Emma Rettig Oral History


Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, September 27, 2010
Transcribed by Marlene Patterson

CW: Can you give me your name.

ER: My name is Emma Rettig

CW: Emma, did you say you lived in McClure or Malinta?

ER: I live four miles south of McClure.

CW: I wanted to ask you about the big storm of 1978. I understand you and your husband missed it. You had left the day before to head for Florida. Am I correct?

ER: We had left.

CW: But you were telling about your son and your daughter. They lived next door to each other. Is that right?

ER: They lived about 60 rods apart. They didn’t live real close.

CW: They lived close enough they could get to each other if they needed to.

ER: Not during the storm. Not that day. They couldn’t go anywhere. They waited till the next day to leave.

CW: You couldn’t see I guess.

ER: No, my son went out to his barn there to get a propane lighter or something. You know just to heat up a little food or something. They had the two kids. They were little. One was a baby. My son got lost on the way back to the house until he saw a tree that was close to the house.

CW: Oh my.

ER: The other one was four years old at the time. They had no heat in the house. They just stayed in one room and the kids had their snow suits on.

CW: The baby needed to be kept warm. The four year old could probably run around and manage to keep warm.

ER: A lot of people had a lot of trouble during that time. Everybody seems to have made it okay. My son-in-law walked up to my son’s house on the second day and then they all stayed at my son-in-law and daughters house since they had a fireplace. They all slept and cooked and at in the family room in the basement..

CW: People helped each other. I have heard so many stories as to how people helped each other out.

ER: Well our neighbor could see our light here and they didn’t have light and they saw that our pole light was on. If they could have gotten over here they would have been over here.

CW: Because they thought you had electricity.

ER: Yes. They could see that our pole light was turned on.That has been a while ago.

CW: Yes that has been quite a while ago.

ER: What year did you say that was - “78?

CW: Yes that was in 1978. That would have been over 30 years ago. People did cope and they helped each other.

ER: Yes they did.

CW: That’s when you found out how valuable your friends and neighbors and relatives are.

ER: Yes you could count on them.

CW: I don’t think there was anybody that refused to help out, was there? I can’t imagine anybody being like that.

ER: They couldn’t get out at all, not that day. They had to help each other to survive.

CW: Were their doors blown shut or snowed shut?

ER: It was blowing and snowing so bad they couldn’t see. You couldn’t go any place. John went to the barn to get the propane to heat a little soup for them. He couldn’t see his way back into the house. The barn wasn’t very far away.

CW: What did he do then?

ER: He just kind of knew which direction to go. Finally he saw a tree and that was close to the house.

CW: So he knew where the tree was. I have heard of farmers in New England that would get lost going from the house to the barn.

ER: I think of them too how hard it is for them to get through winter. They have to get used to it.

CW: Oh yes they just don’t seem to mind it, I guess.

ER: I wouldn’t want to be in it. It gets cold enough around here.

CW: Have you lived on this farm all of your life?

ER: Not all my life, but sixty-one years I have been here.

CW: Did you come here right after you were married?

ER: No, my husband was in the service for three years. I stayed with my mom and dad.

CW: Oh yes.

ER: We had been married a half a year before he was drafted into the Army. Then he went overseas. He served almost two years overseas.in all of his three years in the service.

CW: Was he injured?

ER: No, he was in chemical warfare.

CW: Oh my.

ER: But they didn’t use the chemicals. He was lucky in that way.

CW: My father had a friend who was gassed in World War I. He came through it alright but it is nothing to fool with.

ER: Is this all being recorded?

CW: Yes but we don’t have to use it. We won’t worry about it. We will just let that thing do its thing. Now when you were first married, well not first married, when you first came here after the war like you mentioned did you have livestock to take care of?

EW: Yes we did. My husband had cattle for a while too. We didn’t have that much when we came over here. He got into that business for a while.

CW: Did you have to milk a cow?

ER: Oh sure. We had a couple of cows here and later on we had more cows over on another farm. We were there every morning and every night to milk.

CW: That is a hard job.

ER: That place was about two miles from here.

