Medina, G and R
ORAL HISTORY OF GEORGE & RUTH MEDINA
Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, April, 2008, Malinta, Ohio
RM: I am Ruth Medina from Malinta, Ohio.
CW: I understand you have relatives that were in the Alamo.
RM: My great grandfather came from Mexico, and journeyed all the way to the United States. I do not have the dates, but he settled in San Antonio, Texas. That is where he raised his family.
CW: Now this was your great grandfather?
RM: Yes, my great grandfather on my father’s side. His name was Juan Vargas. He was interviewed in 1905. My father was born in 1900 and he was five years old when he was interviewed in San Antonio. Here I will show you a picture of my dad and some of the other relatives. The picture was taken of my grandfather, aunts, uncles, and many of my other relatives. It was very interesting because when he came to San Antonio he settled there and raised his family and when the war started between the Alamo and Mexico, the Mexicans took my grandfather hostage.
CW: Why would they take him just because he was from Mexico.
RM: He was taken hostage because the Mexicans wanted him to fight on their Mexican side. You see he was now a U.S. citizen. He was raising his family in San Antonio and had settled there, which was where he wanted to be. He did not want to go back to Mexico. So they took him hostage because he would not fight against the United States. The Mexicans were going to shoot him but they said why waste a bullet on him. He was taken hostage and had to be with them, but when the war ended he still stayed in San Antonio. He was able to stay there.
CW: Now what about the Alamo. He probably wasn’t in the Alamo itself was he?
RM: I don’t know if he was taken captive earlier, but they came and captured the Americans that were around the Alamo. There was a small settlement around the Alamo and those were the people that were rounded up, captured, and some of them killed. This was before Texas was admitted to the Union. That is where he lived, on the south end of San Antonio. That is where he was taken hostage here in the United States. I have the newspaper at my shop that tells all about it. The paper that interviewed him told more about his longevity. He lived to be 114 years old.
CW: Do you have any information about how they treated him during captivity. Was he tortured or anything.
RM: No, he never talked about that part. He just said they were going to shoot him, because he would not fight against the United States. They just kept him captive, maybe as a water boy or something. They had said why waste a bullet on him.
CW: How did he escape.
RM: We have no information about that. Apparently after the war he was able to excape.
CW: He may have been freed too.
RM: Yes, he probably was.
CW: And they lost at the Alamo too didn’t they.
RM: Yes, they lost that first time. I don’t know if it was the first time that Mexico overtook Texas. Then the Americans had Gen. Lee, Davy Crocket, and all those people helping.
CW: Yes I remember reading about them.
RM: They wanted help at that time but the help never came. Then later they were able to get more help and overtake Mexico. I don’t know which part of the fighting my great grandfather was freed. The interview had more to do with him being in San Antonio and his longevity.
CW: Yes, it is amazing especially way back then.
RM: I would love to go to Wahaka, Mexico where he was born. There is violence there now and it is not very safe to go. I was close to there at one time, but I was not aware that my great grandfather was born there. I went to Vera Cruz, Mexico and that is not very far from Wahaka. It is not far at all. It is like from here to Ft. Wayne. Maybe someday I can go.
CW: Some day maybe you can get back. Tell me about when you first came here to Malinta, Ohio. Wasn’t it really hard coming from a big school and big city?
RM: Well not really. I was born in San Antonio, Texas and then we came to Ft. Wayne, because I had an older sister who lived in Ft Wayne and we came to visit her. She talked my dad into staying, and so we stayed. My dad was a plasterer and I came from a family of twelve children. I am number ten. By the time I was born, the other half was gone. So it was like two families. The other half of the family had left. l My dad worked in construction in Ft. Wayne and my mother took us along to work in the fields in the summer. We would go to Travis City and pick cherries and we would go to to Monroe, Michigan and do beets and go just anywhere we could find work. Which was good. There were a lot of us and my mother thought that was the best thing to do. We thought that was great and we thought it was fun.
CW: I used to pick cherries in the summer time for a little money. That was in Northeast Pennsylvania. It was fun. I loved to get way up high in the cherry tree and sway with the wind.
RM: I did too. If I would get way up high on the ladder I could see the lake. That was beautiful. My Mom would do the bottom part and my brother and I would do the top part. We enjoyed it. We thought that was great because we would get out of Ft. Wayne and we traveled. After that when we got paid we would go uptown and buy school clothes and things that we needed. That was fun. Then we would swim in the lake. What better vacation could we have.
CW: What lake were you at?
RM: It was around Traverse City, Michigan.
CW: Was it small probably?
RM: No it was a pretty big lake.
CW: You would have had a long trip to get way up there pick cherries.
RM: Oh yes. I had older brothers that would drive and my mother she didn’t drive. My father, and my mother, they both spoke Spanish. They didn’t speak English. Us kids we could speak English and Spanish. We could go home and speak Spanish and at school we would speak English. I am bilingual.
CW: That is the way with a lot of people here in Henry County. The parents and grandparents would have come from Germany and only spoke German in the home. When they went to school they had to speak English in order to learn with the rest of the kids. They would have been bilingual. It was not easy for them.
