Delores Schultz (Dolly to some and Choody to others) was my paternal grandmother.
Katherine Dolores VilleMonte Schultz
By George Schultz
My mother was born January 11, 1911, in Minnesota. She passed away June 10, 1988, in Detroit.
Her childhood – a goodly portion of it, anyway – was spent in Minnesota. I believe she was born in Minneapolis and grew up in Winona – 90-miles away. She had aunts and uncles in both cities, and – dang me – I’d never pinned her down much on her childhood. Her recollections – the only ones that she’d shared with me – were of how cold it was up there, and how deep the snow was. “Fanny-deep!”
We drove up to Minnesota one time, in Pop’s 1933 Plymouth. I was three-years-old. We visited both towns – but I remember very little about the trip.
Grandma and Grandpa Ville Monte moved to Detroit, when she was growing up. They lived in a two-family flat on Webb Street, a-block-and-a-half from Dexter. Coincidentally, Carmen and I moved into a two-family flat in the same block – only across the street. Both dwellings were laid out in the exact same manner – although the rooms in the Ville Monte flat were a good deal larger than ours. Dave was only a few months old when we made that move, in 1955. Doug and Dan were born when we lived on Webb.
“Choody” met and married Bernard Carl Schultz in, I believe, 1929. Although she didn’t like the cottage at Runyan Lake, she and Bernie spent their honeymoon there. I was born in December of 1931 and my sister, Diane, burst upon the scene in March of 1939.
Back in the late-twenties and early-thirties, when there were not many working mothers, “Choody” was in the labor force – as a secretary/bookkeeper. At the height of the depression, she was making a robust $21.00 a week and Bernie was hauling in a glorious $29.00 a week. They were exceptionally well off! She told me that they were always moving – because they’d find an “even more charming place … at a better rental figure”. I think that they moved two or three times a year, back then.
They found wonderful bargains in furniture at the many, many bankruptcy sales. Their bedroom set was the most gorgeous set of furniture I’ve ever seen. To this day. They bought a monster dining room set. Too big for any of the places in which we lived.
The reason they bought my “Dream House” on Grandmont – a block from West Chicago – was because it featured the only dining room they’d come across, that was large enough to accommodate the immense set. When – sadly – we moved to the little house on Penrod, in 1939, they sold the set and bought a much smaller table-and-chairs set for the little dinette in the new house.
When my sister came along, my mother stopped working for Schaeffer & Dowling – attorneys-at-law – in the Guardian Building, in “Beautiful Downtown Detroit”. It is my memory – many-times faulty – that she did not go back to work until we’d moved from Penrod, in 1945 or 1946, to the “Haunted House” on Prairie.
Those were the final days of her marriage to my father. The family, at that point, was experiencing some financial difficulties. But – equally as significant, I believe – she missed not being a part of the work force. She went to work, at first, for Econite Company – a firm, which produced a putty-like product. It was not successful – although the company “hung in there” for a couple years. It is my memory that she was working for Econite, when she and my father separated, circa 1946 or 1947. I was 14 or 15 and Dee was 7 or 8, at the time.
Then began a string of other jobs. One was C.W. Van Ranst – an architectural firm in the Penobscot Building downtown.
My father was to have paid her $20.00 per week child support – but, “Pop” didn’t always come through. So, things were rather tight, financially.
Further, the neighborhood in which we lived was rife with young punk gangsters. Our house was broken into. The creeps ransacked the place and defecated all over the basement. The “Haunted House” was too big for us – and the neighborhood too “hairy”.
However, in 1948 and 1949, there was still a severe housing shortage in Detroit – a leftover from World War II, when the “Motor City” had been the “Arsenal of Democracy”. In order to get us out of the “Haunted House” – and into the one-bedroom apartment in Highland Park – she’d had to pay the owner of the building $250, under-the-table. That was a staggering amount in those days.
I think the happiest days of my childhood (outside of the few years that we lived in the “Dream House”) were spent in that apartment on Tyler Street – behind the Highland Park Post office. Part of it, I’m sure, was the relief at getting out of the “Haunted House”, on Prairie Street. Getting away from the gangsters over there.
It was then that I hung my mother’s nickname – “Choody” – on her. There were two radio personalities – whose show had run for over 20 years – named Joe Gentile and Ralph Binge. Their show was three hours of commercials. And everyone loved it. The guys would do “take-offs” of the popular radio shows of the day. One of them was Dr. Christian – wherein Jean Hersholt played a kindly old doctor, with a slight German accent. Binge, of course, accentuated the dialect. Dr. Christian’s secretary was “Judy Price”. When Binge would address “Judy” (who was Joe), it invariably came out “Choody”. One evening, at a family gathering, my mother said something to me – and I replied something like, “Now vait a minute dere, Choody”. It schtuck!
We lived in the apartment when I joined the Navy, July 12, 1949. My friends would tell anyone who’d listen that I was the only person they’d ever known who’d enlisted over a haircut.
