Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, August 17, 2010
Transcribed by Marlene Patterson
CW: Would you give us your name please.
BZ: My name is Barbara Elizabeth Zahrend.
CW: I understand you were a teacher.
BZ: I was a teacher for 35 years.
CW: Where did you teach?
BZ: I started at Central School In Napoleon. I had done my off-campus teaching for two weeks at Christmas time the year that I was a Senior in college. I had to go to another school other than the one we had been practicing in for two weeks. I asked if I could come to Napoleon since I lived so close to Napoleon. I had been at Liberty Center as a student. Mr. Brillhart gave me permission to come. I worked with Jewel Farison and Mary Tate for two weeks at Central School. After those two weeks Mr. Brillhart said that if I wanted a job I had it.
CW: Isn’t that nice.
BZ: Yes. I was just halfway through my Senior year. Of course that pleased my mother immensely because she was strong for Napoleon. I was fortunate as I had so many offers as I went through my Senior year.
CW: You must have been unusually good.
BZ: Well they needed teachers at that time too in a lot of the city schools and in Michigan. I was terribly tempted. I was very young and very immature and my mother urged me to come to Napoleon. Mr. Brillhart had said I could have a job if I wanted it, and she urged me to come. So I was here for three years.
CW: What did you teach?
BZ: I was a first grade teacher.
CW: That would be fun.
BZ: I really did enjoy it. Near the end of the third year I received a letter from the College of Education at the University in Bowling Green. The Dean asked me if I would come to Bowling Green. My goal had been, as a student teacher, to do that kind of work. That would have been my dream. I loved the supervising teacher that I worked with. I just thought if I can do this I would love it. I couldn’t believe that at the end of three years in the field that I would be asked to do anything like that. I went to him and I confessed that I was scared witless and that I didn’t feel that I was qualified. He said to give it a try. It meant me working with student teachers from the University and being with children also. I did it and I loved it. I did it for sixteen years. At the end of that time my mother was not well. I knew that I was torn between Bowling Green and Napoleon. My heart was here and and it was there, and so I finally decided to think about coming home. The girls here, my friends said there is going to be an opening at the new room at West School and said I should apply for it. I wrote a letter to Mr. Durbin who was the Superintendent at that time and inquired. He wrote me to come and talk with him and so I did and then he sent me to Mr. Brown who was Principal of West at that time. He took me around and showed me the building. I think it was the next Wednesday, within a week, and he came to my room in Bowling Green and gave me a contract. I signed the contract in that school. I don’t think anybody has ever had an experience quite like that. I felt like a traitor. Anyway I did come back and I never regretted it. I had sixteen wonderful years with the kids here and their parents. That, in brief is what happened to me.
CW: I think the people here are unusually friendly. At least that is what I have found.
BZ: That is a good gauge I think. Of course I had gone to church in Napoleon. We didn’t go to school in Napoleon. We knew kids in Napoleon as from church and we knew kids in Liberty Center. I didn’t feel out of place in any way. Napoleon was closer to my home than Liberty Center actually. Like I said it was wonderful. I really enjoyed it.
CW: Yes. How was teaching different from when you started out like that?
BZ: Well, it was during War time, and Virgil Ort, the Principal was in the Service. Betty Eddy was his substitute, Betty was snappy – a different personality, and she liked to show her authority. I was a young teacher feeling my way. It was a bit of a challenge. Mr. Ort was an entirely different personality.
CW: He and his wife both worked at West, didn’t they?
BZ: Yes they did. She taught art. He was such a gentle soul. You just did what you wanted to do. You taught what you wanted to teach when you wanted to teach it. Of course we taught, but I mean there was no state regulation. There was nothing. I got along fine and I still remember most of those kids. It was just a wonderful experience. Of course I was very inexperienced in a sense but we got along, they learned and so did I.
CW: Do you think that effected what you taught? That was without having tests or anything.
BZ: The children learned and they suceeded. I think it was a wonderful time actually. It continued that way even when I went to Bowling Green. You could choose whatever series of books you wanted to have the children study. I just had cupboards of books for them. I could pick just anything I wanted. There was no regulation in that respect. In later years the reading system was selected and you taught it. That was not the case for many many years. The thing is the kids learned and they enjoyed it.
CW: That is important that they enjoy learning.
BZ: That was always my goal for children to like school. I thought yes they are there for reading, writing, and arithmetic. They introduced social studies and all those different kinds of things. Social studies is children working and playing together in their young years. Not studying about Africa and other countries. Of course it is world-wide now. At that time that wasn’t the case as much and I believed in music and art and literature. I wanted to share the best in books and read to the children. I think reading to children is very very important.
CW: I think so too.
BZ: We always had a reading time twice a day where I read to them. We had a rest time where I would play music for them.
CW: Was there a piano there for you to play?
BZ: Oh yes I had a piano. I also used a record player. I had a nice record player. I was so impressed about five years ago now or maybe a little longer one of the girls that I had taught when I first came back here to Napoleon was married out in California. She was older and in her forties. When I read of her marriage in the paper I wanted to send her a card. I remembered her so well. So I called her Uncle here in Napoleon and asked him if he could give me her address. He said “oh yes I have it right here”. I sent her a card of good wishes. I was just so impressed when she wrote me the nicest note back telling me all the things that she had remembered from her first grade here in school.
