Growing Up on a Small Farm in Jefferson Township
A Visit with Woodrow Wilson Wolf
I interviewed Woodrow Wolf on a chilly February evening in 1997 at his home in New Lebanon, Ohio. Although Woodrow was 85 years old, he still worked part-time in a downtown Dayton parking facility. Born in 1912, he grew up in Jefferson Township in a landscape of neatly tended small farms owned by people who depended on the blessings of good weather and the productivity of the soil to provide the food and cash they needed to feed and clothe their families. The Wolf homestead was a subsistence farm. They raised corn, wheat, oats, hay, clover, strawberries, apples, and a variety of vegetables, as well as a few hogs. Their six acres of carefully cultivated Spanish tobacco served as a primary source of cash to buy those things that could not be produced on the farm.
The first part of this lengthy interview focuses on Woodrow’s growing up years in the area around Liberty, a postage stamp of a town nestled in Jefferson Township. It was never large, but its groceries, barbershop, and churches provided places where friends gathered to hear the latest news – who had married, who had been born and who had died, who was building a new house or barn, the comings and goings of neighbors and friends – all of the happenings that over time build a shared history and a comforting sense of where we fit in the world. Neighbors helped each other and socialized with each other. Their lives were by necessity intertwined. Much of the story has been forgotten with the passing of the authors, but their lives have helped to make us who we are. They were our parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and great-grandparents – even several generations removed their influence on our lives lingers on. Their footprints remain on the land, too – in the rambling old farm houses, rugged stone foundations from long vanished barns that are in many cases all that remains of the area’s once robust tobacco culture, and in the names carved on gravestones in cemeteries that keep silent company with small rural churches or are unexpectedly discovered in tiny overgrown family graveyards long abandoned.
In the second part of the interview, Woodrow Wolf provides a remarkable step-by-step account of the complex set of skills and knowledge required to make ends meet on the family farm. He describes in detail how families and neighbors came together to produce apple butter, cider, and “schnitz.” He documents the process of butchering and preparing hogs, preparing sugar cane molasses and maple syrup, and the back-breaking, labor intensive work of cultivating tobacco. All of these processes were deeply engraved in his mind – it was not necessary for me to ask questions to jog his memory. Woodrow Wilson Wolf died on March 11, 2010, at the age of 97. He leaves as a gift the following stories from the fading American heritage of the small family farm.
Mr. Wolf: My name is Woodrow W. Wolf. I live at 207 South Church Street in New Lebanon.
CW: When were you born?
Mr. Wolf: I was born in 1912 on the Mile Road just east of the Lutheran Church Road.
CW: And who were your parents?
Mr. Wolf: Roman and Emma Wolf – Emma May. And her maiden name was “Kreitzer.” And they lied east of Liberty.
CW: And that’s where you grew up?
Mr. Wolf: I grew up on Mile Road, lived there ‘til I was thirty years old. ‘Til I went to the army. We had three brothers – there were three boys and two girls. They’re all dead except my one sister and myself. And they all grew up on the farm there. We raised tobacco, raised corn, and had all different kinds of animals. We all lived right close in that area all of our lives. I got the furthest away from home probably. Went in the army in 1942 and got a little promotion and then they sent me to India. I was over in India for about thirty months. Started out from California on a boat and went to India and was on the water for two months getting over there. And then when we come back, we came through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean and home. I was gone thirty months. She was settin’ at home waitin’ on me.
CW: When were you married?
Mr. Wolf: August the tenth, 1942. Franny’s a little younger than I am. I’m 84 and she’s 73. But I got married after I got in the army. They drafted me in the army and I didn’t want to be a part of it so I applied for school and I got to go to school and then I got a commission. And then after I got my commission she went with me until I went overseas. We had a lot of experience in four year’s time and excitement.
CW: When did you leave the service?
Mr. Wolf: I went in in ’42 and came out in ’46. The war was over. We came back and I bought a house in Residence Park down in Dayton. And our first two was born on Elmer Street. We lived at 4550 Elmer Street The first two was born on Elmer Street and then we moved over to 360 Elmhurst Road. And then we was there ‘til 1955, I guess, and then we moved back out to build a house just west of Liberty and then we lived there until our third child was ready to go to school. In fact, he went to school [there], I guess, a couple years. Then we sold out, left, went to Florida for four years. And then I came back and went out to Indiana for six years, and then when I retired I came back to Dayton and we lived around Dayton three or four different places. We never bought a house after I retired. We moved into New Lebanon about eight years ago. We did live over around the Salem Mall, at several places over there. Now I think we’ll probably stay around here.
CW: I’ve been told that you know a lot about Liberty and the area over there.
Mr. Wolf: Oh, yes, we lived around Liberty. My dad moved into what was our own home place – the Wolf’s home place – over on Snyder Road and he moved in there when he was, I guess, two years old. He was born in ’85 and he was about two years old when they moved there. And then he lived there on that patch of ground until he passed away in 1973, I guess. He was eighty-eight years old. My mother was born in 1887, and they got married in 1907 and my oldest brother was born in 1907. My sister, Clara, was born in 1910. And then Jim was born in 1911 and I was born in 1912. And everybody’s dead but my older sister and myself.
We lived in an area of Jefferson Township and we didn’t have any centralized school until 1929. And we all went to the little red schoolhouse. You have a copy of the history that I wrote about the little red schoolhouse in Jefferson Township. It gives the location and the schoolteachers of our school, what we called Shively School at the corner of Lutheran Church [Road] and Mile Road, and that’s where I went to school. And that story there has got the history of Shively School and it’s got the layout there of where all the little red schoolhouses were located in the Jefferson Township area.
CW: I see BurlinBrombaugh is named here.
Mr. Wolf: Yes, I went to school with him. He’s the same age as my sister and he went to Shively School and his brother went there – Harvey. He’s the one that had the jewelry store [in Germantown] and then another sister named Mary, and then he had a younger sister. She was a lot younger, and she just passed away, and she went to Trotwood school. And of course, Burlin and Harvey, they went to high school over at Trotwood. They went to the common school at Shively, and then when they started to high school they went over to Trotwood.
As I said my granddad moved on this farm in 1887 and it was in the Wolf’s name until just about two years ago when my brother dropped dead all at once and they had to sell it. And he owned – he really owned half of the one farm – the one farm he owned half of it and the farm where my granddad bought in 1887, why, he owned, he lived there. And so from the Snyder Road over to Lutheran Church Road on the south side of the street, why, it was all owned by the Wolf family. And that’s where we all grew up and went to school there.
About Liberty. Liberty is older than Dayton. I don’t know if you knew that. And back in the days when they voted to where they was going to put the court house in Montgomery County, Liberty was at about at the center of Montgomery County. Back whenever it was – I don’t know what year it was – but they voted whether they’d put the courthouse in Liberty or whether they’d put it in Dayton. And the vote came out that they’d put it in Dayton on account of it was over there on the Miami River, you know, and Liberty was pretty much out in the sticks and that’s the way it still is.
And at one time when I was a kid growing up, they had four groceries in Liberty, one on every corner in the center of town. Of course, two of the groceries were just sort of where you grab bread and milk and like that. But the other two groceries were – they had a little of everything – they sold shoes and they sold dry goods and a little of everything.
And the one grocery store that was on the northeast corner of Main and Green in Liberty was owned by Logan Bright and then the one across the street was owned by Charlie Kline. And Charles Kline was the father of Robert Kline. And Robert Kline, he ended up running the entertainment department for the NCR. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Robert Kline or not, but he was born and raised in Liberty and the store – that was on the southeast corner of the main part of town – that was a two-story building. They had the grocery store on the bottom, and hardware and dry goods and shoes and everything down there and then they lived upstairs. And Bob Kline, they taught him to play the piano, and they forced him to practice, you know how it is, how kids are, and they forced him to practice and they’d have to run him out of the grocery store and up the steps in the back and they could hear him go up stompin’ on the steps, you know, go up there to practice on the piano and [he] eventually ended up learning to play the organ and also he played down at the NCR Schoolhouse and he even played the Carillon chimes. He was the one that played those until he passed away. And he was quite a guy and he was born and raised in Liberty.
Then on the other two corners there was a little grocery store run by a fellow by the names of ‘White’. And they just had odds and ends, and bread and milk and stuff like that. And then the other corner was – on the northwest corner – they had a little grocery store right side of the house that’s still there, and I suppose the grocery store was, oh, fifteen feet wide and about maybe fifty, sixty feet long. And they had little odds and ends, too – didn’t have a complete grocery. And of course, that’s where we congregated, in this one grocery. It was run by people by the name of ‘Woods’ and they had two boys. One was a year younger than I am, and one was a year older. So whenever we went to Liberty, why, we congregated in that little grocery store.
Then east of Liberty there’s a building that’s still standing, and right now they’re selling antiques and stuff; it’s a sort of a flea market. And that was a church when I was real young. I don’t remember the church but they had church in there, but they was still having church in 1912 when I was born. And that was called the Progressive Church, and they had church in that building there, and I don’t know anything about who was preacher or anything about that.
And then the church that’s in Liberty now, that’s still going, they probably got a hundred members and attendance of about thirty-five, maybe thirty, and that church is still going. And of course we went there when we were kids; my dad and mother took us there and then after we got a little older, why, we helped to run the church. And that was a U.B. [United Brethren] church. I think they had one in Germantown that was called that. Then they changed the name. They took in the Evangelical church; then they called it the “Evangelical United Brethren Church.” Then the Methodists took it over and now they call it the Methodist church – United Methodist. And that church is still going.
