Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, July 2003
C. Tell me about the spelling of your first name. How is that spelled?
C. It is July 3, 2003. I’m interviewing Byron Armbruster. Would
you tell me what you just said about your name?
B. When I was born my parents thought they'd like to name Bryan, after
William Jennings Bryan, who was a Democrat. So when it came time for
me to be baptized Rev. Lankenau being a staunch Republican said, "Oh
no, not Bryan!" So then they compromised and named me Byron Bryan.
C. (laughs) That’s quite a mouthful! Do you have any other memories
of your childhood or storied that your parents told you?
B. Well, I'm now 90 so that's a long time ago. But I'm in the middle
of seven children and-uh-my father was the youngest of 13. So we were
the youngest cousins but I wound up with 40-some first cousins and as
of right now I have one still living because we were the youngest.
B. Oh, is that right! Did you used to have family reunions?
B. Oh yes. We had family reunions and of course like I say we come from
a fairly big family and there were three families living right close
by out in the country where I was born and raised.
C. Where was that?
B. The Saneholtz family, the Nelson family and our family. Between Napoleon
and Malinta. And-uh-so between the three families we had 20-some children
so I had a lot of playmates. And of course it was a lot different in
those days than it is now because when we went to eat we always had at
least 11 around our table. We had my parents, 7 children, my grandmother
and a hired man. And on top of that there'd usually be one or two visiting,
one or the other of us kids, they'd be invited to stay too. And every
meal was started with a prayer, and the meal wasn't started until everyone
was seated. T'wasn't like it is now: one grab a sandwich here and run,
and another one—(laughs) A little different in those days.
C. Did you get into any mischief with all those cousins?
B. Oh, not too much.
C. You played outside a lot I suppose, didn't you?
B. One thing, of all those years I never remember any of us kids getting
a paddling. We never got spanked like a lot of people say they did. Never
once were any of us spanked. We were kind of afraid of our dad. All he
had to do was shake his finger at us. We knew that that meant, 'Behave.'
C. And they probably had been pretty strict with the first one or two
and then the rest of you followed along and did what your older brothers
and sisters did.
B. Right. The older brothers and sisters took care of the younger brothers
and sisters. (laughs) That's what we did.
C. Did you help with the farming at all?
B. I never did too much farming. I stayed home until I went into the
service, but-a-I never did too much farming. Well I did a lot of chores.
We did a lot of chores. Always had a lot of animals.
C. What sort of chores did you do then?
B. We had to milk the cows and all that. In fact, my one sister, she
worked there in Napoleon. She went back and forth on a bicycle, but before
she went to work she had to milk the cows. She worked in the 5 & 10
Cent Store. We all worked.
C. Tell a little about what that 5 & 10 cent store was like.
B. Well, it had the candy counter; you know how they used to have all
bulk candy all around. Where the old Vocke building, you know, is where
it was, on the corner there. A lot different than now.
C. A friend of mine tells about how one cold day she went into the 5 & 10
in a hurry and she wanted to make her purchase and get out. So she had
her gloves on and she had to reach in to get her money out and so she
just put her gloves in her mouth and pulled to take the glove off and
her teeth fell out with the glove. (laughs) They ended up on the floor.
She said she was so embarrassed! Did you have a pony?
B. Yes I did. We had a lot of pets. I had everything, a pet monkey and
a pony and and ducks, geese, dogs and cats, rabbits.
C. Wow, bantam rooster.
B. Yeah. (laughs)
C. What was your favorite?
B. Oh, I guess that monkey was my favorite.
C. What was he like?
B. Well, he was a little marmoset, a small species of monkey. In fact
he was so small I kept him in a bird cage. I would let him out occasionally
but he would run up our lace curtains and he was so light he wouldn't
even hurt the lace curtains.
C. Is that right?
B. I'd put him on--he'd hang on my finger like this on the one side
of my hand and you couldn't see him on the other side.
C. Oh, he was really small!
B. And when he slept at night--now of course in those days our house
got awfully cold at night. In fact it would freeze in our kitchen and
that's where I kept the bird cage and so every night I put a fur muff
in his cage. He would sleep in that muff. One night I forgot to put the
muff in the cage and next morning I got up. He was clinging to the top
of the bird cage and he was just stiff like he was dead. We got him out
and my mother made a whiskey sling. We took an eye dropper and slid it
down his throat. He came alive just as good as new.
