Lange, Lenhart

June, 2004, interviewed by C. Wangrin

L: I’m Lenhart Lange. I live at 460 Bradcliff Dr., Napoleon OH. My father was a World War I veteran. I had a brother Arthur who was a First Lieutenant in the Army and he was in charge of Quartermasters in the South Pacific. I had one brother Raymond and he served in Germany. So there were three Armies and I decided I wanted the Navy so I joined the Navy in Sept. of 1943 and went through the Navy Boot Camp at Great Lakes and from there I boarded my first ship. My first ship was the Cape Smmdcapecalmas (as transcribed; not found) and we traveled to South America. The ship was new. We picked it up in Beaumont TX and we passed the Mississippi down to New Orleans and we had to be in there for about three weeks because it didn’t have all the electronic equipment on it that it should have. So from there we sailed into South America and there we had a number of submarine attacks and-a we went through the Panama Canal.

(Click here to see a document attesting to Mr. Lange’s heroism during World War II)

C: You mean submarines actually attacked you?

L: Um hm.

C: How did you manage to escape?

L: Well we just zigzagged and we dropped depth charges and we lucked out. When I got into port in Anafaghasta, Chili I went into a USO which a lot of the service people did and there was the name of Bud Ferguson from Deshler that had been there and had visited. I thought that was really somethin’ so I signed my name on it and about a month later I get the Deshler Flag and I seen that a submarine had blowed up his ship and he didn’t survive, so that was sad news. So we had a load of iron ore and iodine bark and we sailed that into California and the iron ore we took into Washington.

C: Did those have anything to do with the war then?

L: Yes. That was all war-related.

C: Well I could understand the iron ore, but what use was the other?

L: Iodine bark that they used for medicine. And then after that I got a leave and then I boarded the SS Alcoa Pioneer, and I boarded that ship in August of 1943. We sailed from San Francisco and we were out about two weeks when the Captain told us where we were gonna be heading, that we were gonna be heading into bay into the Philippines. So we …

C: Is that in the main city there?

L: Yes. That’s one of the main cities. It’s a big island in the Philippines and that’s where Clark Field is. And on our way we made several stops and one of them was in Australia, and we picked up fresh meat and from there we sailed into Hollandia, DutchNew Guinea. And while we were in Hollandia, they put the necks down so the submarines couldn’t get into the bay there and one night they called, and here it was Tokyo Rose mentioned the name of our ship in the bay.

C: We heard about Tokyo Rose. Was she broadcasting then?

L: Yes. She was broadcasting then.

C: What’d she sound like?

L: Oh, she sounded just like you and I are talkin’. She was originally from Chicago and you could just understand her real well. And while we were in Halandie (?) …

C: Excuse me, let’s tell the listeners in case they’re not familiar with Tokyo Rose what she did.

L: Tokyo Rose was a lady that worked for the Japanese government, and she would find out whatever she could and she was what I would say, a spy. And she would talk over the radio and let people know that they knew where we were, so everybody knew what was goin’ on.

C: Our soldiers hated that. She was a traitor.

L: That’s right. She was a traitor. And while we were in the bay, because it was a tight bay there in Hollandia, we were getting’ ready to form our convoy to go into the invasion of the Philippines and one of the ships rammed our ship during a storm and put a pretty good-sized hole in our bow.

C: Where was this now?

L: This was in Hollandia, New Guinea. And so while we were in there we had big lifeboats abroad our ship. Now I was in the regular Navy but I served on merchant ships. Merchant ships were the ones that took all the supplies overseas into all the different ports for the Army and the Navy.

C: What did you do on those?

L: Our Navy job was to man all the guns. We took care of protecting the ship and the cargo and the Merchant Marines had their job of unloading and managing of the ships and the Captain of the—and the First Mate of running the ship. So while we were in Hollandia we had the chance to go aboard one of the destroyers. We didn’t have doctors or nurses or anything like that aboard our ship. Once we got on that ship you’d better make it or you didn’t make it. So while we were in Hollandia, like I said, getting’ hit in the bow and gettin’ a big plate put on and getting’ it ready for our convoy we were going in to the destroyer to see a movie at night—which we did. It got to be late and we got back on our boat and it got to foggy in the bay there we couldn’t see our way to get back to our ship, so we floated around most of the night and finally in the morning we could see where our ship was.

C: That’d be scary wouldn’t it?

L: It was scary. It was scary!

C: You wouldn’t know but what you might run into a mine or something.

L: So finally when we got back to our ship our Captain was very very angry, very upset, so that was the last of visiting any ships and seeing any movies. So the convoy left there two days while we were in our ship. I should say that while we were in Hollandia we were also in a port called Wewac and they mentioned that the Japanese Navy was comin’ through. We knew the nets were there as far as the submarines but we knew that the Navy would come in and fire at our ship and we had high-explosive gas on board. We knew we had to get off the ship or none of us would live to tell the tale.

C: Did you know what kind of gas it was?

L: Yes. It was in barrels for the airplanes and aboard our ship we had all crates and the planes were all KD’d and once they were unloaded the parts were put together on the island.

C: What does KD mean?

L: KD means the planes was broke down.

C: So you carried planes as well as the gas?

L: Yeah. All the gas was in the hatches. The planes were on top deck and while we were going, and I was on three ships but this ship we were in depth 22 feet in the water ‘cause we had a lot of weight The other two ships I was on we were in depth maybe 15 feet but this one we were down 22 feet, so we didn’t have much from our deck down to the ocean, and when we had that much weight they would really come on over.

C: Oh yeah. You could have been grounded.

L: So after two days of gettin’ the big plate welded on our bow in we left

C: Was that to cover up that hole?

L: Yeah. We left then for Leyte Bay in the Philippines and after a few days we caught up with our convoy and from there on we were headin’ on in to the Philippines. While we were there we had a number of submarine alerts and we dropped depth charges but fortunately we never had anything to hit us. So on our way into Lehy

C: How many were in this convoy?

L: Well there was about 13 ships in the convoy. Three merchant ships and rest all Navy ships.

C: Filled with men I suppose.

L: Yeah. And we no more than got into Leyte Bay —it was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon—and the Japanese zeroes were startin’ to come in, and we started firing right away and so we went in and we anchored and so we knew it was really gonna be for Clark Field . The air force and all that was there and we knew it was going to be a dangerous spot so we knew we really had to protect our ship because we knew we daresn’t have one of the ships hit that was in the hatch or really none of us would live.

C: Dwight Huddle said that those Japanese kamikazi planes would come in just at sunset when they were really hard to spot because they would be between the sun and the ship.

L: That’s right, absolutely, and so we got settled in there and so while we were in Leyte Bay we had 103 attacks and, excuse me, 103 alerts and we had 50 attacks. That meant we had 103 times that the planes were in there that they didn’t bother us and 50 times that they were in that they did some damages. And then in our ship alone we knocked down five Japanese planes and we had five planes painted on our stack. Anyways while we were in Leyte Bay we hit a typhoon and that typhoon lasted about two and a half days, and it was so bad it was 25, 30 feet waves up above the ship. It’s just hard to imagine. We had both of our big anchors down; we had our engines goin’ full speed ahead and we were still goin’ out into the ocean. And there was two battle wagons and an aircraft carrier and a destroyer and all them was havin’ the same problems. They was pushin’ ‘em out into the ocean ‘cause it was such a storm.

C: Well now, were you in the bay when this happened?

L: Yeah, we were in the bay.

C: Oh that’s very dangerous ‘cause the waves could put you up on shore.

L: It’s just hard to believe how high them waves . . . They claim they were 25 and 30 feet—course we had no way of knowin’ cause we couldn’t get outside. But anyways after that left over why the Japanese started comin’ in again with their planes right away and they had already—the Americans had already bombed the beaches and they were already landed on Leyte and they were diggin’ holes. Our bombers had killed them and the smell was really bad, smell of the bodies—yeah, terrible.

C: They were Japanese then?

L: Japanese, um hm, Philippines and probably Japanese service people too.

C: Philippinos were helping U.S.

L: Yeah, the Philippines were on our side, that’s right. So while we were in there with all this action, every two hours—you could depend on it—that the bombers or the zeroes or the oscars. . They had two types of planes. They had a Zero and an Oscar. Now the Zero was a better plane. It could carry a bomb under each wing, but the Oscar was a smaller plane.

C: You’re talkin’ about U.S. planes?

L: They were Japanese planes. An RV38 that you see there—that’s the nearer plane that you see there—I don’t know how many of those we shot down. It got so bad they had to take ‘em out. They finally brought in the B38’s with twin tails and in the air we could see them right away in the dawn light. In the dog fights, like I say, every two hours they were in there and our gun ships and battle ships and that they were protecting us, trying to get us unloaded of our gas and our equipment. Of course while we were in there I never believed that I’d ever get out of there but I was very fortunate, and …

C: Well now, you were in the bay with all this inflammable gas at the time that the typhoon struck? You hadn’t had a chance to unload.

L: That’s right. We hadn’t had a chance to unload. So after the typhoon and stuff we were in there getting’ ready to be unloaded and on a Sunday morning, ten minutes after seven, actually it was four planes. There was three of ‘em. They was all suicide-natured planes—came down from our stern and I was about a gun-setter on the 350 and they came in off the right and they came in very low. We had had the siren that they were comin’ in and I always slept underneath the bow gun turret. I had a big hammock and I liked to sleep there ‘cause there was always a breeze and it was always quiet. And so I was one of the first ones up to get on the big guns and of course they came in so low with the other ships in the bay we had a hard time firing ‘cause we didn’t want to hit one of the other ships. So they kept a-comin’ and we knew that at that time we was gonna have to either get ‘em or hit ‘em or we was gonna be goners. So what happened, the three planes come in. They was all suicide; they was Oscars. It was lucky that was suicide ‘cause they didn’t have the bombs underneath their wings. So all three of ‘em—so we knocked two of them out. One of ‘em we knocked out before it got to our ship; the other was on fire and went over our ship and the third one come in and it hit us right dead center on the ship, and everything was ablaze with fire and I could see — of course we were very fortunate. We had the Navy there with a different ship. They had fire equipment and hoses and they came and put our fires and that out right away. I could still see our Captain and officer looking up on the deck with the smoke and everything left, and I could see one of my good friends hangin’ there with the heal of his shoe on his gun turret. It was a 20-mm gun turret and they had sttel ladders and you could really reach over where you had your hands. Hhe was caught, blowed over there, hangin’ there by his shoe. Of course, he was dead.

C: Oh, my!

L: I was very fortunate. I was one of five that didn’t get hurt or didn’t get killed in that suicide raid. So after we got hit with all the fire they came and — of course, they hit us right in the stack, in the middle of the ship.

C: Was it a big explosion?

L: Oh yeah. We were full of gas and that, and that’s right where they hit us The seamen and that slept right in the center of the ship. Well so then I can’t tell ya. There was Merchant Marines. I think there was around 40 or 50 Merchants, and the Navy crew we had 28 and I was one of the five lucky out of the 28 sailors. And of course the Marines on there they had cooks and they did all the cooking and of course they did the shifts and the painting and that sort of thing. And that was their duty, to unload the ships. So after they got the fires and that out and they had the hospital ship there and they took all the people that was hurt and burnt bad, they took them on these hospitals and the people that were dead, they took care of them too. So after we had things cleaned up, the Merchant Marines that was left on the ship helped us man the guns ’cause we no more than had our fires out than the Japanese started comin’ in again.

C: More suicide bombers?

L: More suicide bombers and they had the big bombers with the bombs. Now we-every two hours in the nighttime the bombers would come in and the battleships and the destroyers, they would fire explosive bombs up there that would light up and we could see their bombers but we quit firing our guns at night because they could tell right where our location was and they could come in and hit us, so the smaller ships we didn’t fire back at that time. So they got busy and started; in fact two ships beside us got hit with suicide planes. One was a ship that was carryin’ Army and we heard there were 127 killed in one hatch. They claimed it was a direct hit. Now I can’t verify that . I was told that. And so these planes were startin’ to damage these ships so they were afraid they would have so many ships hit by these suicide planes so they decided that-our engines were able to go so they thought that maybe we could make our way back to San Francisco. Well, we were out about two days and the ship broke down, so . . .

C: What do you mean ‘it broke down’?

L: Well the motors, the engines and that, with the stack and that, it just wouldn’t operate. So we had to wait for a tug to come out from one of the islands and we were towed all the way back to United States. It took 54 days and from there the five of us, they took us into a barracks on Treasure Island and they wouldn’t let us talk to anybody ’cause they didn’t want anybody to know about the suicide planes ’cause they knew that if the word got out there on the Treasure Island Navy Base a lot of people wouldn’t get back on the ship. So we had to swear on our Survivors’ Leave, which we got, a 30-day Survivors’ Leave that we wouldn’t say nothin’. And I have it all in my book here in writing from the government. I went home on leave and about two days before my leave was up my parents got a notice that we could release in our newspaper that our ship had been hit and Lenhart Lange was one of the heroic persons aboard that ship. And I have an article here. I told my mom and dad not to put it in, so — but I have it here.

C: Isn’t that nice! I wonder if we could have a copy of it?

L: Yeah.

C: Did you get a purple heart for that?

L: No. I could have ’cause I had a bad stomach. I’m still bothered with it today. But I didn’t get a — I ended up in the hospital when I got back into Great Lakes because I was having problems with my nerves in my stomach. But then I figured I didn’t want to – ’cause so many men were being lost that I thought the ones that were killed should be the ones to get the purple hearts, so . . . So anyways we got on this – I got my survivor’s leave and I went back to Treasure Island. I got aboard another merchant ship called the SS Campso, and from there we sailed to Okinawa and that was a …

C: When was that?

L: That was right after I come back from my survivors’ leave on the Philippines.

C: That would be what, about the middle of the war?

L: That would be towards the end of the war. And then from there that was when the Japanese was fightin’ to keep Iwo Jima. That’s where Ernie Pyle was killed. And we had on this ship we had air force people and the other half in the hatches was beer and we unloaded the Air Corps people at Iwo Jima. While we were in there-that’s only about 300 miles from Japan. They kept comin’ in with their torpedo planes, and these torpedo planes, they’d fly maybe 2 or 3 feet up off the water, so we had to have our smokestack – we had to have smokestacks that we ran most of the time when we were in there. You could put your hand in front of your face and you couldn’t hardly see your hand. But anyway we were told when we were unloadin’ there at Iwo Jima that the Japanese would tie dynamite to the backs of these children and when these ships would come in they’d shoot at these kids and blow up our troops. We could never forget that. But after that, after we unloaded our Air Corps people…

C: How many did you have?

L: Air Corps people?” Oh gee, I don’t know. I’d say maybe a couple hundred. And from there we went on to Okinawa and we unloaded our beer there that we had at one of the Navy places and then we sailed back to San Francisco. And that was about the fifth part of my Navy.

Ellen (wife): Did you show Charlotte … (tape garbled) .

C: Had to wait another year. Isn’t that something!

L: Now, I’m gonna give you a copy of . . . This is our ship after it got done and it went into Japan and it hit another ship and blew up, and the lady sang the Lord’s Prayer. This man here is the author who’s gonna be writin’ the story about the Alco Pioneer. That’s quite an article. You read that sometime. Let’s see …

C: Oh yeah, that was your first collision.

L: No. That was after the Navy let the ship go back to Alco Pioneer and this company bought it in Belgium and they sailed it and they got hit in Japan, and they sank the other ship.

C: Got hit by what?

L: Another plane. No this is after the war. Is the machine still on?

(turned off momentarily)

L: All confidential stuff.

C: So, your Captain was not killed.

L: Yeah, and our Captain on the ship, he was layin’ there on his back and his dog had shrapnel in it and he was lickin’ his captain’s face. I can remember seeing that just as though it happened today.

C: I’ll bet! Well, I don’t know whether it was the same typhoon or not but probably not because this would have been after the war, and right after the war was over but the way Huddle was on the big ship when a typhoon hit and they had to get their ships in the ocean, out of the bay so they would be safe, and he said that ship was rolling and tossing. He was way down in the bottom of the ship. He said they put the farm boys down there to run the boiler because they figured that they would know the machinery well enough they could repair it and he said his watch was over so he struggled-he said he was just so hot in there and he could hardly breathe. So he struggled to get up on deck and it was really a chore to get up those ladders.

L: Oh yes, those waves-it’s just unbelievable. When you take 25, 30 foot waves, you know that’s almost as high as a house. We had ropes and that on there but it was so bad that you couldn’t even tie yourself over a strap. I mean you had to stay put wherever you was in the ship till the typhoon went through.

C: Well, he didn’t. He made it up those steps onto the deck.

L: He may not have been in a place where they was bombin’ or something. See, if it could have been where we…

(Side I of tape ends here.)

C: Well he managed to get up on deck where he could watch a ship. He said it was about-oh I guess half-mile away or something. At first you’d see it and then you wouldn’t. It was because those big waves that you mentioned would hide it. Just while he was standing there watching a big hole appeared in the ship and here they had been hit by-struck a mine or something. Big hole in the side of the ship.

L: Oh yeah, they’d blow a hole right in it, yeah.

C: Now, Treasure Island. I wonder if he was there the same time you were?

L: I was there in ’43 and ’44, ’45.

C: When was the war over?

L: It was over in the last of ’45, yeah.

C: Well, this was right after the war was over they came into San Francisco and as I understand it and then they had to sleep in this huge barracks. He said, if you could imagine 1000 men snoring. He said it was . . .

L: Oh and them troops, you can’t believe the sickness. ‘Course I was seasick for a year until I got over it. I wanted to die. I got over it and it couldn’t get rough enough, but it was terrible. They couldn’t get into the bathroom. It was really somethin’. (pause in the tape)

C: The armed guard, through all those wounded, were the Go-fers.

L: That’s right. I got to be a Bosun after I got…

C: (looking at a picture) Now this Maude Jersel, is she the one who took the alcohol when they died.

L: Yeah. You know, I never had a captain over my head die. Now you’d better keep this. This is the release published in your local paper.

C: You have another copy?

L: Yes.

C: Good. These will all stay in the same folder. And that ship that hit the mine, that was one that was returning U.S. prisoners.

L: Now, when we were out the two days and a big tug, a bug ship, was towin’ us because they had so many suicide planes. They started to hit so they was afraid if they didn’t get some of these cargo ships back they’d have no way to get supplies over to the troops, the pilots, see. Otherwise they would probably have just left the ship there and sent us back on another ship or somethin’ but anyways, while we were out the great big cable broke loose.

C: Oh, the one they were using to pull you?

L: Yeah. So they had to get a big tug out of the Admiralty Islands. They was about a day and a half getting’ there and they came and they shot great big ropes up aboard and from there they kept hookin’ on to bigger ones ’till they finally got a big cable. They hooked it on to the ship so we could keep agoin’.

C: Now these Admiralty Islands, were those part of the Philippines?

L: No. see, all the time I was in I was in the Admiralty Islands, I was in the Marshall Islands, I was in Wake Island, I was in the Solomon Islands, and I was in the Admiralty Islands. I was in all them islands on the three ships I was on. I got into 33 countries and islands while I was in the Navy.

C: Thirty-three countries!

L: And islands, uh-huh, thirty-three.

C: Now those islands were part of what country?

L: They belonged to all different countries. Japan owned a lot of them; Australia owned some but the Japanese had occupied a lot of them, see, so we had to get them all cleaned off during the war. And you could see them . They was hid in caves and what not.

C: Oh were they. Y’know, Romy Flora was just a kid and he acted as a messenger boy, cause he was friendly with everybody and the Japanese officers didn’t suspect him. So he was taking messages back and forth for the U.S. officers.

L: Yeah, they had a lot of stuff, things like that goin’ on. But how that Tokyo Rose ever got our .. is this on now?

C: Yes..

L: I don’t know how they ever, how she ever did that, but Boy, it was really . . . and while we were on the island in Hollandia the Japanese was there. At night they’d have to watch them ’cause the Japanese were still hid there on the island. They would break into our camps and carry away maps or, food, you know, whatever they could.

C: They were hungry.

L: Um-hm, yeah, so whatever they could find they’d take. But it was a terrible thing. We never got more sleep through the month than 2 hours at anytime. I mean they were constantly in there. .. you could just set your clocks. Every two hours either the Zeroes or the Oscars or else the bombers would be comin’.

C: And you had all this flammable stuff.

L: Yeah, yeah. We had to man our guns. We had to have people so, like I say, every two hours we’d be on and off. So it was really . . . and I, but I believe what made me feel good. . . when I left my church my minister gave me a little Bible and I carried that Bible with me every day I was in the service. I had a money belt and I had that old Bible strapped in there and while I was on this ship we had a fellow from the state of Washington. His name was Babcock. He’d see me read my Bible and he’d make fun, and he absolutely didn’t believe it. So after things really got goin’ rough he’d really, really — see in the Navy we would make it, he asked me one time if he could read my Bible, and I said, “You certainly can.” And-uh-but I seen him down on his knees prayin’ for the Lord to save him. But he didn’t make it. But I always felt good that I had my Bible with me. It meant an awful lot to me. My Dad had taught me that, my Mother and . . .

C: It gave you added strength.

L: Yes, it did, and-uh like I say on that ship I was the youngest aboard.

C: How old were you?

L: Well I was 17. So . . .

C: You must have enlisted right out of high school?

L: Yeah. No, I was in my last year, and when I got out of the service I went back and finished it. Then I went to Cedar Falls Iowa Teachers College on the GI Bill for awhile and then from there I got a job-I got to knowin’ a person-`course I knew by this time I wanted to get back into the lumber business and I met a fellow while I was there in school and he talked me into goin’ to work for his company, so I did. It was Clay Equipment and so I decided that I’d do that and it was a good job, good-paying job. And so I worked at that three years and then I got back into the lumber business.

C: So-uh–did you know Bill Lytle when you first got into that lumber business?

L: Yeah, I knew Bill. Bill Lytle had just started. (part omitted) One of the things I remember is that it was my job on the Navy to be on the sight center, and I was the one that whenever we were right on the target and the crosses met on the target well then I’d holler “Fire!” and they fired, and these suicide planes was comin’ in, especially with one that was comin’ right into our midship I had him focused and I could see his whole face and everything just as he went into the side of our ship and it blew up.

C: Did you get his face in the cross-hairs?

L: Yeah, I could see him and with my sight binoculars you could see a long long distance, real far. It makes it real big, and I could just see him sittin’ there see him come in.

C: How many nights have you seen that in nightmares?

L: Oh I’ve thought about that a lot of times; I see it, but more than that one of my friends dangling there with his shoe over his gun turret, and he just hung by the heel of his shoe, and that writeup’s all there in those papers.

C: He was one of your buddies.

L: Yeah. Umhm, in fact I lost one of my best friends I chummed around with a lot and he got killed, and then another one, he completely lost his leg. His leg got blew off but it says in there they passed away. Umhrn, they died.

C: Right away?

L: Yeah, some of them died within a matter of a couple months and some of ’em maybe after a year. They were really beat up bad. They were burned so bad that-it was sad.

C: Was there a roar to those planes when they came in?

L: Yeah, they had-you could hear them just like you can hear a plane. They weren’t very big but they were noisy. They had a-uh-the blades you could more or less tell, yeah, you could hear them. Now the big bombers, you could hear them real well. At night you could hear them, but the smaller planes …

C: Just as deadly.

L: Yeah, that’s right. I don’t know-I don’t know what the Japanese people did to get them to do that suicide work, to be able to-uh …

C: They had ’em convinced that it was right.

L: Yeah, that’s right. They had them all sold on somethin’, that they could do that.

C: Well, I surely appreciate your telling me what you went through. It’s not easy.

L: Well I should have told it a little bit better.

C: Oh no! You did a great job! We don’t want it all stiff.

L: I told Robin (daughter) that I got it all pretty well wrote down because I had a chance to think about it, see. But like I said, it was a long time before we talked about it ’cause everything was so confidential, and finally they sent us all the-uh, and then everybody else in the service was the same way. You know a lot of people never talked about it till just maybe the last ten years that they opened up and said what happened.

C: Did they release all that flight information at the same time?

L: Yeah. Um-hm, on our ship they did.

D. It was so strange because Robin was so sure that they must have made a mistake.

L: Yeah, finally it all come out.

C: So then you came back after the war, but you hadn’t been mustered out of the Service then, when you went to church that time, remember when you were tellin’ about, you went to church in Hoytsville?

L: No, I went to church in Deshler. I graduated from Deshler. And that’s where I met Ellen, was at the Lutheran church in Deshler, on a Sunday.

E. He sang in the choir. I said, “Who is that?” She said, “That’s Lennie Lange. Would you like to meet him?” I said, “Yeah, I really would like to meet him.” So after church I met him. I had to okay it with my Mom, ’cause she said I could not go out. I said, “O.K.” I washed my hair and had it up in curlers `cause nobody was gonna be coming that night. Suddenly he appeared at the door, and here I am with my hair up in curlers, so he saw me at my very worst. And he eventually got around to asking me if I’d like to go to Toledo, and I looked at my Mother because she had said, “No.” I couldn’t go out.

L: Then we went to Centennial.

C: Was it just the two of you then, or did the other fellows have dates, or what?

L: Yes. In fact, Andy Ruffer from Deshler, I worked with him at Koppenhoffers when I was goin’ through school and he married the Postmaster’s daughter and we’re going to get together here in a few months or so.

C: So then you corresponded after you . . .

E. Well no, not really because he was stationed at Great Lakes then for awhile, so he would get home about every weekend.

C: And that was in Cleveland?

E. No. Chicago.

L: Here’s somethin’ I didn’t tell ya. I was very fortunate ’cause when I worked for Koppenhoffer they had eggs and butter and sugar. And everything was rationed back in those days, and I had a paper route, and I had the Blade, and the train that went from Chicago to Washington D.C. and they would let me go on there with the Blades, and I could sell Blades and I had to hurry up and go through and I had to get off quick but I’d get around a dollar a paper, papers that sold maybe for 12 cents. And I made more money in one night goin’ through there than I’d make all week workin’ at Koppenhoffers, but I got to know ’em and sugar and that was hard to get and-uh-so-uh and butter, so I would have my little wagon and when they’d come I’d sell it to ‘ern, porters and people on the train. And I got to know these guys and after I got in the Service I’d go to Chicago and I bet I made 20 trips back to Deshler and it didn’t cost me a dime. (laughs) Yeah, it really paid off.

C: So then-uh-you (Ellen) thought he was pretty handsome.

E. Right. He was very nice too, very nice. He is very nice. He’s very good in …

C: Well I’m sure you’ve had many good years together.

L: We have a good time with Robin (daughter) and her boat. They’ve got a nice big boat that sleeps six on Rhode Island. ( talk about their plans for vacation)

(end of tape

Leaders, Lawrence

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, 2004

L. My name is Lawrence Leaders and I am 83 years old. I was born in Pleasant Twp., Henry County. I was born in 1921.

C. Where in Pleasant Township did you live? Did you live on a farm?

L. Yes. I lived on a farm and I was born in a log house.

C. Do you have any memories of the log house?

L. I don’t have any memories of the log house. They were building the new house the year I was born and we moved in the following year and apparently tore down the log house before I was old enough to have any recollection, but I do remember the old log barn.

C. Log barn, too?

L. Yes, and some of the old chicken house and those buildings.

C. Now, were your parents or grandparents or who settled?

L. My grandfather came from Germany.

C. Did he come up on the canal?

L. He didn’t leave much of a trail. All that we know is that he came from Hanover, Germany as a young lad about 12 years old, back in 1868. When he came over his father sent him over with another brother and sister and they stayed with friends for a period of time in Freedom Township and then he married a girl from Napoleon area and settled in the Holgate area where he took up the occupation of farming.

C. Almost everybody was a farmer in those days.

L. Mostly farming or very agriculture related.

C. What crops did you grow?

L. Back then it was mostly corn and wheat and of course, they raised their own livestock and feed for that livestock. That was the major crops. At that time soybeans were not grown here. They did raise some oats to feed the livestock also.

C. You had horses, probably?

L. That was the only power until I was about 17 years old. Back then it was all horse power. We did not have a tractor so I drove a lot of teams of horses and broke colts, etc. We had 3 teams of horses.

C. You must have had a lot of land for 3 teams?

L. No, not that much but it took a lot of power when you figure that you only plowed about 2 acres a day.

C. Oh, yes.

L. If they were in good condition and you didn’t cover too much area in a day with a team.

C. Were they pretty good about obeying orders? Did they get tired and just stop in their tracks?

L. Oh, no, you knew your horses and you rested them every so often. You knew your team and vice versa and you would plow across the field, turn around and give them their wind and rest them for a couple of minutes and then you would go back and plow across the field and I recall the farm had a rail fence all around.

C. Who put that in, your father or your grandfather?

L. My grandfather and my father helped with the rails. It went around the entire farm. When it would be cold and you would be plowing you could start a little fire in the fence corner and plow across the field and start a little fire in the other end and keep going.

C. Yes, it would be pretty cold in this area.

L. I plowed in snow.

C. Oh, you did.

L. Yes, if you plowed snow under you would get a good crop of corn. I guess you would have nitrogen in the snow.

C. I suppose like rain, you get nitrogen from that.

L. I loved horses. I liked to break colts and loved to drive teams and horses. I plowed a lot of furrows with horses.

C. How do you break the colts?

L We had a large horse. We called him Old Trusty. He weighed about 2000 pounds. He would just do what you told him and you could tie a colt to him, make it jump around and anything and he would just not pay any attention. He just stood there,

C. Oh, really.

L. Oh, yes. We could use him to break the colts real easy.

C. How did you know when a colt was broken?

L. They were 2 years old when you start to break them. When they start obeying commands you know you were making progress with them. You would say, “Whoa!” or “Get up!” and “Gee!” and “Haw!” or “Stop.” They learned the commands.

