Interview conducted April 6, 2005, by Charlotte Wangrin
(CW) Can you tell us your name please?
(EP) I’m Ellen Marie Petersen.
(CW) I’m interviewing Ellen Marie near Deshler, Ohio and it is April 6th, 2005. Mrs. Petersen can you tell us something about your memory? I heard you mention something about streetcars. Could you tell us about those streetcars long ago?
(EP) I just remember when I was a little girl. My mom and dad in their first years of marriage went to live with his parents because his father wasn’t all that well and he needed someone at home so we had about three generations living in one house at the time. That was quite common at the time I think. Like I said my grandma’s sister liked to come and visit and they would come on the streetcar from Toledo to Deshler. And of course they never went to Lima.
(CW) Would you give us your name please?
(ES) Edna Seeman.
(CW) We were just talking about the old streetcars. Would you share some of your memory about the streetcar?
(ES) Well my father had work in Toledo. My mother worked so a lot of the time she would send me to be with my father in Toledo and I got on a streetcar here in Deshler and I always remember coming into Toledo on a streetcar.
(CW) Where did those streetcars run? Were they on the road?
(ES) They were on the track. They had tracks on Keyser Avenue in Deshler.
(CW) So they didn’t use the same lines as the railroad?
(ES) Oh, no, they had their own.
(CW) Was it quite expensive to ride on a streetcar?
(ES) It must of have not been.
(CW) Do you have any specific memories about you on a streetcar? What was it like to ride on a streetcar?
(ES) Oh fun for me but I was about twelve.
(CW) Oh you probably just remember seeing them?
(EP) They were here for years but eventually they got rid of them. Before they resurfaced Keyser Avenue you could still see the lines. And it was just one car. And they had a line on top. Wasn’t there an electric line on top of it?
(ES) We came into Toledo by the river where the boats were.
(CW) So were those raised up like the railroads lines were later, you know elevated from the land with the land?
(ES) No not very much.
(CW) They weren’t even as high as the roads, were they?
(ES) No. They were flat. They didn’t even cross paths. Then when you got on you would pay the conductor. We had a station too.
(CW) Oh did you get little tickets?
(ES) You had to have a ticket in order to get on one.
(CW) Oh and that’s how you got back and forth.
(ES) To go to work he couldn’t come home every weekend and my mom sent me up there to be with him for a little while.
(CW) Oh that’s nice.
(EP) I knew Edna would be valuable. Yes I think so too. I feel so ashamed. Well don’t be because my voice isn’t good either. Who cares if it records which; it seems it’s doing a good job of doing that.
(CW) Where both your husbands farmers?
(EP) Yea, well, my husband also worked for Koppenhafer Brothers where he picked up eggs and cream. Oh yea. Years ago they picked up the cream and they made their own butter up here in Deshler. And they could buy that on the egg route, on the egg and cream route. The customers did.
(CW) What do you mean the egg and cream route?
(EP) The route went to different farmers to pick up their eggs and cream.
(CW) And the customers could go to that farmer and buy from the farmer?
(EP) No, the egg truck, the egg and cream truck would have it on their truck. When they came to pick up eggs and cream they could buy the butter too.
(CW) Oh I see. So did they ever stop that truck and buy right from.
(EP) Well to the people who they sold eggs and cream to.
(CW) I remember my mother-in-law was the best cook and she would go out and get a little cream off the back of the truck and whip it.
(EP) We sold some milk when we lived out here, We had cows out here and we to would sometimes take some cream off the top. They would be pretty careful usually I think, you know, no one from one family, no one would over do. Well you would be hurting yourself you if you took off a lot of cream.
(CW) Well, how did they test that? Did they test it at the creamery or something?
(EP) They did uptown here, didn’t they? Behind the farmer’s farm. That’s another farmer’s story we have to talk about.
(CW) Oh what was that?
(EP) There was a grocery store and in the back you could sell your eggs and cream.
(CW) The back of it?
(EP) No you could take the eggs and cream up there when you went to get your groceries.
(ES) They also had a butcher shop back there for a while.
(EP) Did they? I didn’t even remember that. They would take, buy those from the farmer and then they would sell groceries?
(EP) Oh yeah. You know when Harold and I were first married we did not have much money. He worked with uncles and some people who didn’t have very much money and we only had a certain amount of money so I would go to work and figure out how much sugar I could buy by the pound and buy as much as I needed. So I would figure out a week how many pounds I could buy of different things so I would have enough money.
(CW) That would take a little arithmetic.
(EP) Well I thought that arithmetic wasn’t really that hard on that one. When you’re trying to make ends meet I guess arithmetic was really important. Are you recording this now?
(EP) Well, there might be something on there you might not want it recorded. Edna Behrman. You remember Edna? She was my dad’s first cousin and she worked in a farmer’s store and she would also take care of the customers when they came in and brought in the cream. She often told when she opened one can she found a rat in there. And she just threw it out and brushed it off. I don’t know if it’s true or not.
(CW) Well I remember that there was a very wealthy woman in history in Napoleon who just walked in the grocery store. They had propped the door open- – I suppose to keep the air circulating- – and she would walk in and her little dog would walk in with her. And that dog when he walked in the grocery store he would wind up back in the meat department.
(EP) But they did have some dry goods in there, too; yes they did eventually. They didn’t at first but eventually. And even so true. They were connected with the elevator. The Deshler Farmer’s elevator right? Yes. They had what are called managers for the Deshler elevators for thirty years? Yeah.
(CW) Wow that’s a long time. How did they operate in those days? Did they do it differently then they do it today?
(EP) The elevators you mean. Yes. It was all the same except its more modern now. You can get a lot more grain unloaded than you could all those years ago.
