Hello Reddit! My great-granddaughter is here typing my answers to these questions, so ask away! I'll try to answer as many as I can, but there are some things that I don't remember very well.

I was born in 1914 in a house in Chicago. We lived in a neighborhood we called "Back of the Yards", and my family members worked in the nearby stockyards. When the Prohibition started (and the Depression followed), I helped my mother make and sell bootlegged whiskey called "hooch" from our house to make money for our family. I also remember a little about the "Century of Progress" World's Fair that was in Chicago in the 1930's! I have traveled all over the world, started a family, and found the time to retire at the age of 96. Ask me anything!

PROOF: http://imgur.com/rMFd4I6

EDIT: HI GUYS! Sorry we've been out, my great-grandma went out for a quick shopping break, because we thought we'd have a little while until there were more questions; but this blew up faster than we thought! She'll be home soon, and we'll answer your questions by tonight!

EDIT2: I'll try to answer some of your questions until she gets back, I know a lot from stories she's told and also from an interview I did with her a few years ago. I'll elaborate more with her answers.

EDIT3: Sorry for the delays in getting her answers. We're answering these as fast as we can, please stay patient with us! We'll do more tonight, and she said she'd like to answer more later in the week if we can get to it, so we'll try to respond to as many as we can within the next few hours and days. Thank you for your patience this far!

EDIT4: Thanks everyone! We tried to get to as many as we could, but we have a big day tomorrow and want to be done early. We'll come back to it in the coming days (and maybe weeks, if we get interested again), so keep checking for an answer! She had a great time, thanks for all of your great questions!

UPDATE: Thank you all for making this successful! I was contacted yesterday by a writer from the Huffington Post to let us know that she had done a write up of this AMA! We're here to answer a few more questions that you guys have sent, thank you again so much for all of your questions and feedback!

UPDATE 2: http://imgur.com/a/AYq6R we put together a picture album across her life, check it out!

Comments: 1625 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

csbrown831032 karma

Having witnessed our government and social change for so long, have there been any changes in direction that were a surprise? Are there things you wish you had seen the US do differently?


GG_Louise310 karma

I don't think anything was a surprise, I think everything was something that was to be expected. I think the immigration situation in the past should have been handled differently, and our Prohibition distracted us from the problems boiling up in Europe, so we weren't prepared for what happened there in the years that followed.

69ingJamesFranco725 karma

In your opinion, what has been the greatest, or most fascinating, invention, innovation, etc, made in your lifetime?

GG_Louise1422 karma

I think it's everything that has happened in the medical field (advancements and medicines).

EDIT: expanding on it. My husband had an appendectomy and he was in the hospital from January to June. His brother was only in for a week. If he had had that these days, he might've been home the next day.

In the 20s, many health services didn't exist. Diseases would be rampant in many sections of the city, and the health inspector would put up a poster on your door stating that there was a contagious disease in the house. Many kids caught things at school. Out of our family of 5 children, 4 of us had diphtheria, and one of my sisters died, and we were quarantined in our house for about 3 weeks. Now, they have shots for babies to prevent it. At a funeral, you could only visit a body once through visitation and through a glass wall, because they were afraid you would catch the disease if you got too close. And my mother had to ride alone in the car, and she was not permitted to leave the car at the cemetery because they were afraid she would catch it. However, our minister brought her out against their orders to visit the grave.

EDIT: Thank you for the gold!

BitOCrumpet530 karma

What kinds of food did you eat on a daily basis, especially during the Depression? Is there anything you remember especially fondly or are happy to never eat again? What was a real treat? We have so much excess and choice these days.

GG_Louise541 karma

During the Depression, I ate bread and butter sandwiches, with sugar on it as a treat. I worked in the school cafeteria so my siblings could get free meals.

OgGorrilaKing465 karma

What was it like pre-prohibition? As in were people talking about it a lot? Was there much opposition amongst the public or politicians?

GG_Louise774 karma

People were talking about it in the late 20s and of course some of it was political. I think the public wasn't much aware of it, and it became a problem more in the 30s. It was an extremely political move, and communication was different back then so there was a lot of hearsay or gossip. Different communities and areas of the country handled it differently. I think the Depression had a great deal to do with the Prohibition, people became millionaires. Every community had knowledge of where to get liquor, and it was really a lifestyle.

iPlunder410 karma

What is the trick to looking so young for being 99? That's incredible.

