Bleimes Family History

Chapter 1. George (5)


4939 N. High St., circa 1930

Born in 1923, I lived with my parents George R and Eva M Bleimes in the “East End” of Columbus, Ohio. A couple of years later we moved north beyond the city limits to a spot on US 23 (N. High St.) about halfway between the edges of Columbus and Worthington. The house was a two-story frame of nine rooms owned by my mother’s mother, Bertha R Seville, who lived with us.

 
About 1927 mother and grandmother opened a dining establishment in our house that they called a “tea-room” and named it The Delawanda. Seating for customers was in the three front rooms. They had a 12’ X 20’ room added to the back for a kitchen and a first floor lavatory installed. Usually there were from one to three employees, one or two of whom might live on the premises. There was a former chicken/rabbit shed along the rear of the

north property line on the back lot, roughly 10’ X 60’. It was equipped with a heating stove, a couple of cots and not much else. One or two of the employees could live there. Picture below is this shed with employee “Lightning” Henderson. Circa 1930.

The tea-room was closed in the early 1930’s.

My earliest memory is of riding with my parents in our 1928 Hudson sedan to the hospital for a
tonsillectomy. They used ether for an anesthetic, which caused me to hallucinate and imagine I heard very unpleasant music.

My mother had been an elementary-level teacher before marriage and was critical of the “country” schools of the Worthington School District. Therefore my parents paid tuition for me to attend Columbus schools. Columbus buses did not come out as far as our home, so I had to ride the street car (trolley car). The fare was six cents; if you bought a strip of tickets they were five for a quarter.

Elementary and junior high (years one through nine) were neither a challenge nor of interest to me. The system allowed me to skip the second half of second grade.

My aptitude for mechanical things led me into a metal-working shop class in junior high. The teacher was a hard-nosed middle-aged man who emphasized his shop rules with smacks using an 18” steel ruler. He also sold Oldsmobile cars and flew sight-seeing flights on weekends out of Port Columbus in a ten-passenger Stinson Tri-Motor airplane. In about 1936 my father gave in to my begging for permission and gave me the money for one of those flights. It was my first, and it got me hooked.

About a year later I had a ride in an open cockpit biplane, for a total of two flights before entering the army.

My father was a traveling salesman. He sold– in the time of my memory – stoves to retailers as a factory representative. He had many customers scattered all over Ohio, as well as a department store in Detroit. His usual operation was to leave Monday morning on a trip that would get him back home sometime Friday. Then he would have to finish his paperwork and mail it to the factory by Sunday. We often drove down to Union Station Sunday to mail his orders right in the railroad’s mailbox so they would get on the night train to Chicago. (via Joliet)

So, in a way, I had a father about one day a week, except for his vacation time when he usually had a retail fireworks stand on our property for the ten to fourteen days before the Fourth of July.

We loved fireworks and shot off all that were left from the stand, plus some that were specially saved or purchased. It was a double celebration as my father claimed the Fourth as his birthday.

George R. Bleimes, Harold Burmeister, George Bleimes (5), Bob Korn (neighbor).

In our early teens a neighbor buddy and I would modify or make fireworks to be louder, or to go higher than standard items. We were mostly successful and never injured ourselves.

Vacations were rare. My memory only recalls a few week ends at Indian Lake, Ohio, a couple of trips to Manistique Lake in Northern Michigan and some short jaunts to Chicago in conjunction with a stop at the stove factory. Chicago was fun because we visited the Ketzel’s, Dad’s sister’s family.


Dad did find time to teach me to drive, and since he was quite skilled himself and demanded proper practices, I learned good techniques. At that point we owned a 1934 Plymouth. In the summer of 1936 the Ohio Highway Patrol administered my drivers’ tests (in a borrowed car that I had never before seen) and issued my drivers’ license at age 13.


George R Bleimes' 1934 Plymouth in Michigan

In January 1938 my father suddenly and unexpectedly died in his bed at home of angina at the age of 46. He had no life insurance, and virtually no savings. My mother was devastated and had a very difficult time adjusting to her new position, at age 44, as head of a household that included her mother, age 72, and me, age 14.

