Martha Jane Menzel, Interviewer, February 18, 2002
L. My name is Mary Lucille Sherman but it has made a lot of problems so I just now go by M. Lucille Sherman.
M. Lucille, can you tell me the date of your birth?
L. I was born April 1, 1913, April Fool’s Day. (giggles)
M. That’s right, but you’re no fool.
M. And uh, where were you born Lucille?
L. Well, I was born right there in that house next door.
M. Is that right?
L. I’ve lived, I lived here all my life.
M. Oh my goodness, right here in Henry County in Napoleon?
L. That’s right.
M. Oh my goodness, okay, um, what were your parents names, Lucille?
L. Well, my father’s name was Al Sherman and my mother’s name was Blanche and her maiden name was Blanche Flowers and she was from Holgate.
M. Is that right?
L. Uh, huh.
M. So when I mentioned Holgate before, you’re familiar with that too?
L. Uh, huh, that’s where my grandparents lived.
M. Very good and did you have any brothers or sisters?
L. Yes, I had, uh, one sister and one brother.
M. And what were their names?
L. Uh, Margaret and Richard and, uh, Margaret was a teacher in Napoleon City Schools for thirty-eight years and she had also taught in a one room school near Deshler called the Gribbell School. She had taught there two years, and…
(The photo above is Margaret Sherman’s class at the Gribbell School in Bartlow Township. Click on the photo to see a larger version.)
M. Is that right? And where, in this family of three children, where did you fall Lucille, were you the youngest?
L. No, I was the oldest.
M. The oldest?
L. I was the oldest.
M. You know what? We’re going to just make sure this is working, Hon.
M. I just want to make sure; I don’t want you talking here for nothing. Yep, it’s on. O.K. How do you feel that that would have changed your life or, or helped you in life? How, how, was your relationship being the oldest?
L. Well I don’t…
M. Did you have a lot of responsibility caring for…
L. Yeah, quite, quite a bit, I think, they were, well my sister was not quite two years younger and my brother was about three years, er, about four years younger and, uh, they have both passed away.
M. They have both passed away? Have they been gone a long time?
L. Uh, my sister has been gone eight years and my brother’s gone, been gone twenty years.
M. Is that right? Yeah, that’s tough isn’t it?
M. It’s hard when you have to…
L. And I’m the only one left of the three.
M. The only one left of the three, and you never married?
L. No (giggles), I’m just an old maid school teacher (laughs again).
M. An old maid schoolteacher, that’s okay.
L. It was very popular back in my days.
M. Yes, yep…
L. Yes, because they said if you got married, you know, that terminated your contract.
M. Is that right?
L. That’s true and that’s still on the contract that I got at Liberty Center and I’d already taught four years. (laughs)
M. Oh my goodness; that’s something. Things have changed haven’t they?
L. Oh my.
M. Now they give you maternity leave, and everything, PAID maternity.
M. Yeah, well, let’s see, Lucille, how did your parents meet? How did they come to get married?
L. Welt I think my brother had a, or my father, had a brother who was a pharmacist and had a drugstore in Holgate, and I think my mother, of course, lived between Holgate and Hamler and, uh, I don’t know how they got acquainted, but I had an aunt who was a teacher in Holgate and I think that maybe she stayed at Sherman’s one time and I think that’s why my dad got acquainted with my mother.
L. So they were married in 1912.
L. Uh huh, and I was born the next (hesitation) April.(giggles)
M. The next April.
L. (laughs) Yeah, yeah
M. How many years were they married, Lucille? Do you remember?
L. Uhh, let’s see, six, it wasn’t fifty years, well, let’s see, my dad died in 1956, take two, two from six is four, be forty-four would it be?
L. Forty-four years they were married
M. O.K. And he passed away in 1956?
L. 1956, uh huh.
M. My goodness, are they buried then around here?
L. Yes, they’re buried in St. Augustine Cemetery, uh, south of Napoleon.
M. …there’s a lot of history in those cemeteries as well.
L. That’s right, there are a lot of old monuments over there in that cemetery too, there.
M. Yes, yes, it’s fascinating to look at the dates.
L. That’s right.
M. On the births and the deaths, those that were soldiers.
M. So many different wars, yeah, it’s wonderful.
L. Well, my grandfather was in the Civil War.
M. Is that right?
L. And I, I don’t know how he got to, back to Napoleon after that but anyway, he landed here. (laughs)
M. Oh, my goodness,what was his name?
L. Joseph Sherman
M. Joseph Sherman?
L. Yeah, he’s uh, uh buried over there in that cemetery.
M. Uh, huh.
L. And my grandmother’s name was Christina Miller and she grew up right down here on the corner of Road S and on this road.l
M. Oh, all this history in your family right here.
M. That’s, that’s incredible. Well, let’s see, were there any experiences related to family size? Large family? You didn’t really have a large family…
L. No, No.
M. …but maybe a lot of cousins, aunts, uncles?
L. Well, quite a few cousins, yes, my dad had, I think, there were, uh, I think, there were six children in his family and my mother there were three girls and three boys, but uh, in my father’s family I think it was four boys and two girls and I think that’s the way it was. I’ll have to look at the old pictures sometime. Show you after while those. I’ve got those old family pictures.
M. I would love it, I would love to see. O.K.! That is a big, extensive family. L. Yeah, uh huh, in those days there were more.
M. Yeah, I know families have gotten smaller and smaller. Now it’s almost if you have a boy or a girl that’s that.
L. Well, there weren’t, I didn’t have a lot of cousins, I don’t know when my one uh, the uncle that lived in Holgate didn’t have any family and uh, let’s see, the most there were, there were four in my Uncle Charlie’s family but the others were two, two uh, two sons. My Uncle Gus had two sons and my Aunt Mary had two sons and, uh my Uncle Joe that lived next door had one son, and my other, other uncle lived over here on this other road and he’s the one who had the four children and my dad had a younger sister who was married and didn’t, and lived near Toledo and she just had one child so that was, so, wasn’t a big relationship.
M. Speaking of your grandparents, what roles did they play, meaning, would they for example, some people would record that they were raised by their grandparents, were you close to them?
L. No, my, my father’s parents, my grandparents Sherman, neither one of ’em were, they’d passed away before I was born, before my dad was married because his mother died when he was fourteen years old and she’d died suddenly in the house up here next door and then my dad and, there were two younger children, my dad and his sister and they lived with their dad until my dad decided to get married and he was thirty years old then, and, so and his, and his dad died the year before he got married, and then his sister went over to live with her, her sister over by Holgate and then she got married over there.
M. And how about your mom’s, your maternal grandparents?
L. Well, I knew them quite well because my grandmother died when I was about, I think maybe, in second or third grade when my Grandmother Flowers passed away and then my grandfather, I think, maybe I was about a freshman in high school, when he passed away.
M. So you knew him?
L. So he did quite well, he used to come to visit us quite often and…
M. Was that a pleasure? Was he a lovable guy?
L. Yes, yes, they were nice, he was a nice person.
M. Do you have a fond memory of your grandmas and grandpas? I just wondered if there’s anything that you remember special about.
L. Gee, I can’t, I know we used to go over there for Sunday dinner a lot and we always went on butchering day and they had a big brick house with a lot of play, bedrooms, you know, and we used to go over there and stay and uh, then after my grandparents passed away, my uncle lived there from, I suppose maybe twenty years and, but we always, but the families were rather close and…
M. That’s a blessing.
M. That’s a blessing to have that.
L. Yeah and my mother’s brothers all lived around Holgate and her one sister, and then she had another sister who was a nun.
M. Oh my good….
L. Uh huh and uh, she uh, she had been a school teacher, too.
M. A nun, so what faith are you, Lucille?
M. You are Catholic, well, I have to say, I haven’t met too many Catholics in Napoleon.
L. (Laughs) Oh, yeah (Laughs). Yes, this is a large German, a lot of German people and a lot of Lutheran people.
M. Well, that’s going to be one of my questions too, actually, what country did your parents, grandparents come from and when did they get here to our country?
L. Well, my grandfather came from Germany from the Baden Baden area of Germany and he came over here. I think he was eighteen or something like that. It was the time of the Prussian war and he came over here and then he got in the Civil War and I don’t know. I wish I knew more about the background because my dad never seemed to talk about it very much and I don’t know whether he knew or not but, I don’t know how he got into this area or where he landed or what but he was the only one in his family who ever came to America.
M. Is that right?
L. Uh huh, and my mother I think, as near as I know about my grandmother Sherman, I think she was born and raised right down here, off in this corner and, yes, my grandfather, he was in Sherman’s march to the sea.
M. Oh, course, I know when you mentioned that about Civil War, I thought, could this be THE Sherman?
L. (Laughs) No,our name you see, the German spelling was “Schuermann”, was the, but I don’t know where it got changed along the way, but that was the original spelling of it.
M. What do they say when you change it like that? It’s Americanized or Anglicized?
M. I have a name like that also. I’m also German.
L. Oh, uh huh.
M. But mine is a lot harder than yours, I’ll tell you after. OK, all right, you’re a German Catholic?
L. Yes, yes and there were, we live in Freedom Township and I think the Sherman family was about the only family, Catholic family that lived in, in Freedom Township, ‘cause all this over in here is German, you know. At St. Paul’s in the country, you know, is a large church and the one St. Paul’s and I mean St. John’s, St. Paul’s out west of town is a lot of German people, too.
M. Right, was that ever difficult for you having so many Lutherans around?
L. No, no, when I taught at the Viegel School, which was over by St. Paul’s in
the country, Reverend [name unknown] was the minister at the school and that’s the first year I taught there and he had just come that year too, to St. Paul’s, and his three children were in my school, and I’ll show you there pictures after while. Then my sister taught in that school also following me and they went to school to her and they were always, we always got along very well together and there was never any, any problems.
M. You know, I was just thinking, speaking of Germans and Catholics and Lutherans, Flower, that’s, that’s not German though, is it?
L. No, no, my grandfather was Pen, they always said was Pennsylvania Dutch and my grandmother, her name was Sweeny which was very, very Irish.
M. Yeah, yeah, so you really have a little mix in there?
L. Yeah, yeah, that’s right. I wasn’t completely full German, and my mother grew up down in Perry County which is east, south and east of Columbus and she moved up to Henry County when she was twelve years old and they bought that farm over by Holgate and moved up here.
M. Did she ever have any Irish celebration in her holidays, of any kind?
L. Oh, I don’t know, I don’t know. I can’t, not that I remember ‘cause I was just a little girl, you know, and she passed away and I just don’t know, but their name was Sweeny.
M. Yeah, that is a good Irish name. And I just wondered, with St. Patrick’s Day coming up here.
L. Yeah they, well, the parish, the church where they went to church was named St. Patrick’s Church so I think that was kind of an Irish settlement.
M. Well, we can’t expect to have all Germans.
L. No. (Laughs). You never have 100% anywhere.
L. That’s right.
M. It makes life more interesting doesn’t it?
M. Okay, let’s see what else do we have here? Okay, the primary language spoken at home?
L. Well, we always spoke English. My dad knew a little German but I think the fact that his mother passed away when she did, when she was only fifty years old, that the kids didn’t speak German, you know, and they got away from it. Now I don’t know whether the older ones maybe knew it pretty well but my dad really didn’t know a lot of German ‘cause he was only fourteen when she passed away. But out here in Freedom Township everybody spoke German you know and when I taught over at the Veigel School the kids would speak German on the playground, and I remember when they’d say run was always, “lope,lope”, you know.
M. You can hear it as if it were yesterday, huh?
L. (Laughs) Yes, there were, let’s see, two of those boys, two of those boys I had in school. One was in the second grade when I had him and the other one was uh, and then the minister’s boy was in the fourth grade, I think and both of those were, became Lutheran ministers and then Margaret uh, when my sister taught over there, there was a Wittenberg boy who also, well there were three Lutheran ministers out of that group of kids that we, that we had.
M. So, you wouldn’t have taught them in German?
M. You were using English.
L. Yeah, that’s right.
M. But because of their background they also heard some German?
L. Yes, now I don’t know whether the minister’s children, I can’t remember whether they knew much German or not but the other people who were ordinary residents of the area, you know, did speak German quite a lot.
M. And you said they’d be out there playing and they’d say, “run,run” lope?
L. “Lope, lope”.
M. And that means that?
L. (Laughs)That means run, yeah.
M. Okay, run, run.
M. Isn’t that cute? And you mentioned the name of that school. Tell me that again.
M. Is that the one room?
L. Yes, that was the one room.
M. Spell that for me.
L. (Spells, “Veigel”.)
M. O.K., how many years were you there at that school?
L. I was there two and Margaret was there two so we had that four years and then well, I was there the two and then I got a job at one grade at Liberty Center and Margaret was teaching over by Deshler which was about fifteen, twenty mile drive, you know? She had taught then two years and was going back for the third year, and then when I went to Liberty Center she just came over and took my school and it was just shortly before school started, so and, the superintendent, county superintendent was really glad because he had a school that had been closed and they had a teacher hired for that and he didn’t have a place to put her, so he put her in that Deshler school, Deshler area school. So it all worked out.
M. Yes, it did.
L. And then when, well, that was about the time in the late 30’s that they were beginning to close the one room schools. You know, people were gradually going into town, and…
M. Why did that happen, why, because they were going into town they thought, well, we’re gathering this group. It’s a bigger group of children.
L. Yeah, that’s right and they were kinda consolidating these areas, you know, and then gradually the one room schools got smaller and smaller you know, and then eventually, then when Margaret went into Napoleon, they took her along with it. I think it was one year. I don’t know whether it was one year or two years that she taught on the Napoleon board before she went in but they took her along then when they took the school in, but I had, I went to Liberty Center in 1939, the fall of ’39 and…
M. So you went from this one room school house to a bigger school?
L. Yeah, a consolidated school.
M. And you went from how many children approximately in the one room school house?
L. I, well, I had a pretty good size school over here. It was pretty, I had as many as twenty-eight one year.
M. Oh,my goodness!
L. Uh huh, and then when I went to Liberty Center I had fourth grade and I think I had about forty.
M. Is that right? No, today they would say no.
L. No, one year I had forty-six kids and I never had less than that in the fourth grade because I had the whole fourth grade that year ‘cause there weren’t enough to really take out a section you know, and the superintendent gave me that whole forty-six. If somebody moved out, out of the fourth grade, somebody else in the fourth grade moved in and I had that all year long.
M. What was it like teaching a size group like that?
L. Well, I had to have three groups of math, and I had to have three groups of reading and then the rest was together, you know and, I don’t know.
M. What did you like best? Did you like the one room or the consolidated school? L. Well, I guess I was, I was really working toward, where I just had one grade, you know, and I was glad to get that, but I enjoyed the one room school. They had their good points too.
M. Yeah, they’re so cozy looking, I don’t know, peaceful, almost, out there in that setting.
L. Yeah, they were. I said, “My goodness…” I remember we were talking about at noon today when we were eating and I said, “My, gosh!” We were talking about schools and they were talking about this home schooling and so on and, I said, “You know that [one word unknown] just think what little bit it cost for an education and the school board in those days. They paid the teacher in about a few tons of coal, that was it.”
M. Just so they gave you something that you needed.
L. Well, I got the first year I taught, I got $ 864.00 for the year. It was eight months of school, you see, and then, when I, the first year I taught at a
school out, just out a mile out of Napoleon. The Glass School it was called. Well, that only had a few kids so they closed that the next year and then, uh, what was I going to say about that? Oh, then when I went over to the Veigel School, gee, they thought they were doing real well because they raised it up to $960.00, and I thought, “Boy, that’s a good increase.”
M. Yeah, yeah, you wonder how you can survive but of course, the standard of living was lower.
L. Oh yeah, so nothing cost as much as today. I was just thinking today about that, how that first year, you know, was time of Depression and uh, I remember I bought, oh, Margaret, Margaret and Dick were still in high school. I remember I bought Dick a new overcoat that winter and I bought Margaret a nice new coat. Oh, she must have been over at Bowling Green in school. I think so and I bought her a nice coat with a raccoon collar. I said then, I don’t know, I was saving up because the only pay, they didn’t pay you over the summer. You had to have a little bit.
M. Did you, did you do anything over the summer, or kind of get ready for fall again?
L. Yeah I guess, well, I didn’t go to summer school ‘cause I, after I had taught two years, I and Margaret started teaching, I went back and did my other two years on campus but she went to summer school every summer and finished out her four years but I didn’t do that. I taught. Well, I taught that second year over by Holgate, south of Holgate and we drove over there; another teacher and I drove and it was and in the winter time. It was kind of bad and I thought, oh heck, she’s starting to teach so I’m gonna go back and finish the other two years. So, that’s what I did.
M. Let’s see, altogether you taught how many years?
M. 43 years and what different, other than the one room school house, which would be all the different grades, what grades did you teach? When you got into the consolidated school?
L. I taught fourth grade five years and then when World War II came along, I had my degree, so the superintendent put three of us that had a degree up at the high school because several of the men had to go to service and then I never went back to elementary, and I worked out, I had two minors. I remember when I was doing that, finishing out my other two years, the dean over at Bowling Green said, “You better work out a couple minors, rather than just all elementary, in elementary education, because you might want to change and you’d have something to go back on.” You know, I was glad that he told me that because then I taught, well, it was when I first started out. It was all junior high and then I went to summer school several summers to finish up my major in English and then I had two minors. I made two minors — English and and history, so I finished out the English then, then I taught junior level English in high school several years, and I taught Latin on a temporary certificate for fifteen years.
(The photo above is Lucille Sherman’s Fourth Grade class at Liberty Center taken during the 1941-1942 school year. Click on the photo to see a larger version.)
M. Oh my goodness. So when you were going to school and you say you took this English, you had to have had education courses too?
L. Yes, yes, see, I had, you know, they used to offer for elementary teachers, they offered a two year course. Well, that’s what I had when I first started
Teaching, was that two years, you see, and so, yeah, that and I had the education courses then. Most of them, and then, when I went back to finish the other two years they didn’t have a real strong program yet for elementary teachers to get a degree, but I took what was offered for kindergarten area and also for the upper grade area so that was mostly elementary.
M. You’re very well rounded, Lucille. You have a lot of experience and a lot of schooling. I mean, it’s almost, you could have taught anything.
L. I know.
M. Was there any subject that you, what was your favorite subject to teach?
L. I guess maybe English was.
M. English was, uh huh.
L. Yeah, uh huh, I guess I enjoyed the Latin but I look at some of those year books and I think, “My gosh! Did I have that many kids in that Latin class!” I’ve forgotten how, oh, I know the superintendent’s wife was teaching the Latin, well, she got sick and had to have surgery around Thanksgiving time, so I guess they were just teaching one year of Latin because that was kind of fading out, you know, by that time. And she, I don’t know, I guess maybe I had a study hall or a free period or something the period she had that class, so he asked me if I would take that class, so I said, well, you know, in those days you didn’t say no. And I spent my whole Thanksgiving vacation going through that Latin book. I just had high school Latin, and I remember the pronunciation and all that pretty well so…
M. You almost taught yourself then?
L. I did. I really taught myself as a Latin teacher, but you know, I had some kids go over to Bowling Green and take those tests and they were great sometimes. I guess they learned it, but that’s just something like math. It’s just progressive, you know, it’s different steps.
M. How do you feel about math then?
L. Well, I think math is pretty important, too, but I was never very strong myself in math, but my sister, that’s what she was in junior high, a math teacher, thirty-eight years.
M. See, and I just see, teachers that began in one room school houses had to be good at everything.
L. Ha, ha, ha. I know.
M. I mean, there was no one else to turn to. If something happened you were, you had to take care of them, it because there was nobody else.
M. Yes, that’s right.
L. I used to have a boy build a fire, and my Lord, it’s a wonder he didn’t burn the school house down. Sometimes he’d have that stove red hot by the time I’d get there. Then sometimes I’d get busy and forget about the fire, and it’d be almost out. I’d have to go back and put in some coal, put some gloves on, put some coal in.
M. Did that happen often in the winter where you had this fire going and then it starts to, to go out and everybody gets chilled? Did they have to go put on their coats?
L. Well, no, we always were pretty lucky and had it warmed up by the time kids got there. But I used to forget to put the fire, the coal on the fire sometimes, but it never went out, but it got pretty close to it sometimes.
M. Uh huh. What were those like, a little potbelly?
L. Well, this was a bigger stove than that. It was back in the corner of the room. A lot of them were in the middle of the room, you know?
M. Yes, that’s what I saw over at the fairgrounds.
M. Okay, so yours was more corner and bigger?
L. Yeah, it was kinda like a furnace, furnace type, yeah.
M. Was it a, was it a brick building or a…?
L. Yeah, a brick school.
M. A little, red, brick school house, yeah, and you had all the desks in rows? L. Yeah. Yours was up from, and was, I’m just going by the school over here again, was it up on a platform, kind of?
L. No, that wasn’t, but some of them were.
M. You know what I mean?
L. You’re referring to the school?
M. Um, well, where the teacher’s desk, where the children are, and then it’s almost like a little stage.
L. Yeah, have you been over to Sauder’s in that one?
M. No, but I’m going to go this summer. Especially after doing this, yeah.
L. Yeah, because the one over there is almost identical to the one I taught, the arrangement of it. Only it’s got the stove in the center I think, and it’s got the platform but other than that it’s very, very similar. I just, of course, I didn’t, I never worked in that school. I always worked in the log school in, over at Sauder’s, and uh, so my sister worked in the other one.
M. Well, Lucille, and I don’t mean to be going back to this all the time, but I do find it fascinating, not having grown up with one, a one room school house, how, what were the children doing when you were working with one age group, teaching them, keeping them busy? What would the others be doing?
L. O.K.,well, you see, we had a long recitation bench and that’s where they would recite, you know, and uh, you’d call them up there and they would, and we’d work with them for about maybe fifteen minutes is about all the time you had for one. And you’d probably check their papers and explain a new lesson and then give them the assignment. Then they’d go back and work on it and you’d call up another class and it went on like that all day long. And sometimes I wonder HOW ON EARTH did we EVER get all of that in and get… Yeah, you really had to be educated, you know, in all eight grades.
M. Yeah, they’re at such different levels at each year of their lives. I would just think it would be so confusing for you, the teacher to have to go back over and you’d be repeating all of the times. Really, wouldn’t you?
L. Well and you know, the kids learned, the older kids learned a lot, I mean, the younger kids learned a lot from listening to the older kids, you know, and I remember this Bob Beck who was a contractor; builds a lot of these buildings around town here. Do you happen to know who I’m referring to? Maybe not, but he’s he’s been quite a builder around town here. I had him in the first grade over there, and I remember he just had an awful time learning to write. I’ll never forget that, ‘cause I often thought I’d like to see his writing today, ‘cause he had an awful time learning to write (laughing sweetly the whole sentence).
M. It was not his strength?
M. It was, it was building. So I wonder, could you, do you remember with him, this is a good example, but here’s a little boy with not very good writing skills but what were his strengths?
L. It must, it must have been something else because he’s been quite a popular builder around here, and building some more. I see some more places out in Twin Oaks and he built these [on] King James [Court] back by the Holiday Inn, you know. And I haven’t seen him for years. He had, he had an older sister and then he had a younger brother and, I didn’t, he hadn’t started school yet, but Margaret, I think Margaret had him, but I’m not real sure. They moved, I
know, somewhere along the line and I often think about that. I just wondered how Bob Beck, how well he writes today. Different things like that you think about kids you know.
M. I was just going to ask you, I am a teacher myself and have only taught twelve years, so have not the experience. I remember certain children for some reason.
L. Certain peculiarities, yeah, some particular thing about them. I know and there’s so many, and they, and people say, I say, oh I remember that student I had and they say, well, how do you remember all that? I don’t know. I guess there was something about them that I remember.
M. Yeah, yeah, wouldn’t they be fascinated to know that they’re the one you remembered, or this is what you remembered about them?
L. I’ll have to tell you something that’s funny. Two years ago that class that I had, they were in junior high when I had them, had their fiftieth class reunion. Well, I was invited when they had that, when they had it at Liberty. They quit having it but they invited me ‘cause there weren’t very many teachers around any more. So, there were two boys that I had in school, and they were kinda ornery in junior high and this one told that, “One day,” he said, “We had name badges on but we took those off, because we didn’t think you would remember us.” And I said, “Yes, I remember you”, and they said, “You called us by our first names.”
L. I laughed. I said, “Yes, I really remember you”.
M. Oh, gosh, Lucille, I don’t know that I could do that (Lucille’s laughing the whole time). I don’t, when I think back.
L. I said, “I pulled it over on ya didn’t I?” They thought they were gonna fool me.
M. You remembered.
L. Oh, that was funny.
M. Oh dear, were they good boys?
L. Oh, they were good kids. They were just kinda devilish, you know?
M. Did you notice children changing over the years?
M. Respect or lack of respect?
L. I think it kinda changed when W.W.II came along.
M. Why is that?
L. It seems like things got kinda out of line, and they called in, I think they called in a lot of people that hadn’t been in the education for a long time, you know, and it just, it just wasn’t as smooth running as it had been before that. That’s the way I figure it. Well, of course, I taught on a different level too after that, but it was kinda, yes, I always felt that it kinda went down hill after that. Because kids didn’t have as, have as much respect, well and I, as I say it was on a different level, too, and they didn’t have as much respect for you as the grade kids did, you know. Well then, then there were so many mothers, you know, went to work too at that time, and I think that they didn’t have as much control over, over the kids at home, and…
M. Yeah, the Rosie the Riveters.
L. Yeah, some of them would say, well they had their, their mother and dad been working the same shift so they’d leave each other notes, you know, and the kids didn’t even see their mother and dad maybe during the week, but those were rough times.
M. Now the children at least have preschool, day care, where if those moms are working somebody watches [several words inaudible] time.
L. Yeah, yes, it’s entirely better. Yes, it’s altogether different.
M. I wonder what happened there. Why did women get into that habit of going back to work?
L. I guess they needed them in the factories, too, and it was easier to, I don’t know.
M. I bet you could see a big difference?
L. Oh yeah, there, there was, it’s, I always said that when the war came along it kinda changed the kids’ attitudes too, you know, and, and some of the parents, the father, would, maybe some of them, I guess some of their fathers even went into the service, you know and…
M. And maybe a lot didn’t come home.
L. Yeah, there was some…
M. They would ask in here about the kind of community. Right away I think it was a farm community and how did that affect your teaching? The children had to help on farms?
L. Yeah, and I think that’s why we only had eight months of school, because the boys had to help on the farm you see, to get the crops out.
