Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, December 4, 2003, Tape I
C. Louisa is a Professor at Northwest State College and I’m hoping she will tell us about her childhood at Liberty Center, OH. Louisa, I understand your father was editor of the local paper.
L. Yes he was, for years and years, and it pretty much governed our lifestyle. We were one of the few people in town, I suppose, that had charge accounts at the stores. My cousin got the impression that we didn’t have to pay for anything because we went to the store with no money. She didn’t know why we could do that and they couldn’t. But what happened was–well, it was just a barter system, where the merchants and the newspaper exchanged advertising for goods. So, so many column inches of advertising would pay for the groceries. Once in a while one would owe the other, but if we needed shoes or something that we didn’t really need but wished we had, we early learned that what we really needed had to take precedence. But at the end of the month Papa would take his accounts and go from merchant to merchant mostly on foot and in the end there would be a little cash coming our way, not much but we had everything from–my brothers and I were delivered actually for our physicians a card of thanks. The lady who came to do the washing (when Mama couldn’t) took newspaper subscriptions for her Christmas list, and of course her rate of pay and the subscriptions were both very low, so it was no great gigantic transaction there.
C. Excuse me, I don’t understand, what was it that physicians gave?
L. They had these cards, these stay-in-business cards, these goodwill cards, and our three births paid for his card in the newspaper every week, “Physician and Surgeon.” the telephone number and office hours.
C. Oh, that’s the sort of advertising doctors did in those days.
L. The only kind. I remember my uncle the doctor, well actually it was his wife that said to my mother, “They’re having another baby and the last one’s not even paid for yet.” Because a doctor, like us, took goods in place, maybe potatoes, maybe a chicken, whatever that the people had and here they were having another baby which she thought totally injudicious on their part, to be having a new baby when the last one hadn’t been paid for. It was a barter system that existed for quite some time.
C. Was this during the Depression?
L. No, it was long before that. Yes, we’re talking 1920 perhaps or . . . the system was in place long before I came into this world, but it was just commonplace, I think, among country editors and their staffs.
C. Well it certainly would have made an interesting life for you, I think, your childhood.
L. It did–great attention to the printed word–great care taken with communication, a sense of having to be sort of a model supposedly–made us more like a PKs, though, I think.
C. Now why did you . . .
L. Well because it would be very hard to editorialize against something that the editor’s own children were doing clearly and obviously, running the streets at night, for example (which was not one of our vices) but it would make it very hard for Papa to editorialize against people speeding through town if his own children were doing that same thing. So we were tied down, well-treated prisoners, I would say, of our father’s vocation. But yes, we had the paper for years and years.
C. Did it affect your relationship to other children?
L. It wasn’t as bad as Papa being President of the Board. That really hurt.
C. President of the School Board?
L. Yes, that was not a desirable position to be in because even if we did well–and we were expected to do well, and we did do well—but we were subject to, “Well, if my father was President of the Board I would get good grades too.” So it had its disadvantages.
C. That had changed in the next generation, because my husband was on the School Board for many years and we had five children and they never once mentioned anything about it. Of course that was a larger city so the children might not have known about it. How big was Liberty Center at the time?
L. Oh, there were 50 in my graduating class, and bear in mind that it has remained an independent school district not combined. It doesn’t have a double name. It’s just Liberty Center which, when you look around Henry County, Liberty Center, Holgate and Patrick Henry are the only ones in the county system but Patrick Henry survived by bringing in the surrounding towns in the district really, all those little schools. Malinta had a high school and of course McClure and Florida are part of aNapoleon but Liberty Center stays, just Liberty.
C. Right there. Of course Gould helped. Gould Manufacturing was in the Liberty Center district. It isn’t any more. I don’t know how they changed it but . . .
L. Well, it was annexation but that did help somewhat but what’s really helped is income tax I would say because bedroom communities have a hard time collecting very much property tax. Gould wasn’t around when I went to school.
C. Well now, it’s close enough to Toledo so there are probably a lot of people that work there.
C. Well now you told me the other time about editing the paper. Did that paper go out once a week or …
L. Yes. Yes it did. Rain, shine, hail made no difference. That paper had to go out. It was an obligation.
C. That was your livelihood.
L. Yes, but I don’t believe we ever thought about it. With that barter system, you know, nothing catches up with you until the end of the month, but just the idea that you owe it to the community, to the subscribers who expect their Press every Thursday morning no matter what. And then my brother . . . this is jumping a lot of years now . . . but when my brother went to the Pacific to fight. (He was a pilot in the Pacific theater.)
C. World War II?
L. Yes. And he was the editor of the paper, having finished at Ohio State and come back to Liberty Center to work on the family paper with the idea that he would take it over when Papa retired; but he went away to the Pacific so I taught school and was the editor of the paper for 33 months while he was gone, and then when he came back I returned to my home and family–I was married by then–and so it was a real experience. I’ve never regretted having done it. You know, gas was so hard to get that I rode a bicycle to cover a story. I remember going–someway or other you always went to see the bride’s dress before the wedding.
C. It always used to be listed.
L. We always did, describe every beaded detail, but I would get on my bicycle and ride out into the country where it was and see the dress and talk to the mother of the bride usually, so that much would be done before the wedding story, because teaching school and working on the paper were time-consuming and I was married and had a family was another thing so–
C. You did all those things at the same time?
L. Well, see they were in sequence.
C. I remember your telling me too about how the whole family helped to get that paper out.
C. Would you elaborate on that?
L. Yes. It was our paper and ours in every sense of the word. Mama answered the telephone at home in the name of the office and jotted down a note that some lady visited or attended a meeting. Soon as we were old enough we had the smallest job on the paper. It only paid a quarter but it was a quarter that we hadn’t had before. We picked up the papers at the bottom of the paper folder and carried them to the desk where they were being labeled and addressed about to go out. The next highest job was to feed the folder which meant to put probably or 500 or 600 papers through the folder over the tapes and down the machinery and some lesser soul was taking them out and carrying them over to the labeling desk. Well that paid 50 cents. Now that was wonderful!
C. You doubled your pay.
L. Be there late at night and when you learned it was painful because when you didn’t know how to pick up a paper you had deep cuts between your thumb and index finger that hurt very badly but you still learned. I suppose pain taught us. That 50 cents was a wonderful thing. After two weeks you had a dollar. And we always got paid. As I look back I don’t know how, knowing the barter system and how little cash our family handled, but we always got paid. Now the big job that paid a dollar was feeding the big press because it was a flat bed press printed from cold type and the big roller rolled the paper over the cold type, and then the folder operator would take it off the press, where it came from the press, and carry it to the folder. That’s the fifty cent job. The dollar man up high on the platform of the big press, that person never left from the time he first started feeding the press because it makes a real mess if you have to stop. And so, that Evidently I wasn’t coordinated to master that, because I never graduated from our feeder, the highest position I got till I got to be the Editor, so there!
