Jan Thomas's family has lived in Boston Township for generations. In this 2011 interview Thomas describes life on the farm. They had no electricity until 1946 and even no bathroom until Thomas was in 6th grade. She discusses life in the community, what they did for entertainment, the church community, and her school experiences.
Thomas, Jan (interviewee)
Ashwood, Brian (interviewer)
Jan Thomas [00:00:00] That's right.
Carolyn Conklin [00:00:01] OK, so whenever you're ready, Brian. That's right.
Brian Ashwood [00:00:04] Alright, my name is Brian Ashwood. Today's April 27, 2011. And I'm interviewing Jan Thomas for the Cuyahoga Valley Agricultural Project. Just for the record, state your name, spell it for us, and just tell us a little bit of something about yourself. Where you were born, when you were born, and where you live now.
Jan Thomas [00:00:25] My name is Janet Thomas. I live in Cuyahoga Falls. I was born Wheatley Road in Boston Township, and my grandfather, great-grandfather, bought the property, the farm, in 1880. It's on Wheatley Road, Richfield Township.
Brian Ashwood [00:00:50] When were you born? About?
Jan Thomas [00:00:51] 1941.
Brian Ashwood [00:00:56] Alright. And were you born, you, sorry, were you born here or did you move here?
Jan Thomas [00:01:04] No, I was born and raised on Wheatley Road in Boston Township.
Brian Ashwood [00:01:07] Do you have any memories from living on the farm>
Jan Thomas [00:01:11] lots of memories.
Brian Ashwood [00:01:13] Could you tell us just a little one,.
Jan Thomas [00:01:14] Okay. My grandfather inherited the farm after his father died. He farmed approximately a hundred acres. They raised corn, hay, and cattle. He milked his cows and sent them out to Akron Pure Milk in Akron, Ohio. I can remember vividly taking the cows in, slapping them in the stanchions and milking. And if the cats got in the way [makes a squirting sound], they got squirted with milk. And when we were little, he would say, "Open your mouth!" and he would try and squirt milk into our mouth as he was milking. We have... I have lots and lots of good memories. I remember when I was very small, they had horses that did the plowing and pulled the wagons and when they made hay and then in 1940, probably 1946, we got a John Deere tractor, the envy of the Valley. And then a few years later, they got a baler to make hay. But there was a lot of hay, a lot of hard work, because at first it was all on a wagon with a pitchfork.
Brian Ashwood [00:02:39] Did they grow anything else besides hay?
Jan Thomas [00:02:40] They grew corn.
Brian Ashwood [00:02:42] Corn?
Jan Thomas [00:02:43] Yes, and we had a huge garden that fed three families, my aunt and uncle, our family of seven, and my grandparents and my uncle and his wife and child lived with them. So we had a huge garden. We did not buy anything from the store. Everything was canned. And then later on we got a freezer, and everything, all the meat, we had pigs, chickens, cows.
Brian Ashwood [00:03:11] And where did you guys sell the corn?
Jan Thomas [00:03:15] The corn was sold to Medina Supply.
Brian Ashwood [00:03:19] So you guys were self-sufficient.
Jan Thomas [00:03:21] Self-sufficient.
Brian Ashwood [00:03:21] Sort of self-sufficient.
Jan Thomas [00:03:21] So the only thing we bought was toilet paper.
Brian Ashwood [00:03:27] And I know you mentioned the hay baler and the tractor. Were there other kind of technologies or techniques that you used or anything special that you guys did?
Jan Thomas [00:03:40] No, because we tedded the hay. When we made hay, you'd cut it with a cut... I can't remember the name of the bar, the cutter bar, first behind horses and then behind the tractor. And then we tedded the hay, and then it was baled. And the corn, we picked the corn by hand.
Brian Ashwood [00:04:06] So I'm assuming you learned from your grandfather and your father, and how did they learn about farming?
Jan Thomas [00:04:14] My grandfather learned from his father, who originally bought the land. So it's been in the family all those years since 1880.
Brian Ashwood [00:04:36] Can you tell us anything about the Cuyahoga Valley itself, just as a place? I mean, is there, is there somewhere special on the property that brings back memories, or anything like that?