The year 1938 was a time of recession after a few years of slow recovery from the deep depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929. In this atmosphere it was nearly impossible to find a job, especially for a woman. Although she was an accredited Columbus teacher until her marriage sixteen years prior, there were no positions available. In later years she taught at the Perry Township Elementary school.

The two ladies had a sign made that read Tourist Rooms for the front yard and arranged some sleeping rooms in the house. Even at the modest price of $2 per night, there were few customers.

The war in Europe started in 1939 and as the United States edged into war material production, the Navy built a facility at Port Columbus that became known as the Curtiss-Wright Plant, as it was ear-marked to build Curtiss military aircraft. When they started hiring my mother got a filing clerk job that lasted until the end of the war. At age 16 I started working in gas stations. Also as a result of increasing munitions production, an out-of-town die-tool maker was transferred to a Columbus job and needed a place to set up his house-trailer (mobile home.) Odd circumstances had led him to ask if he could park it on a semi-permanent basis on our back lot. It was agreed upon and over a period of years this grew into a full-fledged mobile home park of sixteen spaces, using the back lot and the area on the north side of the house. The two car garage was made into a laundry room, lavatories and storage.

[Mobile Home Map]


Gas station work - Worthington, Ohio, c. 1940.
Although my mother had concerns about good education, she never found time to advise me of the need or value of proper study habits. Therefore I almost never opened a book – other than pulp magazines that dealt mostly with aviation – and spent little time in any kind of studying. This caught up with me in my senior year (1940) when I became ineligible to graduate and quit school. The next couple of years were spent working in gas stations and learning about cars, which was fairly enjoyable. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor I started looking at the armed services for a position in the expanding forces with a number of my friends. The draft was calling men of 21-38 years, and not yet for 18-year-olds, but they accepted the younger ones who volunteered. Not being eligible for flight training, I checked other avenues and decided to join a neighbor friend in enlisting in the Marine Corps. They gave us a preliminary physical exam, and my friend failed it. At this point I changed my mind, not wanting to go alone, and bowed out. Having no further plans, we just fell back to vacillating.

In about June of 1942 the Army reduced their academic eligibility requirements for taking Aviation Cadet Candidates and I fit the new pattern. By July I had passed the exams and signed on. Then there was a waiting period of X number of months until I could actually start the training. Having nothing better to do, I moved to ‘Aunt’ Lyndall’s home in Detroit and got a job with Dodge Motor Car Co. as an inspector of small parts. This job lasted until my notice from the Army to report for duty in January 1943 at Ft. Hayes, Columbus.

Life as a cadet candidate began with being issued a standard army uniform, except for shoes because they didn’t have my size, 13B. Regardless, they sent me off to the Nashville, TN, processing center where a multitude of tests were performed – physical, psychological, aptitude, etc. They also had some brogans (GI shoes). Now I could walk/march legally. Test results earmarked you for one of three categories of cadet training: pilot, bombardier, navigator, or - if none of those - an assignment in the “walkin’ army.” They qualified me for pilot training, which also ordains one a cadet, and I was supposed to be issued identifying insignia and oxfords. Once again, no size 13’s.

But off we went to Montgomery, AL for pre-flight school. - Large Base supply.
Large warehouse. No size 13 oxfords. This called for an emergency purchase order to be issued so that I could go into the city and buy the civilian equivalent of low-cut army shoes with public money.

Next came primary flying school at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL where we all either learned to fly the Stearman biplanes - or failed, which was called “washing out.”

Stearman PT-17 biplane trainer. Florida, 1943.
Then back to Montgomery for basic flying training at Gunter Field in a plane known as the “Vultee Vibrator.” My last assignment as a cadet was to attend either a single-engine or a twin-engine advanced flight school. The general (loose) premise was to point the cadet to either fighter planes or bombers and transports. My choice was for single-engine school which got me sent to Napier Field at Dothan, AL. I graduated November 3, 1943.

About this point in time the Army Air Corps decided it needed more bomber pilots than it had graduated from twin-engine schools, so about 30 percent of single-engine jocks were grabbed to fly multi-engine aircraft. This decision directed me to a job as a co-pilot trainee on B-25 Mitchell’s at Greenville, SC.

