Interviewed by Marlene Patterson, September 25, 2007
Russell Patterson, myself, and Bill and Janet Von Deylen are sitting in the Great Room of their newly constructed condominium located at 1126 Chelsea Avenue here in Napoleon. What a lovely home it is. We are sitting at a table looking at an OSU extension service photograph of Bill’s childhood home located on the corner of State Route 108 and County Road U. The photograph is dated 1952. It features the newly built home of Bill’s parents Harry and Laura Von Deylen. Howard Bond of the Henry County extension service conducted a county wide garden and landscaping tour. Harry Von Deylen’s house was one of the houses chosen to showcase. One thing that was noted was the television aerial sitting high above the rooftop.
MP: The first thing Bill that struck my eye is your television aerial. Your family must have been one of the first in the Gerald area to have a television set in their home. It was several years later that my father purchased a television set. What is so humorous is the fact it is a landscaping tour.
BVD: Yes, I remember the people touring outside our house.
MP: The Henry Schlueter home just north of here was also on the landscaping tour. Their idea of landscaping was different from ours in this day and age. Both of these houses had only about three or four trees. People do landscaping differently now.
BVD: I started to write some facts, but most of what I wrote I have on a tape.
MP: Maybe we can use the tape you made previously and the oral history. Will you continue with your family history please.
BVD: My father Harry Von Deylen was born to Wm. and Minnie Boesling Von Deylen on Aug. 29, 1903 in Freedom Township, Henry County, Ohio. Harry married Laura Plassman, I believe in 1926. They were blessed with three children, Bill, Donna, and Lois. In Harry’s early years he was a trucker, hauling mainly livestock to Folger’s in Toledo. He also was in the clover seed business. Along with this he also had a grocery business with two gas pumps out front. This was located in Gerald.
MP: I remember the gas pumps and the grocery store because Lois and I were friends. How old were you when you had the grocery store?
BVD: I was born in the grocery store.
MP: In the back bedroom?
BVD: Yes, but I always said on the meat counter.
MP: Maybe on the check out counter. Your mother and dad didn’t have enough time for you.
BVD: Yes, I was born there and we moved away when I was a seventh grader in 1941.
MP: You said you moved away?
BVD: We moved to where Tom lives now.
MP: To that house on 108 that sat beside the creek?
MP: Do you know that when I was ten years old your mother gave a surprise birthday party for me. I will never forget that. Your mother was always nice to me. I remember as a little girl going over to your house and your mother gave me a small porcelain dog. I still have the dog and I treasure it.
BVD: I don’t remember that.
MP: You sold the grocery store in later years to the Millers?
BVD: No, we sold it to Bill Kruse.
MP: Yes, I remember Bill and Olga Kruse. They owned the grocery store for a while.
BVD: My fathers name was Harry, actually William Harry Von Deylen. He never used William.
MP: I never knew your father dealt in livestock prior to his implement business. Marie Durham was your father’s sister. Were there other sisters or brothers?
BVD: Yes there were four other sisters who died during the flu epidemic of WWI. He was the only son and Marie lived a full life.
MP: And Minnie was…
BVD: My Grandma. (Minnie Boesling).
MP: How did your father get started in the implement business?
BVD: He was in this trucking business and along with that he was also in the clover seed business, and Mom ran the grocery store. In 1933 my Granddad Bill was running the implement business and he died, my Granddad Bill (Minnie’s husband).
MP: In other words he started the implement business.
BVD: Yes he started the implement business in 1915.
MP: Is this included on the tape?
BVD: Yes it is. In 1933 when my granddad died, of course my Uncle Willis was working there too.
MP: Yes I remember your Uncle Willis. He used to walk by our house every day going back and forth to work.
BVD: He worked for my granddad and then when my granddad died Willis couldn’t run the business and so it sat empty until ‘34 when Dad took over the implement business. It didn’t sit empty, it just wasn’t very active. Then Dad took over the implement business and he went out of the trucking business and from then on Dad was the John Deere dealer.
MP: Who built the yellow brick building that housed the impement dealership?
BVD: First of all the red brick building that was beside the Bindeman store my Dad built in ‘46.
MP: The red brick building housed the implements from your grandfather too.
BVD: Yes. My grandfather before that was a blacksmith, before Herman Delventhal.
MP: Herman was with my grandfather John Gerken.
BVD: Yes he was, but that’s way before my time.
MP: Did you know he had a buggy works and made these horse drawn buggies. I was offered one of his original buggies to buy it from Bert Kruse. He wanted $400 for it. Do you think I would spend that kind of money for a wagon? He had restored it and had even painted Gerken Wagon on the side.
BVD: There are some wagons around manufactured by William Von Deylen.
MP: Have your pinpointed where they are?
BVD: I know where some of them were. Harold Cordes’s dad had one on his auction, but that has been years ago. Another one was at Leo Nagle’s. I tried to buy it at one time,but of course he didn’t want to sell it. He just passed away this past year.