C. ‘Gee’ is left and ‘haw’ is right.

L. They had to be talked to. When you told them to stay and stop, to stand there and not run off because once in awhile you had to watch them very close while you were breaking them so that you didn’t get far away.

C. You didn’t want them running off.

L. We did have some runaways a few times.

C. What would happen when they would run away? Would they pull the plow right along with them?

L. Yes, they would. They would take whatever they had. I had one team get away from me and I had one team almost get away from me. Sometimes the harness would get caught and they would tear up the harness and go as fast as they could run. You would get out of the way of them.

C. Would they do that when they got scared, do you think?

L. Sometimes they were spooked by something. You wouldn’t know what it was. You always had to keep and eye as to what was going on around. One time one swarm of bees was going to land on the horses. I had them hitched to the binder and almost had a runaway with four head of horses. Some bees were right over their heads. My father was driving at that time. So you had to watch.

C. So the time when they almost got away from you, how did you get them stopped?

L. They got out of wind. They ran until they couldn’t run any more. They were a very nice team of dapple gray Percheron. I was very small and he said to hold the lines until he would get some gloves and he gave me the lines and just had a double tree on and he no more got into the house and they decided they wanted to go and away they went. They went almost 3/4 mile and they turned and went over to my grandfathers where they stopped.

C. You weren’t trying to hang on. They would be dragging you.

L. No I couldn’t. They were going full speed. But I did have a team when I was husking corn by myself one day in the standing stalks. It was rather windy and the leaves were rattling. I had just got out of the wagon and putting my husker on my hand and I looked and the wagon was starting to move and I just grabbed and caught the back of the wagon and they were going down through that field as fast as they could go already and I got on the wagon and got the lines and they knew they were caught and they stopped. We had to split that team up. They would look at one another and they would run off just like that, so we put them beside another horse and then they were alright but you couldn’t drive them together.

C. That is too bad if you couldn’t trust them.

L. Those were about the only two. They got away from my brother one time with the plow and ran 1/2 mile, that same team.

C. Was he on the wagon?

L. He was plowing with them. That was very dangerous. If they break away from the plow the plow will hit them in the legs and we were lucky the plow didn’t hit them in the legs and cut their legs. Usually they would get away. If you have a hold of the lines they wouldn’t run. They knew that.

C. They watched their chance.

L. Most of them were very good though. We drove a lot of teams. They were good pullers. Some wouldn’t pull very good and some were good pulling horses depending on how hard we had to pull we knew which horses would pull and which ones wouldn’t pull so we would take the team that fit the situation.

C. And you would pick two that would work together.

L. That’s right. We would put two pullers together and sometimes they wouldn’t work together and we couldn’t pull hardly anything with them. We always raised colts.

C. Did you sell the extras?

L. No, not too many times, once in a while. Sometimes maybe, back then, we would trade the horse in for a piece of equipment. The dealer would take horses or cows in the deal. I can remember my dad traded a team in on a, I think, a combine.

C. That was one of the first ones then.

L: Yes that was way back, the first combine we had.

C: Did he go around then to the neighbors and combine for them?

L: Yes, we did. We got less than $2.00 an acre for combining at that time. Now its $25.00 an acre. You could combine maybe 15 acres a day, now they take out hundred. Thats the difference you know.

C: Do they still have those big dinners when they’re combining where women would get together and cook a big dinner?

L: That was in the threshing.

C: Oh, that wasn’t combining.

L: No, that was threshing. That was what they call the threshing ring. It was an area about a circle, so many farmers would get together and they would have a big threshing machine. A couple of farmers would own it and they call that the threshing ring, probably 8 or 10 farmers and they would get together and thresh that circle out and that was when they would have the big dinners, and they were big dinners. Some threshing crews only cooked dinner but in our ring they cooked dinner and supper. It seemed like these ladies would almost try to outdo the neighbor lady.

C: Maybe they were.

L: They would have to ask the day before what they had for dinner and then they would ask the other ladies what they had. The table was just loaded.

C: Is that right. A lot of good stuff.

L: We were hungry when we came in. They had a big wash tub under the tree. Everybody washed up in that same tub and and then you unhook your horses and tie them to the wagon and you would go in and eat supper and tie your team and go home. I can recall when early on in this German settlement about 4 o’clock they would send one person up to Diehl’s brewery and get a little pony keg of beer and that would always be sitting there beside the wash tub. You would have a glass of beer and go in.

C: That would probably taste pretty good.

L: It would really wet up your appetite. That was the custom there. Some of them didn’t do that, though.

C: My mother was president of the WCTU in her area for years. I remember when she came to visit one time I took her downtown. “Why, there’s a saloon on every corner,” she would say.

L: Well, there were only about 20 or more men so you only had about a glass of beer. There wasn’t any drinking during the day because that would be dangerous around the equipment. Grain tenders had to unload the grain wagons and the bundle haulers and you had the pitchers in the field. About 3 pitchers who would take the sheaves and put them up on the wagon.

C: What was a bundle hauler?

L: They drive out to the field to the shocks and the pitchers would take the sheaves and pitch it up on top of the wagon and haul them to the threshing machine. I got pretty good at it. I could load them just as straight as could be. My uncle taught me how to load. They were tied in properly. I enjoyed that.

C: When you got them to the barn would you have one of them forks that would come down and grab one and take it up?

L: No, you had a pitchfork and you drove up along the separator. It had a long trough on it and you would pitch them in there.   That was a conveyor and that would take it into the big separator and that would chew it up and thresh it out.

C: Well you know I’m a city girl and it is hard for me to figure out these things.

L: That was haymaking, too. You used the wagons but each one did their own haymaking. Then you used the slings on the wagons. You laid them down on the wagon and you put hay on them and on the ends you would hook them together and pull them up in the center of the barn and with the rope pull them over and you trip it and then somebody up in the hayloft would spread it out in the mow.

C: I remember seeing those things.

L: That was hay forks and what I’m talking about is hay slings.

C: What’s the difference?

L: The fork is like you said — it would come apart, and it’s the same as slings and the track. It was just a different principle.

C. What did the slings look like?

L. Two ropes about the length of the wagon and then they had little wooden pieces across and they hooked onto those ropes and at the end they were like triangles came to a point and here is where you hooked on and then you pulled that together and hooked on to the center. A team of horses pulled the sling of hay almost to the top of the barn, it was pulled over on a track, then released.

C. And that would pull them up.

L. In the field you would back that wagon up to that loader and you had a web on there that would take the hay up to the wagon and you had to take it away from that loader. It was work. We had a big barn full of hay to feed all the livestock in the winter, the horses plus the cattle. Most every farm had dairy cattle.

C. Now there is a story that the farmers liked to have big families because then the children could help with what needs to be done.

L. There were 7 of us.

C. And that was probably not a big family.

L. In my father’s family there were 13. They helped clear the land because most of the land at that time when my father was little was timber. They had to clear the ground. It wasn’t with chain saws. It was all crosscut. All done by hand. They would clear whole woods off. My father seldom got to go to school. They got to go to school when the weather was bad and they couldn’t work outside. My father got to the 5th grade. All those children helped to clear that ground.

C. How did they get the roots of the trees out? That must have beer a terrible job.

L. Trees were cut down and logs taken out. I used to help my father dynamite stumps. You would have a big stump and you had what they called a dynamite auger, probably 4 ft. long, about 2 inches around. You would auger under that stump, take a stick of dynamite and put it in there. Maybe if the stump was big enough you would put 2 sticks in and put a cap on it with wire and when it touched off it would blow that stump out.

C. Lit it and ran like crazy.

L. You could buy dynamite at most any hardware store.

C. You would think that would be dangerous.

L. It wasn’t dangerous until you put the cap on.

C. What did the cap look like?

L. You wired it just like a firecracker and that would touch the dynamite off.

C. And then you would light that little fuse?

L. Depending how fast you wanted to run that’s how long you made the wire you put on. They used dynamite a lot, to move foundations or whatever they wanted that’s how they would do it. I saw them move concrete foundations with it. That was something. I helped break up a field the first time it was plowed. Sometimes those roots from a big tree would be out and you’d plow there with your team and the plow would get stuck in those roots and it was a job getting it out of there. You’d tell your team to pull and sometimes they would pull and sometimes you had to go over it and get it out later with an axe.

C. And then all they would have to do is shovel the pieces out.

L. They could take a plow or scoop scraper and fill that hole and in a year or two that field would be level.

C. Did you have any orchards or fruit trees?

L. Oh, yes, that’s one of the first things my grandfather would do. He had several farms, in fact, he gave each one of his children an 80 acre farm. He was quite a successful farmer and that’s the first thing he would do, to plant an orchard. I think ours probably had 40 trees, different varieties of apples and pears and a grape arbor in there. On every farm he would always do that.

C. John Henry at Ridgeville said he remembers taking a load of apples to Pettisville and it would take all day.

L. Yes, we would always get cider. We had a big wooden barrel and then you let it set and it would turn into vinegar. That’s where you get your vinegar.

C. And then you would use that in cooking.

L. And sometimes to keep the produce in the Fall my uncle would put some straw down on the ground and put the apples on the straw and carrots and cabbage he would put the head down and then he would put straw on top of that, cover it real deep with straw and cover that with soil and that would keep those apples during the winter from freezing. I remember going out there in the winter and getting some apples.

C. Isn’t that something.

L. He would put about 20 bushels of apples in there. It’s almost like an above ground cellar.

C. That would have been important in those days when you couldn’t run into the grocery store.

L. We did our own butchering. We always raised our own meat. We had chickens, about 50-50 roosters and hens. We would eat those until they were pretty good size and then we would sell the roosters, keeping the pullets for laying eggs.

C. Is that what they would use for stewing?

L. Yes, when they get big you use them for stewing, but when they were about 2 pounds they were good. It took about 4 for a meal. I always got the chicken to butcher.

C. How did you catch them? Did you just run faster then they did?

L We had a wire about 4 ft. long. It had a hook on the end and you would reach out there and get a group in the chicken house and you could reach over and hook it onto their legs and it would pull them right back.

L We lived about 1/4 mile from the Kelley School so we all walked to school. We didn’t have any dinner pails and mother always had dinner ready and we always had a good meal at noon. I went to this country school all 8 years. On the last day of school we always had a school picnic and all the parents would come. We had games we played, races for the adults. We also had a PTA and once a month they met and they usually had some entertainment of some sort.

C. Did the children go to the PTA meetings?

L. Yes, the school would be so packed and some of the time they would have hot dogs. We didn’t have much pop in those days. I could hear the school bell ring at home and then I would make that 1/4 mile just as the teacher was ready to take attendance.

I loved to husk corn and my mother husked corn also. My dad had one team and my mother would follow with her team. I became a pretty good corn husker. By the time I was in high school I was the Henry County champion when I was a senior.

C. Oh, is that right. How did they decide that? Did they have a contest?

L. Yes, they had contests.

C. Where? At the fairgrounds?

L. At different farms. One year at the Lange farm near Okolona. In my junior year we husked on that farm and I husked in the shocks. On my junior year I took second. They had contests and took the best out of each school and we would compete. The next year we husked on the Vocke farm south of Napoleon. That year I took 1st place.

C. What did they give you for being in 1st place?

L. I got 25 Barred Rock chickens as a gift from a local hatchery.

C. That was pretty nice. That was a good practical prize.

L. I got my picture in the paper. I still have my husker here. I still like to husk.

C. What did the husker look like?

L. A strap around your wrist and across your hand and it had a hook in here. Hook that husk and break it like that. One move if you were husking for speed. You had to go real fast. Here’s my husker.

C. Oh, I see. Leather goes around the hand. That would only take off one row, wouldn’t it?

L. You take the ear with your hand like this and you just come across and it would take that out. Just snap it off like this.

C. It would take all the kernels off. Oh no, just the husk.

L. The ear would be left. You just keep it sharp and take the husk off and it pulls it right off the shank.

C. That’s a great artifact to keep for your grandchildren, etc.

L. I always had in mind to husk in the state contest. I went to Sandusky several times to the state contest. I would time how many ears they were throwing per minute. I came home and I could still have been in there but I never went back down.

C. Didn’t you have the time or something?

L. They never advertised it much and I didn’t know just when it was but I could have been in there because I was right at the speed they were. With a little practice if I had known I was going in, because if you’re running full speed you’re going as fast as you can possibly go. You had to be in condition. I always enjoyed husking corn.

C. What about corn shelling? Who would do that?

L. You shoveled it out of the crib and took it to the elevator and they shelled it. We didn’t have shellers back then. You hauled all the corn to the local elevator. Ours was in Stanley. They had a big sheller and they shelled it. Sometimes we brought back a load of corncobs and that was to start the fire in the cookstove.

C. Yes, those corncobs make a hot fire.

L. There again we had our own fuel. In the depression there wasn’t any money to buy coal so we worked in the woods. During Christmas vacation mother would say, “Take the boys to the woods.” There were 4 boys in our house. We would make wood with the crosscut and get a good workout. We put it on a pile, then get a buzzsaw and sawed it into wood. You went around various places in the woods where the trees were down and you cut to clean it up. Then you had to take what you call a mudboat and put a team on it. They had two runners and you put your team on that and then you put your poles on that and haul it up to a pile. That might be six feet tall and about as long as you wanted it. Then you got a buzz saw and you usually got a neighbor or two and with that crew together you would saw them up and that was our fuel. We didn’t have coal. We personally raised a big garden. I remember in our basement there were about 600 quarts of food in cans. The potato bin would be full.

C. With 7 children and 2 adults they had to have a lot of food.

L. They had those big crocks and they had the meat fried down. They put the meat in and covered it with lard and that would preserve it. The beef would be cooked, cut in chunks and put in cans and that would be put on the shelf.

C. When you took a piece of meat out wouldn’t you break that lard cover and it would spoil more quickly?

L. No, you take what you wanted and it preserved alright. That was sausage and side meat.

C. Did you do your own butchering? Did you have mostly pork or beef?

L. Basically the most we butchered was pork. Occassionally a couple of neighbors would get together and we would butcher a beef and we would split it. We didn’t have any way of preserving it that much and you would get just what you needed at the time. I can recall butchering lamb and take the pelts and cut them and dry them and use them on those old steel seats on the implements and it rode a lot better on those seats.

C. Oh yes, those are thick.

L. You could never let that set out in the rain because if they got soaked they would stay soaked so you always had to take it off when a storm was coming up.

C. When you butchered did the girls work and help too?

L. As we got old enough we were taught how to do it. After we got married I butchered beef. I butchered all alone. I love to butcher. I have my butcher knife here. We would make the sausage. We would fry down the pork and render the lard and then they would make soap the next day. You put red seal lye in the vat and that would be your soap. Add a little ashes and that would be your soap.

C. Did they use regular ashes?

L. Yes. Some of them probably didn’t. They would take this big kettle, put your fat in there and cook it and pour red seal lye in it.

C. Oh, I see. You buy your red seal lye.

L. Yes, just 2 cans and you would let that set overnight and then you could cut it in chunks.

C. I still have a little piece of soap that I made. That would really get the clothes clean if you would scrub hard enough with it.

L. On butchering day we would try to get a day when it was really cold and there would be snow and you could take the liver out and lay it in the snow and cool it real quick and have liver for dinner. We didn’t have electricity on the farm. We couldn’t get it. There wasn’t any around. Until I was a senior in high school and until I graduated I still did my work with a kerosene light. Then they got REA to come and the neighbors all got together and they got the station to come in and they put a line in. I never liked studying under the old keresone light and early on we didn’t have a radio and later my father purchased a battery radio and I remember eating supper and everybody got cleaned up and we all got in by the radio and you could only use it about an hour and we listened to the news and Tom Mix, the Lone Ranger and Amos and Andy. That was our 3 programs. Then we turned the radio off because you didn’t want to run that battery down.

C. Was there any way you could charge it?

L. We had to take it to town. That was the reason we only had it on for a short time a day to make it last as long as it could.

C. Do you remember when you first had a telephone?

L We didn’t have a telephone. I never talked on the telephone until I got into the service. My uncle had a phone and if we needed to phone we would go there. It was only about a mile. When we married we didn’t have a phone. We would go to the neighbors and I would use his phone, paying 10 cents a call.

C. What do you remember about your first car?

L. At home we had a Model T. I never got to drive it but my brother who was 2 years older – my birthday is the same day as his – would drive. My uncle came over and my father and mother went some place with him and my brother said, “Let’s take that automobile for a spin.” He could barely see over the steering wheel. He wasn’t very old so he drove back into the farm. That was a Model T. It only had 3 pedals on it.

C. What did you do, drive it in the field?

L. No, we had a lane. That was my first experience I can remember. I can remember going into town with that old Model T. We didn’t have any antifreeze at that time and dad had to put water in the radiator and when we would get home he had to drain the radiator. We would go to town once a week and that was as far as the car was ever drove. Sometimes we would take a lantern along and that would be our heater. It didn’t have a heater. We would take blankets along.

C. You were probably used to that from the buggies.

L. I can remember going into town, going in and buying a loaf of bread and a pound of bologna for probably 30 cents and eat the sandwich in the car. Once in awhile we got a quart of ice cream and we would take it home and my father would line us up and we each got a little.

C. Did you ever make your own ice cream?

L. No, we never had a freezer. The ice was the problem. We didn’t have an ice house. Some of them did. My aunt made ice cream. I remember going up to North Creek and getting ice.

C. It took a long time, all that cranking.

L. We always loved the outdoors, too. We had horses and when it was wet we couldn’t work on the fields and my father always liked the outdoors. He would say, “Who wants to go fishing?” I would be right there. I would dig some worms and we would go fishing. Stick a can of pork & beans in our back pocket and we would fish all day. We had the can of beans and we’d take a spoon along and fish all day.

C. Did you catch much?

L. Oh, yes.

C. What kind of fish did you catch?

L. We caught a variety, bullhead, catfish, red horse and that is basically what it was.

C. What was red horse?

L. It was like a sucker and they got big and boney. I enjoyed that and then in the Fall we would always go coon hunting. We always had a coon dog. My wife never liked coon dogs but I had a coon dog when we got married. She always said she’d never marry a coon hunter but I didn’t tell her I had a coon dog. The first year we lived over by Hoytville across from the experiment farm and I had my coon dog and I said,”Do you want to go coon hunting?” and she said, “No not really.”

She was afraid to stay home alone and so she didn’t have too much choice and she got ready and we walked about 1 mile and I looked out to the west and it started lightning and the dog started to track and we got 2 and by that time it started to thunder and lightning and pour down rain and we had to walk the whole way back and when we got back I said, “Now wasn’t that fun.” That was the last time she went coon hunting. She didn’t care about fishing. We went up in Canada and went fishing. We took our trailer and we sat in the boat and it was kind of still. The fish weren’t biting too good. And I said,”Now isn’t this fun?” She said, “I would rather sit on the bank reading a book. If you want to fish you go fishing.” I made about 25 trips up to Canada to go fishing. We would go on a pontoon plane back in the bush. I’ve always loved the outdoors. I had a coon dog for fifty years.

C. You had to take care of the coon dog yourself, I suppose.

L Oh yes, I remember the first one I sent for from Missouri. It came in at the depot on the other end of Defiance. It was just a little puppy. I paid quite a bit for it at that time. She said, “You mean that dog is worth that kind of money?” And I said, “Just wait until you hear her bark!” That turned out to be the best coon dog I ever had. Just a wonderful dog, a registered walker. She could almost talk your language. I enjoyed that dog so much.

C. We had a beagle when we lived in this area and that dog would chase up a rabbit once in awhile and they had this fence by the West School, that was where we lived and he chased that rabbit all around the school but he was always behind, he never caught up with it. You’d think he would catch that rabbit and then I found out they are trained to stay behind.

L. That rabbit will get the speed of that dog and then he will stay just so far ahead of it. Same way with fox hunting. I hunted fox a lot. I spent years and years fox hunting. The fox would get going and that fox would go about once around the woods and then he would know the speed of that dog and then he would keep just so far ahead of that dog. About the third time around that woods and they’d run the same path, even the same tracks sometimes. About the third time we would position ourselves in that circle and get that fox every time.

C. Did you ever use that fox fur for anything?

L. No, at that time there was a $5.00 bounty on them.

C. And they kill chickens.

L. And they also destroyed the rabbits. Towards Spring we had what we called a fox party. We’d go to Toledo and get about 30 lbs. of Lake Erie perch. The ladies would make the salads. The food had nothing to do with fox, we just called it a fox party as they were all fox hunters.

C. Did you ever make maple syrup?

L. No, we made apple butter at home and we always had plenty of honey. My grandpa had about 50 swarm of bees. My dad always took care of them and I’d always help him. I ran the smoker and then we’d always get 5 gallons of honey.

C. Five gallons is a lot of honey.

L. Yes, but it would be gone by year’s end. My mother used it for cooking and we made taffy and I still use it. I take honey every day. I take a spoon of honey every night before I go to bed. I still like it. We have probably 30 swarms now out on the farm to pollinate the berries.

C. Is that the Leaders farm where there are strawberries ?. Is that your son?

L. Yes.

C. That’s a big farm.

L. Yes, they had about 7 acres of strawberries this year.

C. Now if they can hit it just right with the weather.

L. That’s the thing.

C. Well, they say farmers are always gamblers. You have to be.

L. Yes, if you want to be a farmer. And you have to have faith.

C. Yes, that would be important.

L. I always expect a harvest. We never did have a complete failure.

This is a continuation of an earlier taping of my story. If I repeat, please bear with me.

When I was born there were many log cabins in the area. I was born in one and it was the year a new house was being built. It is a shame no one had a camera in those days so could have had a picture of the cabin.

As for roads – they were mostly gravel and a lot of mud roads. Each spring the township would hire a farmer with a big team of horses to pull the grader to smooth out the roads. Over the winter the road would have a lot of ruts, etc. There were no snow plows in those days and one either had to shovel snow by hand or stay home. I guess we should have had a sleigh for those times.

When I was little there were few airplanes and it was a special treat whenever we heard one. The whole family would run out in the yard and watch it until it got out of sight. These were very small single engine airplanes with two wings. There were no passenger or freight airplanes. The top speed of these small planes was probably 80 mph.

There was very little traveling done — perhaps just to go to the nearest town for supplies and on Sundays for church services. We did try to go to the zoo each summer. We would get up very early, and with a lantern do the chores. Mother would prepare a picnic lunch. At noon we would spread a blanket under a tree and eat our lunch. Travel was not easy and we would probably have a flat or two on the way and return.

The Henry County Fair was a highlight of the summer too. Once again, mother would pack us a picnic for our lunch as there were few lunch stands and with limited resources it was cheaper to bring our own. We usually got a quarter to spend as we saw fit.

Some Sunday afternoons Dad would take us for a drive to places he wanted to see. Also, Sundays were for visiting relatives or neighbors — a ritual that has gone by the wayside today in our society.

We did get to the Ringling Brothers Circus in Defiance sometimes. It was north of the college across from where the mall is today. A huge tent was set up for the show. As I remember when I was about 10 I got to ride an elephant, and what a thrill that was! One time the circus was there it was very wet and rainy so that they had to harness the elephants to pull out their equipment, etc. That was quite interesting for me as a little boy to watch.

Threshing was a big day for everyone. The womenen would have a very busy, hot day as all the cooking was done on a cook stove. At noon the crew of probably twenty men and boys would come in for dinner – washing up in a tub set outside before. They served both dinner and supper. As there were no thermos jugs everyone had a large, crockery jug that was wrapped in burlap and tied with twine and then soaked in water which kept the water cool. It was one of the little boy’s job to take these to the bundle pitchers in the field and I am sure was much appreciated doing that hot job.

Yes, even in those days, we had a lot of recreation, but it was all home made. There was no money spent for toys or recreational things. We played a lot of games, hide and seek, tag, handi I over [sic], Red Rover, marbles, jacks, baseball. In the winter it was fox and geese, taffy pulls and the making of popcorn balls. We also played a lot of card games and dominos and other board games. As for toys — these were usually home made. We never had a bicycle and so never learned to ride one. Since we did not live near any body of water, other than a small ditch, we never ice skated or had a pair of skates.

As I probably mentioned before, we did not have any electricity until after I was out of high school. All my studying was done by kerosene lamps. There was no running water as we had no motors without electricity. When one did not have all the conveniences we have today, we did not miss them.

There was no need for much money. Most of our food was raised, meat was furnished by the livestock we raised and butchering day was a big day on the farm. There were several cows for our milk and chickens were raised both for meat and eggs. By winter the basement was filled with canned goods and the meat was either smoked or canned. Wheat was taken to the mill to be made into flour and sugar was made from the sugar beets we raised.

Most of our clothes were hand-made and everything was always handed down to the next child. We always went barefoot every summer and it was hard to get used to shoes when we went hack to school.

Movies were 10 cents and were silent so that you have to go with any older sibling so that they could read the captions for you. I am sure we did not go to many movies.

A doctor was very seldom called, but if we did, we went to a neighbor to call. We did not have a telephone while I was growing up. My first experience with one was when 1 was in service and had to call home when I came home on a furlough to be picked up at a train in Deshler. That was a learning experience. Doctors always came to the homes and usually charged one or two dollars per visit. All us children were born at home. An aunt stayed with our family whenever there was a birth as mothers were not allowed to be up for a week or ten days. I weighed only 3 pounds and my father said l could have fit in a shoe box. There were no incubators or preemie accommodations then.

There was a man who lived near our school building who ran a still. I can still remember seeing the sheriff coming to raid the place and chasing the man across the field and shooting at him. While the sheriff was doing that, the moonshine was being collected by local neighbors and taken away.

Grau, Lavon and Helen

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, Holgate, Ohio, October 21, 2002

C. Mr. Grau, you started telling me a really good story. Do you want to continue and tell that story again?

L. Back in 1928 what happened to start it all Defiance was making a big hoo-do about an ethanol plant up in Hicksville. OK-uh-that’s nothing new. In 1948 there was a lot of ethanol plants around New Bavaria but at that time they didn’t call ’em ethanol, they called ’em stills. And every Sunday afternoon we’d have a ball game and we’d go to a ball game and if you wuz fortunate and had a nickel you’d buy a bottle of Coke. And if you wuz fortunate and still had a dime left you could get a highball. They would open the Coke, pour out and fill it with Moonshine. They called it White Lightning or Moonshine. And I said later on Defiance said they had to get so many sightings in the plant to ship the ethanol to the east. Well, times were tough and everything and they had the CCC , the Civilian Conservation Corps. (phone interrupts)

C. You said they were sending fellows to the west?

L. No. They were sending– people from around here was all goin’ west: Washington, Oregon, all that. I thought that’d be a good thing to see the west so I joined the CCC’s and Sheriff Bartels hauled us to Toledo. There was myself, a few from Florida and a few from Napoleon, so we got on a train, went to Ft. Knox, Kentucky. In two weeks they was issued all World War I uniforms, that is, fatigues. They didn’t everything so I was fortunate. I was put on KP duty at night. I had to see that fires under the 50-gallon barrels of water was kept so they could wash their dishes in the morning. Our uniforms was World War I uniforms so we spent two weeks at Ft. Knox. It was all under Army regulations and they loaded us up, put us on a train. I thought, “Boy, I’ll get to go to the west coast.”

C. Get to travel, right?

L. Well, I went to sleep. In the morning the conductor woke us up and said, “You’re close to your destination. If you look out you can see the tower.” Cleveland tower, 135 miles from home. ( laughs) So they unloaded us, took us to a new camp in South Euclid. OK, there was a all new, had three barracks for the men. They had a mess hall, had a hall for the Army personnel to live and a doctor’s office. Well, when we got there there was a big pile of cinders on the parade ground and when I signed up I signed up for truck driver cause that’s what I was when I was 16, 17 years old. And they finally said-uh-“All truck drivers step forward.” I thought there was a nigger in the woodpile somewhere so I didn’t step forward. A bunch of ‘ern all stepped forward. The Sergeant said, “Follow me.” He took ‘ern all to the supply canteen and they all came back with wheelbarrows and shovels. These cinders was all from the light plant out of Cleveland. So they’d hauled that and scattered it around in paint drums, and three days later they come and see me. The said, “You signed up for a truck driver? Well, we’re goin’ to Akron to get some trucks.” So they was three of us, they took us to Akron. We got three trucks and-uh-brought ‘ern back and I thought I was to do Akron work but they worked us in the Cleveland Metropolitan Park area. And-uh-so we had a party boss and I got in pretty good with him so all I had to do was haul the men to work, come back and get the food, take it out and they ate and we took it back. Then we was done for awhile, come back and set around awhile until it was time to bring ‘ern back from work. We was making trails, cuttin’ trails, walk paths for people to walk through the Metropolitan area and we made bridges across the ditches. And we’d cut the wood in [blank space] cut the logs, put the logs down, then put logs on top of it across them, then fill it up with dirt so they had a place to walk. Then my boss come to me and he said, “Can you string a three-wheel block and tackle?” I said, “Well yeah but you gotta get me two men.” So he gave me two men and I tied one end of the block to one tree and the other end to the other tree and at that time you didn’t have any plans or anything. You had to know how to grade em. So he’d grade ’em and I strung ‘ern and that put me pretty good with him, see, so about every month I could get a three-day pass and Friday nights I thumbed my way to Holgate. And-uh Herb Bartels picked me up at the Henry County line one time and he said, “I hauled you out of the county and now I gotta haul you back.”

Well anyway the whole thing goes back to the-a-I got $30.00 a month, board and room. $25 was sent home to my mother. My father was passed away so that left me with five bucks, so I got two canteen books which was a dollar apiece and I was left with three dollars, and so that’s what we lived on.

