Mengerink, Gertrude M.

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, April 7, 2006

CW. Would you like to tell us something about your life?

GM. This particular location where I am now living, my grandfather and grandmother who came from Germany in 1872 located on this spot in 1874.

CW   Where you are right now?

GM   Right.   My Dad was born here on this spot and lived his entire life here except for a period of one or two years when he was married for the first time.   His wife died in childbirth and he came back to live here with his son and lived here with his mother.   Then he remarried my mother who was his second wife and he lived here until he died in 1959.   My mother continued to live here until she had to go to a nursing home.   She lived to be 101.

CW   Is that right!

GM   My husband Cecil and I bought the house from my mother.   This was the house I was born in and lived in until I went away to college.   Cecil and I decided to move back here from Bellefontaine, Ohio when he retired.    We didn’t want to remodel the old house so we decided to build a new house on this location.   And so I am really back to my roots (laugh) because nobody has lived on this spot since 1874 except a Muntz or one related to a Muntz.   We decided to move the old house.

CW.   Oh you did?

GM.   We moved the house across the creek on a lot on Jay Street.   Some people bought the house and remodeled it.   You had asked me before about the subdivision that is named the same as my maiden name.   It is just south of our house and is the Muntz subdivision named after my dad, W.F. Muntz and his brother J. W. Muntz.   My father and his brother owned the farm adjacent to the house here and in 1957 they decided to make the Muntz subdivision.   Cecil, my husband, was a professional engineer and surveyor and he laid out the subdivision.

CW   Do they have Centennial Farms in towns?

GM   I never have heard of them   but it’s kind of unusual that for almost 132 years someone from the same family has lived here in the same spot.

CW   Yes, I think so too.

GM   Also our yard to the north at one time was covered by a large chicken hatchery.   It probably was about 120 ‘ long and it was wide enough to have four incubators the full length, with three tiers.   This was unusual because this was probably started about 1920.   This was one of the first hatcheries built in this area.

CW   Were you a child then?

GM   I was a child.   They shipped chickens all over the world.   They even sent some to Europe.

CW   Do you remember going over there?   Were you allowed to?

GM   Oh   yes,    in fact we used to help, what we’d call put the eggs on trays.   The farmers would come in on Saturday night and bring 30 or 40 dozen of eggs from special flocks that were for the hatcheries   They brought the eggs in and then we put on certain trays that rods in   them that rolled so that the eggs could be turned.   These trays started on the top tier of the incubators and then stayed there for a week, and then the trays were moved down to the next tier the second week and then to the third, the third week.   There the eggs hatched..   And my brothers especially would help take off the chickens,—what we called ‘take off’ the chickens and put them in the boxes and sell them to people.    I never did help take off the chickens but we did have to go over and take the eggs from the farmers’ cartons and put them on the trays, and I helped do that.

CW   Were you afraid you’d drop one and break it?

GM   Well we dropped lots of eggs and if they were cracked you had to put them aside but that was quite a deal.   My father liked to candle the eggs so we could tell if they were fertile and had little chicks started in them.

CW   Would you explain what ‘candling’ is.

GM   ‘Candling’ is that they take an egg and hold it up to a light and look into it to see whether a chick is inside because every flock had to have a certain number of roosters with the hens so there would be a certain number of fertilized eggs so they would make chicks.

CW   Where did all the chickens live then?

GM   They were out on the farms.

CW   Oh, I see, and then the farmers brought them   in.

GM   Although my Dad did have a big chicken coop where there were a lot housed.   Sometimes they would have a thousand chickens in them.   This hatchery burned in 1931.   At that time I was—I think I was in the 8 th grade.   It burned in February.   We didn’t realize it was burning until it was already up in flames and our house sat quite close to there.   When I woke up and looked out the window and the hatchery was on fire it was blazing so high and they had fire departments from Napoleon, Defiance and all over.   They said they were so high you could see the flames from Napoleon and Defiance.

CW   Is that the same fire that took part of the Holgate business area?

GM   No.   That was a different one.   .

CW   Were you afraid?

GM   Yes, very much afraid.   The fire was discovered by my brother.   We all slept upstairs.   He

woke by hearing the cracking of the windows in his room.   He jumped over my other brother who was sleeping with him, forgot to wake him and he ran downstairs to tell my Dad, and my Dad had to call Karl and wake him.   And when I woke up my whole window was facing the hatchery and it was just one solid red mass–the house didn’t burn completely but a corner of it did.

CW   You had to run out the front of the house, I suppose.

