Category Archives: OralHistory

Feather, Rita

Listen to the full interview by clicking play!

Rita Feather Oral History August 24, 2020

• 1:07:02 Interview Length

This is a transcribed version of the interview. It is meant to be transcribed not with grammar in mind but keeping to the words of the speakers along with the history and stories per the speakers.


Katy Benson, Rita Feather, Wayne Feather

Rita Feather-photo curtesy of Matt Feather

Katy Benson 

All right, I am here with Rita Feather. It is August 24th, around 7:40pm. And,

Rita Feather 

and I am Rita Kay Jennings Feather. Birthday, April 20th 1947.

Katy Benson 

Well, thank you for letting me come in and talk to you tonight. So and who are you married to?

Rita Feather 

I am married to Wayne Feather

Katy Benson 

which, we like to call you Grandma and Grandpa, which, if you don’t mind, why we call you grandma and grandpa?

Rita Feather 

Because when you guys were quite young, your parents went to Austria, I believe on a mission trip. And you were a baby at that time are quite young and your older brother and sister Jeff and Julie stayed with us because they were in school. So they were here about a month or so. And they called us mom and dad. So when you came along, then we were your grandma and grandpa. I’m sorry. You didn’t go…

Katy Benson 

No, it was my grandma Janice Benson and Wendell Benson and so they’ve been my aunt and my dad.

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

So what? Where are you from?

Rita Feather 

I’m from Napoleon, Ohio

Katy Benson 

your from Napoleon,

Rita Feather 

Henry County, Yeah.

Katy Benson 

Okay. And who are your parents?

Rita Feather 

Robert and Norma Jennings.

Katy Benson 

And were they always from this area? Do you know?

Rita Feather 

Dad was mom was started out near closer to like, Leipsic in the Leipsic area. When she was littler and then eventually her folks moved to Napoleon my grandparents.

Katy Benson 

Did you have any like siblings?

Rita Feather 

I had a sister. Six years younger and she died two years ago. Okay, what was her name? Susie, Susie Susie Jennings and her maiden name was Sloane Susie Sloane.

Katy Benson 

Okay. And you have one child.

Rita Feather 

Yes, Matthew. Yes, Matt. And how many grandkids, two grandkids and a great grandchild great granddaughter.

Katy Benson 

So really, you’re a great person. I am great all through. There’s no denying. Great.   Um, let’s see, what do you remember as a child, if anything?

Rita Feather 

I grew up on a farm, which was wonderful. Like I said, My sister was six years younger, so we weren’t really close. Just because six years difference because when she came along, I was in school, but we played together as kids. I remember the biggest sand pile in the backyard and and playing in the sand pile.

Katy Benson 


Rita Feather 

And we would go back to the woods. We had woods on her for we just walked around back there and we didn’t often do it, but we would crawl up in the haymow and maybe play up there. We didn’t do that very often.

Katy Benson 

So when you say a farm, like what kind of farm was it did you have animals.

Rita Feather 

We had some cows and crops corn, soybeans, and wheat

Katy Benson 

and so were in Napoleon. Like what was

Rita Feather 

this was kind of off on this. They call it the South side of town basically yourself

Katy Benson 

in Napoleon. Okay, so on the other side of the river Do you remember your address?

Rita Feather 

route three, Napoleon, Ohio,

Katy Benson 


Wayne Feather 

county road 10 I think now that we just always

Rita Feather 

it was 11. Okay, well, he knows better than I do, 11 but it was route three. That’s all I needed to know.

Wayne Feather 


Katy Benson 

That’s fine because we have so many numbers and letters now. The route 3, well Yeah, I could be he could be anywhere right?

Rita Feather 

We lived back a long lane

Katy Benson 

I always wanted a long lane

Rita Feather 

it was nice.

Katy Benson 

And when where did you go to high school.

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

You went to Napoleon

Rita Feather 

 my whole life. Didn’t go to kindergarten because back then didn’t have to go. So I just turned out the first grade.

Katy Benson 

No preschool or kindergarten?

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

No preschool or kindergarten?

Rita Feather 

No, no back then. Now when my sister came along, I think, kindergarten she was six years younger. Like I said, I think kindergarten was offered but I don’t remember that she went to kindergarten either. It just it wasn’t mandatory at that time. Okay.

Katy Benson 

What year did you graduate?

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

Do you have any high school memories?

Rita Feather 

yeah, I wasn’t a popular kid. really quiet and I wasn’t part of the in crowd but I like school. I did. I really enjoyed it.

Katy Benson 

What was your favorite subject?

Rita Feather 

I liked history, especially the English part of it. I’ve always been fascinated by the English, anything. And in high that was more elementary and junior high school I really liked like, typing in shorthand, because that’s the main course I didn’t want Do college. So I took a secretarial course I really enjoyed that I was really good at shorthand. Typing wasn’t as fast but

Katy Benson 

so did you get a job being a secretary out of high school?

Rita Feather 

I did. Just before I graduated, I started working for an attorney in Napoleon. Okay, and my secretarial teacher, bless her heart, she helped me get it. While I take that back, I started out working at an insurance office in Napoleon. And then just before I graduated, graduated, the brother of one of the insurance guys needed somebody in their law office, and they recommended me so that’s how I ended up. Like in May, the year I graduated just before I graduate, that’s when I started working at the law office and work there from 65 to 73. When I quit, to have our son.

Katy Benson 

Really? so, when did you get married?

Rita Feather 

1970 he got home from Vietnam. He was in Vietnam from 68 to 69. And he got home in June of 69. And we got married in February of 70

Katy Benson 

so why he was over in Vietnam, what did you do while he was gone?

Rita Feather 

I had a good time. I just went out with my girlfriends and I would often go over to either his folks and visit them. We got close with one of his cousins and an aunt in the Medina area. So sometimes on the weekends, I just get my 66 Mustang and take off and go spend the weekend down there and see family down there.

Katy Benson 

That’s awesome. What what what color was your Mustang?

Rita Feather 

It was gold with a blacktop not black vinyl because when I went to order it, they didn’t have any so they said we can paint it black. Okay. So.

Katy Benson 

So remind me, you got married before or after he went to war?

Rita Feather 

after he got back.

Katy Benson 

So then after Matt was born, did you stay home?

Rita Feather 

I did until he was in eighth grade. And then I went to work. The I had one job with my cousin’s insurance office that didn’t last long. And then, like I say, when Matt was in eighth grade, I started working in the cafeteria there in Liberty center and retired for 27 years later. I can’t believe I was I was there that long. But yeah,

Katy Benson 

I remember when you are in the cafeteria. Probably a lot of people do. Your ski was a quarter to you for whatever we wanted. I forgot. I was so generous. I because at that time, a little cup of ice cream was 50 cents. And so I use 25 cents for ice. And I pretty sure wasn’t supposed to do that. But I did it for my granddaughter. I think the boys, meaning my brothers. Did you do? Actually I think you did it for them too. 

Rita Feather 

I don’t remember.

Katy Benson 

I think I think they told me that you did? A couple times. Yeah. I mean, I know you were there.

Rita Feather 

Yeah. I remember, Kristofer and David. Yep. Because we really messed with one of their teachers, Mr. I can’t think of his name right now. The one that died well Oh shoot, because they kept calling me grandma and he was trying to figure out Oh, he’s your your Jeff’s mom then or whatever. I no. I said not legally and it just the poor guy Oberhouse. Mr. Oberhouse.

Katy Benson 

Yeah, yeah.

Rita Feather 

Randy. Yep. Oh, it was so much fun to mess with his mind.

Katy Benson 

I said, it’s all perfectly illegal. It’s true. We have a lot of aunts and grandparents that really aren’t our grandparents and aunts.

Rita Feather 

That’s a good thing.

Katy Benson 

That’s right.  Do you have any stories of working at the cafeteria besides us?

Rita Feather 

I loved working there. I loved watching the kids come through every year. I don’t know how many kids I would have seen go through from kindergarten through their senior year. I don’t know how many I followed like that. But in every year when we go back in the fall to see how some of these kids that either shot up or so totally changed in their looks, it was just fun. The thing I hated the most was mopping but we hated mopping. I still hate mopping but the rest of the job I liked. Because another gal and I ran the alacarte line

Katy Benson 

wasn’t it Mrs. Babcock do it for a while with you.

Rita Feather 

She ended up because I started out with Doris Reared and then when Doris retired Candy took over so he yeah Candy and I. Then I retired. Now it was fun. Because especially Candy and I being friends and going to church together. It was fun working together.

Katy Benson 

So when you were growing up, did you attend church? Did you have a church family?

Rita Feather  

The closest I come would be the Methodist Church in Napoleon, St. Paul United Methodist And as my sister and I got a little older, like maybe sixth grade, Junior High once in a while on Sunday morning mom would drop us off at church and then her parents lived in town so she just go down and visit with them. The only other time we were in the church and that was wasn’t often was maybe if there was a funeral there a wedding. So I had basically no religious background.

Katy Benson 

When did you start going to church? Since I already know you go to church.

Rita Feather 

When I started dating Wayne, basically start going to church with him and then we were married in that Methodist Church just because it was bigger than his family church. But then we went right back to his family church, and that’s where we were for a lot of years. Just a nice little country church and everybody knew everybody.

Katy Benson 

Mm hmm. So when did you start coming to Shiloh?

Rita Feather 

When Matt was in I think junior high, one of the women asked about him because the my boss at the school at the time went To Shiloh and her sister was in charge of the the kids club and she wondered if maybe Matt would be interested in coming because we were going to church in Archbold. And since it was to us far away, we only went on Sunday morning. So there was really nothing. No connection Matt had with the youth, unfortunately. And so since we lived in Liberty, we started going to Shiloh back, like I said, when Matt was like, Junior High possibly. And we’ve been there ever since. And he’s 47. I’m not sure how that happened either.

Katy Benson 

Right. anything particular like when he when Grandpa, or Wayne was at war, was there anything that you guys did to keep in contact

Rita Feather 

we wrote all the time, all the time. pen pals.

Katy Benson 

Which I know that from doing his oral history, you don’t have any other letters.

Rita Feather 

No. I don’t know why I threw him away. Because there was nothing in there. Nobody could read. You know, it’s no big deal, but I don’t know why I didn’t keep ‘em now that I look back on it would have been a good kind of follow through.

Katy Benson 

I mean, I mean, Im going to keep telling you that for a while. Yeah, no. Um, anything else? I mean, that you can tell us about your childhood maybe?

Rita Feather 

Well, like I said, growing up was wonderful. Just being on the farm. We always had cats. The one spring we had 29 cats between the mother cats and the kittens and eventually, by the time fall came, most of them were gone. They either ran away or who knows what happened to them? Yeah, that was the most cats we had at one time. And we always have a dog. Only one at a time. Do we always have a dog because when I first started growing up, it was a German Shepherd. And then it was a black dog named bud and then there was a his son so to speak, because he got real close with a neighbor, dog. His name Was Tippie because he was Brown and had a white tip on his tail. And then that’s the last I remember the dogs and when Wayne and I started dating, we had had Siamese cats. My grandparents gave us my sister and I each have male and female Siamese cat. So we had raised a couple batches of kittens. And the male that was mine was crosseyed. And so when Wayne and I started digging, he went to the Humane Society in Toledo wasn’t it?

Wayne Feather 


Rita Feather 

And he found a male cross eyed Siamese cat. gave it to me, and I was just so amazed. I got home for work one day, he had no clue. This is all something he worked out with my parents. And I don’t remember Ching was sitting in the house. Or wait, was it Sam?

Wayne Feather 


Rita Feather 

Sam? That’s right. My original was named Ching. I don’t remember he’s sitting in the window or so I’m when I got the house and here’s this cross eyed Siamese cat because by then mine was gone. And so we had him at that point. We got married and we brought him with us to Liberty And within a few months maybe or a year he went out one time and never came back so

Katy Benson 

is it true like Siamese cats dont needs to have a pair?

Rita Feather 

I never heard that. I just I just always heard that you shouldn’t let them near your kids cuz it’ll suck their breath like oh for Pete’s sake. What?! Suck… Supposedly suck their breath now it’s something to do with the smell of the milk. It’s an old wives tale.

Katy Benson 

That’s weird.

Rita Feather 

And then we got after Ching disappeared or after Sam disappeared then we got a female because again a gal I went to school with raised them so we got a kitten from her named her Sammy, Samantha. We had her for several years. And since we’ve been married, we’ve always had a dog to one at a time we had ended up going to have three dogs.

Katy Benson 

When I think of Siamese cats, I think of the Disney movie lady in the tramp. We are Siamese if you please  I love Disney.

Rita Feather 

But and like I said, just growing up on a farm it was just a neat life. And the really not neat part was we grew up with an outhouse. We did not have an indoor toilet. We had the tub in the sink in the bathroom. And this it was an old farmhouse. And our landlord didn’t see any reason. I mean, he lived in Mount Vernon, and he had all kinds of the indoor necessities he didn’t see any reason to put in in our house. So I grew up with an outhouse and never gave it a thought and a chemical toilet in the winter. So we didn’t have to go outside, which was disgusting.

Katy Benson 

I’ve heard of those too I think so he was telling me about that and how it was like in their basement or something  Hm mm that was where ours was. Yeah, that’s neat.

Rita Feather 

and then dad bless his Heart had to when that got full he had to take it up, carry it up as heavy as it was to carry and dump it somewhere on the field, I guess.

Katy Benson 


Rita Feather 

There was like a white chemical in it. I don’t know what that was called anymore. But it was mixed with water and thats What you went in until it got disgusting and had to be changed

Katy Benson 

in the house for girls? I’m sure that was.

Rita Feather 

Oh, yeah, so it was fun and games. And the really fun part though, as far as the outhouse goes, since we had so many cats, you were never alone. Because no matter whether you went out in the morning or the evening, you always had cats that followed you and often they would sit on your lap while you were in the bathroom and keep your company and I know what sounds disgusting but that’s how we grew up. We never gave it a thought You don’t give it a thought.

Katy Benson 

So not having enough. So what other things like um, we were talking about outhouse.

Rita Feather 

Which lovely memory that had big lilac bush in front of it. I guess that was what was supposed to make it smell good. But at least we always had toilet paper because I remember hearing people talking about using the Sears catalog or whatever. Fortunately, we already said toilet paper. And then the really funny part was Yes, Wayne and I got married. It was probably two or three months after we moved out That the landlord finally decided to put a toilet but that was okay because we were married in our house hidden indoor toilet so I was thrilled to death that’s why I like to go visit my girlfriend’s in town and stay overnight with him because they had indoor toliet

Katy Benson 

the little things he did for her grandpa like a toilet. Um so like what other kinds of things like we grew up you know with like a color television.

Rita Feather 

But we started out with black and white,

Katy Benson 

black and white.

Rita Feather 

I always remember having a television. And I don’t remember when we got the colored one but it was black and white and we started up

Katy Benson 

what TV shows as you watch.

Rita Feather 

I remember. Captain Kangaroo and Romper Room and there were westerns on and Saturday night we watched the westerns and Lawrence Welk and that kind of stuff. Perry Mason, not necessarily on Saturday night. These are just the ones that there were a lot of Westerns Back then Gunsmoke and all kinds of stuff like that.

Katy Benson 

How about like, did you have a house telephone?

Rita Feather 

Yep. And it was a regular and we never had the crank. I remember my great grandparents having a great phone at their house, but we always had a regular dial

Katy Benson 

Did you have a party line.

Rita Feather 

Yep. To start with, it did. I don’t remember how long that lasted. But you know, we try not to listen in or anything, they pick it up, but it mostly I remember having a regular private line because eventually they switched it over. The regular rotary dial phones, none of this instant stuff,

Katy Benson 

right. I was talking to somebody about that to the other day about how everything is in the palm of your hand. Now, when I don’t know if it really was life was any simpler without it, but I feel like it would be a little bit

Rita Feather 

and then another thing from the youth, we hit milkman come because we had some milk cows and he pick up the milk because we started in like in the milk house that’s what we called it I’m thinking it was like had water in it possibly they put the milk cans down in the water, keep it cool till he could get there. And we had an outside pump for for water. Just it was out by the barn and there was a tin cup seriously that hung on it and anybody that wanted to drink, just pump the handle to prime it and drink out of it. So I don’t know how many different people poverty and drink on that cup and we never I don’t ever remember to eat in the house in Washing it. And then we used to have bread men come to our house. There’s a brand man. Yep, nickels, nickels, bread. Oh, nickels. Yeah, would come and mom could order her stuff off there. We had the fuller brush man that would come and sell like brushes and seems to me soap other household goods, household cleaners. And besides fuller brush, there was another one that I can’t think of right now. There were two different Oh shoot I can’t think of the other one but you know back then they came to the house

Katy Benson 

Yeah, there’s a lot of sales people that just door to door that’s how they made their living. Yeah,

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

Now no we don’t want people knocking on our front door, go away

Rita Feather 

close the blinds shut off the lights pretend your not home

Katy Benson 

Don’t answer the door

Rita Feather 

the Raleigh man that was he sold a lot of like vanilla, the flavorings that kind of he handled more like spices that kind of thing was Raleigh man and then the fuller brush man was more cleaning products that kind of stuff

Katy Benson 

only people I remember would be the sweeper guy he’d come to her house there’s always were sweeper guys Like vacuum people .

Rita Feather 

I can remember that. But I’m not. I’m not real sure. Encyclopedia salesman.

Katy Benson 

Oh, yeah, that was one

Rita Feather 

I think that’s where we get our Encyclopedia Britannica. Probably was from the salesman

Katy Benson 

The Schwans man but he’s still while he doesn’t go to our house anymore, but he kind of

Rita Feather 

we didn’t have the Schwans man back then.

Katy Benson 

Well, you missed out.

Rita Feather 

Probably just as well. Homemade ice cream was good.

Katy Benson 

Yes, yes. Your favorite was what? Oh, just vanilla.

Rita Feather 

Oh, really? That was my one grandma’s favorite no matter what, how many flavors she’ll have vanilla

Katy Benson 

then I can add whatever I want. And some days I might not feel like this but then I can add that. But it’s always the same when I go to grandpa’s it’s always the same. Yeah, so when did you first start driving?

Rita Feather 

I was 16 and that was a big deal. Yeah, big deal. I could not wait to drive.

Katy Benson 

Where’s the first place you went?

Rita Feather 

The license Bureau to get my

Katy Benson 

you drove to get your license.

Rita Feather 

Well, I had my permit.

Katy Benson 

That’s true

Rita Feather 

but the thing is, I felt horrible. I flunked it the first time I flunked in parallel parking. I was devastated because all my friends are getting their licenses and I thought oh good so dad bless his heart. He took measurements or whatever set it up at home I practiced and practiced. So when I went back a week or two later, it took me the second try of pulling in but I passed the second time because I like I said, I was devastated. I didn’t pass the first time.

Katy Benson 

Well, Grandpa knows how well I do on tests Not very well.

Rita Feather 

I love driving.

Katy Benson 

who was what was your first car

Rita Feather 

that I actually owned?

Katy Benson 

Or you drove and then owned

Rita Feather 

Okay, I drove mom and dad 60 something Mercury is a big blue. That’s what we had I think at the time when I started driving. And then I bought Well, when I graduated in 1965, Mom and Dad got me a

Wayne Feather 


Rita Feather 

59 Ford blue in white, no power steering, I was used to power steering hand choke. I wasn’t used to. But I learned and I remember mom that I knew nothing about it. And Mom, there was a Ford dealer and Napoleon cross from chief supermarket. And Mom said, I want to take it. We’ll show you some. So we got in the car, and we drove through the parking lot. She said, there’s your graduation present. And I just started crying. Oh my gosh, I got my own car.

Katy Benson 

That’s awesome.

Rita Feather 

So that was neat. And her name was Freda because there was a dead fly behind the the instrument panel and my dad. All the years he lived he still remember the name of that car. He talked about freedom.

Katy Benson 

I think in my family, the only person that named their cars was Kristofer

Rita Feather 

Really, okay.

Katy Benson 

Yep. Well, I mean, we named our parents cars growing up but like, personally named their cars with Kristofer  Monicawas his black car. And poor Monica. Had to get sold Black. You might have been a Chevy, but doesn’t really matter.

Rita Feather 

It had to get sold.

Katy Benson 

Poor Monica. But um, so ask where’s the first like, besides going get your license? Where’s the first place? You’re like, I have my license where Did you go?

Rita Feather 

I honestly don’t remember. No, I don’t I just remember a lot of times on Friday nights, a lot of us girls would pile in my car I shouldn’t say alot. would get my car or whoever’s whoever’s trip was to drive, we get in the car and maybe go to defiance. Because there was a couple of dance places over there we go or bars, which really says a lot about my upbringing.

Katy Benson 

It was it was, I mean, were there much to do in Napoleon. I mean,

Rita Feather 

well, our big thing at that point was where George’s furniture is now was a place called the Metropole, which was a bar They would have bands come in and there was dancing and that’s where we kind of congregated on the weekends. I mean, kids from all over would come there.

Katy Benson 

Did you have to be a certain age to go?

Rita Feather 

That’s a good question. I knew we had to be a certain age to drink

Katy Benson 

was it 21

Rita Feather 

See? I’m trying to remember back that probably

Wayne Feather 

do three to beer.

Rita Feather 

Yeah, three two beer at 18. That’s right. You know, so

Katy Benson 

Whats that? Three two beer

Rita Feather 

low alcohol content. You couldn’t get any hard drinks like, like wine or whiskey or anything like that, which you could drink beer. Which I did a lot of back.then

Katy Benson 

And what so I guess how do I want to ask this question. Was there any big historical events that you remember? Growing up, like wars like presidential elections, anything

Rita Feather 

The first presidential election I remember was back. I don’t remember what year it was. But it was when Eisenhower became president. That’s the first person I remember. Yeah. And then, of course, as years went on, not only the elections, but there was then the moon. The whole issue with getting up to the moon and that kind of stuff and

Katy Benson 

being in this, this area, this rural community area. What was it? Like? I mean, you’re they always talk about, oh, well, you know, kind of like, you know, the movies or historical events, like, you know, they say, the experience of the people that actually were in it, or happening at that moment. What was it like living here? When it happens? You

Rita Feather 

we watched it on television. Yeah. Yeah. And it was fascinating. I mean, you can’t, you couldn’t imagine you could put somebody on the moon and they were walking on the moon that was beyond anything that we ever thought could happen. And then all this stuff stepped in since. Yeah.

Katy Benson 

Yeah. Crazy

Rita Feather 

And back then it was like with the wars. Well like World War Two, which is the closest one I knew of because my dad was in it. And then he got home mom and actually he didn’t mom got married before he left for overseas. He was in the seabees. And then he came home and then I was born and eventually my sister and then all the stuff that’s happened since World War Two that

Katy Benson 

did he talk about the war a lot.

Rita Feather 

Not a lot, but I don’t think he saw a lot of nasty action because the Seabees crew that he was with, they would build like runways, landing strips, that kind of stuff. And from what I remember him telling it was almost like it was a vacation for him.

Katy Benson 


Rita Feather 

that’s not the word he used but he didn’t see direct combat Sure.

Katy Benson 

So is definitely different than somebody who Did

Rita Feather 

Oh, definitely. Yeah.

Katy Benson 

I mean, everybody has to play their role in it rather they saw action or not to make it,

Rita Feather 

sureit to make it all work and all fit together. So

Katy Benson 

he still served

Rita Feather 

under the served his time. just happened Thank the Lord. Yeah, it wasn’t a danger zone so to speak, not that ever mentioned you were never been born that’s right in the world would have been worse off for so much better

Katy Benson 

What would you have done without grandma

Rita Feather 

been boring

Katy Benson 

any other historical events that you can think of or remember, who was the first president that you voted for? Do you remember

Rita Feather 

No, I don’t. There was thinking of Nixon, but I think I was too young. For him, maybe whoever was after Nixon. Well, I couldn’t vote to your What 21 really or was it 18 21 wasn’t it

Wayne Feather 

I think so

Katy Benson 

really some but isn’t now 18 I wonder why they did that?

Rita Feather 

I don’t know. Maybe people whined about it

Katy Benson 

and maybe they needed more voters

Rita Feather 

Yeah there you go let’s lower the age bring them in. That’s good Katy

Katy Benson 

Any other big events? You can think of?

Rita Feather 

Not that I can think of offhand because everybody knows how things have advanced. Yeah. With the space program and the different wars and just the new phones and all these new innovations. Just can’t imagine

Katy Benson 

keep going. Yeah. I mean, like is the

Rita Feather 

end people have said this, a lot of this stuff showed up on Star Trek.

Katy Benson 

It did. Blame Star Trek And there was another TV show too that they blame onto but I forget. Star Trek was a big one.

Rita Feather 

Yeah, definitely

Katy Benson 

it was

Rita Feather 

when we look back on it now and what we watch them and what they did, I thought, Oh, come on and it’s happening. It’s come to reality.

Katy Benson 

Captain Kirk will play Captain Kirk I know this.

Rita Feather 

Robert Oh, come on Rita

Katy Benson 

Dad is gonna be ashamed of me. I

Rita Feather 

Robert, Robert Conrad.

Katy Benson 

No. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. But okay, so what I really want to know is, how did grandpa propose to you?

Rita Feather 

He got home from Vietnam. And while he was there, I found out later he bought my engagement ring.

Katy Benson 

He bought it in Vietnam.

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

Really? Thats cool.

Rita Feather 

because we went shopping before he left. He said lets go look at engagement rings, and he said now don’t get excited I am not getting you a ring now because in case something happens to me I don’t want you to have worry about that. So we went and looked at rings so he had an idea of what I liked.  and when his lutient came home just a couple weeks before he did and he gave the him the ring. His lutent lived in California and so i flew out to California and met him so we went to his lutients and the first night we were together after 14 months he asked me to marry him and he whipped out the rings and I couldn’t have picked out a better set so he did a beautiful job so we got engaged in California.

Katy Benson 

Wow! That is cool. How long was it before you got like, came home? Like how long we were California.

Rita Feather 

Came home you get home in June of 69. And we were married in February of 70.

Katy Benson 

 How long were you dating before?

Rita Feather 

We met in 66. November of 66 and got married in February of 70. Because part of that time to begin with, he was at Michigan State in college and then he got drafted into the service and he had to serve that time. And then so we like I said, it’s we were like pen pals for most of the years we went together because I wrote him in college and then wrote him in Vietnam.

Katy Benson 

I how many years apart are you?

Rita Feather 

 I am five months older than he is. So he’s always said I married an older woman

Katy Benson 

did not know that.

Rita Feather 

The first family one of the first family reunions I ever went with to him on his mom’s side. I didn’t know till later he went around telling like aunts that I was five years older than he.Then eventually he I know I said five bullets.

Katy Benson 

Do you have any nieces or nephews from your sister?

Rita Feather 

No, she never had kids. We’ve got nieces and nephews on his side. But I don’t have any

Katy Benson 

you guys move to Liberty right after we were married, did you do guys, this is your first house?

Rita Feather 

We lived at the other end of the street runs West Maple Street. And we were there from February to July and we bought this house in July of 70. And I’ve been here ever since 50 years.

Katy Benson 

That’s pretty cool. Are there anybig moments in your marriage besides having Matt that you guys did together? You guys travel anywhere?

Rita Feather 

We never went a lot of places. We never took a lot of vacations. Probably the first one maybe we ever took was down to North Carolina to see one of your buddies went to Seabrook. And we once in a while would go to North Carolina we had friends from that we made here down there once in a while but we just weren’t

Katy Benson 

 Where at in North Carolina?

Rita Feather 

Andersonville now, thank you, dear.

Katy Benson 

I don’t really know much we just know where Raliegh is.

Rita Feather 

is there a Asheville?

Katy Benson 

Okay, I think. Okay.

Rita Feather 

And we’re still in touch with them to this day. That’s awesome. Yeah. A long time. Yeah, we didn’t do a lot of traveling or vacations. We just worked.

Katy Benson 

Did you have a honeymoon?

Rita Feather 

Yes. We got married in Napoleon went all the way to Defiance, to the Holiday Inn and then the next day we were back in Toledo and we saw a movie and we did some shopping to kind of get some things for the house. It was a very short honeymoon because he had to be back to work on Monday. I had the week off, but

Katy Benson 

they didn’t give me much time for your honeymoon.

Rita Feather 

Our marriage has been one long honeymoon.

Katy Benson 

Like she’s admitting it.

Rita Feather 

But I’m laughing at the same time.

Katy Benson 

I know I think it’s better than that don’t you grandpa?