CW: That wouldn’t give you any time off. When they need to be milked they needed it to be done right now.

ER: It was hard to go on vacation.

CW: My husband used to say the dairy farmers earn every penny they make.

ER: We had chickens and we had horses at first too. When the tractors came by that was a lot easier.

CW: Now when did those tractors come. Was that right after World War II?

ER: Yes for us. I don’t think my husband used horses again after he came back from the service. He did use horses before that.

CW: Did you have neighbors near by at that time or not?

ER: Well, they were not too far away.We could get over there real quick.

CW: I grew up in the city so I didn’t get to experience farm life as a young girl. I remember my in-laws lived on a farm near Archbold and every Sunday it seems like every Sunday these people would drive up and they would be relatives from some other town or nearby and they would come and spend the afternoon. Kate, my mother-in-law would cook a dinner for them. Of course the girls would help her.

ER: Oh yes, whoever was there was usually in the kitchen helping.

CW: Yes and there was a lot of camaraderie went on. Did she know Amelia Kryder. She lived just outside of McClure toward Napoleon.

ER: What was her name?

CW: Amelia Kryder.

ER: Yes at one time they lived close to us.

CW: Oh they did!

ER: Out in Bartlow Township. Not the Kryders but the Freytags.

CW: That is what she was as a girl.

ER: Her name wasn’t Emma. I think it was Amelia.

CW: You are right. It was Amelia. She said that when she went to school, she first went to grade school that she didn’t know a word of English. Her teacher only talked in English. She had a hard time because she had to learn how to read and write and so forth and had to learn English.

ER: That is the way it was. I was German too.

CW: Did you have the same experience?

ER: Yes.

CW: Is that right. My sister and I went to the same country school. She was out of school when I started. She was that much older than I.

CW: I see. What was it like when you went to school. You wouldn’t have known what the teacher was saying, is that right.

ER: No, I must have known something. When my brother started school my Aunt was a teacher. She took him along the first week to her school so he could start a little bit.

CW: Oh yes. He was probably used to hearing the language which would have helped.

ER: My Aunt’s school started a week earlier than the one my brother had to attend. Of course my mom talked a little bit of English to us. My dad tried to help too. There were a lot of the students that were German. I had a teacher in my first grade that knew German.

CW: That would have been a big help.

ER: She knew her German. I had one teacher in the fourth grade who did not know German . I had another teacher that was a sister to my first one. She taught 3 1/2 years and then she went back to college. The first one came back to finish the eighth grade. Five of us were still living until this year.

CW: Is that right!

ER: There were five of us girls that finished grade school together.

CW: Did you ever get together?

ER: Not after that. One of them passed away this year but four of us are still living. They are all older than I am.

CW: We are beginning to get to where we live to be pretty old.

ER: One of the girls started a year later than I did. She was nine months older. They left her skip up to where she should be. She was able to handle it.

CW: It was according to what month your birthday fell on.

ER: She started a year later than I did. She was nine months younger. They left her skip up to where she should be. She was able to handle it.

CW: I know for a while parents would push their children to go to school as early as possible. Now it is the opposite. They hold them back.

ER: They put them in preschool so early now. I have a great-granddaughter and she was just three, maybe today, and she is in preschool. She is over here at West Hope. Her birthday is tomorrow.

CW: How many grades do they have at the West Hope school?

ER: They just have preschool. They have three year olds and four year olds.

CW: Didn’t they used to have a primary school there?

ER: Yes, that is where all my children went.

CW: They have a nice building now.

ER: They had school through the eighth grade for three of our children, Then later they had only six grades here. . The one left here when she was in the seventh grade and she went on to Deshler. The boy left in the sixth grade. They didn’t have the upper grades anymore so they had to go elsewhere. They had their choice of going to McClure or Deshler. They went to Deshler. My three older ones went to McClure for high school. The two younger ones didn’t. They went to Deshler. It was Patrick Henry district then.

CW: Oh yes.

ER: We are part of Patrick Henry.

CW: That is a nice school now isn’t it? They have camaraderie and loyalty. It’s a lot like Liberty Center.

