Virginia Duncan

Interviewed April 25, 2011

at Mrs. Duncan’s place of residence: 945 N. Dorset Road, Troy

Produced for The Troy Historical Society by Susan Ellis Walters

Biographical Data –

Born: in Clark County – April 11, 1909

Graduated Newton High School - 1928

Troy Public Library – September 1928 until

Married – June 10, 1950

University of Cincinnati; Bachelor Degree Mechanical Engineering – 1951

Transcript of Mrs. Virginia Duncan’s interview April 25, 2011. This interview was conducted at her home; XXX N. Dorset Street, Troy Ohio, by Susan Ellis Walters. Mrs. Duncan had turned 102 two weeks earlier on April 11th.

I was born in Clark County, outside of New Carlisle, on a farm. I lived on a farm my whole life until I came to Miami County in 1916, we lived on a farm out east of Troy, I was about 6 or 7. I started school in the Elizabeth Township School and was there until my father moved to the west of Troy in 1922. I finished the rest of sixth and all of 7th grade in a one room school house, in Newton Township. That was an experience. The Elizabeth Township was a new centralized school and had been built just about that time. [Now the Elizabeth Township Community Center] When I moved west of town, they were in the process of building a new school in Pleasant Hill, which is in Newton Township. And so I had the experience of a one room school house, I walked [to school] all the time. [In the] one room school, there was one teacher, probably 25-30 students, but it worked out OK. Then in 1923 the new school building was finished in Pleasant Hill or Newton Township. I went to the eighth grade and I graduated from there in 1928. We had about 30 in our class, but two moved and one just quit.

I had three sisters and one brother; all older. There were 12 years between me and the sister next to me. My mother was kind of horrified when she found out she was pregnant - she had a grown son, what was he gonna say? As it turns out he and I were great pals, I was in his hip pocket all the time. He named me. He picked out Virginia because my father was from Virginia, or West Virginia.

The day we moved from east of town to west of town, Route 41 was a dirt road. One of the wagons almost got stuck, in 1922. It was called Route 71 then. We went into another farm house and farm. The oldest sister was married when I was born, the sister next to me and my brother we were still living all together. The other sister was working, out of Dayton, she worked in Phoneton. She must have lived at home, but I don’t remember.

We went to a grocery here in Troy owned by Mr. McCulloch, he also owned the farm on which we lived. He was a really great guy. In the grocery he had a little, quite young, black boy that worked for him. He was a nice kid. I had a favorite necklace, and I lost it one time and he found it. The interesting thing is that quite later on I worked with his wife in Church Women United. His name was Acia [Ace-a] Johnson. He was really a nice guy. I took her home one day and we had a nice little visit. They lived in a nice place over on Ash Street. She was a nice gal, too.

McCullochs grocery was in the area where David’s shoe store was; in about the second block away from the square on east Main. At one time there was Piggly Wiggly, right on the corner and that might have been where McCullochs grocery was, but it might have been the next corner. Next to that was a Velvet Ice Cream place and the old Colonial Theater; and the corner was Murphy’s 5 and Dime Store.

I just had a student at Edison called Preston, somebody; he’s working now towards being able to work with people unable to move around. A friend of mine knows him and recommended he talk to him. We had a lovely gab fest.

I graduated in May or June 1928 and in September of that year I went to work at the Troy Public Library. The library was located on the first floor of the city building. We had the whole first floor. An article that was published in the Troy paper said the library was on the second story and I called and told him I believed he had an error. The library was always on the first floor. I told him that on the second floor was the police department and next to us was the fire department; he said he got it out of some book. He thought he should keep my name and number

Then in 1943 we moved the library to the Hayner mansion. Once we got there and worked there, it was a very hard place to work; all the stacks of books were mostly on the second floor. But, to have to handle that whole building by yourself, which we did sometimes, especially at night; which we did sometimes, [was a lot] we had go upstairs and look to see if there was anybody hiding. It was an interesting place to be. Most people were more interested in the building as the Hayner home. I remember I was on the second floor [during an open house] and everybody wanted to know who had each bedroom ‘Where was Isabelle’s? Which room was Mrs. Hayner’s?” She [Mrs. Hayner] had sisters that lived in town. I believe the farm we lived on east of Troy was owned by one of the Hayner women, Cybil. Isabelle was the youngest, the other one was Porter. They owned land out in the country. Mrs. Hayner gave the building to the board of education and it was to be always used for education or cultural events. I worked at the Hayner until 1944. They were there until the newer library was there.