(CW) There were rats in those places because I remember when they closed the mill in Napoleon it used to be right by the river. They were going to take down, I guess they took down that building elevator there. These men stood across the road and shot the rats and they would shoot one right after the other.
(EP) So again this would be one place where they would be. Mostly places that store grain and things like that. Even in restaurants my mom used to work the home restaurant; she just worked there. Rats where a big problem.
(CW) Oh, they were. Really big ones, big rats. Ewe.
(EP) Big rats. Now people get excited when they see a fly in the house.
(CW) How did you get the flies out years ago?
(EP) You made fly chasers out of these flour bags remember? You fold them then cut them up in strips. Then you would go around chasing flies around the house. I remember seeing my mother do that. It was on a stick or an end of a broom or something. Also on top of the stairs we had a window without a screen and we would put newspaper strips in front of the window that was to keep them out. I don’t know if it did or not. And the wind would help keep them away. They would come in the house when it rains because they wanted to keep warm I guess. No air conditioning back in those days. It got pretty hot.
(EP) We still don’t have air conditioning.
(ES) I have it, but I have to turn it off sometimes,
(ES) Yeah, that’s true.
(CW) Did you live in a brick house? No. Well we are more insulated now. Oh yea. And I let a ripped folder hang so the hot sun wouldn’t hit the window.
(CW) Where do you live?
(ES) Three miles out of town. It is the town that I got married in. Oh, in Deshler. It is a very nice place to live. If I got to choose what town to live in, Deshler, then, that town would be it.
(CW) Yes I remember seeing those signs in the spring. I’m so happy that I have some people who live in Deshler that I could interview because of not knowing anybody who lived in this area. I interviewed a lot of people from Ridgeville in that area, Ridgeville Corners, but I didn’t get anybody from Deshler.
(EP) Oh Deshler is a quiet town. We had a couple grocery stores, a bakery, two hardwares, two banks, two drug stores, and a movie theater. Shoe repair, implement shop.
(CW) How much were the movies?
(EP) Thirty-five cents. That was the main attraction in Deshler. The Star Theater was the only one. They had a dentist, two doctors. The president stopped here, didn’t he?
(EP) Oh yes. Regan and I forget who the other one was. I haven’t thought about that.
(CW) Which presidential candidate stopped here with a little girl? Nixon. Was it Nixon?
(EP) I don’t know, but I think it was. To bring us together again. Mmmm. I think that was Nixon and that was at the end of the train.
(CW) What do you mean the end of?
(EP) They had a sort of platform at the end of a train, right on the back of it. He stood there and gave his speech. Deshler was the crossroads of the B&O Railroad, very famous crossroad.
(CW) We had movie stars stop here, is that right.
(EP) The Three Stooges, remember them?
(ES) Oh yea I remember them, they stopped.
(EP) We had the tallest man in the world here one year. They were having a festival of some kind. He was about seven or eight feet tall. Yeah. And he was really something too look at too. The people off the trains would stop here and the workers would get food on their lunch breaks.
(EP) I wish we had a restaurant like that now
(ES) Yeah, yeah, yes. We could use one. And the bakery.
(CW) Did they serve full meals all the time? I think mostly through the night they got sandwiches and my mother was a wonderful pie baker.
(CW) Oh, really?
(EP) So she would bake really good pies. They would stop here to get these pies and then years later she worked at the Phoenix House. And that was something, you know. Herm was my stepbrother and he still remembers the wonderful pies that she made. She would bake about twenty-five in the morning and by the night they would all be gone.
(CW) And what time would she have to get up to make all those I wonder.
(ES) I don’t know. I was out and married by that time.
(CW) I’ll bet she would have to get up very early.
(EP) She didn’t get remarried until I was married, so that was later.
(CW) Well I know because she shares a relation to my husband. I can’t think of her name right now but her grandson is one of the announcers at WNDH radio. I wish I could think of her name. But she would get up every morning at five o’clock and she would stir up the batter for the cookies and then they would have people come over and bake when in her garage. They’d sell these sugar cookies. They were very good you know and they’d sell them all over but she wouldn’t let anyone else stir up that batter. She knew how exactly she wanted it done. But that’s getting out of Henry county. I guess Archbold is in Fulton County. But, anyway, I have my memory from Pennsylvania, so that wouldn’t be much help in Henry County.
(EP) Well we don’t mind hearing it.
(ES) We don’t know anything about you, really. We know Pittsburgh, but that’s the only thing.
(CW) Really? I remember when Pittsburgh was such a dirty place. The air was just gray; all that soot and that’s another thing when my mother moved up town nobody had clothes dryers or anything like that and the train smoke and the soot was bad and made clean cloths dirty. And if it was going to rain and if the air pressure was low you better not hang your cloths out because you might have to do it over. You could just see it coming out.
(EP) That’s one of the really important things in Deshler, really was the soot. And I don’t think that they had running water everywhere either. When we moved uptown we had to go outside to toilet and he had to run outside to get our drinking water.
(ES) Oh to go outside and pump your water and bring it in. Now on washdays you would have to pump quite a bit of water and bring it in and heat it over the stove, oh yea. This was drinking water; we had two water filters.
(CW) Now the water that came through the cistern, did that roll from your roof?
(ES) Yea. That would be nice soft water there, yea. I wish I had that today. When we moved up town the water that came through those – – well, pump water was really hard water. It didn’t really work good in with your soap. Deshler built a nice school.
(CW) Now was that through all twelve grades or was it just the elementary school?