Jan Thomas [00:04:47] We used to have a spring that we got water from, and the spring was run down in wooden pipes at first, and then we replaced it with metal pipes that put water to two families, to two homes. And we had a little creek across the street that we used to go swimming in. And there was a clay bank on it, and we slid down the clay bank into the water. And then we would... Sometimes we would walk down to the covered bridge and play under the bridge.
Brian Ashwood [00:05:21] And is the house that you grew up in, is that still there?
Jan Thomas [00:05:25] No, the park demolished it.
Brian Ashwood [00:05:28] Can you tell us something about that, or how, was it just taken over?
Jan Thomas [00:05:33] They took it over. They didn't give our our family much choice about selling. They just told us we had to sell. Same thing with my grandmother and her house and the barn, which was made of oak. They just brought a bulldozer in and demolished everything. Said it wasn't of historical interest. And we've been there since 1880. And I think our, my house, the house I lived in was built around 1890, between 1890 and 1895.
Brian Ashwood [00:06:19] Could you describe just a typical day when you were growing up on the farm, or was there any such thing as a typical day?
Jan Thomas [00:06:25] A typical day was... I was the oldest of five, so my job was to help feed the little ones. And then every morning we went out and worked in the garden in the summertime, pulled weeds, and we ran up to Grandma's. And by that time he'd be almost, my grandfather would be almost done milking, and we'd play in the barn, play in the hay bales and all that. And then he would take us for a ride on the horses or we'd help feed the pigs and the chickens and gather eggs. And that was typical day. A typical farm day. [long pause] I might mention that when I was very young, we did not have electricity. We didn't get electricity until I started to school in 1946, so we had kerosene lamps, wood stoves. At night in the winter, we would heat bricks on the wood, on the coal stove, wrap them in paper and put them in bed to warm the beds because there was no heat in the upstairs. No heat, no central heat.
Carolyn Conklin [00:07:53] Are you done?
Brian Ashwood [00:07:53] I'm kind of out of questions.
Carolyn Conklin [00:07:56] Okay. Can you tell us what what you know about your family history back to your great grandfather?
Jan Thomas [00:08:06] I can take family history all the way back to 1812 when my great-great-great grandfather was the first marriage in Boston Township. His name was William Carter, and he married Elizabeth Mayes. And she was the first white woman to make a break in Richfield Township. And that's when they break a stick and light a fire. She and her father came from Pennsylvania with a sack of flour and that's about it. And some sugar, and that's about it. And he came from Ireland, my great-great grandfather. He fought in the War of 1812. He was wasn't in it long enough to get a pension, and she didn't get a pension because he was like 15 days short of the time for pensions. But we've always lived here. We've always lived in Boston Township. Boston Township or Richfield Township. The next grandfather worked the quarries and had canal boats. And then my grandfather, my great grandfather is the one that bought the property on Wheatley Road and started the farm. And he also worked on the canal boats when he was young.
Carolyn Conklin [00:09:31] Are there any stories that have been passed down about the canal boats or anything you can share?
Jan Thomas [00:09:35] Oh, sure. They used to talk about my uncle, my great-great uncle also lived on the lock up at Ira. It's part... It's near the Beaver Pond. So he ran that lock. They used to talk about getting on the horse in the cart and going up there to the lock and watching the people go through and the boats go through. My grandfather was full of stories like that. It was, I mean, it was a fun time. We didn't have any conveniences to speak of, but we had a good life. It was fun. Everybody was close. Everybody knew everybody. We all went to church in Everett, to the Everett Church of Christ. And my... That's... My aunt owned Carter's Store in Everett. Maude Carter. So we've been around here for a long time.
Carolyn Conklin [00:10:37] Can you tell us about the store>
Jan Thomas [00:10:40] The store was a fun place because you could go around in a circle, and when you'd go in the front door off the porch, there was the store. And then at the back of the store was a door that went into the living quarters. And then when you'd go all the way through the house, you'd come back into the store in the front of the store. So when we were little, we'd go down and she'd give us penny candy and we could run around through the circle. [laughs] It was fun.