And one time after the Kline grocery store, it changed hands several times, and there was a fellow by the name of ‘Didier’ and he run it for a while and he was a Catholic. And the people there didn’t approve of Catholics and the building burnt down. Kind of accidentally, I guess, but anyway it burnt down and that put Didier out of business and he left town. And when I was just a kid, probably, oh, maybe ten years old, why, they burnt a cross on that corner after the building was burnt down. They come out there, I guess the Ku Klux Klan come out there and put a cross on there and burnt it. And then it stayed burnt; there was nothing on that corner.
And then [there was] a fellow by the name of FertWhitler. I don’t know where he came from, and he came into town and he owned a farm down just below Liberty. And then he came up to Liberty, and I suppose he was maybe about fifty years old when he built the filling station. He came up there and he built a filling station on that corner after that grocery store burned down, so he run that filling station ‘til he got too old to run it and in the meantime, why, he came up and built a house right behind the filling station, and so really that’s the only thing that’s been in Liberty in the way of a business up until now. Now there’s nothing there. No grocery store, no nothing. One building is still there – the corner grocery store is still there.
When I was a kid, there was a barber shop in Liberty, and that was run by Perry Morrow. Of course, he worked as a farm hand during the day and he’d open up the barber shop in the evening, and then on Saturday, why, he’d open all day, and he’d cut hair from eight o’clock in the morning ‘til midnight. And he was the only barber, and he only had one barber chair, and everybody from around the territory would come in there, and he had a little thing up on the wall where you could pull a check for your turn, had numbers on it, you know. And I’d go there, we’d be there and get a haircut, and there’d be fifteen guys, eighteen guys up in the barber shop there waiting their turn to get a haircut And he’d cut the hair and then holler the check for the next guy, you know, and he’d have to cut hair ‘til midnight to get them all cut. And it was fifteen cents for a shave and twenty-five cents for a haircut.
CW: Was it sort of a social occasion?
Mr. Wolf: Oh, yes. Everybody was in there telling their stories and swapping lies, you know, and it was quite a place to go to the barber shop to get your hair cut. I guess he lived ‘til probably about 1940 or ’41. And of course, I didn’t get married ‘til I was twenty-nine and he’d keep telling me, “When you get married I’m gonna give you a free haircut.” And then I waited ‘til I was twenty-nine to get the haircut and in the meantime, why, he died and I got beat out of a haircut.
But Franny and I and the kids around Liberty, we were quite tied up with the church. We was involved with the church and back in those days, why, we had young people in the church. Today, they don’t have very many young people in the church. There was a lot of young people in the church, and that church that now only has thirty-five in attendance, we’d have as high as 250, 300 people in that church on Sunday.
Well, originally, why, we drove a horse, we drove horses to Liberty church and out behind the Liberty church they had a horse stable there and you put your horse inside. And – you heard the story about the “surrey with the fringe on top” – well, we had one of those and we had what we called a “buggy shed” and in the buggy shed we had a spring wagon that we used to drive to Dayton. And when they took their butter and eggs and whatever they had, you know, and we called that a “spring wagon” – I don’t know if you know what a spring wagon is. A spring wagon has got a big window in the front, and it’s got two doors on it on the side, and then the back part is enclosed in sort of black heavy canvas. And then, of course, that’s where you haul your produce and stuff you took into town. And we had one door in this, what we called the “wagon shed”, that was for the spring wagon, and then we had a buggy. You know what a “buggy” is. A buggy is just a one-seated thing with a little top on it, you know, and it had a little buckboard in front. And we had a buggy, then we had what we called a “surrey,” and that’s what we drove to church when we was kids. We’d get the surrey out and that had the fringe on top, all around the top, you know, and we’d drive that down to church.
Course, that was prior to 1917, and in 1917, why, we got a Model T. We got a Model T and from then on, why, the surrey went by the board and so did the buggy. And then we had a 1917 Model T Ford. They was all open cars, they had curtains on the sides, you know, and my dad bought a top – they call it a “winter top” – we put that on the top of this Model T. And so we had a pretty fancy Model T. And my dad paid $750 for the Model T in 117, and we drove that until 1921. And in 1921 – of course the war was over – and they was making so many Model T’s at that time they got cheap. And my dad bought the second one for $369. Then we drove that Model T until 1929.
And by not having any centralized school, when we got out of the little red schoolhouse, why, then we went from the little red schoolhouse down to where the high school was and there was no way to get there, and so we drove the Model T down to the high school. And then they built the central high school in 1929, and then in 1929, the year I graduated from high school, why, we rode the first buses that they had.
CW: What did people who lived in Liberty do for a living?
Mr. Wolf: Some of the people who lived in Liberty worked on the farms when I was a kid. They worked out on the farms and now Perry Morrow, I was telling you about the barber, why, for extra income over in the barber shop he got fifteen cents a shave and twenty-five cents a haircut. Why, he didn’t make much money. Course, in proportion to what they’re charging now, I suppose it’s just as good as it is now. But he helped out on my granddad’s farm, and helped in the tobacco.
Tobacco was a big crop on the turn of the century up until about 1932 or ’33, ’34. That’s when tobacco went out of Germantown. They used to raise tobacco out of Germantown and all around this part of Ohio. And so this one barber, he helped out on the farm with my granddad, raised tobacco, and then in the wintertime, why, they’d strip tobacco, you know. The tobacco business was a year around business. It starts in March and ends up in April. By the time you get rid of your one crop, why, you’ve got the other one started. And so, a lot of them that lived in Liberty did that.
And then, when we was kids, why, they was already working in the factories. Your dad [Frannie’s father] he worked as a firefighter, and your brothers [Franny’s brothers], they worked at Frigidaire and General Motors, you know. Of course, that was during the ‘20s. Course your brother worked at Frigidaire until he retired, and he retired when he was about sixty-five, I guess. He was seventy-five when he died and in died in 1980, so he worked at Frigidaire until 1970. So a lot of the people worked in Dayton, you know. Back in the days when they had the Model T’s and the way to get to town – some of them had motorcycles.
And then there was a few people around Liberty that when we was kids – the one guy – Ernie Speidel – was a plasterer – and another guy raised a family and all he did was build furniture. He built a lot of furniture that people had in their houses. If you wanted a buffet, he’d build a buffet. If you wanted a table, why, he’d build a table. Anything you wanted, he’d build it special and he did that in his front room where they lived.
A lot of people around Liberty they wanted to be first, you know, and so the guys would come into the area and they’d sell the player pianos, you know, and pianos was kind of a scarcity so everybody bought a piano. And of course, we had a piano. We got our first piano – well, that was the only piano we ever had – we got that in, I suppose, about 1916 and we was just kids. I’d have been four or five years old.
And during the war – World War I – why, everybody got the flu. You probably heard of that, when everybody had the flu. There were more people died with the flu than they did with guns. And so we had the flu, we couldn’t go out, we couldn’t do nothing, and everybody was sick, my dad, my mother, and the whole gang was sick, so our entertainment was playing those rolls on this player piano. So we started accumulating these rolls, and pretty soon they was all over the front room.
And so my mother and dad, he went down to Stoneroad’s and said, “I want you to make a cabinet to keep these rolls in.” So he built that and he put partitions in so you could slide the rolls right in. And so that’s the kind of work this Stoneroads did. And they needed a thing to put clothes in the bedroom, and had a little mirror on top, and he made that. And anything you wanted, why, you tell him what you wanted and he’d make it according to your specifications. And he raised his family doing that. But that was a little business here in liberty.
Until I was fifteen or eighteen years old, they had a blacksmith in Liberty, a fellow by the name of “Burnside.” And he had a big family. He had three boys, and what, five girls. And he had a blacksmith shop in Liberty. And then you’d take your horses there and he’d shoe your horses. And then, of course, he had that anvil and that ballast to take and heat the metal up, you know. And then he’d sharpen the plow shears. In other words, the shears you put on the plow, every so often you had to have them sharpened – they’d get dull, they wouldn’t go in the ground, you know. And he’d sharpen those. Then he’d make most anything out of regular pot metal – black metal. And he was in Liberty for years. In fact, he raised his family there in Liberty. Mark Burnside was his name
There was a doctor in Liberty. And then after Doc Hull [sp] died, why, then another doc by the name of Doc Seiter came in. And that was the last one. They had an old doctor that was around Liberty before him – Doc Sanger – and he lived on the Forney Road just west of Liberty. And I don’t where he came from and I don’t know if he was actually a doctor, but he doctored. And when we had the flu in 1917, why, we was all down with the flu and he was one of the first guys that had an automobile. And he had a Dodge Roadster, and you’d call Doc Sanger and say, “Doc, we need house calls. Doc, we’re all sick, come on up.” So he’d come up, and when we was sick with the flu in ’17, why, he came up and he went around, we had four bedrooms, and the seven of us were scattered around in those four bedrooms, you know, and he’d spend a half a day there, waiting on us checking our temperature and giving us medicine. And he was a pretty good doctor.
He lived in a tobacco shed on the Forney Road. He didn’t have no house. And you remember the strip houses that used to be on the end of the tobacco sheds? Well, that was his house. And in one end of that strip house was their living room and their kitchen, and then the front part, when you walk in from the strip house, why, when you walked in there, that was where he waited on you, checked you out. There was Betsy Sanger and John Sanger – Betsy and John was his kids – and I don’t know where they stayed.
But Don Sanger was my daddy’s buddy. My dad and Don Sanger – they’d turn Liberty over every night. Kids pull tricks on the grown people, you know. But my dad, see, he’d a been going to Liberty around 1895, and of course, the only way to get there was to ride a bicycle and he’d ride a bicycle to Liberty and then they’d do the town until the wee hours of the morning and they they’d come home, you know.
