Source: NMHS Newsletter, November 1992

Memo From the Teacher’s Desk
By Orpha J. Weimer

In my family were many teachers. I taught, then stepped out for 25 years to be with my children, before going back to Chester for 17 more years. Like many mothers, when my two sons came home from Army service and needed a bit more training, Mother pitched in to help out. I liked Chester School quite well but did have a rousing welcome.

The Junior High was still there at the time I began. These youngsters marched out just ahead of us and down the stair to meet the waiting buses. One evening our progress was slowed down by a pitch-in fight just ahead of us on the stairs by two young bantam roosters. The junior high monitors were too far ahead of us to call. I knew time was short. We were supposed to hurry. Consequently I stepped forward, grabbed an arm of each boy and not too gently propelled them on. Luckily they moved, for they were both big enough to have made mincemeat out of me!

That evening rather late I received a telephone call. I am sure the telephone wires sizzled—it was the worst cussing I’ve ever heard in my life. In fact, I didn’t know all the words existed. A threat at the end quickly tied it to the school affair, although I did not recognize the voice.

Mr. Parks, who was then principal, advised that we keep silent until one of them give himself away. It was nearly two months later when a young scamp from out near Servia stopped to talk one day.

“You know the day you got sweared at, Mrs. Weimer? You thought it was me, didn’t you? But I didn’t. It was that smart aleck who lives across the street from you. He’s in the restroom braggin’ about it.”

Again Mr. Parks suggested we wait a little longer and let the culprit stew. I really don’t know what action Parks took, but the young rooster, who is now a grown man, has never spoken to me since. However, from all things one hears, his vocabulary hasn’t suffered at all!

It is a bit silly now. The worst thing for me was keeping silent when his mother, who was a member of the same church as I, bragged so about what a wonderfully smart and good boy her son was.

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to pile up memories. Teachers do get plenty of them—good, bad, indifferent, yet always touching. You have to like kids, too, for they can and do say some of the darnedest things. Like how Mama got her black eye or the color of her hair dye, or even about the bottle of motor oil Dad’s got out in the garage which he always has to taste to see if it is good or not. Yes, parents would sometimes be quite surprised what children tell.

I always carried a small sewing kit with me for unexpected emergencies. One noon a grinning sixth grader came to my door and said, “Johnny’s in the restroom and wants you to come to the door so he can talk to you.” I expected a trick, but I went. Poor John had ripped the seat of his trousers, and a classmate had taken them to the office for help. Mrs. Poston, the secretary, tried but all she had available was a stapler. Obligingly the pants were spliced and sent back to Johnny. “I thought I was sittin’ on firecrackers,” said John’s rather tearful voice.

Now it was teacher’s turn. The afternoon bell rang, so we started off with an unscheduled arithmetic study period on next day’s lesson which I monitored while sitting in the back of the room with my trusty needle. All’s well that ends well. Johnny took it easy on the afternoon playground, had homework to do on the next day’s arithmetic which he had missed, and Mrs. Poston got kidded everlastingly for her staple stitchery!

Sometimes mothers’ little “darlings” are knowing little brats, too. One incident caused quite a stir in a group of observing student teachers. A birthday had been celebrated with ice cream bars, and the honored child reported on some of his gifts. Then, to get settled down and bring all of the children into the talk, the teacher smiled and asked, “What would you do if someone gave you a thousand dollars?” Several children responded in various fun ways when one boy held up his hand. “I’d give half of it to an old whore and have a jolly good time on the rest.”

The teacher replied, “Well, that’s one way,” then turning to a shy little girl, he asked, “Susan, what would you do?” After her answer the wastebasket was passed for wrappers, damp towelettes, etc., and then classes resumed.

Later in the observation discussion group the teacher was criticized for not reprimanding the boy for his language. However, most of us thought, as had the teacher, that very few, if any, of the children realized the connotation of the word used, whereas, a setdown at the time would have fixed it in their minds. It was a case of “best let sleeping dogs lie.” Teachers walk a narrow path quickly.

Teachers don’t always get off easy. Sometimes the students have a real holiday. We had a tadpole in a glass jar, hoping we could watch his legs grow. We did, and it was interesting, but we all got our money’s worth when he learned to croak in the middle of an arithmetic lesson. You couldn’t shut him up, so it had to be back to the pond for him.

My nature study lessons frequently developed kinks. On spring evenings along Sycamore Street one could usually hear quite a few “hooty” owls calling back and forth. From my front porch one could watch and listen very comfortably. I knew one wise little fellow had a roost in the maple tree by the front step. Often in the morning one could easily see little fresh regurgitated pellets all over the grass.

One morning after the owls had been quite brisk, I took a few of the fresh pellets to school with me. We tore some apart and were amazed. The meat was gone, but the pellets were full of grey hair, bits of skin, small bones and tough parts, as well as a few tiny rocks. From this we deduced that Mr. Owl had been on a mouse-catching party during the night. He had enjoyed his mouse steak breakfast, but these were the parts he couldn’t chew. Since he didn’t have hands to use a knife or fork, he simply rolled them together and stuffed them into pouches of his cheeks and throat to spit out later. We considered him a pretty smart bird and didn’t feel sorry for the field mouse at all. This started us off collecting interesting facts about birds all fall.

Sometimes this discovery method wasn’t so successful and backfired. Like the time my big boys put a rubber snake inside the office secretary’s desk, and she fainted. Or the time they fed an unsuspecting girl some of a Christmas red pepper plant in a piece of candy which blistered her throat. Then the lesson was “think before you act.”

This could apply to teachers also. I had three or four very “nice” little boys who played together at the far end of the playground, usually chasing in and out of a clump of shrubbery in an endless game of tag, then came running when the bell rang. I did quiz and observe them, but it was several years later when one of the scamps ‘fessed up. They took turns serving as lookouts and smoking. They ate mints on the run to disguise their breath. How dumb can you get at times?

Another interesting tale on the teacher concerns a taffy pull. Mr. Merkle’s room was away on a field trip, and my big boys were a little envious. I suggested a surprise study period. We arranged with the cooks to use the cafeteria for an afternoon study time. My husband and I had planned to entertain a Sunday School group at a candy pull, so I had all the makings in a big box at home. Harry brought it to me at school. The youngsters, as a class, read and wrote their social studies questions while a small committee helped me boil the syrup. All went very well until we discovered that the small block of butter reserved out for the actual pulling had been used. One of the girls who worked in the lunch room said she could get some as the cooks always kept a reserve in the refrigerator.

We washed our hands, divided into pairs, and started pulling, laughing and chattering until one boy couldn’t stand it any longer. He pulled off a chuck to chew and then, sputtering furiously, ran to the wastebasket. “T’ain’t fit for the pigs,” he yelled! Most of us agreed—the butter which we had appropriated from the frig was garlic butter for the next day’s garlic bread!”

Teaching was never boring or dull. Always something was happening. I urged the children to share and invited their parents to participate when possible. When we studied Rome, the subjects of law and coinage came up. We looked at a penny and tried to find out what skills and knowledge we could have credit for if a child, let us say, in the year 3945 should find one and no Americans were around. It made good supper time conversation. We wrote a list of 22 facts about ourselves on the blackboard.

Another interesting subject concerned the planet earth’s being destroyed and our having to move to another planet in a spaceship. What ten things would you take? Or possibly what 12 people would be your best companions? Choices and values of worth take some clear thinking and are hard to teach.

Perhaps I stressed science. I am not a scientific-minded person actually. I just married a scientist, but I realize it is a valuable tool to have some knowledge about. We worked at it and the fact the children always came up with 10-15 awards in the science fairs, so popular at the time, is a pleasant memory. We started with an idea and then held a room discussion on how to make it work. Of course, we asked questions of everyone we could find but did the work ourselves. I recall that one boy had to redo a poster four times because of spelling, and I insisted on neatness. We tried to make them attractive as well. They also had a good rating in the county spelling contests. They would drill and help each other quite often.

The last episode I dare include, I needed permission to relate. Since I enjoyed social studies, I wished to help my students learn to relate to, evaluate, and deal with the people around us as well as themselves. Occasionally we played the old “Show and Tell” game. Funny things, interesting things, or just useful things to laugh, chatter, and smile about. Then we would have a group discussion about how or why they appealed to us. The children soon learned not to be supercritical.

One morning Ross Briner’s youngest son appeared with a very curious and large contraption that none of us could name. Even the other teachers, who always came to see our exhibits, were stumped. Finally one boy said that part of it sort of looks like a pipe. That did it. Our principal, Mr. Howenstine, named it: a Chinese opium or water pipe. (I am sure he must have spent a little time in the reference section of the library that morning.) The rest of us didn’t even know what to call it. Young Chris said, “Yes, it is an opium pipe that Dad  brought home as a souvenir when he was a young boy in the Army. I don’t believe Mom even knows he’s got it,” he grinned.

The strange ways of our Mideastern people made interesting social studies for quite a time. Learning tangents sparked off in several directions as well as noting the amusing things young soldier boys might see or do. Mr. Briner did give me permission to relate this, and Mrs. Briner laughingly remarked that she didn’t tell her sons everything she knew.

Cooperation can certainly make social studies a very interesting and lively subject. However, being critical of a country or even the neighbor next door is not always the best method of approach or pathway to understanding.

Your reward in teaching is the friendship of the students. Perhaps years later you are fortunate to learn if your work was on the right track or not.



Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1992

Campus Memory  By Orpha J. Weimer

In 1923 my roommate, Gail Stephens and I took a notion that we wanted to have our mothers spend a spring weekend with us at the college.  They objected, of course, with all sorts of reasons: house-cleaning, garden-making, strawberries, little chickens, and so on.  Our lady mothers were widows and hard-working farmwomen, neither of whom had traveled very far from home.  We wanted to give our moms a bit of a vacation but it finally dawned on us that they were a little afraid of the idea.

We decided for them to see us on a real school day rather than during the social atmosphere of a weekend, so, when they finally agreed to come, we planned carefully for our Thursday-through Saturday “party.”  We roomed a half-block off campus on Bond Street with “Aunt Mary” Winger.  Two of the girls were to be away on a music tour, so, with their and Aunt Mary’s consent we could use their rooms and beds.

Family members and friends helped the mothers make connections from their homes to North Manchester, relying on the Interurban to Wabash and the evening train to North Manchester.   The weather was fine and the timing just right, so we could get to know each other before heading off to Oakwood Hall for supper.

We girls normally did our own cooking, but this once we thought our ladies ought to know what dormitory food was like and made reservations for the evening.  The mothers were all eyes, seeing the roomful of tables for eight and the mob of students taking their places.

Those seated with us were chatty and friendly as introductions were made. The young man who headed our table said grace, and then we were served. And—what do you know—both women laughed and felt at ease. We were being served big bowls of cubed bread and icy cold milk! (I don’t recall what else we had!)

We walked back to Aunt Mary’s to visit her and the other girls before we “had an early night.” As the next day, Friday, was still a school day, we were up early. Breakfast was tea and toast with lashings of homemade jam and some fresh strawberries which Gail’s mother had brought. Then off to morning chapel.

Chapel was a must. Seats were assigned, with boys on the right side of the aisle and girls on the left. Visitors sat in the smaller side sections. I was a monitor that spring, so I had an attendance slip to fill out. (Too many unexcused absences reflected in grades.) The faculty sat on a low, raised platform along the east end. We had announcements, a morning hymn, and the prayer, followed by President Winger’s short devotional talk. He was a good speaker, worth listening to, and the mothers were impressed. They also noticed the Brethren girls wore black cotton stockings and lace prayer caps.

