Interviewed by C. Wangrin, May 15, 2003
(This oral history has not been fully edited or checked for quality control)
C. This is Robert E. Meyer. This is an oral history and he is going to tell of some of his memories of World War II.
R. This magazine here what they call The 95th Victory. In here it shows guys on the ship that was The Mariposa –and Ah! I could be in this picture I don’t know because we had 65 hundred men in this troop on that ship.
C. Go ahead Bob.
R. On one of the pages here it shows the full length. (shows picture) It used to be a luxury liner before it was a troop ship and I don’t know if they converted it back to a luxury liner again or not, because when the swimming pool and dance floor was on it–there was no water or stuff in the swimming pool and they didn’t use the dance floor. They crisscrossed the hammocks and I don’t know if we were sleeping four or five guys on top of one another, the hammocks were strung up. .
C. How did you get up and down to your bunk? You had to hold the hammocks and help yourself up. They didn’t have ladders or anything?
C. Is that right!
R. And, ah, the ship here that we went in instead of going in convoy. This ship would go separate and when we went overseas from Boston. When we got out to sea we boarded the Mariposa. And when we got out to sea every three minutes we would change course. That way the Germans’ submarines couldn’t get us, ah, what should I say–couldn’t get a reading on us–but I was fortunate to come back home again on the same ship and then we were on a straight course. This ship, ah, it had to under false steam it could outrun a submarine. Like I said when we went over there we changed course every three minutes and, ah, there is a lot of things I remember from that over there for the map in here that shows you where, ah, all the countries we was in the route we run when we landed in England. And we went across the English Channel. We hit Omaha Beach which was forty days–I don’t remember. It was forty some days when we hit Omaha Beach and, ah…
C. Take your time, Bob, there is no hurry.
R. Then, and it shows (scans map) I know it is in there–where is it–I can’t find it now.
C. Did you have a picture of Omaha Beach in there?
R. No, I did not. I have to go through this page by page because I can remember seeing that sign where it said we are now entering Germany through the courtesy of the 95th Infantry Division. Here is what I wanted to show you where we landed in England and here is where it shows we went across the English Channel and a picture of Omaha Beach here. And then it shows.
C Is that in France? Omaha Beach?
R, Yes. This is France down here.
C. Oh, yeah!
R. And then it shows in France the route we went through La Mans and we went through Paris.
C. How did you travel, Bob?
R. We had trucks and that…
C. I see.
R. Because I was in the field artillery and not in the infantry. It was the infantry division that they had field artillery and see when it showed here where we met the Mets (?). We had to battle the Mets in Sauerbaden. In the route we took through Luxemburg and add all that all up and we wound up in Holland, Belgium and all them places because we was in six foreign countries. When you talk about I was in England, Germany, Holland, Luxemburg, Belgium and France. I was in all them countries. The Meets (?) was our first and most severe and, ah…
C. What did you do? Was that your job?
R. I drove a truck.
C. Oh, yeah.
R. A big truck that hauled these 155 millimeter howitzers around. Wait until I find a picture of one here. And–cause like that gun them shells they weigh 66 lb. apiece and we was capable of –with an arc could shoot about nine miles. A lot of times we could never see our target or anything. A lot of times, I mean we would shoot like that.
C. So you didn’t have to do the shooting. You just drove and got them in position, I suppose.
R. Well, even the truck drivers and that, I mean, would have to help because the night when we had to man the guns, well the whole crew… I don’t know, there were nine or ten guys to each gun. Some of them would be sleeping and other ones had to take care of it. And I can remember one night when we were still in France we were shooting a town in Germany and they gave us a firing order of free will and I don’t know if there were four big howitzers in each B battery and we knew we were shooting these poster shells. I know it was dark that night every time we would lob one of those shells in there we set the whole town on fire. And the gun that I was on, I don’t know if over the span of the night if we shot between thirty and forty shells at different intervals –not in continuous barrage and you multiply that by four guns so we lobbed pretty near over 140 to 160 shells in that town. Well, we had the whole town on fire. I mean that night.