CW: That would have been a most precious thing to have.
BZ: I just couldn’t believe how she had absorbed everything. She had remembered that I had played music. She didn’t know that music had stories connected with it. She told me the one that she remembered. It was really thrilling that she had remembered after all those years.
CW: Oh my yes.
BZ: Of course not everybody absorbed things that way you know. Some you reach and many you don’t. It was such a touching moment for me to get that letter after all those years. It was great to have her respond let alone giving me those memories.
CW: That was just like a present.
BZ: Yes it was like a gift being remembered.
CW: It would make you realize what you had been doing was worthwhile.
BZ: It impressed somebody along the way. There are some you just have to leave. They don’t respond to what they are being taught. It is nice even now to go to a store or be somewhere and someone will come up and say Miss Zahrend, you were my first grade teacher. And they will tell me who they are. I would never have recognized them because people change in appearance.
CW: Oh yes they do.
BZ: It has been so very gratifying. It is a gratifying profession.
CW: It is too bad they are not paid what they should be. They are really earning much more now than in years back.
BZ: Now they have a salary scale. For many years we got what the Superintendent and the Board chose to give us. I remember when the actual revolt came here in Napoleon. They really had a knock down fight almost to get a salary schedule established. It was really beneficial period. I remember some of them crying over it. You had to get some pressure on the board to do something.
CW: The Board was all-powerful in those days.
BZ: I do feel that they have come a long way, certainly now compared to when I first started. I have been out for 32 years. I have seen lots and lots of changes made. And the salaries are much much better, but there are some things that money can’t pay for however.
CW: That is so very true. There are lots of things that money can’t pay for. You know this Mr. and Mrs. Wolf, they live just east of here.
BZ: Do you mean John and Betsey Wolf or Clarence and Marie?
CW: They lived on a side road. There was just a little hill and they lived right there. Anyway, they were friends of my husband. They showed me a log of what teachers were paid when they still had log cabins as schools. It was kind of a shock.
BZ: In those days a dollar went farther too.
CW: Yes that is true.
BZ: I know my mother was a teacher for eight years. She never mentioned salaries. I never heard her say what salary she got. She drove a horse and buggy. The older boys would help because she taught in a one-room school where all the grades were together. The older boys would help take care of the horse and hitch it up and get it ready for her to go back home at night. They would take care of the stove that needed to be fired. Even to her dying days she remembered those boys that had been so helpful. She taught in different places. She taught in the town hall in Hamler upstairs. She taught at Bell School. I think there was another school that she had taught at.
CW: Where would the Bell School be?
BZ: It was just north of here. They had the country schools spaced a certain distance. I went to Durand School just up the road and across the intersection just a little ways. I went to school there for two years. That was before Liberty Center closed it and brought the kids to school on a bus. Bell School was west. I don’t know if it was three miles or farther than that. That seems to be the way they were spaced.
CW: Didn’t they have an ordinance that they would have to have a school every square mile?
BZ: Maybe that was the case. I don’t know the history of it. I just know where I went to school and what it was like being in a country school. And from what she said about her experiences. I don’t know about the laws and the ordinances.
CW: I don’t either, but I seem to remember someone saying that.
BZ: I don’t think they were strict then about allowing the boys to quit when they were in the eighth grade. It would depend on how old they were. Of course that is a no-no now. I have a paper that my dad saved that showed his handwriting. He was a beautiful handwriter. It was a geography test he had taken. I found it in some papers he had in the attic. I don’t remember what grade he got on it, but I do remember the beautiful handwriting!
CW: They used to study handwriting.
BZ: Oh yes.
CW: My mother used to draw these circles.
BZ: In college I had to take a handwriting course.
CW: In college!
BZ: Yes, for elementary I did. I loved it. Even now I like to write. I really did enjoy it. I remember getting an A on it too. My dad only went to the eighth grade, but he wanted to work on the farm. In those days boys quit after the 8th grade to farm.
CW: Now according to these records that Mr. Wolf showed me was that they didn’t always have school for eight months. When it came harvest time for instance if there was supposed to be school, they just wouldn’t have it. The kids would be helping their parents.
BZ: I don’t remember anything like that.
CW: That was probably before your time.
BZ: It may have happened to my dad, but I never heard him say. He just liked the earth and working on the farm.
CW: He was probably a good farmer.
BZ: He worked hard let me tell you that. I wouldn’t take anything for the two years of education I had in the country school. The women in the neighborhood were not teachers, they were housewives. There was friction and jealousy. The kids were not very nice and I didn’t know people could be mean. I never encountered anything like that until I went to school. Kids were kind of mean and so I cried. Of course that didn’t help matters any either. I survived and I thought in retrospect I have done as well as any of them, and maybe better than some in accomplishing what I did.
CW: There are a lot of obstacles we must overcome in life.
BZ: Sometimes they are not of your own makings. I certainly never set out to make trouble for anyone. It was neighborhood jealousy that is all it was. They are all gone and I linger on.
CW: Emily Kryder, I don’t know if you know her she said that when she went to first grade she not only had to walk quite a ways to get there but she did not know one word of English. She had no idea what the teacher was saying. She had to learn simultaneously to speak English, to write English, and to learn to read, and other things she had to learn. That must have been a really difficult time for her.
