Interview with Clarence Betts
Toledo Blade Route.
And where was it? The whole west end?
Yes, from West Main clear out to the ball park and swimming pool and clear out to the river where the Dairy Queen is now. I had 125 customers and 1 was only probably 9, 10, 11 years old.
Kids used to work hard sometimes didn't they? I know Bob Downey sold papers al the Hotel when he was just a little guy.
He was a couple, two, three years older than I am. I was just 84 this month .-- The seventh.
You're the same age I am. I was 84 in October. So we're getting to be octogenarians, ha, ha.This is Clarence Betts, and this is February, 2004, and he just told us about his childhood delivering Toledo Blades in the west end of Napoleon.
On Park Street . I moved there with my grandmother, north end of Norton, and we took Norton to Park. Grandma had a garage on the east side of the house. You'd have run right in to the garage coming off of Norton if you wouldn't have stopped. That's where we lived until I was sixteen.
Was that near the railroad tracks there?
No. You couldn't cross there to go to, what was that? West end school, elementary school. It used to be kids walked across the tracks, cause there was no street. But I think now they have closed it off.
But the last house was where Judge Behrens' mother lived. And Judge Behrens was still there. He had two sisters, Lillian Thompson that married Kermit Thompson that had the jewelry store. Her and her sister, Mildred. She married a fellow that run the Cook Coffee route. They lived on the end house, and then the next house is where I lived with my grandmother. She kept house for her one brother. He had lost his wife. And then we moved to Park Street.
How old were you when you moved to Park Street?
I just started the first grade of school at Norton.
Six or seven?
But you see the canal and that was all in there yet. They hadn't drained it or nothing. We used to fish for, oh we come them little bullheads, small catfish, whatever they call them.
Well, I'll bet Park Street was a lot different then too, wasn't it?
Yes, from Sheffield on out, that was all shrubbery-Ritter's Nursery. See where Leo and Ruth Eberwine lived, right there at the corner of Haley and Welsted, there's a big old brick home, well that was Augie Ritter's home. And then just south of that brick home, there's a big newer home, well that's where Leo and Ruth Eberwine lived. But that was the Ritter's...that was all grass in that big lot and behind that was a big shrubbery lot. That was Ritter's Nursery display at that time. At that time I had a paper route, and the Toledo Blade was two cents a copy. Six copies a week. That was 12 cents, and boy I'll tell you, you had trouble getting your money.
Did you get paid whether they paid their bill or not?
Yes. I got my two and a half dollars every week. I had 125 customers.
That's a lot.
Yes, and I carried them all on my shoulder in a big bag. It hung down by your knee-and walked! Didn't have no money to buy a bicycle right away, til later. And then when I started my freshman year of high school, I gave up the paper route. Then, it hadn't been too long, the Water Works put up that brick smoke stack, and I knew all those fellas that worked there, and the water was in the canal. There was an old foot bridge went up about 8 or 10 steps And then you went across a wooden plank swaying, swinging bridge. There was one right there, and then you went back down 10-12 steps to get on to what they called a toe path. That was a strip of land between the river and the canal. They called it the toe path. That's where the mules pulled the old canal boats.
Well now that smoke stack, was that across from Eberwine?
Well, almost. It was a little farther south. See from Eberwine's display yard, there was a brick house on the hill and that was the old Rakestraw property on Strong Street. But they were on my paper route, and her husband was a mailman, rural mailman, at that time. Then right below that, there's a car place now. Henry Thiel man put that new gas station in and little restaurant next door. I don't know I think they do up upholstery and clean cars and all that now, but Henry Thielman built that, and he was the bulk Shell gasoline dealer in Napoleon.
Is that right? Well, wasn't there another gas station down where 24 used to turn?
Yes, right at the curve there. It goes straight now, but you can turn up there on ...
Yes. Then off to the right as you go up Avon there was two houses, the old Ringhisen property, John Ringhisen was a mailman and then just south of him between Ringhisen's property and was a Strohl, Bill Strohl's mom and dad lived there. And just below that right at the bottom of the curve old Mr. Strohl had a gas station. Then were some short stubby trees right along the curve toward the Ringhisen's and Strohl homes. And there was a fella by the name of Vandebrook, young Vandebrook. I think his parents run the old Augenstein and Hoeffel store back then and he drank a little. Maybe I should say this, but he'd wind up hotroddin' it, you know, speeding, and he'd hit those trees, couldn't make the curve. Several times he wound up in those trees, them old stubby trees.
