The Pittsfield Township Historical Society Oral History
Transcript of the oral interview with Carlton Hertler conducted
by Emily Salvette. The interview took place on March 10, 2002 at a
meeting of the Pittsfield Township Historical Society held at the
Pittsfield Recreation Center, 701 W. Ellsworth Rd., Ann Arbor. Mr.
Hertler reviewed the transcript in November 2002. The transcript
reflects his corrections.
Mr. Hertler was born on January 29, 1924 on his father Dan's
farm at the corner of what is now Moon Road and Michigan Avenue. He
was the sixth of seven children of Dan and his wife, Wilhelmina
(Minnie) Weber Hertler. Mr. Hertler, whose Hertler ancestors came
to Michigan in the 1840's, discusses many of the familier names in
Washtenaw County: Harwood, Weber, Steeb, Finkbeiner. He went to
Valentine School and Saline High School. He had , along with his
brother, 5 sisters helped with chores on the farm. He remembers
“Maude” the streetcar that came from Ypsilanti and went up to
Saline. He also remembers hard times during the depression.
Mr. Hertler has worked at various jobs: farming, Assistant
Forester for the city of Ann Arbor, tractor salesman, and
maintenance painter at the Ypsilanti State Hospital. He has three
children. He has an interest in old farm machinery and has donated
some pieces from his collection to the Wilson Farm.
Transcript Contents -- Outline
- Family History
- Electricity comes to Michigan Ave.
- Old farm equipment
- Other family histories
- Maude, the streetcar
- World War II
- Milk production
- Sheep Kill
- Wild Animals on the farm
Carlton Hertler Interview
- Interviewer (Emily Salvette)
- Respondent (Carlton Hertler)
- M or F 1, 2, 3 etc
- unidentified male or female
- ...Hertler who is a long-time resident of
Pittsfield Township. And we're here on March 10th, 2002 at the
Pittsfield Recreation Center at 701 Ellsworth Road. And Welcome.
Thank you very much.
- Thank you.
- It's really nice to have you here. And I
am Emily Salvette. I'm sorry. I'd like to ask you first to just go
through the basic where were you born, when, who were your parents,
what were their names? And then maybe we'll talk a little bit more
about getting to the history of the family.
- I was born probably three miles from
here, corner of Moon Road and Michigan Ave. At the time, my dad was
a farmer and I was born, it was Michigan Ave and Moon Road wasn't
there. It...New State comes out and there's where I...we still
owned the farm. We have owned the farm until, well, probably
September. We are...we have sold the rest of my dad's farm, is now
going to go to Washtenaw Community ...or Washtenaw Christian
Academy. You've probably seen pictures of it. It's a 900-people
school. It's going on a back side of the barns. If you've been down
that road lately, it's going to be amazing. All that's left is the
house, there's one barn left. The other two big barns and all the
tool sheds have been taken down. And when they burn the big barn
down, probably Monday or Tuesday, then it'll be all bare and then
the Christian Academy will set like 500 feet off of Michigan Ave,
back in the field.
- What was your father's name?
- Dan Hertler.
- And your mother's?
- Minnie, or Wilhelmina.
- Wilhelmina, and what was her maiden
- She was a Weber.
- She was a Weber. W-E-B-E-R?
- Just a W-E-B-E-R. One B.
- And how long had they farmed there?
They...did he inherit that from his dad or...?
- Well, my...evidently, my great
grandfather must have come from Germany in...around 1848.
- And my dad was born in 1881. So there's
a time lapse in there of another generation in between. My
grandfather's name was Gottlob. And he also had a brother that came
from Germany at the same time. I think is what it was is maybe the
parents came first and then brought...the two boys came over, and
they settled in the Saline area, and one bought acreage east of
Saline, like 400 acres, and the other one bought land on Willis
Road by Urania Station.
- By what station.
- They call it Urania Station. The railroad
track that comes from Toledo, and went to Ann Arbor, to Whitmore
Lake, there used to be stockyards there. They took in coal. They
took in...well, you had...I think there was a station there that
you could get rides. You could go to north, you could go wherever
you wanted on the train.
- How do you spell that?
- Um, E-R-...
- Probably another U in there.
- But Ypsilanti State Hospital always had
an address of Urania, Michigan. Or Eurania.
- And then what it was, was just a railroad
track, a siding alongside it, and then all of the...all of the coal
and stuff brought in for running Ypsilanti State Hospital was
brought from the south and left on tracks and backed in. They burn
like probably 12 carloads of coal every day.
- I worked there for 24 years. Of course
when I got there the coal thing was gone. It was into oil by that
time and then they changed it over to gas. Now it's all empty,
except for a forensic unit.
- Um-hum. Um-hum.
- And amazing, I still have my keys (both
laugh). I could write a book on that place.
- Well, maybe you should. Well, what...when
you were growing up, you grew up on the farm and...
- I was born on the farm.
- Were you born in the farm? Or were you
born at Beyer Hospital?
- No, no. There was no hospital.
- Ah, I'm sure there wasn't a Saline
- You were born in '25?
- Four. Born at...So were you born at
- Yeah. Probably. I don't know. Never
- Never asked?
- I wasn't old enough to ask (both
- Well, I also read here that you had
polled Herefords when you were growing up?
- Well, I've been in...
- Or have you had just about everything on
- I always...when I was first out there,
my...I have to go back just a few years before 1920, my
great-grandfather...my grandfather, actually it was my grandfather,
not my dad, my grandfather, oh, they had that flu epidemic in 1919,
the father, a daughter that was in a wheelchair and two brothers,
or two sons, died within two weeks.
