Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, July 2003
C. Tell me about the spelling of your first name. How is that spelled?
C. It is July 3, 2003. I’m interviewing Byron Armbruster. Would you tell me what you just said about your name?
B. When I was born my parents thought they’d like to name Bryan, after William Jennings Bryan, who was a Democrat. So when it came time for me to be baptized Rev. Lankenau being a staunch Republican said, “Oh no, not Bryan!” So then they compromised and named me Byron Bryan.
C. (laughs) That’s quite a mouthful! Do you have any other memories of your childhood or storied that your parents told you?
B. Well, I’m now 90 so that’s a long time ago. But I’m in the middle of seven children and-uh-my father was the youngest of 13. So we were the youngest cousins but I wound up with 40-some first cousins and as of right now I have one still living because we were the youngest.
B. Oh, is that right! Did you used to have family reunions?
B. Oh yes. We had family reunions and of course like I say we come from a fairly big family and there were three families living right close by out in the country where I was born and raised.
C. Where was that?
B. The Saneholtz family, the Nelson family and our family. Between Napoleon and Malinta. And-uh-so between the three families we had 20-some children so I had a lot of playmates. And of course it was a lot different in those days than it is now because when we went to eat we always had at least 11 around our table. We had my parents, 7 children, my grandmother and a hired man. And on top of that there’d usually be one or two visiting, one or the other of us kids, they’d be invited to stay too. And every meal was started with a prayer, and the meal wasn’t started until everyone was seated. T’wasn’t like it is now: one grab a sandwich here and run, and another one—(laughs) A little different in those days.
C. Did you get into any mischief with all those cousins?
B. Oh, not too much.
C. You played outside a lot I suppose, didn’t you?
B. One thing, of all those years I never remember any of us kids getting a paddling. We never got spanked like a lot of people say they did. Never once were any of us spanked. We were kind of afraid of our dad. All he had to do was shake his finger at us. We knew that that meant, ‘Behave.’ (laughs)
C. And they probably had been pretty strict with the first one or two and then the rest of you followed along and did what your older brothers and sisters did.
B. Right. The older brothers and sisters took care of the younger brothers and sisters. (laughs) That’s what we did.
C. Did you help with the farming at all?
B. I never did too much farming. I stayed home until I went into the service, but-a-I never did too much farming. Well I did a lot of chores. We did a lot of chores. Always had a lot of animals.
C. What sort of chores did you do then?
B. We had to milk the cows and all that. In fact, my one sister, she worked there in Napoleon. She went back and forth on a bicycle, but before she went to work she had to milk the cows. She worked in the 5 & 10 Cent Store. We all worked.
C. Tell a little about what that 5 & 10 cent store was like.
B. Well, it had the candy counter; you know how they used to have all bulk candy all around. Where the old Vocke building, you know, is where it was, on the corner there. A lot different than now.
C. A friend of mine tells about how one cold day she went into the 5 & 10 in a hurry and she wanted to make her purchase and get out. So she had her gloves on and she had to reach in to get her money out and so she just put her gloves in her mouth and pulled to take the glove off and her teeth fell out with the glove. (laughs) They ended up on the floor. She said she was so embarrassed! Did you have a pony?
B. Yes I did. We had a lot of pets. I had everything, a pet monkey and a pony and and ducks, geese, dogs and cats, rabbits.
C. Wow, bantam rooster.
B. Yeah. (laughs)
C. What was your favorite?
B. Oh, I guess that monkey was my favorite.
C. What was he like?
B. Well, he was a little marmoset, a small species of monkey. In fact he was so small I kept him in a bird cage. I would let him out occasionally but he would run up our lace curtains and he was so light he wouldn’t even hurt the lace curtains.
C. Is that right?
B. I’d put him on–he’d hang on my finger like this on the one side of my hand and you couldn’t see him on the other side.
C. Oh, he was really small!
B. And when he slept at night–now of course in those days our house got awfully cold at night. In fact it would freeze in our kitchen and that’s where I kept the bird cage and so every night I put a fur muff in his cage. He would sleep in that muff. One night I forgot to put the muff in the cage and next morning I got up. He was clinging to the top of the bird cage and he was just stiff like he was dead. We got him out and my mother made a whiskey sling. We took an eye dropper and slid it down his throat. He came alive just as good as new.