C. Oh, isn't that something! No, I didn't even know there was such an
animal. That was a lot of fun for you to play with. Did you go to a one-room
B. Yeah. I went to a one-room school just about a half mile from where
I lived and we'd walk. Course in those days the winter was a lot more
severe than they are now. We'd have a lot of snow and-uh-so sometimes
even the school teachers would be snowed in. They'd stay all night at
our place. And I had the same teacher for eight years. I never had another
teacher until I went to high school.
C. Was he good?
B. Oh yeah. Burl Bauman.
C. Merle Bauman?
B. No, Burl. He was Merle's uncle. Yeah. There was four of us had the
same teacher: Ron Palmer, Garnet Eisman, Darris Mohler and myself. We
all had the same teacher for eight years.
C. Were there just four in your school?
B. Oh no. We had about 30, nearly 40.
C. And they'd be all 8 grades?
B. All 8 grades.
B. And we had-uh-an old well in the corner of the school yard and we'd
get a pail of water and bring it in the schoolhouse. We had one dipper.
We all drank out of the same dipper. No one died. (laughs) Naturally.
C. Did you have a bucket you carried it in?
B. We all carried a bucket, and one of my standbys was, in those days
there were so many fence rows everybody had a lot of elderberries. And
my mother always made enough elderberry jelly to last all winter. So
we had a lot of elderberry sandwiches and she'd make a layer of elderberry
jelly and a layer of peanuts. That was our sandwiches.
C. That'd be good for you too. Then what did they do, recess school
for an hour or something for lunch?
B. I don't know about an hour, but we'd have 15 minutes recess, two
recesses at noon.
C. Did you have slides and jungle gyms or anything like that?
B. No. We had nothing.
C. How did you play then?
B. Well we played ball and made tents out of burlap bags, things like
C. Oh you did! Yeah, you learn to make do with a lot of little things.
B. Right. No running water or anything. Well, we didn't have it at home
either. At home we had no running water, no electricity and of course
like the rest of them we had a little patch of a garden and at the end
of the path was a little building with a Sears Roebuck catalogue in it.
In fact we used to call it our miniature library. You could sit out there
and read. Course you didn't do much readin' in the winter time.
C. I know. You wouldn't stay very long. Did you go there to get away
from chores sometimes?
D. No. We had to do our chores. But with no electricity we'd all sit
around the dining room table in the evening. We had a coal-oil light
like the one hanging there which went up and down and that's where we
did all our school work at the table.
B. Did your mom pop popcorn?
B. Yes, we had popcorn and we had a big orchard. We had apples every
C. Oh in the evening you'd eat apples and popcorn?
B. Yeah. We used to have a wainscot corner around there. We'd chew gum.
We'd have a wad of gum and we'd take it out and put it on the wainscoting.
Maybe the next day we'd go back and pick up our wad of gum and chew it
some more. In fact, I thought that's what that wainscoting was for. (laughs)
C. I remember Ed telling about, or I guess it was his sister, that after
all the kids had grown up they decided they would sell the big table
and buy a smaller one, and they went to get this table apart and way
up in under the top of the table was a little tiny ledge where the legs
were held together, or the sides or something, and one of the boys had
put every food that he didn't like up on that shelf. (laughs)
B. I know our school desks all had wads of gum underneath.
C. Yeah. I remember that. Now, let's see, how old were you when you
B. Well, I enlisted, and let's see, I was in the service two and half
years and when I came out I was 30.
C. What did you do before you went in the service then? Did you have
B. Well, I worked at the canning plant here in Napoleon. I worked for
all of them. I worked for Lippencot, Standard Brand, Campbell Soup.
C. Those were all here in Napoleon?
B. Oh yes. And--uh--my folks always had a big truck farm. I liked to
garden. When I enlisted that was quite a thing too. All my friends had
gone and I'd go to town on a Saturday night and noone was around anymore
so I thought I might as well enlist.