- My dad and my mother lived in Ann Arbor.
They had four girls at that time. And he worked for I don't know if
you ever heard of Mac and Mac Furniture Store?
- He was the...he was the horse driver, or
carriage or where they hauled furniture to the university and all
that stuff. So he's always had horses. So when he came to the farm
we...all I remember of the first part of the farm there was
about...could have been eight, probably eight or nine horses, maybe
one tractor there. But he...my grandfather then...yeah, my
grandfather would have had long-horned cattle from the West and
they'd go to Buffalo. Him and his brother would take like maybe
three, four carloads, maybe six carloads of steers, take them to
Buffalo and on the way back they'd pick up, they'd buy cattle in
Buffalo and bring them back and feed them. Now you've got to
realize back those days, hell, all...like we lived on [US]12. So it
had fences both side the road and everybody had a gate. So when
they drove cattle, they turned them cattle loose at the stockyards
in Saline and drove them down to farm, opened up the gate and put
them in the yards. I don't...I have no recollection of how many
cattle they had at each time. But I'm going to say they must have
hauled, probably that farm supported probably three carloads of
cattle at a time, maybe like once a year. They'd feed them up, take
them to Toledo...or to Buffalo, bring them back and feed another
- How many cows in a carload?
- I wouldn't know. Quite a few.
- This would be in a train,
- Yeah, on a train. They would spend maybe
two, three days. The two brothers would go and take the cattle down
and spend the time, buy some more, and bring them back.
- Um-hum. Um-hum.
- But then when he died, then the next year
my dad came out and we got, evidently got ride of all the
longhorns, and he remodeled the barns, or redid the barns into
Holstein cattle at that time. He had probably...well, we were one
of the first ones in the Michigan area, down in this area, that had
milking machines. Because who else had electricity? [US] Twelve is
the only place that had electricity from Ypsi to Saline.
- Was that...?
- Very, very few wire...like 110.
- Was that for the cars that went back and
- Well, why was 12 wired and no places
- Well, because they'd...
- It wasn't developed.
- Nobody had lights. No, I've...I've always
lived in a house that had lights. It had...it had bathrooms, it had
hot water, it had everything else. But a lot of the neighbors
didn't have it. But if you weren't on 12, if you were on Bemis Road
or you were on Textile Road, you probably didn't have lights and
probably for another ten years. But that farm was wired for the
first 220, was in this part of the country. To run electric
- Do you happen to how many Holsteins
they'd milk each day?
- They always milked there about 35. The
barns were all set up with stanchions, metal stanchions, where the
other would have the wood ones, you know. But this had metal
stanchions. We had big...big bull pens. I think he had possibly two
great big bulls at one time. And then of course all the calves.
Last...last Friday I went through the barn. I'm trying to restore
what's left of the farm. So all these metal gates that you had a
handle you turned and opened them up. There was only one left out
of the whole bunch. The rest of them have all...the bottoms are all
rusted off. But I probably will take it home, make a...you know,
probably go on the garden gate or something like that.
- Just to...it's something...it was my...my
folks. Other than that, I've been into antique farm machinery for
probably 30 years. If you ever want to see an Altman Taylor Thrash
machine, a wooden machine or a cloverseed hauler, corn huskers,
silo fillers, I have a whole bunch of them. I just...
- Are there types of equipment you've
learned to at least think about putting out on the Wilson Farm
- Some of that stuff will go there, yeah.
I don't know, they...they came over there, stuff that I hadn't
probably used for the last ten years sat out in the orchard. I told
them to come out and put a tag on it. I think they came and got one
piece of equipment, and I haven't seen where it went to.
- You got three of them.
- Got three things.
- There was a rotary hoe out there that was
still setting there. That's at my house. I picked it up.
- Oh, the one they pulled it up to the
- They pulled it up to the front to come
over there and get it.
- Yeah, well, I put it there. I have a
- So stuff was setting out where it wasn't
supposed to be, it went up in the front. And then of course the
Christian Academy, they wanted to clean that place up, and they
were about to burn brush next to it and I said, no, we can't do
- I know they've got...they brought two
pieces over to...
- They brought a rake home and then
- And a wooden wheel? An axle with wooden
wheels on it?
- That could have been, yeah.
- Yeah. Well, can you tell me a little bit
about your...who was along there on Michigan Avenue? Who were your
neighbors, and like when you were a kid, what families did you
play? Who'd you go to school with?
- Ninety percent of them from all the way
from Saline, except for the Morton family, were all
- Okay, all right. (laughter)
- They were either Hertlers or they were
- How are the Harwoods and the Hertlers
- Through my...
- Which...how many generations back was
- Not too far back. They were...my...well,
Amanda Harwood was a Hertler. She married Will Hertler. Er, no. Got
- Will Harwood.
- Will Harwood, yeah. But there was another
Will Harwood...or Will Hertler. Yeah, Will Harwood, but there was
a Will Hertler. They are about five generations, they're from
Germany but, you know, from a different outfit.
- Now you have to realize too, there was a
lot Hertlers on the West side of town. Like George Hertler family
that had the polar bear. As you referred to it, the polar bear. Now
a lot of those are married to the Weidemayers, the Finkbeiners, the
Feldkamps, and the Webers. This is where the Webers came into it.
My mother was a Weber. She was born out on Weber Road and named
after my grandfather. He had a cider mill that they used to drive
the horses around and press the apples. My mother did that. She
stood on, she walked the hor– made the horses walk around turn
this, well, what do you call them?
