Dorothy Vocke Oral History

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, April 12, 2007

DV: This is Dorothy Vocke talking about the history of Napoleon. One of the things that you don't see anymore is that-my Dad was in the Bakery here in Napoleon for many years, Chubb's Bakery, and he had a wagon that was pulled by a horse and John Hoeffel, Sr. would bring the wagon all over town. That horse used to stop in front of our house and for some reason or other he had to relieve himself right there (chuckles) and my brother and my's job was to take the hose out there and spray the street. They did that quite a few years. I don't exactly know how many, and I still have one of the bells that I gave to my daughter that used to be on the bread wagon. They had two bells, one on either side, so people would hear the bread wagon come. They carried bread and baked goods and what have you.

CW: Did they go out into the country with it?

DV: Well he didn't, no, it was just in town, and so that's something that the kids-I've got a picture at home somewhere of that wagon and horse. I can't tell you where it's at. My sister may have it-Kay McColley.

CW: Oh, she's your sister.

DV: Yeah. That was during the war years that he used to go around town. I don't know how long they had that.

CW: Didn't you say the other night that Florian Sauer would stop in at the bakery?

DV: Florian took a truck out in the country and Marie was working at the bakery. That's where he met her and he would take rolls and bread and that on the truck out in the country then. If he didn't sell it all he'd bring it back to the bakery and my Dad would sell it for day-old stuff. He had a case where he'd put it. It was all right. It was just traveled a little bit but-no, that's where he started. That was a long time ago. Then of course we kids all got to work in the bakery whether we wanted to or not.

CW: What kind of work did you have to do there?

DV: I took cookies off the trays; I frosted cakes and iced rolls-that kind of thing. I didn't do any actual baking. That was done by the men that worked there but I got to do that kind of stuff. And I'd wait on customers. We had to add up; this was before the registers added up for you so I learned to add up pretty fast. I kind of added it up in my head as I was waiting on people too.

CW: You'd have to do subtracting too to find out how much change to give them, wouldn't you?

DV: Oh yes. You know now it's amazing: some of the kids, even the paper boys, can't make change.

CW: Right, and even if they can add , they can't subtract.

DV: There's something lost there someplace. But you know, all my group of friends worked-my high-school years were during the War years-we all worked someplace after school, and I think that's kind of lost too. You know, you wouldn't have kids getting into trouble if they had small jobs. But, well a lot of them do. You can't bunch them all up together. But we all worked so I worked after school, and I worked on Saturday night. Nobody else wanted to work on Saturday night so I got that job. Liberty Center football players used to come in on Saturday night and I'd feed them all. (laughs) I'd give them cookies and everything: "Get rid of it. I want to get out of here!"

But downtown Napoleon was really busy on Saturday night. People would come in and the 'little woman' would go to Spenglers to do her grocery shopping; the men would go in the back. They had swinging doors then where the men would go in the back at the bar and have their beer while the little woman was shopping. It took me a long time to go through those doors, 'cause I used to go up there and pick up groceries for my mother but I wouldn't dream of going through those swinging doors to the back. So when they finally opened up I felt really self-conscious about going back there.

CW: Was that sort of a 'men only' place?

DV: I don't know if it was actually 'men only'. Some of them were 'men only' but it was kind of the coffee shop nowadays. They'd all congregate back there. Of course Spenglers had a full line of groceries there. They didn't have that much meat. They had a lot of cold cuts and stuff for sandwiches, canned goods and cheese and what-have-you.

Saturday night was a big night. People used to come in and park their cars just to watch the crowd go round, and meet their friends.

CW: Is that right? Stand around and talk a lot?

DV: Oh yeah. We had one problem though. There was a lady here in town who lost her son. He was actually in Jimmie Stuart's group of fliers. He was killed and that was the only child she had, Mrs. Kiyser. She would be downtown at night and if she heard anybody talking German she would walk up to them and say, "Why don't you go back to Germany?" That kind of ceased that talking German. Before that you could go from corner to corner and hear people speaking German because it was a German settlement here. And she was very bitter about that, but you know: it was her own son. He was a co-pilot or navigator or something and he was shot down over the Channel. She never forgave Germany for that and she didn't want to hear German when she came downtown. So that's kind of a different story too. And I had a friend whose mother-they had a--Thomsons had a photography shop-and she could speak German. They'd come in there and they didn't know that she could speak German. She'd keep her mouth shut and they'd come in the shop and talk about how high the prices were and that. She'd let them go on and on and finally she'd answer them in German. (laughs) She got a bang out of that. Those are kind of funny stories.