Wayne Feather 


Rita Feather 

First Matt’s graduation was a big deal and then his marriage and that’s right. And having the kids and now he’s a grandpa, which makes us feel a little old but not too much.

Katy Benson 

Hannah just graduated high school.

Rita Feather 

She graduated the spring

Katy Benson 

which they had a unique graduation because of the Coronavirus

Rita Feather 

was that much of a graduation at all but it worked and what was neat was we couldn’t ride with him in the car up there like we planned on because Hannah’s his brother so that didn’t give us enough room but they telavised it so we get to sit in the office here and watch it That’s cool. So that that was good and then Matt would text us  Okay, mom was the next one’s up so it was when we knew Hannah was gonna be up

Katy Benson 

It’s gotten so much bigger, like so many more kids graduating at a time than when I was in school. You know, I mean,

Rita Feather 

you remember how many when you’re graduating class?

Katy Benson 

Yes We had 72 or 74.

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

we had one well had two pass away. So one was my junior year and one was my senior year. One was a good friend of mine, which is he, we were actually just like a week before we plan on getting together and hanging out and stuff. That never happened. But he was a nice guy and the other guy. I knew him but he went to four county so like we weren’t like, close friends or anything like that. I had a couple classes with them. But then we also had some that were kind ofbarely making it able to walk.Just because they were not because they weren’t like bad kids or anything they just like to toe the line a little bit but 72 I think it was I mean, Kristofer and David were in the 90’s. That was pretty good. I think I don’t remember how many Elizabeth had. But I mean, she was averaged around that to everybody in high school. I mean, I remember everybody in high school we like, to this day when you could go from say, Hi, you know, things like that.

Rita Feather 

Thats neat.

Katy Benson 

just kind of cool. But we played sports together or something. I mean, we weren’t best friends and hang out on the weekend. But we knew each other enough to Yeah, we were in your graduating class do you remember,

Rita Feather 

I think around 120. Napoleon, it was a bigger, bigger school.

Katy Benson 

I guess the Napoleon is always Yeah. Been a little bit bigger. Yeah.

Rita Feather 

Tell her how many were in your graduating class at Grand Rapids.

Wayne Feather 


Katy Benson 


Rita Feather 

And that was the biggest class he said at that point.

Katy Benson 

That’s kind of nice and neat. So you knew everybody pretty much.

Wayne Feather 


Katy Benson 

Yeah, some of the schools now are like, thousands and they split up into two or three different schools and like what? Yeah. So did you have a best friend that stuck with you for?

Rita Feather 

Yes, her name is Judy. We started being friends in junior high and have stayed friends. All these years still are

Katy Benson 

She still around here.

Rita Feather 

She lives in Ottawa. Her husband and her live in Ottawa. And we text a lot and talk call each other a lot. And then another gal we became friends in junior high. Sixth grade, actually, her parents, they were Canadians, and they moved down here because her dad worked for Campbell Soup. And we are still in contact. We’re still friends after all these years since Junior High sixth grade for her.

Katy Benson 

So that’s neat. Were you involved in any sports?

Rita Feather 

Not really. I wasn’t interested in sports. I mean, it was in GAA girls Athletic Association, but a whole bunch of girls were I really liked archery in high school is really good in archery.

Katy Benson 

Ah, that’s how she won your heart to

Rita Feather 

 just shot right in the heart.

Katy Benson 

That’s that’s what that scars from that you told me earlier, not the leech from from grandma.

Rita Feather 

I was just that guy that was here today about that story.

Katy Benson 

So since we are recording, and this is a separate thing, so Wayne was in the service and there’s leeches and one. He said he couldn’t feel it. And so it was sucking on him and he has a scar. And he told us, right in his chest, yeah, right by his heart. And he said that he came home and he said he was shot. And Rita believed him until later. So that’s why We’re talking about

Rita Feather 

with that would have been a bullet I would have been dead.

Katy Benson 

Did I get that about right, the story Yeah you did very good Memory dear. We’re so proud. Thank you. It’s not always there. I’ll never forget that one.

Rita Feather 

Me either.

Katy Benson 

Im sure you wont. So when you met I keep wanting to call grandpa Wayne, for purpose of recording. What would car was he driving?

Rita Feather 

We have this neat Cadillac. What was this 70? 60 Cadillac, Big Blue Sucker. I loved Cadillacs. I always love Cadillacs. We met at a party in a basement. Because my girlfriend was dating. We found out later his one of his buddies. And this was Dale’s going away party, the Air Force. So he said we’ll bring some friends. Come over. And we did and we walked down in the basement and there’s Wayne holding a handful of field corn. And it just kinda took off from there. And I really loved the Cadillac because he took a bunch of us out for ride. And I had a 66 Mustang that he really liked. And then once I really liked him and stuff, then he told me the car was his dads. I was. Oh by that time I was hooked. So yeah. So that and like I said, meeting in the basement, I always figured our relationship had nowhere to go but up.

Katy Benson 

In that sense, it’s true. How many years exactly has it been married?  We’ve been married 50 years is this past February 2020 50 years Well, no, March, January, February, March. So march was the beginning of basically COVID wasn’t it? Technically how So did we have? Do we have a party for you guys?

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

Why not?

Rita Feather 

Because are son didn’t think about it.

Katy Benson 

Well, everything with COVID now is getting pushed back a year. So like Henry County, it’s 200 year this year.

Rita Feather 

Oh I didn’t know that.

Katy Benson 

And it’s the is it,  I’m gonna get it wrong, but the Henry County Historical Society is their big monument year as well. So with COVID. You know, you can’t really do anything so we are pushy all the celebrations back until next year. So that’s what we should. We should have a party for you.  We’ll give we’ll give Matt a little leeway there.

Rita Feather 

 Okay. In speaking of monumental things, they have just recently taken the Lady Justice down to the courthouse as I drove through Saturday. afternoon and she was on this low trailer. Yeah, like with a call drop deck trailer, sitting right by the Hon center there. in Napoleon as I drove through to get groceries I I told Wayne I wished I would have stopped and taken a picture. Yeah, she didn’t look near as big as I thought she would now in the paper today

Katy Benson 

was she standing up or she was she laying down

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 


Rita Feather 

now the paper today in the northwest that says she’s 13 feet tall, and I didn’t want that tall to me, but I guess you know what, she’s way up high. And I just figured she was huge and she wasn’t that big.

Katy Benson 

Why did they take her down? I never

Rita Feather 

she needs repairs.

Katy Benson 

Okay, so then they’re gonna put it back up.

Rita Feather 

They’re gonna try to be said in the paper today. They said they’d have to X ray and see what condition the metal is in her framework or whatever to see. If they can’t repair her, they’ll replace it.

Katy Benson 

Okay, I wouldn’t like we were talking about that at our meeting, the Historical Socity meeting. And this is news to me. But then I also don’t follow really any new cycles at all. So I have no idea Do I also don’t live in town either? So I feel just send the paper home with you.

Rita Feather 

And on the front page there are pictures

Katy Benson 

Read all about it.

Rita Feather 

Yeah, extra extra.

Katy Benson 

Yeah.  That’s really cool. I hope somebody,  I’m sure somebody from the Historical Society was there.

Rita Feather 

Oh, I would imagine I can’t imagine it wouldn’t have been easy. But like I said, on the back page, there’s more. It’s just an I was just fascinated driving through, I almost pulled over. And I wish that I could kick myself now for not pulling over and taking a picture of it.

Katy Benson 

Well, I guess for me, I don’t even know where I got it from. I think I’m gonna blame aunt Jennifer for it. For scrapbooking and pictures, I don’t know, it’s always been one of those things. And so my friends always gives me a hard time about taking so many pictures. I’ll never have time to scrapbook them all. But yeah, I would have shot myself too if I was to take picture now.

Rita Feather 

I mean, I’ll never get that close to that statute again.

Katy Benson 

I mean, If it’s a monument it’s not like Lady Liberty in New York or anything

Rita Feather 

But its our Lady Justice.

Katy Benson 

That’s right. That’s right. That’s pretty cool.  I’m just glad I got to see her.  Yeah, that’s for sure. Oh, it’s really awesome. Not many people can say that they will ever have a chance.

Rita Feather 

Oh, no. It was funny. There’s a thing in here it said there was a bicycling group from California,

Katy Benson 


Rita Feather 

traveling across the country stepped into point and Saturday afternoon for lunch and learned about the courthouse. Four bicyclists for California of all places.  And happened to be here when she came down.

Katy Benson 

Thank you. Yeah I will read that.

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

So I am ask this  because I always like to know what favorite color?

Rita Feather 

Purple. I believe

Katy Benson 


Rita Feather 

What! A shocker

Katy Benson 

Yeah, we’re sitting here and everything’s purple.

Rita Feather 

And I don’t have any purple on today, just a wine in my glasse right now

Katy Benson 

 yeah you do in your bracelet

Rita Feather 

my granddaughter,  that Hannah gave me Yes. granddaughter gave me that? because usually I pretty much dressed in purple.

Katy Benson 

Yeah, your hair purple for a while.

Rita Feather 

I did. I just didn’t take time to spray it today.

Katy Benson 

So, if you don’t mind me asking. I know you’ve struggled with some health issues. What were they?

Rita Feather 

I am a breast cancer survivor goes back I Wayne and I both retired in 2013. And I felt in the fall before we went back to school in the fall of 2012. I just felt God speaking to to me saying it’s time to retire because like I said, I’ve been there 27 years and It was just really firm. So I told my boss about it in December so and then I retired in May of 2013. He retired in what November and into 2014. Our health just went to pot because he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014. In really odd in October of 2014, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month is when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So at the end of October, I had a mastectomy and then starting in December of 2014 through 2015. I went through chemotherapy and radiation. Thank the Lord, I’m a survivor and then yeah, that was not a fun time. But with a sense of humor. I got through it and I made some good friends. I’m still really close friends with another couple we met there because I found out while taking treatments when this guy was that he was in Vietnam. So I told Wayne to come with me the next time so we got to be good friends with him and his wife, Chrissy and Wayne had so much in common. And then another gal that was there. I call her my chemo buddy Linda because I have three friends named Linda. Come to find out she is really good friends with a guy I graduated with so that just cemented our friendship and the both of us going through breast cancer at the same time in the treatment. That’s pretty cool.  So it was it was a great time actually, it wasn’t exactly fun. But like I said, I have a good sense of humor. So   I got through it and God was right there every step of the way. And lots of good friends and family praying for us. Yes.

Katy Benson 

Yes, you do Yeah, same with Grandpa over here to see my grandpa over here.

Rita Feather 

Yes, exactly. He said cancer three different times. So here he is.

Katy Benson 

So I’m pretty sure I asked you this but what came first the cancer or Parkinson’s?

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

cancer first which Kind of lead into the Parkinson’s Is that correct?

Rita Feather 

Well, yeah I eventually because he the first cancer about was in 1990 and then diagnosed in 2014 with the Parkinson’s And then eventually he had cancer of the bowel and then of the bladder and then cancer ended up in like his jaw. But Praise the Lord.

Katy Benson 

Here you are.

Rita Feather 

were tough old bird last name Feather, birds

Katy Benson 

Which we found out that before we started the interview, I was sharing with Wayne over here where his ancestors came, we went back six generations with him and his dad side. So the Feather side and they came from England, which you always joked that you were Native American, which did come up and I searched, but it wasn’t right.

Rita Feather 

It was just to me it was just too obvious, Native American.

Katy Benson 

And I always do you still sign your name with the feather?

Rita Feather 

sometimes. Yeah. Instead of signing my name I’ll just tape or feather on the card and yeah, oh yeah, I just did that recently. They’re usually purple feathers. If I can find it small, it depends on what size the card is and how much room I have. Sometimes I have to go to a different color. And there are times that I’ve used a stamp that was in the shape of a feather stamp. He had purple,

Katy Benson 

purple, of course

Rita Feather 

and stamped it on now.

Katy Benson 

So just going back a little bit. Okay, so your last name is Jennings. Did you have a relationship with like real grandparents around here or great grandparents  I had. On my dad’s side. I never knew my grandparents on my mom’s side because they were just enough older. But I had great grandparents on dad’s side, both his mom’s and his dad’s parents. I knew them. my great grandparents. Did you spend a lot of time with them or  not a lot. But once in a blue moon or like on a Sunday afternoon, we take a drive and end up at their house just to visit. That’s what’s on my dad’s side. On his mom’s side. Usually they had his grandparents had the family reunions because they bought a farm in the country and we go there for the family reunions. And like I said, mom’s side was just enough older I didn’t know her grandparents. I knew my grandparents, folks. And they lived in Napoleon and my grandparents on my dad’s side lived inNapoleon too so we saw them quite often. What was your mom’s occupation?

Rita Feather 

Well, let’s see. Mainly being a mother. I mean, she worked it i think that i said the telephone company or the farm but I can’t remember what she did when she first got out of school. And then she and dad got married and had us my sister night. And eventually she went back to work at Chief Supermarket actually and she was working there when our son Matt was born 70 teeth in the same place. Yeah, she started out at the Chief in Napoloen and ended up at the as the head of the deli in Defiance Chief.

Katy Benson 

Okay, I’ve been that one but I don’t know if that’s the original chief or not on the other side of the river

Rita Feather 

 Yeah, I think an old Chief but that’s where she ended up working then and then eventually retired. And she helped a lot on the farm. She was a good farm wife. So she takes you know, fixed meals for dad and grandpa and take it to them in the field at noon. And or if they were coming in the house, she always had dinner ready for him and she was a hard worker. We always had a big garden and she did a lot of canning and freezing

Katy Benson 

Then that could pass on to you.

Rita Feather 

Nope. At one point I did can tomatoes I remembered how to do that mom helped me through that. But then I just decided it’s just easier to go to a farmers market or something because I tried gardening for two years did not turn out well. So I just decided to use the farmers market or through the stores.

Katy Benson 

And was the grocery experience different than it is now? That’s a good question. I mean, I don’t remember. It’s always been the same for me. So, but I remember like, maybe in the 40s 50s that, you know, they have their occupation called checkers, and they like, Oh, that’s true. You’re right. And they were called checkers. Just as a different experience, and you would have now,can you remember?

Rita Feather 

 I guess I didn’t pay a lot of attention back then. Because I was younger. It wasn’t until I actually got married in 70 that I started really really paying attention to the grocery store because I was the one that had to do the shopping and then you and I took my one grandma’s shopping often cuz she couldn’t drive the one grandma and then my other grandma like could drive we would take off and go to Toledo shopping and spend time together. I mean, I had different relationships with both my grandma’s just because of the circumstances And I’m just so thankful because there are people nowadays basically don’t know their grandparents because they live too far away. And I am so thankful I was raised with my grandparents and great grandparents.

Katy Benson 

I think that is hard

Rita Feather 

But I think kids that don’t know their grandparents or great grandparents, and it’s so sad, I’m just so thankful that I did.

Katy Benson 

So you didn’t really go to church or anything until after you met Wayne. So from remembering his like, story, what was it like for you when he called you and he said, Hey, I want a Bible. What do you think?

Rita Feather 

It was neat? Because, well, I wasn’t saved though by the time he went overseas. He was we found out later. But I just I did the best I could at that point because I wasn’t saved. And we committed until after we were married, and he got home for Vietnam and after we were married, because we got married in February, I think it was about July that we got saved because there was a an evangelist at our church and his mom went forward and his brother and sister in law went forward all that day. And we’re all saved and but back then when he asked for the Bible, I I don’t even remember where I got it. At least I made sure he had one.

Katy Benson 

Do you remember?

Wayne Feather 

Gilbert, the drugstore

Katy Benson 

Gilbert, from the drugstore? Really? Wow

Rita Feather 

I don’t think they sold Bibles at the drugstore.

Katy Benson 

Maybe they did. I don’t know.

Rita Feather 

But anyway, I made sure he got one, just don’t remember where.

Katy Benson 

So I know since he is sitting here with us I kinda would like to ask him some questions a little bit too but so when I was doing your family history and I saw on your parents gravesite there was a, maybe a memorial to Glen and it said something like what did it say? I’d have to look it up but say something about very encouraging spiritual. That was your brother, correct?

Wayne Feather 


Katy Benson 

 And he died in a car accident. Correct.

Wayne Feather 

Thats right, 1957.

Katy Benson 

That’s right.  And that was the brother that you’re talking about that went to with you to

Rita Feather 

know I never knew Glen, it was before I came into the family.

Katy Benson 

So was he saved? Was he the one that passed while going to get for schooling for being a pastor? Or am I not remember?

Rita Feather 

Yes, you’re right.

Katy Benson 

I’m right. Okay. I just couldn’t think of remember when I was reading that one I was looking it up. I’m like, Oh, I know. He told me but I can’t remember. Anything else you can think of off the top of you head. I mean,

Rita Feather 

I can’t think anything.

Katy Benson 

Favorite food, just random questions. I like to ask

Rita Feather 

lobster tail.

Katy Benson 

Really? Chocolate lots of chocolate. You really like lobster tail, do your chocolate on your lobster tail?

Rita Feather 

No. No. Not that bad. No, no. I like the lemon butter dip the lobster and lots of chocolate otherwise preferably dark chocolate, but milk chocolate will work too.

Katy Benson 

So if you think we travel anywhere before, like, Is there anything on your bucket list that you’d think of?

Rita Feather 

England? I would love to England like I said, I’ve always been fascinated because when I was in like fifth grade my girlfriends and I would one of us would be Queen Elizabeth and one of us would be Queen Victoria. And I always wanted to be Queen Elizabeth because that was the newer one so to speak, but she she got that and we would just play like during recess. I just remembered doing that. I don’t remember exactly what we did. But like I said, since fifth grade, I’ve been fascinated by anything British. Yeah.

Katy Benson 

I aske you your favorite food, favorite restaurant.

Rita Feather 

Olive Garden. I love Italian food.

Katy Benson 

Yep, they don’t have lobster tail.

Rita Feather 

I don’t care. That’s My favorite is the Olive Garden my favorite place to go.

Katy Benson 

I have always wanted to learn how to cook lobster, but it’s kind of expensive so it’s not something you can like trial and error. But I love seafood.

Rita Feather 

He allergic to it so shrimp and lobster oh yes it’s nasty.

Katy Benson 

So just you eat it or if like you come close to it like touches cuz some I mean there’s different

Rita Feather 

Far we know right now if he eats it

Katy Benson 

So really shell fish.

Rita Feather 

Now, he can eat clams. No problem but lobster and shrimp. Oh, not a good thing.

Katy Benson 

What happens?

Rita Feather 

He gets really sick.

Katy Benson 

really sick

Rita Feather 

really sick. Wow. Not a nice thing to go through.

Katy Benson 

Well remind me not to feed that to you. I will eat all you can get me but I love to go somewhere like on a coast somewhere and just eat all the seafood I want

Rita Feather 

that would be good.

Katy Benson 

But you need lots of money, because it is expensive. I will have to remember that. Maybe we should go sometime just for fun.

Rita Feather 

Yes. We should.

Katy Benson 

 Okay. Do you like it too?

Wayne Feather 

Yeah. I think the man’s Italian, steak.

Katy Benson 

Oh, the man’s Italian, Steak. It took me while to get that one.

Rita Feather 

Tahnk you. I was getting it either.

Katy Benson 

Speaking of steak, in case you didn’t know the log cabin is serving food now.

Rita Feather 

Oh, they don’t have the truck anymore. They’re actually open?

Katy Benson 

Well, I think they sell the truck, serve food and then the piece of it survived the fire.

Rita Feather 

Okay. have a friend that she and her brother go out there quite often on Wednesdays and have lunch and she the last one there last week she said they were still have using the truck.

Katy Benson 

From what I have heard. I’d like to go but I don’t have know if they are serving steak,  but I would assume they were. I don’t know for sure. I hope so. Cuz I like their steaks.

Rita Feather 

I’m never seen this sort of thing. I’m not a big steak eater.

Katy Benson 

 Well, will not talk to her for a few minutes.

Rita Feather 

You guys.

Katy Benson 

will talk about steak for awhile. Have you had the Log Cabin’s steak?

Wayne Feather 


Rita Feather 

I don’t think you ever did. Because we were there with Karen and Paul and somebody else. I don’t know that you ever had steak did ya? I think it was more hamburgers and stuff.

Katy Benson 

They do have that. That’s pretty good. But I liked your steak. Now that I’m old enough like I still this is the deal more growing up like my parents when you know when we go out and we were you know, just to the age of just working hard and earning money. They’d still buy us, you know our food occasionally. But once we started earning money, if we wanted something, we you know, we would pay for it. And so now that I’m old enough, I’m gonna get my steak. I’m gonna pay for the steak. I don’t care.

Rita Feather 

That would be the last thing I’m more for seafood because I don’t use any kind of fish or anything at home because I can’t fix it like you can get in a resturant.

Katy Benson 

I tried. Well, there’s this really good. You can’t eat it, but there’s this really good recipe that I have. It’s a seafood. Well, it’s really a shrimp linguini it’s not alfrado out there or anything like that. It’s super good. I learned from my good friend rich for Rich Veereke. He should have been a chef. But I love cooking,  he he likes the attention to detail like I like and he likes the science behind it. I like science. So I just go over and we cook together and he teaches me then well this one is one that and it never will go bad and it’s so good. And it’s really simple like four or five ingredients like that. You can also put substitute like chicken and egg or whatever. Okay, we’ve done chicken and shrimp was done. I like muscles.

Rita Feather 

And I like my muscle fan

Katy Benson 

you put it in there and get enough butter on it and garlic.

Rita Feather 

See, I was with my sister one time when she ordered muscles. And there was a lot of garlic and butter involved.

Katy Benson 

Well, I think these are just frozen like you could get Walmart and they come in their shells precooked, but you just cook them for like five minutes like steam them. And then you have to take them out of the shells, which is a lot of work. But I’ll eat it. It’s worth it in th end. Yeah, like seafood. I like my serf and turf. So I get my steak in. steak and shrimp. I love mushrooms. That comes after mushrooms. Put it on there. I like my surf, turf and fungus. Baby amin mushrooms or fungus.

Rita Feather 

I love mushrooms to but your calling them fungus, thats funny. is true they are.

Katy Benson 

Well, we will have to go  out to the Olive Garden. I haven’t been in a long time. I will have to see if they had because I love pasta too. Yeah, I wonder if they have any I’m sure. See, that’s the thing with it’s just like subway. Like your a sandwich place. You should have an option for gluten free. Oh, you know what I mean?  I haven’t thought about the gluten already?  Yeah. So I’d have to see if they have gluten. If not, I don’t know. Yeah. You can come to if you like.

Wayne Feather 


Rita Feather 

I can eat pasta.

Katy Benson 

I love pasta

Rita Feather 

me too. Oh my gosh

Katy Benson 

I don’t think I can think of anything else can you?

Rita Feather 

I just remember going back again to basically childhood well even in in high school, the times I spent with my grandparents, especially my grandma’s because one was just this meek little sweet little grandma fantastic cook and I got to where I would take her shopping like said she couldn’t drive and I was just enough taller than her even though being only five two, I was enough taller, I could reach things up high enough. I just felt so good because grandma was only like four ten

Katy Benson 

She was shorter than you?

Rita Feather 

Yes, she was shorter than me. In my family. On my mom’s side I was the tallest really like two and a half at that point. And mom and then my aunt and then my grandma.

Katy Benson 

How tall are  you right now?

Rita Feather 

five two, I lost a half inch over the years.

Katy Benson 

Five, two and a half will give it to her.

Rita Feather 


Katy Benson 

I used to be the tallest of my siblings. Okay. And then my brother shot upand I enjoy looking up to them.

Rita Feather 

Men you can look up to that’s a good thing.

Katy Benson 

I can I really can. And like I say to Kristofer, sometimes I need to tell him like I need my older younger brothers help.

Rita Feather 

Your older younger brother. I like that. He is. That’s true he is your older younger brother. That’s funny.

Katy Benson 

Alright? Well, at this point at time, I can’t think of any other questions. Do you have any other questions? We should ask her. That we forgot

Wayne Feather 

 Can’t think of anything.

Katy Benson 

No. Okay. You’re off the hook. Okay. Interview over. And out.  Thank you for taking the time to do that.

Rita Feather 

It was fun. Just like when you interviewed grandpa. That was fun.

Katy Benson 

Well, thank you.

Both Rita and Wayne-photo curtesy of Matt Feather

“This oral history was a pleasure to do just like most are, however it is even more of a pleasure to have done Rita’s oral history because she had mentioned that she had no idea where her family was from or really any idea of her genealogy. Now her history will live on for future generations to here and read. I really enjoyed laughing and talking with both Rita and Wayne. I have had the privilege to call them Grandma and Grandpa my entire life! These relationships even if they are not blood, the ones you truly care for and love with last forever! Thank you for loving me like a true granddaughter.” -Katy Benson

Voigt, Louis

Undated. Interviewer unknow.

My name is Louis Voigt, I am the grandson of Fred Voigt, the proprietor of the resort at Girty’s Island back at the turn of the century. Now Dorothy Memmer, my next door roommate is the daughter of Winnie Voigt Zachrich who was also a daughter of Fred Voigt. Fred Voigt was a pioneer in Holgate, he came as a shepherd boy at a very early age, found the mosquitoes were causing malaria plagues, so he went to Indiana to learn to make pills for what they called ague fever, which is malaria, and came to Holgate and found where his friends were all dying of malaria, and so he started a little drugstore or drug outlet. In the very beginning of Holgate there was only just a store, nothing much there, and finally the Baltimore and the Ohio Railroad decided to go from Willard, Ohio. It was as far West as they they wanted to go, a straight line to Chicago and it made them go right through the Black Swamp. So the Baltimore and Ohio engineers figured out they could go through that swamp, and everybody else said they couldn’t do it. Because they would go down in the mud. So the railroad brought in Irish workers and they used mule scoops and they dug out deep ditches on both sides and piled the dirt in the center, made a causeway and they brought in rocks and stones and put on top of the causeway and put the roadbed on top of that and it worked. The Baltimore and Ohio are still on the same tracks and using the same embankments as they was then.

So all along the road people begin to come and buy land and ship their grain out on the railroad. In Holgate—William Holgate and another man by the name of Kaufman were two competitors for the railroad traffic, so they tried to name the village Kaufmanville and the oldest building existing while I was a kid was an old shack that was part of grandma Kaufman’s property. And so when Holgate finally got the best connections to the railroad, so the railroad station was put down about a half mile further east and the name Holgate finally took over and won the battle for the town. So grandpa had been making pills for ague and he started to build a store in Kaufmanville, the west end of town, and he made pills from the old drugstore. The name Holgate came from William C. Holgate. He was a man who was a kind of a developer who came from Defiance. They have a Holgate Avenue in Defiance named for the same guy. Holgate had more business clout, or something that he could get the connections with the railroad better than Kaufman could, that’s how it became Holgate instead of Kaufmanville. Kaufmanville seemed to wither away, but Holgate is still there yet.

So grandpa made a store building which is still there, it’s a place where is on the corner. He put his drugstore on the first floor and he lived upstairs and my dad and his two older brothers and sister were born there and that was the first store built in Holgate. They had no other outlet for mercantile products — there were no other stores, but the drugstore, so they persuaded grandpa to sell bicycles. Bicycles were one way to get through the woods where you couldn’t get a car on a patch. You had to be careful not to let go of the bicycle. So he had a bicycle shop and pretty soon they added that and became a General Store. Well the people were pretty rough customers. The settlers were pretty much a wild bunch. It was dangerous so the people persuaded grandpa to buy a little safe to put his money and drugs in to keep it from getting stolen. So he got the safe and it worked pretty good, so they finally persuaded him to become an offhand banker. He started a bank in his little safe in the drugstore and that’s how the Holgate State Bank got started. And so as he worked along, his uncle sent a butcher to start a butcher shop and that was built farther up the street so those were the two Voigt properties on Main Street and later, much later, grandpa built a little old, in the corner that angle street that came out into a little angle lot and built a good sturdy brick building with a vault — a walk-in vault in the back of it —no more than 12 foot wide in the front and 4 feet at the back. And this was his bank until later moved further downtown. So they had this old red shaped building left over.

Now I’ll give you a little bit about my dad, Gust Voigt. My dad, what will I say, a handy guy, grandpa and grandma Voigt in this house by — they built a big house after a couple of kids were born in the Baker house down on Cherry Street where Dorothy Memmer was raised in a house in a white house.