But old Doc Sanger, he had a bed, I don’t know if you ever saw the rails in a tobacco barn or not; well, they got rails that you hang the tobacco on to dry, and so on the first tier he had these rails up there and up there was his bed – he had his mattress and bed springs up there. And he slept right out there in the cold. Twenty below zero and he was out there sleeping right out in that tobacco shed.
And he doctored even after he was blind, and the daughter, Bessie, she never got married and she stayed there with him and took care of him. And he’d tell her what kind of medicine to mix up and she’d mix it up and give it to the people. And while he was going blind, why, his son built a new house across the road. It’s still down there. The tobacco shed’s gone but the house where they built – he built it, it was built in 1926, ’27. The house is still there. So then they moved old Doc out of the tobacco shed over into this new house, and while they were doing that the young son went bad. He never paid for the lumber for the house, he was in bad debt, and he skipped town and nobody ever heard from him again.
He kept on doctoring in this new house, Bessie making the prescriptions up for him, and back in the woods they built a three-car garage. And so old Doc, he’d come up there, wait on people. Then at night, why, they had a wire stretched from the house back to this three-car garage, and then he’d get on that wire and walk back there, so blind he couldn’t see nothing, you know, and sleep back there in that garage. And then the next morning [he’d] come back up to the house. John Sanger and Bessie grew up in that tobacco shed.
So that’s the only two doctors – there were three doctors I know was around Liberty. But that’s really all that’s around Liberty that really amounts to anything, I think.
There was a building on the southwest corner of Main and Green that was at one time a hotel. The only thing that I can remember was Old Man White had a grocery store in there. He had one foot on a banana peel and the other in the grave when he opened up that grocery store. The White boy married one of the Burnside girls. I don’t know how many kids they had.
[Regarding roads in Jefferson Township]. I guess most of them were township roads. And, of course, we had a township supervisor that would keep the roads up. And then in the summertime they’d go down to the cricks [creeks] around in the area, you know, and haul gravel out. And they’d get the farmers to come in with teams of horses and put the gravel up on the road and spread it. And then when the Model T come through and the cars and horses, why, it smoothed out, you know. And they didn’t start that until, oh, during the latter 1925 – ’30 is when they started paving the roads. They used to put gravel on the roads. Then when cars got pretty thick on the roads, why, dust would fly. And so the township would take and in front of each house, each farm house, why, they’d come along and put oil in front of the house to keep the dust from blowing into people’s houses. And in the wintertime, why, the gravel would play out and they’d cut through it and you’d get stuck. But they didn’t start paving the roads until, I’d say, the late twenties. I remember when I was a kid, I was sixteen, seventeen years old, I’d help to haul the gravel on the road with a team and help to spread the gravel. That would have been ’29.
[Regarding peddlers] They’d buy apples and oranges and grapefruit, sometimes they’d have fish, and he’d come out and sell the farmers these items, you know and then he’d pick up and take in trade, why, he’d take old iron, newspapers, and rags, anything he could take and trade it out for what the farmer would buy.
CW: Was it ever cash?
Mr. Wolf: Oh, you could pay cash. But a lot of people tried to barter, you know. His name was Ikie Friedman.
CW: How common was it to have people come through selling like that?
Mr. Wolf: Well, it was pretty common in the early twenties. In the early twenties it was real common because people couldn’t get to town. They didn’t have any facilities to go to town, you know. When I was just a kid, of course, my granddad and grandmother lived up at Drexel [on the western edge of Dayton] and we’d take the spring wagon and go up to my granddad’s and grandmother’s and, of course, [my parents] dropped us off there and we stayed until they went downtown and done their trading and took their butter and eggs and whatever they had and done any shopping they wanted to do at the grocery store. Then they’d come back up there and pick us up.
CW: How often did they do that?
Mr. Wolf: Every week.
CW: That was typical of all farmers to do that?
Mr. Wolf: Oh, yes. Farmers – all of them did that. At that time, Route 35 there in Drexel was a gravel road. That was in the early twenties. But we had a great uncle that lived in Versailles and his name was “Schultz” (that was his last name) and my grandmother’s brother, and he had a team instead of just one horse that would pull from Versailles. And he come down from Versailles one day and stay at my grandparents overnight, and the next day he’d go down to Dayton and do his shopping, trading, and then he’d come back to my grandparents and stay all night and the next day he’d go home. That was in the early 1900s, during World War I. And he had twelve kids and six of those had twelve so there’s lots of Schultz’s around someplace.
CW: So was tobacco your main crop?
Mr. Wolf: Yes, see, my dad, he only had eighty acres of land when he first got married in 1907. And he only had eighty acres of land and, of course, when he built the house and the barn and he built a big tobacco shed, too. And we we’d have as high as ten acres of tobacco on an eighty-acre farm and that was the money crop. They’d plant tobacco, we’d plant the plants in March, and then you’d set them out in June, then you wormed then and you plowed them and you hoed it and you topped it and you suckered it and then you cut it and then you hauled it into the barn and put it up in the barn to dry. Then when you got weather like we got today, when it’s raining, well, it would get what you call “come in case” – the leaves would get limber, you know. You’d hang it up there and when it froze, got real dry, the tobacco’s brittle, but when it rains like this, then it takes and gets limber. And that’s when we’d take it down from there and put it on a rick and take it into the strip house and strip it. Put it on a rick – you’d lay the lathes together, you know, and that would keep it from drying out. And then you’d take it into the strip house and strip it and then put it in a box.
Of course, the main part of the tobacco business around here was Germantown. All the tobacco that was raised around here went to Germantown. And a lot of people that are wealthy down there today in Germantown made their money out of tobacco. They’re still living off of what their grandparents made off of tobacco. And the farmers themselves [would take their tobacco down to] Germantown, and they’d put it in warehouses down there and prepare it to sell to whoever they sold it to make cigars. This was cigar tobacco around here. The reason tobacco went out of business here was because everybody was smoking cigarettes And there’s no need for this kind of tobacco anymore.
CW: When did that drop off?
Mr. Wolf: Oh, the early thirties. The early thirties was the last tobacco business around here.
CW: What else did you grow?
Mr. Wolf: Oh, wheat, corn, hay. Well, we’d sell some hay now and then. But usually we fed the hay to the horses. We had horses and we had cows. Of course, we milked cows. Made money off the milk, you know. We had hogs, too. They ate corn and so it wasn’t like they’re doing now where they just raise soy beans and wheat and corn. And we had everything, you know. We had strawberries and we had the garden and we had hay and corn and wheat and tobacco. We had everything on the farm. And then, of course, we had cows and horses and chickens and geese and ducks and sheep. We had all that on an eighty acre farm, you know. And it was all fenced in where we could control it.
And then we had about five different fields that one year you’d raise tobacco in, the next year you’d raise wheat, and then the next year you’d raise hay, and then you’d plow it up and maybe raise corn or put it back in tobacco. You rotated the crops and you did everything by hand. We had four horses on the farm about all the time, sometimes five. We had one of them [plows] you walk behind and plow one furrow at a time. And then the corn plow – you plowed one row of corn at a time with two horses. Of course, we usually had three horses and two mules is really what we had. We have five animals to do the work around the farm. Then, of course, you’d clean out the horse stable and you’d clean out the cow stable and haul that out on the fields and you used that a lot for fertilizer. You didn’t buy much fertilizer. You used the manure from the horse and the cows and like that and used that to fertilize the ground. They do everything with fertilizer now. We didn’t buy much fertilizer.
People are living longer now than they did when I was a kid. A lot of times we thought he was an old guy at fifty. Now you think he’s a young guy at fifty. And they’d die at fifty. My grandmother died at, let’s see, she died I guess when she was fifty-eight.
CW: What kind of rural society was there? Did neighbors come in and visit?
Mr. Wolf: Oh, yes. You did a lot of visiting back and forth with the neighbors. You’d be over at the neighbors two or three nights a week, you know, playing cards and entertaining and having fun, you know. You wouldn’t get to town very often, and you stayed right there and the neighbors come see you and you went to see the neighbors. And the Model T’s, you couldn’t go 200 miles in a Model T. You could get to the neighbors, you know, and you could get downtown and like that, but you didn’t go very far in a Model T. And that’s all there was.
We didn’t get to town [downtown Dayton] at all. Well, when we got a little older, when we got up to fifteen, sixteen years old, of course, I went to school downtown when I was seventeen. Went to Miami Jacobs to college. [Miami Jacobs was a small, privately-owned business college]. I went to Miami Jacobs in 1931 and the banks were just closed up and we didn’t have no money and I couldn’t get no job and when I did get a job I went to work for seven dollars a week. I worked six days a week to get the seven dollars. Worked in a wholesale house. Of course, we didn’t know we were poor. Everybody was in the same boat so you didn’t know you was poor and that was in the thirties. We got out of school in 1930, out of high school, and then we went down to Miami Jacobs and went there for about a year. It was just a year course, you know. And then I got the job, and then I went back to night school for seven or eight years. I don’t know if I got a degree or what, but I was there.
CW: Tell me about your courtship.
Mr. Wolf: Franny and I started running around together when she was still in school. [Talking to Franny] You wasn’t sixteen then, you got married when you was seventeen, eighteen. [She says that she was almost nineteen]. Well, anyway, we both went to the same church there in Liberty, you now, and so the young people, that was the center of attraction was the church. And we had a young people’s [group] – they called it “Christian Endeavor” – and they had that on Sunday evening and so I was the only guy, I guess, that had a car. I got a car in 1933 and everybody got in my car and we did everything together. And what’d we have – eight, ten of them in there at a time – so Franny was still in high school and we was going together, I guess, when she was a freshman, you was still a freshman in high school.