CW: Yeah, they are. And they also tell you a lot about the people and their feelings.

DV: I think everybody-you probably had that too-was very patriotic during World War II. They had scrap drives and my mother used to save fat because they made soap out of it, and you know, shoes were rationed. I wish I had saved some of those rationing coupons on meat and stuff.

CW: And gas. You couldn't drive much.

DV: Well that's when the country boys became very popular 'cause they had tractor gas. We'd load up about ten kids in the car. It was packed solid. It's a wonder we didn't have a wreck. My sister had one: too many kids in the car.

CW: What'd they do, run the car off the road or something?

DV: My cousin came home. . . they'd had I don't know how many kids in the car . . . and she had holes in her stockings and what have you. Her mother said, "What happened?" She said the car rolled over but nobody got hurt too bad because they were packed too tight. (chuckles) My aunt started to bawl 'cause she was so upset. My mother never knew that Marge, my sister, had been in an accident. That's the way we used to travel, you know. If you had a car that had gas in it everybody that could get in got in. Of course you'd get arrested nowadays. That was just the times.

CW: Did you have flat tires?

DV: No, nobody seemed to have flat tires that I know of.

CW: That was after they'd improved the tires I guess.

DV: Yeah, well anyway, that's just some of the things that happen As far as the school goes they kind of put the lid on a lot of stuff as far as going out of town. We did march-I was in the band. We did march at the Firemen's Convention once up at Defiance, and I think at Port Clinton.

CW: Who was that band leader that was Italian?

DV: Mike Lombardi.

CW: Didn't he get them started going to those firemen's conventions?

DV: Well, he would yell at you pretty good if you did wrong. I was a flag carrier then. They only had two flags: I carried the school flag and my best friend had the American flag. Then we had three drum majors, one in the front and two in the back. That was at the head of the band, and my brother played trombone and he was marching right behind me. He was always tryin' to hit me with his trombone (smiles) No, we used to . . . you'd think . . . we were sloppier than all get-out when we practiced before a football game, but when the lights came on, you were in uniform and everybody stepped up and tried to make the school proud of us. They used to have a football game on Thanksgiving.

CW: Oh they did!

DV: I can remember one Thanksgiving that was just colder than all get-out. We nearly froze our buns. You know, with those uniforms you couldn't put a coat or anything over them.

CW: Did you wear the short skirts?

DV: No. We wore pants. You had to wear pants. Flag bearers were supposed to wear white-cream-colored outfits with a jacket.
The two drum majors had high-necked jackets with their bearskin hats. The head drum major had a red outfit with a bearskin hat. The Napoleon band looked pretty sharp. They won quite a few rewards. We had Mike. He used to yell, "You no prac!" (laughs) I'd think, "Oh, Thank God he isn't talking to me!" No, he'd get mad. He was a softie at heart, but . . .

CW: My oldest son went in to see him. He wanted to play in the band and said he wanted to play a trumpet. Mike says, "Let me look at you." He took hold of his face on either side of his mouth and he said, "You play trump."

DV: Well John Chappel was here for a while and he taught but he had also been drum major at University of Toledo or some place, and he was very good, and he had his uniform and he would march with us, like in the Firemen's Convention. He would be ahead of our drum major and he would throw his baton over the street lights and catch it on the other side. So that was a real plus. It was fun to watch him. He didn't always march with us but he did on some of the major things that we did, so we looked pretty smart.

CW: Where was your home?

DV: Well I was down on Monroe St. I was one of the East End kids, with all the Smalls, John Dietrich and all those guys, and the Cochrans. In fact, Phil and CP and Mary Lou, they lived right next door to us, Bob and Corine Cochran, for a long time until they moved up on Riverview. They built a house there. George was born there, so I didn't know . . . well I know George because he's my dentist but I didn't know him as a little kid, 'cause he was . . .

CW: You'd be quite a bit older.

