Jesse and Ann Ballard

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Interview: Jesse Ballard (jb), Ann Ballard (ab)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: April 3, 1998
Place: 2757 West Ninth Street Marion, IN.
Collected by: Sharame Vodraska (sv)

sv: I need you to state your whole name and where we are.

jb: My name is Jesse Overman Ballard and you are at 2757 West Ninth street in Franklin township, Grant County.

ab: I'm Ann Mahoney Ballard same residence, my husband.

sv: And the date.

ab: April 3, 1998.

sv: Do I have permission to tape you with an audio tape.

jb: Yes.

ab: Yes.

Oral History of Jesse and Ann Ballard

sv: Let's start with your biographical background.

jb: You mean who are parents are.

sv: Who your parents are, what your childhood was like, and what you were doing when you met each other.

jb: My parents were Alfred James Ballard and Clara Ann Overman Ballard. What I was doing when I met was working in a meat packing house. What do you mean how did we meet.

sv: That would be good.

jb: Well we met through a mutual friend.

sv: And you Ann?

ab: I lived... my parents were Hugh and Cleo Mahoney they were both from Hunnington county. We lived in rented farms as I was growing up during the depression and afterwards. And lived on a numerous number of farms and Jesse and I met in late 1941 and were married in 1942.

sv: What was it like working in a meat packing plant?

jb: What was it like in a meat packing house. Oh I don't know it was a business. And we slaughtered cows, hogs cattle and sheep and we sold it to retail houses and groceries around Grant County.

sv: Were you ever drafted for war?

jb: Yes I got greetings from the government yeah and I went down to Indianapolis. Shortly before I got greetings I had an automobile accident and was deafened in my left ear.

ab: Motorcycle.

jb: Well I met with an automobile. I was deafened in my left ear and that was the main reason I was rejected and I had a fractured skull.

ab: Can I add on to what he said.

sv: Sure.

ab: He made a statement that he worked in a slaughterhouse. For your information this is the Ballard Meat packing Company that is east of Marion next to the river, which now no longer exists, which is now being called and has for the last several years Ballard field, where they're going to have a soccer field and other athletic area. I think that's fascinating to me that's interesting that after all these years that it still exists of course they've cleared it all out the bricks no longer exist, the chimney...

jb: Cleared about everything out of that place there's not much left.

ab: Well its great its going to be used for a good purpose. That's where the circus used to be.

sv: And what were you working as... did you teach?

ab: Oh no I didn't teach then, I didn't go to college until I was 41. I worked at Resnick's first day I came to Marion in 1941, May 1. I to a job at Resnicks which was a clothing store in Marion on the North.... Southeast corner of the square. I worked there up until I was pregnant for our oldest son.

sv: Did you change jobs when you married Ann? Did you work in a meat packing....

jb: Yes I was working the meat packing for my father.

ab: Then you to the farm.

jb: Yes we went to the farm. Because we couldn't find a home in Marion to live in because during the war they had these war industries and people would walk into town and there were not enough places to live. So we went up this farm I said that I could work the farm and the meat packing plant at the same time. I got kinda skinny oing it.

ab: Apartment build... Apartments were very scarce houses you couldn't rent there just was very little available at this time for new families. That's a long time ago that's 55 years ago Sharon, you're Sharame, that you're asking us this.

jb: Kinda hard to remember things 55 years ago. After it happened.

sv: Um yeah. Um what about the rationing for the war.. food rations or....

jb: Yes they had rationing automobile tires were rationed, gas was rationed, groceries were rationed they had red and blue stamps. Red stamps were for meat and the blue stamps were for the other groceries, clothes were rationed, we had clothing ration stamps, shoes ...

ab: That's right shoes were rationed.

jb: Yeah shoes were rationed. Kinda hard to find good clothes, when I got married to Ann I had to hunt around to find a good suit. I remember that, and Ann had a hard time finding a dress. You remember much about rationing Ann.

ab: You mentioned foodsuffs I remember that neither of us really liked coffee but we didn't want to waste our ration coupons. We bought it and learned to drink it. We didn't want to waste our ration stamps.

jb: We had a coffee....

