Oral History
The following oral histories are the stories of the people who worked in Bridgeport, Connecticut, over the past century.  Every decade is represented.  We have included an audio portion for some of those interviewed and will continue to add audio as more becomes available.  All oral histories have full written transcripts.  Just click on a name to listen and read the histories of Bridgeport's workers over the past century!
John Arcudi
Born: 1921
Occupation: Lawyer
Mr. Arcudi discusses growing up in an Italian-American community in Saugatuck (Westport), Connecticut where his parents owned and operated a grocery store. He describes life as a scholarship student at Yale University in the late 1930's and early 1940's where he studied economics and Italian literature. Arcudi also studied at Yale Law School both before and after he served in the US Army from 1942-45 in WWII as an Intelligence Officer where he worked directly under General George S. Patton and was privy to the planning of the D-Day invasion. Arcudi established a general law practice in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but early on in his career he became heavily involved in labor issues and court cases surrounding various labor unions such as the I.G.W., U.A.W. and the I.U.E. He was well acquainted with many of the leading labor leaders active in Connecticut during the 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's and describes the relationships between various labor groups and their sometimes competing goals. Arcudi also took on many immigration and civil rights cases throughout his legal career. In 1955 he was appointed Unemployment Compensation Commissioner by then Gov. Abraham A. Ribicoff. In 1975 he was appointed Workers Compensation Commissioner by then Gov. Ella Grasso. In 1977 he became Chairman of the Board of Compensation Commissioners for the State of CT. As Chairman, he codified all the Compensation laws for the state, and created the intra-agency appeals process. His work was a model for Worker’s Comp Laws and was adopted by numerous states outside of CT. Finally, Mr. Arcudi discusses his involvement in numerous cultural and community organizations in Bridgeport including the International Institute, Trinacria Society, Italian-American Community Center, Columbus Day Parade and Committee, and the Bridgeport Public Library Board which he chaired for many years.
Audio

  • laborLawPractice;WorkWithAFL,MMS,IUE,AndILGW.mp3

  • part1_EarlyLifeInSaugatuck;ItalianAmericanFamily;TheDepression.mp3

  • part10_ItalianAmericanOrganizationsInBridgeport.mp3

  • part2_YaleUnivInThe1930SAnd1940S;Family.mp3

  • part3_WWIIServiceWithSHAEFAndGeneralPatton.mp3

  • part4_DecisionToGoToLawSchool;FamilyInfluences.mp3

  • part5_LawPracticeInBridgeport;EarlyWorkWithUnions;AmericanVeteransCommittee(AVC).mp3

  • part6_PoliticalInfluencesAtYaleAndHome.mp3

  • part7a_UnemploymentCompensationCommission.mp3

  • part8_ImmigrationLawPractice.mp3

Transcripts in PDF Format
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Angela Baldino
Born: 1917
Occupation: Seamstress
Mrs. Angela Baldino discusses her childhood growing up on Sherman Street on Bridgeport's East Side as part of an extended Italian-American family. Her family lived near St. Mary's Church, Rectory, and School as well as the Order of the Sisters of Mercy which were an integral part of the neighborhood and served many families of diverse backgrounds. Mrs. Baldino describes the many businesses that operated in her East Side neighborhood as well as her grandfather's, a shoe repair and dry goods/candy store. Angela Baldino first worked at the Bridgeport Dress Shop as a draper and then in school cafeterias for the Bridgeport Board of Education for over twenty years. She and her husband raised their family on Bridgeport's North End.
Audio

  • baldino.mp3

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Robert Factor
Born: 1921
Occupation: Business Owner
Mr. Factor discusses his early life at Maplewood school and in his neighborhood on the West Side of Bridgeport. He attended Clark University both before and after WWII and majored in English literature and served in the Army and Air Force as a cryptographer. Mr. Factor's family owned and operated Universal Business Equipment, an office furniture and supply business that he joined and made his career in starting in the post war period. He describes innovations in office machines and furniture, the business climate for local companies during the post war era, and the different roles he and his father played in running the firm. In addition, Mr. Factor discusses his life long involvement in various community organizations and activities and his recollections of the Mayor Jasper McLevy administration.
Audio