CW: Well, anyway, the war came along in 1941 and by that time I was in business pretty deep and pretty busy and I was still in the wholesale business. So Franny and I, she’d take and lick the envelopes and I’d work on weekends, you know, trying to get the job done and so she was down at the office pretty near all the time, and when war was declared December the 7th, why, we were down at the office on Webster Street getting the mail out, the statements and everything, you know, and that was on December the 7th and, of course, I was already in the draft and so I knew it wouldn’t be long ‘til I’d go. So she was a senior in high school and I was twenty-nine.
So I knew I was gonna have to go to the war pretty quick and so on March the 16th, why, they took me in the army. I was in the army on March the 16th, 1942. So I went down to Fort Thomas to get into the army and Frannie saw me off there, and so I went to Missouri. And of course, I had a car then, a brand new car, and I gave it to her to run while I was in the army. So she came out to see me with my dad and mother and my sister.
In the meantime, I went through clerk’s school out there and I got a job as a secretary in battalion headquarters. And I was there all the time with nothing else to do. There was more soldiers in town than there was on the base. If you went to town, there was no use to go to town. So I’d stay there all the time and work around the headquarters. And I applied for schooling and by June, I knew I was going to go to school. And so on August the 7th, why, I got a deal to go to OCS at Aberdeen Proving Ground. And I got a delay en route.
And so I came home on Thursday night and so I told Frannie, “Let’s get married.” And so we got married on Monday night, August 10th, 1942. Then on Monday, we went down to Cincinnati and stayed all night and come back on Tuesday. And the next day we went to Aberdeen, and that was the extent of our honeymoon. Then I went through OCS, thirty-three months of OCS, and got my commission. And then I came home and then she went with me from then on.
Then we had quite a whirlwind from November when we went to Columbia, South Carolina, November of 1942 until September of ’43, why, we had quite a time in the army. And she was with me all the while. And here and there and getting transferred from one place to the other, you know, and Frannie ended up in Los Angeles, California. And I got shipped out there. And she followed us out and drove the car out there and there was three girls gonna come back with Frannie. She was the only one that had a car, and they was gonna come back with her and they got chicken and left her stranded out there with a car and her by herself and she was nineteen years old. But she got home alright. She’s here.
Here name’s Frances Oma Wolf. Her maiden name was “Pilcher.” They’re natives of Liberty. She was born and her sisters was born there. And her family had two families. They had four boys, then they had four girls. The boys were all older than the girls. The girls came last. Eleven years between Charlie and Goldie. Her father [worked with] the firefighter company. [He] had about three acres, I think. They built fire extinguishers; he was not a fireman. The firefighter company was a company that built fire extinguishers. He was a jack of all trades. He did everything. Anything they wanted done, they give it to him and he did it. He could fix anything.
Mr. Wolf: We had about an eighty acre farm, and so it was about ten acres of woods. So we had ten acres of pasture, ten acres of corn, ten acres of wheat, five acres of oats, and five acres of corn over here, and six acres of tobacco, and fifteen acres of hay and clover – and then we had a truck patch – and then over here was the shed where we put out tobacco in – a tobacco shed.
CW: What is a “truck patch?”
Mr. Wolf: A truck patch is where we raised vegetables. We raised strawberries and vegetables in that truck patch.
CW: For the family?
Mr. Wolf: Oh, yeah. Then we sold some off of there. Then we had a garden out right close to the road. And then the barn, and then the house was right there. And then, so actually, it was only about ten – twenty – thirty – forty – fifty – sixty – about sixty-five acres of farmland. And my dad moved there in 1907, and lived there ‘til he died in 1968. Course, in the meantime he had bought another little farm. But he made a living and paid for the farm off of the way this ten acres of pasture, ten acres of corn – And see, now one year we’d put tobacco over in this field, and the next year we’d put it over in this field, and hay would follow wheat, and then pasture would follow hay. And then we rotated them all around in these different fields, but we always kept the best ground for tobacco where my dad made his money.
CW: Did you rotate the tobacco?
Mr. Wolf: Oh, yeah. We put that in the one, two, three, we’d have it in four different fields. We’d rotate the crop around, and the tobacco, when you raise tobacco, you fertilized that real heavy. You bought fertilizer, and then you also used the manure from the barn. You fertilized that real heavy, the next year you put that back in wheat. But you rotated the crops around in different places.
Then back before they had corn binders, why, we’d chop the corn and put it in shock right out in the field and let it in there ‘til, well, the late fall. Then we’d go out there and start shucking corn each shock at a time. It was quite an ordeal. You’d shuck the corn, and then after you got the corn shucked, why, then you’d take and stand the fodder up and in bigger bundles, bigger bundles than what you’d put anything else on, and then we’d come out there and get that fodder, take it into the barn and run it through a fodder cutter, so we’d have fodder to feed the cows and horses.
And the same way with wheat. Now they combine wheat. Back then, why, we did the wheat with a wheat binder. And wheat binder was an outfit that had some canvas rollers on, and this reel would come around, and they had a cutter on the front of that, and that would cut the wheat and throw it back on that canvas. Then the canvas would run the wheat up to another canvas. And from there it would hit up in a place where it tied it in bundles. And then it would kick out a bundle. And it lay out in the field, and then we had it around there, and then we shocked that and put about fifteen bundles of wheat in each shock. And then we’d put a cap on it. We’d take one bundle and spread it out and lay a sheaf on the top of that to keep the water off the green. Then you leave that in the field there until you got the time to haul it in, and then your hauled it in and stored it in the barn for, oh, maybe a month, a month and a half. And then the threshing machine would come around and thresh it.
And then to make hay, we just had a hay cutter that was pulled by two horses, and you’d go down through the field and cut about a four foot swath and it would throw the hay over and it would leave a little space about that far in the middle of it where there was no hay. And then they’d come around and take the next one. Then we came in with the rake, a rake took the width of two cutters, and you’d rake that up. Whenever the rake got full, you had a dumper on it, and it would dump the hay, and you dumped the hay in rows. Then you come by and piled it, put what the rake had – you gathered up and we’d make it one pile. Then you’d throw the piles one way, and then throw them the other way, and that’d give you a driveway down through there that you could take a horse, take a wagon and hay ladders and go down through there, and you could chuck a fork into that pile of hay and put it up on the wagon. And then you haul the hay into the barn. And when you got into the barn, they had a hay fork that you’d stick into this load of hay, it was on ropes, and the horse would pull that hay up into the hay mow. And that’s the hay we used to feed the cows and horses, sheep and whatever else we had, you know.
Back when I was a kid, why, we didn’t have no tractor, and we had three horses and two mules in the barn. And we used that to pull the wagons and pull the hay fork and pull the binder and pull the hay cutter and everything. Everything was done with horses [and mules]. We didn’t get a tractor until probably about ’25, ’26, along in there, we got a Fordson tractor. And then we got rid of the mules. When we got the tractor, then we got rid of the mules. But before 1925, why, we plowed the ground, we walked behind the plow, you now, with two horses pulling it. And then we’d get the three horses and hook them to a disk and work the ground, and it was pretty primitive. And then the success of a little farm like this is the fact that they rotated these crops. So the hay would put nitrogen back into the ground and it didn’t take as much fertilizer. Now, they just keep raising the corn and wheat and soy beans. Corn and wheat and soy beans. They might rotate the corn, wheat and soy beans, but they make very little hay. I just read in the paper this week we’re short on hay, you know.
But we always had plenty of hay. We’d have about fifteen acres of hay every year, and just about this time of year we sowed the timothy, we sowed that when you planted the wheat. And that came up after you took the wheat off. But clover, why, you’d go out and put that on the wheat field in the early spring. My dad had one of those seeders that you walked with, and you played it like a fiddle, it spread the clover out. He always tried to plant, sow the clover about March 15th, 18th, along in there. And then the clover would come up. And then in the fall on that wheat field, why, that’s when you started your hay field for the next year. And hay always followed wheat or corn and then pasture followed hay.
We always kept a field that we could put the cows in if the grass would get about this high, you know, and they would eat that grass all summer, and then we wouldn’t have to use any hay. You’d go out and let the cows out in the morning, and then in evening, why, you’d have to go get them. But that’s a little picture of the farm. There’s about eighty acres there. Any my dad made money off that eighty acres and we never wanted for anything. And we all went to school, went through high school and college, and he made it all off that eighty acre farm. Course, he had a little other stuff…like if he got a chance to haul gravel on the road back in the days when they didn’t have paved roads, why, the farmers would take their team of horses and haul gravel out of these different cricks [creeks] around the area and haul it out on the road, and he’d make a little money that way. And then once in a while he’d help somebody and they’d pay him a little something for helping him, you know. But most of the time, why, the farmers traded back and forth. In other words, if you helped that farmer a day, then he’d come help you a day.
Then, talking about that truck patch, whey we raised corn – sweet corn, we raised strawberries, we raised tomatoes, we raised cabbage, we raised red beets, we raised everything in that truck patch. But it was mostly strawberries and sweet corn. Then of course, we’d sell the sweet corn. Take the sweet corn downtown and sell that and the strawberries. And the strawberries was quite an ordeal. The strawberries – you can’t pick them standing up – you gotta get down right there where they’re at. And it’s a pretty hard job to pick strawberries
Then, of course, we didn’t have much of an orchard. We had a little bitty, maybe four or five trees, but back in the early days, in the early 1900s, why, everybody on every farm had an orchard. Then, ‘course, they put their trees in, probably – oh, maybe – twenty-five feet apart and put them in rows, and then they kept their trees apart maybe fifty feet, and then they’d make a truck patch out of the orchard. They’d raise apples and pears and grapes – everybody had a little of everything in the way of fruit.
That’s where the apple butter business come in ‘cause everybody had a little orchard of their own, you know. And they didn’t buy apples to make apple butter. They raised them and had the cider made and took the very best apples and peeled them and that’s how they made apple butter. Course, that come in the fall. And we might as well start on the apple butter deal, how we made apple butter.