M. Did the girls also?
L. No, it was, there was no school at all at the end of the, school ended about the last week in March, no, let’s see, maybe we went into April. We went into April I guess because now it’s the end of May, yeah, I guess maybe it was towards the end of April when we closed up.
M. And even in the consolidated schools in the towns?
L. Well the bigger ones, I think they did run longer but I think they, I think the kids could get a working permit to help on the farm in those days.
M. All of a sudden buses started… Maybe when, Lucille, do you remember?
L. The 30’s probably, the 20’s and the 30’s probably the buses came in, in the 30’s because I remember we lived in, this was township line road, and we were, we went to Napoleon to school because our township didn’t have a high school, and we could go to Napoleon. Well the boy that lived across the road here had to go to Liberty Center because that was Liberty Township, and he had to go to Liberty Center to high school and there was a bus, there was a bus came and picked him up, but we had, we had to furnish our own way to Napoleon, and I remember my, I guess my dad took us and, I can’t remember how, I don’t know we always got there.
M. I was going to say, what did he take you in?
L. They had a car.
M. Do you remember your first car?
L. Yeah, I can remember it was a Ford. I remember we went to Toledo to get it. I was just a little girl. Probably about 1914 or something like that, so we must have had a car pretty early. I don’t know.
M. You were modern to have it and I imagine it was a black car?
L. Oh, yeah, and the second car we had was a bigger car. It was called a Mitchell. That was a popular car around here.
M. I never heard of that. Not even the Ford Co.?
L. No, no it was a different company. I don’t know what company made them and anyway, a Mitchell car, and they were of course, they were touring cars, cars you know. You had to set side curtains and uh, oh dear (laughs) I guess.
M. Why don’t you tell us a little about that, I, I don’t even know what anybody who heard this would know.
L. Well, they had curtains and they were usually up around the top of the car and then if it would rain, why you could stop and pull those curtains down, you know, so you didn’t get wet, or in the winter time.
M. That’s like in OKLAHOMA. Isin glass curtains that would roll right down.
L. That’s right. They had Isin glass in them.
M. OK, fascinating.
M. How about Christmases?
L. Oh, we always, we always celebrated, we always got together, I think with probably, well, well with my mother’s family because my father’s family was kinda broken up, you know. …weren’t any, but as long as her parents were living we always went there on the holidays you know.
M. Did you have a Christmas tree?
L Gosh, I can’t remember. I don’t believe they did in those days, no not like today, uh, uh. I can’t remember when we first had a Christmas tree. I can’t remember, but…
M. How about exchanging presents?
L. Yeah, we used to do that, uh huh, yeah.
M. How about church at Christmas or Easter?
L. Well, we always, we always went to church on Christmas and Easter and usually, well, I suppose this was, wasn’t maybe ‘til I was in high school that we, that they always had midnight mass and we usually went to midnight Mass, Mass on Christmas, but I can’t remember before that how things were, but when I was in the first grade I went to the parochial school in Napoleon and I think, I think, my gosh, I was a little kid, a first grader, that didn’t know and went up there to school, and I don’t know how I got there all the time but I got there.
M. You just remember being there.
L. Yeah, and I remember I used to, I used to take my lunch with me but I would go home with some kid at noon and eat my lunch at their house. That was so funny and I’d go home. There were just certain ones, you know, that I’d go home with, and I sit there and eat my lunch you know, and then we’d go back to school.
M. What is the Catholic church named?
L. St. Augustine.
M. It’s a beautiful church.
L. Yeah, uh huh, yeah, it’s beautiful. Have you ever been inside? It’s beautiful inside. Yes, it’s on the historical (delay) record.
M. Has it changed much in all those years?
L. Not inside, no, the church itself hasn’t but they, they didn’t have that school there at that time. There was an old frame school when I was in the first grade and there’s, there’s a historical book. I think Mary Fran (Meekison) put it together, sev(eral), oh, maybe it was uh, 150th or something like that when that… There’s a picture, I think, of that school in there. I’ve got that somewhere but I don’t know just where it is now, but, anyway, they tore that out in the twenties and then we went, well, when my, I guess my parents decided that was too much problem, sending me up, sending us up there to school and I know I had the whooping cough and I had the measles. I had all that stuff in that first year and, so then, when, then Margaret started to school the next year, so then we went to a one room school which was a mile east on road S here. There was a school house uh, called the Bell School on that corner and we went down there then until they built the new parochial school and I think that was probably about 1928, and we went, but then I was in the seventh grade and we went to the seventh, I went to the seventh, eighth grade then there. Then I went into high school.
M. So you had three different schools? You started at the Catholic, then went to the one room school, then back to the new Catholic until high school?
L. Yeah, uh huh.
M. What would you say was your favorite?
L. I don’t know. I always liked the one room school too. We had, we had a couple nice teachers. I know, we had a teacher, I’m going to show you her picture here. She was so strict. She was a big person. She was so strict. Well, Margaret was just scared to death of her. I don’t know why, but she was, and, so they, in fact, she almost had a nervous breakdown. Well, she was really awfully strict, you know. You just didn’t do anything on the way and so… I guess my folks thought they didn’t know what they were going to do with her. She just, she didn’t, I don’t know whether she didn’t want to go to school or what, but anyway, so my mother invited her to come over to, one, one evening and, and stay over night. That took care of it.
L. She got all over that and never and, were always good friends with that teacher. She taught here, I don’t know, about three years, and then she went to Bryan, I think, and, you know, several years ago, maybe it’s ten years ago now that she saw Margaret’s name somewhere and she was from McClure and she saw Margaret’s name somewhere and she called us and wanted us to get together, so we did. She lived in Toledo and we went down to Toledo then and we spent a whole afternoon with her, [went] out to lunch together and a whole afternoon with her, but my goodness, that was way back. We were, we had taught quite a while then.
M. Did Margaret ever tell her how afraid she was?
L. I don’t know if she did or not. I think maybe my folks told her you know, but that, that took care of it. I don’t know.
M. She probably felt she had to be strict.
L. Yeah, well, she had big boys, you know, but I guess I’ve got a lot of memories.
M. Was she a young teacher then?
L. Yeah, that was her beginning. I think that was her beginning teaching.
M. She probably thought being young herself she had to be tough. I think the children pick up on that. It takes a while for them to develop that respect
L. Yeah, you get a reputation, you know.
M. What was your reputation, Lucille?
L. (Laughs) Oh, I don’t know. Lots of times I think I was a little too easy.
M. (Laughs) I could see that. And your stature, you’re petite. Not a big person at all, so that could make a difference also. So, fond memories; how did you have lunch at the one room school?
L. Oh, at the one rooms? Well, we always took our lunch and then they kinda got so they would maybe, a certain day of the week or sometime, they would have, we’d, maybe cook hotdogs or something like that, you know.
M. In that…?
L. In that, on that, yeah, it must have been in that stove. I don’t know, I suppose they put some hot water on. See, you could cook something like a hotdog you know and and we used to do, then it kinda got so they did that once in awhile in the one room school but, you had to carry your own lunch.
M. And you didn’t have paper bags back then, brown bags?
L. No, we had a round, a round metal dinner pail.
M. And what would your mom pack for you?
L. Oh, a sandwich, yeah, of some kind, and…
M. A drink somehow, would that fit in there, or…
L. Uh, no, I don’t, we had, we took anything to drink, but some baked, something baked probably. But we, I know we used to have a lot of fried egg sandwiches.
M. I even remember that. I still love them.
L. And that’s funny, a cold, a cold fried egg.
M. Yeah, a cold fried egg, yup, yup.
L. But, yes, I remember, I remember [several words inaudible] down here at the, by the, at the Bell School. Their name was Oberhouse and there were several in the family and they were German, and they always had a open face sandwich, and they’d have little pieces of meat on that open face sandwich.
M. And I often thought open faces were more Danish, rather than German.
L. But they’d have a whole big piece of bread you know, and then had that.
M. And I wonder why. That would be harder to pack?
L. Yeah, we never had that. We always just had our two face sandwich.
M. Yeah, yeah.
Lucille’s grandfather, Joseph Sherman, built the farmhouse in Napoleon in 1862. It is still standing and she lives in a one level home right next door. Her family built the house she is in now in 1948.
The Gribbell School is in Bartlow Township and is where Margaret Sherman taught from 1936 to 1937.
One room school houses were first established in the 1800’s. There was no graded system until after 1840. The earliest schools were made of logs which were replaced by frame structures and finally by brick. They were usually built two miles apart and named after the land owner’s name they were situated on. Students sat at individual desks which were bolted to the floor. Later they were set on runners. Some schools even had organs, always recitation benches and pictures. The older boys served as janitors and were responsible for building the stove fires.
The daily class schedule went something like this:
Classes called up for approximately 15 minutes, papers collected and assignments given
Call up another class and sometimes combined classes
Recesses consisted of the following games: Red Rover, London Bridge, Fox and Geese, Hide the Thimble, Upset Fruit basket
School events: Box Social, Christmas Program which included a treat of candy and an orange, and the End of the Year Picnic.
Teacher Requirements: Boxwell Exam, 1880’s 1 year Temporary Certificate and 2 year to 4 year Provisional Certificate, 1900 Normal School, 1940’s Bachelor’s Degree, 1960 – B.S. Degree, could not be married early in the history of school teaching.
Most one room schools were gone by 1950.
Interviewed by Tammy Miller and Charlotte Wangrin, December 5, 2005
CW: I’m so glad we have a chance to talk to you, Marjorie because your memories are important. Old stories that come down in your family or little things you remember about when you were growing up—just any little thing. It’s helpful. This will, I think, become more and more valuable in the future because we oldsters are going to die off and this is the part of history that’s never going to be in the history books because that’s somebody—a third person writing about what he or she read or heard and it’s not necessarily as true as somebody who was right there, y’know? Who lived it. So Marjorie, anything you want to tell us is just fine.
MS: Well what I started to tell you is my grandfather was George Saul of Liberty Center. He was a carpenter but in later years he worked at the kraut factory in Liberty.
CW: Oh so they made sauerkraut?
MS: Yes.. They made for Fremont. I think it’s Snow Floss.
CW: I think I remember that brand.
TM: That was your grandfather?
MS: That was my grandfather, my mother’s father, and my mother’s name was Eva Mohler before she married. And I looked in the Henry County History book, the one that was put out in the 70s. I don’t know what. They called to the mill and they wanted information so we give them a short article. That was about the Hoffman Saw Mill. My first husband’s name was Hoffman.
TM: What was his first name?
TM: Reuben Hoffman?
MS: Reuben was Vernon’s father, just like my son, only we call him Bud. He is 66, I think. He’ll be 66.
TM: What year did you marry your first husband?
MS: In 1935, I think.
CW: Okay, right after the Depression, wasn’t that.
TM: What was his occupation?
MS: Well he ran a steam engine at first, a steam engine, a thrashing rig. He’d go around to different farmers. They had what they called a Ring of farmers that belonged to it and he would do the threshing for them, and they would all help each other out to have enough help. Then he would go from one end of the ring, then come back, do the oats. Do the wheat first.
CW: I wondered how they ever decided who was to have theirs done next.
MS: Well once in a while there’d be someone that was stubborn and want his done first but very seldom they had an argument. So they’d go down, like down one mile and back the other, do the wheat, then they’d come back and do the oats.
CW: Whenever they did the women had a big meal, didn’t they?
MS: Yes, we did. And all the women’d go together to prepare the big meal.
TM: You were a housewife and a farmer’s wife?
MS: Well at first, yes. I also canned vegetables and served. And then when the thrashing went out and combines come in, well we changed with it and instead of the threshing machine he got a saw mill. At first it was a portable mill and he’d go to any farmer that wanted to build a building out of his own woods . . . and also the area farmers would bring in a few logs. They needed sawing. Well from that he went to havin’ a stationary mill, and then it got so that there was so much poor timber—you know, had knots in and—it’d break easy.
TM: What was causing that, did they know?
MS: Well, just been there a long time mainly, and then we started making pallets. Well in the meantime our kids were growing up. The oldest ones were in the early 20’s and they needed work so we started making pallets, and we got bigger and bigger and—too much. (laughs)
CW: Is that right? Had to work awfully hard then.
MS: Well we hired quite a few. We hired mostly young people for the pallet making because they were quick with the staple gun, and the nailing guns. And a lot of high-school boys when they were in the last year of school would come out and ask for a job and we’d give ‘em work after school and in the early evening. Oh, we’d take usually about 500 pallets on the semi at once. They’d go to General Electric and some other big factories in Toledo and Ft. Wayne. That’s where we went mostly. Sometimes we’d go to Lima or Upper Sandusky if they needed a load.
CW: How did you get those shipped? Did you put them on a train or truck?
MS: We hauled them with a semi truck, a big flat bed. Well then we got tired of chainin’ those in the winter ‘cause those chains would be all snowy and hard to handle so
CW: Chains used for what?
MS: Chains, to chain them down.
CW: Oh I see, to hold them on to the truck.
MS: Yes, and so we got to putting them in a van. We’d ask the boys when they got ‘em made to stack ‘em real straight which they had no trouble doing, and then they’d be all ready to put in the van, semi vanl like they do nowadays. And the factories would take them off with a tow motor.
So then when my husband died me and my son went on for about three and a half years…
TM: Now which son was that?
MS: It wasn’t bad you know.
TM: What son was that? Was that Reuben?
MS: Yes. And then a couple of the others that were younger.
TM: And how many kids did you have altogether?
TM: Eleven kids!
MS: Six boys.
TM: Now can you name the six boys for me?
MS: Vernon Jr., Reuben, George, Bernard, Herb and Alvin.
TM: And then how many girls?
TM: And can you name them for me?
MS: Helen, Ruth, Mary, Lois, and Evie. Is that five? I don’t think I missed any.
CW: I had a question. I’ve always wondered . . . . now they say the lumber needs to be cured before they can use it. . . . well, back when farmers were cutting down their own woods did they cure it?
CW: They didn’t bother with that. They just used it.
MS: They usually saved the real good logs like ash or something like that and if you go by that mill out here on 108, north of Napoleon you’ll see a bunch of logs that are painted red on the end. Well those logs are curing—ash or hickory for handles, a lot of handles were made with hickory, and ash.
CW: Was you mill near Liberty Center?
MS: Yes, it was on Road T just east of 10. We were there from ’45 until ’78.
TM: How many employees did you have?
MS: Well what we did at times, we had as high as 20. We usually had 2 or 3 for each mill, then we had edgers and planers and other equipment like that, cut off saws. Each of those would take a man.
CW: Marjorie, did you have any unusual things that happened at the saw mill that you remember?
MS: Well I got my finger in the saw.
CW: Did you?! How’d you do that?
MS: I had gloves on and the gloves caught.
CW: That’s caused a lot of accidents, hasn’t it.
MS: Yes, they’re dangerous equipment as far as that goes. My husband’s brother, Clarence Hoffman, was killed in a saw mill about 1950. That’s before we started, and I know a boy at Liberty Center that was killed. My husband had his steam engine on that mill but he wasn’t there that day. That was in 1932 and his father, Ruben Hoffman, had just died, so he wasn’t to work, but the man that owned the mill lived right there and he wanted to get some sawing done. He had a little order he wanted done so he taught his son who was 16 1 /2, 16 to catch the flats from the mill and his son being a kid couldn’t handle it and one end of the slab caught the mill saw and pulled the kid in. He was badly cut through the upper body. He died by noon that morning.
CW: Oh, how sad!
MS: That happened before school. He just wanted him to help a little bit.
TM: Did you ever have any problems with insects or rodents?
MS: No, not that I recall. We’d see where especially the hickory would have little tiny worm marks. You know you see some furniture now made with wormy lumber, varnished and everything and little marks show. But no we never kept a line out for that matter. A couple other mills went up since we had ours. There’s one on 108.
TM: Who did you sell yours to?
MS: We sold it at auction. I don’t recall who bought it—Amish farmers. We had two mills in there, one on each side the building. Then we had a de-barker that would roll the logs around and take the bark off . Then the logs would come in on the track to the mill.
TM: Now did the guys go cut down the trees and everything or did they buy the trees?
MS: Well we bought them brought in, a lot of them; they’d be independent workers, not hired by us but would make a living by cutting trees and bringing it in and selling it to us, then they paid the farmer. But we did some if people wanted to sell them to us directly or we went out and looked at the woods.
TM: What did you usually pay them for the wood?
MS: Well I just can’t tell you anymore, but the bigger logs would bring more money of course and our boys Bernard and the hired man, (son-in-law that we hired too) would go out to the woods with the caterpillar, cut the trees down, what they wanted to sell so . . .
CW: Originally it was crosscut, I suppose, to saw.. .. saws they used originally with two men.
MS: Yes, crosscuts. We had chain saws too.
CW: That was gasoline-run?
MS: Yes, you wouldn’t get much done if you had to do it by crosscut.
TM: Did you usually buy it by the tree or . . .
MS: 1000 feet. They have a rule made specially for lumbermen and it tells you how many square feet is in that log by puttin’ the rule across the small end like that, and you could read how many square feet was in it.
TM: Oh really.
CW: So tell us some more about this incident that happened. Doesn’t have to be a saw mill but just something you remember.
MS: I can’t think of anything right now.
CW: We sprang that on you rather fast. Did you grow up in Liberty Center?
MS: I was born in Liberty Center and lived at Weston for a year or two. I was real tiny. Then we moved down by Colton , between Colton and Liberty Center on the farm, and we lived there till I was five and then we moved up here a mile south of Liberty Center and we lived there till I graduated so I’ve lived .. . I haven’t been more than two miles from Liberty all my life.
CW: It’s a nice community. (pause) Thought you were coming up with a little memory there and I wanted to hear it if you had. So you went to school at Liberty. Louisa Strock—you probably know her—she was the editor’s daughter—
MS: When we went to school she was Hannah Mires. She changed her name to Louisa when she was in college, 1932-35.
CW: (laughs We’ll bring the typewritten copy back to you to make any changes you want to make and delete anything you don’t want in there. That’s called ‘editing’. We’ll let you edit it first before we make the final copies. Then did you go to a country school?
MS:. I did for the first six years: Damascus. That was on Rd. 8 almost to the river, almost to 24. And then they closed it and we rode a bus into Liberty Center.
CW: That would have been a couple miles I suppose.
MS: A mile and a half then but now that first half-mile out of Liberty west is all built up, like town.
CW: What did you do over recess when you went to school?
MS: Oh we were out on the playground—swing, swing around on the maypole, made up games, played a lot of ball, etc.
TM: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
MS: I had one brother and three sisters.
TM: What were their names?
MS: Virginia, Carolee and Ruby and then Charles was in the middle. I was the oldest.
TM: Did you have to walk to school?
MS: Yes. It was about a mile down there to Damascus. I was real little for my age and I had to walk that mile in the mud—muddy road. Everybody walked then.
TM: Did you have to have two pairs of shoes—one to walk in and one to wear when you got there?
MS: Had to go barefooted in good weather, then wiped our feet off and—cause the school didn’t have a well. We carried drinking water from across the road. Now two of my sons live there. They bought that small acreage and both of them built a house. Alvin lives in the one closest to 24, a big tan and brown house. It’s got a big gray truck barn too ‘cause he’s a truck driver. And the other one next to him’s got an underground house. He’s a truck driver too.
CW: Now what’s an underground house?
MS: One side is built into a hill and then the other side is facing out.
MS: His is the second house from 24 on Rd. 8. They’re right close together. (pause)
TM: Well after you auctioned your sawmill off what did you do then?
MS: Well my boys all went to other jobs and I got married and travelled all over the country.
TM: Ooh! Who’d you marry?
MS:. Ray Sherburne.
CW: Got married a second time then, after your husband died?
MS: Almost four years after.
CW: Where did you go with your second husband then?
MS: Well we were in every state. We went by car and we didn’t go the way some people do. We just drove around, stayed at the cheaper motels like Motel 8 and Motel 6. They’re nice and clean just as good as the expensive ones, sometimes cleaner. So we’d go about twice a year, maybe three times, then we’d go to Florida. We started going for a month and we got tired of it, then we’d go for two weeks, then it seemed as though three or four days were enough. Traffic is terrible down there.
CW: I agree with you. I think it’s really kind of dull. When I heard someone saying he liked to play golf. They played golf every day and he said, “That fills up about half your day.” Well and then I heard of other people would take all day to go to the grocery store and I thought any time you spend half your time going to the grocery store. . . .
MS: For a couple years we’d been everywhere we wanted to see. We went out to the Keys. That was nice.
TM: What did you like about the Keys?
MS: Just the fact of going over their big bridges and we’d have to get stopped for a boat to go through, and then we’d get out and look down at the water. It was shallow in most places and . . . big fish floating around. It was nice.
CW: Could you see the fish?
MS: Yes, the water was clear. You could see the big fish, about 6-8 feet long. (laughs)
CW: Liberty Center was a railroad town originally?
MW Yes, it had trains 3 to 4 times a day and would bring mail and you could ride to Napoleon.
CW: On the train, is that right!
MS: Yes. And my sister and my mother used to go to Neapolis on it.
CW: They’d stop anyplace then?
MS: Yeah I guess. I don’t know if she’d have to tell them you wanted off there or if they just naturally stopped there but they had some sort of a mail hook that would pick up the mail and then there was a man with a little push cart that would throw the bag on that and take it to the post office.
CW: I remember seeing those carts and the hook was way up above the train somehow.
MS: I suppose they could flip it out, pull it back so it wouldn’t catch. I don’t know.
CW: Oh, I’ll bet they’d flip it out and with this hook have it ready and when the train came through that would just hook something that was sticking up from the train.
MS:. It’s a lot different now.
CW: Did they have streetcars that went to Liberty?
MS: No but they had one in Weston where my Dad’s folks lived.
CW: I know they did in Deshler—streetcars came down there.
MS: I think Ray rode the streetcar once.
Ray S What?
MS: He rode the streetcar once when he was a kid. (Here Ray, her husband says a lot but it is unintelligible.)
CW: His voice is not very loud. Let’s change the volume a little bit and get as close as we can to him. There. That’ll pick it up better. (He talks more but it doesn’t seem to make any sense.)
MS: My parents were from Liberty.
TM: Are there any final thoughts that you have, Marjorie?
MS: Well, when I was little we used to go to Weston to visit my Dad’s folks in a horse and buggy.
CW: Oh you did?
TM: Would that be just you or both you and the family?
MS: Well we probably all went at times but I can remember when my Dad just took me as the biggest. I was probably 8 or 9.
CW: We do want to hear the rest of your story and we probably are going to have to eliminate some of this because it’s not recording well. (Ray continues jumbled words)
CW: So would you tell us the rest of what you started to tell about the time you went to Weston?
MS: Well, my Dad’s brother had a restaurant there and his sister lived there and he had another brother lived there. He was a carpenter too. We would just go over to my Uncle Billy’s restaurant. He really had a card hall—a pool hall really—and he sold candy bars, and tobacco and then right on the side of it my aunt had a door connecting. She had sandwiches and coffee. I don’t remember her having anything else but I know she sold sandwiches and coffee. (Ray is wheeled out of room.)
CW: Ray and you were married in the Lutheran Church at Liberty Center? Was it a small wedding or . . .
MS: Well mostly family but a few of the people that worked for us came, but that was kind of big.
CW: They didn’t have big weddings then, did they?
MS: No, not like they do now. I made my own dress. I had the dress I wore when my son got married the year before. That’s what I wore. This thing of wearin’ a dress just once is not for me.
CW: That’s right! And then they put ‘em away and . . . well sometimes their daughters are married in them but I’m like you. It seems like a lot of effort for not much use. My sister-in-law was married just in the living room of their house and that was in WWII and I guess that was quite common at that time, wasn’t it?
MS: Yes. My son Alvin and Joannie were married in the yard. Her folks had a new house on the edge of Liberty. They were married outdoors. My granddaughter was married outdoors too. She didn’t go for the big wedding. But some of them think they have to have it.
CW: How did you meet your first husband?
MS: Well I was still going to school and he just come over one night. Of course my mother knew who he was because she worked at a neighbors when she was younger and she knew his brother and sister—so that’s how. And my second husband—he was my sister’s brother-in-law and his wife died about the same time my husband so one time she just told Ray he ought to come over and take me out to supper or somethin’. And so they come with him and that’s how we got started. I’d heard of him all my life but I had never met him. That was 1978. But his wife had died four years before. Now my sister lives down in Mississippi and my other sister that’s alive lives in Florida and two of them are dead.
CW: You’re all pretty separated now.
MS: Yeah. Right now we are. My sister in Florida told my son—she calls him every once in a while—she said, “I may be movin’ back up there.” She comes up every summer for three or four months.
CW: Was she afraid of hurricanes?
MS: Well she lives in a big trailer park down there and it ws right by a river about as big as the Maumee is here and somebody bought it so all the trailers have to disappear. But a lot of ‘em are old anyway. I hope she comes back. She’s got a daughter in Columbus and a step-daughter in the edge of Michigan. Then she’s got one daughter in Florida and a son in Goose Creek S. C. They’re scattered all over.
CW: Now when I was talking to Louisa Strock she said they used to skate on the canal a lot when the canal was still there. Did you ever do that—ice skate on the canal?
MS: No but when I was in school before I got past the sixth grade sometimes we used to go down to the canal. . . you know I didn’t have skates. Our teacher would let us out for a long recess or during the noon or something.
CW: It wasn’t all that far from your school that you could walk there.
MS: No; it wasn’t an eighth of a mile. Are you familiar with 109 into Liberty?
MS: Well it’s just back west a half a mile and on the hill of the Oberhouse place was a school and right across from it was where Lucy Kline lived and that’s where we got out water. Then there was another house down a little further and that’s the one my youngest son bought. And then the other son bought half of his land and built his house.
CW: Well how did you slide on the canal if it was level? Wouldn’t you need a hill to slide?
MS: No, we just run like kids will do.
CW: On your shoes you slid?
MS: Well, boots. Yes, you could play pretty good on the ice.
CW: Did they still have that old hotel on the canal at Damascus at that time?
MS: No, there used to be a college there but that was before my time too.
CW: A college!?
MS: Damascus College.
CW: Oh for Heaven’s sakes!
MS: I think so. It probably wasn’t so big as they are now.
CW: That’s interesting. Were the people in Liberty Center, were they mainly German or were they English or . . .
MS: Well I would say there was a mixture as far as I know. Now when we come to Napoleon after my father got a car we’d come to Napoleon on—Wednesdays and Saturdays I believe the stores were open—and we’d get what we wanted, then we’d setin the car on Main St. and just watch the people. There was a lot of German-talking people.