Another general fact… Dorothy Voigt married Edwin E. Rackstraw, who was graduating from I don’t know what medical school — they moved to Findlay to practice, Dorothy Voigt Rackstraw was really the youngest of Fred’s daughter’s the youngest of the family, so she remembers all this stuff as a little girl — it has the glow of a young girl’s reminiscences. And, boy, it’s really a wonder story, and she had gathered up quite a bit of stuff and had grandpa’s picture albums and stuff, and if we ever find that yellow covered spiral back notebook bound volume you want to latch on to that and hang on to it because there is a copy in Holgate library and Joan Bacus had a copy, good history. Voigt Family History — Nine Children. A lot to keep track of— I tried to keep track of some of it.

My mother was a good scholar which was very rare in those days and the Voigts had kind of an interesting history Grandpa Voigt brought lots of books and traditions from Germany so, but mother Voigt was a Mollet. The Mollets were Huguenots from France and they lived about 2 miles out of Holgate. When mother got to be high school age they were out in the country and no school busses, no cars to cart them, grandpa bought a house across the street from the white house so his granddaughter could go to Holgate High School. And boy she took advantage of it, she was a sharp student — she was Valedictorian of her class and partook in all the farmers’ institutes and all that stuff and her family boys were there, were six of us in the first gang, the others that came later were the same marriage just a gap in time, the boys were more Holgate types, wild active, sports, outdoorsman. They couldn’t care less about education and mother tried her hardest to get them to get interested, and boy she really worked on them too. She was a determined girl. As it turned out when I was about 4 or 5 years old I would set on the floor under the table and listen to her try to drill those kids doing their homework, but for some reason I got it at the right stage cause I get a real bite on it, and made me somewhat of a scholar too. I wasn’t too alert for the first three grades. I didn’t do too well, but the fourth grade the teacher started getting into healls (?) and history things I had never heard before except in Sunday School. And so the teacher said we’re going to buy dictionaries for the class and anyone who wants one of their own they bring $3.40 they can have their own dictionary. So I dug up $3.40 and I had a dictionary. It was Webster’s Children’s Dictionary with pictures in it, and boy that started my career in scholarship in a more serious way and the rest of the way through grade school we had history, civics and other subjects we never had before, so I began to develop and when I got in high school I got into science and so on, so really I became the scholar of the family. I was really following in my mother’s footsteps, so when it came time to graduate that was the time when WW II started and so dad couldn’t get plumbing parts – and, oh, by the way I should have mentioned that dad had started to work in the plumbing mart after World War I– he had land in Arkansas with the bank which had foreclosed on land in Arkansas and dad went down there to help and he also did a lot with steam engines and sawmills, so when he got back to Holgate in about 1920, he decided that he wanted to start in that new work of plumbing – plumbing was outdoor and indoor plumbing was new to the area – so he studied his books and started his plumbing business and the land in Arkansas –well I’ll tell you what happened – he tried to sell it and it didn’t sell and he tried it again and he ended up in debt over the land, so he had a debt of thousands of dollars over his head and all theses kids to feed it was really a rough, rough time through the Depression.


My first memory of that was about 7 or 8 years old going with Dad to work and he and the oldest brother who was a senior or a high school boy by this time and they would go in the basement and they would measure the pipes and cut the holes and I would be out to the truck with a vice cutting threads on pipe and they would holler out a measurement to me and I would measure the pipe and cut it and thread it and they would put it in, and the plumbing business was hard to sell but was good work, it was plumbing of course of the plumbing in those days was pretty rugged stuff, but dad always tried to do a good job and he was very conscientious about it, he wanted to do good work and I spent all my school days, three ways, school, peddling papers and working for dad.. I never had a free moment from the time I started until I quit. Five sons went into the Army and they all came back. We had a good mother pulling and praying for us, I’ll tell you. First one was Air Corp parachute rigger, the second one was that was Gene, the oldest one George, George had always been a mechanic always run the trucks and everything had to be mechanical what did they do but put him in the horse Calvary, and Dick was an infantryman, Jim was a machine gun rigger in the Air Force and turrets they had and I was an infantryman in Mississippi and a machine gunner. I used a 30 caliber article machine gun and so that’s the family connection. Joe and the others – I don’t want to get too many things going at one time.

Girty’s Island

Girty’s Island in the Maumee River a few miles below Florida and a few miles south of Napoleon, south of Napoleon it was down the river near Napoleon and Girty’s Island got its reputation from a Simon Girty who was purported to be a Renegade Indian dealer, he made deals with the Indians to kill off the settlers so he had a very bad reputation and supposedly he had his crowd out on the island that’s how it got the name. Well, it was running apparently who ever owned it must have had some reason to dispose of it and Grandpa Voigt was a banker in Holgate and he married a very industrious wife. It was Mary Cecilia Vogel Voigt had kept school teachers that had boards and built a big house and just was a go getter. So they teamed up and bought the island which was just a big old woods in the middle of the river. And so I don’t know where the idea come from, maybe Aunt Dorothy Rackstraw might help where they got the idea starting the resort. But we do know that these farmers working out on that woods were short of entertainment, it was pretty drudgerous work and so they thought well if they could provide good healthy entertainment it would be a good thing. So they put a ferryboat from the south side over to the island and took horses and wagons over cut trees and built houses and planted woods, planted a berry patch and so on. So it was really half faun and half resort and as they kids grew up course they all went over there and had a good time, so they all had good memories and of course the littlest one Dorothy Rackstraw who just didn’t tape over heaven so when they got the island, the first thing they built was a house, the house had a good kitchen so they could provide meals and so then later they starting building a couple of cottages and a big dance hall, a bowling alley on one side and dance hall in the rest of it one big building. So that was the beginnings of Girty’s Island Resort. When they built a couple of cottages then they began to call it Girty’s Island Summer home Company—that was these cottages—oh there must have been 4 or 5 cottages along the south side of the island and I can remember as a little child the island had already — oh I’ll tell you one main thing in 1913 it was wiped out by the great flood of 1913 — it was really a wild one and of course did along of effected — Springfield/ Wright Patterson Base was moved to make up some of the flood plane. So the flood wiped out everything except a couple of structures that were just to strong to be pushed aside. A house, stone cottage and the dance hall was all that was left — they were pretty ragged — pretty well mud soaked and all so it laid there for the early part of the depression and not much done, by that time dad and his brothers and sisters wanted to get over there and relive some of the old times and so they would go over there for an excursion and back home and one summer he camped in one of the cottages and we got to swim in the river and do all kinds of stuff They had the ferryboat rebuilt with a cable from land to the skyline and the ferryboat went along the cable and another cable you pulled with it to make it go. One cable was fastened to the cable to the ferry through a pulley across the air to another pulley at the other end so it made kind of a circuit. Then the other cable was up at the railing level to pull on 4 or 5 had to pull at one time to make it really go — it was quite a job. Well my earliest memories are that of going across the river and of course there was a lot of nettles, weeds and stuff, but there would be traces of old berry patches and the little tiny island on the north side was call Chicken Island — apparently they had a chicken park or yard — when they had all these feasts they needed that — they didn’t have to much cattle — they did have the chickens now that is the island coming from the south side on the north side which is a narrow channel between the island and the river and the road there was the old Miami and Erie Canal which ran from Defiance to Toledo and that went down the north side of the island between the bank on the north side and son the road along side of that canal was called the tow path. That’s where the horses and mules would walk to pull a canal boat through—now the island was in pretty good depth to take a canal boat, but up around Florida it was pretty shallow so they built a dam on the canal south of Florida a little bit to hold the water back in Florida and up the river so that boats would not be hitting the bottom. That canal is still there yet—Independence Park is built around that dam. Independence was the name of the town but it also was a nostalgic thought of the early Americans the patriotism run a different vein in those days and we have nothing to compare with the patriotism of 1812 that was a life and death thing for them for the Americans we didn’t realize how close we were to extinction in the War of 1812. In 1790 the Indians were going to push the Americans out. They were coming in too strong, too much taking over land too fast and the Indians wanted to get rid of us. So they started a conspiracy a union of Indians around Defiance — Defiance had the biggest collection of Indians than any place in the country at that time. Over 1000 Indians were around Defiance and General Anthony Wayne was a General for Washington in the Revolution. A young man — a feisty young man, a good soldier so he was seat out by congress to head off those Indians but that thing stopped he didn’t want the Indians running around so he was sent up from Kentucky so Anthony Wayne had Kentucky back woodsmen, he had American soldiers and he had a motley collection of soldiers, he started north and when he got up to Springfield he ran into a patch of Indians and the Springfield people still make a big fuse about the George Rodgers Clark park so they had to defeat the Indians at Springfield and start pushing further north and all the towns along the Miami river were territory… When they got to Defiance they run into the big collection of Indians —I mean they were a mass of Indians so Anthony Wayne made his famous statement “I Defy all the Indians of I tell” he was going to take them on and they had rebuilt a fort at the point of the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers in Defiance and apparently he held it and the Indians must have felt a little hesitant because they backed up the river down the river towards Toledo so Anthony Wayne grouped his men together and got ready for a major walk and went down through the river to Maumee and to the Battle of Fallen Timbers because the weather had had a wind storm and knocked the trees down and the Indians were hiding behind the trees and the American the result was we don’t know what kind of miracle happened but Anthony Wayne won the Indians were fighting out from behind the new fallen trees somehow he got at it so when we won that put the end to the Indians major operations — there was snipping here and there and so they came back to Defiance and regrouped his people together and that was 1794 or something like that. So pretty soon the English decided they want to get that American thing back again they wanted the American colonies back they never did approve of it and fought it all along so the English sent a great Army into Canada to retake America of course this is the war of 1812 and the English always headed out of Canada and sent raids down into America. The George Rodgers Clark was the scene of the battle where the English were riding with the Indians against the Americans They thought they had better get rid of this American thing while they still had a change because we were getting to strong for them so started the War of 1812 and of course that’s history to the Star Spangled Banner and New Orleans was the start of War of 1812 and as far as I’m concerned that was the high point ever of all times of American patriotism. I have pictures in my books of them waving flags and just having a grand time. It was life and death — they were going to be exterminated your done you’ve had it and here was the enemy shooting at you, boy that really brought them out s
o any how — now back to where I was.

I thing Girty’s Island kinda got lost in the shuffle I don’t think they were Defiance took all the attention at that time.

A couple of details… Girty’s Island is about 80 acres. What it is, out in the river, middle of the river was right at the place where a creek come in the island from the south and it was a culvert, a brick arched roadway bridge along the south side of the river cross this creek bridge. It was a heavy stone bridge and it was an island, not an island but a cemetery on top of the hill right at the junction and many of the people from Holgate were buried there. That’s not just a local cemetery, but people coming from a distance so there will be a log of interesting things there. That is Cole Cemetery and from where the creek come into the river if you went along the road towards the south towards Holgate about a mile you come to place where they called Benines Woods —just named after a farmer but that’s where as a kin I had many a family picnic there. Where lots of local kids go down in the ravine and just in the water and swing out on the vines over the water and all kinds of stuff So that was a special treat for us kids to get out there. Now what else is up there. The creek along the river was intentionally big trees and brush and mosquitoes and all were there. Now that’s when you go down the river towards Napoleon a couple of miles you come to what they call Round Bottom and probably heard of that and then to Napoleon and from Napoleon to Texas down that way those people have that information. I think Round Bottom got it name because a curve in the river washed out, washout, and washed out until it got to be a round cliff and on the inside the water on the inside the water was carried away so that was law and that would be the bottom so the round is the high bank and the bottom is the low bank but I’m not sure that’s just the way logic said it doesn’t say what the bank did, but here are a lot of cottages up there for fisherman and then Independence is towards Defiance from the island you got up on a couple miles you got to the dam on the tow path and from that one more mile would be Florida City Town and a lot of the farmers they came could farm north of the river but couldn’t farm south of the river because it was low ground south is the low bank and north is the high bank kinda like. It was a mosquito’s mess — bushy mosquito mess and so the Holgate people come from the south they didn’t see the best side of the river. I can remember my dad telling me this about when he was a kid going over there was a man who farmed north of the river close to the island and he called him Bendy Gunn so if you don’t have anything on him your not going to fine it because he is the one who told my dad before the farmers come the land was filled with trees so tall so thick that the trees made it dark underneath them and that you could see for miles because no brush would grow under those trees. So that’s a story for my kids that I would like to hear some more about if I could find it.

Now during the Depression the island was pretty much abandoned and it was taken over for taxes or something — it belonged to people in Toledo but they didn’t pay their taxes, so it set neglected and dad was always eager to get out there and visit and replay his childhood memories so a couple times we camped out on the island and one time we lived in the stone cottage which was still well ran so dads memory ran pretty lively and so when I got out of the Army and got working with my older brother took over the plumbing business started the wholesale family plumbing shop in Defiance. I got to be scout master of troop III in Defiance Zion Lutheran in Defiance. So the boys were glad to have me as their scout master because I would come with the truck and we would haul them around to different places and we could find the best places along the river to camp and so on. And when they found out about the island they were all taken up with it and so Dad had been going out there camping so we got the idea if we built a cottage for dad the boys could take advantage of it so we got some cement blocks and lumber and put on the truck with a bunch of scouts and we got across the canal and down the tow path to where the island was close by and we started to build a cottage about 16 x 20 on the tow path north of the river so the boys made a nice plane across so you could see both ways and they put a boat dock down there and my brother Paul made a power boat with an outboard motor so we came along and take them rides so the cottage was a very popular thing — we had family reunions out there and parties and stuff, but it lasted a couple of years, but it didn’t last too long. Anyhow, the boys really loved to play things with grandpa. They built for him, he always had the idea that those ferry boats had a flat bottom tilted up at each end and the best way so set down and enjoy yourself on the river to steer around, so he got my oldest bother to build him a ferry boat, but we couldn’t mess around pulling that ferry boat around so they decided to put an automobile engine in it to push it, and boy that made it heavy. Too much. They had that out there two or three years and they had a log of good times and they would have a picnic table on the boat and have a picnic going down the river. Cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon. So we did get that done. So dad had a wonderful good time out there before he gave up. Just on occasions he lived at the cottage. He had his home in Holgate and when the shop was built in Defiance we moved to Defiance and he got along pretty good. He died of a stroke I think, I think it was. But in the house in Defiance was right across from the Fifty Yard line of the High School football field so the kids would all come sit on our porch roof to watch the football games.

My dad was a Lutheran from Germany and his wife was a Catholic from Germany. Her father was brought to Holgate as a furniture maker, burial vault maker and coffin maker for the town. They buried all the people, and so when dad and grandma who was Mary Cecilia Vogel she was still a Catholic and the first three children were baptized as Catholics — Uncle Fred, Aunt Winnie and Dad were all baptized Catholic. And about that time grandpa had helped start a Lutheran church in Holgate, which is now St. John’s, and everything was going fine except that as a businessman he had to make business deals and the preacher said you don’t make a deal with a mason and most all of the business men were masons because they had to so it was an unhappy affair but the old preacher made it so hard for dad, grandpa Voigt that he went to Defiance and found an English Lutheran pastor in Defiance —Rev. Enger, please come down to Holgate and preach to us in English because they are all German anyhow and they need English too. And so when Engers came down to Holgate they preached in the Voigt House. The English church was started in the living room of the Voigt House on Cherry Street, And remember, Standley use to be on the road from Defiance to Holgate, and Standley started a church too. But anyhow the preacher came every Sunday and they had services and grandma the Catholic got to reading written past history of the work (Lutheran Church) and she read about the Reformation and the more she read the more she got pulled in and finally she decided she wanted to be a Lutheran too. She probably was around 28 and so she was a most unusual person, grandpa himself was a sedate little man who could do his business and so on but she was a power house worker. She got things done when they built that big house on Cherry Street she had boarders that she boarded and she taught her kids and she made being a church member into fun, the girls and the boarders were in plays — missionary plays in the living room and they would dress up like Japanese or Chinese, or Africans and oh they had a wonderful time. And a lot of those pictures are in that book. So Grandma Voigt had one thing she carried over from the Catholics but the Lutherans were never to thrilled with, that was painting—fine painting. So she came to Napoleon, on the west side of the road in Napoleon on State Route 108 south just before you get to the fairgrounds the big brick mansion is still there yet and that lady there knew painting very well and so Grandma Voigt came there to take classes in painting and she took a lot of lessons and her paintings were beautiful. Paint in those days turned dark. Grandma painted pictures, I don’t know how she got it done with everything else she got done, but she got it done. When it came to the island she was a prime mover. Grandpa made the business and he made the connections, but she and the kids did the work. Boy they went out there and cut weeds, leveled out and did everything. They tell the story the flour was getting worms in it so they were going to send it to the chicken park for the chickens to eat. When they got there the bags had been switched and they got to the wrong bag — plaster of Paris they fed to the chickens and they were all cackling and crawling and Grandma Voigt went out there with a knife and cut the chickens craw open and took the plaster of Paris out and most of them revived. That shows the kind of gumption that she had.

The flood must have caught them by surprise because it not only flooded the island and the cottages and left all kind of debris, whole buildings came floating down the river. It was terrible. I image it was in the spring but I’m not sure, but we were accustomed to having ice come down the river, but not buildings come down the river. So the flood really knocked the whole resort in the head. Now it’s only a matter of memories and flash backs. I don’t remember the flood, but I remember them talking about it. 1913 was just about 12 years before I was born.

When I was in the Army I got into Germany nowhere near where the Voigt Family come from, so when I was in the Library at Wittenberg I was on the faculty and they allowed a sabbatical leave every so many years and I didn’t want to go because I had to much to do, so one time I decided to take my sabbatical, so I went to Germany to buy books for the library in German and I went to find the home place of the Lutherans of the Voigts. The Voigts are from north up by Hanover and Mullets are down in the Saar. The German town is Visselhoevedo and there I found one or two of the family left and all the rest of them had moved away and one of the cousins.

Weddelman, Ida

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, June 6, 2004

IW: I’m 96 years old.

CW: That was a long time ago that you were born.

IW: Yes. 1906.

CW: 1906. Do you remember anything about your childhood or youth?

IW: Well, My mother died when I was a couple days old.

CW: Oh, really? What did she die of. Do you know?

IW: Childbirth. And I was raised by my grandparents.

CW: And that was where? Was that in Henry County?

IW: Yes. D. H. Meyer. Mr. And Mrs D. H. Meyer.

CW: Oh, a lot of Meyers.

IW: Yes. I was born in Florida. And I was raised about a mile west of Florida. Dr. Wynn’s farm. Do you know where that is?

CW: No.

IW: The first big farm place on the other side of Florida. The house and barn is up on a hill.

CW: Oh yes.

IW: That’s where I was raisedd.

CW: That’s a nice place.

IW: Yes

CW: Beautiful view from up there.

IW: It was.

CW:hliy did they can Flrida “Snake Town”?

IW: I don’t know.

CW: Were there snakes when you were young?

IW: Yes there used to be.

CW: A lot of them?

IW: Actually I’d say that I didn’t see too many.They did say they was around. I never got out too much. I was kind of bashful.

CW: Oh, were you?

IW: Well, my grandparents didn’t take me any place. You know you don’t go like the young people do.

IW: Well, sure. Things were very different then. Did you have a farm?

IW: Yes.

CW: So probably helped tend chickens?

IW: Yes.

CW: Did you feed any lambs?

IW: No. We didn’t have no sheep. Chickens and cows and hogs. We did have a few ducks, I don’t know which they were, or geese, I guess.

CW: So you were raised sort of like an only child?

IW: Yes. And then my uncle got married. He lived there with us, with my grandparents. And they had six children when I left there.

CW: So it was a lot like you having a lot of younger sisters and brothers?

IW: Yes, I helped raise them.

CW: How old were you when the uncle came to live there?

IW: It was 1914, I think, so I was eight years old.

CW: So you were still a child?

IW: Yes. My father used to run the, or have the sawmill along 24 there, 424. You know where the park there in Florida?

CW: Oh yes There was a sawmill where the park is now?

IW: Yes. That’s where my father had the sawmill, and I was born across the street from that, across the road from that. It was the fourth house from this end.

CW: That would have been an interesting place in those days. The canal was coming through here, wasn’t it?

IW: Yes. It went through. I can remember the last houseboat going through. It wasn’t pulled by mutes or anything like that anymore.

CW: Did it have an engine or something?

IW: Must have. I can just remember him telling me, “Now that’s the last houseboat you’ll see.”

CW: Well that was an era that didn’t last very long, did it? When the railroads came in that was kind of the end of an era.

IW: Especially when 24 came here, with the trucks.

CW: Oh, I remember when 24 used to go where 424 is. It went right down through the center if your town.

IW: And they took quite a strip off of there, too.

CW: To make it wide enough for the trucks, I suppose.

IW: Yes.

CW: We used to live on Washington Street and 24 used to curve up and around and by the post office. We were not far from the post office. There was a red light there, and those trucks’ brakes would just make the most racket.

IW: You’re telling me. We used to have quite a curve here in front of the house. It was not unusual to see somebody sitting in your front yard or in the ditch here. They couldn’t make the curve. Going too fast.

CW: Do you remembered when the roads weren’t paved and they had to pull them out?

IW: Yes.

CW: You do? What was that like? What do you remember about that?

IW: Well, we was married in ’26. This road was built in 1928. I suppose it was ’27 and ’28. This was a gravel road here. In the spring of the year by the line fence the cars would get stuck. My husband would have to take horses and pull them out. And when the snow come, same thing. Even after 24, seemed like it always drifted here.

CW: And they didn’t have the snow plows out like they do now. Did the framers have to plow out the road in front of their houses?

IW: Well, you tried to, but it was too dangerous to get out there with horses.

CW: The cars?

IW: Trucks. The trucks.We used to own 40 acres, about where these houses are down here. It just got too dangerous. You couldn’t even get down the road to farm it, so we sold it.

CW: They must not have slowed much

IW: No, they didn’t. Corning around those curves. They drove that much faster.

CW: Evidently you and your family escaped being run down.

IW: Yes I did. I tell you, I escaped a couple close calls.

CW: You did?

IW: Yes. I was glad I didn’t have to go across the road much. But I know one day I was going across the road, looked both ways. Thought it was all right. I left one truck go past and there was another one behind it. didn’t see it. Just made it.

CW: Are there any stories that you remember of things that happened in your life, like in your childhood in those days?

IW: No, not really. Like I say. I had a very quiet life.

CW: Until you were about 10 years old. Then things started to get lively when your uncle and his grown family were there.

IW: Yes. I tell you. I shouldn’t say it, but I just got tired of taking care of babies and I just as soon take the milk bucket and go out and milk a cow. Had to take care of babies all the time.

CW: Well, I bet you did because you were just kind of a child yourself, and yet you probably had a lot of responsibilities taking care of those little ones.

IW: Yes, I stayed there with them. My grandparents moved to Florida – the town of Florida up here, and I stayed there for a couple years. Then I got married, moved down here.

CW: How old were you when you were married?

IW: Nineteen and a half.

CW: That was not young in those days.

IW: Well, I tell you. I just didn’t have the education to go out and go to the city and work and I didn’t feel like that.

CW: Probably a little too shy.

IW: Yes, I was. And my husband was the only son. He had six sisters. Some of them was married. Some of them wanted to go work. He says, “Let’s get married!” Then we lived here with his folks.

CW: Oh, his folks lived on this farm?

IW: Yes. His folks bought this farm about a month before he was born, in 1901.

CW: So it’s been with the family for 100 years, hasn’t it?

IW: Yes.

CW: Well, you’ve kept good care of it. It’s a nice place.

IW: He was very proud of it.

CW: How many acres were on it?

IW: Seventy. That was about an average size.

CW: That’s all you’d want with horses.

IW: You had your hands full.

CW: What did your husband raise?

IW: Usually corn, wheat and oats. And he raised sugar beets before we was married, him and his dad.

CW: That was hard work with sugar beets.

IW: They took care of it themselves – blocking.

CW: Blocking, that’s what my husband said was the hardest thing he ever did, blocking sugar beets. How they do that?

IW: With a hoe. It was planted in a row and every so often they’d pull them out.

CW: Oh, so you’d have to dig them out with the hoe?

IW: Yes.

CW: I thought maybe you’d have to lean over with each one, but I guess not.

IW: No, you used a hoe. But you had to see that you got them pretty well thinned out.

CW: Did you help with canning?

IW: Oh, yes.

CW: Had a big garden?

IW: Yes. When I was 16 or 17 they started 4-H here.

CW: I bet that was exciting for you, wasn’t it?

IW: I didn’t join, but the neighbor lady was the head of it. and she told how they canned stuff, and I tried it. Maybe you don’t know, they used to can tomatoes one day and the next they’d be startin’ working, mold, cans would break open. And I started cold packing them and that was the last of that.

CW: Last of that spoiling?

IW: Yes.

CW: You must have done a good job of it, because I’ve canned and I did what I was supposed to do and they still didn’t keep very long.

IW: Yes, I did a lot of canning and I still do.

CW: You still do?

IW: Yes. Canned what I could last year.

CW: Do you have a garden?

IW: A little one. Don’t need much for one person.

CW: What do you put in the garden?

IW: A few tomato plants, few cabbage plants, some mangos, some pickles, beans, onions. Peas I didn’t raise. I used to.

CW: I remember my mother having sweet peas, not in the vegetable garden, but in the flowers. I always thought those smelled so good.

IW: Yes, I always liked them. I had some too, years ago. Liked to grow up on the fence.

CW: Any memories that come to mind?

IW: Nothing special. I always liked to sew. I done a lot of sewing.

CW: What did you sew?

IW: I made all my children’s clothes.

CW: How many children did you have?

IW: Six.

CW: You had six children of your own after raising your uncle’s?

IW: Yes, I helped six of my uncle’s and I raised six of my own. Four girls and two boys. Two girls are gone already. Do you know Ronnie Upp? His wife is one of them. Lois Griffith. Charlie Griffith. His wife is my youngest.

CW: They were both pretty intelligent, I thought. What did she die of? Cancer or something?

IW: Pancreatitis. She had a hysterectomy and she never got straightened out from that. It just went from one thing to another. Couldn’t get ahead of it. He’s teaching at Northwest State. Walter Meyer’s wife is my daughter.

CW: Well, you certainly have a clear complexion. Ninety-six years old and you have hardly any wrinkles at all. My mother used to say, “Well, if you’d put on more weight, you wouldn’t have those wrinkles.”

IW: I’d like to lose a little. I don’t know if it’s for the good or bad. You mentioned something about Girty’s island. I don’t know much about that.

CW: Is that across the street from here?

IW: It’s down that way. You know where the Gunn’ s live?

CW: No. What does their farm look like?

IW: Oh, where the bridge goes across the ditch? That’s the Gunn farm. Girty’s island is this way from that – a little ways. Where you go around that curve, there’s a house here and across the road from that, that’s Girty’s Island. Well, I guess it’s connected to the Gunn farm.

CW: Do they own that island?

IW: No. I don’t know who owns that now, but they own the ground next to it.

CW: Did you ever hear any stories about Girty and his brother out on that island? I read about them in the history books.

IW: I have, too.

CW: I thought, Oh my it would be valuable if anyone would have heard any local stories about them.

IW: No, that was before my day.

CW: They were bad people according to the local people, and I think rightly so if they turned on their own people, helped the Indians to destroy their own people.

IW: That’s for sure.

CW: Did Florida, was it the same when you were there as it is now?

IW: No.

CW: What was it like originally?

IW: I was told years ago, they had 11 saloons.

CW: In Florida?!

IW: That’s what I was told at one time – 1l saloons. That was before my day.

CW: That probably was in the time of the canal.

IW: Oh, yes.

CW: And probably had an inn or something where people could stay all night.

IW: I don’t know if they did or not. I imagine they did. They had a place for where they made flour, flour mill.

CW: Was that close to the sawmill?

IW: It’s just before you cross the canal bridge where that restaurant is. It was a big building in there. It was just like an elevator. Could be that they had places where people could stay there, I don’t know.

CW: I bet they did, because they didn’t go very far, about 15 miles an hour would take them a long lime. Did you go to school in Florida? Did they have a school there?

IW: Yes. A three room school. Two year high school and the eight grades.

CW: Did you have, they must have had more than one grade.

IW: There was four grades. First, second, third, and fourth grade in one room. Fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth in the other room and there was two years of high school upstairs. Then there was another room where they played basketball and stuff like that.

CW: Where was this building then?

IW: The School House?

CW: Yes.

IW: You know where the school house is now? It was this way from it. There’s two little houses built back there, and the one house sits where the school house was.

CW: So, they must have torn the school house down.

IW: Yes. And they built the other one, and that was all school ground there in that vacant ground that’s back of them. That was the school ground.

CW: So you walked to school probably.

IW: Yes, all by myself.

CW: Even in first grade?

