Milwaukee County Historical Society

Interview with Claire Kutz, September 17, 2021

MCHS Oral History Collection
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00:00:20 - Background Information/Early Family Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So, to start, we'll just fill in some background about your life. Um, where and when were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz gives background information about her life, from where she grew up, what her parents did, and what she remembers about her childhood. She remembers how her family played outside constantly, listened to radio shows, and walked 2.5 miles to school every day. Her parents, in her eyes, did everything they could for their children, which is why she remembered it as a "good time". Her father's family lived on a farm, so they "ate well."

Keywords: Background; Brother; Family; Farm; Livestock; Sled

Subjects: Family; Farm Life; Hartford, WI; Life; Milwaukee,WI; School

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee WI
00:07:06 - Milwaukee Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: And what was your neighborhood like? Your neighbors and what was in-in like being in, you said West Milwaukee?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz talks about her life outside her family, from her neighborhood to her experiences downtown as a child.

Keywords: Neighborhood; School; Shopping

Subjects: Downtown; Family; Life; Milwaukee, WI; School

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:08:48 - Education/HIgh School Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So let's get back to, kind of, maybe education. So you were at the one room school house, and then where did you go next after you got older?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz talks about the transition from her one room school house to Johnson School in West Allis, then to West Milwaukee High School. College was not an option for Kutz due to a lack of money. She talks about her high school experience, highlighted with Liberace concerts, as previously attended West Milwaukee High School. For fun, she and her best friend took handheld radios and walked around their neighborhood.

Keywords: College; Grade School; High School; Liberace

Subjects: Milwaukee, WI; School; West Allis, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: West Allis, WI
00:12:50 - Post-High School Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: What happened, uh, after high school? So, you graduated, and then what?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz describes her post-high school experience, working for the telephone company in Milwaukee. She enjoyed the job, saying that she "clicked" with the "actual adults" that worked there.

Keywords: Bus; High School; Job

Subjects: Career; Downtown; Milwaukee, WI; West Allis, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:15:05 - Grandpa Jerry: Marriage and Divorce

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Partial Transcript: [John]: so you worked [at the telephone company] for nine years, and then you said [you] started a family. So maybe this is a good time to start talking about how you-you met Grandpa Jerry. So how did you meet Grandpa Jerry?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz describes her journey meeting her husband, who painted her and her roommates' apartment. They were married after a year, they danced a lot with each other, and had parties. She describes their wedding in a small church, and their honeymoon "up north". She describes how their marriage fell apart, eventually leading to their divorce, but it seems to be admirable, as both she and the kids "see him a lot".

Keywords: Apartment; Divorce; Husband; Roommates; Spouse

Subjects: 1960s; Dating; Love; Marriage; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:19:09 - Becoming a Jehovah's Witness

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So, you went through uh-a pretty big life change religiously around the time of the end of the marriage. [Claire]: Right.

Segment Synopsis: Kutz describes her conversion to Jehovah's Witnesses. She was active in the Lutheran Church for her whole life, and had noticed the missionaries for Jehovah's Witnesses coming to her door. She tentatively joined the religion, then more fully committing herself after her divorce. She says she always had a certain reverence for the Bible, and that Jehovah's Witnesses tried their best to follow what the book said. When asked about how her life had changed, especially in terms of birthdays and holidays, Kutz answers that her mother was angry, but not to the point of division.

Keywords: Bible; Disowning; Divorce; Jehovah's Witness; Lutheran

Subjects: Challenges; Change; Conversion; Family; Lake Zurich, IL; Life; Religion

00:23:34 - Family Life and Jobs Post-Divorce

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, lets backtrack a little bit and talk about having a family, you said you had four kids, and can you tell me their names and what years were they born?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz talks about her family, and how busy life was with her four children. She ended up needing to work at a candy store, as it had "good insurance", and ended up needing to get a driver's license at 50 years old in order to be the secretary for her friend's company. She also talks more about the divorce, and how it hit her twin boys the hardest, as they were the youngest. She talks about how they had to each pay one third of the rent when they graduated high school.

Keywords: Candy Store; Children; Driver's License; Family Life; Kids; Nestle; Stay-at-home Mother; Twins

Subjects: 1960s; Driving; Family; Work

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Oconomowoc. WI
00:29:42 - Memories of "Big Things" in the 1940s

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Well, I think, maybe I-I have just some, kind of, I don't know, big things that have happened either the world, or the United States, as well as Milwaukee and I thought I might just see what memories you have of certain things.