C. Oh, isn’t that something! No, I didn’t even know there was such an animal. That was a lot of fun for you to play with. Did you go to a one-room school?
B. Yeah. I went to a one-room school just about a half mile from where I lived and we’d walk. Course in those days the winter was a lot more severe than they are now. We’d have a lot of snow and-uh-so sometimes even the school teachers would be snowed in. They’d stay all night at our place. And I had the same teacher for eight years. I never had another teacher until I went to high school.
C. Was he good?
B. Oh yeah. Burl Bauman.
C. Merle Bauman?
B. No, Burl. He was Merle’s uncle. Yeah. There was four of us had the same teacher: Ron Palmer, Garnet Eisman, Darris Mohler and myself. We all had the same teacher for eight years.
C. Were there just four in your school?
B. Oh no. We had about 30, nearly 40.
C. And they’d be all 8 grades?
B. All 8 grades.
B. And we had-uh-an old well in the corner of the school yard and we’d get a pail of water and bring it in the schoolhouse. We had one dipper. We all drank out of the same dipper. No one died. (laughs) Naturally.
C. Did you have a bucket you carried it in?
B. We all carried a bucket, and one of my standbys was, in those days there were so many fence rows everybody had a lot of elderberries. And my mother always made enough elderberry jelly to last all winter. So we had a lot of elderberry sandwiches and she’d make a layer of elderberry jelly and a layer of peanuts. That was our sandwiches.
C. That’d be good for you too. Then what did they do, recess school for an hour or something for lunch?
B. I don’t know about an hour, but we’d have 15 minutes recess, two recesses at noon.
C. Did you have slides and jungle gyms or anything like that?
B. No. We had nothing.
C. How did you play then?
B. Well we played ball and made tents out of burlap bags, things like that.
C. Oh you did! Yeah, you learn to make do with a lot of little things.
B. Right. No running water or anything. Well, we didn’t have it at home either. At home we had no running water, no electricity and of course like the rest of them we had a little patch of a garden and at the end of the path was a little building with a Sears Roebuck catalogue in it. In fact we used to call it our miniature library. You could sit out there and read. Course you didn’t do much readin’ in the winter time.
C. I know. You wouldn’t stay very long. Did you go there to get away from chores sometimes?
D. No. We had to do our chores. But with no electricity we’d all sit around the dining room table in the evening. We had a coal-oil light like the one hanging there which went up and down and that’s where we did all our school work at the table.
B. Did your mom pop popcorn?
B. Yes, we had popcorn and we had a big orchard. We had apples every year.
C. Oh in the evening you’d eat apples and popcorn?
B. Yeah. We used to have a wainscot corner around there. We’d chew gum. We’d have a wad of gum and we’d take it out and put it on the wainscoting. Maybe the next day we’d go back and pick up our wad of gum and chew it some more. In fact, I thought that’s what that wainscoting was for. (laughs)
C. I remember Ed telling about, or I guess it was his sister, that after all the kids had grown up they decided they would sell the big table and buy a smaller one, and they went to get this table apart and way up in under the top of the table was a little tiny ledge where the legs were held together, or the sides or something, and one of the boys had put every food that he didn’t like up on that shelf. (laughs)
B. I know our school desks all had wads of gum underneath.
C. Yeah. I remember that. Now, let’s see, how old were you when you were drafted?
B. Well, I enlisted, and let’s see, I was in the service two and half years and when I came out I was 30.
C. What did you do before you went in the service then? Did you have a job?
B. Well, I worked at the canning plant here in Napoleon. I worked for all of them. I worked for Lippencot, Standard Brand, Campbell Soup.
C. Those were all here in Napoleon?
B. Oh yes. And–uh–my folks always had a big truck farm. I liked to garden. When I enlisted that was quite a thing too. All my friends had gone and I’d go to town on a Saturday night and noone was around anymore so I thought I might as well enlist.
