Vol. 1-Interview-Banas


Aniella Banas 6/10/72 Angela Varesano

He was at one time the local head of the United Mine Workers, the organization which was organized to get pensions and good money for the workers.

He worker as a digger, mining coal. When asked why he chose that job instead of “driving mules” like Mr. Zahay, he said driving mules was an easy job; what he did was hard. He seemed to imply a relationship between his being head of the union and getting that hard job, that the supervisors gave the good jobs to the ones who weren’t involved in unions so much, who weren’t organizers.

Helen Fedorsha commented that he used to be the president of the union. She said the local heads of the union got good jobs, what they wanted. They had a pull with the bosses. “Don’t believe that,” that the heads of the union were worst off. She also commended that he used to play Santa, but he couldn’t disguise “his voice or his talk” which has a Polish accent. He did this for the “clubby” Christmas party, for the members’ children and the for town’s children too.

The interview was difficult due to Mr. Bana’ partial deafness. One must speak loudly and in simple, short words to be understood. He misdunerstands questions easily. This may be due in part to his imperfect knowledge of English as well as his deafness.

His second wife speaks with an accept and doesn’t understand “big words” (as she told me in apologizing for her English), but proved helpful both in getting my questions across to her husband and in giving information. She talks well, needs little prompting. He knows lots of old recipes, how to can mushrooms and preserve them for food. These are mushrooms picked in the nearby woods. She offered to take me out for mushrooms when I expressed interested in this.

Mr. Banas seems like Mr. Nagle is being solicitous of me as a girl. He asked if I have a “boy friend” in Eckley, where I come from, and why I lived in Philadelphia; he also offered advice for me—after marriage I should stay home and keep the house.

The interview was aided by three factors: I looked like one of their Italian daughters-in-law as Mrs. Bana commented; my parents, especially my father, were immigrants; my father did not have much education, either, just as Mr. Banas admitted to only “three winters” of schooling.


The feat of the Assumption is on August 15. In Slovak it is called Shersi Pitnasti. The custom for Polish people is to pick any kind of flowers or greens from the garden such as dill, onions, peonies, daisies, or gladiolas. The selection is supposed to be mixed. They are taken to the church, and the priests decorate the alter and Holy Mother with these bunches. These are blessed at church. Mr. and Mrs. Banas brought the bunch up to the alter, knelt down, and two priests prayed for them. The greens are left in church until the priest blesses them on August 15. Then they are taken back and put in the garden between the leaves of cabbage plants in order to dry. This blessed bunch, after it dries, is used when you have a sore throat. It is burnt in a dish and smokes the throat, “Let the smoke go on the throat.” This is supposed to cure it, they say.

I mentioned pills and medicine that were prescribed in Europe. She said that when saw was in Europe she never saw a doctor. Then, “When I came over here, I remember I was very sick one time, which I had my first period. I was bleeding, bleeding, but I didn’t know what it was. I was afraid to tell anyone because I thought I was the only one to have it. I put rugs on myself, pin in front, so bleeding don’t go through the dress. My boarding lady could tell something was wrong. She ask, ‘what’s wrong?’, but I was afraid to tell. She wanted to examine me, but I was afraid to tell her what was wrong.” Then when I was working, I came back and lay down on the bed and fell asleep. She came and examine me – I was asleep; I didn’t know – and she find out what was wrong. When I was wake up, she was laughing and happy; said she was glad for me. She had already three children, so she knew what is was. She told me every lady had that bleeding, that is was nothing to worry about that every month they had this.” “So you never had a period until then?” “No.” She was 17 and a half at the time. “In Europe they are strict. My mother was strict; she never told me about. She has (several) nine (?) children, but I never knew where they came from. I hear crying, crying; there was another child. When I ask,”Where they come from?“, she say,”The midwife bring them in her suitcase.” I was so dumb. I didn’t know where come from. I believe.” “You never find out till you were married?” “Even after I was married, I didn’t know. I had boarders. They were sitting in the kitchen playing cards, and I had big here, (indicates abdomen with both hands) and I complain of core back. My back hurt. They were laughing, laughing. They say they are going to take a rope and pull it out. They


knew what was, “Take a rope and pull it out’.” She never knew what marriage and sex were about till she married. She didn’t know what to expect. “I thought,”Married, you get married and that’s it.” I was twenty-one when I got married. My husband John was two years younger. He was nineteen.” “And did he know about it?” “No, he didn’t know either. I didn’t know until after I had baby.” “So you didn’t know about sex until you were married?” “No.” “Did you enjoy it; I mean, was it enjoyable?” “Yeah! I had four children with my husband. Yeah.”


[map of Shandy Street Houses]


Cook meat (pork, spare ribs, pork chops, pork butt) by putting it on the stove in a pot with enough water to cover. Add split peas, salt, and pepper and cover. Cook for no more than two hours until well done. When the meat is almost done, put in sauerkraut to taste. You may also add cooked, finely cut, fresh cabbage. Use a half bag of peas.

Make zaprashka. Melt and brown butter, about three table-spoons heaping. Mix in some flour to form a paste and brown. Mix in some juice from meat and cook through. Pour on the meat.

She used to cook mostly chicken and roast beef for meals. For fried breaded chicken put eggs in a dish. Add some milk and beat. Use six chicken legs. Dip the legs in the eggs. Roll in breadcrumbs.

Melt Crisco to grease the frying pan about a fourth or half an inch, and fry. Fry until brown on both sides. This can also be put in the oven and roasted. It’s done usually in one hour.

