Here is the entire contents of “The Homestead,” the late Rev. Carl A. Driscoll’s recollections of growing up on New Carlisle Pike just west of Springfield.
I, Carl Ashley Driscoll, fourth child of Harry Edward (Ed) and Ida Florence Derr Driscoll, being of fairly sound mind and in disgustingly good health for my 77 years, propose and do hereby record in writing my early memories of the home and family.
“Home” came into existence Sept. 2, 1901, with the marriage of our parents, and the building of a small home and slaughter house. Pop got a $200 loan from his step-father, Alfred E. Martin, to buy the one acre of land. Wood for the house came form logs cut and sawed on the Jordan Pike. He likely did most of the building himself, and styled the house after one owned by Marion Garst on the Victory Road.
I arrived in the family on May 3, 1912. My clearest memories begin in late 1916, but there are flashes of recall before then. Now entering the 1990s and having out-lived seven siblings, I am the appointed “Patriarch” of the clan. Only Eldon, born Dec. 19, 1912, and I are still living, so you will have to take my word for much of what follows.
HOW BIG IS AN ACRE?
An acre is 43,560 square feet or a plot of ground 208 feet square. I don’t have the measurements before me, but it must have bee at least 150 feet on the north along the New Carlisle Pike, and running south around 290 feet. It lies above limestone rock, but evidently over some kind of glacial fill or rift. The well at the house was dug, and abundant water found within a few feet. Less than a hundred feet south an artesian well was emitting a constant stream of water. A pipe was place in it, and a pump threaded into it when pressure was needed. Otherwise a short pipe and “T” extension allowed it to run freely all the time. On the north side of the New Carlisle Pike, wells had to be drilled 80 feet or more to reach water. The one drilled in the orchard 100 feet in from the roadway was 80 feet.
How much can you put on one acre? Here is an inventory of buildings, trees, yard, garden, lane and parking area.
The original was two or three rooms. There is evidence that the long living room was once divided. The basement extended under that area and south to include the kitchen and two bedrooms. Like “Topsy,” the house grew into an eventual 11 rooms. We used to say that they started with two rooms and added one for each child. I never knew the sequence, except that one addition was added during the 1913 flood. High water in Mad River and Buck Creek delayed the securing of lumber, although both wooden bridges survived.
By 1917, there were seven rooms for parents, six children and Mom’s mother, Grandma Derr. Her husband, a Civil War veteran, died in 1914, and she moved in with us until her death in 1938 at age 93. She got the west bedroom next to the parents, but the access to it was through their room. When she died, the folks took that room and enjoyed their first real privacy in 24 years.
The final addition was started soon after and was intended to give the folks two large rooms with plenty of light and air. The basement was continued south. Fill dirt from the original basement had created a bank there and a small hill from the back porch. When the bank was removed, it brought the ground level to just a few feet from the top of the well. When the floor of the extended basement was cemented, a manhole cover in the floor became the top of the well. A new cistern was added in the northwest corner to replace the original one just outside.
Two rooms were added at the house level and a stairs into the basement from the back porch. The second story was one large room. The doorway was added by replacing it from the former only south window. One still had to go through the first two bedrooms to get to it.
The two new rooms were light and airy. Before the folks could move in, Pop’s mother came to live with us and was accorded the new space. Mother died in 1941; Grandma Martin stayed there until her death in 1943 at age 91. The addition boxed in the folks’ original room with its single window onto the back porch. It became the bathroom with the installation of running water and septic tank.
The home housed Ralph’s family after mother’s death. Sometime later to provide care for Pop it became home to Grace and John and their children. Pop offered a free lot in the orchard area to each child who would build there. Four of them did, while Ralph and Della built on land next to the home place.
Pop’s father was a butcher and operated a meat market in Enon some five miles southwest of home. He died in 1892 from tuberculosis, leaving his widow with a daughter and three sons. Pop was next to the youngest and was born in 1878. Sister Clara became a school teacher, but died early — also from tuberculosis.
His brother John wanted to farm; Pop tried it and then got a job with Balz German at his slaughterhouse off the National Road and a meat stand in the City Market. His pay was $8 a month plus room and board. Earlier he had lived with his mother’s parents, Samuel and Hannah Overholzer Circle in their log cabin home south of Lawrenceville. The cabin still stands. It was sided over and both roofs extended to make more room.
Mom’s folks lived off the National Pike a little west of the home place. Her family moved to Ohio from Maryland after the war. Her siblings were all born there; she was born in their new home at Centerville south of Dayton. She and Pop probably met at Rockway School. Pop claims the first time he saw her he vowed she would be his wife. By this time his mother had re-married and lived on a small farm off the National Pike closer to Rockway.
Slaughterhouse model: Let me note here that I made a model of that complex in 1984 as it looked in 1920. It is now in the Clark County Historical Society Museum in Springfield.
Along with the slaughterhouse, Pop rented space in the City Market, where he and later the sons sold their meats for 45 years. I was 11 when I began clerking. Edward would go in the mornings at 5 a.m. with Pop and work til noon. I went in the afternoons and stayed til 7 o’clock closing. Other brothers joined us as they matured. Whenever someone told Pop that his boys were better looking than he, his standard reply was “If you can’t improve, you’d better quit.”
From earliest pictures the building was oriented east and west with the ice house on the west side. A shed roof between the two provided covered parking for the two meat wagons. Later the front part was oriented north and south and the rest of the building made later. By 1920 it included the killing floor for been and calves at the center and the hog killing and work area on the south end. There was a walk-in cooler about 12 feet square; holding areas for livestock and outside pens. By then the ice house had been converted into a milking barn and haymow. A scales shed and smoke house were added in front. There was also room for a bone rack and coal shed for the steam engine and boiler.
There was a horse and carriage barn with a hay mow over the back half. It was later converted into two apartments. There was a chicken house next to the barn and a coal shed along the lane on the east side of the acre. It had two rooms, one for hard coal (anthracite) for the base burner in the living room and one for soft coal for the kitchen range. Also a bin for kindling.
Last but far from least was the three-holer outhouse. It had two places for adults and one lower for children. I never knew it filled to capacity. There was also a single-holer in the slaughter house.
There were at least 30 trees including maples across the front; poplar around the slaughterhouse; one each of ash, elm and catalpa near the house, plus a scattering of apple, pear, cherry, peach and evergreen. Two grape arbors were on the west side of the yard; a large spirea bush on the east and flower beds of peonies (pinys as Pop called them), dahlias, iris (or flags) lilies of the valley and two rose bushes, George and Martha Washington. Flower boxes surrounded the porch and were kept filled with geraniums.
This left ample space for a big yard that involved all the boys and two push mowers (rotary) plus a white picket fence in front and east side along the lane to the coal shed. Painting it was a pain.
Ten acres to the east were rented from the Downey family, who refused offers to sell. This provided a second garden, pasture and more fruit trees. It also provided an area for the great “Community Sale” of May 18, 1919, to raise money to build the new St. Paul Church. In the late ’40s, when it became necessary to add a septic system for the slaughterhouse, the Downeys sold a strip along the entire west side. Brother Ralph and Della build their home on the front end.
In 1919, Pop bought a 10-acre orchard on the north side of the New Carlisle Pike in order to give an acre of ground on which to build the newly organized St. Paul Lutheran Church. Ashby Pendleton, who farmed near North Hampton, was the owner and likely the one who had planted its 350 Kieffer pear trees plus many apple, cherry, plum and peach. A row of sugar pears and one Dutch pear shaped like an apple and crisp completed the selection. He never realized a good crop of pears in spite of trimming and spraying.