Well, he wasn't the only one. Remember Howard Overhulse? He had the gas station and someone said that he was driving her home because they were fixing her car or something and he just went right up and drove right across all the lawns. And she said, "Well you're not in the street." "Oh, I really don't care. This is all right" Ha. Ha. That's what you can do in a small town, right?
See where Howard's gas station is now used to be an old Sinclair station. And at the end towards the old Heller Alter that last building there's a barbershop below it now and I think it's an insurance place now. That used to be what you called Schultz's Smoke House. That was a pool and billiards hall. And you could get cigars and play pool and that in there. They called it the old Schultz's Smoke House back then. That wasn't really the name, but that was the nick name they give it. And then where Mitchell Greenhouse is now across from the old Heller Alter, that used to be Fahringer's Greenhouse. When I knew it, Fahringer's was out on the west end. Yes, from there they went out on West Clinton, where those apartments are now. There son Richard run it. Then he sold and moved to Florida. He's gone now. Then when I lived on Norton, Kermit Thompson, that had the jewelry store and Lillian (she was a Behrens) that lived next to us, just next door to us there on Norton was the Fahringer's yard where there they raised all their flowers and that, and they had wooden posts come out and had a water line on top of that and that would sprinkle the flowers. And then Lillian met Kermit Thompson. Everybody called him Tommy then.
Oh, Tommy Thompson.
Yes. Tommy would come and pick Lillian up and they'd have night deliveries. And they had what they called an open backended truck. They called it a banana wagon then. That's what he delivered the flowers in. He'd pick Lillian up and they'd take me along sometimes.
Oh, is that right? His son was a friend of my son, Bill and they called the Fahringer boy "Posey". That's what his nickname was.
See then, just beyond Fahringer's then on Haley, was the old Delventhel, Dr. Delventhal's home, that big brick home. It wasn't brick. Well, it was stone then. And they had the whole corner that had those tall trees in back for some of their landscaping. And the two sons, they were just a couple years younger than me. They'd be out there playing when I lived on Norton. That where I started to school, my first grade. And when I walked to school and come back in the afternoon, them kids, these two boys would be out there playing. But they were a little younger than me. Fahringer's family, they lived on Clinton Street just a few houses down from the public library is now. See then when St. Paul's, the old church was still there, then they built the building, the parsonage like and school. That's the public library now.
Didn't they build, isn't a part of the public library buikfrom the same building that the church had?
Yes. And I remember my aunt lived on Park Street. She took my grandmother and my sister and I to the opening ceremonies. They had a big dinner there to help raise money to help pay for the building when I was little.
Were you alive during the depression?
Oh yes, I was nine years old. I was born in 1920.
I was born in 1919, but the end of 1919.
Yes I was born in February.
What do you remember about the depression? A lot of the young people now are afraid of Depression. I don't remember it being so hard. It was different.
Well I remember my grandmother took in washing and ironing from people around town year around. And I would deliver and pick up the laundry in an old wagon I pulled. But we had one clean bed and three meals a day plus we had a big garden. Everybody had gardens then, and they even had what they called [line missing] the canal, this division between the river and the canal, the old tow path, there were a lot of little shacks, and the poorest people lived in them. Then every so far they poked big holes with dynamite in the river bank into the canal so they could drain the canal. They moved all these people out of these little shacks. Well it run from where the old Moorhead property is right at the bottom of Avon where the curve is, that used to be the old Moorhead family, and he worked for the city. He drove, he had a team and he pulled a little water wagon early in the mornings down town Napoleon, watered the streets. Great big old wooden barrel laying down on four wheels frame, and watered the streets of Napoleon.
Why did they water them?
Well, for dust.
Oh, they were dirt?
Well, no, brick then, but it was dirt before that. And that was what he done. With this team of horses, he plowed gardens behind the homes for people. But when they dynamited, they moved all these people out and moved them out where the Hurst Addition is now. Right there across from Ritter Park. There's a big home, a Hurst family lived there, and he was one of the heads of the old Charles Company.
That's right, he was.
Then just before you get back into the Hurst property, that where Henry Precht lived. Well that used to be old Doc Ludeman's home. Mary Denny's grandfather.
Was Doc a physician?