GM   Yes, we had to go down the stairs and out the front.   But the neighbors and whoever was there, they emptied the house while they were fighting the fire at the hatchery and put all our furniture up and down the street.   (laughs)

CW   Everyone knew what you had in the house!   (laughs)

GM   It was quite interesting, and one of the most interesting things was that we had an upright piano that was very—really heavy—and three men carried it out.   Later when they went to move it it took eight men to move it.   The adrenalin really was pumping!   Oh yeah, everybody was so excited.   In the process—of course back in those days you weren’t blessed with many shoes, but I lost all my shoes.   (laughs)

CW   Well that would be precious, I’ll bet.

GM  Oh yes, yes!   It was ’31, see, so that was during the Depression.   It was difficult.

CW   I remember someone saying that during the Depression there were 2 or 3 girls in the family but only one of them could have new shoes each year and so to get those shoes, that was really important.

GM   Yes, shoes were very important in those days.   One interesting thing that happened was that I had little high-topped shoes when I was in the 3 rd or 4 th grade and we used to play in the creek which starts behind the house here.   In the wintertime we’d skate on it and so forth.   Of course I don’t remember having boots on the shoes.   Well I broke through the ice;   the shoes got wet and I didn’t want my mother to know that so I came home and put them in the cook-stove oven.   My mother didn’t know they were there and she fired up the stove.   Those shoes just CURLED right up!   Fortunately I didn’t get spanked but it’s a wonder I didn’t!   (laughs)

CW   So you couldn’t wear them after that.

GM   No, oh no.   Of course, like you say, that was kind of a hardship because you didn’t get that many shoes.

CW   I had the most interesting   interview with a neighbor of yours, Lavin Grau.   He used to be a blacksmith;   it exploded one time and took off one of his legs.   He and his wife were very close.   They told about when they were first married during the Depression, how they had to carry water, carry laundry.   It was really hard.

GM   You said something about carrying water and so forth, we were fortunate.   Because of the chicken hatchery my father had to bring a water line to the chickens so we also had water in the house, one faucet.   We also had electric lights, which was kind of unusual in those days.

CW   They needed that too, I suppose.

GM   Oh yeah, so we had a lot that our neighbors didn’t have.   We had lights and the water while they had pumps and kerosene lamps and gas lights..   My mother told me that when we first got electricity in the house she could only use the electricity from eight o’clock at night till eight o’clock in the morning.

CW   Why?

GM   Because the commercial people used it during the day and we couldn’t use electricity.   She had a washing machine but she could only use it at night, which I thought was kind of interesting.

CW   Well, did you get sulfur water here?

GM   No.   Our water—well we’ve always had city water, and they must have treated it because it wasn’t strong–though there was some sulphur—you can still taste a bit—but they treated it because it wasn’t strong   as in some places.   Holgate has city water but out in the country there are a lot of places that have very strong sulfur water.   They can’t hardly use it.

CW   It smells up the whole house.

GM   Smells up the whole house and turns everything black.   I think that’s the reason we have so many ponds.   They can use the pond water, purify it and use in the house.   But we never had any trouble with the sulphur.   An interesting thing about the water in Holgate is that there’s been a lot of fluoride in it and so Dr. Cooper used to say that the people in Holgate had the best teeth around because they were getting fluoride long before people thought that it was important.   You could usually tell:   Holgate people usually had wonderful teeth.

CW   Didn’t he and Donnie live in that house next door?

GM   No, two doors.   He lived in the log cabin house and then next to him is the Barney            Rettig house.   Doc was on the corner.


CW   How old did you say you are, Gertrude?

GM   I was born in 1917 during World War   and I now am 88 and will be 89 in July.

CW   You don’t look like an 88-year-old.

GM   Well thank you.

CW   And your mind is unusually sharp, I think.

GM   Well I’m glad that it is.   I think that I’m doing O.K.   I forget a lot of things but . . .

CW   Don’t we all!   Well, how did you play when you were a girl?

GM   Well that’s kind of an interesting thing, how we played. because I was asked by the school one time to talk to some of   the children and tell them what it was like to live then.   They said, “How did you play?”   and I said, “Well, actually when I was small my mother used to let us out in the yard and say, “Play.”   We didn’t have toys so to speak.   We had, maybe a wagon and a few toys but we made do with what we had.   We made hollyhock dolls.

CW   Made out of the hollyhocks.