RM: I really didn’t have a problem because when I lived in San Antonio I started school. They didn’t have kindergarten, so I started in the first grade. I had a teacher who was Hispanic and she helped me and it didn’t take us long to pick up English. Then we went from grade to grade. We were not kept back for anything. It was wonderful. I was in the fourth grade when we came up here in 1952 to visit my sister. Then we stayed with her until I graduated from North Side High School in Ft. Wayne. Then I married my husband and I came here in 1961. I have been here ever since.
CW: Was he in World War II then?
RM: No, he was in the Korean conflict. He didn’t go into action because they were just prepared and the War was over. He served two years. He went overseas to Germany and other places .
CW: It’s good that he didn’t have to go into action.
RM: He was very fortunate. He was here in Malinta before I was.
CW: Now when you were newlyweds in Malinta did he start with the shoe repair trade at that time or did he do something else?
RM: No, after he got out of the service which was 1956, you see he was raised by his grandparents, because his grandparents passed away when he was very young. His mother died of tuberculosis and a stroke. He must have been about five. That was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They also migrated up here. After he got out of the service he went to work at Walters Collision. Mr Walters took him under his wing and taught him everything he knew. He stayed in their home and taught him the towing service. He kept him at his home and treated him just like a son. Mr. Walters taught him everything and George picked up everything Mr Walters taught him. George didn’t know anything about that type of work. This was through the GI bill too.
CW: Is George still running this towing service that you have up here?
RM: Oh yes, He’s still doing it. I don’t think he will ever give it up or retire. He enjoys his work. Before we got married in 1960 then he started his own business. He started over there in the Geist building. That is where he had his first repair shop. It used to be the Geist building.
CW: Did that belong to Myra and Isabelle’s parents?
RM: At that time I don’t think it belonged to them anymore. He probably knows more about it. Yes, that is where he started. I don’t think they owned it at that time. This was in 1960. He would go on vacation and my husband would take over the business and do the whole thing.
CW: Now when did he get interested in repairing shoes?
RM: I think it was around 1980. The economy was really bad and so he went and supplemented the business. When he was a young boy he was in Portland, Ohio. That is over by Carey, going south. It is a small community also probably like Malinta. There was a man there that had a shoe repair shop and so George would go there and help him. He is just a person that can pick up on things and never forget. He would never forget these things. There was a man in Findlay who was retiring and he just sold George the whole thing, from supplies he just sold him everything.
CW: What an opportunity for George.
RM: Yes, everything came back to him and he started. I am not a shoe surgeon, but I have done a lot of sewing for my kids and things like that I have done. So George taught me everything.
CW: So you learned how to run that type of sewing machine.
RM: Yes, everything. I learned everything from taking the soles off, putting the soles back on. I can do men’s dress shoes. Then women have their purses and sometimes they want the straps shortened .Sometimes you buy a purse and the strap is too long for you. I can fix belts, satchels. I can put zippers on jackets. You name it, I can do it. I do a lot of work shoes for men.
CW: Are you still doing this?
RM: Oh, yes. My husband had an accident while he was towing and a car hit him. So he has been having health problems. Now he has a lot of pain in his lower back. He didn’t break any bones, but with his aging back, he is 72, he has trauma on his spine. The accident messed everything up. His muscles are pinching against his nerves. That is another problem. He is still working, but I do the shoes. He still has his towing and my son helps him with the towing and so on.
CW: I am glad you still have that business because I didn’t realize you did.
RM: It was something I needed a few years back. Sometimes people have to call me here at the house because I need to take George to the doctor, but I am still here. Any chance I get I run over there and keep up with the repairs. I do sandals too. There is a lot of velcro being used now. I can put in new velcro because after a while it just gives out. A lot of people that have built-ups and trouble with their arches, I can do that too. The work is just endless. There is just so much to do. I can do zippers on men’s boots. They don’t want to get rid of the boots so I just put in new zippers.
CW: Yes, men like to keep their same things.
RM: Yes, Sometimes we just have to tell them look they are just too bad. You’re just going to have to pitch them and they just say No, No, No. Then they take them back home.It is interesting work. There was a man that had his ankle fused and he liked to wear boots. There was no way he was going to get his foot in the boot. So what I did was cut open the back of his boot and I put in a zipper. All he had to do then was slide his foot in and pull the zipper up.
CW: You are pretty smart too.
RM: A lot of it is just common sense. It is just figuring things out. I enjoy doing this. I never know what I am going to get.
CW: And you are working with people too.
RM: We have met a great number of nice people. I have been here since 1961, and then being in business you get to meet so many people. With my husband starting at Walters and then coming here to Malinta, there is just so many people we have met over the years. At one time we had seven employees.
CW: Oh really! Now, did that Mr. Walters die?
RM: Oh yes, and his grandkids are the ones that are running it now. Yes, because his son also was running it and he passed away and now the grandkids run the business.
CW: Okay then it was his son that died just this year.
CW: I knew there was a Walters that had died this past year.
RM: He had known so many people over the years. We have met so many wonderful people. Many people have helped us too. We haven’t done it all alone. We had all the Russell’s that had lived here in Malinta. They were all insurance agents. They used to give us a lot of business. There were two brothers that used to help us. They were wonderful people.
