Josephine Davis Interview, 2011

Josephine Davis lived what she described as a "great life." She loved every part of her family's old home in Brecksville, including the waterfalls and creek that she and her siblings played in. Several of her family members, including Josephine herself, worked at the nearby Jaite Paper Company mill, as well as maintained their chores and responsiblities on the family's subsistence farm. The family farm produced enough food so that they never when hungry, even during the Depression, and they shared their excess food with friends and relatives. Josephine remembers details about Brecksville businesses, as well as sources of entertainment such as ice cream and candy stores, as well as free outdoor movies.

Participants: Davis, Josephine (interviewee) / Conklin, Carolyn (interviewer)
Collection: Constructing, Consuming, and Conserving America: Cuyahoga Valley
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Carolyn Conklin [00:00:00] We need to make sure that we have it correctly.

Josephine Davis [00:00:02] Do it to give the address, too? Like I did on that note, just the name?

Carolyn Conklin [00:00:06] Yep. Just... So I'll say I'm Carolyn Conklin. I'm from Cleveland State University. Today is April 25th, 2011. And Ms. Davis, can you introduce yourself?

Josephine Davis [00:00:16] And I'm Mrs. Josephine Davis and I live in Brecksville.

Carolyn Conklin [00:00:23] Okay, I want to start out with kind of the past, how your family came to be in the Valley. Can you tell me some of your history of your parents, and why they decided to move to the Valley?

Josephine Davis [00:00:37] Well, my father and mother originally came to Cleveland from Europe. And they moved several times. They moved to North Royalton before they moved to Brecksville. And when they moved to Brecksville, it was probably in the early '20s maybe. And of course, I was born on the farm. In the house on the farm and, like I said, that we, we ran a small family farm, it was only 32 acres, so we didn't do a great deal of farming. But it was more a family farm, and what we produced was mostly used on the farm for the chickens and the horses and the cows, and what we ate from the garden.

Carolyn Conklin [00:01:45] And what did the property look like?

Josephine Davis [00:01:51] Well, it was... It had two farm fields. And it had quite a bit of woods. And that was a good thing because in the early years, we heated our house with wood. And, of course, when my father used to cut wood from the, from our woods, he was very selective. In other words, he didn't just go in and clear-cut the way they did, the way, the way they do today. He was very selective and just the trees that were maybe crowding each other out or dying. And, one of the interesting things about the farm that I found, I particularly found interesting and spent a lot of time down over the hill, we had a waterfalls and a pond, spring-fed pond, and we had a creek. And the waterfalls was a result of a quarry that had been there for years. And when they cut out the stone, they automatically created a falls, which was very interesting to a young person.

Carolyn Conklin [00:03:23] Did you play there?

Josephine Davis [00:03:24] Oh, my, yes, and in the creek, I played in the creek and turned up stones. And there were minnows in the creek and there were fish in the pond. And I spent probably more than half of my life down over the hill and by the waterfalls and the creek and the woods. Woods were great for us kids because we spent a lot of time. We picked mushrooms. And in the fall of the year, we picked hickory nuts, and walnuts, and hazelnuts. And, of course, in the summer, it was berry picking time. And we had like our own little, little paradise or Garden of Eden. It was great.

Carolyn Conklin [00:04:20] And what did the house look like?

Josephine Davis [00:04:22] Well, it was a big ten-room home, there were five rooms upstairs and five rooms downstairs, and originally it was built for a two-family home. In other words, there was a, there was a living room. One above the other, one on the first floor, and above on the, on the second floor. And on either side were two bedrooms. And as you came up the stairs on the left and on the right were bedrooms. And the rooms were pretty much arranged the same on the first floor. And again, it was an interesting arrangement and lots of room. Lots of room for us to not only roam outside but roam in the house, and it had a big attic, which was great on a rainy day like today. You could go up there and, and that's where we stored things. And they were interesting to go through.

Carolyn Conklin [00:05:35] And that's the house you were born into?

