Interview with Frances Allen
Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin
CW: I did an oral history of the woman that lived down the street here. She had such a big family. Her name was Olga Kruse. She had a disabled daughter and she told how they used to have so much fun playing down on the river in the winter. They would play on the river bank in the summer. Did your kids do that too?
FA: Oh definitely! That is why I can’t move from here.
CW: Your children don’t want you to move anywhere else?
FA: My kids would like me to move from here and get into a condo, a small house, or something. I would miss the river. You see I have lived in this neighborhood all my life, and I miss that river when I am gone. We used to play on the banks too. Now this is one of the things that we did down here on this hill. We would go and slide down the hill. Kids even from across the river would come over and slide down this hill.
CW: I bet it was good to slide on.
FA: It was a good one and old ladies that lived in the house next to the hill, they had a well. At night when the kids were done sliding we would take water from that well and throw it over the hill so it would get icy.
CW: Oh yes.
FA: We used to slide way down. Of course the river doesn’t freeze over like it did then. We used to go down and we’d hit a bump and we’d just keep going and slide right on to the river.
CW: Oh you did! Wouldn’t that be dangerous?
FA: Not when the ice was thick.
CW: It must have been pretty thick.
FA: Oh heavens yes.
CW: How thick did it get?
FA: Oh, I don’t know because we were always down there ice skating and things like that on the river.
CW: I remember going up and standing on the river bridge when the ice was going out. Some of those chunks were as big as a tree.
FA: In 1936 I was a senior in High School. That was a really, really cold winter. By Thanksgiving time that river was so froze we could get on it. I can remember many a times we had snow by Thanksgiving. I can remember that year the ice was 36 inches thick. The cars were even on the ice. Down there behind our house they made a big square and they would play ice hockey. I can remember on this Sunday my cousin and I walked way up on the river on the ice. The next day, why it was unusual for my dad to ever pick us up from school, but we were let out early that afternoon and I mean early. Everybody was up there picking up their kids. They had the bridge blocked off on both sides and only people that had to could come across that bridge. The ice had started moving out and it was jamming up something terrible. I remember that night when we were doing dishes, and we had a white spitz dog and he was always tagging us around and wanted to be with someone. He sat down and he was howling something terrible. Just as he was howling our water line broke. The ice had gorged and broke our water line coming across the river. And that was terrible that year. The water had come clear up to this second hill. It was just a couple inches from the barn where Dad kept his car. That used to be a barn down there. I can remember from my grandfather had chickens down there in the bottom part. This was years and years ago and they had horses in there too. The water was just a couple inches from this.
CW: The bridge was in at that time in 1936 wasn’t it. I didn’t realize the water had gotten that high. Now where had it gotten jammed? It would have been jammed somewhere.
FA: Well it was jammed a bit up the river and down the river. They thought that people going across the bridge might get hurt. Down at the Damascus Bridge it was really jammed. I remember Dr. Julian (Harrison) took his car down there to see the ice go out and he said. “I got hit with ice.”
CW: Oh he did!
FA: All the people had drove out there. It was so pitiful. These great big hunks of ice, why there would be a dog or a cat out there on these hunks of ice. They were caught you know. It was just pitiful to hear them.
CW: You can be thankful it wasn’t humans that were on there.
FA: I can remember that. The ice that year was terrible. It was so awful seeing those hunks of ice. There were fish caught in there too.
CW: We weren’t out of the depression yet. People were valuing more of whatever they had. They valued their cars and things.
FA: I can remember that. We were down on that ice a lot. We were always there in the wintertime. Here is another thing that we did on the hill. C. D. Brillhart had often heard of the fun we had on that hill. One night he and his wife came over.
CW: Didn’t they live on a farm out West?
FA: Not at that time. They lived in a house where Pam lived.
CW: Oh that would have been on the North side of the river.
FA: That is where they lived and then they went up the street here. They lived in back by Fairview.
CW: No, it was beyond Fairview.
FA: Just a little bit. Not quite but it was in that territory. Anyway, they came over that night and asked what we were doing. My uncle that lived down there by the hill built his kid a bobsled. It was a big long thing. It was built out of wood and it would hold six people. They would slide down this hill and they would have a ball.
CW: I’ll bet they did have fun!
FA: Over here on one side of the hill was an ash pile. It was steeper if you went off. It seemed like the kids would always hit that ash pile.
CW: What would that do, send you up in the air?
FA: It would dump us.
CW: Oh, it would dump you.
FA: The kids would get a big kick out of that. Mr. Brillhart wanted to go down the hill on the sled and we hit the ash pile. He had a barrel of fun that night. He just had an awfully lot of fun playing with those kids. Some of these people that run the schools aren’t so high hatted after all.
CW: Oh, no, they’re not. He was a Superintendent for a long, long time.
FA: He was just human and he just had a ball that night. We stayed there till we nearly froze to death. That’s what we did all over the South side here. Sometimes we would have 30 kids or more down there.
