Fritz, Theodore

interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, November 11, 2009, with comments by Lou Ann Limbird (LAL)

CW: Would you give us your name please?

TF: Theodore Fritz.

CW: All right.

TF: For about ninety years I was at Standley, Ohio, around Holgate.

CW: Where is that, south of Holgate?

TF: It is straight west of Holgate.

CW: Oh, straight west. I had never heard of Standley.

TF: You just go to Holgate, follow the CSX railroad. It goes through all those towns, Hamler, Holgate, Defiance.

CW: You know Ed Peper told about this. He is from Holgate. He told about going to the movies there by the railroad tracks. When the train was coming through they had to stop everything because the train was so loud. Do you remember that?

TF: Oh yes. I never went to many movies. They used to have street movies there during the depression days.

CW: Tell what they were like.

TF: Oh they would put up a screen on the street there and everybody gathered around. It was free movies. The merchants put it on for us. It was about once a week.

CW: That would bring people into town.

TF: Yes

CW: Now they did the same thing in Grelton. He told about how they would either bring a blanket or a chair and they would just sit down right there. Their movies they showed on the side of a building. Is that the way they did in Standley too?

LAL: Not in Standley. That was in Holgate right? Stanley wasn’t big enough. What things were in Stanley originally?

TF: Standley had originally way back had a stock yard and an elevator there. It had a hardware, and two grocery stores.

LAL: And a church.

TF: The church was a quarter of a mile east. Years ago you used to, when we had livestock to sell, we would just drive them or load them in a wagon and take them to Standley. There was a stockyard there and we sold them there.

CW: Did you put them on a train there?

TF: I suppose they did. They would gather up all they had. We had a depot in Standley too, just west of the crossing. .

CW: Is that right. Then did they go into Chicago for slaughtering?

TF: I have no idea where they went to. It was just some slaughterhouse. We had dairy cows and we didn’t use it very much.

CW: Your farm was mostly dairy then.

TF: Yes.

CW: That is a lot of work.

TF: Oh yes, it was a lot of work. We got into 4H when we were old enough, my brother and I. From that we built a Jersey herd. We used to show them at the county fair. We would go to Napoleon and then later on we went to all the Northwestern Ohio fairs.

CW: That would have been fun for you boys.

TF: We would put them in our truck and go around and show them and after I got married we divided up and my brother got rid of the dairy cattle. He got angus.

CW: Oh the beef.

TF  He had the beef herds. Then after that I didn’t have any livestock around and I had some beef cattle and hogs for a couple of years and when my boys got out of school then we just went to grain farming.

CW: They probably wanted to go off and do other things. 

TF: So I just had the grain farming. It takes a lot of equipment.

CW: What was a typical day of work like back when you were a kid or when you were first married?

TF: Do you mean after we left school?

CW:   Yes that would be good.

TF: Usually when we came home from school we had various jobs we had to do. When it came corn harvest time my Dad would husk a load of corn and we would have to go out and unload it at night. We had a dim light and we would scoop it off.

CW: How did he get it husked?

TF: By hand.

CW: Oh by hand!

TF: We would cut and shock it. We would have to go and tear those shocks down and go through and find all the ears of corn. We put them on a pile and we would go out with a wagon and load up all that corn. We had a pile for every shock. Then we would take the fodder and bundle it up and we would put one big shock out there. Towards winter when we would go out to get those shocks and we’d put them in the barnyard for the cows.

CW: So then the corn, what would happen to that when you took it out of the field?

TF: They had a grinder that came around, a guy would come around with a portable grinder and we would put the corn and oats and whatever we wanted into this grinder and with his portable grinder he would grind it up. Then later on we would go to the elevator and they would run it through a sheller and we would have supplements added to the grain. There for a while we would put molasses with it.

CW: That would be for the feed for the cattle?

TF: Yes. We always fed them ground feed when we milked them. We had a trough and we would take them into the barn.

CW: Did you have milkers at that time?

TF: We didn’t. Years ago we always milked by hand.

CW: That would be a lot of work.

TF: Then in the last year we got a Surge milker and Dad did most of the milking then. There was a line in there and a pail that had suction cups on and that kept that going on.

CW: Did you as a kid ride the school bus?

TF: They started a school bus when I was in the sixth grade. The first six grades I went to a country school.

CW: They used to have those every mile didn’t they.

TF: They were every two miles.

LAL: How did you get to that?

