Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, November 8, 2005
Charlotte: Tell me your name?
Julia: Julia Heitman
C: And this is (pause) November 8, 2005 and this is Charlotte Wangrin and Julia’s going to tell me about her childhood, (pause) years ago, (pause) Okay?
J: Maybe I don’t want to tell it all in front of her (laughs)
C: (laughs) And you’ll receive a coffee too.
J: Well I’m trying to think of what, what all we did.
C: Um, first of all, where was it that you lived as a child?
J: On road 17 between here and Ridgeville.
C: Okay, and what have you had some thoughts about what you did in the fall?
J: Yeah, (pause) the first thing that I thought of, was that we always had to pick grapes because they would be ripe at that time. We couldn’t mess around, we just got home right after school, changed clothes, and picked grapes, and carried wood in the house, maybe feed chickens, and then we put… the dishes, we’d always hurried getting the dishes done so we could listen to Amos and Andy.
C: Oh, I remember Amos and Andy (laughs). You know those were white boys but they made themselves sound like black, didn’t they?
J: Yeah, they really did, they really weren’t black?
C: (pause) So um, did you have a school bus drop you off at the school?
J: (laughs) We didn’t know what a school bus was (laughs).
J: No, we walked.
C: How far?
J: Two miles, each way.
C: Two miles each way?
C: Was that to a one room school house?
J: Yeah, yeah, you have to ask me questions. That helps me.
C: Okay, so that you got a good bit of exercise just getting to and from school, didn’t ya?
C: Walked four miles total.
J: Yeah, and we packed, you know, our lunch everyday. Should I talk about the dog? (laughs)
C: Yeah, tell me about the dog (laughs).
J: We had this wild dog, he always wanted to go to school with us, so he got out of the shed one morning; Grandpa had him, or my dad, had him penned in there, but he got out and we were walking out there on Route 6, just walking away you know, and on our way. Pretty soon we see this big thing going around us, it was our dog (laughs) and he still was trying to go to school (laughs) he had his tail stuck in Hermie’s lunch bucket. (laughs)
C: Oh dear (laughs).
J: So she didn’t have a lunch that day, he had it.
J: I don’t know how he, how we got him back home. Dad must have come picked him up maybe, that was one of the highlights of school and (pause) we played this game at school, Andy Over… Annie Over
C: Annie Over?
J: Yeah, and then we played (pause) what we called a baseball game, what we called a Side Ball.
C: What was that?
J: Well it was kind of like baseball but it had only two bases and you just get on one and run on another one and back (pause) and they used to play a game called Stink Base.
C: (laughs) Oh, what would that be?
J: But I never learned it.
C: Do you know how they played it?
J: No, not at all, I don’t know it. See I’ve never been the type to dive in and do stuff, so I never learned it. (pause) But I guess I told you about everything we did in the winter after school, weekends we had to carry wood across the day on Saturday so there would be enough for the weekend. Sometimes we help chop it.
C: Did you have your own wood?
C: Your dad would go out and chop down a tree?
J: We had a, well my dad would do that and we had a log house that he would put it in. We’d go out to that log house and get it out of there and carry it in…
C: Did he split it up or did you have to split it up?
J: No, he did that. We just carried it in.
C: Uh-huh (pause). What kind of stove did you put it in, in the house?
J: Well, I don’t know; just a stove, a heating stove of some kind. And it had izing glass on it.
C: Oh it did?
J: Yeah, but they just called them, just a stove. They were kind of pretty, they had like, well like izing glass.
C: Then you could see the fire through that I suppose.
J: Yeah, yeah they were pretty.
J: They looked like chrome. But I don’t know what they were made of. Of course we had to bring wood in for the kitchen for the kitchen range.
C: What was that like?
J: I always called them ranges.
C: Yeah (pause). Would you describe that for children that don’t know what that would be like.
J: Oh alright, in order to start the fire you would first put a newspaper, they had like four burners, you’d lift the top part off with a crank or something. You’d put the newspaper in and then corncobs and then the wood. And it had like a tank on it we called it, reservoir and that we tipped warm water and it always had warm water. Night time sometimes I would forget to fill it. And there was the pump, there was a pump in the kitchen to pump the water in the reservoir and by that time you would have to fire up again for the range. It still had heat in it but you had to keep poking more wood into it and coal…I forgot that, coal. Newspaper, corn cobs, wood and coal.
C: You didn’t have any electricity to heat it up, you had…?
C: You just had to keep feeding stuff into the stove and then after awhile the water would get warm, I suppose.
J: Yeah, yeah, mhmm. (pause) Course we didn’t have, well did have electricity but not like we do now, ours was, uh, done by a generator.
