Von Deylen, Bill
ORAL HISTORY OF BILL VON DEYLEN
Interviewed by Marlene Patterson, September 25, 2007
Russell Patterson, myself, and Bill and Janet Von Deylen are sitting in the Great Room of their newly constructed condominium located at 1126 Chelsea Avenue here in Napoleon. What a lovely home it is. We are sitting at a table looking at an OSU extension service photograph of Bill’s childhood home located on the corner of State Route 108 and County Road U. The photograph is dated 1952. It features the newly built home of Bill’s parents Harry and Laura Von Deylen. Howard Bond of the Henry County extension service conducted a county wide garden and landscaping tour. Harry Von Deylen’s house was one of the houses chosen to showcase. One thing that was noted was the television aerial sitting high above the rooftop.
MP: The first thing Bill that struck my eye is your television aerial. Your family must have been one of the first in the Gerald area to have a television set in their home. It was several years later that my father purchased a television set. What is so humorous is the fact it is a landscaping tour.
BVD: Yes, I remember the people touring outside our house.
MP: The Henry Schlueter home just north of here was also on the landscaping tour. Their idea of landscaping was different from ours in this day and age. Both of these houses had only about three or four trees. People do landscaping differently now.
BVD: I started to write some facts, but most of what I wrote I have on a tape.
MP: Maybe we can use the tape you made previously and the oral history. Will you continue with your family history please.
BVD: My father Harry Von Deylen was born to Wm. and Minnie Boesling Von Deylen on Aug. 29, 1903 in Freedom Township, Henry County, Ohio. Harry married Laura Plassman, I believe in 1926. They were blessed with three children, Bill, Donna, and Lois. In Harry’s early years he was a trucker, hauling mainly livestock to Folger’s in Toledo. He also was in the clover seed business. Along with this he also had a grocery business with two gas pumps out front. This was located in Gerald.
MP: I remember the gas pumps and the grocery store because Lois and I were friends. How old were you when you had the grocery store?
BVD: I was born in the grocery store.
MP: In the back bedroom?
BVD: Yes, but I always said on the meat counter.
MP: Maybe on the check out counter. Your mother and dad didn’t have enough time for you.
BVD: Yes, I was born there and we moved away when I was a seventh grader in 1941.
MP: You said you moved away?
BVD: We moved to where Tom lives now.
MP: To that house on 108 that sat beside the creek?
MP: Do you know that when I was ten years old your mother gave a surprise birthday party for me. I will never forget that. Your mother was always nice to me. I remember as a little girl going over to your house and your mother gave me a small porcelain dog. I still have the dog and I treasure it.
BVD: I don’t remember that.
MP: You sold the grocery store in later years to the Millers?
BVD: No, we sold it to Bill Kruse.
MP: Yes, I remember Bill and Olga Kruse. They owned the grocery store for a while.
BVD: My fathers name was Harry, actually William Harry Von Deylen. He never used William.
MP: I never knew your father dealt in livestock prior to his implement business. Marie Durham was your father’s sister. Were there other sisters or brothers?
BVD: Yes there were four other sisters who died during the flu epidemic of WWI. He was the only son and Marie lived a full life.
MP: And Minnie was…
BVD: My Grandma. (Minnie Boesling).
MP: How did your father get started in the implement business?
BVD: He was in this trucking business and along with that he was also in the clover seed business, and Mom ran the grocery store. In 1933 my Granddad Bill was running the implement business and he died, my Granddad Bill (Minnie’s husband).
MP: In other words he started the implement business.
BVD: Yes he started the implement business in 1915.
MP: Is this included on the tape?
BVD: Yes it is. In 1933 when my granddad died, of course my Uncle Willis was working there too.
MP: Yes I remember your Uncle Willis. He used to walk by our house every day going back and forth to work.
BVD: He worked for my granddad and then when my granddad died Willis couldn’t run the business and so it sat empty until ‘34 when Dad took over the implement business. It didn’t sit empty, it just wasn’t very active. Then Dad took over the implement business and he went out of the trucking business and from then on Dad was the John Deere dealer.
MP: Who built the yellow brick building that housed the impement dealership?
BVD: First of all the red brick building that was beside the Bindeman store my Dad built in ‘46.
MP: The red brick building housed the implements from your grandfather too.
BVD: Yes. My grandfather before that was a blacksmith, before Herman Delventhal.
MP: Herman was with my grandfather John Gerken.
BVD: Yes he was, but that’s way before my time.
MP: Did you know he had a buggy works and made these horse drawn buggies. I was offered one of his original buggies to buy it from Bert Kruse. He wanted $400 for it. Do you think I would spend that kind of money for a wagon? He had restored it and had even painted Gerken Wagon on the side.
BVD: There are some wagons around manufactured by William Von Deylen.
MP: Have your pinpointed where they are?
BVD: I know where some of them were. Harold Cordes’s dad had one on his auction, but that has been years ago. Another one was at Leo Nagle’s. I tried to buy it at one time,but of course he didn’t want to sell it. He just passed away this past year.
MP: Where would you put it? That was one of my thoughts too.
BVD: Anyway they made parts in the blacksmith shop, you know where that was.
BVD: Near the elevator office.
MP: We have pictures of the blacksmith shop. Do you remember the big round water tank out in front for the horses. It had horsehairs in it and when we were kids we thought they were snakes.
BVD: Yes I do. This is on the tape too, but Adolph Langenhop brought his western horse over with a buggy to have it shod, and Herm Delventhal did that in his blacksmith shop. Walter and I were supposed to take that horse with the buggy back home in the evening. We got on the road and headed east to Langenhop’s and we yelled Whoa all the way home. The horse just took off running and of course there wasn’t near the traffic we have now. He ran right across 108 and never stopped. The curve there at Eldor Fuhrop’s he just straightened that sucker out. Luckily the barn door was closed when we got there or the horse would have went right into the barn.
MP: I have a wood box with the name Wm. Von Deylen, Gerald, Ohio painted on the side. Do you remember how they used to paint the name and destination on the outside of packages. Your grandfather had ordered a box of toe caulks for horses. This wood box was used for mailing the toe caulks to him. These toe caulks were put on the bottom of the horse shoe to keep horses from slipping on the snow and ice.
BVD: Yes, they were like a horse shoe and had pegs on the bottoms I think.
MP: It’s been so long ago I’m not sure either.
BVD: I was talking about Dad trading in a horse. Of course he didn’t get home until about 8 o’clock. It took him a while to sign the papers. It may have been just a verbal handshake. Anyway he came home and he had traded for this horse. He said who it was and he has told this story many times and the next morning this farmer came in and said “Hey your horse died last night”. My dad didn’t even have the horse yet. I don’t know whatever became of that.
MP: He bought a dead horse?
BVD: He used to trade horse drawn equipment for implements. The farmers were making the changeover from horses to tractors at that time. I have this on my tape. I made that eight or nine years ago. It’s long and I didn’t realize I talked that long.
MP: At what point or who built the yellow brick building?
BVD: It was in 1938 that building was built. Dad built that after the red block building which was next to Bindeman’s and our store. Before that it was an old wood frame building. It had a ramp built up and tractors could hardly get up into it. That frame building was torn down and they put up the red block building. We were in that only ten to twelve years and then we built the yellow brick building on the east end of town. You might say on the suburbs of Gerald.
MP: You know Gerald never had a sign on either end of town. We were talking about that the other day and this woman said and I will quote her, she said the township trustees were too tight. I prefer to say that they were frugal.
BVD: They have signs now. They have signs now, but they have been taken a few times.
MP: Had I known that I might have been one of the persons to take it. Just for a souvenir.
BVD: Do you remember the stock yards beside the elevator?
MP: No, but my dad had pictures ot the stock yards. He told about the stock yards in back there. I have the pictures now. Do you remember any passengers boarding or getting off the steam engine train that used to go through Gerald?
BVD: I don’t remember actually seeing any. Now north of Gerald was the little town of Naomi. There was a building there very siimilar to our grocery store in Gerald. Naomi had a bar and also some girls there.
MP: That was common and didn’t they come down the railroad tracks?
BVD: Some of them did.
MP: They always said that Sheriff Bartels was the one that cleaned up Henry County and got rid of crime.
MP: You know people would come to our driveway thinking they were in Naomi and Lorna Bostelman worked for us. My parents at that time had the grocery store. They would run quick and lock all the doors. We had a door right next to the railroad tracks and guys were trying to come in, but they had the doors locked. They would be staggering and we knew they weren’t there because they were thirsty.
BVD: I know the clover seed business was done in a barn back behind our house. Do you remember that barn behind our house, behind our grocery store?
MP: Yes, Is that where they bought their clover seed? Was clover seed a brand?