TF: I walked.

LAL: The one that you went to was about just about a mile from your house right?

TF: Yes, it was a half mile east and a mile north. It was right straight east of Standley. It was called Standley School. That is all it was. Then two miles south was another school. That was the Kelley School. That’s the way it went all around there. There was the Leonhart School and the Smith’s.

CW: You know those school houses were a good idea. The kids got a good education.

TF: Oh yes. We learned more than we realized we did.
CW: You probably learned from listening to the older kids recite too.

TF: Oh yes. We were in a room with all the classes. Then they started what they called centralizing. They would use a bus. Then we went to Florida school. I went there for a couple of years and then I quit.

CW: Did they have a high school at Florida?

TF: Oh yes. They had all the grades there.

CW: Oh they did!

TF: Yes.

CW: That must have been a pretty big town at that time then.

TF: You mean Florida?

CW: Yes.

TF: Not really. Same streets, same churches. It’s about the same thing now.

CW: Why did they start calling that Snaketown?

LAL: Probably because it snakes by the river. I don’t know.

TF: The river runs right along the canal there you know.

CW: The canal would have gone right through Florida.

TF: Well, it was right by the edge of it. The same as the river went by and put the canal by the side of it. Then you had your main street. Then you had a couple of stores and then gas stations. There used to be a restaurant years ago in Florida. Some people went over there.
Florida never got very big.

CW: Didn’t we get the railroads when the canals died out?

TF: That was the end of the canals.

CW: That is how Liberty Center got started. The railroad came through there. Whereas Damascus, do you remember hearing about Damascus? It was by the canal and it died out. It can be pretty interesting how things develop.

TF: Yes, that is right.

CW: Where did you play when you were kids? What did you do for play?

TF: We used to run around out in the yard.

CW: Did you play games like Kick the Can or any of those?

TF: Yes, we’d kick the cans all over. We lived down by the road all by ourselves. We didn’t really have anybody that we could associate with.

CW: It’s a good thing you had brothers and sisters.

TF: I didn’t have any sisters.

CW: Oh you didn’t!

TF: I just had one brother.

CW: So there were just the two of you.

TF: He died a couple of years ago. He was younger than I am.

CW: So you probably bossed him around, telling him what to do.

TF: No, not very much. He was a very strong and heavy guy and he wanted to get his way. We used to haul sugar beets when we got our first truck and he said he wanted to drive and he would shovel my side. We drove down the field and each one of us had a beet fork and we would shovel the beets onto the truck. I said okay and I got out of the other side. I shoveled my side. He wanted to drive until it got to his side to load.

LAL: Tell Charlotte how you learned to drive, where you learned to drive a vehicle.

TF: We had a Model T Ford. I can still see it yet down in the shed. We would get that thing started up and crank it up and we would drive back to the woods – 80 rods back. In the center of that woods was kind of a sandy spot. We used to have a truck patch back there – pickles and so forth. At one time we had some fruit trees, but they died. We had a driveway going to the woods over there. We would take turns starting the car and bringing it around to drive back to the woods.

CW: Did you do that on your own or would you dad help you.

TF: Oh no they were always with us.

LAL: How old were you then?

TF: I wasn’t very old. I think maybe twelve.

CW: Wow!  Kids couldn’t do that now could they.

LAL: They used to have those long lanes years ago.

TF: Then we learned how to drive the tractor after we got the Fordson started. Then we got a Farmall. That wasn’t so hard to start. We worked with that then.

CW: Did you have to crank those tractors to get them started?

TF: Oh yes. They all needed to be cranked. It was a long time before they had electric starters for tractors.

CW: Those cranks were apt to flip back and hit you.

TF: Well, they weren’t too bad. You just had to know how to do it. In fact I have a tractor right now over in the barn. It is a Farmall. I think it is a B. It is a small one. I got it and our men rebuilt it. We painted it and we put new tires on it. It is just like new. We can pull one or two plows with it. You have to crank that one to start that one. They take that to some of these shows you know.

CW: Oh sure.

TF: For the last couple of years it has been just sitting in the barn there. I was just thinking maybe if one of my grandkids was a little bit bigger I could let them have it.

CW: They would probably love it.

TF: I have several grandkids close to 10.

LAL: Tell Charlotte how you used your food pretty much you used your cream and milk and how far you got in to the winter as to what was left.

TF: We had one of these cellars that had walls about that thick. It was filled with sawdust. That would keep everything from freezing in there.

