Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, 2004
L. My name is Lawrence Leaders and I am 83 years old. I was born in Pleasant Twp., Henry County. I was born in 1921.
C. Where in Pleasant Township did you live? Did you live on a farm?
L. Yes. I lived on a farm and I was born in a log house.
C. Do you have any memories of the log house?
L. I don’t have any memories of the log house. They were building the new house the year I was born and we moved in the following year and apparently tore down the log house before I was old enough to have any recollection, but I do remember the old log barn.
C. Log barn, too?
L. Yes, and some of the old chicken house and those buildings.
C. Now, were your parents or grandparents or who settled?
L. My grandfather came from Germany.
C. Did he come up on the canal?
L. He didn’t leave much of a trail. All that we know is that he came from Hanover, Germany as a young lad about 12 years old, back in 1868. When he came over his father sent him over with another brother and sister and they stayed with friends for a period of time in Freedom Township and then he married a girl from Napoleon area and settled in the Holgate area where he took up the occupation of farming.
C. Almost everybody was a farmer in those days.
L. Mostly farming or very agriculture related.
C. What crops did you grow?
L. Back then it was mostly corn and wheat and of course, they raised their own livestock and feed for that livestock. That was the major crops. At that time soybeans were not grown here. They did raise some oats to feed the livestock also.
C. You had horses, probably?
L. That was the only power until I was about 17 years old. Back then it was all horse power. We did not have a tractor so I drove a lot of teams of horses and broke colts, etc. We had 3 teams of horses.
C. You must have had a lot of land for 3 teams?
L. No, not that much but it took a lot of power when you figure that you only plowed about 2 acres a day.
C. Oh, yes.
L. If they were in good condition and you didn’t cover too much area in a day with a team.
C. Were they pretty good about obeying orders? Did they get tired and just stop in their tracks?
L. Oh, no, you knew your horses and you rested them every so often. You knew your team and vice versa and you would plow across the field, turn around and give them their wind and rest them for a couple of minutes and then you would go back and plow across the field and I recall the farm had a rail fence all around.
C. Who put that in, your father or your grandfather?
L. My grandfather and my father helped with the rails. It went around the entire farm. When it would be cold and you would be plowing you could start a little fire in the fence corner and plow across the field and start a little fire in the other end and keep going.
C. Yes, it would be pretty cold in this area.
L. I plowed in snow.
C. Oh, you did.
L. Yes, if you plowed snow under you would get a good crop of corn. I guess you would have nitrogen in the snow.
C. I suppose like rain, you get nitrogen from that.
L. I loved horses. I liked to break colts and loved to drive teams and horses. I plowed a lot of furrows with horses.
C. How do you break the colts?
L We had a large horse. We called him Old Trusty. He weighed about 2000 pounds. He would just do what you told him and you could tie a colt to him, make it jump around and anything and he would just not pay any attention. He just stood there,
C. Oh, really.
L. Oh, yes. We could use him to break the colts real easy.
C. How did you know when a colt was broken?
L. They were 2 years old when you start to break them. When they start obeying commands you know you were making progress with them. You would say, “Whoa!” or “Get up!” and “Gee!” and “Haw!” or “Stop.” They learned the commands.
C. ‘Gee’ is left and ‘haw’ is right.
L. They had to be talked to. When you told them to stay and stop, to stand there and not run off because once in awhile you had to watch them very close while you were breaking them so that you didn’t get far away.
C. You didn’t want them running off.
L. We did have some runaways a few times.
C. What would happen when they would run away? Would they pull the plow right along with them?
L. Yes, they would. They would take whatever they had. I had one team get away from me and I had one team almost get away from me. Sometimes the harness would get caught and they would tear up the harness and go as fast as they could run. You would get out of the way of them.
C. Would they do that when they got scared, do you think?
L. Sometimes they were spooked by something. You wouldn’t know what it was. You always had to keep and eye as to what was going on around. One time one swarm of bees was going to land on the horses. I had them hitched to the binder and almost had a runaway with four head of horses. Some bees were right over their heads. My father was driving at that time. So you had to watch.
