Roger Helberg Oral History
Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, October 23, 2008
RH: I am Roger Helberg from Napoleon, Ohio and we live just west of town. I was born in 1938. We are recording this at the Red Cross office. I am on the board here and I spend a lot of time here so we are recording this here. Some of the things we used to do was my dad farmed. We had an eighty acre farm just west of town and we always helped on the farm. My brother Larry and I when we would get our things done Dad would take us fishing down on the river. Of course we just used a stick with a line on it but Dad had a fishing rod with a reel on it. One year we sold a trailer load of scrap iron and Dad bought a brand new fishing rod and reel and he gave Larry and I his old one.
CW: So you suddenly had a big reel.
LH: So we had a good fishing rod and reel. We spent a lot of time fishing in the river. Of course we only caught carp and sheepshead and so forth.
CW: Who used it? Did you fight over it?
RH: We didn’t eat the carp out of the river.
CW: No, I mean who used that fishing reel?
RH: Dad had two of them so we each had one. When one of us got something, the other one had to have the same. We were only a year apart in age so we were just like twins. We didn’t travel much, but once a year we went up to Michigan. We had some relatives that had access to a cottage up there. We couldn’t afford to pay the rent for a cottage for a whole week, but we would take our old truck, put a mattress and a spring in the back of it. We had a 1948 Ford flatbed truck that we hauled tomatoes on. We put a canvas over that to cover it up. We had a Coleman camp stove, and we would go up to the lake, rent a boat and then we would fish all week.
CW: You had good times doing it too.
RH: We would fish and we would eat what we caught.
CW: What kind of fish did you catch?
RH: Mostly bluegill.
CW: That is good eating!
RH: We were just up by Jackson, Michigan. We ate mostly bluegill. One year when we were still in school during the summer, Dad and my Uncle Walt Hogrefe went up there and they took the truck with the canvas over the top of it and they fished all week and then on the weekend on Saturday and Sunday Mom and Walt’s wife Norma and their kids and us went up and we packed a big lunch and we were going to spend a couple of days up there with them. Then when we got there the first thing we unpacked was the picnic basket. It had a bowl of baked beans in it. Dad and Walt were out on the lake and they saw us pull in and they came rowing up to the shore and the first thing they looked at that we had unpacked was that big bowl of baked beans. Well, they didn’t want to look at any more beans. They had been fishing all week and the fish weren’t biting. This was during the war, during meat rationing and there was a little grocery store close to the lake where they could buy beans and bread. They had taken along some homeade butter. They had eaten pork and bean sandwiches all week. When we came the first thing we had unpacked was that big bowl of baked beans. And they thought this is going to be a bummer. We had a big bowl of fried chicken too.
CW: That saved the day for them.
RH: So that is the story about Walt and Dad and their fishing. As my brother and I got older we did a lot more fishing. We had a cottage up by Hillsdale for about ten years. We prefabbed the cottage at home and took it up there and set it up.
CW: Is there a lake up there by Hillsdale?
RH: Yes, that is Bankers Lake just west of Hillsdale. It is a real small lake. We had an old wood fishing boat we built from a kit that we had bought from Sears Roebuck.
CW: I bet it didn’t even cost you much.
RH: I think maybe it was about $50.00 for the whole kit. We spent all winter putting that together. It had hundreds of brass screws. We built that fishing boat. It took us a long time. We usually rowed the boat and my dad had a little extra money so he bought a 3 1/2 horsepower Hiawatha motor from Gambles. He went up to the store and bought it on time. That was the little motor we put on the back of it. We spent a lot of time fishing in Michigan with that old boat.
CW: I bet you did.
RH: I think it is different for this area. The weddings we used to have. When a neighbor got married about a month or so before the wedding they would send out wedding invitations to their neighbors and the invitation would be a little slip of paper. It might say coffee cake or potato salad or it might say jello. When you went to a wedding you were expected to bring some food along. If you were invited to a wedding it might be in a barn sometimes. They would hire a band to play or some neighbors would play and we would dance and the kids always had 7Up or Dodgers pop, which was made here in Napoleon. At a wedding like that when you were eating they would pass a cigar box around the table and everybody would put in some money for a collection. Dad would give me and my brother each a quarter to put in that cigar box. Behind that cigar box the next thing to come along was the box of cigars. We would put our quarter in the collection box and then we would take out a cigar. There were other kids our age and that was always a big treat to have our own cigar. We would go out behind the barn or someplace else and smoke that cigar.
CW: Did you get sick?
RH: I don’t think so. It was just something we did in Ridgeville and when we went to Giffey Hall, that was a fancier place and a little bigger for bigger weddings. There we would take our cigar and walk down to the old Ridgeville School after we had eaten and we would smoke our cigar and walk back by the Fox Farm. They raised fox for their pelts. When we got back if we still had some cigar left why we would sit in back of Otte’s Feed and finish our cigar. When they were done feeding we would light our cigar and watch the other people dancing.
CW: Where did they have the wedding then? Were they in a church?
