Willis Meyers' family has farmed in the Cuyahoga Valley since the middle to late nineteenth century. Willis grew up in Northampton, and has many memories of family, farm, and community life, businesses, technology, and transportation from the Great Depression era forward. Ronnie, Willis' son, currently owns the farm on Steels Corners Road, where he has had a successful horse farming business. Willis, 95 years old, has many memories of the history of the valley, and shared detailed stories about what it was like to grow up and raise a family on a farm, manage multiple jobs, and adapt to changes in technology and the community.


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Meyers, Ronnie (interviewee); Meyers, Willis (interviewee)


Conklin, Carolyn (interviewer)


Cuyahoga Valley Project



Document Type

Oral History


76 minutes


Transcription sponsored by Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Carolyn Conklin [00:00:02] Okay, so I'm going to start. I'm going to say today's date, introduce myself, and then ask both of you to introduce yourselves.

Ronnie Meyers [00:00:10] Okay.

Carolyn Conklin [00:00:10] And then we'll start. Alright. My name is Carolyn Conklin. Today is May 4th, 2011, and Ronnie and Willis, could you introduce yourselves?

Ronnie Meyers [00:00:20] This is my dad, Willis Meyers, and I'm Ronnie, his son, first son.

Carolyn Conklin [00:00:27] And when were you both born?

Ronnie Meyers [00:00:29] Dad was born in 1915 and I was born in 1935.

Carolyn Conklin [00:00:35] And can you explain your relationship to the Valley? How did how did your family come to be here?

Ronnie Meyers [00:00:42] Well, Dad, you want to explain how your family came to be here?

Willis Meyers [00:00:48] I don't think I could.

Ronnie Meyers [00:00:50] Well, I can... I can tell you a little bit. And some of this is documented into the history of Summit County. But we've been there five generations on that road and we had a great grandfather that was on a riverboat captain and he settled in Northampton. Came off there at Botzum, you know where Botzum is, and he... You know where Botzum is? Botzum is the corner Bath Road and Riverview Roads.

Carolyn Conklin [00:01:24] Okay.

Ronnie Meyers [00:01:25] That's a... And he settled there and we've all evolved since in. That date was, I don't know, but I'm going to say late 1800s.

Carolyn Conklin [00:01:41] And is that the same property that's been with the family?

Ronnie Meyers [00:01:43] No, we... This is... Dad was born on a farm east of where we live and his dad bought a farm. Was heir to a farm east of that yet on Steels Corners Road. All on Steels Corners Road. Was in less than two miles of where we live. And then in 1942, Dad bought the farm where we now live. Dad still lives in the old farmhouse there, and I live on the upper end of the farm.

Carolyn Conklin [00:02:17] Could you share anything you know about your great grandparents or your family history that we could document, you know, their experiences in the Valley farming?

Ronnie Meyers [00:02:28] Well, they were all farmers and in all in that area. Do you want to add anything? What?

Willis Meyers [00:02:36] Well...

Ronnie Meyers [00:02:43] Dad's dad, my grandfather, had a... How much ground was in that farm? 135 acres?

Willis Meyers [00:02:51] 126.

Ronnie Meyers [00:02:52] 126. And he was a farmer there. And he also had a slaughterhouse and had a feed business and had a store...

Willis Meyers [00:03:03] Grocery store, cider mill. He doctored all the livestock in the township, and outside of that he didn't have nothing to do. Of course he always had a hired man 'cause his kids wasn't old enough to help him then. So he kept a hired man all the time.

Carolyn Conklin [00:03:28] And what was it like to grow up on a farm?

Willis Meyers [00:03:32] Well. I don't know.

Ronnie Meyers [00:03:40] My early memories was lots of work. I mean, we worked. At that time you work seven days a week, you know, from daylight to dark and...

Willis Meyers [00:03:53] Can you turn this thing up? I don't hear too good.

Carolyn Conklin [00:03:58] Do you need me to talk louder?

Willis Meyers [00:03:59] Yeah.

Carolyn Conklin [00:03:59] Okay.

Willis Meyers [00:04:02] I thought maybe you could use this or something.

Ronnie Meyers [00:04:04] So that's for you to talk into, Dad.

Willis Meyers [00:04:08] Oh, well...

Ronnie Meyers [00:04:11] You want to share any of your early memories of... A kid on the farm?

Willis Meyers [00:04:21] Well, we had... We helped, of course, but we weren't old enough to do too much, you know, and like I say, had a grocery store and dairy cows, cider mill.

Ronnie Meyers [00:04:45] Slaughterhouse.

Willis Meyers [00:04:45] Slaughterhouse. And he brought all the livestock in the township because there wasn't no markets for them in the township anywhere. They all had to go to Cleveland to the Stockyards at that time, and he bought all the livestock and... And then he doctored all the livestock. And that's about it.

Carolyn Conklin [00:05:23] Do you remember any chores or responsibilities you had when you were young?

Willis Meyers [00:05:27] Oh, yeah. Us kids all had chores to do. You know, we went to school in the morning, and when we got home one evening, why we changed our clothes to farm clothes and we had, all had chores to do, and we got old enough to milk a cow, why we each had so many cows to milk in the morning and the night before we went to school... And... Of course, we helped some in the summertime too, you know, we was big enough to drive the horses and there were no tractors then nobody had a tractor. The farmers didn't like tractors anyway. They thought it ruined the soil. So everybody had horses.

Ronnie Meyers [00:06:38] Dad's parents go back to horse and buggy times, and then later, of course, they had Model T, Model A Ford cars, but when he was young, it was all horses. Transportation and farm work was all done by horses.

Willis Meyers [00:06:56] And my dad was kinda young when he passed away and had left us kids to do what we could do, you know, and my mother finally sold the farm. But that's about it, I guess.

Carolyn Conklin [00:07:20] Can you tell me what that, what your parents farm looked like, what kind of a layout? Can you describe it for me?

Willis Meyers [00:07:27] Well, it was fairly level. The whole farm was pretty level, you know. And we had frontage on two roads, Steels Corners Road and...

Ronnie Meyers [00:07:42] Haas.

Willis Meyers [00:07:42] Haas Road. We had three quarters of a mile frontage on each road, we had. And... Of course, they did everything the hard way in them days, you know. Like I say, there was no tractors and everything was done the hard way. And that's about it, I guess.

Carolyn Conklin [00:08:15] Did you go to school or were you taught at home?