GM   Yes, the buds were the heads and petals were skirts—they were little dancing girls.   We probably had a sandbox.   I don’t even know if it was in a tire because tires were sort of precious in those days.    In fact when the cars were very very new, I like to tell my grandchildren that we did have a telephone but it was on the wall.   You had about six people on the line with you .   It rang—so many rings was your ring.   And you could also listen in on somebody else’s conversation.   (laughs)   I also told them that airplanes were SO SO NEW.   We used to run out and look in the sky and yell, “Airplane, airplane!”   and it would be just a little plane.   Think of how far it’s come.   Probably I was about a teenager before we ever got a radio.   I remember the original radios when the neighbors would all get together and listen to this radio.   It had a big speaker so everybody could hear it.   So that was new and as I said, I think of how far we’ve come!

CW   You know my mother was a school teacher and she remembers when a car was going past on the road the children didn’t pay any attention to what she said, they just jumped up and ran to the window to watch that car go by.

GM   Well in fact my father was a rural mail carrier along with the hatchery and when I was very young he carried mail with horse and buggy.

CW   Is that right.

GM   Let’s see, he was 48 years a rural mail carrier and he went from a horse and buggy to a car .

CW   That would be hard to be in a horse and buggy in the winter months!

GM   Well, I have pictures of him and it was like a little enclosed buggy,   it had a little stove inside, and it had a sliding window so he could put the mail outside.

CW   It must have had a chimney?

GM   And it had a chimney on top, but I have a real good picture of him in that.

CW   We’d like to have a copy of it if possible.

GM   Oh yeah, I’ll have to find it if I have it.   My nephew had it blown up and put in his office.   Dad used to carry his lunch because it was a big deal to go and take all this mail out into the country, and sometimes he’d make a mile around:   a mile over, a mile across and a mile back.   In the intervening road they’d have to walk it because it wasn’t cleared.

CW   My, that would be hard work.

GM   Yes, it was interesting.   (pause)

CW   So what was your favorite toy as a child?

GM   I didn’t have too many so . . . when I was small I guess maybe a doll.   I do remember my mother had given me her doll which was one of those with a porcelain head, which had a bisque body.   I remember I used to play house on the dining-room table and I must have laid the doll down somewhere and somehow it fell off and broke.   I always felt so bad because it was something that could have been passed along, you know.

CW   I remember I had one of those dolls with a china head.   I just loved that doll.   My mother and Dad said, “You can’t take it to bed.   It’ll fall out and break. Oh I will never let it fall out of bed!   I’ll be ever so careful.”   I woke up in the morning and there it was on the floor broken.

GM   Yep.   That’s what happens, and you feel so badly.

CW   Oh I felt terrible!   (pause)   I remember when my sister and I would get to fighting and my mother would say, “Oh for Heaven’s sake, go outside and play!”   So we’d go outside and didn’t know what to do.   Pretty soon we’d be knocking on a friend’s door, “Can she come out to play?”

GM   Yes, I played a lot with   the   Meyers family who lived next door.   They had a daughter who was the same age I was, and they had another daughter who was two or three years younger.   The Three of us were together a lot.   In fact, the one that was my age, we were so close that when we started school—in fact we started school together and went all the way through school together—and Mr. Brandon, who was the Superintendent of the School at that time.   I don’t know why,   he called us The Bobbsey Twins ‘cause he never saw one without the other.   (laughs)

CW   I remember those books, The Bobbsey Twins.

GM   Well usually they were a boy and a girl, but I think it was just because we were so together.   Another interesting thing is that the school ‘s being torn down here and they moved to a new location, but I went to school in the building that was part of this school until I graduated.

CW   It was a small building then?

GM   No, it was the same as it is on the front, the very northern end, that was the original.   It was built back about 1926 I think, or before that, 1919 I guess.   My mother graduated from that school in 1908 so it’s old.   The school is interesting to me because at that time the girls played basketball but we had no gym, so we played in the city hall whichwas at that time and still is the one behind the cannon, in the triangle.   You can see it as you come into town.   We played upstairs there.   It was interesting.   The boys had a team and the girls had a team.    I think it was four or five years after I graduated that they forbid girls to play basketball at all.

CW   Why?

GM   I guess they thought it was too hard on them.   But then they resumed it again after—I don’t know how long but it must have been at least 4 or 5 years that they couldn’t play.   And now it’s   really going great, you know, but at that time they thought it was too strenuous for the girls (laughs).   It was interesting.   (pause)

CW   What was Holgate like, then when you were a little girl?

GM   Holgate was really kind of thriving –oh, we had probably three grocery stores and a couple butchers shops where they sold mostly meat, and we had a nice hotel.   When I was growing up they had what they called the Pet Milk Condensery.   That was where they canned Pet milk—that was where the farmers would bring in their milk, and it was situated where the city building is now.   It employed quite a few people.