C. Did you have brothers that were in the war too?
B. Yeah. I had one brother.
C. So where did you-uh--go then when you enlisted?
B. Well, I, when I enlisted I was at Ft. Benjamin Harrison.
C. Where's that?
B. Indiana. And-uh--Carlton Reiser--I don't know whether you ever knew
him. He was from Napoleon and he was a Captain at that time and he was
the one who put me on the train to go down south. And then I went to
Camp Claybourne, Louisiana, is where I was stationed for awhile. And
on the way down on the train it was listed as to what branch of service
they would put you in and I had worked for the highway department a couple
years prior to going into service and so I was puffin' up guard rails
and mowin' grass, so they put me in as an engineer. (laughs) I stayed
with the engineers all through my service and so then when I got down
to the camp there I joined the 82nd Division and that was Sgt. York's
old War I division, so I met Sgt York. He was still there.
C. So you met Sgt. York?
B. Isn't that something. So then-uh after we took our basic training
or shortly thereafter they split the 82nd Division and they made two
Airborne Divisions, the 101st and the 82nd.
C. Division of what? The Air Force?
B. No. The Army. And so they made two airborne divisions out of the
82nd Division. They made the 82nd Division and the 101st Division. Prior
to that time there had never been such a thing such as an Airborne Division.
You had to be either a paratrooper or a glider. So I was put in the 101st
Airborne and stayed with it all the way through. The Airborne unit was
only half as large as the other divisions. We had 15,000 instead of 30,000
which is the regular division. So I was trained as a glider trooper.
C. You were! Did you ride in a glider?
B. Oh yeah.
C. Those were dangerous.
B. But after we got ready to go to Europe we went to New York and boarded
the ship there and that was really a full ship. I thought, gosh, I hated
that. It was a terrible rusty old ship that was run by Indians and the
name of the ship was Stropenover. Well, we started over on a convoy and
our ship did have trouble so we had to leave the convoy and pull in to
Newfoundland so we were in Newfoundland about two weeks while they were
trying to get it fixed up and after the repairs they started out and
as we were at the mouth of the port we struck a boulder or something
and poked a hole in it and we had to come back in, so we were there all
alone in Newfoundland and for two weeks we were in Newfoundland. Then
we ran out of supplies. While we were in Newfoundland there was an army
station there named Pepperele so we'd go for a hike up there and wash
our clothes and come back and go on the ship again. Well, it was such
a dirty hole of a ship and the cooks were Indians, they wore their old
clothes way down to their feet and they were just filthy. And their bread
was so full of weavels it looked like raisin bread.
C. Ooh! Bugs or something?
B. Little bugs. And everybody got dysentery, and everybody had to use
the toilet and not enough toilets so everybody went on the deck. It was
just terrible. You couldn't stand up it was so slippery. Just a mess--it
was terrible! So then we finally ordered another ship to come take the
place of this one. So then we got a replacement ship. We transferred
on to that but by that time we were out of supplies so we had to go to
Halifax, Nova Scotia to get supplies so we could start back over to Europe.
And so we were all alone with just one small ship as an escort going
to Nova Scotia and they kept dropping depth bombs you know, they'd detect
metal, submarine or what. Anyway we did get loaded and come back and
joined another convoy and went over to England, Liverpool. So from the
time we left. and that was half of our Division. The other half of our
Division had already gone on another boat and they were over in England
waitin' on us. So from the time we left New York until we got to England
it took us 45 days, to get from here to over there. So then we were in
England and we trained in England but we were there a whole year prior
to D Day. Do you remember Normandy? I went in on D Day.
C. Were you piloting?
B. No. This was strange too. When we got ready to go they didn't have
quite enough gliders so our Battalion and a couple other Battalions,
they went by boat, the Susan B. Anthony, and on crossing the Channel
we struck a mine and we had to abandon ship in the Channel and so when
we struck the mine we were way down in the hold, the bottom of the ship.
The lights went off. So it came over the loud speaker to come up on deck,
feel your way. So we got up on deck, everybody, and they said, "Discard
everything you have. Make yourself as light as possible." So we
took everything off except out clothes and so another little ship came
over beside us and so I went by net over on that smaller ship.