Willis Meyers [00:08:18] Well, they had school, about like the Amish have it now, within two miles, the schools are, with each other so they can walk to school. And we had to do the same thing. And then they got to where my dad, they finally got to where they had busses, you know, and he drove us. Well, we walked to school with the bus sitting in the yard, we still had to go to school because we lived under two mile[s]. If you lived under two mile[s], why you had walk to school and we went to a one-room school. There was the school at Steels Corners and there was a school at Art's Corners. That's where we live now. And there was, I think, seven schools in the township all together, so... And the school teachers, they boarded with the farmers because they had to be close to the school so they could walk, you know. And I was a janitor in the school at that time. I had to keep the fire going in the potbelly stove and I had to clean, you know, I had to clean the floor every day. And the teacher paid me her wages. I got two dollars a month for being janitor at the school and so...

Ronnie Meyers [00:10:14] And you was glad to get it, wasn't you?

Willis Meyers [00:10:16] Glad to get it, yeah. It was a lot of money.

Carolyn Conklin [00:10:23] How many siblings did you have?

Willis Meyers [00:10:25] How many what?

Carolyn Conklin [00:10:26] Siblings? Brothers and sisters?

Ronnie Meyers [00:10:29] Kids.

Willis Meyers [00:10:30] Had one brother and one sister. They're both gone now. I was the youngest one in my family.

Carolyn Conklin [00:10:42] And what did you do for fun?

Willis Meyers [00:10:45] Well, through the wintertime we either skated or we'd sled ride, and we had a low spot on the farm and that used to get maybe a foot or two of water in it, and that would freeze over, naturally. And at night we built a bonfire and all the neighbor kids would come and we'd either skate or sled ride, one of the two. And that was... That was about the recreation.

Carolyn Conklin [00:11:23] Did you mostly play with your brother and sister or did you have friends?

Willis Meyers [00:11:28] No, we had... We had friends around. You know, they'd come and play with us. There was always some of our age and naturally we played with them.

Carolyn Conklin [00:11:45] Was the community close? Were there were events that neighbors came together?

Willis Meyers [00:11:51] Well, the big thing was the homecoming and that was once a year, you know, and of course everybody in the township would come to that. And they'd, they go into the falls in town and have the merchants donate the prizes, you know. They had different games and there was a prize for every game like horseshoe pitching and baseball and everything you can think of they had, and they'd... You'd get prizes and give the winners. Of course horseshoe was a big deal at that time. You know, they'd have marble games and about everything you can think of. The people visited each other in them times, you know, they didn't go very far because they had to take a horse and buggy, and so they had different things going on. And they... In the school they had things. They had buy socials and cake socials and Bach socials and... The men would try to buy the teachers, you know, they wanted to have the teachers fire cake or whatever it was, and so they would try to get the kids to find out, you know, what her pie was or what her cake was so they could bid on it. They had a regular auction, they did. They used to have quite a few of them through the wintertime. But the big thing was the homecoming because everybody in the township went to that.

Carolyn Conklin [00:13:57] Did you win any prizes at this homecoming?

Willis Meyers [00:13:59] Well, I suppose I did. Maybe a jackknife or something like that, you know.

Ronnie Meyers [00:14:06] You won a watermelon eating contest that time, didn't you?

Willis Meyers [00:14:09] I... Yeah.

Ronnie Meyers [00:14:11] Isn't that what you won the jackpot in?

Willis Meyers [00:14:12] Yeah. Yeah, they... Of course, their contest would be for different age kids, you know, and I guess I win a few things. I don't remember. It's a long time to remember back.

Ronnie Meyers [00:14:26] He still likes watermelon.

Willis Meyers [00:14:29] Yeah. [laughs] He still could eat watermelon.

Carolyn Conklin [00:14:33] Was that eating watermelon the fastest or the most watermelon? what was the prize for?

Willis Meyers [00:14:40] Well, it was... There was a lot of different prizes. You know, they had a whole list of games for kids to play. They had races and three, three-legged races. I don't know if... You probably don't... never heard of that, but what they did was they'd have a feed sack and one leg would be in the feed sack of each person and they call that a three-legged race. You know, that was a big deal too.

Carolyn Conklin [00:15:19] What time of year was homecoming held?

Willis Meyers [00:15:22] Well, it was usually in the middle of the summer. You know, they always had a church, and they had big crowds at that time. That was back in the Model T Ford days, you know. Everybody drove Model T Ford. That's all there was at that time, you might say. And...

Carolyn Conklin [00:15:50] So you said your your mother eventually sold the farm?

Willis Meyers [00:15:54] She sold it after my dad passed away.

Carolyn Conklin [00:15:58] And when was that?

Willis Meyers [00:16:01] I don't remember exactly when, but it was in the Depression days, and nobody had no money, you know. And the man that she sold it to was an attorney in the Goodrich, and he just happened to have a little money, you know, and she got eight thousand dollars for 126 acres and two houses. So, you know, it was worse in that time. And fact is, my place, I paid six thousand dollars for it. So...

Ronnie Meyers [00:16:44] That was 1942.

Willis Meyers [00:16:46] That was in Depression days. You know.

Carolyn Conklin [00:16:51] And where did you go when your mom sold the farm?

Willis Meyers [00:16:57] Well, I was...

Ronnie Meyers [00:17:04] Him, him and his brother, each got ten acres of that farm.

Willis Meyers [00:17:07] She give us ten acres on the upper part of the farm. My brother got ten and I got ten, and the store building, well, we wasn't in business no more with the store building. And I moved that on my ten acres, I did. It was about... Oh, maybe a quarter of a mile or so, and I had a man help me, and we moved the store building. Was a new store building at that time. And he helped me and of course, we had to go and get the road shut off, you know, because you couldn't do it today, but we did then because there was nobody on the road [inaudible], only horse and buggies. And we dug a basement up on my ten acres and we moved it up there. And then my uncle was a carpenter and he remodeled it and made a house out of it. And so that's where I lived then.

Carolyn Conklin [00:18:25] And how did you physically move the building?

Willis Meyers [00:18:30] Well, this man had a tractor. He was the one out of the township, I guess, the only one that did have one, and I had a truck and we, between the two, we moved it a quarter of a mile on the road.

Ronnie Meyers [00:18:51] They skidded it on rollers.

