Category Archives: OralHistory

Bruns, Herold and Freida

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, March 2003

C. You have a museum in your barn? How did you happen to get that started?

F. We were surprised at the stupid answers the children were getting from their questions because some of the parents were giving them some answers that were not true. We came home from a trip in which we visited a number of small private museums and thought, “Why not do the same with the old things stored on our place?” We had our chicken coop that was empty. So we said, “Why don’t we put all of this stuff in the chicken coop and fix it up?” So we cleaned it out and we painted the walls in an afternoon. We enjoyed it. This was a three-generation homestead and there was a lot of stuff we could put in there so that’s what we did.

C. Do you have any groups come in now?

F. No, not any more because it was new then and-a well, to tell you the truth about it we don’t do any more extra presentations because we’re getting too old. It’s hard to do it. When we saw busloads of kids coming up the lane we thought, “What on earth?” (laughs) The busloads of kids were 4th and 5th grade students on a one day break just before school closed in the spring. But it worked out very well because they were not allowed to go into the main barn because we knew where the holes in the floor are but they didn’t. But it worked out very well except for a couple kids that, well, how shall I say it?

H. A couple kids in every bunch.

C. Oh yeah, there’s always a few that will try you out.

F. And I think the good thing that I did was at that time there was a couple of women that I asked to come and help me. We arranged the museum like a home at that time. This was the bedroom and this was the kitchen and what impressed me was the glass Easter egg that we had in the museum and they wanted to know what that was. I told them it was pretty, you could keep it. One little girl asked, “Can I break it?” I said, “Oh no, you don’t break that one.” She said, “My Mother always breaks the eggs.” (laughs)

C. What do you people remember about the Depression, anything?

F. Yeah. We didn’t have a good pair of shoes to wear.

C. Yeah, that would leave an impression on you.

F. That was something because my mother bought a pair of shoes and had two girls. Both of them wanted shoes. I think that’s the thing that I remember the most because we didn’t have enough money to buy two pairs of shoes. (stops to cough)

C. Herold, while she’s getting her breath will you tell me something?
H. The thing that comes to mind right now is that it was during the Depression that I went to college. Because the time from when I graduated from high school until I graduated from college was eight years. Everybody thinks you gotta do it in four years. That’s fine if you can do it in four years. I’d go until the money ran out, then I’d go home until we got enough to go back. We’d acquire a little money for the next quarter and I’d go back there again.

C. You had a job?

H. Well no, here. I worked on the farm here. And-a finally after eight years I made it and maybe on the other hand I was rather fortunate because just as, the day that I graduated a job opened up for me. And that was in 1937. Things were pretty tough then yet, so that worked out real good for me.

C. People have different ways of coping, don’t they?

H. Yeah, seems like it.

C. I know there was a family that lived near us; they couldn’t afford to send all four of their children to college so they paid for the oldest to go and when he finished he got a job and paid expenses for the second one’s education, and so on. They worked it back and forth that way until they all got a college education, helping each other.

H. You know today you hear of all kinds of scholarships that are available. They just seem to throw money at you to go to college, but back then there were a few but not very many. I didn’t even apply for any because I didn’t think I could make it anyway. But as I said, I made it so things worked out for me.

F. Then when you have people like our nephews who say, “What took you so long to go through school?” Well, we kept telling them there wasn’t any money then to go to school.

C. I remember my mother making all our clothes. She sewed and sewed on this one coat for me and her back must have hurt her. She sat hunched over at the machine and every once in a while she’d arch her back to rest it. I felt so bad. She finally got it made. It was a lovely coat but I didn’t like it. I wore it though.

H. During the Depression years–now this really doesn’t have much to do with the Depression–but that was about the time that the times were changing from real horse power to mechanical power. It was beginning to come around here about that time and we were able to get along with one team and tractor, where now people seem to think they have to have two or three tractors. (laughs)

C. Farming’s a lot different.

H. Yeah, that’s right, and as I think back on it now I sometimes wonder how people got along using horses as their means of power but-a apparently they made it.

C. Yeah, well they didn’t have as much land to take care of then as they do now. How big was your farm?

H. Oh, 160 acres.

C. And that was enough back then.

H. That was a big sized farm at that time. Today, why people wouldn’t hardly think of starting with somethin’ like that. But we had several teams of horses. There were three of us, with my brother and I so we kept things goin’.

C. So when did you and Frieda meet each other?

F. At church.

C.. Church.

F. Luther League.

H. Well, I suppose you might say that but I think we knew each other before that already. We went to a lot of meetings together and that was how we got to know each other a little better.

C. When did you get married?

F. 1944. The war was on.

C. You were probably farming.

H. No, I was in the service.

C. Oh, you were?

F. His brother was in the Service, and his mother died, all within one year.
That was a hard time.

C. You didn’t get home for the funeral, I suppose?

H. Oh, I was drafted shortly after she died. It was not long after that though.

C. What did you do in the Service, then?

H. Well, I was in antiaircraft, shootin’ down planes, but really to tell you the truth, most of the time I was in I was training. I never got over to where they was doing any real shooting because about the time one unit was trained to go somewhere I got transferred out of it to go somewhere else and do that stuff all over again. I finally wound up in Panama and would you believe it we did the same thing down there again!

C. Y’ought to know how to do that stuff pretty well by that time. (laughs)

H. Well, you went from one different type of unit to another and had to do that same training all over again. It got kind of monotonous but I guess I’m thankful that I didn’t get shot at. I was talking to some of the fellows that I trained with–we had a reunion–and they were telling of some of their experiences they went through while they were over there in Europe and their experience was really good. They brought down a lot of planes. Everybody used to laugh at anti-aircraft but they got really good at it and they brought down a lot of planes.

C. Frieda, what were you doing when he was doing all this?

F. I was working in Napoleon. I ended up in the Recorder’s Office.

C. In the Court House?

F. Um hm. That was interesting because the Recorder had a son that was very active and he was not He and I would compare notes. I can understand

C. Well, sometimes things turn out like that. We just have to accept them, I guess. So when did you two get married, when he got out of the Service?

H. I was home on leave.

F. 1944.

C. But you didn’t get out of the service right away then?

H. No. I got out in March 1946.

C. So did you go down to meet him then?

F. I stayed home. He got home once in a while.

H. Once in a while.

C. They didn’t let you do it very often, did they.

F. It was funny. We had planned to get married and it took us a year to get it accomplished because we wanted his sister and brother-in-law here to stand up for us, but they lived in Milwaukee and it was just kind of a setback of a time getting together (laughs).

H. Another interesting deal was you couldn’t just go anyplace and have a dinner because of ration stamps.

C. Oh, that’s right.

H. Frieda approached Mrs. Wincroft in Napoleon and she said, “Yeah, I’ll do the dinner but I don’t have enough stamps to get any meat ready, to buy the supplies.” So Frieda had to really scrounge around here and there to get enough ration stamps for it.

F. Between his Dad and my parents we got enough stamps together so we could have meat for the wedding dinner.

C. No, there weren’t restaurants all around then the way there are now.

H. Oh, I should say not.

C. And people got married in their houses, their parlors. They didn’t have all these big weddings they have now, and they worked just as well too.

H. Yeah, it seemed like it. (laughs)

F. They didn’t have big weddings then either.

C. No, they didn’t. Didn’t have a lot of people. I know my sister-in-law Mary and her husband were married at Christmas time and it was done in Mary’s home.

F. When were you and Doc married then?

C. Ah, 1941. He was in Cheyenne, Wyoming in the service and I called him one day and he was so down because it’s hard. We had decided earlier to get married but we didn’t know when so I so I said, “Well, I could come out to Wyoming and we could get married.” Then there was the longest silence you ever heard on that phone line, and I thought, “Oh no, now what have I done? I probably scared this fellow off. He’ll just want to get rid of me.” And finally he said, “All right.” You know he talked so slowly, so they had a shower for me and we got a wedding dress. It was not white, just a street length with a hat to match. My Dad said, “Here’s $50. I’m glad you’re gettin’ married like this because it’s cheaper than a wedding.” (laughs) I got on this bus and right away I fell asleep. I wanted to see the Missippi River but I was so sleepy. So I asked the woman sitting next to me, “I want to see the Missippi River but I can’t keep my eyes open. Will you wake me up when we cross it?” So all of a sudden she poked me. I gawked at a bit and was just ready to go back to sleep when I thought, “What if he changes his mind and doesn’t meet me at the station?” Well, I never slept a wink after that! (laughs)

F. Y’know, Doc was some relation to my mother but how I don’t know but his mother.

C. Let’s see, what was your maiden name?

F. She was a Leininger.

C. Leininger, yes, that was her maiden name.

F. He often spoke of his parents. Well his parents and my parents were about the same age. So they had lot to share. And Mom would often talk about that.

C. And he was named for the two doctors in Archbold (Edwin and Clarence Murbach). His mother had worked for them.

F. I don’t doubt that a bit, and I don’t know how they were related. I don’t know much about that but Mom talked about that and she talked about the family, about going to visit them, she and Dad, you know. I don’t remember a lot. I know they went together as friends.

C. I’ll bet Buzzie would know. (Ed Winzeler’s sister, Mrs. Robert E. Meyer) I’ll have to ask her. Let’s go back to the Depression when you were little and felt bad about those shoes.

F. Well we just had to wait until she had enough egg money saved up. Chickens were her responsibility and she’d wait until she had enough laid back so she could buy some shoes, you know. We drove horse and buggy to school.

C. Oh you did!

F. Yeah. There were four of us. One of the girls rode with my brother Grover. She would walk about a mile till she got to our house and the next two miles she didn’t have to walk then. She was a nice girl.

C. You lived two miles from the school then?

F. Three miles. No, two miles but she lived three miles from the school.

C. What did you do then, tie up the horse while you were in school?

F. Well, there was a barn right close to where we left the horse and–his name was Brandt. And he could come out every morning and put the horse in the barn. Then when it was time to go home he’d get the horse out and hook it up to the buggy and we’d go home. (laughs)

C. Isn’t that nice? He’d have it all ready for you.

F. He was good to us kids.

C. Was that a one-room school house?

F. No. Ridgeville had a–three grades in one room and three grades in another room. And when I was there we had a high school. That (the high school) was all in one room.

C. So it was like a one-room school in that —

F. There were too many children to put them all in one room. They had to have two rooms.

C. How did they manage to keep order? How many children in one room?

F. Well, they didn’t have as many classes as they do now. They had three classes.

C. Reading, writing, arithmetic and history.

F. That’s right. That’s about what it was, reading, writing, arithmetic. If you were a Freshman you had just three things. But if you had Home Ec there was just one class of Home Ec and that’s the way it was run. You didn’t have as many classes as you have now.

H. In High School you just had three teachers.

C. Is that right?

H. And the Principal was one of them. Yeah. He taught a class.

C. How many students did they have in the high school?

H. Oh I think in our class there was probably 20 kids, to start with. Some dropped out. Apparently they didn’t watch them as closely as they do now. But when I graduated there was just ten in our class.

C. That’s a pretty small class.

H. Oh yeah.

F. There were only seven of us, one boy and six girls.

H. Well, another thing, back then going to High School wasn’t a big thing.

C. No, especially girls, they usually weren’t encouraged to finish high school. What year did you graduate?

F. 1926

C. That was before the Depression hit?

F. Oh yeah.

C. I guess that didn’t hit until 1930.

H. Well, what they considered the Depression was in the fall of 1929. But as far as the farming and farming areas, they were in it years before, from the early 1920’s.

C. Is that right?

H. It was tough, even in the 1920’s. But it was in 1929 that the rest of the country caught up with them. Well, I guess what really brought us out of it then was the second World War.

C. I thought World War II had that effect. People give Franklin Delano Roosevelt credit but when so many of the young men had to go overseas they had to be replaced so they had to find new people for the jobs. And then there was all this equipment that had to be sent over to them and

H. Well, then too at one time during the Depression the unemployment rate was up around 25%

C. Is that right? I didn’t know it was that high.

H. No, now the newspapers put it in big headlines when it gets up to 5 or 6%. It was tough. And there weren’t all those government programs then that are available today. But on the other hand people worked together. If your neighbor was down on certain things you’d help him out a little or somebody else would help.

C. That’s what John Henry said that he’s noticed is the biggest thing, that people helped each other more then. It makes good people because you form the habit of watching out for other people rather than just your own troubles.

H. Well, and then during those years you didn’t have computers and television–all those things so you depended on your neighbors for your–what–entertainment and social events and so on. Our local school, right on that corner from here, lots of times people would gather for a social event. We had a lot of good times.

C. Did you play a lot of games during the Depression?

H. Me personally, or

C. With friends or other?

H. No, the games were mostly basketball and baseball.

C. Oh. You’re talking about sports. I meant table games, sitting around the dining room table.

H. Oh yeah. The neighbors would come over here or we’d go there and play cards maybe for a couple hours, then we’d go home together. And I still remember Dad carrying a kerosene lantern so we could see our way. We didn’t get in the car and drive. We walked a mile or more and if it was after dark we’d play awhile and then walk home again.

F. Well, we played with friends and neighbors. We carried a lantern so we could see to come home. It worked out all right. And when my brother played in a basketball game we’d take the horse and buggy and tie the horse up to a hitching post. It worked out.

C. Do they still have those hitching posts around, I wonder?

H. I haven’t seen any for a long time.

C. And another thing they used to have were these containers for water so the horse could stop and get a drink.

F. I think the last one was at the Telephone CoOp when they had to move that telephone tower.

H. Y’know, in Ridgeville there was one in the center of town.

C. Oh there was?

H. If you came in on Rt. 6 and turned onto the Ridge Road, there was one right at that intersection. There used to be a telephone tower until the Highway Dept. wanted to improve U.S. 6 and then they had to take all that stuff out of there.

C. It’s probably just as well, might have caused some accidents.

H. Well, and with no horses providing transportation I suppose they didn’t need that any more. Although one of our neighbors said that he grew up in town it was part of his job in the summer to take the cattle out in the country to graze. So one of the stops was that ‘water hole’ as he called it in the middle of town.

C. Do you remember what it looked like?

H. I vaguely remember seeing it, as I remember it was a concrete structure, oh maybe about the size of this table, a little smaller maybe, and well, with a pump close by they kept it filled.

C. I wondered how they filled it.

H. Do you remember, Frieda, was there a windmill or did somebody have to pump it by hand?

F. They had to do it by hand. You pumped the water into that big trough.

C. What about in the winter? It’d freeze over, wouldn’t it?

F. Now that I don’t remember. But I know they pumped the water in to that big trough.
It was interesting. (laughs)

H. Well, as our telephone system was there were maybe as many as 10 people on one line and as often happens everybody would listen in on the line. (laughs) And there was a certain ringing code of, say, one long and two short rings and if it was your ring you were expected to answer it but everyone else would pick up that phone and listen in. Each line group was expected to build their own line group and keep it up. Well, if you had some good conscientious people on the line why you had a nice line but, as expected, some lines were kept well and some were–well, if nobody cared too much sometimes your line was down on the ground.

C. Oh really?

H. Yeah, and sometimes the line would break off and maybe during a storm they’d blow over and be laying down on the ground and nobody wanted to be responsible for pickin’ em up off the ground. (laughs) It was crazy enough, sometimes those lines still kept working.

C. Were they afraid to pick ’em up maybe?

H. No. They just didn’t bother to do it. And for long distance you’d tell the operator where you wanted to call to and they would do the connecting. For instance, if you wanted to call from here to Defiance you’d tell the operator in Ridgeville, she would tell the operator in Napoleon. Napoleon operator would call Defiance and follow those to make connections and then we could talk to Defiance.

C. So it would take awhile to connect.

F. And if there was a big snowstorm all the neighbors and everybody got out with their scoop shovels and shoveled it off the roads so they could get through.

C. Oh, so all the neighbors worked together on the roads. John Henry said the men of the neighborhood graveled the roads too. They would haul it in a wagon and shovel it off on the road.

H. Yeah. That was one way of paying their taxes.

C. Oh really.

H. Yeah. They could pay their taxes or if they didn’t want or weren’t able to they could work it off by gravelling the roads and the wagon box that they used, well, it’s hard to describe it. The bottom was made up of 2×4’s and you would just pick up a piece of it and the stones would fall out; the next place in the road you’d pick up another piece and more gravel would fall out and first thing you know you had your wagon empty. That’s the way you got it on the road. Yeah, that was the way some people paid their taxes. On the other hand that’s how some people got their road improved too. Then again generally all people felt, “This is something that’s got to be done so let’s get together and do it.”

C. Did they have meetings then, to plan it or planning by County Engineers then?

H. Oh, they might have a hand in it in their meeting but generally it was just announced that this day we were gonna start gravelling this road, anybody that can help, they would be glad to have them come and help. Those that had wagons, they would use them and others would have to level it off, smooth off the road.

C. They’d use rakes or something.

H. Yeah, shovels or rakes or whatever. They got it done. I remember one time Frieda asked one of the County Commissioners, (This was some time ago.) “How come you’re fixin’ the roads on the south end of the county and we don’t get so much fixed here in the north end?” He said, “If you wouldn’t have such gravel roads up there we could fix up a few of those roads too.” (laughs)

C. Oh, well what did they have if they didn’t have gravel roads? Did they have black top?

H. Well, no,

F. We had more mud than anything else.

H. We had mud roads in the spring. Sometimes we’d sink down that far.

C. A foot?

H. Oh yeah. A foot or more. Sometimes the Ridge Road in the spring when the frost got out of there you were never sure whether you could, if you had an automobile, whether you could get through or not.

C. No, because if you’d sink down far enough you’d be stuck for sure.

H. Oh yeah, and the same was somewhat true with the horse and wagon although generally the horses were able to get through but it was tough sometimes. Another little stinkin’ deal (laughs) some people pulled, they would go out at night and pour a little water on the hole. Then cars would come along and they’d get stuck, then the farmer would have to hitch up his horses and pull them out. Then he charged them for pulling them out. (laughs) There wasn’t very much of that. I don’t want to give the idea that everybody did that but here and there you’d hear of someone doing it.

C. I heard of that happening years ago in the days of the Black Swamp because travel was so hard way back then people just couldn’t go very far and so someone who might have a little tavern and would want them to stop for a beer they’d get a little extra water; they’d get stuck, then “Well come on in!”

H. I remember, it when every farmstead about had cows, horses, pigs, chickens and so forth. About once a week or so somebody in our family would take a horse and buggy and haul five gallons of cream into the creamery in Napoleon. And while they were there they’d do some grocery shopping. That went on for quite a while, I don’t know just how long anymore but-a

C. What would they use that cream for? Making butter?

H. Butter, yeah, and buttermilk.. But that was already in the 1920’s before they had what we think of as the Depression. But that was one of the ways that the farm people had income. And another thing that–well–I think that during the Depression that they had income from was the wheat. It was a cash crop. And as long as they had horses they’d need some of their ground to raise hay. Their corn went to–well the horses would have some corn but they would raise oats, a lot of oats for the horses. But the corn went into the hogs, and the hogs were both a meat supply and also a cash crop you might say, and so they used it up within their own place.

C. You’re talking about a cash crop, that they had extra hogs to sell, how did they get them to market?

H. Well, around here most of them went through a buyer in Ridgeville, let’s see what was his name? Roth. He would collect hogs from people. Maybe he’d have only 3, 4 or 5 hogs to sell
That wouldn’t be enough to interest anybody, but he would gather them all together and sell to a slaughter house someplace or next step on the way to a slaughter house somewhere and

C. Someone would haul with a truck, would he?

H. Yeah, trucks were beginning to be used but at the time I’m talking about it was either haul them in a trailer or a wagon.

C. The horse pulled either one?

H. Yeah. But there again that was during the 1920’s, I’m talking about the Farm Depression ’cause the time, what we think of as the Depression got started the area had oh, gone more to automobiles then already, nothing any like what we have now but they were just beginning to get started and now and then somebody would have a truck and they would use that for hauling things but-a-eventually–and this began to happen during the Depression years–instead of every farm having all of these things they began to specialize, maybe having only 2 or 3 of the things and of course later on they began to have just one item but they got away from a little bit of everything and now you don’t see much livestock on the farms except for those specializing in dairy, hogs or chickens.
C. No, no you don’t. Y’know, I think so many of the young and middle-aged people today are scared to death of a Depression, and I don’t know. We all managed, and I don’t remember anyone saying that they were miserable. It was hard but–

H. That’s one thing I remember. In fact we really didn’t know that we were bad off. Everybody was in the same boat, everybody helped everyone else, and we got along. (laughs)

C. And you did socialize, probably did more talking than they do now, staring at the television. I think that’s kind of a shame in a way.

F. We stayed home more than they do now.

H. You just mentioned that people are afraid of a Depression. I imagine that they should be because my gosh, I wonder what some people really would do today. Look at what they have now. Back then you could depend on someone else helping you, but today could you depend on that?

C. I think we’d go back to that. Now people are so busy making a living, keeping a job and taking care of a family and everything that they just don’t have time or the energy but if there’d be a lot of people without jobs I’ll bet they’d start looking around and see Joe Smith over here or Joe Blow or whatever that needed help and they’d just go over there and help him. Bet they would. We’re all still Christians.

H. Yeah.

F. I don’t know. They’d have to go sometimes twice a day to go shopping and we, Herold and I, we either have to go to Archbold or to Napoleon. We’re about right in the middle. It’d make a difference. Some of these people aren’t used to that kind of shopping.

H. Well then too, so often that today so many people are so deep in debt. I remember when I was young that was the last thing that anyone wanted to do was to owe anybody anything.

C. Yeah. You wouldn’t think of buying on time unless you had to.

H. That’s right. The only thing you bought on time was the farm.

C. Which you had to. Well what about the car? You probably had to get it on time.

H. There again, yes, some people did but others just said, “We’ve got a horse and buggy so we’ll just wait until we have enough money to buy it.” To them an automobile wasn’t that much of a necessity. But again, during the Depression that began to change during those years until the money accumulated. It was tough but–well I suppose a lot of people tried to buy it on time.

C. Frieda, did you start to say something just now?

F. No. Don’t think so, but if I did, I forgot.

C. Oh. Did they used to drive their horse and buggy past an automobile that was stuck and say, “Get a horse.”

H. Yeah. (laughs) And then too there were some horses that were shy. If they saw an automobile coming down the road the people would get out of the buggy and hold the horse until the automobile was past.

F. They had to train their horses. They weren’t used to a car.

C. Frieda, do you have any memories of your childhood?

F. No I don’t think I have.

C. You don’t want to tell about making mud pies? We used to make mud pies.

F. You’d be lucky if you’d find a top that you could put the pies in. And you couldn’t eat them.

C. Oh no. If you had someone else you could have a little tea party. You’d say, “Here’s a piece of pie.” (laughs)

H. Well I remember–I suppose I was in my early teens there was a harvest of small grain, threshing grain but at that time there was one person who owned the equipment and he would start early as soon as the first crop was ready he would start threshing and he might even be going well into November. Some people would haul their grain into the barn and he would–because he couldn’t get it all done outdoors. He would be running that outfit several months each year.

C. What, threshing machine?

H. Yeah. (laughs) I remember when I was a kid I thought, “Boy, now that’s something. That’s what I want to be when I grow up. I want to run one of those machines.” (laughs)

C. Was that one of those really loud ones like they had at the Fulton County Fair?

H. Steam engines, yeah.

C. They were really loud, and big things.

H. But then, in the 20’s, early 30’s that all began to break up into smaller groups. Maybe 10 or 12 people would get together and buy their own rigs and do their own harvest. Once in a while, and Dad was one of them, a farmer would say, “To heck with you guys. I’ll buy my own outfit.” (laughs) So we had our own outfit, and I was the one running the equipment. I got to do what I wanted. (laughs)

C. They say, that’s why men have always liked tractors and big engines like that, ’cause they’re attracted to the strength of the machine.