C. By net, how do you mean?
B. Well, they had the net. They just threw it over from one ship to
the other and you had to crawl over.
C. You got on the net and they lifted you over?
B. No. You just had to crawl over. Well, it could only accommodate half
of us, so then another ship--by that time our ship was gettin', leaning
quite heavily, so they couldn't pull on the other side and then another
ship pulled us on the other side of that, so we went from ship to ship
to ship and every one of us got off our ship but we didn't have anything.
We lost our rifles, our gas masks, our ammunition, helmet, everything.
So then after we broke away about a half hour later we saw our ship kinda
rare up and disappear.
C. Oh! A half-hour after you left.
B. So then those two ships took us as far as they could take us, then
we had to go on to landing crafts which took us in as far as they could
go, so then we had to wade in.
C. Now this was where?
B. This was on D Day going into Normandy.
B. Of course by that time the beach was covered with dead, the wounded,
screaming, bleeding and-uh-so the first dead person I came to I took
everything he had. I took his back pack, helmet, gas mask and everything,
C. Were they shooting at you?
B. Oh yes, bombing and shooting, and-uh my best buddy-uh-I don't know
what happened to him. He was ahead of me a little bit. I don't know whether
he stepped on a land mine or whether a grenade hit him or what--don't
know but he was minus an arm or a leg or something. He was just all mangled
up and he just begged me to shoot him and-uh I couldn't. So I went on
and I prayed that he would die. And then after we went through all this
on the beach and stuff we went inland about 3/4 of a mile to an old homestead
that's all built out of stone, and-uh we went in there and we stayed
there for several weeks. We were fighting from there and-uh you felt
safe when you were in this stone building which they kept bombing. You
weren't safe from the bombing but you was safe from all the gunfire and
stuff. So I layed there on that hay stack and I remember everything was
goin' through my mind, "How did I get here? and what my folks were
doin'" and all that and-uh so I didn't get my clothes changed for
about three days, and it had to be treated you know for gas that was
impregnated in the clothes, so when I took my socks off the skin and
all came with them cause they'd been on so long. And of course our dead
was layin' there in all the ditches and everywhere and the water was
in the ditches. And you couldn't drink the water because of all the dead
people. But we were lucky in one way. This farm place where we stayed
had a couple barrels of hard cider so we all filled our canteens with--that's
what we had, hard cider. So then after we were there fightin' for all
those weeks we went back to England to get new people because we had
lost so many and got replacements and got reequipped and stuff waitin'
for the next mission. Then we flew from England to Holland for that mission
and-uh we went in there with a glider and-uh--Truss Leader, you know
she's from Holland? She called me her liberator. They have me over there
every so often for dinner. Course she was in an orphanage at that time
and she said they lived on rats and stale bread, uh, moldy bread. She
said that nobody got sick though because mold in penicillan, you know?
And after that mission we went down to Marmelade, France to get new
replacements for all these casualties that was goin' on.
C. Wait a minute. What did you do in Holland? On that mission?
B. Holland had been occupied by the Germans for a couple years.
C. Were you a foot soldier there, or—
B. Yeah. I was in supply all the way through. I have friends now in
Holland that we keep in touch with all the time. I've been to their place
and every five years they have reunions over there and I've been to them.
One lady said they had these Germans living in their garage. And when
the gliders started landing they were so happy that--she said she rode
out in the field when the gliders were landing on her bicycle and she
said our boys stole her bicycle. So then we went back to France and we,
some of the fellows got furloughed and they were goin' all over. They
were goin' back to England to visit, some went to Paris and different
places and they just had got back to France and then here the Germans
had broke through our lines up there in Belgium and we got word we had
to go up there to Bastogne and hold Bastogne, Belgium. So we went by
truck then. In fact we stood up on this truck like cigars on end. It
was so tight you couldn't sit down. We rode there hours and hours and
C. That's the only way you could travel I suppose.
B. So they got in there and then-uh of course were pinned there in Bastogne
7 days over Christmas. That's when that general gave the "Nuts!" reply.
You probably read it.