DV: Well he was born after my two oldest were born so he kind of came late in life, but you know we had Lee Helberg who was an engineer. Those guys are gone already. Dick Murray, the Murrays-where the Elks Club is, that was the Murray home. They had the Norwalk Truck Line. That was kind of a central place for Norwalk Truck and Carolyn was in my class. She and I used to sit in those big trucks and we were goin' all over the world! (laughs) Their Dad would let us kids crawl in those. Then Dick, her brother was her youngest brother and she was Principal over at Delta Pike York School for a long time.

CW: Who was this?

DV: Carlyn Murray Schied. So, those are memories.

CW: How did you play as a child?

DV: Well I was a kind of tomboy. They didn't know I was a girl for a long time. I was just as rough as the boys. I played football.

CW: That would be unusual back then.

DV: Oh I don't know. There weren't that many girls. I did play with Carlyn at times but mostly it was boys in our neighborhood. When they needed somebody to play football I played football.

CW: Why sure.

DV: They cracked into me just as hard as they did each other.

CW: Oh did they?

DV: Oh yeah!

CW: Didn't break any bones or anything?

DV: No. Well I was always in pants anyway. I hated to put on dresses. My Dad always said that I was the feisty one. My brother was . . . I have a twin brother and he said they kind of got the personalities mixed up because I'd get in a fight and he was kind of laid back and didn't want to get into a competition but I didn't turn 'em down.

CW: That's interesting.

DV: We had one kid in our neighborhood who used to bully us and scare the crap out of us so I and two other girls got ahold of him one day and we were on their porch and we told him we were going to pull his pants down. He was about four years older than we were. So we sat on him and we got his pants down to just about where things were gonna pop out and he started to bawl. I said, "If you ever chase us, do anything to us, we'll catch you again and the next time we'll pull 'em off and throw them in the street!" (laughs) So that's the kind of kid I was.

CW: You know, I remember when I was in grade school we girls had this nice slide where the water had come down the eave spout and it had frozen. Well along came this ol' boy and didn't he throw ashes on it so we couldn't slide on it anymore. It made me so mad I started after him and he ran. He ran to the door of the school but the door was locked. He couldn't get in, so I caught up with him in that little anteroom and I grabbed his hair. He was way taller than I was but I got his hair and I started to pull and pretty soon he was beggin' for mercy!

DV: I know. You have to take care of those boys. (laughs) Well we were close enough we could walk downtown so my Mother used to send us up to Spenglers for stuff. We'd roller skate up there; one winter we had ice. It froze. She needed something and I said, "Well I can go." She said, "Well it's pretty icy out." So I put my ice skates on and I skated up to Spenglers. (pause to rest) It was that icy. (pause)

CW: Now the 20th Century is history, even the 21st Century-yesterday-is history, so it doesn't really matter whether we're talking about long ago or not.

DV: Well when you think of the progress that's been made in our lifetime, you know: goin' to the moon and stuff like that. If you would have said that in the '40's they would have said, "Lock 'em up. They're crazy!" They've made a lot of progress. I don't know whether it's good or bad. There's something lost. You know, the kids can't read nowadays 'cause they don't have to learn to spell or anything else.

CW: Yeah, the computer does it. They don't have to learn the multiplication tables or anything.

DV: No. My mother was a school teacher but she didn't teach after she got married. But she was still the school teacher, the boss. I have to laugh at Jay Leno, when he'd ask "the man on the street." You know Jay Leno asks some of these people, "Well what do you do?" "I'm in college. I'm going to be a teacher." Well who's the Vice-President of United States?" "I don't know." "Really! And you're going to be a teacher?" It's amazing. Some of these people sound illiterate. We grew up in a era when you had to read. I don't so much anymore but I used to read all the time. I miss that. My eyesight isn't that good."

CW: What was the east side like when you were little? Was it different than it is now?

DV: Oh there were a lot of boys in that neighborhood. Of course you had the Small boys.

CW: Did Smalls have a big family too?

DV: Yeah. Bill Small, the older Bill Small from the original family, has written a book which is very interesting. It tells about the East End kids: Dietrich and Norm DeTray and some of them. Larry had that book and he gave it to me. He said, "You might find it interesting." I said, "Heck yeah. I knew all those people." So he's kind of written a history of the East End kids. You might want to read that.

CW: Yeah, I'd like to.