BZ: My dad didn’t speak any English and when he went to school he had to learn to speak English. I had a little girl I was teaching here in Napoleon that didn’t understand anything that I spoke in English. She cried and she cried. She was a cute little thing. I had her brother the year before and I knew he talked very German, but I had a lot of kids like that. We drew from up in Ridgeville and that area. That area was still pretty German at that time. This little thing just cried and cried. I could not figure out what was causing this.
CW: She didn’t try to say anything.
BZ: Well she couldn’t express herself. Finally I found out that she didn’t understand English. I got in touch with her mother and told her they would have to start talking English so she could function. After that she was okay. A lot of those kids had a German brogue. I mean they could function. She was so cute. She wore those cute Shirley Temple shoes. She was just as cute as she could be. She had her hair curled up like Shirley Temple. I was so upset because she was crying all the time. You have to know there is something terribly wrong. Here I didn’t understand.
CW: She couldn’t tell you.
BZ: She couldn’t express herself. You know there were experiences like that. I was very young and I guess I took it in stride. They are memories now of course, but I survived them and I didn’t worry about them too much.
CW: There is so much extra children have to learn now.
BZ: Well the things that are really important I wonder if they are really learning. I am just glad I am not in it. I wouldn’t take anything for the years that I had. I had wonderful kids in Bowling Green and I had wonderful kids here in Napoleon. I am so proud of them. Not that I had that much to do with it but I did start them out. It is such a great satisfaction to see them become so successful and to be remembered after so many years.
CW: It is great that they remember you. It is very valuable.
BZ: Life is good I keep saying. What a wonderful life I have had. I had good parents. They worked hard. I have just been exceedingly blessed.
CW: I think it shows in your face. You don’t have the frowny face.
BZ: I don’t have any reason to frown. There have been bumps in the road, of course. You don’t let those get you down. I have been very lucky. I live in the house where I was born. Not too many people can say that.
CW: That is right.
BZ: All the buildings that are here were built by my grandfather on my mother’s side or my grandfather on my father’s side. My dad was sixteen years old and he hauled all the logs from the woods and took them to the lumber mill to be planed into wood to build these buildings.
CW: Is that right!
BZ: He could tell you what kind of wood is in each doorway. I never asked him but I am sure he could. I don’t think there are too many people that can say that. To be able to still live in the house where they were born in a house that was built by one grandfather or another grandfather. It is just wonderful to be living here now. I am grateful for every day that I can. Tomorrow I may have to go to a nursing home.
CW: You know the house that my grandmother lived in out in the country, my mother said that it was all oak in that house. Uncle Burr which was my grandfather’s brother, when he got married they built a house that was all some other wood. They knew exactly where that wood came from, what kind it was.
BZ: My dad loved trees and wood. He was always interested in things. Grampa Gilson was a good carpenter and my grandmother had this plan picked out from a Bradford building book. She wanted a big house and she got a big house. Now I have to take care of it.
Charlotte and Barbara both laugh.
BZ: My mother always said it was a woman killer. There are so many windows and so much area to cover and I find it more of a challenge now than what it was years ago. It is a little bit harder now.
CW: It looks sparkling clean to me.
BZ: You just take it as you get it and do the best that you can with it.
CW: Now have you noticed a difference in the area since they have built this new bypass out here?
BZ: Well we have been subjected to highway changes a number of times. They came increasingly close and have taken part of our yard for a number of years. This road used to be Route 24. So we have adapted to that. Dad had to have the granary which was down here along the road at the end of the yard. We had to have that moved back. It is back here now. Originally it was along the road.
CW: Did the State pay for that?
BZ: Junior Harmon did the moving, I do remember that. I really don’t know. I suppose they did but I don’t remember a payment. They would have had to.
CW: You would think so.
BZ: Then when they wanted to build the new bridge going across the river, which was a terrible terrible situation. Dad didn’t want to give up the land. They said they needed the highway.
CW: How did they do that? Did they come to see you often.
BZ: Yes and they spread maps across the room here and showed all the changes and everything that they were going to do. The man that bought the land next to us, bought the land with the idea that the road would be built there. He wanted the road built there. So Dad said if he wants the road why don’t you move it closer to him. It had been an Indian burial ground and they would be interfering there. The State had their mind made up and there was no way of changing it. One of the men I remember dad telling, as they had their maps spread all over the floor here, and this man looked up and he said you know this is a beautiful place. My dad said to him aren’t you ashamed to destroy it.
CW: Good for him!
BZ: He said I have nothing to do with it. The decisions are all made above me and I have nothing to do with it. That is the case.
CW: Somebody in Columbus makes those decisions.
BZ: That is the way it was. Dad tried to fight it. There is no fighting.
CW: I suppose it is the same way with this Route 24 going to Toledo.
BZ: I don’t know. We are not involved with it thank God. It will join up out here beyond us. So I don’t really know. Our woods is landlocked across the highway. That is too bad but that is the way it is. There are lots of things that are not good. It is all in the name of progress, they say.
CW: The big highways do make it safer I think.
