Interview: Mrs. Betty Mottweiler (bm)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: Friday April 3, 1998 and Thursday April 9, 1998
Place: Home of Mrs. Betty Mottweiler, 826 N. 12th Street, Elwood, IN 46036
Collected by: Julie Schafer (js)
js: Please state your name and where we are.
bm: I’m Betty Mottweiler and we’re at 826 North 12th Street in Elwood.
js: OK, and what is the date today?
bm: Today is April the third, 1998.
js: Do I have permission to tape you with audio tape?
bm: Yes, you do.
js: Do I have permission to submit this information in my classes at Marion High School?
js: And do I have permission to submit this information to the Community History Project of the Marion Public Library and Marion Community Schools?
js: All right, first I just want to ask you about your family life. In 1940 were you living at home or were you married or . . .
bm: In the first part of 1940 I had moved out of my family’s home and lived in an apartment. I’d taken a job in a factory and, ah, wanted to be independent, you know, so I moved out.
js: So were you living by yourself?
js: Do you have brothers and sisters?
bm: Yes, I have five-four sisters and two brothers.
js: And what were they doing at that time?
bm: Well, ah, most of ‘em were workin’. Ah, later on, in this whole period, um, two brothers were in the service--they were in Korea--they served time in Korea.
js: What was your apartment like, and what kind of neighborhood did you live in?
bm: (laughs) It was very small. It was on an alley. It was in the back of this apartment house. And I didn’t like livin’ alone. I didn’t care one thing about it, but I had wanted to be independent, so I had too much pride to go back home, so I stuck it out. But it was small, and I made it.
js: When the United States started to think about going into World War Two, what kind of feelings did that have for you or for your family members?
bm: This was a time when, ah, like I said, my two brothers went into the service. We were very much upset by it. And I was a teenager at that time, and all my friends were goin’ into the service, and of course none of us liked that either. I guess we weren't very patriotic 'cause we didn't want to see our guys (chuckle) go to war. But they did, you know, ah, some of 'em came back, and some of 'em didn't.
js: What year was it when you got married?
js: And what was your husband's name?
js: And did he have to go to the war?
bm: He went--he was drafted--but when he was even a child he had pleurisy real bad. But he wasn't my husband at the time, he was a friend, and um . . . But when he went, it was a cold, rainy day, and they put him out marchin' and this pleurisy started back up and they sent 'em home. So he didn't have to go.
js: So, did he have some other kind of job?
bm: Well, ah, he went to work in a factory.
js: What kind of factory did he work in?
bm: Aladdin Lamp.
js: All right, can we talk about your brothers that went to the war--you say they were in Korea?
js: How long were they gone?
bm: They were gone fourteen months.
js: And while they were gone did you communicate with them? Were you able to write letters to them?
bm: Oh yes! And they appreciated the letters. And of course we appreciated hearing from them. Yes, letters are very important where soldiers are concerned.
js: And did you get to send like packages to them, or . . .
bm: Yes, yes we did.
js: So what kind of things did you send?
bm: Well, I--I can't, um, really remember right now, but I'm pretty sure we sent homemade cookies. You know, that was the main thing.
js: So did your brothers, did they come back or . . .
js: Where they injured at all?
js: OK. Um, now we were talking before we started the tape about people flying flags in their windows. Could you talk about that on the tape?
bm: OK. When-when, um, the soldiers were gone, I mean, you know, we all made sure, ah, that we had a blue flag in our windows for each son that was over there. And if you lost a son or a daughter or a husband--I don't mean daughter--um, if you lost someone then you flied a gold flag.
js: I'm sure that you probably knew some people who were injured or killed while they were in the service. How was it that they informed the families about that?
bm: Well, it was usually a soldier, I mean, you know, a big, high in rank official that came to your door, and as soon as you seen that person there, you knew that somethin' was wrong. But that's usually how you found out.
js: So did you know a lot of people that were . . .
bm: No I didn't know a lot of 'em, but of course it was always in the paper, you know, when someone got killed in the service.
js: When you found out that the war was over, how did you or your family react?
bm: (laugh) I reacted, um, real good, because by that time I'd got married, like I said, in '44 and I was pregnant for my first son. And this was, the war ended in August of '45 and my son was gonna be born in October, and I was really in a good mood 'cause I said "My son's gonna be born into a free world!" (laugh) Yes, I was really tickled.
js: So were there any special kinds of celebrations in the town or anything?