C. So the time when they almost got away from you, how did you get them stopped?
L. They got out of wind. They ran until they couldn’t run any more. They were a very nice team of dapple gray Percheron. I was very small and he said to hold the lines until he would get some gloves and he gave me the lines and just had a double tree on and he no more got into the house and they decided they wanted to go and away they went. They went almost 3/4 mile and they turned and went over to my grandfathers where they stopped.
C. You weren’t trying to hang on. They would be dragging you.
L. No I couldn’t. They were going full speed. But I did have a team when I was husking corn by myself one day in the standing stalks. It was rather windy and the leaves were rattling. I had just got out of the wagon and putting my husker on my hand and I looked and the wagon was starting to move and I just grabbed and caught the back of the wagon and they were going down through that field as fast as they could go already and I got on the wagon and got the lines and they knew they were caught and they stopped. We had to split that team up. They would look at one another and they would run off just like that, so we put them beside another horse and then they were alright but you couldn’t drive them together.
C. That is too bad if you couldn’t trust them.
L. Those were about the only two. They got away from my brother one time with the plow and ran 1/2 mile, that same team.
C. Was he on the wagon?
L. He was plowing with them. That was very dangerous. If they break away from the plow the plow will hit them in the legs and we were lucky the plow didn’t hit them in the legs and cut their legs. Usually they would get away. If you have a hold of the lines they wouldn’t run. They knew that.
C. They watched their chance.
L. Most of them were very good though. We drove a lot of teams. They were good pullers. Some wouldn’t pull very good and some were good pulling horses depending on how hard we had to pull we knew which horses would pull and which ones wouldn’t pull so we would take the team that fit the situation.
C. And you would pick two that would work together.
L. That’s right. We would put two pullers together and sometimes they wouldn’t work together and we couldn’t pull hardly anything with them. We always raised colts.
C. Did you sell the extras?
L. No, not too many times, once in a while. Sometimes maybe, back then, we would trade the horse in for a piece of equipment. The dealer would take horses or cows in the deal. I can remember my dad traded a team in on a, I think, a combine.
C. That was one of the first ones then.
L: Yes that was way back, the first combine we had.
C: Did he go around then to the neighbors and combine for them?
L: Yes, we did. We got less than $2.00 an acre for combining at that time. Now its $25.00 an acre. You could combine maybe 15 acres a day, now they take out hundred. Thats the difference you know.
C: Do they still have those big dinners when they’re combining where women would get together and cook a big dinner?
L: That was in the threshing.
C: Oh, that wasn’t combining.
L: No, that was threshing. That was what they call the threshing ring. It was an area about a circle, so many farmers would get together and they would have a big threshing machine. A couple of farmers would own it and they call that the threshing ring, probably 8 or 10 farmers and they would get together and thresh that circle out and that was when they would have the big dinners, and they were big dinners. Some threshing crews only cooked dinner but in our ring they cooked dinner and supper. It seemed like these ladies would almost try to outdo the neighbor lady.
C: Maybe they were.
L: They would have to ask the day before what they had for dinner and then they would ask the other ladies what they had. The table was just loaded.
C: Is that right. A lot of good stuff.
L: We were hungry when we came in. They had a big wash tub under the tree. Everybody washed up in that same tub and and then you unhook your horses and tie them to the wagon and you would go in and eat supper and tie your team and go home. I can recall when early on in this German settlement about 4 o’clock they would send one person up to Diehl’s brewery and get a little pony keg of beer and that would always be sitting there beside the wash tub. You would have a glass of beer and go in.
C: That would probably taste pretty good.
L: It would really wet up your appetite. That was the custom there. Some of them didn’t do that, though.
C: My mother was president of the WCTU in her area for years. I remember when she came to visit one time I took her downtown. “Why, there’s a saloon on every corner,” she would say.
L: Well, there were only about 20 or more men so you only had about a glass of beer. There wasn’t any drinking during the day because that would be dangerous around the equipment. Grain tenders had to unload the grain wagons and the bundle haulers and you had the pitchers in the field. About 3 pitchers who would take the sheaves and put them up on the wagon.
C: What was a bundle hauler?
L: They drive out to the field to the shocks and the pitchers would take the sheaves and pitch it up on top of the wagon and haul them to the threshing machine. I got pretty good at it. I could load them just as straight as could be. My uncle taught me how to load. They were tied in properly. I enjoyed that.
