Wangrin, Charlotte

A Recollection (Wallpaper Project, February 27, 2002)

This would have have occurred before 1929. My sister and I were the only children in our family. We loved to go to Grandma’s house in the country. She would get us up early in the morning and we’d take the dog and go down to get the cows. We’d cross a brook on the way and the cows would usually be way down in a corner of the field. But we didn’t mind. The hard part was getting up at six o’clock in the morning when Grandma would wake us up.

The dog would herd the cows together by circling them and barking until they all ambled leisurely toward the barn to be milked. We girls would play along the way, in the brook or picking flowers–whatever we could find that looked like it’d be fun to do. One time when we were out in the pasture we went over the fence to the neighbor’s pasture. All of a sudden something started running toward us; were we scared! We climbed over the fence to safety, then started to laugh because it wasn’t a bull after all; it was only a cow.

My sister and her friend used to go fishing. They tied a string to a straight pin they had bent, anchored the other end of the string to a branch and went down to the little brook. One time they caught a frog. They were half proud, half scared. They hadn’t the slightest idea of what to do with it. Finally they held it down with two sticks until they could take the pin out of its mouth and let it go. That was a big adventure for them.

I remember taking ginger tea to the men making hay in the field. They would grab it in a pitchfork, then toss that hay on top of the wagon until the load grew higher and higher. I guess they enjoyed the tea because they were really thirsty by this time, having worked hard in the hot sun. One time they asked, “Well would you girls like to ride back on the wagon?”

“Oh Yes!” we chorused. They put us way up high on top of this big load of hay and we rode into the barn. We felt like royalty. We got off of course as soon as we got in the barnyard because the way they unloaded was to push the wagon up the sloping drive into the barn, then a big metal forklift landed kerplunk on top of it. Then the jaws closed around a huge bunch of hay. As the horses started down the slope it pulled that hay way to the top of the barn and across the haymow till it was in the right position. Then someone would trip the rope (give it a slight jerk) and it would dump the hay onto the right spot. As the horses returned it too returned to the wagon for another load. (I wonder who invented such a thing?)

We didn’t always go to Grandma’s in the summer. We must have gone one Christmas because Grandma was planning to take her eggs to town for sale. She said, “It’s pretty cold. I don’t know whether I should take you or not.” But we protested, “Oh we’ll be fine, we’ll be fine!” So she heated a soapstone on the stove and put that in the bottom of the buggy to keep our feet warm. Over our laps was a buffalo robe–a big black somewhat stiff robe with short hair on it and a red border around the edges. It was always warm but of course it didn’t keep our heads warm. This day it was so cold the water in the trough where the horses stopped to get a drink was frozen solid. It kept getting colder and colder. We had no protection from it, you see. The buggy was completely open to the wind. Pretty soon we were all shivering so Grandma said, “I think we’d better stop in here and get you girls warm.” She turned into a lane. The farmer’s wife was very cordial. She welcomed us into the house and told us to gather around a rozy-hot stove. She said, “We’ll just put your mittens here on this silver ledge to get them warm.” But when they opened the door to put some coal in or something–I don’t know what happened–but somehow or other one of my mittens fell into the fire. So I had to go the rest of the way with only one mitten, and that was pretty tough, but we made it. I don’t remember feeling bad about it or anything though.

Every year our family would go to the family reunion; in fact we went to two: my mother’s family and my father’s. One time when we went to my mother’s, one of her cousins flew his airplane in and landed in the pasture beside the barn. Wow, that was big excitement! We had never had any experience with airplanes before and the other people hadn’t either. The driver of the plane came in, had the dinner and the regular short meeting. When the dishes were done he said, “Would anyone like to see the plane?” Of course everyone trooped out to see the new machine. It was a biplane, completely open, with a great big wooden propeller on the front. After we’d Oohed and Aahed as we looked it over he said, “Would anyone like to go up for a ride with me?” Well I was amazed. Noone wanted to go up in that airplane. I was just dying to go but in the whole crowd of people no one said “Yes.”