CW   What did they do—boil the milk down?

GM   Well they pasteurized it and, well I guess they still have it.   But I remember one thing that was kind of interesting .   In those days the sewers of Holgate were not bad.   I don’t even know if they had sewers as such.   The Condensory emptied their whatever—remains of the milk and stuff—into the creek and the north side of town, in the summertime the milk would be curdled and sour.   The odor there was so bad they finally had to stop them from doing that because it really was bad.

CW   You didn’t have any tornadoes in this area, did you?

GM   Not that I can remember.   Let me think if we had any train wrecks.   . . . I do believe that the   train track that goes through Holgate is the B & O that runs through Ohio.   When I was younger it was the main line from Chicago to Washington and New York.   I don’t remember exactly how old I was but I do remember when   President Wilson died they brought his body and they stopped the train so people could go and look at the train so we all went down and looked at the train as it went through.   And we used to have a train station here.

CW   Oh you did!   Where was that?

GM   That was down there where Stobers have their implement shop where you turn on Rte. 108.   I don’t know if that building’s still there or not but there used to be . . . . well see, the B & O and what we called the cloverleaf intersected.   The north/south line and the east /west line   intersected right where the train station was.

CW   Where is the cloverleaf?

GM   The cloverleaf—we don’t have it now anymore.   They’ve taken up the tracks.

CW   The tracks were in a figure 8 or something?

GM   No.   The tracks came from the south and went from Holgate to McClure and on north.   You could get on at Holgate and go to Toledo, north and south.   But they abandoned that track after a while.   I suppose maybe that was 20 or 30 years ago.

CW   Why did they call it a cloverleaf if it was straight?

GM   I don’t know why they did that.   I really don’t think that’s the correct name.   It’s what we called it.

CW   I was talking with Mrs. Petersen in Deshler and she remembered riding on the streetcar.

GM   Oh yes.

CW   Do you remember riding on the streetcars or the trains?

GM.   I remember the trains.   According to its history   Holgate was laid out according to the train tracks.   The east side of Holgate was platted by Mr. Holgate–I’m getting ahead of my story here.   The west side of Holgate was platted according to the township line, which was 18, so it was parallel to that and then Mr. Holgate bought the east part of Holgate and the railroad was just coming through and they platted his side of Holgate according to the railroad.   And so hence we have this triangle down where the cannon is, ‘cause from there east it’s platted according to the railroad and from there west it is platted according to the township line.

CW   Isn’t that interesting.

GM   It is.   But I remember them talking about the B&O and whatever name the other was, that there was a difference in the gauge of the tracks and therefore the tracks, they couldn’t turn on each other.   The east and west had to go one way and north and south the others because of the gauge, I think they call it, so one train couldn’t go on the other’s track.

Oh, I know, we had a big fire too at the elevator company.    I was older then.   They used to use the elevator to load all the grain.   I guess they still do.   But they’ve   built the elevator and I guess it’s still being used.   Now it’s sort of a storage area till they get enough wheat, oats or grain of some sort and then they ship it on to Chicago.   That line is still there.

CW Hmm. They still do.    So Holgate is changed and yet it hasn’t changed.   I remember they have a—I remember reading that they have a Joe E. Brown Street here.

GM   Yes, it’s Joe E Brown St.   It is Route 18.

CW   Did he used to live on that street?

GM   No, he used to live on what we now call Randolph St.   They dedicated it to Joe E Brown because he claimed he was born in Holgate although Toledo always contested that.   It was Toledo, not Holgate, and he actually was born in Holgate.   And then they honored him with that name and they also honored him with the school stadium.   The football stadium was Joe E Brown Stadium and when that was dedicated Joe E. Brown came to town for a Joe E. Brown Day.   I was older then and I remember that very well because we had a big crowd then, like a fair here, and these big jets came over the top of us and swooped down.

CW   Now, for the benefit of future generations would you state what Joe E. Brown did.

GM   Actually, the only thing that I remember was that he was a great comedian.

CW   In the movies?

GM   No, he was—yes, he was in the movies but I think he probably started out in stage shows—

CW   Vaudeville?

GM   Vaudeville.   And then he went into this—yes, he did a lot of movies.   He was noted for—oh—I called it clean type of comedy.   One of his stories was—he used to tell about the mouse.   I remember that.   That was such a funny thing .   He was noted for having such a big mouth.   He would open his mouth real wide.   And while I was in high school he came back to Holgate and presented the program for us;   he really claimed Holgate for his, and his mother actually lived here.   She was still alive.   She lived on Randolph St. and he would come to see her, so yeah. He was from Holgate.