(EP) For a while it was all twelve, yea, oh yea. Now it’s just elementary; then eventually they got kindergarten and little by little they decided that some people wanted the high school around the whole area you know. I know we had someone who lived in our area that was very interested in sports and there is nothing wrong with sports really, but that was the main thing. I still think we got a good education with how the school ran. Yes, yea, mmm. We were kind of fortunate to this whole thing really, and that was the same thing all over. The state was forcing my husband to be on the school board and they evaluate. A lot of people would get mad at them because they were on the school board. I think they are learning now that a school board works better in smaller schools, I think so too. Now Holgate, check them out. They did not consolidate at all. And they are still going very well, but Patrick Henry is a very nice school. We lived close to Deshler. We’re not too far away now. Oh the kids from town could walk to school, you know, and not even have to get on the bus because I know there are families here that have kids that are going to three different schools. Patrick Henry, Malinta, and Hamler, oh yes, Hamler. So children including the elementary school kids have to get on the bus and go from Deshler? From Hamler or Malinta or the high school.
(CW) I didn’t know that. Years ago we had how many churches? We had the Methodist, United Brethren we had the Presbyterian, the Lutheran, Catholic, all in the little town in Deshler.
(CW) How many people were in Deshler at that time? I don’t think the population changed all that much, do you?
(EP) I don’t either. I don’t think it did. I can’t give you any numbers but it was probably around 1,600 around that area. And that’s where the majority came from, just the town of Deshler.
(CW) Now where did you girls go to school when you were little?
(ES) Deshler. First three grades were in a little white building by the park, and then they built the new school.
(EP) Oh I went out in the county about 2 miles north and 2 miles west, what they called Schwiebert school in those days.
(CW) Was that a one-room school?
(EP) Oh, yeah, all 8 grades in one room.
(CW) My husband went to a country school like that and he said he got a good education because when he studied hard he would get all his lessons done and he would listen to what the other class was working on.
(EP) Yea, it’s all review if you want to go listen to what the other classes are working on.
(CW) Now what did you do at recess time?
(EP) Ate lunch and played ball. We had softball and I lived a quarter of a mile from the school and I would run all the way home and I would eat my lunch if I forgot to pack it and eat real quick then run back again to play ball. I loved to play ball. And then we jumped rope a lot inside and played jacks, Hopscotch.
(CW) You must have had sidewalks to play hopscotch on
(EP) No we didn’t out there. We had to go to the back of the school lot to go to the bathroom or the restroom.
(ES) I lived on Main Street. Yeah, we walked to school.
(CW) We did, too. I lived in a big city but we still walked to school. And some of my happiest experiences were walking to and from school with friends, talking and talking. Kids now don’t get much exercise because they drive them everywhere.
(EP) I know, or the buses pick them up.
(CW) I remember my close friend said, “There is something I really wanted to know but don’t tell anyone that I asked ya.” And I asked, “Well, what is it?” and she said, ” I heard about people doing it. Can they do it on a dance floor?”, and I didn’t know what she was talking about, I didn’t know. There could be a lot of things they do on a dance floor. Do what? Have sex. And she didn’t say that word. That was a naughty word you know.
(EP) Well it is sure used loosely now, yea that’s right. When I was little all I knew that sex was whether you were male or female. That’s it. You know, male or female, which is it? I was just wondering.
(CW) So do you have any memories about going out to the barn?
(EP) Oh yeah, we lived out on route 65 about 2 miles west from Deshler and then about 2 miles north. And I would climb in the barn and I would walk on the four by eights on top and I would climb one of those dangerous things. And then walk across the beams, yea.
(ES) I never did that.
(EP) One time I fell and luckily I fell on the hayloft down the other way. I never told my mother.
(CW) My husband and brothers were chasing each other and he fell through that hole down into the manger and hit against the wood and broke his jaw and in those days all they could do was wire it shut and left it. I don’t know how he got food but he was that way for a year and that was one of the reasons why he was so quiet because he couldn’t talk for so long.
(EP) My brother came back from WWII and he went to Findley and got off the road and hit a light pole and his mouth hit the steering wheel and broke his jaw and what they did was put a wire through his cheek to the top of his head.
(CW) How long did he have to be in that?
(ES) I don’t remember. I was already married by that time. But I don’t remember how long until he got better and then John Ken Borh’s boy, he broke his jaw when he was playing basketball and he also had his jaw wired shut.
(EP)Years ago on Wednesday nights we used to go to town. We were already in town but we went uptown and us kids we walked the streets around and around. And we would have band concerts in the park every Wednesday night and free shows every night, outdoor shows. Now great house in Malinta no not Grelton they had free shows and they were on the side of a building or something and people would bring a blanket and sit down and watch the shows, yea, they did. Herald and I did that. We went to Hamler after we were married because we lived out towards Malinta and we would go to Hamler and you could bring your own chair if you wanted to. They would have some planks there where you could sit, but usually not enough. So that was probably something that the merchants did. And Saturday night was a big night, too, to go uptown. I know the young girls, teenage girls, would walk up and down the streets. And then walk to a train station to sit down somewhere. That would be something fun wouldn’t it? Yea. And we don’t have the passenger cars, railroad, come through here anymore.
(ES) No, not anymore.
(ES) About 82 trains. But no passenger anymore.
(CW) Do a lot of cars go through?
(EP) Do you mean railroad cars?
(CW) No I mean cars from Detroit?
(EP) I haven’t seen it too much here lately but maybe up the other way. But last week I saw one go through but I didn’t know what some of these things were. Some were trucks and all kinds of vehicles and car after car after car, you know, railroad cars.
(CW) Did they bring coal a lot from Virginia?
(EP) Oh, yeah, well they go that way and they go that way, you know, both ways. They have double ones. They were one car on top of the other one. Those big trucks you were talking about, yea, and I just marvel at these engines, the power they must have to pull all that weight.