Neither of us had an early class, so we went up front and out along the long administration hall, past the main entrance. There were offices along the south side and classrooms along the north. They could scarcely believe it was so new (having just been built the year before to connect the two older buildings.) There were classrooms on the second and third floors. The chime was in a steeple above the entrance, but the stairs were steep, so we didn’t go up.

We went to the basement mailroom and bookstore where the mothers could get some postal cards and also meet Mrs. Ida Dunbar. She was L.D. Ikenberry’s daughter and knew a lot about Manchester. We left by going up the outdoor stairway. The mothers rested on the big stone-double-seated “spoon-holder” to watch the students. When the change bell rang, Gail took her mother to a methods class back on the second floor while Mother and I went out the back entrance to the library building where I had botany.

I pulled mother past Professor Kintner’s jungle of boxes, flats, and small potted plants on the steps, window sills, and an odd chair or so. He was cross-pollinating seeds and starting cuttings. Mama Kintner kept him quite busy, supplying her with new poseys for her garden club, and in his classes we got first-hand knowledge of seeding, thinning, trimming, and grafting.

There was a standard rule that a class could leave if the teacher was ten minutes late. Kintner was never early, but they could never catch him late! The students were laughing and making bets, but he was two minutes early. It was Mother who made their day, however. She looked up, gasped quite audibly, then raised both hands to stroke her cheeks and chin. The class turned to look, then shouted with laughter. Even Prof had to laugh, declaring he didn’t need hair dye yet. In the open doorway his crop of curly whiskers were a bright and shiny red!

After botany came gym. Everybody had to take that. While I played tennis, the mothers came with me and sat, talking, on a bench under the oaks. The courts were about where Petersime Chapel is now and in short supply. If you knew the game, you were assigned time during the early lunch hour. Dormitory folk would get their chance later. You never knew who your partner might be.

Young Prof Bollinger was new. He and his wife, Martha, were caretakers of the Men’s Dorm. Sometimes a teacher back for a refresher class, Russ Michael, played. He usually brought a young woman named Helen (it was thought that they were engaged!)

One of the most unusual players was M. Irene. You had to be polite and say “Miss Johnson” usually. She was head of the placement bureau and had come from Indianapolis. We liked her but sometimes grinned behind her back; tall, gangly, thin, with long, black hair and snappy black eyes, she always wore men’s black laced shoes because of foot trouble, except for tennis when she wore white sneakers.

She would stand spraddle legged, teetering from side to side, swinging her racquet. Then, with a crazy yelp, she would hit the ball back with vim. She had a great backhand.

She had an engaging smile. When you started a placement interview, like a mother hen, she came to see you and wish you luck, as well as check if you wore a hat and had a clean handkerchief and spotless white gloves!

When Gail rejoined us, the four of us sauntered to “Tater” Brook’s filling station (now the Union parking lot.) Everyone stopped at Tater’s, if only to buy chewing gum. He loved to tell stories and was full of them. We had a hard time getting away as the mothers like to tell stories, too!

The mothers were not inhibited now. We answered questions and explained things as we went for a belated lunch at Gilbert’s, a popular snack spot, across the street just south of the Men’s Dorm. The family had remodeled the garage into a short order place. Then, finishing up with ice cream cones, we headed for Aunt Mary’s.

Aunt Mary kept the mothers entertained with stories of her early life around Sweetser, about Otho’s childhood and of her daughter’s life as missionary in India. Gail and I got supper with some of Mother’s home sugar-cured ham. When the tea was hot we invited all three ladies down to our basement room to eat. The talk flowed on; we just sat and listened.

Aunt Mary was going around the corner to her daughter Cora’s [Mrs. L.W. Schultz] for the evening while we went to the auditorium to see some excellent one-act plays, written and performed by students.

Gail’s mother planned to leave shortly after lunch on Saturday. Student friends, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Walker, came over to take the four of us on a tour of the town and covered bridge, then along the back road to Liberty Mills. We made a brief stop at the old Comstock cemetery where the entire pioneer family is buried in a large circle. At Roann we went through the double-spanned covered bridge and then stopped at a small restaurant in the west part of town for lunch, Gail’s and my treat and thank-you to the Walkers.

My mother was staying over until Sunday morning as there was no Saturday evening train. The local Methodist pastor, the Rev. R.C. Plank, had grown up as a youngster in my hometown of Bringhurst, near Flora, Indiana. After church he and Mrs. Plank took us to Wabash for the interurban stop, and Mother began her ride home in reverse order.

Later we found out that they had lots to tell about Manchester and were very glad to have us girls there. As my brother remarked, “They told all about it to everyone they saw and sent word to everyone they didn’t see.” It was indeed a heartwarming experience for all of us.



Source: Newsletter of North Manchester Historical Society, Inc. 
Volume IX, Number 1 (February 1992)

Miss Dare Dared! By Orpha J. Weimer

If you were not around in 1949, you missed a big occasion in North Manchester.  Big it was, judged by the size of the Sadie Wampler auditorium whose 800-seat capacity was filled and overflowing.  The occasion was the staging of a magnificent bridal revue, chaired by Irma Dare, who dared!  She dared to plan the happy, first-time mingling of college and town women.

Miss Dare welcomed guests of the College Women’s Club, the Minerva Club and North Manchester Women’s Club, college girls and student wives, to see attractive young women and a few gracious doll-like elders model museum-quality bridal costumes in the first town-college sponsored social event any of us could recall.

The evening of November 9, 1949, was cool and beautiful.  The college maintenance department had constructed a long, elevated walkway the full length of the central aisle, and extra lights were installed so that everyone could see well.  The walkway was carpeted by the Urschel Department Store.  The local greenhouses with their compliments sent two huge baskets of lovely flowers.

Only one model had trouble “getting to the church on time.”  Everything clicked along very well for so big an amateur production.

The festivities opened with a collect by Mrs. V.F. Schwalm and five vocal numbers.  Mary Jo Turner, accompanied by Noreen Norman, sang “’Neath the Southern Moon,” from Victor Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta;” Kenneth Miller, accompanied by Mrs. Miller, sang “I’m Falling in Love with Someone;” Lois Bagwell, accompanied by Charlotte Schutz (Deavel), sang “Italian Street Song;” Professor Paul Halladay, accompanied by Charlotte Schutz, sang “Ah!  Sweet Mystery of Life.”  The four then joined in a quartet number.

Mrs. Maxine Domer talked about bridal traditions.  Mrs. Harry (Orpha J.) Weimer served as chairman and narrator of the event and Mrs. Paul (Genita) Speicher as its organist.  Jack Ruff and Stan Byerly accompanied the ladies in the revue as attendants.

Professor and Mrs. Arthur Hoffman, the programme tells us, sang “Indian Love Call and “L’Amour, Toujours L’Amour,” both by Friml.

It is interesting to note that the oldest dress, almost 100 years old then, dated from 1850 and was from the collection of Mrs. Homer Ebbinghouse.  There were 37 dresses from many women throughout our community, and the surprise ending was the 1949 dress modeled by its owner, Mrs. John Bechtelheimer, a bride of one day!

And so it was that the beautiful Bridal Parade of November 9, 1949, helped to dissolve the polite “town and gown” divisions.

Editor’s Note: Mrs. Weimer’s interesting manuscript further discusses the history of Manchester College, often in the context of the community’s involvement, and writes of several specific cases in which, she feels, the town and college were brought together.

She notes that new courses and new teachers were added.  They included Bob Stauffer (1922-1943) who made a great record with the high school basketball team, taking the winning team with him when he began to coach at Manchester College; and Carl Burt (1925-1944) who kept up enthusiasm in football.

George Beauchamp (1929-1943) spearheaded winning, four-day debate tourneys for a number of years, employing the help of local schools and local community residents.  The college has continued cultural cross-pollination to benefit the community at large and continues to be one of the most popular reasons people give for living in North Manchester.

 Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1991

Hero Worship  
By Orpha J. Weimer

1925 was a marvelous year.  October’s “bright, blue weather” held until nearly Thanksgiving.  The campus was lovely with colored leaves and cool pungent air which made everybody feel peppy.  Like Browning’s “Pippa Passes,” I can quote:
The morning’s at seven.
The lark’s on the wing.
The hillside’s dew-pearled.
God’s in His Heaven.
All’s well with the world.

That fall I became a full-fledged college student.  Indiana had begun upgrading her educational system, requiring all teachers to have four years of college training.  One or two-room schools were on the way out, and rural children were being bused to larger consolidated systems and better teaching facilities.

My two-room building was being closed, and I was out of a job.  Although my first two years of teaching had been satisfactory, I had not quite finished my first year of training.  I could not see a four-year goal as possible.  However, my former principal, Virgil Stinebaugh, advised me to hang on.  He, Mother , and I talked things over.  With Mother’s help and a college job and with Stinebaugh’s faith in me, I felt like trying.

Dean Schwalm enrolled me.  On learning that I liked his pet subject, history, as well as English, of course I took a major in history.  I got a job in the college library where I had worked much of the summers.  They even raised the pay from 30 cents to 35 cents an hour.  As a former student with two years’ teaching experience I was given a key to open up the first hour at 7:00 and to close the last hour at 10:00.  It gave me access to reserved books to take out for nighttime study.  The worst part was trying to chase out the courting couples at closing!

I splurged to buy a Lyceum (now the Artist-Lecture series) ticket.  Patrons for the popular public programs came by busloads from every direction, even a few from Fort Wayne.  The speaker for one late November program was Sir Wilfred Grenfell, a “lion” of the times, known as the Albert Schweitzer of America.

There was a rule that we could close the library early on program nights.  The old Wampler auditorium was filled to capacity.  Two seats were saved for us close up on the north side, and we squeezed into our seats just after the introduction had been made.  (And imagine our surprise when we had stepped across the back drive to find the ground white with soft, fluffy snow.)

Sir Wilfred Grenfell
I had never seen a British lord or anyone who had had the adventures Sir Wilfred had described in his book.  I expected a tall, well-built six-footer with a big, commanding voice.  But, no, a little, rather insignificant-appearing man stepped forward and spoke in a high, squeaky voice.  This couldn’t be the hero of the north!  But he went on and thanked us for our unusual and homelike greeting of snow on his arrival, assuring us it wasn’t quite what he was used to.  Then he spoke of his work, and I listened.

The Grenfells were blessed with a mania for helping the less fortunate.  The physician-surgeon and his wife, with their own funds, equipped a hospital ship, and eventually five ships, for the Labrador and Canadian coast.  Then, on a sightseeing tour inland, they found shocking needs there.

Many of the Eskimo Indians and early Scotch-English pioneers were living in bleak, Spartan conditions.  Since fishing and fur-trapping were about their only means of livelihood, subsistence levels were meager during the long winter months.  Again the missionary Grenfells brought medical and spiritual rescue from disease, appalling living conditions and poor self-image.

Beyond charity they also needed to find a way for these people to help themselves in the long term. Lady Grenfell and her traveling friend, Jessie Luther, had noticed attractive handwork produced in many of the small homes by the women in their long evenings and spare moments, especially the centuries-old craft of hooked rugs.

Luther was a Godsend: she had had previous experience with cottage creations, such as marketing a quality product.  Sir Wilfred was also a fairly keen businessman.  Soon Grenfell International Industrial Association was underway.  Lady Grenfell started on pattern and design, and kits were assembled.  Gone were Victorian posies and scrolls, and in came fish, seals, penguins, reindeer, and polar bears.  Dogsleds and teams drove past mountainous icescapes and icy water.

The men were good at carving wood, bone, ivory, and soapstone.  Small toys of sleds, stuffed animals, and birds appealed.  Luther kept strict control over product and management.  Clean, used materials were recycled, but with the snowy and icy backgrounds, new bright white materials had to be purchased, all of this difficult to get.  In 1915 when silk stockings and knit undies became so popular, a slogan was used: “When your stockings begin to run, let them run to Labrador!”