C. Did you have brothers that were in the war too?
B. Yeah. I had one brother.
C. So where did you-uh–go then when you enlisted?
B. Well, I, when I enlisted I was at Ft. Benjamin Harrison.
C. Where’s that?
B. Indiana. And-uh–Carlton Reiser–I don’t know whether you ever knew him. He was from Napoleon and he was a Captain at that time and he was the one who put me on the train to go down south. And then I went to Camp Claybourne, Louisiana, is where I was stationed for awhile. And on the way down on the train it was listed as to what branch of service they would put you in and I had worked for the highway department a couple years prior to going into service and so I was puffin’ up guard rails and mowin’ grass, so they put me in as an engineer. (laughs) I stayed with the engineers all through my service and so then when I got down to the camp there I joined the 82nd Division and that was Sgt. York’s old War I division, so I met Sgt York. He was still there.
C. So you met Sgt. York?
B. Isn’t that something. So then-uh after we took our basic training or shortly thereafter they split the 82nd Division and they made two Airborne Divisions, the 101st and the 82nd.
C. Division of what? The Air Force?
B. No. The Army. And so they made two airborne divisions out of the 82nd Division. They made the 82nd Division and the 101st Division. Prior to that time there had never been such a thing such as an Airborne Division. You had to be either a paratrooper or a glider. So I was put in the 101st Airborne and stayed with it all the way through. The Airborne unit was only half as large as the other divisions. We had 15,000 instead of 30,000 which is the regular division. So I was trained as a glider trooper.
C. You were! Did you ride in a glider?
B. Oh yeah.
C. Those were dangerous.
B. But after we got ready to go to Europe we went to New York and boarded the ship there and that was really a full ship. I thought, gosh, I hated that. It was a terrible rusty old ship that was run by Indians and the name of the ship was Stropenover. Well, we started over on a convoy and our ship did have trouble so we had to leave the convoy and pull in to Newfoundland so we were in Newfoundland about two weeks while they were trying to get it fixed up and after the repairs they started out and as we were at the mouth of the port we struck a boulder or something and poked a hole in it and we had to come back in, so we were there all alone in Newfoundland and for two weeks we were in Newfoundland. Then we ran out of supplies. While we were in Newfoundland there was an army station there named Pepperele so we’d go for a hike up there and wash our clothes and come back and go on the ship again. Well, it was such a dirty hole of a ship and the cooks were Indians, they wore their old clothes way down to their feet and they were just filthy. And their bread was so full of weavels it looked like raisin bread.
C. Ooh! Bugs or something?
B. Little bugs. And everybody got dysentery, and everybody had to use the toilet and not enough toilets so everybody went on the deck. It was just terrible. You couldn’t stand up it was so slippery. Just a mess–it was terrible! So then we finally ordered another ship to come take the place of this one. So then we got a replacement ship. We transferred on to that but by that time we were out of supplies so we had to go to Halifax, Nova Scotia to get supplies so we could start back over to Europe. And so we were all alone with just one small ship as an escort going to Nova Scotia and they kept dropping depth bombs you know, they’d detect metal, submarine or what. Anyway we did get loaded and come back and joined another convoy and went over to England, Liverpool. So from the time we left. and that was half of our Division. The other half of our Division had already gone on another boat and they were over in England waitin’ on us. So from the time we left New York until we got to England it took us 45 days, to get from here to over there. So then we were in England and we trained in England but we were there a whole year prior to D Day. Do you remember Normandy? I went in on D Day.
C. Were you piloting?
B. No. This was strange too. When we got ready to go they didn’t have quite enough gliders so our Battalion and a couple other Battalions, they went by boat, the Susan B. Anthony, and on crossing the Channel we struck a mine and we had to abandon ship in the Channel and so when we struck the mine we were way down in the hold, the bottom of the ship. The lights went off. So it came over the loud speaker to come up on deck, feel your way. So we got up on deck, everybody, and they said, “Discard everything you have. Make yourself as light as possible.” So we took everything off except out clothes and so another little ship came over beside us and so I went by net over on that smaller ship.
