Oral History of Glen Eltzroth
From: Glen Eltzroth Jr. (ge)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: Thursday, April 29, 1999
Place: Home of Glen Eltzroth, 601 Candlewood Drive, Marion, Indiana 46952
Collected by: Max Leffler (ml)
00:01 ml: Is it all right if I record our interview of Max Leffler and Glen Eltzroth on April 29, 1999?
00:10 ge: Yes it is. (inaudible) Okay.
School and work
00:19 ml: Would you tell us a little bit about your life in the uh 1940s?
00:24 ge: Uh, my name is uh Glen Eltzroth uh, and in 1940, I was 15 years old. I uh went to Marion High School. The high school, at that time, was up on Nelson Street where the high-rise uh apartment buildings are now. And uh, at that time, uh I was uh working at Foster Forbes Glass Company uh six to midnight, seven nights a week, and going to school at Marion High School in the daytime. Uh, Foster Forbes Glass Company uh came along and bought up the old Standard Glass, that’s the name of the company when I first started there was Standard Glass Company, and uh, I worked six to midnight, uh seven nights a week. That was 42 hours a week, and our pay was $12.60 a week. I uh, at that time, I would uh get my check on Thursday evening. I’d go down to the First National Bank at 3rd and Washington Street. On Friday we, they paid us on Thursday night, I’d cash my check and when I went home, uh on Friday evening I’d drop ten dollars in my mother’s apron pocket. So I went to school, bought all my books, uh I uh bought my clothes, lunches and all that on $2.60 a week. I uh I uh the three years that I went to high school back in those days uh you just went to high school uh 10th, 11th and 12th grades. And uh all the time I went to school, I ate the same thing everyday for lunch. I went down to the old Pierce’s Pie Shop. It was down on 3rd Street just about where Kiley Law offices set now. We’d go down there, and we bought two second-day caramel rolls that cost a nickel, and a 12 ounce bottle of Pepsi was a nickel so I spent ten cents a day for my lunch back in those days. Uh I wasn’t able to uh play any sports on the teams and that much because I had to work every evening, six to midnight.
Off to war
03:00 I graduated from Marion High School in 1944. I uh went to the army. I volunteered for the service. Uh three days after I graduated from high school, I went down and got on the train down at the Big Four station down on East 4 Street and went to Indianapolis to Camp For…uh Benjamin Harrison. And uh from there, I went to Camp Adibury, stayed there about two weeks, went to Fort McC Alabama and took my basic training there. Then I went to Africa and landed at Forand Africa. And uh we went up through Sicily and Italy. I was in the infantry all that time; went from uh Naples all the way up to the Poe valley and uh halfway back and uh I spent a night and an additional six months on uh duty there as occupational troops. We had uh a lot of German prisoners there that we worked. And that uh. So we went overseas on a boat and took us 15 days. We left Patrick Henry, Virginia, and uh, like I said, went on a boat and went over and we came back on the boat too. Back in those days uh they wouldn’t fly very many uh people over on planes. Most of the planes were bombers, and they, they couldn’t haul too many people so everybody that went overseas went over on a boat, and we came back on a boat.
04:59 I came right back into Patrick Henry, Virginia when I came back after the war. I uh didn’t have anything else to do right at the time so I re-enlisted in the service, came home for 30 days and uh went back in and I stayed in the service another hitch, and uh when I the day I came out of the service I went into the reserves and I stayed in the reserves. That gave me 6½ years in the regular army and 24 years reserves and a little over 30 years in all. I uh got a pension out of that. Back in those days uh everybody that got out of the service uh went out and immediately got ‘em a job and went back to work.
Family and Friends
5:55 Uh there was a lot of uh work back in those days. A lot of small plants around Marion, Indiana that would hire uh 20, 30, 40 people, most of ‘em are gone today, but they were little manufacturing plants and the old General Electric and some of those around here, Spencer Cardinal. We had three of four different foundries around here, and uh there was, there was plenty of work for us returning veterans. I uh worked at Foster Forbes Glass Company. I went back and worked and worked there again. Uh worked there until I uh went out to Leninger Company as a uh an apprentice pipe filler. My apprenticeship took four years, and then I worked from uh about 19 years before I went on the Marion Police Department.
07:05 Back in those days uh most of us guys who had been in the service and that when we came home we didn’t have an automobile. Uh, they were pretty expensive, and the pay wasn’t too good working around so uh it took uh quite a few years of saving to buy yourself a car. Now we graduated from high school there was only three cars in my whole senior class at that time. Uh nobody else had a car.
