Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, December 2, 2008
CW: Would you tell us your name please?
DW: My name is Don Westhoven.
CW: Today is the third of December 2008. Would you go ahead and tell us about yourself?
DW: I was born here in Liberty Center 86 years ago just about 100 yards from where I am living now. I went to Liberty Center High School, graduated there in 1940, and played football and basketball.
CW: What was football like in those days? I bet it was a lot different then compared to what it is now.
DW: I have pictures of us. The pads are different. The helmets were not like they are today, they were just like helmets on your head.
CW: Did you have pads on your body too?
DW: Oh yes! We had knee pads, hip pads, and shoulder pads. I was a running guard. I had pads around my abdomen and around my chest. If I had blocked somebody I had protection around my chest. My chest was well protected.
CW: Were the rules the same?
DW: Pretty much the same. I think I had better back up before I go to Liberty Center. I went to school my first two years right across the road here where my brother lives. The old Connolly school.
CW: Do you have any memories of that? Tell me about it.
DW: Lots of memories! Well, my school teacher at the time was Gertrude Murdock from Liberty here. She used to call Mom and ask why we weren’t in school and why we were late. I always told her we had to eat our pancakes first before coming across the road. That was quite a deal. I remember many times going to school in a horse and buggy when I first started to school. After I left the little Connolly school here and went to the Liberty Center school my cousins down the road George Connolly had horse and buggies. That’s what you would ride rather than take the busses. After I left high school I went to college. I went to St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. Dr. George was our family doctor here in Liberty and we liked him. He was a nice doctor. I told him “Doc, I’d like to be a doctor just like you”. I wanted to be a family doctor, not a specialist or anything. So he encouraged me and I went to St. Joe, and I took the pre med course. I went four years to pre med and graduated cum laude. That was back there during the War. We had a hard time getting into medical schools because they only took so many that had not been in the service. At the time I applied to medical schools and to dental schools in case I couldn’t get into a medical school. I was accepted into six different dental schools around the country and finally I got an okay to go to the University of Louisville into their medical school. That is where I started my four years of medicine.
CW: I didn’t know that.
DW: You didn’t know I was a doctor did you?
CW: No! You aren’t spoofing me are you?
DW: I was in an automobile accident and that ruined my voice. That knocked me out of school as I couldn’t talk for about two years. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t ask questions in class. At that time we were married. I came back home and I didn’t know what I was going to do so I helped my dad with farming. That was awfully dusty and dirty and I couldn’t take the dust and dirt. I knew I would have to do something else. I got a job in Napoleon at the A & P Tea Company. That was located next to the courthouse.
CW: Oh yes.
DW: That is where Don Schuette is today.
CW: And they had a big fire.
DW: Yes, they had a big fire. I remember that night when they had the big fire I was sitting at Spot’s across the street. Spot Rohrs had a bar there. I was sitting there on the steps with a bunch of other people, and that fire was blazing and all at once the front of that building came right toward us from across the street. After the big fire that ended my job with the A & P Tea Company. I worked there with Pete Richalt and Ann Freytag. I was the produce manager and I took care of the produce.
CW: How did that fire get started?
DW: I really don’t know. I know I had gone home. We lived above my wife’s folks there on West Washington St. They were the Pearl Creager’s. I had just gotten home. It was about 7:00 I guess. Somebody had called me and I looked out the window and saw smoke down the street there. I don’t know what started it. After that, well I had to work some place. So I went to work for Sauer’s. He was a good friend of mine. He said to come up and see him and I will hire you, so I went and he put me right to work. I was the produce manager there. Butch Frederick took care of the meat end of it. Pat Patterson run the grocery part. Ann Freytag was the cashier.
CW: And that was on West Washington Street?
DW: Yes that was on West Washington on the South side of the street. I worked there for about three years I guess. One day I looked out and saw Floyd Walker with his nice Buick and with his license plate of 1400 W. I would see him drive up there and I said boy that would be a job for me. I would like that. So I went out with him and we were looking for a tomato farm close to Napoleon. He showed me Frank Echenrodes farm. It had about 30 acres on it and it had beautiful tomatoes. Coming back into town he told me he had a confectionery around the corner and he asked me if I would be interested in something like that. I said, well you can tell me about it. They are money makers. It would cost you $12,000.00. He said you can probably make that in a year. So, shortly after that I bought it. I went back and told Sauer’s on Saturday night that I had bought the Idle Hour from Chalky Gilliland. And I said I have got to leave you. I told him I would work a couple of weeks more until you can find somebody. So that is how I got into the confectionery business.
CW: A confectionery, is that what the Idle Hour was.
DW: When I got it, it used to be Mike’s Place. It used to be Chalky’s Place, and every other place, and I thought to myself I’ve got change the name of the place. I put an ad in the newspapers for a name.
CW: Asking the people to name it.
DW: First prize would be a free soda or sunday each week for one year, It was a Howe girl who named it. She came up with the name Idle Hour, so that is the name I picked.
CW: So you named it the Idle Hour.
DW: I was in it less than a year when I found out I couldn’t do it because of my voice. I had seventeen people working for me. The kids were just raising hell. They would be playing the juke box and you couldn’t talk to any of my people. I was so confused or embarassed when people would come in to see me and I couldn’t even talk to anybody. So I decided I had to sell it. Floyd Walker came in and I told him to sell this place. He said OK. Well it wasn’t so hard to sell. I had Riley Stevens working for me. I said to Riley “Do you want to buy this place. He said he would, but replied that he didn’t have any money. I told him that he didn’t need any money and he could pay me so much each month. That is how I sold it. Right after that I told Floyd I am going to come up and buy a half interest in your business.