- ___ like a treadmill.
- Yeah, like a treadmill deal. She did that
until she was...and I think she got out of the eighth grade, went
to Cleary College, got out of Cleary College and she was the
bookkeeper for Ainsworth, which was down next to the railroad...or
the river in Ypsi. You're probably familiar with the Granary
Restaurant. It was across from Hobbs.
- Oh, yeah.
- Okay, there was a Granary, they called it
the Granary Restaurant. That was where she worked.
- But Ainsworth owned a farm south of Ypsi,
out on Huron Street, South Huron, and she would go by probably
buggy, horse and buggy. They probably went out to the farm and took
an inventory because people were buying and selling hay and a lot
of it was dropped off at the Ainsworth farm, and it was brought
into Saline, or into Ypsi.
- So she was...left high school or grade
school, eighth grade, went to Cleary's and probably, she was
probably working at eighteen, being a bookkeeper.
- Could you estimate the population of the
township back as far as you can? _____.
- Must have been...Well, there's not that
many farms in Pittsfield that haven't, have never changed. The 400
acres my grandfather...that, it's always been in one family. Like
the Rentschler farm. Now that has been there since about 1910. It
happened to be Warren Rentschler is my second cousin by a marriage
between the Webers and the Hertlers. Warren's wife was a Hertler,
a Fred Hertler, which would have been my second cousin. So now you
wonder why I got involved with the Warren Rentschler farm. A lot of
the stuff that's at the Warren Rentschler Farm is also mine. But
I've had fun, I retired 18 years ago and I've had fun for 18 years
buying stuff at different farms. Haul it home, didn't know what I
was going to ever use it for, but it's here. Now somebody can enjoy
- Bertha Hertler, I knew her way back
when, not ____. She was always ____.
- Mary...Mary and Bertha lived at the old
farm house. That was my dad's first cousin's. Now if you're
familiar with around Ann Arbor, there was Gottlob, George, Herman,
and Emma. Ran the Hertler Brothers store. They were first cousins
of my dad's. But that, see, that was my grandfather's brother's
family. And that's where, like the Will Harwood family came from.
Amanda was a Hertler.
- So Web and Ralph, they split the farm up
and they took over the Wilson, or the Harwood farm.
- I knew Web.
- And partly Web, Web might have not been
to the Will Hertler...he...or Will Harwood farm. I think he was
from the Sidney Harwood family, which was another relative of the
- You mentioned Weber. Was Roy Weber
- No. No relation to that. Ah, there
was...my grandfather's name was George and I don't, I don't
remember too much about the Weber family but they...my mother's
side were...could have been Rentschlers or Steebs. And back,
someplace back through the line, Elmer Steeb from Steeb Dodge is a
- So Steeb sort of have the meat market,
- They might have been.
- Well, you know, this genealogy stuff is
getting just, throwing me for a loop here.
- (laughs) Well, if you weren't familiar
around here 60-70 years ago, you wouldn't have remembered a lot of
- Yeah. And you said that almost everybody
was from German extraction?
- Mostly German, yeah.
- You recall? And your family came from the
Rhine area, the Rhine Valley?
- Some, yeah, I would say mostly farm area,
Stuttgart is in the...it's not too far right off the Autobahn now.
What they called it before, I don't know.
- Um-hum. And they came over...your...best
you know they first came over in 1840's?
- In the late 1840's.
- Well, interesting.
- I can remember my grandmother telling,
she was four years old. Now, she was a Katerer. K-A-T-E-R-E-R.
Which is spe–
- What was her name?
- That was, well, that was her maiden name.
But she was four or five years old when Lincoln was killed, and she
died in 19...something like '43 or '44. So she was pretty old
- She had to have been close to a hundred
years old. The whole family lived forever.
- Those that are deceased, were they buried
in the cemetery on Morgan Road?
- Ah, well, Morgan or Campbell Road. I
think it was Campbell.
- Campbell and Textile. Lot of that was the
Harwoods. I think the Hertler were more in Saline. I don't think
there was any Hertlers buried out that way. Oh, it's been...if you
really want to keep track of this, I would have to go get maps
and...where they're actually buried, who's related to who. But
you've got to realize now, the George Hertler family that's 16 kids
in that family. I don't know whether it was the same husband, same
wife, or whether...I think there was a...one of them, one of the
women must have died, but they are all Hertlers.
- Did you get together with all the
cousins, I mean, all these people that you're...?
- Oh, yes. Years ago we used to get
- you actually knew all these people,
cousins and played with them....
My, my dad's brother was a minister. He was ordained here in
Saline. Moved out to Wisconsin, hm, LaCrosse...LaCrescent. It's on
the Mississippi River.
- He had a church on the east side of the
river. He had one on the west side, and then he lived on another
farm, or another...well, I call it a church farm, way back in the
country. So he'd make one in the morning, one at lunch, and one at
supper. And they would always feed, you know, it was...when you
went to a church out there, you always throw like a potluck dinner
deal. Because they came from so far. But he always had three
sermons every day, whether it was the same sermon every day
- That was called a circuit
- Not...well (laughing), I don't know what
you'd call it. He must have...
- He must have liked it.
- I would say he probably, when he first
started, probably it was back in horse and buggy days yet.
- Because Doug's grandfather did the same
- Yeah. No, I don't, I don't think they'd
call him. Like...like you're referring to, like Kentucky.
- in Canada. So maybe...
- Yeah, well, Canadians would probably do
it that way. They would call it. But you always had a circuit
judge, well, like circuit judges or they would be church...or
ministers would go by horseback and preach for maybe a month and
then you'd go on again. No, I think he was a permanent...