BVD: No, clover seed was alfalfa, mammoth clover, and red clover timothy. He dealt in that. He bought it from the farmers, hauled it to Toledo to resell to a wholesaler there. In
the spring they would plant it. Plowdown they called it. You planted it in the wheat field. The wheat was taken off and the clover would come up through it. It was more of a ground, a land builder.
MP: To enrich the soil.
BVD: Yes, rather than like mammoth that is all it was for was to build up the ground rather than to make hay.
MP: Did the animals eat this then.
BVD: They did some, but they didn’t eat the mammoth so much. Dad took over the implement business. Of course I was in and out of the shop there and Uncle Willis worked there. I had this artificial turd. It looked so real you could almost smell it. One day I layed that down beside the heating stove. When Willis saw that he took a double take. He got there down on his haunches and slid a piece of paper under it. When he had it picked up I walked over and grabbed it. He looked at me and I had to run for my life. That was in the old red block building.
MP: Did they ever have dances in the red block building?
MP: Not even after you moved in to the yellow brick building?
BVD: No, Not that I know of. We had my wedding in the yellow brick building.
MP: I remember that because I went to your wedding. Do you remember years ago when somebody got married around here they would invite everyone from miles and miles around.
BVD: Everybody would bring in food and you would eat and eat and then again at midnight you would eat again. They had the big dances. You probably remember the dances they had in the Bindeman’s store, in their upstairs.
MP: No, you see I am Lois’s age and I had to stay home a lot. Jeannette might remember. Do you remember when Bindeman’s got robbed by a safe cracker. It was a long time ago. I have a picture of Ed Bindeman looking in the empty safe and his eyes are open real wide.
BVD: Back in those days we had two grocery stores in Gerald, a bar and two implement dealers.
MP: I remember Ed Bindeman had Massey Ferguson
BVD: Before that he had International Harvester even.
MP: Do you remember a market where they sold chickens and ducks and stuff?
MP: My dad was telling me about that. In that little area next to Ed Bindman’s implement building.
BVD: In your grandad’s yard there?
MP: Yes, My dad told me. I wish I had recorded it. He told me this house they moved across the field.
BVD: We used to have a baseball diamond behind Bindemans store. It was more of a field. They would have baseball teams come there, even out of Toledo.
MP: Did they have seats for people?
BVD: No, most of them just sat on the ground. I was very young when they had the ball teams come in. I had poison ivy one weekend when we had a ball game and I love baseball you know. I wanted to go over there and Mom had this calamine lotion all over my face. I snuck down through your grandad’s yard and wanted to go to Grandma Durham you know. I snuck away from the ball diamond so people wouldn’t see me. Yes about every Sunday they had ball games back then.
MP: Do you know what they used on me for poison ivy. I had poison ivy every summer. We used a solution of sugar of lead. The drug store sold sugar of lead in powder form by the ounce. You would mix it with water in a quart jar shake it to get it dissolved and put in on your poison ivy. It worked. I hope it didn’t absorb through my skin and give me lead poisoning.
RP: It really worked but the government has since outlawed it because of lead poisoning.. That used to be a popular remedy.
JVD: Like things we buy from China now. Everything is so full of lead paint.
MP: Where did you start to school?
BVD: At Freedom twp. St. John’s school
MP: Who was your teacher?
BVD: Miss Louise Schick.
MP: She was mine too. She was good and so sweet.
BVD: I had Miss Schick, then I had Mr. Elmer Bunsold, and then I had Mr. John Gefeke. Just those three.
MP: You had the same ones I had. Did you have the out house out in back of the school? How many holes did it have?
BVD: I think it was a two seater. Maybe three.
MP: I think it was two large holes and one small hole was for a child. I am not sure.
BVD: I know we snuck out when we weren’t supposed to be out there.
MP: How did you get out there, you mean during class?
BVD: Well you would hold up your hand if you had to go. You didn’t really have to go, you just went.
MP: You didn’t pull that too often did you.
BVD: Oh no, not me. I would never do a thing like that. Now Elnora Miller Koppenhoffer says and Lydia Wesche used to say that too that I would crawl under the seats sometimes.I don’t remember ever doing that.
MP: Why would you crawl under the seats?
BVD: I really don’t know. I don’t understand that but they claim I always didn’t stay in my seat like I was supposed to. I don’t think I ever did that in Gefeke’s classes. He was strict.
MP: I liked Mr. Gefeke. The only problem I had was you see I had long stringy curls and he would play with them or pull on them when the class would march out for recess. My mother curled my hair up on rags. That was the style then. My father said not to pay any attention to it. Did you ever get hit with a ruler?
BVD: No, I was a good boy.
MP: I am still wondering why you were crawling under the seats.
BVD: I don’t know either why I would do a thing like that. Janet, you heard them say it several times.
JVD: I don’t know whether it was just to tease the girls or what.
MP: Did you have to at the end of the day sweep your aisle?
BVD: Yes, we were the janitors too.
MP: Did that teach you something?
BVD: Yes, I knew the floors were clean and I could crawl under the seats again.
MP: I bet you didn’t throw paper down on the floor because you knew you would have to at the end of the day just sweep it up again.
BVD: We used to play ball out in Durham’s yard. I always tried to hit the long ball. Of course it cost a few windows.
MP: I suppose it did. My grandfather’s chicken coop was just beyond that. He had chickens and at one point he had rabbits. He was going to make big bucks.
BVD: He did his honey in there too. Before that the section hands would come there and eat lunch at the grocery store. We would start up a ball game and they would come and play ball with us. Do you remember where they took the sugar beets in Gerald?
MP: No where did they take them.
BVD: Right next to the elevator. There was a big scale where they weighed them. I believe the sugar beet company ran the operation. They would take the sugar beets to Ottawa, Ohio. The farmers would bring in their wagon loads of beets, weigh them and then load them with an elevator onto the rail cars or dump them on a pile and later load them into the rail cars. It was so muddy down there. They would have to hook up a couple teams of horses just to get through there.
MP: When did Gerald first get electricity.
BVD: As far as I know we had electricity when I was born. I remember Henry Cordes, Don Cordes’s parents, Henry and Leola, we would go over there. We visited back and forth then with my folks. They always had these gas filaments that made nice bright lights.
MP: Was it in their ceilings?
BVD: Yes, they had no electricity there. I remember them getting it but I don’t remember what year.
MP: I remember Leola Cordes. My dad and Leola were confirmed together. He would always call her up and they would just talk and just chat like two old women. I thought that was so nice and they were just friends. This was in later years when they had both lost their spouses.
BVD: The person I was trying to think about that did the sugar beet business there in Gerald lived with us during the sugar beet season. Durleautz.
JVD: You mean Clarence Durleautz over by Custer?
BVD: I don’t know the mans first name but he lived with us while the farmers were taking sugar beets in. We had rooms upstairs there in the store. Were you ever up in the upstairs at the store?
MP: I think so, maybe once. If I had it would have been with Lois. I was probably scared to death up there.
BVD: Let’s see there were four rooms up there. The front room was more or less just storage. We had the wood house out behind the house and barn. Of course we had the out house there. We didn’t have outside plumbing yet. In the wood house Mom did her washing and laundry there at least through the summer time. This was not attached to our house, but we had a cement sidewalk going out to it though. I had a picture of me, I don’t know how old, but I was not very old and I had Eagle brand milk cans which is what they fed me. I had made a pyramid of these empty cans and I am sitting in front of it. You’ve seen that picture haven’t you Janet?
JVD: Yes, but I am not sure where it is now.
MP: I got fed Pet Milk to build me up. My mother always said when she came she thought I had TB because I was so scrawny. Now look at me.
BVD: I remember your mother Ruth.
MP: What do you remember about her? She died in 1941.
BVD: Other than being there. I don’t remember her being out much.
MP: I imagine with five children she probably wasn’t outside much.
JVD: What was your maiden name.
MP: My mother was Ruth Kline and my father was John Gerken. She had five children and died in childbirth. That left my father with five little kids in Gerald. I was five years and a couple months old.
BVD: I was born in September of1928 and so was Kenny, your brother. He was born on Oct. 3rd of 1928
MP: Did you go to school in Ridgeville then?
BVD: Yes, we were in the same grade.
MP: You see these three, Russell, Kenny, and Bob Schmeckpeper, my bother in law, and Ed Peper that whole gang they were all born in ‘28. Did you have to go in to the service then? When Russell graduated he and his buddy Bill Little went out to California on a trip to work and find gold probably I guess. Anyway they were out in California in a post office and a Marine recruiter met up with them and they both joined the marines and of course when the officer did the background check, the policeman gave him the message from his mother that he should come home. So Russell is technically in World War II. He did that right after graduation, joined the Marines.
JVD: Then you were in the service.
MP: That is why they keep lining him up as a Korean veteran, but he is actually a World War II veteran. Kenny was a Korean veteran.
BVD: I was too young for World War II.