CW: See, I think the South side kids, I don’t know about the North side, but I think the South side kids were pretty close. They had a lot of fun.
FA: We were close and just like we used to skate so much over here. We had no place to skate except down here on the streets. One summer they closed that street every Wednesday night from 7:00 to 9:00 o’clock.
CW: That would have been just a block long.
FA: You would be surprised at the number of kids from the North side that would come over and skate with us. That was fun. We were as kids called the South Side Savages and River Rats.
CW: Oh really!
FA: But nevertheless we all stuck together.
CW: Probably kids from other towns called all the kids from this town river rats because you were right on the river.
FA: That’s what they called us but we didn’t care because we still had fun. I know they used to say that the North side and South side were separated. There was no separation in us. We were all here living in Napoleon and we were together socially. We mixed good with the North side. I do remember how we used to roller skate. I wore out many pairs of roller skates. Just like when they put the skating rink up at Wayne Park I practically lived up there skating.
CW: Was that before it became a Dance Hall?
FA: They had the dance hall there too. They had the skating rink inside and the dance hall was outside.
CW: Oh, I see.
FA: But they did have that as a dance hall long before they put the skating rink in there before they had the outside one.
CW: Was it always just an outdoor dance hall?
FA: No, it was the big building. They had many, many dances in there before they had the outside one.
CW: Wayne Park is still there isn’t it?
FA: Yes, Wayne Park is still there, but they have all these houses in there now.
CW: It is just west of town.
CW: Now we have Meyerholtz Park along the river. Then not very far beyond on the right hand side is 424.
FA: You remember where Sally Watson lived up there.
CW: I know now where that dance hall was. I knew it was in the area. Bob Downey told me a devilish little thing those kids did when they were little. He said somebody had a cottage down along the river and it was close to Wayne Park. They would wait till the music was going and everybody was dancing and then the boys would be in that cottage and they would walk up there to the dance hall. The men would come out every once in a while, take a sip of whiskey and put their bottle back. Then they found where they were putting the bottles and stole the bottles.
FA: That sounds like kids. Dad used to have a shanty up there by the river too. We would go up and stay all weekend. He had his boat.
CW: You probably went swimming in the river.
FA: At that time you could swim in that river. I wouldn’t swim in that river now. He loved to fish. We would go up there and stay all weekend. We would go up to the canal and fish.
CW: You fished in the canal?
FA: Oh yes, the canal had water in it then. It was nice fishing there and fishing in the river. I know Dad had a motor boat and he had the row boat. The little kids always wanted to take it out. He would say, “No, no, you don’t go out until you learn how to swim.”
CW: That is a good idea.
FA: That was a rule. So the kids would learn to swim real fast.
CW: You wouldn’t want to be left behind.
FA: Oh, no. We didn’t get to take the motor boat out unless he was with us. We took the row boat out many a times. We had fun. Like I said we would go fishing. There was another couple that always went with us.
CW: Another thing the Kruse girl said was that these were all farms.
FA: Oh yes, this was Barnes and out in front was Maumee. In back of us they were all farms.
CW: They would play hide and seek.
FA: Yes, I remember how the whole gang of us would get together and play hide and seek. We would play Run Sheepy Run and Follow the Arrow.
CW: How did they play Run Sheepy Run?
FA: Well, we were all sheep. If they would find the first one and somebody would be hiding somewhere else. If someone found the first one we’d clap our hands and that one would be free.
CW: Oh yeah, so he could run and touch base and go free. I lived in the city and what we did was put a can down and we called it Kick the Can.
FA: Yes we did too.
CW: The person who was “it” would get them rounded up and they would come in and kick the can and they would be free to go hide again.
FA: We used to do that too. I remember that, just like back here that was all raspberries. That was the lot next to me and in back of me was all red raspberries. Over there in the spring she would be out barefoot and she would be spading all of those raspberries. She took very good care of those bushes.
CW: I bet they were good berries.
FA: They were good. I used to go and buy some from her. She had black ones and those big red ones. Those are the best.
CW: The black ones are kind of seedy, but the red ones are great.
FA: That was all farms back there, clear back to the fairgrounds. Now it is all houses.
CW: Were the fairgrounds there when you were a little girl?
CW: So it has been there a long time. How old are you now?
FA: I am 91.
CW: I am a couple of years behind you.
FA: I can remember always going to the fair there. We would go out there and there wasn’t elbow room. It was always so full of people and now I don’t know if people just aren’t interested or what. You don’t have the fairs like they used to.
CW: Well don’t you think back in those days they didn’t have much for entertainment. So many people that were living on farms were isolated. So at the fair they could run around and talk with people.
FA: I think that myself. Just like kids at school would ask me what I did when I was younger. What did we do, why we would go to somebody’s house and played cards and pop some popcorn. We had a good time. Today they have to have their cars and some money and go some place. It’s altogether different than when I was a kid.
CW: If there was another big depression they would probably go back and do the same things we used to do.
FA: I wouldn’t doubt it.