RH: The weddings were always at a church. The reception would be right afterwards. After the meal, after the evening meal all the farmers had to go home and milk and do chores and then come back.
CW: Oh they would!
RH: Yes, they would do their chores and then come right back to the wedding and dance until the wee hours of the morning.
CW: Yes, those cows would have to be milked a couple of times a day.
RH: Yes, the cows had to be milked and it would be a good chance for the city kids to go along to the farm with somebody who was doing chores and I remember they would borrow a pair of bib overalls and put them over their Sunday best clothes so they wouldn’t get straw and dirt on them. They would go along to the barn and help do chores. Of course then they would come back to the Giffey Hall then. I remember one time a bunch of us guys we tried to see how many 7 Up’s we could drink in one night. There were three of us, well maybe four of us. One of the guys drank seventeen bottles of 7 Up that night. That is one of the things we used to do at the weddings here.
CW: I understand that out here by the river when they would have that dance they would party into the wee hours.
RH: You mean up there at Wayne Park? I had never been to a dance or a wedding up there. It was on its last legs at that time.
CW: That would have been before your time. Men used to take their whiskey bottles and hide them outside by their car or a tree or something. These young boys would go and grab a whiskey bottle and run off with it.
RH: I can imagine. I never saw any of that. It was always beer. Of course during the Prohibition there was a lot of illegal whiskey. That was before my time too. I never got in on any of that. I can’t think of any other wedding stories. Growing up on the farm we used to help Mom and Dad husk corn. We were just little kids and we would go out and sit in the field and play on the ground while they were husking the corn. In the winter we would saw wood. They would take us along out to the woods. Mom would make a big glass jar full of chocolate milk. She would make some summer sausage sandwiches. While they were working they always had a fire going and we would sit around the fire and drink our chocolate milk, eat our summer sausage sandwiches. In the winter when Mom and Dad went to the woods to cut wood we went along.
CW: How did you play while you were waiting?
RH: Oh we would find a stick and poke at the fire or walk around the woods. We would come back to warm up. We didn’t have any fancy toys or anything to take along to the woods. The toys had to stay in the house. When we got older, of course we got a BB gun. That was a big thing for us. Then we would walk back to the woods, and that was three quarters of a mile back there. We would take our BB gun back with us and see if there was anything we could shoot. We never did.
CW: Did you tease the girls when you were little?
RH: We didn’t have too many girls in the neighborhood. The only girl in the neighborhood was Marilyn Cordes across the creek. She had two older brothers. They would start things and we would go down to the creek in the summer and play. We would build a dam in the creek and see if we could catch some fish. We never caught anything. I don’t believe there were fish in it.
CW: What creek was it?
RH: I think on the map it is called Garrett Creek. Then we got our rifles. We spent a lot of time walking along the creek looking for groundhogs and so forth. When hunting season came we would go hunting for rabbits and pheasant. There were always a lot of pheasants.
CW: Did you ever hit any?
RH: Oh yes, all the time. The first day of hunting season was a holiday at school. We could take off a day of school to go hunting. We’d go with our Dad and Uncles and we would spread out across the fields. If a pheasant went up we would all take a shot at it or a rabbit. I don’t remember ever coming back without our limit. The limit was 2 pheasants and four rabbits a day. We always had wild rabbit. Mom had a cast iron pot and we would put that on the back of our cook stove.She would put carrots, potatoes, and onions in there and just slow cook it and by supper time it would just be done and it fell off the bones. Then later on during the war we raised rabbits and Dad would dress those and sell them at Winzeler’s Market and Rasey’s Market and different places around town. We would always have ducks, geese, and rabbits. We would dress those and sell them around town.
CW: Now where was Winzeler’s Market?
RH: Just on the other side of the street from here.
CW: That would have been the North side of the street. and then where was the other one?
RH: Rasey’s had a store where the Car Wash is now. They also had a store across the river at one time.
CW: Their store was right by the river.
RH: Right. We always had plenty to eat during the War and during rationing. We always raised hogs and chickens. We would do our own butchering and sausage making.
CW: Did you help with the butchering when you were a kid?
RH: All the time.
CW: What was your job?
RH: I have it all written out for you in my written report. I think I was probably about ten years old before I got to shoot the hog. That was always a big thing. The senior member he got to shoot the hog. You would shoot the hog in the head and hang it up and scrape it. Grampa would make blood sausage, summer sausage, prettles and all of those things. The ham shoulders and bacon we would hang out in the smoke house along with the summer sauusage and they would get smoked. The ham was wrapped, and we salted it and wrapped it three or four times and hung it in the smoke house to get smoked. All summer long it hung out there in the smoke house and it would never spoil. It would dry down and that was sure good sugar cured ham.
CW: I bet it was.
RH: It might turn blue and get a little moldy on the outside, but you would just wipe that mold off with vinegar and water and it was good ham.
CW: Cheese was the same way. When it got mold on it you would just wipe it off.
RH: We never made cheese. We didin’t buy much cheese. Mom and Grandma used to make cottage cheese. I don’t think that is real cheese. I am just remembering how they used to make it. We butchered and made blood pudding and sausages and prettles. I liked all that and I still do.
