Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, 2002
I was born on a farm out in Holgate, Ohio and my folks were farmers–uh–I was the oldest of three children so that’s what I remember. Everything was run by horse power then.
Q. When was that?
I was born in 1912. I went to school in Holgate, graduated from High School, was President of the class. Heh heh, we had a little paper, the “Tatler” we called it. I run that the last year.
Q. Bet that was fun, wasn’t it?
Oh yeah, but it was a lot of work, but we got it done. Then I went to Business College in Fort Wayne one year, ran out of money then came back. My uncle said he had some–could bake a lot of bread but he couldn’t sell it so-a-I got a Chevrolet coupe with a box on the back. But first I tried it on Dad’s old car. I decided to drive through the countryside and sell bread. Started out one noon and–one morning– and I was back and needed more bread. But anyhow that sprung into–uh–
Q. That’s how you got started?
Yeah, and as–uh–my uncle said he was going to let some of his help go and just do it himself so I came over here to Chubb’s bakery and got started there. And of course in the meantime I married Marie and we had those–before the War started we had four trucks on the road. (chuckle). We sold groceries and bread. That was the main item, bread, cookies, everything in the bake line. So when my uncle quit I went over to Chubb’s and Marie worked at Chubb’s and-uh-we went over there on Woodlawn. Marie’s mother owned that house and so we got it. He lives in that big brick house just across the street from the old library.
Q. Oh yeah. That’s across the street from the old library. Was the library there then?
Yeah, it was. Then it wasn’t big enough for the business so Marie’s mother bought the old laundry on Highland. We were up to four trucks there. We went all over the country–Archbold, through Elery to Holgate and we did all right. Then the war came along. We didn’t have much to do.
Q. Probably couldn’t get gas either.
No, and then Charlie Tanner had a grocery store up town and he was on the board that issued tires–ha, ha–and so-uh-then one day I didn’t always drive the truck. I was down to the wholesale house gettin’ some groceries and Clyde Beck was there. I said “How’s business?” “Terrible, just terrible,” he said. I asked, “Why don’t you get rid of it?” He said, “D’ya wantta buy it?” I said “I dunno. I might.”
And so it ended up that I bought it, had it for ten years and then–
Q. When was this?
It must have been about 19 uh–the ’40’s–when the war was comin’ on, and so we had that for ten years and then we couldn’t get tires and gas, things like that. Then we had that for ten years and in the meantime I was also the Mayor of the town–voted in by about ten votes–and-uh–Walt Hagen asked me if I’d run for Council. He said we needed another Republican for Council. He said, “I’ll do everything” and I got voted in by about ten votes. And then of course Mc Cosker who was the Mayor, had a shop down there by where the Senior Center is now and–uh–I took office on January First and and-uh we had four Republicans and two Democrats and ‘It’s got to be a Republican’ and the other three Republicans didn’t want it. I stewed around about a month and finally I said I’d take it. So I had a grocery store and was Mayor of the town. Then I ran for reelection, got reelected and-a- At that time the Mayor had full court. I had Court every Thursday night after Rotary. Now this guy’s full time, five days a week. (laughs) But I got through it all right. Charlie Bowman and I learned to be good friends. Every time after they had a Council meeting, even if it was 12 o’clock we’d still go over to the Palmer House and have a cup of coffee.
And so whether we agreed or disagreed that’s how.
So one day I said to Charlie,
“I gotta get out of that downtown area. There’s no parking,” and I said, “I’d like to get a store out at the edge of town.” And a couple days later Charlie said,
“Say, I’ve got just the place.” It was where it was setting now, you know. And so Charlie said, “I’ll help you get started,” and so he saw Walt Crahan, Mart Hoeffel and uh–we had a meeting up at my
Q. Was that called The Chief at that time?
Oh no. Sauer Foodland. We had a meeting, Charlie Bowman and I with -uh–
Q. With those people in Defiance, wasn’t it?
No no no no. With–uh–he had the dry goods store.
