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Oral History

Overview

Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Campus Unrest at NIU

Town-Gown Relations in DeKalb

Farming and Farm Families in DeKalb County

NIU Biographies

History of NIU Foundation, February 7, 1987

Workers at Wurlitzer During World War II

Burlington Railroad Strike Collection

NIU Centennial Histories

Regional Histories



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Oral History, 1979-2008 | Northern Illinois University

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Collection Overview

Title: Oral History, 1979-2008

Predominant Dates:1979-2008

ID: RHC/UA/53/

Extent: 3.5 Linear Feet

Date Acquired: 00/00/1979

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Oral History Collection is comprised of ten separate oral history projects.  Some of the oral history projects are quite large, such as Town-Gown Relations in DeKalb (OH-2, containing 43 interviews) and Farming and Farm Families in DeKalb County (OH-3, containing 34 interviews).  Two collections, NIU Biographies (OH-4) and Regional Histories (OH-9), contain only one interview each, as of 2009.

In most cases the original oral history cassette interviews are available for listening.  In other cases, such as the Burlington Railroad Strike Collection (OH-7), only the transcripts are available [and these are located in RC 217].  Many of the other oral history interviews have only abstracts which highlight and summarize the questions and answers.  A reference assistant will aid researchers who wish to listen to the interviews on the tape recorder.

In some instances the researcher can find supplemental materials included with the collections.  Addition information may also be found in other University Archives and Regional History Collections  – please ask a staff member for assistance.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions on access to the collection.

Use Restrictions: The Regional History Center holds all property rights; literary rights are dedicated to the public.

Acquisition Source: Glen Gildemeister

Acquisition Method: Glen Gildemeister began the acquisition of the oral histories in this collection during his tenure as University Archivist, 1979-2007.


Box and Folder Listing


Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Campus Unrest at NIU],
[Series 2: Town-Gown Relations in DeKalb],
[Series 3: Farming and Farm Families in DeKalb County],
[Series 4: NIU Biographies],
[Series 5: History of NIU Foundation, February 7, 1987],
[Series 6: Workers at Wurlitzer During World War II],
[Series 7: Burlington Railroad Strike Collection],
[Series 8: NIU Centennial Histories],
[Series 9: Regional Histories],
[All]

Series 6: Workers at Wurlitzer During World War II

INTRODUCTION

“Workers at Wurlitzer During World War II” is an oral history project undertaken by a class in oral history methodology at Northern Illinois University.  Interviewing took place between October and December of 1989.  The instructor, six graduate students, and one undergraduate interviewed sixteen people employed at Wurlitzer during the Second World War.  Narrators volunteered or were found through city directories and talking to other former employees.  Each narrator received a copy of the interview tape to keep.

Property rights in the series belong to the Regional History Center; literary rights are dedicated to the public.  There are no restrictions on access to these materials.

DESCRIPTION

Topics discussed in this collection include: education; working conditions; production, including the change over from pianos to airplanes, production during the war, and the transition to peacetime production after the war; security; unionization; organization of workers; employee relations; company-sponsored employee activities; propaganda and motivation; changes in attitudes resulting from the war; family life; and concerns of female employees.

The sample of male workers is biased in favor of management.  Half of the narrators were women, one of whom was considered management.  The majority of the narrators are well past retirement age and are comfortably situated.  Many of the narrators left Wurlitzer for other jobs after the war and are comparing the two situations, perhaps subconsciously.

In spite of the limitations listed above, the collection can be informative.  The narrators were taken from various departments, and some taken from the same department can be compared.  The desire to produce as much as possible comes through, along with some of the difficulties arising from shortages and/or conflicts.  Especially interesting is how different people remember the same event and the testimony on changes in attitudes.