C: When you got them to the barn would you have one of them forks that would come down and grab one and take it up?
L: No, you had a pitchfork and you drove up along the separator. It had a long trough on it and you would pitch them in there. That was a conveyor and that would take it into the big separator and that would chew it up and thresh it out.
C: Well you know I’m a city girl and it is hard for me to figure out these things.
L: That was haymaking, too. You used the wagons but each one did their own haymaking. Then you used the slings on the wagons. You laid them down on the wagon and you put hay on them and on the ends you would hook them together and pull them up in the center of the barn and with the rope pull them over and you trip it and then somebody up in the hayloft would spread it out in the mow.
C: I remember seeing those things.
L: That was hay forks and what I’m talking about is hay slings.
C: What’s the difference?
L: The fork is like you said — it would come apart, and it’s the same as slings and the track. It was just a different principle.
C. What did the slings look like?
L. Two ropes about the length of the wagon and then they had little wooden pieces across and they hooked onto those ropes and at the end they were like triangles came to a point and here is where you hooked on and then you pulled that together and hooked on to the center. A team of horses pulled the sling of hay almost to the top of the barn, it was pulled over on a track, then released.
C. And that would pull them up.
L. In the field you would back that wagon up to that loader and you had a web on there that would take the hay up to the wagon and you had to take it away from that loader. It was work. We had a big barn full of hay to feed all the livestock in the winter, the horses plus the cattle. Most every farm had dairy cattle.
C. Now there is a story that the farmers liked to have big families because then the children could help with what needs to be done.
L. There were 7 of us.
C. And that was probably not a big family.
L. In my father’s family there were 13. They helped clear the land because most of the land at that time when my father was little was timber. They had to clear the ground. It wasn’t with chain saws. It was all crosscut. All done by hand. They would clear whole woods off. My father seldom got to go to school. They got to go to school when the weather was bad and they couldn’t work outside. My father got to the 5th grade. All those children helped to clear that ground.
C. How did they get the roots of the trees out? That must have beer a terrible job.
L. Trees were cut down and logs taken out. I used to help my father dynamite stumps. You would have a big stump and you had what they called a dynamite auger, probably 4 ft. long, about 2 inches around. You would auger under that stump, take a stick of dynamite and put it in there. Maybe if the stump was big enough you would put 2 sticks in and put a cap on it with wire and when it touched off it would blow that stump out.
C. Lit it and ran like crazy.
L. You could buy dynamite at most any hardware store.
C. You would think that would be dangerous.
L. It wasn’t dangerous until you put the cap on.
C. What did the cap look like?
L. You wired it just like a firecracker and that would touch the dynamite off.
C. And then you would light that little fuse?
L. Depending how fast you wanted to run that’s how long you made the wire you put on. They used dynamite a lot, to move foundations or whatever they wanted that’s how they would do it. I saw them move concrete foundations with it. That was something. I helped break up a field the first time it was plowed. Sometimes those roots from a big tree would be out and you’d plow there with your team and the plow would get stuck in those roots and it was a job getting it out of there. You’d tell your team to pull and sometimes they would pull and sometimes you had to go over it and get it out later with an axe.
C. And then all they would have to do is shovel the pieces out.
L. They could take a plow or scoop scraper and fill that hole and in a year or two that field would be level.
C. Did you have any orchards or fruit trees?
L. Oh, yes, that’s one of the first things my grandfather would do. He had several farms, in fact, he gave each one of his children an 80 acre farm. He was quite a successful farmer and that’s the first thing he would do, to plant an orchard. I think ours probably had 40 trees, different varieties of apples and pears and a grape arbor in there. On every farm he would always do that.
C. John Henry at Ridgeville said he remembers taking a load of apples to Pettisville and it would take all day.
L. Yes, we would always get cider. We had a big wooden barrel and then you let it set and it would turn into vinegar. That’s where you get your vinegar.
C. And then you would use that in cooking.
L. And sometimes to keep the produce in the Fall my uncle would put some straw down on the ground and put the apples on the straw and carrots and cabbage he would put the head down and then he would put straw on top of that, cover it real deep with straw and cover that with soil and that would keep those apples during the winter from freezing. I remember going out there in the winter and getting some apples.