  • part10WWIIServiceWithAirForceBombardmentCrew;GIBill.mp3

  • part1EarlyLifeAndFamily.mp3

  • part2UniversityAndWWIIService.mp3

  • part3PostWarBusinessClimate;TechnicalInnovationForProducts;ChangesInBridgeportOverTheDecades.mp3

  • part4GoingIntoPartnership;MrFactorSr.mp3

  • part5DevelopingAPoliticalPhilosophy.mp3

  • part6EmployeesAtUniversalBusinessEquipment.mp3

  • part7LifeAfterRetirement;InvolvmentInCommunityAndOrganizations.mp3

  • part8RecollectionsOfTheMcLevyAdministration.mp3

  • part9PerspectivesOnPovertyAndWelfare.mp3

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Hillard Bloom
Born:
Occupation: Business Owner
President of Tallmadge Brothers Oyster Company, President Hillard Bloom discusses his life long career in the oystering industry up and down the coast of Fairfield County. Bloom discusses his engagement in the industry over the years, the changes and requirements in technology used by oyster harvesters, and the importance of the Clean Water Act to the industry. Bloom also explains the licensing system, the difference between public and private beds, and the role of the "independents." He also describes the many capital improvements his firm has made over the years and the company's role in educating the public about oystering and Long Island Sound.
Audio

  • part1OysteringInCT;EarlyWork;CompanyHistory.mp3

  • part21950S;PollutionAndCleanWaterAct.mp3

  • part3PublicVsPrivateBeds;Licensing;MechanizedVsManualProcedures;HarborDevelopment.mp3

  • part4FamilyHistoryInOysterBusiness;AcquisitionOfTallmageBrothers.mp3

  • part5HarborActivity;Workforce;Neighborhood.mp3

  • part6MerchantMarineAct1934;BusinessImprovements;OysterFleet;WorkingWithThePublic.mp3

  • part7SteelPoint_HaborPlaceDevelopmentProject.mp3

  • part8BiggestThreatToOystering;RoleOfOrganizedLaborInHarbor.mp3

  • part9EatingOysters.mp3

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Gilberto Hernandez
Born: 1934
Occupation: Business owner; Avco-Union steward; Elected official, Public Works employee, City of Bridgeport
Mr. Hernandez describes coming to the U.S. from Puerto Rico and working in factory jobs as a very young man. Eventually, he trained as a machinist at AVCO and even became a Union Steward there and participated in the company's negotiations with the Johnson Administration during the Vietnam War. After his work in the aeronautics industry, he and his wife bought two Bridgeport based businesses, a bridal shop and a liquor store. Hernandez became involved in Bridgeport politics through his work as a City Council member, Democratic Town Committee member, and as an appointee to several mayoral administrations. He eventually served as a civil servant in the City's Public Works Department.
Audio

  • part1_EarlyLifeAndFamily.mp3

  • part2_EarlyWorkInBridgeportFactories.mp3

  • part3_AVCOMachinistAndTheUAWLocal1010StewardDuringVietnamWar;NegotiatingWithTheJohnsonAdministration.mp3

  • part4_Bridgeport’sEastSideDuringThe1950’s;BuildingOfI95AndDisplacementOfLatinoCommunity.mp3

  • part5_OwnershipOfBridgeportBusinesses;WNABSpanishLanguageRadio.mp3

  • part6_BridgeportPoliticalCareer–CityCouncilAndWorkingForMayorsBucci,Moran,AndGanim;PublicWorksPosition.mp3

