Bleimes Family History
Chapter 1. George (5)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.