C. Five dollars for a month.

L. That’s what we got for the month and when the canteen book was gone you was out of luck for the rest of the month. You didn’t have any money. So I got in good with the cook so anytime I wanted anything to eat I’d go see the cook and get it myself. ( laughs)

C. You probably got the best stuff too. ( laughs)

L. Yeah. Anyway it was a wonderful trip and I spent two years, ’32 & ’33 in there and then you had to come out. When you’d spent 18 months there you had to get out.

C. That was right in the depths of the depression wasn’t it?

L. That was in ’32 & ’33. So a lot of times I’d get home Friday night but a lot of times I didn’t get home till Saturday morning. And I walked a lot of times from Napoleon to Holgate and …

C. A pretty good walk!

L. Yeah, cause sometimes I couldn’t bum a ride. ( laughs) So then when I came back they said all truck drivers had to work same as the rest of the men. He said, “Do you know how to sharpen an axe?” I said, “Sure. I done it at home when I was a kid.” So, he give me a whetstone and I kept the axes and scythes sharpened and that’s all I had to do. Anything else?

C. Oh, that sounds great.

L. I don’t know what the camp number is ’cause I got my discharge in my wife’s cedar chest. But anyway, I took my wife to the hospital one time. But let’s start over.

C. O.K.

L. I met her, had a few dates, got married in 1938 and so at that time I drove semis, I done everything. I had no schooling. At that time you had A ,B,C,D & F for your grades. Too many F’s , and too many D’s, you stayed put. And I failed the 8th grade. I went to the Superintendant and said, “You give me a workin’ permit.” He said, “You’re not 16 yet.” So I said, “I’ll come to school in September. I’ll set there and look out the window until the last of January.

C. Isn’t that awful?

L. I said, “That’s my birthday.” I’ll be 16 and I said “If that’s what you want that’s what you’ll get.” So he said, “If that’s the case I’ll give you a work permit.” So then I got a work permit. I drove trucks before I went to the CCC’s. That’s why I put myself in as a truck driver. So then when I come out I worked on the WPA for a little while yet. I got a dollar a day. You think times are tough now. Back there [blank space]. So, we’ve been married for 64 years and-uh-good Lord willin’ I’ll be 91.

C. Is that right, yeah. So you’ve had a happy marriage all these years. How many years did you say?

L. 64.

H. 65 in February.

C. What was that wedding like?

H. We didn’t have one. We just went to the Rector and got married. It was a 10-cent show.

L. So when we got married I was making $12.00 a week–60 hours. Then the boss, the man I was working for felt sorry and he give me $3.00 more, so I was making $18.00 a week.

H. The three of us lived on that.

L. The three of us lived on that, my mother-in-law, her and myself That’s what we lived on.

H. Not too much. ( laughs)

L. Nowadays I don’t think there’s any school in Henry County or any other that fails any kids. They push ’em all along. And then the kids today, when they leave ‘ern out of school they don’t know what it’s all about. Now they’re holdin’ `em back, or they’re not holdin’ em back, they’re lettin ’em graduate but they don’t give them any diplomas. So I was self-taught. I was a welder trade; I was a carpenter and- a you name it, I’ll take it.

C. What other memories do you have of the Depression, when nobody had money?

L. We got along. When I was young I went out and worked for a farmer a dollar a day with board and room.

C. That was hard.

L. Yeah. The days it rained you took care of the livestock, cleaned out the stalls, curried the horses, done all that then you didn’t get paid for that day. That was for your board and room.

C. Wow!

B. His employers were relation. He didn’t like it.

L. That’s the way it is.

C. But you know , so many younger people now are afraid that we’ll go into a depression. They’re very much afraid of it. I don’t think it was all that bad.

B. They don’t live like we did. They require too much when they first get married.

L. Trouble with people today is, the men work at GM. What they gonna do? Turn that thing off

C. What did you say you got started making these things. You say you made this lamp?

L. I made the shade. Let’s back up. I was a mechanic, a self4aught mechanic and the man I worked for when we got married owned the school buses.            We worked on school buses. They was all owned privately and the man I worked for owned all Holgate and Hamler school buses. So I took care of the buses, serviced them and if they needed a valve-grind job I gave ’em a valve grind job. Anything they needed I repaired it, self-taught. And-uh-if a kid on a bus got unruly I’d open the door and said, “Walk.” They got out and walked. I was the boss when I drove the school bus. And I drove a different route every day so I knew what was goin’ on with the school bus. Then if Hamler had a bad one the man I worked for took me to Hamler, I picked the bus up, repaired it, took it back. Y’know how I got home? When I got done working 1 walked the five mile back to Holgate.

C. Is that right?

L. So, when I worked in the blacksmith’s shopand they had an explosion I lost my left leg. So I got an artificial one, went back to work. Then I couldn’t do blacksmith work no more so I went to work repairing refrigerators, stoves, and I went in the implement business for Ray Kohl. At that time Kohl had two, three boys and they wanted me to start shuffling serial numbers just because the sheriff over at Napoleon had a washer and it was over a year old and he wanted me to use somebody else’s name so he could get it done free. So I said, “That’s it.” I quit. Had no job, no sight of any and at that time my boy was just young and he had the chicken pox so I stayed home. She was workin’ in Ottawa, Pennsylvania Electric, the picture tube plant. So she went to work to help us out.

C. Oh, so you were a stay-at-home father for a while.

B. Couple weeks ‘s all.

L. Couple weeks. I went out to start on a job. I went over to Clevite, over in Napoleon, and-uh-no job. So I went from there to Malinta to that factory that was a welding shop, welding chains and stuff like that. And he said the best he could was give me six weeks’ work but I didn’t want that so I went to Ottawa to the picture-tube plant and applied for a job. The next day they called me to work. I worked there for 22 years and in the meantime I was doin’ carpenter work t’home, buildin’ cabinets, takin’ care of things, self-taught. Nobody showed me anything, so I worked there 22 years and then I retired and I just started making odds and ends, yard ornaments, whatever I wanted to make.

B. Tell what you made in the house.

C. Yeah, what else did you make?

L. See that thing that sits on top there? The bottom of it I got from Sauders. And Sauders

wanted something that would hold 40 tapes There’s not a nail in it. It’s all glued together.

B. He made me a …

L. I made that thing there. It has 32 lights in it.

C. Oh it lights up.L Turn that on. I took her to the hospital over to Paulding.

C. Why?

L. She has a pacemaker. So anyway I had to take her over there and I seen in the paper where a man from Sherwood had an article where he worked into TP’s so I came back from there, cut through Sherwood. I stopped and I said, “Is this man still livin’?” She said, “Yes” and she told me where he was so I went out and talked to him for quite a while and he helped build starter houses

C. In Napoleon?

L. No. In Florida at Independence Dam.

C. Oh in Defiance.

L. In Defiance, see. And he worked in CCC. He was in Defiance but where the camp was I don’t know. So he give me a magazine. I don’t know where it is. I’ve got it in a box. But

there’s this outfit in St. Louis prints this.

C. That’d be interesting.

L. Well, I’ll dig it out sometime and let you know. I don’t know if he’s livin’ anymore but he was about the same age I was.

C. Well you know the CCC did a lot. In Napoleon they built that shelter house; they dug the swimming pool. I don’t know what else they did. Do you know what they did?

L. Well there was a WPA too, and then there was another one. I forgot the name of it but they was three different ones. Now here in Holgate I worked on the WPA when I came back out and-a part time and-a-either before I went to CCC or afterward, I don’t know but we dug up tile, drain, sewers you know, cleaned ’em, put ‘ern back in and covered ‘ern up. Then the town was appropriated a lot of money and what they done, they put stone in all the alleys. We dug ’em up and put stone in, y’see. They were all grass, wasn’t worth a nickel. Hamler, they put the water lines in. They used their money to put water lines in.

C. Holgate didn’t have water lines?

L. We had, oh yeah. They’ve had water lines in here about a hundred years. They just took the cast iron line outa here a couple years ago. I fought with the town. They came as far as-uh-well when they put the sewer in, the sanitary sewer, they had to run a water line here clear out to the corporation. They run a 6″ out there. Then they come as far as here, then they came to the lumber company and stopped. This was 700 feet that they hadn’t put in. Well, our water was rusty and I raised cain and I went to Council and raised Hell and well, I done everything (laughs) and I said, “You done it all over. I will not pay my bill on water no more until you put a new water line in.” Just like they’re havin’ trouble in Defiance, well anyway, they’re doin’ the same thing. They’re replacin’ these cast iron lines in here. That was a 4″ pipe here and there wasn’t a hole any bigger than this here. It was all rusted out. Anyway, they put in a new one and at that time I put new water line, new sewer lines and everything under the house.

C. You did that?

L. No, I had it done. We done it see, and so I had it hooked into the new one, see, and so …

H. Before you had to be so careful–the neighbor lady she come over and she said, “How can I get it out? I don’t know.”

C. Oh, rust, yeah.

L. While I was workin’ in Toledo Electric they just sold out to GenT&E. So when we finished that out well then I retired in 1975. I was 63 and I said, ‘Well, I’m gonna retire instead of workin’two more years. I won’t lose that much money till Social Security. Well, ’75, look what it is today so I didn’t lose any money at all. ( laughs) So then I was doin’ cabinet work while I was workin on this house. It was all all self-taught, see?

C. That’s right, that’s what hard times will do for you. It forces you to use ingenuity. H. My Dad was a carpenter.

C. Oh he was.

L. I learned when I was a kid. As a matter of fact I’ve got his tool box out in my shed right now, that he had when he was a carpenter. He worked on the railroad, so I got a job on the railroad.

C. What did you do?

L. Section hand. At that time we had two railroads, two sections for each direction. Four men and a boy and we done it all by hand.

C. What did you do?

L. Well, tamped, changed ties, cut weeks, done everything there was to keep the railroad running. At that time it was steam engines, nothing but steam engines, so I worked on there about a month and a half. There was a fellow that worked out here, Ed Kopf was his name, and he opened his pail. He had his cake and fruit, pie, everything on top and underneath he had his sandwiches and everything, you know .. I said, “How’s come you eat that cake and stuff first?”

L. He laughed and said, “Well, if I get full before I’ve eat my sandwich I’ve eat the best.” ( laughs) Well anyway, I worked on there and I finally said, “Well, all this needs is a strong back and a weak mind.” So that’s when I become a mechanic, repair farm machinery, stuff like that. And I taught myself to electric weld, acelatene weld, stuff like that.

H. When the war was on he was

C. Oh and he too care of the plowshares, and the different tools.

L. Then they came out with steel blade for plowshares. They had steel and they had cast iron. We’d just weld a new blade on it, put on a new one put a new point on and that stuff. We’d grind ‘ern up and it was hard work.

C. Did you weld at Gilson Screen in Malinta?

L. That’s where I was goin’ to go and I can’t think of the name, was it Hall? Was wounded. Well anyway, that’s the one that could only give me six months’ work.

C. Oh yeah.

L. So I left the mechanic route. I drove semi for awhile and-uh-I got $25.00 a week drivin’ semi and 1 took $12.50 out of the expense money. The boss’d send her a check for $12.50 and that’s what we lived on, for a week. I left, what was it, before Thanksgivin’ and never got home till New Years”?

C. Do you mean the truck drivers had to stay away that long?

L. It was–they had brokers, see, and this semi was only 18 feet long, single-axle trailer, see, so I hauled beef from Chicago to Louisville and when I got to Louisville I didn’t have no way of gettin’ back so I went to another company, threw the keys on the desk and told ’em I wanted a load for Chicago. They loaded it up with whiskey and I drove it back to Gary, Indiana, and instead of dead-headin’ I got $4.50 to pay the gas comin’ back. Now do you think times wasn’t tough?

C. So you got to stop home then on your way to Chicago.

H. No! He had to go on.

L. Then I’d get to Cleveland, well I went to Buffalo one trip and-uh-so I hadn’t smoked. I didn’t smoke when we got married. So I broke down in Marl , Ohio by the Ohio River and no place to go and I was nervous and everything else so I bought a pack of cigarettes. No show to go to and had a couple drinks but not much money to pay for them. So that’s how I started smokin’ again. That lasted till ’84 when I went over to a hypnotist over in Napoleon–can’t say his name–but anyway, when I got done I said, “How much do I owe you?” He said, “$60.00” So I paid him $60.00 and I came home and I told her, I said-uh-‘Do this for another 60 bucks, I can’t afford that’ so I just quit right now and that was in ’84 I quit smokin and I quit drinkin’, so I never went to the bar, only on Saturday when we got our check. I’d go to the bar up there. I’d get my check cashed, have a couple drinks and come home. At that time my son, he bought me a case of Kessler’s he bought in Indiana, whiskey, and he brought it back and give it to me. I said, “Why I’ve quit drinkin’.” He said, “That’s a hell of a time to stop.” So I said, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll get rid of it.” And my nephew down here, he works at the Northwestern Fire Dept., see, so I told “Mike,” I said, “I’ve got a case of whiskey. Do you want to pay me for it and auction it off for [blank space] and so I got the money that my son paid for it in Indiana; they raffled it off and got twice as much as he paid for it. It depends on how you work it, see?

H. We never wished for anything. When he’d get home from work why he’d have a—you know–a drink here.

L. I’d go out there in the kitchen and drink it. I have a bottle of Kessler’s that’s still settin’ there and it’s never been touched since I quit. My grandson has a drink out of it every once in a while. But anyway to go back to that-uh-Ethonol where I told you this guy was. He was in an hamburger joint, I was in the CC’s, and he asked me where Holgate was and I told him. He says, “Do you know where Dover is? It’s within six miles of you. I get all my whiskey there.” So we wuz into the business long before this. So I’ve had a pretty good life.

C. I can tell you people have had a happy marriage because you’re pretty contented.

L. Oh we get into arguments.

C. Oh yeah. You gotta have an argument once in a while to keep things interesting.

H. [Blank space]

C. So how did you live when you were first married and you didn’t have any money? How did you manage?

H. Well we only had to pay $8.00

L. The rent. How much do you think our rent was? C. I don’t know.

L. $5.00.

H. No, $8.00.

L. And lights: you had one hangin’ in the middle of the room with a chain on it and her parents, well the first year we lived together with my mother. Then we moved out and got a place here in town, Detter’s was the name, wasn’t it, and no water. We had to carry water by hand from the pump outside.

H. Had to haul water in a wagon from his aunt’s over to our place to do a washin’. There was a cistern there and .. .

C. How far was that?

H. We used the cistern for some things but it wasn’t no good. C. How far was that you had to carry it?

L. Three blocks.

C. Three blocks?

L. Yeah, about 1500 feet.

C. That’s a long way, carryin’ water.

L. We het water on the stove to do the washin’, and we had a tub and a warshboard.

H. It wasn’t very long we did that. Cause you wanted a radio for the living room, I said, “O.K. If you can afford a radio I can buy a used washer.” I went up there, [blank] had some at the Hardware there. There was a store washer on sale for fifteen bucks. I bought it and I used that for four or five years until I got a new one.

C. $15.00. My!

H. Yeah. And he got his radio.

L. I paid five dollars for the radio.

H. He paid fifteen dollars for the radio unless you lied to me. ( laughs)

L. Well anyway I could go out there and get you a book and show you everything we bought from the day we was married. That sounds crazy, don’t it. And I bought this house in ’54. I was workin’ in the   and this man. They had an old man and they’d talk German and Henry Schweibert, they lived out east of here, well Rd. 10 and on down a half a mile, then across the railroad track and then back across the railroad track in the way and-uh-I told him one time I said, “Henry, you’ve lived here all your life, the biggest share of it. Can’t you talk English? You’ve talked Dutch and I don’t hear a damn word you say.” ( laughs) Well, when I lived here there was a guy, he worked for Ray Kohl and Henry Lufts and he was a renter. I told Henry one time, I said, “If you ever want to sell that house up there across form the elevator give me a chance on it will you?” He said, “Yeah.” So he come in one day and he said, “I’m gonna sell that house. Wanta buy it?” I said, “Well, Henry Lufts lived here a long time,” I said-uh-“Give him the first chance.” So we got talkin’ back and forth and he said, “Well anyway,” Henry told me to go to the bank and get the money. He said “There hain’t no money there.” So I went out to his place there and I talked to her. She’d been in it. I’d never been in it but I loved the way it was made and everything. I said, “Henry and I was sittin’ in his garage out there and I said, ‘What do you want for it?’ He said, ‘I’ll sell it to ya for $5,000.’ I said, “Is that for everything?” He said “yeah.” I said, “Well, all I got in my pocket is $50.” I had that in my poketbook. I said, “Could I give you that for a down payment?” He said, “Would a handshake be all right?” So we shook hands. That’s how I bought this place for $5000 and I told him I had the money in the bank. That was 1938, or a little after ’38.

H. That was ’54, after I went to work and saved enough. L. ’54. We had that money in the bank.

H. I went to work, and .. .

L. Saved enough of that so I said to Henry, I said, “Well, we’ll go up there to the bank and draw it out, you can leave it there or do whatever you want. He said to just leave it there so I just transferred it from my name to his name.

C. But you said there wasn’t any money in the bank?

L. He didn’t.

C. Oh, Lufts didn’t have any money.

L. No. He was broke.

H. The one that lived in here. He would always blow, you know. I worked for her in the restaurant, you know. That’s before I went to the factory.

L. Yeah. He was a talker, drank it all up.

I. I worked in his restaurant.

L. Yeah, she worked in the restaurant up here and the guy she worked for wouldn’t even give me my meals. I had to pay for them. That’s what all we went through.

L. Are you old enough to remember when Swiss Gardens was in Holgate? C. Yeah. I danced there a few times.

L. I worked there as a bartender.

C. Oh you did?

H. (laughs) I waited tables.

L. First she went in as a hat check.

H. I didn’t know one check from another. ( laughs) He said, “Well you’re old enough to go on the floor and serve. We’ll use younger ones as hat-check.” I said, “You’re gonna have to tell me what’s what.” ( laughs)

L. So when I bought this, this had a partition in here and that was a bedroom. So when I got it I tore it out, and

H. Oh, we tore it out before we moved in.

L. Well, we moved in and what we done-uh-when we got enough money we’d fix the roof When we got enough money we’d fix another roof and these ceilings were twelve foot high.

H. Twelve foot high. We lowered all the ceilings.

L. Bert Barr was a carpenter at that time and I had him do the work. I had him do all the panels and when we got enough money we’d do some more and that’s just how we got it done.

C. Just kept workin’.

H. We didn’t have the kitchen done before we moved in. They wuz no cupboards in the kitchen at all.

L. They was an old sink hangin’ on the wall and-uh-two places had what they called pantries. H. They was two pantries.

L. And-uh-the water, all the plumbing and everything I done myself.

C. That’s a big job.

L. And-uh-Mike Schwab put the bathroom in. His wife’s still livin’ and he lives up here in Holgate.

C. One thing, when you lowered the ceilings did you notice any difference in your fuel bill?

L. Well when we first moved in here I was on LP gas. I had a stove here that was a chimney here went out the top and-uh-these walls isn’t insulated. And I put siding on and that’s got an insulating board in it. I’ve seen too many of these blown-in insulation (that’s before they had fiberglass) got wet. That’d rot the bottom sill out so I never went for that. I figured I could pay a little more without that. Out here in the country they had it blown in. It was nothin’ but shredded newspaper. That’s all that blown-in insulation is, but now later they’ve improved it. But when they first started it was shredded newspaper and when that got wet and if it settled it’d never dry out. So-uh-I never done anything to it, but they was insulation in the top ceiling, the old–

C. The old ceiling.

L. Well then, I made a mistake. When I first put this in I didn’t have insulation put in this. There’s a false ceiling like that there.

C. Well that would help anyway.

H. Yeah, when we put that in we had to get up in there and throw it back in to get it in the middle. ( laughs)

L. Most all the wiring that was added I done.

C. Oh, you did wiring too.

H. That he did.

L. That was a porch out there. I just used the roof. I had to put the walls and flooring in, so when I run wire all through that I used So then when I put this in, Paul Chubb worked down here I said, “Now there’s a box right in there full of electrical wiring you could run from here over to there.” They used to be a switch up there where I took the light out, see, that’s how I had that put in. Well then everything else I did myself. Didn’t pay to do it. Did it myself That’s the same way my antenna. I bought that antenna off of [blank]. Who is it?

H. I don’t know.

L. Who was in the hospital the same time I was?

H. Oh, Kruey.

L. See how I have to go back? I bought it off of Kruey here. Thirty-five foot I paid $25.00 for it. I put it all up myself. Put my own antenna up and all, strung that all in and-uh-I could get all the Ft. Wayne stations with that antenna and cable goes right by here but if I put cable in I lose all that.

H. He can get all 13 stations.

L. That is on Ft. Wayne right now.

C. That’s clear!

L. But-uh- then I bought the stuff and I put an antenna in the back, so we’ve got one in the kitchen. Did it all myself

C. Well you know they say Necessity is the Mother of Invention so when you’re in a spot like you people were where you didn’t have anything you learned to do it yourself.

L. But, but, but, try this. Here’s somethin. I thought and thought and thought H. Crocheting. That’s what I do.

L. I made a block. I covered it and everything.

H. I got four of these, to put my crochet thread in.

C. That’s so much better than havin’ that ball roll all over the floor.

H. He sells them.

L. I sell ’em if anybody wants to buy any. My brother-in-law over there in Fostoria, he found something that had a cone-like but it didn’t work. So I was working in Sylvania and they had a bunch of test racks where they put a bunch of picture tubes in and test them you know, and everything and they tore them out and they was screws and everything laying all over the floor. And I said to the accounting boss over there, I said, “What you gonna do with all that stuff’?” Why,” he said, “I’m gonna sweep it up and throw it in a barrel.” I said, “You mean you’re gonna get rid of it?” “Yeah.” “If I sweep it up can I have it?” “Yeah.” “Will you give me a slip so I can carry it out?” “Yeah.” So I swept it up and I had a whole can full of screws and nuts and everything like that. If you had to buy it now it’d cost you twelve bucks. So I made four of those things.

But anyway I thought maybe I can figure out somethin’. So I kept figurin’, figurin’, figurin’ and I finally come up with that see. So I had an idea I’d have it pattened. But I found out it cost $6,000 to patten it, so I thought “I don’t have that kind of money and-uh so I never done anything with it, just gave it up.

C. My friend, Judy Heitman’s father (she was a Hahn before she was married), her father she said invented the corn picker. He never got any money for it.

H. Yeah, that’s it!

(Here I omitted part of the tape because it was mostly idle conversation, didn’t pertain to the subject.)

L. But anyway, on your radio 1280 is Defiance. 1220 you get Van Wert and you get on it old records all the time… Yeah, it’s not how much you make. It’s what you can save from what you make.

C. That’s good advice.

L. If you take 10% of what you make, your wages, and put it away you can have a lot of money. I’ve got a lot of stuff here that we took out during the war (WWII). And we had $2000 and I bought a Certificate of Deposit. I kept takin’ the interest then finally decided to let the interest pile up so do you know what it’s worth today? $10,000 from $2000.

H. It’s a good idea to let it pile up when we don’t need it like that. It’s in CD’s.

L. When we got married I had a little Essex Super Six car with a rumble seat. When we got married then I bought a 1938 Ford in 1940. What’d that car cost, $250?

H. $300.

L. So I went to the bank and that’s what I borrowed. I’ve never borrowed a dime since. The first new car I owned was in 1953, I paid cash for it, and every car I bought since I paid cash for it.

C. That’s pretty good. Let’s go back a bit. You mentioned a car with a rumble seat and I’ll bet a lot of people don’t know what rumble seats are. Would you tell them?

L. Rumble seat is where the trunk is, the trunk of the car just had a kind of a hump in it. You pulled that out the back and there was a seat in there. Two people could sit in it. There was a step about that big around…

(end of tape)

Lanzer, Melvin W.

C: My name is Charlotte Wangrin and I’m recording August 27th, 2004 and Mel, would you give us your name?

M: Melvin W. Lanzer. But, I go by “Mel”.

C: And here is your induction paper, you were sent to the Enlisted Reserve Corps, and you had to report at the Armory. Was that in Napoleon?

M: Yes, that was here in Napoleon.

C: Were you drafted?

M: Yes, but I had an extension for a while, I didn’t have to report right away because I was helping Dad farm, and we wanted to get the crops out. They gave me an extension.

C: Until February 4th?

M: Yes. I had to report to the Wabash Train Station at 6:30 in the morning in Napoleon, Ohio.

C: Oh, is that where the Wabash was?

M: Yes, there was a railroad station there for Napoleon.

C: By this time things were really hot and heavy, weren’t they? That was 1944, I think?

M: No, 1943. Here is it, where I got my classification, I got my notice to register on August 8th, 1942.

C: Now you were classified what? Do you remember? Or you had to appear for your physical exam first and then they classified you? Where you kind of anxious to get into it?

M: Well, at that time everybody else was going, so I didn’t know what it was, but that’s the way we started in.

C: Had you heard from fellas that were already over there?

M; Oh, yes. I had a cousin that went in about the same time, and also a fellow, Bob Gordon from Deshler, went in at the same time, so we went together, but my cousin was split from us. He didn’t like water, but they put him in the Navy! (Laughter) He was a medic on a Navy medical ship.

C: That would be better than being a litter bearer for the Army. That’s what Ed used to be until he got called to the OCS. So that deferred his transfer to overseas until later.

M: When I got out of the service, these are my separation papers, in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, where I was discharged and got back from overseas. We went overseas on the Queen Elizabeth which was converted to a troop carrier.

C: You got out in ’45 and you went in ’43. You were right in the thick of it.

M: Well, when we got over there, we weren’t in the landing or anything like that, but it was right in the worst part. One of the big battles that we had was Bastogne, the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes forest. I got pictures of how Koblenz was and going through there. I went from Napoleon, through Toledo, and then to Camp McCain, Mississippi which is near a small town of Grenade in the Southwest corner of Mississippi. I had my training and then was shipped overseas. I went overseas from New York on the Queen Elizabeth. That was the biggest ship in the world at that time. We came back on the United States, which was our biggest ship.

C: What was that like, was it very luxurious riding on the ocean liner?

M: On the Queen Elizabeth, everything was protected so it wouldn’t be damaged due to all the things people carried, the cargo, guns and everything.

C: Were there Jeeps on board?

M: Oh, no, they were shipped over on transport ships. We carried our personal small arms, weapons and bags. The ship’s walls were covered for protection.

C: Did you get seasick?

M: I wasn’t too bad. I can remember this, when we went over, the boat would zigzag, and that is what really made me seasick, and of course being down by the engine room, it was kind of messy when people got sick. I remember those greasy English sausages we had for breakfast. In the galley way you almost had to hold onto hand rails because the floor was so slippery from vomit.

C: So many men. How many men were on that ship?

M: I think approximately 14,000.

C: A lot, it was probably pretty crowded.

M: Yes, they had hammocks and bunk beds and bed rolls.

C: What did you sleep in, a hammock or a bed?

M: Bunk bed. Sleeping bags were personal items issued by the Army. We had those in training, I slept out in those when we were on maneuvers in Tennessee.

C: Did you get wet with the rain?

M: Oh, yes, our blankets would get wet, and you’d have to dry them out as soon as you could.

C: What did you do in the basic training, what was that like?

M: Well, we just went through maneuvers and getting used to the outdoor living. That was a lot of it. We also had to get used to personal contact and sabers and guns. We were pretty well trained, but as an infantry soldier, I never had contact. The cannon company was a new thing at that time, instead of having rifles and shooting long distance, we used short guns – a 105 cannon.

(Exhibit A).

C: A type of gun?

M: That was the short barrel 105 howitzer.

C: Oh, you were shooting the big guns.

M: Yes, it’s artillery. Then we had to set the timing on this shell or round so it would go off so many feet from the ground so the shrapnel could do as much damage as possible. We practiced with rifles shooting at targets. Here is a list of people I went over with.

C: Those are all from Henry County?

M: Yes.

C: That’s a valuable list, I would think. Maynard Short, yes. Robert Bauer, his older son was named Robert, his younger son is a pharmacist, I think.

M: There is Carl Losie.

C: Was he a buddy with you?

M: When we got to Camp McCain, he was in the cannon section and I was in liaison section, but we got together once in a while. We were in training together.

C: Was he the milkman?

M: No, it was a different person. Lyle …, I went to school with him.

C: You grew up in Hamler, but you were living in Napoleon at the time you were drafted.

M: No, my home was on a farm located on route 281 just west of County Road 7.

C: Lenhart Lange was drafted from Deshler.

M: I don’t know. I don’t recall that.

C: Well, he may have gone in at a different time. So you were in the thick of it for quite a long time?

M: Yes, we never really got relieved either. We were in combat for 154 days.

C: In other words, once you landed in Europe, you were in combat from then on.

M: Yes, we made contact with the Germans at Metz. The only time you weren’t in combat was when you got hurt, then you went back to the medical tents.

C: Let’s go back to this map. Will you tell me what happened from when you docked in France? (Exhibit A. See route on Map here.)

M: We went into battle in Metz, Germany.

C: How did you travel, were you walking or riding in trucks?

M: We were in trucks, we went across pontoon bridges. (Exhibit B)

C: Let’s describe a pontoon bridge for future generations.

M: It is made of rafts laid beside one another and a rope bridge with a wood bottom laid on top of them Every kind of vehicle went over a boat, so you were running uphill most of the time.

C: Did you have anything to hang onto?

M: They had rope sides if you were walking. They would carry you over on cables if you couldn’t walk and also vehicles. It was all kind of laced together. There we went, after we crossed the Moselle river. (See Exhibit A.)

C: When you were going through those towns, were you fighting as you went or just traveling up to the front line?

M: We were fighting as we went. This side was pretty well cleared going through part of France and Belgium at that time.

C: You arrived in England Oct. 13, 1944, then departed England 24 to 29 November, 1944. You weren’t in England very long, were you?