Crahan, yeah. He had the dry goods store downtown. And another fellow was there. So we went up into his office and said–uh–I told him what I wanted to do, I wanted to build a store out there. And this one fella got up and walked out. He said, “I’m not going to build a store for anybody.” Heh, heh. And Walt Crahan said, “We’ll build it.” (laugh) And of course it turned out to be a tremendous business you know. Just before Crahan died, we paid the rent all the time.
Q. Oh, so he owned that building.
Yeah, yeah. We had expanded it several times. Finally the fellows from Defiance came along. They said, “Why don’t you join with us?” And so, I don’t know. After a couple years we built a store across the river over there.
Q. Was that the time they changed the name from Sauer’s Foodland to the Chief?
Yeah. I don’t know It was Sauer Foodland for a while and then when I put my stock in with theirs
they said, “Let’s call them all The Chief.” They had one in Defiance. They wanted to build one in Bryan and one in Wauseon. We had a million dollars borrowed on that one in Wauseon before we made any money.
(laugh) Well it’s funny. The fellow who owned that eight acres that we wanted was an Osteopath and he did some operations on the people and he was gonna build a hospital. They said, “You can’t buy that.” So One day somebody said, “Why don’t you try money?” So we went over there, Ted and I and said, “We’d like to buy that land.” “Well you can’t buy it.” But when we got up to $120,000.00 (laugh)
Q. Changed his mind, eh?
We bought five acres and Bryan did the same thing. I was there–I don’t know how many years. Must have been–then John died.
Q. John who?
John Nolan He and I were the guys that ran the store and Ted Hintz, he took care of the money, ran the office. But John and I were–did that. It never felt very good, but the Hintz boys they finally ended up owning it–er, bought me out and they had a buyer telling me that if somebody died–So then we went to Florida, Marie and I, we went to Florida to look around. We found this place called Six Lakes. We got a house there where we spend about–well we go there about the middle of October and come home a month for Christmas, and go back.
I used to enjoy those trips with Ed and them (ha, ha)
Q. Ed did too!
I was playing this course with Bob Cline that was the 2nd oldest course in the country and there was a wire thing like a hollow and Bob and I were walking through the hollow, and they were supposed to have the oldest golf course in the country–I can’t remember the name–but anyway we wuz walking through there. They had an owl sitting out there. Bob said, “How much is that?” She said, “65.” Bob said, “I’ll take it. She said, “Wait a minute. That’s $6500.” (laughs)
I don’t know whether Ed told you but one morning after breakfast–we were eating at Greenbriar–you husband got out his pipe you know. Just then the waiter came up and said “You’ll have to put out that pipe.” He growled but he put the pipe out. And the next day he found out that here it was Doc Harrison that had arranged it.(laughs)
Q. It was just a joke, eh? (laughs) Well now when did you and Marie build this house?
We didn’t build it. No, no. It was build in 1925.
Q. That’d be right in the depression, wasn’t it, or just before the depression?
Well yeah, I think we-uh. had three brothers who were stonemasons and he took the stone out of the old river bridge and hauled it to the bank and they built the home. And-uh–
Q. Was that the bridge that was flooded in 1911, I wonder?
I don’t know, I don’t know. It was just said that that’s what they used for buttress and so he bought it, brought it back here and put it in the back yard, and that’s what they used to build the house. Of course then the great depression came along and somehow his auto business went–he had the oil business in Napoleon all sewed up. I don’t know, there’s stories about some crook or something, was–he had the I can’t think of the name.
Q. Was it Orwig?
No. He ran the paper. So he had these stonemasons and he went broke and so he sold it to Zimmerman and I think Zimmerman bought it.
Q. That wouldn’t be Lyman Zimmerman would it?
Q. Or Junior Zimmerman’s father in Holgate?
No, no. He told me that he drank whiskey–scotch–and I don’t know how many cases of that we took out of the basement.
