The Class of 1940
The classmates are adamant that there was no racism towards African Americans in high school. "Lucia White [now Ruby] was my best friend!" recalls Dolores (Watkins) Keyes. But wide berth was given to the "Gypsies" who took over the municipal camping ground at the southeast corner of the Dexter-Maple intersection (now Vets Park)--they were regarded as thieves.
The Gypsies traveled in covered wagons. Another horse and wagon belonged to Hymie Zaidman, a Russian Jewish junk man. An Ann Arbor fixture for decades, Zaidman would drop by homes two or three times a year to purchase scrap paper, rags, and metal.
They shrug off the hard times of the Depression--"we did feel it, but we didn't know any better" and "we were all in the same boat." But further conversation uncovers the struggles of that time. Barbara (McMahon) Riemenschneider recalls how her mother, who "knew every way to squeeze a penny," would cook meat on the ledge of their coal furnace. Zwinck recalls that when a family wanted an additional kitchen cabinet, an orange crate would be found and covered with a nice cloth. Doris (Allen) Strite lived between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti in a house without electricity or plumbing. The interior walls had been finished with cardboard from boxes. As late as seventh grade she was studying by kerosene lamp. Blaess recalls that when a shoe had a hole in its sole, the hole was patched with cardboard.