C. Isn’t that something.
L. He would put about 20 bushels of apples in there. It’s almost like an above ground cellar.
C. That would have been important in those days when you couldn’t run into the grocery store.
L. We did our own butchering. We always raised our own meat. We had chickens, about 50-50 roosters and hens. We would eat those until they were pretty good size and then we would sell the roosters, keeping the pullets for laying eggs.
C. Is that what they would use for stewing?
L. Yes, when they get big you use them for stewing, but when they were about 2 pounds they were good. It took about 4 for a meal. I always got the chicken to butcher.
C. How did you catch them? Did you just run faster then they did?
L We had a wire about 4 ft. long. It had a hook on the end and you would reach out there and get a group in the chicken house and you could reach over and hook it onto their legs and it would pull them right back.
L We lived about 1/4 mile from the Kelley School so we all walked to school. We didn’t have any dinner pails and mother always had dinner ready and we always had a good meal at noon. I went to this country school all 8 years. On the last day of school we always had a school picnic and all the parents would come. We had games we played, races for the adults. We also had a PTA and once a month they met and they usually had some entertainment of some sort.
C. Did the children go to the PTA meetings?
L. Yes, the school would be so packed and some of the time they would have hot dogs. We didn’t have much pop in those days. I could hear the school bell ring at home and then I would make that 1/4 mile just as the teacher was ready to take attendance.
I loved to husk corn and my mother husked corn also. My dad had one team and my mother would follow with her team. I became a pretty good corn husker. By the time I was in high school I was the Henry County champion when I was a senior.
C. Oh, is that right. How did they decide that? Did they have a contest?
L. Yes, they had contests.
C. Where? At the fairgrounds?
L. At different farms. One year at the Lange farm near Okolona. In my junior year we husked on that farm and I husked in the shocks. On my junior year I took second. They had contests and took the best out of each school and we would compete. The next year we husked on the Vocke farm south of Napoleon. That year I took 1st place.
C. What did they give you for being in 1st place?
L. I got 25 Barred Rock chickens as a gift from a local hatchery.
C. That was pretty nice. That was a good practical prize.
L. I got my picture in the paper. I still have my husker here. I still like to husk.
C. What did the husker look like?
L. A strap around your wrist and across your hand and it had a hook in here. Hook that husk and break it like that. One move if you were husking for speed. You had to go real fast. Here’s my husker.
C. Oh, I see. Leather goes around the hand. That would only take off one row, wouldn’t it?
L. You take the ear with your hand like this and you just come across and it would take that out. Just snap it off like this.
C. It would take all the kernels off. Oh no, just the husk.
L. The ear would be left. You just keep it sharp and take the husk off and it pulls it right off the shank.
C. That’s a great artifact to keep for your grandchildren, etc.
L. I always had in mind to husk in the state contest. I went to Sandusky several times to the state contest. I would time how many ears they were throwing per minute. I came home and I could still have been in there but I never went back down.
C. Didn’t you have the time or something?
L. They never advertised it much and I didn’t know just when it was but I could have been in there because I was right at the speed they were. With a little practice if I had known I was going in, because if you’re running full speed you’re going as fast as you can possibly go. You had to be in condition. I always enjoyed husking corn.
C. What about corn shelling? Who would do that?
L. You shoveled it out of the crib and took it to the elevator and they shelled it. We didn’t have shellers back then. You hauled all the corn to the local elevator. Ours was in Stanley. They had a big sheller and they shelled it. Sometimes we brought back a load of corncobs and that was to start the fire in the cookstove.
C. Yes, those corncobs make a hot fire.
L. There again we had our own fuel. In the depression there wasn’t any money to buy coal so we worked in the woods. During Christmas vacation mother would say, “Take the boys to the woods.” There were 4 boys in our house. We would make wood with the crosscut and get a good workout. We put it on a pile, then get a buzzsaw and sawed it into wood. You went around various places in the woods where the trees were down and you cut to clean it up. Then you had to take what you call a mudboat and put a team on it. They had two runners and you put your team on that and then you put your poles on that and haul it up to a pile. That might be six feet tall and about as long as you wanted it. Then you got a buzz saw and you usually got a neighbor or two and with that crew together you would saw them up and that was our fuel. We didn’t have coal. We personally raised a big garden. I remember in our basement there were about 600 quarts of food in cans. The potato bin would be full.
