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As part of Ohio’s Bicentennial Celebration, oral histories were collected from across Ohio and woven together in a play presented across the state throughout 2003. Stories of everyday Ohioans were organized around Ohio’s evolution from frontier days to the present. The following are from the Hicksville area.

Strange Creature

LARRY MAVIS: I live in Farmer, but my grandfather lived in Hicksville. He was born after the Civil War and I always remember him telling stories about how Defiance County was when he was a young man. We have him on tape somewhere, and it takes him 45 minutes to tell this story.

There was the village of Defiance and the smaller villages of Hicksville, Sherwood, Mark Center, Farmer, and Ney. In between there wasn’t much except tall trees and swampy land. One day Grandpa was walking through the country with his lunch pail. It was a nice fall day, and he sat down on a big, brown log covered with leaves to eat his lunch…. He noticed a few leaves moving beneath his feet. Pretty soon, more and more leaves started moving around down there, so he got up real quick and looked at the big brown log. It was a serpent this big around! It must have been twenty-five feet long with a spike at the end of its tail. It must have been left over from some other age. Grandpa backed off. He never did see that serpent again, but he was always a little more careful after that about where he sat.

Music Music Music

EDITH HART SMITH: My dad, O. V. Hart was written up in the Saturday Evening Post. He had a boy band…in Hicksville in the early 1900’s. Practices were held up over his jewelry store. Paul Schaeffer was a kid who came over from Fort Wayne. He played the trumpet, and he was a pistol. He just wouldn’t practice, so Dad took him by the nap of the neck and the seat of his pants. He held him out the window and said he’d drop him if he didn’t behave. He never had any trouble after that, and Paul became a whale of a trumpet player. Thirty of Hart’s boys joined up in World War I and that just closed the band.

Dad gathered some of his girl music students together…. In 1918 the Girl Band made their first tour. They had a special B & O coach with their name on the side. Our name is still up at the Corn Palace somewhere. The girls played the Huber; they gave a lot of concerts. I remember water dripping from the ceiling into my instrument. Do you think they ever got that leak fixed?

The Depression

BETTY WONDERLY: I was born in 1929, just before the crash. Dad lost his job and his money when the banks closed in Frankfort, Indiana. We moved to Defiance where he had a job as a mechanic. A family of relatives came to live with us. Mom cooked well and made our clothes. Dad continued to work as a mechanic. Aunt Margaret wasn’t too handy around the house, so she worked in the dime store. We raised our own food the best we could. Our ground wasn’t as good as the Six Corners ground around Hicksville, but we didn’t know we were poor. The poor people were the ones who were on the street begging.

DONAL WONDERLY: I’m the third oldest of a family of nine children who lived on the farm. I, too, was born in 1929 before the stock market crash. We didn’t know we were poor, either. We had one pair of pants and one pair of shoes, and they were all handed down. We had our church clothes—knickers. Farm children didn’t wear overalls into town—it was a sign of being poor. As soon as spring came, we went barefoot. Spring came earlier then. It seems that one day in March we woke up and it was spring, and it stayed that way.

Rural Cooking

MINDI INBODEN: My grandma and grandpa had their own farm with lots of animals. I can remember plopping a big liver on the counter and making jelly. Boy, it smelled good! My kids won’t know about those things.

MILLIE MILLER: When Bob and I moved to Edgerton, we were married five years and the kids were little. We always went somewhere else to eat for the holidays, but one Thanksgiving I volunteered to cook the meal. I was so proud of myself; it was a beautiful dinner. The mashed potatoes were beautiful. The chicken was beautiful. It all looked so good until we cut the chicken open. I’d left the craw in. Boy! My company—they were all farmers and they knew what it was. How they laughed!

MARGARET BRICKEL: Well, I think I can top Millie’s story. Jim came home at noon and he said, “I’ll kill the chicken and pluck the feathers, and you clean it.” I said I didn’t know how. He said that everyone does. I sat down and cut the legs and wings off, but I didn’t know what to do next. Jim cam home five hours later expecting a nice chicken dinner. The chicken was sitting there just where I left it. No legs, no wings, and nothing else done.

World War II

NORMA SMITH: (March 15, 1942) Dear Diary — Carl and I went to the show in Hicksville, “One Foot in Heaven.” Wrote a letter to Budd and took it downtown and mailed it. (July 8) Dear Diary — Budd’s birthday. First time he wasn’t home for his birthday. Canned seven quarts of cherries. (Undated) Gas rationing starts today. Four gallons a week. Churchill broadcast from London today. Very good talk. Read of the death of Carl Mehring’s son. First casualty from Defiance County.

GRACE AGLER: Something happened during World War II that I want to tell you about. Snooks was just a baby and I went over to Kermit’s family in Van Wert to spend Christmas Eve with them. There was a report of bad weather coming in, so I told them I’d stay for dinner, then head right back to Hicksville. All the way back I had this feeling, and I was the last one through Sherwood before they closed the road. I found out later that all that time I had that feeling, Kermit was in a barn in France and the buzz bombs were flying over. He finally decided to get out…just afterward one of those buzz bombs hit the barn. And all that time—he’d had a bad feeling too—about me. We had both been feeling the same way at the same time.

School Days

ALLEN HILBERT: The big kids had moved every commercial wagon, coal and lumberyard, agricultural, to the Hicksville school where they were disassembled, the parts mixed in such a way that no one would ever restore them…. After the mess was cleared…a much more difficult problem to solve was discovered. There was a cow in the school office!

The Blizzard of 1978

PETER GREER: The night before the storm struck, Dad and I stepped onto the porch to find a still, calm, windless evening…and in a moment of cockiness, my father summed up his feelings of the forecast by a certain gesture to the weather. Dad changed his tune a few hours later, and, until the day he died, he always believed that he caused the infamous blizzard of ’78.

MARY SMITH: After a few days the snowplows went through so roads were clear, but sidewalks generally were not. Evidently, one lady developed cabin fever. She set off for town on foot, but got stuck at the bottom of her front steps. Dad and I tried to pull her out of the snow, but it took a third passer-by for us to make any progress. Luckily, she had not been out there too long, and she was fine after she got warmed up!

Working

GRACE AGLER: I ran a beauty shop from 1960 until 1990. For me it was a late-in-life business. I was 44 years old when I went to school, but it was a business that was much needed in Hicksville at the time…. It’s part of your training to take into consideration the person you were working on and what will make their life easier.

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