Interview with Arlene Hershberger

NAPOLEON, OHIO
Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, November 14, 2008

CW: Would you give us your name please.

AH: My name is Arlene Hershberger.

CW: And you are Mrs. Jim Hershberger. Do you have any memories of Henry County years ago or recently? Yesterday is history too you know.

AH: Well, a lot of things have gone by in the years that I have been around.
Well for one thing we always lived next to the County Home as long as I can remember.

CW:Yes I remember when your folks died I went out there and you had a sale.

CW: Yes, it was a couple of years ago. It was in December when we had an auction. Living next door to the County Home was an experience in itself.

CW: Oh was it?

AH  As kids we used to go down and visit the patients.

CW: What impression did you have as a child of those people?

AH: Oh they were all very nice. The only thing I really remember was people used to run away from the County Home.

CW: Oh they would!

AH: Oh yes. Particularly the men. Of course we were the first house next to the County Home. There was not a house across the road from here when I was growing up. Many times my dad would go to the door with a gun in his hand because he didn’t know who it was. Of course our doors were always locked, but you never know who is standing on the other side. This was before the Tablers were there.

CW: I remember when Sumner Tabler was there. He was there when my husband Ed Winzeler, as a physician, was visiting every week out there. Every time Sumner Tabler would go to town he would come back with a pocket full of hard candy. He would give one to each person in the home. I think that was a very thoughtful thing for hime to do.

AH: Yes it was. The people were very happy there. Of course things have changed considerably and people nowadays as I understand are still happy there because it is like a home.

CW: Oh yes, that is where I would like to go if I should get sick.

AH: Yes, it doesn’t have the stigma of it being a poorhouse like it did years ago.

CW: My grandmother was scared to death that she would end up in the poorhouse.

AH: That was the word people used at that time, but we never had anything bad happen to us because we lived next to the county home. Of course there was the cemetery that was down the road maybe an eighth of a mile or so. People that didn’t have any place else  to go and people that had no people are buried there.

CW: I noticed the markers are very small.

AH: I suppose that was probably the cheapest one. I think the county had to pay for it. It was always interesting if you knew people that were there or had relatives that were there. The people liked it very much. Of course I can remember when the road was dirt.

CW: Oh really!

AH: Yes and we had no electricity and no bathrooms. It was not the good old days in my estimation. Our house was old and cold.

CW: You mean drafty.

AH: Oh yes, it was absolutely drafty. My mother used to have to let us out and get us in front of the stove. In the winter time we would have ice between the leaves of a head of lettuce. We had an isinglass pot bellied stove in our living room.

CW: Oh yes, you mean the stove.

AH: This stove heated the living room. We kids slept upstairs. We would hold this big blanket up to the stove and warm it up and then we would run upstairs and get covered up.

CW: Did you ever have a stove stone to put in your bed to keep yourself warm?

AH: No.

CW: It was a gray stone and you would wrap them up in a blanket or something and warm the stone up.

AH: I can remember newspapers wrapped around just to keep warm. Anyway we were healthy.

CW: Sure, it didn’t hurt us any.

AH: It was a tougher life then. Nowadays you go crank the thermostat up.

CW: When I was a girl our bedding was very cold and we woke up in the morning and Mother had filled the hot water bottle and it had fallen to the floor and in the morning it was frozen.

AH: We always had a bucket of water that we used for drinking water. It had a big dipper in it, and that had froze one night.

CW: Wow!

AH: We had an ice box. We had to wait for the ice man to bring us a chunk of ice. It was a fifty pound chunk of ice.

CW: Did he bring it in the winter as well as in the summer?

AH: I don’t think he brought us any in the winter time. There were plenty of other cold places in the house to store stuff. It was more important to have it warm enough so it didn’t freeze everything. We had a kitchen that we used in the summer time, that we didn’t use in the winter time, because it was too cold out there.

CW: Didn’t they call those summer kitchens?

AH: Right they did.

CW: It would be in a separate building.

AH: No, ours was attached to the house. It was cold out there in the winter time. You didn’t waste any time when you would go out there in the winter time. Of course it’s not like it is nowadays. Of course at that time Saturday night was the time to go uptown.

CW  What was that like when you went uptown? I bet you looked forward to that.

AH:Everybody went uptown and you had to find a good parking place so you could watch the people go by.

CW: Didn’t people stand on the sidewalk and visit a lot too?

AH: Oh yes they did.  Spenglers, I think it was the last stop for some of these families. We usually had an orange pop or maybe a hamburger at Walt Barnhills. He was next to Howard’s Service Station. It was a little hamburg joint. I believe it was very cheap. Maybe less than a quarter. Another thing that happened on a Saturday night. Bill Schultz was in Spenglers and they had the groceries.