CW: Now Floyd, what kind of business was that?
DW: Real estate. He was a real estate broker. So I went up to see him and I had to find out how much he wanted for me to buy half interest for it. I didn’t know nothing about it. I was just in my twenties. He was smoking a cigar, so he pulled out a match folder. He gave me one and said for me to write down how much I wanted to give and he would write down how much he would want. That’s just the way he did it. I pretended to write something down. I didn’t know how much it was worth. He wrote down a figure and showed it to me. It was $4000.00. I said I would take it. He said you are going to be good at it, because you already outfoxed me.
CW: Here is something I just found in a scrapbook, written by Nat Belknap, who was the editor of the paper. He stated the following. “On the other hand a fella doesn’t need to leave our town to make good. Take Don Westhoven, he has just been elected President of the Northwest Ohio Board of Realtors and I am very proud of him.” Here is the picture too of a young man. That is very nice.
DW: Well lots of things happened after that as far as I was concerned. I was President of the Napoleon and Industrial Developers Inc. I started that.
CW: Now what was that?
DW: Well we needed somebody in town interested in Napoleon to bring industry here into town. We knew it was needed so we started it. I told them we would put so much money apiece whoever wanted to help start it. We incorporated it in the State of Ohio. That is what we did. We searched for people and companies that were interested to come to Napoleon. Then we also recognized the problems that we had with Napoleon. Why we couldn’t do the things we wanted to. We had one lousy bank in town at the time. He didn’t want to see anybody come to town. There wasn’t proper zoning if someone wanted to start something. All these things we would run into. There were roadblocks and so many things we couldn’t do.
CW: There was a group of bigwigs here in town as I understand that did not want the town to grow. They wanted the town to stay the same. Well nothing can ever stay the same.
DW: I can name you every one of them. Should I go on with the names?
DW: Walter Crahan, Dr. Delventhal, Ed Yeager, and he was the mayor. There were some more of them. There were at least a half a dozen. Doc Delventhal told me one Sunday morning. He had stopped by the office here. We don’t want anybody out here, we like the town the way it is. What can a person do? They tried to keep Campbell’s out. I worked like hell trying to get Clevite out there. Tony Hagans was on the board at the time to get a water line out there. It’s a wonder we ever got that done. It took a lot of doings.
CW: George Rafferty was a friend of ours and I remember him telling us that he had to make I don’t know how many trips to Chicago to convince Campbell’s to come to Napoleon. Did this gang of VIP’s have anything to do with the fact that Bowling Green never set up their university here?
DW: That’s right. That was maybe before their time.
CW: Tell about that.
DW: I really don’t know much about that.
CW: I heard that the guys that were going to put the university here or in Bowling Green, they came here and went across the bridge and there were six bars here in town. So they decided not to come to town. I don’t know whether that is true or not. That is why they decided not to come here because of the bars. It could have been the influence of this group too.
DW: We had other problems too. One was because we owned our own power and light plant. It wasn’t large enough. We couldn’t get big companies in here because we couldn’t produce enough power. What we tried to do was to get Toledo Edison or anybody to come and buy it. Boy did they try to run us out of town. I ran for city council and Dick Fahringer ran around town telling everybody that damn Don Westhoven all he wants to do is sell our power plant and get Toledo Edison in here. So I got beat which was alright with me. So Winters, that had the manufacturing plant out here.
CW: You mean J. R. Winters.
DW: The only reason he got in here was he agreed to set his plant out of the corporation limits so Toledo Edison could come in here and give him some power. That is how he got in here. They just didn’t want to do anything here in Napoleon. They would always tell what you could do and what you couldn’t do.
CW: Well the old gossipy story was, and this came from the state, to see if they could set up Bowling Green University here. At that time it was the Bowling Green Normal School. Some of these people met them and turned down every suggestion they had and so they didn’t locate here. They never realized that things never stay the same.
DW: In Napoleon we had, because I was in real estate and developing, we needed land that was zoned. I wanted apartments and other things that I knew we needed. We needed a nursing home here at the time. We didn’t have a nursing home here. Bill Heitman and I went to Lima, Ohio to check out a big nursing home down there. He had his master plan and everything. We came back and he submitted the plans. He was going to put it across the river where Maumee Lane is now. They said we couldn’t get it done. It wasn’t too long after that Charlie Bauman came up with the same plans that we had and did it. He had the same plans that we had. That is right.
CW: Yes that was Northcrest and that was outside the city limits at that time.
DW: No it wasn’t. It was in the city. That is the same thing we ran into in the early days. We did get a chance to develop quite a bit here in Napoleon.
CW: Yes let’s see what else was in this paper. Westhoven and Franz pave the way for progress with new homes and new apartment buildings. Was that Merle Franz?
DW: Yes that was Merle Franz.
CW: His widow is a good friend of mine.
DW: Oh yes you mean Dora. Merle had a plumbing and hardware store out on North Scott Steet. He came up and said “Don get rid of this place I want to go into business with you”. So I sold his place and we did it 50-50. He had some money and I committed a little money then. It took money to do anything you know. We started to build apartments and houses and we had trouble with the city trying to get things going and done. I remember when I started this Maumee Lane apartments over there.
CW: You mean on the south side?
