Maxine H.'s Story

Working Hard to Survive the Great Depression

When Maxine H.'s family won money in a Cleveland church raffle in 1940, they used it to move back to her birthplace in Meadville, Pa. They had trouble finding a moving company, so the family borrowed a fruit truck to transport its belongings.

Maxine always had a strong affinity for her home in the Midwest. She was born in Meadville in 1928, and the family moved to Cleveland in 1933 while her father William was trying to find work during the Great Depression. Shortly after they arrived in Cleveland, her father died from pneumonia. Her mother, Catherine, received a widow's pension and became a cook in a Cleveland department store to provide for her three daughters: Maxine, Janet and Gloria.
Still, her mother's income wasn't enough and the family struggled to make ends meet. Maxine and her sisters made weekly treks with their little red wagon to fetch government-issued rations. As a teenager, she took on one of her more interesting jobs on a farm in Meadville. She was a "Jill of All Trades" helping the farmers tend to the garden, cook for the laborers and clean the house. 

While the Depression ended, its impression on Maxine did not. She worked hard throughout her life. From clerical work at the Meadville newspaper as a young adult to a career as a key punch operator for the Norfolk Southern Railroad in Cleveland, Maxine often put in extra hours and holiday shifts to get the job done.

Strong Bonds with Her Two Girlfriends and Her Niece

After spending her childhood in Meadville, she decided to move permanently to Cleveland in the 1950s. In the big city she developed a good social circle, including Shirley and Jillian, two of her closest friends. The trio would enjoy nights out on the town, going to the latest movies and enjoying meals at restaurants. 
Maxine had equally strong connections with her family and was especially close with her sister, Janet. In the 1960s Maxine would spend time with Janet and her children during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maxine's niece, Marcia, remembers those times fondly. "It was a big deal," Marcia recalls about Holidays with Maxine. "It was a big thing to ride the bus with my aunt to downtown Cleveland and shop at Higbee's, the department store. At Christmas time, I remember the animated window displays and I remember she took me to the 10th floor where you could go shopping for your parents."

Janet and Maxine enjoyed baking together and for each other during the holidays. Keeping with their mother's Central European heritage, the daughters would bake Czech specialities.

In her 90's, Maxine has retained her strong sweet tooth and continues to enjoy all kinds of candy, pies, cookies and sweets.When she was alone, Maxine enjoyed reading murder mysteries and watching old television sitcoms, as she still does today at Brookdale. She never ventured far away from the Midwest for trips; home was always her preferred vacation spot.