INTERVIEW WITH RUTH HARMON DILWORTH
A RESIDENT OF TROY, OHIO
March 20, 2010
A PRODUCT OF THE TROY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Interviewed by: Mike Robinson
Interviewer’s note: Ruth is a lifetime Troy resident who graduated from Troy High School in 1930; Troy was in the beginning phase of the Great Depression.
Our class was the largest graduating class in Troy up to that time; we had 32 boys and 49 girls. Graduation and Baccalaureate were held at the Methodist Church because our Van Cleve high school did not have an auditorium at that time. We did not have caps or gowns; the girls wore white dresses and the boys wore white shirts to both festivities; for subsequent classes, Baccalaureate was discontinued, I don’t know why. I wasn’t a very good student, although I did graduate at sixteen, a very early age. There wasn’t a lot of celebrating high school graduation, what with the depression having already started in late 1929. Many from the graduating class hosted prom parties that took place in private homes, serving cake and ice cream, well supervised by parents.
Immediately I had a problem in seeking employment- I was two years too young to be seriously considered by employers and simply had to wait until I was eighteen to begin my job search. My first job was with the Hobart Cabinet Company, in 1932, which made office cabinets. The company had a strange way of advertising: they sent out post cards with pictures of their cabinets on the back and ladies would come in and address and stamp the cards by hand. This was piecework- we were paid a fixed amount for each one hundred cards we did, and I was the youngest person there. Most of these women are all gone now We had telephone directories from all the different cities; we’d turn to the yellow pages for the addresses and names of the companies. I wasn’t a speedy writer; the first book I had was Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It was amazing, the results he got from the direct mail campaigns. I did this work a for a short time and was then transferred to the office; I had typing ability which, apparently, the other girls lacked. For the office work, I received $17.40 a week, which, during the depression, was nice income for a young girl, and I stayed with Hobart, in various jobs, until 1942, living at home with my parents. My father worked three days a week at Hobart Manufacturing in the factory, although he wanted to work more. We weren’t on welfare, but things were still pretty tough.
Thinking back to my childhood, my favorite pastime was roller-skating on the city streets and sidewalks. Slate sidewalks, a few of which remain in Troy, were my favorites because of the smoothness of the slate, allowing for speed. Also, there were movies- westerns at the Colonial (Interviewer note: next to the Mayflower), then they had the Jewel (on the north side first block of East Main) and then the Mayflower came along in 1928. We had home deliveries of ice and milk in those days; kids would run along the horse-drawn ice wagon and get chips of ice on a hot summer day. I liked to play with dolls, as did most girls, right up to high school.
Where the Bake House is today sat a huge department store (Harr’s on the Square) with the main floor, second floor, and basement. A large grand stairway with handrail up the
middle greeted you as you entered, and led to the second floor, which housed men’s clothing on one side, ladies on the other, and the Main floor was household goods. The basement housed farm products and toys- the store had everything! I’m not sure when or why they closed, but the location later became Morris’s 5 and 10-cent store. On East Main Street, Miller Brothers sold harnesses and antiques- I remember it being very dusty. Troy Hardware occupied space in the first block of South Market, on the East side.
Murphy’s department store, on the southeast corner of the Square was also an important retailer. I don’t have any recollection of Steil, Grunder and Dye’s clothing store- later Uhlmans’s (located on present Prouty Plaza). Between the Mayflower and Steils was a hardware store which sold very expensive furniture (probably Preston Dye’s Interior Shop). Montgomery Ward’s at the southeast corner of Market and Franklin streets, an important chain department store, while the Troy Telephone Company was on the northeast corner of the same intersection. At that time, we had no dial telephones; all calls had to be placed through an operator at “Central”, so the building housed both operators and the switching equipment. The operator would answer, “Hello, Central”; I still remember my grand-mother’s phone number- 882L.
Jake Lapinski’s Famous Store was adjacent to the bank on the south side. Jake had “everything” as well, basically, a hardware store, on three floors, with a rickety elevator worked by hand, pulling the ropes taking you up or down; you used it at your own risk!