Josephine Davis [00:05:37] Yes.

Carolyn Conklin [00:05:38] And what year was that? Were you born?

Josephine Davis [00:05:39] '25. 1925. It was March [...] On a Sunday. On one of those blustery March Sundays, they tell me.

Carolyn Conklin [00:05:56] Can you tell me about your father?

Josephine Davis [00:05:59] Well, I kind of think he was a pretty smart man for not having a heck of a lot of education, because he like I said, he, he seemed to be, seemed to know when to move. As his family grew, he, he moved to a bigger house and finally he moved to the house we were, we lived in. I always thought he was pretty smart to buy that little farm because it was, it was just great. It carried us through the Depression. We had a, we had just about everything that we, we needed there. As far as food was concerned, we had several rows of grapes. We had just about every fruit tree that you could think of. And we had of course, we had a garden every year. And we survived on that, in other words, the only thing we really bought that I can remember were like flour or sugar or things that we couldn't raise on the farm. We had chickens, we had cows, and we had horses. And, and we made we turned our own butter and my mother made our cottage cheese. So we were kind of self-sufficient, really. And he made that all possible.

Carolyn Conklin [00:07:26] And you said your parents came from Europe. What country?

Josephine Davis [00:07:30] Poland.

Carolyn Conklin [00:07:32] And did your, your father have or your mother have any farming experience?

Josephine Davis [00:07:38] I guess that's what they did. That's what their parents did over there.

Carolyn Conklin [00:07:45] And did your father have another job?

Josephine Davis [00:07:49] Well, originally he worked for the, for steel mills and then he had several other jobs, little jobs when he first came over. But then his main job was he worked for steel mills and then when he moved out to Brecksville, I think you're probably familiar with the Jaite Paper Company down there. Pretty much everybody worked down at the company during the '30s and maybe even before that. I don't know exactly when it started, but in all, most of our family, from time to time worked down there and like I said, most everybody in Peninsula and Boston. It was the one place near home that you could go to work. I even worked there for a while as a secretary.

Carolyn Conklin [00:08:43] What was that like?

Josephine Davis [00:08:45] As a secretary? It was a one-girl office and it was great. The boss I had was great, so I can see and of course, you know, I knew all practically all the people, so it was almost like, you know, a little bit of home and they were good to work for. They were really good to work for. In fact, they were quite friendly with most of the employees. They used to come... The owner of the company used to come over to our house and visit lots of times and it was just a nice arrangement. Not much like today, though. I'm glad I worked when I did because I'm afraid that what I see going on today is not, would not be my cup of tea.

Carolyn Conklin [00:09:50] Can you, can you tell me what the Jaite Paper Mill looked like?

Josephine Davis [00:09:56] It was just a big old, old factory building. And, I don't know how to describe it, except there were always big rolls of paper, which they fashioned into brown, the brown bags. And then the department that I worked in that I was, where I was secretary was, was a small, the smallest department and they made plastic bags like the kind that they use in the grocery store now. And, and they also made brown bags, and the small brown bags, and they made white bags. But it was all small, much smaller than the big brown grocery bags. And then, I think they used to make like for commercial cement bags and that heavy type of bag up at the front of the building. But it was just an old, old lots of old buildings. And they had added on from time to time.

Carolyn Conklin [00:11:06] And who from your family worked there?

Josephine Davis [00:11:08] Well, my father from time to time worked there. And my brother worked there and he was a, he was a chauffeur. He chauffeured around the president and the other people when they had to go somewhere. And in fact, he chauffeured them all the way to California one year. So he got a free vacation out of, out of his job. And then my other brother also worked there. And well, I guess my, my third brother worked there also, but my, my youngest brother worked for the Metropolitan Park. He wasn't the only, he was the only one that didn't work down at Jaite Company. And my sister, all my sisters worked there till they got married. And the one didn't get married. She worked there from 1932 till 1997, a long, long time.