No. I don't know what he done. But they called him old Doc Ludeman, and that's where he lived, and he owned 20 acres in there. And Mary Denny and her mother, Aunt Lena. Mary Denny's mother was my Dad's oldest sister, Lena Ludeman. She helped Mary in the little snack shop across from the Post Office. She worked there for years. That was my Dad's oldest sister. Mary and her mom and her brothers and Mary Denny's grandfather, they called him Old Doc Ludeman, they all lived there, and out behind the house was a big old barn. I remember that. My grandmother and I and my sister, we'd walk out there a lot to visit.
Was that when they had Majestic Heights?
No that came later. See when they was ready to dynamite and drain the canal, they moved all these people on the toe path up there in that addition, so they could dynamite and drain the canal. That's why so many of them ended along that ravine. They were just old make-shift homes or shacks then. I remember Ed telling about this one fellow called him in, went on a house call, you know, and as they walked out of the house, this fella said, "Just look at these neighbors. They just leave their tin cans around and everything. Isn't that terrible?" And Ed said, "Well why don't you turn around and see what's behind you?" I don't know how long the Ludeman family lived there, but then Old Doc, they sold that property, and then Doc died. And Lena and them all moved up on Strong Street. But then you gone passed, just a little ways out on 424 where Meyerholtz Park is now, that used to be Myerholtz Fruit Farm, and when the water was still in the canal, they had one of these old bridges, like I described at the Moorhead property and the Waterworks. They had one of them there. And there was a two story home over on the land between the canal and the river where the toe path was, there was a two-story house. And they had a fruit farm there. And you'd go up over this bridge, go up these steps and swing you know and ropes to hang on to, and it was kinda scary you know when you was kids, and that's where the Myerholtz Park got its name, from the Myerholtz family. Them Myerholtz owned the Cash Quality, where the Napoleon Pharmacy is now. Now I don't know if they were related or not, but that used to be the Myerholtz Fruit Farm, and they had one of them bridges there, one at the Waterworks, and one at the bottom of Avon at the old Moorhead.
They were paths for people walking. You couldn't drive.
No, no, you'd go up, oh maybe 8, 10 steps and walked across the bridge and down.
Were they all plain white, kind of the same?
Yeh, they were all the same. Then eventually after the canal, when the canal was still in there, the old intake, water intake, that was an old brick building set just east of where it is now, to get their water. And right there, when they eliminated that old Moorhead bridge, they put in a new steel bridge, a small one, to walk across. Right to the left was a big race where the water went in from the canal into the river to the water, to the old water intake in the river. And they moved all them houses out of there. Well some of them are still there now.
Yeh, from the bottom of Avon, there's this big two story home, there's some homes along in there, clear to where the water intake is now. Those buildings are still there. But I don't know who lives there.
I don't either, but I thought they were relatively new.
They built a new one along in there, and a couple of them older homes, they remodeled.
Did you have brothers and sisters?
I had one sister.
How did you happen to be raised by your grandparents?
Well, my Dad was killed on the railroad over by Leipsic.
How'd that happen?
Well they had a train wreck over towards Lima. And he worked for the D.T. & I, and they had to send a crew over there on the DT & I tracks through Malinta and south, and they had the caboose full of workers in front of the engine going south, and one of them tower people south of there let a northbound through freight come on. And there was a terrible snow storm then, and they collided. They caught between both engines, and my Dad was one of four that was killed. And my Dad's one brother, uncle Charles, he was throwed clear. But there was four killed in that.
Did your Dad's brother live then because he was thrown clear?
Yeh, yeh, then that was January 16, 1920, then I was born three weeks later. My Dad never seen me. And the courts wanted to put my sister and 1 in homes. My grandmother, my Dad's mother, said "No, let me raise them.
Well, what happened to your mother?
She died, my grandmother said, of a broken heart. That's all they ever said, and I wasn't quite a year old. So I don't really remember my mother either, but my grandmother, she kept house for her brother on Norton from there in 1927, we moved to Park Street. And I lived there til I was 16. And I got a working permit and left school. I didn't finish my sophmore year.
A lot of young fellas did that then, didn't they?
Yeh, you could get a working permit. Now days you can't. You have to finish. But now in between, just west of the Waterworks as you're going out west, them houses run clear out. Those little shacks run clear out to Ritter Park and beyond.
There were a lot of them then.
But along in there just past the old Power Plant was a family by the name of Briner. Do you remember a Madonna Biner?