C. Did they shoot at you?
R. Here it kind of shows it.
C. Oh. There is the howitzer.
R. The one, that one big halter. Oh, I see here it is under the camouflage.
C. Oh yeah.
R. Because in the daytime then you set up there was a camouflage when a German aircraft or anything would fly over they wouldn’t be able to see it–be able to see the gun.
C. Don’t you wonder what that fellow was yelling?
R. Well when the gun would go off you had to turn so your ears were in the opposite direction.
C. Oh, you did!
R. Because the noise and then you would–you were supposed to hold your mouth open.
C. Oh, you did?
R. See, when it went off–no I don’t know maybe that’s why I’m hard of hearing.
C. It was really loud?
R. So here and then it shows a picture of those shells.
C. Oh, yeah.
R. To get a different range of mileage of whatever distance you want to shoot. The powder comes in little packets. Maybe, you would have one pound, two pound, five pound. Oh! You ram that shell into the gun and they put the package of powder in back of it because your forward observer would figure that out all the distance and stuff like that how much powder and stuff you would have to put in.
C. What kind of powder is that? TNT?
R. Yeah! black like gun powder.
C. Gun powder–Oh!
R. They put a little cap in the breach here and see when you pull–the rope and that would hit that little shell in there and that would make the fire and see that is how we light the powder, and see when the powder would explode; that is what would shove the big shell out. This shell as long as there was no powder or anything in back of it and that shell could be in there maybe for an hour or more and there was no chance of it going off until somebody stuff the powder in there and closed the breach.
C. That’s interesting.
R. Oh, it was, ah, well I was gone for 38 months and I mean I was never home for Christmas and all that time. I went home for a couple of furloughs before we went overseas and we were there about a year.
C. They said at first, “Oh, they will be home at blossom time,” and promises that just didn’t work.
R. Oh, then in the 95th there was quite a few. There were different guys from Napoleon: and Ed Von Deylen, Jerk around Gerald, and George Hampton from Napoleon and Ray Hogrefe. There were guys and there were some from Evansport –I mean–they was in B battery and some of other batteries and every once in a while I would get to see them.
C. Were you all drafted at the same time?
R. Yeah, we all left Napoleon and crawled on the railroad train that took us to Camp Perry in Toledo and that is where we got inducted. They hauled us to Camp Perry that far on the train. Because my father took me to Napoleon that morning to catch the train and stuff to go to Camp Perry. From Camp Perry they put us on a train and took us all the way across country all the way to the state of Texas. We went to Camp Swift at Austin, Texas. Just on the outskirts of Austin so I got some memories of Austin.
C. What was that like?
R. Oh, being from the state of Ohio, being the farthest west I had ever been away from home I was in Washington DC and like going to Texas, I mean like going on the train that went through states and stuff like that.
C. That was exciting for you I imagine.
R. When –a guy gets that far away from home and there at Camp Swift I know–see, Austin is the capital of Texas and the dome of the Capital Building in Austin is all gold and that was quite a sight to see then.
C. I bet!
R. And then from Camp Austin they moved us to San Antonio, Texas to Sam Houston which was the home of the second Calvary or something like that and during the peace time I know that when the 95th moved in there the people were kind of hostile to us because the other ones who had been there so long and that was home to them. And so that year when I was in San Antonio it snowed in the winter time, about four inches of snow and I know I was going with a girl at that time, she was 20 years old and that was the first time in her life that she had actually seen snow on the ground. Well, then it snowed during the night and in the morning and when the sun came out by noon it was gone. That was quite a thing for a lot of them people in Texas to see snow.
C. I bet. Oh, what a big occasion.
R. Well you see we was in Texas for training and that stuff they moved us out into open country and I know that the first armadillo I ever seen in my life was seen out there.