RP: Where I get in on the technical part is that they didn’t declare the war over until the end of ‘46. I am considered World War II but did not see any action. I was sent to Cherry Point, North Carolina.
BVD: I got married the day the Korean War broke out. Our wedding day was that day and it was very hot.
MP: I remember how hot it got and didn’t the chicken spoil? I remember they had to start the chicken over again because my mother was helping.
JVD: Was this on your wedding day? Was it cooked from scratch?
MP: Oh yes everything was always cooked from scratch, in fact somebody in Gerald probably butchered the chickens.
JVD: Would it spoil that quick?
MP: They had it in the old galvanized wash tubs, and it was very hot. This was before air conditioning. They always put out big feasts. There was a bunch of women that would always make coffee cakes, jello, and pies.
BVD: My wedding reception was in the old shop.
RP: Do you remember the field days that were held at St. John’s?
BVD: Yes, with Defiance, St. Paul’s and St. Luke’s, and of course Freedom.
RP: You guys would always beat us in baseball. We didn’t have a field here at St. Paul’s to practice on. That was our excuse. We at St. Paul’s didn’t even have swings or gym equipment. We had the parking lot.
JVD: And that was probably cement.
RP: On Field Day the Wesche Furniture Store would send their delivery truck over to the school and we would all climb on the truck and ride out to St. John’s school for Field Day. We would drive through Gerald and we’d all be hanging on the sides of the truck.
MP: It’s a wonder no one fell off.
BVD: I have a video tape of a track meet. George Von Deylen had the movies and we got them sometime and put them together on a tape.
RP: What is interesting I always played with Willie Delventhal. I got acquainted with him out there.
BVD: He died way too young. Willie and I always ran around together. In high school once we got a car, he and I always rode together. Before that I rode with Walter Delventhal. Of course he graduated three years before I did. Mary Ann was in my grade, Walter’s sister. We had those trackmeets and guys would come, the old farmers would come all dressed with neckties, their Sunday suits on and it was hot. They had a stand for ice cream, pop, and peanuts. I think there was one Sunday, maybe it wasn’t even Sunday maybe it was the mission festival and two weeks later we used the same stand.
RP: I remember those field days. We always got beaten by Freedom.
BVD: We would have relay races, broad jumping,
MP: Did you ever notice how small that field is. When you were a kid you thought it was gigantic.
BVD: We would play fox and geese and other games.
MP: We would make angels, maybe you didn’t make angels, since that is not a boy thing.
RP: We used to play king of the mountain at our school.
MP: We used to play king of the mountain on the dirt pile when they were building the back addition on at St. John’s.
BVD: Do you remember the big pile of corn cobs beside the elevator?
MP: Oh yes, I used to play on them and do you know I would always call them cob corns. I could never get the words in order.
BVD: We used to play king of the mountain on the corn cobs. I don’t think the elevator crew appreciated that.
MP: Probably not, because we kind of squished them down.
BVD: Yes we sure ruined that pile, and flattened it out. The elevator was run by a steam engine there and whenever we needed something cleaned at the shop we would take it over there and they would start the steamer up for us. Sometimes they would have the hose set too high and the hose would start whipping and it was dangerous to get close to it. You could hardly hang on to the hose. That was pretty handy to clean things up. In the grocery store I had an empty cigar box . I had a cigar in there and I had a pack of cigarettes, a pipe, and a match. It is a wonder the elevator stood because I would go behind the elevator. I just did that once though. I took a cigar there and smoked and I remember Eldor Norden from Ridgeville, and I know he saw me and he never turned me in. I smoked that cigar in the feed shed behind the elevator. From there I went to Grandma’s house and she said “Junge hast dow schmerked”? Have you been smoking? It wasn’t too long and I got sick she knew, but she never told my parents. She nursed me back to health.
MP: I think people were smarter years ago.
BVD: I think the girls were always turning me in for something I didn’t do. That’s sisters for you.
MP: Oh sure! Just like they picked on you. Do you remember a building next to where my dad lived ? There is an empty lot there now. What was that?
BVD: Henry Witte lived upstairs in it. I think it was a car repair business as I remember it. Somebody in there fixed cars, but I don’t think it was Henry Witte. Do you remember Henry Witte?
MP: Henry Witte, would he at one time have lived in the house on my grandfather’s farm? It just strikes me that there was a Mr. Witte that rented that place.
BVD: You know he was married and our cemetary out there in the Northwest corner there is a headstone and that is Henry’s wife who had committed suicide. She was buried kind of away from everybody.
MP: Because it was considered a sin to commit suicide. I can remember when I was little the people that lived upstairs in this building next to my dad’s would throw their garbage out the window from the second floor and it would land on our driveway. We had potato peeling and other things on our driveway and my dad got so mad and for some reason he went and bought the place and then tore it down. I think it was ready to fall down anyway. Do you know what a newel post is? My dad salvaged that and I had him make a plant stand for me. He made a base for it, stained it and I use it for plants.
BVD: I remember Henry Witte living upstairs in that building. It always scared me to hear about his wife committing suicide so I never stopped there. Going to school at St. John’s I would walk there and of course the older kids would have bicycles and I always wanted a bicycle too. I didn’t have a bicycle in my early years. I had a tricycle. Of course the other kids were on two wheelers so I would tip that thing on the side and pedal to school that way.
JVD: So you would be a big boy!
MP: It’s funny they didn’t buy you a bicycle.
BVD: They did but that was later. I couldn’t reach the pedals so they took the seat off and wrapped one of those clover seed bags around it where the seat was supposed to be, and I still couldn’t reach the pedals so I didn’t ride that bike for a while.
MP: You’re not really short, maybe you were just too young.
BVD: I was always the shortest one in my class in school.
MP: You know talking about friends, your mother and dad and my birth mother and dad were friends. Your mother Laura gave me a picture of my mother and father at the zoo. She said the four of them went to the zoo on a Sunday afternoon. My mother is dressed in a sailor dress and my dad had a fancy straw hat on. They were dressed in their finest. I imagine it might have been taken before they were even married. We had the print enlarged and I treasure that.
BVD: You talk about pictures. We have friends in Florida, and they live in Tecumseh, Mich. anyway the first year she, when we went to church there we had to introduce ourselves and say where we were from. On the way out she intercepted us and asked if we knew any Rohrs around Napoleon, and I said yes. It happened that Harold Rohrs was her uncle. Anyway a year later she brought a picture. Here it was a confirmation picture and she says Do you recognize anybody on the picture? Here my mother was on that picture. And she said this one is my mother. Here the two were confirmed together. She grew up at Fayette. Her maiden name was Borton and her mothers maiden name was Rohrs. Her mother just passed away maybe a year ago. She was almost 100 years old. She was a sister to Mildred Meyer, Vernon Meyer’s mother and Dick Gerken’s wife.
JVD: How is she related over here to Arlene Hershberger?
BVD: She is a first cousin. It is kind of a small world.
RP: Can you tell about the early business.
BVD: I have some of that on this tape. Dad was in the clover seed business, the trucking business to start with and the implement business. We would get this clover seed in, of course we cleaned it and the farmer would take the tare back home and we would buy the good part of it. We bagged it in two and a half bushel bags, which is one hundred and fifty pounds in one bag. It took a horse to pick those things up you know. Anyway some would have a good crop and maybe they would have ten bags of it. You would line these bags up. You remember these bags don’t you.
MP: Yes, I do.
BVD: And then you would have a part bag, and the part bag was always the last one in the line, so they could see who that belonged to. Dad was always upset with us because we would crawl around on those bags and get them dirty and he would bawl us out. We caught the devil many times. Then we would knock that part bag off and he wouldn’t know who it belonged to. It was a puzzle then. But we would have maybe twenty bags in a row, and the row beside it were twenty more bags and maybe the eighth one would have a short one on top and those seven bags plus the part bag would belong to Henry Rohrs or whoever we bought seed from. We bought seed from all over the county you might say. It was either there or to go to Fegleys in Pettisville. We bought a lot of seed and then we would truck it to Toledo. Henry Hersch, they were Jewish people and always treated Dad very fairly as far as I am concerned. On Superior Street I remember hauling seed in there, a truckload of seed, six ton on the truck. We would load it at night and in the morning we would start out with it . We always had to jack the truck up so it wouldn’t be so heavy on the tires overnight. That was Dad’s idea though.
MP: That stands to reason. Tires weren’t near as good as the tires we have today. Did you get the seed from the farmers?
BVD: Yes, the farmer brought the seeds in to us in old burlap bags with the trash and everything in it. Like they would combine the clover just like they do the wheat and bring us the clover seeds and alfalfa seeds.
RP: About what year was this?
BVD: Right when I was born in ‘28 and probably before that on through, well we bought and sold clover seed here in Napoleon, even when we moved here in ‘76. We didn’t clean it anymore.
MP: Did you still buy seed from the farmers?