File Drawer 1
Folder 6a: Inventory
Folder 6b: Life at the DeKalb Wurlitzer Plant During World War II, a group research paper by Char Henn, Estella Metcalfe, Denyse Clifford Cunningham, Kelly Crimmins, Terence Buckaloo, and John Roberts, circa 1989,  1990
Folder OH 6.1: Neilo Koski, interviewed by Estella Metcalfe, November 6, 1989
The experiences and recollections of an office employee at Wurlitzer from 1936 to 1981 are presented here.  He also describes aspects of his education and childhood, as well as production of war material, employee-management relationships, women workers, conditions during the war, conversion to peacetime production, and social activities. [transcript and 2 tapes, 92 minutes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.2: Margaret Vanamburg, interviewed by Estella Metcalfe, November 3, 1989
Vanamburg was employed at Wurlitzer from 1943 until 1976.  She discusses her childhood, education, work in the mailroom, office work, working conditions, employee-management relationships, products, activities, and concerns of female workers. [abstract and tape, 78 minutes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.3: Beverly Rattenberry and Evelyn Pinkston, interviewed by Denyse Cunningham, November 6, 1989
These two women became friends while working at Wurlitzer. They discuss work and social life in the plant before, during and after the war. [abstract and 2 tapes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.4: Olga Waldhier, interviewed by Denyse Cunningham, November 8, 1989
Waldhier started at Wurlitzer as an office worker, and by the end of the war had become a plant engineer.  She discusses war production, working conditions, attitudes, and Navy influence.  She has good feelings about Wurlitzer. [abstract and tape, 60 minutes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.5: Zane Sipavis, interviewed by Char Henn, November 2, 1989
Sipavis was a piano stringer who became supervisor of wing spar and bat bomb production during the war.  Also discussed are training, production processes, working conditions and attitudes, and the work community at Wurlitzer from 1939 to 1949.  [abstract and tape, see also interview of his wife Agnes, OH 6.8]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.6: Frank Kuzan, interviewed by Char Henn, October 27, 1989
Kuzan, a draftsman in Wurlitzer's Engineering Department from 1936 to 1951, discusses the drafting department, the beginnings of automation and feelings about it, attitudes and activities during the war years, but not a lot about what happened in the plant.
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.7: Nellie McDermott, interviewed by Valerie Quinney, November 26, 1989
McDermott discusses rudder production for the target planes produced at Wurlitzer, and talks about social life at the plant.  Because she worked at Wurlitzer at two different times, she makes comparisons between war and peacetime production. [abstract and tape, 45 minutes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.8: Agnes Sipavis, interviewed by Valerie Quinney, November 2, 1989
Sipavis discusses office work as well as the social life and activities of the people in the accounts payable office during the War.[abstract and tape, 80 min., interview by her husband at OH 6.5]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.9: Ward Miller, interviewed by Jim Binder, November 21, 1989
He discusses Wurlitzer from middle management viewpoint, as a foreman in the aircraft department, and later as an inspector.  Production methods are also described. [abstract and tape, 50 min]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.10: Emil Miller, interviewed by Jim Binder, November 22, 1989
Miller oversaw plant operations, except for the proximity fuse.  He also discusses production methods. [abstract and tape, 40 minutes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.11: Clifford Anderson, interviewed by John Roberts, November 9, 1989
At Wurlitzer from 1935 until 1981, Anderson tells of his musical background and the inventions he patented which improved production of Wurlitzer musical instruments, and for the war effort.  He also gives insights into social life and wartime attitudes.[abstract and 2 tapes, 135 minutes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.12: Hazel Duffy, interviewed by Kelly Crimmins, November 24, 1989
Before the war Duffy worked as a tone regulator, and in the mailroom, during the war she was in the blueprint department.  She also discusses the raise in wartime wages, and the 1942 strike. [abstract and tape, 60 minutes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.
Folder OH 6.13: Lou and Bill Hathaway, interviewed by Kelly Crimmins, November 16, 1989
Lou worked in the piano and accordion departments before the war, but during the war she made army cots. Bill worked at Wurlitzer before and after serving in WW II.  Both Lou and Bill discuss company sponsored activities and security methods. [abstract and tape, 68 minutes]
Other Information: The Oral History Cassette Tapes are located in the UA 53 area in the basement stacks.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Campus Unrest at NIU],
[Series 2: Town-Gown Relations in DeKalb],
[Series 3: Farming and Farm Families in DeKalb County],
[Series 4: NIU Biographies],
[Series 5: History of NIU Foundation, February 7, 1987],
[Series 6: Workers at Wurlitzer During World War II],
[Series 7: Burlington Railroad Strike Collection],
[Series 8: NIU Centennial Histories],
[Series 9: Regional Histories],
[All]


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