GG_Louise539 karma

I never smoked, and I get out of bed and put my feet on the floor every morning!

GG_Louise511 karma

My response (the great-granddaughter): she stays extremely active, walking wherever she can (with a walker or cane if it's very far). She also likes to drink a Southern Comfort Manhattan when she can :)

nudemanonbike308 karma

This is a note to the great-grand daughter:

I very strongly recommend recording this session, or picking a few of your favorite questions and recording those.

My grandmother passed away a few years back and it was so amazingly nice to be able to go and re-watch the video I had taken for a school project. All my relatives watched it at the funeral, too, and learned some things they would have never thought to ask.

GG_Louise233 karma

Thanks for the tip! I recorded an interview a few years ago when I interviewed her for a class project, but I would like to remember this too.

straight_psyche253 karma

Thanks for doing this IAma!

I have two questions.

1) What were the risks involved in (I assume) small-scale bootlegging in a city such as Chicago?

2) Can you recommend any music of the 20's and 30's? Did you have any favorite songs?

GG_Louise218 karma

1) There weren't many risks for us, the Al Capone gang would handle the problems. We weren't ever in danger, because we were a family and they didn't want to mess with that. They mostly focused on the big shot brewers.

2) Al Jolson was a good one, my husband and I would go dancing and that music was good. I like the song "It's 3 o'clock in the morning"!

astroNerf82 karma

It's 3 o'clock in the morning

Link for the lazy.

GG_Louise60 karma

Thank you for this! I'll show it to her, I think she'll love it!

MasterRoshii26 karma

OP did a huge AMA and only answered three questions...... really?

straight_psyche133 karma

After two hours she had only received 2 questions. I imagine they left the Iama slightly disappointed and will catch up once the great-granddaughter finds it on the front page.

GG_Louise251 karma


She went out on a quick shopping trip with my grandma, and I went to Wal-Mart. I stopped for a cup of coffee and I checked my Reddit app and found this on the front page, and I got home as fast as I could. She'll be back soon! Sorry for the wait!

mrstody8 karma

G Grandma is hardcore

*EDIT: Or is it just Grandma?

GG_Louise24 karma

We call her GG for "great-grandma" :)

ilikezeldaalot249 karma

All political questions aside, who do you think was the best President of your lifetime?

GG_Louise231 karma

In an earlier question, she answered that her favorite president was John F Kennedy

BillDauterive234 karma

What were you doing when you heard John F Kennedy was shot?

GG_Louise293 karma

I was at work at our church, on our way out to lunch, and we heard it on the radio. We didn't go out to lunch, we stopped and watched what unfolded on the TV.

Eaglesfan427205 karma

This might sound like an odd question, but how has the food you've eaten changed over the course of your life? Like for instance what was the kind of food you ate as a child compared to say the 50's etc?

GG_Louise240 karma

You can get food so much faster these days, you used to have to wait to eat, and take time with your meals. The food itself is different, when I was young we didn't have much, so we ate whatever was put in front of you when something was put in front of you at all. We ate meat right away because we didn't have refrigerators, and usually we ate bread and butter, and most of our food at the school with lunch because I worked in the cafeteria and got our siblings lunches for free that way. My husband was a butcher, and we'd be lucky because we'd have meat fairly often as well as dented cans from the grocery store he was a butcher in. I started traveling in the 60s and 70s, and eating food from all over the world I realized how lucky I was to have the food I did back at home. In the 80s and 90s is when the fast food came about, and easy meals made it so there wasn't much family time around a meal.

Enth3186 karma

How did you gain immortality?

GG_Louise277 karma

She laughed at that and said "ooohhh my goodness!"

HarkASquirrel172 karma

Of all the decades you have lived through, if you could go back and live in one again, which one would it be and why?

Thank you for doing this AMA!

GG_Louise517 karma

The late 40s and early 50s, because the war was over, the country was prospering, and women were finding jobs. I was also newly married and had 2 children. :)

smartalec98171 karma

Retire at 96? What were your careers throughout your life?

GG_Louise351 karma

First, I changed my baptismal certificate so that I could start working at the age of 12 after my father was killed by a streetcar. My mother and I agreed that I would work so that my siblings could continue in school. I changed my certificate to say I was 14. My first job was in the school cafeteria, where my siblings and I could eat a free lunch, sometimes it was our only food for the day.