IW: Yes, I did. First day I went to school they took me. I rode in a wagon. In a wagonbox with my cousin.

CW: Bet you can still remember that, can’t you?

IW: Yes. Scared to death. Well, my grandparents talked German and I couldn’t talk English. You can imagine.

CW: And they only talked English in the school, I suppose.

IW: Yes.

CW: Well, how did you manage?

IW: Well, I just picked it up. My aunt and uncle, they could talk German, but talked English. And my grandmother never did learn to talk English. She could understand you, but she couldn’t talk it. My grandfather could talk it. He was born here in the United States.

CW: Out here in this area?

IW: Around Okolona.

CW: And your Grandmother must have come across from Germany?

IW: Yes, from Germany.

W: With her family, I suppose. Did they come up on the canal boat then?

IW: No.

CW: How did they get here?

IW: I don’t know. I don’t know.

CW: You wouldn’t have any of you mother’s memories since she died when you were a few days old.

IW: Yes. She was a seamstress. Done a lot of sewing.

CW: Did she sew for other people?

IW: Yes.

CW: Did you, too, for other people?

IW: Had enough of my own. With the other work. There was always baking and churning, washing and ironing, gardening. You name it.

CW: Did you have that schedule? They used to say Monday wash day, Tuesday iron day.

IW: Yes. Pretty well.

CW: What did you do on Wednesday?

IW: Well, it was usually baking or churning or something.

CW: How did you chum your butter? The butter you were talking about.

IW: Well, you separated the milk. You run it through a cream separator to get the cream.

CW: Was that electric?

IW: Oh, we used hand power. And before they had a cream separator, they used to put the milk in crocks. And let the cream come to the top and skim it off.

CW: Then they would use the cream to make butter? How did they go about making the butter?

IW: My grandmother had a small churn, about that high. That big around. You put about 2 gallon of cream in there. Then you turn it.

CW: It had a crank on it, on the end or something?

IW: Yes.

CW: You had to turn it a long long time, I bet.

IW: It all depended on the condition of your cream. Sometimes it turned to butter easier.

CW: Just like we used to whip cream. Some days it was easy to whip cream and some days hard. I think the moisture in the air had something to do with it.

IW: Yes, I think so.

CW: How did you know when the butter was formed?

IW: You could tell by the sound of it. It slopped the sides. Just like you had water in it.

CW: You could feel that heavy object, too, as you churned it.

IW: Yes. Then after we got married, I, we had small glass churns here That’s what I used after I was married.

CW: They had a crank on the top, didn’t they, and you could see then when the butter was formed?

IW: Yes.

CW: Now, the liquid that you poured off after the butter was made. Is that what you called whey?

IW: Buttermilk. That’s buttermilk. Whey is when you take sour milk and heat it so it’s good and warm, and that separates the water and… that’s where you get your cottage cheese.

CW: That’s where you have curds and whey? The cheese is the curds and the whey is the whey?

IW: Yes.

CW: LEt’s go back to this butter. Turn the churn and you’ve got it made. What do you do with it then?

IW: You take it out of the churn and put it in a bowl. Then you got a paddle and worked the butter around. Work the buttermilk out. You put cold water on it, just like washing, then work it.

CW: So you like massage it with the paddle.

IW: Yes.

CW: Then do you have to press that water out?

IW: You just gradually drain it off.

CW: I remember seeing my grandmother shape this butter once it was made, and I think she did that with a paddle.

IW: Yes.

CW: And then did you mark it on the top?

IW: Oh you could, if you wanted to make it fancy. Then you didn’t have no refrigeration either. You couldn’t make too much ahead. It’d get strong for you Tried to keep it cool in the summer.

CW: Did you have apple trees?

IW: We did up there where I was raised

CW: At your grandparents?

IW: Yes. Had all kinds of fruit trees. We had our own fruit.

CW: Then you canned it?

IW: Yes. We had some fruit trees here. You didn’t spray them and then they wasn’t too good.

CW: When you don’t need them in the winter, you’re not as careful about keeping them up.

IW: In the fall you’d bury them in the ground, cover them with straw and take them out about February or March.

CW: Would they still he good?

IW: Yes. If you got enough stuff on them so they didn’t freeze.

CW: You had this hole in the ground rather than a fruit cellar or anything.

IW: Yes.

CW: You put your apples in there. Pears too?

IW: We never put pears in.

CW: They maybe didn’t keep as well.

IW: No, I don’t think so.

CW: Any other kind of fruit you raised? …trees the way they do now?

IW: The big orchards did. My grandfather tried. He didn’t have the patience with it. That takes a lot of work. My daughter-in-law, they had a lot of fruit trees. They always spray them.

CW: You have to spray them ever couple of weeks now.

IW: Yes. She hates to use them when they got worms in them.

CW: We used to have to just cut those worms out, didn’t we?

IW: Yes. My husband is interested in that spraying, but he just died.

CW: That’s a lot of work and dangerous work, too.

IW: Yes.

CW: Did you have grapes?

IW: Yes.

CW: Did your grandfather or your husband make wine.

IW: Tried to.

CW: Had a lot of vinegar. I’ll bet?

Yes. We had a lot of grapes up there. Then they had quite a few here, too. And when they built the road, they took on. Right along the road.

CW: Now that would have been the state, I suppose, that came through, take the land, and put the road in.

IW: Yes.

CW: Did they ask your permission first?

IW: Yes.

CW: What if you wouldn’t give it?

IW: They’d take it anyhow.

CW: Did they pay you for it?

IW: think so, a little bit. Butchering was another big deal.

CW: Now, if you didn’t have pigs, then you butchered cows, right?

IW: Yes.

CW: Tell me about it. Tell me about butchering cows.

IW: I don’t know too much about it. Years ago when I was a kid, you didn’t eat much beef. It was all pork.

CW: I wonder why.

IW: I don’t know. I know up there, if they got a quarter beef for the family it was plenty.

CW: For the whole year?

IW: Yes.

CW: So that was sort of a treat, beef was?

IW: The reason was, it was hard to keep.

CW: Oh, it didn’t keep as well as pork?

IW: Well, how are you goin to do it? That was before they canned beef. Years ago they never canned beef They used to cut it some way, and then they’d dry it, smoke it. We never cared much for that.

CW: They used have smoke houses, but that would have been pork, I suppose?

IW: Yes. First you salted them, cut them dried out and then smoked them. Then you’d eat them in the summer when they got so strong that you didn’t like them. And they didn’t trim them like they do now-a-days.

CW: Did they have fat on them?

IW: Yes.

CW: How did they preserve the beef?

IW: They didn’t. You just got a quarter and eat it.

CW: When it was gone, no more beef for a while.

IW: That’s right. They used to make summer sausage and put beef with that. I think that’s why they really got the beef.

CW: ‘Cause that would keep, would it?

IW: After it’s smoked and cured. A lot of work to that, too.

CW: How ‘d they do that?

IW: You grind your sausage. Then you put it in casings, beef casings.

CW: And beef casings are something you got from the store?

IW: No, you had your own or else you used the… I can’t think what you call them. When you butchered, the inside where the fat was there’s a skin on there. You skinned that, and you sewed that for to put your summer sausage in.

CW: So it was how big around?

IW: Well your beef casings was that big around.

CW: Oh, about as big around as a big round of bologna?

IW: Yes, but these (I can’t think what they called them) were this big and then you had to sew them up, but they kept good in the summer time, and that be stuffed. Then you had to press them, get them solid. If you didn’t get them solid, then they’d mold.

CW: Well, how did you press them, then, with your hands?

IW: No, you’d put them on the table, and put your sausage down, then you’d put boards, about a week or ten days. Got some salt to cure the casings with it, pressed them, then hung them up and dried them and smoked them.

CW: Well, that’d he a pretty lengthy process. I remember I was at my husband’s family. They lived on a farm near Archhold, and I remember one day when they must have been butchering or something . They had a little machine, worked by hand, that they would thread the intestinal casing on to that and then they would put the sausage in the top somehow, and if they would turn the crank, sausage would come out.

IW: Sausage stuffer.

CW: Yes, sausage would come out. Then they’d cut it every once in a while and twist it.

IW: Then you’d fry it down.

CW: Before they preserved id, they’d fry it down?

IW: That’s the way they preserved it. You roasted it in the oven. Get it out, then pack it in a jar or a can and then put the grease on it that fried out to seal it.

CW: Then the grease would preserve it?

IW: Yes. And if you didn’t get it done, you had moldy sausage.

CW: You had to be sure you got them good and done then.

IW: Yes.

CW: What did they fry in the deep kettle, the big iron kettles?

IW: Lard.

CW: When they were butchering, they’d cut the fat and throw it in this big kettle which had a fire under itt, outside I presume.

IW: Yes.

CW: And that would gradually melt.

IW: Just like cook it. And then your lard gets just like water. It looks like water when it’s hot.

CW: And then what would they do?

IW: Put it in jars.

CW: Put it in jars so they’d have lard to use during the year.

IW: Yes.

CW: And the cracklings would be the little pieces of skin, I suppose.

IW: It’s what you fried out, what didn’t … it got pressed. Some people like to eat them.

CW: They still do.

IW: Sell ’em in the store. Don’t appeal to me (ha ha).

CW: You probably didn’t care much for butchering day. It meant a lot of work, I suppose.

IW: I kinda enjoyed it. Yes. My husband made all the different kinds of sausage. One year when we was first married, my husband and his father, they wanted to go out and husk corn. They had butchered a hog a day or two before and had cut it up , and they wanted to go out and husk corn. They said, well the meat had to be taken care of. I says, “Well, I can cook it and I can make prettles and I can make sausage.” I guess my father-in-law thought, “She don’t know much about it.” But I don’t know if you know what head cheese is.

CW: I often wondered what was in head cheese. I’ve seen it, of course.

IW: It’s, well, you might say, it’s left overs You put rinds and a little meat.

CW: What kind of meat?

IW: Bone meat, a little and that’s where you use your rinds from the cooked meat. He didn’t put no extra meat in it. And you’d put your heart and tongue in with it too. Cut that up, and I was learned that you’d put a piece of heart and tongue with it. When they come in, I had it done. They was kind of surprised. After that the head cheese was made different. (ha ha)

CW: They decided they’d better make it themselves?

IW: No, they liked it the way I made it. Had a little extra meat in it, something else besides just the rinds.

CW: Was that done like the sausage that you put it in the casing and pressed it, then fried it? And once it was fried, then did you hang it up to dry?

IW: You mean the summer sausage?

CW: The head cheese.

IW: The head cheese. No. That was put in the stomach. You skinned the stomach. You took the inside out of the stomach, then you throwed the stomach with it, and you cooked it.

CW: How’d you cook it?

IW: Cooked the whole stomach in a big kettle out in the yard outside or if it was done on butchering day, you take out of the kettle, just like your blood pudding, liver pudding.

CW; How was that made? Same way?

IW: Yes. There was a lot of work to it. Made plenty of them casings

CW: On this sewing, I’ll bet you were good at making quilts too.

IW: No, I didn’t have time for quilts.

CW: Sure, you had a big family to take care of and sew for all those girls.

IW: I made a couple before I was married. Then t didn’t make any until my youngest girl got pretty well grown up. I made enough for one for each one of the grandchildren, which is 20, and the children each got a couple. Then I’ve got a couple left here.

CW: Well, you’ve made quite a few I’d say.

IW: Yes. And then for the great grandchildren I started making crib quilts.

CW: And they all take so much time. You have to have those tiny little stiches.

IW: Yes. I can’t do it any more.

CW: I could never do it, to where it was very good. I’d like to get in on the quilting because they’d all be sitting around talking and enjoying it, but I had the feeling that sometimes after I left, they pulled my stitches out and sewed them back in again. (ha ha)

IW: I’ve seen that done. I used to belong to the Ladies Aid up here and went quilting, but I can’t anymore.

CW: Meticulous work, has to be done just so. That needle ‘s got to go all the way through and so forth.

IW: I’ve seen it already quilted with threads hanging down below.

CW: That’d be pretty careless.

IW: Yes, it was a mess. And they pulled out some of mine, too. (ha ha)

CW: Did you make coats for your girls?

IW: Some.

CW: That was hard, I’ll bet, wasn’t it? Bet you put in the heavy outside?

IW: I used old coats and made them over for little ones. Other than that, I didn’t.

CW: Then you could use the old linings, from the old coals. Saved a lot of money that way. did you have a Singer sewing machine?

IW: I didn’t in them days.

CW: A treddle machine?

IW: I had my mother’s, a treddle machine.

CW: Well, they were pretty efficient, those old treddle machines.

IW: Yes. I had that until ’36.

CW: So until you were married about 10 years?

IW: Yes. Now my sewing machine sets there.

CW: Electric now. The one my mother had, you pressed with your knee to make it go.

IW: Well this can be used either way.

CW: Nice little cabinet. You walked to school. Go back to when you were in school. Did you have friends that you walked with?

IW: No. I was the only one from that direction.

CW: You were alone a lot.

IW: ‘Til I was in 5th or 6th grade. There was a neighbor boy. We walked together.

CW: Would you play on the way to school and back?

IW: We didn’t have time. No, we didn’t think of that, I guess.

CW: Were they pretty strict in school? A lot different than it is now.

IW: Yes, well I don’t know whether it was stricter, but the kids was all together different than they are now.

CW: In what way?

IW: I think the kids tempt you a lot more. Dare you to do this or that. Oh they pulled tricks on the teacher, too, in them days.

CW: Do you remember any?

IW: Their folks would butcher and they’d bring the pigtail a shoe box. Big present for the teacher, I guess. (ha ha) That was one thing. Or catch some little animal, put it in a box and bring it to the teacher.

CW: I bet you got so that you were afraid to open the box?

IW: Yes.

CW: Then when you got into, say, high school, did you go to parties or dances or anything?

IW: Didn’t have anything like that. They had basketball for the boys, but that was it.

CW: No, they didn’t used to have sport for the girls at all, did they?

IW: No.

CW: I remember the girls saying they wouldn’t want to do anything in gym class. They wouldn’t want to play ball or anything. They’d get big muscles and they were afraid they’d look bad.

IW: No, you had your own games in the school ground, and that’s it.

CW: What sort of games did you play?

IW: Baseball, well, I don’t know what you would call it. See, there was a hill in front of the schoolhouse, and that was very tempting for the kids to slide down there.

CW: On their stomachs, or did they bring their sleds?

IW: Just on their feet.

CW: Oh, slide down on their feet?

IW: Yes. Then you’d fall down.

CW: Did you do it, too?

IW: I tried it once. That was enough.

CW: You know, when 1 was in grade school, we girls had a place where the water when it had rained had drained in this one corner of the school house and it went down hill. So it was just kind of a natural slide. And we were enjoying that, and didn’t some big boy come and put ashes on our slide. I was so mad! I started after him. He ran and I ran, and I caught him just in the doorway of the school. He couldn’t get in the school so I got him and I grabbed his hair. He yelled for mercy. Boy, I was so mad, I pulled on his hair. (ha ha)

IW: The boys would try to chase the girls. Then they’d fall. You couldn’t slide down.

CW: Who’d fall? The boys or the girls?

IW: The girls. Well, I’ll tell you, we really didn’t have much time to go play in school.

CW: They kept you working, huh?

IW: Yes. Time to eat your lunch.

CW: Did they carry their lunch?

IW: Yes. Oh yes. There were no lunches served.

CW: They had homemade bread and butter.

IW: Yes, and jelly soaked in.

CW: … wasn’t allowed.

IW: Didn’t even taste good.

CW: Did you help your grandmother with the baking?

IW: Yes.

CW: That’s how you learned.

IW: Before I went to school, when my grandmother baked, I always had to have a little piece of dough made into a loaf and put into a tin cup for my grandfather for supper. That’s how I started.

CW: And he probably enjoyed having that from you.

IW: Yes. And after my grandmother got oldes, well then I took over the baking.

CW: Did you change the baking the way you changed the head cheese?

IW: No, not really. He got good bread and he had bad bread.

CW: Some days it just wouldn’t work right.

IW: No, in them days you had yeast foam that’s altogether different than the yeast nowadays.

CW: What’d you call it, yeast foam?

IW: Yeast form. It was in little cakes about that square and that thick. You had to start it the day before and let it set over night. Then the next morning you’d start in baking.

CW: You’d have to get up pretty early in the morning.

IW: That all depends on how soon you wanted it done. In the summer time it was hot and it didn’t take long once in a while.

CW: Did you make just white bread? Or did you make other kinds?

IW: Whole wheat bread once in a while.

CW: Did they make whole wheat at the mill?

IW: Yes. Andrews Mill.

CW: In Florida?

IW: Yes. John Andrews. I guess it was John. Where the Agler farm is.

CW: I’m not very familiar around here.

IW It’s across the river. That house that’s nght at the top of the, at the end of the bridge. That’ s where they made the flour. Cracked flour and corn meal.

CW: So they had a mill there.

IW: Yes, it was, I think they still had it when they had the sale a year ago. It was sold.

CW: It must have been kind of a small mill.

IW: Yes. I think somebody just bought it for an antique.

CW:Tthe railroad didn’t come anywhere near here, did they?

IW: No, not any closer than they are now.

CW: So you didn’t have any of that noisy, smoky thing going through. All you had was the trucks.

IW: Believe it or not, when I was a kid my father lived in Defiance, and they a horse and buggy and took me to Okolona. Put me on the train to go to Defiance. Then my father met me at the depot. You know where that is?

CW: Yes.

IW: And he lived across from where Diehl’s Brewery is, and then he had to walk.

CW: He had to walk from the train station? That was a long walk.

IW: Yes, he had a horse and buggy, but he walked down to meet me.

CW: Did he remarry?

IW: Yes. I have four half sisters and a half brother.

CW: That was pretty common in those days, wasn’t it?

IW: Yes, and they’re all gone.

CW: They would he younger than you. How many of your siblings are living, your real brothers and sisters?

IW: I didn’t have any.

CW: Oh, you are the only child?

IW: Yes.

CW: That’s right. You were the only one that was taken to your grandparents.

IW: Yes.

CW: No wonder you had kind of a lonely life.

IW: Yes. Well times then weren’t like what they are now.

CW: How were they different?

IW: You just stayed to home. You didn’t go here and there. There wasn’t so much going on.

CW: And you couldnn’t talk to other people on the telephone.

IW: Yes, you could.

CW: Oh, you had telephones?

IW: Oh, yes.

CW: What do you remember about, you had the old crank telephone? What do you remember about that?

IW: Well, everybody had their own ring, you might say. Each number had different rings.

CW: What do mean different rings?

IW: For example, our number was 1016, so that was a long ring and a short ring when we answered. Then there was some that had four longs, some two longs, two shorts. That’s how they told the difference. See you was all on lines – so many people on the line.

CW: So, did you have to connect to Central before you could talk to anybody?

IW: Yes.

CW: How did you do that?

IW: Well you’d turn the crank, and then she’d answer.

CW: Oh, Central would answer first.

IW: Yes. And then you told her who you wanted. Only the people that were on your line, you didn’t have to do it then. You just rang their ring.

CW: What about when somebody was calling you. Did you just pick it up and talk to that person?

IW: Yes.

CW: You didn’t have to talk to Central then?

IW: No … there was a lot of people listen in on you, too. (Ha ha.)

[Transcript ends]

Wangrin, Charlotte

A Recollection (Wallpaper Project, February 27, 2002)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simmons, Julie

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, February 28, 2002, Henry County Senior Center

CW: Tell me about yourself?

I came along as a young girl pretty rough in life but I loved school. I always loved to read. You could always find me with a book in my hands. When I was a kid I had brothers and sisters who loved to play outside. They would always ask my mother, “Why doesn’t she come out and play with us?” I enjoyed sitting and reading.

It was nice, I imagine to play in the snow with my brothers and sisters but it was something that really didn’t interest me, I just loved stories. There wasn’t any certain books that I read. It was any book that I could get my hands on. I wasn’t the highest student in my class. I was when I graduated in the upper portion in my class.

CW: Where was this school?

It was called Lima South, which is now a grade school in Lima, Ohio. It was for people who lived south of town. I had sad memories of things that happened to me, but I had a lot of happy memories that happened to me too. As time passed as I got older I understood about life. When I was a child I couldn’t understand why it made such a difference because you happened to be a different color. I thought that all people loved each other. I didn’t understand as a child. I have gotten older and understand more about that. I remember I would get so tired of being called the names they use to call black people. When I would say my prayers at night I would ask God, “I don’t understand why you made me this color if this color is to be punished this way.” I prayed that in the morning when I woke up that I would be white. There are things you don’t understand and that was one of them.

As the years passed I am proud to be an African American Negro. I totally feel blessed. I have accomplished a lot in the last twenty years. We have some of us who are really famous. We have poets, we have some in the business and in the musical world. So we have come a long way.

CW: Yes, you have people like Condoleezza Rice who is a woman in government. She is black and is doing an excellent job.

That is true. You know, as time goes on it is about to change more. There are things that are better than years ago. There are people helping that we can be thankful for. So that is one of the things in my life that I’m so blessed about too. You may not get everything in life that you want, but you get what you really need. God is always there even though sometimes you forget about him. You got to give him thanks for looking out after you. Like I say, I feel totally blessed in the things that have happened in my life – good things, bad things. Now I am totally blessed and have peace of mind and contentment.

Do you remember anything specific that was said or done that hurt your feelings?

I use to hear them say derogatory remarks about Spanish and Mexican people. I would just stand there and my mouth would drop open at some of the remarks they made. Here I thought that the blacks were the only oppressed but we were not. There were other people too, but like I said you get to learn a lot of things you didn’t know as a child. I just hated hearing Nigger all the time. Come along in the dictionary looked it up and it said it was any low class person. Nowadays in the dictionary that is not what they say about it. They definitely say that about us or any black race of people. Years ago that was not what they said in the dictionary. Sometimes they would say, “You are so black.” Just little remarks like that.

I mean they had a way of looking at you and making you feel like nothing. If you walked up and wanted to be friendly they would turn their back. They just have ways that made you feel uncomfortable. Just like a child they do things you don’t understand why. I know about the horrible things that happened in the south. I was never in the south. I was born in the north. I can not understand why it traveled so far north. They didn’t do the same with us up here but still it was bad. Like I said as the years have passed things have changed. They are not perfect but it will never be perfect. I will be dead just as the people behind me who just have it in their mind, different races aren’t good enough. Now I use to think that it was only the blacks but when I went to work at General Motors I discovered that they disliked other people too.

Well, I must tell you about what I call the fifth part of my life. I ended up in the world all on my own. They were hiring at General Motors so I went there and the man looked at me. He was the man doing the hiring. The man said, “I can’t believe you are looking for a job.” I said, “Well, it is a long story, and I do need a job. If you don’t have a place for me today, I understand. I’ll try RCA and see if I could get hired.” He said, “You don’t have to worry. There is only one reason that could keep you out of this job.” “Oh,” I said, “I’m to fat.” “You are not fat. You are built just for this job. All you have to do here is take a physical.” I said, “If I’m sick I don’t know anything about it.” He took me over to the nurses’ station. I was examined and everything was OK. I passed with flying colors. When I came back he was not in his office. A young man sitting there asked me for my papers. I said, “Where is Mr. Thompson?” “He is not in his office.” “Young man I can see that. Is he out of the plant?” “No, he is out in the plant.” Well, I shall sit right here and wait for him to come back.” So in a few minutes Mr. Thompson walks in.

“Oh, Mrs Simmons, what is the story”? “I passed.” He said, “What shift would you like?” “I still have customers in the beauty shop. I would like third. I am so happy you gave me a Job.” “I could stay here right now. I don’t have to leave.” He said, “No I think you don’t want to work in those clothes. That black suit would work but not that fancy blouse — could get caught in something. I am going to take you over to get your glasses and shoes. You can come back at 11:30 tonight.” Well, I collected my things and went home. I wasn’t going to tell my husband. It was nothing that I was afraid to do. I just didn’t want to tell him. I handled this thing and it wasn’t his business. When I got ready to go to work that night he asked me, “Where are you going?” I said, “Oh, we have problems that we can not work out so I decided to get married to General Motors.” He said, “Oh, that is some story you come up with.” I said, “They hired me. What are you going to do about it?” He said, “What about the beauty shop? “You never failed to tell me all the time that it was yours, but I was doing all the work, you say it is your shop.” “How are you going to get there?” “Use one of those cars out in the garage that you don’t permit me to drive. I’m driving one of them. I will take the one that I have to pay you half of the payment. I’m taking that car. He said, “You better not move that car out of the garage.” He was standing in the driveway, I said, “Please do not be in the driveway. I know I’ll do something I shouldn’t do and you will get hit with the car when I come out of the garage so please don’t be there.” So I came down the drive and he wasn’t there. I was so proud to be working for General Motors. I was so proud to be working for these people. I never missed one day of work.

CW: Is that right? How many years did you work for them?

I have thirty years retirement in all. I worked twenty five years. Every five years you put in they give you a year. That was because I worked in the foundry. So when I worked my twenty five years and was ready to retire I had gained five years. That gave me thirty years.

CW: Was it really hot in the summer?

Yeh, it was really hot because it was down there where the melted iron is and everything, and it was smoke. You could be in there say thirty to forty minutes and your blouse would look tattle tale gray. That is how it was. Common sense would tell you they are killing you. You wore protection over your mouth but it didn’t catch everything. You could see black around your mouth so you knew some was getting by. I was so happy to work at General Motors that I thought it doesn’t matter, you got to die some day anyway. But like I said, I was so proud that I had a job there. The only time I was out of the plant was when the plant laid off for some reason or other and I was late once in in my life. I got caught in a snow drift. My foreman called and said, “Could you come in right away?” At that time I had become a molder – the first women molder in the Defiance plant.

CW: What does a molder do?

You make molds that they had to pour the iron unto. That was

the block motor. That is what we made on our line. The foreman said we have enough people here for the second but we don’t have an operator for the molder machine. He said, “Can you come in?” I said, “I’ll be right there.” I jumped up trying to get there quickly. We had a very heavy snow and I went down a side road. One thought told me don’t go down that road but I kept going. I have learned in my lifetime that my first thought is what I should pay attention to, because it is always the right thought. Like I said, I kept on going. Next a snow drift that came up as high as the windows when I hit into it. I couldn’t even get the car door open so I climbed out the window. I was out there trying to get get the car loose with a push. The more I worked it kept sinking down, but I am one of those people who will never give up.

Soon I looked up and I saw a big red flasher light coming down the road. I said, “What is that?” I know a snow plow and when it got to me it was a big piece of farm equipment. There was a man in there and he looked at me and said, “You got yourself in quite a mess.” I said, “YES I did” He said, ” I was standing at my window drinking my coffee, I looked up and saw you going through. I see you go by all the time and we know you live in Holgate.

I went in there and told my wife that girl has got herself caught down there. I’m going to help her.” He hooked a strange thing on the back of my car and with a couple of tugs he had me out of there. Then he looked at me and said me, “Now tell me, which way are you going?” “I’m going back to Holgate. I’m going down to 108 all the way to 281 and I’ll be right at General Motors.” “That is what you should have done in the first place.” “Yes, Sir, I know that now.” How wonderful that was. I used to dislike white people because they were mean to me. He came to help. What a blessing . I mean I have seen that there are some people in the world that are nice. Now I’m not saying the white are bad. We have bad in all races of people good and bad.

CW: Yes, that is right.

Then I went to work and bless his heart, I felt so good. My foreman was upset because I hadn’t got there and he was worried. I said, “Oh, I’m fine. There was a wonderful man who came and pulled me out of the snow drift and I just feel wonderful.” He said, “I’m glad to see you now and we can get the line started.” So that was to me, that was a blessing.

When it came time I discovered I developed arthritis real bad in my legs. It was so hard for me to walk

on the cement. It was so painful. I had my time in and I thought maybe if I got off my legs it would be better. So I decided to retire. I put in as many years as I could. At first people would say, “Oh, you are going to have a wonderful time. These are your Golden Years.”

Oh, I tell that became a joke. Pretty soon I had a house, felt blessed, got it paid for before I retired. There wasn’t anything to do after you did everything, there wasn’t anything left to do. I didn’t have any children or anything, so I was just walking and thinking, “What am I going to do?” Pretty soon it got boring. Where are those Golden Years people kept telling me about? I don’t see any Golden Years. I sit here day in and day out and the phone never rings, nobody knocks at my door so I just look out the window at the birds. Where are the Golden Years? I got so frustrated that I got to feeling bad. One day I thought, “What is wrong with me? I have never been sick. What are these new feelings I’m getting.” I went to the doctor and he discovered high blood pressure, and I never had high blood pressure in my life. The doctor said, “Well, what are your problems?” “I don’t know. I just feel depressed. I feel sad like I’m old and now in this world nobody wants me and there is nothing to do. I don’t have anyone to do anything for. You believe that when I say my prayers to God I told him if you see fit that I am not to open my eyes in the morning, that’s all right if it is what you want but if it is not the thing for me please show me what is there you want me to do in the balance of my life. I’m very happy that I got to live this old. It has been through you that you have have blessed me, but do something for me please. Just show me the way.” When I went to see the doctor, I told him. “You know, I have been so blessed, I got to do something for somebody else. I feel that I just have to.