H. Oh yeah. Well that was quite an event when you would see that steam engine coming down the lane.

C. What was it like?

H. Oh, to me it was a big picnic ’cause I was a kid at that time and all the neighbors came over with their horse and wagons and helped haul the grain and if we had hauled it in the barn during the summer why they’d be out there pitching the bundles into the machine and somebody would be taking care of the grain but to me just to watch that stuff work, I’d hang around the steam engine a lot and just watch that stuff work. Yeah, it was a big deal and then

C. It was fun to watch them. That’s why they had these inclines going up to the barn I guess. How did that work? The horses went up that incline and that pulled something that pulled the hay over and tripped it and it fell into the haymow. How did that work?

H. Well, if you’re hauling hay, clear up in the peak of the barn there was a track up there and there was a piece of equipment that ran on that track and a rope that ran from there down on to some slings and that’s what the horses pulled on, when the horses pulled on that rope why it took this sling and pulled it clear up there and when it was up there why the horses stopped but it locked in place. It wouldn’t come down. It locked in place, and they would hook to another rope that would pull it one way or another on that track.

C. What would make it go on this other rope?

H. The horses. They would unhook the horses from the first rope put them on the next rope. They would pull the hay over to the next mow and when it was to the point where they wanted to put it why they would call out to stop the horses and it would trip the sling and it would drop.

C. How’d they do that?

H. Well there was a little hook under these slings and there was a little trip rope there. You would grab the rope, give it a pull and that would release the hook causing the sling to part in the middle. The hay would then drop where you wanted it on the mow. But it was a job mowing that hay, oh gosh! On a hot day, you know, and up in that hay it would be a hot job up there.

C. No, ‘mowing’ that means stacking it up in the barn?

H. Oh yeah. You would drop it. It would still be in a bunch. You would tear that bunch apart and spread it around evenly.

C. Oh, so you would be working up in the hay mow? Dusty too, I’ll bet.

H. Oh yeah. They–it got pretty dusty.

F. Do you remember any of this stuff? Did you help with it?

F. Well, I was supposed to stay in the house and help my mother. (laughs)

C. Mother had to get ready to have threshers for dinner.

F. We usually had two tables, 12 at each table.

C. Twelve at a table, now that’s a lot of people.

F. Yeah. This table was Mother’s.

C. Oh, so this might have been one of those tables that seated them.

H. And you know, everybody seemed to know where the good cooks were! (laughs)

F. And if there was one piece of pie left somebody was sittin’ there eyeing that piece. (laughs) He ate it before it got out of there.

C. What about you girls, did you get to eat too?

F. We were the last ones to eat.

H. No, the kids didn’t eat first like they do now. They had to eat last.

F. And they had a big tub out in the yard where they had to wash up before they came in because you know all that dust and stuff.

H. My mother had a special recipe for pumpkin pie and everybody in the neighborhood wanted that pie. And she never told anybody how she made it. (laughs)

F. She had a special recipe for her sugar cookies too.

H. Yeah.

F. She had the best sugar cookies in the neighborhood.

C. That’s an art, I think. I tried and tried but I never could make them right. So what did you serve when they came to your house?

F. Oh, Mother always got a beef roast when they came to our house, so we had roast beef.

C. Would she make it like a pot roast then?

F. Yeah. And potatoes, very seldom mashed potatoes but she could make gravy, but she could make pie.

H. Home-made bread. Y’know what? When I was growing up I ate so much home-made bread I was happy to get a loaf of boughten bread. Now you get so much boughten bread you’re happy to get home-made. (laughs)

F. A lot of work that was. The neighbors usually came over. The neighbor would come over and help, then Mother would have to go over and help the neighbor when she had it.

H. Oh yeah. Maybe as many as 5 or 6 of the ladies in the neighborhood would get together and help with the dinner.

C. I’ll bet you had a lot of fun too as well as work?

F. Oh, I suppose so.

H. Then the food that was on the table was mostly home grown you might say. They did a lot of canning and if there was any left, sometimes they’d serve that. Potatoes–you could usually expect some kind of potatoes on the table and beef of some kind and maybe canned corn and beans, something like that, but they were home grown.

C. My mother-in-law used to dry green beans. They had a tin roof over the porch. She’d put them out there, and turn them every so often till they were dry.

F. They dried beans and corn.

C. Oh, they did that with corn too?

F. Oh yeah.

C. Speaking of tubs, uh–back in the days before there was running water in the house, did they use these tubs to take baths in?

F. I did!

H. They used the washtub to take a bath in.

F. Oh yeah. I remember my brother didn’t want to be the last one because all the rest of the family had used the tub.

C. Yeah, they could only heat so much water. They didn’t have an unending supply.
Probably before the windmills came they had less than that.

F. I can remember when they put a big tank right in the kitchen and a pump filled that tank and they’d draw on that. But at one end of the cook stove they had a reservoir that kept a certain amount of water warm.

C. What did you use for fuel in the stove?

F. They had a wood stove. It had a reservoir in it.

H. Well, at that time that was a winter’s job. People would go out in the woods and cut trees that needed thinning out; they’d die or something like that. They would have quite a pile of logs, well, not logs really but limbs, then–well I guess it would be logs too. And then in the spring several of the neighbors would get together and cut that into pieces that would fit into the wood stove with a buzz saw. That was part of the regular routine, here on the farm, to harvest the wood.

(end of tape)

Brubaker, Larry "Moe"

Interviewed by Russ (RP) and Marlene Patterson (MP), May 7, 2010, Napoleon, Ohio

Transcribed by Marlene Patterson

MP: Today is Friday, May the 7th , 2010 and we are interviewing Moe Brubaker. You had just told me before this interview that you are the Senior Editor of the Northwest Signal. That is a big title.

MB: It is a title with very few duties.

MP: Did I hear you correctly, you said very few duties.

MB: I just kind of oversee everything.

MP: Do they pay you for this?

MB: Yes ma’am. I semiretired three years ago. See, when I was younger I was going to move to Michigan. They offered me a sizeable sum of money for retirement.

MP: You mean if you would join their newspaper?

MB: No, the Northwest wanted to keep me and not go to Michigan.

MP: Oh I see the newspaper here wanted to keep you.

MB: And not go to Michigan.

MP: Is this why you fly the blue Michigan flag?

MB: Well I have always been a Michigan fan. I have a son, Tyler who is a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Michigan.

MP: Great!

MB: Yes.

MP: You mean your Tyler?

MB: Yes he is my third son.

MP: Who is your number one son?

MB: He is Tad Anthony. He is the Executive Vice President of John Morrell.

MP: Do you mean the meat people?

MB: Yes. He is the big boss in Chicago.

MP: You’re not kidding me!

MB: No I am not. He is the Executive Vice President and he is in charge of eleven plants in the country. He is presently in Springfield, Massachusets.

MP: That is real neat -very good-very good. You should be proud. Don’t you have a daughter too?

MB: I have a daughter Tandy. She lives here in Napoleon. She married Randy Schwaiger who owns the Bowling Alley here in Napoleon. Then I have Taggart, he is the youngest. He will be getting married here in another month. He will be my last one then.

MP: Your baby is getting married.

MB: Now let’s see, there is Tad, Tandy, Tyler, and Taggart.

MP: Very good, now you have grandchildren too.

MB: Yes I have two. I have one grandson who lives in Plainfield. He is Derek. He will be graduating this year.

MP: Is that Ohio?

MB: No, it is Plainfield in Chicago. It is southwest. It is where all these people that work in Chicago live. It’s away from the hustle and bustle. I have two other little grandaughters that are from China. Haley and Hannah.

MP: Now who is their mother?

MB: Their mother and father were from China. They went over to China and adopted them.

MP: Now who of your children adopted them?

MB: It was Tad. Tad has the two daughters from China. Tad and Wendy adopted these two girls.

MP: Very good and I bet they are two little sweethearts.

MB: They are about the same size and same age as Spencer and yes they are very sweet.

MP: Now where are you living at the present time?

MB: I live in a condo on Chelsea Avenue.

MP: And your wife was Judy. I remember Judy well. She was a sweetheart too.

MB: Yes she was. Her maiden name was Judy Conners. She was the real hero in our family.

MP: I remember when you were coming in the store you were always dressed so nicely.

MB: I did!

MP: Very very flashy. Very stylish.

MB: Yes I did do that.

MP: I remember the Mickey Mouse necktie. All your clothes were stylish and color coordinated.

MB: I changed about twelve to fifteen years ago. Mom would say, I always called Judy Mom. Judy would say why don’t you buy some khaki pants like Fred Church the basketball coach wears. I didn’t want to do that and I finally did.

MP: He was stylish too, not flashy but stylish. Now, Moe I have always known you as Moe Man. How did the name Moe come about?

MB: I got that in the third grade.

MP: And it stuck with you

MB: forever. There are only three people in town between John L. Johnson, my principal, Dr. Judy Harrison, and Myron Walker from the mortuary. These are the only three people in town that called me Larry. Very few people know my name now as Larry.

MP: I happened to know your real name as Larry.

MB: I know that.

MP: I probably knew because I probably asked you years ago. You still haven’t told me how you came about the name Moe.

MB: It was in the third grade. We were playing Andy I Over. where they called out your name. I was always the last one over there, so they would call me Slow Moe. The name caught on. Then when I went to high school. in Junior High I was very fast. I was a good football player and a good basketball player and I broke my leg and my shoulder twice. This was in Junior High and as a Freshman. Dr. Judy told me I couldn’t play sports anymore as it would be detrimental to my shoulder, so I became a cheerleader. I was also President of my Senior Class.

MP: Was that uncommon to have been a male cheerleader at that time?

MB: There weren’t very many. Jack Crahan was a cheerleader. Then there was one after me. Jack Crahan was the first male cheerleader at Napoleon.

MP: That is interesting.

MB: I think I was the second cheerleader.

MP: I have always known you as Moe, but I would never have considered you as Slow Moe.

MB: Well you know how you are when you are young.

MP: Everybody slaps a name on people.

MB: The reason that is when I was six years old I broke my leg. I was in the hospital for a half a year. I went to the hospital up here where they set the leg and put a cast on it. I went home and two weeks later they checked on the Xray and it had slipped. They took me to St. V’s and put a pin in my leg. Of course I was slow for a while. So me and my brother went to school together. I went to the first grade for only three months.

MP: Which brother was that?

MB: That was Bill. We went all through school together in the same class.

MP: That would have been a good reason.

MB: I can tell you some stuff.

MP: Go ahead.

MB: Well, you know my father passed away in an airplane crash.

MP: I was going to ask you this. How old were you at the time.

MB: I was in the third grade. Mother had five children and one on the way. We weren’t destitute by any means but I decided when I was in the fifth grade to get a job. I got a job shining shoes for Bill Hatch.

MP: Who was Bill Hatch?

MB: He was a barber right beside the Town Tap. I shined shoes and I cleaned up the barber shop. During the week there were not very many people that got their shoes shined so I would go to the library and I would read about three to four books a week. The words that I didn’t understand and wasn’t quite sure of I would write down on a yellow legal pad. I would take that pad home and look the words up in the dictionary. That is what started me on building my vocabulary on writing. When I got into high school I was President of my Senior Class, Editor of the Wildcat’s Roar, and the annual and the last class of the day was English Lit. and Mr. Lenhart was our teacher. One day when I was a Junior he came into the classroom and he said is there anybody here that would like to write for the Northwest News on sports. My hand went up immedietly.

MP: He must have been able to see a potential in you.

MB: I worked at the Northwest News for two years when I was in High School. That was for Don Orwig. Next door of course was the Henry Signal and that was Nat Belknap. I did that and then kept on after I graduated from High School. Two years later Mr. Orwig passed away. Nat and John Orwig bought out the Northwest Signal and Northwest News and they printed the Henry County Signal. You have gotta understand that newspapers only came out once a week. Besides writing Sports which wasn’t a whole lot back then. So I had to cover City Hall. I had to sell ads. I had to go around and get the Police News and the Fire News, of course that was right across the street and was right next door to the Palmer House. I had to do all of that and I also took care of the paper boys. But see they only came out once a week. So eventually what they did was they put out one paper on Tuesday and one paper on Thursday. Okay this was only for a while. The Northwest News was published on Tuesday and the Henry County Signal was published on Thursday.

MP: What years are you talking about now?

MB: Oh I would say about 1963, right around in there. Then they got and it was still published on Tuesday and Thursday. and then on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they would put out a Tabloid. It was a tabloid type paper.

MP: Do you remember that one Russell?

RP: No, but we probably sold it.

MB: And then eventually they put the two papers together and published five days a week.

MP: What year would that have been.

MB: Let me think. That went on for about I would say three years. 1962 to 1965-1966 maybe around in there. They published a daily paper and about the same time Mrs. Thiel had a paper. It was up there above Wesche’s Furniture Store.

MP: I remember that. It was called the Daily News. We have a copy of that.

MB: Right. Then it got a little bit more complicated and you would have to write a little bit more. I remember the first camera we had was a Polaroid. In the winter time when you went out to take pictures the Polaroid would freeze up and you couldn’t get a picture. Then sports was not real bad. They just had football and basketball and cross country, track and baseball and a little golf. Then in 1976 it just doubled because that is the year that women’s sports came into play. It just opened up and I had to have an assistant.

MP: Your work load just exploded.

MB: Today we have probably, in high school here alone we probably have 350 athletes among the student body. There are just so many different sports to keep track of. We have now what we call Stringers. They go out and take pictures. Gene Grim is one of them.

MP: I saw that.

MB: There are a number of people that do that type of work for us. They will write stories for us. They are called Stringers. They are paid by the job they do.

MP: I have always enjoyed reading your columns.

MB: I enjoy that more than I ever did anything else. When I started out Nat (Belknap) was still writing the Downtown column. I was writing the Town Crier. I used to be a bit more ornery. I would get on people’s cases on different things that were going on. This was in my younger years. About eight or nine years ago I changed my philosophy altogether. I wanted to make people smile in the evening when they sat down to read the paper. I get a big kick out of it myself. I laugh at myself. So I enjoy writing that. I still go to work everyday.

MP: It shows that you enjoy writing your columns.

MB: I enjoy going to work.

MP: We always enjoyed going to work. Russell and I. I never considered it a job. To me it was just visiting with people.

MB: You are right. It was visiting people. That is what I enjoy about still going in to work. People come in on the weekend and will sit and talk to me. Now Nat would always come in every Saturday and talk to me. He was a mentor to me. Along with Russell Patterson, he was a mentor. Mry Fran Meekison, Ed Peper, and Harold Hoff

MP: You are right.

MB: From these people I absorbed a lot of knowledge. All five of those people.

MP: You were like a big sponge. You were soaking up all this knowledge.

MB: I would be mowing my lawn and here would come Harold driving up. He would stop and he wanted to talk to me for awhile. My wife would look out the window and think are you talking to Harold again!

MP: I liked Harold. What was it he smoked, what brand of cigars. I think it was King Alfred.

RP: No it was King Edward’s.

MB: Yes he did. He would always have a little stubble in his mouth when he stopped at my house.

RP: Every day he would buy the Chicago Tribune.

MP: And those cigars.

MB: But that is basically what it is. I retired from Sports about four years ago. I started out in 1955 and I am still there. I enjoy it now just as much as I used to.

MP: It shows!

MB: I am really blessed to have people like Russ, Mary Fran, Mr. Peper, and Harold Hoff who has passed away. They gave me a lot of knowledge. I tried to keep it here in my mind about what they have told me. I learned a lot of things from Russ. I still remember the picture he showed me of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison at the Roundhouse here in town. I know where there is a log cabin house here in Napoleon.

MP: Is there one here in town?

MB: There is one down here on Front Street. It is next to Walter’s Collision. They took me in there one day. I went inside and the planks are right across the threshold. That is the only one that I know of around here.

MP: Do you know of any others Russell?

RP: That is the only one that I know of. The Rowan sisters were still living in it in the 1970’s.

MB: The Rowan sisters took me inside and showed me the house.

RP: I was inside looking around too.

MB: I saw that and I told them you have got to be kidding me. I walked inside and there they were, the big log timbers. Of course it had been modernized but it still had the big log timbers across it. I just don’t remember the Erie Canal very much. It was before my time. Of course the Miami-Erie Canal did not last very long. The Canal gave way to the railroad. It was featured on the History Channel one evening how they dug the Erie Canal to New York City. It was dug by hand. They used blasting caps and no machinery.

MP: Didn’t they dig this area by hand also?

MB: The Miami-Erie Canal of course went to the river. Then it came on past here. The canal didn’t last very long because of the railroad.

MP: You are correct.

MB: Where the police station is here in town, there used to be a hotel there. People would stop there for lunch or overnight..

MP: You are talking about the old police station in town before they moved to the edge of town by the cemetery.

MB: On that hill there where the Memorial is at. There used to be a hotel there.

RP: It was called the Wann House.

MP: Oh that hotel! I was thinking of the hotel where the police station is now.

MB: It was right beside and to the back of the Sheriff’s Department, and not the police station.

MP: That would have been right north of Peper’s Law Office.

MB: There was a hotel there.

MP: Do you remember the hotel that was there?

MB: No. It was long gone.

MP: Do you remember the Canal? When you were a kid was there water in the Canal?

MB: No, there was not any water in the Canal.

MP: Route 424 going through town hadn’t been built yet when you were a kid.

MB: They were just beginning to do that because the Canal went past Snyder’s then.

MP: And past Pepers office.

MB: And then, but when I was in high school we would practice football out there. There was no road built out there yet. You still had to drive through town on Route 24. So I practiced football out there where the Erie Canal used to be. Then I also was a Boy Scout where the second shelter house is. You know where you go up and around. Before the road went through there we camped out in that valley.

MP: You mean that area that floods when it rains really hard.

MB: Yes it does.

MP: What is the state doing opposite this area along the river. They are moving loads of dirt around.

MB: Where is this at?

RP: It is right opposite that turn around area out there by Wayne Park.

MP: It is just opposite where you would have camped out as a Boy Scout. They are just changing the whole layout of the land.

MB: I can remember on the top of that hill there where they had the dance hall. It was Wayne Park. Yes, they had wrestling there too.

MP: Did you ever go up there?

MB: No. I wasn’t old enough.

MP: I wasn’t either. They did have dances there when I was growing up but I was forbidden to go there.

MB: I didn’t dare to go there either. My knowledge comes from four or five people. Like I said when I was a Junior in high school Puffy Billow was a hero here in town.

MP: He married a friend of mine.

MB: As far as I know, he wanted to be a blood technicion you know taking your blood. I kinda wanted to be that. Lumpy came in. That was Mr. Dick Lenhart, we called him that. He came in the classroom and asked if anybody wanted to write for the Northwest Signal. And that was you and that is how I got started.

MP: Like I said before he must have seen a potential in you. You are a good writer!

MB: Well I have had a lot of experience.

MP: That may be true, but you have to be a good writer to begin with. You have been writing for years.

MB: A newspaper writer is nothing more than an author in a hurry.

MP: I suppose you are right.

MB: The hard part is not the writing. The hard part is assembling the material. I have various books, learning from my mentors and reading a lot. I read eighteen newspapers a day through the Internet.. Then I have books at the office that have history in it. One of them is the book is by Mary Fran. Then I have lots of other books. I used to go to the library and every day I used to go back and talk to Russ.

MP: I know you did.

MB: I wasn’t in there just to have fun. I went and talked to him just to learn something. I learned a lot from him. My Mom always told me. Now the Roundhouse was long gone when I was a young kid. Mom always dared us to go over there. We did anyway. My brother Bill who was one year younger than I am we got down inside that roundhouse. We caught the devil for doing that. We lived up there on North Perry Street. So we didn’t have to go very far. I enjoy working. I am still learning.

MP: Were there still train tracks inside the roundhouse when you were little?

MB: I don’t remember if there was one track left. There wasn’t much left inside of it anymore. That is where J. R. Winters started up his manufacturing plant.

MP: Oh yes.

MB: And Foster Canning Company.

MP: Oh yes.

RP: Did they have the turntable inside the roundhouse when you went inside it.

MB: No. You know why they didn’t come here anymore don’t you?

RP: Yes it was because of the cutoff.

MB: That happened during the Depression. Henry Ford put all those people together and gave them work. They stopped in Napoleon, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and then they would go back to Cincinnati. During the Depression Henry Ford put a lot of people to work. The cutoff would go down through Malinta. I just pay attention.

MP: You are right, and it shows. You have stored a lot of knowledge up there in your head.

MB: I always pay attention to what people have to say and what people tell me. Russ always told me about Cocky Nagel. You used to be able to come to Napoleon and get married in one day. Am I right or wrong Russ?

RP: You mean Cocky Young.

MP: Cocky Nagel is the one that pushed his wife out the window and he had to get Ott Hess to come and defend him.

MB: Russ used to tell me that and you could get married in one day. And I used to know the Catholic Church was down in Goosetown.

RP: It was right where Jackson’s Cleaners is now.

MP: I know where the Lutheran Church was located but I didn’t know the Catholic Church was down in Goosetown.

MB: You do know why they called that area Goosetown don’t you?

MP: Because they had a lot of geese down there.

MB: And they had chickens too. They had fences up around their houses like little farms.

MP: So they called it Goosetown. I still think they should have kept the name of that area Goosetown and not have changed it to River Downs like they did. They tried to upgrade the name I guess. I still call it Goosetown. Nobody calls it Goosetown anymore.

MB: I do. I tell people you know why they had Goosetown, it was because they had fences around their houses for their fowl. When they wanted a chicken for dinner they would go catch one, tie it up and cut the head off. They would hang it on the clothesline. My Grampa did that over in Deshler.

MP: Hey I can do that too. I can chop a chickens head off and we hung our chickens on an iron fencepost to bleed. I know just what body parts you would hang on to the legs and tuck their wings in your hand and with your right hand you would use an ax and just whop it off. Then you put it in a tile that was standing on end. You left it in there until it was good and dead. Then you hung it on a fence after you had dipped the chicken in real hot water to release the feathers. You plucked the feathers off, singed the hair off, took the chicken inside for Mom to cut up and fry it.

RP: I have a report about James B. Hudson. He was the son of a gunmaker here in Napoleon. from 1902 to 1907. He put out a newspaper called the Goosetown Growler. I have an issue of it.

MB: I think you showed that to me at one time. I can remember when I was a little boy, my Dad was a Mason. This was when he was still alive. We would go over to Deshler on a Friday night after he got cleaned up. We would go to Grampa Jackson’s house. We would stay there Friday night and Saturday night and Harry was his name and Saturday night he would (in a loud voice) shout “Ethel how many are we going to have for dinner tomorrow”? Well Jane, that was my mothers name, Jane and her kids are here and Howard, who was my Uncle, and maybe Jim. You had better get three chickens. So we had that long hook, you know. We would catch three chickens, cut their heads off, hang them on the clothes line, bled them out. We would dip them in hot water and take their feathers off and we would have a chicken dinner. That’s just the way we did it.

MP: And the chickens we have today don’t taste that way. They were just wonderful.

RP: They were range fed.

MB: Range fed are always the best tasting chickens. Everybody will tell you that. Range chickens are the best. I will give you an example and then I will get off the subject in a minute. Tad, my son, you know is in charge for John Morrell. They make for example, 90% of the precooked bacon in the United States for Wendy’s, McDonalds, and all the restaurants.

MP: You can buy Morrell meats around here at Chief’s Super Market.

