Earnest Dehnbostel Oral History
April, 2003, Interviewed by C. Wangrin
E. I was born just five miles west of the Courthouse. Do you know where the schoolhouse used to be? Well, katycornered from that was a little house there. My folks lived there about two years I guess.
C. What road was that on?
E. Bales Road. Then they moved to Ridgeville, about a mile and a half from Ridgeville, on the Rohrs Farm. We lived there awhile until somebody that owned the land got married and wanted it
C. So how old were you at that time, Mr. Dehnbostel?
E. How old was I? When we moved there I was two years old. We lived there about five years and my grandfather got his hand caught running through a husker. We don’t have that anymore. But he got his hand caught so they cut it off. They wouldn’t have needed to. They all got so excited. If they’d have turned that machine backwards he could have gotten it out. A little boy said, “Why don’t you turn the machine backwards?”
C. Isn’t that something!
E. I don’t know who that boy was. I don’t think it was me. (chuckles) Yeah. But I was about four years old at that time, I think.
C. I just got through interviewing five people from Ridgeville area: John Henry and his wife and Herold Bruns and Frieda and Louella Rentz. She was the Postmistress for a time.
E. Well you see, I didn’t live there. I lived out in Freedom Township until I got married.
C. Well, how old were you when the Depression hit, around 1930?
E. Oh, I was--the Depression started about--what year was it--the ‘20’s?
C. 1929 or 30, I guess.
E. Oh, I was a couple years older so I was probably 31 or 2.
C. What do you remember about it?
E. Well, we could eat where a lot of people couldn’t. We were on the farm. I don’t remember that we suffered very much. Only we couldn’t buy anything because we didn’t have no money.
C. Was that about the time you got married?
E. I was married then.
E. That was--Oh Boy, I should know that but--I think I got marred in 1927.
C. Oh yeah, that was just before the Depression hit in the cities.
C. Now, John Henry told me that it hit in the farms before it did in the cities.
E. Oh yes. If you had something to sell you couldn’t get much for it.
C. So were you a farmer at that time?
E. That’s right. Well it belonged to my wife, 50 acres of it, and later on I bought another 50 right next to it. The farmer had a stroke and he was bankrupt. He was so deep in debt he couldn’t--what was it --$100,000, I guess. He bought that farm during the War, what war would that be?
C. World War II probably.
E. Yeah, and so he went bankrupt and then he had a stroke so he had to quit altogether. And I think I bought Well then the Depression came but we saved all the money we could and we didn’t buy anything and after the Depression--the bank had some kind of a--I don’t know--you could go there and make a report. And I had some money left that I just saved up and I laid that down and he pushed it back over the desk. He said, “You did better than all the rest put together.”
C. Is that right.
E. And I was honest. I didn’t cheat nobody and I didn’t let nobody cheat me.
C. So he gave it back to you?
E. Yeah. He said, “Nobody else brought back any money and they didn’t have as much debts as you did.” (chuckles) Well, that’s the way it is today yet. They have a good job and then they go broke. Yep. Well then-a when I was 14 my father kinda hired me out to a neighbor who had 165 acres of land. His wife really owned it. From home she got those 165 acres of good land, very good land, plus $10,000, and they took that $10,000 and built a new home. The old one wasn’t any good anymore. It’s still a nice home. Y’know, when you drive from Ridgeville to Okolona about a mile and quarter out of Ridgeville on the left hand side there’s a brick house and-uh, my father thought I’d ought to work there. It was near home and I got the job working there and Oh, I hadn’t been there maybe a month and this guy that owned it, he would be gone every day. He just wouldn’t stay home and he had car and nobody else did, and he had the best car you could buy. Well, what was I gonna say? I know he wouldn’t even put gas in it. I had to go out and do it. Anyway, he bought an old wood buzzer, wood saw. So he bought one that was wore out. So he got a job and he was gonna take that saw, and my neighbor said, “No, I won’t allow that. That blade on there is about ready to fly to pieces. Take my saw.” That’s how I lost my fingers. This guy, he was no buzzer, but he was bigger than anybody else and-uh he’s supposed to see--There’s a table that they’re on. Do you know what they’re like? Anyway, I laid my stuff on there and somebody fell carrying a big pole, one on one end and the other on that end, and it was cold. They wanted to do some work to warm up, and they fell and hit me in the back and pushed my hand right into the saw.
