Hazel Jensen (née Smith)

“Gramma Jensen” was the only member of the Jensen family that the Hurwicz family really knew. (Maxim Hurwicz describes the one Jensen family reunion he went to in Wisconsin as “a hundred strangers.”)

Hazel’s husband, Arthur, lost his job due to union activity. (His job may have been at Allis-Chalmers. The 1930 census says his employment related to “tractor parts”.) He lost that job some time between 1930 and 1940 and became an elevator operator in a hospital at a much lower wage. Local 248 of the UAW-CIO, with which he would presumably have been associated at Allis-Chalmers, has been described as “communist-oriented.” [1] At some point he and Hazel separated, because later Hazel moved to Minneapolis alone. And it was years after that that Evelyn went to Wisconsin to attend her father’s funeral.

I once asked Hazel, perhaps for some college project, what the most important quality was in a husband. She said, “To be a good provider.”

Hazel lived in Milwaukee (or more precisely West Allis) when I was little. At some point, perhaps circa 1960, she came to live in Minneapolis. I remember going to her apartment and having delicious Chinese food, which she had learned to make when she worked in a Chinese laundry in Milwaukee. (The 1940 census lists her occupation as “shirt ironer.”) Leo used to say that she was the best Chinese restaurant in town.

Later, probably in the late 60’s / early 70’s, she lived in “The Cedars” senior apartments on Cedar Avenue South, near 6th Street. (My first wife, Jennifer (née Westmoreland), and I were just blocks away on Bloomington Ave. S. near E. Franklin Avenue.)

Hazel sewed, quilted, embroidered and crocheted intricate lace tablecloths.

Despite not having had the easiest life, Hazel was a consistently cheerful and easy-going person. “What I do recall clearly,” says Maxim Hurwicz, “is how pleasant Gramma always was to me. She always had a smile when Mom and I went to see her.”

Maxim also remembers, “Somehow Lawrence Welk was always, always on her TV when we visited. I don’t know how that was possible.

“I was a bit amazed she rolled her own cigarettes. And she mixed half cigarette tobacco and half pipe tobacco.

“She told a story about how she had once pierced her thumbnail with a sewing machine needle going through it. I think she removed it herself and that was that. I thought she was pretty tough.”

Evelyn didn’t have much contact with her father, but she did go to his funeral in Wisconsin. She couldn’t stand tuneless whistling, because her father had done that when he was upset or angry. Her father was John Arthur Jensen, but went by Arthur. A search on www.familytreenow.com says he was born in 1898 in Wisconsin, and that both his parents were born in Denmark.

Evelyn had three brothers. All the brothers rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Her youngest brother, “Artie” (John Arthur Jr.), whom she spoke fondly of, was killed in a motorcycle accident. I remember Evelyn telling me that the brothers were riding three abreast down a country road and went under an arched bridge. Artie couldn’t get over and was decapitated.

The whole Jensen family except Hazel was probably still in Wisconsin during Hazel’s lifetime. One brother named Clifford had a job road-testing Harleys. Maxim remembers him as visiting when the Hurwicz family was in Newton, Mass., around 1970: “[H]e was this skyscraper of a man. I couldn’t help but mentally contrast that with dad’s side of the family who started small and would magically shrink with age.”

Evelyn’s younger brother was Donald; He may have worked construction. There was another Jensen (perhaps one of Cliff’s children?) who was an antique dealer. Clarence Smith (“Uncle Clarence”) was an alcoholic, worked for the Salvation Army, and occasionally went off the wagon and ended up in far distant places like New Orleans in need of a few dollars to get back home. He was probably Gramma Jensen’s brother. (“Uncle Clarence was an alcoholic, but a pleasant person, too,” says Maxim. “I recall he had cancer in his arm which was removed so that arm was weak when we stopped by his apartment one time.”)

Gramma Jensen’s maiden name was Smith. Her parents were John and Elizabeth. Evelyn told me that originally Hazel’s parents’ surname was Peterson. But there were so many Petersons in Wisconsin at that time, that mail kept getting misdelivered. So they changed their name to Smith, giving him the unusual and distinctive name “John Smith”! [2]

They died close to the time that Evelyn was born.

John came to the U.S. at the age of around 12, having run away from his mean stepfather in Sweden. He mined silver in Wyoming and came back to Wisconsin with a pouch full of gold to buy a farm. While buying the farm, he never turned his back on the seller, for fear of being robbed. He prospered and brought his stepfather over.