C. Well now, tell me, back in Ben Franklin’s time they had to set all these letters in one at a time. Did they still do that when you were there?
L. We had cases of hand-set type that my father could do but his brother, my Uncle David (who bought the paper in the first place and my father came into the paper as partner) could hand-set type. The fast ones were called ‘swifts’. And Uncle Dave was a swift.
C. In other words because he could do it fast.
L. Yes. He could pick those–they had a little pair-like tweezers only bigger–and they could pull that type out of the case. They knew that just the way we would know a typewriter keyboard, and they put it in a “stick” and when they had their column set or whatever they would take it to the forms and lock it in. Well by the time I was born we had a machine that was called an Intertype and that was the predecessor to the linotype that they used up until computer days. So that hot type that I was used to was set on a keyboard which would be similar to a typewriter keyboard in a way, except the keys were banked some. The keyboard was bigger because it had keys on it that typewriters didn’t. The principle was the same: instead of typing on paper you’re typing in hot metal. There’s a metal pot in the back of the linotype and it operated with electricity; and the metal was hot, hot, hot! And
C. But the keys weren’t.
L. No, the keys weren’t; I didn’t learn that machine any too well, either. I started, but I guess I had my mind on too many other things. The typewriter and now the word processor I could handle, the keyboard, but not that. Everybody else could, both my brothers–and of course my father was very good at it and he had a linotype operator, James Anglemyre his name was. His father had this store in Texas on the canal. In some of those old pictures you can see “Anglemyre” across the front of the store.
C. Is that A or E?
L. A. Angle And Mildred Perry who still lives in Texas was that linotype operator’s daughter–is–and I see her frequently. Of course she was just a little tyke. She was younger than I by a number of years. The ads, all sale bills, had to be set by hand. Linotypes didn’t go that big, the one we had set news type, the headlines but not so my Uncle Dave was a handset type man and his sale bills advertised auctions and festivals and boxing matches and whatever else was going on.
C. And I think you said, on the day when the paper came out you got up early in the morning, everybody in the family got up early in the morning?
L. No, everybody stayed up very late!
C. Oh is that how it is?
L. Because no matter what, the paper went out that day. If the press conked out or something happened that we had to set more type it didn’t matter. We children would be going home, not a thought of going home at midnight because the paper would go out. And Mama is at home waiting for us to get home of course and Papa would say, “You go ahead. We’ll finish up.” So I usually was asleep by the time Papa got home. But that’s because he was the mailer. He was in charge of mailing the papers. He’d take them over to the Post Office and they would go in the hand cart that the man pushed to the train. The ones that went out like that, they went by train.
C. Did they have a signal that the conductor knew when to stop?
L. Yes. The engineer and brakeman knew that the paper was always there. And the man with the two-wheeled cart. He got the mail . That’s better than we do now in Liberty Center. It only goes once a day. It comes in once and goes out once.
C. Now this is an abrupt change of subject but I wondered . . . You know years ago every house had a piano if they could afford it, and all the children were taking piano lessons, and they don’t any more. They don’t have room for the pianos I guess but I believe you were a piano teacher, weren’t you?
L. Yes. I started taking lessons when I was just past six. A lady named Alice Howell was my first piano teacher and she lived on the end of Maple St. where those newer houses are down there. And my mother would walk me down to Mrs. Howells and wait till I had my lesson and bring me back. And she had a well-established studio. Her granddaughter is named Alice for her and she comes to our Elderhostels and goes on our trips. I never knew that she was related, was just enchanted to find out. She said, “Yes, that was my grandmother.” So, she lives in Toledo. But Mrs. Howell was ill and I only had about six months of lessons from her. I had a series of teachers but my family had the piano from the big house in Texas on the canal and Mama got that. Of course we should have kept it, but I wanted a modern-looking piano. But that piano with its beautiful wood and beautiful sound, we traded for a Grinnell piano from Grinnells. Mama cried when they took the piano away and I thought, “How silly! We’re getting a new piano to replace that old one.” My last teacher was Charlene Hahn. When I started with her she was Charlene Reiter. I was about 12, 13 and I drove and we went over to the Reiter house in the country.
C. You drove a car when you were 12 or 13?
L. Um-hm. I did. But you didn’t have to have a license because there wasn’t any such thing, and Mama always went with me. Now she didn’t drive so she was just a kind of moral support I guess but all through high school I drove to Charlene’s. No, that’s not quite true. Later I drove to Napoleon.
L. They still lived in the country. Her father was the dog warden–Orville, I want to say, but later she came in to the Roessing home in Napoleon to give lessons and we all went there to take our lessons. I went there when I was probably a sophomore to take them. By then I could go by myself.
C. Tell me what it was like, how you taught music in those days when you gave lessons in the home.
L. Well, we did without recorders, obviously, and we didn’t have electronic pianos but I think I taught piano. That was when I was teaching school at Liberty the first time and that’s when I first taught piano. I rode my bicycle to give the piano lessons too, the same bicycle, and I think I got a dollar for a lesson. But I only paid fifty cents for my lessons; Corrie Bell Prentiss was my second or third piano teacher and she came to Liberty from Napoleon and gave lessons.. And I had Charlene Reiter Hahn longer than any other of them, but when I gave lessons the pupils came to my house, first in the country and then in town. But then when I went back to teaching school full time, I just couldn’t do both.
C. Your children would have to be very quiet I suppose.
L. Oh my land, yes! Did I tell you about Jamie falling out of the window? Somebody had to baby-sit Jamie, the youngest one every day. They took turns. They knew whose turn it was; I would have no idea. But of course when school was out they came home and the piano students came, and of course I would work in as many as I could before supper and maybe after supper, and they took care of Jamie when they got home. They had to be quiet. These people are paying a nickel a minute for this lesson so it is serious business. And they understood that. I heard him crying, but then I didn’t hear him cry and I didn’t think anything of it. I said, “What happened to Jamie?” They said, “Well, he fell out the upstairs window.” “He fell out the upstairs window?!” “Yes. He pushed the screen out. We told him not to do that.” He was profoundly retarded but still knew ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, and he fell out the upstairs window of our two-story house but it didn’t hurt him. And they went out and got him and brushed him off, brought him back in the house pretty calm and happy. I said, “You didn’t tell me!” They said, “Mom, you told us never to bother you unless it was an emergency. Don’t do that.'” That wasn’t serious enough they thought. They could handle that. They remember that incident so well.
