Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, November 29, 2007
CW: Would you tell us your name please?
JW: Jerry Winzeler
CW: I am Charlotte Wangrn. What is the date today.
CW: What stories do you remember Jerry from long ago? It doesn’t have to be you. It doesn’t have to be Henry County. These stories are valuable because they tell the history from a first hand account. Maybe the history was just yesterday, but three or four generations down the line it will be very valuable. It is going to tell what life was like, last week or years ago.
JW: I guess growing up on a farm, compared to what it is today, it is just unreal.
CW: You are right. How has it changed?
JW: Like our combine used to have a five foot header on it. Today the tires are that wide on a combine. Pretty close. I own 40 acres. They will come in and combine it all in one day. Fifty years ago it would take you two weeks to get it all in.
CW: Old Charley would have to get up early in the morning, and maybe his son would get up with him probably.
JW: Everybody had to work very hard then.
CW: I remember Kate the minute her head would hit the pillow she would be snoring enough to shake the rafters, but she worked awfully hard. When she lay down she was probably good and tired.
JW: When I think about the differences I have seen in 63 years compared to what other kids are going to see fascinates me, like computers. I remember the old crank telephone.
CW: That was right by the dining room table.
JW: You would call a person and the whole neighborhood knew all about it. Ours was one long and two short rings I think it was.
CW: Did you have a crank type phone in your house too?
JW: Yes, ours was in the kitchen by the door. When you first walked in it was right there.
CW: Did they listen in more on Mondays than they did other days?
JW: They could have probably.
CW: You never knew.
JW: When my mom found out she was pregnant with one of my sisters I think the whole neighborhood knew before my dad did. You would just pick up the phone and say hey I gotta use the phone, get off.
CW: If you wanted to find someone that wasn’t home Central could probably find them.
JW: Oh yes pretty close.
CW: Now I know a woman who was a Central at Wauseon, would that have been a Central for the Archbold area too, or did they have one in every little town.
JW: Archbold had a phone office right here where Figleys Seed Co. was. Across the railroad tracks there is a one way street going east there used to be a phone company there. That was Butch. Of course he was born and raised a quarter of a mile from there.
CW: Yes, he lived right in that little woods. Was that part of what they had left for God’s Little Acre on the farm do you know?
JW: They had bought it from Grampa. The house I was born and raised in was a chicken coop. My dad moved it three miles down the road and made it into a house.
CW: Really! That was a nice house and plenty big.
JW: I can remember helping him, someplace I was playing on the rafters I remember it being moved but didn’t know where it had come from.
CW: So they just did the carpenter work themselves.
JW: Ours was the first one in the neighborhood with a bathroom in the house.
CW: Is that right. Remember when they first brought the bathroom in and Kate would not have one of those things in her house and Carl ordered a bathtub from Sears Roebuck and he just came driving in with his truck with the bathtub on the back of the truck and Kate said, “What is that?” Why it’s a nice big bathtub. She liked that but she just didn’t want to have the refuse in the house. So that is how they eased her in to having a bathroom in the house. Did you know about that?
JW: I remember helping dad put it in.
CW: Do you.
JW: Yes I do.
CW: Your dad put it in?
JW: Grampa Dehnke who lived just on County Road U just off the ridge and I remember putting that one in too. It used to be part of the front porch. Grandma and Grampa Winzeler’s used to be a closet. It really was a part of a closet at one time.
CW: It would have been big enough for a bathroom.
JW: I remember helping my dad putting many of my neighbors’ toilets in. I remember Grampa and Grandma Dehnke’s when it was part of the front porch, we just blocked it off.
CW: Well that would do and it would be blocked off and be private.
JW: I remember using the pots and then we didn’t have to wash them when we went to Grandma Dehnke’s. The son and daughter in law, he bought the house. And he asked me when they put the bathroom in and I said about fifty five years ago is when Dad put it in. That is interesting.
CW: It is, and now for the record we should clarify that your father was John Winzeler and your grandfather was Charles, and now what was his middle name?
CW: Charles E Winzeler. His name wasn’t Edwin was it? Maybe Elmer. Do you have a record of it?
JW: I have a history book someplace. Was it Edwin?
CW: No, Ed was named after two doctors, the Murbachs. In case someone would want to know which family it was. I don’t think I told you that a woman will type up the records, then you will edit it. I will bring it out and you can go through it and scratch out anything you don’t want in it, or add anything you want in it. You can make any changes you wish. Then we will make those changes and there will be a copy for the Historical Society, and one for you. You can do whatever you want with it. You can duplicate it and give it out to all your family, or stuff it in a closet, whatever you want to do. Then it will go on the internet too so your kids any of them that have computers can view it. Some of those old stories are great.
