Arps, Edwin

World War II Memories

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin
additional comments by
Mrs. Ed (Norma) Arps
11-19-2009
transcribed by Marlene Patterson

CW: Would you tell us your name please.

EA: My name is Edwin Arps. I am originally from Ridgeville Corners. I went to Ridgeville School and I went through the eighth grade. At that time there were a lot of boys that didn’t go to high school. They went into farming. One day my dad told me that if I wanted to go to school and play ball you can stay home and help me, which I did. Later on that year my dad went uptown to the meat market and this butcher asked my dad what had happened to me. He told the butcher he was helping me all summer and now he isn’t doing anything. He told my dad to tell me to come in and see him and maybe he would like to learn the meat cutting business. So he come home then and told me about it. I went up there and sure enough that is what I became. I was now a meat cutter. Then as time went on, Irvin Rupp owned the meat market and he wanted to sell it.

CW: Was that in Ridgeville?

EA: Yes, that was in Ridgeville. He wanted to sell it to me and I told him I didn’t have that kind of money and he said maybe your dad would lend you some money. I told him I didn’t know and I just hated to ask him. So that was the end of that. So I kept on working there and I don’t know just how long I worked there  but he put it up for sale. He never sold it and he closed it up. So then I was out of a job. Then I moved right next door to Richard Cameron and he hired me.

CW: He hired you to do what, cut meat?

EA: Yes, to cut meat and he had a huckster truck that went out into the country and I did some of that. Well, then one day my mother had some relation living over by Pemberville and her husband, my uncle had an auto accident on a Sunday. They were big farmers and there were only two boys and she called and wanted to know if I could come and help them on the farm. So I said that comes first and I moved down there with my aunt then and my cousins. Then that fall my cousin said well we don’t have any use for you this winter. I am going to go up to this little town called Wayne, Ohio and a fellow there has two meat markets. One is in Wayne, Ohio and one is in Bloomdale, Ohio. So it was a slaughterhouse. Maybe he can hire you.

CW: You mean the name of this town was Wayne, Ohio.

EA: Yes, Wayne, Ohio. He came back and told me I could start tomorrow morning. So I did. I worked there, oh I don’t know, maybe a year or so. That is when World War II broke out. Well, it kept on going and guys were getting drafted. Then one day the fellow that was running the meat market in Bloomdale got his letter to report to the Army. So the boss said well it looks like I will have to transfer you to Bloomdale. So I went to Bloomdale. I got a room over there and I slept over there and I was over there for about a year and then one day I got a letter from the draft board. So they wanted me to report at a certain date. I think I had a couple months or so. Then I told the boss and he said well, what do I do now. He couldn’t find anybody else with meat cutting experience so I guess he sent his wife over there and sold out what was left over there and he closed the place up. I moved my stuff home and then I waited until they called me and then I left Bowling Green with the rest of the Wood County boys. We got on a train to Camp Perry and there we were put into the barracks where we all got our shots. We had to stand in a long line all the time, and when we got to a certain point we had to take all our clothes off and they handed us Army clothes. All of my civilian clothes were put into a big box and that was sealed and that was sent home to my folks. So then in a couple of days we were put on a train and we knew we were heading south because we were getting pretty warm with our wool clothes on. We ended up in Florida.

NA: This was in November.

EA: Yes, it was the middle of November. Anyhow after three days we ending up at Camp Landing, Florida. That is where I stayed for my basic training. We convoyed all of our equipment back from Florida clear to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, but we stopped in Tennessee and we were on three months maneuvers in Tennessee. So I slept in a pup tent three months. From then on we got to Atterbury. We were sent home for a furlough and then we went back, and we ended up in New York. We were put on a boat and we headed for England. The next day during the night we came into a storm and the first thing we knew we were lost.

CW: Oh really!

EA: So they finally got things straightened out again and 13 days later we landed in England.

CW: That would have been quite a trip.

EA: Yes. So we got to England, well in the meantime, was I a Sergeant already when I left or did I get that over there. I think I got that over there.

NA: You were a Private First Class.

EA: Yes, I was a Private First Class and then it was on my records that I was a meat cutter so sure enough I got a job in Supplies. I was in the Service Battery, of the 113th Field Artillary, which is part of the 30th Infantry Division. We had close to a thousand soldiers in 113th, and that was my job then to cut the meat, and deliver the rations to five kitchens. We had to go pick up the food, we brought it back to a building and unloaded everything and then we had to break it five ways.

CW: Was this in England?

EA: Yes. We were in England a couple of months I guess.

NA: You went over there in January. D Day wasn’t until the 6th of June.

EA: So we were there all them months and we just layed around  and we didn’t have much to do. They gave us practice and one evening about 5:00 o’clock the word came out that we were supposed to go to their barracks and it was announced the next morning at 7:00 o’clock would be D-Day on Omaha Beach. At 7:00 o’clock the next morning. Well okay and by that time my name was called, oh I suppose fifteen or twenty other guys were called. We were put to one side and we were put into a big Liberty ship which was loaded with new trucks, Jeeps, and everything. They needed drivers for them when they unloaded them. That is what I got into. We were at Omaha Beach 7:00 o’clock in the morning and saw all the fireworks and I mean it was fireworks. We were on the ship watching it and we couldn’t unload them because it was storming. The big ships, you know we had to bring the trucks out of the bottom of the ship and drive them over and put them down on a small LST boat.  We would get them there and somebody would drive the boat and we would go up to the beach as far as we could and then we would go down and start up our vehicle and we would drive onto land.

CW: Did you have to drive through some water?

EA: I was driving a wrecker and I was sitting in water. The water was even with my waist line. It wasn’t warm water either, it was cold. I made it. The trucks were waterproof. The only thing was the exhaust pipe which ran up beside the truck cab so the engine wouldn’t drown out. I came up to shore and just about that time we had an awful shelling there. I was on land then already and I jumped out and I crawled out and had my feet underneath there so I was there until the shelling was over with. When that was over with I got back on the truck. There was just a certain point that we had to go. It was less than a mile from the beach so. I don’t know how far the Infantry had to go. This was about getting towards dark already when I landed then. The Infantry was up ahead maybe a couple of miles. Then it was a day or so and I caught up with the rest of my outfit.

CW: Did you get under the truck, and did they fire at you?

EA: Well the schrapnel was flying all over. That is the reason I was underneath the truck. It hit the truck but it didn’t hit me.

NA: Some of the guys were gone by then already.

EA:Yes and by the way, I don’t know but that is what they say, we lost 3,000 soldiers in the channel that day. And the English Channel was nice and blue in the morning, but in the evening it was red.  All those poor guys that got killed out there in that channel. What made it bad was that in the morning it was storming. The Germans had built concrete piers right in front of this beach. So when we came off of the boats, they could sit up there and mow us down see.

CW: Oh my gosh!

EA: And what was supposed to have been done in the morning before 7:00 AM, the Air Force should have had those piers knocked out of there. But it had been so foggy that the Air Force couldn’t fly. I know Eisenhower had made the remark that if there had been any possible way to have turned the boys around I would have. But we had to keep on going. It fnally ended up where the Engineers and whoever the Infantry they got up next to these buildings with hand grenades and they would toss them up to the windows and blow them out of there. I didn’t have to do that.

CW: You probably had to stay with your truck.

EA: By that time I had gotten rid of that truck and I had my other trucks you know. So then we finally got organized. Like I say we had to go and pick up our food, our rations for the whole bunch. That all kept us busy. We had two trucks and I think five or six fellows and that is all we did.

CW: Where did they have these rations.

EA: They were at that time still on the boats.  They were out in the channel.

CW: How did you get the rations?

EA: Every few days they were brought ashore, and we would have to go back to the shore pick it up. It was already marked for the 113th  and we would have to load these up.

NA: You took your K rations with you. (K rations were an individual daily food ration introduced by the United Stated Army during World War II. It was intended as a daily ration for combat troops providing three courses, breakfast, lunch and supper.)

EA: While this invasion was going on I think they gave us enough  K rations for three of four days. That is what we lived on. It was a week or maybe two weeks before we got to have a real meal. From there on the first big battle was at St. Lo. From there on I went through five major battles.

NA: You’re going to wear out your toothpick.

EA: Well I will go get another one. I went through five major battles and then the Battle of the Bulge. I am sure you have heard of that.

CW: Oh yes.

EA: I was in that.

CW: Were you with General Patton?

EA: No I wasn’t with Patton, well yes I was with Patton when we spearheaded. We were in his convoy. After the war you know, he got killed in a Jeep accident. That is what they tell us. I didn’t see it. They called  him “blood and guts”. Boy I tell you he had it.

CW: He was a tough old guy.

EA: Yes, like we were supplies and I remember just before Christmas we got turkeys. We all had turkeys for Christmas. Well, they were frozen. I delivered them a couple of days ahead of time. The cooks would have to take care of them. Sure enough on Christmas Day, we could only go five or six pallets at one time and go to the mess hall and get their food and get back again. They were hiding. No smoking or anything. If you did why they could get you. Sure enough in the morning the turkeys were done and everything and don’t you know they (the Germans) put an artillary shell right on top of our kitchen. It just blew everything all to pieces. Plus it killed one of our buddies. So that was our Christmas, and we had to go back to K rations.

CW: Now where was this at?

EA: This was at the Battle of the Bulge.

NA: This was before you got into Germany.

EA: And then we had after Christmas, then I don’t know exactly how long, maybe a month or so, anyhow one night the Germans shoved us back. They had more power than we did. What happened is they captured our gasoline supply. It was all in five gallon cans. So in about a day or so the trucks were sitting along the road with no gas. So they called me in, the Captain was there and the First Sergeant, and they wanted me to get two trucks and enough help and go back approximately seventy five to one hundred miles and get two loads of gas. I looked at them and I said “Sir that sounds real good, but if I take all my trucks and get down the road ten to twelve miles and then I will be out of gas”. He said I never thought about that.

CW: Oh dear!

EA: So then he called back and they brought us up some gas. We were out of gas for three to four days.

CW: That’s why, you would read about it in the paper and they would go a little ways and then they seemed to stop.

EA: That is why I couldn’t go back and get it. I opened my big mouth. The Captain had said if you look through that window you can see our gas pumps. But it was on the German side. So I said how about tonight after dark I’ll get a couple of guys and we will go steal our own gas back. Well, he said if you have enough guts to do that go ahead. And we did! I took two trucks in there and we both loaded our trucks up with five gallon cans and the first truck, he pulled out and didn’t have any problems and we just had got started real good and we got hit with I don’t know what it was, probably a German artillary shell. It was one-two-three and our truck was on fire. We were just lucky we got our fanny out of there.

CW: Nobody got killed or hurt then.

EA: No

NA: You had a trailer behind you.

EA: I had a double trailer behind me yet and see that is what actually caught on fire. We got out of that truck and I said lets not stand here and watch, lets get away because if things got hot enough we would have regulare fireworks. We jumped out of that truck. We didn’t have our pack or anything. Well then the best part of it was as we were running down the road we would turn around and watch and all at once I told my buddy hey listen real good. It sounds like a German Jeep coming. I could tell by the sound. Sure enough, I had no more than said it when the Jeep came around the curve and here there were two German officers in it.

CW:Oh! Oh!

EA: And there we were. They asked us a bunch of questions and we kept saying nix fer stay, nix fer stay. (Nix fer stay means I do not understand) I never told them that I could speak High German and understand High German and I could talk Low German and understand Low German. We just told them nix fer stay, that is all we knew. They made room and loaded us up then, and we went with them.  See they were pretty well on the front lines too in a big old farmhouse. They put us in a big bedroom. One thing about it they had a bed in there so it was a good place to sleep. We were there I really can’t remember maybe two weeks.

NA:I don’t think it was too long.

CW: What did you do for food?

EA: Well they, when you are hungry milk or water tastes pretty good. And that’s what we had. Well these guys, I don’t know where they were getting their food. They weren’t cooking it there either.

NA: Were they both there alone?

EA: They were two officers. I always said they had a little age on them. They weren’t the young ones. Had they been young ones I don’t think I would be here today because as things went on. One morning, I am taking a guess, may 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning the Americans were up bright and early and they were pounding and they were going to push back again. So these two officers got scared and they said we are getting our fanny out of here. I told my buddy I think now is a good time to fold our hands and say a little prayer. I didn’t think we were going to be around too long anymore because you would think they (Germans) would take us with them. They would mow us down in there and let somebody else pick us up. Well for some reason or other that didn’t happen. These two officers left and we were free. We snuck out real, you know we looked around, sometimes they will shoot and we’d be walking. It was only a little bit farther from here to the road. We were on the front lines. And ours was just across. We’d start walking and here it wasn’t long before and here comes an American Jeep. The Americans were pushing the German’s back. They stopped and said what the heck are you guys doing here with no guns, no nothing. We told them that ours blew up over there. So they loaded us up and took us back to headquarters.

CW: What a narrow escape!

EA: We got to their headquarters and then we unloaded there and I said take a look at that Jeep over there. Do you see whose Jeep that is? He looked at it and said didn’t you see those three stars on there. Do you know who that is? They said, is that Eisenhower, and I said yes. That was Eisenhower’s Jeep. He was there visiting, well I don’t think he was visiting, but he was there talking to our Captain. Them two guys they would visit every once in a while. I think they had a bottle of medicine in their cupboard and took a little sample every so once in a while. Well anyhow we went in the office and the first thing the Sergeant came out and he said where in the hell have you been. I told him we took a few days off. Then he went in to where Eisenhower and our Captain were talking and he told our Captain that we came back see. He had us marked down already as “Missing In Action”. I said hey Sergeant while I am watching you, you make sure you scratch that out. He might have forgot about it and that could have cost us.