J: Was how I remember it, in a little shed, and sometimes that would go out and then dad would have to turn that on for a couple days, so to charge up the whatever.
C: What was that used for then?
J: That, that was our electricity.
C: Did you have light at night?
J: Yeah, yeah just light, yeah.
J: Once in awhile that generator would go out and we’d be without electricity, and we had to get out lanterns, and light them up. With kerosene, not oil but kerosene.
C: I wonder why they used kerosene? Was it maybe less dangerous than the oil or something?
J: I don’t know, but I’ve always heard it was very dangerous.
C: Oh, it was?
J: Oh, we’d go out on the…in the winter, we’d go and what we called skating, which was just water out on the field and it was enough of it that it would freeze. We would go out and skate with boots on, no skates.
C: No skates?
J: No skates, either with boots or with our shoes.
C: So what would you do, just run and then slide?
J: Yeah, that’s all. Looked kind of like the pond out here. (pause) And uh (pause) we’d play out in the snow, when it would snow, make snowmen. (pause) What else did we do…
C: Did you put a carrot in for the nose? Or a hat and stuff?
J: No, I don’t remember.
C: Probably put coal in for the eyes.
J: Yeah (pause). See, now I cant think right today, the other day when you were up here, I had no trouble. I, I just can’t.
C: You probably got it somewhere, its still working out.
J: Well that makes a bad position, doesn’t it? And I’m gonna stop.
C: No, actually it makes it easier for the person transcribing. They get time to catch up what they’re typing. When you talk right along, they have to keep stopping the tape and get their typing caught up, to where the talking is.
J: I’ve always wondered how they do that.
C: And turn it back on and type some more, listen some more and then back and forth so its much easier to transcribe, a tape that has a lot of gaps in it. And that’s good, there’s nothing wrong with having a gap because that gives you time to think of new things, that you want to say.
J: Yeah, when we would play in the barn, on the hay.
C: Oh, would ya? How did you do that?
J: Well they had kinda like ladders and that you’d climb up on, on the stud I think of the barn. Like a ladder we would climb up on there and jump on the hay, then jump down because there was a pile of hay on the floor too.
J: But we didn’t climb too high. (pause) We did that mostly when we’d had friends over.
C: Did you play with girls mostly sense there were three girls in your family?
J: Yeah (pause). Well, so now I can go to spring maybe.
J: Now comes spring and we would be, the school would be out in April, the end of April. We’d have a school picnic, which was really a big deal for us younger ones, really nice. It was warm enough we didn’t have to wear coats, because the weather was different then, than it is now. We had a big picnic lunch, we’d play games…that would be the end of the school year and then we would be off for a week vacation and then we’d start to the German school. Oh, I didn’t tell you I didn’t know English when I started.
C: Oh, tell me about that?
J: Well, I just knew low German. But I didn’t, I didn’t, so we had to learn that. And that took awhile.
C: Had to learn what, English?
C: And how did that feel when you went to school and they were talking English?
J: It was hard.
C: Did you never think that you would be able to learn that language or…?
J: I don’t think, but I don’t remember much how I felt.
C: So you evidently weren’t scared?
J: No, which is unusual for me.
J: To not be, yeah I had forgotten that part. Okay, so now we start the German school. That’s now a different school, its not the same one. So we also walk to that and that was not quite so far, out on road 17. That was high German, so we went from low German to English to high German.
J: But I don’t think any of us ever did understand high German. We’d had to do memory work and that.
C: And the words were not even similar, to the low German?
J: Some of them were, we had Bible stories in low German. And catechism and low German.
C: Was that mostly memorizing in those days?
J: Yeah, the minister was real funny. He was just lots of fun. He had a long bench which we had in school, a long bench in front of the school, and she wanted our class to just announce, by 1st grade or 2nd grade and we’d all march up, sit up on that bench. There were only 6 in my grade, after school, 3 boys and 3 girls. That’s the English school now. And then German school this minister had that bench and if the students wouldn’t behave, they’d have to sit on that, on that bench. It was called the “Azzil Bunk,” azzil means donkey.
C: Oh (laugh).
J: It was fun. Oh did you know Clarrisa Frete?
C: No, I don’t think I did.
J: You didn’t know her, it was her father. She was around town for years.
C: So did they give you tests at the school?
J: I don’t think so. I always wanted to be the best but I couldn’t quite make it. A Gattlin girl would always beat me to it, she’d always do her work better than mine. She was a neighbor…
C: Uh, did they have a ceremony when you were confirmed then, when you had learned all the stuff?