M: No, we were just there waiting for transportation, about two weeks.

C: So D-Day had occurred the spring before this?

M: Right. I know we went through Bastogne, not in the battle, but we were close to it, and got in on part of it on the outside, and you could hear a lot of fighting. Before our unit got there, Patton was directing traffic with his pearl-handled guns.

C: He was such a colorful character. What was your job?

M: At that time, I was to try to find places to stay overnight. We were driving in the night. So we had no lights on because of the blackout. For a while around Bastogne we tried to find billets to stay in. (See Exhibit A.)

C: Did you look for farmhouses to stay in?

M: Right, and they called them villas. We found one, and there was nobody there. It was a nice place. We could put the whole company inside. But we happened to see some German people with guns. When they saw us, they started running.

C: Was this in France or Germany?

M: This was in Belgium, close to Luxembourg.

C: How would you find these billets, just go in and go up to the farmer and ask?

M: At that time, you had to find whatever you could. This was a real nice place with a large kitchen and a brick courtyard. Animals were on one end. They lived close to them and everything was connected. This took care of the whole regiment.

C: How many men were in a regiment, 15 or 20?

M: Oh, yes, more than that. Around 300 or so.

C: Where are those places located now?

M: (Showing pictures)

C: Are those snapshots that you took?

M: One of my buddies did. He had a Polaroid camera. I was thinking that was showing some of the damage.

C: Oh, my yes. What does the G. stand for?

M: Germany. Gordon Wendt took pictures and sold them.

C: He could make a little money.

M: Oh, yes. On the back of it is the name of the town that we went through. Here is the way that the Germans were traveling.

C: Did you come upon this bunch of Germans traveling?

M: I saw that.

C: But you didn’t shoot at each other at that particular time.

M: No, no. They were moving around at the time. Actually, I was a forward observer and we called back the coordinates for our units to fire.

C: You were out there in No Man’s Land.

M: When we called back on the coordinates and they would fire, that would destroy their weapons and personnel.

C: You had to be pretty accurate in your reporting, didn’t you?

M: Oh, yes, we could drop shells within 25 feet of the last shell. If we wanted to shoot on a building, we would pull in. We had 5 guns to a unit and they would call back to fire, or maybe it would be 3 companies firing at one time, so we could really destroy the building. Or a convoy. I wanted to show you the one of Koblenz, and I can’t find it now. There’s Warndort, that’s where we slept in a tent.

(Exhibit C. See pictures)

C: Did you have to battle with the cold in the winter?

M: Yes, that’s where I got sick and I went back to the hospital . I had strep throat and was pretty sick for a while.

C: You found a place here to get a bath, huh?

M: That’s the way you took baths during training.

C: I’ll bet that felt good after you had traveled.

M: We were held up there for a little while.

C: Now this Ottersdorf, was that in Germany or in Belgium?

M: I think that was in Belgium, we didn’t break…there’s Dusseldorf and the Rhine River and the Mainz, here we drove on into Czechoslovakia and that was in April of 1945. Koblenz was right through that in March of ’45. Bastogne was one of the main turning points in the war. They were throwing everything at us that they could to stop us. So after we got through there and crossed the river, they started giving up. A lot of them gave up.

C: Made it easier for you, then.

M: At times, they had their home front guards defending. Sometimes you would want to take them to the prisoner-of-war camps from the field. One time I started out in Koblenz with five and wound up with 105.

C: Really?

M: Yes, they just followed behind.

C: They just wanted to get it over with.

M: Here’s another one I wanted to show you. That’s Buchenwald.

C: Oh, my. Was that a strong battle there?

M: No, that is a German prisoner of war camp, where they kept all the prisoners. They had bunks laid only a foot apart and stacked on top of one another just like boards. You’d sleep in there and then they used them for medical experiments and take the body or the people and gas them. They had prisoners there. It didn’t matter if they were from the U.S. or whatever, then they would take the bodies and hang them up around the wall on meat hooks just like you do to a hog. I was told one lady there, the wife of the man who ran the camp, made a lampshade out of the face of a prisoner.

C: It makes you sick to think about it.

M: Actually, we don’t talk about it much. I saw it as rough as you can get. When we got hit, right before that, we were really no better than they were. I saw German soldiers with their legs and arms off. They were hit by our white phosphorous shells. We just don’t like to talk about it..

C: But we need to, because the future generations need to have some idea of what war is all about. Otherwise, they’re going to think it’s just glamorous and exciting and fun, which is the way a lot of our young men felt before they went in.

M: For instance, the difference today, take the little radio, you can get better reception with a little radio or a cell phone. We had a ton and a half truck to carry our radio so we could communicate and we couldn’t get the distance that you could on this cell phone.

C: Isn’t that something?

M: At this time too, that’s when we got hit, and that’s where I got injured.

C: Yes, what happened to you?

M: A German 88 came over and hit our observation post and….

C: What German 88? A machine gun?

M: No, an artillery gun, they called them 88s at that time. They fired those upon our outpost and we got hit and it killed our radio man. The radio man was right behind me, lying down on the ground. When the shells went off, they got him. It didn’t kill him instantly, but he got carried back to evacuation and medical camp. He died that day.

C: Was he a buddy of yours?

M: Yes. I also got a little shrapnel, but what bothered me the most and I didn’t notice right away until the next day was when I was dressing down and noticed a hole in my coat. I had a sweater on and there was a hole through that and also my shirt. I had my billfold in my left-hand shirt pocket. That billfold stopped the shrapnel from going any farther. How it got there, I don’t know because I was lying on the ground. I threw the billfold away. I should have kept it as a souvenir.

C: Yes, you should have, it saved your life.

M: You don’t think of those things at the time.

C: Did it go through part of the wallet?

M: I could see the back of it where the leather stopped it, it went through all my coats but I still can’t figure out how that happened since I was lying flat on my stomach on the ground. Can’t explain some of those things. The funny thing about when it happened is that my mother, here in the States, knew exactly something was wrong. She was asleep that night and she woke up and she told me about it, about the time that I was hit.

C: Is that when you got the shrapnel in your leg too?

M: Yes.

C: Did shrapnel work its way out of your body?

M: Yes, I dug it out myself. It wasn’t in that deep, I took my knife and dug it out.

C: Ouch.

M: I kept that for awhile and then lost that. It must have gone to the medic.

C: You’ve done wonders, to keep all this organized and everything. That’s great.

M: There it is. This is my military history. Regiment, and there’s my serial number, T-4, Liaison Agent.

C: What’s that component A mean, do you know?

M: I can’t tell you.

C: Sharpshooter rifle combat infantryman, did you have to shoot any Germans with your rifle?

M: I came pretty close to it one time, I’m glad I didn’t, they were disguised as Americans.

C: They said many Germans would take clothes off the American soldiers and put them on themselves so you’d think it was a fellow infantryman.

M: We would capture a lot of vehicles too and finally an order came down from the Commander to get rid of some of these German vehicles because he didn’t know whether the enemy was coming or going! (Laughter)

C: Well, when did they give you the Purple Heart, after the war?

M: No, no, I was awarded that on December 15, 1944.

C: You had been in about a year, hadn’t you? Since November, ’43. It was just shortly after, in 2 months you were really in the thick of it, weren’t you? They sure didn’t give you much preparation.

M: We had all that basic training here in the United States.

C: Day of departure, ETO, destination….this is when you went overseas. (See papers)

M: Yes, then we departed from overseas to the USA on July 5, and arrived on the 11th in New York.

Then the war with Japan was over after they dropped the atomic bomb. I was home on furlough when the armistice was declared so I just spent a little time at Fort Devens in Massachusetts as an MP until I got out in November.

C: Now, before the armistice, did you expect that you were going to have to go to the Pacific?

M: We were slated to go to China/Burma/India, when we came home. We just had furloughs and then we were to be shipped over there.

C: I’ll bet you were glad that war was over!

M: (Laughs) I sure was, we celebrated that night.

C: Now where was it, you said, I don’t remember.

M: I was home on furlough.

C: Were you and Marge married at that time?

M: No, not until 1948.

C: Yes.

M: When I was home, there were quite a few soldiers home and I rode a train to Toledo and I hitchhiked home from Toledo.

C: Did you? They used to do that a lot.

M: We didn’t have much problem getting a ride. I got a ride all the way home right to the house.

C: Hitchhiking was a common way of traveling back in those days. That’s the way Ed used to go home every weekend from college to visit his family.

M: When I was in training, I had my car with me. I got it in somehow or other. I had it down for a few weeks while I was in service and if you had a car, they allowed you to take it someplace close to base. We were on Maneuvers in Tennessee, and it was parked at some farmhouse in the hills. I asked the farmer to watch it and he did.

C: How did you get your car from Tennessee?

M: When I came home from a furlough on maneuvers, I drove it home.

C: Then you parked it at home because you were about ready to go overseas.

M: The farmer in Tennessee found a gun and he heard that one soldier had lost his rifle. So he put it in my car. I gave it back. I don’t know why I didn’t keep it since nobody had a record it was gone! I could have had a rifle, but I turned it in. I’m pretty sure the ordinance officer kept it for himself! (Laughter)

C: You were mustered out in November of ’45?

M: Yes.

C: The war was over in September, wasn’t it?

M: No, no, the war was over in the summer. August 9111, Victory Day.

C: That was a happy time, oh, my. We had been saving our money all during the war, when this thing was over, I just went out and bought a mink jacket, I bought something to celebrate. That was a lot at that time, right now it wouldn’t be worth much. That should be a national holiday. But it isn’t, Armistice Day from WW I, in November, that celebrate that. I wonder why they don’t. What’s that? German money?

M: This is French. I went on vacation in Nice, France. This is German and this is French money. This is what they came out with in Germany. Two francs and some marks. I don’t know if it’s any good now or not. I’ve got Belgian money, too, money from many countries. Once we started driving around and they saw an Army jeep, all of a sudden the white flags started coming out.

C: Oh, really.

M: Everybody came running up to us, greeting us and everything. They were happy to be liberated. Here is a German bayonet.

C: I’ll bet that’s good and sharp.

M: No, it isn’t.

C: Oh.

M: I think it’s more for dress. Something that some official would wear on his belt. What are these other things?

M: That was my Military Police patch, and this is a German’s.

C: Is that an MP or what?

M: No, it’s just an armband. Seems to me the Home Guard wore those. There’s a German Iron cross.

C: Hitler’s cross, all right.

M: This was off a pilot, the wings.

C: Oh, this is a German pilot, had he died?

M: I don’t know, I just came across that, don’t know if it was from a body or what. There’s a rifle, an Ml. I had one, as a sharpshooter. There’s another Nazi ribbon. I forgot what these are.

C: Do you have your dog tags still?

M: Yes, they’re someplace.

C: Those were important, weren’t they?

M: Yes, you wore them all the time.

C: So they could identify you in case something happened to you.

M: Here’s a map of Nice, France.

C: Did they give you maps like this or did you just happen to get it?

M: The reason I got that is that I got acquainted with a family in Nice, and he had a newspaper. He was a publisher and I heard from him a few times. He was always wanting something! (laughs)

C: Have you shown any of this stuff to your grandchildren?

M: They’ve seen some of it.

C: When they get a little older, they’ll be interested in it.

M: These are letters of recommendation.

C: You’re unusual in that you’ve kept such organized records.

M: But I can’t remember either, so you have to have something to back it up.

C: “Honorable, trustworthy soldier”. Naval Air Technical Training Center, Norman Oklahoma. Were you trained there?

M: No, the person who wrote that letter was there, that was my teacher. My teacher from high school. When I was in high school, I wasn’t very good at English, and they excused me from English, so I took over as a sub teacher for him between Hamler and Deshler. I taught in Hamler.

C: What did you teach, Mel?

M: It was called Farm Shop at that time, I liked woodworking and working with tools.

C: Did you know Jay Dietrich? He lived near Malinta. He’s a farmer and he taught shop at the Four County School.

M: He did?

C: I knew him, he’s about my age. A Lutheran pastor from Malinta by the name of Hamberger. Jay Dietrich stayed with him. Were you a child during the Depression?

M: Oh, yes, I remember the Depression. I was born in ’22 and the crash was in ’29. I can remember, I was only five years old. That’s when I had pneumonia. How they would treat pneumonia, which was something new at that time was.., there was a big long needle. They went through my lungs and drew fluid out or I would have been a goner. I only remember it a little bit.

C: You were five years old. Did you live in the country?

M: That year we just got electricity on the farm, for the first time. Otherwise we had gas light and coal oil lights.

C: Did you have telephones then?

M: Oh, yes, hand-cranked.

C: And then all the neighbors listened in.

M: (Laughter) You could hear the phone ring, and you knew who they were calling, It was just customary.

C: That’s how you got the news. My dad was a meat-jobber and so meat was available to him in the Depression and we had an aunt who was a widow and a good gardener, and she had a great big garden. During the Depression just about every week we would drive out there to her house and I remember the road had these deep ruts and in order to get out every once in a while he’d have to turn the wheel in a big jolt.

M: I remember that too.

C: And then, we would take meat out to her and she would have a whole bunch of vegetables for us and we’d take that back home. We lived on that during the week then.

M: Yeah, I remember going to Malinta at that time and Dad had 2 dollars. You were lucky to get $10.00 for a wagonload of oats. We also went to Napoleon, we called that the big city and I remember going over the old bridge in a horse and buggy.

C: On that old bridge that was washed out in the flood?

M: Yes, it was a steel bridge with a wood deck on it. Then they moved that with a crane near Vocke’s mill. Between the mill and the house, that’s where you drove through when they built the present one.

C: They had a temporary bridge for you?

M: Yes.

C: Better than they’re going to have now, I guess. Do you have any other memories of your childhood on the farm?

M: Oh, yeah. I used to hire out and work. You’d get maybe a dollar a day or something like that by shocking wheat and oats, and hoeing weeds. There were a lot of things you could do….chores, milk cows and take care of horses.

They had farm machinery. They would move the machinery from farm to farm. I often wondered why farmers didn’t do that, they had so much trouble with the weather. It would rain and you couldn’t get the crops out. If anybody was sick at that time, we’d come in and help do the farming. I know we did that a couple of times. We helped the neighbors a day at a time, put the crops in or get them out. Once in a while it would happen if someone died.

C: I remember reading about that, they’d build a barn…

M: We used to have what they called a “barn raising”. I remember going to quite a few of those too. They’d put up a frame and the neighbors would help in putting it together with wooden pegs. You’d drill holes in the timbers. We had one of those machines.

C: They’d put it together with wooden pegs instead of nails?

M: Yes, those big beams and posts. They mortise and tennet them to hold them together.

C: Where did they get those big beams? Did they have trees that big around here?

M: Oh, yes. They had a lot of them. There were framers who’d go around. That’s all they did, all the time….they made a living at that. They’d put the frame up and the farmers would do the rest. The farmers were responsible for putting on the shiplap siding and roof.

C: How’d you get started in this business?

M: In school, I liked woodworking, so when I got out of school, I went to work for Kelsey Lumber Company. I worked in the mill. We made moldings and doors. I then came back and got married. I came back to Napoleon and worked for German Aderman. Do you remember them?

C: Aderman built our house.

M: I worked for them a year and then another employee (Lawrence Sonnenberg) of German Aderman and I decided to go into business together. I bought Lawrence out during the first year, however, he continued to work as a foreman under me. His son also worked for me until his recent retirement. Here’s my resume.

Lause, Ken and Laura

CW: This is July 13th, 2005 and I’m speaking to Mr. and Mrs. Lause who are living in the house on the location where Camp Latty was years ago.

CW: Would you tell us something of your information that you have about that plaque that I’ve seen on your gateway down by the river road?

KL: Well, the plaque was placed there by Harold Hoff and he bought this property in 1937. It was used during the Civil War as a camp where soldiers assembled. They called it ‘mustered in’ and they were sworn in. And as near as I can tell, from County histories and so forth, sometime after October 15 th of 1861 till January of 1862 they lived here in Sibley tents.

CW: The soldiers did?

KL: The soldiers lived here as they were assembled and mustered in.

CW: For the Civil War?

KL: For the Civil War. This was the 68 th regiment

CW: For anyone who doesn’t know, what is a Sibley tent?

KL: Well, a Sibley tent is a tent that is like a cone. It’s pointed, kind of like an Indian teepee. And there were quite a few men, I don’t know the exact number, that could sleep in a Sibley tent. They had these for a while and then they changed to a different kind of tent. But those tents were here on this property and this property went from the road to the Glenwood cemetery line. Glenwood cemetery was started in 1860 before the Civil War. So I’m guessing that it wasn’t used as part of the camp and that this property was originally around 8 acres. It was bounded by Garrett Creek and by what’s now Rte. 424 and the cemetery.

(Laura brings objects. )

CW: Well, are these things that you found?

KL: These are things that we found here on this property.

CW: Isn’t that something. Ahh! That’s a bullet!

KL: Yes.

CW: Heavy, very heavy.

KL: And a uniform button. So that’s why we know from these artifacts that this actually was property that was used for that purpose at that time in history. So I’ve gone back and done a little bit of research to try and find out who owned the property at that time but I haven’t got that done yet. I’m still working on that. They assembled here and then went to the war. They went to Cincinnati, then by riverboat.

CW: Oh they did, by riverboat! Of course the canal went right in front here. They could get on the boat right here. Couldn’t they?

KL: Right. Well, they went by train at that time. They went by train.

CW: Oh, the trains ran.

KL: Of course the story of the 68th is pretty well told in other places. You can find a history of Oscar Lingel in the Henry County history. He was a soldier in the Civil War and then there is some material on line from the Ohio State Historical Society consisting of some letters from Jacob Bruner. He was from either Defiance or Paulding County.

CW: I wondered if he lived in the area.

KL: He was a. . . from his letters, the writing of his letters, he was an educated man using good grammar and spelling and so forth in his letters.

CW: Was he a sergeant or lieutenant?

KL: . He was a sergeant. And after he was in a while he became an officer. Became a first lieutenant in the 9th Louisiana infantry. And at that time, which was in 1863, they were assembling groups of African Americans and arming them, forming regiments. They were led by white officers. The corporals and sergeants were black people but the rest of the officers, 2nd lieutenants, 1st lieutenants, captains, majors, colonels — they were all white officers. And so Jacob Bruner resigned his commission in the 68th and became a 1st lieutenant in the 9th Louisiana infantry.

CW: That was one of those…

KL: ‘Volunteers of African Descendants’ they were called.

CW: Oh for heaven sakes!

KL: And his pay was $110. 50 per month and $1,326 per year and he was commissioned April 14th, 1863, as a first lieutenant. His captain’s name was Hissong. He was an orderly in the 68th and there was another officer from the 78th regiment from the Ohio volunteer infantry and there was another man, I don’t remember his name right now, who was from the 68th who was also in this unit. Well, this unit was in Louisiana. Shortly after they were formed they recruited members for the infantry and shortly after they were formed, they got into a battle with a unit from Texas and this Jacob Bruner was killed in that battle.

CW: That was a terrible war. The Civil War

KL: Very bad.

LL: You might talk about how it got its name too. Who it was named for.

KL: Well, Camp Latty was named for…Well, go ahead Laura.

LL: I can’t think. Judge Latty, right?

KL: It was named for a judge. Judge Latty from Defiance. Defiance County.

CW: Oh.

KL: Not exactly what I’m looking for right now.

LL:And then the house that sits here now is supposedly on the same site that the headquarters were on.

KL: But none of the buildings are left from that time.

LL: No. There were fires…

KL: Part of a foundation from the house that was here is all that’s left.

CW: Oh, the fire destroyed it

LL: Yes, there were fires.

KL: Yes. So this was at Milliken’s Bend, Louisiana, were Jacob Bruner lost his life. And there was a letter written by Major Eugene Harrison who was the surgeon for the 68th Ohio volunteer infantry… written to his wife Mary in June on June 13th, 1863, in which he said “There had been a hard fight at Milliken’s Bend between the 9th Louisiana black regiment and two others. And a brigade of rebels that come in to take the place. Lyman Hissong, you know is captain of one company and Jacob Brunner formerly a sergeant in our regiment, a first lieutenant and Sergeant Peran of Captain P’s company was in Lyman’s company. They had a desperate fight. The Rebs were 3 to 1 and charged with desperate fury on the colored regiments…”

CW: They would because they’d be furious just to see those black people in uniforms.

KL: “But the Negroes met them bravely in the fiercest hand-to-hand fights of the war because the Negroes used their bayonets and clubbed with their muskets and beat the brains out of a lot of the enemy. One Negro of the 9th regiment is said to have killed 1 officer and 2 soldiers with the butt of his musket. The officer came at him with pistol ready but before he could pull it off the Darky brained him and two others came up to avenge the officer and they fared the same. The Negroes whipped the rebels soundly and drove them from the field in disorder. The loss to the 9th was 60 killed and quite a number wounded. Lieutenant Jacob Bruner was killed and Sergeant Peron and Captain Lyman Hissong shot through the thigh. Flesh wound. Would recover. “Major Owen, formerly of the 20th Ohio, now of the 9th African, told me about it. If you should see Mr. Haley, tell him about Bruner. He was Mr. Haley’s quartermaster sergeant. This proved beyond a doubt that Negroes will fight.”

CW: Yes.

KL: Mr. Haley is the one that Haley Avenue is named after.

CW: Oh, is that right?

KL: Right.

CW: And Bruner. There is a Brunersville near Defiance or near Perrysburg.

KL: Brunersburg. I don’t if that is the name derived from that or not. I don’t know. But there is a Brunersberg.

CW: And then there was another name there that sounded familiar. Hissong.

KL: Hissong.

CW: There was a professor at Bowling Green way back when I went to school then as a girl. His name was Hissong. Dr. Hissong. But I don’t know where his family was from.

KL: I think there were some in Deshler also.

CW: Oh were there?

KL: I think so. But I’m not certain. So that’s one of the interesting stories.

CW: I should say.

KL: And another is about a man by the name of Charles Reynolds who I think was about 17 or 18 at the time the unit was formed at Camp Latty. He wanted to join the 68th but he was young and he asked his father if he could join. And his father said he could join but he had to be at home at night. And he lived across from the…

LL: Where the Rebars live now.

KL: Right.

CW: Oh, that’s on Avon.

KL: On Avon . . . that’s right and his father said…

CW: It’s an old house there. One of the oldest ones in Napoleon.

KL: That’s where he lived.

CW: Ah.

KL: And he wanted to join and his father said he had to be at home at night. And so he went to the camp and of course he went to the war. He was in the quarter master part of it. And was captured once and exchanged and after the 68th was at Vicksburg and Vicksburg fell in July of 1863. And they went on another expedition to the eastern part  Mississippi and he was captured again there and held at Andersonville prison in Georgia to the end of the war. And did survive Andersonville.

CW: So he was living at the end of the war?

KL: Yes. Oh yes. He survived Andersonville. He was captured twice. He was out the second time on a foraging expedition and was captured. Foraging is when they were marching through the country and they didn’t have a supply train to keep up all their supplies so whatever was at the farmstead is what they appropriated for their use.

CW: That’s what the Germans were doing in World War II. And that’s why the people, the farmers, and the people that lived there hated them so. Because they took all the food and the farmers were left with nothing. And troop leaders said Belgium people were just starving because the German troops had taken away all the food.

KL: Well, I have one other soldier. I have the picture of him.

CW: Oh.

KL: I’ll get the picture.


LL: Well, one thing Daddy always said, too… The lady that lived across the river. Was it the girl or her mother? It’s where the Hannas live now.

CW: Oh yes.

LL: Who ever lived there before.

CW: Oh yes. That’s the old C. D. Brillhart house. That’s where C. D. Brillhart lived.

LL: Oh. I didn’t know that.

CW: Years ago.

LL: When she was a little girl, the woman… the lady said she told Daddy when she was a little girl she remembers seeing the tents over here. From across the river.

CW: She could see them!

LL: So…

CW: Well, and they would have a good view of the whole area from here because this is one of the fine locations on the river I think because it’s up high.

(Can’t understand tape)

CW: That certainly is a good picture. And this is who?

KL: This is a soldier from the 68th regiment.

LL: Major Bob.

KL: We call him Major Bob. His name is Robert Masters. He was originally from Williams County and if you could recruit some people, enough people for your regiment, they made you an officer. So they made him an officer. He was from Williams County. I think Nettle Lake area and he recruited 20 some people for the Civil War.

CW: Is that right?

KL: Yeah.

LL: And they came here from Williams County.

KL: They came from Williams County here. And this picture I found at an estate auction in Michigan.

CW: Oh, it’s the same picture.

KL: Yeah. That’s him.

CW: So is that where you got the picture then?

KL: Right.

CW: Isn’t that something.

KL: He was a little older. He was age 32 when he entered the 68th. So there could have been anyone from young boys to whatever age. So he was age 32 when he entered the 68th Ohio on October 10, 1861. He was appointed first lieutenant of Company G here in camp, at Camp Latty Napoleon. And then in May of 1864, he was appointed to captain and then when they was mustered out, he was promoted to Major of Company B of the 68th Ohio.

CW: He must have done good work.

KL: So he survived. So the 68th regiment that left here, their first encounter was at Fort Donelson of Kentucky and after…

CW: The Rebs were that far north.

KL: Yeah. They were occupying Fort Donelson which is on the Tennessee River, I think, right. Not to far from the Ohio River.

CW: Mmmm.

KL: They left here in January and on February 14 th they were in battle. From about the 3rd week in January so about 2 or 3 weeks they were…

CW: They didn’t get much training, did they?

KL: No, not much training.   And the weather there was raining. Kind of like a freezing rain I guess. Snow and rain. And a lot of the soldiers got sick. And at that time there were a lot of soldiers from other parts of the United States from Indiana, from Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota. They were all assembled in Grant’s army. And drawing this many people together in one spot, they all got each others diseases. So you could have maybe there would be diphtheria, small pox, cholera. . . the flu, the measles. All these disease were spread. And so at one time after the fall of Fort Donelson , there were only like 250 out 700 that were fit to serve. There were a lot of people sick. There were more people that died of illness than died in battle.

CW: Yeah. One of my ancestors was in the Civil War but that was from Pennsylvania. Western Pennsylvania. But he was in a while…few months and got sick, had to go to the hospital and got cured went back and was just out a month or two and it came back and had to go back in and after this happened for awhile they had to send him home because they couldn’t keep him well. And he came on the train to get back home and arrived about 2 o’clock in the morning in this little town that was close to their farm. And then he walked from there to the farm. And there was no means of communication. The family, his wife didn’t know he was coming and there’s a story and but I don’t’ know if it’s true or not. But it’s an interesting story, that he got there and all was dark of course. His wife was sleeping and he thought, “How can I wake her up without startling her” and he remembered the pump squeaked and he pumped some water for a drink and he looked up and she was standing in the doorway with a big long rifle because she thought he was an intruder. And he had to get her attention right away. These stories…who know if they are true or not!

LL: (laughs) They’re interesting!

KL: Very interesting.

CW: Well you’ve certainly done good research on this.

KL: Well, there is a lot to do. I mean there could be a real nice project for a student here I’m sure.

CW: A history student.

KL: Like you have that TV show History Detectives or something on public television. They research different things. There’s enough material I think a person could do some research there.

CW: Yeah. And like anything else, the more you learn the more interesting it becomes, doesn’t it?

KL: Right. There are some letters home that soldiers wrote to their families and then the families had them published in the newspapers around. So there are some of those newspapers around that have some letters home so I would like to find some of those old newspapers with those letters and find out more about what camp life was like here at Camp Latty.

CW: Yeah. Right. It would be valuable.

KL: That’s something I’d wanted to do a little research project on it. It would be interesting.

CW: Yes. And valuable. This is all valuable. Not preserved. I’m afraid it’s going to go by the wayside

KL: So while they were here…I guess I don’t know much. There was some correspondence with the adjutant general’s office for the state of Ohio. Since the state of Ohio was coordinating their residence. There was correspondence from different places where these groups were forming. And there was a lot of competition for recruits. It seems like for the 68th regiment here there were a lot of people from Michigan that were coming over the Ohio line recruiting Ohioans for the Michigan regiment.

CW: Is that right!

KL: In Williams and Fulton County and Lucas counties and there’s a couple of letters written to the Adjutant General State of Ohio complaining about that practice. And those are online from the Ohio State Historical Society.   A lot of those letters are. They’re not the letters but they are…they are kind of a summary of what the letter tells. For example, there’s one here from November. 4th, 1861 and now they would have been in camp here at Camp Latty and there was a letter written here from Justin Tyler: chairman, Edward Sheffield: secretary of the military committee of Henry County. So evidently there was a military committee in Henry County at this time. It was written to the adjutant general C. P. Buckingham and it was a letter stating on November 1st of 1861 Lieutenant Colonel Samuel H. Steadman made a report to the committee showing that there were 299 recruits from Henry County had already been enrolled and sworn in for the 68th regiment. That the committee had the assurance there would be 4 full companies from Henry County ready for the 68th regiment by December 1st and that this letter recommended the renewal of commissions of Hiram Poe, Andrew Jackson and Thomas Quigley who were recruiting for the 68th regiment. Stating the importance of having the camp equipage sent to Camp Latty forthwith. That would be that they haven’t received their rifles and maybe their uniformsl . . . I don’t know. What’s so perfectly apparent as to need no suggestion from the committee since everyone knew that it would greatly facilitate the recruiting service because if you had all your things here you would be able to recruit people more rapidly.

CW: Oh

KL: And recommending the immediate appointment of James G. Haley of Napoleon to the office of quartermaster to the 68th regiment. And stating that Haley was a moral, upright, highly efficient, reliable and pecuniary responsible man the committee would do all in its power to lay the cause of their common country in it’s most unfortunate struggle.

CW: Well, then how many groups did go from here?