CW: Well they always say to have good neighbors you need to be a good neighbor. You two are probably good neighbors. We were in business too.
RM: She said she was in busines too.
GM: What business were you in?
CW: We had the Napoleon Hardware. That business was with my second husband. My first husband was Dr. Winzeler. He was the one that had Isabelle Aderman as his nurse for years.
RM: Yes I remember him.
GM: What was his nurses name?
CW: Isabelle Aderman. She was Myra’s sister. George, I am glad you got out here just at the right time.
RM: We have met so many wonderful people here. When he started his business he wanted to get his own place instead of renting. We were looking around. We owned a stucco home here in Malinta and that is where we lived before we had the house built. I used to walk from the stucco house to the shop on the other side of town. It’s north and it was a ways to go. Then this place next to the bank came up for sale and I told my husband we should buy it. It was owned by a Tobias. They owned that place. It was kind of run down.
CW: I have a grandson named Tobian. Excuse me.
RM: That’s okay. Mr. Tobias used to have a blacksmith shop there. He had passed away and I guess his children didn’t want to continue. He sold it. There were weeds growing around there. We were walking by and I said to my husband we should find out who that place belongs to. At that time it belonged to a Mr. Heckler. George talked to Mr. Heckler and he sold us the place. We cleaned it up and started our business there. After moving from the other place, we moved over here. We bought that.
CW: So you now have two places this one and the stucco one. The stucco house we still own. My son lives there.
GM: Would you like to have a drink, maybe some punch?
CW: Yes I could use a drink.
RM: I was going to make some coffee. We bought the place from Mr. Heckler. I think his name was Harold.
GM: No, it was Herb.
CW: We had a Pharon Heckler here in Napoleon. He was a teacher.
RM: So Mr. Heckler sold us this place. We bought it on land contract. I used to go over to his daughter, which is Lamar Hahn. She figured out how much we were supposed to pay her. Mr. Heckler thought that was too much, so Lamar Hahn fixed it so that her mother would know how much we were supposed to pay her. It wasn’t that much compared to nowadays. I would go to her home and pay her until we paid so much and then we went to the bank and got a loan. In 1965 or 1966 the shop burned down. Oh, it was a big fire.
CW: What happened?
RM: Our whole body shop burned. We really don’t know. My husband wasn’t even there. He was in the house over here working with the contractors. Somebody called me and told me the shop was on fire. I came over here and told him the shop was on fire. Oh my, and being an auto body shop. We had paint cans and it was just like the fire works.
CW: Did you have a fire department here?
RM: Oh yes we had a fire department.
CW: Is it still there.
RM: Oh yes. They have built a new building now. At that time it was behind our shop. The fire department was just behind our shop. Other fire departments also came and helped.
CW: Yes, they usually do.
RM: They were able to put it out, but oh my, it was a big fire.
CW: And it ruined everything in the building?
RM: Oh yes, every car, everything, tools and every thing in there. It was a pretty hot fire.
CW: Did you have insurance?
RM: Yes we did. Thank God for that. We had insurance. In 1966 we had a new shop built. Then the bank and the postoffice built a new place. So we all had new buildings at the same time, the postoffice, the bank, and our shop. So there were a lot of people that came from all over to help us celebrate the opening of our shop.
CW: That would have been a big event.
RM: Oh yes, for Malinta that was a big event. I tell you I could write a book about the things that happened in my life. I was really young. I was 24 at the time.
CW: You mean when you had the fire?
RM: Yes. I helped George with everything. I used to help sand the cars, help paint the cars, and do all bookkeeping. I used to do all the running around for parts, and oh my.
CW: I used to think that couples that worked together would get tired of each other. My second husband, Ray Wangrin he and his wife worked together in the hardware together for years. They were just as close as they could be. They were so congenial to each other. That shows that my ideal was not a good one.
RM: I was 19 when I married my husband. That is when I came to Malinta. I am 66 now. I have been here a long long time. We have worked. Sometimes you know we worked 24 hours. I was right there with him. We didn’t have kids for 5 years. So I was constantly there running for parts. I would hand him a hammer or whatever. I would sleep in the cars.
CW: How many children do you have now?
RM: I have just two. My son and then I have adopted my daughter. We have worked, I’m telling you.
CW: How is she to work with?
GM: Good! Very good and very convenient.She would do whatever needed to be done. She could finish up anything that needed doing. She could fix turn signals and brake lights.
RM: I did all the detail work like cleaning the cars. I don’t know but I just enjoyed the work. I was always a hard worker. When we lived in San Antonio my mother always wanted to keep us busy. So we would go right out of San Antonio, my dad would stay working there, my mother always took me along and I can remember going out and picking cotton.
CW: Is that right! Did it hurt your fingers?
RM: I don’t remember it hurting my fingers. I must have been about 8 years old. I don’t remember too much but I remember picking cotton. We’d have to get that little ball of cotton and put it in the big long bags. Well they did have little bags for little children. The part I remember is when we got paid and we’d get some pop.
CW: Oh sure that’s what kids would remember.
