ORAL HISTORIES

Conducted in the early 1980s for I Remember When: Times Gone But Not Forgotten, a radio documentary series broadcast on WHYY-FM, these interviews with immigrants and the children of immigrants recount the history of Philadelphia in the early decades of the twentieth century. Documenting work experiences, family and neighborhood life, city politics, the Influenza pandemic of 1918, courtship and romance, and city culture, the interviewees recall in vivid detail the Philadelphia of their youth and young adulthood.

West Chester University students have curated each interview with an OHMS (Oral History Metadata Synchronizer) index, enabling you to not only hear the voices, but to see the cobblestone streets of Philadelphia, the row houses, the factory floors, and immigration papers. GPS coordinates show you where the events took place, creating an immersive, multisensory experience. 

All interviews are archived at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries

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John Flynn (Pseudonym)

Born in the tough Irish-American neighborhood of Grays Ferry, John Flynn learned how to fight at a young age, started to work full time at the age of 14, and…
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Sam Brasilow

Sam Brasilow was born to Jewish immigrant parents who fled Russia around 1900. The Brasilow family lived on 11th and Cherry Street before moving to 22nd and…
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John Calpin (1st Interview)

When he graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1925, John Calpin (1904-1991) became a police reporter for The Philadelphia Bulletin.…
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Dennis Clark (2nd interview)

Dennis Clark (1927-1993) grew up in the Kensington neighborhood in north Philadelphia during the Great Depression. A glazer by profession, Clark's father could…
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Armand DiStefano

Armand DiStefano (1912-1987), the son of Italian immigrants, grew up in a small row house in South Philadelphia. There, his father instilled in him the value of…
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Catherine Ehrmann

Catherine Ehrmann came with her family from Hungary to Philadelphia in 1904, when she was two years old. She grew up right around the corner from the Stetson…
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Michael Giovanelli & Frank Di Sipio

Interviewed at the Marconi Center in South Philadelphia, these two Italian-American men recount their early experiences with education and work life. Giovanelli…
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David Kaplan

David Kaplan (b. circa 1889) was born in a Russian village to a Jewish family. With his father in America, Kaplan had to work as a child to support his family.…
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John Calpin (2nd Interview)

When he graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1925, John Calpin (1904-1991) became a police reporter for The Philadelphia Bulletin.…
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Anna Lavin (2nd interview)

Anna Lavin came with her family from Russia to Philadelphia in 1896 aboard the S.S. Pennland and landed in the immigration station at the foot of Washington…
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Anna Lavin (1st interview)

Anna Lavin came with her family from Russia to Philadelphia in 1896 aboard the S.S. Pennland and landed in the immigration station at the foot of Washington…
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John H. Rudolph

John "Herb" Rudolph (b. 1901), worked at the Stetson factory in North Philadelphia for forty-nine years. In his 1982 oral history interview, Rudolph provided a…
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Anna Farris, Anna Van Dyke,…

In this group interview conducted at the St. Anne’s Senior Center in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, women of Eastern European descent recall…
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Anna Van Dyke and Elizabeth…

In this group interview conducted at the St. Anne’s Senior Center in the Port Richmond neighborhood of Philadelphia, women of Eastern European descent recall…
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Anna Aleski

Anna Aleski (born circa 1902) emigrated from Poland to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and eventually moved with her brother to Philadelphia. She recalls in this…
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Esther M. Davalos (1st interview)

Born in 1908, Esther Davalos was born as a third generation American; her family came from Spain and settled in the part of Mexico that later became Texas.…
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Max Tannenbaum

Max Tannenbaum (b. 1905) was 7 when his father left Ukraine in 1912 for the United States. For the next decade, Tannenbaum worked to provide for his mother and…
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Louise Abrucesse, Tony Lombardo,…

Conducted at the Marconi Center in South Philadelphia, this group interview recounts the childhood and adolescent years of three Italian-Americans who grew up…
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Gilda Cetrullo

Gilda Cemi Cetrullo (b. 1903) was 17 when she left Abruzzi, Italy, to join her parents in Philadelphia. In her 1982 interview, Cetrullo talked about her life in…
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Bertha Gruenberg

Born in Austria, Bertha (Sanford) Gruenberg (1888-1987) moved with her family to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1893 and then to Philadelphia in 1910. There, she and…
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Johnny Mulligan

After immigrating from Scotland to Philadelphia in 1922, Johnny Mulligan boxed professionally, danced with the Irish Merrymakers, and played striker for the…
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Esther M. Davalos (2nd interview)

Born in 1908, Esther Davalos was born as a third generation American; her family came from Spain and settled in the part of Mexico that later became Texas.…
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Anthony Catalano

Anthony Catalano (b. 1910), the son of a hat maker, grew up in South Philadelphia. Like his father, Catalano worked at John B. Stetson Company and Stylepark…
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Dennis Clark (1st interview)

Dennis Clark (1927-1993) grew up in the Kensington neighborhood of north Philadelphia during the Great Depression. A glazer by profession, Clark's father could…
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Sam Spritz (1st interview)

Sam Spritz was born (circa 1898) into a Jewish family in pre-revolution Russia.  In 1913, he moved with his father and brother to Philadelphia, attracted by the…
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Sam Spritz (2nd interview)

Sam Spritz was born (circa 1898) into a Jewish family in pre-revolution Russia.  In 1913, he moved with his father and brother to Philadelphia, attracted by the…