ER: I have a daughter who works there. She works in the treasurer’s office. She has been in Kansas City this weekend.

CW: Did she go to a ball game?

ER: Yes to a football game.

CW: And they won too didn’t they.

ER: Their son works for the Kansas City team. He has been there now for ten years.

CW: That would have been fun for them.

ER: He likes to travel. We went there a couple of years ago for a wedding. They got married in Kansas City. They have had so much water. My oldest daughter was coming from New York state. Her children and their family came by train. They were detoured because of water but they made it to the wedding.

CW: Oh my!

ER: It all depends on the weather.

CW: I remember how we used to just sit after we did the dishes. We would just sit and talk and talk. We would tell the same stories over and over. We never got tired of hearing them. It seems to me they were just as funny the fifthteenth time we heard them as they were the first.

ER: Probably.

CW: I often wondered why that was.

ER: Of course sometimes when they went to visit they would play cards. Some of them did. My mom would play Flinch but she wouldn’t play anything else. She would just listen to them talk. They enjoyed each other.

CW: Now what did the men do? Would they just sit in the living room and just talk or would they go outside?

ER: Whatever. Or they would play cards mostly.

CW: Oh yes, a lot of the men would play cards. They would maybe go outside and walk around a bit. They would come back into the house and just talk.

CW: I remember those old stories. They were good stories. Even though we knew how the story ended we loved to hear how different people would tell them. It would always be just a little bit different from this person or that person.

ER: We always give a little different angle to stories.

CW: Yes we do.

ER: It is that way now too. A lot of things are told at a different angle.

CW: That keeps things interesting. What did you do for entertainment as a young girl? What did you enjoy doing?

ER: I didn’t play with dolls very much.

CW: My daughter wouldn’t play with dolls either. She had four brothers. Of course they wouldn’t play with dolls. Every year I would buy a different doll and she would push it away. She didn’t want any part of a doll.

ER: I had a little doll bed and the dolls just slept all the time. I liked running around and playing with my brother. I rode a tricycle or something like that.

CW: Now we know it was better for you. We would all be healthier.

ER: I still have one of my dolls.

CW: You do!

ER: I had two of them sleeping together all of the time. The head on one of my dolls came apart for some reason. I guess she was getting too old.

CW: They just couldn’t stay together.

ER: I didn’t think of glueing it back together at that time.

CW: Did it have a china head?

ER: Oh yes. This one I have now does too. I will have to show that to you.

CW: You are lucky to still have it.

ER: I didn’t have any little brothers or sisters to play with the dolls either. I was the youngest.

CW: That would have made a big difference. How many brothers and sisters did you have?

ER: There was just the one brother.

CW: Oh there were just the two of you.

ER: He was two years older than I. I was a good climber and he would always tell Mom what I was doing or where I was.

CW: He would have been a tattletale.

ER: Then Mom would come and get me down. I might have been up on the grain binder swinging my legs or something. I had to walk to school. I had almost a mile to walk.

CW: They had a school located every two square miles they said.

ER: Schoolhouses were two miles apart at that time.

CW: Oh they were.

ER: Well it would give you, if you were on the side roads, it would give you over a mile to walk. I had almost a mile to walk.

CW: Did your mother pack you a lunch in the morning?

ER: Yes, and it sure didn’t taste good out of a tin dinner bucket.

CW: What did you carry in your dinner bucket?

ER: I don’t know but I think I did the packing. You know it was in the bucket for a half of a day by lunch time and when I got home I was hungry. I would look in the cupboard and see what they had for lunch. I would just help myself.

CW: You were a pretty independent kid.

ER: Well I guess we had to be. All we had to drink, we didn’t carry any milk to drink at school. We had to pump water out of the pump outside. I never carried anything to drink.

CW: You probably didn’t carry a cup or anything to drink out of. Everybody just drank out of the well and used the common cup that was hanging there by the pump.

ER: Yes and sometimes we would have an apple. They were good. We might have a cookie. My mom worked in Toledo before she was married. She was cooking for some people. She knew when she got married how to cook. She was a good cook.