CW: Was that down under your house?

TF: No, it was out behind the house. We would have potatoes and apples and a barrel of vinegar and various other things. We would put that in the cellar. It had a brick floor.

CW: Was it built up on three sides? Could you put stuff in from the fourth side?

TF: We had a big heavy door that you went in to to get in.

CW: Oh, I see.

TF: You would go in there and we had the cream separator there and a few other things.

LAL: Was that the same place that was called a summer kitchen?

TF: No that wasn’t a summer kitchen. Summer kitchens were bigger and another little building where you would cook.

CW: They didn’t have many machines to help with your work then did they.

TF: Oh we had wagons and a team of horses. We had a mud boat.

CW: What was the mud boat like?

TF: It was just a couple of planks laid down and bolted together. When we would go back  to the woods if we wanted to cut a log we would take the boat along and haul it. We did that kind of stuff all by hand then. There wasn’t much machinery. We got a combine now that has a 30 foot header. That is what we use on the wheat and the beans.

CW: Thirty feet at a time.

TF: Yes.

CW: Isn’t that something.

TF: It might do if it was in a big field it might do 80 acres in a day. That’s all we used to farm altogether.

CW: Yes, 80 acres was a pretty respectable sized farm.

TF: If you had 120 acres why that was a big one.

CW: How big are the farms now?

TF: The farms of today would probably not interest most people.

CW: Oh I think it is. It has changed.

TF: It used to be that you got married and if you had a team of horses, a plow, and other things you were ready to go. Then you had to have a binder. Then you would thresh your oats and wheat and so forth. That doesn’t happen that way now. It is all done with big macinery.

CW: Those big machines cost a lot of money.

TF: Oh yes. They cost at least $250,000.00.

CW: My gosh! That is a lot.

TF: We have some tractors there that cost $125,000.00.

CW: You mean just the tractor alone.

TF: Yes. You know we have to have a good line of credit and money and we have to run a certain number of acres to buy this kind of equipment. Right now we don’t know, but this year was just fantastic.

CW: Yes, we had rain just at the right time.

TF: Yes I guess we had some of the rain. We had a dry spell this summer when it was so dry. We were all fretting about it. Then we got four inches or some. Then it came to life and the crop was fine. We had good stands after all the fretting why we had an ear of corn on every stalk. A lot of them around here got 200 bushels to the acre of corn. 60 bushels to the acre of beans. That is just outstanding. We lived through more than one year where there was 35 bushels to the acre.

CW: Farmers have always had to be gamblers. Even now you may not get that into the storage bins at the right time. When you sell it don’t you have to guess when to get the best time.

TF: Oh yes sure. That is very difficult knowing when to sell. One thing sometimes If you had sold it all this year at a good price then you pay a big tax. Then next year if it wasn’t so good is why we try to have it evened out.

CW: Oh yes.

TF: So if we get, well we don’t have a calendar year, we have a fiscal year. At the end of April is the end of our business year.

CW: Oh!

TF: And then we, well by that time we have to know how much we want to sell or how much we want to keep. We have to buy seed. We have to buy fertilizer. We have to buy fuel which is very high now.

CW: Oh really!  What do you use, gasoline, to run that big machinery?

TF: No, it is all diesel.

CW: Oh it is.

TF: Yes.

CW: Yes and diesel used to be cheaper than regular gas and now it is higher.

TF: Now it is higher than gas.

CW: Somebody is making money.

TF: Well, we don’t know. It’s very hard to tell who is making what. Whether it’s the foreign countries, they certainly are making some money. They ship big boat loads over here every day.

CW: Does that come in through the Great Lakes?

TF: No.

CW: Does it go to the refineries along the coast?

TF: More of it comes in from the South. It comes in through pipe lines.

CW: Oh yes.

TF: If I wanted to have a refinery here everybody would complain. Toledo has one or two refineries. Lima, Ohio has one and these pipe lines go back and forth for them. People are just plain funny. Whether they are obstinate or what I don’t know but they, like if you want to put up like one of those dairy farms or a hog farm. Nobody wants you to have it but they are afraid they might smell something you know. You know we don’t hesitate buying the food.

CW   Yes that is true.

TF: We need that to live. So sometimes it gets very difficult. It’s not all a gravy train.

CW: Right. Going back into your early years, what was high school like? Such as your first year in Florida, Ohio going to high school. Do you remember anything about that?