I was married in 1935. My husband, by that time, had been drafted. At that time, if you were breathing, you were drafted; he had to go in on his 35th birthday. He never was shipped overseas, because of his age. He never liked barracks living, so I took a leave of absence from the library so I went with him, he had to stay in two years. He was stationed on Long Island, New York and then he was transferred to Savannah Georgia and he ended up in California. Along the way I worked, in New York I worked at Doubleday Publishing. A lot of people had the Literary Guild at home, at a private address; my job was to transfer those accounts into stores in their neighborhood. We couldn’t get a job in Savannah. Then in California I worked at the Post Exchange, on the base. We were there until he was separated [discharged] from the service and then we came home.

We met in the eighth grade at school. Byron Duncan was his name. He lived in Pleasant Hill; there were thirteen days between us.

I helped with the farmwork; I did everything, and ate everything, including unpasteurized milk. I drove a team of horses with a hay wagon, took in hay, and did a lot of things. We used the horses some to plow but we later used a tractor. My father was mostly a grain farmer, of course he and my brother farmed together. When we moved west of town, they got into cattle. that was the main thing. My birthday is April the 11th, 1909. Why I am still around, I don’t know. I always say it’s because of the way I was raised that I am still here, did everything, and ate everything. I remember when we had snow; we used to really have snow. I remember a tunnel from the house to the barn, so deep I couldn’t see out. We had snow then. Coal oil lamps; keeping the lamps and lanterns cleaned and filled was one of my jobs. My sister and I had chickens; one year we raised two turkeys, that was hard. You had to keep them off the ground. In fact, I think we started out with three, and ended up with two. We had them at Thanksgiving.

For fun, you had your own things that you did, you’d get together and played games, adults as well as kids. You created your own entertainment, really, most of it. My sister played the piano so we were always playing the piano and singing. We went to church and Sunday school. We always had neighbors and did a lot of neighboring. You knew your neighbors and you were close to them. I can remember my father’s and mother’s friends were “aunt” and “uncle” to me, because I was so little. If they wanted to go some place they didn’t think I would want to go, there was one particular family I would always go and stay, they were ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’ to me, even after I grew up.

My father did not drive; my brother had a car, but my father never drove. When I was in high school and we had basketball games and he didn’t want me to miss those things, so he drove the horse and buggy. There were about two or three families that did that.

George Washington Kight was his name; he came to Ohio in a covered wagon. He and about three or four brothers they came and joined family already here. There was family still in West Virginia, I went back and visited, but most everybody came to Ohio, quite a big family. There was a lawyer in Piqua named Kite, ours was always Kight. My mother’s name was Sarah, she came from around Dry Run in New Carlisle.

We lived on a farm right on old Route 40. We would have tramps. My mother never turned them away, they never came in the house, they were always on the porch, but she always fed them. We always said they must have marked our house. And gypsies, we always had gypsies. Now the gypsies I was kinda afraid of, I thought they would try to kidnap me. We knew where they camped. Now in Troy, they camped along Broadford bridge, right along the river there. Down the creek there from Broad Ford Bridge, that is where they camped and I always told whoever drove into town to go real fast to go past them. There were six to eight [in a camp] and they knew where to go too.

After the new building was built, we had school busses, so I went by bus.

[Byron] had worked at WACO for 15 years before he was drafted, then in the Air Force he was called a ‘transcriber’. He had a list of items that had to be on a certain plane and it was his job to make sure everything was on board before the plane took off. The planes took of from Mitchell Field and went directly to the front of the war and they came back from the war into the hospitals at Mitchell Field. We stood in line many times to wait for the ambulances to get the wounded into the hospital before we could get into the field. They took the train into New York City and would always go in twos, one missing an arm, one missing a leg.