C. Oh yeah. Let's review that.
B. They said we had to surrender or else they would--annihilate the
whole town. They understood that the Americans being great humanitarians
they didn't think we'd want to be responsible for the killing of all
the civilians. They wanted us to give up. And Gen. McCullough said, "Nuts!" and
the German general didn't know what "Nuts" meant. They told
him that meant, "Go to Hell!" So then the bombing began in
earnest. They really did take place. Of course there were a lot of tunnels
in Bastogne that had been built for their soldiers and all that, so I
slept in a tunnel at night; that's the only chance to be safe, and that's
one of the chances you take. By that time the Germans had taken so many
of our men prisoners they took our clothes from our POWs and they would
infiltrate our lines. They took English-speaking Germans that came in
you know and the Germans would say, "Hey, Joe!" and the guy
would come out of hiding and someone would shoot him. You never knew
whether it was friend or foe that you were with. Didn't know where you
were. Well then after that we went down through Belgium and in the fields
there was just acres and acres of German soldiers who didn't know what
to do. They were told to go home. The war was over.
C. Were they alive?
C. Wait a minute. How did this happen? How did the American armies get
out of this--the Germans trapped them didn't they? That's why they were
B. No, we were holding.
C. You were not under Patton?
B. Yeah, that's what I'm gettin' at. Patton and his group came in and
that's how we got out.
C. Patton's group took you out then?
B. Yeah. They came in. I went by jeep to Germany and all that and wound
up in Birchtesgaden and in fact Hitler's house was leveled by the RAF
so we went in by jeep. The day the war ended, May 8, I was in his house.
C. Is that right? What was it like?
B. Oh it had been bombed. It was leveled. Of course the Eagle's Nest
where he used to go up. That was intact. And then we were scheduled to
go into Japan but by that time I had enough points that I could be released
since I had so many points so I had left the outfit and went down to
Marseilles, France waiting for a ship to go back through the Mediterranean
past the Rock of Gibraltar on my way home so while I was waiting there
in Marseilles, France to come home that's when we dropped the bomb there
in Japan. So our whole division didn't have to go there.
C. Now the points you mentioned, would you explain that?
B. Oh you got so many points for time that you served, missions you
C. Time that you served?
C. Missions you were on.
B. But you see our casualties were much heavier than the ordinary soldier's.
In fact, I looked up some of these figures and-uh we had 15,000 when
our Division first went in, you know, on D-Day, and-uh at the end of
the war of the original 15,000 people you know how many were still in
their battalion? 2,655.
B. Of the originals.
C. The rest were dead?
B. I don't mean they were dead. Some were transferred out, some were
prisoners of war, some were injured. But of the original--and I'm one
of the original. 15,000 to less than 3,000.
C. Is that right!
B. And in fact we had formations like I say, and in our battalion we
had 868 killed or wounded, and-uh captured 665. And anyway there were
almost 11,000 of them that had left the battalion during those formations.
C. How many years were you in Europe on those missions, do you know
how many total?
B. Well no, see I was in England for one whole year before we went in
and we were only fighting about six months. But there were seven of us
from here in the 101st Airborne and I'm the only one that was left. There
was--you probably know some of them. Elder Meyer--he was from Jewel and
Wilbur Gerken, he was from Malinta, you know Fran Freytag? Her husband
was a barber?
C. Yeah, yeah.
B. This is her brother, and I was with him. He was killed going into
Normandy on D-Day. Yeah. He was killed right then on D-Day. And Herman
Badenhop--he's out here in Freedom Township--and he could speak German.
He could interpret for us, you know, then Harvey Moorehead from Napoleon
and Wilbur Clark, the last one that just died, over there on Riverview
you know, then myself and there was one--I forget his first name but
a Baker from Holgate. He died shortly after the war. I'm the only one
B. Yeah, then I was discharged in '45.
C. Well you were fortunate that you were in the supply part.
C. Because I remember my husband saying, "Boy those gliders, they
were just at the mercy of anyone on the ground."
B. We got $50 a month extra pay because they said, they called it 'hazardous
C. Yeah. Sure it was hazardous duty!
B. They made us feel good though. They said if we crashed we wouldn't
have to worry about fire.