CW: I was going to tell you that my first husband, we would go to my mother-in-law. She had the ideal family of two children. I had an Aunt Mary who had six children and they had so much fun playing together. I thought the ideal family would be six children. I thought we would end up somewhere between the two numbers. My goodness they kept coming when we didn’t expect them. We had five. I have never been sorry.

ER: Of course my daughter lives in the Buffalo area. She just lost her husband this year.

CW: That is pretty young.

ER: We had her during the war too.

CW: She was your oldest one?

ER: She would call me every week. She would either call me or I would call her. She has two children and they live close to her. They each have two children. So she has grandchildren. The oldest one is twelve. The two boys are in the fourth grade and the little girl is in the second grade. My oldest great grandchild is Kaitlyn, she lives close here.

CW: Now do they come to the family home at Christmas time?

ER: Do you mean up here?

CW: Yes.

ER: Some of them usually do. Not at Christmas time because they are busy in their church there. My daughter is the organist and my son-in-law was the choir director. They are needed there and the grown-ups are all in the choir there. They get together every weekend. They go to one or the other homes.

CW: Oh they do!

ER: They will have a supper or a lunch together on weekends. The kids get to play together then.

CW: Do you get to go to those too?

ER: When I am up there yes I get to go.

CW: Oh so this would be up at Buffalo.

ER: They are in the Buffalo area. My grandson works in Buffalo but my granddaughter and her husband they are both teachers. One teaches math and the other teaches science. My daughter was a math teacher too.

CW: It must run in the family.

ER: She didn’t teach anymore after she had her children. She did some subbing, but just at the parochial school there. They went to a school and it was closed up so they don’t have it anymore.

CW: My sister was going with a boyfriend and he got a car that had a rumble seat. They were going to go to Buffalo. I was teased and teased and they left me ride in the rumble seat. It was quite a long trip to get to Buffalo. I was so excited and I got in that car and the wind just blew and blew. I just couldn’t wait to get back home again.

ER: That would be quite a ways.

CW: It was not comfortable.

ER: That is about 350 miles away.

CW: See I lived close to Bufflao and it was only about a hundred miles away. Still in those days that was a long way. Those rumble seats they just look so nice. We didn’t have convertibles at that time.

ER: You know it was alright going a little ways, but going a hundred miles you would have to hang on.

CW: Tell me about your wedding. Where was the wedding held? Yes, your wedding when you were a young girl.

ER: We just went to have our wedding vows at our Pastor’s house with some of our family.

CW: It was so much simpler in those days wasn’t it.

ER: I think some of the weddings are just too big.

CW: I do too.

ER: Those great big weddings, and the first thing you know is they are separated. Not all of them, but some of them.

CW: Yes, and they have started to give such expensive gifts. For a lot of people it is hard to scrape up enough for a gift. It really isn’t necessary.You can get married in your living room and you can have a perfectly good marriage.

ER: Of course this was war time too when we were married.

CW: Oh yes. I think it was quite common in those days to get married at the parsonage.

ER: Yes, and I hadn’t even told my brother we were going to get married.

CW: Oh you didn’t!

ER: My mother and dad knew it of course. My brother came over on a Saturday morning and Mom and I were doing something in the kitchen and we told him.

CW: He probably didn’t think his kid sister would be getting married.

ER: He had been married a couple of years at that time.

CW: Now did you have a long wedding dress?

ER: No.

CW: What did you wear?

ER: I just wore a nice dress. That is what people did a lot at that time. I didn’t want to be a formal bride.

CW: That doesn’t sound like you. You were kind of a tomboy.You didn’t want a long flowery gown I bet.

ER: I didn’t have a dress that was long.

CW: That is what I did when I was married. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

ER: You know it was a lot easier for my mom. She didn’t have to prepare a big meal or anything.

CW: So did you have a reception at your house or something afterwards?

ER: Yes, just for those that were at the wedding. There was eight of us or so. His mother wasn’t living at the time. He came from a big family where there were nine children.

CW: Oh yes! Did you know him when you were a child?

ER: No, not really. We didn’t go to the same school.