DW: We built 34 apartments there and when I built the first one it was in January and Blue Ridge Homes out of Toledo were our builders. They had piled a lot of corn cobs over the ground and had set them on fire to get the frost out of the ground. We just got started and here come this building inspector. He said the setback wasn’t right on this one. I just raised hell right here. I went right down to the city building and I blew up. There wasn’t anything wrong with it. It was just a technical thing. They were just being picky. You get a lot of that. I wanted to build houses and I didn’t have places to build them. I called Gerken’s, Julian
Gerken and his brother Luther. I told him to go out and develop that area now called Harmony Acres. I told them you get along good with the city. I told them if I had tried it they would never get it done. So they went out and laid it out in lots, put in sewer and water lines and I bought the whole thing from them. The city couldn’t do a thing. I owned all 46 lots and I was all ready to go.
CW:You finally got that going.
DW: I finally got that going. I started other subdivisions. I started the Gerken-Hoeffel subdivision.
CW: Now is that the same Hoeffel that did the condos across from the golf course?
DW: Oh yes, Martin Hoeffel, the attorney. Gerken was the county engineer. Carl Gerken. His son still lives up there on Riverview. That is Gene Gerken.
CW: Yes, and the Hoeffel,s bought one of those condos.
DW: No, that is a different Hoeffel. They are related, but a different family. He was Lawrence Hoeffel. He was a farmer.
CW: Oh Lawrence Hoeffel. Oh yes.
DW: So I did other subdivisions in so many areas I can’t remember them all. I developed Wayne Park.
CW: You did!
DW: That’s right. I have pictures of it here.
CW: Now was that when the dance hall was still there, Wayne Park? Now that area is along the river, just west of town.
DW: That’s right, on 424. It is west of town, but actually south because the river makes a turn there. Anyway, I forget his name right now. He lived down in Georgia. It was in Barnhill, Georgia. I got hold of his address. The place was not doing anything. It was run down. On the way to Florida one year I went through Georgia and I ran him down and went to his house and asked him if he wanted to sell it. It ended up that I bought it. I had quite a job fighting the city, getting water out there, I paid for the water lines and everything that goes with it you know. It was worth it you know and we did develop it. We built many different houses out there.
CW: It’s a very nice area out there.
DW: Yes, it is a very nice development. Those I also did, what is it called, out west of Napoleon. Not Wayne Park but Leisure Oaks. I owned the place, the woods part of it. The way I got it was that it was up for public auction of the farm. I believe it was 54 acres. I walked into First Federal that morning and John Dietrich said aren’t you going to go out and buy that farm. I said I hadn’t thought much about it. I said do you have any money to loan me and he said all you want. So I got Danny my son and myself and we went out to the sale and we bought it.
CW: Going at auction I suppose.
DW: Yes, I bought it at public auction. I decided to lay it out in lots which I did on both sides of the road. They wouldn’t allow me to build on the north side. There was no water out there. There was water right down the street, but they wouldn’t extend the line. That was a no no. You couldn’t get it outside the corporation. If it hadn’t been for poor old Bob Prentiss, he was on City Council and he was in back of me. He said we’ll get it through somehow and well he did and left me do it. Digger Schultz ran a water line out there and he didn’t fill it right. He had to dig it up and do it all over. That is the way we got water out there. We had the same thing at Wayne Park. We couldn’t get water out there because it was outside of the corporation. Oh we got that done, but you have all these things. They were big things at the time.
CW: I’m sure they weren’t easy for you.
DW: We had to pay for the lines and then give it to the city. One of my last developments was Industrial Park. That was out towards Clevite. Now there is Interstate Cold Storage and a John Deere dealership. I developed that. I sold it to the John Deere dealer Bill Von Deylen. When he went to get a permit he needed a septic tank. They told him he couldn’t because there was a sewer right there across the street. They wouldn’t let me do that, but I don’t know what happened. Back in Bowling Green Poggemeyer came over and we had Gerken out there at the time dig it up and start putting in the line. We finally got that straightened around and put in a sewer line at my expense. I put in a street over there and the sewer and the water line. Then I sold the lots. Campbell Soup bought one. That big Cold Storage place there by the railroad. They had a little smaller place down the road. Bo-Tex Welding was clear down on the end. He called me at the office one day and he said do you want to sell it. I said that is the idea. That was the lot next to him, so he bought it. He wanted to buy the lot right next to it. He was getting on in years. He is still here today. I had to pay for everything. I put in the street and had to pay for it then I had to turn it over to the city and deed it to the city.. That was a long time ago. I think that was my last big development.
CW: I remember when the Senior Center had to get out of the Armory.
DW: I remember that too.
CW: So we had to have a place to go. I think the man that was running the Armory gave us only a month to get out. It was terrible. The Kroger Store across the steet had been vacated and it was going to be up for sale at auction. We knew that the 7 Up Pop Company wanted it too. But we needed it.
DW: I remember you came up to my office and said “Don will you buy it for me”? We didn’t have the money.
CW: Yes, that was it. It was cash in hand. We had to pay cash. I said what am I going to do. I can’t pay for it myself. My boss, was going to go to Toledo and she came back and said that I couldn’t pay more than $50,000. I will have that much money when I come back. I couldn’t do it and I thought Don Westhoven, he is somebody that I can lean on here. He is a man that isn’t afraid to take a chance now and then. I am going to go see if he will do it. I asked him and he said he would and you were just a life saver Don. You really were.