CW: How did they make the cottage cheese?
RH: They would run the milk through the cream separator and would skim the curd off the top of that. They would strain this through cheese cloth and that would be cottage cheese. That skim milk that we had when we would run it through the cream separator, why we fed that to the hogs. We would put that on top of the hog feed. The hogs liked it real well. We’d always say that cottage cheese was because of the hogs.
CW: That was your opinion right? What school did you attend”
RH: I went to Napoleon. They called it Central school and grade school. I went there through the eight grades. The high school was in the next building, when they built the new high school they tore the old part down. We had half days of school then. We had school starting at 8:00 and we got out at noon. The busses had two routes. One for morning classes and one for afternoon classes. Dad was working in the ship yards working for Mel Lanzer and we had half days of school, Larry and I did the farming, hauled manure and other things. That was while he worked. We did a lot of the farming then.
CW: When you got home from school then you were expected to work.
RH: Right. The only thing ridiculous about the whole thing was we’d get up at 6:00 in the morning, do all the chores, and carry water to the hogs and chickens and carry feed and corn to the hogs and chickens. We had one cow and somebody had to milk her. We did all of that and by the time we got done with chores, Mom would fry a dozen eggs. She usually had toast ready. Between my brother and me we’d eat a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs before we went to school. Then our first class was gym and I couldn’t figure out why we had to have gym. Our teacher said everyone had to have some exercise. We had done all the chores and didn’t think we needed exercise.
CW: That would have been pretty ridiculous in your situation. Do you remember anything about World War II?
RH: I remember my Uncles all going. I remember being in the basement when Pearl Harbor was attacked. We were washing eggs. You have to wash the eggs before you sell them and we were going to sell them. We had a radio playing down there. Then with my Uncles going off to war we took them up to the train people and sold them. My Mom’s great grandparents were still in Germany. My Great Grandparents had moved here but some of their family was still living in Germany. We would send summer sausage and stuff like that to them. We always sent stuff over there to them. We always had plenty to eat.
CW: They were probably plenty hungry over there.
RH: A lot of things here were rationed. We had our own meat. We had a big garden. We would store carrots in our basement. They would store all winter. We had a couple of apple trees and we always had apples. We would plant kidney beans, lima beans, and soup beans. We would have to shell all of those. We would spread them out on the kitchen table and sort them out. The broken ones we would throw out. We would have bean soup and vegetable soup. We always had pork hocks and ham bones laying around.
CW: Did you have chicken too?
RH: Yes we always had chickens.
CW: What were your Sunday dinners like, did you have Sunday chicken dinners?
RH: Nothing real special. One thing I remember was Grandma lived with us and she could not go to church until she had a cup of coffee and a cookie. I don’t know why. Church was only a mile from town. We had German church services there until the early ‘50’s. We had one German service, two regular services until after the war. Mom and Dad and Grandma and us kids we spoke Low German. When us kids started school we would come home many a night and ask how do you say this word and that word in English.
CW: Did your parents know?
RH: Oh yes, but some things we just hadn’t thought of the words wouldn’t come to us right away.
CW: How did you feel when your Uncles went off to war?
RH: We were too young and too small to really know what I thought of. I was born in 1938, so I was only six years old. I didn’t really think much of it. I remember the black out drills where a certain time of day an announcement would come over the radio and we would all hang blankets over the windows. We didn’t understand why but they said that way if we were ever attacked the bombers couldn’t see the lights in the houses. We had black out drills and we would go outside. They had wardens and people would go around to check and see if there was lights any place.
CW: Was this in town or out in the country?
RH: No this was in the country. We lived three miles west of town. I was born and raised on that farm and I built a house on the farm. This land was bought from the state of Ohio in 1853 I think it was. The early 1800’s and the farm has been in the family all these years.
CW: Did your Great Grandfather build that house?
RH: Yes, Christopher Helberg built that house when he came back from the Civil War. He owned the land and just had a small house. There were eleven kids that lived in that house. After he came back from the Civil War he built that big house. It had two stories and I was raised in that house until I got married. That house is still there. The porch is off of it. It has been remodeled since then. We have pictures when the house was new. There is a picture of eleven kids sitting on that front porch. So it was a big family.
CW: Now that was not your immediate family that had the eleven children.
RH: That was my Great Grandfather and his kids.
CW: Now in your family you had just the two boys.
RH: Yes, well no. Larry and I are the same age. We had a sister Joyce. She lives in Lancaster now and Lynn, he just turned 55. He lives the next place down too. He built a house on the farm too.
CW: Were you old enough that you would have been able to talk to your grandfather.
RH: No, I couldn’t talk to my grandfather or my great grandfather. My grandmother lived with us till the mid 50’s. I was never able to talk to my grandfathers on my Dad’s side. I have pictures of me with my grandparents. They both came over from Germany.
CW: You were a baby probably when the pictures were taken.
RH: Yes. I was probably three or four years old. They came from Germany.