Willis Meyers [00:18:53] We started in the morning at daylight and just barely got off the road in the driveway at dark at night. That's how long it took us. And... But we had to go into the courthouse and get the road shut off for that day.

Carolyn Conklin [00:19:14] And did... and you set up, that's where you set up your farm?

Willis Meyers [00:19:20] Well, we only had ten acres, you know.

Carolyn Conklin [00:19:25] But did you grow anything or did you have another job?

Willis Meyers [00:19:29] Oh, yeah, I had three jobs. I worked three jobs for three years and... You want me to tell you about the jobs?

Carolyn Conklin [00:19:41] Yes, please.

Willis Meyers [00:19:43] Well, we had cows. That's where I live now, we had a dairy of cows and Ronnie here was big enough at that time to help me milk 'em in the morning. And we'd get up at four o'clock in the morning and then he'd feed 'em and water 'em, and I'd go to the school and get my school bus out. And I had two trips to make to the school with the bus. And then the Landmark Farm Bureau was in Cuyahoga Falls, and that's where I worked, and I would go in there then by nine o'clock in the morning and work till three, and then I'd have to be out back to the school by three o'clock to start taking the kids home. And then I would go home after that and we'd eat supper. And then we had to milk the cows again. Had to milk twice a day. And then I finally got a tractor. And Ronnie wasn't big enough to climb up on it. I had to help him up on that and I'd start it up and start it in the field, and then he would drive it then. He knew enough to if something happened to shut the key off. You know, he was out in the wide open fields. So I did that for three years, so...

Ronnie Meyers [00:21:28] I was eight, eight years old when he got that tractor.

Carolyn Conklin [00:21:33] Do you remember any other stories from that time?

Ronnie Meyers [00:21:38] Lots of them, but he's doing a good job. Go ahead.

Willis Meyers [00:21:42] Yeah, and I had a thirty-five hundred dollar mortgage on the farm. That's all I had on it. Like I say, I give six thousand dollars for the farm and... So I had to work three jobs to make thirty-five dollar a month payment. That was my payment and I had to work the three jobs in order to make that, you know. It didn't sound much, but it was a lot in them days.

Carolyn Conklin [00:22:21] And where did you sell the dairy products from the cows?

Willis Meyers [00:22:26] Well, it all went Akron. It went to [Cuyahoga] Falls for a little while. Lawson Milk Company in the Falls, they bought it for a while and then there was, oh, probably four or five milk companies in Akron. And whoever needed to milk the worst, why that's where the milk hauler would take it. See? It might go to Akron one day and might go to the Falls one day. And you never know when or where it was going to go, but... And we had a milk hauler that picked it up. He picked it up with horses and wagons for a long time. And all the roads, you know, it was all dirt roads. It was no improved road nowhere and the mud would be axle deep on the wagon for him to pick the milk up. And then, well, I can give you a story about him. He was a man that liked to drink pretty well and he went to town with the milk in the morning and then he went to one of the beer joints and drink for the rest of the day. And he'd let the horses go home and they'd come back out to Northampton by themselves. So, you know how much traffic would be on the road, you know, because they'd have to meet cars. And then he had a couple of his boys at home. They'd wait for him and unhitch 'em and take the harness off and feed 'em and water 'em and put 'em away. And he'd walk home from town every day.

Carolyn Conklin [00:24:30] Did you have to pay the milk hauler to take your milk or...

Willis Meyers [00:24:34] You paided 'em so much a hundred pounds. So...

Carolyn Conklin [00:24:41] So did you... Did you contact the milk companies in Akron or elsewhere yourself, or were you just dealing with the milk hauler?

Willis Meyers [00:24:51] No, no. You had... You had the milk cans and you had a number on them cans—t was painted on 'em—and of course, they knowed by that number who it was for. [Of] course it was weighed, you know, and it was... I think we got a dollar a half a hundred at that time, and that would be twelve gallon[s]. We'd get a dollar and a half for twelve gallon[s] of milk.

Ronnie Meyers [00:25:27] Those deals were made sometimes by the farmer themselves and sometimes a milk hauler would suggest, so that wasn't, you know, whatever the situation arose.

Willis Meyers [00:25:38] And maybe in the summertime where it was real hot, you know, your milk would get sour real quick. And if it was sour when they got to the milk company, why they'd send it back. And then the following day, when the milk man picked up your milk, he'd drop that off and farmers, pretty much all farmers had some hogs, you know, and they'd dump the milk and the hogs would drink it. And that's the way they worked that. But he didn't get very much for it.

Carolyn Conklin [00:26:21] About how many cows did you have?

Willis Meyers [00:26:24] Well, we had ten, ten that we milked and then we had young ones, you know, that we raised. The females, you kept all them, and the bull calves, you sold them to stockyards, and then you'd raise them. And it would be maybe two years before you got any milk out of 'em, you know. So usually ten was all we milked, and maybe we had ten that was growing up, you know. So we had twenty then all together.

Carolyn Conklin [00:27:13] And what does it take to have dairy cows? Is it a very challenging... What kind of challenges did you face?

Willis Meyers [00:27:19] Well, you know what a barn looks like, and that's what you had. And you had different sized barns. You know, some would hold more cows than others did. And you usually kept whatever cows your barn would hold, and then you raise so much feed every year and you knew how much feed the cows would eat and so you usually kept enough in the barn, you know, for over the wintertime.

Carolyn Conklin [00:28:00] Did you face any challenges on your farm?

Willis Meyers [00:28:02] Any what?

Carolyn Conklin [00:28:03] Challenges to... Either with the dairy cows or, you know, weather-related pests, anything like that?

Ronnie Meyers [00:28:14] Every day on a farm you face that, and you did back then too, and...

Willis Meyers [00:28:20] And then you didn't have no water and no water under pressure, and you had to have a pond for the cows to drink out of every day. Of course, all during the wintertime, well they would be froze over and they you'd have to go there and cut the ice for 'em to drink. Every day you had to do that. And then the weather would be cold and snow and they'd be tickled to death to come back and get in the barn where it was warm, you know, the cows would. So you didn't have to worry about them coming back. As soon as they drank, they'd come right back. Then they'd just get a drink once a day and...

Ronnie Meyers [00:29:11] The cattle you'd turn out and they'd go to the pond and drink, come back, but the hogs and chickens, you had to carry water from the pond to the hogs because and the same way with the chickens too.

