Residents of the Troy, Ohio area

Interview Date: March 12, 2013


Interviewed by: Mike Robinson

Interviewer’s note: Caroline and Ruth discuss their growing up experience in Troy during the era of the Great Depression.


Our Grandpa Kruse was named George, born in Piqua in 1869 to German immigrants. Our Grandma Caroline(Callie) Kruse was born in Claiborne, Germany. The family immigrated to the United States when she was twelve years old; father was a stone mason and followed others from the German area to work in Piqua at the stone quarry. She had finished four years of school in Germany and had to start over again because of the language barrier. She finished four years here before she felt too old with the other children in her class and quit. The family left Germany to escape conscription in the German army as the boys approached that age. There’s a story that our great grandma wanted to go so the boys wouldn’t be conscripted and our great grandpa threw the tickets in the fireplace and and she ran and got them out. Then they left and a couple days out on the Atlantic, the engine on the boat blew up and they had to come back and start all over again.

Grandpa was a barber working in Troy when they married in 1894, a Tuesday evening, May 15. According to the newspaper article, it was a beautiful wedding at the bride’s home on South Main Street in Piqua with dinner served to the many guests, and the happy couple left immediately for their new home in Troy. Their first child, Paul, lived only a couple of days. Then followed Mabel (1898), Warren (1902), and Clarence (our father) (in1905). Grandma always said the names were chosen because no nicknames were associated with them.

They grew up on South Mulberry Street within walking distance of most everything. Old postcards indicate they took the inter-urban to visit in Piqua. Growing up, the kids had a pet goat named Nanny and a rooster (which ended up on the dinner table uneaten). Grandpa was the wage earner and Grandma the homemaker. They had a garden and Grandma canned a lot, they got milk (and eggs, I think) from Gormans on Walnut Street. Their lives pretty much revolved around the church- now St. John’s U.C.C. but then St. John’s Evangelical. Grandma was the Sunday school teacher for the Ladies Bible Class for forever. The boys played with the neighbor boys (Majovsky’s) doing all the things boys growing up then did (jumped in the oil coated canal when they were forbidden to play by it- Grandma was pretty mad!)

Mabel was a high school student when she died of Typhoid Fever following the 1913 flood, and Grandma told me she had one of the last horse-drawn funerals in Troy. (Interviewer’s note: For more information on the enormity of the Troy Typhoid epidemic losses in the aftermath of the 1913 flood, the reader is referred to the June, July, August 2012 edition of The Troy Times: interview, 1913 Flood Series, Hortense Cairnes Mumford, April 25, 1975, page 7.) One of the small stained glass windows in St. John’s is dedicated to her memory.

I don’t know when they got their first auto, but in 1920 they took a trip to Washington D.C. and Annapolis authenticated with many pictures (most of them identified); eastern Ohio, Kentucky, Knoxville, Baltimore, the Natural bridge in Virginia, Washington, Annapolis. This was quite an adventure I would imagine on the roads (all gravel) and cars of the day. In 1923 they went to the International Boat Races at Belle Isle (Detroit), and in 1927 to the Indianapolis 500. There was also another trip East in 1926.

Warren and Clarence bought a Waco 9 in 1927, maybe the first private owners of a Waco in Miami County. Along with a third partner and pilot (Otho Brandt) and Freddie Lund, a well-known Waco pilot, they barnstormed air shows in the Tri-State area giving rides and they had a wing walker. They sold the plane in 1928 before I was born, making Mother very happy. They went to get the loan at the bank and never told the banker what they wanted the loan for, as flying was considered very dangerous in those days. When they were ready to leave, banker Sharon Drake said to them, “I hope you get a good car! Interviewer’s note: Sharon Drake was the brother of Frances Drake Nesbitt, victim of Troy’s “bathtub murder” in 1926). Before Daddy was married or bought the Waco he had tried to enlist in the Army Air Force but was turned down because of health reasons.