JW: Now I have a question for you. When did you move into your new house?
CW: You mean the house on Lynn Avenue? Scott was just a little kid. He had gone around the block and gotten a cookie from every neighbor. He never would eat anything. Ed would say, well two year olds don’t each much anyway. Then when we moved he all of a sudden had an appetite. Then we found out because neighbor after neighbor would say I miss that little fella. He used to come around for a cookie.
JW: How long ago has that been?
CW: He is now about 55. It would have been around fifty years ago.
JW: I bet it was before that. I remember helping Dad dig trees out of the woods for your yard.
CW: Yes that is right.
JW: We got them over there at Hyatt woods.
CW: Oh yes Hyatt woods. I remember that. That was a nice deep dark woods.
JW: About 101 acres. It still stands.
CW: Is that right.
JW: I remember putting them on the hay wagon and going down and planting them in your yard.
CW: So you helped plant them.
JW: Yes I remember digging them out.
CW: That is what they used to do. They didn’t have nurseries. They would just dig
the trees out of the woods and plant them in their yard.
JW: We dug fifteen or twenty and just put them on the hay wagon.
CW: That would be pretty far to go with a hay wagon. How far is that about ten or fifteen miles.
JW: It is ten from up here at the corner, and seven miles over to Hyatt.
CW: And then Charlie would have to stop at Ridgeville on the way.
JW: Charlie stopped a lot of places.
CW: We have a nice picture of him going fishing. They came up to Clear Lake to visit. Charley would get up at six o’clock in the morning. Scott remembers going with his grampa. Grampa wouldn’t say a word. He would get out his fishing equipment and they would go fishing. I don’t think Scott caught anything. He remembers sitting out there on the lake.
JW: Didn’t you have a cottage at Long Lake too, just off of 127.
CW: Yes, that is what Ray built. Ray Wangrin.
JW: I used to take Grampa fishing on Long Lake. I didn’t have a drivers license. Of course back then you didn’t need a drivers license. You just drove. I would take him fishing on the lake. Every time he went into a bar to have a drink, he would buy me a candy bar. Once in a while I would go in with him. I forget how many candy bars I came home with once. Of course Grampa was intoxicated. I remember going to _____ Lake quite a bit with Grampa. For fifty one, fifty two years I used to drive him.
CW: I remember he used to take Jack Lee out to fish. He complained about him. He said that kid won’t sit still. He would run and play all over the place.
JW: I would go fishing up to the Archbold Reservoir. He would get a bite. He was always chewing tobacco. He would always spit on his worm and I swear to God that after he spit on his worm he would catch a fish.
CW: Did you ever catch anything there?
JW: Oh yes. Lots of catfish and bluegills.
CW: Bluegills! That’s good eating.
JW: I don’t remember the first one being put it.
CW: Did you combine the two
ponds. Weren’t there two ponds at one time. This was on Brush Creek wasn’t it?
JW: It was part of this farm. It was an acre and a half on the other side of Brush Creek. There is land on the other side. He almost go his toe cut off. This was over siixty years ago. You know you are making me feel old. I don’t care, I am just glad I am this old. Now the tractor I got out in my barn I remember the day it was delivered .
CW: Oh really! It was a John Deere wasn’t it?
JW: Yes it was a John Deere B. My grampa got on it and I didn’t get to drive it, so I ran away from home. When they caught me I wasn’t very far from home. I remember the tractor when it was delivered. It was a 52B.
CW: Then you had a grandson that was crazy about that tractor too.
JW: He still is.
CW: Which one was that?
JW: Nate. He is still crazy about John Deere’s. Did I tell you about the story about me dying? I bought me a precision John Deere. Everything works in these things. He was like 4 or 5 and he wanted it. I said you can’t have it until I am dead. So in the meantime I bought this farm, and we would be out walking and he’d go “You sick”? This went on for two weeks and I could never figure out what he was talking about. He would get on the phone and he’d say “Is Pa dead yet?” Finally it got to bugging me and I asked what was going on. He said well I can’t have that tractor till you’re dead Pa. He just turned 16 last month and I was reminiscing and he came back here in the woods with me and I give him this John Deere vehicle. He is fifth generation. The Winzelers owned this tract of land. I will never forget that day he said, “Is he dead yet, Pa?”