Carolyn Conklin [00:11:09] Do you remember any stories about interactions with customers or did you help out in the store?
Jan Thomas [00:11:16] No, we didn't help out, but we knew everybody that came in there because everybody knew everybody. I mean, it was really a close... You talk about close-knit. It was very close.
Carolyn Conklin [00:11:28] Do you remember what was sold in the store?
Jan Thomas [00:11:30] Everything from meat to sugar and flour and penny candies, and she had a little bit of dry goods like, you know, gloves and overalls for men, but no dresses or anything like that.
Carolyn Conklin [00:11:49] Was the history of the store, was that the... Were you the first family to work the store or was it something else before that?
Jan Thomas [00:11:56] No, before that it was Herrington's. But I was not alive then.
Carolyn Conklin [00:12:02] And that was the same kind of like a general store?
Jan Thomas [00:12:04] Yes, a general store.
Carolyn Conklin [00:12:08] Can you describe the house and the property for us? Kind of give like a visual descriptive...
Jan Thomas [00:12:14] Where I live?
Carolyn Conklin [00:12:15] Yes.
Jan Thomas [00:12:16] It was a two-story house. There was a living room, a dining room, and a kitchen. And until I was in probably sixth grade, we had no bathroom. We had an outhouse, which was fun. [laughs] And there was a basement that had a root cellar where we put all our potatoes and parsnips and all the good stuff, carrots, over the winter. And then upstairs... And there was one bedroom on the first floor, and then upstairs there were two bedrooms, and all five of us... My brother had his own room and all four girls shared the other room. Typical. It was just a house, just a farmhouse.
Carolyn Conklin [00:13:07] Did you have a favorite place in the house?
Jan Thomas [00:13:10] Probably the kitchen. I like to cook, and I like to bake, so I used to do a lot of cooking.
Carolyn Conklin [00:13:21] And how about the property beyond the house?
Jan Thomas [00:13:25] My mom and dad, their property was only a couple acres, but my grandmother and grandfather had over a hundred acres, so, I mean, it was connecting. So we would run up and down, and we had strawberry patch along the road going from our house to theirs. It's a quarter of a mile from our driveway to theirs. And we had currant bushes and grapes and so, you know, we, we could pick our own.
Carolyn Conklin [00:13:55] Did you have a lot of neighborhood friends when you were younger?
Jan Thomas [00:14:00] There were no other houses. There was one other house on our street for... Well, we couldn't walk anywhere that far when we were little until we started to drive, so we were kind of isolated.
Carolyn Conklin [00:14:14] So did you go to school in Everett?
Jan Thomas [00:14:15] I went to school in Boston Township High School, Boston Township schools right up here, up here on Emerson and Bronson. We rode the bus. We were the first ones on and the last ones off. Every day, we were the first ones on, the last ones off. And that's how we got to school all the way through from the time I went to first grade till I graduated.
Carolyn Conklin [00:14:40] Do you have any special memories from school.
Jan Thomas [00:14:44] Oh, lots. We still have reu[nions]. In fact, we're having a reunion this year, our class, four classes, because my class had twenty-three people in it. We were a big class. Two classes ahead of us there were seven. So when we have reunions, we have to have more than one, one class, but we've kept in touch, so many of us, probably over half of my class still gets together. And we get together with other people in other classes. So we've still maintained that... All those ties that we had from high school. Grade school also because we went to school with those kids from the time we started to school until we graduated. There were very few outsiders that came into this community.
Carolyn Conklin [00:15:40] Can you tell us, do you have any stories about what you did for fun?
Jan Thomas [00:15:45] You don't want to know. [laughs] We had dances. I mean, we were, we were considered by many a hip school, I suppose, but we had dances and we had picnics and we had hayrides. Hayrides were great fun. We had a farmer up on Oak Hill that would load his wagon full of hay, pull us all around the whole township. And then we would go back and have a bonfire. So we had lots of fun. We had dances and we had drag races. And I didn't say that. [laughs] You can edit that out.