Warren married Opal Creager from Piqua in 1926 and Clarence married Rhea Richardson from Union Township in 1928. Both had been mainly involved with autos- mechanics, repair, maintenance, sales- and when Warren was fired from Reichards, they bought a small filling station at the north edge of Troy. A very risky move in the middle of the depression (1933), and they literally invested their lives into it working 12 hours and more daily. In the late ‘30s (maybe 1937) they got the GMC truck dealership for Troy. For many years they sold every school bus in Miami County. We’d take drivers to the factory in Pontiac, Michigan to drive back the chasses and then the chasses were taken to (or dropped off at) Lima and/or Union City. Just before WWII they got the Pontiac dealership, but no cars until after the war. During the war they still got bus chasses and some trucks from the black market to sell. Immediately following the war they claimed the Kaiser-Frazer dealership to tide them over until the Pontiacs were back. They build and enlarged their gas station immensely in 1948. Our grandpa retired in the 1930’s; he and Grandma spent the winters in Florida. One of the highlights of that era was that he and George Schnell of Troy landed a 250-pound shark.

Warren was a member of Troy Kiwanis and active until his death in 1992. Clarence was a charter member of Troy Lions and active until he died in 1970. During the war, the Lions had no member to play the piano for their singing so Caroline would go and eat with Daddy, play the piano for them and then walk home when their meeting/program started. They were both 32nd degree Masons, earned in their early 20’s.

Warren and Opal never had any children, but Opal’s niece, May Creager, came to live with them when she was in the 8th grade and her mother had died. Clarence and Rhea had two children: Caroline (1928) and Ruth (1932). All three of us girls graduated from Troy High School. Caroline and I both graduated from Heidelberg College and returned to Troy to begin our adult lives.


I was born in 1928 and the seventh baby born in Stouder Hospital; Ruthie was born in 1932; I’m the oldest but I’m also the smartest! (Ruth: I’m the prettiest!) We grew up on South Walnut Street during the depression. It was like living in a village with everyone looking out for each other and kids obeying all the adults- if the neighbors told us we had to go home, whether Mother thought so or not, home we went- but it was lots of fun. Some of the families: Drakes, Attenwellers, Chases, Foxes, Rozwells; one house contained three different families- the Campbells, Shoffners and the Buchannons; and our special friends and surrogate sisters- Mary Lou Helser and Norma Smith. We rode bicycles (Drakes had a bike shop), played with wagons and boxes, had a vacant lot for football and baseball, played cops and robbers, the girls made hollyhock dolls in the summer, we went on treasure hunts and had picnics in Grandma Snyder’s chicken lot- we always found things to do.

Grandma Kruse and Mother made most of our clothes. Mother was an R.N. and a working mother- unusual for the times, since Daddy invested in the garage. She had been trained at the Mayo Clinic and had actually worked with Drs. Charles and Will Mayo in the operating room. So we had full-time help at home. Mother did private duty nursing, a twenty-hour daily job, and made $8.00 daily. Our full time help (in once instance live-in) earned $1.00 a day plus board. We remember Mother working in some of the well-to-do Troy families; Nichols, the Hayner home, Meekers, and at the Edward Hobarts taking care of Martha. Later the nursing hours changed to 12-hour duty and finally 8-hour.

Daddy brought home a car for Mother. (He was a partner in Kruse Brothers Auto Service.) After a few lessons she was on her own, went to the license bureau, asked for a license, and got it.

In the summer Ruth and I got to visit our cousins in rural Union Township where we were exposed to butcherings and wheat harvests and weekend street movies in Ludlow Falls and Laura, something the kids don’t get to do today. It was fun.

We went to Kyle School for grades 1-8. Grades 1-6 were on the first floor (the neighborhood school) and grades 7 & 8 (Troy Junior High) was on the second floor serving the whole town for those grades. There were 2-story fire escapes and the boys loved to trap the girls on the fire escape and then shake them quite violently, as I remember, and scare us. There was a boy side on the playground and a girl side in place which we had to observe during recess. We would play kick the can, dodgeball, round-robin softball, rod rover, and a game where we'd choose sides and throw the ball over the bicycle sheds (I don’t remember the name). Every spring we’d celebrate May Day with each class doing a different folk dance culminating with the 6th grade doing the May Pole dance. Miss Clara Schumm, the public health nurse would award blue ribbons to everyone who had met the established health criteria. We had an hour to walk home for lunch and return- there was no way to eat lunch at school. Ruth and I were both in the Girl Scouts and remained members until we had graduated high school.