CW   Did he really have a big mouth?

GM   Yes he did.   He opened his mouth and sort of yelled.   It really was about like a cavern!   (laughs)   (pause)

CW   Did your husband have to go in World War II?

GM   Yes.   We were married for about a year and a half and then he was called to service a year before the War started.   He was an officer in the ROTC out of Purdue, and they called him to the engineering department before the war started and he served in the Engineer Corps for the next five years.

CW   Right through the war, then.

GM   Right through the war.   He was area engineer.   He worked on a number of places. but he was working on the Alcan Highway.

CW   Was he in Alaska or Canada?

GM   Canada.   He saw the construction of Dawson Creek through Alaska Road.   And then the last two years he was on the Manhattan Project.   He was stationed in Los Angeles and New York.   He would go back and forth between the two.   He was expediting the material for the atom bomb.

CW   Wow!

GM   So he was in that.   He had to see that they got the material for that.

CW   But he didn’t dare say a word about that, I’ll bet.

GM   No, nothing was said about that.   Not until about just a few years ago.   It was very very secretive.   In fact when he first went into that the FBI came out and checked me out.   (laughs)   They really did.   Yes he was in that.   Oh, he also was on—White Sulfur Springs, a watering place for Presidents.   He changed that hotel into an Army hospital.   Then after the war the one who owned it before came back and made it into a hotel again, and I guess it’s really a place now.   But we lived in White Sulfur Springs.   I used to go with him up until he went to work on the Alcan Highway and I stayed in White Sulfur Springs.

CW   You were pretty lucky that he didn’t have to go to Europe or the Pacific.

GM   No, he just stayed in the Engineering Dept.

CW   Probably he was too valuable to be put in danger.

GM   So he was there for five years.

CW   When my husband and I went to Alaska years ago they said that Alcan highway had to be gravel because the permafrost would raise and lower the asphalt too much, so they had to have gravel.   When people would drive it they would have to have an extra windshield with them.   You were telling what else it might do?

GM   I think Rus Rauschs went up there and they said it broke the undercarriage of the car because of ruts.   The gravel would sink and   of course it would be so rough that it would ruin the under part of their car.

CW   Now how did your husband get to work when he was working on that Alcan Highway?

GM   Oh he flew.   No, he went on the railroad.   It took him about three days on this little wobbly . . . and I remember him talking about standing on the back of the railroad car swinging back and forth on this one little rail that went up there.   But he did fly home one time but they didn’t have many military airplanes.   The only kind they had was   planes that transported troops, so he said he had to sit like in a bucket where the parachute was because they didn’t have any seats.   You had to sit on your parachute lined up on each side.   It was just some of the original planes and when you got into a storm you could see the winds.   He didn’t like airplane travel too well.

CW   They could see the wings flop back and forth.

GM  The whole plane would tip.   You could see it.   Then of course much of the time he just stayed there.

CW   Was it cold?

GM   Yes, very cold.   They would bundle up in furs and stuff like in the cold cold Alaska.   But they lived in barracks.   You see there was quite a contingent of them up there, people who flew in, and of course people who construct highways had their sites up there too.   I believe this was constructed by private individuals.

CW   Oh it was?   Then how did your husband do

GM   Oh yes.   He was overseeing it.

CW   Where did he go to school?

GM   Purdue.

CW   That’s where my grandson is.

GM   Oh is it.

CW   He’s studying soil.   (laughs) I don’t know what he’ll do with it though.

GM   Well that   studying soil is pretty important right now.

CW   So did your brothers play any pranks on you?

GM   Oh, all the time.   I had a half-brother.   My other brother was Karl who was two years older than I am and my half-brother is six years older than I am.   Karl was the most mischievous kid you’ve ever seen.   I guess you’d say he was just plain ornery.   Good ornery though.    Nothing nasty but . . .

CW   What did they do?

GM   You mean later or what?

CW   No, when you were children.

GM   I can remember one incident.   My brother was two years older than I and we were in high school.   You know how you’re always looking at the boys, well my brother warned all the boys that they shouldn’t pay any attention to me ‘cause I was his sister.   So for the first two years in high school (laughs)   “You don’t wanta go with my sister!”   I don’t know if it’s still like that but the girls always looked at the older boys.   So he was hampering me for two years when I was in high school.   (laughter)   I was glad to see him graduate.

CW   Then he graduated and got out of the way.   (laughs)

GM   Actually he went on to become a veterinary.

CW   Oh he did.   He didn’t practice here though.

