Skrzyniarz. I'll tell you the truth, I don't know because I would always say, “Mr. Skrzyniarz, Mrs. Skrzyniarz,” that's all. I don't know his first name, I forgot.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the backdrops that they had on the stage at the Dom Polski? There's one, it's like a street scene and it's got all the business names on the walls of the-on the brick walls. It's painted.

VB: Is it still there?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

VB: Is it?

INTERVIEWER: It's beautiful.

VB: You mean it's still open?

INTERVIEWER: In the Dom Polski. It's not open. There's a sandwich shop.

VB: No, no, no. Wait. Not Dom Polski. Are you talking Falcons, or-

INTERVIEWER: Oh, no, no, not Falcons, not Falcons. Dom Polski.

VB: Oh, at Dom-well, I'll tell you, I haven't been there for a long, long time. I used to belong to all the clubs that they had over there, but now-

INTERVIEWER: Do you know if there was a company in this neighborhood that painted those backdrops for the stages?

VB: Wait, now, I forget now. The guy that I bought that eagle from, I forget his name, too, now. Wait a minute. What was his name, now? I seen him at the dances yet, and at the festivals, you know, he used to dance like a son of a gun. Oh, boy, we used- [Laughter] I used to love to dance. God, did I like to dance. And I don't-I saw him yet, when I was the last time at the festival. The guy that was selling that yet to me, I forgot his name, too, now, already. Oh, my god.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the Mateja Religious Supply?

VB: Yeah, Mateja, yeah. Oh, yeah, I used to buy holy picture cards from them. Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: What were their names, do you remember?

VB: No. All I knew is Mateja, Mateja. I knew the girls over there. But I just didn't know their names. I'd just say Mateja, Mateja. [Laughter] That was an easier way, you know? [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: You have quite a history.

VB: Oh, I sure do. Oh, Honey, if I went through all of it. Oh, god, and I still repeat, I wish I had my mother-in-law here. That beautiful lady. Oh, god. I cherish that beautiful lady. Oh, my god. That was my mother-in-law. Did you ever hear anybody praise their mother-in-law the way I do?

INTERVIEWER: Not like you are . . . .

VB: Oh, I loved that woman. She was-she was something else, honestly. That poor woman was left, also, when my husband's father died, he was only 49. And so did my husband die, same way, only 49. He died exactly same as his father did. Now how do you like them apples?

INTERVIEWER: What did he die of?

VB: Heart attack. Was not sick or nothing, Honey. And his father was similar to him, they were telling me, something that they were telling me he had an attack of appendix or something, but then that he had a heart attack. So there it was, you know, same way. You know.

GS: What kind of work did his father do? Your husband's father?

VB: He was running the funeral home on Junction.

INTERVIEWER: Oh he was on Junction?

VB: Oh, yeah, his father.

INTERVIEWER: What was the name of the funeral home?

VB: Bozek Funeral Home.

INTERVIEWER: Was it right across from St. Hedwig.

VB: Right across from-they just took that sign out of there because everything-they closed, and they had to take-they tore the whole place apart. Yep.

INTERVIEWER: Dave over at the Dom Polski was just telling me about that funeral home today.

VB: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: He said he knew a lady who went in there not too long ago and it was beautiful, but he said now he thinks that they've torn it all apart.

VB: Yeah, yeah. Yep. That's what it was. And then she was left with her five children. That's my mother-in-law I'm talking about.

INTERVIEWER: Did they live right there above the funeral home?

VB: Yeah, upstairs, like I do, live upstairs, and they had the business downstairs, Honey . . . . I don't-I don't know what they did on Junction, now, with everything. Everything is dissolved, and I don't know who did what because after-when my husband died, my husband was sort of in partnership with his brother, then we had difficulties and then we had to separate, and then I had to put the name, instead of Bożek Brothers, I had to make it W. Bożek, my husband's name so I could run it as a wife, you know, and then I took over, and it's a little bit complicated but I straightened it out, you know, more or less. And I-now, this lady that I'm talking on. Oh, wait a minute. She didn't live on Lumley. She lived on Elmer, next street over, on Elmer instead of Lumley.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, okay.

