Interview with Russell Patterson
[This interview is currently being edited.]
Interviewer C. Wangrin, October 2003
My name is Russell William Patterson and I was born April 20, 1928 and I'm 75 years old and I've lived in Napoleon all my life; I've been a registered Pharmacist for over 50 years and I've seen many changes in Napoleon. My Patterson family located in Henry County right after the Civil War. My great-grandfather Isaac Patterson served in the Civil War and he had a Napoleon connection earlier. His sister married a George Weimer who in 1857 to 1858 pUblished a paper in Napoleon called the Napoleon Star. Isaac Patterson came back after the Civil War to Napoleon. He had previously got acquainted with a girl by the name of Mary Ann Rohrbaugh and so after his service in the Civil War he came to Napoleon and married Mary Ann Rohrbaugh in 1870 and he worked at various jobs here in town and helped on different farms and sometimes he was even going up and working on foams in Michigan He had a family and his one son Harley Patterson was my grandfather and he worked at the roundhouse, the DT&I roundhouse as a boilermaker and unfortunately he worked in the winter around the hot engines and in 1921 he came down with pneumonia and in a few days he died. My grandmother always said that the few days before he passed away she had to get down and tie his shoes that he couldn't even lace up his own shoes, but he insisted on going to work because in those days if you didn't show up for work you didn't get paid. (grins) But after he passed away she sent a letter, an appeal to Henry Ford for assistance and he in turn had a secretary answer and said that maybe your son when he is 18 years old we will give him a job on the railroad. My father was his son and his name was Everett Patterson and he was 15 at that time.
C. Was Ford connected to the railroads at that time?
R. Yes. Henry Ford owned the DT&I railroad, and my grandfather Harley Patterson worked at the roundhouse but unfortunately when my father got to be 18 he applied to the Ford Company, using this former letter and they answered, "We have no openings at this time." (laughs)
C. Oh dear!
R. So then my grandmother got a job at the Wellington Hotel as a chambermaid to help support the family and my father quit high school and worked as a short order clerk at the hotel restaurant, and he continued in that position till 1924 when he obtained a position with the Shaff Brothers Drug Store and he worked then for Martin Schaff. The Shaff Brothers' Drug store was located at 118 West Washington St. and it was owned by Martin Shaff and Frank Shaff and Frank Shaff had another drug store around the corner and his was at 719 North Perry St. and my father worked for Martin Shaff for many years and Martin Shaff had a farm out in Harrison Township and he didn't have a car and he would have my father drive him out to his crops and inspect the farm. And on several occasions I would go along. I was 5 or 6 years old and the first time that I accompanied them Martin came out of the drag store and he saw me in the car. He turned around, went back in the store and he came out with a sack, and so he handed are the sack and here it was a sack of candy. So I looked forward to going along with my father and Martin Shaff when they inspected his farm. I learned a lot about the drug store from my father During mealtime he would relate experiences that he encountered at the drug store.
C. Drug stores were very different in those days, weren't they?
R. Yes, they certainly were. It was a tremendous change back in those days we had to give the people the personal service that you don't experience today. When I was in the eighth grade my father had me come down to the drug store and help him mop out on Friday nights. Saturday was the big day; in fact later when I worked for Mr. Frank Shaff he told me that he did more business on Saturdays than all the rest of the days put together.
C. Is that right.
R. And so we cleaned the drug store up for the Saturday trade. Today people couldn't imagine the amount of business that we did on that one day. The drug store was open at 6 a.m. and it was closed at midnight and we had a soda fountain at Martin s drug store and we had extra help for the soda fountain, and we would bring up extra tables and chairs for the customers to come in and get their ice cream. When I was in high school in 1944 I was working after school nights at the drug store and on Sundays and Saturdays and some times I would average almost 40 hours a week even though I went to high school. At that time I got 35 cents an hour.
C. Which wasn't a bad wage then.
R. Right. And then on Saturday night when we closed at midnight it would take us one hour to clean up the soda fountain and then if it was your Sunday to work---we worked every other Sunday--we would open up at 6 the next morning.