John may also be the relative who, according to Evelyn, could be cruel to his farm animals, and whose horses shied away when he came near. But he was always nice to Evelyn, giving her small coins when she visited.

Gramma Jensen’s background was Danish and Swedish. When I went to Copenhagen I saw lots of people who reminded me of my maternal uncles, both in stature (big) and in looks. Arthur was probably of Danish background. (Jensen is the most common surname in Denmark.)

The 1930 census lists the Jensen household as:
John A Jensen 32
Hazel Jensen 27
Clifford Jensen 7
Evelyn Jensen 6
Donald Jensen 2
John Jensen 1 (this is “Artie”)
Carl Smith 22
Clarence Smith 20
Harry Carr 23 (listed as a lodger)

By the 1940 census, the last three were no longer listed.

Gramma Jensen died in her apartment in The Cedars, in her sleep, perhaps of some type of hemorrhage.

BIRTH: September 24, 1902
DEATH: November 29, 1975
(familysearch.org and findagrave.com)
Although the 1930 census lists her birth year as 1903, I think that the information above is correct.

1. I had thought that Evelyn’s father left the family after he lost his job. The 1940 census shows him still in the household, so I guess that is incorrect.
There were famously contentious strikes at Allis Chalmers after 1940, one for instance in 1941:
“One other UAW strike in the defense industry made headlines, at Allis Chalmers in Milwaukee where tanks were produced. After management repudiated an agreement worked out by Sidney Hillman of the Office of Production Management, the union called a strike. R. J. Thomas ordered the workers back without an agreement and they complied. However, company president Max Babb locked the plant out when Hillman refused to repudiate the previous agreement, claiming that the strike vote was fraudulent. Sec. of the Navy Knox ordered the plant reopened and the National Guard was called out. Despite violence, only 1200 of the 7800 employees returned to work.” (https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/ncm-7/rose-cio.htm)
This strike lasted from January 22 to April 6, 1941. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/37260990_The_Allis-Chalmers_Strike_in_1941_and_the_Issue_of_Communism) This paper also says that “… the striking union, Local 248 of the UAW-CIO, while it was the largest union in Wisconsin and a dominant force in both Milwaukee and Wisconsin CIO movements, was communist-oriented.”
There was another big strike at Allis-Chalmers in 1946/47.

2. Today “Smith” is the second-most common surname in Wisconsin.

Hazel Amanda Smith
b: 9-24-1902
d: 11-29-1975
  • 9-24-1902 - Birth - probably the Smith family farm; Almena, Wisconsin
  • 11-29-1975 - Death - ; Minneapolis, MN
Hazel Amanda Smith
9-24-1902 - 11-29-1975
Family Group Sheet - Child
FHazel Amanda Smith
Birth9-24-1902Almena, Wisconsin
Death11-29-1975Minneapolis, MN
Marriageto Arthur Jensen
Family Group Sheet - Spouse
PARENT (M) Arthur Jensen
Marriageto Hazel Amanda Smith
PARENT (F) Hazel Amanda Smith
Birth9-24-1902Almena, Wisconsin
Death11-29-1975 Minneapolis, MN
Marriageto Arthur Jensen
FEvelyn Jensen
Birth31 OCT 1923Wisconsin, USA
Death22 NOV 2016Minnesota, USA
Marriageto Leo Leonid Hurwicz
Descendancy Chart
Hazel Amanda Smith b: 9-24-1902 d: 11-29-1975
Evelyn Jensen b: 31 OCT 1923 d: 22 NOV 2016
Leo Leonid Hurwicz b: 21 AUG 1917 d: 24 JUN 2008
Ruth Hurwicz b: 25 MAY 1951
Prof. David Markovitz b: 25 FEB 1954
Lara Markovitz b: 1983
Adam Markovitz b: 13 FEB 1987
Michael Mike Hurwicz b: 18 JAN 1949
Linda Cheryl Bryant b: 2-8-53
Maxim Hurwicz b: 5 SEP 1953
Roxanne Blanco b: 14 Jun 1959
Roxanne Blanco b: 14 Jun 1959
Nicole Blanco-Hurwicz b: 13 Nov 1982
Sarah Hurwicz b: 7 DEC 1946
Jon Kogut b: 17 MAY 1945
Sophie Kogut b: 23 AUG 1967
Brian Ashley Judd b: 5 JAN 1968
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