I have another cute story. We owned a bar in Stryker for a while. My dad was getting bad. He had had a mini stroke. We had called the EMS. The hospital was remodeling the place and we got all this stuff out here and was going to burn it. His nickname was Doodle. His truck would be coming down the road and he would say, “Is Grampa dead yet?” I said, “He is close.” And he asked me, “Does he have a John Deere?” He wanted that John Deere so bad. He was about six. I took it up to Liechty’s and got it running and stuff and gave it to him for Christmas.
CW: So he’s got a John Deere now. He doesn’t care if you live or die!
JW: That’s right. He was just a kid. My one sister says John Deere’s aren’t any good just to kid him.
CW: They’re pretty dependable, aren’t they?
JW: Oh yes, Lots of funny stuff growing up. He would say what’s this all about. I would say I told you that you couldn’t have my tractor until I died so you were worried about when I was going to die. He looked at Dad and the EMS was working on him and he wanted to know whether he had a John Deere. I took him up to Leichty’s on Christmas Eve, bundled him all up and he said, “Where are we going?” I said, “I got something for you.” So me and him drove it home from Leichty’s then.
CW: How old was he then?
JW: Six. I think. That was before we built back here. He would pull kids on a sled. He drove that thing since he was six years old. It is his tractor.
CW: That is great. You know tractors are going to be a thing of the past one of these days aren’t they.
JW: You watch now, they run them by computers. They sit back and read a paper. A satellite drives them back and forth across the fields.
CW: A farmer told me that they can farm by satellite and it will examine each square foot of soil. Maybe this one needs more fertilizer and that one needs more water or nitrogen or something. They have it all figured out, phosphorous. Then when the machine gets to that square foot it will give it then. This is all amazing. It is all coming from the satellite way up yonder.
JW: I was watching a show on TV. I love RFTV. They said John Deere was accurate to one inch.
CW: Oh my gosh.
JW: I remember the old two cylinder John Deere you had to crank by hand. You could plow an acre a day. Now they probably plow an acre in a swath. It just fascinates me.
CW: I think they used to leave a good size hunk of ground unplowed because of the inaccuracy of the tractor.
JW: Oh yes. The show I was watching the other night, the guy just turns the tractor around and starts reading the paper, when the alarm goes off he picks up the implement. Once he gets it turned it starts back on.
CW: That’s why we don’t have any more pheasants, I guess. They used to have those strips of grass to hide in. You don’t see that now. When we were in Germany I was surprised that there were no strips of weeds or anything around their fields. They were like they are becoming now here. They don’t have that much land so they farmed the land very carefully.
JW: They take better care of their land than we do. Today it’s like how many acres of beans you get out of a field. It is just unreal.
CW: They charge so much for those machines. I don’t think a farmer can ever get out of debt.
JW: They still think you can make a decent living out of farming. The government always has a subsidy list. They subsidize everything else in this world.
CW: Well it is better than having it all go.
JW: A combine costs between three and five hundred thousand dollars. A guy that farms my place, he had two twenty foot heads. He came here at noon and by six o’clock that night he had forty acres of wheat sowed.
JW: No he sowed it, by noon he put out forty acres of beans, and the wheat he had sowed by six o’clock.
CW: I thought they had to let the ground rest a while, but they don’t.
JW: You can plant beans two or three years in a row, and wheat. If my farm was tiled better I could have corn in it. Some farmers just plant beans and beans. On Grampa’s farm you would rotate and change ever year. Of course you would put manure on it every year too.
CW: They don’t do that any more. They have granular fertilizer now.
JW: You put granular fertilizer on your crops. For years we hauled manure from thirty cows. Our farm was covered every year. We marked the wheel marks. You would build it up, and not just taking and taking.
CW: Do you think it will wear out the land after a while?
JW: Some of these farms will, unless you take good care of them. The farming part of it since I have been old enough to see it.
CW: I remember somebody saying I am going to get this new thing and I will be able to wake up in the morning and reach up and pull a lever and the cows will be fed. Maybe so, I don’t know.
JW: I seen a program on RFD the other night where he reads it off a computer every morning. It is no different than walking a quarter of a mile across the field. Of course back then they had more snow too. I walked a quarter of a mile up to Grampa’s every morning and did the chores.
CW: I bet you did.
JW: I know I did. That is a proven fact. The cows came before I did.
CW: Sure they had to be taken care of.