MB: You can buy Kershner, that is a brand. It used to be Con-Agra. They bought Con-Agra out..

MP: You can buy John Morrell hams. They are always real good.

MB: Right

MP: It is good quality meat.

MB: Yes it is good quality. You see Chad was in charge at Hillsborough, Arkansas. It was the largest turkey plant in the country – Butterball. They moved him around to different plants so he could get ideas like how to make wieners – hotdogs. A lot of people don’t know this but every hotdog place and sausage place has a Rabbi on duty.

MP: Really!

MB: He was on duty every day.

MP: He would bless the meat!

MB: Yes he would bless the meat and make sure they only got the middle. That is the truth! Every plant also has an agriculture meat inspector there on duty.

MP: I would imagine.

MB: Yes, they process a lot of meat.

MP: The brand of hot dogs that I buy is the Hebrew National. Probably because they’ve been blessed. I like the taste of them.

MB: Sure they use only the middle of the meat and that is all. And the Rabbi’s are there every day.

MP: That is encouraging to know this.

MB: One of Chad’s first job was up by Mankato, Minnesota and that is where he met his wife Wendy. They still own that plant. He was up there. He’s probably gone four days a week flying around the country. He called me last night from Springfied, Massachusetts. Sometimes they fly commercial airplanes when they have to visit three plants in two days they use corporate jets. He does very well for himself.

MP: That is very interesting. Now did, not to change the subject, but your father was in an airplane

MB: accident. He owned the airplane.

MP: Was it a hand built airplane?

MB: No, it was one he purchased. It was on a Sunday.

MP: In the afternoon.

MB: He and Tom Hardy went up in it. They didn’t get up very far and something was wrong with the motor and they came down right by the Brickyard.

MP: For some of us that don’t know where the Brickyard was can you tell us Moe.

MB: It was right at the end of Willard Street where it intersects with Lagrange.

MP: You remember when that happened don’t you Russell.

MB: They came right down at the Brickyard. It was right across from Bertha Travis.

MP: Was Hardy killed also.

MB: Oh no. He kinda fell out of the plane when it came down. He is still alive today.

MP: Your father was not very old then when he was flying airplanes.

MB: He was 32 years old.

MP: When he died.

MB: Yes. He was one of the last ones to take in the Draft during World War II. You see he was one of the last ones to be called because he had all these children. He was only in service for three months and the War ended. I remembered when the war ended. My mother never learned to drive. But Grandma did! Forrest Brubaker was his name. I always forget what her name was. She was driving a car and I was sitting on my Mom’s lap – we were uptown – and all of a sudden the sirens went off and that is when World War II ended. I can remember that.

MP: That is like my dad. He had five children and I can remember my mother worrying. The draft kept getting closer and closer to him when he would have to go. They were taking men with three and four children and drafting them for the Army. The war ended so he never had to go.

MB: Well, my Dad went and he wasn’t gone but three months and he was back home.

MP: Well, my Dad was never drafted.

MB: My Dad was a Mason. Him and Earl, he was my Dad’s brother.

MP: Earl Brubaker

MB: Right.

MP: Do you have any connection to a potato chip factory here in Napoleon?

MB: Yes, they were Earl’s Chips. He had it down in his basement.

MP: And he made potato chips?

MB: Yes.

MP: Now this would have been your Dad’s brother Earl.

MB: Yes. He made them right where he lives today.

MP: Really! That would be along Route 424 here in town. Now Earl’s wife was Naomi?

MB: Right. Yes, and Grampa Forrest lived right next door. There is a driveway right between the two. Earl lived here and Grampa Forrest lived there. (Moe draws a picture on the table with his fingers).

MP: Who sell the Moped’s there then?

MB: That is Terry.

MP: Naomi’s son?

MB: No that would be Earl’s boy.

MP: The potato chip man.

MB: The potato chip factory didn’t last very long, but I do have a bag.

MP: I was just going to ask you.

MB: Yes, yes, I do have a bag.

RP: You know I have a picture of his potato chip bag.

MB: I should really give it to you and the historical society, but you see my daughter lives on West Washington St.

MP: In Doc Herman’s old dental office.

MB: It is all full of antiques. I gave it to her.

MP: She will treasure it I know.

MB: I just gave her a thousand dollars worth of silver dollars.( She has them stored at the Bank ).Judy had them all the time and I thought I will give them to Tandy.

MP: I am glad you did. If you should die somebody can come in and just take them. This kind of stuff happens.

MB: I had them in a box.

MP: But they will take the whole box.

MB: They could, but most of the stuff I have is at my office. My treasures. I have a Sports Illustrated collection from way back when they were selling for 25 cents. Roger Bannister breaking the mile. I have Micky Mantle and Roger Maris on the cover. I have a whole bunch of them there. I also have 8 boxes full of books.

MP: Make sure your children know.

MB: Oh they know.They all know. They know who is getting what things of mine. I don’t have any trouble with that. We are going to go to a wedding the first of June. My youngest son Taggart is finally getting married. He works for Tom Baughman. They have about three thousand acres. Taggart always loved being outdoors and now he is a farmer and he is marrying a nurse. She works at the Wauseon Hospital. It will be held way down in Hilton Head.

MP: North Carolina?

MB: Yes.

MP: That will be a nice trip for you.

MB: I’ll be there two days for the wedding. Then we are going to go up to Myrtle Beach for a week with Tad and his family, Tandy and Randy and I. Then we are coming home and having a wedding reception for the local people.

MP: That will be great!

MB: I have always been a sponge.

MP: You know I think I am a sponge too.

MB: I always listen to people and I used to be a little bit naughty. That was back in the 70’s and 75’s and I would say why isn’t that lawn mowed or why isn’t this done. Then about, well I will tell you what. When my wife Judy passed away about seven years ago. I changed my attitude. I try to be cute and funny. I give people something that they don’t know.

MP: You come across very well in your writings.

MB: I love it. Now very few people don’t know that when I married Judy she was very introverted.

MP: Oh really, I would never have guessed that.

MB: Yes very introverted. She was adopted you know.

MP: I didn’t know.

MB: Yes, she was adopted. Her real father was Glen Walker.

MP: Which Glen Walker? I had a music teacher by the name of Glen Walker.

RP: He was married to Lois.

MB: This Glen Walker sold cars. He married Lois.

MP: Was this Lois Walker’s husband?

MB: Yes.

MP: Then Lois would have been Judy’s mother?

MB: No, when he married Lois they got rid of the children. There was Judy, Donnie, who was adopted by Lefty. Am I right?

RP: Yes

MP: Lefty who?

MB: Lefty Conners. She was Grandma Conners.

MP: You mean Florence. She lived across the street from us. I knew her real well.

MB: That was Judy’s adoptiive mother.

MP: I never knew that.

MB: In fact, my Mom and Jane and Florence worked together in the cafeteria at Campbell’s soup. They knew each other long before I started dating Judy. I know my Mom said to me one day. Do you know Florence, she said to me “why is your older son dating my younger daughter”? She was only 18 or 19 when I married her and I was 24. She said to my Mom why is your son driving around my house all the time.

MP: She had beautiful hair.

MB: And she was very introverted and we never had a serious argument. After our first three were born, you know she had a nursery school here in town.

MP: I remember that. She couldn’t have been too introverted.

MB: You see she worked for the Northwest News. That is where we met. She was a secretary for the paper. Then she was a secretary for Bill Mossing.

MP: Was this at school?

MB: Yes at school. She started her own nursery school at the Armory. Then what happened was everybody else started a nursery school too.

MP: I was just going to say.

MB: And they were in churches. They had to pay no rent when they held their nursery school in churches. Their schools were cheaper so Judy decided to go to school. She went to Northwest State Community College for two years. She was the Student of the Year, and later on she became a Distinquished Alumni. After she got her two year degree she went to Lourdes College. I used to drive her down their every Wednesday night. I would wait on her and even on Saturday I would drop her off there at 9 o’clock in the morning and go on to Ann Arbor to the football game, go back and pick her up. Then she went to Owens for some college education and finally got her Masters Degree from the University of Toledo and then she worked at Hope School for a long time.

MP: They should give you the Distinquished Alumni Award.

MP: I don’t need anymore of that stuff.

RP: You were Man of the Year. What year was that Moe?

MB: That has been quite a while ago.

MP: They don’t do Man of the Year anymore do they.

MB: It’s Citizen of the Year now.

MP: Do they even do that anymore?

MB: I don’t know. I don’t think so.

RP: I think the only thing they do is the high school alumni.

MB: The alumni thing. See I am on the NHS Athletic Hall of Fame. I was one of the first ones to be inducted along with Fred, Bucky, and Bud Schie and Bill Mossing.

MP: You’re really a fixture around town.

MB: When you are in the newspaper business people know you. When you’re in the newspaper business people know you. They see you in the paper every day. I go to shop at Chief and people like yourself you know, they say “that was funny last night and I clipped it out and I sent it to my daughter in North Carolina”.

MP: Well, you go into WalMart and you always run into somebody that has to talk to you. Really sometimes you don’t want to take the time, but you have to.

MB: I talk to them because the community has been very good to me.

MP: It has been good to us also.

MB: I am on the Board of Directors now at Northwest State Community College. Yes, me and Pete Beck.

MP: Can I touch you?

MB: I don’t feel like that.

MP: It’s an honor. It’s an honor to even be considered.

MB: I know but the town has been so good to me that I want to give something back.

MP: You have been very good for the town.

MB: Well, I enjoy it. I am just kinda a friendly guy.

MP: I know you are.

MB: I will stop and talk to just about anybody in town. They will say do you remember. Two weeks ago we had dinner and they asked me if it was true about Jim Homan getting all those corn honors? He got an award for high corn yield. He got 175 bushels of corn when everybody else was averaging only 70 bushels per acre. This was about 1970. I went to school with Jim. Remember when he had that accident.

MP: He is the Jim that goes to our church.

MB: Jimmy Homan went to school with me. He was from Liberty Center. Ronnie Miller, they were in the Liberty Center school district, but both of them went to our Napoleon school here in town. They are both friends of mine. Ronnie Miller was a Colonel or a General in the Air Force. He piloted them big bombers. I don’t think Jim was in the service, but he still works.

MP: Somebody was telling about it just recently. He told that if he hadn’t had his cellphone he never would have made it out.

MB: You are right, he never would have made it out. I had a big talk with him. He was always a very nice fella. He married a lady friend that I dated, not much. She was a Barton girl. They were farmers out at Five Corners. Anyway, I just enjoy people. I never look the other way. People will come up to me and say “Hey Moe” and I will turn around and talk.

MP: I always say hello to people. I have never snubbed anybody.

MB: They will stop me and say “Hey Moe”. They will tell me about a thing I had in the paper the other day, you made me laugh out loud. I love hearing that. That’s another reason I go in to work every day. I am there on Saturday and Sunday when nobody else is there. See I try to get ahead two days.

MP: You’re a writer.

MB: Yes, I am an author in a hurry. I am still an avid reader.

MP: Do you feel underprivileged that you lost your father when you were growing up at such an early age..

MB: No, I was too young to understand. I was only in the third grade. Oh yes I was remorseful, no doubt about that. You see after six or seven years it really never sunk into me. Mom had five children.

MP: But your Uncles stepped in.

MB: Yes, my Uncle Jim from Desher, my Mom’s brother came and lived with us for three years.

MP: I just wondered if you felt a void.

MB: Oh for a little while and then Jim came and he was young.

MP: He probably played with you like a brother would.

MB: We wrestled around. Not that I never missed my father or anything. I rode in a stone truck all the way down to Waterville with him and even rode in the airplane. I can remember him a lot. He was a big fellow, but as the years go by this Jim came along.

MP: Was this the man that lived across the street? Your mother-in-law Florence Conners. Was he the man that raised you then?

MB: He was from Liberty Center.

MP: No I am talking about Mr. Claussen.

MB: Grandma Florence married him.

MP: Oh your Grandmother married this Claussen.

MB: Grampa Claussen and my mother were kind of sweethearts way back when. He worked at Hope School. See they knew each other and they finally got married.

MP: So that man was not your grandfather.

MB: Her husband was Lefty Conners and he worked for Chevrolet as a mechanic in the Chevrolet garage.

MP: Do you mean Snyder’s?

MB: Yes, Snyder’s. He died and he had a bad heart, and he died one night and Grandma called me over and he was deader than a doornail. Then for a while she lived over where her house was and then she finally sold that house and moved over here at Bavarian Village and then Mr. Claussen, whom I call Grampa he was kind of feeble so I was over there about every other day checking on things and doing things for them. They were both in the Lutheran Nursing Home over there and he finally passed away. So then when Grandma got sick me and Tandy were over there about every day.

MP: I know Tandy, your daughter helped her a lot. She helped clean.

MB: Oh yes. I went to visit her about every day. I’d talk to her and get her stuff. When she wanted to take a nap I would help do that. I just sold her property out there. She owned 19 acres at the airport, and we just got through selling that.

MP: Is that out old Six?

MB: Yes. You know where the Walker’s Market was at. You remember that. Dutch and Lynette always had a fight – Democrat and Republican.

MP: Was that the Glen Walker that had the fruit stand?

MB: No, he was their son.

MP: We used to stop their for fruits.

MB: When they were first married Lefty and my Grandma, my real Grandma, Judy’s real Grandma, they lived upstairs. So they lived out at the fruit market a long time and then they moved to town. No, we just got through selling the 19 acres out there. Tom Baughman, he farmed it, he bought it. You see my son, Taggart works for him. I am just amicable. This town has been good to me.

MP: This town has been good to all of us. I like Napoleon.

MB: You know Napoleon is just like any other town nowadays. The little guy is not going to make it anymore. I remember when I was shining shoes below Spot’s Bar. The farmers would come to town about 3 o’clock in the afternoon two of them in one and two cars. They would park one car on the street and then go home and do their chores. They would all come together uptown and they had a good place to go shopping. Everything was here in town. We had Bernicke’s, we had the guy who owns Automotive Feed, Bill Beck.

MP: Winzeler’s had their meat market in downtown.

MB: You would take your grocery list. When I shined shoes and I came up it was a sea of people uptown.

RP: You couldn’t walk in a straight line it was so full of people.

MB: You would take your grocery list in to Bernicke’s and hand it to them and they would fill your list and you would come back and get it.

MP: I wish we could still do that. I hate buying groceries.

MB: I don’t have to buy many anymore.

MP: Well there is just the two of us.

MB: I live in a condo like you do. I don’t go to sporting events anymore hardly. I cover bowling with Randy.

MP: Of course you should.

MB: I bowl three times a week and Tandy watches me. I will tell you a story before we get close to closing. Tandy and Randy tried to have children for about eight years. I used to take her down to the Toledo Hospital for check ups and everything and I always told them they should just drink a bottle of Jim Beam and you will get pregnant right away. Well anyway she never did get pregnant. They just couldn’t have children. They tried and tried and she just couldn’t get pregnant. And people it was just three months after Judy passed away that she got pregnant with Spencer. To this day I believe somebody said something upstairs.

MP: Probably

MB: Because she is the spitting image of Judy. She has the red hair and everything. Out of all of my grandchildren and I don’t say this to just anybody, but she is special to me.

MP: I could see at the funeral home for Judy’s mother Florence that she is a doll. She just helped the two of us and showed us around just like a grownup would. You remember it.

MB: Yes I do.

MP: I was just amazed because normally little kids shy away. She will be something someday. She is special.

MB: Yes she is.

MP: How old is she now?

MB: She is in Kindergarten. She is six years old. She will be in the first grade next year. She bowls. She plays softball. She takes ballet. My other two Chinese ladies, I love them to death too. They are very good and they are all the same size. They are all about the same age.

MP: You mean all three of these grandchildren are the same size?

MB: Yes, Tad went over twice, and you have to take about $20,000.00 with you.

MP: Isn’t that something?

MB: I think that kept Judy alive for a little bit longer because Judy was very sick. Tad came over and showed me his money belt. You have to be there for two weeks. You gotta go and stay in a hotel, they take you all around and show you the ways and means of the Chinese people and you go out to a farmhouse, spend a day with them people. You then go over to the orphanage and they see the little girl they have. Then they take you back and you have to be there for eight more days. You get accustomed to everything and you know everybody wants a little money. It’s a two week thing. I really think that Judy was not good. Judy wanted to see that grandchild. Judy came home, but she died peacefully. She was a courageous woman. I think Judy is the real hero because she never ever complained. All the time she had therapy and the operations she never complained even once.

MP: It is a horrible horrible disease. It really is.

MB: They couldn’t operate. Grandma had a tumor near her liver, they couldn’t operate and it was just a matter of time. Paul Claussen went first and then we all took over and stayed with her. Like I say I am deeply indebted to Russ and you were always so friendly. Then there was Mary Fran, and he is in the hospital by the way.

MP: Is he in the hospital now?

MB: I mean in the nursing home. I mean her husband David.

MP: He has been at Northcrest for quite a while.

MB: Yes he has. He is not very good health wise.

MP: Are you on the computer?

MB: Oh yes.

MP: Do you have the dictionary on your computer?

MB: Yes I can correct spelling. If I think I have something not spelled right I can click on a button and it will tell me how to spell it correctly. Do you mean spellcheck?

MP: No it is an actual dictionary and wikipedia that will give you the spelling and meaning of a word.

MB: I don’t have that.

MP: It is good for me.

MB: I don’t have too much trouble. If I don’t know how to spell a word I spell it like I think it should be and press a button and it tells me the right way to spell it. No, Mary Fran and Eddie and people like that. I have been a sponge.

MP: Well Ed is still going strong. Mentally he is sharp.

MB: Yes he is.

RP: We have a group in our church that is called History Detectives. We meet once a month

MP: You should come and join us.

RP: Ed comes and even people that aren’t members of our church. Last month Bob Freytag gave a talk on Studebaker cars.

MB: I remember them.

MP: You have given talks on the airplanes that were built here in Napoleon. Each month he comes up with something different.

MB: I have a story about the Studebaker’s.

MP: What about the Studebaker?

MB: You knew where it was at.

RP: Oh yes.

MB: In the early days when I was maybe eight or nine, Bill and I would go up tp the old World Theatre on a Saturday night. For a dime you would get in. They had comics and a feature on news. In those days in the Fall or Spring of the year the showing of the new cars was a big thing.

MP: Right

MB: Over at the Studebaker garage they cleaned out all the mechanical stuff where they fixed cars. They had a band in there playing and they had this big hog trough. You know how big they are.

RP: Yes

MB: It was filled with hot dogs. Now me and Bill are small. Now this is true. Now me and Bill are about this tall. Now most of the people there were adults. Everybody was having a big old good time in there. It was about two or three people deep all along the trough. Bill and I would stick our hand between the adults and we’d pick out a hot dog. We took home eighteen. We had our pockets stuffed and everything.

MP: Oh no. What did your mother say?

MB: She gave us Mary Hell. I walked in and said hey Mom and Dad look at what I got. And she said what are you doing with all of them? Yes we had our pockets full. We had them stuffed in our shirt. The people at the garage never saw us. We just reached in and grabbed a hot dog, put it in a bun and stuffed it in our pockets and shirt. Now this is a true story.

MP: You were ornery.

RP: I will have to tell you the World Theatre story. You remember they always had these horse opera stories. Of course the World Theatre was cheaper. When I was in high school Frank Reinking, Bill Little and myself were sitting down to the front and all of a sudden there was a commotion up in the projection booth. It was a fire. We jumped right up and here is this exit door that goes out to the alley

MB: I know where that was.

RP: We jumped up and here they had a chain around the door and the door was locked.

MB: You couldn’t get out.

RP: We went out the back way.

MB: I know the back way.

RP: About that time the projectionist had put the fire out. You see they had that door chained and locked because guys would go up to the door, push the door open and let their friends sneak in.

MB: My famous story on the State Theatre was that Mom and Florence and Judy dutifully would go to the show every Wednesday night. The theatre had a drawing. It was called Bank Night. Well, when Judy turned eighteen, you see she was real young when I met her and started going with her, so every Wednesday night was Bank Night. When a person got to be eighteen you could sign up. So Judy is eighteen and signs up and puts her name in the hopper. The next week they go and guess whose name they pull out.

MP: Judy

MB: She won $500.00. And do you know, this is the honest truth, we bought our bedroom set with the money because we were going to get married. And I still have it and I still use it.

RP: I’ll tell you one since you knew her real well is that my Aunt Dorothy Little. She went to the Bank Night religiously. I think you could during the week sign an attendance card and pay admission and you didn’t have to go. This one week she missed signing up. The money amount was 500 bucks, and her name was called. Boy she has never forgotten that. She would go and sign every week but her name was never drawn. The one time she forget to sign up they call her name.

MB: I have the same story. The week after she signed they pulled her name out and her 500 dollars bought her a bedroom suite. It was nice and I still have it. Earl Edwards managed the theatre at that time.

MP: That was a lot of money back then. I think when we bought our bedroom suite we didn’t give 500 for it.

MB: I don’t know much it cost, but it paid for our bedroom suite.

MP: My mother was always jewing around. They had a hope chest in this furniture store. . Everybody had to have a hope chest in my days. They had a nice hope chest there but it had a leg broken. She got the price down and it was dirt cheap and she told me to buy that chest because Daddy could fix the leg and you couldn’t see where it had been repaired.

MB: To finish up with the frosting on my cake here about the show. Three months later it was Thanksgiving and they had two turkeys out in front of the theatre in wire cages. Guess who won one. Judy! I said to Earl I am not taking that turkey home. He told me I didn’t have to. I could go out to Chief and get one.

MP: I was just going to say that our Sam was always winning turkeys at these Turkey Shoots. When he told me he had won a turkey I thought oh my gosh, what will I do with a turkey. It was the same deal where you can go out to Chief and pick it up.

MB: Then you know I had two children, Chad and Tandy. Then it was seven more years before we had the next two. Judy would go to the doctor in Toledo and check everyhing out. There was nothing wrong. So then seven years later we had the next two – bing-bing. I don’t know, but anyway when they had the outdoor theatre, the River City Cinemas-double features, I can remember taking my two little boys, Tyler and Taggart. We went out there to see E T. I always would take them in and set them down. Then I would go to the back and get something to eat. I heard, Bob Heft was the manager, and somebody said I see Moe is here. Yes, he has his two grandboys down there watching the show. I must have been 35 or something back then. Anyway, it’s been fun!

MP: You know talking about your father with the airplane. Did he ever do anything like playing around and build his own airplane?

MB: No, he bought that airplane and it was called the Red Devil.

MP: Do you know of anybody that built airplanes here in Napoleon?

MB: No. Before my Dad’s time there might have been. My Dad bought that plane.

MP: What year was your father born?

MB: I was born in ‘38, so I think he was 32 when he passed away.

MP: That is so young.

MB: It was an airplane crash.

RP: Talking about shows like that

MB: That was Cocky Nagle at the shows. He was always in there wasn’t he?

MP: Do you know that we saw him one time downtown and he was staggering from one parking meter to the next one. He would hang onto the meter and then take off for the next one. I don’t know if he made it home or not. It was just like you see in the movies.

MB: I can believe that.

RP: I took the kids and we went down to Toledo and saw that shark movie “Jaws”. We were sitting there watching the movie and here comes the exciting part where the shark jumps out ot the water and attacks the boat – well the guy up in front of me flipped his arms up and poured his cup of pop all over me and it got all over my pants.

MB: Well you know back then you would go to Toledo only about twice a year when I was young.

MP: Well maybe yes. Now you hop in the car and go whenever you want to.

MB: Well when I was 9 or 10 years old you only went twice a year. Anyway we always had all these shops right here in Napoleon, We had Hoys, Conrads, you didn’t have to go to Toledo.