Making Apple Butter and Schnitz
These orchards, for two or three days ahead of time if you know you was going to make apple butter, why, you’d pick apples. The ones you picked off the ground or dropped, why, you’d use them to make cider. And the good ones that you wanted to peel, why, you put them in a separate container and set them aside. You got a wagon load of apples, about all you could haul on a wagon, and then the apples that you was going to cut up for apple butter, why, you set them aside. And then, when you decided that the day you was going to make the apple butter, well, the day before that you’d take these apples that they were going to have made into cider, and the cider mill was down on Forney Road, which is just not very far from where we live. In the fall of the year, everybody was making apple butter, and so they’d – the fellows would want to get their cider made, and so they’d take the horse and the load of apples and go down there at maybe three o’clock in the morning and get lined up. So that they would be first, you know, everybody was trying to be first. Course everybody wasn’t first. And I’ve seen it where the farmers and their wagons were lined up for a mile – a mile and a half – setting there waiting to have their cider made. So you get your cider made.
When you’re sure you had your cider, then you called for a party, invited the neighbors in, and then you had an apple peeling evening. You did that in the evening. So the night before, why, you’d call your neighbors in, and you’d start peeling apples. Now, I don’t know what the content – how many apples it took to make so many gallons of cider – I don’t know that anymore. But, of course, my dad and mother, and granddad and grandmother knew that. And so we’d peel apples ‘til maybe, oh, 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock, and, of course, you’d do it in the kitchen and there was apple peelings all over everything and apples everywhere. And we kept these apples, we’d put these apples in water to keep them from turning black, you know. And then the cider was there, and of course, everybody was drinking cider and having a big time, you know.
And then we’d get up the next morning at about, oh maybe, four o’clock. And we didn’t do it in a building. We did it out in the woods. We’d start a fire. And then we had this forty-gallon – I think we had two of them – two forty-gallon copper kettles. You got to make apple butter in a copper kettle. You can’t make it in a metal kettle. It’ll taint the apple butter. You had these forty-gallon copper kettles, and they set up, oh, I imagine, three feet, and they were about that far across. And you’d put the cider in there, and then you had a ring to set the copper kettle on and it’d be up about that far above the ground – about a foot, foot and a half – up off the ground. And then you’d start boiling that cider.
And you boiled cider and you boiled cider and from about six o’clock in the morning until about maybe 1 o’clock in the afternoon, why, you just keep boiling that moisture out of that cider. And the cider is kind of, well, it’s a yellow color when you first start boiling it, but the longer you boil it and you boil the moisture out of it, why, the redder it gets. And when it gets real red and it quits steaming, then you know you got all the moisture out of the cider.
So then, that would be about one o’clock in the afternoon. In the meantime, why, you’re building a fire and keeping the fire burning, and then about one o’clock in the afternoon, why, then we’d start to put those apples into that red cider. And then, when you start doing that, why, when those apples cooks up, then it starts to sputter, you know, it’ll fly out and hit you. If that hot cider and apples hit you, it’d make a blister on your hand, so they got a long [stirrer] – well, it was about as deep as the forty-gallon copper kettle – maybe 2 ½ to 3 feet deep – and that was the stirrer – and then the stirrer stuck down in that forty-gallon kettle and then on that they had a pole. And the pole was about twelve, thirteen feet long. ‘Cause if you didn’t stand back that far, the hot apples and cider would pop out on you.
And so after you put the apples in, you just stir, stir, stir. And you’d stir that from one o’clock until you know it’s done. And in the meantime, why, they’d put the spices into the apples and the apple cider. And when the apples were all cooked up and it was boiled down, it looked like apple butter, why, then they decided it was done. It’d be, oh, about 6:30 or 7:00 at night. And so you let the fire go down, and then you’ve seen those old gallon crocks – they’re black on the bottom and white on the top, white on top and black on the bottom – one or the other – they hold a gallon. And guess I we must have had 100 of those crocks. So, we was boiling this apple butter out in the woods, which was probably, oh, 250 to 300 feet from the house, and they’d dip up that apple butter into these gallon crocks. Then we’d take rags and hold that crock and carry that crock a hundred feet into the house, into what we called the “summer house.” We’d set the apple butter in the summer house on tables. And, oh, you’d get about forty gallons, and you had two of them, so you’d have probably sixty gallons of apple butter when you got through. Because you had two copper kettles full of apple butter, and so you’d have about sixty gallons in crocks, carried into what we called the “summer house.” And then you’d let that cool, and the next morning it was ready to either sell it or fix it so it would keep.
And a lot of times, why, the folks had orders for apple butter. And soon as they got the apple butter made, why, they’d sell maybe half of it right away. They’d take it down to Dayton. Today, you couldn’t take a gallon of apple butter into Dayton and sell it because they wouldn’t allow you. Back then, why, they would haul this apple butter into Dayton and sell apple butter. And I don’t know what they sold it for – probably a dollar and a half [or] two dollars. If they sold it right fresh, they just took and put a newspaper over the top, and bent it down over the corners and tied it with a rag around that newspaper. Back then, with the apple butter that they didn’t sell immediately, why, they would take paraffin (for the ones they were going to keep) and pour paraffin about, oh, maybe three-fourths or about half an inch of paraffin over the top of this apple butter. And then they would take this paper, this newspaper, and put it over the top and tie a rag around the top of that newspaper. And then we carried that up in the attic and stored that up in the attic.
And in the meantime, if we needed a gallon of apple butter, why, we’d go up to the attic and get a gallon of apple butter and bring it down to eat. And that’s all we had to eat – we didn’t have no jelly, didn’t have no nothing “boughtin”, we’d eat apple butter. You didn’t like apple butter, you didn’t eat nothing on your bread. ‘Course we had plenty of butter. We had the cows. You see, the farmers back then, they were into everything. They made the grape jelly, and they made apple butter, and they made pear butter, and anything we had on the farm, they made something out of it.
Schnitz – that’s a different story from apple butter. ‘Course we had plenty of apples. We called them “schnitz.” They were about, oh, instead of a quarter of an apple, they was about – well, we’d cut the apple in about three – six – nine – about twelve slices. And that was a different deal from the apple butter. They’d dry apples. They’d dry apples back then. And they’d take the good apples – you didn’t use bum apples on that. You’d take the very best apples you had. You’d peel them and cut them up in about twelve pieces. And then you laid them out on – we usually used screen – had like just a regular screen from in the windows – and we’d lay that on the screen and dry those apples. And when they got good and dry and all the moisture was out of them, then they’d put them in a bag and hang them up in the attic. And we called them “schnitz”. They’d hang them up in the attic, and then when we didn’t have no apples, didn’t have no fruit, why, they’d say, “Go up and get a bag of schnitz.”
And we’d go up and get a bag of schnitz, and my mother would take and put them – put a big kettle on the stove – and throw those schnitz in there and put water in them. And then they’d come back pretty near to size. And they’re not too bad maybe the first month after they hung in the attic. But as the spring came along they just kept getting blacker and blacker and blacker, and pretty soon, why, you could hardly eat them. But we’d eat them, and that was the fruit we had to eat.
And then, of course, in the winter time, why, my dad would go down sometimes and buy a barrel of apples. Buy a barrel of apples down on the commission market. They sold apples by the barrel then. He’d bring a barrel of apples home, and then we had fresh apples for as long as they lasted. They was seven of us, so we eat apples pretty fast. Eat them in the evening, you know, and then he’d also bring back grapefruit in the wintertime.
Once in a while he’d buy a pretty good bunch of grapefruit. Grapefruit didn’t taste as good then as it does now. It didn’t have the flavor. But anyway, he’d bring those grapefruit home, and he’d cut them in half, and then in the middle where it held the pulp, right in the middle, he’d cut that out and then fill that spot with sugar. And he’d do that in the evening, and then that would set all night, then that sugar would go into the grapefruit and make the grapefruit taste a little better. ‘Course now you can eat a grapefruit without putting any sugar on them. Back then you had to put sugar on them ‘cause they had a kind of rank taste to them. But my dad fixed those up. And that’s about all we had – we’d get a barrel of apples in the wintertime and a few little grapefruit. And oranges – once in a while they’d get a few oranges. But we stuck pretty close to what we had to eat ourselves.
Of course, butchering is another process that is – they don’t do that no more either. You want to hear about that?
Butchering and Preparing the Hog
Well, butchering. We butchered beef, we butchered hogs, mainly hogs. We always had hogs, fifteen, twenty, maybe thirty hogs in the hog pen. And we’d fatten those up, and of course, we sold those hogs down in Dayton at the old Suker [sp] packing company. But we’d butcher about three hogs a winter. And that’s another deal that takes all day.
You get up in the morning, there’s nothing to do the couple days before. But the first thing you do is get a big barrel – a regular fifty-five gallon barrel that’s got the head knocked out of it. And my dad would set that down at the end of a sled so the barrel was kind of tilted, oh, maybe at a thirty-five degree angle. That’s the first thing you get ready the day before so you can handle the hog. And then we’d get out in the morning before daylight, before daylight you’d have the water hot. Then, you do that in the same place you cook your apple butter except you used cast iron kettles for hogs. You take and put that water in these cast iron kettles and you’d have about three of those and get the water hot. And when the water was boiling, why, then it was time to shoot the hog. And so then you’d go out and shoot the hog. And the first thing you’d do after you shot the hog, and the hog dropped over, you took a knife and stuck him in the neck, cut his jugular vein here, so he’d bleed, get all the blood out of him.
