Interview: Elizabeth Meisberger
Medium: Audio tape
Date: April 14, 1998
Place: 2914 S. 500E. in Marion, IN
Collected by: Leah Dean
ld: State your name and where we are.
em: Elizabeth Meisberger, and I'm at 2914 S. 500E. Marion, IN 46953
ld: And what's the date?
em: April 14, 1998
ld: Do I have permission to tape you with an audio tape?
ld: And do I have permission to submit this information to the Marion Public Library?
ld: Can you tell me about your family life before World War II?
em: I was the youngest child in a family of 4 children and we lived in New Marion Indiana, which was in southern Indiana, and my dad was the principal of the school there, and we lived next door to the school house.
ld: Is that it?
em: Well, what else do you want to know?
ld: When did you meet grandpa?
em: Well, we started school, my parents moved to this place when I was in the second grade. When I entered the second grade he was already there. He lived on a farm 2 or 3 miles, maybe more, maybe 4 down the way from where I lived, and he was in the second grade and I entered the second grade, and that's where I met him. Didn't like him too well at that time.
ld: Just talk about everything leading up to the start of the war.
em: Well, we went to school together then through our grade school years and uh, I believe we were, when I was a freshman in high school, I moved, I went to Cincinnati to stay with my 2 aunts who were school teachers there in Cincinnati because my dad wasn't working, he was without employment and they decided it'd be better if I went to Cincinnati and lived with them, and I believe the war broke out during that time my oldest brother applied for the service, he was rejected on medical reasons and um,, the war was on during our years in high school, all through high school. The Jefferson Proving Ground, which was a government installation, came into our area and bought up many, many acres, thousands of acres I believe, and turned it into um,, a proving ground where bombs and ammunition were tested for the war and the uh, proving ground fence came right up to our yard where I lived, and it took all the uh, many acres of our school area, so it cut our school down severely, and Dalb's folks where they lived, their farm was within this area and the government just bought out the people and said they had to move, so they moved their family over, not very far out, but it was out of the area out of the proving ground area so they bought a farm there. We didn't' have a farm we had uh, 13, we lived on 13 acres on the edge of town.
ld: What about your social life before the war like church and entertainment?
em: Well, it was a very small community, but my parents were workers in the Baptist church there in new Marion and uh, it was on the other end of town, which would be, I don't know a half a mile, 3/4 and we walked to that church all the time. My mother, and well my dad would go in the mornings, but my mother and I and the rest of us would go to the, to uh, morning and evening church services on Sunday and then Wednesday night was prayer meeting I believe. We didn't have too much social life because it was a very small town, uh, is this during the war? ld: Before the war.
em: Before the war. I can't hardly remember too much because I was only in grade school years. So whenever we uh, uh, did anything, it was mostly the community, we'd get together and we have we'd have parties and um, what we call play parties, I'd go to those occasionally. I had a good girl friend who lived there in town and we spent a lot of time together we'd go on long walks together, she and I would, and then we'd just get together, the kids in the community would just get together uh, up at the store where uh, there was a little restaurant and we'd get cokes and things in there. I think that was when I was older. I belonged to 4-H we had church um, um, a girls group in the church my mother conducted, and we went to those meetings. About 6 miles away from where we lived there was a little town, a bigger town that had a theater and uh, for a dime we could go to the matinee on Sunday afternoon, so I’d go with my friend’s parents, would go and take us so I’d get to go once in a while to the matinee.
ld: What about work you didn't work, but where did your parents, your dad was the principal?
em: My mother didn’t work out of the home but my dad was the principal there at the school. It's a 12 grade school.
ld: Now move to like during the war. Go back to family life.
em: After the war broke out?