Carolyn Conklin [00:16:31] What, I mean, was there something special about being in the Cuyahoga Valley as a kid, what did you like most?
Jan Thomas [00:16:38] In fact, what I liked the most was it was quiet and it was peaceful and, you know, you had your animals and your pets and you can walk and you'd pick blackberries and go climb up on the hill that there was a flat spot up on top and we used to say that was the top of the world when we were little, and we'd climb up there and have to watch out because the pig lot was right next door to that, so... But we had a great time. We'd ride Grandpa's horses, and then when I got in high school, we had all the dances and hayreides, and so we had a good time.
Carolyn Conklin [00:17:21] So your grandparents, were they on your mother's or your father's side?
Jan Thomas [00:17:24] My mother's side.
Carolyn Conklin [00:17:25] So was your father from the area?
Jan Thomas [00:17:27] He was, he was born in Hinckley.
Carolyn Conklin [00:17:30] Where is that?
Jan Thomas [00:17:30] It's Medina County.
Carolyn Conklin [00:17:34] And was he from a farming background?
Jan Thomas [00:17:38] Not really. But he worked on farms when he was young. He worked for other people.
Carolyn Conklin [00:17:47] And how about you, did you have kids?
Jan Thomas [00:17:51] Yeah, I have kids.
Carolyn Conklin [00:17:53] And have they stayed around the area?
Jan Thomas [00:17:54] They're in Medina, my one son is, and the other one just moved to North Carolina three years ago.
Carolyn Conklin [00:18:00] And what was it like to raise a family here?
Jan Thomas [00:18:02] It was fun. They had a good time. We lived in Bath at that time, when my kids were growing up, so they'd run to Revere, which is, it used to be a rival of Boston, of my high school. Revere was... That was a big rivalry. But we still were rural. And he now lives in Medina County and he has seven acres and horses and a pond. So we've stayed kind of rural.
Carolyn Conklin [00:18:37] So when when did the area... more people start moving into the area? When did you have more neighbors?
Jan Thomas [00:18:43] When the park took over. It changed from, you know, just a sleepy little, sleepy little burg to people, on Saturdays and Sundays, you can't get through this town because the people on the bikes, on the Towpath, riding the train... It's changed dramatically.
Carolyn Conklin [00:19:15] Let's see... Now, as far as... You said you had the John Deere tractor. Can you tell us a little more about that and what that moment was for that change?
Carolyn Conklin [00:19:25] Well, it changed everything because they were... They worked for days and days and days pitching hay. I mean, my grandmother, my grandfather, my father, my uncle, even we did as children. I mean, we couldn't do a whole bunch, but we still would be on the wagon and we'd move the hay forward, because the horses would pull the wagon and they'd throw it on the back and then we would move it forward. So then when the baler came, the tractor came and then the baler, it's spit out those bales, you know, and we could just pick the bales up and put 'em on the wagon. There was no hours and hours and hours of pitching hay.
Carolyn Conklin [00:20:10] Did you have a favorite chore responsibility on the farm?
Jan Thomas [00:20:15] I liked all of it. I like that kind of life. I liked having my own garden and raising my own food. And, you know, we would butcher, in the fall, we'd butcher cows. And at that time we used to keep the meat and grind it up and you'd can it because there wasn't refrigeration. We had... Then later we got a locker—they used to have big lockers that you could rent out space in a big field—and we'd put the meat up there. But before that we canned all that meat. What you didn't eat fresh had to be canned or, you know, it would spoil. And we'd kill chickens every week and pick the feathers. But that's... It was, it was a good life. It was truly a good life, simple life, but a good life.
Carolyn Conklin [00:21:11] Can you tell us about your mother? What was she like?
Jan Thomas [00:21:14] My mom was, when she was young she worked really hard on the farm because my uncle was younger than she was. Therefore, somebody had to do the work. And when you have a farm, you have cows to milk every morning, you have chickens to feed, you have lambs to feed, you have everything to do, you have horses to take care of. So there's a lot of work on a farm. And my mom worked very hard. And then later she went to secretarial school and became a secretary and that's what she did until she had a stroke.
