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Oral History Interview with Frances (Dawson) Waltz

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 15 Apr 1919 to 1988
Location: Union County, Indiana, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Dawson Waltz Union_County_Indiana
Profile manager: Kelly Leonard private message [send private message]
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The following interview was conducted as an assignment for an eighth-grade history class in early 1988. The interviewer, Kelly Leonard, was asked to select a member of his family and ask that person questions about their life history. The interview had to be recorded on audiotape and a typewritten transcript had to be produced.

Kelly selected his grandmother, Frances (Dawson) Waltz, for the interview. Frances spent most of her life living in Union County, Indiana, United States and part of it in Franklin County, Indiana.

The original transcript was created on a manual typewriter after the interview was conducted. The transcript had to be an exact rendering of the oral interview.

In August 2002, the transcript was scanned into an electronic file for historical preservation. An exact replication of the transcript (except for a few corrections in capitalization) is given below:

INTERVIEWER: Kelly Leonard

INTERVIEWEE: Frances (Dawson) Waltz

K: This is Kelly Leonard and I'm conducting an interview with my grandma, Frances Waltz. When and where were you born?

G: I was born on April the fifteenth, 1919, uh, south of Liberty on a farm about three and a half miles southeast of Liberty, Indiana.

K: What event in history, if any, was taking place at that time?

G: I can't think of any right now. Before that the First World War had ended. I know my dad was thinking, maybe, he might have to go to service before I was born, but the war ended and he didn't have to go.

K: So you got your life off to a good start?

G: Yes.

K: How did this historical event affect you and your family at the time?

G: Well, really, since he didn't have to go, it didn't affect us. It made everyone happy. I was a little, it was before I was born but everyone was glad that he didn't have to go.

K: What was the first thing you can remember happening that affected you as a child?

G: Oh, I can't remember exactly what that would be. I remember living there until I was two years old and then we moved to Franklin County after, when I was right around two years old.

K: Was there anything that caused you to move there, like anything happening in the country, or, like your dad needed a new job or ....?

G: No, he was a, he was a farmer and when we lived where I was born, south of Liberty, we lived on my grandfather Witt's place, my mother's dad, and then we moved to Franklin County and moved on my dad's parents' farm and he farmed for his dad and his mother.

K: Did you help out with the job work?

G: Oh yes, when we got a little bit older why we helped. We, well we'd help, was no boys in our family, we was all girls, so we was boys and girls when it come to the farm. We went out and helped in the field and hoed weeds by hand, which they don't do anymore, probably nobody would do it anyway (like we used to have to do things), and, uh, milked the cows and tended the chickens, gathered the eggs and raised little baby chicks; set the old hens and raised the little baby chicks and had threshers, used to thrash and my dad would get up early and get the work done and be at the thrashing farm, wherever they was going to thrash that day by six o’clock in the morning and wouldn't be home ‘til after six at night because they thrashed twelve hours a day and we would have threshing meals to get, both dinner and supper, and a lot of times the thresher men that runs the engine and things, they would come in and eat breakfast early in the morning; plus all the farm work we had to do to start our day before all of that.

K: So these thresher men, they were kind of like hired hands? Is what we would be calling them today?

G: Well, no, not really. The neighbors all went together and helped each other and they had a man that run the thresh machine, owned it, and he run it and had his helpers with him and the farmers took their horses and wagons and went around to each farm. They called it a threshing ring and maybe they'd be, ah, anywhere from twelve to eighteen farmers and they'd go around to each farmer's house until they got all through and then they'd, after it was all over with, then they'd set a date and have a threshing picnic. They'd have ice cream and cake and bring their families and enjoy the picnic.

K: Okay, what was the first school you attended and where was it located?

G: Uh, Whitcomb, Indiana, and it was located in the little burg of Whitcomb. I, it was a one room school and they was, well the most children that would be there would be probably around thirty or maybe one or two less or more, it would depend. Some families was there stationed there permanently.

Their parents, and a few, would move in and out but ordinarily they'd be around close to thirty children at school and I went there all of my first eight years of school. Had the same teacher. She was a maiden lady. Back then lady teachers wasn't to be married. You couldn't be married and teach school, and the teacher I had taught my father through his school years and he taught, she taught me and my three sisters, two si, well two sisters, my third sister didn't go to her because she had passed away, the teacher had. Then after the eighth grade, we had an eighth grade commencement, which was held for the county at St. Michaels School in Brookville, Indiana. And then we went to high school. We lived close enough to the Springfield Township lines that we could either go to Springfield to high school or to Brookville. We really lived in Brookville Township but we went to Springfield Township to high school so I went there to high school.

K: What differences do you see in the way you and your peers were treated by your elders then and the way elders treat young people now?

G: Well, there is quite a difference. It seems, this is not all of today's younger ones, but a lot of 'em I have seen and I have heard different ones say back then they had more respect for their elders and their parents and everyone concerned more than they do now, but as I say, that don't mean every one now because there is a lot a nice kids and respectful kids around.