07:37 Back in those days we had a date with a girl uh ‘bout the only thing we could do for them is uh take ‘em to the show, we had to walk there and then we’d uh get a box of popcorn or stop and get an ice cream cone. When it was uh over, take a long walk to the park or someplace like that is uh I uh I came home uh for the first time in about uh 1936 and uh then went back into the service.
08:14 Most of things that uh we used for entertainment had had to be free. We’d go to uh uh softball games out at Matter Park and and uh all kind of high school activities. ‘Bout the only thing that was back high school in the 40s uh we had uh basketball and track and football. We didn’t have uh cross-country or or we didn’t baseball back in those days. So uh it was uh it was kinda tough on young people back then uh finding a lot with your time but when you were a kid then your parents kept you busy. You had plenty of work to do around the house and at the our uh uh activities uh had to be uh (inaudible) down uh for about the an hour and a half to two hours in the evening the rest of the time your folks kept you busy doing something. I uh lived out on rural route 2 for years when I was younger around the first part of the 40s and uh the farm work kept you busy about nine-tenths of the time. As kids back then uh when we ate uh you didn’t get a lot of uh things to eat like you did today. Uh I suppose at the time that I went in the service I don’t imagine I’d uh drank a doz…uh a dozen bottles of pop in my whole lifetime. You just uh had uh just uh regular bill of fair and that’s about all you had to eat.
10:02 You also uh didn’t get to go to a doctor much. You uh if you had a tooth ache, why he got you a string and went to the doorknob and pulled your tooth, and uh if you uh busted up your knee or something you just let it scab over and uh get well on its own. Uh you couldn’t run up and have the doctor sew it up or anything like that. I think uh up until the time that I went into the service I had been to the doctor uh one time I had run a nail through my foot, and uh I had to get a shot for lockjaw and that’s about the only time I can remember ever being to the doctor before I went to the service.
10:47 I came from a big family. Uh it was uh nine of us sat at the table. When we took a bath, we didn’t have a bathtub. We had three old washtubs hanging on the out on the back of the house, and about twice a week why we’d get those down and take ‘em up to the bedrooms, fill ‘em with warm water and take a bath that way. We uh think we had our first bathtub in our house about 1947. I came home from the service then and help put one in, and that’s the first time that we had had an inside toilet or a bathtub in the Eltzroth homestead.
11:31 Myself uh personally, I like the 1940s. I think that the uh families were much closer. Uh you weren’t running around all over uh the world and traveling a lot. We had to mostly stay at home. Until the time I went to the service in 1944, I don’t believe that I had ever been uh out of the state of Indiana in my whole lifetime. Uh, like I say uh very seldom uh we had a car or anything like that. Most of the places we had to go why we had to walk there and walk back. We had an old vehicle out on the farm. That’s about all we had to go by.
Work at the glass factory
12:26 ml: Tell me about your job at Foster Forbes.
12:30 ge: When I first went to work over at Foster Forbes I was only 13 years old. And uh they were uh wanting boys to set in over there. What we did uh this hot glass came down out of the tank and dropped into the forming machines uh and then an air line came down and blowed the glass up against the mold and made the bottle. It came on around and the mold opened up, pushed it out on a conveyor belt. It came down and there was a layer that we had to take ‘em off of the conveyor and put them in the layer and that went back to the packing room to the heat treatment. And our job was to take these tongs and pick the bottles up and set them over into the layer and send ‘em on back. We worked uh six hour shifts. My father worked noon to six and I worked six to midnight. He worked uh around through the machines uh down below the hill where I worked the #2 plant. It had five machines you worked 15 minutes on each one of them and then traded off to the next one. And when you got all the way through then you got to rest 15 minutes cause the heat was terrible. Uh in the summer time, when it was ninety uh outside, it was about 120 degrees in there close to that tank and it was terribly hot and you you just you just couldn’t take it. You had to wet your gloves and everything too before you could uh take a hold of those tongs that we picked the bottles up with and it was it was uh it was an awful job it was terrible. But I uh stayed right there with it.
14:23 ml: Did the payment that you received for working compensate or (pause) or relate to the prices then and relate to how everything is now?
