From: Byron Tippey (bt)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: Monday, April 26, 1999
Place: Home of Byron Tippey, 4714 S. Colonial Oaks Dr. Marion, Indiana 46953
Collected by: Seth Gearhart (sg)
00:00 sg: I am Seth Gearhart. This is April 26, 1999. This is being recorded at 4714 S. Colonial Oaks Dr. Marion, Indiana. I am speaking with Byron Tippey. Please state your name.
bt: I am Byron Tippey, born in 1922.
sg: Do I have your permission to interview you?
sg: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to Marion High School?
sg: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to the Marion Public Library?
sg: First, tell me about yourself, like, where and when you were born, and where you lived, and your family life.
00:48 bt: I was born in Van Buren Township, but moved to Marion within the first two months of my life, spent the first five years on North Boots Street, and then moved out east of Marion on Bradford Pike about two miles. I later went to, uh, high school days in Jefferson Township, Huntington County, which was just on the Grant County line, north. Then, being in college, in Marion College, for four, three years, and three years in the military, one year back at Marion College, and then three years I taught high school in southeastern Indiana, and I moved back to Marion in 1950. Now I assume we’re talking about things that happened before 1950 so, some of my very earliest remem, uh, memories, living on North Boots Street, and being given strict orders not to go near the river, cause the back of our lot did touch the river, and that was a particularly hazardous section of river. And so my mother warned me about swimming, something that I never learned, certainly not there. Uh, other things that I remember about Marion was that my grandfather, owned a farm implement store, which at that time was located on Washington Street between First Street and Second Street on the east side of the street. Uh, he sold McCormick Deering farm implements and International Harvester, uh, farm equipment. I remember many times going there, in fact, once or twice a week, at least, and we would, uh, see him work with the machinery and my father worked there, for my granddad. There were several times when granddad would trade the farm implements for um, horses and horse-drawn equipment. Then when the depression came along, it wiped him out, because the farmers were unable to pay. And, uh, granddad simply went out of business in 1933. Then it was necessary for us to move to a farm out north and east of Marion just a short distance. But some of the things about early Marion while I was running up and down the streets as a small boy, I remember Saturday nights, when it was so crowded on the sidewalks that you could hardly get from one place to the other, at least you didn’t go rapidly. And um, there were several times that uh, I would be there other than Saturday nights, but that was, the store stayed open late, so, that accounted for that. Besides that, we would usually bring in eggs or cream, or both, from uh, the little farm out east of town, and we would trade those for groceries, so the last thing on Saturday evening after Dad got done working on the store was that we would go past the grocery store which was then on uh, Branson and Sherman, the corner of Branson and Sherman and we would uh, do the trading as I suggested. I do remember some times that uh, we would only have one candy bar, and there was, my brother was six years younger than I, but by that time I’d be begging for, um, well mother asked me if I would share the candy bar, a little bit with her, and of course my brother and I counted the crumbs from the halves of the candy bar, we were uh, a little unwilling to share with her sometimes. Now, other things that happened during depression days, uh, we did usually have a cow, so I started milking a cow, about, I was about five years old, I think, probably not any more than six. And, I’d bring the milk in. So we usually had milk, we also had a garden. It wasn’t a terribly productive garden but at least it furnished us enough to eat. Green beans, and fried eggs, uh, corn meal, corn bread, mush, those sorts of things we had. I can also remember that when we killed a chicken, my mother would skin the chicken legs, and boil them in water, and that would make some kind of soup. As of today, I don’t know that it was very nutritious but at least I’ve reached this age. Other things that I remember about Marion, was, standing outside of old Marion Hardware, which was at Fifth and Washington, and listening to the World Series because they’d have a radio on outside the door, and we would get to hear the series that way. But you had to stand, no place to sit. I can remember other instances, like uh, Halloween time, when I was probably only about three or four years old, and we were walking down the street going home from the store later on a Saturday night, and then, my father and mother and myself, and I remember a boy slipping up behind and throwing a firecracker, huh, I’ve never been more frightened, I don’t think. I can remember that one pretty keenly. Now as far as traveling about, uh, the cars were quite old, my first car that I remember, let me say first my father was a short time with