CW: That is a sure way to make yourself feel better.

Now I want something to do, like helping in a hospital or a nursing home. I don’t want it for the money. I want to give back what God has given to me and that is the way I want to do it.

He said, “Well, what about the Senior Center place?”

“Well, I’m not destitute. I saved for these days. I don’t have to worry . I just want something to do. I don’t need help. I just want to help.”

He said, “That is what you can do.”

I said “I guess I don’t understand what a Senior Center is.”

He said, “Well, it is a place where there are other seniors there. Some of them are cripppled or can’t get around good. Oh, they would find plenty for you to do. You could help other people.”

Maybe that is what I’m looking for, so I went back home and I thought about it. I don’t know if that is really the thing. One morning I woke I was so sad and I was standing in the middle of the room, and I know this may sound stupid, but I could have sworn the walls were moving. They looked like they were coming in on me. I got to get out of here. I started running to my bedroom, got dressed as fast as I could and jumped in my car. Do you know it had to be the help of the Lord – something directed me to come straight to the Center. I looked up and was sitting there out front just looking at it. Now I had been there for a night meal a few times. I just came because they invited me. It was nice of them to invite me. Then I realized I was sitting in front of this building looking at the name up there. I said, “Can I go in there.” Will they treat me nice or they will not want me in there. Old adage came back again my color, right? All of a sudden I thought I’m going in. I’m as good as anyone else. I’m going to go in there.

CW: Well, good for you!

I opened the door and hopped out of the car, and I tell you it was wonderful. Yes, some people looked with kind of a shocked look, but there were more people who looked with that pleasant look in their eyes and a smile on their face. I thought this is the place for me and I said I’m staying right here. I busily got involved in things which I could do to help and I mean this a blessing. I love the Senior Center. I hadn’t planned to come each day and every day but if I don’t get up and go to the senior center I’m lost. I feel I should be there today, there is something I could do. I have made so many friends. There for awhile I didn’t have anybody. No friends, no family, no nothing.

Now, oh boy, I got friends, I look around and think I have a have a lot of children now, all colors, sizes and ages. I love them to death . They are really sweet to me. When I was a little sick and couldn’t get in they called to see how I was.

CW: That was nice of them to do that.

That was the biggest blessing in my life. It is so easy to smile than frown. As we get older we get enough wrinkles. Anyway, no need to frown and make more wrinkles. So I think when I smile that makes me feel good. The person I’m looking at it will make them feel good. I have had people speak to me just because I smiled at them. I love my smile now I’m not a beautiful person but I love to smile.


Spangler, Mary

[Editor’s note: this oral history includes a written family history.]

Interviewed by C. Wangrin

Eldon and Mary Spangler
Eldon and Mary Spangler, 50th wedding anniversary, 2001

I’m Mary Spangler; my husband is Eldon Spangler. His parents were Grover Cleveland Spangler and Clara May Spangler. . . . (a lot of geneological data omitted here)

When we were first married we lived in a trailer on Rt. 5 in the Deshler area and when David was five years old we built our home, started building it. We built it from scratch. We brought the lumber home from Four Gills in Ottawa, Ohio and as we could afford it we would put pieces together till we finally had our home made.

We’re members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We go to the Napoleon, Ohio congregation there and our children are all followers of that religion.

We survived the Blizzard of 1978 in January of that year and we had snow covering almost—the majority of the house. We had a little swing set in the back yard which had just a tiny little red tip showing; it was so deep in that area. My daughter had wanted to come down. She said, “Mom, there’s a storm coming on and I want to do some sewing.” So early that morning they got in and the wind was blowing and it was terrible. And when they got here, the next thing we knew the electric was off and the electric was off—let’s see, I believe that was on a Wednesday, and the electric was off until Saturday afternoon sometime and so she didn’t get any sewing done. (chuckles) We didn’t have any heat other than our gas stove in the kitchen and we all laid on the living-room floor wrapped in blankets and that but we had plenty of food, We could always have hot food because we had a gas stove that we could always light it with a match if no other way, so we managed to stay warm.

We had a little fish in a fish tank and we was wondering how we were gonna keep him alive so we put him in a little bowl by the stove. He survived and did very well and about two months later after everything was all fine, here our cat jumped on the top of his tank and turned the heater up and burned him up. So we lost our fish.

We did survive the tornado of 1953 and I was pregnant for our oldest son David at the time and we lived in a tiny little trailer there on the farm on Rd. 5. It looked really dark. My husband looked down the lane and he came running in the house and he said, “Get to the cellar. There’s a tornado coming.” Well by the time we reached the door the tornado had for some reason lifted over the woods that was in the back of the farm, and we turned around and watched it go into the east then and we saw it go down in the corner by Rte. 65 and Rd. 5 and we saw it snap off trees like they were little sticks.. And after that time is when it went on and got really really severe and it killed, I think it was a family of four over in Wood County someplace.

We lived in our little trailer on Rd. 5 and that is at the family farm, and that is where Grover Spangler and Clara lived and where the children were raised and we lived there until we built—well first we lived in our little, well it was on Rd. 5 just down from Rd C, not quite on the corner because his brother Paul built a house on the corner. That is where his brother built a house on the corner but we were the next house down and then in 1954 we bought us a big trailer which was 40 feet long and 8 feet wide. (laughs) That was big to us and we lived in that until we started to build our house and we lived over here on C754 on Rd. 3 which is where we live now. This in rural Deshler. Well actually we live in the city limits but we’re right on the edge of it on the west side.

I love to garden, especially flowers and I do have a lot of flowers and we try to have a regular garden but it seems like the rabbits just chew everything up and this year it’s flooded out. We’ve had lots and lots of rain. We’ve had—what was it—six inches within a week maybe and so the yard’s still very very wet. I love my flowers. We have lots and lots of trees. Every tree we planted—when we came here there was one tree, I believe it was a mulberry, and every tree we have here we planted ourselves, and we’re still planting. (laughs) We have seven acres of ground. We’re right by the B & O railroad, what used to be the B & O, now it’s CYXCX (?) railroad. Anyway we’re still listening to trains at night honking at all hours. We drive to Napoleon to church two times a week, on Thursday evening, then on Sunday morning.

Our oldest son David is self-employed. He does roofing, building, fixing things up for people. Bonnie works at Defiance, Ohio at the eye clinic and she works with Dr. Brunswick there. Cathy works at the Napoleon hospital, secretarial work, I guess you’d call it. She works not in the hospital but in the annex and Timothy lives in Napoleon but he works in Defiance. He’s the manager at Auto Zone. And Eldon is retired. He worked at Metal Forge for 33 years. I never worked outside the home (laughs) but I’m not retired yet. And since his retirement we haven’t traveled a great deal, just a little bit. Generally when we did go somewhere we go with other friends. During the winter we did go to Florida but it was because our sister-in-law had died, and then about two months later we went to Missouri because his brother had died. That was Melvin and Paul’s wife Louise in Florida.

We were married March 6, 1951 inToledo at the south Jehovah’s Witnesses. We’ve been married 52 years. (continues on with geneological info)

And I think that takes care of it at this time.

(end of tape)


(Written about May 2003)

Eldon’s parents were Grover and Clara May (Dittman) Spangler. They were married February 26, 1914. He was born December 21, 1886, died August 9, 1973. Clara was born February 17, 1888, died September 15, 1970. Grover’s father was Levi Franklin Spangler, his mother Ivy Alberta Smith, born March 22, 1859. They came to Malinta in 1881 where they operated a grocery store and barbershop. August 21, 1885 Levi was appointed the second postmaster of Malinta. Levi died October 21, 1922. Ivy born March 22, 1859, died March 13, 1935. They were parents of twelve children, nine sons and three girls.

Grover was a farmer, living on County Road 5 in Bartlow Township. He and Clara had eight children. Stanley Russel, born July 28, 1915, married Laura Dyer in June 1953. They had two sons, Steven Grover born September 11, 1959 and James Phillip born November 23, 1961. James died in a car accident on December 12, 1985. Steven married Raina Rasmasson, October 20, 1984; two children: Drew born 1995 and Taylor Rose in 1997.

A daughter Evelyn, born October 1918, died when 12 days old.

Dorothy Louise born January 22. 1920, has one son Leslie William born September 11, 1944. Dorothy and Leslie still reside at the Road 5 location.

Paul Wendell was born May 21, 1921. On September 14, 1950 he married Mary Louise Ryder. She died December 31, 2002. They had five children: Phyliss Lorraine, born December 21, 1951. She married David Kiefer, October 8, 1977. No children. Cynthia Kay born July 31, 1955, married Victor Moths July 27, 1974. Two children were born to them: Nathaniel and Angela. Carolyn Jane born December 26, 1956. She married Douglas Tinning, no children. Stephen Paul born September 3, 1959 married Sue Grambeck October 4, 1980. They have two children, Brandon and Tiffany. Loretta Ann born September 15, 1967, is not married.

Melvin Robert was born July 12, 1922, died February 26, 2003. He married Verna Mendenhall in 1960, she died June 16, 1998. They had two daughters: Evelyn born October 1962, she married Larry Lange. They had four children: Robert Lori, Ruth and Levi. She later married Jeff Truman. They have a son Wayne Michael. Their daughter Sanda married Jeff Spencer. They have two daughters. Ashley and Chelsea.

Velma Ruth born April 13, 1925, married Glen Leon Dolman on February 5, 1944. He died August 5, 1976. They had two adopted children, Tom and Dan. Tom and his wife Cheryl had two boys, Douglas and Kevin.

Richard Raymond born February 18, 1927 married Shirley Smith, no children. He later married Ann. They had four children: Douglas, Michael, Jeanette, and Sara Ilene.

Eldon Eugene born May 11, 1928 married Mary Huff March 6, 1951. Mary was born April 15, 1931. They have four children: David Eugene born June 19, 1953. He married Linda Powell September 9, 1972. They have three daughters: Michelle Nichole born October 11, 1975. She married Gary Meters. They have two children: Hanah and Jackson. Jennifer Lynn born June 2, 1979 married Jeff Dix August 28, 1998. A baby boy is expected May, 2004. Candice Elaine born November 20, 1984 married Randy Dix, brother to Jeff on November 27, 2002. On September 11, 1999 David married Teresa Sanderson. She has a son Kyle Klakamp and daughter Kristy Bash.

Kathleen Sue born December 30, 1955, married to Michael McGraw July 9, 1977 Michael born February 21, 1953. No children.

Bonnie Jean born April 20, 1962 married Joseph McGraw (brother to Michael) April 28, 1984. Joseph born July 19, 1960. They have three children: James Philip born September 27, 1985, Erin Leigh born June 17, 1988 and Andrew Joseph born May 22. 1993. Timothy James was born October 29, 1965. He married April Stinson June 9, 1991. They have a daughter, Alyssa Ashley born November 24, 1995 and a son Dakota David born November 12, 1998.

David is self employed, a contractor. His wife, Teresa, works as a loan processor in Findlay, at Bank One. Kathy works at Henry County Family Physicians. Mike is a self-employed dry wall contractor. Bonnie works at Defiance Clinic Eye Center. Joe works at Isaacs in Defiance. Tim is the manager at Auto Zone in Defiance. His wife, April, is Human Resources Generalist at Alex Products in Ridgeville Corners.

Some history about Eldon and Mary. When first married we lived in a small trailer on the farm on Road 5. When David was five, we built our home on Road 3. We brought the lumber home from Borgelts Lumber Co. in Ottawa, a few pieces at a time as we could afford it.

Eldon retired from Metal Forge Co. in June, 1994. We enjoy our grandchildren, gardening, and spending time outside during nice weather. We ride our bicycles, sometimes five or six miles in the summer. We have seven acres of land we bought in 1958. When we first moved on the property, we lived in a mobile home while we built our house. We have lots of trees. When we moved there, only a mulberry tree was on the property. We planted every tree there. Some small seedlings we brought back from Melvin Spangler’s farm in Missouri. These have reseeded and as we found one, would transplant it. We are still planting. It seems the small seedlings like to start in my flower beds!

We are Jehovah’s Witnesses and especially enjoy talking to others about the Bible and the grand promises it holds out for the future. We look forward to the time when God’s Kingdom brings peace to the earth. We attend the Kingdom Hall on North Scott Street in Napoleon.

When the tornado went through this area in 1953, we still lived on Road 5. It was very frightening. We were ready to eat supper, when it got very dark out. Eldon went outside and saw it coming up the lane right toward us. He no sooner said, “Get in the house. It’s a tornado!” and it lifted up, went over the top of the woods and landed across the road. It left a path through the wheat field. We watched as it broke off trees on the corner of Route 65 and Road 5. Large branches were torn off as though little sticks. After that, it got more powerful, heading east into Wood County where a family lost their lives.

During the blizzard of 1978, the snow was so deep it covered most of the house. I recall only a small area of the children’s swing set was still visible. Our daughter Kathy and her husband Mike lived on the north side of the river. She called and said, “Mom, there’s a storm coming. Can we come down? I want to do some sewing.” Early that morning they finally got here. The weather was terrible. They were here only a short time when the electric went out. Later the phone, too. From Wednesday night until Saturday we were without electric. Our only heat was the kitchen gas stove burners. We all slept at night on the living room floor. We closed off the rest of the house. We had plenty of good hot food and good association. After the worst was over, Eldon walked to work across the field. Mike and Tim built a snow house. We have a friend, Tom Spillis, who lives in Napoleon. He called to see if he could come down. We warned him it was still dangerous. (He lived in town and had no idea what it was out in the country.) He got to the Road 3 and found it still impassible, so he drove to Blue Flame and parked his car and decided to walk here. There was a train across the track parked. He squeezed through, lost a boot and finally got here, nearly frozen. Our door would only open a little way. Fortunately we heard him on the back porch. We bundled him up good when he left; however, when he got back to Blue Flame, his car had been moved.

We had a fish tank with one red tailed shark named Wally. To keep him from freezing, we put him in a small bowl and kept him close to the warm stove. Well, he survived. However, later the next summer our cat Frosty jumped on his tank, hit the heat control and that was the end of Wally.

Sperry, Robert

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, March 10, 2008

CW: Will you please tell us your name.

RS: My name is Robert Sperry. I was born in Colton, Ohio.

CW: Colton, that is an interesting place.

RS: Reading Moe Brubaker’s column “Back to the good old days” going back 100 years, in conversations with some friends here the subject of the Opera House came up and lo and behold there was an opera house here in Napoleon. We are now trying to research this because we have a “History in View” here. So this is something we want to go back to and find out where this Opera House was.

CW: You mean the History in View project is in the Alpine Village?

RS: Yes, and Mary Osborn started it. Linda Miller, our Activity Director is carrying it on and Dave Meekison, across the hall from me has a lot of memories from the old days. His father at one time was Mayor of Napoleon. He went to Chicago to get bonds to finance our water and electric system here in Napoleon. Anyway I digress a little bit here.

CW: I got David’s oral history and that was very interesting.

RS: You know this man, his mind is so keen. He brings back these old names like Scott and Heller and Lankenau . You know these people and names are important and are a part of history also. In “Our History in View” we did a segment on Napoleon. I forget what year it was. We had an arial view from the Courthouse, showing Washington and Perry Street where the Community Bank used to be. Other pictures we had and how Napoleon has changed over the years. People who have made these changes possible. Another project was the Wellington Hotel. How many years back it went and the famous people that stayed there and dined there and the story about how on Sunday mornings people would go in and gamble and the priest from St. Augustine found out about it and went and he chewed his people out and from that day on they didn’t go on Sunday mornings to the Wellington Hotel.

CW: Is that right. I remember when they redecorated that one room and it was all pink. My, it was pretty.

RS: You mean the Josephine. In our South lounge we have, well our new projects we put in the North lounge. When we start another project we move from the North to the South. In the South lounge now we have the Hotel and there is a chair that was salvaged from the fire.

CW: Oh really.

RS: Yes, and you know that is priceless.

CW: Did they ever find out how that big fire started?

RS: I don’t think they ever did.

CW: It is kind of scary.

RS: Yes very, very. Our current project we are doing the one room schools and two room schools in Henry County. Our next project will be the railroads in Henry County and how the railroads built up the county. We used the Ghost Town book for some of our research.

CW: What is the Ghost Town book, I am not familiar with it.

RS: You haven’t heard of it, before you leave we will get it. It belongs to Nancy Bennett. In researching our railroads right now we find that there was, I think the B & O bought a spur from a Fred Bunke in Standley. They have now dropped the letter d and call it Stanley. Anyway they bought it from a Arthur Bunke. We have two residents, Arnold and Elsie Baden that reside here, and their mother was a Bunke. I asked Elsie what her grandfather’s name was and it was Fred but they bought the spur from Arthur. Now I have to talk to Elsie and find out whether Fred and Arthur were brothers. In Stanley right now is the elevator. Cladys own that. We have another resident who ties in with this, Genevieve Folt who is related to Larry and Anita Sidle, and their daughter Lori married a Clady. They have the elevator and the trucking company over there. Isn’t that amazing you start digging these things.

CW: Where is the elevator?

RS: In Stanley, it would be south and west off of Route 281 in that area.

CW: I have never heard of a town like that.

RS: Oh you will read about it in this Ghost town book. Did you ever hear of Flickerville?

CW: No.

RS: You didn’t. Do you remember the Slentzes that lived on Road T?

CW: No.

RS: Okay. I can’t remember which road, maybe 13 and T. You know Mr. Slentz taught school and the youngsters, they had a big barn out there, and the youngsters from school on Friday would go and stay there all weekend and play basketball in that barn and they camped out in that barn. I went to school with Joan Slentz so that rings bells too. You know Colton, Ohio, that used to be a prosperous community.

CW: Oh it did!

RS:  Yes it did.

CW: Did railroads go through that town.

RS: Yes the Wabash Railroad went through there.

CW: That is what caused Liberty Center to flourish.

RS: Right. They had four grocery stores and two bars. I think there were churches and the pickle factory. I was born in 1933, depression time, and at that time there was a Methodist Church, the only church left. Albert Barlow had a general store. It was a real general store. He had the post office there, a gas pump, and they would drop the coal cars off and he sold coal. Across from him Nolan Roberts had a grocery store. My dad at that time, during the depression, he worked for WPA and there was a Mrs. Whitaker had a huge farm west of the Methodist Church and on the same side of the road and he worked for her, and that is how we got our food, a lot of it. He also started working at the Napoleon Products. He stayed with Napoleon Products until the day he retired.

CW: In Colton, Ohio, isn’t that Methodist Church still operating?

RS: Yes ma’m. Oh yes, and it is very active.

CW: The women would all work together in the Spring making

RS: Easter eggs, and they are delicious. I don’t know how long we lived in Colton and then we moved to Liberty Center. We lived out there at the corner of East and Cherry Street. We lived on the east side of East Street. Mom and Dad you know, were not drinkers. We were brought up properly. If we did anything wrong we were disciplined. At that time you could spank your child. I got spanked many times. I was really quite the guy so to speak. My dad bought that house and he paid I think five or six thousand dollars for it at that time. It didn’t have a basement. It sat on a foundation. We had Harmons from Napoleon come over and raise the house and my dad, my mother, and us five kids by hand dug a basement. We put the dirt in a wheelbarrow. We had planks and dumped the dirt by the big barn out there. My dad poured the footers. He laid the blocks, and then they lowered the house. He finished the basement there. He gutted the entire house and redid it. He brought it up to date. We had a beautiful bathroom. We had a huge kitchen, a dining room, a living room, our bedrooms. There were seven of us. He built a garage on to the house. He got the lumber for the garage from the old barn that was out back. Us kids would go out in the barn just to play. We would go back and forth with our neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Deward Blair. I would sit up there in that barn and I would open up that window, stick my arm out and play like I was in a train engine. Mom had a huge garden out back. Mom planted strawberries. I don’t remember the name of those strawberries. They were just huge things. We would go out in the mornings and pick strawberries and go all over town selling those boxes of strawberries. We got a quarter for a quart of strawberries. People would be waiting for us kids to come so they could buy those strawberries. We had so many strawberries and Mom would make shortcake maybe 5 inches in diameter. It would be 3 inches high and she would slice it in two. We would make a meal on just strawberry shortcake. My lord we were filled with strawberry shortcake. Now I eat one shortcake and I am done.

CW: I remember we would have a whole meal of just strawberry shortcake.

RS: Maybe with some cream or milk. We used to get milk and the cream would settle on the top. Wasn’t that good!

CW: Oh yes! Did you have a milkman that would deliver your milk?

RS: No, we had to go up to the grocery store to get it. I think Jett Bryant owned what McClure finally bought or did Joe Love buy from Bryant that grocery store. Anyway, Walt McClure had the grocery store. Across the street Ivan Eversole with the Red and White where we really traded mostly. There was a bakery there. I can’t remember the name of the bakery. For a treat, Mom would put a little money to the side, she would send us up on a Saturday morning to get a fresh roll so we could have it on a Sunday morning, before we went to Sunday school.

CW: Those are the things children remember.

RS: There are other things my mind goes back to are the changes in Liberty Center, an
d the people that were in Liberty Center. We had Pearl Creager, and sons were Ralph and Bruce. They had the road construction business. Ed Segrist was the undertaker. Ivan Ebersole had the grocery store. Bryan Jennings had the drug store, and his boy Ray finally took over that. Jimmy Morrison was with the five and dime.

CW: This was all in Colton?

RS: No, Liberty Center. We had the Liberty Press. I remember Walt Shockey had that for a while. Tommy Bichan had the Chevrolet and Allis Chalmers dealership. George Daso had the Ford dealership. Cyril Ernst had the Chrysler and Plymouth dealership in town. The hardware store, Pop and Lucille Crum had that as I first remember. Let’s see, did Ray buy it from.

CW: I don’t know who he bought it from. I think there was another owner and Ray came in then. I remember Ray, he was a nice tall man, a little bit bald on the top. He was a real nice man and I really liked him. We used to play chicken with our bicycles.

CW: You did!

RS: Anyway I got too close to his one wheel playing chicken and we broke our spokes. My dad took the wheel off and Ray put the new spokes in for me.

CW: What else did you play?

RS: Well, of course we had our roller skates and we had our bicycles.

CW: Excuse me for interrupting, but how did you play chicken?

RS: Well, you would ride your bicycles real close to one another. You would get close enough but not get knocked down. Lets see north and east was the old town dump. The elevator at that time the farmers would bring their corn in on the cob. The corn cobs they would haul out there to the town dump. Us kids would go out, a whole bunch of us and we would have corn cob fights. Oh yes, it would be the girls against the boys. You know those girls could beat us boys. Indeed so. There was a Nancy Kimberly, her dad owned the hardware store for a short time. So maybe Ray bought it from Mr. Kimberly. Anyway Nancy hit me in the eye with a cob, and I had a big shiner for quite a while.

CW: At least you didn’t lose an eye.

RS: Just think all those corn cobs and rain coming down and the town dump being there us kids never gave a thought about rats or mice or anything like that. We always had a great time. You know with the changes in Liberty and the things that made me aware of the changes I delivered the newspapers. At that time you bought your paper route. I can’t remember, but I think a Richard Myers was his name and he had the route and he graduated and I bought the route from him. I don’t remember how much the route cost. I delivered the Toledo Times, it was a morning paper, and the Toledo Blade and the Sunday Blade all over town and even out of town.

CW: You did a lot of work.

RS: Yes, and in my Senior year I had to give my paper route to my brother and sister twins , Rita and Rodney. They took over then. Delivering the papers and seeing the people, you know some would die and some would move in and you see the changes. Mr. Eversole went out of business, Walt McClure took over the grocery store. The Wabash Railroad kind of simmered down, and finally it went out. Just things like that, you keep these things in your mind.

CW: Now when you were delivering all those papers you must have had to get up very early in the morning.

RS: Oh yes I did! I did it on my own. My mom bought me an alarm clock and she said I am not getting you up. My dad worked third shift at the time and he would come home, have some breakfast and head for bed. That is how I got up, with that alarm clock. The only time my parents helped with the paper route was like if it was raining or a bad snow. If you wanted your paper between your doors, that is where you got it. I didn’t just throw it up on the porch. You were my customer and you were right. Mom and Dad always said that the customer is always right.

CW: Now the money that you made from delivering the papers, did you have to give some of it to your parents?

RS: No, the money was mine but I had to buy my clothes, shoes, and coats, and things like that and that cost money.

CW: Yes, and back in the Depression it would have been important. Money was so hard to come by.

RS: Yes it was. At that time the Depression was really over. We were coming out of the Depression, because at that time I was 9 or 10 years old. But still, and we were taught and Mom and Dad at least taught me that you do not throw your money away, you use it wisely. Money at that point became very important to me. It is yet today. I watch my investments you know. Today with our financial situation the way it is a lot of us are very concerned. Now school days is another part of history. I remember Miss Strock, Miss George, Miss Saneholtz, Miss Sherman, Cleo Bard and his wife and Mr. Romaker and Leah Romaker and Mrs. Riegel was the town librarian. The Library was in the school. I remember Mr. Rickley, Mr. Boyer, Mr. Leatherman, and when you went to school in my day you learned. I mean you did learn. My worst subject was math. I failed math, but I had good grades in the other subjects. After I got out of the service Mr Schlagle had something to do up here at the Henry County courthouse. I got my GED and he sent me on up to Four County learning computers. So I learned that. Here I am getting ahead of myself. We had so much fun in school even though the teachers were very strict. You didn’t chew gum and if you did you got smacked. Oh yes, they would smack you on your hands. I had one teacher, a Miss George and I was in typing, bookkeeping, and journalism with her and I did chew gum one day and she got on me. She had big fingernails and she put them on my shoulders and she left marks, which was permissable. The biggest thing, our last period in school on the east wing of the school was a study hall, a huge hall. The study hall was made for studying. You did not chit chat and pass notes and things like that. You weren’t supposed to. Some of us did.

There goes my bad boy again. Joyce Abby lived across the street from me and she and I were kind of boy and girl friends. She would sit in front of me in study hall. I yanked her hair one day in study hall and she screamed. EEK like that. Mr. Rikley was in charge of study hall he wanted to know what was going on. Joyce told him. I had to go in front of a whole bunch of people and bend over and he used a board of education. I turned around and smiled at him and I had to turn around and I got five more whacks. It was a nice sized paddle. When I got home my sister tattled. I had to go down in the basement and I got whacked some more. You don’t misbehave Robert and I should have known that. Again school was so much fun, the learning process. Today things are so much different.

CW: How would you say school was different from what it is today?

RS: We had the basics, reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling. Today everything is on computers. To a certain extent our country is moving so quickly into global and I can understand the youngsters being on computers today. We have a program here in our activities department, the Brillhart School, which is just a block away. Every other Tuesday we have six of the youngsters, second graders, come over here and read to us. It is a shame some of them can’t read. What are their parents doing? I understand both Mom and Dad have to work to make ends meet. These youngsters are our future. They should cuddle with them, read with them.

CW: You mean they come over here and they are supposed to read and they can’t read it?

RS: They read. In the second grade we learned punctuation marks. These youngsters don’t know a coma, an explanation point, or a question mark. I read with them. Where is Jack?, oh my goodness!, an exclamation point. I point these things out to them. Then still, I am sure they are learning but not like we did.

CW: Not in depth like we did.

RS: Right.

CW: I think a lot of that goes back to the discipline. Teachers aren’t allowed to apply discipline.

RS: There is a beginning of a little crack. Some of the states allow that you may paddle a youngster now. Another thing we have been in this computerization in the schools and again taking into account we are a global situation. This combination has somehow brought our country into the state it is. We used to be a superpower. We are not any longer. These little things kind of bother me too. You and I are not going to see the end of it. What does the future hold for these youngsters? We are talking about maybe two or three generations. Right now we are going through a political process in our state and country. How do we get out of this mess? If I were running for President and I say If, I would take a step back and ask myself why are we imposing our will on every nation and country? We have the United Nations, that is what the United Nations was formed for. Why are we taking our peoples tax money giving it to other countries? They in turn kick us in the rear end. So let’s stop it and send one check to the United Nations. The United Nations was formed for one purpose. Let’s not impose our will on other countries. Other countries don’t appreciate that and want to close our embassy, and let us not be selling our military hardware. Other countries may use it against us. These are serious thoughts.