CW: Yes, I believe Napoleon was predominately German at that time. Someone who supposedly knew her history said that at Damascus and Liberty Center they were settled originally by the English.
MS: Oh, I don’t know.
CW: Possibly Irish too—people that worked on the railroad maybe?
MS: I don’t have any idea. I would say my granddad was German but he never talked German or anything but (back about six generations—I don’t know for sure—) they come over from Germany and his name was George Saul and his wife’s name was Eva so every couple generations those two names would surface. Now that is in the first history book and it shows a picture of the six brothers I think.
CW: Your sons, you mean?
MS: No, the brothers of my Grandad. And they—it starts out the Riggs Family. A Riggs was relative of my grandfather’s brother, Charles Saul.
(end of tape)
There are three histories as part of the Schuettes’ oral history. The interview itself, which is given last here, and two short written histories, one by Paul and one by Elvera. The written histories are shorter and and presented first.
Written history #1:
ELVERA SCHUETTE: What I remember about my parents and my family:
Frank and Dorothea (Youngman) Dickmander were married in 1901, started their married life on a 40-acre farm on Road J in Richfield Top., Henry County, Ohio. Their first house was a log cabin but soon a new house was built which provided living quarters for the following seven children: William, Julius, Augusta, Martha, Rudolph, Laura and Elvera, still living at this writing. Six deceased members of the entire family are buried on Penn Lutheran Cemetery, corner of Roads 5 and G in Bartlow Twp., Deshler, OH. All family members were also members of that church.
My father was instrumental in building a new church in the early 1900’s. He hauled the brick for the foundation with a steel-tired wagon and a team of horses from Honeck’s Tile Mill at Elery, Ohio to the site of the new church at the corner of Roads G and 5 which is located across the road from the old, small church which was located on the site of the cemetery. Since then this church has been moved away from the roads and rebuilt. Peace Lutheran Church 5-031 Rd. G. To promote Christianity was foremost in the minds of this rural family. In those days home was the main place to be, school was next in line, religious and public.
The following is the schedule at that time for early education: first it took place in the home and then: Public School, Sept. through April, 8 months. Rural Religious School, May thru July (ages 10 thru 14 days 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) Vacation month: August, both religious and public. Additional requirements for church membership: Saturday classes Sept. thru April, ages 13 & 14 (mornings only)
Also, earliest education in Christianity: on Sunday mornings after church services the pastor conducted a special religious program for the children who sat at the front. This has developed into our modern Sunday School on Sunday mornings. This is the history of Peace Lutheran Church. I was their organist for 12 years 1934 to 1947.
Every family was self-sufficient by raising their own meat, doing their own preparation, raising their own vegetables, canning, home-made clothes by family members. All were kept busy by home work on the farm. Sears and Montgomery Ward Catalogs were widely used and orders sent by mail.
Entertainment was home-made, checkers with buttons for markers. An outdoor game was “zippy” with all home-made materials.
Sickness in the family was prevalent; death was evident. Many home remedies were used. Raleigh and Watkins Products provided such elementary medicines as cold tablets etc. Doctors were available.
Written history #2:
PAUL SCHUETTE: This was rewritten in May 2006 by Elvera Schuette. (See attached interview.)
What I remember about my parents and my family: Herman Schuette and Frieda (Panning) Schuette were married in April 1914 and lived on rented farms until they bought their own in 1925 on the corner of Roads M-1 and 17, Napoleon Twp., Henry Co. OH.
Paul, the oldest of seven children, was depended upon by the rest of the family to make things move ahead. The other children were: Fred, Henry, Edwin, Edna, Lawrence and Laura.
Many milk cows and chickens had to be produced, in addition to the 200 acres of farming land, to feed and clothe the family. Paul, the oldest also had the heaviest load to carry in that way. All were members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Rural Napoleon.
For me (Paul) early childhood was not the best. Cholera was prevalent and I had it, ate no food for six weeks, but with the proper medical advice and help I survived. A brother died. When I was six years old I suffered a broken leg. When I became older more work and responsibility was placed on me. Illness in the family also added to that.
In 1929, Herbert Hoover president, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. That complicated conditions more yet but we survived.
For me grade school became secondary during the learning years, but I was a fast learner because of having been a good listener. I did not attend high school, but took correspondence courses as they were available by mail.
Since farming did not fulfill my desire for an occupation I applied for a position at the Napoleon Post Office. Although I passed the examination at the top 3 level, a job was slow in obtaining. Those who served in World War II were first in line. Since I had produced food for the war effort I was left behind. However, I was hired as a substitute and since I was willing to learn and do all duties that others did not want to do (difficult as they came) I earned the sub pay. Finally the time came for a regular job and I worked up to the level of Assistant Postmaster, then transferred to Rural Route #1 north of Napoleon. During this time I also worked as a janitor in the evenings for ten years at the Bookmobile Branch of the Ohio State Public Library and retired at age 68.
I was married in 1947 and first lived on rented farms. When they became scarce we moved into a three-room apartment on Dodd St., Napoleon with our two-year-old son, Marcus. As time went on we bought a house at 333 Brownell where our second son was born in 1956. We then bought at 511 W. Maumee and lived there for 35 years and retired to Alpine Village, Napoleon.
We were members of St. Paul, Glenwood Ave. since 1954. The two sons attended St. Paul Parochial School, all being active in church and community projects. One son is a Viet Nam Veteran, machinist in Defiance and the other has 25 years of service as a Respiratory Therapist in St. Ann Hospital, Columbus Ohio.
The highlight of my postal career was delivering packages on Christmas Day and giving up all family festivities until all was delivered.
Name: Elvera Augusta Schuette
Maiden Name: Dickmander
Marital Status: married to Paul Schutte on June 8, 1947
Date of Birth: September 1, 1918
Place of Birth: home on Road J
Parents’ names: Frank W. Dickmander and Dorothea (Youngman) Dickmander
Educatioin: Westhope High School, graduated 1936 with a diploma
Work Experience: took care of elderly (cooking and cleaning), took in sewing and did alterations for Schuette Men’s Store.
Honors, awards, or other recognition: received recognition in high school for good work, Sunday school teaching.
Church: St. Paul Lutheran, Napoleon
Organizations: Lutheran Laymen’s League; TB+ Health; Women’s organization in church
Special Interests (hobbies): playing organ, sewing, gardening. Member of Preaching, Teaching, Reaching Club.
E = Elvira, I = interviewer, P = Paul
I: So what do you remember about your parents and your family?
E: Oh if you wanna know about my parents, I have some information on both of my parents. My parents were Frank and Dorothea Youngman Dickmander, and in 1901 Frank and Dorothea just started their marriage life on a 40-acre farm on road J in Ridgeville Township, Henry Co., Ohio. Their first home was a log cabin, but soon a new house was built during the years following.
Seven children were born into the family. In order to feed a growing family, in addition to the farm, Frank began to work the carpentry. Dorothea had enough to do to keep the house and take care of the children, enjoy a huge laundry everyday on the washing board.
The names of the children were William, Julius, Augusta, Martha, Rudolph, Laura and Elvera. That’s the only one living. Six members of the entire family are buried in peace Lutheran Cemetery, Bartlow township, Deshler, Ohio. The whole family were members of Peace Lutheran. Frank was instrumental and helping build a new church in the early 1900s. Frank took his horses, wagon and hauled brick from Elery to the site where the new church was to be built. Total Christianity was most important to this rural family. That’s because of my parents.
Okay. Now, do you want the report of his parents.
E: His parents were Herman and Frieda (Panning) Schuette, married in April 1914, lived on Redden farms until they bought their own farm in 1925. Paul, the oldest of also 7 children, was depended upon by the rest of the family to make things move ahead. Children were Paul, Red, hHnry, Edwin, Edmund, Lawrence, and Laura. Many milked cows and also chickens were raised to feed and clothe the family. And of course Paul, the oldest, had the heaviest load to carry. At that time, for Paul, school became secondary because of his work load at home. He, however, later took correspondence courses at home which were available at that time. All were members of St. Paul Lutheran church, Napoleon Township. Now those are his parents.
I: Okay. Thank you. Anything special about your childhood?
E: Well, that would be… I was born September 1, 1918. The youngest of 7 children, I had plenty of home babysitters who were free of charge to my mother because my mother wondered why 1 had to come along and, well, well I’m still here and I’m still making trouble as when I was a kid.
Home was the main place to be in those days. School was next in line; both public and religious. Our parents were good providers and we always had our needs met, but we also had wants that never came.
I attended 12 years o f public school after which did housework for the elderly. Paul Schutte and Elvera Dickmander were married on June 8, 1947 in Peace Lutheran church, Deshler, Ohio. We lived various places [? until fanning was not readily available ?]. Paul started working as a substitute at the Napoleon Post Office for 38 years and retired having been a rural mail carrier. We live at Alpine Village in comfort and enjoy the so-called “golden years”.
I: What was the best part about going to school?
E: Well to learn.
I: Where did you attend school?
E: At Westhope High School.
I: Did you go for any thing special?
E: No, at that time there was no money available for the family to go for education. So we worked for the elderly. That’s all we knew to do.
I: What made you want to work for the elderly?
E: To get extra money. Well we earned maybe a dollar a day. Mostly we did housekeeping for the elderly. So they hired girls in the neighborhood. For a dollar a day we scrubbed floors and took care of the house.
I: What were the years like for you?
E: We worked most of the time. Not like today where you roam around the neighborhood, because there were too many in the family. We usually made our own games. We liked to play checkers. We made our own boards and we used buttons for the makers.
I: What was your daily routine?
E: We helped around the house and did chores, milk cows, feed the chickens, pull weeds, make dinner. Everything was homemade. Like clothing.
I: What were some events that stand out?
E: Well what we enjoyed was the company of the threshing gang when they came around. Paul could have been helping that when he was on his farm. But for the men, they were the ones to do the work. We just spent a good time looking around and enjoying the good food that was prepared for the people doing the work. Another high-light in my lifetime too was getting in on the Christmas program on Christmas Eve. Our church always had a Christmas program and we were just scared to death because we had to get up in front of so many people.
I: What changes would you like to see today?
E: Well I would like to see children growing up as good citizens of the United States. And to stay out of trouble. There is too much of that going on, for one thing. Too much involvement in drugs. But of course we never heard of that in those years. Another thing would be not enough people attending church. That would be one reason for them getting into trouble is no respect for God. We were brought up as Christians.
I: Is there any thing else that you would like to talk about that we did not cover?
P: well things are so much different today. And those who haven’t heard about the Great Depression. The president of the United States, by the name of Hebert Hoover. He was a very wealthy man. He was 30 years old and had over a million dollars. Things weren’t ordered as they are today. He was a millionaire and he was considered rich. He did expect to run against Roosevelt. And he did absolutely nothing and that brought about the times when he became president. He did nothing. And only he tried to run again. Of course when he ran, oh what was his name? Franklin Roosevelt. Had Roosevelt before. But I think the Roosevelt before was a Republican. This was a Democrat. He was in the wrong time when our country was attacked. That was the World War II. And of course our family, one brother he was sick he was in bed all the time. Two brothers were in the service and my dad was in very poor health. So I was required to farm 200 acres. That was a lot of land for one person to handle in those days. Well, he was not a run-around when he was young. He had business to do at home to keep the family together. So in the meantime we were married. We rented a farm in the neighborhood there. Not that I wanted to farm that bad. We liked to farm but, I see it wouldn’t have too much of a future for me. And I took an exam at the post office. And at the time there were a lot of changeovers. And there were still World War I veterans who had the first chances at the jobs. And the World War II veterans and I didn’t know how many people came in but I tried for the substitute. I was last but how many people came in there one day; see, they had the idea that the post office was a very easy place to work. And they didn’t know. The city had to walk all day long. You got the mail and then you had to learn the towns from A to Z. Well most of them didn’t want to do it. They were there one day and away they went. Then I would be called. And remember I mentioned the highlight would be during the Christmas season when everybody was gathering families together. Our family couldn’t and we had extra mail coming in during Christmas.
E: He delivered that to the people.
P: So anyhow, so people could get out of jobs. They wouldn’t even look at a job in the post office. It took a long time before I even got a chance.
E: He was not a veteran, he never served in the, war. Because he served on the farm.
P: That’s what I was assigned to. 1 was under directions to report every so often. They had to check that I was still doing that. Of course I had no choice. We got by alright. We lived to be 90 years old. That’s pretty good. Well a month from Saturday I’ll be 91 years old.
When I was six years old, I had cholera or I don’t remember the name of it. I didn’t get over a bite of food for over 6 weeks. Most of the children died before. We had a doctor, Rohrs, he’s a distant relative of ours. The only thing we could do was starve. But he went to Michigan. Then we had another doctor, Gochi, from Archhold. And you know that was the only thing that saved me. I would be just barely half asleep when I wanted to be awake. She would try to feed me but it was up to me to chew and swallow. But from that clay on I started to feel better.
Then Halloween was my first day of school. But the teacher there was, I don’t know the name of it, I know the one though. And of course you know they had very little, she was only 19 years old. She never paid any attention that I got a grade card. Although I have been taught reading and all that at home. She died about 4 or 5 years ago so she must have been about 95/96 years old. In those days the teachers only had to have about 6 weeks of special training or college. So they were not educated like today. She never sent me a grade card or any thing.
Next year I had a teacher by the name of Earl Buchhop. His wife is still living. She is at the county home now. And, well, he said he could put me in the second grade. I had a brother 14 months younger than I was. He started school too. My mother said he wasn’t that ambitious to read or anything. She didn’t send, just think I’ll keep them both in the same grade. And he can teach him how to read. Now my teachers were pretty much educated as far as having training. Now mine weren’t nineteen or anything. I had a man teacher. He wasn’t married but he was real young. He was a good teacher absolutely. We had to diagram sentences. As far as math is concerned, we had the weekend for training. That was in grade school. Now that was he married. Well, they lived over in Defiance County, Vandenberg. She is 103 years old now. He never had to go to high school. He just got to the 8th grade. Well I’ve been. I was one of the younger ones. He was the oldest of the family which meant I got to go to high school. The three youngest of my brothers and sisters, well high school. The older ones of the family, see we lived in Napoleon Township school district, we had no high school. And the high school district didn’t reach out as far as we lived. Well some were going to high school. But they couldn’t get any straight answers there. What it was, Napoleon district was fighting with our territory. We didn’t know. The younger ones, they went to Florida. Then there was a fight in Florida district. But, anyhow, they got by, they lost. Later of course, Florida, a good part of that went to Napoleon. It was divided up. That’s the way things were. You could go to high school necessarily, without having to pay for it. I could easily be entertained by books, by learning different subjects, about biology, geometry, not geometry, trigonometry, science. I loved them all. I guess most of my education was reading. Soon as the paper came by, whether we got the Toledo Blade, you know, their answers were as real as they come. You’re going to pick up a lot of things that some people know, don’t get. You know, if mother hadn’t taught me to read, school let me, when I got to school. Clear through the 8th grade I didn’t have much studying to do because I would watch the grades ahead of me and one advantage the old country schools had was that they were all 8th grade. I know later of the school, you could tell that those who came from those schools because they were the same classroom all through that and they got it all, when the bigger schools came those children didn’t get in with those grades. The sad part today is the illiteracy; people that cannot read.
Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, 2002
I was born on a farm out in Holgate, Ohio and my folks were farmers–uh–I was the oldest of three children so that’s what I remember. Everything was run by horse power then.
Q. When was that?
I was born in 1912. I went to school in Holgate, graduated from High School, was President of the class. Heh heh, we had a little paper, the “Tatler” we called it. I run that the last year.
Q. Bet that was fun, wasn’t it?
Oh yeah, but it was a lot of work, but we got it done. Then I went to Business College in Fort Wayne one year, ran out of money then came back. My uncle said he had some–could bake a lot of bread but he couldn’t sell it so-a-I got a Chevrolet coupe with a box on the back. But first I tried it on Dad’s old car. I decided to drive through the countryside and sell bread. Started out one noon and–one morning– and I was back and needed more bread. But anyhow that sprung into–uh–
Q. That’s how you got started?
Yeah, and as–uh–my uncle said he was going to let some of his help go and just do it himself so I came over here to Chubb’s bakery and got started there. And of course in the meantime I married Marie and we had those–before the War started we had four trucks on the road. (chuckle). We sold groceries and bread. That was the main item, bread, cookies, everything in the bake line. So when my uncle quit I went over to Chubb’s and Marie worked at Chubb’s and-uh-we went over there on Woodlawn. Marie’s mother owned that house and so we got it. He lives in that big brick house just across the street from the old library.
Q. Oh yeah. That’s across the street from the old library. Was the library there then?
Yeah, it was. Then it wasn’t big enough for the business so Marie’s mother bought the old laundry on Highland. We were up to four trucks there. We went all over the country–Archbold, through Elery to Holgate and we did all right. Then the war came along. We didn’t have much to do.
Q. Probably couldn’t get gas either.
No, and then Charlie Tanner had a grocery store up town and he was on the board that issued tires–ha, ha–and so-uh-then one day I didn’t always drive the truck. I was down to the wholesale house gettin’ some groceries and Clyde Beck was there. I said “How’s business?” “Terrible, just terrible,” he said. I asked, “Why don’t you get rid of it?” He said, “D’ya wantta buy it?” I said “I dunno. I might.”
And so it ended up that I bought it, had it for ten years and then–
Q. When was this?
It must have been about 19 uh–the ’40’s–when the war was comin’ on, and so we had that for ten years and then we couldn’t get tires and gas, things like that. Then we had that for ten years and in the meantime I was also the Mayor of the town–voted in by about ten votes–and-uh–Walt Hagen asked me if I’d run for Council. He said we needed another Republican for Council. He said, “I’ll do everything” and I got voted in by about ten votes. And then of course Mc Cosker who was the Mayor, had a shop down there by where the Senior Center is now and–uh–I took office on January First and and-uh we had four Republicans and two Democrats and ‘It’s got to be a Republican’ and the other three Republicans didn’t want it. I stewed around about a month and finally I said I’d take it. So I had a grocery store and was Mayor of the town. Then I ran for reelection, got reelected and-a- At that time the Mayor had full court. I had Court every Thursday night after Rotary. Now this guy’s full time, five days a week. (laughs) But I got through it all right. Charlie Bowman and I learned to be good friends. Every time after they had a Council meeting, even if it was 12 o’clock we’d still go over to the Palmer House and have a cup of coffee.
And so whether we agreed or disagreed that’s how.
So one day I said to Charlie,
“I gotta get out of that downtown area. There’s no parking,” and I said, “I’d like to get a store out at the edge of town.” And a couple days later Charlie said,
“Say, I’ve got just the place.” It was where it was setting now, you know. And so Charlie said, “I’ll help you get started,” and so he saw Walt Crahan, Mart Hoeffel and uh–we had a meeting up at my
Q. Was that called The Chief at that time?
Oh no. Sauer Foodland. We had a meeting, Charlie Bowman and I with -uh–
Q. With those people in Defiance, wasn’t it?
No no no no. With–uh–he had the dry goods store.
Crahan, yeah. He had the dry goods store downtown. And another fellow was there. So we went up into his office and said–uh–I told him what I wanted to do, I wanted to build a store out there. And this one fella got up and walked out. He said, “I’m not going to build a store for anybody.” Heh, heh. And Walt Crahan said, “We’ll build it.” (laugh) And of course it turned out to be a tremendous business you know. Just before Crahan died, we paid the rent all the time.
Q. Oh, so he owned that building.
Yeah, yeah. We had expanded it several times. Finally the fellows from Defiance came along. They said, “Why don’t you join with us?” And so, I don’t know. After a couple years we built a store across the river over there.
Q. Was that the time they changed the name from Sauer’s Foodland to the Chief?
Yeah. I don’t know It was Sauer Foodland for a while and then when I put my stock in with theirs
they said, “Let’s call them all The Chief.” They had one in Defiance. They wanted to build one in Bryan and one in Wauseon. We had a million dollars borrowed on that one in Wauseon before we made any money.
(laugh) Well it’s funny. The fellow who owned that eight acres that we wanted was an Osteopath and he did some operations on the people and he was gonna build a hospital. They said, “You can’t buy that.” So One day somebody said, “Why don’t you try money?” So we went over there, Ted and I and said, “We’d like to buy that land.” “Well you can’t buy it.” But when we got up to $120,000.00 (laugh)
Q. Changed his mind, eh?
We bought five acres and Bryan did the same thing. I was there–I don’t know how many years. Must have been–then John died.
Q. John who?
John Nolan He and I were the guys that ran the store and Ted Hintz, he took care of the money, ran the office. But John and I were–did that. It never felt very good, but the Hintz boys they finally ended up owning it–er, bought me out and they had a buyer telling me that if somebody died–So then we went to Florida, Marie and I, we went to Florida to look around. We found this place called Six Lakes. We got a house there where we spend about–well we go there about the middle of October and come home a month for Christmas, and go back.
I used to enjoy those trips with Ed and them (ha, ha)
Q. Ed did too!
I was playing this course with Bob Cline that was the 2nd oldest course in the country and there was a wire thing like a hollow and Bob and I were walking through the hollow, and they were supposed to have the oldest golf course in the country–I can’t remember the name–but anyway we wuz walking through there. They had an owl sitting out there. Bob said, “How much is that?” She said, “65.” Bob said, “I’ll take it. She said, “Wait a minute. That’s $6500.” (laughs)
I don’t know whether Ed told you but one morning after breakfast–we were eating at Greenbriar–you husband got out his pipe you know. Just then the waiter came up and said “You’ll have to put out that pipe.” He growled but he put the pipe out. And the next day he found out that here it was Doc Harrison that had arranged it.(laughs)
Q. It was just a joke, eh? (laughs) Well now when did you and Marie build this house?
We didn’t build it. No, no. It was build in 1925.
Q. That’d be right in the depression, wasn’t it, or just before the depression?
Well yeah, I think we-uh. had three brothers who were stonemasons and he took the stone out of the old river bridge and hauled it to the bank and they built the home. And-uh–
Q. Was that the bridge that was flooded in 1911, I wonder?
I don’t know, I don’t know. It was just said that that’s what they used for buttress and so he bought it, brought it back here and put it in the back yard, and that’s what they used to build the house. Of course then the great depression came along and somehow his auto business went–he had the oil business in Napoleon all sewed up. I don’t know, there’s stories about some crook or something, was–he had the I can’t think of the name.
Q. Was it Orwig?
No. He ran the paper. So he had these stonemasons and he went broke and so he sold it to Zimmerman and I think Zimmerman bought it.
Q. That wouldn’t be Lyman Zimmerman would it?
Q. Or Junior Zimmerman’s father in Holgate?
No, no. He told me that he drank whiskey–scotch–and I don’t know how many cases of that we took out of the basement.
No, empty. (laughs) So we were looking for a house and we came around here and Marie said, “I like this.” And I said, “So do I.” So we went up to see Mr. Bauer. “Best house in the world!” he said. “I’ll take you out there.” So we had a meeting. And (mumble) Let’s see . . . It was . . the war was in . . 1945, I think we got it. The war was ending and of course it ws ’55 when we went out there (moved the store). Aaand then the same day Bauers said, I go a lot right behind your house. I’d like to sell that to you.
I said, “What do you want for it?”
He said, “$800.” and I found out that her husband was blind but he gave lessons
Q. Was that Hagen?
Yeah. She was after him to get the weeds mowed down (laugh) and so she said she was sure glad that we came along.
Q. Did that lot go all the way to the river?
Q. Oh, Route 24 used to go there, didn’t it?
Some big semi’d try to turn that corner and it’d upset you know, until we got this one. I’d be afraid to live there.
Q. You didn’t live in this city or this town then until you went to Woodlawn right after you were married? When were you married?
Let’s see, I don’t know. It must have been.
Q. Do you think it ws 1935?
Q. What do you remember about what the town was like or what Holgate was like?
Well at that time there was very few automobiles. Horse and buggies you know. My father finally bought a Ford. You could buy one for about $500. I worked on the railroad for 40 cents an hour.
QYou did! Hard work.
Yeah. (laughs) One of the worst days we had we had to go along the track, take a sythe and swing, had to cut like that all day
Q. Oh my!
Yeah, we were up there and between Holgate and Defiance. They said go get some water. There were some wigglers in it. They said, ‘Oh that won’t hurt anything (laughs)
Q. Ooh! I don’t think I’d want to drink that.
(laughs) Well you would if it was good and hot. It was a well you know.
Q. When you grew up you were in Holgate?
No, it was on a farm about a mile and a half from Holgate.
Q. What did you do for entertainment in those horse-and-buggy days?
Oh I had a bicycle and they didn’t have any more children till I was about 9 years old, my mother had a brother and then in another 9 years she had a sister. So-a-I had a bicycle and a dog, and I’d go up and see my uncle you know, I’d ride up there.
Q. What did you do on the farm?
Well the first thing we’d get started with was we’d milk the cows. I’d go out and milk cows. We always had a half a dozen and and of course when I was going to school I’d always have to clean out the stable. We always had horses. Everything was horse power then. We had a stable. I had to make sure that was clean.
Q. Did you plow with your father?
Well I was in school, you see. And by the time I got out of high school then I think my Dad got a tractor.
Q. Did you go to a one-room school?
Yeah. Marie was in one.
Q. How did you get to the school? Did you walk?
Yeah. Sure. The teacher had two boys and I’d walk with them. They were older than I.
Q. How far?
Oh, it was about a mile, mile and a half. When we moved over, when I went to high school, I used to jog that or bicycle. But it wasn’t anything to get there you know.
Q. The way they (my husband and siblings) got to school in winter they’d put their skates on and skate down this little creek which went from their farm to the schoolhouse.
We had a creek on the back of the farm but you couldn’t go on or I never heard of anyone skating on it. It still runs through Holgate. I always thought I wanted to be a preacher.
Q. Oh you did?
Yeah. My . . . One day I went up to one of the ministers and he said, “Well look here. I get $3000 a year. You can’t beat that job.” (laughs) But one semester at Bowling Green collete is as much as I got. Thought I might be a lawyer but I didn’t have any money and I had to go back to sellin’ bread on the trucks. The fellow that run the truck for me he let the business run down. Then I got serious. But I don’t know. I didn’t mind it so much. But when you’re young you . .
Q. Yeah. You don’t mind. (laughs) You probably had children by that time.
Oh yeah, I think we 1938 or something like that. Pastor Moser was what he talked us into joining the Lutheran Church. It was just down the alley you know.
Q. What church did you go to before?
Well my folks were Reformed. I suppose it’s still there. A church out where Stockmeier used to be.