MP: You sure do now. Actually you don’t. You can buy anything you want on the Internet. That is what I do. You can get all kinds of brand name clothes.

MB: Oh Tandy does a lot of shopping on the Internet.

MP: Shipping is very reasonable.

MB: If you don’t like it you can send it back usually for free.

RP: I have one question for you Moe. About in 1960 a fellow walked to the back of our store and up to the prescription counter and he said “I bet you don’t know who I am?” I took one look at him and I told him that he was David Orwig.

MB: I never knew him.

RP: I asked him where he was at now and he told me he lived in Toledo.

MB: The name is familiar but I never met him. Don and Dorothy had a daughter too. Her name was Joyce.

RP: Another thing I always remember Don always drove a Cord car and he would park it over by where Dave Meekison’s office is. The Northwest was located there at that time. He would come in and buy Pall Mall cigarettes.

MB: He always went to the movies.

RP: I got a hold of a picture after their fire and it shows Don walking there and he had a cigarette in his mouth.

MB: Then he bought that whole block and that was where the Kroger store was, am I correct?

RP: Yes.

MB: When I started working for him that is where it was. It was brand new and it was pretty nice. Then Nat had an old dilapidated place right next door. Now young David Meekison is my Dad’s attorney. He is a good friend of mine.

RP: Oh yes. I remember Nat had that Burt Tanner

MB: I remember that name.

RP: He used to type for him.

MB: When I got there you had the linotype and you got dirty and you would get ink all over yourself and then you would have to make your own headlines out of the drawers.

RP: Old Burt used to come in the store and he would have his clothes all dirty.

MB: I did too. I would go home and Judy would say “Don’t wear your good stuff to work”. You always got ink all over your clothes. You would roll over the print and have to make a proof of it. And you would spill the ink once in a while. Then you would have to pick it up and put it all back together the right way. Yep.

RP: That used to be quite the deal.

MB: Yes it was. I have been through it all. I have a lot of memories. I am still going strong and I hope to stay strong.

RP: Just like you, when I was in high school we had to deliver medicine to most of the prominent people you know around town. I would do it and I would listen to their stories.

MB: That is how you got interested.

RP: Yes, just to give you an example I would listen to Mrs. D. D. Donovan. She lived across the street from Sterling, I guess it’s now K2, it was that big white house and she was over 100 years old. She was still living by herself at the age of 102.

MB: No kidding!

RP: I would take medicine over there and one time she asked me if I would do her a favor. She asked me to go out to the liquor store and buy her a bottle of Christian Brothers brandy. I like to take a drink every once in a while.

MB: I don’t blame her.

RP: So I went out and got it for her and delivered it to her and she didn’t say anything about paying me. Doogie was taking care of her bills at that time so I just added it on to their account. I think a little dose of brandy keeps your heart going.

MB: You know you and me we know a lot of things Russ and you have helped me a lot. I always enjoyed going up there and talking to you. You would give me stuff to put in the paper. Lots of stuff.

RP: I get a kick out of this history stuff. I am learning new things every day.

MB: Oh yes. We are both learning stuff every day. I watch the History Channel a lot on television.

RP: I do too. That is my favorite channel.

MB: Mine too. The other night they had the building of the Erie Canal,

RP: I saw that.

MB: No machinery. Digging by hand and by dynamite. It’s hard to believe how people survived and what hardships they had to go through. They would make a couple of dollars here and a couple of dollars there.

RP: I got interested in genealogy and was checking my Patterson side and I had a great great great grandfather and he had five different wives.

MB: What! No kidding.

RP: He lived on the Ohio frontier in a log cabin. The people would get diseases and the women would die in childbirth. Marlene always said they were worked to death. ( Both of the men laugh)

MB: Well people died early in those days from just about anything.There were no cures. If you got something that was it.

RP: That is just like my own grandfather he worked at the roundhouse and this was in 1921 and this was in the winter and he worked around those hot steam engines and then he would get out in the cold and he got pneumonia. I know my grandmother said just before he passed away, he was so sick, If you didn’t show up for work you didn’t get paid. So she had to get down and tie his shoes. He went to work anyway even though he was sick and a few days later he died.

MB: Anything else you want to know?

MP: Russell can you think of anything else? We got the airplane, we now know what you are doing in retirement.

MB: Semi-retired.

MP: You went to school in Napoleon.

MB: In 1957 I became a full-time employee. That was the year I graduated. I had worked there for two years. The work wasn’t very hard, but for a young fella. I have to tell you a story, one more story and then I have to leave. So I am doing everything from selling ads to taking pictures, developing film, writing city reports, police reports. Nat and the guys would always go to the Palmer House you know. So I go to the police station one day and they pulled a prank on me. I went over there and wrote this stuff down. You know when you are kinda in a hurry and you’re writing stuff down on a piece of paper and you don’t even know what you are writing. You know what I mean.

MP: Oh yes

MB: In the police news the next day in the paper it says. Written by Moe Brubaker. Napoleon police apprehended two possible suspects for thievery in Napoleon. Their name was Ben Dover and the next guys name was C Howit Feels. I wrote it up just like that. Was John pissed! He went right over to those cops and gave them Merry Hell. I didn’t pay any attention to what their names were.

MP: I could see how this could happen.

MB: It was Ben Dover and the C Howit Feels. Wasn’t that something! Now that’s a funny story.

MP: It is.

MB: I can tell you a lot of things. There was Dale Earnhart at 190 miles an hour at MIS, Michigan Speedway. I have been in the largest airplane in the world. We refueled jets over Texas. In Columbus they have a National Guard unit down there. You can stand in the engine mounts. I just knew a lot of people. I did a round of golf and took pictures of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Arnold Palmer. I just knew a lot of people.

MP: Now when you took pictures of high school sports and activities did you have to develop them yourself?

MB: Yes, I did my own developing at the Signal. The best thing that ever happened in photography was digital.

MP: Oh yes.

MB: Because when you went to a football game or a basketball game you took 20 to 30 pictures and hoped you would get 2 or 3 good pictures. Well, then when digitals came along I would go to Patrick Henry at 7 o’clock. Stay there for the first half. Now you can take a picture and see what you took. I would leave just before halftime and go to Holgate, and take pictures there before I went home. This is with a digital you can see what you have taken. I mean it is a blessing. We had to have all that film back in the old days.

MP: Actually I think it is cheaper with the digital cameras.

MB: Oh yes.

MP: There is really no comparison.

MB: It’s a God-saver. And also computers. We would either have to write it all out or type it all out. We would have to proofread it. You’re having fun aren’t you.

MP: Yes I am. I am listening.

MB: I have a lot of stories. Like Dale Earnhardt. He said “Hey Moe, do you want to take a ride with me?” Around and around we went at 190 miles an hour. It’s stuff like that. I have been fortunate. Judy wanted me to move to Michigan and take this job. No, I wanted to stay in Napoleon and be my own boss. The best part about that was when she got sick I had a computer at home so I could be with her almost all of the time. That was a blessing. They treated me very well at the Northwest Signal. They gave me a big big retirement. They still pay me for what I do. I am happy.

MP: Russell did you get all your questions answered?

MB: You mean Don

MP: Did you work with Don Orwig or were you too young?

MB: No, Don hired me. I worked for Don two years in high school and then about two years afterwards. Then he passed away. Eventually Dorothy ran it.

MP: I knew Dorothy real well. She was a nice little lady.

MB: She was nice but she knew nothing about the newspaper business. She treated me real good but it was too much for her. When Don Orwig and Nat bought her out, that was the best thing that ever happened.

MP: She told such awful stories.

MB: That’s how she was honey. I know how she was.

RP: You know we drove by on the way home one evening in the fall and here she had all of her leaves raked over on Doc Modens sidewalks and burning them..

MB: I knew where she lived.

MP: Now one evening when we were going home. Now this is the honest truth. We saw her carry garbage in her hand and she walked across the street and put it in their garbage can. Who were those people that lived there?

MB: Moore’s

MP: Yes it was Marilyn Moore’s garbage can. I saw her lift the lid and drop it in the can. I thought that was so cute.

MB: Cute! I told you she was left of center. Are you done now having fun?

MP: Would you like something to drink?

MB: No I am going back out to the Bowling Alley. Are you done now having fun. Invite me to one of your History Detective meetings.

RP: The first Monday of every month we have a meeting.

MP: He is talking about the early banks we had here in Napoleon. You will be learning something.

MB: I am in demand over here to speak to a bunch of gentlemen all the time. I am on the Board of Directors at Northwest State. I volunteer at the hospital.

MP: I would give anything to have Dorothy back. I really would.

RP: I don’t know about that.

MP: I mean just to have her alive again and be able to talk to her.

MB: She was a little hoochie

RP: She was.

MB: I used to go in the other room and say what the hell is wrong with her. I never laughed in front of her. But I would go in the other room and say what is she talking about. Really. I have enjoyed my life.

MP: They used to tell that she was a waitress at Chicken Charlie’s House in Toledo.

RP: I can tell you who told that. It was where Doc Moden lives years ago Clyde Frost lived there. Clyde was Frank Reinking’s uncle.

MB: I remember him.

RP: Clyde was sitting on the front porch there and Dorothy pulls in her driveway. She got out of her car and holds her head up high and goes walking up to her house..Clyde said I don’t know why she acts so smarty. I can remember her when she worked at Chicken Charlie’s in Toledo.

MP: There actually was a Chicken Charley in Toledo. We found a menu from Chicken Charley’s in Toledo at an antique shop.

MB: I mean something was not quite right there.

RP: I’ll tell you one thing about her. Her father was the editor of the News Bee paper in Toledo.

MP: She should have known something about running the newspaper business.

MB: I used to know a lot of people at The Blade. Don Wolfe was my buddy.

RP: Don gave us good write-ups on the Historical Society when we were just starting up.

MB: Thank you for inviting me over.

MP: Thank you for giving us this information.

MB: I miss you people.

MP: I miss all the people and really what we did was not any work.

MB: It was a fun job.

MP: I loved selling your newspaper.

MB: I know. I know.

MP: You saw, maybe you even took the picture when Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary came into the store. He serenaded me. I had no idea he would bring along his guitar.
Thank you so much Moe for coming over and giving us your oral history.

Brinkman, Bob

Interviewed by Marcia Grobogge

Conversation with Bob Brinkman, 89 years old, resident of New Bavaria/Holgate area of Henry County, Ohio

*The first part of the tape is a letter that Bob wanted to write to his great-granddaughter, Sarah. They enjoyed sending letters to each other.

Bob: Sheep when us kids were little. We had about 130 of them in one pen. A lot of times at nights, stray dogs would start chasing them and the whole neighborhood would get together and either shoot the dogs, run ’em down and kill ‘ern or anything to get rid of them. Boy, they would take a hold of a side and tear them right open.

Marcia: Did you have any other animals than sheep?

Bob: One Guernsey cow and that’d give about 16 gallon pail of milk a day and that kept the whole family in milk.

Marcia: For how long?

Bob: Year after year.

Marcia: I bet you made all kinds of stuff with that milk…

Bob: They always said they’d cook “pap”. Cook a little milk and put a little flour and I don’t know what else in it. Put it on bread or just eat it.

Marcia: It’s called pap?

Bob: That’s what they called it… cooked milk.

Carolyn (Bob’s daughter) reminisced about a cow they had growing up.

Carolyn: That one cow she just gave milk `til we couldn’t used it fast enough. I would make cottage cheese and butter. We couldn’t even give it to the neighbors. They didn’t want it because it wasn’t pasteurized. So we would churn that butter and make homemade bread yet.

Marcia: You cut down a lot of trees, didn’t you?

Bob: Worked in a sawmill for 14 years.

Carolyn: He’d walk down to the sawmill and then walk back on the railroad tracks.

Bob: A little over ten miles. Every Sunday morning Bob went to church and Sunday school. We’d do chores, change clothes and start up the tracks. I always told the rest of ‘ern I’d run on the rails until I’d get tired. Then I’d walk a little bit. Then I’d run some more. (Chuckle)

Marcia: Northcreek? Where is that? Bob: Ten and a half miles from Holgate.

Marcia: Was that a city at one time?

Bob: I think three… two grocery stores and a _____.

Marcia: That sounds pretty big…

Carolyn: elevator

Bob: barber shop, a grocery store and _____ radio and Brown had the grocery store.

Carolyn: There was another business store up in there.

Marcia: So what is it now, just a bunch of houses?

Bob: mostly falling down

Carolyn: An elevator

Marcia: What is the elevator called?

Carolyn: Northcreek elevator. I used to go out there to get feed.

Bob: And then do you know what would happen? I only got 15 dollars a month for my wages when I worked on the mill. When I would see my dad, he’d say. “Are you going to give me your check this week?” So I had to give it to him to help buy feed for the rest of the kids.

Marcia: How many kids were there?

Bob: Only eleven.

Marcia: Only eleven, and where were you at in the order?

Bob: The second.

Marcia: So you were one of the older ones and had to take care of the younger ones… Bob: Dolores was the oldest.

Marcia: So what did your dad do?

Bob: Sat on his duff or whatever you want to call it. (Chuckle) He and work didn’t agree very good. Marcia: So he was lucky to have you guys around there to pick up the slack, sounds like…

Marcia: What happened to your mom?

Bob: She died when she was only 38 years old. Annabelle (Buenger) was born in January, no, but any how, she was only a month and a half old when mom died.

Marcia: So who took care of her then?

Bob: Well, this Martha, our lady preacher we had, she wanted to know what dad did with all them kids… I said he just took them out and dumped them where somebody would take care of them.

Marcia: Did all of them get taken care of?

Bob: Oh yeah. Some of ‘ern was old enough to help work. Some of ‘ern wasn’t. Some of the little ones, they was too little. But all the bigger ones they had went where there was chickens, cows, or any chores that people had and they’d help do chores.

Carolyn: Grandma Bauer raised him. She was my mom’s mother. She also took Annabelle.

Marcia: Oh yeah, so you kind of had a little connection there to Alta (Bob’s wife of 68 years)…

Bob: Something, I don’t know what it was.

Marcia: So your wife’s parents took care of your youngest sister?

Bob: She helped, yeah.

Marcia: Well, Alta probably did, too, then. You guys were teenagers…

Bob: Yeah.

Marcia: Well that’s kind of special. That don’t happen every day…

Bob: Well, they all made it. (Chuckle) I said they didn’t all have that kind of life. Marcia: Some of them were harder than others…

Bob: Yep.

Marcia: But did they all end up marrying and having kids?

Bob: Well, I don’t think Vic, that’s one brother, and Don. I don’t think they had any children. Carolyn: It was kind of late when Don had children.

Bob: Yeah. He married an older lady.

Marcia: So who are they all. There’s Dolores. Robert.

Bob: Art, Norbert, He passed away several years ago.

Carolyn: Who’s after Norbert..

Bob: Alvin or Lester

Carolyn: I think Les is older than Alvin.

Marcia: Lester, Alvin,

Bob: Then Vic.

Marcia: Vic.

Bob: Don.

Marcia: Don.

Bob: Then Layola was right in there somewhere, down a little lower. got ’em all wrote down on a book otherwise _____. I can’t remember them either.

Marcia: There was 3 girls and 9 boys…

Bob: 8 boys

Marcia: Yeah, 8.

Marcia: So we got Robert, Vic, Art, Lester, Norbert, Don, Alvin and Lee. There we got them all.

Bob: And they all got along.

Oral History done by Marcia Gobrogge, wife of Bob Gobrogge, grandson of Bob Brinkman, son of Ron & Carolyn (Brinkman) Gobrogge. March 2004.

Bostelman, Helen

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin (CW), January 20, 2010, Alpine Village, Napoleon, Ohio
Transcribed by Marlene Patterson

CW: Could you tell us anything about the Prohibition era? We just don’t have much information on that and it is important that we get it.

HB: I don’t think I have a lot of information, but my daughter might. I could give you my own home life. We went to Girty’s island to dance a couple of times.

CW: Oh did you! We don’t have much on Girty’s island either.

HB: I don’t have a lot but I was there a couple of times.

CW: Tell me what was it like?

HB: First of all there was a light sandy beach like they have at the lakes now. The people from all around there would come out and even the people from Napoleon would come out and go swimming there. Of course there was a wire there so you could cross on the ferry. They didn’t run the ferry while we were there.

CW: Why did they have a wire across?

HB: Because they had a ferry to bring their machinery and horses over there. In the summertime the people that lived there at the time by the name of Kerns. In the summer they lived there and farmed, and then when fall came they went back to Holgate and lived there.

CW: Oh really!

HB: That was interesting. They raised crops and harvested them over there on Girty’s Island. Then there for a while they would have dances there on a Sunday night until the beginning of the fair. Of course, I was young, I think I was 14 and I think I got to go once. I think my dad took me. One thing that was nice was my friends and I why we walked wherever we went you know. We walked there from home.

CW: Of course people didn’t have any cars at that time.

HB: Of course our fathers sat on the bank and wouldn’t let us girls go by ourselves when we went swimming. There was a cemetery there.

CW: Was that Florida’s cemetery?

HB: No it was Cole’s Cemetery, by Cole’s Creek.

CW: Oh, so Girty’s Island had a cemetery. Was it on the island?

HB: No

CW: On the bank? On the south bank?

HB: There would have been a couple of graves there.

CW: Would it have been on the south bank of the river?

HB: Yes, wherever the ferry was it was only two miles from where I lived. One tragedy we saw was some people had a boy staying with them for the summer. I forget what you call it when you take a child in just for the summer months. He was there visiting and he drowned in the river while we were there.

CW: Oh dear!

HB: They got him up out of the river and laid him down and he was dead. He had had strawberry shortcake for supper, and they used to tell you not to go swimming on a full stomach and that is what he did.

CW: Back in those days there wasn’t a funeral parlor, was there? Didn’t they have to be taken care of in there home?

HB: Yes they did. They kept the body in their own home. My mother-in-law passed away seven months after we were married. We lived out in the country. It was very cold and stormy. She died on the twenty-first day of January and the roads were bad, but the undertaker did get there that same night and took care of him. They would keep the bodies in their parlor you know. Farm homes all had parlors years ago.

CW: My Grandmother had a parlor too.

HB: I still live in the same house.

CW: Oh do you really!

HB: For 75 years in May I have.

CW: Back in those days then, the undertaker must have come to the home to take care of the body. The body would never have went to a funeral home to be prepared.

HB: He would have a short service at the house usually and then at the church.

CW: My brother died when he was a year old and we were not allowed to go in that room and I wanted to go in so bad to see him to say goodbye or something. Children couldn’t go in there. I don’t know why. He didn’t die of anything we could catch.

HB: My husband’s sister, he was so much younger than his sisters and brothers, and one of his sisters got diphtheria and two of her children died within a couple of days. Another one had it but she survived. She lived to old age then. The family all had to stay on one side and they had a funeral then. We have a picture of the boy in his casket. Why they took a picture of the boy and not of his sister I don’t know.

CW: In those days you had to bury them quickly and you had to have a sign on the door stating “quarantine” so nobody would come in. That was probably a good idea.

HB: Going back to Girty’s Island, their name was Currian’s, this boy, I don’t know if he is still living, he would have been older than I was, he would come to school. We lived right across the road from Farison School. He walked from Girty’s Island to our school until he got older. Then he went to Holgate School. His name was Dallas.

CW: That was the name of my brother. What did you wear when you went swimming?

HB: We had a swimming suit.

CW: What did they look like?

HB: They were very simple. I can’t just remember. They were probably as cheap as we could buy. There were seven in our family.

CW: If they were sisters they would have to share. Did you know when Prohibition was, when did that come in. Was it after the Depression?

HB: That was before. It was before my time really. The first that I remember that was at a belling and they had a keg of beer. That was what my dad referred to as similar as a reunion is now.

CW: That was the first time they were allowed to have something like that.

HB: We didn’t know any different. Our family didn’t drink, but we made wine and we maybe had cider. We didn’t really drink. So I don’t know what year that was.

CW: Some people in the area and some of the farmers made their own whiskey.

HB: I don’t know much about that. That was before my time.

CW: How old were you when you moved there?

HB: Well I was nineteen years old when I got married. That’s when I moved and went to Holgate. That will be 75 years now.

CW: Yes, that is a long time.

HB: We had the Depression.

CW: What do you remember about the Depression?

HB: I remember we were poor.

CW: Everybody was poor.

HB: We lived on the farm and we had plenty to eat. We didn’t have any electric. Most people didn’t in those days.

CW: That is right.

HB: My parents lived there too and we had to do with what we had. It was pretty rough sometimes. One outstanding thing that I can remember was that on a Friday night Mom and I would sit down at the table and decide how many eggs we needed and how many eggs we would need to sell. You see we would take a bunch of eggs to sell and buy groceries.

CW: My grandmother did that too.

HB: We would write down with a pencil how much money we had to spend. We would have to save back a nickel for Sunday School. We each would get a nickel for each one of us for Sunday School. I remember that.

CW: Did she give you a penny to spend in the store?

HB: Sometimes we did get a penny.

CW: Was church different in those days from what it is now?

HB: We always looked forward to going to church. We went to church in Florida at that time it was the Reformed Church. We did go back and forth for Sunday dinners. That was a family thing. We would get invited and maybe next week we would invite somebody else.

CW: Yes that was the custom because they didn’t have any TV or a radio. Did they have telephones?

HB: Not right away. Then everybody started getting them.

CW: Was yours one of those where you had to listen to a certain ring?

HB: Yes, we had one short and two longs.

CW: When you wanted to call somebody else how did you do that?

HB: We would call Central. The rings didn’t go any higher than three rings. We had a lot of people on one line. When you wanted to call anybody you would have to pick up your receiver and listen to see if anybody else was talking on your line before you could use it.

CW: That was kind of a custom doing that.

HB: Yes it was.

CW: How would you do it if somebody’s number was two rings?

HB: You would ring one and then a half of one. You kind of learned that, and then you would ring one more.

CW: And then to ring, you didn’t push a button.

HB: No, I have my telephone upstairs yet.

CW: Is that right! Yes and those phones were on the wall, weren’t they. Could you hear pretty well on them when you were talking on them?

HB: Oh yes. We were on the New Bavaria line first. Then we got on the Holgate line, it was improved by then. It was nothing then like it is now.

CW: You just push buttons now. How would you know when a call was for you?

HB: It would ring in just like it does now.

CW: When your number was two I suppose you would have to wait till it rang twice I suppose.

HB: Oh yes. Everybody on your line would know if it was for you.

CW: Would they pick it up to listen in?

HB: Oh yes.

CW: That would be pretty interesting.

HB: I am very happy that I have been able to have lived all through these different changes.

CW: Yes you have.

HB: My grandchildren have lived through changes too. When they were younger they wanted to talk about my old days. I have been fortunate that my mind has been very good.

CW: Yes your mind is very good. That is what Connie, my youngest daughter, said. She said my Mother’s mind is very good.

HB: Thank goodness for that.

CW: Do you remember going to any movies as a young girl?

HB: No, I never went to any movies.

CW: During the Depression there wasn’t any money anyway for going to the movies. You probably didn’t buy any clothes. Your mother probably made those.

HB: She made most of them. We wore hand-me-downs.

CW: How about shoes?

HB: When we would outgrow a pair of shoes we passed them on down.

CW: That would have been better than none. I remember this one lady telling about how they had so little money and they were a large family that they could only buy one pair of shoes a year. Sometimes it would have to be every other year. If it wasn’t their turn to get a pair of shoes they would have to make do with the old ones. That would have been hard because kids keep outgrowing their shoes. Do you remember your mother making any pretty dresses for you or anything?