MP: Where would you put it? That was one of my thoughts too.
BVD: Anyway they made parts in the blacksmith shop, you know where that was.
BVD: Near the elevator office.
MP: We have pictures of the blacksmith shop. Do you remember the big round water tank out in front for the horses. It had horsehairs in it and when we were kids we thought they were snakes.
BVD: Yes I do. This is on the tape too, but Adolph Langenhop brought his western horse over with a buggy to have it shod, and Herm Delventhal did that in his blacksmith shop. Walter and I were supposed to take that horse with the buggy back home in the evening. We got on the road and headed east to Langenhop’s and we yelled Whoa all the way home. The horse just took off running and of course there wasn’t near the traffic we have now. He ran right across 108 and never stopped. The curve there at Eldor Fuhrop’s he just straightened that sucker out. Luckily the barn door was closed when we got there or the horse would have went right into the barn.
MP: I have a wood box with the name Wm. Von Deylen, Gerald, Ohio painted on the side. Do you remember how they used to paint the name and destination on the outside of packages. Your grandfather had ordered a box of toe caulks for horses. This wood box was used for mailing the toe caulks to him. These toe caulks were put on the bottom of the horse shoe to keep horses from slipping on the snow and ice.
BVD: Yes, they were like a horse shoe and had pegs on the bottoms I think.
MP: It’s been so long ago I’m not sure either.
BVD: I was talking about Dad trading in a horse. Of course he didn’t get home until about 8 o’clock. It took him a while to sign the papers. It may have been just a verbal handshake. Anyway he came home and he had traded for this horse. He said who it was and he has told this story many times and the next morning this farmer came in and said “Hey your horse died last night”. My dad didn’t even have the horse yet. I don’t know whatever became of that.
MP: He bought a dead horse?
BVD: He used to trade horse drawn equipment for implements. The farmers were making the changeover from horses to tractors at that time. I have this on my tape. I made that eight or nine years ago. It’s long and I didn’t realize I talked that long.
MP: At what point or who built the yellow brick building?
BVD: It was in 1938 that building was built. Dad built that after the red block building which was next to Bindeman’s and our store. Before that it was an old wood frame building. It had a ramp built up and tractors could hardly get up into it. That frame building was torn down and they put up the red block building. We were in that only ten to twelve years and then we built the yellow brick building on the east end of town. You might say on the suburbs of Gerald.
MP: You know Gerald never had a sign on either end of town. We were talking about that the other day and this woman said and I will quote her, she said the township trustees were too tight. I prefer to say that they were frugal.
BVD: They have signs now. They have signs now, but they have been taken a few times.
MP: Had I known that I might have been one of the persons to take it. Just for a souvenir.
BVD: Do you remember the stock yards beside the elevator?
MP: No, but my dad had pictures ot the stock yards. He told about the stock yards in back there. I have the pictures now. Do you remember any passengers boarding or getting off the steam engine train that used to go through Gerald?
BVD: I don’t remember actually seeing any. Now north of Gerald was the little town of Naomi. There was a building there very siimilar to our grocery store in Gerald. Naomi had a bar and also some girls there.
MP: That was common and didn’t they come down the railroad tracks?
BVD: Some of them did.
MP: They always said that Sheriff Bartels was the one that cleaned up Henry County and got rid of crime.
MP: You know people would come to our driveway thinking they were in Naomi and Lorna Bostelman worked for us. My parents at that time had the grocery store. They would run quick and lock all the doors. We had a door right next to the railroad tracks and guys were trying to come in, but they had the doors locked. They would be staggering and we knew they weren’t there because they were thirsty.
BVD: I know the clover seed business was done in a barn back behind our house. Do you remember that barn behind our house, behind our grocery store?
MP: Yes, Is that where they bought their clover seed? Was clover seed a brand?
BVD: No, clover seed was alfalfa, mammoth clover, and red clover timothy. He dealt in that. He bought it from the farmers, hauled it to Toledo to resell to a wholesaler there. In
the spring they would plant it. Plowdown they called it. You planted it in the wheat field. The wheat was taken off and the clover would come up through it. It was more of a ground, a land builder.
MP: To enrich the soil.
BVD: Yes, rather than like mammoth that is all it was for was to build up the ground rather than to make hay.
MP: Did the animals eat this then.
BVD: They did some, but they didn’t eat the mammoth so much. Dad took over the implement business. Of course I was in and out of the shop there and Uncle Willis worked there. I had this artificial turd. It looked so real you could almost smell it. One day I layed that down beside the heating stove. When Willis saw that he took a double take. He got there down on his haunches and slid a piece of paper under it. When he had it picked up I walked over and grabbed it. He looked at me and I had to run for my life. That was in the old red block building.
MP: Did they ever have dances in the red block building?
MP: Not even after you moved in to the yellow brick building?
