Personal narrative of Martha Reed
From: Martha Reed (mr)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: April 27, 1999
Collected by: Rebekah Jones (rj)
00:00 rj: I am Rebekah Jones. This is the twenty- seventh of April, 1999.This is being recorded at 2452 W. Kem road. I am speaking with Mrs. Martha Reed. Please state your name Martha Reed.
mr: I am Martha Reed.
rj: Do I have your permission to interview you?
rj: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to the Marion High School?
rj: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to the Marion Public Library?
00:29 rj: Thank you. Could you please tell me about your life in the 1940s?
mr: Um, yes um, I’ll tell you a little about my life first if it’s alright.
mr: I was born near Elwood, Indiana. And when I was a small child we moved to Wheatfield, Indiana. And then to Frankville, Indiana, to Grant County near Van Buren. I went to school in a Van Buren school. First, though, I went to a one room school. It was called Hardscrabble. Um, out in the country. I walked to school. And then, uh, second grade we were transferred to Van Buren. So, I went to Van Buren school then, and graduated in nineteen twenty nine. I went to Marion College. It was called Marion college at that time. Here in Marion. I went there one year. Then I went to Ball State in Muncie for the second year, and got my teacher’s certificate. Um, because of uh overabundance of teachers at that time, I wasn’t able to get a school, here, in Van Buren. But I did get a school up in Lagrange County, Indiana, near Shipshawana. It was a rural school. I had all eight grades. I moved in with a family, that lived real close. But I had to walk to the school, build my own fires, do my own sweeping. I was there for three years, and I decided that that was long enough. It was very interesting, I had a lot of Amish children. Then, I came to Van Buren, and got a position in the first grade. I taught there one year and then I was married. I lived then down by Yorktown, Indiana. Then we moved back to Grant County. My husband was a farmer. And, um I had um four children, close together, and then we moved south of Van Buren where I continued living because of a shortage of teachers then, I was asked if I would teach in the Van Buren school. So, I taught the fifth grade then in Van Buren. Then, I had my fifth child. I didn’t teach for a few years. Then, when I resumed teaching I taught the third grade for eighteen years. My children all attended the Van Buren school. Then, uh, I, uh, came to Marion and taught the fourth grade for ten years. Uh, then I retired from teaching in 1974. I have been living in Marion since 1985. Now, are there questions now, that you want to ask me?
04:06 rj: How did World War II affect you and your family?
mr: Well, I of course, my children weren’t old enough to, any of them have to be in the service. Um, I had nephews. My husband’s nephew was among those who were in the, what the call the Bulge in France who were fighting against the Germans. Um, the many things were rationed at that time. Gas was rationed and we had uh uh, coupons uh, to buy some things that were scarce. Um, uh, of course there were uh a lot of changes uh, we had been used to buying what we wanted to and uh, I don’t know just exactly um, um, how this uh, affected other people but, we were glad to do what we could because of the war’s situation.
05:30 rj: What types of entertainment were there?
mr: We didn’t have TV until uh, in the forties. I can’t remember exactly when we first got our, our TV. Um, and the children would play games. We lived uh, of course, out on the farm and they had chores to do we milked several cows and um the children were uh in Four H and there were things that kept them busy with their school work and all. Um, of course, we went to church and they we in many activities uh that were carried on by the church people. There were always children around to play with and uh they were active, like I said in the school and church. I don’t know if this answers your questions.
06:54 rj; Yeah. What type of transportation was there, were there a lot of cars around?
mr: Oh yes, oh yes, about everybody had cars then. My husband liked Chevrolets. (laughs) And that’s all we usually had.The children had bicycles that they could ride to their friends that lived close. Um of course we had tractors on the farm and the children helped out with some of the putting out crops and different things when they we older. But uh they always had friends around and there were always youngsters there it seemed like and they had a good time.What other question was it you…
08:07 rj: Um. Did you experience any form of segregation? What type of segregation was there?
mr: No there was none whatever. In the school um they were all white, there were no colored at all at that time. I don’t know of any colored people living around Van Buren at that time. And uh, of course the young folks did not have the problems of drugs. You never heard tell of drugs then. And um you just never heard of the things, like what’s going on today at all.
08:59 rj: Could you tell me more about your being a teacher and how that affected your life, any special experiences?
mr: Oh, I, I loved it. I just loved it. I was a strict teacher but they learned. They knew they came to school to learn. And um, I tried to make friends with all of them and uh tried so hard to get everybody to want to read. If you can read you can get your other subjects. And uh,I had many students come back to me and say ‘ Well Mrs. Reed I learned so much in your grade.’ But I was a firm teacher. I feel like today parents aren’t strict enough. I know their hands are tied if they touch a child. Now, they know they’ll be sued, uh its quite a difference. Children then did not have the temptations that they have now. You never heard tell of a child taking a gun to school or anything like that.