I rushed to my father. Could I please go? NO. Then to my mother. Back to Daddy. I pestered them until they at last gave in and said I could. The pilot told me I’d have to wear the goggles he handed me. Ooh, I wondered why I had to wear these old things. You couldn’t see much, only straight ahead. But first I had to get in of course. You had to stand up on the wing, then step up over the side of the plane and down onto the seat. There were no seat belts, only a straight board attached to a straight back. But I was so happy to get to go I didn’t care.

He said “Now I need some man to pull this propeller to get the engine started.” So a young man strolled up and grabbed it. At the signal he pulled. Nothing happened. Oh, wouldn’t we get to go after all? But after a couple more tries the engine coughed to life with a great roar. Suddenly I realized why I had to wear goggles. It made so much wind it blew the bobby pins right out of my hair.

We started up and we bump, bump, bumped along. You know how rough the ground of a pasture is. We went faster and faster until all of a sudden it wasn’t bumpy any more. We’d gone up into the air! Higher and higher we climbed. I looked over the side of the plane. There were all my relatives looking like little dolls. Even the barn looked little. I was just as excited as could be! So that was my first experience of riding in an airplane.

My mother loved to pick blackberries in the summer but I hated it because it was always in the hottest part of the summer and we had to cover our arms and legs, cover our hair so we wouldn’t get scratched or tangled in those bushes. Bugs were apt to come around and it was just so hot. And the berries were hard to find. But we’d go picking blackberries because it was what my mother loved to do and then of course she’d make jam or we’d eat them in a sauce dish, covered with milk.

Sometimes we played Kick the Can with the neighbor children. One person would set up the can while everyone else would run hide. ‘It’ would then have to go find them and race them to the can to put them out of the game. I thought it was kind of a cruel game though because while ‘It’ was out hunting someone would sneak in and kick the can. Once he did that everybody who’d been caught was freed and could run hide again he’d have to start over again at ground zero. We’d play that till it was almost dark.

Another game we played was Fox and Geese. When it would snow (course we’d make our angels by lying down and moving our arms up and down) but Fox and Geese was fun. We’d tromp around and make a big circle in the snow, then cut across it to make it look like a pie. Then the Fox would be in the middle and the others would be around the outside and he had to touch someone; if he did that person became the Fox. I thought that was fun.

My best friend lived near us. We used to walk to school every day–never rode–and we’d talk, talk, talk all the way. Got to know each other very well. One summer day we decided we’d have a play. It was to be a wedding. We charged a penny and set up some chairs for the audience to sit. Elaine was to be the bride and I guess I was the preacher or something. Anyway, she got up on the ladder; she came down all dressed in a dress and veil–her entrance for the wedding. She got down on the garage floor, then suddenly ran away. I was so mad at her because she spoiled the whole play, but I guess she got scared or something.

It was pretty cold in the upstairs of our house even though the house was new. My parents paid $5000 for it and they were afraid they couldn’t keep up the payments on it. That $5000 paid for three big rooms (living room, dining room, kitchen) on the main floor, three big bedrooms and tile-floored bath on the second floor, full attic, full basement, sun porch, porch, back ‘stoop’ and garage, all in one of the town’s best neighborhoods. I remember one night that was really cold. Usually we’d have to wait a while till the bed warmed up after we were in it, but this night our mother said she’d warm it up with a hot-water bottle. The next morning when we woke up that hot-water bottle was on the floor, frozen solid. It was cold.

My sister and I always had to sleep together and we hated that. She’d always say, “Get over. You’re on my side of the bed.” “No, I’m not.” One time we got into a terrible fight over it. Suddenly Mother appeared in the doorway. “What are you girls fighting about?” We told her.”Well who started it?” We each said, “She did!” She never did find out who was at fault. But that was just life in the ’30’s I guess.