ab: And sugar was rationed.

jb: Sugar was rationed.

ab: I remember buying sugar to my mother because my dad had a sweet tooth and they never had enough sugar to go around they had to have sugar in everything and pies and... You were very careful how you spent your ration stamps, cause you wouldn't get anymore for awhile.

jb: I forget how many gallons were allowed a week.

ab: Gasoline?

jb: Yeah course gasoline was cheap five gallons for a dollar. ab: We took our honeymoon in Chicago for a weekend and uh we had to be very careful not ruin our tires cause we knew we couldn't find any. And also he gassed up from the Ballard Company tank... pump I guess it would be called so that we would at least have enough to get up to Chicago. We had a black 37 wasn't it...

jb: Studabaker coupe.

ab: Which was real jazzy back then.

jb: It only cost seven hundred bucks, it was a new car. Things were a little bit cheaper than they are now.

sv: How did rationing affect the meat packing company?

jb: Well now that, we were allowed to kill only so many head of livestock course we had to get all the way from the grocer with the food stamps for what they would purchase from us and we had one girl that's all she did was do government work. We got kinda fed up with that and we were only allowed to pay so much a pound for the livestock and we could only sell things for do much a pound. It was kind hard to find good help cause these factories around here were having government contracts and that would cost plus, they could... they didn't care how much things cost they could pay top wages. We couldn't raise our wages.

ab: Well there were a lot of women working in the factories. Because the men were in the service.

jb: Oh yeah a lot of my friends were rati... were drafted not many men around town my age except if we'd been rejected.

sv: What was a daily routine... what was a typical day like?

jb: Oh I'd just get up in the morning and drive down to work, then when we moved to the farm I had to milk the cows before I went to work the packing plant. I did a little bit of everything.

ab: I was working in the office, um I had just gotten out of high school, I had taken all business classes I thought I wasn't going to get to go to college and I'd better do something I knew how to do. And so I worked in the office and I took dictation from Mrs. Resnick. Her son was in Casablanca he was in the service when I was in the office.. her second son. And uh it was ... it was a neat experience coming to the city when you had always lived in the country. Its unlike anything else. It was big time we used to go to the movies that was our only entertainment there wasn't much to do... go down to the corner and get an ice cream cone.

sv: Did your routine change much as the war took more effect on America.

jb: I don't think it did it Ann?

ab: In what way do you mean?

sv: Um were there more news shows on and more news movies?

ab: We didn't have television yet television didn't come out for several years...

jb: Radio.

ab: That the average citizen could buy. Uh we were... you say the news I suppose on the radio we'd here the news. We remember when the war was over, we happened to be home that day. That was glorious.

jb: They didn't have tape recorders like you're using there. When I was in Purdue they were talking about wire recorders, recording on spools of wire magnetized spools of wire that spun through the thing now they use tape same idea.

sv: What other industries around Marion produced things for the war or became factories because of the war?

jb: Well the factories existed but they just switched over to war production. Old Indiana Truck Works was making shells. Weren't they Ann.

ab: Is that the Peerless?

jb: Unh huh. The Peerless of America.

ab: I worked there for just a short short time. Never really knew too much about the place.

jb: Well these other factories were making castings and things for war production, never really knew too much about what they were making cause I never worked there.

sv: Do you know anything about Delta Electric?

jb: Yeah they made uh flashlights and bicycle parts.

ab: Didn't they make those electric lanterns?

jb: Yeah I've still got one. Its kind of a collector's item Don't know where you could get batteries for it or if it would even work.

ab: Fisher Body didn't exist here in Marion at the time. I think we had one radio station.

jb: Was that WBAT or WJAK or was it WBAT I can't remember?

ab: I can't remember either.

jb: We used to have a radio station called WJAK and they were out there close to Hummel Hill. On the curve that goes out that way on State Road 9. Then they moved in to town and they were down there on... What's that street down there on the south bank where the old shoe factory was up to Washington street?

ab: You don't mean River Drive you mean across the street.

jb: There were houses there. They've torn those houses out a long time ago.

ab: Yeah I guess it did used to be there. I'd forgotten about that.