ld: umhuh (yes)
em: Well, my sister's husband was in the military, so there was time during my senior year in high school, when she brought her baby home and we kept him for quite a, about a year or 2 and she was in the, she was with her husband, he had become quite ill and was not able to go over seas. He was on the boat to go and they took him off the boat and she went to where she was and my mother kept her little boy. So we had him in the home which was a treat for me because I was the youngest in the family and I didn't have any brothers and sisters, you know little ones. I had a mentally handicapped brother who was about 6 years older then I was so he was always in the home, but he went to school in the grade school there, and uh, he learned to read and write and my sister went into nurse's training during that time and uh, my older brother was rejected and he worked over at the Lawrenceburg at the Cebrum’s um, factory, where they manufactured liquor of some kind, but I remember during the war years rationing was quite evident in everything. We didn't, we couldn't, we could get so much sugar, so many tires, so much gasoline, and, and uh, furniture was rationed, I think shoes were rationed, a lot of things were rationed that we uh, hadn't had any uh, problems getting until the war broke out, but a lot of it was going over seas, you know, or to the military. It was just a, an effort, the whole world, the whole country was very much aware of the war. Many of the kids out of the schools were gone. The boys were gone, a lot of them got killed, so we had sad times as well as,... our school had been cut, well our graduating class was cut from about where we would have had like maybe 25-30 people in our graduating class, we were cut down to 8 and uh, so it was just kind of a disruptive time for everything and everybody, but I can remember the rationing in the uh, at the school uh, everybody would bring all the typewriters down from the commerce classes and the older kids would type up the forms and the farmers and the people in the community would come in there and we'd type up their rationing books. They had to have stamps, rationing books that had stamps in them so, so many stamps for a pound of sugar, meat was rationed, and if you had 6 people in the family they gave you enough for those 6 people, and I remember we'd save our gasoline stamps and give them to the guys that would come home from the service so they could have more gas rationing stamps to run around on, you know, some of the farmers had got gas for their tractors had extra gas and they’d give them to the military.
ld: Did you have much of a social life during the war?
em: No, not really. same kind of social life that we had before. If you did anything you just went together, the school, we had a basketball team at the school. They weren't much good because we didn't have many boys, you know, it was keen, you know we uh, it was a, the entertainment in the winter so we went to the basketball games. We didn't have much transportation. People didn’t have, there was one family car and when you got older, you were lucky if you could drive the car once in a while, you know, we didn’t have any driver's ed, somebody, an older person in the family taught you to drive, if you learned. I learned, my sister didn’t learn how to drive. My older brother taught me.
ld: How old were you when the war broke out?
em: I can't remember for sure. I think that I must have been uh, um, a freshman in school.
ld: About 14 or 15?
em: Probably so, that year I went to, I was in Cincinnati, I think when the war broke out. I can’t remember the dates, the years too much, but I remember getting a postcard from my brother when he, he had built up his hopes so high that he would be accepted to the military, and we got a card from him, my aunts, and there was just one word on it. Rejected. He was just so disappointed. He had talked all his friends there in town to go with him, and they were taken and he was rejected, so he was back home by himself. His friends were all in the military.
ld: Did you keep in touch with grandpa?
em: We were in high school together.
ld: He went to the war didn't he?
em: No, not till we were out of high school, but we weren't, we were just class mates, we were just friends. There was no romance connected with, then people didn’t date like, you know, very much because, I don’t know you just didn’t' back then. Sometimes we'd go to each other’s house, and uh, we'd eat popcorn and apples, or we'd make candy or something like that, but we didn't have much social life. Too busy trying to win the war. We had uh, our school, we had paper drives, we had iron, where we'd steel scrap iron to get money to go on our senior trip. They just encouraged everybody to save, and uh, you know, the women did all the sewing we canned we had victory gardens, they came out with victory gardens. They wanted people to plant more gardens and raise their foods. We were glad to raise our foods because we didn't, it was hard to get things, and uh, the feed, the farmers bought feed for their animals in cloth bags that were printed, and we'd make dresses and aprons and things like that, shirts, the boys wore shirts made out of those feed bags, because you couldn't get yard goods, and uh, so, if you got a bag of feed, and it had, in a certain bag, print bag well, the next time you went back you'd search until you found enough of those bags to make your dress or whatever. We were all poor, nobody knew, knew uh, none of us knew we were poor, we were just all poor. Nobody had very much in that little town so we didn't know what we didn't have.
ld: Does anything stick out in your mind, like during the war, like anything that happened that you like, remember really well?