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Edna Smith
Born: 1913
Occupation: General Electric; Domestic; Church Volunteer
Mrs. Smith discusses her youth in Milford, Connecticut, and living in Bridgeport's South End neighborhood, including in the Marina Village apartments, after she was married. Mrs. Smith speaks extensively about working at the General Electric Company where she was employed for over twenty years. The employees at G.E., the union, and company management are all topics of conversation. Mrs. Smith helped raise her granddaughter Michelle. She discusses her interactions with family, her volunteer work for her church and some of her travels. She was an eye witness to the 1938 Hurricane that destroyed much of Seaside Park.
Audio

  • part1Introduction,FamilyLife,EarlyWorkingLife.mp3

  • part2MarriedLife,WorkingForGE,ChurchAndNeighborhood.mp3

  • part3UnionAtGE,HusbandsWorkWithTeamstersAndCity.mp3

  • part4AtmosphereAtGeneralElectric,ChangingPopulationsInBridgeport,LivingOnTheEastEastEnd,HurricaneOf1938.mp3

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Emmett Johnson
Born: 1930
Occupation: Machinist; Salesman; Deliveryman
Mr. Johnson discusses being born in the Bahamas and moving to Bridgeport from Germantown, Pennsylvania, for work as a young man. He worked as a machinist, salesman, and delivery person for H.L. Canfield rubber Company, the Outlet Dress Shop, Leavitt's, Wonderbread, G.L. Lucas, W.S. Rockwell, and Carpenter Steel. Mr. Johnson also founded the South End Athletic Club for youth in the early 1950's. He met his wife, Gail, in Bridgeport. He discusses raising their five children, his love of work, and his membership in the Holy Tabernacle Church of Love.
Audio

  • part1EarlyLife,WorkingForHLCanfieldRubberCompany.mp3

  • part2BridgeportSSouthEnd,SouthEndAthleticClub,CourtshipWithGailJohnson.mp3

  • part3WorkingAtOutletDressShop,Leavitts,AndWonderbread.mp3

  • part4JobReTraining,WorkingAtGLLucas,CarpenterSteel,AndWSRockwell.mp3

  • part5ViewsOnTheValueOfFamily,Work,AndTheTeachingsOfHisChurch.mp3

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Frank Bridgeforth
Born: 1927
Occupation: Mechanic; Veteran - US Navy and US Air Force
Mr. Bridgeforth discusses his youth in the South End of Bridgeport, going to Prospect School, playing baseball and participating in the Boy Scouts. His service in the U.S. Navy and Air Force, travels with the military in East Asia, and his work as an auto mechanic are all primary topics.
Audio

  • part1Introduction.mp3

  • part2BaseballInBridgeportFB.mp3

  • part3SeasidePark,BoyScouts,WWIIScrapDrivesFB.mp3

  • part4NavalServiceWWIIFB.mp3

  • part5ComingHomeFromWWIIWorkingInBridgeport;BaseballFB.mp3

  • part61940S1950SAirforceServiceFB.mp3

  • part7BridgeportNewspapers;WorkingInBridgeportAfterWWIIFB.mp3

  • part8ProspectSchoolInSouthEnd,WWIIServiceFB.mp3

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Richard Fewell
Born: 1937
Occupation: Administrator, U.S. Post Office; Instructor in writing and literature, area universities
Mr. Fewell discusses his early life and education in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a deeply segregated community in the pre-Civil Rights Act era South. He entered the Air Force immediately after High School graduation, was trained as a cryptographer, and served oversees in Taiwan, where he learned to speak Chinese. Fewell eventually made his way to Bridgeport and had his career with the U.S. Postal Service. But along the way, he discovered his love of the written word. He worked toward a Bachelor's and Master's degree in creative writing and developed a second career as a writing instructor at local universities. He worked as a journalist and continued to write poetry, plays, novels, and more throughout his life.
Audio