KL: Um. I don’t have that information with me but there were groups from Henry County, from Defiance County, Williams County, Fulton County and some from Wood County

CW: And did they all muster here at Camp Latty?

KL: Right. They assembled here and left here as a group.

CW: Well, as one big group or just each one individually?

KL: No as one group all together.

CW: Oh.

KL: Then they…

CW: So they had a big group that left all at one time.

KL: Right. Right. Around I think like 700 but I’m not sure.

CW: Oh yeah.

KL: And they would form up with 4 other regiments to form another division, another military division, and the 68th spent a lot of the war with the 20th Ohio and the 78th Ohio. The 20th Ohio has a pretty well written history by some members so if you follow what the 20th did a lot of times it would include the 68th would have been there at the same time.

CW: Oh.

KL: And they think the 68th started with a unit from Indiana and also oneI think later in the war from Illinois, but the 78th Ohio and the 20th Ohio and the 68th Ohio spent quite a bit of the war together.

CW: Uh, tell me did they march a lot of the way south or did they go on train?

KL: Well, they marched a lot. I forget. There’s a summary somewhere that says how far, how many miles they marched, how many thousands of miles they marched, how many states they were in.

CW: It must have been terrible. And they had one pair of shoes and those shoes would be getting pretty thin.

KL: Well, they would buy more from the people that followed the soldiers around selling that stuff.

CW: Oh they did.

KL: Right. So after they left here they went by riverboat to Kentucky. And in pretty much there walking on shanks mare to Shiloh.

CW: Now what to do you mean by shanks mare?

KL: That means on foot . At Shiloh most everyone was sick in the 68th. They were back sentinel guard. Guard detail. A couple of miles away from the actual battle site. They were called up to come to the aid of the others after the first’s day battle at Shiloh and at that time their commander was Lew Wallace. General Lew Wallace who wrote Ben Hur.

CW: Oh, is that right?

KL: Yeah. And from there it was pretty much walking to Mississippi, and Tennessee and Grant’s campaign to capture Vicksburg. And the siege of Vicksburg. Finally Grant got some boats past the city of Vicksburg. Vicksburg was on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and they had guns and if any ship wanted to take troops past, they would come under fire from those guns and the other side of the river was pretty swampy. So…

CW: I remember I went there. And I remember seeing this steep almost vertical blocks and climbed way up there. And Vicksburg was on top of there.

KL: And so Grant tried to get past Vicksburg and he wanted to control the Mississippi River to cut the confederacy in half. This was the plan at the beginning of the war, to separate it by controlling the Mississippi with their riverboats. So Grant tried to get his troops past Vicksburg. They tried assaulting Vicksburg from the north…(tape ends. )

KL: So Grant tried to assault from the north and that was unsuccessful so he came up with a plan of taking some steamers and tying some barges with cottons bales on the side of the boat that faced the guns of Vicksburg. And tried at night to get the troops past Vicksburg. And so there were a couple people who volunteered from the 68th to be part of that detail to get that job done to take these boats past Vicksburg. One of them is…what’s the name?

LL: Crandall.

KL: One of them was named Crandall. Well, I know that. I don’t have it with me here right now who the others were. But they got the job done. They were of course discovered and were fired upon but they got the troops past Vicksburg at night. And some of the troops marched around through the swamps and they used the riverboats to get the people across the river.

CW: Oh yes.

KL: So they were all on the Mississippi side, across from the Louisiana side.

CW: Oh yes.

KL: And they crossed at Bruinsberg.

CW: Sounds familiar.

KL: They crossed at Bruinsberg and they immediately took off and with no supply train they were living on the land. Grant wanted to go first east to Jackson to deter any troops that might come to reinforce Vicksburg. So he went to Jackson first and the 68th was involved in a battle there in a town called Raymond, Mississippi. The 68th was involved there and then they went to Jackson. And from Jackson they turned toward Vicksburg and when they got to a place called Champions Hill at Champion’s Plantation. There was a battle there and the 68th was involved in that battle and quite a few people were killed there. And then they went to Vicksburg and marched on Vicksburg. Laid siege to Vicksburg. And for several months tried assaulting it directly and were repelled. Heavy losses. They tried digging tunnels underneath and filling it with gunpowder and blowing a hole through. That was not successful. They were sent back. Finally they cut off all supplies. There was no food. They were printing a newspaper on wallpaper in the city. Said to be eating mule meat and so forth. And they were living in dugouts and caves to escape the shelling. Union shells were falling on the city.

CW: Now this is Vicksburg?

KL: This is Vicksburg. This is Vicksburg

CW: Now that one we were talking about before. That was up high on the blocks.

KL: That’s Vicksburg.

CW: Was that the one?

KL: That’s Vicksburg.

CW: Ok. They had signs in that battlefield telling about this, this siege.

KL: There is a monument to the 68th Ohio. I think almost every unit that was there has a monument there. There is a monument for the 68th Ohio there. I haven’t seen it but I’ve seen pictures of it. So they captured Vicksburg on the 4th of July. They surrendered in 1863. At that time the 68th also sent parts of units of sharp shooters to look for reinforcements coming from the east. Shortly after that time, several months passed and their time for enlistment was up. They enlisted for 3 years and tried to get everybody to re-enlist;  it took a bit of coaxing.

CW: I bet! (Laughs)

KL: I read that‘s what they did. People told what was said and so forth. What happened I don’t remember right now. But they re-enlisted. They came home to this area to their families and then went back by train, on train to Georgia.

CW: How did they get them to go back?

KL: Well, they had re-enlisted.

CW: Oh, they had gotten them re-enlisted first before letting them go home.

KL: They were re-enlisted. And they went back to Georgia. They were a part of the battle of Atlanta leading up to Kenesaw Mountain. Leading up to the battle of Atlanta. And that was in July and August of 1864. That was the most serious action the 68th was in. They were in a position to the left of the union lines and during the night the confederate troops had flanked them and gotten to their rear. They had confederate troops in the front and rear of them in the battle of Atlanta. That was their most serious battle.

CW: Wasn’t that where Sherman went through and marched to the sea?

KL: Right. After the fall of Atlanta, they torched the railroad tracks, piled the railroad ties up, put the track on top of the ties, lit the fire to bend the railroad tracks so they couldn’t be used again. And that way I guess they couldn’t follow them as they took off. Then Sherman marched to the sea to Savannah and the 68th was a part of that. This was all on foot. Across to Savannah. And from Savannah they went north into South Carolina.

CW: The Union troops?

KL: The Union troops did, right. They are marching now to the end of the war. Grant has been promoted to command in the east and Sherman has command in the west and his troops are marching now from the south to the north. They are marching up through South Carolina. When they got to South Carolina, especially when they get to Columbia, South Carolina, they set fire to the town because South Carolina has been the one that started the secession.

CW: Oh.

KL: So the troops were especially hard on South Carolina. And they walked through; this was all on foot, to North Carolina and up to Washington DC at the end of the war. They got there and they were a part of the big parade at the end of the war. They all marched in review.

CW: Well, if they were all down there in Carolina, they must not have had anything to do with Gettysburg.

KL: No. Gettysburg, I think Gettysburg was the same time that Vicksburg fell. The same day.

CW: Oh, is that right?

KL: We mostly hear Civil War stories of Gettysburg and Appomattox and Cold Harbor and Petersburg and Richmond. The troops from the west were from the farms, not much from the cities. They were used to more or less to life like that in the country. So they actually had more success living off the country.

CW: Is that right? And they could take that. All that marching.

KL: Right. Take all that. They were used to outdoor life because they worked outdoors as opposed to living in the city and working in a factory or something. So there were German units. There were Irish units. All kinds of people involved. A lot of people involved.

CW: Those German and Irish, they would have been from the New York City area I suppose?

KL: Yeah. Ohio had a group. I don’t remember the name or number but they had a regiment that was mostly German.

CW: Yeah, this area was heavily German.

KL: But most of the officers I see here had English names you know.

CW: Oh they did?

KL: Yeah like Scott. R. K. Scott. He was eventually the colonel of the 68th. He was with General McPherson when McPherson was killed at the battle of Atlanta. He was the highest ranking officer from the union army that was killed with the troops. And he was from Clyde, Ohio.

CW: Oh he was!

KL: And General Scott was with him on that day. His horse was shot from under him and he was captured and later exchanged. And after the war, this is something for someone to investigate, also to do a paper on how Colonel Scott, General Scott got to be Governor of South Carolina for 2 terms.

CW: Yeah. He was a carpetbagger it sounded like to me.

KL: Right. So how did he get that position?

CW: Yeah.

KL: And what were conditions like in South Carolina at that time. Why would he be interested just in the political power or did he have more of a humanitarian aim he wanted to see that right was done. Or you think it was just for political power that he was there.

CW: Probably monetary.

KL: Maybe money. Maybe in it for the money. And what particular troubles did he have as governor of South Carolina. I mean there’s bound to be material on the state histories, libraries of South Carolina somewhere that dealt with his time there.

CW: Yes and a lot of these people that were appointed as governors of southern states after the war were hated by the southerners for some reasons. Well partly because of the war but also they probably were not very kind to the people and there’s some reason there was so much resentment.

KL: Well, for the first time black people were in government and some people in the south couldn’t stand it.

CW: Yes.

KL: There was Colonel Scott and he is the head of it and he’s the symbol of the loss of their power. There’s lots of material there. I mean there is place for someone who wanted to do some scholarship I’m sure.

CW: It’s good to get this recorded because I suspect in the future, these things are going to be used by students probably Bowling Green or some other college around. History students are going to be looking for, as you say, interesting things to research and we are going to give them specific names, places and so forth and give them direction.

KL: Right. I mean here’s Colonel Scott. He’s buried in Glenwood Cemetery right back here just a few hundred feet from Camp Latty where he started the Civil War career. I mean….

CW: I didn’t know he was buried right there?

KL: He’s buried right there.

LL: He’s got a little marker. The first little one right here.

CW: Oh for heavens sake.

KL: So I mean there’s even high school kids could find I’m sure something to write about. You could just walk over there and feel the history. I mean you’re out there on that field. Of course now, most of it is the cemetery.

CW: Yes.

KL: Quite a bit of it is cemetery.

CW: Was this farm used at any time by the CCCs because they did so much. Look at what all they did in this area. They did the swimming pool, the shelter house.

LL: Not to my knowledge.

CW: They must have. I don’t know where they camped out. But it sure must have been around here somewhere.

KL: I don’t know. I don’t think it was here because I never heard any stories. I haven’t heard any stories about that. But with the river here, they could have camped along the river, too. But, um, this Camp Latty, I mean, I have been looking at the court house to try find out how it got to be used as a camp. I mean, I know it was used as a camp because we have personal accounts telling about it and we have archeological artifacts to prove that it was, also, and but I don’t know exactly who owned it at that time or why this particular place was chosen as an assembly point. It was kind of on the edge of town.

CW: Well, and it was high. You could see all around.

KL: And it was high and a lot of times they used the fairgrounds in some of the counties to assembly people because it was public ground.

CW: Oh.

KL: But here they used this place. I don’t know why. It’s another question that’s not answered.

CW: Yeah.

KL: There are a lot of questions that aren’t answered.

CW: Yeah.

KL: So the more you go, the more questions you have.

CW: Do you recall your father, Harold Hoff? He was Mayor of the city for many years.   Does he, did he tell you anything about the city at the time when he was mayor or prior to that time?

LL: He was mayor when Campbell Soup came to Napoleon.

CW: That was a big job to get them to come. Well, back to the building of 424. We moved here in 1951 and in that time, we rented that house when we first came that Mrs. Ressing owned. And then Mary Irene Funkhouser and her husband lived there. Who painted the (can’t understand). Well, the trucks at that time came up Avon.

LL: I could see how it would be Avon.

CW: Yeah. And I think there was a gas station down by near the river somewhere originally. Wasn’t there?

LL: That I don’t remember.

CW: There were a lot of those. And then the trucks would turn and go down Washington Street. They had the red light there and the trucks would make a lot of noise with their air brakes slowing down for the red light. So when he was mayor then, did he work with George Rafferty? Because George Rafferty said he made trips to Chicago to try and get Campbell to come here.

LL: Oh he could have. I don’t know. I don’t who all was involved with it.

CW: Then he really had to work. I suppose they were in competition with a lot of other towns.

LL: Right. But the one good thing that Henry County had going for it that a lot of places don’t have was soil, which is excellent for growing tomatoes.

CW: Oh really. I didn’t know that. Well, then also we had the water which would certainly be necessary for soup.

LL: Probably.

CW: Well, that made a big difference in our town. When did Campbell Soup come here first? Do you know?

LL: No I don’t know. It’s somewhere. I have magazines saying when and all that but I don’t know. And I can’t put my fingers right on them either.

CW: Well, now this little building where the ice cream place is, the Fosty Ice Cream. That has an interesting history because at one time it was the greyhound bus station. What else was it used for?

LL: Well, it used to be a garage. And I think before that it was Charlie Bale’s had a garage. I think so. And Pruitt’s bought it from Bales’s when I was a little girl. And Joe had a gas station in it. .

CW: So there was a gas station there too? There were gas stations every whip stitch weren’t there.

LL: Right.

CW: Well, you didn’t go as far in those days as they do now and you probably used up more gasoline in the process with the old cars.

LL: And you didn’t go in winter.

CW: No you couldn’t.

LL: Because the roads weren’t good. Mother always said that. You could never take the car out in the winter. You had to walk. (Hard to understand)

CW: That’s what he needed most of all!

LL: Right.

CW: But they didn’t even have heaters in the car did they?

LL: I don’t believe. No.

CW: How did we get off our topic? (Can’t understand) What else can we get off on? (Laughs)

LL: I don’t know. (Laughs)

CW: Still running. How many acres were in this farm?

LL: How many did you say?

KL: I think there must have been around 8 acres.

CW: Oh, so it was just a small farm.

KL: Right. Small parcel surveys at that time were not real precise either. I mean a lot of times a survey would go to a tree or something. Glenwood Avenue is a half section road. And somewhere near the police station on Glenwood is a section line.

CW: Now would you explain for children who wouldn’t know what a section was?

KL: A section is a 1 square mile of land. And the state of Ohio was divided into counties and then counties were divided into townships and townships were divided into sections. And a section is one square mile of land.

CW: So when they first settled here they would buy so many sections I suppose to farm.

KL: Right. Well, most people if they were farming would get a small acreage because they had to clear the trees off before they could farm it. And a timber speculator might buy large tracts of land to cut the timber off of it.

CW: Oh yeah. Do you know anything about that tiny, little, odd shaped road by the Bethlehem church on the Ridge Road. South of Ridgeville?

KL: No, I don’t.

CW: I’m trying to find out about that. Yes, that’s right. They didn’t seem to know anything about it either. I asked them. But there’s a possibility it might have been an Indian burial ground at one time. (Can’t understand) It was not like God’s little acre. Most of the farmers in the area would save one square acre and dedicated it to God the way I understand. But this one is not shaped like that, like the others.

KL: I don’t know where that is.

CW: Well, if you are ever on the Ridge Road and going south, you will see the Bethlehem church on your left. And then just across on the north side of the road is where this little grove of trees.

KL: Not familiar with it.

CW: Do you remember your father or mother telling about when they were children, what life was like?

LL: My mother lived in Okolona and they had to walk to Bethlehem church and…

CW:  That would be a pretty long walk. How many miles would that be?

LL: I don’t know? How far is it? A couple miles?

KL: It’s over a mile.

LL: And Daddy lived here in town. They originally lived in a house on Main Street and then school needed it when they built the new high school. So then they moved over to the south side to Barnes Avenue. And like Father said, when he was little he would ice skate and they always had a boat on the canal.

CW: Would you ice skate on the river?

KL: I guess they ice skated on the river. I wouldn’t do it now because I don’t think it gets cold enough.

CW: No. I wouldn’t now. (Laughs)

LL: Well, I think, speaking of the river, one thing they always told mother and daddy always told about was Mr. Hampton who used to live in the other house over here. That he would, he always went fishing in the river and he could start at the culvert and he would dive in and then he would never come up until he was across the river. He could swim across the entire river.

CW: He must have been quite a swimmer. I need to try that. (Laughs) Well, back then it was a much purer, a much cleaner body of water. It’s unusually wide too. It’s not deep but it’s an unusually wide river.

LL: Yes, it is. That’s true. And they both said you know that when they were growing up and even after they were married, that Saturday night everyone would go uptown Napoleon. Park their cars and visit.

CW: I know. When I was going to Bowling Green to school but this was a long time ago, I worked in a dress shop. I think it was Pepper’s Dress Shop. And they had tiny little booths to change your clothes in but Saturday night there would be a crowd. Every Saturday night women coming in to look at dresses and try them on and so forth. The rest of the week it wouldn’t be busy.

LL: Yeah. Saturday night was the night you went to town.

CW: Did they have sodas, sundaes at the time I wonder? They did when I was girl.

LL: I don’t know if I ever remember them talking about that.

KL: I think so. Didn’t your mother have something about ginger ale?

LL: Oh that was in Toledo. She always said the fountains in Toledo had ginger ale in them.

CW: Oh.

LL: At the zoo I think they had a fountain with ginger ale.

KL: I remember… I remember one story that Harold told. I don’t know the name of this person, but this person worked at Spengler’s and food like crackers, for example, would come in barrels and this person could stand beside a barrel, an empty barrel and jump into the barrel.

CW: Wow! (Laughs) That is something.

KL: That would be an athletic feat today.

CW: Yeah that would.

KL: Here’s a letter from Samuel Steadman, Colonel of the 68th regiment, Camp Latty here in Napoleon, Henry County Ohio to General C. P. Buckingham. It’s a letter stating that the organization of the 68th regiment of Ohio volunteer infantry was complete and that he was forwarding the muster roles per express and that he received the bill of stores and muskets purported to have been shipped on December 24th of 1861. So this is a letter saying that he received the muskets and stores. And that the organization was complete and he was forwarding the roles to the State and that they were waiting for orders to be shipped out.

CW: Now that’s the sort of thing that verifies anything that’s been said by word of mouth or whatever. Here you have actual facts.

KL: And here’s a letter that mentions Robert Masters. It’s from the same date, December 27th, 1861, and it’s from Augustus Porter…

CW: I don’t mean to interrupt but I think we have to …. . (Can’t understand)

KL: OK. It’s from Augustus Porter who was from Nettle Lake in Williams County Ohio. And it’s stating that he received an appointment as a recruiting officer for the 68th regiment on November 5th. And he went to work under the order expecting to comply with the conditions of his appointment but he failed to recruit the 30 men in the time allowed but he did recruit 26 men and that Robert Masters reported 25 recruits at that time and was in the recruiting service at the same length of time that Mr. Porter was and that when they reported to the commanding officer of the regiment he had more than Masters in camp but by some process that Mr. Porter did not understand Masters received commissions over him but with less number of men. And all the compensation he had received was 50 dollars which would pay about half of his expenses. And Mr. Porter was requesting that Mr. Buckingham procure for him an order for his pay as recruiting officer. And that his recruits had reported to camp on December 13th.

End of Tape

Kryder, George and Steve

Interviewed by C. Wangrin, November, 2005

This is an oral history of George Kryder and his brother Steve Kryder, November of 2005, interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin.

(laughter in conversation about antics of George Weasel Jr., a pilot of small planes)

GK: That was a twin-engine plane.

SK: In McClure where his house was he actually had the light company—he would land from the north on an airfield they built on his farm and in order to fly a plane through there he actually had to have the electric—Toledo Edison—raise their line and the telephone company lowered theirs and he was flying between them. (laughter) Y’know, that was standard procedure.

GK: He was building an air strip on his radish farm at Sturgis, Michigan to make trips to it easier. I was leveling this off and it was sandy ground, hard to pack it. It was four o’clock in the afternoon and they were ready to leave and I was still working down there on the runway.   I looked behind me and here comes this plane! (laughs) But I drove the dozer off to the side and it went off, and the next day Web (Wilbur Helberg) told me the next day—that plane didn’t have enough air speed you know—that thing was shaking like the palsy. He said, “Jesus Christ, George!” and Mr Weasel put it into a dive, when he only had maybe 30 feet or so above the ground but they got enough air speed and away they went. (laughter)

CW: Just a minute. I want to make sure this thing is recording properly. (blank space in tape) Tell this one anyway George.

GK: George Weasel—we called him Dude–said in school he wasn’t much of a student so he spent his time looking out the window and dreaming. He would get the little kids—and we were little kids, six and seven years old. . . .he would have us kids working on the old bleachers. Before television every little town had a baseball team and they would play on Sundays. Well at the time when we were in school the bleachers had kind of fallen down, went bad you know. He showed us how to take the good planks and make a ramp.   He had a kind of motorized bicycle and he would run it over that thing and jump it off the back. Then the next day we’d have to tear it down and raise it up higher! (laughs) So that was the first way I got to know him. He never did anything himself but somebody else always did it for him. He started even when he was in school.

CW: Is that Weasel you’re talking about?

GK: George Weasel, yes. Well, he called me up and said he wanted to go up to the farm in Michigan and dig a ditch, so we went up there and one of their trucks was leaving and that night it got over too far and went in the ditch so we had to unload the truck and pull it out and it was almost dark. So he said, “Well you guys, instead of drivin’ back I’ll fly you back.” So (laughs) we go up and there was something wrong with their plane engine. One piston wasn’t working right so we got flashlights and everything and he went to another airport a few miles down the road. He got some parts and he showed us—Dan and I repaired the plane. (laughs) though we’d never worked on a plane before—so now it was pitch dark and we took off. He said, “The way we gotta find our way home now is to go toward Monroe, Michigan. I know approximately where it is. It has a cement factory and it’ll have fire comin’ out of its chimney. If we find that we’ll turn southwest and it’ll take us right to McClure.” (laughter) That was it! Pretty soon we could see the Maumee River down there and we got across to McClure. He circled round the house two or three times. You couldn’t see anything you know and pretty soon a car comes out and shines lights down the runway. Eeeuu, the plane landed right on the runway!

CW: One night Jude Aderman and his wife flew my husband and me to an Ohio State football game. When we came back it was almost dark. He had no radio in there, no communication, and he kept looking out the window. I said, “What are you looking for?” He said, “Well I’m looking for the river. If I find the river we’ll be O.K.”  (laughter)

SK: Yeah. Dude was quite a character, always was. That was back in 1957 when he started the company. That was an interesting time in McClure. I remember as a kid—his daughter, Pam Weasel Weiner, graduated with me in something like ’57. That was when he started the company. I remember when we were in the sixth or seventh grade we actually took a tour of this modern place just south of town.

GK: Well it was started before that because I remember in ’54 Bill Niebel and I were hauling radishes for Ohio Farmers and at that time he split off from Ohio Farmers and started for himself.

SK: There were four or five guys and he was one of them.

GK: He was one and there was Andy Couch, and a guy that lived right over here. I can’t think of his name right now but he was with Ohio Farmers. He worked as a crop duster. And so at that time we were hauling radishes for them and they packed them in small paper bags, culled them all by hand and then dumped the discards in that ditch that lay to the east. (laughter)

SK: That would be where the big creek was. That was Ohio Farmers.

GK: No, they were in Ney by that time, up there on 127.

CW: So he started in a barn, did he?

GK: Yeah, used their barn.

SK: The story was that Ernie Doll who was like a local tinkerer kind of guy in McClure… Dude came to him one day and said, “I need a machine that will bag up these radishes and put ‘em in a plastic bag.” Ernie said, “Well I can tinker that around. So he made this contraption where you get a funnel at the top where he’d dump the radishes in and they’d go in like a little drawer and they would measure them out and put them into a bag. He made one of those for Dude and Dude said, “That’ll work. Now why don’t you make me several more cause I’ve got a semi load of radishes out there.” (laughs) So Ernie, of course he was all frustrated by that and said he couldn’t do it. Otherwise he’d be the Tinkerer of the Day and made a fortune doin’ that but instead that’s when Dude got, I suppose, neighbors and boys and all those guys to build those machines. George, did they actually build those machines themselves?

GK: Well at first, but there was a guy in Deshler—can’t think of his name right now—but he was the one that designed that first radish harvester. There were times that I rode down to Florida. We had to stop there and get a machine, and they had Nick Crawford. They didn’t have a harvester at that time, and they had this thing that was like a Rototiller, anyway he took that and put a burlap bag on the side and it would fill that burlap bag; they’d tie it up and drop it on the ground. That’s the way they first started to harvest them. They did it by hand first but that was the first machine and then later on he patented. It was the Helberg boys and Dick Gray who were the ones that actually built those harvesters and then they had the first big harvesters.

SK: That was one of the really big things wasn’t it, that they could harvest a dozen or 50              at a time.

GK: What they would do is about 20 acres every day in a 30-day cycle, between 28 and 30 days, depending on the weather, for one crop of radishes to grow and he said “That’s the reason I’m making money because I can have 10 or 11 harvests a year where a guy raising corn, he’d have only one.” He’d use the ground over and over.

CW: You wouldn’t think they could grow. They must put a lot of fertilizer in the ground.

GK: Well I don’t remember just how they did fertilize them that much but it was all muck ground. In Florida they did it in the Everglades and up in Michigan they did it in muck ground, and the ground had about a foot of muck and then there was about the same amount of sand, at least in Michigan and you could dig a hole two feet across and drop a match or something in there and you could see it flow across. There’s so many lakes up there in Michigan where one time and sometimes (Phone rings)… The water was always moving under the ground, see.

SK: I think Jay Huddle told me one time that he was up at a sale and he bought a couple of those old single-row harvesters that he had tucked away someplace.

CW: Judy Heitman said that her father, a Hahn– I don’t know his first name– invented the corn picker.

GK: I remember Dad bought a corn binder when I was 16 years old. I remember that. Dad bought that thing and before that they would cut the corn that would fall on the ground; then you’d have to pick it up and put it on the wagon and run it through a silo filler which had a big reeling wheel with small blades on it which would cut it up in small chunks and blow it up into the silo. Well then they came out with this thing that had a bit elevator on it and you went along the tractor with the binder and the bagger—had to have a wagon right along side of it. And somebody had to catch those things and Whack — terrible work. I was 15 years old just goin’ on 16 and before we used to use horses but then when Dad bought a smaller tractor we went alongside of the tractor. But it was very hard to keep the two tractors in the right spot. The one that was cutting corn had to be just a little bit ahead of the one that was following. You had to be on the ground to catch the bundle but then you had to get it up there to stack it. It was terrible work but my Dad did that all day long, see. Well one time I got too far ahead or something, anyway the bundles were coming down and he couldn’t cope with it. He picked up an ear of corn and hit me side of the head, like that. I jumped off there and I told him I quit. I went in the house, told Mom I was going out west to Chicago, but if you were going west from McClure you went towards Napoleon. There was a guy down there—his name was Carl Mowery and he always came to town for a glass of beer in the afternoon. I got up there and I was getting a bottle of orange pop or something and Carl came in there and he said, “What are you doin’ here George? Your Dad’s filling silo.”

I said, “Oh I just left. I ran away from home.”  “Nah if you’re gonna do that you have to come home with me.” So I went and lived with him for three months. He called my Dad up. He’d once been a hired man for my Dad so he called him up and told him, so that was better. (laughs)

CW: Something you’ll not forget.

SK: That way to be a cowboy! (laughter)

CW: Did you know about that?

SK: No, that’s a story I never heard before.

GK: You never heard that?

SK: No. I do remember the corn binder and trying to make sure that both vehicles were run. That was just a horrible job at the same speed.

CW: I suppose at the time they had horses it wasn’t so hard because you could say to one horse “Whoa” or “Giddyup” to the other.

SK: Well yeah, and compared to picking the bundles up and throwing ‘em on the wagon it was an easier job. That was, but it just was a horrible job.

GK: My Dad, he would try to do more. Let’s see, how do I say it? Even though he was tired he never slowed his pace down where some guys will, if you get tired, you slow your pace down so when we changed around and helped each other fill silo and he would go as far as Crahan farm which was up by Napoleon, you know and with his binder and cut, but he was always on the wagon. (laughs) So there were a lot of guys that were stronger than he but he was the one that would really actually work hard. He was a very hard worker, and I have seen him –well I guess that’s another story but in 1919 or 1920 I’m not sure which he bought a farm, 60 acres where the home where Mom lived—you know where she lived—anyway and at that time it was before the depression it was a pretty good time. They were making money but anyway after that period when the Depression came I know he had $700 to pay the bank in interest each year and even if he didn’t pay anything on the principal he still owed that.  Well oats were sellin’ for $.07 a bushel, corn $.13—you know it was a very hard time and they worried about that and I can remember him falling down between the house and the barn, being so tired at the end of the day that he couldn’t even walk anymore. So that was how people worked in those days. They now don’t know what work is. (laughs)

CW: Did you ever block sugar beets?

GK: No, we never raised sugar beets.

CW: I remember Ed Winzeler saying that’s the hardest job he ever did.

SK: But guys milked cows. I remember Dad saying in the 20s before he was married he milked cows three times a day.

CW: Oh they did! How come three?

SK: Stimulus.

GK: Most people milk twice a day but if you milk three times a day you get another 10% or something and that’s the way they –I’ve got this gold medal given by the American Jersey Cattle Club for the most butterfat produced by one cow that year. It was kind of a contest-like thing of who had the best cattle.

SK: To think about milking 25 or 30 cows by hand was a huge, huge job.

CW: How long would that take?

SK: I don’t know.