RM: That’s what I remember anyway. It was hot but it didn’t bother me.
CW: How did you happen to get started working with Walters?
GM: When I came up here in the 1940’s the neighbors told me Uncle Sam was calling me. So then I went to Ft. Knox, Kentucky and went into the Army. At least they would pay me if I went in to the Army. I went home with some of them Southern boys over the weekend. Some of them were living in castles. They were doing better than me. We were living in beet shanties. Anyway when I got out of the service I thought I would try something different. Then I went in to Walters. I learned under the GI Bill. I had 2 or 3 years training.
CW: You mean the government paid you at first.
GM: Yes. I got two paychecks. One was from the government, and one was from Walters Collision. The pay was not very much, but at least I got paid. What is enough and what isn’t enough. One person would say that is too much. The GI Bill is an apprenticeship program. I think it is a 3 year apprenticeship program. I was working and learning and before I got done, I was fixing cars in my home on the side. I had quite a few cars I was working on. I would fix some cars there and after that I had so many cars to work on I thought I might was well open up a shop. That is exactly how I got started. This one place I had so much going on, I had rented the place, which would be Geist’s Garage from years ago. Roberta Russell is somehow related to the Geists. They owned it and they were in charge of the building. They wanted me to rent the building and I said okay. I wanted to buy the building, but they wouldn’t sell the building, besides I needed something bigger. That is when we found the building right in downtown Malinta. You just can’t miss it. We found it, rebuilt it. We just got going real good, and the building burned down.
CW: Now that building was it on the West side or the East side of 109?
GM: It was on the East side of 109.
RM: It was across the street from the hardware.
CW: Oh, is that where there still is a hardware store?
CW: Is that where your business is now?
CW: Did you rebuild your shop on the same spot where you had your fire?
GM: Yes, the same location only in the front of the other building.
RM: The other building was set back. But when we built we had it moved up front. We built towards the front
CW: You wouldn’t have needed all that space towards the front.
GM: Either way, it was a matter of opinion. When we fixed it, it worked out real nice. When we had spare parking out in front and there was nothing in the back because whoever started to build it started to build it very large. They had the walls from one end of the street to the other. When we had the fire of course I tore everything down.
CW: And you built it the way you wanted it. So you have been very busy over the years.
GM: Yes, we have been working hard. We have had a lot of fun.
CW: I think you both like people I can tell.
RM: We have met so many people and I used to when I came to Malinta I walked to the shop. I would stop at Mrs. Geist. She was the mother of Myra and Isabel. She lived next to the shop. I used to stop by there and visit with her. I would bring in her mail and I just enjoyed talking to her. She was such a sweet lady. She was just wonderful. I enjoyed talking to her. I was only 19 at the time.
CW: This was when you were first here and you didn’t know anybody.
RM: We didn’t know a soul. She was wonderful and my son graduated with her grandson. All over the years we have met so many wonderful people. We met Virginia and Harold Parnham.
CW: They lived on the West side of 109.
RM: No, they lived on County Road L.
GM: Going way back his wife Virginia she did live on the West side. She lived right on the corner. It would be the South side of Malinta, right on the corner. That is where she lived when she was a Honeck.
CW: That would have been before she was married.
RM: Harold and Virginia Parnham they sold us this property here. Then Mr. Pohlman sold us the next building next to the body shop.
CW: Was that Fritz Pohlman?
GM: It would be his Dad. He was there when this all happened.
RM: Fritz was working for his Dad.
GM: Fritz was always busy working in the stockyards. He was close to 7 feet tall and could lift up to 300 pounds.
RM: Fritz was pretty tall. I remember his dad. He was kind of heavy and he was a big man. He had a big chair.
CW: Do you mean one of those office chairs on a swivel.
RM: Yes. I can remember him. I was very young then. I never miss anything. For me coming from Ft. Wayne to Malinta . It felt like going back to the dark ages.
CW: I suppose it did.
RM: We had sulphur water too here in Malinta. I really liked it because it came right out of a well. It was cold water. I liked it.
CW: A person can get used to it.
RM: Then we moved over here. We had a well and then we put in a cistern. The cistern water went to all parts of the house with the exception of the kitchen. We had a well for the kitchen but it never came out that cold like it did at the other place. I kind of miss it.
CW: Did you run into much prejudice when you first moved here?
GM: Is that a good question or a bad question?
CW: I don’t know, you tell me.
GM: It was so good when we got here. There was a Rev. Hamburger. Rev. Hamburger used to own
CW: That was his real name?
GM: Yep. That was his real name. Rev. Hamburger used to own that stucco house. It had belonged to his mother in law. She was in between. At first we rented the house and then we wanted to buy it. Oh they got a petition up because they wouldn’t allow any Mexicans in town.
CW: Oh no!
RM: We had no running water.
CW: Now was this was the stucco house, right?
GM: We can’t tell that. There was a lot of history with that house.
CW: How did you manage to get it anyway?
GM: Well, the man of God stood up for God. He said I offered to sell it to you. It is the right thing to do and I will not go back on my word. Then he said I’ll do better than that. I am going to let you pay whatever you want to pay.
CW: Good for him!
