Over the past decade the neighborhoods that make up what is known as Old North Dayton have been transformed with the arrival of immigrants from countries such as Turkey and Russia. Immigrants have been central to the development of Old North Dayton since their arrival as laborers in the early twentieth century. Today on Senior voices, lifelong Daytonian Louis Eckert, who is of German and Polish descent, recalls growing up there in the 1960s and 70s. He spoke with Dayton Metro Library volunteer interviewer, Carol Jackson.
Louis Eckert (LE): The Old North Dayton area had a Polish community, a Lithuanian community and of course a German and Hungarian community, and the Polish church was St. Adalbert’s, the Lithuanian was Holy Cross, and St. Stephen’s was the Hungarian, and Holy Rosary was the German church.
Carol Jackson (CJ): Was there usually a feeling of safety for you as a young boy in the neighborhood?
LE: You always felt like you know somebody on every block. If you did anything wrong, your parents were gonna hear about it, and so you knew that there people that were always keeping an eye on you.
CJ: Are there any negative memories about that time of growing up in the north end of Dayton?
LE: Now when people talk about the bullying thing and whatnot, that was just something that was just a fact of life. I mean I was always a small boy, for a period I was always the last person picked for the basketball team, the last person for a particular baseball group and as such that’s where you learn how to get along with the group, particularly like with the baseball teams it was roughly one third Lithuanian, one third Polish, and one third “briar” and there was never any trouble with any of the groups, everybody seemed to get along very well. It was very rare that we had any disagreements.
I am still a member of the Polish Club on Valley Street, and the first president of the Polish Club was the grandfather of my best friend, so between the church and the Polish Club, it was it’s social and religious community that everybody was involved with.
Kiser High School was our local high school, but that was located over on the other side of North Dayton where it was not a great area to travel, because you went over into some of the other sections, and my parents were adamant that I was not going to go to Kiser High School, so that’s how I ended up at Patterson, although my brother went to Chaminade and my sisters went to Julienne. Chaminade at the time was having some curriculum issues, and that was not, it was beginning to lose some of its luster of being a quality school, so my parents decided they thought Patterson was a better career move for me.
CJ: They really watched out for what was best for their five kids, didn’t they?
LE: They somewhat helped steer all of us towards a career. My two older sisters were both teachers, went to University of Dayton. My brother is an accountant, went to Wright State, and then of course myself going to GMI and with the connection of Delco Products it made it an easy approach, my dad was very familiar with that, and my younger sister, she was a little wayward one, she ended up going to Ohio State, yeah so she didn’t quite have a, our parents didn’t pick out a career path for her quite as defined as the rest of us.
Louis Eckert and his wife now live in Kettering. He shared his memories related to working at Delco Products and Dayton’s heyday as a manufacturing center during a previous Senior Voices segment.
This interview was edited by Community Voices producer Dave Barber. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.