(CW) Oh, I’ll bet.
(EP) And there are more than just one operator.
(CW) But they still have someone driving the train, don’t they?
(EP) Yea, oh yea, yea, they’re talking to each other to tell them where to go. Well they get the information from Florida. So they got a picture about everything, well, its computerized now. Amazing what computers have done to our lives. And they had the coal chute down there and went down to Deshler and the trains would load up. Well they would have, what do you call those little things behind the engine? Caboose, no, right where they kept the coal and they would have to keep firing the engine with this coal.
(CW) Oh, they would have to shovel the coal.
(EP) Oh yes. I think they were called coal cars, I can’t think of anything different right now.
(ES) Yea, I can’t either. It was work in those days. People worked harder and they were stronger I think because you would just lift up a broom that they used to use years ago and you would think oh man that was hard work because the light brooms now are so light. Yea, we had a bank robbery right out of town remember?
(CW) Oh, you did?
(ES) They robbed a bank. But they found out exactly where they hid the money.
(CW) Oh, they did? Did they catch the criminals?
(EP) Yea. Then we just had the city park; that’s all we had and now we have another park with a swimming pool and all that. And some person donated that, wasn’t it? I think so. That whole block which was to be used never for commercial areas, just for people to come and do things. So that’s good. We need a place like that now. They have – – what do they call that – – the railroad watching or something like that where people can sit and watch trains. Yea, you can be surprised to see how many people are sitting there everyday right behind the old railroad station where you go to look at the trains, you know. They just sit there. People bring their chairs and sit there and watch trains go through Deshler. They just sit there and do nothing, but they did sit there and take pictures and sometimes they would have a Bar-B-Q out there. People out of town. No, not people from Deshler, people from out of town. Deshler people see enough of them. If you go through town when you get to the railroad tracks look to your left behind the railroad station. You’ll see people behind there waiting for the next train just to take pictures. Then before I was married I used to do housework for people and I worked for people across from the railroad tracks on Keyser Avenue and this was during the Depression and the trains would go through and the cars would be full of men sitting on there.
(CW) The train cars?
(EP) Yes. They were traveling to somewhere hopefully to find work and some would get off here, too. Sometimes they’d come through the door. My mom always had something for them and then they would mark this place so everyone knew that this is a place where they can get food. I don’t know if they did. Well they had to eat to live, I suppose. You don’t know what shape your own children might be in. Who knows what the world will bring.
(CW) I’m gonna tell you, this man from Holgate, I interviewed him and he said his father died when he was young and his mother had just a hard time. She couldn’t support the family so he joined. It wasn’t the WPA; there was something like the WPA, anyway, and he was a young man and he thought that he would get to see the county. He was so excited, and he joined and that would be one less mouth his mother would have to feed. He got on a train and they slept on the train and he would of course be on that train all night and the next morning he woke up thinking ‘Oh where am I, I must be way out in Western United States’ and pretty soon he heard them say “we’re coming to Cleveland” (laughs). He was working in Cleveland somewhere like WPA civilian concentration.
(EP) I don’t know if this would be historical, but one time our kids were still not real little, but young yet, and we had been to Findlay because my husband’s brother was living there and we had just got home and brought our things in and a man came up here and he wanted $10 because he had jumped off a train he said and he saw Jesus in the car.
(CW) In your car or the train car?
(EP) In the train in the car in the train car,
(CW) Oh, for heaven sakes!
(EP) Yeah, he said he saw Jesus and he got scared and he jumped off. So we were – – like what are you gonna do, you know – – we didn’t know so we gave him $10 and after that he started walking down the road. He wanted to go and catch a bus or something, so we got to thinking, did we do the right thing? Maybe we shouldn’t but what are you going to do? So we called the Deshler cop, probably a nasty thing to do, and he went down there and picked him up, and he brought back our $10 and took him off to jail. And he said that the man had climbed the walls of the jail. It turned out that the man had come from Cleveland from the veteran’s hospital and he was on his way to Chicago
(CW) Oh, for Heaven sakes.
(?) He probably wasn’t right in his mind
(EP) No, but you feel like a traitor for doing that and doing the good thing by letting him go like that. Yea, yea, it’s hard to know, but that stuck in my mind for many many years. When you don’t know who’s gonna come to the door, yea, you are near the railroad tracks.
(ES) We had a young girl come to the door out in the country in the night about 12 o’clock. She said, “my boyfriend pushed me out of the car. Will you take me home? I live up in Deshler.” Well, good hearted, you know, I took her up town and left her. Wouldn’t walk 3 miles out of town or walk along the side of the road, hoping someone would pick you up and take you home.
(?) What was he doing with a girl like that?
(EP) Well, you hear lots of tales about tramps riding the rails. There is a lot of them. Oh, that was busy, full of tramps. Years ago they chased them out of town. Then, of course, they would come out to the country and one guy did ask for money. Yea, I think some men had no jobs and I think some men thought that the family would get along better without them. That way I wouldn’t be eating there and maybe if I go somewhere maybe I can find something and maybe some went that way because they didn’t wanna work. Yep, and how do ya know which is which? You don’t even see them on trains and not even on the roads. I am so thankful Harold has been gone for three years in March, so far no one has knocked on our door at night thank goodness. Because when he was here we used to have a gas tank out here. We farmed, you know, and it always seemed that someone was running out of gas. When Harold was up in the nursing home I came home and not yet had supper. It was dark already and a car pulled in and I went to the door and he told me that he had run out of gas. He asked if I had any and I told him all I had was in a 5-gallon tank. It was in the barn, just 2 gallons and there’s no lights in the barn, and I told him exactly where it was and I asked if he had a flashlight and he had a flashlight. He went there, got the gas can and he put it in his car and took it and brought it back and he gave me five dollars. I was wondering if you charged people? I just told him that there was about two gallons. He thought he could get it up town, and he couldn’t, and he was a Mexican.