C. Did you ever go ice-skating on the river?
L. Not very much. The creek that led to the river we skated on and I wasn’t a very athletic child. My ankles would keep bending over when they shouldn’t, but I maintained that if I had shoe skates (which not very many people had. They had clamp-on skates that you tightened on your shoe with a key.) I would be able to skate. So when I got to where I had more money I got a pair of shoe skates. Well, it didn’t work the magic that I thought it would. I did skate with somebody pulling me, actually, and I was just standing up. I was thankful to keep my balance. But the children in the early days of the REA, our children–went down when the creek, Turkeyfoot, when it flooded the Glanz family had a huge pond there and REA put light poles up there and they had electricity, and our children got to skate. They had a wonderful time on that pond. It was close enough that they could walk, so that made it quite a diversion in winter.
C. What else did you do for entertainment? Didn’t have any television, I would imagine, did you?
L. No, no we didn’t. My children did but I didn’t. We played a lot of games: Authors, some board games. They still have these big boards that had checkers on one side and another game, Pit, on the other. We had that too. Now we, when our kids got older they were into Monopoly and War and games like that,but not when I was a child. We all read a lot, which behooves an Editor’s family,of course.
C. Did you use the library then?
L. We didn’t have a library except in school. No, there was no public library even in school for a long time, so we owned the books. Every birthday, every Christmas, every day of remembrance we got a book and we traded with our neighbors and friends who read a lot and that’s what we did, I think. Then in high school we took up, my friend and I took up crossword puzzles and we did that. Of course when we got big enough to be out and about we went to the shows. Liberty Center had a theater for a long time.
C. They did? Where was that?
L. Well, it was in a group of buildings right there where the new annex to the library is. And they bartered. We got ‘picture-show’, we called it, tickets in exchange for advertising; so we didn’t get “money” unless we used the tickets. (end of tape, side one)
C. Your father and you . . .
L. Went, two or three times a week, usually three. Every time the picture changed we went to the movies, and that’s where I learned to read the titles that were printed on the screen. It was a little different from the reader that Mama was teaching me out of. Mama and the boys stayed home. Once in a great while we would all go, but not very often.
C. Once of my first music teachers was a woman who played the organ–piano–in a movie house, and she always played very loudly because she had to in her work so she taught me in my lessons to play loudly and I can’t play softly to this day.
L. Yes. We had a player piano in this theater–Majestic Theater it was–and it was in there a long time–oh way into the talking pictures. You know, it was the strangest thing. I never could understand that, the way boy actually gets girl and they get married and then the screen goes dark and the subtitle comes up “One Year Later” and they have this little child–this little baby there–and I could not for the life of me figure out what the lights going out had to do with this baby, because everybody knew the stork brought the baby. How did the stork find them in the dark? I never could understand it. Mysterious, isn’t it? I asked Papa one time “How’s come it always comes up that way?” It was a happy ending, you know, here’s this happy little family (except one and that was called ‘Smilin’ Through’ and it was sad but that’s the way it is, Papa said. It doesn’t all come out to a happy ending.) but he said, “Well, now, some time we’ll have to talk about that.” Well, he just forgot about it, till the next time we saw the happy ending and I see this mysterious baby.
C. I remember one time my friend and I went to one of the first movies that I had seen. It was very sad and we started crying and by the time that movie was over with we had red eyes and we were still crying. We thought, “We just can’t go out on the street looking like this.” So we went out the back door. We got away from the crowd of people.
L. Well don’t you suppose everyone else was crying too?
C. Oh probably but you know high-school kids are afraid of how they look.
L. So, but the show always went on. Sometimes there would be a full house; sometimes there would be 10 or 15 people but it didn’t matter. They had the movie rented for Mon., Tue. and Wed. night so Saturday and Sunday would be bigger shows. Usually the bill changed three times a week.
C. A lot more than it does now.
L. Right. It was an education certainly.
C. Was Lucille Sherman teaching there?
L. She taught in Liberty Center when–certainly she was there when I went back to teaching. She wasn’t there the first time I taught but she was there–let’s see, Wanda Stock came to Liberty and started to teach and she and Lucille Sherman and Gail George. I wasn’t teaching but I was a teacher, you know, cause I was home with the kids, and,–but we had a card club that lasted for more than 50 years.
C. What kind of cards?
L. Pinochle we usually played, always played I should say. There was a bridge club too but that was too much work. Had to think too hard. I know you play.
C. I play penuchle too and enjoy it. (laughs) So how many children then were in the class in school?
L. Oh about like today. You mean when I taught them?
L. Well, I never taught any elementary so I don’t know what goes on down there.
C. What about when you were in elementary school?
L. Well, first and second grade were in the same room. There must be , maybe 25 children in my first-grade picture because country schools all had their own first grade. Liberty Center was just Liberty Center.
C. Well then, how could the first and second grades be in the same room? Did they study the same thing?
L. Oh Mercy no! You’d been promoted when you were in the second grade.
C. Did they operate it like the one-room school, that they had different times to recite?
L. Probably. When I got to be in there–that’s a long story but–I was only in the first grade maybe six weeks because I must have been such a pain, having already learned at the movies. But I did, I knew too much to be in first grade. I must have been a distraction cause if I knew the answer I wanted to say it, you know. So it wasn’t very long till I took a note home to my folks in which the teacher said that they thought it would be better if they put me in second grade. So, my biggest regret–I was so looking forward to playing in that big sandbox at the front of the room and I always thought that some day I would get to play in that, but I wasn’t in that room long enough, because the second graders didn’t play in the sandbox or anything. It was only the first graders. The first graders were privileged people that got to build sand castles and stuff but I never did do that. It’s kind of like they said for a while that your child should always crawl before walking. The theory was that if you hadn’t crawled you should crawl because it was missing in your development. Well, I always thought that if I just could have gone back and been in that sandbox I would be better off.
C. Your education would have been complete!
L. I think I would have done better. Of course I was always the youngest child in the class and they all got to do things at least a year before I did and I just never really fit in very well with my class.
C. Well, you know that same thing happened to my sister. They’d have them skip a grade if they were ahead and she was small-boned, a small person anyway, and she said all through school she felt inferior because the other kids were so much bigger and more socially developed than she. She graduated in 1937 which was still in the depths of the Depression and their school board instigated a new policy at that time because so many couldn’t get jobs out of school, so they said anyone who wanted to go and take another year of school could. So she did and that year she had a wonderful time!
L. Yes. She was in with kids her own age. I never got that. I had friends, but they didn’t have anything to do with my school classes. It was just the kind of a life I led.
C. Now, your mother never had a job; in fact she wasn’t expected to have a job, was she?
L. No. The closest she ever came to a job was that she helped, as I say, she answered the phone and helped when people called about the paper. Maybe an ad, maybe someone had something they wanted to sell, and after we were all grown up and I was even married–the boys were in college–she went to help Papa in the Press office, and she just loved it, and was very capable. And I beat myself up now for it, though there’s no use, when I came home I had little 2-year-old Leon and Mama kept Leon and I, big-shot journalism person you know, went to work on the paper. That’s when I was the Editor for 33 months, and I thought Mama could watch Leon, which she did and loved it to death. But I taught school and when I got home I went to work on the paper and Mama took care of Leon, so she was much more of a figure of a mother to him than I was. But I just never thought that Mama might want a career of her own.