They had an ice house house there by the river where Snyder has his car wash place you know. The’d haul the ice up there to the . . cut it up, put sawdust in between it. They’d put a layer of ice, then one of sawdust and so on.
Q. They’d cut it out of the river?
Q. How did they get it cut?
Sawed it. Had big long saws about like that. (motions) They’d just go like this, you know, cut it by hand. And uh, Holgate had an ice house too. They had refrigerators,
Q. Yeah, they’d put a block of ice in the top. Did that ice last all summer, or most of the summer?
Q. You wouldn’t think sawdust would keep it that cold, would you?
Well, it was pretty think, you know, and there at Holgate they had a little pond we used to go skating but here at Napoleon I suppose they skated on the river.
Q. How thick would that ice get?
Oh, I suppose about a foot thick or so. I don’t know whether tthey had the dam like–what’s the name of that town down river?
Q. Grand Rapids.
Yeah. Now I don’t know whether was there or not but I know they used to get ice out of there. You put your ice on the top. We just bought a new refrigerator. It was starting to leak oil or something. Y’know I suppose it was before you come but-a- we were going to build a house right there next to the where the annex was there, the Sunday School room.
Q. That was what (Pastor) Moser wanted wasn’t it?
Yeah. (laugh) I made a great speech and I thought it was a great thing and Ted Titgemeyer got up and said it was terrible. They had to provide a place for the minister. You know when I look over that thing he (our minister) gets over $100,000 a year.
Q. When you add it all up.
He gets so much for his minister, then there’s his in there. He gets so much for his books, then
Yeah, and then his wife plays the organ. Between the two of them they make over $100,000 probably.
Q. Minister’s pay isn’t what it used to be. Used to be a pauper’s job, sort of.
And, I guess I told you about the one we have in Florida, didn’t I? He gets 140,000 a year and he’s a lot cheaper than Updegraf because in the three years since he’s been there he’s brought in 800 new members.
(I omitted some info about Florida here.)
Q. Well now, I understand that from Welsted on out there was country here?
No, not since I remember. It might have been but not before we were here.
Q. CCC built this, didn’t they?
I don’t know. But I remember Charlie Bowman was on the committee. But at their recreation room the girls were standing in water to change their clothes. When Charlie got mad he didn’t wait for nobody (laughs) He–he got right to work right now.
Q. That’s the way he operated.
And he’d see those people like Lawrence Haase and some of those guys.
Q. Were you involved with threshing at all on the farm?
No. They used to have binders, they called them, and they’d cut, and put rope or binders in bundles about 18″ thick. through there. that would be
Q. Is that wheat you’re talking about?
Wheat, oats or whatever. Then you’d have to go out in the field and shock the–put em up in shocks, then you’d put a cap on one of ’em, you know, and about seven or eight of those bundles of wheat had to be shocked up and we always thought it had to cure and-uh-the thrashing machine would come along with what we called the separator, and some were run by coal fire, we’d call steam engines and
of course later on it was different. They would come to where we farmed you know, and they ‘d put straw up there for the horses aand cows etc. And they would have steam engines from what I remember. They had steam engines, big mammoth things. They’d run in.
Q. Would they do that in the field?
No. Usually every farm had a straw stack and of course during the year they used that straw to bed the horses and the cows, etc. They would put that out in the yard and that would disintegrate and they’d call that manure. Then that was what they put on the fields. That was before they had what you call Threshing Machines. Spread with manure spreaders, and you’d load it on by hand.
Q. Pretty messy work, eh? (laugh)
Oh no. It wasn’t bad. Most of the oat stalks and corn stalks’s disintegrate and it’d have a black color to it. You’d throw that on the manure spreader and they’d take horses and spread it on the fields that the farmer thought needed the most fertilizer, but now it’s different.
Q. I wonder what they’ll do with all that manure on megafarms?
(omitted this info re. modern times)
Q. Back in those days every farmer had pigs, a few horses and cows, didn’t he?
Oh yeah, and now . . . . . .
Herb Eickhoff used to go round and do that (inseminate animals) for the farmers. You know Herb?
So farming’s different than it used to be.
Q. The average farm used to be about 200 acres, didn’t it?
No. When I first started my Dad had 40 acres
(end of tape)
Additional comments by Mrs. Paula Jean Saneholtz
Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, March 11, 2010; transcribed by Marlene Patterson
TS: That was the German way of spelling Saneholtz. In Freedom township it was known as Soehnholtz. It is Saneholtz.
CW: That was during World War I.
TS: No, that was way before that. It was when they first came over here. It was before World War I. My family from both sides came over here from Germany. I am the second generation born here in the United States here in America. My mom and dad were both born in the United States. Their parents came from Germany. It was two different parts of Germany they came from. One came from Bremen and the other from Hanover. They met somewhere here in Henry County.
CW: I don’t know if you did, but I bet your dad or mom spoke German before you spoke English.
TS: My dad and mom might have. My dad could talk four different kinds of German. He could talk High German, but we couldn’t understand him. My mom taught school here in Napoleon.
CW: Is that right!
TS: Oh yes. She graduated from Defiance College. She had four sisters and five brothers. They lived in that great big gray house right around the corner. At one time that is where they lived. My grandmother and all of the ten kids. See all the Saneholtz’s are on my mom’s side.
CW: Back in those days it was an advantage to have a big family. They would get a lot of help on the farm. Most of the families lived on farms.
TS: Well, in 1973, well of course I was in the gas business and had a lot of customers. You know those big truck stops they built out here Road 12, a bunch of us started meeting out there buying coffee and we would play honest farmer to buy coffee.
CW: How did you do that?
TS: We would take a dollar bill and whoever guessed the last two numbers on a dollar bill would have to buy the coffee. Well everybody is gone now, we have two of them that don’t come in anymore. The rest of them are all dead. There was Windy Glanz, Ernie Glanz, Clem Hoffman, Charlie Bauman, you remember Charlie. He was right there all the time.
CW: Oh, Charlie Bauman, he was a wheeler and dealer.
TS: He was always trying to show us the last two numbers and whoever guessed that number had to buy us all the coffee. He’d see a number and I would say higher or lower until they would come together. If the numbers were 08, whoever would say 08 why they would have to buy the coffee. We had ten to fifteen people. We had a lot of fun.
CW: Were you down at Spengler’s?
TS: No, we were in Anthony Wayne. Then they sold out for a while. I don’t know why they sold out. Howard Gable owned it. Then we switched to Spengler’s. We were there I suppose for five or six years. We went there ever since Sherrie Weideman bought it. We moved over there. It was a lot of fun.
CW: That is a nice thing to do. There is a bunch that gets together too over at the Senior Center. Florian Saur always looked forward to that.
TS: At the Senior Center they have rolls for a quarter and coffee is fifty cents. We always paid regular price. My mom had four sisters. My mom was the youngest one. Laura married Clyde Brillhart. There was Lydia that married Elmer Neible. Paul Neible and him were my first cousins. Merle Neible from over by Florida, they are my first cousins. Then there was Anna that married Nelson, Martin Nelson. He was my cousin and there were a lot of them you know. Her brothers were Jim Saneholtz who married Florence Griteman. Then they had Ruth and William, they only had two kids. I never saw them again. He died I guess before I was around. He would have been an Uncle.
CW: Did you have family reunions?
TS: Yes we did on my mom’s side. You should see that reunion deal we got now. There are about 1100 of us now. Of course Bud and Art Saneholtz that had the monument business their dad John started the monument shop right there on the corner of Main and Scott. They had their monument shop there years and years ago. Then they moved down on East Maumee. He went to a basketball game here in Napoleon with Bryan and he had just sat down and he died right there. All of my aunts and uncles except one died at around the age of 70. Even some of my first cousins. Like Fred Yarnell he was about 60 when he died.
CW: Did they die suddenly?
TS: Yes, they had a heart attack. I don’t know why. It must run in the family or something. I don’t know about my dad’s side. My dad was killed in a car wreck. His mom was killed in an automobile wreck around Ridgeville Corners. His aunt died in Indianapolis. Now how old they might have lived I don’t know. My dad he never went to a hospital that I know of.
CW: You know when I was a kid I went along with my family, of course, to their family reunion and I would sit next to my dad, and listen to what they were saying. They would talk and it was interesting to me. The women now, they would just talk about their children, their cooking, and their housework.. That didn’t interest me as a little kid. I would go see what the men were saying.
TS: When I was a young boy I would go out and block the sugar beets and pick tomatoes when I got to be ten to twelve years old. That’s what we did. Of course we got rid of the horses and used tractors. I could put the harnesses on the horses. The first combine around was Fred Imbrock’s. My dad said put the straw back on the fields. it won’t work, it won’t work. First thing you know why my brother bought a combine, a self propelled. That was the most wonderful thing. You didn’t have to go around and around in the fields. You could go right into the field anywhere you wanted to. Dad thought that was really something. My Grampa, he didn’t like that. We threshed, I don’t remember what grade I was in. It was Adolph Langenhop who had the machine. It was a group of farmers that threshed in the summer time.
CW: They would go from one farm to another whenever the weather was right.
TS: They called that a threshing ring. Yes, that was alright. The first rubber tired tractor we had I could hardly believe it.
CW: One thing I always wondered about was how could the farmers cope with the weather? Say maybe it was rainy and then just a few days of sunshine. All the fields needed combining but they couldn’t get to all the fields in those few days. What would they do?
TS: Now threshing is different see. You cut your grain and put it in shocks. Then you would haul the shock up to the thresher. Now combining is different. Everybody had a combine after a while. Fred Imbrock down here was the first one that had a combine. Wasn’t very long that Glen Frysinger got his combine. We got a five foot Allis Chalmer. Everybody got a combine and you could do your own whenever it got ripe.
CW: Oh yes, everybody got their own combine.
TS: Then when you threshed everybody would cut their grain when it was ready, put it in a shock, then we would thresh whenever we got time.
CW: Would you just leave the shocks in the field then?
TS: No, we would put them on a wagon, and haul them up to the threshing machine. We’d use the threshing machine.
CW: So the threshing machine would stay in one place.
TS: Oh yes, it would push the straw out and put it on a pile. I would get fifty cents a day on some days for helping the neighbors. My hands would get tired.
CW: It would be hot and dirty work too.
TS: You would have to be sitting in the dust too.
CW: My husband grew up on a farm. He said blocking sugar beets was one of the hardest jobs he had.
TS: That’s what I did when I was 11 years old.
CW: Was it hard work?
TS: Well, yes. I’d say it was. They were grown in twenty-two inch rows, and we would have to stay between the rows. You would have to leave a beet about every fifteen inches so they could drill them.. Then you would have to go along and hoe them out. That was blocking the beets. Dick Cody said we were the best bunch of boys he ever had.
CW: Is that right!
TS: We would go and block beets for all the neighbors. Henry Brell, Adolph Langenhop, Glen Frysinger had a few, Ray Schweinhagen, and Ed Fulde. That is how I made my money.
CW: How many brothers did you have in your family?
TS: I had three brothers.
CW: There were four of you then.
TS: There were four boys and four girls. The girls all stayed in the house. They had to help Mom cook and stuff. When she got old enough Lavonne was the first one to move out. She worked down at the ASC office. That was the farm program office. One married a daughter of Bob Masters. Mary lives down here on Road 9, right by Route 6 on Road P. Lois lives a half mile south. Do you know Lois Baughman?
CW: Yes I do. Is she your sister?
TS: Yes. Mary Palmer is my sister too. Jerry Palmer is who she married.
CW: Oh yes.
TS: They are both my sisters. We used to have a heck of a good time.
CW: Did you have a farm of your own?
TS: No, my dad owned his own farm. My dad owned a farm. I don’t know how that worked. Whether my grandparents got that farm from the government, I don’t know. You know years and years ago the government gave ground to immigrants. I don’t know how we ever got that farm in the Saneholtz name.
PS: When you were younger did you ever live among the farmers?
CW: Well almost everybody was a farmer years ago.
TS: It seemed like it.
CW: My father wasn’t a farmer, but my grandfathers on both sides were.
PS: Machines kind of did away with that.
TS: An 80 acre farm used to be a nice farm. Now you can’t even live off of an 80 acre farm. Isn’t that something.
CW: Yes, but an 80 acre farm required a lot of work too.
TS: Oh yes, lots of manual work. You see now it is all high tech. These tractors now have power steering, air conditioning and radio and everything. Oh yes!
CW: I can’t remember his name, but he has a lot of farms. He lives over here near the fairgrounds. He says that the tractors that farmers have now are so advanced that they have every square inch of the land figured out. The tractors know how and they tell the farmers how much fertilizer to put on.
TS: Yes and they have a GPS system.
CW: Yes GPS.
TS: These combines today now they can be running and the monitor will tell them the bushels, the moisture, and everything while it is going across the field. If it comes across a place where the wheat is a little thin you know it will register maybe only 40 bushels to the acre. I’ll tell you what, those things are smart. People are smart. It’s wonderful. Computers are wonderful. Did you ever see that Skype we got here in our computer?
CW: No, what is that?
TS: You can send pictures through the air. My grandson in Florida can send pictures.
CW: Does it cost?
TS: No it is free.
CW: I bet the phone companies won’t last too much longer.
TS: Land lines are pretty much done. Pretty much everybody has a cell phone.
PS: Do you have a cell phone?
CW: I have a Trac Phone. My daughter got me one. It has 2000 minutes on it so when I want to call long distance I use that.
TS: With our computer that is what I am talking about, everything is free. You pay for your computer, telephone, and television all on one bill. It is unliminited. I have a cousin in Switzerland and it doesn’t cost me a thing. I have two grandkids in Florida and we talk back and forth. We can call back and forth and it is all on one bill. We like ours. That Skype is all free too.
CW: When you send e-mails. It’s just like that you’ve got it. Whether it is going to California or anywhere.
TS: You just have to feed in the address. And that is free. I can’t understand it.
PS: You pay for the electricity.
TS: That’s just normal. My boy said he was coming over this afternoon. I was going to tell him about you guys.
CW: Tell me a story about those guys.
TS: Well let’s see I don’t know who to start with. Jim Homan, you just got done reading about him falling into that grain bin. He’s a good friend of ours. He’s going with me tomorrow to Detroit. His cell phone saved him. He climbed in this bin. He should have known better. The corn kind of got stuck and he had a long pole and the first thing you know the corn let loose and he just couldn’t get out.
CW: He was pulled right down into it, wasn’t he?
TS: If he hadn’t had a cell phone he’d be dead. He happened to think of his cell phone and he called his hired man. His hired hand’s phone was on vibration, but he knew it rang. He shut the machine off and it took them four hours to get him out.
CW: If he had moved at any time he would have been sucked down in that corn.
TS: He was already sucked down up to his waist. They went in and tried to get to him. They pushed the corn down and it was clear up to his shoulders. They tried to put a cone or some sort of a basket around him. The fire department was there. Life Flight came with a man from Anderson’s in Maumee. He was a grain man and knew about this. He had a power saw and they cut a hole on the side of the grain bin. That way the grain would fall out on the ground around the side and that would clear him. Otherwise he would have been dead. Thanks to his cell phone. I tell you that is something. It was a miracle that he got out.
CW: It just makes good sense to carry one of those things around with you. It’s good for farmers when they are out in the fields.
TS: Ed Hoeffel you know they have the Bed & Breakfast over there by Walkers Mortuary. He just got back from a big trip. He went all over the country.
CW: How is he doing?
TS: He seems to be doing real good. His kids are spread all over. He always cleans our driveway out for us when it snows. He has a nice truck with a snow plow on front. Then we have Jon Miller, you remember him. He was Otto Miller’s son. He married ______. Did you know Jon Miller? Well anyhow Doyle Ward, Betty’s husband. He comes over there every morning.
CW: What do you do, have breakfast together?
TS: No no, we just talk. If you want anything to eat you got to pay for your own. Now like Saturday it was my birthday, so if anybody has a birthday they have to treat the crowd. So Saturday morning I will go in and I will say now whoever want a pancake with an egg on top can have it if they want it. It only cost me two dollars a head. it is easy money. You call in about two hours ahead. That will be my treat. Everybody gets a treat. It’s just a little something that keeps us going.. Windy is there every morning. I don’t know why I even get up. He rides his bike in the summertime.
CW: Now who is this?
TS: Doyle Ward. He is 85 years old and he lives just two blocks down.
CW: Now how old are you?
TS: I will be 82. How old are you then, you must be pretty close to 80?
CW: Thanks! I am 90.
PS: Really! I would never have guessed it.
CW: They had a party for me.
TS: Yes I saw that in the paper not just too long ago. Guess how old her mom is?
CW: I don’t know. How old is she?
PS: She is 102. She is out at Northcrest. She does real good. She doesn’t walk by herself.
TS: Her mind is good. She can remember people from years ago. Anything we want to know from long ago, we ask her she can remember.
CW: Could she tell old memories of long ago?
TS: I told her about you and she wanted to know what she should tell. I have been through about the biggest change in life there was. Of course she went through the horse and buggy. When I got involved why I had an old car, it was an old Dodge. I never rode in a horse and buggy, I always rode in a car, but Mom rode in a horse and buggy. I’ve seen the horses, then the tractors, self-profelled combine and the electric car.
CW: You know Gertrude Mengerink’s father was a mail man and he remembered delivering mail on a horse. It was kind of like a truck only it was real little. He had a hard time getting through the drifts of snow.
TS: They didn’t have roads like we got today. I can remember when these roads were stone around our neighborhood..
CW: Is that right!
TS: We got our road paved. It was one of the first ones. There was a two mile stretch in there. We got it paved. I don’t know how they did it. How they decided and who paid what. Glenn Frysinger’s road was all stone. I drove on a lot of stone roads.
CW: When they had those stone roads, if they drove too fast, the stones would fly.
TS: In the springtime when it thawed sometimes you would have a sinkhole. You’d have to put her in low gear. Oh yes, lots of fun. I’ve seen lots of things happened.
PS: You came at the same time The Young and the Restless is on TV. Do you watch The Young and the Restless?
PS: He does now.
TS: When I was hauling gas, even Howard Overhulse, I could never get him to come out of the house until 1:30.
CW: The farmers weren’t like that.
TS: Oh yes. A lot of the farmers were during the slow season. A farmer only farms about three to four weeks in the Spring and a couple of weeks in the Fall. Unless you got vegetables. Now Dwight Huddle and some of them guys they got year round work because they raise vegetables for Campbell Soup. They raise parsley, carrots, and everything. A normal farmer out here doesn’t even have livestock anymore. That was always the first thing we had to do was get up and milk them cows you know. This we had to do before we went to school. We had an old coal stove to keep warm. My dad would get up early in the morning and put hard coal in the stove and we could hear him shake it. Snow would come in and be on the windowsill and on my blanket in the morning.
CW: Is that right!
TS: Oh yes. You’d reach out under the covers in the morning and get my socks and they’d be froze. I’d put them under the covers to get them warmed up before I would put them on. We made it though didn’t we.
CW: That would toughen you up a bit too.
TS: Oh yes. Then I got to working for Mobil. It’s been a miracle.
CW: This recorder doesn’t have an alarm when it get close to the end. It will just stop.
TS: I can tell you about people, you go out to the Nursing Home now and Northcrest and there is _____ Ernsberger sitting in there. I sold fuel, gasoline and stuff to his dad. There is Coral Kessler, she was a Babcock. She’s in Northcrest and I talked to her. Then here is Doc Vajen’s wife, Margaret Vajen. Peggy Krueger, I don’t know what is wrong with her. Arnold Bischoff out by Gerald. He just fell and broke his hip about a month ago. He’s in there now getting recuperated. There is Dave Meekison.
CW: Is he doing well?
TS: Oh yes. I saw him just the other day. He said sit down, I want to talk to you. He talked about pumping the gas out of his boat sitting behind his house. He lived there on West Washington Street, that nice big brick house. You should see that picture that he has there. He has a light shinging on it. That is really beautiful. Art Shumaker painted that for him. Art painted that picture. Yes, I’ve known Dave for a long long time. Of course Fred Freppel always did my income tax. Of course I’ve known the Dunbars for a long time.
CW: Tell me with your gas business, did you have to take gas out to the farms?
TS: Oh yes. I took out gas and fuel oil both and put it in their homes.
CW: What would you do, would you have a big tank?
TS: I had a big truck. I hauled fuel on my truck. You ought to see my trucks.
END OF SIDE 1
CW: Paula can you tell us a little about yourself
PS: I was born on a farm in between Grelton, Ohio, most people know that is near Malinta, Ohio. After three years living there we moved to Fulton County on a farm near Wauseon. That is where my dad farmed. He had a nice big farm. He had a lot of work. We had cattle, I should say dairy cows to take care of. Everything they ate like cattle or beef, they would have to kill it and process it. They had to do a lot of work. Like I say in the summer I looked forward to seeing my cousins and visit during the summer. They would come and sometimes their parents would come too. They would stay maybe for five to six days.
CW: They would stay five to six days.
PS: Yes, because my Uncle didn’t have a job. They would come over to Mom and Dad’s and come to visit. My Uncle and Aunt didn’t live in the city, they lived in Whitehouse.
CW: Oh yes.
PS: My Mom and Dad would divide them up and maybe they would stay for two to three days. Then they would go someplace else. That is the way they got along and got their food.
CW: Did they have children that were with them?
PS: Yes, they had three.
CW: I bet you enjoyed playing with those children.
PS: Yes, I looked forward to them coming.
CW: Now you said your mother helped a little bit with the farming. What would she do when she was helping in the fields?
PS: She would husk corn and my dad would pull the wagon.
CW: What would happen to you when she was out in the field?
PS: I rode with them in the wagon. They would bundle me all up. I was never left home alone all by myself. There was one time I can remember when Mom and Dad went to the fields and they thought I would be alright for a little time while they were gone. Pretty soon I came out to the barn and I was crying and they said “What’s the matter with you” ? Here I had gotten my big toe caught in the register of the big furnace upstairs. And it hurt! I learned my lesson. I would go outside and play with my cats. We always had a lot of cats. I always loved going to school. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters at home.
CW: Did you become a teacher?
PS: No I didn’t. I became a housewife.
CW: He grabbed you too early.
TS: She worked in the Idle Hour for a while. She worked for Mike DeRosa. Do you remember him? Maybe that was before your time. They had ice creaam there.
CW: I remember the Idle Hour.
TS: You see Vajen’s took it over after that – Bob Vajen and his wife Maggie.
CW: My daughter and her friends used to go there and that is where she learned how to smoke cigarettes. She is still living despite the cigarettes which I am thankful for.
TS: We had five sons. They all graduated from college. Isn’t that something to have five graduate from college. It’s kind of a rarity.
CW: Did you have any daughters then?
TS: Nope. Having girls is like feeding oats to a dead horse.
CW: (Charlotte laughs)
TS: Isn’t that awful!. That’s why they didn’t let me have any girls. My boys all got the girls. We had eight grandsons. Scott has two girls. Dave, our first one. We lived here for 35 years before we ever got one granddaughter. It’s the first time Paula ever bought a doll. We waited 35 years to buy a girl a doll. Isn’t that something of a record. Our grandkids they have all been doing real good.
PS: What was the southside like when you were first here? Was it different from what it is now?
TS: There isn’t much over here, except for the Nazarene Church. That is the only thing that has been moved.
CW: What is she bringing now?
PS: These are pictures of our family.
TS: This is a picture when we were about 50 years old.
PS: This is Ray, our oldest. We lost him this past summer. Then Ray, he had four boys. David had two boys and a girl. Steve had two boys. Here is Ted, he had girls.
TS: He has three little girls. Scott has two girls. This girl here is the youngest. Here is a picture of our oldest granddaughter. She is a gymnast. She went to college and now she is in North Carolina somewhere.
CW: If you had all those boys they would all be Saneholtz’s.
TS: Oh yes. We sure have a lot of them. Sometimes now a girl won’t change her name.
CW: Oh yes.
TS: Here is a picture of our youngest one. She is getting married September the fifth. He is getting married in the state Capitol – in the governor’s mansion.
CW: Oh really!
TS: Do you know what I did. Go get that other picture – the little one over there by the fireplace. You know what I did when we were married for 50 years – I took everybody to the Bahamas.
CW: You did!
TS: All my kids, their kids, and their girlfriends. I took everybody to the Bahamas. That is something. The first to do it was Doug Baker’s in-laws. They had heard what I did.
CW: That is a lot better way than to take them on a cruise. They don’t really get together.
TS: To have a big family party or a dance, I don’t do that. Why not take them all to a place to gamble. Joe at fourteen years old went to a casino. I gave him a roll of quarters. He had a lot of fun. Nathan, he was fourteen or fourteen and a half. They went and gambled. We were the only ones really. They had a tag on everybody. Twenty four hours a day you could have anything you wanted. It cost me about twenty thousand.
CW: I bet it did.
TS: We flew out of Cleveland to Miami and then we got on the boat and went across to the Bahamas. Oh yes, what a trip. I still cnn’t get over that. We played with the dolphins.
PS: I wanted to show her this. Here is my mother’s picture. She was 102 years old.
CW: Yes that looks familiar. I saw that in the newspaper.
PS: They did put it in the paper. This is her sister Victoria Arps. This is a picture of my Aunt Josephine. She will be 100 years old next January.
TS: Those three girls are all over 90 years.
CW: These three sisters?
TS: Yes, those three are sisters. Here is a picture of the bunch we took to the Bahamas. After we finished eating we went out on this rotunda and I was going to take a picture and this guy stepped up and said let me take a picture of everybody. What a good time we had! This little guy here he gambled. Oh yes.
CW: What were the Bahamas like when you were there? Were they crowded with tourists?
TS: We went over there during Thanksgiving time. So all of my kids were out of school.
CW: Oh yes.
TS: The people who were still working needed to get off from work too. We had a lot of fun.
CW: You celebrated life.
TS: Everything was paid for. You could do and have anything you would want. What a deal!
CW: That would have been pretty nice.
TS: This guy is in Miami put a mark on his picture.
CW: You know what I would like to know is do you have any stories to tell. You know how families used to sit around and tell stories about people years ago and they would laugh and laugh. They would tell the same stories over and over maybe fifty some times and people would laugh as hard as they did the first time they had heard it. People enjoyed that. Do you remember doing that?