BVD: No, Not that I know of. We had my wedding in the yellow brick building.
MP: I remember that because I went to your wedding. Do you remember years ago when somebody got married around here they would invite everyone from miles and miles around.
BVD: Everybody would bring in food and you would eat and eat and then again at midnight you would eat again. They had the big dances. You probably remember the dances they had in the Bindeman’s store, in their upstairs.
MP: No, you see I am Lois’s age and I had to stay home a lot. Jeannette might remember. Do you remember when Bindeman’s got robbed by a safe cracker. It was a long time ago. I have a picture of Ed Bindeman looking in the empty safe and his eyes are open real wide.
BVD: Back in those days we had two grocery stores in Gerald, a bar and two implement dealers.
MP: I remember Ed Bindeman had Massey Ferguson
BVD: Before that he had International Harvester even.
MP: Do you remember a market where they sold chickens and ducks and stuff?
MP: My dad was telling me about that. In that little area next to Ed Bindman’s implement building.
BVD: In your grandad’s yard there?
MP: Yes, My dad told me. I wish I had recorded it. He told me this house they moved across the field.
BVD: We used to have a baseball diamond behind Bindemans store. It was more of a field. They would have baseball teams come there, even out of Toledo.
MP: Did they have seats for people?
BVD: No, most of them just sat on the ground. I was very young when they had the ball teams come in. I had poison ivy one weekend when we had a ball game and I love baseball you know. I wanted to go over there and Mom had this calamine lotion all over my face. I snuck down through your grandad’s yard and wanted to go to Grandma Durham you know. I snuck away from the ball diamond so people wouldn’t see me. Yes about every Sunday they had ball games back then.
MP: Do you know what they used on me for poison ivy. I had poison ivy every summer. We used a solution of sugar of lead. The drug store sold sugar of lead in powder form by the ounce. You would mix it with water in a quart jar shake it to get it dissolved and put in on your poison ivy. It worked. I hope it didn’t absorb through my skin and give me lead poisoning.
RP: It really worked but the government has since outlawed it because of lead poisoning.. That used to be a popular remedy.
JVD: Like things we buy from China now. Everything is so full of lead paint.
MP: Where did you start to school?
BVD: At Freedom twp. St. John’s school
MP: Who was your teacher?
BVD: Miss Louise Schick.
MP: She was mine too. She was good and so sweet.
BVD: I had Miss Schick, then I had Mr. Elmer Bunsold, and then I had Mr. John Gefeke. Just those three.
MP: You had the same ones I had. Did you have the out house out in back of the school? How many holes did it have?
BVD: I think it was a two seater. Maybe three.
MP: I think it was two large holes and one small hole was for a child. I am not sure.
BVD: I know we snuck out when we weren’t supposed to be out there.
MP: How did you get out there, you mean during class?
BVD: Well you would hold up your hand if you had to go. You didn’t really have to go, you just went.
MP: You didn’t pull that too often did you.
BVD: Oh no, not me. I would never do a thing like that. Now Elnora Miller Koppenhoffer says and Lydia Wesche used to say that too that I would crawl under the seats sometimes.I don’t remember ever doing that.
MP: Why would you crawl under the seats?
BVD: I really don’t know. I don’t understand that but they claim I always didn’t stay in my seat like I was supposed to. I don’t think I ever did that in Gefeke’s classes. He was strict.
MP: I liked Mr. Gefeke. The only problem I had was you see I had long stringy curls and he would play with them or pull on them when the class would march out for recess. My mother curled my hair up on rags. That was the style then. My father said not to pay any attention to it. Did you ever get hit with a ruler?
BVD: No, I was a good boy.
MP: I am still wondering why you were crawling under the seats.
BVD: I don’t know either why I would do a thing like that. Janet, you heard them say it several times.
JVD: I don’t know whether it was just to tease the girls or what.
MP: Did you have to at the end of the day sweep your aisle?
BVD: Yes, we were the janitors too.
MP: Did that teach you something?
BVD: Yes, I knew the floors were clean and I could crawl under the seats again.
MP: I bet you didn’t throw paper down on the floor because you knew you would have to at the end of the day just sweep it up again.
BVD: We used to play ball out in Durham’s yard. I always tried to hit the long ball. Of course it cost a few windows.
MP: I suppose it did. My grandfather’s chicken coop was just beyond that. He had chickens and at one point he had rabbits. He was going to make big bucks.
BVD: He did his honey in there too. Before that the section hands would come there and eat lunch at the grocery store. We would start up a ball game and they would come and play ball with us. Do you remember where they took the sugar beets in Gerald?
MP: No where did they take them.
BVD: Right next to the elevator. There was a big scale where they weighed them. I believe the sugar beet company ran the operation. They would take the sugar beets to Ottawa, Ohio. The farmers would bring in their wagon loads of beets, weigh them and then load them with an elevator onto the rail cars or dump them on a pile and later load them into the rail cars. It was so muddy down there. They would have to hook up a couple teams of horses just to get through there.