C. Yeah, back in those days it was frowned upon.
L. So, I could help Papa with the paper and I did, but that was terrible.
C. I had a friend when I was in high school who said, “Why do you want to go to college? You don’t want to go to college. You’ll come out smarter than the boys and you’ll never have a boyfriend.” (laughs)
So I went finally with the idea that O.K. I guess I’ll just have to give up the idea of having a boy friend..
L. If it’s one or the other–(laughs) Yes, I think I mentioned before that I believe I was the first Liberty Center girl to go to Ohio State. They went to Bowling Green. That’s where you went, or to Defiance College. Just the very rich people could go to Defiance College. I don’t know that I ever knew anybody that went to Defiance College, but they went to Bowling Green. My cousin went to Bowling Green but we were, all three of us, my two brothers and I, all were destined for Ohio State from the time we were born.
C. Is that where your father had gone?
L. He lived in Columbus where he was a pharmacist’s clerk and he would walk past the Ohio State University which in those days was very young and he would always wish that he could have gone. Now, he probably would have just started in taking some classes, but you didn’t do that. You either went, stayed your four years, dropped out or did something but you didn’t take a few classes. From the time I was born I was gonna go to Ohio State and my brothers too, the same way, and we did. We all finished there.
C. You know, when I was a senior in high school I had this very good friend who had decided that we would go to college somewhere. Well, she didn’t have any more money than I did and she took out every single college catalog out of the library and studied them. She said, ” Charlotte, I’ve got just the place for us. It has a funny name but it’s the cheapest place I can find in United States.” I said, “Well what is this funny name?” and she said, ” Bowling Green.” (laughs) That’s why I went to Bowling Green but I really liked it and you got a good education there.
L. That was–well, that wasn’t even under consideration. We were going to Ohio State. That’s what we did, and I got married at the end of my Freshman year.
C. That’s pretty young.
L. Yes it was. I was just barely , well I was 18. Of course when you skip first grade you get through so much earlier, and I started out in the summer after I graduated so I’m still one of the youngest people going away to school. I was 18 in February and I think married in April then to a man that I met going to Ohio State. But be that as it may, it resulted in my doing my freshman year at Ohio State, my sophomore year at Ohio University down at Athens, my junior year at Davis Elkins College in West Virginia and back to Ohio State when I was a senior. And I graduated right on time because I’d gone every summer.
C. Why did it happen that you went . . .
L. Well, as I say, times were tough and you went where there was a job, and my husband was a chef in a restaurant. There was a job in Logan OH and we went down there to see about it. That man didn’t have a job but he knew there was one in Athens and he called Athens and they said, “Send him up!” because he was an excellent chef so I just transferred to Ohio University.
C. Well they did transfer a lot in those days too, because I had friends who transferred from one college to another and didn’t think anything of it.
L. Well some people I knew just went someplace and stayed there, but because of the way it was we always moved to a college town and I just kept going to college and finished at Ohio State.
C. Did you have children when you were going to college?
L. No. I put that off but it was just a different . . . The first time I was just kind of a spoiled Editor’s daughter. Then I went from that to being a spoiled child bride sort of in a household of three men and this barely 18-year-old girl, me, and then
C. Who were the three men?
L. Well, my husband’s father had a big house and the mother was gone and so the three men had occasion to live there together, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law. And they weren’t real happy to have this college coed to move in to their . . . but they wanted my husband as chef/restaurant man that they would put up with me.
C. It must have been very difficult for you.
L. Well it was very different because I went from being the center of attention to being a pretty much southern wife. You were supposed to do what the men said. For example everybody in that particular situation was a Democrat and you couldn’t get a job of any kind, teaching school or anything else, if you weren’t a Democrat. Well I thought, “I hope my family never hears this.” So I had to register as a Democrat so I could vote in the Primary as a Democrat so I could teach school.
C. So you could get a job. Isn’t that something?
L. But you accepted it at that time. You’d never get in a school as a teacher unless you were registered as a Democrat.
C. Did the other young women accept you in that locality?
L. Yes. Yes. I was,and was on the library board, because I was from Ohio State. After all, it had a certain clout.
C. An honor. Yes.
L. And in the church I sang in the church choir. Yes, I’d say I was well accepted.
C. Do you remember anything about when you first met your husband?
L. Oh yes I do. I won’t go too much into that, but he had this really neat convertible and all my life I just I thought, “If I just had a convertible.” Now, he was very good looking, he had been to Ohio State, he was quite a bit older than I was, eight years I think, but he was a man-about-town, very suave, very southern. He was a good man, never was in any trouble, but it just turned out poorly for him. He was injured in an accident; he never recovered.
C. Did he die?
L. Yes. He died, but over a long period of time. He just never was the same again. So I was a widow at 24.
C. Oh my! So then-uh-what happened to you after that?
L. Well I could have stayed and I could have had a job at the high school but there was just something about the Yankee in me and the independent person who had gone alone to Ohio State that I thought, “I can’t do that.” By then I had a little boy too and they knew more about how to bring him up than I did because what did I know anyway? I probably would never get him–now they respected–they respected my Ohio State degree because my husband had one and he had been there so they respected that but that does not transfer to anything in the way the household goes or the business goes or anything else like that. They were really southern type men and they sent me to learn to make out income tax because anybody that could graduate from Ohio State could learn to make out income tax so they sent me to the federal tax school to learn to make out income tax which I did. And to this day, not that I like it but I always I guess I’m just a kind of a victim of circumstances.
C. Well, then how did you happen to get back to Liberty Center?
L. Well, I came back with my little boy because I couldn’t make enough teaching school in West Virginia, being in the minority classroom, I couldn’t make enough to pay for someone to take care of my boy and keep my apartment and do all that. And I thought I would go home, which I did, came back and Leon with some of our household goods and came back home to working on the paper and I had taken a Civil Service exam for Aid to the Aged they called it then and I did real well in that and so I knew I could get some kind of a job. But then it was ’41, see, so
C. Oh yes, going into the war. During the war then, you stayed?
L. I was home for almost 20 years with the children because I remarried then in 1944 and that was war time and I taught in the Liberty Center school system for a long time.
C. What did you teach?
L. Mostly I taught English and I taught French. In the end I taught more French than English but I did college-prep English for a long time. Although it seems funny now I’ve been up at the college 18 years and it just doesn’t seem possible because I was at Liberty 23 and that seemed like a lifetime.