C. Armadillos are so strange looking, aren’t they.
R. Yeah, they scare you when you see them. I guess they wouldn’t harm you but I mean they are so funny looking and I know that in Texas it was lot warmer than what was around here. And stuff like that and I know in Texas and all them places, if you slept at night thinking you got up and take your shoes and turn them upside down and stuff like that because snakes would crawl into them for the warmth and the same way when sleeping on the ground in your bed roll and the snakes would notice the warmth because at night it got colder they would crawl in with you…
C. Really! I can’t image a snake crawling in bed with you.
R. So a guy had to be kind of careful about that. Yeah, we took all kinds of training at Camp Balloon and on the outskirts San Antonio, Texas and then I know they moved us to California. We was on the desert for awhile.
C. What kind of training did you do in those places?
R. Well, we would fire them guns and stuff like that.
R. See, cause you had that open range and that out there and that open country and well, I don’t know, how many thousand acres that the government took over out there –made the people move out. They lived out in the open country and we used that for firing range and I know that I remember yet when we fired the first round ammunition we was up on a kind of elevation and I don’t know what range we fired but anyhow I remember the first time and we would watch them when the shell landed and then it exploded and I mean we–then we did a lot of them and then you learn by night firing and stuff like that. Those guns you set up on stake like that the ditch machine.
C, What is a ditcher?
R. Then off of this stake, the gun had an instrument on it to get your elevation and all of that but this aiming stake and then at night we would put a wee little bit of a light on it so you could see it through a–when you look into like a telescope you will see there was another thing you learned of firing in the dark.. You do practice and stuff like that in the daytime and then so at night you go through your routine and I know while I was in the service I went to, I don’t know, ah, South Carolina for two weeks for what they called a machine guns school. You learned how to take a machine gun apart. Then you had to put it all together again. You just had to keep practicing and practicing that till toward last you could do it in the dark. They blind fold you and you had to put thing together again. I know we would go out and we would fire a little small paper cup that was torn for a target. I don’t how many feet in back of this plane. Then we guys would shoot. Somebody said it was a woman pilot at that time, I don’t know but anyhow while she was flying back and forth passing machine guns you could only fire the machine at the target at a certain range because after she went past that range you had to quite firing at her because the other machine guns down the line would start to fire then. I know it was the second or third time when she was towing the target but anyhow somebody hit the line, the banner or the balloon or whatever she was towing back then so that was the end of the day because somebody cut the line with a gun and another thing if you didn’t get all your rounds fired the sea gulls would fly out there and the guys would shoot at the sea gulls. All the guys were shooting at the sea gulls and I never saw one sea gull get hit. Cause the sea gulls fly, then just flip this way or that way. I never saw a sea gull get hit.
C. I had a rabbit in my back yard this morning and I shot a BB gun at it four times and never hit it once. I scared it away though. You spoke of a ditcher and I don’t know what that is.
C. What is a ditcher?
R. See what I was referring to were stakes. A ditcher field ditch machine, or here in the country they use that so the ditcher trench was straight and them stakes have a little cross arm so they know their elevation as to how deep the ditch was in the ground. That is what I was trying to get across. The stake that we used kind of the same thing like a ditch machine used in the country.
C. I see
R. Well, a lot of guys are now using lasers but some of the older generation, see they use them stakes to keep the line, and stuff like that. Well, I think we probably called it aiming stakes or something like that or what it was or on the same order.
C. Was that ditch—it wasn’t what you were aiming at? The guns weren’t aiming at the ditch.
C. What was the ditch for?
R. No, I just called it a ditcher stake.
C. Oh! A ditcher stake. OK
R. A lot of people when I’m talking about a ditcher stake they will know what kind of a stake I mean.
C. Not being a farmer, I wouldn’t know.
R. See the ditcher stake they were painted red and white. If the stake was in a foot above ground there would be three white and three red. See every foot –one foot would be white and the next foot would be red then white again. Then the cross arm–see that would be red and white too.