BVD: No, we stopped that when we moved here to Napoleon. I am going to say that was probably ‘76 when we stopped buying clover seed. Dad died in ‘78. He was 75 years old. He was born in 1903.
RP: Was Harry’s dad a blacksmith?
BVD: He was in with your Grampa Gerken and somehow Herman Delventhal migrated in and ran the blacksmith shop.
MP: Who did Herman live with?
BVD: He lived with my grandparents Wm. and Minnie Von Deylen. I don’t know what year he was married, but I am going to say around the early ‘20’s. Because Walter was born in about 1925.
MP: Walter is older than you.
BVD: Yes, Herman would have come direct from Germany. Then Emma came, and she was very German. She could hardly speak English.
MP: She was such a sweet little soul.
RP: Your Grandfather Bill had a box that we have of toe caulks for horses. They were pegs that fit up in a horseshoe to keep the horses from slipping on ice and snow.
BVD: They were studs-like.
MP: We had more ice and snow years ago.
JVD: It is hard to imagine but when I was a kid it was winter all winter.
MP: Winter started around Halloween. We always had snow and sleet and ice in November already.
JVD: We always had snow in our ditches, because we would go sledding all winter. This heat we have now is a bit much.
RP: My folks always set up the hard coal stove around Halloween.
JVD: Did you tell how Gerald had more than one gas station?
MP: Where was the other gas station at?
BVD: Bindeman’s had a pump out in front of their grocery store. We had two implement dealers in Gerald. Now there isn’t that many in Napoleon.
MP: People don’t use implements anymore.
BVD: That’s right.We had two grocery stores in Gerald. We had a bar in Gerald. We even had a post office and stock yards.
MP: My grandfather John Gerken was listed as the only postmaster and I think it was in the back of the grocery store.
JVD: My grandfather was the postmaster in Malinta. Levi Spangler and they homesteaded between Hamler and Deshler, but they lived in Malinta until they cleared the land and they would travel back and forth.
RP: I have a post mark of Grelton and we almost had a postmark of Freedom Mills located up on the ridge. A fellow showed us one but he wouldn’t sell it. He also had a Gerald postmark. We couldn’t get that one either. He had a postmark on the back of a card and a postmark on a card of Gerald. He had a collection of postmarks from all the towns in Henry County, plus other counties. He ended up selling his whole collection to some guy up in Michigan. He would get a postmark from all the towns in each county and then type up the history of each post office. He had it complete. Why he would sell his Ohio county collection to someone in Michigan I will never know.
MP: Do you know was the Gerald road always cement?
BVD: I believe it was even on up to the school.
MP: I remember we used to have hitching rails up around the school house, because us girls would swing clear around on them. I used to roller skate on the Gerald road and it had these cracks in it and you would have to jump over them or else you would fall.
BVD: I was telling Marlene about Adolph Langenhop having his western horse shod. Herman Delventhal did that and Adolph brought it in the morning and somehow he got home, whether he walked home I don’t know. Walter was supposed to bring the horse to Adolph that night. Of course I was just waiting for him to ask me to go along. Anyway we got in that buggy and headed for Adolphs and the horse just took off running. It was a western horse. That was the fastest trip I ever made. Both of us yelled whoa all the way home. Anybody that saw us probably wondered what was going on. It went right across 108 and never stopped. The horse knew where home was. One mile east of 108 where the jog is, we straightened that sucker out. We got to Adolphs house and I am sure we were on two wheels turning in the drive. That thing was moving. I always said if the barn doors had been open we would have had that horse in there real quick. Vernon Miller and I went to the Herman Meyer, where Lois lived there in Gerald, and Art Noske, I don’t know if you remember that name, he lived there with the Meyers and worked. I don’t know if Ray was too young, anyway Art was the hired man and we went out to the field with the horses and a wagon and helped him load corn, and husk it in shocks. We had this wagon full of corn. Of course Vern and I were sitting on the back end and Art was driving the team up toward the building. I don’t know if we hit something but anyway Vern fell off and landed right in front of the left rear wheel of that wagon and I yelled “Whoa”. Right up on Vern the horse stopped. We were parked right on top of Vern and his eyes were huge. I was sure he was going to be dead. Running over him with a load of corn. The only thing you could do was say Giddyap and we went over there and he got up and he was scared to death. We took him home and he cried and he didn’t even have a bruise. Everything turned out fine.
MP: That Noske brings to mind. Who did he live with in Freedom township?
BVD: He had a brother Bill Noske and he lived with Adolph Damman. Art lived with the Meyers. One of those Noske boys were killed in the War. I don’t know if it was Bill or Art. I am not sure. It’s been such a long time ago. I think it was Arnold Norden and I don’t know if they had a big wedding or if they just went to the preacher, anyway they stopped at the store on a Sunday afternoon said they had gotten married and Walter Gerken was there and Ray Meyer and they got the whiskey bottle out. I can remember Ray had to do chores and milk cows that night. Of course the cows were way in back of the barn and I was ready to help him and I didn’t know from nothing, but they got an old work horse out and we got on that horse and we rode clear out there and met. I yelled whoa all the way out there. That horse was way too fast for me. Anyway we got the cows home pretty quick.
MP: Did they get milked?
BVD: I think they did. I think I went home to bed. I remember Walter was there too. We used to go up in the elevator and pester those guys. I must have been the neighborhood brat.
JVD: You must have been a little turd all over the place. You were probably the neighborhood pest.
MP: What did John Deere Days consist of in Gerald. I know they held it every year.
BVD: Hot dogs, movies, and we would have a guy would give a spiel about this plow and so forth.
MP: You would have sales reps from John Deere company?
RP: Were the movies more advertising?
BVD: Yes, they would have a feature movie of some comedien and then some advertising.
RP: I can remember in town they would have movies and the merchants would pay for them, and they had benches.
BVD: Yes, and they would have the movie shown on the side of a building.
MP: Did you ever go to the Gerald Elevaor meeting, the stockholders meeting?
BVD: No I never did go.
MP: I never did either, but I know we had beer glasses in the basement that were used there. I suppose my mother washed them and stored them. These glasses were heavy and were barrel shaped. They wouldn’t have passed out beer there would they?
BVD: I think they probably did. I know we used to have telephone meetings. You know we had our own telephone exchange that the Miller girls handled. We had all the news just like that. Anyway when our church burned they got the call that the church was on fire and of course one of the girls ran over to the shop and told us.
MP: Did you still have the Gerald exchange at that time?
BVD: Oh yes.
MP: What year did it burn?
BVD: In 1961 is when it burned. You see our house where we lived in Freedom on the Gerald road was built the same time as our new church, in 1962.
MP: You mean your house on U?
BVD: Anyway the church must have burned maybe two years before that.
JVD: Where did you hold church services at then?
BVD: At the old school, and in the Ridgeville school gymnasium.
MP: Probably any place available at that time.
BVD: Why we didn’t always have it in our school, but they went to the gymnasium there. Probably they had better seating and we didn’t always have to move chairs around. They had permanent seating. We always had to set up all the chairs and take them down at our school.
MP: We used to go to Northcrest and we would see John Badenhop who was the one who saw the fire first. In later years John was burning brush and somehow tripped and fell into the fire and he himself got burned quite badly. I always felt so sorry for him.
BVD: When our church burned I could have carried so many things out .
MP: Well at a time like that you don’t think clearly.
BVD: No. I could have carried the Jesus statue off the altar.
MP: Did it burn?
BVD: Oh yes, everything. We went into the basement and carried out a few chairs. I pulled a drawer out of the counter and couldn’t see anything. It was so smoky. I got outside and here it was an empty drawer.
MP: At a time like that you just don’t think, you just don’t think.
BVD: Afterwards and in the ashes I got the gold cross out. My dad had it refinished. Anyway there is a write up that he had found it. Anyway it wasn’t him, it was me that found it. I dug it out and it was all crinkled up and they pounded it out again. It had burned off the base and it is rough there. They have it in the museum in our church.
JVD: I worked at the Custer bank and that burned. I was just going to work and it had caught fire early, right before they opened. Us too, we just grabbed stuff and carried it. You just keep taking what is handy.
BVD: Janet was a teller there and it has been robbed twice while she was there.
JVD: We have had two bank robberies and the fire while I was there. Speaking of bank robberies in the paper just the other day it showed people wearing a mask and stuff. It just gives you the willies because both times they came in wearing a ski mask.
BVD: The bank had marked money and she gave them some that wasn’t marked.
RP: Actually here in Napoleon our first bank robbery wasn’t until 1932. The humorous part about it was when they robbed the bank Franklin Leonard was the policeman. He got the call and he grabbed his Thompson machine gun and ran into the Community Bank on the corner. All these people were scaired to see him come into the bank with a machine gun. Here the robbers were at the other bank and they got away.