TF: Well, some schools had agricultural classes. Future Farmer groups and some things like that where we didn’t have that at Florida. I said well that much shoots me for going to school. At the time I thought I would do nothing but farm you know. Well then over a number of years going by why I got into the hotel business.

CW: Oh you did! Tell me about that. I didn’t know you were.

TF: We built the Holiday Inn in Defiance. Then we built a bowling alley and then we went to Napoleon and did the same thing there. I sold out of the one in Defiance and built this one here in Napoleon. Then after I sold out of that I went back to the farm again.

CW: Oh so that is what you did. Did you run that or did you just hire somebody.

TF: I ran it.

CW: Oh did you!

TF: I ran it for several years.

CW: Was that a lot of work?

TF: Well yes, it was kind of a stress job. I bought the food and kinda checked on everybody. That was seven days a week.

CW: Oh yes.

TF: After I left all that stuff and my wife died 25 years ago and I just, I kind of managed the farm really. I don’t do much of the driving of the machinery anymore. I had a couple of boys and a brother-in-law and then after a while his son came in and then he died. His wife is here at the Home now. She doesn’t know anything. I went down there a few times and she doesn’t know me. It is very difficult. I remember having a Latin teacher, Mrs. Herge, she had told me, and she said well if you want to stay in school and go on, I will pass you. But you are going to have a little problem. I went about six weeks that year and I quit.

CW: You would rather be out there on the farm. How did you meet your wife?

TF: 4H.

CW: Yes that is a good organization.

TF: Yes I went to a 4H meeting where she was in the program. She went to Malinta-Grelton School. She lived over east of Grelton. Meredith Jones.

CW: I am not from around here.

TF: You don’t know her. She was from the Jones family.

CW: What did she do in the program that you happened to notice her?

TF: I don’t know she just looked good. I don’t remember what she did. We went together for a couple of years and she wanted to go to school and her dad said he couldn’t afford to send her to school. So we got married and then after many years and after the four children were all in school she went back to school. She went to Defiance College. She graduated in 1964 the same year that one of my boys did..

CW: Oh really!

TF: He became a Navy Captain. After all of his traveling he retired from the Navy and went on retirement.

CW: Was he in any of the Wars? The boy that was in the Navy?

TF: That was John. I had John, Steve, and Norbert. Right now they are all working on the farm.

CW: It probably takes all of them to get all the work done.

TF  I have hired a couple of other guys besides them. John really runs the farm now since I left. His wife used to do bookkeeping with Steve Huber in Defiance. She quit and comes down and helps him with the book work. That gets kind of heavy.

CW: Yes

TF: With all that stuff you have to keep track of. I got that lined up and my youngest boy he drives one of the trucks and the oldest one drives one of them. He keeps track of all the trucks. He gives them their orders as to where to go.

CW: Somebody has to supervise.

TF: He has a radio in his truck so he can keep track of what’s going on. Then different elevators and businesses just call him right to the truck.

CW: They do

TF: It used to be they would let their work at the office. We would either have to get hold of him somewhere or he would have to come back to the shop and find out there would be a couple more loads to go in.

CW: It would make it a lot easier with communications.

TF: He does a good job with it.

CW: :   When did you say she graduated?

TF: It was in 1964.

CW: And that was from Defiance College. Then Dwight Eisenhower came to Defiance College and what was the connection. Why did he come?

TF: He was a good friend of the President of Defiance College. The President had been doing a lot of writing for him.

CW: Oh that is where the connection was. So your wife took two of your boys to see Eisenhower. Do you remember those (I like Ike) buttons?

TF: Oh yes. Then she did her practice teaching at the Slocum School in Defiance. She did her teacher work there. Then she got a job in Ayersville. Then my daughter, who when they centralized you know,  then Florida wanted to come to Napoleon. So my wife took her along to school at Ayersville. I paid tuition there. I sent her to Ayersville School since my wife was going there everyday. Otherwise she went to Napoleon for all of her activities. She was a basketball cheerleader. She is real smart. She gets a little too busy sometimes. She works at the church all the time.

CW: This is Lou Ann you are talking about.

TF: Oh yes. She takes me a lot of places.

CW: It is good to have a daughter. I had just the one daughter and four sons. That daughter is special. So then your wife taught for a number of years.

TF: She taught for fourteen years.

CW: What did she do after she quit teaching then?

TF: Well we went to Florida for a couple of years. We bought a house down in Florida.