- Well, his grandfather was permanent too.
He had certain churches he went to. And he did go, like you said,
maybe Sunday. Sometimes every other Sunday.
- I don't know. It's very
- But the rest of the family have always
been farmers of some sort. Even the...like both farms were
approximately like 400 acres each. And right now, I hope...I would
like to see what my grand– my grandfather and grandmother would say
when we put both Saline schools on their property. Actually the two
schools are being built on my dad's property. He bought half the
farm. We bought the east half, the other half was where my
grandfather lived. And when my grand...my grandfather died, he
lived where we lived now until 1920, and then when he died, my
grandmother moved back with the other family up the road, which are
brothers and sisters, or...sister-in-laws and brothers.
- We saw some...
- Where did you...?
- I'm sorry. Go ahead.
- Go ahead. Well, I'll just go ahead. Where
did you go school?
- Valentine School. It's still
- Is that a one...
- One, once...
- I was going to ask you the same
- Yeah. No, it's a one, one-story...or a
one-classroom, eight grades, then you'd go to Saline Schools after
- Well, do you remember who your teacher
was or some of you classmates?
- Ada May Harwood, which would have been
Web Harwood's wife. But I knew her before she was married.
- And she was your teacher?
- She was, she was Ada May Bachman at that
- She was from Ypsi. Or ___ from Milan.
North of Milan.
- Huh. How many kids in the class? I mean,
how many kids in the school?
- Hm, I don't know. Probably, I would
estimate probably 25.
- Maybe 30 kids in one room.
- So and that goes kindergarten
- Everything. Every...all the way up
- All of it.
- How did you get to school then? Did you
- I walked. Well, I only had to walk, yeah,
probably twice as far as the fire station.
- Yeah, some...
- But some of them had to walk a mile. Some
walked two miles.
- Now what about when you went to Saline
High? Did you...?
- Did you have a car by then? Were you
- No, I was only fourteen. I probably had
a driver's license though. Or I probably drove without a driver's
- Well, I was going to say most folks that
we have been talking to are driving by fourteen (laughs).
- Well, I figure if you were old enough to
drive a tractor, you could drive trac...you could drive
- Um-hum. But, well, anyway, so how...what
about how were things...can you talk a little bit about your
experience at Saline High and because went...What year did you
- I graduated in 1942. There were no school
buses. Wherever you went you had...everybody had to furnish a car
to go....like I was in, more into agriculture end of it, and of
course, we had a lot of field trips. We'd go to Lansing. We'd go
to...Howell was kind of a agriculture thing. Or not...no, I think
it was Brighton. Maybe it was Howell. I think it was Howell. That
was the county seat. I think we used to go up there for classes
and, you know, new things coming up and new...new varieties of oats
and corn, and this kinda stuff, it never...When I was probably
getting out of high school, there wasn't any hybrid corn at all. It
was native corn. You went out and shucked corn off near the corn
and planted again, and you had just as good a corn as they have
now. Now it's eighty-some dollars a bushel, then you picked it off.
But when they open-pollinated corn, every...it would pollinate
itself. But as soon as you put it hybrid, now you plant like 12
rows of corn and you leave two rows left. The pollination from one
does the other. They...then they go through and they take
the...they don't have an ear on that corn that pollinates the rest
of them. That's cross-pollination. But they claim, of course, now
you've got corn will grow a 180 bushels shell corn to the acre.
Back then probably 60, 70 bushels of corn to the acre, that was it,
and that was ear corn. That's half of what the other was.
- Did you make use of the MSU County
- No. Not much.
- Were you in 4H?
- My mother would have. She was always into
- Like 4H? Were you in 4H? _____
- Ah, I was in 4H, yeah. I don't remember
making anything but maybe a bird house or two. I didn't have time.
Well, we had...I know there were 35 cows, because we
milked...sometime we had to milk some of them by hand. There was
150 sheep. We always raised 200 hogs a year. So that was 50...a
hundred in the spring, fif– a hundred in the fall. And you always
had a chicken house full of chickens.
- And I hate chickens.
- Oh! (laughs)
- They're itchy. (laughter) Only got them
cleaned when we had to (laughs).
- Good. Well, now how many brothers and
sisters did you have to do all this work?
- I had one...I had one brother and five
sisters. Four of them were...Well, the youngest of the four girls
is eight years older than I am.
- There were four daughter– or four girls
born in five years. Then it was skip for four years, then I had a
brother and then four years later I was born. Then one three years
- Well, then can you talk about like what
an average day would have been for your chores and who did what and
did the girls just stay in the house or were they out there ,
- I remember probably six o'clock in the
morning, I think we all got up. Horses got fed first. And I think
we fed the chickens next. And then the cows were fed, then we
milked the cows. And by quarter after seven, it was breakfast
- And for the first...I'm going to say the
first 12 years until 1933, '34, Depression time, my dad always had
one or two hired men. I can remember going into the house, my
mother is frying eggs -- 12 eggs per man. And fried potatoes. And
bacon. And ham. Then they came in at lunch time and ate another
full dinner and at suppertime ate another full dinner, but I mean,
they worked. And they were from Germany. Some of those...some of
those kids were...or my...the hired men I think my grandfather had
had on the one big farm was split between the rest of them at that
time. He probably had five, six workers for him at one time. Plus,
they...six kids of my grand...my dad's family. So it was a lot
of...it was a lot of work.
- Did the hired hands live
- No. They always lived there at the
- They lived with...
