Jerrold Greene

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From: Jerrold Greene (jg)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: Thursday, April 29, 1999
Place: Residence of Jerrold Greene, 1401 Marlin Drive. Marion, IN 46952
Collected by: Kenny Daily (kd)

0:00 kd: This is April 29, 1999. This is being recorded at 1401 Marlin Drive. I am speaking with Jerrold Greene. Please state your name.

jg: Jerrold Greene.

kd: Do I have your permission to interview you?

jg: Yes.

kd: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to Marion High School?

jg: Yes.

kd: Do I have your permission to submit this interview to the Marion Public Library?

jg: Yes.

0:27 kd: O.K., thank you. Um, you can start off telling me a little bit about your life as a child in Marion, and where you lived, how you grew up.

jg: I came to Marion when I was about five years old, uh, my first home in Marion is now a convenience station at the corner of Second and the Bypass. That was, uh, the first place we lived in Marion. At that time what is now the highway was a gravel road. Uh, there was not much out there, at uh, great place for little kids to run around and not worry about gettin’ hurt. (laughs)

1:14 kd: What did you do for fun when you grew up? What was there in Marion to do for a child?

jg: There wasn’t a whole lot to do, Uh, run around like kids do, uh, we uh, well it was quite a few years before the skating rink came in, and that was a very popular place for a while, but uh, really it was just entertain yourself like kids do.

kd: Well, who, Who were some of the people that you would associate with when you were a kid?

jg: Well, that’s going to be tough, that’s going way back. Uh…(cough) In the early days I can’t really can’t remember, Umm. I can see some of those kids but I couldn’t give you a name, it’s virtually impossible. As I grew up later on, uh, it’s still a little difficult to pick out people, mostly they were kids I knew in school, uh, by the time I was ready to go to school we were living out around 22nd and Adams street, we went to school at, uh, I can’t tell you, they tore it down. But mostly it was games kids play (inaudible) softball, baseball, um, usually in very small areas, because there weren’t any large areas out in (inaudible) at that time.

3:08 kd: Alright, Could you tell me a little bit about your life in school, elementary school, high school, all the way through what you like, what subjects you liked, about, about the school itself?

jg: Well, elementary school was not that pleasant of an experience. Uh, all of the teachers were older women, and I mean, probably close to my age. They were not interesting. We had one principal, male principal, who would get out on the lot and play with the kids, but the female teachers didn’t want too much to do with us really, tough enough job I guess in the classroom, beyond that they didn’t want to do it. After grade school I went to McCulloch, and uh, the main thing I remember about that was the walk to get there. There and back, and it didn’t make it didn’t make any difference what the weather it was you had to walk it. Um, Later on after I left McCulloch, the city transit system, electric streetcars, offered passes for uh, school kids. And that made going to Marion High School much, much easier. Uh, I can remember there were a couple of teachers in junior high school, and I remember I didn’t like them very much. I still remember one, who, had a school play at one time, it cost ten cents to get in, during the Depression. And I wasn’t going to ask my mother for a dime because of that play. So because I didn’t go I was the only student in the room who didn’t go to the play, the teacher had to stay in the room with me, and she let me know that she really didn’t care for that. (laughs) That’s the one thing I remember about her, I’ve seen her later in life, she’s dead now, but, uh, that was always the first thing that came to my mind, but…she objected that I wouldn’t ask my mother for a dime to go to the student play. Uh, well when I got into high school it was a much better experience. I can remember the Ballinger sisters, Julie and Jessie. Julie taught English, and uh, Jessie taught math. Uh, two of the most impressive teachers I ever knew. They were old maids, lived within walking distance of the high school, and they were the best teachers that I have ever known. They knew how to get a subject across, uh, and they made every effort if they thought you were lagging just a little bit, make an effort to talk to you at noon hour, even though we weren’t supposed to be in the high school at noon hour. They would break the rules themselves. The come in, and we’ll work on this. Uh, then there was Carol (inaudible). She was an English Literature teacher. When I found out I had to take, uh, English Literature I had no desire for it but there was no way to get out. But, she made that so interesting that kids were anxious to go to her classes, and we could have fun with her, reading McBeth. She would read it, and she would act it out, she would act the various parts out, and we would have to read it to ourselves, and she make us get up and go through the acting motions that she did. It got to the point where everybody really liked that class. She ended up getting dumped from the system, I don’t know why. She went to uh, Ball State to teach over there from the High School so uh somebody realized that she was an excellent teacher. There was a little bit of clique, cliques in the school. Uh, but if you just learned to ignore them, they didn’t bother you too much. That, that school was up on the hill, uh, where the retirement home is now. Rather crowded school, I can tell you that. But uh, high school experiences were good. Except for the fact that it was, (cough) during the war, and uh, I didn’t go to my graduation, because some how it was a matter I turned 18 while I was still in school. And I already had my notice of when I was going to have to show up for the army. And that kinda killed everything. I didn’t really want to participate in that. It didn’t really mean too much, I did get my diploma, the sent that in the mail to me. But uh, it was a really great school, a pretty decent place. Most of the troublemakers that you run into particularly in Junior High, never went on to high school. Never saw them again after uh, junior high, and uh, that made it a little better, a little quieter. Guess nobody minded because the school was too crowded anyhow.