DW: I didn’t have to do anything the way it worked out. I didn’t have the money either, but I knew I could walk across the street and borrow it. I wasn’t worried about that I didn’t have it.
CW: You are somebody that is not afraid to take a chance. That auction, I remember Jay Hanna was bidding for us and the auctioneer kept going higher and higher. Each time we would make a bid the 7Up Company would make it higher. It got up to $49,000.00 and then 49,500.00 and I thought Oh my gosh, when it gets to $50,000.00 I am going to have to quit. Jay Hannah said $50,000 as if he had another $50,000 in his pocket. Then they stopped bidding. We got it for $50,000.00. and I said woooh!
DW: That was a close call. Well, we had lots of those good times. We had to get together and do something.
CW: Remember that time when we first came to town you rented part of your building to Ed Winzeler for his office. It had such really high ceilings. I thought I will have to make these ceilings feel like they are lower, so I picked a dark green color for the ceilings. Then I picked a lighter green for underneath. I must have really gotten sick of that color. I can still remember that color.
DW: I remember Doc Winzeler real well. He was just new in town and didn’t know too many people and he would come over to my office and we would just sit and talk. One day he came in and he said that he had just come back from a real bad accident. He said a guy with a stone truck had pulled up on a train track and the train hit him and it killed him right there. Come to find out it was John Barlow. John Barlow was a good truck driver for one of her dad’s trucks. Her dad was a road contractor.
CW: To get up to the office you had to climb up these steep steps that were just behind Crahan’s Department Store.
DW: I went up there for years. Just before that we worked in the building next door to the shoe store. It was the trustees office. Floyd Walker and I had it cut off just like it was in Doc Boles’ office. In the back part was the Napoleon Township trustees office. What we had for heat was a little fuel oil stove. We had a 50 gallon drum out in the hallway. When we needed fuel we had a little 5 gallon bucket and we would take it and put it in the stove. That is what we used for heat.
CW: It’s a wonder you didn’t burn the building down.
DW: We had pretty good heat, but those were tough times. The bowling alley that we had was across the street from the 7Up Company there on East Clinton Street. The man that ran that was Jerry Hays. Another good company here in town was the Home Oil Company. The Vorwerk boys Ernie and Herman ran that.
CW: They had that for years.
DW: They were very good friends of mine. Then there was a ladder company.
CW: Don, there isn’t everybody that can get his picture on the front page of The Crescent News in such good company. Congratulations. Tell us about that.
DW: Well here it is.
CW: Here is the picture.
DW: There were more people there, but it was one of our real estate meetings. This guy is Bert Davis, he was the founder of First Federal. He came into our office every Friday, he came down looking for loans. If I had sold a piece of property, I would take the application for the loan and they would go out to appraise and look at it. He would come back the same day and say if they would make the loan. It happened that quick. We had this one meeting in Swanton with Bert Davis, the one in the Crescent.
CW: It is fun to reminisce.
DW: I did a lot of appraisal work for the Vorwerk’s. They had their station across the way. They sold tires. They were the General Tires brand. Right where the Henry County Bank is now is where they had their showroom. They also sold cars down there. I believe it was a Hudson. There was a time before I became a realtor that I worked for Libbey Owens Ford in the research department during my college and school years in the summer time. I used to lead glass and other things, and Ernie called me and said he would like for me to mirror this whole wall. I told him that was too much.
CW: What was that all about.
DW: I was an appraiser. I did appraisals for condemned properties. Wherever you went they wanted appraisals. I worked for the highway department and they wanted to know how much compensation they would have coming. Of course if the owner didn’t accept it, I would negotiate it or we would go to court. We would let it go to court and we had trials. If I had happened to have been one of the appraisers on that piece of property I would have to go and testify as to what the value was. It was always very interesting. One I did was Bob Peper’s office. It is down there by the canal. I did so many appraisals for the state of Ohio I can’t count them all. Now it is real estate. I had two secretaries working for me at one time. Lucille Bell was one of them and I forget the other one. Anyway I had two of them and the state would give me an appraisal to do. I did it all over the country. I would go out and take along a recorder like this and as I was driving up to the property I would tell all the things that I could see. I would go up to the buildings and take measurements and I would figure what the property owner should be awarded. I did that. There were different routes that I did work on. I didn’t do all of them. I did appraisals on Route 2 when they put the airport out of Toledo. I did a lot of it in the air. I did Route 127 in Bryan. I did Route 424 around Napoleon and through Defiance. I did an elevator on Route 70 by Columbus. They settled that one on the court house steps. I did 475 around Toledo and I-75 in Cygnet. There is a big horse farm down there. I had that one to do. All the way through there I did hundreds of them.
CW: When you did an assessment like that for a home I bet you made some enemies.
DW: You know I don’t think I ever had an enemy. Of all the hundreds of assessments I did I don’t think I had to go to court more than twenty times.
CW: Oh really!
DW: I treated them right. I talked to the people that owned the properties and would ask them what they felt was the right amount coming to them. I really didn’t have any problems. If you couldn’t satisfy them you had to do what you had to do. Today I did my last big appraisal.
CW: You did! Where?
DW: My award was over a million dollars in compenstation. What the owner received I don’t know. I won’t tell you where it is but it is over here on the new highway. It was out here on Route 24. The port to port. That was my last one.
CW: That calls for a lot of money.