jb: Yeah there used to be houses there, and there was a radio station in there, course that was before the war. I don't remember where they were.

ab: They could look in our Marion book.

jb: Yeah we could look and see.

ab: Have you seen that book? Do you have one?

sv: No.

jb: What do you want to know now? Can't fill you in very well on radio, we used to have a radio factory. Farnsworth I think it was called then which had originally been Case Radio then they changed it to Farnsworth then RCA took it over.

ab: Do you want to know what downtown Marion looked like?

sv: Yeah I was just about to ask that. What hotels or buildings have changed since then, what did it look like.

ab: Well here's what it looked like. We had three dime stores then Kresgy's, Woolworth's and Newberry's. Here was Kresgy's this is the corner of... there used to be a travel agency there... the corner of 4th. This is the bank. Down here's Bank One and First Federal. I mean that's what it is now there used to be a meat packing or meat market there called Hoosier Market and JC Penney's was here. I think um see... Florsheim shoes that used to be C and H shoes that was a very special shoe store here in Marion. We used to take our kids here and I always knew they would get a good fit. But see we had three dime stores in a short range area. This is what uptown Marion...Let me find some more pictures. This is from Butler Music company they were on 4th street down on the corner, they used to be down on Washington. Where you could buy pianos and organs and instruments of all kinds. This is how they started out all those years ago. We had a major department store the Queen City that not only sold women's clothes they sold children's clothes. We took all of our kids there, for all four seasons. Resnicks was across from the courthouse.

jb: Weren't Penney's up across from...

ab: I was just showing her this book. I can loan you this as long as we get it back. Its a fabulous book. June McKown edited this.

sv: I think Mr. Munn has that....

ab: He probably has it. If not you can come back.

sv: You mentioned that you had children. Did they come home from school talking about any kind of drill they did for bomb awareness or anything?

jb: We didn't have children during the war. Well Jimmy was born during the war. You don't have kids that quickly.

ab: This is 1945 when he was born course he didn't go to school until he was seven. Out in the country they don't have kindergarten. He and the other children went to Roseburg. Um no at that time by the time our children were involved in school the war was over and it was safe here. We weren't affected in inner United States as much as those along the coast. Those were the ones they were afraid of bombing, not us.

sv: Um what about the great depression after the war?

jb: The great depression came before the war.

ab: It c... the great depression came after World war one, which one are you talking about. That's the one that affected us.

sv: O.K.

ab: I don't think we had a great depression after the war, I think that was when the industry changed over to products that we would be buying not wartime products. But the depression did affect both his father's business and my father who was a farmer. That would be World War One which was over in 1917. And see I was born in 1923 but the depression still affected us, it was very tough...

jb: After W.W.I there was a boom time too, they called it the Roaring Twenties. And about 1929 there was a big stock market crash and many people lost their money. And the banks were closed and the....

ab: Tell her about your grandfather and your dad. I think that's interesting.

jb: You mean my Grandfather was in the First national bank and he helped organize a thing for the farmers that they could borrow. Cause he remembered back in the times when he bought his farms how many times he paid over in interest before he could own his farm. And uh so he was one of the instigators that they would organize the First National bank that's bank one now. It folded. Grandpa and dad lost all their money.

ab: When he says it folded it means it went under when the bank was closed.

jb: President Roosevelt closed the bank.

ab: People's money was in the bank and when they came to the doors to get it the doors were locked and they couldn't get their money. And I think what your grandpa did, I think she needs to hear that. Didn't your grandpa take his money and pay all those people?

jb: No that bank was solvent that's the sad part about it everybody that the bank.... The bank got all its money back but my father and grandfather lost their stock because the bank reorganized and other people invested. They lost their stocks.

ab: You told me your Grandpa took his own money and paid those people back.

jb: No I never told you that I don't know where you got that idea. I never heard of that story.

sv: Tell us about the street car.

jb: I can tell about the street car but....

ab: All right, then drop it. Talk about something else.

jb: All right. But uh the banks closed up and they appointed a receiver for this bank. But the Marion National Bank they had enough money to stay open.

ab: Tell us about the street car.