em: Well, the war was still on when we graduated from high school and Dalb was uh, pulled up for the draft. He was drafted and his dad went to the draft office and got him deferred so he could even finish high school, so we were all, you know, it was kind of a sad time. Nobody ever knew whether they were ever going to finish high school, the boys didn't, the girls didn't, weren't in the military too much, and um, so his dad got him deferred so he didn't go into the war, into the military until uh, November. uh, November after we graduated that spring. So I can remember um, you know, the uncertainty of uh, of it all, just life in general, and uh, there was always somebody else being taken prisoner, somebody else from the community or the school that you knew was taken prisoner or died. It was kind of a rough time. We all pulled together. There was a lot of cooperation and uh, we just knew we had to make it. We had 2 wars going on; one with Germany, one with Japan. So uh, some of the guys would go out from, out to Japan to that war, and others would go toward the, the other, the European theater where the Germans were on the rampage over there, so we really had 2 wars going on at the same time. But then I after I graduated, after high school I tried to get into the, my girl friend and I, we went to the selective service, we tried to join the service, but they wouldn't take me, they wouldn't take us. I was too young, and they gave me a paper and they advised me to go into nurse's training and uh, get my training, and then go, come back, and join the military, but I don't know why she didn’t go on, she was 2 years older than I was, she probably could have gone, but she didn’t, but uh, then I came back and I worked in the defense factory in Indianapolis. I worked nights in the defense plant making gun slides. One time I worked weighing screws for what, I measured and weighed screws, tiny little things with a micrometer, and uh, but they wouldn't hire me, they wouldn’t give me a very good job, because they knew I was going to quit and go into school, so um, I got a job at the milling factory making gun slides. I ran a milling machine there, working nights and um, they go up to uh, IU extension up there trying to get a credit in chemistry to go to the Christ Hospital in Cincinnati where my sister had graduated from nurse's training. and uh, I got sick uh, there trying to work nights and, all of it together and I ended up having to go home and I didn't, I couldn't complete. I had to have this credit in chemistry to get in Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, so after I got home uh, we got the information out that they had given me at the draft or at the secret or, selective service board where they, where you joined up and um, Ball Hospital in Muncie was at the top of the list so that's where I went into training. I didn't have to have a credit in chemistry to get in, they, we had the class after I got in so I went into nurse's training. I was a cadet nurse and I was into nurses' training. I had been in nurse's training just a short time, I think the directions said we were to be in 3 months if the war ended and (?) continue but I just went in the middle of July to the middle of August so we didn't know whether we were going to get to complete our training or not, but they did, the ones who had already gotten in did get to go ahead and complete, but it was a little different because the war was ending then so we weren't really considered the military, but the government paid for our training and gave us 15 dollars a month spending money so I, I, while I was in training there just a few weeks the war ended. I remember that very well. That day they went up, somebody went up and down the halls yelling, you know, the war was over, the war was over. All of us walked down town in the rain there in Muncie. People were out everywhere shouting, jumping for joy, churches were open, people were going to churches, it was just a hilarious time because the war had ended and uh, that was the war with Japan, the German war had ended before that, I think but I remember that one especially because that was it was all over, and uh, we went to the place where they make the uh, uh, print the newspapers and, you know, they were putting out special editions, war ends and it was just a red letter day everybody was so glad, and so relieved, and so sad, because a lot of people we knew would never come back, and it had cost the country a tremendous price in people, in young men so while, when um, Dalb went into the service in November, and then he took his basic training, came home and I, we were just, all of us were up at the restaurant where we'd go to have a coke or something, so I rode home with him from there he had to, he, I usually walked, it wasn't very far, but he went on down, his home was farther down so I rode home with him that night and that was the first time that we ever realized there was any romantic inclination and, you know, and so he wrote to me and I wrote to him while he was in the service, along with many, many others. I got as high as 30 letters a week to service men all over. Different fellows I’d known in school and um, and just friends, they were all gone, so they welcomed any amount of mail they could get, so um, well he got out of service a year before I got out of nurse's training, and he came home and stayed with his parents and raised chickens. His folks let him use their chicken house so he raised chickens, and he got a job working, cutting logs, cutting trees in the forest there, so when I came home from training um, I guess our romance had blossomed during the last part of my training. I went to Chicago State the last 6 months of my training. I went to Chicago State Hospital for affiliations project and when I came home from the, a, pass from there I could see him, he'd meet me at the train in Greensburg, which is a good ways from our home but uh, when I got out of nurse's training in July of 48 and we married in October.
ld: That's pretty quick
em: Yea, well we'd been writing and going together for the last year, and so it wasn't a spur of the moment thing. well, I don's know what else you want to hear
ld: After the war your social life was it just about the same?
em: After the war?