C. Oh my! Was that the bad saw that you were pushed into or the one the neighbor lent?
E. That was the good saw. Yep.
C. What did it do, take your thumb too?
E. Well, it cut it right through there. (shows hand) It came in from this way and there was just this much hanging on. If they’d have saved the thumb the Doctor said he probably could have put that back on or at least try it but they had buried it someplace. At least that’s what they said. So I’ve been a cripple most of my life. (laughs)
C. Well, you’ve done well thumb or no thumb, haven’t you.
E. That’s right. Well, I always liked to work and that helps. Want to know anymore? I don’t know anymore.
C. How long did you farm?
E. Hmm. I think 71 or 2 and then my son took over. Then I got a job over there across the street.
C. At Northcrest Nursing home?
E. Yeah. And then my wife went there about a week before and she could get a job anywhere she wanted and so one night she came home and she said, “They want you over there.” So I got the job. Well, she died about a year before.
C. Oh I thought she was still living?
E. Not that one. This is my second wife.
C. Then when did you marry your second wife, do you remember?
E. Oh my, I don’t know. Maybe it comes to me, about ten years ago. I don’t know exactly. And she can’t walk. It wasn’t very long after we got married that I had to get her out of bed and that’s what--she didn’t tell me that but so, one morning I got up and when she got up I said, “You’re about ready for the nursing home.” Or something like that. And it looked as if that’s just what she wanted to hear. And she’s been in a nursing home ever since.
E. Her name was Fritz. She married a Fritz. I guess she had two or three husbands before me. Two I guess. Bauers and Fritz, that’s right, and then me. She’s now in the Lutheran Home.
C. Oh, that’s where she is.
E. Yeah. Well, she’s 97 years old.
C. Is she really? Well that’s a good long time to live. My mother lived till she was 99. She died across the street at Northcrest. She was pretty happy there.
E. Yeah. I worked there till there was a sale. This rich organization they wanted to buy it. Well, they wanted to steal it really, get it for nothing. I don’t know what but anyway that was about the time I quit. They brought a little boy along and told me that I should teach him my job. Y’know it’s almost insane some of those things that happened. I quit. I just couldn’t put up with that boy. I’d get a call someplace y’know, to fix something and he would run and beat me there and say, “All done.” And he hadn’t done anything. (laughs) Well, I got tired of it and I just walked home.
C. He was taking all the credit for what you’d done.
E. And the people he worked for. I ‘d like to tell you who there were but I can’t. It doesn’t come to me.
C. Charlie Bowman was the first owner wasn’t he?
E. Yeah. I knew him well. He used to buy my livestock till I found out he was cheatin’ me.
C. Oh, did he? That’s how he got so much money I guess.
E. One day a fellow had a cow he wanted to sell and he found out about it, how I don’t know, and he offered me $15 for it. And I said, “No. I’ve got a trailer and I’m going to load it on that trailer and take it to Archbold, to that sale--” You remember that place where they sold livestock? “I’m going to take her there and take what I get.” Well, it happened that she brought $115, a hundred dollars more than he offered me. That’s the way it goes. Y’know, Bauman, that’s the way he got rich. Did you know him?
C. Yes. He had a reputation for being a Wheeler-Dealer.
E. Well, I don’t know the name but he had a son--
C. Chalmer. He’s still living but not here.
E. I see.
C. Michael and the beauty shop near here. His son knows Chalmer Bowman.
E. I see. They lived out here, the second house from here.
C. Oh they did? Did you move into this house when you left the farm?
E. Oh no. This house was being built when I worked over
there and I said to my wife, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t
have to do all this driving?” We lived on West Maumee, on
the other side of the river, 52 or 54 West Maumee. It was about
the last house at that time. I have no car now so I would like
to see that house, you know, so several weeks ago, I went with somebody
and I said, “I’d like to see that house where we used to
C. Yeah, they do that now.
E. It all came about, just like a miracle. I don’t know whether that woman that bought my house, whether she’s still living or not. It’s beautifully painted, I guess. So, one day when we were living there--it wasn’t painted--I said, “Now I want you to look at these houses and see what you think you’d like, and so we went to Bryan and Evansport, Defiance, and she wanted green.