CW: They would complain all day but I think they would get along. They would get used to the simple pleasures. There wasn’t anything wrong with it.
FA: We used to have a barrel of fun with our popcorn and playing cards or something. They used to have a lot of fun. Of course we didn’t go to all of those things. There just wasn’t the money.
CW: You just didn’t have a lot of money for entertainment. Money was for groceries and bills and necessities.
FA: I remember when they built the bridge that they moved the old bridge down east a ways.
CW: Did they still use it then?
FA: They put temporary piers up there for it so we could get back and forth without going clear around. While they were moving the bridge we had to go down by Biddies and get a ferry every morning to go to school.
CW: Oh really they used a ferry! Now Biddies was where old Route 6 comes in.
FA: Yes, down there by the new Mexican restaurant. We had to be down there before eight o’clock in the morning. It would stay on the other side for a half hour before it would come back this way or we would be late for school. It took us forever to get back and forth.
CW: Did they use poles to make their way across?
FA: Well they had ropes and also poles. As soon as the school let out we would have to run like mad down there to get it to go home or else we would have to wait over there till five o’clock. It was really something. That ferry was so packed with kids. Today I don’t think they could get that many on there. But they had to go across the river to get to school.
CW: Now they would probably let those kids out a little bit early.
FA: I doubt it. They might let them off different. I remember when they built that bridge.
CW: That was the one that had those arches. It was such a pretty bridge. I think that one was quite picturesque.
FA: It was. It was a nice bridge.
CW: And they said that it was written in the brick somehow the word “Napoleon”. There was something else about it too. That is something Russ Patterson can tell you about.
FA: I do remember how they did that. After it got so far along we got to go across it to go to school.
CW: That was the new bridge right?
FA: Yes, we could walk across. That was something too.
CW: You mean it was kind of exciting.
FA: While they were building it we got to walk across it. Anyway it was quite a sight.
FA: Oh do you remember the Idle Hour?
CW: Yes. Downtown.
FA: Do you remember when it burned?
FA: I remember that. I can remember Don got up and went to work. He didn’t know it was on fire. He looked out the window and said there is a big fire. And that afternoon might have been a baby. It seems to me like she was with me. My mother and I walked uptown that afternoon to see it. It seems like she was just a baby. I do remember when that burned. Why we kids used to go in there after school. It was a good hangout.
CW: My daughter said that is where she learned how to smoke. The girls would sit in there and smoke.
FA: Mike was very careful. The kids had to behave when they were in there. It was a very nice place for kids to go. They should have something like that today. Someplace for kids to go and be free but not be rowdy.
CW: Someplace where there is no liquor.
FA: Right. It was not unusual for me to go up there and sit for an hour or so. We would be just talking.
CW: Didn’t people, when they met each other, somebody new, wouldn’t they sit and talk for quite a while?
FA: Yes, that was a treat to go uptown and meet somebody. On Saturday night, my gosh, I remember I worked in our office during the week. On Saturday I worked at the five and ten and we didn’t close until eleven o’clock on Saturday night. It was hard for us to get out of there then. Somebody would come in and no they were waiting on somebody in the store. I can remember that store would be packed with people coming in to buy. It was just packed. There was no place to park and like you say they would just jabber and jabber. You don’t see that today. You are almost afraid to talk to people. Whether they knew them or not if somebody would say hello they would start a conversation and just start talking.
CW: Yes, that is right.
FA: But today you don’t go up and talk to a stranger like that.
CW: It’s really too bad.
FA: Yes it is too bad.
CW: It gave you a feeling of comfort, I think.
FA: Not only that but a feeling of friendship. I thought it was nice. But they just don’t do it anymore.
CW: I remember Ed’s nurse saying she could go downtown and it would take her an hour to go one block. She would keep meeting people she knew and they all would want to talk.
FA: Sure they did and it was nice. We would run into somebody we knew and they’d say lets go get a cup of coffee. Of course we would go get our cup of coffee. This doesn’t happen today.
CW: Then there was a drug store where they had sodas.
FA: Oh yes, that was in there where Patterson’s are now or where they were. That was Red & Teds.
CW: What did the Red & Ted stand for? Were they two men?
FA: I think the one had red hair and the other one was Ted. I think that’s the way it was. That was a nice drug store. We used to go there a lot to get sodas.
CW: And then there was another one on Washington Street, wasn’t there?
FA: Well there was Mike and another one, what was his name? Was it Coscarelli?
CW: I don’t know.
FA: It seems to me it was something like that. Shaff had a place there too.
CW: What? On Washington Street? Yes, I think there were two drug stores. One sold sodas and the other one didn’t.
FA: Well the one across the street that was the Shaff’s.
CW: Oh yes.
FA: They sold soft drinks and stuff. But these two ice cream places they were Mike and Vic Coscarelli.
CW: Yes, I remember the name.
FA: Well Vic had the other one. Those were both on Washington Street.
CW: Not to change the subject, but tell me about your husband’s company, or was it your company.