- Yeah. And we had...I think there were
three or four bedrooms on the second floor. There had a over the
top of the kitchen were the...like an attic and some of them slept
there, and then the hallways, they slept som– Well, we don't...I'm
sure there were, used to be two. I can remember two hired men that
lived at the farm with us. And they are people...people from
Germany. My grandfather. I think...I think there were fourteen boys
brought from Germany like every...every other year or something. He
would pay their passage by boat to United States or to Michigan and
they would work for him for one year, and then he would set them up
in a farming business. I don't know if you ever heard of the
Boutniks, Fred Boutnik in...out on Brown Road. There was a...hm,
Paul Nadler was on Shill Road. Now they were all set up through my
grandfather to buy a farm.
- Did he help them buy the farm?
- They helped them buy the farm. And at one
time, the beginning of the Saline Savings Bank was George Hertler
and Gottlob Hertler only. I don't...
- Farming back then was a pretty good
business compared to what it is now.
- Yeah. Yeah. Well, it wasn't anything.
Universal die-casting, that was a creamery at one time, and my dad
shipped milk into Saline on Maude. You heard of Maude.
- You better explain Maude.
- Well, now, you...I can't really explain
it because everybody says I was wrong. Or I'm wrong. (laughter). I
was born in 1924 in January, and they said that in 1925 or 26 Maude
was taken off the track. I'm sure it wasn't. I can remember riding
on Maude to Saline.
- Oh, was Maude a streetcar or...?
- Came from Ypsi. Now originally it was
supposed to go to Clinton and on west. But they got down as far as
the bridge to go through it like where the American Legion is now.
They somehow or other money ran out or they stopped right there. So
the track was in the road. They put brick around the track, and my
sisters used to go down to...oh, down where the legion is. There
was a lady had a...taught piano. What all I remember of it, it used
to go up where the Saline Savings Bank is now and there were
they...a spur whenver they drove in and they turned it around,
backed it up on the track. But when they came into Saline, There
was another spur that backed up, and he backed up and went over to
where the body shop for...that used to be Fred Weidman or...who was
the guy just owned that here not too long ago? There was a used car
sales in there.
- Yeah. T&M was in there. Okay. You backed
up there, they took probably six cans of milk off the back of old
Maude. Dumped them into the thing. They were weighed and they come
out with a steam hose, cleaned the hose...or the cans out, throw
them back on Maude, and we'd stay on the...on the train and go over
there and my mother would go in and get groceries. At that time it
was Tanners. They had a grocery store on the north side of the
road. She'd get her groceries and come back, get on Maude, and away
we'd come back home. Drop the cans off on this little pedestal out
there and we'd all go to the house.
- Now what...what does Maude stand for? Is
that just a name?
- It's just a name of a train. You see
pictures of it around. And now I remember going up and down the
road and everybody says, "No, you can't, because they took it off
the tracks in '26 or '27." I know you remember a lot of things that
four and five maybe even earlier than that. Now, I know I was only
like...Well, my dad built another new barn because if you wanted
Grade A Milk, you had to take the cows, had to be out of the horse
barns. You couldn't have horses in barns, or the cows in the same
- So they built a new barn in 1929. I
remember going up the hog shed roof over the top of this thing and
back down. On the outside you only had little slots like that. Go
up over the top and run around up there. Why we never got killed,
I don't know.
- For recreation, since you didn't
- That was recreation.
- Did you ever ride the pigs and
- Oh, that was fun.
- And after that all I remember...for after
'29. Then the Depression hit and the hired men evidently, couldn't
afford to keep them or they decided to go someplace else. Then I
was...well, I'd a been what? Eleven years old. I think 11 years
old, I was put on the farm just like a hired man was. I had my own
team. I , we used to load hay by hand. Always had two teams out in
the field, hook onto a hay-loader. They hay-loader's still up at
the Warren Rentschler farm.
- You go home on weekends?
- No, I live there.
- Oh, you live there. Hm.
- What other affects did you notice from
the Depression, on your farm? Did it make a big impact?
- Oh, yeah. No money.
- Well, a lot of people didn't have
- But it was bad. I mean, all day long
you'd have people walking from Chicago to Detroit looking for jobs.
Or they'd walk from Chicago...or Detroit to Chicago. And
they...my...the house that sits out there now burned in 1931 and I
think that was about the worst of the Depression. You'd see people
walking one way, walking the other way. My mother would always bake
15 loaves of bread. She had an old wood stove. She'd bake 15 loaves
of bread every day. And she fed people walking up and down the
- Oh, my.
- Of course, we had 15 cows...or 35 cows,
we had sheep. I never cared for mutton myself, but we always had
chickens, we always had hogs. All winter long we'd butcher four or
five cows, hogs a week. People come from Detroit, take a quarter at
a time, back quarter, front quarter. Probably never...never
probably made ham, they probably ate as raw or fresh pork. My dad
always made them this...always had the thing, he would never waste
anything but the squeal. They saved everything -- the tail,
everything went...jowls, but the bones. I mean the bones, they
didn't keep the bones but...
- Well, but people didn't have money there.
Was it a kind of a trading type of thing?
- They gave you something other than money
and you gave them food?
- Sometimes. And then some...now, I can
remember my mother'd take like a basket of eggs in on Maude and
trade eggs for groceries. But it wasn't a...it wasn't that they
didn't have money at the...before that. They had money to redo the
barns. They had everything, but all of a sudden, here we...we had
a fire burn, that burned the house completely to the ground.