With a 3-week break for a hernia operation, my training on a specific crew was completed in April, 1944. As a single crew we went to Savannah, GA to pick up a new combat-ready airplane and fly it to Homestead, FL for overseas processing. None of us had been out of the country before then, and now we were to fly this bird to North Africa and receive an assignment there. Good thing they gave us a map. The one-night stops along the way were as follows: Borinquen Field, Porto Rico; Georgetown, British Guiana; Belem, Brazil; Natal, Brazil. We had a couple of days in Natal then we chugged east with daily stops: Ascension Island; Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana); Dakar, French West Africa (now Senegal); Marrakech, Morocco; and to our temporary destination of Telergma, Algeria (near Constantine). Telergma does not appear on most modern maps and it’s OK with me if it has disappeared. It consisted mainly of hot, dry sand which was blown into everything, including our food, luggage and airplanes.

This base was supposed to provide combat-specific training and then an
assignment to a combat unit. We only received the latter. They sent us to the 489th Squadron, 340th Bomb Group of the 57th Wing in the 12th Air Force, located on the east coast of Corsica. The town near our base was Ghisonaccia. So in the middle of May 1944, just before my 21st birthday, we joined the unit that would be home for the duration of our involvement in the Mediterranean scrap.


B-25 bomber – 340th Bomb Group. – Corsica 1944.

Normal accommodations were eight-man pyramidal tents assigned to four men, (in this respect we were rich.) Our crew was broken up and we were scattered to other crews.

Life on Corsica was not unpleasant; moderate weather, seashore nearby, somewhat friendly natives and distanced from the ground fighting. We flew bombing missions mostly to Italy to hit targets chosen to disrupt German mobility. These were usually bridges, railroad marshalling yards, tunnel entrances, etc. German opposition to our efforts was quite variable, depending on their priorities and resources. Although we considered some places that had a lot of anti-aircraft defense (flak) to be “hot” targets, overall we didn’t lose a lot of planes. Even enemy fighters were a rare sight.

By December my quota of 70 missions was fulfilled. Of those 65 were to Italy, four to Southern France and one to Yugoslavia.

About the third of January 1945 they gave me a B-25 ride to Naples where I dallied about a week until boarding a huge troop transport ship – the SS America - to Boston, then got a ride on the railroad to Columbus for a two-week leave.

Having been shipped to Santa Ana, California and expecting to participate in the Asian war I attempted to get fighter training. This resulted in a long series of transfers from one base to another, none of which did much for me or the Army. When the Japanese finally gave up another period of indecisiveness set it. That lasted through a few more dull assignments until they decided to let me out of the service in July 1946.

No particular fields of endeavor occurred to me, so the next move was to get some education. I entered the school of engineering at Ohio State University in 1947 and got passing grades. But I was bored and quit after a couple of semesters.

One more stab at formal education was to complete a civilian course in instrument flying at Sullivant Avenue Airport in Columbus. This netted me a Commercial Aviator license for single- and multi-engine land aircraft with a full instrument rating. All of this also qualified me to fly those little-bitty airplanes, like Piper Cubs, etc.

I joined the Ohio Air National Guard’s 55th Fighter Wing at Lockbourne Air Force Base late in 1947 and started participating in ANG drills (meetings and training).

Still loose in 1948, my next important activity seemed to be dating Sadie Churches, a divorcée with two pre-school children. She waited tables at her sister’s restaurant, Ann-Ton’s in Worthington, where my friends and I often met. It became serious and we were married in April 1949 by a Justice of the Peace in Greenup, Kentucky. We had about $200 cash between us.

Because I had previously committed to attending the Air Force’s Air Tactical School in Panama City, Florida for four months starting in May, we had no honeymoon. We rented a tiny house in Lynn Haven, Florida near the air base; this was our first home. After graduating from this school we rented the upstairs of a friend’s house in Westerville, Ohio. The friend was a veteran combat fighter pilot, having tangled with the Japs in China. He was also in the Air Guard and we would occasionally get two F-51’s and practice dog-fighting in the local skies, which taught me a few things.


Bob's Gas Station Morse & High, Winter, 1937
Later that year, my fireworks-making buddy and I started a car repair business as tenants in the gas station across from my old home at Morse and High. We had plenty of customers so we were able to make a living. The gas station owner, Bob Meyer, had been my employer on and off for a few years. He was a great friend, a thoroughly honest
person and influenced me considerably. He owned and operated the station for 50 years.