MP: When did Gerald first get electricity.
BVD: As far as I know we had electricity when I was born. I remember Henry Cordes, Don Cordes’s parents, Henry and Leola, we would go over there. We visited back and forth then with my folks. They always had these gas filaments that made nice bright lights.
MP: Was it in their ceilings?
BVD: Yes, they had no electricity there. I remember them getting it but I don’t remember what year.
MP: I remember Leola Cordes. My dad and Leola were confirmed together. He would always call her up and they would just talk and just chat like two old women. I thought that was so nice and they were just friends. This was in later years when they had both lost their spouses.
BVD: The person I was trying to think about that did the sugar beet business there in Gerald lived with us during the sugar beet season. Durleautz.
JVD: You mean Clarence Durleautz over by Custer?
BVD: I don’t know the mans first name but he lived with us while the farmers were taking sugar beets in. We had rooms upstairs there in the store. Were you ever up in the upstairs at the store?
MP: I think so, maybe once. If I had it would have been with Lois. I was probably scared to death up there.
BVD: Let’s see there were four rooms up there. The front room was more or less just storage. We had the wood house out behind the house and barn. Of course we had the out house there. We didn’t have outside plumbing yet. In the wood house Mom did her washing and laundry there at least through the summer time. This was not attached to our house, but we had a cement sidewalk going out to it though. I had a picture of me, I don’t know how old, but I was not very old and I had Eagle brand milk cans which is what they fed me. I had made a pyramid of these empty cans and I am sitting in front of it. You’ve seen that picture haven’t you Janet?
JVD: Yes, but I am not sure where it is now.
MP: I got fed Pet Milk to build me up. My mother always said when she came she thought I had TB because I was so scrawny. Now look at me.
BVD: I remember your mother Ruth.
MP: What do you remember about her? She died in 1941.
BVD: Other than being there. I don’t remember her being out much.
MP: I imagine with five children she probably wasn’t outside much.
JVD: What was your maiden name.
MP: My mother was Ruth Kline and my father was John Gerken. She had five children and died in childbirth. That left my father with five little kids in Gerald. I was five years and a couple months old.
BVD: I was born in September of1928 and so was Kenny, your brother. He was born on Oct. 3rd of 1928
MP: Did you go to school in Ridgeville then?
BVD: Yes, we were in the same grade.
MP: You see these three, Russell, Kenny, and Bob Schmeckpeper, my bother in law, and Ed Peper that whole gang they were all born in ‘28. Did you have to go in to the service then? When Russell graduated he and his buddy Bill Little went out to California on a trip to work and find gold probably I guess. Anyway they were out in California in a post office and a Marine recruiter met up with them and they both joined the marines and of course when the officer did the background check, the policeman gave him the message from his mother that he should come home. So Russell is technically in World War II. He did that right after graduation, joined the Marines.
JVD: Then you were in the service.
MP: That is why they keep lining him up as a Korean veteran, but he is actually a World War II veteran. Kenny was a Korean veteran.
BVD: I was too young for World War II.
RP: Where I get in on the technical part is that they didn’t declare the war over until the end of ‘46. I am considered World War II but did not see any action. I was sent to Cherry Point, North Carolina.
BVD: I got married the day the Korean War broke out. Our wedding day was that day and it was very hot.
MP: I remember how hot it got and didn’t the chicken spoil? I remember they had to start the chicken over again because my mother was helping.
JVD: Was this on your wedding day? Was it cooked from scratch?
MP: Oh yes everything was always cooked from scratch, in fact somebody in Gerald probably butchered the chickens.
JVD: Would it spoil that quick?
MP: They had it in the old galvanized wash tubs, and it was very hot. This was before air conditioning. They always put out big feasts. There was a bunch of women that would always make coffee cakes, jello, and pies.
BVD: My wedding reception was in the old shop.
RP: Do you remember the field days that were held at St. John’s?
BVD: Yes, with Defiance, St. Paul’s and St. Luke’s, and of course Freedom.
RP: You guys would always beat us in baseball. We didn’t have a field here at St. Paul’s to practice on. That was our excuse. We at St. Paul’s didn’t even have swings or gym equipment. We had the parking lot.
JVD: And that was probably cement.
RP: On Field Day the Wesche Furniture Store would send their delivery truck over to the school and we would all climb on the truck and ride out to St. John’s school for Field Day. We would drive through Gerald and we’d all be hanging on the sides of the truck.
MP: It’s a wonder no one fell off.
BVD: I have a video tape of a track meet. George Von Deylen had the movies and we got them sometime and put them together on a tape.
RP: What is interesting I always played with Willie Delventhal. I got acquainted with him out there.