BZ: They are so confusing I think. Up in Defiance it scares me. I don’t know my way around up there anymore since they have changed Route 24. I don’t see very well anymore. I am not very brave, I guess things happen the way they are supposed to. That’s life. The one thing that I admired about him was that once things were settled he would never speak another ill word of it. He accepted it and I honored him for that.
CW: He must have been a strong man.
BZ: He was a very strong man. He was a gentle man, but a strong person. He had to be with all the things he had to put up with in his life. He didn’t stand around and resent. I never heard him say anything about it. If he did it was inside. He never said it out loud. That was better than I could do.
CW: How about your mother. How did she take it?
BZ: Mother was gone by the time this had happened. So she didn’t know it. The first morning when they came into the woods with their bulldozer I was outside between the house and the barn. I came inside and I called Martin Hoeffel, he was our lawyer, and I said Martin can they come in there has not been anything settled. He told me that they could come in, and so they bulldozed down the woods and went on from there.
CW: What happened to that lumber then, was that yours?
BZ: I don’t know but they did give Dad the privilege of cutting down the trees that he had wanted. He wanted the wood from them. They did give him that privilege. The rest I don’t know what they did with it.
CW: I know Kay Westhoven was a friend of mine. She was Don Westhoven’s wife. She showed me this farm east of Liberty Center where Route 24 is cutting right through the middle of the farm. Now the farmer can’t get from one side of the farm to the other.
BZ: It is the rite of emminent domain. That is what they call it. You just have no power.
CW: Now do they pay a decent price?
BZ: Now that is another thing. I don’t know. It ended up with Marty Hanna, a lawyer from Bowling Green, Ohio. He took the case over. Martin Hoeffel felt he needed Marty Hanna to take it over, that is to negotiate. So Marty negotiated and I remember him telling that he had done all that he could do and that the settlement should take place. So Dad accepted it. What else could he do.
CW: That would be hard to do.
BZ: My grandfather on my father’s side was from Germany. They came from Germany and came through Ellis Island.
CW: Oh they did!
BZ: That much I know. I wish that when I was in New York that I had gone. You can look through the records there and find out. I didn’t do it and I don’t think I will ever get back there. Regardless, I don’t know how many siblings he had. I have never heard of any sisters, but I did hear he had two brothers.
CW: What age was he when he came to America?
BZ: Grampa was 13 as nearly as I can tell. He must have been the oldest, but I am not sure of that. They arrived in New York and they worked their way along the railroad. They ended up in Liberty Center. They worked on the railroad and this is where they settled. Dad was born out west of Liberty Center. The second road I think over.
CW: People always say that it was the railroad that made Liberty Center to become what it is.
BZ: That is believable. Liberty Center seemed to be their home port. Then Grampa bought this farm. He bought this one and his brother bought the farm next door. They were equal in size at that time. There were old buildings here. They were not in this location. He would point in the west direction. He always called it the old house. They lived there for about eight years. Grampa bought this when Dad was five years old.
CW: Oh really!
BZ: He was just a young fellow. He hauled all the logs from the woods when they decided to build the buildings here. The old house has been town down. I never saw it. I never knew what it looked like. He would just talk about the old house.
CW: Had they built that old house themselves?
BZ: No. It was here when they bought the land. They lived in it until they could afford to build a house. Grampa Gilson built the house then. He was a well known builder here in Napoleon. Grampa Zahrend hired him to build the buildings. Grandma picked out the house from a Bradford Building Book. She wanted a big house. So Grampa Gilson built the buildings. Dad was fifteen years old. So from the time Dad was five years old he has lived on this land.
CW: Now we had a Dr. Gilson living in Napoleon. Was he related?
BZ: He was my cousin.
CW: Oh he was.
BZ: His father and my mother were brother and sister.
CW: Oh yes.
BZ: They are all gone now. I have one cousin, but I don’t know where he is. I am the last one. There are second cousins and third cousins I don’t even know. I hear from a second cousin, well two of them actually. I write back and forth a little bit. I haven’t seen her since the day of Dad’s funeral. She has a family and is involved with her family. I think of myself as the last leaf on the tree. Anyway it has been a great life. Gradually my friends are going by the wayside.
CW: That happens.
BZ: I guess that is life. Your family goes and your friends go.
CW: My daughter says “Mom make new friends”. That is not as easy as it sounds.
BZ: I agree.
CW: I think that among younger people there is a built-in prejudice against older people. They seem to think she is old and kind of doughty and she wouldn’t be very interesting. Well maybe I am wrong in that. I don’t know.
BZ: They are missing out on a lot of things if that is their feeling because i can remember the older people – I knew more older people. My mother was older when she was married. She liked old people. I knew old people more than I knew younger people. Living out here we didn’t have playmates. The people next door many times didn’t have young children, just one family did and they were here for a number of years. They were contemporaries at the time. I was always around older people. I just didn’t think anything of it. It was nice.
CW: Yes and you would have received a lot of wisdom.
BZ: My mother was older when she married. My dad was older. The siblings were older. My grandparents, of course were older and I enjoyed them. I remember that Grampa Zahrend was here every day. Grandma and Grampa didn’t want to leave the farm when Dad was thinking of getting married. My mother said she would not get married and have to live in with somebody else.