Carolyn Conklin [00:21:57] Did your father have another job in addition?
Jan Thomas [00:22:00] My father was a truck driver, a long-distance truck driver, so he was not home a whole lot. So therefore, responsibility of the family was with me and my mother.
Carolyn Conklin [00:22:13] And what was that like?
Jan Thomas [00:22:15] With those four younger siblings? [laughs] It was a different. But that's how you learn to be a mother, I guess, taking care of the other kids.
Carolyn Conklin [00:22:40] So, in Everett or Boston Township, should you tell us about some of the local businesses that were there?
Jan Thomas [00:22:46] Well, in Everett, there was a store and the post office.
Carolyn Conklin [00:22:50] That was it?
Jan Thomas [00:22:50] That was it. And the church. Everybody went to church on Sunday. Everybody went to Aunt Maude's school... or store and bought their food. And Kepner's had a store, too, but they had the post office. And then when that burned, the post office moved to Carter's store. That was it.
Carolyn Conklin [00:23:16] So is that between the store and your garden, did you need to go anywhere else for anything?
Jan Thomas [00:23:24] No, we made soap. We boiled all that stuff and made soap outside. The only thing we ever bought was like, we'd didn't even... It was toilet paper. We didn't use paper towels. You used a towel and you used a washing machine, and you hung them out and they dried, and you used them again. So you had wash day every Monday. Every Monday, you'd wash clothes. That was... That was gospel. Tuesday you ironed all day long. You ironed clothes. No permanent press, no dryers, you hung them on a line, and they got dry in winter, summer, no matter when. In the winter they'd freeze dry, and the towels would be fluffy better than a dryer. Because they would freeze first and then the wind would fluff 'em up.
Carolyn Conklin [00:24:23] So how did getting electricity change everything?
Jan Thomas [00:24:27] Well, first of all, we didn't have the oil lamps and the mantels they had on the gas lights. If touched them, they'd go [makes the sound]. I don't know if you ever saw one, then you'd know how they go. They just just disintegrate. We had one big one of those and then we had kerosene lamps all over. And then we got a furnace so we didn't have to haul wood and coal and build a fire every day. Before that, we actually had fuel-oil space heaters. And then we got a furnace and we got a refrigerator and we got an electric stove. So electricity was a big deal. Big, big, bigger than you think.
Carolyn Conklin [00:25:17] And you mentioned that you spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and...
Jan Thomas [00:25:21] Cooking, I love to cook, yeah. Still do.
Carolyn Conklin [00:25:24] What were some of your favorite things you'd cook?
Jan Thomas [00:25:25] I used to make biscuits every day in cakes and pies. My grandmother and my aunt taught me how to make pies and bake cookies. I was... I was the cook for everybody. I learned how to make beef, beef roast, and fried chicken. It was fun.
Carolyn Conklin [00:25:49] Was your family a part of the Grange or did you...
Jan Thomas [00:25:53] No, we weren't part of the Grange, we were just part of the church.
Carolyn Conklin [00:25:59] And can you can you describe the church for me? I know it's still standing, correct?
Jan Thomas [00:26:02] Yes, it's a lot bigger now. It used to be a little church. There was an original church there that burned. And then the families in Everett, including my grandmother, my grandfather, great grandfather, who donated a lot of money. It was a wonderful little church. We had... Downstairs you had the little kids there. When you got to be in seventh grade, you should go upstairs—Yay!—into the real church, but you sat in the back and you, in the back two pews on the left hand side were where the high school kids sat and then the rest of them all sat forward. But I mean, there were only probably fifty people in the whole community. So everybody knew everybody. But you graduated. You started downstairs and you came upstairs.
Carolyn Conklin [00:26:54] Can you tell us what the structure looked like? The older church?
Jan Thomas [00:26:57] The church had beautiful wood pews. It didn't have the pulpit like it has now. It just had a plain pulpit, just a plain wooden... I don't... What do you call that? Like... I can see it. It was wood and it had a little light on it, and the preacher stood behind it, and it was open underneath where he'd put his feet.
Carolyn Conklin [00:27:23] Like a podium?