HB: No, nothing special. She still made my dresses when I went to High School. I was the oldest and I didn’t get to go out in the evenings like a lot of them do now.

CW: They were strict with you. Did they let you go out on a date with your boyfriend?

HB: My brother did once in a while. There weren’t many dances around or much recreation. We would go roller skating.

CW: Where did you go when you roller skated?

HB: We would go to Wayne Park.

CW: Really! That would have been right west of Napoleon. That was a roller skating rink.

HB: I never did learn. My husband before we were married went there. He was good. He enjoyed it and wanted me to go along and learn. I would keep falling down. I guess he gave up on me.

CW: Where would you go to dances then?

HB: At first when I was young, we would go to Elery.

CW: Did they have a dance hall there?

HB: Oh yes. It was fun dancing there. They usually had large crowds.

CW: Was it in the same building where they have the restaurant now?

HB: Yes. I don’t imagine the dance hall part is still there. I will have to check on that. It was a family gathering place for the whole neighborhood. They would have regular dances in there then.

CW: Was it for boys and girls?

HB: We went as three boys and four girls. This was during the Depression. My one sister is here. Did you know Evelyn Palmer?

CW: Is she living here.

HB: She is living in Alpine Village. She is 9 years younger than I am. My brother is Don Armbruster.

CW: Is he your brother?

HB: He was my oldest brother. Ken is my youngest brother. He is eighteen years younger than I am. There are just the three of us living. The youngest and the oldest.

CW: Your mother had a long period of having children didn’t she. She probably had a lot of work to do.

HB: Well, we all had to work. We worked hard.

CW: You had to help with the housework probably.

HB: Oh yes.

CW: Did you do your cleaning on Saturdays?

HB: Friday or Saturday was cleaning day. Monday was wash day and Saturday was baking day. Tuesday was Ironing day. I think all the older people all did their baking on Saturdays.

CW: That way they had something for Sunday dinner.

HB: I remember the coffee cakes and the cinnamon rolls. she would make coffee cakes always on Saturdays. We would have that for our Saturday night meal and our Sunday breakfasts. We made quite a few. Yes she did.

CW: Did she make bread for your family to take to school?

HB: Oh yes. She baked good bread. You ate what you had.

CW: That would have made it simpler for the parents anyway.

HB: We would take it to school in our lunch bucket.

CW: I bet all the kids brought their own lunch.

HB: Oh yes.

CW: Did they have a cafeteria in your school?

HB: I don’t think they even had one started when I went to school. I graduated in 1934. They did later I know.

CW: They didn’t have anything cooked at your school either probably. They wouldn’t have had a hot lunch. Everybody brought their own lunch.

HB: We didn’t have a hot lunch.

CW: Did you walk to school?

HB: In grade school I did. We lived right across the road from the school.

CW: You did!

HB: So when we attended the country school we went home for our lunch. That took a little fun out of our days. We had to go home for lunch. We had one teacher that told us to bring some food and she would make some soup for our lunch. She was going to cook bean soup. One person had to bring an apple and another person brought some beans and so forth and we got to stay at school that day for lunch. That was fun to eat that cup of soup. We all had tin cups at that time.

CW: Did you use the same cup for the soup that you usually used to drink water with? Or was that a different one at the pump.

HB: They didn’t think about sanitation.

CW: They didn’t worry about sanitation in those days.

HB: Of course they consolidated the summer I was headed to high school. I was four miles from high school and they told me I would have to find my own way there if I wanted to go to high school. Of course after consolidation started they began using school busses.

CW: If you had four miles to walk that would be pretty far. Especially when it got cold in the winter time you would have gotten cold.

HB: I don’t know of too many people that went to high school especially if they had no way of going. It just happened when it was my time to go to high school they consolidated. Of course consolidation happened the year when I started to high school. I was a Freshman.

CW: I know my cousin lived in the country and when she wanted to go to high school she had to take a job as a maid in town somewhere so she could go to school during the week.

HB: I can understand that. We went to The Forida school.

CW: How far away was that.

HB: About 4 miles. It would have been more than that.

CW: Do you know why they called Florida – Snaketown?

HB: I never heard it called that.

CW: Oh didn’t you! I have often wondered. I guess maybe because it was by the river.

HB: I never heard it called that.

CW: We need all this information you are telling me. We need it for future generations as they grow up so they are able to understand how it was in the early days.

HB: My mother couldn’t believe that I all my married life, it wasn’t just my people or his people, but we could just get up and go whenever we wanted to.

CW: Do you mean dropping in on friends and relatives?

HB: Yes. When you wanted to go visit people you just went. When people would come over you learned to mix things up in a hurry. We always had meat, canned meat and you know that helped. We could always fix a meal in a hurry. The town people enjoyed that.

CW: It was fun for the kids and also fun for the parents and grandparents to be able to visit with each other. During the week you didn’t get to do that. You couldn’t just call somebody up and go visit for a while because there weren’t many phones around.

HB: I can remember a few times when somebody came to the door with a suitcase and I didn’t know who they were. I didn’t know who they were. They might have been a relative. They would just come to stay a week.

CW: Oh my a week!

HB: We had a lot of people stay, just because we were the homestead.

CW: How many brothers and sisters did your husband have?

HB: He had three brothers and two sisters. He was a lot younger. He was twenty-five years younger than his oldest brother so they. In fact they were all older except the one bachelor that lived with us. We always had a very good relationship with all my relatives and we had a happy life.

CW: That means a lot.

HB: Yes.

CW: So then you would have these relatives of your husband’s dropping in and staying too.

HB: It wasn’t my side of the family. They had big families too. Don’t get me wrong, but you would invite them ahead of time. We had one bachelor he came from a great distance and he would stay a week at our house. We would make a bed for him someplace.

CW: Did you have indoor plumbing?

HB: Not until 1942 when we put indoor plumbing in.

CW: Were you kind of skeptical of having that inside your house?

HB: I don’t think so. We were happy.

CW: I know that my mother-in-law said that I’m not having any of that stuff in my house. We are still going out to that backhouse. One day one of the sons who was grown came driving up and he had a bathtub on the back of his pickup truck. She liked that. She was ready for a bathtub in the house.

HB: There have been lots and lots of changes in my lifetime.

CW: Do you remember the first radio you got?

HB: Yes, my husband got that hooked up in our house. He did a lot of benefits for people who had radios. We had to have a battery in the house. It was a big battery. We had one at our house too. We got it in 1937. That is the year electricity was started. That was a happy day when we could just turn on the lights.

CW: Oh yes. What did you have before that?

HB: At home we just had kerosene lamps. We had one big one called Ray-O-Lite. That was a real big one. Now my husband they had gas lights that hung from the ceiling.

CW: Oh. So now his parents had that?

HB: Yes his parents had that. We had that too. A lot of his family would get together and the men would play cards.

CW: Oh yes.

HB: That is why they had the gas lights. Everybody could see better with the gas lights.

CW: Did you butcher at your house?

HB: Yes we did. The farmers did during the Depression. We had our chickens and eggs. We had our vegetable garden too.

CW: They didn’t have a big variety of vegetables at that time did they.

HB: We had broccoli and we had cauliflower. I remember we had Chinese cabbage when I was a kid. That was new and that was good.

CW: They usually grew cabbage, carrots, and potatoes.

HB: Mom raised fresh celery too.

CW: Oh, she was able to raise celery!

HB: That made the best potato salad. It had a better flavor than what you can buy now. We had green peppers too. That is what we would take for our lunch then. We had green peppers, red peppers, and green onions too. I don’t know just what all we had. It was all good.

CW: It would have been good for you. So when you went to Sunday School did you have recitations in Sunday School? Do you remember standing up to recite?

HB: No, we had Bible Study. We would listen to Bible stories. Those are the ones you never forget.

CW: Would your teacher tell the Bible story or did he just read it?

HB: We had Sunday School cards that had the whole Bible story on it. Then we would read a little. Now we have Bible classes. At that time we called it Sunday School.

CW: Did they give you a card to take home then?

HB: Yes.

CW: Now in the country where I grew up every year at the end of the school year they had a recitation time in our church. Kids had to remember a certain verse and have to recite it. Did they do that in your church?

HB: I can’t remember very well. We did I remember have something like a Children’s Day. I think we did have recitations on that day. That would have been in June. I am glad you brought that up because it brings back a lot of memories. We did have a program in our church at that time. Everybody would get to recite at that time. Our Pastor would usually have some of us speak.

CW: My mother used to tell about my sister who was two years older than I was and she was very bright. She had this big long thing she was supposed to recite. She went up and got to the middle of it and then she forgot. All of a sudden I got up and recited it for her. I knew the verse as well as she did. She had forgotten the rest of the verse.

HB: I remember at the Christmas program we used to get up there to say that speech.

CW: It was really important at that time.

HB: It was a big day in our life wasn’t it. We had more family life in our days. Of course we didn’t have sports like they have now.

CW: The families spent more time together at home.. More than they do now. Don’t you think?

HB: Oh yes. TV has changed that. We can stay home now and see a program.

CW: They don’t visit like they do now. Well it stands to reason if you don’t have TV or a radio you are going to have to talk.

HB: You have that right. Our treat at night was apples. We had two apple trees in our front yard. Mom would sometimes make popcorn balls and sometimes she would just put them in a pan and cut them in squares. A lot of times she would do that.

CW: Did she sometimes just make the plain buttered popcorn?

HB: A lot of times. We didn’t get to eat popcorn every night. She wouldn’t have time for everything.

CW: How did they fix it? Did they have a big pan or something?

HB: She would put it right in the middle of our big table and we would sit around and eat it.

CW: Did you grow your own popcorn?

HB: Yes we did. We raised popcorn. I remember we kept it upstairs. We had kind of a dryer where we put it on. You couldn’t put it in the corncrib because of mice.

CW: Did your mother dry beans or anything?

HB: She dried corn. Oh I loved that dried corn. I haven’t had that for years and years.

CW: I bet.

HB: We poached it in the oven.

CW: My mother-in-law used to dry it on the roof of the porch. She had a sort of a metal roof. It reflected the heat real well. She would put green beans out there and corn. The girls in the family were supposed to get up there and stir it every once in a while.

HB: A lot of people would make dried apples. Mom didn’t. They would call them schnitz or something like that.

CW: I bet they would have to slice them first.

HB: Oh yes they would slice them first. I know other people did dry apples, but my mother didn’t care for them. She never made any. She used them a lot of ways, but never dried any. We used what we called a schnitz brot, which was like a Christmas bread.

CW: What was that?

HB: Well it was just regular bread dough and you would put in some raisins and some people put in dates. You would use broth instead of milk to make your dough. Oh it was very good. You would put frosting over the top like they do with raisin bread.

CW: That sounds real good. Did your mother like to bake?

HB: I think so. In the later years she did all the pie baking. I never baked a pie before I got married, so that was a new experience.

CW: I bet.

HB: My mother-in-law would bake a pie on occasion. My other sister who was four years younger would make a lot of cakes. You made them from scratch in those days.

CW: It took more ingenuity to make cakes from scratch. Now about those pies, how did you manage that? My daughter-in-law said she needed a pie and I didn’t know how.

HB: They would use lard of course and plenty of flour. My parents had a cellar and of course that was soft water. I never baked bread. He told me I should bake some bread. I had never done that. My Mom showed me how to bake bread.

CW: Did you make apple butter?

HB: Not in the big kettles. I never did that. Mom always made her apple butter in her oven or else on top of the cook stove. Now when I make it I don’t so much use the oven, but I put it in my crock pot. The kids never had time to help make it. I have a granddaughter who is a physical therapist. She is 29 and she cooks a lot. She wanted to make apple butter. She called me over the telephone. She came with some applesauce and some apple butter.

CW: What kind of spices did you use for this?

HB: I put in a lot of cinnamon


HB: We were talking about school days earlier. I have a sister who is nine years younger.

CW: Did she go to a one room school?

HB: No she didn’t quite make it. She started in the first grade.

CW: Did she go into the Holgate system?

HB: No she went to Florida.

CW: Oh that would be right.

HB: I would imagine you lived the same life that we did, except I came from a big family. People always told about somebody living up on Girtys Island. They said he never lived there, but his brother did.

CW: Did you ever hear anything about Simon Girty?

HB: He or his brother were supposed to have lived there. They said Simon never lived there but his brother James did. I studied up on that too and read about him. I used to read a lot.

CW: Do you remember reading anything about Simon Girty or the Indians.

HB: No I never studied it, but just read about him. I read too about the Indians and Simon Girty, they robbed or did stuff. That’s why they were over here on the island to hide their stuff. They had a hide-out there too.

CW: I think they did.

HB: They were there first I think. I really don’t know the story. We lived on a farm and didn’t know all these things.

CW: I lived in a city. It was very different.

HB: Do you remember the Depression.

CW: I remember my father had a butcher shop and he was in partnership with his brother-in-law. His brother-in-law said I can’t make a living here so I am leaving. Then my father found out that my brother-in-law had left a lot of big debts. My father had to pay them. Then he had to close the butcher shop and we moved to Erie where he got a job there as a meat jobber. Well wouldn’t you know on his first couple days on the job, he somehow lost his wallet with $87.00 in it. That was big money in those days. This was in addition to all the debts from the shop he had to pay it all back. Later on they bought a house that was brand new with three big bedrooms, a tiled bathroom and all for $5,000.00. He was afraid he wouldn’t be able to make the payments on it. $5,000.00 for a brand new home.

HB: My husband too got that Rural Electrification out. My husband got into that and made extra money you know. He farmed his 40 acres that he got from home. He wrote out a check for $3,000.00 for the farm of 40 acres and he bought it. He was so proud of that, so he put it in a frame. He had paid cash for it.

CW: Cash! Isn’t that something!

HB: That was something. Like you say how some people got. His brother got the same thing. It was a real estate thing. He wanted to see an estate. That was his in-laws. So he heard there was a house, barn, and machinery and 20 acres of land on the rest of it. His brother got it for $2,000.00. It was 20 acres, a house and a barn. They remodeled and have a very nice home yet.

CW: Did they buy more land?

HB: They owned 40 acres, the other brother. He paid more than that. I don’t suppose that family with the real estate knew. This was before 1943. And then we had the war. Then it was how we had to live during the war. We were fortunate we didn’t have to be there. What our boys did for us.

CW: Your boys didn’t get into the War. They were probably too young at the time.

HB: My oldest brother belonged to the National Guard in Napoleon for years. See they had been gone for quite a while. Then his time was up and he had been gone for quite a while. He then enlisted in the Air Force. He didn’t pass. There was something wrong with his lungs. He had pneumonia at one time. Whether it was scar tissue or something. He didn’t get in. The other two brothers got in. They were never right out in front for a battle. They missed that.

CW: That was a terrible war, World War II. It was awful.

HB: People are still fighting and that earthquake over in Haiti was something else.

CW: Oh my yes


Von Deylen, Bill (Written)

The following history was prepared about eight or nine years ago by Bill Von Deylen, shortly after his marriage to Janet Inselman.


We are going to record Bill’s family history.

Jan has been after me to jot a few things of my life down for family. Otherwise how are they ever going to know some of the things that happened through your lifetime. So just a few words about me and my years on this great earth.

I, William Henry Von Deylen, was born 13th of September, 1928. I was born to Harry Von Deylen, actually it is William Harry Von Deylen and Laura Plassman Von Deylen in Gerald, Ohio. Dad was in the livestock hauling business and Mom ran a grocery store. We lived in the back of the store with a kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom on the ground floor. The upstairs was sizeable with three bedrooms and another room not used for much of anything. We had a wood shed, a barn-like garage and an outhouse. The wood shed as I remember was mainly a junk shed, but I think Mom did our laundry in there, at least through the non freezing months of the year. Dad used the barn for clover seed business, cleaning, buying and selling all kinds of small seeds, such as alfalfa, red and mommoth clover, timothy, sweet clover, and so forth. You know what the outhouse was used for. I just remembered that there was a chicken coop back behind the outhouse. It was used for laying hens, never into layers very much though. I was born in the house and grocery store in Gerald.

I had two sisters. Donna was born June 18, 1930 and Lois was born October 28, 1935. They were also born in Gerald. They gave me many moments of grief, as younger sisters always get their way. I don’t know how I put up with it. Donna was married to George Higbea. They have two daughters – Cathy and Shelly. Lois was married to Don Arps and they had three children – Lori, Chris, and Steve. Both of my brothers in law have since deceased.

I do have to say I was always blessed with good care and clothed nicely. I had a dog named Pilot, and although there wasn’t that much fast traffic in those day, especially through Gerald, Pilot succomed to one of the slower ones. Pilot wasn’t very smart I guess. Growing up in my school years and living in this home with the grocery store attached I had access to the candy case, but only when Dad and Mom weren’t watching. Looking back I know that they were much too busy and I hit the candy much too often. I had confiscated an empty cigar box in which I assembled a cache of tobacco products that I would use much later in life, probably when I turned thirteen or fourteen years old. I had a pack of Lucky Strick cigarettes, a pipe, a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco, an R. G. Dun cigar, a package of Red Man chewing tobacco, and some matches. I don’t think I waited until I was thirteen or fourteen years of age.I think it was more like ten when temptation got the best of me, and I took the R. G. Dun cigar and a match and went out behind the grain elevator across the street. I had myself a smoke. It is a wonder the elevator was still standing the next day. My parents didn’t have to reprimand me because in about a half hour I was turning all sorts of colors. I didn’t go home for several hours, but instead went down the street to my grandmother’s house. I barely got there and Grandma asked if I had been smoking. Of course I denied all. She knew immedietly and started nursing me back to health.I was so sick, summer flu I think. You know Grandma was so good, I don’t think she ever told my parents, bless her heart.

I was always the shortest guy in my class. My parents got me a full sized bicycle and found I couldn’t reach the pedals. They took the seat completely off and wrapped a bag around where the seat was supposed to be, but I still couldn’t reach the pedals. So I would just sit on it, dangle my feet and make a loud buzzing sound. I also had a tricycle and back then everybody either walked or rode a bicycle to school. I knew every family that lived in Gerald and all went to our St. John Lutheran Church and School. The school was only one and a half miles west of Gerald. With so many riding their bicycles I rode my tricycle to school. Well everyone was on two wheels so not to be outdone I would lean to one side and I would pedal to school on two wheels. I believe the other kids thought there was something wrong with me. My sisters were always sure of that. I guess you could call me a smart ass.

The house I spent a lot of time at was my Grandma Von Deylen’s. She lived across the street and two houses west of the store. She lived there with the Durhams. Uncle Willis, who worked for Dad, Aunt Marie who was Dad’s sister and their three sons, Sonny, actually it was Bill, Larry, and Roger. They had a big back yard on which we played many a ball game. We were always trying for the long ball and sometimes knocked out a chicken coop window. These games are always so much fun until the boys got bigger and better than I was. That ended that. Other families in Gerald were the Delventhals. Herman and Emma were the parents, the children were Walter and Mary Ann. Herman was a blacksmith and ran a very interesting business. He had a big old forge, a large power hammer, and a large grinder. He would repair plow shares, getting them cherry red hot and pounding them out with this power hammer. Then running the grinder and throwing sparks for twenty-five feet. He would have plows and making them like new. He could do so many fix it jobs, and all were hot and heavy work. Farmers would bring in their horses to have them shod. I remember Adolph Langenhop brought his Western buggy horse in for new shoes. He left the horse there for most of the day, while somehow he went back home. When Herman had the new shoes put on Walter had to take it back home. I was standing around just waiting to be asked to help take the horse and buggy home. What a ride! We got the horse on the road and immediately headed home full speed. Of course the roads weren’t like they are today, and not near the traffic. It’s a good thing because the three mile ride broke a time record. Out across State Route 108, then straightening out the jog on the next corner, across another intersection, and then making a sharp right turn on two wheels into the driveway. There was no stopping. I am glad the barn door wasn’t open or we probably would have unhitched the horse from the buggy in a hurry. Upon arrival Walt and I were both hoarse from yelling whoa the whole way home. Both of us were scared to death.

