|Date of birth||January 1, 1907|
- This interview is a part of the Chronicles of Oakland Township, which was compiled in the summer of 1980. Click here to read more interviews in this collection!
This is Joanne Vamos and Duane Brandow interviewing Mr. Herman Persall at his home on Oakland St, Scotland, Ontario, June 19th, 1980.
Joanne: Alright, were you born in Oakland township Mr. Persall?
Herman: Nope, I was born, born in Brantford township.
Joanne: What year were you born in?
Joanne: 1907. So that makes you 73.
Herman: Seventy-atwo. Seventy-two!
Joanne: Seventy-two! So you should have lots to tell us from way back. (laugh) Could you just tell us a bit about your family like, who your parents were, brothers and sisters?
Herman: Well uh, I had a father of course. He was a piano tuner. He tuned pianos all his life. I was born in a stone house in a back street of Mt. Pleasant, that's the Pleasant Ridge Road. There's a stone house there. I was a twin. I had a twin brother /and/ he went to British Columbia. He's dead now. My older brother, he lived on Maple Grove. You know where that is? He died a couple years ago. I have a sister who lives in British Columbia. We were all raised in Mt. Pleasant.
Duane: So you went to school in Mt. Pleasant?
Joanne: So you grew up in Mt. Pleasant area?
Herman: Well I grew up here too because my grandmother out here lived in Oakland and I spent a lot of my time with her. She died when she was ninety in her ninety-seventh year. And so I spent an awful lot of time up here and all my relations are in this district.
Duane: Who was your grandmother?
Herman: Grandma Dunn. Next door that's Mrs. Rammage. Her mother and my mother are sisters. We're all related, everybody...the Stratfords. We're all related here. Even Floyd Vivan is related to me.
Joanne: What was it like growing up in this community? Can you remember anything about Oakland Township in particular?
Herman: Well, yes of course I remember. Everyone was busy those days. Everybody was working. Of course I was only young staying with my grandmother. I went to school in Mt. Pleasant. But in Oakland, why, I spent all my younger days there with my grandmother on weekends or whenever I had a chance. But uh, in those days everyone was busy. They're all farmers. No one was idle in those days. No such a thing as unemployment, they were all busy.
Duane: So when did you move to Oakland Township?
Herman: Well, after the war in 1940.
Joanne: I sort of figured you'd be in your twenties when the Depression was an. How did the Depression affect you?
Herman: Well, in the Depression it was hard even finding enough to eat. First place, I'm a bachelor. If you're single you couldn't get any relief or any Welfare or anything like that and you just had to hunt around and got a job here and a job there where even you could. There was no such a thing as jobs and no money. I know, I can remember working for a dollar a day pitching hay down at Burtch and uh, I had to have my dinner-I had to walk down there. It was two miles and a half. If you were able to buy a pound of butter you wouldn't have enough money to buy bread. So it was just tough going that's all there is to it.
Joanne: So you were in the Second World War? Could you tell us a bit about it.
Herman: Well, I was in the medical corps. I was raised a lot of my life with the doctor in Mt. Pleasant, Dr. Quinn. Then I was a mortician at one time.
Duane: Where war a you a mortician?
Herman: Well, different places. I started in Simcoe, was in Hamilton, then Cobourg, different places. But uh, you asked about the war. I had lived with the doctor and I had been around medical work, certain amount, you know being a mortician you wouldn't be around medical work in particular, but still I joined the Dufferin/Haldimand Rifles and uh, when I joined them it was understood I was to work in medical work when I joined them. So, that's what I did. When I went overseas I transferred from the Dufferin/Haldimand Rifles to The Medical Corps.
Duane & Joanne: Dr. Recumia, you ever heard of him in Waterford?
Herman: No. He died a couple of years ago. Well, he was the man that I worked with, during the war. So, as I said I worked in radical work in the field dressing station on the front lines. That was my job.
Duane: So where were you stationed at?
Herman: Oh well, there's no such thing as being stationed, you're in the war! You're in a battle. You're wherever the war was. If you're in France or you're in Belgium or Holland or wherever the war was, you moved up with the battles. There's no such a thing as where you were stationed—I was stationed to start off with, I started in England and from there to France, to Belgium, to France and Holland and to Germany but no such thing. Try to tell you where I was stationed, that's impossible.
Joanne: So you were there right till the end of the war?
Herman: I was there in 1945.
Joanne: So, you came back to this area in 1945?
Herman: That's when I came to this area.
Joanne: Did things change when you went off to war and came back?