TS: Yes but I don’t remember just exactly what kind. They would tell all kinds of stories. I can tell you one. You know you see a blonde. This blonde got on an airplane out in California and was going to fly to New York. Of course she figures … 110. She got on the airplane and turned left instead of right and got in the first class section of the airplane. They took off for New York. The stewardess came along and was checking her paperwork and everything. She said hey lady you are in the first class section of the airplane. You belong in the back. She said nope, I am sitting right here. So the stewardess went and got the co-pilot. He said lady, you are sitting in the wrong part of the airplane, you belong in the back part, that is what you paid for. She said nope, I am blonde and I’m beautiful and I’m sitting right here. The co-pilot went back and told the pilot. The pilot came back and whispered something in her ear. She got up and just as polite as she could be she went and sat in the rear. The stewardess and the co-pilot said what did you tell her. I couldn’t make her move. All I told her was that the first class wasn’t going to New York. Charlotte and Paula both laugh.
CW: There are a lot of blonde jokes aren’t there.
TS: There must be a lot of them. That’s an old one. I have told that many many times.
CW: When your cousins were here visiting did they tell any stories about their families?
PS: Not really. We live close enough we see each other on a regular basis.
CW: I see, so they came pretty often.
PS: You are talking about the ones that used to come down here on the farm. We would see them maybe two to three times a year. They never told much that went on with their families.
TS: Do you know where the Adrian Pike was. At the end of the cement is where she used to live. I would pick her up on my way to town. I didn’t waste any gas picking her up.
PS: He has always been conservative.
CW: We remember the Depression days and we had to be.
TS: You are right. We would get a nickel on Saturday nights. We would walk around all night waiting to spend that one nickel.
CW: You had to be careful what you bought.
TS: I remember you would go to the show I didn’t have enough money.
CW: I remember my husband saying that his father would give the kids each a nickel when they would go to the fair. That was all that they could have. Some of them would buy a big candy bar. They would buy that right away and then they would have no money for the rest of the day. Their dad worked parking cars. That was a lot of money in those days. You would learn to hang on to that nickel too. You had to spend it carefully, I guess.
TS: Do you remember Saturday nights here in town? I tell you there would be a crowd of people every Saturday night. They would just walk the streets, oh yes.
CW: They would stand and talk.
TS: You would go into Spenglers and all of them people were talking German.
TS: Oh yes. Mom could talk German. My Mom taught German in school. My Dad could talk German, but he never taught us kids. He told us we are Americans here in the United States and we will talk English. Now some words I can catch.
CW: That would have made it easier for you when you started school. Your schoolwork was in English.
TS: I never had any problem there. Some kids had a problem. Like some of the kids from Freedom Township. Them guys out there talked German for a long long time. That St. John’s Lutheran Church there just west of Gerald it wasn’t too many years ago that the men sat on one side of the church and the women sat on the other.
CW: In school?
TS: No, in church. That wasn’t very many years ago really.
CW: Just a few miles from West Unity there is an old church. Their hymnals are all written in German. There is a division right down through the middle of the church. It has two separate doors where you go in.
TS: See that is right.
CW: They have two bells. One was for calling people to church and the other one was for tolling when someone died. They would toll the bell once for every year the person lived. This old couple that used to take care of it said the last time they did it. The man that did it was eighty some years old. They tolled and tolled that bell. Then they found out that he hadn’t died yet.
TS: Oh yes, I don’t know!
CW: Do you remember going to Grelton, Ohio and seeing movies showed on the side of the building?
PS: Oh I remember going to one after we lived in Fulton County. Mostly we’d go there and they danced a lot.
TS: There was a dance hall right there by the railroad tracks.
CW: Was this in Grelton?
PS: Yes and there was a K of P. That was a lodge. They had a building there and upstairs they had a floor, a dance floor which is what they used it for really.
TS: It was a square dance.
CW: Oh yes. Was that the K of C?
TS: No it was the K of P.
CW: That would have been the Knights of Pythias.
PS: I don’t know what they call it now. I don’t know if they even have that now.
TS: It was just like the Grange Hall, same way you could go over there and dance. There was square dancing upstairs. Mr. Harmon was there. That is tore down now.
CW: Did you ever go to a barn dance? They would clean up the barn and have a big dance out there.They would have somebody with a fiddle come in and play. How else would they make music, do you know?
TS: Oh, trumpets, or a saxophone. Some people are pretty good at that.
PS: There are some real good fiddlers around too.
TS: Jim Slee’s father was good. He went to all kinds of fiddling contests. Jim Slee’s dad, did you know him?.
TS: He was my classmate and he is at Northcrest. Old Doc George. He was a good doctor. He brought me into this world.
PS: People used to line up and they would stand outside the building waiting to get in.
CW: How much did he charge each patient?
TS: A dollar.
CW: A dollar each patient and that was all?
TS: He bought suits from _____. He always had deep pockets. He always said he had to have deep pockets so he could put them dollar bills down in there. He had a medicine cabinet behind that wall. He’d go back in there and come out with some pills. Isn’t that something how they used to do that.
CW: That was before they had penicillin I suppose.
TS: Oh yes. Penicillin and sulphur. I was the first one in our family to play football.
CW: Oh you were!
TS: My mom and dad always said the older kids were in the band. I tried to play a saxophone. I started on a trombone, and then a clarinet. I got in band in one night. Mike Lombardi was the band director. The band took off playing. You can’t hear yourself play.
CW: No, you can’t.
TS: Not when you are in the band. I came home that night and threw the clarinet on the davenport and my dad asked what was the matter with me. I told him I quit. I went out for football.
CW: What did you wear for protection?
TS: You mean for football? Oh we had a helmet. It was a leather helmet. We had shoulder pads. We had blocking pads and hip pads.
CW: Were these all leather?
TS: The pads was. With my helmet why you could take it and bend it around you know. I tell you, my boys can’t believe it. One time they tackled me you know and I run into a pile and somebody grabbed my helmet and turned it around backwards. It didn’t fit. I jumped up and I was going to whip him. The old referee grabbed me and I said look at my helmet. Well I didn’t know who did it. There was a whole big pile of guys. I was an all star really in playing football. Now this is Liberty Center now. That’s where I went to school. Did Ray have a hardware down here too at one time? It was around the corner down there. Yes it was right by the railroad tracks. That’s what I was trying to tell the guys down at the coffee shop. He had a hardware in Liberty Center. Did he sell that to Bill Sharpe?
CW: I don’t know who he sold his hardware store to.
TS: I don’t know either. Bill Sharpe came in here later on. Gerald Spiess bought that hardware years ago. I sold gas in the Liberty area since 1946. That corner station.
CW: How did you sell the gas? Did you just go around and ask if they needed any?
TS: We had customers you know. Like if you were my customer for heating oil I would come around every couple of weeks, fill up your drum and give you a bill. You wouldn’t have to call me. It was just automatic. I sold fuel oil, man oh man.
CW: How about your farm machinery. How would you go about and get gas to them?
TS: I would go to the refinery and fill up. I would drive around. I had a route and stop at these farmers and check their tank. If they needed any I would put some in.
CW: How did you check the tanks?
TS: I would lift up the lid and put a stick down in there. A lot of times it got so I could just look at the shadow down in there and I could tell just how far down it was. When you look into a mirror it is so simple to me. When you look into a mirror you are the same distance away as you are from it. Isn’t that right?
TS: So I would look down into their gas tank and I could see my shadow down in there, so I knew the gas was halfway from that.
TS: So I didn’t have to use my stick all the time. Those are some of the tricky things you learn.
CW: Did you ever become the owner of the business?
TS: I will tell you I started working for Wilbur in 1946 after I graduated.
CW: Wilbur was your older brother?
TS: Right. He was seven years older than me. He come back from the Air Force in 1946 in the Spring. Ray Cook had this distributorship here in Napoleon. He took it away from Moe Meyers dad – Leo. Of course Ray Cook wanted to go back to Cleveland, which is where he was from. Of course Wilbur went along and met with the district manager, and said yes we have an opening and you can run it. He ran that from 1946 to 1950. When the Korean War started the Air Force wanted him to come back and be a pilot. He got to be a Captain, so he went back and turned it over to me. I got to be the agent. That was in 1950. They were tough times and sometimes they didn’t pay you know. In1952 Wilbur come back from the service from California. He flew the B52’s He never came back.
CW: Did he lose it or what.
TS: He was getting ready to go to Korea.
CW: What happened?
TS: The engine caught fire on the B59 he was flying over California. He was doing a practice run. There were13 guys in that airplane. Wilbur and the co-pilot sat in the front here. They were doing practice sessions to jump. They were teaching them how to jump. These guys would line up you know, and they would say jump. He said to him Jump, no this is serious. This is no practice. So they started jumping. Of course Wilbur was the last one out. The wing was damaged. He finally said to the co-pilot Jump. He jumped out and Wilbur let go and the plane rolled and he come out the top. That is how lucky he was. You know him, how lucky he was. When he pulled his chute some of the burning flames had burned some of the panels on his parachute.
CW: It’s a wonder the fire didn’t burn them all.
TS: He come down pretty hard. He hurt his knees. We went out there a few years ago and looked up that mountain. We knew about where it was. It took a couple of different trips to find it just where the airplane came down. He was looking for different parts.
CW: Was there anything left?
TS: No they had cleaned it up pretty good. There was nothing there. I was there sitting along the road. I didn’t walk clear up that mountain. I got part way up and I quit. That was enough for me. I walked back to the car. Yes that was quite a deal. They made him the Agent and I was the Route Salesman for about four years. Then he decided life wasn’t fast enough for him or he didn’t make enough money or something so he quit. Wilbur got to selling cars. I got to be the Agent then. I had to hire a man to help me. I got two trucks. Then the savings plan started. That was a good deal.
END OF TAPE
Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, March 23, 2007
RR: I am Robert Stuart Rowland. My ancestors came from Virginia into Damascus Township.
CW: When did they come?
RR: Oh boy!
CW: (laughs) We’ll just say this is a Centennial Farm so you’ve been here many generations on this farm, O.K.?
RR: They came in the 1800’s.
CW: And you’ve had the farm land ever since?
RR: Ever since 1871. Want me to keep going?
RR: I was born Jan 9, 1925 in the house my father, Carl Rowland had built in 1924. The house is on the northeast corner of East Street, which is State Rte. 65, and Henry Streets in McClure. Yeah, that’s where I was born, right there in town, and my father’s sister Norma, who was married to Clarence Brown, so they went to Tucson, Arizona, sometime in 1926. My father Melgood, and sister June and I followed them to Arizona in late 1926 and we returned from Arizona some time in 1928. Norma returned to Ohio and died in 1928.
CW: Was she your mother?
RR: No, my father’s sister. (reads from a notebook) We lived in the house in McClure for about two years and we moved out here to live on the farm with my father Albert Anthony, whose wife had passed away. This Centennial farm has been in the Anselroad family since 1871. Living on the farm during the Depression was great fun for the kids, but hard on the elders. My uncle, Loyd Buck, Mother’s sister’s husband, had lost his job in Toledo so he and his family moved in with us for about three years. It made a houseful of ten people. We raised sweet corn, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and other vegetables for the Farmers’ Market in Toledo so it was not all fun for the kids as they had to plant and harvest.
CW: It’s wonderful that you have your information all set up ahead of time.
RR: We farmed with horses and manpower. We always had a few cows, chickens and a few pigs. We had to pump water from the well for our use and the livestock.
CW: Where did you keep it then? Did you have tub for the horses to drink from?
RR: Yeah, we had a trough for the horses.
CW: Would you describe that for youngsters that don’t know what a trough is?
RR: Oh, a trough is a big oblong steel container-or it could be wood too-and you pump water into it and then the cows and horses drink from it and then you pump some more into it by hand.
CW: Was it right there beside the well?
RR: Yeah. Well wherever the pump happened to be the trough would be there
CW: Then how did you get the water into the house?
RR: In a bucket. Carried it in in a bucket.
CW: So you had this bucket in the kitchen probably and they’d dip water out to drink?
RR: Yeah. Then we had a cistern right outside this door here and we had a little sink in the corner here and we’d use a little cistern water too.
CW: That would be really soft.
RR: Yeah. We drank the well water but we used that to wash clothes and like that.
CW: Did you have a holder for water at the end of the stove?
RR: Oh sure.
CW: What did they call that?
RR: A reservoir. We had a cook stove right there. See that thing there? There’s a chimney in there. Yeah, the original chimney. It don’t go out to the roof anymore but it’s there now. But anyhow a great big stove set right there, and it had a reservoir on the far end.
CW: And how did it heat?
RR: Oh, we’d put corn cobs and coal and wood in it.
CW: You had a big place to put those I suppose in the central part of the stove?
RR: Yeah. We had four lids that opened, you know.
CW: And they used to have a tool that would lift those lids.
RR: Yeah, it would fit into the lids to lift them.
CW: You know, I never could understand how those things would stay cool-at least they wouldn’t get burning hot-when the whole thing was made out of metal. There was a ring that went round and round the handle part but that never got hot. I wonder how that was?
RR: Well they didn’t leave it right on the stove most of the time. I think there was a little shelf where you could lay that off-lay that handle up there and just use it when you wanted to. Otherwise they did get real hot.
RR: Okay, in the fall we’d always hunt for rabbits, pheasants so we’d have some meat for lunch. We used to play a lot of ball when we were kids over at Otto Miller’s with Fred Miller, Lee Miller, Lois Miller, Keith Miller, Saul Bush, Warren Brown, Bill Heckler.
CW: So you had a bunch!
RR: Yeah, we had a bunch, and the next road, about ½ mile and Otto Miller used to have a dairy herd.
CW: I wanted to ask you about hunting pheasants. They used to, in about the 1960’s, I believe a lot of people would come from Toledo just to hunt pheasants. Did they do that on your farm?
RR: Um hm.
CW: Did you have to give them permission before they could?
RR: Yeah, they would ask permission. That was back in the late ’40’s even, well right after the war they would come out.
CW: After World War II?
RR: Oh yeah, ’46, 47. Then sometime the pheasants started dwindlin’ out.
CW: They did, didn’t they!
RR: Fast, real fast.
CW: They say it’s because the farmers had improved machinery to work with and so there weren’t places for the pheasants to hide.
RR: That’s right. And I think there were some other animals that happened to.
CW: There’s a fellow this side of Deshler that has raised pheasants for years, then just before hunting season he lets them go-takes them somewhere but we still don’t have any more than we did before so they must not last very long.
RR: They don’t last, they don’t last. It’s too bad, you know.
CW: That’s right. That meat was delicious!
RR: Yeah. We all went to school, McClure High School, and I graduated in ’43 and I got drafted in ’43.
CW: Oh, that was right at the end of the war, wasn’t it?
RR: Oh well, we started fighting the Japanese in ’41.
CW: So it was right in the middle of the war?
RR: Yeah, right in the middle. Back when I was a Sophomore in ’42 I thought, “Gee the war’s gonna be over. I won’t get to be in it.”
CW: And the boys all wanted to go, didn’t they. They couldn’t wait to get in it-travel and get in on all that excitement. Little did they know!
RR: So I got drafted in 1943 and went to training in the Air Corps and June 1 of of ’44 I was overseas, based in North Hampstead, England and I flew 35 missions on a B17 bomber: belly gunner.
CW: What is a belly gunner?
RR: Oh, there’s a ball underneath and that’s where I was. I had two machine guns down there and everything-about like you’re in your home, I guess-you’re all scrunched up in there.
CW: A very small place.
RR: Yeah, a very small space.
CW: Wow. Wasn’t that a dangerous place to be on the plane?
RR: Well, I don’t know. They’re about all dangerous I guess. So (pause)
CW: Where did you fly to?
RR: From England we went to Germany and Holland and Chekoslovakia.
CW: Chek would have been quite a flight, wouldn’t it?
RR: Yeah, we only went there once. I’ll show you some more stuff about that after a while.
RR: Then after relaxing in Florida in August of ’45 I went to Engineer Fire Fighting Co. in Geiger Field, Washington. That’s neas Spokane, and we fought forest fires for two months. Then I got discharged Oct. 12, or ’45.
CW: Now, excuse me, but you went out to Washington after the War was over?
RR: No, I didn’t make that clear. I was still in the Army and when I got back from overseas I went to Florida. We were in Miami Beach and put up in a big hotel for a couple weeks. Then they’d ship you out to somewhere else. If the war hadn’t ended I’d have probably ended out that way. But there was the Big Bomb and that finished that. So they didn’t know what to do with us-there were so many of us, so they said, “You can fight forest fires.”
CW: What was that like?
RR: Oh, it was kind of fun I think. We were out theast of Spokane, up in the mountains we had a camp. Then sometimes we had to get in trucks and go to Idaho or wherever they had forest fires. We did that for a couple months and then they said, “Well, you can get out.” I got my discharge right there. Come home on a Greyhound bus. (chuckles)
RR: Okay. Should I go on?
RR: Okay. On January 7 of ’46 I went to the State Highway Division Garage in Bowling Green, Ohio and started working there and along in 1951 Sarah Jane Fisher come to work there and I met her in 1951. She worked at State Highway and June 22 of 1952 Sarah and I got married. We’ve got five-no, four sons and one daughter: James, John, Dennis, Nancy and Anthony. We’ve got 12 grandchildren and we’ll soon have 8 great-grandchildren.
CW: Things come on in a hurry when you get to the great-grandchildren. I wanted to tell you too that we have a fellow in the Historical Society who’s putting these things on the Internet, so if your children and grandchildren live too far away they’ll be able to get this on their computers. I think it’s probably the typed version they’ll get. I don’t think the voiced recorder will go through. I’m sure they would be interested in that too.
CW: Now, you spoke of traveling in World War II and I was going to tell you-of course my husband was in WWII also and I used to go on the train to meet him. It’d be full of soldiers and one after another would come up to me and say, “You look just like my sister.” Or girlfriend. I finally figured out it was because they were so homesick to see these people, to go home. Anybody would have looked who they wanted it to look like. (laughs)
RR: Do you want to see a list of my travels during the war?
CW: Oh yeah!
RR: Inducted in Toledo in ’43 and left Napoleon and went to Reception Center in Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. Then I went to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri-that’s near St. Louis-for Basic Training.
CW: Was Basic Training a bit shock to you?
RR: Uh–huh. They had so many men coming in so we went through the line once and they didn’t know what to do with us. We had to take it again. We had Basic Training and ½. Then I went to Gunnery School at Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s where I had my first airplane ride. It happened to be on a B17. Then I went to Tampa, Florida at the former Florida State Fairgrounds, and from there I went to Hillsdale and was assigned to a crew and we trained. Hunter Field. And we flew from Hartfield, Florida to Bangor, Maine and flew from Bangor, Maine to Gander Field, Newfoundland. From there we left to go overseas.
CW: Now these dates are interesting because you know you were inducted the 20th of July and the 10th of August already you were going into active service. They didn’t waste any time, did they? And then you went to the Induction Center in Indiana and nine days later you were in Missouri. How’d you go, on the train?
RR: Yeah, we got our clothes and shoes and stuff there and from there we left for Basic Training.
CW: And that Gunnery School-did they have the bedding there in Las Vegas?
RR: Yeah, I never went to town. They kept us kind of busy.
CW: Well they were trying to hurry you through I suppose. And how long were you in that Gunnery School?
CW: Let’s see, from the 20th of November to the February 8th, next year. That’s only a little over two months training. Wow! And then assigned to a crew in April that year. In ’44, that spring, is that when Hitler gave up, the European War was over?
RR: Oh, ’45. D-Day was June 6 of ’44 but that was when they started on-but then it was in the fall of ’45, wasn’t it?
CW: Oh yeah, pretty bad. But excuse me. I interrupted you. Gander Field, Newfoundland. I was there-not at that time but later. I went there to visit friends for a few days.
RR: We flew a new B17 overseas too. It took 12 hours. We went from Ganders’ Field to Prescott, Scotland.
CW: Now what was that new one like? Did it have seats the way they do now, in the plane?
RR: Oh no. It was just a bare plane. There wasn’t any seats to sit on.
CW: Well where did you sit?
RR: Just sat down. In the waist. When you were in the plane for 12 hours or so you could walk around if you wanted to.
CW: Was there a floor or something to walk on?
CW: But then you just sat on the floor. Wow, that’d make a pretty rough landing, wouldn’t it?
RR: Oh yeah. It’s hard on your ears-noisy. But it’s a good plane. One of the beast ever made.
CW: Yeah, isn’t that same type of plane still flying-what number’d you say it was?
RR: B17 Well there’s a few of them flying around. (wife says samething) Oh, I rode in one back from Ypsilanti, Michigan. (looks through pictures) Oh there’s a B17 if you care to look at it. There’s a ball behind the wing-you can’t hardly see it. That’s where I was.
CW: How did you get in there? Was there a kind of trap door that would let you in?
RR: Yes. Here’s my Bomber group. They had the first reunion in 1984 but we didn’t even know about it. In ’85 our radio operator first heard about it so he and I went to Spokane, no, Seattle, Washington. And then we didn’t go for ’85 &’86, then on . . .
CW: Oh, then you went to all of them? Were they all over United States? I see: Colorado Springs, etc.
RR: in ’89 there were 7 members of our crew still living-7 out of 10 and that was the first time we all met. We all met in Dayton.
CW: How many are living now, do you know?
RR: I think there’s five of us left. I’m not sure. Let’s see, pilot, co-pilot . . . Oh, do you want to read this? This is our Co-pilot. He ended up being a Lieutenant-Colonel, and this is what he said about us.
CW: (reads) ” I still believe we had one of the best crews in the Air Force. We did our jobs very well without fanfare and in spite of the fear that each of us tried to hike from each other.” Yeah, there must have been a lot of fear which you covered up. “Except for Jed we were all young kids not long out of high school with limited training thrust into a life-and-death situation requiring professional quality performance: a credos for our mutual preservation.” Yeah, you know it’s something, I’ll bet, that just forces you to grow up in a hurry.
RR: Oh yeah.
CW: Suddenly, from being just a kid who had a lot of options you were forced to fight for you life, really.
RR: Yeah, there were three of us that were 19. I was 19, this gentleman was 19 and our navigator, a little Chinese guy, was 19. The rest of them were 21 and 23 except Jed. He was a Polish guy from Milwaukee and he was in his ’30’s. He was an old man! He was married and had several kids. He wasn’t too fond of this airplane business.
CW: Oh he wasn’t-how’d he happen to be in this outfit?
RR: Well, like the rest of us he got drafted,. Ya gotta go somewhere.
CW: They tell you where to go-you have no choice. Could I borrow this sheet? I could use it in transcribing.
RR: Sure. You can borrow the whole book.
CW: No, I don’t need that.
SR: : He made up a book for each of our children and gave them all one.
CW: Isn’t that nice!
SR: : Robert Blockers, Robert Knoll and yourself: all three Roberts out of the ten. Wonderful people! And Robert Knoll, he just lost his wife last November. She looked perfect health in September and she died just after Thanksgiving. She had a brain tumor. It was such a shock. And this Jimmie here-James really-he was a Municipal Judge out there in California. He and his wife are both Chinese, and wonderful people. And we got a call in July. We were ready to go to my alumni banquet and we got this call from his wife and here he had passed away suddenly with a heart attack. They had gone out for dinner. She said they had a wonderful dinner and they come home and he sat down to the table just fell over.
CW: Great for him but certainly a shock to everybody.
SR: : Is your husband still living?
SR: : How long’s he been gone?
CW: He died when he was 57. He was a doctor, Dr. Winzeler.
SR: : Oh yes, I remember him. He delivered our third son.
CW: He had practiced on Saturday and he died the following Tuesday. He had a stroke. He just went so fast.
(End of Side A)
CW: (Reads from paper Robert has provided)
“I still believe we had one of the best crews in the 8th A.F. We did our jobs very well without fanfare-and in spite of the fear that each of us experienced but tried to hide from each other. Except for Jed we were all young kids, not long out of high school, with limited training, thruse into a life-and-death situation requiring professional quality performance of crew duties for our mutual preservation.
“I felt honored to be a part of the crew in 1944, and I still feel a great satisfaction when the survivors gather again, as we did at the Dayton Reuni0on. There is a special feeling between us after all these years. I trust the rekindled friendship will continue and grow as long as there are survivors of MacDill Crew 188. We look forward to seeing the guys and their wives every time there is a reunion.
“This has been written in this form on December 31, 1991, by Robert M. Blacker, with the help of his wife Margaret and her computer.” Very nice.
SR: Yes, lovely people. They live in Lubbock, Texas.
(RR: is working with papers.)
CW: While he’s doing that, Sarah, can you tell us any childhood memories you might have?
SR: Well, I had a good childhood when I was younger but my mother died when I was 11 and my father was an alcoholic so I didn’t have a good childhood after she died.
CW: What’d she die of?
SR: (speaking very softly) She took poison.
CW: Oh that’s too bad! It’s very hard to live with an alcoholic, isn’t it.
CW: I have a friend whose husband was an alcoholic and you know, he was the nicest person. He was just great until he drank alcohol.
SR: Oh thy all are.
CW: And he wouldn’t abuse her, he wouldn’t beat her but He would just say terrible things to her and she got so she thought she was worthless, and that’s what it does. It takes away the self-confidence
SR: And I think my mother was probably going through her change and it was just hard for her. There were five of us girls, all girls. The only brother we had died at birth and I understand I had a sister that died in Toledo. She was between the oldest and next oldest. She died with pneumonia. Back then a lot of children died with pneumonia.
CW: Oh yeah, no penicillin in those days.
SR: And I had another sister that died-I remember her too-well, after all five girls they had the little boy and then a girl that died. But then they put My two oldest sisters were out working when my mother died. The oldest was a Junior in high school-I think she was. She went to Lima to work in a factory. There were three girls at home and my father had a coon dog and he’d hunt. I remember he’d bring a package of breakfast rolls home and instead of giving it to us girls he’d give them to his dog.
CW: Oh my!
SR: Yeah, he just wasn’t . . .
CW: Was this during the Depression or after?
SR: It was after. He farmed and then he worked for the railroad. He had a good job at the road, I’m sure, but it all went to drinking.
CW: Do you have any memories of Depression days?
RR: I do. It never bothered us. We always ate good.
CW: Yeah, farmers would.
RR: We always ate good. If we had a Depression I don’t think us kids knew about it really. It’s harder on the older ones, the parents.
CW: They had to figure out how to buy clothing, pay rent and stuff.
SR: Well we raised rabbits and we always had a garden. I think that’s how we survived. I remember we had a big potato bin, you know to store potatoes.
CW: Was that in your cellar or outside? A hole in the ground?
SR: No, I don’t think it was a hole in the ground. It was an addition, a room added on to the back. It was kept cool. It wasn’t heated, and we had a bin in there.
CW: Did you store apples that way too?
SR: I’m sure they did. I don’t remember that very much.
RR: We had a cellar the same size as this kitchen and that’s where we stored apples.
SR: That’s the only basement we have.
CW: Did you make molasses or anything like that?