GM   No, he worked for the government.   He was a meat inspector, and he was in World War II too.   He went to Australia and New Guinea and he was gone for five years.

CW   I guess they all had to go.   There were very few left here.

GM   My husband Cecil and my brother were older and married but they had to go because they were commissioned officers in the R.O.T.C.

CW   Did you have friends that you played with?

GM Neighbor girls next door, yes.    Actually we played all over town.   While the hatchery was still here, before it burned it had a concrete entrance with a great big platform—not a platform but a sidewalk that was huge in front of the building and then the street right in front of the building up to the cemetery was newly constructed as one of the first concrete streets in Holgate and so kids from all over town would come and meet in front of the hatchery and we would skate from the hatchery to the cemetery.   I think I wore out about three pairs of skates on that concrete, but every evening   you’d go out and there’d be about 20 going up and down this street.   Of course back in that day there wasn’t much traffic.   And then across the street there was all this playground equipment at the school.   There were merry-go-rounds and we’d go over there and play on them.   We were pretty big kids to be playing on a merry-go-round.   And then there was also a tennis court.   (pause)   Well that just about finishes you up, I guess.

CW   Well I’d like to know—you were with him the first two years that you were married, you said?   Where did you go?

GM   He was called to service and we went to Washington D.C. for just a couple weeks and then he was sent to Louisville KY and at that time he was area engineer for the bag plant where they made bags for the gunpowder so to speak and then cover them over with grass so you couldn’t see them so they looked just like mounds of ground.   It didn’t look as though there was anything there except little hills.

CW   And that was to store the gunpowder?    How could they keep it from getting damp?

GM   I don’t know but that’s what he did.   That was in Jeffersonville, Indiana which was just outside of Louisville and we lived in Louisville.   From Louisville we went to Huntington West Virginia.   There again he was at some kind of plant, and I don’t remember.    I think it   wasn’t a bag plant.

CW   Did he have to not talk about he work when he was at home or didn’t it make any difference?

GM   Well at that time we could talk fairly well about what he was doing because he wasn’t on any kind of secret mission.   These were all civilian people.   He never lived in a camp or anything.   These were all plants and we lived in apartments.   We weren’t on any bases because these were on individual factories.   It was like going to work in a factory.

CW   Did he wear a uniform?

GM   Oh yes.   He had to have a uniform on all the time.    And then we went to –well you see he was the military and these were civilians so he was recognized as the military. and then we went to White Sulfur Springs and that’s where he converted the hotel to a hospital.   There were barracks there and Japanese were interning there.

CW   Were they treated poorly?

GM   No, they were treated well, especially when it was such a nice area.

CW   Let’s see, White Sulfur Springs—was that in—

GM   White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, a few miles from Charleston.   It was up in the mountains– beautiful, and we lived at the edge of the little town there.    White Sulfur Springs had this big hotel there and we lived at the edge of the little town there.   We lived in—they were almost like cottages for the hotel.   We rented one of their places.    Then from White Sulfur Springs we went to Gallipolis, Ohio.   There again there was another factory or something across the Ohio River.

CW   That’s down in the hills too, isn’t it?

GM   Yes, down in the hills too.   And then from Gallipolis he was sent to Dawson Creek, Canada and I couldn’t go with him because he was going out of the country.    I came back to Holgate and lived with my parents.    By that time I had a child and was ready for the second one.   Let’s see, he was sent to Dawson Creek and then from Dawson Creek he was transferred to Los Angeles and New York, both of them.   He would stay in Los Angeles for a couple weeks and then go to New York, then back to Los Angeles, back and forth there.

CW   Did he go by train?

GM   Went by train.   Went by the B & O right through Holgate.

CW Couldn’t stop?

GM   Well, he would come into Defiance from Chicago.   He would get off the train—I’d meet him at the train and I would bring him to Holgate and he would be here for about an hour or two and then I’d take him to Deshler and he would get the next train through.   He was in route.   And then sometimes he would get off at Deshler and I would take him to Defiance.   This was only about once every five or six months.

CW   Those were precious hours!

GM   Oh my yes.   And then sometimes I would go to Chicago with him.   Then in Chicago he would have to get on a train and go west, so I would go to Chicago and I’d turn around and come back and he’d go west.

CW   Hard to do.

GM   Yes.

CW   But in a way it cements a marriage to be forced to be apart from one another awhile.

GM   Well at that time, see, that’s when Susan was sick.

CW   Oh.   What happened to her?

GM     Susan had a brain tumor when she was 2 ½ years old.   She was blind and paralyzed for over a year.