High School was at the Van Cleve building. I graduated in 1946 with 128 in the class; Ruthie’s class of 112 graduated four years later. One bus of students came from Concord, all the rest of us found our own way to school. We had a 55-minute lunch period- some went home, some went across the street to Laufer’s grocery for a bologna sandwich, some carried their lunch, and there was a student cafeteria. My freshman year I had a lunch ride with my cousin, Dick Graef, a senior. He had a mid-’30’s Ford and some days there were 9 kids in that car! We had a route to follow- dropping kids off and reversing the route to get back for afternoon classes. (Interviewer’s note: For safety reasons, closed lunch hours and mandatory cafeteria lunches became school policy with the opening of the present high school building in 1958.)

WWII was in full swing during my high school years. Gas, sugar, meat, shoes- all were rationed. Obviously gas rationing cut deeply into our activities the first three years. We had paper drives to help the war effort and sock dances after school for recreation. We did have football and basketball games, but trips to follow the team out of town were few and far between- but we always got to Piqua! My sophomore year, when I had just turned 15, I began working after school at Kruse Brothers. Dad and Uncle warren sub-contracted work from Hobart Brothers/Motor Generator making parts for welders and air compressors. I became a sub-junior Rose the Riveter! I operated a drill press, a band saw cutting metal pipe, a grinder, and painted nameplates! Whatever was needed that day. It wasn’t fun- it was dirty and noisy. But I got paid 35 cents an hour! Some of my friends worked at the library or downtown stores and I was envious. In addition to work, I also took piano lessons, practiced piano at least an hour daily and did my homework. Following my junior year I worked in the office of Motor Generator during the summer and that was more to my liking. The war ended that summer and I could have stayed on there after school, but I decided against that. But I did get to go back there the summer following graduation before I went off to college.

The week we graduated some of the boys sneaked a dead skunk into the school and put it under a row of lockers on the second floor in front of the study hall. What an odor! And Mr. Jeffers, our principal, threatened us with not graduating. But of course that didn’t happen.

Ruth remembers proms and an old car that senior boys passed to the next class following graduation- a ‘20’s model of some sort. She was the editor her junior year of the THS news, a full page printed weekly in the Troy Daily News. She was also the editor of the Trojan yearbook her senior year and liked to tell how they would go to Helen Sinks’ (the advisor’s) apartment to work at night when they fell behind their schedule.

In August 1945 the Miami County Fair and the end of WWII coincided. Church bells tolled and factory whistles were tied down and the public square was crowded with revelers. What a great time! It was Friday Night. On Sunday everyone was going to the fair and the announcement came via radio that gas rationing had ended. Kruse Brothers was just a couple blocks south of the fairgrounds and everyone was stopping to “fill up” there (and at all the other Troy stations, too). But our tanks were bigger than any in Troy and that was good; we never ran out as the others did. I pumped 550 gallons of gas that day Daddy told me. I even remember a car full of young guys (I didn’t know them) stopping and when they learned what was going on had me fill empty soup cans they had in their trunk! I think gas then was maybe fifteen cents a gallon.

Something else- growing up we always went on a summer vacation. In 1935 we were in Wisconsin. By the next summer, Dad had bought a tent and we went on a camping trip to the southern Rockies and on to Salt Lake City. Before the summer of 1937 arrived he had bought a Gildie camping trailer, much to Mother’s chagrin, and we headed to the northern Rockies and into the Canadian Rockies. Fishing trips to Michigan and Canada followed regularly, and during the war because of gas rationing we could only go to southern Michigan. Then in 1948, after the grand opening of their new building, we did another western trip. These were all camping excursions. At Christmas time 1949 we went to Mexico, having forgone the annual summer trek. That was a really special trip going as far south as Texas. This was the first extended trip we had gone on that wasn’t a camping trip.

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