14:44 ge: Well uh back then $12.60 uh it went quite a ways. Uh you know uh we could go to uh J.C. Penney’s or Sears and Roebucks. You could buy a new white shirt for $.49 and uh a pair of blue jeans you could uh would be around $.49 also. Uh, things didn’t didn’t cost uh uh a dollar or two dollars to uh to uh do anything. Now uh (pause) I can remember back then uh uh my father going uh week after week uh and two days after pay day he wouldn’t have any paper money at all just be uh a few little coins till pay day and uh I remember the day that I left for the service he gave me all he had in his pocket that was a nickel and a dime that was fifteen cents. I left Marion with fifteen cents in my pocket. But uh as long as we uh worked. I had a couple of sisters that worked in the box shop over at Foster Forbes making the boxes. They put the bottles in uh we all uh did like I did uh we all put money in the pot at home and uh we made it uh fairly well. Uh back during the Depression now uh those guys uh at the glass house I wasn’t working then and I was too young and uh they only got maybe two or three days a week and uh really made it tough. Uh I remember going to the grocery store with my dad had my little uh red uh wagon and uh we get the wagon completely full of groceries now it was soup, beans and hamburger and stuff like that but uh we’d get that wagon completely full of groceries for about $2.50.
17:23 ml: Explain a little about the uh entertainment you guys had.
17:29 ge: Well like I said before uh outside of the uh ball games and stuff we went to uh we had uh four shows in town at that time. We had the uh Paramount Indiana they were their premium shows they cost $.25 to go see those. We had the Lyric Theater around on 4th street. It was $.15 to see a double feature there. Then across the street from that that’s where the uh uh parking lot is at now from the big Marion National Bank was the Luna Lite Theater that’s L-u-n-a L-i-t-e Luna Lite theater. It cost $.10 to see a double feature there and that was our uh four theaters in Marion. And we’d have uh band concerts out at the uh V.A Hospital on Sunday afternoons. Uh back in those days we had uh street cars you know that ran all over the city. You could uh you could ride all the way from Matter Park to the V.A. Hospital for a nickel. You just had to get a uh transfer and you’d stop uptown and get off of one car and uh four or five minutes later your car would come along. And you'd take this paper transfer and get on, and you could ride all the way out to the V.A Hospital for the band concerts, and then you had to have a nickel to ride back just reverse your route back out to north Marion. Uh the cars stopped at Highland Avenue and Washington uh during the winter months. But in the summer months there was a track that take uh could take you all the way out to Matter Park we could uh ride out there too. And uh those things uh disappeared in about 1950 and then we had uh no more street cars here in the city of Marion we went to buses then and the price uh gradually escalated up to what it is today and they never, back in those days in the the uh 30s and 40s those street cars were self-sufficient, but today uh they’ve got to uh put in federal money every year to keep the buses running in the city of Marion.
Going to school
20:09 ml: What was school life like?
20:11 ge: Uh back in the 40s, our uh schools started uh at the high school at 8:20 in the morning. But we had to leave home around 7 because we had to walk. I lived uh way out north and we had no back then there was no buses no bus transportation to get you to school you got to school on your own you rode the street car if u lay…lived way out south or uh somebody in the family had to bring you if you had an automobile. In the summer time we rode bicycles but I, all the kids in our family had to walk. And we walked to school. In the winter time that was kinda tough. Uh it was uh pretty cold. Sometimes uh back in those days uh it would snow here in October and we wouldn’t see the ground till about April. It uh just had snow on the ground all winter long. It uh stayed down around ten below zero to zero up would get up to zero and stay down about ten below. And uh we had like I said before we had to walk every place we went. We’d get to school, and we had the old steam radiators and the in these classrooms then hissing and that. We’d uh gather up around those and get ourselves warmed up before the class started and we had those uh desks that were hooked on to each other uh you sat on the front of one guy’s desk and somebody sat on the front of yours. We had uh inkwells uh there and and and uh ink pens that we dipped in ‘em. The ink well was built right in the desk and you’d the teacher would come along and fill that up with ink when it got down low ink that they made right there at the school the janitors uh made this ink. I don’t know what the ingredients were but that’s what we used to to uh write with. We had uh books that we bought at the bookstore you had to go down to the they’d give you a list of what you needed and you'd go down to the bookstore and uh buy it. We used to go down to Watson’s bookstore. That was at the corner of uh 4th and Boots Street where the parking lot for the Fidelity Federal was at today and we’d get our books there. Your books for the whole year would indic…end up costing you somewhere around uh two to three dollars for everything that you needed for the year.