FA: It was my grandfather that started it. It was my grandfather and Dad’s factory and in later years turned over to my brother, sister and me.
CW: How did he start that? What was it called?
FA: It was called Plummer Spray. Now it is Plummer Spray Equipment Corp. We are not in a company, we are in a corporation. The way it was started is, he had a little paint shop there on Perry Street, and he painted cars. You know these things that you put stuff in them for flies.
CW: Oh you mean that pump thing.
FA: That is what he was using to paint his car.
CW: Oh for heavens sake. I suppose they didn’t have electricity at that time.
FA: Well there was electricity but not enough. He got to thinking one day if he could paint a car with that pump why couldn’t he make a spray gun. So he made a spray gun.
CW: He just invented it?
FA: Yes, he invented it. He got a patent on it and everything. He invented the spray gun that we have.
CW: Did he have a patent on it?
FA: So that is how we got started.
CW: He must have sold a lot of those because he had a company.
FA: Yes we did sell an awful lot of those.
CW: Now who would buy them? Were they individuals or companies?
FA: Individuals would buy them. Different outfits that did painting in volume. People who were painters would buy them. Like the rubber companies would buy them.
CW: For their tires?
FA: Yes, for their tires. Yes, they used them on their tires. They used them on their tire machines. To me it looked just like a barrel. You would put it in your car.
CW: They must compress that rubber or something. It was really as big as a barrel when it goes in.
FA: It all depends on the size. Not all of them were that big. They were shaped like a barrel.
CW: Yes some of them were smaller.
FA: Some of the tires were bigger than others. We make tire machines too.
CW: It must have been an awful lot of work to get your product advertised.
FA: We didn’t advertise so much, but we had salesmen out on the road. Of course they had to travel a lot. They would give out our name.
CW: They would probably go to car repair places too wouldn’t they?
FA: Yes they did.
CW: Now these machines were they run by electricity?
FA: In later years they were run by both.
CW: The first one was like a hand pump.
FA: And then Grampa made a spray gun that you held and it would run on electricity. It was later years that he made the tire machine. That is what he did.
CW: He was smart to get a patent on it.
FA: Oh yes.
CW: Some people like Julie Heitman said her father or grandfather was very inventive and he invented a corn picker, I believe it was. It had something to do with corn. A shucker or something. He never got a patent and pretty soon somebody else was making it. That happens.
FA: Yes it does.
CW: It would take a lot of capital to get it started.
FA: That I don’t know. But it would take a lot to get it going.
CW: He may have sold some land in order to get a start up going.
FA: I don’t know what he did. I don’t know how they did that.
CW: That company must have moved because it was on Perry Street.
FA: Yes, they moved from there up where Gray used to have his place. That used to be where we were.
CW: That would be right next to the city building.
FA: Yes, back in there. The lumber company was next door. That is where we were for years until it burned one night.
CW: How did it happen to burn?
FA: We don’t know, but it was 18 below zero that night.
CW: How did you find out about it?
FA: Well, somebody saw it and reported it.
CW: Did they wake you up in the middle of the night?
FA: Yes, and Dad went over there and it burned and after that we couldn’t go back in there with our machinery and stuff. So we moved down on Fillmore Street where we had more room. We have been down there ever since. I think I was a freshman in high school when it burned.
CW: Is that right. That would have been in the 30s probably.
FA: I do remember that and it was so awful cold that night. I think our winters used to be like that.
CW: Maybe it was something they were heating in the building that caused that.
FA: That is what they thought, but they weren’t sure. There was a grate that went right up to that building. There was like a register that went clear up to there.
CW: You mean on the outside?
FA: They just think somebody came along and lit up a cigarette. It seems like that was the area where it was burning more. I don’t know and neither does anyone else.
CW: So you were living at home but across the street on the river side on West Maumee.
CW: So you could see it?
FA: Well, you know where my brother lives well the house right next to it is where I was raised.
CW: Now on which side of it. Now he is in the gray stone house.
FA: I was right next door.
CW: Is it the east side of it? Weren’t you scared?
FA: Well, yes.
CW: Did we have a fire department at that time?
FA: Oh my, yes. They were there.
CW: I would think that after the courthouse burned twice they would have a good fire department.
FA: They got that out and we got things together and moved to Fillmore Street. We had lots more room and what have you.
CW: Did your husband work for Plummer Spray then?
FA: No, not at first, but years later he did. At first he went to patrol school. From the time he left high school he went out West and worked with the Forest Division. He was out there and worked all over the west. Then he came home. I think it was the year I was out of high school when he came home. Then he went to the State Patrol School. I know he graduated from there and was waiting to be called. Of course when he went to school we were married.
CW: You mean you were married before he went to patrol school?
FA: Yes. Right then he didn’t have a job. But he had been working at Ford up in Detroit. That is a place many people go to work at when they are in State Patrol School. Of course my father said he would have to learn the business anyway so he might as well go down there and start in. He worked there all that time.
CW: He had been going from one job to another so he would know all about business.