a car agency, so he brought home a different car every two or three nights, because he was a salesman. But as far as the one that we owned, um, probably a 1927 Chevy that would get up probably 40 miles an hour, a little better. Not too much more than that. I do remember a few Model T’s around but, some of those were pretty old then. And uh, I remember my grandfather talking about it, so that may make my memory a little different than if he hadn’t had one. Now when we were out on this small farm, somebody else did the farming, and the grain was always cut with a binder, and the sheaves would be thrown on the ground and then someone would come along and, stack those up. And they needed to be uh, stacked very well because my grandfather was very upset if any sheave, or any uh, shock of sheaves fell over, you just didn’t do that, you learned how to do it right. And as a little boy I remember trying to lift up the sheaves and put them together like the big people did, but I couldn’t even pick the sheaves up in some cases. Anyway, I learned later how to do it for sure. Um, when it comes to other things that made me remember the Depression, I remember seeing a certain sweatshirt in Penney’s store. It was, uh, red and black and gray, and had certain leather white stripes down the back. I, I wouldn’t ever wanted anything much worse in my life. But, uh, it was not attainable, it was too much money. And I remember, uh, money business. At birthdays, I don’t recall receiving gifts, at all. Uh, my mother would usually say, “Now, we’re going to get you a gift, sometime, as soon as we can.” Those times, very seldom if ever developed. So that, I learned not to, really expect much. Now when it came to Christmas gifts, that was a little different because, when my grandfather was doing really well in business, in fact he had two Buicks and so in that day and age, that really meant you were up there economically. But then the Depression hit, and he lost his business and he was reduced to a beat up, old 1932 V-8, which would scarcely go up and down the street. And I remember the brakes weren’t too good in it, and I was with him one time when he hit, or plowed into somebody from the back, and they were a little upset, wanting to know if he was a farmer and he said, “Yep,” he was. But, depression, may sound worse than it was, because I’m sure that my father and mother suffered a whole lot more than I did. Uh, they saw to it that I had enough to eat. So we weren’t shorted all that much but it wasn’t very, uh, we didn’t have much a variety, let’s put it that way. We would, uh, dig dandelion greens in the spring, quite a while we’d eat those. And we’d have a lot of, uh, soup beans that we would grow during the summer, in the garden and then, dry them out, and keep them for the winter. And I think I mentioned before corn meal was a real staple food, in all ways. Now as far as prices was concerned, memory does some queer things to you, but I do remember getting ice cream cones for a nickel, and later on they doubled the price to a dime. I also remember a little bit later, when I was high school age, going down to, uh, the local ice cream store where I met some of my friends, and they were working at Kroger’s store, so they were making a little bit of money, and they had ordered sundaes, and I only had enough to, about a dime, to have an ice cream cone. And I was, uh, told by the clerk that I’d have to go up to the counter and take the ice cream outside because they didn’t sit in the booths. That was a most embarrassing situation. And, as far as the first money that I can remember, actually having for myself, outside of a nickel or a dime here and there, my, was when my father, helped build the bridge on, uh, 13 and 18 out by, uh, Oak Hill School. And he spent one summer building that, so he came home and gave me a quarter one time. That was the first time I’d had money of my own to amount to much. I think I bought a jigsaw puzzle with that because I was, told over and again I should spend it for something that really would last, would amount to something. So be that as it may, I don’t know whether I’d make the same decision, but I think that’s what it was, at the time. Now as far as clothes, when we went to school, everybody was dressed about the same. We had overhauls, blue shirts, uh, calico and gingham dresses for the girls. And if you got a tear in your overhauls, especially in your knees, uh, they’d be patched up and you went back to school. I don’t remember wearing good pants, until, so-called, until I was in high school, which of course was about 1936. And even then most of the time in high school we wore overhauls, all farm kids, all smelled alike, didn’t have to worry about deodorant very much, uh, we didn’t think anything about it. Through all the depression, really, we really didn’t know we were poor. Um, the government had to tell us that, later. And, I remember helping my father cut a tree down, which was out close to the house, a big maple. We cut it down on a very, below zero night, because we were that near out of fuel and we needed something to burn. Green maple didn’t give much heat, but at least it, it must have gave us, enough. And there were a lot of others, uh, hamburgers were only a dime, I remember. And then