C. By net, how do you mean?
B. Well, they had the net. They just threw it over from one ship to the other and you had to crawl over.
C. You got on the net and they lifted you over?
B. No. You just had to crawl over. Well, it could only accommodate half of us, so then another ship–by that time our ship was gettin’, leaning quite heavily, so they couldn’t pull on the other side and then another ship pulled us on the other side of that, so we went from ship to ship to ship and every one of us got off our ship but we didn’t have anything. We lost our rifles, our gas masks, our ammunition, helmet, everything. So then after we broke away about a half hour later we saw our ship kinda rare up and disappear.
C. Oh! A half-hour after you left.
B. So then those two ships took us as far as they could take us, then we had to go on to landing crafts which took us in as far as they could go, so then we had to wade in.
C. Now this was where?
B. This was on D Day going into Normandy.
B. Of course by that time the beach was covered with dead, the wounded, screaming, bleeding and-uh-so the first dead person I came to I took everything he had. I took his back pack, helmet, gas mask and everything, and then…
C. Were they shooting at you?
B. Oh yes, bombing and shooting, and-uh my best buddy-uh-I don’t know what happened to him. He was ahead of me a little bit. I don’t know whether he stepped on a land mine or whether a grenade hit him or what–don’t know but he was minus an arm or a leg or something. He was just all mangled up and he just begged me to shoot him and-uh I couldn’t. So I went on and I prayed that he would die. And then after we went through all this on the beach and stuff we went inland about 3/4 of a mile to an old homestead that’s all built out of stone, and-uh we went in there and we stayed there for several weeks. We were fighting from there and-uh you felt safe when you were in this stone building which they kept bombing. You weren’t safe from the bombing but you was safe from all the gunfire and stuff. So I layed there on that hay stack and I remember everything was goin’ through my mind, “How did I get here? and what my folks were doin'” and all that and-uh so I didn’t get my clothes changed for about three days, and it had to be treated you know for gas that was impregnated in the clothes, so when I took my socks off the skin and all came with them cause they’d been on so long. And of course our dead was layin’ there in all the ditches and everywhere and the water was in the ditches. And you couldn’t drink the water because of all the dead people. But we were lucky in one way. This farm place where we stayed had a couple barrels of hard cider so we all filled our canteens with–that’s what we had, hard cider. So then after we were there fightin’ for all those weeks we went back to England to get new people because we had lost so many and got replacements and got reequipped and stuff waitin’ for the next mission. Then we flew from England to Holland for that mission and-uh we went in there with a glider and-uh–Truss Leader, you know she’s from Holland? She called me her liberator. They have me over there every so often for dinner. Course she was in an orphanage at that time and she said they lived on rats and stale bread, uh, moldy bread. She said that nobody got sick though because mold in penicillan, you know?
And after that mission we went down to Marmelade, France to get new replacements for all these casualties that was goin’ on.
C. Wait a minute. What did you do in Holland? On that mission?
B. Holland had been occupied by the Germans for a couple years.
C. Were you a foot soldier there, or—
B. Yeah. I was in supply all the way through. I have friends now in Holland that we keep in touch with all the time. I’ve been to their place and every five years they have reunions over there and I’ve been to them. One lady said they had these Germans living in their garage. And when the gliders started landing they were so happy that–she said she rode out in the field when the gliders were landing on her bicycle and she said our boys stole her bicycle. So then we went back to France and we, some of the fellows got furloughed and they were goin’ all over. They were goin’ back to England to visit, some went to Paris and different places and they just had got back to France and then here the Germans had broke through our lines up there in Belgium and we got word we had to go up there to Bastogne and hold Bastogne, Belgium. So we went by truck then. In fact we stood up on this truck like cigars on end. It was so tight you couldn’t sit down. We rode there hours and hours and hours.
C. That’s the only way you could travel I suppose.
B. So they got in there and then-uh of course were pinned there in Bastogne 7 days over Christmas. That’s when that general gave the “Nuts!” reply. You probably read it.