Luckily they had about $6,000 insurance on the house. Well, that
was a lot of money at one time. The house didn't bring that. And
they...it die...it burned on April the 12th and October...er,
November the 12th, they built a brand new house. It sets there now.
It took them six months. But I can remember laborers out there only
worked for 26 cents an hour. The heavy carpenters were like 34. The
bricklayer, I think he got 38 cents an hour. Now that's two dollars
a day. That's what it cost. It was six...something like 64 hundred
dollars they built that house out there.
- Where did you live while they were
building that house?
- In the house across the road. And that
was an old barn, or an old house. It was not really...well, I guess
it was abandoned at one time. The Heinigers owned it, next-door
neighbors. And they used to, rather than sell their grain, they
would store it for one year, two years. They'd open up the windows
and throw the wheat in the living room floor. The day that the
house burned, they went over there and they'd unloaded all that
wheat and took it to their other farm, the next-door, where Jerry
Helmer lives now. Jerry was the next-door...well, it was the
Heinigers at that time. That night we moved in, mice...mice, rats,
woodchucks in the basement. Well, we never expected to ever have
that catastrophe at one time.
- Did you have big vegetable
- Big one (laugh). Grapes. I think we used
to pick like 24 bushels of grapes every year. We had asparagus. We
had all them onions. Green onions, and then they had the other
onions, you know, like they were...you'd pick them off in the fall.
Now, I don't know, they must have been wild ones because it wasn't
like we have wild onions now. That's a little tiny thing. But these
were never replanted. The next spring or next summer they'd have
- You make your own wine?
- Oh, yeah. And cider. And then there was
probably...I'm going to say there must have been at least 30 trees,
or apple trees, every kind you could think of. I can remember the
neighbors all coming over there, the basement was always damp,
cool, because they had, you know, no cement on the floor. The
neighbors, they'd get through milking cows and they always ended up
my dad's farm, they'd drink it. And when it came lunch time, they
didn't go home. My mother fed them. They probably weren't able to
walk home or drive home (laughs).
- I shouldn't be talking about my relatives
(laughs). But there was neighbors from all over came out there to
- Now what about the War? How did that
affect the operations there? First of all, did you serve in the
- I didn't serve because of the fact I came
out in '42. I was in 1A when I left high school. All my...I think
there were three out of probably 20...no, it wasn't that many.
There was 42 of us graduated and I think there might have been 18
boys. There were two boys didn't go. I was one of them. But every
time I'd go down, I'd go down for a physical -- 1A. Nothing wrong
with me. And they'd say, well, you go out that door, or you go that
door, and they'd say, go out that door, and I went back home. I was
in 1A four times during World War II. Every six months, I got taken
back. But every time I got back there, the draft board would say,
"No, we can't send him. He's too much..." You had to have so many
units of cattle or so many acres of property that was
into...Because they needed the grain.
- And here were a lot of kids, you know,
they were...lived on a farm, but they didn't do any
- What about the operations of the farm
during the War years? Was it difficult to...did you...were you
using gas tractors at that time, and could you gas and...?
- Well, you'd gone back to like to the old
Fordson tractors, the old John Deere Dees were out at that time.
Ah, you didn't see, hardly ever saw a...well, yeah, you would see
a tricycle type tractor. One thing that you could...you could mow
hay, you could cultivate, you could cut grain with a grain binder.
I didn't have a combine until early 50's. They was all pull-type
combines running off power take-off shafts. That's what I...that's
what I've been picking up for 18 years. There's not...there wasn't
much left. It was almost to a point at one time, you'd go to an
auction, they knew who was going to buy everything. They quit
- You sold your milk then wholesale. You
didn't have a _____...
- Yeah. It was...it would...but they...when
I finally quit, I got out of high school, I think I quit milking
cows probably in '48 or '49. And what we did is we bought a horned
Hereford cow, a bull, and bred him to a Holstein. We had black and
white cows. Looked like Holstein, but they...or a Hereford, but
they were black. And so my dad didn't like that. He didn't like the
horns. I...okay. So little by little as the cows got older, I was
buying polled Hereford cows, and then I'd buy a polled Hereford
bull. And some of the cows then got intermixed together and they
were kind of a reddish...a reddish black. And as soon as I got down
to where the better bulls that I bought, then they were all red.
Some of them had a little strain probably of Holstein in them,
- Were there any Guernsey's?
- Nope. Nope. And towards the end of it, I
used to separate the milk, or the cream from the milk, and with 200
hogs walking around, they liked skim milk. You guys buy skimmed
milk to drink. I fed it to the pigs. All you had to do was
mix...ma– or wheat and oats and corn ground together and you ought
to see them explode (laughs). Six months, 210 pounds
- When did you finish up operations on the
farm? How...when did you sell off the last pet?
- Well, the first part of the farm was sold
in, I'm going to say my mother went into rest home. She fell and
broke her hip, and she never did be able to walk on it again. So
she was in bed quite...about the last ten years. I think she died
in '84? '82, '84. I kept on farming. Of course, you've got to
realize now, I never quit. I never...never quit farming, but I'd
been...I was City of Ann Arbor Forester for six years, I went to
work for Fred Weidman in Saline as a tractor salesman. Then I went
to work for Ypsilanti State Hospital and worked another 24 years
there. So I've always had a full-time 80...40-hour week. So I've
had...my farming was done from 4:30 till 12, 1 o'clock in the
morning. Go home, and get six hours sleep, back to work again.
I've...I guess to keep me going, I don't know.
- When did you let the sheep go?
- The sheep probably left in about '65.