The first year we had it and with no human assistance, 350 pear trees produced 1,700 bushels of fruit. Picking was easy. The trees were in rows at 14-foot intervals. A 14-foot tarpaulin with a two-foot slit in the middle was tied at the corners to four trees. Long poles with a meat hook fastened at the end were used to shake the branches and drop the pears so that they rolled into piles at the center. Some pears came down outside the tarp. Pop got one on his pipe one day that nearly broke his teeth. For several years a carload was shipped to Huntington, W.Va., to a broker. A state-wide blight in their pear trees led to the destruction of all pear trees in order to prevent it from getting into their more abundant apple crop. Pop also made a lot of pear butter in the lard kettle and sold it in gallon crocks. There were barrels of pear cider, too. He sold several to a grocery opposite the market house for making vinegar. The poor fellow didn’t release the bungs; the resulting explosion when it began to work didn’t leave much liquid.
1. The basement originally was dug under the living room area and the kitchen and two bedrooms. The walls were stone, the floor cement, and a solid ledge left along the north wall for canned foods — home canned, that is. The space under the parlor was partially excavated when it was built, and a frame door added to the basement wall for access. Years later when a furnace was installed, we all joined the digging through very dry, hard clay for it and a coal room. A potato bin completed the fixtures. Pipelines from the well and cistern ran along the south wall and to the kitchen sink above.
The well was dug outside the south wall. Pop tells how he hit water close to the surface. As it poured into the hole he reached into it and felt water all around. Whereupon he filled in some rocks and got out. A cement cistern was added at the southwest corner. Roof spouting on the front and back caught enough water to keep it filled. Two pitcher pumps brought the water in. The one for the cistern usually lost its prime and had to be filled with water at the top to get the suction going.
One other basement fixture was the gasoline (the world is spelled gasolene throughout) tank for the three lamps upstairs. Except for these gasoline lamps in the kitchen, living room and parlor, all other lighting was by coal lamps. Two lanterns provided light for early morning work in the slaughter house and milking or the meat wagon and walking. Carbide lights were available for autos and bicycles.
The gasoline lights were like gas lamps or Alladin lamps. Copper tubing ran from the tank in the basement up the walls and across the ceiling beams into the suspended lamps. These were made from tubes of iron to form a single frame with a gas lamp wick and valve. To light them you first pumped air into the tank below to form a gas. A lighter was a piece of wire with a wad of cloth at one end. This was dipped into the jug of alcohol kept on top of the kitchen cabinet. After lighting, it was held under the lamp to get it hot before opening the valve to let in the gas mixture. They were very bright lights.
A coal range and chimney were in the northwest corner. To the left was the kitchen cabinet and the low level sink in the corner. The stove had four lids and a handle to insert for lifting them. The fire box was under the two lids on the left. To the right of the other two was a shallow area to let heat across to the water tank on the right. The oven was adequate. A raise warming oven at the back was kept warm from the stove pipe that passed through the middle. It was my job to keep the kindling and coal bucket filled and the ashes taken out. Some years later a coal oil stove and oven replaced the range. It was cooler in the summer and easy to light but smelly. Also it didn’t have an open oven door where Pop and neighbors sat in winter evenings while they told tales and smoked cigars.
The north wall opened into the living room through a door next to the stove and another door to the south end of the front porch. In the middle was the mantle with the traditional kitchen clock and peg board for coats and hats. To its left was an oil lamp with a reflector. The east wall had a cupboard on the left, a large window in the middle and a corner cupboard built into the right end. The south wall had the back door onto the porch, the hand-cranked telephone, a small mirror and comb case and the sink. Pop’s razor strops hung on the door jamb — convenient for both shaving and discipline. We had a telephone number on our party line, but one long and two shorts was our signal. When a new type phone was installed, I ran a wire to the slaughterhouse and hooked up the bells down there. We could be alerted to a need by the bells and yell up for a message. “Buzz me, Miss Blue.” Remember Amos and Andy?
The table was in the middle. Most of the time it seated the 11 of us. There was a pecking order in seating. Pop had the south end near the razor strops. There was a perennial high chair to his left and Mom’s chair was round the corner. The two grandmothers, when both were there, sat at the north end. The pecking order was to go from the high chair to the middle of the bench at the back. From there it was to an end, then to the middle chair in front, and finally to the north end chair in front. By that time, you should get married and move out. Meal times varied for breakfast depending on the day’s work, but dinner was always at 11:30 and supper at 5.
On hog butchering days, the fire in the steam boiler had to be started around 3 a.m. to have water in the scalding tank up to 140 degrees by killing time at 5. By 7, the hogs would be cleaned and gutted, and we’d be ready for breakfast. This could be anything from steak, fried potatoes and pie to bacon or fresh side meat and eggs, or pancakes, fried mush or friend bread. (French toast if you were more sophisticated.) Toast was made in a wire holder held over an open burner in the range. Saturdays were often had my favorite, ‘panhaus,” also known as Philadelphia Scrapple or Krepples or just plain liver mush. Pop’s recipe for making pudding made the best panhaus.
Dinner and supper were full meals so cooking and washing dishes was an ongoing procedure. Meat platters and bowls were of the large size. When pies were baked there was a rack that held four or five. When we had apple dumplings there were enough to make a full meal. The first time Grace tried that on John, he ate several, then inquired what the main dish was. Sunday breakfasts were special. The standard fare was home-made coffee cake, short thick frankfurters called “knockers,” schmeercaese (also known as cottage cheese) and on Sundays we kids could have coffee. Pop and Mom had coffee every meal. Coffee grounds were allowed to accumulate in the pot. Pop’s last swallow was to swish the grounds around so he could include them in his last gulp.
Company dinners were served on the round table in the big living room that could be extended to accommodate all but the children who, as usual, were confined to the kitchen.
Kitchen capers were varied. The bench doubled as a mumbly peg board on cold or rainy days. A pocket knife with a long and short blade was lined up on the underside of the bench. You would raise it at the base and flip it over. If it landed on the big blade only, that counted 25 pounds if the base of the knife touched board, or 50 points if the knife stood on the blade. Both blades in the wood was 75 points; landing on the small blade and the knife in the air was 100. Flipped clear over on its back was 200.
When I was 5, I fell off that bench and bit a hole through my tongue. By fate, Betty fell out of a swing about the same time long before we met and nearly bit hers off.
Dish washing was done at the kitchen table. The sink was for washing only and had no drainage board. Hot water came from the tea kettle. One day I dashed through the kitchen and bumped into Blanche with the kettle. The scalding water got me on the left arm and left a scar that looked like a vaccination mark. Edward got his scalding in the slaughterhouse when Pop was using steam to blow out the boiler tubes. The hose came off and got him on the leg.
This was almost an institution in itself. It extended from an inset on the east side across the back past the kitchen and the folks’ bedroom. It had a screen door and one step to the sidewalk in the back that went down the small hill and yard to the parking area. The screen sections west from the door extended over the roof of the walkway into the basement. The far end was fully enclosed, and served as a food storage and dirty clothes collection. Also the ironing board. There was flour, tin boxes of crackers, wooden boxes of prunes and dried peaches and apricots and other staples. Later a chemical toilet was added for the convenience of the elderly.
An ice box stood by the partition with the back to the south wall. It had a drip pan that had to be emptied regularly. This arrangement placed the one window in the parents’ bedroom opposite the ice box. Their one window offered limited light and ventilation. As I mentioned earlier, the door into Grandma Derr’s room was from the parents’ room. I often wondered why Pop didn’t cut a doorway under the stairway which would have given her direct access — but he never did.