BVD: He died way too young. Willie and I always ran around together. In high school once we got a car, he and I always rode together. Before that I rode with Walter Delventhal. Of course he graduated three years before I did. Mary Ann was in my grade, Walter’s sister. We had those trackmeets and guys would come, the old farmers would come all dressed with neckties, their Sunday suits on and it was hot. They had a stand for ice cream, pop, and peanuts. I think there was one Sunday, maybe it wasn’t even Sunday maybe it was the mission festival and two weeks later we used the same stand.
RP: I remember those field days. We always got beaten by Freedom.
BVD: We would have relay races, broad jumping,
MP: Did you ever notice how small that field is. When you were a kid you thought it was gigantic.
BVD: We would play fox and geese and other games.
MP: We would make angels, maybe you didn’t make angels, since that is not a boy thing.
RP: We used to play king of the mountain at our school.
MP: We used to play king of the mountain on the dirt pile when they were building the back addition on at St. John’s.
BVD: Do you remember the big pile of corn cobs beside the elevator?
MP: Oh yes, I used to play on them and do you know I would always call them cob corns. I could never get the words in order.
BVD: We used to play king of the mountain on the corn cobs. I don’t think the elevator crew appreciated that.
MP: Probably not, because we kind of squished them down.
BVD: Yes we sure ruined that pile, and flattened it out. The elevator was run by a steam engine there and whenever we needed something cleaned at the shop we would take it over there and they would start the steamer up for us. Sometimes they would have the hose set too high and the hose would start whipping and it was dangerous to get close to it. You could hardly hang on to the hose. That was pretty handy to clean things up. In the grocery store I had an empty cigar box . I had a cigar in there and I had a pack of cigarettes, a pipe, and a match. It is a wonder the elevator stood because I would go behind the elevator. I just did that once though. I took a cigar there and smoked and I remember Eldor Norden from Ridgeville, and I know he saw me and he never turned me in. I smoked that cigar in the feed shed behind the elevator. From there I went to Grandma’s house and she said “Junge hast dow schmerked”? Have you been smoking? It wasn’t too long and I got sick she knew, but she never told my parents. She nursed me back to health.
MP: I think people were smarter years ago.
BVD: I think the girls were always turning me in for something I didn’t do. That’s sisters for you.
MP: Oh sure! Just like they picked on you. Do you remember a building next to where my dad lived ? There is an empty lot there now. What was that?
BVD: Henry Witte lived upstairs in it. I think it was a car repair business as I remember it. Somebody in there fixed cars, but I don’t think it was Henry Witte. Do you remember Henry Witte?
MP: Henry Witte, would he at one time have lived in the house on my grandfather’s farm? It just strikes me that there was a Mr. Witte that rented that place.
BVD: You know he was married and our cemetary out there in the Northwest corner there is a headstone and that is Henry’s wife who had committed suicide. She was buried kind of away from everybody.
MP: Because it was considered a sin to commit suicide. I can remember when I was little the people that lived upstairs in this building next to my dad’s would throw their garbage out the window from the second floor and it would land on our driveway. We had potato peeling and other things on our driveway and my dad got so mad and for some reason he went and bought the place and then tore it down. I think it was ready to fall down anyway. Do you know what a newel post is? My dad salvaged that and I had him make a plant stand for me. He made a base for it, stained it and I use it for plants.
BVD: I remember Henry Witte living upstairs in that building. It always scared me to hear about his wife committing suicide so I never stopped there. Going to school at St. John’s I would walk there and of course the older kids would have bicycles and I always wanted a bicycle too. I didn’t have a bicycle in my early years. I had a tricycle. Of course the other kids were on two wheelers so I would tip that thing on the side and pedal to school that way.
JVD: So you would be a big boy!
MP: It’s funny they didn’t buy you a bicycle.
BVD: They did but that was later. I couldn’t reach the pedals so they took the seat off and wrapped one of those clover seed bags around it where the seat was supposed to be, and I still couldn’t reach the pedals so I didn’t ride that bike for a while.
MP: You’re not really short, maybe you were just too young.
BVD: I was always the shortest one in my class in school.
MP: You know talking about friends, your mother and dad and my birth mother and dad were friends. Your mother Laura gave me a picture of my mother and father at the zoo. She said the four of them went to the zoo on a Sunday afternoon. My mother is dressed in a sailor dress and my dad had a fancy straw hat on. They were dressed in their finest. I imagine it might have been taken before they were even married. We had the print enlarged and I treasure that.
BVD: You talk about pictures. We have friends in Florida, and they live in Tecumseh, Mich. anyway the first year she, when we went to church there we had to introduce ourselves and say where we were from. On the way out she intercepted us and asked if we knew any Rohrs around Napoleon, and I said yes. It happened that Harold Rohrs was her uncle. Anyway a year later she brought a picture. Here it was a confirmation picture and she says Do you recognize anybody on the picture? Here my mother was on that picture. And she said this one is my mother. Here the two were confirmed together. She grew up at Fayette. Her maiden name was Borton and her mothers maiden name was Rohrs. Her mother just passed away maybe a year ago. She was almost 100 years old. She was a sister to Mildred Meyer, Vernon Meyer’s mother and Dick Gerken’s wife.