GK: Oh you could milk a cow in five minutes. And we did. The way it happened, Grandpa was in the Senate and of course he was a politician and he would want to show off to his constituents and he’d bring the guys up from Columbus. He wanted to have this really nice farm and people would brag about it and all that, so they had spent quite a bit of money on barns and they had a system where they could clean out the gutters and they would take it out and dump it and they even had a thing where you would start the pump up and it would pump cold water through a series of tubes and then you would put the milk up on top and it would run down over that and cool it. Most people sold their milk as Grade B milk which you could make butter out of, or cheese but you couldn’t sell it as Grade A which would be something to drink. The ones that had Grade A actually got more money and there was this butterfat. Nowadays we drink skim milk but in those days the butterfat was worth more per hundred weight. 3.5 was the basis of pure milk but if you had something like 7% they could skim that and make butter out of it, extra see, so that was worth more so that’s what they tried to get.

They made shocks—do you remember seeing shocks out in the field? Okay, in November we had finished filling the barn up with corn fodder and about 5:30 in the evening somebody said there was a fire and I was—let’s see, in 1935 I was only three years old and Tom was just a tiny baby. Mom took us over there where the buildings were on fire. Tom cried all the time and Aunt Esther kept feeding him candy to get him to quiet down. I can remember looking through this huge window and seeing the fire at the other farm and here they’d blown that dry fodder into this big barn. It was actually like a hay mow only it was a long thing and there were two or three light bulbs in there that had been left on and that started the fire. You remember Grandpa was still having to be the best. They had spent $5000 on a bull. They had it brought over from the island of Jersey. $5000 was a lot of money, so they got the bull out and they got most of the milk cows out and there was a lane that ran to the west—I can see it yet—and there was a wooden gate and the neighbors were all there trying to help put out the fire. They had put cows in there and the bull. There were young heifers that they had in a box stall inside the barn. They couldn’t get them out and they were all bawling and everything and that bull broke that gate to be inside with those heifers. They couldn’t get him out so Everett Nelson who was a friend took a rifle out and shot them all so they wouldn’t suffer. They lost the bull and anyway Dad had to sell off a lot of the cows and he started over, milking in the chicken coop. He had, I think 16 cows left. We milked them by hand, but before that we had a milking machine but they lost that and the barns in the fire.

CW: Did the milking machine burn?

GK: Yes, we lost all that and by that time (1935) of course it was Depression times. But in 1944 World War II caused prices to go up. He sold a carload of steers and he bought a new milking machine and bought Mom a fur coat. (laughs)

SK: But the fire got so hot that there was a—now you’ll have to help me with this, but as I understand it there was a wood house and their apple butter kettle was on the second floor and it got so hot on that floor that it melted the copper kettle and dripped down through the floor boards, and so that’s why Dad then traded a calf to some guy in North Baltimore for this kettle that we still have today. That’s the one that the family had but that was the story Mom always told me about which I think is pretty amazing.

GK: See, that had a shingle roof at that time. It caught on fire and it burned.

SK: But the rest of it didn’t.

GK: It was called the ‘wood house’ and that’s what it was. It was a two-story probably like this with another floor above it. They stored honey and apple butter and different things. This was what they called the wood house and they just stored wood in there for burning.

CW: I thought maybe it was one they lived in at first.

GK: No, it was quite a few years later. I was 7, 8—something like that. Grandpa came home from one of his. . . it was two terms in the Senate, right? And then he had different jobs in political things, like they had what you call the cornborer division where—almost all the corn was susceptible to corn borer where today they have genetically improved it so it seldom bothers. Once in a while you have a little, but before this that corn would go down and they couldn’t harvest it very easily because of the corn borer. So they came up with this idea sort of like they’re doin’ with…

SK: Emerald ash borer

GK: Corn borer. They would just eradicate all the stalks. They’d take a team of horses with a railroad tie. They’d knock the cornstalks all down and then raked it up in windrows and they burned it. The farmers hated that because of the cornstalks. I don’t know how many years that went on but finally a man who planted alfalfa genetically changed corn so borers didn’t bother it any more.

SK: Finally, Garst invented hybrid seed corn that was not susceptible to that and that really was the end of . . .

GK: So he was out of a job

SK: But they did all kinds of other things. They brought in red-wing blackbirds, because this borer is like a little larva to a butterfly and so the red-wing blackbirds would thrive on those . . . .

CW: That’s why there’s so many of them around now! I was wondering about the fire department.

SK: Starlings too were kind of the same way.

GK: I can’t remember how old I was but when Grandpa came back and moved into the brick house again he wanted to rebuild that wood house again, so I was his helper and I had to carry for him and things like that.

CW: What about the fire department? Did you have fire departments that helped?

GK: I would imagine they did but I don’t remember. You know I was 3 years old or something. I would assume they had fire departments but they probably didn’t have enough power. It was kind of an antique type of thing. It wouldn’t have enough water to put that thing out. I remember that was terrible.

CW: Were you older than Steve?

SK: George is the oldest.

GK: I was born in ’32.

SK: I was born in ’44 so there’s quite a difference, 12 years. I don’t remember lots of that stuff.

GK: There were all kinds of things that . . . Mom, she was very thrifty. She made a lot of our clothes.

CW: My mother did too—made everything.

SK: There’s this story of this woman in Defiance, The Prizewinner of Defiance. We remember in the ‘50’s that Mom was always doing some kind of a contest. She’d try to win something or other. We were talkin’ the other day and Phil said, “And I was the only one who won.” She entered things all the time and Phil wrote some kind of paragraph about something or other and that wins a prize. (laughs) That was the only thing she ever won. But they always, the thing I always remember was like most farm families would have egg money and for Mom they always had strawberries in the summer and I remember selling strawberries along Route 6. People were probably going to work. We’d sell them ‘3 quarts for a dollar.” And I remember picking strawberries all morning and then put them out to sell. Then of course apple butter in the fall was something that Grandma Kryder had made and it had come from back at the turn of the century. So we had this tradition, then Mom made it forever and ever and during the year she would save canning jars, you know, from salad dressing, coffee jars, and you’d have millions of glass cans settin’ around. I remember she’d go around to restaurants and get pickle jars, you know after they’d sold the pickles out she’d get the—what was that place next to Howard’s, there was always a –I know she went there and she went to the-a-Palmer House and what was that other restaurant? It was Groll’s toward the end but it had some other name, but she’d go there and get a gallon so we’d have apple butter in gallon jars and pint jars and quart jars and somethin’ that was like a quart and a half, Mayonnaise can or something. It was always hard because there was no uniformity to any of that kind of stuff. I remember one year she sold apple butter and the next spring she bought two fancy lawn chairs. (laughs) But that was always somethin’, you know. Grandma was always storing it away so that she’d have a little pocket money for herseslf.

GK: Well when I was in first grade she had taken her egg money or whatever and bought me a little leather jacket from Sears and Roebuck and I still got it but I never wore it because other kids couldn’t afford to have a leather jacket. They all had cloth jackets. I never wore it. I felt uncomfortable.

SK: I remember one time we had that old ’36 Buick and she had gotten me this—it was right after the war, probably ’50 or so, I was probably 4 or 5 years old—but I got this what was like a kahki uniform. It had kahki pants and a coat that looked like an army uniform, that type of thing, and I was all spiffed up and thought “this is really cool”. I had to go into McClure to get groceries and she bought a jug of bleach and going around the corner from where Shepherds had their grocery store going toward the ball diamond you know, it rolled over and broke and this thing became white –had all these blotches on it. (laughs)

CW: That bleach is powerful.

SK: Yeah, pretty stout stuff.

GK: The first thing I remember about my Grandpa and Grandma, and I was—I don’t know how old I was but they were out on the other side of the garden and they had butchered a sheep and I was so intrigued by the way Grandpa would make one little cut to skin the sheep and then he would hand the knife to Grandma and she would wash it off, and he’d take one more little cut and I never knew why. It probably took ‘em half a day to skin that sheep. He said later on—I asked him—I said, “What was the deal with that sheep?” He said that the wool flavors the mutton. If you get any slice of wool in with the mutton it will ruin the flavor of it, and so he was so careful. He would take a little incision. I don’t know how he did with the skin but then he would hand Grandma the knife and I can remember that yet. She would wash it and hand it back to him and he would cut another little bit off. (laughs) Well Louis Bromfield—I don’t know whether you’ve ever heard of him—he’s the guy that started alfalfa on all that coal mining area in southern Ohio. Well, Grandpa was stuck on Louis so he thought, “Wed better raise some alfalfa..” Right across the road was where his show field was. I suppose it was about 7 acres or so, and they never had what they call permanent pasture. Well he planted it to alfalfa and he had these young heifer calves and one day he turned ‘em in there and left them all night. The next morning—now we always had a little lane, just a path where we’d run across there to get to the other barn. We went there and there were five or six of those calves lying there bloated. I went into the house and woke him up. You know he was sleeping late. We always had to get up real early to milk and then we had to clean the barn and get on the school bus yet, so—but anyway I woke him up and told him these calves were lying there. He went out there—I don’t know, most of them were dead but a couple were not. He had this long cutting knife. He counted three ribs over and Whack! stuck the knife in there and let the gas out.

CW: Did they live then?

GK: Those did but there were ones that were already dead. So a year later where our Uncle Ted lived down the road a half a mile his wife Margaret called up and said some calves were bloated and Dad said, “George you go over there and help your aunt.” (laughs)

CW: With a hunting knife I suppose?

GK: Well actually Aunt Margaret did it with a butcher knife but I had to count over the ribs because I didn’t like where it was placed. (laughs)

SK: You had seen Grandpa . . . (laughter) Yes.

GK:  He learned in a hurry not to pasture the calves in alfalfa, that’s for sure!  And then another thing I remember, he bought this silo material. It was cyprus wooden silo so the pieces were not of equal length so you didn’t have joints that would be continuous around. You know you’d have a six-footer and then you’d have nine-footer and then you’d have a 12-footer and then a four-footer and then you know like that. But then you had to put that all together and put it up so it’d be a silo. Well Grandpa started out and I was his helper and I never forget: he said, “Boy you are a lazy kid.” I said, “Why, Grandpa?” You know it really hurt me, and he said, “Well if you wasn’t lazy you’d make two trips instead of trying to carry two pieces at once.” (laughter)

SK: Well now, in like ’35 or so he must have been—was he around when the fire took place? Do you remember?

GK: He was, yeah.

SK: So then after Bricker got elected Governor—1940?–then he got appointed to the Food and Drug Inspection.

GK: Yeah, that was in the ‘40’s though. He might have been there ten years or so and then he moved back to Columbus.

SK: And then you guys moved into the brick house.

GK: We moved back and forth I think it was either two or three times depending on who controlled the state offices. Once it was ’45, I think, we stayed in the White House.

CW: Was that after Rita and you were married?

SK: No, this was when we were kids. When Grandpa was in Columbus Dad would move from his farm across the road where Mom and Dad lived to Grandpa’s house where we kept the dairy herd.

GK: Here’s that brick house. (Shows picture)

SK: So that was built in the 1880’s or something like that. Our great grandfather was a Civil War Veteran and he got a pension from being wounded in the Civil War and he built this nice little brick house and so then Grandpa Kryder—George E.—who was our Grandfather inherited that place and lived there and that’s where my Dad grew up and this would be the old George Kryder who fought in the Civil War and his wife and then these would be his siblings. Then when Dad’s family –when Grandpa would move back to Columbus to take some state position which he did in the ‘40’s he was like the head of the Food and Dairy Division of the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture and so he lived in Columbus and he was in charge of inspecting all the dairy and food processors—that kind of thing—and so Dad moved from north of the road, Route 6, to the brick house just so somebody was in that house.

(End of Side 1)

GK: O.K. One thing I was going to tell was I only saw my Dad cry once and that was . . . Steve was the only one who was born in a hospital. All the other boys were born at home. We were in church and he was crying.

SK: It was because during WWII there weren’t any doctors around.

GK: So we were in—you know parents with children always sat in the back of the church and Dad was not a Christian when he married my mother. What’d he call himself? It wasn’t an agnostic. I can’t think of it but he believed there was a higher being but he didn’t believe in like…

SK: In organized religion.

GK: In coming back, that Christ would come back . . . I’m not sure exactly. But anyway he didn’t go to church for a long time. In fact, I was six years old I think and Jack—I had a dog—and he would always follow us back and forth across the field and Grandpa had an Essex car and he came around and Jack went across to the house you know and Grandpa hit him and so we had him back of the cook stove for a couple months until he kind of healed up—it was in the fall and I was up on the wagon and I was drivin’ the horses up ahead while they threw the bundles up on the wagon and Jack got tired. He lay down under one of those wagon wheels. Dad started the horses up and ran right over him. It broke his back; he was dragging himself and I was crying and everything and so next morning Dad told Mom to take the boys to church and when I came back Jack wasn’t there any more but he had dug five different holes so that I wouldn’t know where Jack was buried.

Well I was going to tell her the only time I ever saw him cry was the day that Steve was born and we were all standing there and Rev. Moser mentioned something about it and it was kind of like a little prayer and Dad started to cry.  See, I thought he was sad but he wasn’t.

SK: But Phil is younger than me by four years and I can remember when Phil was born—middle of the summer you know Mom, she was pregnant so I would have been four years old. And she told me that—she said, “Now here, feel my stomach. By morning you’ll have a baby brother.” Well that was pretty cool, so the next morning I came downstairs from up there and there in this basket was Phil lying upon the dining-room table and during the evening Dr. Manhart from Bowling Green delivered her there at the house and there was brother Phil.

CW: What did they use—did they use the kitchen table or the bed for the delivery, do you know?

SK: I was asleep so I don’t know what they used, but you know I guess all you guys probably were born there.

GK: Yeah. There was a lot of stuff like that and it would take forever to tell them all but like Aunt Emma; she came from Cincinnati and she was always trying to do something to show Mom up, I think.

CW: Was she your mother’s sister?

GK: No, she was one of Dad’s sisters and so she took us to see “Blackbeard the Pirate” to a movie. Well we had never seen a movie before. It was really something to go to a movie and so they hung this guy by the yardarm in the movie you know so the next day I wanted to hang one of the boys but they were all skeptical. They didn’t think it was a good idea. (laughs)  So I volunteered to be the one to be hung only I put the noose under my arm, not around the neck and I thought it wouldn’t choke me so they threw the rope over the apple tree. I said, “Now if I start to yell or anything you’d better let me down.” But they pulled her tight, wrapped it around the tree a couple times and it didn’t take anything to hold it like that. Anyway the other one kicked the can out from under me. I went “Aaaach!” and Mom came out with the paring knife. She was going to cut some dandelions. I don’t know if you ever ate dandelions but anyway she was going to get some dandelion greens for lunch and she saw me hanging. She ran over and rescued me. (laughs)

SK: They always told the story too about when they were redoing the barn the Reimond brothers there at home and you know there’s a spot where you run the rope out to put hay up in the barn and Tom—you hooked him up by his suspenders and I pulled him up to the roof of the barn. (laughter)

CW: He’d be up pretty high.

GK: So anyway she always had like 15 pair of work Levis. She got them from Montgomery & Ward. I don’t know what they were called but they were a looser-fitting kind of jeans and she found out that the knees were the first thing to go, see. So what she did was after a year or two she figured this out. She would take this seam out, cut the back piece off and when we’d get a new pair of jeans she sewed that back piece on the front so they’d last longer. When that wore out “Whsst!” You had new fronts. (laughter)

CW: She was a smart woman!

GK: Kids today would never—the money they spend for clothes!

SK: Well we would buy a pair of jeans that were already fraggy ‘cause that was the style.

GK: And then I remember I had this little blue and white sailor suit and it had a white collar and it was blue and had white buttons on here and it had short pants, and I wore that to church when I was little, you know, so she—you probably don’t remember it but several of the boys wore it; handed down from one to the next. It wasn’t too long ago there was somebody moved in that green house down the road so she took some of those clothes there. A couple days later she went there to collect for a charity or something and she found them out on the porch. They’d been using them to wipe their feet on. They weren’t going to wear those kind of clothes.

CW: That’d be kind of sad and that little sailor suit was right there with them probably.

GK: I was glad to get out of that though. I had to go to knickers then and I wore knickers to church for…

SK: I always had long pants if I remember right but I do remember gettin’ a suit from Dave—always had to be passed down but in the days when we all wore suits to church I guess, so. . .Let’s see, you went off to college in ’50?

GK: 1950.

CW: Ohio State?

GK: No, Capitol. Mom wanted to get a preacher.

SW The thing I remember about that one time was we went down to Columbus to either visit Capitol or take me there in like, ’62 when I went and I always told the story to my kids at school too. I thought this was really interesting. You drove down Main Street to get to High Street—you know that was Route 33—and we stopped for dinner at the Southern Hotel which is still there, still an old place, had dinner and I can remember to this day that they had ‘White Only’ and ‘Black Only’ restrooms. In ’60 Columbus was basically a southern town and you still had that segregation. It might have been when you were in school and we went down to visit you sometime.

GK: It probably was. I’ve looked at some of my papers. I’d written Mom a letter and I’d gone to Miami with a friend who lived down there over Christmas vacation and we were in a department store and we had looked around and were going to leave and he went over to the water fountain and started drinkin’ and there was another water fountain so I turned it on. He grabbed me and yanked me. “You don’t drink out of that. That’s for Blacks!” That was about 1950.

CW: Not too long ago really. That was Miami, Florida.

GK: Yeah.

SK: Was it one of those guys from college that you went with? You know, it always astounded me. Living here it’s like . . . I remember one time it was so weird. Dad would always feed anybody that drove in to the house and one time we had a carload of Black guys drive in there about four o’clock in the afternoon on a fall day and—they’re all probably college age and so forth—so they’d go to work and rake leaves and then Mom fed them, and afterwards they played a little football in the yard. “This is pretty neat. These guys can catch it really good!” But-a—that was probably the first experience I’d ever had with anybody that was Black.

GK: We had one Black person at Capitol the first year that I was there.

SK: There weren’t many when I went to school either.

CW: Well I had heard that way back the police would take a Black person out to the edge of town. They’d feed ‘em and give them a place to sleep for one night, then they’d take ‘em to the edge of town and, “Don’t come back.”

SK: Oh I’m sure that’s true.

GK: In Mississippi there used to be a sign on each side of the town that would say, “Darkie, don’t let the sun set on your shoulder.” Something like that. That meant you didn’t dare . . . and I remember, I drove truck in ’53, ’54, somewhere in there, and you’d go through those towns down there and there was a Black person on the road . . I mean, sometimes it was only a hundred yards apart, sometimes it’d be close to half a mile but you could never not see one walking. But even during the Depression here there were a lot of Tramps, we called them. One of them told Mom that there was a sign or someway they had a way of knowing that she would always feed them ‘cause somebody stopped there every day.

SK: Yeah. She’d never turn them away.

CW: They said they marked the gate posts or some way but you never saw any sign.

GK: No but they knew and they would just come in there and –just like they knew that she’d—and she’d always put ‘em to work with some little thing but …

SK: I always remember one day a fellow had a bagful of newspapers and he said he laid those out to sleep on. He had a dry spot to lie down on.

GK: Grandpa had this orchard, you know, and one day I went over there and I could see this brown thing. I went there and I got a little closer to stare at it. I ran over to tell Grandpa. I said, “I think there’s a monkey under one of your apple trees.” (laughs) He got his shotgun and went down the road to the apple orchard and it was some guy had an Army uniform on and he was sleeping under that apple tree. I was just little. I called him a monkey. Years later when I came home from college I worked for Langedurfer, a paving contractor from Toledo for two to three days and he said, “Well since you’ve got this bunch of guys from McClure why don’t you go with the wash-up crew (That’d be Slim Meyers’ bunch).

SK: Who else was working?

GK: Oh, Brown—not Bob but he . . . .there was Herb Joy, Herby Titus. Herby and I drove and the guy that lived on the     right across from Storchs—what was his name? an old bachelor guy. He lived there and then he moved down here and lived in the old school house. Anyway we all worked together on the roads.

SK: You would have been the young fellow.

GK: My job was to stand up on a platform on the paver and clean asphalt from the truck bed.

GK: Yeah and asphalt was so sticky it would stick about two inches thick on the truck bed. Even when Dan and I started it we used 9% asphalt. Now we use less than 5% and that’s the reason our roads don’t hold up. The cost had gone from 17 cents a gallon to $1.25 a gallon.

SK: You put that stuff in and it doesn’t stick together.

GK: In fact, Gerken said, “You gotta put cement in to make concrete.” (laughs)

SK: So you were still up on the platform

GK: I was still up on the platform and it was mud, and I had to clean the trucks out. Then that one would drive away and another one back in. Of course they were only hauling six tons

CW: Did they scoop out the rest of it?

GK: Yeah, you’d add this… that was about this wide. It had a big long handle on it and you’d start to shovel that up in there and the stuff would come down in there. Well I’d worked on that job about three months and Slim said—well I’d moved around and I wanted to be an operator instead of a laborer but anyway he said, “That pavement down in the road there about a half a mile, you can bring it up here.” So I walked down there, got the timber and started coming up the road, well one of the trucks had turned around and was headin’ that way to go back to the plant, so dumb me, instead of letting him get off the road I moved off and got stuck and it was three years before I ever got a chance to (laughter)…

SK: That’ll teach ya! (laughs)

CW: I think we’re getting a great recording. (clock ticking) Well Steve, what do you remember?  Do you remember your Mom or Dad telling stories about the old times or anything?

SK: I always remember Mom talking about her Dad and Mom that—I’m not sure where she was born.

GK: She was born in Richfield Township.

SK: And they lived down there in that Seedorf neighborhood, west of the cow or sheep shed, right? And I always remember her talking about the move down there and their whole goal in life was to end up moving back across the river to the promised land.

CW: Across the river?

SK: Yeah, ‘cause if you were, in the German tradition and moved down here it was like being in exile in the land of Egypt, and your whole goal was to move north of the river into what was called the Promised Land. This wasn’t as good a soil, it wasn’t as good a farm ground. Y’know, Liberty Center, that area where they ended up was . . . so I remember them talking about that, and it would get so muddy that when they would go anywhere in the springtime you had to clean the mud out from between the spokes on your wagon because it was so sticky and gooey.

GK: She used to tell about her Grandad—when you’d plow in that clay ground you’d get crops, and he would break them up with a maul. He’d just go out there and actually work at breaking up clods. Isn’t that something? Nobody would ever do something like that today.

SK: She also talked about, like in the ‘20’s early. Y’see, if you understand like during the First World War it was a really prosperous time for American agriculture. Corn was $3.00 a bushel and so she said her dad had a crib full of corn, started hauling it to town after the war, and after the war there was this huge depression in American Ag prices because they didn’t , they had sold it all to the Europeans and then the market fell out and so he started out one week selling corn at $3.00 a bushel and by the end of the week it was less than a dollar because the price just fell during that whole period of time. It was just a difficult time for them. And at the same time Dad in ’20 when he bought –or ’18 –bought that farm from Garsters for $300 less an acre than he had offered ‘em five years before that because, again, the price of commodities had gone down. The thing I always remember as a kid listening, Dad would once in a while reminisce about stories about old Grandpa Kryder and he’d tell stories about the Civil War things. I used to just love to listen to that stuff. They’d be on patrol and they couldn’t stop to eat so they would put a pot of food between two horses riding and then everybody would come up and scoop a cupful of bean soup, I suppose, or whatever—hard tack—and eat on the run as they were on patrol.

CW: That was a hard war, wasn’t it.

GK: It was.

SK: Tough business. His brother-in-law was this guy by the name of Henry Sweetland that was kind of an outlaw. Dad always told the story about how they were riding a line of rail fences and they got ambushed by Confederate Infantrymen who unhorsed their Lieutenant and had him up against a tree. Henry Sweetland rode up and shot six of them and carried the guy away, and that was when Grandpa then riding away from that got shot and he felt the bullet hit him in the back and he leaned over his horse and he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t bleeding. Well it turned out it hit a buckle and landed in his boot. So it was kind of dumb luck in that sense.

GK: This Sweetland was a person that, sort of like the Rangers after WWII they became so skilled at killing people that it didn’t mean anything to them. So he didn’t kill him to society and a lot of them didn’t either and he would go down to McClure and something and somebody’d get upset and—actually I don’t know how the story went but he got into a fight with somebody, came back, got a shotgun and shot the man. I don’t know whether it killed him or not. I never really did know that story but they were hunting him and Grandpa gave him some money, I don’t know how much, and put him on a train and he went west and nobody ever heard from him again. Like a lot of other people . . .

CW: That was after what war?

GK: The Civil War. That was our great-grandpa.

SK: It would have been in the 1880’s I suppose.

GK: Yeah. And this guy said that they came up to this barn where there were a lot of Rebel soldiers—I don’t know how many—in there and it was on a Sunday and they asked them to surrender or something. They didn’t. They started coming out and . . . oh, they set fire to the building, that’s what it was, I guess. And this Sweetland had one of those repeating rifles and he shot them as they came out, as you would shoot an animal or something. So he was not a . . .

SK: Not a very pleasant fellow. But the interesting thing was, y’know we had this book of the Civil War. Every county had one published, and in that Sweetland writes these little notes on the sides where the history wasn’t correct or just comments like, “This General was a chicken, showed cowardice under fire”, or another spot where it talks about him actually it says Sweetland was captured and sent to Andersonville but he puts in a note, “But I escaped.” (can’t hear words)

GK: And another thing that’s, this great grandfather, George, his father was a Copperhead. That meant he was a sympathizer for the south and so he was run out of Henry County and he left here and lived in Indiana for awhile and then came back after the war. But he’s buried out there at what they call Bostelman’s Corners west of Napoleon and Michael Kryder and…

SK: Two wives: Sarah Lee

GK: Sarah Lee

CW: Is it that little graveyard that’s right by Route 6?

SK: Yeah. And actually he ran right there by where Fred Freppel’s barn is. There used to be an inn there. It was called the Halfway House and he ran that for a period of time. Then the place across the way must have been some sort of a house or building by the way but that was used by someone like a blacksmith. Eventually I think on that property there on Harry Fast’s farm there were 40 acres or something they had a little place on.

CW: Well this Andersonville was that in Indiana?

SK: No. It was in Carolina.

GK: It was one of the worst places. The Confederates ran it, didn’t have enough food or supplies to keep the prisoners, so the prisoners ate rats and died of all kinds of diseases. It was one of the worst things that ever happened. Very few of them survived it. They would be able to live maybe three or four months, then they just gave up.

SK:  It was really a terrible place, terrible place. But that, the notes in those letters of old George where he talks about where he actually was in the group of people who captured Jefferson Davis at the end of the war. They chased him down in Alabama or someplace. For a long time after the war he had a farm in Alabama that he would go

down to stay the winter or something like that.

CW: Jefferson Davis?

SK: No, this George Kryder.

GK: The other thing was that he had brothers who fought on both sides.

CW: Really!

GK: Yeah, that would be something if your brother was . . .

CW: Yeah, I had heard of that: one brother fighting the other. Wouldn’t that be terrible?

GK: I don’t know whether—seven or eight children, wasn’t it? Something like that.

SK: In that group, yeah. A couple of ‘em were in units from Indiana. There’s an Edward in Indiana and this guy was actually mustered in in Monroeville, OH, but I always was intrigued by that kind of stuff. You really need Tom to tell you the stories.

GK: Tom’s a better story teller than we are ‘cause I think he actually had a—

SK: Good memory

GK: a better memory. Oh, one thing I can remember my Grandfather telling me was—do you remember how they made corn cribs out of rail fences? Well, even when I was a boy they had them but they took real fences and like that. When they’d lay it up it left air through so that the corn would dry out, see. The only problem is that any kind of a rat or mice or squirrel—squirrels were very prevalent—the thing that did the most damage to the corn. Our grandfather was telling me this. When he was a little boy he would get two cents or something for every squirrel he’d kill and then he had to buy his own ammunition. (laughs) I don’t know what that costs but anyway he said he got so “I could line two of ‘em up”

CW: That’s hard to believe—two squirrels with one bullet. (laughs)

GK: He said by the time—you know after several weeks he would have a lot more bullets than . . . (laughter) I don’t remember the exact words how it worked but …

CW: Made a good story anyway. (laughs)

GK: And I could see—you know, squirrels are so curious and my Grandfather, when—he loved to hunt squirrels when I would be too impatient. You have to go in there and just set still and don’t make any noise but those squirrels will come in sooner or later to check you out, so you know there’s squirrels up there in the tree but if you go looking around and moving then the squirrel. . . so we’d sit down in the woods and we wouldn’t make a move and it’d just go on for 20, 30 minutes. The whole thing was to be quiet and not make any noise and Grandpa would make a noise like that. The squirrel would come around the other side of the tree and then I’d get to shoot it. (laughs)

SK: I always remember him—this would have been like in the late ‘40’s—as I would have been just a little kid, but he had this ’42 Buick that he—that coupe, twin carburetors on it on a straight 6-cylinders on it. (laughs) Anyway he had this big old Catalpa tree out in the front of the house there and he’d park and sit there with the door open. He chewed tobacco and he’d sit there with his gun and he’d shoot starlings. They’d come squirreling around in the tree and he’d sit there with the door open and ‘pow’ and it’d fall from the tree.

GK: We didn’t know it till years later but the neighbors said, “Those bullets landed in our yard.” He was shooting up in the air and they would go. . . (laughs) it’d be a spent bullet but I never knew a bullet could travel that far.

SK: Remember when Carl Billow used to have that feed store and you’d go in there and buy shells. They’d go in, “More bullets, boys?”

GK: What I was wondering was practice at fast draw. (laughs) We shot into the silo and almost cut a hole in it.

SK: And then Dan, when he lost his eye, I remember as a kid when every night he had to throw a can up in the air and shoot at ‘cause he had to train himself to shoot left-handed because he was blind in one eye. I remember throwing and “pow!” He got so he was pretty good at it.

CW: How’d he happen to lose the sight of one eye?