No, I don't think I'm familiar with them.
Well, her family, they lived there. And they were the family with a team of horses, and they called them the honey dippers, the family that went around a cleaned the outhouses. And that's where they lived.
Well, it had to be done.
And this, there's a big pointed lot, West Riverview and Park Street, there's a nice brick home up at the top, there's a great big old Sycamore down there at the point, well we all sat in that lot, and the Biners, the Hutchisons, and all those people from the toe path, they had a big old hoe down, built a big bon fire out there next to the river, and you could hear them fiddling and the banjo and everything, and they had a big old hoe down down there, and we all set up there in that big lot and listened to them, and you could almost see them with the fire light blazing.
Sure, that would be fun, for kids.
See then just east of where the Moorhead property is there bottom of Avon where 24 curves, well along in there was Matt Becker's blacksmith shop.
Oh, there was. On the river side?
Yeh, well right there by Snyders Car Wash. There's a house right there, then just on the right side of that was where the old Matt Becker Shop was. And then just west of that where the City Buildings are now there was a big two-story wooden structure, and Carl Walters, that where he first started his business, paint shop. Then right across the street they fixed those buildings all up. There's a glass place in there now, plate glass windows and that. Then just at the end of that was where the old Plummer Spray used to be. And he moved back in there where the old Alfalfa Mill is. That's where the old junk yard used to be. That's where the old State Barn building was, back in there.
Now the canal went right along where the old 24 is now, didn't it?
Yeh, it come right through and it went right straight behind Loose Field. And on the south side, that was back in the thirties, they decided, I think it was '34, they decided to re-do the football field, and on the south side of the field was an old wooden bleachers. And that's where Napoleon fans sat. There wasn't hardly anything on the north side like it is today.
Now there's nothing on the south side.
Well see when they drained the canal they filled this all in, and this is 24 now, old 424 now. It was Route 24. And that went right straight on east out underneath the railroad, DT & I viaduct where it is now, and that's Anthony Wayne (Restaurant), but see there's still some canal out in there. Now along in there where Anthony Wayne (Restaurant) is, used to be the City Dump, and that had a high board fence.
Now, wait a minute, Anthony Wayne, you mean ... used to be the City Dump where ... I didn't know that.
Yeh, and a lot of people, well it had been there for a long time. I think there was a Walters family owned some of that land along in there.
There's no hill. Doesn't a dump make a hill.
No that's on the south side, on the river side. The dump was between the canal and the river. Walters farmed some of that level land, this Walters family. But that used to be the old City Dump. A lot of people, with the Dump being there for years had a lot of huge rats, and people would attach big flashlights to their rifles, and they'd go out there and sit all night and shoot these rats. Claimed they was big as cats.
Isn't that how one guy got blinded ?I thought you said that somebody got shot?
No. And right across from the Anthony Wayne is the Hogrefe Junk Yard now that they're cleaning up, and that used to be a Rohrs, Spot Rohrs. He run a tavern across from the Courthouse. That used to be Spot Rohrs' home. There's a big brick home up there on the hill across old 424 from the Anthony Wayne (Restaurant).
You talking about the restaurant now?
Yes, Anthony Wayne Restaurant. And B. F. Goodrich wanted to buy that whole farm to start up a plant, but they turned it down, and then Hogrefe's somehow got a hold of it. And they made it into a junk yard. And this Heiny Hogrefe, the old man that started the junk yard business, him and a fellow by the name of Bill Renollet, they got caught stealing chickens. George Bauman was the Sheriff then, and they lived where the old Sheriff Building is now yet.
Is that Charlie Bauman's father or something?
No. I don't know if they were related or not. And him and his family lived there. They had two daughters, Marcella, she was the anathesiast out at the hospital before she retired. She was in my class. And George Bowerman, they got word that there was thievery going on, and the Sheriff and his men went out there and they shot tear gas in the chicken coop. And that's how Heiny Hogrefe, they called him Heiny then, that's how he lost his eye, one eye. Him and a fellow by the name of Bill Renollet. He got caught too.
Hogrefe was stealing?
Yeh, he got caught stealing. He was in the chicken coop with Bill Renollet when the Sheriff fired tear gas into the chicken coop. That's how they caught 'em then.
You know you were talking about that hoe down, reminded me of Bob Downey telling about how they, I think it was his uncle, Tony, that had one of those shacks that you were talking about along the river, and the boys, when he was in high school, used to go out there and they'd spend time, horse around you know. Well, that was when they had the dance hall out there along the river.