CW: That word would have gone back to your family.

EA: Yes. I saw him scratch my name off so I knew it was off of the record. So then our Captain came out and took down our names. He asked a few questions. Wouldn’t you know it, but here came Ike. He came out too. He asked us a few questions. They were talking there a little and pretty soon our Captain tells Ike. Why don’t you take these two lads along for a week and rest them up. Ike never said a word, he just went to the door and he hollered at his driver and the driver come over and he said make room, we’ve got two passengers. So there weren’t too many guys in the Army that got to ride in the back seat of General Eisenhower’s Jeep.

CW: I guess so.

EA: He was sitting here and we was in behind. He turned around and said what part of the States are you from. He just acted like an ordinary farmer. Well it wasn’t long you know, see the officers always stayed back you know maybe 30 miles, and sometimes even farther. We came to a big mansion and he pulled up there and Eisenhower told him to take good care of these two fellas. Give them whatever they want. Give them all the food they want. In about a week you take them back to their outfit. That was the last time we seen Ike. We ate at the same table in the same kitchen, but not together. We layed around there for a week and this guy came in and asked us what we wanted. I told him I would like a new set of clothes. I had these clothes on for about a month. He took us up to the Quartermaster there and we got new clothes and he said take whatever you want. Well, we took what we needed. We went back there and sure enough I don’t know what morning it was but he told us that our week was up. And he asked us whether we were ready to go back to our outfit. And we said oh no we can stay right here. He said you know what the old man said. So he loaded us up and took us back to our outfit. I know they were already packing, our outfit had gotten orders to move out from the front lines. To move out of there. We didn’t know where we were going. The officials why they knew the Germans were kaput(done). They had given us everything they had and they gave up. That day or the next day.

CW: You mean this was the end of the war.

EA: We moved out of there. We were within 30 miles of Berlin. Then they put us up in, well it reminded me of the old Wellington Hotel. That is where they put all the fellows that could get in there. See the 30th Division had about 18,000 troops. It was the Infantry, the Artillery. They all belonged to one division, so we got in there and. Well the only word we got was well you guys are going to go home. You will get a 30 day furlough and then we were to go to Japan. Well, that wasn’t all that bad. We were going home, that was all that we were concerned about. We got back to England and then we got word that we would go home on the Queen Mary.

CW: Wow!

EA: So we laid down there for a couple of weeks. It had a crew of 3,000 civilians on that Queen Mary. They had to get the food, and what ever else it needed. It had three decks you know. All we could do was just lay around or go to London, We were pretty close to London. You know the first place the GI’s would go would be a tavern and drink some beer you know. I was in there, there were two or three of us guys together. All at once the news came on and they said you fellows won’t have to go to Japan. The war has ended over there. See that is when they dropped that bomb over there. The Japanese had surrendered. Everybody kind of looked at each other because we were so used to nothing but propaganda. One guy said that’s a bunch of. We just kept on drinking and I don’t think it was a half hour and then President Roosevelt he came on the radio.

NA: Wasn’t Truman in there?

EA: Yes it was Truman, well anyhow he came on the radio, see there was no TV or anything, and said if you had word, and this is not a rumor the Japanese have surrendered. If you fellas are on your way to the States, you can stay there. That is when the party started.

CW: I’ll bet.

EA: There were two bartenders in there and I can still see them, they had a white shirt and a vest on and a tie. They were the bartenders. One of them got up in the corner and he hollered you Americans are about to take over. You deserved it. Well at first nobody wanted to make a move. Pretty soon he said, I mean it! He said get behind here, the house is buying the drinks. That didn’t last too long. Me and my buddies we left then. We were there probably a half hour .

CW: It was probably getting kind of wild.

EA: The next day we stopped in there again  and we asked him how long did the party last. He said it took three hours and they were dry.

END OF SIDE ONE

EA: We will start here. It took them three hours to drink the place dry. We got ready then and in a few days we loaded on the Queen Mary and it took us four days to go from South Hampton, England to New York City.

CW: That was really fast in those days.

EA: And then the rooms on the Queen Mary were all converted to troop ships.  They had bunks built in there and if you were lucky you could sleep on one of them at night and if not you had your bedroll with you and you slept on the deck. It happened on the deck that night you lay there and everybody is happy you are going home singing and this and that and you lay there and the front end of the boat would come up real slow and then it would hang there and pretty soon it would come down. We’d start grabbing each other because we thought we were going to slide off the thing.

CW: Those must have been huge waves.

EA: It was a bump going over those waves. Those waves were 20 to 30 feet high.

CW: I wondered how high they were.

EA: It was a rough day going over that and then we got to New York and they had promised us a steak dinner at Camp Kilmore, New Jersey. We got there at about 3 o’clock in the morning and we had our steak and then we got back on the train, each got on a different train depending on which state you were from. I had to get on the one that went to Camp Attebury, Indiana.  When we got to Atterbury why as fast as we could go, we were on our way home. Then I got home and I had a thirty day furlough and then I got a telegram to stay another fifteen  days and then I made a big mistake – I got married.

NA:  We were married the first thirty day.

EA: Oh did we,well anyhow then when I came back I had to go back to Camp Atterbury to get my discharge. I went back to the Greyhound bus station to get a bus to Napoleon. I found one but it would take four hours before he would leave and I didn’t want to sit around there that long. I took a city bus and headed north, well they helped me there. I went clear to the north edge of Indianapolis where  the bus turned around and I got off there and the guy had told me before when you get off that bus just stick your thumb out and you will get a ride real quick, and boy he was right. I got off that bus and just about that time a car pulled over on the curb on the opposite side. I ran over there and I looked at the license plate and they were from Henry County. I was pretty lucky there. So I got in there and he asked my name and this and that and he asked me a few things about Germany and I told him. He was looking all around and she would jump on him and  yell out -watch out- you are driving all over the road. I think I was almost more scared on that trip home than I was during the whole war. Then I got home and then I will tell you it was August Honeck and his dear wife that picked me up and brought me home here to Napoleon. From there on my yes, I was married at the time. She picked me up at the bank corner. From then on I have been on my own.

CW: It is wonderful to get home after something like that.

NA: I don’t think they dropped you off at the bank corner, they dropped you off at your folks place. You drove your car over to our place then.

EA: I think they did take me right to my house. August asked me where I lived and I said Ridgeville and he said where,  and I told him right on Route 6 and they took me right home. Then I went over to your place.

NA: I picked you up when you came home the first time when you had a 30 day furlough.

CW: Now tell me about how you two got acquainted with each other. Where did you meet and what happened.

NA: We were even in the eighth grade together already.

CW: Oh you were!

NA: We went to Ridgeville School and he was in my class in the eighth grade.

CW: And you lived in Ridgeville

NA: We lived a mile outside of Ridgeville. I don’t know we just got along.

EA: I agreed with everything.

NA: I was only 13 years old then. I guess I was about 15 when we started dating. We didn’t get married though until he had his 30 day furlough. He thought he would have to go back again. So after he was home two weeks he said  we are going to get married. Then he didn’t have to go back this time and he got discharged.

CW: Getting married at a time like that of course there were a lot of servicemen getting married.

EA: Oh yes.

CW: It was hard to get a washing machine or anything you would use to set up housekeeping.

NA: Well Bob Walters had a store there at Ridveville, a furniture store, and we got a stove through him.

EA: I don’t remember that.

CW: Do you mean a stove or to use to heat the house.

NA: No a gas stove to cook with.

EA: Well we got some things from George Von Deylen. He had a hardware store uptown here too.

NA: I think we got our refrigerator there.

EA: We got the refrigerator there.

NA: We had to have an oil stove too. Where did we get that?

EA:I don’t remember where we got that.

NA: We had bought a bedroom suite before he had left.

CW: We were talking about buying things at the store.  Things were so scarce.

EA: Do you remember the apartment buildings next to the old Ford garage. Remember they burned down several years ago. Royal Cleaners were down below. When I got home Frank Morey got that job to dig that basement out so Royal Cleaners could start their business. They were neighbors at Ridgeville. That is how I got my first job. I helped dig that basement out. She was bookkeeper at the Ford garage. When we got the basement dug and they moved in I got a job with Royal Cleaners then. I ran the delivery truck and she was working for Bill Travis and we got to rent one of the apartments upstairs.

NA: We lived there three years.

EA: Then we got a place out on West Main Street. Then we went to the corner of Clinton and Norton. and then from Clinton and Norton to out here.

NA: We have lived here 36 years already.

CW: Is that right. That was quite an experience.

EA: Sometimes it got pretty rough. I will have to tell you something, you know I had a real good buddy that was working with me, but he couldn’t read or write. How he ever got into the Army I don’t know. He was from Tennessee. And you know he had a girlfriend and she would write him letters. We would have to read them for him. Then he would want to write her and one of us would have to sit down and write the letter for him. Then we would read it back to him and we would sometimes not read what we had wrote. Then he would get mad. Finally we straightened him out. We read him what was what. What I really remember about him was one night we were in a fox hole and we were getting shelled pretty bad and we were in this fox hole waiting for a shell to land on top of the fox hole and we were sitting there you know you couldn’t see each other he said Sergeant, he called me Sergeant you know that little book you always carried in your pocket. He said why don’t you open that book up and read us something out of it. They gave each one of us a small Bible, the new testament. Every soldier got one when they got inducted. Lots of guys got their life saved by having it in the upper pocket. I carried mine all the time. I just opened it up and I said how am I going to read when it is so dark in here. He said we got this big blanket and I will hold the flashlight under it so the light won’t show through. I got down there and read something and it wasn’t but five minutes and the shelling stopped. He said to me that from now on he would be staying with me. I can’t remember exactly what I read in there. I didn’t pick out anything, I just opened it up and read.

NA: That was a long three years.

CW: War is terrible.

EA: You know it seemed like every outfit and every company always had a couple clowns I would call them that kept the moral up. Like we had a guy from Pennsylvania and what he had done in civilian life he was with Harry James’s Orchestra. He could play any instrument. If there was anybody playing a horn, guitar, and even a piano he would move it over to where we were and he would play and sing.

CW:Oh my. That would be important for the troops.

EA: He kept the moral up you know. My truck driver, he was from Chicago and his dad had a shoe store. That is all that kid ever did was work in his dad’s shoe store. When he got in the Army they made a truck driver out of him. I had to teach him a few things too.

CW: He probably didn’t know too much about a truck did he.

EA: No, he didn’t know anything about a truck.

NA: After the war we went to see him.

CW: Oh you did!

EA: Yes we did.

NA: He had quite a shoe store. He was a Jewish guy. He had a little cart out on the sidewalk and he had shoes in there. The shoe store was up on the second floor.

EA: They would have called that Jew town. That is how he operated. He would have a stand on the sidewalk and the shoes were up on the second floor.

CW: Would they have to run up and down to get the shoes.

EA: Well they had a few shoes down below.

NA:  They had the cart downstairs. We started walking down the street and they sent their boy with us to show us how to get there. The first place the guy was selling suits and he tried to sell this boy a suit even before we got to it.

EA: I had an awful time explaining to him that he wasn’t my boy. I thought for a while I might have to buy the suit just to get away from him.

CW: In those days that would have been a long trip to go to Chicago.

EA: Oh yes.

CW: You couldn’t just do it in three hours like the way you can now.

EA: My folks they had  some friends there and they had asked me one time if I would take them to Chicago. They were friends and I said yes and they looked up this fellow for me. I had quite a few friends and as far as I know they are all over at the cemetery. I still had one fellow from Arkansas and last year I called down there one time, well when I first got a hold of him I found him. I still get a magazine every four months from our outfit and his name was in there where he was in a nursing home and they said we should call him. I really didn’t know him at that time and I got him on the phone and I told him who I was and he said by golly I remember you. I said I used to bring your food. He said that was where he remembered me from. We would deliver the food to the kitchen. He stayed in the Army. He was in for 25 years. He was a Major wasn’t he?

NA: I think so.

EA: The last time I called him he wasn’t feeling real good. The next time I called, well I didn’t know who I talked to they said we had to bury him here. So now he is gone. We went to North Carolina several years ago to see another man and they were gone.

NA: There aren’t just too many people our age who are alive.

CW: I know, tell me about it. You should be thankful you are still here and can get around. Your health is important.

NA: He is going to be 89 in February.

CW: Is that right. You have me beat by one year.

EA: Another thing that was kind of you see my mother passed away when I was three months old.

NA: No, three weeks.

CW: Oh my.

EA: And then my dad’s sister was still at home. She hadn’t been married then yet. She took care of me then. She was dating and she would have a date like on Saturday night or Sunday night and then Dad would have to take care of me and he told her one day that whenever you leave all he (Ed) wants to do is bawl. And she said I can take care of that. The next time I have a date I can just take him with me. So I would go along on a date with them.

CW: So you went along on a date.

EA: Then about three years later.

NA: She got married then about after a year. Your grandfather got remarried. Then your step-grandmother took care of you. Then his dad got remarried so then he had four different mothers.

EA: I turned out pretty good.

CW: You sure did!  Now they would say oh you are going to have a psychological problem. Back in those days you did what was necessary.

EA: What I was going to tell you that in Germany one night we stopped, when we were on the road, some place we would always look for shelter to find a building that was big enough to sleep in. We didn’t want to be outside. This one night we stayed in this little town and the next morning we had left and as we were leaving town we always had a sign there telling us the name of the town just like here. I just happened to see a town by the name of Neuenkirchen. I thought, now that rings a bell. I kept thinking about that, and then I remembered that was where my stepmother was from.

