[rhythmic taps] [wind] See that open field?
That was all my--my--right there would be my grandma's garden.
And then there was, uh, fields where we played baseball.
Everything's all gone because Bethlehem Steel bought this and tore everything down to make a parking lot and then they closed the plant.
You can't go anywhere and talk to anybody that I used to know.
Their houses are gone.
[sniffles] My name is Viola Hippert.
I was born Viola Berich.
I was born in Lackawanna, New York, on Hamburg Turnpike, and I--my birthday is January 22nd, 1925, and I'm 95 years old.
There is a picture of the house.
- OK. That was the house you were--?
Yeah, that's where I grew up.
In Lackawanna then, we would say, this side of the bridge was where the poor folks are and the other side of the bridge is where the money was.
We were the poor ones, the ones over there, near the-- near the plant.
We lived one block away from the plant.
[laughs] So--so, you know, we were actually right across--almost across the street from Bethlehem Steel entrance.
[wind] My dad's house should be right up there.
In those days, it was almost like farmland, you know, then it became a city.
But when I was growing up, it was... there was nothing, you know... we were just family.
My mother was born in one small village called Jo evica.
My father was born in Bijelnik, in Croatia, but they were Serbian.
My father came, you know, by himself to Lackawanna.
And then he brought my mother and my grandmother back here.
- Who's this?
- That's Baba.
That's my baba.
- How tall was she?
- And very strong, right?
- Oh, yeah.
- Oh, yeah, yeah.
- She was strong.
Remember I told you about the pig that was running around?
They were trying-- the men were trying to catch it because the holiday was coming, and we needed a roasted pig?
- They couldn't catch it.
And my grandma stood there watching.
Finally, she said to my father, "You two--" in Serbian, "You two idiots, get outta there and I'll take care of that pig."
So she went in the yard that was fenced in and the pig is running like crazy all around it.
She just stood in one spot, had a hammer.
As the pig ran past her, she clobbered him over the head.
And... that was the end of the pig.
She was tough.
She was tough, that woman.
Oh, she was strong.
My father came here and started to work when he was 18.
It was Lackawanna Steel, and then it became Bethlehem Steel, but he-- he started, you know, at the bottom and worked his way up to a crane operator.
My father was a dedicated worker and he--he instilled that into us.
He said, "They gave you a job and they're paying you.
They deserve your respect and they deserve that you do the job the way you're supposed to do it."
And I've lived by that.
My mother didn't have much education, but she managed to learn how to sign her name.
But that was it.
So, what I learned, I taught my mother and I taught my father until we could all learn the American language.
[Folk music plays] My first job, actually, was working in an office cleaning.
I was probably 16--15 or 16 then.
I, actually, had three jobs at that time.
I cleaned an office, I worked at the store and I worked at a soda fountain till midnight.
And then I would walk home.
[Swing dance music plays] I met my husband, of all places, at a Croatian Friday night dance session that the church had, you know, give us something to do, you know.
When my mother found out it was a Croatian church, I almost got killed, but I went!
He was there with his buddy, Bill Hanley, and he saw me and he kept saying to--to Bill, he said, "I would love to dance with that girl."
He said, "Well go and ask her."
He said, "She might say no."
He says, "So, she says no?
He says, "Go and ask her."
So he finally convinced him to come and-- and ask me to dance.
And so, he walked over and that's how we met, at a Croatian Friday night dance session that the church had.
And then we just got to know each other and then the war came and off he went.
January 8 ... 1942.
Then I heard about Bell Aircraft hiring.
So, I went and applied and I got the job right away.
By that time the war had started, [military drums play] and they needed help at the defense plants.
[Big Band music plays] So, here all these women went, left their homes and went to the-- you know, to the defense plants to replace the men, so they could go to war and help to end the war quicker.
I worked at Bell Aircraft in Outside Shipping.
I had this special button that I can go all over and I would be delivering wherever they needed parts.
My department was a little off to the side, and I had my own desk and my own typewriter, and I had my own bike, a three-wheeler bike.
And I--when they needed parts, they would send their--their script over and I would go to the crib and get it and put it in the bike and get in the bike and deliver it.
And that's why it was called Outside Shipping, because I was shipping it outside of the department.
Bell Aircraft was working on a jet, and because I had that special button, I can go everywhere, except, you know, where they were testing, uh, the plane.
And boy, that was a cinch of a job.
I loved it.
And I was making more than my father, which really got my father's goat.
I enjoyed working at Bell Aircraft.
It was tremendous.
You know, they were nice people to work for.
Everybody there worked together.
I'm very proud of the fact that we were, you know, able to do it, you know, and help the boys.
In the defense plants, some departments, you could [count] on your one hand how many men were in there.
So, um, like we had two in my department.
It was two men.
All the rest were women.
The women were all, you know, anxious to get the guys home.