C. Oh, she wanted the house to be green.
E. Green, yeah. I said there’s no other houses around like that. That’s the way I painted it and it’s still that way. I guess it’s since been repainted. Did you ever go out on West Maumee? That green house towards the river on the right hand side.
C. Is it near where Dr. Harrison lived?
E. I don’t know.
C. What was the number of your house? 50? 552?
E. 552 I guess. The people who lived there last, young people they couldn’t fix anything and they had to leave because the water in the-uh--
C. Bowl? River?
E. No. By the refrigerator.
C. The sink?
E. Yeah. The sink. The water didn’t go down and then they just moved out. They couldn’t fix anything--young boys I guess. And I was handy at fixing things. Yep.
C. Pays to be handy.
E. Yeah. That basement--it was better to sleep in the basement than upstairs. I had a son and daughter-in-law. They lived some distance from here. And they slept down there. He said, “That’s a nice place to sleep. I slept better there than I have for a long time.” It was summertime. I don’t know. What else do you want me to talk about?
C. You’re doing a good job. Don’t even have to try. You probably were exempt from World War II, weren’t you?
E. Oh yeah. I had four children and I was farming. Having four children, that’s what kept me out. And then later we had another child. Four boys and a girl.
C. That’s what we had too.
E. The last one was a girl.
C. Our second one was a girl.
E. The oldest one lives in Archbold, the second one lives in the state of Florida, the third one lives in South Carolina and the other one lives on a farm. He don’t farm. He hauls water. Y’see that ad in the paper?
C. Bottled water?
E. They haul tanks of water.
E. That’s right.
E. Some people don’t have good wells or they’ve got sulphur so they load up at the waterworks and go to places like that and put water in cistern or water storage.
C. Is he living on your farm?
E. It’s not my farm anymore.
C. He bought it from you.
E. He don’t farm it because. . .I don’t know why he quit it. I guess because his wife was a city girl and that wasn’t her idea of makin’ a living. So they’re doin’ better now than when they were farmin’.
C. Well you can’t make a living with just 200 acres anymore. You need lots of acres I guess.
E. That’s right. Yep.
C. You were out on County Road P toward Ridgeville.
E. Bales Road.
C. That is County Rd. P. Did you know Frank Gerken? He lived on County Rd. P., Bales Road.
E. No doubt I did but right now it don’t want to come to me. That’s a long time ago. That’s 102 years ago when we moved away from there.
C. So how old are you now?
E. 104. (laughs) I celebrated it this week. They had this house filled up twice.
C. Is that right!
E. Yeah. It’s a pleasure when you see everybody, and you know my children didn’t even come.
C. Who put the party on for you then? Was that the Senior Center?
E. I don’t know as anybody put it on.
C. How’d you get all these people here?
E. They brought some food along once, and once I took them out, a few of them, one family I believe. But I didn’t think I’d be able to do what I do now. I’m here and I get my meals and I go to bed alone.
C. And that hand doesn’t bother you a bit anymore, I’ll bet.
E. No. I don’t know any better.
C. Well you’re doing real well to be able to take care of yourself.
E. I was goin’ to sue. It was carelessness but my father wouldn’t listen to me. He said we don’t owe nobody anything. So I’ll sue nobody.
C. Back in those days people didn’t sue very often.
E. Well I didn’t even know that. They told me I should sue this guy. I don’t know who you should blame for it, the two guys with the pole or the man who had the saw. The man who had the saw was responsible for it, for keeping that table pulled back until everything was O.K. But he didn’t do that. He said he got some sawdust in his eyes and he I think he lied when he said it but then that’s the kind of guy that he was. They’re all gone now. Maybe I shouldn’t talk about it but I didn’t mention any names.
C. I’m surprised that you wife didn’t go to this nursing home over here since she had worked there.
E. It’s a different wife. Oh, I think she’d have been better off if she’d have stayed with me. I could have helped her. But I just made that remark one morning, “You’re about ready for the nursing home.” I was just kidding but that’s just what she wanted to hear. That’s the way it seemed. I don’t know. You could talk to her about it. (laughs) But I would like to know. She’s in Room 125.