JW: When you stop and think about it, my Grampa lived to be 103. In my sixty years I have seen a lot of things, a whole lot of things. I saw the other night a thing of the past, those John Deere steel wheel combines you pulled by hand. Dad used to have one. I remember riding one. The grain head was five foot wide and the tires forty to fifty inches wide. It would take maybe five acres of wheat off a day. The grain wagon would hold five hundred bushels.
CW: I remember during World War II all the daughters in law, and Kate took care of our kids and we went out with Grampa and we harvested the tomatoes for him. I remember when they sowed those tomatoes; we sat on the back of the tractor with a little thing that sat close to the ground. We had to drop a plant every so often, or a little sprout of a plant.
JW: A tomato plant.
CW: I suppose.
JW: I’ve done that. We used to haul tomatoes to LaChoy’s in Archbold. We would plant ten to fifteen acres of tomatoes. You planted half a mile in an hour. You layed them in with the little finger that came around. Do you remember the fingers that would come around? I forgot about that.
CW: Those hampers were pretty heavy. Charlie said that’s the best year we ever had when he had lots of free help. It was fun for us because Kate and Kathryn was taking care of the children for us.
JW: It’s still an excellent cash crop.
CW: They don’t grow them around here much anymore.
JW: There’s a guy over around Stryker that grows over four hundred acres of them. You plant them like weeds. He loads them in semis, and not in tomato hampers.
CW: Do they go to Campbell’s then?
JW: No they go to Pennsylvania and Indiana. Campbell’s don’t take tomatoes anymore.
CW: They get them from Mexico I bet.
JW: It’s all from paste.
CW: Is that pickle factory still there in Delta?
JW: I see people still grow pickles.
CW: Tell me about long ago when you were a kid. What do you remember about it.
JW: I was with my grampa over there. He was always doing something, putting tile in or fixing things.
CW: Was this after he retired from farming?
JW: No, he was still farming. I always had to go there to do chores. I would walk there after school, done the chores. I was the oldest grandson that lived around here. I was with him every day, go fishing with him. I would get his tobacco and get sick. I had a cousin Mike in Toledo. He would come down and spend a month with us. We were always in trouble from the time he showed up until the time he left.
CW: What kind of trouble did you get into.
JW: Every summer we would have to clean out the calf pen. We had to pitch it out by hand. We would take baths in the big old cement water tank in the barn. We’d get hot and then go swimming in that. Grampa would catch us and we’d get our ass kicked. He wasn’t afraid to do that. Just being on a farm you know. I wish my grandkids could go through what I did. There is a lot to learn. You had chores to do and you didn’t skip them.
CW: Animals didn’t wait.
JW: No. You didn’t have a choice. That is the way we were brought up.
CW: You had a real reason to do it. Not just because someone decided you should do it. The work was just there waiting for you. It had to be done. Right?
JW: We all got along. There were seven kids. Everybody had to work to make a living.
CW: What did you do with the calves then.
JW: We would sell them. We would have butchering days. My son in law and all the neighbors used to get together. Everybody had different jobs. Someone would have to clean the intestines.
CW: How would they do that?
JW: We would stick them in salt water. You start and you turn them inside out. You scrape all that goop out of there. That’s what you put sausage in. We would have a fork and sample everything. We had to eat. Dad done all the skinning and butchering. As soon as he got the fire going, we started . We would make lard.
CW: Did you have one of those big old iron kettles to make the lard? Tell me how you made the lard.
JW: You would get a hog butchered. What was left on the hog you would just cut it into chunks and get a fire going. You would cook it out and then you would eat the cracklings.
CW: This was in the big iron kettle.
JW: You would cook it until it got all the fat cooked out. Then you would scoop it out and put it into a lard press and nothing but the lard would come out. Your skin, and cracklings.
CW: Those cracklings are really the skin that has been fried.
JW: The skin, when it was cooked out was excellent. All the neighbors would get together.
CW: Like when they would harvest.
JW: Everybody had a certain job to do.
CW: What time of the year did they usually do that?
JW: When it got cold enough.
CW: Like November.
JW: I would say November. I think the only thing they threw away was the squeal. We would make head cheese. You would take the meat off the head. I forget what all they would put in it. We made prettles. They were excellent with potatoes and eggs.
CW: They are still a favorite around here. The head cheese, now did they slice that?
JW: All that good stuff we used to do every fall. I watched Mom can for seven kids. We used to buy fifty bushels of peaches a year. Tomatoes, string beans, we had a five acre garden down there. Grampa and Grandma and us.