Carolyn Conklin [00:12:12] And then what did your siblings do? What were their jobs there?

Josephine Davis [00:12:17] They worked in the, where they made the bags, and now my sister was a bag inspector. You know, they had to inspect all the bags before they boxed them to be sure that they were in good condition and ready to go to be shipped.

Carolyn Conklin [00:12:41] And your brothers?

Josephine Davis [00:12:43] They worked in the department where the big bags were made. And they also worked where they, where the bags were made and then they came down the line and they inspected them too, except for the one that was a chauffeur. That's all he did. He chauffeured them around from wherever they had to go.

Carolyn Conklin [00:13:08] Did they share with you or do you remember any, any stories or memorable moments from the paper mill?

Josephine Davis [00:13:20] They were always playing tricks on each other I know that. And that was always, always gave me a laugh or so and.

Carolyn Conklin [00:13:32] What were some of the tricks they played?

Josephine Davis [00:13:35] Oh, like they put different things in their lunch. Everybody carried their lunch and they put different things, sometimes dead animals in their lunch bag. [laughs] And, oh, gosh, I can't... I can't remember. But they never ran out of tricks, let's put it that way. I can see that happening today, can't you? [laughs]

Carolyn Conklin [00:14:01] Did they ever play a trick on you?

Josephine Davis [00:14:04] Well, I don't know how I escaped, but no, they didn't, that I can remember anyway.

Carolyn Conklin [00:14:12] Was there anything else about the paper mill that you remember?

Josephine Davis [00:14:17] No, except it was a good place to work and in fact. You really had a lot of freedom too, you know. You were, for instance, my boss, they weren't slave drivers, certainly. My boss used to tell me that all he was interested in is that I got my work done and after it was done, he said I could do whatever I pleased. So, as you see, it was a good place to work.

Carolyn Conklin [00:14:55] How about your mother? What did she do?

Josephine Davis [00:14:56] She was our mother and she was a full-time mother.

Carolyn Conklin [00:15:03] And what was she like?

Josephine Davis [00:15:03] And of course, she worked in the garden, and around the house, and she did milk the cows. Between her and my sister, they were the people that milked the cows. And she was the one that made all the goodies for us when we came home and she was just just a gentle soul. And in fact, all our youth, our relatives used to say she was an angel and she really was. She was just one of those old-fashioned mothers that you, normal, that my generation normally experienced. I don't think you've, I don't find... Don't see too many of her kind around today, but for that day and age, it was not unusual. She was... She was great. Great is a good word to explain and to describe most of the, most of my life.

Carolyn Conklin [00:16:19] What were some of your responsibilities around your house?

Josephine Davis [00:16:23] Well, every Saturday, the girls took turns cleaning and it was a thorough cleaning of the house. And, and my mother always baked bread on Saturday and sometimes during the week, but always on Saturday when... So that we'd have fresh bread for Sunday. And we always churned our butter on Saturday. And she made the cottage cheese on Saturday. And of course, we all had to work in the garden and we all had to, when it was haying time, we all had to pitch in and go out there and just about everything that, you know, we all worked together. And then we, but we didn't work. We didn't work all the time. We played, and then we worked, and we played, and we worked. And of course, to gather the eggs, that was another one of mine or one of my brother, my younger brother, or my sister. And feed the chickens and to feed the animals. And sometimes if we had new little calves and the mother didn't feed them to, we used to go out there and feed, you know, take a bucket of milk and feed them and all those little odd jobs that you have to do on a farm. We did them. Some, someone of us did them.

Carolyn Conklin [00:18:06] Did you have a favorite job?

Josephine Davis [00:18:10] Oh, gosh, I guess gathering the eggs and feeding the chickens. And especially when... Especially when we had the young chicks. I enjoyed that.

Carolyn Conklin [00:18:28] Why do you think you liked that so much?

Josephine Davis [00:18:30] Well, I guess the babies. The little babies, like the cats or the kittens. I like the kittens a little better than the cats. And because I guess they were more cuddly and, and just... I don't know, just, just a little more found them more interesting. Okay.