8:58 kd: Well, you mentioned a little bit about the Depression, what do you remember about sacrifices that you had to make during the Depression?

jg: Well you know in my mind, I don’t remember any sacrifices. My dad had a business in a welding shop. I remember going down, my mother kept books in his office, going down on Saturday evenings, they worked six days a week, and watched him pay people off that would come into work with a bag full of live chickens, a crate of eggs. My mother used to get sides of pork, quarter of a beef. She would have to take that home, and cut it up and can it, before going back to work again on Monday. For my parents I think it was pretty tough, for a kid, uh, we never went with out a meal. Well, I say nobody did, I don’t know if nobody did but we never did. And there was always a neighbor, somebody that would help you with anything they could help you with, uh…We were just young kids and my mother was working, and the neighbors took everybody under their wing, all the kids in the neighborhood, you know, and they disciplined you, if you were out there doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing they get right to it. Then of course your parents would find out about it when you got home. Uh, but as I remember it, it was a pretty nice time, it wasn’t all that bad, except as I said my parents were always worried, uh, my father stayed in business until 1938 and he went bankrupt in the Depression, in the middle of, I mean a recession in the middle of the Depression in 1938. And he immediately restarted another business, and that’s the one we’re running today. Uh, I don’t know if I could have done the things he did or not, he had some kind of strength, but, I don’t think I could have kept (inaudible).

11:15 kd: Well, what do you remember about working for your dad?

jg: Well, we worked my older brother and I, started working while we were still in Junior High School. We were running lays, welding machines, and drill presses. Strictly against the law but…It was wartime, and you couldn’t hire people. Everybody was employed, so in order to get his machines done he’d go out and sell a machine come back and we’d build it, he’d take it out and deliver it, we’d work while he was gone, um, I would never let my own kids do that but with him it was a matter of necessity, if he was going to get anything done, the only help he had was going to have to do it. Uh, after I came out of the army and went to work for him, things were pretty tough at that time because they allocated material during the war and they kept up these allocations after like steel, cast iron and so forth and so on. So, he could only work part of the year, and he then had some ground, he farmed the ground and then fall came and we were back in the plant and by that time we had accumulated enough steel and gray iron. We could start building machines again, and uh, at that time I smoked for cigarette money. I would put in 50, 60 hours a week and get paid 10 dollars, and of course living at home I had no expenses, but it finally came together, and turned it into a successful business. He uh, he retired about the beginning of ’55, and turned it over to three boys, and said you run it. (It worried him quite a bit I know it because he would come back up from Florida and see what we were doing with it. You could just see he (laughs) was scared to death about what we were going to do with the business. So, all in all it hadn’t been bad, it’s getting worse today than what it ever was before as far as regulation, (cough) government lookin’ over your back, to see what you’re doing, telling you how to do it, when you can do it, and, that’s the most irritating part now, we uh, been in business a lot of years, teaching people how to do our accounting, but now we have a CPA do the accounting, because there are so many regulations, so many rules, so many laws, that you just can’t, you can easily make a mistake and get in deep trouble.