I acquired a 1938 BMW motorcycle from a good friend, Red Luellen. It was very well constructed and opened up my interest in German machinery. When weather allowed, it was my transportation to and from work. I was only stopped for speeding on it once.

In 1950 a vacancy opened in the 166th Fighter Squadron of the Air Guard. The position was for a jet fighter pilot and I grabbed it, even though it meant taking a one-rank demotion back to lieutenant. Although I had attained my dream of flying F-51 Mustangs earlier, being allowed to train in the somewhat new-fangled F-84 Thunderjets was like Hog Heaven. Then in November my son was born and the world seemed great.

But, there was a cost. In February of 1951 the Korean War was expanding and
The Air Force called our squadron to active duty for 21 months. They used our unit as a sort-of replacement pool and started sending individuals to Korea for combat assignments. Selections were made based on a person’s previous time overseas in WWII, if any. My time in Corsica put me way down the line for selection. In the early summer of 1952 our squadron moved into the Air Defense Command’s new base at Youngstown, Ohio.

While there my daughter was born at the Lockbourne AFB hospital in August. They gave me three days leave to drive to Columbus, see my new baby and return to base.

In October 1952 orders were given for three of us to go to Camp Stoneman, California (north of San Francisco) to process for the trip to Korea. At that point the bureaucracy decided that I and my close friend Royal Frey (who later became curator of the USAF Museum) were beyond the term of recall time and allowed us to be relieved from active duty in November 1952.

When first married we had lived for a few months with Sadie’s sister, Annie Fracasso, and her family in Grandview Heights and again at their house at County Line Road and US 23. Then we moved to the upstairs apartment of a friend’s house in Westerville, which was our home when my unit was called.


Around this time we bought nine+ acres of land at 4565 Beecham Road, which is now Hamilton Road, in Mifflin Twp. A few years later we acquired six acres more. In 1953 I picked up a job as a rough-in carpenter with the father-son team of “Doc” and Thad Erlenbach, who were building contractors in the Gahanna area. They took jobs working on virtually any kind of building, new or old. They were very congenial people and they worked hard, it was an enjoyable job for me despite the occasional problems with weather. Doc was also an accredited dowser.

There were usually four of us on Doc’s team and we would do most of the work that would normally be split up for the various trades. We put up the walls (sometimes of concrete block); mixed and hauled the “mud” (mortar); set in window frames; did all of the framing, cast the sills, made concrete steps and stoops; installed the roofing, installed drywall or lath (for wet plaster,) built cabinets and hung doors.

Also in 1953: - On a Sunday, while attending a National Guard drill, I was requested to fill in as a participant in a demonstration flight at the dedication ceremonies for the opening of the new Canton-Akron airport. I accepted and joined three Mansfield pilots. We flew as a simulated combat flight-of-four. After several maneuvers my Mustang developed some mechanical problems that I could not fully overcome. In trying to deal with the problems, and avoid the crowd (over 100,000 people) who had gathered there, I wound up setting it down in a field off of the end of a runway. The left wing and the propeller tore off, and the fuselage broke on both sides of the cockpit. Much dust was stirred up, which I thought might be smoke, so I jumped clear and ran several yards from the wreckage before realizing that I had not unbuckled my parachute. All of this was exciting, but the scariest part of this adventure was yet to come: Local sheriff deputies said I should get to a hospital for an examination and took me in their cruiser. The driver thought he was a reincarnation of Barney Oldfield and drove madly through the crowded, narrow streets. That ride made me far more nervous than the crash had. As it turned out, my total injuries were a bruised nose and a cut wrist.

 

Later that year North American Aviation gave me a job as an airframe structure inspector. The wages were good and we started planning a house to build on our acreage. We contracted with Doc and Thad with the agreement that I could participate in the construction, as time allowed. This way I could see all of the details and have the satisfaction of knowing it was all done right. My job at North American was on the second shift – 4 PM to Midnight – which provided a lot of daylight hours to work on the house. I did some indoor framing, most of the roof sheathing and shingles, and all of the wiring.


