All posts by James Rebar

Betts, Clarence

Toledo Blade Route.

And where was it? The whole west end?

Yes, from West Main clear out to the ball park and swimming pool and clear out to the river where the Dairy Queen is now. I had 125 customers and 1 was only probably 9, 10, 11 years old.

Kids used to work hard sometimes didn’t they? I know Bob Downey sold papers al the Hotel when he was just a little guy.

He was a couple, two, three years older than I am. I was just 84 this month .– The seventh.

You’re the same age I am. I was 84 in October. So we’re getting to be octogenarians, ha, ha.This is Clarence Betts, and this is February, 2004, and he just told us about his childhood delivering Toledo Blades in the west end of Napoleon.

On Park Street . I moved there with my grandmother, north end of Norton, and we took Norton to Park. Grandma had a garage on the east side of the house. You’d have run right in to the garage coming off of Norton if you wouldn’t have stopped. That’s where we lived until I was sixteen.

Was that near the railroad tracks there?

No. You couldn’t cross there to go to, what was that? West end school, elementary school. It used to be kids walked across the tracks, cause there was no street. But I think now they have closed it off.


But the last house was where Judge Behrens’ mother lived. And Judge Behrens was still there. He had two sisters, Lillian Thompson that married Kermit Thompson that had the jewelry store. Her and her sister, Mildred. She married a fellow that run the Cook Coffee route. They lived on the end house, and then the next house is where I lived with my grandmother. She kept house for her one brother. He had lost his wife. And then we moved to Park Street.

How old were you when you moved to Park Street?

I just started the first grade of school at Norton.

Six or seven?

But you see the canal and that was all in there yet. They hadn’t drained it or nothing. We used to fish for, oh we come them little bullheads, small catfish, whatever they call them.

Well, I’ll bet Park Street was a lot different then too, wasn’t it?

Yes, from Sheffield on out, that was all shrubbery-Ritter’s Nursery. See where Leo and Ruth Eberwine lived, right there at the corner of Haley and Welsted, there’s a big old brick home, well that was Augie Ritter’s home. And then just south of that brick home, there’s a big newer home, well that’s where Leo and Ruth Eberwine lived. But that was the Ritter’s…that was all grass in that big lot and behind that was a big shrubbery lot. That was Ritter’s Nursery display at that time. At that time I had a paper route, and the Toledo Blade was two cents a copy. Six copies a week. That was 12 cents, and boy I’ll tell you, you had trouble getting your money.

Did you get paid whether they paid their bill or not?

Yes. I got my two and a half dollars every week. I had 125 customers.

That’s a lot.

Yes, and I carried them all on my shoulder in a big bag. It hung down by your knee-and walked! Didn’t have no money to buy a bicycle right away, til later. And then when I started my freshman year of high school, I gave up the paper route. Then, it hadn’t been too long, the Water Works put up that brick smoke stack, and I knew all those fellas that worked there, and the water was in the canal. There was an old foot bridge went up about 8 or 10 steps And then you went across a wooden plank swaying, swinging bridge. There was one right there, and then you went back down 10-12 steps to get on to what they called a toe path. That was a strip of land between the river and the canal. They called it the toe path. That’s where the mules pulled the old canal boats.

Well now that smoke stack, was that across from Eberwine?

Well, almost. It was a little farther south. See from Eberwine’s display yard, there was a brick house on the hill and that was the old Rakestraw property on Strong Street. But they were on my paper route, and her husband was a mailman, rural mailman, at that time. Then right below that, there’s a car place now. Henry Thiel man put that new gas station in and little restaurant next door. I don’t know I think they do up upholstery and clean cars and all that now, but Henry Thielman built that, and he was the bulk Shell gasoline dealer in Napoleon.

Is that right? Well, wasn’t there another gas station down where 24 used to turn?

Yes, right at the curve there. It goes straight now, but you can turn up there on …

Avon Street.

Yes. Then off to the right as you go up Avon there was two houses, the old Ringhisen property, John Ringhisen was a mailman and then just south of him between Ringhisen’s property and was a Strohl, Bill Strohl’s mom and dad lived there. And just below that right at the bottom of the curve old Mr. Strohl had a gas station. Then were some short stubby trees right along the curve toward the Ringhisen’s and Strohl homes. And there was a fella by the name of Vandebrook, young Vandebrook. I think his parents run the old Augenstein and Hoeffel store back then and he drank a little. Maybe I should say this, but he’d wind up hotroddin’ it, you know, speeding, and he’d hit those trees, couldn’t make the curve. Several times he wound up in those trees, them old stubby trees.

Well, he wasn’t the only one. Remember Howard Overhulse? He had the gas station and someone said that he was driving her home because they were fixing her car or something and he just went right up and drove right across all the lawns. And she said, “Well you’re not in the street.” “Oh, I really don’t care. This is all right” Ha. Ha. That’s what you can do in a small town, right?

See where Howard’s gas station is now used to be an old Sinclair station. And at the end towards the old Heller Alter that last building there’s a barbershop below it now and I think it’s an insurance place now. That used to be what you called Schultz’s Smoke House. That was a pool and billiards hall. And you could get cigars and play pool and that in there. They called it the old Schultz’s Smoke House back then. That wasn’t really the name, but that was the nick name they give it. And then where Mitchell Greenhouse is now across from the old Heller Alter, that used to be Fahringer’s Greenhouse. When I knew it, Fahringer’s was out on the west end. Yes, from there they went out on West Clinton, where those apartments are now. There son Richard run it. Then he sold and moved to Florida. He’s gone now. Then when I lived on Norton, Kermit Thompson, that had the jewelry store and Lillian (she was a Behrens) that lived next to us, just next door to us there on Norton was the Fahringer’s yard where there they raised all their flowers and that, and they had wooden posts come out and had a water line on top of that and that would sprinkle the flowers. And then Lillian met Kermit Thompson. Everybody called him Tommy then.

Oh, Tommy Thompson.

Yes. Tommy would come and pick Lillian up and they’d have night deliveries. And they had what they called an open backended truck. They called it a banana wagon then. That’s what he delivered the flowers in. He’d pick Lillian up and they’d take me along sometimes.

Oh, is that right? His son was a friend of my son, Bill and they called the Fahringer boy “Posey”. That’s what his nickname was.

See then, just beyond Fahringer’s then on Haley, was the old Delventhel, Dr. Delventhal’s home, that big brick home. It wasn’t brick. Well, it was stone then. And they had the whole corner that had those tall trees in back for some of their landscaping. And the two sons, they were just a couple years younger than me. They’d be out there playing when I lived on Norton. That where I started to school, my first grade. And when I walked to school and come back in the afternoon, them kids, these two boys would be out there playing. But they were a little younger than me. Fahringer’s family, they lived on Clinton Street just a few houses down from the public library is now. See then when St. Paul’s, the old church was still there, then they built the building, the parsonage like and school. That’s the public library now.

Didn’t they build, isn’t a part of the public library buikfrom the same building that the church had?

Yes. And I remember my aunt lived on Park Street. She took my grandmother and my sister and I to the opening ceremonies. They had a big dinner there to help raise money to help pay for the building when I was little.

Were you alive during the depression?

Oh yes, I was nine years old. I was born in 1920.

I was born in 1919, but the end of 1919.

Yes I was born in February.

What do you remember about the depression? A lot of the young people now are afraid of Depression. I don’t remember it being so hard. It was different.

Well I remember my grandmother took in washing and ironing from people around town year around. And I would deliver and pick up the laundry in an old wagon I pulled. But we had one clean bed and three meals a day plus we had a big garden. Everybody had gardens then, and they even had what they called [line missing] the canal, this division between the river and the canal, the old tow path, there were a lot of little shacks, and the poorest people lived in them. Then every so far they poked big holes with dynamite in the river bank into the canal so they could drain the canal. They moved all these people out of these little shacks. Well it run from where the old Moorhead property is right at the bottom of Avon where the curve is, that used to be the old Moorhead family, and he worked for the city. He drove, he had a team and he pulled a little water wagon early in the mornings down town Napoleon, watered the streets. Great big old wooden barrel laying down on four wheels frame, and watered the streets of Napoleon.

Why did they water them?

Well, for dust.

Oh, they were dirt?

Well, no, brick then, but it was dirt before that. And that was what he done. With this team of horses, he plowed gardens behind the homes for people. But when they dynamited, they moved all these people out and moved them out where the Hurst Addition is now. Right there across from Ritter Park. There’s a big home, a Hurst family lived there, and he was one of the heads of the old Charles Company.

That’s right, he was.

Then just before you get back into the Hurst property, that where Henry Precht lived. Well that used to be old Doc Ludeman’s home. Mary Denny’s grandfather.

Was Doc a physician?

No. I don’t know what he done. But they called him old Doc Ludeman, and that’s where he lived, and he owned 20 acres in there. And Mary Denny and her mother, Aunt Lena. Mary Denny’s mother was my Dad’s oldest sister, Lena Ludeman. She helped Mary in the little snack shop across from the Post Office. She worked there for years. That was my Dad’s oldest sister. Mary and her mom and her brothers and Mary Denny’s grandfather, they called him Old Doc Ludeman, they all lived there, and out behind the house was a big old barn. I remember that. My grandmother and I and my sister, we’d walk out there a lot to visit.

Was that when they had Majestic Heights?

No that came later. See when they was ready to dynamite and drain the canal, they moved all these people on the toe path up there in that addition, so they could dynamite and drain the canal. That’s why so many of them ended along that ravine. They were just old make-shift homes or shacks then. I remember Ed telling about this one fellow called him in, went on a house call, you know, and as they walked out of the house, this fella said, “Just look at these neighbors. They just leave their tin cans around and everything. Isn’t that terrible?” And Ed said, “Well why don’t you turn around and see what’s behind you?” I don’t know how long the Ludeman family lived there, but then Old Doc, they sold that property, and then Doc died. And Lena and them all moved up on Strong Street. But then you gone passed, just a little ways out on 424 where Meyerholtz Park is now, that used to be Myerholtz Fruit Farm, and when the water was still in the canal, they had one of these old bridges, like I described at the Moorhead property and the Waterworks. They had one of them there. And there was a two story home over on the land between the canal and the river where the toe path was, there was a two-story house. And they had a fruit farm there. And you’d go up over this bridge, go up these steps and swing you know and ropes to hang on to, and it was kinda scary you know when you was kids, and that’s where the Myerholtz Park got its name, from the Myerholtz family. Them Myerholtz owned the Cash Quality, where the Napoleon Pharmacy is now. Now I don’t know if they were related or not, but that used to be the Myerholtz Fruit Farm, and they had one of them bridges there, one at the Waterworks, and one at the bottom of Avon at the old Moorhead.

They were paths for people walking. You couldn’t drive.

No, no, you’d go up, oh maybe 8, 10 steps and walked across the bridge and down.

Were they all plain white, kind of the same?

Yeh, they were all the same. Then eventually after the canal, when the canal was still in there, the old intake, water intake, that was an old brick building set just east of where it is now, to get their water. And right there, when they eliminated that old Moorhead bridge, they put in a new steel bridge, a small one, to walk across. Right to the left was a big race where the water went in from the canal into the river to the water, to the old water intake in the river. And they moved all them houses out of there. Well some of them are still there now.

They are?

Yeh, from the bottom of Avon, there’s this big two story home, there’s some homes along in there, clear to where the water intake is now. Those buildings are still there. But I don’t know who lives there.

I don’t either, but I thought they were relatively new.

They built a new one along in there, and a couple of them older homes, they remodeled.

Did you have brothers and sisters?

I had one sister.

How did you happen to be raised by your grandparents?

Well, my Dad was killed on the railroad over by Leipsic.

How’d that happen?

Well they had a train wreck over towards Lima. And he worked for the D.T. & I, and they had to send a crew over there on the DT & I tracks through Malinta and south, and they had the caboose full of workers in front of the engine going south, and one of them tower people south of there let a northbound through freight come on. And there was a terrible snow storm then, and they collided. They caught between both engines, and my Dad was one of four that was killed. And my Dad’s one brother, uncle Charles, he was throwed clear. But there was four killed in that.

Did your Dad’s brother live then because he was thrown clear?

Yeh, yeh, then that was January 16, 1920, then I was born three weeks later. My Dad never seen me. And the courts wanted to put my sister and 1 in homes. My grandmother, my Dad’s mother, said “No, let me raise them.

Well, what happened to your mother?

She died, my grandmother said, of a broken heart. That’s all they ever said, and I wasn’t quite a year old. So I don’t really remember my mother either, but my grandmother, she kept house for her brother on Norton from there in 1927, we moved to Park Street. And I lived there til I was 16. And I got a working permit and left school. I didn’t finish my sophmore year.

A lot of young fellas did that then, didn’t they?

Yeh, you could get a working permit. Now days you can’t. You have to finish. But now in between, just west of the Waterworks as you’re going out west, them houses run clear out. Those little shacks run clear out to Ritter Park and beyond.

There were a lot of them then.

But along in there just past the old Power Plant was a family by the name of Briner. Do you remember a Madonna Biner?

No, I don’t think I’m familiar with them.

Well, her family, they lived there. And they were the family with a team of horses, and they called them the honey dippers, the family that went around a cleaned the outhouses. And that’s where they lived.

Well, it had to be done.

And this, there’s a big pointed lot, West Riverview and Park Street, there’s a nice brick home up at the top, there’s a great big old Sycamore down there at the point, well we all sat in that lot, and the Biners, the Hutchisons, and all those people from the toe path, they had a big old hoe down, built a big bon fire out there next to the river, and you could hear them fiddling and the banjo and everything, and they had a big old hoe down down there, and we all set up there in that big lot and listened to them, and you could almost see them with the fire light blazing.

Sure, that would be fun, for kids.

See then just east of where the Moorhead property is there bottom of Avon where 24 curves, well along in there was Matt Becker’s blacksmith shop.

Oh, there was. On the river side?

Yeh, well right there by Snyders Car Wash. There’s a house right there, then just on the right side of that was where the old Matt Becker Shop was. And then just west of that where the City Buildings are now there was a big two-story wooden structure, and Carl Walters, that where he first started his business, paint shop. Then right across the street they fixed those buildings all up. There’s a glass place in there now, plate glass windows and that. Then just at the end of that was where the old Plummer Spray used to be. And he moved back in there where the old Alfalfa Mill is. That’s where the old junk yard used to be. That’s where the old State Barn building was, back in there.

Now the canal went right along where the old 24 is now, didn’t it?

Yeh, it come right through and it went right straight behind Loose Field. And on the south side, that was back in the thirties, they decided, I think it was ’34, they decided to re-do the football field, and on the south side of the field was an old wooden bleachers. And that’s where Napoleon fans sat. There wasn’t hardly anything on the north side like it is today.

Now there’s nothing on the south side.

Well see when they drained the canal they filled this all in, and this is 24 now, old 424 now. It was Route 24. And that went right straight on east out underneath the railroad, DT & I viaduct where it is now, and that’s Anthony Wayne (Restaurant), but see there’s still some canal out in there. Now along in there where Anthony Wayne (Restaurant) is, used to be the City Dump, and that had a high board fence.

Now, wait a minute, Anthony Wayne, you mean … used to be the City Dump where … I didn’t know that.

Yeh, and a lot of people, well it had been there for a long time. I think there was a Walters family owned some of that land along in there.

There’s no hill. Doesn’t a dump make a hill.

No that’s on the south side, on the river side. The dump was between the canal and the river. Walters farmed some of that level land, this Walters family. But that used to be the old City Dump. A lot of people, with the Dump being there for years had a lot of huge rats, and people would attach big flashlights to their rifles, and they’d go out there and sit all night and shoot these rats. Claimed they was big as cats.

Isn’t that how one guy got blinded ?I thought you said that somebody got shot?

No. And right across from the Anthony Wayne is the Hogrefe Junk Yard now that they’re cleaning up, and that used to be a Rohrs, Spot Rohrs. He run a tavern across from the Courthouse. That used to be Spot Rohrs’ home. There’s a big brick home up there on the hill across old 424 from the Anthony Wayne (Restaurant).

You talking about the restaurant now?

Yes, Anthony Wayne Restaurant. And B. F. Goodrich wanted to buy that whole farm to start up a plant, but they turned it down, and then Hogrefe’s somehow got a hold of it. And they made it into a junk yard. And this Heiny Hogrefe, the old man that started the junk yard business, him and a fellow by the name of Bill Renollet, they got caught stealing chickens. George Bauman was the Sheriff then, and they lived where the old Sheriff Building is now yet.

Is that Charlie Bauman’s father or something?

No. I don’t know if they were related or not. And him and his family lived there. They had two daughters, Marcella, she was the anathesiast out at the hospital before she retired. She was in my class. And George Bowerman, they got word that there was thievery going on, and the Sheriff and his men went out there and they shot tear gas in the chicken coop. And that’s how Heiny Hogrefe, they called him Heiny then, that’s how he lost his eye, one eye. Him and a fellow by the name of Bill Renollet. He got caught too.

Hogrefe was stealing?

Yeh, he got caught stealing. He was in the chicken coop with Bill Renollet when the Sheriff fired tear gas into the chicken coop. That’s how they caught ’em then.

You know you were talking about that hoe down, reminded me of Bob Downey telling about how they, I think it was his uncle, Tony, that had one of those shacks that you were talking about along the river, and the boys, when he was in high school, used to go out there and they’d spend time, horse around you know. Well, that was when they had the dance hall out there along the river.

Wayne Park.

Yes, and they’d watch, and when they were going to have a dance, and all these people would be there inside dancing, they knew the fellows would bring their whiskey, but they didn’t dare bring it inside, and they’d set it down by a tree or something outside and the boys would go and grab some of that whiskey, run off with it. Then they’d go off into this little shack and drink it.

See now when Wayne Park was still there, there was 1 think two homes right across the road from there.

… ( tape turns over)

…Blacksmith Shop well there’s this house that’s there now, and there was the old Ice Plant. They made ice there. Oh, yes, they cut ice from the river. And before that right along in that vicinity was the old Tietje Brewery. And then where Snyder’s Car Wash is now and that old gas station that’s next to it, by the north end of the bridge, there was a big long building and there was a car dealer there.

Do you remember , do you have in your mind any stories of cute little things that happened? What about the time out here, when the you boys played in that ravine by Dick Gray’s across the way ?What was that machine you found?

That was an old pink barn. The old Fink farm. The old barn still stands now. Is it still pink? No. I didn’t mean pink, but Fink. That was the old Fink farm almost across from, well there’s a road going past the ball park and the football stadium now, and it’s where you go down that dip, that creek. That’s where we played a lot on Sundays. We’d go back in there, just the boys, after Sunday School and church. We’d follow that creek back in there and we’d go skinny dipping in there. There was a big curve back in the creek, and there was a big sand bar and we always went back in there every Sunday afternoon during, in the summer, and we found an old buggy back in there. So we pulled it out of there and pushed it up and down those hills out to, well it was the Bales Road then, past the County Barn now, and we pushed that home, and we lived on Park Street. We brought it home, and we painted it all up. We put a rope on each front wheel and you could set there, your feet against the axle, and steer it!

Like a sled.

Well, see Welsted was paved then. But Strong Street, Park Street, and Garden Street, they was all dirt. And this Moorhead that watered the streets downtown for the city, he’d take his team and an old grain drill. And they’d put chloride pellets in there, and they’d drive up and down both sides. Go down the street and they’d spread these pellets?

What would they do?

Well, the sun would hit them, and they’d melt. And that would settle the dust. That was part of Mr. Moorhead’s job too-the dirt streets.

What did you do with that thing that you rode?

Well we’d push it around after dark under the street lights, block to block. We’d take turns pushing each other on that old buggy, till it finally broke down.

You went in the river and swam.

Yeh, we swam in the river all the time. There wasn’t no pool or anything then. Just a golf course out there, no ball park or nothing.

Well, the river probably was a lot cleaner then.

Yeh, the cemetery, then the golf course, and that was all there was along there.

You know what story I heard about, and I don’t even know his name, so I can tell the story. He was a state senator or representative or something, anyway he was an important fellow, and he loved to teach the young girls how to swim. But he’d get them in the water, start swimming, then he’d grab them underneath.

(Ha, Ha)

You used to block off the street and roller skate.

Yeh, when I got in my teens, 12, 13 years old, they’d block off one street for a whole week. Meekison Street , that was paved. Welsted was paved. They’d block that whole street off and let the kids roller skate at night. Kids used to gang up in gangs up at the Courthouse corner. See that was all sand stone, nice big smooth sidewalk. And that was just right for roller skating. And the City shut that down, so then they blocked off Woodlawn, not Woodlawn, Welsted and they blocked off Avon, from the top of the hill down to the Water Works for a week. Meekison Street was blocked off for a whole week. And that’s where we roller skated at night, cause you couldn’t skate uptown anymore.

Did you do anything onery?

Not really. Halloween.

Somebody at Archbold at Halloween got an outside toilet, and put right in the middle of the street, downtown.

Yeh, they done this. They’d upset them. But see they didn’t have tricks or treaters like they have now. So kids just went around and threw corn and soaped windows and all that sort of thing. Stuck toothpicks down in the car horns buttons on the steering wheels, then they’d keep blowing. Things like that.

Trick or Treat is pretty nice now, pretty mild. I can remember it being nice for us.

But you see then, Vocke’s had their big old mill there. And when they done the river bridge, which now they want to replace, they drove piling on the east side, and put big timbers on these rows of piling. Then they unhooked the steel trusses, the girders, and they slid them over for a temporary bridge, behind Vocke’s Mill across. At first they had a big cable across and a big barge took people, horse and wagon back across the river, till they drove these pilings and put these big timbers on, fastened them all down, then they slid these sections of the old bridge over. Fastened them down secure. Then they drove another bunch of piling on the west side of the bridge where the bridge is now, and this is where the old steam engines and cranes. They didn’t have the cranes then like they have now. These were all coal and wood burning cranes, and they drove these pilings, and that was the work bridge. And then they drove the piling and that to do the piers and that for the bridge that’s there now. And then when they dedicated it…

When was this?

1926 or 1927. In front of Vocke’s Mills, on the northwest corner, facing Perry Street, they put up a platform. And they decorated it in red, white and blue bunting. And Governor Wright was the governor then, and he came to Napoleon and made his dedication speech there from this platform. And Old Company L, was an old Infantry Company in the Armory then. They done guard duty while Governor Wright was here and made his dedication speech. Yeh, I remember all that.

Do you remember when they, that was of course, many years later, when they tore down the old Vocke’s Mill? There were so many rats down in there, and so they told anybody that wanted to to bring their guns and they stood across the street. Whenever they’d see a rat, they’d shoot them. They were trying to get rid of them because there were so many of them.

See then just across the street from where Vocke’s Mill is, Snyder’s use it for a display lot for their new cars, and across the street they got another lot and when Snyder’s, Whalon has an office there on 424, used to be Ron Gunn’s Marathon Station, then it went to a donut shop, well just across there, there’s a driveway went down in there. It still drops down in there, well that set of buildings there, there was a Reichert Shoe Repair Shop.

Was that that, first one right on the corner that’s such an odd shape? Sort of a diamond shape?

Right there. Then next to that’s where old Mr. Snyder had his Chevrolet business. Then he built the one where it is now, and I went down there in 1941. I wanted to get a job, help put that building up, and he was there and he said, “No, I am not hiring anybody.” He says, “I have people that owe me money, and they’re going to work it off” But then all they had was just a one or two-little room white brick building and two gasoline pumps, and that’s where he started up where Snyder’s is today. But that’s what he told me. “I’m not hiring anybody. I have people that still owe me money, and they’re going to have to work it out here.” So I got turned down for a job then and that was in 1940.

Oh, that was just before World War II. Were you in World War II?


What did you do?

I was in ordinance. I was a supply seargent. And I went overseas.

Were you drafted?


You enlisted?

No. I enlisted, but I never got called. I enlisted for the Navy and at that time I was married, and then it came that you had to be like a specialist, like a mechanic or a welder or something of that sort to get into the Navy so they put me in the army draft. But I was married and had two children. But at that time Hitler was going on, starting his rampage in Europe. But we didn’t think much of it over here at the time, and I was already married and had two children and I didn’t get called til towards the end. But I was in the occupation of Japan.

Oh, you were?

Yeh. I was a battalion supply seargent over there.

He got over there right after the bomb was dropped. He saw all that.

We were some of the first troops in Japan for the occupation. See at Nagasaki and Hiroshima where they dropped the bombs was off limits to the army personnel until it was cleared O.K. to go in and then we could go in in convoys on weekends. They’d allow so many troops to come in in a convoy to look the area over.

Did you get to clean any of that up?

No. I didn’t. No, the American government supplied the trucks and hired the Japanese laborers, paid them to clean this all up. See then in the big cities of Kobe and Osaka and that, Osaka was about the size of Chicago then. And the big bombers and that was still laying. They just pushed them off the streets so people could get through with cars over there. The United States tax payers paid for that clean up. They still do today. They pay for all that damage.

Well, did you see the damage from the Atom Bomb?


What was that like?

Well, I would say a place about the size of Napoleon, and as far as you could see in any direction was rubble about this deep. Only thing that was like the size of the Courthouse, big masonry structures, they just were gutted.

What about that tile?

Most of the homes, well you see out in California they have these tile red roofs on their homes, well that’s what they had on their homes. And from the heat they just slid right down on the ground and they just laid there. And you’d walk over there and go to pick one of them tile up and it would crumble in your fingers like dust, powder. That heat was that hot. And glass bottles, they melted together, steel melted. It was something. Well, wasn’t it dangerous to be … No, it was declared safe then. See at first you couldn’t, nobody could go in there. And as we walked around, these Japanese people, young and old, all ages and sizes, they were walking around and some of them would be big blotches of goo here and here on their arms and it was all mattered from the burns. Then when we walked, there was a fellow from Detroit, he was a barber in Detroit, and him and I were together, and we was walking along this rubble and that and we seen some tin laying there, galvanized roofing, and we lifted it, flipped it back, laid in the foundation and there was a whole skeleton laying there along the foundation, and there was nothing but a big green gob of, big gob of goo in his skull. That’s all that was left of him. We don’t know if it was a man or woman.

How long was it from the time they dropped the bomb until you could go in. Are you talking weeks, months?

Oh, several months. See we didn’t get over there until November.

They dropped the bomb in September.

Yeh, and we didn’t get over there until the first part of November, but it was still off limits, so it was after the first of the year until the troops got in that area. Then we unloaded the ship we were on when we first got there, to the mainland of Japan. We stopped there at Nagasaki, but we were way off shore anchored and they unloaded supplies to the troops there. But all we could see was from the ship, and that was all level.

There were two bombs that they dropped.

But actually at Hiroshima was the one where we actually walked on. We didn’t get to shore at Nagasaki. We just unloaded supplies from the ship and then we went on to Nogoya where we did unload. And from there we went to the southern part of Hanshu, Japan, to the big naval base.

You didn’t have any health effects from being there?


Boy, that’s good.

It was all declared safe before they let any American troops in.

You would think… now knowing, cause they didn’t know then, cause that one guy on TV …. How close you were and how sick you got.

See then we talked to some of them people, and when this plane came over to drop that bomb on Hiroshima, they didn’t heed the warning and take to the shelters, and that’s how, why so many stayed up above on land. If they took shelter … Well, I doubt if that would have helped. But I would say that blast covered an area the size of Napoleon anyway. As far as you could see, it was just rubble, except for the huge building.