C. Don’t you think that as you age the years seem to go by faster? At least people say that.
L. People do say that because it’s conventional wisdom, but I don’t really–
C. Would you tell us what you’re doing now? You’re past retirement age, too.
L. Oh yes, a long time ago. Yes. And I did leave Liberty Center retired, and I was retired for a month. Then they called me to come teach at the college and I’ve been here ever since, so I really haven’t had any spell of retirement and I still love to teach. Now children of my high school students, some of my former students, not grandchildren yet but I suppose it’ll happen sometime, though I have grandchildren. I teach Communications essentially, mostly Speech and Composition. And then I have the Elderhostel, both sides of the Center for Lifetime Learning and the residence program which we run in conjunction with Sauder Village.
C. What is that? Oh you mean for a week?
L. They come and stay for a week of residence, not residents. They come and stay. They move in for a week.
C. Yeah, I used to do that.
L. We’ve had quite a successful program out here, incorporating the Village, the Ohio Frontier.
C. How is that Indian section?
L. Oh it’s delightful. People just love it. There’s a trading post out there and three different styles of Indian housing and they have a long house and there are all kinds of things that Indians here would have had and there are interpreters out there all the time when the village is open.
C. I talked to Genevieve Eicher and she was adopted by a trader, I believe, at Damascus. That was quite a settlement, I believe.
L. Oh yes, Prairie du Masque.
C. Now was she an Indian child that they adopted? I didn’t quite understand.
L. I don’t really know that story. She had adopted an Indian name because she is Sweetgrass and the daughter is Savannah and they have gone big into the Indian tradition and war. Right now Genevieve is doing a lot of work on the Underground Railroad.
C. I know. She made a speech on it.
L. Uh-huh. They said she was very interesting. She was at the Henry County Retired Teachers
(End of Side II, )
LOUISA STROCK , TAPE II
Oral History 2003
interviewed by C. Wangrin
C. This is Louisa Stock, the second tape and Louisa is going to state some of the information she has about the old days in Henry County.
L. I wasn’t there. My mother was a part of the old Texas, Texas on the canal. Long before Liberty Center was ever even a gleam in somebody’s eye, Texas was a sturdy little canal community and a river community before that.
C. How about Damascus? Did Texas develop after Damascus or before?
L. Well, I would say before. But the ferry boats that took people across the river–there was one at Texas and another at Damascus. The ferry at Texas was much older, because there wasn’t much reason to cross the river at Damascus, you see. Liberty Center didn’t come till the railroad just before the Civil War when the other was there long before. So my mother was born in 1880 and she wasn’t married till she was 29 and she didn’t have children till she was 36 so growing up on the canal as she did in those years between 1880 and around 1900 when they moved to Liberty Center she had some pretty vivid memories of what it was like to be a little girl on the canal. And some pretty interesting things happened. I mentioned about the skating. That was a big thing. Of course as soon as the canal froze over traffic stopped and it made a perfect long, long, long if narrow skating rink, and the teens from Grand Rapids and the young adults would skate all the way from there. They could skate up to Texas. They could skate on up the river to Napoleon. It was a pretty common skate.
C. That would be a long skate.
L. Now that would be an excursion, but they did that a number of times and I mentioned about “Teen” Pilliod. That was how–all the towns along the canal just sort of were interconnected. They had lots of intermingling social affairs like the dances and things like that, and box socials at the school.
C. Would you describe a box social–in case others have never heard of it?
L. Well the box social–now again, I never even darkened the door of a box social. I have no idea, but I remember that Mama says you did your very best delicacy for the box and you very often confided to a very special young man which one was your box. You were not supposed to do that. Everyone would bid on this girl’s box and none the other girl’s. So if you fixed your box up very nicely you would get a lot of bids on your box because whoever bought your box, then you had supper with that person. That determined your partner. I think your parents stood by ready to help save the box if no one did bid on it but that never happened that I know of.
C. Oh, a whole meal. I thought they just put a cake or something in.
L. No, but it might be a sandwich special; it might be some delicacy that you were famous for and it might in fact be a cake or pie but it was small boxes. It wasn’t like a box for the Christmas Cheer or anything like that. It was small. A shoe box would be big I think. And they bid. There was an auctioneer just like an auction who no doubt contributed his services. They would have some simple little money goal in mind. Christmas decorations for the school or a book for the school library, things like that.
The Texas school building was a frame building at that time, not the red brick building which stands in the village today. The first school was a frame school. It didn’t set out on the highway but it was back a street or two streets from the canal. And I have a school record from about 1880 I would guess, 1880-1885, that the schoolmaster kept and he had been to college in Indiana, Vincennes runs in my mind, and passed his board to teach school. And so he was the Master in the Texas school and this little brown notebook that he has, the first few pages are filled with what they called ‘parsing’ or taking a sentence apart and describing every word in it, “This is a noun. It is the subject. This is the verb. It is in the active voice in the present tense, whatever, This is a preposition.” They took every sentence apart like that so the front pages of this notebook are full of that kind of thing that he had done at college that summer. And he just brought it with him. It was no use to waste the back of that book so he just ruled it off and it made class lists for his reading and his math and spelling. They didn’t have any social studies or anything like that to worry about. Attendance was carefully kept, although of course the big boys didn’t come when it was fit to work in the fields. But it wasn’t just a girls’ school. There were lots of boys on the school register. And my mother was too young to go. That’s why I know that it must have been about 1885. It has a date in it but I forget, But it’s a fascinating book. It’s an all-purpose little book. In the back of it there is a record of the Texas Lyceum and the Texas Lycium was kind of an independent little group who were interested in lifelong learning actually and brought speakers to town and had debates and everything like that. And this has the price of the train trip that the record keeper had had to take to Defiance for whatever reason and what the train fare was and
C. Was there a train from Texas to Defiance?
L. Well, see, they would have to go to Liberty Center to get on the train but they would drive over there. They would leave their horse in the livery stable and get on the train to Toledo or Defiance. Of course it went both ways.
C. What was the name of that railroad?
L. Oh, well it was the Wabash back then. Maybe it had another name to it besides that but they always talked about the Wabash road. So any of the later settlers that came in came on the railroad. Some came on the canal but the most on the railroad. By 1905 or so the canal was pretty much done for, gone under when the railroads came in.
C. Joe Wolf who used to live not too far from Texas had–they showed us this little book, a record of the teachers that had taught in this one-room school and how much they were paid–practically nothing. They weren’t allowed to get married. The poor things must have had a pretty rough time. But it was the only career other than nursing that a young lady could pursue.