jb: Grandpa would help organize loans for farmers he could help people get loans.

ab: What about when you used to ride the street car out to Matter park?

jb: Oh I didn't ride the street car out to Matter park, us kids would walk. We'd save a nickel and buy an ice cream cone. Our folks would give us a nickel to ride the street car down there and we'd save a nickel by walking, then we'd buy ice cream.

ab: I would ride it down there and there was a big turn around. That was our big entertainment when I first came to Marion.

jb: They had some animals out there. What else do you want.

ab: The street car used to go out to the veterans home.

jb: They called it the soldiers home then.

ab: They call it something else now.

jb: Its the VA isn't it.

ab: We had another titled one. They used to have a band shell on Memorial Day weekend, the Band would always play. That was kinda neat.

sv: Um did they still have the circus carnival on Ballard Field, when did they start having the circus carnivals?

jb: Well now after the war was over the circuses folded because they couldn't get help and they traveled on railroad cars. They just kinda died, and also when radio came in television came and movies. The circuses filled an entertainment purpose for people at one time.

ab: One of the last times I remember seeing the circus after we were married was when Jimmy was just a little boy and Susan was a baby, and Susan's just fifty. I took the two of them down we still had the Studabaker Coupe, and parked by the railroad track and watched the...

jb: ...circus unload.

ab: unloading their equipment and the elephants and so forth. And then they used to have a parade through town. They would have all these elephants hanging onto each others tails and paraded around the square and back and they circled up their tents and their wagons so they could put on the show.

jb: They had a big steam calliope at the end of the parade.

ab: Jesse they were still doing that when Phillip was little. Cause remember we were very skimpy on money and I took those kids to the circus, the three kids, and one of the barkers put a bag of peanuts in Phillip's hand and I didn't have much more money then what I needed to pay for those peanuts. And I was not a very happy camper, here you give 'em to this child and you don't have the money to pay for them. We were living on a very meager amount at that time.

sv: Was this still the war?

ab: No the war would have been over. This was '55.

jb: Well we didn't know what the factories were making, you kept it all very hush-hush you didn't want the enemy to find out what you were making. After the war you found out a lot of things that they.. it wouldn't make much difference. Our meat packing house we were only allowed to pay so much for the livestock if we could find them, cause the army took all the good meat you might as well say. So to make sausage we'd buy cow's udders and we would have never thought of such a thing when we were in legitimate business. But you did anything to keep your factory running, I guess it was edible it was just the thought of it that turned our stomachs. Lungs I guess they can still use lungs in sausage to me that's kind of a dirty thing, with all that dust that animals breathe in. I wouldn't want to make sausage out of it myself.

ab: You mentioned something about horsemeat, that didn't happen down here until after his father had sold out and the packing house no longer as it had been. It was the new owners that began killing horses and making dog food. The war was over.

sv: Oh, okay.

ab and jb: It had nothing to do with the war effort or anything. sv: We can also talk about a little after the war because the actual period is1920 to 1950. You also mentioned that war was no surprise to you.

jb: It wasn't because I was in Purdue when they first started this thing in '38 '39. We had a German exchange student and he didn't want to go back because he knew that he would get drafted. He's the fellow that first put me on recorders, wire recorders that I was telling you about. We were friendly to the English and we were friendly to the Germans. We were kinda taking sides until... I think we were really more friendly to England than to the Germans. We didn't really think about things until the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Then this country started to mobilize. It is astounding how quickly we did it, I guess we can brag a little bit this country on how fast we did it. We mass produced ships and we made parts in one place and shipped them on the train and assembled them in another place. Then we had a Liberty ship, I suppose you've heard about that. I've never seen one but I had a friend that served on one of them, he was lucky to get back.

ab: We're still seeing the effects of the WPA which came into existence during the era of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And we remember, I remember seeing them working out building roads, and course they always built these outhouses too, yeah the old shanty t ype and they put a concrete base. This was before bathrooms became real plentiful in the country, and it was something that they used to build and they built these CC camps... CCC camps. And there's a park over in Bluffton that was constructed by them.

jb: This one over here at Salamonie State forest is done by those CCC workers.