You know I just interviewed Dwight Huddle, and he worked as a fireman down in the bottom of one of those big ships that got to Okinawa, and he said he and another fellow went to apply for, to become pilots, and they had gone through all these tests and they had just been accepted, and the officer said, “Take a look at the bulletin board on the way out.” And they did, and it said a bomb had been dropped on Nagasaki or wherever the first one was and it was equal to 20,000 pounds of TNT: So that was, they didn’t know what it was, but that’s what it was, that first atom bomb. And they were , the U.S. troops were slated to go into Japan until Japan gave up quite unexpectedly as a result of those bombs.

See when we did land, when got there to _____ Naval base which wasn’t too far from Hiroshima on Hanshu, the island of Hanshu, there were marines there at Hiroshima already, and they were cleaning up. They were pushing these skeletons around with bulldozers and plows to clean them up, clean up the mess. They were actually the first people in there from the United States Army. It was a big detachment of marines. But we couldn’t go in for quite a while-two, three months.

Now you say you went to the southern part of Japan-what did you do when you went down there then?

I was a supply sargeant.

So you supplied the troops?

Eight young fellows came up from the islands wanted to get home for Christmas and they had a program — enlist now for three years and you get 90 days automatic home immediately. And 8 of these fellows, young kids, young solders that applied for this, and they needed replacements, and when we first got there, then they went alphabetical order see, the roster, and I was one of them on the beginning of that roster, and we replaced these 8 fellows. That’s how I got, I went from infantry to ordinance. Now getting back to where Snyder’s is now, before he built that little gas station, there was two old wooden two-story structures, and they was, one was a pop, they made bottled pop, and the next place, there was a fellow by the name of Grubaugh, he took in milk, eggs, and cream. And then right on the corner of East Front Street, north of the bridge, between Snyder’s car tots, there was two two-story structures there too. And Carl Walters moved from West Front Street down to this building right on the corner. And he had his paint shop in there. And then there was Tony Rohrs and oh another fellow. They had a Red and White grocery store in there. But them buildings are gone now.

Is that kind of close to where Snyder’s is now?

Yeh. See when you come from the Courthouse down to the river, that’s Front Street right there, by the river. Well, turn left there. Right across from Vocke’s Mill is where these two-story buildings were. Snyder’s has a car lot there now. Who took those buildings down? That I can’t tell you any more. But then there was a company by the name of Jim Brown Hardware. They started up a business in there in one of those buildings. Jim Brown’s …

Well, there was a hardware store there later too right there on the corner.

Yeh, Ott Hess purchased that from…

Oh yes…

Then Ott Hess sold it to Bostelman Brothers.

Well then Franz, when did Franz buy it?

That I don’t know. But then the Bostelman’s, they started up where the City is now, where they have their offices. That’s where the Bostelmans took this hardware business in there. Then later they sold it I guess to the City and the City made it in to what it is today.

What was school like when you were a kid?

Well, it was a lot different than it is today. They had wooden floors. See where the, next to Walkers Mortuary, that was an old brick building, and fire had ravaged that years before.

Where the middle school is now?

Yeh, the elementary school, they’re in the new building now. And then where the Junior High is today ,that was the old high school. But in the grade school building, there was a fellow by the name of Burrows. He was one janitor. Took care of that whole building. Him and his wife, they lived in the basement.

Of the school? Is that right?

And only the kids that walked to school from the country could eat lunch there. Rest we all went home at noon. But we had wooden floors and they’d sprinkle a green powder on the floor. That would kinda collect the dust and they swept it all by hand with brooms. This old man Burrows and his wife. He was just the one janitor. And now the old high school, it’s a Junior High building now. But I can remember I had a Miss Keller was my first grade teacher and my second grade teacher was a Miss Crawford. My third grade teacher was Veda Jennings. She was a Grimm. She married _____ Jennings. Her obituary was just in the paper here lately. She moved up into Michigan. And my fourth grade teacher was a Helen Palmer. As you’re going towards Florida, up 424, the old Palmer farm was there on the right. That’s where she lived. My fifth grade teacher was a …

Boy you did well to remember all those names. What about what’s her name, the teacher that taught so many years that you know, Lillian Reiser? Was she teaching then, probably not.

Couldn’t a been. I wasn’t in any of her classes.

How about our taxes back then?

Well, I don’t really know then. I know they was low.

They were low? They still used the same method?

Because at that time when I was married before I went to the service, we lived out about a mile east of the Sharon Church. There’s a little bungalow on the right as you’re going toward McClure. And I had three and a half acres and I think we paid $4.50 for a half, for six months. It was eight, nine dollars for that property a year.

Your taxes were eight or nine dollars?

Yeh, for the whole year. For three and a half acres.

Isn ‘t that something? What kind of work did you do? After you got out of high school, what did you do making a living?

Well in 1936 I left school and I worked on a farm for my room and board, being an orphan. And I got my working permit and I worked on the farm for three, four years. Then I got married and I worked at different jobs. The old Heller and Alter, and the foundry, the old alfalfa mill. For Yarnell Brothers, I hauled coal for Yarnell Brothers-the City Coal Company. As you’re going out Oakwood and cross the tracks, the old Wabash, there’s four or five big cement silos still standing there. That was the old City Coal Company run by the Yarnell Brothers. I shoveled coal there before I went into the service. Then I went on construction when 1 come back from the service. I worked for Wren Reese Company for about eight, nine years. Then I went to Toledo. From there then I worked for the next 20 years for Lakewood and Bentley out of Toledo, construction. I was a welder. And I done some carpentry work.

Were there any particular one of those jobs that you liked the best?

Oh, I liked to weld. Then in 1970 I fell off one of the bridges on 475. And 1 crushed all this, my wrist and the top of my hand. Then I didn’t work any. I worked until 1972. And after this hand got well, but it bothered me a lot so then I didn’t work anymore. I haven’t worked since 1972.

What do you think of the progress over the years?

Oh, it’s changed a lot.

Do you think its for the better? Computers and everything that’s so far advanced?

Well see when I was growing up, they didn’t have any of that. It was a big change. Any even in school, instead of being in one room all day long, they’d move you around every class.

Did they start that when you were in school?

Yeh, when I was in the fifth grade. See I started the first grade in 1927 and in ’32 they started moving the classes around. Then they put in the new school. And the old high school still stayed there and the auditorium stayed and they built the new school as it is today.

Well now wait a minute. If the old high school stayed just as it was, what’d they do, add on to that old building?

No, they tore the old elementary building clear down and put the structure’s up there today-the elementary building and then the auditorium and then the old high school which is Junior High today.

Is that the order in which they were built?

Yeh, see the old school house, the old high school which is Junior High now, that building was there a long time. It was there already before I was born, I think. They didn’t have the auditorium that’s there today. They used to have graduation in the old armory. And from the old armory they went to the State Theater. And then before they built the auditorium in ’34 or ’35, they played all their basketball games in the armory. And that’s when Bob Downey was on the basketball team. And he played in the old armory. He’d probably remember that. That didn’t have much seating in the armory.

No, you couldn’t watch it.

Crowded. The bleachers come right down to the sidelines of the basketball floor. Ha, Ha, Ha.

Bell, Dick and Lucille

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, February 23, 2012
Transcribed by Marlene Patterson

CW: This is Charlotte Wangrin and I am interviewing Dick Bell and they have some interesting memories and facts for our historical records.

CW: Dick, shall we start with you or the bakery or the newspapers.

DB: Either one is okay.

CW: Let’s do the bakery, it sounds interesting.

DB: My dad worked at Chubb’s Bakery for 37 years.

CW: I remember those rolls at Chubb’s, they just melted in your mouth. They were so good!

DB: Cody Chubb was a brother-in-law to my dad. His wife Maude was my dad’s sister. That is how my parents became involved with the bakery.

CW: You know I remember interviewing Dorothy Vocke. She said that when she was a little girl she worked at that bakery. After everybody had gone home she said the football team boys would come in hoping to get a handout from what was left in the bakery.

DB: My mother worked there too as a clerk before she went to the courthouse. Then she worked at the courthouse in different departments there.

CW: That is how Florian Sauer met his wife. She worked there.

DB: I don’t remember that but Deak Herman, his wife Viola also worked at the bakery.

CW: He was a prosperous man in his business.

DB: I used to stop up there quite often after grade school many hours and watch my dad bake. I really enjoyed that.

CW: Did he let you do anything around the bakery?

DB: Oh no. I just watched.

CW: In those days people came into town just on weekends and the places would get very crowded.

DB: He worked nights so we had to be real quiet during the day. He would have to sleep during the day. I read that interview with Dorothy too and she talked about that horse drawn wagon. It used to stop on Yeager Street and I used to get to ride with him too.

CW: That would be a big thing when you are a kid.

DB: That horse knew exactly what to do. He knew when to go and when to stop.

CW: He didn’t have to tell it a thing or what to do.

DB: No he didn’t. That horse knew exactly what to do.

CW: I think Florian at that time delivered groceries out to people on farms.

LB: He stopped at our house.

CW: It was a very different time then.

DB: Getting back to schools, I went to Napoleon schools and in my Senior year I was called down to the Superintendent’s office.

CW: I bet that scared you.

DB: I thought oh no what did I do now! John Orwig was there and he interviewed me. Here they were looking for a young person to learn the linotype for their newspaper.

CW: Now would you please describe for me a linotype.

DB: It is what we call a line casting machine. It is a pretty good sized machine. The linotype operator enters characters from a keyboard, from which the machine assebles matrices (molds for letter forms) into a line. The machine then pours metal into the mold and casts a line of text as a single piece of metal, called a slug (hence the machine’s name as a linotype produces a “line “o type).

CW: That would have saved you some time.

DB: Oh yes very much so. I went to school to learn the linotype down in southern Indiana in a town called English. They had a linotype school there. It used to be up here in Maumee, Ohio. When I started to school they had moved the school down to southern Indiana. I went there for six weeks to learn the trade. We stayed in private homes
down there.

CW: That would have been alright.

DB: I came back in September of 1949 and worked for the Henry County Signal. That is how I started my job at the newspaper.

CW: How many years did you work for the Signal?

DB: I worked there for thirteen years, it became a combination of two newspapers. In 1968 I went over to Glanz Printing in Wauseon. The reason I left was the time period was coming when they would no longer be using the linotype machine.

CW: Oh so you could see that coming! Now how could you know that?

DB: That was just what all the newspapers were doing. They were all switching to computers. It was a different type of printing. It was being printed directly from a photograph. It was altogether different.

CW: I bet it was faster too.

DB: Yes.

CW: Going back to that first job you had when you were in high school did you have any inkling – no you must not have had.

DB: I had no idea what a linotype machine was at that time.

CW: Oh is that right!

DB: I was thinking about going to college at Bowling Green. After my conversation at the office I decided to take their option. I left the newspaper in 1951 and enlisted in the Navy.

CW: Oh that was World War II.

DB: No, the Korean War.

CW: Oh yes that is correct. World War II was over in 1945.

DB: I came back in 1956 and started working for the newspaper again.

CW: What did you do in the war?

DB: I was on a ship on the east coast in Rhode Island. We took care of the controls that fired the guns. It was a repair ship that I worked on. We would repair equipment on the destroyers.

CW: Lenhart Lange was on a ship and his job was to work way up high on a deck. Is that what you call it.

DB: You mean the crows nest.

CW: He would have to watch to see if any Japanese ships were coming. He would have to wait until he could almost see their faces. He said it was so hard to do because he said it would have been so hard to kill. Wars are so awful. So you were on a repair ship during the war.

DB: Yes

CW: Did you stay in dock most of the time?

DB: Mostly. We went to the Caribbean in the wintertime. That was enjoyable.

CW: Oh yes.

DB: We went over to the Mediterranean and I saw all the countries along the Mediterranean Sea.

CW: You got to travel quite a bit then.

DB: I got to see a lot of things when I was over there.

CW: Now Lucille, where do you come into the picture?

LB: We met when he was home on leave.

CW: Oh he found this good looking gal here.

LB: He was in uniform at the time. We met at the Metropole.

CW: Now that would have been the old Metropole out on Scott St. Did you live here in Napoleon?

LB: Yes, I lived out in the country. It was just five miles north of Napoleon. I went to Liberty Center High School.

CW: Was it in the summer.

LB: It was in 1954. Of course Dick had to go back on duty so we did a lot of corresponding for a couple of years till he got out of the Navy. He got home in April of 1956 and we were married in September of 1956.

CW: That would have been a trying time.

LB: Yes it was.

DB: I retired from Tomahawk Printing in Wauseon in 1993. In April of 1994 I went to work at Sauder Village in Archbold. I am still working there. This will be my 19th year at Sauder Village.

CW: My sister-in-law works over there in the doctor’s office.

DB: I know her. I work in the print shop and I do some of the printing for the Village in there. I keep the machinery maintained. I run the linotype there.

CW: I would imagine there are a lot of people that are very interested in how you set type.

DB: There seems to be. Most people that come through there have no idea how printing was done before the computers.

CW: People would not have the slightest idea.

DB: People are really impressed by that linotype machine.

CW: Weren’t those machines big and weren’t they noisy?

DB: Yes they were. Now the New York papers might have had a hundred of those machines in operation at once. Like Toledo had 37 of those machines. The reason I know that is I had a friend who worked at the Blade for quite a few years. He also worked at Sauder Village and he finally had to quit because he was 92 years old.

CW: Oh my goodness.

DB: He was still pretty active up until that time. We will go back to work again at the Sauder Village on May 1st.

CW: I wondered when the Village would start up again. I have a friend who works at the Village just two or three days a week. That Erie Sauder that started the Village was a very upstanding person.

DB: I was there a couple of years while he was still living. He would walk around and come in and talk to you every day.

CW: He started making church pews too. I think they probably don’t make too many of them anymore because they used great big trees. So now when you married Lucille where did you live at first?

LB: We lived in an apartment on West Main Street for the first year and then we bought a house on Brownell Street. We lived there for about thirteen years. Then we rented a house for a year while we were having this house built. That was forty years ago.

CW: It certainly seems like a nice comfortable house.

LB: We have three children, nine grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

CW: Families grow very fast.

LB: We lived on a farm and Saturday evenings we would go to town. I had three sisters. We would go with my mother. We would go to The Cash Quality Store to Meyerholtz’s Store and to Shoemaker’s. I didn’t always go with my mother because I would sometimes meet my friends. Our whole group would just walk around and walk around. We would stop at the popcorn machine on the corner by the 5 and 10 cent store. Of course there were the drug stores with the ice cream and other things.

CW: Did you get sodas at the drugstore?

LB: Yes we did. We didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend so we were sort of limited. We would eat ice cream cones too. Dad would go down and get his hair cut at the barbershop. Mom would buy some groceries at Spengler’s.

CW: I think at Spengler’s they had tables at the back where men could go and have a beer and up towards the front were the groceries where the women could buy their groceries. I think that the women probably never went to the back part.

LB: Not much but some of them did go in the back with their husbands. We would go back there and have a hot dog and an orange soda. That was my favorite.

CW: We called it pop.

LB: Of course we didn’t do that all the time.

CW: Dick do you remember going to town?

DB: My mother would be working at the bakery. I think the bakery closed at 9 o’clock. I was at the bakery most of the time. Of course that was when I was in grade school.

CW: They probably wanted you to stay in the bakery so they could watch you.

LB: That is one of the places my mother would always stop at – the bakery to buy yeast.

DB: I can remember during World War II the farmers would come in and buy yeast because you couldn’t buy yeast just anywhere else. There was a shortage.

CW: Is that right!

DB: Of course the bakery had a pretty much unlimited supply there because they used it in their business. They weren’t rationed on the yeast but they were rationed on buying sugar. Sugar was scarce and they had to cut back on the amount of sugar they used. I can remember that part.

CW: Do you remember the green coupons they used to hand out? That was for sugar and gasoline, am I right?

DB: Yes. I think they limited buying tires too at that time.

CW: If you had a flat tire you would pretty much have to repair it yourself.

DB: I think so. Of course that is when most people did their own repairs. I read Moe Brubaker’s interview and he shined shoes for Bill Hatch, and I did too. Well I am older than Moe.

CW: Now I can remember them selling newspapers in the hotel.

DB: I don’t remember that.

CW: Anyway it would give you a different perspective if you were a kid to go where adults were talking. I think you would grow up with more of an adult attitude.

DB: I think you learn more about the town and everything else too. You would definitely have more of a developed conversation. Today now all they hear is on TV I suppose.

CW: Now the announcers use canned material if there is nothing to read.

DB: I lived on Yeager Street which was just a block from the railroad station.

CW: I always wondered where the railroad station was.

DB: I can remember going up there when the trains would come in. They would unload baby chicks and everything. The Cortrights were in the moving business. I don’t know if you remember Jack Cortright. They used to pick up these baby chicks and deliver them to various farmers. They would deliver any heavy stuff that came through on the trains. We used to spend time up at the station. I believe we would have to go see what came in. That was just for something to do.

CW: Did you ever talk to any of the people that came in on the train?

DB: No, we would just watch the trains coming in.

CW: That was probably very exciting for young boys. You didn’t have TV to watch. You just wanted something to do, I bet. Getting back to the Korean War, were you drafted?

DB: No, I enlisted. I knew I would have to go anyway and I wanted to go into the Navy so I joined the Navy for four years.

CW: Were you in then for the four years.

DB: I extended it another year.

CW: Oh you extended it.

DB: Yes.

CW: It must have been a pleasant experience for you.

DB: I went to school, so that is why I extended it for another year.

CW: What did you study at school?

DB: Electronics – things that controlled the guns on the ships and radar.

CW: Did that help you with any of the jobs that you had?

DB: Probably not. It didn’t have anything to do with my job. What was bothersome is when I went aboard this ship they had a lineotype machine on there. I knew how to run one and they wouldn’t let me get into that division.

CW: Why not?

DB: That’s just the way the service works. I think they still do.

CW: You are probably right.

DB: Something I knew how to do they wouldn’t let me do it.

CW: Somebody probably had a sheet of paper that had your name and some other stuff on it. And they had to follow their piece of paper.

DB: A guy that I went to boot camp with and he got into the print shop. He lives in Fremont, Ohio. He has a print shop and now his sons have taken over the shop. We get together once in a while and talk.

CW: North Korea gets pretty cold, doesn’t it?

DB: I never got over that way. I stayed on the east coast.

CW: Because you were in the repairing of those ships.

DB: I repaired ships from the west coast too but I stayed on the east coast all the time. The destroyers coming back from North Korea would come up right along side us. We worked on ships that had served over in Korea.

CW: Have those ships changed over the years?

DB: Very much so.

CW: How.

DB: They use missiles more now. Actually I don’t know a whole lot about what they are doing now but it is an altogether different way that they fire the guns.

CW: They probably make them out of different materials too.

LB: You went to school in Washington DC.

DB: Yes I did.

CW: What school was that Dick?

DB: It was what is called a Fire Control Technician School. It is the control of the guns.

CW: So you were actually responsible for the guns going off.

DB: Yes, it was the directions of the firing of the guns. It would control the directions of the firing.

CW: Yes that would be very important.

DB: We had what we called a general quarter station when you prepare for battle. On the highest part of the ship the control director works up there. It is not a very safe place up there either if we get attacked.

CW: All these jobs are important aboard ship. Did you ever get to Korea, I don’t suppose you did.

DB: No I never did. I worked over on the east coast and in the Mediterranean.

CW: Did they have submarines on the east coast when you were there?

DB: Oh yes.

CW: I know they did in World War II.

DB: Oh yes, we had one riding right along side us at one time.

CW: I read a book about submarines and about one that was on the east coast of the United States. It must be real hard to be in one of those little tiny things.

DB: Our ship was a good size. We had about eight hundred crew members there.

CW: That is a lot of people. Did they all have set jobs or did they alternate jobs?

DB: They all had their own positions.

CW: Now I know what I wanted to ask you. You would go up there to the bakery after school and what would you do?

DB: Most of the time I just enjoyed watching my dad work.

CW: It is amazing you would be that quiet and just watch.

DB: They were busy and they didn’t have much time to spend with me. They had to get stuff ready to sell for the next day. Shortly after 5 or 6 o’clock they would close down. Then my dad would go home and sleep. He had to get up at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning.

CW: Would he get time off after he got stuff baked?

DB: No, he had long hours and he would come home and eat supper and then he would go to bed. He would sleep till early in the morning and then go back to the bakery.

CW: Your mother would have to have a big meal at night and another big meal the next morning.

DB: I really don’t remember. She would be working at the bakery too. She was a clerk too and I guess the gang woud fix their own breakfast.

CW: People used to do a lot more visiting out on the sidewalk downtown. Do you remember those things?

DB: I don’t remember for sure but I think they used to have benches outside of their stores.

CW: You mean on the sidewalks.

LB: I don’t remember that but it’s very possible that they did.

CW: I grew up in the city and it took me a while to get used to people that they hadn’t seen in a while talk for over a half hour or more. They kind of expect that. I would run out of things to say after a few minutes. I think it is just a real nice custom. People in a small town not only know each other, but they work together.

LB: It was always fun on a Saturday night to meet people and talk together.

DB: We had two theaters – the World Theater and the State Theater. The State Theater was over there where the Henry County Bank built their new bank. The World Theater was right beside the alley. The Bassett Store was on the corner and then the dry cleaner.

LB: Bassett’s was on the other side of the alley.

DB: The theater was on the other side. Most of us never went to the World Theater. They would have cowboy movies every Saturday. That is where you had to go if you wanted to see a cowboy movie.

CW: Russ Patterson said he remembers a lottery in the theater.

DB: My mother went on what they called Bank Night or something like that.

CW: I think that it was called Bank Night.

DB: She won a stove one night.

CW: Do you mean a cookstove or what.

DB: Oh yes. You didn’t know that Lucille, did you. We never won any money.

CW: Who did win the money – was it just certain people?

DB: You would have to register ahead of time. They would have a drawing at night.

CW: Did you have to register ahead of time, or when you walked in.

DB: You would register ahead of time or that night too.

CW: Did you have to buy a ticket?

DB: It was an admission ticket is what it was.

CW: If there wasn’t any formal entertainment going on that would have been interesting. Your childhood would have been different from most children because you were right there in the bakery. I wonder what most of the other children did for entertainment. Children would walk around outside.

LB: We made our rounds just walking around and talking. We were mostly on Perry Street. It probably depended a lot on what age we were as to what we did. We would walk across the street and go down one side and do it over again.

CW: Were you hoping to see anyone in particular or just see a whole bunch of people.

LB: Actually I don’t remember. We were just two or three girls looking around and walking.

CW: What did you wear in those days? No slacks!

LB: Oh no. I don’t think I owned a pair of slacks when I was younger.

CW: They would have been dresses. My mother even made me a coat.

LB: My mother did that too. I remember one coat was a hand me down from my cousin and she took it all apart. She made me a nice coat out of that. I remember it had a fur collar on it. I was really thrilled when I could finally get a store bought coat.

CW: The boys probably had store bought clothes.

DB: I did probably yes. We wore overalls – what they call jeans now a days.

CW: Didn’t most of the boys all wear bib overalls?

DB: The city guys never did. The country boys did. Not that we had anything against them. I guess the country boys were more comfortable wearing the bib overalls.

LB: They would work out on the farm you know.

CW: Did you have odd jobs that you would have to do when you got home from school?

DB: I mowed the lawn with a push mower. We had a reel mower, not the electric kind.

CW: That would develop your muscles.

DB: I hate to say this but I helped with the dishes once in a while too.

CW: Didn’t you have a newspaper job when you were a kid?

DB: Yes I delivered the Daily Newspaper.

CW: Did you use your bicycle?

DB: Yes. I was also a substitute Toledo Blade carrier. Somebody else had a regular route. When he went on vacation I would do the route for him.

CW: How did you know which houses to deliver the Blade to.

DB: He had a list for me. I would just follow that. You went on the route and you learned just by site I guess. You wouldn’t miss very many houses and if you did you heard about it.

CW: Well the bakery did they use a lot of milk?

DB: I don’t know if they used milk. They probably used cream.

CW: Yes, for the filled doughnuts they would use cream.

DB: I don’t recall them having a lot of milk. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to this.

CW: That reminds me of how milk used to come in those glass bottles. They would use a carrier and would set the carrier down.

DB: We would set the empty bottles out on the porch. I remember reading in one of the interviews how the milk would freeze and lift the lid right up. I can remember that.

CW: Cream would separate and rise to the top of the container and when the milk froze it would raise the milk right up out of the bottle.

DB: Ice would be delivered to the house also. We didn’t have a refrigerator for a long time. We had an ice box on our back porch.

CW: I don’t think they would have a switch in the ice box either. Could you give us a description of an ice box? Most of these young kids have never seen one.

DB: It was just a wooden cabinet with a separation on top where you would put your block of ice. The lower part you would keep your food in to keep it separated. There would be shelves in it. The whole cabinet would be kept cool with that block of ice. Where the ice was kept there was a metal lining. It was lined with tin.

CW: Wasn’t there a hose in the bottom that drained the water from the melting ice?

DB: There would have been a pan on the bottom to catch the melted water. Of course you would have to empty this pan.

CW: Just think how important that was back when they didn’t have air conditioning in their house in the summertime. I always marveled how they could cut that ice and keep it from melting just by using saw dust in the summer.

DB: There was an article about that in last months Reminiscence magazine. They used to cut ice right out of the river. They’d pack it with saw dust. You can kind of remember it yourself back then. I don’t remember them cutting the ice out of the river here but I am sure they did,

CW: I am sure they did too. Now the time that the river flooded do you remember that in your time?

DB: I can remember when the water came up and flooded Front Street. It got up in Goose Town.

CW: How did Goose Town get its name?

DB: That I don’t know.

CW: Maybe somebody raised geese down there at one time.

LB: I think that was in Moe’s interview where they were talking about Goose Town.

CW: People used to raise a lot of chickens in that area too.

DB: There were a lot of families that had chicken coops in their back yard. I know we used to raise a couple of chickens every year.

CW: Now early in the morning would the roosters crow?

DB: Oh yes. You would get used to it and didn’t pay much attention to it.

CW: I think chicken was a staple of life at that time. It was very important. I know my mother-in-law always cooked chicken on Sundays. They ate chicken at least once a week. She used a chopping block to cut the head off. She would put the head in there and just chop it off with a hatchet.

LB: I grew up with that but my dad did the chopping part of it.

CW: That was such good tasting chicken.

LB: Your mother always made chicken for Sunday dinner too.

CW: How did she cook it?

DB: She used a big black iron skillet and fried the chicken.. I still have the iron skillet.


Behnfeldt, Roger

Interviewed by Marlene Patterson, December 1, 2014

Code: RB: Roger Behnfeldt, MP: Marlene Patterson

MP:  Today is Monday December the first 2014, and I am interviewing Roger Behnfeldt of Wauseon, Ohio. He is a Henry County Freedom Township, Ohio native. Roger can you give me your father’s name.

RB:  My father’s name was Otto Behnfeldt.

MP:  Did he have a middle name?

RB:  Louis.

MP:  And where was your father born?

RB:  He was born here in Henry County.

MP:  Where were his parents born.

RB:   His father came from Germany.

MP:  Do you know what area.

RB:  He came from the Bremen area. A lot of people at that time came from the Bremen area.