Yes, and they'd watch, and when they were going to have a dance, and all these people would be there inside dancing, they knew the fellows would bring their whiskey, but they didn't dare bring it inside, and they'd set it down by a tree or something outside and the boys would go and grab some of that whiskey, run off with it. Then they'd go off into this little shack and drink it.
See now when Wayne Park was still there, there was 1 think two homes right across the road from there.
... ( tape turns over)
...Blacksmith Shop well there's this house that's there now, and there was the old Ice Plant. They made ice there. Oh, yes, they cut ice from the river. And before that right along in that vicinity was the old Tietje Brewery. And then where Snyder's Car Wash is now and that old gas station that's next to it, by the north end of the bridge, there was a big long building and there was a car dealer there.
Do you remember , do you have in your mind any stories of cute little things that happened? What about the time out here, when the you boys played in that ravine by Dick Gray's across the way ?What was that machine you found?
That was an old pink barn. The old Fink farm. The old barn still stands now. Is it still pink? No. I didn't mean pink, but Fink. That was the old Fink farm almost across from, well there's a road going past the ball park and the football stadium now, and it's where you go down that dip, that creek. That's where we played a lot on Sundays. We'd go back in there, just the boys, after Sunday School and church. We'd follow that creek back in there and we'd go skinny dipping in there. There was a big curve back in the creek, and there was a big sand bar and we always went back in there every Sunday afternoon during, in the summer, and we found an old buggy back in there. So we pulled it out of there and pushed it up and down those hills out to, well it was the Bales Road then, past the County Barn now, and we pushed that home, and we lived on Park Street. We brought it home, and we painted it all up. We put a rope on each front wheel and you could set there, your feet against the axle, and steer it!
Like a sled.
Well, see Welsted was paved then. But Strong Street, Park Street, and Garden Street, they was all dirt. And this Moorhead that watered the streets downtown for the city, he'd take his team and an old grain drill. And they'd put chloride pellets in there, and they'd drive up and down both sides. Go down the street and they'd spread these pellets?
What would they do?
Well, the sun would hit them, and they'd melt. And that would settle the dust. That was part of Mr. Moorhead's job too-the dirt streets.
What did you do with that thing that you rode?
Well we'd push it around after dark under the street lights, block to block. We'd take turns pushing each other on that old buggy, till it finally broke down.
You went in the river and swam.
Yeh, we swam in the river all the time. There wasn't no pool or anything then. Just a golf course out there, no ball park or nothing.
Well, the river probably was a lot cleaner then.
Yeh, the cemetery, then the golf course, and that was all there was along there.
You know what story I heard about, and I don't even know his name, so I can tell the story. He was a state senator or representative or something, anyway he was an important fellow, and he loved to teach the young girls how to swim. But he'd get them in the water, start swimming, then he'd grab them underneath.
You used to block off the street and roller skate.
Yeh, when I got in my teens, 12, 13 years old, they'd block off one street for a whole week. Meekison Street , that was paved. Welsted was paved. They'd block that whole street off and let the kids roller skate at night. Kids used to gang up in gangs up at the Courthouse corner. See that was all sand stone, nice big smooth sidewalk. And that was just right for roller skating. And the City shut that down, so then they blocked off Woodlawn, not Woodlawn, Welsted and they blocked off Avon, from the top of the hill down to the Water Works for a week. Meekison Street was blocked off for a whole week. And that's where we roller skated at night, cause you couldn't skate uptown anymore.
Did you do anything onery?
Not really. Halloween.
Somebody at Archbold at Halloween got an outside toilet, and put right in the middle of the street, downtown.
Yeh, they done this. They'd upset them. But see they didn't have tricks or treaters like they have now. So kids just went around and threw corn and soaped windows and all that sort of thing. Stuck toothpicks down in the car horns buttons on the steering wheels, then they'd keep blowing. Things like that.
Trick or Treat is pretty nice now, pretty mild. I can remember it being nice for us.