GM: Whatever you want to pay. We will draw up the contract. We gave them $500.00 down and paid $25.00 each month.
CW: Back in those days that was a decent amount.
GM: That was in the ‘50’s.
CW: What year did you come to Malinta?
GM: We moved into Malinta in 1956. She said money did not have any color. So when you talk about people being prejudiced. If you take 1% out of 100 does that really mean anything? There is no significance to that particular word. Sometimes I just chuckle about it. Some of these people that didn’t want me in town that signed that paper they thought we would make the town worse than it was. They haven’t gained two cents when they signed that paper. Probably 50% of them are buried by now. So what really did they gain? I am going to be joining them eventually . Do you reckon they will try to hide?
CW: Maybe they won’t be in the same place you will be going. You will be up there and they will be down there.
RM: Do you know that house didn’t even have running water. There were people that lived next door that would not give us any water.
GM: We got it settled though. They had the old fashioned pitcher pump. Not that we would have used any electricity.
CW: They wouldn’t even let you have water.
GM: The neighbor on both sides of us.
RM: Some people moved away too.
GM: The one that started the petition moved away and guess what. He came back later.
CW: He probably couldn’t make it anywhere else.
GM: I don’t know what happened.
CW: It seems like over the years the people who are most prejudiced are kind of the most stupidest. They don’t think very far.
RM: The people that moved away we had a buyer he was one of the first ones there trying to help us and save our most important papers.
CW: Now what do you mean he.
RM: I don’t know if I should mention names. He was the person who moved away and was so prejudiced. Afterwards when we had the fire he was there and he even risked his life trying to help us get out the most important papers. Then the other person that was so very prejudiced then her son ended up working for us.
CW: Is that right!
RM: Within the last five years he has passed away and George said he was at the bank and George happened to be at the bank and you can tell her what he said.
GM: I was short and he was tall. He worked for us while he was going to school. We would go fishing or any place. He would hang around with our kids. Whatever we did he would do too. Then this one day I had went into the bank. I always paid them fairly well. He never said that’s enough or not enough. He said all the money he had saved while he worked for us put him through college. They made him a school teacher. In the meantime he went to work at a golf course. If the golf carts got banged up he could fix them up and paint them and make them look like new. So then when he was done with that he worked at the golf course. Then later he turned around and bought a golf course in Fostoria or Fremont, in that area.
RM: When we had the shop then the kids didn’t have no place in Malinta to go to that was exciting or do something. They used to hang around at the shop. They used to hang around and just see what he was doing. That was something new for them to do in Malinta.
GM: The rules were if you didn’t want to work and do something, we didn’t want you to just hang around. It was all business and very important. If you wanted to learn you were more than welcome. Life hasn’t changed but people have changed in how they work.
RM: Kids are in trouble nowadays because they are not allowed to work in the fields any more. They can’t do this and they can’t do that. Even on the farms there are laws now about working on the farm, for young kids. Lots of times you have your own kids doing things but you can’t anymore.
CW: There is nothing for them to do.
RM: So they used to hang around whether he paid them or didn’t pay them, they didn’t care. They were learning. They just wanted to learn how to weld. They wanted to learn how to take the cars apart and how to fix them. Through George allowing a lot of these kids to hang around there these kids grew up to be insurance agents or having their own business. They would hang around our business. We have several kids that hung around at our place that went into business doing auto body work.
CW: Is that right!
RM: That is wonderful that these kids ...
CW: Now if they were to stay there in the shop I bet it was George’s personality. He had a way with them. They liked to be there.
GM: One of these kids wanted to earn enough money to go to college with. He said boy my fingers are sore from sanding this car. Sanding is very hard on your fingers. But it didin’t take his fingers off. I told him to take some masking tape and wrap it around his fingers, just keep on working. That would help. I said, when you can’t go no more, you tell me. He came up one day and said, George look. I’ve got blood. So I said well I guess you can take off a couple of days. When your fingers get better you can come back and do more sanding. I said I just want to hear sanding and pounding noises. I don’t want to hear any talking, just keep on working. They weren’t really that bad.
CW: But you were keeping them in order and you were still friendly. It probably was a good environment for them. They probably liked that.
GM: Another thing, I never allowed any foul language. When you run a business you never know who is going to be around there. If customers come in and hear a heated conversation with people talking like that there is no room for it. Some people can read every word in the Bible and in the dictionary and still can’t choose any better words than that. You can choose a better word.
CW: You are right.
GM: We have been around here a long long time. We learned just from doing things. It’s mostly common knowledge and common sense. People don’t know how much is common sense. Lots of it you can’t get out of book.
CW: Farmers have taught themselves a lot too. Wouldn’t farmers spend a lot of time in the winters fixing up and preparing their machines for spring.
GM: They still do. They have some of the best equipment to repair their stuff now. For many years we not only did automobiles, we did the faRM:tractors, combines, and semis, anything automotive I guess. We would do whatever needed to be done.