10:23 rj: What type of rules were there in your classroom?
mr: Well, they had to do…not bother other children. And um they were supposed to work. They couldn’t just sit there and uh play. They knew they were supposed to get their studies done. Sometimes they had to stay in at recess. I, I had a paddle in my room, but (laughs) I never had to use it. They just knew that if the paddle was there. I called it Matilda and uh (laughs)Just to know there was a paddle there it did the work.
11:15 rj: What was life like living on a farm?
mr: Well it (laughs) it was hard work um we milked a lot of cows. I don’t know how I ever I used to get down and help. We finally uh had a milker. And um, the children would go and help too. And uh I always raised a big garden and canned and they mowed the yard. There was always seemed like something to do on the farm. But I think it was a good place to raise children anyway (laughs).
12:00 rj: Was it easier that you owned a farm during the war? Was it easier to receive goods such as foods? Did you feel like you were in surplus of them?
mr: Well I couldn’t see a whole lot of difference except you wanted to raise all you could, raise in order to help the war situation. And, uh I always canned a lot. I didn’t have a freezer at first, when we first lived on the farm, but then finally, then I got the freezer and we froze a lot. And we had our own meat. We would butcher hogs and cattle and we would try to help out as much as we could during the wartime.
13:02 rj: How did your role change when the war came? Did you experience any changes personally about things that you might have to do or help with?
mr: Well, uh no. Um, all my children, not being you know old enough to enter the service, I did not have any worries. Why, I did have nephews on my side of the house too that were in the war. And of course, we were all very concerned with where they were sent. Um, I remember my husband’s nephew was in the Battle of the Bulge. Um, he was a dark headed boy when he left, but when he came home his hair had begin to turn gray, just after having been put through so many things over there. We were all so happy when the war was over and the boys could come home.
14:17 rj: What type of changes were there when the war was over?
mr: Well, it was easier to get uh fuel and um easier to get uh things that were scarce, sugar and things like that. But it was just such a relief to know the boys all come home. We didn’t have any fatalities at all in the family.
14:54 rj: How did you get around not having things such as sugar? Were there special ways to cook things for?
mr: Well, we just didn’t use as much. (laughs)
rj: You just didn’t…(laughs)
mr: Uh-huh. Just had to, you know, kind of ration things out. But by being on the farm and raising so many of our uh things that we ate, you know, that helped out so much.
15:25 rj: How is life different today than it was in the 1940s?
mr: Well, like I said the young folks have to face so many things now that my children didn’t have to worry about. It just wasn’t around. You just never heard of anybody having marijuana or, you know, the things that young folks have to say no to today or make a choice. I, I just feel sorry for the young folks now. You know the peer pressure is just so much greater now. Just, I’m just glad my family was raised before this era came along.
16:42 rj: What did your parents do for a living?
mr: Well, they were farmers. My father was a farmer. My husband was a farmer. He used to be a cowboy out in South Dakota.(laughs) But, um he came back. Just more or less farmed. You know, it takes all kind of occupations to keep this world going and I guess a farmer is needed just about as much as any body.
17:21 rj: How did you and your husband meet one another?
mr: (laughs) Well, we met in college. I mean uh, I was going to Ball State and he used to come into his. And I stayed at uh, his uncle and aunt’s house. And um he’d come in and play cards with his uncle. So that’s how I met him, that and Ball State mm hmm. Then we were, well we weren’t married until after I taught up in Lagrage County. And, uh I was teaching the first grade at Van Buren then.
18:06 rj: What was dating like then?
mr: Oh, (laughs) I suppose about like it is now. We went to a picture show once in a while. And, of course he lived down by Muncie see, and so he’d drive up and we’d go to Warren to the picture show. And, uh I didn’t see him you know too often, what I mean once or maybe every two weeks.
18:44 rj: Were picture shows a big form of entertainment? Was that very popular?
mr: That was just about the only entertainment there was. No, we just never went to ball games like so many people, you know, go now. Or go to friend’s we had friends that uh were all, already married. And a lot of times we’d go to visit them. We played a called “Uno” and “Flinch” and things like that. I went to Van Buren Christian Church and uh when I was a child. In fact, I am the oldest living person right now that was there when that church started.
mr: Right now I’m the oldest.