23:01 And uh we had some uh pretty tough teachers back then uh you didn’t uh you didn’t start any trouble in the hallways or any fights around those old gals who were teachers then. If you wanted to fist fight you’s a junior, senior in high school and you wanted to fist fight they'd get right out in the hallway and fight with ya. Back then we uh, we had uh the number uh grades they uh anything uh less than 60 was failing and you go from 60 to 100 between there. And I was about uh an 85 student in most of my subjects. We had english and algebra and and uh world history and uh that kind of stuff. I, I would imagine uh back then when we graduated high school we would have probably been about equal to about an eighth grader today. The kids today are uh much smarter than we were back then.
Small town life
24:13 ml: Would you compare how life was then as to now?
24:20 ge: Well life was much uh slower back then uh things weren't uh go, go, go like they are today and had to be six different places at the same time uh. I liked it better back then than I do today. I have much more today. Uh I have a couple of vehicles and all that but I like it back then as I said before in this interview uh our family was much closer. Uh I have brothers and sisters now that I never see. Uh one lives in Arkansas. And uh they just about completely out of the picture. We may get together every two or three years and that’s about it. But back then everybody lived around uh, we’re of German descent and it was kind of a ritual. Back then it uh we went over to my grandfather’s at least once a month. They'd have a great big Sunday dinner and he had six boys and girls and they would bring all their family. They would have uh, uh they'd make uh mashed potatoes and chicken and noodles in lard cans and those lard cans i’d hold about five gallons and they'd have uh great great big dinners all everybody would come in and then when they'd get done eating they'd sit out on the porch. The women would sit in the kitchen and talk and the men i’d sit out on the front porch there and smoke and chew and and talk for three or four hours then you'd get ready everybody’d get ready to get their families together so they could get back out to their uh farm or in town get back before dark nobody traveled too much to and fro after dark. Of course back in those days uh if you weren't living right down town, you didn’t even have any street lights. And when it got dark it was dark. We didn’t even have any uh street lights in our barn lot.
26:21 ml: What was the town of Marion like, such as size and people and transportation?
26:31 ge: I would say that Marion was just uh a little bit smaller back then than it is now. I think uh back in those days we had between uh aw 29 and 31,000 people in Marion. Uh the we didn’t have near as big a police department or fire department back then we didn’t didn’t need it. We didn’t have the trouble back in those days that we have today. Uh people kinda went along and minded their own business and and didn’t get in trouble. And if you did, why your father and your mother took care of it pretty quickly.
27:13 Uh transportation. We had four railroads coming in here. We had the Pennsylvania. We had the Big Four. We had the Nickel Plate Railroad. I can’t remember what our fourth railroad was but it ran uh right along beside the Pennsylvania Railroad. That went uh from uh Cincinnati to Chicago and on into New York City. Uh we had street cars uh running all over town. They went uh like I said before from north to the south end. And we had another branch that went out to the uh west end of town out in West Point. And uh the forerunner to that we had uh we had the inter-urbans that came through here. We had uh the Western Flyer that came through here and went to Indianapolis. We had the that went to Anderson. Uh so that’s how most of the people traveled. They either traveled by train or they traveled by inter-urban or street car. I’ve said before in this interview that uh not too many people had the automobiles back then cause they just didn’t have the money, raised big families didn’t have the money to buy uh a car. Uh back in those days we had a lot of industrial plants and we have we've lost a lot of those since the 1940s. Uh earlier in the interview I told you that there was several in town here that hired 40 or or 50 men each. And those things uh they’ve they’ve gone. Uh they're no longer here and were having uh a tough time keeping up our industrial base that we had back in the 1940s. 29:18 Continued on May 11, 1999.
World War II in Africa and Italy
29:20 ml: Do I have your permission to continue interviewing you on May 11, 1999.
29:25 ge: Yes you do.