RR: We used to cure ham. We had a wooden barrel and we had a summer kitchen right out here and we’d put water in there and put salt in it. When you could float an egg why then you could quit putting salt in it. We’d put hams in there but I don’t know for how long, and after we got them out of there. . . . we had a little room at the back end of that l building. That part was closed off and it had a door and we’d smoke it in there.
CW: What kind of fuel would you use?
RR: Oh, wood: hickory, applewood, and smoke them for so long. And then you’d put ’em in flour sacks, leave ’em hang and when you wanted some ham you’d go out and get one. They were good. Probably nowadays they’d be considered too salty.
CW: Well they were probably a lot like the hams that that they pay a fortune for now, the Virginia hams. Those are very salty.
SR: That’s how we did pickles too, in a great big crock, and they took grape leaves, I remember, and put over the top after they’d put a lid on it.
CW: Did they have a wooden lid they put on it?
SR: I think they did. I often wonder what happened to that. I often wonder what happened to that, different things, you know.
CW: I remember my husband’s family, they lived on the farm and would get feed in feed sacks. There’d be patterns on the feed sacks and the girls and I suppose their mothers too would make dresses out of those.
SR: They made the best dishtowels too.
CW: Oh I’ll bet they would.
SR: The print ones they used for clothing but later on they were more plain. Well , life is so different now. We say we don’t know how the young people could survive the way we did, you know, in those days.
CW: But I’m sure there’re many many young people now that really have a fear of going into a Depression. They think it would be hard. But anybody I’ve talked to says, “Welll sure it was hard but we also had lots of fun because we had to make our own things.
SR: And the families really got together more than they do now. Now the mothers have to work and there’s just too much going on today.
CW: And they work hard. Of course farmers always worked hard but
SR: It’s easier with the equipment we have now than they when they used the horses.
CW: Well, those were the good old days, as they say.
SR: They were.
SR: Really, we lived here. We didn’t have a bathroom until our daughter. We had three sons and we didn’t have an inside bathroom until just before our daughter was born: June of 1959 was when we got our own place out here because Bob never believed in going into debt or anything and we couldn’t pay for it. Cars and everything, he was that way, right?
CW: You could have borrowed anytime you wanted to, I’ll bet, because they do lend easily. To a reliable person like that.
CW: Well I recall one of our favorite games during WWII was Hitler. Oh, “Let’s get out the Hitler board.” And all would gather around. It was nothing but a big piece of plywood and somebody had drilled holes in it so it was like these Chinese Checkers. You’d throw the dice and then you’d go so many places. But that was a big thing that a lot of us could play. They just made it. We called it the Hitler Board.
SR: We could make up a few today, of Ben Lauden and a few others, couldn’t we! (laughs)
RR: What;s the name of that airfield in ?
SR: Oh, what is it? I can’t think of it. Our children paid the man at the Henry County Airport. He and our youngest son-he’s the one that paid for them to fly up there-Where’s Rene from?
SR: He’s from France and she’s from and they were in the war the same time he was and we’re good friends with them. They live right here on 65.
CW: How’d they happen to live here if they grew up in France?
SR: He came to Detroit and he was a Principal up there in the school and he came over here and
RR: Had to go to the hospital, didn’t he?
SR: Is that the start of it? He got injured during the war and he went over to the hospital, to the American side to get treated.
RR: I was trying to think of how he met Marie.
SR: She worked in a Doctor’s office. Anyway, he lost his first wife in a bad auto accident. She was coming home from Chicago and she got in this accident and was killed.
CW: Oh, oh. How old were the children at that time? Pretty young, I’ll bet.
SR: Well anyway he met this lady and she’s from here. She went to school here. They live on a farm and her folks are here.
RR: He was a year behind me in school.
SR: That’s kind of too how we know them. We go out for lunch once in a while. We must do that, and we belong to a card club, and we have friends in Bowling Green who say, “We must do lunch.” We will. (laughs)
CW: It’s a lot different than it used to be. I remember my Mother-in-Law-oh she was a dear person-but she said, “Well it’s poor cook who can’t cook up a meal when there’s nothing in the pantry.” (chuckles) People would drive up and, I suppose in a horse and wagon before that, on a Sunday afternoon and they’d expect to stay for a meal and it didn’t bother her a bit. She’d cook up a big meal for everybody.
SR: Although I can remember when-of course there were five children here-I would always on Saturday fix the salad and fix the desert and get things ready for Sunday dinner. We’d need that done before we went to Sunday church. And I can remember when this friend of ours came out from town every Saturday night to polish the shoes and I had all the shoes all in a line. I couldn’t get over that. I had all that done. But now they don’t do that either.
CW: Did you used to make noodles?
SR: Oh yeah. Once in a while I would make noodles.
CW: What would you call those sheets of dough? They’d put them on the back of a chair or lay them out on the table or someplace to dry them.
SR: Paper bags we used. Open ’em up and put them on brown paper bags to dry.
CW: Then they’d take the shears and cut ’em.
SR: Oh, we always used a knife and a cutting board.
RR: Roll them up.
SR: Yeah you’d roll them up and slice them on a cutting board. Bob’s mother could always cut the finest noodles. She made the finest of anybody. I’ve tried that and I can’t get them like she did.
SR: Well anyway, these three flew up and then they flew back in a B17 to the Henry County Airport. That’s just been-what-2, 3 years ago maybe? Well anyway three of the crew flew back with the gentleman of the airport, and that was exciting. Then they took some rides there in the B17. Maybe you saw it flying around Napoleon? I don’t know.
CW: I think I remember something about the announcement that they had in the paper.
SR: We belong to Bethel Grange. In fact our picture was just in the paper. They reprinted it because they left one of the gentleman’s names out. Our Bethel Grange is getting to where it’s-Harrison Grange is closed and some came in, Ritchfield Grange is closed and they came in but we’re all getting to the age where it’s hard for everyone to get together so they gave just recently to our Damascus Twp. EMS. They’re doing that all different now and they need another defibrulatoir so they give toward that. In years past they gave $1000.
CW: That was a lot of money in those days.
SR: Yeah it was.
CW: I know my parents belonged to a Grange. I remember going to the Grange to a Maple Syrup party, or Maple Sugar they called it, I don’t know. Well we sat there at these long tables and they had a cereal bowl in front of each person and when they got the syrup to a certain temp they came around and poured a little in each bowl and we were to stir it and stir it until it cooled enough and then we would have . . .
SR: You’d have sugar candy. Isn’t that interesting.
CW: But I never knew what was the purpose of the Grange. What was it, do you know?
SR: It was a farmers’ organization. Now it’s called Farm Bureau today.
CW: Do you have any little stories of World War II?
RR: Oh . . .
SR: Tell her how far you had to march, and they’d sing songs.
RR: During basic training we marched 21 miles one day. There’s something about marching-when you march on the parade field and you’re really not going anywhere, just goin’ back and forth . . . there’s something about marching that when you get good at it il livens you up. The sergeant would tell us ‘To the rear march’ and all that stuff and you’d have a pretty good time really. It was kind of bad before when I was in Basic and I was tryin’ to learn how to march and there were about 40 guys. And every time they’d say, “To the rear march” I’d be lost somewhere. Finally they stopped the outfit and they said I should show up at the sergeant. There was a Lieutenant there so they said “You go talk to the Lieutenant.” So I went to the Lieutenant and he says, “You’re taking too long a step.” He showed me how to march and after that I got along all right. I was a dumb soldier. I didn’t know how to march.
SR: They said you weren’t on plowed ground.
RR: Yeah, they said, “You’re not walkin’ on plowed ground now.” That’s what they said.. (laughs) Oh we had good times-and bad times-as long as we made it through it.
SR: Also they had a tail gunner shot off.
RR: Yes, we lost our tail gunner. And our bombadeir, he got a bunch of flak up his backbone.
CW: Did he survive.
RR: Yeah, he was in the hospital for awhile.
SR: And then they don’t get to go on their mission so they have to go back and finish their mission, so they didn’t all get to come home in this country at the same time. Bob did his all at the same time, or right in a row.
RR: Yeah. And then the rest of them had to stay about a year.
SR: Well you had ten of them and only nine could go on a flight each time.
CW: What did you shoot at from your belly gunner?
RR: We shot at other airplanes mainly.
Cw How do you spell that word? “Ballyre?”
RR: (points to picture) That’s our crew. That’s the day we got our new airplane.
CW: What did you shoot at? Did you have some targets that you shot at?
RR: Oh yeah, during training.
CW: I mean when you were doing your missions.
RR: German airplanes.
SR: The fighter planes.
RR: They’d try to knock you out of the air and you’d try to knock them out of the air. So that’s what we did, and I had two of them 50-caliber machine guns-that’s a pretty good-sized bullet, and I had two of them and they’d spray out bullets like water out of a hose. They’d put out a lot of fire power.
CW: Did they always spray out in tandem or did one go one way and one another?
RR: No, they always went together. The whole ball would swivel. Ball and all wwent with them.
CW: You mean the thing that you were in would turn.
RR: Yeah, like a ball.
CW: So when you moved the gun . . .
RR: Everything moved. It was hanging there on a ball-bearing thing and it would go round and round and the guns would go down-everything moved.
SR: He didn’t have room to wear his parachute in there.
RR: Yeah. Put the parachute out in the waiste.
CW: Pretty dangerous.
RR: Oh, could be. Yes. We were lucky.
CW: Could you hear the German planes coming?
RR: No, not really
CW: How did you know that they were in the vicinity? The radio?
RR: Well, somebody might tell you, but it was up to you to look. In our training they’d flash pictures of different planes and we had to name what they were. They’d just flash them up there just for an instant and we had to identify what they were so that if they were three or four miles, or even five miles, as far as you could see them, you could tell what was coming.
CW: The important thing’d be that you wouldn’t shoot at your own planes.
RR: No, see our own fighters, they knew that some of our gunners would as they say be ‘trigger happy’ and so they would stay out-oh, say, 5/8ths of a mile or so-they’d try to stay out of range.
CW: That was in training.
RR: No, that was all the time. Those fighters, they went-
CW: They went awfully fast.
RR: Yeah, we’d be pluggin’ along with a full load of bombs and gas, going 170 maybe, 180-depending on which way the wind was blowing-and they’d be goin’ by 350, 400 miles an hour. So they didn’t get real close to us but if they’d see one of them German planes they would chase them.
CW: Do you know Lennie (Lenhardt) Lange, used to be in Holgate Lumber?
CW: Well he was on a ship in WWII and he was way up ant the top. He said he liked that. There was a cool breeze and everything. His job was to tell when the Japanese fighters came in, the suicide, Kamikazee. He said he had to wait till they were close; otherwise they would miss them. He almost cried when he told about it because he said he could see the face and he had to give the order to destroy.
SR: Our son-in-law bought us a DVD and a VCR for my birthday and he came over last night to hook it up
(end of tape)
Interviewed by daughter-in-law Cecily Rohrs, December 19, 2002
CR: This is Cecily, Art’s daughter-in-law, and it is Thursday, December 19, 2002. Art and I are going to put together an oral history of his life, his family and then his war events. We are going to pick some of the highlights of that. Now Art, this is for generations to come. Let us take a look at your boyhood. I think you grew up right around here in this corner of Henry County. Is that right?
CR: And what would that address have been?
AR: Liberty Township, Henry County.
CR: And that little half mile road, what do they call that?
AR: S1 – between Rd. 11 & 12
CR: So that is S1. So you grew up on S1. How many people were there in your family growing up?
AR: There were four of us. I had one sister and two brothers.
CR: Let’s give them all a name. Are you the oldest?
CR: Okay, so you are the oldest and that would be Arthur C., followed by
AR: Vernon. No, Rozella is the oldest.
CR: Is she the oldest of all of you?
CR: Okay so we have Rozella, who married Paul Slee and then we have Art and then we have Vernon, and then we have Norbert. And your Mom and Dad’s names were?
AR: Carl and Erna Drewes Rohrs.
CR: Now is that E r n a.
CR: Okay, so she was a Drewes. Okay so we have got that. I was thinking about things you guys probably did as kids on the farm growing up. Who do you remember playing with and maybe something you even got into trouble for.
AR: I didn’t get into trouble.
CR: You didn’t get into trouble? What did you do for fun? What did you look forward to doing?
AR: The neighborhood boys we just played around. We owned a pony. One Sunday afternoon we were trying to drive a car and we hit a tree. I wasn’t driving. The neighbor boy was driving.
CR: Whose car was it?
AR: It was Dad’s old Ford truck.
CR: How did your Dad take to that?
AR: I don’t remember.
CR: You know they say we forget things we don’t want to remember. Okay now, were you two boys playing in the barn?
AR: Yes, I suppose we played in the barn. Oh, the neighbor boys and us we would get together on a Sunday afternoon.
CR: What would you and the neighbor boys do? Did you play cards? Did you have a bike?
AR: Yes I had an older model I bought for $5.00.
CR: When you talk about neighbor boys, who would some of those neighbor boys have been?
AR: Lyle Spiess, Eugene Seelig, Mart Freytag, and some others.
CR: Okay, now I happen to know you are very very bright and that you dropped out of school. Was it after the eighth grade? And what caused that Art?
AR: They closed the school up at that time. It was the last year for that school. That was the Bell School. That was on the corner of S and 12 now.
CR: Was it a brick school?
CR: You had gone there all eight grades and were your siblings there too?
AR: No, Vernon started there and then was transferred to Liberty Center.
CR: So did your dad sit down with you and say that he needed you to help him with the farm.
AR: Well I went two years to a high school and studied agriculture and FFA. I had a steer in a steer club.
CR: Was that for FFA or 4H?
AR: It was for 4H and I won first prize. When I was 18 I had a champion steer. It brought 26 cents a pound.
CR: So that year would have been
AR: About 1938.
CR: So then Art you went to the tenth grade.
AR: Yes two years in high school.
CR: Did you transfer to Liberty Center then?
CR: So after the eighth grade your one room school closed down.. Then you went to high school for two years. Did you ride a bus?
CR: So you rode a bus to Liberty and you dropped out of school at the end of your Sophomore year so you could help your dad on the farm.
AR: I was 16.
CR: Did your dad say I need you, or how did that play out?
AR: I thought I was good enough to start farming.
CR: So it was more your decision than it was of your folks.
CR: Let’s talk about those teenage years. Here you are sixteen. You have decided you are going to farm for your livelihood. When did you start dating?
AR: Shortly afterwards I guess.
CR: Shortly after you had dropped out of school. Did you have a number of girls you dated?
AR: No, very few. Regina was the first and last girl, until later after things happened the way they did.
CR: Let’s mention for future generations that that this is Regina with a hard letter g. Now the spelling is Regina. And her last name was
CR: Let’s spell that for them.
CR: Was she a Liberty Center girl?
AR: No, she was from Gerald, Freedom township, St. John’s Church.
CR: How did you meet someone from over there?
AR: I don’t know. I ran around more with the guys from over there than I did guys from around here I guess. At first on Saturday nights we would go to town and start dating. We would go to the movie after the chores were done.
CR: So you were home doing chores while they went out and had a good time.
AR: She went to the movie with a ticket she got at the store.
CR: How did she get a ticket at the store?
AR: For displaying advertising in the window about the movie. Her parents had a grocery-hardward store in Gerald.
CR: Okay so she went to the movies while you were at home working on the farm. How do you get in this picture a little better?
AR: I would pick her up at the movies after I went to town later.
CR: Did you have a car or a truck?
AR: I would have a car or my dad’s truck.
CR: And what was that?
AR: It was a ‘36 Pontiac
CR: Then you went to Napoleon to the movie house. Was she waiting for you out front?
AR: No, she was some place in town.
CR: How did your folks feel about this farm boy coming to town to pick her up.
AR: They didn’t know too much about it.
CR: Oh I see. How long did you date Regina?
AR: It must have been three or four years. When I was 21 and she was 20, then we got married.
CR: Where was the wedding held?
AR: It was at St. John’s Freedom.
CR: It was Freedom, and that Pastor would have been.
AR: Pastor George Maassel.
CR: Where did you two go to set up housekeeping?
CR: We say here. Now when Art says here, we are sitting on Road 11. The actual address is S563, between roads S1 and T. So you and she came to this house to live. So you are 21 and she is 20 years old. Were you two folks here on your honeymoon before you heard the service wants you?
AR: There was no honeymoon.
CR: Now come on. How long were you here, if you were married in January, 1942. You lived here until August of ‘42 with Regina and then were you drafted?
CR: Had other people you had known had they gone to service by then? Was this something you were looking forward to or
AR: Not really. I had my blood tested three times before I went into service.
CR: You didn’t enlist. They drafted you.
AR: No, I didn’t enlist. I was drafted No. 10 . My number came up.
CR: I know you were a very close knit family, how did your mom and dad take to this. They were sending their oldest son to service.
AR: It just had to be I guess.
CR: Did you leave out of Napoleon?
CR: Was it on a bus?
AR: A bus took us to Camp Perry.
CR: And Camp Perry would have been in
AR: In Toledo
CR: Camp Perry was in Toledo. Did your brothers and sister go to see you off? That
doesn’t make a picture in your memory bank. Regina was there.
AR: She must have been.
CR: So here he goes in August of ‘42. Having only been married in January. You went to Camp Perry. Did you know at that time that your new bride was pregnant?
AR: No, she wasn’t pregnant then.
CR: So now you are a military man.
AR: I had my basic training there.
CR: Then you went from Ft. Riley, Kansas to, was that the Louisiana move? Now here we go with a little help. You failed to tell us that when you and Regina were first married you lived in this house with no electricity. Is that right?
AR: That is right.
CR: You lived in this house and you had an outhouse and you had little kerosene lamps.
CR: What did you cook on?
AR: We had a wood burning cook stove in the kitchen.
CR: Then we spin ahead to our story. Now you started basic training in Ft. Riley, Kansas. Then you went out to Camp Ibis in California. Is that the desert sort of thing?
AR: Desert training. I was out there for five months. We had maneuvers out there with a tank.
CR: Is that when you first learned the tank thing?
AR: It started at Ft. Riley.
CR: So did you know you wanted to be a tank man all along.
AR: I didn’t have any choice. They didn’t ask me. They just told me what to do. I guess they thought if I could drive a tractor I could drive a tank.
CR: I guess they were right weren’t they. So then you are down in Camp Polk in Louisiana. Now you get word. Now we are clarifying this move to Fort Riley, Kansas, Art moved out first himself. It wasn’t too long, how many weeks or months till Regina was able to come out to Kansas to live with you.
AR: It must have been around Christmas or after the first of the year.
CR: You were there a couple of months and then she came. You actually lived in a neighboring town called Manhattan, which was about ten or twelve miles from camp. Did you get home just about every night? The Army wasn’t really that tough in the early days.
AR: I would leave early in the morning before sun up and get home later that night.
CR: For a farm boy that should have been okay. You were up with the chickens. Then it was in Manhattan that you learned that your new bride was going to have a baby. So you went to California for the desert training on your own. Where did she go?
AR: She went back home to be with her parents.
CR: Let’s give them some names.
AR: Ferd Bindeman.
CR: That is F e r d. And what was her mother’s name?
CR: But they were back here in Freedom Township. What happened to this house during this time.?
AR: Paul Slee and my sister were living here at that time while I was gone.
CR: Now, your oldest sister Rozella who had married Paul Slee were living in this house. So you are in the desert and you get moved to Camp Polk, Louisiana. Now I think we are around to January of 1944. I think it was the first day of January that you got word that your first son was born. Now how did you get that word Art?
AR: It was by telegram. I was out in the woods on maneuvers and they brought the telegram to me the next day.
CR: Did you already have a name picked out? Had you worked on that together?
AR: I don’t think so, she picked that out.
CR: So she had picked that name out and your first born son was Ronnie. Now the spelling is Ronnie. Is that correct? Now that middle initial is an A for Arthur. Ronnie Arthur was born to Art and Regina on January 1st, 1944. But it might have been the 2nd or so until you got word.
AR: It must have been the next day.
CR: Now were you able to call home or communicate at all?
AR: They took me back to the company and got me some food I guess. Through the Red Cross they got me to the airport.
CR: Now this might have been after your next telegram.
AR: I got them both at the same time out in the woods.
CR: You got them at the exact same time? I don’t think some of us understood that. Both telegrams came together. The first telegram told you about your first born son and the same messenger gave you the news that Regina had died in childbirth. Now what did they do for you. Did they tell you to tie your boots up a little tighter?
AR: Somebody from the compay took me to the airport. The Red Cross must have helped.
CR: Then did you get to fly home?
AR: Some of the guys gave me some money to fly home. I flew to Cincinnati. The plane got grounded there.
CR: And then what did you do?
AR: I took a train from Cinci to Toledo.
CR: I’’m sure this was the days before you had any kind of support. You were on your own. So your family came to Toledo and met you. Actually it was probably a horribly emotional day to see your first born son and hold him and know you were at services for your wife.
AR: She was in the casket on our 2nd wedding anniversary and it hurts you.
CR: And the services were here at Freedom where you were married just two years earlier. Then did you have to go right back to Camp Polk?
AR: No, I had a week or two off. My mother was in the hospital so I got an extension on my leave.
CR: So now while you were home for the death of Regina your mother went into the hospital. Was she seriously ill?
AR: She had an operation at that time.
CR: So you were home a couple of extra weeks and probably flew back.
AR: I must have.
CR: So you put on your boots and went back.
AR: They were done with maneuvers by the time I got back. There was ice on the trees.
CR: Now was there any kind of support system in place or did you just have to go ahead and play Army. Was there somebody to talk with like a chaplain or did you just have to lace up your boots and go out.
CR: That would have had to have been very difficult. So now Ronnie is back here in Henry County and who is caring for him?
AR: He got passed around. My sister and sister-in-law helped take care of him.
CR: Okay so Rozella had him.
AR: She had him while my mother was in the hospital.
CR: How about Regina’s family?
AR: They helped.
CR: Did you get any letters from them? How did you keep up on Ronnie?
AR: Yes I got some letters from them telling me how he was doing. After about four months into May I got a letter from Denelda telling me how he was doing.
CR: Now we just had a name pop up of Denelda. Let’s back this up. Denelda and Regina are related.
AR: Denelda and Regina were first cousins. Denelda was a bridesmaid at my first wedding.
CR: And so you came home for the funeral and Denelda was probably there.
AR: She helped carry the flowers in. They were carried down the aisle in containers. There were a lot of flowers there.
CR: They carried them in containers. Is that sort of a custom at that church?
AR: Yes, at that time.
CR: You had been friends with her anyway before Regina died.
AR: Yes she and her boyfriend were together. We had double dated several times.
CR: Now let’s identify this boyfriend. Future generations will be interested in this. Who was this guy?
AR: Frank Von Seggern.
CR: Frank Von Seggern? Was he also an area boy?
AR: He was a neighbor up the road in Fulton County.
CR: Let’s identify where Denelda lived.
AR: She lived on County Road 13.
CR: She lived on County Road 13 almost to the Fulton County line. And on what side of the road?
AR: The west side of the road.
CR: So she is dating Frank and you had done some things together. Like maybe you went to the fair.
AR: We went to the lake one Sunday afternoon for picnics and such.
CR: Did you write the first letter or did she?
AR: I think I wrote to her. I wanted to find out whether she was still involved with Frank.
CR: You went back to camp later. So this is four or five months later, but you hadn’t corresponded this time. So now four or five months later you are home and then now let’s pick up the story.
AR: She was in Napoleon one Saturday night and I took her home and tried to find out what the story was with her boyfriend. I needed to know.
CR: So now you went back to Camp Polk again and she started writing letters.
AR: We kept corresponding even when I went overseas.
CR: Did you go right from Camp Polk to overseas? When were you shipped overseas Art, do you have that in your head? So now we are just clarifying some of these things. So Art you came home in May for just a short time. That is when he checked up on the relationship of Frank. He found that had gone sour and he decided they needed each other. Time was short so he had to get back to base and then in August of that year which was 1944 his company was shipped overseas. Then she corresponded with you and you learned more about Ronnie growing up.
AR: She kept me more informed about Ronnie growing up than the rest of the relatives.
CR: Did you get pictures?
AR: Yes she would send me pictures of Ronnie growing up. She kept track more so as to what was going on around here more so than anybody else did.
CR: So she was writing to you in 1944 when you were shipped over. When did you come back to the states? So here we go, we will get into some of the war stories later, but Denelda Meyer is home and she is corresponding with you and telling you how your little boy is doing, growing, and giving you news of the community. Then it looks to me like in October of 1945 they said you could come home.
AR: We thought we were going to Japan at the time. Then later they said we could come home.
CR: That must have been good news. When you came home, did you come into Toledo?
AR: It was Friday the 13 when they told me we would come home and then we would go to Japan.
CR: On July 13 you were told you would be going to Japan and it was the 26th of August when you got back here in Henry County.
AR: We were to spend some time in Germany during the Occupation and they changed that. They told us to go home. They were breaking up the tanks. I was in the infantry, which was not good.
CR: When you talk about the infantry part as not being good, what is going through your head?
AR: There is not much protection there.
CR: There is not much protection there I believe. So here you are coming back home to Henry County to be a farmer. Did you already have visions of marrying this little Meyer girl?
CR: Now let’s get this straight yes or no.
AR: I guess I must have figured on it.
CR: Now did she write daily or weekly?
AR: Almost daily for quite a while. I couldn’t write as often as she did.
CR: Did you write once a week would you guess?
AR: Whenever I got a chance.
CR: Did you save any of those letters?
AR: I must have thrown them away but she has them.
CR: So she has them all. Okay so now we are back in Henry County in August and when did you decide to get married? Did you ask her or did you decide that all by letter?
AR: It happened after I got home.
CR: Where were you when you asked her to marry you?
AR: I just bought her a ring. I didn’t ask her I guess.
CR: Oh my! She must have said yes when you gave her the ring.
AR: She took it.
CR: So then you two were married on January 13 of ‘46.
AR: Another 13.
CR: Then where did you two live?
AR: We moved here shortly afterwards.
CR: And here again we are talking about this house right here where you and Regina started housekeeping without electricity. Did you have electricity by now?
AR: No, oh yes we did too. We got electricity by the time I got back we had electricity.
CR: So Paul and Rozella had lived here in the meantime.
CR: And they moved out and you
AR: We moved here in 1946. We remodeled the house at the same time. Shortly after we moved in we remodeled the house. We lived upstairs for a while when they were working down here.
CR: Did you do some of the remodeling yourself or did you have a crew come in?
AR: We had a crew come in. Denelda’s brother and Art, who was part of that crew were working here quite a while we remodeled the inside and out.