It was constant work to keep going, but it did show amazingly good results.  Sir Wilfred died in 1940, and, without him and his vigorous advertising, the organization faltered.  Machine-made trade muscled in, and many of the outlet stores had to close, although some still survive even today in the Northwest.

I flew to Gander Airport in the late 1970’s and was delighted to find a Grenfell shop which sold me a polar bear wallhanging.  I had learned to hook, and the College Women’s Club was teaching hooking in handcraft session.  Just this past summer in a magazine advertising crafts, a Chicago Grenfell outlet was offering some Canadian imports for sale.  Among them was a 26” X 40” hand-hooked Grenfell rug for $900.00.  A rug, probably valued at one time at $6.50 or $8.00, is now an antique bargain!

“Live and learn,” the old axiom goes.  With encouragement I managed my four years of college plus two more degrees.  I learned that not all heroes need to be six feet tall and can see more and more the wisdom of Grenfell’s humanitarianism.  I am learning with Browning and “Pippa,” God’s in His heaven and many things are all right in the world.


 Source: NMHS Newsletter, August 1990

Good Times in a “Gypsy” Camp

By Orpha J. Weimer

 From the mid-1930’s into the 1950’s there was a “notorious” church school class in the old Methodist Church (stood at 208 West Second Street), which did zany, unorthodox things and had good times while working.

 They were supposedly the young couples’ class, although several had painted the high chair three or four times.  The group stayed consistently at 60 members, mostly young professional people who enjoyed each others’ company.  They worked, played and prayed together, sympathized and consoled one another, and had energy to spare.

 The finances came mostly by serving lunches four days at the State Debate Tourney at Manchester College.  Prof. George Beauchamp, a class member, chaired this group for several years.  It was work, as we did not have modern conveniences.  We dressed our own chickens, roasted our hams, baked our pies, cakes, and rolls and concocted our casseroles and salads from farm-fresh fruits and vegetables.  Many hands made the work light in what seemed an almost continuous part.  At times there was even more help than needed.  Not many women worked outside of the home, so young children were ”parked” with grandparents or friends, and the young mothers visited as well as worked.

 Parties were held every month.  Committees vied with each other to be the most original.  Some were unscheduled, such as a housewarming, a farewell, or a visitor to greet, and even the weather got into it.  Many times sleds were borrowed over town for a belly-smacking ride down a hillside and then finished off with a bacon and scrambled egg outdoor fry, broiled hamburgers or hotdogs, cookies, toasted marshmallows or “s’mores,” with plenty of hot coffee as well.

 One evening the Weimer brothers, Al and Harry, the Ralph Baggots, and Don and Bessie Hoover had a “gypsy camp” on the Weimer farm, now the Manchester Plaza and Strauss Veal plant.  Notices on toilet paper were sent out, giving dates and instructions to bring only a tin pie plate and a spoon.  They were to follow Al Weimer’s airport runway across fields to the wooded area.  Picnic tables were loaded with trays of raw veggies, fruit, pickles and relishes, crackers and trays of bread, along with long-handled forks for you to toast you own.  From a large iron bar swung over the fire hung my mother’s big iron kettle, full of spicy, bubbling goulash ready for the serving.

Over a nearby fire was a large aluminum kettle of hot oil.  Nearby was a table containing long-handled forks and paper-lined trays with layers of cut doughnuts for you to dip and fry yourself.  We’ll never forget Roland Schmedel’s frying doughnuts for anyone who would let him.  One hand held the fork while the other shook a paper bag of sugar to sweet-coat his offering.

 For along time afterward we sat around, singing songs, telling riddles and stories, or playing jokes and pranks on each other.  It was a notoriously fun-loving class, never guessing what the next party would be like, except for plenty of food and gallons of good, hot coffee.



Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1990

President Winger Anecdote

By Orpha J. Weimer


Another President Winger story that has always amused me occurred in the early 1940’s.

During the late Depression and World War II years teachers trained in special fields were hard to find, so Manchester College, like many other colleges, began to fill vacancies with displaced foreign professors.  One of these came and was housed in a college house directly across from the administration building.   

All faculty wives were expected to call and welcome the newcomers.  I happened to be calling on the wife late one afternoon and could not help overhearing a telephone conversation.  The call was to President Winger’s office.  The new prof did not know our American ways and certainly not President Winger’s! 

The new prof announced that his apartment was cold and he wanted someone to come see to it.  I could hear the voice answer, “There is coal in the bin, isn’t there?”  In minutes President Winger himself came stomping across the street, and the two men went to the basement.  Shortly one could hear coal being shoveled into the furnace, and the men returned to the upper hall. 

President Winger spoke, “That furnace is in good shape, and you have plenty of coal.  All you need to do is add a shovel or so each morning.  Did you try it?” 

“No,  was the answer, “I don’t do that kind of labor.” 

The president spoke again.  “We furnish you the apartment and the coal, but a fireman does not come with it…that is your job.  When you are cold, I suggest you go down and add some coal to the fire.  It is easy and not hard to learn.  Yes, you may need to wash your hands afterward, but that won’t hurt.  Good day!” 

The door clicked and the president trod back to his office.  I left soon and could see the president sitting at his office window, busily pecking away on his old typewriter.  How much of the lesson was understood and applied I never had the nerve to find out.


Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1990

Marble Fever

By Orpha J. Weimer


Were you ever a marble kid?  Few people today know about the game of marbles.  It was strictly for kids and a bit frowned on by mothers.

You played it by kneeling down on the bare ground for a game board, usually in a damp spot.  A circle was inscribed in the soft earth, and the players lined up around it.  Two contestants placed about 13 marbles each in the ring and took turns shooting at them.  To shoot you held a larger marble in the closed hand and then projected it forward by the thumb, trying to knock the inside marbles out of the ring with the heavier “glassie” shooter.  This hand could not touch the ground but came as close to it as possible.  When crawling about to sight for a favorable angle of attack, of course, clothes as well as hands became filthy! 

Kids frequently made up their own rules, and friends stood by to see that there was no cheating.  The player continued as long as he was a winner and score was kept by the number of marbles he displaced.  It took considerable practiced skill to be a good player and to play for keeps of all the marbles he shot successfully. 

Temper, verbal harassment, and at times fistfights added to the bloody-nose gore. 

Girls didn’t usually play this game very much but were always ready to stand back and cheer their favorite player and thus kept the tempers rolling.  At our school this was mostly a spring game.  It could be played only as long as tempers were controlled or mothers didn’t call the principal too often about “Johnny losing all his marbles.” 

My brother played the game after a fashion but wasn’t much good at it.  He didn’t have the practiced hand because farm kids had evening chores to do.  Mother had made him a sturdy marble bag to take to school, “cause the other fellers had them  Always a wise teacher insisted that the marble bags be placed on a certain shelf during school time.  No boy wanted to be left out of the springtime “marble fever,” even if it did only last a few weeks. 

However, marble fever isn’t dead.  Every once in a while you read about an eastern city holding a marble festival, even a girls’ contest. 

When delving into my family treasures recently, I came across some marble mementos.  One was a lively big glass marble about one and one half inches across that had belonged to my mother.  It was a beauty with different shadings of blue swirling around a pure white core, then all over laced with a thin line of coral.  I always wanted to know its story, but Mother never told me.  She just smiled softly and said that in her young girlhood days these were called “sweetheart gifts.” 

Perhaps my most vivid marble memory concerns my younger son.  My husband, Harry, was teaching at Bridgewater College in Virginia during the winter months, and as seasonal transients we came back to North Manchester every summer. 

One spring morning shortly before we left Virginia for the season, a group of us was standing on the church lawn, enjoying the spring sunshine and talking, when I noticed my son and the minister’s visiting grandson’s playing about and sitting on the steps of the church.  An elderly gentleman was talking to them.  I didn’t notice that he had given the boys a paper sack of marbles.  In kid fashion they were delighted and began dividing, “one of you, one for me,” putting the marbles into their pockets. 

The last bell rang, and we went inside.  The minister’s wife and her grandson were seated in the pew just ahead of us.  She invited my son to sit with them. 

The service started, and the boys were behaving beautifully for four-year-olds.  When we sat down after the morning hymn, there was a distinct “plomp” and then steady rolling sound down the sloping, wooden floor.  The two boys wiggled to see.  Then came a series of plomps and many rollings!  Of course the boys did not want to lose their treasures so they got up and started out.  My very red-faced husband grabbed ours, while the amused minister’s wife caught up her offspring.  The entire membership was fairly choking with smothered laughter. 

The started minister came to and recognized the crisis.  He started to speak and then burst into laughter, a signal for everyone but the Weimers to roar!  After what seemed a lifetime Reverend Johnson stepped forward and raised his hand for quietness and spoke, saying he felt it wise to change the order of the service a little.  “Since the Lord loves a cheerful giver, we will now receive the morning offering.  Will the ushers please come forward?” 

I can’t tell you much about the rest of the service, but always after that our two sons sat with their parents, and one sheepish-eyed old gentleman steered clear of us for quite a while.



Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1990

By Orpha J. Weimer

George and Catherine Beauchamp and Harry and Orpha Weimer were good friends.  Both couples were young faculty members at the college in the early 1950’s and members of a church school class noted for its good fellowship and unusual activities.

One evening while playing bridge over tea and cinnamon toast, Catherine  and Orpha decided they wanted to do a little civic festivity and determined to have two dinner parties.  They had many friends in common and didn’t want to leave anyone out.  After talking it over, a plan evolved; even the men joined in.

Each couple had a large old home, just three blocks apart, so by combining assets they could do a large group at one time.  They chose two consecutive nights after the Holiday season with the same menu for both.  Catherine and Orpha would do the cooking; Harry would use the canning factory truck for transportation; and George would plan entertainment for both nights with slight variations.  Each couple had a teenage son to run errands, answer the door and show guests to cloak rooms.

They drew straws: college members fell to the Weimers the first night and the church school and a few neighbors to the Beauchamps the second night.  They combined china, silver, and glasses.  They borrowed chairs from the church and ten card tables from friends.  Younger family members were sent to spend the night with grandparents.  Any necessary laundering could be done on the day between.  Thus they managed to seat 50 to 55 guests.

Strange to say, it worked beautifully, except for two minor hitches.  Just to be different the invitations, delivered by the sons as paper carriers, were written up as Christmas sales advertisements.  One dear soul of the college group immediately threw theirs unopened into the wastebasket.  A little sweet talk by Catherine finally got her consent.

The other problem was a little more effort.  Our back porches for refrigeration didn’t work out due to a remiss of the weatherman.  Some last minute cooking had to be done for the mashed sweet potato puffs with their surprise pineapple heart had to be done over.  Strong-armed husbands and pressure cookers saved the day.

Entertainment never bothered George.  The guests all helped with gusto.  They played the children’s rhythm band instruments like professionals and even a few whistlers joined in.  A.R. Eikenberry proved to be a star on the triangle; Nina Flueckiger managed the piano with one hand and led with the other; and Paul Halliday squeaked away on the concertina.  Even Dr. R.H. Miller shook a mean set of bells.  As the orchestra rested, our good friend, Dr. Geisert, now president of Bridgewater College, directed the ladies quartet, singing “Up on the House Top” with some very surprising flourishes.  George insisted they dramatize the song.  Emerson Niswander was cast as Rudolph the Reindeer, a little reluctant until, wickedly, he was told he could choose six other victims.  Orpha didn’t remember who played the role of Little Will, but Irene Stauffer was Little Nell and cried almost more than her doll would have.  “No fool no fun,” the saying goes.  I am sure they all had fun.