before very long they got clear up to a quarter. And, you could get a real good meal for fifty cents, about all you could eat. Generally a quarter was enough. But that’s about all we had. Now as far as wages is concerned, uh, for myself, my first jobs were helping plant tomatoes, in fields. I’d ride the tomato planter and, and you have a shelf of plants and take one and put it down, your partner puts one down, you put one down as you go along. I’ve noticed some by the way doing that even now but very rare, most of it’s by seeding or differently, now. I’ve forgot what I earned about it to be honest, there in farming, but it wasn’t too much. My first, uh, pretty general job was mowing milkweeds out of uh, fields of corn, or out of fields of oats, or soy beans. And the farmer just about a half mile east of where we lived, had about forty acres. So I would go and work eight hours a day with a sithe, mowing milkweeds and he’d give me a dollar a day, and my dinner. And that was the first job. Then I graduated a little bit to help run a combine, one of those new things around, after the binder. And I think maybe I made a dollar and a quarter a day that, that time. And I later worked on a straw-barreling gang one summer, for about six weeks. And I recall making uh, seventy dollars for those six weeks. And that was about the time I was ready to go to college. So I didn’t have much saved up when I got to college. I actually went through college my first year, on ninety dollars cash, and plenty of supplies from home. My roommate and I batched, as for our meals, and uh, I had scholarships, academically so, about ninety dollars bought my books and that kind of thing the first year. But that’s unheard of today. Probably two books, maybe one book would cost you that much. Now, I suppose another topic, the segregation that happened. I really was not as aware of that as many were because we didn’t have, that many uh, different people in our school. We had a few dark, dark-skinned people, but they, in many cases were Italian related, and uh, we didn’t notice too much of a difference. Now, uh, I do remember my cousin who lived in Marion and was at a school where they were very heavily populated by blacks, uh, telling several stories. And, my family, as far as both my mother’s family and my father’s family, were, rather naturally, um, well let’s say preventual, and I don’t mean that to be all negative. But they were not, uh, terribly inclined to accept people of other color, my mother’s family particularly. They had come from, uh, uh, Amish, or rather Mennonite Brethren roots, and so they looked at things a little differently. My grandfather who was in business was much more apt to be friends to the blacks. In fact after the depression toward the end of his life, he showed a lot of concern for them. But I’m just trying to set in motion what family feelings would be. When the hanging took place, I was nine years old. I lived close enough to town until I could see the lights, of town, all up much brighter than usual. And I could hear some of the noise, but I was not allowed to go to town. And, uh, my father would not let me go to town the next day, and anyone that has seen the pictures and so on since knows why. Uh, to my knowledge, none of my people were involved in that, but we were not so perfect that we might not have been. So I’m sure that there are many families that feel that way today, with history of Marion. Now as far as what has happened since, um, when I left, Marion, before 1950, to go down and teach in southeastern Indiana, it was a different culture, because it was almost, uh, totally German, uh, that culture. In fact they spoke German in the high school, a half day, until just a very little time before I started to teach down there. So I did get a new look at that culture, which of course made me think back about, about Marion, and what it was like. But having lived in north Marion most of my life, and uh, that I lived in Marion itself, and then all the years, since 1950, in south Marion, gives a little bit different perspective for some of it, than had I lived in certain other areas. I also have had, uh, children in school from the Johnstown area, and from the (Possum Highway (?)) area. And that, that would color my thinking about Marion. But that’s after 1950. Well let’s see, alright, back when we did groceries, I mentioned getting them at the grocery store, that was correct, until we moved on a farm a little farther northeast of town, then we would, uh, trade two things, we had a fellow who brought bread around, in a great big old car that he’d taken out the inside, and made racks for bread, he’d bring bread around and trade loaves of bread for eggs. And there were times when a dozen eggs wouldn’t buy a loaf of bread for you. But basically, that was a trade situation. The other items that we bought, uh, a man Huckster would come around, which was a traveling, oh, we call it a van now. But a traveling vehicle with, it was filled inside with shelves. I always liked to see the Huckster come because after Mother had bought a few items, or traded for them, he would always give you a lollipop, you could count on that. That was one of the good things. Now, checking off, let's just see if there's anything else here.