JVD: Yes we do strange things when we panic.
BVD: I remember some of those old policemen, Frank Leonard, Homer Kessler, Woody Reimund, I think he was a sheriff’s deputy. We were skating in Ridgeville one night and Lawrence Gerken, on the ridge, he had a ‘33 or ‘34 Ford with no brakes. We were coming off the ridge road and onto Route 6 where you are supposed to stop.
MP: Didn’t he know he didn’t have brakes?
BVD: Oh yes, he knew he didn’t have brakes. Anyway we were going to Faubles here in town from skating. There was Woody at the first filling station catching everybody from the ridge road going onto Route 6. Of course I didn’t stop. Woody flagged me down and I knew Lawrence was behind me with no brakes. Woody had me flagged down and was talking to me and here comes Lawrence driving in from the other way. Woody says to him “Why didn’t you stop”? Lawrence tells him I didn’t have any brakes. We both got tickets.
MP: How did he stop the car normally?
BVD: I don’t know if he got out or what, or maybe he put it in gear. He had some brake but not enough to stop.
RP: Speaking of Homer Kessler, I used to listen to all these stories. Back in ‘37 they had a big flood in Goosetown. Mary Sattler was stranded in her house, but she would never leave her house. She was up on the second floor of her house. Shine Mann came in a boat, crawled through her window and told her that Goosetown was flooded and she would have to get in the boat and leave. She refused. Shine Mann went back and told this to Homer that she refused to come out. Well Homer just said “Well piss on her” and they continued rescuing other people that were stranded and left her behind.
MP: She didn’t get rescued.
RP: That’s the way they were back then.
BVD: This is another one on this tape. We used to go to my Grampa Plassman to butcher in the winter time. We would butcher a steer, a couple of hogs, and make sausage. Of course Hank Cordes he was the butcher. Leola knew about as much as Henry did as far as that goes. Those two always came and butchered. I would skip school that day because I had to help. Don Cordes he would skip school too. My grandparents had a new puppy. We started playing with it and took it upstairs which is a no no. She wouldn’t even allow the puppy in the house. We snuck the puppy upstairs and wouldn’t you know it, but it did a job. In the ceiling there was a square hole for the register which wasn’t there at the time. I looked through the hole and here was this big old cookstove directly below it. I said Don I will go down and when there is nobody there then you drop it and we’ll get rid of this. So that was the plan. Grandma went outside for something and I ran down there and Don dropped it and missed the hole and it was frying on a hot cookstove. I took this tool and tried to rake it in there and I had a mess. About that time Grandma came in and I really got to hear it.
JVD: Nothing like fried dog. Weren’t they ornery?
BVD: We were pretty innocent I thought. Yes, some of the things we got into. I might be incrimating myself here. I think the statute of limitations will take care of this. We can talk about you Janet. She is a painter.
MP: Do you do oils?
BVD: She learned this in Florida. You will have to take a look at the one in the living room. She has a bunch of them downstairs.
MP: Look how old Grandma Moses was when she started. We could call her Grandma Von Deylen.
RP: My dad used to draw. He ran around with Eldor Gathman and they would paint. My dad liked to draw cartoons.
BVD: I bought postcards from your store when you were closing. I bought them and I think I gave them to the kids.I don’t know if I have any left or not. When we moved of course I went through drawers and I had back surgery in ‘65 and I found the bill. I had it at Mercy Hospital in Toledo. I was there for seventeen days and the bill was $320.00. Isn’t that something? Now look what we have to pay.
end of tape
The following history was prepared about eight or nine years ago by Bill Von Deylen, shortly after his marriage to Janet Inselman.
LIFE MEMORIES OF BILL VON DEYLEN
We are going to record Bill’s family history.
Jan has been after me to jot a few things of my life down for family. Otherwise how are they ever going to know some of the things that happened through your lifetime. So just a few words about me and my years on this great earth.
I, William Henry Von Deylen, was born 13th of September, 1928. I was born to Harry Von Deylen, actually it is William Harry Von Deylen and Laura Plassman Von Deylen in Gerald, Ohio. Dad was in the livestock hauling business and Mom ran a grocery store. We lived in the back of the store with a kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom on the ground floor. The upstairs was sizeable with three bedrooms and another room not used for much of anything. We had a wood shed, a barn-like garage and an outhouse. The wood shed as I remember was mainly a junk shed, but I think Mom did our laundry in there, at least through the non freezing months of the year. Dad used the barn for clover seed business, cleaning, buying and selling all kinds of small seeds, such as alfalfa, red and mommoth clover, timothy, sweet clover, and so forth. You know what the outhouse was used for. I just remembered that there was a chicken coop back behind the outhouse. It was used for laying hens, never into layers very much though. I was born in the house and grocery store in Gerald. I had two sisters. Donna was born June 18, 1930 and Lois was born October 28, 1935. They were also born in Gerald. They gave me many moments of grief, as younger sisters always get their way. I don’t know how I put up with it. Donna was married to GeorgeHigbea. They have two daughters - Cathy and Shelly. Lois was married to Don Arps and they had three children - Lori, Chris, and Steve. Both of my brothers in law have since deceased. I do have to say I was always blessed with good care and clothed nicely. I had a dog named Pilot, and although there wasn’t that much fast traffic in those day, especially through Gerald, Pilot succomed to one of the slower ones. Pilot wasn’t very smart I guess. Growing up in my school years and living in this home with the grocery store attached I had access to the candy case, but only when Dad and Mom weren’t watching. Looking back I know that they were much too busy and I hit the candy much too often. I had confiscated an empty cigar box in which I assembled a cache of tobacco products that I would use much later in life, probably when I turned thirteen or fourteen years old. I had a pack of Lucky Strick cigarettes, a pipe, a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco, an R. G. Dun cigar, a package of Red Man chewing tobacco, and some matches. I don’t think I waited until I was thirteen or fourteen years of age.I think it was more like ten when temptation got the best of me, and I took the R. G. Dun cigar and a match and went out behind the grain elevator across the street. I had myself a smoke. It is a wonder the elevator was still standing the next day. My parents didn’t have to reprimand me because in about a half hour I was turning all sorts of colors. I didn’t go home for several hours, but instead went down the street to my grandmother’s house. I barely got there and Grandma asked if I had been smoking. Of course I denied all. She knew immedietly and started nursing me back to health.I was so sick, summer flu I think. You know Grandma was so good, I don’t think she ever told my parents, bless her heart. I was always the shortest guy in my class. My parents got me a full sized bicycle and found I couldn’t reach the pedals. They took the seat completely off and wrapped a bag around where the seat was supposed to be, bu I still couldn’t reach the pedals. So I would just sit on it, dangle my feet and make a loud buzzing sound. I also had a tricycle and back then everybody either walked or rode a bicycle to school. I knew every family that lived in Gerald and all went to our St. John Lutheran Church and School. The school was only one and a half miles west of Gerald. With so many riding their bicycles I rode my tricycle to school. Well everyone was on two wheels so not to be outdone I would lean to one side and I would pedal to school on two wheels. I believe the other kids thought there was something wrong with me. My sisters were always sure of that. I guess you could call me a smart ass. The house I spent a lot of time at was my Grandma Von Deylen. She lived across the street and two houses west of the store. She lived there with the Durhams. Uncle Willis, who worked for Dad, Aunt Marie who was Dad’s sister and their three sons, Sonny, actually it was Bill, Larry, and Roger. They had a big back yard on which we played many a ball game. We were always trying for the long ball and sometimes knocked out a chicken coop window. These games are always so much fun until the boys got bigger and better than I was. That ended that. Other families in Gerald were the Delventhals. Herman and Emma were the parents, the children were Walter and Mary Ann. Herman was a blacksmith and ran a very interesting business. He had a big old forge, a large power hammer, and a large grinder. He would repair plow shares, getting them cherry red hot and pounding them out with this power hammer. Then running the grinder and throwing sparks for twenty-five feet. He would have plows and making them like new. He could do so many fix it jobs, and all were hot and heavy work. Farmers would bring in their horses to have them shod. I remember Adolph Langenhop brought his Western buggy horse in for new shoes. He left the horse there for most of the day, while somehow he went back home. When Herman had the new shoes put on Walter had to take it back home. I was standing around just waiting to be asked to help take the horse and buggy home. What a ride! We got the horse on the road and immediately headed home full speed. Of course the roads weren’t like they are today, and not near the traffic. It’s a good thing because the three mile ride broke a time record. Out across State Route 108, then straightening out the jog on the next corner, across another intersection, and then making a sharp right turn on two wheels into the driveway. There was no stopping. I am glad the barn door wasn’t open or we probably would have unhitched the horse from the buggy in a hurry. Upon arrival Walt and I were both hoarse from yelling whoa the whole way home. Both of us were scared to death. Two families of Gerken’s lived across the street from one another. Old John was the elevator manager until retiring. and he tended honey bees. Young John or Jack as he was always called then became the elevator manager. I don’t remember the years, but I believe before I was in high school, the Behnfeldt family moved into Gerald and then Otto Behnfeldt became the manager. Several changes in managers have taken place over the years since. The Bindeman family had a bar, grocery store, and a hardware all in one building. The second floor of