DW: During the years I was in college, during the summers I worked for Libbey Owens Ford Research out there on Broadway. I learned how to silver glass and make mirrors out of them. I learned how to grind glass and all that kind of stuff. After I left there, I was always intrigued by it and I bought some equipment where I could edge glass and grind glass and make mirrors. To make mirrors depending on how many scratches was in it and you use a pour plate method. and mix your chemicals on it and it would precipitate silver on the glass. Then you would rinse it off and you would put on it a backing over the silvering and you would have a perfect mirror. I forget right now the names of the chemicals we used. Anyway one day I was doing one and I mixed the wrong chemicals together and it blew up in my face. I couldn’t see. I ran over to my wife and I told her I had to get to the hospital. I drove to the hospital, it was the old hospital, the old house.
CW: Do you mean the one downtown?
DW: I went in there and there was nobody there and Doc Bolles was out on the golf course. He was the eye doctor. He came in and looked at it and he had to sew up my eye ball. It had a cut in it and they didn’t have novacaine or anything in that hospital to numb it with..
CW: For heavens sake!
DW: I thought honest to God. There was no anesthetic there. Yes, and it did hurt.
CW: I bet it did.
DW: That ended the silvering business for me.
CW: You could still see after he sewed it up?
DW: I couldn’t see very good out of it for a very long time. It took a while to clear up.
CW: Your vision did come back then.
DW: See it cut my eyelid right in two. Doc had to sew that up and I had a patch on my eye where he had sewed it up. That ended my silvering.
CW: Now where was this place that you were doing the silvering?
DW: It was 810 Riverview.
CW: Where Peg Cramer lives. Were you doing it in the garage.
DW: That was a garage.
CW: Oh it was in there while you were doing this.
DW: It was a garage and I kept my car outside.
CW: You had a little factory going on inside there. I wonder if she knows about that?
DW: I did a lot of things like table tops. You would have to edge it all the way around. It was just something to do.
CW: And you were married at that time. You had one baby after another I suppose.
DW: I think we had one or two then. Here is another article. “Harper’s sell plant to Gerken’s.” Don Harper was a good friend of mine, Don and his brother. They had this property out there on North Scott Street. They had their business, Harper’s Supply. I knew Fred Gerken was out on the Adrian Pike. Don Harper put the property up for sale with me and I wondered if I was going to sell it. I thought maybe Fred Gerken could be interested in it . He had a good business down there and maybe he needed some more room. I don’t think he had concrete at the time. Harpers had the concrete mixtures. Anyway I sold it to Fred. It took me I suppose months to do it.
CW: Why was that?
DW: Because it seems like anytime I could talk to him was after work at night, after 5 or 6 o’clock. He was awfully busy. I would go down to see Fred. One of the first things he did was pull the Old Log Cabin out of the deep freeze and we’d have to have a drink.
CW: Charlotte laughs
DW: Anyway it ended up and I got it sold to him. Another one that I sold was the sand yard. Leo Eberwine had a sand yard and a sucker along the river.
CW: His son was a friend of my son.
DW: The Harpers had it to begin with. So Don Harper called me one day and said he wanted to sell that. So I wondered who the devil could I sell that big plant to. It was along the river.
CW: Is that the big thing that looks like a boat that goes up and down the river?
DW: Yes, it is sucking sand out of the river. So, one day I was going to Toledo and I saw this company that was on the left side of the Anthony Wayne Trail. I can’t think of the name of it right now. I stopped to see him and asked him if he might be interested in something like that. He had a concrete plant and I knew he needed sand and stuff like that. I talked to him and he said I am interested, just like that. To make a long story short, I sold it to him. That’s the way you sell stuff. One thing after another.
CW: What did they do with that thing in the winter time? They had to take it out of the river didn’t they?
DW: Yes. They continued to use it for their concrete business.
CW:It was heavy too I think.
DW: Oh yes.
CW: Do you remember driving a car on the river?
DW: No, I was never that stupid.
KW It was always a big thing in town when the ice went out of the river.
CW: Do you remember any particular time when you saw the ice going out on the river?
KW It got way up over the Damascus Bridge I have a picture of my brother standing there., He was about 7 or 8 years old at the time. That bridge was an iron bridge. We could hear it cracking and everybody would take off and run down to watch it.
DW: We would always get flooding down in the area they called Goosetown.
CW: Isn’t that why they called it that?
DW: I remember Phil Mires, the painter, he lived down there. He got drowned two or three times. Well, all the Walters’ lived down there and they all got their feet wet about every year or two.
KW We had a big family dinner. We at one time lived on the southside. My Mom and Dad lived across the river. My son and Orville Creager and my nephew from Toledo decided they were getting tired of listening to the old folks talk and decided to go to Mom and Dad’s across the river and go and play cards over there. They wanted to walk across the river and those idiot kids went out there and they did not have permission and there was a hole in the river. They walked right up to the edge of that hole and looked in there. It scared my nephew so much he even vomited. I don’t know why they didn’t fall in. They would have all drowned. They all had strict orders not to go on the ice unless they had permission. That was scary, but kids do take chances. Sometimes it is good that we don’t know of all the dangers.
CW: They would have drowned. Sis Allen in her oral history was telling about the ice.
DW: Another big item in Napoleon years ago was Vocke Mills. That was run by Lawrence Vocke and his sons. As I was growing up on the farm I hauled a lot of corn and soybeans there you know.
CW: That was down by the river.