Before the advent of the washing machine, there were tubs, scrub board, bench and a hand-operated wringer. Water was heated in a brass boiler on the stove and was carried out to the porch. The tea kettle and warming tank augmented the supply. The first mechanical washer was a wooden tub on legs with a three-pronged stirring wheel that could be turned halfway back and forth. A half wheel cog on a handle connected to another on the spinwheel. By pushing the handle back and forth, the spinner made a half turn back and forth. Before soap powders a cake of Fels Naptha soap was grated on a slaw board. There were enough boys to take five-minute turns on the 20-minute wash cycle and also turn the crank on the wringer. This wringer came built into the washer. After we got electricity, we got a Maytag. With its durability, it’s probably still running in washing machine heaven.
Someone sold Pop on the idea of making money by producing linked sections of wire twisted to hold washing without clothes pins. He bought the gadget that made them and bundles of 36-inch wire. We all joined in making the lines, but lacked the salesmanship to peddle them. We used them for a while, but went back to the old fashioned lines. We had enough wire to repair every known need for years to come. Incidentally, when Betty’s folks moved to a home in 1925 across the pasture from us, they had a good view of the full extent of our acre. Long lines of overalls on Mondays indicated a full house of boys. These usually hung in front; sheets in back and female paraphernalia in the middle.
This was a double room. A wall once divided it, but we never knew the original plan. The west half was narrowed when the stairway was added. A large round dining room table capable of much extension dominated the east end. One of the three gasoline lights was above it, but a beautiful oil lamp graced the table. It must have been about 1920 when Ohio Edison brought its electric lines up the New Carlisle Pike. It cost $500 to hook up. Additional poles for lead-in cost $1 a foot. We needed one in the lane and one in the back area with a light. After five years the lines were extended with free hook-ups. Our neighbors to the wets opted to wait. When our house was wired we had chandeliers for both ends of the living room and the parlor, along with lights in every room and a few receptacles. What a giant step forward to have electricity and especially in the outbuildings and yard. And a new sweeper.
A base burner stove stood in the middle of the living room and the chimney back of it. It burned hard coal, anthracite. It came in brickbat lumps and was much cleaner and slower burning fuel. It was fed from the top. The ornamental top swung out and a lid like the ones on the kitchen range was removed to pour the coal in. At night, it would be filled and would burn til morning. You could hear the coal settling during the night. The two sides and front door had isinglass squares that gave a warm, comfortable glow. The stove sat on a tin-coated pad for fire protection and to keep ashes off the floor. There was an open vent above it to allow heat upstairs. The doorway at the head of the stairs was usually kept open also. In the back bedroom where five boys slept the only heat came through the open door to the girls’ room which was our way into ours. There was a window to the west in both rooms. We had a dormer window to the south and the girls a small window onto the porch roof.
This could also be called the birthing room and the sick bay. It was curtained off from the living room with a grand entry of two columns on raised shoulders. There was a small, round table in the center for the hand-cranked phonograph with its attached horn speaker. The piano was against the east wall and a pump organ on the south. A leather-covered davenport was on the west wall and a bookcase somewhere. Most of us children were born in that room. I was quarantined in it for 28 days with my first bout of diphtheria, and Grace for an equal time with scarlet fever. It also served as the viewing room for brother Paul’s casket following his death on Good Friday, 1920.
Much of the time it was a happy room. Once for the Christmas tree and gifts when it came on Sunday, we had been told we would celebrate on Monday. However, Pop and Blanche finished decorating while we waited in the kitchen for breakfast, and then let us go in before we could eat. What a happy surprise and relief.
There was a lot of music and singing. Mom and both sisters played the piano. Pop and Ralph played the violin and Pop was pretty good on the harmonica and Jew’s Harp. Kenneth had an ear for music and could play anything without knowing one note from another as printed. Edward had the best solo voice and alternated between tenor and bass in our quartet. I bought a coronet and five lessons from Elmer Hartman and did an amateurish job. At least three of us played for Sunday School and Blanche was the organist.
The first radio we older boys heard was a crystal set built by our neighbor Elsworth Ziegler. KDKA, Pittsburgh, was the station. Our first home set was a Magnavox, which was battery-operated. It had a separate speaker like the phonograph, and an aerial wire to the barn. It came with a battery charger we could plug into one of the wall sockets.
This part of the house was probably not part of the original plans. It was not a full story high. Two attics were located above the parlor and kitchen with hardly more than four feet to the comb of the roof. Once Pop had a Salvation Army truck come out and carry off a lot of the assortment stored in them.
There were two bedrooms. Access to the back one was through the one at the top of the stairs. A flat tin roof covered the center of these rooms. It was painted black and became unbearably hot during the summer. The alternative was to use the large tarpaulin between the two trees in the back yard and sleep out there. On stormy nights we slept on the floor of the front porch or front room.
The ceiling was low, and there were no closets. Each room had a dresser and hooks along the wall. A “night jar” was the standard plumbing.
Rugs in the living room and parlor were tacked down over newspaper. Each spring they were taken out doors for beating. The pre-electric sweeper was a hand-pushed Bissell. There was linoleum on the kitchen floor. The upstairs was just plain flooring.
This required the lion’s share of household activity. The only cold cereal we knew for many years was Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. We seldom had it for breakfast, but sometimes for Saturday super we’d eat it with a little butter on the spoon but no milk. We may have had oatmeal and cream of wheat.
We made our own butter. Milk was kept in crocks and the cream “skum” off. When we milked several cows, we had a five-gallon pan with glass gauge and a spigot at the bottom to drain off the milk. For a time we had a regular Separator that extracted the cream by centrifugal action. The first churn was the stamper variety. This was followed by a hand-turned paddle wheel. The axel of the paddle had a cog wheel on the outside and the handle was fastened to a wheel with cogs on the inside. After that came the popular one gallon jars with a crank on top. These were glass.
Schmaercaese (cottage cheese) was made from milk placed on the back of the stove until it had curdled. It was then placed in a cloth bag and hung either on the apple tree by the coal shed or over the kitchen sink to drain and solidify. It was then mixed with milk to the preferred consistency.
Without running water or bathrooms keeping clean required adaptations. The kitchen sink had a wash basin, and usually a single hand towel and wash rag. There was a soap dish and a glass for tooth brushes. Before toothpaste we all used soda or salt. On Saturday nights a wash tub was placed in front of the kitchen stove and filled with warm water from the stove’s reservoir tank and the tea kettle. After pulling down all the window and door shades and locking or hooking the three doors, we took turns. Changing bath water depended on how dirty it became and how much warm water was available. The towel supply was limited. This is how it was for us children. I don’t know how the adult population got along.
Summers were much better for cleanliness. We were a little more than half a mile from Pony Hole in Aberfelda Creek back of Rockway School. There were two other alternatives further up the creek. Elm Hole was near the Susan Sintz Road and Walnut Hole farther north. These two required bicycles. One or the other was always deep enough depending on which one filled up or washed out after heavy rains. As for Devil’s Basin below Pony Hole, you are referred to my essay at the end, which was penned for a college freshman class in English.
There was one handier facility available on Friday afternoons year-round. After finishing butchering, we drained and washed the scalding tank and filled it with clean water. By keeping the boiler fire going to retain pressure, we could turn on the steam and warm the water to a comfortable degree. The tank was about 6 feet long by 3 feet wide and perhaps 2 feet deep. There was a stick to block the outside door latch if privacy was desirable.
Occasionally we dammed up the small creek back of the slaughterhouse. It was so muddy, a bath was necessary after wallowing around in less than one foot of water.
What a treat for several of us boys when Blanche married and moved into Springfield — with a bath room. On our first visit we spent most of the time in the bath tub. It was boring to be in the city with nothing to do. At home in the winter we sometimes extended the weekly baths to two weeks, but not after we got old enough to date.