Herman: Things are better, of course, when I came back then when I went off to war, why it was almost starvation. When I went to war we got a dollar and a half a day and I got 25 cents from my extra trades pay or my medical work. Of course, we accumulated some money during the war-as you know, to start with when we came back. But it was still tough when we came back. I moan we couldn't buy tires to uh, I was a piano tuner at that time and you couldn't buy tires, you couldn't buy gas and there had to have rations for gas and uh, it was still tough. I started to build a house I had to use aluminum nails and down in Brantford they bulldozed kegs of nails underground, you know. But still, I didn't see that it had done too much for me yet, when I came back from overseas.
Duane: So, do you know how long you were rationed around this area?
Herman: Rationed!? Well, I was never rationed because uh, the ration ;was while I was overseas. During the war, so that would be from 1940 to 1945.
Joanne: There's various clubs and organizations in this area. Were you ever involved in any clubs?
Herman: Well, just the legion.
Joanne: So, could you tell us about any special events there that maybe you were a part of—a parade?
Herman: No, I wasn't any part of it. Just part of the Legion that's all.
Joanne: So. You attend Mt. Pleasant school. Were you ever on any sport teams or anything? Maybe played against Oakland?
Herman: No, no. I had sports when I went to school but I was never much for sports. I had other things to do.
Joanne: What kinds of thing did you do as a young man, teenager for entertainment.
Herman: Well I spent an awful lot of time in music. And as far as entertainment's concerned. I don't know. I suppose stealing water melon like everyone else (laugh) around the country. There wasn't too much entertainment in those days. As a matter of fact there's too much entertainment today. You're a lot better off in those days then you are today. Today young people have far too much. We never had anything but we weren't hard to satisfy. We had garden parties as you know right down here in Oakland. We always had a garden party every 24th of May. And we had garden parties to go to and we practised music and we had ordinary sports in the back yard or back in the pond like everybody else. But uh, other than that, I guess...
Joanne: Back pond, um...
Herman: Oh, the ponds, with ice on it. Where you made a pond of your own and play hockey. We never had rinks and things like you have today. Down here at Oakland, even the pond, they skate down here, make your own hockey rinks and fun down here. We weren't provided with all these recreation parks and all this stupid stuff today. We might go on a Church picnic maybe to Port Dover and back for the year, for one day. But uh, we didn't have too much recreation. As a matter of fact we had to work things to do, we had to bring in wood and uh, we had things to do. Which they should have today, that's what the trouble is today.
Duane: So when you went dating, what did you do?
Herman: Well, I've had the odd girlfriend, sure. The odd girlfriend but uh, as you know I didn't get married. I've always too busy. They're too sick of waiting around for me I guess. But uh, we went dating. We used to have, speak about parties, we used to go out to Teen Town parties, maybe.
Duane: What about like hayrides?
Herman: Yesssss! Anything at all. We'd go on sleigh rides or go to a party on a Friday night. We were invited to different homes. We never went to halls like you do today. But we used to go to, maybe one week we'd to to home the next week to the next home and uh we used to dance, and we had girl friends like everybody else; but we didn't have cars to race and tear around with. And uh, I went with a school teacher in Brantford for a number of years—a few years maybe. But there was no such a thing as gallivanting all the time. Where today they want to be on the run whereas our time was spent at home.
Joanne: Was there places to go swimming around here, like at the ponds or Willow Lake and that—was that operating back then?
Herman: Well no, no. If you wanted to go swimming you went down to this little creek down where Lion's Park is. You'd go down and have a swim or go down to any creek there was to swim. That's the only place you had to swim. You found your own place to swim in pools. Nothing provided for you.
Joanne: You were a Constable here. I was going to ask you what you did for an occupation because you probably did a lot more things than just that a just piano tuner. What kind of various jobs did you have around here all through out you life?
Herman: Well, I tuned pianos. That's been my job since the war. Then I was a constable here for ten years, which was a disaster. I had no business doing and had to do it; but I'd been overseas and had the training in the army and they wanted somebody and I was the victim, I guess. And, um, I mean, if I had to do it over again I wouldn't have done it. But I tuned pianos and I used to be. a scout master in Mt. Pleasant at one time, after the war. But outside of that I had no other duties.
Joanne: Well, that's something to be a scout master.
Herman: No, no. Why- did you want to hear about that?
Joanne: If you have a story to tell!
Herman: Well, I have a story to tell! I came up to Maple Grove where I first lived there, in Oakland township and coaxed me into it when I came back from overseas, so they had no scout master—and I didn't want the job. So anyway, I said I would'nt uh, this Borda in Mt. Pleasant had it. I said I'd take it till you got someone else. So they didn't try and get anyone else, and I took the job. And one day I went away and the preacher, the Anglican preacher—which I haven't too much use for preachers, from Mt. Pleasant I came up and stuck his nose in. When I came back, why they had a new scout master just like that. Thanked me for my services and everything but then it lasted till-you know how long it lasted? Two weeks. So you see, I haven't no used for preachers butting in their nose and things. So that's one instance. /They were?/ wondering why I left. /It was because/ I said I would.