CW: For heavens sake.

EA: When I got back I told her about it and she said where did you stay. I told her this guy had a shoe factory and they had a big room there. She told me she knew all about that place. Then there was a big church right in the center of that town. She told me I should have went down there and took a right, that is where Uncle George lived. I said Mom if I had done that I wouldn’t be here to tell you about that. I don’t think she ever really realized what was going on. That being my stepmother I was fighting against her own brothers and sisters.

CW: Why yes, they would see you and you were fighting against them.

EA: That is what the younger Germans were noted for. Twelve year olds, fifteen year olds you would really have to watch.

CW: They were trigger happy. I don’t think boys that young were recruited here. I don’t remember hearing of any.

NA: I think in Germany they were just automatically in the Army.

EA: Oh yes. You have probably heard of the prison camps. I don’t know if you had ever heard of this Buchenwald, that was a big prison camp. Up to that point or every once in a while I would think what the heck am I over here for. I knew Pearl Harbor had got bombed and Hitler was on his way over here. Every once in a while I would think what the heck am I doing here. We liberated Buchenwald and I can still see it. There were 3 trenches and it was no farther from here to the road, six foot wide and about 4 feet deep. That was all full of dead bodies. They were nothing but skin and bones. Then right next to it was a building, supposed to be their barracks. They had boards to lay on. That is what they slept on. When we moved in there we captured that and then our engineers had trucks and bulldozers and moved dirt and covered all of them dead people up. When I saw that I knew why I was over in Germany fighting.

CW: Truus Leaders was from Holland and she said the Germans came in there and took all the food. People in Holland were just starving. The Germans probably had to send the food back to their people to feed them.

EA: I think to this day yet I can’t see why there was one man, Hitler, that he could cause so many problems. I know even the German people here, now this is a German community, we didn’t see problems like that. I tell you that after the war and staying in this hotel, there was a little old lady and we were in this one room, there was four of us staying there. She would come in every morning and make the beds. She told us that if we had any dirty clothes to just put them on the bed and she would come in and wash them. We tried to give her some money and she would never take money, but she would take food. They were looking for food. You know with me being in that business I had seen enough and I wanted her to have food.

CW: Now where did you say that was?

EA: That was in a little town named Mechlenburg, Germany. It is about 30 miles from Berlin.

CW: How do you spell that?

NA: I think it is Magdeburg. I think that is where my grandfather came from.

EA: When we left there was three or four ladies involved. When we left the hotel all these ladies came to our room and we all got a kiss and a big hug. I told them they cried more than my mother did when I went in the service. They just didn’t want us to go. They were hurt that we had to go. I think they were glad that we could go. You just couldn’t give them anything but food. They ate pretty good while we were there visiting.

NA: They were very grateful to us. They thought the Germans were going to take over the whole world.

EA: Germany was headed for England you know. The Germans had a few footholds there and from England they were coming here.

NA: Well they were already in Russia, Belgium, and France. I don’t know about Spain if they ever got that far.

EA: I don’t know either. I could never figure out that the German people were never noted for being mean and rough. At least the ones I knew. How one guy could have that much power.

CW: That was what was behind it. He was power hungry.

EA: The little fifteen and eighteen year olds were the ones you had to watch. They were given special schooling. They were tough to fight. Vie gates  (Yes, and so it goes). I hope I have made you happy.

CW: Yes, you had quite a story to tell. It really was.

EA: Is there anything you don’t understand?  You can call us or come out and we will straighten you out.

CW: Okay. How long did you say he was in the service?

NA: He left in November of 1942 and came home the 26th of August of 1945.  We were married the 7th of September two weeks later. So I waited for him for three years. That was a long three years.

CW: What was it like?

NA: Well, the mail didn’t go through like it does today. Sometimes it would be two weeks before I would get a letter that he had written. I dreamt one night that he had gotten shot and it took two weeks before I got the letter. Then of course I knew he was alright. There was no way I could find out.

EA: We were the same way. All of our mail was censored. About the only thing I could say is that I was feeling fine and hoping you are too. We couldn’t tell them where we were at.

NA: Nowadays you can call from here to Germany. We couldn’t do anything like that then. We just had to wait for those letters.

EA: There was always a lot of excitement when we had mail call.

NA: Sometimes the mail got blown up.

EA: Oh yes, the mail sometimes did get blown up.

NA: I didn’t write on a Saturday night because I couldn’t mail it on a Sunday. I wrote six letters a week all the time. He would write one page and each line was a new paragraph so he could fill it up in a hurry.

CW: (Both ladies laugh) He was probably not in a very comfortable situation.

EA: The letters were censored before they even left our outfit. Once in a while some of the guys would write something and they would bring it back and say “hey look you can’t write that”

CW: Sometimes the censors would just cut it out too.

EA: Oh yes they did just cut it out.

NA: Yes that was quite an experience.

CW: Yes and the news was very slanted at that time. We were at war.

NA: We didn’t have television like they do today. We can see it all now on television.

EA: As far as food I mean well actually I can’t say I ever went hungry. Even when we were prisoners of war it wasn’t the best of food but it kept us going. Well then the other officers they was eating the same thing. So I didn’t feel so bad.

CW: Food was rationed  and gas was rationed during the war wasn’t it?

NA: Oh yes. Coffee and sugar

EA: Just about everything was rationed, even tires.

NA: I worked for Krogers then in Toledo in 1942. They were just starting to ration then. You could buy one pound of coffee. That is all you were allowed to buy. These people came through the line one day and they  had two pounds of coffee and I said I can only let you have one pound. They paid for their groceres and went out and put them in their car and came in and got another pound. There was nothing I could do. I don’t remember how much sugar you could get.

CW: Sugar was rationed too wasn’t it.

EA: When I left for service I had bought a new 1939 or ‘40 Mercury. Then when I had to go into the service I told my dad, my dad had an older car, why don’t you sell your older car and you keep mine. I knew if I didn’t do that it would sit in the barn like maybe for three years and that is not good on cars.

CW: No

EA: In fact I sold his car for him.  Then he had to drive my car. Then we had that car when we got married. We went on our honeymoon with it. All four tires were bald. Those were still the original tires on it. Well we didn’t go too far. We went up into Michigan and we went fishing and stuff like that. Then we came home and on the other side of Archbold I blew one of the front tires out. I had a spare and I put that on and we got home then. The next morning then I went uptown and remember when C.J. Ramus was next there to Spanglers he sold tires there you know. I went in there you know and and I needed a tire. C.J. was in there himself and he looked at it and he said it looks to me like you need four new tires. Tires were hard to get.

END OF TAPE

Armbruster, Byron

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, July 2003

C. Tell me about the spelling of your first name. How is that spelled?

B. B-y-r-o-n.

C. It is July 3, 2003. I’m interviewing Byron Armbruster. Would you tell me what you just said about your name?

B. When I was born my parents thought they’d like to name Bryan, after William Jennings Bryan, who was a Democrat. So when it came time for me to be baptized Rev. Lankenau being a staunch Republican said, “Oh no, not Bryan!” So then they compromised and named me Byron Bryan.

C. (laughs) That’s quite a mouthful! Do you have any other memories of your childhood or storied that your parents told you?

B. Well, I’m now 90 so that’s a long time ago. But I’m in the middle of seven children and-uh-my father was the youngest of 13. So we were the youngest cousins but I wound up with 40-some first cousins and as of right now I have one still living because we were the youngest.

B. Oh, is that right! Did you used to have family reunions?

B. Oh yes. We had family reunions and of course like I say we come from a fairly big family and there were three families living right close by out in the country where I was born and raised.

C. Where was that?

B. The Saneholtz family, the Nelson family and our family. Between Napoleon and Malinta. And-uh-so between the three families we had 20-some children so I had a lot of playmates. And of course it was a lot different in those days than it is now because when we went to eat we always had at least 11 around our table. We had my parents, 7 children, my grandmother and a hired man. And on top of that there’d usually be one or two visiting, one or the other of us kids, they’d be invited to stay too. And every meal was started with a prayer, and the meal wasn’t started until everyone was seated. T’wasn’t like it is now: one grab a sandwich here and run, and another one—(laughs) A little different in those days.

C. Did you get into any mischief with all those cousins?

B. Oh, not too much.

C. You played outside a lot I suppose, didn’t you?

B. One thing, of all those years I never remember any of us kids getting a paddling. We never got spanked like a lot of people say they did. Never once were any of us spanked. We were kind of afraid of our dad. All he had to do was shake his finger at us. We knew that that meant, ‘Behave.’ (laughs)

C. And they probably had been pretty strict with the first one or two and then the rest of you followed along and did what your older brothers and sisters did.

B. Right. The older brothers and sisters took care of the younger brothers and sisters. (laughs) That’s what we did.

C. Did you help with the farming at all?

B. I never did too much farming. I stayed home until I went into the service, but-a-I never did too much farming. Well I did a lot of chores. We did a lot of chores. Always had a lot of animals.

C. What sort of chores did you do then?

B. We had to milk the cows and all that. In fact, my one sister, she worked there in Napoleon. She went back and forth on a bicycle, but before she went to work she had to milk the cows. She worked in the 5 & 10 Cent Store. We all worked.

C. Tell a little about what that 5 & 10 cent store was like.

B. Well, it had the candy counter; you know how they used to have all bulk candy all around. Where the old Vocke building, you know, is where it was, on the corner there. A lot different than now.

C. A friend of mine tells about how one cold day she went into the 5 & 10 in a hurry and she wanted to make her purchase and get out. So she had her gloves on and she had to reach in to get her money out and so she just put her gloves in her mouth and pulled to take the glove off and her teeth fell out with the glove. (laughs) They ended up on the floor. She said she was so embarrassed! Did you have a pony?

B. Yes I did. We had a lot of pets. I had everything, a pet monkey and a pony and and ducks, geese, dogs and cats, rabbits.

C. Wow, bantam rooster.

B. Yeah. (laughs)

C. What was your favorite?

B. Oh, I guess that monkey was my favorite.

C. What was he like?

B. Well, he was a little marmoset, a small species of monkey. In fact he was so small I kept him in a bird cage. I would let him out occasionally but he would run up our lace curtains and he was so light he wouldn’t even hurt the lace curtains.

C. Is that right?

B. I’d put him on–he’d hang on my finger like this on the one side of my hand and you couldn’t see him on the other side.

C. Oh, he was really small!

B. And when he slept at night–now of course in those days our house got awfully cold at night. In fact it would freeze in our kitchen and that’s where I kept the bird cage and so every night I put a fur muff in his cage. He would sleep in that muff. One night I forgot to put the muff in the cage and next morning I got up. He was clinging to the top of the bird cage and he was just stiff like he was dead. We got him out and my mother made a whiskey sling. We took an eye dropper and slid it down his throat. He came alive just as good as new.

C. Oh, isn’t that something! No, I didn’t even know there was such an animal. That was a lot of fun for you to play with. Did you go to a one-room school?

B. Yeah. I went to a one-room school just about a half mile from where I lived and we’d walk. Course in those days the winter was a lot more severe than they are now. We’d have a lot of snow and-uh-so sometimes even the school teachers would be snowed in. They’d stay all night at our place. And I had the same teacher for eight years. I never had another teacher until I went to high school.

C. Was he good?

B. Oh yeah. Burl Bauman.

C. Merle Bauman?

B. No, Burl. He was Merle’s uncle. Yeah. There was four of us had the same teacher: Ron Palmer, Garnet Eisman, Darris Mohler and myself. We all had the same teacher for eight years.

C. Were there just four in your school?

B. Oh no. We had about 30, nearly 40.

C. And they’d be all 8 grades?

B. All 8 grades.

C. Wow!

B. And we had-uh-an old well in the corner of the school yard and we’d get a pail of water and bring it in the schoolhouse. We had one dipper. We all drank out of the same dipper. No one died. (laughs) Naturally.

C. Did you have a bucket you carried it in?

B. We all carried a bucket, and one of my standbys was, in those days there were so many fence rows everybody had a lot of elderberries. And my mother always made enough elderberry jelly to last all winter. So we had a lot of elderberry sandwiches and she’d make a layer of elderberry jelly and a layer of peanuts. That was our sandwiches.

C. That’d be good for you too. Then what did they do, recess school for an hour or something for lunch?

B. I don’t know about an hour, but we’d have 15 minutes recess, two recesses at noon.

C. Did you have slides and jungle gyms or anything like that?

B. No. We had nothing.

C. How did you play then?

B. Well we played ball and made tents out of burlap bags, things like that.

C. Oh you did! Yeah, you learn to make do with a lot of little things.

B. Right. No running water or anything. Well, we didn’t have it at home either. At home we had no running water, no electricity and of course like the rest of them we had a little patch of a garden and at the end of the path was a little building with a Sears Roebuck catalogue in it. In fact we used to call it our miniature library. You could sit out there and read. Course you didn’t do much readin’ in the winter time.

C. I know. You wouldn’t stay very long. Did you go there to get away from chores sometimes?

D. No. We had to do our chores. But with no electricity we’d all sit around the dining room table in the evening. We had a coal-oil light like the one hanging there which went up and down and that’s where we did all our school work at the table.