CW: Did you help hoe in the garden too?
JW: Yes I did. That is how I used to get money to buy new school clothes for the year is what we made off of string beans. All the rest of the family would come out to help.
CW: How would you get money from the string beans?
JW: We would sell them to the neighbors.
CW: The ones that didn’t have gardens probably.
JW: We had potatoes. I know we put out at least an acre of potatoes.
CW: Did you grow carrots?
JW: Yes, but not like they do around Napoleon.
CW: I never could make carrots grow in my garden. We had clay soil. It was too hard for them.
JW: It was a busy summer. We hoed fields all summer because you didn’t have all these sprays.
CW: You would go out in the fields and hoe a whole line. Wow, that would be a back breaking job.
JW: Grandpa Dehnke used to pay us a nickel an hour. I would hoe beans for him. You had no spray, so you took the weeds out by hand.
CW: It is better for the environment really, but not so good on the back.
JW: I remember shocking corn. You would have to open up the corn field so they could get through with the corn picker. You would throw it up in the hay mow. Of course there were plenty of rats around then too. You don’t trim anything, you use nothing but roundup today.
CW: It took a lot of labor.
JW: In the old days I would get my grandkids. To me it was a good time.
CW: Well for one thing you were with your grandfather and your father you learned how to be a man. You didn’t have a bunch of women around telling you what to do. You grew up being a man’s man.
JW: I learned to work. You were expected which you did. The best thing in my life is I was made to work. Even if I had a big foot up my ass.
CW: You had better work.
JW: You weren’t forced to you just had to keep up with Dad and Grandpa. You were taught that way. That is the way I look at it. My dad worked full time jobs and farmed 120 acres.
CW: He was a hard worker.
JW: You had to keep up with him.
CW: Did you help him shear sheep?
JW: Oh yes I done that. I still do it once in a while. I am not as good as what I used to be.
CW: He used to go all around the neighborhood.
JW: He used to do around five thousand a year. When I first started helping him shear sheep he gave me ten cents a head. I took over after he retired, and I got two dollars a head.
CW: That was a little different.
JW: I could average probably ten an hour. My dad when he was in his prime probably a lot more than that.
CW: That would have been hard work because you had to hold the sheep. You would have to bend over all the time.
JW: Back then they had no leg wool and no face wool. You earned your money. I know one place where we sheared sheep at the last time was forty three years ago. My Dad was there.
CW: Is that right. What is a suffolk?
JW: It is a black faced sheep.
CW: Oh it’s a certain kind of sheep.
JW: They are bred so they have no face wool on the ears and their legs are all clean. I could shear one every three minutes. Like your corriedale they have fuzzy ears. The last time I sheared was when my dad was around on Good Friday. You came out and took movies. You got movies and I got movies.
CW: Yes we came out and took movies. You got those movies I gave you. Did you get that article? So what other kind of mischief did you get into when you were a kid?
JW: Do you really want to know?
JW: I was always in trouble. Grampa would go up and get drunk. He had false teeth and he would lose his false teeth. He was always coming down and tell us how he was going to kill us. We deserved it. He had three boys. The most favorite thing we done, we all had BB guns. We would shoot at the wrong things and that’s when he’d really go nuts. He’d come out and grab us. He could never figure out how his bull got out. I don’t think he really found out what we had done until his 50th anniversary. At breakfast we got to talking about some of the stuff we had done. We always made Rich do it first. We were just plain old country kids.
CW: Yes you made your own fun.
JW: I was with Grampa all the time fishing.
CW: Do you remember that dog that we always used to have?
JW: He was gun shy. We’d shoot off firecrackers and he had his tail between his legs and that sort of thing.
CW: He would drive the car and the dog was always sitting up in the front seat when you were going down to get the mail.
JW: You couldn’t take the car without the dog. After he had his stroke, if you got in that car that dog would be sitting there.
CW: That probably was good assurance because if he should have another one the dog could go get help.
JW: Didn’t he have a stroke one time down by the pond and the dog came up and got him and wasn’t he sick or something? I remember something about that.
CW: How old was he when he died?
JW: I have a picture of him holding my oldest daughter.
CW: He was probably born before 1900. He lived quite a few years after his wife died.