22:47 sg: Now, you mentioned a while ago that, walking around Marion the streets were all crowded. Um, like, what was downtown Marion like, what kind of entertainment did you have at the time?
bt: Kind of what?
sg: What kind of entertainment, movies and stuff.
bt: Okay, um, as far as, as entertainment, there were movie, uh, were moviehouses. Uh, which I generally was not permitted to go, not only because of my parents' feelings about movies but, just absolutely didn't have the money to go. I can remember just a very few times, that my grandfather who was in business would, give my cousin and I money and we'd go see the movie, whatever it was. Um, but they were pretty few times. So I really didn't – now the entertainment, came to be, well you walked around, looked in the stores, and, as I said you'd stand outside and listen to the World Series. And in the spring, of course when the basketball tournaments were on, if you got fixed just right you could get in a, hardware store or something and get where a radio was on and you'd have to either stand around the counters or that sort of thing, a lot of them did that. There was very, very little riding around because, not that many cars, and so entertainment was more, for me personally, was much more in church groups and uh, just playing, uh, with the other people of your school, that sort of thing. We'd gather at one another's houses and then, oh, play all kinds of games. Pantomime sheep and hide-and-go-seek and variations of it and all that sort of thing.
24:50 sg: Um, what was your first reaction when you heard that the United States had declared war?
bt: In World War II?
bt: Well, by that time, I was already of draft age, of course, and so I knew, that my time would be very close. The doctor that delivered me as an infant, was also the doctor that examined me out at the armory, and had rather automatically put down 4-F. The only difference about that, I knew enough about the army to know that sooner or later, they'd take me anyway. So the day after he did that I went to Fort Wayne, and I had already had this set up, a man had come to campus at Marion College, and said he wanted all that would, sign up for enlisted reserves, and stay in college. Well, we signed up all right but, some of us didn't stay in college very long. And I joined the army in October 1942, and then was called to active service in March '43. So my first reaction, well, we have to back up a little bit I guess, because this is after the first reaction. I was in the Marion College choir, and we had a concert, out southwest of Marion when we heard the news, that war had been declared. And that was, uh, well it was something that just, you don't understand when it first happens, near as much as you do after you've been there, naturally. It's just hard to fathom, hard to understand what is going on except you know that, there's gonna be a bunch of you that have to go. And we did, of course. Actually when I heard Hitler's invasion of Poland, I was at a high school party, there were about two classes I was in had gotten together on a summer evening, that was September the first of course, 1939. So that was ahead of our declaration of war, of course. But we heard of Pearl Harbor, when I was in the choir, and our concert, that evening was about as sober as any concert's ever been. And then, two weeks before that, Helen and I had been engaged, thinking we had quite a long time, before I had to go, but it didn't prove very long, so we were pretty well shook up.
27:57 sg: Uh, what was it like in the war, or did you have, uh, what was, how did it affect your family?