CW: I remember when President Bush said we are going to war with Iraq because I said so. As if he had all the power in the world.

RS: Do you know why we went to war with Iraq? Because when his father was president they tried to assassinate him. So our current president that is his reason for going to war.

CW: What you are saying is he is thumbing his nose at the United States.

RS: There again step back and let the United Nations handle this. If Saddam Hussein wants to thumb his nose, fine. We don’t have to take it. It’s water off the duck’s back. As long as we don’t do anything against him.

CW: Now we are spending so much money on our military. It’s not necessary.

RS: You know, we lived through the Cold War; this was when I was in the service. President Reagan ended that. This is all well and good as it should be. But it reflected on our military services. As soon as we got into Vietnam, our boys didn’t want to join the service. We are in Iraq and the same situation is happening. Sending our people home, battle scars in their mind. We are sending them home with no limbs and other injuries. Look at what it is costing us. Our leaders just don’t see beyond their nose. It is very harsh to say that, but that is it. But anyways history, which I just love, like Napoleon, I have seen the changes here. On Scott Street where the First Federal Bank is that used to be Tony’s Bakery.

CW: Oh really!

RS: Yes, and next was the alley. Then Cochran’s Electric was there. He had two sons, Phil and George, dentists. You go down the street used to be a gas station, which is now Sterlings store. I don’t know what the name is now. Just behind that was the old wooden Episcopal Church. That is down. Now they have a new church on Glenwood Avenue. You turn right and across from the gas station, was the Heller Hospital. You go down the street Herm Wesche had a furniture store, where Gilbert & Herr had a drug store, now it is Kurtz Ace Hardware. Across the street where Von Deylen Heating is was the Maher Bottling Co. They brewed Old Dutch beer.

CW: Was that the same company that 7 Up took over.

RS: Yes, and they had the big glass window and you could see all the things they had going on in there. When 7 Up took over they had the Dodger pops and all those things. Down the street where the Senior Center is was a Kroger store. There was another grocery store in there before Kroger. Across the street is the Armory. Then the old telephone company. I can’t remember what order it was, but there was a big house straight across from the Kroger store. There was a Catholic Church on the corner. On the other side, I don’t know what you would call it but where the nuns lived. I don’t remember the order. Then we can come back and go south, past the Catholic Church and the school and then turn right there was a gas station on the corner and some wood buildings and then Curdes Bakery. Two ladies had that bakery. Then came the wood fire station and the alley.

CW: A wood fire station?

RS: Yes, it used to be wood.

CW: Now that would be right by the alley on Perry Street?

RS: No, it was on Washington, across from the Sheriff’s office and the courthouse. Then there was the State Theatre. Then the City Loan Company and Gambles Store, and then Murphy’s Five and Dime.

CW: That was right on the corner?

RS: Yes, right on the corner, and if you turned right on Perry I forget what the stores were in there. There is the alley and on the side of the alley was a World Theatre. No, I am wrong, there was a Bassett’s Five and Dime.

CW: Oh, there were two five and dimes.

RS: Yes, this was just a small one. Across the alley was another theater, the World Theater. They showed the Class B movies. You can hop back across the street was the Charles Co. Then there was a shoe store.

CW: Gottschalk’s?

RS: Yes, Gottschalk’s. Then Reichert’s had a jewelry store, up and down they had dinner ware and things like that. Then I can’t remember there was a alley there , and I don’t remember what it was, but there was a young man and wife they had a clothing store. That was right next to Spengler’s. That burned to the ground. There was some question. He put a lot of expensive clothes and he was heavily insured. There was a little question on that.

CW: Was that right where the other fire was and it burned? That was on Washington Street. That was on the north side of Washington Street. It was close to where the Napoleon Hardware was.

RS:  The only other fire I remember on Washington was where the old World Theater was, a lady’s dress shop went in. After that closed Larry Emmel from Defiance had an appliance store in there and that burned. I don’t remember any other fires on Perry.

CW: No, this was on Washington Street. It was just recently.

RS: Oh, you are talking about where Heller Hardware was. That was the Tin Lizzie.

CW: That was kind of suspicious too.

RS: Okay, in Wauseon the Doc Holliday, the family owned that. They did find incendiary materials in Wauseon.

CW: They did!

RS: Oh yes. Mike Bell was the old fire chief in Toledo and he is with the Ohio fire board now. They took some materials from Napoleon, but they haven’t released anything yet. They also own Icky’s in Bryan. The same family.

CW: There is an Icky’s in Archbold!

RS:  You’re right. I am getting my two communities mixed up.

CW: How did you get to school? Did you walk to school/?

RS: I started in school, we were still living in Colton and Harve Heilman was my bus driver. His wife taught school. At that time they owned their school bus. Mr. Heilman owned his. They were orange busses. They lined up in front of the school, loaded and unloaded. Then when we moved into town (Liberty Center) we walked to school. When we lived in Napoleon, us kids walked to school. We lived on the corner of Highland and Lagrange. We did the same thing with that house there. Dad bought it, lifted it up and put in a basement. My dad was so talented, and Mother as well. She could sew, crochet, and all those things. Dad was good in woodworking.

CW: People were more like that in those days. They had to learn those things.

RS: Oh yes. When my dad worked at the Products he was a set up man.

CW: What is that?

RS: They would make a
 part and he would set the machine up. Somebody else then would do it. After Small’s sold the Products to Schuelers, my dad retired and Mr. Schueler had Dad come in and set his machines up. Then Schuelers moved to Holgate where they are now. Again the changes downtown, remember Ed Pilliod had the Hahn Clothing Store. Then there was Conrad’s Shoes. Dick Armey had a clothing store. Mr. Knipp had a clothing store. The Idle Hour, do you remember that. It used to be the Palmer House. Crahan had their store. Hagan’s had their furniture store. Schuette’s had their radio shop. Before Schuette’s went in Saur’s had their grocery store. Then that burned down. Dr. Glick, and Prentiss Photo. Westhoven Realty was on the corner. Mr. & Mrs. Schuette’s boy has insurance there. Shondell Jewelers, the old Sterling Store and then Heller-Reese Hardware. That used to be Watson-Lash. There was a Shaff’s Drug Store. This really goes back when I say Shaff’s Drug Store. They had the soda fountain in there.

CW: Do you remember going to that store?

RS: Yes I do. You know, I bought that building. That is where I had a children’s clothing store.

CW: For heavens sake.

RS: And then there was a One Hour Martinizing dry cleaning in there. It left the most god awful odor – the cleaning fluid. They drained it before environmentalists got involved in things. It went down into the sewers.

CW: Then it would end up in the river.

RS: Then we had the Napoleon Hardware. The Community Bank. Then we had the Napoleon Creamery. Then I had my pizza place. I would watch the creamery trucks come in and unload and they would make butter. Remember the old butter. There were other products they made too.

CW: Where was your pizza place then?

RS: Right where Hawks is now. That used to be a Gulf service station.

CW: Oh for heavens sake.

RS: My word yes.

CW: The road comes to a v there.

RS: Yes, East Washington and 424. Fred and Lucy Grieser had the creamery. Lucy is still alive. Both of her boys worked for me when I had my pizza business. Now Tony is with the Henry County Bank. He is an executive there. This part of history I pass on to these people and see where they go today. See how we work this. Lets see I told you about the Harmon people that razed my dad’s house. They had a boy and a daughter. The daughter worked for me too for a short time.

CW: Do you know why it used to be called Goosetown?

RS: Yes, when we were researching things for our History in View that was one of my main projects. Mary Osborn who started this whole thing was very interested in. I found out and I wouldn’t tell her, but there was a family that raised geese and they put out a neighborhood paper. That is how it got to be Goosetown.

CW: Was the paper just on the east side of town?

RS: Yes, isn’t that amazing? I kind of gave the secret away when I spoke to the Rotary Club with our project we have here today. It was a little bit of a disappointment. I couldn’t spring it on her.

CW: I have often wondered how. I thought it might be because of the fact it used to flood quite a bit.

RS: Oh yes, see the canal, Route 424 is the old canal.

CW: Right where it is now, or next to it.

RS: Right where it is now. To see it today, you know the high point is where the car dealership, Snyder’s is. How could that water get up and go over. They built that up, isn’t that amazing. If you can find old pictures, the electric plant, the old electric plant you can see where there was a bridge that went across that 424 at that particular area.

CW: And that was because of the canal.

RS: Right.

CW: Now where would that be located at, that bridge?

RS: We got the photos, Linda Miller had some and maybe Russ Patterson would have the photos too. Mary Fran Meekison you know helps too. She is really brilliant on these things just like her husband. Even their son young Dave has many historical things.

CW: Do you know that the Bowling Green television station people are now starting to research the one room school houses. I sent an email to them and told them that Mary Fran Meekison had at one time had a program for Browsers which is a literary group of women, and she had gone around and photographed every single school house in the county. She showed these pictures and you never would have known that they used to be a school house. Buildings have changed so much.

RS:  Well if you go on Route 24 coming out of Waterville and turn right on Road V and head West there are four one room school houses still standing. They are in disrepair but there are four school houses still standing on that road alone.

CW: Now is that on Road V?

RS: Yes, Road V as in Victor. That would be between 24 and 108. Isn’t that amazing!

CW: I will take a little trip down there in that area.

RS: On Road T, and this would be near Flickerville there is a Homan farm. It is on 12 and T, there used to be a one room school house there. On that road also was a Mr. & M:rs. Relue had a farm there. Also on Road13 was where Miss Sherman and Miss Saneholtz lived that taught school in Liberty.

CW: There were two Miss Sherman’s that taught. One was Margaret and I don’t remember the other one.

RS:  Her picture was in the paper about two months ago with a class picture. Also in that Saturday paper, it was called “Out of Henry’s Past”. I was going to cut that picture out and I failed to do it. That was a Miss Sherman, but she was not the one that taught in Liberty. I am wondering if they were sisters.

CW: Yes they were.

RS: The reason I asked that was because they looked alike.

CW: Did you go to a one room school house?

RS: No, I went straight to Liberty Center from Colton on the bus. I have a bunch of pictures of Liberty for a “History in View” project. At some point they will be doing communities. One thing I don’t have from Liberty is a picture of the school before it burned. I would sure like to have one.

CW: Louisa Strock might possibly have a picture like that. Her father was the editor of the newspaper.

RS: Yes, and I wonder if they might have one taken during the fire.

CW: I bet they would.

RS: I will have to see if Russ Patterson can contact her and maybe get one. That is the only thing that I don’t have.

CW: Her mind is very sharp and she is still teaching.

RS: Oh yes.

CW:  She is still teaching and she is close to 90 years old.

RS: Yes she is. She puts on all these operettas, plays and things like that.

CW: She remembers when Liberty Center was not the important place. The important place was Damascus. That was right by Damascus Bridge.

RS: Right. You bring that up in our Ghost Town book, Walt Shockey listed Damascus as West of 109. The bridge was named after Damascus Township. Right now the state owns all that property. The only thing left of Damascus now is the Truck Stop and across the road is Meters might have a little carry out or something. That is gone now. There was a garage next to that.

CW:  Louisa Strock said that they used to ice skate on the canal all the way to Napoleon and back.

RS: Oh yes, isn’t that amazing! We were talking schools. Do you remember where the Union School was? It is now Central School on West Main Street.

CW: Oh, and that was called Union School!

RS: Yes, that was called Union School. The school housed both grade and high school. Yes, and my memories, there was a teacher Miss Gardner, a wonderful teacher just like those in Liberty Center, it was a Miss Thelma Gardner, well anyway she paddled me one day, and I don’t remember what I had done. Mom and Dad wanted all of us kids to participate instrumentally or vocally. The band director was a Mr. Lombardi. He was up on the third floor of the school, the Boyer Walker Mortuary side. He gave me a horn and I couldn’t do diddly wit with it. So he said okay drums. You know I could not do anything with the drums. I ended up being the drum major for Liberty Center for one year. Oh Mr. Lombardi if he got upset with you, why he would cuss us out or not, but it was in Italian. Oh my word yes.

CW: I remember he used to say, “You no prack.” He meant the word practice.

RS: Again there is another part of history. Boyer started the funeral home. Then Walker came in with it. You know Herm Wesche and Mr. Walker, I can’t remember his first name

CW: Myron

RS: Myron, yes. Those two gentlemen started the Northcrest. I could be wrong, it could be just a rumor that I picked up.

CW: I don’t think that to be true.

RS: I don’t know, because there were several wheeler dealers there. We had Merle Franz, we had Doc Manahan, we had Jack Glick, Don Westhoven, Tom Short, Charlie Bauman. Yes, because Bauman’s Stockyard was in that area. They had a daughter that lived in there and I don’t remember her name.

CW: You mean Velda.

RS: Yes, and she married John McBride. Their youngsters came down to my pizza place too. They were a nice family you know. Okay so that may have just been a rumor. At that time too we didn’t have the EMS units. Herm Wesche had a blue ambulance a Ford ambulance and Myron Walker had a white Cadillac ambulance. Just two people in that ambulance they would pick you up and take you to the hospital and not try to save you on the way.

CW: They did that free of charge too.

RS: Oh yes they did. I know when Myron would come into Liberty Center more than once and he would pick people up. Ed Segrist had the funeral home in Liberty, but he didn’t have an ambulance service there and Bob Walters was the next funeral director. He had the funeral home across the street from Ed Segrist.

CW: Was that the same Walters that had the collision service?

RS: No, they were totally unrelated. My dad, Bob Walters had a hearse, which could be used as an ambulance if necessary, but he had a big long Plymouth limousine. It had the suicide doors that opened this way. My dad drove for Mr. Walters if he had an ambulance call. Dad would drive and Mr. Walters would ride in the back seat and that stretcher would be on his right.

CW: Now the hearse, did that have glass sides to it or was it panel?

RS: You are thinking of the one driven by horses, or was it mechanized. Okay the funeral home in Delta had glass sides. It was very ornate glass. They did some business in Liberty too. Segrist had just a plain Buick paneled door. You could put the casket in the door or in the back. Either side would open and the mechanical thing would come out and you could put the casket on that and push it in. Bob Walters had a brand new Buick built the same way. You know my fascination in my early years for some reason and I don’t know what it was I wanted to be a mortician. In my high school annual and we have it down that my future was to be a mortician. Isn’t that something. I don’t know whatever prompted me. After graduation I went to Toledo and stayed with my grandmother and granddad and worked at LaSalle & Koch as a stock boy. She lived on Nebraska Avenue out near Holland-Sylvania Road in that area. Anyway I would get the community traction bus to go to work and my granddad worked at the Toledo Glass & Mirror. When I got off work I could walk up there and he would drive me home. Somehow or other, connected with the Walker Funeral Home I got these magazines. I don’t remember what they called them, they were very interesting, where you could buy used emergency vehicles ambulances, hearses, and caskets. It was maybe a month that I worked there and it was fascinating. I got to go and pick up a corpse once. That did it.

CW: What do you mean “That did it”?

RS:  Well, when you die all your reflexes relax and it is usually a mess.        

CW: Oh, I see. It wasn’t as glamorous as you thought.

RS:  No, when you go to pick someone up, you are still a human being. You take their arms up and tuck them under their body before you lift them up on the cart. You have all this stuff there, that did it. Another memory of Napoleon, the creamery used to deliver milk. It would be in little bottles, the cream would raise to the top and in the winter time the top would go pop and your cream would be up there. Tony’s Bakery delivered also.

CW: They did!

RS: Yes ma’am, they did. We had the Jewel Tea man. That was my uncle, Carl Starkey. He went from door to door.

CW: I still have a dish or two that my mother got from the Jewel Tea man.

RS: My sister collected them. Maybe seven years ago I had a chance to buy a complete set of those dishes and tea pots and coffee pots and I didn’t do it. Mrs. Wangrin, those are worth money today. Oh yes they are, so hang on to them.

CW: I know my mother always liked them because she could get them free dishes when she bought enough stuff from the Jewel Tea man.

RS: Just like the old S & H green stamps you got from the grocery stores. I called them the Sperry Hutchison stamps.

CW: Sperry Hutchison?

RS: Yes, but no relation. I am trying to think of some of the other people that made Napoleon famous.

CW: What ever happened to all those old buildings in Colton? Colton was quite a town at one time.

RS: I don’t know what happened.

CW: They probably just sort of deteriorated.

RS: When the pickle factory went out of business, you know the Depression era, maybe they moved on to other things. I don’t know why Colton was built up in such a fashion. I don’t know what was there other than that pickle factory. I didn’t think the pickle factory was that big.

CW: When the railroads came through that was a big influence. I remember Louisa Strock saying that was why Damascus disappeared, because they had been popular when the canal was there. Then when the railroads came in, traffic on the canals dropped. That is when Liberty Center came in to prosperity. Colton was the same way.

RS: Well, look at Texas, Ohio.

CW: They were on the canal.

RS: Right, and there was a turn around there too for boats in Texas.

CW: Did you know that they used to in the fall, the farmers in the area would gather at the turn around place, and when they drained the canal for the winter there were a lot of fish. Someone stayed in the middle the farmers would gather around and take the fish home.

RS: Yes and they would take them home and salt them down.

CW: Is that what they did.

RS: Come winter time, that would be good meals.

CW: Did they just put a whole lot of salt on them.

RS: The ice from the river they would cut it out. They would get it out of a certain area in the canal. We used to have an ice house here in Napoleon.

CW: Yes it was along the river.

RS: Well, I think I’ve done enough. I like to share memories with people.

CW: You have a good memory. Can you tell me some games that you played as a boy.

RS: We played what money could buy. We played checkers, pick up sticks, jacks, tiddly winks, and dominoes.

CW: Did you have an Uncle Wiggly game?

RS: We may have.

CW: That was my sister and me, our favorite game. You would pick up a card and it had a little verse on it, and you accumulate cards, that would be part of the game.

RS: Talking about games, we have a domino club here. We have about fifteen members and in fact my double twelve set is right there on the counter. I have a double fifteen I store in my microwave oven. That is just for Alpine Village and I am going to get the domino club started at the Lutheran Home too. We also have Scrabble. Oh, Marlene Patterson is a tough one in Scrabble. Yes she is. She and Lucille Sunderman come over. We have Grace Minnich and Madeline Gilliland come over. We are trying to get more people involved in Scrabble. These are things that keep your mind going.

CW: Now, back when you were a boy there weren’t any nursing homes at that time.

RS: It was called the Old Folks Home. That was where Country View Haven is now. When I was in school we visited that one time.

CW: Now did they call that the poor house?

RS: It could have been named that or the Old Folks Home. I remember our class going and we could go in and visit the people. The thing that stuck in my mind there was a lady there had cancer and had open sores and she really looked bad. That has been many years ago. We talk about old folks home our, I don’t know what you call it, Shelley was showing a family through and this elderly lady made some comment in the hallway “This isn’t an old folks home is it”. I looked at her and I said, “ma’am, this is not an old folks home, they will keep you going”. They haven’t been back since. We have five vacancies and they are trying to fill them.

CW: These are very difficult times for all nursing homes. So many people have died this winter. It has been a rough winter.

RS: Do you know even here I am the President of the Resident’s Council, and I am also on the food committee. The Resident’s Council applies only to the Alpine Village. The food committee covers both The Alpine and The Lutheran Home. We have someone here that may fall and break a hip, or for some reason they may have to go over to the Lutheran Home, I feel it is part of my responsibility as President of the Resident’s Council to go over and visit these people. They are so glad to have someone come in that they know other than family. I pick little things up like yesterday I went over and went to chapel there rather than here, and after chapel I went over and visited in their rooms. There is a school chum, Bob McCorkle is over there, my neighbor lady on West Maumee, she fell in her home, and Annabelle Daso, Morris’s wife is over there. I went over there and one of our residents was still in bed and mind you, this was after 10:30. She was sleeping, now I understand that and at 10:30 her table in her room was still a mess. Dishes and things were still sitting there. These things are not supposed to be. So again, this is part of my responsibility to say something. I take this very seriously, I really do. We have our bill of rights and I say to them if you have a complaint you come to me. I know how to solve it or I can send you to the right people. If possible I don’t want to have to use their name. You see again your privacy has got to be protected. So many of our residents don’t realize that and they are afraid to say anything is wrong.

End of tape.

Strock, Louisa

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, December 4, 2003, Tape I

C. Louisa is a Professor at Northwest State College and I’m hoping she will tell us about her childhood at Liberty Center, OH. Louisa, I understand your father was editor of the local paper.

L. Yes he was, for years and years, and it pretty much governed our lifestyle. We were one of the few people in town, I suppose, that had charge accounts at the stores. My cousin got the impression that we didn’t have to pay for anything because we went to the store with no money. She didn’t know why we could do that and they couldn’t. But what happened was–well, it was just a barter system, where the merchants and the newspaper exchanged advertising for goods. So, so many column inches of advertising would pay for the groceries. Once in a while one would owe the other, but if we needed shoes or something that we didn’t really need but wished we had, we early learned that what we really needed had to take precedence. But at the end of the month Papa would take his accounts and go from merchant to merchant mostly on foot and in the end there would be a little cash coming our way, not much but we had everything from–my brothers and I were delivered actually for our physicians a card of thanks. The lady who came to do the washing (when Mama couldn’t) took newspaper subscriptions for her Christmas list, and of course her rate of pay and the subscriptions were both very low, so it was no great gigantic transaction there.

C. Excuse me, I don’t understand, what was it that physicians gave?

L. They had these cards, these stay-in-business cards, these goodwill cards, and our three births paid for his card in the newspaper every week, “Physician and Surgeon.” the telephone number and office hours.

C. Oh, that’s the sort of advertising doctors did in those days.

L. The only kind. I remember my uncle the doctor, well actually it was his wife that said to my mother, “They’re having another baby and the last one’s not even paid for yet.” Because a doctor, like us, took goods in place, maybe potatoes, maybe a chicken, whatever that the people had and here they were having another baby which she thought totally injudicious on their part, to be having a new baby when the last one hadn’t been paid for. It was a barter system that existed for quite some time.

C. Was this during the Depression?

L. No, it was long before that. Yes, we’re talking 1920 perhaps or . . . the system was in place long before I came into this world, but it was just commonplace, I think, among country editors and their staffs.

C. Well it certainly would have made an interesting life for you, I think, your childhood.

L. It did–great attention to the printed word–great care taken with communication, a sense of having to be sort of a model supposedly–made us more like a PKs, though, I think.

C. Now why did you . . .

L. Well because it would be very hard to editorialize against something that the editor’s own children were doing clearly and obviously, running the streets at night, for example (which was not one of our vices) but it would make it very hard for Papa to editorialize against people speeding through town if his own children were doing that same thing. So we were tied down, well-treated prisoners, I would say, of our father’s vocation. But yes, we had the paper for years and years.

C. Did it affect your relationship to other children?

L. It wasn’t as bad as Papa being President of the Board. That really hurt.

C. President of the School Board?

L. Yes, that was not a desirable position to be in because even if we did well–and we were expected to do well, and we did do well—but we were subject to, “Well, if my father was President of the Board I would get good grades too.” So it had its disadvantages.

C. That had changed in the next generation, because my husband was on the School Board for many years and we had five children and they never once mentioned anything about it. Of course that was a larger city so the children might not have known about it. How big was Liberty Center at the time?

L. Oh, there were 50 in my graduating class, and bear in mind that it has remained an independent school district not combined. It doesn’t have a double name. It’s just Liberty Center which, when you look around Henry County, Liberty Center, Holgate and Patrick Henry are the only ones in the county system but Patrick Henry survived by bringing in the surrounding towns in the district really, all those little schools. Malinta had a high school and of course McClure and Florida are part of aNapoleon but Liberty Center stays, just Liberty.

C. Right there. Of course Gould helped. Gould Manufacturing was in the Liberty Center district. It isn’t any more. I don’t know how they changed it but . . .

L. Well, it was annexation but that did help somewhat but what’s really helped is income tax I would say because bedroom communities have a hard time collecting very much property tax. Gould wasn’t around when I went to school.

C. Well now, it’s close enough to Toledo so there are probably a lot of people that work there.

L. Yes.

C. Well now you told me the other time about editing the paper. Did that paper go out once a week or …

L. Yes. Yes it did. Rain, shine, hail made no difference. That paper had to go out. It was an obligation.

C. That was your livelihood.

L. Yes, but I don’t believe we ever thought about it. With that barter system, you know, nothing catches up with you until the end of the month, but just the idea that you owe it to the community, to the subscribers who expect their Press every Thursday morning no matter what. And then my brother . . . this is jumping a lot of years now . . . but when my brother went to the Pacific to fight. (He was a pilot in the Pacific theater.)

C. World War II?

L. Yes. And he was the editor of the paper, having finished at Ohio State and come back to Liberty Center to work on the family paper with the idea that he would take it over when Papa retired; but he went away to the Pacific so I taught school and was the editor of the paper for 33 months while he was gone, and then when he came back I returned to my home and family–I was married by then–and so it was a real experience. I’ve never regretted having done it. You know, gas was so hard to get that I rode a bicycle to cover a story. I remember going–someway or other you always went to see the bride’s dress before the wedding.

C. It always used to be listed.

L. We always did, describe every beaded detail, but I would get on my bicycle and ride out into the country where it was and see the dress and talk to the mother of the bride usually, so that much would be done before the wedding story, because teaching school and working on the paper were time-consuming and I was married and had a family was another thing so–

C. You did all those things at the same time?

L. Well, see they were in sequence.

C. I remember your telling me too about how the whole family helped to get that paper out.

L. Yes.

C. Would you elaborate on that?

L. Yes. It was our paper and ours in every sense of the word. Mama answered the telephone at home in the name of the office and jotted down a note that some lady visited or attended a meeting. Soon as we were old enough we had the smallest job on the paper. It only paid a quarter but it was a quarter that we hadn’t had before. We picked up the papers at the bottom of the paper folder and carried them to the desk where they were being labeled and addressed about to go out. The next highest job was to feed the folder which meant to put probably or 500 or 600 papers through the folder over the tapes and down the machinery and some lesser soul was taking them out and carrying them over to the labeling desk. Well that paid 50 cents. Now that was wonderful!

C. You doubled your pay.

L. Be there late at night and when you learned it was painful because when you didn’t know how to pick up a paper you had deep cuts between your thumb and index finger that hurt very badly but you still learned. I suppose pain taught us. That 50 cents was a wonderful thing. After two weeks you had a dollar. And we always got paid. As I look back I don’t know how, knowing the barter system and how little cash our family handled, but we always got paid. Now the big job that paid a dollar was feeding the big press because it was a flat bed press printed from cold type and the big roller rolled the paper over the cold type, and then the folder operator would take it off the press, where it came from the press, and carry it to the folder. That’s the fifty cent job. The dollar man up high on the platform of the big press, that person never left from the time he first started feeding the press because it makes a real mess if you have to stop. And so, that Evidently I wasn’t coordinated to master that, because I never graduated from our feeder, the highest position I got till I got to be the Editor, so there!

C. Well now, tell me, back in Ben Franklin’s time they had to set all these letters in one at a time. Did they still do that when you were there?

L. We had cases of hand-set type that my father could do but his brother, my Uncle David (who bought the paper in the first place and my father came into the paper as partner) could hand-set type. The fast ones were called ‘swifts’. And Uncle Dave was a swift.

C. In other words because he could do it fast.

L. Yes. He could pick those–they had a little pair-like tweezers only bigger–and they could pull that type out of the case. They knew that just the way we would know a typewriter keyboard, and they put it in a “stick” and when they had their column set or whatever they would take it to the forms and lock it in. Well by the time I was born we had a machine that was called an Intertype and that was the predecessor to the linotype that they used up until computer days. So that hot type that I was used to was set on a keyboard which would be similar to a typewriter keyboard in a way, except the keys were banked some. The keyboard was bigger because it had keys on it that typewriters didn’t. The principle was the same: instead of typing on paper you’re typing in hot metal. There’s a metal pot in the back of the linotype and it operated with electricity; and the metal was hot, hot, hot! And

C. But the keys weren’t.

L. No, the keys weren’t; I didn’t learn that machine any too well, either. I started, but I guess I had my mind on too many other things. The typewriter and now the word processor I could handle, the keyboard, but not that. Everybody else could, both my brothers–and of course my father was very good at it and he had a linotype operator, James Anglemyre his name was. His father had this store in Texas on the canal. In some of those old pictures you can see “Anglemyre” across the front of the store.