Carolyn Conklin [00:19:08] What did you do for school? Were you homeschooled or did you go?

Josephine Davis [00:19:11] Oh, no, no, we, we went to school. That wasn't, especially in the wintertime, that wasn't the most pleasant experience because we had to, had to walk to the neighbor's house and in the winter sometimes it was so bitter cold, and lots of times the bus would be late. And we'd stand outside, and that wasn't great, but school was okay. I mean... II enjoyed school. I didn't have any problems there. I did enjoy it, and I liked reading, so I, so most of it was easy for me. It wasn't difficult, but the difficult part was just getting there. And of course the bus wouldn't come to our driveway because our drive was at that time, hard for that, for the bus to turn around. And but the one thing he would do if it were raining or if it were raining hard, he would bring us home and, and struggle with turning around in our driveway. But in the wintertime, we still had to walk. And it was quite a ways.

Carolyn Conklin [00:20:45] And where did you go to school?

Josephine Davis [00:20:46] Brecksville. And at that time, all twelve grades were in one school.

Carolyn Conklin [00:20:57] Do you have any memorable stories from your time at school?

Josephine Davis [00:21:05] Oh, probably a lot of them. But I haven't thought about them in years, so that's the problem. Well, the first grade was it was especially interesting to me because having the, the older kids go to school and bring their books home. Of course, I could read and I could... I would... I memorized a lot of... You had to do a lot of memorizing in school when I went to school and when they went to school. And when they were memorizing like poems, for instance, I would memorize them right along with them. And then when I got to first grade, I'd always ask the teacher if I could get up and recite the poems, the latest ones that I had, had learned alongside my sister, my brother. So I was kind of a showoff, too. [laughs] But that ended after a while and probably about the third grade, I settled down. And now, my second-grade school teacher up to a few years ago now, she passed away a few years ago, but we were still friends. In fact, she married a friend of my husband's and so as a result, we got to reacquaint ourselves. So that was kind of nice and interesting. But I don't... Just offhand, I don't remember anything especially interesting, I probably could if I gave it some thought, but I just haven't thought about it recently.

Carolyn Conklin [00:23:01] Was it difficult to balance school work with all of the chores you had to do at home?

Josephine Davis [00:23:08] Not really, not really. Because there was always, there was always somebody home. And no, not that, not that I remember. Of course, we, we at that when we the minute we got home from school, we changed clothes and then went out there and did whatever had to be done. And we had a pretty good routine. It pretty much knew always what was expected of you. And of course, when all the work was done, we, we had that big wrap around porch and we all sit out on that wraparound porch and, and rest, and talk, and laugh, and where the kids would maybe play games: horseshoes or baseball. And like, I said, it was a good life.

Carolyn Conklin [00:24:12] And what, what did you grow on your farm?

Josephine Davis [00:24:16] Well, now my father usually planted things that like, hay, of course, for the, for the cows and the horses. And he planted, several years, I remember him planting wheat and most of the time, though, he planted oats. And potatoes got planted, acres of potatoes because that's, that was our mainstay food in the wintertime. And the corn. And then we had our garden with, you know, the cabbage, and the tomatoes, and all the vegetables that we used. And they did a lot of canning of the fruit that we had and the vegetables, like the tomatoes and, and pears, and peaches, and everything that was out there, you know, we were used or preserved. And that took us through the winter.

Carolyn Conklin [00:25:33] And did you, did your family sell anything that they made?

Josephine Davis [00:25:36] Well, originally, no, they didn't, because most, most of you know, they fed to the animals. And the only thing that I can remember them talking about selling when they had the farm in North Royalton, my father used to go into town with eggs. They always had a surplus of eggs and he'd go in and, and but mostly he sold those in, to people in the old neighborhood that he used to live in and they would ask them to bring it, bring things in. And then, of course, on this Brecksville farm, we that was during the Depression years and most of our relatives that were still living in the city used to come out and take any extra food or fruit, or my mother would always give them extra eggs that we had or. So there were more than just our family that survived on that farm during, especially during the Depression years.