VB: Okay? The one that was always calling me here continuously. Oh, boy, I wish she was still alive. She was sort of an inspiration to me, too. I don't know. All my people are gone, everybody's gone. I feel lost.

GS: This is the idea of her taking that information so it's not lost . . . . We feel that you have a lot to give.

INTERVIEWER: Yes, you do.

GS: And, I mean, verbally, historically, and-and then record-wise, picture-wise.

INTERVIEWER: Photos.

GS: To share, and to save it. Look, I want to share this because I want our history to be what it was: beautiful.

INTERVIEWER: And, also, there are also other Polish people like me who came from this neighborhood who want to know about their parents and their grandparents and their great-grandparents, and the records you have here might tell them something.

VB: Oh!

INTERVIEWER: They want to connect with their past.

VB: They do, hey?

INTERVIEWER: For example, I got a call from a man named Joseph Gwizdowski and his grandfather was the architect of the Dom Polski.

VB: Is that right? Oh, my, you're going way down.

INTERVIEWER: Yes. And he's researching his grandfather's life, so he wants to know everything he can about his grandfather and about the Dom Polski. That's why stories like yours and other people in the community are very important . . . . I think we've just about come to the end of the interview. Is there anything else that you would like to say on tape? What message would you like to leave to the next generations? What would you like to tell them?

VB: Well, Honey, the only thing I can say, I would wish and hope it would repeat the way I had in my generation because it was a beautiful generation. And everything was beautiful. The people were beautiful. The people were beautiful. And now I can't stand it. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: We all need beauty in our lives, don't we?

VB: Oh, the people and everybody. And now there's nobody, Honey. There is nobody. There's nobody now.

GS: Did your father work in a factory?

VB: Oh, no, my father-oh, he did very good work. My father was running a place, they called it Acme Foundry. He was running that place.

INTERVIEWER: He was running a foundry?

VB: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Where was it located?

VB: My father was very smart.

INTERVIEWER: Where was it located?

VB: Wait a minute. Do you know I forgot, Honey.

INTERVIEWER: In this neighborhood?

VB: He had to take a streetcar at that time, he had to take them busses later on. Oh, my dad, oh, man, he was a little fellow, but man, he had really brains here. Oh, I don't know how I'm going to tell you, Sweetie. I don't know.

GS: Your mom was a homemaker? Your mom-

VB: Yeah.

GS: Stayed at home and took care of the children?

VB: Yeah, yeah. My mother was a homemaker, yeah. No, she used to work a little bit, you know, help out. Do you remember Rosenberg's, they used to have on 31st and Michigan, that gray, big store? Maybe you don't remember, that's going way back.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, Rosenberg's. I've heard of it.

VB: Did you hear about it? My mother used to work for them, in that store over there. Oh, you know, help out, you know, when you're first starting out. My father came from Europe, my mother came here, you know, so they had to look for work, to look for something to get started.

INTERVIEWER: I can't imagine the number of people who passed through these doors over the years.

VB: Oh, yeah. Oh, my god, yeah, yeah. You're right, Honey. The number of people passed through this door over here. You are right, Sweetheart. Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Would you give us a tour?

GS: As you had your business going on, most of your clients were Polish, right?

VB: Yes.

GS: This was the announcement as they came in.

INTERVIEWER: Yes, I want to take a picture of that.

VB: Oh, this was the last person, right there.

INTERVIEWER: That was the last person?

VB: Yeah, yeah, Thomas Muir, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: I have to get a picture of that.

VB: Oh, yeah, that was the one, and then that's when it stopped, yeah. I mean, I called it quits, okay?

INTERVIEWER: Who was the athlete? Your husband?

VB: No. Well, yeah, he used to love bowling, yes, he did. I used to-look at all the trophies I have. Oh, and I've got loads of them. I've got them put away in the basement. They used to bring every year for me-they used to bring every year for me, bowling, baseball, from this church over here, Honey, St. Stephen, St. Andrew's.

GS: The Polish businesses sponsored a lot of the baseball teams.

VB: Yeah, yeah.

GS: In the '60s and '70s.