But you see then, Vocke's had their big old mill there. And when they done the river bridge, which now they want to replace, they drove piling on the east side, and put big timbers on these rows of piling. Then they unhooked the steel trusses, the girders, and they slid them over for a temporary bridge, behind Vocke's Mill across. At first they had a big cable across and a big barge took people, horse and wagon back across the river, till they drove these pilings and put these big timbers on, fastened them all down, then they slid these sections of the old bridge over. Fastened them down secure. Then they drove another bunch of piling on the west side of the bridge where the bridge is now, and this is where the old steam engines and cranes. They didn't have the cranes then like they have now. These were all coal and wood burning cranes, and they drove these pilings, and that was the work bridge. And then they drove the piling and that to do the piers and that for the bridge that's there now. And then when they dedicated it...
When was this?
1926 or 1927. In front of Vocke's Mills, on the northwest corner, facing Perry Street, they put up a platform. And they decorated it in red, white and blue bunting. And Governor Wright was the governor then, and he came to Napoleon and made his dedication speech there from this platform. And Old Company L, was an old Infantry Company in the Armory then. They done guard duty while Governor Wright was here and made his dedication speech. Yeh, I remember all that.
Do you remember when they, that was of course, many years later, when they tore down the old Vocke's Mill? There were so many rats down in there, and so they told anybody that wanted to to bring their guns and they stood across the street. Whenever they'd see a rat, they'd shoot them. They were trying to get rid of them because there were so many of them.
See then just across the street from where Vocke's Mill is, Snyder's use it for a display lot for their new cars, and across the street they got another lot and when Snyder's, Whalon has an office there on 424, used to be Ron Gunn's Marathon Station, then it went to a donut shop, well just across there, there's a driveway went down in there. It still drops down in there, well that set of buildings there, there was a Reichert Shoe Repair Shop.
Was that that, first one right on the corner that's such an odd shape? Sort of a diamond shape?
Right there. Then next to that's where old Mr. Snyder had his Chevrolet business. Then he built the one where it is now, and I went down there in 1941. I wanted to get a job, help put that building up, and he was there and he said, "No, I am not hiring anybody." He says, "I have people that owe me money, and they're going to work it off" But then all they had was just a one or two-little room white brick building and two gasoline pumps, and that's where he started up where Snyder's is today. But that's what he told me. "I'm not hiring anybody. I have people that still owe me money, and they're going to have to work it out here." So I got turned down for a job then and that was in 1940.
Oh, that was just before World War II. Were you in World War II?
What did you do?
I was in ordinance. I was a supply seargent. And I went overseas.
Were you drafted?
No. I enlisted, but I never got called. I enlisted for the Navy and at that time I was married, and then it came that you had to be like a specialist, like a mechanic or a welder or something of that sort to get into the Navy so they put me in the army draft. But I was married and had two children. But at that time Hitler was going on, starting his rampage in Europe. But we didn't think much of it over here at the time, and I was already married and had two children and I didn't get called til towards the end. But I was in the occupation of Japan.
Oh, you were?
Yeh. I was a battalion supply seargent over there.
He got over there right after the bomb was dropped. He saw all that.
We were some of the first troops in Japan for the occupation. See at Nagasaki and Hiroshima where they dropped the bombs was off limits to the army personnel until it was cleared O.K. to go in and then we could go in in convoys on weekends. They'd allow so many troops to come in in a convoy to look the area over.
Did you get to clean any of that up?
No. I didn't. No, the American government supplied the trucks and hired the Japanese laborers, paid them to clean this all up. See then in the big cities of Kobe and Osaka and that, Osaka was about the size of Chicago then. And the big bombers and that was still laying. They just pushed them off the streets so people could get through with cars over there. The United States tax payers paid for that clean up. They still do today. They pay for all that damage.
Well, did you see the damage from the Atom Bomb?
What was that like?
Well, I would say a place about the size of Napoleon, and as far as you could see in any direction was rubble about this deep. Only thing that was like the size of the Courthouse, big masonry structures, they just were gutted.
What about that tile?
Most of the homes, well you see out in California they have these tile red roofs on their homes, well that's what they had on their homes. And from the heat they just slid right down on the ground and they just laid there. And you'd walk over there and go to pick one of them tile up and it would crumble in your fingers like dust, powder. That heat was that hot. And glass bottles, they melted together, steel melted. It was something. Well, wasn't it dangerous to be ... No, it was declared safe then. See at first you couldn't, nobody could go in there. And as we walked around, these Japanese people, young and old, all ages and sizes, they were walking around and some of them would be big blotches of goo here and here on their arms and it was all mattered from the burns. Then when we walked, there was a fellow from Detroit, he was a barber in Detroit, and him and I were together, and we was walking along this rubble and that and we seen some tin laying there, galvanized roofing, and we lifted it, flipped it back, laid in the foundation and there was a whole skeleton laying there along the foundation, and there was nothing but a big green gob of, big gob of goo in his skull. That's all that was left of him. We don't know if it was a man or woman.