CR: And so you were married on January 13 in 1946. Now your second son was born in March of 1947. That would have been Jerry, he would have been the first child for you and Denelda, followed by Mara Jean, Nanette and Gayla. So you are the parents of five children They all live within ten miles. And how old are you at this very moment Art?
AR: I am 82.
CR: And there aren’t very many 82 year old men who have all of their children and most of your grandchildren living within ten miles. Is there anything you would like to add as we wrap up this family segment? Are there any memories or anything you would like to reflect on?
AR: I guess not.
CR: Where is Regina buried?
AR: At the Forest Hill Cemetery in Napoleon.
CR: At Forest Hill and I think you have remained close to her family.
CR: And Ronnie has also,which has been a good thing. Okay is there anything else on family?
CR: And Denelda here has been staying out of the picture has joined us here just to clarify a few things. Denelda, you have had a part of this love story. You know he did get very sentimental here.
DR: They came over to see my mother and me, Art, his mother, and Ronnie. That was in May of 1944. Of course then he went back to Camp Polk and we started corresponding. It wasn’t anything romantic at that time. We were just friends. I corresponded all the time he was overseas. He told me at different times he was glad I was writing him because I gave more details about Ronnie growing up. His dad would just say Ronnie is okay and didn’t elaborate. I would go into detail because I had been over to see them. He came home in August of ‘45 because he had a thirty day furlough, which was then extended for fifteen days so he had a forty-five day furlough. When I saw him I knew I was in love. Before that I wasn’t real sure. I had been just writing and didn’t think much before. After seeing him, then I was sure. We saw each other every day. I was still working.
CR: And where were you working?
DR: I was working at Grisier’s Insurance in Wauseon. I started there right after I graduated. He would come to see me at night.
CR: So he was farming.
DR: Yes he was helping his dad farming. He was not working too much. He was still on leave. Then he had to go back to Camp Atterbury in Indiana.
CR: Atterbury, now that would have been close to what town?
CR: So this was a little different when he left this time. He wasn’t just your friend.
DR: It was getting more serious. He left home to go back to camp Thursday, was it Art. Sunday night he came home and I was at a party at some friends home with my parents and he walked in Sunday night and he had been discharged.
CR: He didn’t have any clue he would be back so soon.
DR: No, in three days he got his discharge.
AR: And then now he is a free man.
DR: What day in October was that Art? it must have been early because on the 12th already I had got my diamond. It was Columbus Day. He already had it in his pocket.
CR: Where were you when this diamond appeared?
DR: I don’t remember exactly where I was. I must have been at home, but it was on October 12, Columbus Day. Then we started making plans to get married. We were married on January 13,1946 at the same church where he had been married, with the same pastor.
CR: Art was that hard to go down the same aisle?
DR: The reception was at my parents home. We just had the family in and a few friends. This was in the dead of winter and my parents did not have central heat. They had no bathroom in the house. We didn’t care about that. We wanted to be married in January. He always said I wanted to be married before my 23rd birthday which was January 25.
CR: So you were married at the age of 22.
DR: Yes, I would have turned 23 in January. You Art would have been 26 then.
CR: Did you go on a honeymoon?
DR: Art said he had been traveling all this time and he didn’t want to go any place. So we did not go any place. We stayed with my parents that night and for a couple of weeks I guess. Once in a while we would be at his parents and sleep overnight until we moved into this house, which was almost immediately or maybe a month after we were married.
CR: So you went from house to house when you were first married. Did you still keep your job?
DR: Yes, at that time I did. Then that spring I quit my job and became a full time mother and wife.
CR: So Ronnie had a built in family. Did he go with you from places to places in that first month?
DR: No, he stayed with Grandma.
CR: His Grandma Erna Rohrs.
CR: But he knew you
DR: Yes, we took him along a lot from August till the time we were married. We would take Ronnie along when we would go visiting. He, of course had never known his mother, but I think he considered Grandma as his mother. One day he was standing in the little room in this house over here. I was in the front room. Grandma Rohrs was in the kitchen. He was in the dining room and he called out Mom. I think he wanted to know who would be the first to answer.
CR: And then what happened?
DR: I answered. He has called me Mom ever since.
CR: He would have only been about two then.
DR: I had had no experience with youngsters before. I was the youngest one in my family. None of my brothers and sisters had children.
CR: Do you remember anything about the transition from Ronnie leaving his grandparents home, and coming to live with the two of you.
DR: We didn’t really have any problems.
CR: There was no dramatic moment.
CR: Through all of this both of you have been very active in your church. Art, what was the church of your boyhood?
AR: We transferred to St. Paul’s out in the country. I was baptized at Emanuel and I was confirmed at St. Paul’s
CR: That would have been St. Paul’s rural.
AR: We came back to Emmanuel when they changed pastors.
CR: So you had left over just a little problem in your church.
CR: And your whole family left. Now both of your women were Freedom Twp. girls. That would have been the Missouri Synod. Was that okay?
AR: There wasn’t any problem then.
CR: So you both went to Emmanuel. Just while we are finishing the family part. Can you tell me how the community responded. Here is a young soldier away from his home, his son is born, his wife dies, he goes back to service, Did you feel like you had community support? Were they good. Did they say nothing.
DR: I am sure behind our backs there was some talk. There was no opposition to this. Regina’s mother was very in favor of this. She said Ronnie needs a mother.
CR: We need a first name for Regina’s mother.
DR: It was Emilie, spelled Emilie. My mother’s name is Emilie also.
CR: So Regina’s family was in favor of it.
AR: There was one person who was not in favor of it, but since that time she has been real good to us.
CR: The community at large, the church people were they supportive or did you just do what you had to do.
DR: I never felt as an outcast when I came to this church here.
CR: Art, how about you, did you just have to buck up? Was anybody willing to listen.
AR: We got along okay I guess.
DR: The year we were married, he was elected to Church Council. The day he was supposed to be installed on that particular Sunday was the day we were going to be married. They actually postponed the installation till the next week so Art could be there.
CR: So you were married on a Sunday.
DR: On a Sunday afternoon.
CR: And your marriage to Regina also took place on a Sunday afternoon right?
CR: So you could have a dance and have friends over.
AR: No dance, our house was full of guests both times.
CR: Is there any other family memory you would like to tell for all time?
DR: Did you say that Regina’s funeral was at Emanuel in Napoleon and not out in Freedom? At that time she was a member of Emanuel with Rev. Moser having the funeral.
CR: Which is why she is not buried at Freedom but at Napoleon, of course.
AR: We had the cemetary plot all done.
CR: So that was ready too.
DR: Since then we have already bought our marker. We will be buried there, but the original big marker that says Rohrs remains there and Regina has a smaller marker there.
CR: We are finishing up here. We are talking again about Regina’s service which was at Emanuel, because she had joined by then. And then Denelda, we were talking about this was such a good relationship. Let’s do that again because we ran out of tape.
DR: I was there at the funeral and there at the house. That night, the evening after the funeral, my cousin Laura and I went up to the hospital to see Ronnie.
CR: Now this would have been Laura Mohrman. Now her name would have been Laura Meyer Mohrman.
DR: She and I went to the hospital to see the new baby. He had black hair. Then I didn’t see much of him until later after May of ‘44. Art’s mother had him then.
CR: Let’s finish this part with the marker.
DR: It was a big lot and Dad Rohrs bought the marker and it says Rohrs on both sides of it on the big stone. Regina had a small stone with her name on it with her birth and death. Now we have purchased a marker that will be beside hers with our names on it.
CR: Are Art’s parents there as well?
DR: No. They were at a different cemetery. They are at Glenwood.
AR: We had a lot there and we have a sister that was born stilborn and she is buried out there.
CR: So you had another sister that was stillborn?
CR: Was there a name?
CR: Not that you know of. Where did she fit in the line?
AR: After me. I was 7 years old when she was born. But the child that died was buried there and she has a marker.
CR: Is there anything else you can think about?
AR: We have gotten along well these past fifty years.
DR: I think we are way past fifty Art. It would have been 57 this January.
CR: So would you probably do it again Art? This is putting him on the spot. Denelda are there any other thoughts?
DR: I always said there was some divine intervention there the way things happened. We were married in January of 1946. Regina had died in January of 1944 and how we got together I still can’t really explain. I still think there was some divine intervention.
CR: I heard you kept those letters.
CR: You must have kept them because they meant so much.
DR: It was a part of my life.
CR: And Art do you have yours as well?
AR: No, I should have sent them home. I didn’t have a place to keep them.
CR: So we have his (Art’s) to you (Denelda), but not hers (Denelda) to him(Art). Is there anything else? We are actually sitting at the kitchen table this very minute. This old house is what this story is about.
DR: Our children have all grown up thinking Ronnie was their full brother. There was never a big deal made about it. Jerry was born in ‘47, Ronnie and Jerry were always together and then when the girls came along.
CR: I wonder when that finally came up. Just when they were all a little older or
DR: I can’t even remember when we told them. I remember you talked about Regina.
CR: Now when you say good, we are going to have to identify this for future generations. On this little road S1 lived
AR: My Uncle Bill (William Rohrs).
CR: That would have been Grandpa Carl’s brother. Okay your dad’s brother and his wife Emma. Now let’s put this together for our listeners.
AR: Ronnie stayed with them quite a while.
CR: But they had no other children.
DR: When they made out their will they had in it that Ronnie could buy that farm of 80 acres..The price was $500.00 per acre. So that is how he got that farm.
AR: They liked him.
CR: He had stayed close to them. He lived just a few hundred yards from his grandparents.
AR: He had stayed there quite a while too.
DR: They didn’t have any children of their own and they liked him. And after Uncle Bill died
Emma thought that Ronnie would take care of her too in case she needed help. But she passed away suddenly of a heart attack. I am sure they had that in mind that Ronnie would help take care of them.
CR: What are you thinking about Art.
AR: I can’t think of anything else. Tell them where our children are at.
DR: Ronnie is a farmer. Jerry works for the Farmland News which is a newspaper in Archbold, Ohio. He is married to Cecily Strock. My daughter Mara Jean is married to Jim Musshel. She is currently the co owner of The Country Gourmet Coffee Shop in Napoleon. Nannette lives within a mile of us and she is married to Dave Schwab. She is a nurse at the Fulton County Health Center. My youngest daughter Gayla is married to Mike Yaney and she is a stay at home mom for now. She has four children at home. She and her family live in the house where I was born. They now own the house and have remodeled..
CR: She didn’t move far out of the neighborhood.
CR: This is Cecily with father-in-law Art Rohrs on Thursday Dec. 19 we have made a family tape talking about his boyhood and marrying Regina and her sudden death and marrying Regina’s first cousin Denelda and now we are going to focus on stories of the war. We will do a brief recap to see how this farmboy left home, was assigned to Fort Riley, Kansas, from there he went, well, what kind of training did you get at Fort Riley?
AR: My basic training was quite a while Our second team was from several Cavalry divisions. There were still a few horses around at Fort Riley but the horses were mainly used by the officers. I didn’t arrive until August of ‘42.
CR: Now when you say Ninth Armor, now was that your entire group throughout your entire war story?
AR: I stayed with the same outfit all the way through.
CR: Now would that have been unusual?
AR: I was with them from when I started until the end.
CR: Just help me, now this was the fourteenth tank battalion.
CR: So there would have been many people part of the ninth armored, and your specific unit then was the fourteenth tank battalion.
AR: Tank battalion.
CR: Okay Battalion. So help us understand how this farm boy got in the middle of a tank in Fort Riley, Kansas.
AR: Evidently they thought if I could drive a tractor I could drive a tank. We trained for a while at Fort Riley. We learned how to use machine guns on the tank.
CR: So with the tank you were practicing at Fort Riley.
AR: We also had 45 caliber pistols and 45 caliber machine guns. There were a total of 49,000,334 tanks built during World War II.
CR: So there were or were not tanks during World War I.
CR: So none. So this is a new weapon.
AR: They were used to going pretty fast.
CR: Were they made in the states?
AR: Yes. Tanks were protected with about four inches of armor in most of the places.
Their range was 125 miles. At 25 miles per hour they used quite a few gallons of gas.
CR: You keep calling them Sherman tanks. Was that like a Chevreolet or a Ford.
AR: That is what they called them Sherman tanks.
CR: Were they all Sherman tanks or did some of them use other kinds.
AR: Other outfits had smaller tanks and some of them larger ones. There weren’t many larger ones.
CR: So does Sherman describe like the model?
CR: Okay there were a few bigger and some of them were smaller. Go ahead and help us to understand it.
AR: In October of ‘43 we transferred to Camp Polk in Louisiana, the division 9th Armored.
CR: You know what, we forgot your desert training. What did you do in California in the desert?
AR: We were there in the summer time. It was the hottest time of the year. It was hot during the day and cool at night. Of course we were staying in tents.
CR: How did this farm boy feel about being out in California in the summer sun?
AR: It hurts.
CR: Did you like it? Was there any kind of a thrill to it or did you just learn to accept it.
AR: We would drive the tanks miles during the day. We drove over cactus. That is about all there is out there.
CR: So then you left California and there was no more training, and then you went to Louisiana. Were you stil working on those tanks there?
AR: It was a different kind of driving with the woods and forests and whatever. It was rougher country. There were wooded acres we had to drive through.
CR: Did you have a second job in the tank to do other than driving the tanks, or were you trained to do many things?
AR: We had to learn how to do all the different things.
CR: Just give us a rough idea of jobs that could be had. How many guys would fit in a tank anyways?
AR: Inside the tank was a driver, an assistant driver, a caliber machine gunner. Then there was an assistant gunner job. They would fire the big gun. In training we didn’t fire the gun. I didn’t fire the gun only once while I was over there. I was an assistant gunner before, until the gunner got hurt. I was made a Corporal.
CR: Now we are going to go with five guys inside there.
AR: A gunner, a tank commander, an assistant gunner, assistant driver, a machine gunner, a driver.
CR: The space was how big? Five feet? Four feet?
AR: Just big enough to sit in.
CR: Were all these posititions seated positions?
AR: Some of them were. The tank commander had to stand up most of the time and look out the turret. Otherwise we looked out our periscopes and we buttoned up. Otherwise we had the lids open. We were standing most of the time while we were in action.
CR: You are talking about buttoning up and lids open lets help that a little bit. Those are terms we aren’t going to know. Button up must mean you had some metal protection around you.
AR: We had an escape hatch where we could get out. We didn’t use that very often.
CR: So then you could be completely covered in armor if you wanted to be.
AR: Yes, except for around the sides and the back. The fuel and gas tanks were covered. When the tanks got hit they usually burned.
CR: So if your tank got hit you didn’t have much chance.
AR: They didn’t always catch on fire. Sometimes it was hard to get out. Some of them did and they would get shot down if they didn’t get away in time. Sometimes they would die inside the tank.
CR: Were you with those same five people most of the time, or did your team change most of the time?
AR: We changed somewhat but most of the time it was the same crew. There were about twenty tanks in our company. There were five tanks to a platoon. There were four companies to a battalion.
CR: Now were these the big units that we get overseas or were these smaller ones when you were driving in the swamps in Louisiana like this.
AR: We were driving all over Louisiana with the big tanks. We had a couple of hail storms out in the desert. We couldn’t see to drive, but that didn’t last very long. We would get water in the hold and it would splash water all over the tanks. It really hit hard.
CR: So the tank had no suspension system at all.
AR: Not much.
CR: Was there some?
AR: Well it wasn’t too bad. The tanks had the tractions and it wasn’t as rough as wheels I guess. It wasn’t too rough riding. There was air circulating through the tanks when you were moving and then when you stopped, it was hot enough to fry an egg on the outside of it.
CR: How long at a time would you be inside of a tank?
AR: It all depended upon how far we were going. Some days when we were over in Europe we would cover some 70 miles in a day.
CR: Translate that into time for us. Here is this 22 year old soldier, crawling into a tank and how long might it be before you came out?
AR: During the Battle of the Bulge we practically stayed in the tank from the16th to the 24th of December until we got called back.
CR: So there were eight days when you were in there. Did you have enough training to be able to stay long periods of time before that?
AR: During the day we would have maneuvers and then come back to the company.
CR: Was there room in the tank to sleep?
AR: I had to make myself a mattress out of a bag of leaves and I would sleep. There were two others in the front of the tank. Two guys would take turns.
CR: Okay, so you left Louisiana and headed for Europe now. Okay now so let’s get there. You are going to fly from Louisiana to Scotland, I believe.
AR: We took Queen Mary. There was a whole Division of 20,000 men on board. It was no longer a luxury ship. We had to take turns sleeping because there weren’t enough bunks for everybody. We were lucky to have had a big ship to travel on.
CR: All of you traveled on one boat.
CR: By the time you were headed over put the war dates in order here.
AR: I went overseas in August of 1944 and came back to the States in August of 1945.
CR: So in the fall of ‘44 you are on your way on the Queen Mary. So you know all the dangers of war and you knew what you were getting into.
AR: The company commander made the remark that some of us wouldn’t live, but he took that back. He was the first one to get hit in the tank, but he did come back later.
CR: So you went over on the Queen Mary and I think you landed in Scotland. Now can you build this story for us.
AR: We were in Scotland just a short time and from Scotland our division moved to England. In November we crossed the English Channel into France. We went through France and just ripped through their tanks.
CR: Now you were the tank driver.
AR: Yes. I went through Paris in a tank so I didn’t get to see much of Paris.
CR: Now how did you cross the English Channel?
AR: We crossed over on a ferry.
CR: You mean you drove your tank up on a ferry and crossed over like you would on Lake Erie? You rode over on one of these litle things that ferry across the English Channel. Then you would drive them back off.
AR: We were put into the water which was only a couple of feet deep and drive up on the ferry. Some of the Infantry had trouble. If they ran them off too soon the water would have been too deep in the channels and they couldn’t reach the bottoms. Some of them had to be lifted up because they were too short to stay above the water. We didn’t have any trouble with the tanks. We didn’t get wet.
CR: So while today people think about touring Europe in a side car or part of the rail system, you guys toured in your tank.
AR: I traveled over 2,000 miles in a tank overseas in Europe. We kept track of all of our miles every day.
CR: How many miles to the gallon can a tank get?
AR: Half a mile, that is what they say.
CR: So, here we are, we have crossed the Channel, we toured Paris, so now where are we going to go?
AR: We went through France, which was pretty smooth sailing by that time. We set out for the Ardennes Forest.
CR: Now how do you spell that?
CR: So you are now on the outskirts of the forest.
AR: We were in the battle for quite some time. What surprised us was we weren’t expecting the Germans to be there. We moved a lot of equipment into the center of the woods.
CR: When you say we weren’t expecting them you mean the Americans weren’t expecting the Germans.
AR: That is right.
CR: Did the Germans come in tanks too?
AR: Yes. The planes couldn’t fly because it was so foggy. You couldn’t see what was going on. The Germans took advantage of it and moved in to the front. Then on the 16th of December.
CR: Then again this is ‘44 right.
AR: Yes. When the battle broke out they fired into us and the 14th Tank Battalion had no thoughts that they were there and they surprised the Americans. After the surprise, we were about the first ones in there with armor and held them back until more troops came in. Six divisions of the Allied troops were spread very thinly in front. Our area was 50 to 60 miles deep.
CR: These were all Americans.
AR: This is where the Battle of the Bulge was. It was fifty miles wide and they got 60 miles deep into the forest. The Americans stopped them there. It was unbearably cold. The tanks were together with the Infantry. We were in the tanks from the middle of November until Christmas eve. I was lucky enough not to get hit during battle. Tanks in front of me got hit.
CR: What was your job during those eight days.
AR: I was Assistant Gunner.
CR: What do you actually do while sitting in your tank those eight days?
AR: We hoped they wouldn’t find us or shoot at us. They never did. We would shoot against the German tanks.The 14th tank Battalion lost a number of tanks in the Battle of the Bulge.
CR: Now lets stop a minute. I know that history books talk about the Battle of the Bulge. I know that was very important to you. What does that name imply? What is this Bulge.
AR: The Americans had established a Front. The Germans tried to break through there and created a bulge, according to Hitler, about 50 miles wide and 60 miles deep. That should have been the end of it.
CR: Was that because there were too many of you?
AR: Some of the Germans were dressed in our uniforms and they captured some of our guys and some of our equipment. Most of us didn’t know what was going on. They put holes in our tanks but our tanks weren’t as powerful as their 88 mm guns on their tanks. Our tanks had 75 mm guns. They were heavier than ours but they kept running out of fuel. It kept going on but they had some of their last reserves trying to make it at the last end and they couldn’t get through it.
CR: So let me interrupt Art, did I hear you tell they really had better equipment and tanks.
AR: They had bigger tanks, but we had more tanks. We out numbered them more.
CR: And you had a bigger fuel supply and they didn’t.
AR: We kept going because we had fuel. Then on Christmas eve, we had been in battle since the 16th, we were being pulled back out of the front and wait for restorative. On Christmas Eve we got stopped on the way and we thought it was clear and the Germans went in and started firing mahine guns and we fired back and forth there
CR: Now you are moving at the time and they are shooting at you.
AR: They stopped us there at a road block the Germans had set up. So we stopped and they kept firing their machine gun and we fired back and that was our Christmas Eve lights. The Germans captured our kitchen truck carrying chicken which was supposed to be our Christmas dinner. We were lucky to have food I’ll tell you. On Christmas day instead of a chicken dinner, we had C rations.
CR: C rations I don’t think I have heard of that for about 30 years. Are we talking about tin cans are we?
AR: Yes, they had prepared food in them.
CR: You soldiers just had them and you could eat whatever was in the can.
AR: We had some reserves in the tank. The snow was quite deep for the infantry.
CR: Are we talking still Americans? Were these Americans that went hungry?
AR: Yes, the kitchen trucks had trouble getting food to us sometimes, but we were lucky to get some food and fuel. The Germans were more or less captured by the Americans then. In 1985 when we were back to Germany we met a German soldier who had been in a German tank our tank and their tank had run out of gas and he was taken prisoner by the Americans.
CR: We will pick this story up in a minute right?
AR: After the Bulge we were going to Metz, France.
CR: Let’s spell that for us Art.
AR: Metz, France.
AR: We stayed there for some time and we took over a big chateau there and we had pretty good sleeping there for a while. Some of them broke up a piano for firewood.
CR: These are Americans now.
AR: It was on a farm where they had cows and horses. On this farm they had a big chateau. So we stayed there. We used that as a rest area in Metz, France. Once we were supplied with more tanks by the end of February we moved out of there. We moved out of there and headed for the Rhine River. On the 7th of March we were with the 14th Tank Battalion and we were looking at the Rhine River at Remagen. We saw that the railroad running through the town and across the bridge was still intact. It was the only bridge in that area that ran across the Rhine. So our battalion commander saw that the bridge was still there. At midday they told us we were going to cross the bridge at night. The infantry was to cross that bridge ahead of the tanks. The entrance to the bridge had been blown up. Before the tanks could get through we had to clear that up. We were ordered to follow soon across the bridge.
CR: Just to clarify this, we are at a town named Remagen. Okay, let’s spell the bridge name.
CR: Let’s see Ludendorff is the name of the bridge. Was this a metal bridge?
AR: Yes, it was a metal bridge. It was built shortly after World War I. They thought they needed a bridge there. They had a place in the middle of it where they stored their explosives.
CR: Right in the bridge?
AR: They had pockets built into it so they could blow up their bridge if they had to before the Americans got there. They, the Germans, did set off the explosives, but they didn’t get it done because the explosives didn’t work very good. It did raise the bridge up and when it came down it stayed there yet in one piece.
CR: How big of a bridge are we talking.
AR: It was a little wider than the one in Napoleon at least.
CR: So it was wide.
AR: The running water was deeper there so they could use pretty big boats on there.
CR: So are we talking 300 yards? How big is this bridge?
AR: It was a little wider than the one in Napoleon. It was longer than the Napoleon bridge.
CR: People might not know that, let’s put it into yards. 500 yards long? I like to do things by football fields.
AR: It was 100 yards at least.
CR: 100 yards long and at least two vehicles wide.
AR: It had been built for trains. Our engineers filled in between the tracks so vehicles could get across it.
CR: So the other bridges across the Rhine River were gone.
AR: They had been blown up or destroyed before the Americans got to them.
CR: So that is why this bridge is going to be of such significance. This is the only bridge left.
AR: There was another bridge farther south on the Rhine River. The objective of the Americans was to cross the Rhine and get into East Germany. This one was the only bridge we could get across. They didn’t figure this bridge would still be there. When we got there the engineers saw that the bridge was still intact.
CR: The Americans were surprised to find the bridge still there.
AR: Yes. The Germans didn’t have too much armor. We had some anti-aircraft guns. On the other side of the river there were some 20mm guns, but they were using them for the Infantry then we got across. Our combat engineers cut the wires that were left under the bridge so the Germans couldn’t blow it up. The Germans in charge of the bridge were executed because they didn’t do the job they were supposed to do.
CR: You mean the Germans that were sent to blow it up lost their lives because they messed up.
AR: Yes. the bridge road wasn’t wide enough for the Pershing tanks to cross.
CR: I hear you use the word Pershing a while ago?
AR: It was a bigger tank we used toward the end of the war. Most of ours were Sherman tanks yet. The Sherman tanks were ordered to move over the bridge and wait on the east side of the bridge. The first tanks that went across one of them broke through the hole so we couldn’t get across for a while. It took a while before they got that tank out of that hole. The engineer got it out somehow, I don’t know how they did it. I don’t know if they were pulling them out or what but I guess they got it out.
CR: And you were waiting in line behind all this.
AR: The crossing held us up for quite a while until we got the hole covered. We saw bodies lying along the bridge when we went across. We were trying to find our way up the hill. It was a steep hill on the other side of that bridge. The Germans had so many anti- aircraft guns there. It was pretty hot fighting for a few days. The Germans had sent in planes and artillery . We withstood the attack for ten days. After we got across we were weakened by artillery. Our engineers had built a pontoon bridge over the Rhine so we could move equipment to the east side. We couldn’t use the Ludendorff Bridge anymore. There were some guys swimming in the water. They tried to blow it up but didn’t get it done. They got shot before they got to the bridge.
CR: But that would be like a suicide thing. They would never have made it, right?
DR: You probably should have said that the objective here at Ramaggen was to get to the east side of the Rhine River to establish a bridge head across the river, across the Rhine. That was the objective of the Americans.
AR: The plans were not to cross there, but to clean up the west side of the Rhine River first. When we saw the bridge we changed plans. We weren’t on schedule and Col. Engeman took the chance going across the bridge. If it hadn’t worked, but it worked.
CR: He probaably became a hero.