C. You mean you use that was a guide for aiming the howitzer up.
R. Well, I don’t know. See when you set that stake up with the cross arm because when the forward guard, observer, the lieutenant was calling for a howitzer fire all out of the four guns in B battery. One gun would shoot a shell. See then the lieutenant or forward observer up there he would watch where the shell would land. Well, if we was short of the target then he would telephone back or radio back so many degrees of elevation and then they would shoot short of that target and over the target. Then they would divide it in between so that way then when they once got zeroed in on the target then every time you would shoot the gun would recoil a little bit you had to look through a telescope and look at your aiming stake because the vibration of the gun, stuff like that, ah, it maybe moved a little that’s why between every round you had to center yourself back in again.
C. This is what you were doing in those camps in the United States? Getting ready?
R. Yeah, just like when we was in Pennsylvania in hill country. Then I got a little training in hill country and stuff like that. Well, I know one of the things when I was stationed in Pennsylvania, I don’t know we were there for about four or five months something like that. We would have gone into the town of Hershey but I never did and to this day I regret that I never went into Hershey. The guys that went into Hershey said the whole town smelled like chocolate. Well, that was the only thing that was made in the whole town. There was no other industry I guess. So what they always said was that everything in Hershey smelled like chocolate. .
C. Did they have those rose gardens at that time?
R. I don’t know. I regret that I never went into Hershey when I had the chance. Well, the same way when we was out in California in the desert you would see a car light for twenty five or better.. I mean it was so level. When we moved out in California, in the desert you got accumated to the heat for about a week or two weeks they would give us maybe two or three hours over the noon hour so we got a little acclimated to the heat.
C. How hot was it Bob?
R. I don’t know. It would get over 100 out there but you see it was dry–what they call dry heat. There was no humidity or stuff like that with it. But I know when I was out in California out in the desert in the summer time you would shed every piece of clothing you could. Then after the sun went down at night you put on every piece of clothes that you had..
C. It really got cold.
R. Yes, it would cool off. I know they had movies out there. They set up a screen then you sit down on the ground and stuff or on the shell of your helmet or something like that. I know a lot of guys they would see the movie and stuff like that with their overcoats on.
C. Hum–Is that right?
R. Yeah, then while I was out on the desert I took a five day pass because I couldn’t come home from California–I would spend all my time on the train. I went to L.A. for two or three days. Ah–there was a truck that had a trailer on the back of their semi about like a cattle truck and you just open the door and you walk in and find a seat and sit down and they close the door. There was hardly any windows in the thing and well we drove all night and then the next morning they would be in L, A. and I know another kid and I we would sleep in the hatch at night and stuff like that and then we rented rooms in a hotel but in the daytime the radio broad cast in different studios and stuff like that I don’t know that they invited the GI’s in but we would get to sit close to where the stars were interviewing and stuff like that. Like I got to see quite a few stars but I don’t remember any names.
C. Did they let you talk to the stars?
R. Yeah, Ah– because Ah– I remember that one show it was kind of like a stage in an auditorium and they had chairs up there and they had about twenty GIs sitting up there , ah, see what they call kind of like special guest, so I can remember that but I don’t remember the names of some of the people that performed. It was most generally a musical group or some actors would sing and stuff like that. It isn’t like that way now..
C. It isn’t? How is that?
R. Well, I mean now days with all the modern technology and stuff like that. C. Oh yeah They use special microphones
R. I think the audience–I wonder do they have to pay admission to go to Wheel of Fortune and all of them? I guess you can write for tickets. I don’t know. The lieutenant was an enlisted man who became an officer and he knew just what an enlisted man or us guys had to go through as privates or first class–and stuff like that. He knew, he was what they called one of those you call 90-day wonders. See them are officers that went to school and came out as second lieutenants so that is why the nick name 90-day wonders.