C. Is that A or E?

L. A. Angle And Mildred Perry who still lives in Texas was that linotype operator’s daughter–is–and I see her frequently. Of course she was just a little tyke. She was younger than I by a number of years. The ads, all sale bills, had to be set by hand. Linotypes didn’t go that big, the one we had set news type, the headlines but not so my Uncle Dave was a handset type man and his sale bills advertised auctions and festivals and boxing matches and whatever else was going on.

C. And I think you said, on the day when the paper came out you got up early in the morning, everybody in the family got up early in the morning?

L. No, everybody stayed up very late!

C. Oh is that how it is?

L. Because no matter what, the paper went out that day. If the press conked out or something happened that we had to set more type it didn’t matter. We children would be going home, not a thought of going home at midnight because the paper would go out. And Mama is at home waiting for us to get home of course and Papa would say, “You go ahead. We’ll finish up.” So I usually was asleep by the time Papa got home. But that’s because he was the mailer. He was in charge of mailing the papers. He’d take them over to the Post Office and they would go in the hand cart that the man pushed to the train. The ones that went out like that, they went by train.

C. Did they have a signal that the conductor knew when to stop?

L. Yes. The engineer and brakeman knew that the paper was always there. And the man with the two-wheeled cart. He got the mail . That’s better than we do now in Liberty Center. It only goes once a day. It comes in once and goes out once.

C. Now this is an abrupt change of subject but I wondered . . . You know years ago every house had a piano if they could afford it, and all the children were taking piano lessons, and they don’t any more. They don’t have room for the pianos I guess but I believe you were a piano teacher, weren’t you?

L. Yes. I started taking lessons when I was just past six. A lady named Alice Howell was my first piano teacher and she lived on the end of Maple St. where those newer houses are down there. And my mother would walk me down to Mrs. Howells and wait till I had my lesson and bring me back. And she had a well-established studio. Her granddaughter is named Alice for her and she comes to our Elderhostels and goes on our trips. I never knew that she was related, was just enchanted to find out. She said, “Yes, that was my grandmother.” So, she lives in Toledo. But Mrs. Howell was ill and I only had about six months of lessons from her. I had a series of teachers but my family had the piano from the big house in Texas on the canal and Mama got that. Of course we should have kept it, but I wanted a modern-looking piano. But that piano with its beautiful wood and beautiful sound, we traded for a Grinnell piano from Grinnells. Mama cried when they took the piano away and I thought, “How silly! We’re getting a new piano to replace that old one.” My last teacher was Charlene Hahn. When I started with her she was Charlene Reiter. I was about 12, 13 and I drove and we went over to the Reiter house in the country.

C. You drove a car when you were 12 or 13?

L. Um-hm. I did. But you didn’t have to have a license because there wasn’t any such thing, and Mama always went with me. Now she didn’t drive so she was just a kind of moral support I guess but all through high school I drove to Charlene’s. No, that’s not quite true. Later I drove to Napoleon.

L. They still lived in the country. Her father was the dog warden–Orville, I want to say, but later she came in to the Roessing home in Napoleon to give lessons and we all went there to take our lessons. I went there when I was probably a sophomore to take them. By then I could go by myself.

C. Tell me what it was like, how you taught music in those days when you gave lessons in the home.

L. Well, we did without recorders, obviously, and we didn’t have electronic pianos but I think I taught piano. That was when I was teaching school at Liberty the first time and that’s when I first taught piano. I rode my bicycle to give the piano lessons too, the same bicycle, and I think I got a dollar for a lesson. But I only paid fifty cents for my lessons; Corrie Bell Prentiss was my second or third piano teacher and she came to Liberty from Napoleon and gave lessons.. And I had Charlene Reiter Hahn longer than any other of them, but when I gave lessons the pupils came to my house, first in the country and then in town. But then when I went back to teaching school full time, I just couldn’t do both.

C. Your children would have to be very quiet I suppose.

L. Oh my land, yes! Did I tell you about Jamie falling out of the window? Somebody had to baby-sit Jamie, the youngest one every day. They took turns. They knew whose turn it was; I would have no idea. But of course when school was out they came home and the piano students came, and of course I would work in as many as I could before supper and maybe after supper, and they took care of Jamie when they got home. They had to be quiet. These people are paying a nickel a minute for this lesson so it is serious business. And they understood that. I heard him crying, but then I didn’t hear him cry and I didn’t think anything of it. I said, “What happened to Jamie?” They said, “Well, he fell out the upstairs window.” “He fell out the upstairs window?!” “Yes. He pushed the screen out. We told him not to do that.” He was profoundly retarded but still knew ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, and he fell out the upstairs window of our two-story house but it didn’t hurt him. And they went out and got him and brushed him off, brought him back in the house pretty calm and happy. I said, “You didn’t tell me!” They said, “Mom, you told us never to bother you unless it was an emergency. Don’t do that.'” That wasn’t serious enough they thought. They could handle that. They remember that incident so well.

C. Did you ever go ice-skating on the river?

L. Not very much. The creek that led to the river we skated on and I wasn’t a very athletic child. My ankles would keep bending over when they shouldn’t, but I maintained that if I had shoe skates (which not very many people had. They had clamp-on skates that you tightened on your shoe with a key.) I would be able to skate. So when I got to where I had more money I got a pair of shoe skates. Well, it didn’t work the magic that I thought it would. I did skate with somebody pulling me, actually, and I was just standing up. I was thankful to keep my balance. But the children in the early days of the REA, our children–went down when the creek, Turkeyfoot, when it flooded the Glanz family had a huge pond there and REA put light poles up there and they had electricity, and our children got to skate. They had a wonderful time on that pond. It was close enough that they could walk, so that made it quite a diversion in winter.

C. What else did you do for entertainment? Didn’t have any television, I would imagine, did you?

L. No, no we didn’t. My children did but I didn’t. We played a lot of games: Authors, some board games. They still have these big boards that had checkers on one side and another game, Pit, on the other. We had that too. Now we, when our kids got older they were into Monopoly and War and games like that,but not when I was a child. We all read a lot, which behooves an Editor’s family,of course.

C. Did you use the library then?

L. We didn’t have a library except in school. No, there was no public library even in school for a long time, so we owned the books. Every birthday, every Christmas, every day of remembrance we got a book and we traded with our neighbors and friends who read a lot and that’s what we did, I think. Then in high school we took up, my friend and I took up crossword puzzles and we did that. Of course when we got big enough to be out and about we went to the shows. Liberty Center had a theater for a long time.

C. They did? Where was that?

L. Well, it was in a group of buildings right there where the new annex to the library is. And they bartered. We got ‘picture-show’, we called it, tickets in exchange for advertising; so we didn’t get “money” unless we used the tickets. (end of tape, side one)

Side Two:

C. Your father and you . . .

L. Went, two or three times a week, usually three. Every time the picture changed we went to the movies, and that’s where I learned to read the titles that were printed on the screen. It was a little different from the reader that Mama was teaching me out of. Mama and the boys stayed home. Once in a great while we would all go, but not very often.

C. Once of my first music teachers was a woman who played the organ–piano–in a movie house, and she always played very loudly because she had to in her work so she taught me in my lessons to play loudly and I can’t play softly to this day.

L. Yes. We had a player piano in this theater–Majestic Theater it was–and it was in there a long time–oh way into the talking pictures. You know, it was the strangest thing. I never could understand that, the way boy actually gets girl and they get married and then the screen goes dark and the subtitle comes up “One Year Later” and they have this little child–this little baby there–and I could not for the life of me figure out what the lights going out had to do with this baby, because everybody knew the stork brought the baby. How did the stork find them in the dark? I never could understand it. Mysterious, isn’t it? I asked Papa one time “How’s come it always comes up that way?” It was a happy ending, you know, here’s this happy little family (except one and that was called ‘Smilin’ Through’ and it was sad but that’s the way it is, Papa said. It doesn’t all come out to a happy ending.) but he said, “Well, now, some time we’ll have to talk about that.” Well, he just forgot about it, till the next time we saw the happy ending and I see this mysterious baby.

C. I remember one time my friend and I went to one of the first movies that I had seen. It was very sad and we started crying and by the time that movie was over with we had red eyes and we were still crying. We thought, “We just can’t go out on the street looking like this.” So we went out the back door. We got away from the crowd of people.

L. Well don’t you suppose everyone else was crying too?

C. Oh probably but you know high-school kids are afraid of how they look.

L. So, but the show always went on. Sometimes there would be a full house; sometimes there would be 10 or 15 people but it didn’t matter. They had the movie rented for Mon., Tue. and Wed. night so Saturday and Sunday would be bigger shows. Usually the bill changed three times a week.

C. A lot more than it does now.

L. Right. It was an education certainly.

C. Was Lucille Sherman teaching there?

L. She taught in Liberty Center when–certainly she was there when I went back to teaching. She wasn’t there the first time I taught but she was there–let’s see, Wanda Stock came to Liberty and started to teach and she and Lucille Sherman and Gail George. I wasn’t teaching but I was a teacher, you know, cause I was home with the kids, and,–but we had a card club that lasted for more than 50 years.

C. What kind of cards?

L. Pinochle we usually played, always played I should say. There was a bridge club too but that was too much work. Had to think too hard. I know you play.

C. I play penuchle too and enjoy it. (laughs) So how many children then were in the class in school?

L. Oh about like today. You mean when I taught them?

C. Yeah.

L. Well, I never taught any elementary so I don’t know what goes on down there.

C. What about when you were in elementary school?

L. Well, first and second grade were in the same room. There must be , maybe 25 children in my first-grade picture because country schools all had their own first grade. Liberty Center was just Liberty Center.

C. Well then, how could the first and second grades be in the same room? Did they study the same thing?

L. Oh Mercy no! You’d been promoted when you were in the second grade.

C. Did they operate it like the one-room school, that they had different times to recite?

L. Probably. When I got to be in there–that’s a long story but–I was only in the first grade maybe six weeks because I must have been such a pain, having already learned at the movies. But I did, I knew too much to be in first grade. I must have been a distraction cause if I knew the answer I wanted to say it, you know. So it wasn’t very long till I took a note home to my folks in which the teacher said that they thought it would be better if they put me in second grade. So, my biggest regret–I was so looking forward to playing in that big sandbox at the front of the room and I always thought that some day I would get to play in that, but I wasn’t in that room long enough, because the second graders didn’t play in the sandbox or anything. It was only the first graders. The first graders were privileged people that got to build sand castles and stuff but I never did do that. It’s kind of like they said for a while that your child should always crawl before walking. The theory was that if you hadn’t crawled you should crawl because it was missing in your development. Well, I always thought that if I just could have gone back and been in that sandbox I would be better off.

C. Your education would have been complete!

L. I think I would have done better. Of course I was always the youngest child in the class and they all got to do things at least a year before I did and I just never really fit in very well with my class.

C. Well, you know that same thing happened to my sister. They’d have them skip a grade if they were ahead and she was small-boned, a small person anyway, and she said all through school she felt inferior because the other kids were so much bigger and more socially developed than she. She graduated in 1937 which was still in the depths of the Depression and their school board instigated a new policy at that time because so many couldn’t get jobs out of school, so they said anyone who wanted to go and take another year of school could. So she did and that year she had a wonderful time!

L. Yes. She was in with kids her own age. I never got that. I had friends, but they didn’t have anything to do with my school classes. It was just the kind of a life I led.

C. Now, your mother never had a job; in fact she wasn’t expected to have a job, was she?

L. No. The closest she ever came to a job was that she helped, as I say, she answered the phone and helped when people called about the paper. Maybe an ad, maybe someone had something they wanted to sell, and after we were all grown up and I was even married–the boys were in college–she went to help Papa in the Press office, and she just loved it, and was very capable. And I beat myself up now for it, though there’s no use, when I came home I had little 2-year-old Leon and Mama kept Leon and I, big-shot journalism person you know, went to work on the paper. That’s when I was the Editor for 33 months, and I thought Mama could watch Leon, which she did and loved it to death. But I taught school and when I got home I went to work on the paper and Mama took care of Leon, so she was much more of a figure of a mother to him than I was. But I just never thought that Mama might want a career of her own.

C. Yeah, back in those days it was frowned upon.

L. So, I could help Papa with the paper and I did, but that was terrible.

C. I had a friend when I was in high school who said, “Why do you want to go to college? You don’t want to go to college. You’ll come out smarter than the boys and you’ll never have a boyfriend.” (laughs)

So I went finally with the idea that O.K. I guess I’ll just have to give up the idea of having a boy friend..

L. If it’s one or the other–(laughs) Yes, I think I mentioned before that I believe I was the first Liberty Center girl to go to Ohio State. They went to Bowling Green. That’s where you went, or to Defiance College. Just the very rich people could go to Defiance College. I don’t know that I ever knew anybody that went to Defiance College, but they went to Bowling Green. My cousin went to Bowling Green but we were, all three of us, my two brothers and I, all were destined for Ohio State from the time we were born.

C. Is that where your father had gone?

L. He lived in Columbus where he was a pharmacist’s clerk and he would walk past the Ohio State University which in those days was very young and he would always wish that he could have gone. Now, he probably would have just started in taking some classes, but you didn’t do that. You either went, stayed your four years, dropped out or did something but you didn’t take a few classes. From the time I was born I was gonna go to Ohio State and my brothers too, the same way, and we did. We all finished there.

C. You know, when I was a senior in high school I had this very good friend who had decided that we would go to college somewhere. Well, she didn’t have any more money than I did and she took out every single college catalog out of the library and studied them. She said, ” Charlotte, I’ve got just the place for us. It has a funny name but it’s the cheapest place I can find in United States.” I said, “Well what is this funny name?” and she said, ” Bowling Green.” (laughs) That’s why I went to Bowling Green but I really liked it and you got a good education there.

L. That was–well, that wasn’t even under consideration. We were going to Ohio State. That’s what we did, and I got married at the end of my Freshman year.

C. That’s pretty young.

L. Yes it was. I was just barely , well I was 18. Of course when you skip first grade you get through so much earlier, and I started out in the summer after I graduated so I’m still one of the youngest people going away to school. I was 18 in February and I think married in April then to a man that I met going to Ohio State. But be that as it may, it resulted in my doing my freshman year at Ohio State, my sophomore year at Ohio University down at Athens, my junior year at Davis Elkins College in West Virginia and back to Ohio State when I was a senior. And I graduated right on time because I’d gone every summer.

C. Why did it happen that you went . . .

L. Well, as I say, times were tough and you went where there was a job, and my husband was a chef in a restaurant. There was a job in Logan OH and we went down there to see about it. That man didn’t have a job but he knew there was one in Athens and he called Athens and they said, “Send him up!” because he was an excellent chef so I just transferred to Ohio University.

C. Well they did transfer a lot in those days too, because I had friends who transferred from one college to another and didn’t think anything of it.

L. Well some people I knew just went someplace and stayed there, but because of the way it was we always moved to a college town and I just kept going to college and finished at Ohio State.

C. Did you have children when you were going to college?

L. No. I put that off but it was just a different . . . The first time I was just kind of a spoiled Editor’s daughter. Then I went from that to being a spoiled child bride sort of in a household of three men and this barely 18-year-old girl, me, and then

C. Who were the three men?

L. Well, my husband’s father had a big house and the mother was gone and so the three men had occasion to live there together, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law. And they weren’t real happy to have this college coed to move in to their . . . but they wanted my husband as chef/restaurant man that they would put up with me.

C. It must have been very difficult for you.

L. Well it was very different because I went from being the center of attention to being a pretty much southern wife. You were supposed to do what the men said. For example everybody in that particular situation was a Democrat and you couldn’t get a job of any kind, teaching school or anything else, if you weren’t a Democrat. Well I thought, “I hope my family never hears this.” So I had to register as a Democrat so I could vote in the Primary as a Democrat so I could teach school.

C. So you could get a job. Isn’t that something?

L. But you accepted it at that time. You’d never get in a school as a teacher unless you were registered as a Democrat.

C. Did the other young women accept you in that locality?

L. Yes. Yes. I was,and was on the library board, because I was from Ohio State. After all, it had a certain clout.

C. An honor. Yes.

L. And in the church I sang in the church choir. Yes, I’d say I was well accepted.

C. Do you remember anything about when you first met your husband?

L. Oh yes I do. I won’t go too much into that, but he had this really neat convertible and all my life I just I thought, “If I just had a convertible.” Now, he was very good looking, he had been to Ohio State, he was quite a bit older than I was, eight years I think, but he was a man-about-town, very suave, very southern. He was a good man, never was in any trouble, but it just turned out poorly for him. He was injured in an accident; he never recovered.

C. Did he die?

L. Yes. He died, but over a long period of time. He just never was the same again. So I was a widow at 24.

C. Oh my! So then-uh-what happened to you after that?

L. Well I could have stayed and I could have had a job at the high school but there was just something about the Yankee in me and the independent person who had gone alone to Ohio State that I thought, “I can’t do that.” By then I had a little boy too and they knew more about how to bring him up than I did because what did I know anyway? I probably would never get him–now they respected–they respected my Ohio State degree because my husband had one and he had been there so they respected that but that does not transfer to anything in the way the household goes or the business goes or anything else like that. They were really southern type men and they sent me to learn to make out income tax because anybody that could graduate from Ohio State could learn to make out income tax so they sent me to the federal tax school to learn to make out income tax which I did. And to this day, not that I like it but I always I guess I’m just a kind of a victim of circumstances.

C. Well, then how did you happen to get back to Liberty Center?

L. Well, I came back with my little boy because I couldn’t make enough teaching school in West Virginia, being in the minority classroom, I couldn’t make enough to pay for someone to take care of my boy and keep my apartment and do all that. And I thought I would go home, which I did, came back and Leon with some of our household goods and came back home to working on the paper and I had taken a Civil Service exam for Aid to the Aged they called it then and I did real well in that and so I knew I could get some kind of a job. But then it was ’41, see, so

C. Oh yes, going into the war. During the war then, you stayed?

L. I was home for almost 20 years with the children because I remarried then in 1944 and that was war time and I taught in the Liberty Center school system for a long time.

C. What did you teach?

L. Mostly I taught English and I taught French. In the end I taught more French than English but I did college-prep English for a long time. Although it seems funny now I’ve been up at the college 18 years and it just doesn’t seem possible because I was at Liberty 23 and that seemed like a lifetime.

C. Don’t you think that as you age the years seem to go by faster? At least people say that.

L. People do say that because it’s conventional wisdom, but I don’t really–

C. Would you tell us what you’re doing now? You’re past retirement age, too.

L. Oh yes, a long time ago. Yes. And I did leave Liberty Center retired, and I was retired for a month. Then they called me to come teach at the college and I’ve been here ever since, so I really haven’t had any spell of retirement and I still love to teach. Now children of my high school students, some of my former students, not grandchildren yet but I suppose it’ll happen sometime, though I have grandchildren. I teach Communications essentially, mostly Speech and Composition. And then I have the Elderhostel, both sides of the Center for Lifetime Learning and the residence program which we run in conjunction with Sauder Village.

C. What is that? Oh you mean for a week?

L. They come and stay for a week of residence, not residents. They come and stay. They move in for a week.

C. Yeah, I used to do that.

L. We’ve had quite a successful program out here, incorporating the Village, the Ohio Frontier.

C. How is that Indian section?

L. Oh it’s delightful. People just love it. There’s a trading post out there and three different styles of Indian housing and they have a long house and there are all kinds of things that Indians here would have had and there are interpreters out there all the time when the village is open.

C. I talked to Genevieve Eicher and she was adopted by a trader, I believe, at Damascus. That was quite a settlement, I believe.

L. Oh yes, Prairie du Masque.

C. Now was she an Indian child that they adopted? I didn’t quite understand.

L. I don’t really know that story. She had adopted an Indian name because she is Sweetgrass and the daughter is Savannah and they have gone big into the Indian tradition and war. Right now Genevieve is doing a lot of work on the Underground Railroad.

C. I know. She made a speech on it.

L. Uh-huh. They said she was very interesting. She was at the Henry County Retired Teachers

(End of Side II, )


Oral History 2003

interviewed by C. Wangrin

C. This is Louisa Stock, the second tape and Louisa is going to state some of the information she has about the old days in Henry County.

L. I wasn’t there. My mother was a part of the old Texas, Texas on the canal. Long before Liberty Center was ever even a gleam in somebody’s eye, Texas was a sturdy little canal community and a river community before that.

C. How about Damascus? Did Texas develop after Damascus or before?

L. Well, I would say before. But the ferry boats that took people across the river–there was one at Texas and another at Damascus. The ferry at Texas was much older, because there wasn’t much reason to cross the river at Damascus, you see. Liberty Center didn’t come till the railroad just before the Civil War when the other was there long before. So my mother was born in 1880 and she wasn’t married till she was 29 and she didn’t have children till she was 36 so growing up on the canal as she did in those years between 1880 and around 1900 when they moved to Liberty Center she had some pretty vivid memories of what it was like to be a little girl on the canal. And some pretty interesting things happened. I mentioned about the skating. That was a big thing. Of course as soon as the canal froze over traffic stopped and it made a perfect long, long, long if narrow skating rink, and the teens from Grand Rapids and the young adults would skate all the way from there. They could skate up to Texas. They could skate on up the river to Napoleon. It was a pretty common skate.

C. That would be a long skate.

L. Now that would be an excursion, but they did that a number of times and I mentioned about “Teen” Pilliod. That was how–all the towns along the canal just sort of were interconnected. They had lots of intermingling social affairs like the dances and things like that, and box socials at the school.

C. Would you describe a box social–in case others have never heard of it?

L. Well the box social–now again, I never even darkened the door of a box social. I have no idea, but I remember that Mama says you did your very best delicacy for the box and you very often confided to a very special young man which one was your box. You were not supposed to do that. Everyone would bid on this girl’s box and none the other girl’s. So if you fixed your box up very nicely you would get a lot of bids on your box because whoever bought your box, then you had supper with that person. That determined your partner. I think your parents stood by ready to help save the box if no one did bid on it but that never happened that I know of.

C. Oh, a whole meal. I thought they just put a cake or something in.

L. No, but it might be a sandwich special; it might be some delicacy that you were famous for and it might in fact be a cake or pie but it was small boxes. It wasn’t like a box for the Christmas Cheer or anything like that. It was small. A shoe box would be big I think. And they bid. There was an auctioneer just like an auction who no doubt contributed his services. They would have some simple little money goal in mind. Christmas decorations for the school or a book for the school library, things like that.

The Texas school building was a frame building at that time, not the red brick building which stands in the village today. The first school was a frame school. It didn’t set out on the highway but it was back a street or two streets from the canal. And I have a school record from about 1880 I would guess, 1880-1885, that the schoolmaster kept and he had been to college in Indiana, Vincennes runs in my mind, and passed his board to teach school. And so he was the Master in the Texas school and this little brown notebook that he has, the first few pages are filled with what they called ‘parsing’ or taking a sentence apart and describing every word in it, “This is a noun. It is the subject. This is the verb. It is in the active voice in the present tense, whatever, This is a preposition.” They took every sentence apart like that so the front pages of this notebook are full of that kind of thing that he had done at college that summer. And he just brought it with him. It was no use to waste the back of that book so he just ruled it off and it made class lists for his reading and his math and spelling. They didn’t have any social studies or anything like that to worry about. Attendance was carefully kept, although of course the big boys didn’t come when it was fit to work in the fields. But it wasn’t just a girls’ school. There were lots of boys on the school register. And my mother was too young to go. That’s why I know that it must have been about 1885. It has a date in it but I forget, But it’s a fascinating book. It’s an all-purpose little book. In the back of it there is a record of the Texas Lyceum and the Texas Lycium was kind of an independent little group who were interested in lifelong learning actually and brought speakers to town and had debates and everything like that. And this has the price of the train trip that the record keeper had had to take to Defiance for whatever reason and what the train fare was and

C. Was there a train from Texas to Defiance?

L. Well, see, they would have to go to Liberty Center to get on the train but they would drive over there. They would leave their horse in the livery stable and get on the train to Toledo or Defiance. Of course it went both ways.

C. What was the name of that railroad?

L. Oh, well it was the Wabash back then. Maybe it had another name to it besides that but they always talked about the Wabash road. So any of the later settlers that came in came on the railroad. Some came on the canal but the most on the railroad. By 1905 or so the canal was pretty much done for, gone under when the railroads came in.

C. Joe Wolf who used to live not too far from Texas had–they showed us this little book, a record of the teachers that had taught in this one-room school and how much they were paid–practically nothing. They weren’t allowed to get married. The poor things must have had a pretty rough time. But it was the only career other than nursing that a young lady could pursue.

L. Um-hm. That very thing happened to Mama’s foster mother’s sister Sarah. Sarah had been teaching in the Texas school and she wanted to marry John Wesley Wright. And if she did she couldn’t teach anymore. They were all, the sisters were artistic, could draw and paint, and the older ones had drawing lessons and painting lessons and elocution lessons and writing lessons. Mama came along at the end of the family and her mother was dead by that time so she didn’t have those advantages. But her sisters tried to fill in what their mother had taught them, and they tried to teach her to play the piano. They tried to do what they could for this poor little motherless child. But they couldn’t teach, as I say, and so Sarah when she married John Wesley Wright, set up a little millinery shop in the big store on the canal. The canal boats came right up to the dock there at the big store and by then we called him Grampa Wright. Of course he wasn’t a Grampa. He was a brother-in-law really but they were enough older that they took the little girl .

C. Oh, they raised her?

L. Um-hm. They were the only parents she knew. And-uh now her father was living but couldn’t maintain a house for little children But Aunt Sarah had a notebook of her own, The schoolteacher turned milliner. Her customers were often the men on the canal boats, because there was a 15 minute stop in Texas while they loaded and unloaded, and often the men, the crew even, would come in and buy a bonnet or some frilly thing to take home to their wives at the end of the canal trip. So she had kind of a nice little business there and that’s the reason that the hired girls raised, as I said, my mother. Aunt Sarah was at the store with her little millinery shop. Well, while she wasn’t trimming hats or creating little things she would think about–she wrote letters for a lot of people in the community who couldn’t–they could write, but couldn’t do it the way they would want to impress the person receiving the letter. So they would have her write the letters and phrase it gracefully and so in her idle moments she would write little scraps of words that would occur to her as graceful ways to put things, a letter of condolence and some things that someone might say, and those are in her notebook, in her ledger.

C. Do you have that?

L. Yes.

C. Is that right?

L. And little phrases . . . “It is with deepest regret that I noticed the passing of . . . “, things like that, then it would just stop because whoever’s passing it was that would have to be filled in later, but just nicer things wasted. She was a kind of an editor, you know. She would say, “I could have said that better.” Of course she was dead years before I was born. I never knew her. She must have been a remarkable lady. As I said, she was the oldest of the first family and left with the rearing of the children after her mother died and when Grandfather married my grandmother she sent her back to school. But she was like 13 and she went back to school and finished her school and passed her teacher’s examination and by then they had moved to Texas, from Defiance to Texas, Ohio. Texas was just a charming little place: board walks they had. When the rest of the county was running around in mud, Texas wasn’t.

C. Were there many stores?

L. Well, there was the big store that was Grampa Wright’s store where Aunt Sarah had her little corner with her millinery in it and then there was a mill of course besides, and across the street from the big store was the saloon. Now bear in mind that the canal boats stopped 15 minutes. Some of them didn’t go buy bonnets. Some made it across the road from the canal to the store. They did other things in that store but the big attraction of course was the liquor. And it was the hangout for a lot of people and the center of quite a few fights. The canal-boat people and the townspeople didn’t always see eye to eye. Sometimes there would be quite violent fights, so they kept the children away from the canal. The saloon of course welcomed their business. One night the ladies of Texas, Ohio got together and they took whatever chopping things they could get together. They had a band of about 15, maybe, some of the leading ladies of the town, went into that saloon and smashed things and broke bottles and chopped things. They did a lot of damage in vengeance, because there wasn’t any Prohibition. There was even such a thing as a county black list that a lady could ask to have her husband put on. Now that was a pretty low blow when they did that, but sometimes they would be desperate, when there was no money to feed the children or fix the roof or whatever because he left the money at the saloon. And so the ladies took it upon themselves. Carrie Nation in action! Texas, Ohio.

C. (Laughs) You’d see pictures of her in action but I never realized they ended up doing all that!

L. This close to home, this close to home. There was a man who had a law office there and the doctor’s office, and . . it was a thriving little village really. But one big store and that was Grandpa Wright’s store.