C. With 7 children and 2 adults they had to have a lot of food.
L. They had those big crocks and they had the meat fried down. They put the meat in and covered it with lard and that would preserve it. The beef would be cooked, cut in chunks and put in cans and that would be put on the shelf.
C. When you took a piece of meat out wouldn’t you break that lard cover and it would spoil more quickly?
L. No, you take what you wanted and it preserved alright. That was sausage and side meat.
C. Did you do your own butchering? Did you have mostly pork or beef?
L. Basically the most we butchered was pork. Occassionally a couple of neighbors would get together and we would butcher a beef and we would split it. We didn’t have any way of preserving it that much and you would get just what you needed at the time. I can recall butchering lamb and take the pelts and cut them and dry them and use them on those old steel seats on the implements and it rode a lot better on those seats.
C. Oh yes, those are thick.
L. You could never let that set out in the rain because if they got soaked they would stay soaked so you always had to take it off when a storm was coming up.
C. When you butchered did the girls work and help too?
L. As we got old enough we were taught how to do it. After we got married I butchered beef. I butchered all alone. I love to butcher. I have my butcher knife here. We would make the sausage. We would fry down the pork and render the lard and then they would make soap the next day. You put red seal lye in the vat and that would be your soap. Add a little ashes and that would be your soap.
C. Did they use regular ashes?
L. Yes. Some of them probably didn’t. They would take this big kettle, put your fat in there and cook it and pour red seal lye in it.
C. Oh, I see. You buy your red seal lye.
L. Yes, just 2 cans and you would let that set overnight and then you could cut it in chunks.
C. I still have a little piece of soap that I made. That would really get the clothes clean if you would scrub hard enough with it.
L. On butchering day we would try to get a day when it was really cold and there would be snow and you could take the liver out and lay it in the snow and cool it real quick and have liver for dinner. We didn’t have electricity on the farm. We couldn’t get it. There wasn’t any around. Until I was a senior in high school and until I graduated I still did my work with a kerosene light. Then they got REA to come and the neighbors all got together and they got the station to come in and they put a line in. I never liked studying under the old keresone light and early on we didn’t have a radio and later my father purchased a battery radio and I remember eating supper and everybody got cleaned up and we all got in by the radio and you could only use it about an hour and we listened to the news and Tom Mix, the Lone Ranger and Amos and Andy. That was our 3 programs. Then we turned the radio off because you didn’t want to run that battery down.
C. Was there any way you could charge it?
L. We had to take it to town. That was the reason we only had it on for a short time a day to make it last as long as it could.
C. Do you remember when you first had a telephone?
L We didn’t have a telephone. I never talked on the telephone until I got into the service. My uncle had a phone and if we needed to phone we would go there. It was only about a mile. When we married we didn’t have a phone. We would go to the neighbors and I would use his phone, paying 10 cents a call.
C. What do you remember about your first car?
L. At home we had a Model T. I never got to drive it but my brother who was 2 years older – my birthday is the same day as his – would drive. My uncle came over and my father and mother went some place with him and my brother said, “Let’s take that automobile for a spin.” He could barely see over the steering wheel. He wasn’t very old so he drove back into the farm. That was a Model T. It only had 3 pedals on it.
C. What did you do, drive it in the field?
L. No, we had a lane. That was my first experience I can remember. I can remember going into town with that old Model T. We didn’t have any antifreeze at that time and dad had to put water in the radiator and when we would get home he had to drain the radiator. We would go to town once a week and that was as far as the car was ever drove. Sometimes we would take a lantern along and that would be our heater. It didn’t have a heater. We would take blankets along.
C. You were probably used to that from the buggies.
L. I can remember going into town, going in and buying a loaf of bread and a pound of bologna for probably 30 cents and eat the sandwich in the car. Once in awhile we got a quart of ice cream and we would take it home and my father would line us up and we each got a little.
C. Did you ever make your own ice cream?
L. No, we never had a freezer. The ice was the problem. We didn’t have an ice house. Some of them did. My aunt made ice cream. I remember going up to North Creek and getting ice.