As  to the church school group on the second night nobody can beat them at impersonating funny paper characters.  A box of useful props had been provided but not many were needed.  They were to put on an act while the rest guessed.  Belle Smith (Courtner), now in Goshen Retirement Home, was a very peppery Mammy Yokum in Mother C.C. Weimer’s old sun bonnet and smoking one of the the boys’ soap bubble pipes.  Esther Taylor and her husband Ernie (Jim Taylor’s parents) put on a hilarious Jiggs and Maggie.  Helen Johnson (Greer) did a ridiculous “The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used to Be.”

When things were progressing at fever pitch, the telephone rang.  Roland Schmedel answered, since he was closest, lifted the receiver, and announced, “Beauchamp’s Pool Hall.  Who’s calling please?”  We could all hear a lady’s voice gasp and reply, ”Oh, I’m sorry… I must have the wrong number!”  She hung up with a vim on our outburst of boisterous laughter.

What did it matter if the next day was another work day when wages were so low everyone had to count  pennies.  Never did we laugh so much.  Many lasting friendships were built.  We managed to live reasonably well and always there was a little extra to divide with a neighbor as well as pay the church pledge.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1990

Aunt Mary 
By Orpha J. Weimer

During the summer and again in the winter of 1924, I roomed on Bond Street in the home of Mrs. Mary Smith Winger, President Otho Winger’s mother.  There were five of us, Lucile Baker, Mabel Zirkle, Gail Stephens and myself, and Gladys Smithers who had a tiny room all to herself.  I believe that Gail Stephens Olds and I are the only ones still living.

Aunt Mary, as she asked us to call her, was a spicy, black-eyed, little person, full of kindness, good humor and fun, yet peppery and full of opinions, too.  She loved to tell stories and had a generous supply of them.  Many were Indian stories, of her youthful neighbors, of her children, and also of the many girls who had roomed with her.  They were very interesting but never hurtful.  She was well along in years, but her observations of her own life and times were delightful.  It was easy to tell where President Winger had inherited some of his vigor and personality.  We girls often laughed and declared that Aunt Mary had two remedies for everything: one, a dose of castor oil, and the other, to go talk to Otho.  She really was a dear, and we appreciated her very much.

In her own practical common sense way she sympathized with our need to economize.  Many a morning she would say, “Girls, I’m going to have a fire in the cookstove all day…better put on a pot of beans.”  How good they tasted when we came in hungry.  Our cooking facility was a kerosene  stove in the basement.  Peanut butter sandwiches plus a bowl of canned soup did at times get a little monotonous.

We also had living room privileges.  Two of the girls were good at the piano, so we sang to our hearts’ content popular, college, church hymns, and even a few little made-up ditties.  Aunt Mary knew them all, plus a few we didn’t and would join in.  She didn’t even frown when we tried a dance step or two!  We played games, such as Rook, Flinch, canasta, checkers, dominoes,  chess  and so forth.  She knew these also and was a good partner.  We tried to be tactful about other games which we knew were on the college taboo list.

Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and evenings we could bring our dates in.  We could also use her kitchen to pop corn and occasionally to make candy.  Aunt Mary retired to her downstairs bedroom generally, but we could hear her squeaky old rocker going strong.  However, very shortly her door would open and with any bit of invitation, out she came, rocker and all, to join the crowd.  She would watch a short while but was soon one of the gang.  Sometimes she would tell us stories or ask when the popcorn, coffee, cocoa or candy was coming along.  Then sometimes to the delight of the fellows she might bring in a big pan of cookies.  Often there were enough extras to tuck into their pockets and take back to the dorm.  In fact, we were never sure if they had come to see us or Aunt Mary!  A home away from home if there ever was one.

We learned to know most of the Winger family fairly well, although they never came on weekends.  Otho always came every morning to see his mother but quite early.  We could hear his voice rumbling before we were out of bed.  J.O. was away a lot and did not have any certain schedule, but John came two or three times a week to lunch with his mother, so we saw him often.  He was jovial and friendly to us all.  Frequently he would invite us for a pickup ride out to his farm home to visit his wife, Anna, and their young children.  That was a real treat.

Some were critical of John as imposing on his mother, but Aunt Mary would not tolerate that.  He was her baby son: she chided him, advised him, lectured him or cheered him, just as in years gone by.  These visits were her pride and joy…she was mothering again.  John teased her as well as any of us who happened to be around, and he brought her many farm gifts and did many little odd chores for her as well.  Today I would love to have a son visit like that.

We did not see the Winger daughters as much, but they did come at various times, as a family group they all seemed very thoughtful of their mother.

About the only return Aunt Mary asked for her kindness was a photo of “Her Girls.”  One wall of her living room was a veritable picture gallery.  I’m not sure of all my memories but believe we five were about the last, if not the last, of Aunt Mary’s roomers.  In all my years of teaching I have been fortunate in having many nice homes and pleasant landladies but never one who stands out so clearly as Aunt Mary.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1989

A Bison for China by Orpha Weimer

“The Governor wants an Indiana bison or buffalo,” these words but nothing more!  It couldn’t be a live one but what then—a model or a carving perhaps, and where would it come from?  Such was the speculation floating about in the spring of 1987.  Mrs. Eleanor Schmedel Himebaugh was astute enough to find the answer.

Folks around N. Manchester will remember Mrs. Himebaugh as the brown-eyed, brown-haired daughter of Roland and Mildred Schmedel who spent her childhood years growing up in our town.  Like father , like son, is the old adage but this time it should be stretched a little to include “like daughter” also.

Roland Schmedel, before his death, was owner and editor of the News Journal for 30 years.  Both his son and daughter seem to be following his footsteps into journalism.  Scott writes under his own byline for The Wall Street Journal and Eleanor is lifestyle editor for The Times-Mail out of Bedford, Indiana.  Eleanor took some work at Manchester College, but graduated from Indiana University.  She then married, moved to Michigan and started her family.  Later the family moved to southern Indiana.  Now with the children grown up, she has more time and having cut her teeth, so to speak, on journalism, she too has turned to this field of work.

The Governor wanting a buffalo was unusual enough to catch her eye, and working at Bedford, which is in the very heart of the Indiana limestone area, she sensed a newsy story.  Quietly Eleanor began sleuthing around and soon uncovered enough facts to piece together a very interesting news article.

It seems that the then Governor Robert Orr of Indiana had been interested for years in Oriental art and culture.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons he has recently made a tentative bid for an embassy post in Singapore.

Back in the fall of 1986, when China was being opened up to world trade, Governor Orr was busily setting up trade, educational and cultural ties with the province of Zhejiang, China.  In 1987, Governor and Mrs. Orr made three trips to Zhejiang, part social, part educational and part business.  In July of that year he and Governor Shen Zu Lun of Zhejiang signed a sister-state agreement as a result of the year long negotiations.  During the opening ceremonial banquet in Zhejiang, Governor Shen enthusiastically  stated that the people of Zhejiang province would send to their sister state of Indiana a pair of carved lions to be made of native Beijing marble.  These are the traditional good luck symbols used in China to guard entrances to important buildings.  Our lions have arrived and can now be seen at the entrance to the Indianapolis Zoo.

Governor Orr then announced he would send as a reciprocal gift from the people of Indiana, and made of Indian limestone, a bison or buffalo, the animal being pictured on our state seal.  This animal was chosen since we do not have an official state animal.

The nitty gritty was how to make his words good and where to find such a carving.  In old fashioned parliance, he was out on a limb and it was being sawed off behind him.

Governor Orr took his problem to a friend, Larry Ingram, of the Indiana State Bank.  After much consultation they decided to get a block of good gray limestone from near Bedford and agreed that the place to start was with the Elliott Stone Company near there.  The Elliott Company is one of the best in the industry.  David Elliott was most obliging and even offered to help in finding a carver.  This was not an easy task for the art of stone carving is nearly a dying art.

Mr. Elliott finally located two men who would consider the job---the Boruff brothers.  The older brother was not retired and the younger had worked in St. Louis for 21 years before retiring.  Both men were World War II veterans and came from a stone carving family.  Virgil, the younger, admitted that he still liked to “putter around” with stone and made small models as a hobby.  “I can make anything people want if they give me something to look at,” he modestly stated.  Apparently David Elliott knew his men when he contacted them.

Virgil made a small model to show Governor Orr.  No style or pattern was given them except for a toy plastic replica, but the model was accepted and the brothers undertook the contract.

When Mrs. Himebaugh first heard the bison tale and scented a story, she also knew something of the limestone area around Bedford.  She learned that the Elliott Stone Company had quite recently had delivered a large block of gray stone to one of their sheds in the middle of the complex.   With quickening interest, she contacted the carvers.  She managed to secure firsthand interviews with the Boruff brothers themselves.  From them she learned a lot about this dying art craft and the complexity of the work ahead of them.  They had agreed to drop everything and begin the task on Labor Day, 1988.

The brothers have been in the stone business 42 years and Lester declared, “Once you start, it goes real fast.”  They expected it would take five to six weeks.  All told, the animal was to be 2/3 life size.  “We don’t do much measuring, we mostly use our eyes,” they said.  “It will be real life looking,” insisted the older.   “About 250 hours of chipping and that’s real good limestone,” he insisted seriously.  “We can make good time.”

In their carving or cutting the two men chipped away half of the weight of the 8 ton block.  The finished animal was 7 feet, 7 inches long; 5 feet, 6 inches high; and 3 feet, 2 inches wide.  “We think it will weigh about 4 tons once we finish,” remarked Virgil. 

Mrs. Himebaugh contacted the governor’s office for more information.  Governor Orr’s aide had not expected to release the story until nearer the date set for the final closing banquet with the Chinese guests and their reporters, along with various state officials, later in October.

Mrs. Himebaugh had thoroughly scooped the Indianapolis reporters with her excellent article.  She was invited to a luncheon in Bedford with the Governor and other state officials, but could not attend because she developed a nasty respiratory flu the day before the unveiling.

During the week of November 16, 1988, quite a cavalcade of Indiana citizens journeyed to Bedford to view the bison before it started its long journey to its new home.    The Zhejiang guests could not attend the Bedford ceremonies because of some last-minute hold up on their visas.  However, the bison was displayed in downtown Bedford for the community as well as state officials.  Everyone seemed glad-hearted except possible the Boruffs.

“Now it would be nice to have the carving stay here,” said Virgil, “now it’s all finished.  I worked at the McMillan Mill when a carving was made 12 years ago that was sent to Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.  It was a gift during the centennial of the United States.  But we haven’t anything here in Monroe or Lawrence counties where the stone actually comes from,” he spoke wistfully.  “Nothing to represent this carving art and the vanishing breed of carvers, as well as the nearly extinct animals that one roamed across our land.”

No tax dollars were spent on the project.  It was funded by banks in Indianapolis and Bedford---and, of course, by Dave and Judy Elliott who donated the stone, the labor for quarrying and hauling the stone, and the shed and equipment for the Boruff brothers to use.  In this so recent election year, it’s hard to say---was it worth all the political wheeling and dealing that went with it?  Maybe so, maybe so!  But there is another way of looking at it.  Was it really an honest-to-goodness, friendly exchange denoting a peaceful understanding between two states in their bid for mutual understanding and economic support?

Anyway, our lions don’t roar and I’m sure a four-ton bison will do very little roaming.  A few of us naïve folk can look at them and smile and say, “Yes, I’m sure it was a thoughtful exchange of peace and good will.”  But aren’t we all glad that Mrs. Himebaugh, a local home-grown girl, was astute enough to capture the story.  [Information used with permission of The Times-Mail, Bedford, Indiana.]