14:14 kd: You were talking about the political aspect of that, what was, the, your view of politics when you…anytime you were younger?

jg: Well, basically my dad was very conservative, and I think that was ingrained in all of us. Um, he got in trouble with the NRA, um, some of the things that he did that we'd always done and he didn't see any reason why we shouldn't go on doing them. Eventually the NRA was declared unconstitutional, and, his problems all disappeared. But uh, they told him that he had to participate in uh, I forget what the name of the parade was, Parade of Progress or something like that with all the businesses. A little like Communist Russia, where they tell you to come down you're gonna be there, and uh, he was struggling with a business and didn't want to be there but they told him he had to be. And uh, it, In my mind it was kind of a bad sign because, because of the problems that so many people had, there were so many politicians, that would get out there and tell you anything, you do this, and we’ll make things great for ya, really the only thing that made things great for the largest part of the country was World War II. I can remember 1939 before we ever got into the war, the foundry on the south side of Marion that had been closed for years, suddenly opened, it was making castings, uh. The old Indiana Truck Company, which had been closed for years, it opened and they were building Garford trucks for the British. Um, Anaconda started rehiring, they uh, didn't have so many people at the beginning but by the end of the war they had a lot of people, um. That's really what brought us out of the Depression. People can talk about all the credit they want for getting us out, but the war got us out.

16:40 kd: Well, back to your dad's business. What kind of work did he do, uh, what did he produce and who did he produce it for?

jg: Well, the first business was strictly welding shop. Uh, arc welding was something new and he had learned it, uh working for a Harness Figure Corporation (?) in Milwaukee, he decided to open his own welding shop. He first went to Indianapolis, but he'd been through Marion several times while he was traveling for the Harness Figure Corporation (?). Finally he decided that, we were living in the Speedway, that he wanted to come up here. And uh, course he went into business for himself in September, well September, it was a month before the stock market crashed. So it was a pretty poor time to be starting a business, but he managed to hang on till 1938, and then uh, he lost that and he started this company. The welding shop was just a repair shop. We worked for ground companies around here, and uh, farmers. None of them had very much money to pay, uh, we started this company, started with a uh, paper conditioner for corrugated box industry, and uh, that was a success and from there we went into uh, at that time semi-automatic stackers uh, roll stands. And it just kinda grew from there. It's a lot different today than it was then, today almost everything's computerized controlled, and uh, uh, much different than it was. The stackers have to be automatic, not semi-automatic. Because they want to run a big die cutter or printing press with two people, they don't want three or four people on there doing manual work. It's about mostly what I remember about it, except some of terrifying times when business would fall, nothing available, and that’s, 1980 was probably the worst time I can remember. We only laid off two times in the history of this company, 1980 was one time, and I don't remember when else, about five or six years before that. We try to keep people working, we're doing that now, business is slow, because paper companies are not making money, and uh, they don't want to spend it. We’re fighting to keep the people we've got working for as long as we can anyhow. It looks like things are going to turn around. Business can be a lot of fun a lot of worry, and, sometimes not so much fun.

20:06 kd: Something else I thought about, what do you remember about the downtown area of your youth and on through?

jg: well, uh…

kd: Sort of how it's changed, maybe.

jg: It's changed quite a bit. When I was a kid, there were two A&P grocery stores on the corner of the square. There were two meat markets down there, one on the square and one about half a block off of the square. Um, Saturday nights was jammed, everybody went to downtown on Saturday nights and do whatever they had to do. I don’t think there was an empty store down there at that time. Some had been closed during the Depression but they were open by that time. Uh, it was, it was a place where everybody had to go. Groom's Drugstore, down on the uh, south side of the square, all the kids had to go in there, it would be so packed, kids suckin', sittin' around sucking on a Coke, and, uh, they were supposed to be selling drugs but they had so many kids in there it was a bit hard to do. (laughs) But uh…well I remember too that there was a dance hall right on the corner of uh, Adams and uh, 4th Street. I don't know what they call it, I was never in there because by the time they closed it, I was, it was before I got old enough that they closed it. But uh, there were a lot of good things down there, and, there wasn't so much in the neighborhoods because you know there weren't any malls then, but. Downtown seemed the place for every kind of business.

21:58 kd: Well, was it sort of a, uh, when you went to, when you went there, was it sort of a family outing?

jg: Well early on yeah. I went out with my mother. Later on it was just a place for kids to hang out. Saturday nights you had to go downtown. And uh, never gettin' in to trouble, I don't remember anybody having any trouble down there. But that's where you had to go, if you didn't do anything but stand on the corner and watch the traffic go by. And it was all bumper-to-bumper in all directions. It's a shame, they let it get away. Uh, many things contributed. Uh, the automobile for one thing. It got to the point where you went downtown in an automobile you had no place to put it. And then when they started building on the outskirts (cough) the car could get you there. And people just gradually disappeared from downtown. And it uh, something we sorely need today, I think, but I don't think it will ever happen. Those old buildings down there, cost too much to (inaudible) updating them, uh, for a new business. I know their trying but, if I was going to start a business, I'd be out on the Bypass someplace, not put up a new building. Probably just as cheap as putting one of those old buildings in shape. On the square again, there was, at least off the square was the Spencer Hotel, and over on 4th Street was the Marion Hotel. Marion Hotel burned down, and of course Spencer, they closed it and turned it into that County Complex. Uh, there was a little bit of everything down there. Now we've got decorative street lights, that's about it.