29:29 I'm going to start today with uh my leaving uh, uh the United States and uh getting on the boat and going overseas uh during World War II. I left uh just before Christmas in 1944 to go overseas. Uh we loaded on the boat at night after getting off of a train that uh had all the blinds down. We came halfway across the United States uh and uh we didn’t even know where we were at. We were going up through the mountains and that till till we got to Virginia and uh we left from Camp Patrick Henry Virginia, loaded on the boat at night. It took us 16 days on a very rough Atlantic Ocean to get to Oran, Africa. By the time that we had uh arrived in Africa, the war was over there, and we went to, like I said, to Oran and were assigned to the 24th replacement depot set up on the hill there in Oran, and we went there and stayed uh there about 30 days training uh for invasion. And then we went to uh from there to Sicily. Uh we got on a boat and uh didn’t take us long to get to Sicily and then we uh stayed in Sicily about two months. And then uh by that time they'd started the invasion of Italy and we landed at Naples. I joined a regular infantry outfit the 544th infantry, where we didn’t belong to a division. They just assigned us wherever we…they needed us. We were out of the 2nd Corp, the 544th infantry. And uh we belonged to about uh four or five different visions, divisions. I uh had to change my patch regularly on our shoulder. We had to take off the old one and sew the new one on overnight when we were moving up with a different division. And uh I went to uh Santa Maria, Deserta, uh up near uh where uh Mussolini’s brother had a big farm there. There must have been 20 silos on this farm. It was enormous. And uh we fought up through there, went all the way up to uh Pisa, up to Rome, on up into the Poe Valley. We fought through all those little villages up through there. Uh Houdini, Modini, then we got up to the Poe Valley. Uh we, the war was over then in Italy. They were still fighting in Europe but uh we stayed there in uh Houdini for about 30 days. And then we went back down to Monicatini, and uh I was a guard in the German prisoner camp. Uh we guarded prisoners there working uh around the uh uh lakes and the the streets and on the buildings. Some of the buildings had had the ba…back of ‘em bombed off and uh we uh worked those German prisoners during the day working on those. I stayed over there for six months then on uh the uh occupation duty uh working like that. And finally, uh they said they wanted to cut down on the number of men they had so I went back down to Lavarno uh the Americans call it Leghorn, Italy and shipped out of there. And it took us 15 days on the boat to get back to Camp Patrick Henry Virginia. I came right back into the same camp that I left from: Camp Patrick Henry Virginia. And there they broke our outfit up. Everybody uh 6’ and over uh went to the military police, and uh everybody under 6’, they left ‘em in the infantry or broke ‘em up into other outfits.
A second hitch
34:19 I came from uh Camp Patrick Henry Virginia to Camp Atterberry, Indiana, which was going to be uh mustered out of the service there, but uh I decided that I was going to re-enlist for another hitch so I was given a 30 day furlow back home to Marion here and then I reported back to Camp Atterberry and I was assigned to the 214 military police and they were stationed at uh Camp Poke, Louisiana and uh I uh went down there and reported in. I stayed with them about a year and then they sent me to Chicago, Illinois. I was with an 18-man detachment there and we were the military police in the Greyhound bus station, the train stations and we had two or three beats up there on the streets where the taverns were at. And uh I stayed there, there was uh uh 13 men and myself. I was a tech sergeant at the time and a first lieutenant out of military police, and I stayed there until I finished that tour and was discharged, uh from the army. One thing I did, though, the day that I was discharged, I joined the reserves and stayed in there. And that was uh the time that I spent in the military police was very very helpful in uh me gaining a job on the Marion Police Department.
35:55 ml: What is a hitch in the military?
35:57 ge: It’s three years.
36:00 ml: Tell me about your life in an army camp.
36:06 ge: Uh life in the army camp uh consists of getting up about 4:30 in the morning, having about 15 to 20 minutes of calisthenics, going back into the barracks, getting yourself cleaned uh up for the day, making your bed, sweeping and moping around your bed, then going to chow about 6:00 to 6:15, which is eating, and then you come back and get your pack and your rifle and had to fall out about 7:00 in the morning and go out to training. Go to the rifle range or the bayonet range or map reading or maybe just taking a 20-mile hike. Then you come back in, if your gonna take a long hike and going to be gone, they’ll feed you your lunch in the field. If not, you come in around 11:30 eat at 12:00 fall back in at 12:30 and go out to train four more hours in the afternoon, but if your on a march or anything out in the field, the cook section brings the meals out to the field and feeds you out of your mess kit in the field. You get back into camp ab..between 4:30 and quarter till five and at 5:30 they’ll have a retreat. Then you have to fall out and stand at attention while the bugle calls are played. You come back in, go to chow, then you can go to the theater. We had uh theaters on the base and and px’s you could go over and buy soft drinks or beer and and go to the theater for..uh I think back in those days the theater cost us $.15 off post. It was some of the first run movies at that time too. Then you get out of the movies about uh 9:00, you’d come back over. At 10:00 they played Taps on the bugle and that mean all lights out in the camp. You had to go to bed at that time or go into the uh restroom and uh read a magazine or something setting in there but you wasn’t allowed to have any lights in the barracks after that time. 38:36