How long was it from the time they dropped the bomb until you could go in. Are you talking weeks, months?
Oh, several months. See we didn't get over there until November.
They dropped the bomb in September.
Yeh, and we didn't get over there until the first part of November, but it was still off limits, so it was after the first of the year until the troops got in that area. Then we unloaded the ship we were on when we first got there, to the mainland of Japan. We stopped there at Nagasaki, but we were way off shore anchored and they unloaded supplies to the troops there. But all we could see was from the ship, and that was all level.
There were two bombs that they dropped.
But actually at Hiroshima was the one where we actually walked on. We didn't get to shore at Nagasaki. We just unloaded supplies from the ship and then we went on to Nogoya where we did unload. And from there we went to the southern part of Hanshu, Japan, to the big naval base.
You didn't have any health effects from being there?
Boy, that's good.
It was all declared safe before they let any American troops in.
You would think... now knowing, cause they didn't know then, cause that one guy on TV .... How close you were and how sick you got.
See then we talked to some of them people, and when this plane came over to drop that bomb on Hiroshima, they didn't heed the warning and take to the shelters, and that's how, why so many stayed up above on land. If they took shelter ... Well, I doubt if that would have helped. But I would say that blast covered an area the size of Napoleon anyway. As far as you could see, it was just rubble, except for the huge building.
You know I just interviewed Dwight Huddle, and he worked as a fireman down in the bottom of one of those big ships that got to Okinawa, and he said he and another fellow went to apply for, to become pilots, and they had gone through all these tests and they had just been accepted, and the officer said, "Take a look at the bulletin board on the way out." And they did, and it said a bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki or wherever the first one was and it was equal to 20,000 pounds of TNT: So that was, they didn't know what it was, but that's what it was, that first atom bomb. And they were , the U.S. troops were slated to go into Japan until Japan gave up quite unexpectedly as a result of those bombs.
See when we did land, when got there to _____ Naval base which wasn't too far from Hiroshima on Hanshu, the island of Hanshu, there were marines there at Hiroshima already, and they were cleaning up. They were pushing these skeletons around with bulldozers and plows to clean them up, clean up the mess. They were actually the first people in there from the United States Army. It was a big detachment of marines. But we couldn't go in for quite a while-two, three months.
Now you say you went to the southern part of Japan-what did you do when you went down there then?
I was a supply sargeant.
So you supplied the troops?
Eight young fellows came up from the islands wanted to get home for Christmas and they had a program -- enlist now for three years and you get 90 days automatic home immediately. And 8 of these fellows, young kids, young solders that applied for this, and they needed replacements, and when we first got there, then they went alphabetical order see, the roster, and I was one of them on the beginning of that roster, and we replaced these 8 fellows. That's how I got, I went from infantry to ordinance. Now getting back to where Snyder's is now, before he built that little gas station, there was two old wooden two-story structures, and they was, one was a pop, they made bottled pop, and the next place, there was a fellow by the name of Grubaugh, he took in milk, eggs, and cream. And then right on the corner of East Front Street, north of the bridge, between Snyder's car tots, there was two two-story structures there too. And Carl Walters moved from West Front Street down to this building right on the corner. And he had his paint shop in there. And then there was Tony Rohrs and oh another fellow. They had a Red and White grocery store in there. But them buildings are gone now.
Is that kind of close to where Snyder's is now?
Yeh. See when you come from the Courthouse down to the river, that's Front Street right there, by the river. Well, turn left there. Right across from Vocke's Mill is where these two-story buildings were. Snyder's has a car lot there now. Who took those buildings down? That I can't tell you any more. But then there was a company by the name of Jim Brown Hardware. They started up a business in there in one of those buildings. Jim Brown's ...
Well, there was a hardware store there later too right there on the corner.
Yeh, Ott Hess purchased that from...
Then Ott Hess sold it to Bostelman Brothers.
Well then Franz, when did Franz buy it?
That I don't know. But then the Bostelman's, they started up where the City is now, where they have their offices. That's where the Bostelmans took this hardware business in there. Then later they sold it I guess to the City and the City made it in to what it is today.