FA: Right. So that is what he did.
CW: Did he and your brother get along?
FA: Yes they did. They got along.
CW: Now how did you meet him?
FA: How did I meet him? Well, he lived here in town. He was a cousin to one of the girls that I ran around with. He lived here and she lived there. Many a night when I would be down to Betty’s house and I would go home he would say you’re not going to cross that bridge alone.
CW: So he would walk with you.
FA: Yes he would walk right along with me. Then he went out West. Now this is crazy. He would always write to me and send me things from out West.
CW: Now were you girlfriend and boyfriend by that time?
FA: No! Just friends. He would write and tell me because I don’t get serious about anybody because he said I’ll be the one that is going to have you.
CW: Is that right. Did he say that before he went out west?
FA: No. He would call me and ask for a date. We were together from then on. That is what we did.
CW: I bet that was pretty exciting for you when he came back from out west.
FA: It was to think that we were together and got married. His cousin and I were really good friends. Well I got to thinking I wasn’t going to walk home alone in the dark across that bridge. He would walk with me and of course we’d be talking while we walked. So that was the way we did it.
CW: You did a lot of talking while you were walking.
FA: Right. Then talking about the firefighters. Do you remember when Wesche’s burned?
FA: Yes, the Wesche Furniture Store.
CW: Oh yes, the furniture store that was downtown. Where was it?
FA: Right there on the corner of Perry and Clinton. Who is in there now? Is that where the Ace store is now.?
FA: It was in there.
CW: Well then we had two furniture stores because there was one on Washington Street.
FA: Yes, that was Hagan’s.
CW: Do you remember when you first realized that was burning? You probably weren’t too aware of that one I suppose.
FA: I don’t know much about that. That I don’t, but I do remember when it burned.
CW: I remember when Spangler’s was on fire. That was shortly after my first husband died. So it must have been in 1973 or around there.
FA: Can I get you another cup of coffee?
CW: No thanks. I remember there was quite a bit of smoke and it looked like the whole thing was going to burn right down. It was right there in the center of town. But they got that fire out.
FA: Yes, it was just like when that restaurant burned. What did they call it, The Tin Lizzie Restaurant. That burned down.
CW: Yes that one really did burn to the ground.
FA: There was an awful lot of damage there.
CW: I wonder if somebody set that fire.
FA: I don’t know.
CW: It does seem strange.
FA: That was a real good fire that got going.
CW: Yes. Now the fire department is much better equipped than they used to be. I think they are better at dousing fires. You would almost think that it couldn’t burn to the ground.
FA: That right. I think it depends a lot on what kind of a building it is. It was wood and that has something to do with the fire as to how it goes and how soon they can get it out.
CW: Now when the hotel burned that was such a big old building.
FA: It was terrible trying to do anything with that building. I wasn’t here when that burned. I was in Florida. I remember them telling about it. That was fifteen years ago.
CW: Yes it has been a while.
FA: Well it was because the other week we were in Hill’s Restaurant and Guy said it took out about fifteen apartments and he was out there talking and we got to talking about that fire he said it was fifteen years ago. When he come out there and talked it might have been the same date or something. Guy had the restaurant in there. I do remember a Thomas who was on the fire department and I can remember how the firemen set up in the old Charles Company building and had food for the firemen. They had different fire departments here helping put out the fire.
CW: Was this when the hotel was burning?
FA: Yes. They had food and coffee and hot stuff all the time in there for them. The women of the fire department kept the food going to the firemen. I remember them telling about that, but I wasn’t here.
CW: That would have been a dangerous job. The hotel was several stories tall.
FA: It was a dangerous job.
CW: How many stories was it?
FA: There were three stories. I do know that Hill lived there. They had that restaurant downstairs. We used to go there every now and then. That much I remember.
CW: Do you know of any other buildings in downtown that burned?
FA: There were quite a few.
CW: Those floors I suppose when they get old why they get pretty dry. Maybe they were oily.
FA: Most of these places have all that oil on the floors.
CW: Just like putting kindling on a fire. Did you belong to any clubs? Somebody told me this is a clubby town.
FA: It is.
CW: But I don’t think it is now.
FA: Not as much as it was then. I used to belong to a couple of lodges. I did that.
CW: What were they like?
FA: I belonged to the Moose lodge. It was nice.
CW: Did they have a meeting once a month?
FA: They had meetings twice a month. They have a home in Florida. I don’t know if they have them other places or not. For the old people down in Florida they got a beautiful home down there.
CW: Oh they do!
FA: Then in Chicago they got this home that is an orphanage for people. Now I know some people that went up there and that is a gorgeous place. That is a very nice place. Some of these lodges work to make money. These homes are associated with the Moose Lodge.
CW: Well, you pay your dues once a year.
FA: Yes, that is right. I belonged to the Stars. That is the Eastern Star.
CW: What is the name of the organization?
FA: The Masons. There were the Masons too.
CW: That is not associated with the Moose.
FA: They are very different. Altogether different. They are a great organization.