C. You'd be dead.
B. Well see, our two generals, Gen. Taylor, he jumped in on D Day; Gen.
Pratt, he went in by glider and his pilot of the glider was Gerky from
Findlay, that oil company. I knew him real well. And his glider crashed
and Gen. Pratt was killed going in.
C. So both of them were killed probably.
B. No. Gen. Taylor made it.
C. I mean both the pilot and general were killed.
B. The general had several aides with him were killed but the pilot
only received a broken leg.
B. I guess that's about it.
C. Pretty hard. Now let's see, when did you meet your wife then, wife-to-be?
B. Well, I'd known her for quite a while and-uh do you remember Tillie
and Ida Dietson who used to do seamstress work there? They were good
friends with the Higgins family, my wife's folks, so they arranged that
she and I come to their home one evening. That's how we got acquainted.
We were gonna get married before the war and-uh I hesitated because I
said if anything happened to me I think my mother should, was worthy,
should have the insurance. So I didn't get married till after the war.
And then, so we were married within a month after I was home.
C. Oh you were. Did she come to see you while you were in the service?
B. Oh yeah. When I was at Ft. Bragg.
C. Let's see, Ft. Bragg was at what state again?
B. North Carolina. And-uh I just have the one son and-uh then she passed
away and I remarried, so I lost two wives.
C. Oh is that right. And-uh who was your second wife?
B. Rosella Hoff from Holgate who I had gone with before I went with
my first wife, but she was an only child and her parents didn't want
her to get married. (laughs) She had it rather unpleasant. So-uh-my first
wife and I were married 12 years and the second wife 18 and we did have
some nice times.
C. When did you have your son then, with the first wife?
B. First wife.
C. And you lived where?
B. Well-uh when I got back from the service we bought the house there
on the corner of Park and Sheffield. And then-uh we lived there about
two years. That's where my son was born and then when my son was about--well
less than a year old we moved to the big house her folks and grandparents
owned, right across from the library on the corner of Webster and Clinton,
the big yellow house.
C. Oh, that big yellow house!
B. Lived there for years and years.
C. is that right. Yeah, that's directly across from the library.
B. And then we had a cottage. We spent a lot of time there. My wife
spent more time there than I when I was working.
C. What sort of work did you do?
B. I worked at Campbell's. It wasn't Campbell's but it was a canning
C. Were you in the office there? Or on the line?
B. I was in the stockroom.
C. Stockroom. Not too bad a job. It was nice steady work.
B. I was responsible for all three shifts. I worked days but once in
a while when they couldn't find anyone to work at night I'd get a call
and would have to run out there. I liked the job, did a good job. In
fact, I'm the oldest retiree now at Campbell Soup. They have a breakfast
once a month you know, the retirees; I'm the oldest one.
C. Where were these other canning factories that were in town?
B. Same location. Lippencotts built it. They're the ones that started
it and-uh gosh I can't think of the last name now but he married a Diehlman
girl. They had a coal yard. They lived there where Fritz Pohlman lived.
Yeah, Lippencotts built it, started it. Walt Scheib started it. He was
the superviser at that time, Chub Bevelheimer's father.
C. Did they can tomatoes? Is that what the old factories did?
B. Yeah, they made a lot of ketchup, which they don't do anymore.
C. At the time when I was going to school at Bowling Green they were
making the Heinz ketchup. Every fall the whole town would smell like
B. And they used to run their stuff, their bad water, in the river and
the river would be red from here to Grand Rapids. They made them quit
C. George Rafferty said he made many trips to Chicago to try to get
Campbell’s to put up their factory here, but he said you wouldn't
believe the amount of opposition he got from local bigwigs who didn't
want the town to grow.
B. That's the same deal like the University. When they built Bowling
Green University-- it was going to have it here you know but they had
too many bars here.(laughs)
C. Is that what it was? The fact that they had bars? I heard that they
met the representatives of the state that wanted to build Bowling Green
Unversity here and they weren't very cordial or something. Did you hear
anything like that?
B. I don't know. I know they debated between Bowling Green and Napoleon.
C. Well, there were a lot of very powerful people here who didn't want
the town to grow. They wanted it to stay the same in size. Well, we found
out since it must progress or regress. It can't stay the same. Well did
you work in stock in all the other factories that you worked in too?