C: What was that like?
J: It was very similar to that, it was a confirmation, but not in the public school, we didn’t have anything. In the German school we would be confirmed, that was all.
C: Yeah, what was that like then?
J: I would say quite similar to how it is now.
C: You didn’t have a recite any of the stuff you learned?
J: I don’t think, we got very well dressed up. I remember I had a white, crepe-de- sheen dress. (laugh) My mom stitched along the edges and had ruffles on it and we had a flower and just had to sit like this on the picture. We couldn’t cross our legs and have a catechism on our lap, but I cant quite remember about my confirmation though. I don’t remember who was all German. And they were just then beginning to come out with more with English.
C: Oh yeah.
J: And it seems to me that we, maybe we did ask the questions, I don’t know, I don’t remember.
C: I know in some of the churches they had questions that they had to answer and recite something , verses.
J: Yeah, I think you’re right, the more you say it now, it makes me think that we did. And at the end of the catechism school, that would be in, uh, May, June, July. And we had a picnic at the catechism school and now all the parents would come, we’d play games. And had a lot of pop and candy. Oh, we liked that. We paid for it, like 5 cents for a Hershey bar, we thought that was just (pause) …
C: That’s what they used to charge, I guess years ago.
J: Yeah, then we had one game at the end of that picnic called Fish Pond, in a coal shed out there they put in some gifts (pause) you had to win just right, they had like a pole and the kids that wanted to fish they’d hold that pole in there, I think we paid for that too, maybe 5 cents. They hold that pole to that hole in the people inside would pin something on to that pole like a, well whatever the gifts were and they’d pole that…if they were finished, they would get tug on that and the one outside would pull it back out and he’d have this gift and he’d just be thrilled to death that he got a little gift.
C: Oh yeah.
J: So he’d used, when he went fishing, you know that’s what he got, that was the most exciting game.
C: I think they still do that in some grade schools, carnival things.
J: Yeah, oh we used to, well my girlfriend and I used to play along the creek on the way home and we’d always save a sandwich, so the dog didn’t get our own. (laugh)
J: So on our way home we would stop and eat, and sit down in the creek, and eat our… and I remember she always had this good looking dried beef, and I always ended up with summer sausage and I didn’t want that. (laugh).
C: (laugh) She probably thought your summer sausage looked good.
J: Yeah, I think she did. What else did we do…
C: What’d you do along the creek?
J: Just walked, on the way home.
C: Well you said you played along the creek.
J: Yeah, that…
C: How, how did you play?
J: Well, this was a different creek, this one was close to where I lived.
C: So how did you play along the creek?
J: We really didn’t play down there, I said we just sat long enough to eat our sandwich. Cause, we are now just about home.
C: Oh, I see.
J: See now its summer, isn’t it? What did I do then? Well my mother always had a lot of chickens; we spent a lot of time feeding chickens and watering them, carrying water in the bucket and well…everything was carried. And help clean the chicken coop (laugh).
C: That’d be a job.
J: Yeah, smelly. (pause) I can’t think of what we mostly did… Oh, another big event in the early spring was to clean up the yard outside. Oh, it would look so nice and we’d rake it enough through the winter. It always looked so nice. And, once, every year one day my father would take us to Walbridge Park.
C: Wow, that would be a big event.
J: Oh, that was something! And I think that one time I was on a Ferris wheel, but only once. I said I didn’t ever want to do it again.
C: Where was that Walbridge Park; is that in Toledo?
J: Yeah, I think it was where we ate our picnic one time, when you, Bill and I went.
C & J: Across from the zoo.
C: Yeah, yeah.
J: Yeah, I could never quite understand it, between the two of them, what they meant. Why do they say Walbridge Park and then other time they say zoo? Across from the zoo…
C: Across the street.
J: (pause) What else did we do after school…? Bout’ time for me to, I wish I felt like baking but don’t (pause) let me see what else.
C: Did you ever catch and fish in that little creek?
J: No, I guess I never thought about that (pause) on going back to public school in the winter, one game we played was Jacks, you know what that is?
C: You want to explain in case there be some children listening that wouldn’t know what Jacks…
J: I don’t know how to describe what are Jacks, what they look like (pause) about 6 prongs like that in a ball, you throw, you put em’ in your hand and throw them on a table and then you bounce your ball and try to catch, get those caught. No, you wouldn’t put them in your hand, you’d just reach down on the table and then put them in your hand, try to get that in the hand before the ball came back to the other hand. That was a main game in the public school.
C: Did you play marbles?
J: I don’t think, that was a big thing, wasn’t it… years ago?
C: Yeah (pause) what’d you do at Halloween?