24:16 kd: Um, back to your war experience. When you went into the war, what were you drafted for?

jg: Uh, (coughs) Well, at that time you were drafted and they told you where you were going, whether it was Navy, Marines, or Army, and they sent me to the infantry. Basic training was supposed to have been sixteen weeks, and they cut ours off at twelve weeks because of the Battle of the Bulge, and sent us home for a week, and then we had to go to Fort Dickson, and we were shipped overseas. I joined the 106th division, which was decimated by the Battle of the Bulge, and uh, in a way I was lucky because they had so many recruits they had to go through a whole new training program and uh, while we were training the war finally ended. Uh, I'm liked most of the veterans you hear complaining about lack of veteran benefits. I never heard a shot fired in anger. Uh, and, most of these so-called veterans have not. Cuz most of us were back someplace behind the lines, doing what we could do for those who were on the lines. But I uh, when 106th came home, I didn't have enough time overseas to call home so they transferred me to Engineer Battalion and we took over army dumps of all kinds of material- everything from oil line pipes to insulation to tactical timber, which is big timbers, 14, 18 inches in square that they used to build bridges with. And we loaded all that stuff on trains and shipped it to Germany, well some of it. We ah, oil pipe was sold to a company in Switzerland, and that was one of my worst experiences, working with these guys from Switzerland. They didn't believe in shaking hands they always wanted to kiss you. And when your dodging men trying to kiss you (laughs) you're in…you know. They were working with us for about 3 months and I never got kissed because I knew what they were trying to do! (laughs) That's their way, they think that's the right way to do it. And after that, I was shipped into Germany and we had displaced Polish soldiers that didn't want to go home because they didn't want to go back to Communist. And uh, I placed those as guards on dumps. Worked 24 hours on, 24 hours off posting guards. Uh, but the same problem in the (inaudible) collecting all this material. We had German PW's doing the work. And Uh, those that were going to the American zone were anxious to get out and go home, and those that were going to the Russian zone, uh, didn't want to go, so. (sneezes) Excuse me. I had in my office German secretary. And I found out after a while he was arranging escapes cuz he knew what cars were going where, and what they were going to be carrying. They fill these cars up with little voids in em', and then steal lard and bread, and that's what they'd eat on the trip was bread on, uh, lard on a, the bread, and eat it. After I found out what was going on, I talked to him and found out why. This was mostly guys that were going to get shipped back to the Russian Zone .So I figured the heck with it, and let it go on. Uh, they weren't about to hurt anybody, most of the people they had in that camp were what they called the (German word, ---macht). They secretary that I had was drafted at age 16, right towards the end of the war. And we had people as old as, one of em' was 68 when he was drafted, to go fight. They couldn't fight, they didn't know how. They ended up getting captured. And uh, figured they'd been through enough in their lifetime. We didn't have any of the real Nazi's in that camp. Pretty decent people most of them.

29:34 kd: Well, what do you remember about when you came back from the war, how much things had changed, or what do you remember about coming back from the war?

jg: Well, the one thing I remember was that most of the people I knew that I had run around with before the war were gone. Uh, at that time the army was sending me to college, and my dad was willing to send me to college, and he wanted me to go to Purdue, but uh...I'd been told (tape ends) I waited until I just got plain out of the mood of ever going. If I had signed up as soon as I got home, I could have gotten in the fall semester at Purdue. But then uh, when it was too late for that, they said well check the spring enrollment because a lot of people will be dropping out. Well at spring I wasn't ready to sign up yet, I thought I'd wait a little longer. And I waited until I got married and then I never went. I don't know that I missed it, uh, I learned a lot along the way of working, I may not be the best business operator in the world but I'm better than some I know went to college. When I got back, it was kinda strange that uh so many of the people I knew, some of them stayed on in the military, some of them had uh, gone to college, others of them got back to Marion and just picked up and went someplace else. Uh, It was probably six or eight months before I located a lot of the people I used to run around, some of them, not a lot of them. But, the town itself had changed. Saturday nights downtown was not what it used to be. A bunch of kids in cars just running circles around the square, and uh, I wasn't into that. If I was going to drive I was going to go someplace, not run in circles. That’s about all I remember about that stage. It was kind of strange.