CW: Yes it would be hard.
BZ: So they were two strong-minded women anyway, my Grandma and my Mother. So Grampa and Grandma bought a home in Napoleon and moved there. I didn’t know my grandmother so well. They didn’t drive and they didn’t have a car. Grampa couldn’t give up the farm so he came every day. He walked from Napoleon to down here.
CW: He walked!
BZ: Yes, he usually got a ride in the morning. Somebody would usually pick him up.
CW: How many miles is it?
BZ: It was about three and a half miles into Napoleon.
CW: Then he would have to walk that far to get back.
BZ: They lived on Clinton Street but he didn’t think anything at all about walking. He was used to working. He was an old German worker and I remember him wearing socks up to here and he had on booties like this. His overalls were tucked into those socks. He looked like an old Belgium or German.
CW: Oh really!
BZ: He graduated from that slowly but that is how I remember him from early on. I thought nothing of it. He walked every day and he was here every day. This was through the week, he didn’t come on weekends. My folks sometimes would take him home at night. They were busy working mornings. They had cows and chickens and all of that to do. They didn’t have time to go. The bus would come at 8 o’clock. We took care of ourselves and got ready for school. My folks were busy with chores. So Grampa Zahrend was here. In the summer at noon we would always go and sit with him. He whittled. I have a piece that he whittled. It makes me think of a cowboy boot or something. He probably didn’t intend it to be that but it turned out that way. I have saved it and I have it somewhere. I wish I had asked him more about his youth and his experiences.
CW: Yes that would have been very interesting.
BZ: I had a friend that spent time in Germany some years ago. I think I might have said something to her in hopes that she might have found something out about our family. She sent me a placemat from a restaurant and it showed the towns. My dad said he remembered Grampa talking about seeing the blue water. That meant they were near the Baltic Sea.
CW: Oh the Baltic Sea is blue?
BZ: In northern Germany it is. He could see the water from where he lived. On this map it showed two towns and I wondered if there was some connection between them. They were both near the Baltic Sea. Mechlenberg Province was where he lived. This was the only word I had heard in conjunction with that. That doesn’t show on this map that I was given. These two towns Zaerendorf and Zerrington has made me wonder if there was some connection to my family. The names of towns got their names from family members.
CW: I have heard that if the letter Z is in names it is from the Swiss influence. Have you heard of that?
BZ: No I hadn’t heard of that but that does make sense. It isn’t far from Switzerland is it?
CW: I don’t know.
BZ: I don’t think Germany is very far from Switzerland.
CW: No Germany is not too far from Switzerland.
BZ: The way this is located on the map that I had. I should have a bigger map or a more recent map. I think these towns were rather close to the border. It was near the Baltic Sea. That must have been what he was talking about. My dad said that he remembers his dad talking about the blue water. He could see the sea.
CW: You should go visit sometime. My brother-in-law did that. He found out that the Winzelers had settled in Barthime, Switzerland. It was just over the border from Germany. So he went there and the town clerk showed him the records and had all the names before they had left.
BZ: Well I don’t know. I was glad that my friend at least gave me this placemat that showed the names of the towns. As I have said before I wished many times that I had talked to Grampa.
END OF SIDE A
BZ: You know your voice sounds kind of different when you hear it played back on a tape recorder.
CW: This recorder is kind of scratchy because it is an old recorder. Jim Rebar will put this on the Henry County Historical web site. So if someone is looking up their family history they can find it here and see it and read it.
BZ: You know that is kind of scary isn’t it?
CW: In what way?
BZ: Several years ago I had a couple of letters from people about questions of our family and I didn’t respond. I didn’t like that very much.
CW: They didn’t give you a reason?
BZ: It leaves me now the details of them. That is one thing I wouldn’t talk to them about. I was really kind of upset about it. In both cases they had seen something on the internet. Gosh nothing is private anymore.
CW: They know so much about us. If anybody would even try to stay private you can’t do it. That’s just the way things are now I guess.
BZ: I don’t feel that is the best thing in the world. I can’t change it.
CW: No, but it should be very helpful for scholars in the future. Just look, there is not so much interest now, but three or four generations in the future anything we say about what is happening would be very interesting.
BZ: In three or four generations to come the way things are going. Don’t you worry though.
CW: You know I remember I went with a group to China once.There were two of us and we were to go to a different classroom at an institute where they learned English. They were to ask us questions. One question that was asked was “Aren’t you afraid to live in that country where they are always killing each other?”. I wondered where did they get that idea from. They replied it is from our reporters, the newspaper people, they believe it isn’t news unless it is bad news. So I told them that and they just laughed and laughed. This was in China shortly after Mao Tse-Tung was in power. They told me it was not published unless it was good news. So between the two it is much harder to live with their situation, because you are always wondering.
BZ: I suppose you are right. I am not going to be changing it that is for sure. I do think that these television programs like the news sometimes they go a little too far.
CW: I am sure they do. That is because they want to get people interested.
BZ: And they want to be the first to report a situation. Sensationalism and all that sort of thing.
CW: I just feel that all these floods and bad things happening haven’t been emphasized in the news.
BZ: You are probably right. Oh my I just can’t imagine how people can live through it with no food and no water. You would have everything covered with water. I just can’t fathom anything like that. It is bad enough when the Maumee River overflows.