C. It took a long time, all that cranking.
L. We always loved the outdoors, too. We had horses and when it was wet we couldn’t work on the fields and my father always liked the outdoors. He would say, “Who wants to go fishing?” I would be right there. I would dig some worms and we would go fishing. Stick a can of pork & beans in our back pocket and we would fish all day. We had the can of beans and we’d take a spoon along and fish all day.
C. Did you catch much?
L. Oh, yes.
C. What kind of fish did you catch?
L. We caught a variety, bullhead, catfish, red horse and that is basically what it was.
C. What was red horse?
L. It was like a sucker and they got big and boney. I enjoyed that and then in the Fall we would always go coon hunting. We always had a coon dog. My wife never liked coon dogs but I had a coon dog when we got married. She always said she’d never marry a coon hunter but I didn’t tell her I had a coon dog. The first year we lived over by Hoytville across from the experiment farm and I had my coon dog and I said,”Do you want to go coon hunting?” and she said, “No not really.”
She was afraid to stay home alone and so she didn’t have too much choice and she got ready and we walked about 1 mile and I looked out to the west and it started lightning and the dog started to track and we got 2 and by that time it started to thunder and lightning and pour down rain and we had to walk the whole way back and when we got back I said, “Now wasn’t that fun.” That was the last time she went coon hunting. She didn’t care about fishing. We went up in Canada and went fishing. We took our trailer and we sat in the boat and it was kind of still. The fish weren’t biting too good. And I said,”Now isn’t this fun?” She said, “I would rather sit on the bank reading a book. If you want to fish you go fishing.” I made about 25 trips up to Canada to go fishing. We would go on a pontoon plane back in the bush. I’ve always loved the outdoors. I had a coon dog for fifty years.
C. You had to take care of the coon dog yourself, I suppose.
L Oh yes, I remember the first one I sent for from Missouri. It came in at the depot on the other end of Defiance. It was just a little puppy. I paid quite a bit for it at that time. She said, “You mean that dog is worth that kind of money?” And I said, “Just wait until you hear her bark!” That turned out to be the best coon dog I ever had. Just a wonderful dog, a registered walker. She could almost talk your language. I enjoyed that dog so much.
C. We had a beagle when we lived in this area and that dog would chase up a rabbit once in awhile and they had this fence by the West School, that was where we lived and he chased that rabbit all around the school but he was always behind, he never caught up with it. You’d think he would catch that rabbit and then I found out they are trained to stay behind.
L. That rabbit will get the speed of that dog and then he will stay just so far ahead of it. Same way with fox hunting. I hunted fox a lot. I spent years and years fox hunting. The fox would get going and that fox would go about once around the woods and then he would know the speed of that dog and then he would keep just so far ahead of that dog. About the third time around that woods and they’d run the same path, even the same tracks sometimes. About the third time we would position ourselves in that circle and get that fox every time.
C. Did you ever use that fox fur for anything?
L. No, at that time there was a $5.00 bounty on them.
C. And they kill chickens.
L. And they also destroyed the rabbits. Towards Spring we had what we called a fox party. We’d go to Toledo and get about 30 lbs. of Lake Erie perch. The ladies would make the salads. The food had nothing to do with fox, we just called it a fox party as they were all fox hunters.
C. Did you ever make maple syrup?
L. No, we made apple butter at home and we always had plenty of honey. My grandpa had about 50 swarm of bees. My dad always took care of them and I’d always help him. I ran the smoker and then we’d always get 5 gallons of honey.
C. Five gallons is a lot of honey.
L. Yes, but it would be gone by year’s end. My mother used it for cooking and we made taffy and I still use it. I take honey every day. I take a spoon of honey every night before I go to bed. I still like it. We have probably 30 swarms now out on the farm to pollinate the berries.
C. Is that the Leaders farm where there are strawberries ?. Is that your son?
C. That’s a big farm.
L. Yes, they had about 7 acres of strawberries this year.
C. Now if they can hit it just right with the weather.
L. That’s the thing.
C. Well, they say farmers are always gamblers. You have to be.
L. Yes, if you want to be a farmer. And you have to have faith.
C. Yes, that would be important.
L. I always expect a harvest. We never did have a complete failure.
This is a continuation of an earlier taping of my story. If I repeat, please bear with me.