C. It probably fronted on both the canal and the road.

L. Yes. Yes it did and when they didn’t have the canal anymore they moved that building off the canal bank (This is much later) but the moved the building off it; they moved it back a street and it became a part of the Odd Fellows’ Hall I believe.

C. Now Genevieve Eicher, I interviewed her and she said that she was adopted by–not she. It must have been her ancestor–a trader. It must have been a trader at Damascus who traded with the Indians.

L. Um, hm. Yes there was a trading post there but of course that was 30 or 40 years before the canal came. There wasn’t–there was a little settlement out there at Damascus, Praire Du Masque, with a grist mill. They called it ‘Thunder Mill’ and I never could really understand why it was a thunder mill, but that’s what they called it, Thunder Gust.

C. Does ‘Gust’ mean ‘mill’?

L. You know, I have no idea. I never understood that very much but it was a special kind. Someone told me that it had to do with the noise that the little engine made as it went on or something, like it could discharge a ‘Pop’ every time I don’t know that. But Texas and Liberty Center were just so different because Texas was old and mellow and, as I say, ‘civilized’ where Liberty Center, the railroad made it a pretty tough spot.

C. What was Liberty Center like?

L. Well, Liberty Center till the railroad came was just a thicket, just a thicket. They got their mail off the canal boat, they rode across to Colton. By the time Liberty Center was there, the Colton settlement was older than Liberty Center. Almost everything was older actually. It was more brash and raw and not the cultivated society that Texas had enjoyed and even Colton. Colton was a railroad town but much before Liberty Center. Then they reversed the thing when the canal wasn’t there any more. Texas rode across to Colton and picked up the mail, so they returned the favor.

C. And then’s when Liberty Center started to grow.

L. Yes. Texas became summer homes for the well-to-do people out of Toledo, artists’ colony, because it was so scenic with the river there.

C. Well, then you spoke of Liberty Center as being kind of a rough town to start with?

L. Yes, it was. The only gentility came from Texas. (laughs)

C. My mother was President of the WCTU for years and drove me to drink! But when she came to Napoleon she said, “My, I never saw such a town! There’s a saloon on every corner.” (laughs) And so evidently Napoleon was one of those that were pretty rough.

L. Yes, I would say, although Florida . . . now Florida was a little more of a cultured community, I would say.

C. Then why did they call it ‘Snaketown’?

L. Well because of the snakes, I would think.

C. Must have been an awful lot of snakes.

L. Well, the river and all. But the Indians called it that.

C. Oh it wasn’t the whites.

L. No, I don’t think they probably liked that very well, but the Indians referred to it that way.

C. So what stores did they have in Liberty Center?

L. Lots of saloons. (laughs) There was always a General Store; there was in a little bit the doctors. Two of the doctors moved up from Texas to Liberty Center, thinking that’s where the population movement was going to be, which turned out to be true. But there was always the cabinet maker who made coffins and boxes for burial when he wasn’t building furniture, when things got a little slow or whatever. And the post office was in the general store. There was a store that was a hardware, that kind of thing. It was a thriving little settlement by 1870 but it . . . and it grew from then on, but there are just a lot of those little towns there along the railroad track like Liberty Center, but those in Liberty were tough enough that they survived where some of the other ones kind of lost out. One of my boys said one time, “Mama, do you think there were Indian teepees right here where we live?” I said, “Oh my Heavens no. Nothing but thicket.” They’d go through looking for some game or something but no.

C. But not big trees?

L. Well, they were more towards the river I think. I think the big trees–course there were big trees–but mostly it was marshy, kind of . . just at the edge of the Black Swamp, you know.

C. Is that sandy soil around here?

L. To the east of Liberty Center, between Liberty Center and Colton and down toward what they called The Openings, down toward Oak Openings. That was pretty much sand; Washington Township was sand and that made a difference socially, economically and everything else because the better land was toward the west there between Liberty Center settlement and Napoleon.

C. Around Napoleon area the land is so heavy, heavy clay. It doesn’t seem to me as though it’d be very easy to work with.

L. It was not. I was going to tell you my–when my grandmother and grandfather Mires came up with their family from south of Columbus they had bought with grandmother’s inheritance a little piece of land in Henry County. They weren’t farmers. They never pretended to be farmers but they needed land. They had five boys and they thought, I suppose, “We could do that.” So their neighbors, the Harrison family, Emma Harrison, Emma Harrison’s husband’s family, had come up here from that same area. They were neighbors south of Columbus and they wrote and said there was land up there for sale. Now when we hear about land going for pennies an acre, this did not go for pennies an acre. This was very expensive land but they could get it, so they bought land. It would be just a bit north of where U.S. 24 is and just a little way west of Damascus.* Damascus was the name of the school, the country school. And they bought that land and it was supposed to be seeded to wheat for spring, because wheat was supposed to be growing so they knew they had a crop coming in and they figured it couldn’t be that tough. They could learn to do that although they were used to city life really, and the wheat for whatever reason wasn’t there. They had to sell part of their land back in order to buy seed and to get along till they could really raise something on that ground. The oldest boy was probably 16, my father was about 12 and there were two boys in between and then two younger boys. And-uh-but that’s where they bought the land. And by now they’ve got the money in the land. They don’t have any to do anything else, so there they are and they tell me that my grandmother actually pulled the plow. Her oldest son Will plowed and they couldn’t buy horses because they didn’t have enough money. Once in a while they would borrow a horse but she actually pulled a plow. Now, as I say, she was a city girl and it must have been something to be there with all those boys. My grandfather died, and there she was with this farm in what must have looked like the wilderness to her.

*” Damascus” is a corruption of “Prairie du Masque”, the French name for the settlement.

C. I’ll bet. Where was it they came from?

L. From south of Columbus. They came from Franklin County down around Lockport, Ohio. That’s where the Lockborn airbase, Don Scott Field I think is there now. That was their land and they sold that and came up here; I didn’t know her. I wish I had but . . .

C. What did her husband die of?

L. Well, he died of a disease that you never see in the death notices now, called Erisipilis. Now you might know about it. One of my uncles, his younger brother, was sitting on Grandfather’s lap. He was just a little thing and he had a heavy saucer in his hand and just playing like a child and he brought that saucer down on the bridge of grandfather’s nose and what that has to do with anything only a doctor could tell us but this erisipilis affected the base of the brain. You never hear of it anymore. They must know. Either people don’t have it or they call it something else but anyhow he died just very shortly. It’s like a staph infection sets in. Anyhow, here she is, this practically city girl up here with all these boys and there wasn’t work enough for all the boys so they went off in all diverse pursuits but somebody had to farm after they’d started. I know my father would talk about he and one of the younger boys, too young to be of much help in the farming, they would send them in the late afternoon to the banks of the Maumee River, which was maybe a mile and half, and they would sit there and wait for the animals to come up, like a deer maybe, and they would hit the deer over the head.

C. Didn’t have a gun?

L. Well. they’re close range and they’re just little boys. We’re not talking about an adult male hunter. But when the deer came to drink in the evening they would hit them over the head and that would be meat for–it might be something small as a rabbit, you know, as big as a deer. Times were hard. Well they got by. Papa’s brother was in the first graduating class at Liberty Center High School and my father went to Chicago College of Pharmacy. The oldest boy went to Indiana, the second oldest boy, went north to work on the Great Lakes freight boats up into the copper country, way up in Duluth, Minnesota. One brother bought the Liberty Press. Papa went in there to work on a vacation and never left. My father had gone back to Columbus when he got old enough to strike out on his own.

C. Did any of them stay at home with their mother?

L. Yes. The one that bought the paper stayed at home. And the oldest son Will and his little girl and little boy came but the little boy went to live with the deceased mother’s parents, but the girl and her father stayed in Liberty Center.

C. Well now you spoke in the last interview about your grandfather remarrying after his wife died.

L. Yes. That was Mama’s family. That was the Crozier family.

C. So, she was the young bride?

L. Yes! Grandmother Mires, having been born in 1831 and my father in 1866,that makes us–we don’t have to go back very many generations to be pretty historic, you know.

C. Yes, I should say.

L. And my brothers and I were born late in my parents’ lives, so we don’t have to go back very far to be far back. But the two families, I suppose could hardly have been more different. My two grandmothers, the one who had come from an urban environment but wasn’t too proud to pull the plow when horses weren’t available and kinda scrabbled it out in the Prairie du Masque area. And my other grandmother, my mother’s mother who gave the girls painting lessons and riding lessons, drawing lessons and piano lessons and . . .

C. My girlfriend took elocution lessons.

L. Elocution lessons. Then I benefited. I was just saying to the students a little bit ago how excellently they wrote, not just the handwriting but the Liberty Center school has some manuscripts of the graduation speeches at the first graduations and this lady named Gayetta Meyers I think was in one of those early classes. We’re talking turn of the century now, or not far into it. And that writing is just beautiful. When you talk about that copperplate Spencerian handwriting–beautiful and My Word we wouldn’t have a college graduate that would write like that.

C. Especially not them. They have to write too fast.

L. Way too fancy, way overblown: we would just laugh at that. The day of what they thought were graceful phrases, you know, and the roundabout circulation. They never called a spade a spade. I think it had to be an implement designed for penetrating the ground–something like that. (laughs) But oh my, just never a flaw.

C. Now they had in eastern United States finishing schools. Did they have any of those in Ohio?

L. My cousin Ruby went to finishing school–that would be Dr. Ennes’s daughter, Mother’s brother-in-law–went to finishing school down in Virginia. It was like a junior college I would say, and I was down there last spring and actually saw where that campus. It’s changed its name but it’s Old Dominion and it was where she went years and years and years ago. She was about my mother’s age; as I say Mama was the baby of the family and the first family’s sisters were married and had children of their own when Mama was born so it–they kind of mixed up the generations. They didn’t pay much attention to that, but my cousin Ruby was my mother’s age.

C. I was wondering too. You spoke about Harrison. Was that a relative of the Drs. Harrison that were here? I think there were three Dr. Harrisons.

L. I know that, and the one I remember Papa speaking about were the Harrisons that their house is right there after you go under the viaduct if you were coming from Liberty Center and going to Napoleon where you go under the railroad tracks. Harrisons bought that land–Charlie Harrison his name was and he worked–I believe he was a railroad man–yes because he had a fabulous collection of toys just within the last 30 years or so, and his wife has been very active in the society. Now that would be his father who was the pioneer. Charlie Harrison wasn’t the pioneer by any means. His father and grandfather would have been there, so I’m sure there’s a connection but-uh–

C. I remember that barn that said ‘ Harrison.’ I believe that those Harrisons were supposedly not related at all to the doctors.

L. That I don’t know at all because we had a doctor in our family so we didn’t pay much attention at all to the doctors in Napoleon. Dr. Ennes was my uncle, and he was a legend in Liberty Center of course.

C. Is that right. I remember Dr. George. He worked hard but then he never charged much.

L. Yes. He was much later. None of them did charge much. As I said before, they took a lot of it out in trade. I remember this one man that worked every year for Uncle Doctor and Aunt Grace doing things like cleaning up the lot, the barn, the property, yard work all summer long. It was payment for the doctor’s visits. My Uncle Doctor was connected with the Rhinefranco, the Rhinefrank Clinic in Perrysburg He was a physician and surgeon. He gave anesthetic for Napoleon doctors. In fact he was a friend of Dr. Harrisons. They were contemporaries.

C. Oh I see. And in Archbold they had a family of doctors called Murbach. That’s where my husband was from–Archbold. He was named for the two: Edwin and Clarence Murbach .

L. We knew the newspaper editors better than we did the doctors, because the newspaper editors were in the family. Of course Papa knew Orrin Taylor, all the big papers, the Blade, the Ohio State Journal. But that’s the editorial life.

C. Did they get together, meetings or anything?

L. Mostly correspondence, mostly letters. I don’t ever know there were such things as newspaper associations or anything like that but they kidded each other in their editorial columns. Clyde Moore was a columnist on the Ohio State Journal and as I mentioned I was destined for Ohio State so Papa knew Clyde Moore and asked him if he could possibly get a copy of ‘ Carmen, Ohio.’ And he said he would see what he could do, so in a few weeks here came this blueprint paper. My first copy of ‘ Carmen, Ohio” was blueprint paper with white lines on it. And then there was a paper with blue lines on it, the music for ‘Carmen Ohio’ and of course I must learn to play it. Just as soon as my little fingers would reach up to those keys, why I had to learn ‘ Carmen, Ohio.’

C. Was that when you were first learning the piano?

L. Yes, and little before, trying to pick out the notes. Because it would have been way too–if you had been taking piano lessons you wouldn’t have been to ‘Carm0en Ohio’ for probably a year, you know, because it had flats and you wouldn’t have had flats yet. You had to play everything on those white keys but I knew I had to have those black keys.

C. Well we–I grew up in Pennsylvania and we didn’t know much about the ‘Carmen Ohio’. I knew ‘Beautiful Ohio’. I was on the Swan Club at Bowling Green, charter member, and so they, that first time we were performing we had to swim to ‘Beautiful Ohio’ and I got so sick of that piece I could scream.

L. Really. We used it for a bicentennial program last summer and when we were at the Senior Center we used it again. It’s kind of a pretty tune. Kind of schmaltzy but–I can see how it would be quite hard to swim to.

C. Well it wasn’t the swimming that bothered me. It was the repetition because we would practice quite often and it was always the same piece.

L. Like learning to tap dance to the Sidewalks of New York.

The end of the Canal days brought the family to Liberty Center. We always called Uncle Lincoln ‘Uncle Doctor’, as if that were his name, you know, and it wasn’t. And he moved up and then of course Grampa Wright and my mother moved up into the big house on the corner and he invested in quite a few things in Liberty Center. His name is on the Town Hall cornerstone. And he took an active part in his adopted home town.

C. Now this is your Grampa Wright?

L. Yes, but he wasn’t really as I say, he wasn’t really my Grampa Wright. He was Mama’s brother-in-law of the first family, but he was always referred to as Grampa Wright and Grandma Wright, and she wasn’t. She was my aunt really.

C. They’re the ones that raised your mother. She functioned as her mother.

L. Yes. Yes. And she really was a devoted daughter. She cared for them when they were old and helpless. Now they always had hired help, as it was called, but no daughter could have been more concerned about those two people that raised her.

C. Did she ever see her real father?

L. Oh yes, yes, but not frequently. He was around and he in fact worked in the big store on the canal in Texas. He worked for Grampa Wright, but as I mentioned before he was just kind of a broken man. He was an engineer; he was brilliant and some of these days when I’m not quite as involved I’m going up to Defiance County where all this would have happened and where Grandmother was the schoolteacher and where the first family grew up. Certainly they came from Defiance County to Henry County.

L. Many of the old families in Liberty Center were Texas families and the Youngs, as in the legendary Calvin Young, they had had–a lot of those people came from New York State, as did Grampa Wright who came from New York State.

C. Now were they English?

L. Yes.

C. Or German?

L. No. English.

C. Wauseon was settled by English too.

L. See, they were Irish and, I mean my family was Irish on both sides and even though they had money and even though their house had lace curtains the children would tease my mother and her brothers and sisters about being Irish. And they used to sing this song about “They kept the pig in the parlor” and they did it in a very mock Irish accent and they would tease Mama with that. Now that family could have bought and sold probably the rest of the school but that didn’t matter. They were Irish. They tried to teach her to be proud that she was Irish, not the object of children’s teasing.

C. Children don’t always have it easy at all; they have a hard time at the hands of other children.

L. Oh my yes. They built the canals and railroads but we never worked. I mentioned ‘lace-curtain Irish’ which they were, but not shanty Irish, not potato-famine Irish. They were here before the potato famine.

C. Not involved in the canal digging.

L. No. They didn’t dig the canal. They sold merchandise to those that were digging the canal.

C. My family were Scotch and Irish, commoners.

L. You know, so many of those people when they had come up from France essentially they went first to Scotland and then they came across to Ireland. Some of us say the ones that knew came across to Ireland and the ones that didn’t stayed in hard-scrabble Scotland. But we got out of there pretty fast. We weren’t big on hard work, I don’t think., working with our hands. I’m afraid that’s pretty much true now. (laughs) Traits are persistent.

Oh, I’m tired. (end of Tape II)

Stuart, Dorothea

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, February 9, 2002

Well, I really don’t know how to start. I had a brother and four sisters, one married to Karl. And we had a great family. We lived on a farm and talking in regard to the hills and the snow- and stuff we used to have a hill by our barn that we would get on a sled and slide down onto a pond. That had frozen over. My Dad ice skated and he’d shove the sled with my brother and us girls on it. We had a ball!

C. And you weren’t afraid of falling in?

We’d only have got wet. It wasn’t that deep. No, it wasn’t a river. I was just a pond.

C. Was this on the island (where you lived recently)?

No. It was on the Crawfis College Road.

C. And where was that?

Putnam County. My father graduated from Crawfis College. We had four grades in one room and I had my first man teacher in the fifth grade. We’d go outside at noon and play. We really had a good time. I don’t think now the kids know how to play like we did. They have to have everything bought and given to them while we’d take a box and build and everything and make our own toys.

My Mother’s brothers had motorcycles so we were allowed to ride motorcycles with our uncles and had a good time and we’d go down to K College and it was great. In fact my Mother’s family all lived on that road. We’d get together every week. It was just a lot of fun.

C. Dorothea, I understand you lived on an island?

Yes. I lived on Liebs Island at Buckeye Lake. We had our own boat. It slept four. It was a 22-foot cabin cruiser. We had an icebox and a stove. It was like being home away from. I couldn’t swim but I’d walk around the boat. I never fell. But you always wondered whether you would or not. There were a lot people that swam so there was always someone who could get you out.

C Well now did you live on that boat all the time?

Oh no. We lived in the house on the island. Well we had the boat up on Lake Erie at Carl’s.

C. How’d you get it from Buckeye Lake to Lake Erie?

Pulled it on a trailer. Course I was afraid of Lake Erie but I wasn’t on Buckeye Lake. That lake is 8 miles long but there was always someone around. We spent a lot of time working on the property, you know–keeping it neat ‘n all the leaves raked, all the ice when the branches broke off the trees.

C. How big was your island?

Well there was about 97 houses. We had one of the largest houses and they were all around us. We had good neighbors. You never had to worry if you needed a ride into town or anything. We lived right outside of Millersport, Ohio and I walked in there many a time. And we had a bank and a Post Office and I walked there many a time.

C. That was on the island?

No It was in Millersport.

C. How did you get there through the water?

There was a little causeway there but you could go in your boat too. You could tie up right outside the restaurant and go in. They had dances and parties going on, and dinners too, of course. There was never a dull moment. We had a good time.

We had a pony on our farm. We rode that pony. We could ride in a cart behind him. My one sister Mary could break bones easy and I know one time she was getting in the pony cart and she slipped and broke her knee. But she didn’t complain. We loved that pony. We used to put a sled behind it and we’d go out in the wheat field. In the winter he’d take us out on the ice.

C. Wasn’t he afraid of slipping?

Oh no, he’d walk right along. The pony had been I guess in the circus and it had been in a fire It had been burnt on the hips but that had healed. But it was never nasty with us kids Of course we was always loveable and we loved the pony and the pony loved us.

Swartzbaugh, Mary E.

Interviewer Megan Crosser, Napoleon, December 21, 2005

Megan: Can you say your name?

Mary: you want middle initials?

Megan: Yea

Mary: Mary E. Swartzbaugh

Megan: OK.

Mary: Did you get that last name?

Megan: Yea, what’s your maiden name?

Mary: Murray

Megan: Ok, and are you married?

Mary: Yes

Megan: Yes, what’s your husband’s name?

Mary: Charles

Megan: Charles…. when was the day of your marriage?

Mary: August the 8th, 1930.

Megan: Wow, that’s a long time ago. How long have you guys been married? How many years?

Mary: My husband passed away, but we were married 63 years.

Megan: Oh… wow that’s a long time. What’s your father’s and mother’s name?

Mary: My father’s name was… do you want the whole middle name, or just his first name?

Megan: The whole name’s fine.

Mary: George Wallace Murray

Meg: And you mother’s name?

Mary: My mother…Eleanor Blanch

Megan: Okay.

Megan: Did you graduate from High School?

Mary: Yes, I did

Megan: What high school?

Mary: Napoleon High School?

Megan: Oh really, that’s cool…did you go to college?

Mary: No

Megan: No.

Mary: I went to…oh I can’t remember the name of it. I went to the kind where they sent you the information and then you filled it out and mailed it back. That kind of college. Meg: Oh, that’s cool.

Mary: I don’t know what you call their name.

Megan: I don’t really know either. So, you remember the name of that?

Mary: I think it was Chicago

Megan: What were you studying over there?

Mary: It was typing, tutoring, algebra and all that.

Megan: Oh…what year did you graduate from high school?

Mary: 1930

Megan: Oh, so you got married that same year you graduated?

Mary: Yes.

Megan: Did you meet your husband while you were in school with him?

Mary: No, he lived right in back of us, ha ha, there was an alley between us,

Megan: So, what are that places that you worked?

Mary: Well, I worked for the Murray Truck Line

Megan: Did you family own that?

Mary: Yes, my dad did. And then when my husband went to the service, he sold it to Norwalk Truck Line.

Megan: Do you remember when you retired?

Mary: Oh, let’s see, o, that’s when I got out of school.

Megan: Oh, did you work anywhere after that?

Mary: Yes, I worked…you want the other place I worked?

Megan: Yes.

Mary: I worked at the Henry County Home.

Megan: Oh, what did you do out there?

Mary: I did office work.

Megan: And that’s where you retired from?

Mary: The commissioner retired me from there. I worked there after I worked at the Truck Line.

Megan: Mmm.

Mary: Well, my husband went into the service in ’39, May ’39.

Megan: How long was he in there for?

Mary: He was in 4 years; he was in World War II.

Megan: Oh, really?

Mary: He was gone 4 years.

Megan: Does he have stories that he shared with you about the war?

Mary: No, he didn’t say much about it. He was in the battle of the wars; it was a very hard thing. He’d write letters, and I’d write back. He went in May; well he was here back and forth, back a week or 10 days and then when he left to go back he left from New York. And he was gone back in New York then he left for Europe again. And then he came back guarding machines and stuff on the railroads that were after Christmas he did that. He left, till March, then from March went back overseas.

Megan: Did he get any awards for being in the war? Or special recognitions?

Mary: He was a sergeant, master sergeant, when he came home. They wanted him to go to the Officer Training School, but he wanted to go home.

Megan: So he could be with you?

Mary: Yea.

Megan: So, are you a member of the church?

Mary: Yes, the Methodist Church.

Megan: That’s what my family is too.

Megan: Did they bring church to you every week?

Mary: We go to church here.

Megan: Oh, you use the chapel?

Mary: Yes, we have service every Friday afternoon and Sunday morning.

Megan: Are you apart of any organizations?

Mary: Yes, I belong to the American Legion, The Elks…

Megan: Are you apart of the Red Hat Society?

Mary: Yes, the Red Hat Society, along with the Eastern Star…when I was, we had a lady women’s club, that I belonged to for 52 years. It was a Women’s Business Professionals Club, which is no longer here.

Megan: So, do you have any special hobbies that you like to do? Do you like to read or play bingo?

Mary: I cut out things and those little bells they got on the door, I cut out a hundred of them.

Megan: Oh, really? Those are nice.

Mary: Yea, and I cut out all the Santa’s on the bulletin board, where we have our daily/ weekly activities, did all of those. Whatever they want cut, I do.

Megan: Do you have any collections?

Mary: Ha ha, look around.

Megan: You have a lot of Christmas stuff and a bunch of pictures, and stuffed animals. Mary: Yea, I got a letter opener. See it?

Megan: Oh, yea.

Mary: When I had my sale, I had a fancy brown dish, which I had forgotten I had. Was down in the cupboard. And I brought that dish out, put it up for sale, and it sold for $85. Megan: Oh, really?

Mary: Yea, it was an antique.

Mary: This was my original wedding ring, which is 75 years old.

Megan: Wow!

Mary: I have all the good rings, diamond rings over in my lock box.

Megan: Oh.

Mary: I have three other diamond rings and I have diamond earrings and necklace to match.

Megan: Did your husband buy those for you?

Mary: Yes.

Mary: He paid $12 dollars for that when we were married.

Megan: $12 …So, was that a lot of money back then?

Mary: In 1930 that was a lot of money, then that was a rough year.

Megan: Was that the year of the Depression?

Mary: Yes, that year of 1930 was the Depression year. He was making $50 a month when we got married. Then I worked part-time, he worked overtime. Wauseon, the Sterling Creamery place, and sometimes he’d ask me if I’d go in and work.

Megan: Oh, that’s nice.

Mary: At the beginning of the month we had almost 50 cents, we paid about $15 a month rent, bread was 24 cents a loaf then, and with $2 or $3 you couldn’t carry many groceries. I did a lot of house cleaning when I was going to school. Worked on Saturdays, worked for people and cleaned their house.

Megan: Was that considered a lot? Or hardly any?

Mary: That wasn’t much. I’d work 8 hours in the evening or I worked part-time in the summer. I did a lot of work when I was going to school.

Mary: I’d go up there and help in the summer. She’d get the meal and I did the dishes and cleaned up , things like that.

Megan: What do you remember about your family and your parents and your life back when you were growing up?

Mary: My parents were good parents.

Megan: Oh, really?

Mary: Yea, my mother was, she was a good mother. There was 8 children.

Megan: 8? Wow!

Mary: The oldest and the youngest were boys. I was a twin.

Megan: Oh, you were a twin?

Mary: I had a twin that passed away about 3 years ago.

Megan: Was she identical?

Mary: No, I look like my fathers side of the house and my sister looked like my mother’s side of the house. There was four sets of twins.

Megan: Oh, really?

Mary: In our generation.

Megan: Wow!

Mary: My father had twin sisters and my mother, we were born 1912, my head older brother was born in 1908, and an older sister that was born in 1910. And my sister and I were born in 1912 and I have a sister, Christine. She passed away now, but she had a daughter that lives in Washington, D.C., and she had twins.

Megan: Oh, really?

Mary: She’s just graduating from college. And then my nephew Rick Murray had twin girls, Amy and April. They both work here.

Megan: Oh, do they?

Mary: Uh huh, they’re 23 years old.

Megan: So, it’s nice that you get to see them everyday.

Mary: Yes, well my sister had twins.

Megan: Oh, your twin sister had twins?

Mary: Yea.

Megan: Oh, wow!

Mary: A boy and a girl. One boy out of four generations

Megan: So, what was school like? Grade school and high school?

Mary: Well, I went to school in Liberty Center for 3 years. Then we came to Napoleon in 1925. I was in 7th grade, then graduated in 8th grade, then. That was the first time I had little high heeled shoes. And school…I liked school. I wasn’t what you call a smart person, but I was an average. I got average grades. My twin sister, it was a little harder for her to learn so she didn’t pass when she was in 7th grade. And my mother never held me back.

Megan: Oh, so you were a grade ahead of her?

Mary: Yea, that’s why a lot of people didn’t know were twins.

Megan: Oh.

Mary: But she didn’t hold me back. We used to walk to school in Liberty Center. We walked to school about 1/4 of a mile, we had to carry our books, we had a little pint milk type bottles of milk, to about 4 or 5 widows and we carried that. He always kept us

doing something. I can remember my mother always said, “If you’re asked to do something and you can do it good, do it. If not, don’t do it. That was a line we went by. Megan: Did you mom say a lot of stuff like that? Did she give you a lot of inspiration? Mary: Yea. We worked when we were home and we took care of our rooms and stuff like that. We always live on a farm.

Megan: Oh, What did you have on your farm? What kind of animals?

Mary: We had cows

Meg: Oh, a dairy farm

Mary: Mmm. We used to grow cabbage. My mother cut tons of cabbage one year. We lived in Liberty, they had a food mart and had a sauerkraut factory. We took; she took us kids a couple of us in a wagon, to the field. We’d go out there and play around. Till she got tired then she’d come back home and we’d come back to the house and she’d take us. When I first got married we lived at home for a while, the we went and moved to an apartment. And my husband’s folks, he was an engineer on old DT&I railroad. And then they were transferred to E-Port, Michigan and Chuck didn’t want to go because he had a job here. So that’s when we got married. I was 18, I was 18 in April, graduated in May. I was married in August, all the same year. I used to play basketball, I liked sports.

Megan: Is basketball the only sport that you did?

Mary: Yea, I played in Liberty and up here in Napoleon.

Megan: Were you pretty good?

Mary: Oh, not too bad.

Megan: Ok, well, I have to get going.

Mary: Oh.

Megan: Thank you for your time.

Mary: You’re welcome.

Megan: Have a nice day.