Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, November 2004
CW: I am speaking with Martha Young. State your name please.
MY: Martha C. Young.
CW: Martha, were you born and raised in Henry County?
MY: Yes, I was born in our home on County Road 18. There were six children in our family, and we were all born at home.
CW: Is that right?
MY: Yes. Dr. Delvanthal came to the house to deliver us. I’m not sure if he was the doctor that delivered MY: oldest brother, though.
CW: He was such a fun fellow. He was always joking.
MY: Yes, he was.
CW: And so you were born right at home in your mother’s bed probably.
MY: That’s right.
CW: It’s interesting that they still were doing it in those days.
MY: Yes, it is.
CW: Did you live in the country?
MY: Yes, I lived there until I was about twelve years old and then my grandmother, who lived here in Napoleon, was ailing. So of all the many grandchildren in our family, I was the one that was picked to go and live with my grandmother.
CW: Is that right?
MY: I lived there probably a little over two years. I was twelve years old and I was in confirmation class and we get confirmed at fourteen years of age and I was there when I was confirmed.
CW: So you went to school in town then?
MY: Yes, I went to school here. I walked to school of course since grandma had no car. My cousin lived just a few houses down from grandma and on rainy days her mother would drive us to school. I remember in 1943, it was a bitter hold morning and I was walking to Central School. When I got close to uptown I saw a lot of activities. I went uptown and saw that Mike DeRosa’s ice cream parlor was on fire.
MY: It was in 1943. I stood there quite a while watching as did a lot of other school kids. It was so cold the water they were spraying on the fire froze into long icicles on the sign outside.
CW: Where was this?
MY: It must have been where Mr. Meekison’s law office is now.
CW: So you went to school in town all the time?
MY: No, oh no. I attended country school for at least three years. My first teacher was Ms. Johnson. She was nice and we all liked her very much, as did the parents. We were all in one room, all eight grades, and the teachers at that time didn’t have the discipline problem there seems to be today. But I think we benefited from all being together because as the older ones were being taught, the younger ones also learned from it.
CW: Oh yes, Ed Winzeler, my husband, said he got a really good education in the one-room school, because he would get his work done and then he’d listen to what the older classes were doing.
MY: That’s right. I remember Ms. Johnson had a Halloween party for us. She had told us she would bring us some orange juice. We of course had all had oranges, but not orange juice. I don’t know what happened, but when she served it, it turned out to be cider.
CW: It wasn’t orange juice?
MY: No it wasn’t.
CW: Maybe she couldn’t get orange juice?
MY: That could be, but she was such a dear teacher, nobody made a thing out of it. I quess she was there for two years, and then we got a teacher that we did not like. She was not a kind person. All of us kids spoke German at home, and sometimes we would speak German to each other. Although Ms. Johnson had told us that we must speak English because that is the language of our nation and we can’t have two languages, she never punished us for it, where this new teacher made us sit in our seats at recess if she heard us speak German. But thankfully the country schools were closed and we had to come to town.
CW: It was a good thing to speak English. To get into college or any other job you would need to know it.
MY: Oh yes. And I remember another thing that happened with this teacher none of us liked. One of the boys talked hack to her, and she hit him on the head with a ruler. All the boys got mad, jumped up, walked out of school and and walked home. It wasn’t an hour later and here come several cars with the parents bringing the boys back. They backed up the teacher, not the kids.
CW: Yes, it made all the difference in the world.
MY: Yes, it makes all the difference in the world.
CW: Too many parents today think that whatever their children say is correct, but everybody else is wrong.
MY: Yes, that’s right. What else do I remember? Well, when I lived with grandma, which was during the second World War, we would have black-outs and dim-outs.
CW: What was that like?
MY: Don’t remember exactly everything, but in a black out I think the whole town would turn out all lights, whereas in a dim out we’d have to keep drapes closed at night and no porch lights. It was also at this time during the war that many things were rationed. The government issued coupons for so many things. I remembered that to buy sugar and shoes you needed coupons.
CW: Learn to do without a few things that way?
MY: Sure, and I’m sure my parents had a lot more of that than I did.
CW: When you came to school in town, did you have to walk?
MY: Oh no, we didn’t walk. We had buses.
CW: Now the Raffertys said they had to walk all the way from the country in to school.
MY: Oh really?
CW: Yes but you see she is older than you. Quite a bit older I guess.
MY: Yes, she was older. They must not have had buses at that time.
CW: I see you have some notes. Now tell me some more.
MY: When I was in high school, I moved into town where my sister was working for an older man. She also worked uptown in a grocery store and I went to school. Soon another girl moved in, and roomed there. She also had a job. We kept house for this kindly elderly gentleman, cooked his meals, and played Chinese Checkers with him for hours. We all paid him rent. There were two bedrooms in the back of the house, and he used the one in front. Eventually another girl moved in and the four of us shared the two back bedrooms. She was a country girl who did housework for a lady in town. Many country girls did that at that time. They would all get one afternoon off, they’d walk up town and all gather there. You could always tell when it was the maid’s day off.
CW: That didn’t hurt them any to have a job like that.
MY: No, I wouldn’t think so. I didn’t do housework like they did, but I did get a part time job after school working at Boss Manufacturing. This was a glove factory. Some of us would work from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m. sewing parts of gloves.
CW: Which street was this on?
MY: On Perry Street. Where Napoleon Monument is now, and formally the Western Auto.
CW: What kind of material did they use in these gloves?