And then after the hog was bled out pretty good, you’d take and pull the hog up on that sled where the barrel was sitting at about a thirty-five degree angle. And a hog would just about fit into a barrel like that. So you put the water in there, you put the hot water in there, then my dad always put ashes, mixed ashes in that water. He said that would make the hair come off better. And so, you’d slide the hog in hind end first. And you’d reach down in there and when the hair was starting to come off, you’d pull the hog out, turn the hog around and run his head in the barrel and pour more hot water in there. You’d reach down in there and when the hair started coming off around his ears and that, then you’d pull the whole hog out onto that sled.
And then you had scrapers, they were about four inches across and they’re kind of cupped, you know, something like a cut, and then they’ve got a handle above that where they’re cupped. Then you start scraping that hog and scraping the hair off.
And when you get the hair pretty well scraped off, and he’s halfway decent, why, then you’d take and pull the hog over to not too far away, you didn’t want to pull him too far, and you’d have a tripod, they’d have a tripod that would go up, and you slit the back legs. And they put a gammel[sp] and that would spread this hog’s legs apart, and then you’d bring that gammel and the hog’s legs and put them up on this tripod and raise the hog up off the ground. And then the hog was just hanging there straight up and down. And then you took and finished him up; if you got any hair you didn’t get, why, you’d get a real sharp butcher knife and hot water and finish the hog down, so that the hog was perfectly clean on the outside. And then, of course, the hog’s legs were spread apart up at the top and so he was ready there to cool off.
So the first thing, if you were going to kill two or three, you’d get two or three of them hanging like that. In the meantime, as soon as you got the first one hung up, why, you’d cut his head off, and that’s the first thing you’d clean on the hog when you butcher. There’s fat around the jowl of the hog and there’s some regular meat around the head and so that’s the first thing you clean. And you split the head right down through the middle and get the brains out. And so that was the thing you had for dinner. You had hog brains for dinner. That’s a delicacy.
So that’s the first thing, we’d get the first hog’s head clean, and in the meantime, we was cleaning another one and getting him ready to hang up, you know. We never butchered over three at a time, and so you’d get those heads, and take them into what we called the “summer house,” and they had a table in there that they could take care of those heads. And around the head is what you call “puddin’ meat.” Well, puddin’ is the – well, the first thing you do is you get all that flesh off of that head – off of that bone, trim that off – somebody’s doing that while we’re putting up another hog. And in the meantime, the person that was able to gut the hog, to take the insides out of the hog – they wasn’t everybody able to do that. You had to have a real sharp knife and, of course, you had to take and cut the backbone and then lay that hog open and then have a big washtub there to catch the entrails and everything that come out. And then that was the next thing that went into the summer house to process. And so you took those insides in there and by that time the person in there that was working on the head had that all done and had what we called “puddin’ meat” throwed off to the side.
And then they took the insides in there. My mother was in charge of that. She made the hog casings. And you make the hog casings out of the guts of the hog. And right around the inside, and I don’t know just exactly where it is, in the hog there’s some real delicious tasting stuff called “sweet breads.” So they got the sweet breads out and the brains out, and that went to the kitchen. And so for dinner, when you ever butchered, why, you had sweet breads and brains for dinner.
In the meantime, why, my mother would work on the insides of the hog. They had to take all of what the hog had ate in the last day or two, they had to take that all out of the insides of the hog. And then, we had a board – it was about eight inches wide and two feet long – which was the casing board. And so you’d take those insides of the hog, and you’d start taking a sharp knife and start scraping all that stuff that the hog had eat and then you’re casing ends up with just a real light thin – you know, like it is on sausage, you’ve seen the outside of a sausage already – it’s perfectly white when they get it all done. But you put those in salt, saltwater, and there they sat in saltwater until we was ready to use them.
So then, that was the main part, and then they’d work on what was in the kidneys and the heart and the liver and they didn’t use the lungs. They threw the lungs away. But they took the heart, and the liver, and the kidneys – and that was puddin’ meat. And so, after you got all the puddin’ meat out of the insides, then out on the tripod, why, all that was hanging out there was the main part of the hog.The back legs, the front legs, and the ribs and everything out there. And that’s cooling out. You’re letting that cool out while you’re getting this puddin’ meat ready. And after you get all the puddin’ meat ready – that comes from the head and the liver and the kidneys and heart – it all went into the puddin’ meat.
And so, by the time you got the third hog out there and got all the puddin’ meat ready to go, and got the brains and the sweet bread and the insides to make casings out of them, why you got about three hogs all done, then, you put this puddin’ meat all together, and out there where you was boiling this water to scald the hog, then you keep that water on all the time. And by the time that you get that done, then you take all this puddin’ meat and go out and put it in that hot water and boil it. And you cook that puddin’ meat, and you usually get done by about, oh maybe, one o’clock in the afternoon. And when that’s all done, then it’s time to take the puddin’ meat off and put that in a big tub, and then you clean all your metal tubs that you had this water in and you made your puddin’ meat in, you cleaned and washed everything up. In the meantime, why, you’re cutting this hog up. You take the side of the hog into what we called the “summer house,” and you’d cut that hog up. You’d cut the hams and the shoulders and the ribs and the tenderloin, and you cut everything up and laid it out.
And there’s a lot of fat on a hog, and so then you started to cutting the fat up to make lard. And so, your puddin’ comes off at about one o’clock when you got everything out there in the back yard where you had these kettles, why, you had them all washed up. And in the meantime, everybody was cutting lard, and you cut lard up into squares, oh, about an inch square. And some people used the skin off the outside of the hog; we did – we took that skin and put it right into the lard. And there’s about two inches of fat all over the whole hog, including about the hams and the shoulders that all goes into the lard. And so about one o’clock, or 1:30, why, you’d start rendering lard. And so you’d take this lard out, and these kettles that you had cleaned, and you’d start the fire underneath there, and you’d throw this fat from the hogs into this big kettle, then that starts to cook and then the fat all turns to liquid, you know. And so pretty soon, why, you’d boiled all the moisture out of that. I never knew too much how – my dad knew when to take it off – if you left it on too long you burnt the lard and it didn’t taste good. If you took it off too soon, it would spoil. So he knew how to do it. And so he would take this lard, when it was right, he’d take the lard off.
Well, then we had a lard press. And you’ve heard of “cracklins” already, haven’t you? Well, cracklins, that’s what’s left of that hunk of meat that you put in there to take and get the lard out of it. So you dipped that lard up and poured it into this press. And then you had another big kettle that you had good and clean that this lard run off into out of this lard press. Then when the lard press got full, then you could turn it down and squeeze all the lard out of these little squares of fat and you’d squeeze it down – and it’d be about 2 ½ to 3 inches thick, and the size of the lard press, and that was your cracklins. And all the lard was squeezed out of there and that was what we called “cracklins.” And of course, we’d sell those, too. But you’d keep on working that lard press until you had all of the lard rendered, and all that was left was these slabs of cracklins, and you might have slabs of cracklins 2 ½ inches thick and maybe four inches thick and eight or nine inches around. And you might have eight or ten of them if you killed three or four hogs, you know.
Well, in the meantime, why, the person who was cutting the hogs up in the summer house, all the lean meat, was ready to grind. Of course, they’d keep the tenderloins and they’d keep the ribs and the good items that was good to eat, you know, they’d save. But the pieces of flesh that are onto the ribs and onto the tenderloins that is lean meat, why, that’s sausage meat. And so then about four o’clock in the afternoon, you’d start up the sausage grinder. You’d take the sausage meat and put it in the sausage grinder. Usually, when I was a kid we used to have to turn it by hand And when they got so after a while they had it so it was hooked onto a machine – a motor – but when I first learned about this, why, we had to grind the sausage by hand. So we’d turn the crank, you know, and grind the sausage. And that’d be put in a big tub after it was ground up, and then mixed with peppers and salt and whatever they put into it, and I don’t know what the mixture was. But everybody had their own mixture, you know, how they fixed it, how they liked it.
Have you ever seen a sausage stuffer? A sausage stuffer is a metal container about eight inches around and in the middle of it there’s a thing that fits right down into this container. And you put the sausage in first and then put this top on. And then the top, you can turn it so it’d force that sausage down into the bottom of that sausage stuffer. Then there’s a nozzle came out just about the size of a sausage – you know how big a sausage is – and a nozzle would come out and when you was ready to go, why, you’d take this casing and slide the casing onto this little spigot that stuck out – you’d slide that casing on there, and then somebody would turn this sausage stuffer which would lower the meat in that sausage stuffer and then it would force it out through this little spigot, and that would force this out into this little casing and that would make your sausage. You’ve seen sausages in grocery stores – fresh sausages.
You made your sausage, and then, in the meantime, why, after you got your sausage made and your lard rendered, why, then the next day you worked on the puddin’ and mixed that up and ground that up the next day, ‘cause you didn’t have to do that right away ‘cause that was cooked and you could do that anytime. And a lot of the time we’d make the puddin’ the same day. And that’s spiced up too with salt and peppers and like that. And when you dip up the puddin’ out of the kettle, why, there’s a bunch of juice left.
And so you save the juice, save that juice – you don’t have to do that the same day either – you can do that the next day, or two days later, three days later. They’d take the juice and then they’d mix corn meal in with that and then that’s what they called “ponhaus”. But they mixed the drippings off of the stuff they cooked to make puddin’, and mixed corn meal in with that, and that would get thick just like mush, and then you’d pour that out into pans – a pan would be maybe ten inches long and eight inches wide and about three inches deep – and you’d pour that into these pans, and then you could save that for a good while. And then, you’d have ponhaus for breakfast with cane molasses.