(EP) Well, during the depression people didn’t have money enough to fill up their tanks.
(EP) Oh, we had many times people, especially Mexican, come back and pay us for the gas. Oh, they said they would pay, but they didn’t. But at the price it is now we can’t afford filling up our tanks now. I should have bought a little last night. I was in Bowling Green last week and I didn’t need any and it was only $2.01 that day. Then it was $2.19 here, but I didn’t want to stop for two or three gallons when I was filling up at what was Sterling $2.15 or 17 or something like that. I heard them saying something like $2.33. Sure enough, it went up. I don’t know what it is up here now, 31, 32. So it must have shot right up right after I got my gas. They would elaborate on that they wouldn’t tell me, well, it didn’t matter, for you to drive out here. Its not very far I drive, anyhow I drove a little bit ago. We’re lucky we can be independent aren’t we. Your husband gone, too? Mmmm.
(EP) Well your husband Ernest grew up just about a mile from where my parent’s lived. That far apart. And you came from uptown here then? Mmmm.
(ES) I lived on a farm till I was about five years old.
(CW) Oh, so you’re still in the same neighborhood. Do you have any memories from those first five years living in the country?
(E?) I certainly do. My Mom and Dad talked German — not that they were from Germany, but they talked German. Of course I learned German. When I went to first grade, I sat there and cried everyday, and my teacher couldn’t figure out what in the world was wrong with me. I couldn’t understand English.
(CW) Oh, you couldn’t understand what she was saying?
(EP) No. It was the same way with me. I learned German by the time I went to school, but we had our neighbor woman as our teacher and almost all of us heard German in our one room schoolhouse. When we read a sentence, she then would ask, “What does this mean in German?” So we could learn how to translate the two so we knew what we were talking about. And that is a lot to remember, and I made up my mind that my kids were not going to learn German. They have forgotten it and they can barely understand it anymore. Paul, my youngest son, the only thing he can say in German is what dad used to say to him, “No weeds in the bean field.” That’s all he can remember in German. Then you learned German in your church school then? I learned catechism, oh I did, too, I did, too. Confirmed in German.
(EP) Yea, so was I. And High German is totally different than Low German.
(EP) Low German is what we talked at home, and High German was spoken in church, and we learned them both in school. I can’t really talk it anymore, can you? I don’t think anymore in German. I have to force myself to find the words first before I start talking, but some things that I memorized I can still say. I still say church and house and some common prayers in German.
(CW) What is it? Would you repeat it? Can you remember it? (GERMAN PRAYER). I learned that one to translate into English, that is. Even though I learned it I don’t know what it’s from. I don’t know but it’s: I will come and go to heaven, that I would be holy, or something like that. Have you ever spoken, amen. Oh yea, that is what we would say at the table, thank God for the food, probably the little kids just said (German speaking) means “I believe in God the Father, Amen.” Later we would, in German, we would say (German speaking) “a thank you prayer” (more German) “common table prayer”, “Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.” There is a professor at Bowling Green University who is quite interested in getting all the information he can about the German heritage of the people in this area. So I suppose that would be starting in the fall.
(?) That I don’t know anything about. That is just about a combination about your site. Hamler already has all of that in fiction books where they talk Low German, yea, The Low German Club. I heard that it’s fun.
(EP) Millded and I went this year and they had this, what they called a Low German dance at the Bavarian House.
(EP) Oh, yea, and they played this wonderful German music, happy music, and one year, a couple of years ago they had two men who held a conversation up on the where the band stand is and they could talk Low German really good and it just made me laugh and laugh and laugh. I don’t hear people talking like that very often around here. Like my sister, she couldn’t understand it. See, she is nine years younger than I am and she just couldn’t get the German anymore. Because they weren’t using it as much probably. No she was learning her catechism in German and she just wasn’t getting it and I said, “Mom, why don’t you let her learn it in English,” because we could take either one, and she said, “Well, I promised your dad that you all would be confirmed in German.” So back in those days they had to go all summer to confirmation classes, didn’t they? Well Bible School, what we call summer school. We didn’t have any vacation, no, and we learned to read and write in German, too. Oh yea, so it wasn’t just catechism.
(ES) I didn’t.
(EP) You didn’t? Oh, I did.
(CW) So did you learn that in the church?
(EP) We learned it in school. We had our own little school. There was a small building like that small country building for the eighth grade, you know, oh yea.
(CW) I don’t want this thing to stop on me without me knowing it. Who’s going to be hearing this?
(CW) Well let me explain to you how we do this, because I already explained it to her. We take this tape and then we transcribe it. In other words, we listen to the tape and we type it out on paper because the paper will be preserved better over the years and the tapes don’t hold up. There are several tapes in the Holgate library now that would be very valuable, but you can hardly hear them anymore.
(E?) Well good, I don’t sound better on tape, yea.
(CW) We bring those back and I’ll ask whoever transcribes this to make two copies so one copy can go to you and one to you and then you could read it and say, “Naw, I don’t want this in here anymore.” Or you can say, “Oh, I remembered something that I hadn’t thought of,” and add that any place you want. It’s your privilege, but we have to type it exactly the way we hear it on the tape, because it isn’t ours; its your words.
(E?) Oh, so it’s The Historical Society’s and …
(CW) Then, when you finished the editing we pick it up and take it back. Then we make the final copies and there will be one copy that will be kept with the rest of these oral histories in the possession of The Historical Society. Then one copy will go to you and one to you or your families or however you want it. So its pretty valuable. I got two German Bibles there over one hundred years old. What do I do with them? I don’t know, but we have it recorded now and I think in the fall whoever this professor is I will hear back from him I’ll say, “I know a woman who has a really old bible; what do you think would be a good place for it?” I got one, too, I got a long time ago from confirmation in German.