C. They would open up on Sundays then?
R. Oh yes. usually 6 a.m. in the morning. And on one occasion I had a classmate that worked with me back of the soda fountain and he was quite a spender and after we got paid on Saturday night he asked me to go along to the Palmer House to get something to eat. This was foreign territory for me because I had never eaten in a restaurant before and the only restaurant really that I had had experience in was the Whitehouse Hamburger Shop. (laughs) So we went to the Palmer House restaurant and of course ! didn't know what to order and he ordered a T-bone steak, so I followed suit and said, "I'll take the same." And they brought a large platter that this huge T-bone steak covered the entire platter. It was a very good steak but when I got the slip for the bill I noticed it was $1.50 and I realized that I had to work 4 1/2 hours to pay for that steak so the next week he said, "Do you want to go and get something to eat?" I said, "No, I think my mother said I should come right home." (laughs) But that's the way prices were back in those days.
C. Yeah. $1.50 was a lot of money then.
R. Right, and that was for a huge T-bone steak. I can see it to this day. It covered that big platter. C. Did you eat it all?
R. Oh yeah. I could eat it from working all day long. So I continued working there until after high school and I, after graduation I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and I served there during World War II and after I came back l decided to be a Pharmacist and I went to Ohio Northern University under the GI. Bill and
C. Would you explain the GI Bill for people who are unfamiliar with it?
R. Yes. At that time anybody that had served in WWII_ you had a choice of going to a trade school or to a college and the government would pay your tuition and also they would buy your books and besides that you got $75.00 a month for your living expenses.
C. t didn't realize it was that generous.
R. Yeah. So, but you had to serve at least--I may be wrong in this--but I think it was at least a year and then you were given for every month in service you were given a month of college so it depended on the length of your service. Anyway it was very helpful for a lot of the fellows. I had a friend who was interested in diesel engines and he went to a diesel trade school and became a mechanic.
C. That's how my husband became an MD. He got to go to Medical School under the GI Bill.
R. Is that right? It was a great thing actually for anybody that wanted to take advantage of it. I don't think that I would ever have been able to attend college without it.
C. Right. Nobody had that much money.
R. But anyway at that time Frank Shaff needed help in his drug store. Now Frank, as opposed to his brother Martin, he didn't have a soda fountain and he specialized more in prescriptions and medicines.
C. Is that the drug store that was on Perry St.?
R. Yes. 719 North Perry, and Frank gave me an opportunity that any time I was home from school that could come in and work, and he said, "Anytime you're free just come in and go to work." So I did, and after I graduated at Ohio Northern in 1952 I went to work for Frank Shaff and the first night that I talked with him he said, "You open up in the morning and here's the key." And he said, "I'm going to Mass and I'll eat my breakfast and I’ll be up to the store." And at that time we opened at 7. They wanted the store opened at 7 o'clock. Although when I worked for Mart Shaff I went over to Frank's to get merchandise. We had a warehouse back of Frank's store to get merchandise. I was familiar with his store to some extent but I had never really worked in the store, so I asked him, "What if a customer asks for something that I don't know where it is?" He said, "That's all right. The customer will show you where it's at." (laughs)
C. Things were pretty casual in those days.
R. So he had me open up and of course I really didn't have any problems because I was pretty much familiar with the drug store and I worked for Frank Everett till he died in 1959 and at that time I had an opportunity with my father and another worker by the name of Mart Naugle to purchase a drug store.
C. Now,Frank was the one you worked for. right?
R. Yes, Frank. And so I went along with my father Everet Patterson and Mart Naugle and we purchased the Frank Shaff Drug Store. Then nine years later we had an opportunity to move down the street at 705 next to the--at that time it was the Community Bank, so we relocated down here which was a bigger room and we thought it was a better location. And we've been here ever since. Just recently I got a certificate from the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy for over 50 years of service, that I've been registered as a registered Pharmacist. And I've seen an awful lot of changes in the drug stores and the downtown businesses that have come and gone.