32:47 kd: Well when you went to the war did um, was it people that you knew from school and that were same age as you go with you?

jg: Virtually everybody. I had a friend who was blind in his left eye and he was left-handed. And when we got down to Indianapolis to the Armory he told the doctor that. And the doctor said that's all right we can teach you to shoot right-handed. Uh, there was very little other than being a consciencous objector that would get you out of it, and I didn’t know too many of those. There was only one in my circle of friends who decided he wouldn't go, and he thought he might end up a medic, but they never called him, just let it ride.

33:40 kd: Did you all go to the same place?

jg: No, scattered all over. I went to uh, Fort McClellan, Alabama. 2 or 3 others did, but the others were just scattered all over. Um, Fort McClellan was a real experience. We rode in on trucks, and we saw these beautiful stone buildings, great, you know this is going to be a good place to stay. But they kept on driving till they past all these beautiful stone barracks. And then we got out there and we saw the little tarpaper shacks, standing up on legs about 3-4 feet off the ground, that's where we were going. Should have known it I guess. Course we didn’t have to stay there too long, that was good. But it was kind of a feeling of resignation after you graduated from high school. You knew you were going. Uh, wasn't much choice to it.

35:00 kd: Well when you returned from the war did you immediately begin working again for your dad or did you…

jg: Yeah, I think I got a week off. Then it was time to go back to work. (laughs) All three of us brothers went to work about as fast as we got out. Uh, I did know some others like every war since then, just couldn't resign themselves to going back to work. Ended up drunk every night, uh, and I don't think the army had anything to do with that. I don't think the war had anything to do with that. I think it was probably second nature to them, they thought somebody else would take care of them. They had a program, I forget what it was. But you could draw cash for 52 weeks after you got out. Wasn't a whole lot of cash, but it was enough for a lot of them, they just didn't care. Something like 52-20. 20 dollars a week for 52 weeks. Some guys of course, in 1926, 27 could live on that. Marion itself has changed an awful lot. You talk about downtown, anyplace. This area right out here where we live it was all cornfields, just a few years ago, um, and we just keep spreading, we go west of here spreading out into the county. Talk about a lack of building of houses in Marion, well, there's a lot of em' built out in the county right on Miller Ave. is city limits, they just jump across the line and build em' there. And, supposed they feel it’s the thing to do. When I thought when we built this house I wanted something in the city. I had city water, city sewers, city streets. I figured it made sense.

37:41 kd: How long have you lived here?

jg: Well, we move here in 1980, in the fall of 1980. Before that we lived over in the National Home District between uh, Wabash Ave. and Western Ave., out by 5 points. That was a, bought a house there in 1952 when I got married, and that place, that where our kids grew up. It was crawling with kids. (laughs) Talk about the baby boom after the war. (inaudible) Now I think it's primarily retired people.

38:37 kd: Well, when did you get married?

jg: January 1952. First son was born in October of '52 and our daughter was born in October of '53. Started a family very early. That's about all I can remember.

kd: How did you meet your wife?

jg: Oh, I knew her since she was 11 or 12 years old, she used to hang around the house with my sister. And uh, I waited until she was 18, and then I asked her out. She was 20 when we got married. It seems to be a big difference today, really don’t get married at all, and if you get married it's at 17 or 18 years old.

40:09 kd: Well is there anything else about Marion as a young kid that you remember?

jg: Well I just remember it as a real little kid, we had free reign. We were all over Marion, uh, we didn't have to worry about getting hurt crossing the street or anything like that it just never happened. Because what cars there were were pretty old and they moved pretty slow. But your library is an example they didn't even have a parking lot down there. Today you couldn't open up without having a parking lot.

41:18 kd: You remember anything about sports in Marion, cuz I knew there were some, I don't know long ago that was, there were some baseball teams…

jg: I don't…I don't think there was a baseball team. Football team, Basketball team, um, neither one of them very good. The coaches (inaudible) me because as tall as I am at that time I was one of the taller kids in school. And uh, but I, I couldn't dribble a ball with out kicking it, I couldn't do anything so there was no point In trying. But uh, big difference between kids today and when I went to school as far as height is concerned, I don't know what it is, you probably got to eat better than we did. (laughs) That's about what I remember, not very much, should have called me ten years ago, I could have remembered more.

42:41 kd: (laughs) Well, that will pretty much do it. Thank you very much for your time.