CW: Have you ever had trouble with the Maumee River overflowing here?
BZ: Oh yes it does.
CW: It has not been a threat to this place though.
BZ: No, not yet anyway. When they had the real bad floods I can remember my Dad saying it was sixteen feet and they had marked it on a tree. That was down at the grade where they go down into the river bottoms. That tree has since been removed. I guess that is as high as it has ever been. I am not sure what year it was.
CW: Is that when the bridge went out in Napoleon?
BZ: That could be but I don’t remember it. It was before my time to be honest about it. I remember him saying they had marked it on a tree down there as to how high the river was. There is a ridge down in our river bottoms and the river rarely ever gets over that. The water will get up to it but you can still see the ridge. There have been times when it has been covered. It doesn’t stay that way for very long but it has been covered. Still that is nowhere near us.
CW: How about when the ice goes out? We don’t have that so much anymore. It used to be when the ice went out on the river it would jam up at Independence.
BZ: It would jam at Damascus. I can remember great big ice cakes in the river bottoms. People would go down there and get the fish that were up on the ground. I can remember that. I don’t see that much anymore.
CW: No I don’t think it freezes that hard anymore.
BZ: I have never gone down and tested it. I am not much about the river. My dad had a rowboat. Grampa had built him a boat. I remember he took us on boat rides on the river. It was anchored down here at the river bank and tied up. One day my sister and I walked down to the river and we got into the boat. Of course we didn’t go anywhere because it was tied. We came back up and told Mother what we had done and she just had a fit. She told us never to do that again. You know I never cared much about the water. I wasn’t crazy about it before but I don’t know whatever got into us that we would go down there and sit in the boat. It was a big trek to get down there to the river.
CW: It would be for little kids anyway.
BZ: I never had much interest in the river and the water. I am not great on lakes and that sort of thing. I do love it in the wintertime to stand in the window here with the trees are all bare I can see through the window to watch the sparkling water flow. I love to watch that in the wintertime. That is about as much enjoyment that I get from the river.
CW: When it jams up does it flood back up here?
BZ: No, there is drainage down there. The worse problem is this fellow down here that is piling up all this dirt. He bought this strip of land from here over to the highway by the bridge and he dumps from these construction jobs. He unloads and he is grading all the time. He plugged up one of the drains down there and I talked to Robert recently and he said that was another thing on his list that needed to be done. There is to be a catch basin put in down there. Nagel plugged it up with his construction down there.
CW: They should get Nagel to pay for it.
BZ: I guess he has offered to help with it. He has been very reasonable. I don’t deal with him. Robert takes care of that part. He deals with him. Robert Cordes has farmed here for quite a few years. His father-in-law did and then he did. So Robert continued on. He found out that he didn’t have all the big equipment that he needed and when he needed it. So he was working with some friends of his just west of Napoleon. But he couldn’t get the equipment until they were done using it. So it made it so late for him to get things done. He got kind of discouraged. So he said I am going to find someone to take this over. Thieroff’s Alfalfa Mill farms everything here almost up to Napoleon. They have their crops of alfalfa and what have you. They have farmed this now for many years. Alfalfa is their main crop. They do rotation and grow other things.
CW: When they are planting alfalfa do they plant that a couple of times during the year?
BZ: There is just one planting and it is harvested for several years. I think they replenished this field out here this year. Alfalfa is good for more than one year.
CW: You mean the harvesting of it. It’s not like corn and wheat.
BZ: Right. It is not a yearly crop. It’s very good for the land.
CW: What do they use alfalfa for?
BZ: Well I truly don’t know anymore. They used to bale it and I think they still do. They don’t here. They will chop it up considerably. They have all this mechanism hooked together. There is a big piece of equipment that they bring in and they can cover a field in just a very little time. They go so fast. I don’t know what their market is. It used to be the feed for animals and maybe they still do some of that. They farm many acres. They don’t just farm here. They farm across the river and many other different places. So I don’t know what their market is.
CW: Farming is so different now.
BZ: Oh my goodness yes. It is certainly different from the horse and buggy days. I can remember when Dad got his first tractor. Mother had bought it for him. I remember they bought it from Clem Suydam. You remember the name. He was a cousin of Mother’s. He was married to a cousin of Mother’s. He was in the automobile business. I remember the night they bought it. It had those big lug wheels, not the big rubber tires. When they brought it I can still see it driving up the driveway. I was just a little kid, but I do remember that.
CW: You were probably afraid when you saw it.
BZ: I was inside the house here looking out. I wasn’t out there. Seems to me it was getting close to dark when they delivered it. It was a big investment at that time as they are now. My goodness it is a terrific investment.
CW: I don’t see how farmers can afford it.
BZ: Well they are in debt up to their eyebrows many of them. That is not good either. Somebody is holding the bag. My dad never wanted to be that way. He was not into being in debt. He bought what he could afford.
CW: That was the attitude in those days.
BZ: It certainly was. He was just scaired to death of owing anybody anything. Now that is just par for the course. Everybody has charge accounts. Everything is done on time. We just didn’t do that. I think we are better off for not having done it. I do have a charge card, but I don’t use it. But I like to have it to fall back on if I need it. Especially if I am ordering something over the telephone you have to use it.