C. How does ithe downtown differ from when you first started working?
R. Well, first of all back when I first started working there were downtown grocery stores and today there's hardly any. We've got a Sterling store over here where you can get some groceries, but there were still--like Kroger--over at the Senior Center and there were still a few of the grocery stores like across on Perrry St. the old Gathman Grocery Store was run by Ray Bernicke at that time.
C. Now would this be Bob Bernicke's father?
R. Yes. Ray, and around the corner here when t was a child there must have been possibly six or seven groceries in the downtown area. My mother at that time, say I was about 10 years old or so, which would be about 1938 would send me uptown to get groceries and usually rather than one trip a week we would go three or four times as we needed things and she would say, I was an only child and there was three in her family and she'd say, "You get three pork chops and you tell the butcher to be sure to give you some that don't have a lot of fat." (laughs)
On one occasion I was in a grocery store and it was in the summertime and at that lime none of the stores were air conditioned and they would sometimes have fans, big fans going or fans in the ceiling and in order to get a little more air they'd prop the front door open, and I was in Tanner's Grocery and it was here on Washington St. t was back by the meat counter and waiting to be waited on and a little dog came running in the front door, ran right back to the meat counter. At that time they had a keg with dill pickles. They had angled it down so you could see the pickles in the barrel and the dog climbed up and lapped some of the brine from the pickles.
C. Bet he didn't stay there.
R. No. He didn't stay long but he tried it. (laughs) And I witnessed that.
C. They used to have a lot of groceries in bins, didn't they?
R. That's right, and the same when I worked for Mart Staff which was right next door to where Tanner's Grocery was. We had bins of candy and we'd get peanuts in the shells and we would sack those up for people and at that time the soda fountain was real popular with ice cream cones. And we had a cone which held two dips and they were side by side. And we would put two dips in the cone and we had a pan with ground nuts and we would dip the cone in the nuts and then we would put a cherry, a candy cherry on top and we charged five cents. And we also, our ice cream sodas we sold for ten cents and we--another thing that you don't hear of today we would make -flavored phosphates, lime-flavored phosphate.
C. How'd they make those?
R. We had at that time it was soda water and we had a little phosphoric acid in the shaker and we put a couple drops of the phosphoric acid into the soda and then we put a flavoring, maybe lime in it and one of the most popular things at the soda fountain was a chocolate marshmallow sundae and they sold for ten cents.
C. Yeah, I remember getting a tin roof.
R. Right. And we would make the tin roofs and another thing that was popular especially in the summertime was what they called the Boston Cooler. The Boston Cooler was ginger ale and ice cream and we would put it in with our mixer and mix it up and the people could just drink it with a straw.
C. Oh yeah. Now the phosphates, would that fizz up?
R. No, not really too much, a little but we would only put a couple drops of phosphoric acid to make the phosphates. It did surprising, they kinda, t noticed over the years they declined, they weren't very popular in the latter part when I worked back of the soda fountain, but still popular with some of the old timers.
C. Could this be the forerunner of the soda pop that they sell so much of now, I wonder?
R. Well no, because we got pop in botttles at that time. In fact, Maher was bottling Dodger Pop, and root beer, orange, cream soda and different flavors and they'd supply us with pop. We had a Hires Root Beer barrel that looked like a barrel and then we'd put the syrup in and then the soda water would mix with it and make a root beer and then the root beer floats were popular. You put ice cream in with the root beer. And of course Coca Cola--we had a Coke machine.
C. How long ago did they invent the CocaCola? That's pretty long ago?
R. Yes. That was in 1890, made by a process down in Georgia and originally he had cocaine in the formula. (laughs) Maybe that's started its popularity. But then later it was taken out of course but it was still a very popular drink. They used to tell that a dentist here in Napoleon had originally bought stock from the Coca Cola company when it first started and years later then it was really worth a lot of money, but he just happened to get in on the band wagon.