Source: Newsletter  of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.
Volume V, Number 3 (August 1988)

 The Rock & Hospital on the Wabash
Excerpts from Indiana Historical Bulletin 
Research by Mary O’Hara, Wabash
Condensed by Orpha Weimer

Mrs. O’Hara was a friend of mine and we shared many interests through the work we both did.  She was the curator of the County Museum and I was a N. Manchester school teacher.  The museum was an available and worthwhile place to take school children, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Sunday school classes for extra learning experiences.

I doubt if Mrs. O’Hara or I made historians of many of our charges.  I did require respect and a degree of attention.  Mrs. O’Hara had answers for any and all questions.  She was a well-informed hostess and could nearly always bring from her restricted little corner office, a series of “freebies” –pictures, maps, pamphlets, brochures and other goodies as take-home gifts, as well as a delightful host of historic tales.

When she gave me this copy of the Indiana History Bulletin as a personal gift from her dwindling file, I felt much honored.  It contained the account of her work beyond the four walls of the museum for which she had received state recognition, that of the researching and locating of an early voyager’s resting place when needed.

We were both trying in our own humble way to preserve, instill respect, and admiration for, as well as impart knowledge regarding our historical forefathers, their lives, the land, the times and our hopes of handing on authentic roots for future generations.

In the years from 1787-1790 the Northwest Territory was overrun by squatters, renegades and other unsavory characters over whom our young government seemed to have very little control.  Arthur St. Clair, the Governor of the territory, was the only one with any official authority,  But due to the vast size, poor travel conditions, as well as the general lawlessness in the area, he could accomplish very little.

In 1784, Congress did request 700 recruits from the bordering states of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to be used in protection of the troubled frontier.  Pennsylvania having furnished the most men, was given the honor of choosing a leader.  Charles J. Harmar, a retired Revolutionary War officer, was selected and then commissioned by Congress to command the forces.  Men were slow as well as reluctant in arriving for such service.  Finally a year later, a troop of 250 men was organized as the first American Regiment.

Henry Knox had been named by President Washington as Secretary of War in 1785.  He had a command of 600 men in the entire American military establishment.

Colonel Harmar began, expeditiously, to establish a line of forts along the frontier from Fort Pitt to Fort Harmar, his headquarters on the Muskingum River.  However along such an extended supply line and with the migration increasing so rapidly, the force was much too small and his chances for success seemed nearly impossible.

[Report to General Knox June 15, 1788: “Ohio traffic: Period 12/9/1787 to 6/16/1788 – 300 boats, 2,824 horses, 600 sheep, 9 hogs, 6,340 souls, 515 cows, 150 wagons.  River closed by ice until 3/10/1788.  Traffic nigh impossible.”]

As a relief, John Francis Hamtramck, another ex-Revolutionary officer, had joined Harmar in 1786.  His immediate assignment was ousting the tough squatter group from Mingo Bottom near Steubenville.  At Port Vincennes on the Wabash, local government was non-existent.  The possibility of an Indian attack and the question of a U. S., Britain and Spanish understanding, made for a desperate situation.  An undesireable frontiersmen element of American, French and Indians, together corrupted the land with both bad whiskey and lawlessness.  The Indians along the Wabash, as well as the more peaceful Miami, reciprocated with cunning savagery.  Kentucky, across the Ohio River to the south, with their more numerous settlers, already were clamoring to withdraw to statehood.

The problems grew so terrible that President Washington wrote to General St. Clair on October 6, 1789:”It is of high importance that we learn more accurate knowledge concerning the several waters which empty into the Ohio from the northwest and those that discharge themselves into Lakes Erie and Michigan—the lengths of portages between and nature of ground.  Early and pointed attention thereto is earnestly recommended.”

Thus it was that President Washington was indirectly responsible for a documentary reference to the “Rock and the Hospital” on the Wabash at this early date.

The work of determining distances and other data on northern Indiana was handed to General Hamtramck and his voyagers.  [Post to General Hamtramck, 1/13/1790:
“Acertain the precise distance of the Wabash, viz. how far it is from Fort Vincennes to Miami Village (Fort Wayne).  What sort of a navigation does the Wabash afford?  How far from there to the communication with the Lakes, etc.?  Transmit to me the results precisely.”]

[Hamtramck to Harmar, 3/17/1790 in part: “From the Eel River to the great rapid, one league.  This rapid is 15 acres in length.  In some places not over 8 inches of water.  Above the rapid is a flat of ½ league with 6 inches of water.  From Grand Rapid to Calument River (Pipe River) south side, 4 leagues.  Here is a rapid of 10 acres in length but good water.  From Calument River to an island is 1 league.  Passage is on left.  Above the island is a flat for 1 acre with only 6 inches of water.  From island to Rapid St. Sire (?) is three leagues.  Rapid is ½ league long but good water.  From Rapid St. Sire to Massissinoue  River, south side is 2 leagues.  Here is a rapid of 12 acres long.  Sometimes water not more than 1 foot.

From Massissinoue River to Hospital, 7 leagues.  These 7 leagues are in very low country and very little water.  At Hospital is 1 league, uncommonly low, so much so, that perriogues are oblidged to lighten to ascend it.  This place is remarkable for a big rock on the north side.  From river Salamonie is 3 leagues.  Here is an island, passage on south side.  There is a rapid of 3 acres with good water.  From Salamonie River to bended maple, 1 league.  There terminates navigation.”]

It is not known if the English league or the French one was used.  The countries varied as did the voyagers.  Accurate distances are impossible to tell today.  However, the distance of 3 leagues between the Hospital and the mouth of the Salamonie is the pertinent one.  If the English measure of, 3 leagues = 3 miles, was used, then the rock and hospital would be about 9 miles down river from the mouth of the Salamonie.

Prior to 1871, Professor J. Collett, Assistant Indiana State Geologist, surveyed several counties including Wabash, in his report he tells about a great boulder.

“Returning to town we noticed on T. Craft’s farm, 2 miles west of Wabash, an unusually large Pudding Stone, 12 feet wide and 5 feet high above the surface.  It is the largest I have ever seen in Indiana.  It shows the marvelous power of the iceberg flow down the northern shore of old Lake Superior.  Smaller conglomerates and trap rock lay near by.

The early voyagers used these streams for transportation as they traversed the northwest and often marked places by such rocks as these.  This marked a place of refuge or rest stop which they called the “hospital.”  When this rock, described by Professor Collett, was located, it did not seem much of a refuge or hospital, but judging from its size and location, it could fit into General Hamtramck’s report to President Washington about portages and nature of the ground.

Mrs. O”Hara’s investigation went farther.  Driving on Highway 24 to a place in line with the rock, checking her speedometer from here to the left turn on Mill Street, she drove the same distance, checking this point as being directly south of the rock, then driving along Canal and out E. Hill Street (this route seemed to follow the meandering river) she went to the center of Lagro. 

It was exactly 2 miles.  The distance from the rock to River Bridge in Lagro checked as 8-1/2 miles.  (Hamtramck’s report gave it as 9 miles.)  The mouth of the Salamonie, which was slightly to the east of the bridge, could help account for the ½ mile difference.  Apparently, the English measure had been used.

On a field, east and south of the American Rock Wool plant and easily seen from the highway, although partly obscured by small brush, was a large stone which seemed to be slowly sinking into the ground.  Mr. William Klare (owner in 1958) said he had removed several ton of smaller stones from the field but this one was too big.  Here Professor Collegg’s report checked out.

To pin down the “hospital” was even a more difficult task.  Using the same outdated meager bits of direction and careful measurements, Mrs. O’Hara was able to locate it. 

In addition to the Hamtramck report, she had uncovered an old typed manuscript in the museum files about a “secret cave.”  This was located just north of the Friends Cemetery on the Mill Creek Road, near Shanty Falls in Shanty Creek.  She suspected there was some connection.

About a mile downstream from the Carroll Street Bridge, the river bluff veers away from the stream to the south.  The face of the bluff is cut by 3 ravines and from the last one, near the Pressly Brown home, the bottom lands can be reached by an old wagon trail.  Walking out on the low river bottom land, Mrs. O”Hara noticed a scene described in an old geological survey published in 1891.

“--- the bluff forms the south wall of the first terrace for about ¼ mile. ----the massive outcrop rises 40 feet high by 1,000 feet long.  The dark, frowning, gray front is covered by lichens.  Looks as if eternity could not reduce it to dust.”  It looked just like that 69 years later, declared Mrs. O”Hara, only a few pits and holes showed where rocks had fallen away.  The secret cave was possible 10 feet up from the bottom edge and about 20 feet below the upper outcropping.  The opening of nearly 3 feet was partly shut off by a ledge jutting out in front along the bluff for 6 to 7 feet.

An investigation of the cave proved it to have a floor and depth large enough to permit about 4 men to lie across it and remain unseen.  There was some evidence of weathering so that it could have been larger in the voyager’s day.  The cave was not even noted in the Elrod-Benedict Geological Report of 1891.

Going back to the Hamtramck Report of 1790: “----from the Mississinoue to Hospital, 7 leagues in very low country.  Very little water at Hospital, so much so perriogues are obliged to lighten to ascend it.”  There is now (1958) ample proof that the river had changed its course somewhat in recent times.  Pottref’s Island had been cut, with the main stream now on the far side.

A local tradition concerning a wounded Indian who had been cared for there gave rise to the name “secret cave”  However, careful measurements, manuscripts and geology, plus Hamtramck’s report as well as the wounded Indian’s recovery, all verify this was the voyager’s “hospital.”

It is from such reports as this that much of our history today must be made.  Careful authentic bits are then put together to build a true picture of events and places in times long ago for our understanding today.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, August 1988

Thanksgiving Twice in One Year!  By Orpha Weimer

When you come right down to it, perhaps America should take two days to celebrate and thank the Lord for His many blessings.  But, personally, I’m not sure if our present day observation exactly matches the original intent.  And how about the poor turkey?  Could the flock stand such a massacre!

Leave it to a Roosevelt to stir up public opinion and still come out on top in a lively debate.  You see, in 1939 some of us did have two Thanksgivings, in spite of a lot of unhappy and angry Americans.  For those of you who weren’t around in 1939, what happened was that Frandklin D. Roosevelt threw his weight around and, by presidential decree, changed Thanksgiving from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday.

I recall very vividly that my family, for once, didn’t have the problem of deciding with which branch of the family to spend Thanksgiving.  There was enough time, with two celebrations, to get around to everyone.  The College and public schools, of course, had to observe the new government edict, even if this was a Republican stronghold.  It was the churches in each community that bore most of the problems.  In spite of the bitter turmoil in many communities, I don’t think that N. Manchester objected too strongly.

Roosevelt held firm to his decision.  He argues: (1) Thanksgiving date had not been set by any law, (2) Thanksgiving had been held on various dates in past years, and (3) the generally accepted last Thursday of November had been accepted during Civil War days so that Army furloughs could be divided between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  There was nothing sacred about it.

Roosevelt’s Press Secretary, Steven Early, in a memo to the President, told him, “the Protestants will raise hell!”  The Protestants had more or less monopolized the Thanksgiving celebration as rooted in the Pilgrim Fathers’ observation and thinking, while the Catholic people celebrated it as Lord’s Day, but did not feature it in their church services.

Many good politicians insisted it was a Roosevelt perk to push aside the Depression miasma and boost Christmas sales.  It did help a little.  Sales in 1939 went up 20% in New England, but only 12% in other parts of the United States

Congress, which was firmly in the presidential fold, did by law, set Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November, in 1941.  So what?  Maybe it was good sense and just something to be thankful for.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1988

Springtime by Orpha Weimer

To me, Springtime is like an old-fashioned posey tied up in a love knot of ribbons.  Ribbons of sunshine, rain, wind and fluffy clouds, all set off with a dark-hued storm or two, especially if you live in Indiana.  One of my childhood reminiscences is of sassafras tea.  That pungent, rosy hued blend was used to thin the stale, wintertime blood and, like, to stop my dad from drinking so much coffee.  We always had gallons of the brew for supper and snacktime drinks.