When I was born there were many log cabins in the area. I was born in one and it was the year a new house was being built. It is a shame no one had a camera in those days so could have had a picture of the cabin.
As for roads – they were mostly gravel and a lot of mud roads. Each spring the township would hire a farmer with a big team of horses to pull the grader to smooth out the roads. Over the winter the road would have a lot of ruts, etc. There were no snow plows in those days and one either had to shovel snow by hand or stay home. I guess we should have had a sleigh for those times.
When I was little there were few airplanes and it was a special treat whenever we heard one. The whole family would run out in the yard and watch it until it got out of sight. These were very small single engine airplanes with two wings. There were no passenger or freight airplanes. The top speed of these small planes was probably 80 mph.
There was very little traveling done — perhaps just to go to the nearest town for supplies and on Sundays for church services. We did try to go to the zoo each summer. We would get up very early, and with a lantern do the chores. Mother would prepare a picnic lunch. At noon we would spread a blanket under a tree and eat our lunch. Travel was not easy and we would probably have a flat or two on the way and return.
The Henry County Fair was a highlight of the summer too. Once again, mother would pack us a picnic for our lunch as there were few lunch stands and with limited resources it was cheaper to bring our own. We usually got a quarter to spend as we saw fit.
Some Sunday afternoons Dad would take us for a drive to places he wanted to see. Also, Sundays were for visiting relatives or neighbors — a ritual that has gone by the wayside today in our society.
We did get to the Ringling Brothers Circus in Defiance sometimes. It was north of the college across from where the mall is today. A huge tent was set up for the show. As I remember when I was about 10 I got to ride an elephant, and what a thrill that was! One time the circus was there it was very wet and rainy so that they had to harness the elephants to pull out their equipment, etc. That was quite interesting for me as a little boy to watch.
Threshing was a big day for everyone. The womenen would have a very busy, hot day as all the cooking was done on a cook stove. At noon the crew of probably twenty men and boys would come in for dinner – washing up in a tub set outside before. They served both dinner and supper. As there were no thermos jugs everyone had a large, crockery jug that was wrapped in burlap and tied with twine and then soaked in water which kept the water cool. It was one of the little boy’s job to take these to the bundle pitchers in the field and I am sure was much appreciated doing that hot job.
Yes, even in those days, we had a lot of recreation, but it was all home made. There was no money spent for toys or recreational things. We played a lot of games, hide and seek, tag, handi I over [sic], Red Rover, marbles, jacks, baseball. In the winter it was fox and geese, taffy pulls and the making of popcorn balls. We also played a lot of card games and dominos and other board games. As for toys — these were usually home made. We never had a bicycle and so never learned to ride one. Since we did not live near any body of water, other than a small ditch, we never ice skated or had a pair of skates.
As I probably mentioned before, we did not have any electricity until after I was out of high school. All my studying was done by kerosene lamps. There was no running water as we had no motors without electricity. When one did not have all the conveniences we have today, we did not miss them.
There was no need for much money. Most of our food was raised, meat was furnished by the livestock we raised and butchering day was a big day on the farm. There were several cows for our milk and chickens were raised both for meat and eggs. By winter the basement was filled with canned goods and the meat was either smoked or canned. Wheat was taken to the mill to be made into flour and sugar was made from the sugar beets we raised.
Most of our clothes were hand-made and everything was always handed down to the next child. We always went barefoot every summer and it was hard to get used to shoes when we went hack to school.
Movies were 10 cents and were silent so that you have to go with any older sibling so that they could read the captions for you. I am sure we did not go to many movies.
A doctor was very seldom called, but if we did, we went to a neighbor to call. We did not have a telephone while I was growing up. My first experience with one was when 1 was in service and had to call home when I came home on a furlough to be picked up at a train in Deshler. That was a learning experience. Doctors always came to the homes and usually charged one or two dollars per visit. All us children were born at home. An aunt stayed with our family whenever there was a birth as mothers were not allowed to be up for a week or ten days. I weighed only 3 pounds and my father said l could have fit in a shoe box. There were no incubators or preemie accommodations then.
There was a man who lived near our school building who ran a still. I can still remember seeing the sheriff coming to raid the place and chasing the man across the field and shooting at him. While the sheriff was doing that, the moonshine was being collected by local neighbors and taken away.