B. Did your mom pop popcorn?

B. Yes, we had popcorn and we had a big orchard. We had apples every year.

C. Oh in the evening you’d eat apples and popcorn?

B. Yeah. We used to have a wainscot corner around there. We’d chew gum. We’d have a wad of gum and we’d take it out and put it on the wainscoting. Maybe the next day we’d go back and pick up our wad of gum and chew it some more. In fact, I thought that’s what that wainscoting was for. (laughs)

C. I remember Ed telling about, or I guess it was his sister, that after all the kids had grown up they decided they would sell the big table and buy a smaller one, and they went to get this table apart and way up in under the top of the table was a little tiny ledge where the legs were held together, or the sides or something, and one of the boys had put every food that he didn’t like up on that shelf. (laughs)

B. I know our school desks all had wads of gum underneath.

C. Yeah. I remember that. Now, let’s see, how old were you when you were drafted?

B. Well, I enlisted, and let’s see, I was in the service two and half years and when I came out I was 30.

C. What did you do before you went in the service then? Did you have a job?

B. Well, I worked at the canning plant here in Napoleon. I worked for all of them. I worked for Lippencot, Standard Brand, Campbell Soup.

C. Those were all here in Napoleon?

B. Oh yes. And–uh–my folks always had a big truck farm. I liked to garden. When I enlisted that was quite a thing too. All my friends had gone and I’d go to town on a Saturday night and noone was around anymore so I thought I might as well enlist.

C. Did you have brothers that were in the war too?

B. Yeah. I had one brother.

C. So where did you-uh–go then when you enlisted?

B. Well, I, when I enlisted I was at Ft. Benjamin Harrison.

C. Where’s that?

B. Indiana. And-uh–Carlton Reiser–I don’t know whether you ever knew him. He was from Napoleon and he was a Captain at that time and he was the one who put me on the train to go down south. And then I went to Camp Claybourne, Louisiana, is where I was stationed for awhile. And on the way down on the train it was listed as to what branch of service they would put you in and I had worked for the highway department a couple years prior to going into service and so I was puffin’ up guard rails and mowin’ grass, so they put me in as an engineer. (laughs) I stayed with the engineers all through my service and so then when I got down to the camp there I joined the 82nd Division and that was Sgt. York’s old War I division, so I met Sgt York. He was still there.

C. So you met Sgt. York?

B. Isn’t that something. So then-uh after we took our basic training or shortly thereafter they split the 82nd Division and they made two Airborne Divisions, the 101st and the 82nd.

C. Division of what? The Air Force?

B. No. The Army. And so they made two airborne divisions out of the 82nd Division. They made the 82nd Division and the 101st Division. Prior to that time there had never been such a thing such as an Airborne Division. You had to be either a paratrooper or a glider. So I was put in the 101st Airborne and stayed with it all the way through. The Airborne unit was only half as large as the other divisions. We had 15,000 instead of 30,000 which is the regular division. So I was trained as a glider trooper.

C. You were! Did you ride in a glider?

B. Oh yeah.

C. Those were dangerous.

B. But after we got ready to go to Europe we went to New York and boarded the ship there and that was really a full ship. I thought, gosh, I hated that. It was a terrible rusty old ship that was run by Indians and the name of the ship was Stropenover. Well, we started over on a convoy and our ship did have trouble so we had to leave the convoy and pull in to Newfoundland so we were in Newfoundland about two weeks while they were trying to get it fixed up and after the repairs they started out and as we were at the mouth of the port we struck a boulder or something and poked a hole in it and we had to come back in, so we were there all alone in Newfoundland and for two weeks we were in Newfoundland. Then we ran out of supplies. While we were in Newfoundland there was an army station there named Pepperele so we’d go for a hike up there and wash our clothes and come back and go on the ship again. Well, it was such a dirty hole of a ship and the cooks were Indians, they wore their old clothes way down to their feet and they were just filthy. And their bread was so full of weavels it looked like raisin bread.

C. Ooh! Bugs or something?

B. Little bugs. And everybody got dysentery, and everybody had to use the toilet and not enough toilets so everybody went on the deck. It was just terrible. You couldn’t stand up it was so slippery. Just a mess–it was terrible! So then we finally ordered another ship to come take the place of this one. So then we got a replacement ship. We transferred on to that but by that time we were out of supplies so we had to go to Halifax, Nova Scotia to get supplies so we could start back over to Europe. And so we were all alone with just one small ship as an escort going to Nova Scotia and they kept dropping depth bombs you know, they’d detect metal, submarine or what. Anyway we did get loaded and come back and joined another convoy and went over to England, Liverpool. So from the time we left. and that was half of our Division. The other half of our Division had already gone on another boat and they were over in England waitin’ on us. So from the time we left New York until we got to England it took us 45 days, to get from here to over there. So then we were in England and we trained in England but we were there a whole year prior to D Day. Do you remember Normandy? I went in on D Day.

C. Were you piloting?

B. No. This was strange too. When we got ready to go they didn’t have quite enough gliders so our Battalion and a couple other Battalions, they went by boat, the Susan B. Anthony, and on crossing the Channel we struck a mine and we had to abandon ship in the Channel and so when we struck the mine we were way down in the hold, the bottom of the ship. The lights went off. So it came over the loud speaker to come up on deck, feel your way. So we got up on deck, everybody, and they said, “Discard everything you have. Make yourself as light as possible.” So we took everything off except out clothes and so another little ship came over beside us and so I went by net over on that smaller ship.

C. By net, how do you mean?

B. Well, they had the net. They just threw it over from one ship to the other and you had to crawl over.

C. You got on the net and they lifted you over?

B. No. You just had to crawl over. Well, it could only accommodate half of us, so then another ship–by that time our ship was gettin’, leaning quite heavily, so they couldn’t pull on the other side and then another ship pulled us on the other side of that, so we went from ship to ship to ship and every one of us got off our ship but we didn’t have anything. We lost our rifles, our gas masks, our ammunition, helmet, everything. So then after we broke away about a half hour later we saw our ship kinda rare up and disappear.

C. Oh! A half-hour after you left.

B. So then those two ships took us as far as they could take us, then we had to go on to landing crafts which took us in as far as they could go, so then we had to wade in.

C. Now this was where?

B. This was on D Day going into Normandy.

C. Wow!

B. Of course by that time the beach was covered with dead, the wounded, screaming, bleeding and-uh-so the first dead person I came to I took everything he had. I took his back pack, helmet, gas mask and everything, and then…

C. Were they shooting at you?

B. Oh yes, bombing and shooting, and-uh my best buddy-uh-I don’t know what happened to him. He was ahead of me a little bit. I don’t know whether he stepped on a land mine or whether a grenade hit him or what–don’t know but he was minus an arm or a leg or something. He was just all mangled up and he just begged me to shoot him and-uh I couldn’t. So I went on and I prayed that he would die. And then after we went through all this on the beach and stuff we went inland about 3/4 of a mile to an old homestead that’s all built out of stone, and-uh we went in there and we stayed there for several weeks. We were fighting from there and-uh you felt safe when you were in this stone building which they kept bombing. You weren’t safe from the bombing but you was safe from all the gunfire and stuff. So I layed there on that hay stack and I remember everything was goin’ through my mind, “How did I get here? and what my folks were doin'” and all that and-uh so I didn’t get my clothes changed for about three days, and it had to be treated you know for gas that was impregnated in the clothes, so when I took my socks off the skin and all came with them cause they’d been on so long. And of course our dead was layin’ there in all the ditches and everywhere and the water was in the ditches. And you couldn’t drink the water because of all the dead people. But we were lucky in one way. This farm place where we stayed had a couple barrels of hard cider so we all filled our canteens with–that’s what we had, hard cider. So then after we were there fightin’ for all those weeks we went back to England to get new people because we had lost so many and got replacements and got reequipped and stuff waitin’ for the next mission. Then we flew from England to Holland for that mission and-uh we went in there with a glider and-uh–Truss Leader, you know she’s from Holland? She called me her liberator. They have me over there every so often for dinner. Course she was in an orphanage at that time and she said they lived on rats and stale bread, uh, moldy bread. She said that nobody got sick though because mold in penicillan, you know?

And after that mission we went down to Marmelade, France to get new replacements for all these casualties that was goin’ on.

C. Wait a minute. What did you do in Holland? On that mission?

B. Holland had been occupied by the Germans for a couple years.

C. Were you a foot soldier there, or—

B. Yeah. I was in supply all the way through. I have friends now in Holland that we keep in touch with all the time. I’ve been to their place and every five years they have reunions over there and I’ve been to them. One lady said they had these Germans living in their garage. And when the gliders started landing they were so happy that–she said she rode out in the field when the gliders were landing on her bicycle and she said our boys stole her bicycle. So then we went back to France and we, some of the fellows got furloughed and they were goin’ all over. They were goin’ back to England to visit, some went to Paris and different places and they just had got back to France and then here the Germans had broke through our lines up there in Belgium and we got word we had to go up there to Bastogne and hold Bastogne, Belgium. So we went by truck then. In fact we stood up on this truck like cigars on end. It was so tight you couldn’t sit down. We rode there hours and hours and hours.

C. That’s the only way you could travel I suppose.

B. So they got in there and then-uh of course were pinned there in Bastogne 7 days over Christmas. That’s when that general gave the “Nuts!” reply. You probably read it.

C. Oh yeah. Let’s review that.

B. They said we had to surrender or else they would–annihilate the whole town. They understood that the Americans being great humanitarians they didn’t think we’d want to be responsible for the killing of all the civilians. They wanted us to give up. And Gen. McCullough said, “Nuts!” and the German general didn’t know what “Nuts” meant. They told him that meant, “Go to Hell!” So then the bombing began in earnest. They really did take place. Of course there were a lot of tunnels in Bastogne that had been built for their soldiers and all that, so I slept in a tunnel at night; that’s the only chance to be safe, and that’s one of the chances you take. By that time the Germans had taken so many of our men prisoners they took our clothes from our POWs and they would infiltrate our lines. They took English-speaking Germans that came in you know and the Germans would say, “Hey, Joe!” and the guy would come out of hiding and someone would shoot him. You never knew whether it was friend or foe that you were with. Didn’t know where you were. Well then after that we went down through Belgium and in the fields there was just acres and acres of German soldiers who didn’t know what to do. They were told to go home. The war was over.

C. Were they alive?

B. Yeah.

C. Wait a minute. How did this happen? How did the American armies get out of this–the Germans trapped them didn’t they? That’s why they were demanding surrender?

B. No, we were holding.

C. You were not under Patton?

B. Yeah, that’s what I’m gettin’ at. Patton and his group came in and that’s how we got out.

C. Patton’s group took you out then?

B. Yeah. They came in. I went by jeep to Germany and all that and wound up in Birchtesgaden and in fact Hitler’s house was leveled by the RAF so we went in by jeep. The day the war ended, May 8, I was in his house.

C. Is that right? What was it like?

B. Oh it had been bombed. It was leveled. Of course the Eagle’s Nest where he used to go up. That was intact. And then we were scheduled to go into Japan but by that time I had enough points that I could be released since I had so many points so I had left the outfit and went down to Marseilles, France waiting for a ship to go back through the Mediterranean past the Rock of Gibraltar on my way home so while I was waiting there in Marseilles, France to come home that’s when we dropped the bomb there in Japan. So our whole division didn’t have to go there.

C. Now the points you mentioned, would you explain that?

B. Oh you got so many points for time that you served, missions you had.

C. Time that you served?

B. Missions

C. Missions you were on.

B. But you see our casualties were much heavier than the ordinary soldier’s. In fact, I looked up some of these figures and-uh we had 15,000 when our Division first went in, you know, on D-Day, and-uh at the end of the war of the original 15,000 people you know how many were still in their battalion? 2,655.

C. Wow!

B. Of the originals.

C. The rest were dead?

B. I don’t mean they were dead. Some were transferred out, some were prisoners of war, some were injured. But of the original–and I’m one of the original. 15,000 to less than 3,000.

C. Is that right!

B. And in fact we had formations like I say, and in our battalion we had 868 killed or wounded, and-uh captured 665. And anyway there were almost 11,000 of them that had left the battalion during those formations.

C. How many years were you in Europe on those missions, do you know how many total?

B. Well no, see I was in England for one whole year before we went in and we were only fighting about six months. But there were seven of us from here in the 101st Airborne and I’m the only one that was left. There was–you probably know some of them. Elder Meyer–he was from Jewel and Wilbur Gerken, he was from Malinta, you know Fran Freytag? Her husband was a barber?

C. Yeah, yeah.

B. This is her brother, and I was with him. He was killed going into Normandy on D-Day. Yeah. He was killed right then on D-Day. And Herman Badenhop–he’s out here in Freedom Township–and he could speak German. He could interpret for us, you know, then Harvey Moorehead from Napoleon and Wilbur Clark, the last one that just died, over there on Riverview you know, then myself and there was one–I forget his first name but a Baker from Holgate. He died shortly after the war. I’m the only one left.

C. My!

B. Yeah, then I was discharged in ’45.

C. Well you were fortunate that you were in the supply part.

B. Yeah.

C. Because I remember my husband saying, “Boy those gliders, they were just at the mercy of anyone on the ground.”

B. We got $50 a month extra pay because they said, they called it ‘hazardous duty’.

C. Yeah. Sure it was hazardous duty!

B. They made us feel good though. They said if we crashed we wouldn’t have to worry about fire.

C. You’d be dead.

B. Well see, our two generals, Gen. Taylor, he jumped in on D Day; Gen. Pratt, he went in by glider and his pilot of the glider was Gerky from Findlay, that oil company. I knew him real well. And his glider crashed and Gen. Pratt was killed going in.