MP:  That is where my ancestors came from also. Did he have brothers and sisters?

RB:  Yes, he had four brothers and three sisters.

MP:  Can you name them?

RB:  Yes, John was the oldest one. Next was Henry and then Carl and Otto.

MP:  I remember Carl Behnfeldt.

RB:  Then there was my Dad. The girls were Dorotha, Amelia, Anna, and Emma.

MP:  They all pretty much lived their entire life in Freedom Township, am I correct?

RB:  Yes.

MP:  Who was your mother?

RB:  My mother was Lorena Dehnbostel Behnfeldt.

MP:  Will you name her sisters and brothers?

RB:  Her sisters were Regina, and then of course Anette Dehnbostel Behrens.

MP: So, my neighbor Kenny Behrens would be a first cousin of yours?

RB:  Yes.

MP:  He is a nice guy. He lives right next door to me here. You should go visit him.  He would probably be surprised to see you.

RB:  Yes, he probably would be.

MP:  Let’s see we finished the Behrens.

RB:  Then we have Ernest Dehnbostel.

MP:  Do you know that Ernie, when he was 80 years old he was still roofing barns. Look how long you are going to have to live.

RB:  When Ernie was 98 years old he was still digging a trench out at his house at Northcrest.

MP:  That is wonderful. Can you name your sisters and brothers in chronological order.

RB:  Margaret is the oldest. She was killed in an automobile accident in 1947. Then we have Delores Behnfeldt Houser.

MP:  I know her.

RB:  Then we have Lucille Behnfeldt Gobrogge, and then Alice Behnfeldt Knepley, then there is myself, Roger. Then we have Janet Behnfeldt Cohrs. Then we have Lester Behnfeldt. Then we have Judith Behnfeldt Miller. Then we have Karen Behnfeldt Sonnenberg, then there is Wayne Behnfeldt. My youngest sister is Mary Jane Behnfeldt Gilliland.

MP:  Actually I knew your entire family. My sister Karen Gerken Maassel is the same age as your sister Karen. The two Karens grew up together in the same class. I grew up with your sister Lucille and we played together. I was married in 1954 and moved out of Gerald, so anybody born or moving into the Gerald area after 1954 I was not familiar with them. Lucille and I are still friends and when we see each other we do a lot of talking. I just love her. Where did your family attend church?

RB:  They  were members of St. John Lutheran Church here on Road U. I attended that church even after I was married. Then in 1965 we moved to Wauseon, Ohio and I attend church there.

MP:  How many children do you have?

RB:  I have two boys, Craig and David.

MP:  Where did you start school?

RB:  I started school at St. John Lutheran Parochial School just west of Gerald, Ohio.

MP:  Who was your first grade teacher?

RB:  Miss Schick.

MP:  She was my first grade teacher also. She served as their first grade teacher for many, many years. Did you have a favorite teacher or favorite teachers?

RB:  I think Miss Louise Schick and Mr. John Gefeke. There have been a lot of comments on him, some good and some bad. He was a teacher for my father. In those days that strict learning was probably okay. As things changed it was kind of tough on us kids. The learning experience was not what we thought it should be.

MP:  Mr. Gefeke was a strict disciplinarian. This type of teaching works with some children and some other children it is not good. I have heard of some of the horror stories from some of my friends. On one of my interviews a gentleman told how Mr. Gefeke would take his thumbnail and push it into his forehead like he was trying to drill the information into his head. At the same time he would be pushing his head backwards. You stop and think how many children were in his classroom –  probably around 20 in his class. Then he had two grades in the same room so he could have had 40 plus children in one room. He needed to control all these kids which would have been a tough job. On top of controlling he needed to teach these kids. The teaching alone would have been a big job. I have great respect for him and I always got along with him. He was strict and I learned from his teaching. Children are in school to learn and not be coddled. I liked Mr. Timm also, the middle grades teacher.

RB:  I liked Mr. Timm also. He was a good teacher and I would say he affected my wanting to learn more after I got out of school.

MP:  I doubt the congregations would have ever fired Mr. Gefeke. When your parents Otto and Lorena moved to Gerald, what year was that.

RB:  They moved to Gerald in 1947. My dad was a share cropper and the farm got sold out from under him. He would have liked the opportunity to buy the farm. We had moved a couple of times before that already. He had the chance to buy the grocery store in Gerald and he bought that.

MP:  Now this is the time period I got to know Lucille. Now did your father buy the grocery store from Harry and Laura Von Deylen?

RB:  No he bought the store from Bill and Olga Kruse.

MP:  That is right, they fit into the grocery store owners too. Now Bill Von Deylen tells about the softball team they had in Gerald. Do you remember the softball team? I have a picture of the softball team but none of them are identified.

RB:  I remember Gerald having a softball team, but they played ball just in Napoleon.

MP:  From what Bill Von Deylen told the softball field would have been behind Ferd Bindeman’s house. This would have been just outside of our back door. Bill told about the railroad workers coming down on the rails and how they would stop and eat their lunch. Bill said some of the workers even took time to stop and play ball with them on their break time. He also told how men would walk down the railroad tracks (perhaps we should forget this part) and be looking for the town of Naomi. They would stop in Gerald thinking they were in Naomi. Bill’s family always kept their side door locked to prevent these men from just walking in the door. My dad always said that Sheriff Bartels was responsible for chasing all this illegal activity out of the county. What year did your parents move to Gerald?

RB:  It was 1947. My dad worked at the grain elevator.

MP:  I remember that. When your parents owned the grocery store, did you have to help them?

RB:  Yes, I had to take the empty pop bottles out. I had to sort them and I had to take the trash out.

MP:  You probably had to do just sort of general duties that boys are required to do. It would have been a good learning experience for you.

RB:  I was pretty young at that time but I remember a lot of things I did around the store.

MP:  Do you have any special memories of Christmas you would like to share.

RB:  Growing up on a farm in those days there wasn’t much going on.

MP:  There wasn’t much going on for anybody at that time.

RB:  After we moved to Gerald my mother would hide the gifts at Christmas time.

MP:  I still don’t know where my folks hid the presents. I never did find them.

RB:  I know we had a big family and there were four to five bedrooms upstairs. We were fortunate in that area that we each had our own space.

MP:  Can you give me some memories of living in Gerald.

RB:  Yes I have many memories. I will start with, you know there were four of us boys. Now Larry Durham was a year older that I was. We had Richard Nagel and Ronald Drewes. Us four usually ran around together.

MP:  I remember that gang. I played with his sister Marian and her younger sister Betty.

RB:  Then we had Ronald Drewes. The four of us played together. We ran around together and probably should have had more adult supervision.

MP:  You mean somebody should have watched you guys better!

RB:  Probably. In those days parents left their kids play together and just be kids.

MP:  We always played outside almost all day long in the summer time. There wasn’t much danger around. There really were no strangers around.

RB:  You know, talking about strangers, I may have told you this before about Lucille getting robbed in the grocery store. One day we were outside the grocery store just messing around. This car pulls up and any stranger you recognize him and take notice of him. We didn’t think too much about it but the next day he came back again. I don’t think I was right there when it happened but he walked in the store and evidently he had been casing the store the day before. The cash register was sitting more to the back of the store. There was an open space in back of the store where they had things for sale like shoe polish and other things. My sister Lucille was behind the counter. He walked up behind her and pointed a knife at her and told her he wanted all her money. So Lucille just screamed and put her hands up in the air and she just ran out the door. So he put his hands in the register and pulled out the money and took off in his car. He must have been in a hurry because a couple of miles out in the country he lost control of his car and went into the ditch. That was very exciting for us. Another big thing was Bill Von Deylen’s wedding. You know that was a big event.

MP:  You know I went to Bill’s wedding. The thing I remember about these weddings is that when you had a wedding in your family you invited the people that lived close to you for miles around. The women in the neighborhood would gather together and fry up chickens the day before and put the chicken in these big washtubs. On one occasion the chicken spoiled and turned green. They of course would have to dump the chicken out and start frying some more. Of course every family it seemed like raised their own chickens and butchered them so that was not a problem.

MP:  There were wedding receptions held in that white brick building too. They cleaned out the buildings and gave the floors a good scrubbing. On another topic didn’t your family run the telephone company next door to your grocery store?

RB:  That was run by the Miller family and they moved out. I think Alvin’s wife
died. Alvin worked at the Gerald elevator. Freddie Damman moved in there next and he had three boys.

MP:  I don’t remember him.

RB:  Probably not. It was him and his wife and they had three boys. There was Tom, Jim, and Mike. After they left my dad decided we could run the switchboard, too.   Some of us moved into the upstairs at the house. So at that time the Behnfeldt family ran Gerald.

MP:  I think you did too.

RB:  Anyhow my mother did that. I give her a lot of credit.

MP:  People worked hard years ago, but I think they really ate better than we do today. You open up a can of vegetables today and it has so much salt in it plus the preservatives. Those chemicals aren’t good for a person. Did you answer and work the switchboard, too?

RB:  I don’t think I ever had to. One thing that happened was that Lydia Meyer Wesche was running the switchboard and she wanted to make a call to Italy. This would have been after WWII. She had to make all those connections. It was a simple thing to do. It was not like we do today with our just dialing numbers. Years ago your telephone number would be something like three long rings and one short ring.

RB:  Nowadays kids can’t understand that.

MP: You would have to know how many long rings and how many short rings you had. Then you were one a party line of maybe six to ten people and you could listen in on everybody else’s conversations. Are there any other memories you would like to share?  What have you written down for starters?

RB:  I would like to mention that every year there would be a John Deere day.

MP:  Oh yes. Now my dad kept those beer glasses. They were stored down in our basement in Gerald. They were in cardboard boxes with dividers between them to keep them from hitting together. I think maybe there were six or seven cases of these beer glasses. I don’t know why they were down in our basement, maybe for safety or maybe so they would always know where they were at. They would have gotten very dirty at the elevator.

RB:  What kind of glasses were they?

MP:  They were a clear glass tumbler in the shape of a beer barrel. I don’t think I have any around here or I could show you what they looked like.

RB:  Did they get these at the John Deere Days?

MP:  You didn’t get these to keep but when you had your glass of beer this is what they served the beer in. The elevator would use these big wood kegs of beer. The barrel had a spigot on the end and the beer would pour out from the spigot. I don’t remember if they had food, but they surely must have. I remember everybody went to the John Deere Day. Whether you were a farmer or not you showed up. Harry put on a big feed.

RB:  This guy would come there every year and he always told the same old jokes.

MP:  Was it Joe Seibold?

RB:   I knew him and it wasn’t Joe. I worked at the elevator for maybe a couple of years.

MP:  So did I. In fact I was the secretary. I graduated from high school and I didn’t get a choice or even go to college. They probably thought I wasn’t college material. In those days most girls took off and got married. At that time Mary Ann Delventhal was going to quit working and my dad said I had to go to work Monday morning and do her work. So I did. I worked there for a year. They had a program going on where you could earn points for days you worked. I just made it one year under that program and I got a kitchen stool. That I remember. Then I got married and I thought I wouldn’t have to work, but just keep house. At this same time the Napoleon Grain and Stock Co. lost their secretary, so Richard Gerken who was running that elevator called me and asked if I could go and work for them. They didn’t have anybody to do their bookkeeping, so I worked for maybe six months.

RB:  Richard Nagel and I would spend a lot of time together.

MP:  What all did you guys get into.

RB:   We developed a close relationship, and I spent a lot of time over there at their farm and he spent a lot of time at our place in Gerald. In fact he was my best man at my wedding. We would always go to the back of their woods. We built a log cabin in the back and put a flat roof on top of it. That was a lot of hard work building that.

MP:  See that back woods you are talking about, that was my Grampa’s farm. I too spent a lot of time back in that woods. I always pretended there were Indians around. You see there was kind of a little shed back in there and I thought maybe that was where some Indians had once lived. My bubble was busted when my dad told me that was a shelter for pigs when it rained. I used walk every day from Gerald to the farm carrying an aluminum bucket with a handle and get it filled up with milk. The milk was straight out of the cow. The milk was not pasteurized.  We all drank this milk and we never got sick. That is just the way people lived years ago. We survived.

RB:  We did the same thing. We went to my Uncle Otto Dehnbostel’s farm and would get milk. We broke a milk bottle one time.

MP:  Was it glass?

RB:  Yes. You can still buy aluminum milk cans.

MP:  Did you have to pump gas when you owned the grocery store?

RB:  Yes I did.

MP:  Did you have to pump it to get the gas up into the tank?  Do you have any pictures of the front of your grocery store that shows these gas pumps?

RB:  I have one picture of myself out in front of the store, but I don’t think the grocery store was in that picture. I’ll have to ask my sister Delores. She might have some pictures.

MP:  We were given a nice clear picture of the front of Ferd Bindeman’s grocery store in Gerald. I don’t think I can put my finger on it right now. It is very clear. Remember our house sat next to the empty lot that was beside the grocery store. There used to be a building on that lot. It was a two story building. I think the main bottom floor a man repaired cars on that main floor. When he went out of business he rented the upper floor for apartments. They would throw out of the upper window their garbage. It was potato peelings and things like that. The garbage landed on our driveway. My dad didn’t like that part. He bought the land and the building and tore it down.

RB:  Didn’t Mr. Bindeman sell groceries out of the back end of his store?

MP:  He sold groceries earlier but when I was growing up there was just the bar up front. Here is this picture of these young ladies all dressed up in the middle of the road in Gerald. I have most of these women identified now.

RB:  This building was that part of the grocery store?

MP:  No, that building is where Ed Bindeman sold his Massey Harris tractors.

RB:  Ed the son.

MP:  He might have used that building but my grandparents house was right
next door.

RB:  I think Ed used just part of that building.

MP:  This was probably in the 30s. Do you have that picture of the ladies in
downtown Gerald?

RB:  You see Carl Dehnbostel just died and he might have been able to recognize
some of those women.

MP:  Do you remember Anna Fitzenreiter. She was Florence Fitzenreiter Mitchell’s mother. She was so good at remembering people’s names. People that had been dead for years she could identify them. I can’t tell you how many times I would take pictures over to her and she knew them all. You don’t find people like that anymore. On that picture those boys in the background, one of those boys in the background may have been my dad. I don’t know. One thing we do know is that the boys are all dressed up with their suits on and just some of the women have corsages. All of the women have short sleeved summer dresses on and they are wearing black shoes. All the confirmation pictures I have seen, the women wear white shoes and they all have a big corsage. I am guessing this might have been taken on Mothers Day in May. Someone suggested I go through St. John’s church book and get their birth dates and work from there.

RB:  Here is the picture of Ed’s shop. He worked on machinery in the front. I don’t think he had a lot of business at that time.

MP:  I think John Deere was big at that time, too.

RB:  Ed lived right next to you there in Gerald. They had one of the first televisions in Gerald. We used to go over there and watch television.

end of tape

Backhaus, Charles

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, 10-30-2007

CW: Would you tell us your name.

CB: My name is Charles Backhaus. There was a water pump in the middle of Ridgeville Corners. Its pipes used to be made of cyprus wood.

CW: Is that right! The pipes from the pump?

CB: Yes, the downpipes they were cyprus. You see cyprus doesn’t rot in water.

CW: I see.

CB: It was square and beveled at each end. They had one of them at the chicken pie deal a few years back that was the pipe that went down in the well casing. It was about twenty feet long and I thought well where in the world who got that. They put in a metal one later and took that out and somebody saved it.

CW: Oh for heavens sake, you never know.

CB: I looked at that and it was square, I think it was about a four inch square and about a three inch hole drilled, and I thought how can you get that drilled straight all the way through. for about twenty feet. That had to be somebody that knew what he was doing.

CW: I would think so.

CB: My mother used to say, she graduated from high school and I did too. She used to teach up there, but when she graduated they had their graduation exercise up town and they had a team of horses that pulled a piano up there or something and the horses ran off and they straddled that pump.

CW: For heaven’s sake.

CB: And that was the year that they decided or they said we were going to have the Haleys comet.

CW: Oh yes, I remember that.

CB: And when the horses straddled that and made a racket somebody said here comes Haley’s comet. That story I heard from her. Another thing that we have here and is a tradition of around 100 years or more is a chicken pie deal which was started by the Civil War veterans.

CW: Is that right.

CB: My grandfather, my mother’s dad was a Civil War veteran. He was wounded in the Civil war in the Kennesaw Mountains.

CW: Oh my.

CB: They started that.

CW: Did he recover from his wounds?

CB: Yes

CW: That is unusual because a lot of them died.

CB: He got gangrene in it and blood poisoning and he was under hospitalization for a while. He recovered, but it left him with a little problem. In his later years he got a little pension. He lived to be a little past 87 years old.

CW: That was a long time in those days.

CB: He died in 1931.

CW: Before you get into this story would you state your name.

CB: Charles Backhaus

CW: You said you were born in Defiance County.

CB: Yes, I was born in Defiance County in 1921 and when I was a year old we moved to Ridgeville township. I grew up partly, I was four years old just north of Ridgeville on the 20A road. It was on Bill Otte’s place. It has been a Hurst place since then. That is where I was until we moved in 1924 when Bill Otte’s daughter was going to get married and she wanted to live there. We moved on the ridge three and a half miles north east in Freedom Township. That was across the township line a mile. That is where I grew up for fifteen years. After I got out of high school, that year in 1939 my folks bought a place in Indiana, and we had to move. My folks bought a place just across the line two miles across the Indiana and Ohio border in Van Wert. I lived there fifty four years. My mother died in 1974 and my broher died in 1993. That left me alone there. We sold it to a neighbor, I and my sister and I came back here because most of my relatives were here. I got a lot of relatives around here. That is what I did and I have been here ever since.

CW: You have relatives, but your name does not seem to be a common one.

CB: There are not too many by our name. Our father was raised just along the Defiance and Henry County line in Defiance County. We are the only Backhaus. He had two uncles. His dad had two brothers and they came from Germany. They settled over in that area. There was Chris Backhaus, he never married, and then there was Fred Backhaus who had three daughters and a son and my Grandpa Backhaus had three sons and a daughter. Fred Backhaus lived on 66 and Chris lived in back on the farm where he grew up. There are no other Backhaus’s. We are related to the Nagel’s.

CW: That is a common name.

CB: I am shirt tail relation to about all of them. My Grandmother Backhaus was a Nagel. She is the only one that did not come from Germany. The others all came from Germany.

CW: Yes, a lot of people came from Germany.

CB: My Mom’s mother was a Jost. I got relatives around Sherwood. There are a lot of Josts over there. In fact my Dad’s sister married a Jost.

CW: Rumor has it that often in Germany the second son or younger than the oldest ended up with very little property. So those were the ones who came to the United States. Is that what your family did?

CB: That was kind of common amongst the Germans. The oldest one got the property. The daughters didn’t get much.

CW: Oh yes, they wouldn’t.

CB: They were supposed to marry somebody that got it. The Schroeders, that is what happened there. It was not the oldest. My grandpa had several brothers. He had one in Alaska, at Juneau and then he had Robert Schroeder, who lived in this town and Otto Schroeder who lived in this town. His place was just west of St. John Lutheran Church. The one that got the farm he was the youngest. He was the only one born in this country. He got the farm. There was one sister she went to Nebraska. That was the reason they kind of spread out like that. I don t think she got very much.

CW: She had to find her own way.

CB: She left and the one went to Alaska. You know they had the gold rush on and he went speculating. He had a son and I have seen him. He came to our place. They would come out here once in a while from Alaska. I remember him when I was a little kid.

CW: That is interesting. Then they were some of the first settlers here.

CB: My grandfather was only a few years old when they came across. My Grandpa Backhaus was left in Toledo with some relatives. They didn’t have much money. They left him at a relative in Toledo and that is where he partly grew up.

CW: This was quite common in those days. When they didn’t have enough money to feed a child they would send them to a relative to let them raise him.

CB: They settled on one hundred and sixty acres. Eighty acres was the one place and Fred Backhaus had the other eighty acres. They settled over here in Defiance county.

CW: And that was your grandfather?

CB: Yes, Henry Backhaus. I know those children of Fred Backhaus. Well Reverend Mix is a descendant of them.

CW: Is that right. I didn t know that.

CB: His grandmother was a first cousin of my dad. She was a daughter of Fred Backhaus.

CW: He and his wife go to our church.

CB: His mother would have been a second cousin to me.

CW: Now I interrupted you. Can you tell about that chicken pot pie?

CB: This would be interesting. It was the Civil War veterans that started that. It was to pay for their Decoration Day program. That is another tradition that has gone on for over one hundred years. We always had a program. Then when the Civil War veterans give it up then the American Legion had it for a number of years. It would be the children of the veterans that would put on the program. The school teachers here would be asked to give the program. When I was a kid we had it in the Giffey Hall all the time. All of our school doings were in the Giffey Hall. We didn’t have the gymnasium auditorium. That is where the chicken pie deal was held.

CW: What sort of entertainment was it?

CB: We had a regular Decoration Day program. We had some skits and marches. I know once I had to give the poem “In Flanders Field”, and things like that. We had flag drills. Then we would have a speaker. I know Frank Kniffen was a speaker once. They would get some prominent fellow and he would be the speaker. Then the young children would gather up flowers and they would go to the cemetery and put them on the veterans graves. They would have a session out there in the cemetery too. The little kids would put flowers on their graves and little flags.

CW: Do they still have those chicken pot pie dinners?

CB: Yes, Now when the Legion had it they got money from the State to have that program. They didn’t use to get any money for the decorations. Then they gave it up and our school had it, and we did the work. We had to solicit out in the neighborhoods. I had to solicit and you had to have about 75 cakes and over 100 bowls of fruit salad, and about 100 bowls of potato salad, and the baked beans. All we served was the chicken pot pies. My mother baked some of them. Different women in the schools would bake those chicken pot pies. The baked beans, potato salad, and the fruit salad, that was on the table. You helped yourself. All we served was the chicken pie and the coffee. I had to help do that when I was in high school. You had all you wanted to eat for fifty cents.

CW: Is that right! Boy, that was a bargain.

CB: We had a big crowd. When we had it in the school and we even had people from Napoleon. We would feed a thousand people.

CW: What a community can do! little old Ridgeville.

CB: If there were any cakes left that were not used they auctioned them off when the meal was over. When the school had it we had a little program then too. That was one thing when they auctioned the cakes off. The school had it because they would rent the hall for the basketball games and for activities. We would use the stage for plays and so forth, and that paid for that.

CW: Did they play basketball in the Giffey Hall?

CB: Yes, that is where the games were held.

CW: Was that upstairs or down in the basement?

CB: No, it was upstairs.

CW: It is hard to imagine that now.

CB: Well, it is a big hall. That was to help pay for the athletic association. After we got the new school, then the Legion took it over again and it was just a regular addition. You don’t get the meal for fifty cents.

CW: You don’t?

CB: We would have a pretty good meal for fifty cents. If you wanted a second piece of chicken pie you would get it.

CW: For fifty cents, oh wow! The meal price is much more now.

CB: And you could help yourself to all the other stuff. Now yet it is at the Legion Hall and some of the things they set on the tables like the fruit salads and the cake. That is on the table and you can help yourself to that. For the other foods you go around to the serving table.

CW: You grew up just over the line in Defiance County.

CB: No, I didn’t grow up in Defiance County. I was only a year old when we moved away from Defiance County. I grew up here in Freedom township. The two schools in Freedom township were connected with the Ridgeville township school.

CW: What was it like here when you were a child?

CB: I remember the Ridge road was a dirt road in 1924. It has quick sand someplace and in the spring of the year and I saw the mailman in his Model T car, sometimes he was going along the fence. We had places in the road where you didn’t get through, you would get stuck with an automobile. The next year they graveled the road. That didn’t hold. A few years later they hauled stone and then we didn’t have that trouble.

CW: Now, John Henry said that when he was young each farmer had to take care of the road that was in front of his farm.

CB: Well, like shoveling snow and yes, we did that too, even when I was in high school. They didn’t have the trucks to plow out the snow, and sometimes it was more than you could handle on that Ridge road. Another thing that I remember in the middle of town in the summer months on Thursday nights we would have a band concert. The town was parked full of cars and there was a hexagon shaped building in the middle of the town right where that crossing light is. Right in the middle of that street. That was set there permanently.

CW: What was that originally?

CB: It was a building that was in a hexagon shape and it had a stairs up to it where the band fellas sat playing in the band.

CW: Like they have at the fairgrounds?

CB: Yes, and that sat there.

CW: That would have been in the middle of Route 6?

CB: Yes, and then later when traffic got heavier they were asked to move that off of there. Then they would bring a wagon, which was parked in back of the bank, when it was not used. They would sit on that and pull that in the middle of the street. After the band concert was over with they would take it off and park it. It would be all parked full.

CW: Every Thursday night. Is that right!

CB: Women would buy groceries and listen to the band. Walter Beery was one of the leaders one time on there. It was all local people that played in that band. After that quit and later when I was in high school, you would have free picture shows. Just across Route 6 in between them buildings, like Ottes store and the furniture store on that street.

CW: Where did they show them on the street?

CB: Yes, on the street.

CW: Did they have a portable screen on the street.

CB: Yes.

CW: Is that right!

CB: Of course they had benches and chairs. That would be on Saturday night.

CW: Was it free probably?

CB: It was mostly kids watching though. The shows were pretty good then, better than what you see now. In fact, a lot of the shows on there at first you did not hear anything, you just saw the picture. One of them was one I saw in Wauseon. My mother taught school for three years in Ridgeville and she had the upper grades. I remember the old brick school house. In 1926 they had a referendum to build a new school. I remember at that school we had a picnic and that was was before they started building a new school. That school that they build then in 1927 and they got to use it in 1928. That has been added on to since. The part of the school that they built in 1928 is still there.

CW: That was originally two buildings. Is it still two buildings?

CB: It is one building but the old building was a brick school house too. They added two rooms to it. When they built the one in 1928, the old one was tore down. It was not quite as close to the road as this one is now. They planted the trees on Arbor Day in 1890. Some of those trees are in front of the school that are still standing there that were planted in 1890. They were gotten out of somebody’s woods as little trees.

CW: I know that is what they used to do. Charlie Winzeler brought in some trees from his woods and put them in our yard.

CB: So those trees are old already. They are big trees and they are still there. I’ve got this is about the schools. The first schools were called subscription schools. That was around 1830. When they first established this town in 1837. They called it the, some woman by the name of Mrs. Tubbs or Tubba T u b b a. She thought they aught to have a school. They hired a teacher in 1840. They built the school here in the center of the township. They taught in terms. They had two terms. W. W. Lewis was his name. He taught the second term, first and second term. They paid him twenty-five dollars.

CW: For the whole term?

CB: Yes, In 1842 they had two teachers. There were fifteen boys and thirteen girls in the township. By 1857 there were 100.

CW: A lot of people had come in.

CB: From 1842 to 1857 it went to 100.

CW: That is when people were coming in on the canal.

CB: In 1867 a grain building was built with two rooms. In 1890 that new brick school was built. It had classes and it was a high school and gave it a second grade. I don’t know if they went more than two years or what. They had 16 high school students. In 1902 there were two rooms added to it. In 1903 it was made a third grade charter school. That gave it three years. They had three years of high school. My mother graduated in 1910. She went three years of high school and graduated in three years. They did not have a sophomore class then. In 1923 it was made a four year charter school and then they had four years of high school and that is the first time they had a sophomore class. It was in 1926 when they had that bond issue and the next year in 1927 they started that new school and tore the other one down.