Along the fence row at the back of the garden grew lots of young sassafras bushes where my brother, Orval, and I could get the sassafras roots easily.  Orval did the digging and I got the messy, dirty job of scrubbing and washing them.  Mother chipped off the tender bark and dried it on the window ledge which just held the long loaf cake tins.  It smelled so springy and good.

I used to buy it in later years from small, boy vendors or from the local grocery store.  There hasn’t been any around for several years now and I didn’t know why.  In fact I had almost forgotten it.  Then last year’s Outdoor Indiana Magazine gave me the answer.  According to their account, sassafras was borrowed from the Indians by our pioneer forefathers and was also a thriving European export commodity, second only to tobacco.  However, some European doctors falsely tagged it as a remedy for syphilis and the notoriety cost sassafras tea its respectability among the dignified populace.  Much later, some producers began using sassafras oil as a flavoring and also as a perfume for chewing gum, candy, root beer, toothpaste and even perfume itself.  But its volume never reached what it once was.  Some people even said it was “medicine”, but the final blow came in 1960 when the U. S. Food and Drug Administration tarnished it again by declaring it a potential carcinogen of the liver.

In 1976 the commercial use and sale of sassafras bark was banned.  Laboratory test, using large and extended doses of pure “safrole,” ignored the fact that sassafras tea had been proven to contain less than ten parts per million of the safrole oil.  Some people still ignore the ban, but quite a number refused to use it entirely.  So it is unfortunate that poor, much-libeled sassafras is likely to become a thing of the past.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1988

By Orpha Weimer

Back about 1910, every schoolchild knew all the words to “Over The River And Through The Woods,” and when November arrived, sang it lustily and often. Thanksgiving would soon be here with the first school holiday. My brother was in seventh heaven for he was to be allowed to go rabbit hunting with the neighborhood men and boys. Yes, he could carry a gun too! Mother and several local ladies kept the telephone line busy handing out new recipes or bringing old ones up to date. Grandpa had several pumpkins lined up, suggestively, in the cellarway. And Old Shep and I kept a sharp eye on everything. Mother and I had spent a couple of evenings hulling ground cherries—three big heaping cup fulls. Uncle Taylor and Aunt Mae were coming from Kokomo to stay over, as it was our turn to have the family gathering. Uncle Taylor did like Mom’s ground cherry pie. Dad said we might even butcher a hog if it was cold enough, then everybody could have a good mess of fresh sausage, spare ribs or back bones and liver (ugh) to take home. Funny, we hadn’t even thought about Christmas yet. Of course, we made most of our Christmas gifts and didn’t have a big shopping spree in mind. Neither did Dad and uncles sit around and watch television ballgames.

Captain Miles Standish, Priscilla Mullins and John Alden, all classic literary characters who, along with the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock, were all well known to us. They needed to be remembered before Christmas arrived.

Honestly, one might almost say America was born with a nose and any eye out for food. The men generally didn’t go out turkey hunting in those days, but we had a big turkey down by the barn in a pen getting fattened up and ready. A lot of changes have been made since then.

In a group meeting recently the conversation turned from “Meals On Wheels” and “School Lunches” to the weighty question of the history of food. After our dead end, no-answer session, I have been giving it much thought. There are lots of pioneers in the gastronomic field, I’m sure; ones that I never heard of even before Nicholas Appert (1750-1841), who invented a canning method and was later followed by the Ball Brothers of Muncie, Indiana. The frozen foods branch would have some heroes too, and there is Julia Child, Doris Day and Dom DeLuise of present day television fame and I dare say, each of us have a shelf full of cookbooks. However, food is too broad a subject to be narrowed down to our time and place.

During all of this mental turmoil, I came upon an article written by Raymond Sokolov in an old Natural History magazine that seemed to just solve the question. Cristobal Colon, born in Venice, 1451, was the man. As Christopher Columbus, he is well known even today. He is admired and honored for his historical achievements and I doubt if even the U.S. Senate could scare up a radical or anti vote. I hope I am around in 1992 to help celebrate a Columbia quinquecentennial fete. Everyone should ‘read up’ and get ready.

Now, what did he do? Discover a new continent, yes, but more than that, he is the Isaac Newton of the world’s food table. Put yourself back in time to, say, 1400. What would your Thanksgiving or harvest banquet have been like? A pretty dull, benighted affair by our standards and with none of the trimmings we are accustomed to today. Some have experienced one of those Elizabethan banquets served in an ancient castle for one and all with the price of a ticket in their pocket. You ate boiled cabbage and pork chunks with your fingers, sopped up the juices from a common bowl with a piece of rye bread, and if lucky, you might have a carved horn spoon and cup for peas and meat. Your wood trencher plate held the fat meat on one side and was turned upside down for your fruit dessert, which was eaten as is. The lady of the castle might pass a swizzle stick for you to dip up a little honey to sweeten your tea if she was able to afford that.

Sailors in those days didn’t starve. Columbus carried supplies of cabbage, hardtack bread, salt pork and wine. The records tell of the Nina’s jubilant catch of a sea turtle and a dolphin before turning back. Columbus’ own sailors, consequently, were anxious and ready to trade with the natives which they found on the coastal islands.

True, Columbus did not find silver or gold or even the northwest passage to China, which he sought, but he sagaciously gathered sample food stuffs, seeds and plants and made notes on culinary skills for his return trip to Spain, along with a few India slaves and birds of brilliant plumage.

He made four trips in all, mostly into the semi-tropical regions where fruits were plentiful. In his diary notes he describes the sweet potato as a great carrot that, when ground and baked on hot stones, was like a tasty bread. When roasted in ashes, it had a good chestnut flavor and could be boiled and eaten with anything to enhance the flavor. Another fruit he enjoyed was like an artichoke, only much larger, with fruit shaped like a pine cone. This, the natives peeled and cut into slices. It was deliciously sweet and juicy and that quite aptly describes the pineapple. The papaya was most like an apricot and full of tiny red seeds. Other foods we recognize were green beans, big colorful lima beans, rhubarb, chili peppers, asparagus, potatoes (Irish), pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, chocolate, and several spices. There were also a variety of birds and animals and fish along with lobster, crabs and mussels.

One unusual episode he recorded came about when they were in a storm and their boat was damaged. They were becalmed for several days in Jamaica while making repairs. Food was in short supply. The natives were growing a bit suspicious and threatened to stop bringing in food for a few baubles. Columbus, who knew a bit about astronomy, knew a lunar eclipse was about to occur. He told the natives that if they did this, the Gods would take the moon out of the sky permanently. When the eclipse began, the terrified natives begged Columbus to interceded and promised him the food. Just before the eclipse ended, Columbus, with a little hocus pocus, agreed and all was well. This story has been authenticated by using computer dating methods of today. There was a lunar eclipse on February 29, 1504 (Natural History 1-87), corresponding to the date of Columbus’ sojourn there.

Another record Columbus made concerned the growth of their European seeds which his men planted. Cucumbers, lettuce and parsley, along with onions and wheat, grew very fast and large in the new world climate and soils.

The interest which Columbus showed in these food exchanges certainly found favor with jaded European appetites. Almost everyone was anxious to try them. One look at the pre-Columbian recipes of Spain, England and France, will tell how much the old world benefited from its colonial raid on the new world. This is what Columbus made possible. He merged the menus of both hemispheres and set in motion a migration of ingredients and ideas that spread like ripples in a mill pond.

I am truly thankful that a toasted spider or roasted lizard, along with a monotonous repetition of boiled turnip and cabbage, doesn’t sound appetizing even if dipped in Dijon mustard or tartar sauce.

We know seed specialists, horticulturists, orchardists, chefs and just plain gardeners are still experimenting and coming up with new ideas and better quality even without the emphasis of a new world. However, food habits are sometimes hard to change. Nearly everyone can relate a family food story. Like when my father didn’t speak to my brother’s wife because she fooled him with a squash pie which he thought was good old pumpkin. Or when my mother as a five-year-old, was spanked for eating a raw, red love apple (tomato) because everyone knew they were poisonous. Yet she ate them all her life with a vinegar/sugar topping.

My husband’s pet story was when he and Professor Paul Keller were attending a college banquet in Chicago. A tray of assorted pie cuts was passed for dessert and my husband chose pumpkin. Paul quickly whispered, “You don’t have to eat that. I’ll call a waitress and have it exchanged.” He was most anxious to please, but while he didn’t care for pumpkin, it was Harry’s favorite pie.

Slowly over years we have learned what and how certain foods are best eaten. I still use only two varieties of wild mushrooms, but not so long ago I enjoyed a “polkweed” lunch at Sally Allen’s home. I was so glad she invited me; they were delicious. Maybe she had been reading Ewel Gibbons’ book on wild foods, but at least she knew to par-boil them first. How about frog legs, groundhog, or rattlesnake cutlets, and maybe horse meat in France? They are all good but my imagination is rather rebellious.

Speaking of foods, the U.S. Supreme Court was once in a stew over the tomato. Under the Tariff Act of 1883, fruits but not vegetables could be imported duty free. When John Nix brought a shipload of tomatoes into New York in 1886, he was charged a duty tax. He protested, saying that the tomato was a fruit as any botanist would say. The case went to the Supreme Court and puzzled lawyers poured over dictionaries for a legal definition. On May 10, 1893, Justice Gray handed down a decision. Botanically speaking, tomatoes were the fruit of a vine, as were cucumbers, squash, beans, and peas. But by the common language of the people, they are vegetables. Usually they are served at dinner and not like a fruit as a dessert. So by nature, they are classed as a fruit, but by law they are all vegetables. Consequently, Nix had to pay his duty tax.

Another goodie concerns the residents of Salem, New Jersey in 1820. Col. Robert Johnson decided to prove that tomatoes were not only a safe food but were delicious. He mounted a platform at the fair and ate a basket of the fruits, ripe and raw, in front of the crowd. They expected to see him topple over dead. So did his doctor. He didn’t! All were amazed and delighted to cheer him vigorously. Yes, it takes time to change habits and ideas. Godey’s Lady’s Book of 1860 advised that tomatoes were safe, but that they should never be eaten raw or unpeeled and preferably stewed three hours to ensure safety.

Oh yes, we must not forget corn or maize products. Columbus didn’t come up with it in the tropics, but it too is strictly American. This includes all of its forms and varieties—popcorn and sweet corn too. Do you enjoy your mush, grits and cornmeal pancakes with syrup? By the way, Columbus is entitled to count molasses also. He did have a record for finding sugar cane. He was a man of “foods” as well as “parts.”

Source: NMHS Newsletter, August 1987

  EXAMINING DAY by Orpha Weimer

Aren't mothers the real odd ball? They hoard the craziest things, like baby pictures showing lots of pink skin and embarrassing poses, a lock of ribbon-tied hair or maybe a little shoe. But no matter, they're all pretty much alike and some dads join the ranks too. I opened a dust covered box in the attic not long ago and it was full of things mother put there forty-seven years ago and marked on the outside, "keepsakes". At the bottom of the box under the many other items was a tissue paper packet. It was my copy of a State Exam that all students had to take by law in Indiana if they wished to graduate from elementary school and go on to high school.

I certainly remembered it. I was so scared and tense. I remember that I did leave the Court Building where the exam was being given, for lunch that day, but then I just sat around waiting for the afternoon session to begin. Some of those questions I'm not sure I could answer today, but lucky me, I passed with flying colors. Bless Mother, that was a big event in my life. None of my three degrees since has been such a big moment to me.