Segment Synopsis: Kutz remembers her life during the "Big Things" in history, from the death of FDR, to Truman's re-election in 1948, to the end of World War II in downtown Milwaukee. She remembers rationing, from food to shoes to gas.

Keywords: 1948 Presidential Election; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Harry S Truman; World War II

Subjects: 1940s; Childhood; Memory

00:33:13 - Remembering Past Concerts

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, what about um, you went to a lot of concerts, what were some of the concert experiences you remember the most?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz remembers her experiences going to concerts as an adult working for the telephone company. She went with her roommate, and she liked jazz music. She remembers Milwaukee's Jazz Festival, seeing some of the greats of jazz music.

Keywords: Billie Holiday; Concert; Dave Brubeck; Duke Ellington; Frank Sinatra; Post grad life; Roommate; Wisconsin Telephone Company Choir

Subjects: Adulthood; Choir; Drums; Festival; Jazz music

00:36:44 - Milwaukee Braves

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Partial Transcript: [John]: You were kind of coming of age as, uh the Milwaukee Braves baseball team came to town. [Claire]: Ohhh, yeah.

Segment Synopsis: Kutz talks about her memories of the Milwaukee Braves baseball team, calling herself a kind of "groupie". She remembers going with her youngest brother or her girlfriends, going to the games, and waiting afterwards to see the players (especially Eddie Matthews, who she had a crush on). She also describes her experiences going down to Chicago and watching the players in their hotel. She talks about the 1957 World Series, which she went downtown for. (The interviewer errantly says that the Braves were in the World Series in 1956.)

Keywords: Eddie Matthews; Fan; Milwaukee Braves; Milwaukee County Stadium

Subjects: Baseball; Chicago, IL; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:39:05 - Memories of Ethicity and Race Division

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, you mention, so seeing, like, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, and Milwaukee has gone through a lot of changes over times from like ethnic and race perspectives, was there ever a conversation about like, that when you were going to see Billie Holiday play? Like, was that a thing? That she was African American?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz talks about her understandings of the ethnic and racial enclaves in the city, which she was somewhat removed from. She remembers the unrest in the 1960s, wondering why people would do that to each other. She also mentions her African American church friend who remembers what it used to be like and he mentioned the changes that the city had gone through.

Keywords: Billie Holiday; Duke Ellington

Subjects: 1960s; Ethnicity; Race; Racial Unrest

00:41:08 - Milwaukee Blizzard of 1947

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, one of the big events in the memory of Milwaukee is the big blizzard of 1947. [Claire]: Ohhh yeah

Segment Synopsis: Kutz looks back on the Milwaukee Blizzard of 1947, remembering that her father had gotten back from his third shift before the snow hit, and they dismissed school early (which she walked home from). They had a drift that went up to her brothers' window. Her brothers went to the store on skis. She talks about being snowed in because they were the last to be plowed. She didn't go to school for about a week, and eventually the men of the subdivision all shoveled the snow. She remembers the week fondly.

Keywords: Milwaukee Blizzard of 1947; Ski; Snow; Subdivision

Subjects: 1940s; Life; Milwaukee, Wi

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:43:57 - Lessons From Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: I think just some questions before we wrap up, that are kind of like, big questions. Um, so, maybe what are some of the biggest lessons you've learned throughout your life?

Segment Synopsis: Kutz looks back on the lessons she has learned from life, the biggest being her desire for patience. "Things work out if you keep your cool" is one of her lessons. She also wishes she would not have been as harsh of a mother, claiming that her children are nicer parents that she believes herself to have been, claiming to have gotten "further" that way. Also, not getting married again worked well, although she claims that was a personal lesson. Overall, Kutz feels that she is in a good place.

Keywords: Children; Lesson; Patience

Subjects: Life; Marriage; Parenting

00:46:13 - Values in Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: That's great, yeah. One more is what, what what is the things you most value in life.

Segment Synopsis: Kutz answers what she values most about in life, which she immediately answers to be her faith and her children.

Keywords: Children; Faith; Family; Grandchildren

Subjects: Blessing; Values; Work