I was delivering telegrams for Western Union at the time. Rode my bike 40 or 50 miles a day. It was hot. School was out and I was working 3 and 4 and (sometimes) 5 days a week. I kept threatening to get a “brush cut” – which came to be known as a “crew cut”. She forbade it. I was paying for my own haircuts, though, and kept threatening to get a “brush”. On the fateful morning, she warned me, “Don’t get a ‘brush cut’”.
I advised her not to worry – that I had only a dollar. A “brush” cost $1.25. Well, Bill Bell, my best friend, lent me a quarter. When “Choody” came in that night, she was livid! My memory – which sometimes resembles something out of The Marx Brothers – has her dropping the two sacks of groceries she was carrying. I doubt it – but, the image wouldn’t be far off the mark.
“Why don’t you join the Navy?” she asked. The next day I went down and joined. She wasn’t going to sign for me – but I managed to convince her that it would be the best thing for everybody. So, she went down to the Federal Building that Saturday and signed. Turned out, it was the best thing for everybody.
She lived in that apartment for about ten years. In 1955 or 1956, she moved four blocks away, to Third Street – across from the Highland Park High School/Junior College complex. Made it easier for my sister to attend the schools there. She lived in two other – much nicer – apartments, before buying her condominium on West Seven Mile.
Through those years, she’d worked for an amazing array of different employers: Milton-Griffith, Inc. was owned by Tommy Milton, the former race car driver, who, in those days was Chief Steward at the “Indy 500” race. (She worked for Tommy when I enlisted.) Elias Epps & Company processed hops for Pfeiffer’s Beer, in Detroit. Fischer’s Clothes, in the Fisher Building in mid-town Detroit, was an exclusive men’s shop. Dee first began working for her then. Ingleside Tools produced – well – tools. Dee worked for her there too.
There came a time of quite severe unemployment – before she landed a very lucrative position at Industrial Sling & Cable. Another venue in which my sister worked for her. It was at that point that she changed her name from Schultz – back to Ville Monte. Through her generous salary – and even-more-generous profit-sharing plan – she was able to salt away some serious bucks, buy her condo, and retire rather comfortably.
She loved her condo. She enjoyed her retirement. She’d always wanted to “sleep till noon”. God bless her, that’s exactly what she did – virtually every day of her retirement.
Unfortunately, in the winter of 1987/1988, she suffered a stroke. Was never to see her beloved condo again. Although she coped, fairly well, with the results of the stroke, she developed lung cancer – and passed away in June, of 1988.
Katherine Dolores VilleMonte Schultz
By Carmen Schultz
Duane gave my mother in law the nickname “Choody”, years and years before I met her so there was no confusion on what I should call her when Duane and I married. She much preferred her nickname to Mother or Dolores (her given name was Katherine Dolores VilleMonte, then Schultz, and finally VilleMonte again) so things were made easier and much less complicated. In fact when the kids were born, she wanted to be called Choody instead of grandma. Duane had been given the choice of Choody coming down for our wedding or her buying new furniture and giving us her old. Since Duane was surprising me with an apartment instead of living with Choody. He was pleased that he could fill the said apartment with her old but well kept furniture. It truly was a pleasant surprise as I had been concerned about moving in with my mother in law.
The year before Choody had given Duane her engagement ring and wedding band to give to me as my engagement ring and wedding band. She knew he was coming to Brownsville to ask me to marry him. I loved that ring. Choody was very serious about her looks and worked hard to keep herself in perfect condition. She dressed beautifully in the latest styles and never appeared outside her apartment unless she was beautifully dressed and with her makeup just so. I was from a small town where we weren’t that concerned about how we looked or what we wore. She worked hard, but enjoyed her evenings out and was always dressed just so. She always wore Taboo perfume. You could tell what room she had been in as the perfume lingered to remind you that she had been there.
On Sunday mornings we always went to Choodys for breakfast. We’d wake her up and make breakfast together. We’d sit around talking and enjoying one another’s company. I had come from a modest family where you did not leave your room without a robe on in the morning, and you were always dressed before meeting anyone or going to breakfast. It was a shock to me when Choody would walk out without a stitch on. This was normal for their family and no one thought anything of it, but being raised as I was and a new wife at that, I was very uncomfortable. To her credit, when Duane told her how I felt, she started coming out dressed.
The only time I did not see Choody all dressed up when she went out was the day our son David was born. Choody had told us that she wanted to go to the hospital with us when the baby was born so, Duane called her when I started having labor pains and we drove over to pick her up on the way to the hospital. Both Duane and I had to laugh to see her. She had no make up on, had just slapped on a blouse and slacks and she was smoking like a chimney. I don’t know who was more nervous, her, Duane or I.
After we had several children, our visits were less frequent. Duane would go over to see Choody weekly by himself while I stayed home with the children. I missed not getting out and being with other people. Once in a while we would all make it over together. When that happened Choody would always wait until we were going to leave and than give each of the kids a piece of chocolate. She would laugh saying better the candy in our car than in her apartment.
Choody, worked hard, raised her two children by herself, gave them a good education and seemed to enjoy her life. She was outspoken to a fault at times, but SHE HAD STYLE and was an interesting person.