CW: That was before the Depression.

CB: Yes

CW: How about the Prohibition.

CB: Prohibition, yes, the same way they ended Prohibition. But in 1920 was the year that the women voted.

CW: Oh yes.

CB: That was quite a thing. When I was going to school I knew who lived in every house and every business. This street, this was a corn field. In them 54 years this has changed so that I don’t know half the people in the town. There are names I never heard of before. I knew everybody when I was going to school.

CW: Did you have any trouble walking to school, could you stop at the nearest house?

CB: Yes, You knew who lived there. Some of them might be your relation. Thats how, we had two churches then, two Lutheran Churches and the Congregational Church. Before that they used to have a Methodist Church beside the Giffey Hall. Then later it was used by the Neuhouser Hatchery. It was disbanded and then later the Legion bought it and made a Legion Hall out of it. Now there is a store in there. There was a grocery store for a while and now somebody else has a store where they sell clothing and stuff. That used to be the Methodist Church. There was some other denominations that were here only a short time. The Congregational Church was still going when I went to high school. In the late 50’s I think they went to Archbold, the United Church of Christ and closed the church. Wayne Eicher’s widow has possession of that church. She used to be a Motter. She was an adopted child. She’s got antiques and things like that in the church. I told somebody it is one of the oldest buildings here. It ought to be made into a museum and fixed up. I wish that somebody would do that. Otherwise it just goes downhill. She has put a new roof on it, and they have done some repairs. If you don’t have heat in things go bad. That was the last one that has been abandoned. Part of that Locust Grove Celmetary is where the church is. Some of that was the cemetery with the church.

CW: Is that right downtown?

CB: You take this Road X and it goes right in front of it.

CW: So it was on the Ridge Road.

CB: Yes, and the township looks after the Locust Grove and not St. Peters Lutheran Church which is on the side of it connecting it. There is a sign that says St. Peters Lutheran Cemetary. St. Peters Lutheran Church and Zion Lutheran Church, were started in 1904.

CW: That’s old too.

CB: Yes. Both of us celebrated our hundredth anniversary in 2004.

CW: What do you remember about Ridgeville when you were a little kid.

CB: I remember some of the things that aren’t there anymore. There was a blacksmith shop and a relative of mine operated it when I was a little kid.

CW: Did you stop in at the blacksmith shop sometimes?

CB: Oh yes, my dad went in there sometimes. It was on 20A right where the telephone office is now. There was a fox farm, Neuhousers Fox Farm just behind that.

CW: What was the fox farm?

CB: They sold fox furs. They had over 100 foxes.

CW: Did they raise foxes?

CB: Yes. They would dress those fox when they got so far. They were gray fox. Flickinger was the one that run that. I think they had about one hundred and forty some coops for foxes.

CW: Was it one fox to a coop?

CB: One or two, I am not sure. What they fed them was like old horses that couldn’t be used anymore, that’s what Flickinger fed them. Then on the west side of the bank was a meat market. Victor Ruffer I remember him having it and later Benien had it, and I was in that different times when I was a kid.

CW: Would your mom send you to get some meat or something?

CB: Well, I would be with my dad. He would go in there and Ruffer lived on 20A and he moved his house to Archbold. I know that house in Archbold looks just like it did when it was in Ridgeville. It’s just on 6 on the south end of Archbold. They haven’t done much to it. They may have changed something a little bit, but it looks the same.

CW: Do you mean 66?

CB: Yes 66. Then Ralph Henry had a gas station just at that corner of 20A and 6. He run a Studebaker automobile and sold Studebaker automobiles across the street, aside of Otte’s Mill, which was across the street along 6. Otte’s, made flour and that sort of thing. You could buy Otte’s flour in grocery stores. Then that bank was along there by that meat market and when you went around to the Ridge road at Huner’s Grocery. and then there was Benecke’s Hardware, before that it was a clothing store, and Ernie Dehnbostel worked in there. Dehnbostel’s Clothing Store.

CW: It used to be a thriving little town.

CB: Oh, yeah. There was Bargman’s Grocery and Ice Cream Parlor. Then the next was that house that’s still there. It used to be the telephone office. One room was just for the telephone office and the rest of the house or whoever run that. Harmon Hesterman was in there for quite a while. Across the street from Bargman’s was the gas station. That was there for quite a while and that building is still there.

CW: What did you do for entertainment when you were a little kid?

CB: Well, you went to the neighbors. The next door neighbors would come over sometimes, it was the Von Deylon kids, and some of them are our age. We would do different things, maybe play ball and things like that. You did your own entertainment.

CW: Yes you did. I remember my sister and I would get to fighting and my mother would say, Oh go outside and play. We would go outside and we would have nothing to play with. We would stand there and say what are we going to do. Pretty soon one of us would be knocking on the door of a friend and say “Can you come out to play?” She would come out to play and we would scratch up something to do.

CB: We had a couple of tricycles I know. We had a little wagon. We had a little rat terrior dog. It was kind of a house dog and it would come in the kitchen and go in back of the cookstove.

CW: It was nice and warm back there.

CB: We would haul him around in the wagon and he would stay in the wagon and we would cover him up. We did that. That is some of the things that we did. Of course sometimes we would have little kittens to play with. In the spring of the year we would go up in the haymow and see if there were any little kittens up there.

CW: They took care of the rats in the barn. Were there barns in town at that time?

CB: Lots of people had a cow and a horse. I know Robert Schroeder they just lived down here where that house is empty now, Bruce Arps lived there. They got it for sale. They used to have a horse and a cow. My Grampa Schroeder where he lived, they had a brick barn. They used to have a horse. There were some others that did.

CW: Before they had cars, that was their means of transportation.

CB: Well, my Grandpa didn’t have a car and Robert Schroeder didn’t have a car. That is how we got around. Then there was Ferd Behnfeldt that had a gas station just beyond the High Speed Station. He just had a gas station. At High Speed you could get a car fixed. and things like that.

CW: We had to have tires fixed a lot.

CB: Yes, they didn’t last as long as they do now. Then across the street was the Gulf Station, and down that way on Road 20A there was in back of the Gulf Station the Cider Mill. I remember that. It’s been gone a long time ago.

CW: Did you go down there and buy some cider?

CB: Oh yeah, I think my folks got cider that. At that time you got cider made in wooden barrels and that was your vinegar. We still had vinegar barrels down in the basement at the Miller place. That is where you had it made. You’d have cider and it would ferment and you’d have vinegar. Then on beyond that a ways was a livestock place. They would bring in livestock to sell.

CW: Did they have big barns?

CB: Well they had sheds. At those livestock yards I remember when I was just a little shaver and a circus was there. They took me to the circus here.

CW: In town?

CB: In town. The only time I ever knew there was a circus I know they held me up. I must have been two or three years old.

CW: Was there a tent?

CB: Oh yes, they had a tent. I remember there was an elephant. I remember some of that. Just a regular circus. I don’t know if they ever had a circus after that. What circus it was I don’t know that either. I wasn’t old enough to know what it was. Anyhow that was the first circus I ever saw.

CW: It was a big event in your life.

CB: Yes, it was a big event for Ridgeville Corners. That was all the businesses on that street. Then when you went across 6 where the Road X goes across 6 well, on the east side of the street you had the furniture store, and the undertaker. At that time, it was before my time it was Rowe in that furniture store. I remember when Albert Wesche was in there.

CW: Is that the same one that had Wesche’s in Napoleon?

CB: Yes. Then later on it was Robert Walter. Then you had a bakery, a meat market, and Kinders Bakery, and they even had trucks on the road, a truck on the road to sell bread. Years ago, when I was growing up why we had a bread truck that come around. Lots of them had huckster wagons too. They had a bread truck where you could get bread and rolls and baked stuff. Then there was, I remember when Behnfeldt’s had a hardware store. Clear to the end that was a hardware store. Later it became a, I don’t know there was something else in there when I lived in Indiana. Then Cameron had a grocery store. At one time there were three grocery stores in Ridgeville, no four. Now there aren’t any. You had Camerons, now when you went clear down to the end of the street there was a brick and tile yard. Gilffeys had a brick and tile yard. And later there was a sawmill. Fred Youngman had a sawmill down there and later somebody else had it in later years when I wasn’t here.

CW: Were you old enough to remember the Depression?

CB: Yes

CW: How did that hit Ridgeville?

CB: That effected Ridgeville. We lost the bank. It hurt the business people. Naturally it would hurt the business people. We did our banking there at Ridgeville.

CW: You probably don’t know if your dad lost any money.

CB: He didn’t have that much money. We had a checking account and us kids had, well you know we would get gifts from our grandparents and so forth we had a little savings account. We got most of it back eventually, but it took a while. That’s the way it was with those that had an account in there. You couldn’t get it right away. You couldn’t get any money at first. Eventually I think they paid a percent back.

CW: That was pretty good.

CB: Yes, If someone had more money in there why they lost more. Like Otte’s and those that had stock in the bank they lost money. They didn’t know they would lose their stock and pay out double. They paid out double. That’s what hurt them. I don’t know how much it was.

CW: Did it hurt those that had small amounts of money too?

CB: You would go in and get a little bit. The stockholders they had to pay out their stock. They didn’t get that back. I think the Otte’s they had quite a bit in there. Frank Knapp was the one who was the head of the bank. Frieda Bruns was the cashier in there when that went under. They said Fred Otte, Ed Otte was his name why it hurt him quite bad. He was kind of hard up for a while.

CW: Really that’s the way it should be because there were people who were suffering in the Depression. They really needed their money.

CB: That’s right. Well, I realy don’t think they needed to close the bank. They got scared and they thought they were going to lose their money and they were going to save their money, them stockholders and the rest of us why they were trying to save their and the rest of us could squeel. And it didn’t turn out that way. If they had kept the thing open. Archbold didn’t close their bank and one that worked in Archbold said that they wouldn’t have needed to close their bank. It was the way the laws were they thought they had to. If they would have just stuck it out.

CW: Now like Holgate stuck it out. They refused to consolidate.

CB: Yes Ohio City did the same thing. That is another thing, we don’t get brave enough I guess. I don’t think we needed to close the school here either.

CW: No, you probably didn’t really.

CB: No, There was somebody that wanted to go to Archbold school. What they should have done is just pay their tuition and sent her over there. The last year it was in operation they had 39 graduates.

CW: Yes, it was a good school. I did practice teaching there. The kids were well behaved.

CB: When I got to Indiana the schoolwasn’t near the school we had. They weren’t as well behaved. They would steal. You just had to keep everything-my brother came home from school at noon because somebody had stole his lunch. I don’t know how often.

CW: Oh my! Now this was not here though.

CB: No, that was in Indiana. Then on Road X across the 6 on the other side you had Otte’s Grocery Store and post office. The post office has been in there for many years and it still is. They have cut off the grocery and it is all post office in the front. In the back they put up a wall, and upstairs there was a doctors office. I remember Dr. Delventhal when he was up there.

CW: Oh he used to be here?

CB: Yes. Then we had Fry, and then we had Riekoff, and Riekoff was a name from Napoleon. His office was up there, and he lived here in town. He built a house over by the school house. Then on down Ed Rohrs, when I was a kid had a tavern and you could get ice cream and sodas in there too. Kind of a half way drug store. He didn’t have all that but you could get soda pops and it was also a tavern. After the prohibition was over.

CW: Did you have any bootleggers in town?

CB: Oh yes! Then later Nissens and Jack still lives here in town. His folks had it and they lived upstairs. Then you had a shoe cobbler shop. You had a barber shop. Carl Detter was the barber for over fifty years here. Then when you got to the end of the street where there is a street and on the corner there was a vault shop where Behrman’s vault was. That has been here a long time too.

CW: Did they make vaults?

CB: Yes.

CW: A vault shop?

CB: Well it’s not a very big shop. It’s been there a very long time. They even, I understand delivered a vault for Dillinger when he got shot. That was in the 30’s. He was buried over by Indianapolis. They delivered the vault for that grave. There were not too many vault makers. They went all over, Behrman’s did with them vaults. Now there are more of them. At that time there were a very few of them.

CW: So those vaults were the ones they used in banks like a safe?

CB: Oh no. The vaults they use for the graves. They put them over the caskets.

CW: Oh yes.

CB: In 1919 the bank was robbed. In March of 1919 the bank was robbed here. I got some of that stuff out of this book. I remember Behrnan’s Vault and old Giffey was the shoe cobbler here in town for a long time. He owned some of them buildings and he owned the barber shop building. I understand that Detter rented it from him. The barber shop, you wouldn’t believe what the rent he got for it. During the depression you couldn’t afford it. You would get a hair cut for about fifty cents. Now it is five dollars and ten dollars.

CW: That would make you want to cut your own.

CB: So I was just telling how many businesses there were in town in 1896. You had Fauver’s Hotel, Redman and Baily blacksmith, Redman and Segrist Grocery, Chapman and Rowland’s, F. A. Rowe Undertaker and Furniture Store, Mrs. Reynolds Hotel and Livery Stable, Rolland’s Shoe Repair Shop, 2 barber shops, Tile & Brickyard, They made tile. Fauver’s Restaurant, Stave Factory, Tressler Bicycle Shop, Rand & Beckman Carriage, Farm Machinery Store, one saloon. There were two Lutheran churches and the Methodists and the Congregationist church, and then you had the telephone exchange in 1905.

CW: That telephone company is a good one to be invested in now.

CB: Well when I was growing up you had the old system, you had so many on the line. You kept your line like maybe you would have as many as nine on a line. Well sometimes they did visiting on that line too you know, and you couldn’t get on there and each one had different rings. Ours was three short. You could have a long and a short ring and so forth. You kept up your line, the people on that line.

CW: What do you mean by that?

CB: Well there were repairs to the telephone poles and wires. You were responsible for that.

CW: Was that just from the main wires into your house?

CB: No, the whole line. Everybody on that line why they were involved in taking care of and to keep up their line. That is the way it was operated then.

CW: We had a central.

CB: The central was here and if you wanted to call somebody else on a different line you would have to go through central.

CW: The central always knew where everybody was.

CB: Yes and if there was something, or if somebody wanted to make an announcement, why the central would call them on the lines and like if threshing. You would have threshing rings and if they were ready to thresh, you would call central and tell them that such and such a threshing ring was going to start to thresh.

CW: Then she would call all those people in the ring.

CB: Yes. Or if something else took place that the people need to know you would call central. When there was a fire you went through central and they would ring a siren and if you wanted to know where the fire was the central office would know.

CW: Now would she find the doctor for you if you were sick?

CB: Oh, I suspect. anything If you needed help why so that’s the way that was. We had a system.

CW: Now what do you remember of your experiences of going to school here?

CB: I went the first eight grades to a country school.

CW: Did you have to walk there?

CB: Yes. We didn’t have buses then. I only had a half of a mile. I went to that little school on the corner, on the ridge in Freedom township. That school house is a house now, moved up to the King place. Where that school house used to sit is that derek for the high tension wire. That is where that school house sat.

CW: Did they tear it down then?

CB: No, it isn’t brick anymore. They took the brick off sided it up. It’s the other way, next to that next farm building. The one down that road in on the corner of the Liberty Center road and that was a brick school house too and that is a house too.

CW: It is really interesting to see what happened to all these school houses. They had them every two square miles.

CB: They had them every two miles.

CW: People who bought them fixed them up and changed the outside and you would never recognize them.

CB: I kind of think we should keep some of them for histories sake. Same way with these hip roof barns They are tearing them down.

CW: Or letting them fall down.

CB: They should keep them up.

CW: It used to be a farmer’s barn was his pride and joy. The house kind of came in second. Well they don’t need the barns any more.

CB: They were not made to park this machinery in. You can’t get them things in. They don’t have any livestock nowadays. You pay insurance if you keep them up and you pay taxes on them and you tear them down if you don’t want to pay any tax on them.

CW: That is why they build these sheds instead so they can accomodate those big machines.

CB: That’s right. They just won’t go in there.

CW: What did you do when you were in high school then?

CB: When I started to high school they started the buses. We only had one bus. Lindhorst owned the bus. I was on the first bus. He had to make two trips. If you lived two and a half miles from school you got hauled. If it was less than that you walked. I was on the first bus and in the winter time it wouldn’t be daylight when I got on the bus. Going home in the afternoon we got out about fifteen minutes ahead of the rest. He hauled us home first. I wasn’t the first one on the bus but I was one of the early ones. He went over here in Freedom township and I was the last one of Freedom township to get on the bus and then we were in Ridgeville township. Some of them over towards Archbold. Then he went and got the rest of them on the other end of the township.

CW: You were probably happy to have a bus to ride in.

CB: Oh yes. Of course sometimes I rode with the milk man ear. We were the ones on his route that got milk. I didn’t like to ride them dusty roads very well. I would sometimes go with him and ride nearly to Ridgeville on that milk wagon. And then I would walk the rest of the way.

CW: The milk wagon, now was that with horses?

CB: No, it was a Model A Ford truck. Our milk went to theWauseon condensery.

CW: Did they have a Pet factory there?

CB: Yes, they used to.

CW: Carnation maybe?

CB: I know it was a condensery and I don’t know just where it was. On the east end of town there.

CW: Did they have a play every year at your high school?

CB: Yes, we had a Junior class play and Senior class play and then it was after I was in high school we had music. We had a music teacher, and we had an operetta. I was in about all the plays. I was in the operetta. When I started high school they also had typing and secretarial.

CW: Back in those days we used lots of typists. We didn’t have computers.

CB: Typing and shorthand they added that to the school. Home economics also.

CW: Did they have shop for the boys?

CB: Yes, and shop that too.

CW: Probably no boys ever took home ec.

CB: Not when I was there. I guess some of them do now.

CW: They say the home ec course is the most popular one in high school now. Some of the boys take it and they call it bachelor’s survival.

CB: Well in the Four County School they teach the boys because some of them want to be chefs.

CW: Oh yes.

CB: I know there was one at the Filling Home in that course. He wanted to be a chef.

CW: Probably pretty good pay.

CB: Oh yes. They are pretty good cooks them chefs. They got all kinds of new ideas.

CW: Yes

CB: Of course I might as well be a chef I do my own cooking too.

CW: It is a lot easier now than what it used to be.

CB: I do my own baking. I am diabetic. I don’t eat in the restaurants very much because you don’t get what you need. All that sugar free stuff. If I bake pies I use sugar free for myself. I got to bake a couple of pies for the Filling Fling. I have my own fruit, sugar free. I am on medication and I kind of watch what I eat. I have been keeping it under control ever since ‘75.

CW: That is good.

CB: My sister, she is in the nursing home. She couldn’t control it with pills. She had that problem with up and down stuff. Sometimes her sugar count got down to fifteen. Next would be in a coma. Now she is in the Alzheimer’s department.

CW: That is so sad. Every community has some characters that draw peoples’ attention.

CB: Mr. Giffey, he lived in a cement block house and he had the shoe cobbler stuff. He was real conservative, kind of stingy like. He wouldn’t bring any fuel in there and some of the old fellas would loaf in there on the weekday mornings. They would come in and one would bring some coal, one would bring in a couple chunks of wood just to keep warm. It was our landlord and he would go up there and he was the one that told them they would have to bring their own fuel. That was one story. Every town has a or every community has some particular character that is different from everybody else. We had someone here too in this town. She lived in this town she had a husband he had died several years ago. She had two sons. and one of them I know worked in Otte’s Mill.

CW: Was that here in Ridgeville?

CB: Yes, it used to be a feed mill and they made flour and some other things. Cornmeal too I think. Anyhow it is noted for Otte’s flour. Anyhow she was kind of a woman that had some peculiar ideas. She didn’t miss a sale and she wasn’t a very good housekeeper. She used corn cobs from the mill that she’d get and that was her fuel. She had her house kind of a mess. She stored corn cobs, and of course you know what that can bring. Mice! And sometimes the neighbors cleaned up around there. Her porch was always full. She didn’t miss a doings or anything going on. She didn’t miss a sale.

CW: What did she sell?

CB: Sell anything! Why she would buy things. She would buy something that she had no use for. At that time years ago they would have a cow and some chickens even in this town, and maybe a horse. Some people traveled by buggy. There was a sale she would buy a cow halter or a horse halter. She didn’t need that. It would sell for a dime or something and she would pick it up. She had some chickens too. My mother seen her do this. She would take the eggs to one store and then go and buy her groceries at the other store.

CW: That wouldn’t go down very well.

CB: These grocery stores, two of them I know would buy cream and eggs. They would trade eggs for groceries. They bought their groceries with their egg money. That is one trick my mother seen her do. We had another character here in town that he drank too much. He’d get kind of loaded sometimes. I don’t know of him ever hurting anybody, but he and his wife would get into a spat every once in a while. He died a long time ago. I remember him one day going by our place, and she was walking and he evidently had too much to drink and she wouldn’t ride with him. He followed her up I think clear to Ridgeville and he kept telling her to get into the car and she wouldn’t do it. So that was a couple of the characters we had here. There wasn’t anybody else that drawed attention like those two. I remember the lady that went to our school functions and the chicken pies deals and the cakes. We would have about seventy-five cakes and all the fruit salad or more. We’d have potato salad and baked beans. Well, at the end when the supper was over if there were any old cakes left they would auction them off. Well, she’d be there in the auction and if she was wanting to bid on something, she would pinch on them a little bit.

CW: Make a little dent?

CB: Well she wasn’t clean. and nobody would want to bid on that one after she had touched it. That way she got it cheaper. Those are some of the things we remember about those people. I know the men on her street they sometimes had to kind of clean up her place. It wasn’t long and it would be the same way. She’d get the corn cobs for nothing. It didn’t cost her anything. Now you couldn’t blame somebody when they was high priced. So that was the two characters everybody remembers. Some of his children were in my mothers schooling. He had a family. He had a place on the ridge the other way from town.

CW: Were they pretty poor because he drank so much?

CB: Well, he had quite a bit given to him. He had some land he inherited.

CW: Now I have a question for you. You know Ridge road, and south of here is the Bethlehem Church. Across the street or road is a small odd shaped building. It isn’t big enough for a church.

CB: That belongs to Bethlehem.

CW: The rumor was that it was originally on an Indian cemetery. I wondered if you had ever heard anything like that.

CB: I don’t know anything about that . Their parsonage is over there.

CW: It is such an odd shape. I bet they just needed the rest of the space for their parsonage.

CB: I think there is kind of a mound in the back with a bunch of trees. I never heard about that. That bunch of trees they use that area sometimes for their mission festival. They had it in that grove.

CW: Did they have their picnic lunch out there?

CB: No, they might have sometimes with their youth, I don’t know. The parsonage is there and now that school house was directly across the road from the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. That has been torn down now since they built onto that church. They used to have their Sunday School across the road. They would have a dinner in there once a year. Now they have it at the what you call the parish hall inside of the church. That used to be their Sunday School that frame building.

CW: Then they tore that down?

CB: They tore that down just a couple of years ago because they weren’t using it anymore.

CW: Now what about Giffey Hall?

CB: That was built in 1916.

CW: That was just before World War I.

CB: Yes, that brick came off from the brickyard. There used to be a brick and tile yard.

CW: In Ridgeville?

CB: Yes

CW: Is that right!

CB: It was right on down to the end of the town there. Giffey used to have a brick yard and that’s what that Giffey Hall is built from. The brick came from the brick yard. After that was up all the activities in town, like the school they used that. We didn’t have a gymnasium or auditorium. All our plays and graduations were held in that Giffey Hall until 1940. In the spring of 1939 my class was the first to graduate out of the new auditorium at the school. Before that all the class plays, ball games, and the chicken pie supper and many dances and wedding receptions were all held at that Giffey Hall.

CW: I remember going to a wedding reception there. In with the wedding invitation was a little slip of paper that told me I was to take Jello to the reception.

CB: Then afterwards there was a some kind of a factory I don’t know the name. I didn’t live here then. I was in Indiana then. There was some kind of an industry in there for a while. Then there was a restaurant down below. I ate in that after I came back here. It isn’t there anymore.

CW: So there was a restaraunt down there.

CB: That was in the basement. Now the hall is owned by a society that puts on plays. I don’t know what it is called. They are located in Archbold. They do theater plays like a dinner theater. You can buy a ticket for just a play or you can buy it just for dinner.

CW: They have the dinners downstairs.

CB: I think so. I haven’t been to any of them, but I have been on that stage a lot. The Decoration Day program was always conducted in that hall too.

CW: Did you act some in some of the plays?

CB: Oh, I was in a lot of them, mostly plays and operettas.

CW: Did you sing?

CB: Well, I am not a singer but in operettas it is not all singing, but some acting too. And the graduations were there too. There used to be a fox farm managed by Flickinger. It was owned by the Neuhousers. They raised foxes, these gray foxes for the fur. They made ladies coats with the gray fur.

CW: They were pretty I bet.

CB: They would raise around one hundred and fifty. They had cages for them. They would feed them those foxes meat and people that had maybe needed to get rid of a horse that was beyond working stage, maybe it had been injured. He would get those horses and that’s what they fed those foxes.

CW: Did they cook them or just feed them raw?

CB: I think they fed it to them raw. They finally went out of business. It wasn’t a profitable thing anymore. So it is no longer there, but they have rental apartments there now. We used to have a meat market. For a long time we had three grocery stores. Huner’s and Bargmans, and Otte’s. Their grocery store also had the post office.

CW: Is that where the post office is now?

CB: Yes, it has been shortened. It used to be a store. They used to sell school supplies too. When we needed new books for school why that’s where we would get them, at Otte’s.

CW: Where was the original school in Ridgeville?

CB: When they had a log school that was where the school house is now. I don’t know exactly, but I think it was across the road from where the cemetary is. In one of those lots. The first year of school was in the 1840”s. It was a log school and they had sixteen students. About ten years later in the township there were a hundred students. That fast it grew.

CW: Did they come to this school?

CB: No, they wouldn’t all have come. Then they had a school up on the other end of Giffey Hall. This church that had disbanded for several years they had the lower grades there, like the first and second grades. It was in 1890’s when they built the brick school back of where that schoolhouse is now. In a couple of years they added two rooms to it. It was a three room schoolhouse after it was made in to a high school. My mother taught in that school. I remember what it looked like. Then in 1910 they made it a second class high school I don’t know if they only went two years to high school. I think it was in 1906 when the first graduating class was. Just a year or so before that it was made a high school, I think about 1904. Well then, in a few years they built that brick school. And then it was made, close to 1920, it was made a third grade. It took three years of high school to graduate.

CW: Is that why they called it third class?

CB: Yes, then it was in 192`3, I think when it was made a four year high school. Rice was the first superintendent in there in the four year high school.

CW: Did he have four daughters that became school teachers? I think so.

CB: Could be. He did become a lawyer. He was a lawyer in Archbold.

CW: I know the Rice sisters. There were two of them that taught in Ridgeville. They were very good teachers.

CB: Rice was strict too. He didn’t fool around with misbehavior. They wanted somebody up here. They were having little problem with some of them. He straightened them out. He taught until 1928 or 1929. Anyhow in 1927 they passed a referendum to build a new school. That is the one that is standing there now, in between the one that has been built on to.

CW: That was built between the old one and the road.

CB: Yes.

CW: Now that old Congregational Church had a cemetary beside the school. That must have been there. It’s very old.