CW: Did they have parties?
FA: The Moose does. Not the Eastern Stars. They weren’t allowed to have parties or things like that. Later on they would have a dinner where everybody would bring something in. Something like that. I don’t know what they are doing today. I still belong but I don’t go to the meetings. They weren’t allowed to have things like that.
CW: Was that according to their lodge rules?
FA: Every now and then they would have these big dinners and everybody would bring something in.
CW: Did they have rites that you would have to memorize something?
FA: The Masons did, but not the Eastern Star.
CW: Wasn’t it considered a feather in your cap to be a member of the Eastern Star? That is the impression I got.
FA: Both of those lodges were. They were both a very dignified group. They were very nice organizations. I remember I belonged to a sorority here in town.
CW: Now which one was that.
FA: I don’t even remember the name of it anymore.
CW: There was the Browsers, but then there was another one before that.
FA: It wasn’t Browsers. It was a sorority. You had to be asked to join it. You had to be asked.
CW: That’s the way it is with most of these clubs.
FA: You had to go through a ritual and memorize it.
CW: So they would have a ceremony and you had to recite something.
FA: You had to know the Greek alphabet and all that kind of stuff. I still can’t tell you the name of it. I don’t know if that sorority is still in existence or not. It was a very nice group. They would make money to do things for charity. If I can remember they made these Christmas trees out of tree limbs. They did all the decorating and gave the proceeds to the Filling Home. I can remember they donated an incubator for babies to the hospital. They did that. I can remember they donated winter coats for the school patrol.
CW: Well that would have been a good project.
FA: There were a lot of other things that we did that was really nice. We did a lot of things for the hospital. Those were the things we did with out projects when we made money.
CW: You did a lot of community service.
FA: That is what we used to do. That was a nice organization.
CW: What did you do at your meetings then?
FA: We would just have a meeting and discuss things. I remember we used to make things like Easter egg trees.
CW: Do you mean like ornaments?
FA: Yes. Do you remember we used to make those little things they would put on your tray on Sunday at the hospital?
CW: Oh yes.
FA: We used to do that. We did a lot of stuff like that.
CW: Our garden club is still making those once a year for the County Home.
FA: I belonged to a garden club we had here in town but they don’t have that anymore. I belonged to that.
CW: Now what were the garden clubs like years ago?
FA: Well, I don’t know. We didn’t do much. They just called it a garden club. At least the one I belonged to. We would go out and see different things. We would go different places and just talk about Napoleon gardens and flowers. It was just called a garden club.
CW: It was more of a social club is that right.
FA: Yes, for me it was. I belonged to that. They don’t even have that anymore.
CW: Did you live right here in this area when your children were little?
FA: I have lived in this neighborhood all of my life.
CW: What was it like when your children were little? Did you have to watch them so they wouldn’t get down to the river?
FA: We lived there and the river was right across the street. You can teach them to stay away from the river and after they learned to swim we built a nice dock out in back. We would put a boat in down there and nearly lived in it. We brought in sand and we had a real nice place to swim down there. Dad made this in back of his house.
CW: So you made sort of a reef.
FA: Yes. We had a real nice area. Today you couldn’t get me into that river. You just learn the danger of these things. You just learn the dangers of these things. Just like when you live along a street you teach your children not to go out in the street. That’s the way that was.
CW: Did anybody ever jump off the bridge into the river?
FA: I have heard of people doing it.
CW: You mean you heard of the experience, but never really saw anybody do it.
FA: Yes, I know there has been.
CW: But the river isn’t very deep.
FA: Well, there are places where it is deeper than here in town. That’s the way that goes.
CW: I know one time when Judy and I were walking when we heard this woman yelling help and she was out in the middle of the river. We were worried and when we got back we called the police and they said, “Oh, that is so and so. She is always jumping off.”
FA: Yes you can go up here by Yarnell’s where there is another swimming hole. It’s down there by Yarnell’s. You would go out so far and there were some islands you could stand on that one island. You could actually stand on it.
CW: Is that right!
FA: We had a lot of fun.
CW: What else do you have?
FA: I still remember I guess I told you about that when we were out to eat. Remember the lion that was in the barn down here.
CW: Oh tell me about that.
FA: I can remember that. There was a circus that was here in town. They were going to be down on the east end of town. I don’t remember exactly where. They went under the viaduct down there, and the cage where they had the lion in they hit a bump and it opened up the lion cage.
CW: Where was this viaduct at?
FA: It was down on the east end. I don’t get the connection anymore. Anyway they went under the viaduct down there and the cage where they had the lion in took a hit and it took the top right off of the cage.
CW: Now where was this viaduct at maybe down by Campbell’s Soup?
FA: No, it was on the other side of the river. It was down there close to where the junk yard used to be.
CW: Oh yes, where the railroad track is.
FA: Yes, I forgot about the railroad track being there. It ran and ended up in Fred Walters barn. And that is where he stayed. Of course everybody all over town all stayed in their house.