CW   How’d she get over it?

GM   She never did.   She was in Cleveland Clinic and she was blind and paralyzed and then she learned to walk again.   She was a normal beautiful child.   She could walk, talk and everything else when she came down with it.    Now they probably could have done something but then they couldn’t.   It was so deep in the brain and they said, “There’s nothing we can do.”   And so I don’t know what happened but a miracle—God’s miracle I guess but by the time she was six she could walk again—she had braces—but it left her with a left side that didn’t work too well.    I don’t know what happened to the tumor but it was all gone.   Nobody wants to hear all this gory detail.

CW   But it is interesting because medicine has changed so much.

GM   We had no help, no therapy or anything but she was slightly paralyzed on her left side the rest of her life.   She couldn’t do things with her left hand and so forth, but her mind was really good though.   She went to school and graduated with limited abilities.   Then when she was 20 years old they asked from Cleveland for us to bring her back because they wanted to see her.   We took her back and the doctor, the neurologist, went over her and he said, “I can’t understand what happened but it must have sloughed off somehow.”   The damage was still there but he said, “I didn’t ever expect to see you alive again.”

CW   She was still blind I expect.

GM   No, she could see.

CW   She got her vision back!

GM   Her hair came back and it was amazing.   So you’d never know there was anything wrong with her.   I suppose the kids in school just thought she was retarded or something.   She could do things and that but she couldn’t join in a lot of things.   She graduated from Bellefontaine.    She worked in a covered workshop.   She was a pattern person;   she could do things by pattern.   But if something would change she couldn’t adjust to it.   She could do it if someone would show her but she couldn’t do it on her own.   So she was never able to work out in the public but she worked at Quadco.   Then she was 60 when she got another brain tumor.

CW   Oh no!

GM   And the neurologist said, “Well, we can operate but if we do she’ll be nothing but a vegetable because the first time it was on her right and the second time it was on her left side so the one which would compensate is already impaired and then there would be no place for it to go.   See, the left side of her brain took over for the right side so this time it had no place to go.

CW   My, you’ve really been through it!

GM   And he said, “Well, it’s up to you what you want to do.   It’s your decision.   Otherwise you’ll just have to see what happens.   And so we decided to put her in Hospice and she lived a year and a half.   The last two months she was in a nursing home but she went downhill.   Then Cece died in May and she died the following January.   She was sick all the while he was in the Service.

CW She was your oldest?

GM   Yeah.   So.

CW   Well tell me about—how did you meet your husband?

GM   Well, Cece was from Napoleon and I was from Holgate.   It seems like the Napoleon boys always liked the Holgate girls. (laughs)

CW   Well you were probably pretty nice.

GM   He was a roommate with Don Harper and they both went to Purdue together and Don married a Holgate girl and Corbin Reiter married a Holgate girl.   Those guys used to run around together so it was one of these cases where   . . . .well actually when we were teenagers or getting out of high school it seemed like we went in groups.   It wasn’t a boy and a girl going steady steady steady.   There’d be like three fellows and three girls or four fellows and three girls and like as we said, you know we were just like friends.   It wasn’t like when you first meet you have a steady boyfriend but we kind of paired off–oh we’d all do things together.   We’d have a party or we’d play cards or something together but soon we kind of paired off, or it seems like it, you know.   Sometimes you didn’t pair off right away.   Maybe you’d go to the show with one group and then the next time you’d go with a different one, whichever. . .

CW   It wasn’t too serious, more like friends.

GM   Yeah, I think that was a nice way, I really do.

CW   A healthy relationship where you learn to know the others and you’re attracted of course, but it doesn’t get too serious right away.

GM   I think that nowadays they mature too fast.   (laughter)

CW   I think that loose sex does it.

GM   Yes, I think so, very much so.

CW   You know, what I found when I was teaching—at least it seemed to me—that the college students at that time, their attitude was, “Oh sex, you can take it or leave it.   It’s not much of anything.”   But when you and I were young that was something very valuable.

GM   Oh yes, yes!   And that was something that’s been lost.   I think that’s one reason why our families are so dysfunctional, a lot of them.   There’s so many families that are. . .   actually , Mary , my third daughter, was a school teacher for 32 years, second grade, and she said it’s changed the last 10, 12 or 13 years.   I mean, it’s changed in that she has so many dysfunctional kids:   so many that just come, you know.

CW   They can’t settle down I suppose.