In order to be close to the building site we had rented a nearby farm house that belonged to the Mayhew’s (the sellers of our land.) He and his wife spent their winters at Marathon Key, Florida and were due back to occupy their farmhouse on the fifth of July. We had Thad, me, the floor tile men, Sadie (who painted), plumbers and possibly more all working at once to finish before they came back. We successfully made our house barely habitable two days before the Mayhew’s returned.

In the meantime, my position in the Air National Guard had progressed to that of Group Maintenance Officer. There was an opportunity to attend the two aircraft maintenance schools in Urbana, Ill, which appeared to be a fine opportunity to become eligible for another promotion and make my military career more secure, so I took it. Urbana is about 300 miles from Columbus, so commuting on the weekends was routine.


The endeavor of school ate up 1955 and a dab of 1956. This seemed to somewhat solidify my career in the Air Guard, but left me without a civilian job. A mutual friend introduced me to the owner of a small but progressive hardware store in Westerville and he decided I should be his assistant manager. The store grew out of its building and we moved into a new, larger one. We celebrated by having a store dance (mostly in the aisles, between that merchandise shelves) with music by a prominent band, Chuck Selby.


By March 1959 an additional room and a 2 ½ -car garage had been attached to our house. With picture windows on the east and west sides of the room, one could see through the building. So could the birds. On occasions, one of them would fly at full cruising speed into the glass. We buried some of them.


In these years East Germany, a puppet of the USSR, was bleeding manpower to the West through a somewhat leaky security guard system. The Soviets decided to build a wall along the boundary of the two Germanys to slow the flow. This wall deal heightened the already tense global situation to the point where the US sent numerous air units to Western Europe to balance the perceived threat.


1961: Once again the Air Guard was called upon to augment the regular Air Force. Our fighter squadron, including support units, was activated and sent to Etain, France. Those of us who were WWII veterans said we were members of the “-41, -51, -61 club” for our three tours of active duty.


My job as a staff maintenance officer was not too demanding, so I could get loose on weekends for exploring the surrounding areas. I first bought a 1937 Citroen, which was not dependable; so I bought a new VW “Beetle” in Luxembourg City and became more mobile. With two friends, we got a leave and toured a bit. We got as far east as Vienna and as far west as The Hague; seeing parts of Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Italy along the way. Most of the rest of my time off was spent in West Germany because I thought it to be much more attractive than France.

To me, the area around Etain was dull and unkempt. The nearby town of Verdun had been a point of stalemated fighting in WWI that had caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. The destruction, carnage and pollution of the land were so severe that portions of it were not restored. Shattered buildings remained, some areas were cordoned off and signs were posted that said Danger du Mort because of suspected unfound explosives.


However, there was a certain fascination there: My father had served in the US Army
in that area; for one instance near the town of Koeur-la-Petite, from where he sent a postcard home in 1918. I still had this card and visited the town in 1962. The scenes were almost identical, very little had changed in 44 years.

In August 1962 our squadron was relieved from active duty and we came home again. Back to the hardware store in Westerville – which was really thriving at this point – I became restless again and looked for new employment. At a neighbor’s party I met the personnel chief for the Columbus Army Depot who said that I could – and should – get a Civil Service job working with computers as a programmer intern. The idea did not strike me as being terribly attractive since I had no concept of what that field was, but the opportunity for progress looked good - and fresh. After making it through the maze of interviews, testing and school, my internship as a programmer – and later an analyst – the job started in mid-1963.

Finding aptitude and interest in this odd new vocation started me on a 20-year career that was mostly satisfying. Retirement ended with me achieving the level of Branch Chief in 1983.

Meanwhile in the Air National Guard my promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in 1964 led to my retirement in 1965. This ended a 23-year military career.

The year 1965 was also notable for when we put together a trip to Europe. My time there in ’61-’62 impressed me to the point of wanting to share the experience with Sadie. Our final plan included a couple of friends, Guy and Lola Thomas, and the purchase of a new Mercedes-Benz sedan for us to pick up in Luxembourg City upon arrival, April 17. Air transportation was via Icelandic Airlines, because they had the lowest fares. They stopped over in Iceland both ways. We had to drive the Thomas’ car to New York City to board Icelandic, so we were able to stash the car at Sadie’s brother Joe’s place in Brooklyn.