Then I worked at a Woolworth's counter, and then I was hired to work in the Chrsitian Education program, and then became program coordinator for the church itself. I worked there for 65 years, and I retired at 96!


  1. Did you ever witness any mafia related crimes during prohibition?
  2. Was it easy to tell which places had a speakeasy?
  3. How many customers would your family serve a day?
  4. Were any of the customers police officers or politicians?

Thank you for your time.

GG_Louise161 karma

  1. My father was killed by a car driven by a man from the Al Capone jury.
  2. Ooohhhhhh yes. You had to go around to the back and go through an alley to get in, and they were always busy on Friday nights, because that was pay day. Saturday nights were more social, but the big drinking might was Friday.
  3. We would sell to maybe 20 or so people on a Friday, and we didn't sell during the week.
  4. We had a few politicians, no police officers.

ebrall160 karma

What is your earliest childhood memory?

GG_Louise423 karma

My father took me to see the World War I veterans return home in a parade in Chicago.

1llegalsm1le138 karma

As someone who has lived through the Great Depression, are you ever sickened by the "throwaway culture" in the US today? Also, who was your favorite president and why?

GG_Louise145 karma

Her favorite president was John F Kennedy, I'll get back with the other answer when she gets home.

EDIT: Oh absolutely. We waste so much, when there could come a time when we need all we can get.

thatldopig133 karma

No comments on the Greendale t shirt!? Go Human Beings!

GG_Louise218 karma

E Pluribus Anus!

Darcimay133 karma

What was the most touching act of human kindness you witnessed and have remembered all these years later?

GG_Louise272 karma

I think in 1926, when there was a diphtheria in our neighborhood and my younger sister died when we were all sick and quarantined, the only way we had a visitation was at the contagious hospital and you could see her in her coffin behind a glass wall. When we arrived at the cemetery, a health official told my mother she couldn't leave the car to visit the grave. Our pastor ignored him and opened the car door to let her out to see my sister at the gravesite. The official was very upset, but it didn't bother our pastor one bit.

SpecialCake132 karma

Do you remember any stories that YOUR elders told YOU when you were young that made you think "Wow, times have changed."?

GG_Louise180 karma

My grandparents had a brewery in Indiana, so I was surprised that alcohol had been legal (I only really knew of a time of Prohibition!)

Fuzzy_Blumpkins126 karma

When you thought about what the future would be like, what did you think would happen? Like in 1950, what did you think the year 2000 would be like, as far as culture, politics, technology, etc.

GG_Louise100 karma

I thought there would be a lot of technological advancement, and there has been. Especially medicine, I think those advancements are the most interesting to me.

ecominded124 karma

Who has been your favorite President?

As an American Studies major, the 1950s was my favorite period in American History to study. Do you have any stories from the 50's related to the McCarthy era/communist fears in our country?

GG_Louise141 karma

John F Kennedy was her favorite president. EDIT(continuing answer): The communist problems didn't reach us. Television was new in our culture, and many keynote speakers would voice their own opinion, and the people who listened would hear what they wanted to, so nothing seemed really threatening to us.

psych_nerd122 karma

Kind of a silly question, but do you have any big/exciting plans for your 100th birthday? :)

GG_Louise211 karma

From her: No, but everyone else does!

GG_Louise192 karma

We want to get her interviewed on the news, and we plan on inviting all of her family and friends to celebrate at the church she attends every Sunday. Thanks for your question!

Aimarty107 karma

What, if anything, would you like to change today in 2013 that would reflect the way things were back 50-60 years ago?

GG_Louise248 karma

Nothing really, I think things are better now.

ashinnie56103 karma

Living through the Great Depression, how does it compare with living through harsh economic times now?

GG_Louise202 karma

When my parents moved from Indiana, they were poor to begin with, so the transition into the Great Depression wasn't too difficult. It hit the families with money harder than it hit us. I'm used to making do with what I have, and I'm not in a bad position at the moment. I've been careful with spending and saving all my life, and I always have what I need.

EDIT: Wow, thanks for the gold you guys! Now, what to do with it...

iNebulaDragon97 karma

Hello, Louise! You said you've seen a lot of the world. What place have you enjoyed the most?

GG_Louise298 karma

I've been to every European country, and seen all 50 states, but I very much enjoyed Shanghai and the Canadian Rockies(the best way to see them is by train)!

UncleTrapspringer96 karma

What was it like when the United States announced their entrance to world war 2? Was it fearful or was there a sense of pride?