Joanne: Do you remember /if/ there's been either improvements or setbacks in the communities, like Oakland or Scotland. Can you think of any?
Joanne: The roads improvement?
Herman: Oh, of course, the roads improved. Sure, and you pay for it. Look at your taxes, find out how the roads have improved. But, your traffics improved too and this road here, why heavens to Betsey—it's like the 401. You sit and listen to trucks in the morning, starting about four or four-thirty. Just tear up and down. And this used to be a gravel road. Never had to, you used just had a team of horses through the day. Once in a while, you go to Scotland you wouldn't meet anyone. Had Model T-Fords as you remember. You wouldn't remember... Why back in those days they didn't plough the roads. Some people just put their car away for the winter entirely, because you couldn't drive. Sleighs and horses. As far as the people are concerned today, why, they don't associate with us. Those people over there, they change about every month, in that house over there (points). I've lived for three years, three-four, I'd never know who lived there. I don't even know, who's there's now. I see a light in them once in awhile and in the summer three you hear them out there boozing and raising the devil through this window here. And I'm trying to sleep, I know that. But you never know who's there. I don't know who my neighbours are. The only neighbours I ever bother with is the—Mrs. Rammage. She's uh, a woman, the neighbour next door that's across... There's one across the road, I forget their names. Up here, I don't even know their names. So they don't associate, I sit here, I could sit here for three weeks and never see anyone.
Joanne: What kind of businesses were there around here? Like the business have changed quite a bit.
Herman: Ah! There's no business around here then. They had Vivian' s Mill and it was quite a going concern. Well they used to take their feed there and, uh they had a blacksmith's shop as you know, probably been told that, have you? Had, a hotel on the corner down here where this, where Logans are now. That was the hotel years ago. Tavern I think they called them. Outside of that, that's the only business they had. They had no electrical business or any of that sort because I remember at homo we only had lamps you know, before we put the hydro in. So it's changed that much but uh, rowdyism is just as much the same according to the population. I don't think things are any worse. The only thing about young people hanging around down here. We never allowed to hang around the streets like they do today, you had to be home. They have too much leeway and have too much money. Whole lot of things are wrong today with people—with young people, with discipline.
Joanne: Did you belong to any congregation around here?
Herman: Well, we wont to the United Church in Mt. Pleasant. My grandfather preached down here years ago, Dunnet—Grandpa Dunnet.
Joanne: Was there any significant events that have occurred in-in the area?
Herman: Well, garden parties, I told you. (Yes)
Joanne: Anything like the centennial?
Herman: Nooo! Never had those kind of things.
Joanne: Any kind of fires?
Herman: No. There's the 24th of May. They'd have firecrackers. They'd shoot off the 24th of May. And uh; holidays. But, there were no events, really.
Duane: Do you remember where they held the firecrackers?
Herman: Well, at the garden parties down here. You know where McIntyres live—Reg McIntyre? That used to be the pool place. They had garden parties there. They've had garden parties here, next door and the 24th of May was of course time for shooting off the firecrackers. That's where they used to shoot them off mostly. Outside of that there weren't no events. Used to play ball hard ball-had to have a team. They had one here in Oakland, they had one in Mt. Pleasant, I don't know about Oakland. We used to play Burtch. As far as recreation today—as far as I'm concerned there's too much of it. Children are lazier as pet coons. True they are. They won't do anything. We couldn't back in my day. We had to carry in wood and we had to pump water. We had chores to do. We had to get up in the morning and build a fire and we had to get our clothes on and dance around to keep warm till the fire was going. Today, look at them. Mama's own darling boys. They lay in bed and mama look after them and they're just lazy as pet coons. You can't get them to do a thing for you. And if you can get anyone to do anything they want more than a man's pay. I have to, I have to got a boy from Scotland come here and cut this grass. And he does a good job and all but uh...You've gotta watch them, the way they handle thing today they'll break things. They don't seem to have any respect for other people's property.
Joanne: Well, I can understand that except I'm young too.
Herman: Well, I know, but uh, course, when I was young we weren't the same, I mean we weren't perfect by any means, but still, we didn't have anything. I used to cut grass for 25 cents you know. Today it costs me six dollars for my own mower and gas to cut this little bit of grass. And that's a big difference.
Duane: On Labour and that. Was there such a thing?
Herman: Well maybe. They had a school holiday or- something like that and we had ball games. But that's about all.
Joanne: What about Christmas?