C. And druggists in those days had to be on call 24 hours a day.
R. Yes. and another thing that we used to do which was fairly common, we delivered prescriptions and medication occasionally and certain people around town had their own private formulas and just to give an example, we had a music teacher here in town that taught piano and violin, Professor Clyde Hagans. He was blind and Prof. Hagans had a regular formula from a dermatologist out in New York and he would call up to say that he wanted this prescription from the dermatologist and we had that on record of course undncwou|dQOlitforbino. And on many occasions I delivered medications to people around town and one of the more interesting ones was Mrs. D. D. Donovan. Mrs. Donovan at that time when It operated a drug store was over a hundred years old. She lived by herself and she had a cleaning lady. She was well read and used to talk to her about books and she could talk about Modern Literature. She was a well- read lady and she finally, I think she died when she was something like 103.
C. Is that right. I. didn't realize they lived that long in those days.
R. And she--I asked her on one occasion. I said, "Did you know General Scott?' and she said, "Yes" She called him Governor. He was Governor of South Carolina. She said, "Yes, Gov. Scott was a fine man." But a lot of these older people when I'd deliver medicine I'd ask them questions about early Napoleon and I learned a lot about early history.
C. I'll bet you did. Did you ever hear anything about this Dr. Bloomfield that the Historical Society has now?
R. Not too much. I lived, my folks for about 25 years, we lived on Webster St. which was right around the corner from the Dr. Bloomfield house and it was a little house that set on the West side of Webster St. by the now Gilley home and it was torn down.
C. You mean that's the one your lived in?
R. Yes. My folks rented it from Cyrus Frease and he lived in the big house on the corner and then across the Webster St. was what is the historical house now, the Bloomfield home. Al that time a railroader by the name of John Wicklield and his wife Lydia lived there and they ran a rooming house and they had a sign up, 'Rooms for Rent' and in the '30's it was very popular thing in the summer time, the Kinsey Comedy. And they put on a road show and they would come to Napoleon for a week and they had a lot out by the Products Co. and they put up a big tent and all week long they would have a show. Part of the troop of the Kin.sey Komedy roomed at the Wickfteld House and one of the Kinsey girls had married a Graf and she had two daughters, Jean and Bette Graf, Kinsey Graf and they took part in the show. They would sing and in the mornings they of course were still around the rooming house and they were at that time probably about 9 and 11 years old and I was 6 years old. So they would come over to my house and they would play with me, so can say that when I was 6 years old I played around with show girls! (laughs) And they--I have a postcard that I treasure that's dated 1934 with their autographs on and their pictures. And my mother always enjoyed the Kinsey Komedy and my cousin that lived out in the country by Holgatc, she would come and stay with us that week and we would attend the show maybe two or three times and on one occasion we went to an evening show at the Kinsey Komedy in the big tent and here a wind storm came up with lighting and rain and part of the tent started blowing down. Everybody was scared but fortunately no one got hurt. And I always looked forward to going to see the show at the Kinsey Komedy.
Another form of entertainment of course was our movie theater, the State Theater.
C. And that was located where?
R. The State Theater was located on East Washington St. right approximately where the Henry County Bank is today.
C. Was that next to the 5 and 10 Cent Store?
R. No. It was down the street, and there was a few other stores in between there. The State Theater at that time--I remember one memorable movie. I was only six years old but it came out in 1934: it was 'State Farm' with Will Rogers. And another thing that impressed me was besides the regular feature they had shorts and comics. One comic was 'The Little Red Hen' by Walt Disney, that I remember. And that was the first short that he put in Donald Duck and just because he had Donald Duck in there I was able to get a copy of it. But I remember seeing that as a child and on Saturdays we could go to the State Theater and the admission was 5 cents Saturday afternoon and in the evening and the rest of the weekdays the admission for children was 11 cents. At that time the theaters did not have popcorn or sell candy and up on the corner of Perry and Washington Sts. there was a popcorn wagon and it was old fashioned and a fellow by the name of Sickmiller sold popcorn there and you could buy a bag of popcorn for a nickel. Of course my family, we didn't have the extra nickel so my mother would pop a bag of popcorn and we'd take our own popcorn to the movie (laughs) so we didn't have to spend that extra nickel. Of the big -features, one of the most popular stars was of course Shirley Temple. Of course I fell in love with her, like everyone else and the State Theater at one time had a Shirley Temple look-alike contest, and they had the various girls in town, their mothers tried to duplicate Shirley's 56 curls and they finally picked a winner and unfortunately she had dark hair and I was disappointed because I didn't think she looked at all like Shirley Temple. (laughs) They would have various things, incentives to get business, and one of the things for the kids, in conjunction with the merchants they gave away bicycles and if you bought merchandise in the participating merchants they would give you tickets and these had numbers on and then every Saturday they would draw and you'd have a winner. Well, on one occasion I happened to be the winner and I was really thrilled to death at winning the bicycle because at that time I was in the eighth grade but I still didn't have a bicycle of my own. So I thought that was really great, winning a bicycle. That was one of the biggest thrills.