C. Well, when you went–what was the name of the beach–Omaha Beach? That was after D Day wasn’t it?
C. How long after D Day?
R. I don’t know it was forty some days. I can’t tell you the exact days but I know it was when we landed on Omaha Beach –I mean there was no –see Ah–Well, I don’t know if it was true or not but they tell me the reason they had a lot of causalities on Omaha Beach was because , ah, the Germans had –I don’t know how many men that were training or something like that and the Americans didn’t know but the Germans moved in unexpected or what but then I guess the tide and so Omaha Beach and the first wave was really rough.
C. Well, it was good you weren’t in that first wave. So it was later when you went in on it.
R. Oh I mean we got off of that. I don’t know what they called these boats. They flopped the end down and you had to walk through a little bit of water before you got on the beach.
C. Were your boots all wet then? How deep was that water you had to walk through?
R. Well, see the carriers was what they moved equipment and men on so you see they were flat bottom so they would go in as far as they could they hit the sand the ocean bottom. I mean the ground and then they let the end down and maybe you would have to walk through a foot of water. So see after you see all the equipment and the men got off see the thing would lighten up then with the weight off it come off of the bottom and they moved out again.
C. I see
R. Yeah, that is why them things were flat bottom.
C. That was scary I bet? Wasn’t it pretty scary? Run in a beach like that and didn’t know who was going to fire?
R. They were made for that and that you see one thing too–when on D Day I guess the timing wasn’t right but anyhow they Ah–they hit high tides and stuff like that which made it all the worse because the water is rough on high tide. It is always moving and stuff like that so then when you get low tide then the water is a lot calmer.
C. Oh, I didn’t know that. So you didn’t have any machine guns aimed at you when you got off the boat, off the ship. The Germans weren’t there?
R. No, we didn’t. After 40 see Ah–they numbered the days I know because I didn’t’ know how many days them guys fought until they secured the beach and stuff like that, so I don’t know how high the numbers went for what they call D Day. So I saw a lot of troops. They landed that way and a lot of them in France–Omaha Beach see they could unload their equipment and move on again from there without any enemy fire or anything like that.
C. Now I see by the map that you showed me it looked like you went through Paris. What was Paris like?
R. I don’t remember to much about Paris but I don’t know if we could see that Eiffel Tower or if we didn’t.
C. What were the French people like in the towns you went through?
R. I don’t remember to much about Paris We I don’t know if we went if we went under or through that Isle Tower or we didn’t.
C. What were the French people like in the towns you went through?
R. Well, I don’t know us guys didn’t , as far as that goes, I never went uptown or anything. Some of the guys they went uptown and stuff like that in Paris and them places.
C. We now have joining in the conversation Bob Meyer’s wife Doris who is called Buzzy and we are going to just reminisce a little about stories or anything we can remember about long ago. I asked Bob to put his thinking cap on to see if he could remember something and then if you think of something when he get through talking just start talking. So do you think of anything Bob?
R. No, let her start.
B. Well, I was in nurses training during the World War 11-1943 until 1946 and I was also under the cadet nurses program which the public health department started and since the war ended before I was through I didn’t have to go any farther but I did get half of my nurses training paid for through them.
B. I had a nice uniform, a dress uniform and a winter uniform, a cotton summer uniform and a dress winter one.
C. I think it is interesting that nurses in training could not be married.
B. No, they couldn’t. It was kind of like school teachers who couldn’t be married before the war started. Then when the war started they were taking the men so they let the teachers get married and teach.
C. Oh! That’s when they got so they could get married.
B. I think it was about 1948 a couple years after I was through when they started training married nurses.
C. So when you and Bob were married you had to do it in secret. Didn’t you? How did you do that?
B. It wasn’t hard. It was 55 miles from Fort Wayne. We just got our license and the minister came out to the Winslow home and we were married. So we couldn’t live together to much the first 13 months.
C. You wouldn’t dare!
R. I applied for the wedding license and I told them to keep it out of the paper and I guess they did.
B. No, it was in the Henry county paper. One of the girls got me in the linen room one day and she was married and lost her husband so that’s how she was a student nurse. She was behind me. She said we are kind of in the same boat. Aren’t we? I saw your license in the paper.
B Was I scared? I had about a whole year left.