Also thanks for doing this, its great to hear individual accounts of history :)

GG_Louise85 karma

I was fearful, but I think the rest of the country was divided.

CRWelshy94 karma

What is your favorite food/dish that didn't exist 60 years ago?

GG_Louise95 karma

I think the cultural background of our immigrants has changed our food- we get more foreign foods that I enjoy the most.

anklereddit88 karma

Being 99 and switched on enough to do an AMA is quite the feat. I don't have a question, I just wanted to offer my appreciation of the fact that you obviously keep your mind in good order.

Also, can I have a bottle of hooch?

GG_Louise165 karma

If you go through the alleys in back of the yards and in the places where empty parks were, you'll find where I left the mash (the leftover stuff after the hooch was made), because no one questions a child with a bucket to dump out. Maybe there's some left and you can make your own! :)

KaliMau72 karma

I don't really have a question, just wanted to express my admiration for your life. Your lifetime has seen so many advancements in technology and thought. Thank you for sharing with everyone!

GG_Louise57 karma

Thank you!

jamasiel67 karma

Were there any times you and/or your family were in direct danger due to law enforcement, (violent) criminals or the process of making the hooch itself?

GG_Louise130 karma

Earlier I said my father was killed by a car driven by a member of a jury trying to convict Al Capone. The police tried to make sure nothing would get in the way of a conviction, so they gave us a settlement to make sure that the trial against Capone could continue, because they had had problems with previous cases against him.

zuesk13462 karma

were female bootleggers common? if not, how did your mother make her way into a male run underground?

GG_Louise69 karma

There were really not that many female bootleggers. We got through it by sheer luck! She had known how to do it from a previous business in Indiana, when it had been legal, but we got lucky as far as selling it went.

7hammers61 karma

Were you happier living in 1920-1960 or 1961-now quality of life wise

GG_Louise76 karma

1961-now. It's just a better time in general.

muffinsforpluto61 karma

What was your favorite decade[s] for fashion?

GG_Louise99 karma

The 40s and 50s!

lauraisawesome60 karma

How different has the future turned out to be in comparison to what you thought it would be like as a little girl?

GG_Louise156 karma

The moon landing was a huge deal. I never thought I'd live to see that!

TheAmiableMedic56 karma

Did you used to dance? What were the dance halls like? My grandparents used to amaze me with stories of meeting each other in dance halls and such.

GG_Louise75 karma

Yes. Every community had a dance hall, and my dancing experience goes back to the Charleston. Dances were social events on the weekends, and there were famous ballrooms across the city. Our famous one on the south side was the Trianon.

RenlyTully51 karma

What do you think about the changing role of women in the US, both at work and at home? Are there any opportunities you wanted to have that weren't available to you as a woman?

GG_Louise56 karma

World War II really opened the door for employment, to take some positions that had previously only been for men. For me, I didn't struggle much because of the opportunities presented after World War II.

TheLastPanicMoon51 karma

As a seller of bootlegged alcohol, did your family have any interaction and/or fear of organized crime organizations?

GG_Louise75 karma

There wasn't really much fear. We knew who the neighborhood gangs were and that we were to stay away from that lifestyle, but we also knew that when there was a problem, we were to go to the gang leaders for help. I didn't have too much interaction with them.

malcontented41 karma

Did you know your grandparents or great grandparents? What years were they born? Where?

GG_Louise43 karma

My paternal grandparents were from Louisville, Kentucky, my maternal grandparents were from Ferdinand, Indiana. I knew my maternal grandmother, but not my father's grandparents.

powerandbulk29 karma

Cubs or Sox?

GG_Louise46 karma

Sox of course!

8646928 karma

How was downtown Chicago back then? What did you do for fun?

GG_Louise54 karma

Downtown Chicago wasn't exactly the fun area. For fun, we would go to White City or Riverview park or to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

ziggyboom226 karma

Just 2 replies. Great.

GG_Louise24 karma

We didn't think this would blow up as big as it did, so we each took a quick shopping break. I rushed home when I saw this on the front page, and she'll be back soon. I'll try to answer some of these other questions in the meantime. Sorry!

BongeSpobPareSquants25 karma


GG_Louise38 karma

Not a musical artist, but I like the old actor Edmond O'Brien! I can't really pick a favorite artist, I like a variety. It's not that I didn't like it, but I didn't appreciate it, because it wasn't really my style.