RM: He would have so much work that needed to be done. At one time we were just swamped with work. The insurance agents that we had gave us a lot of work. There were a lot of people that really helped us along the way. There was Randy Schwab, he was working at Snyder’s. He was one that started here. Jim Brown, he had his own business that started here. The Schwab man was the manager at Snyder’s Chevrolet too. He worked for us and then he started his own business in New Bavaria. After that he went to work for an insurance company and now he wound up being Snyder’s body shop manager. We have an awful lot of people, the kids used to hang around and ended up with good jobs.
CW: I bet you didn’t get paid any extra for training these kids.
GM: No, it was just the enjoyment of it. I told them always to remember, listen you are not going to get paid top dollar. You are not going to get paid more than you are worth, because if you do the first big mistake you made you’re out of here. In other ways we can allow a few mistakes, but when they tell me they are not going to make mistakes, there is only one person that makes no mistakes. When you make a mistake it is costly. So therefore instead of firing you just keep on working and the next time you will know how to correct your mistake. As time goes on your pay will increase. In our business it does. When I started welding I got $50.00 per week. That was back in 1956. And I thought if I make $100.00 each week I will never need any more money. Now, if you go to a good restaurant that is not even enough to go to it. You have to walk out backwards.
RM: Of all the people you know that we have dealt with I, don’t think you can even count them on your hands, were disatisfied with our work There was only one. There was a doctor, he was working for the Henry County Hospital and then he came and we repaired his car. He came and he picked up his car and he said he would be back and pay him. He was a doctor and why you trust him and he seemed like an honest person. We even gave him some deer meat that we had.
GM: We even had him come eat in our home with us.
RM: Yes, he came and picked up his car and he left, and then later he would not pay us. Three months later he still didn’t pay us. Then he said he would not pay us because we didn’t repair his car.
CW: Oh my goodness why!
RM: So then he went and took his tow truck. His car was sitting out there and George took it and brought it to the body shop. John Casteel, he was the sheriff and called and said George, you took this car and you’re to come and post a bond and we are going to take the car and impound the car. We were not aware that we could do that. Anyway he took the car but Casteel called him ahead of time. He didn’t arrest him or anything like that. He called him ahead of time and told him to post a bond ahead of time. So George did. The nurses were looking out the window and they were just laughing their heads off. I guess he wasn’t a very nice person. We were not aware of that. They said they were just looking out the window and just laughing their heads off. After that, they impounded his car. He didn’t have a car anyway, because the sheriff impounded the car.
GM: It took us a year to get this thing settled.
CW: It served him right.
RM: He had to walk to the hospital because he didn’t have a car. So then we got a lawyer, a Donovan, and it seemed like they couldn’t get no place in this situation. My husband is not that dumb. He knows a body man and goes around and he went to, what is that body shop,
GM: It used to be the Ford garage and body shop in Napoleon.
RM: Who owned the body shop at that time?
GM: It was the Ford body shop in Napoleon. It was a body shop, but this guy had wrecked his car a second time after he had left our place. So then he took it out to the Ford garage and got it fixed. So then this guy was dumb enough to tell me who fixed his car and that I didn’t fix it.. So I went out to see who fixed his car. They said they had fixed it. We had all the parts in the body shop from the first time he had wrecked it. We had a fender, a door, the grill, the hood, and all the body parts.
CW: Was he an alcoholic or something?
GM: No, he was from another country. That doesn’t mean anything because 99% of the people here come from another country. He was a doctor and he had told the judge and all the lawyers that we didn’t fix his car and now another day and another week and another month. So anyway when he said who fixed it I went up there and had him sworn in to go to court to check that out. I had this body shop manager go to court again and he was subpoenaed again and go tell when he fixed the car and what part of the car he had fixed. He fixed a different part of the car altogether than what we had fixed. We had all the parts in the body shop yet from where we fixed his car.
RM: We had the bill and the
GM: We took it all up there so they could see. We took it to the court so they could see that we did fix the car. We had the parts from his car. The parts all matched, just like a giant puzzle. They matched right down to the parts, the color, the scratches. So then the man did have to pay, to make a long story short. After about a year.
CW: Was the man without a car for a year?
GM: He had Short from Archbold. Then another one we had, oh it was a little thing that didn’t mean too much. This man came in and wanted his shoe stretched. Okay so we have been stretching shoes for over twenty years at $5.00 a pair. He comes in and gets his shoes stretched. He says my goodness George, this is highway robbery. I am not going to pay you $5.00 for stretching my shoes. Then you know what you can pay me $30.00 to $40.00 an hour for me talking to you about stretching your shoes. I won’t charge you for stretching your shoes just pay me for your talking to me.
CW: You think pretty fast.
GM: Right now we get about $40.00 an hour for work. So we didn’t get into the minutes. He just kept on mumbling and I said here is your shoes and never come back here and I will give you an extra $5.00 so you won’t think I am ripping you off.
CW: Good for you!
GM: And don’t ever come back. Then later his wife made him come in and apologize. Then he still brought more shoes back in later. Now I didn’t want to fix any more shoes for him. He said well it don’t make no difference about the past. So I forgot about it. There are very few like him.
RM: Getting back to this doctor then the hospital released him. He was in court about once a week for about a year. He would be away from his job. And it took us away from our job.
CW: Was his office here in Malinta or where?