CW: What did they do announce it on the radio?
FA: I don’t know how they did it anymore. Anyway the lion was nearly tame. He wouldn’t do any harm there in the barn. He just went in there to hide I guess. He was very nice. They just went in there, collared him took him out.
CW: They just took him out like a dog.
FA: Yes they did. I do remember that.
CW: Did they use to have a circus in town?
GA Oh yes, it was on the east end of town. It was down in there around the Products. They would have tent shows. They used to have circuses out at the fairgrounds too.
CW: What was a tent show and what was that like?
FA: Why they would have plays.
CW: They would bring in actors? Would they put up chairs?
FA: They would come in as a company. They would have their own tent and their own players. I remember going to them too. We had circuses.
CW: That would be exciting too.
FA: They were things that you don’t see today. You don’t see any of that stuff today.
CW: Would these circuses have merry go rounds and things like that?
FA: No, they would usually just have the big tent. They put the people inside.
CW: Were there other attractions like the maybe a fat lady or something like that.
FA: Yes, there were a lot of circuses that had things like that. Yes, they would have side shows with strange things. It was what you would call the side show.
CW: Could you hear the barker from your house make announcements when he would try to get people to come in and see the shows?
FA: I don’t know but when they would have the fairs out here you could. A few years ago it was like it was right in my back yard. You could hear the loud music and you could hear the announcements. You could hear that and like I said it sounded like it was in my back yard.
CW: That would have been pretty exciting for a young kid.
FA: But now you don’t hear anything from the fairgrounds.
CW: Well you probably do when they have the tractor pulls.
FA: Yes, those people go crazy. You can hear it clear over to her house. I bet you can hear them too.
CW: Yes I can. I have another question for you. Have you ever heard that they had religious services here on the south side.
FA: Oh that was right down here at the corner where the apartments are. They used to have a building down there. We used to call them the holey rollers.
CW: Were they really holey rollers?
FA: Oh my, you could hear them clear up here. Oh my they would get to shouting and cry and, oh my, it was something to see. Sometimes we would go down and just listen to them. It was really something. It was right over there where the apartment is.
CW: Do you mean right next to the apartment?
FA: It was on the land where the apartment is. I can remember how they used to carry on way late.
CW: Now did very many people go to those?
FA: Why it was way packed. It was always full. I don’t know if it was some kind of religion or where all these people came from. They were so faithful.
CW: Where did they get the name holey rollers?
FA: I have no idea.
CW: I am wondering if it was from rolling around on the ground.
FA: I think a lot of it was on the ground. It was almost like a circus to go down there and see some of those people. They would get so carried away. It was something to see. I do remember that.
CW: Would they just have them walk through.
FA: There would be a whole herd of them. There would be somebody on each side and maybe somebody in the back and they would have somebody up to the front and tell them where to go. They would start down. They would tell us to get the kids in because the cows were coming. Of course we would be outside in the yard playing.
CW: Would the cows walk through the yards too?
FA: I remember one time they did come up through the yard. They would try to keep the cows in the street. They told us to keep the kids inside. I can remember many and many a night when we stood out on the porch and we would watch the cows go by. They would take them across the bridge up through town and I suppose they went out to Bauman’s. I can remember them doing that.
CW: I think they took them up there and put them on railway cars.
FA: I don’t know where they took them. I remember they would go through town and passed by here. I can remember one time my aunt and sister that lived out here just right outside of town. It was where they used to sell strawberries and stuff. They used to live out there. They would put on their own parade. Of course we always wanted to go on a picnic. We wanted to go out there and go in the woods. They took us to a parade. That is what we used to do. My aunt would always say to come on out and you can go to the woods. She was quite tickled for us to come. The rest of us would take our things along to eat. The rest of us would go out in the woods. We would have a barrel of fun out there.
CW: I bet you did.
FA: I can remember that one day I know they had seen some pigs loose out there in the woods. We would eat and always put stuff back in our baskets. Anyway that day we ate and put stuff back in our basket and we walked through the woods here and there and then we went back to get our food. Here the pigs got into our food and ate it. I remember that.
CW: Were you afraid?
FA: No, just mad at them. We chased them away. We had already eaten. Do you remember the Boyers that had the funeral home?
CW: Oh yes.
FA: They used to live down here. Right there by the bank. Of course me and my sister were good friends and we were always together. She was at our house and we would go down there. Well, she was with us that day. We decided we were too dirty to walk home. We were tired and we didn’t want to walk home. So she said I’ll call my dad and he can come and get us. First thing we knew we heard the sirens going. He was always pulling tricks on us. He would always be pulling tricks on us and he turned the sirens on. We went all the way into town with those sirens on. That was down there where the bank is by the grocery store. He stopped here down by the bank because there were six of us that lived down this way. He stopped there down on the corner and we decided we could walk home. That was our ambulance ride. A lot of people just stared. It was about the first time they ever brought girls out.
CW: That was back in the days when the funeral parlors owned their own ambulance. That service was free as I understand it. Now it costs a lot to use it.