CW: Now when you were three or four years old did you have to wear a dress?
RH: Well we wore short pants then. Our baby pictures of course they were all in dresses.
CW: I have a picture of my father about that age and he is wearing a dress. All boys did. He was so mad and he wanted to have his picture taken with pants. Who was your best friend?
RH: When we started school there was a Ira Bruns that lived just a mile through the field. He was an only child. Of course he always had the fanciest and newest toys. We did everything together all through school, all through high school. We joined the Army Reserves in 1956 at the same time. We took the same basic training. He was in mail. We went to advanced training in Aberdeen, Maryland and he was in the same school that I was. Now he is living in Chicago and I see him every five years at our class reunion. When I was ten years old I became involved with 4H.
CW: That is a good organization.
RH: We would raise hogs and sheep and steers. When I was probably about fifteen I caught a steer in the calf scramble. They had turned eight calves loose in front of the grandstand. They had a fenced in area.They sent sixteen boys in and I caught one. If you caught him you would have to feed him for a whole year, sell him at the fair the following year. I caught this calf and he weighed about 250 pounds and
CW: How did you manage to do it? Did you have to get your arms around his neck or something?
RH: I always played and wrestled with calves in the winter time. We would go out and wrestle and play around with them. We knew how to take hold of their body. We took him back to the fair the next year and showed it and got grand champion. The market price was 25 cents a pound at that time, so as grand champion I got 44 cents a pound for it. He weighed 1005 pounds. To me that was big bucks.
RH: I took that money and then I bought five steers and fed them out. I did this when I was in 4H. When I was about fifteen I went to 4H Club Camp. I had never been away from home before but I went along to Harrison Lake at Camp Palmer. I had saved some money. I had worked for the neighbors and I went to 4H camp. They had a lot of things to do like swimming and hiking and they did a lot of square dancing, but no, not me. I wasn’t going to dance with any girl. So I sat and I watched and I listened all week. When I got home and was mowing the lawn or driving the tractor and such those tunes kept going through my head. I went to a 4H meeting one night. They were supposed to have a square dance caller there. He didn’t show up. They had the people and the records so I said I can do that. I really messed up. Just because I had the tunes in my head didn’t mean that I could call. I went out and bought some records and I still call square dances today. I have been calling square dances since I was about 16 years old.
CW: Do you belong to the square dance club?
RH: No, that is a different kind of square dancing. That is a different style. That is the Western style and you have to take lessons and all that stuff. These are the old traditional style of square dancing. I call and I have worked with all the polka bands in the county at one time or another. They would hire me for a year or so, then they would imitate me and then do it themselves. I have worked with dj’s. Whenever people would have weddings they would call me and I would do the calling. I have my music on tapes and records and I can call at weddings. I am calling now for people whose grandparents I had called for.
CW: Oh really!
RH: That has been a long time.
CW: Yes. I have often wondered how do they get these fiddle players? How did they learn how to play?
RH: If you got it in your blood and are good you can just pick it up and play it. You would have to have someone show you how. I had a neighbor who learned how to play the accordion all by himself. His grandmother could play the accordion and he watched her and that is how he could pick it up. I took accordion lessons and I never really could play it. My fingers were just too short and stubby. I just didn’t have the feel for it I guess.
CW: Well you could probably do a better job at calling.
RH: I always said the reason I would get so many jobs was that I was loud.
CW: Yes, you would have to be loud. Those things are fun though.
RH: I always had a good time. I don’t do too much any more maybe a half dozen a year now. I used to call 30 to 40 dances a year. Years ago there was one nearly every week. I have called in Indiana, Tennessee, Michigan, and Toledo.
CW: Where did they have all of these dances or most of them? Did they rent halls?
RH: Some were weddings, some were at legion halls, the grange halls, in community centers and some were barn dances. I have a Halloween dance coming up to call, and a wedding. I am trying to get out of it. It is hard to find somebody to teach. There is only one other person who I know who can call in this three county area and he lives out of the area. I don’t know if he really wants to do it.
CW: Is it like piano? Every kid could play a little bit.
RH: Piano players they can pick it up by themselves too. If you have it in you and you have the the ambition you can learn.
CW: It just amazes me how Louisa Strock can play the piano. She can play for hours with no music and never tires.
RH: I have written a paper on our family history and included a history of our farm. I told about 4H experiences and Red Cross experiences.
CW: I hope you included how you made prettels. How did you meet your wife, Roger?
RH: My sister was in nurses training in Toledo. She was living in a Community Center, that type of thing. It was like a YMCA. This friend of hers worked as a secretary uptown and was a friend of hers. She had always talked about her. I had never met her until my sister graduated from nurses training. She was at the graduation service. I met her there. Her name was Mary Alice Wade. She was from Delta, Ohio. Her family was from the Grelton, Ohio area. I met her there while she was working in Toledo at the Verda Ray Company. She was living at the YWCA at the time. She lived there all week and on the weekend she would go to her brothers place in Delta. I would go up there and pick her up and take her to Delta. Then I would go back there and pick her up and take her back to the Y on Sunday night then.