They either had husbands or brothers... or sons....
It was hard, and we were anxious to get the war over.
So, everybody worked like crazy, too.
- Got a lot of memorabilia.
This is all--everything that he got from the two presidents thanking him for his service.
He re-enlisted right after Pearl Harbor... - for another two years.
My husband's gift to me when I turned 18.
He came home, surprised me--my 18th birthday.
He said, "Here, I brought you my heart."
I can't believe this lasted all these years.
We had 72 years together.
We were married 72 years when he died.
This past September would have been 75 had he lived.
[phone ringing] - Hello.
I'm on-- heading over to your house.
You're coming over here?
Yes, I am.
I'll see you in a bit.
It will be good to see you.
It will be good to see you.
- Oh, yes, definitely.
- I--I'm-- - I went and had my hair - done and everything.
Oh, you're beautiful.
- I'll be gorgeous.
- You'll be proud of me.
You'll be beau-- [laughs] [both laugh] - OK, buddy.
- See you in a bit.
- Love you, too.
She's so cute.
- [phone hangs up] I met Viola in 1974.
We both like to be involved in organizations-- to do something for our community.
And I think that, you know, that is why we hit it off so well.
She always-- you know, was always here for me, and she was always here for my campaigns because we never discussed whether I was a Democrat and she was a Republican, but she was--she was great.
And once she loves you, she loves you.
She calls me her sister.
- Come on in!
How are ya, honey?
Two old ladies.
That's what we are.
- How old are you, Viola?
Two old ladies.
[laughs] [Laughs] - How old are you?
Ready to-- Can't wait to sit down.
- How old are you?
I'll be 96 in January.
- Oh, my God.
I had you at 92.
- And you're right behind me.
[laughs] - Yeah.
- We go back a long way.
A long, long way, Viola.
- It was a lot of fun.
Yeah, we--we worked.
We were like a team for 50-- over 50 years already.
- Remember when you-- -- at that town board meeting, when I was-- they were telling me-- telling you to get rid of me - because I wasn't doing my job?
But she-- the lady wanted me replaced because she-- I wasn't doing my job, and nobody on the board would say anything to her as she was slamming me, except Joan.
She sat up there and shut her right up-- told her I was doing a great job.
So from then on, I thought Joan was...like my angel.
- [giggles] She was always there for me.
- I-- I was just flabbergasted I remember.
- because I wasn't too nice to Joan - before that.
- You know, a little on the bigot side.
You were always nice to me, Viola!
You were always nice to me.
I could've been nicer.
- I was a bigot when it came [to] party affiliation.
[laughs] Well, we were different parties.
- Yeah... - but after that, no matter what I was, I would-- I always worked with Joan.
- I mean, I hate to admit it, but, you know, there are nice Democrats.
[both laugh] There's nice Republicans.
- And Joan proved it to me, and we've been friends ever since.
- And because of COVID now, - we can't all gather like... No.
- you know, like she thought, and, um-- - I think it's going to be a small group.
- So, I'm not sure-- Ellie and John or --?
Sue and Barry, no?
No, just us.
OK. Yeah, very small.
I can't believe I was ever that young.
I had to keep track for the reunions.
We worked on the reunions and I had to keep track of the ones that passed away.
The last one was uh... the 50.
And all the people that worked with me on it-- because I, you know, I was one of the main ones, they're all gone.
I'm the only one left.
But there I am... in 1942... and I'm still here.
Hi, how are you?
- So there's Joanna.
- Hi, GG!
Yeah, I love you.
Oh, you look beautiful.
Oh, my goodness.
- Thank you!
Oh... What color is your hair now?
- It's still blue.
It's just washed out.
It's still blue?
Oh, looks-- looks pretty.
You're all of 19, right?
Oh, good grief.
- [laughs] You know, I look at you and I feel-- I feel like I'm 150.
[laughs] I love my grandchildren and I love my great-grandchildren even more.
So, I-- It's a pleasure to be here to see you grow up.
- Yeah, You're a beautiful girl.
Take care of yourself.
I love you.
- Bye, Aunt Sue!
Every time I think of myself getting 96, I think I'm going to-- I'm getting close to 100, and that doesn't make me feel good to know that I've been here for all those years.
[laughs] You know?
And how many more do I have ahead of me?
According to my great-nephew, I'm gonna live to be 107, so we'll see.
[laughs] But I feel good.
I go-- as soon as this COVID disappears, if it ever does, I'm going to the casino and to bingo.
- OK, so hopefully - you'll be back on the road - doing your bingo and your casino.
I went to the casino.
[laughs] I was there last week, yeah.
Sue took me.
I had a ball, lost 100 and-- No, no, I lost that, but then I made it back, and I-- you know, I brought home the same as I spent.
[Big Band music plays] Rosies!
[laugh] [Vi] I love you guys.
- [Inaudible] [laughs]