C. Oh yeah. Let’s review that.
B. They said we had to surrender or else they would–annihilate the whole town. They understood that the Americans being great humanitarians they didn’t think we’d want to be responsible for the killing of all the civilians. They wanted us to give up. And Gen. McCullough said, “Nuts!” and the German general didn’t know what “Nuts” meant. They told him that meant, “Go to Hell!” So then the bombing began in earnest. They really did take place. Of course there were a lot of tunnels in Bastogne that had been built for their soldiers and all that, so I slept in a tunnel at night; that’s the only chance to be safe, and that’s one of the chances you take. By that time the Germans had taken so many of our men prisoners they took our clothes from our POWs and they would infiltrate our lines. They took English-speaking Germans that came in you know and the Germans would say, “Hey, Joe!” and the guy would come out of hiding and someone would shoot him. You never knew whether it was friend or foe that you were with. Didn’t know where you were. Well then after that we went down through Belgium and in the fields there was just acres and acres of German soldiers who didn’t know what to do. They were told to go home. The war was over.
C. Were they alive?
C. Wait a minute. How did this happen? How did the American armies get out of this–the Germans trapped them didn’t they? That’s why they were demanding surrender?
B. No, we were holding.
C. You were not under Patton?
B. Yeah, that’s what I’m gettin’ at. Patton and his group came in and that’s how we got out.
C. Patton’s group took you out then?
B. Yeah. They came in. I went by jeep to Germany and all that and wound up in Birchtesgaden and in fact Hitler’s house was leveled by the RAF so we went in by jeep. The day the war ended, May 8, I was in his house.
C. Is that right? What was it like?
B. Oh it had been bombed. It was leveled. Of course the Eagle’s Nest where he used to go up. That was intact. And then we were scheduled to go into Japan but by that time I had enough points that I could be released since I had so many points so I had left the outfit and went down to Marseilles, France waiting for a ship to go back through the Mediterranean past the Rock of Gibraltar on my way home so while I was waiting there in Marseilles, France to come home that’s when we dropped the bomb there in Japan. So our whole division didn’t have to go there.
C. Now the points you mentioned, would you explain that?
B. Oh you got so many points for time that you served, missions you had.
C. Time that you served?
C. Missions you were on.
B. But you see our casualties were much heavier than the ordinary soldier’s. In fact, I looked up some of these figures and-uh we had 15,000 when our Division first went in, you know, on D-Day, and-uh at the end of the war of the original 15,000 people you know how many were still in their battalion? 2,655.
B. Of the originals.
C. The rest were dead?
B. I don’t mean they were dead. Some were transferred out, some were prisoners of war, some were injured. But of the original–and I’m one of the original. 15,000 to less than 3,000.
C. Is that right!
B. And in fact we had formations like I say, and in our battalion we had 868 killed or wounded, and-uh captured 665. And anyway there were almost 11,000 of them that had left the battalion during those formations.
C. How many years were you in Europe on those missions, do you know how many total?
B. Well no, see I was in England for one whole year before we went in and we were only fighting about six months. But there were seven of us from here in the 101st Airborne and I’m the only one that was left. There was–you probably know some of them. Elder Meyer–he was from Jewel and Wilbur Gerken, he was from Malinta, you know Fran Freytag? Her husband was a barber?
C. Yeah, yeah.
B. This is her brother, and I was with him. He was killed going into Normandy on D-Day. Yeah. He was killed right then on D-Day. And Herman Badenhop–he’s out here in Freedom Township–and he could speak German. He could interpret for us, you know, then Harvey Moorehead from Napoleon and Wilbur Clark, the last one that just died, over there on Riverview you know, then myself and there was one–I forget his first name but a Baker from Holgate. He died shortly after the war. I’m the only one left.
B. Yeah, then I was discharged in ’45.
C. Well you were fortunate that you were in the supply part.
C. Because I remember my husband saying, “Boy those gliders, they were just at the mercy of anyone on the ground.”
B. We got $50 a month extra pay because they said, they called it ‘hazardous duty’.
C. Yeah. Sure it was hazardous duty!
B. They made us feel good though. They said if we crashed we wouldn’t have to worry about fire.
C. You’d be dead.
B. Well see, our two generals, Gen. Taylor, he jumped in on D Day; Gen. Pratt, he went in by glider and his pilot of the glider was Gerky from Findlay, that oil company. I knew him real well. And his glider crashed and Gen. Pratt was killed going in.