ld: uh-huh, (yes)
em: Well, I was in nurse's training, so there was no social life much. I didn't date anyone, there weren't anybody, there wasn't anybody to date. All the boys were coming, gradually coming home. There wasn't many boys in college they were all gone, to school very few, in fact, they housed us in the boys' fraternity house there on Ball State campus the first year or so that we were in training, so there just weren't any men. So they finally began to come back and enroll there in the university or college . (?) university, (?) college back then, it's a lot bigger now than it was then.
ld: Did you work while you were in nurse's training?
em: No, no we lived back then you could not be married, all of us were just out of high school. You couldn't be married, and live, and be in training. We lived in the nurse's residence. For the most part we were the only nurses, the graduate nurses were all gone to the military too.
ld: OK, then after you and grandpa, did you guys move, where'd you guys move to?
em: We, we lived in a little apartment, I was working in a doctor's office there in a nearby town, matter of fact, I was just out of training and my grandfather got sick in Kentucky and I went down there to be with him. He wouldn’t go to the hospital, so I stayed with him till he died, I specialed him, and, which was not that long just a very few days, weeks maybe, and when I came back, my job was gone. So we rented a little apartment in a nearby town, and we fixed it up, and we moved there and he was, he was still cutting logs out of the woods. It was kind of a hard job and they would snake, the logs down off, in southern Indiana those hills with mules, load them on the log trucks, it was a hard job, it was during winter, so we decided we would leave there. I didn't, I wasn't working then at the time I didn't have a job, it was such a small community there just wasn’t much there so we knew people here in Marion, and so we moved up here in Marion and I got a job there at the veteran's hospital in Marion and he worked at uh, Spencer Cardinal making television cabinets for the first few years, and then he got a job out at the veterans' hospital and we both worked at the veterans hospital for many years ld: And then you had kids?
em: Yes, we had four children, 3 girls and a boy, and uh, we have 18 grandchildren and they are our pride and joy. Our family's our pride and joy. We're both retired now, and uh, we have a little, I guess you'd call it a farm, although we don't farm now, we did some when our kids were home. We have about 39 acres and we like wildlife and birds so we converged some of it to a wildlife reserve. I don't know what you'd call it, he would know.
em: When we were in high school, and when we, after the war started, and they used this area, this Jefferson Proving Ground to test ammunition. They dropped bombs from airplanes, so it was a very noisy time. It was uh, we could sit on our back step at home and it was like fireworks all the time, and you could see them dropping the bombs, and flares would go up, and the noise was so bad that it would break windows in our house and in the town where we lived, and it would knock flowers out of windows, and you could hear the bombs go off, so you were always aware that there was a war going on, and we were just near the proving ground where they were testing ammunition, and bombs and so forth and um, a lot of times, when we were at school, these huge um, parachutes would come over and float over, out of the fence, out of the area. It was all fenced in with high link fence, but it would float over, and the boys would all run to catch the parachute and whoever got there first got to keep the parachute, so it was always your hope that you could find somebody who thought enough of you that they'd go catch you a parachute and nylon, up to that point, when the war was going on was not known, and these were made out of real fine nylon, white nylon, um, material and the ladies in the area would take those parachutes and make men's shirts out of them and different things and they had a lot of cord, nylon cord, and they used those cords for many, many things, so a parachute coming over the fence was a great excitement for the town, and sometimes there would be brush fires break out in the proving ground and they'd come over and get the boys from the high school to go help put the fire out, because it was a big vast area, in fact, it's still there, and there's a great amount of acreage down there that's still has uh, live ammunition buried in it, so consequently they can't habit , habitat, they can't live there. Take that out, show my ignorance. Inhabit it that's the word, they can't inhabit it. It was a sad time for those people who lived in that area. Many farms had been there for years and years and years and the government just came in and said, you're going to move, you're going to get out, and so they moved churches, cemeteries, they just uprooted everything, took it out, and then they bombed a lot of the houses.
ld: They moved cemeteries?
em: Yea they moved the cemeteries out.
ld: Did they leave all those bodies?
em: No, they dug 'em up, took them out, the tombstones, and reestablished the cemetery outside the grounds of the proving ground. There was a big catholic church, it was St. Magdalene and they moved that, all the cemetery, all the plots, dug them all up, the stone and everything, and the people had no say so, they were just told we'll give you so much money for your land and you get out, and you had a certain amount of time to do it, and so neighbors, who had knew each other for years and generations were scattered everywhere. A lot of them went other areas in the state to find places, a lot of them were farmers, and so they had to go where they could live. So it was kind of a sad time for the families that were breaking up.