K: Living as a teenager then, what type of things did most teenagers do or have?

G: Well, it seems like the most of them went to school and, and, um, come home and had work to do and helped on the farm and whatever there was to do, and there was sports but nothing compared to the sports they have now.

K: Was there anything like a fad that would go around, like one year you would do or have something different?

G: Oh, there probably was, I just can't think of one off hand right now.

K: Any style or style of hair or style of clothing?

G: Well, saddle oxfords and bobby socks. That was the big thing for the feet.

K: Were any of these trends brought about by the events taking place in the country or where you lived?

G: No, I think it was just a regular trend at that time and age.

K: So nothing was really occurring that affected the social life as it would progress back then?

G: Not that I can remember of right now.

K: As you were finishing high school, did you have any idea what you would do afterwards?

G: Yes, well I had always thought I would like to be a secretary and work in an office, then when I was at the end of my junior year, the school was about out, I met my future husband and after that then I didn't be a, wasn't a secretary and didn't do that kind of work because after I graduated after (well I graduated in April), and the latter part of November I got married so I was a housewife plus a farm wife and helped out in the fields, and with the milking, and all the things that went with farm life, which I have always enjoyed, never been sorry that I didn't be a secretary.

K: So what was your soon-to-be husband's name?

G: Clarence Waltz

K: Okay, describe to me your first few years out of high school.

G: Well, that goes back to the question before this, I guess mostly. The first year I helped two or three different ladies with housework and uh my one sister-in-law had a new baby and I helped her with the baby and the housework that summer, and then in the fall I got married and continued on with my housework and farm work and such and such.

K: Well, how long did an engagement last back when people were going to get married? Did they usually announce it a few months before like we do now or.....?

G: Oh yes, a lot of times it would be, well, anywhere from a year to maybe two years the people were engaged or maybe some longer.

K: The mother and father's consent was more important too?

G: Well, they did ask, usually, about their daughter's hand or whatever.

K: Okay, what occurrences in the outside world had begun to affect you greatly as an adult?

G: Well, one thing, uh, it seems like price had started going up. There had been a depression before and kind of the effects of the 1929 depression was beginning to have a come back and prices started to go up and it seemed like from then on they did gradually go up.

K: So the depression affected you more than er…?

G: Well, it really, well when I was a child at home I can remember about the depression, how hard it was to survive, and the low prices, I think seven cents a dozen for eggs and a loaf of bread maybe a nickel or something like that and if you had anything to sell, which wasn't bringing any price either, there just wasn't money to throw around anyplace and then by the time we got married prices was beginning to go up, It wasn't easy for us to start out but it was about the right time because prices did go start going up and good management, that's another main thing in getting along in the world is good management no matter what the prices are or who you are, if you have got good management you can always find a way usually.

K: Where did you and your new husband live now?

G: Uh, in Whitewater Township south of Mt. Carmel. It was really down by Whitewater School, just right south of that the first farm south of Whitewater School, if you remember hearing of Whitewater Township School, which is torn down now the same as Springfield School. It's torn down. Everybody goes to Brookville to high school, Mt. Carmel to grade school.

K: So you said you had a farm. Did you have good experience and you were well prepared for having a farm again?

G: Yes, yes, yeah, our background was both farms, farming and we done all right with that. We wasn't on a very good farm. It was pretty rocky and it wasn't a good farm at all to raise crops but we was there nine months and then we moved from there up to Bath Township north of Old Bath. We really got our good start there in farming.

K: Kind of getting back to the last question, but as you approach middle-age explain the joys and hardships you have experienced thus far.

G: Well, in our middle-age, I guess the joys would be that we was getting along and we could see what we had accomplished back through the years and, and uh, was getting along all right, we'd bought a farm, enjoyed that, a lot of hard work, sometimes you wondered, you know, if everything was going to go all right or not but everything did turn out all right and we later then bought the second farm and done real well, prices and everything done real well for us.

K: So did when World War II started, did you, um, really notice it? Did it affect your life?

G: Well, in some ways it did and some ways it didn't. Uh, I wondered, we wondered if Clarence would have to go to the service or not, but since he was a farmer he didn't have to go. Our daughter was a small child at the time, a baby, and since he was a farmer, he didn't have to go. And another thing that during that war was rationing. A lot of things was rationed you couldn't get like, uh, you could only get so much sugar per person for such and such a length of time. Gasoline was rationed and various other things was rationed. But we never did have to do without anything because it was rationed. We managed all right.

K: So you had a child, and was that a new experience for you?

G: Yes, that was a new experience to have a little baby in the house.

K: When was she born?

G: She was born the twenty-first of June in 1940.

K: So, did you call her a war baby?

G: No, not really.

K: Explain to me what it was first like for you to be called the older generation.

G: Well, it just comes on gradual, I guess, like other things in your life you don't notice it. Sometimes you wonder if you are the older generation, but I guess we are.

K: So, did you feel that having a baby made you get older any?

G: Oh, no!