19:56 rj: What was your wedding like?
mr: (laughs) We just went and got married. I didn’t have a big wedding at all. We just went to a minister’s house and was married. We just down in Corriden, Indiana. We had um, with another couple, taken a trip down during teacher’s institute. And um we just decided we were going to get married and went to the minister’s house and were married then according to Indiana.
rj: Were your parents there?
mr: Oh, no. (laughs)
mr: Well I was, we were with another couple, see.
rj: What did your family think of that?
mr: Think of what?
rj: Think of you getting married at a minister’s house.
mr: Oh, they didn’t say anything. They didn’t have big, so many big weddings at that time. If I had to do it over again, I’d have done it differently, but then we never just minded. We were going to get married and too bad. I have five children, fifteen grandchildren, and thirty-two great grand children and they’re all just as sweet as can be. I’m just so proud of them. Alot of uh, all four of my daughters taught school. Three of them are still teaching. And ,um, I’m just really proud, And I thank God over and over again that we haven’t had any real serious sicknesses. I have had cancer though, and I’ve had a hip replacement, but I’m still going strong.
21:54 rj: How were sicknesses dealt with in the 1940s?
mr: How what?
rj: How were sicknesses dealt with in the 1940s?
mr: Well I suppose uh, you didn’t hear about so much cancer then, not uh, not like it is now . Of course, my operations have been in the last fifteen years. Eighty-five, um, I had uh, breast cancer or operation, and then the next year I had the hip replaced. So um, you know they keep doing thing differently now, some things. But I’m just uh, I guess going pretty good. I’m eighty-seven.
23:00 rj: How was grant county different in the 1940s than how it is today? What things did they have that were different in Marion and Van Buren?
mr: Well, you never hear tell of malls then. That’s all changed and of course many stores around the square, was some of the main stores. They just don’t have malls. I mean at that time they didn’t have malls like they do now. Of course, transportation, everybody had cars. But a lot of uh business places uptown have gone to the mall. Sear’s was uptown and Penny’s across on the west side of the square. There’s a lot of differences in a lot of buildings, you know.
24:19 rj: Were there trolleys or trains that went through Marion?
mr: Well, yes. There used to be uh, street cars. Of course, we don’t have anymore. The train is still um, one going right east of the square, you know, like it was. They had buses, but the children walked. Now, like I taught at Clayton Brownly there on south Washington street, the children walked there mostly. I had, um, many colored children in the fourth grade there.
25:30 rj: At what time did you teach at Clayton Brownly?
mr: I went there in, um, it must have been sixty-four because I quit teaching in seventy- four and uh, I taught there for ten years. We’d go outside in recess and play baseball when the weather was nice, you know. We’d go out, out with the children to supervise them, recess and things.
26:23 rj: Did the schools have sport teams?
mr: Well, not there. Um, no. We had a gym teacher when they were inside but I would go outside with them when they. Then they would go out to play, you know. Part of the time there was a gym teacher. We had uh, music teacher there. Well, now are there any other questions?
27:20 rj: What was graduation like for you when you graduated from high school and from college?
mr: Well, we had a prom. It was uh, um, the junior class would give it for the seniors. And uh, the uh, sometimes the commencement would be in churches. Um, Eastbrook hadn’t, uh, wasn’t called Eastbrook then. It was just Van Buren High School. Well, things have changed a lot over the years, just uh, seems like how the activity is geared toward athletics more then what it was at that time.
28:44 rj: Did you have any special experiences as a teacher, any ones that are very \ memorable to you?
mr: (laughs) oh, there were, you know a lot of them. Um, one year, when I’m teaching third grade in Van Buren I had a set of twins, and they looked so much alike. Sometimes they would trade seats and it was hard to tell them apart. And then, they’d giggle you know, after they’d sat there a while and I hadn’t discovered. But there’s quite a difference. One year, that was before they had built the addition to the Van Buren School, I had fifty-five students in the third grade. I said if you bring me one more student, I’ll have to put my desk out in the hall. And the next year, so they built an addition to it and they had more than one grade then. They had what they called a split grade, like say the third and the four, the overflow kind of called it the over flow around here yeah. So now then they much, much smaller classes which is so good I don’t know how I ever got through grading papers. I did a lot of homework to grade papers. But it was interesting. I wouldn’t take anything for my experience. And it does you so much goo to have you former students come to you and say that like me as a teacher and was glad I made them do their work.
30:56 rj: Were there any other third grade teachers at that time?
mr: Well, they had the over flow in Van Buren. Like I said that they’d have a room of third and fourth graders when the classes were too full you know. They never had two rooms of the same grade. It was over, what they call the overflow room.