JVD: How is she related over here to Arlene Hershberger?
BVD: She is a first cousin. It is kind of a small world.
RP: Can you tell about the early business.
BVD: I have some of that on this tape. Dad was in the clover seed business, the trucking business to start with and the implement business. We would get this clover seed in, of course we cleaned it and the farmer would take the tare back home and we would buy the good part of it. We bagged it in two and a half bushel bags, which is one hundred and fifty pounds in one bag. It took a horse to pick those things up you know. Anyway some would have a good crop and maybe they would have ten bags of it. You would line these bags up. You remember these bags don’t you.
MP: Yes, I do.
BVD: And then you would have a part bag, and the part bag was always the last one in the line, so they could see who that belonged to. Dad was always upset with us because we would crawl around on those bags and get them dirty and he would bawl us out. We caught the devil many times. Then we would knock that part bag off and he wouldn’t know who it belonged to. It was a puzzle then. But we would have maybe twenty bags in a row, and the row beside it were twenty more bags and maybe the eighth one would have a short one on top and those seven bags plus the part bag would belong to Henry Rohrs or whoever we bought seed from. We bought seed from all over the county you might say. It was either there or to go to Fegleys in Pettisville. We bought a lot of seed and then we would truck it to Toledo. Henry Hersch, they were Jewish people and always treated Dad very fairly as far as I am concerned. On Superior Street I remember hauling seed in there, a truckload of seed, six ton on the truck. We would load it at night and in the morning we would start out with it . We always had to jack the truck up so it wouldn’t be so heavy on the tires overnight. That was Dad’s idea though.
MP: That stands to reason. Tires weren’t near as good as the tires we have today. Did you get the seed from the farmers?
BVD: Yes, the farmer brought the seeds in to us in old burlap bags with the trash and everything in it. Like they would combine the clover just like they do the wheat and bring us the clover seeds and alfalfa seeds.
RP: About what year was this?
BVD: Right when I was born in ‘28 and probably before that on through, well we bought and sold clover seed here in Napoleon, even when we moved here in ‘76. We didn’t clean it anymore.
MP: Did you still buy seed from the farmers?
BVD: No, we stopped that when we moved here to Napoleon. I am going to say that was probably ‘76 when we stopped buying clover seed. Dad died in ‘78. He was 75 years old. He was born in 1903.
RP: Was Harry’s dad a blacksmith?
BVD: He was in with your Grampa Gerken and somehow Herman Delventhal migrated in and ran the blacksmith shop.
MP: Who did Herman live with?
BVD: He lived with my grandparents Wm. and Minnie Von Deylen. I don’t know what year he was married, but I am going to say around the early ‘20’s. Because Walter was born in about 1925.
MP: Walter is older than you.
BVD: Yes, Herman would have come direct from Germany. Then Emma came, and she was very German. She could hardly speak English.
MP: She was such a sweet little soul.
RP: Your Grandfather Bill had a box that we have of toe caulks for horses. They were pegs that fit up in a horseshoe to keep the horses from slipping on ice and snow.
BVD: They were studs-like.
MP: We had more ice and snow years ago.
JVD: It is hard to imagine but when I was a kid it was winter all winter.
MP: Winter started around Halloween. We always had snow and sleet and ice in November already.
JVD: We always had snow in our ditches, because we would go sledding all winter. This heat we have now is a bit much.
RP: My folks always set up the hard coal stove around Halloween.
JVD: Did you tell how Gerald had more than one gas station?
MP: Where was the other gas station at?
BVD: Bindeman’s had a pump out in front of their grocery store. We had two implement dealers in Gerald. Now there isn’t that many in Napoleon.
MP: People don’t use implements anymore.
BVD: That’s right.We had two grocery stores in Gerald. We had a bar in Gerald. We even had a post office and stock yards.
MP: My grandfather John Gerken was listed as the only postmaster and I think it was in the back of the grocery store.
JVD: My grandfather was the postmaster in Malinta. Levi Spangler and they homesteaded between Hamler and Deshler, but they lived in Malinta until they cleared the land and they would travel back and forth.
RP: I have a post mark of Grelton and we almost had a postmark of Freedom Mills located up on the ridge. A fellow showed us one but he wouldn’t sell it. He also had a Gerald postmark. We couldn’t get that one either. He had a postmark on the back of a card and a postmark on a card of Gerald. He had a collection of postmarks from all the towns in Henry County, plus other counties. He ended up selling his whole collection to some guy up in Michigan. He would get a postmark from all the towns in each county and then type up the history of each post office. He had it complete. Why he would sell his Ohio county collection to someone in Michigan I will never know.
MP: Do you know was the Gerald road always cement?
BVD: I believe it was even on up to the school.