CW: How did you happen to meet him?

ER: Oh young people would get together some place. I met him that way. We were in with a big crowd. We would walk places at that time. People didn’t always have cars.

CW: Would they walk to somebodies house?

ER: Yes, and a whole bunch of young people would be there. Young people from the same area would get together.

CW: I bet that would have been a lot of fun.

ER: Later on they would have cars too.

CW: You wouldn’t have had to worry about traffic in those days. You wouldn’t see too many people with fast cars.

ER: I really don’t know. We just would get together and get acquainted that way. Girls and boys both.

CW: Had you noticed him ahead of time or had he noticed you?

ER: I really don’t know.

CW: I just bet he had you all picked out ahead of time. He found a way to meet you.

ER: He went to a different church school and he knew I went past there.

CW: Oh he probably saw you going past, I bet.

ER: Our church was one mile east of his church. They were both Lutheran churches.

CW: Did they have a parochial school?

ER: No they didn’t have a parochial school. We did in the summertime go to church school.

CW: Oh yes. For our future generations would you explain why you had church school and what it was like in the summer. I imagine these children don’t know.

ER: We went all summer from the first part of May to the end of July. We walked and that was two miles away.

CW: That would get pretty hot during that time. You would leave in the morning and then what time did you get done?

ER: I think we got excused around 4 o’clock.

CW: So you would have been there all day.

ER: We had to carry our lunch.

CW: What did you study then?

ER: We had Bible History and Catechism. We had to learn to write the German language.

CW: That would have been good for you too.

ER: We were learning High German and we talked Low German at home. It was different.

CW: Yes it would have been very different. It’s a different language.

ER: One set of my grandparents they were East German. That was on my mom’s side.

CW: I had never heard of that.

ER: That is a different dialect of German too. A lot of people couldn’t understand that. There weren’t very many Frisian Germans around here.

CW: Now where would they have been located in Germany?

ER: They were from an area close to Denmark.

CW: Was this in Northern Germany?

ER: It was close to Friesland..

CW: I don’t know what that means.

ER: Oast means east.

CW: Oh yes, because Denmark would be north and east.

ER: I don’t remember all of it anymore. I haven’t spoken German for a long time. I really don’t remember all of it now. My children didn’t learn it. My husband and I we didn’t talk German at home. He was kind of High German and I was Low German so we talked English.

CW: When we went to Germany. ----We have to watch my recorder here because it will stop and if we keep on talking and it won’t pick anything up.

ER: You can turn it off if you want to.

A loud train can be heard blowing its’ whistle and chugging along on the train tracks close to her house.

ER: It’s 3 o’clock and that is the time for the train to come through. It is really kind of neat. I got this at the alumni banquet. (Emma is showing her a clock that has a train whistle to identify the hours).

CW: I wonder where they would have found it.

ER: I don’t know. They probably found it in Deshler, Ohio. There is a train crossing there.

CW: What are they going to be doing in Deshler? They have a big change coming.

ER: Trains go through there pretty fast now.

CW: Oh does it! I remember when there were two girls that were walking to school in McClure and got hit by a train.

ER: That has been a number of years ago. I don’t know if we were over here already maybe. Of course we have been here sixty-one years now.

CW: Then you would have come right after World War II.

ER: No, we lived over in Bartlow Township at that time. My husband rented this place and later we built here.

CW: This house must have been remodeled a lot.

ER: We built this.

CW: It is a pretty house.

ER: We built this when we bought the farm. The other house had no air conditioning. It was cold in the wintertime especially. It was hard to heat. We were going to remodel it and put a furnace in. It would have cost us about as much as building a new house.

CW: Now you have a good sturdy house and it has served you well over the years.

ER: We have been in it for 38 years now so it is not a new house.

CW: It’s a very nice comfortable place to raise your family. You have plenty of room for the kids to go outside and run.

ER: We had all the children already before we built this house.

CW: My mother used to say “Oh for heavens sake, go outside and play”. We would be fighting or something and we would go outside and say what are we going to do. It would take us less than five minutes to think of something.