From Luxembourg we drove to a place in Belgium to get a meal of wild boar, then on to Holland. At The Hague we visited Mr. and Mrs. Luning-Prak, parents of one of our Ohio Air National Guard airmen, whom I’d met in 1962. They treated us royally and provided us with a lavish meal with beef tongue as the entrée. Guy had a problem with this: he was not at all adventurous about food (he had not tasted the Belgian boar.) I twisted his arm and got him to try the tongue. It was fine.

Mrs. Prak insisted on wheeling Sadie in a wheelchair through the Tulip Festival and some other attractions. She was a fine hostess. Mr. Prak was an industrial psychologist for Philips, and a rather quiet person.

From Holland we went through Belgium, France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Austria, Germany and back to Luxembourg; about 4500 miles of driving in a little less than four weeks. Guy only got enthusiastic once – when he had an invitation from Sadie’s friends in Geneva to play golf in the Alps. For years after, he would tell about playing 18 holes there, none of which were level. We also visited a French casino while we were there.

In southern France we had stopped at a bakery along the coast near Toulon. None of us spoke French so I tried my German on the proprietor. He just frowned. Then Sadie asked him if he understood Italian. He brightened up and made a joke (in Italian) saying “you are not Italian, you are Acerran!” He recognized the area’s brogue even though it dated back 60 years to when the Mormile family left for the US.

Anyway, we got some French pastry and munched on it on the way to Monaco. Besides checking out the palace and its guards, we visited the Jardin Exotique and the cave below the garden.

Sadie found her father’s brother and his family in her home town of Acerra, Italy, and really surprised them. He was 85 and had bad feet, for which he had cut holes in the sides of his shoes. His little wife was one of the meanest-looking women I have ever seen. She said next to nothing, just watched us closely. Maybe she thought we would steal something.

A walk around the town disclosed mostly very old buildings, oxcarts in use, chickens and hares hanging in the open front of a store, and very narrow streets.

Most of the residents were farmers, as they had been when Sadie’s family lived there. Her uncle’s son, a pleasant man of about 50, had a two-wheeled cart pulled by a donkey. I am not sure of its purpose, but it was interesting to watch the family dog walk along underneath it as it rolled.

When we left they gave us presents: a large, round loaf of homemade bread and about a ten-pound sack of fava beans. We tried the bread as we headed north toward Rome, but it was terrible and possibly rancid. When we checked in at Rome I gave the fava beans to the bellboy for a tip and he was ecstatic.

We only stayed in Rome long enough to see St. Peter’s. While there we visited a gift shop and Sadie found a replica of a sculpture she liked, which we brought home in our baggage.

We visited Venice for a couple of days where we saw a demonstration of glass-blowing on the adjacent island, and examined St. Mark’s Square and the Cathedral.

In Austria we went through Innsbruck to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. This was one of the places we visited that had a nearby military base. Whenever we would be near one, we had to take Guy there so he could have an American meal (He even did this at our embassy in Paris.)

We wound up our tour in Bitburg, Germany where we met a lady friend from Westerville who was teaching American soldier’s children in elementary school there. Besides a tour of Trier, she also drove us to the airport at Luxembourg City to go home after we had shipped our car.

In NYC we got a taxi to go to Brooklyn. The driver drove rather recklessly, so we asked him to slow down. He ignored us and went faster. When this ride was over,
I explained to him that because of his attitude he got no tip, which caused him to use some very bad New York type language.

Sadie’s ex-husband died in 1965. This opened the way for us to have a proper Catholic marriage. On the 23rd of March 1968 Sadie and I were married again in the Gahanna church by my old friend Father T. T. “Korby” Thielen.

An affliction that has beset me most of my years is a heavy attraction to cars. Strong cars, rich cars, fast cars, unusual cars, antique cars – you name it. This curse has led to ownership of 57 four-wheeled machines – some dandies – some indifferent – some in-between. That’s a lead-in to some of the following.