DW: That was right along the edge of the river where Snyder’s used car lot is. He had a mill that used to grind flour you know for people. Dad would send me up with a trailer load of wheat and exchange it for flour.They made two kinds of flour. Daisy flour was for pastries and Sweetheart flour was for bread. That’s where we got our flour.
CW: Wasn’t that something.
DW: It was a nice 25 pound bag of flour. Daisey flour had a picture of a daisy on it and the Sweetheart flour had a couple of girls on it. It was nice.
CW: Do you remember when they took that Vocke’s mill down right by the bridge?
DW: Yes I do.
CW: Do you know what I remember about it? Some guys were standing across the main street of town and they were shooting rats that were running out. They came running out because they were taking down that building.
DW: Do you remember when I was telling you about that elevator that I appraised down on Route 70 down by Columbus. It hadn’t been used for several years. I had to examine the building and measure it. They had a lot of machinery and that was down below and no lights or nothing so I took a flashlight along to see. I shined a flashlight down there and all I saw was lots of eyes. Of course they were rats. I didn’t go down there I tell you. So those are the things you run into. Rats and dogs you would see when I was appraising. Every place you would go it seemed like they would have a dog. Sometimes even the highway department would warn me. Don’t go there and don’t go here unless you see the property owner because the dog was mean or bad. I had one place down by Toledo and they told me just don’t go in there at all unless the guy is there. So I didn’t see a dog and didn’t see nothing so I walked up to the door. I knocked on the door and crash, this old dog hits the screen door inside and the old guy was there. He was an old crippled guy and he had one heck of a time coralling him. He was probably going to kick me. Another place I went to I had to climb up a few steps. The guy wasn’t home. This was on the south side of Napoleon at Baden’s. Right there by the Catholic cemetery. Arnold wasn’t there and I got up on the porch, knocked on the door, and everything was fine and all at once this dog comes around the corner and he looked like he was going to tear me up. I got down about three steps and my car was down the hill in the driveway. I thought what can I do. So I reached in my pocket. At that time I was eating a lot of Tums and I had three Tums left and they were in my pocket. I thought to myself I wonder if that dog would like a little candy. This is a fact. I took one Tum out, tossed it to him, and it hit the step, and it fell through a crack in the steps. He looked like he might have taken it, so I gave him another one and he got that one. He turned around, put his tail between his legs and that was all there was to it. I thought I should tell the Tums people about that one. That is why I never liked dogs. You see where First Federal is today, that is where my office was. Otto Hess owned that house. There was an upstairs and a downstairs and on the south side of it Marlow Witt had his office. John Cuff had his office upstairs. and I had the other half toward the post office. Half of that was Bud Roger’s insurance, and I had the other half . There were four of us in that building.
CW: Was this directly across from the post office across Washington Street?
DW: Right where First Federal sits today. On the north side of that was where Carl Hoeffel had a nice brick building and Otto Hess owned that too. Just to the other side of that building was a great big 7 Up building. It was a warehouse and storehouse. Of course First Federal ended up buying everything. They owned everything where they are today. Beside of the post office to the west on West Washington Street , DanYarnell had a nice house there. It ended up I was executor of that estate and we sold everything. They tore the house down and there is a parking lot there now. And then there is the church.
CW: The parking lot belongs to the church.
DW: When you lived across the street do you remember old Dan Yarnell?
CW: No, I think he had died before we came. Nova Zimmerman had a nursery school there. I know because my youngest son went there. She had painted each one of the stairs a different color to teach the kids colors. This is Mrs. Don Westhoven and she is going to fill us in on some of her memories.
KW When Dr. Winzeler and Charlotte first came to town we became good friends because they didn’t know anybody else. They had quite a few little children and so did we. We used to get them together and have picnics and have fun with them. This one day I went over to Charlotte’s and we got all the kids in the car and we went over to the golf course to have a picnic. We got out there and started spreading out everything and Charlotte remembered she had forgot her baby and left him in the play pen out in her back yard. That was a real quick ride back. We had a whole carful of little kids that was for sure.
CW: I guess my little boy didn’t know he had been abandoned. That was fun.
KW A lot of crazy things happened with the kids around town. I remember one thing that amazed me about parents and discipline is when we had a coach in town who had a bunch of little kids and they lived across the field from us. They were in about the first or second grade and there was a store down on the corner, Fruchey’s. I used to give the kids a nickel or so and they could walk down there and get some candy and then walk back home. Margaret and her little friend Gartrell walked down there and they were supposed to go get some gum or something and come right straight back. They didn’t come back and I was kind of worried. I was cooking and couldn’t leave. Mr. Gartrell the coach drove into our driveway to get his little daughter. I said gee I left them go down to the corner to get some candy or something and they are not back. He said I will go get them. He left and went down and came back in the driveway a little later and he said. Now this is a coach on a football team. He said to me “They won’t get in the car”. I said “Didn’t you tell them to get in the car”. I said you go home and I will go get them. It didn’t take long to go get them and I said what kind of a coach could he be if he couldn’t get two little girls to get into the car.
DW: They were told not to get into a car.
KW But that was her father!
DW: They were told not to get into a car with anybody.
CW: So they were just obeying orders.
KW One time the little Gartrell boy, I can’t remember his first name, anyway they called him Gordy. I was making jelly and I would keep an eye on them out there in the field. I saw somebody out there talking to him and finished that jelly and I ran across the field to see what was the matter. These two kids had a bushel basket and they had picked that man’s every green grape on his vine. Oh, he was so angry and I offered to pay for his grapes. You couldn’t glue them back on. He didn’t want anything except those grapes back on their vine.