L. Um-hm. That very thing happened to Mama’s foster mother’s sister Sarah. Sarah had been teaching in the Texas school and she wanted to marry John Wesley Wright. And if she did she couldn’t teach anymore. They were all, the sisters were artistic, could draw and paint, and the older ones had drawing lessons and painting lessons and elocution lessons and writing lessons. Mama came along at the end of the family and her mother was dead by that time so she didn’t have those advantages. But her sisters tried to fill in what their mother had taught them, and they tried to teach her to play the piano. They tried to do what they could for this poor little motherless child. But they couldn’t teach, as I say, and so Sarah when she married John Wesley Wright, set up a little millinery shop in the big store on the canal. The canal boats came right up to the dock there at the big store and by then we called him Grampa Wright. Of course he wasn’t a Grampa. He was a brother-in-law really but they were enough older that they took the little girl .
C. Oh, they raised her?
L. Um-hm. They were the only parents she knew. And-uh now her father was living but couldn’t maintain a house for little children But Aunt Sarah had a notebook of her own, The schoolteacher turned milliner. Her customers were often the men on the canal boats, because there was a 15 minute stop in Texas while they loaded and unloaded, and often the men, the crew even, would come in and buy a bonnet or some frilly thing to take home to their wives at the end of the canal trip. So she had kind of a nice little business there and that’s the reason that the hired girls raised, as I said, my mother. Aunt Sarah was at the store with her little millinery shop. Well, while she wasn’t trimming hats or creating little things she would think about–she wrote letters for a lot of people in the community who couldn’t–they could write, but couldn’t do it the way they would want to impress the person receiving the letter. So they would have her write the letters and phrase it gracefully and so in her idle moments she would write little scraps of words that would occur to her as graceful ways to put things, a letter of condolence and some things that someone might say, and those are in her notebook, in her ledger.
C. Do you have that?
C. Is that right?
L. And little phrases . . . “It is with deepest regret that I noticed the passing of . . . “, things like that, then it would just stop because whoever’s passing it was that would have to be filled in later, but just nicer things wasted. She was a kind of an editor, you know. She would say, “I could have said that better.” Of course she was dead years before I was born. I never knew her. She must have been a remarkable lady. As I said, she was the oldest of the first family and left with the rearing of the children after her mother died and when Grandfather married my grandmother she sent her back to school. But she was like 13 and she went back to school and finished her school and passed her teacher’s examination and by then they had moved to Texas, from Defiance to Texas, Ohio. Texas was just a charming little place: board walks they had. When the rest of the county was running around in mud, Texas wasn’t.
C. Were there many stores?
L. Well, there was the big store that was Grampa Wright’s store where Aunt Sarah had her little corner with her millinery in it and then there was a mill of course besides, and across the street from the big store was the saloon. Now bear in mind that the canal boats stopped 15 minutes. Some of them didn’t go buy bonnets. Some made it across the road from the canal to the store. They did other things in that store but the big attraction of course was the liquor. And it was the hangout for a lot of people and the center of quite a few fights. The canal-boat people and the townspeople didn’t always see eye to eye. Sometimes there would be quite violent fights, so they kept the children away from the canal. The saloon of course welcomed their business. One night the ladies of Texas, Ohio got together and they took whatever chopping things they could get together. They had a band of about 15, maybe, some of the leading ladies of the town, went into that saloon and smashed things and broke bottles and chopped things. They did a lot of damage in vengeance, because there wasn’t any Prohibition. There was even such a thing as a county black list that a lady could ask to have her husband put on. Now that was a pretty low blow when they did that, but sometimes they would be desperate, when there was no money to feed the children or fix the roof or whatever because he left the money at the saloon. And so the ladies took it upon themselves. Carrie Nation in action! Texas, Ohio.
C. (Laughs) You’d see pictures of her in action but I never realized they ended up doing all that!
L. This close to home, this close to home. There was a man who had a law office there and the doctor’s office, and . . it was a thriving little village really. But one big store and that was Grandpa Wright’s store.
C. It probably fronted on both the canal and the road.
L. Yes. Yes it did and when they didn’t have the canal anymore they moved that building off the canal bank (This is much later) but the moved the building off it; they moved it back a street and it became a part of the Odd Fellows’ Hall I believe.
C. Now Genevieve Eicher, I interviewed her and she said that she was adopted by–not she. It must have been her ancestor–a trader. It must have been a trader at Damascus who traded with the Indians.
L. Um, hm. Yes there was a trading post there but of course that was 30 or 40 years before the canal came. There wasn’t–there was a little settlement out there at Damascus, Praire Du Masque, with a grist mill. They called it ‘Thunder Mill’ and I never could really understand why it was a thunder mill, but that’s what they called it, Thunder Gust.
C. Does ‘Gust’ mean ‘mill’?
L. You know, I have no idea. I never understood that very much but it was a special kind. Someone told me that it had to do with the noise that the little engine made as it went on or something, like it could discharge a ‘Pop’ every time I don’t know that. But Texas and Liberty Center were just so different because Texas was old and mellow and, as I say, ‘civilized’ where Liberty Center, the railroad made it a pretty tough spot.
C. What was Liberty Center like?
L. Well, Liberty Center till the railroad came was just a thicket, just a thicket. They got their mail off the canal boat, they rode across to Colton. By the time Liberty Center was there, the Colton settlement was older than Liberty Center. Almost everything was older actually. It was more brash and raw and not the cultivated society that Texas had enjoyed and even Colton. Colton was a railroad town but much before Liberty Center. Then they reversed the thing when the canal wasn’t there any more. Texas rode across to Colton and picked up the mail, so they returned the favor.
C. And then’s when Liberty Center started to grow.
L. Yes. Texas became summer homes for the well-to-do people out of Toledo, artists’ colony, because it was so scenic with the river there.
C. Well, then you spoke of Liberty Center as being kind of a rough town to start with?
L. Yes, it was. The only gentility came from Texas. (laughs)
C. My mother was President of the WCTU for years and drove me to drink! But when she came to Napoleon she said, “My, I never saw such a town! There’s a saloon on every corner.” (laughs) And so evidently Napoleon was one of those that were pretty rough.
L. Yes, I would say, although Florida . . . now Florida was a little more of a cultured community, I would say.
C. Then why did they call it ‘Snaketown’?
L. Well because of the snakes, I would think.
C. Must have been an awful lot of snakes.
L. Well, the river and all. But the Indians called it that.
C. Oh it wasn’t the whites.
L. No, I don’t think they probably liked that very well, but the Indians referred to it that way.
C. So what stores did they have in Liberty Center?
L. Lots of saloons. (laughs) There was always a General Store; there was in a little bit the doctors. Two of the doctors moved up from Texas to Liberty Center, thinking that’s where the population movement was going to be, which turned out to be true. But there was always the cabinet maker who made coffins and boxes for burial when he wasn’t building furniture, when things got a little slow or whatever. And the post office was in the general store. There was a store that was a hardware, that kind of thing. It was a thriving little settlement by 1870 but it . . . and it grew from then on, but there are just a lot of those little towns there along the railroad track like Liberty Center, but those in Liberty were tough enough that they survived where some of the other ones kind of lost out. One of my boys said one time, “Mama, do you think there were Indian teepees right here where we live?” I said, “Oh my Heavens no. Nothing but thicket.” They’d go through looking for some game or something but no.