C. Oh you were afraid that you would be pushed out?
B. Yeah I got finished–Thank goodness
C. And you were a very good nurse too.
B. I loved it. I don’t think I would enjoy doing it today though with the computer nursing and all the lines going for IV. I think they probably have three times more charting than I ever had.
C. Is that right?
B. Oh yeah
C. Looks like doctors offices have so much more records that they have to keep.
B. It’s all this liability insurance. I know one of the girls told me at sewing Tuesday that she lived around Fayette, Dr Nice had been their doctor and who ever handled the doctor liability in Ohio left Ohio so a new company came in and they won’t insure him because he’s past retirement age.
C. Oh my!
B. So he retired. He wasn’t as old as I was, 70, the high 70’s.
C. I was telling Bob one night I interviewed John Henry and Leona his wife. He spoke of your uncle Fred Shibler who was a neighbor of theirs and Aunt Martha who just lived up around the corner and they use to work together on the road because the county didn’t keep up the roads. It was up to the farmers to do it at that time.
B. Well, you know who had a road grader around? That did a lot of that stuff. You know that brick house on the corner–Pete Ditmore house– if you go east and come out on the corner of 34. He lived there.
C. Oh yeah! on that corner
B. He use to do a lot of grading.
C. They didn’t get paid much for it, I suppose. Did the farmers get paid for grading the roads, for working on them? Did they Bob?
B. They volunteered like with the telephone company, I think. We had one man in charge but when there was something wrong on the line everybody on the line came to help. There was no paid labor It was like that with everything you know–farming–you didn’t hire somebody when you thrashed. You exchanged.labor.
B. That’s why farmers never had any money in their pants.
C. They didn’t need much.
B. So you bartered with butter and eggs and all that sort of thing.
R. I remember, when I was a small boy where my brother lives they were grading the road. They had three horses on the grader so one sat up in front there and drove the horses then –Ah Fred Schultz was his name, that run the wheels back there for the blade and stuff, so when it come noon hour they stopped over there where my brother lives now and unhooked the horses from the grader and let them drink out of the tank. I don’t know if they tied them to the fence. I don’t know if they got a little hay from the barn or what but anyhow Fred Schultz and the other guy they would open up their dinner pails and eat dinner. Fred Schultz took a great big homemade sandwich out of his dinner pail, took a big bite of it and the next thing he got a onion out of the pail. It was about as big as a baseball or bigger—this onion and he ate it just like an apple. He took a big bite out of that onion. He ate that onion and that sandwich. I don’t know if he had something else for dinner or what but I can remember him eating that sandwich and that onion. My brother and I just looked at each other when he did that. I don’t think it was a sweet onion either
C. They probably didn’t even have sweet onions.
B. Remember, homemade bread, homemade butter and homegrown radishes? Big, white radishes?
C. I bet they were good?
B. One thing that I remember about nurse’s training was those baggie rayon stockings. We had them because nylons were not available. Then everything was starched.
C. Not the stockings?
B. No, not the stockings or the underwear.
C. They don’t have family reunions like they use to. Do they?
B. No, they wouldn’t know their first cousin, I keep telling my grandchildren every so often. Now that’s a cousin of yours like one of them in their class would be Dorothy Hurst, Dorothy Shibler’s grandson. I say that’s a cousin of yours. They didn’t know that.
C. Oh! Yeah
R. Like, Jessica Linnenger, you know, was third or fourth cousin. They were all musical. You could always hear music pouring out
C. Well, I remember those family reunions. The women had to work so hard to get the food ready. Then everyone would pile in the car and away we would go to get to the family reunion. The tables were loaded down with food.. The people would sit and talk and talk.
B. No refrigeration!
C. No, the leftover food would sit out there on the table. Nobody worried about it. They took it home and ate it for supper. Yes, what was left and there were no refrigerators then.