In the late 1960’s a friend and I jointly bought a very much neglected 1926

Chrysler four-cylinder coupe for $75. We restored the thing to its original configuration and toured parts of Ohio, going to car shows and fairs. It won several prizes including "Best Restoration of the Year" from the AACA. We did not drive to many shows though, since it was difficult to pick a route on which we could reasonably cruise at a maximum of forty miles per hour.

For a lot of people, one full car restoration ends with some sort of remark such as: "Never again!". However, I wanted to do a Packard Twelve which had been my idea of one of the best American cars ever. A 1937 long sedan turned up in New Jersey and I trailered it to my garage in the 1970's. Then there was the acquisition of another one (of the exact same model) as a source of spare parts. It came from Bucyrus. Two of these 20-foot long monsters eat up a lot of space. Since car storage was becoming a problem, a good friend and I built three more stalls onto the existing garage, making five car spaces. From this facility the restoration proceeded until the late 1980's. The extra car had been stripped of valuable parts and sold in Massachusetts. The restoration was not total, but nearly so. The car looked and ran like a new one - a wonderful car.

Eva, my mother, had retired from teaching about 1960 but continued to run the mobile home park. In time her mental health declined and I became involved in the operation of the park. In the 1970s she lost the ability to care for herself and took up residence in a nursing home in Worthington. She died there in 1978 at the age of 85.

The park had not been properly maintained and was likely not worth upgrading. We sold the property in the 80's, not long after one renter hung himself inside his mobile home.

Early in 1974 we asked my daughter if she had any specific yen for a present if and when she graduated form Ohio State University - targeted for June. Her reply was that she would like to go to Germany and see where her great-grandfather Jacob Germann had lived.

A quick mental estimate of the cost of such a tip caused me to ask if she wanted to make a second choice. None came to mind and she expressed a strong desire to do this before taking a job as a teacher. Sadie and I kicked the idea around for many weeks and came to a compromise of making the trip a year later after a bit of financial recovery from the load of college expenses. It was necessary because our son had been in college from 1969-1972 and the well was dry.

The plan evolved to taking off in June of 1975 at the end of the school year. As we discussed it periodically, the rest of the family liked the idea and climbed onto the bandwagon. In the end all of us got on a plane together and headed for Frankfurt, armed with a map and knowledge of a few German words. The plane crew liked us so well they arranged to give us six seats in the row by the rear door which had extra leg room for us.

We took minimal luggage so we all could fit in a VW Micro-Bus, which was rented in advance. It was waiting at the airport. Not wanting to travel far immediately after the plane ride, we stopped after about 50 miles at the Romantik Hotel in Aschaffenburg.

Part of our gear was a folding wheelchair for Sadie because she walked very slowly and painfully. During sightseeing in the town on the following day, due to negotiating the cobblestone streets, one of the front wheels collapsed and it was irreparable. My son and I spent an interesting couple of hours - or more - finding a medical supply store that had an appropriate replacement wheel. The proprietor asked a stiff price for his wheel and I told him I would only buy it if we could get it installed there. He denied being a mechanic, but finally agreed to allow us to use the tool kit from the trunk of his car. My son and I took the kit and, using our ingenuity and some coarse words, we got the new wheel installed in the alley behind the store.

The next stop was at Höllenhammer, an assembly of a few buildings that had been a barony in the "old days." In the time of Jacob Germann's youth the barony's function had been an iron forge on a sort of "mom and pop" basis. As the world became industrialized these operations became comparatively inefficient and died out. .

It's presence behind ivied walls along side a minor road, was not at all obvious. We fumbled around quite a while before finding an access point from a private road in the rear. We parked the bus and entered through a gap in the wall on the back side of the establishment. Although we were trespassing, the few people we saw were not hostile. One helped us find a lady who could speak English. She explained that the property still belonged to the Reitzenstein's, descendants of Baron Rexroth, and it had evolved into a group of "vacation apartments" that were fully rented.

The Barony of Höllenhammer, Bavaria, Germany circa 1900

All of the buildings that had been there in Grandfather’s time, with the exception of a small forge shop, were still there and in excellent condition. Particularly interesting was the school building which had a large vertical sundial across its front wall. Also extant was the sluice-way and wheel that were part of the water-power system for the forging.