C. So both of them were killed probably.

B. No. Gen. Taylor made it.

C. I mean both the pilot and general were killed.

B. The general had several aides with him were killed but the pilot only received a broken leg.

B. I guess that’s about it.

C. Pretty hard. Now let’s see, when did you meet your wife then, wife-to-be?

B. Well, I’d known her for quite a while and-uh do you remember Tillie and Ida Dietson who used to do seamstress work there? They were good friends with the Higgins family, my wife’s folks, so they arranged that she and I come to their home one evening. That’s how we got acquainted. We were gonna get married before the war and-uh I hesitated because I said if anything happened to me I think my mother should, was worthy, should have the insurance. So I didn’t get married till after the war. And then, so we were married within a month after I was home.

C. Oh you were. Did she come to see you while you were in the service?

B. Oh yeah. When I was at Ft. Bragg.

C. Let’s see, Ft. Bragg was at what state again?

B. North Carolina. And-uh I just have the one son and-uh then she passed away and I remarried, so I lost two wives.

C. Oh is that right. And-uh who was your second wife?

B. Rosella Hoff from Holgate who I had gone with before I went with my first wife, but she was an only child and her parents didn’t want her to get married. (laughs) She had it rather unpleasant. So-uh-my first wife and I were married 12 years and the second wife 18 and we did have some nice times.

C. When did you have your son then, with the first wife?

B. First wife.

C. And you lived where?

B. Well-uh when I got back from the service we bought the house there on the corner of Park and Sheffield. And then-uh we lived there about two years. That’s where my son was born and then when my son was about–well less than a year old we moved to the big house her folks and grandparents owned, right across from the library on the corner of Webster and Clinton, the big yellow house.

C. Oh, that big yellow house!

B. Lived there for years and years.

C. is that right. Yeah, that’s directly across from the library.

B. And then we had a cottage. We spent a lot of time there. My wife spent more time there than I when I was working.

C. What sort of work did you do?

B. I worked at Campbell’s. It wasn’t Campbell’s but it was a canning factory.

C. Were you in the office there? Or on the line?

B. I was in the stockroom.

C. Stockroom. Not too bad a job. It was nice steady work.

B. I was responsible for all three shifts. I worked days but once in a while when they couldn’t find anyone to work at night I’d get a call and would have to run out there. I liked the job, did a good job. In fact, I’m the oldest retiree now at Campbell Soup. They have a breakfast once a month you know, the retirees; I’m the oldest one.

C. Where were these other canning factories that were in town?

B. Same location. Lippencotts built it. They’re the ones that started it and-uh gosh I can’t think of the last name now but he married a Diehlman girl. They had a coal yard. They lived there where Fritz Pohlman lived. Yeah, Lippencotts built it, started it. Walt Scheib started it. He was the superviser at that time, Chub Bevelheimer’s father.

C. Did they can tomatoes? Is that what the old factories did?

B. Yeah, they made a lot of ketchup, which they don’t do anymore.

C. At the time when I was going to school at Bowling Green they were making the Heinz ketchup. Every fall the whole town would smell like ketchup. (laughs)

B. And they used to run their stuff, their bad water, in the river and the river would be red from here to Grand Rapids. They made them quit that.

C. George Rafferty said he made many trips to Chicago to try to get Campbell’s to put up their factory here, but he said you wouldn’t believe the amount of opposition he got from local bigwigs who didn’t want the town to grow.

B. That’s the same deal like the University. When they built Bowling Green University– it was going to have it here you know but they had too many bars here.(laughs)

C. Is that what it was? The fact that they had bars? I heard that they met the representatives of the state that wanted to build Bowling Green Unversity here and they weren’t very cordial or something. Did you hear anything like that?

B. I don’t know. I know they debated between Bowling Green and Napoleon.

C. Well, there were a lot of very powerful people here who didn’t want the town to grow. They wanted it to stay the same in size. Well, we found out since it must progress or regress. It can’t stay the same. Well did you work in stock in all the other factories that you worked in too?

B. At the beginning Y’know, when they built Lippencott’s they had one girl in the office, Mary McBride. She didn’t have enough work to keep her busy. She’d come out and help us label. We were all labeling. Of course at that time you had to do it by hand. See now how it’s grown?

C. What changes have you noticed in Napoleon in your lifetime?

B. Oh gosh, it’s all filled up. Y’know where Anthony Wayne is? There was just one farm house there.

C. Anthony Wayne Restaurant?

B. No. Anthony Wayne subdivision. There was one farm out there. Same deal out there where our church is on Glenwood: the Jackman farm with just one house. Oh yeah, all that is built up, more so on that side of town though than on this side.

C. But they used to have grocery stores and gas stations and everything on the south side, didn’t they.

B. Oh yeah. There was a whole string of stores and a furniture store, lumber yard, all that. It’s all gone.

C. On the south side, you mean?

B. Yeah.

C. Ray and I tried to find a house. We wanted to move out of the big house into a small one. We tried to find a house for sale on the south side. We drove all over and we couldn’t find one. There was just one tiny, tiny little one that was just too small.

B. Do you remember Morrison’s Grocery Store?

C. No.

B. They had one son who was a really good musician, Tom Morrison. I have one of their plates, a souvenir. And I have seven plates, souvenir of Westhope.

C. Yeah, they used to give plates away at Christmas time, didn’t they?

B. Oh yeah.

C. At the grocery stores and so forth. I have one, or did have one, I think it belongs to somebody else in my family now. Cousins of ours had a grocery store and they had given out a Canfield plate. It had a miniature calendar of each month all the way around it.

B. Oh yeah. Calendar plates. I started to collect calendar plates.

C. is that right. They probably had–well they’d have to have a different one every year, wouldn’t they.

B. Oh yeah. Over there in Europe, you know like I told you, they have a reunion for us every five years, the French, Belgium, and Holland they all go together and they wine and dine us there for two weeks. We always set it up for three weeks so we can go elsewhere. And in Holland they make a plate, a commemorative plate they call it for that event, and they break the mold you know so it’s a big collectors’ item. Makes a good gift. Every time you go you get one. I’ll show you after a bit. I’ve got them down in the cellar. First time I went back was when Willemina was still living and I met her and then I was presented to Queen Julianna.

C. You were? How’d that happen?

B. Well, we had the banquet in the evening and in fact, all those pictures you know they’ve got over in Bowling Green were me and Johanna’s pictures together and then of course now her daughter Beatrice is on the throne now. And-uh but the funny part of it is–see we go over there to celebrate the liberation of Holland from the Germans you know but Beatrice married a German officer. She can’t even take part in the festivities so her father Prince Bernard always takes her place. Every village that we had liberated has a memorial there now. They lay a wreath every time we go over there. He’s always with us and he personally hung a silver and gold medallion around my neck with a velvet ribbon. I’ve got it downstairs.

C. My! I’m sure it meant a lot to those people to have you come and get them out from under the yoke of the Germans.

B. In Holland they really appreciate it.

C. That’s something we didn’t know very much about at all in United States.

B. In Holland they had all these bridges and of course they were all blown up and the Marshall Plan replaced all those. And they were the only country that ever paid us back completely.

C. Now, what part of Holland is below sea level?

B. Oh there’s a lot of it. I don’t know what proportion it is really. These dikes. I’d be afraid to live there because these dikes. I’d be afraid it’d flood. It happens occasionally.

C. How high are the dikes?

B. Well, quite high because they have a road on top of it.

C. Of course you were in France, you didn’t go into Holland?

B. Oh yeah. That’s our headquarters, in Holland. That’s the home of the Phillips. That’s the same as the General Electric here. In fact, all our Norelco radios are made by Phillips, in Holland.

C. My television is made by Phillips.

B. Oh yeah, they’re our hosts for several days. They really wine and dine us. Oh, and Mr. Phillips himself. I met him and during the war the Germans were trying to catch him, you know. He just escaped out of the rear window one time when they were coming in his building and he rode by bicycle and got away and he stayed in hiding all during the war.

C. Had to close his factory down probably at the time.

B. Because when we’d have banquets he would be there at the banquets. I’ve got pictures with him.

C. Now, how did you go? You landed in France and then how did you get up into Holland?

B. We was in France, and after that mission was closed we went back to England.

C. Then you went to Holland?

B. Then we went in by glider from England to Holland.

C. Oh that’s how you did it.

B. Yep. I’ve got pictures of him too. The Mayor of Bastogne, the present mayor–a little town right out of Bastogne, Belgium village and it was occupied by the Germans. We went in and chased the Germans out and they were all so happy and everything that they were celebrating in the street, drinking. And then the Germans ran over us and chased us back out and so then the Germans gathered every male over 16 years of age and shot them. The whole village.

C. Oh no!

B. The present mayor of Bastogne right now, he was 10 years old at the time. He saw them shoot his Dad.

C. How sad!

B. I got pictures of him.

C. I suppose they had them all lined up.

B. Lined up and shot ’em.

C. No wonder they were glad to have the Americans come and free them.

B. The Germans had captured about 60 or more of our people and of course the fighting was going on right then. They didn’t know what to do with us after they got us captured. They mowed our men all down like sheep and just killed them all. That’s against the Geneva Convention.

C. How’d you escape?

B. No, I wasn’t in that group. But there’s a big memorial there now. We visit it every time we go over there.

C. Pretty cruel. Well Hitler was so cruel, I think. Did you see that place that he had a whole complex of offices underground? I don’t know where that was.

B. Well, he was killed in an underground in Berlin with Eva Braun. I had a buddy from Berea. He found a pistol with a pearl handle with ‘Eva Braun’ on it. Well I have a thought for the museum. ‘nee, we went into Bastogne after we–we didn’t have any equipment because we had just gone back from another mission in Holland and we hadn’t been re-equipped yet. So in Bastogne we didn’t even have equipment. And so when we went into Bastogne it was green and then it started to snow and we had no camouflage, no nothing. So, being on Supply I had to send out word to the villagers there they had to turn in all their sheets, pillowcases, things like that that we could use for camaflouge I had to gather up to give to the troops. So in this hotel, it was the Bastogne Hotel they had tablecloths with Bastogne woven right in the middle of them. I’ve got one of them in the Herb Huddle museum. I used it for camouflage.

C. You have a museum here? A private museum of your own?

B. My nephew does. You’ve never seen the museum? Oh yeah, school classes all go out there.

C. I talked to him at the airport and he said he had a museum.

B. Oh yeah. He has a lot of my stuff.

C. That’s out on his farm I suppose. I’ll have to go out there and look at that.

B. He’s always had his jeeps and World War II items there.

C. So he’s your nephew?

B. Right.

C. Do you have any memories of the Depression?

B. Well, not too much but my Dad was State Representative at that time. That was in the ’30s. And I was in high school and I know I didn’t have very much money because when I worked I used to get a dollar a day. (laughs) I’d loaned my Dad everything I had to help him out ’cause he was hurtin’ at that time. Really other than that I don’t know too much.

C. Now you went to high school where?

B. Here in Napoleon.

C. How did you get into town for classes?

B. In a Model T Ford with side curtains. Used to drive in the gas station and tell ’em to put in a dollar’s worth of gas.

C. Oh, yeah, I remember that. Did you have to crank it to start it?

B. No. I don’t remember doing that. It wasn’t mine. It belonged to a neighbor boy up the road. He lived further south so he gathered up three and four of us on the way in. We paid him to ride in.

C. Did it have a gas pedal on the wheel, the steering wheel?

B. Yeah.

C. What about when it rained? Did it have side curtains?

B. It had side curtains. No heater though.

C. It’d be cold in the winter. I remember a car we had one year. When it would start to rain we’d have to stop and my Dad would have to get out and put up these side curtains all the way around the car. He’d snap ’em on.

B. We’re going to have our 72nd high-school reunion in September.

C. is that right. So you graduated when? Let me see, that would have been ’31. I graduated in ’37. Do you have very many of your class still living?

B. Well, we lost three last year. David Meekison and myself always get the class together.

C. Oh, was he a classmate of yours?

B. Yeah. We’ve been friends all our lives. Our parents were friends.

C. Is that right. He tells about having this pony

// End of Tape //

Allen, Frances

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin
September 13, 2008

CW:  I did an oral history of the woman that lived down the street here. She had such a big family. Her name was Olga Kruse. She had a disabled daughter and she told how they used to have so much fun playing down on the river in the winter. They would play on the river bank in the summer. Did your kids do that too?

FA:  Oh definitely! That is why I can’t move from here.

CW:  Your children don’t want you to move anywhere else?

FA:  My kids would like me to move from here and get into a condo, a small house, or something. I would miss the river. You see I have lived in this neighborhood all my life, and I miss that river when I am gone. We used to play on the banks too. Now this is one of the things that we did down here on this hill. We would go and slide down the hill. Kids even from across the river would come over and slide down this hill.

CW:  I bet it was good to slide on.

FA:  It was a good one and old ladies that lived in the house next to the hill, they had a well. At night when the kids were done sliding we would take water from that well and throw it over the hill so it would get icy.

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  We used to slide way down. Of course the river doesn’t freeze over like it did then. We used to go down and we’d hit a bump and we’d just keep going and slide right on to the river.

CW:  Oh you did! Wouldn’t that be dangerous?

FA:  Not when the ice was thick.

CW:  It must have been pretty thick.

FA:  Oh heavens yes.

CW:  How thick did it get?

FA:  Oh, I don’t know because we were always down there ice skating and things like that on the river.

CW:  I remember going up and standing on the river bridge when the ice was going out. Some of those chunks were as big as a tree.