C. Oh. I'll say!
R. But then for the adults they had what they called Bank Night and later they changed it to Opportunity Club and every week they would have a drawing and they would give away money. They would start off maybe $50, then $100 if no one would claim the money it would keep going up. The drawings were on Thursday night and you could go to Thursday matinee and then they also had were you could go and you paid the admission and sign an attendance card and you didn't have to go to the movie and they would put those tickets in to draw for the money. And on one occasion my aunt when the drawing was up to $500, which was an astronomical sum in that day, she neglected to register and of course her name was drawn.
C. Oh dear!
R. And she never forgot that. (laughs) After that she religiously registered and they never drew her name. And they would have what they would call Bank Night Judges and they would select different businessmen to go up and be witness and make sure everything was legitimate on the drawing and on many occasions my father was picked by, the Manager was Earl Edwards, and he would have my father come up with another businessman and they would watch the proceedings. And for doing this they received a pass to a movie. And of course, whatchamacallit, it was supposed to be a free pass. So the war came up and the government put a federal tax on movie tickets and my father was scheduled to be one of the judges and he went arid presented his pass to get in and they wanted to charge him the federal tax. Of course he was stubborn and he said that he was supposed to get in free. And they said, "No, we have to collect the federal tax." So he refused to be judge. (laughs)
So that was one of the things that happened there, and they also had another theater located, it was owned by the same people and was called The World Theater, and the World Theater was located right by the alley on the east side of Perry St. across from Avinas. It's an empty building right now and that was The World Theater and they had more cowboy movies and class B movies, and they had a lower admission, and they always said they put this other theater in town to keep out competition because it was owned by the same people and of course occasionally I went there to see some of these horse operas and I was attending the World Theater with a couple friends and we were sittting down toward the front and all of a sudden we saw a flash to the back and there was a fire in the projection booth and of course we jumped up and right to the alley side was an exit. And here there was a chain around the exit door with a padlock on it and we couldn't get out so we marched out the back of the theater and by that time the projectionist had got the fire under control with the tire extinguisher. But the reason that the exit door was chained shut was that different people, kids especially would get into the theater and they would get down by the exit door and push it open and let their friends in free. The management had chained the exit shut.
C. Oh boy, you can't do that now
R. Another thing when I was young especially during the Depression a form of entertainment was the Sunday ride, and my grandmother always insisted that we attend her dinner on Sunday. In fact, if we didn't come she was offended.
C. Where did she live?
R. She lived on the South Side of Napoleon and she expected us to be there every Sunday and of course for me she fixed chicken and noodles and she fixed them every time and that's the only thing I ate. The rest of the meal I wouldn't eat anything. She had other things but she was an expert cook and she—I'll never forget her molasses cookies, and in the winter for a special treat she would make maple taffy. And I can see her yet pulling it and she would after it dried take a scissors and cut it.
C. Was that made from maple syrup originally?
R. I'm not sure what she used. Probably, because at that time I don't think she had any imitation maple. But I've never been able to find a molasses cookie or maple taffy to duplicate it to this day.