Our garden was substantial. Fruit was plentiful, especially pears, and there was always meat in the slaughterhouse cooler. Much of the time we kept a horse (an old nag) for garden work. The last one we had came through our stock (live) broker north of New Carlisle. We drove out in the 1916 Vim truck. Ralph and Kenneth took turns riding her back, using a stack of straw for a saddle. That night while these two were sleeping together, Ralph dreamed he was still on the horse and got on Kenneth’s back to ride it home. When the time came to dispose of the older nag, she went to what was known as the “stink factory.” They didn’t tell Clarence that, so he informed the neighbors that their horse was taken away to make horseradish.
The basement ledge was kept well stocked with canned vegetables and fruit. A couple of 5-gallon crocks held the sauerkraut. One year pop got a strong yen for dill pickles and made two barrels. Both items were tasty after school. Of course there were plenty of crackers and dried fruit in the pantry on the back porch and a never-ending supply of cracklins. Sometimes we carried these to school in our overall pockets and always when we went swimming. Also some salt.
It used to bother grandma Martin that we boys were always hungry. She tried to get us to take a drink of water to appease our appetites, but it didn’t appeal to us. Eldon was the king who could get up from a big meal at the table and head for the corner cupboard for a snack. When we had pancakes for breakfast, Mom would call us one at a time to keep them coming fast enough. Birthdays were observed only with a birthday cake and the honoree allowed the first piece. It was usually just a mite larger than the rest. Our birthdays were scattered over 10 months, so cakes followed that pattern.
There were enough chickens to supply eggs and occasional fried chicken dinners on Sunday. Rhode Island reds and Plymouth Rock were the preferred breeds. They were larger than the small white leghorns that dominate the market today.
Meat varied according to what was left over on Saturday’s market day. When there was steak it was often the tougher round steaks. The handy meat grinder and gravy made it far better than hamburger. Of course there was always plenty of milk and potatoes. One Saturday at market a genial black man complained about the toughness of the steak he bought the preceding Saturday. His comment was, “Mr. Ed, that cow you sold me last week must have voted for Abraham Lincoln.”
Marion Garst delivered our mail in one of those tiny horse-drawn mail wagons of yore. He also brought the morning paper via Rural Free Delivery.
George Hoss delivered groceries from his store on Sugar Grove Hill opposite the Masonic Home. His first truck was a two-cylinder International. The engine was under the seat. The back wheels were chain drive and the tires were solid rubber.
The Watkins man came at regular intervals with seasonings and other kitchen products. A tank truck from the Standard Oil Co. kept our 40-gallon tanks for gasoline and coal oil filled. The Junk Man came at intervals to buy the old iron. He drove a horse and wagon. Some Saturdays a black neighbor near Bethel Church would stop by with small jars of cup cheese. And stranger dropped off many cats and dogs in the belief they would be well fed. Cats did get some milk when we did the milking. It was a test of marksmanship to see whether you could hit their mouths.
This has nothing to do with deliveries but Pop cut our hair. In summer we sat on a crock in the high chair with one of Mom’s aprons around our necks. He used hand clippers which pulled hair if it didn’t cut them. I was in high school before I had a professional cut with electric shears and discovered it could be done less painfully.
This was the center of activity and our livelihood. It grew from a small operation and wasn’t enlarged until after the war years in the ’40s. An agreement was made with Ott’s Meat Market on Fountain Avenue downtown to dress all his animals. When he decided later to just guy his meat already dressed, the slaughterhouse became a country meat market and enjoyed a sizeable trade. When government regulations demanded tile floor and stainless steel pans and utensils, the cost spelled the end for most family-owned operations. For a few years it was rented out for processing meats. When that ended there was an auction sale. The building had deteriorated and was bulldozed. The 1920 model I made and is now in the county museum may help keep it alive.
The basic operation was the killing floor for beef and calves and another for processing hogs. Holding pens were included under the safe roof. A system of gates and pens brought the cattle into a raised chute where they were shot with a .32-caliber rifle. The floor of the chute was hinged and also the outer door so the cattle could be rolled out on the floor for skinning. After the head was removed, the carcass was turned end for end and balanced on its back in a trough in the wooden floor. Prior to the addition of a septic tank, the blood drained through a break in the trough to the ground below. The trough then continued through the hog killing area and drained out on the cement floor of the outside hog pen.
The next step was to get the skin out the legs and begin removing the hide, working from the tail to the front. An incision from the tail through the breast bone was followed by inserting a gambling stick in the back legs above the lower leg joint and raising the beef about halfway up. This was accomplished with a windlass made from a round log overhead and a large framed real on the outer end. A 1-inch rope on the wheel provided leverage for the hoist, and a raised block on the wall was used to fasten the rope. It required two boys or one man to raise the beef. Raising it in steps made it convenient to cut and yank the hide down and then remove the innards. After the “all clear,” the beef was sawed about halfway down and then chopped with a large cleaver the rest of the way. Before making the last chops, a meat hook on a roller was inserted in each shank and positioned with a long pole over the track above. The last chop split the beef and allowed the gambling stick to fall out. The sides hung for some hours or even overnight in cold weather, and were then quartered and swung onto the lower track into the cooler.
Hog killing began at 5 a.m. The chute from the inside pens was along the east side. It went past the killing room down a chute outside. When the door was swung back against the wall, the hogs had to make a right turn at the top of the chute and meet their destiny. Here there were on a 2-by-2 wooden slats so the blood could drain to the ground below. Pigs up to 250 pounds were usually dispatched with a sledge hammer with an end about the size of a silver dollar. Larger ones were shot. Pop could dispatch four or five at a time with a single one arm blow before sticking them. It took me a while to get up the courage to try it. That happened suddenly the day I got four pigs in but the fifth one changed its mind. It came back toward me, and I was caught in a narrow passage. This one had just squeezed between my legs when the other four followed. They skinned my legs some. That irked me. I got them all back in and finished the job.
Shooting sparrows: The back window in the killing pen offered a good view of the pen and disposal pile of hog hair and assorted unwanted material. Naturally there were sparrows and blackbirds. I cut a hole next to the window and covered it win an electric wall socket cover that had a lid on it. I could raise the cover and slide my .22-caliber rifle through. Mom didn’t appreciate my enterprise and used to sing or whistle “For His Eye is on the Sparrow” to let me know how she felt.
Processing Hogs: The front door of the killing pen could be raised with a rope. Its floor was at the level of the top of the scalding tank to loosen the hair at about 140 degrees. A forked lift with a handle at one end was used to raise the hogs high enough to roll them out on the floor. Here they were scraped and shaved. Then a gamble stick was inserted in the hind legs and a windlass raised them to an overhead track. From there they were pushed along the track toward the south wall. Here it curved north and brought them next to the cutting table.
The innards were removed. The stomach and large intestine went to chittlins; the small intestines to be stripped and cleaned for sausage casings; liver, heart and kidneys into a netted sack to be cooked for puddin. The lungs or “lights” originally went to puddin, but later meat inspection made them a no-no. The heads were split and the brains removed and then cooked for the puddin meat that was on them. We never ate chittlins, but occasionally had a hog stomach. After removing the inner lining these were filled with diced potatoes and small chunks of beef and then boiled. The final product was tasty and more chewy than erasers on pencils.
The slabs that went into lard had to be cut into 1-inch squares. The steam kettle that cooked them was beside the cutting table and needed some stirring while cooking. After several hours it was hand-dipped and poured into the press. Hot liquid lard ran out at the bottom into a large kettle on the floor. When it had cooled more it was dipped into 50-pound cans or 5- or 10 pound buckets.