this building offered dances now and then. Behind their store was a baseball diamond which offered Sunday afternoon entertainment. A local team would play teams from all around, even out of Toledo. Across the street they had an implement store, offering International Harvester equipment, then later switch to Massey Harris equipment. I am thinking that ended in the middle of the 40’s, along with the groceries and the hardware store. The bar stayed for a few years longer. The Alvin Miller family was the first house east of the trocks from us. They ran the telephone switchboard office. They got all the news first and we were about next. One of their daughters Lorna worked for Mom and helped Mom in the store. She even lived with us. She later married Harold Bostelman. She would always pick on me or maybe it was reversed. Sometimes she would give chase and I would dash out the front door of the store, out across the street. It’s a good thing the traffic was much different then. A guy wasn’t even safe in his own home, always being chased out! Once Vernon Miller and I went to the Meyer farm on the west edge of town where my sister Lois lives now. We were helping their hired hand Art Noske pick up ear corn that had been husked by hand. Vern and I rode on the wagon with this load of corn and he fell off under one of the steel wheels. I yelled whoa and Art stopped the team right smack dab on Vern’s belly. Of course we couldn’t leave it parked there, so Art said Giddyap and over we went. What a scary moment! I thought sure Vern would be dead. I don’t think he even had a bruise mark. There was a small town two miles north of Gerald by the name of Naomi. It had a building very similar to our home and store sitting right along the railroad tracks just like ours. It housed a bar and a few girls. I didn’t know what girls did there then, but I think I know now. Anyway every now and then some men would drive up beside our house and stagger around to get in. That door was always locked. Mom and the hired girl would rush around and lock the other doors to keep the alcoholics out. I didn’t know what they were there for, but I don’t think they were thirsty. After scaring the women half to death the men would finally leave knowing they were in the wrong town. I mentioned earlier we played a lot of ball games in Gerald. At noon the railroad section hand would sit under the shade tree at our store. Us boys couldn’t wait for them to finish eating so we could start a game with them. As hot and tired as they had to be. Many times they would give us a couple of innings. They never seemed to get to bat. I think they just enjoyed seeing us hit the ball like crazy. I know one of them was too fat to run. It was a lot of fun for us. This ball field was right across the road from the store between the elevator and the railroad. In the fall this was a busy place. It was a rail pick up station for sugar beets. Farmers of the area would bring wagon loads of sugar beets which had to be forked off the wagons and into the railroad cars. Sometimes it would be so rainy and muddy they would have to hook two teams to one wagon to get it up to the rail car. The farmers really earned the money they got for those sugar beets. i always had a lot of fun going to school. I had many friends, now that I think about it. I think they were friends more because I always had candy in my school lunch box. It was usually in the box because I took it from the candy case in the store. Had it not been for me sneaking candy Dad could have probably had another forty acres. Anyway many times I wouldn’t even be hungry for candy, and I would look for somebody to make a deal. I probably traded for more homeade summer sausage sandwiches than anything else. I was too young to trade for a kiss, but there were some girls I wouldn’t have minded to get a kiss from. As my sisters came to school my dealing stopped, because they just loved to get me in trouble with my parents. Just why they always wanted to see me in trouble I never could figure out, because I was always so good to them. I had this very authentic looking artificial turd. It looked so real when you saw it, it almost smelled. Well it was winter time and in the old red block building we had only a small heating stove. Of course it got real warm near the stove, and not so warm twenty feet away. I slipped that turd down on the floor close to the stove and it got real warm there. Then my Uncle Willis came by and he did a double take when he saw the thing lying there. You should have heard him. I am cleaning up the dialogue a little bit. He said “Who the h--- pooped on the floor?” After ranting and raving about it he started to clean it up down on his haunches with a piece of paper, keeping his head turned away because of the power of imagination he could hardly stand the stench. Just when he had it picked up I walked over and picked it off the paper. His eyes got about as big as golf balls, right about the same time as his anger flared up. I had to start running immediately or I wouldn’t have been around today to tell about it. Grampa Von Deylen started the business in 1915, running the blacksmith shop that Herman Delventhal later had. This was a little south of the present elevator office. His implement business started with the selling of a few New Idea spreaders and a few John Deere sugar beet cultivators and lifters. I don’t know just when he first had a contract with John Deere, but business I am sure was done much more loosely then. He moved the implement business into a wood frame building across the street from the blacksmith shop. There he dealt equipment until he died in 1933. This was a time when farmers were beginning to mechanize and trade horses for tractors. This meant changing plows, cultivators, fitting tools, and so many other things. I remember Dad telling about trading in a horse on a tractor one evening and of course it took a few more days to make delivery and complete the deal. Well, the very next morning after dealing, the farmer called and said “Hey your horse died last night”. I don’t know how that ever worked out. Dad progressed into the implement business in 1934. Granddad Von Deylen died in 1933 and for about a year nothing much was sold except for parts and service. I don’t remember a lot of the early John Deere business, but the 30’s were a tough time for everyone. The business was done in an old wood frame building which was replaced in 1938 by the red block building, which the Gerald Grain now owns. In 1946 Dad built again on the east end of Gerald a cream colored building with a cement floor, furnace, service and set up area and a storage room in the back. Dad was still in the seed business and it seemed in a big way. He had the cleaning mill in the far corner with a lot of seed to run through it. He would buy from farmers and haul what he didn’t need for resale to Toledo. This was always high dollar business. Now like many other things is about a thing of the past. I don’t know exactly when we finally quit the seed business, but I am thinking it was in the late 80’s. In 1976 we moved to our present location in Napoleon. The summer months were always fun for me too. I would spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa Plassman out on the farm. Usually the week of their threshing wheat. This was done in what they called a threshing ring. A neighborhood would get together and move from farmer to farmer and thresh their wheat. One of the neighbors owned the rig and he was more or less the overseer. Of course most everything was done with horses. I felt like a big shot when I could be out in the field going from shock to shock picking up the bundles of wheat, and making out like I was driving the team, Nell and Daze which was Grandpa’s team. They knew where to go much better than I did. Then at noon everybody came in to wash for lunch. This was kind of a problem for me because everybody washed in the same tub of water. If you were one of the last ones, the water formed almost a crust on it, and pretty much spoiled my appetite for lunch. The neighbor ladies would come in with their husbands and prepare the feast. It was always a great meal with almost anything you wanted to eat. The next day it would be on to the next neighbor and so forth until all were finished and then they started back doing their oat crop. Needless to say it was a relief when all was done and everybody had a new straw stack out behind the barn. Another week would be spent at Ted and Dorie Cordes. Their son Vern and I always played well together. We were born three days apart. Their neighbor had a pond and we would be over there skinny dipping. I remember when I was confirmed my parents got me a real nice wristwatch. Well I was smart enough to take it off before going in to swim, but not smart enough to pick it up when we were through. I never did see that watch again. Their neighbor kids were very small and I think that maybe they threw it into the pond. I will never know. Vern and I would play cowboys in the haymow of their barn. We would crawl around and hide in the loose hay, no bales, and then we would pop up and shoot at each other with one finger being our gun. Both of us fell back many times after being shot with a finger. In the winter we would go to Grampa and Grandma Plassman for a butchering day. This would always be a big long day, from about 5 am to 7 or 8 pm.I always took a day off from school because they really needed my help and I had to let the others catch up. I was there from the time they shot the animal to dividing up the meat and trying some of it at night. They would use everything of the pig except the squeal. There was summer sausage, hams, brain sausage. blood pudding, sausage, head cheese, prettles, and I am sure a few other things. Don Cordes’s dad Henry was the main butcher, and his wife Leola was next in line. I wondered sometimes who answered to who, that they knew just how much and what kind of seasoning went into each batch. Of course, Don always missed school too. One year Grampa had just gotten a new puppy. Don and I took the new puppy upstairs in Grandma’s house which was a no-no. Don’t you know the little devil did a pooh-pooh upstairs. We knew we were in deep trouble, because he wasn’t supposed to be up there in the first place. Well we got it all figured out. You see there was a square hole in the ceiling that opened up, I guess to let heat through. Right below it was the big old wood burning cook stove. We decided I would go down and when nobody was in the kitchen I would open one of the round plates with a special tool and Don would make the drop. We would burn the problem and no one would know the better of it. Everything went just as planned, except Don missed the hole in the stove top and we were frying puppy pooh on the very hot cook stove. I quickly tried to push the misdirected missle into the hole with a special plate tool. By this time it was too late to do much about it with our mess because it was burning fast