C. You ought to ask her sometime. See what she says.
E. You know her?
C. What’s her first name?
C. Clara Dehnbostel.
C. Did you help fix up the roads when you were a young farmer?
E. I helped some.
C. What was your job in it?
E. I was a township trustee. So when nobody wants to do it why I just went out and did it myself. Y’know these old plank bridges? A plank would be loose. I’d get a telephone call, “The planks on that bridge is pushed off or something.” I’d quick get in my car and away I’d go, fix it the best I could. Sometimes I wired it down, stick the wire through the slats, y’know, and twist it. It worked. This place that I’m talking about it was just a half-mile road, for the people who lived on it.
C. Did you have any covered bridges in your township?
C. What else did the township trustees do? Did they have a meeting once a month?
E. Yeah. Once a month. Well we were responsible for, say crippled people or poor people, that didn’t make a living. We had to help them, take them to the courthouse, y’know, see that they got help. Very few ever came to me. I had a surprise. At that time there were no tar-bound roads like there are now. And there wasn’t any in the township that I know. And one of the trustees lived on the Ridge Road, out to Wauseon and they wanted him to get that road fixed up but he wouldn’t do it. I don’t know why. It comes to my mind that they asked him to improve that road but he wouldn’t do it. I don’t know what happened to him anyway. I guess he died. Yeah. And then they surprised me. That old road that I lived on was a gravel road, dusty, and all at once they decided to build on it. Some of them got together I guess and suggested that that roac be built, so it goes from the Ritz’, way down on Road S, in Freedom Township, no, Napoleon Township. Today yet I don’t know how that came about that that road was built. It’s three or four miles. That was Depression Days.
C. What sort of car did you have?
E. Oh, a Model T Ford.
C. Did you have to crank it to get it started?
E. One seater. No. It had a starter. It was a used car. A doctor had it. Now can I remember the doctor’s name, I don’t think so.
C. Was it Dr. Delventhal?
E. No. He was in Ridgeville. I can’t remember his name, oh maybe I would, maybe not.
C. We used to have a car that you had to crank to start. My father broke his wrist once when it kicked back.
E. Yeah. That happened to quite a few--break an arm, yeah. Things are different today.
C. Yeah. So your Model T was a one-seater. Did you have flat tires with it?
E. Oh yeah. I had a spare tire. There wasn’t even a place on it where you could put a spare tire but I fixed something on that to fasten it on it. I started to work in Toledo. Now it doesn’t want to come back to me. I lived right there in with them.
C. You mean you lived in ToledoK?
E. Just about six months. That was--why did I quit? I forgot. Something wasn’t going right and even the people there in Toledo, they wanted me to work there for them . They wanted me to help design, to lay out lots in a new section for them. They watched me y’know, the plumbing, and nobody had ever seen it done the way I did it. They liked the way I did it. But then I didn’t stay very long anymore.
C. Got homesick for the country, I’ll bet.
C. Let’s see, is there anything else we wanted to talk about? Did you ever ride in an airplane?
E. Oh yes. They’v got an airport out south of town, east there. I took a couple rides. One time when I come back and they wanted to land it got too low--telephone wires. (laughs)
C. Charlie Bowman’s place over here where the Beauty Shop is, they used to land planes there, didn’t they.
E. They had one of their own. The boys did.
C. Oh did he?
E. Yeah. I know they did.
C. He was a busy guy. He worked a lot of hours. He loved wheelin’ and dealin’, that’s all.
E. Quite a Charley.
C. I don’t know whether I ever told you but when Jude Aderman was flying a plane he and his wife flew to Columbus to an Ohio State football game and then when we came back (we’d all had quite a bit to drink, you know, but that didn’t seem to bother anybody) it started to get dark and he kept looking out the window. I said, “What are you looking for?” He says, “I’m looking for the river. When I see the river I know we’re home and I can land the plane.” He didn’t have any radio in there. It’s a wonder we ever got back. (laughs)
E. Yeah. It’s different than it used to be.
C. I guess they used to fly under the bridge with small planes.
E. I know they did it but seen it, I don’t think I did.
C. I never saw it either. I just heard about it. Can you think of any more questions?
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