DV: So that's kind of a They had the history of John Bost whom they honored not too long ago. In fact I suggested to Larry, (he's been the one who got started honoring past athletes so he's been President of that for a while.) In getting that organized I said, "You should put John Bost in there. John was a heck of a good football player. He lived with his grandmother and I didn't know whether he had any brothers or sisters or not, but Bill Small in Defiance knew him. He had a cousin Bob, who I knew, and they finally tracked Bob down and he came and accepted the award for John. John was killed in World War II. I knew a lot of those guys that were killed. You know, they were a couple classes ahead of us. So he was honored for which I was glad because he certainly deserved. He even played with a broken arm or finger or something. He wouldn't give up on football.

CW: I was going to ask you too if your husband ever told you anything about Vocke's Mill.

DV: Well, Bill wasn't one to keep track of stuff. His grandfather started the mill. At one time the Vockes had a brewery down there at the end of Scott St. and then they sold that to Tiejens or somebody. Somebody else, Pilliods or somebody, had the mill where the original mill was and his grandfather, John H. bought that. And Lawrence ran it.

CW: Was Lawrence a brother?

DV: No, Lawrence was a son of John H. So they ran the mill and then Bill got into it. But the mill was like anything else. It was limited in how it would last 'cause bigger ones like Farmers' Elevator got started and the farmers could have stock in that. They kind of put the smaller mills out of business. So Bill had to kind of close that one down. He said it didn't bother him but I think it did.

CW: Oh. Was there an ice house close by too?

DV: Well that ice house used to be back of where the Wash 'n Fill Station is. Yeah, I can remember that. I remember going down there and getting ice.

CW: Did you bring it home in a wagon or something?

DV: Well it depended on how much you got. They used to have the ice truck go around town and my mother had a card with different colors, whatever was up was what she wanted: 25 or 50 lbs. And she would turn up what she wanted. They would chip off the right size and take it up on our back porch. We had a refrigerator where they put the chunks of ice in and that's how we kept stuff cold.

CW: The refrigerator was kept on the back porch?

DV: Yeah 'cause it had a water tray that we had to empty and they had a drain on the porch so we didn't have to empty it as the ice melted. But it worked. I mean everybody had 'em then so I didn't think anything about it. Our back porch was enclosed so it worked all right. You could keep milk and stuff there.

CW: And the milkman used to come every morning, didn't he?

DV: Yeah. You had to watch it so it didn't freeze and that's when the cream would go to the top.

CW: If it did it pushed the cap way up. I remember that.

DV: They used to deliver milk too. Mom would set the bottles out if she needed it. We had to make sure we brought them in before they froze totally.

CW: Did they ever break the glass from freezing?

DV: I suppose they did but I wasn't aware of it. I think they used to push the cap up from freezing. I used to go to my aunts. They had cows out on the farm. They lived in Tedrow-talk about a little town. I used to walk out there, which was about a mile or so and talk about a little town and I'd be over there and she kind of acted as a Grandparent to us because on my Dad's side. . . he was the baby of the family and she always felt bad that we didn't have grandparents so she-she was one of these older sisters-so she kind of acted like a grandma to us but she'd put the cream on our cereal. We'd say, "We can't eat this." She'd say, "Oh you're just using that watered-down stuff you get from the creamery!" (laughs) She'd put pure cream on our cereal. It was too rich.
The small town that we used to visit was Tedrow on the other side of Wauseon.

CW: I wondered where that was: north of Wauseon?

DV: Yeah, I think so. You know, I can remember seeing the road but I think we probably went north. I know we only had to turn around the corner and we went by the fairgrounds so it was out that way. My uncle had a general store. Talk about a general store! He always had a candy case and every time we went over there we got sick. My Aunt Ellen could never figure it out but he was sneaking us bags of candy.

CW: And you'd eat every one. (laughs)

DV: He'd say, "Don't tell I gave you this." She never could figure out what was makin' us sick. I can remember being in that store. He had a big cheese wheel and cold stuff on one side and on the other side he had coveralls, y'know and farm shirts and shoes, boots and what-have-you.

CW: Was there any hardware in the store?

DV: Probably. I was looking at the candy case mostly.

CW: (laughs) Not interested in that hardware.