They would have still been there. We had three dogs that came from
Bemis Road. One day...one day I went over to feed...well, we had
the steers, or the cows and calves and the sheep were all in the
same pasture field. They had a 15-acre woods. They had a little
field down in the back about 10 acres that they could separate if
they wanted to. But I always figured that I had enough livestock
there that if a dog got in there they were going to kill the dog.
Every now and then I found dogs out there in the field dead. I
didn't say anything about it. I just got a shovel and buried them
-- whose they were, who cared? They weren't belonging there. But
went over there one day and there was 43 of them died. Either
laying or breathing but couldn't get up and walk. The dog, they
just grabbed them by the neck and tear a hole in their
- And so we thought, well, we buried the
first bunch, and we thought, well, maybe somebody's locking their
hor– their, you know, they're locking their dog up, and next week,
another thing. It was an airplane pilot got home at about 3:30 in
the morning. He lived over on Bemis Road, and he'd let them out at
3:30 and then go to bed. Wake up maybe at nine, and they've had
enough time to go a mile, get into the sheep, come back home. I
walked from the pasture field, they had a track, went right on
across 12 and down over the creek and over at the Bemis Road, so
the sheriff, when I got there, the sheriff's department was
standing over, he says, "Well, where'd that track come from?" Right
from the sheep pasture field, right across 12 and right on over
here. So they checked the dog– they checked the teeth of the dogs
and they all had wool in them so. He pulled out his revolver and
shot three of them right there in front of me. I mean, that was
sickening. I'm back here, you know, I...what am I going to do with
these? So I finally had to buy...I rented a back hole and we buried
them. But that's where, you know, on your taxes that you pay, they
have a dog tax. That's what paid for the sheep that got killed.
Now, if a ewe got killed, didn't make any difference where her lamb
was, they considered that lamb died because the ewe was not there
to feed the lamb. I never lost a lamb. Why didn't kill the lambs I
- That law's still on the books.
- Yeah. It's still...it's still on the
- And it reimbursed that.
- But you... you can have chickens killed
by dogs that...
- What kind of dogs were these that
- What kind of dogs were these? Big
- German Shepherds.
- German Shepherds.
No, we...well, somebody had probably seen them off and on, you
know. They never mistrusted the...we never had any trouble, I'd...I
wanted to keep it kind of quiet because, you know, if...I didn't
want anybody else. Now, Rentschlers had a farm that had sheep.
Alfred Hertler, my dad's brother had sheep. Never bothered them.
They were just that one...that one family of dogs that came to us
over at that one farm. But it stopped in a hurry when they pulled
a revolver out. There was no more dead sheep. So I don't know, I
should be writing a book of my history. My kids always say, "I
don't know why you don't." But I'd have to...I'd have to go on...I
could probably talk for 14 hours.
- When we talked to Harold Wilson, we
talked about hunting and so on.
- And he said, he does...as far as
recollects there were no deer on this area until the 50s. Was that
- About 50, yeah.
- Wasn't that...?
- It was kind of shocking, you know.
We...we had all these sheep, you know, and every once in a while,
you'd see it going up and down, you know, like after a rain you'd
see like footprints of a sheep, but they were bigger. And then all
of a sudden, I got...after we got rid of the sheep then, then I
started noticing deer in with the Hereford cows. Of course, you
know, Hereford got a big foot. But they would...I'd go out there to
feed them, go out there and hook onto a wagon to give them green
chopped hay, while they waited for me to green chop it they had all
the hay they wanted all over the fields. They'd go from first
cutting, second cutting, third cutting and all winter along, eating
- Your hay.
- ...my hay. My corn, my beans
- Well, it's easy (laughs).
- Well, you'd just think the deer were here
- Yeah, I know.
- No, there was not...
- That's strange.
- I can remember...well, I think the first
deer I shot was probably 19...the fall of '42 we went up north. My
brother-in-law had a brother up there, and we went up to Eipplefet,
just west of the...where the bridge is now, that was the...that's
where the boat went across. But that was the first deer that I
really shot that I realized that it was a deer.
- Hm. Did you hunt when you were a young
guy? Did you go pheasant hunting?
- Oh, yeah. Pheasant hunting, and rabbit
- Probably carried your gun right on the
- Most of the time. Well, horses. No there
are not many...there weren't many fox running around either. I love
- You think that. Okay, now
- How much time do we got?
- Now the fox with the eggs, that was where
- Well, you're out mowing hay, you
have...used to be a lot of eggs, you know, nests of eggs, the mower
would go, run over the top of them sometimes. You'd go back there
through the pheasant, you know, just cut the legs off a pheasant or
you cut the head off. You didn't know they were packed down in the
hay. You couldn't stop them. So all of a sudden then you've kinda
realize, you know, what happened to all the eggs? Well, the fox ate
the eggs and probably ate the bird too. So, it was death on fox.
One never heard of a coyote. That was...that's all...well, they've
been imported in. Now it's all, im– or, you know, I don't, I don't
see, I've seen one fox run through my yard in the last 30 years.
But there are a lot of coyotes running around.
- Um-hum. Hm.
- And they shouldn't really be left out
there that long either. Should have run a...run a...
- They shouldn't be left out...you feel
they're detrimental to the...
- They should...well, I realize what
they're trying to do is deer that are...had been shot during deer
hunting season maybe didn't kill them, but they're...maybe they
died. I think that's what they got them here for, to kind of clean
up the sick and disabled animals.
- The road kill probably.
- Yeah. Well, road kill, yeah.