GM: He was on the staff at the hospital. He was one of the main doctors at the hospital. If you would go to the hospital for an emergency and there would be no house doctor.
RM: He was a Dr. Lonex, I will never forget that name. Sometimes I will run into one of the nurses and she will just smile at me. She was looking out the window when George brought the tow truck. You know every thing that we done all these years from a person that was a son of and grandson of share croppers in Louisiana then people can’t make no excuses because you know because maybe they didn’t have the right education or this and that. Anyone can make it.
CW: It’s up to the individual. You have to have the right attitude to start with and you two people have. You had faith in people.
RM: Oh, definitely yes. Our parents and grandparents were share croppers in Louisiana. And they came up here to look for a better life, which we did find.
GM: My grandparents died over there.
RM: They were still part of your family being sharecroppers. My grandparents worked and their son came up here. They were Martinez. I don’t know if you have ever heard of a Martinez.
CW: Oh sure.
GM: He ran a dry cleaning business. He was their son.
CW: Now where did the grandparents live?
GM: Well, when we first started out, at one time we lived on Campbell’s Soup property. They had a place there for migrants. We were working there and they had a little cabin for migrant people. You could live there in Deshler, they had a place for migrants.
CW: Oh they did! That is interesting.
GM: So Campbell Soup would send us around and we would block them.(the tomatoes) We had to weed them out. We had to hoe them and block them. They started them out with seeds in those days. My grandfather had a stroke and he had heart trouble. Once I got out of the Army we bought this little house. My life was content. They stayed there until they passed away.
CW: Now this was where?
RM: In Malinta that stucco house. Yes, he bought this house for his grandparents. The thing is, he had went to the bank and he wasn’t old enough to take out a loan.
GM: I was only 20 years old at the time.
RM: Rev. Hamburg I guess then waited till he was old enough to go to the bank and get a loan.
GM: He had told me I could get the house by whatever I wanted to pay. I always paid him. It was $5500.00.
RM: I know I have the papers from the bank that state you were not old enough to take out a loan. They had to wait until you were 21.
GM: Look at the people nowadays. 21 doesn’t mean nothing. They just go and get a co-signer.
CW: Back then the cost of a house was lots different than it is now. My parents bought a brand new house, with three big bedrooms. They were big rooms too. It had all kinds of rooms in it. They paid $5000.00. They thought they couldn’t afford the payments. This was at the depth of the Depression.
GM: This house that we have now used to belong to a doctor, but I can’t think of his name.
RM: It was Dr. Kiser, the one where Carol lives.
GM: The one we live in now used to belong to the doctor here in town. It is across the alley from where the apartments are at where the bank is at. My daughter lives there now. It is designed nicer than what this one is designed.
CW: Did you make the plans up for this house here?
GM: It was pretty well done, but we did change some of the things on the design. This opening here was only supposed to be six foot. I think it is now nine foot. The opening behind you is wider.
RM: We just changed a few things.
GM: Over there with that big square. I haven’t decided what to do with that. We want to put wrought iron with roses over there. Nothing has materialized yet.
RM: Well, George has had a heart attack. He has a pacemaker. He has had his mitral valve repaired.
CW: I am glad I started this interview when I did.
GM: Then we changed where the fireplace was so we wouldn’t have to walk around it.
RM: Well, when you start having heart problems he was not able to do a lot of the work. He tried very hard. I think that we have helped people around here.
CW: I think you have.
RM: You know there are a lot of people that appreciate.
CW: Look how many young people you have helped over the years.
RM: Nowadays you can’t do that. Kids are getting into trouble. They are bored. They don’t have things to do. There are things that do not interest them. I don’t know, but it is really sad that these things are happening. At that time we were not afraid of being sued. We didn’t have parents coming over and yelling at us because their kids were over here. They didn’t care.
CW: They knew that this was a safe place for them.
RM: Yes. We were right in the middle of town so a lot of people like Rick Herge’s uncles were insurance agents. Bernard Russell and Junior Russell.
GM: Did you know the Russell people that were in insurance years ago?
CW: I don’t think so.
RM: Junior worked for Yackee Insuraance.
GM: He was an adjustor.
RM: He was an adjustor for Yackee and Bernard was an insurance agent for Nationwide Insurance. They were wonderful people. These were brothers to the lady that made our life miserable. They were very upset about it. We have met so many wonderful people. To this day there is no place that we can go someone does’t recognize him or remember that he fixed their cars when they were teenagers. I know it is going to be hard for us to get out of the store, because there are so many people that recognize him and know him, and remember him.
CW: Isabelle Aderman was the same way. She had worked in Napoleon for years and she said it takes me so long to walk down one side of the street. Everybody I come to wants to stop and talk. She was somebody that was well liked.
RM: We have enjoyed even with a little opposition and we had another problem when my husband got big tow trucks. He purchased a place to park his trucks and there were some people and they came in town and they started up a petition and just about everybody in town signed it that they did not want the tow trucks there. Oh, people got pretty ugly. Even with our kids. I couldn’t send them that year to trick or treat. I was afraid that something would happen. We ended up having them stay here at the house. Then these people ended up leaving town and they just came and started this thing and left. Here we are still here. I don’t understand, but that was a big thing. I went to the council and I gave them a speech about exactly what we were trying to do. Because no one had come to us and said to us exactly what is it that you are doing. Being that we have been here for so long they should have just come to us.