CB: Oh yes, it’s very old. It’s been there, well when I was going to high school it was there. In 1927 that was started and 1929 was the first graduating class graduated from that school. The last year when I was a junior they started building that auditorium on there. My class was the first one to graduate in that auditorium. It was not quite all finished, but we graduated in there. Some of them trees that are standing there in front of the school, those were planted after that first brick school house was built. And they are still there. We planted some of them on Arbor Day. Some of them when they built that new auditorium, why some of them were taken out. Those that are still standing were planted in the early 1900’s. On the other side that was built on to it. There are really two gyms there.

CW: Oh there are! Two different building, the old one and the new onel

CB: Yes, The one on this side, that auditorium was the basketball floor. That was for the grades.

CW: For their gym classes.

CB: I think it was a mistake when they discontinued the school. The last graduating class had 32.

CW: I did practice teaching here. The kids were very well behaved I thought.

CB: When I went to Indiana you couldn’t say that about that school. My brother lost a good coat the first day he wore it. It was a present. He never did get it back. The year before he lost a Christmas present. We didn’t have that trouble here.

CW: That’s right. There used to be a high percentage of people in town that paid their bills. What was it ninety some percent. I know because my husband thought of settling here at one time. That was one drawing point. You wouldn’t need a big practice because if all the people that came would pay their bills. It would be no problem.

CB: It is a good community. You don’t find that every place.

CW: Not anymore. Probably no place.

CB: I know at the school here we had here and I sat clear to the back end of the main room and studied. I was clear at the back seat and we had and somebody took care of the library books. There were always things on the principal’s desk up front. None of that ever came up missing. If you lost anything there was always a bunch of stuff on the principal’s desk up front, and whoever it belonged to could come up and get it. My brother too, there in Indiana I don’t know how many times he came home at noon. We weren’t too far away he could come home if he hurried. Well one day he come home and somebody stole his lunch.I don’t know how many times he would have to come home at noon for lunch because somebody stole his lunch.

end of tape

Arps, Edwin

World War II Memories

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin
additional comments by
Mrs. Ed (Norma) Arps
transcribed by Marlene Patterson

CW: Would you tell us your name please.

EA: My name is Edwin Arps. I am originally from Ridgeville Corners. I went to Ridgeville School and I went through the eighth grade. At that time there were a lot of boys that didn’t go to high school. They went into farming. One day my dad told me that if I wanted to go to school and play ball you can stay home and help me, which I did. Later on that year my dad went uptown to the meat market and this butcher asked my dad what had happened to me. He told the butcher he was helping me all summer and now he isn’t doing anything. He told my dad to tell me to come in and see him and maybe he would like to learn the meat cutting business. So he come home then and told me about it. I went up there and sure enough that is what I became. I was now a meat cutter. Then as time went on, Irvin Rupp owned the meat market and he wanted to sell it.

CW: Was that in Ridgeville?

EA: Yes, that was in Ridgeville. He wanted to sell it to me and I told him I didn’t have that kind of money and he said maybe your dad would lend you some money. I told him I didn’t know and I just hated to ask him. So that was the end of that. So I kept on working there and I don’t know just how long I worked there  but he put it up for sale. He never sold it and he closed it up. So then I was out of a job. Then I moved right next door to Richard Cameron and he hired me.

CW: He hired you to do what, cut meat?

EA: Yes, to cut meat and he had a huckster truck that went out into the country and I did some of that. Well, then one day my mother had some relation living over by Pemberville and her husband, my uncle had an auto accident on a Sunday. They were big farmers and there were only two boys and she called and wanted to know if I could come and help them on the farm. So I said that comes first and I moved down there with my aunt then and my cousins. Then that fall my cousin said well we don’t have any use for you this winter. I am going to go up to this little town called Wayne, Ohio and a fellow there has two meat markets. One is in Wayne, Ohio and one is in Bloomdale, Ohio. So it was a slaughterhouse. Maybe he can hire you.

CW: You mean the name of this town was Wayne, Ohio.

EA: Yes, Wayne, Ohio. He came back and told me I could start tomorrow morning. So I did. I worked there, oh I don’t know, maybe a year or so. That is when World War II broke out. Well, it kept on going and guys were getting drafted. Then one day the fellow that was running the meat market in Bloomdale got his letter to report to the Army. So the boss said well it looks like I will have to transfer you to Bloomdale. So I went to Bloomdale. I got a room over there and I slept over there and I was over there for about a year and then one day I got a letter from the draft board. So they wanted me to report at a certain date. I think I had a couple months or so. Then I told the boss and he said well, what do I do now. He couldn’t find anybody else with meat cutting experience so I guess he sent his wife over there and sold out what was left over there and he closed the place up. I moved my stuff home and then I waited until they called me and then I left Bowling Green with the rest of the Wood County boys. We got on a train to Camp Perry and there we were put into the barracks where we all got our shots. We had to stand in a long line all the time, and when we got to a certain point we had to take all our clothes off and they handed us Army clothes. All of my civilian clothes were put into a big box and that was sealed and that was sent home to my folks. So then in a couple of days we were put on a train and we knew we were heading south because we were getting pretty warm with our wool clothes on. We ended up in Florida.

NA: This was in November.

EA: Yes, it was the middle of November. Anyhow after three days we ending up at Camp Landing, Florida. That is where I stayed for my basic training. We convoyed all of our equipment back from Florida clear to Camp Atterbury, Indiana, but we stopped in Tennessee and we were on three months maneuvers in Tennessee. So I slept in a pup tent three months. From then on we got to Atterbury. We were sent home for a furlough and then we went back, and we ended up in New York. We were put on a boat and we headed for England. The next day during the night we came into a storm and the first thing we knew we were lost.

CW: Oh really!

EA: So they finally got things straightened out again and 13 days later we landed in England.

CW: That would have been quite a trip.

EA: Yes. So we got to England, well in the meantime, was I a Sergeant already when I left or did I get that over there. I think I got that over there.

NA: You were a Private First Class.

EA: Yes, I was a Private First Class and then it was on my records that I was a meat cutter so sure enough I got a job in Supplies. I was in the Service Battery, of the 113th Field Artillary, which is part of the 30th Infantry Division. We had close to a thousand soldiers in 113th, and that was my job then to cut the meat, and deliver the rations to five kitchens. We had to go pick up the food, we brought it back to a building and unloaded everything and then we had to break it five ways.

CW: Was this in England?

EA: Yes. We were in England a couple of months I guess.

NA: You went over there in January. D Day wasn’t until the 6th of June.

EA: So we were there all them months and we just layed around  and we didn’t have much to do. They gave us practice and one evening about 5:00 o’clock the word came out that we were supposed to go to their barracks and it was announced the next morning at 7:00 o’clock would be D-Day on Omaha Beach. At 7:00 o’clock the next morning. Well okay and by that time my name was called, oh I suppose fifteen or twenty other guys were called. We were put to one side and we were put into a big Liberty ship which was loaded with new trucks, Jeeps, and everything. They needed drivers for them when they unloaded them. That is what I got into. We were at Omaha Beach 7:00 o’clock in the morning and saw all the fireworks and I mean it was fireworks. We were on the ship watching it and we couldn’t unload them because it was storming. The big ships, you know we had to bring the trucks out of the bottom of the ship and drive them over and put them down on a small LST boat.  We would get them there and somebody would drive the boat and we would go up to the beach as far as we could and then we would go down and start up our vehicle and we would drive onto land.

CW: Did you have to drive through some water?

EA: I was driving a wrecker and I was sitting in water. The water was even with my waist line. It wasn’t warm water either, it was cold. I made it. The trucks were waterproof. The only thing was the exhaust pipe which ran up beside the truck cab so the engine wouldn’t drown out. I came up to shore and just about that time we had an awful shelling there. I was on land then already and I jumped out and I crawled out and had my feet underneath there so I was there until the shelling was over with. When that was over with I got back on the truck. There was just a certain point that we had to go. It was less than a mile from the beach so. I don’t know how far the Infantry had to go. This was about getting towards dark already when I landed then. The Infantry was up ahead maybe a couple of miles. Then it was a day or so and I caught up with the rest of my outfit.

CW: Did you get under the truck, and did they fire at you?

EA: Well the schrapnel was flying all over. That is the reason I was underneath the truck. It hit the truck but it didn’t hit me.

NA: Some of the guys were gone by then already.

EA:Yes and by the way, I don’t know but that is what they say, we lost 3,000 soldiers in the channel that day. And the English Channel was nice and blue in the morning, but in the evening it was red.  All those poor guys that got killed out there in that channel. What made it bad was that in the morning it was storming. The Germans had built concrete piers right in front of this beach. So when we came off of the boats, they could sit up there and mow us down see.

CW: Oh my gosh!

EA: And what was supposed to have been done in the morning before 7:00 AM, the Air Force should have had those piers knocked out of there. But it had been so foggy that the Air Force couldn’t fly. I know Eisenhower had made the remark that if there had been any possible way to have turned the boys around I would have. But we had to keep on going. It fnally ended up where the Engineers and whoever the Infantry they got up next to these buildings with hand grenades and they would toss them up to the windows and blow them out of there. I didn’t have to do that.

CW: You probably had to stay with your truck.

EA: By that time I had gotten rid of that truck and I had my other trucks you know. So then we finally got organized. Like I say we had to go and pick up our food, our rations for the whole bunch. That all kept us busy. We had two trucks and I think five or six fellows and that is all we did.

CW: Where did they have these rations.

EA: They were at that time still on the boats.  They were out in the channel.

CW: How did you get the rations?

EA: Every few days they were brought ashore, and we would have to go back to the shore pick it up. It was already marked for the 113th  and we would have to load these up.

NA: You took your K rations with you. (K rations were an individual daily food ration introduced by the United Stated Army during World War II. It was intended as a daily ration for combat troops providing three courses, breakfast, lunch and supper.)

EA: While this invasion was going on I think they gave us enough  K rations for three of four days. That is what we lived on. It was a week or maybe two weeks before we got to have a real meal. From there on the first big battle was at St. Lo. From there on I went through five major battles.

NA: You’re going to wear out your toothpick.

EA: Well I will go get another one. I went through five major battles and then the Battle of the Bulge. I am sure you have heard of that.

CW: Oh yes.

EA: I was in that.

CW: Were you with General Patton?

EA: No I wasn’t with Patton, well yes I was with Patton when we spearheaded. We were in his convoy. After the war you know, he got killed in a Jeep accident. That is what they tell us. I didn’t see it. They called  him “blood and guts”. Boy I tell you he had it.

CW: He was a tough old guy.

EA: Yes, like we were supplies and I remember just before Christmas we got turkeys. We all had turkeys for Christmas. Well, they were frozen. I delivered them a couple of days ahead of time. The cooks would have to take care of them. Sure enough on Christmas Day, we could only go five or six pallets at one time and go to the mess hall and get their food and get back again. They were hiding. No smoking or anything. If you did why they could get you. Sure enough in the morning the turkeys were done and everything and don’t you know they (the Germans) put an artillary shell right on top of our kitchen. It just blew everything all to pieces. Plus it killed one of our buddies. So that was our Christmas, and we had to go back to K rations.

CW: Now where was this at?

EA: This was at the Battle of the Bulge.

NA: This was before you got into Germany.

EA: And then we had after Christmas, then I don’t know exactly how long, maybe a month or so, anyhow one night the Germans shoved us back. They had more power than we did. What happened is they captured our gasoline supply. It was all in five gallon cans. So in about a day or so the trucks were sitting along the road with no gas. So they called me in, the Captain was there and the First Sergeant, and they wanted me to get two trucks and enough help and go back approximately seventy five to one hundred miles and get two loads of gas. I looked at them and I said “Sir that sounds real good, but if I take all my trucks and get down the road ten to twelve miles and then I will be out of gas”. He said I never thought about that.

CW: Oh dear!

EA: So then he called back and they brought us up some gas. We were out of gas for three to four days.

CW: That’s why, you would read about it in the paper and they would go a little ways and then they seemed to stop.

EA: That is why I couldn’t go back and get it. I opened my big mouth. The Captain had said if you look through that window you can see our gas pumps. But it was on the German side. So I said how about tonight after dark I’ll get a couple of guys and we will go steal our own gas back. Well, he said if you have enough guts to do that go ahead. And we did! I took two trucks in there and we both loaded our trucks up with five gallon cans and the first truck, he pulled out and didn’t have any problems and we just had got started real good and we got hit with I don’t know what it was, probably a German artillary shell. It was one-two-three and our truck was on fire. We were just lucky we got our fanny out of there.

CW: Nobody got killed or hurt then.

EA: No

NA: You had a trailer behind you.

EA: I had a double trailer behind me yet and see that is what actually caught on fire. We got out of that truck and I said lets not stand here and watch, lets get away because if things got hot enough we would have regulare fireworks. We jumped out of that truck. We didn’t have our pack or anything. Well then the best part of it was as we were running down the road we would turn around and watch and all at once I told my buddy hey listen real good. It sounds like a German Jeep coming. I could tell by the sound. Sure enough, I had no more than said it when the Jeep came around the curve and here there were two German officers in it.

CW:Oh! Oh!

EA: And there we were. They asked us a bunch of questions and we kept saying nix fer stay, nix fer stay. (Nix fer stay means I do not understand) I never told them that I could speak High German and understand High German and I could talk Low German and understand Low German. We just told them nix fer stay, that is all we knew. They made room and loaded us up then, and we went with them.  See they were pretty well on the front lines too in a big old farmhouse. They put us in a big bedroom. One thing about it they had a bed in there so it was a good place to sleep. We were there I really can’t remember maybe two weeks.

NA:I don’t think it was too long.

CW: What did you do for food?

EA: Well they, when you are hungry milk or water tastes pretty good. And that’s what we had. Well these guys, I don’t know where they were getting their food. They weren’t cooking it there either.

NA: Were they both there alone?

EA: They were two officers. I always said they had a little age on them. They weren’t the young ones. Had they been young ones I don’t think I would be here today because as things went on. One morning, I am taking a guess, may 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning the Americans were up bright and early and they were pounding and they were going to push back again. So these two officers got scared and they said we are getting our fanny out of here. I told my buddy I think now is a good time to fold our hands and say a little prayer. I didn’t think we were going to be around too long anymore because you would think they (Germans) would take us with them. They would mow us down in there and let somebody else pick us up. Well for some reason or other that didn’t happen. These two officers left and we were free. We snuck out real, you know we looked around, sometimes they will shoot and we’d be walking. It was only a little bit farther from here to the road. We were on the front lines. And ours was just across. We’d start walking and here it wasn’t long before and here comes an American Jeep. The Americans were pushing the German’s back. They stopped and said what the heck are you guys doing here with no guns, no nothing. We told them that ours blew up over there. So they loaded us up and took us back to headquarters.

CW: What a narrow escape!

EA: We got to their headquarters and then we unloaded there and I said take a look at that Jeep over there. Do you see whose Jeep that is? He looked at it and said didn’t you see those three stars on there. Do you know who that is? They said, is that Eisenhower, and I said yes. That was Eisenhower’s Jeep. He was there visiting, well I don’t think he was visiting, but he was there talking to our Captain. Them two guys they would visit every once in a while. I think they had a bottle of medicine in their cupboard and took a little sample every so once in a while. Well anyhow we went in the office and the first thing the Sergeant came out and he said where in the hell have you been. I told him we took a few days off. Then he went in to where Eisenhower and our Captain were talking and he told our Captain that we came back see. He had us marked down already as “Missing In Action”. I said hey Sergeant while I am watching you, you make sure you scratch that out. He might have forgot about it and that could have cost us.

CW: That word would have gone back to your family.

EA: Yes. I saw him scratch my name off so I knew it was off of the record. So then our Captain came out and took down our names. He asked a few questions. Wouldn’t you know it, but here came Ike. He came out too. He asked us a few questions. They were talking there a little and pretty soon our Captain tells Ike. Why don’t you take these two lads along for a week and rest them up. Ike never said a word, he just went to the door and he hollered at his driver and the driver come over and he said make room, we’ve got two passengers. So there weren’t too many guys in the Army that got to ride in the back seat of General Eisenhower’s Jeep.

CW: I guess so.

EA: He was sitting here and we was in behind. He turned around and said what part of the States are you from. He just acted like an ordinary farmer. Well it wasn’t long you know, see the officers always stayed back you know maybe 30 miles, and sometimes even farther. We came to a big mansion and he pulled up there and Eisenhower told him to take good care of these two fellas. Give them whatever they want. Give them all the food they want. In about a week you take them back to their outfit. That was the last time we seen Ike. We ate at the same table in the same kitchen, but not together. We layed around there for a week and this guy came in and asked us what we wanted. I told him I would like a new set of clothes. I had these clothes on for about a month. He took us up to the Quartermaster there and we got new clothes and he said take whatever you want. Well, we took what we needed. We went back there and sure enough I don’t know what morning it was but he told us that our week was up. And he asked us whether we were ready to go back to our outfit. And we said oh no we can stay right here. He said you know what the old man said. So he loaded us up and took us back to our outfit. I know they were already packing, our outfit had gotten orders to move out from the front lines. To move out of there. We didn’t know where we were going. The officials why they knew the Germans were kaput(done). They had given us everything they had and they gave up. That day or the next day.

CW: You mean this was the end of the war.

EA: We moved out of there. We were within 30 miles of Berlin. Then they put us up in, well it reminded me of the old Wellington Hotel. That is where they put all the fellows that could get in there. See the 30th Division had about 18,000 troops. It was the Infantry, the Artillery. They all belonged to one division, so we got in there and. Well the only word we got was well you guys are going to go home. You will get a 30 day furlough and then we were to go to Japan. Well, that wasn’t all that bad. We were going home, that was all that we were concerned about. We got back to England and then we got word that we would go home on the Queen Mary.

CW: Wow!

EA: So we laid down there for a couple of weeks. It had a crew of 3,000 civilians on that Queen Mary. They had to get the food, and what ever else it needed. It had three decks you know. All we could do was just lay around or go to London, We were pretty close to London. You know the first place the GI’s would go would be a tavern and drink some beer you know. I was in there, there were two or three of us guys together. All at once the news came on and they said you fellows won’t have to go to Japan. The war has ended over there. See that is when they dropped that bomb over there. The Japanese had surrendered. Everybody kind of looked at each other because we were so used to nothing but propaganda. One guy said that’s a bunch of. We just kept on drinking and I don’t think it was a half hour and then President Roosevelt he came on the radio.

NA: Wasn’t Truman in there?

EA: Yes it was Truman, well anyhow he came on the radio, see there was no TV or anything, and said if you had word, and this is not a rumor the Japanese have surrendered. If you fellas are on your way to the States, you can stay there. That is when the party started.

CW: I’ll bet.

EA: There were two bartenders in there and I can still see them, they had a white shirt and a vest on and a tie. They were the bartenders. One of them got up in the corner and he hollered you Americans are about to take over. You deserved it. Well at first nobody wanted to make a move. Pretty soon he said, I mean it! He said get behind here, the house is buying the drinks. That didn’t last too long. Me and my buddies we left then. We were there probably a half hour .

CW: It was probably getting kind of wild.

EA: The next day we stopped in there again  and we asked him how long did the party last. He said it took three hours and they were dry.


EA: We will start here. It took them three hours to drink the place dry. We got ready then and in a few days we loaded on the Queen Mary and it took us four days to go from South Hampton, England to New York City.

CW: That was really fast in those days.

EA: And then the rooms on the Queen Mary were all converted to troop ships.  They had bunks built in there and if you were lucky you could sleep on one of them at night and if not you had your bedroll with you and you slept on the deck. It happened on the deck that night you lay there and everybody is happy you are going home singing and this and that and you lay there and the front end of the boat would come up real slow and then it would hang there and pretty soon it would come down. We’d start grabbing each other because we thought we were going to slide off the thing.

CW: Those must have been huge waves.

EA: It was a bump going over those waves. Those waves were 20 to 30 feet high.

CW: I wondered how high they were.

EA: It was a rough day going over that and then we got to New York and they had promised us a steak dinner at Camp Kilmore, New Jersey. We got there at about 3 o’clock in the morning and we had our steak and then we got back on the train, each got on a different train depending on which state you were from. I had to get on the one that went to Camp Attebury, Indiana.  When we got to Atterbury why as fast as we could go, we were on our way home. Then I got home and I had a thirty day furlough and then I got a telegram to stay another fifteen  days and then I made a big mistake – I got married.

NA:  We were married the first thirty day.

EA: Oh did we,well anyhow then when I came back I had to go back to Camp Atterbury to get my discharge. I went back to the Greyhound bus station to get a bus to Napoleon. I found one but it would take four hours before he would leave and I didn’t want to sit around there that long. I took a city bus and headed north, well they helped me there. I went clear to the north edge of Indianapolis where  the bus turned around and I got off there and the guy had told me before when you get off that bus just stick your thumb out and you will get a ride real quick, and boy he was right. I got off that bus and just about that time a car pulled over on the curb on the opposite side. I ran over there and I looked at the license plate and they were from Henry County. I was pretty lucky there. So I got in there and he asked my name and this and that and he asked me a few things about Germany and I told him. He was looking all around and she would jump on him and  yell out -watch out- you are driving all over the road. I think I was almost more scared on that trip home than I was during the whole war. Then I got home and then I will tell you it was August Honeck and his dear wife that picked me up and brought me home here to Napoleon. From there on my yes, I was married at the time. She picked me up at the bank corner. From then on I have been on my own.

CW: It is wonderful to get home after something like that.

NA: I don’t think they dropped you off at the bank corner, they dropped you off at your folks place. You drove your car over to our place then.

EA: I think they did take me right to my house. August asked me where I lived and I said Ridgeville and he said where,  and I told him right on Route 6 and they took me right home. Then I went over to your place.

NA: I picked you up when you came home the first time when you had a 30 day furlough.

CW: Now tell me about how you two got acquainted with each other. Where did you meet and what happened.

NA: We were even in the eighth grade together already.

CW: Oh you were!

NA: We went to Ridgeville School and he was in my class in the eighth grade.

CW: And you lived in Ridgeville

NA: We lived a mile outside of Ridgeville. I don’t know we just got along.

EA: I agreed with everything.

NA: I was only 13 years old then. I guess I was about 15 when we started dating. We didn’t get married though until he had his 30 day furlough. He thought he would have to go back again. So after he was home two weeks he said  we are going to get married. Then he didn’t have to go back this time and he got discharged.

CW: Getting married at a time like that of course there were a lot of servicemen getting married.

EA: Oh yes.

CW: It was hard to get a washing machine or anything you would use to set up housekeeping.

NA: Well Bob Walters had a store there at Ridveville, a furniture store, and we got a stove through him.

EA: I don’t remember that.

CW: Do you mean a stove or to use to heat the house.

NA: No a gas stove to cook with.

EA: Well we got some things from George Von Deylen. He had a hardware store uptown here too.

NA: I think we got our refrigerator there.

EA: We got the refrigerator there.

NA: We had to have an oil stove too. Where did we get that?

EA:I don’t remember where we got that.

NA: We had bought a bedroom suite before he had left.

CW: We were talking about buying things at the store.  Things were so scarce.

EA: Do you remember the apartment buildings next to the old Ford garage. Remember they burned down several years ago. Royal Cleaners were down below. When I got home Frank Morey got that job to dig that basement out so Royal Cleaners could start their business. They were neighbors at Ridgeville. That is how I got my first job. I helped dig that basement out. She was bookkeeper at the Ford garage. When we got the basement dug and they moved in I got a job with Royal Cleaners then. I ran the delivery truck and she was working for Bill Travis and we got to rent one of the apartments upstairs.

NA: We lived there three years.

EA: Then we got a place out on West Main Street. Then we went to the corner of Clinton and Norton. and then from Clinton and Norton to out here.

NA: We have lived here 36 years already.

CW: Is that right. That was quite an experience.

EA: Sometimes it got pretty rough. I will have to tell you something, you know I had a real good buddy that was working with me, but he couldn’t read or write. How he ever got into the Army I don’t know. He was from Tennessee. And you know he had a girlfriend and she would write him letters. We would have to read them for him. Then he would want to write her and one of us would have to sit down and write the letter for him. Then we would read it back to him and we would sometimes not read what we had wrote. Then he would get mad. Finally we straightened him out. We read him what was what. What I really remember about him was one night we were in a fox hole and we were getting shelled pretty bad and we were in this fox hole waiting for a shell to land on top of the fox hole and we were sitting there you know you couldn’t see each other he said Sergeant, he called me Sergeant you know that little book you always carried in your pocket. He said why don’t you open that book up and read us something out of it. They gave each one of us a small Bible, the new testament. Every soldier got one when they got inducted. Lots of guys got their life saved by having it in the upper pocket. I carried mine all the time. I just opened it up and I said how am I going to read when it is so dark in here. He said we got this big blanket and I will hold the flashlight under it so the light won’t show through. I got down there and read something and it wasn’t but five minutes and the shelling stopped. He said to me that from now on he would be staying with me. I can’t remember exactly what I read in there. I didn’t pick out anything, I just opened it up and read.

NA: That was a long three years.

CW: War is terrible.

EA: You know it seemed like every outfit and every company always had a couple clowns I would call them that kept the moral up. Like we had a guy from Pennsylvania and what he had done in civilian life he was with Harry James’s Orchestra. He could play any instrument. If there was anybody playing a horn, guitar, and even a piano he would move it over to where we were and he would play and sing.

CW:Oh my. That would be important for the troops.

EA: He kept the moral up you know. My truck driver, he was from Chicago and his dad had a shoe store. That is all that kid ever did was work in his dad’s shoe store. When he got in the Army they made a truck driver out of him. I had to teach him a few things too.

CW: He probably didn’t know too much about a truck did he.

EA: No, he didn’t know anything about a truck.

NA: After the war we went to see him.

CW: Oh you did!

EA: Yes we did.

NA: He had quite a shoe store. He was a Jewish guy. He had a little cart out on the sidewalk and he had shoes in there. The shoe store was up on the second floor.

EA: They would have called that Jew town. That is how he operated. He would have a stand on the sidewalk and the shoes were up on the second floor.

CW: Would they have to run up and down to get the shoes.

EA: Well they had a few shoes down below.

NA:  They had the cart downstairs. We started walking down the street and they sent their boy with us to show us how to get there. The first place the guy was selling suits and he tried to sell this boy a suit even before we got to it.

EA: I had an awful time explaining to him that he wasn’t my boy. I thought for a while I might have to buy the suit just to get away from him.

CW: In those days that would have been a long trip to go to Chicago.

EA: Oh yes.

CW: You couldn’t just do it in three hours like the way you can now.

EA: My folks they had  some friends there and they had asked me one time if I would take them to Chicago. They were friends and I said yes and they looked up this fellow for me. I had quite a few friends and as far as I know they are all over at the cemetery. I still had one fellow from Arkansas and last year I called down there one time, well when I first got a hold of him I found him. I still get a magazine every four months from our outfit and his name was in there where he was in a nursing home and they said we should call him. I really didn’t know him at that time and I got him on the phone and I told him who I was and he said by golly I remember you. I said I used to bring your food. He said that was where he remembered me from. We would deliver the food to the kitchen. He stayed in the Army. He was in for 25 years. He was a Major wasn’t he?

NA: I think so.

EA: The last time I called him he wasn’t feeling real good. The next time I called, well I didn’t know who I talked to they said we had to bury him here. So now he is gone. We went to North Carolina several years ago to see another man and they were gone.

NA: There aren’t just too many people our age who are alive.