C. But not big trees?
L. Well, they were more towards the river I think. I think the big trees–course there were big trees–but mostly it was marshy, kind of . . just at the edge of the Black Swamp, you know.
C. Is that sandy soil around here?
L. To the east of Liberty Center, between Liberty Center and Colton and down toward what they called The Openings, down toward Oak Openings. That was pretty much sand; Washington Township was sand and that made a difference socially, economically and everything else because the better land was toward the west there between Liberty Center settlement and Napoleon.
C. Around Napoleon area the land is so heavy, heavy clay. It doesn’t seem to me as though it’d be very easy to work with.
L. It was not. I was going to tell you my–when my grandmother and grandfather Mires came up with their family from south of Columbus they had bought with grandmother’s inheritance a little piece of land in Henry County. They weren’t farmers. They never pretended to be farmers but they needed land. They had five boys and they thought, I suppose, “We could do that.” So their neighbors, the Harrison family, Emma Harrison, Emma Harrison’s husband’s family, had come up here from that same area. They were neighbors south of Columbus and they wrote and said there was land up there for sale. Now when we hear about land going for pennies an acre, this did not go for pennies an acre. This was very expensive land but they could get it, so they bought land. It would be just a bit north of where U.S. 24 is and just a little way west of Damascus.* Damascus was the name of the school, the country school. And they bought that land and it was supposed to be seeded to wheat for spring, because wheat was supposed to be growing so they knew they had a crop coming in and they figured it couldn’t be that tough. They could learn to do that although they were used to city life really, and the wheat for whatever reason wasn’t there. They had to sell part of their land back in order to buy seed and to get along till they could really raise something on that ground. The oldest boy was probably 16, my father was about 12 and there were two boys in between and then two younger boys. And-uh-but that’s where they bought the land. And by now they’ve got the money in the land. They don’t have any to do anything else, so there they are and they tell me that my grandmother actually pulled the plow. Her oldest son Will plowed and they couldn’t buy horses because they didn’t have enough money. Once in a while they would borrow a horse but she actually pulled a plow. Now, as I say, she was a city girl and it must have been something to be there with all those boys. My grandfather died, and there she was with this farm in what must have looked like the wilderness to her.
*” Damascus” is a corruption of “Prairie du Masque”, the French name for the settlement.
C. I’ll bet. Where was it they came from?
L. From south of Columbus. They came from Franklin County down around Lockport, Ohio. That’s where the Lockborn airbase, Don Scott Field I think is there now. That was their land and they sold that and came up here; I didn’t know her. I wish I had but . . .
C. What did her husband die of?
L. Well, he died of a disease that you never see in the death notices now, called Erisipilis. Now you might know about it. One of my uncles, his younger brother, was sitting on Grandfather’s lap. He was just a little thing and he had a heavy saucer in his hand and just playing like a child and he brought that saucer down on the bridge of grandfather’s nose and what that has to do with anything only a doctor could tell us but this erisipilis affected the base of the brain. You never hear of it anymore. They must know. Either people don’t have it or they call it something else but anyhow he died just very shortly. It’s like a staph infection sets in. Anyhow, here she is, this practically city girl up here with all these boys and there wasn’t work enough for all the boys so they went off in all diverse pursuits but somebody had to farm after they’d started. I know my father would talk about he and one of the younger boys, too young to be of much help in the farming, they would send them in the late afternoon to the banks of the Maumee River, which was maybe a mile and half, and they would sit there and wait for the animals to come up, like a deer maybe, and they would hit the deer over the head.
C. Didn’t have a gun?
L. Well. they’re close range and they’re just little boys. We’re not talking about an adult male hunter. But when the deer came to drink in the evening they would hit them over the head and that would be meat for–it might be something small as a rabbit, you know, as big as a deer. Times were hard. Well they got by. Papa’s brother was in the first graduating class at Liberty Center High School and my father went to Chicago College of Pharmacy. The oldest boy went to Indiana, the second oldest boy, went north to work on the Great Lakes freight boats up into the copper country, way up in Duluth, Minnesota. One brother bought the Liberty Press. Papa went in there to work on a vacation and never left. My father had gone back to Columbus when he got old enough to strike out on his own.
C. Did any of them stay at home with their mother?
L. Yes. The one that bought the paper stayed at home. And the oldest son Will and his little girl and little boy came but the little boy went to live with the deceased mother’s parents, but the girl and her father stayed in Liberty Center.
C. Well now you spoke in the last interview about your grandfather remarrying after his wife died.
L. Yes. That was Mama’s family. That was the Crozier family.
C. So, she was the young bride?
L. Yes! Grandmother Mires, having been born in 1831 and my father in 1866,that makes us–we don’t have to go back very many generations to be pretty historic, you know.
C. Yes, I should say.
L. And my brothers and I were born late in my parents’ lives, so we don’t have to go back very far to be far back. But the two families, I suppose could hardly have been more different. My two grandmothers, the one who had come from an urban environment but wasn’t too proud to pull the plow when horses weren’t available and kinda scrabbled it out in the Prairie du Masque area. And my other grandmother, my mother’s mother who gave the girls painting lessons and riding lessons, drawing lessons and piano lessons and . . .
C. My girlfriend took elocution lessons.
L. Elocution lessons. Then I benefited. I was just saying to the students a little bit ago how excellently they wrote, not just the handwriting but the Liberty Center school has some manuscripts of the graduation speeches at the first graduations and this lady named Gayetta Meyers I think was in one of those early classes. We’re talking turn of the century now, or not far into it. And that writing is just beautiful. When you talk about that copperplate Spencerian handwriting–beautiful and My Word we wouldn’t have a college graduate that would write like that.
C. Especially not them. They have to write too fast.
L. Way too fancy, way overblown: we would just laugh at that. The day of what they thought were graceful phrases, you know, and the roundabout circulation. They never called a spade a spade. I think it had to be an implement designed for penetrating the ground–something like that. (laughs) But oh my, just never a flaw.
C. Now they had in eastern United States finishing schools. Did they have any of those in Ohio?
L. My cousin Ruby went to finishing school–that would be Dr. Ennes’s daughter, Mother’s brother-in-law–went to finishing school down in Virginia. It was like a junior college I would say, and I was down there last spring and actually saw where that campus. It’s changed its name but it’s Old Dominion and it was where she went years and years and years ago. She was about my mother’s age; as I say Mama was the baby of the family and the first family’s sisters were married and had children of their own when Mama was born so it–they kind of mixed up the generations. They didn’t pay much attention to that, but my cousin Ruby was my mother’s age.