GK: He got a piece of steel in the eye. There was a crank for a tractor. I don’t know whether you remember what the cranks looked like but they had a little pin that went through the crank . . . do you remember that? Well a crank was shaped like a crank, you know, and it’s got a little hole in there. A 3/8 pin went through there and then that fit inside

SK: Little cogs on the ends.

GK: And those little cogs fit on the ends of flywheels. They had tried to crank the tractor and it broke the end of the crank off so Dad had bought a welder from Sears and Roebuck and the first thing he did he took it out there and tried to weld an aluminum shelf. It might have been a steel shelf but anyway it was too thin. If you know anything about welding the thinner the metal the harder it is to control the heat. Otherwise you just burn it away, see. Anyway he gave it up and so Dan kind of learned to be the welder and he was pretty good at it so he said he would fix it, so he got a piece of rod, laid it in there where that broken area was and he was going to weld over the top of it– anyhow did he?—some way a piece broke off and hit him in the eye. Well nobody was living in that brick house at the time, was there? I think he went up there and kind looked inside and didn’t see anything and Mom would tell us to wait till lunch time if we got anything in our eye and she’d get it out. If we got a piece of metal or chaff or dust or anything she’d wrap our eyelid up on a pencil, then she’d go in there with another pencil, and most things will stick, kind of like a magnet. So she’d take it out. She told Dan she couldn’t see anything. He complained it sure hurt, you know, so Dad said, “Don’t worry about it.” So he worked the rest of the day and then that night he went over to Doc George over here. Doc George said, “I can see a little spot there. Maybe you oughta have that checked, so they went to Dr. Louis Raven—the guy that did it.” And they found out that—I don’t know how they found it but they found that there was a piece of steel on the inside. Well, he took the steel out but that formed a scar tissue and so he lost the sight in that one eye.

CW: Oh dear!

SK: So he had to learn to shoot left-handed. That was the most important thing.

GK: So Dad said, “You all throw cannon blue rocks for Dan so he had to learn to shoot left-handed.

CW: There were four brothers, weren’t there?

SK: Six brothers. George, Tom, Dan, Dave—they’re all two years apart and then there was six years apart between Dave and I and four years between Phil and I. And then there was another brother who died in infancy. He was Nathan. He was like three years younger than Phil.

GK: I was in college then.

CW: I didn’t realize there were that many. There were four boys in our family and your Mom and Dad invited us out one time. They were so gracious. And I thought that there were the same number of boys in your family as in ours, but there were more.

SK: It might have been that a couple of them were gone. It depends on when it would have been. George would have been gone, Tom was in the Army in the mid-‘50’s and so it might have just been …

CW: This was after the war so . . .

SK: That would have been very possible.

CW: Well then, didn’t they raise uh . . .

SK: Judd.

CW: Judd, yeah. Was he a . . .

SK: Cousin. He was Mom’s sister’s boy. She had three sons that were like my age and a couple years older, then there was a space and she had three younger sons, and Judd was the youngest of those. He was born in ’57 I think and so he had two older brothers, so there’s six in her family too. The three youngest ones are our cousins.   Our Uncle Martin—remember him, the barber Freytag? He raised two of them and then Mom raised Judd. He always had trouble in school and she pretty much willed him through school—taught him how to read and how to do pretty much everything in school.

CW: His mother died?

SK: Yeah, she had cancer. (clock strikes) So he was killed in an accident ten years ago or so.

CW: Well with that many boys in the family I’ll bet there was something going on all the time!  (laughter)

SK: Yeah, I always think it’s pretty marvelous that they all survived.

GK: I wrote a . . . we had to write some kind of paper in an English class in college and I wrote. . . The name of the paper was, “Why My Mother Worries.” (laughs)

SK: Whew! I always remember too that when I was a kid the older boys were always goin’ out on dates or wherever so the evening ritual was the milkin’ was done, the guys all got cleaned up and it would be like 7 o’clock or 7:30 and they’d be goin’ off to go to the Metropol or someplace and Mom always had to have Bible devotions before they left. So we all had to stand around and she would read the lesson in the Bible and read the little Bible study before they went off to wherever they were goin’ to do , cause I’m sure she worried about them but it was always the kind of an evening ritual.

CW: Yeah, she was quite religious. When she was an old old lady she would still drive her car every Sunday to church. Went to early church.

SK: Right. Went to early church.

GK: Here’s a history of the Third Ohio Calvary. That’s the one that he and his brother-in-law joined up and that is pretty much what they did. ( Shows a book)

CW: Now is this your Great-grandfather?

GK: That’s my Dad, I think probably did that. It looks like his writing to me.

SK: He would have been our Great-grandfather. He would be the fellow there.

(end of tape)

Kruse, Olga and Shirley Walker and Donna Kruse

Interviewed by Skip Honeck and C. Wangrin, May 4, 2005

CW: Olga, do you have any memories or stories that have come down in your family? 

OK:  Oh my!  No, not really any stories, just the way the kids grew up.           

CW:  Okay, where did they grow up? 

OK:  We lived in this house with the kids all here, lived in this house with two rooms upstairs and nine kids.

SW:  Raising most of your kids in Gerald.

OK:  Yeah, Gerald.  First we lived on a farm and I had all of my kids at home.

CW:  What was that like, having kids at home?

OK: It was hard.  Usually I had a neighbor with me.  She would wrap the baby up and wait for the doctor

CW:  Is that right?!

OK:  I guess like that.  Well we and some friends had gone to Irish Hills on a Sunday and got home late that night.  I didn’t feel too good and then after we got home then he was born and…

CW:  Was that your first one? 

OK:  Yeah.  He was seven months.  Yeah that was my first one, a seven-month baby. 

CW:  So you were not expecting a baby at that time. 

OK:  No because we had a great big fire there three days before—a barn burned down.  He did real good.  He was in the hospital till he weighed five pounds.

CW:  Did you try to nurse him?  You couldn’t nurse him when he was in the hospital.

OK:  No.  When the doctor came he weighed three pounds.  The doctor went on and got a fruit can of water.  That was the thermos bottle he used.  I had him at home seven days because the doctor had took my wash basket and made a bed out of that.  He put a wire over the top and a light bulb in the middle.  He had no incubator.  He was home seven days then he kinda turned blue. 

CW:  How about your other children then?  They were born at home too?

OK:  Oh yeah, they were all born at home. 

CW:  But they were healthy.

OK:  They were all healthy.  I never had any trouble with the kids.  Well Donnie… her birth was normal too and we started doctoring with her right away and until she was 7 years old.  She had surgery on her legs to straighten her legs.  For that there was nothing, no medication. 

CW:  She couldn’t walk.

OK:  No, huh-uh. She never walked.  She was in a wheelchair. 

SW:  One of the stories in Gerald . . .

OK:  Yeah, the Central office in Gerald belonged to Mom and Dad.  Yeah, that’s where I grew up.  You know where that is?

CW:  Oh yeah.

OK:   That’s where I grew up.

CW:  When did you learn English?

OK:  It was about the eighth grade.  We had some English in school but . . . I knew it but then my studies were all German, and I never went to high school because Mom needed me at home so I got to be home.

CW:  And helped raise your brothers and sisters yourself, right?  Helped your Mom? 

OK:  Oh it was a lot of fun!  So fun, even when we lived here—the kids, how they’d play and stuff with Donnie in her wheelchair.                                       

OK:  And then at the top of the hill they’d give her a push.  That girl went through so much, but fun—oh they used to have fun!  We had 43 kids from this corner to that corner, all about the same age.  And don’t you know they always come here, ended up here.  (laughs)  (phone rings)  They’d put a blanket on the clothesline and play out there but it is so different. They would play.

CW:  The Depression. . .

OK:  Stayed at home, made the girls help.  There were two ironing boards in the room.

CW:  That was a lot of work.

SW:  Back in the days you helped everybody. 

OK:  Everything got ironed.  (laughs)  And my kitchen wasn’t any bigger and all of us ate at the table there.  We’d pare about a peck of potatoes and usually it was fun there but later . . . . 

SW:  We’re no longer young.

OK:  Yeah but back then we were a very close family.  I’ve got ‘em all because they’re really right there when I need ‘em. 

CW:  Did you have any family reunions?

SW:  We don’t have many records of family reunions but the family record book . . . our family reunions.  We started having them at the Fairgrounds… I mean it was a day of picnics, ball games, horseshoes, I mean it was a full day of fun and games. 

OK:  Now we have ‘em at the Legion.

SW:  We had to switch to have them at Thanksgiving to hold us because we got too many.  (laughs)  And we’ve always had… I think one year when we had the ball games and sandwiches there was this big water trough that was filled with ice.  I can’t remember what we were doing with that.  Feeding trough that was for the animals filled to the top with ice, but I can’t remember what we were doing with that. 

CW:  I’ll bet you had pop down in there or beer. 

SW:  I don’t remember what was in there!  And why it was so full.  Oh, we’d go fishing and we had a lot of fun.  Everybody grew up and they started falling apart. 

SH:  Do most of them still live in this area or have they moved away?

SW:  The farthest is Paulding. They all stayed close.  (laughs) 

OK:  Oh yes.  This reunion book is from my Dad’s side and that went all through us.  Grandpa always sat on the Day chair at the Legion shaking his head like he started all of this!  (laughter) 

SH:  That would be quite a feeling. 

SW:  Oh yes, there were over 200 then when Grandpa was still alive.

CW:  Did the children have to ‘speak a piece’ then? 

OK:  No, they didn’t have much time for that. 

SW:  Had Santa Claus and songs—always had that there and Uncle Harlan and them, they’d bring their accordions and they’d sing, yeah and they’d play the spoons.

OK:  peppy music

SW:  Yeah and Grandpa just sat there and shook his head all the time.  If I only knew…

OK:  It was kind of hectic when they all wanted to get ready for school at the same time. 

SW:  I know.  It’d be hectic. 

SH:  Probably had a time schedule. 

SW:  Oh yeah.  You don’t use fifteen if you’re allowed ten. 

OK:  And the young kids had so much more fun.  It was clean fun.  They told me about riding in the trunk.  There was too many girls.  They had both seats full.  They didn’t know what to do with the rest of ‘em.  (laughter)  So they just stuffed them in the trunk. 

SW:  I remember Josephine Lightheiser had the prennials and I mean, what a time!  How you’d play games out there and we’d have trails and all that.  Nowadays kids wouldn’t think of playing like that.  We’d be out here playing Kick the Can and Hide and Seek.

CW:  Oh I remember Kick the Can, wasn’t that fun!

SW:  I mean, like Mom said, the kids would just swarm around here and in the winter time we used Josephine’s flower garden out here, and we had a lot of fun. 

CW:  One thing we did was, we’d set the can out, you know, and then everybody’d run and hide and then whoever was It had to go and try to find each one;  well he’d go out and get them but if he didn’t do it quickly the ones he’d caught would run out and hide someplace else.  I hated being It because I could never find anyone.

SW:  I couldn’t catch everybody.  I can remember using Josephine’s garden all the time.  

CW:  You spoke of fishing.  Did you fish in the river?

SW:  Oh yeah.  We used to fish a lot down here.  We’d catch bass and the… I want to say crappies.  Is that what they are?

OK:  There’s crappies, yeah. 

SW:  Yeah, but we used to go down there fishin’ all the time.  We took Donnie down behind Cornie Shumaker’s and sit down there and we’d fish all the time there. I don’t know why they call it that, and that was always a good place to fish.  Do you remember that?  They called it ‘the Stink Hole’.  It’s someplace that goes into the river a little bit but that was always a good place to fish. 

OK:  Where was that?

SW:  It’s down in—across the street there—

SH:  The River Road?

SW:  Yeah. 

SH:  110?

SW:  No no, across the river.  Way back.  I think it was way back and then it was towards the river there and they always…

CW:  There were two places, one by the hospital now.

SW:  That’s right

CW:  And the other one was toward town a little bit. 

SW:  I was thinking of Gertie’s Island.  I know we fished down there where the cemetery is on V.  We used to do a lot of fishin’ there.  Whatever we done we always included Donna.  We got to join the Red Hats too. 

CW:  Oh did you?  (laughter) 

SW:  Well I work with Hope Services and we have our own little Red Hat Society. 

CW:  You don’t have far to go then, do you.

SW:  No, and I just live right by Campbell’s, so it’s just a mile and half to work.  With the bridge out that’s very good.  (laughs) 

CW:  So they made that building into quite a different place I suppose?

SW:  Yes, the back part that used to be the Sun Drug is almost the whole department that I work in, the Seniors.  And then they added new offices to the front.  So the building where I work is about the size of the one where Sun Drug was.  We have about 19 Seniors with disabilities every day.
Ours starts at 50, yeah, 50 and over with a disability that they belong to our little group up here. 

CW:  So your sister belongs?

SW:  Ethel and I have her all day or so.  (laughs) 

OK:  I can’t handle her anymore.  It really helps to have two girls come in every morning, get her up, I gotta call for help.  It really bothers me to have to do that, that I can’t do that. 

SW:  Well I used to carry her around but I says, “I’m getting older.  I can tell the difference that—I still carry her around.”

CW:  Don’t try anything that you don’t have to.

SW:  At work I’m not allowed.  We use lifts and stuff but this house is not big enough to have a lift so I carry her around here.  But many years.

CW:  Where did you—uh—grow up? 

OK:  In Gerald.  Right by the grocery store.

SW:  The grocery store—we had that for a couple years too. 

CW:  Did they have a school?

SW:  A mile and half.  That’s where St. John’s is.  That’s where we went to school.

CW:  Now, going back for their lunches.

SW:  We walked home every day, had lunch and walked back to school.  I’d get so tired of packing them.   I think most of us ate at home until . . . I know I was working when I was in high school.  I went half days and I started working.

SW:  Donnie.

DK:  Hi! 

SH:  What was the maiden name?

SW:  Bergstedt

SH:  Oh yeah, that’s been in Henry County for a long time too. 

CW:  Where did they live?  Did they live in Gerald? 

OK:  No.

CW:   Oh, when she got married, that’s when they moved there.

OK:  Yeah.

CW:  Is that where your father was from?

SW:  No.  He was from around here.  That was Miller, Alvin Miller.

CW:  Oh, the Miller family?  That’s well-known too.

SW:  Oh yeah.  They all kinda stitched together there. 

SH:  Everybody’s related to one another somehow.

SW:  I know we are.

SH:  We are too.  (laughter)  (Donnie enters)

SW:  Did you have fun today?

DK:  Oh yeah. 

CW:  You have a nice family.

SH:  They’re tellin’ lots of stories here. 

SW:  We walked across the river to go to school.  And I would not do that anymore.  It was so handy ‘cause we lived here and the school was right over there.  Didn’t take us very long.  And the guys driving the cars on the river.

SH:  I remember that, yeah.

SW: Two of my brothers used to take cars there.  I think one was a ’57 Chevy that he kept taking out on the river.  But I think, as they said, the winters were so much harder, and it froze.  It was nothin’ to take their cars out there. 

CW:  I remember big hunks of ice

SW:  We used to go down here either by Campbell’s or Corny Shoemaker’s because that ice’d be halfway up the big hill and we’d have to stand there and watch it.  We wouldn’t get carried away but we’d just stand there and watch it come up on the yards.

CW:  It would come up on the yards on the north side of the river or…

SW:  On the south side.  The whole back of Corny Shoemaker’s would be flooded and then the ice would come up and come almost all the way up the hill to where Wayne’s garage is.  We lived high enough here that it never got up here. 

CW:  Which house did Corny Shoemaker live in?

SW:  Let’s see, third house from the bridge.

SH:  Is that one where Josephine’s house is?  And then Fergusons lived next and then the brick house is where Corny Shumaker’s lived.  That was fun watching that. 

CW:  When you got home from school a computer wouldn’t be inside.  I’ll bet your mother said, “Oh go on outside and play.” 

SW:  Many times, I mean. . . I don’t even remember staying inside the house watching TV much.  It was always “Go outside and play,” and that’s the . . . you know.

OK:  The only reason we had a TV was—you know.  Donnie was 7 years old when we got her her first TV. 

SW:  We weren’t allowed in the house.  It’s like, “Go outside and play.” 

CW:  Yeah.  My mother’d say the same thing.

SW:  And I think you grow up with it.  It’s like when I had my girls it was like “Go outside and play.  The TV is for a rainy day.” 

SH:  Yeah, that’s why you’re all healthy. 

SW:  TV is alright but I think kids are watchin’ it too much.  The kids don’t play outside anymore like they used to. 

SH:  If it weren’t for the, for my husband, I wouldn’t have one in my home. 

SW:  I leave my radio on.  I listen to the radio. 

CW:  This man that I interviewed yesterday said, “They didn’t ever buy us toys.  We made our own.  We’d take a stick or a bow and arrow; we’d go hunting with that.”  And he told about some of the things they made out of nothing. 

SW:  Now when we were little at home we would have one thing.  Dad would buy 5 gallon pail of candy and we always knew where they hid it.  It was always way back in the closet.  We would always find it.  And then each one got one toy, just one.  That was Christmas. 

CW:  Did you have popcorn?

SW:  They usually had popcorn when they had plays at church and stuff.  Yeah, that was…

CW:  When Kate Winzeler popped corn she had a big kettle, about that big, put it on the stove with a little lard on the bottom, put this homegrown popcorn in.  She would fill a huge dishpan full of corn and it wouldn’t be very long till it was gone. 

SW:  Y’know, back there kids used their imaginations and things.  When we were growing up where all those houses are back there, that was all fields.

OK:  There was a chicken house, chicken coop.

SW:  Yeah, and fields, and you’d just go out in the fields, you’d just have so much fun! 

OK:  Not even one house there. 

SW:  A lot of hiding and corn in a lot though. 

OK:  We had to do the farming also.

SW:   That wasn’t fun though.  But I mean you make trails, you know, you follow each other [inaudible] a game and all, so you had some place to play whereas now you’ve got roads around.  We always had a lot of fun out there.

SH:  Did your family own it at first?

OK:  No, we bought it from Travis.  He had come in from the service and we paid $600 for this house.

SH:  What year was that?

SW:  ’49, the year I was born.  It was [inaudible] then;  we had to pay $30 a month. 

SH:  That was a lot of money back then. 

SW:  Yeah, it was. 

OK:  It was in Gerald I was born. 

CW:  What did your husband do when you moved in here?

OK:  He worked in the Creamery, and then worked for Gerken Construction. 

CW:  I remember the daily bottles of milk on the porch and it would freeze.  You’d wake up and it would be this high.  The cream would push the cap up. 

OK:  He’d be the one to go to the farmers to get the cans of milk, take them to the Creamery where they’d separate it. 

SW:  Remember the Jewel Tea? 

CW:  Oh, my mother bought from Jewel Tea. 

SW:  Yeah, and you’d get something.  One thing I always liked was butchering. I loved that. 

CW:  What was that like? 

OK:  Well first they’d kill the animal and get it all cleaned up and then the women had to help all day long.  You had to cook and . . .

CW:  Did you each have a job to do or…?

OK:  Yeah.  Each one almost knew what we had to do.  The girls didn’t help.  That was the mothers that did that. 

SW:  It was like, you did one process and moved it on to the next? 

OK:  Yeah.  Makin prettles, makin’ summer sausage—we did all that.  You know what that is, don’t you—prettles? 

CW:  Oh yeah.  I don’t know what it’s made from—liver?

OK:  Beef and pork, pin oats.  Summer sausage the same way. 

SH:  I wonder how long it had been there or…

OK:  Butchering is still . . . the way Napoleon is changing I wonder what my husband would think.  Everyplace you look you…                        

CW:  Yeah.

SH:  The way these houses are going up…

OK:  But the poor old south side sure don’t have much right now. 

CW:  My husband and I wanted to live on the south side shortly before he died.  We looked all over the south side and we could find only one place for sale and that wasn’t big enough.

SW:  I love it here. 

OK:  I wouldn’t want to go across to the other side.  I like it here. 

CW:  Do you remember who your neighbors were? 

SW:  We were your neighbors at the lake.  You took me on my very first sailboat ride at the lake.

CW:  Oh you didn’t know you were in kind of a precarious place.  (laughter)  I used to tip that thing every once in a while.  I never worried because, well I could swim well, but there always seemed to be someone sitting on the porch watching the boats go by.  They would bring their motor boat out and rescue me.

SW:  I always liked Lime Lake.  That was a nice lake. 

CW:  That cottage next to ours. . .

SK:  That was Margaret and them that had that. 

CW:  I’ll bet I saw her there too. 

SK: Oh, yeah. We were up there quite often. 

OK:  It’s the little things.

OK:  When I grew up the thing that always worried me was when their dad told them, “Now you can drive to the corner but you must come right back again.”  I think that worried me more than . . . these young kids in school yet… (laughs)  I never thought I’d make it this far but I can’t complain.  I’ve never been sick. 

CW:  Have any of the children been?

OK:  Now Norma Behrman, she’s had. . . .

SW:  Oh yeah.  She fell out of the car when she was sitting in the back seat and they say when anything like that happens usually 20 years after that . . . There’s a joke that a mom had so many kids that she didn’t even realize one was gone.  (laughter)  What—you’re losing one more child?  I mean . . .

SH:  Probably till the ones in the car started making enough noise.  (laughs)

SW:  Oh yeah.  That happened out there by the Lutheran Church we noticed the door was open and she was in the ditch so we went back after her. 

CW:  When my mother was learning to drive you know the cars were all open.  She saw a truck coming and she didn’t want to pass it so she just drove in the ditch.  My sister bumped her head on the coat rail.  You know there used to be a railing behind the front seat to hang blankets on.  I was little and fat and I just rolled out over the top of the car door, landed in the field and wasn’t hurt a bit.  (laughs)  My mother then said, “I’ll never drive again.  I can’t do it.”  So she didn’t.

SW:  I’d be lost if I couldn’t drive.

CW:  Oh me too.  You really need it now. 

SW:  Well this morning by the time I got out there all you could see was cars.  I thought, “What in the world?”  and here I got into that procession.  They drove 35 miles an hour.  The traffic was all stoppin’ the other way.  Thought I’d never make it to get home. 

(end of tape)    

King, Alma and Evelyn Pilliod

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin

CW: I’m interviewing Alma King and Evelyn Pilliod who will hopefully tell us about what it was like to live in the country or the country area, a small town in the early 1900’s.

EP: Early. 1913. Well, houses were much the same as they are today, and many of them were built then and-a Toledo on this mud street.

CW: A mud street!

EP: Yes. My mother lived in Toledo and my Dad and he came down to the County Fair with a friend of his from Defiance. He came for the sole purpose of introducing her to this man and it worked. (laughs) It was George Fierd from Defiance and he married her best friend. They remained friends all their lives. She had come from Canada, I think, too.

CW: Had you mother come from Canada?

EP: Yes, she was born in Canada. They used to skate on skate boards.

CW: Did they skate on the Maumee River?

EP: I don’t remember but she mentioned the skate boards.

CW: Did you do that when you were a girl?

EP: No. I don’t–I think it was before and-a she

CW: While you’re doing some thinking I’ll ask Alma some questions. This is Alma King who presently lives in Angola, Indiana. Alma, you lived in the country as a child, did you?

AK: I lived about 12 miles out of Napoleon and I was the baby of the family which meant that everybody was my boss. I did whatever anybody told me to. Good timing. And we had a hard-coal burner which was a beautiful thing with a lot of chrome on it and it really heated. And my sister and I would get dressed around it. Everybody else would be out of the house by that time. And one time she gave me a push and on the chrome of the stove it said, “Favorite” and part of that for years was on my bottom! (laughs) I think it’s disappeared. And she really caught it too. But we did not have electricity but had kerosene lamps all over that had to be cleaned every Saturday and when I was little they didn’t have indoor plumbing either and last thing at night one of my brothers would have to take me out to the Outhouse, and they hated to do that. (laughs)

CW: What sort of toys did you have?

AK: I had a doll that I dearly loved and we used to play cards quite a lot, some game, I don’t know what the game could have been but my Grandfather lived with us part of the time and he taught us. And the whole family would gather around the table to clean for instance hickory nuts, do family projects like that together.

CW: Did you have popcorn by the dishpanful?

AK: Oh yes. We grew our own of course. Used to make ice cream. I remember mixing it up and setting it out in the cold in winter weather, mostly whipped cream, I’m sure. That is, we children did that. And we had a car. We were among the first to have a car in that area and but the roads would go bad in the winter so when fall came they would take the tires off the car, hang them on the wall of the garage, block up the car till spring, and switch to a surrey. Like to go to church we had a surrey and

CW: Did the surrey have runners on it or wheels?

AK: Wheels.

CW: How did you get to church when there was snow on the roads?

AK: I don’t think that stopped the horses. I think the surrey would go right through. That particular road, it had gravel on it between our houses and the church, so that would be possible but we couldn’t go to town . But in the summertime on Saturdays everybody would go into Napoleon and find a good parking place where you’d expect to see everybody you knew walking by and visit with them and the children would run all over town which is the unsafest thing I could think of in this day and age, but then nothing happened. But my Dad had taught me that if anything ever happened I was just supposed to say, “John Hahn.” (laughs)

CW: That was his name?

AK: Yes. And then when I was 13 and time to go to high school my parents moved into Napoleon and my brother took over the farm and I got lost the first day in high school. You can’t imagine what a tremendous switch that is from a one-room country school to a huge high school. At that time I got lost and I remember Oldfather was so nice to me, told me where I should go and of course I also was talking German in those days and one day walking up to the school building I thought, “My goodness, I’m thinking in English!” (laughs) It was really a completely different life. Talked German at home and English everywhere else.

But I lived through some very interesting times in our history, that’s for sure. And when the Depression came and ruined everything and the year I graduated from high school I was all set to go to college on a scholarship and my Mother said they couldn’t even give me spending money and that was true. They didn’t have any cash. And so I went to work at seventeen as a bookkeeper for the Coal and Ice. My boss was about four feet tall but he was a brilliant accountant really and my Mother one day decided she’d better walk down there and see who I was working for and she decided she didn’t have to worry. (laughs)

CW: I remember your saying you lived in a very big house.

EP: My grandfather built it, and he also put up the building that the clothing store was in. That was in the late 1800’s.

CW: Your grandfather built the building. Then did your father run the clothing store?

EP: Yes. After he quit.

CW: After your grandfather quit.

EP: Yes. And

CW: What was the town like at that time?

EP: On Saturday, just as Alma said, everybody came into town; the kids went to the movies.

CW: How much did they pay for a movie?

EP: I don’t remember.

CW: I think I remember someone saying it was 10 cents.

EP: I don’t think it was any more than that. And they I don’t know.

CW: What did you play with your sisters?

EP: Oh we played with dolls. We used to play cards. With Grandmother we played Casino. We played , I think we played Hearts. I’m not sure.

CW: I remember playing Kick the Can outside. Did you play that? You’d set a can up.

EP: We played Fantan cards. Outdoors we played under the lights at night and the whole neighborhood was involved.

CW: Playing in a card game, do you mean?

EP: No, no. In the games under the lights.

CW: Were they electric?

EP: I don’t really remember flames.

CW: I think the electricity must have come to the small towns before it did to the country.

EP: Maybe.

CW: Because when I was married in 1941 I remember they still had just not very long before that gotten electricity in the country.

AK: My brother had gotten electricity about ’39 where I lived. I thought it was something that I probably ought to something unusual. When I was a baby my brother, who later turned into a minister, was supposed to take care of me and the hired hand was plowing a field, which meant you had horses before the plow and hired hand behind that. And all at once the horses just refused to go another step. They absolutely would not go. And the hired man went up there to see what was the matter and there was Alma propped up in the previous furrow. My brother had thought that was a nice place to park me. And the horses wouldn’t go any farther.

CW: That was right where they were headed with the plow!

AK: I think that is really interesting. He also sat me on the edge of the stock watering trough one time and of course I fell in. But he fished me out. (laughs) He was not the world’s best baby sitter. That’s all that occurs to me right now.

CW: What about when you first went to school, Evelyn?

EP: Well, we had Mass first upstairs over the school. There was a chapel over the school and

CW: Did they have hired teachers or?

EP: We had Nuns

CW: Were they good teachers?

EP: Well, we didn’t know any better, of course.

CW: Strict?

EP: Yes. Strict. They came from Toledo.

CW: How did you get to school? Did you walk?

EP: Oh yeah. All the time. We walked to and from. Of course Margaret Sloan, they had chauffer who brought her and a carriage in the event it was raining. We plowed through the water.

CW: Did they tease her about that?

EP: No, I don’t recall that they did. They just knew the Sloans. The Sloans owned a gas company at that time.

CW: Taking to the woodshed. What did that mean? That he would get a spanking?

EP: Yeah.

CW: Did they send them to the woodshed from school if they misbehaved?

EP: Oh yeah. From school.

Connie Wulff: Did you ever have to sit in the Dumb Seat? In the corner with the Dumb hat on?

EP: No. I was good.

CW: Tell about the Bridge Club you started.

AK: Nobody knew anything about it. We started in this 500 Club and gradually moved into Bridge and enjoyed it immensely, a very nice crowd of girls.

CW: How many? One table?

AK: Two tables. And our mothers would fix wonderful lunches. I remember Evelyn’s mother made this delicious date pudding with whipped cream on it. I can still remember.

EP: And eighth grade had their club too.

AK: But we were all equally stupid so if you made a mistake it didn’t matter, but we learned, and enjoyed it very much. And played golf a lot too during those years.

CW: What was the golf course like?

AK: It was in the same place as it is now but the clubhouse was on Bales Road.

CW: Did you carry a bagful of clubs?

AK: Oh yes, and then after a while we had a –what would you call this thing on wheels that you pulled that held the clubs? I don’t remember the name of it.

CW: A cart.

AK: A cart, yes, and Norm taught me how to play golf. He taught me a lot of things! (laughs) He let me use his clubs too.

CW: Did you ever play at that little town of Texas nearby?