Herman: Well, it was just the same. Same ol' drag Christmas. You had to go to church then they have a Christmas concert always. Go to church and—the night before likely. But the kids are always involved in church. They had concerts and they used to have what they call "Box Socials". Did you ever go to those things? They haven't got those things today. People are to busy thinking about themselves. I remember going to a Box Social well uh, we didn't have any money. My brother bet on a— maybe about 20 cents on a box and he wouldn't have any money to buy the box (laughter). I know that you'd look at the box and you'd be scared you're going to get somebody from some dirty, filthy home you know. They'd say oh well that's so and so's box and don't want that, you know. And they wouldn't bid on it and they'd be scared. You know, they wouldn't know what box they were—when you got the box you had to go and sit with the girl and eat supper with her. And you had to eat the food. And uh, it was a lot of fun, you know.
Duane: That would have been different. That would have been lots of fun.
Herman: Right! and just for very little—a few cents. But today, you got to have big money today. They want to to go for a coffee and they go to Dad. Dad hands them twenty dollars to go golfing. Why heaven's to Betsy. We didn1t even see a twenty dollar bill back in our day. We didn't have money. We had great big coppers. Coppers could buy a whole lot of things.
Duane: So for Halloween and that, did you still go and get dressed up and go out for candy.
Herman: Yes. Yes I do. Used to do it—and raise the devil on Halloween of course. As a matter of fact I think they raised the devil more on Halloween then than today. But in a different way, though. /they're/ More destructive today. It was a common thing to take an outside back house and set it in the road or upset it. You could be sure that it would be upset. Might just as well upset it yourself because someone would upset it for you. And, of course there was a lot of deviltry-going on. Sure. Not to the extent today. Vandalism...
Joanne: Did you go around for candy?
Herman: Well, when we were pretty small, yes. That's the only way you could got any candies.
Joanne: Is there any other, something off the top of your head that you just might want to say, about this area.
Herman: No. It's nice enough living here today but, I don't know what you want me to get into. There's a lot of things I don't like. I don't like, I don't like you school education. I don't like that. The first place, I'm single here and I'm a senior citizen and we're paying far too much for education. You know that don't you.
Duane: What was your opinion when they closed down Oakland School?
Herman: Well, that's ridiculous. It's another stupid thing. See, when you talk about education. (At this point Herman unfolded some bills and showed us his education tax bill) There, see what I mean.
Joanne: Oh Yeh! 58$ goes...
Herman: And I haven't got anybody going to school. I don't mind paying my way but the silly things they do.
Joanne: Well, that's a lot of money!
Herman: Sure it is. Ridiculous, they're not teaching. I remember, remember when they had one school /with/ sixty pupils in it and one teacher teaching it. Whole works up to what we call Senior fourth which is grade eight today. They did a better job then than they do today, with all the teachers you have, (pause) That's rights There's too much recre—too many sports. Too much playing around. Another thing, they should never done away the strap. Kids need the strap. I was strapped and should have been strapped more. The discipline is ridiculous today.
Joanne: Did you ever have the strap?
Herman: Why certainly! I got it about everyday when I went to school. Didn't do any good but it certainly didn't do any harm. There's nothing wrong with the strap.
Duane: I think that was a mistake when they got rid of it.
Herman: Why sure. You've got to have discipline. Happen to have brats. You know about the brats that came here and tied me up to the bed. You read that didn't you?
Joanne: Now that you mention that...
Duane: I never heard anything about that.
Herman: Well they came here and knocked the door in. Two hoodlums came in here around 16 and 18 and took, went and got the butcher knife, put it under my throat and tied me to the, this bed here.
Joanne: Was that just a while back?
Herman: Yeah, in the spring. They're in jail now doing their sentenced term.
Duane: Well, they should be.
Joanne: Were they going to rob you?
Herman: Well, they did rob me. They took my truck. Took a lot of things out of the house and the one guy that came in here previously to that and stole things out of the house and they didn't do anything about it. Stole the truck before that and they didn't do anything about it. Just uh...
Joanne: But they caught them now and they're in jail?
Herman: Well yeah! But then they're out on bail the first time. Finally they had to come in here and hand up for armed robbery and tie me to the bed before we could really nail them down the second time, they took the truck. When you talk about discipline and the one little pup says to the Judge. The judge said I think it'd be a good idea if you had a strapping. He says, who's going to do it. To the judge, see? The judge doesn't touch him.
Duane: Yeah! That's true or else he'd be charged with assault!
Joanne: Yes. People like that they should, I think should be punished somehow.
Herman: Punished! Of course they should be punished.
Joanne: But I mean more than they are now.
Herman: Well the parents—Listen, the parents can't raise their children somebody's going to have to raise them. You expect them to go around and molest other people all the time? People—people who are well disciplined, you can see it and uh, the mothers especially stick up for the little pets, you know.
Joanne: Well, Mr. Persall, we've covered most of the questions we want to talk to you about.
Herman: Well, I don't know what you'd ever learn, anything about my history, about the community. You didn't learn much about the community except me.
Joanne: Well, when we learn about you we learn about the community.
Herman: (laughs) Don't judge the community by me, you know. (we all had a good laugh)