Carolyn Conklin [00:26:50] I know you were very young, but do you remember anything from the Depression years that, that's interesting or memorable?

Josephine Davis [00:26:59] Well, I know that, I know that it was very difficult and people just didn't have money and everybody was in the same boat, you know, there were lots of things. For instance, my father, and my family, and the neighbors would like to have done on the farm and, and added things, and they just didn't have the money to do it. I know our neighbor, he was like about the sixth generation that had farmed that farm. And he did do... He did do some make some additions to his home. But most of the work they did themselves because they just couldn't afford to pay for it. And that was probably those were the hard years. They were tough simply because you just didn't have enough money. And I can remember my father, he was still paying on our farm. And it was like, oh, I still have the papers at home, his payment papers. And I think he was paying something like 23 dollars. On the mortgage, and there were I remember a few times when he couldn't scrape that together and he had to borrow it. And he usually borrowed it from maybe one of the, there were two grocers in Boston and he usually borrowed it from one of them. And but he made it one way or another. And then, of course, when my sister went to work, then they finally paid off the farm. And I think they paid it off somewhere in the late '30s so we were home free.

Carolyn Conklin [00:28:53] And you always had food, you said.

Josephine Davis [00:28:54] Always had food. In fact, sometimes, you know, when I think about all the good things we had, you know, the fruit pies and I loved cottage cheese and we had all we wanted of that. And we had all the sweet cream, and the sour cream and, and, cakes and pies. We usually, of course, we made everything from scratch, and I think we were living on gourmet... I thought we were living on gourmet food and I didn't realize at that time that we were even poor. Of course, I knew that. I knew that my parents had, you know, some worries and tough times. But when you're a kid, you know, you were free, and you played, and you laughed, and you didn't have any big responsibilities. So it was all. You know, I can say today it was good.

Carolyn Conklin [00:29:54] Did, besides going to school, did you leave the farm to go or did you go anywhere else outside of the home?

Josephine Davis [00:30:04] To work. In fact, during my, during my senior year, I... There were like five or six of us girls that took typing in school and, and shorthand. And at the, during the wartime, they had a hard time getting people to work because everybody was either working, you know, in the war factories or, or were in service. So they asked if, if there were any of us that would like to come up and work at the hospital. So there were about five or six of us that went up and worked part-time at the veteran's hospital. And at that time it was in Broadview. It's in Brecksville now but, and I always consider that a real good experience, because you kind of got a head start on when I did graduate and go to work in. So that was that, just was about that. I forgot what was the... What was the rest of the question?

Carolyn Conklin [00:31:20] Oh, what did you do at the hospital?

Josephine Davis [00:31:24] I was a secretary or I, yeah, I was a secretary too to one of the psychiatrists. And he, and what I did was... This is funny because when I went back and or when we went back, because I wasn't the only one, a couple of the other girls did the same thing. We typed the psychiatric reports. In other words, when he did a psychiatric exam on some of these veterans that came back, we typed them. And I, the reason I'm laughing is that when we came back and told our, our teacher that that's what we were doing, she was real upset because she thought we that wasn't appropriate for high school girls to be reading some of those psychiatric exams. But I thought it was good experience. In fact, I always considered that a plus to my education. And then most of my life, I was secretary, then I went to work for, well, I worked for the Jaite Company and then for quite a while... And then I don't remember what happened. But I had a chance to go to work for General Motors. And that's what I did for a few years. And after I quit there, I had an idea that maybe, maybe I, you know, all my life I had done all the things I had to do or felt that I somebody else wanted me to do and I thought, well, maybe by maybe at that time I could do what I really wanted to do. So at first, I took some art lessons and then I decided that I'd take some courses at Kent, and at that time you probably aren't familiar, but they had what they called a cadet program and they had branches in Bedford and in Wadsworth. And, so that's what I did. I took, I took a few courses then at Kent State. And well, then my then of course. By that time, the things were beginning to happen at home, you know, people needed help and I just couldn't find the time to complete those classes. And it just well, you know how it is. There comes a time in your life when other people need you more than you need to do what you need to do. And so that's what happened. And that's just about the story of my life on that farm.