FA:  In 1936 I was a senior in High School. That was a really, really cold winter. By Thanksgiving time that river was so froze we could get on it. I can remember many a times we had snow by Thanksgiving. I can remember that year the ice was 36 inches thick. The cars were even on the ice. Down there behind our house they made a big square and they would play ice hockey.  I can remember on this Sunday my cousin and I walked way up on the river on the ice. The next day, why it was unusual for my dad to ever pick us up from school, but we were let out early that afternoon and I mean early. Everybody was up there picking up their kids. They had the bridge blocked off on both sides and only people that had to could come across that bridge. The ice had started moving out and it was jamming up something terrible. I remember that night when we were doing dishes, and we had a white spitz dog and he was always tagging us around and wanted to be with someone. He sat down and he was howling something terrible. Just as he was howling our water line broke. The ice had gorged and broke our water line coming across the river. And that was terrible that year. The water had come clear up to this second hill. It was just a couple inches from the barn where Dad kept his car. That used to be a barn down there. I can remember from my grandfather had chickens down there in the bottom part. This was years and years ago and they had horses in there too. The water was just a couple inches from this.

CW:  The bridge was in at that time in 1936 wasn’t it. I didn’t realize the water had gotten that high. Now where had it gotten jammed? It would have been jammed somewhere.

FA:  Well it was jammed a bit up the river and down the river. They thought that people going across the bridge might get hurt. Down at the Damascus Bridge it was really jammed. I remember Dr. Julian (Harrison) took his car down there to see the ice go out and he said. “I got hit with ice.”

CW:  Oh he did!

FA:  All the people had drove out there. It was so pitiful. These great big hunks of ice, why there would be a dog or a cat out there on these hunks of ice. They were caught you know. It was just pitiful to hear them.

CW:  You can be thankful it wasn’t humans that were on there.

FA:  I can remember that. The ice that year was terrible. It was so awful seeing those hunks of ice. There were fish caught in there too.

CW:  We weren’t out of the depression yet. People were valuing more of whatever they had. They valued their cars and things.

FA:  I can remember that. We were down on that ice a lot. We were always there in the wintertime. Here is another thing that we did on the hill. C. D. Brillhart had often heard of the fun we had on that hill. One night he and his wife came over.

CW:  Didn’t they live on a farm out West?

FA:  Not at that time. They lived in a house where Pam lived.

CW:  Oh that would have been on the North side of the river.

FA:  That is where they lived and then they went up the street here. They lived in back by Fairview.

CW:  No, it was beyond Fairview.

FA:  Just a little bit. Not quite but it was in that territory. Anyway, they came over that night and asked what we were doing. My uncle that lived down there by the hill built his kid a bobsled. It was a big long thing. It was built out of wood and it would hold six people. They would slide down this hill and they would have a ball.

CW:  I’ll bet they did have fun!

FA:  Over here on one side of the hill was an ash pile. It was steeper if you went off. It seemed like the kids would always hit that ash pile.

CW:  What would that do, send you up in the air?

FA:  It would dump us.

CW:  Oh, it would dump you.

FA:  The kids would get a big kick out of that. Mr. Brillhart wanted to go down the hill on the sled and we hit the ash pile. He had a barrel of fun that night. He just had an awfully lot of fun playing with those kids. Some of these people that run the schools aren’t so high hatted after all.

CW:  Oh, no, they’re not. He was a Superintendent for a long, long time.

FA:  He was just human and he just had a ball that night. We stayed there till we nearly froze to death. That’s what we did all over the South side here. Sometimes we would have 30 kids or more down there.

CW:  See, I think the South side kids, I don’t know about the North side, but I think the South side kids were pretty close. They had a lot of fun.

FA:  We were close and just like we used to skate so much over here. We had no place to skate except down here on the streets. One summer they closed that street every Wednesday night from 7:00 to 9:00 o’clock.

CW:  That would have been just a block long.

FA:  You would be surprised at the number of kids from the North side that would come over and skate with us. That was fun. We were as kids called the South Side Savages and River Rats.

CW:  Oh really!

FA:  But nevertheless we all stuck together.

CW:  Probably kids from other towns called all the kids from this town river rats because you were right on the river.

FA:  That’s what they called us but we didn’t care because we still had fun. I know they used to say that the North side and South side were separated. There was no separation in us. We were all here living in Napoleon and we were together socially. We mixed good with the North side. I do remember how we used to roller skate. I wore out many pairs of roller skates. Just like when they put the skating rink up at Wayne Park I practically lived up there skating.

CW:  Was that before it became a Dance Hall?

FA:  They had the dance hall there too. They had the skating rink inside and the dance hall was outside.

CW:  Oh, I see.

FA:  But they did have that as a dance hall long before they put the skating rink in there before they had the outside one.

CW:  Was it always just an outdoor dance hall?

FA:  No, it was the big building. They had many, many dances in there before they had the  outside one.

CW:  Wayne Park is still there isn’t it?

FA:  Yes, Wayne Park is still there, but they have all these houses in there now.

CW:  It is just west of town.

FA:  Yes.

CW:  Now we have Meyerholtz Park along the river. Then not very far beyond on the right hand side is 424.

FA:  You remember where Sally Watson lived up there.

CW:  I know now where that dance hall was. I knew it was in the area.   Bob Downey told me a devilish little thing those kids did when they were little. He said somebody had a cottage down along the river and it was close to Wayne Park. They would wait till the music was going and everybody was dancing and then the boys would be in that cottage and they would walk up there to the dance hall. The men would come out every once in a while, take a sip of whiskey and put their bottle back. Then they found where they were putting the bottles and stole the bottles.

FA:  That sounds like kids. Dad used to have a shanty up there by the river too. We would go up and stay all weekend. He had his boat.

CW:  You probably went swimming in the river.

FA:  At that time you could swim in that river. I wouldn’t swim in that river now. He loved to fish. We would go up there and stay all weekend. We would go up to the canal and fish.

CW:  You fished in the canal?

FA:  Oh yes, the canal had water in it then. It was nice fishing there and fishing in the river. I know Dad had a motor boat and he had the row boat. The little kids always wanted to take it out. He would say, “No, no, you don’t go out until you learn how to swim.”

CW:  That is a good idea.

FA:  That was a rule. So the kids would learn to swim real fast.

CW:  You wouldn’t want to be left behind.

FA:  Oh, no. We didn’t get to take the motor boat out unless he was with us. We took the row boat out many a times. We had fun. Like I said we would go fishing. There was another couple that always went with us.

CW:  Another thing the Kruse girl said was that these were all farms.

FA:  Oh yes, this was Barnes and out in front was Maumee. In back of us they were all farms.

CW:  They would play hide and seek.

FA:  Yes, I remember how the whole gang of us would get together and play hide and seek. We would play Run Sheepy Run and Follow the Arrow.

CW:  How did they play Run Sheepy Run?

FA:  Well, we were all sheep. If they would find the first one and somebody would be hiding somewhere else. If someone found the first one we’d clap our hands and that one would be free.

CW:  Oh yeah, so he could run and touch base and go free. I lived in the city and what we did was put a can down and we called it Kick the Can.

FA:  Yes we did too.

CW:  The person who was “it” would get them rounded up and they would come in and kick the can and they would be free to go hide again.

FA:  We used to do that too. I remember that, just like back here that was all raspberries. That was the lot next to me and in back of me was all red raspberries. Over there in the spring she would be out barefoot and she would be spading all of those raspberries. She took very good care of those bushes.

CW:  I bet they were good berries.

FA:  They were good. I used to go and buy some from her. She had black ones and those big red ones. Those are the best.

CW:  The black ones are kind of seedy, but the red ones are great.

FA:  That was all farms back there, clear back to the fairgrounds. Now it is all houses.

CW:  Were the fairgrounds there when you were a little girl?

FA:  Yes

CW:  So it has been there a long time. How old are you now?

FA:  I am 91.

CW:  I am a couple of years behind you.

FA:  I can remember always going to the fair there. We would go out there and there wasn’t elbow room. It was always so full of people and now I don’t know if people just aren’t interested or what. You don’t have the fairs like they used to.

CW:  Well don’t you think back in those days they didn’t have much for entertainment. So many people that were living on farms were isolated. So at the fair they could run around and talk with people.

FA:  I think that myself. Just like kids at school would ask me what I did when I was younger.  What did we do, why we would go to somebody’s house and played cards and pop some popcorn. We had a good time. Today they have to have their cars and some money and go some place. It’s altogether different than when I was a kid.

CW:  If there was another big depression they would probably go back and do the same things we used to do.

FA:  I wouldn’t doubt it.

CW:  They would complain all day but I think they would get along. They would get used to the simple pleasures. There wasn’t anything wrong with it.

FA:  We used to have a barrel of fun with our popcorn and playing cards or something. They used to have a lot of fun. Of course we didn’t go to all of those things. There just wasn’t the money.

CW:  You just didn’t have a lot of money for entertainment.  Money was for groceries and bills and necessities.

FA:  I remember when they built the bridge that they moved the old bridge down east a ways.

CW:  Did they still use it then?

FA:  They put temporary piers up there for it so we could get back and forth without going clear around. While they were moving the bridge we had to go down by Biddies and get a ferry every morning to go to school.

CW:  Oh really they used a ferry! Now Biddies was where old Route 6 comes in.

FA:  Yes, down there by the new Mexican restaurant. We had to be down there before eight o’clock in the morning. It would stay on the other side for a half hour before it would come back this way or we would be late for school. It took us forever to get back and forth.

CW:  Did they use poles to make their way across?

FA:  Well they had ropes and also poles. As soon as the school let out we would have to run like mad down there to get it to go home or else we would have to wait over there till five o’clock. It was really something. That ferry was so packed with kids. Today I don’t think they could get that many on there. But they had to go across the river to get to school.

CW:  Now they would probably let those kids out a little bit early.

FA:  I doubt it. They might let them off different. I remember when they built that bridge.

CW:  That was the one that had those arches. It was such a pretty bridge. I think that one was quite picturesque.

FA:  It was. It was a nice bridge.

CW:  And they said that it was written in the brick somehow the word “Napoleon”. There was something else about it too. That is something Russ Patterson can tell you about.

FA:  I do remember how they did that. After it got so far along we got to go across it to go to school.

CW:  That was the new bridge right?

FA:  Yes, we could walk across. That was something too.

CW:  You mean it was kind of exciting.

FA:  While they were building it we got to walk across it. Anyway it was quite a sight.

CW:  Sure.

FA:  Oh do you remember the Idle Hour?

CW:  Yes. Downtown.

FA:  Do you remember when it burned?

CW:  Yes.

FA:  I remember that. I can remember Don got up and went to work. He didn’t know it was on fire. He looked out the window and said there is a big fire. And that afternoon               might have been a baby. It seems to me like she was with me. My mother and I walked uptown that afternoon to see it. It seems like she was just a baby. I do remember when that burned. Why we kids used to go in there after school. It was a good hangout.

CW:  My daughter said that is where she learned how to smoke. The girls would sit in there and smoke.

FA:  Mike was very careful. The kids had to behave when they were in there. It was a very nice place for kids to go. They should have something like that today. Someplace for kids to go and be free but not be rowdy.

CW:  Someplace where there is no liquor.

FA:  Right. It was not unusual for me to go up there and sit for an hour or so. We would be just talking.

CW:  Didn’t people, when they met each other, somebody new, wouldn’t they sit and talk for quite a while?

FA:  Yes, that was a treat to go uptown and meet somebody. On Saturday night, my gosh, I remember I worked in our office during the week. On Saturday I worked at the five and ten and we didn’t close until eleven o’clock on Saturday night. It was hard for us to get out of there then. Somebody would come in and no they were waiting on somebody in the store. I can remember that store would be packed with people coming in to buy. It was just packed. There was no place to park and like you say they would just jabber and jabber. You don’t see that today. You are almost afraid to talk to people. Whether they knew them or not if somebody would say hello they would start a conversation and just start talking.

CW:  Yes, that is right.

FA:   But today you don’t go up and talk to a stranger like that.

CW:  It’s really too bad.

FA:   Yes it is too bad.

CW:  It gave you a feeling of comfort, I think.

FA:  Not only that but a feeling of friendship. I thought it was nice. But they just don’t do it anymore.

CW:  I remember Ed’s nurse saying she could go downtown and it would take her an hour to go one block. She would keep meeting people she knew and they all would want to talk.

FA:  Sure they did and it was nice. We would run into somebody we knew and they’d say lets go get a cup of coffee. Of course we would go get our cup of coffee. This doesn’t happen today.

CW:  Then there was a drug store where they had sodas.

FA:  Oh yes, that was in there where Patterson’s are now or where they were. That was Red & Teds.

CW:  What did the Red & Ted stand for? Were they two men?

FA:  I think the one had red hair and the other one was Ted. I think that’s the way it was. That was a nice drug store. We used to go there a lot to get sodas.

CW:  And then there was another one on Washington Street, wasn’t there?

FA:  Well there was Mike and another one, what was his name? Was it Coscarelli?

CW:  I don’t know.

FA: It seems to me it was something like that.  Shaff had a place there too.

CW:  What? On Washington Street? Yes, I think there were two drug stores. One sold sodas and the other one didn’t.

FA:  Well the one across the street that was the Shaff’s.

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  They sold soft drinks and stuff. But these two ice cream places they were Mike and Vic Coscarelli.

CW:  Yes, I remember the name.

FA:  Well Vic had the other one. Those were both on Washington Street.

CW:  Not to change the subject, but tell me about your husband’s company, or was it your company.

FA:  It was my grandfather that started it. It was my grandfather and Dad’s factory and in later years turned over to my brother, sister and me.

CW:  How did he start that? What was it called?

FA:  It was called Plummer Spray. Now it is Plummer Spray Equipment Corp. We are not in a company, we are in a corporation. The way it was started is, he had a little paint shop there on Perry Street, and he painted cars. You know these things that you put stuff in them for flies.

CW: Oh you mean that pump thing.

FA:  That is what he was using to paint his car.