CW: Was she pretty?
RH: Oh yes. I just never paid too much attention to the girls. I always had too many other things going on. It took me a while to get up enough gumption to really talk to her. But that is how I met her.
CW: My husband was very shy and I was shy too. We would go out on a date and he wouldn’t say a word. He didn’t say one thing.
RH: You couldn’t get into an argument that way.
CW: You’re right.
RH: He couldn’t get into trouble that way either. After the War everybody was looking for some place to settle down. Mom had three uncles, three brothers that had been in the War. It seemed like we were moving somebody all the time. They would rent a place and then they would find something different. Every time they would move to a place to rent it we would go over there and help them. We’d take the wallpaper off. We would help to wallpaper and so forth. Between her three brothers there was somebody moving all the time. We spent an awful lot of time moving furniture around. One or the other was always moving.
CW: Wallpaper was cheap in those days. You could get it down in Columbus for 10 cents a roll.
RH: I don’t remember the prices, all I remember we were always scraping it off.
CW: You had the dirty job.
RH: My one uncle rented a farm over by Liberty. He farmed that until he died. He had bought it earlier. The owner sold it to him. My other two uncles they drove a truck all their life. That is what they did when they were in the service. Over in Germany they drove a truck and they hauled cannons around. When they came back they got a job driving truck. After the war they both bought a little truck. Steel prices were higher and they would go around the neighborhood picking up scrap iron and fences and stuff like that and taking it to the junkyard and they would haul steel in the summer and in the fall they would haul sugar beets to Ottawa. Everybody raised sugar beets around here. They could always get a job. Somebody around here always needed someone to haul sugar beets.
CW: And they used that to make the sugar that they sold there.
RH: Yes, they sold sugar, molasses, and cane sugar. Whenever they went to the sugar beet factory they would bring us some sugar, that is brown sugar. That wasn’t as refined as the white sugar. We never raised much sorghum. My Uncles, Grandpa and Grandma always raised cane and they would make sorghum molasses. Dad would always have to have molasses on his prettels when he made a sandwich.
CW: Molasses and prettels, that is a strange combination.
RH: We always had molasses on a prettel sandwich. Good old molasses cookies with real molasses in them not these cookies that are brown with a little coloring in them. I have to have real molasses in them. Those are the real molasses cookies.
CW: They would last a long time. Was that true? Probably not with you kids around.
RH: Not with kids around. The only ones that lasted were the lebkuchen because Mom hid them. They were the old German Christmas cookies. They would bake those in November . They would put them in a crock and cover them up. They would not get hard but the flavors would sort of mellow. The new recipes are mellow to begin with. The old recipes had molasses and citron in it.
CW: Citron! What did they do buy it? Did your mom buy it in a bottle?
RH: It was candied fruit you know. You would buy it in a little package.
RH: I can always remember having lebkuchen cookies for Christmas.
CW: How about coffee cakes? Did they make coffee cakes?
RH: Mom and Grandma every Saturday morning would bake bread. They would make bread dough, biscuit dough, and coffee cake dough. They would bake bread. The biscuits were for special occasions.
CW: So they didn’t make coffee cake every week.
RH: No, just on special occasions we had coffee cake. When Dad died we got a new barrel of blackstrap molasses. We would take a glass jug and fill that up with molasses and take that into the house. Then Mom and Grandma would bake the good molasses cookies.
CW: I bet they were very good.
RH: That was good strong molasses.
CW: Would you have bread with molasses on it sometimes?
RH: Yes, sometimes. On the prettel sandwich you had to have molasses on that. They just went together. Some people say you gotta have mustard. Some people say you have to put ketchup on it. I don’t know. None of it makes sense to me. Molasses is just good.
CW: Did you carry your lunch to school when you were a kid?
RH: Yes, when we were in grade school we’d usually carry a sandwich and an apple or so. Usually we would make a homeade summer sausage sandwich. Dad was working at Standard Brands or Lippincott’s and then Campbells bought it when we were still in school. Campbells came out with a neat product called V8. Dad bought some and brought it home and Larry and I each had a thermos bottle in our lunch box. You would take a bottle of V8, heat it up on a stove. So we always had hot V8 in our thermos for lunch.
CW: Was that good?
RH: Yes, real good. Not too many people drink it that way.
CW: I bet that would be good. Did they have a cafeteria in school?
RH: Yes, we had a cafeteria and lunch would cost 25 cents. It didn’t make much sense to wait in line to eat something that you didn’t know they would be serving. We would eat anything and every thing they would put in front of us but it just didn’t make any sense to us to stand in line and wait and 25 cents a day added up.
CW: Yes, with the two of you.
RH: We carried our lunch probably until the third or fourth or fifth grade.
CW: Did you ever walk to school?
RH: No, we always rode the bus. The bus came right past our house. We lived four miles from school. No, we never walked. After doing our chores and everything we didn’t think we needed more exercise.
CW: Yes, but what did you do over the lunch hour?