bm: You know, I can't remember that. I don't know. I don't know. I don't remember.
js: OK. Were there--during this period--were you involved in any types of clubs or organizations?
bm: Are you talkin' war related or . . .
js: Either way just-
bm: Oh. No, I wasn't in the war related ones, but there was a little Sunshine Club that I belonged to because my mother-in-law belonged to it, and, um, I enjoyed that, but that's about the only thing I had. You know, I was able to stay home and be a mother to my sons. By the time, um, during that whole period of '40 to '50 I had three sons. One of 'em was born in '45 and one in '48 and one of 'em in '50, so they kept me pretty busy bein' a mom.
js: So after you had your--after you got married, then you quit your job in the factory?
js: What kind of things did the Sunshine club do?
bm: Well, we played this little game, and you know they still play this little game today. It was called Cootie. (laughs) I think we rolled dice to, um, decide how we put that thing together, but we did a lot of good work too. I mean we sent cards and, ah, whenever there was a funeral or anything, we fixed a big dinner for the one's that, the family of the one that died.
js: Before the war, and then during the war, what kinds of things did you do for entertainment or when you wanted to get out of the house, what kinds of things could you do?
bm: It was mostly just, I mean we would go to parks or . . . We weren't much for goin' to movies or anything you know. We just didn't seem to have the money and, um, ah, goin' to people's houses. We used to visit a lot. People don't visit so much anymore, but we did back then. Um, after we'd have our evening meal, then, you know, you'd load up and go to somebody's house or get prepared because somebody was comin' to your house, but a lot of visitin’.
js: We already talked about that you were working in a factory until you got married. Can you talk about what your job was like, or what kind of people you worked with when you were working?
bm: Well, when I first got the job in this Aladdin Lamp place I worked in a punch press and made parts for lamps. I didn't really enjoy that because ah, um, the men wanted you to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. (laughs) You was gonna ruin their record if you just sat there and worked the whole time and um, but I, I didn't smoke or anything like that unless, they tapped me on the shoulder and they'd say, "Go take a smoke break." Well I was glad when I was moved out of the men’s department and moved into a line where I made mantles for the Aladdin Lamp. It was hard work, but I, I enjoyed that much better 'cause you worked all the time. They didn't keep sayin' "Go take a break somewhere."
js: So where there a lot of women who were employed there?
bm: Yes, there were a lot of women, and that was my first experience in, ah, givin' 'blood. They did that a lot, they had big drives, you know, like they do today, only it seemed like it was more so back then. I was seventeen and workin' in this factory, and, um, they came around with this paper, and I just automatically signed the paper not even realizin' what I was signin'. And about a week later they told me, “There's a bus outside and you are to get on the bus to go up to, um, the place where you're gonna give blood”. And I said, "I don't know what you're talkin' about.” And they said, " You signed the paper, said you were gonna give blood.” So I thought, well, OK. So I got on the bus and I went up there with 'em, and when I got there they said, “Since you're seventeen you have to have your parent's consent.” And back then, you couldn't eat anything before you went to give blood, so here I had give up my breakfast, and this is about eleven 'o clock, and I'm to go out into the country. I didn't have a car, I had a bicycle. I rode my bike to go to our, to ah, we lived about two miles out of town. I drove out there--rode my bicycle, my mother wouldn't sign the paper, and I had to go back in the fields where dad was to get him to sign the paper for me. Rode back to town. When I got there they were takin' their lunch break, so I still had to wait, and it was probably two or three 'o clock in the afternoon before I ever gotta give blood. And um, when I did, this woman, and I always did think she talked me into faintin' cause she kept sayin'” “are you all right, are you all right, are you sure you're all right” and I kept sayin'” “yes”, but you know what, I finally obliged her and just fainted, dead away! But, they gave you a sandwich and some orange juice and stuff, you know, but then I had to walk back out to the factory. But, I, I made it. But that was my first experience, and then I gave blood for a long time.
js: When a lot of the men started going to war did that change how the jobs were?
bm: Oh yes, I mean the jobs were so plentiful because, um, you know, because uh, the men were gone, so the women--where before the women were, before the women weren’t workin’ so much but the women then gotta go in and get the jobs. But when the men came home though, some of the women--well some of the women still gotta stay there, but a lot of ‘em lost their jobs because the guys’ time, and this was good, the guys’ time went on if he left, um the factory then, you know, his job was saved by goin’ to the war and then when he came back then his job was still there.