All elementary students who planned to go on to high school gathered at the county seat and took the exam together. Mother had driven the ten miles to Delphi, my county seat, with a horse and buggy to take me in for the exam. She hadn't yet learned to drive the Ford. It was a cold, blustery April 5th, 1918, the last year Indiana required the exam to be given. I do not know when the law began. Thank goodness I made it on the first try, but I was positive I would fail. What a wonderful relief! Maybe the good hot oatmeal breakfast mother insisted on helped.

Later, the first of June, all successful candidates returned to Delphi for a county-wide graduation service. It was held in the largest church in town. Strangely, I don't remember much about this. The parents were more elated than we students were.

I do recall I wore a white voile dress, the first "good dress" that I had ever made for myself. My mother and Miss Brower, my home economics teacher, saw to that. I guess they thought I should graduate in dressmaking as well as everything else.

The speaker for the day was a bit on the sober, serious side. I don't remember a thing he said except that he hoped some of us would go on to college. Really, we kinds got a big bang out of the orchestra. They played some pop tunes we all knew and the violinist got a big round of applause when he made his violin sing "Mary Had A Little Lamb." To us that was a brilliant accomplishment.

Since this was a state law in Indiana until 1918, perhaps there are others who remember Examining Day.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1987


By Orpha Weimer


Do you recall those jolly little jingles of Burma-Shave that tickled the funny bone of young and old alike?  The signs are gone now except for a set on permanent display in the Smithsonian Museum.  However, if you search your memory a bit you will probably come up with several.  They began as the brainchild of Allan Odell in 1924 and the last was taken down in 1964.  Thus ended the most famous of all outdoor advertising ventures.  Those little six-sided signs had many facets of appeal.  They were witty and humorous, clean and not offensive, even if corny and a bit earthy at times.  No one would call them preachy or stuffy and certainly not down-putting.  Their condensed little messages tried to stay abreast of the times, which included both world wars, the great depression, the economic recovery, and our westward expansion. 

The Burma-Vita Company still exists.  They have on record 600 of these little gems, the years they appeared, and the section of the country in which they were displayed. 

Times or modes change so fast it is hard to keep track or recognize small beginnings, but in the fall of 1924, the Odell family of Minneapolis, Minnesota was down to their shoe soles financially as Leonard Odell, president of the Burma-Vita Company, which is a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, Inc., will tell you.  The head of the family was the grandfather, who several years before, had purchased a liniment recipe from an old sea captain.  Grandfather was a lawyer, rather short on education, but long on enterprise.  He manufactured his liniment in a back room of his office.  “It was potent in both action and smell.  You could even smell it at the street door when he was mixing a new batch five floors up,” declared his grandson.  Some  nearby druggists did a little marketing for him and the big Odell family used it generously.  It did lessen some pain.  Oils from Burma and the Malayan peninsula, plus the energy and vigor of this big family, added up to the name Burma-Vita and thus the product. 

Son, Clinton Odell, was also a lawyer but was educated as well.  Like everyone else in those days, he too was out of work.  So he thought he would take up salesmanship and thus became a part of the business. 

After nearly starving for two years, grandson Allan, while driving home from a small job in nearby Red Wing, saw some little serial signs along the road.  Oil-Gas-Tires-Water-Free Air-Restrooms-Tobacco, etc.  He thought, why couldn’t we do that too?  Even though a Chicago Advertising Company, when approached, said it wouldn’t work, Allan hung on like a bull pup.  He borrowed $200 to buy some used lumber and a broken down old truck, built a shop in his back yard, hired a couple of high school boys for helpers, and started into business. 

The first year, signs were prosaic affairs, hurriedly and crudely made, but they did notice some repeat sales coming in.  Encouraged, the family got into the act.  They formed a corporation and sold 49% of the stock to well-wishing friends in order to buy supplies. 

Come springtime, Grandfather manufactured, Father bought sites for signs from farmers and managed the business, and Allan, with his high school boys (now with D.H.D. degrees-short for post hold diggers), worked at planting signs.  The whole family critiqued the little jingles, added new ones, and dropped some as not worthy of the family name.  During this year the newly born enterprise really prospered.  Soon those jolly little rhythmic jingles were titillating the entire nation.  Didn’t you and your children enjoy them?  My family did  Often when driving we chose a new road just to look for a new jingle.  Our two sons were approaching that period of being aware of both shaving and girls, so they were greatly  amused and started collecting them.  They did much to keep the family peace on our long drives. 

The signs appeared in all but three states:  New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.  These states did not show a large enough volume of traffic.  Massachusetts was dropped after a short while because it was too hard to find suitable open spaces for the signs.  Indiana did not have many, as I recall, but one we found on Highway 24 over near Lagro, I’ll always remember.  We had been delayed on our long drive from Bridgewater, Virginia because of a faculty wedding, so we were tired and the boys were restless.  Then we spied:  A Guy / Who Would ? Middle-Aisle It / Must Not Scratch / His Little Violet / Burma-Shave.  It struck us all as very funny.   

Some other gems were:  He Played a Sax / Had No B.O. / But His Whiskers Scratched / So She Let Him Go.  Every Shaver / Now Can Snore / Six More Minutes / Than Before.  Said Farmer Brown / Who’s Bald / On Top / Wish I Could / Rotate The Crop. 

It’s true that some people did think them corny, but others considered that they had distinctive ironic humor.  Neither considered that they had distinctive ironic humor.  Neither were they antiquated slogans but quite timely in their appeal.  It’s Not Toasted / It’s Not Dated / But Look Out / It’s Being / Imitated.  His Face Was Smooth / Cool As Ice / O, Louise / He Smelled / So Nice.  The Answer To /  A Maiden’s Prayer / Is Not A Chin / Of Stubby Hair.  Pity All / The Mighty Caesars / They Pulled / Each Whisker / Out / With Tweezers.  Henry The Eighth / Sure Had / Trouble / Short-Term Wives / Long Time Stubble.  The Midnight Ride / Of Paul / For Beer / Led To A / Warmer / Hemisphere.   

Times and modes changed very rapidly in the mid 30’s and 40’s.  The Odells, in order to keep up with modern trends, started advertising contests for new slogans.  Public service was the watchword of the day, to be followed closely by highway safety.  Frank Rowsome, Jr., in his book from which I gleaned many of my facts, reported that a man in Wichita, Kansas received a $100 reward for this one:  Don’t Take / A Curve / At 60 Per / We Hate To Lose / A Customer. 

A woman in Nebraska was awarded for this one:  Drive With Care / Be Alive / When / You Drive. 

Another slogan winner sent this bit of wisdom:  Remember This / If You’d Be Spared / Trains Don’t Whistle / ‘Cause / They’re Scared. 

Other safety gems still good today came from Iowa:  School House / Take It Slow / Let The Little / Shavers Grow.  Sleep In A Chair / Nothing To Lose / But A Nap / At the Wheel / Is a Permanent Snooze.  Car In Ditch / Driver In Tree / Moon Was Full / And so / Was He. 

The big state of Texas supplied this one:  If Daisies / Are Your / Favorite Flower / Keep Pushin Up / Those Miles Per Hour. 

Even college boys who were notoriously bad at appropriating signs, yet usually short on money, got into the contest act.  A couple of sharp wits from the University of Pennsylvania were most happy to receive their checks.  In the thank you notes they stated that nothing slowed down traffic speed more than a good Burma-Shave ad.  Slow Down Pa / Sakes Alive / Ma Missed Signs / 4 and 5.  Don’t Leave Safety / To Mere Chance / That’s Why / Belts / Are Sold / With Pants. 

Pop Clinton Odell dictated very firmly to the family from the beginning that one must not offend people.  When they tried to abbreviate and shorten words to save space, they ran into a heap of trouble.  Every English teacher in the land wrote in “Watch your English and your spelling.” 

Some ministers criticized the indelicacy over:  The Whale / Put Jonah / Down The Hatch / But Coughed Him Up / Because He Scratched. 

A wild life club in Boston also objected to:  No Lady Likes / To Dance / Or Dine / Accompanied By / A Porcupine.  Apparently in Boston there was a Porcupine Club.  The Odells, being good-natured folks, deleted each of these.  The matter of good taste came up too in some criticisms.  Pop Odell at once turned thumbs down on these:  The Other Woman / In His Life / Said Go Back Home / And Scratch Your Wife.  Listen You Birds / These Signs / Cost Money / Roost Awhile / But Don’t Be Funny. 

A few objections were cast at this one, so out it went:   Sleek Cheek / Pressed To Hers / Oh! / Jeepers, Creepers / How She Purrs. 

This one was debated, but finally passed:  Spring / Has Sprung / The Grass Has Riz / Where Last Year’s / Careless Driver Is. 

All problems can’t be stopped.  Some are funny and some are not.  A few days after this sign appeared, Allan Odell received a scathing letter from New York City.  With Glamour Girls / You’ll Never Click / Bewhiskered Like / A Bolshevik.  The letter had no signature.  A week later a mysterious parcel arrived at his desk with the same address.  When gingerly opening it, he heard a slight clicking noise.  Startled for a moment, he raced madly down the hall to the mixing room and threw it into a tank of water.  This action virtually convulsed the entire office staff that had all collaborated in the joke of assembling the package loaded with an old alarm clock. 

On another occasion, a hardworking crew with their “Cheer-Up Face” truck was held up at gunpoint by two cars loaded with Texas Rangers.  Early that morning, it seems, the boys had been authorized to get rid of some leaky jars of souvenir samplers, which apparently had faulty lids.  They had stopped on a bridge over a good-sized river and pitched two big cartons overboard and drove on.  They were observed by an excited lady who immediately called the Rangers saying she had seen two dismembered bodies dumped into the water.  The police came and dragged the river, but they found nothing except part of a paper box labeled  Burma-Shave.  They radioed ahead to have the truck stopped.  The work crew was forced to empty the truck and their sampler boxes, while at gunpoint.  It was hot, hard, dirty work and in this case, quite a comedy of errors, which were not much, appreciated. 

Some good things happened, however.  The Odells were phenomenally lucky in drawing free advertising.  Only once were they ever bested.  One of their little jingles stated it best:  Free! Free! / A Trip To Mars / For 900 / Empty Jars. 

An answer soon arrived:  “Accept Your Offer.  Where shall I shop the Jars?”  Signed, Arliss French, Manager of Red Owl Supermarket, Appleton, Wisconsin.  Allan Odell chewed his pencil, then sent back this reply.  “If a trip to Mars you’d earn, remember friend, there’s no return.”  But French was not easily put off.  He published his answer:  “Let’s not quibble, let’s not fret, gather your forces, I’m all set!”  The news media took up the joke and soon the entire nation was interested. 

President Leonard Odell, sent a secretary to Appleton.  Business there was booming.  The Red Owl Grocery chain loved free advertising too.  Signs, slogans, and parades saying “Send Frenchy to Mars” appeared.  An old rocket ship was installed in the parking lot where kids swarmed over it.  Clerk’s dressed in green elf suits and for each empty jar that appeared, a pint of ice cream went out.  Jars came from far and near.  Neighbors had a jolly time.  Leonard and Allan he to do something, but what?  A visit to a “Mars Bar” candy plant was being considered when a publicity man named Moran, of German ancestry, appeared.  Why not send Frenchy to Mars, Germany, he asked?  Mars (spelled Moers) was a little German town near Dusseldorf.  He would make all the arrangements if the Odells would pay his plan fare.  And so it was.  Frenchy and Mrs. Frenchy had a marvelous vacation in Moers.  A Brinks armored truck delivered the 900 jars and the newspapers had a hay-day.  The whole nation was happy. 