Potatoes and cabbage:

Boil potatoes till cooked. Drain. They may be served plain or mashed with butter and milk.

Cook cabbage by cutting it up and boiling till soft. Drain. Serve with potatoes. Can put zaprashka on cabbage.

[More recipes listed]


Angela Varesano 8/9/72 Aniella Banes

Her husband likes it baked in raw, dryed cabbage leaves in the oven so they get cooked. You dry the leaves by leaving them in the sun.

Sour milk and potatoes: Boil potatoes. Cut up with or without peeling. (They say the skin has good vitamins.) Serve with sour milk or butter milk. This was a common meal here and in Europe.

When she was married, she didn’t know how to cook at all. She learned to cook from ladies she boarded with in the boarding house where she and her first husband were boarding. She used to watch them prepare food for meals and learned from watching.

Chow-Chow Cut up in slices, raw tomatoes, green cauliflower cabbage cucumber sweet pepper onions Put them in a big crock or pot. Salt it and let it stand overnight, covered by a cloth. Next day take the vegetables from the juice and drain. Cook in a pot with some water, vinegar to tase, sugar, mus tard, and whole red pepper balls or cayenne to taste. Cook till it’s soft to your taste, about fifteen to twenty minutes. Put in washed jars. Seal jars and store in cellar.

Canned mushroom (potpinki): Wash well. Cook in water. Wash. When cooled, put in jar with water to fill and one teaspoon salt in each jar (pin jar). Put the lid on and boil four hours in a ganning pot covered with water. Cool and store in cellar.


We went to get huckleberries and swampberries. He drove his wife and me to a coal dirt road outside of Eckley off the Highland Road. She was dressed in an old dress, old ankle-high boots, and had a babushka of cloth wrapped about her head and tied on the top hear the forehead. Mr. Banas had on overalls, rubber boots, and a cloth cap. They brought a pail for blueberries made of a two-pound coffee can with a wire handle through it.

[Drawing of coffee can]

We walked along the dirt road (coal dirt) while he looked for the berries bushes on the sides of the road. The berries were green. This he said was because of the recent late cold which prevented many berries from growing. He stopped at a large red topper mushroom and cut off the mushroom at the bottom of the step, leaving the stump in the ground. He passed up another one that look similar to the red topper. He said that when you see it had a silvery top, you know it’s the wrong one. The mushrooms he looked for under the birch trees cluster where green moss was growing and dead bitch leaves lay all around. When I wasn’t with him, he picked one he called golu?pki, a golden-brown colored mushroom with an off0white stem and a white accordion-pleated under belly.

I mentioned that I visited the Kutztown Festival and I met a man who knew about herbs. He told me that a plant with brown leaves, broadleaf buckhorn, which I showed her. This is good for mosquito bites. She recognized the plant which she knew how to use from Europe. She said they were food for boils. “You put the leaf on the boil, put piece of cloth over it, and that will draw the pus out, the white stuff out.” She said she used it herself on a boil on her should and on her neck, when she was young and got lots of boils.


The supper on Christmas Eve was called Holy Supper and had special foods. In Europe they made twelve things including mushrooms, rice, cabbage, bogvite and yagle. The supper started at 6:00PM. It began with a serving of oplatld, a thin, unleavened bread. It was also called “holy bread”. A piece of break would be broken off and eaten. The one offering the bread would wish good luck. For example, to a girl, the one offering the bread would wish her a happy marriage. The sharing of this bread with everyone in the house was a symbol of unity. It was bought every year from the church.

There are supposed to be twelve dishes or different foods on the table, one served after the other. Afterwards, someone with good health goes to the creek for water and brings it back. It’s supposed to represent the wine used in mass. Each member of the family would drink some. Then all would wash up and get ready for mass at midnight.

The next day they would go to church again. They would then celebrate by eating and drinking, and they prayed to God that all the members of the family would be around and in good health for the next Christmas.


A. Varen. inter. J. Banas -23- 8/23/71 Tape 29

JB: I forgot

 AV: How about the ceiling, ceiling was just like other ceiling they have some kind of sheet-iron

 AV: The stable [underlined] and chicken coop [underlined] mentioned by Mr. Banas is located at the end of the boardwalk in their present yard it has, about 10 ft. high with a gable roof and 2 windows and a door facing the boardwalk and it has red shingles on the side.

Now interviewing Helen Fedorsha

 HF: Machella’s [underlined] had a bake oven and Sennicks [underlined]. Mrs. Sennick had a big bake oven and I think up here the Sherman’s had one, there was either a bake oven or an outside cellar I don’t know which

 AV: Shermans

 HF: Yes, right across from Mrs. Timko’s that house was torn down well now those 2 I do know, Mrs. Sennick and Mrs. Machella they had big bake ovens because Mrs. Sennick always had a large family [underlined] and Mrs. Machella [underlined] she didn’t have such a large family but she had an awful [underlined] lot of boarders because anyone that came and got a job in the strippng and was worried where they were going to board they would take the job if they didn’t know where to stay well the stripping boss would send them all down to Machellas

 AV: Now what did this Machella’s bake oven [undelined] look like

 HF: Well I was telling you already how I could picture it I can’t picture it exactly Angel because I wasn’t that old things like that wouldn’t have interested me but I do know it was made out of brick then there was a big opening now where the logs went, they must have gone in the back somewhere and then there was a heavy iron sheet, a heavy sheet of iron that was down and that’s where she used

Contributions Message

Camille Westmont, Avery Ohliger, Valerie Williams, Sophia Higgs and Rachel Nottingham Miller