  • part1EarlyLifeAndEducation.mp3

  • part2AirForceEnlistment;SegregationInTheSouthAndSouthernCulture.mp3

  • part3AirForceCareerCryptographyAndServingAbroad.mp3

  • part4ComingToBridgeport;SpeakingTaiwaneseDialect.mp3

  • part5PostOfficeCareer;MarriedLifeInBridgeport.mp3

  • part6GoingToCollege;CreativeWritingAtTheUniversityOfBridgeport.mp3

  • part7SocialAndPoliticalUpheavalOfThe1960S;SegregationInTheNorth.mp3

  • part8TeachingCareer.mp3

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Elizabeth Josephson
Born: 1908
Occupation: Factory owner - Josephson Bag and Canvas Company
Ms. Josephson discusses helping her entrepreneurial parents with their businesses as a child, when she learned to wait on customers, and living at the end of the trolley line near Noble Avenue where there were lots of opportunities for sledding and ice skating. Ms. Josephson began working as a bookkeeper at her Uncle's business, Josephson Bag Company, in 1927, and eventually became President of the Company in 1968. She describes the work environment at the company, the types of products produced over the years and what it meant to be a woman manager.
Audio

  • part1EarlyLifeAndFamily.mp3

  • part2StartingAtJosephsonBagCo;WorkEnvironmentAtCompany.mp3

  • part3BecomingAManager.mp3

  • part4BridgeportInTheDepression;DeclineOfIndustryInBridgeport.mp3

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David Kelly
Born: 1938
Occupation: AVCO machinist, inspector, union steward; Vice President and President, Local 1010-UAW
Mr. Kelly's parents moved during WWII from Vermont to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to gain employment when he was a very young child. His family settled in Success Village, a housing complex that the US government built in order to accommodate the large influx of workers employed in the war effort. Kelly served in the US Navy as a communications technician (1959). In the early 1960's, he took the machine training program with the AVCO Corporation and held a position as a machinist for 25 years before moving on to other positions in the company. While at AVCO, Kelly became active with the union (UAW), eventually becoming a steward, then President. He was involved in many wildcat strikes and numerous other labor actions against the company. Due to the nature of military contracts, AVCO experienced periods of high production demand during the Vietnam War, but also greatly diminished orders during the 1970's and again in the 1990's. When the company was sold to Allied Signal and restructuring took place, Kelly was involved in negotiations that eventually led to a court case and discussions with the NLRB.
Audio

  • part1_EarlyLifeAndFamily.mp3

  • part2_StartingAtAVCOIn1959;WildcatStrikes_UAW;VietnamWarEraProduction.mp3

  • part3_AVCOInThe1970sMassLayoffs;UnionBoard;Textron_AlliedSignalBuyouts.mp3

  • part4_EndOfColdWarEraAtAVCO;1990sAtAVCO;AlliedSignalIn1994;LobbyingWashington.mp3

  • part5_StratfordPlantOnTheBRACList;CourtCaseVsAVCO;NLRB.mp3

  • part6_TheImportanceOfUnionsAndLaborIssues.mp3

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John Kenyhercz
Born: 1953
Occupation: City of Bridgeport - Project Youth; Clinical Engineer, St. Vincent's Hospital; Projectionist; Broadcast engineer
Mr.Kenyhercz trained as a broadcast engineer and after working in media, eventually turned to the medical field when he became an equipment inspector in the Clinical Engineering Department at St. Vincent's Hospital. He describes the complex and evolving technology of the lifesaving equipment used by the hospital and the rewarding nature of his work in the medical profession. Kenyhercz also trained as a film projectionist and worked at many of Bridgeport's theaters. He discusses the equipment and techniques used by projectionists and the changes that digital film and use of non-unionized workers brought to the profession.
Audio

  • part1EarlyLifeAndFamily_NortheastBridgeportNeighborhood;Education.mp3

  • part2FirstJobs;CityOfBridgeportYouthEmployment;FCCLicense.mp3

  • part3HospitalWorkStVincentSInBridgeport;HospitalTechnologyAndWorkAsEngineer.mp3

  • part4ManagementOfTheClinicalEngineeringDeptByGEMedicalSystems.mp3

  • part5BecomingAProjectionist;ProjectorTechnology;TransitionToNonUnionLabor;PalaceProjectionistErnieGilbert.mp3