( E?) Once in a while I like to look something up in it just to see how it is.
(CW) Do you have a place in these Bibles where you can write down weddings and births and things?
(EP) I don’t remember, but I do have a Bible. I’ll tell you my son has a Bible that we got years ago from his Aunt Edna Sund, married a Pastor Sund, and it was real old. It had a lot of German in it, like, who got married, and I think he has it still. He really wanted that Bible. We had went up to Michigan one time, they were to be moving to Toledo, and he was going to be retiring from the ministry and they wanted to get rid of a lot of things, but he chose that Bible. There wasn’t anything we wanted more than that. See my voice is getting bad again.
(CW) Do you want to take a rest? Do you want to rest a while?
(EP) Oh, no, I don’t think its going to get better. Well the cough drops seemed to help, and the German writing is really harder to figure out than thinking, but the thinking I can deal with, but the writing is a little harder. I got my Aunt Caroline’s hymnal in German. I got Harold’s dad’s hymnal in German, but there’s no notes, just the words.
(CW) There’s an old church just about a mile south from West Unity that has the German hymnal still in it, hasn’t been used since the beginning in the 20th century, but they still kept it just the way it was, and it’s fascinating. I used to take my Sunday school kids there to visit quit often, but that was all German and they had place in there that had two pot-belly stoves and there was a division right down the middle of the church, and that was because the men would sit on one side and the women sat on the other.
(EP) Oh, we did that too, and we had two pot-belly stoves on each side. Our floor was not varnished at the time, dirty feet in church, it was bare floors and I know George Honemon wanted to put varnish on it and my unlce Alfred was, like, “Oh, how is that going to turn out, putting varnish on that old floor?” And they weren’t too much in favor of doing it, but they did it, and it turned out good. But that’s all gone now.
(CW) oh do you mean the church isn’t standing anymore?
(E?) No, we still have the same church, We had the new flooring put in. And for communion years ago you had to announce yourself before communion. Did you have to go to the pastor, too? Oh, no, we just had to make announcements.
(CW) When you made this announcement you were expected to state whatever you were sorry for?
(EP) Oh, no, just announce that you were going to be there. But in other words you don’t know what you did do.
(CW) Oh, I see, ’cause sometimes we do things that we don’t really know that are bad.
(EP) That’s right. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s bad and what’s good.
(EP) When you went to St. Johns and I went a mile down the road to Peace Lutheran Church, and we were there first, and some guys, they kind of didn’t agree on some things so they split and I finally found out what that was, ok. On our mission festival we had a speaker there who all – – well, let’s see, if I can get it out, – – there just was one statement they didn’t agree on in there really? One statement from the Bible they didn’t agree on, but I can’t think of what that was.
(ES) Some day you think of what is it and you tell me.
(CW) I wonder if you could tell me something about when you were young girls in high school?
(ES) My husband was a Seeman and there was another group of Seemans. I got a letter in the mail asking me for a date. I didn’t know which one it was; they both lived out on Route 65. Oh, would that have been the other famous Seeman? Oh the one with his horses kept running away? Yes. But the one that came was the one I was glad that came. So that was the one you eventually married? Yeah. That would work. Married 3 months before we moved to Deshler. Then a tornado hit us, oh, the barn, the chicken coop, the windmill. Blew in all the windows and doors to the house. Could you see it coming? 9:30 at night we all were in bed and it was thundering and lightning and I thought we better get up, because the storm seemed pretty strong, so we were just about to get up and it hit.
(CW) Oh, so you were in the bedroom when it hit. Could you hear it coming? It came with one huge flash but very fast. Oh, yeah, it’s over with just like that. We couldn’t hardly find our clothes, so we had our robe on. We cross the dining room through all the glass and onto the front porch. So we huddled in a corner and a neighbor man coming down the road just screaming and my husband went out there to tell him that he shouldn’t come any closer because of the electric wires. He was screaming about, “Don’t you know all your buildings are all down!” and then by that time people were stopping, you know, it was only 9:30, and people were stopping. So they stopped and they shown their lights over the barn, got out took the huge beam off the cattle. They all helped them down the neighbors.
(CW) So were they still living? Where your cattle still living?
(ES) We only lost one calf. And the brand new chicken coop was laying out in the field. With 270 chickens dead and our pigs were all out in the field.
(CW) Didn’t that make you afraid?
(EP) Yeah, every time there was a storm, it would get black. The windmill missed our bedroom window by an inch. Isn’t that a miracle that you didn’t get hurt.
(ES) But, ya know, a couple years later the one that went through town killed that five-member family. And we said, “Ours was nothing.” And because if you could live through it then our kids said, “Where were we?” (laughing) They would have been scared because they would have been upstairs. I have never seen a tornado when I was in town.
(EP) We had a calf that was ready for market and Harold went up town to see a guy that picked them up to take them to market, and so he was gone and he told Howard to clean around the mailbox, so he did, and Kenneth, the second son, was out in the barn milking the cow and I was in the kitchen working after supper. So Howard came hollering, “Mom, there’s a tornado coming!” and I looked out and said, “Oh, yea.” I could see it and it was heading straight for us and I was going, “Oh my god, what do I do?” And Kenneth said, “I want to finish milking the cow first.” But we made him come, so we stood over there in the ditch. It was the deepest ditch that we had close by, and we watched it come from a half a mile. It just took everything. Every time it hit a building it all went up like sticks, like magic. And about that time Harold came flying down the road. The tornado almost hit him on the road. There was this woman driving home from work, and a tornado came and took them. They laid down in the car– see the oldest boy was in Howe’s class– and Howe said and we went down and there was hogs lying in the ditches they couldn’t even find the people. Carol helped look for them and they were all dead. What had happened, the father and the oldest son, they were bailing away from home, and he sent the boy home for supper and that’s when it happened. So he lost his whole family.