C. I was wondering too. You spoke about Harrison. Was that a relative of the Drs. Harrison that were here? I think there were three Dr. Harrisons.
L. I know that, and the one I remember Papa speaking about were the Harrisons that their house is right there after you go under the viaduct if you were coming from Liberty Center and going to Napoleon where you go under the railroad tracks. Harrisons bought that land–Charlie Harrison his name was and he worked–I believe he was a railroad man–yes because he had a fabulous collection of toys just within the last 30 years or so, and his wife has been very active in the society. Now that would be his father who was the pioneer. Charlie Harrison wasn’t the pioneer by any means. His father and grandfather would have been there, so I’m sure there’s a connection but-uh–
C. I remember that barn that said ‘ Harrison.’ I believe that those Harrisons were supposedly not related at all to the doctors.
L. That I don’t know at all because we had a doctor in our family so we didn’t pay much attention at all to the doctors in Napoleon. Dr. Ennes was my uncle, and he was a legend in Liberty Center of course.
C. Is that right. I remember Dr. George. He worked hard but then he never charged much.
L. Yes. He was much later. None of them did charge much. As I said before, they took a lot of it out in trade. I remember this one man that worked every year for Uncle Doctor and Aunt Grace doing things like cleaning up the lot, the barn, the property, yard work all summer long. It was payment for the doctor’s visits. My Uncle Doctor was connected with the Rhinefranco, the Rhinefrank Clinic in Perrysburg He was a physician and surgeon. He gave anesthetic for Napoleon doctors. In fact he was a friend of Dr. Harrisons. They were contemporaries.
C. Oh I see. And in Archbold they had a family of doctors called Murbach. That’s where my husband was from–Archbold. He was named for the two: Edwin and Clarence Murbach .
L. We knew the newspaper editors better than we did the doctors, because the newspaper editors were in the family. Of course Papa knew Orrin Taylor, all the big papers, the Blade, the Ohio State Journal. But that’s the editorial life.
C. Did they get together, meetings or anything?
L. Mostly correspondence, mostly letters. I don’t ever know there were such things as newspaper associations or anything like that but they kidded each other in their editorial columns. Clyde Moore was a columnist on the Ohio State Journal and as I mentioned I was destined for Ohio State so Papa knew Clyde Moore and asked him if he could possibly get a copy of ‘ Carmen, Ohio.’ And he said he would see what he could do, so in a few weeks here came this blueprint paper. My first copy of ‘ Carmen, Ohio” was blueprint paper with white lines on it. And then there was a paper with blue lines on it, the music for ‘Carmen Ohio’ and of course I must learn to play it. Just as soon as my little fingers would reach up to those keys, why I had to learn ‘ Carmen, Ohio.’
C. Was that when you were first learning the piano?
L. Yes, and little before, trying to pick out the notes. Because it would have been way too–if you had been taking piano lessons you wouldn’t have been to ‘Carm0en Ohio’ for probably a year, you know, because it had flats and you wouldn’t have had flats yet. You had to play everything on those white keys but I knew I had to have those black keys.
C. Well we–I grew up in Pennsylvania and we didn’t know much about the ‘Carmen Ohio’. I knew ‘Beautiful Ohio’. I was on the Swan Club at Bowling Green, charter member, and so they, that first time we were performing we had to swim to ‘Beautiful Ohio’ and I got so sick of that piece I could scream.
L. Really. We used it for a bicentennial program last summer and when we were at the Senior Center we used it again. It’s kind of a pretty tune. Kind of schmaltzy but–I can see how it would be quite hard to swim to.
C. Well it wasn’t the swimming that bothered me. It was the repetition because we would practice quite often and it was always the same piece.
L. Like learning to tap dance to the Sidewalks of New York.
The end of the Canal days brought the family to Liberty Center. We always called Uncle Lincoln ‘Uncle Doctor’, as if that were his name, you know, and it wasn’t. And he moved up and then of course Grampa Wright and my mother moved up into the big house on the corner and he invested in quite a few things in Liberty Center. His name is on the Town Hall cornerstone. And he took an active part in his adopted home town.
C. Now this is your Grampa Wright?
L. Yes, but he wasn’t really as I say, he wasn’t really my Grampa Wright. He was Mama’s brother-in-law of the first family, but he was always referred to as Grampa Wright and Grandma Wright, and she wasn’t. She was my aunt really.
C. They’re the ones that raised your mother. She functioned as her mother.
L. Yes. Yes. And she really was a devoted daughter. She cared for them when they were old and helpless. Now they always had hired help, as it was called, but no daughter could have been more concerned about those two people that raised her.
C. Did she ever see her real father?
L. Oh yes, yes, but not frequently. He was around and he in fact worked in the big store on the canal in Texas. He worked for Grampa Wright, but as I mentioned before he was just kind of a broken man. He was an engineer; he was brilliant and some of these days when I’m not quite as involved I’m going up to Defiance County where all this would have happened and where Grandmother was the schoolteacher and where the first family grew up. Certainly they came from Defiance County to Henry County.
L. Many of the old families in Liberty Center were Texas families and the Youngs, as in the legendary Calvin Young, they had had–a lot of those people came from New York State, as did Grampa Wright who came from New York State.
C. Now were they English?
C. Or German?
L. No. English.
C. Wauseon was settled by English too.
L. See, they were Irish and, I mean my family was Irish on both sides and even though they had money and even though their house had lace curtains the children would tease my mother and her brothers and sisters about being Irish. And they used to sing this song about “They kept the pig in the parlor” and they did it in a very mock Irish accent and they would tease Mama with that. Now that family could have bought and sold probably the rest of the school but that didn’t matter. They were Irish. They tried to teach her to be proud that she was Irish, not the object of children’s teasing.
C. Children don’t always have it easy at all; they have a hard time at the hands of other children.
L. Oh my yes. They built the canals and railroads but we never worked. I mentioned ‘lace-curtain Irish’ which they were, but not shanty Irish, not potato-famine Irish. They were here before the potato famine.
C. Not involved in the canal digging.
L. No. They didn’t dig the canal. They sold merchandise to those that were digging the canal.
C. My family were Scotch and Irish, commoners.
L. You know, so many of those people when they had come up from France essentially they went first to Scotland and then they came across to Ireland. Some of us say the ones that knew came across to Ireland and the ones that didn’t stayed in hard-scrabble Scotland. But we got out of there pretty fast. We weren’t big on hard work, I don’t think., working with our hands. I’m afraid that’s pretty much true now. (laughs) Traits are persistent.
Oh, I’m tired. (end of Tape II)