DV: But that was only about a block from my aunt's house so we used to go up there all the time. But he was a jolly guy. Just loved him. His mother was a Mennonite. I can remember when she was living with them but he never practiced their religion. My aunt was a Methodist so I got hauled to church. In those days Sunday was a big day. She had pies and stuff in the pantry because people came to call and you had coffee and served pie to anybody who was visiting. Can you imagine them doing that nowadays? They've got television and football. But that was a big deal on Sunday. I can remember that. She was a wonderful baker but then they'd sit and talk about whoever wasn't there. She used to belong to a quilting bee and she'd drag me to that. I'd hear 'em chop up somebody that wasn't there. I'm sitting there as a kid. I'd think, "Who are they talking about or why are they talking about her?" But those are just some of my memories.

CW: You know I remember women sitting and talking about certain people and they'd find out who their father was and their aunts and uncles and I'd think, "Why? Why do they want to know?" But once they got all that information then they knew a lot about that person.

DV: I guess. I don't know. When they finally got the telephones and the party line they could find out a lot of stuff too. (chuckles) Well we gossip now too but we don't go into detail like they did then. They didn't have the distraction of television. Those were simple times. In a way they were a lot slower. My aunt was some canner. She must have canned everything that grew. Well that was a carryover from her upbringing. My Dad said, "We had a summer kitchen and all I can remember is her canning all summer." Well they were a few miles to town and you didn't just run into town to get something. Then my aunt decided that you could not set a table without that second spread of jelly or something. So she made a lot of jelly and stuff but she also canned a lot of stuff.

CW: You mean they wanted something beside butter as a second spread to put on the bread?

DV: Oh yeah. A second spread, which we didn't need. Oh, she canned-she cold-packed chicken. We stopped over there on a Sunday and she'd throw a meal. She'd have a chicken out and whip out some biscuits have mashed potatoes and she'd have a whole meal, with all of that cold-packed. But that was a carryover from the farm days when you couldn't run in to town for anything. My cousin finally bought her a freezer and three years after she died they still had stuff in there that she'd frozen and canned.

CW: Did she make pickles in the big pickle crock?

DV: Oh yeah. They had a huge garden. Everything in that garden went into cans and then they had chickens out in back. I remember they used to kill some of those big fat hens for Sunday dinner. My uncle'd tie their feet together and put it on the clothesline. He'd talk to them, "Now Uncle Mel doesn't really want to do this." Krrch! And the head would be off.

CW: Now their feet would be on either side of the clothesline and then the necks would be hanging down and then he'd grab the head I suppose and he'd cut it off, just like that?

DV: Yeah. Quick! He was merciful I guess, I don't know. The chicken never came back to say how it felt. Well they had those big fat hens. They weighed 6 or 7 pounds. They didn't have those little leghorns; they had those big ones. They were good, and they had in town. . . I know everybody had little chicken coops in the back of their house at one time.

CW: In town?

DV: In town. I know when we got to Washington St. Gomers lived back of us. They still had a chicken coop. They've made it into a garage now but it was a chicken coop at one time. They had chickens back there. Of course they've outlawed it now. You can't have that kind of stuff.

CW: Why is that, I wonder? Health reasons?

DV: You get a lot of manure when you have animals, chickens and so forth. I suppose for health reasons. And they get pretty smelly, their manure, you know. But everybody had a little chicken coop and the whole town would smell. But we'd go out and get little fresh eggs. But now, my aunt lived across from the Creamery. She had a little chicken coop back there. She used to make stewed chicken, biscuits and stuff on Sunday, I remember as a kid going down there. It was all good.

CW: That was down by the canal, wasn't it?

DV: No, Snyders are beside where the canal used to run through. No, I was on Front St. where the canal used to be but I'll you what they used to have was carnivals down there.

CW: Carnivals?!

DV: Yeah, in back of the . . . well, the ground was low. Of course they've got Rte. 424 there now. That was all filled in. When I was a kid they used to have carnivals a lot in town. I remember one year . . . oh, I was in high school when they closed down Perry St. where the bank is, that section of Perry St. where the bank is-they'd have that closed off. They'd re-route traffic and have a carnival right down town, you know. They'd have a ferris wheel and what have you-pretty junky.

CW: Did they have clowns that would travel with them?