MP: I remember we used to have hitching rails up around the school house, because us girls would swing clear around on them. I used to roller skate on the Gerald road and it had these cracks in it and you would have to jump over them or else you would fall.
BVD: I was telling Marlene about Adolph Langenhop having his western horse shod. Herman Delventhal did that and Adolph brought it in the morning and somehow he got home, whether he walked home I don’t know. Walter was supposed to bring the horse to Adolph that night. Of course I was just waiting for him to ask me to go along. Anyway we got in that buggy and headed for Adolphs and the horse just took off running. It was a western horse. That was the fastest trip I ever made. Both of us yelled whoa all the way home. Anybody that saw us probably wondered what was going on. It went right across 108 and never stopped. The horse knew where home was. One mile east of 108 where the jog is, we straightened that sucker out. We got to Adolphs house and I am sure we were on two wheels turning in the drive. That thing was moving. I always said if the barn doors had been open we would have had that horse in there real quick. Vernon Miller and I went to the Herman Meyer, where Lois lived there in Gerald, and Art Noske, I don’t know if you remember that name, he lived there with the Meyers and worked. I don’t know if Ray was too young, anyway Art was the hired man and we went out to the field with the horses and a wagon and helped him load corn, and husk it in shocks. We had this wagon full of corn. Of course Vern and I were sitting on the back end and Art was driving the team up toward the building. I don’t know if we hit something but anyway Vern fell off and landed right in front of the left rear wheel of that wagon and I yelled “Whoa”. Right up on Vern the horse stopped. We were parked right on top of Vern and his eyes were huge. I was sure he was going to be dead. Running over him with a load of corn. The only thing you could do was say Giddyap and we went over there and he got up and he was scared to death. We took him home and he cried and he didn’t even have a bruise. Everything turned out fine.
MP: That Noske brings to mind. Who did he live with in Freedom township?
BVD: He had a brother Bill Noske and he lived with Adolph Damman. Art lived with the Meyers. One of those Noske boys were killed in the War. I don’t know if it was Bill or Art. I am not sure. It’s been such a long time ago. I think it was Arnold Norden and I don’t know if they had a big wedding or if they just went to the preacher, anyway they stopped at the store on a Sunday afternoon said they had gotten married and Walter Gerken was there and Ray Meyer and they got the whiskey bottle out. I can remember Ray had to do chores and milk cows that night. Of course the cows were way in back of the barn and I was ready to help him and I didn’t know from nothing, but they got an old work horse out and we got on that horse and we rode clear out there and met. I yelled whoa all the way out there. That horse was way too fast for me. Anyway we got the cows home pretty quick.
MP: Did they get milked?
BVD: I think they did. I think I went home to bed. I remember Walter was there too. We used to go up in the elevator and pester those guys. I must have been the neighborhood brat.
JVD: You must have been a little turd all over the place. You were probably the neighborhood pest.
MP: What did John Deere Days consist of in Gerald. I know they held it every year.
BVD: Hot dogs, movies, and we would have a guy would give a spiel about this plow and so forth.
MP: You would have sales reps from John Deere company?
RP: Were the movies more advertising?
BVD: Yes, they would have a feature movie of some comedien and then some advertising.
RP: I can remember in town they would have movies and the merchants would pay for them, and they had benches.
BVD: Yes, and they would have the movie shown on the side of a building.
MP: Did you ever go to the Gerald Elevaor meeting, the stockholders meeting?
BVD: No I never did go.
MP: I never did either, but I know we had beer glasses in the basement that were used there. I suppose my mother washed them and stored them. These glasses were heavy and were barrel shaped. They wouldn’t have passed out beer there would they?
BVD: I think they probably did. I know we used to have telephone meetings. You know we had our own telephone exchange that the Miller girls handled. We had all the news just like that. Anyway when our church burned they got the call that the church was on fire and of course one of the girls ran over to the shop and told us.
MP: Did you still have the Gerald exchange at that time?
BVD: Oh yes.
MP: What year did it burn?
BVD: In 1961 is when it burned. You see our house where we lived in Freedom on the Gerald road was built the same time as our new church, in 1962.
MP: You mean your house on U?
BVD: Anyway the church must have burned maybe two years before that.
JVD: Where did you hold church services at then?
BVD: At the old school, and in the Ridgeville school gymnasium.
MP: Probably any place available at that time.
BVD: Why we didn’t always have it in our school, but they went to the gymnasium there. Probably they had better seating and we didn’t always have to move chairs around. They had permanent seating. We always had to set up all the chairs and take them down at our school.
MP: We used to go to Northcrest and we would see John Badenhop who was the one who saw the fire first. In later years John was burning brush and somehow tripped and fell into the fire and he himself got burned quite badly. I always felt so sorry for him.
BVD: When our church burned I could have carried so many things out .
MP: Well at a time like that you don’t think clearly.
BVD: No. I could have carried the Jesus statue off the altar.
