Clifford Adams

Born in 1891, he was raised in Jacksonville, Florida, where his father worked as a carpenter, helped build the railroad from Jacksonville to Tampa, and then worked in a railroad shop. In Jacksonville, Adams, who was very precocious and loved reading, was able to get a job at a pharmacy where he helped make prescriptions from raw ingredients. After the First World War broke out the Pennsylvania railroad recruited his father to work in one of its railroad shops in Philadelphia. Encouraged by his father and hopeful of becoming a doctor, Adams in 1918 moved to Philadelphia hoping to go to college. Once there he also accepted a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad; Adams worked for the railroad until he retired. Although he never went to college, at the age of 50 he joined a science club at the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked on his own mathematical theorems. When interviewed in 1981, Adams, then 90, was still living on 31st Street.

Anna Lavin

Born in 1892, Anna came with her family from Russia to Philadelphia in 1896. At the age of 12, she left school to help support her family, working as a button hole marker. Living in South Philadelphia in a small furnished room apartment whose only indoor plumbing was a single, cold-water spigot, the Lavins struggled to make ends meet. There, two of Anna’s brothers, died of scarlet fever. When the influenza epidemic struck in 1918, Lavin recalled the focus of taking care of one’s community during the epidemic that killed members of her own family. Surviving the flu, Lavin worked for 53 years in the clothing industry before retiring in 1957 at the age of 65.

Esther Davalos

Born 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. After the Mexican Revolution, where her father fought and died in, the family moved to Pennsylvania in 1918 to seek out better jobs for Davalos’ older brothers. After originally settling in Eddystone where her brothers worked for the Baldwin Locomotive Works, the family moved again to the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia where Davalos grew up, married, and spent the rest of her life in. As an adult she worked as a Spanish interpreter for many location within the city including a health center on Girard Avenue (that still stands today) and the Nationalities Service Center

Elizabeth Strupczewski

Originally born Elizabeth Mellinski in Poland in 1892, she came to Philadelphia at 3 months old with her parents to find work. With her father working at Cramp’s Shipyard, she also went to work at the age of 12 to Wilson Homes worsted mill at because of the hard economic times. As a part of a large family and the second oldest of nine siblings she was forced to begin working so young to help out the family financially. She worked various jobs from being a doffer to working with the winders and spoolers, earning until she got married. Her workdays were long, from 6:30 am to 6pm and earned only $3.00 per week. At the age of 22, Strupczewski married a man she only knew for four months from Wilmington, Delaware at St. Laurentius Catholic Church. Together they would raise a family of seven.

Anna Van Dyke

Originally named Anna Warner, she was born in upstate Pennsylvania in 1904 and came to Philadelphia when she was 11 years old with her mother to work as a maid in a home. She attended continuation school and then went to work at Pine Tree Silk Mill as a weaver the same day she turned 14. Working from 7am to 7pm, Van Dyke earned $3.65 per week. After working at the mill for a while she went to work at Luptons for better pay. At 17 years old, Van Dyke eloped with one of her brother’s friends, George, in order to get away from her parents. Pretending to go to work, they went to Elkton, Maryland on his motorcycle and were married by a German priest.

Tony Lombardo

Tony Lombardo was raised in South Philadelphia with his parents and siblings. His parents emigrated to the United States in 1903. Lombardo’s first job was as a bus boy (“dummy” boy) at the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in the cafe. At the age of 16, Lombardo worked at 44 Cigars at 14th and Washington Avenue oiling machines, eventually meeting his wife at this factory, before working at Bayuk Cigars. Not liking to work around women all the time he worked in the Bromley rug mill for about 12 years, 10 hours a day, 6 hours on Saturdays. Lombardo dated his wife for 12 years until they got married at the age of 28 years old.  Lombardo says he was the guy “that shoved the union in there” and got overtime and half on Saturdays at Bromley. When Lombardo quit Bromley he became a spray painter at Weinberg Brothers novelty shop at 913 Arch Street, where he became a shop steward. He worked with Local 832, part of the Bottler’s Union.

Louise Abrucesse 

Louise Abrucesse was born and raised in Philadelphia. Her family was originally from Casino, Italy before that immigrated to the United States. Abrucesse got her first job at the age of 14 with her sister at a factory that made Christmas ornaments for 8-9 dollars a week. Abrucesse grew up during the Great Depression and had to leave school to help support the household. Her family had to start from scratch after losing all their money to the banks. Later on, she went to business school at John Wanamaker’s Commercial Institute and worked as a bookkeeper for a real estate business, 6 days a week for $12.