on the stove and the smell of it gave us away. It wasn’t but a minute or two when Grandma walked in and took over the problem. Needless to say she wasn’t real happy about the whole ordeal. in 1941 we left the big city of Gerald and moved out to the farm. Dad bought the Gebers farm on State Route 108, which is where my son Tom built his home and lives there now. The home had no running water and no kitchen cabinets. We soon had baby chicks, a remodeled chick coop for laying hens, a few hogs and then a few cows. This was an eighty acre farm, with about seventy acres tillable. Dad bought this farm and sold the grocery store. I think mainly to get Mom out of the stress of running the store, and although it was never told, it was also to get me out of the candy case. We started farming with an old 1936 John Deere B on steel. All of our equipment was old trade-in castoffs that Dad accumulated. Dad had a strong hatred toward wild carrots. Before we had the tractor we were commissioned to get all the carrots on the farm and bordering road ditches. We pulled and dug those carrots, put them in the trunk of the car, hauled them up to the house and burned them. I got so I didn’t care if it was a carrot or not. I could care less. We had a few milk cows that we milked by hand. Dad sold milking machines at the implement store, but it was several years before we got one. On Saturday night baths were taken in a small wooden tub by the kitchen cook stove in the winter months. When it got a little warmer, only a little warmer the tub was moved into a cellar way connecting an up ground cellar and the kitchen. Very private as you might imagine. After a few years Dad did some remodeling in the house. We got metal kitchen cabinets, a refrigerator, indoor plumbing with a complete bathroom. We really had it then. Through these years Dad must have been doing well because in 1950 Dad built. We moved into this brick house on the corner of the Gerald road and State Route 108. I didn’t live there very long. It was from February 1950 to June 1950 when I was married to Phyllis Demaline and left the roost. The brick house is owned by Brad Bockelman now. Before we moved to the farm I got my first job, other than home work. I must have been twelve or thirteen years old when i got my social security card and my first job. It was at a pea vinery at Herman R. Gerken’s. This was Melba Elling’s father. Farmers would bring in wagon loads of peas on the vine. Our job was to unload the wagons, tend the boxes catching the peas, and stacking the pea vines into a neat stack. Each load we alternated to a new job. It was fun and to be making a little money was great, but we really were bushed by quitting time. They were some long days. Growing up around the implement business I always seemed to have something to do. Be it loading or unloading equipment, setting it up, cleaning and loading seed on to the truck for delivery to Toledo, or even doing a simple repair job such as riveting a knife section onto a hay mower knife. Always something. I always enjoyed setting up some of the machines. Hay rakes and manure spreaders were my favorites. Setting up a spring tooth was probabaly simple enough, but all that was so close to the floor, hard on the back. We had no steam cleaning equipment, but the grain elevator was powered by a steam boiler. If we had something that really needed cleaning we could take it there and steam it clean. It was really powerful and almost scary to use. If you layed the hose on the ground it would start to whip around so that you could hardly walk up to it, not saying anything about the hot steam coming out of it. This same steaming area would become a large mountain of corn cobs in the fall harvest. Back then everybody brought in ear corn. The elevator would shell it and the cobs would come out of the long chute to form a mountain. We played a lot of “king on the mountain” on those cobs. I don’t suppose the elevator people appreciated us too much for that but we had a lot of fun. Through the following months farmers would come and take them home for bedding. Just to touch back on the clover seed business farmers would bring in their seed in burlap bags and after cleaning the waste would all be put back in their bags for their disposal. Many times they had much more waste to take back than they had good clean seed. The clean seed was put in our two and a half bushel bags which weighed one hundred and fifty pounds each. This was all kept in neat rows with the part bags on the last full bag. This is how we kept the ownership straight, with the part of the last bag tagged with the owners name. It was so very often I got bawled out for crawling around on those neat bags of seed. For one thing, we could get the bags dirty, and Dad was upset about that. The other was that we would knock the part bag off and it was a puzzle to know where it belonged. The farmer would then come in and sell the clean seed, which after accumulating a load was hauled to Toledo. This was always quite a project, loading and handling those one hundred and fifty pound bags. It gave you a little exercise if nothing else. During my high school years I am sure many things happened most of which has slipped my mind. Oh sure there were girls I wanted to date and a few I did, but mostly it seemed I turned bashful after grade school. We came out of a small St. John’s school environment and into a much larger school like from fifteen in a class to about double that. We played basketball and baseball and it was probably the reason I went back every day. Baseball was my favorite though. I was in the Senior class play, but don’t remember the part at all. As I think back those high school years just flew by. It was in my Senior year that Ernie Panning and I went on a double date with girls from Wauseon. As it turned out, it was a love at first sight. I guess I met Phyllis Demaline on our first date and we went to the Henry County fair. Her father in those days showed holstein cows and she had to help lead some of them during the judging. From there on we went together pretty steadily for four years. I think I only had one other date in those four years. Phyl and I were married on 25 June, 1950, and we had 42 plus years married to each other. We had so many wonderful memories and times together. It is hard to remember that there were that many years involved, although there were nearly 50 years that we did everything together. When we were first married we set up housekeeping at 219 Garden Street in Napoleon. The Korean War broke out the day we were married and I was prime bait for the draft. One and a half years later 25 January ‘52 I was drafted into the Army. Phyllis stayed in Rally, Missouri with Lorna Gerken Miller, while I was stationed near there at Fort Leonard Wood. Lorna’s husband Leonard was also stationed there. Phyl and Lorna went to the Lutheran pastor there and he helped them find a place to live. Pastor Norman and Mrs. Neola Ellerman became very good friends of ours. They helped Phyllis find a job with a local seamstress. Phyllis became a very accomplished seamstress, but then she was very good at anything she would do. She could paint pictures, build things out of wood, such as pictures, furniture, photography, calligraphy, cook, bake, make garden, and so forth. Her talents were endless, and most of them self taught. Before we were married, and after marriage, but before Army duty I am sure she put up with so many things she didn’t really want to do. You see I played softball all of those years and she put up with that even after the two years in service I went back to playing ball. After leaving Missouri in September of 1952, I was transferred to Camp Atterbury, Indiana. Housing was a premium in that area, so Phyllis moved home with her parents Everett and Myrtle Demaline who lived just one mile west of Kahrs Implement Store. I was at Atterbury for four months, then transferred to Fort Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis to study shorthand mainly. We had brick barracks. It was kind of like going to college. We studied English grammar, typing and shorthand. Believe it or not I learned to take court trials by shorthand. After this four months of schooling I was sent back to Atterbury and I spent my last nine months of Army life there. The last seventeen months in the Army I was home every weekend. Never missed one. I was 230 miles away from Camp Atterbury and about 200 miles one way to Harrison, but it was worth it coming home. Only once did I have a problem. I real ended a Cadillac in Marion, Indiana on the way back to camp one weekend. My time in service amounted to two years and one day, long enough. I never had a furlough the whole time in service, but I did come home every weekend. Three weeks before I was discharged we had our first born, Thomas Henry, born on 5 January, 1954. Phyllis and Tom lived with Everett and Myrtle until I got out of the Army. Then I moved in with them also. We were there a few months until Mart and Norma Damman’s house was completed. Then we moved into our old house on the farm. Tlhis is where Mart and Norma were living when I got out of the service. This is where Tom has built his house since. Twenty three months and twenty days after Tom another bundle of joy came to us, in the form of a girl named Anne Elise, born the 24th of December, 1955. As it turned out this was our complete brood, until the kids got married and gave us some grandchildren. We lived in this house, but we didn’t farm the ground. We did have chickens and angus beef cows. Otto Dehnbostel, across the highway, also had beef cows, and the two of us shared a bull. Whenever one or the other needed the bull we would open the doors to the barn and chase him to the other, all without a leash or anything on him. I guess he knew what was up. One time while living there it got real stormy. We both, Phyl and I, thought we heard noises, like the house was on fire. Well I went out without Phyllis knowing I was out there. Pretty soon she came out and saw this guy backing away from the house. She didn’t know that it was me. She screamed and ran back into the house with me about three steps behind her. We both were scared to death because she thought I was some sort of monster coming after her and I thought she saw somebody behind me. We both lay on the couch for a little bit until we could come to our senses. We heard no further funny noises after that. In 1962 we built the house we live in presently. This is the same year that St. John’s church was built. Elmer and Fred Kruse were our builders. They were always very flexible with us. We didn’t have a lot of money so they would let us do as much of the building as we could. I must say Phyllis did much more of it than I did. Of course I was working every day at the implement business. I have to say she probably knew much more about what needed to be done than I did. We did the insulating, put the plaster board on, put in extra nails in the subfloor and so