31:28 rj: Did you ever teach an over flow room?
mr: No, no the eighteen years I taught there I just had the third grade in Van Buren. And then over here at Marion I had just the fourth grade. Now there they had uh, more than one fourth grade. There were enough students at Claton Brownly you know, they could have I think it was two. I, I can’t remember the third grade, whether they had, I think they, they had more then one third grade too. Been a few years back.
32:13 rj: What subjects did you teach?
mr: All of them, except the music and art. I didn’t have to teach the music and art. Yes, we had music and art teacher in Van Buren too when I was there and thank goodness they had that
rj: So you taught math and English.
mr: Oh yes
mr: I taught everything else except
rj: Social Studies
mr: mm hmm
32:50 rj: What type of punishments were there for disobedient students?
mr: Well, some sent them to the principal. I don’t know. I just gave them to understand they were supposed to behave themselves and like I said I had the paddle hand but I very seldom ever used it. And uh, alot of times just talking to them and the parents weren’t working like they do now. And sometimes if was having trouble I would go to the parent and talk to them. We’d kind of work together on them.
33:43 rj: What were some important skills you stressed while raising your children?
mr: Reading. Oh, my own children
rj: mm hmm
mr: Well to always tell the truth. And um, well they knew they like they didn’t pick on other children or they went to church all the time. They had lots of friends and like I said they didn’t have the temptations then that they do now. I think that’s one of the main troubles. Now I never had any of the trouble with any of them smoking. They just knew they weren’t supposed to and.
35:01 rj: How were things like smoking and drinking thought of in society were they accepted for adults or?
mr: No. I never, I never knew um of um of any of the high school kids smoking. Well, they just never, never had problems like that. Or else we didn’t know about. I don’t know. No I don’t think. I don’t remember ever. I only had the one boy and I know the girls never tried it. Probably when he went off to college why he did, but to this day of all this big family there is not a one of them that smokes, not a one of them. Well that worries me is what just happened in the schools. I never, never heard tell of anybody thinking of taking a gun to school or anything like that.
37:02 rj: What do you think the big differences are with school in the 1940s and school today.
mr: Well I kind of blame the way the children behave, like I said a while ago, so many of the mothers and fathers are working they’re not at home when the children get home from school. And um, they don’t know what the children are doing and they’re just not made to mind like they used to. I, I don’t know what the can be done. We have many many churches. I, I just don’t know I Just can’t, I don’t know what causes it.Well there’s just one thing, A parent though just isn’t aloud to hardly spank their children anymore. If you do punish them you read in the paper where they’ve been arrested just this morning it’s in the paper about a boy or uh man took his belt off and used it on his children and he was arrested but I see they have turned him, released him now. So um, I remember one boy I had at Clayton Brownly. He had done something mischievous and I just took a hold of his chin so he’d look up at me. And um, uh said don’t you dare touch me my mother will sue you. So you see they’re taught at the home sometimes. That they just aren’t made to mind. So I don’t know we’ve just got a big problem with the schools and all now And you can’t put all the blame on the schools the parents have got to take their share of blame for what’s happening. Like this happening close to Denver, I can’t understand how those boys had all that ammunition and bombs and material in the home and the parents didn’t know it. I just, there’s something wrong there.
40:10 rj: What was your childhood like growing up?
mr: What was what?
rj: What was your childhood like growing up? What did you…
mr: Well I lived on the farm and I didn’t (laughs) we didn’t do much going.
40:23 rj: Were there any special trips that you took, any vacations as a child?
mr: Oh, we went to Niagara Falls one time. And um, of course living on the farm my father had cattle and all.You couldn’t get away much then. So really we didn’t do to much going. And um I had relatives living around Elwood and Tipton and we’d go to see them, you know. But then as far as taking big trips we never got to do that at all.
41:06 rj: Did you go into town a lot, go to Marion?
mr: Oh, they had free picture shows (laughs) in at Van Buren. And um we could go in there and watch that on Saturday nights, but
41:22 rj: What types of movies did they have?
mr: Oh, cowboy and things like that. (laughs) But uh, now we belonged to campfire girls we called it then. I had a sister who was eighteen months older than I and um, we had a group there and we would go in the summer up to the lakes and spend a week up there swimming and fishing and having fun.