C. So both of them were killed probably.
B. No. Gen. Taylor made it.
C. I mean both the pilot and general were killed.
B. The general had several aides with him were killed but the pilot only received a broken leg.
B. I guess that’s about it.
C. Pretty hard. Now let’s see, when did you meet your wife then, wife-to-be?
B. Well, I’d known her for quite a while and-uh do you remember Tillie and Ida Dietson who used to do seamstress work there? They were good friends with the Higgins family, my wife’s folks, so they arranged that she and I come to their home one evening. That’s how we got acquainted. We were gonna get married before the war and-uh I hesitated because I said if anything happened to me I think my mother should, was worthy, should have the insurance. So I didn’t get married till after the war. And then, so we were married within a month after I was home.
C. Oh you were. Did she come to see you while you were in the service?
B. Oh yeah. When I was at Ft. Bragg.
C. Let’s see, Ft. Bragg was at what state again?
B. North Carolina. And-uh I just have the one son and-uh then she passed away and I remarried, so I lost two wives.
C. Oh is that right. And-uh who was your second wife?
B. Rosella Hoff from Holgate who I had gone with before I went with my first wife, but she was an only child and her parents didn’t want her to get married. (laughs) She had it rather unpleasant. So-uh-my first wife and I were married 12 years and the second wife 18 and we did have some nice times.
C. When did you have your son then, with the first wife?
B. First wife.
C. And you lived where?
B. Well-uh when I got back from the service we bought the house there on the corner of Park and Sheffield. And then-uh we lived there about two years. That’s where my son was born and then when my son was about–well less than a year old we moved to the big house her folks and grandparents owned, right across from the library on the corner of Webster and Clinton, the big yellow house.
C. Oh, that big yellow house!
B. Lived there for years and years.
C. is that right. Yeah, that’s directly across from the library.
B. And then we had a cottage. We spent a lot of time there. My wife spent more time there than I when I was working.
C. What sort of work did you do?
B. I worked at Campbell’s. It wasn’t Campbell’s but it was a canning factory.
C. Were you in the office there? Or on the line?
B. I was in the stockroom.
C. Stockroom. Not too bad a job. It was nice steady work.
B. I was responsible for all three shifts. I worked days but once in a while when they couldn’t find anyone to work at night I’d get a call and would have to run out there. I liked the job, did a good job. In fact, I’m the oldest retiree now at Campbell Soup. They have a breakfast once a month you know, the retirees; I’m the oldest one.
C. Where were these other canning factories that were in town?
B. Same location. Lippencotts built it. They’re the ones that started it and-uh gosh I can’t think of the last name now but he married a Diehlman girl. They had a coal yard. They lived there where Fritz Pohlman lived. Yeah, Lippencotts built it, started it. Walt Scheib started it. He was the superviser at that time, Chub Bevelheimer’s father.
C. Did they can tomatoes? Is that what the old factories did?
B. Yeah, they made a lot of ketchup, which they don’t do anymore.
C. At the time when I was going to school at Bowling Green they were making the Heinz ketchup. Every fall the whole town would smell like ketchup. (laughs)
B. And they used to run their stuff, their bad water, in the river and the river would be red from here to Grand Rapids. They made them quit that.
C. George Rafferty said he made many trips to Chicago to try to get Campbell’s to put up their factory here, but he said you wouldn’t believe the amount of opposition he got from local bigwigs who didn’t want the town to grow.
B. That’s the same deal like the University. When they built Bowling Green University– it was going to have it here you know but they had too many bars here.(laughs)
C. Is that what it was? The fact that they had bars? I heard that they met the representatives of the state that wanted to build Bowling Green Unversity here and they weren’t very cordial or something. Did you hear anything like that?
B. I don’t know. I know they debated between Bowling Green and Napoleon.
C. Well, there were a lot of very powerful people here who didn’t want the town to grow. They wanted it to stay the same in size. Well, we found out since it must progress or regress. It can’t stay the same. Well did you work in stock in all the other factories that you worked in too?