ab: The idea was to give people jobs because there were all these people that needed jobs. This was after the depression era you said you were studying 1920 and this is something I remember as I was growing up uh cause I didn't know Jesse and I didn't come to Marion until '41 and I didn't know a lot of these things that he's been talking about.

sv: You said something earlier about um Matter Park and the land that was donated for that, do you want to tell us um about your family's relationship with Matter Park?

jb: Well it was a community city park and the land was donated by Phillip Matter I believe. He was a wealthy man here in town he owned banks, it was the Marion National Bank I believe. But uh we'd go out there, have picnics there was a street car line that went out there. And it went across the Highland Avenue bridge which was a steel bridge at that time. And you could ride anywhere on a street car line anyplace in town for a nickel.

sv: Did your grandfather know Phillip Matter?

jb: I guess he did I don't know...

ab: You've always told me...

jb: Most people in business knew each other that's the way I say it .. . ab: But he used to tell me that...

jb: We were not family friends.

ab: Oh well you don't have to be in the same social circles to have a cup of coffee with somebody and be friends.

jb: No.

ab: It was deeded in 1892, 30 acres of ground along the river banks for a public park. It was always supposed to be a park, I've read that someplace, it could never be anything else.

jb: Matters owned a lot of ground around here and owned a lot of ground out North of town. I can remember that one year we put some cattle out there around Hummel Hill in that wild ground out there and we let 'em graze then took 'em to the slaughter house. I can remember that, wasn't very old then that would be about ten years old I suspect something like that.

ab: Says he died in 1928, fell down the long central stairway in his home, 911 South Washington, which was where Raven's Funeral Home was. I didn't know that.

jb: Yeah that building's been torn down.

ab: He didn't like to bu... he didn't like to ride in automobiles.

jb: I can remember Mrs. Bell riding around town, she had an electric car. It was a elegant thing quiet didn't make any noise and she'd steer it with a tiller like in a boat. It was glass all the way around it was real pretty course they wouldn't go very far but it was what wealthy people had. Our folks were more middle class you might call it.

sv: Um we also talked about industries and you mentioned about GM. What did that area of town used to be?

ab: Airport.

jb: Airport?

ab: Did you say General Motors? Wasn't there an airport out there?

jb: Yeah Burt Williams, Charley Williams owned that land and Burt Williams was the son of Charley and Burt put an airport out there before General Motors took it over.

ab: That's where I took my first airplane...

jb: But that's after the war was over.

ab: Yeah. I took my first airplane ride there...

jb: Yeah that's right Randy Meadowmaw came back...

ab: Friend of his was a pilot and came back and took me over Grant County. That was neat.

jb: Yeah we had two airports in Marion for a while. Burt Williams' airport and the one out south of town it wasn't as nice as it is now, it didn't have many buildings. Matter of fact I think the Civil Air Patrol took over the building out there at the Marion Airport.

ab: Yeah cause Jimmy put a roof on it the design is the Civil Air Patrol. You want to know anything about the Old York Inn that's in here cause it was just back there during the gas boom.

jb: I never saw anything.

ab: No but your mother used to talk about it. It was a fabulous dining room I guess. Use to have wonderful meals crystal chandeliers, trying to get people to invest in the area in the gas boom.

jb: You can go up the Marion public library and they have a pretty good exhibit on the York Inn up there.

sv: When was the gas boom?

jb: Gas boom I didn't see it. I can remember some the factories that were brought in here because of the gas boom. They used to have a Drop Ford's plant out there on uh was that called Railroad Avenue what did they call that road that runs out there to the Oddfellows cemetery.

ab: Pennsylvania.

jb: No Pennsylvania is the north and south one this is the one that runs along the river, out there and produces creamer. I don't know what it is now.

ab: Are you talking about McClure, Producers was on that street.

jb: Drop Ford's was alongside the Pennsylvania railway station and it runs out to the Oddfellow cemetery.

ab: Oh I know what you're talking about but I don't know what it is I never drive it.

sv: Lincoln, Lincoln.