Willis Meyers [00:29:22] All you had was a cistern, which comes off of the roof, you know, of the buildings, and that's how you get water and that. And that's what you used in the house was out of the cisterns. And there wasn't too much water underground in the wells at that time, and people were so poor they couldn't be hire it done, so they just used the cistern and got by with it, cistern and a pond.

Carolyn Conklin [00:30:02] Did you have electricity?

Willis Meyers [00:30:04] Well, there wasn't very many. We had a light plant of our own in the basement and it was batteries is what it was, and they'd last about a week, the batteries would, maybe they'd be 15, 20 batteries all hooked together and they would last probably a week. And then you had an outfit that would charge the batteries, and he'd start that up and they would run all day long. And then the batteries would last for another week. And you had a telephone. They had what they called party lines, and maybe they'd be twelve people on one party and maybe they'd be two or three or four who wanted to use it at the same time. And them women would get in a squabble over that, you know. They'd lie about they needed the phone to call a doctor or something, and in order to get on it, you know, and all they wanted to do was talk to the neighbors. I got one of the telephones. [inaudible] he got me one. I got it on the wall, you know, and you had a bell on it and a little crank. And you could call people that was on your line. You could call them yourself. You didn't have to have an operator. If you had a long distance, well, then you had to get a hold of the operator, and what you did, if it was a twelve-party line, maybe there was twelve rings for that to get that party to talk to 'em, you know. And with this crank, you'd make them rings and you could call anybody who was on your line up until... They was twelve, and if you had a party line with only one party, you only had to make one ring. If they had twelve rings, you had a list of all of them, and you had to ring twelve rings to get them. So that's the way the telephone worked at that time.

Ronnie Meyers [00:32:35] Also, a twelve-party line, there were very few secrets in the community because whoever was talking, anyone could pick that receiver up and listen in, so...

Willis Meyers [00:32:43] Yeah, you could listen to anybody in them twelve parties, you could listen to 'em and find out what their business was. There was a lot of squabbles over the party lines. It wasn't nothing done about it.

Carolyn Conklin [00:33:02] Did you also have to have a garden? Did you grow any of your own food?

Willis Meyers [00:33:11] Oh, you growed everything in the garden. You had a room in the basement off that was, didn't have any heat in it, and you could keep apples and carrots and turnips and all that kind of stuff. You could keep it all winter in there. And then my dad had the slaughterhouse, he'd butcher beef and hang it up in the slaughterhouse, and you had temperatures maybe zero for two weeks at a time. And that would freeze just like it freezes in the freezer now. And you could go out to slaughterhouse and cut whatever chunk you wanted, you know, a steak or a roast or, you'd grind your own sausage, you can grind your own hamburger. And you pretty well lived on what you raised at that time. You didn't have to go to the store too much. And your mother'd make your own bread and your own cakes and pies, and there was a lot better eating than they are today.

Carolyn Conklin [00:34:39] You said your brother had another ten acres?

Willis Meyers [00:34:43] Yeah, we had twenty acres on the upper part of the farm and he had ten and I had ten.

Carolyn Conklin [00:34:51] And what did he do?

Willis Meyers [00:34:56] What did...

Carolyn Conklin [00:34:57] Did... What job did he have? Did he use his farm for anything like dairy cattle?

Willis Meyers [00:35:04] Well, when he was old enough to get married, his wife had a little pop factory in Akron and he worked in out. And that's about the only job he ever had.

Carolyn Conklin [00:35:25] So did he put his acreage to use, or did you use it for your cows?

Willis Meyers [00:35:30] Well, all we ever had was a garden. You know, we really used it in the farm just like it, you know, was always belonged to my mother, and we'd just plow that and use it in the farm to raise feed for the cattle.

Carolyn Conklin [00:35:57] And how long did you have the cows?

Willis Meyers [00:36:01] Oh, my...

Ronnie Meyers [00:36:04] Do you wanna know when you sold a dairy at home at our place?

Willis Meyers [00:36:07] Well, when we sold it at home, it would've been, and I don't want to say it.

Ronnie Meyers [00:36:14] '52. 1952.

Willis Meyers [00:36:16] It was still Depression days.

Ronnie Meyers [00:36:18] No, I'm talking about you're... You're talking about it at his home or after? See, he milked cows when I was a kid, but they milked cows up until the time his dad died.

Willis Meyers [00:36:34] We was on my dad's farm to begin with. Of course, then when I went to where I am right now, we had a dairy there, and we milked cows there. Well, I guess I've been there, what, 71 years?

Ronnie Meyers [00:36:52] You've been there, no. I was eight. I'm 75.

Willis Meyers [00:36:56] It was in '42.

Ronnie Meyers [00:36:57] 1942.

Willis Meyers [00:36:58] Whatever that would've been.

Ronnie Meyers [00:36:59] Yeah, 1942.

Willis Meyers [00:37:02] So we had cows right away when we went there.

Carolyn Conklin [00:37:08] And at that farm...

Willis Meyers [00:37:11] That's where I am now.

Carolyn Conklin [00:37:13] Right. How long did you have the cows there?

Willis Meyers [00:37:16] Well...

Ronnie Meyers [00:37:17] Had a dairy till '52, but then we had beef cattle after that.

Carolyn Conklin [00:37:21] Okay. And how did that operation work with the beef cattle? What did you have to do? Who did you sell to?

Willis Meyers [00:37:37] Well... What would you say?

Ronnie Meyers [00:37:46] Well, we started a... We was getting to the point where I was in high school and... A lot of other things going on. I had other jobs, too. And we decided we wanted to raise some Hereford cattle, raised Hereford cows, so he sold some breeding stock early on. And then after that, it evolved into a commercial herd where we had cows and calves, and then later on, we just had feeder cattle. We'd buy feeder cattle and keep 'em and so on in the fall. We always fattened a few cattle for our own self, our own food. You know, we always raised our own food there. This was after we sold the dairies.

Willis Meyers [00:38:30] The only market there was was the Cleveland Stockyards. That was the only market and they'd all... Everybody in the township, if they had a pig or a cow or a horse or whatever to sell, why they called my dad and of course he'd go there and ask them what they wanted for it. And they didn't have no idea because, you know, they didn't know what the market was at that time. They had no way of finding out, so they'd call my dad and whatever they had, why he'd buy it, and then he had a man come every morning, every Monday morning, and he'd go to the Cleveland Stockyards every Monday morning. Whatever in the township we had, he'd take it and take it up there. And then he'd want to know what you wanted for what you had, and my dad says, well, what's it worth? And he'd say, Well, what do you want for it? In the end, my dad would tell him and there was no problem. You know, he'd just take out his checkbook and write out a check for it because he knew that he never paid too much or anything, you know, and the people that was on the farm that had it, they didn't have no idea what it was worth. And then later on, when they got some markets around for it, you know, like community sales and they had a place to take 'em then, and a lot of 'em would haul 'em their self to sell 'em. But it was rough to begin with because they all, everything had to go to Cleveland, and nobody had any way to get there.