B. At the beginning Y'know, when they built Lippencott's they had one
girl in the office, Mary McBride. She didn't have enough work to keep
her busy. She'd come out and help us label. We were all labeling. Of
course at that time you had to do it by hand. See now how it's grown?
C. What changes have you noticed in Napoleon in your lifetime?
B. Oh gosh, it's all filled up. Y'know where Anthony Wayne is? There
was just one farm house there.
C. Anthony Wayne Restaurant?
B. No. Anthony Wayne subdivision. There was one farm out there. Same
deal out there where our church is on Glenwood: the Jackman farm with
just one house. Oh yeah, all that is built up, more so on that side of
town though than on this side.
C. But they used to have grocery stores and gas stations and everything
on the south side, didn't they.
B. Oh yeah. There was a whole string of stores and a furniture store,
lumber yard, all that. It's all gone.
C. On the south side, you mean?
C. Ray and I tried to find a house. We wanted to move out of the big
house into a small one. We tried to find a house for sale on the south
side. We drove all over and we couldn't find one. There was just one
tiny, tiny little one that was just too small.
B. Do you remember Morrison's Grocery Store?
B. They had one son who was a really good musician, Tom Morrison. I
have one of their plates, a souvenir. And I have seven plates, souvenir
C. Yeah, they used to give plates away at Christmas time, didn't they?
B. Oh yeah.
C. At the grocery stores and so forth. I have one, or did have one,
I think it belongs to somebody else in my family now. Cousins of ours
had a grocery store and they had given out a Canfield plate. It had a
miniature calendar of each month all the way around it.
B. Oh yeah. Calendar plates. I started to collect calendar plates.
C. is that right. They probably had--well they'd have to have a different
one every year, wouldn't they.
B. Oh yeah. Over there in Europe, you know like I told you, they have
a reunion for us every five years, the French, Belgium, and Holland they
all go together and they wine and dine us there for two weeks. We always
set it up for three weeks so we can go elsewhere. And in Holland they
make a plate, a commemorative plate they call it for that event, and
they break the mold you know so it's a big collectors' item. Makes a
good gift. Every time you go you get one. I'll show you after a bit.
I've got them down in the cellar. First time I went back was when Willemina
was still living and I met her and then I was presented to Queen Julianna.
C. You were? How'd that happen?
B. Well, we had the banquet in the evening and in fact, all those pictures
you know they've got over in Bowling Green were me and Johanna's pictures
together and then of course now her daughter Beatrice is on the throne
now. And-uh but the funny part of it is--see we go over there to celebrate
the liberation of Holland from the Germans you know but Beatrice married
a German officer. She can't even take part in the festivities so her
father Prince Bernard always takes her place. Every village that we had
liberated has a memorial there now. They lay a wreath every time we go
over there. He's always with us and he personally hung a silver and gold
medallion around my neck with a velvet ribbon. I've got it downstairs.
C. My! I'm sure it meant a lot to those people to have you come and
get them out from under the yoke of the Germans.
B. In Holland they really appreciate it.
C. That's something we didn't know very much about at all in United
B. In Holland they had all these bridges and of course they were all
blown up and the Marshall Plan replaced all those. And they were the
only country that ever paid us back completely.
C. Now, what part of Holland is below sea level?
B. Oh there's a lot of it. I don't know what proportion it is really.
These dikes. I'd be afraid to live there because these dikes. I'd be
afraid it'd flood. It happens occasionally.
C. How high are the dikes?
B. Well, quite high because they have a road on top of it.
C. Of course you were in France, you didn't go into Holland?
B. Oh yeah. That's our headquarters, in Holland. That's the home of
the Phillips. That's the same as the General Electric here. In fact,
all our Norelco radios are made by Phillips, in Holland.
C. My television is made by Phillips.
B. Oh yeah, they're our hosts for several days. They really wine and
dine us. Oh, and Mr. Phillips himself. I met him and during the war the
Germans were trying to catch him, you know. He just escaped out of the
rear window one time when they were coming in his building and he rode
by bicycle and got away and he stayed in hiding all during the war.
C. Had to close his factory down probably at the time.
B. Because when we'd have banquets he would be there at the banquets.
I've got pictures with him.
