Virginia (Tolento) Montville

Oberlin College Library
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00:00:12 - Introduction of Virginia (Tolento) Montville interviewed by Maria Carrion

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Partial Transcript: I am going to begin by introducing myself. My name is Maria Carrion and I'm part of the group that's conducting oral history interviews for the Latino Lorain History Project. I have with me one of our interviewees and I'll have her introduce herself.

Segment Synopsis: Virginia introduces herself and says she goes by Ginny and her maiden name is Tolento, last name Montville.

Keywords: El Centro de Servicios Sociales; Lorain Historical Society; Oberlin College

00:02:02 - Virginia talks about her early life growing up in Lorain

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Partial Transcript: So, let's begin. Ginny, you sent me some articles and I went through those articles and I just am so fascinated with your background. So I was wondering if you could just start off telling me a little bit about your life. I know you were born and raised in Lorain. So if you want to tell me a little bit about where did you actually grow up and a little bit of history about your Lorain history because I know you're not in Lorain now.

Segment Synopsis: Virginia talks about how she was born in Lorain in 1950 and lived on E. 30th Street right off of Vine Ave. As the daughter of a Mexican father and a Native American mother, she talked about how she grew up speaking Spanglish at home and had a diverse group of friends who, like her, didn't have a lot of economic means. But she describes a lively and diverse community.

Keywords: 1950; Mexicans in Lorain; Native Americans in Lorain; Spanglish; Vine Ave

00:03:44 - Speaking Spanglish and challenges growing up

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Partial Transcript: You were talking a little bit about speaking Spanglish. Tell me a little more about that. How did you learn Spanglish, from your mother or your father?

Segment Synopsis: Virginia talks about how her mother learned Spanish as time went on and how they all spoke Spanglish. Her father's English wasn't good, but they communicated. She also talks about being loved by her father and great memories growing up with him, even though they were poor. He worked at the railroad and in the summer worked on farms in Sandusky County. As the oldest of 7 brothers and sisters, she describes how she took on a lot of responsibility and was protective of her younger brothers and sisters given her mother's struggles with mental health and her father's absence because of work. Eventually, she and her siblings were removed from their home and placed in Green Acres Children's Home, where her own mother had begun her life as well. She also discussed Neighborhood House and other organizations like Puerto Rican Home that provided her and other young kids structure and a sense of community.

Keywords: Cozy Corner; Farm labor; Green Acres Chldren's Home; Lincoln Elementary School; Neighborhood House; Poverty; Puerto Rican Home; Railraod; Sandusky County; Spanglish; Vine Ave; mental health

00:09:44 - Ethnic diversity and leaving Lorain

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Partial Transcript: When you were growing up in Lorain at that said your father was Mexican, so you are half Mexican. What about some of the other ethnic groups that lived there that you associated with?

Segment Synopsis: Virginia talks about the diverse group of friends she had growing up. Many of them had different lives and family structures, and they maintained contact for a long time. After two years at Green Acres, she met the Presti family in Oberlin through church who supported Tolento as she prepared to accept a scholarship to attend the Andrews School for Girls in Willoughby, Ohio. She lived with the Presti family and helped care for Mrs. Presti's young children the summer before attending the Andrews School and enjoyed the family structure and described how it was a model of what she wanted for her life.

Keywords: Andrews School for Girls, Willoughby; Ethnic and racial diversity; Family life; Green Acres; Oberlin City; Oberlin High School

00:14:41 - Experiences in school and a new home and family in Oberlin

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Partial Transcript: How was that experience of, there's this girl from Lorain, you grew up on Vine Avenue, and you say that you grew up on the streets of Vine, you're in and out with no structure, and then you get this scholarship to go to this exclusive girls' school on the east side of Cleveland, tell me a little bit about what did it feel like for you?

Segment Synopsis: Virginia talks about how she fit into the elite girls' school, even though she came from a very different background than most of the girls. She also talks about her second grade teacher who mentored her and told her that she was smart and visited her when she was in Green Acres Children's home and how that made an impression on her. She also talked about the transition from the Andrews school to live with the Presti family in Oberlin and how much she loved being in a home with a family. While she loved living with her foster family, she describes some of the challenges being one of the only Hispanics in Oberlin and being mistaken for being Puerto Rican. She experienced prejudice and describes how she surrounded herself with people worthy of her and the life-long friendships she developed.