RH: Usually we would play marbles, football, or baseball. There was always some kind of a game going on.
CW: Did you play down where Loose field is now?
RH: No, we had to stay off of that. That was the football field and we didn’t dare go on that. One winter when I was in the third grade, there is a hill behind the old school and I had finished eating lunch and I was using the stairway going down but I took a shortcut and ran down the hill and I fell and I broke my leg. The principal brought me home. Dad was home at the time and they took me up to the doctor. The doctor wrapped my leg and I was flat on my back for six weeks. It was just a small break. There was no such thing as a walking cast.
CW: So the doctor just set it.
RH: It wasn’t dislocated or anything.
CW: You probably just had to stay off of it and let it heal.
RH: Six weeks I was flat on my back. That was rough. It was in February so that was in the winter. If it had been in the summer it would have been worse yet.
CW: Did your brother bring your school work home with him then?
RH: Yes, the teacher came out a couple of times, but it was just at the time we had math and learning multiplication tables. I had a hard time grasping that when I got back in to the classroom. But I learned most of it anyhow.
CW: Did the school have a football team at that time? They must have had a football team.
RH: They did, but I didn’t know a thing about it. There was no such thing as running into town for a football game. The bus picked you up and brought you home and that was it until the bus picked you up again. The busses didn’t run into town for extra curricular things.
CW: There weren’t too many other activities either were there?
RH: By the time we did our homework and did our chores that was it. We would go to the woods and as long as it was light outside we were always doing something.
CW: Who would milk the cow?
RH: One of us would. We didn’t like to milk the cow.
CW: Would she not stand still for you very long?
RH: She didn’t know any better. Whenever she was out we could walk up to her with a bucket set our stool down and milk her. If she was out in the pasture or the middle of the barn we would bring the bucket out and she would stand there and we would milk her. We did not like to milk. I would have rather hauled manure than milk that one old cow. I’m glad somebody likes to, but not me.
CW: Well, maybe one reason was there were stories about always having the girls milking the cows. You might have thought that was a girls job.
RH: I don’t remember any stories about the girls milking cows. City kids were city kids and farm kids were farm kids. There were two distinct clicks there. You didn’t mess with their world and they didn’t mess with your world and they could care less. There were the city kids and the farm kids.
CW: It seems to me there would be more people involved there is not so much clickiness going on but maybe I am wrong.
RH: We had 100 in our graduating class. We had two and three classrooms of 30 some people just in my grade.
CW: What subjects did you take? Were they the same as they have now or were they different?
RH: I think the same thing they have now. When I got into junior high and high school we had science. I liked that. That was interesting. We didn’t have that in grade school. I liked the art class. that was always interesting. I never had time to sit down and draw something just because I wanted to. I liked science and math then in high school we had gym and industrial arts.
CW: Did you like that?
RH: I did a lot of wood working in industrial arts. Woodworking and metalworking, that’s what my schooling was in the Army too along with metalworking, welding, machine shop, and blacksmith, and body and fender repair.
CW: Is that the sort of work you went into?
RH: I have been a machinist at Campbells. I have worked in machine shops around town.
CW: What does a machinst do at Campbells?
RH: Build machines, lathes and mills and stuff like this. I worked at Automatic Feed where we built automatic feeders. At Campbells we built all the can making machinery. We’d take them into the shop and tear them down to the base. We would rebuild and remanufacture it and repair parts and put it all back together and remake it. Every ten millions cans or so we would take the whole line out.
CW: So they kept you very busy.
RH: Yes. I worked there for twenty-eight years.
CW: Was it Lippincott that was there first?
RH: Standard Brands. I don’t know which was first. Standard Brands or Lippincott.
CW: Did they make the same stuff?
RH: They canned applesauce, chili sauce, and ketchup. During the war they made a lot of applesauce and so forth. I don’t know where they all came from, but that whole yard at Campbell’s was stocked as high as they could stack them with apples. They would dump them on the ground in big piles. They had prisoners of war there that worked at the plant. They lived at the fair grounds. They had bunks there and so forth. They had prisoners of war that worked at the factory. They made apple sauce and chili powder and chili sauce and ketchup.
CW: Did you ever talk to them?
CW: Not allowed to I bet.
RH: I wasn’t old enough to. At the time I was only six or eight years old. Dad would always get work there in the fall. He would work every winter as an electrician. Right after the war when jobs were hard to find. During the war he worked at the ship yards in Toledo. He was an electrician there.
CW: Did they build ships in Toledo?
RH: They built some there, but not too many. They had a dry dock where they did a lot of repairs. Maybe they did some Navy boats too. They would push them and put them in dry dock. He would do repair parts and put in new engines and electrical stuff.
CW: Was that after they had opened it up so they could come in from the Atlantic Oceon?
RH: Yes, the sea was open then. There were about four guys from this area that worked there. They had a carpool and they would drive up there and go to work.
CW: Then they would have to drive home at night.