(ES) That was years later. Ours was in ’37. We were the only ones hit.
(EP) Yea I remember that. That was two years before I was married.
(EP) Only one hit, see, this was in 53′– well I remember going, that must have been the ’53, when I was going someplace in the area to see where it had been. And you could see the foundation of the house and it was smooth as could be. it wasn’t a pretty sight to see. We came back for months. I couldn’t stand there listening to the trains go through because tornados sound just like a train when they go on through, and in my mind it was there, but I didn’t notice it at the time when it was going through, but the sound was there. We stood out in the yard and watched it.
(ES) We didn’t know it was coming, but Dave the oldest one comes running in from the toilet yelling, “There’s a tornado coming!” Over there by Hamler there was a gray funnel and it hit Deshler reservoir and it got black really dark black.
(EP) It was about, well, you could see the path it took on the road on this side of the half mile road, and it got as wide as a quarter of a mile. Yea, and then there was nothing to fool around with.
(ES) No. All those people who stopped at 9:30 helped, and then we put up a brand new barn in two weeks time, because there were so many people who came and helped out, that is right. And people came and picked up our yard because there was nails. The woman came and helped me put all the furniture out to dry in the yard. And we would cook for the men, sometimes twenty-five men were working on the barn.
(EP) Well, still talking about the tornado, when we saw it we just watched it go hit the first barn one mile through and we saw it go up and my cousin lived there, oh really. But they weren’t home. But you didn’t know. No, I didn’t know they weren’t home, and the next mile was a bus driver. They saw it coming. Where did they go I wonder? They just went to one place. It only hits a small area. It’s not like a regular storm. It’s windy, I mean, you could hear it whistling. Yea, I stood out in the yard and watched. It wasn’t windy here just yet, yea, I don’t think it was. I can’t remember, but there were branches falling out of the tree. You’re so engrossed in the tornado that you don’t notice anything else. It must have been windy because why else would a branch fall out of the tree.
(CW) Had the branch fallen out of the tree before or after the tornado hit?
(EP) Afterwards. They always say, “When it’s stormy and the winds that are real calm and quiet, then look out!” It didn’t even look that stormy, just a few clouds, that was it. But they did say south of us it was thundering and lightning. We didn’t hear any thunder or lightning.
(CW) Did the air get a funny color bluish-green?
(EP) It was windy all day. Oh, it was really windy all day. In fact, it would be the anniversary, the 14th of this month. When ours hit, oh, when your tornado hit, same with ’53, it was windy all day all the same directions, yep, that’s the way they go, oh, in the same directions. Was that west? South west. They move differently, I hear they can move back and forth, too. We might have some this spring, too. Who knows? Well, I know once in a while I’ll tell you what time they said that we would have tornados coming. Leon and Ginny weren’t home, but they had a basement, so maybe I’ll just go down to Leon and Ginny, and they weren’t home, and I couldn’t remember where the key was. So I went to my son-in-law’s, my daughter’s, outside of town, and he wasn’t the least bit concerned. So I finally went home. If it hits me, it hits me. There’s always something to be concerned about. I think you always get frightened when. I used to, but it’s been about 10 years, but, no, I always take cover. I think I would be, like, oh would I go into that little closet? It has no windows in it or nothing, and then I do have something that I could get under — the house, and there is an opening in the floor, but who would find me there? But right now I have an old part of an old buffet sitting on there and I would have to move that in order to get the hole open. Yea. We were in an old farm house in the pasture, you know, on our back porch would be the water pipes and it was easy enough to dig a hole so we could get down there to fix something. And I wanted to make the hole big enough so we could possibly get down there. Our well is under our floor in the utility room, yea, they built our house right over a well and for a long time we had some of that main things underneath the floor, but I think Leon brought it up above the floor.
(CW) You would have to be careful where you had that opening because you didn’t want to fall in to the well.
(EP) No, no, you wouldn’t. Well there isn’t any water in it. Its just a pipe that goes on down. Well how about when you people.. well you didn’t tell us about.. my husband.. your husband. Well it’s a lot different than hers. Well, his parents were good friends with my uncle Earnest Rosebrook, and sometimes we would be visiting my uncle the same time that the Petersens did. I only can remember when we were still kids, we were playing outside, but as teenagers we would go talk to each other. I know one year at the fair, I took 4-H, it was a girl club, and I remember one day we went home and were in one car, I think it was my cousin’s car. He said, “Wait till I get my car.” You know, but he was funny in some ways, and he would come out every Sunday night, but he wouldn’t tell me he was coming, but I knew he was so I thought, ok, I’m going to let him know I might not always be here. So one Thursday night me and the neighbor girl, we had went to Flory’s to a dance with my cousin, and two boys asked to take us home, and also asked us if we wanted to go to a show in Lima on Sunday night, and we said, “Ok, we’ll go.” Sunday night it was already dark and I saw a car drive up and I though, uh oh, I hope that’s my date and not Harold, ya know, and it was Harold.
(CW) He was mad I bet.
(EP) No, actually, he didn’t say a thing, but when I got home there was Harold again. It never changed. He would show up and there he was. Yep, you couldn’t get rid of him.
(CW) The Lord had one picked out for you already.