CW: They sold groceries in the front part of Spenglers in other words. The men I suppose had their beer. Did the women drink beer with them or don’t you remember?

AH: I don’t remember.  My mother didn’t drink beer. I don’t drink beer. I don’t like beer.  If I was going to drink it would not be beer. We played “Shake” one time and I thought I would pass out. By the time they found the beer I was pretty well cooled off. Anyway, that is beside the point.

CW: I don’t like it either very well. What was the occasion?

AH: Oh a bunch of us kids were just playing around. It had to have been the hottest day of the year.

CW: You probably had a wonderful time, hot or not hot.

AH: Oh yes we did.

CW: Where did your family come from?

AH: My mothers parents lived in Adams Township in Defiance County. My grandmother lived with one of my aunts most of the time. My Dad had five sisters.

CW: Wow!

AH: So I had plenty of relatives all over the place.

CW:Was he the only boy?

AH: Yes. Of course at that time people visited each other more.

CW: Yes, on Sundays especially.

AH: Right. Oh yes, we’d have cake and stuff like that.

CW: How did you children entertain yourselves when you had company?

AH:Oh we’d play games and cards and things like that.

CW: What sort of cards did you play?

AH: Oh we played pepper mostly. When I was a kid we had a hired man, and he lived with us. He helped with farming. The poor man he really suffered at our hands. We would throw things at him.

CW: You mean you teased him a lot.

AH: Oh yes. The  farmers usually had a lot of kids and we took one of them off their hands. He never complained or anything. He would talk German of course and we would mimick him. Nowadays my German is nothing. Anyhow, the poor man he is gone now, but he put up with a lot with us kids.

CW: What sort of tricks did you play?

AH: Well we curled his hair was the most we did.

CW: And he left you do it?

AH: Oh yes, we could do anything to him. We did stuff like that, nothing mean or anything.

CW: I remember how they would use these curling irons. They would heat them in the lamp chimneys. They would hang them down in the chimney.

AH: Oh, I don’t know about that.

CW: That is what the Winzeler girls did.

AH: We had pieces of cloth and if you left it long enough your hair would get curly. My dad was a thresher. He had two threshing rings. He would go around in our own area. And we went around the Gerald area. My mother and of course us kids we would go around and haul the gas and take it around to the machinery. So that was quite the thing. When it was all over with we would have this huge party, Of course there was always a lot of food and beer and stuff like that.

CW: Did they dance in the barn?

AH: Well people tell me about dancing in the barn, because obviously it was something I was too young to remember.

CW: What did they do for music? They would not have had the recorders they have now.

AH: I don’t know too much about that, but they did have music because they danced to music in the barn. I don’t remember what music they used.

CW: I imagine somebody probably played the fiddle.

AH: I think it may have been an accordion.

CW: Oh yes.

AH: I don’t know too much about that. Oh yes, we danced in the barn.

CW: Oh really!

AH: All I really know about that is what people have said.

CW: I bet your dad had two threshing circles, and he would have made pretty good money.

AH: I have no idea.

CW: I bet he did. That is something the ordinary farmer would need.

AH: Of course they all went together and helped. They would start in and then go from one place to the other. Of course at that time they shocked all the wheat. They didn’t have the modern combines at that time.

CW: For young kids that don’t know what shocking is can you describe what that procedure was.

AH: Well, there was this thing called a binder.

CW: So they would feed this by hand in to the shredder.

AH: As I understand it, yes. One thing I remember the neighbors had mules. Now if mules decide they didn’t want to go, why they didn’t go. You could see them coming up the lane and I knew they weren’t going to stop for the fence at the end of the lane, and they ran right into it. Either that or they would stop at the base of a hill and not go any farther.

CW: Did you live on a hill?

AH: Well, we had a creek behind the house and we were down below.

CW  Oh, I see.

AH:  It isn’t there any more. At that time they would cross the bridge behind the house.

CW: Did they get hurt when they ran into the fence?

AH: No, they were just animals and stubborn. They would just stand there and not go anywhere. That is mules for you.

CW: Yes. They say they are smarter than donkeys.

AH: I don’t know, but when those mules decided they were not going to go anywhere, they didn’t. We always had a lot of hogs and things. We did have cows at one time. My dad didn’t enjoy working around the cows too much so he got rid of them. We had horses at one time too.

CW:Did you girls have to help with the milking?

AH: No. I did once but I didn’t like to. We didn’t have that many. People now have hundreds of cows to take care of. We only had three, four, or five at the most.

CW: How did you and Jim meet?

AH: We knew each other from high school. We did sit together in the library. Now Dorothy Hahn was the librarian at the time. Jim usually got sent back to study hall because he was doing stuff he shouldn’t be doing.