CW: I know, tell me about it. You should be thankful you are still here and can get around. Your health is important.

NA: He is going to be 89 in February.

CW: Is that right. You have me beat by one year.

EA: Another thing that was kind of you see my mother passed away when I was three months old.

NA: No, three weeks.

CW: Oh my.

EA: And then my dad’s sister was still at home. She hadn’t been married then yet. She took care of me then. She was dating and she would have a date like on Saturday night or Sunday night and then Dad would have to take care of me and he told her one day that whenever you leave all he (Ed) wants to do is bawl. And she said I can take care of that. The next time I have a date I can just take him with me. So I would go along on a date with them.

CW: So you went along on a date.

EA: Then about three years later.

NA: She got married then about after a year. Your grandfather got remarried. Then your step-grandmother took care of you. Then his dad got remarried so then he had four different mothers.

EA: I turned out pretty good.

CW: You sure did!  Now they would say oh you are going to have a psychological problem. Back in those days you did what was necessary.

EA: What I was going to tell you that in Germany one night we stopped, when we were on the road, some place we would always look for shelter to find a building that was big enough to sleep in. We didn’t want to be outside. This one night we stayed in this little town and the next morning we had left and as we were leaving town we always had a sign there telling us the name of the town just like here. I just happened to see a town by the name of Neuenkirchen. I thought, now that rings a bell. I kept thinking about that, and then I remembered that was where my stepmother was from.

CW: For heavens sake.

EA: When I got back I told her about it and she said where did you stay. I told her this guy had a shoe factory and they had a big room there. She told me she knew all about that place. Then there was a big church right in the center of that town. She told me I should have went down there and took a right, that is where Uncle George lived. I said Mom if I had done that I wouldn’t be here to tell you about that. I don’t think she ever really realized what was going on. That being my stepmother I was fighting against her own brothers and sisters.

CW: Why yes, they would see you and you were fighting against them.

EA: That is what the younger Germans were noted for. Twelve year olds, fifteen year olds you would really have to watch.

CW: They were trigger happy. I don’t think boys that young were recruited here. I don’t remember hearing of any.

NA: I think in Germany they were just automatically in the Army.

EA: Oh yes. You have probably heard of the prison camps. I don’t know if you had ever heard of this Buchenwald, that was a big prison camp. Up to that point or every once in a while I would think what the heck am I over here for. I knew Pearl Harbor had got bombed and Hitler was on his way over here. Every once in a while I would think what the heck am I doing here. We liberated Buchenwald and I can still see it. There were 3 trenches and it was no farther from here to the road, six foot wide and about 4 feet deep. That was all full of dead bodies. They were nothing but skin and bones. Then right next to it was a building, supposed to be their barracks. They had boards to lay on. That is what they slept on. When we moved in there we captured that and then our engineers had trucks and bulldozers and moved dirt and covered all of them dead people up. When I saw that I knew why I was over in Germany fighting.

CW: Truus Leaders was from Holland and she said the Germans came in there and took all the food. People in Holland were just starving. The Germans probably had to send the food back to their people to feed them.

EA: I think to this day yet I can’t see why there was one man, Hitler, that he could cause so many problems. I know even the German people here, now this is a German community, we didn’t see problems like that. I tell you that after the war and staying in this hotel, there was a little old lady and we were in this one room, there was four of us staying there. She would come in every morning and make the beds. She told us that if we had any dirty clothes to just put them on the bed and she would come in and wash them. We tried to give her some money and she would never take money, but she would take food. They were looking for food. You know with me being in that business I had seen enough and I wanted her to have food.

CW: Now where did you say that was?

EA: That was in a little town named Mechlenburg, Germany. It is about 30 miles from Berlin.

CW: How do you spell that?

NA: I think it is Magdeburg. I think that is where my grandfather came from.

EA: When we left there was three or four ladies involved. When we left the hotel all these ladies came to our room and we all got a kiss and a big hug. I told them they cried more than my mother did when I went in the service. They just didn’t want us to go. They were hurt that we had to go. I think they were glad that we could go. You just couldn’t give them anything but food. They ate pretty good while we were there visiting.

NA: They were very grateful to us. They thought the Germans were going to take over the whole world.

EA: Germany was headed for England you know. The Germans had a few footholds there and from England they were coming here.

NA: Well they were already in Russia, Belgium, and France. I don’t know about Spain if they ever got that far.

EA: I don’t know either. I could never figure out that the German people were never noted for being mean and rough. At least the ones I knew. How one guy could have that much power.

CW: That was what was behind it. He was power hungry.

EA: The little fifteen and eighteen year olds were the ones you had to watch. They were given special schooling. They were tough to fight. Vie gates  (Yes, and so it goes). I hope I have made you happy.

CW: Yes, you had quite a story to tell. It really was.

EA: Is there anything you don’t understand?  You can call us or come out and we will straighten you out.

CW: Okay. How long did you say he was in the service?

NA: He left in November of 1942 and came home the 26th of August of 1945.  We were married the 7th of September two weeks later. So I waited for him for three years. That was a long three years.

CW: What was it like?

NA: Well, the mail didn’t go through like it does today. Sometimes it would be two weeks before I would get a letter that he had written. I dreamt one night that he had gotten shot and it took two weeks before I got the letter. Then of course I knew he was alright. There was no way I could find out.

EA: We were the same way. All of our mail was censored. About the only thing I could say is that I was feeling fine and hoping you are too. We couldn’t tell them where we were at.

NA: Nowadays you can call from here to Germany. We couldn’t do anything like that then. We just had to wait for those letters.

EA: There was always a lot of excitement when we had mail call.

NA: Sometimes the mail got blown up.

EA: Oh yes, the mail sometimes did get blown up.

NA: I didn’t write on a Saturday night because I couldn’t mail it on a Sunday. I wrote six letters a week all the time. He would write one page and each line was a new paragraph so he could fill it up in a hurry.

CW: (Both ladies laugh) He was probably not in a very comfortable situation.

EA: The letters were censored before they even left our outfit. Once in a while some of the guys would write something and they would bring it back and say “hey look you can’t write that”

CW: Sometimes the censors would just cut it out too.

EA: Oh yes they did just cut it out.

NA: Yes that was quite an experience.

CW: Yes and the news was very slanted at that time. We were at war.

NA: We didn’t have television like they do today. We can see it all now on television.

EA: As far as food I mean well actually I can’t say I ever went hungry. Even when we were prisoners of war it wasn’t the best of food but it kept us going. Well then the other officers they was eating the same thing. So I didn’t feel so bad.

CW: Food was rationed  and gas was rationed during the war wasn’t it?

NA: Oh yes. Coffee and sugar

EA: Just about everything was rationed, even tires.

NA: I worked for Krogers then in Toledo in 1942. They were just starting to ration then. You could buy one pound of coffee. That is all you were allowed to buy. These people came through the line one day and they  had two pounds of coffee and I said I can only let you have one pound. They paid for their groceres and went out and put them in their car and came in and got another pound. There was nothing I could do. I don’t remember how much sugar you could get.

CW: Sugar was rationed too wasn’t it.

EA: When I left for service I had bought a new 1939 or ‘40 Mercury. Then when I had to go into the service I told my dad, my dad had an older car, why don’t you sell your older car and you keep mine. I knew if I didn’t do that it would sit in the barn like maybe for three years and that is not good on cars.

CW: No

EA: In fact I sold his car for him.  Then he had to drive my car. Then we had that car when we got married. We went on our honeymoon with it. All four tires were bald. Those were still the original tires on it. Well we didn’t go too far. We went up into Michigan and we went fishing and stuff like that. Then we came home and on the other side of Archbold I blew one of the front tires out. I had a spare and I put that on and we got home then. The next morning then I went uptown and remember when C.J. Ramus was next there to Spanglers he sold tires there you know. I went in there you know and and I needed a tire. C.J. was in there himself and he looked at it and he said it looks to me like you need four new tires. Tires were hard to get.


Armbruster, Byron

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, July 2003

C. Tell me about the spelling of your first name. How is that spelled?

B. B-y-r-o-n.

C. It is July 3, 2003. I’m interviewing Byron Armbruster. Would you tell me what you just said about your name?

B. When I was born my parents thought they’d like to name Bryan, after William Jennings Bryan, who was a Democrat. So when it came time for me to be baptized Rev. Lankenau being a staunch Republican said, “Oh no, not Bryan!” So then they compromised and named me Byron Bryan.

C. (laughs) That’s quite a mouthful! Do you have any other memories of your childhood or storied that your parents told you?

B. Well, I’m now 90 so that’s a long time ago. But I’m in the middle of seven children and-uh-my father was the youngest of 13. So we were the youngest cousins but I wound up with 40-some first cousins and as of right now I have one still living because we were the youngest.

B. Oh, is that right! Did you used to have family reunions?

B. Oh yes. We had family reunions and of course like I say we come from a fairly big family and there were three families living right close by out in the country where I was born and raised.

C. Where was that?

B. The Saneholtz family, the Nelson family and our family. Between Napoleon and Malinta. And-uh-so between the three families we had 20-some children so I had a lot of playmates. And of course it was a lot different in those days than it is now because when we went to eat we always had at least 11 around our table. We had my parents, 7 children, my grandmother and a hired man. And on top of that there’d usually be one or two visiting, one or the other of us kids, they’d be invited to stay too. And every meal was started with a prayer, and the meal wasn’t started until everyone was seated. T’wasn’t like it is now: one grab a sandwich here and run, and another one—(laughs) A little different in those days.

C. Did you get into any mischief with all those cousins?

B. Oh, not too much.

C. You played outside a lot I suppose, didn’t you?

B. One thing, of all those years I never remember any of us kids getting a paddling. We never got spanked like a lot of people say they did. Never once were any of us spanked. We were kind of afraid of our dad. All he had to do was shake his finger at us. We knew that that meant, ‘Behave.’ (laughs)

C. And they probably had been pretty strict with the first one or two and then the rest of you followed along and did what your older brothers and sisters did.

B. Right. The older brothers and sisters took care of the younger brothers and sisters. (laughs) That’s what we did.

C. Did you help with the farming at all?

B. I never did too much farming. I stayed home until I went into the service, but-a-I never did too much farming. Well I did a lot of chores. We did a lot of chores. Always had a lot of animals.

C. What sort of chores did you do then?

B. We had to milk the cows and all that. In fact, my one sister, she worked there in Napoleon. She went back and forth on a bicycle, but before she went to work she had to milk the cows. She worked in the 5 & 10 Cent Store. We all worked.

C. Tell a little about what that 5 & 10 cent store was like.

B. Well, it had the candy counter; you know how they used to have all bulk candy all around. Where the old Vocke building, you know, is where it was, on the corner there. A lot different than now.

C. A friend of mine tells about how one cold day she went into the 5 & 10 in a hurry and she wanted to make her purchase and get out. So she had her gloves on and she had to reach in to get her money out and so she just put her gloves in her mouth and pulled to take the glove off and her teeth fell out with the glove. (laughs) They ended up on the floor. She said she was so embarrassed! Did you have a pony?

B. Yes I did. We had a lot of pets. I had everything, a pet monkey and a pony and and ducks, geese, dogs and cats, rabbits.

C. Wow, bantam rooster.

B. Yeah. (laughs)

C. What was your favorite?

B. Oh, I guess that monkey was my favorite.

C. What was he like?

B. Well, he was a little marmoset, a small species of monkey. In fact he was so small I kept him in a bird cage. I would let him out occasionally but he would run up our lace curtains and he was so light he wouldn’t even hurt the lace curtains.

C. Is that right?

B. I’d put him on–he’d hang on my finger like this on the one side of my hand and you couldn’t see him on the other side.

C. Oh, he was really small!

B. And when he slept at night–now of course in those days our house got awfully cold at night. In fact it would freeze in our kitchen and that’s where I kept the bird cage and so every night I put a fur muff in his cage. He would sleep in that muff. One night I forgot to put the muff in the cage and next morning I got up. He was clinging to the top of the bird cage and he was just stiff like he was dead. We got him out and my mother made a whiskey sling. We took an eye dropper and slid it down his throat. He came alive just as good as new.

C. Oh, isn’t that something! No, I didn’t even know there was such an animal. That was a lot of fun for you to play with. Did you go to a one-room school?

B. Yeah. I went to a one-room school just about a half mile from where I lived and we’d walk. Course in those days the winter was a lot more severe than they are now. We’d have a lot of snow and-uh-so sometimes even the school teachers would be snowed in. They’d stay all night at our place. And I had the same teacher for eight years. I never had another teacher until I went to high school.

C. Was he good?

B. Oh yeah. Burl Bauman.

C. Merle Bauman?

B. No, Burl. He was Merle’s uncle. Yeah. There was four of us had the same teacher: Ron Palmer, Garnet Eisman, Darris Mohler and myself. We all had the same teacher for eight years.

C. Were there just four in your school?

B. Oh no. We had about 30, nearly 40.

C. And they’d be all 8 grades?

B. All 8 grades.

C. Wow!

B. And we had-uh-an old well in the corner of the school yard and we’d get a pail of water and bring it in the schoolhouse. We had one dipper. We all drank out of the same dipper. No one died. (laughs) Naturally.

C. Did you have a bucket you carried it in?

B. We all carried a bucket, and one of my standbys was, in those days there were so many fence rows everybody had a lot of elderberries. And my mother always made enough elderberry jelly to last all winter. So we had a lot of elderberry sandwiches and she’d make a layer of elderberry jelly and a layer of peanuts. That was our sandwiches.

C. That’d be good for you too. Then what did they do, recess school for an hour or something for lunch?

B. I don’t know about an hour, but we’d have 15 minutes recess, two recesses at noon.

C. Did you have slides and jungle gyms or anything like that?

B. No. We had nothing.

C. How did you play then?

B. Well we played ball and made tents out of burlap bags, things like that.

C. Oh you did! Yeah, you learn to make do with a lot of little things.

B. Right. No running water or anything. Well, we didn’t have it at home either. At home we had no running water, no electricity and of course like the rest of them we had a little patch of a garden and at the end of the path was a little building with a Sears Roebuck catalogue in it. In fact we used to call it our miniature library. You could sit out there and read. Course you didn’t do much readin’ in the winter time.

C. I know. You wouldn’t stay very long. Did you go there to get away from chores sometimes?

D. No. We had to do our chores. But with no electricity we’d all sit around the dining room table in the evening. We had a coal-oil light like the one hanging there which went up and down and that’s where we did all our school work at the table.

B. Did your mom pop popcorn?

B. Yes, we had popcorn and we had a big orchard. We had apples every year.

C. Oh in the evening you’d eat apples and popcorn?

B. Yeah. We used to have a wainscot corner around there. We’d chew gum. We’d have a wad of gum and we’d take it out and put it on the wainscoting. Maybe the next day we’d go back and pick up our wad of gum and chew it some more. In fact, I thought that’s what that wainscoting was for. (laughs)

C. I remember Ed telling about, or I guess it was his sister, that after all the kids had grown up they decided they would sell the big table and buy a smaller one, and they went to get this table apart and way up in under the top of the table was a little tiny ledge where the legs were held together, or the sides or something, and one of the boys had put every food that he didn’t like up on that shelf. (laughs)

B. I know our school desks all had wads of gum underneath.

C. Yeah. I remember that. Now, let’s see, how old were you when you were drafted?

B. Well, I enlisted, and let’s see, I was in the service two and half years and when I came out I was 30.

C. What did you do before you went in the service then? Did you have a job?

B. Well, I worked at the canning plant here in Napoleon. I worked for all of them. I worked for Lippencot, Standard Brand, Campbell Soup.

C. Those were all here in Napoleon?

B. Oh yes. And–uh–my folks always had a big truck farm. I liked to garden. When I enlisted that was quite a thing too. All my friends had gone and I’d go to town on a Saturday night and noone was around anymore so I thought I might as well enlist.

C. Did you have brothers that were in the war too?

B. Yeah. I had one brother.

C. So where did you-uh–go then when you enlisted?

B. Well, I, when I enlisted I was at Ft. Benjamin Harrison.

C. Where’s that?

B. Indiana. And-uh–Carlton Reiser–I don’t know whether you ever knew him. He was from Napoleon and he was a Captain at that time and he was the one who put me on the train to go down south. And then I went to Camp Claybourne, Louisiana, is where I was stationed for awhile. And on the way down on the train it was listed as to what branch of service they would put you in and I had worked for the highway department a couple years prior to going into service and so I was puffin’ up guard rails and mowin’ grass, so they put me in as an engineer. (laughs) I stayed with the engineers all through my service and so then when I got down to the camp there I joined the 82nd Division and that was Sgt. York’s old War I division, so I met Sgt York. He was still there.

C. So you met Sgt. York?

B. Isn’t that something. So then-uh after we took our basic training or shortly thereafter they split the 82nd Division and they made two Airborne Divisions, the 101st and the 82nd.

C. Division of what? The Air Force?

B. No. The Army. And so they made two airborne divisions out of the 82nd Division. They made the 82nd Division and the 101st Division. Prior to that time there had never been such a thing such as an Airborne Division. You had to be either a paratrooper or a glider. So I was put in the 101st Airborne and stayed with it all the way through. The Airborne unit was only half as large as the other divisions. We had 15,000 instead of 30,000 which is the regular division. So I was trained as a glider trooper.

C. You were! Did you ride in a glider?

B. Oh yeah.

C. Those were dangerous.

B. But after we got ready to go to Europe we went to New York and boarded the ship there and that was really a full ship. I thought, gosh, I hated that. It was a terrible rusty old ship that was run by Indians and the name of the ship was Stropenover. Well, we started over on a convoy and our ship did have trouble so we had to leave the convoy and pull in to Newfoundland so we were in Newfoundland about two weeks while they were trying to get it fixed up and after the repairs they started out and as we were at the mouth of the port we struck a boulder or something and poked a hole in it and we had to come back in, so we were there all alone in Newfoundland and for two weeks we were in Newfoundland. Then we ran out of supplies. While we were in Newfoundland there was an army station there named Pepperele so we’d go for a hike up there and wash our clothes and come back and go on the ship again. Well, it was such a dirty hole of a ship and the cooks were Indians, they wore their old clothes way down to their feet and they were just filthy. And their bread was so full of weavels it looked like raisin bread.

C. Ooh! Bugs or something?

B. Little bugs. And everybody got dysentery, and everybody had to use the toilet and not enough toilets so everybody went on the deck. It was just terrible. You couldn’t stand up it was so slippery. Just a mess–it was terrible! So then we finally ordered another ship to come take the place of this one. So then we got a replacement ship. We transferred on to that but by that time we were out of supplies so we had to go to Halifax, Nova Scotia to get supplies so we could start back over to Europe. And so we were all alone with just one small ship as an escort going to Nova Scotia and they kept dropping depth bombs you know, they’d detect metal, submarine or what. Anyway we did get loaded and come back and joined another convoy and went over to England, Liverpool. So from the time we left. and that was half of our Division. The other half of our Division had already gone on another boat and they were over in England waitin’ on us. So from the time we left New York until we got to England it took us 45 days, to get from here to over there. So then we were in England and we trained in England but we were there a whole year prior to D Day. Do you remember Normandy? I went in on D Day.

C. Were you piloting?

B. No. This was strange too. When we got ready to go they didn’t have quite enough gliders so our Battalion and a couple other Battalions, they went by boat, the Susan B. Anthony, and on crossing the Channel we struck a mine and we had to abandon ship in the Channel and so when we struck the mine we were way down in the hold, the bottom of the ship. The lights went off. So it came over the loud speaker to come up on deck, feel your way. So we got up on deck, everybody, and they said, “Discard everything you have. Make yourself as light as possible.” So we took everything off except out clothes and so another little ship came over beside us and so I went by net over on that smaller ship.

C. By net, how do you mean?

B. Well, they had the net. They just threw it over from one ship to the other and you had to crawl over.

C. You got on the net and they lifted you over?

B. No. You just had to crawl over. Well, it could only accommodate half of us, so then another ship–by that time our ship was gettin’, leaning quite heavily, so they couldn’t pull on the other side and then another ship pulled us on the other side of that, so we went from ship to ship to ship and every one of us got off our ship but we didn’t have anything. We lost our rifles, our gas masks, our ammunition, helmet, everything. So then after we broke away about a half hour later we saw our ship kinda rare up and disappear.

C. Oh! A half-hour after you left.

B. So then those two ships took us as far as they could take us, then we had to go on to landing crafts which took us in as far as they could go, so then we had to wade in.

C. Now this was where?

B. This was on D Day going into Normandy.

C. Wow!

B. Of course by that time the beach was covered with dead, the wounded, screaming, bleeding and-uh-so the first dead person I came to I took everything he had. I took his back pack, helmet, gas mask and everything, and then…

C. Were they shooting at you?

B. Oh yes, bombing and shooting, and-uh my best buddy-uh-I don’t know what happened to him. He was ahead of me a little bit. I don’t know whether he stepped on a land mine or whether a grenade hit him or what–don’t know but he was minus an arm or a leg or something. He was just all mangled up and he just begged me to shoot him and-uh I couldn’t. So I went on and I prayed that he would die. And then after we went through all this on the beach and stuff we went inland about 3/4 of a mile to an old homestead that’s all built out of stone, and-uh we went in there and we stayed there for several weeks. We were fighting from there and-uh you felt safe when you were in this stone building which they kept bombing. You weren’t safe from the bombing but you was safe from all the gunfire and stuff. So I layed there on that hay stack and I remember everything was goin’ through my mind, “How did I get here? and what my folks were doin'” and all that and-uh so I didn’t get my clothes changed for about three days, and it had to be treated you know for gas that was impregnated in the clothes, so when I took my socks off the skin and all came with them cause they’d been on so long. And of course our dead was layin’ there in all the ditches and everywhere and the water was in the ditches. And you couldn’t drink the water because of all the dead people. But we were lucky in one way. This farm place where we stayed had a couple barrels of hard cider so we all filled our canteens with–that’s what we had, hard cider. So then after we were there fightin’ for all those weeks we went back to England to get new people because we had lost so many and got replacements and got reequipped and stuff waitin’ for the next mission. Then we flew from England to Holland for that mission and-uh we went in there with a glider and-uh–Truss Leader, you know she’s from Holland? She called me her liberator. They have me over there every so often for dinner. Course she was in an orphanage at that time and she said they lived on rats and stale bread, uh, moldy bread. She said that nobody got sick though because mold in penicillan, you know?

And after that mission we went down to Marmelade, France to get new replacements for all these casualties that was goin’ on.

C. Wait a minute. What did you do in Holland? On that mission?

B. Holland had been occupied by the Germans for a couple years.

C. Were you a foot soldier there, or—

B. Yeah. I was in supply all the way through. I have friends now in Holland that we keep in touch with all the time. I’ve been to their place and every five years they have reunions over there and I’ve been to them. One lady said they had these Germans living in their garage. And when the gliders started landing they were so happy that–she said she rode out in the field when the gliders were landing on her bicycle and she said our boys stole her bicycle. So then we went back to France and we, some of the fellows got furloughed and they were goin’ all over. They were goin’ back to England to visit, some went to Paris and different places and they just had got back to France and then here the Germans had broke through our lines up there in Belgium and we got word we had to go up there to Bastogne and hold Bastogne, Belgium. So we went by truck then. In fact we stood up on this truck like cigars on end. It was so tight you couldn’t sit down. We rode there hours and hours and hours.

C. That’s the only way you could travel I suppose.

B. So they got in there and then-uh of course were pinned there in Bastogne 7 days over Christmas. That’s when that general gave the “Nuts!” reply. You probably read it.

C. Oh yeah. Let’s review that.

B. They said we had to surrender or else they would–annihilate the whole town. They understood that the Americans being great humanitarians they didn’t think we’d want to be responsible for the killing of all the civilians. They wanted us to give up. And Gen. McCullough said, “Nuts!” and the German general didn’t know what “Nuts” meant. They told him that meant, “Go to Hell!” So then the bombing began in earnest. They really did take place. Of course there were a lot of tunnels in Bastogne that had been built for their soldiers and all that, so I slept in a tunnel at night; that’s the only chance to be safe, and that’s one of the chances you take. By that time the Germans had taken so many of our men prisoners they took our clothes from our POWs and they would infiltrate our lines. They took English-speaking Germans that came in you know and the Germans would say, “Hey, Joe!” and the guy would come out of hiding and someone would shoot him. You never knew whether it was friend or foe that you were with. Didn’t know where you were. Well then after that we went down through Belgium and in the fields there was just acres and acres of German soldiers who didn’t know what to do. They were told to go home. The war was over.

C. Were they alive?

B. Yeah.

C. Wait a minute. How did this happen? How did the American armies get out of this–the Germans trapped them didn’t they? That’s why they were demanding surrender?

B. No, we were holding.

C. You were not under Patton?

B. Yeah, that’s what I’m gettin’ at. Patton and his group came in and that’s how we got out.

C. Patton’s group took you out then?

B. Yeah. They came in. I went by jeep to Germany and all that and wound up in Birchtesgaden and in fact Hitler’s house was leveled by the RAF so we went in by jeep. The day the war ended, May 8, I was in his house.

C. Is that right? What was it like?

B. Oh it had been bombed. It was leveled. Of course the Eagle’s Nest where he used to go up. That was intact. And then we were scheduled to go into Japan but by that time I had enough points that I could be released since I had so many points so I had left the outfit and went down to Marseilles, France waiting for a ship to go back through the Mediterranean past the Rock of Gibraltar on my way home so while I was waiting there in Marseilles, France to come home that’s when we dropped the bomb there in Japan. So our whole division didn’t have to go there.

C. Now the points you mentioned, would you explain that?

B. Oh you got so many points for time that you served, missions you had.

C. Time that you served?

B. Missions

C. Missions you were on.

B. But you see our casualties were much heavier than the ordinary soldier’s. In fact, I looked up some of these figures and-uh we had 15,000 when our Division first went in, you know, on D-Day, and-uh at the end of the war of the original 15,000 people you know how many were still in their battalion? 2,655.

C. Wow!

B. Of the originals.

C. The rest were dead?

B. I don’t mean they were dead. Some were transferred out, some were prisoners of war, some were injured. But of the original–and I’m one of the original. 15,000 to less than 3,000.

C. Is that right!

B. And in fact we had formations like I say, and in our battalion we had 868 killed or wounded, and-uh captured 665. And anyway there were almost 11,000 of them that had left the battalion during those formations.

C. How many years were you in Europe on those missions, do you know how many total?

B. Well no, see I was in England for one whole year before we went in and we were only fighting about six months. But there were seven of us from here in the 101st Airborne and I’m the only one that was left. There was–you probably know some of them. Elder Meyer–he was from Jewel and Wilbur Gerken, he was from Malinta, you know Fran Freytag? Her husband was a barber?

C. Yeah, yeah.

B. This is her brother, and I was with him. He was killed going into Normandy on D-Day. Yeah. He was killed right then on D-Day. And Herman Badenhop–he’s out here in Freedom Township–and he could speak German. He could interpret for us, you know, then Harvey Moorehead from Napoleon and Wilbur Clark, the last one that just died, over there on Riverview you know, then myself and there was one–I forget his first name but a Baker from Holgate. He died shortly after the war. I’m the only one left.

