August 22, 2014

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Interviews with seniors PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, June 21, 2014 8:00 PM

This is the first in a series of interviews I had with elderly people in the early 1980s. -R.H.

April, 1981 interview

with Alex Teman, age 83

Alex said, “My dad was a shoe cobbler and I have an old wooden vise he used. He was also a carpenter and a farmer. He worked in a grist mill and on a canal boat. He was an orphan and ran away from an orphanage at Cincinnati when he was 14 years-old. His father was killed in the Civil War and when his mother died, they put him in an orphanage.

“I went to school in Mandale and when a boat would come through on the canal, our teacher would take us out on the bridge and we would hang on to the railings and the boat would swivel the bridge open, and after it passed through, then two or three men would close the bridge. In the spring, they would float huge ship timbers that were hued square, down the canal. They used short chains with studs in each end, that they used to tie the timbers together and then they would pile some more on top and make a raft.

“I have a 1902 Sears automobile. In 1924 or 25, I moved into a house owned by Pete Backus and he had this old car in an old garage out back. The chickens had roosted on it and it was a mess. I tried to buy it from Pete, but he said he wouldn’t sell it, as his father-in-law, who was a doctor in New York State, gave it to him. The doctor drove it all over in the mountains, visiting his patients. I was told that Sears didn’t make cars until 1906, but I have a book that shows that Sears bought this guy out in 1906, that built the car. In 1910, Pete moved to Delphos. When he died, the grandchildren got the car, and they sold it to Les Metcalf and Tony King. They pushed it all over creation and finally got it to run, but not very good.

“In about 1944 I bought it off of them and stored it in a round iron tank at the junkyard until 1951, when some people wanted me to drive it in the centennial parade. I got it out, and a mechanic from Iowa, Bob Brinkman, got it to run. He worked on it for about a week and it cost me two or three fifths of whiskey. I have been running it in parades since then and got all kinds of trophies. The car had solid rubber tires that were worn out, so I got some gasoline hose and put a number 9 wire inside the hose and put them on the wheels and they made the best tires you ever seen.

“In 1944, I went to work for Nathan (Liff?) who had a junk business on Canal Street between Second & Third Streets, where the Firestone store is now. Raabe Ford, next door south, had a Model T touring car and they put a roadster top on the back half of it, which left the front seat open and they wanted me to drive it in a parade. They painted my face all black and had me wear a high hat and white gloves. They had a nine- or 10-year-old boy riding in the front with me, and a woman and her daughter rode in the back. They were all dressed up, fit to kill. We started on Second & Canal streets and went to Main street, then up Main Street. When I got to Third street, didn’t I see my friends from Mandale, all colored people. They said, ‘Why there is Alex Teman, haw, haw, haw, all painted up to look like a colored chauffeur.’ They got the biggest kick out of it. Raabe gave me a brand new tire for my car, for driving in the parade for them.

“I worked 14 years for Nathan Liff, and then they burned out, and then moved to Baxter’s place on Canal Street, just south of the railroad where the monument place owns now. We worked there three or four years and then Nathan bought the place where I have my junk yard now (just south of the Bending Works Co.) and I and Bill Lavine, Nat’s brother-in-law who did all the bookwork, worked together for about a year. That is when they started to take out Society Security. I only worked about a year then, and Nat left and went to Ft. Wayne with a big boiler outfit. He wanted me to go with him, and I wouldn’t go, so he got me a job in Dayton, building a smokestack. I worked there 1 week and the guy wouldn’t pay me as much as he promised so I came back to Delphos.

Bill was about starving to death, running the junkyard by himself, so I worked with him for just a short time and he pulled up stakes and went to Ft. Wayne. Nat loaned me $100 and I rented the yard from him. Shortly after this, I bought me a place on South Jefferson street, where Vanamatic is now. This was during the depression and I mean things were tough. I had a dozen guys hauling junk in and I could only get $3.00 a ton for this old tin. We would sell a carload or two and ship it to Kokomo.

Nat and an outfit from Van Wert went to Hawaii and cut up war material. Nat shipped a car load of cannons free to the Jews in Jerusalem. Two or three years later, he came back and I bought the junkyard from him for $3,000.00.

I still own the junkyard, and John Nichols has it open one or two days a week and pays me rent. He has been operating it for 18 years now. I wish I had just some of the old cars I cut up for scrap. I never owned a car worth more than $100.00 when I run the yard.

I never had a telephone when I operated the yard. The Jews from Ft. Wayne, Sherman, Aleman, Goldman, Waterman and others said, “Alex, why don’t you get a phone so you can call us when you got a load of scrap to sell?” I said, “I can’t afford it and I don’t want a phone bothering me when I want to sleep. They said, you put the phone in we will pay the bills. I said no.”

When I was brought home from the hospital after my heart attack, they put me in bed, and after a while I heard a ring-ring and I wondered, what is that. Here my son told the phone company to put a phone in, but he didn’t tell us.

“My wife and I do not travel anymore, as we both have heart trouble, but we get around pretty well yet.”


Canal Bank

Motor Line

Construction has commenced on the Miami & Erie Canal railway. This traction line is one of the most unique in the world. A number of gangs of men are at present grading the towpath along the canal and in a few days a portion of the track will be laid. The Miami & Erie Canal Transportation company, that will operate this railway, is largely made up of Cleveland men. Two big syndicates, the Everett & Moore and the Mandlebaum-Pomeroy, are interested in the venture.

The Cleveland Construction Company that has the contract for the motor cars to be used on the railway, on Saturday, forwarded to Columbus, plans and specifications for the motors.

The Miami & Erie Canal traverses the entire state, connecting Toledo with Cincinnati. The country is thickly populated and there is consequently a large volume of freight to be handled. In the past, the canal has been used to a limited extent, owing to the difficulties encountered in the old method of towing boats.

The motor cars will not be of a handsome appearance. They are built for service. They will be equipped with 150 horse-power motors and will be strong enough to haul ten heavily-loaded canal boats, at a speed of ten miles an hour. This speed will not be maintained however, the state charter stipulating a uniform speed of four miles per hour, so as not to erode the canal banks. The cars will be seven feet ten inches long and will be about five feet six inches from the floor to the roof. Doors will open from either side of the car. Steps will also go up from the ends, where they will connect with a running board at the foot of the car. A brass railing will extend down both sides, by which operators may hang in safety when it is necessary to work outside the car.

The wheels will be of standard gauge. The rails will be of standard gauge. The rails will weigh 75 pounds to the yard and will be heavily braced. Eighteen of the cars described will be built at once. Contracts for two cars of a smaller pattern will be awarded in a few days. The small cars will be used in pulling the boats under bridges in Cincinnati that are too low for the ordinary motor car.

Each of the larger cars will weigh 30 tons. They will receive power from the Edison Lighting Company of Cincinnati, and will be operated from 14 substations scattered along the state. These substations will be connected by telephone.

Delphos Herald,

Aug. 28, 1901


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