CW: He was probably talking.

AH: Oh you couldn’t talk in the library, especially her library. Of course we went to the same church. After they moved into town from Malinta they went to Emmanuel. So we did know each other. We went to a belling for Luther and Dorothy Gerken, and Don and Laura Baden, and of course they were always at Howard’s Gas Station. This bunch decided we were going to do a belling.

CW: Can you describe a belling for me?

AH: This happened after these people got married and we would take bells and anything that would make a bunch of noise. We would go to these people’s houses and make a terrible amount of noise. The couple would be expected to give us money to go and have a party that same evening. These two couples, and I suppose Jim did it too. We would get a wheelbarrow. We would get two of them and the guys would have to push the girls across the river bridge. They then said they were going to go to Elery. At that ime you could buy cold meats there because I can remember he would sell bologna. He would slice  big chunks off for you. So we went there. Two friends of mine wanted to go there, but didn’t want to drive. So we knew Jim was going to go, so I asked Jim if he would let us ride with him. So we went to Elery together. When we went home, he took my two friends home first and then he took me home and that was it. So that is how that came about.

AH: Did he ask you for a date then?

AH: Yes we went out together after that. Of course after that the draft came along.

CW: This must have been just before the war broke out.

AH: No, the Korean War broke out. He got called in July I think. He went to Ft. Knox  and then he went overseas. He was at the Fort in ‘53.

CW: Were you married then?

AH: No. We got engaged before he left. He was over there for a year and a half.

CW:Of course you were worried.

AH: The war was kind of toning down at the time. He was in a motor pool where he worked on trucks and did whatever else needed doing. Somebody had left something undone and the whole thing burned up. So he got home in May of 1955. He got home a little early with him being over there he got the time off.

CW: They had the draft in the Korean War. Did they have the draft in the Vietnam War too?

AH: Yes I think they did. He and Don Mitchell were good friends and they got to see each other over there. Don was in the fighting and that is another story. We were married in September the following year.

CW: I bet you were happy to get him back home again.

AH: We lived in that apartment across from the church.

CW: You mean that house across the street from the church?

AH: Yes, the house that sets out in the peak there. We lived there for a few years. Maybe more, but when Mike was born there were too many stairs. You would go up once and come down twice. It was too much. Anyway we finally moved over to Yeager Street. We moved into Stella Sherman’s house. Now it is a crummy neighborhood but at that time it wasn’t. Walter Hoy lived just around the corner.

CW: Oh yes, I remember them living there.

AH: Bob Cole lived across the street. It was pretty decent at that time. Petey Ruetz’s father lived there. Nowadays it is junky down there. They should really take out all those block houses and start over. Isn’t that awful to talk like that.

CW: I wonder when those were constructed.

AH: I don’t know. They’ve been there as long as I can remember. They were there when we lived this way from there. We lived there until Terry was born and then we moved over on Willard Street in Don Hoover’s house. After that, we lived there for over well it was until Cheryl was born. When she was a year old we moved over on Haley and we lived there for 39 years..

CW: That was a huge house.

AH: At that ime it was just right for us.

CW: Yes you had a big family.

AH: Yes we had three kids and it was just right. Of course houses are not selling very well nowadays. We have been here now for two years.

CW: Did you expand the garage. Didn’t you use that as a workshop?

AH:   Yes, we added one more place to park, one more vehicle. So he spent a lot of time out there. He fixed lawnmowers and stuff like that. So if we ever sell it there is a nice workshop area out there. Nowadays with the economy it’s not easy to sell.

CW: Well if anyone can sell it, Cheryl can.

AH: Well she works very hard at her job.

CW: I would say you would have to in order to do very well.

AH:  With her not being married, she has more time for sales than most people have.

CW: More freedom too I believe.

AH: Not everybody can pick up and leave like she can. This area out here is nice and quiet, because on Haley there are cars and people everywhere. We used to have so many kids at Halloween when we lived on Haley.  We used to sit out on the front porch steps and hand out treats. Here we didn’t have anybody this year or last year. They probably figure old people wouldn’t come to the door anyway.

CW: I was planning on giving candy out to the kids this year. Some years I have had as many as ninety kids that would stop. That was the same time that my son was coming from Florida. He arrived at the Detroit airport and my daughter and I had to go up to pick him up,  and we were gone.

AH: Your daughter sure hasn’t changed a whole lot. She still looks like she used to.

CW: That’s right, I think she does. She is starting to let her hair go gray. She had dyed it for so many years.

AH: Is she married?

CW: Oh yes. Her daughter just graduated from veterinarians school out in California. She is doing her interning now. She is very busy.