J: I don’t know…I don’t think we did anything. (pause) Now I’m back at the end of summer and I’m going back into fall. I really didn’t tell you much of anything, I had a lot more the last time. Maybe you have to come back another time, for the third time.
C: (laugh) No, I’ll find it. (pause) Did your mother take you to the store to buy your clothes?
J: Yeah, and she made a lot of clothes for us. She always made Margaret’s dresses red and Hermie’s were blue, no, mine were red, mine were red and Hermie’s were blue and Margaret’s were green. She decided they looked the best on us and she didn’t, didn’t like sewing. She did a lot of baking, baking coffee cake on Saturday. Saturday night we’d go uptown.
C: Oh, you would?
J: That was a big thing, we’d go to Spanglers. We’d have beer and hot dogs.
C: Oh, yeah (pause) children too then had beer then, didn’t they?
J: I cant believe that we had beer though at our age.
C: Well, I think that was common.
J: I think we did.
C: In those days …
J: Well, my parents use to make it.
J: On Saturday night in the winter we’d, uh, play pepper, all of us, and we’d have beer and popcorn and listen to the barn, the barn dance music on the radio.
C: Oh really?
J: My dad always liked that (pause) that was in the winter.
C: (pause) Uh, did you graduate from that 8 th grade school, 8 th grade school?
C: Then what happened after you graduated?
J: Then to high school, scared to death for the…
C: Were ya?
J: Just a bashful, country girl, but then it went okay, I liked it. I had a hard time at first, to follow my schedule cause we, we just had, you know, that one room out in the country. Did you ever know Vernice Clymer?
J: Well, she was my 3rd and 4th grade teacher.
C: Oh she was?
J: And she was Greta’s teacher.
C: Oh, really?
J: Yeah, 3rd grade I think.
C: Yeah, she taught 3rd grade for years, I think (pause). And then she had a sister.
J: They were twins.
C: Oh, wasn’t she a teacher too?
J: Yeah, they looked so alike you couldn’t tell them apart.
C: Is that right, well they must have been identical (pause). Uh, going back to when you first started school, um, did you have any other problems besides not being able to understand the German, or the English?
J: No, really not…
C: Were you left handed?
J: I was, and it seems I was left handed and, uh, they changed me to the, to my right hand.
C: Was that hard, or maybe you don’t remember?
J: I don’t know.
C: I bet that was hard for a child who got to use the non dominant…
J: But I use my left hand now more than my right, for other things.
C: Yeah… it’s standard.
J: I don’t know, I just do (pause). I used to when I’d eat steak, I would cut it with, use my left hand to cut the meat but use my right hand to eat it with
C: Oh, well that’d be kinda handy.
J: (pause) When we used to go out and eat steak, years ago.
C: They ate a lot more steak then, than they do now, I guess.
J: They kinda talk about, you know, fish a lot now, fish and chicken.
C: Yeah… did you, but didn’t use to have much fish here, did ya?
C: No, because they didn’t have frozen stuff.
J: No, fish is supposed to be, you know, so good for our mind, has a lot of that Omega 3?
C: Oh yeah… well one way that they did have fish, my grandmother did anyway, was cod fish, salted, and came in the little boxes. Did you have that?
J: No, but I do remember the man use to come around in a truck, I think, on the farm… many years ago. About once a year he’d come in the summer and he’d have something.
C: So this man is, used to come and had something to sell, what was it?
J: Fish… he had fish to sell.
C: Oh he did?
J: Real big ones!
C: Oh really?
C: So then your mother would buy it and cook it.
J: He wouldn’t come often, I really, only about once, once or twice a year, I think and he usually had a lot of them and they were big ones…
C: He probably brought em’ from Lake Erie or something?
J: Yeah, I don’t know but that was, uh, a treat to us to get those fish.
C: Yeah, yeah.
J: Because we were used to eating all that butchered meat…bratwurst and summer sausage and prettels and…prettels I get hungry for them.
C: Did your father, uh, butcher his own meat?
J: Yeah, he had someone come in and do it.
C: Oh, so it wasn’t where a thing where your family all…
J: They had a lot of men; they were called butchers.
C: Oh, uh huh.
J: And there was Irma, not Irma, I mean Bertha, at the hospital…her father did that for years. They’d go around the neighbors and do the butchering.
C: So the family wouldn’t do much as far as the…getting the meat ready and curing it and everything.
J: No not much, no.
C: Did you mother can beef then?
J: Yeah, she used to can chicken too. Yeah, that beef was good, that canned beef.
C: How did she cook it, how’d she use it in cooking?