END OF TAPE
The following is a written history prepared and written by Roger Helberg
GROWING UP ON THE FARM IN HANOVER SETTLEMENT IN HENRY COUNTY
When we were growing up Mom and Grandma Helberg would bake break on Saturday morning. We woke up to the smell of fresh baked bread. When the wheat was harvested in the summer Dad would take a trailer full of wheat to Voke’s Mill in Napoleon. They would grind it and Dad brought home a trunk full of flour in the ‘37 Chevy. They would carry it upstairs and store it in the spare bedroom.
On special occasions Mom and Grandma would bake biscuits and coffee cake. We always had home made yeast biscuits and homemade summer sausage before Christmas Eve church service.
Butchering day started early. Before daylight my Uncle Ray Hogrefe would get the fire going under the 50 gallon cast iron kettle to heat the water for scalding and scraping the hair off the hogs. We would butcher 1 cow or beef and 2 or 3 hogs. After the hogs were cleaned he would add fresh water to use for boiling other meat and sausage. When they killed the beef Grandpa Hogrefe would catch the blood in a large pan and cool it in the snow so we could make blood sausage. When we butchered hogs we would take the small intestine, the large intestine, and the stomachs in to the house where the women would clean them which are casing after they are cleaned to stuff the summer sausage. The stomach would be stuffed to make head cheese. Then they took it to the smoke house to be smoked with the ham shoulders and bacon.
Then it was time to make prettels. We took 1/2 pork and 1/2 beef to be cooked outside in the butcher kettle. Then it was brought back into the basement and the meat was ground. A large pot of pin oats or steel cut oats was cooked to be mixed with the meat, salt, and pepper. It was then put in flat pans to cool. On butchering day everyone who helped would take home a pan of prettels. At noon we had a meal of fresh liver and at supper we had fresh pork chops.
Dad farmed the home place since his dad George Helberg died of a heart attack when he was 14 years old. (George Helberg 1882 - 1927) Grandma Helberg (Amelia 1887 - 1954) lived with us till the late 40’s. When Larry & I started school in 1944 & 1945 we came home from school many nights and asked Mom and Dad how to say a lot of words in English,because we spoke Low German at home. We had German church services till1953.
Dad farmed with horses till he bought a John Deere B in 1937. It had steel spade lug wheels. I remember he traded a team of horses to get rubber tires put on at Meyers shop in Okolona. He raised corn, wheat, hay, sugar beets, and tomatoes. During the war the County Agent enouraged him to try a new crop called soybeans. The tomatoes we planted as small sets and Mom and Dad and Grandma and my Uncles picked and hauled them to Standard Brands and Lippencott Canning Company to make ketchup, chili sauce and canned tomatoes. That plant was sold to Campbell Soup Company in the early 1950’s. They picked and hauled them to the plant in a farm trailer with the ‘37 Chevy.
THE FARM HISTORY
Dad bought the 80 acre farm after Grandma died in 1957. He rented the 80 acres across the road from Paul Leifer of Napoleon on a 50/50 shares. I was working in machine shops in Napoleon and later as a tractor mechanic at Landmark and Dad bought a Model 960 Ford in 1957 and in 1971. He bought a 4000 Ford tractor. He also leased a 10 foot Ford Self-propelled combine with a 2 row corn head which he bought in 1970. He did custom combining and shelling till he died in 1972. In 1971 he rented the 120 acre Clark farm from Bob Clark and Angeline Rafferty Clark. Dad had plowed and started planting in the spring of 1972 when he had a heart attack at home.
Larry and I farmed the home place and the Clark farm for about 3 years. We were both working at Campbell Soup on the 2nd shift. We both retired in 1999. Lynn was working at Napoleon Creamery and helped farm too.
It became too much for us and we let the Clark farm go and just farmed the home 80 acres. After a few years of that we had an auction in 1978. We rent our farm to Ron Dachenhaus now.
Mary Alice and I were living in Napoleon on Hobson St and we built a house on Rd P1, east of the pond.
Dad helped Larry built a house north of the homestead in 1969.
We plotted Helberg subdivision east of the pond. Lynn built his house on Lot 1 and 2. I built on Lot 3 and 4 and use the pond for my water supply.
Mom sold the house and building to Mark and Tammy Norden in 1979.
Mom moved to Napoleon and lived on Strong Street until she entered the Lutheran Home. She passed away on May 22 2008.
In July of 2008 the farm was transferrd to Roger, Larry, Joyce Melick and Lynn. Joyce plans to sell her 1/4 share to Larry. Larry, Roger and Lynn will continue to keep the farm in the Helberg family, which was bought from the State of Ohio in 1865 by Christopher Helberg, then to George, then to Eldor Helberg, then to Roger, Larry and Lynn. The original deed is signed by Rutherford Hayes, governor of Ohio, before he was elected to be President.
I was born on May 20, 1938. I grew up on the family farm. We had hogs, chickens, and a few milk cows. I remember one team of horses, Dick and Doc. Dad had the to Napoleon 3 1/2 miles and traded them for rubber tires for the ‘37 John Deere Model B tractor.