AR: He is dead now.
DR: He died last June.
AR: So after we got across the bridge we moved along until we ran into some artillary. We were coming out of a woods with our tanks. We fired to the right at something there . I fired one shot but they returned it and took our tank commander They knocked the anti-aircraft gun off the tank He was standing up looking out.
CR: So the man in your tank got hit.
AR: He had his head out. Then we went across the airport where this happened with just a 30 caliber machine gun. They didn’t fire anymore at us until we got across and were pulling up to a house there. By the time the medics got there he was dead.
CR: And if that shot had been four inches lower you would have got it. Now Denelda just popped in and said twelve inches.
AR: The machine gun on top of the tank was twelve inches above my head. If it had hit the side of the tank it would have cut through the tank and killed me. I was probably lucky not to get hit.
CR: Let’s go back now I had a number of 88. Was that 88 millimeter.
AR: Yes. The German tanks had 88mm on them and ours had 75mm guns.
CR: Now just for those of us that wouldn’t be good at that, how big is this thing that you are going to get hit with. It was the size of what?
AR: It was about three inches I suppose across.
CR: And about how long?
AR: Twenty four inches.
CR: Okay three inches by twenty four inches. This is what hit your tank.
AR: The guy behind us said we got hit by an 88. We kept going across the airport. More of our tanks were behind us. After that we had to get a different tank. We kept on going. The severe fighting was over with. We reached the Czechoslovakian border when the war ended, and then they told us to cease fire.
CR: How long was that after the bridge. Are we talking weeks or months?
AR: It was two months after the bridge. We did just an average of 6 miles a day after we crossed the bridge. On the 7th of May it was 2 months after we crossed the bridge. We figured we saved lots of lives We expected more of a battle there before we got across the bridge. We got across the bridge and there was a lot less loss of people
CR: So you were in your tank at the Czechoslovakian border, so how did you get word that the war was over?
AR: We got it on the radio. We didn’t know whether to believe it or not.
CR: Now we are talking radio listeners they think you just dial up a channel. In fact these would have been two way walkie-talkie things.
AR: No, we had radios in the tanks.
CR: The people you are talking with however are military people.
AR: The battalion people or a tank commander.
CR: You are not going to have music then.
DR: May I ask a question?
DR: How had you expected to cross the Rhine if you wouldn’t have taken that bridge?
AR: We expected to do a lot more fighting on the west side of the river before we got across.
DR: So you were going to stay on the west side longer.
AR: We didn’t figure there would be any bridge left to cross.
CR: For clarity then if that bridge hadn’t been there how would you have gotten across? On those pontoon boats? How were you going to do it?
AR: That would have been the only way to have gotten across.
CR: Were there other bridges intact?
AR: The south part of Germany. There were smaller bridges.
CR: Does the bridge go down in history as the turning point?
AR: Yes, very much so.
CR: And you were credited with that or not till years later?
AR: We were credited at that time. It shortened the war quite a bit. It was a chance we took. It might have backfired, but it didn’t. We were just lucky to get across.
DR: The Germans were not expecting you on the east side of the river at that time. They didn’t think the Americans would come across, but they did.
AR: The bridge wasn’t supposed to be there anymore, but it was.
CR: Do you still remember when the radio message came across that the war was over and you didn’t believe it.
AR: We didn’t know whether to believe it or not. They told us to cease fire, unless they shot at us first.
CR: So how many days were you wondering if it was really over?
AR: The next day they sent orders to put our dress uniforms on.
CR: And where were the civilians? Had they gone for shelter, or were they killed?
AR: A lot of them went on ahead and maybe fled and a lot of them got killed. They had bombed the cities. Now they think more people would have been killed if it hadn’t happened that way. Rumor was that we would be sent to Japan.
CR: Now clarify that for other people who might be listening. You got word on the radio that the war was over. Two days later you were convinced of that.
AR: Now orders came that we were supposed to stay there for Army Occupation for a year in Germany there.
CR: Was this just to keep the peace?
AR: Yes. I probably had to check the train and see if there were any civilians coming back. I went to the train station and interpreted the language. The Germans were moving back to where they came from. I stayed at the train station there and checked the area. Then we took over the factory area where the whole company stayed for a while.
CR: What town are we in now?
CR: Okay so we were in a train depot and now we have moved into a factory.
AR: Then we went
DR: to Hochstadt.
AR: It was a small town and we stayed there.
CR: Were these houses?
AR: Whenever we had a chance before the Battle we had chased the people out of their houses and we stayed overnight.
CR: You chased the people out of their houses?
AR: Yes, this was when the war was still going on.
CR: Did you get into their cupboards and eat too?
DR: This was war!
AR: Sometimes we would stay in the barn. We hid the tanks. We thought we were far enough away from the front. We were in the barn which was better than it had been. We started the machine guns right behind the barn. We were that close. We knew where the Germans were.
CR: And you had a slumber party in this barn and slept in the hay. How many tanks were parked outside?
AR: Oh I don’t know, probably a platoon. Probably five tanks scattered about.
CR: Five tanks, five guys,
AR: At that time we were sleeping outside We thought we were following the Germans, but then they fired into a haystack and burned it so they could see us in the dark. I was supposed to be transferred to the Infantry when we got back.
CR: Do you mean back across the ocean on the Queen Mary?
AR: We were on the Queen Mary.
DR: This was not a luxury liner at that time.
AR: There were 21,000 people on board on this one ship. We had no escort.
CR: If the Germans had wanted to, that would have been a good way to get a lot of Americans.
AR: The submarines couldn’t keep up with the Queen Mary They got a lot of other ships with their submarines but not the Queen Mary. We had a lot of transport ships going across the Atlantic
CR: You would have been a pretty big target.
AR: All we had were the 50 caliber machine guns on board. It took 3 to 4 days to get across and a week for some of the other ships.
CR: This was from England
AR: From Scotland it took 3 days I guess going across on the Queen Mary.
CR: So you knew you were done.
DR: Then he would have to go to Japan yet.
CR: But you knew you were getting a few days home then.
AR: My furlough in the states and then head for Japan.
DR: Art you found out in London already that the war was over in Japan and you wouldn’t have to go to Japan anymore. Then before you came across again when you came to America you found out the war was over.
AR: I was in London on the way back that I found out I wasn’t going to Japan.
CR: You were in London waiting on the Queen Mary to get back. Let’s talk about that feeling to be standing in London and you found out it was over over. What does a 20 year old soldiers do when they get the word?
AR: Most of us thought we’d done a good job.
CR: Really. Was there a lot of partying?
AR: Not where we were. We were with the Sherman division and we didn’t party.
CR: None at all? So when did you really get to celebrate the end of the war?
AR: We never did I guess until we came back home.
CR: You came back to the states here. Were you heroes when you got here?
CR: Did you say No?
AR: We just
CR: No? In Henry County?
AR: We came back in groups
DR: Not as individuals.
CR: You mean you got on the tractor machine and just went on?
AR: I got home and I thought I would be with the 30th Infantry Battalion and they figured out I had enough points to get home and I stayed.
CR: Now when you say points what does that mean?
AR: The points are higher for different battles. They had different points for what they had been through or the time they had put in. I didn’t have enough points to get out of the service really. I did get out then when I got home. I went to Indiana and got a discharge and I didn’t have to go back to South Carolina where the 30th Infantry was. Lawrence Rickenberg, my cousin had been with me all the time. He went to South Carolina yet for a short time. I stayed home rather than going any farther in the Army.
:CR: When you got home Art, let’s talk about how old you were.
AR: I was 25
CR: You are 25 and you are home. So you were really in the thick of battle in your 24th year.
AR: Remagen Bridge was in ‘45.
CR: I just know that it has been very important to you your whole life. Do you think it has been the sense of what you did for the country. Do you feel it has been the camaraderie of five fellows squished together in five feet through such traumatic times? What do you think? Was it worth it or not.
AR: I hope they don’t start a war again, and neither do we want to be conquered.
CR: Would you do it again?
AR: I wouldn’t be able to.
CR: If we could turn the clock back would you do it again? You have been a proud patriot active in the American Legion all these year.
AR: When I got home that night from Indiana I took a car to go see where Denelda was at a party. It changed the story all of a sudden.
CR: This has been such a big part of your life. I want to know your feelings. Has this been the camaraderie with the men.? Let’s ask Denelda when you went to Germany 40 years after the Bridge was taken they had ceremonies at the Bridge. The Bridge was never brought back but the two towers remain. There is a museum in these towers.
DR: There was a ceremony. We met a man who had been in a tank on the bridge. He was in a German tank and he ran out of fuel. He was a captain and he became an American prisoner. He and his family had no feelings of hatred toward the Americans. We corresponded with these people every year at Christmas and she speaks High German, no English. Speaking High German is hard to do. Lately, instead of writing, she calls me and I have to immediately switch of speak High German.
CR: So Art you were 65 when you went to Germany for this reunion. Did your kids send you there?
DR: They instigated it. They made the down payment on this trip. We needed passports. We made a rush decision and got ready. We went to New York and I had never been on a plane before in my life. We met Helen Lenhardt and Jake Houck from Pennsylvania and we struck up a friendship. We had a wonderful trip. As we went across Germany so many things had changed and of course Art had been in a tank.
CR: Now Art I remember you had lots of back problems now. I thought at one time that might have to do with your riding around Germany in a tank.
AR: I doubt it. I have had several spells. I went to a chiropractor to get straightened out.
CR: How did you get your mail when you were out in the field?
AR: Whenever they could. During the Battle of the Bulge we didn’t get any. Sometimes it would take a week – sometimes two weeks for the mail to come.
CR: So when all five of you were in this tank where did you keep letters and pictures and things like that?
AR: In a little bag outside the tank. Mine got holes in it several times when it got hit.
CR: Did every man his his own or did you have compartments?
AR: One bag on the outside. That was it.
CR: For all your personal things?
AR: I had one letter that had holes in it from schrapnel. There had been a German bazooka behind us that had fired on us. I guess it hit the limb on a tree and exploded there instead of on top of the tank. We got some of that schrapnel that time. A number of times the tank ahead of us got hit.
CR: So you were really a very fortunate young soldier.
AR: Yes. At one time we were parked behind some tanks and I thought we were out of sight – then the artillery hit the tank in front of us. The driver got killed.
CR: And that was just behind you?
AR: No, in front of us.
CR: Was there even time to mourn those people?
CR: That is part of war – you just went on.
AR: They did have memorial services sometimes. When we were over there we found the grave of my tank commander. The turret lid hit the trunk of a tree going down the road and the turret swung around and killed him
CR: He was also in your tank?
AR: He was standing up when he could have been down but he wasn’t.
CR: So you lost two people that you were within a few feet of you.
DR: Right at the beginning of the Bulge the tank ahead of him was hit and a friend of ours from Deshler, Martin Panning was in that tank and he was hit. He lost the sight in one eye and he lost several fingers off his hand and he was in the hospital for months.
AR: Over a year.
CR: Over there?
DR: He was there at first and then they shipped him back to the States. He never did rejoin your group.
CR: Art did you know if there were other Ohio or Henry County boys around you? Was there any?
AR: Yes. The Kolbe boys from Napoleon, Martin Panning from Deshler, and a Smith from Deshler, and Oberleitner.
CR: Now these were Henry County boys?
AR: They were living upstairs and I was downstairs when we were living in Kansas.
CR: Did you know that then that was who they were?
AR: Yes – we went to the service together and we went to Camp Perry together.
CR: To running around Europe did you know if anybody around you was close to you.
AR: I saw one fellow from Napoleon once when he signed his name on the Red Cross board there. I saw where he was from Napoleon,
CR: What was his name?
AR: Lawrence Kurtz.
CR: You mean Gurtz?
AR: No Kurtz. I met him once. I really didn’t find anybody I knew over there.
DR: You found some money with somebodies name on it.
AR: I happened to get a bill that was signed by Eichoff from Napoleon. He had been a prisoner and the Germans must have taken it away from him and the Americans got it back somehow.
CR: And that would be Eichoff. And you got that bill in London.
AR: It was after the war.
CR: Now just knowing having been in the Rohrs family for thirty something years and knowing the Rohrs men are kind of shy, was the military experience difficult or did you just seem to fit.
AR: I had to be with the crowd I guess.
CR: Other than in the heat of battle was it a good thing?
AR: Good for some guys. They learned to do what they were told.
CR: So in the thick of battle did you enjoy it? Did you enjoy being a military man?
CR: So you just made the best of it but you did not enjoy it.
AR: I don’t think anybody enjoyed it.
CR: Even excluding the battle?
AR: You knew you might get hit. If we stayed long enough we’d get it.
CR: So you just kept going. I am just curious Art, for a twenty something young man off in war, brought up in the church, did faith play any part of this?
AR: Yes, I would say. We had services every once in a while on maneuvers, and on the battlefield too. Whenever the chaplains could get close to us we would have a church service if at all posible.
CR: I heard you say these couple of hours that we have been together that you were lucky here or lucky there and it was in your faith tradition you would use the word more freely, would you say it was apparent that God was with you.
AR: He must have been.
CR: He must have been! Were you aware of that at the time or does that only become apparent only as an adult looking back?
AR: At the time I thought I was lucky to be alive.
CR: Maybe looking back. Now before we wrap up Denelda, I am thinking about these letters. Apparently a lot of girls wrote letters to service men. Was that true in your area?
DR: Yes that is true.
CR: Where did you get the names? Were they from the church or?
DR: From friends or family.
CR: So they would be names from people you knew. Not just random names.
DR: No they were from friends. Either some we had run around with after school. Quite a few were cousins and one particular friend that I wrote to, his name was Paul Gerken. I had just gotten a letter from him the fore part of December and the next Slunday when we were in church, the pastor announced that he had been killed. I had just received a letter that he was perfectly all right. He was in India and he was in a plane and his plane was shot down.
CR: Would he have been a Freedom Twp. boy?
CR: So you were writing to him as a friend. I think a lot of people would have been getting letters because that was just the times.
DR: I don’t know if it was just coincidence that I had just gotten the letter which was dated a couple of days before he was killed.
CR: Do you still have that letter?
DR: Yes. It’s upstairs in a different box. I wrote to a few other boys as friends or relatives. It never meant quite as much as when I started writing to Art. I wrote him just about every day and during the Battle of the Bulge we got no letters at all. It was about six weeks when we did not get any letters and we didnt have television or telephone calls like we do now. At that time we didn’t know if he was alive or not.
CR: So that would have been a very long six weeks.
DR: Yes – his dad would be calling me and saying did you get any letter yet. Of course I hadn’t gotten any either.
CR: So everyone state side was waiting. When you did get your letter, you wouldn’t have known if that was before or after.
DR: That’s right. There was always a time between before you would get the letter. You knew they were in battle.
CR: How many letters would you guess you have in your box? Are there dozens-hundreds?
DR: How many Art? I wrote more than you did. Sometimes he would say he had two or three letters and he would answer them with one letter because he had gotten them as a group. In that box is probably 50 or 75 letters. Then there is another box that I had gotten from friends and relatives in there, and letters from my brother. My brother was in Hawaii at the time in the Navy. I got letters from him. My brother-in-law was in Germany also.
CR: And that would be Wiilie Genter.
DR: I never got any letters from him because he was writing to my sister at the time. I don’t think I got any letters from him
CR: Are your letters marked? Will people know the Gerken boys’ letter. Will they know the story of that?
DR: I think I marked on the envelope the date that he died.
They can tell by that.
CR: So they will have to be sharp and put two and two together there. I guess just before we wrap up, people a couple of generations from now I think will never understand the mood of war. Waiting six weeks to know if they are dead or alive the difference it made. I don’t know if in a few words you can capture that. Today we talk about the weather. That is the starter conversation in the grocery and in church. Would the conversation in the mid 40’s have been about the war or whether you had heard from anybody down the line. Or who got killed.
AR: More were killed from your church(St. John’s) than from ours (Emanuel).
DR: There were more in our congregation, St. John Freedom. That was always a very sad time when you heard about that. Some were married and had children. And the rationing. We had rationing during the war. We had to have stamps for food. Sugar, meat, shoes, and gasoline was rationed.
CR: And where did you get those stamps?
DR: They were issued at the draft board.
CR: Did every American have them or only the military?
DR: Oh no, every American had to use them to buy items
CR: So you got a stamp. Was it the size of a postage stamp or bigger?
DR: No about that size. And you were allowed only so many gallons a month for gas for your car – so you didn’t do a lot of traveling. At the time I was working at in insurance company in Wauseon and I was using my dad’s car and he didn’t have a lot of ration stamps so I bought a bicycle and my cousin Laura and I rode our bicycles to work that summer.
CR: How far would that have been?
DR: About five miles one way. Early in the morning it was so damp outside I would leave the curlers in my hair until I got to work, otherwise they would be all stringy by the time I got to work. I would comb out my hair when I got to work.
CR: And you were probably pedaling in a skirt.
DR: Yes we wore skirts. That fall my boss, Mr. Charles Grisier decided he would give me a company car which had been used by one of the men in the agency. That way I could get my own ration stamps and I could get my own gas. They left me use that car and they paid for the upkeep of the car All I had to do was buy my gas. I would use the car on weekends as my own. They were very good to me. After that I didn’t have to ride my bicycle any more.
CR: Anything else?
AR: So far we ended up in good shape, for what it might have been.
CR: Are you referring to the country or
AR: The family.
DR: We have been so fortunate to have a family of 5 children, 14 grandchildren 7 great grandchildren. I am proud of all of them and they have been very good to us. They are here when we need them. I just feel God has really blessed us.
CR: We have some military families even now. We have Ronnie who was in Germany with the U.S. Army. We have Jerry who went to Vietnam in the U.S. Army. We have a son-in-law Jim Musshel who was in the National Guard for a career in the service and we have Bradley and Curt Musshel who are currently in the Guard.
DR: Right. They have made trips to Turkey to protect the No Fly Zone. Brad has also been to Quate. I just hope they do not have to go to war. I know Art feels that way too.
CR: So on this Thursday, December 19th I think we’ve got it wrapped up.
CR: We changed our mind just slightly because as we finish, then Art got out a box of letters, many many letters from Art back to Denelda which actually he has lots more words than he has let us know. In the middle of this there are two things of note. One is a letter from Regina where she was with Art out in Kansas and she wrote it. She refers back to her first cousin Denelda Meyer and of course it refers to Frank. Then we have another envelope and it is real little. It looks like a shower invitation and the return address says Navy Department V Mail Service Official Business and it is a little note that is only 5 inches tall and 4 inches wide. It is a full sheet and they reduced it somehow and it looks like a copy and put it in this little envelope.
DR: The letters were all censored. It has a censor stamp on it and some of the other letters have a sensor stamp on them. Some of the letters where he doesn’t talk anything about the war. All they could talk about was the weather or their feeling, but nothing about what they were doing.
CR: Did they censor and then seal them or did they open them after you had sealed them.
AR: The censors opened them.
CR: We just wanted to add that part to this. And now Denelda, do you want to add to it about your trip back to Germany and the cemetery you visited.
DR: We were in Luxembourg. We also went to Belgium to the American Cemetary where we looked up and found the grave of Jim Adams who had been killed in Art’s tank. At this same cemetery General Patton is buried. We saw his grave. It is set apart from the other graves a little and it has a fence around it. It is set apart from the other soldier’s graves.
AR: He went all throughout the war and then he gets killed by a Jeep.
CR: How the story is written sometimes. Now we think we are realy signing off on this December 19th, 2002.
CR: Here is Art with another thought.
DR: He wants me to tell it. Alex Drabik from Holland, Ohio is credited with being the first American soldier to cross the Rhine River at Remagen and reach the other side. They were here visiting with us one Sunday and I made the remark, so you walked across the river. I meant he walked instead of being a tank. He said back to me. Walk! Hell no I ran. I didn’t know if I should put that in or not but he is credited with being the first American to cross the Rhine. Later he was killed while he was going to an Army reunion here in the states. That is how he met his death.
CR: You know we had shut the recorder off a while ago and you told me something. It had to do with a couple – Walter Knauss. He and his wife lived in Wheeling West Virginia. They came to visit us several years ago on a Labor Day weekend. He is the one who gave you the telegrams saying that Ronnie was born and Regina had died. He was your company clerk at that time.
CR: So he delivered the news and he came here to this house.
DR: We had a nice weekend here together. We correspond with them every year at Christmas.
AR: We stayed at their house two years ago when we were traveling.
Talk on BUTCHERING at German Lutheran Heritage Meeting on February 7, 2016 at Lutheran Social Services building in Archbold, Ohio
Butchering day was a family affair for the Helberg family even before I was born and continued into the 1950’s. It all started in the previous spring by Mom’s Dad, Grandma Helberg, and Grandpa and Grandma Hogrefe, and Aunts and Uncles on both sides of the family. After it was decided how much summer sausage, hams, shoulders, steaks, and pot roasts we would need next year.
Mom and Dad and Grandma Helberg would decide how many hogs and cows we would set aside for butchering the following winter. The date was set by the weather, it had to be cold, but not too cold to work outside, and not too warm so the hams and shoulders, bacon and summer sausage would smoke and cure properly before it got too warm in the Spring.
The day before butchering day Dad and my Uncles would set up the big cast iron kettle and jacket and chimney. Two wood barrels were set at an angle by a wood platform to scald the pigs so hair could be scraped off. Before sunup on that day Mom’s brother Ray would start the fire under the kettle and fill it with water from the well close by. At that time of day there would not be enough wind to pump the water. We used the little ones who took turns pumping the buckets full. After the water was hot enough to scald and scrape the hogs.
The rest of the men came out of the basement where they had been washing up the sausage stuffer and the big table, pots, pans and buckets.
They were all dressed in heavy clothes if we had a cold day. Dad would be carrying the old Stevens single shot 22 rifle. Dad was usually the shooter. If one of my Uncles shot it and did not put the hog down with the first shot he would be laughed at for a long time. After the hog was down the throat was cut so it would bleed out blood, or there would be blood in the veins and meat.
The pigs would be drug out of the barn to the scalding platform. The first barrel had a shovel of wood ashes added to the water. The lye in the ashes helped soften the bristles so the hair could be scraped off easier. After it was soaked a few minutes it was pulled out on the platform and 3 or 4 men scraped till it was clean on the outside. Then it was turned and the other end was scraped. Then it was rinsed in the other barrel of hot water to check if all the hair was off. Then the hog was hung on a tripod and gutted while the other hog was scalded and scraped.
The pig on the tripod was gutted and split the intestines were dropped in a wheelbarrow. The heart, liver, and kidneys were taken into the basement and cleaned. The liver was cleaned and put in the snow to firm up and sliced to be served at noon with fried potatoes.
The large and small intestines were brought into the basement and cleaned inside and out and scraped to remove the fat. They were turned inside and out and cleaned out again to be used as casings to stuff for the sausages that would be stuffed after supper.
By that time the hanging meat had cooled enough to be cut up. The pig was split with a hand meat saw and the two halves were carried to the heavy table in the basement. The hams and shoulders were cut off first and hung to dry for a week or so before they were rubbed down good with salt and pepper and Morton Sugar Cure. They were then wrapped in five or six layers of newspaper and a white cloth was sown around them and hung in the smokehouse till summer, Thanksgiving or Christmas.
The sides of bacon from each pig were cured the same way. The meat was cut into the correct cuts that Dad decided and taught us where to cut and how to get the most chops and steaks and roasts.
The skin and fat was trimmed to the correct thickness. The fat was cut off the skin and cut in small chunks and put on the 2 burner kerosene hot plate to be rendered into lard.
Mom would decide how many chops and roasts would work out best for the next year and Dad would cut it to order. We didn’t have a freezer at the time so all the pork chops were browned and partly fried. Then they were put in a lard crock 1-2 or 3 gallon. A layer of chops and a layer of lard was poured over them and then another layer of lard until the crock was full. The crock was put on the shelf in an unheated room in the basement. In the summer Mom would send us to the basement with a plate and fork to dig as many chops out we would need for the meal. Those pork chops sure tasted good. We didn’t need low cholesterol oil or olive oil in the pan.
After we butchered the two pigs and preserved most of that meat we would butcher a beef. After it was killed we would help skin it. The hind legs were fastened to a single tree so we could lift if up with a block and tackle and skin the hide off as it was pulled up. We had to be careful not to cut holes in it so it could be sold to the fur buyer or be tanned to become a lap robe to keep in the car. The heater in the car did not keep the back seat very warm.
Dad would rent freezer space at the locker up town for steak, roast and hamburger. Most of the other meat was canned or used to make sausage and prettles. The odd pieces and trimmings were ground up for summer sausage. Other trimmings were boiled with the pork trimmings from the pig butchering to be used for prettles. The ground beef and pork was mixed 50/50 and mixed on the heavy table. Salt and pepper was added till the taste was just right and then it was stuffed in the casings the women had cleaned the day before. It was then hung in the smokehouse for about a week after fire was put out it would to cured and dry along with the hams, shoulders, and bacon. It would hang all summer. We were sent to cut down a sausage for a special occasion. If it had mold on it Mom would wipe it down with vinegar.
When we went to summer school at St. Paul’s Mom would pack a summer sausage sandwich, an apple, or peach and a package of Kool Aid and a pint jar with a lid on it so we mixed it with cool water from the well between the school and parsonage.
While the men made the sausage the women were boiling the trimmings from the beef and pork, about a 50/50 mix. The meat was removed from the kettle and pin oats (steel cut oats) were boiled in the broth. After the oats were tender the ground beef and pork and oats was mixed with spices, salt and pepper and just a little bit of allspice.
While it is still hot it was put in flat pans about 2 to 3 inches deep to cool. After everything was cleaned up and put away every family that helped was given a pan of prettles to take home. All of this took about 3 days and a lot of work. It wasn’t as easy as going to the store and buying a weeks supply of meat. It sure brings back a lot of memories.
Everyone had his favorite sausage and how to make it. Grandpa Hogrefe made the blood sausage. When we bled out the beef he would catch the blood in a dish pan and put it in the snow to cool down. He had to constantly stir it to keep it from coagulating. After if was cooled down he would mix flour and spices in it and stuff it in a large casing and hang it in the smokehouse. Some families made liver sausage, and some families made brain sausage.
My favorite is Head Cheese. ( it does not have any cheese in it). It contains meat trimmings from beef and pork. The trimming from the head, jowls, ears, and snout. It was stuffed in the pigs stomach, so it was limited to only one from each pig. It was boiled in the casing and smoked with the rest of the meat.
This is what I remembered about butchering in the 1940’s and after WW II. My brother Larry, Lynn and I butchered our own hogs and beef up till 1990.