CW:  Oh for heavens sake. I suppose they didn’t have electricity at that time.

FA:   Well there was electricity but not enough. He got to thinking one day if he could paint a car with that pump why couldn’t he make a spray gun. So he made a spray gun.

CW:  He just invented it?

FA:  Yes, he invented it. He got a patent on it and everything. He invented the spray gun that we have.

CW:  Did he have a patent on it?

FA:  So that is how we got started.

CW:  He must have sold a lot of those because he had a company.

FA:  Yes we did sell an awful lot of those.

CW:  Now who would buy them? Were they individuals or companies?

FA:  Individuals would buy them.  Different outfits that did painting in volume. People who were painters would buy them. Like the rubber companies would buy them.

CW:  For their tires?

FA:  Yes, for their tires. Yes, they used them on their tires.  They used them on their tire machines. To me it looked just like a barrel. You would put it in your car.

CW:  They must compress that rubber or something. It was really as big as a barrel when it goes in.

FA:  It all depends on the size. Not all of them were that big. They were shaped like a barrel.

CW:  Yes some of them were smaller.

FA: Some of the tires were bigger than others. We make tire machines too.

CW:  It must have been an awful lot of work to get your product advertised.

FA:  We didn’t advertise so much, but we had salesmen out on the road. Of course they had to travel a lot. They would give out our name.

CW:  They would probably go to car repair places too wouldn’t they?

FA:  Yes they did.

CW:  Now these machines were they run by electricity?

FA:  In later years they were run by both.

CW:  The first one was like a hand pump.

FA:  And then Grampa made a spray gun that you held and it would run on electricity. It was later years that he made the tire machine. That is what he did.

CW:  He was smart to get a patent on it.

FA:  Oh yes.

CW:  Some people like Julie Heitman said her father or grandfather was very inventive and he invented a corn picker, I believe it was. It had something to do with corn. A shucker or something. He never got a patent and pretty soon somebody else was making it. That happens.

FA:  Yes it does.

CW:  It would take a lot of capital to get it started.

FA:  That I don’t know. But it would take a lot to get it going.

CW:  He may have sold some land in order to get a start up going.

FA:  I don’t know what he did. I don’t know how they did that.

CW:  That company must have moved because it was on Perry Street.

FA:  Yes, they moved from there up where Gray used to have his place. That used to be where we were.

CW:  That would be right next to the city building.

FA:  Yes, back in there. The lumber company was next door. That is where we were for years until it burned one night.

CW:  How did it happen to burn?

FA:  We don’t know, but it was 18 below zero that night.

CW:  How did you find out about it?

FA:  Well, somebody saw it and reported it.

CW:  Did they wake you up in the middle of the night?

FA:  Yes, and Dad went over there and it burned and after that we couldn’t go back in there with our machinery and stuff. So we moved down on Fillmore Street where we had more room. We have been down there ever since. I think I was a freshman in high school when it burned.

CW:  Is that right. That would have been in the 30s probably.

FA:  I do remember that and it was so awful cold that night. I think our winters used to be like that.

CW:  Maybe it was something they were heating in the building that caused that.

FA:  That is what they thought, but they weren’t sure. There was a grate that went right up to that building. There was like a register that went clear up to there.

CW:  You mean on the outside?

FA:  They just think somebody came along and lit up a cigarette. It seems like that was the area where it was burning more. I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

CW:  So you were living at home but across the street on the river side on West Maumee.

FA:  Yes

CW:  So you could see it?

FA:  Well, you know where my brother lives well the house right next to it is where I was raised.

CW:  Now on which side of it. Now he is in the gray stone house.

FA:  I was right next door.

CW:  Is it the east side of it?  Weren’t you scared?

FA:  Well, yes.

CW:  Did we have a fire department at that time?

FA:  Oh my, yes. They were there.

CW:  I would think that after the courthouse burned twice they would have a good fire department.

FA:  They got that out and we got things together and moved to Fillmore Street. We had lots more room and what have you.

CW:  Did your husband work for Plummer Spray then?

FA:  No, not at first, but years later he did. At first he went to patrol school. From the time he left high school he went out West and worked with the Forest Division. He was out there and worked all over the west. Then he came home. I think it was the year I was out of high school when he came home. Then he went to the State Patrol School. I know he graduated from there and was waiting to be called. Of course when he went to school we were married.

CW:  You mean you were married before he went to patrol school?

FA:  Yes.  Right then he didn’t have a job. But he had been working at Ford up in Detroit. That is a place many people go to work at when they are in State Patrol School. Of course my father said he would have to learn the business anyway so he might as well go down there and start in. He worked there all that time.

CW:  He had been going from one job to another so he would know all about business.

FA:  Right. So that is what he did.

CW:  Did he and your brother get along?

FA:  Yes they did. They got along.

CW:  Now how did you meet him?

FA:  How did I meet him? Well, he lived here in town. He was a cousin to one of the girls that I ran around with. He lived here and she lived there. Many a night when I would be down to Betty’s house and I would go home he would say you’re not going to cross that bridge alone.

CW:  So he would walk with you.

FA:  Yes he would walk right along with me. Then he went out West. Now this is crazy. He would always write to me and send me things from out West.

CW:  Now were you girlfriend and boyfriend by that time?

FA:  No! Just friends. He would write and tell me because I don’t get serious about anybody because he said I’ll be the one that is going to have you.

CW:  Is that right. Did he say that before he went out west?

FA:  No. He would call me and ask for a date. We were together from then on. That is what we did.

CW:  I bet that was pretty exciting for you when he came back from out west.

FA:  It was to think that we were together and got married. His cousin and I were really good friends. Well I got to thinking I wasn’t going to walk home alone in the dark across that bridge. He would walk with me and of course we’d be talking while we walked. So that was the way we did it.

CW:  You did a lot of talking while you were walking.

FA:  Right. Then talking about the firefighters. Do you remember when Wesche’s burned?

CW:  Wesche’s?

FA:  Yes, the Wesche Furniture Store.

CW:  Oh yes, the furniture store that was downtown. Where was it?

FA:  Right there on the corner of Perry and Clinton. Who is in there now? Is that where the Ace store is now.?

CW:  Yes.

FA:  It was in there.

CW:  Well then we had two furniture stores because there was one on Washington Street.

FA:  Yes, that was Hagan’s.

CW:  Do you remember when you first realized that was burning? You probably weren’t too aware of that one I suppose.

FA:  I don’t know much about that. That I don’t, but I do remember when it burned.

CW:  I remember when Spangler’s was on fire. That was shortly after my first husband died. So it must have been in 1973 or around there.

FA:  Can I get you another cup of coffee?

CW:  No thanks. I remember there was quite a bit of smoke and it looked like the whole thing was going to burn right down. It was right there in the center of town. But they got that fire out.

FA:  Yes, it was just like when that restaurant burned. What did they call it, The Tin Lizzie Restaurant. That burned down.

CW:  Yes that one really did burn to the ground.

FA:  There was an awful lot of damage there.

CW:  I wonder if somebody set that fire.

FA:  I don’t know.

CW:  It does seem strange.

FA:  That was a real good fire that got going.

CW:  Yes. Now the fire department is much better equipped than they used to be. I think they are better at dousing fires. You would almost think that it couldn’t burn to the ground.

FA:  That right. I think it depends a lot on what kind of a building it is. It was wood and that has something to do with the fire as to how it goes and how soon they can get it out.

CW:  Now when the hotel burned that was such a big old building.

FA:  It was terrible trying to do anything with that building. I wasn’t here when that burned. I was in Florida. I remember them telling about it. That was fifteen years ago.

CW:  Yes it has been a while.

FA:  Well it was because the other week we were in Hill’s Restaurant and Guy said it took out about fifteen apartments and he was out there talking and we got to talking about that fire he said it was fifteen years ago. When he come out there and talked it might have been the same date or something. Guy had the restaurant in there. I do remember a Thomas who was on the fire department and I can remember how the firemen set up in the old Charles Company building and had food for the firemen. They had different fire departments here helping put out the fire.

CW:  Was this when the hotel was burning?

FA:  Yes. They had food and coffee and hot stuff all the time in there for them. The women of the fire department kept the food going to the firemen.  I remember them telling about that, but I wasn’t here.

CW:  That would have been a dangerous job. The hotel was several stories tall.

FA:  It was a dangerous job.

CW:  How many stories was it?

FA:  There were three stories. I do know that Hill lived there. They had that restaurant downstairs. We used to go there every now and then. That much I remember.

CW:  Do you know of any other buildings in downtown that burned?

FA:  There were quite a few.

CW:  Those floors I suppose when they get old why they get pretty dry. Maybe they were oily.

FA:  Most of these places have all that oil on the floors.

CW:  Just like putting kindling on a fire. Did you belong to any clubs? Somebody told me this is a clubby town.

FA:  It is.

CW:  But I don’t think it is now.

FA:  Not as much as it was then. I used to belong to a couple of lodges. I did that.

CW:  What were they like?

FA:  I belonged to the Moose lodge. It was nice.

CW:  Did they have a meeting once a month?

FA:  They had meetings twice a month. They have a home in Florida. I don’t know if they have them other places or not. For the old people down in Florida they got a beautiful home down there.

CW:  Oh they do!

FA:  Then in Chicago they got this home that is an orphanage for people. Now I know some people that went up there and that is a gorgeous place. That is a very nice place. Some of these lodges work to make money. These homes are associated with the Moose Lodge.

CW:  Well, you pay your dues once a year.

FA:  Yes, that is right. I belonged to the Stars. That is the Eastern Star.

CW:  What is the name of the organization?

FA:  The Masons. There were the Masons too.

CW:  That is not associated with the Moose.

FA:  They are very different. Altogether different. They are a great organization.

CW:  Did they have parties?

FA:   The Moose does. Not the Eastern Stars. They weren’t allowed to have parties or things like that. Later on they would have a dinner where everybody would bring something in. Something like that. I don’t know what they are doing today. I still belong but I don’t go to the meetings. They weren’t allowed to have things like that.

CW:  Was that according to their lodge rules?

FA:  Every now and then they would have these big dinners and everybody would bring something in.

CW:  Did they have rites that you would have to memorize something?

FA:  The Masons did, but not the Eastern Star.

CW:  Wasn’t it considered a feather in your cap to be a member of the Eastern Star? That is the impression I got.

FA:   Both of those lodges were. They were both a very dignified group. They were very nice organizations. I remember I belonged to a sorority here in town.

CW:  Now which one was that.

FA:  I don’t even remember the name of it anymore.

CW:  There was the Browsers, but then there was another one before that.

FA:  It wasn’t Browsers. It was a sorority. You had to be asked to join it. You had to be asked.

CW:  That’s the way it is with most of these clubs.

FA:  You had to go through a ritual and memorize it.

CW:  So they would have a ceremony and you had to recite something.

FA:  You had to know the Greek alphabet and all that kind of stuff. I still can’t tell you the name of it. I don’t know if that sorority is still in existence or not. It was a very nice group. They would make money to do things for charity. If I can remember they made these Christmas trees out of tree limbs. They did all the decorating and gave the proceeds to the Filling Home. I can remember they donated an incubator for babies to the hospital. They did that. I can remember they donated winter coats for the school patrol.

CW:  Well that would have been a good project.

FA:  There were a lot of other things that we did that was really nice. We did a lot of things for the hospital. Those were the things we did with out projects when we made money.

CW:  You did a lot of community service.

FA:  That is what we used to do. That was a nice organization.

CW:  What did you do at your meetings then?

FA:  We would just have a meeting and discuss things. I remember we used to make things like Easter egg trees.

CW:  Do you mean like ornaments?

FA:  Yes. Do you remember we used to make those little things they would put on your tray on Sunday at the hospital?

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  We used to do that. We did a lot of stuff like that.

CW:  Our garden club is still making those once a year for the County Home.

FA:  I belonged to a garden club we had here in town but they don’t have that anymore. I belonged to that.

CW:  Now what were the garden clubs like years ago?

FA:  Well, I don’t know. We didn’t do much. They just called it a garden club. At least the one I belonged to. We would go out and see different things. We would go different places and just talk about Napoleon gardens and flowers. It was just called a garden club.

CW:  It was more of a social club is that right.

FA:  Yes, for me it was. I belonged to that. They don’t even have that anymore.

CW:  Did you live right here in this area when your children were little?

FA:  I have lived in this neighborhood all of my life.

CW:  What was it like when your children were little? Did you have to watch them so they wouldn’t get down to the river?

FA:  We lived there and the river was right across the street. You can teach them to stay away from the river and after they learned to swim we built a nice dock out in back. We would put a boat in down there and nearly lived in it. We brought in sand and we had a real nice place to swim down there. Dad made this in back of his house.

CW:  So you made sort of a reef.

FA:  Yes. We had a real nice area. Today you couldn’t get me into that river.  You just learn the danger of these things. You just learn the dangers of these things. Just like when you live along a street you teach your children not to go out in the street. That’s the way that was.

CW:  Did anybody ever jump off the bridge into the river?

FA:  I have heard of people doing it.

CW:  You mean you heard of the experience, but never really saw anybody do it.

FA:  Yes, I know there has been.

CW:  But the river isn’t very deep.

FA:  Well, there are places where it is deeper than here in town. That’s the way that goes.
I do know that there have been people that did jump off the bridge.

CW:  I know one time when Judy and I were walking when we heard this woman yelling help and she was out in the middle of the river. We were worried and when we got back we called the police and they said, “Oh, that is so and so. She is always jumping off.”

FA:  Yes you can go up here by Yarnell’s where there is another swimming hole. It’s down there by Yarnell’s. You would go out so far and there were some islands you could stand on that one island. You could actually stand on it.