JW: They both celebrated their fiftieth. Grampa Dehnke got there and they both celebrated their fiftieth. Back then that was very unreal to have both sets of your grandparents celebrating their fiftieth. When I came home I wanted to go over there and my dad said he won’t know you. I said yes he will. After he had his stroke you couldn’t understand what he was trying to tell people. I walked in and I kicked his wheel chair and I said do you remember me. He started to cry, so I knew he remembered me. I have pictures of him holding my oldest daughter. We did a lot of good things together. I would get boots every winter. Some of the stuff I earned. The magazine, none of my other cousins would get like Ohio Conservation. He would always get me a subscription to it and he would say now don’t you tell anybody else and the first thing I would do would be to show them the magazines. He bought me boots every winter. Of course I worked for him too. He would say you can’t tell anybody I done this. If you are bad, you are bad. He didn’t care who you were. We were just a plain old farmer. You worked and you enjoyed it. You could go fishing.
CW: What were your Christmases like then? Were they different from what they are now?
JW: You really enjoyed them I think. I think my dad spent ten dollars apiece. Nothing very expensive. It was all family Christmas. We’ve got the movies of it. It kept us all together. It meant more to me. I remember like going up on Saturday night to go uptown to buy groceries. The Ruffers and us would all park and sit there. We would get like a nickel or a dime to spend all night. Now we give our grandkids a twenty dollar bill. I remember Saturdays nights we would go uptown and everybody would sit in their cars and talk and get your groceries for the week.
CW: And stand on the corner and talk.
JW: We had a nickel or a dime to spend.
CW: People did more talking to each other then than they do now. Now they get so used to watching television they are not so interested in what you are doing. Maybe I am wrong, what do you think?
JW: No, I think you are right. Except for my kid, I don’t know my neighbor. Back then your neighbors were there for you.
CW: Neighbors were important in you life.
JW: My mom had polio when I was four years old. I remember the neighbors coming in and helping out. They would wrap her legs in towels. That was the greatest moment in my life was the day when my mother walked. I remember that. I can remember that. They took her to the Children’s Hospital in Toledo. She had polio. That was the greatest moment in my life when my mom walked. Now people don’t even realize what polio is.
CW: That was awful.
JW: The neighbors were always there. The neighbors always showed up. Dad had the first TV in the neighborhood and everybody would come over every night of the week to watch different shows. We had popcorn. You would have a neighbor you grew up with.
CW: People must have gone visiting a lot on Sunday afternoons because I remember a lot of times we would look down the lane to see who is coming. Somebody would be coming to visit, maybe relatives from Michigan. They would always plan to stay for dinner. Kate would always say it’s a poor cook that can’t make a dinner from her pantry. That was true. She could scratch around and find enough for dinner.
JW: We always had good food. We went to Corals a lot when I was a kid.
CW: Oh in Toledo.
JW: Of course Mom was in a wheelchair and of course Talmadge was on the end of Toledo. I would go there for two weeks and Mike would come up for two weeks. Then we would get into trouble for two weeks. My Grampa Carl would plow his garden in a wheelchair. .
CW: Carl was a cut up too himself.
JW: First time I could ever remember going up to Grampa and Grandma’s he’d be sitting on the porch. He had landed in a ditch.
CW: Do you remember the time when he got home from Europe he had been in the hospital for quite a while recuperating and the doctor came out to the farm and he was going to show everybody his legs and how he could walk. Then he stood up on them and he fell down. It was so hard on him because he was so proud of being able to do that. Some doctor had told him that when he was first hurt that he would miss that one arm more than both your legs. And Carl said that was so right.
JW: He had an Oldsmobile that the city of Toledo had bought for him. He was riding in that. We was in it in Toledo.
CW: He was quite a hero in World War II.
JW: Yes he was. I remember he’d go, “Aaarrrgg.” Let’s talk about the weather. This is my favorite time of the year with the snow. I love snow. Dad would get a pickup load of corn, put chains on it and he would go right in the ditch. When we get snow I just don’t go out.
CW: You have to make sure your John Deere is ready to start.
JW: My Grandpa and Grandma, their lane was always a mess. I would have to walk up there. You couldn’t drive up it. Our road from Grandpa’s lane to County Road S used to be so wet before it was paved. You would have to haul the milk out to the next paved road.
CW: Is that right!
JW: My grandkids say Ha. I can actually remember when County Road 25 was actually a mud hole. You would have to put the milk cans in the back of the trailer and haul them out. Like not having mail boxes. Everybody gets their mail now like automatic.
CW: How did you get your mail?
JW: You had to have four people on a route and you had to get a mailbox.
CW: Oh you did!
