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)