CW:  Is that right!

FA:  We had a lot of fun.

CW:  What else do you have?

FA:  I still remember I guess I told you about that when we were out to eat. Remember the lion that was in the barn down here.

CW:  Oh tell me about that.

FA:  I can remember that. There was a circus that was here in town. They were going to be down on the east end of town. I don’t remember exactly where. They went under the viaduct down there, and the cage where they had the lion in they hit a bump and it opened up the lion cage.

CW:  Where was this viaduct at?

FA:  It was down on the east end. I don’t get the connection anymore. Anyway they went under the viaduct down there and the cage where they had the lion in took a hit and it took the top right off of the cage.

CW:  Now where was this viaduct at maybe down by Campbell’s Soup?

FA:  No, it was on the other side of the river. It was down there close to where the junk yard used to be.

CW:  Oh yes, where the railroad track is.

FA:  Yes, I forgot about the railroad track being there. It ran and ended up in Fred Walters barn. And that is where he stayed. Of course everybody all over town all stayed in their house.

CW:  What did they do announce it on the radio?

FA:  I don’t know how they did it anymore. Anyway the lion was nearly tame. He wouldn’t do any harm there in the barn. He just went in there to hide I guess. He was very nice. They just went in there, collared him took him out.

CW:  They just took him out like a dog.

FA:  Yes they did. I do remember that.

CW:  Did they use to have a circus in town?

GA   Oh yes, it was on the east end of town. It was down in there around the Products. They would have tent shows. They used to have circuses out at the fairgrounds too.

CW:  What was a tent show and what was that like?

FA:  Why they would have plays.

CW:  They would bring in actors? Would they put up chairs?

FA:  They would come in as a company. They would have their own tent and their own players. I remember going to them too. We had circuses.

CW:  That would be exciting too.

FA:  They were things that you don’t see today. You don’t see any of that stuff today.

CW:  Would these circuses have merry go rounds and things like that?

FA:  No, they would usually just have the big tent. They put the people inside.

CW:  Were there other attractions like the maybe a fat lady or something like that.

FA:  Yes, there were a lot of circuses that had things like that. Yes, they would have side shows with strange things. It was what you would call the side show.

CW:  Could you hear the barker from your house make announcements when he would try to get people to come in and see the shows?

FA:  I don’t know but when they would have the fairs out here you could. A few years ago it was like it was right in my back yard. You could hear the loud music and you could hear the announcements. You could hear that and like I said it sounded like it was in my back yard.

CW:  That would have been pretty exciting for a young kid.

FA:  But now you don’t hear anything from the fairgrounds.

CW:  Well you probably do when they have the tractor pulls.

FA:  Yes, those people go crazy. You can hear it clear over to her house. I bet you can hear them too.

CW:   Yes I can.  I have another question for you. Have you ever heard that they had religious services here on the south side.

FA:  Oh that was right down here at the corner where the apartments are. They used to have a building down there. We used to call them the holey rollers.

CW:  Were they really holey rollers?

FA:  Oh my, you could hear them clear up here. Oh my they would get to shouting and cry and, oh my, it was something to see. Sometimes we would go down and just listen to them. It was really something. It was right over there where the apartment is.

CW:  Do you mean right next to the apartment?

FA:  It was on the land where the apartment is. I can remember how they used to carry on way late.

CW:  Now did very many people go to those?

FA:  Why it was way packed. It was always full. I don’t know if it was some kind of religion or where all these people came from. They were so faithful.

CW:  Where did they get the name holey rollers?

FA:  I have no idea.

CW:  I am wondering if it was from rolling around on the ground.

FA:  I think a lot of it was on the ground. It was almost like a circus to go down there and see some of those people. They would get so carried away. It was something to see. I do remember that.

CW:  Would they just have them walk through.

FA:  There would be a whole herd of them. There would be somebody on each side and maybe somebody in the back and they would have somebody up to the front and tell them where to go. They would start down. They would tell us to get the kids in because the cows were coming. Of course we would be outside in the yard playing.

CW:  Would the cows walk through the yards too?

FA:  I remember one time they did come up through the yard. They would try to keep the cows in the street. They told us to keep the kids inside. I can remember many and many a night when we stood out on the porch and we would watch the cows go by. They would take them across the bridge up through town and I suppose they went out to Bauman’s. I can remember them doing that.

CW:  I think they took them up there and put them on railway cars.

FA:  I don’t know where they took them. I remember they would go through town and passed by here. I can remember one time my aunt and sister that lived out here just right outside of town. It was where they used to sell strawberries and stuff. They used to live out there. They would put on their own parade. Of course we always wanted to go on a picnic. We wanted to go out there and go in the woods. They took us to a parade. That is what we used to do. My aunt would always say to come on out and you can go to the woods. She was quite tickled for us to come. The rest of us would take our things along to eat. The rest of us would go out in the woods. We would have a barrel of fun out there.

CW:  I bet you did.

FA:  I can remember that one day I know they had seen some pigs loose out there in the woods.  We would eat and always put stuff back in our baskets. Anyway that day we ate and put stuff back in our basket and we walked through the woods here and there and then we went back to get our food. Here the pigs got into our food and ate it. I remember that.

CW:  Were you afraid?

FA:  No, just mad at them. We chased them away. We had already eaten. Do you remember the Boyers that had the funeral home?

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  They used to live down here. Right there by the bank. Of course me and my sister were good friends and we were always together. She was at our house and we would go down there. Well, she was with us that day. We decided we were too dirty to walk home. We were tired and we didn’t want to walk home. So she said I’ll call my dad and he can come and get us. First thing we knew we heard the sirens going. He was always pulling tricks on us. He would always be pulling tricks on us and he turned the sirens on. We went all the way into town with those sirens on. That was down there where the bank is by the grocery store. He stopped here down by the bank because there were six of us that lived down this way. He stopped there down on the corner and we decided we could walk home. That was our ambulance ride. A lot of people just stared. It was about the first time they ever brought girls out.

CW:  That was back in the days when the funeral parlors owned their own ambulance. That service was free as I understand it. Now it costs a lot to use it.

FA:  He was just always pulling tricks on us. Just like they used to have the funeral homes uptown. At least that was where they fixed the body. You didn’t have the funeral home. They would have the viewing either at the church or at your home.

CW:  They didn’t have funerals in the funeral home.

FA:  Not at that time. A lot of these places did it that way when I was a kid. He had a lot of ribbons around the funeral home and he told us we could go down there and play and use some of the ribbons for our dolls. This one day he let us down there to play.

CW:  He had a daughter your age too.

FA:  Yes he did and we were down there playing. We knew he was upstairs and when it was time for us to leave. We had to go through this area where they embalmed the bodies. He always told us if there was a body in there he would tell us. He put a body in there and we were petrified. Those were the things he did to us. Just like one time we could go up there to that one little place and watch them practice football.

CW:  You could very easily because it was above Loose Field.

FA:  That is where he kept all those caskets and we had to go through there. One day he said it was time for him to clean the casket room.

CW: He what?

FA:  He said I’ll have to clean those caskets before they start goaning.

CW:  That would scare a bunch of young girls.

FA:  Oh he was always doing something like that with us kids. We used to get a big kick out of that.

CW:  He probably had all the girls squeeling. Do you remember anything about the depression?

FA:   Oh, I sure do. Oh my yes.

CW:  What do you remember?

FA:  I remember it was very hard. I can remember there were many and many a suicides.

CW:  There were?

FA:  Oh my yes. People just could not take it.

CW:  How did they live through it then?

FA:  Some of them used gas. There were different ways that they would do it. There was an awful lot of that.

CW:  Some of them had gas ovens on their stoves.

FA:  Oh yes, they would stick their head in there. They were so used to having things and they just could not take it. I think it would be worse now if we were to have a depression because all of these kids have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth. We never wanted for anything. They will not be able to take it.

CW:  That could very well be.

FA:  There is so many of us that spend their payceck. They don’t save. Maybe the people can’t. They just use paper to get the things that they want. Oh I remember that. I sure do.

CW:  With your grandfather having that factory I bet you didn’t have any trouble.

FA:  It was tight. We had to cut too. I think everybody did. People were not buying or anything. It was at a stand still.

CW:  I remember this one woman telling about how she and her sister would have to take turns getting new shoes. One would get them one year and the other one would get a pair the next year. They would look forward to getting new shoes.

FA: Oh yes. If you would get something new you would be in seventh heaven. The clothing for the child was most important. My mother made a lot of our clothes.

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  You sewed a lot of the clothes you wore. You only bought a dress when it was something special. Outside of that your mother sewed.

CW:  I like to sew too, but I never really learned. After my daughter was older. I had some sewing lessons and I made this outfit with pink flowered dress and a pink coat lined from the same material as the dress. So I got a pink hat. We always had to have a hat at Easter time.

FA:  Oh my yes.

CW:  My youngest was just a little farmer. We went into church and as I pulled him up on my lap he said, “Mama you look like a cow.” That took the wind out of my sails. He probably meant it as a compliment.

FA:  Just like us when our daughter was 2 1/2 years old and we went to Florida.  We went around to different places and this one place we stopped, why it was a big plantation. They had people there to show you around this big plantation. We wanted to go so bad. There was another couple there that didn’t want to go because she thought she would be disturbing things. So we decided we would go. They had a flat bed wagon and this black lady came and said put your feet here. Then they had a black mammy with her mule taking us through. He had a hat on picking up a flower. Do you remember these old capes. She had one of those on. She had on what we used to call clod hoppers. He wanted to know if she could sit on his lap.  She was tickled to death to sit on her lap. She had a little black doll.

CW:  Did she have this doll with her?

FA:  No, but she thought an awful lot of it. Finally she let out, “Mommy Mommy! This is like Samanth’s mother.” I could have died, but she just laughed.

CW:  We used to have these dolls that had big skirts. You would put the skirt one way and you would have a white momma, and you would put the skirt the other way you would have a black momma. I guess they probably don’t even make them now. It might hurt somebody’s feelings!

FA:  You have to be so careful nowadays. So careful. Just like when I was in rehab with a broken hip down in Florida I told this one young lady I didn’t like what she was doing. She was a nice looking girl. One day I said to her that “you people I appreciate the way you come in, it’s wonderful the way you do these things.” “Now, just a minute,” she said. “I don’t like this idea of calling us ‘you people’.” I told her, “Now just a minute. You have got me all wrong. I said you people coming in here all of you are so nice. I didn’t refer you any other way.” That’s not right. Right away she took it wrong. We have always had a lot of help. Like I said this fellow was so nice. I talked to him one night and he said I would just have to get after them more.

CW:  High School kids are like that now. They want a job and they want the money but they go to work when they feel like it.

FA:  Some of them are like that. So they have troubles just like we do.

CW:  We tell the high school kids and they don’t seem to resent it as far as I know.

FA: But you have to be real careful with these college kids.

CW:  I think there is too much drugs and alcohol.

FA:  I think so too.

End of tape.

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Elery, Ohio

(This picture was taken in the early 1900’s of West Main Street, Elery, Ohio. Elery was actu­ally bigger then than it is now.)

Herrtown or Elery as it is usually called now, had more business places years ago.

There were 2 grocery stores, one near the Monroe Twp. House, operated once by a man named Vogel. It closed years ago — 60 yrs.? Probably more. The other one just east of the R.R. track closed seven yrs. ago. A Flea Mar­ket occupies the building now. This store was owned by quite a few different people through the years. Some were, Mr. Long, Rollo Foor, Clinton Rettig, Will Hoff, Harvey Hoffman, Walter Franz, Leonard Dachenhaus and Larry Myles, Herbert Meyers — owns the building now.

Elery had a post office years ago in part of this store building Henry Dett­mer was post master once. It was closed when rural routes started.

The saloon was owned by differ­ent people, some were Pete Sonni­chsen, Ferd Dettmer, Geo Bortz, Harold Blue, Paul Fletcher and now Leonard Sizemore. It carries some groceries these last years.

The tile mill was started by August Honeck I, and is still in the Honeck family, now making plastic tile instead of clay tile and known as the Advanced Drainage of Ohio, Inc. James Honeck has an interest.

The grain elevator was owned first by farmers; then it was sold to Okolona Grain Co. around 1940. A fire damaged it some and destroyed or spoiled 9,000 bu. grain year — 1969. Forrest Clady purchased it then 1969. It’s now known as Clady’s Trucking and Elevator.

Barber Shop. I understand this was located in the house east of the saloon; the barber was Geo. Behrman? It was discontinued many years ago.

The church was not used for sixty years or more; it was converted to other use and made into a garage by owner.

School — I heard that high school was once held in the twp. house building

Milliner shop — One, started by Rose Moerder in the east end of town only lasted a few months (70 yrs. ago?).

The Dance hall (we don’t know when it was built) closed 35 years ago and was torn down. It was directly behind the saloon.

Schutzenfest was held there every year for many years; people came from near and far. I think there were more businesses. A man in Elery called Miller used to make wooden shoes. (E. B. E.)

About 1910 William Gerken, Harold Gerken’s grandfather, had a tavern and grocery in Elery about the location where the Township House is (1974). (H. W. G.)

Herman Behrman ran the tavern. Ferd Dettmer ran the tavern about 1925 to the 30’s. (E. E. B. H.)

Stave Mill: The stave mill was probably the very first thing at Elery. (Was it called Herrtown then?) In fact the stave mill must have been the start of the town. (I. D.)

The above article is from Henry County, Ohio, Volume Two, A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society. Dallas, TX, Taylor Publishing Co., pp. 232-233.