CW: They are very handy.
BZ: I don’t use it when I go uptown to buy something. I want to pay as I go. If I have a bill I want to pay it.
CW: My husband always said you pay that bill the very next day. Then you don’t have to remember it. You’re not in any danger of it getting lost.
BZ: I feel that way too. I always write the check and put the envelop on the bench there, with a stamp on it, and hoping that if anything happens to me somebody might mail it for me.
CW: So you are safe.
BZ: I haven’t done it with the farm insurance. That came the other day. My but it is so expensive and I wanted to study it over a little bit. I hadn’t written a check for it. That is the first time I procrastinated on writing the check. I still have time for that but, at least I think I do. That is if I survive the night. I don’t like to have a bill not paid.
CW: The interest they are charging on those charge accounts.
BZ: They are nice to have. I don’t want to get involved.
CW: How did you get interested in dolls?
BZ: All I ever wanted for Christmas always was a doll. I loved the baby dolls. The big ones you know that look like real babies. I just don’t know how it developed into dolls with interesting stories. I have friends that traveled more than I did. They usually brought me a doll and remembered me with a doll. I became interested in foreign dolls. Then other kinds of dolls interested me. I loved the Madam Alexander’s. They used to be very very special. They still are but you don’t see them much anymore. My dad used to say to me what are you going to do with them. I thought he meant space-wise. What he really meant was you won’t live forever and what will you do with them. The dolls were just all over the room. So after Dad passed away it hit me as to what he meant. I wasn’t going to live forever and what was I going to do with them. That was a good question for me. So I did contact a doll woman in Maryland that I had received brochures from for years. He went into the doll room and after some time he gave me a price. So I decided to accept it because I knew that they were really in the doll business. They sold dolls worldwide. I have never regretted it. This was several years after Dad passed away. I do have things left. Then I got into teddy bears. I loved teddy bears. That was always my trouble. I would just fall in love with something, so I have purchased a lot of bears. I have a few dolls left but they are nothing anybody would want to collect. I liked foreign dolls and I had a lot of them. I enjoyed sharing with people. People would ask me to do a Mother-Daughter program on my dolls. I did a lot of those in different communities. It was kind of hard to do. I would teach all day and come home and get the dolls loaded and go and then come home and unload and I’d be tired. I enjoyed sharing them. i don’t think there is any joy in having something unless you share it.
CW: That is right. I imagine you enjoyed telling stories about the doll.
BZ: Yes I did. Each doll had a story. That was my theme. I did a lot of programs, but that has sort of gone by the wayside. You don’t hear much about Mother-Daughter banquets anymore. There was a time when every church seemed to have them. Then by word of mouth I was asked. I was not professional and I didn’t pretend to be. I just enjoyed sharing what I knew about dolls.
CW: Did you tell the story connected to each doll? What about this one?
BZ: When we were talking about my grandmother I thought you might like to see this one. It was in a dresser drawer upstairs. My grandmother left it behind when she left the farm.
CW: Were her parents gone?
BZ: Oh yes. My grandmother’s brother had made it for her. He dated it 1875 right here on the end.
CW: For heaven’s sake.
BZ: I think it is a very special thing.
BZ: I was never really attracted to play with it. I always knew it was up there in Dad’s dresser drawer. That is where Grandma left if. We never damaged it or anything like that.
CW: It is in perfect condition.
BZ: You see it was a hanging cradle. With these little pegs on the side you could hang it. I think it is a little treasure. It is very unusual. It was made from a cigar box. He was quite a woodworker. He made the cupboard out there and he made this desk in here.
CW: Excuse me for interrupting but I think i remember seeing pictures of somebody having a cradle that was attached to a hook above. You could push it back and forth and swing.
BZ: That would have been a swinging cradle. You are right. My dad made me one similar to the one they had.
CW: Oh yes. How did you happen to get started collecting dolls?
BZ: It was a really funny thing. When I graduated from college my Grandmother gave me five dollars. At that time five dollars was a lot of money. I held on to it for a little while and I saw, I think it was in Yankee magazine this doll that was made from a spool of thread. It was a grandmother doll. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but I thought I must have that. That was sort of the start. I had dolls made from unusual materials. I had dolls made from peanuts, prunes, straw, and all kinds of things.
CW: Is that right!
BZ: To me that was fascinating. A doll could be made from anything.
CW: Lots of families would not have had the money to buy a doll but they would have the materials to make their own doll.
BZ: That is right. Now baby dolls, I just loved baby dolls when I was growing up and I still do. You don’t see them anymore. Little girls when I was teaching, which was many years back now. Little girls when I began teaching would bring their Christmas dolls and we would enjoy sharing. Gradually girls became less interested and doll shows disappeared.
CW: Is that right!
BZ: The little girls would bring their dolls to show. They got away from that. Little girls are more into more active things like sports and basketball. So playing with dolls, you don’t see little girls playing with dolls anymore like pushing their doll buggies out on the sidewalk. You used to see them pushing their doll buggies outside.
CW: That is so true.