C. Now, how did you go? You landed in France and then how did you get
up into Holland?
B. We was in France, and after that mission was closed we went back
C. Then you went to Holland?
B. Then we went in by glider from England to Holland.
C. Oh that's how you did it.
B. Yep. I've got pictures of him too. The Mayor of Bastogne, the present
mayor--a little town right out of Bastogne, Belgium village and it was
occupied by the Germans. We went in and chased the Germans out and they
were all so happy and everything that they were celebrating in the street,
drinking. And then the Germans ran over us and chased us back out and
so then the Germans gathered every male over 16 years of age and shot
them. The whole village.
C. Oh no!
B. The present mayor of Bastogne right now, he was 10 years old at the
time. He saw them shoot his Dad.
C. How sad!
B. I got pictures of him.
C. I suppose they had them all lined up.
B. Lined up and shot 'em.
C. No wonder they were glad to have the Americans come and free them.
B. The Germans had captured about 60 or more of our people and of course
the fighting was going on right then. They didn't know what to do with
us after they got us captured. They mowed our men all down like sheep
and just killed them all. That's against the Geneva Convention.
C. How'd you escape?
B. No, I wasn't in that group. But there's a big memorial there now.
We visit it every time we go over there.
C. Pretty cruel. Well Hitler was so cruel, I think. Did you see that
place that he had a whole complex of offices underground? I don't know
where that was.
B. Well, he was killed in an underground in Berlin with Eva Braun. I
had a buddy from Berea. He found a pistol with a pearl handle with 'Eva
Braun' on it. Well I have a thought for the museum. 'nee, we went into
Bastogne after we--we didn't have any equipment because we had just gone
back from another mission in Holland and we hadn't been re-equipped yet.
So in Bastogne we didn't even have equipment. And so when we went into
Bastogne it was green and then it started to snow and we had no camouflage,
no nothing. So, being on Supply I had to send out word to the villagers
there they had to turn in all their sheets, pillowcases, things like
that that we could use for camaflouge I had to gather up to give to the
troops. So in this hotel, it was the Bastogne Hotel they had tablecloths
with Bastogne woven right in the middle of them. I've got one of them
in the Herb Huddle museum. I used it for camouflage.
C. You have a museum here? A private museum of your own?
B. My nephew does. You've never seen the museum? Oh yeah, school classes
all go out there.
C. I talked to him at the airport and he said he had a museum.
B. Oh yeah. He has a lot of my stuff.
C. That's out on his farm I suppose. I'll have to go out there and look
B. He's always had his jeeps and World War II items there.
C. So he's your nephew?
C. Do you have any memories of the Depression?
B. Well, not too much but my Dad was State Representative at that time.
That was in the '30s. And I was in high school and I know I didn't have
very much money because when I worked I used to get a dollar a day. (laughs)
I'd loaned my Dad everything I had to help him out 'cause he was hurtin'
at that time. Really other than that I don't know too much.
C. Now you went to high school where?
B. Here in Napoleon.
C. How did you get into town for classes?
B. In a Model T Ford with side curtains. Used to drive in the gas station
and tell 'em to put in a dollar's worth of gas.
C. Oh, yeah, I remember that. Did you have to crank it to start it?
B. No. I don't remember doing that. It wasn't mine. It belonged to a
neighbor boy up the road. He lived further south so he gathered up three
and four of us on the way in. We paid him to ride in.
C. Did it have a gas pedal on the wheel, the steering wheel?
C. What about when it rained? Did it have side curtains?
B. It had side curtains. No heater though.
C. It'd be cold in the winter. I remember a car we had one year. When
it would start to rain we'd have to stop and my Dad would have to get
out and put up these side curtains all the way around the car. He'd snap
B. We're going to have our 72nd high-school reunion in September.
C. is that right. So you graduated when? Let me see, that would have
been '31. I graduated in '37. Do you have very many of your class still
B. Well, we lost three last year. David Meekison and myself always get
the class together.
C. Oh, was he a classmate of yours?
B. Yeah. We've been friends all our lives. Our parents were friends.
C. Is that right. He tells about having this pony
// End of Tape //