Carolyn Conklin [00:40:47] So when did you begin the Belgian horse farm?

Ronnie Meyers [00:40:53] Well, that was after I grew up.

Willis Meyers [00:40:57] That was after... The cows was gone then.

Ronnie Meyers [00:41:00] I got... We always was involved in horses and show horses, and I got the idea I wanted a team of horses and we farmed the horses when I was a kid, yeah, before we had that tractor. But I got involved and started buying some horses and selling some and put a hitch together. That was... That was all after I was married, actually.

Willis Meyers [00:41:24] And then we showed 'em at the fairs then, you know. We used to go to Wooster Fair and Middlefield and Dover and Summit County...

Ronnie Meyers [00:41:42] Medina.

Willis Meyers [00:41:45] Medina.

Ronnie Meyers [00:41:46] Randolph.

Willis Meyers [00:41:47] Wooster, Randolph, Canfield, and it was usually a fair every week somewhere. You know, they'd usually run about five, six days and... Well, he had a truck then we could haul 'em, you know. We'd haul the horse in the wagon and the cart and stay there for a week and show 'em and...

Carolyn Conklin [00:42:24] What do you have to do to prepare the horse for the show?

Willis Meyers [00:42:27] Well, they had to have a bath and they had to have a haircut and they had their manes braided and their tails braided, and it took about a day to get 'em ready. And he's still got all the equipment. How long has it been since we showed him?

Ronnie Meyers [00:42:48] I think five years since I've had...

Willis Meyers [00:42:50] More than that, isn't it?

Ronnie Meyers [00:42:53] I think last year it was five years. This could be six.

Carolyn Conklin [00:43:01] And do you... Do you sell the horses or...

Ronnie Meyers [00:43:04] I did. I got a lot of young horses and broke 'em and sold show-type horses, and kept the very best ones for myself. And then, even then, I would sell an older gelding and replace it with something young coming on.

Willis Meyers [00:43:20] He had some good horses. We was hard to beat when we went to the fairs and they seen us coming, why... [laughs] they knew they wasn't gonna win anything. We used to go to the fairs and maybe show five or six classes and win every one of 'em, you know, and...

Carolyn Conklin [00:43:45] So what makes a horse a winning horse?

Willis Meyers [00:43:48] Well, confirmation, if you know what that is. Well, they had built real nice, you know, and you had to prepare 'em right, and when you got 'em ready to show they looked different than they did in their everyday clothes, and so we always did real good at all the fairs. We'd get beat once in a while, but not very often. But he's still got all the equipment.

Carolyn Conklin [00:44:32] So you still have some horses?

Ronnie Meyers [00:44:34] I have some, yeah, but not nearly as many as I did. We're... My wife and I now spend our winters in Florida, and it takes all winter to get a team up and get 'em ready and get 'em good enough to go and be at the top. And by us being away all winter, you just don't have time to do that. So I still buy some young horses and break 'em and get 'em ready and send 'em to the bigger shows, bigger people that are showing, Canada and also the United States.

Carolyn Conklin [00:45:02] I have a note that you lease them out to Amish farmers?

Ronnie Meyers [00:45:08] Well, I never leased anything, but once in a while I'd get a horse that wasn't good enough quite to make... I dealt in the top five or ten percent of the horses. That's what I always was after. And if I'd get a horse that wasn't good enough, he'd go to the Amish farms and have to work.

Carolyn Conklin [00:45:29] And so the... Your farm is near the Blossom Music Center. Is that right?

Ronnie Meyers [00:45:34] Mm hmm.

Carolyn Conklin [00:45:36] Do you know anything about, or can you tell me about the history of that center? We don't have anything about Blossom.

Willis Meyers [00:45:41] The history of the Blossom Music Center?

Carolyn Conklin [00:45:44] Yes, if you know anything about that.

Willis Meyers [00:45:47] We really not talk about that [laughs] 'cause all that's been for us is trouble. You know, the traffic there is... There's nights when there's 20,000 people in there and you can't go anywhere. You can't get home if you do go, on account of all the traffic there is, and they've just been a lot of trouble for us.

Carolyn Conklin [00:46:18] And when was that built? When did it come to the Valley?

Willis Meyers [00:46:22] What's that?

Carolyn Conklin [00:46:23] When did Blossom come? When did they set up?

Willis Meyers [00:46:27] Oh, how long is that?

Ronnie Meyers [00:46:28] I can't tell you the date. I was the building contractor. Turner built the original building down there and then they hired me. And the first 17 years they were open, I finished building the rest of the buildings and finished the ones he'd started and kept a crew of men there quite a bit. But and I was chairman of the zoning commission in Northampton whenever they proposed that for the district, and it was to be the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra. And everybody thought that would be good. And it was, but suddenly it evolved into rock shows and those kind of things and that's the downside of Blossom Music Center today.

Willis Meyers [00:47:13] See when the Cleveland Orchestra's there, they don't get no crowds at all. Nobody goes to see 'em hardly. But if they get a rock and roll guy there, why there could be 20,000 people. But so it was supposed to be entirely for the Cleveland Orchestra, but it never was. They had to have others come in there in order to make it. And of course now, you know that the park is about 600 acres out from 'em. And I guess it's all legal.

Ronnie Meyers [00:48:01] The orchestra clientel's a different kind of people. You know, they're more reserved people. The problem with the rock shows is the people that come, the drinking alcohol and substance abuse and that kind of thing. That's where the major problems are. And that's a problem for the fire departments, police departments and the city and...

Willis Meyers [00:48:21] With the park getting 600 acres, it don't leave 'em too much. I guess that's all finished, ain't it?

Ronnie Meyers [00:48:33] I don't know whether that's all done or not.

Willis Meyers [00:48:36] I think as it has. I think it was in the paper where it was finished.

Carolyn Conklin [00:48:47] We have just about ten minutes or so. So, first of all, is there anything that I haven't asked or that you would like to add? Stories of growing up or anything you would like to add about your history here?