42:01 rj: Were campfire girls like girlscouts today?
mr: Yes that is what they used to be called, campfires girls. And we had those meetings you know. I suppose they were, I can’t remember now how often we had them, whether it was a meeting once a month. I forget, but anyway we’d do the projects to make money to pay for our camp for the summer you know.
rj: What type of projects did you do?
mr: Oh, we had candy sales. And uh, sometimes selling different things. Uh, salves and things that you go around and sell. And uh some magazines and uh we’d uh, maybe for the uh night of the picture show why we’d have popcorn or uh popcorn balls you know or candy and sell it. Anyway to make honest money.
43:44 rj: Well, how were experiences different teaching Amish children?
rj: Was it more difficult because they had different beliefs or.
mr: Well they talked a different language. Um, they just had a different, I remember one time we had charts that uh we had the children read. Charts up in front you know. One day I asked a little boy what that was in the picture and um, it was a chair. And um, I said well, what is, what is that and he said ‘dish’. I said it’s not it’s a chair and the children began to laugh and they said that was Amish for it. And uh, there was just a lot of things that you know it was different. Um, they couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand their language so. But they were very friendly.And um, but that was hard growing up there and having to do my own. I’d walk to school and it was oh, I’d say a couple squares and I’d have to build my fires and of course we didn’t have any inside bathrooms, toliets. And um, it was kind of hard and at first, at first, when I first went up there I didn’t have an automobile. My brother took me up and when I went back home at teacher’s institute, why then I got a car then. But uh, one drove back the place where I stayed had three children in school and that made it hard there, the teacher was right there you know. So that made it hard. But you know Shipshawana now is quite well known
rj: mm hmm
mr: For their, well what are they? Sales of things I’ve never been to on e of those since I’ve been gone from there. But it was an interesting experience. But talk about the differences. I taught for one hundred dollars a month. And school then wasn’t the length now it was eight months. Now imagine, some teachers getting that much in a day about now. A hundred dollars a month.
46:06 rj: How much did things cost? Did that cover all of your experiences?
mr: (laughs) I can’t remember what I paid a week for my room and board. I just can’t remember. But my goodness, back in those times you could buy a loaf of bread for ten cents. And um what was a hamburger? Was it, well I know it wasn’t more than a quarter. When went to college at Ball State, I worked on Saturday and I made five dollars.
46:55 rj: What did you do for work?
mr: I worked in a dress shop. I worked in a dress shop and then I’d take my five dollars and pay the lady that were I stayed. Now look at the difference.(laughs) I know one time I bought a couple of dresses for a quarter. They had a sale on a quarter.
47:34 rj: Did people make a lot of their own clothing or…
mr: Oh, some of them, some of them did.
rj: Did it come from factories.
mr: But it was just the difference in the uh economy. My goodness, gasoline well I’m trying to think was it a quarter out at the shell well I, I just can’t remember what the average price was at that time. Now we, as far as I can remember we always had a car when you know so many people drove horse and buggies. But the first automobiles you cranked them crank on the front. And the uh, side they didn’t have glass. It was curtains. That you looked out in the winter time. Of course, you wouldn’t put the curtains up in the summer. And of course there was no heat whatever in the car. I can remember we took the children on time down to Indianapolis. Um, what was it going on? Was it ice-skating or something? An d we had to put blankets over them in the car you know to keep them warm because there was not heat in the car. So just uh huh just be thankful you’re living in the age you’re living in the age now instead of back then. They talk about the good old days but ( laughs) I’ll take the convinences of today.
50:00 rj: Well, thank you very much.
mr: Well I, I hoped this has helped you. One time when uh, when I was a senior we were supposed to go to Fort Wayne on a trip and um, something happened, I don’t remember now why they couldn’t take us. But anyway we couldn’t go and we were just so hurt to think that, that we didn’t get to go to Fort Wayne that we walked out of school and walked two miles west and went to a girl’s house and had a party in the daytime instead of being in school. Say did we ever get talked to when we got back. (laughs) So that’s about the worst thing that we ever did that wasn’t right.
51:07 rj: What was your prom like? Did everyone have fancy dresses? What were their dresses like?
mr: I can’t tell you. We did have like what we called a prom, like they do here. We had baced laured and we had commencement. And the Bacu laured was a minister got up and talked. We didn’t have a prom. Now I graduated in year of twenty-nine. And uh,
rj: Did you wear the regular graduation gowns and caps or?
mr: Now isn’t that awful I can’t remember. No I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. Now that is something for me to think about. No, I ,I’m just sure we didn’t.
rj: Did you just wear dresses or were there?
mr: Just ordinary clothes. Mm hmm I’m sure.
52:31 rj: Did a lot of girls go to college like you did?
mr: No. There were only thirteen in my class. And uh turn that off a minute and I’ll get…