B. We took it down in the basement and set it on the floor and I don’t know how cool that would be.
C. Milk too–but milk now they have milk that will keep forever, I guess.
B. Back then they had to milk twice a day. You know they had fresh milk twice a day.
C. Remember how Kate used to skim a little cream off the top?
B. That was terrible.
B. They got the radio probably about in the 30s . I don’t know when it was. I was just a kid. We use to line up all around that radio and Mom had a recipe called radio Carmel.
C. Because it came from the radio?
B. Could be–She put the hickory nuts in it and it was just cream–so smooth. It was out of this world.
B. But my dad always said now Kate don’t you take the cream off the milk can –because that’s the day the milk was getting tested, You know cream is lighter than milk. So it comes to the top to skim it off. You wouldn’t know about that because you drink skim milk, probably.
C. Did Kate have to get up early in the morning to get all those sandwiches ready?
B. Like fried chicken you always had fried chicken at a picnic and potato salad.
C. Oh yeah–When would she kill the chicken?
B. Probably the day before.
C. She would just go out and catch one?
B. Well, my dad had a stump all fixed with two spikes –stretch the roaster head between the spikes and with one chop the head would come off
C. Then what happened to the roaster?
B. Well, Then it flopped around and if you didn’t get out of the way you might get blood all over you. Then you used boiling water and dipped it in there to de-feather it, then you dressed it, gutted it and all.
C. Then you had to cut it up.
B. Then you fried it, dipped it in flour and fried it in hot lard. If it was a fat chicken you would save the fat and put it for your noodle soup. That is why noodle soup was so yellow back then.
R. They fry the chicken in a frying pan before it would go into the roaster. I can remember Mom after the chicken was all cut up she rolled it in flour and all that stuff then in the skillet you browned it and after I don’t know how long it stayed on the heat for like browning and then it all went into the roaster and then it went into the oven.
B. They sure work harder than we do today. We pull out a box of frozen chicken and throw it in the oven.
C. That’s right
B. I don’t think I could cut up a chicken anymore.
C. Oh really
B. I bet it’s better than 35 years or more.
C. I remember Kate saying you got the knife down between the joints or in the joints between the bones. Then you don’t have to cut the bone. I remember that.
C. Bob do you remember butchering day?
C. What was that like?
R. Well, you got up about 4 o’clock in the morning. Dad would start the fire under the kettle then we would carry water from the stock tank to the kettle and Ah!– you carried enough water until you got the kettle full. Then you put the fire under that .Then after they shot the hog you got ready to skin it. That is when they would use the water out of the kettle you had heated. That water had to boil and that –so you dumped into the barrel. The barrel would be on a slant and you used a mud boat. That is what we used at least.
C. What is a mud boat?
R. Like you go into the woods in the winter and stuff like that instead of using a wagon you would use a mud boat.
C. I see
R. If there was snow on the ground it would slide that much easier. When there was no snow on the ground still you tell where the runners would go on the mud boat. It would kind of roll around and stuff like that.
C. Then would you use that to carry the pig into the boat?
R. You had to use that as a platform and then you had a barrel setting on an angle. You would dump water in there, then you would have to go back and forth . Ah! the head end you would stick in first because you would use the legs from the back and Ah! to pull him out and you got to slide him down in there and then you slide him back out so then the heat of the water doesn’t cook the meat to hot so you had to go back and forth.. Then after you had the head and had dipped him enough so that the hair would come out scraping or with a knife you could pull or shave the hair off Then you turn the hog around and do the other end. That’s why the water in the kettle was the first thing you had to have hot water when you started to butcher for if you didn’t have hot water you couldn’t butcher.
C. Then you got the hair off the outside?
R. Yeah, took the hair off after you had the hog hung up in scaffolding. You take the hot water and take a pail and swish that on him. Then scrape him down with a knife and stuff like that to get some of the hair you missed so it would be clean.