By mid-afternoon the puddin meat was reading for grinding. Hot cracklins were added for special flavor and consistency. Seasoning for it and sausage was made by handfuls form the salt barrel and a tin box of pepper. The steam boiler furnished power for a drive shaft that operate a large and small meat grinder, a “silent meat cutter” that minced meat for wieners and bologna, the grinder for corn and the pump on the artesian well just inside the entry door.
I forgot to tell you that a beef and calves were slaughtered on Thursdays and hogs on Friday for sale on market on Saturday. Market originally opened at 5 a.m. and closed around 10 p.m. It took some years to lower the closing to 7 p.m., but it still was a long, tiring day.
The cooling system was ice. An ice house was standard equipment. It was built on the ground with 6-inch stud walls filled with sawdust for insulation. Ice was cut on Mad River or Aberfelda. Pop claims it was as thick as 14 inches. We cut some at 4. The 4-inch slabs were put into the upper part of the cooler, and lasted until May. The cooler was about 12 feet square with insulated walls and built inside a separate building that provided two-foot walkways around it. By 1917 we were buying 300-pound cakes of ice from a former brewery on West Main Street. The little VIM truck with its 18-horsepower motor and half-ton capacity could haul five cakes at 1,500 pounds. It was a slow trip with two long hills and a short one.
After unloading at the dock alongside the ice house, the cakes were chipped in half and raised on a third windlass through hinged floor boards to the top level. There they were grasped with ice hooks and pulled into the chamber.
At the City Market there was no refrigeration in the early days. The meat counter was slabs of marble with a plate glass across the front and a narrow one across the top. There was a shelf in front for market baskets. We only wrapped meat; no one provided bags. It was a great day when we got ice-refrigerated counters, although beef and veal quarters still hung on racks until cut up for the counter.
Added back rooms included the hog chute exit into the outside pen. On the west side of the pen was the bone rack for accumulations from butchering and meat market. These were trucked from time to time to the tannery, which got the weekly supply of hides and tallow. Then the rest of the open southwest corner was enclosed for pens to raise hogs and a corn grinding space. Access for the hogs was an ingenious tunnel under the back end of the bone rack. The coal shed for the boiler was then between the addition and the ice cooler enclosure. Incidentally, when I made the model there were 14 roofs on the complex, which included the scales shed and smoke house.
Playground: The slaughterhouse made a wonderful addition for “recreation,” and helped attract neighborhood boys to our place. We could hang on meat hooks and glide along the tracks. Hiding places abounded with hay mows, holding pens, chutes, cooler walkway and the upstairs above the south end, which held the water tank and lots of junk.
One of the funniest things to happen was after the one-holer in the entry to the beef shooting area was boarded over and a new one added under the steep stairway to the loft just beyond the wall. The new location was so small it was necessary to drop one’s pants and then back in. One evening Eldon began the process without checking to make certain it was not occupied. Kenneth happened to be inside. He grabbed Eldon’s rear end and made a noise like a cat. Eldon departed post haste. He could not have dirtied his pants by the scare because they were already down.
Smoked Sausage usually had a little beef in it. The stuffer was a cylinder with a hand-cranked ram. Casings were pulled over the end tube. When these were bought they came salted down and had to be soaked before using. If they were prepared from the day’s kill, they were drawn between a curved stick and the thumb to remove the fatty coating. The long lengths of stuffed sausage were then draped over a pole and hung in the smoke house.
Hams and bacon had to be cured first. These were rubbed with salt and pepper and left to cure for several weeks. In warm weather the hams sometimes spoiled around the bone since an ice cooler is not as cold as electric refrigeration. There was no way of knowing whether or not there was spoilage until the ham was cut. Later, hams were cured in barrels of brine and later still by the injection of brine around the bone.
The smoke house had no openings. The fire was mostly hickory, oak and occasionally apple and pear. Cherry was never used. One day the fire got too hot and burned the binder twines that held the hams, whereupon they fell into the fire. When Pop discovered what had happened he picked them up and tossed them out the door. Naturally he burned his hands severely. Grandpa Derr “blew” out the fire in his hands using certain words and scripture. There was a condition to this cure. As I recall a woman could not tell how it was done to another woman, but only to a man. Or vice versa. It did seem to work. Anyway that was the best baked ham we ever ate. Grandma could also stop bleeding, using verses form Ezekiel.
The Scale Shed was large enough to hold a car, and was a Fairbanks-Morse. The weighing mechanism was in a small room attached on the west side. A 50-pound weight was used to balance them. These scales were used for cattle and hogs. Calves were picked up at farms and weighed on a Stilliard scale. It had a curved hook and extended out to a yard long arm with graduated marks for pounds. Five-pound weights or 10 were used to balance out the exact weight. Near the hook end were two small hooks to suspend the scales and the item being weighted. They were off center from each other to provide the lift on the weighing arm, which had to be horizontal.
Once I was getting a calf and had the help of the farmer’s wife only since her husband was plowing. To weigh a live calf, you put a rope that had been spliced into one piece over the head, down between the front legs and brought it up so it loops against both pairs of legs. Then lift it up and put the rope on the small hook below.
I made the mistake of not indicating the exact hook before I lifted the calf. She tried to put it over the hooked end, but I quickly told her the little one. Whereupon she tried to get it over the long arm. At that point, I put the calf down and showed her the little hook on the underside. The calf weighted 175 pounds, which was 30 more than I did. I then led the calf to the truck. Since I had not put on the side racks, I had to throw it, tie up its four legs together and lift it up into the truck. The calf would have been a little lighter if she had not anticipated my arrival and put it in with its mother to get a full belly of milk and more weight.
One more shed was a low one on the east side of the scale shed. It wasn’t used much, so one time I used it as a hen house when I raised some bantams.
The outhouse stood next to the lane close to the smoke house and scales shed. Instead of a pit it had drawers lined with straw that could be taken out from the back. These had to be emptied periodically and the contents buried between the garden and the ditch on the east. There was a large poplar tree back of it. One evening, Pop decided to try a remedy to prevent whooping cough. He lined each one of the kids up to a tree, took our measure, and bored a hole in the tree. A snip of hair was placed in the hole and a wooden plug driven in. Needless to say, none of us ever got the whooping cough. We got everything else, but never that one. Years later when he cut down the poplars the hair was still there. Fortunately no one got the whooping cough after the spell was broken.
THE HORSE AND CARRIAGE BARN
Before it was built, there was a shed roof between the ice house and the barn end of the slaughterhouse. The barn was near the west fence halfway between the house and slaughterhouse. It is still standing. There was one wide sliding door and a small single in front. My earliest recollection was a two-seated buggy pushed in the north side and the VIM truck driven in the south. I also vaguely remember riding to Rockway Church in the buggy. Benches in the VIM truck were roomier. When Grandpa Martin died in a fall over the limestone cliffs in 1918, we rode to Ferncliff Cemetery in a horse-drawn limousine with the horse-drawn hearse leading the procession. I remember Edward getting his finger pinched in the door, and also stopping at a grocery on the way home so Uncle Dave could get cigars.
When Pop bought an Overland touring car, it got the barn slot and the VIM went to the slaughterhouse shed. The Overland was a right-hand drive with the horn button on the arm rest. The roof was black canvas with tie straps to the fenders in front. Curtains could be added when it rained.
The 1916 VIM truck had to be cranked. It had its own coil system and no key was necessary. To stop the motor, one held a push button in on the upright dashboard. One other gadget was the oil gauge. This consisted of a glass-covered item about the size of a watch with a tube entering at the top and exiting at the bottom. As long as you could see oil inside the glass, it was full enough. When cranking, there was a goose wire or choke at the bottom left of the radiator. On cold winter mornings, starting was easier when the back wheel was raised and kept in gear, and boiling water was poured over the carburetor.