(EP) Yep, and then we had an old neighbor who lived back in Napoleon and they had a new baby and so they came to find a girl to help them, ya know, and I was there, and one of her nieces, we were walking and talking, and about 16 years old, and we where talking about boys, and how I knew this one guy liked me and I said “that the one that you’re going to marry.” And it turned out that way. You know, my cousin came and lived with us when she went to high school, because there wasn’t a high school close to their home out in the country in Pennsylvania. And I wondered if they did the same thing here, for the girls that lived out in the country would go in and, I think, it would work that way for families, wouldn’t they? If they wanted to go to high school they would go and work for a family or something.
(EP) I think, well, there wasn’t any school buses so you would have to find your one way to school, to high school, and also they didn’t buy your books either. So my mom said she couldn’t afford it, Well, my dad died when I was eight, and my mother had five children and I was the oldest and she said she couldn’t take me every day, and I cried for three days because I wanted to go to high school so bad. And then Martha Hoops– she was in my class. I saw her go by. Her dad was taking her in and old Ford car, and the next time I saw her and I asked her how she was getting to school and she said that she wasn’t going because her dad couldn’t take her everyday– cost too much. I felt better. And you were unusually bright in your school classes. I can tell by the way you talk. Well, the teacher encouraged me to go. She was always thinking I should go until I get smarter. Well, like I said, reading was easy for me and her non-favorite subject was arithmetic.
(ES) It wasn’t mine either.
(EP) So that’s the way it was.
(CW) So were there girls that came from the country that lived and worked in Deshler so they could go to high school there or don’t you remember?
(EP) Well one thing I know, Harold’s aunt Edna lived way out in the country. They lived about one mile from our church and Edna, there was no way she could go to high school up here either, so she went to live with her aunt in Genoa, Ohio so she could go to high school there.
(CW) That was like my cousin. She had come from quite a way away so she could get that high school education.
(EP) How did you get from Pennsylvania to here?
(CW) Well I never thought about that (laughing). My best friend was very bright. She took out every college catalogue they had in the school library and studied them and one day she said, “Charlotte, I know the best place for us to go. It has a funny name but is the cheapest place in the United States.” And I asked, “What is this funny name?” She said, “Bowling Green.” (laughing). Then I went on to Napoleon. Well, I met my future husband at Bowling Green, and he was in WWII and I followed him around after we got married, called over from WWII, and when he came home he asked, “Do you mind if I go to medical school?” Because he was a graduate in the army. The only thing I knew about doctors was what my mother heard on the radio. She was always listening to these soaps on the radio and the doctors were always having affairs. And I said, “Well, if you have an affair with a nurse you’re just going to have to tell me so I can have an affair with an intern. (laughing). He never did.
(EP) You must have been a good wife.
(CW) I think we were well mated. Well I think its more different now than it was with us. We expected it to last to the end, but I don’t know if they come on that too much; I don’t know.
(EP) The marriages you mean.
(CW) Yea, yea. And they don’t, well it takes a little effort to get along with one another. Takes both of them. My husband was a doctor.
(EP) In Bowling Green then.
(CW) No, in Napoleon.
(EP) Oh, yea, oh, what’s that name again? Oh, that’s right. You got re-mmaired then. Your first husband died.
(CW) Dr. Winzeler.
(EP) Oh, yea, you told me that once before. He was from Archbold. So he was from well-educated people over there. Yea, in Archbold.
(EP) Well we had two preachers in the family, all because my mom had cousins.
(CW) That about– well they got teachers and nurses and grandkids.
(EP) How many kids did you have.
(CW) 5 with one girl.
(EP) Oh, we had 5 too. And how many did you have?
(ES) Three. Margret was a pretty name. Mine was Marcelle. I liked Marcelle. They worked together. She was born in November and some of our cousins. I had a cousin who named their kid Marcelle and another one named Mary Anne. I liked it and I didn’t want to copy that. So we came up with Marcelle. Our son has quite a name: David Paul. I just liked the names.
(EP) Well Harold picked out Howard’s name. And I picked out Kenneth’s name. We couldn’t think Leon David or David Leon. We eventually made it David. And our youngest is Harold, Jr. Marcelle is 9 years older than he is, so he kind of came later. My sister-in-law named their, well, she didn’t name it — her son and his wife named theirs Adam, their first child, and I thought Adam is such a common name, you think a lot of people would name their son Adam. It always made me think of Adam, the first man. Oh maybe that was it.
(ES) I have a grandson named Christian.
(EP) So did I, and his wife’s name is Kristen. Spelled just like the work Christian. C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N Are you done taping? Let see.
(EP) Years ago where I was a little girl growing up during the depression, life was very different in the Deshler area too. My father passed away when I was eight years old. I was the oldest of five children. We had cows, chickens, ducks and geese. We raised, dressed, and sold them at Thanksgiving time.
I milked a cow before I went to school in the morning, and I walked about a quarter of a mile to school. Rout 65 was not paved, just loose stone. Trapping and hunting were a big thing for teenage boys and men. I worked as a hired girl. Most all mothers had their babies at home so they would hire a (teenager) to help them for about three weeks. Factory jobs were not around much in the Deshler area. After marriage, Harold also trapped muskrats and whatever else there was around. He even caught a badger one time in a trap. They are fierce. Koppenhafer brothers (5 of them) started their own creamery buying eggs and cream from area farmers. Everybody had cows and chickens. They also bought chickens dressed and sold them as far away as New York City. Harold worked for them for years. The Brothers have all passed on in the 1920s and 30s. Harold as a boy lived with his parent’s about six miles northwest of Deshler on a half-mile road a little ways from the corner. They had to go to the corner to pick up their mail. It was a mud road. Which Harold got stuck in wearing high rubber boots.
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