Ruth Weeks

Ruth Weeks was born and raised in Ambler, Pennsylvania. Weeks was one of seven children; her parents worked locally. Her neighborhood was racially mixed. When Weeks was growing up, Ambler was much more of a small, family-owned businesses community. She remembers sledding down the “White Mountains,” not realizing the impact the asbestos factory would have on people living there. Weeks married her high-school sweetheart. They moved to Germany for her husband’s military service. After five years, Weeks returned to Ambler. Weeks attended classes at the Lansdale School of Business while raising her children. Wise helped establish Citizens for a Better Ambler (CBA) to fight a proposed high-rise on Ambler’s asbestos area. With the involvement of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in remediation of the site, the CBA developed into a community advisory group (CAG), and the ensuing debate over remediation caused a split between those who advocated total removal of asbestos, and those who wanted capping. Weeks discusses the redevelopment of Ambler and how much it has changed since she was a student. She hasn’t seen much assistance from the EPA and Penn to truly identify the continued risk and conditions of Ambler; she believes that asbestos is still the “white elephant” in the room.

Access This Interview

The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.

			

Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0827
No. of pages: 56
Minutes: 105

Interview Sessions

Lee Sullivan Berry
14 August 2014
Ruth Weeks’s home, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Abstract of Interview

Ruth Tate Weeks, aka Ruthy, was born and raised in West Ambler, Pennsylvania. Ruthy was one of eight children; her parents worked locally, and much of her extended family lived close by. Her neighborhood was racially mixed, composed of mostly African-Americans and Italians, and she did not experience or witness any discrimination. When Ruth was growing up, West Ambler was much more of a small, close knit community with several small convenience stores and deli’s. These stores were frequented by the residents and many of the owners lived in or near these stores. She remembers sledding down the “White Mountains,” not realizing the impact the asbestos factory would have on many people living in Ambler. Ruth married her high-school sweetheart and together, with their newborn, they moved to Germany for her husband’s military service. After five years of living in Europe and California, Weeks and her children returned to Ambler. Ruth attended classes at the Lansdale School of Business while raising her children. She discusses the community activism and involvement led by Florine Tate Wise, who encouraged her to get more involved in the West Ambler Civic Association, also known as WACA, which she founded and organized during the summer of 2003 and presided over until she relocated to Maryland. Florine was also a Stockholder member of the Community Advisory Group (CAG), where she represented the West and South Ambler Communities of Ambler Borough and Whitpain Township. Florine helped establish Citizens for a Better Ambler (CBA) to fight a proposed high-rise on Ambler’s asbestos area. With the involvement of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in remediation of the site, the CBA developed into a community advisory group (CAG), and the ensuing debate over remediation caused a split between Sharon McCormick’s faction, who advocated total removal of asbestos, and Florine’s, who advocated capping for the community in hopes that the playground would be opened at the end of the remediation of the site. Ruth was also involved in some of the pilot interviews for the REACH Ambler project, as many of her friends and relatives have a long history in Ambler. Ruth discusses the redevelopment of Ambler and how much it has changed since she was a resident; there isn’t space for children to play and if there is a senior center, she hasn’t been able to find it. She hasn’t seen much assistance from the EPA and Penn to truly identify the continued risk and conditions of Ambler; she believes that asbestos continues to be considered as the “white elephant” in the room at current and future planning meetings that involved the South and West Ambler communities.

Table of Contents

Biographical Information
1

Born in Norristown; grows up in West Ambler. Parents’ employment. Family history in Ambler. Catholic school education. Playing near the BoRit site. Ambler’s Main Street and sense of community. Sledding down the “White Mountains.” Razing of houses near asbestos piles.

Leaving & Returning to Ambler
10

Marries high-school sweetheart. Husband is stationed in Europe; moving to Germany with newborn. Living in Europe. Experiences discrimination as an American in Paris. Returns to United States, has second child; mother passes away. Moves to California with husband. Returns to Ambler after five years away and divorce.

The Ambler Community
15

Spending time at the American Legion. Attending Lansdale School of Business. Being a working, single mother. Importance of having close friends and family nearby. Memory and awareness of hazards: asbestos, flooding, abandoned cars. Living in West Ambler.

Becoming Civically Engaged
25

Boycotting the high-rise proposal. The BoRit cleanup. Florine Wise, the CAG and CBA. Redevelopment of Ambler businesses. West Ambler lacking opportunities and space for children.

REACH Ambler Impact
38

Getting involved in the University of Penn project. Learning oral history techniques and conducting pilot interviews. Enjoys learning the history of Ambler. Thinks there has been little resolve to help the community; that the residents have taken more action. How the project has affected her recollection of living in Ambler.

Final Thoughts
50

Suggestions for other people to interview for the project. Family members who suffered illnesses that may be a result of asbestos.

Index
55

About the Interviewer

Lee Sullivan Berry

Lee Sullivan Berry earned a master’s degree in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame, and a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from the University of Pennsylvania. As a staff member in the Center for Oral History, Berry conducts background research and oral history interviews, edits transcripts of completed interviews, and coordinates with interviewers and interviewees to finalize transcripts. She was the lead interviewer for the REACH Ambler project and has presented her work at meetings of the American Society for Environmental History and Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region.