Ronnie Meyers [00:49:06] Well, Dad... Of course...

Willis Meyers [00:49:08] Do you remember anything?

Ronnie Meyers [00:49:09] Well, his parents were both from Northampton. His mother was born within a couple of miles of where they lived there, and Dad was born on our road right there where we are now on another farm. And it's really been a very good life for us, as hard as it was to work. Dad worked hard when he was a kid, and we did too. And the knowledge that I gain from that early on experiences, the ability to get out of bed in the morning at four o'clock and go to work, it helped me throughout my business career. I'm retired now, but I mean, I worked hard and thought there was times when there were... I can tell you one thing. We would get together on Sundays. Dad had a brother and a sister. We'd go to one of the places and have a picnic lunch, and after the lunch was over, we'd... The kids would get together and play ball. And I'd see Dad coming about four o'clock. Come on, boys, we gotta go home, milk those cows, and I hated that. But all in all, when I look back, the education that he gave me was the ability to work. I thank him for that. To this day, I do. But he has lots of stories. I mean we could sit here and go on forever about different...

Willis Meyers [00:50:36] Oh yeah.

Ronnie Meyers [00:50:37] His dad was was a pillar of the community, really. He, you know, he run those businesses and he did buy and sell a lot of livestock. And he was looked up to in the community and those things. We still have people come to us and talk about those times. But it's changed now. The world has changed as well as Northampton. It's not at all like it was.

Willis Meyers [00:51:04] A whole different world.

Ronnie Meyers [00:51:06] You know, the schools aren't like they were. There's a lot of things that are, that are... They're better. Yeah, they're better. But there's there's a lot of good in those old times. And we look at those and think back different times at Christmas and Thanksgiving and talk about 'em, and we have a lot of good memories in Northampton and our life there.

Willis Meyers [00:51:27] And I could... Any road in Northampton Township, I could just about tell you every person's name lived in that township. I can yet. I can remember the biggest part of 'em. But the farmer never got any vacation. There wasn't no such a thing. Now, you know, they take about six, eight weeks vacation working somewhere. There wasn't none of that then. You didn't get no vacation because every farmer had livestock and they had to be taken care of every day. You know, you couldn't put it off two days later or anything like that. You had to do it every day. And...

Ronnie Meyers [00:52:17] I had a good mother. Mother was 18 when they was married and from the city, but she adapted to that farm life and just was an excellent... She lived to be 88 years old. She's passed on now, but she really took care of us kids, and we were clean and neat. Taught us manners and everything a mother should do.

Carolyn Conklin [00:52:48] Did you have a favorite place either in Northampton or in the Valley, somewhere special for both of you?

Ronnie Meyers [00:53:00] Do you remember, Dad, a place you like better than... In the Valley?

Willis Meyers [00:53:05] You talking about a farm?

Carolyn Conklin [00:53:07] It can be your farm.

Willis Meyers [00:53:12] Oh, there was a lot of nice places as far that goes.

Ronnie Meyers [00:53:16] Probably the Wetmore Farm there—you own the buildings now—that was a really nice place. There's a good barn there yet. That was one of the better ones in the township at the time. As far as what you consider maybe entertainment, there was nothing till you got to Peninsula, and there was a Peninsula nightclub, but we didn't go to that at all. But some of the guys in the community did. But aside from the churches and the schools, there was a little gas station up on the corner. And oftentimes we'd go there in the daytime and the grocery store also. But you didn't have... You didn't have things... The entertainment that you have today.

Willis Meyers [00:54:03] No. Well...

Ronnie Meyers [00:54:04] Square dances. We did a lot of square dancing,

Willis Meyers [00:54:09] Maybe a square dance, or the neighbors would have card parties and they... Most all farmers liked to play cards and they'd go and they couldn't go very far because they had to go in a horse and buggy so, you know... But your neighbors, if you need any help, they was there to help you and they never had to have no pay or anything like that, you know, because they know if they needed help, you'd be there to help them. And but today, it's just a different world, that's all. You know, if you help somebody do a little something today, you want paid for it. But they didn't then, you know.

Ronnie Meyers [00:55:06] That kind of brings you up to about where Dad was when we moved to the other farm where he still lives in the farm up there by himself and that's another whole story from then on.

Willis Meyers [00:55:19] And Dad having a slaughterhouse, he knew all about butchering and the people in the township as a rule butchered once a year, and they'd all call them, you know, to butcher their hogs or their cattle. And he never got nothing for it. He didn't figure on charging 'em. See, he didn't need much money in them days. And nobody had any in the Depression days. Everybody was broke. If you had twenty dollars in your pocket you could buy anything you wanted. Today, that's... You're broke if you got twenty dollars.

Carolyn Conklin [00:56:16] Anything else you would like to share?

Willis Meyers [00:56:21] I think, well, probably, you know, if something was mentioned, it would bring back your memory and there'd probably be oodles of things, but right now you can't think of 'em.

Ronnie Meyers [00:56:34] We get together in the holidays and, of course, we started bringing things up and Dad's still got a great memory. And he can just go on and on and on about different stories and different deals and different people and really enjoyable to us to hear those.

Willis Meyers [00:56:50] You mentioned Christmas. Now, we had on the farm, we had some pine trees and Dad would climb up in the top of the pine tree and cut the top out for a Christmas tree. And maybe then five or six later, years later, why that tree would grow back up again and it would be big enough to cut it again. In the meantime, he'd cut other ones down, you know. And... I can remember my aunt and uncle, they, all they had was a horse to drive—and us kids was just little at that time—and when they'd come in, it would be dark in the horse and buggy and they'd put sleigh bells on the horse. So when he trotted, them bells would ring, you know, and we were just little at that time and we'd hear him coming, you know, it would be dark. And when they come in, why my mother would say that was Santa Claus coming always. And we were scared of Santa Claus. And we'd all run to our bedroom and hide or get under the bed or something. And then after they'd come in and they'd always bring presents, after they'd come in, why she'd tell us when Santa Claus left, you know, and then we'd come down to see what Christmas was. So Christmas was a big thing in them days. And there was no lights. It was just candles on the tree. You know, you'd light them candles. And it was a fire really. That's the only thing they had to use. So they didn't have no electricity. We had electricity, but we had our own. But that was Christmas deal.