GM   Well they have mothers and fathers that are divorced, mothers and fathers that are . . drugs and others that are running around.   It’s just as if they don’t have a home life.   It’s really sad. (pause)

CW   What sort of hobbies did you do?   Well, I don’t really know that I had hobbies then.   It seemed   like we were always busy doing everything like playing tennis or playing ball—and reading!   Reading has always been—I guess you could call that my hobby.   I really like to read!   I read all the time.   Well, I learned to sew and I learned to embroidery and knit, but I never    would concentrate on just one.   I guess I was a Jack of all Trades.   (laughs)

CW   I know the feeling.   It gets a little tiresome.

GM   You know some people can just knit and knit and knit and knit but I—if there’s a book I’ll read, read, read.   (laughs)

CW   You should come to our discussion group at the library.

GM   Oh you have one of those?

CW   Mmhm.   I think it’s the third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m.   Everybody reads the same book;   then we discuss it.   Rev. Imbrok and his wife—he’s the only man but it’s mostly younger women.

GM   How do you select the book?

CW   The committee does that.   Yeah, you should come sometime.

GM   Well, like I say,   and then I’ve done a lot of church work over the years.

CW   What church do you belong to?

GM   St. Peters Lutheran here in Holgate, and when we traveled I would go to Lutheran churches where we lived.   But I finally came back to St. Peters again 25 years ago so . . .    I’m not doing as much as I used to do since I am older.

CW   What did the group at St. Peters do over Lent?   Did they have any special activities over Lent?

GM   Oh they have Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.   We have a community service this year.

CW   Oh, all the congregations meet at one church?   Oh.

GM   Let’s see, the Methodists and the Baptists and Catholic and us and—oh, the United Church of Christ have a service.

CW   Do you have a Sunrise service?

GM   Oh yeah.


CW   Now how did you train your children?   When they were toddlers did you ever spank ‘em?

GM   Yes.   I did, not too hard but I spanked them.

CW   I think at that age talking to them doesn’t sink in very well.   When they get older that’s fine but when they’re wearing that thick diaper it doesn’t really hurt them very much to give them a swat on the rear.

GM   An interesting thing about that spanking business is . . . let’s see, Dave was about two and Mary was about six, Linda 8, Susan 10.   We lived there in Napoleon on Woodlawn Ave.   Our house was on a circle and David did something wrong and I started after him to catch him   to spank him and the others started yelling, “Run, David, run David, run!”   I caught him and I spanked him.    Then I spanked the other three and sat them on a chair.   (laughs)   They never let me forget that.   They all got a spanking.   Equal treatment.   Telling him to run!   (laughter)    They often remind me of that.   “Remember the time you spanked us all and sat us on chairs?

CW   Running round and round the circle. (laughs)

GM   Yeah, he was going round and round the circle.

CW   I remember when my two oldest ones got into a big fight and I separated them and I put one on one stair and one on another.   They were sitting on these steps, you know and they were comparing notes and suddenly they were the best of friends.   They were saying how terrible Mom was.   (laughs)

GM   I know it’s so much harder to raise them nowadays.   They’d probably be accused of physical abuse.

CW   Yeah by some social worker.

GM   “You’re spankin’ your children!”     But they seemed to have thrived on it.   They did O.K.

CW   I once said to my kids, “Well I guess I was a little too strict on you when you were little.”   They said, “Well we turned out all right, didn’t we?”

GM   Yeah, that’s what my kids say, and I find that they in turn have raised their children pretty much like I have raised them, so you know what I mean, that they require the same kind of discipline, not spanking but sometimes they were restricted in terms of what they could do, and you know sometimes they need to be.

CW   Oh yeah.

GM   So some of it ‘rubbed off’ as they say.

(End of Tape)

GM.   (This is an item that I thought you might like to incorporate in to the above somewhere)

Before I was married I worked for a law firm in Napoleon, Ohio.   It was called Donovan and Williamson.   John C. Williamson was one of the partners and D. D. Donovan was the other partner.   D. D. Donovan was semi-retired at the time.   He had been a United States Senator at which time it was said that he debated William Jennings Bryan, renowned lawyer and politician.   Mr. Donovan was called ‘the silver-throated orator.”

3 thoughts on “Mengerink, Gertrude M.”

  1. These are wonderful. Aunt Gertrude is still amazing at 101. It would be nice if more communities would do this to preserve history. I learned things about my dad that I never knew during his lifetime. This is truly a worthwhile project. My wife is a genealogist and really gets great information from these.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this. Great Grandma Gert is still going at 104. I wish people with history would be celebrated more. My class just watched Grandma talk about her experiences with Pearl Harbor. My teacher is a history fan and loves this sort of thing. I just wish more people would do this stuff.


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