Keywords: Andrews School for Girls; Foster home; Italians and Hispanics in Oberin; Life-long friendships; Mentors at school; Oberlin; Prejudice; Presti's Restaurant

00:21:01 - Connection to Lorain today

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Partial Transcript: Is Lorain part of your life today?

Segment Synopsis: Virginia talks about how even though she spent her teenage years in Oberlin, she is still connected to Lorain through her sisters and family who still live in Lorain. She also describes the challenges her family has faced living in Lorain, including losing family members to gun violence and how, for her, it seems part of a larger cycle familiar to her when she was growing up. She also began to discuss the changes she saw in Lorain, but also the fear and sadness of some of the problems in Lorain.

Keywords: Oakwood Park; Sherriff's Department, Oberlin; Violence in Lorain

00:23:11 - A career in law enforcement

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Partial Transcript: Once you graduated from high school, when did you become interested in law enforcement?

Segment Synopsis: Virginia discusses the different mentors and influences she had that led her to consider law enforcement as a career. The new police chief in Oberlin, who she describes as progressive and from Michigan, played a particularly important role in pursuing her interest in law enforcement. After a ride-along in 1968, she worked as a dispatcher in Oberlin and then worked at the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Post 47 in Elyria, as she continued to take classes at LCCC. She was then recruited by the Sheriff's Department as the first woman to help diversify the department in 1973 at the age of 23. She was the first woman on the force of 80 men. She describes how she was not received well in the Sheriff's Department where she was competing with men who saw her as a threat to their jobs. She eventually left that position where it was clear she was not welcome to the Marshal Service that was much more professional and respected her position. In all these instances, she talked about how she consistently used her typing skills to help out in different positions in law enforcement across the county.

Keywords: First female marshal; First woman sheriff; Lorain County Community College (LCCC); Marshall Service; Mentors; Oberlin News Tribune; Oberlin Police Department; Oberlin police chief; Ohio State Highway Patrol; Recruiting women sheriffs; Secretarial work; Sexism at work; Sheriff's Department; U.S. Marshal

00:33:30 - Proudest moment in Lorain

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Partial Transcript: Tell me a little bit about if you can think of a moment in Lorain that made you feel really proud or maybe even on visits when you came back, was there anything significant or any experience you think you could say that you were really proud of in terms of your Lorain experience?

Segment Synopsis: Virginia describes her proudest moment as her swearing in ceremony with her foster parents as her witnesses for the Sheriff's Department job. Her father also was there at her swearing in ceremony and was very proud of her. She also discussed how even when she was with her foster family and in the home, he visited her regularly and would bring food to share with the kids from the home. She had two sisters living with her at Green Acres and never felt neglected by her father.

Keywords: Children's home (Green Acres); Foster family; Mexican food; Proudest moment; Relaionship with her father; Swearing in ceremony

00:38:32 - Relationship with Puerto Ricans in Lorain in the past and returning to Lorain today

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Partial Transcript: You've talked about the tamales, you've talked about the tortillas, what about your experiences with the Puerto Rican ethnic food?

Segment Synopsis: Virginia discusses how she grew up loving Puerto Rican food and the culture. When they lived in an apartment on Seneca, she could smell the Puerto Rican food and her father resented that she liked Puerto Rican rice and beans better than Mexican rice and beans. Many of her friends growing up were Puerto Rican and she enjoyed being at her friends' homes sharing their food. She also talks about what life is like for her in Hughesville, PA, and how things have changed in her town recently. She also discusses returning to Lorain when she can to see her sister and family and friends. She ends her interview reflecting on her observations of challenges and changes in Lorain.

Keywords: Challenges in Lorain; Crime; Hughesville, PA; Mexicans in Hughesville; Puerto Rican food; Revitalization downtown Lorain; Seneca Ave.

00:46:07 - Final reflections

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Partial Transcript: Before we close, is there anything we haven't talked about or anything you want to share, it doesn't have to be about Lorain. I can be about Oberlin, it can be about your experience in Hughesville or anything you can talk about as a Latina woman who at one time was accepted because they thought you were Italian...anything you want to talk about.

Segment Synopsis: Virginia ends her interview reflecting on experiences of prejudice as a woman and as a Mexican in law enforcement. She didn't take the prejudice to heart and is proud of her Mexican and Native American heritage. Her final thoughts on the problems in the country today make her think of the value of diversity, something she learned from her daughter and how a teacher can make a big difference in someone's life like hers. At the very end, she returned on what she learned at Green Acres and how she adjusted.

Keywords: Ethnic pride; Green Acres; Lincoln Elementary School; Prejudice as Mexican; Teachers