In Moers, there was a dilly of a three-day festival with dancing girls, a dancing bear, street parades, and athletic events galore.  Photographers went snap-happy and soon it seemed the whole world knew about Frenchy and the Odells.  “It was a fun thing to do,” said Leonard, modestly. 

The Odells could afford it.  As advertising goes, it was the worlds best.  Even during the depression days, the little jingles had earned over $3,000,000 a year, declares Frank Rowsome in his book. 

Another lucky break of free advertising came a few years later from the U.S. Navy.  The Odells had always maintained a friendly relationship with the Navy, along with jokes, free samples, and souvenir promotion prizes.  During “Operation Deep-Freeze” in Antarctica, they asked the Odells for some signs to boost the morale of the men stationed so far from home. 

Allan generously complied.  He offered several sets for the Navy heads to choose from.  Their choices were:  Lover Boy / Your Photo Came / But You Dog-gone Beard / Won’t Fit The Frame.  Use Our Cream / And We Betcha / Girls Won’t Wait / But Come And Getcha.  Many A Forrest / Used To Stand / Where A Lighted Match / Got Out of Hand.  This last set was on the road to McMurdo Sound, some thousand miles from any tree.  By happen chance, a flying photographer got a picture with a snow tractor in the background and five inquisitive penguins in front looking on.  With characteristic Odell luck, it was sent to United Press International and distributed to scores of newspapers for advertising that Barnum and Bailey would have envied. 

On another occasion a submarine surfaced in the cold North Atlantic to be greeted by six little red signs sticking up in the snow.  Santa’s / Whiskers / Need No Trimmin / He Kisses Kids / Not The Women.  Later it was learned that a helicopter group, knowing they were to surface, had planted the little signs only an hour before. 

Yes, they were corny, but with only an occasional deviation.  For the most part, those little jingles were concisely worded and a remarkable potpourri of folk humor, wit, and skillful offbeat merchandising.  They were clean – non-offensive, laugh provoking bonds of nationwide appeal.  You’ve Made Pa / Look So Trim / The Local Draft Board’s / After Him.  The Draftee / Tried A Tube / And Purred / Whaddya Know / I’ve Been De-furred.  3-Star Generals / Privates 1st Class / Show Equal Rank / In The Looking Glass.  The Poorest Guy / In The / Human Race / Can Have / A Million Dollar Face.  At a Quiz / Pa Ain’t / No Whiz / But He Sure Knows How / To Keep Ma His. 

There were other problems hard to face.  One, how to keep signs from disappearing on dark nights.  This was solved by using counter sunk holes with huts and bolts needing special screwdrivers, but it was costly. 

Perhaps the strangest enemy was the horse.  A careful check was made which disclosed that the 8 ft. signs were a perfect height for back scratching, and so they had to be changed to 10 ft.  Cows would rub the posts shinny and give them a cock-eyed tilt.  Woodchucks and trigger-happy hunters did some damage, but none equaled Old Dobbin.  Old Dobbin / Reads These Signs / Each Day / You See He Gets / His Corn / That Way.  A horse quickly learned he could sidle up to an over-hanging sign, hump himself slightly, and achieve a richly sensual back scratch, often leaning an pushing on the post until it broke off.  One sign-setting youngster allowed he was glad tractors didn’t itch! 

As roads grew wider, cars went faster, signs to be read had to be larger and moved back into a field and placed farther apart.  This made placement hard to come by.  Many states passed special tax laws, taxing both sides of a sign.  Since the words, “Burma-Shave”, appeared on back, this meant double taxes.  Also, many states now reserved special colors.  Red always meant danger. 

The over-all cost of the signs was growing rapidly.  In 1960 it came to over $200,000.  Television and radio made this form of advertising less effective. 

The Odell family was changing.  Father Clinton had died in 1958.  The two brothers, Allan and Leonard, were no longer young.  In fact, Allan wished to retire.  All things considered, it seemed time to say good-bye.  Young George Odell, Allan’s son, placed the motion before the board for the signs to end and it was accepted.  To preserve the dignity of this forty year-old family enterprise, the “Cheer-Up Face” trucks quietly moved out and retrieved all the remaining signs rather than leave them to decay. 

The Burma-Vita Company was sold to become a Phillip-Morris subsidiary.  Their “luck Tradition” still held, for the new media gave them a big farewell fanfare:  Farewell, O, Verse / Along The Road / How Sad To / Know / You’re Out-Of-Mode!


Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1986


By Mrs. Harry R. Weimer

Miss Lulu Gamble,
a retired nurse and my husband’s aunt, told me this little story of her girlhood shortly before her death.     

In November 1890, a dark haired, dark eyed youngster of 13, she stood in the front of Oppenheim’s Dry Goods Store on Main Street in North Manchester waiting for her father.  Mr. Ben Oppenheim quietly observed her and although not a mind reader, he could read human emotions rather accurately.  He approached the girl, whom he knew to be the middle one of three young sisters, and daughter of one of his customers.  He asked her where he father was and if she had gotten all of her purchases. 

“No!”  she blurted out, “I want a new coat!  I’m too bog to wear Della’s old one.”  As proof, she held out her arms so that he might see the short sleeves. 

“But it’s Rosa’s turn this year.”  It was the family practice to rotate the coats, buying for the oldest one year, handing down to the next in line, and then buying for the youngest on the third year. 

Just then Mr. Thomas Gamble, a farmer from the Pleasant Township area, came in.  Mr. Ben, as he was commonly called, beckoned and after a few words led him over to the coat racks. 

“Yes, sir,”  he stated, “this is a good buy but it’s a little to big for Rosa and I know you got Della one last year, but,”  he intoned, “it would just about fit Lulu, I’m pretty sure.  Here Lulu, come try it on and show your father.” 

The upshot was that Lulu, for once, got the new coat and Rosa took the hand down.  Mr. Oppenheim made a very happy young girl and a satisfied customer for all her life. 

“And do you know what else Mr. Oppenheim did,” asked my aged relative with a twinkle in her eye?”  That year at our Christmas he gave each of us girls one of these.”  Proudly she displayed a very lovely 3-inch paperweight of lacey white frilled edges about a pretty purple flower.  “Rosa’s was lost when our house burned,  she went on, “but mine is still nice.  I want you to have it,” she said with a generous smile, pressing it into my ands.  I still have it – it is one of my most treasured possessions.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1986

“I’m going to buy this here farm of yours”
By Orpha Weimer

Some few years ago Don Garber, now at Timbercrest, related to me this little story about his grandfather Harter who owned a farm just west of North Manchester.

It was about 1850 and whether it was because the “old Bossies” were getting a little hard to milk or that 4:00 o’clock in the morning seemed to come awfully early, or maybe, Horace Greeley’s words, “go west, young man, go west,” was taking effect isn’t known, but action came. C.A. Crill, the hired man, stopped Mr. Harter one morning and stated, “I’m quitting.” Rather boastfully he went on, “I’m going out to California to dig myself some gold and when I come back here a millionaire I’m going to buy this here farm of yours.”

Mr. Harter laughed and bid him “Godspeed” saying, “You never can tell, but somebody has to stay and keep the work going.”

Yes, you’ve guessed it – C.A. Crill did come back and years later did buy the Harter place with, it is supposed, some California gold!

Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1986

By Mrs. Harry R. Weimer

Human interest tales? Every family has them, but mostly they go untold and are rarely recorded. When I first became a member of the Weimer family everyone was busy and life was lived pell-mell, especially in the summer months when the cannery was open.

Mrs. Mary Hevel, a widow lady from out Servia way, had been cook and housekeeper for many years and was generally regarded as part of the family. But Mrs. Hevel was aging and her daughter was putting pressure on her to take life easier. Consequently, when she did finally resign, I fell heir to her job as cook during the summers.

There were several key workers at the cannery who always ate their noontime meal with the family and several young nephews who came to visit and work. I never knew if I might have ten or thirty at the table. No chair was ever allowed to cool off, someone was always waiting, ready to eat and then hurry back to work. My only requirement as a cook was plenty of food and fast service.

We began early, 7:00 o’clock at the factory, but there was a lot to be done beforehand. Two mornings a week I baked, mostly pies and cookies, and the other four days I shopped. I could buy pretty much whatever I wanted and wherever I wished except for the meat. Always the meat had to come from the Lautzenheiser Meat Market on the south side of Main Street. I wasn’t told about this until after I had offended once and even then I did not know why. In fact it was several summers later before Dad Weimer told me his story.

When the Weimer family first came to North Manchester just at the close of World War I, they bought several acres of land at the west end of Main Street, built a new home, and he had accepted a new job. Their third little daughter died. Times were hard for the grief-stricken family. Mr. Lautzenheiser, a very new acquaintance, in his own kindly manner, called on Mr. Weimer and extending his hand in sympathy, also extended credit at his store if it was needed; saying he believed in a helping hand and that God’s mercy would shelter them both.

As long as he lived, Dad Weimer declared a friendship like that should not and could not be broken by any of his family. Three generations have now kept this friendship alive.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, November 1985

OUR SALOMA AND THE WOLVES  [Contributed by Mrs. Harry R. Weimer]

In 1934 I had the rare privilege of talking to Mrs. Sarah Saloma (Dillman) Meyers, born October 29, 1829, a nearly 105 year old widow, who now lies buried in the South Pleasant churchyard beside the empty gravemarker of her husband, Peter, whose body was never recovered during Civil War days.

Mrs. Meyers lived in Pleasant Township with her 85 year old daughter, Mrs. Catherine Drudge.  The home was a tiny log cabin a short distance west of Hwy. 15.  My aunt, Miss Lulu Gamble, a retired R.N., was helping to nurse her.

Aunt Salomie, as she was known, must have been feeling pretty perky that morning [3 weeks before her death] for she beckoned me to her bedside and asked in a barely audible voice if I would like to hear a real true wolf story.  Mrs. Drudge did most of the talking but Mrs. Meyers with beaming eyes, would smile and nod and even interrupt at times.  It was her favorite childhood recollection.

She was about 5 years old when her father had to leave the family and ride horseback over a rough wooded trail to “Elkhart Town.”  He carried sacks of corn and a little wheat to be ground and some would be exchanged for other needed supplies to see the family through the winter.  She recalled vividly that the settlers were not nearly as afraid of the Indians, some of whom lived in a small village nearby where Saloma often played with the Indian children, as they were of the wolves.  Dr. Dillman left early on the long two-day trip and the little family barricaded their one window and door to await his return.

They heard the wolves early in the day and that night they kept them awake howling and snarling around the cabin.  The father was welcomed home at early dark next day and shortly after a large wolf pack arrived.  They circled the cabin snarling and howling in a very determined manner.  Mr. Dillman grew quite concerned over the fate of two young calves which were shut in the nearby stable.  He was afraid the constant lunging of the pack might break in the stable door.  Saloma was most glad her father had made it home before real dark.

Mr. Dillman fired shots down from the loft window, but it did no good.  The wolves seemed determined critters.  Even though they made their own bullets [ammunition was expensive and hard to come by] they kept a good supply of fagots.  These were dry sticks with one end cut into a brushy mass which they could light and hurl out of the upper window onto any too-venturesome animal.

He managed to hold the pack off for a bit, armed with these burning sticks, while he opened the door and ran to the stable before the snarling pack closed in.  The door was more heavily secured but he had to remain there during the night to calm the frightened animals.  To the mother and children in the house it was a long, dangerous and never-to-be-forgotten night.

The area just this side of Akron is still low and swampy.  Then it was known as wolf-den hollow.  Organized wolf hunts were held each year until the wolves died out.  The last recorded hunt was held in 1910.