forth. We did the painting, staining, and varnishing. Night after night we worked on the home. During the hours of light and on weekends I hauled fill dirt from the ditch that goes through our farm. I loaded the truck with a tractor and loader from the shop. One hundred and one loads later I felt I had enough of it and called it complete. I used the same tractor and loader to level and make the grades. We sowed our own grass, covered it with straw and planted our own shrubs. You can say the whole project was kind of home grown. Phyllis and I had our spats over the years. Sometimes it would be the silent treatment for a day or two, but always there was a makeup time. We both had our sick times, but always seemed to come out strong. I spent a couple of days in the hospital with a prostrate problem in the middle 60’s. Then I had back surgery on a ruptured disk about 1965, and again the same disk about 1970. I have an X scar to prove it. Phyllis had more serious problems over the years and came out fine until the end. She had a mastectomy along with removal of some lymph nodes. She went through chemo and radiation and was declared clean after about two years. I am not sure what year this was, but I am thinking early ‘70’s. A year or two after that she was taken to the hospital with a very rapid heart beat, hardly able to count the beats. In the hospital about a week with this she came out pretty good. I don’t know, but I think this was caused by the radiation she had received. In August of 1990 we started doctoring her with what proved to be the worst. She ate some sweet corn and became all gassed up. Well she thought I can get along without sweet corn, then we found out it wasn’t the sweet corn at all. Further tests showed that a lump was in her abdomen. She had surgery sometime near the holidays, and the worst came out. She was full of cancer. They took everything they dared. We weren’t given much hope. Again she went through chemo and radiation. She was so very sick with the first chemo treatments. She lost all her hair and the whole bit. The following year she seemed to come out of it pretty good. The following holiday season she was in again for surgery. More chemo and different medications were only a small help. At Thanksgiving time in 1992 she ate a good meal, but I think it was her last good meal. The next day cancer had grown everything shut and she was not able to pass anything again. She spent her last four weeks in respite care at Henry County Hospital and died on 3 January, 1993. This has been a very hard thing for me to talk about. Phyllis was very talented and died much too young. This began a very hard time for me. I had my children who by this time had married. Tom married Sandra Gerken on June 26, 1976. They have three children, Cori, born 21 August, 1977, and Haley, born 10 February, 1980, and Kylee born 24 April 1963. Anne married Tuffy Rausch, Wayne Tuffy Rausch on 9 August, 1980. They have two children. Nick was born 27 November, 1985, and Teal was born on 4 April 1988. My oldest grandchild is married to Adam Niese, on August 5th, 2000. These two have a couple of years in already as teachers. Cori is in Napoleon and Adam is in Archbold. This period following Phyllis’s death was so very quiet and lonely. We did everything together. People would say they knew how I felt, but unless losing your spouse happens to you, you just don’t know and realize. At least this is the way I saw it. I went in to work every day and saw Tom and all the help there. Talking every day with customers was a great help. Anne and her family were very supportive and would pick me up to go out to eat, and possibly go shopping. This all helped. The worst time would be coming home from church and you knew you were going to be alone for the rest of the day. There were times when I would just sit there and bawl like a baby and think about how much better I could have been with Phyllis. Feeling guilty all day long. Approximately a year after Phyllis’s death I met Janet Inselmann, who had lost her husband by heart attack some three or four months before Phyllis died. First I met her at a Grandparent’s Day at St. John’s. Her daughter Anita, Neil Badenhop’s wife had children in our school. I talked only briefly. Then we met again at a basketball game. We talked a little there and she brazenly asked me out to coffee sometime. I said yes, maybe we could do that sometime. For years before this, Phyllis and I always ate lunch at PeeWee’s. Well, I formed sort of a support group I called it and I felt obligated to take them out for dinner for their support the past year. They were all happy and excited to go because I told them I was bringing someone. Of course no one knew who it was and I wouldn’t tell them. They guessed so many people thinking it would be one of the nurses from the Lutheran Home. My mother was a resident there at that time. I drove that night and picked up Elnora and Eldon Koppenhoffer. When they crawled in the car Elnora couldn’t believe it. She knew Janet well from her home church on 65 near Deshler, in fact Elnora’s daughter baby sat for Janet’s kids at times. We went to Sauder’s Barn to eat that night and when we walked in we saw Gertrude Kurtz and Herb Honeck at the door. I was lagging back and they had no idea I brought Janet. They spoke to Janet and of course Herb knew her well because Herb’s daughter was married to Janet’s son Gregg. All at once they realized it was Janet that I had brought to the dinner. Those that did not know Janet got acquainted real quick as she is an excellent mixer and one that has never met a stranger. After dinner all were invited to my house for a drink and maybe some dessert, I don’t remember. Janet pitched right in and helped me serve the group. Quite a lot to ask of someone on their first date, but Janet obliged. We found we had a lot of things in common. I loved sports, and she has two sons coaching and was hooked on sports. I found this out very soon because she never missed any of her son’s games. Janet has six children, four girls and two boys. The oldest is Karen and is married to Dave Bishop, they have four boys, Chad, Marc, Paul, and Drew. Second is Kathy who is married to Bill Beck. They have four children, Owen, Katie, Janie, and Jackson. Next is Gregg and he is married to Jayne Honeck. They have two boys, Jeff and Mike. Next is Anita who is married to Neil Badenhop, and they have three children, Joe, Megan, and Clay. Then comes Joleen who is married to Scott Leonard. They have three boys named Gregg, Brad, and Mitch. Last is Bill who married Robin Behrman. They have two girls, Jenna and Karissa. Karen’s number two son Marc was married in November of 2002. Wowee what a family! I had a little problem getting all the names straight at first, but I think I got them down pretty well now. We courted for only about four months and decided to marry. We were married on 24 April, 1994 in a small ceremony with immediate family and a few close friends as guests. The word got around fast and a surprise belling was planned. It was a large crowd all set up to go to VFW with much food and music for dancing. When we got home that night at 2 o’clock we soaked our feet for about two hours. We have now been married for over eight years and there has never been a dull moment. We have always had many relatives to visit and discuss life with. Janet had four brothers, Clifford, deceased, his wife Arlene also deceased, Howard, with wife Doris in Deshler and Florida, Pete and wife in Illinois both deceased. Harley and wife Pat, of rural Deshler. Then there were three sisters, Lois with husband Earl Geer living in Florida, Arlene with husband Bill Goodwin. living in Roanoke, Virginia, and Judy with husband Otie living in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. We have traveled here and there and enjoyed each trip from our honeymoon in Frankenmuth, Michigan to Hawaii a year ago, and Europe a few years back. All were a lot of fun. Our winters, at least February and March have been spent in Florida. Janet and I still have our differences. She is still a very strong Patrick Henry fan and I lean a little to Napoleon, although I have attended so many PH events my side of the family is getting a little worried about me. Janet does sway a little sometimes because Anita’s kids go to Napoleon. Another difference we have is Janet is a Cleveland Indians fan, along with most of her family. I am a diehard Detroit Tigers fan. When they play each other we have our little laughs. She sees the Tigers much more than I see the Indians because I force her to go see the Tigers in spring training in Lakeland, Florida for almost all their home games. Someday maybe she will come around and see the light. I try to appease her by going with her to concerts and plays. She I believe would go to every one in a radius of fifty miles, and maybe I am stretching it a little, but she really does love them. I usually am opposed to going until we’ve been there and have heard them. I find they weren’t too bad after all. Sometimes they play the music too loud so I can’t sleep. There are so many incidents and episodes I could tell about that I would make this a novel, but don’t think they are always pertinent. Some I wouldn’t mind telling about, others I shouldn’t tell about, which could incriminate me. I hope the statute of limitations has passed when I say this and I am not real proud of this one, but once riding with Ernie Panning in his ‘36 Ford four door sedan we pushed over most of the mail boxes from Ridgeville Corners to Napoleon. Now wasn’t that fun! When I was a kid in grade school I had a pair of boxing gloves. I would put them on when somebody and punch a bit, and once I picked on a guy too big. He got a lucky shot in on me. It was a stinger that surprised me which ended that and I never put them on again. What a cry baby! I have been very lucky to have had two lovely and pretty wives. The likeness of Phyl and now Janet is almost scary. You see in their childhood they were both E.U.B. church members. They both loved music and the old revival hymns, which is what I kind of like too. Both were very active, always willing to help their kids with whatever they needed. Janet is especially energetic. There is no quit to her, always ready to go forward. I do think there are times when she is relieved to be home and ready to relax. Now I am happy to have Janet near me. She is a very loving and Christian lady who tries to and does everything for you. She is always ready to give me the best and the most of everything we have or do. We have now been married over eight years and they have very happy and eventful years. I pray daily that the Lord will continue to let us have this wonderful companionship for many years to come. I have and so has Janet experienced the loneliness there is when you have no spouse. Now we ask that by the grace of God we can continue to enjoy the love of life and be the good children of God until the end.
|©2009 Henry County Historical Society|