- I saw one walking across our farm in a
- Coyote. Um-hum. I thought it was a dog at
- No, they...they run different. They, they
squat down and they...they...
- This was walking to something.
- It's not a turtle.
- Are there any questions? We've been going
- How long's it been?
- ...almost an hour.
- Well I didn't know exactly what
you...what you want to find out, or what...what I could tell
- What did you do for fun as an adult? Did
you go out to the Grange? Or did you get together with neighbors to
play cards or...?
- Well, we used to...My mother and dad
belonged to the Farm Bureau. I didn't belong to the Grange. But I
spent my Saturday nights was at the Grange, over here on
Saline-Milan...or Saline-Ann Arbor Road. I was quite a dancer at
one time. I haven't quit.
- Ah! That's why you're so
- Yeah. Did you...Now you have three
children. Is that what I read?
- I have a son that has been into farming,
out of farming.
- He worked 30 years for Fords at the Wixom
Ford plant. Ended up being the robot controller for the spray
booth. They built a brand new, I don't know, 30 million-dollar
building, and he was the man that sat there, turned the button for
black, turned the other one on for red, and kept on going.
- He finally retired. He's in Arizona now,
retired, can't sit still, he's 50...he retired at 51 years old. So
he's out there, he worked for Home Depot until he don't want to
work anymore, and he'd come back and he wanted to bring us...take
us both back, and they told him he can't take...can't come back to
Michigan get his boat, and he says, "I told you when I came here
I'm retired." And he takes off, goes back there, and two days later
they call him and said, "We saw your boat going by here one day and
are you ready to come back to work?" He said, "I'll let you know
when I'm ready." (laughter) That's the way I am. I haven't had a
job...I haven't had a paid job for 18 years. I retired from the
state, and they told me and said if you make too much money you
have to give some of your state retirement back, and I'm not going
to do that. I'd rather donate it.
- I work for Bobby Morton for about 10, 12
years, drove 4-wheel tractors for him. We farmed over 4,000 acres.
I put it all...I...I worked the ground up. His brother planted it
all. So for 6, 7, 8 weeks, that's all we did is we planted corn.
And then when it came wheat time, I was working the ground up, and
they were planting behind me. And then when they combined wheat, I
drove the trucks. So my farming has been less and less, but I put
in some 14, 15 hours a day on tractors. Plus, you know, I still had
88 head of cattle that I fed every day, make sure they had water
and they had grain, and I'd have to grind feed for them, and...No,
it...hard work has never killed anybody. You've got to know how to
- Where do you live now, in
- I live on Moon Road south of...I in my
- Do you still have animals?
- I have one horse left.
- Do you still ride it?
- I did ride him up till about five years
ago. He's about nine years old. He took off once one day and, you
know, and the cinch straps that you put around the girth, I pulled
back on them and my body went forward and I tried...and I had him
stand right up and he took off across the field, dumped the buggy
upside down, we went one way, the horse went the other way. I ended
up with a cracked cartilage in my knee.
- So I have a metal knee. And it still
- But you still have the horse.
- I still have the horse.
- What about your daughters? I noticed that
they live in...
- Well, my daughter has lived with me at
times. She's been divorced twice. This last one I'm sure she'll
stay with. He's super. She has four daughters. She sent them all
through the university. Some went to Michigan. One of them went to
Michigan State. Two of them came out as registered nurses. They are
in South Bend. They live in Mishawauka, outside of South Bend. They
are probably in surgery, you know, as RN's.
- Um-hum. But they didn't marry
- No. Heaven no! (laughter)
- They learned (laughs).
- I had something to say about that
(laughs). They always told me when they came out there, we're going
to pick our men. We're not going to work all of our life. I, I
didn't...I...there were times I never got a vacation in the
- I always figured my time was better
- The ___ you gave us _______.
- Did you work on Sunday just like any
- Oh, yeah. What difference is Sunday from
Monday. Right not, it still don't make a difference. I don't know
what's is which, up until, well, two years ago, I took over, I was
the vice president of the Senior Citizens of Saline. So I started
driving the van. And there were times I was putting on...in two
weeks time I'd put on 600 miles on the van taking them to...We had
it...called it Dinners with Friends, take them all over. I've been
all over Ohio. As far...we used to take them up gambling up to
Mount Pleasant. Where you have the big bus, we did it with little
buses. We had a 24-passenger and a 14-passenger. And then we'd go
to concerts, we'd go to Hill Auditorium, we'd go...anything that
was any of value of any information, they went. Took them up to see
the...They wanted to go down to Detroit to see the tall ships last
fall. Million people in Detroit and I'm going to take 14 older
women that are...no way! Charlie Brown. We will come back and we'll
do that some other day. So we waited for them to go to, what was
it? Mackinac Island or did they go to Chicago?
- They went to Port Huron for a
- I know that's...that...well, they
went...they went into Bay City and they went into Saginaw. You
could have gone there, but it was closer to go to Port Huron. So we
took the 24-passenger bus and the 14-passenger bus and we took them
over there. Here they could walk down the ramp, walk into the wat–
or walk on the boat, talk to the boys and girls. That's set up with
boys and girls that know a lot about that boat. That's their
summer. And some of them come back on, they put them in dry dock
and then they work on the boats in wintertime, so...
- It's late. We know...I've got a 2:30
- Does anyone have any other questions? We
can talk informally.
- I don't know what else.
- I kind of...kind of hits the
- Yeah, I think we got all the highlights
and we'll...I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us
- And thank everybody for asking great
questions and keeping the conversation going and thanks