AK: Maybe just once. We would play at Valleywood. And at Wayne Park there were dances every Sunday night, Saturday night? I don’t know which.

CW: What were they like?

AK: Which were very well attended. That’s where I met Norm.

CW: That was when?

AK: 1930 and I was a senior in high school.

CW: Did they have big bands then?

AK: Yes. The people came from miles around to those dances. They were very popular.

CW: Did you go to the dances too?

EP: Yeah.

CW: And I’ll bet they had some famous bands.

EP: Yes. They had the Cotton Pickers. Oh, we practically lived out there sometimes. (laughs)

CW: Did you go across to Gerty’s Island ever?

EP: Yes. Not often though. We went to a number of places on the river. Indianola was one. That was an island. And we went to–what were some of the others?

CW: What did they do on those islands?

EP: Danced.

CW: Oh they had a dance floor there?

EP: Yeah. Some had a marble floor.Seems to me that one was–

CW: How could they have boats big enough to carry a lot of people on this small river? What sort of boats were they?

EP: Oh they had cargo boats going down here. It was quite a waterway at one time. My Dad used to tell about the times that they arrived in Napoleon and the captains would get together for a big party and–anyway it was quite a celebration.

CW: Canal boats?

EP: Yeah. They had carpet bushes What they took we don’t know. They thought a real passage

CW: Passage on through to what?

EP: To board–

CW: Oh, I see. Probably to carry the cargo down to the Mississippi or something?

EP: Yeah.

CW: They were just getting started on that when the railroads came through and killed all the canal business, didn’t it.

EP: the swamp made bricks for us.

CW: Brakes for the canal boats?

EP: No. For the ships.

CW: Oh, on the ocean? Did they make those big brakes and then send them on the canal boats down to the ocean maybe?

CW: What sort of mischief did you girls get into when you were in high school?

AK: Yeah, but we don’t talk about that. Probably we’re not too innocent.

C,. I’d like to hear about Halloween. Can you tell us about Halloween?

AK: A little. But one thing I remember I think is so nasty. We left tires out of a car back of Snyder’s house.

CW: Let the air out of the tires you mean?

AK: What a thing to do to someone, and we thought it was funny! I’m ashamed of it. (laughs) I suppose we did the soaping of windows too. But we also had parties where you got all dressed up. I remember that.

EP: I remember Aunt Em, the ‘s wife, always dressed up as a little Dutch boy. She had won a prize on the boat for her costume and she always dressed in that outfit. She was quite

CW: I remember making–we’d take empty spools that thread had been on. We’d notch the edges because those were always wood. Then we’d wrap a string around them, put a pencil through them and then we’d sneak up to somebody’s window, put the spool against the window and pull the string and it would make this loud clatter on the window. Then we’d run. We thought we were really bad! (laughs) But we didn’t have any Trick or Treat in those days.

AK: You did the trick.

CW: Yeah. We did the trick.

EP: We used to collect food.

CW: On Halloween?

EP: Uh huh.

CW: And what would you do with the food?

EP: Eat it. Candy and stuff. I don’t remember popcorn but we had popcorn balls.

CW: Oh yeah. They would make popcorn balls. My mother would do that.

EP: We always pulled taffy at Christmas and my aunt said it was supposed to get white.

CW: Did it?

EP: Uh huh. Then it was ready to cut off into pieces.

CW: I remember going to a taffy pull. It was kind of a party. And they woule cook this taffy till it was just about right and then we were supposed to pull it, but it was so hot I could hardly touch it. I didn’t like it very well.

EP: We always made–my aunt made taffy and she made peanut brittle too. That was just a custom at Christmas time.

CW: Did you ever have maple syrup that you cooked down to make maple sugar? One thing I remember was going to a party at the Legion it was, something like that, and there was a dish like a cereal bowl full of snow at each plate. And they cooked the maple syrup and then they poured it on the snow of each dish. It would harden right away, then they’d pull it out and eat it. Other times we’d have an empty cereal bowl and they’d pour a little and we’d stir and stir and stir until it would become hardened and then we had maple candy.

AK: That we never did.

CW: Must not have had many maple trees, I’ll bet.

AK: Yes, we had maple trees. Not that I remember.

EP: That trance

AK: This is Alma again. Back in 1916 a man came around and sold my Dad a Mitchell car which was a beautiful thing, a seven-passenger car and there were drop seats behind the front, back of the front seat to make the seventh seat. And it had side curtains in case a rain came up everybody had a job to do to put the side curtains up.

CW: You had to snap them on, didn’t you?

AK: Yeah. Snapped on, but on clear days my Dad, if we didn’t have side curtains up, my Dad chewed tobacco and whoever sat behind him in the back seat was going to get it! (laughs) We resented that. But if you went on a trip you expected to have a couple flat tires or something go wrong. You were prepared for that. You could repair innertubes, I think, vulcanized or something, and you allowed extra time and we did make some trips. The man who sold my Dad that car ended up to be the father of my future husband. He had a garage here in town: King’s Garage and they and my parents used to kid each other that he came out here just in time for dinner. (laughs)

EP: Well, my father had a seven-passenger car too. It had been ordered by some of the Pilliods in Swanton and he decided that he had to have that car, so they sold him the car instead. The Pilliods had to get another one someplace. (laughs)

CW: Do you remember what kind of a car?

EP: It was a Cadillac. And oh gee we had more fun with it before we got rid of it. Remember we used to pound the carburator? It would stall and I would get out and pound what I thought was the carburator and we’d start off again. We took it to Miami once when Gerry Boyer was down there and stayed for the weekend and there anyway and back again. We had a great time with it.

CW: Do you remember having flat tires?

EP: Uh, no I don’t.

CW: The roads in Pennsylvania anyway were deep ruts from the buggy wheels. When we’d go in our car we’d goup over a hump and down into another rut. It was hard driving, I think.

Karabin, Martin (written)


by Martin Karabin, born October, 1934

(This story accompanies Martin Karabin’s oral history. It should be read before reading the oral history, as it will help the reader understand Mr. Karabin’s remarkable story.)

My father’s home was with his parent in the town of Bezmihowa, county of Lesko, state of Rzeszow, Poland, it was about 4 kilometers long.

Town was in the valley. Large creek ran the length, one main street ran through it, and it was divided into Lower, Upper and the center in which we lived. Poles inhabited the Lower, Ukrainians inhabited the Upper and the middle was comprised of about a dozen homesteads which included Poles, Likes and mostly Jewish. They owned a bakery.

My mother’s parents lived in Stefkova, Olszanica, Rrzeszow, Poland.

Before the war, mother worked for Panstwo, a kind of hierarchy appointed by the state. They had the biggest house in the town. They entertained often the visiting dignitaries, and were well to do financially. The two older children were about my age so I was at their house often and enjoyed finer foods and particularly desserts. Here my mother learned the art of entertaining, cooking and most important, baking fine torts, some of which was passed onto my wife.

Mother had 4 brothers and no sisters. The oldest brother was drafted by the Polish army but ended up in Siberia. After a time they were rescued by the British general and sent to the Arabia and Egypt. A few years after the war ended mother with help of others brought her brother to America. My father had 6 brothers and two sisters. The oldest brother was brought to America and some years later the youngest brother came. All others perished during the war while their parents survived and lived to a healthy age of mid-nineties.

One time Russian forward party came through, about 8 or 9 of them with tattered clothing. They begged for rags to cover their feet and asked if they could pick and eat the peas, which were ready in the garden. My grandmother told them they could have them. A few moments later, a German tank rolled around the bend slowly patrolling the area. The Russians vanished and were not seen again.

When I was 8 or 9, I took the two cows grandparents owned out to pasture some distance away in the hills bordering another town. There began artillery shelling from the top of one hill into the woods on the other side of the town to which the cows and I were close. As the shelling continued the mother cow made a moo sound and began walking toward home. The younger cow, calf of the older one began to follow and I too followed right behind. When we got closer to town, there was a depression in the dirt road with high banks on either side, and as the shells came whistling over our heads, the older cow mooed again, and both she and the younger one both fell down to their knees and I did too. There was a great explosion above but the shrapnel did not affect the cows or me. Only later did I find out that the family living there and their home was completely destroyed And as we proceeded home we crossed a little creek on the other side of a small hill before approaching the town and home, I heard ps, ps, ps of bullets landing in the creek. That day the cows brought me home safely.

As the war was raging and the artillery shelling from time to time, there were rumors about atomic weapons. This inspired the townspeople get together and build a large bunker in to which many could fit. It was built at the side of a hill using wooden logs which were stood up two deep and sandwiched in between was piled earth about a foot thick. The roof of this bunker was also made of logs in three layers criss-crossed with earth sandwiched between each layer. When the bunker was completed people gathered as in a drill to estimate if of sufficient size. There was a decision reached that another bunker of even larger size was needed but was never built and the fist one was never used anyway.

As the war progressed, war materiel was abandoned in the woods on the hills. There were machine guns and artillery guns. There were unused artillery shells, grenades and other munitions. Some local adults, but mostly the younger set, would mess around those things. As a result often there would be a report of someone losing limb, getting badly hurt or even getting killed. One of mother’s brothers met a girl from the neighboring town to Bezmihova and as was a practice the means of transporting oneself was by walking. One day they both arrived in Bezmihova on their way to Stejkova where he lived. As evening was approaching, mother found out that the local partisan group intended to kill my uncle because he was a Pole while she was Ukrainian. Mother quickly was able to borrow a horse and a wagon, buckboard type and had me on the wagon to drive it out of town with both my uncle and the girlfriend covered behind me on the wagon. Mother ordered me to ride as fast as the horse would go since we had to take the long way to be able to use a road. As it turned out night came upon us as we entered the woods bordering the next town on the road to Stejkova, which hastened our escape. The partisans, some on horseback gave chase but it was too late.

In Stefkova, as the Germans were retreating a German officer gave my uncle a trained German shepherd dog to keep. He was well trained. He would stand on his hind legs with front paws on the man’s shoulder and if that man even twitched, the dog would attack.

After the war ended, the powers in charge decided that Poland was for poles and all the Ukrainians were to be deported to Ukraine, Poland was to be for poles only. My mother was placed under guard , brought to Lesko along with many others to board the train. No explanation was acceptable from her even though she was Polish as were both her parents. At the age of about 10, or 11, being a kid I with others kids went through the city of Lesko where stores were looted, tons of paper everywhere, but finding what was happening I did not know until I located my mother. She asked that I try to get her brothers to vouch for her. I walked and ran as much of the distance from Lesko to Stejkova, found one of my uncles, then both of us hurried on foot many kilometers back to intercept the train that was about to pull out with mother on it. We got back to Lesko just in time to rescue mother.

After the invasion of Poland by Germany, there followed a great famine. Because the crops were confiscated, it left the people with little to live on. Many went to look for certain weeds in the fields and woods such as fern roots, nettle, thistle and loboda’ a geen-gray weed known here as arrach or orrach. that grows on good and poor soil. Thistle in particular tasted very good provided you had some fat to fry or sauté it and provided you could find it since many others were looking for the same thing. When UNDRA, the United Nations Relief began to arrive in Poland, mother got involved and was able to obtain lard and salt which was in high demand as she distributed those provisions in town. Of course, there was never sufficient quantity of foodstuff to share with everyone. Also mother had to account for all that she received and distributed.

During the war there was little danger from either Russians or the Germans. The front lines were generally somewhere else, only the shelling was evident from time to time but the shells did not drop anywhere in the town of Bezmihowa. When the Germans came to the town, they checked everyone over for disease. One girl, a teenager was found with lice on her head, she was publicly shaved and treated to get rid of lice.

In general the danger came from your own people who formed the underground. Instead of fighting the enemy, the rode roughshod over the townspeople, issuing orders and collecting food and clothing for themselves.

Between the Upper and Lower Bezmihova was a central section which generally was considered to be part of the Upper Bezmihova because mostly Ukrainians lived in the Upper and mostly Poles in the Lower. In the middle there were perhaps a dozen homes of which my namesake, Karabin, occupied half. We were all related in some manner. My cousin directly across the street, after joining the partisans, became very aggressive. We got word that he wanted to kill mother because she was a Pole and interfered with his plan for the possession of my grandparent’s estate. Mother and I spent many a night in hiding, generally at someone else ‘s house where the partisans did not expect us to be. The leader of the partisans was a woman, a cousin of my mother, but that did not matter.

The partisan’s activities culminated one dreadful night when they murdered three or four people and in addition the mayor of the town was murdered in my grandparents’ house where we lived. He stopped in for a visit and was quickly overcome by a band of the same partisans in the early evening; they punched with their fists and clubs until he looked dead. Since it was a small bedroom where it happened and we were preparing for bed, all of the action was happening in our presence. I screamed loudly and mother was told to shut me up or that they would. They dragged the mayor’s body for over a kilometer to the town office and hung him there with another. After that incident which might have been during the occupation of the town by the Russians, investigations began and the leaders on the partisan group either skipped the area and some were captured then taken away.

On one occasion during the occupation of the town by the Russians, everyone had to house the soldiers. This resulted in numerous claims of rape including one of a five-year-old girl. Our house was assigned a captain who after being there for a few weeks became more trusting. One Sunday morning he spoke out by telling us not to miss Mass. Then he recited the portion of the gospel that would be read that day at mass in our church, which was Eastern (Byzantine) Catholic Church. His knowledge of the readings from the bible for not only that Sunday but others that followed astonished every one. He explained that he was studying for priesthood in the Russian Orthodox Church. He also begged not to be exposed for it would have meant a certain death for him.

In the central section of town was a settlement of Jews, about 6 families. As a kid I played with a couple of my Jewish friends. The family owned a bakery which produced some very fine rolls and breads along with some sweets. One day they were told to pack up and were escorted under guard, loaded on a truck and transported to Lesko, the last we ever heard about their whereabouts while their houses remained vacant thereafter and the bakery after a while was burned down. At this time mother decided to move to Stefkova to live with her family. One day I was out somewhere and as I was returning home I saw a long line of Jews of all ages gathered on the road. This town like Bezmihova had one main road through town by which houses were built They carried no belongings and with them was one of my uncles carrying a carbine guarding them. Later I was told that if my uncle refused to guard the he would have been shot on the spot. Among those in line was a good friend of my uncle’s. Through some mutual understanding that did not reveal to others what they were planning, the friend jumped into the creek which had brush along the sides and a short distance later emptied into a small river deep enough to hide a man. As the man was escaping, my uncle shot at him several times intentionally missing. The German guard quickly ran to the shooter and began to search the creek after my uncle explained what had happened. Over that incident he was nearly shot himself. When every one of the Jews were gathered, they were marched a short distance where they crossed the creek, bridged across the deep banks on each side. There was a mass grave dug and all were shot falling into the grave. When the war ended my uncle received a letter from his friend who was then living somewhere in France telling him that he successfully escaped and survived the ordeal.

After mother and I moved to Stejkova the Germans were occupying that town. There was a small detachment that positioned an antiaircraft gun against a two-story schoolhouse building, the only tall building in the area other than the churches and just two town lots removed from mother’s family house. This gun was well camouflaged. As a kid we could visit with the soldiers and even get some food like soup and fruit, which I would take home for others. Then one day the town was bombarded with leaflets to seek shelter because the heavy bombing of the area would take place to immobilize the antiaircraft gun. Mother took me to hide along the banks of the river not too far from home while others hid under the bridge at the house. When the bombing began, some bombs fell it seemed like on top of the banks of the river cutting the underbrush to shreds. After a day or two of bombing, several homes were destroyed along with part of the schoolhouse, the gun was disabled and the German detachment retreated abandoning the gun at the schoolhouse.

When the war ended mother and I moved to western part of Poland near Breslau which became Wroclaw when the historic 1000 mile strip of Poland which had changed hands each time after each war from Polish hands to German hands and back again. In this part of the country we encountered partisan groups from many factions. There were Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, and Byelorussians. These groups were looking only for support in food and clothing as they passed through. At this time, mother began to push for us to get to America, soliciting the help of her uncle in Johnstown, Pa.

My father was already in the States, coming in 1937, but the local alderman withheld the papers that should have been approved for over a year. When he finally released them it was already too late — the war started. On his deathbed he summoned my father so he could apologize for his arrogance.

In order to get our emigration papers approved, I was summoned to Warsaw to meet with the NKVD. Mother and I traveled to Warsaw. The mode of transportation was train, a bus or tram if you were lucky, then mostly walking. And here we were with our two carry bags; one was a suitcase, dragging our possessions wherever we went. It was difficult to find the location since Warsaw central was basically in piles of rubble but many of the streets were cleared. After several hours of interrogation in which my mother could not participate, my papers were approved. One of the questions that is still clear was, “What makes you think that you are American citizen? Mother and others grilled me on some things. We did not know what would be asked of me but as kids going through the war we quickly learned to keep secrets and not to talk too much or at all about politics. By virtue of my father being born in Philadelphia I was an American citizen. At about the same time in trying to book a passage to the United States, mother learned that the Americans were gathering all citizens to move them to the United States so we boarded the troop ship SS Ernie Pyle for the voyage to America. The ship traveled through the German port of Bremerhaven and then the canal to the North Sea. The voyage was not too difficult; we did encounter storms at sea. Throughout the ocean crossing, mother remained ill, confined to her bed. She would not eat any food that was prepared for all of us. She survived for most part on the fruit that was given to us and the extra oranges I was able to get from the kitchen. On my thirteenth birthday I woke up in the New York harbor.

As a matter of information, being good at schoolwork, I completed 4th and 5th grade in one year but the 6th grade I began twice in Poland due to war and then twice in the United states while learning the English language. At that time English was taught in the 7th grade in Poland.

Karabin, Martin

Interviewed by C. Wangrin, December, 2003

(Please read My Thoughts on WWII before reading this oral history.)

M. That 1000-mile strip has probably changed hands over several centuries I suppose. Some kind of war comes off and it changes hands, so it was returned just before. (laughs)

C. Juanita was saying something about this uncle.

M. Well she was saying the youngest uncle wanted to marry a Polish girl and he was here, so Mother somehow or other, and this was in the western part of Poland where we lived last and she knew a family and knew of a particular woman who had a young sister and so one time Mother and he went to Poland. One interesting part was that when they landed and visited the family then they found not a cab but a gentleman who had a car and–maybe he did provide cab services of that sort but he took them around. He says, “I don’t want anything. I just want to be. . . I’ll take you anywhere you want to go and it was just for the food and lodging. And lodging is a little easier. You stop at the hotel. You stay with whatever family you have in town or your own family. So they managed to travel many miles to get to the area of western Poland where my uncle met the girl–I guess it was Warsaw where they landed. He brought her to the United States and they got married. Actually he took the dress material to Poland with him.

C. Oh he did! Is that right?

M. To have it made, and the wedding was in Poland. But anyways that–and he lived a happy life.

C. Where did they live then, in Poland?

M. No no. He brought her back; he had a visa for her. I don’t know but what it was a little later that she came; he brought her to Princeton, New Jersey. So they have spread out in the ‘land of milk and honey’, things made out of chocolates. So you look forward to it and you really don’t look at the fear. You just want to know where she was ushered through–I don’t even know whether we stopped at Ellis Island. In my coming to America, Mother and I were ushered through to the train. I don’t know whether we stopped at Ellis Island or not. The train took us to Johnstown, PA.

C. So that’s where you met your father?

M. That’s where I met my father.

C. It must have seemed strange, having lived apart from your father for 10 years, at that age it would seem very strange.

M. Well, there were memories, you know, and letters, so I started to know him that way but to have a memory of him–no, just a picture.

C. Yeah. Well at three years old you wouldn’t.

M. And the pictures in those days weren’t as good as they are today.

C. It’s amazing what they can do with those old pictures now though. Now, this is such a good story I think, about when you took the cows out at your grandparents’ house, out in the pasture and then went to get them. Weren’t you afraid when you did this?

M. No. There’s the need: who’s going to do it? So kids played their role in whatever’s happening, and during the war it was oftentimes that we–if there was a battle raging of some sort they would close the school, so we were available. And being available we took the cows out to pasture; this was a fairly long walk several miles or kilometers or whatever into the hills and then well oftentimes we would spend the night and at my age at that time–I was 8 or 9 or so–or there were maybe 2 or 3 other kids that also came along and so at night to protect ourselves we’d build a fire and have plenty of sticks to build the fire away from the woods and out in the wide open so that when the wolves did come we had the fire and we had burning sticks that would have a flame or whatever on the end of it.

C. Oh and then you could scare them away.

M. You could scare ’em away. We did have wolves. They traveled in packs.

C. Did you have a pack that came close to you?

M. Oh yes. They came around us but they stayed there for a little while and we just huddled by the fire and we had plenty of wood already set up for ourselves so it was an experience that we got through.

C. I’ll say!

M. But anyway, as I said, the shelling started one afternoon and we headed back. That was it.

C. Now was the shelling quite close by?

M. Well the shelling was hitting the woods and we were right up against the woods so we’d move away from there and-uh-wherever they thought they had–there was some guns’ position–oh I guess we must have been oh maybe a mile or so away but we walked right by that position to go to the pasture.

C. Oh dear!

M. Yeah. So they bombarded that and as I said here one of those shells and maybe several came down and when they’d whistle over your head or what not the cow laid down and so did the calf and–hey, maybe they know something, so I had enough sense to go down and the thing hit on top of the little ridge and this was a depression in a little wood, and that time it also hit the house and killed the people in the house.

C. Really!

M. The house was right up against the woods and guns that were firing back were right around there in the woods, well catalogued but open and able to fire out there.

C. Now the guns in the woods, were those German guns or Russian or–

M. In this case that was German. Russians were on the other side, in the other area.

C. So what two armies were shooting these?

M. The Russian and German. In our case we had only the Russian and German armies fighting in the area. The Polish army was in Siberia. (laughs) You know when the Germans passed through our area, and of course it was occupation, but when they passed through they continued on and my cousin who is back in Johnstown now, he used to tell this story, so–well the story is when they went in to Rostow (Russia, Ukraine actually down by the Caspian Sea, or the Black Sea) when the Germans came into town they were heralded as the Liberators and the town–and it’s a big town–the city went out to welcome them, lined the streets and what not–and the Germans opened fire on them, mowing those people down.

C. Oh dear!

M. Talk about atrocities! Why would they do that, I don’t know, especially when they were friendly so that creates the very fierce underground. They needed it to protect themselves.

C. Sure.

M. What else can I tell you?

C. Well let me see. When you came to Henry County then you came as an administrator, didn’t you?

M. Yes.

C. Did you find any changes in the area, the people or anything from the time when you first came to now?

M. There’s a tremendous difference in the feeling as to how the world feels today as to the United States. At the time back in 1947 anybody that had an accent or was a foreigner was a ‘hunkey’ so certain people would segregate themselves from you. I had a lot of friends. I went to high school and college and that was not a problem but in your own local areas it would be a little more of a problem. That seems to have vanished completely. Now we have radio announcers, TV–we’ve got them from all over the world, with all kinds of worldly names. You have people that–foreign companies owning American companies. You have managers that are foreign in many of the companies, so you have that and that is a major change.

C. And a good one.

M. Well it’s now the uniformity and I think slowly perhaps the rest of the world will be changing as well. Of course this is still a melting pot where the rest of the world–where they’re very nice people but it’s still pretty much one kind. We went to Spain a couple years ago and Spain is Spanish (laughs) but you don’t have the Americans there, well you do have them here and there but there were many Britishers.

C. I remember Hitler had this great idea that he was going to have a pure Aryan race. They were all to be blonde and blue eyes.

M. Well that’s what his military turned out to be, a lot of them, at least as we viewed them when they came through. Anybody else, well they didn’t measure up. They also had to be certain height too, not just blue-eyed blondes. They had no feeling; if something didn’t go their way, they would shoot first.

C. And there were no punishments for them.

M. Well you wouldn’t know what the results were if they were taken away and punished.

C. I see here on this second page of what you have written you are telling what it was like after the war ended. Would you elaborate on that?

M. In the–after the war ended–and of course at that stage it was the Russians there and for some reason the decision was made that Poland was for Poles and they removed all–the Ukranians or other groups of people, and that included the western end as well because the Germans were evicted from this 1000 mile strip. My mother by virtue of her marriage to a Ukranian and even though she was Polish she was Ukrainian in their eyes, and all of these people were taken to the county seat and there to board the train.

C. Your mother included?

M. My mother was there and she had–and the train of course was made up of cattle cars. Did you see ‘Dr. Zhivago’? (laughs) That kind of thing. And they had those all set up–they started loading them and the train was to pull out that evening. Well I didn’t find out about it till a little later and then I was looking for her because I knew she was in town and we found out what the situation was and she says, “You’ve got to get my brother here to vouch for me or I won’t be here.” And she also told me, “Don’t get on the train.” I was a kid. Again, you get away with a lot being small. At that time in the town a lot of the businesses were ravished. They were–you could go into a store and it would have I guess in our case chest-deep in paper. Paper was something was very hard to get in Poland. If you had one tablet you preserved every page of it and wrote on both sides so it was something new for us. “Look at all this paper that we couldn’t get.” and some of those were clean sheets. But this was store by store by store that had a number of these in this center of the town, the market square. Mother told me to “Just follow that road till you get to–Olszanica, then to Stefkowa. So I ran and and walked and ran and walked.

C. How many miles did you have to go?

M. That’s a pretty good distance there, probably–just a guess, I think it took me over two hours to get to the uncles. And so even with all the shortcuts that you take, I got one of them to come with me and I guess he borrowed a horse so we had something to help us to go a little faster, and so we got there in time to get her off the train.

C. Now tell me, you said cattle cars, that’s the kind with the slats on the side. Were the people just all standing up inside?

M. Um-hm. They were crowded in.

C. I’d say that’s pretty scary.

M. Well that’s part of life. That’s part of the procedure. There’s no real care about that. You see that went on throughout Poland because in our area we had cross-pollinated with Ukrainians, the Belarus, of course that’s another one. Of course all of Eastern Poland is on the border of Russia. And you go across and up in Danzig you have the Germans and of course all of Western Poland is German. The new Western Poland is strictly German. All of that was cleared out.

C. “Cleared out”–what do you mean?

M. Of the Germans. It’s now Polish. Polish people took over.

C. Germans go back to Germany.

M. Yeah. And you don’t go there to buy the house; you just assume the house, property. You just move in to the house. So how do you recover your possessions? Only what you take with you. That’s just it.

C. Harsh.

M. Well, on the surface it seemed harsh but at the same time you were glad you were still alive. (laughs)

C. Horrible war!

M. It was and, you know, everything that’s happening today with Iraq and the others is pretty horrible.

C. Man’s inhumanity to man. When the Russians occupied the town how did they get food and lodging?

M. Well they would be as they came into town they would be marched and knock on the door or whatever and ,”O.K. these two stay here. That one stays somewhere else.” and so you got the whole thing spread out, and every house had one or two. And that’s how they got housing and that’s how they got food. The house provided the food at this particular time when they occupied our town which was, I believe for several months.

The most astounding fact was that the Captain that we had in our house, and we only had one. That captain he, after he got to know the parents and grandparents of mine, he, one Sunday morning he confided–maybe I made a squawk about not going to church or something and anyway he pulled Mother and me aside and said, “Go to church and pray. Today you will hear this Gospel in church.”

C. How did ye know that?

M. He apparently was trained. He did not have a book or anything with him so he must have been trained or whatever, and he told us, “If they found out that I told you so I would be executed.” Religion was not part of anything in which the Russians were interested regardless of what their religion was.

C. Yeah. We read about them stabling horses in church.

M. Yeah. In our case they did not house horses in the church but as I recall I know the church was closed and I know there wasn’t anything–I don’t think they even used the church. There weren’t that many; you know it wasn’t battalions of them coming through. It was just a small contingent there.

C. Interesting stuff! You said that after your mother and you moved to Stefkowa, the Germans were occupying that town. Now was that different from when the Russians were in the other town?

M. Well in this it was occupied but there weren’t that many Germans in this particular instance. What there was, was a contingent of a small squad or two that had an anti-aircraft gun, and that anti-aircraft gun was positioned right against the tallest building in town which was the school house. This was a brick school house and I think it may have had two stories and in setting it up against that it was well camouflaged. There was even a tree next to it, and there was an awful lot of firing from that position. You know, the kids go playing, and I was there a different number of times and often I would bring food home from there.

C. From the Germans?

M. From the Germans. See they had a soup kitchen over there and it happened to be that the schoolhouse was only maybe two city blocks from my grandparents’ house, and they were positioned across the road from the schoolhouse. They didn’t occupy the schoolhouse. The school was closed, see. No school at that time. And our food was in short supply and so I would bring an occasional fruit and even soup from there. I would have a bite or so with them but I took some home. They didn’t mind it. That was O.K. That was extra for them I suppose and so in this case they were very nice as far as we were concerned until the bombardment of the schoolhouse began and the planes came over and–first of all a small plane dumped leaflets all over the place. They just about showered the town.

C. What did the leaflets say? Were they in Russian?

M. They were in the language of the people but the leaflets say something about the–to take cover. There will be bombardment. There is a gun in your town–or something like that–whatever–beyond that but that included at least that much and so when they came in the gun was disabled. The schoolhouse was–well one half of it was destroyed as they had laid a series of bombs across the town.

C. Allied forces?

M. At that point, no. I don’t know that Allied Forces ever got into Poland. It was Russians at this point and they bombarded across the town. Apparently they got some information as to where the gun must have been because apparently only about half of the schoolhouse was destroyed and of course the gun disabled and the German soldiers departed. And that was it.

Now in Poland during the war years there was a great famine. While United States enjoyed the best years, Poland had it tough. While the American Depression was going on Poland had their best years and very fine living at that time but when Hitler and his forces came through…

[No further transcription done. Status of interview tape unknown.]