That’s about the end of the butchering. Course, there’s a little more to it than that though. You cool all the hams and the shoulders and the side meat. Out of the side of the hog, why, there’s a piece in there – you know how bacon is. Well, they’d cut that into sections about a foot and a half long and about maybe eight to ten inches wide and it’s about an inch and a half thick. The same thickness as bacon. And they’d take that and the next day when that got good and cooled out, and they could do that maybe a week later, they’d take the hams and the shoulders, and then they had a salt – I don’t know what the mixture was, my dad always knew – and they’d have salt and salt peter and brown sugar – and they’d rub these side meats – hams and shoulders – with that and let them lay in this salt (no brine) that way for maybe a week, a week and a half. And then they’d take them into the smoke house.
And we had a building that was about eight feet square, and it had rails up in the top of the smoke house where you could hang these hams and shoulders and bacon. And then down in the bottom, why we had an old tub there that we’d start a fire and get the fire going pretty good, and then you’d throw sawdust on top of the fire – and that makes a lot of smoke. So then they’d smoke these, and I don’t know how long they smoked them. But they would smoke those hams and shoulders and bacon until they were pretty brown-looking. And after they got that done, my mother had some sacks made from sugar sacks and different sacks she had accumulated. And they were just big enough to hold a ham and a shoulder, and then she had them made big enough so that they could hold a slab of bacon. And then after they was smoked good and they were cured out, they’d put them in these sacks and leave them hanging in this smoke house. When you wanted a ham or a shoulder, some bacon, all you had to do was go out to the smoke house and take one of those out and slice it off and cook the ham or…. Some of that was pretty rank stuff, too, sometimes the cure wasn’t as good as it ought to be, you know, but we ate it. And then, the way my mother preserved pork chops – she’d take the pork loin just like a regular pork chop, and cut them into regular pork chop size and they’d cook them. And they’d take one of these crocks that they put apple butter in, and they’d stack them in there and then pour lard over them. They’d melt lard and pour lard over them. And that preserved them. And then whenever you wanted a pork chop, why, you’d just go down and dig in one of those gallon crocks and dig out the pork chops and melt the grease off of them and they were already coked and you could have a pork chop dinner pretty quick. But sometimes they didn’t taste as good three or four months after you butchered as the day your butchered, you know.
Making Sugar Cane Molasses
I might as well tell you about the cane molasses. We raised cane. Cane is something about like corn, except that it’s cane. And on the top of a cane stock there’s a blossom comes out on there that is probably about four inches across. And that’s the seed. It isn’t like an ear of corn – the cane reproduction is right on the top of the cane. You grow cane and this blossom comes out on top, and then when – I think it was about, oh, probably in August – why, the cane was ready to take to the mill.
And so the first thing you did, you went out and cut that tassel off, and then you took a lathe, a stick about that long, it was about an inch wide and ¾ of an inch thick, and the first thing you did, you went out into the cane field and you took this stick and run up and down there and knocked all the leaves off the cane stalk. And then when you got the leaves all knocked off the cane stalk, then you cut it – you cut the cane and you laid the cane down on the ground. And when you got about twenty-five stalks of cane, why, you’d tie it up with a string so the bundle would be about, oh, maybe 8 ½ - 10 inches across. And you’d get whatever crop of cane you had, and then you’d load that on the wagon and take it to the cane mill.
They would take it and run these cane stalks through a press just like they did with apples, except that they run it through a press, and you fed this cane into this press, and it squeezed the juice out of the cane stalks. Then the process was that you had to cook it after that juice came off there. You had to cook it to get the moisture out of it. And so, the cane mill done all the work on producing the cane molasses, and when he got it cooked and ready to go, he’d call you and say your cane molasses is ready. And it all depended on how much cane you took, with how much you got back. And I don’t know if we always got back what we was supposed to get back or not or if the guy cheated a little. I don’t know, he might’ve. But anyway, we’d put that cane molasses in lard cans. A lard can is a fifty gallon tin can that held fifty pounds of lard. And we’d take those lard cans up there to the cane mill, and he’d give the cane molasses back to us in those lard cans. That’s what we used on this ponhaus and mush, and that was one of the items that was different from apple butter. We had cane molasses. And that operated just like the apples did. The longer it stayed in that lard can and the older it got, why, the blacker it go and the more rancid it got. And by spring, it’s pretty potent stuff. But we still ate it and survived. But we raised cane and got cane molasses pretty nearly every year. And then, of course, the cane mills have gone by the board, they’re no more cane mills or anything like that, and then the farmers have not raised it anymore.
CW: Where was the mill?
Mr. Wolf: Drexel. There was a cane mill up at Drexel. Right there on the Infirmary Road, at Route 35 and Infirmary Road there was a cane mill there. They’d haul cane in there. A lot of times he’d have big stacks of cane – they stood them up – and he’d have maybe, oh, I imagine five [or] six hundred head, you know, waiting to make cane molasses out of it.
Making Maple Syrup
Then, of course, we made maple syrup, too. In the woods there, we had a lot of maple trees. Now you’ve seen them do that already, haven’t you? Well, right now is maple syrup – the sap in the trees is coming up in the trees. And you’d bore a hold in the tree and we had a little metal spigot you’d drive into the hold where you bored the hold. And then when the sap come up, it runs out of that little spigot. And you had a bucket that would hang on there, and then maybe twice, or three times a day you had to go out there and gather the maple syrup. We just made it in very small quantities. But there was places right in this area here, where they used to have what they called “sugar camps.” And they were set up to make maple syrup. And the way they do that, they pour the raw maple sap that comes out of the trees, they pour that out in one end of a boiler, and it comes down and across metal galvanized vats and there’s heat under the whole way. And it just keeps boiling it down and boiling it down to get all the moisture out of it until at the end, why, the pure maple sugar comes out. I only saw that a couple times in my life. But I know of two that used to be around here. There was one over there on the Union Road. And Wesley Michael – he had a bunch of maple trees. And he had it set up. And you could take your syrup in there to them and they’d make your syrup for you if you didn’t want to. But what we did, we boiled it down right on the stove, you know, what little we made. We wasn’t into it in a very big way.
Did I tell you about the tobacco business? That’s a long process, too. When you’re starting tobacco, you start tobacco about the middle of March. You had tobacco beds. Tobacco beds were about, oh, they were about eight feet across and you could make them any length you wanted to. It all depends on how many plants you needed. These tobacco beds were about eight feet across, and some would be fifty feet long, some would be about 100 feet, some would be seventy-five feet long – it all depended on how much plants you wanted to raise. We always had about seventy feet of tobacco beds. And then you wait a few days, when they need more water, then you take the canvas off and water them again. In the meantime, why, the plants, they’re just little bitty things when they first come up, you can barely see them. But you keep on watering them and taking care of them until the tobacco plant gets about six inches tall. And it may have seven or eight leaves on it. And the leaves are about the size of a silver dollar. And so when that plant gets that age – and it’s usually about June the first, why, you’re ready to plant tobacco.
So then you take the canvas off, and by that time on, it’s good and warm, by June you know, and so you can leave the canvas off pretty nearly all the time. There’s no danger. But then you had to water those plants and carry the water. We didn’t have no hose or anything or no forced water. We had to do it with a barrel and a sprinkling can and then water those plants. And then when those plants were ready to plant, they got about eight inches tall, seven, six inches tall. Then you’d get the land out in the field ready.
A tobacco planter was a three-wheel affair. It had two big wheels on the back, and a little bitty wheel out in the front. And between the two big wheels in the back and the wheel out in the front, why, there was a big barrel on there – about a fifty, seventy-five gallon barrel. And we’d put water in there. And then the mechanism in the tobacco planter, it was fixed so that every so often, why, it would trip, and there’d be so much water come out. And they had two people setting on the back of the planter and you set right down on the ground. And the wheel in front of the tobacco planter smashed the ground down flat. And then what we called the “shoe” – that’s the thing that cut the ground open so that you could stick the plant in, so there was a trip on that water, and so every time that it was time to plant a plant, well, you held a plant there until the water came, and then you planted the plant the same time as the water. And so you planted them about every two feet.
In the meantime, you had to pull these plants and have them all ready and in boxes. And then you’d go out there and you’d plant – oh, maybe you’d plant ten, twelve rows a day. ‘Course, a tobacco plant is a pretty tender plant when they’re only six inches tall or eight inches tall. And so you’d plant those plants and then the next morning after you got the tobacco planted, well, the first thing you did you went out there and you plowed it right away to cut that dirt up around that plant and made sure that all of them was alright. And some of them would die, and then just about that time of the year, why, it would rain pretty much. And so then the one’s died, we’d pull plants when the ground was wet and we’d go out there and replant. In other word, if a plant was missing, why, we’d put a plant in, you know. And so you’d have the full use of the ground, you know.
But then the first thing to do, you plowed it, you plowed the ground with a cultivator, and you kept that ground real loose all the time around those plants. And then you made sure that it didn’t have any weeds. So then you had to go out there with a hoe and hoe and put the dirt in the right place and if there were some little weeds coming up, well, you’d have to hoe it. So the plant would grow and grow all summer.
And in the meantime, why, there’s tobacco worms come. And tobacco worms – I don’t know if you’ve seen a tobacco worm or not. Tobacco worms, they’ll get about that long, and they get around as big as your finger. And we had five kids in the family and so my dad didn’t believe in killing them with poison. And so we’d hunt tobacco worms the same time as we’d hoe. And we’d catch the little ones or catch the big ones, and whatever they was, why, we’d try to kill all the tobacco worms. And you had to worm the tobacco pretty nearly every three or four days. You had to go through the patch and worm that tobacco. Just take them and throw them right down on the ground. We’d take hold of the worm and slap it on the ground, and the worm, and the tobacco juice would fly. And they were different sizes. And you had to keep the worms off there. And then in about the last week in August, your tobacco was pretty good size. The tobacco would be up maybe, oh, three feet, three and a half feet tall, and have lot of leaves on it.