jb: Is it Lincoln. Well they used to take me they had these big old forging hammers and they were pounding out red bullets of steel into something but we didn't know what they were. But that went out of business when the depression hit. I can remember that. There used to be a meat packing plant out there where the old brewery was. We took over the county brewery for a while there was a meat plant there called Birch Packing Company, but he went out of business during the depression. See we had prohibition, back I don't know when did it start, about 1918 or something like that I didn't know anything about hard liqueur cause it wasn't sold in Marion. Then after Roosevelt was elected they did away with that I don't know was it the 21st amendment.

ab: The flood was before 1920, 1913, had nothing to do with it but I remember Mother Ballard talking about she was standing on the dock at the packing house and they brought a boat up for her to... and the other women to get away from the house cause the water was coming up. They wore hobble skirts back then and she tried to started to step in the boat and she almost fell in the drink it was always one of her favorite stories.

sv: Um since you live on a farm I think you mentioned about your own livestock how much of your own food and other food items did you make?

ab: Well they had the packing house Jesse used to bring home meat form there I rarely bought meat. Uh fresh vegetables course in the winter you had canned. Usually you canned all the vegetables that you grew in your own garden. I used to grow.. have a big garden. Right out here that whole thing was a garden, used to have strawberries green beans peas. When freezers came in it helped a lot I used to freeze instead of can. I kept a lot of those fruit jars have never gotten rid of. When you say how much its hard to remember how much I know that grocery bills weren't the same as they are now. All the produce is much more expensive then it used to be. It was sort of a luxury to go into town and buy a head of lettuce at that time.

jb: When Ann and I got married I was making 30 dollars a week.

ab: When we started off you were making 75...

jb: Then later on...

ab: And then your dad raised us.. I mean for the month. And we were paying 37. 50 a month for rent. So we didn't have a lot of excess money course I was working. But I didn't make that much I started out my first job I got 10 dollars a week, and the second part of the... they raised it to 11, then before long 13, by the time I left I was making 17 wages were not high. Course I shared an apartment with my cousin. We got by, we could go to a movie now and then and buy an dice cream cone. Our parents gave us most of our food. Those were the earliest days here in Marion.

sv: What about butter? Did you churn your own butter?

ab: When we got married and moved to the farm yes cause my mother had always churned. I still have her churn a big five gallon churn. And uh back when I was teaching I took it to school and my students churned butter this was before we had history books, books social studies book in the third grade. Um but making butter wasn't a job, I'd help my mother, all my growing up years how to do that. We didn't talk about cholesterol back then we it wasn't ion our vocabulary.

jb: You didn't have to worry about it then if you worked real hard and worked that cholesterol off. Yeah we used to pick a corn bushel by hand. I remember the first corn picker. A one row it had a little bin on the top you would put the ears in and you used to travel alongside the bin it didn't hold very much it was about the size of that couch.when we moved out her I got a two row or was it a one row. I had a one row, later I got a two row mounted picker.

ab: When we first moved out here you could not buy stoves electric stoves. When we first moved out to the farm which was now just land everything had been leveled it had been burned by someone we bought a laundry stove, maybe 25 inches across maybe square it burned wood or coal. And we used to cook on that and I also heated the water on that to wash clothes. Um it was really a challenge because we carried the water in and out cause we didn't have indoor plumbing.

jb: Didn't have running water.

ab: When we moved down here we lived here for... we moved from the other farm on down close to 38th street they used to call it Haley Prairy road which is now Troy. And we moved from there down to this farm because the house was bigger and there was water in the house. We were here about uh a year or two and his father put in a bathroom for us and that we finally got around to having indoor facilities and that was nice, I don't think that I would have lasted much longer out here without it. When we moved here we were able to buy an electric range, a Marion range it was called it was manufactured out north across where they used to have uh Little Italy.

jb: Rupert Electric it was called.

ab: Yeah it was made here in town there was nothing on it except the switches. It was an oven and a regulator on the oven and the switches for the burners and that was all. Today you had the buttons and knobs and everything makes it a little easier and course the microwaves. I'm grateful I'm living today those days were not as pleasant. You're dying to say something.

sv: Let's turn off the tape.