We always walked to school. No-one ever thought of a school bus when you lived in town. That was just for kids who had a long way to go. Beside our grade school was a steep hill. We used to step out of that schoolhouse, pull our coats under us and slide down that hill whenever it was icy. Mother always wondered why our coats got so worn in the back. Of course we didn’t tell her.

I remember when my sister graduated from the 8th grade. Mother made her the most beautiful dress. Made of a material that seemed to float on the air, it had hemstitching around the big collar. Well that was something. You had to hire that type of finishing. Otherwise she made all of our clothes and I remember her straightening her shoulders every so often. Evidently all that stooping over a sewing machine hurt her back but we didn’t appreciate it. I remember one time when I was in high school she made me a full length winter coat. She put a narrow band of fur all around the big-bertha collar. It was a lovely, well-made coat but I didn’t like it, would never wear it unless I had to. I never realized until I was older that probably hurt her feelings, having done all that work. Anyway, back to my sister’s dress. I so admired the graduation walk down the aisle, especially in that dress. I couldn’t wait till I got in the 8th grade so I could graduate, but in the meantime disaster struck in the form of the Depression. We had to move and in the new place they didn’t have that ceremony, so I never did get to do it.

My father owned a meat market but it failed. My father found work as a meat jobber in a city about 30 miles away. One of the first things to happen was he lost his wallet. It contained $86.00 of the firm’s money. That was a huge sum in those days. We had to ‘scrimp’ and save to pay it back. The depression affected us in lots of ways but it wasn’t anything sad. We lived a little differently and considered ourselves fortunate that there was food on the table. And the way my parents got it was kind of unusual. My father, being a meat jobber could get it inexpensively, so he would buy enough to carry our Aunt Tish through the week. We would go there every Sunday and the ruts on the road were really deep and the tires of the car were skinny things. I remember my father worrying sometimes whether we’d get out of the rut, but we did. Sometimes when it happened we’d bounce up in our seats from the jolt. Aunt Tish always made a big garden and she’d load us with vegetables enough for us to last all week and she’d of course have her way of getting through the week. Evidently our folks never mentioned this arrangement to us because I remember wondering why we always had to go to the same place every week (and probably pestering about it too).

My sister was a bright little thing so her teachers urged my parents to let her skip a grade, an honor. She did but never found out till later the price she had to pay, especially in high school. She was small and never was very happy in school until her last year. Since so few graduates could find jobs (1935) the school board decided to let the students take another year beyond graduation if they wanted to. She did and had a wonderful time that year because by that time she was in with kids that were her own age. She was as emotionally developed as her classmates.

When I’d graduated from high school I went to Bowling Green State College and here’s how it happened. My close friend closely examined every college catalogue in the library. One day she said, ” Charlotte, I’ve got the perfect place for us to go. It’s got a funny name: ‘ Bowling Green’ but it has the cheapest tuition in the United States as far as I can find. It was a good school then and it still is, though now it’s been changed to Bowling Green State University. And that’s where I met my future husband, Ed Winzeler. He used to go home every weekend, though I didn’t know him till he was about ready to leave the school. He used to hitchhike. Had no car, of course. A lot of people did that then. It was considered perfectly safe, at least for men, not so much for women because you never knew just how you’d be treated once you got in a car.

He lived on a farm near Archbold, Ohio, and he took me to the farm once we got better acquainted. It was a fascinating place. He was a member of a large family. There were eight children in the family, seven living. I didn’t find out till later but they bathed in a washtub (a big galvanized tub used for washing clothes too). On Saturday night they heated extra water on the stove and in the warming oven at the end of the kitchen cookstove. Papa was the first to have his bath, then Kate, Ed’s mother, bathes the littlest ones, then older and older until the largest child was clean. Kate was the last to get her bathing done. They had added hot water when needed. They were then all ready for Sunday School the next day. Every Sunday they went to Sunday School and church. That was the regular routine.