Jan Thomas [00:27:23] But like a podium, that's the word. Yay! [laughs] But that's all it was. And we had two chairs where the elders and the deacons sat and we did communion every week. It was grape juice and little oyster crackers. That's what we had for communion. And we had a pump organ, a small one at the Hazel Osborne plate. And at one time we also had a piano up there. Very simple. Just wooden pews and the pulpit. It was a country church. Now they have stained-glass windows and electric guitars and all that stuff.
Carolyn Conklin [00:28:19] So was the church the centra,l kind of community, organizing...
Jan Thomas [00:28:23] Yes.
Carolyn Conklin [00:28:24] For participation in community events?
Jan Thomas [00:28:26] Yes, because they had penny suppers earlier when my aunt was young and my mom. They used to have penny suppers and they had cookouts all the time. All that. They made quilts, they had... The Ladies' Aid, they made quilts, and they also sold those quilts and they supported an orphanage in Cleveland. And a big thing they did was sell Jello, and I can't understand that, but that was one of the things they saw was Jello.
Carolyn Conklin [00:29:02] Do you remember the name of the orphanage?
Jan Thomas [00:29:04] I can't remember the name of it, and I asked my aunt and she said, well, I'll have to think about it. But she's 91, so, a long time ago.
Carolyn Conklin [00:29:17] Now, I've heard that there were just dances in the road by the church?
Jan Thomas [00:29:23] In the street. Yes, yes, street dances.
Carolyn Conklin [00:29:27] Can you tell us about those?
Jan Thomas [00:29:27] It was just Hazel and Dewey Osborne. He'd play the drums and she'd play the piano and they were up on a, sometimes up on a hay wagon, and it was just fun. I mean, like on "Little House on the Prairie?" That's what Everett was.
Carolyn Conklin [00:29:48] And who would come to the street dances?
Jan Thomas [00:29:49] Everybody in Everett, everybody. Little kids, big kids, medium kids and older people. You have to remember, there were maybe, like I said, less probably less than fifty people. So when we had a street dance, everybody came, and some of the people from Peninsula would come too.
Carolyn Conklin [00:30:12] And did you... Did people from Everett attend the dances or square dances in Peninsula?
Jan Thomas [00:30:18] Yes, yes,
Carolyn Conklin [00:30:22] And can you tell us about those?
Jan Thomas [00:30:22] We used to do square dances at the GAR Hall, you know, and over at the old town hall on Saturday nights. And they were just... They were just fun. I mean, nobody did anything wrong. They had little punch, no alcohol in it. It was just good fun.
Carolyn Conklin [00:30:46] Switching topics here. Were there any challenges to either the farm or just that you remember from growing up that your family faced?
Jan Thomas [00:30:57] Just having enough to, to survive, because my... When my father had an accident and didn't work for seven years, it was very tough for us, for our family. But my mother worked and, and my... The farm supported us. If it hadn't been for the farm and my grandparents, because we had milk, we had eggs, we had vegetables, and we had meat. So we were actually self-sufficient. That was... But that was the challenge right there. It was just trying to keep yourself going.
Carolyn Conklin [00:31:37] Were there any specific problems with pests or flooding or deer?
Jan Thomas [00:31:43] Not at those days because you were able to shoot deer for meat, and that's what we did. I mean, you know, if you got two deer, you made jerky, you made sausage, you made venison steaks. And that's when we had the locker up in Richfield so we could freeze them. But earlier we canned 'em just like everything else.
Carolyn Conklin [00:32:16] I don't have any more specific questions, but do you have... I mean, part of what we're trying to gather are just family memories and stories. So, I mean, there's probably things I'm not asking that you remember that you could... These stories about being a child in the Valley or on a farm?