MY: The pieces we worked with were canvas.
CW: Oh, work gloves?
MY: Yes, they were work gloves. And when I started working for Home Oil Company in 1946 in their auto parts division, we sold Boss Gloves.
CW: You worked for them many years, did’t you?
MY: Yes, forty three years. After all the original owners had died, a grandson by marriage and his brother bought the TBA business. They just couldn’t make a go of it, and in 1989 they laid me off. Which was fine with me, because they had let everybody elso go but me, and I didn’t want to be there anymore either. The only reason I didn’t quit was because I didn’t want to desert them with all the work they did not know how to do. But they did very soon close the doors.
CW: So what else was different back then. Before your time or during your time.
MY: I remember the river bridge had Napoleon written all across the bridge in
big cream-colored letters with an arrow on the north side. The arrow did not seem straight, but it was pointing due north, where the bridge does not.
CW: Now was that the bridge that is the structure now or was it the iron bridge?
MY: Oh no, it’s the one that’s there now. A former friend of mine told me he
was there when the bridge was dedicated and Ohio’s governor was there on
that day. His name was Cooper.
CW: That’s a pretty bridge.
MY: Oh I know, but it’s a shame how bad it looks now.
CW: Yes, pretty crumbled away. They say they are going to take it all the way down and start from scratch.
MY: That’s what they plan. I’d sure like to be there when they take it down. I was told when they took the original bridge down people salvaged the big stones and used them in building their houses.
CW: What else do you recall, Martha?
MY: There was a theater on North Perry St. called the World Theater. When I was in my teens, I ushered there on weekends. They were only open on the weekend and most of their movies were Westerns. The State Theater was on Washington St. and once in a while I got to usher there too.
CW: Did they have drawings or give-a-ways to get people to come to the movies?
MY: I don’t know. Not at the World, but maybe at the State.
CW: Well, Russ Patterson told us about the drawing and it must have been at the State because they won something and he was so excited.
MY: I remember we would carry our lunch to school. At noon time many of the kids would run uptown to Spengler’s and rush in to get a booth. We would order one bottle of pop and four of us would share. The waiters would bring mustard and catsup and let us use them for our sandwiches.
CW: And the pop was probably only a nickel at that time wasn’t it?
MY: I don’t remember, but it couldn’t have been much because we didn’t have much money to spend on pop.
CW: What else, Martha?
MY: Henry County used to have a Community Concert Series. For many years I did the publicity for this group. We would bring in big bands, pianists, and various other artists. It was always a privilege to meet the artists. But eventually their fees increased so much, and our membership dwindled, and sadly, we decided to discontinue the concerts. The concert piano was given to Emanuel Lutheran Church. The high school could no longer store it for us, and since Ron Schink had been the last president of the concert series they felt we at Emanuel should have the piano.
CW: What else can you tell me, Martha.
MY: Maybe you remember that back in 1977 Ronald Reagan came to Napoleon. I also did the publicity for that. Mr. Reagan made a speech at the fair grounds, and we had a special dinner for him in the evening at the Elk’s Club.
CW: Was he as nice then as he always seemed to be?
MY: Yes, he was nice and very attractive. He didn’t seem as tall as I had always imagined him to be. It was an enormous job to get all this publicity out to all the surrounding papers and radios. One thing that I’ll never forget concerns the Toledo Blade. I sent them all the articles about the upcoming event but they never published any of them. I called the editor of the Blade and asked why they were not using my articles. He said, “Yes, we received them and you’re doing a good job. But I have to be frank with you. We here in Toledo really don’t much care what goes on in Napoleon.” I must admit that took me by surprise.
CW: That would be a surprise. Is there anything else you can tell me?
MY: I should have told this before when I was telling about confirmation. The public school used to be for only eight months. We were members of St.Paul’s Lutheran Church in the country. We’d get out of public school, have one month vacation, and then for three months, all day, we would attend catechism school at our church school. We’d walk to school which started at 9:00 a.m. and be there until 3:30 p.m. If you also took the German, you’d have to stay until 4:00 p. m. Most of the kids did take German. We had to learn the catechism in English and German, and also many of the hymns. We had to memorize over two hundred Bible verses. Today, the churches are lucky if they can fit in one or two weeks of Vacation Bible School, either the kids don’t have time or maybe parents think this much religious education isn’t necessary. Our pastor would teach grades four through eight. The first three grades would meet in the ‘little’ room for which our congregation hired a special teacher. Our pastor would teach the German and if during instruction we would say something in English we would be sent into the ‘little’ room. I might also tell of how we had religious education in public school. The pastors would come to school, or we’d meet at one of the churches, and we’d have an hour of religious instruction. That of course, is no longer permitted in schools. If my memory serves me right, one of the books our pastor had us study was called “Heros of Faith”.
CW: Can you tell me more, Martha?
MY: I remember our telephone service in the country. There would be five or six families on one line. You would know your call by the number of rings. Ours was two longs and one short. Everyone on the line could hear the ring, and it was nothing unusual for people picking up their phones and listening to any of the calls. News spread quickly then too.
MY: In 1947, a tornado struck our farm. It destroyed most of the buildings, but thankfully missed our house. I was living in town, but I remember they notified me. It was a sad sight to see. It also took down our big square timber barn. My father, Ferd Wachtman, in addition to being a farmer, as a carpenter by trade and built these types of barns. Ours was rebuilt and is probably one of the last square timber barns built in this area.