The lady also pointed out the private road leading from the back side of the barony, up a hill to the Rexroth family burial ground. We hiked up there and found a cemetery like no other we had seen. There were numerous graves, all marked with ornate forged-iron crosses, most of which had the person’s name and dates cast into the metal. The entire plot was enclosed by an iron paling fence.

We had an approximate route planned but nothing firm and no reservations. This approach worked well and at no time did we have any real difficulty with accommodations. The most enjoyed spots were Rüdesheim for the singing beer halls atmosphere, Ludwig’s Fairytale castle, the walled city of Rothenburg and the highest point in Germany, the Zugspitze. Only three of us had the stomach for the cable car ride to the top of the mountain. The others lolled around the open-air garden. We (3) were lucky to have bright, clear weather which made the view from the top of the mountain spectacular.

Even though some members of our family were not thrilled with some of the hotel accommodations, such as where the bathroom was of the down-the-hall type, they agreed it was overall a great experience and were glad to have gone. For myself, it triggered off a desire to learn more about my ancestors. In other words, I was hooked and have been researching ever since, though not so avidly now.

For many years, probably dating back to the 1950s, Sadie had experienced the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Although she had the attention of several doctors, the disease continually worsened with time; none of the many prescribed medicines gave her lasting relief.


When the pain became excessive in a given area she would have corrective surgery: Both elbows were repaired, one kneecap removed, both knee joints replaced, both hip joints replaced. Her fingers were misshapen and sore to use. Through all of this Sadie was always considerate of the people around her, not wanting to burden others with her problems. Over time we acquired various items to help her get around: canes, wheelchairs, a full-size van, ramps to get a wheelchair into the van, a walk-in shower, etc.


In 1987 we drove to Niagara Falls and headed back by way of Pittsburgh, where we stopped at a downtown hotel. In the lobby an overly hasty bellman ran his luggage cart into Sadie, knocking her down and injuring her shoulder. This trauma seemed to be the start of a series of additional physical problems, including a brain aneurysm .
The list that could follow would chronicle the series of ailments and treatments, through September 1990 that Sadie endured. However, any further detailed recording becomes depressingly redundant.
.
Sadie died of pneumonia and cerebral vascular thrombosis June 20, 1991 at the Whetstone Care Center in Columbus. She was 77. It is very doubtful that anyone else in the world could have been a better wife and mother.

The mutual acceptance, respect and friendship of Eva and Sadie were certainly a huge plus for our family.

Not expecting any rapid change in Sadie’s condition I found the opportunity to set up a plan for a month-long car trip to Alaska with a longtime friend, Bob Kinnear. We left in April 1991. The first main stop was Aberdeen, Idaho at a cousin’s place. We had never met but we got along fine. He showed us about potato farming.

From Aberdeen we drove almost straight north to Banff and to the Alcan Highway. The condition of the Alcan, though paved all the way, was a bit iffy in spots. The long periods of freezing and thawing reduced places in it back to gravel that cannot be repaired in winter. My car was damaged in four places. One was when a rock larger than a golf ball was thrown by a passing bus into my windshield. It was very scary, but though it broke the glass, it did not penetrate.

We photographed wild animals when possible. Staying in a small, rude cabin one morning we were awakened early by noises outside. There was a female moose monkeying around out there, so we grabbed our pants and our cameras and stepped out. She was not spooked but was not cooperative about posing, either, so we did not get a good shot. In mentally replaying that scene we decided to be more cautious in the future with regards to wild things.

Though there had been some snow and ice along the way, we arrived in Fairbanks to find sunshine and a 70 degree day. We took that opportunity to attend a large, open-air fish-fry. There was fresh-caught haddock and salmon, the best fish we had ever eaten.

We got as far as Anchorage and Seward then turned back. When I called home they told me Sadie had just had another stroke, so we headed home angling southeast through the wheat plains to North Dakota. We had driven just over 10,000 miles.

In 1990 Sadie and I had started negotiations with a developer and in 1991 sold our Gahanna property to him for a good price. In 1992 I bought my present home, had some alterations made and moved in. I was able to find Thad Erlenbach to do the job and to renew acquaintances. That’s where this is being written.

After having been in all fifty states and about eighteen foreign countries (in Germany in seven different years) this place suits me fine.

Chapter 2.

Table of Contents