Two families of Gerken’s lived across the street from one another. Old John was the elevator manager until retiring. and he tended honey bees. Young John or Jack as he was always called then became the elevator manager. I don’t remember the years, but I believe before I was in high school, the Behnfeldt family moved into Gerald and then Otto Behnfeldt became the manager. Several changes in managers have taken place over the years since. The Bindeman family had a bar, grocery store, and a hardware all in one building. The second floor of this building offered dances now and then. Behind their store was a baseball diamond which offered Sunday afternoon entertainment. A local team would play teams from all around, even out of Toledo. Across the street they had an implement store, offering International Harvester equipment, then later switch to Massey Harris equipment. I am thinking that ended in the middle of the 40’s, along with the groceries and the hardware store. The bar stayed for a few years longer. The Alvin Miller family was the first house east of the trocks from us. They ran the telephone switchboard office. They got all the news first and we were about next. One of their daughters Lorna worked for Mom and helped Mom in the store. She even lived with us. She later married Harold Bostelman. She would always pick on me or maybe it was reversed. Sometimes she would give chase and I would dash out the front door of the store, out across the street. It’s a good thing the traffic was much different then. A guy wasn’t even safe in his own home, always being chased out! Once Vernon Miller and I went to the Meyer farm on the west edge of town where my sister Lois lives now. We were helping their hired hand Art Noske pick up ear corn that had been husked by hand. Vern and I rode on the wagon with this load of corn and he fell off under one of the steel wheels. I yelled whoa and Art stopped the team right smack dab on Vern’s belly. Of course we couldn’t leave it parked there, so Art said Giddyap and over we went. What a scary moment! I thought sure Vern would be dead. I don’t think he even had a bruise mark. There was a small town two miles north of Gerald by the name of Naomi. It had a building very similar to our home and store sitting right along the railroad tracks just like ours. It housed a bar and a few girls. I didn’t know what girls did there then, but I think I know now. Anyway every now and then some men would drive up beside our house and stagger around to get in. That door was always locked. Mom and the hired girl would rush around and lock the other doors to keep the alcoholics out. I didn’t know what they were there for, but I don’t think they were thirsty. After scaring the women half to death the men would finally leave knowing they were in the wrong town. I mentioned earlier we played a lot of ball games in Gerald. At noon the railroad section hand would sit under the shade tree at our store. Us boys couldn’t wait for them to finish eating so we could start a game with them. As hot and tired as they had to be. Many times they would give us a couple of innings. They never seemed to get to bat. I think they just enjoyed seeing us hit the ball like crazy. I know one of them was too fat to run. It was a lot of fun for us. This ball field was right across the road from the store between the elevator and the railroad. In the fall this was a busy place. It was a rail pick up station for sugar beets. Farmers of the area would bring wagon loads of sugar beets which had to be forked off the wagons and into the railroad cars. Sometimes it would be so rainy and muddy they would have to hook two teams to one wagon to get it up to the rail car. The farmers really earned the money they got for those sugar beets. i always had a lot of fun going to school. I had many friends, now that I think about it. I think they were friends more because I always had candy in my school lunch box. It was usually in the box because I took it from the candy case in the store. Had it not been for me sneaking candy Dad could have probably had another forty acres. Anyway many times I wouldn’t even be hungry for candy, and I would look for somebody to make a deal. I probably traded for more homeade summer sausage sandwiches than anything else. I was too young to trade for a kiss, but there were some girls I wouldn’t have minded to get a kiss from. As my sisters came to school my dealing stopped, because they just loved to get me in trouble with my parents. Just why they always wanted to see me in trouble I never could figure out, because I was always so good to them. I had this very authentic looking artificial turd. It looked so real when you saw it, it almost smelled. Well it was winter time and in the old red block building we had only a small heating stove. Of course it got real warm near the stove, and not so warm twenty feet away. I slipped that turd down on the floor close to the stove and it got real warm there. Then my Uncle Willis came by and he did a double take when he saw the thing lying there. You should have heard him. I am cleaning up the dialogue a little bit. He said “Who the h— pooped on the floor?” After ranting and raving about it he started to clean it up down on his haunches with a piece of paper, keeping his head turned away because of the power of imagination he could hardly stand the stench. Just when he had it picked up I walked over and picked it off the paper. His eyes got about as big as golf balls, right about the same time as his anger flared up. I had to start running immediately or I wouldn’t have been around today to tell about it. Grampa Von Deylen started the business in 1915, running the blacksmith shop that Herman Delventhal later had. This was a little south of the present elevator office. His implement business started with the selling of a few New Idea spreaders and a few John Deere sugar beet cultivators and lifters. I don’t know just when he first had a contract with John Deere, but business I am sure was done much more loosely then. He moved the implement business into a wood frame building across the street from the blacksmith shop. There he dealt equipment until he died in 1933. This was a time when farmers were beginning to mechanize and trade horses for tractors. This meant changing plows, cultivators, fitting tools, and so many other things. I remember Dad telling about trading in a horse on a tractor one evening and of course it took a few more days to make delivery and complete the deal. Well, the very next morning after dealing, the farmer called and said “Hey your horse died last night”. I don’t know how that ever worked out. Dad progressed into the implement business in 1934. Granddad Von Deylen died in 1933 and for about a year nothing much was sold except for parts and service. I don’t remember a lot of the early John Deere business, but the 30’s were a tough time for everyone. The business was done in an old wood frame building which was replaced in 1938 by the red block building, which the Gerald Grain now owns. In 1946 Dad built again on the east end of Gerald a cream colored building with a cement floor, furnace, service and set up area and a storage room in the back. Dad was still in the seed business and it seemed in a big way. He had the cleaning mill in the far corner with a lot of seed to run through it. He would buy from farmers and haul what he didn’t need for resale to Toledo. This was always high dollar business. Now like many other things is about a thing of the past. I don’t know exactly when we finally quit the seed business, but I am thinking it was in the late 80’s. In 1976 we moved to our present location in Napoleon. The summer months were always fun for me too. I would spend a week with Grandma and Grandpa Plassman out on the farm. Usually the week of their threshing wheat. This was done in what they called a threshing ring. A neighborhood would get together and move from farmer to farmer and thresh their wheat. One of the neighbors owned the rig and he was more or less the overseer. Of course most everything was done with horses
. I felt like a big shot when I could be out in the field going from shock to shock picking up the bundles of wheat, and making out like I was driving the team, Nell and Daze which was Grandpa’s team. They knew where to go much better than I did. Then at noon everybody came in to wash for lunch. This was kind of a problem for me because everybody washed in the same tub of water. If you were one of the last ones, the water formed almost a crust on it, and pretty much spoiled my appetite for lunch. The neighbor ladies would come in with their husbands and prepare the feast. It was always a great meal with almost anything you wanted to eat. The next day it would be on to the next neighbor and so forth until all were finished and then they started back doing their oat crop. Needless to say it was a relief when all was done and everybody had a new straw stack out behind the barn. Another week would be spent at Ted and Dorie Cordes. Their son Vern and I always played well together. We were born three days apart. Their neighbor had a pond and we would be over there skinny dipping. I remember when I was confirmed my parents got me a real nice wristwatch. Well I was smart enough to take it off before going in to swim, but not smart enough to pick it up when we were through. I never did see that watch again. Their neighbor kids were very small and I think that maybe they threw it into the pond. I will never know. Vern and I would play cowboys in the haymow of their barn. We would crawl around and hide in the loose hay, no bales, and then we would pop up and shoot at each other with one finger being our gun. Both of us fell back many times after being shot with a finger. In the winter we would go to Grampa and Grandma Plassman for a butchering day. This would always be a big long day, from about 5 am to 7 or 8 pm.I always took a day off from school because they really needed my help and I had to let the others catch up. I was there from the time they shot the animal to dividing up the meat and trying some of it at night. They would use everything of the pig except the squeal. There was summer sausage, hams, brain sausage. blood pudding, sausage, head cheese, prettles, and I am sure a few other things. Don Cordes’s dad Henry was the main butcher, and his wife Leola was next in line. I wondered sometimes who answered to who, that they knew just how much and what kind of seasoning went into each batch. Of course, Don always missed school too. One year Grampa had just gotten a new puppy. Don and I took the new puppy upstairs in Grandma’s house which was a no-no. Don’t you know the little devil did a pooh-pooh upstairs. We knew we were in deep trouble, because he wasn’t supposed to be up there in the first place. Well we got it all figured out. You see there was a square hole in the ceiling that opened up, I guess to let heat through. Right below it was the big old wood burning cook stove. We decided I would go down and when nobody was in the kitchen I would open one of the round plates with a special tool and Don would make the drop. We would burn the problem and no one would know the better of it. Everything went just as planned, except Don missed the hole in the stove top and we were frying puppy pooh on the very hot cook stove. I quickly tried to push the misdirected missle into the hole with a special plate tool. By this time it was too late to do much about it with our mess because it was burning fast on the stove and the smell of it gave us away. It wasn’t but a minute or two when Grandma walked in and took over the problem. Needless to say she wasn’t real happy about the whole ordeal. in 1941 we left the big city of Gerald and moved out to the farm. Dad bought the Gebers farm on State Route 108, which is where my son Tom built his home and lives there now. The home had no running water and no kitchen cabinets. We soon had baby chicks, a remodeled chick coop for laying hens, a few hogs and then a few cows. This was an eighty acre farm, with about seventy acres tillable. Dad bought this farm and sold the grocery store. I think mainly to get Mom out of the stress of running the store, and although it was never told, it was also to get me out of the candy case. We started farming with an old 1936 John Deere B on steel. All of our equipment was old trade-in castoffs that Dad accumulated. Dad had a strong hatred toward wild carrots. Before we had the tractor we were commissioned to get all the carrots on the farm and bordering road ditches. We pulled and dug those carrots, put them in the trunk of the car, hauled them up to the house and burned them. I got so I didn’t care if it was a carrot or not. I could care less. We had a few milk cows that we milked by hand. Dad sold milking machines at the implement store, but it was several years before we got one. On Saturday night baths were taken in a small wooden tub by the kitchen cook stove in the winter months. When it got a little warmer, only a little warmer the tub was moved into a cellar way connecting an up ground cellar and the kitchen. Very private as you might imagine. After a few years Dad did some remodeling in the house. We got metal kitchen cabinets, a refrigerator, indoor plumbing with a complete bathroom. We really had it then. Through these years Dad must have been doing well because in 1950 Dad built. We moved into this brick house on the corner of the Gerald road and State Route 108. I didn’t live there very long. It was from February 1950 to June 1950 when I was married to Phyllis Demaline and left the roost. The brick house is owned by Brad Bockelman now. Before we moved to the farm I got my first job, other than home work. I must have been twelve or thirteen years old when i got my social security card and my first job. It was at a pea vinery at Herman R. Gerken’s. This was Melba Elling’s father. Farmers would bring in wagon loads of peas on the vine. Our job was to unload the wagons, tend the boxes catching the peas, and stacking the pea vines into a neat stack. Each load we alternated to a new job. It was fun and to be making a little money was great, but we really were bushed by quitting time. They were some long days. Growing up around the implement business I always seemed to have something to do. Be it loading or unloading equipment, setting it up, cleaning and loading seed on to the truck for delivery to Toledo, or even doing a simple repair job such as riveting a knife section onto a hay mower knife. Always something. I always enjoyed setting up some of the machines. Hay rakes and manure spreaders were my favorites. Setting up a spring tooth was probabaly simple enough, but all that was so close to the floor, hard on the back. We had no steam cleaning equipment, but the grain elevator was powered by a steam boiler. If we had something that really needed cleaning we could take it there and steam it clean. It was really powerful and almost scary to use. If you layed the hose on the ground it would start to whip around so that you could hardly walk up to it, not saying anything about the hot steam coming out of it. This same steaming area would become a large mountain of corn cobs in the fall harvest. Back then everybody brought in ear corn. The elevator would shell it and the cobs would come out of the long chute to form a mountain. We played a lot of “king on the mountain” on those cobs. I don’t suppose the elevator people appreciated us too much for that but we had a lot of fun. Through the following months farmers would come and take them home for bedding. Just to touch back on the clover seed business farmers would bring in their seed in burlap bags and after cleaning the waste would all be put back in their bags for their disposal. Many times they had much more waste to take back than they had good clean seed. The clean seed was put in our two and a half bushel bags which weighed one hundred and fifty pounds each. This was all kept in neat rows with the part bags on the last full bag. This is how we kept the ownership straight, with the part of the last bag tagged with the owners name. It was so very often I got bawled out for crawling around
on those neat bags of seed. For one thing, we could get the bags dirty, and Dad was upset about that. The other was that we would knock the part bag off and it was a puzzle to know where it belonged. The farmer would then come in and sell the clean seed, which after accumulating a load was hauled to Toledo. This was always quite a project, loading and handling those one hundred and fifty pound bags. It gave you a little exercise if nothing else. During my high school years I am sure many things happened most of which has slipped my mind. Oh sure there were girls I wanted to date and a few I did, but mostly it seemed I turned bashful after grade school. We came out of a small St. John’s school environment and into a much larger school like from fifteen in a class to about double that. We played basketball and baseball and it was probably the reason I went back every day. Baseball was my favorite though. I was in the Senior class play, but don’t remember the part at all. As I think back those high school years just flew by. It was in my Senior year that Ernie Panning and I went on a double date with girls from Wauseon. As it turned out, it was a love at first sight. I guess I met Phyllis Demaline on our first date and we went to the Henry County fair. Her father in those days showed holstein cows and she had to help lead some of them during the judging. From there on we went together pretty steadily for four years. I think I only had one other date in those four years. Phyl and I were married on 25 June, 1950, and we had 42 plus years married to each other. We had so many wonderful memories and times together. It is hard to remember that there were that many years involved, although there were nearly 50 years that we did everything together. When we were first married we set up housekeeping at 219 Garden Street in Napoleon. The Korean War broke out the day we were married and I was prime bait for the draft. One and a half years later 25 January ‘52 I was drafted into the Army. Phyllis stayed in Rally, Missouri with Lorna Gerken Miller, while I was stationed near there at Fort Leonard Wood. Lorna’s husband Leonard was also stationed there. Phyl and Lorna went to the Lutheran pastor there and he helped them find a place to live. Pastor Norman and Mrs. Neola Ellerman became very good friends of ours. They helped Phyllis find a job with a local seamstress. Phyllis became a very accomplished seamstress, but then she was very good at anything she would do. She could paint pictures, build things out of wood, such as pictures, furniture, photography, calligraphy, cook, bake, make garden, and so forth. Her talents were endless, and most of them self taught. Before we were married, and after marriage, but before Army duty I am sure she put up with so many things she didn’t really want to do. You see I played softball all of those years and she put up with that even after the two years in service I went back to playing ball. After leaving Missouri in September of 1952, I was transferred to Camp Atterbury, Indiana. Housing was a premium in that area, so Phyllis moved home with her parents Everett and Myrtle Demaline who lived just one mile west of Kahrs Implement Store. I was at Atterbury for four months, then transferred to Fort Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis to study shorthand mainly. We had brick barracks. It was kind of like going to college. We studied English grammar, typing and shorthand. Believe it or not I learned to take court trials by shorthand. After this four months of schooling I was sent back to Atterbury and I spent my last nine months of Army life there. The last seventeen months in the Army I was home every weekend. Never missed one. I was 230 miles away from Camp Atterbury and about 200 miles one way to Harrison, but it was worth it coming home. Only once did I have a problem. I real ended a Cadillac in Marion, Indiana on the way back to camp one weekend. My time in service amounted to two years and one day, long enough. I never had a furlough the whole time in service, but I did come home every weekend. Three weeks before I was discharged we had our first born, Thomas Henry, born on 5 January, 1954. Phyllis and Tom lived with Everett and Myrtle until I got out of the Army. Then I moved in with them also. We were there a few months until Mart and Norma Damman’s house was completed. Then we moved into our old house on the farm. Tlhis is where Mart and Norma were living when I got out of the service. This is where Tom has built his house since. Twenty three months and twenty days after Tom another bundle of joy came to us, in the form of a girl named Anne Elise, born the 24th of December, 1955. As it turned out this was our complete brood, until the kids got married and gave us some grandchildren. We lived in this house, but we didn’t farm the ground. We did have chickens and angus beef cows. Otto Dehnbostel, across the highway, also had beef cows, and the two of us shared a bull. Whenever one or the other needed the bull we would open the doors to the barn and chase him to the other, all without a leash or anything on him. I guess he knew what was up. One time while living there it got real stormy. We both, Phyl and I, thought we heard noises, like the house was on fire. Well I went out without Phyllis knowing I was out there. Pretty soon she came out and saw this guy backing away from the house. She didn’t know that it was me. She screamed and ran back into the house with me about three steps behind her. We both were scared to death because she thought I was some sort of monster coming after her and I thought she saw somebody behind me. We both lay on the couch for a little bit until we could come to our senses. We heard no further funny noises after that. In 1962 we built the house we live in presently. This is the same year that St. John’s church was built. Elmer and Fred Kruse were our builders. They were always very flexible with us. We didn’t have a lot of money so they would let us do as much of the building as we could. I must say Phyllis did much more of it than I did. Of course I was working every day at the implement business. I have to say she probably knew much more about what needed to be done than I did. We did the insulating, put the plaster board on, put in extra nails in the subfloor and so forth. We did the painting, staining, and varnishing. Night after night we worked on the home. During the hours of light and on weekends I hauled fill dirt from the ditch that goes through our farm. I loaded the truck with a tractor and loader from the shop. One hundred and one loads later I felt I had enough of it and called it complete. I used the same tractor and loader to level and make the grades. We sowed our own grass, covered it with straw and planted our own shrubs. You can say the whole project was kind of home grown. Phyllis and I had our spats over the years. Sometimes it would be the silent treatment for a day or two, but always there was a makeup time. We both had our sick times, but always seemed to come out strong. I spent a couple of days in the hospital with a prostrate problem in the middle 60’s. Then I had back surgery on a ruptured disk about 1965, and again the same disk about 1970. I have an X scar to prove it. Phyllis had more serious problems over the years and came out fine until the end. She had a mastectomy along with removal of some lymph nodes. She went through chemo and radiation and was declared clean after about two years. I am not sure what year this was, but I am thinking early ‘70’s. A year or two after that she was taken to the hospital with a very rapid heart beat, hardly able to count the beats. In the hospital about a week with this she came out pretty good. I don’t know, but I think this was caused by the radiation she had received. In August of 1990 we started doctoring her with what proved to be the worst. She ate some sweet corn and became all gassed up. Well she thought I can get along without sweet corn, then we found out it wasn’t the sweet corn at all. Further tests showed that a lump was in her abdomen. She had surgery sometime near the holiday
s, and the worst came out. She was full of cancer. They took everything they dared. We weren’t given much hope. Again she went through chemo and radiation. She was so very sick with the first chemo treatments. She lost all her hair and the whole bit. The following year she seemed to come out of it pretty good. The following holiday season she was in again for surgery. More chemo and different medications were only a small help. At Thanksgiving time in 1992 she ate a good meal, but I think it was her last good meal. The next day cancer had grown everything shut and she was not able to pass anything again. She spent her last four weeks in respite care at Henry County Hospital and died on 3 January, 1993. This has been a very hard thing for me to talk about. Phyllis was very talented and died much too young. This began a very hard time for me. I had my children who by this time had married. Tom married Sandra Gerken on June 26, 1976. They have three children, Cori, born 21 August, 1977, and Haley, born 10 February, 1980, and Kylee born 24 April 1963. Anne married Tuffy Rausch, Wayne Tuffy Rausch on 9 August, 1980. They have two children. Nick was born 27 November, 1985, and Teal was born on 4 April 1988. My oldest grandchild is married to Adam Niese, on August 5th, 2000. These two have a couple of years in already as teachers. Cori is in Napoleon and Adam is in Archbold. This period following Phyllis’s death was so very quiet and lonely. We did everything together. People would say they knew how I felt, but unless losing your spouse happens to you, you just don’t know and realize. At least this is the way I saw it. I went in to work every day and saw Tom and all the help there. Talking every day with customers was a great help. Anne and her family were very supportive and would pick me up to go out to eat, and possibly go shopping. This all helped. The worst time would be coming home from church and you knew you were going to be alone for the rest of the day. There were times when I would just sit there and bawl like a baby and think about how much better I could have been with Phyllis. Feeling guilty all day long. Approximately a year after Phyllis’s death I met Janet Inselmann, who had lost her husband by heart attack some three or four months before Phyllis died. First I met her at a Grandparent’s Day at St. John’s. Her daughter Anita, Neil Badenhop’s wife had children in our school. I talked only briefly. Then we met again at a basketball game. We talked a little there and she brazenly asked me out to coffee sometime. I said yes, maybe we could do that sometime. For years before this, Phyllis and I always ate lunch at PeeWee’s. Well, I formed sort of a support group I called it and I felt obligated to take them out for dinner for their support the past year. They were all happy and excited to go because I told them I was bringing someone. Of course no one knew who it was and I wouldn’t tell them. They guessed so many people thinking it would be one of the nurses from the Lutheran Home. My mother was a resident there at that time. I drove that night and picked up Elnora and Eldon Koppenhoffer. When they crawled in the car Elnora couldn’t believe it. She knew Janet well from her home church on 65 near Deshler, in fact Elnora’s daughter baby sat for Janet’s kids at times. We went to Sauder’s Barn to eat that night and when we walked in we saw Gertrude Kurtz and Herb Honeck at the door. I was lagging back and they had no idea I brought Janet. They spoke to Janet and of course Herb knew her well because Herb’s daughter was married to Janet’s son Gregg. All at once they realized it was Janet that I had brought to the dinner. Those that did not know Janet got acquainted real quick as she is an excellent mixer and one that has never met a stranger. After dinner all were invited to my house for a drink and maybe some dessert, I don’t remember. Janet pitched right in and helped me serve the group. Quite a lot to ask of someone on their first date, but Janet obliged. We found we had a lot of things in common. I loved sports, and she has two sons coaching and was hooked on sports. I found this out very soon because she never missed any of her son’s games. Janet has six children, four girls and two boys. The oldest is Karen and is married to Dave Bishop, they have four boys, Chad, Marc, Paul, and Drew. Second is Kathy who is married to Bill Beck. They have four children, Owen, Katie, Janie, and Jackson. Next is Gregg and he is married to Jayne Honeck. They have two boys, Jeff and Mike. Next is Anita who is married to Neil Badenhop, and they have three children, Joe, Megan, and Clay. Then comes Joleen who is married to Scott Leonard. They have three boys named Gregg, Brad, and Mitch. Last is Bill who married Robin Behrman. They have two girls, Jenna and Karissa. Karen’s number two son Marc was married in November of 2002. Wowee what a family! I had a little problem getting all the names straight at first, but I think I got them down pretty well now. We courted for only about four months and decided to marry. We were married on 24 April, 1994 in a small ceremony with immediate family and a few close friends as guests. The word got around fast and a surprise belling was planned. It was a large crowd all set up to go to VFW with much food and music for dancing. When we got home that night at 2 o’clock we soaked our feet for about two hours. We have now been married for over eight years and there has never been a dull moment. We have always had many relatives to visit and discuss life with. Janet had four brothers, Clifford, deceased, his wife Arlene also deceased, Howard, with wife Doris in Deshler and Florida, Pete and wife in Illinois both deceased. Harley and wife Pat, of rural Deshler. Then there were three sisters, Lois with husband Earl Geer living in Florida, Arlene with husband Bill Goodwin. living in Roanoke, Virginia, and Judy with husband Otie living in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. We have traveled here and there and enjoyed each trip from our honeymoon in Frankenmuth, Michigan to Hawaii a year ago, and Europe a few years back. All were a lot of fun. Our winters, at least February and March have been spent in Florida. Janet and I still have our differences. She is still a very strong Patrick Henry fan and I lean a little to Napoleon, although I have attended so many PH events my side of the family is getting a little worried about me. Janet does sway a little sometimes because Anita’s kids go to Napoleon. Another difference we have is Janet is a Cleveland Indians fan, along with most of her family. I am a diehard Detroit Tigers fan. When they play each other we have our little laughs. She sees the Tigers much more than I see the Indians because I force her to go see the Tigers in spring training in Lakeland, Florida for almost all their home games. Someday maybe she will come around and see the light. I try to appease her by going with her to concerts and plays. She I believe would go to every one in a radius of fifty miles, and maybe I am stretching it a little, but she really does love them. I usually am opposed to going until we’ve been there and have heard them. I find they weren’t too bad after all. Sometimes they play the music too loud so I can’t sleep. There are so many incidents and episodes I could tell about that I would make this a novel, but don’t think they are always pertinent. Some I wouldn’t mind telling about, others I shouldn’t tell about, which could incriminate me. I hope the statute of limitations has passed when I say this and I am not real proud of this one, but once riding with Ernie Panning in his ‘36 Ford four door sedan we pushed over most of the mail boxes from Ridgeville Corners to Napoleon. Now wasn’t that fun! When I was a kid in grade school I had a pair of boxing gloves. I would put them on when somebody and punch a bit, and once I picked on a guy too big. He got a lucky shot in on me. It was a stinger that surprised me which ended that and I never put them on again. What a cry baby! I have been very lucky to have had two lovely and pretty wives. The likeness
of Phyl and now Janet is almost scary. You see in their childhood they were both E.U.B. church members. They both loved music and the old revival hymns, which is what I kind of like too. Both were very active, always willing to help their kids with whatever they needed. Janet is especially energetic. There is no quit to her, always ready to go forward. I do think there are times when she is relieved to be home and ready to relax. Now I am happy to have Janet near me. She is a very loving and Christian lady who tries to and does everything for you. She is always ready to give me the best and the most of everything we have or do. We have now been married over eight years and they have very happy and eventful years. I pray daily that the Lord will continue to let us have this wonderful companionship for many years to come. I have and so has Janet experienced the loneliness there is when you have no spouse. Now we ask that by the grace of God we can continue to enjoy the love of life and be the good children of God until the end.

Von Deylen, Bill

Listen to the full interview by clicking play!
Restored audio from cassette recording. No speaking parts have been edited or cut from original. Audio may differ some from transcription. Restored by Katy Benson 01-27-2022

Interviewed by Marlene Patterson, September 25, 2007

Russell Patterson, myself, and Bill and Janet Von Deylen are sitting in the Great Room of their newly constructed condominium located at 1126 Chelsea Avenue here in Napoleon. What a lovely home it is. We are sitting at a table looking at an OSU extension service photograph of Bill’s childhood home located on the corner of State Route 108 and County Road U. The photograph is dated 1952. It features the newly built home of Bill’s parents Harry and Laura Von Deylen. Howard Bond of the Henry County extension service conducted a county wide garden and landscaping tour. Harry Von Deylen’s house was one of the houses chosen to showcase. One thing that was noted was the television aerial sitting high above the rooftop.

MP: The first thing Bill that struck my eye is your television aerial. Your family must have been one of the first in the Gerald area to have a television set in their home. It was several years later that my father purchased a television set. What is so humorous is the fact it is a landscaping tour.

BVD: Yes, I remember the people touring outside our house.

MP: The Henry Schlueter home just north of here was also on the landscaping tour. Their idea of landscaping was different from ours in this day and age. Both of these houses had only about three or four trees. People do landscaping differently now.