CW: Did you live there year round?

TF: No, just in the winter. Then we came home and she had this problem with her health and then she was in the hospital and out and got blood transfusions and she was in the hospital for quite a while down there in Florida. It was a Seventh Day Adventist Hospital.

CW: I didn’t know they had a hospital.

TF: They weren’t given any meat there except for those that wanted it. Their church doesn’t go for that.

CW: What about the hospital patients. Were they given meat?

TF: I don’t think so. You could get it down in the restaurant sometimes and I would be there. I would go downstairs in the restaurant and eat. Then sometimes I would go over to the exercise building there at that hospital. Of course that is in Florida. It was about twenty miles from where we lived. This doctor, nobody could do anything about it at that time. I guess you can treat it now but

CW: What sort of illness was it?

TF: It was cancer of the blood. She was in Toledo Hospital and after we were there just a little bit I said I’ll never bring anybody here again. All they had were students coming in and asking her questions.

CW: She was tired.

TF: She was sick. Then we went to Florida and then when she died I sold the house down there and came back here. I had been down in Florida for about 6 or 8 weeks for the winter until last year. That was the first year I didn’t go. They didn’t want me to go because of my heart.

CW: Ponte, Florida, isn’t that where Don and Kay Westhoven used to go?

TF: Oh yes.

CW: They had a nice place there, didn’t they?

TF: Yes.

CW: Is that where that hurricane came through Florida?

TF: Yes it hit Florida pretty bad.

CW: Were you in a hurricane at all?

TF: It was at a different time than when I was there.

CW: I remember Westhoven’s telling about how when they huddled together in a closet. I think it took the roof right off.


Supplement to Oral History of Ted Fritz

Theodore A. Fritz Holgate, Ohio

Young Ted Fritz grew up on a farm near Holgate, the community he still calls home. His 11 years as a 4-H member of the Holgate Hustlers and Smilers clubs were during the decade of the 30’s, when Ted showed jersey cattle. He joined other young adults in 5-H, where’ he met his future wife, Meredith Jones. Self-taught, he began to develop a successful farm operation and other family business enterprises which eventually were taken over by his sons.

Later Mr. Fritz’s interests turned to commercial development in the communities of Napoleon and Defiance. With his leadership, projects such as the Holiday Inns, bowling alleys, apartment and condo units brought about positive economic growth. During a period of time Ted managed the local Holiday Inn and served as a role model for many young employees.

Over the years Mr. Fritz has served on church boards at the local and district levels; he was a member of the Florida School Board at the time of its building addition. Examples of ways he has given back to the community include serving as a Defiance College trustee and a Defiance Rotarian. Present appointments are to the Boards of Henry County Community Foundation, St. Paul Lutheran Endowment Fund and Lutheran Home Society.

Theodore’s commitment to youth development was earlier recognized with the Silver Clover 4-H Award. He practices his belief that “we must support our youth so they will be the responsible leaders of the future…” We salute Mr. Fritz for making a difference in our community!

Submitted by Lou Ann Limbird, daughter

Fern Meredith Jones Fritz (Posthumous)

Meredith Jones grew up in the small community of Grelton and found her niche as a member of the Grelton Blue Birds 4-H club. It was here she learned many of the skills she would pass on to future generations. Through her involvement with 5-H, Meredith met her future husband, Theodore Fritz. Raising their young family in the Holgate area, Mrs. Fritz was an active volunteer in the church and neighborhood. At the same time she kept busy sewing the family’s wardrobe. This skill she continued to teach others, including her daughter, as Meredith served for over 25 years as an advisor of the Florida Busy Fingers 4-H club.

After their children were in school, Mrs. Fritz set her sights on earning a degree in elementary education. She was a 5th grade-teacher at Ayersville, during which she mentored many student teachers. She supported her own children’s school endeavors and actively participated in several professional associations for educators.

Her students, 4-H members, junior choir, neighborhood kids, her own children and grandchildren were just a few of the lucky ones who learned under Meredith’s patient, caring style of teaching. She was able to inspire each one to accomplish new life skills and was a living example of learning to serve others.

Mrs. Fritz passed away in 1985, leaving many fond memories of times spent together for her children and grandchildren who lived nearby. Meredith’s contributions to youth, 4-H, her family and community make her a deserving member of the Henry County 4-H Hall of Fame!

Submitted by Lou Ann Limbird, daughter

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