B. At the beginning Y’know, when they built Lippencott’s they had one girl in the office, Mary McBride. She didn’t have enough work to keep her busy. She’d come out and help us label. We were all labeling. Of course at that time you had to do it by hand. See now how it’s grown?
C. What changes have you noticed in Napoleon in your lifetime?
B. Oh gosh, it’s all filled up. Y’know where Anthony Wayne is? There was just one farm house there.
C. Anthony Wayne Restaurant?
B. No. Anthony Wayne subdivision. There was one farm out there. Same deal out there where our church is on Glenwood: the Jackman farm with just one house. Oh yeah, all that is built up, more so on that side of town though than on this side.
C. But they used to have grocery stores and gas stations and everything on the south side, didn’t they.
B. Oh yeah. There was a whole string of stores and a furniture store, lumber yard, all that. It’s all gone.
C. On the south side, you mean?
C. Ray and I tried to find a house. We wanted to move out of the big house into a small one. We tried to find a house for sale on the south side. We drove all over and we couldn’t find one. There was just one tiny, tiny little one that was just too small.
B. Do you remember Morrison’s Grocery Store?
B. They had one son who was a really good musician, Tom Morrison. I have one of their plates, a souvenir. And I have seven plates, souvenir of Westhope.
C. Yeah, they used to give plates away at Christmas time, didn’t they?
B. Oh yeah.
C. At the grocery stores and so forth. I have one, or did have one, I think it belongs to somebody else in my family now. Cousins of ours had a grocery store and they had given out a Canfield plate. It had a miniature calendar of each month all the way around it.
B. Oh yeah. Calendar plates. I started to collect calendar plates.
C. is that right. They probably had–well they’d have to have a different one every year, wouldn’t they.
B. Oh yeah. Over there in Europe, you know like I told you, they have a reunion for us every five years, the French, Belgium, and Holland they all go together and they wine and dine us there for two weeks. We always set it up for three weeks so we can go elsewhere. And in Holland they make a plate, a commemorative plate they call it for that event, and they break the mold you know so it’s a big collectors’ item. Makes a good gift. Every time you go you get one. I’ll show you after a bit. I’ve got them down in the cellar. First time I went back was when Willemina was still living and I met her and then I was presented to Queen Julianna.
C. You were? How’d that happen?
B. Well, we had the banquet in the evening and in fact, all those pictures you know they’ve got over in Bowling Green were me and Johanna’s pictures together and then of course now her daughter Beatrice is on the throne now. And-uh but the funny part of it is–see we go over there to celebrate the liberation of Holland from the Germans you know but Beatrice married a German officer. She can’t even take part in the festivities so her father Prince Bernard always takes her place. Every village that we had liberated has a memorial there now. They lay a wreath every time we go over there. He’s always with us and he personally hung a silver and gold medallion around my neck with a velvet ribbon. I’ve got it downstairs.
C. My! I’m sure it meant a lot to those people to have you come and get them out from under the yoke of the Germans.
B. In Holland they really appreciate it.
C. That’s something we didn’t know very much about at all in United States.
B. In Holland they had all these bridges and of course they were all blown up and the Marshall Plan replaced all those. And they were the only country that ever paid us back completely.
C. Now, what part of Holland is below sea level?
B. Oh there’s a lot of it. I don’t know what proportion it is really. These dikes. I’d be afraid to live there because these dikes. I’d be afraid it’d flood. It happens occasionally.
C. How high are the dikes?
B. Well, quite high because they have a road on top of it.
C. Of course you were in France, you didn’t go into Holland?
B. Oh yeah. That’s our headquarters, in Holland. That’s the home of the Phillips. That’s the same as the General Electric here. In fact, all our Norelco radios are made by Phillips, in Holland.
C. My television is made by Phillips.
B. Oh yeah, they’re our hosts for several days. They really wine and dine us. Oh, and Mr. Phillips himself. I met him and during the war the Germans were trying to catch him, you know. He just escaped out of the rear window one time when they were coming in his building and he rode by bicycle and got away and he stayed in hiding all during the war.