C. Did you go for a ride afterwards?
R. After the women did the dishes we'd go in the car and my father and mother and grandmother and I we would usually, we would vary our route. We might ride up to Damascus Bridge, then cross the bridge and come back on the other side. The next week we might go to Florida and cross the bridge and come back on the other side. (laughs)
C. Those were long trips in those days. Did you have flat tires?
R. No, we never had a flat tire although my father had for years a 1930 Willys that he bought when it was three years old, bought it from Ed Funkhouser and the he had it till 1950, all those years. tie never put too many miles on it but on one occasion, on one Sunday ride we did something different. We went to Wauseon on one.
C. That would really be a long trip.
R. Right, and at that time in downtown Wauseon they had a theater called The Princess, and so we went to the Princess Theater to the movie, which was an extra treat for our Sunday ride. And at that time the movie that was playing was 'The Man in the Iron Mask' and I think that would have been about 1936 or so.
C. And you still remember that movie
R. Oh yes, I remember it well. Another thing we did on Sundays in the summer we would go and have picnics and at that time in the '30's the WPA had built these river shelter houses along the river and they were very popular. In fact, in order to get a few tables for our family some of the men would take my grandfather and a couple baskets out maybe 8, 9 o'clock in the morning and wed put tables together and he'd set there and hold 'em till the rest of the family got there around noon. And that way it insured that we had tables for our picnic. And another thing we did was about once a year we'd go to the Toledo zoo., and at that time across the street from the zoo were picnic benches.
C. Oh, where that park ing lot is now? R. Well, it was on the river side.
C. Oh, yeah. There's a park there now.
R. Yeah, and there was picnic benches there and we would, of course we would bring our own food and we would have, eat our dinner there and then go to the zoo. At that time also on the same side where the picnic benches was was an amusement park and they had a ferris wheel and a whip and various stands and one of the games of chance that they had was what they called SkeeBall where you would roll a ball up towards the pocket and if you hit the center you got the higher score. Well, for some reason my father had a knack and about every time he could put it in the center bulls-eye, and of course he would get a prize which really didn't amount to anything. It was a little vase or something made in Japan, or something, but at least he won a prize and so the rest of the family would pay for him to roll up so they could get a prize.
Another popular place back in the '30's was Volmer's Park, and Volmer's Park was located on the south side of the river a few miles east of Grand Rapids.
C. I thought it was the north side of the river.
R. No, it was on the other side, right close to where St. Rte 65 comes in, probably about five miles or so from Grand Rapids. And they had a dance hall there and they had a little miniature train that you could ride, and they also had some concessions and different amusements and they had the area for picnics. On a few occasions my family we all went there and
C. Do you have any memories of the Depression?
R. Oh yes. At that time my father rented a house on Webster St., like I said we lived there for 25 years, and when the Depression hit he always said at that time his rent was $15.00 a month and he earned $18.00 a week wages and so he said that the boss lowered his wages to $15.00 and the landlord increased his rent to $18.00. (laughs)
C. Oh dear!
R. So he lost out there and when I was young and it was Christmas or my birthday some of my family members would give me a dollar or two and my mother put it in a bank account. Of course the bank failed and I lost $56.00.
C. That was a fortune in those days.
R. Right, and they gave me a certificate that they promised to pay it back (which I still have) and they made me two payments of ten dollars so I did get a little back.
C. You didn't even get half!
R. Right. And the Banker, every time I'd see him on the street I'd really shoot daggers at him because thought he cheated me. (laughs) But he probably couldn't help it either, now that I'm older and can see that. But we had a lot of the men in Napoleon worked for the WPA, Works Project Administration, and some of the younger people, in fact one of them was my uncle, joined the CCC, which was the Civilian Conservation Corps. And they paid the same amount that an Army private got which was $21.00
C. For a month'?
R. For a month, and they sent them around to work on various projects. For some reason he got sent to California and he made lire trails in California.
C. What's that?
R. Well, they would clear a path so the fire wouldn't spread through the forest, and he at that time, of course all their expenses were paid by the government just like the Army and if I-I may not have this figured exactly right but I think the government gave them $5.00 for spending and then sent $16.00 home to the mother. So they were supposed to be helping their mother.