VB: And that's why I used to get all those-if you want one of those you can help yourself.

INTERVIEWER: No, thank you.

VB: Because I don't know what to do with them now. You know, I have so many of them, Honey. I don't know what to do with them anymore. I want to give them away.

I have my beautiful Jesus over here, Honey.

INTERVIEWER: Yes, I took a picture.

GS: Now, how did you-you prepared the bodies downstairs?

VB: Yes, in the basement.

GS: How did you bring them up?

VB: Well, through the back, on the side. There's a door, if you notice, there's a fence and then there's a gate going right down to the basement. I had a ramp.

GS: Oh, okay, a ramp.

VB: Yeah. I'd go right down in the basement. I had an embalming room downstairs over there. But now it's all, you know, mish-mash.

INTERVIEWER: How-how did you-you learned the trade from your husband, then?

VB: Oh, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: You were like an apprentice at first?

VB: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. I took over like a champ. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: And you obviously owned some hearses, or a hearse.

VB: No.

INTERVIEWER: You didn't need one?

VB: I'll tell you what. Well, long time ago, yeah, they started off with it. But, right away it was disqualified. The companies started coming out with their hearses, their limousines, and they wanted us to deal with them. You know, you rent them, and that's what we did. And then everybody's doing that now. See, it started off in my days like that. They didn't have that, but it did. We started it all that way. And now, they all are renting. Nobody's buying hearses or limos.

INTERVIEWER: Sure, it doesn't make sense.

VB: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Economically.

VB: They change new models, and the companies are in it, and you deal with them, you know, you hire them, you need them you just call them, and you use them, and you pay them, and that's it. And I think that was a good way.

INTERVIEWER: Sure.

VB: And it still is this way.

GS: I found that interesting as we were conversing how you had said that you would go to the homes when they would lay the bodies out in the home.

VB: Yeah, at the-

GS: And do all the preparatory work, right?

VB: At the, at their-yeah, at the people's house. Oh, yeah, that's a-

GS: And you would take your fixtures to the house?

VB: Yes. You should see how I used to pack everything in boxes, right in that back room there, and I would call our D.U.S., we called them, that company, I says, “Come on, boys, everything's ready.” I had everything ready for them. They had to take all this equipment. They had to put it together, then they had to take it apart, then they had to deliver it, they had to make the layout at the house. Oh, it was so hard, Honey.

INTERVIEWER: Hard work. I know it was.

VB: Oh, my, my. It was very hard.

INTERVIEWER: And then you had to go to the house and check on the body periodically?

VB: Every day until the burial.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, my gosh.

VB: Yes, ma'am. Oh, yeah. Oh, it was so hard. I don't know-you know, I-when I think back, I says, “How did we do it?” I don't know.

INTERVIEWER: Because you would have several funerals going on at the same time, right?

VB: No.

INTERVIEWER: Not usually?

VB: Because we tried to stretch for every day. You know what I mean, so there won't be two together.

INTERVIEWER: I see.

VB: But sometimes it came out, then I had to hire another fellow to direct, take care of the other funeral so I can go with one. You can't do it, you know what I mean?

INTERVIEWER: Right, right.

VB: Couldn't do it, only one at a time. So, we always tried to do it from every day and not to have two in one day.

INTERVIEWER: I understand.

VB: But sometimes we had two of them in one day.

GS: Okay, can we see the smoking room? That's the lounge down there, right?

VB: Yeah, but-I'll let you glance at it here, but that's about it. Well, see, we had the restrooms here.

GS: And this is where they would come to smoke.

VB: The smoking is over here, they had, yeah, they had the smoking room over here.

GS: Oh, this is how you get down here. So it's a pinewood paneling, and-

VS: Yeah.

GS: This is where they would lounge.

VS: They were always going for this pinewood paneling. My husband's uncle did this for us.

INTERVIEWER: Did he really?

VS: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah, Honey. Like I said, you would never know that this is the same place when we bought it, it was nothing like this. And I made the place look re-presentable.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have pictures from back then of the inside?

VB: No, I don't, Honey. That's one thing, I made a big mistake that I don't have, you know.