J: Usually just, uh, just eat it, the way it was, I mean she’d…cause it was already cooked, you know, and she’d can it, in hot water. Then I think… I don’t remember ever, ever making like, uh, well she probably used it for soup.
J: For vegetable soup.
C: Uh huh. (pause) Did she make her own bread?
J: Oh, yes….we would, we could not eat white bread, it had to be wheat.
C: Oh really.
J: Because of health.
C: Uh huh.
J: She, she was, fed us well, health, healthy foods.. Lots of carrots and prunes and… she was pretty sharp, I don’t know how she, how she did it but she was.
C: Did she finish, refinish furniture at that time?
J: Oh, no.
C: She did when she was older, I think.
J: Yeah, when we moved to town. She was just too much into chickens.
J: She liked chickens.
C: Did she have a lot of chickens?
J: Yeah, she had like a thousand in the summer.
C: Oh, really?
J: And one year she had well five hundred at one time. They all died but nine (laugh).
C: What happened?
J: Well, they got uh, uh disease called cockcidiosis.
J: I don’t know what that is.
C: Hm, I don’t either (pause) Did they, uh, have nests in the hen house, did they stay in, uh, hen house, or did they…
J: No, they didn’t, they ran all over (laugh).
C: Oh, did they?
J: And, we’d have to get, go after them in the barn and the grainery.
C: You’d have to find the eggs then?
J: We’d have to…yeah.
C: What would you do, take a little basket and…go gather eggs?
J: Yeah, yeah that had to be done every day. Then they had to be cleaned and we’d carry ’em down to the cellar and then we’d clean them down there, then they’d clean them and pack them in egg crates and then the egg man, we called him the egg man would come around and pick em up and pay her for the eggs.
C: Oh, mm hm.
J: Oh, my sister and I, Hermie, always had to haul stuff either home or to town and we always had to buy chicken feed at, at the, what they called the farmers’ elevator.
C: Well you didn’t walk to go there, did you?
J: No, no we drove… and not all the time cause we sort of… like I said the last year I lived with Bill’s mother.
C: Mm hm
J: Cause she wanted someone to be with her, cause his father had died and she didn’t want to be alone. We, we knew them real well, my parents and Bill’s parents were friends years ago…but a couple years we drove the car cause we had a new ’28 Chevy and we had to show it off.
C: Bet that was fun for you to get in the Chevy and drive.
J: Yeah, that was a big treat to us.
C: How old were you when you first started driving?
J: And I learned it out in the field…. kinda on my own.
C: You did?
J: I think I did.
C: No one in the car with you.. when you were trying to learn?
J: I can’t, well, there must have been, I, it just seems I learned it by myself.
C: Well, you might have.
J: Well, there must have been someone, probably my father.
J: My mother learned to drive later on, when they, well they were still living out in the country, she liked to go away, she didn’t like to be home all the time. Then she had had to go to town to do things, so by now we have been, we have, uh, increased our, what do you call them, value of car. We are now in a ’36 Studebaker… bright green, and she… I don’t know who taught her to drive, but she was well, not very young… but she was so outgoing she would just talk to everybody. But she..
C: Your mother?
J: But she never learned to back.
C: Oh really, (laugh) never could back a car.
J: So she would park the car wherever uptown and she would just get in and wait till someone came along and she’d ask them, “will you back my car for me?”
C: Oh really?
J: It was funny (pause) she was really funny.
C: I, it sounds like your sister Margaret’s a lot like her mother.
J: It does to me too, recently… she’s uh, she just talks to everybody, you know out there I can just.. yeah she does. Maybe she’s always done that and I didn’t, hadn’t noticed it till just recently. (pause) I forgot to tell you one thing about the summer that we would move that we would move out to a summer kitchen. We had this kitchen off the house and we would take our, empty our cupboards in the kitchen of the house, the house kitchen and carry em out to that summer kitchen and that’s where we would eat. It was kind of like a cabin. Then my dad made a two story building out of it and we’d go upstairs and play, our dolls and whatever we had.
C: Was it cooler there?
C: Of course they didn’t have any air conditioning, that’s for sure.
J: Oh my goodness no, and we didn’t have chairs out there, we had two benches I think, or at least one bench all around one side that we’d sit on you know and we ate.. back to the bench. (pause) Do you think of your home back home a lot?
C: No… not now, I think I’m still pretty busy with a lot of other things.
C: Some day I will, I think.
J: You probably keep busy… all the time.
C: Well now, yeah, pretty busy, but, someday I won’t.
J: But which is good though, which is, which is so good.
C: Some ways its good, some ways its bad. Well let’s see.