During WWII Dad worked in the shipyard in Toledo. He carpooled with three or four others. He worked in the shop most of the time building and wiring electric boxes to be installed on ships in dry dock for rebuild.
Larry and I did chores before and after school and on Saturdays we hauled manure and buzzed and cut wood. We heated the house with wood and only a little coal.
In 1948 when I was 10 years old I joined 4H. I belonged to the Okolona Buckeyes 4H club. I had projects of feeder hogs, breeding gilts and steer. I entered the demonstration contest and attended 4H Congress in Columbus in 1953. I caught a 250 lb steer in the calf scramble. I fed it out till the fair the next year and it was judged Grand Champion and sold at the fair. He weighed 1005 lbs and I got 44 cents per lb. for it. The market price was 25 cents per lb. The Kroger store in Napoleon bought it to sell in the store. They gave me my first job after school and on Saturdays. They payed me $1.25 per hour. I used the money from my steer to buy five more steers, feed and raised them. Then I showed them at Lugbill’s and the fair.
In 1956 I entered a judging contest at the Ohio State Fair. We were judged as teams on pork, dairy, and beef. I placed 1st in the State and won a trip to the International Livestock Show in November. On Dec. 1st I joined the Army Reserve. I served 6 Mo. active duty and attended once a week drill and attended 2 week summer camp for 5 years.
When I got off active duty the used the $600.00 from the sale of my steers to buy a 1956 Chev. Bel Air yellow and black, and I have been broke ever since then.
While on active duty I had basic training at Fort Knox, Ky. Then metal working school at Aberdean Ma. The school covered welding, machine shop blacksmith, body and fender.
When I got off active duty I went to work at Kroger for a few years till they closed the store in Napoleon. Then I worked at Napoleon Products and ran an Automatic Screw Machine. At Automatic Feed Co. as a boring Mill, Lath, &I C.N.C. Lath operator and at at Landmark 6 years as a Ford & Cockshut tractor mechanic. I did service calls on plows, bailers, combines, and corn pickers.
In 1971 I started on Maintenance at Campbells as a welder for about a year, then I transferred to the Can Plant as a machinist. We would remove one can line, disassemble it, and rebuild it from the frame up. With new parts and parts that we built and remanufacture in the shop. My main job was to rebuild Seamers that put the bottom on the cans. I also did Maintenance on the coil line, ovens and sheet stackers and the last few years maintained the heating and air conditioning units on the roof. I retired from C.S.C in May of 1999.
While I was working at Krogers, Machine Shop, Landmark, and C.S.C. I became involved in Farm Bureau Youth. I served on the State Youth Committee and attended F.B. youth schools and camps during my vacations and weekends, and also refined my square dance calling skills. I still call square dances with D.J.’s at weddings and parties. I now call for people whose parents and Grandparents I called for. When my cousins Norbert & Betty Rohrs started a polka band in 1958, The R & M Polka Band, I called square dances with them and other bands such as The German Americans, The Village Dutchman, The Buckeye Polka Band, Happy Times, Bavarian Brass, The Freytag Band, The Dammans, Karen Stoves, and other bands that needed a square dance caller.
After I retired I volunteered for the County and Ohio Farm Bureau as board and convention delegate, county president, and membership chairman. I attended three F.B. Presidents Conferences in Washington D.C. met our Senators and Congressmen to present Farm Bureau views and policy for our county and state members.
In 1990 I volunteered at Henry County Red Cross to call blood donors. After retirement I became more involved. I became a board member and took Disaster Training and assisted at local fires, floods, and emergencies. In August 2004 when Charlie, Ivan, and Francis hurricanes struck Florida, after Charlie hit most of National R.C. had been on duty and they needed fresh volunteers. Three of us from Henry county volunteered. I, Virginia and Robin flew to Fall Clhurch Va. I went to Atlanta, Ga. Three vans full of us drove all night to central Florida and slept a few hours in a R.C. office. Then one van full of us headed west to Hernando and Citrus County Florida and helped run a shelter in an elementary school. While Francis moved over us for one week. After the wind stopped, we did damage assessment for one week and one week of family assistance.
In August of ‘05, a week after Hurricane Katrina, I was deployed to Gulfport and Biloxi Miss, a mass shelter assistant and served as an assistant shelter manager. I slept on the floor with the others in the shelter for a week, then we got folding cots. There were 19 shelters in our county. We had about 150 in our shelter. We got electricity back after one week. The water wasn’t fit to use, so we washed and bathed with bottled water and baby wipes. In 2006 I spent three days closer to home in Ottawa, after the Blanchard River flooded. I did preliminary damage assessment and family service.
I retired from C.S.C. in May of 1999. Now I do woodworking and build nautical crafts which I sell on consignment in craft and gift shops in Port Clinton and Napoleon, and at craft shows in the area. I build boat shelves from 10”-24”. 2 ft., 4 ft., and 6 ft., boat coffee tables with a wood motor regulator running light and a glass top. ship wheel clock, and wall decor. I have built 3 grandfather clocks and mantle clocks.
Roger Helberg, Sept. 2008
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