BVD: I started to write some facts, but most of what I wrote I have on a tape.

MP: Maybe we can use the tape you made previously and the oral history. Will you continue with your family history please.

BVD: My father Harry Von Deylen was born to Wm. and Minnie Boesling Von Deylen on Aug. 29, 1903 in Freedom Township, Henry County, Ohio. Harry married Laura Plassman, I believe in 1926. They were blessed with three children, Bill, Donna, and Lois. In Harry’s early years he was a trucker, hauling mainly livestock to Folger’s in Toledo. He also was in the clover seed business. Along with this he also had a grocery business with two gas pumps out front. This was located in Gerald.

MP: I remember the gas pumps and the grocery store because Lois and I were friends. How old were you when you had the grocery store?

BVD: I was born in the grocery store.

MP: In the back bedroom?

BVD: Yes, but I always said on the meat counter.

MP: Maybe on the check out counter. Your mother and dad didn’t have enough time for you.

BVD: Yes, I was born there and we moved away when I was a seventh grader in 1941.

MP: You said you moved away?

BVD: We moved to where Tom lives now.

MP: To that house on 108 that sat beside the creek?

BVD: Yes

MP: Do you know that when I was ten years old your mother gave a surprise birthday party for me. I will never forget that. Your mother was always nice to me. I remember as a little girl going over to your house and your mother gave me a small porcelain dog. I still have the dog and I treasure it.

BVD: I don’t remember that.

MP: You sold the grocery store in later years to the Millers?

BVD: No, we sold it to Bill Kruse.

MP: Yes, I remember Bill and Olga Kruse. They owned the grocery store for a while.

BVD: My fathers name was Harry, actually William Harry Von Deylen. He never used William.

MP: I never knew your father dealt in livestock prior to his implement business. Marie Durham was your father’s sister. Were there other sisters or brothers?

BVD: Yes there were four other sisters who died during the flu epidemic of WWI. He was the only son and Marie lived a full life.

MP: And Minnie was…

BVD: My Grandma. (Minnie Boesling).

MP: How did your father get started in the implement business?

BVD: He was in this trucking business and along with that he was also in the clover seed business, and Mom ran the grocery store. In 1933 my Granddad Bill was running the implement business and he died, my Granddad Bill (Minnie’s husband).

MP: In other words he started the implement business.

BVD: Yes he started the implement business in 1915.

MP: Is this included on the tape?

BVD: Yes it is. In 1933 when my granddad died, of course my Uncle Willis was working there too.

MP: Yes I remember your Uncle Willis. He used to walk by our house every day going back and forth to work.

BVD: He worked for my granddad and then when my granddad died Willis couldn’t run the business and so it sat empty until ‘34 when Dad took over the implement business. It didn’t sit empty, it just wasn’t very active. Then Dad took over the implement business and he went out of the trucking business and from then on Dad was the John Deere dealer.

MP: Who built the yellow brick building that housed the impement dealership?

BVD: First of all the red brick building that was beside the Bindeman store my Dad built in ‘46.

MP: The red brick building housed the implements from your grandfather too.

BVD: Yes. My grandfather before that was a blacksmith, before Herman Delventhal.

MP: Herman was with my grandfather John Gerken.

BVD: Yes he was, but that’s way before my time.

MP: Did you know he had a buggy works and made these horse drawn buggies. I was offered one of his original buggies to buy it from Bert Kruse. He wanted $400 for it. Do you think I would spend that kind of money for a wagon? He had restored it and had even painted Gerken Wagon on the side.

BVD: There are some wagons around manufactured by William Von Deylen.

MP: Have your pinpointed where they are?

BVD: I know where some of them were. Harold Cordes’s dad had one on his auction, but that has been years ago. Another one was at Leo Nagle’s. I tried to buy it at one time,but of course he didn’t want to sell it. He just passed away this past year.

MP: Where would you put it? That was one of my thoughts too.

BVD: Anyway they made parts in the blacksmith shop, you know where that was.

MP: Right.

BVD: Near the elevator office.

MP: We have pictures of the blacksmith shop. Do you remember the big round water tank out in front for the horses. It had horsehairs in it and when we were kids we thought they were snakes.

BVD: Yes I do. This is on the tape too, but Adolph Langenhop brought his western horse over with a buggy to have it shod, and Herm Delventhal did that in his blacksmith shop. Walter and I were supposed to take that horse with the buggy back home in the evening. We got on the road and headed east to Langenhop’s and we yelled Whoa all the way home. The horse just took off running and of course there wasn’t near the traffic we have now. He ran right across 108 and never stopped. The curve there at Eldor Fuhrop’s he just straightened that sucker out. Luckily the barn door was closed when we got there or the horse would have went right into the barn.

MP: I have a wood box with the name Wm. Von Deylen, Gerald, Ohio painted on the side. Do you remember how they used to paint the name and destination on the outside of packages. Your grandfather had ordered a box of toe caulks for horses. This wood box was used for mailing the toe caulks to him. These toe caulks were put on the bottom of the horse shoe to keep horses from slipping on the snow and ice.

BVD: Yes, they were like a horse shoe and had pegs on the bottoms I think.

MP: It’s been so long ago I’m not sure either.

BVD: I was talking about Dad trading in a horse. Of course he didn’t get home until about 8 o’clock. It took him a while to sign the papers. It may have been just a verbal handshake. Anyway he came home and he had traded for this horse. He said who it was and he has told this story many times and the next morning this farmer came in and said “Hey your horse died last night”. My dad didn’t even have the horse yet. I don’t know whatever became of that.

MP: He bought a dead horse?

BVD: He used to trade horse drawn equipment for implements. The farmers were making the changeover from horses to tractors at that time. I have this on my tape. I made that eight or nine years ago. It’s long and I didn’t realize I talked that long.

MP: At what point or who built the yellow brick building?

BVD: It was in 1938 that building was built. Dad built that after the red block building which was next to Bindeman’s and our store. Before that it was an old wood frame building. It had a ramp built up and tractors could hardly get up into it. That frame building was torn down and they put up the red block building. We were in that only ten to twelve years and then we built the yellow brick building on the east end of town. You might say on the suburbs of Gerald.

MP: You know Gerald never had a sign on either end of town. We were talking about that the other day and this woman said and I will quote her, she said the township trustees were too tight. I prefer to say that they were frugal.

BVD: They have signs now. They have signs now, but they have been taken a few times.

MP: Had I known that I might have been one of the persons to take it. Just for a souvenir.

BVD: Do you remember the stock yards beside the elevator?

MP: No, but my dad had pictures ot the stock yards. He told about the stock yards in back there. I have the pictures now. Do you remember any passengers boarding or getting off the steam engine train that used to go through Gerald?

BVD: I don’t remember actually seeing any. Now north of Gerald was the little town of Naomi. There was a building there very siimilar to our grocery store in Gerald. Naomi had a bar and also some girls there.

MP: That was common and didn’t they come down the railroad tracks?

BVD: Some of them did.

MP: They always said that Sheriff Bartels was the one that cleaned up Henry County and got rid of crime.

MP: You know people would come to our driveway thinking they were in Naomi and Lorna Bostelman worked for us. My parents at that time had the grocery store. They would run quick and lock all the doors. We had a door right next to the railroad tracks and guys were trying to come in, but they had the doors locked. They would be staggering and we knew they weren’t there because they were thirsty.

BVD: I know the clover seed business was done in a barn back behind our house. Do you remember that barn behind our house, behind our grocery store?

MP: Yes, Is that where they bought their clover seed? Was clover seed a brand?

BVD: No, clover seed was alfalfa, mammoth clover, and red clover timothy. He dealt in that. He bought it from the farmers, hauled it to Toledo to resell to a wholesaler there. In

the spring they would plant it. Plowdown they called it. You planted it in the wheat field. The wheat was taken off and the clover would come up through it. It was more of a ground, a land builder.

MP: To enrich the soil.

BVD: Yes, rather than like mammoth that is all it was for was to build up the ground rather than to make hay.

MP: Did the animals eat this then.

BVD: They did some, but they didn’t eat the mammoth so much. Dad took over the implement business. Of course I was in and out of the shop there and Uncle Willis worked there. I had this artificial turd. It looked so real you could almost smell it. One day I layed that down beside the heating stove. When Willis saw that he took a double take. He got there down on his haunches and slid a piece of paper under it. When he had it picked up I walked over and grabbed it. He looked at me and I had to run for my life. That was in the old red block building.

MP: Did they ever have dances in the red block building?

BVD: No.

MP: Not even after you moved in to the yellow brick building?

BVD: No, Not that I know of. We had my wedding in the yellow brick building.

MP: I remember that because I went to your wedding. Do you remember years ago when somebody got married around here they would invite everyone from miles and miles around.

BVD: Everybody would bring in food and you would eat and eat and then again at midnight you would eat again. They had the big dances. You probably remember the dances they had in the Bindeman’s store, in their upstairs.

MP: No, you see I am Lois’s age and I had to stay home a lot. Jeannette might remember. Do you remember when Bindeman’s got robbed by a safe cracker. It was a long time ago. I have a picture of Ed Bindeman looking in the empty safe and his eyes are open real wide.

BVD: Back in those days we had two grocery stores in Gerald, a bar and two implement dealers.

MP: I remember Ed Bindeman had Massey Ferguson

BVD: Before that he had International Harvester even.

MP: Do you remember a market where they sold chickens and ducks and stuff?

BVD: No.

MP: My dad was telling me about that. In that little area next to Ed Bindman’s implement building.

BVD: In your grandad’s yard there?

MP: Yes, My dad told me. I wish I had recorded it. He told me this house they moved across the field.

BVD: We used to have a baseball diamond behind Bindemans store. It was more of a field. They would have baseball teams come there, even out of Toledo.

MP: Did they have seats for people?

BVD: No, most of them just sat on the ground. I was very young when they had the ball teams come in. I had poison ivy one weekend when we had a ball game and I love baseball you know. I wanted to go over there and Mom had this calamine lotion all over my face. I snuck down through your grandad’s yard and wanted to go to Grandma Durham you know. I snuck away from the ball diamond so people wouldn’t see me. Yes about every Sunday they had ball games back then.

MP: Do you know what they used on me for poison ivy. I had poison ivy every summer. We used a solution of sugar of lead. The drug store sold sugar of lead in powder form by the ounce. You would mix it with water in a quart jar shake it to get it dissolved and put in on your poison ivy. It worked. I hope it didn’t absorb through my skin and give me lead poisoning.

RP: It really worked but the government has since outlawed it because of lead poisoning.. That used to be a popular remedy.

JVD: Like things we buy from China now. Everything is so full of lead paint.

MP: Where did you start to school?

BVD: At Freedom twp. St. John’s school

MP: Who was your teacher?

BVD: Miss Louise Schick.

MP: She was mine too. She was good and so sweet.

BVD: I had Miss Schick, then I had Mr. Elmer Bunsold, and then I had Mr. John Gefeke. Just those three.

MP: You had the same ones I had. Did you have the out house out in back of the school? How many holes did it have?

BVD: I think it was a two seater. Maybe three.

MP: I think it was two large holes and one small hole was for a child. I am not sure.

BVD: I know we snuck out when we weren’t supposed to be out there.

MP: How did you get out there, you mean during class?

BVD: Well you would hold up your hand if you had to go. You didn’t really have to go, you just went.

MP: You didn’t pull that too often did you.

BVD: Oh no, not me. I would never do a thing like that. Now Elnora Miller Koppenhoffer says and Lydia Wesche used to say that too that I would crawl under the seats sometimes.I don’t remember ever doing that.

MP: Why would you crawl under the seats?

BVD: I really don’t know. I don’t understand that but they claim I always didn’t stay in my seat like I was supposed to. I don’t think I ever did that in Gefeke’s classes. He was strict.

MP: I liked Mr. Gefeke. The only problem I had was you see I had long stringy curls and he would play with them or pull on them when the class would march out for recess. My mother curled my hair up on rags. That was the style then. My father said not to pay any attention to it. Did you ever get hit with a ruler?

BVD: No, I was a good boy.

MP: I am still wondering why you were crawling under the seats.

BVD: I don’t know either why I would do a thing like that. Janet, you heard them say it several times.

JVD: I don’t know whether it was just to tease the girls or what.

MP: Did you have to at the end of the day sweep your aisle?

BVD: Yes, we were the janitors too.

MP: Did that teach you something?

BVD: Yes, I knew the floors were clean and I could crawl under the seats again.

MP: I bet you didn’t throw paper down on the floor because you knew you would have to at the end of the day just sweep it up again.

BVD: We used to play ball out in Durham’s yard. I always tried to hit the long ball. Of course it cost a few windows.

MP: I suppose it did. My grandfather’s chicken coop was just beyond that. He had chickens and at one point he had rabbits. He was going to make big bucks.

BVD: He did his honey in there too. Before that the section hands would come there and eat lunch at the grocery store. We would start up a ball game and they would come and play ball with us. Do you remember where they took the sugar beets in Gerald?

MP: No where did they take them.

BVD: Right next to the elevator. There was a big scale where they weighed them. I believe the sugar beet company ran the operation. They would take the sugar beets to Ottawa, Ohio. The farmers would bring in their wagon loads of beets, weigh them and then load them with an elevator onto the rail cars or dump them on a pile and later load them into the rail cars. It was so muddy down there. They would have to hook up a couple teams of horses just to get through there.

MP: When did Gerald first get electricity.

BVD: As far as I know we had electricity when I was born. I remember Henry Cordes, Don Cordes’s parents, Henry and Leola, we would go over there. We visited back and forth then with my folks. They always had these gas filaments that made nice bright lights.

MP: Was it in their ceilings?

BVD: Yes, they had no electricity there. I remember them getting it but I don’t remember what year.

MP: I remember Leola Cordes. My dad and Leola were confirmed together. He would always call her up and they would just talk and just chat like two old women. I thought that was so nice and they were just friends. This was in later years when they had both lost their spouses.

BVD: The person I was trying to think about that did the sugar beet business there in Gerald lived with us during the sugar beet season. Durleautz.

JVD: You mean Clarence Durleautz over by Custer?

BVD: I don’t know the mans first name but he lived with us while the farmers were taking sugar beets in. We had rooms upstairs there in the store. Were you ever up in the upstairs at the store?

MP: I think so, maybe once. If I had it would have been with Lois. I was probably scared to death up there.

BVD: Let’s see there were four rooms up there. The front room was more or less just storage. We had the wood house out behind the house and barn. Of course we had the out house there. We didn’t have outside plumbing yet. In the wood house Mom did her washing and laundry there at least through the summer time. This was not attached to our house, but we had a cement sidewalk going out to it though. I had a picture of me, I don’t know how old, but I was not very old and I had Eagle brand milk cans which is what they fed me. I had made a pyramid of these empty cans and I am sitting in front of it. You’ve seen that picture haven’t you Janet?

JVD: Yes, but I am not sure where it is now.

MP: I got fed Pet Milk to build me up. My mother always said when she came she thought I had TB because I was so scrawny. Now look at me.

BVD: I remember your mother Ruth.

MP: What do you remember about her? She died in 1941.

BVD: Other than being there. I don’t remember her being out much.

MP: I imagine with five children she probably wasn’t outside much.

JVD: What was your maiden name.

MP: My mother was Ruth Kline and my father was John Gerken. She had five children and died in childbirth. That left my father with five little kids in Gerald. I was five years and a couple months old.

BVD: I was born in September of1928 and so was Kenny, your brother. He was born on Oct. 3rd of 1928

MP: Did you go to school in Ridgeville then?

BVD: Yes, we were in the same grade.

MP: You see these three, Russell, Kenny, and Bob Schmeckpeper, my bother in law, and Ed Peper that whole gang they were all born in ‘28. Did you have to go in to the service then? When Russell graduated he and his buddy Bill Little went out to California on a trip to work and find gold probably I guess. Anyway they were out in California in a post office and a Marine recruiter met up with them and they both joined the marines and of course when the officer did the background check, the policeman gave him the message from his mother that he should come home. So Russell is technically in World War II. He did that right after graduation, joined the Marines.

JVD: Then you were in the service.

MP: That is why they keep lining him up as a Korean veteran, but he is actually a World War II veteran. Kenny was a Korean veteran.

BVD: I was too young for World War II.

RP: Where I get in on the technical part is that they didn’t declare the war over until the end of ‘46. I am considered World War II but did not see any action. I was sent to Cherry Point, North Carolina.

BVD: I got married the day the Korean War broke out. Our wedding day was that day and it was very hot.

MP: I remember how hot it got and didn’t the chicken spoil? I remember they had to start the chicken over again because my mother was helping.

JVD: Was this on your wedding day? Was it cooked from scratch?

MP: Oh yes everything was always cooked from scratch, in fact somebody in Gerald probably butchered the chickens.

JVD: Would it spoil that quick?

MP: They had it in the old galvanized wash tubs, and it was very hot. This was before air conditioning. They always put out big feasts. There was a bunch of women that would always make coffee cakes, jello, and pies.

BVD: My wedding reception was in the old shop.

RP: Do you remember the field days that were held at St. John’s?

BVD: Yes, with Defiance, St. Paul’s and St. Luke’s, and of course Freedom.

RP: You guys would always beat us in baseball. We didn’t have a field here at St. Paul’s to practice on. That was our excuse. We at St. Paul’s didn’t even have swings or gym equipment. We had the parking lot.

JVD: And that was probably cement.

RP: On Field Day the Wesche Furniture Store would send their delivery truck over to the school and we would all climb on the truck and ride out to St. John’s school for Field Day. We would drive through Gerald and we’d all be hanging on the sides of the truck.

MP: It’s a wonder no one fell off.

BVD: I have a video tape of a track meet. George Von Deylen had the movies and we got them sometime and put them together on a tape.

RP: What is interesting I always played with Willie Delventhal. I got acquainted with him out there.

BVD: He died way too young. Willie and I always ran around together. In high school once we got a car, he and I always rode together. Before that I rode with Walter Delventhal. Of course he graduated three years before I did. Mary Ann was in my grade, Walter’s sister. We had those trackmeets and guys would come, the old farmers would come all dressed with neckties, their Sunday suits on and it was hot. They had a stand for ice cream, pop, and peanuts. I think there was one Sunday, maybe it wasn’t even Sunday maybe it was the mission festival and two weeks later we used the same stand.

RP: I remember those field days. We always got beaten by Freedom.

BVD: We would have relay races, broad jumping,

MP: Did you ever notice how small that field is. When you were a kid you thought it was gigantic.

BVD: We would play fox and geese and other games.

MP: We would make angels, maybe you didn’t make angels, since that is not a boy thing.

RP: We used to play king of the mountain at our school.

MP: We used to play king of the mountain on the dirt pile when they were building the back addition on at St. John’s.

BVD: Do you remember the big pile of corn cobs beside the elevator?

MP: Oh yes, I used to play on them and do you know I would always call them cob corns. I could never get the words in order.

BVD: We used to play king of the mountain on the corn cobs. I don’t think the elevator crew appreciated that.

MP: Probably not, because we kind of squished them down.

BVD: Yes we sure ruined that pile, and flattened it out. The elevator was run by a steam engine there and whenever we needed something cleaned at the shop we would take it over there and they would start the steamer up for us. Sometimes they would have the hose set too high and the hose would start whipping and it was dangerous to get close to it. You could hardly hang on to the hose. That was pretty handy to clean things up. In the grocery store I had an empty cigar box . I had a cigar in there and I had a pack of cigarettes, a pipe, and a match. It is a wonder the elevator stood because I would go behind the elevator. I just did that once though. I took a cigar there and smoked and I remember Eldor Norden from Ridgeville, and I know he saw me and he never turned me in. I smoked that cigar in the feed shed behind the elevator. From there I went to Grandma’s house and she said “Junge hast dow schmerked”? Have you been smoking? It wasn’t too long and I got sick she knew, but she never told my parents. She nursed me back to health.

MP: I think people were smarter years ago.

BVD: I think the girls were always turning me in for something I didn’t do. That’s sisters for you.

MP: Oh sure! Just like they picked on you. Do you remember a building next to where my dad lived ? There is an empty lot there now. What was that?

BVD: Henry Witte lived upstairs in it. I think it was a car repair business as I remember it. Somebody in there fixed cars, but I don’t think it was Henry Witte. Do you remember Henry Witte?

MP: Henry Witte, would he at one time have lived in the house on my grandfather’s farm? It just strikes me that there was a Mr. Witte that rented that place.

BVD: You know he was married and our cemetary out there in the Northwest corner there is a headstone and that is Henry’s wife who had committed suicide. She was buried kind of away from everybody.

MP: Because it was considered a sin to commit suicide. I can remember when I was little the people that lived upstairs in this building next to my dad’s would throw their garbage out the window from the second floor and it would land on our driveway. We had potato peeling and other things on our driveway and my dad got so mad and for some reason he went and bought the place and then tore it down. I think it was ready to fall down anyway. Do you know what a newel post is? My dad salvaged that and I had him make a plant stand for me. He made a base for it, stained it and I use it for plants.

BVD: I remember Henry Witte living upstairs in that building. It always scared me to hear about his wife committing suicide so I never stopped there. Going to school at St. John’s I would walk there and of course the older kids would have bicycles and I always wanted a bicycle too. I didn’t have a bicycle in my early years. I had a tricycle. Of course the other kids were on two wheelers so I would tip that thing on the side and pedal to school that way.

JVD: So you would be a big boy!

MP: It’s funny they didn’t buy you a bicycle.

BVD: They did but that was later. I couldn’t reach the pedals so they took the seat off and wrapped one of those clover seed bags around it where the seat was supposed to be, and I still couldn’t reach the pedals so I didn’t ride that bike for a while.

MP: You’re not really short, maybe you were just too young.

BVD: I was always the shortest one in my class in school.

MP: You know talking about friends, your mother and dad and my birth mother and dad were friends. Your mother Laura gave me a picture of my mother and father at the zoo. She said the four of them went to the zoo on a Sunday afternoon. My mother is dressed in a sailor dress and my dad had a fancy straw hat on. They were dressed in their finest. I imagine it might have been taken before they were even married. We had the print enlarged and I treasure that.

BVD: You talk about pictures. We have friends in Florida, and they live in Tecumseh, Mich. anyway the first year she, when we went to church there we had to introduce ourselves and say where we were from. On the way out she intercepted us and asked if we knew any Rohrs around Napoleon, and I said yes. It happened that Harold Rohrs was her uncle. Anyway a year later she brought a picture. Here it was a confirmation picture and she says Do you recognize anybody on the picture? Here my mother was on that picture. And she said this one is my mother. Here the two were confirmed together. She grew up at Fayette. Her maiden name was Borton and her mothers maiden name was Rohrs. Her mother just passed away maybe a year ago. She was almost 100 years old. She was a sister to Mildred Meyer, Vernon Meyer’s mother and Dick Gerken’s wife.

JVD: How is she related over here to Arlene Hershberger?

BVD: She is a first cousin. It is kind of a small world.

RP: Can you tell about the early business.

BVD: I have some of that on this tape. Dad was in the clover seed business, the trucking business to start with and the implement business. We would get this clover seed in, of course we cleaned it and the farmer would take the tare back home and we would buy the good part of it. We bagged it in two and a half bushel bags, which is one hundred and fifty pounds in one bag. It took a horse to pick those things up you know. Anyway some would have a good crop and maybe they would have ten bags of it. You would line these bags up. You remember these bags don’t you.

MP: Yes, I do.