BZ: That was how I grew up. We were here. We were not isolated, but we didn’t have neighbor kids. We entertained ourselves. We had doll buggies and all those other things. That is how we spent our time. A doll is all I ever said I wanted for Christmas. My mother said I used to get almost sick because I was afraid I wouldn’t get a doll for Christmas. I always got a doll.
CW: Talking about baby dolls I remember I got for Christmas this doll that had a china head that was made to look like a baby. I just loved it and I just took it everywhere with me. I wanted to take it to bed one night. My mother said no you can’t do that. I wanted to know why not. She said you will push it out of bed and it will break. I told her no that I would never do that. She said no you can’t do that. Do you know that I snuck that doll into my bed and the next morning it was on the floor and it had broken.
BZ: That taught you a lesson didn’t it. Dolls are made to be loved. A baby doll is just wonderful. To me a baby doll is the ultimate. I liked Shirley Temple too.
CW: Oh yes, she was a cute little thing.
BZ: I have my Shirley Temple doll. She is in bad shape. She is crazed so badly. I have been tempted to have her redone. Her hair is perfect. Her clothes and everything about her is good but she is crazed. There is a lady I read about in a magazine I get here. That has been several years back, but she restores them.
CW: What was the material originally?
BZ: She was composition. Composition doesn’t hold up you know. The extremes of temperature and moisture and that sort of thing. I haven’t done anything about it. I don’t know if she is still in existence. I don’t take doll publications anymore like I used to do. I don’t even know if the magazine is published anymore. It was the Doll Collectors of America that I belonged to. I was with the Boston unit. I went to the second national doll collectors convention in Detroit. It was there that I met these ladies from Boston. They took me under their wing. I was just a young girl and didn’t know anybody or anything. I didn’t really have any business being there. But I went and stayed in a hotel and I got acquainted with them. They were so nice to me. So I became an associate member of the Boston unit at that time. Through the years I had the contact with her.We were at a meeting there in Detroit and I picked up a brochure advertising Tasha Tudor. She had dolls and she also wrote books. Do you know anything about Tasha Tudor?
BZ: I have been a devotee of Tasha Tudor for years and years. She has written such beautiful books. I always shared with the children. I said to them one day. I held my book up and said I bet you can’t guess what I am going to read to you today about. They said Tasha Tudor and I said how did you know? She always puts a little picture on the back of the cover. The children could see that picture. I have met Tasha Tudor. I went to Concutook, New Hampshire. That is where her home was where she started to write. She is deceased now, I think for three years. She lived into her 90’s. It was just heartwarming the things that she published.
CW: She did it all herself?
BZ: Yes. She made a portrait of my Godchild at the age of 3. I have it framed and enjoy it.
CW: Oh my.
BZ: She did that for me when she came to do a program for us. My supervising teacher that I had when I was in college and I were co-chairman of the Northwestern Ohio Kindergarten-Primary Teachers Assn. It used to be that teachers went to Toledo in the fall. Everybody went to their departmental meetings. We were co-chairman that year for programs of our department. We had contacted one of my kids in Bowling Green. Her mother’s cousin was an artist and had done books. So I got his address to see if he would come and talk with us. He said that he didn’t feel that he had enough to say. He wrote and illustrated “Make Way for Ducklings”. I just loved sharing this with the children. He said he just didn’t have enough to say to teachers. So – a friend suggested I contact Tasha Tudor to see if she would come. She agreed and we had a wonderful meeting at the Peristyle.
CW: How interesting.
BZ: Things have been interesting. I have had so many people in my life. So many things of interest and I just enjoy these things so much.
CW: That is what is important.
BZ: Yes it is. Who was it that said it is a wonderful life. Was it Bob Hope. Somebody said it anyway that it’s a wonderful life. I have to tell you that it is a wonderful life.
CW: I think we are so fortunate to be living in the United States.
BZ: I do too. People just die to go and travel to Europe and other places around. Home is where the heart is. What you love you carry with you. I am happy. I traveled vicariously that is what I said to my doctor. I traveled vicariously. So many of my friends traveled. They would send me dolls.
CW: Would there be stories connected with these dolls?
BZ: Sometimes. I feel like I have been to all those different places.
CW: You have valuable things to say.
BZ: It is interesting all the different things a person can enjoy. There is not just one thing, but many things. Many times one interest will lead you to another interest. Of course you can get shallow and too involved. I really enjoyed things. My mother loved dishes. She loved pretty dishes. I enjoy them too. Not to the extent that she did. I learned a little bit about them. I enjoy music. I can’t play anymore, my hands are too stiff. It is hard for me to read the music. I love music and art. That was another thing I thought about in elementary education in college. If a young girl didn’t know what she wanted to do in life, certainly an elementary education at that time was a wonderful educational experience. You got music, you got art, you got literature, you got reading, you got math, you got geography and the elementary training. It used to be that way. I don’t know if it is that way anymore. Even the handwriting. I had handwriting and all those things I thought were just wonderful. Just for a good life. Even if you never taught a day.
BZ: It was just a good general education. When I went through it was like that. I mean we had home economics, we had cooking, we had sewing and art and music, science, just the whole gamut.
CW: You would have learned to appreciate many things.
BZ: I felt I had a wonderful well-rounded college experience from which I benefited all my life plus the inspiration from my family and my teachers.
END OF TAPE