js: So when the men left, their jobs were held for them, and sometimes women would take their place while they were gone, but when the men came back they had to quit?
js: OK. Now we just want to talk about some of your experiences specifically related to the war. We were talking before the tape about rations and prices and stuff like that. Do you want to talk about that?
bm: That was something that we here at home, um, they had ration books--that’s what they were called--and they had stamps in ‘em and you had to have, um, these stamps in order to buy (laughs) well I’ve got it up here (refers to her notes) it was liquor. That never bothered me ‘cause I didn’t have to bother with that, but we had to have stamps for gas, for shoes, hose, for tires on your car, for sugar, for soap--laundry soap, for coffee for bacon. And we’d stand in long lines to get this stuff because, you know, you couldn’t get it without a stamp. And then sometimes they didn’t have ‘em, but you would know by the grape vine when it was gonna be in, and we’d all get up there, you know, and get in these big long lines in order to get this stuff. But that was interesting because, and I’m sure there were other things that we had to have stamps for. People would buy stamps off of ya, you know. I didn’t buy many tires or anything like that, and people were always wantin’ to get your stamps. But that was interesting.
js: So for the ration stamps did they give you more for the size of your family, or how did that work, as to how many ration stamps a family got?
bm: You know, I don’t really remember that, but surely they did. Um, my mom and dad had, you know, several kids, and I imagine you did get more.
js: Then if you ran out of something before you got your new ration stamps, then what did you do?
bm: You did without. You just learned to do without. (laughs) It was always interesting with shoes. I never bought many shoes, but a lot of women liked a lot of shoes, so I gave away a lot of my shoe stamps to other people.
js: You were also talking about how the prices of things were a lot different.
bm: Yes, now that was interesting to me. A cousin I have at, um, Anderson, she was sharin’ with me that she was five days in the hospital with her daughter, and um, it cost her a hundred and fifty dollars. And that is really somethin’ with the prices of today. But back then too, when you had a baby, they wanted you to stay in bed for several days, and you got to stay in the hospital longer. And then, when you went for a check up or anything to the doctor’s office, it was a dollar and a half. And that’s really somethin with comparin’ with the prices of today. And um, this same lady, ah worked in the trustees office, and every two weeks she got paid, and she got paid ninety dollars. And my brother, uh, he was tellin’ me that uh, he worked on a farm and he got paid a dollar a day. That wouldn’t work today would it? And then there was a favorite place of ours in, ah Alexandria. And that’s where I lived at the time. And um, it was called The Blue Kitchen, and they had the best hamburgers, and they were six for a quarter. Ice cream cones were a nickel. So we enjoyed those, but uh, they cost a little more now.
js: The prices that you mention seem very inexpensive to us now, but with the salaries that you got then, were they still that much cheaper or comparatively
bm: Well really, uh, when you think about, it my dad worked on a farm, he had a family, and he was paid seven dollars a week But they gave us, um, meat during the year, and you know, we could butcher a cow-um-a calf or a hog and um that would be our meat during the winter. And we also could raise a big garden, which my mother did. And um, also she always had lots of chickens, and we used the egg money to buy things off of the Huckster wagon. And, uh, I suppose so. When we think about how much--how little they made back then, a hundred and fifty dollars for five days in a hospital would’ve probably had to be on the installment plan or something, you know, because money wasn’t that plentiful.
js: You just mentioned the Huckster wagon, could you explain to me what that is?
bm: OK, a Huckster wagon was, ah, a grocery store on wheels, uh, it would go through the country, and uh, have everything. Most dry goods, not meats or milk or anything like that. But my mother would love, and us kids would love, to see the Huckster wagon come. Now this wasn't, this was before 1940, though. Um, us kids would get out there, and maybe get little bitty pieces of candy or something, you know, but ah, mother would change her eggs. She'd give them eggs, and then they'd pay her so much for the eggs. And then she would take out that much money in what she needed like oh, I don't know, they had lots of dry good things like flour and face powder and sodie (soda) and anything else. He'd come right to your door, and we'd always get a big kick out of that.
js: Did you have, during the war, did you raise a victory garden?
bm: Oh, we always had a garden.
js: What specific events--like during the war, battles or things like that--do any of those stick out in your mind?
bm: Well, of course, that was the year that um, they bombed Pearl Harbor and um, that, that really stuck out to us because that was a very bad situation.
js: And when that happened then war was declared right after that, right?
js: Is there any other stories or anything I didn't ask you about that you'd want to share at this time?