The front half of the barn included a work bench, vise, tools and two 40-gallon cans for gas and oil. The back half was separated by a wall with a large sliding door on the left and a door on the right which was cut in half across the middle like most barn doors. The back half was of equal size but had a haymow above. A corn crib stood along the back wall. There was a walkway between it and the stalls for horses. Their manger faced west. There was an outside door at the ends of the walkway, and a ladder to the hay mow made of 2-inch boards nailed to the studs.
There were two horses, a big Red for the meat and stock wagon named Bill, and a black trotter named Prince for the buggy. The latter had a habit of rearing up while pulling the buggy. Pop solved that problem by selling it to the Army in World War I.
Edward and I raised rabbits. Pop built wire hutches on the cement floor where the corn crib had stood. He bought us rolled oats by the hundred pound sack and a load of clover hay. We used our bicycles and trailers to gather dandelions, plantain and alfalfa along the roads. One time we had more than 100 New Zealand Reds and Whites and Flemish Giants. As they matured, we dressed them for sale on market at 35- to 75-cents each.
We also tried to raise pigeons in the hay mow, but found it more fun to install a basketball hoop. Eventually the barn was converted into two apartments and made temporary quarters for three of the boys and their families — not at the same time.
The last barn tale is when I got run over by the truck. It was on New Year’s Day 1918. I should have been the first death in the family. Pop was backing the VIM out of the barn and I got the bright idea of hanging on the end gate for a ride. When the rear tires dropped off the cement apron coming out, I lost my grip and fell under the left rear wheel. Pop heard my cry and bump as the wheel stopped on my stomach. Fortunately there were no doors on the VIM, so he got out quickly, lifted up the back with one hand and pulled me out with the other., They called the family doctor, Horace Heistand, who could find no broken bones or loose innards. I stayed on the living room couch and/or the Morris chair til the pain went away. I never tried that trick again.
Last and least of the many buildings was a hen house to the north of the ban. It needs no description. There was also a square low pen of chicken wire for chicks or fattening up roosters for Sunday dinners. There was also a cattle feeder in the pasture which later was moved to the south of the barn. I kept some rabbit hutches on its warm south side.
This about sums up the Little Acre and its beehive of activity. Here are a few more observations. Most of the building was done by ourselves. There certainly was no architect or ultimate building plan. As I said earlier, it just grew like Topsy.
Once Pop hired plumbers to put in some piping. It cost so much even then that thereafter he simply bought pipe already cut and threaded. We had lots of tools; saws, both hand- and cross-cut for trees; shoe maker’s stands and molds and many others.
Pop did most of his own veterinary work on horses and cows. When he raised pigs he did the castrating, filling the cavities with cold lard. We all helped put rings in their noses to prevent rooting. Once a neighbor had a bloated cow resulting from eating something that poisoned her. He called Pop, who used a thing boning knife to stick a hole in its belly and let the gas out.
Strangely, none of us ever broke a bone. Pop did crack a couple of ribs when a beam in a hayloft broke while he was weighing a calf and a plow fell on his side as it came down. Knife cuts were numerous. We all bear in the body the marks of our trade. But you weren’t a man until you could wrap it with a piece of greasy rag and keep on working. Of course sometimes they became infected. Jimson salve cleaned them and made the healing faster. We recently discovered that Jimson is poisonous. Of course we didn’t take it internally.
The Pennsylvania Dutch background of both grandmothers and Pop’s added contact with it while working for Boss German produced some interesting folklore. Also, Grandmother Martin’s folks who lived in the log cabin south of Lawrenceville gathered and sold all kinds of herbs, weeds and plants with medicinal benefits. Here are some cures.
• Quinsy — a throat infection could be cured by catching a toad, hanging it til dead with a piece of string, and then wearing the string around the throat.
• Prevent colds flu and maybe colic: Wear a bag of asafetida (a plant root) around the neck. It would also keep dogs from biting you if you kept some in your shoes. Or so claimed a tramp when a woman threatened to sic her dog on him.
• Chest cold: Vick’s salve or mustard poultice on the chest.
• Stings: Place a fresh chunk of tobacco cud on it.
• Coughs: Heat Karo molasses and butter in a small pan for a syrup.
• Freckles: On the first day of may, get up early and speak to no one. Go outside and gather some dew on your hands; wash your face with it and dry your face with your forearms. As you did so, repeat the words, “On the first day of May I washed my freckles away.” Within days the freckles would transfer to your arms. I tried it. It works.
• Cuts: Mom made Jimson salve out of this weed and mutton tallow (fat). The salve cleaned the wound and hastened healing. We have the recipe.
• Pop’s sure-fire cure for colds: take a bottle of whiskey and go to bed. Hang your hat on the bed post. When you saw to hats, you were better.
• Infections: Flax seed poultice would draw out the infection. Usually resulted from wrapping a greasy rag on cuts instead of being a sissy and going to the house to have it properly bandaged.
• Freshening the air: Light a piece of string, then snuff the flame and lit it smoke like a lighted cigarette. Or, burn sulphur in a dust pan. Neither one damaged the ozone layer.
• Edward’s contribution: Something about hanging a bottle of urine in the chimney. We were all laughing so hard we never did find out what it cured, or where you hung it in the chimney.
• Indian Pow-Wow: Brother Paul likely had rheumatic fever. He was sick much of his 13 years and missed a lot of school. The 1917 flu epidemic contributed to his death on Good Friday in 1920. He was born Good Friday, lived 13 years and died on Good Friday. One desperate attempt at healing was when Pop located on Indian medicine man in Springfield who performed healing Pow wows. Pop brought him out home for his session with Paul. Of course, it did no good, but it was interesting.
• Goff’s: This patent medicine proved to be a boon for bellyaches, ulcers and assorted stomach pains. Pop developed ulcers one time and had to be on a strict diet. One day at market a customer found out about his ailment and asked him what he’d like to eat. Pop’s quick reply was “a big steak.” The fellow told Pop to take a steak from the counter to the market restaurant and have it fried while he went across the street to the Great American Tea Company — the forerunner of A&P — and to get him a bottle of Goff’s. It worked. He got several bottles (I think at $1 each) and enjoyed a complete cure. The rest of us soon learned that anytime you ate too much or had an upset stomach, just take a swig of good ole Goff’s and all would be well. It must have been the forerunner of Hadacol, which contained enough alcohol to cure anything.
• Opening boils: When Kenneth had several on his neck, Pop took a pop bottle, warmed it, and placed it over the boil. By cooling it with ice water, a vacuum was created and drew out the goo. At least it was supposed to.
• Don’t cut a baby’s hair for the first year or it will die.
• Don’t cut a baby’s finger nails: bite them off.
• If you count the number of buggies or cars in a funeral procession, your horse will die.
• When a load of hay is driven past the house, say “hay, hay make a wish and turn away.” If you don’t look at the wagon again, your wish will come true.
• If you replace a window in your house with a door, someone will die.
• A Jewish neighbor believed that if you were driving cattle to market and a black cat crossed the road in front of them, you would get a ha higher price the next day if you turned them around and rove them home. He also wore a sheepskin coat in summer on the theory that what keeps out cold will keep out heat.
• Finding the initials of the girl or boy you will marry was done by trying a string to the middle of a house key (like a skeleton key). Hold it over the Bible opened to Song of Solomon 2:16-17a. Begin with the letter A and for each letter read aloud the Scripture “My beloved is mine and I am his; he feeds among the lilies until the day break and the shadows flee away, turn my beloved.” Keep going on the alphabet until you get two turns of the key on the last phrase for the two initials “turn, my beloved.”