DV: Oh yeah, I suppose. I don't know but it was a great place to meet people. Then on the corner where the Hahn Center is there was always a little red wagon and every summer they had popcorn. You could stop and get popcorn. It was real popular, especially on Saturday night. You'd smell that popcorn all over, so-that's gone. They don't have that red wagon anymore. I don't know whatever happened to it. I think somebody had that kind of a popcorn thing.

Larry was going to bring it out to the pool when they had the Conference. Napoleon was noted for having good food when they had those big swim meets, Conferences. It was centrally located and the parents put on a really good feed. They'd have hamburgs and hot dogs. They've got grills. Neil Thomas keeps a lot of that stuff at his place. His kids have been through the swim thing. He and Pam help out if they have a Conference, so the parents raise a lot of money that way too. There's a lot of things that are donated. They have, like, veggies and dip. You know kids like that stuff cause they're in swim suits and rather than get dressed up and leave. You know, when they have a Conference it's usually parked up pretty good. People don't like to leave; they lose their spot. So they serve food there.

CW: Do they still have synchronized swim?

DV: I guess but that's a different thing from competition swimming, which is what they do.

CW: The reason I asked is that Jean Campbell used to have costumes and everything .

DV: I know what you mean. I don't know whether they still have that or not. That's separate from the Aquatic Club.

CW: Yeah it would be. There wouldn't be any racing in it.

DV: I know Larry knew about the Aquatic Club 'cause that's the feed-in for his swim teams at the high school. As far as those that are coming up, their potential, he's done an excellent job. He's been there for about 30 years-29. He's built that up. I don't think anybody will ever reach his record. It seems like every year he can bring them around. He can get good swimmers into champions.

CW: He must have a kind of charm or something.

DV: He does. He can get nasty if he has to but he doesn't usually. They just do it because they like it. There's enough kid in him that they recognize it.

CW: That'd be kind of the attraction that Roger King used to have with the kids. They liked him and so they would . . .

DV: Well, Larry was good. He was Fourth in the state in '50 freestyle, so he knows all about practicing, what it takes to get to the state. But he's tough on his nephews.

CW: He is?

DV: Oh yeah. (chuckles) Somebody said, "Does he give him extra instructions?" I said, "No. He said the only excuse for missing practice was death." They'd rather go and practice than listen to him. No, they worked very hard for what they did. He bent over backwards to keep from showing favoritism toward them.

CW: That'd be hard.

DV: Oh, it was hard.

CW: Hard on the kids and hard on him too probably.

DV: Yeah. Well he didn't want any favoritism propping up.

(end of tape, Side A)

DV: They were going on to Bowling Green and he said, "Well Mom, I always try to have a rigatoni dinner-you know, for the kids that are goin' on to District or whatever." So Larry tried it one year. Afterwards he said, "What do you put in your meatballs?"

I said, "Why?" and he said, "Well I made meat balls and the kids made fun of them."
I said, "What kind of seasoning do you put in them?" He said, "Just Italian seasoning."

I said, "Nothing else?"

He said, "No, why? They were like golf balls. The boys made so much fun of those meat balls!" This was after Bill died and I said, "Well maybe next year I can help you out with that." Well he moves in and I make the meatballs and I make the sauce and all that. He said, "Y'know, that turned out pretty good. Maybe I'll just . . ." So I got stuck doing that for about 26 years. (laughs) I got my big mouth in there!

But it took us about 10-12 years to get the recipe down to the way he liked-he liked it kind of spicy. And Connie Wolfe has helped the last few years but that takes all day to do that. I said when it looks like a little volcano-clomp! Clomp!-the sauce is done. We put five pounds of ground chuck in the meats balls; we have-some years it's 35 or so-so we have it down to a system and now his wife's stuck with it. But the recipe's all been figured out. We even have a printed grocery list so we know what to get.

CW: Do you have the recipe in your mind?

DV: Well, I was writing it down every year, you know, adjusting it till one year Larry said, "Hey, this is it!" So all I had to do was write it down, but it takes time. One year I got too many meatballs in it, and not enough sauce so the next year I cut down on the meatballs. We get a big jar of Prego and put those meatballs in it in a roaster with V8 juice. Then we always had garlic bread and that was, I think 8 or 10 loaves of that we always have to slice and put butter and garlic powder on, and then we do a carrot dip. But they look forward to it. All the Seniors get to go to it. But I got stuck with that, but that's what you do.

(interrupted by an aid bringing water. End of tape.)