Carolyn Conklin [00:34:25] Did any of your brothers serve in the Army?

Josephine Davis [00:34:29] No. Most of them were too old or they had an exemption. They had families by that time.

Carolyn Conklin [00:34:38] And when were you married?

Josephine Davis [00:34:39] I'm sorry?

Carolyn Conklin [00:34:41] When were you married?

Josephine Davis [00:34:41] In 1948.

Carolyn Conklin [00:34:44] And how did you meet your husband?

Josephine Davis [00:34:46] He lived in Boston and I guess we had known each, known each other. We, we had knew that we existed, but we just so he became a... He went into the service, into the Navy, with another friend of mine. And that's how we've finally met through this friend when he came back from the service in... That was another good part of my life. That was... That lasted for almost 50 years of marriage, and it was great. See, it was great again. [laughs]

Carolyn Conklin [00:35:35] When you got married, is that when you moved out of your family house?

Josephine Davis [00:35:38] Yeah. Yeah. In fact, we all pretty much stayed, stayed with, at the house, you know, until we got married. And that was pretty much, that was pretty much the way things were done back then.

Carolyn Conklin [00:35:54] And your family's name, you pronounce it Zudlo?

Josephine Davis [00:35:58] Yeah, don't ask me to spell that, because I don't know. I know there's a lot of S Z Cs in it you probably have the spelling there.

Carolyn Conklin [00:36:08] I have S-Z-C-U-D-L-O.

Josephine Davis [00:36:13] There's a... I think there's another C left out of there.

Carolyn Conklin [00:36:16] Okay.

Josephine Davis [00:36:16] I have to look it up at home and then I could. I know my nephew just asked me about that and, and I, I'd have to look at I told him I'd have to look it up for you because I know there's a lot of Cs in there.

Carolyn Conklin [00:36:33] What I wanted to know is more about the, the community life, where did you go? Do you remember stores, or businesses, or other places you went in and around Brecksville?

Josephine Davis [00:36:47] Other stories?

Carolyn Conklin [00:36:49] The stores or like, what did the, you know, what did Brecksville look like, what were the stores you went to?

Josephine Davis [00:36:56] Well, there was, at that time, there was one, of course, Brecksville was a small town and there was this one small grocery store and there was a... It... And it had meat. They had meat also. They sold meat. And then there was another one, the Brick Store. And the Brick Store is still there on the corner of 21 and 82 and that was just groceries. And since then, it's been many things. There have been many things in there. And there was a hardware store. And there was a drugstore, but no, I don't remember if the drugstore was there. And I don't, it wasn't, it wasn't there during the Depression years, I think it came later and there was a funeral parlor. And all the stores were on, on old 21. There was nothing on 82. Of course, they held their council meetings and in that, in the old, little old brick building that was there, and then they built an addition and, and then, later on, they built the whole new complex that they're in now. But that was all a very gradual progress. Oh, and they did have, I almost forgot, the important, the most important store, they did have a dairy there where you could buy milk and ice cream. And of course, that's where the kids all went at lunchtime, get ice cream. And then there was it was a candy store, Born's Candy Store. And that, of course, was a popular place with the kids and me. Oh, those were really the good old days. We got 10 cents, 10 for 10 cents, you could get 10 pieces of candy. And of course, every time we went in there, we always looked for the but the most that you could get for your money and maybe you had pennies. That's about all you had at most a nickel to spend.

Carolyn Conklin [00:39:17] I heard that in the Peninsula there were, there were some square dances and things like that. I mean, did you have any dances or things that brought the community together in Brecksville?