K: Still young at heart?

G: Still young at heart, still love my babies.

K: Describe your social life at this time.

G: When do you mean, now?

K: Well, around the war.

G: World War II? Well, we didn't have too much social life, don't seem like back then. We got up early and worked late and there wasn't as much social life as there is nowadays for people to go to, don't seem like. Later on then when several years later we got into square dancing, we liked that real well. We went to square dances a lot,

K: So you didn't really have any friends up until then like you were close with any other family?

G: Oh, yes, we had friends and family that we visited with through the years and we always went to see our parents at least once a week and kept in touch with the family and had dinners, like birthday dinners, and anniversaries, and things like that and we always went to Sunday school and church and had class parties and enjoyed that.

K: How has the role of motherhood changed over the years?

G: Well, the difference is, I guess, is in the, probably be in the social life for a lot of mothers. Since mine have grown up why I can't tell you about exactly how it would be right now but I think it would be a big responsibility, it ah, it's always a responsibility to be a parent, to be a good parent, but with all these things going on socially, I'd think now it would really be a responsibility.

K: Did you end up having any other children?

G: Yeah, I had one son, [private]. He was born in 1948. K. So, this is kind of jumping but, when did you become a grandmother and what was it first like?

G: Well, I became a grandmother [1960s], our daughter, Joan, had her first baby which was Kirby Lee and I was a real proud grandmother and I'm still a proud grandmother.

K: So, was that the only grandchild you had?

G: No, no, uh, in ‘63 Joan had [private].

K: So it sounds like Joan is the only one having kids in these days,

G: No, we have [private] Waltz, [private]'s boy, he was born in ‘66, 1966, and [private] Waltz, [private]'s daughter, was born in 1970 and [private] Waltz was born in 1975 and Joan had Kelly in 1974.

K: So in what ways were you and your new family using modern technology such as the come about of computers and things like that?

G: Well, I wasn't using the computers myself, I don't know anything about ‘em. But the younger generation, they like them and they know what's going on with the computers. But I don't.

K: Were there any new inventions that you were using around your home?

G: Through these years you mean?

K: Yeah.

G: Well, yes, one great big invention was the TV and, uh, all these electrical appliances. Used to we didn't have electricity. We didn't have electricity until 1940. So we had to cook on the old range with wood and coal or else use a coal oil stove in the summertime when it was hot. Had the coal oil lamps. Had to fill them with coal oil about every day or two to have them ready for evening, carry in the kindling and the wood and all that to have a fire to cook with and to keep warm with.

K: So you were happy with these new inventions?

G: I certainly am, especially the refrigerator and the sweeper and things that really are hard to do without.

K: Okay, now that you're, we're ending this interview, elaborate on what it's like for you to be senior citizen now.

G: Well, you can, there's things you can do, health permitting, we've had a health problem, my husband with his heart by-passes and his light stroke and so on and so forth, but now he has recuperated pretty well and is just getting able to get out and really do a few odd jobs and some work that needs to be done and go places. But other than that confinement, and because of illness, you can go and come when you get ready and you don't feel the responsibility of your children that you did when they were younger and was at home and, uh, usually you have a little more income to do with than you did when you was getting your life together and trying to make a living and raising your family.

K: Well, somehow tell me how much you think your lifestyle has actually changed throughout your life?

G: Well, in some respects it’s quite the same and in others it’s different. Uh, well, the way one thing is the way people dress. The dress codes are quite different, changed, of course, through the years and year-to-year. They change anyway and, uh, well, prices and money value and all those kinds of things changes through the years. Taxes and, oh, just various things through the lifetime that changes. Nothing stays the same and everything seems to be. Sometimes we don’t think it’s for the better, but usually the improvements are for better, one way or another, to help the world.

K: So did you ever wish that you were a little younger, if you were living now, that you were a little bit younger and you could enjoy these experiences more?

G: I wouldn't mind being younger, but I don't know about the experiences if that would make any difference to me or not, maybe if I was younger I would be more interested in like computers and going to the moon and things like that, but right now I wouldn't.

K: Well, assuming you have great-grandchildren, in what ways do you hope that their lives will be different from yours?

G: Well, I don't know. The first thing I wish for them is health, that's the main thing, if you have your health and knowledge I feel you can get along pretty well in this worlds if you use your knowledge to a good advantage,

K: Do you hope that they will be able to do a lot of things that you weren't able to do?

G: Yes, I do, and in another way, I wish that, I hope and wish that, they could do a lot of things that I've had to do for the experience of it and maybe they would enjoy some of the things that we've had to have done through the years that they won't never know anything about.

K: Well, I thank you for doing this interview with me and....

G: Well, you're welcome, hope I have helped you some.

K: Well, this ends the interview with my grandma.


  • First-hand information obtained via an interview of Frances (Dawson) Waltz conducted by Kelly Leonard in early 1988 at Kelly's home in Center Township, Union County, Indiana, United States. The original audio cassette and transcript are in possession of Kelly Leonard.

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