No, empty. (laughs) So we were looking for a house and we came around here and Marie said, “I like this.” And I said, “So do I.” So we went up to see Mr. Bauer. “Best house in the world!” he said. “I’ll take you out there.” So we had a meeting. And (mumble) Let’s see . . . It was . . the war was in . . 1945, I think we got it. The war was ending and of course it ws ’55 when we went out there (moved the store). Aaand then the same day Bauers said, I go a lot right behind your house. I’d like to sell that to you.
I said, “What do you want for it?”
He said, “$800.” and I found out that her husband was blind but he gave lessons
Q. Was that Hagen?
Yeah. She was after him to get the weeds mowed down (laugh) and so she said she was sure glad that we came along.
Q. Did that lot go all the way to the river?
Q. Oh, Route 24 used to go there, didn’t it?
Some big semi’d try to turn that corner and it’d upset you know, until we got this one. I’d be afraid to live there.
Q. You didn’t live in this city or this town then until you went to Woodlawn right after you were married? When were you married?
Let’s see, I don’t know. It must have been.
Q. Do you think it ws 1935?
Q. What do you remember about what the town was like or what Holgate was like?
Well at that time there was very few automobiles. Horse and buggies you know. My father finally bought a Ford. You could buy one for about $500. I worked on the railroad for 40 cents an hour.
QYou did! Hard work.
Yeah. (laughs) One of the worst days we had we had to go along the track, take a sythe and swing, had to cut like that all day
Q. Oh my!
Yeah, we were up there and between Holgate and Defiance. They said go get some water. There were some wigglers in it. They said, ‘Oh that won’t hurt anything (laughs)
Q. Ooh! I don’t think I’d want to drink that.
(laughs) Well you would if it was good and hot. It was a well you know.
Q. When you grew up you were in Holgate?
No, it was on a farm about a mile and a half from Holgate.
Q. What did you do for entertainment in those horse-and-buggy days?
Oh I had a bicycle and they didn’t have any more children till I was about 9 years old, my mother had a brother and then in another 9 years she had a sister. So-a-I had a bicycle and a dog, and I’d go up and see my uncle you know, I’d ride up there.
Q. What did you do on the farm?
Well the first thing we’d get started with was we’d milk the cows. I’d go out and milk cows. We always had a half a dozen and and of course when I was going to school I’d always have to clean out the stable. We always had horses. Everything was horse power then. We had a stable. I had to make sure that was clean.
Q. Did you plow with your father?
Well I was in school, you see. And by the time I got out of high school then I think my Dad got a tractor.
Q. Did you go to a one-room school?
Yeah. Marie was in one.
Q. How did you get to the school? Did you walk?
Yeah. Sure. The teacher had two boys and I’d walk with them. They were older than I.
Q. How far?
Oh, it was about a mile, mile and a half. When we moved over, when I went to high school, I used to jog that or bicycle. But it wasn’t anything to get there you know.
Q. The way they (my husband and siblings) got to school in winter they’d put their skates on and skate down this little creek which went from their farm to the schoolhouse.
We had a creek on the back of the farm but you couldn’t go on or I never heard of anyone skating on it. It still runs through Holgate. I always thought I wanted to be a preacher.
Q. Oh you did?
Yeah. My . . . One day I went up to one of the ministers and he said, “Well look here. I get $3000 a year. You can’t beat that job.” (laughs) But one semester at Bowling Green collete is as much as I got. Thought I might be a lawyer but I didn’t have any money and I had to go back to sellin’ bread on the trucks. The fellow that run the truck for me he let the business run down. Then I got serious. But I don’t know. I didn’t mind it so much. But when you’re young you . .
Q. Yeah. You don’t mind. (laughs) You probably had children by that time.
Oh yeah, I think we 1938 or something like that. Pastor Moser was what he talked us into joining the Lutheran Church. It was just down the alley you know.
Q. What church did you go to before?
Well my folks were Reformed. I suppose it’s still there. A church out where Stockmeier used to be.
They had an ice house house there by the river where Snyder has his car wash place you know. The’d haul the ice up there to the . . cut it up, put sawdust in between it. They’d put a layer of ice, then one of sawdust and so on.