Josephine Davis [00:39:29] You know, I don't remember that they had anything. Now, I do remember that, that all the little towns, like Richfield and Peninsula, had free movie, outdoor movies, and of course, we always made sure we went to those. No, I don't remember if Brecksville ever had free movies. At least I never went to them. But I know that we went to Richardville and to Peninsula.

Carolyn Conklin [00:39:57] So what did you do at the outdoor movies? Did you bring a blanket and sit down or?

Josephine Davis [00:40:00] Yeah. And then, of course, they had a, they had one little store down there in Peninsula too that had candy and, and snacks that you could buy: potato chips. And a lot of times you took your own snacks like popcorn or something like that. But no, that's about that really was about the extent of the entertainment during the Depression years. And then, of course. And, and before that, of course, we didn't go many places because it was a long time before we even had a car. And when the boys got old enough, first, the oldest one bought a car and then, of course, we could get around. But before that, it was walk everywhere. Like if we wanted to go down to the stores and in usually we went to walk to Boston, that grocery store, there were two grocery stores down there, but we used to always go to Zielinski's and... I'm surprised I'm as quiet as I have been. Okay. And of course, when my sister got old enough when she could drive. [The] older ones would pass down their cars to the to the one coming up next for, for driving. It was great then because we could really get around. And then she taught me how to drive and, and of course, the whole world opened up then. You know, when you can drive, it means... It means you can get around a little more than walking.

Carolyn Conklin [00:42:25] Back to the outdoor movies, do you remember which movies you saw or some of them?

Josephine Davis [00:42:29] Oh, gosh, no, I don't. I can't remember that much, no. The only thing the [only] thing that I can remember about. I can remember when Vaudeville was still popular in Cleveland and in fact, one of the, one of the Jaites took us to a show at the Palace. And I remember that it was Vaudeville and girls dancing. And I thought that was well, that was again great because that's the first show I ever saw. But. And then when we came home, we had ice cream and they were really good to us. Now that those are, now those bring back, those bring back special memories. But, but no, I don't remember any of the movies that, that or the names of them. But I know I enjoyed going. We made sure we never missed one. And then, of course, for entertainment, the other thing in the wintertime that we did, we went skating on our own pond or we went skating with all the kids in the neighborhood on the there was a place they called the river bed, and it was shallow water. But it was good, you know, a good size where you could skate around for, for almost like a rink. And we all used to gather down there and skate in the wintertime. And then, of course, a lot of the kids from up the road would come down to our house because for sledding, because our driveway is all downhill. And then there also are hills that you could go around the bend and still be going downhill. And the kids, of course, my father wasn't happy about that because we made the driveway so slippery and the people driving the cars in our family weren't happy about that either. But we enjoyed ourselves. And that's, that's about, that's about all I can remember of entertainment.

Carolyn Conklin [00:45:06] Do you remember where that the river bed, skating pond was?

Josephine Davis [00:45:10] You know where the... Do you know where the Snyder home is on Riverview Road? Just as you... Just as you turn right on Riverview Road, when you get off Snowville Road. The first house up on the hill was Snyder's home and it was across from those fields across the, from that house. And the other thing I remember about that, that we used to go down and I remember that well, because I ended up getting poison ivy. There were bluebell's I don't know if you know what wild bluebells are, but they're absolutely beautiful. And we used to go down there and pick some a bouquet of those bluebells for home. And of course, I didn't know that there was poison ivy in there. And I'll tell you, I had poison ivy everywhere. And misery.

Carolyn Conklin [00:46:14] How old are you, then?

Josephine Davis [00:46:16] What?

Carolyn Conklin [00:46:16] How old were you when you got poison ivy?

Josephine Davis [00:46:18] Oh, probably seven or eight.

Carolyn Conklin [00:46:25] So what did your husband do?

Josephine Davis [00:46:28] He was a mechanic. He worked for... He worked for Ford and that's what he did most of his life.