Ronnie Meyers [00:59:04] You talking about that cutting Christmas trees, Dad, I can remember, Spank and I was probably two and three or three and four, and you and Mom took this down there. There's still some pine trees there just before you get to the Hale Farm there, you remember? And the snow was about that deep.

Willis Meyers [00:59:21] Yeah.

Ronnie Meyers [00:59:21] Up to our waist. And you took us down across there. We parked in the road and up that other side and cut a Christmas tree down. I couldn't have been over four years old, but I can remember that like yesterday. You got a brother that's a year and a half younger than me. And and we carried on that tradition clear through my kids, going out and cutting our own Christmas tree. We've always done that.

Willis Meyers [00:59:47] You know, there's oodles of things that I could think of in time or if somebody mentions something, why I remember. But right now, you know, there's so many things that...

Ronnie Meyers [01:00:04] Back then, you know, like in the fall when the apples come on, well, they had a cider mill out there, too, and the farmers would bring a wagon load of apples in and you'd squeeze them and they take those, that juice home and, or drink some cider, no doubt, but then they'd make vinegar out of that. And that was all done that his dad's farm. He had the mill.

Willis Meyers [01:00:26] Yeah, well, everybody had their own vinegar at that time. You know, they fit pickles down in jars and lots of things they use vinegar for that they don't use it no more. And they buy it all now.

Ronnie Meyers [01:00:46] And another thing, his dad's hired man worked for his keep. No money, he just... He lived over top of the horse or the garage there, didn't he? Wasn't there an upstairs there?

Willis Meyers [01:00:58] No, no. He lived at home.

Ronnie Meyers [01:01:00] In the house?

Willis Meyers [01:01:01] He lived in Dogtown.

Ronnie Meyers [01:01:04] Oh, he come up there every day?

Willis Meyers [01:01:06] He come up every day.

Ronnie Meyers [01:01:08] Yeah. Well, anyway, he worked for his keep.

Willis Meyers [01:01:12] And there was people at, well, Steels Corners Road was improved enough that ones that [were] working in the rubber shop in Akron could get out to Steels Corners, but that's as far as they could go. Well, Dogtown's three or four mile[s] away.

Ronnie Meyers [01:01:32] Dogtown's where Blossom Music Center [is]. That was called Dogtown at the time.

Willis Meyers [01:01:35] Yeah. That's Dogtown. And they'd get up in the morning and maybe work in the six o'clock shift. They'd walk that three, four mile[s] to get to where their car was parked because they couldn't get it home. The roads was too bad. And they'd walk there and drive into Akron by six o'clock in the morning. There's a lot of them did that for a long time.

Ronnie Meyers [01:02:03] Walk... Route 8 was paved with pavement brick at the time, and that was done by WPA guys during the Depression. That road was paved to Steels Corners Road. From there on, it was dirt and gravel and...

Willis Meyers [01:02:18] They built that road out of red brick. They laid them all by hand from Akron to Cleveland. So you know how much, how long that would have took.

Carolyn Conklin [01:02:33] How, I mean, how long would it take to, I mean, to get to Cleveland?

Willis Meyers [01:02:38] Oh, is no telling.

Ronnie Meyers [01:02:41] Well, the work programs is what initiated that. And there was, of course, different areas that crew would take and they would do a mile or whatever. And... But that lasted as long as WPA.

Willis Meyers [01:02:56] My uncle was the mayor of Hudson for, oh, a good many years. And we might be invited up there for Sunday dinner. And we had Model T Ford. Well, that was eight mile[s]. That was a long trip. And he'd get things ready, you know. He'd get [laughs] buckets and dip water out of the creek on the way up there in case the motor got hot, you know, and...

Ronnie Meyers [01:03:27] Spare tires.

Willis Meyers [01:03:29] Spare tires and bands, Model T run on bands.

Ronnie Meyers [01:03:33] Mm hmm.

Willis Meyers [01:03:34] They carried a new set of bands in.... And they could stop along a road and repair it, and go on then, you know, they had enough stuff with them to repair anything that would break down in the Model T Ford.

Ronnie Meyers [01:03:52] There's still a lot of that pavement brick in Akron and Cleveland.

Willis Meyers [01:03:56] Oh, and...

Ronnie Meyers [01:03:57] Still a lot of those streets that are paved with that brick that are still being used today.

Willis Meyers [01:04:01] I went to Falls High School. I had to furn[ish] for my own transportation. There was no busses went there. There was one bus and it went to Hudson. So if you didn't go to Hudson you had to furnish your own transportation. And I drove my dad's Model T Ford to Falls High School. That's where I went to high school and I rode the Model T. And maybe you'd go out in the morning, the radiators leaked down bad all the time, always did. And at night when you parked it in the garage, you had to drain the water out of it. In the morning, you had to fill the radiator before you could go, and you had to make sure the motor was running before you poured the water in 'cause it would freeze, and then you was in a pickle then, you know, so then you would fill the radiator with water, drive into town, drain the water. And when you got ready to come home, you fill the radiator with water and drove it home, put it in the garage, drained it out at night, and fill it again in the morning. People didn't think nothing about that. What would they do today?

Ronnie Meyers [01:05:36] There was no permanent antifreeze, of course. Later on they come out with alcohol and that was a fluid that they put in the radiator that wouldn't freeze. But those old Fords would get hot and that would boil over. So in most cases, they just filled the radiators in the morning, drove where they were going, and drain 'em out and start over. And people just accepted that as part of transportation.

Willis Meyers [01:05:59] And the floorboards then would be wood, and when you driving down the road, you could look right down and see the road when you was driving. People didn't think nothing about it. That's why I say it's a whole different world today. But there's a million things I could... If somebody mentioned, that, you know, I'd think about then and could tell you, but...

Ronnie Meyers [01:06:33] Well, would you want to tell them the story about when you got the new sled and you took it down there and went down that hill and that heavyset girl got on it...

Willis Meyers [01:06:40] [Laughs].

Ronnie Meyers [01:06:40] And she went over the jump and... Maybe you shouldn't tell that story, just flattened the runners out. [laughs]

Willis Meyers [01:06:46] We did a lot of...

Ronnie Meyers [01:06:48] Lots of stories like that. If you have time. [laughs]

Willis Meyers [01:06:51] Sliding and skating in them days and at Christmastime, maybe you'd get a new sled or a new pair of skates. And down at Hart's Corners, there was a hill down there that everybody used that hill to slide down. And I got a new sled for Christmas. And this girl, she was pretty heavyset, she was growed up. And she wanted to use it, so I let her take it and use it and go down there and boy, she just... [laughs] The runners just flattened out like that.