Q. They’d cut it out of the river?
Q. How did they get it cut?
Sawed it. Had big long saws about like that. (motions) They’d just go like this, you know, cut it by hand. And uh, Holgate had an ice house too. They had refrigerators,
Q. Yeah, they’d put a block of ice in the top. Did that ice last all summer, or most of the summer?
Q. You wouldn’t think sawdust would keep it that cold, would you?
Well, it was pretty think, you know, and there at Holgate they had a little pond we used to go skating but here at Napoleon I suppose they skated on the river.
Q. How thick would that ice get?
Oh, I suppose about a foot thick or so. I don’t know whether tthey had the dam like–what’s the name of that town down river?
Q. Grand Rapids.
Yeah. Now I don’t know whether was there or not but I know they used to get ice out of there. You put your ice on the top. We just bought a new refrigerator. It was starting to leak oil or something. Y’know I suppose it was before you come but-a- we were going to build a house right there next to the where the annex was there, the Sunday School room.
Q. That was what (Pastor) Moser wanted wasn’t it?
Yeah. (laugh) I made a great speech and I thought it was a great thing and Ted Titgemeyer got up and said it was terrible. They had to provide a place for the minister. You know when I look over that thing he (our minister) gets over $100,000 a year.
Q. When you add it all up.
He gets so much for his minister, then there’s his in there. He gets so much for his books, then
Yeah, and then his wife plays the organ. Between the two of them they make over $100,000 probably.
Q. Minister’s pay isn’t what it used to be. Used to be a pauper’s job, sort of.
And, I guess I told you about the one we have in Florida, didn’t I? He gets 140,000 a year and he’s a lot cheaper than Updegraf because in the three years since he’s been there he’s brought in 800 new members.
(I omitted some info about Florida here.)
Q. Well now, I understand that from Welsted on out there was country here?
No, not since I remember. It might have been but not before we were here.
Q. CCC built this, didn’t they?
I don’t know. But I remember Charlie Bowman was on the committee. But at their recreation room the girls were standing in water to change their clothes. When Charlie got mad he didn’t wait for nobody (laughs) He–he got right to work right now.
Q. That’s the way he operated.
And he’d see those people like Lawrence Haase and some of those guys.
Q. Were you involved with threshing at all on the farm?
No. They used to have binders, they called them, and they’d cut, and put rope or binders in bundles about 18″ thick. through there. that would be
Q. Is that wheat you’re talking about?
Wheat, oats or whatever. Then you’d have to go out in the field and shock the–put em up in shocks, then you’d put a cap on one of ’em, you know, and about seven or eight of those bundles of wheat had to be shocked up and we always thought it had to cure and-uh-the thrashing machine would come along with what we called the separator, and some were run by coal fire, we’d call steam engines and
of course later on it was different. They would come to where we farmed you know, and they ‘d put straw up there for the horses aand cows etc. And they would have steam engines from what I remember. They had steam engines, big mammoth things. They’d run in.
Q. Would they do that in the field?
No. Usually every farm had a straw stack and of course during the year they used that straw to bed the horses and the cows, etc. They would put that out in the yard and that would disintegrate and they’d call that manure. Then that was what they put on the fields. That was before they had what you call Threshing Machines. Spread with manure spreaders, and you’d load it on by hand.
Q. Pretty messy work, eh? (laugh)
Oh no. It wasn’t bad. Most of the oat stalks and corn stalks’s disintegrate and it’d have a black color to it. You’d throw that on the manure spreader and they’d take horses and spread it on the fields that the farmer thought needed the most fertilizer, but now it’s different.
Q. I wonder what they’ll do with all that manure on megafarms?
(omitted this info re. modern times)
Q. Back in those days every farmer had pigs, a few horses and cows, didn’t he?
Oh yeah, and now . . . . . .
Herb Eickhoff used to go round and do that (inseminate animals) for the farmers. You know Herb?
So farming’s different than it used to be.
Q. The average farm used to be about 200 acres, didn’t it?
No. When I first started my Dad had 40 acres
(end of tape)