Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1930s Above and Underground

1930s Above and Under-ground

Edna's brother, Tobe (William Earl Trowbridge 1889-1974) was a jolly 6'-6".  The farm kids loved to rides on his shoulders.  He served in the Navy (WWI) because he was to tall for the Army.  Tobe smoked, drank whiskey, lived in the" big" City of South Haven and was skilled at pool and poker.  in the 1930s he lived with his sister Bessie and Percy Chaddock or with Bill and Edna when needed to help out on the farm.  Tobe hand dug the septic system at the farm.  We will come back to Tobe down below.

Bill and Edna's kids (Albert, Ken, Doris, Ed, Janet and Bill) all attended Iddles School as did most of their relatives and ancestors.  After Iddles they attended South Haven schools.  Albert had use of a car when he was in High School (1933-35) and would drive kids from the neighborhood.  These kids were always welcome at the Overhiser home.  One time Ester Lyman Wilkinson was in the house and noticed Edna steering a large pan of chili sauce for canning.  Ester said, "Edna must be a bad cook if she needs to make that much chili sauce".  The Casco country kids were all a fun loving group.  As for the depression, Albert would say, "we were not that bad off, we had ice cream most every night". 

Edna and Bill were active at Church, in the Ladies Aid Society and in the community.  Bill was elected Township Treasurer, appointed Clerk and then was reelected each term until Albert took over as Township Clerk.  Albert then passed the job off the Allan who now serves as Township Supervisor.  Bill's Grand Father Henry served as Township Treasurer from 1869-75.  Edna was active in the Casco Garden Club which had limited membership because the meetings were held at the homes of members.  A waiting list was maintained.  Raising fruit and kids followed a familiar rhythm season after season, year after year.  

In the 1920s the Model T truck completely replaced the horse drown wagon for transporting fruit to the docks at South Haven or Glenn.  Shipping fruit to Chicago by boat was replaced by larger trucks in the 1930s.  The trucks cut 2 hours off the boat ride and some farmers took their fruit directly to the Chicago markets. Then the Benton Harbor Market became the place to sell direct to the Chicago buyers.  It became the world's largest fresh fruit market.  Albert, being the oldest son, became the farm truck driver and "drove truck" (as he would say) for the South Haven Fruit Exchange after High School.

The 18th Amendment ushered in prohibition days (1920-1933), speakeasy clubs, and underground criminal activity to the country and SW Michigan.  After prohibition Uncle Tobe owned Art's Tavern in South Haven but lost the business because he extended credit to way to many customers.  He was a legendary strong man who one time grabbed a knife, that had been pulled on him, broke it in half and returned the handle.  We believe Uncle Tobe, the gambler bar owner, may have been involved in some covert activities.  My Dad (Albert) told of still being in school when Tobe called the farm and told him to get the truck and meet him at the Grand Junction Tavern.  Tobe's slot machines were removed from the tavern and loaded onto the truck.  Tobe must have been active in politics because he was tipped off that the Sheriff was about to raid the tavern.

In the 1940s Uncle Tobe fell off a roof and broke his back.  This injury crippled him for the rest of his life.  He was never married but was very good friends with his landlady, Gertrude, who cared for him in his later years.  Albert and Allan would stop and visit Tobe in the 60s and 70s after picking up a bottle of whiskey at Food Town on Broadway.  He continued to live in Gertrude's Boarding House on Broadway and played cards at the Am Legion until he passed in 1974.
At The Farm December 28, 2010
An all purpose 4-wheel drive Mule vehicle has been purchased for the kids to drive on the farm.  It will be used this summer to pull a trailer for transporting u-pickers to and from the orchards.  During most of December the farm has been covered with snow.  This is good for the trees but makes it hard to get around the orchards for the trimmers.  We hope the fruit trees are resting up to produce a bountiful crop in 2011.  Yesterday, Allan and Kim took them on a road trip to Marshall to visit Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucy.  After a meal at Turkeyville everyone went to see Tron at the Bogar.  Must say, It was very virtual and not very real.  If you are a big gamer you will enjoy the movie.
Tobe PS - At age 14 Aaron wears size 14 shoes and is 5' 11.725" tall.
Next blog - Trucker meets Teacher.  Happy 2011 to all, Martin O

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lost Possessions - 1927

Lost Possessions - 1927
It was a grand old house.  Sitting at the top of a steep slope over looking the road with a southern exposure.  Carpenter/farmer Henry Overhiser had selected the site and build the first house in the 1860s.  He added on and improved the home as the family expanded.  William Albert married Daisy in 1896 and took over the farm after losing his first wife and two children.  Albert became very successful and was able to add the beautiful porches and many modern conveniences.  

Like other farms, the Overhiser house was the farm headquarters.  It sustained the family with shelter, food, social life, safety and security.  The warmth in the house on a cold stormy day or night was so welcoming.  Delicious smells drew you into the warm kitchen like a magnet.  Housemates would sit around the radiant fireplace and play games.  The farm house contained the family history, photographs, books, valued heirlooms, and memories.  One would also experience this warm and cozy feeling in the animal areas of the barns on a cold winter's day.

One day in 1927 eleven year old Albert (my dad) was told by his mother (Edna) to run down to Riley's Store and get a fire extinguisher.  Albert was there in quick order as it was only a half mile to the west.  He stood behind a couple of customers and waited his turn.  Then Riley said, "Albert what can I do for you?"  To which Albert said, "our house is on fire, can I borrow a fire extinguisher?"  Everyone in the store rushed to the big house but were unable to extinguish the fire that had started in a chimney.  The back addition to the house was saved and is still used today by Allan as a tool shed.  However, most family possessions were lost that day. 

I would expect Edna took charge and found housing for the family while Bill took on the task of rebuilding to the west of the burned out house.  A tool building was expanded and became the "new house".  The Bill and Edna house was home for Albert, Ken, Doris, Ed, Janet Joyce (1-8-1929) and Bill (William Douglas 2-5-1936).  That same house has been welcoming, warm and cozy for generations.  Fifth generation farmers Allan and Kim have more than doubled the size of the Bill and Edna house with two major expansions.

The mortgage on the grand old house became a blessing.  Daisy wanted to be paid for signing over the farm to the newlyweds.  Therefore, in 1916 Bill and Edna had to borrow money.  With the help of Aunt Olive (Wm Albert's sister) and Uncle Sam Galbraith, a $4,000 mortgage was secured.  The First State Bank of Allegan required insurance be carried on the house so we assume Bill and Edna received some insurance money to help rebuild.  A second major fire at the farm occurred in 1941 when the big barn burned.  That fire may have been started by smoldering green hay.

We all face disasters and disappointments.  How we react and move on is a lifelong challenge.  Bill and Edna moved past their disasters with class. 

At The Farm December 1, 2010
Life at the farm is in traditional winter mode.  Tree trimming, equipment maintenance, attending farm meetings, snow plowing, school activities, township business, and preparing for Christmas vacation.  Water and electric lines have been run to the small animal barn and the larger small animals have been sold.  The chickens have been moved to the chicken coop which sits on the site of the big barn that burned.  The cider is gone and the cooler only has a few apples left.
Sweet summer fruit dreams this winter.