C. My!

B. Yeah, then I was discharged in ’45.

C. Well you were fortunate that you were in the supply part.

B. Yeah.

C. Because I remember my husband saying, “Boy those gliders, they were just at the mercy of anyone on the ground.”

B. We got $50 a month extra pay because they said, they called it ‘hazardous duty’.

C. Yeah. Sure it was hazardous duty!

B. They made us feel good though. They said if we crashed we wouldn’t have to worry about fire.

C. You’d be dead.

B. Well see, our two generals, Gen. Taylor, he jumped in on D Day; Gen. Pratt, he went in by glider and his pilot of the glider was Gerky from Findlay, that oil company. I knew him real well. And his glider crashed and Gen. Pratt was killed going in.

C. So both of them were killed probably.

B. No. Gen. Taylor made it.

C. I mean both the pilot and general were killed.

B. The general had several aides with him were killed but the pilot only received a broken leg.

B. I guess that’s about it.

C. Pretty hard. Now let’s see, when did you meet your wife then, wife-to-be?

B. Well, I’d known her for quite a while and-uh do you remember Tillie and Ida Dietson who used to do seamstress work there? They were good friends with the Higgins family, my wife’s folks, so they arranged that she and I come to their home one evening. That’s how we got acquainted. We were gonna get married before the war and-uh I hesitated because I said if anything happened to me I think my mother should, was worthy, should have the insurance. So I didn’t get married till after the war. And then, so we were married within a month after I was home.

C. Oh you were. Did she come to see you while you were in the service?

B. Oh yeah. When I was at Ft. Bragg.

C. Let’s see, Ft. Bragg was at what state again?

B. North Carolina. And-uh I just have the one son and-uh then she passed away and I remarried, so I lost two wives.

C. Oh is that right. And-uh who was your second wife?

B. Rosella Hoff from Holgate who I had gone with before I went with my first wife, but she was an only child and her parents didn’t want her to get married. (laughs) She had it rather unpleasant. So-uh-my first wife and I were married 12 years and the second wife 18 and we did have some nice times.

C. When did you have your son then, with the first wife?

B. First wife.

C. And you lived where?

B. Well-uh when I got back from the service we bought the house there on the corner of Park and Sheffield. And then-uh we lived there about two years. That’s where my son was born and then when my son was about–well less than a year old we moved to the big house her folks and grandparents owned, right across from the library on the corner of Webster and Clinton, the big yellow house.

C. Oh, that big yellow house!

B. Lived there for years and years.

C. is that right. Yeah, that’s directly across from the library.

B. And then we had a cottage. We spent a lot of time there. My wife spent more time there than I when I was working.

C. What sort of work did you do?

B. I worked at Campbell’s. It wasn’t Campbell’s but it was a canning factory.

C. Were you in the office there? Or on the line?

B. I was in the stockroom.

C. Stockroom. Not too bad a job. It was nice steady work.

B. I was responsible for all three shifts. I worked days but once in a while when they couldn’t find anyone to work at night I’d get a call and would have to run out there. I liked the job, did a good job. In fact, I’m the oldest retiree now at Campbell Soup. They have a breakfast once a month you know, the retirees; I’m the oldest one.

C. Where were these other canning factories that were in town?

B. Same location. Lippencotts built it. They’re the ones that started it and-uh gosh I can’t think of the last name now but he married a Diehlman girl. They had a coal yard. They lived there where Fritz Pohlman lived. Yeah, Lippencotts built it, started it. Walt Scheib started it. He was the superviser at that time, Chub Bevelheimer’s father.

C. Did they can tomatoes? Is that what the old factories did?

B. Yeah, they made a lot of ketchup, which they don’t do anymore.

C. At the time when I was going to school at Bowling Green they were making the Heinz ketchup. Every fall the whole town would smell like ketchup. (laughs)

B. And they used to run their stuff, their bad water, in the river and the river would be red from here to Grand Rapids. They made them quit that.

C. George Rafferty said he made many trips to Chicago to try to get Campbell’s to put up their factory here, but he said you wouldn’t believe the amount of opposition he got from local bigwigs who didn’t want the town to grow.

B. That’s the same deal like the University. When they built Bowling Green University– it was going to have it here you know but they had too many bars here.(laughs)

C. Is that what it was? The fact that they had bars? I heard that they met the representatives of the state that wanted to build Bowling Green Unversity here and they weren’t very cordial or something. Did you hear anything like that?

B. I don’t know. I know they debated between Bowling Green and Napoleon.

C. Well, there were a lot of very powerful people here who didn’t want the town to grow. They wanted it to stay the same in size. Well, we found out since it must progress or regress. It can’t stay the same. Well did you work in stock in all the other factories that you worked in too?

B. At the beginning Y’know, when they built Lippencott’s they had one girl in the office, Mary McBride. She didn’t have enough work to keep her busy. She’d come out and help us label. We were all labeling. Of course at that time you had to do it by hand. See now how it’s grown?

C. What changes have you noticed in Napoleon in your lifetime?

B. Oh gosh, it’s all filled up. Y’know where Anthony Wayne is? There was just one farm house there.

C. Anthony Wayne Restaurant?

B. No. Anthony Wayne subdivision. There was one farm out there. Same deal out there where our church is on Glenwood: the Jackman farm with just one house. Oh yeah, all that is built up, more so on that side of town though than on this side.

C. But they used to have grocery stores and gas stations and everything on the south side, didn’t they.

B. Oh yeah. There was a whole string of stores and a furniture store, lumber yard, all that. It’s all gone.

C. On the south side, you mean?

B. Yeah.

C. Ray and I tried to find a house. We wanted to move out of the big house into a small one. We tried to find a house for sale on the south side. We drove all over and we couldn’t find one. There was just one tiny, tiny little one that was just too small.

B. Do you remember Morrison’s Grocery Store?

C. No.

B. They had one son who was a really good musician, Tom Morrison. I have one of their plates, a souvenir. And I have seven plates, souvenir of Westhope.

C. Yeah, they used to give plates away at Christmas time, didn’t they?

B. Oh yeah.

C. At the grocery stores and so forth. I have one, or did have one, I think it belongs to somebody else in my family now. Cousins of ours had a grocery store and they had given out a Canfield plate. It had a miniature calendar of each month all the way around it.

B. Oh yeah. Calendar plates. I started to collect calendar plates.

C. is that right. They probably had–well they’d have to have a different one every year, wouldn’t they.

B. Oh yeah. Over there in Europe, you know like I told you, they have a reunion for us every five years, the French, Belgium, and Holland they all go together and they wine and dine us there for two weeks. We always set it up for three weeks so we can go elsewhere. And in Holland they make a plate, a commemorative plate they call it for that event, and they break the mold you know so it’s a big collectors’ item. Makes a good gift. Every time you go you get one. I’ll show you after a bit. I’ve got them down in the cellar. First time I went back was when Willemina was still living and I met her and then I was presented to Queen Julianna.

C. You were? How’d that happen?

B. Well, we had the banquet in the evening and in fact, all those pictures you know they’ve got over in Bowling Green were me and Johanna’s pictures together and then of course now her daughter Beatrice is on the throne now. And-uh but the funny part of it is–see we go over there to celebrate the liberation of Holland from the Germans you know but Beatrice married a German officer. She can’t even take part in the festivities so her father Prince Bernard always takes her place. Every village that we had liberated has a memorial there now. They lay a wreath every time we go over there. He’s always with us and he personally hung a silver and gold medallion around my neck with a velvet ribbon. I’ve got it downstairs.

C. My! I’m sure it meant a lot to those people to have you come and get them out from under the yoke of the Germans.

B. In Holland they really appreciate it.

C. That’s something we didn’t know very much about at all in United States.

B. In Holland they had all these bridges and of course they were all blown up and the Marshall Plan replaced all those. And they were the only country that ever paid us back completely.

C. Now, what part of Holland is below sea level?

B. Oh there’s a lot of it. I don’t know what proportion it is really. These dikes. I’d be afraid to live there because these dikes. I’d be afraid it’d flood. It happens occasionally.

C. How high are the dikes?

B. Well, quite high because they have a road on top of it.

C. Of course you were in France, you didn’t go into Holland?

B. Oh yeah. That’s our headquarters, in Holland. That’s the home of the Phillips. That’s the same as the General Electric here. In fact, all our Norelco radios are made by Phillips, in Holland.

C. My television is made by Phillips.

B. Oh yeah, they’re our hosts for several days. They really wine and dine us. Oh, and Mr. Phillips himself. I met him and during the war the Germans were trying to catch him, you know. He just escaped out of the rear window one time when they were coming in his building and he rode by bicycle and got away and he stayed in hiding all during the war.

C. Had to close his factory down probably at the time.

B. Because when we’d have banquets he would be there at the banquets. I’ve got pictures with him.

C. Now, how did you go? You landed in France and then how did you get up into Holland?

B. We was in France, and after that mission was closed we went back to England.

C. Then you went to Holland?

B. Then we went in by glider from England to Holland.

C. Oh that’s how you did it.

B. Yep. I’ve got pictures of him too. The Mayor of Bastogne, the present mayor–a little town right out of Bastogne, Belgium village and it was occupied by the Germans. We went in and chased the Germans out and they were all so happy and everything that they were celebrating in the street, drinking. And then the Germans ran over us and chased us back out and so then the Germans gathered every male over 16 years of age and shot them. The whole village.

C. Oh no!

B. The present mayor of Bastogne right now, he was 10 years old at the time. He saw them shoot his Dad.

C. How sad!

B. I got pictures of him.

C. I suppose they had them all lined up.

B. Lined up and shot ’em.

C. No wonder they were glad to have the Americans come and free them.

B. The Germans had captured about 60 or more of our people and of course the fighting was going on right then. They didn’t know what to do with us after they got us captured. They mowed our men all down like sheep and just killed them all. That’s against the Geneva Convention.

C. How’d you escape?

B. No, I wasn’t in that group. But there’s a big memorial there now. We visit it every time we go over there.

C. Pretty cruel. Well Hitler was so cruel, I think. Did you see that place that he had a whole complex of offices underground? I don’t know where that was.

B. Well, he was killed in an underground in Berlin with Eva Braun. I had a buddy from Berea. He found a pistol with a pearl handle with ‘Eva Braun’ on it. Well I have a thought for the museum. ‘nee, we went into Bastogne after we–we didn’t have any equipment because we had just gone back from another mission in Holland and we hadn’t been re-equipped yet. So in Bastogne we didn’t even have equipment. And so when we went into Bastogne it was green and then it started to snow and we had no camouflage, no nothing. So, being on Supply I had to send out word to the villagers there they had to turn in all their sheets, pillowcases, things like that that we could use for camaflouge I had to gather up to give to the troops. So in this hotel, it was the Bastogne Hotel they had tablecloths with Bastogne woven right in the middle of them. I’ve got one of them in the Herb Huddle museum. I used it for camouflage.

C. You have a museum here? A private museum of your own?

B. My nephew does. You’ve never seen the museum? Oh yeah, school classes all go out there.

C. I talked to him at the airport and he said he had a museum.

B. Oh yeah. He has a lot of my stuff.

C. That’s out on his farm I suppose. I’ll have to go out there and look at that.

B. He’s always had his jeeps and World War II items there.

C. So he’s your nephew?

B. Right.

C. Do you have any memories of the Depression?

B. Well, not too much but my Dad was State Representative at that time. That was in the ’30s. And I was in high school and I know I didn’t have very much money because when I worked I used to get a dollar a day. (laughs) I’d loaned my Dad everything I had to help him out ’cause he was hurtin’ at that time. Really other than that I don’t know too much.

C. Now you went to high school where?

B. Here in Napoleon.

C. How did you get into town for classes?

B. In a Model T Ford with side curtains. Used to drive in the gas station and tell ’em to put in a dollar’s worth of gas.

C. Oh, yeah, I remember that. Did you have to crank it to start it?

B. No. I don’t remember doing that. It wasn’t mine. It belonged to a neighbor boy up the road. He lived further south so he gathered up three and four of us on the way in. We paid him to ride in.

C. Did it have a gas pedal on the wheel, the steering wheel?

B. Yeah.

C. What about when it rained? Did it have side curtains?

B. It had side curtains. No heater though.

C. It’d be cold in the winter. I remember a car we had one year. When it would start to rain we’d have to stop and my Dad would have to get out and put up these side curtains all the way around the car. He’d snap ’em on.

B. We’re going to have our 72nd high-school reunion in September.

C. is that right. So you graduated when? Let me see, that would have been ’31. I graduated in ’37. Do you have very many of your class still living?

B. Well, we lost three last year. David Meekison and myself always get the class together.

C. Oh, was he a classmate of yours?

B. Yeah. We’ve been friends all our lives. Our parents were friends.

C. Is that right. He tells about having this pony

// End of Tape //

Allen, Frances

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin
September 13, 2008

CW:  I did an oral history of the woman that lived down the street here. She had such a big family. Her name was Olga Kruse. She had a disabled daughter and she told how they used to have so much fun playing down on the river in the winter. They would play on the river bank in the summer. Did your kids do that too?

FA:  Oh definitely! That is why I can’t move from here.

CW:  Your children don’t want you to move anywhere else?

FA:  My kids would like me to move from here and get into a condo, a small house, or something. I would miss the river. You see I have lived in this neighborhood all my life, and I miss that river when I am gone. We used to play on the banks too. Now this is one of the things that we did down here on this hill. We would go and slide down the hill. Kids even from across the river would come over and slide down this hill.

CW:  I bet it was good to slide on.

FA:  It was a good one and old ladies that lived in the house next to the hill, they had a well. At night when the kids were done sliding we would take water from that well and throw it over the hill so it would get icy.

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  We used to slide way down. Of course the river doesn’t freeze over like it did then. We used to go down and we’d hit a bump and we’d just keep going and slide right on to the river.

CW:  Oh you did! Wouldn’t that be dangerous?

FA:  Not when the ice was thick.

CW:  It must have been pretty thick.

FA:  Oh heavens yes.

CW:  How thick did it get?

FA:  Oh, I don’t know because we were always down there ice skating and things like that on the river.

CW:  I remember going up and standing on the river bridge when the ice was going out. Some of those chunks were as big as a tree.

FA:  In 1936 I was a senior in High School. That was a really, really cold winter. By Thanksgiving time that river was so froze we could get on it. I can remember many a times we had snow by Thanksgiving. I can remember that year the ice was 36 inches thick. The cars were even on the ice. Down there behind our house they made a big square and they would play ice hockey.  I can remember on this Sunday my cousin and I walked way up on the river on the ice. The next day, why it was unusual for my dad to ever pick us up from school, but we were let out early that afternoon and I mean early. Everybody was up there picking up their kids. They had the bridge blocked off on both sides and only people that had to could come across that bridge. The ice had started moving out and it was jamming up something terrible. I remember that night when we were doing dishes, and we had a white spitz dog and he was always tagging us around and wanted to be with someone. He sat down and he was howling something terrible. Just as he was howling our water line broke. The ice had gorged and broke our water line coming across the river. And that was terrible that year. The water had come clear up to this second hill. It was just a couple inches from the barn where Dad kept his car. That used to be a barn down there. I can remember from my grandfather had chickens down there in the bottom part. This was years and years ago and they had horses in there too. The water was just a couple inches from this.

CW:  The bridge was in at that time in 1936 wasn’t it. I didn’t realize the water had gotten that high. Now where had it gotten jammed? It would have been jammed somewhere.

FA:  Well it was jammed a bit up the river and down the river. They thought that people going across the bridge might get hurt. Down at the Damascus Bridge it was really jammed. I remember Dr. Julian (Harrison) took his car down there to see the ice go out and he said. “I got hit with ice.”

CW:  Oh he did!

FA:  All the people had drove out there. It was so pitiful. These great big hunks of ice, why there would be a dog or a cat out there on these hunks of ice. They were caught you know. It was just pitiful to hear them.

CW:  You can be thankful it wasn’t humans that were on there.

FA:  I can remember that. The ice that year was terrible. It was so awful seeing those hunks of ice. There were fish caught in there too.

CW:  We weren’t out of the depression yet. People were valuing more of whatever they had. They valued their cars and things.

FA:  I can remember that. We were down on that ice a lot. We were always there in the wintertime. Here is another thing that we did on the hill. C. D. Brillhart had often heard of the fun we had on that hill. One night he and his wife came over.

CW:  Didn’t they live on a farm out West?

FA:  Not at that time. They lived in a house where Pam lived.

CW:  Oh that would have been on the North side of the river.

FA:  That is where they lived and then they went up the street here. They lived in back by Fairview.

CW:  No, it was beyond Fairview.

FA:  Just a little bit. Not quite but it was in that territory. Anyway, they came over that night and asked what we were doing. My uncle that lived down there by the hill built his kid a bobsled. It was a big long thing. It was built out of wood and it would hold six people. They would slide down this hill and they would have a ball.

CW:  I’ll bet they did have fun!

FA:  Over here on one side of the hill was an ash pile. It was steeper if you went off. It seemed like the kids would always hit that ash pile.

CW:  What would that do, send you up in the air?

FA:  It would dump us.

CW:  Oh, it would dump you.

FA:  The kids would get a big kick out of that. Mr. Brillhart wanted to go down the hill on the sled and we hit the ash pile. He had a barrel of fun that night. He just had an awfully lot of fun playing with those kids. Some of these people that run the schools aren’t so high hatted after all.

CW:  Oh, no, they’re not. He was a Superintendent for a long, long time.

FA:  He was just human and he just had a ball that night. We stayed there till we nearly froze to death. That’s what we did all over the South side here. Sometimes we would have 30 kids or more down there.

CW:  See, I think the South side kids, I don’t know about the North side, but I think the South side kids were pretty close. They had a lot of fun.

FA:  We were close and just like we used to skate so much over here. We had no place to skate except down here on the streets. One summer they closed that street every Wednesday night from 7:00 to 9:00 o’clock.

CW:  That would have been just a block long.

FA:  You would be surprised at the number of kids from the North side that would come over and skate with us. That was fun. We were as kids called the South Side Savages and River Rats.

CW:  Oh really!

FA:  But nevertheless we all stuck together.

CW:  Probably kids from other towns called all the kids from this town river rats because you were right on the river.

FA:  That’s what they called us but we didn’t care because we still had fun. I know they used to say that the North side and South side were separated. There was no separation in us. We were all here living in Napoleon and we were together socially. We mixed good with the North side. I do remember how we used to roller skate. I wore out many pairs of roller skates. Just like when they put the skating rink up at Wayne Park I practically lived up there skating.

CW:  Was that before it became a Dance Hall?

FA:  They had the dance hall there too. They had the skating rink inside and the dance hall was outside.

CW:  Oh, I see.

FA:  But they did have that as a dance hall long before they put the skating rink in there before they had the outside one.

CW:  Was it always just an outdoor dance hall?

FA:  No, it was the big building. They had many, many dances in there before they had the  outside one.

CW:  Wayne Park is still there isn’t it?

FA:  Yes, Wayne Park is still there, but they have all these houses in there now.

CW:  It is just west of town.

FA:  Yes.

CW:  Now we have Meyerholtz Park along the river. Then not very far beyond on the right hand side is 424.

FA:  You remember where Sally Watson lived up there.

CW:  I know now where that dance hall was. I knew it was in the area.   Bob Downey told me a devilish little thing those kids did when they were little. He said somebody had a cottage down along the river and it was close to Wayne Park. They would wait till the music was going and everybody was dancing and then the boys would be in that cottage and they would walk up there to the dance hall. The men would come out every once in a while, take a sip of whiskey and put their bottle back. Then they found where they were putting the bottles and stole the bottles.

FA:  That sounds like kids. Dad used to have a shanty up there by the river too. We would go up and stay all weekend. He had his boat.

CW:  You probably went swimming in the river.

FA:  At that time you could swim in that river. I wouldn’t swim in that river now. He loved to fish. We would go up there and stay all weekend. We would go up to the canal and fish.

CW:  You fished in the canal?

FA:  Oh yes, the canal had water in it then. It was nice fishing there and fishing in the river. I know Dad had a motor boat and he had the row boat. The little kids always wanted to take it out. He would say, “No, no, you don’t go out until you learn how to swim.”

CW:  That is a good idea.

FA:  That was a rule. So the kids would learn to swim real fast.

CW:  You wouldn’t want to be left behind.

FA:  Oh, no. We didn’t get to take the motor boat out unless he was with us. We took the row boat out many a times. We had fun. Like I said we would go fishing. There was another couple that always went with us.

CW:  Another thing the Kruse girl said was that these were all farms.

FA:  Oh yes, this was Barnes and out in front was Maumee. In back of us they were all farms.

CW:  They would play hide and seek.

FA:  Yes, I remember how the whole gang of us would get together and play hide and seek. We would play Run Sheepy Run and Follow the Arrow.

CW:  How did they play Run Sheepy Run?

FA:  Well, we were all sheep. If they would find the first one and somebody would be hiding somewhere else. If someone found the first one we’d clap our hands and that one would be free.

CW:  Oh yeah, so he could run and touch base and go free. I lived in the city and what we did was put a can down and we called it Kick the Can.

FA:  Yes we did too.

CW:  The person who was “it” would get them rounded up and they would come in and kick the can and they would be free to go hide again.

FA:  We used to do that too. I remember that, just like back here that was all raspberries. That was the lot next to me and in back of me was all red raspberries. Over there in the spring she would be out barefoot and she would be spading all of those raspberries. She took very good care of those bushes.

CW:  I bet they were good berries.

FA:  They were good. I used to go and buy some from her. She had black ones and those big red ones. Those are the best.

CW:  The black ones are kind of seedy, but the red ones are great.

FA:  That was all farms back there, clear back to the fairgrounds. Now it is all houses.

CW:  Were the fairgrounds there when you were a little girl?

FA:  Yes

CW:  So it has been there a long time. How old are you now?

FA:  I am 91.

CW:  I am a couple of years behind you.

FA:  I can remember always going to the fair there. We would go out there and there wasn’t elbow room. It was always so full of people and now I don’t know if people just aren’t interested or what. You don’t have the fairs like they used to.

CW:  Well don’t you think back in those days they didn’t have much for entertainment. So many people that were living on farms were isolated. So at the fair they could run around and talk with people.

FA:  I think that myself. Just like kids at school would ask me what I did when I was younger.  What did we do, why we would go to somebody’s house and played cards and pop some popcorn. We had a good time. Today they have to have their cars and some money and go some place. It’s altogether different than when I was a kid.

CW:  If there was another big depression they would probably go back and do the same things we used to do.

FA:  I wouldn’t doubt it.

CW:  They would complain all day but I think they would get along. They would get used to the simple pleasures. There wasn’t anything wrong with it.

FA:  We used to have a barrel of fun with our popcorn and playing cards or something. They used to have a lot of fun. Of course we didn’t go to all of those things. There just wasn’t the money.

CW:  You just didn’t have a lot of money for entertainment.  Money was for groceries and bills and necessities.

FA:  I remember when they built the bridge that they moved the old bridge down east a ways.

CW:  Did they still use it then?

FA:  They put temporary piers up there for it so we could get back and forth without going clear around. While they were moving the bridge we had to go down by Biddies and get a ferry every morning to go to school.

CW:  Oh really they used a ferry! Now Biddies was where old Route 6 comes in.

FA:  Yes, down there by the new Mexican restaurant. We had to be down there before eight o’clock in the morning. It would stay on the other side for a half hour before it would come back this way or we would be late for school. It took us forever to get back and forth.

CW:  Did they use poles to make their way across?

FA:  Well they had ropes and also poles. As soon as the school let out we would have to run like mad down there to get it to go home or else we would have to wait over there till five o’clock. It was really something. That ferry was so packed with kids. Today I don’t think they could get that many on there. But they had to go across the river to get to school.

CW:  Now they would probably let those kids out a little bit early.

FA:  I doubt it. They might let them off different. I remember when they built that bridge.

CW:  That was the one that had those arches. It was such a pretty bridge. I think that one was quite picturesque.

FA:  It was. It was a nice bridge.

CW:  And they said that it was written in the brick somehow the word “Napoleon”. There was something else about it too. That is something Russ Patterson can tell you about.

FA:  I do remember how they did that. After it got so far along we got to go across it to go to school.

CW:  That was the new bridge right?

FA:  Yes, we could walk across. That was something too.

CW:  You mean it was kind of exciting.

FA:  While they were building it we got to walk across it. Anyway it was quite a sight.

CW:  Sure.

FA:  Oh do you remember the Idle Hour?

CW:  Yes. Downtown.

FA:  Do you remember when it burned?

CW:  Yes.

FA:  I remember that. I can remember Don got up and went to work. He didn’t know it was on fire. He looked out the window and said there is a big fire. And that afternoon               might have been a baby. It seems to me like she was with me. My mother and I walked uptown that afternoon to see it. It seems like she was just a baby. I do remember when that burned. Why we kids used to go in there after school. It was a good hangout.

CW:  My daughter said that is where she learned how to smoke. The girls would sit in there and smoke.

FA:  Mike was very careful. The kids had to behave when they were in there. It was a very nice place for kids to go. They should have something like that today. Someplace for kids to go and be free but not be rowdy.

CW:  Someplace where there is no liquor.

FA:  Right. It was not unusual for me to go up there and sit for an hour or so. We would be just talking.

CW:  Didn’t people, when they met each other, somebody new, wouldn’t they sit and talk for quite a while?

FA:  Yes, that was a treat to go uptown and meet somebody. On Saturday night, my gosh, I remember I worked in our office during the week. On Saturday I worked at the five and ten and we didn’t close until eleven o’clock on Saturday night. It was hard for us to get out of there then. Somebody would come in and no they were waiting on somebody in the store. I can remember that store would be packed with people coming in to buy. It was just packed. There was no place to park and like you say they would just jabber and jabber. You don’t see that today. You are almost afraid to talk to people. Whether they knew them or not if somebody would say hello they would start a conversation and just start talking.

CW:  Yes, that is right.

FA:   But today you don’t go up and talk to a stranger like that.

CW:  It’s really too bad.

FA:   Yes it is too bad.

CW:  It gave you a feeling of comfort, I think.

FA:  Not only that but a feeling of friendship. I thought it was nice. But they just don’t do it anymore.

CW:  I remember Ed’s nurse saying she could go downtown and it would take her an hour to go one block. She would keep meeting people she knew and they all would want to talk.

FA:  Sure they did and it was nice. We would run into somebody we knew and they’d say lets go get a cup of coffee. Of course we would go get our cup of coffee. This doesn’t happen today.

CW:  Then there was a drug store where they had sodas.

FA:  Oh yes, that was in there where Patterson’s are now or where they were. That was Red & Teds.

CW:  What did the Red & Ted stand for? Were they two men?

FA:  I think the one had red hair and the other one was Ted. I think that’s the way it was. That was a nice drug store. We used to go there a lot to get sodas.

CW:  And then there was another one on Washington Street, wasn’t there?

FA:  Well there was Mike and another one, what was his name? Was it Coscarelli?

CW:  I don’t know.

FA: It seems to me it was something like that.  Shaff had a place there too.

CW:  What? On Washington Street? Yes, I think there were two drug stores. One sold sodas and the other one didn’t.

FA:  Well the one across the street that was the Shaff’s.

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  They sold soft drinks and stuff. But these two ice cream places they were Mike and Vic Coscarelli.

CW:  Yes, I remember the name.

FA:  Well Vic had the other one. Those were both on Washington Street.

CW:  Not to change the subject, but tell me about your husband’s company, or was it your company.