BVD: And then you would have a part bag, and the part bag was always the last one in the line, so they could see who that belonged to. Dad was always upset with us because we would crawl around on those bags and get them dirty and he would bawl us out. We caught the devil many times. Then we would knock that part bag off and he wouldn’t know who it belonged to. It was a puzzle then. But we would have maybe twenty bags in a row, and the row beside it were twenty more bags and maybe the eighth one would have a short one on top and those seven bags plus the part bag would belong to Henry Rohrs or whoever we bought seed from. We bought seed from all over the county you might say. It was either there or to go to Fegleys in Pettisville. We bought a lot of seed and then we would truck it to Toledo. Henry Hersch, they were Jewish people and always treated Dad very fairly as far as I am concerned. On Superior Street I remember hauling seed in there, a truckload of seed, six ton on the truck. We would load it at night and in the morning we would start out with it . We always had to jack the truck up so it wouldn’t be so heavy on the tires overnight. That was Dad’s idea though.

MP: That stands to reason. Tires weren’t near as good as the tires we have today. Did you get the seed from the farmers?

BVD: Yes, the farmer brought the seeds in to us in old burlap bags with the trash and everything in it. Like they would combine the clover just like they do the wheat and bring us the clover seeds and alfalfa seeds.

RP: About what year was this?

BVD: Right when I was born in ‘28 and probably before that on through, well we bought and sold clover seed here in Napoleon, even when we moved here in ‘76. We didn’t clean it anymore.

MP: Did you still buy seed from the farmers?

BVD: No, we stopped that when we moved here to Napoleon. I am going to say that was probably ‘76 when we stopped buying clover seed. Dad died in ‘78. He was 75 years old. He was born in 1903.

RP: Was Harry’s dad a blacksmith?

BVD: He was in with your Grampa Gerken and somehow Herman Delventhal migrated in and ran the blacksmith shop.

MP: Who did Herman live with?

BVD: He lived with my grandparents Wm. and Minnie Von Deylen. I don’t know what year he was married, but I am going to say around the early ‘20’s. Because Walter was born in about 1925.

MP: Walter is older than you.

BVD: Yes, Herman would have come direct from Germany. Then Emma came, and she was very German. She could hardly speak English.

MP: She was such a sweet little soul.

RP: Your Grandfather Bill had a box that we have of toe caulks for horses. They were pegs that fit up in a horseshoe to keep the horses from slipping on ice and snow.

BVD: They were studs-like.

MP: We had more ice and snow years ago.

JVD: It is hard to imagine but when I was a kid it was winter all winter.

MP: Winter started around Halloween. We always had snow and sleet and ice in November already.

JVD: We always had snow in our ditches, because we would go sledding all winter. This heat we have now is a bit much.

RP: My folks always set up the hard coal stove around Halloween.

JVD: Did you tell how Gerald had more than one gas station?

MP: Where was the other gas station at?

BVD: Bindeman’s had a pump out in front of their grocery store. We had two implement dealers in Gerald. Now there isn’t that many in Napoleon.

MP: People don’t use implements anymore.

BVD: That’s right.We had two grocery stores in Gerald. We had a bar in Gerald. We even had a post office and stock yards.

MP: My grandfather John Gerken was listed as the only postmaster and I think it was in the back of the grocery store.

JVD: My grandfather was the postmaster in Malinta. Levi Spangler and they homesteaded between Hamler and Deshler, but they lived in Malinta until they cleared the land and they would travel back and forth.

RP: I have a post mark of Grelton and we almost had a postmark of Freedom Mills located up on the ridge. A fellow showed us one but he wouldn’t sell it. He also had a Gerald postmark. We couldn’t get that one either. He had a postmark on the back of a card and a postmark on a card of Gerald. He had a collection of postmarks from all the towns in Henry County, plus other counties. He ended up selling his whole collection to some guy up in Michigan. He would get a postmark from all the towns in each county and then type up the history of each post office. He had it complete. Why he would sell his Ohio county collection to someone in Michigan I will never know.

MP: Do you know was the Gerald road always cement?

BVD: I believe it was even on up to the school.

MP: I remember we used to have hitching rails up around the school house, because us girls would swing clear around on them. I used to roller skate on the Gerald road and it had these cracks in it and you would have to jump over them or else you would fall.

BVD: I was telling Marlene about Adolph Langenhop having his western horse shod. Herman Delventhal did that and Adolph brought it in the morning and somehow he got home, whether he walked home I don’t know. Walter was supposed to bring the horse to Adolph that night. Of course I was just waiting for him to ask me to go along. Anyway we got in that buggy and headed for Adolphs and the horse just took off running. It was a western horse. That was the fastest trip I ever made. Both of us yelled whoa all the way home. Anybody that saw us probably wondered what was going on. It went right across 108 and never stopped. The horse knew where home was. One mile east of 108 where the jog is, we straightened that sucker out. We got to Adolphs house and I am sure we were on two wheels turning in the drive. That thing was moving. I always said if the barn doors had been open we would have had that horse in there real quick. Vernon Miller and I went to the Herman Meyer, where Lois lived there in Gerald, and Art Noske, I don’t know if you remember that name, he lived there with the Meyers and worked. I don’t know if Ray was too young, anyway Art was the hired man and we went out to the field with the horses and a wagon and helped him load corn, and husk it in shocks. We had this wagon full of corn. Of course Vern and I were sitting on the back end and Art was driving the team up toward the building. I don’t know if we hit something but anyway Vern fell off and landed right in front of the left rear wheel of that wagon and I yelled “Whoa”. Right up on Vern the horse stopped. We were parked right on top of Vern and his eyes were huge. I was sure he was going to be dead. Running over him with a load of corn. The only thing you could do was say Giddyap and we went over there and he got up and he was scared to death. We took him home and he cried and he didn’t even have a bruise. Everything turned out fine.

MP: That Noske brings to mind. Who did he live with in Freedom township?

BVD: He had a brother Bill Noske and he lived with Adolph Damman. Art lived with the Meyers. One of those Noske boys were killed in the War. I don’t know if it was Bill or Art. I am not sure. It’s been such a long time ago. I think it was Arnold Norden and I don’t know if they had a big wedding or if they just went to the preacher, anyway they stopped at the store on a Sunday afternoon said they had gotten married and Walter Gerken was there and Ray Meyer and they got the whiskey bottle out. I can remember Ray had to do chores and milk cows that night. Of course the cows were way in back of the barn and I was ready to help him and I didn’t know from nothing, but they got an old work horse out and we got on that horse and we rode clear out there and met. I yelled whoa all the way out there. That horse was way too fast for me. Anyway we got the cows home pretty quick.

MP: Did they get milked?

BVD: I think they did. I think I went home to bed. I remember Walter was there too. We used to go up in the elevator and pester those guys. I must have been the neighborhood brat.

JVD: You must have been a little turd all over the place. You were probably the neighborhood pest.

MP: What did John Deere Days consist of in Gerald. I know they held it every year.

BVD: Hot dogs, movies, and we would have a guy would give a spiel about this plow and so forth.

MP: You would have sales reps from John Deere company?

RP: Were the movies more advertising?

BVD: Yes, they would have a feature movie of some comedien and then some advertising.

RP: I can remember in town they would have movies and the merchants would pay for them, and they had benches.

BVD: Yes, and they would have the movie shown on the side of a building.

MP: Did you ever go to the Gerald Elevaor meeting, the stockholders meeting?

BVD: No I never did go.

MP: I never did either, but I know we had beer glasses in the basement that were used there. I suppose my mother washed them and stored them. These glasses were heavy and were barrel shaped. They wouldn’t have passed out beer there would they?

BVD: I think they probably did. I know we used to have telephone meetings. You know we had our own telephone exchange that the Miller girls handled. We had all the news just like that. Anyway when our church burned they got the call that the church was on fire and of course one of the girls ran over to the shop and told us.

MP: Did you still have the Gerald exchange at that time?

BVD: Oh yes.

MP: What year did it burn?

BVD: In 1961 is when it burned. You see our house where we lived in Freedom on the Gerald road was built the same time as our new church, in 1962.

MP: You mean your house on U?

BVD: Anyway the church must have burned maybe two years before that.

JVD: Where did you hold church services at then?

BVD: At the old school, and in the Ridgeville school gymnasium.

MP: Probably any place available at that time.

BVD: Why we didn’t always have it in our school, but they went to the gymnasium there. Probably they had better seating and we didn’t always have to move chairs around. They had permanent seating. We always had to set up all the chairs and take them down at our school.

MP: We used to go to Northcrest and we would see John Badenhop who was the one who saw the fire first. In later years John was burning brush and somehow tripped and fell into the fire and he himself got burned quite badly. I always felt so sorry for him.

BVD: When our church burned I could have carried so many things out .

MP: Well at a time like that you don’t think clearly.

BVD: No. I could have carried the Jesus statue off the altar.

MP: Did it burn?

BVD: Oh yes, everything. We went into the basement and carried out a few chairs. I pulled a drawer out of the counter and couldn’t see anything. It was so smoky. I got outside and here it was an empty drawer.

MP: At a time like that you just don’t think, you just don’t think.

BVD: Afterwards and in the ashes I got the gold cross out. My dad had it refinished. Anyway there is a write up that he had found it. Anyway it wasn’t him, it was me that found it. I dug it out and it was all crinkled up and they pounded it out again. It had burned off the base and it is rough there. They have it in the museum in our church.

JVD: I worked at the Custer bank and that burned. I was just going to work and it had caught fire early, right before they opened. Us too, we just grabbed stuff and carried it. You just keep taking what is handy.

BVD: Janet was a teller there and it has been robbed twice while she was there.

JVD: We have had two bank robberies and the fire while I was there. Speaking of bank robberies in the paper just the other day it showed people wearing a mask and stuff. It just gives you the willies because both times they came in wearing a ski mask.

BVD: The bank had marked money and she gave them some that wasn’t marked.

RP: Actually here in Napoleon our first bank robbery wasn’t until 1932. The humorous part about it was when they robbed the bank Franklin Leonard was the policeman. He got the call and he grabbed his Thompson machine gun and ran into the Community Bank on the corner. All these people were scaired to see him come into the bank with a machine gun. Here the robbers were at the other bank and they got away.

JVD: Yes we do strange things when we panic.

BVD: I remember some of those old policemen, Frank Leonard, Homer Kessler, Woody Reimund, I think he was a sheriff’s deputy. We were skating in Ridgeville one night and Lawrence Gerken, on the ridge, he had a ‘33 or ‘34 Ford with no brakes. We were coming off the ridge road and onto Route 6 where you are supposed to stop.

MP: Didn’t he know he didn’t have brakes?

BVD: Oh yes, he knew he didn’t have brakes. Anyway we were going to Faubles here in town from skating. There was Woody at the first filling station catching everybody from the ridge road going onto Route 6. Of course I didn’t stop. Woody flagged me down and I knew Lawrence was behind me with no brakes. Woody had me flagged down and was talking to me and here comes Lawrence driving in from the other way. Woody says to him “Why didn’t you stop”? Lawrence tells him I didn’t have any brakes. We both got tickets.

MP: How did he stop the car normally?

BVD: I don’t know if he got out or what, or maybe he put it in gear. He had some brake but not enough to stop.

RP: Speaking of Homer Kessler, I used to listen to all these stories. Back in ‘37 they had a big flood in Goosetown. Mary Sattler was stranded in her house, but she would never leave her house. She was up on the second floor of her house. Shine Mann came in a boat, crawled through her window and told her that Goosetown was flooded and she would have to get in the boat and leave. She refused. Shine Mann went back and told this to Homer that she refused to come out. Well Homer just said “Well piss on her” and they continued rescuing other people that were stranded and left her behind.

MP: She didn’t get rescued.

RP: That’s the way they were back then.

BVD: This is another one on this tape. We used to go to my Grampa Plassman to butcher in the winter time. We would butcher a steer, a couple of hogs, and make sausage. Of course Hank Cordes he was the butcher. Leola knew about as much as Henry did as far as that goes. Those two always came and butchered. I would skip school that day because I had to help. Don Cordes he would skip school too. My grandparents had a new puppy. We started playing with it and took it upstairs which is a no no. She wouldn’t even allow the puppy in the house. We snuck the puppy upstairs and wouldn’t you know it, but it did a job. In the ceiling there was a square hole for the register which wasn’t there at the time. I looked through the hole and here was this big old cookstove directly below it. I said Don I will go down and when there is nobody there then you drop it and we’ll get rid of this. So that was the plan. Grandma went outside for something and I ran down there and Don dropped it and missed the hole and it was frying on a hot cookstove. I took this tool and tried to rake it in there and I had a mess. About that time Grandma came in and I really got to hear it.

JVD: Nothing like fried dog. Weren’t they ornery?

BVD: We were pretty innocent I thought. Yes, some of the things we got into. I might be incrimating myself here. I think the statute of limitations will take care of this. We can talk about you Janet. She is a painter.

MP: Do you do oils?

BVD: She learned this in Florida. You will have to take a look at the one in the living room. She has a bunch of them downstairs.

MP: Look how old Grandma Moses was when she started. We could call her Grandma Von Deylen.

RP: My dad used to draw. He ran around with Eldor Gathman and they would paint. My dad liked to draw cartoons.

BVD: I bought postcards from your store when you were closing. I bought them and I think I gave them to the kids.I don’t know if I have any left or not. When we moved of course I went through drawers and I had back surgery in ‘65 and I found the bill. I had it at Mercy Hospital in Toledo. I was there for seventeen days and the bill was $320.00. Isn’t that something? Now look what we have to pay.

end of tape


Betts, Clarence

Toledo Blade Route.

And where was it? The whole west end?

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

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

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

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

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

Was that near the railroad tracks there?

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


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

How old were you when you moved to Park Street?

I just started the first grade of school at Norton.

Six or seven?

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

Avon Street.

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

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

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

Oh, Tommy Thompson.

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

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

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

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

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

Were you alive during the depression?

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

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

Yes I was born in February.

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

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

Why did they water them?

Well, for dust.

Oh, they were dirt?

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

That’s right, he was.

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

Was Doc a physician?

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

Was that when they had Majestic Heights?

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

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

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

Were they all plain white, kind of the same?

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

They are?

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

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

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

Did you have brothers and sisters?

I had one sister.

How did you happen to be raised by your grandparents?

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

How’d that happen?

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

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

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

Well, what happened to your mother?

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

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

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

There were a lot of them then.

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

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

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

Well, it had to be done.

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

Sure, that would be fun, for kids.

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

Oh, there was. On the river side?

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

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

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

Now there’s nothing on the south side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You talking about the restaurant now?

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

Is that Charlie Bauman’s father or something?

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

Hogrefe was stealing?

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

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

Wayne Park.

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

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

… ( tape turns over)

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

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

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

Like a sled.

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

What would they do?

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

What did you do with that thing that you rode?

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

You went in the river and swam.

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

Well, the river probably was a lot cleaner then.

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

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

(Ha, Ha)

You used to block off the street and roller skate.

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

Did you do anything onery?

Not really. Halloween.

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

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

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

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

When was this?

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

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

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

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

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

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


What did you do?

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

Were you drafted?


You enlisted?

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

Oh, you were?

Yeh. I was a battalion supply seargent over there.

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

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

Did you get to clean any of that up?

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

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


What was that like?

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

What about that tile?

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

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

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

They dropped the bomb in September.

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

There were two bombs that they dropped.

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

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


Boy, that’s good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was a supply sargeant.

So you supplied the troops?

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

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

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

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

Yeh, Ott Hess purchased that from…

Oh yes…

Then Ott Hess sold it to Bostelman Brothers.

Well then Franz, when did Franz buy it?

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

What was school like when you were a kid?

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

Where the middle school is now?

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

Of the school? Is that right?

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

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

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

How about our taxes back then?

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

They were low? They still used the same method?

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

Your taxes were eight or nine dollars?

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think of the progress over the years?

Oh, it’s changed a lot.

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

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

Did they start that when you were in school?

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

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

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

Is that the order in which they were built?

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

No, you couldn’t watch it.

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

Bell, Dick and Lucille

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

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

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

DB: Either one is okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: He was a prosperous man in his business.

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

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

DB: Oh no. I just watched.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LB: He stopped at our house.

CW: It was a very different time then.

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

CW: I bet that scared you.

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

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

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

CW: That would have saved you some time.

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

CW: That would have been alright.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: I bet it was faster too.

DB: Yes.

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

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

CW: Oh is that right!

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

CW: Oh that was World War II.

DB: No, the Korean War.

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

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

CW: What did you do in the war?

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

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

DB: You mean the crows nest.

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

DB: Yes

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

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

CW: Oh yes.

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

CW: You got to travel quite a bit then.

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

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

LB: We met when he was home on leave.

CW: Oh he found this good looking gal here.

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

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

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

CW: Was it in the summer.

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

CW: That would have been a trying time.

LB: Yes it was.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: People would not have the slightest idea.

DB: People are really impressed by that linotype machine.

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

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

CW: Oh my goodness.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: It certainly seems like a nice comfortable house.

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

CW: Families grow very fast.

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

CW: Did you get sodas at the drugstore?

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

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

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

CW: We called it pop.

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

CW: Dick do you remember going to town?

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

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

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

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

CW: Is that right!

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

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

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

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

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

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

DB: I don’t remember that.

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

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

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

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

CW: I always wondered where the railroad station was.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Were you in then for the four years.

DB: I extended it another year.

CW: Oh you extended it.

DB: Yes.

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

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

CW: What did you study at school?

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

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

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

CW: Why not?

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

CW: You are probably right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Have those ships changed over the years?

DB: Very much so.

CW: How.

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

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

LB: You went to school in Washington DC.

DB: Yes I did.

CW: What school was that Dick?

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

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

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

CW: Yes that would be very important.

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

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

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

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

DB: Oh yes.

CW: I know they did in World War II.

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

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

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

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

DB: They all had their own positions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: You mean on the sidewalks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: I think that it was called Bank Night.

DB: She won a stove one night.

CW: Do you mean a cookstove or what.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Did you have to buy a ticket?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: The boys probably had store bought clothes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: That would develop your muscles.

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

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

DB: Yes I delivered the Daily Newspaper.

CW: Did you use your bicycle?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: How did Goose Town get its name?

DB: That I don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: That was such good tasting chicken.

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

CW: How did she cook it?

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


Behnfeldt, Roger

Interviewed by Marlene Patterson, December 1, 2014

Code: RB: Roger Behnfeldt, MP: Marlene Patterson

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

RB:  My father’s name was Otto Behnfeldt.

MP:  Did he have a middle name?

RB:  Louis.

MP:  And where was your father born?

RB:  He was born here in Henry County.

MP:  Where were his parents born.

RB:   His father came from Germany.

MP:  Do you know what area.

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

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

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

MP:  Can you name them?

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

MP:  I remember Carl Behnfeldt.

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

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

RB:  Yes.

MP:  Who was your mother?

RB:  My mother was Lorena Dehnbostel Behnfeldt.

MP:  Will you name her sisters and brothers?

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

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

RB:  Yes.

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

RB:  Yes, he probably would be.

MP:  Let’s see we finished the Behrens.

RB:  Then we have Ernest Dehnbostel.

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

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

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

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

MP:  I know her.

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

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

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

MP:  How many children do you have?

RB:  I have two boys, Craig and David.

MP:  Where did you start school?

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

MP:  Who was your first grade teacher?

RB:  Miss Schick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MP:  I don’t remember him.

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

MP:  I think you did too.

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

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

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

RB:  Nowadays kids can’t understand that.

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

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

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

RB:  What kind of glasses were they?

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

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

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

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

MP:  Was it Joe Seibold?

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

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

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

MP:  What all did you guys get into.

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

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

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

MP:  Was it glass?

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

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

RB:  Yes I did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RB:  Ed the son.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

end of tape

Backhaus, Charles

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, 10-30-2007

CW: Would you tell us your name.

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

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

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

CW: I see.

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

CW: Oh for heavens sake, you never know.

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

CW: I would think so.

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

CW: For heaven’s sake.

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

CW: Oh yes, I remember that.

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

CW: Is that right.

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

CW: Oh my.

CB: They started that.

CW: Did he recover from his wounds?

CB: Yes

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

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

CW: That was a long time in those days.

CB: He died in 1931.

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

CB: Charles Backhaus

CW: You said you were born in Defiance County.

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

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

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

CW: That is a common name.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Oh yes, they wouldn’t.

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

CW: She had to find her own way.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: And that was your grandfather?

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

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

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

CW: He and his wife go to our church.

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

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

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

CW: What sort of entertainment was it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Did they play basketball in the Giffey Hall?

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

CW: Was that upstairs or down in the basement?

CB: No, it was upstairs.

CW: It is hard to imagine that now.

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

CW: You don’t?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: What was that originally?

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

CW: Like they have at the fairgrounds?

CB: Yes, and that sat there.

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

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

CW: Every Thursday night. Is that right!

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

CW: Where did they show them on the street?

CB: Yes, on the street.

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

CB: Yes.

CW: Is that right!

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

CW: Was it free probably?

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

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

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

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

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

CW: For the whole term?

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

CW: A lot of people had come in.

CB: From 1842 to 1857 it went to 100.

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

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

CW: That was before the Depression.

CB: Yes

CW: How about the Prohibition.

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

CW: Oh yes.

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

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

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

CW: Is that right downtown?

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

CW: So it was on the Ridge Road.

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

CW: That’s old too.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: What was the fox farm?

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

CW: Did they raise foxes?

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

CW: Was it one fox to a coop?

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

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

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

CW: Do you mean 66?

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

CW: It used to be a thriving little town.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: It was nice and warm back there.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: We had to have tires fixed a lot.

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

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

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

CW: Did they have big barns?

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

CW: In town?

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

CW: Was there a tent?

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

CW: It was a big event in your life.

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

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

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

CW: Were you old enough to remember the Depression?

CB: Yes

CW: How did that hit Ridgeville?

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

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

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

CW: That was pretty good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: No, you probably didn’t really.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Oh he used to be here?

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

CW: Did you have any bootleggers in town?

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

CW: Did they make vaults?

CB: Yes.

CW: A vault shop?

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

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

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

CW: Oh yes.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: What do you mean by that?

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

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

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

CW: We had a central.

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

CW: The central always knew where everybody was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Did you have to walk there?

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

CW: Did they tear it down then?

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

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

CB: They had them every two miles.

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

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

CW: Or letting them fall down.

CB: They should keep them up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Did they have a Pet factory there?

CB: Yes, they used to.

CW: Carnation maybe?

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Did they have shop for the boys?

CB: Yes, and shop that too.

CW: Probably no boys ever took home ec.

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

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

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

CW: Oh yes.

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

CW: Probably pretty good pay.

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

CW: Yes

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

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

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

CW: That is good.

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

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

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

CW: Was that here in Ridgeville?

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

CW: What did she sell?

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

CW: That wouldn’t go down very well.

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

CW: Make a little dent?

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

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

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

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

CB: That belongs to Bethlehem.

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

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

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

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

CW: Did they have their picnic lunch out there?

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

CW: Then they tore that down?

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

CW: Now what about Giffey Hall?

CB: That was built in 1916.

CW: That was just before World War I.

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

CW: In Ridgeville?

CB: Yes

CW: Is that right!

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

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

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

CW: So there was a restaraunt down there.

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

CW: They have the dinners downstairs.

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

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

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

CW: Did you sing?

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

CW: They were pretty I bet.

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

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

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

CW: Is that where the post office is now?

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

CW: Where was the original school in Ridgeville?

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

CW: Did they come to this school?

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

CW: Is that why they called it third class?

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

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

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

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

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

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

CB: Yes.

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

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

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

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

CW: For their gym classes.

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

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

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

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

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

CW: Not anymore. Probably no place.

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

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