bm: Well, just um, you mentioned gardens. I lived in town in Alexandria and um, we had our garden, oh, probably half a mile from where ah, I lived. And I would get the little child in my go cart and um, haul him down to the garden and his older brother would take care of 'em while I was workin’ in the garden. And then if I gathered produce from the garden, then we'd pile it all in the go cart and um, pushed it back home. I never had a car of my own at that time so uh, you done a lot of things with your feet. Done a lot of walkin'--we all did-- we did a lot of walkin'.
js: You were saying something about aluminum foil, collecting it. Did you have a lot of things like that that you saved up?
bm: Well, we did, that was a war effort. You turned that back in. The kids at school all saved um, like their chewing gum wrappers or candy bar wrappers. You saved all of that tin foil, and you rolled it up in a small ball, and then you took it to school ah, and you added it to a bigger ball, and it was all turned in. Yeah, we all did that too. (laughs)
js: OK. Well, if there's nothing else that you want to say, we'll turn off the tape.
bm: All right.
js: OK. This is a continuation of the interview we started earlier, and so we're just going to go through these questions one more time. Could you please state your name and where we are?
bm: Betty Mottweiler, at 826 North 12th street, Elwood.
js: And do I have your permission to use an audio tape?
js: And do I have permission to turn this information in to my classes at Marion High School?
js: And do I have your permission to use this information for the Marion Community History Project?
js: OK. I have just a few more questions to ask you. First of all, in 1940 how old were you?
bm: How old was I in 1940? I was twenty five.
js: And you said that you were living in an apartment, what city was that in?
bm: That was in Alexandria.
js: Then when you got married, you moved out of the apartment. What kind of place did you move to ?
bm: Well the first one we moved into was a little three room house. And my husband, he had tried to go, I told you that, and so he got a little pension, and it was eleven dollars a month, was his pension, and that was exactly what we needed for the rent on our house, can you believe that? 'Course our house didn't have indoor plumbing so that, you know. But we thought that was really something, and we lived there for a short time, and then we moved into two other houses, I think within that first year, and then we, my father-in-law built a two room house on what they called the plate glass. And then we were, eventually, once we paid for the two room house, we were gonna build on, which we did. And that was the first houses that we lived in. Outside of, as you hear of a lot of tornadoes now, a tornado hit our house and really scared my husband, I mean I wasn't comfortable with it, but it really scared him, and so we moved back up to where was close to his parent’s house, and stayed there for a couple years.
js: And all these houses were in Alexandria?
js: OK. I just wondered if you could tell me a little bit more about your husband, like how you met and all that kind of stuff.
bm: 'Course that wasn't in 1940. But, um, I met my husband--oh yes it was, yes it was too in 1940. Yes, um, I met him, I had started workin' in an ice-cream parlor, and he came in and I sold him an ice-cream cone, and um, but he didn't notice me at first because I worked with a good lookin' cousin of mine, and he kinda went for her instead of me. But eventually, you know, when you hang in there, it will finally become yours! (laughs)
js: So when you were working in this ice-cream parlor, was that before you were working in the factory?
bm: Oh yes. I was only 16 when I was workin' in the ice-cream parlor.
js: OK. Last time, when we were doing the interview, we were talking about your brothers, and then you said something to me later, so do you want to clarify that?
bm: Yes. I would like to. Um, we talked about my two brothers bein' in the war at that time, but that wasn't the war they were in, they were in the Korean war which was in 1952. And so I did I wanted to tell you about that, because I thought they were in that other one, but I was informed that they were not. (laughs)
js: So there weren't any of your close relatives who were actually fighting in the war?
bm: No, just, well, my brother-in-law. I had two brothers-in-law that were in the service.
js: What about your children that were born during this time; what were their names and can you tell me more about them?
bm: OK. I'd like to tell you about Larry. You know, mothers are funny creatures. I was gonna have a girl, the first one. And, um, when Larry was born, I was totally shocked because I had a name picked out for a girl, Judy Kay. And so when Larry was born they told me I couldn't leave the clinic until I named him, and so I, I couldn't think of I thing, I, you know, was totally unprepared. And so I'd been listenin' to one of the soap operas on the radio, “Our Gals Sunday”, and there was a guy by the name of Larry that was on there, and I liked him, and so I thought "That's a good name.” so I named him Larry. And my brother-in-law's middle name is Eugene, and so I named him Larry Eugene. Then when the second child was gonna be born, I had, Larry was three, and I told um, Larry that we were gonna get him a little sister. We were gonna get Judy Kay this time. And so Larry told me he didn't want a little sister, he wanted a little Albert, which was what my husband’s name was, and so again, when I went to the hospital and they brought that precious baby in to me, it was a boy! So his name was Albert. And then when the third child was to be born I knew for sure that I would get Judy Kay. But when they brought that precious child out it was Michael, Michael Ray! So I didn't get Judy Kay. (laughs)
js: Where any of your children at the age to go to school during this time?