JW: Yes. Now if you go to the county line to County Road S. There was Wyse’s, Mom and Dad and Grandpa. There were only three people. So they would not come down and deliver mail.
CW: How did they get it? Did they have to go down town?
JW: They would have to go pick it up in town. I can remember the old man putting up a mailbox. The Spanish people used to come and pick tomatoes for us. Then we had four people. I remember when we would have to go up town to get our mail. We had no service. Like the old telephone it would go, “Ring ring ring.”
CW: Do you remember the blizzard of ‘78?
JW: I sure do.
CW: What happened and where were you?
JW: Stuck at home. I took a week off because I was going to go snowmobiling. You know the snowmobile was over at Dad’s. My sisters kept saying this thing is going to hit. So I said I am going home, and four days later we finally got out.
CW: How deep was it?
JW: Some place I have pictures of it. I have a picture of my son-in-law standing on top of an old Dodge van. It had snow drifted up to it.
CW: How old was he?
JW: I can show you the picture.
CW: He was grown?
JW: We was stuck out, I don’t remember where it was but we got home and somebody says you got cigarettes and milk? I said, “It ain’t gonna be that bad.” Guess what! After the third day, I love to put puzzles together. I used to when I could see. I put together all the puzzles I had. It quit blowing and stuff so I dug out clear to the road. I called up my sister and her husband and she said, “Oh, yeah, Roger’s been out feeding his cattle. If I can get there I’ll come and pick you up. So I bundled the kids up and walked a half mile and I didn’t see nobody. The kids had a ball. They could walk on top of the snowdrifts. Being fat, I walked through them. We walked over this big mountain of snow and there was my brother.
CW: You couldn’t see him
JW: You couldn’t see him. We spent the last three days at Stryker when he picked us up. Somebody at work was talking about the blizzard of ‘78. They ran out of gas. I’ll meet him. The second day I bundled the kids up and said this is enough. It was funny because I took the week off to go snowmobiling. Instead, I sat over to Dad’s with no way to get back home to run it.
CW: It’s too bad if you had that you could have gotten around.
JW: It took a dozer to dig him out. I walked a half mile and I was so mad at my brother because he promised me he was going to be here. We had this big old snow hill. I got pictures of him standing on the van with a drift as high as the car. So he had never seen snow like this. I walked across this mountain of snow and there he was. In a way that was fun.
CW: Something really different.
JW: We used to miss two weeks of school back then. It was cold and we had much more snow. It is nothing like it is today.
CW: Global warming really is coming.
JW: You know I really didn’t believe it until you sit down and think about it. When I start talking about snow drifts. Remember the woods and the white picket fence. You would never see the picket fence all winter. We had no tractor. It would be three or four days and we would go bobsledding. Of course we didn’t have _____, either. It was the first day of hunting season and me and Dad would go hunting. You’d see all these jack rabbits in the snow.
CW: Is that still a gravel road in front of where you lived?
JW: No, it’s like you see here.
CW: They blacktopped it?
JW: I remember when it was so muddy you would have to carry the milk cans out to that road between Archbold and Stryker. That was as far as the milkman could make it. The old John Deere could only go about five miles an hour. I would get off the school bus and I would have to go to Stryker to get cow feed. I would have to get on the tractor. It was a hand crank job. We always parked it on Grampa’s hill, roll it down the hill and kick it in gear and it would start, From the time I got it started, left Grandpa’s and went to the Stryker elevator. The bus came at a quarter after three. I’d get bored so I would get off and walk. That was part of growing up on a farm. I enjoyed it. I really worked. I was proud of the way I worked. Nowadays it’s just humpff. My grandkids, like I tell them, I could walk to Archbold High School and back blindfolded. I got kicked off the school bus so much. The old man would get mad if we didn’t shut up
CW: How did you happen to get kicked off?
JW: We were just being kids. We were always in trouble. I was just sixteen. We had a permanent seat. I was right behind the bus driver. We had no drugs and we carried pocket knives. All the stuff we have in school now today it scares me. We really go around. One part I really believe in when I say the Pledge of Allegiance under God they stop. Like the teacher said when I got my butt kicked, I know what is going to happen. You don’t do it anymore. They don’t and I really think it is wrong. I tell my grandkids you don’t respect anybody. They don’t respect anything anymore. They’re not all perfect angels. They don’t have respect for somebody else’s property.
CW: You need respect for people.
JW: They don’t. I say we give you kids what we didn’t have. There is just more and more.