FA:  It was my grandfather that started it. It was my grandfather and Dad’s factory and in later years turned over to my brother, sister and me.

CW:  How did he start that? What was it called?

FA:  It was called Plummer Spray. Now it is Plummer Spray Equipment Corp. We are not in a company, we are in a corporation. The way it was started is, he had a little paint shop there on Perry Street, and he painted cars. You know these things that you put stuff in them for flies.

CW: Oh you mean that pump thing.

FA:  That is what he was using to paint his car.

CW:  Oh for heavens sake. I suppose they didn’t have electricity at that time.

FA:   Well there was electricity but not enough. He got to thinking one day if he could paint a car with that pump why couldn’t he make a spray gun. So he made a spray gun.

CW:  He just invented it?

FA:  Yes, he invented it. He got a patent on it and everything. He invented the spray gun that we have.

CW:  Did he have a patent on it?

FA:  So that is how we got started.

CW:  He must have sold a lot of those because he had a company.

FA:  Yes we did sell an awful lot of those.

CW:  Now who would buy them? Were they individuals or companies?

FA:  Individuals would buy them.  Different outfits that did painting in volume. People who were painters would buy them. Like the rubber companies would buy them.

CW:  For their tires?

FA:  Yes, for their tires. Yes, they used them on their tires.  They used them on their tire machines. To me it looked just like a barrel. You would put it in your car.

CW:  They must compress that rubber or something. It was really as big as a barrel when it goes in.

FA:  It all depends on the size. Not all of them were that big. They were shaped like a barrel.

CW:  Yes some of them were smaller.

FA: Some of the tires were bigger than others. We make tire machines too.

CW:  It must have been an awful lot of work to get your product advertised.

FA:  We didn’t advertise so much, but we had salesmen out on the road. Of course they had to travel a lot. They would give out our name.

CW:  They would probably go to car repair places too wouldn’t they?

FA:  Yes they did.

CW:  Now these machines were they run by electricity?

FA:  In later years they were run by both.

CW:  The first one was like a hand pump.

FA:  And then Grampa made a spray gun that you held and it would run on electricity. It was later years that he made the tire machine. That is what he did.

CW:  He was smart to get a patent on it.

FA:  Oh yes.

CW:  Some people like Julie Heitman said her father or grandfather was very inventive and he invented a corn picker, I believe it was. It had something to do with corn. A shucker or something. He never got a patent and pretty soon somebody else was making it. That happens.

FA:  Yes it does.

CW:  It would take a lot of capital to get it started.

FA:  That I don’t know. But it would take a lot to get it going.

CW:  He may have sold some land in order to get a start up going.

FA:  I don’t know what he did. I don’t know how they did that.

CW:  That company must have moved because it was on Perry Street.

FA:  Yes, they moved from there up where Gray used to have his place. That used to be where we were.

CW:  That would be right next to the city building.

FA:  Yes, back in there. The lumber company was next door. That is where we were for years until it burned one night.

CW:  How did it happen to burn?

FA:  We don’t know, but it was 18 below zero that night.

CW:  How did you find out about it?

FA:  Well, somebody saw it and reported it.

CW:  Did they wake you up in the middle of the night?

FA:  Yes, and Dad went over there and it burned and after that we couldn’t go back in there with our machinery and stuff. So we moved down on Fillmore Street where we had more room. We have been down there ever since. I think I was a freshman in high school when it burned.

CW:  Is that right. That would have been in the 30s probably.

FA:  I do remember that and it was so awful cold that night. I think our winters used to be like that.

CW:  Maybe it was something they were heating in the building that caused that.

FA:  That is what they thought, but they weren’t sure. There was a grate that went right up to that building. There was like a register that went clear up to there.

CW:  You mean on the outside?

FA:  They just think somebody came along and lit up a cigarette. It seems like that was the area where it was burning more. I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

CW:  So you were living at home but across the street on the river side on West Maumee.

FA:  Yes

CW:  So you could see it?

FA:  Well, you know where my brother lives well the house right next to it is where I was raised.

CW:  Now on which side of it. Now he is in the gray stone house.

FA:  I was right next door.

CW:  Is it the east side of it?  Weren’t you scared?

FA:  Well, yes.

CW:  Did we have a fire department at that time?

FA:  Oh my, yes. They were there.

CW:  I would think that after the courthouse burned twice they would have a good fire department.

FA:  They got that out and we got things together and moved to Fillmore Street. We had lots more room and what have you.

CW:  Did your husband work for Plummer Spray then?

FA:  No, not at first, but years later he did. At first he went to patrol school. From the time he left high school he went out West and worked with the Forest Division. He was out there and worked all over the west. Then he came home. I think it was the year I was out of high school when he came home. Then he went to the State Patrol School. I know he graduated from there and was waiting to be called. Of course when he went to school we were married.

CW:  You mean you were married before he went to patrol school?

FA:  Yes.  Right then he didn’t have a job. But he had been working at Ford up in Detroit. That is a place many people go to work at when they are in State Patrol School. Of course my father said he would have to learn the business anyway so he might as well go down there and start in. He worked there all that time.

CW:  He had been going from one job to another so he would know all about business.

FA:  Right. So that is what he did.

CW:  Did he and your brother get along?

FA:  Yes they did. They got along.

CW:  Now how did you meet him?

FA:  How did I meet him? Well, he lived here in town. He was a cousin to one of the girls that I ran around with. He lived here and she lived there. Many a night when I would be down to Betty’s house and I would go home he would say you’re not going to cross that bridge alone.

CW:  So he would walk with you.

FA:  Yes he would walk right along with me. Then he went out West. Now this is crazy. He would always write to me and send me things from out West.

CW:  Now were you girlfriend and boyfriend by that time?

FA:  No! Just friends. He would write and tell me because I don’t get serious about anybody because he said I’ll be the one that is going to have you.

CW:  Is that right. Did he say that before he went out west?

FA:  No. He would call me and ask for a date. We were together from then on. That is what we did.

CW:  I bet that was pretty exciting for you when he came back from out west.

FA:  It was to think that we were together and got married. His cousin and I were really good friends. Well I got to thinking I wasn’t going to walk home alone in the dark across that bridge. He would walk with me and of course we’d be talking while we walked. So that was the way we did it.

CW:  You did a lot of talking while you were walking.

FA:  Right. Then talking about the firefighters. Do you remember when Wesche’s burned?

CW:  Wesche’s?

FA:  Yes, the Wesche Furniture Store.

CW:  Oh yes, the furniture store that was downtown. Where was it?

FA:  Right there on the corner of Perry and Clinton. Who is in there now? Is that where the Ace store is now.?

CW:  Yes.

FA:  It was in there.

CW:  Well then we had two furniture stores because there was one on Washington Street.

FA:  Yes, that was Hagan’s.

CW:  Do you remember when you first realized that was burning? You probably weren’t too aware of that one I suppose.

FA:  I don’t know much about that. That I don’t, but I do remember when it burned.

CW:  I remember when Spangler’s was on fire. That was shortly after my first husband died. So it must have been in 1973 or around there.

FA:  Can I get you another cup of coffee?

CW:  No thanks. I remember there was quite a bit of smoke and it looked like the whole thing was going to burn right down. It was right there in the center of town. But they got that fire out.

FA:  Yes, it was just like when that restaurant burned. What did they call it, The Tin Lizzie Restaurant. That burned down.

CW:  Yes that one really did burn to the ground.

FA:  There was an awful lot of damage there.

CW:  I wonder if somebody set that fire.

FA:  I don’t know.

CW:  It does seem strange.

FA:  That was a real good fire that got going.

CW:  Yes. Now the fire department is much better equipped than they used to be. I think they are better at dousing fires. You would almost think that it couldn’t burn to the ground.

FA:  That right. I think it depends a lot on what kind of a building it is. It was wood and that has something to do with the fire as to how it goes and how soon they can get it out.

CW:  Now when the hotel burned that was such a big old building.

FA:  It was terrible trying to do anything with that building. I wasn’t here when that burned. I was in Florida. I remember them telling about it. That was fifteen years ago.

CW:  Yes it has been a while.

FA:  Well it was because the other week we were in Hill’s Restaurant and Guy said it took out about fifteen apartments and he was out there talking and we got to talking about that fire he said it was fifteen years ago. When he come out there and talked it might have been the same date or something. Guy had the restaurant in there. I do remember a Thomas who was on the fire department and I can remember how the firemen set up in the old Charles Company building and had food for the firemen. They had different fire departments here helping put out the fire.

CW:  Was this when the hotel was burning?

FA:  Yes. They had food and coffee and hot stuff all the time in there for them. The women of the fire department kept the food going to the firemen.  I remember them telling about that, but I wasn’t here.

CW:  That would have been a dangerous job. The hotel was several stories tall.

FA:  It was a dangerous job.

CW:  How many stories was it?

FA:  There were three stories. I do know that Hill lived there. They had that restaurant downstairs. We used to go there every now and then. That much I remember.

CW:  Do you know of any other buildings in downtown that burned?

FA:  There were quite a few.

CW:  Those floors I suppose when they get old why they get pretty dry. Maybe they were oily.

FA:  Most of these places have all that oil on the floors.

CW:  Just like putting kindling on a fire. Did you belong to any clubs? Somebody told me this is a clubby town.

FA:  It is.

CW:  But I don’t think it is now.

FA:  Not as much as it was then. I used to belong to a couple of lodges. I did that.

CW:  What were they like?

FA:  I belonged to the Moose lodge. It was nice.

CW:  Did they have a meeting once a month?

FA:  They had meetings twice a month. They have a home in Florida. I don’t know if they have them other places or not. For the old people down in Florida they got a beautiful home down there.

CW:  Oh they do!

FA:  Then in Chicago they got this home that is an orphanage for people. Now I know some people that went up there and that is a gorgeous place. That is a very nice place. Some of these lodges work to make money. These homes are associated with the Moose Lodge.

CW:  Well, you pay your dues once a year.

FA:  Yes, that is right. I belonged to the Stars. That is the Eastern Star.

CW:  What is the name of the organization?

FA:  The Masons. There were the Masons too.

CW:  That is not associated with the Moose.

FA:  They are very different. Altogether different. They are a great organization.

CW:  Did they have parties?

FA:   The Moose does. Not the Eastern Stars. They weren’t allowed to have parties or things like that. Later on they would have a dinner where everybody would bring something in. Something like that. I don’t know what they are doing today. I still belong but I don’t go to the meetings. They weren’t allowed to have things like that.

CW:  Was that according to their lodge rules?

FA:  Every now and then they would have these big dinners and everybody would bring something in.

CW:  Did they have rites that you would have to memorize something?

FA:  The Masons did, but not the Eastern Star.

CW:  Wasn’t it considered a feather in your cap to be a member of the Eastern Star? That is the impression I got.

FA:   Both of those lodges were. They were both a very dignified group. They were very nice organizations. I remember I belonged to a sorority here in town.

CW:  Now which one was that.

FA:  I don’t even remember the name of it anymore.

CW:  There was the Browsers, but then there was another one before that.

FA:  It wasn’t Browsers. It was a sorority. You had to be asked to join it. You had to be asked.

CW:  That’s the way it is with most of these clubs.

FA:  You had to go through a ritual and memorize it.

CW:  So they would have a ceremony and you had to recite something.

FA:  You had to know the Greek alphabet and all that kind of stuff. I still can’t tell you the name of it. I don’t know if that sorority is still in existence or not. It was a very nice group. They would make money to do things for charity. If I can remember they made these Christmas trees out of tree limbs. They did all the decorating and gave the proceeds to the Filling Home. I can remember they donated an incubator for babies to the hospital. They did that. I can remember they donated winter coats for the school patrol.

CW:  Well that would have been a good project.

FA:  There were a lot of other things that we did that was really nice. We did a lot of things for the hospital. Those were the things we did with out projects when we made money.

CW:  You did a lot of community service.

FA:  That is what we used to do. That was a nice organization.

CW:  What did you do at your meetings then?

FA:  We would just have a meeting and discuss things. I remember we used to make things like Easter egg trees.

CW:  Do you mean like ornaments?

FA:  Yes. Do you remember we used to make those little things they would put on your tray on Sunday at the hospital?

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  We used to do that. We did a lot of stuff like that.

CW:  Our garden club is still making those once a year for the County Home.

FA:  I belonged to a garden club we had here in town but they don’t have that anymore. I belonged to that.

CW:  Now what were the garden clubs like years ago?

FA:  Well, I don’t know. We didn’t do much. They just called it a garden club. At least the one I belonged to. We would go out and see different things. We would go different places and just talk about Napoleon gardens and flowers. It was just called a garden club.

CW:  It was more of a social club is that right.

FA:  Yes, for me it was. I belonged to that. They don’t even have that anymore.

CW:  Did you live right here in this area when your children were little?

FA:  I have lived in this neighborhood all of my life.

CW:  What was it like when your children were little? Did you have to watch them so they wouldn’t get down to the river?

FA:  We lived there and the river was right across the street. You can teach them to stay away from the river and after they learned to swim we built a nice dock out in back. We would put a boat in down there and nearly lived in it. We brought in sand and we had a real nice place to swim down there. Dad made this in back of his house.

CW:  So you made sort of a reef.

FA:  Yes. We had a real nice area. Today you couldn’t get me into that river.  You just learn the danger of these things. You just learn the dangers of these things. Just like when you live along a street you teach your children not to go out in the street. That’s the way that was.

CW:  Did anybody ever jump off the bridge into the river?

FA:  I have heard of people doing it.

CW:  You mean you heard of the experience, but never really saw anybody do it.

FA:  Yes, I know there has been.

CW:  But the river isn’t very deep.

FA:  Well, there are places where it is deeper than here in town. That’s the way that goes.
I do know that there have been people that did jump off the bridge.

CW:  I know one time when Judy and I were walking when we heard this woman yelling help and she was out in the middle of the river. We were worried and when we got back we called the police and they said, “Oh, that is so and so. She is always jumping off.”

FA:  Yes you can go up here by Yarnell’s where there is another swimming hole. It’s down there by Yarnell’s. You would go out so far and there were some islands you could stand on that one island. You could actually stand on it.

CW:  Is that right!

FA:  We had a lot of fun.

CW:  What else do you have?

FA:  I still remember I guess I told you about that when we were out to eat. Remember the lion that was in the barn down here.

CW:  Oh tell me about that.

FA:  I can remember that. There was a circus that was here in town. They were going to be down on the east end of town. I don’t remember exactly where. They went under the viaduct down there, and the cage where they had the lion in they hit a bump and it opened up the lion cage.

CW:  Where was this viaduct at?

FA:  It was down on the east end. I don’t get the connection anymore. Anyway they went under the viaduct down there and the cage where they had the lion in took a hit and it took the top right off of the cage.

CW:  Now where was this viaduct at maybe down by Campbell’s Soup?

FA:  No, it was on the other side of the river. It was down there close to where the junk yard used to be.

CW:  Oh yes, where the railroad track is.

FA:  Yes, I forgot about the railroad track being there. It ran and ended up in Fred Walters barn. And that is where he stayed. Of course everybody all over town all stayed in their house.

CW:  What did they do announce it on the radio?

FA:  I don’t know how they did it anymore. Anyway the lion was nearly tame. He wouldn’t do any harm there in the barn. He just went in there to hide I guess. He was very nice. They just went in there, collared him took him out.

CW:  They just took him out like a dog.

FA:  Yes they did. I do remember that.

CW:  Did they use to have a circus in town?

GA   Oh yes, it was on the east end of town. It was down in there around the Products. They would have tent shows. They used to have circuses out at the fairgrounds too.

CW:  What was a tent show and what was that like?

FA:  Why they would have plays.

CW:  They would bring in actors? Would they put up chairs?

FA:  They would come in as a company. They would have their own tent and their own players. I remember going to them too. We had circuses.

CW:  That would be exciting too.

FA:  They were things that you don’t see today. You don’t see any of that stuff today.

CW:  Would these circuses have merry go rounds and things like that?

FA:  No, they would usually just have the big tent. They put the people inside.

CW:  Were there other attractions like the maybe a fat lady or something like that.

FA:  Yes, there were a lot of circuses that had things like that. Yes, they would have side shows with strange things. It was what you would call the side show.

CW:  Could you hear the barker from your house make announcements when he would try to get people to come in and see the shows?

FA:  I don’t know but when they would have the fairs out here you could. A few years ago it was like it was right in my back yard. You could hear the loud music and you could hear the announcements. You could hear that and like I said it sounded like it was in my back yard.

CW:  That would have been pretty exciting for a young kid.

FA:  But now you don’t hear anything from the fairgrounds.

CW:  Well you probably do when they have the tractor pulls.

FA:  Yes, those people go crazy. You can hear it clear over to her house. I bet you can hear them too.

CW:   Yes I can.  I have another question for you. Have you ever heard that they had religious services here on the south side.

FA:  Oh that was right down here at the corner where the apartments are. They used to have a building down there. We used to call them the holey rollers.

CW:  Were they really holey rollers?

FA:  Oh my, you could hear them clear up here. Oh my they would get to shouting and cry and, oh my, it was something to see. Sometimes we would go down and just listen to them. It was really something. It was right over there where the apartment is.

CW:  Do you mean right next to the apartment?

FA:  It was on the land where the apartment is. I can remember how they used to carry on way late.

CW:  Now did very many people go to those?

FA:  Why it was way packed. It was always full. I don’t know if it was some kind of religion or where all these people came from. They were so faithful.

CW:  Where did they get the name holey rollers?

FA:  I have no idea.

CW:  I am wondering if it was from rolling around on the ground.

FA:  I think a lot of it was on the ground. It was almost like a circus to go down there and see some of those people. They would get so carried away. It was something to see. I do remember that.

CW:  Would they just have them walk through.

FA:  There would be a whole herd of them. There would be somebody on each side and maybe somebody in the back and they would have somebody up to the front and tell them where to go. They would start down. They would tell us to get the kids in because the cows were coming. Of course we would be outside in the yard playing.

CW:  Would the cows walk through the yards too?

FA:  I remember one time they did come up through the yard. They would try to keep the cows in the street. They told us to keep the kids inside. I can remember many and many a night when we stood out on the porch and we would watch the cows go by. They would take them across the bridge up through town and I suppose they went out to Bauman’s. I can remember them doing that.

CW:  I think they took them up there and put them on railway cars.

FA:  I don’t know where they took them. I remember they would go through town and passed by here. I can remember one time my aunt and sister that lived out here just right outside of town. It was where they used to sell strawberries and stuff. They used to live out there. They would put on their own parade. Of course we always wanted to go on a picnic. We wanted to go out there and go in the woods. They took us to a parade. That is what we used to do. My aunt would always say to come on out and you can go to the woods. She was quite tickled for us to come. The rest of us would take our things along to eat. The rest of us would go out in the woods. We would have a barrel of fun out there.

CW:  I bet you did.

FA:  I can remember that one day I know they had seen some pigs loose out there in the woods.  We would eat and always put stuff back in our baskets. Anyway that day we ate and put stuff back in our basket and we walked through the woods here and there and then we went back to get our food. Here the pigs got into our food and ate it. I remember that.

CW:  Were you afraid?

FA:  No, just mad at them. We chased them away. We had already eaten. Do you remember the Boyers that had the funeral home?

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  They used to live down here. Right there by the bank. Of course me and my sister were good friends and we were always together. She was at our house and we would go down there. Well, she was with us that day. We decided we were too dirty to walk home. We were tired and we didn’t want to walk home. So she said I’ll call my dad and he can come and get us. First thing we knew we heard the sirens going. He was always pulling tricks on us. He would always be pulling tricks on us and he turned the sirens on. We went all the way into town with those sirens on. That was down there where the bank is by the grocery store. He stopped here down by the bank because there were six of us that lived down this way. He stopped there down on the corner and we decided we could walk home. That was our ambulance ride. A lot of people just stared. It was about the first time they ever brought girls out.

CW:  That was back in the days when the funeral parlors owned their own ambulance. That service was free as I understand it. Now it costs a lot to use it.

FA:  He was just always pulling tricks on us. Just like they used to have the funeral homes uptown. At least that was where they fixed the body. You didn’t have the funeral home. They would have the viewing either at the church or at your home.

CW:  They didn’t have funerals in the funeral home.

FA:  Not at that time. A lot of these places did it that way when I was a kid. He had a lot of ribbons around the funeral home and he told us we could go down there and play and use some of the ribbons for our dolls. This one day he let us down there to play.

CW:  He had a daughter your age too.

FA:  Yes he did and we were down there playing. We knew he was upstairs and when it was time for us to leave. We had to go through this area where they embalmed the bodies. He always told us if there was a body in there he would tell us. He put a body in there and we were petrified. Those were the things he did to us. Just like one time we could go up there to that one little place and watch them practice football.

CW:  You could very easily because it was above Loose Field.

FA:  That is where he kept all those caskets and we had to go through there. One day he said it was time for him to clean the casket room.

CW: He what?

FA:  He said I’ll have to clean those caskets before they start goaning.

CW:  That would scare a bunch of young girls.

FA:  Oh he was always doing something like that with us kids. We used to get a big kick out of that.

CW:  He probably had all the girls squeeling. Do you remember anything about the depression?

FA:   Oh, I sure do. Oh my yes.

CW:  What do you remember?

FA:  I remember it was very hard. I can remember there were many and many a suicides.

CW:  There were?

FA:  Oh my yes. People just could not take it.

CW:  How did they live through it then?

FA:  Some of them used gas. There were different ways that they would do it. There was an awful lot of that.

CW:  Some of them had gas ovens on their stoves.

FA:  Oh yes, they would stick their head in there. They were so used to having things and they just could not take it. I think it would be worse now if we were to have a depression because all of these kids have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth. We never wanted for anything. They will not be able to take it.

CW:  That could very well be.

FA:  There is so many of us that spend their payceck. They don’t save. Maybe the people can’t. They just use paper to get the things that they want. Oh I remember that. I sure do.

CW:  With your grandfather having that factory I bet you didn’t have any trouble.

FA:  It was tight. We had to cut too. I think everybody did. People were not buying or anything. It was at a stand still.

CW:  I remember this one woman telling about how she and her sister would have to take turns getting new shoes. One would get them one year and the other one would get a pair the next year. They would look forward to getting new shoes.

FA: Oh yes. If you would get something new you would be in seventh heaven. The clothing for the child was most important. My mother made a lot of our clothes.

CW:  Oh yes.

FA:  You sewed a lot of the clothes you wore. You only bought a dress when it was something special. Outside of that your mother sewed.

CW:  I like to sew too, but I never really learned. After my daughter was older. I had some sewing lessons and I made this outfit with pink flowered dress and a pink coat lined from the same material as the dress. So I got a pink hat. We always had to have a hat at Easter time.

FA:  Oh my yes.

CW:  My youngest was just a little farmer. We went into church and as I pulled him up on my lap he said, “Mama you look like a cow.” That took the wind out of my sails. He probably meant it as a compliment.

FA:  Just like us when our daughter was 2 1/2 years old and we went to Florida.  We went around to different places and this one place we stopped, why it was a big plantation. They had people there to show you around this big plantation. We wanted to go so bad. There was another couple there that didn’t want to go because she thought she would be disturbing things. So we decided we would go. They had a flat bed wagon and this black lady came and said put your feet here. Then they had a black mammy with her mule taking us through. He had a hat on picking up a flower. Do you remember these old capes. She had one of those on. She had on what we used to call clod hoppers. He wanted to know if she could sit on his lap.  She was tickled to death to sit on her lap. She had a little black doll.

CW:  Did she have this doll with her?

FA:  No, but she thought an awful lot of it. Finally she let out, “Mommy Mommy! This is like Samanth’s mother.” I could have died, but she just laughed.

CW:  We used to have these dolls that had big skirts. You would put the skirt one way and you would have a white momma, and you would put the skirt the other way you would have a black momma. I guess they probably don’t even make them now. It might hurt somebody’s feelings!

FA:  You have to be so careful nowadays. So careful. Just like when I was in rehab with a broken hip down in Florida I told this one young lady I didn’t like what she was doing. She was a nice looking girl. One day I said to her that “you people I appreciate the way you come in, it’s wonderful the way you do these things.” “Now, just a minute,” she said. “I don’t like this idea of calling us ‘you people’.” I told her, “Now just a minute. You have got me all wrong. I said you people coming in here all of you are so nice. I didn’t refer you any other way.” That’s not right. Right away she took it wrong. We have always had a lot of help. Like I said this fellow was so nice. I talked to him one night and he said I would just have to get after them more.

CW:  High School kids are like that now. They want a job and they want the money but they go to work when they feel like it.

FA:  Some of them are like that. So they have troubles just like we do.

CW:  We tell the high school kids and they don’t seem to resent it as far as I know.

FA: But you have to be real careful with these college kids.

CW:  I think there is too much drugs and alcohol.

FA:  I think so too.

End of tape.

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Elery, Ohio

(This picture was taken in the early 1900’s of West Main Street, Elery, Ohio. Elery was actu­ally bigger then than it is now.)

Herrtown or Elery as it is usually called now, had more business places years ago.

There were 2 grocery stores, one near the Monroe Twp. House, operated once by a man named Vogel. It closed years ago — 60 yrs.? Probably more. The other one just east of the R.R. track closed seven yrs. ago. A Flea Mar­ket occupies the building now. This store was owned by quite a few different people through the years. Some were, Mr. Long, Rollo Foor, Clinton Rettig, Will Hoff, Harvey Hoffman, Walter Franz, Leonard Dachenhaus and Larry Myles, Herbert Meyers — owns the building now.

Elery had a post office years ago in part of this store building Henry Dett­mer was post master once. It was closed when rural routes started.

The saloon was owned by differ­ent people, some were Pete Sonni­chsen, Ferd Dettmer, Geo Bortz, Harold Blue, Paul Fletcher and now Leonard Sizemore. It carries some groceries these last years.

The tile mill was started by August Honeck I, and is still in the Honeck family, now making plastic tile instead of clay tile and known as the Advanced Drainage of Ohio, Inc. James Honeck has an interest.

The grain elevator was owned first by farmers; then it was sold to Okolona Grain Co. around 1940. A fire damaged it some and destroyed or spoiled 9,000 bu. grain year — 1969. Forrest Clady purchased it then 1969. It’s now known as Clady’s Trucking and Elevator.

Barber Shop. I understand this was located in the house east of the saloon; the barber was Geo. Behrman? It was discontinued many years ago.

The church was not used for sixty years or more; it was converted to other use and made into a garage by owner.

School — I heard that high school was once held in the twp. house building

Milliner shop — One, started by Rose Moerder in the east end of town only lasted a few months (70 yrs. ago?).

The Dance hall (we don’t know when it was built) closed 35 years ago and was torn down. It was directly behind the saloon.

Schutzenfest was held there every year for many years; people came from near and far. I think there were more businesses. A man in Elery called Miller used to make wooden shoes. (E. B. E.)

About 1910 William Gerken, Harold Gerken’s grandfather, had a tavern and grocery in Elery about the location where the Township House is (1974). (H. W. G.)

Herman Behrman ran the tavern. Ferd Dettmer ran the tavern about 1925 to the 30’s. (E. E. B. H.)

Stave Mill: The stave mill was probably the very first thing at Elery. (Was it called Herrtown then?) In fact the stave mill must have been the start of the town. (I. D.)

The above article is from Henry County, Ohio, Volume Two, A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society. Dallas, TX, Taylor Publishing Co., pp. 232-233.