This plague broke out during World War I and took a heavy toll of lives — sometimes entire families. Many servicemen died from it in training camps including our neighbor opposite our home, John Hinkle Jr. I think he was at Camp Sherman in Southern Ohio. I remember going to his funeral.
All our family had it except Pop. He claimed that a diet of black coffee and onions kept him immune. Neighbors brought in food and did the outside chores. Dr. Heistand came every day to refill our glasses of medicine. He would add powders to the row of glasses lined up on the dining room table. Ralph was the last one to get it, and that was on New Year’s Day. We all survived, except as I mentioned earlier, Paul was weakened by it and died April 1920.
The cold wind and snow blew in on Friday night with frigid temperatures. Pop couldn’t get the meat truck out the next morning to go to market. The wind blew drifts across the yard and piled clear over he picket fence. The well water pipe in the basement had been wrapped with rags and both lanterns set below it to keep it from freezing. Since the rain water pump would lose its suction, the water drained back into the cistern. A few nights, Paul, Edward and I slept three in a bed with our clothes on and warm sad irons at our feet. (They were for ironing and did not come with batteries.) I kept pretty warm because, as the youngest, I got the middle spot.
Neighbors gathered Saturday morning with scoop shoves and opened the New Carlisle Pike that half mile down to the National Pike.
We had plenty of “snow cream” in winter. Put some milk, sugar and vanilla in a pan and stir in the snow, preferably having first removed any soot from the coal stoves. It wasn’t bad. Home made ice cream was cranked out often. We had the milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla (which also made good eggnog to drink when sick) and always ice in the slaughterhouse cooler. We used a sledge hammer or the broad side of an axe to break up ice in a gunny sack. Rock salt was also plentiful at the slaughterhouse.
People in Springfield were more aware of this day. My information came when I asked Mom why so many airplanes were flying around. She told the me the war was over. Pop had been included in the last draft but was not called up. With six children and being a food provider, he likely would not have been called up anyway.
During the morning Pop planned to take us all into Snyder Park, but we didn’t go. Each year after that if it was a school day, we observed a minute or so of silence at 11 a.m. on that day. Carl Jurgens was the only one I knew from our church who was in the service. I recall Pop reading a letter from him to the Sunday School. It came from Germany. His daughter Juanita thinks it came after the war because he was called up closer to the end of it.
The original building was made of logs. The second one which both parents attended was a two-room red brick building. Earl Tiffany, who later became the principal at Springfield High, was one of Mom’s teachers. In my time the school was a four-room yellow brick building with high steps and an unfinished basement below. Mom received a full eight-year education but Pop had only six before going to work. We believe he first hot school lunches were served at Rockway. The teachers made hot bean soup and maybe vegetable, but hot dogs were the Wednesday fare. They still are for us. Soup and the hog dogs were 5 cents and a small carton of milk (pasteurized) was 3 cents. The cooking was done in one of the arched sections in the lower level. Most of the basement was a dirt floor. We could play marbles inside in the winter.
Carrie Mae Hinkle was first and second grade teacher and started all nine of us and then a number of grandchildren. The Masonic Home began busing their children (about 80) in those years. They brought their own lunches. During my fourth grade, the Durbin School burned and their pupils came to Rockway. Also their teacher Miss Shinn, who took over the fourth grade, located in the east basement room with a wood floor added. She taught a lot of good manners and etiquette along with the three Rs.
When Edward finished eighth grade, his class went to Snyder Park Junior High one year and then were bused to Lawrenceville. My class had the advantage of the ninth grade at Rockway Junior High before Lawrenceville. Masonic Home children and others opted for Springfield High. Springfield Township made a half circle around the city, thus eliminating a central high school. After my sophomore and junior years at Lawrenceville, we were given the option of going to Olive Branch. Five of my class took our senior year there. When Blanche finished her eight grades at Rockway, she had no way to get to Springfield High, so she took a four-year correspondence course, and then entered nurses training at the Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne.
On Aug. 20, 1929, a neighbor boy set fire to Rockway and told authorities that Ralph had done it. Pop was president of the school board at the time, so it was pretty sticky. Ralph spent one night in the juvenile detention center. He was at home when the fire was started so was released Sunday morning. Shortly thereafter, the accuser was convicted of the crime. The present building replaced the number three edition in the succession from the original log school.
Five families in a one-mile radius had 45 children. To our nine were added the Milton Evans family of 11; nine each for the Samuel Sines and Devers families, and seven in the Huffman/Campbell home.
Deaths hit hard on the youth. Our brother, Paul; the Hinkle’s son while in Camp, The Evanses’ son Robert and later the youngest son Woody, who I believe was killed in a corn picking machine. This family lost their barn in a fire and later moved to another one nearby. Soon after moving there, the father was run over by a piece of farm machinery on the barn ramp and crippled for life. Elmer “Fatty” Keiffer was killed by his own shotgun while hunting when he propped it against a fence and it fell. His funeral was held in Rockway Church opposite the school. All of us pupils were marched across the road and past his casket before the service began.
On Fourth of July, Louie Givens made a small cannon and overloaded it with gun powder. It blew one leg off just below the knee. We heard the blast from home and agreed that someone must have gotten some big fire crackers.
Pop’s favorite fishing buddy was Ed Rinker, a bachelor who lived farther out the Pike. Since the meat business tied up only three days, they spent many days on local rivers and lakes. Later Mr. Rinker must have become a little despondent. He took a bath, put on clean clothes, stretched out on his bed and shot himself.
Grandpa Martin’s night walk over a 40-foot cliff at the limestone quarry was another tragedy. Grandma had gone into town to visit her sister overnight. His body was found a day or so later.
Edward and I invested in a dozen steel traps and ran a line through the woods in Aberfelda. The night of Nov. 14 on the eve of hunting season, we set them for skunks. We checked the traps before daybreak the next morning and had our first prize. We put in a gunny sack after dispatching it with a rifle, and triumphantly carried it home and into the folks’ bedroom. They weren’t impressed and ordered us out pronto. Maybe the odor had something to do with it.
I continued the project for several years, netting rabbits that had taken refuge in holes and several muskrats (swamp rabbits, if you wanted to fool someone into believing they were rabbits). I got a skunk one day in a hole on the side of an overgrown gravel pit. From above and using a stick to pry it out, I was certain that I had it by the front foot. I got below to pull it out, only to discover that I had the back leg and my face too near his “spray gun.”
It ain’t funny, McGee.
My last run on the line was one day after school someone had preceded me; smoked out every den and stolen all my traps.
Community activities were limited to church, school and the Grange. This is a farm cooperative. The original building housed a Church of the Latter Day Saints. Today’s Vale Road was called the Saints Road. When road signs were posted along country roads the name of Vale Road was used since Vale Cemetery is a little farther north on this road which begins in front of the slaughterhouse. Both the church and the Grange Hall are gone, but Vale Cemetery is still there. That’s where our family is and we expect to join them. We’re in no hurry. We know our Home is Up There, but “we ain’t getting homesick.”
The main event of the Grange was the fall festival and show of farm and kitchen products. Also a trap shoot. We boys worked the raps. The first year we had a double row of baled straw for protection against the buck shot back of us. The second year there was just one row, minus one bale on the top row. I threw a clay pigeon to the far right for a shooter on the far left. He waited to shoot, and when he did, I felt a sting on my head. For the rest of my work, I made certain the end shooters got their targets on their front.