CW: I have always thought there is nothing wrong with taking a little toddler and swatting him on the rear. The rear is padded by a diaper anyway. At that age they are learning what is right and what is wrong, what they can do and what they can’t do. At that age they can learn to respect authority. If you let them get away with whatever they want
JW: I preach to my grandkids you’ve got to respect people. If they don’t have respect for me they don’t have respect for anybody. Sure I was in trouble, but I still respected the people. We didn’t go overboard and shoot somebody, knock something up because you are mad. Or destroy something.
CW: You learned to control your temper too when you were a kid.
JW: I think we made part of it, like suing for this and suing for that. My God my old man would have owned all of Fulton County for all the teachers that jumped on me. I deserved to be jumped on. I really did.
CW: And you grew up to be a more respectable man as a result.
JW: I am not perfect. I was always a bit of a scallion. There comes a point, like speeding, you can only go so fast. Today there is no respect for anybody. I really think that part of society’s problem is that we have no respect. We just go do what we want to. I came home one day about eight years ago we had people out in this field hunting. I asked them, “What are you doing?” And they said, “We are hunting, what the hell is it to you?” I don’t need that. They didn’t care. I had wheat planted and they are out in there tramping around. They said we are going deer hunting. You didn’t do that back then. I preach to my grandkids all the time that you gotta have more respect
CW: Life is more fragile than people realize. One shot and they could be dead.
JW: They don’t seem to have respect and I get mad at them. They have to respect themselves before they can respect other people. Maybe I am too old fashioned. I don’t know.
CW: I think we both are. One thing that happened. The newspapers and the TV all have their news slanted toward the most terrible things they can find. That sells newspapers. It gets people to watch the TV. They think people are not interested in good news.
JW: For an example who gave that guy in Erie, Pennsylvania all that money? There was no big deal about that. I agree with you one hundred per cent. I don’t know where they find all this stuff at. I don’t watch the news. If I go to bed at ten I will watch the news once in a while. I don’t watch it enough. Where’s the poor guy that pulled somebody out of a ditch or helped somebody. They don’t show any of that. They go back to where he was brought up.
CW: It is all based on money. They get more money if they have more people watching it. People will watch a fire in progress or something.
JW: Did you know Grampa Dehnke? He lived to be 103 years old. They were going to do cataract surgery at 103. He had a very sharp mind yet. His exact words were “I’ve seen enough bullshit in my life I don’t want to see anymore”. You know I have told my kids the same thing. I am beginning to believe that. Things are completely changed from what we was brought up to believe. That’s the mentality how people are today.
CW: It is based on greed.
JW: They don’t respect the person.
CW: It’s a lack of respect.
JW: Remember how he used to be afraid of shots. It took how many people to hold him down so Uncle Ed could give him a shot. Nowadays you go to see the doctor. Yes you would. I forget what book I read but the greatest country in the world is destroyed by somebody else inwardly and this is just what is going on. There are so many stupid laws. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, and we’ll sue you for this.
CW: You know democracies have been sort of short lived in history. And this could be. You could be right. We are starting toward the end of democracy. I hope not but it could be possible.
JW: I hoped you’d live to be one hundred and some years old. I hate to see what my grandkids will see. For me my theory is you might as well lve your best. In Russia you know you don’t have rights. Here you think you stil have rights. We don’t have any more rights. This is what I believe. We don’t have any more rights than the people in Russia, do we?
CW: Probably true.
JW: That’s why I don’t talk politics. What I was brought up to believe in has changed. It’s not the same. Like I told my friend, he used to come back here and go camping and stuff . He’s old enough to drive and I let him drive. Wouldn’t it be fun if we went back, just me and you here in the woods would just enjoy life. We could just sit out here and build a fire. We could sit out here all night and just watch the deer come and go. It was fun. And if you tell somebody from the city what you done and they’d think you’re nuts. They do. I don’t think they experience this. You’re on the go all the time. Right? We’re always in a hurry. I’m good for that too. You should just sit out and enjoy it. It ain’t much, but it’s mine. Just sit there and enjoy it. When you come close to not seeing anymore
CW: It makes you realize what it is.
JW: That week I was in Toledo, that floor I was on, I just couldn’t believe it. I just wish my kids’ grandkids could see how much I enjoyed it. It wasn’t much, but we had a good time. I had seven brothers and sisters and you didn’t mess with nobody or you was in trouble.
CW: So you had eight in your family?
JW: I had six brothers; she didn’t mess with none of us. There was seven of us. I bet your kids were the same way too.
End of tape.