C. Had to close his factory down probably at the time.
B. Because when we’d have banquets he would be there at the banquets. I’ve got pictures with him.
C. Now, how did you go? You landed in France and then how did you get up into Holland?
B. We was in France, and after that mission was closed we went back to England.
C. Then you went to Holland?
B. Then we went in by glider from England to Holland.
C. Oh that’s how you did it.
B. Yep. I’ve got pictures of him too. The Mayor of Bastogne, the present mayor–a little town right out of Bastogne, Belgium village and it was occupied by the Germans. We went in and chased the Germans out and they were all so happy and everything that they were celebrating in the street, drinking. And then the Germans ran over us and chased us back out and so then the Germans gathered every male over 16 years of age and shot them. The whole village.
C. Oh no!
B. The present mayor of Bastogne right now, he was 10 years old at the time. He saw them shoot his Dad.
C. How sad!
B. I got pictures of him.
C. I suppose they had them all lined up.
B. Lined up and shot ’em.
C. No wonder they were glad to have the Americans come and free them.
B. The Germans had captured about 60 or more of our people and of course the fighting was going on right then. They didn’t know what to do with us after they got us captured. They mowed our men all down like sheep and just killed them all. That’s against the Geneva Convention.
C. How’d you escape?
B. No, I wasn’t in that group. But there’s a big memorial there now. We visit it every time we go over there.
C. Pretty cruel. Well Hitler was so cruel, I think. Did you see that place that he had a whole complex of offices underground? I don’t know where that was.
B. Well, he was killed in an underground in Berlin with Eva Braun. I had a buddy from Berea. He found a pistol with a pearl handle with ‘Eva Braun’ on it. Well I have a thought for the museum. ‘nee, we went into Bastogne after we–we didn’t have any equipment because we had just gone back from another mission in Holland and we hadn’t been re-equipped yet. So in Bastogne we didn’t even have equipment. And so when we went into Bastogne it was green and then it started to snow and we had no camouflage, no nothing. So, being on Supply I had to send out word to the villagers there they had to turn in all their sheets, pillowcases, things like that that we could use for camaflouge I had to gather up to give to the troops. So in this hotel, it was the Bastogne Hotel they had tablecloths with Bastogne woven right in the middle of them. I’ve got one of them in the Herb Huddle museum. I used it for camouflage.
C. You have a museum here? A private museum of your own?
B. My nephew does. You’ve never seen the museum? Oh yeah, school classes all go out there.
C. I talked to him at the airport and he said he had a museum.
B. Oh yeah. He has a lot of my stuff.
C. That’s out on his farm I suppose. I’ll have to go out there and look at that.
B. He’s always had his jeeps and World War II items there.
C. So he’s your nephew?
C. Do you have any memories of the Depression?
B. Well, not too much but my Dad was State Representative at that time. That was in the ’30s. And I was in high school and I know I didn’t have very much money because when I worked I used to get a dollar a day. (laughs) I’d loaned my Dad everything I had to help him out ’cause he was hurtin’ at that time. Really other than that I don’t know too much.
C. Now you went to high school where?
B. Here in Napoleon.
C. How did you get into town for classes?
B. In a Model T Ford with side curtains. Used to drive in the gas station and tell ’em to put in a dollar’s worth of gas.
C. Oh, yeah, I remember that. Did you have to crank it to start it?
B. No. I don’t remember doing that. It wasn’t mine. It belonged to a neighbor boy up the road. He lived further south so he gathered up three and four of us on the way in. We paid him to ride in.
C. Did it have a gas pedal on the wheel, the steering wheel?
C. What about when it rained? Did it have side curtains?
B. It had side curtains. No heater though.
C. It’d be cold in the winter. I remember a car we had one year. When it would start to rain we’d have to stop and my Dad would have to get out and put up these side curtains all the way around the car. He’d snap ’em on.
B. We’re going to have our 72nd high-school reunion in September.
C. is that right. So you graduated when? Let me see, that would have been ’31. I graduated in ’37. Do you have very many of your class still living?
B. Well, we lost three last year. David Meekison and myself always get the class together.
C. Oh, was he a classmate of yours?
B. Yeah. We’ve been friends all our lives. Our parents were friends.
C. Is that right. He tells about having this pony
// End of Tape //