In the meantime, why, it’s ready to shoot out a tassel on there – that would bloom and would produce the seed for the next year, you know. But in order to take and make your leaves bitter, why, you’d go out and you’d take that tassel off, cut that off, just snap it off. And you’d go through there and snap those tassels off, and then that causes the tobacco to spread out, and then the top leaves would get the same size as the bottom leaves. But you didn’t take that tassel off, why, then the top leaves would be little, skinny things, you know.
So then you had to top it. And then after you went about, oh, maybe, I’d say a month, why that plant would spread out, and then your tobacco was about four feet tall. And the leaves were about the same size. And so then, in the meantime, because you took the top tassel [off]. Wherever one leaf spreads out, why, there’s a little sucker comes out that’s trying to reproduce itself. There’d be three of them on top, and then maybe, oh, eight or ten more down on the leaves as you went down the plant. And so when you’d get ready to take the tobacco in, why, if you was gonna take in fifteen rows or ten rows, you gotta go out and sucker that tobacco. Get them three suckers out of the top, and go down ‘til there wasn’t any more suckers. And then you let the tobacco stand for about another week before those suckers started coming out again, and then you cut it.
So you’d cut the tobacco – we had cutters that could make the tobacco fall either way – you could either swing it that way or swing it this way – right or left. And when you cut a row and you come back the other way, you’d turn your clippers around and you can still set it to throw the same way. And so you’d cut, maybe, oh, you say cut ten rows and let it wilt out in the field. It’d get, when you’d cut the plant off, why, those leaves get real limber, you know. So then you go out with a horse and wagon, and pick those tobacco stalks up and throw it up on that wagon. ‘Course, they’re wilted so you don’t break the leaves off. If you didn’t let it wilt, why, it’d break all the leaves off. So you bring that wilted tobacco into the shed, and then they added the four foot lathes, that you put them in the holder and put that lath in there. And then you had a spear, a metal spear that would go on the end of that lath, and then you’d spear that tobacco onto this lath, and then when you got a pile of them, then you’d hang it up in the barn or in the shed. And if you had a bunch of tobacco, you had a bunch of spearing to do and a bunch of tobacco to hang. And so you’d hang the tobacco up in the shed after you got it speared, and then just let it hang there until it got dry. And, of course, you was cutting tobacco from about the first week of September ‘til sometimes October the 1st. You’d be cutting tobacco for about six weeks; you’d be cutting tobacco and then storing it up in the shed. And then you’d get that all done, and in the meantime, why, the tobacco was hanging there and was drying out. And it changed from green to the same color to what you see in cigarettes – yellow color.
And then when the tobacco got all yellow-colored, I’d say it was about, oh, maybe the first of December, why, it was ready to strip. And at the end of each one of these sheds, why, we had what we called a “strip house.” And you had heat in there and had a big long bench where you could throw this tobacco up on it and get ready to strip it. But before that, why, you had to wait until the tobacco came “in case.” And the tobacco would come “in case” on a day like we have right now, in the fall of the year or even in winter. When it would rain and there would be a lot of moisture in the air, then that moisture would collect in these tobacco leaves, and that’s what we called “it come in case.”
And so, we wouldn’t take the tobacco all down at one time. We’d maybe take down fifty rails. A rail of tobacco was probably, oh, probably fifty laths and fifty rails – fifty times fifty would be 250 laths of tobacco. You take that down, and lay it on a rick [sp]. Tobacco was on that lath – you’d lay that down and then you’d lay another on top and lay another on top. And then we always had a bunch of rugs or canvas or stuff to cover that up so that it wouldn’t dry out.
Then we’d start stripping tobacco. And we’d strip about fifty rail of tobacco, and in the meantime, why, we’d have another day like today, and it’d come “in case” again, so you’d take down another fifty rail and strip that. And you’d take the tobacco to the strip house, and you had the strip house warm. And when you got the tobacco in there, it may be just a little bit “rattly”, you know, it was drying out some. And then you’d take it in there and you’d spray it with water. Spray it with water on the tops of the lath, they’d spray that with water and that water would take and cause that tobacco to get limber again, come to stay “in case.”And then you’d strip it, and you’d pull off, oh, about twenty-five leaves. And you’d pull twenty-five leaves off the tobacco steam and put them in your hand, about twenty-five leaves would be two inches in diameter, and then you’d take one leaf and tie around the butt end of the leaf, and that was what we called a “hand.”
And so, you’d leave them lay on the bench until you got a whole box of them, and then you’d take and knead them into a box. And when you knead them into the box, why, you’d put pressure on it, stand on it, or put weight on it…. What we called a “strip box” was about, oh, two feet across and about three feet long. And you’d take these hands, and you’d put them in this strip box, and put the end that come off of the stem, put that out, and put the leaves together, some of the hands on one end, and hands on the other, you’d put a layer in on one side, and then a layer on the other side, a layer on the other side, and you’d go up until you got that box full. And then when you got that box full, then you took that out into the shed, and it stayed “in case” if it’s kept tight like that. It won’t go out of case until you take it out and put it in on what we called a “bulk”, a place we stored it out in the shed, and leave them stay like that. And you went all through the winter stripping fifty rail of this and fifty rail of that, and you made that stretch ‘til spring. You stripped tobacco all winter. You’d go to the strip house and strip tobacco. A lot of times we’d stay over there at night and strip tobacco. And when we got it all stripped, it was usually about February.
When you got it all stripped, well, then the tobacco buyer would come around and you sold your tobacco. And then after you sold your tobacco, and you made a deal with him and decided what he was going to give you, then they sent boxes. The box was probably about fivefoot square. So when we know we had the tobacco sold, we’d get the boxes, and then we’d start shaking the tobacco up, and then knead it back into these boxes we were going to sell it for. And we put about 350 pound in a box. And we had what they call a “tobacco press.” You had to do some real squeezing to get 350 pounds into one of those boxes. And we had that tobacco press – we’d press that in. And once we got it pressed down in there, then right real quick we’d nail the lid on, you know. And so it would stay in the box.
And then we usually sold the tobacco to some people down in Germantown. Germantown was a big tobacco area. And you’d get your tobacco sold maybe in February or the first part of March. And by the time you got that crop sold, why you was steaming your beds for the next year. So it’s a year around job of tobacco business.
CW: You didn’t have much time to get in trouble, did you?
Mr. Wolf: No, there was something to do all the time. One year – we was in high school – my brother and I were in high school – and my older brother was already gone from the farm. And my dad broke his collar bone. And, of course, we had two weeks off at Christmas, or a week and a half off or something at Christmas. You always had between Christmas and New Year’s. And the tobacco came in case, and my dad had broken his collar bone and couldn’t work. So the tobacco business was in our hands. And so my brother and I, we went over – we was just kids, about sixteen, fifteen, sixteen years old – and the tobacco was “in case” and we took the whole shed down. Took everything down. There was probably – let me see, it’d been about four, twelve – there was 150 rails of tobacco. 150 rails of tobacco in that tobacco shed, maybe more. Maybe 200 rails of tobacco. So we took it all down. We just stacked her up from one end – and then we started stripping tobacco. And in two week’s time, well, we stripped the whole crop. We was done by the time to go back to school and we had the tobacco stripped.
When you strip tobacco, the bottom leaves is “trash.” And you saved that, and then you sold it, but you didn’t get much for it – maybe two cents a pound.
Then the next leaves was what they called “fillers.” And they was the leaves that wasn’t just exactly perfect, you know, …come off the bottom, so you’d have to pull that trash off, and then you’d have to pull the fillers off, and then the wrappers – what we called “wrappers.”
And so, in the daytime you could see what you were doing, but at night with the lantern, we didn’t have no electric in the shed, and so you couldn’t see what you was doing at night, and so we’d take and sort tobacco all day long, and then at night we’d go over there and strip. We’d strip ‘til one – two o’clock in the morning. Then we stripped the whole crop in about ten days. But my dad, he liked to stretch it out to give him something to do all winter, you know.
But that year we stripped it all out, and this tobacco that we raised around here was for cigars. And of course, cigars kind of went out, and cigarettes were coming in, you know. World War I started the cigarette business. The soldiers in World War I got to smoking cigarettes, and everybody came back from the army and was smoking cigarettes. That was in the early ‘20s. And the tobacco you raised around here was used for cigars. And when I said “fillers,” what we meant by “fillers” was imperfect leaves that they’d put in the middle of the cigar, and then the “wrappers,” the perfect leaves would be used to wrap around the cigar on the outside. But the stuff that was on the inside wasn’t exactly too good a tobacco. And of course, when a fellow got to smoking, it didn’t make no difference to him. But the fillers was the inside of the cigar, and the wrappers was what they wrapped around the outside.
And then when cigarettes came and they used different tobacco for cigarettes, then the tobacco business around here went “kaput.” Germantown was full of tobacco warehouses. There was tobacco warehouses down there on every street – I imagine there was twenty different companies down there handling tobacco. And they had warehouses down there. There were three or four families down in Germantown that got extremely wealthy handling tobacco. The Kern family made a lot of money in tobacco.
So my dad kept raising tobacco during the ‘20s and I was still home yet, and he kept raising tobacco and couldn’t sell it. Nobody wanted it. He raised tobacco ‘til – I was still at home – but I think he quit in about 1934 and ’35 And he had, I think, seven crops that he couldn’t sell and he ended up selling them for three or four cents a pound to get rid of it. There were two kinds raised around here. There was Spanish tobacco and Seedleaf. Now Seedleaf had wide leaves, and Spanish had leaves that were a little more narrow. We raised Spanish, and a lot of guys raised Seedleaf. And Seedleaf produced a little more acre than what the Spanish produced. But we raised Spanish all the time.