MP: Did it burn?
BVD: Oh yes, everything. We went into the basement and carried out a few chairs. I pulled a drawer out of the counter and couldn’t see anything. It was so smoky. I got outside and here it was an empty drawer.
MP: At a time like that you just don’t think, you just don’t think.
BVD: Afterwards and in the ashes I got the gold cross out. My dad had it refinished. Anyway there is a write up that he had found it. Anyway it wasn’t him, it was me that found it. I dug it out and it was all crinkled up and they pounded it out again. It had burned off the base and it is rough there. They have it in the museum in our church.
JVD: I worked at the Custer bank and that burned. I was just going to work and it had caught fire early, right before they opened. Us too, we just grabbed stuff and carried it. You just keep taking what is handy.
BVD: Janet was a teller there and it has been robbed twice while she was there.
JVD: We have had two bank robberies and the fire while I was there. Speaking of bank robberies in the paper just the other day it showed people wearing a mask and stuff. It just gives you the willies because both times they came in wearing a ski mask.
BVD: The bank had marked money and she gave them some that wasn’t marked.
RP: Actually here in Napoleon our first bank robbery wasn’t until 1932. The humorous part about it was when they robbed the bank Franklin Leonard was the policeman. He got the call and he grabbed his Thompson machine gun and ran into the Community Bank on the corner. All these people were scaired to see him come into the bank with a machine gun. Here the robbers were at the other bank and they got away.
JVD: Yes we do strange things when we panic.
BVD: I remember some of those old policemen, Frank Leonard, Homer Kessler, Woody Reimund, I think he was a sheriff’s deputy. We were skating in Ridgeville one night and Lawrence Gerken, on the ridge, he had a ‘33 or ‘34 Ford with no brakes. We were coming off the ridge road and onto Route 6 where you are supposed to stop.
MP: Didn’t he know he didn’t have brakes?
BVD: Oh yes, he knew he didn’t have brakes. Anyway we were going to Faubles here in town from skating. There was Woody at the first filling station catching everybody from the ridge road going onto Route 6. Of course I didn’t stop. Woody flagged me down and I knew Lawrence was behind me with no brakes. Woody had me flagged down and was talking to me and here comes Lawrence driving in from the other way. Woody says to him “Why didn’t you stop”? Lawrence tells him I didn’t have any brakes. We both got tickets.
MP: How did he stop the car normally?
BVD: I don’t know if he got out or what, or maybe he put it in gear. He had some brake but not enough to stop.
RP: Speaking of Homer Kessler, I used to listen to all these stories. Back in ‘37 they had a big flood in Goosetown. Mary Sattler was stranded in her house, but she would never leave her house. She was up on the second floor of her house. Shine Mann came in a boat, crawled through her window and told her that Goosetown was flooded and she would have to get in the boat and leave. She refused. Shine Mann went back and told this to Homer that she refused to come out. Well Homer just said “Well piss on her” and they continued rescuing other people that were stranded and left her behind.
MP: She didn’t get rescued.
RP: That’s the way they were back then.
BVD: This is another one on this tape. We used to go to my Grampa Plassman to butcher in the winter time. We would butcher a steer, a couple of hogs, and make sausage. Of course Hank Cordes he was the butcher. Leola knew about as much as Henry did as far as that goes. Those two always came and butchered. I would skip school that day because I had to help. Don Cordes he would skip school too. My grandparents had a new puppy. We started playing with it and took it upstairs which is a no no. She wouldn’t even allow the puppy in the house. We snuck the puppy upstairs and wouldn’t you know it, but it did a job. In the ceiling there was a square hole for the register which wasn’t there at the time. I looked through the hole and here was this big old cookstove directly below it. I said Don I will go down and when there is nobody there then you drop it and we’ll get rid of this. So that was the plan. Grandma went outside for something and I ran down there and Don dropped it and missed the hole and it was frying on a hot cookstove. I took this tool and tried to rake it in there and I had a mess. About that time Grandma came in and I really got to hear it.
JVD: Nothing like fried dog. Weren’t they ornery?
BVD: We were pretty innocent I thought. Yes, some of the things we got into. I might be incrimating myself here. I think the statute of limitations will take care of this. We can talk about you Janet. She is a painter.
MP: Do you do oils?
BVD: She learned this in Florida. You will have to take a look at the one in the living room. She has a bunch of them downstairs.
MP: Look how old Grandma Moses was when she started. We could call her Grandma Von Deylen.
RP: My dad used to draw. He ran around with Eldor Gathman and they would paint. My dad liked to draw cartoons.
BVD: I bought postcards from your store when you were closing. I bought them and I think I gave them to the kids.I don’t know if I have any left or not. When we moved of course I went through drawers and I had back surgery in ‘65 and I found the bill. I had it at Mercy Hospital in Toledo. I was there for seventeen days and the bill was $320.00. Isn’t that something? Now look what we have to pay.
end of tape