The Grange also sponsored pest contests. Evidence of a kill were the heads of sparrows, crows, hawks and tails of rats. We had cohorts who helped our accumulation. One day we stopped at the Dever farm for his contribution. Our accomplice called to his sister, “Elvinny, go in the kitchen and get them spary heads in the cupboard.” She brought out a Prince Albert tobacco tin filled up.
A Neighbor’s Famous Kin
Ed Gish lived back a long lane opposite the Grange Hall. He was the uncle of Lillian and Dorothy Gish. Along with his small farm, he delivered groceries in his spring wagon. He took orders for the next deliveries as he went around, but didn’t write them down until he got back to the store. Quite a memory. In case you are too young, the Gish sisters were movie start in Hollywood.
A Toll Road and Blacksmith Shop on our Land
Years ago when the National Pike was being built westward to St. Louis, there was a dirt road that ran north next to the Old Mill just below Rockway School. It went past Pony Hole and through the fields, and connected into the Saints Road on south to the New Carlisle Pike. It crossed the back end of our orchards, on the south side of Grace and John’s lot. In my first year in college, I cleared off that upper end and tried truck gardening for school expenses. When it was plowed, we found coal ashes. Grandma Martin informed me that they came from a blacksmith shop that once stood there, and that a road did indeed come by at that point.
There was another blacksmith on the Mill Road below Rockway church and also in “Anlo” at the junction of the New Carlisle Pike and the Donnelsville-Hampton Road.
Pop’s Handcuffs and Revolver
It seems Pop was once promised a job as deputy sheriff but it never came off. However, he did buy a .38-caliber revolver, a pair of handcuffs and a black jack — a leather tube about 8 inches long filled with lead. He kept these in his dresser drawer, but never used them. He told us he carried the revolver to market for protection, driving the wagon home at night with Saturday’s receipts in a cloth bag. He said he held it in one hand along with the reins. When the “Arch” over Aberfelda creek washed out in one high water, traffic was detoured down the Lower Valley Pike and back up on the Mill Road. The gun was a comfort on that route. When the stone arch was replaced with one of cement, Pop’s brother Dave was the state inspector.
This included many years on the school board and 24 as a township trustee. He made one try for the office of county commissioner which paid a $3,000 annual salary. He might have made it, but a cousin with the same name of Harry E. Driscoll, who was a well known dairy farmer and son of the James Driscoll Wagon Works Co. (or maybe a grandson) also chose to seek this office. Naturally, neither one was elected.
Our 1929 Depression Days really began in 1926 when the last child, Clarence, was born. By that time Blanche had married and left home, but the meat business had not grown. When Edward or I tried going in with meat on the Tuesday and Thursday mornings the market was open, we didn’t sell enough to help much. So we got jobs on nearby farms. Picking strawberries in season paid 3 cents a quart; picking beans or shocking wheat paid 15 cents an hour. We could help make hay, plow corn, thrash, hoe weeds. The best pay was cutting corn at 9 cents a shock or more. I helped our school janitor sweep up after school and also shared janitor work at the church with Lamar Swartzbaugh. Edward and I did some barn and silo painting. One day we made $4 helping Maurice Evans bale straw form the pile made by the thrashers.
At 17 before my senior year in school, I lied about my age and worked that summer at Robbins & Myers shop where electric motors were made. The work was from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. plus a half day on Saturdays for 30 cents an hour. Two 3-cent raises brought the maximum to 36 cents after six weeks. Once on piece work I made $38 for the 100-hour two week pay period.
The pietistic background in the family on both sides made for modesty of the highest order. The grandmothers wore so many skirts they were almost overcome by summer heat. If Pop dressed a cow carrying a calf he disposed of the fetus so none of us saw it. Once when our milk cow gave birth to a calf in the pasture we went to see it. I made an observation that the cow was now much thinner, and almost got a licking for mentioning it. Mother was short and heavy, so we never knew when she was pregnant. Our sex education came from the boys.
The Friday night before Clarence was born and I was 14, Mom was having difficulty trimming her nails. I offered to do it for her. The next day at Market, someone brought word that we had another brother. That’s when I quit trimming her nails and she never had any more children. A final note
A final incident to close this project occurred on Uncle John’s farm near Enon. The family had driven down one Sunday to visit. Edward and I and the two younger cousins (girls) were walking around when we came up on the heard of milk cows and the bull. Sarah, whom we thereafter called “the ornery one,” pointed to the bull’s male fixtures. With an impish grin she asked us if we knew what was in the bag between its legs. Of course we knew but were too shy to speak either word to describe its contents. At our age we had never heard the word “testicles” nor the meat market name for them, which was “Rocky Mountain Oysters.” Some people consider them as a delicacy. I wouldn’t know.
So we come to the close of this story. I have now re-typed it and will have copies made to share with the families. Having gathered the family genealogy, made a model of the slaughterhouse, a model of St. Paul Lutheran church with an accompanying history, and now having written this stuff, I believe it’s too late in this afternoon of life to conjure up any more projects.
(In an English class at Wittenberg, we had an assignment to write an essay on a personal experience. I did this on the above topic. The professor thought the original was too dull with just stating the facts and suggested I rewrite it. This I did, and fancied it up with a lot of adjectives and descriptive stuff like J. Fenimore Cooper did in his novels. Here it is as I was called on to read in front of the class Feb. 24, 1931. This swimming hole was not the better known Pony Hole, but another father down the stream we called The Devil’s Basin. I didn’t mention there was a “Spiritualist’s House” on the bank above which had rumors about it of strange activities. A few years in our time it was home to a family with several children. It was two stories high, but only one room each.)
Summer: The scorching rays of the sun in a cloudless sky beat down mercilessly, causing all to seek the shade of leafy trees. The flowers droop their heads, and even the blades of grass curl up in an effort to shade their tips in the shadow of their stems. From a nearby tree comes the chirp of a single sparrow. Even the bees have betrayed their proverbial industriousness. Heat waves shimmer above the dusty road, from roofs of the out-buildings and of the sidewalk. All the joys of bare feet vanish as shoes are reluctantly put on to relieve additional suffering. From a nearby field comes the drone of a tractor mingled with the squeaks of a straining binder. Thirsty men, their brows wet with sweat, follow it and set up the hot sheaves of golden grain. Amid the heat and silence of the afternoon the lure of the swimming hole calls plainly to every boy.
With straw hats placed to shade the entire head, we start down the road, which seems a veritable furnace stretching out for miles over the broad countryside. After walking what seems years we cover the half mile and cross on field on the left. Climbing a second fence, the woods receives us amidst its towering trees (oaks and elm was here edited by the professor — actually they were oak and beech) and dense foliage. For a moment we were almost content to stop and revel.
Then we arrive at the creek and follow it downstream for several hundred yards where it flows between rugged cliffs. We descend the rustic log with steps hewn in one side and alight on the cool sands below. Close by a large spring spills its flood of cold sparkling water into the creek. For a moment, we drink in the wonderful scene. The stream in the course of time has dissolved the limestone bed and formed a deep ravine with little funnels and cave-like apertures in the sides. It is quite long and shaded by overhanging trees above.
Ferns and wildflowers in abundance grow with the moss and cover the walls and fill the canyon with a wild sweet scent. The water, after flowing a half mile through rocky glens, has created a falls, splashing and creating flakes of foam to the musical murmur that only a lover of nature can appreciate.
We don our suits (actually we went skinny dipping) and soon all discomforts and displeasures forsake us as we become part of the natural scene amid the refreshing coolness of the old swimming hole.
(Teacher’s comments: Very pleasant concrete details and considerable mood. Your description is vivid. Watch spelling and punctuation” Grade: B-)