C. Well, which is it, the CCC or WPA that made all these things--they dug the swimming pool, R. That's the WPA and the CCC did other works around.
C. Ritter Park, which one did that?
R. WPA. They used to have in the shelter house a plaque that told the Works Progress Administration and the year. A couple years ago I went down to photograph it and it wasn't there anymore because they had remodeled the shelter house. They put up the shelter houses, and then, it's kind of interesting, during World War II in Defiance the CCC camp was close to the Defiance Hospital and during WWII they used it as a German Prisoner of War camp. And a lot of the German prisoners were there and they in turn, they brought some of them through Napoleon here over to the Lippencot Tomato Factory and they would have them work there loading cases and stuff. And on one occasion one of the German prisoners escaped and they alerted all of Napoleon and the towns around to be on the lookout. Unfortunately this prisoner tried to swim the Maumee River and he drowned.
C. Oh, how'd they know that? Did they see him trying to swim or something?
R. Well, they found his body and so—another thing, our minister at St. Paul's Lutheran Church—some of the ministers that could preach German they asked to come down and conduct religious services on different Sundays, and I remember our minister saying that he vvent and preached to the German prisoners.
C. I think a lot of these churches, they gave services in German, didn't they?
R. Yes, they were getting away from it especially when World War II came on, they pretty well eliminated because some of the older members still, you know, liked the German services but they were getting few and far between. And so they eliminated the German services, but our church, St. Paul's Lutheran Church , used to have a 9 o'clock German service and we also had a ten o'clock English service. We'd have both services in German and English.
C. Do you know why it is that so many Germans settled in this area?
R. Well, they probably it was word of month how the thrms were. Now my own family, my mother's father, came from Germany and he was a blacksmith and just imagine it was either a relative or a friend that told him about Henry County and he located here and he had his blacksmith shop on Scott St. where the Firest Federal parking lot is and one of the things--I still have one of them that my mother had—was the horse shoe rings with the company's name that made these rings and these were horshoe nails that were shaped like a ring that you could put on your finger. And the blacksmith would in turn pass them out to the kids of his customers and since the blacksmith's shop was close to the school when the kids would hear he had horseshoe rings to give away they would all come. (laughs) To get their horseshoe ring. But my mother saved one over the years and I still have it and I also have his blacksmith hammer and the interesting thing is that he used it so many years and he held it high where he pounded that he wore his thumbprint right down into the wood, halfway circle.
C. Isn't that something!
R. Yeah. They were hard workers back in those days.
C. Lavon Grau in Holgate said he was a blacksmith and the forge blew up and he lost his leg that way.
R. Well that could happen accidents like that. know a lot of my customers told me that if they had a horse that was hard to shoe they would take it to my grandfather. Some of them he had to tie down to shoe because they were so rambunctious. A lot of the blacksmiths were hurt from horses kicking and everything but some of them were so bad that they had to tie 'em and a lot of them told me that they remember their fathers and grandfathers going to my grandfather to get their horses shoed. And then after cars came in of course the horseshoeing business declined and so he got a job in Heller Alter and he worked there as a blacksmith making parts that they'd needed to make some of their windmills. lf they needed a special part he would make it for them.
C. I'll bet they sold a lot of those windmills on the farms to pump their wells, didn't they.
R. Oh yeah. That was the big thing in that they exported them to other countries. The one here in Napoleon was I think the third largest one in the country as far as business was concerned. They shipped them all over then later on when electricity got to the farms they made a lot of windmills and they would ship them to foreign countries where electricity wasn't available—made a lot of them for export.
C. l-uh--when I first went out to my husband's home out in the country near Archbold. before we were married he told me I could sleep in his room and he would sleep with his brothers. I woke up in the morning and I heard 'Eeeee, Eeeee'. I thought, "What is that? What's going on, something's going on. Somebody must be hurt or something!" and it wasn't until later I found out that was the windmill going around but it had a squeak in it. (laughs)
R. Oh yeah. Sometimes they made noise.
(end of tape)
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