Pretty soon after we came home, through the goodness of a lumberman here in Troy, Frank Montross, Byron and he got together somehow and when he wanted some small jobs done he would call Byron. He eventually backed him in the first house he built. So, that’s how he got started. He eventually had his own business. I got into Avon; I was in Avon for 47 years 1962 – 2009. I liked meeting new people and having your own business. We had a territory, and you were supposed to stay in that territory. I figured we needed some help financially, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t the longest serving Avon lady, but none of those were as old as I when I quit because I was over 100.

First United Church of Christ, through my brother-in-law; I am now the oldest member. I am still amazed when I go out west on 41 – that was just farm land, good farm land, now it’s all sub-divisions. And all the businesses [there].

I was always in church stuff, which took me elsewhere. Being with the church you branch out to your members; one year I was chairman for all the children’s Sunday school activities in Miami County. Within Troy I belong to everything like Church Women United and everything connected with the church. To go back I do remember when there was a traction car that went right down the middle of South Market, the depot was on Canal Street right across from our church. It was a Sinclair filling station after that. I went on the traction car to Dayton to see my sisters. At one time two lived in Oakwood and one in Walnut Hills, off Wayne and Wyoming. After I was living with the one and when they moved I had a room with another family here in Troy. The traction line went to Piqua; I think there might have been another one that went on north. After the traction car there was a bus line.

When I worked in the library, to get home, my brother-in-law worked in the Ford garage, sometimes I would get a ride with him, but he went early in the morning then someone would have to come and pick me up. I would go to the Mayflower restaurant, now that was on the corner in addition to the movie house. It was a real nice restaurant. It ended up as a candy store and he became rather famous for his candies. But I could have a good lunch for 35 cents and an evening meal for 75 cents. It was well know as local candies. They had a dining room on the second floor and my Senior and Junior banquet was on that second floor of the Mayflower.

Right in the same block there was another theater, one was the Colonial and there was a little fabric shop next to the movie house. Then there was a big department store on the corner, it was Style, Grunder and Dye at first but it changed its name. Across the Main Street was Hamilton’s Tea Room, then that became the Western Union Office. You couldn’t get a meal at Hamilton’s for less than a dollar. It was locally owned, I knew the two women that ran that, they were great, there was a men’s clothing store next to the tea room Bothe’s was a men’s clothing store right on the square on west Main. Right on the square There was a store called Harr’s, with all kinds of hand craft supplies in the basement. Around the corner on east Main was Lapinsky’s Famous Cheap Store, the bank was right there – First National, then First National Bank and Trust. On the corner, The Morris house was the Lollis hotel, the hotel office was right there, then it was moved back a little bit, the corner was Gallaher’s Drug Store, in the back part of that building was the Post Office, before they built the one on South Market [and Race]. There was a dress shop right on the square called The Fashion Shop, you got good clothes there. There was a furniture store, Kappel’s, right on the square. Main furniture was on West Main where the Comfort furniture store is now. 

We always went to the fair. My brother got into driving horses, and then he got into Percherons [draft horses] that he showed at the fair. My brother would stay at the fair and my mother and I would keep him in food. We didn’t have a trailer for the horse’s, they must have walked to the fair.

I went to the Chautauqua in New Carlisle. My father worked for Scharff's nursery. The Chautauqua would come and stay the whole week in a tent in Snyder Park and my mother and I would go during the day and stay in the big house with Mrs. Scharff at night.

There was Hobart Arena and the hockey team. Fred Evans, one of the hockey players in town was also a plasterer who worked for us several times. The Sherwin Williams Paint Store and Murphy’s, one of the automobile dealers, were both owned by hockey players. There were several players who married local girls and stayed in town.

Troy has always been Hobart. I remember we went on a cruise, some years ago, and we got through the kitchen and all the equipment was Kitchen-Aid. The Chef got to talking to us and I told him I lived in the town where all that stuff was made. He was flabbergasted, just couldn’t believe that. Neither Bryon nor I ever worked there, but all our friends did.

“Byron Duncan Builders” built about 13 or 14 houses and a medical center in Fairborn. He got that job through a nephew. The owner was a real nice person, took Bryon up to the lake fishing. He quit [the business] in about 1974. He was in charge of shipping at WACO. He had a list of things that were supposed to be on that plane and he had to be sure they were all there. One time he worked on a plane and knew the young man that was going on the plane and his father. When he got home he let his father know that at least the plane was OK. After he was in [the service] we can’t do anything about it, might as well make the best of it. Went to places, saw things.