Jan Thomas [00:32:33] It was just a good life. That's how it sums up. I mean, everybody knew everybody. There were... There were no problems, so we never had... We never locked a door. I don't think we had a key to our house. It didn't have a lock. It had a door knob and no keys. You never locked anything. And it was a fun time. You know, we worked hard. We worked hard in the gardens, and I was the oldest, as I said, and so I had the kids, little kids to look after. And nowadays, you know, nobody knows how to wash clothes by hand or with a Maytag washer. Nobody knows how to hang 'em out to dry. They don't even know what a clothesline is. but that's what we had. And we we had a lot of fun picking berries. There was... And nuts, we gathered nuts up... Grandpa had walnuts, black walnuts, hickory nuts and butter nuts, so we would go up and pick those up and crack 'em, and use them in cooking. We just had... We had a good life.
Carolyn Conklin [00:33:48] Did you ever get in trouble for doing anything mischievous as a child?
Jan Thomas [00:33:53] Not me. [laughs] Of course I did. Didn't you?
Carolyn Conklin [00:33:59] Of course. [laughs]
Jan Thomas [00:33:59] Not bad things. Just, you know, things my parents didn't approve of. When you're the oldest, you know, if the little kids do something wrong, it's your fault.
Carolyn Conklin [00:34:10] It's a lot of responsibility.
Jan Thomas [00:34:11] It's a lot of responsibility.
Carolyn Conklin [00:34:14] Do you have any more questions you've added?
Brian Ashwood [00:34:14] Mm-mmm.
Carolyn Conklin [00:34:19] I wanted to... Do you remember anything else about the canal boats? We don't have a lot of information about that from your... Anything you learned from your grandparents?
Jan Thomas [00:34:28] Just that my grandfather said they were flat. And, you know, as a child, he played on him. I was born. They were not... I wasn't around when they were around. But my uncle who lived on the lock, Grandpa used to go up there with him, he and his father, and they would walk... They would lead the mules down the Towpath. That's how they got from here to there was with mules pulling 'em. And the locks would raise and lower. The water would raise and lower to keep them going. They were always flat and they had... They even had a place on it where they cooked.
Carolyn Conklin [00:35:15] On the boat?
Jan Thomas [00:35:16] On the boat. Because he said something about Aunt Susan used to make good stews for the passengers on the boat. I don't know if that's true, but that's what he said. And you don't disagree with... Don't disagree with your grandfather, you know.
Carolyn Conklin [00:35:40] So what were the major changes that you saw over time?
Jan Thomas [00:35:45] Locks on your doors, vandalism, people steal things, break ins, robberies. No respect, less respect. There's... We ne[ver]... We did not call any neighbor or any person older than us by their first name. It was Mr. and Mrs. But I think respect has gone out the window.
Carolyn Conklin [00:36:18] And the self-sufficiency...
Jan Thomas [00:36:21] Is gone. I mean, how many people could survive today? They don't know how to plant a garden or kill a deer or butcher a cow or a pig or kill a chicken, or they probably wouldn't even know how to gather eggs. And it's just, it's just a different world.
Carolyn Conklin [00:36:46] Were you able to teach your children any of that?
Jan Thomas [00:36:48] Oh, yeah. Yeah, because the farm was still going. Not as much and it was near its end, but they still... My grandmother raised chickens forever. And they... Chickens get you if you aren't careful. They'd peck you. [laughs]
Carolyn Conklin [00:37:11] Well, do you have any other memories you could share with us?
Jan Thomas [00:37:14] Just that it was a good time. It was a good life. You know, you raised your own food, you tilled the soil, you plowed it, and you just... Then you planted and you pulled the weeds, but you had a product in the end.
Carolyn Conklin [00:37:34] And the only products actually sold was the corn?
Jan Thomas [00:37:37] And the milk.
Carolyn Conklin [00:37:37] Oh, and the milk.
Jan Thomas [00:37:39] Milk went to Akron Pure Milk. But they bartered a lot with other farmers too. You know, if Mr. Scobie needed corn, he came down and got corn, or if he needed some hay, he got hay. And then maybe the next year he had more hay than we had and he had better corn than we had. So. It was close, a close-knit life.
Carolyn Conklin [00:38:08] Okay. Well, I'm done.
Jan Thomas [00:38:09] You're done?
Carolyn Conklin [00:38:11] Yeah, I think. Okay... [recording ends]
Cuyahoga Valley Project
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"Jan Thomas Interview, 2011" (2011). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 518036.