They made their own soap. They would take ashes and make lye then save all the fat from cooking. Kate taught me how to make it and I did when Ed was in school. I’d shave it off and use it in the washing machine. It would do a good job of removing spots from clothes.

I remember the first date I had with Ed. There was a Sadie Hawkins Day Dance, the first one on campus. The girls had to ask the fellows and then they had to pick them up, pay the expenses, etc., take a corsage, etc., and treat the fellows royally. Well, I’d been friends with this bunch–there were two or three girls and three or four men. We used to go to the Giant Hamburger place, buy a 15 cent hamburger and a coke, and talk for hours. Well when this Sadie Hawkins Dance was coming up they started hinting and hinting to be asked. I thought, “Baloney! They wouldn’t think of asking me for a date. Why should I ask them for a date?” But I needed an excuse of some sort. Suddenly I thought of this fellow in my English class. We just seemed to go out of the room at the same time and walked to the next building together though we never talked much. “He’s not coming back to school next year so if I make him mad by asking it’s all right. I’ll probably never see him again anyway.” Let me back up a little bit and tell you I had to work in a restaurant over each meal hour in exchange for my meals. Since I had to work 12 to 1 and my class started at 1 I was always late. Unfortunately the professor made us keep the same seats we had the first day of class so that meant I had to walk between him and the class every time. Once I heard chuckles in the back of the room. Ed had pulled a watch out of his pocket and wound it as I slid into my seat in the far side of the front row. Anyway, his friend, he and I just happened to walk out of the class together and we got in the habit of it. Suddenly his friend disappeared and it was just the two of us. He never said anything but I chattered enough for both, I guess.

I did ask him and he said “All right.” “Where do you live?” “At the 5 Brothers Fraternity House.” “Fraternity house?!” I was really shy and I thought I just couldn’t walk into a Frat so I told him that. He said, “Well, meet me at the drugstore on the crossroads corner of the main street in Bowling Green. So I got ready for this dance and my roommate said, “I want to see what this guy looks like.” I told her she could go up to the corner but she couldn’t walk across the street with me. Well it turned out it was raining so Helen and I were walking together under the umbrella. I took one look across the street and there was a whole bunch of fellows staring at us. I said, “Oh Good Grief I can’t do this!” She said, “Oh yes you can.” “All right. But you’ve got to go back now.” So she did and I pulled that umbrella down in front of my face. Just as I got to the curb I pulled it up–and there was no-one there but Ed. I didn’t find out till later but his friends wanted to see who was taking him to the dance. So that was our first.

We had a few more dates. He never said anything. He was always just as quiet as anything. He got his notice that he was to be drafted. World War II hadn’t been declared yet but our country was certainly preparing for a big war. He invited me on the last date before he had to leave. He borrowed his brother’s car and we went to a night club in Toledo and it was just some woman clown impersonating somebody or other but she told a whole lot of jokes, one right after. Most of them I didn’t understand but I laughed along with everybody else. It was enjoyable.

Well, on the way home I thought, “I’m going to make this guy talk. I won’t talk until he does.” So I just kept quiet. Neither one talked. As the time and miles dragged on it became embarrassing. It was the longest trip Toledo to Bowling Green I ever took. We stopped the car in front of my rooming house and I thought if I just go in he’ll come in and ask me what’s wrong and I can explain. Instead he drove off in a huff! Oh my, what had I done? He was leaving for parts unknown and I’d probably never see him again. I spent a miserable night because by this time I was deeply in love.

The next morning I decided that if I didn’t hear from him by evening I’d call him. I did. It seemed to take him a long time to come to the phone. I said I was sorry and tried to explain. He said, “All right. I’ll be there tonight.”

Not until years later, after we were married did I find out that that phone call came into the house on a crank-type phone on the wall next to the dining room table where he parents and all his brothers and sisters were sitting. Not only that, but in those days the phones rang in every house on the line and it was the custom for all the neighbors to quietly lift the receiver and listen in on every conversation!

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