CW: They thought they were harvesting grapes and were going to sell them. They were always making money.
KW We had a lot of experiences like that with the kids. It was a lot of fun though. Once they would have a contest with the Frysinger kids across the street and it was one or the other. They would do all kinds of things. We had some ducks and they got something else. We finally ended up with a pig. We had some friends, the Heitman’s and he said I’ll go out there and get them a pig. They had little pigs out there. It was half grown and he could hardly carry it.. We took him home in a car and the kids put a harness on him and walked him around. It got loose one day and ran across the road. We had to get rid of that pig. There was always something every day. Then Don one day bought the kids a pony. They wanted a pony. We had a big field out in back. That was before they built those houses between us and the fairgrounds. We lived on Maumee Ave. We could look right over, behind Rausch’s. They wanted a pony. Don said they won’t take care of it. We had a big chicken coop and he got a bright idea. We could rent a pony for the summer. They went out and got this pony and it was just short of a horse. I was afraid of it. Rita was in the hospital with an appendicitis operation and when we used to go to the hospital we would go all dressed up with your high heels, your hat and your gloves. We’d go like the whole nine yards. We were there all night sitting and waiting with her. When we came home it was misting and my sister Betty brought the kids over to see that creature, the pony. . They opened the gate, and she got out and she headed across the field. She didn’t have her bridle on or anything. The pony was stark naked, and I was afraid of her so I started out over the field in the rain with my high heels and hat chasing that horse. Mr. Rausch came out and asked what was the matter. He said to wait and he would go get a rope. He didn’t come out and she kept going so I kept following after her. The man down at the corner he came out and put a rope around her neck and handed me the rope. I am walking down the sidewalk in the rain with this horse behind me and I was afraid she would catch up with me.
CW: With your high heels!
KW It was very complicated in those days with your clothes. You had to be so proper.
CW: Oh my, you would have to wear gloves even if it was 90° outside.
KW I had white gloves on. That horse knew how she could get out. She got so wise she knew how to get out of anything. The kids always rode her bareback.
CW: They could ride it bareback?
KW Oh yes they weren’t afraid of her. They would bring her out in the yard and Steve would lay on her back with one leg and arm on either side and she would be eating her grass and just walking around. We would have big family parties and we would have maybe 40 people there and we were at a big picnic and there were so many little kids and we had Princess out there giving kids a ride. Somebody pulled up in a pick up truck . I carried cupcakes around and gave them to her. That was the only way I could get her to go any place. This guy pulls up in the drive way and he said is this the Methodist Orphanage.
CW: Your family was like ours around the dinner table, there was a big crowd and lots of laughing.
KW There were a lot of things I suppose that happened that I didn’t know about. I always thought I watched them real good. Then when they get together and talk I didn’t think I was in the same town.
CW: They were all pretty ornery.
KW The older they got the more adventuresome they got. We had a lady that lived on our street. Her name was Rosie Teeple. I guess her husband had a saw mill here. Our neighbor told me that she was the most beautiful lady, and very smart, and helped down at the saw mill. I think she had 5 or 6 kids. They were all very smart, the kids. She was down there working and saw her husband go through that saw mill.
CW: You mean he got cut right in two?
KW This was Harry Armbruster and he said Rosie raised those kids and sent them on to college. Then she got real queer and our kids thought she was a witch. She used to go down here to the river and pick up sticks in her apron and bring them back to her yard.
But Rosie would come down and talk to Harry or anybody. When you would see her coming you would have to duck because she’d talk to just anybody forever.
CW: Where was her house?
KW It was on Maumee right across from where the road first turns or makes a curve. It makes a turn there. She lived there and she got these sticks and she would put them in her back yard. She fell in the fire and burned to death.
KW They used to call her Rosie Teefreple and everybody thought she was a witch. I guess she picked up those sticks. One time Philip came home and he had collected butterflies. There was a big cocoon up in the tree. He could see it, but he was afraid to stop and get it . He was just a young kid but he had his eye out for her all the time. He never did get it. Kids were really afraid of her because she was a witch. We collected butterflies and we had every butterfly in the area except the painted lady. The kids knew all about them and there was a program on television called, I can’t think of the name of it right now. They had done all kinds of nature studies. It was down there by Waterville. The kids were on the program with the butterfly collection. We got down there and Philip was the oldest one and he had a cocoon that was moving. This cocoon was ready to leave and it was moving in his hand. It was a cecropia moth ready to enter this world. He was supposed to come out and talk about butterflies. He was standing out there and he kept saying he was not going to go in there and was not going to do this, and I just gave him a shove. He did talk about the butterflies and Jim Nestle, he is the one that had all these nature programs. We would press these butterflies and mount them.
CW: Now tell me how they caught them.
KW The first one we caught was with a diaper. I was standing in the kitchen cooking and the windows were right there and I saw a big tiger tail swallow. Phil was sitting there and he was always interested in bugs and stuff.
CW: How old was he at the time?
KW Oh probably about 7 or 8 years old when he started. I told him that there was a butterfly out there and to go get that diaper and go out and catch it. He did and that started it. Of course, the butterfly got away from him and then I made a net and he would catch them. I got a little jar with formaldehyde from the drugstore. He would put the butterfly in there and it would kill it.
CW: How did you make the nets?