  • part6OldTimer_ProjectionistSPrideOfWorkAndTrainingTechniques;WhenFamilyFirstCameToBridgeport.mp3

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Edward Kuba
Born: 1914
Occupation: Retail; Construction - Bridge building, Rigger, Foreman; Iron workers union - Organizer
Mr. Kuba discusses his early years growing up on Bridgeport's East Side, his attendance at St. Cyril's and Methodius School, and taking his first jobs at various Bridgeport furniture stores as a teenager in order to support his family during the Depression. Kuba served for at least six years in the U.S. Navy before, during, and after World War II. When he returned to Bridgeport, he became an iron worker and developed a decades long career as a bridgeman who was active in the Local 424 and participated in attempts to reform the union and integrate its workforce. Kuba worked on many of the area's best known structures including the Tappan Zee and Mianus River Bridges.
Audio

  • part1EarlyLifeAndFamily;EastSideNeighborhood;FirstJobsDuringDepression.mp3

  • part2ServiceInTheUSNavyBefore,During,AndAfterWWII.mp3

  • part3PostWWIIEraWorkAsBridgemanAndTheIronworkers’Local424;SafetyMeasuresAndBenefitsForWorkers;ReformingUnionPractices.mp3

  • part41960’sProsperity;MianusRiverBridgeportProjectAndCollapse.mp3

  • part5IntegrationInUnion;Globalization.mp3

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Helen Liskov
Born: 1912
Occupation: Educator and Guidance Counselor
Mrs. Liskov discusses her own school experiences and her love of teaching. She studied education at NYU and received some training in the NYC school system. Mrs. Liskov also relates her thoughts on helping disadvantaged students and the importance of parent involvement in students' education.
Audio

  • part1EarlyExperiencesAsStudent.mp3

  • part2WhyIWantedToBecomeATeacher;TeacherTraining.mp3

  • part3HelpingDisadvantagedStudentsSucceed.mp3

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Lavell Lynch
Born: 1927
Occupation: Acme Shear - Grinder, burnisher, plater, leadman
Mr. Lynch started working at Acme Shear in the 1940's and stayed there for 37 years. He provides insights on the ethnic backgrounds of the company employees, discrimination against African Americans in the Bridgeport factories, the difficulties of foundry work, and the shift towards overseas production. Lynch had a distinguished career during WW II. As one of the first black members of the Marine Corps, he served with the Montford Point Marines, a segregated unit of African-American Marines based in Jacksonville, N.C. In 2012, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award in the United States, given to people who have made distinguished and outstanding contributions to the nation.
Audio

  • part1EarlyLife.mp3

  • part2FirstJobAtAcmeShear;EmployeeMixAtAcmeShear.mp3

  • part3ImportsFoundryWork.mp3

  • part4SegregationInBptDiscrminationByFactoriesSocialChanges.mp3

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Ralph McAden
Born: 1918
Occupation: Bridgeport Brass - Crane operator, shipping administrator; Accountant, Jr. Achievment volunteer; Book keeper; Waiter, Baker
Audio

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Helen Mensch-Mott
Born: 1917
Occupation: General Electric employee; Union steward
Helen Mensch-Mott moved from Pennsylvania to Bridgeport with her husband, Fred, to find work in the factories. She took a test at General Electric and was given a job in a division that made Bazookas for World War II production. She remained an employee of General Electric until the 1970's and became an active leader of her shop and a steward in the local union, IUE, local 203. While she was at G.E., Ms. Mensch-Mott experienced the unionization of G.E. employees by the International United Electrical workers union, IUE-CIO, and the resulting benefits to employees that occurred through this process. Mensch-Mott also observed the expulsion of union employees such as Steward Jo Willard and Union President Oliver Arsenault during the 1950's for membership in the Communist Party. Mensch-Mott was particularly active in the UE strike at G.E. in 1969 which lasted for nine weeks. Overall, she had a very positive experience as a G.E. employee and UE local 203 union member.
Audio