What was school like when you were a kid?
Well, it was a lot different than it is today. They had wooden floors. See where the, next to Walkers Mortuary, that was an old brick building, and fire had ravaged that years before.
Where the middle school is now?
Yeh, the elementary school, they're in the new building now. And then where the Junior High is today ,that was the old high school. But in the grade school building, there was a fellow by the name of Burrows. He was one janitor. Took care of that whole building. Him and his wife, they lived in the basement.
Of the school? Is that right?
And only the kids that walked to school from the country could eat lunch there. Rest we all went home at noon. But we had wooden floors and they'd sprinkle a green powder on the floor. That would kinda collect the dust and they swept it all by hand with brooms. This old man Burrows and his wife. He was just the one janitor. And now the old high school, it's a Junior High building now. But I can remember I had a Miss Keller was my first grade teacher and my second grade teacher was a Miss Crawford. My third grade teacher was Veda Jennings. She was a Grimm. She married _____ Jennings. Her obituary was just in the paper here lately. She moved up into Michigan. And my fourth grade teacher was a Helen Palmer. As you're going towards Florida, up 424, the old Palmer farm was there on the right. That's where she lived. My fifth grade teacher was a ...
Boy you did well to remember all those names. What about what's her name, the teacher that taught so many years that you know, Lillian Reiser? Was she teaching then, probably not.
Couldn't a been. I wasn't in any of her classes.
How about our taxes back then?
Well, I don't really know then. I know they was low.
They were low? They still used the same method?
Because at that time when I was married before I went to the service, we lived out about a mile east of the Sharon Church. There's a little bungalow on the right as you're going toward McClure. And I had three and a half acres and I think we paid $4.50 for a half, for six months. It was eight, nine dollars for that property a year.
Your taxes were eight or nine dollars?
Yeh, for the whole year. For three and a half acres.
Isn 't that something? What kind of work did you do? After you got out of high school, what did you do making a living?
Well in 1936 I left school and I worked on a farm for my room and board, being an orphan. And I got my working permit and I worked on the farm for three, four years. Then I got married and I worked at different jobs. The old Heller and Alter, and the foundry, the old alfalfa mill. For Yarnell Brothers, I hauled coal for Yarnell Brothers-the City Coal Company. As you're going out Oakwood and cross the tracks, the old Wabash, there's four or five big cement silos still standing there. That was the old City Coal Company run by the Yarnell Brothers. I shoveled coal there before I went into the service. Then I went on construction when 1 come back from the service. I worked for Wren Reese Company for about eight, nine years. Then I went to Toledo. From there then I worked for the next 20 years for Lakewood and Bentley out of Toledo, construction. I was a welder. And I done some carpentry work.
Were there any particular one of those jobs that you liked the best?
Oh, I liked to weld. Then in 1970 I fell off one of the bridges on 475. And 1 crushed all this, my wrist and the top of my hand. Then I didn't work any. I worked until 1972. And after this hand got well, but it bothered me a lot so then I didn't work anymore. I haven't worked since 1972.
What do you think of the progress over the years?
Oh, it's changed a lot.
Do you think its for the better? Computers and everything that's so far advanced?
Well see when I was growing up, they didn't have any of that. It was a big change. Any even in school, instead of being in one room all day long, they'd move you around every class.
Did they start that when you were in school?
Yeh, when I was in the fifth grade. See I started the first grade in 1927 and in '32 they started moving the classes around. Then they put in the new school. And the old high school still stayed there and the auditorium stayed and they built the new school as it is today.
Well now wait a minute. If the old high school stayed just as it was, what'd they do, add on to that old building?
No, they tore the old elementary building clear down and put the structure's up there today-the elementary building and then the auditorium and then the old high school which is Junior High today.
Is that the order in which they were built?
Yeh, see the old school house, the old high school which is Junior High now, that building was there a long time. It was there already before I was born, I think. They didn't have the auditorium that's there today. They used to have graduation in the old armory. And from the old armory they went to the State Theater. And then before they built the auditorium in '34 or '35, they played all their basketball games in the armory. And that's when Bob Downey was on the basketball team. And he played in the old armory. He'd probably remember that. That didn't have much seating in the armory.
No, you couldn't watch it.
Crowded. The bleachers come right down to the sidelines of the basketball floor. Ha, Ha, Ha.
|©2009 Henry County Historical Society|