KW I just got some gauze and took a stick and got some wires and put around it . One time when we were in Toledo we used to call it the butterfly woods down by Campbell’s Soup . There were some pawpaw trees out there. We didn’t have a giant swallowtail. We were looking for one and of course we stopped at the butterfly woods down there. We wanted to see if there were any butterflies we didn’t have. We always had our net with us and we saw a giant swallowtail down there going round and round and it was up in the air. So Philip would wait for it and it would go round and round and never come down for Philip to catch it. And he finally caught it and he fell down on it and he looked up with the most anquished face and he said “I smashed it”. He had fallen on it so hard, but we did get one. Don brought home a wire cage. He kept butterflies and cocoons in it in the basement. It was a female sending out a scent that attracted male morning cloaks – the basement door was full of males – another lesson learned. We had it in the basement, but the basement door was open and in the morning, that door went down into the basement. We had it on a string so you could pull a butterly. They had on a morning cloak and they put out a smell which would attract all the other butterflies there. We had some that had just emerged. When they come out of the cocoon their wings are little nubs. When the moths emerge they have to fight so hard to get out of their cocoon. We had a cecropia come out and it crawled up on the wires there and hung there and those nobs started coming out and they would come out wet. They would shake their wings and then spread out and dry. The kids got to see that and it was very exciting for them.
CW: You would put them out in the sunshine to dry.
KW If you cut them out of their cocoon they will die because their wings have to go through that little hole to pull their wings out.
CW: They would have learned a lot from that.
KW Phil came in and he had a praying mantis. It was a praying mantis egg case. I had my sewing machine in there and we had a board up on the wall and those praying mantises had hatched out. We had praying mantses all over everything and we couldn’t catch them.
CW: Were they inside your house?
KW They were in my room there but he also had a moth that got away from him and we couldn’t find it. It had crawled up under his bed and spun a cocoon under there. It came flying across the floor and I thought that it was a mouse. I started screaming and he had to go get it. The moth had hatched out and it went into the bathroom. He went in there and got it. He was always playing with bugs and stuff like that.
CW: I am surprised he didn’t go into that as a profession.
KW He is a hunter now. He hunts all year round. His biggest thing is to touch a wild deer. During hunting season he gets his hunting clothes on. I went with him one year. I don’t know where he gets his vocation. He sat down by a tree and he can call different kinds of animals . He has all kinds of stuff going and he said now Mom, you watch. Don’t look up. I kept watching and he said “Don’t move”. We sat there and there was a deer that came along and the deer came up pretty close but not close enough for him to touch . That is his project. One time when he said that he was going to show me a gray fox. I never knew there was a gray fox. They climb trees. So Phil told me they come out here every morning. We lay down in the weeds and we watched. Phil said if I sit down on this railroad track and he put a coat over me and he gave me his camera and he said for me to sit right here and put your finger on that button and that fox will come right up to you and you can take a picture of him coming right to you. So here I am sitting on the railroad tracks with a coat over my head. He goes off to the side and he starts making this noise like a wounded rabbit. Now he is sitting back there making this noise. He told me the fox will come right to you. They don’t stop and they don’t look.. If you don’t move they will come right up to you. So there we are sitting and by golly right down the railroad track here comes this fox. They are beautiful little animals. They are gray and they have some red on them. He was charging right down there. I snapped a picture, he heard the sound and he went running off. He knows all about animals and he is just crazy about them.
DW: There is a big swamp down there. He has a big four wheel truck and he took me down in the swamp. There were places I was even afraid to ride along. He took me out and I don’t know how many miles out they had these mud roads. There was just like a path way. He knew which ones to go on and the name of them and everything else. We got way down there and he said I will leave you here with the truck. I have to go get my deer stand. They put them up the trees and sit up there and wait for them. I sat there and I watched him go as far as I could see. He was gone and gone and gone and so far out in the woods. I thought to myself we will never get back. I bet I sat there two hours and here he comes dragging that big thing over his back. I asked him how he could even walk in that stuff.
CW: What was it a camera he was carrying?
DW: No it was his tree stand. He had to move it because it was the end of the season. He said he got twelve deer already and two hogs. Now he is back down there again.
KW One time he came over and he said to me “Mom we are going to go camping”. You cannot believe what they found. He wanted me to see turkeys leave the trees in the morning.
CW: A turkey?
KW We went down and I went camping with him and we looked all around and didn’t see any turkeys to see where they were roosting. We kept watching and then in the morning we got up real early to see if we could find any food. He said I’ll show you something else. We get back in the truck and like Don said we go bumping along through the water in a truck. I kept thinking we are going to get stuck. We get to this place and they have these cabbage ponds. He said we are going to see some of the most beautiful things you have ever seen in your life. So we get out of the truck and he said now don’t go making any sound. We go walking along as quiet as we can and we get out and we didn’t see any turkeys. It was 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning and they are way off way before that. We were walking along and all of a sudden, it is beautiful back there and we were walking along these big trees and all of a sudden he stopped and he pointed to the ground and there was a turkey right along the ground. All of a sudden they all flew out of the trees. There must have been a dog back there or something and scared them. They went straight up out of the tree and the noise I couldn’t believe it.
CW: Were they loud?
KW Oh yes with their wings and they went right straight up in the air and then they came down. They didn’t squawk, it was just their wings. My son said now you got to hear them. I didn’t think I would because they are never up in the trees at that time of the morning. Somebody was down there with a dog or something scared them. So I did get to hear them. He is quite a hunter. He is more interested in nature than he is interested in killing anything.
END OF TAPE