bm: Let me think, let me think. No I don't think so. No, because Larry, they would have been, no ‘cause see, I told you on here, Larry was born, that was my first son, in ‘45 and that was when the war ended. So he probably wouldn't have started school before 1950.
js: So they just stayed home with you?
js: Let's see. Did you have a radio in your house that you listened to?
js: Could you tell me about your favorite programs or stuff, or did you listen to it a lot?
bm: I didn't listen to it a lot. We listened more to news, and then if there was some good singing on or something, I usually listened to that, but to be hooked on some particular program, I don't think so.
js: In general what would you say of people's opinion at the time? Did most people seem to support the war or were they upset about what was going on?
bm: Yeah, I think people were generally upset. I remember one remark, though, a woman made one time, and it almost caused a fight. They were talkin’ about how the war, they thought, was gonna end. And this one woman said, well she hoped it wouldn't end before maybe six or eight months because she was buyin' a certain article, and she wanted to be able to work, and she knew when the soldiers and sailors and everybody come home that she would loose her job. But a mother that had a son in the service was very upset by her comment. But I think they were supported mostly by the public. Yeah.
js: So the people were pretty much patriotic?
bm: Oh, yes, yeah, they did seem to be patriotic.
js: During this time period, did people talk about the war a lot or was it more like "hush hush"?
bm: No, I think it was a lot of talkin' about it. I think we all did. It was always before us, you know, like I said with all the ration stamps and all those things we went through. Those were small things compared to what the servicemen went through, but I think it was constantly on our minds what was goin' on.
js: We talked earlier about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. How did you find out about that?
bm: Uh, you know what, I, it must have been on the radio. You know. We must have heard about it thataway. But that, that was a terrible, I mean that really put terror in your hearts, you know, you just thought since that happened you didn't know what else was gonna happen, and that was scary, really scary.
js: So were people afraid that maybe other places would be bombed?
bm: Yeah, I think we were, and when you don't know, you know, for sure um, yeah, it's just real scary.
js: You have some things written down that you wanted to talk about?
bm: I didn't tell any of these things on there? I thought I did. I haven't? OK. We had um, we weren't fortunate enough to think about buyin' a new car, but if you wanted a new car you had to put your name on a list because you couldn't just go in and buy a new car like we can today. You couldn't hardly even buy used cars, they were hard to get. And then tires were synthetic rubber tires. We also had recaps, but we also had the black market. (laughs) You could get a lot of things on the black market, and tires were one of those things that you could get. And they also asked the people to drive 45 miles an hour to save on gas. And they also had signs in car windows that said, "Is this trip really necessary?" because they were constantly thinkin' about savin' gas. And the wages in the factory were fifty cents an hour. And then this woman, I talked to a lady today, and she told me she worked in a restaurant for a dollar a day. And then if she got the opportunity to work on a holiday or on a Sunday, it was a dollar and a quarter. And um, gasoline was twenty five cents a gallon. And, but as soon as the war was over we could buy any of these things that you wanted to. I always thought that was kinda strange. I suppose though, if the war had a gone on, they were just tryin’ to conserve all of this stuff. But we were really happy when the war was over ‘cause we knew the guys were comin' home, and that was really good.
js: So did you have a car?
bm: We had a little Willy’s truck at that time. In fact, that's what I learned how to drive in. And you know, a man cannot show you how to drive. I don't know who taught you to drive, but um, my mother-in-law finally told me, she said “If you really want to learn how to drive, you'll take that truck out by yourself and just learn how to drive” and I did! (laughs)
js: I think we're just gonna stop the tape for a second. OK. We're back, and we just want to clarify one more thing. We said earlier that she was twenty five, would you like to tell us something about your age?
bm: (laughs) I would like to say that in 1940 I was fifteen years old, NOT twenty five! (laughs)
js: OK. I think that's all the questions I have to ask you, so thank you very much for doing this!
bm: I enjoyed every minute of it--especially having Julie Schafer come down from Marion.