  • part1_FamilyAndEarlyLife.mp3

  • part2_ComingToBridgeportForWork;BecomingAShopLeaderAtGE.mp3

  • part3_IUECIOUnionComesToGE.mp3

  • part4_1969StrikeAtGE;MeetingQuotasInTheShop.mp3

  • part5_WorkingEnvironmentAtGEAndComaraderieWithEmployeesAndRetirees;LoveOfJob.mp3

  • part6_ExpulsionOfJoWillardAndOthersFromTheUnionAndGE1950s.mp3

  • part7_HusbandsWorkAsAnInternationalUnionOrganizer.mp3

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Don Oulette
Born: 1920
Occupation: Bridgeport Brass employee; WPA-CCC laborer
Audio

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Arlene Rybokas
Born: 1914
Occupation: Warner Brothers - Fabrics inspector
Audio

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Alfred Salamanca
Born: 1946
Occupation: Bryant Electric - Manager
Audio

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Marge Schneider
Born: 1921
Occupation: Bridgeport Brass: Employer-employee relations, Women's safety supervisor; YWCA Administrator and volunteer
Mrs. Schneider discusses her work as a employee safety adviser for the Bridgeport Brass Company during WW II and her extensive work with the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association). Highlights include her perspectives on the housing crunch in post-WW II Bridgeport and the reason women vacated jobs that had performed during the War. Schneider and her husband were also artists and friends of sculptor, Philip Pavia.
Audio

  • part1GrowingUp.mp3

  • part2Work.mp3

  • part3HusbandAndHome.mp3

  • part4FriendshipWithPavia,Artist.mp3

  • part5WorkForYWCA.mp3

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George C. Scott
Born: 1910
Occupation: Aluminum Company of America; Baseball Player, Park City Giants
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Andrew Soltis
Born: 1924
Occupation: Newspaper delivery; Golf caddy; Various industrial: Singer Company, AVCO; City of Bridgeport - Bridge Operator, Pleasure Beach Bridge
Audio

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Sam Liskov
Born: 1908
Occupation: Attorney
A lifelong Bridgeporter, Mr. Liskov discusses the City's terrain in the early 20th Century, the houses where his family lived, the school he attended, and specific buildings that stood downtown. His father, a Russian immigrant, had a horse and wagon and was a scrap peddler who eventually bought and sold cattle. Liskov and his brother operated an electrics store where they sold early radios. After attending the Junior College of Connecticut, a pre-cursor to University of Bridgeport, Liskov went to NYU Law School and eventually set up a practice in Bridgeport where he also became involved in State and local politics. Mr. Liskov and his wife, Helen, served on the Bridgeport Public Library Board for many years.
Audio

  • part10ThoughtSOnBridgeportSFuture(1).mp3

  • part1EarlyLifeAndFamily.mp3

  • part2MovingToEaston;FatherACattleRancher;WorkingAtReadCo.mp3

  • part3JobAtReadCoPoliticsSocialism.mp3

  • part4ImmigrantMixInBpt;GoingToSynagogue.mp3

  • part5PeddlingNewspapers;OpeningElectricsBusinessWithBrothers;DoingBusinessDuringDepression.mp3

  • part6NewspaperBusiness;JuniorCollege;CommunistParty.mp3

  • part7BecomingALawyer;BridgeportAndStatePolitics.mp3

  • part8WorkingDuringWWII;CTStateLegislature.mp3

  • part9McLevyAdministrationInThe1950S.mp3

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Torres, Sara
Born: 1935
Occupation: Business Owner - Travel Agency; CT Community Care Volunteer
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Us, Peregrin (Richard)
Born: 1939
Occupation: Leake & Nelson
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Us, Peter
Born: 1934
Occupation: Leake & Nelson; Peerless Illuminating Foundry
Audio

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Wells, Reverend Ronald
Born: 1913
Occupation: Minister, First Baptist Church
Audio

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Willard, Josephine
Born: 1915
Occupation: General Electric, Union Organizer and Steward
Audio

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