If Jake didn’t have what you were looking for, you probably didn’t need it anyway.
Vogel’s shoe store, on the public square, was another favorite of mine; I’d walk out of my way just to go past it and check out the latest shoe fashions. I badly wanted a pair of “blonde” shoes they sold, but couldn’t afford them; they cost $6.00. One day, while walking past, they were gone; somebody had bought them.
The Lollis Hotel took up most of the west side of the first block of South Market, and had a bar on the Franklin street side with basement entrance; my father was a frequent visitor!. Yost Tobacco Store on West Main Street sold out of town newspapers, candy, kind of a 7-11 convenience store, a small place but one to which many Trojans visited
We had two banks in Troy, which merged together in 1923- The Troy National and the First National Banks. They later merged and moved into the new- in 1930- First Troy National Bank building at 8 South Market, right next to Jake Lapinsky’s store. M&R drugs moved into the vacated bank building in the southeast corner of the public square.
Chautaquas would often come to Troy, setting up their pitched tent in the area now occupied by the Meier Senior Center- these events were very popular and would last an entire week. Typically they were three-act plays, quality acting for the times. Also, travelling circuses would also come to town, setting up their tents in the same area.
During the ‘30’s, we had the inter-urban streetcars which ran on their own dedicated tracks from one town to another- I often took the ride from Troy to Piqua- it cost 25 cents, which was probably a bargain.
When World War II began, routines in Troy changed drastically- my brother Joe was immediately drafted and all young men had to conform with the Selective Service Law which defined each man’s obligation based upon physical condition and personal circumstances. My brother Joe spent three years in New Zealand and the Fiji Islands. My husband Joe Dilworth was stationed in New Guinea as a military policeman. At the time- 1943- my focus was on our baby daughter Diana- taking care of her. That was a struggle! She and I would go to Piqua once a week to visit my husband Joe’s family- it would take all day to get ready to go; these were very lean years. Many women were working, including my mother; my father didn’t like her working, he felt he was the man of the house and should be the provider. The house was full of people- even my Grandpa Harmon- housing was in short supply, of course, due to local war production, especially WACO gliders.
Rationing was the one of the biggest problems we faced during the war- especially gasoline. I had a convertible at the time with red leather seats, the talk of the town but with no gasoline to put in it! Butter, silk stockings, sugar were also rationed. My father had a “victory garden” in the back yard, so we didn’t have to worry about vegetables. Our diet suffered- many times, we had only “mush” to eat. At the time, houses were heated by coal- one of my house duties was to keep the stove fires burning- we didn’t have central heat, and the natural gas lines weren’t installed under the streets until later.
Soon after the war, about 1950, several gas storage tanks blew up in the middle of the night a short distance from our house on South Market Street. The blast knocked me out of bed, blew out all the windows, and the flames almost consumed our house, the heat was so intense. That same year we had a record snow event at Thanksgiving, which paralyzed all of Troy and is still discussed to this day.
Interviewer’s note: at this point, Ruth reviewed on the recording family photographs and two Troy High School yearbooks from 1929 and 1930. Notable teachers from the era were pictured- C. Weston “Smeed” Walters, Principal T.S. Hook, L.E. “Pop” Jackson, Fred Pettay, Superintendent B. F. Weiss, and Frank Humberger, who wrote the Troy High Alma Mater, still in use today. I especially remember Mae Hosbrook, who taught typing and shorthand- I learned more from her than from any of my other teachers.
So that’s my story. The depression and war years were difficult times in Troy, but we ate every day, had a roof over our heads; my father worked hard and did the best he could. The grocery stores, in many cases, would carry their customers on credit and when the people could pay, they would. Fulmer’s market was at Walnut and West, and Weikerts was on Race Street. Bad times back then, and now we’re going through them again, but not as bad as in the ‘20’s and ‘30’s.
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