FA: He was just always pulling tricks on us. Just like they used to have the funeral homes uptown. At least that was where they fixed the body. You didn’t have the funeral home. They would have the viewing either at the church or at your home.
CW: They didn’t have funerals in the funeral home.
FA: Not at that time. A lot of these places did it that way when I was a kid. He had a lot of ribbons around the funeral home and he told us we could go down there and play and use some of the ribbons for our dolls. This one day he let us down there to play.
CW: He had a daughter your age too.
FA: Yes he did and we were down there playing. We knew he was upstairs and when it was time for us to leave. We had to go through this area where they embalmed the bodies. He always told us if there was a body in there he would tell us. He put a body in there and we were petrified. Those were the things he did to us. Just like one time we could go up there to that one little place and watch them practice football.
CW: You could very easily because it was above Loose Field.
FA: That is where he kept all those caskets and we had to go through there. One day he said it was time for him to clean the casket room.
CW: He what?
FA: He said I’ll have to clean those caskets before they start goaning.
CW: That would scare a bunch of young girls.
FA: Oh he was always doing something like that with us kids. We used to get a big kick out of that.
CW: He probably had all the girls squeeling. Do you remember anything about the depression?
FA: Oh, I sure do. Oh my yes.
CW: What do you remember?
FA: I remember it was very hard. I can remember there were many and many a suicides.
CW: There were?
FA: Oh my yes. People just could not take it.
CW: How did they live through it then?
FA: Some of them used gas. There were different ways that they would do it. There was an awful lot of that.
CW: Some of them had gas ovens on their stoves.
FA: Oh yes, they would stick their head in there. They were so used to having things and they just could not take it. I think it would be worse now if we were to have a depression because all of these kids have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth. We never wanted for anything. They will not be able to take it.
CW: That could very well be.
FA: There is so many of us that spend their payceck. They don’t save. Maybe the people can’t. They just use paper to get the things that they want. Oh I remember that. I sure do.
CW: With your grandfather having that factory I bet you didn’t have any trouble.
FA: It was tight. We had to cut too. I think everybody did. People were not buying or anything. It was at a stand still.
CW: I remember this one woman telling about how she and her sister would have to take turns getting new shoes. One would get them one year and the other one would get a pair the next year. They would look forward to getting new shoes.
FA: Oh yes. If you would get something new you would be in seventh heaven. The clothing for the child was most important. My mother made a lot of our clothes.
CW: Oh yes.
FA: You sewed a lot of the clothes you wore. You only bought a dress when it was something special. Outside of that your mother sewed.
CW: I like to sew too, but I never really learned. After my daughter was older. I had some sewing lessons and I made this outfit with pink flowered dress and a pink coat lined from the same material as the dress. So I got a pink hat. We always had to have a hat at Easter time.
FA: Oh my yes.
CW: My youngest was just a little farmer. We went into church and as I pulled him up on my lap he said, “Mama you look like a cow.” That took the wind out of my sails. He probably meant it as a compliment.
FA: Just like us when our daughter was 2 1/2 years old and we went to Florida. We went around to different places and this one place we stopped, why it was a big plantation. They had people there to show you around this big plantation. We wanted to go so bad. There was another couple there that didn’t want to go because she thought she would be disturbing things. So we decided we would go. They had a flat bed wagon and this black lady came and said put your feet here. Then they had a black mammy with her mule taking us through. He had a hat on picking up a flower. Do you remember these old capes. She had one of those on. She had on what we used to call clod hoppers. He wanted to know if she could sit on his lap. She was tickled to death to sit on her lap. She had a little black doll.
CW: Did she have this doll with her?
FA: No, but she thought an awful lot of it. Finally she let out, “Mommy Mommy! This is like Samanth’s mother.” I could have died, but she just laughed.
CW: We used to have these dolls that had big skirts. You would put the skirt one way and you would have a white momma, and you would put the skirt the other way you would have a black momma. I guess they probably don’t even make them now. It might hurt somebody’s feelings!
FA: You have to be so careful nowadays. So careful. Just like when I was in rehab with a broken hip down in Florida I told this one young lady I didn’t like what she was doing. She was a nice looking girl. One day I said to her that “you people I appreciate the way you come in, it’s wonderful the way you do these things.” “Now, just a minute,” she said. “I don’t like this idea of calling us ‘you people’.” I told her, “Now just a minute. You have got me all wrong. I said you people coming in here all of you are so nice. I didn’t refer you any other way.” That’s not right. Right away she took it wrong. We have always had a lot of help. Like I said this fellow was so nice. I talked to him one night and he said I would just have to get after them more.
CW: High School kids are like that now. They want a job and they want the money but they go to work when they feel like it.
FA: Some of them are like that. So they have troubles just like we do.
CW: We tell the high school kids and they don’t seem to resent it as far as I know.
FA: But you have to be real careful with these college kids.
CW: I think there is too much drugs and alcohol.
FA: I think so too.
End of tape.
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