CW: Whatever happened to this petition they brought up?
GM: Somebody had asked me if it would be in the court. They had a great big piece of paper, two of them. If they didn’t do it legal it is supposed to be at the courthouse. It is supposed to go to the courthouse.
RM: I don’t know what the procedures are to start up a petition. I don’t know, and I don’t know what happens to it. The lady that was a clerk in Malinta showed it to me and I just couldn’t believe the people that had signed it. We went to church together with them. I thought that was sad you know .
CW: They could at least have come and talked to you.
RM: Yes. They could have told us what they were trying to do. We had Ronnie Lankenau.
CW: He is a good lawyer.
RM: We got him as a lawyer and I said they told that we were going to trash the town. I think I am going to have that speech recorded that I spoke at the council meeting when I went there.
CW: Do you think it made a difference?
GM: No, because later on we turned around and sold that property to the guy that started the petition in the beginning . I sold him that property where we had our storage on. If you go North of here and on the East side of the street you will see a metal fence going back about 200 feet from the road. It is about 10 feet high. So then we sold him that property. We went to Texas at that time for about 3 years.
CW: To get away from the hot topics?
RM: George had a heart attack and so we just closed the house and our business. We had a RV. My son and my daughter we went to San Antonio for 3 years to get away from and at that time it was from ‘83 to ‘86. He had just had a heart attack and so we went to a warmer climate in San Antonio. I have a lot of relatives there. It wasn’t that I was going to a strange place. We went to San Antonio and we were there for 3 years. My goodness, it was a good thing because we went to San Antonio he worked in a body shop oh my, we made very good money. He knew it was very good money. Then my son also worked after he got out of school. He worked there too. It was good that we did because we were having a recession here.
GM: I got half of the labor when I worked in San Antonio. I did real well. That was in ‘86.
CW: That was good money then. Was that before you had started your business here?
GM: No, that was afterwards.
CW: Did you just happen to come back then?
GM: We owned a lot of property here. We liked this house here and we had just left it.
CW: So you still had it.
GM: Oh yes, we didn’t sell anything. See, we still had the apartments. We had our daughters house across the road. We have another building on this side we got from Mr. Pohlman. The stucco house, I think that was all the property we had at that point.
CW: So you did have a lot here.
GM: Yes, we had the apartments across the road. I had the body shop here. I had a paint room right next door. Then we had the house where my son is at. And we had this one. That would have been four.
CW: That is five.
GM: I think there was another one we had on down by the road. Now we have about eight or nine. If people are ambition, they can set the world on fire.
CW: Well, you have to have some smarts too you know, which is what you and your wife both have. A lot of people don’t.
RM: This lady I told her not to call me and there it goes again. Who was it here in Malinta that was compiling this little book.
GM: She might be involved too.
RM: Isabelle also helped. It was kind of little skits about people in Malinta. It was kind of a comical thing. I will have to find the book that they wrote these little skits.
CW: It would be nice to have and we could put it right in with this. Not the original, but we could make a copy.
RM: Yes, it was kind of cute the way that they compilled it. They had skits about each person. Of course they got our approval, but it was okay to do it.
CW: Did they do one about George?
GM: Oh they did one about nearly everybody. The comical thing I could handle.
CW: That is fun when we can have that type of entertainment.
RM: To think of the way that they told people. Yes they did the blizzard of ‘78. George was actually out towing. Yes he was out towing.
GM: I would go out and I would bring them into my home here.
RM: Yes we had a truck driver out of Chicago and he stayed here in our home because we had the fireplace and we had gas and electricity. You know we could turn on our stove and we had our fireplace so we brought in a couple too. We had
GM: Lowell Schweibert’s dad.
RM: We had these people right here in our home. They stayed the night and the truck driver stayed a little bit longer. We had a piano and our kids entertained on the piano and also telling them scairy stories. We had a wonderful time. We tried to go up to the store but the snow was up so high so the truck driver put my daughter on his back and went up to the store. I didn’t have to worry about trying to get bread because the store was out of bread. I made tortillas.
CW: You didn’t have to have bread.
RM: Yes, I didn’t have to have bread We had a nice time with the people
CW: It was fun for a change.
RM: Then later, the following day the snow subsided and then my husband was stranded south of Malinta. They brought you here on the snowmobile.
GM: When the blizzard started another time I had to go to Deshler to pick up a truck. So between here and Hamler, my truck broke down. And it was a holiday. My motor quit running, but it kept on pumping my gasoline. I was out in a barn either one day or two days. The blizzard was so bad you couldn’t even see out the window here. After we were in there so long we got cold. Then once I could see a light I found this barn. These people had went to Florida.
CW: It would have been mighty uncomfortable.
RM: There was no one to keep him company, but he said there was a cat there.
CW: At least he had some company.
RM: People were running back and forth with snowmobiles. I don’t know who brought you but they came right here in front and dropped him off.
end of tape
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