Carolyn Conklin [00:46:37] When you moved or where did you move? Where did you live with your husband?

Josephine Davis [00:46:41] When we first got married, we moved in, moved to Cuyahoga Falls. We rented a small apartment that was an older couple that had built this apartment. It was a garage underneath and the apartment above. And they had built this little apartment for their, you know, for their old age and their income, part of their retirement. And then we, we wanted to, to move closer to home. So we went, moved on Columbia Road. And that was two apartments, too. It was a downstairs and an upstairs. And then there was a young couple that lived in the back. And then. Let's see, we got married in 1948 and we must have moved twice. We moved twice, and then in 1950, we started to build our house up on the old farm and been there ever since. You know, I didn't get too far away from home. I just, like I said, I loved that farm and I loved everything about it. I loved the waterfalls, the creek. It had everything that. A place to walk. And in fact, even, even when we got older, my sister lived in the old house or two till she couldn't take care of herself anymore. And then I brought her to live with me for a while and then she got so she couldn't walk. So I had no choice. I had to put her in a nursing home. But up until she was maybe in her 70s, she and my husband, our biggest enjoyment was still walking down that pipeline and all the way to Guinn's property, where you could stand on the hill and look over the whole valley. And we just enjoyed that. And we'd walk maybe two or three times a week. And I miss that more than, more than anything. I really, well, there's a lot of things I miss about, about that farm, but I miss the walking most of all.

Carolyn Conklin [00:49:14] Were you able to do any gardening or small farming on your current property?

Josephine Davis [00:49:20] We did, and the interesting thing about that was that we had our garden way in the back, almost next to the woods. And, you know, no wild animals for about ten years, no wild animals bothered that garden because everybody and the reason I mentioned that is everybody used to laugh and say, oh, when we first would put that garden in. Oh, the animals will have a good time with the garden you're planning for them and they never bothered it. But one year it started in the woodchucks and the animals, even the squirrels. We caught squirrels eating our strawberries. Well, then we had each year we had to move the garden up a little closer home and finally we had to fence it in because by that time, the deer were really getting populating the area and they were getting after it. And then eventually we had to give up the gardening because we couldn't fight the animals. But we enjoyed that while we could. And we always had a garden, except for the last few years.

Carolyn Conklin [00:50:36] Well, we're just about out of time. Is there anything else that you'd like to share? Any stories memories from any of the years in the Valley?

Josephine Davis [00:50:52] Well... Not that I can think of right off the top of my head. I can't think of anything, but the only thing like I said that farm really served its purpose to help us survive the tough years and like I said, like everybody, there were tough years and there were good years and but the out... The good years outweighed... The memories of the good years stay longer than the bad years. But like I said, that... And, you know, the funny thing, I often think... This is something I have thought about, especially in this day and age where we have so many these so-called experts that tell us, you know what we should eat, what's good for us, and what isn't good for us. And they're telling us not to eat a lot of eggs. My goodness, you know, we ate eggs practically every day and bacon and all those things that, you know, aren't supposed to be good for you. And plus, plus all the things that weren't good, supposed to be good for you. And I'm still here. I'm 86 years old and I survived all those eggs and bacon. And that's the only thing I can, I can think that I think about in comparison to today for all the things that we're hearing. And it's just about it. Unless you can think of something else that you should know. [laughs]

Carolyn Conklin [00:52:36] No.

Josephine Davis [00:52:36] Or you want to know.

Carolyn Conklin [00:52:36] No, that's about it.

Constructing, Consuming, and Conserving America: Cuyahoga Valley

Interviews in this series were conducted by public school teachers as part of the Teaching American History (TAH) grant-funded Constructing, Consuming, and Conserving America project, sponsored by the US Department of Education, in collaboration with the Educational Services Center of Cuyahoga County and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The bulk of the interviews focus on the operations and history of the park and region, though several also deal with nurseries in Lake County, Ohio.