C. Then what did you do?
R. Then after you had the hog all scraped down then you had to start to split it open to get the intestines and stuff like that. But that kettle you had after you had used the water out of the stock tank to scald him. Then you took, ah, ashes and stuff like that, and you cleaned the inside of the kettle and then you start putting water back in, but that comes from the pump instead of the stock tank. Then you would heat that and then, ah…
C. That had to be boiling?
R. Well, ah, that water I mean as soon as they started to cut the hog up and stuff like that some of the meat that you wanted to cook, They would throw that in there and you would cook it. See they use that in prattles and stuff like that. So you cook that out in the open fire. See after you had that meat cooked, that was about the end of the fire and the kettle for the day. Then you were done with the butchering, I mean.
C. Then you had a kettle full of oil or something. Didn’t you?
R. Well, after you had the lard cut up into chunks you would put that into the kettle and then you would be rendering the lard.
C. Oh yes.
R. You done that in the kettle then it was toward the end of the day. See then you took your lard press out there and as you dipped out of the kettle you would put in the lard press those chunks of lard. Then you turned those cranks. Then you would turn the crank and then you would push down –to push the lard out and then you would have lard–hot lard. You would run that into a gallon or two gallon crocks when it is hot and then after when you raised the crank up towards the back again what was left in the bottom of the stuffier that is what they call cracklings.
R. People use to save them and heat them on the stove then later on a couple of weeks after butchering you would eat them on a slice of homemade bread and apple butter on it but see we use to eat them cracklings. They were real crisp
C. Oh, I remember going out into the kitchen when it was butchering day I guess, and John says “Come here Charlotte watch this” this long thing came out. They had used the intestines and then they were stuffing them to make sausage. How did they get those intestines clean to do that?
B. Soaked them in salt water.
C. Oh, they did!
B. They started at the top, pushed it all out and they put them in hot water a long time
R. The intestines–they would put them in a big dish pan. Open up the hog when he is hanging in the tripod and you carry that down to the basement and the women would start to clean the intestines. They would turn them inside out.
C. Oh that is how you cleaned them.
R. See, when you actually stuffed them see you were using the outside the casing because it was turned inside out. But you see all the bowel movements and stuff like that and that food that was digested in the intestine you had to clean that all out of the intestines. Now when you would make summer sausage and stuff like that see them long casings the spout on the stuffier was 8-10 inches long. See you just slide the casing on there and as you cranked and pushed that down and then as that casing would fill up.
C. Oh, I see—Did you have to clean any of those?
B, Sure, that is how you started–the dirty end of it.
B. We did everything
C. How did you get that stuff off? A knife or something?
B. The back side of the knife was usually used so you can’t cut the intestine.
R. There was a cutting board and you kept hold of the intestine with one hand and you would scrap like that.
C. Oh, I see
R. Then when the women–I don’t know how many times they would wash and rinse them until they get the intestine clean.
B. Cook your food good. I don’t think in modern day check up– you wouldn’t pick up anything. I can never remember that we picked up anything from raw meat. and that.
C. That stuff would have been cooked after you had these things made. I’m sure nobody would want to eat that raw.
B. I was just reading this book on the Heritage. I got it a few years back. The last thing are the Arctic Indians which are like Eskimos you know. They have hardly any plant life there so they are real tickled when they got a big animal that has green stuff in its belly–They eat it.
C. Would you?
B. The eyes they give to the children. Probably like eating oysters.
C Oh, for heaven sake!
B. I just about died when I read that.
C. Did they tell about them eating blubber?
B. Yeah, and seal skin that is water proof
C. Did both of you study in a one room school?
C. You did? What do you remember about that?
B. The spelling and math contest.
C. Oh, those can be exciting.
B. You used your brain matter and those are not what the kids today use. Although yesterday when I had a 5th grader, I asked Sue about that . Yes, they do that. I was a little bit surprised because of the computer and those adding machines. I think it has made them lazy
C. Adults too, I have adult friends who say I’m not sure I have added this right. Since I have been using my calculator I just can’t add like I use to.
R. In a one room school you set through it from, 1st grade to 8th grade. There was no such thing as kindergarten years ago.