I had a sister that lived in Philadelphia, so when he got a three day pass we would go over there and we had to go into New York City to change trains. A lot of the shows from New York City would come out to the field and entertain all the guys. He could always go to one of the hotels in town and get passes to see the shows.

At that time one of the lawyers here in town would do wills for the guys in the service and he would do it for nothing. He had had the real crippling disease [polio?] He knew he would never be taken in the service, so [that was his contribution] and when the guys would come home he would get in touch with them ‘you better change this or that’. He really took care of that, his name was Harley Enyeart.

We didn’t do a lot in New York City, just passing through from one train to the next. You couldn’t do quite all the things you might want to do. There were certain days you should not be out, certain things going on. I never will forget, we were on our way to California when the war ended, we were in Manhattan, Kansas and we were told to stay put and don’t get out. Because the streets were loaded with people, with the joy of the war ending and we were told you had to stay in, you didn’t get out.

When we came back, we had put our furniture in storage, then we had to find a place to live and we needed a refrigerator. We had our name on several lists in different places to get a refrigerator and a stove. That we put up with after we came home. You would put your name on a list anywhere they were taking names and if your name came up – good! In the service, we were used to helping one another out and when we got out, you were on your own. Look out for yourself now.

The home where we lived [in the military] we had a room with kitchen privileges. He was a banker and worked in the city, they would eat late and we would eat early. We had kept in touch for years, we went back to visit, they were here. Where we stayed in Savannah, there were two air fields, Bryon was stationed at the one and my nephew was at the other. So when he got married, he got married in the chapel at the field where he was stationed. We went to his wedding and we stayed where we had stayed when we were stationed there. In California we lived in a tourist park, the man who owned the cottages, kept part of them for tourists, and the rest he rented to military families. So we had several friends that lived there at the tourist park; that was at Merced California. It was called Castle Field then Merced Field. There was an English walnut tree right outside our kitchen window and for years after we came home they would send us walnuts off that tree. So we stayed in touch with all the people we got to know.

For the First World War we had what we called war saving stamps. You had a book to put these stamps in and when you had the book filled you had 5 dollars. I think you got the stamps from the post office; I told the kids at school about the books and got the other kids to buy them. During the depression bread was 10 cents a loaf, gas was less than 50 cents a gallon. You raised most of your food and what you had to buy wasn’t nearly as expensive as it is now.

In September 1934 my family moved to Dayton, so I got a room with some friends that were here in Troy; then got married in May of 1935. Otherwise I went from town to the country. Someone would have to come and pick me up. Of course, Byron came and got me a lot. I did have a cousin that lived in town and I would stay with her some when I had to work late then start up early the next morning. There are four houses in West Brook, one on Grant Street, one on Peter’s Road. Lived at 1543 Fleet Road, 30 years.

Byron had an artificial heart valve for 16 years, until he died in 1995. Since he could no longer do the yard work, we stayed in the house as long as I could handle that, but it came time to move into an apartment. I knew about this place because the mother of one of my Avon customers lived across the alley.

Murphy’s was always a valuable place. On Saturday night everyone used to drive into Troy and walk around and around the square. The square has changed some over the years, not a whole lot. The square has always been a problem for out-of-towners, not knowing how to go around it. Troy had two hospitals Dr. Colman on Water Street and Dr. McCulloch was on Plum (maybe). One of my nieces was born in Dr. McCulloch’s hospital in 1922. Now their office was a great big brick building – there was an insurance office there. Stouder hospital was a big deal when it closed.

Byron replaced a couple of logs in the original Overfield Tavern for Ed Hobart.

The Afternoon Garden Club used to make miniature bouquets to put on trays at Stouder Hospital once a week. We took them in through the kitchen, probably 35-40 arrangements. We would raise flowers that were small and put the flowers in individual salt and pepper shakers. At Christmas time we made wreaths to put across the front of the hospital. We had a reunion of sorts and we officially dissolved. There were several restaurants in Stouder, the first one you had to go through the main hospital but later there were steps up to the back.

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