INTERVIEWER: That's okay. You have the memories.

VB: Never was taking pictures, you know.

GS: But you do have records of the funerals and of your wedding?

VB: Oh, yeah, that I have.

GS: And as you grew up?

VB: Ah, not too many pictures, no, a few of them, yeah.

GS: Right.

INTERVIEWER: I would like to spend some time with you again really soon and look through your photos, if I could, especially your photos of your wedding.

VB: Oh, now, that was something. [Laughter] That was big. Believe me, it was big . . . .

GS: And you started in the business what year, 19-

VB: Wait, I started over here, we moved here 1958.

GS: And you were married in 1940?

VB: Yeah, yeah. But we were running the place on Junction already before we bought this place, with my husband. Then he put his brother in there and we came over here.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, that's how it went.

VB: See, that's how it all happened.

INTERVIEWER: And you don't know what's going on at that other funeral home now?

VB: No, nothing at all, Honey.

INTERVIEWER: So, who owns it?

VB: Nobody now, I understand. I don't know.

INTERVIEWER: It's closed down.

VB: I don't know what they done with the place over there. Later on when my husband died-but then when his mother died, everything went down the drain.

GS: So you were married in 1940. How old were you when you got married, about 20, 21?

VB: Yeah, I was young.

GS: Okay.

VB: But, well, that's the way we all were getting married. Some of them were getting married in teens even.

GS: Is that right?

VB: Yeah, at that time.

INTERVIEWER: Um-hum.

GS: But was it customary with Polish girls?

VB: Real young, they were getting married, but I didn't want to get married that young, not in 16 or 17.

GS: Okay.

VB: You know, I waited a little longer, you know.

INTERVIEWER: You had to dance for a few years, all those Polish bands, right?

VB: I got news for you, Honey. Hey, we just had yet in our parish in Dearborn here, I go all over to festivals and dance my head off. An old lady. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: Where's your parish now?

VB: Over here.

GS: Our Lady Queen?

VB: Our Lady Queen of Angels.

INTERVIEWER: Still Queen of Angels?

VB: And the old lady needs a new pair of teeth again. [Laughter]

INTERVIEWER: [Laughter]

GS: [Laughter]

VB: I got time for everything, but I got no time for this, hey?

GS: Oh, you're an angel.

INTERVIEWER: You sure are. You're beautiful.

VB: If my mother lived, she'd say, “What are you doing?” And she'd say, “Oh, my god!” Oh, I'm telling you, Honey.

INTERVIEWER: I thank you so much for this historical tour. This is a treasure. Your life story is a treasure.

VB: Really?

INTERVIEWER: Yes.

VB: Oh, I'll tell you, yeah-I give credit, a lot of credit to my mother-in-law. That beautiful lady.

GS: And she's passed away, hey?

VB: And when I got married to my husband, I never knew his father. He was already gone. He was already, you know, out of the picture and my husband was running the place over there. And then we were running it over there before we bought this place. Then we put his brother over there and we came in over here. You know how it is, you know, we tried to expand and tried to build up and-

INTERVIEWER: And you can't believe it when you look back and-

VB: No, I can't believe it.

INTERVIEWER: Think about what you've done.

VB: That everybody is gone and what I've done, and all this, and all this-oh, I just can't get over. I can't get over, Honey. Really and truly . . . . Oh, did you know Helen Krzystov [sp?]? She had a bridal shop right here on the corner of Michigan and Martin.

INTERVIEWER: No, no.

VB: Oh, my.

GS: Is she still alive?

VB: Beautiful lady, oh, god.

INTERVIEWER: Is she still around?

VB: Oh, no, no, she's passed away, and her husband passed away. They lived in Farmington. They built another house, but I see now, they had one boy, he came back over here.

INTERVIEWER: Really?

VB: And he sold out everything out there, and they both died. Helen died and Leonard, her husband, died. I thought maybe you've heard of her. Oh, she'll just look at you and she'll know how to make a nice dress for you. She was a smart one. Oh, boy, was she smart! She was little like me. Oh, bless that little Helen. Oh, my god. Oh, I'm telling you. How I-how I wish those people are all back.