Ronnie Meyers [01:07:27] Dad, what about the time you went down to Cranky Smith's and he give you that cigar and you kind of got sick when you went home. He told his mother he got sick on Smith's well water. [laughs].

Willis Meyers [01:07:39] We... My neighbor was my same age in my grade, and we chummed together all the time. We'd go fishing, and the grocery store was never locked, either door, front or back, and people'd stop and get what they wanted and leave us a note, you know, what they got. And so they went away on a Sunday and the store was open and it was in the summertime and the orchard—we had pretty good-sized orchard—and we went in there and got two cigars. We were just little. We went out there in the orchard under a shade tree and lit up them cigars and swallowed all the smoke. We got sick. We're sick enough to die when my mother and dad got home. Dad looked at me and he could smell the cigar smoke. He set I ought to give you a good whipping but he said, I think you're hurt enough, he said, without the whippings. [laughs] That was another deal.

Ronnie Meyers [01:09:00] His mother was a good cook, I mean, a good cook. She could make donuts and noodles and just anything.

Willis Meyers [01:09:08] And they were...

Ronnie Meyers [01:09:09] She really was a good cook.

Willis Meyers [01:09:11] There was no such a thing as a recipe. They didn't needany. Them old farm women got it in their head and they never forget it, you know?

Ronnie Meyers [01:09:24] We'd go around and thresh at different families. There was about seven different farmers. This is even after I was helping and each different farmer was famous for... One of them was, would make good chicken and the other one would roast beef. So and they always furnished lunch whenever you were working, threshing, and you always looked forward to whatever that lady was good at making, having out for your lunch that day.

Willis Meyers [01:09:50] When the night... There was no lights outside nowhere. You know, and when it got dark, you couldn't see your hand like that. That's how dark it would get, just pitch dark. And I used to play with my neighbor, a kid, and I went over there one night, and I stayed too long and it got dark and I was scared to go home. We went across a man's pasture that had cows in it—it was in the summertime—and there was a black cow laying down in that pasture and you couldn't see her till you fell over the top of her. That's when you know she was there. And I started home and I was running just as hard as I could run 'cause I was scared. And this cow was a-laying down there and I fell right over the top of her, and when I did, she jumped up and, boy, from then on the next fence was four foot high and I think I just cleared that when I went over it. [laughs] And I was scared so bad.

Ronnie Meyers [01:11:11] What about the time you... Tell her about the time you was going over to Bath and your dad had that pair of gray horses and was going down Northampton Road there and they stopped dead.

Willis Meyers [01:11:19] Oh.

Ronnie Meyers [01:11:20] It was dark.

Willis Meyers [01:11:21] We was going down right to the bottom of that hill, on Akron-Peninsula Road, there was a man with the name of Robertson lived there and we was gone down there to a card party and he had a bobsled, snow on the ground. And we picked up the neighbors as we went down there. You know, there was quite a few of them [that] went. And we got right down to where you start down that hill, and you can look just right down like this.

Ronnie Meyers [01:11:57] The road makes a sharp bend there.

Willis Meyers [01:11:59] It's just straight down. And we had white horses. You couldn't see 'em even though they was white. And we got down to the top of that hill and all at once they stopped, they did. You know, he didn't... My dad didn't stop them. They stopped on their own. So he had a lantern along—everybody carried a lantern in them days, kerosene lantern—and he lit that lantern and went out and found the horses and they stopped right at the top of that. If they could've took three more steps, he'd 've went over that, with us with him. You know?

Ronnie Meyers [01:12:43] That's why it's still there. You can see it today.

Willis Meyers [01:12:45] And you can see that place. I seen it when we come up where they stopped, but there's a million things I could tell you if, you know, somebody mentioned them. But there's too many to think about.

Carolyn Conklin [01:13:07] Well, I have to cut you off here because we have another interview scheduled, but I mean, if you want, I mean, if you come up with a lot, if you remember a lot of stories, I mean, you can write 'em down and we can schedule another interview and you can just... You can tell me all.

Willis Meyers [01:13:24] Yeah.

Carolyn Conklin [01:13:24] All your stories. That would be great.

Ronnie Meyers [01:13:26] Most of those stories go up till just about the time Dad was married and set up housekeeping on his own. You know, from there on, it's another, you know, it's another whole story. But you got a great memory.

Carolyn Conklin [01:13:41] I could tell that. Thank you. And thank you so much for sharing.

Willis Meyers [01:13:45] You know, any direction from where we live now, I could just about tell you every person's name that lived on the road in Northampton Township. I can still remember just about every one of 'em.

Ronnie Meyers [01:14:01] See, that didn't start to develop until after the war and rubber shops were busy and then all those people, they come out here and they bought a 20- or 30-acre farm and they had a cow and maybe a pair of horses and had some settin' hens and laying hens and a hog or two, and that's when Northampton started to develop. Until then, I can remember when there was almost nothing out there but farms.

Willis Meyers [01:14:28] Well, I know I could tell you another kind of a good one.

Carolyn Conklin [01:14:35] Let's get one more in. [laughs].

Willis Meyers [01:14:35] When I waledk to school, why we'd go across lots, you know, and then it was a shorter distance. You didn't go around the road, but you had fences to go over and people used to build steps over them fences. So you was a little kid, you didn't get caught in the wire or something. And kids used to like to do trapping in the wintertime, you know. And I walked across lots over there. And on the way over, I'd check my traps to see if I got anything. And this morning, I had a skunk—you know what they smell like—and shall I kill the skunk and I stepped on the trap of my foot to release him out of that trap and of course I got that smell out of that skunk on my shoe. Then I went to school and we got in there and after the school warmed up a little, the warmer it got the more of that skunk was starting to stink. And the teacher, she was trying to find out who it was, you know. Of course, it was me, but I was only one that knowed it. And she'd walk around the room, you know, sniffin' [laughs], tryin' to find out who had that skunk on 'em. And the kid next door, who sit next door to me, or not next door but in the seat next to me, she kept getting close to him and close him and she finally decided it was him. [laughs] And she made him get up and sit in the hall the whole rest of the day. And it was me. It was just little things like that you remember, you know, and...

Ronnie Meyers [01:16:43] Thanks.

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