bt: Alright, and what I was involved in. Well, my first, six days after I was called to active service, and went to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, I was on my way to the west coast, for our coast artillery training. That was my first assignment. After that I did get a chance to attend Stanford University and the University of San Francisco on an army specialized training program. They were to teach us languages, and or science, or engineering, I should say. Actually, I had had French in college, and that's one reason I was on the list to go to Stanford. But when I got there, they were taking every other one to language, and every other one to engineering. When they got to fellow in front of me they said, "Language," they got to me they said, "Engineering." Well, I wasn't very much of an engineer but at least I survived those two and I appreciate the opportunities I had to see Stanford and quite a lot of San Francisco, while I was out there. But that program folded up, and so some older generals, and the pentagon, thought that mule pack, was still the way to handle the mountains. And they were partly right. But they were training us with uh, as a light division, they called it, we were down in uh, a little bit, southern California, north of Los Angeles where we trained in the mountains with mules. Well eventually, they saw that wasn't gonna work, you couldn't carry enough firepower, and, when you got where you were going, you only had a three inch gun, and that would hardly, three inch artillery would hardly knock a hole in an outhouse. So they abandoned the mules as far as the fighting unit is concerned. I've always said I could tell little difference between the mules and the sergeants 'cause the sergeants had stripes on. I get in trouble with that sometimes, ha, imagine. I really, when I've gotta…
(End of side one)
30:37 bt: Okay, we were, we were talking about the army, mules. They were taken to be pack-train mules in Burma and Italy. And they were worth, a great deal there. If a mule could not go up a trail, you best not try it. They were really sure-footed. Well, they took us out of the mule pack, put us into a, a regular division, which was an infantry division, the 71st. And we were sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, and trained for a few months, and then, uh, Camp Tilmore, New Jersey, went on up to harbor, boarded the boat, and went to, to uh, France, in uh, January 1945, then we were committed to action on March the 11th 1945, and were uh, assigned to be one of the liberation divisions which meant, run run run, fight, run run run. So we were on the road, and I had a Jeep and I was sometimes, uh, I'd be driving near 24 hours in a row. But quite often in there. So, it was uh, quite an experience to run in at the end of the war to, the concentration camps where we took one camp, Gunskirchen by name, and helped clean up a couple other camps. And then a few days later, I saw Dachau, but I had no part in taking that, that camp. But the unbelievable sights of concentration camp are still very vivid to me. I've written a paper on that, for my grandchildren, and this sort of thing, on the concentration camp. But eventually then we were of course, occupation came, and we spent a few months in occupation, and then I was shipped back to the United States in April, 1946. Ten days after I got back we were married. She had waited over three years, huh, in engagement. And we were, I appreciated her being true, that's for sure. Now what went on back here, I could sense that my folks did not always tell me all that was happening at home, they tried to, they talked about, my uh, pet cow, which I had raised from a calf which was uh, a pure-bred Guernsey, registered. And they wouldn't sell her, although I knew she was not a good milk producer, just fair. And I told them go ahead and sell her because she wasn't profitable. They wouldn't do that until I got back. And I know that my dad by that time was farming rather heavily on a tenant farming business. He never did own a farm of his own, but he, he did quite well in, uh, farming on a tenant farming business. And we had been that for, quite a while. My brother by that time was big enough to help him in the fields, so, didn't miss me all that much. I wasn't that heavy a worker. I could always go and stay with it all day but couldn't, it was difficult to uh, keep up with all the heavy work that needed to be. I know that they had a difficult time with the uh, foo, oh not food stamps, the uh, ration stamps that they had to get hold of, in order to get sugar especially, and sometimes gasoline, and some foods. And of course, they grew some of their own. But between it all, they made it, and like a lot of other, I still had my possessions, some of the old food ration stamps, they used. As far as furloughs, I got home a couple times, before going overseas. Once I got overseas there wasn't anybody coming home until, your outfit came. We had to stick by. As far as our reactions to war, uh, overall, when we hear what's going on now, right currently, uh, even though we aren't involved and I don't know of an immediate member of my family, yet you, you really think deeply. Cause you know a little bit of what the guys are going through and what we may very likely be called on to go through. Cause those experiences don't leave you. In memory, that is. So that much reaction anyway. Do I think they're doing the right thing, well, I'm not sure except that I do know, that if we had put a stop to Hitler, earlier, it wouldn't have cost, what it finally did cost. Now what the right time is, that's open to debate. Anything else?
36:27 sg: That's very good. Thanks a lot for the interview, it was really interesting.