Roberta Mory Remembers
Roberta (Blohm) Mory is a lifelong resident of Seymour, a longtime member of the historical society, and is presently serving her second three-year term on the Board of Directors. Since her Seymour roots are deep, (Blohm, Vietch, Wussow, Mory) Roberta has many area links to the past. Following are the highlights from her recollections of living in Seymour during the 1930’s and 40’s. Roberta was born in 1928 and remembers back to her early childhood years. In 1946, she married Robert Mory, who was a member of the fire department for 38 years and the chief for 14. They raised six children. Roberta has 11 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.
Elementary School Years
I started school in the first grade when I was four years old. As a result, I was younger than most students in my class. On the first day of school I wore a green dress and patent leather shoes. The school was on Robbins Street and it served all twelve grades. Miss Johnson was my first grade teacher. There were seventeen students in my class and we met in a very small room furnished with tables and chairs. We didn’t have any desks. There was a blackboard on one wall where the lessons were explained. I still meet regularly with seven of my classmates. In the second grade, I had Emma Gosse for a teacher. She eventually married Roger Rusch. My third grade year was very memorable because my teacher was Edna Walch. She was very strict and it seemed like she always picked on me. I was a good student and the lessons came easy to me.
During the fifth grade I was sick with measles, mumps, and chicken pox. In the seventh grade I missed much of school with rheumatic fever. I was so weak I couldn’t even hold a pencil. Mr. Axley was the principal when I was a child and Mr. Ted Hawkins followed him. I remember Mr. Axley riding his bike to school from his home on Pearl St. Students were required to attend school through the eighth grade. Transportation to school was a problem for rural students and many didn’t attend high school. When I was in grade school the original three-story building was remodeled and reduced to two stories.
High School Years
When I was in high school I went to basketball games and even took tickets at the door. The teachers were very particular about the gym floor. No one was allowed to walk on it in street shoes. The spiral fire escape was a real novelty. I never went down it, but the boys thought it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t very wide and it scared me. It was removed when the school was remodeled.
I was a teacher’s nightmare and was always looking for ways to beat the system. For example, in science class we had a pretest in front of the workbook. The page was perforated and you could tear it out. The procedure was to take the test and then give it to the person behind you to correct. Then we were supposed to toss the answer sheet in the wastebasket. I would throw away another sheet and keep the answer sheet. We would then get together on the merry-go-round and chant the order of the letters for the answers. Everyone would get a perfect score on the test because we memorized the letters of the correct answers. The teacher couldn’t figure it out, but eventually we quit taking the pretests.
I even prepared review sheets for tests and then sold them for a nickel. The teachers had many rules, but I usually found a way to get around them. In spite of all this, I got along well with the teachers and even did extra work for them. I took the usual subjects in addition to German and Latin. Today it seems like students are learning in grade school what I learned in high school. I graduated in 1945 along with 42 other students.
When I was a teenager, we went bowling, to school dances, wedding dances, and dance halls like the Nightingale. My parents never had a car, so we didn’t travel much. In fact, we only went to Appleton once or twice a year. Fair week was a big deal. Kids loved the rides and games. My favorite was the surrey races. Horse racers from all over the state came to Seymour. Some even stabled their horses at the fairgrounds. We didn’t have much money, but I was in 4-H and always had a free pass to the fair. Seymour was a busy place during the summer months. Band concerts were held on the platform by Depot St. At first, it was Saturday night and then Friday night. Movies, usually westerns, were shown of the side of Hallada’s store. People would bring blankets and sit on the ground. Seymour had very good city baseball teams during the 30’s and 40’s. They played at the fairgrounds and I often went to the games. The Seymour Theater was also a popular spot.
The Depression Years
During the 1930’s my father worked at the creamery where they made butter and dried milk. He worked on intake and then would hose everything down at the end of the day. Eugene Rankin ran the creamery. His wife was Mary. They didn’t have children, but during the war years they took in two nephews from England. Their names were Paul and Donald Sabin. During the milk strike of 1933, my father sat in the creamery overnight with a shotgun on his lap. Farmers were protesting and dumping milk to drive the prices up. He was helping guard the milk that had been delivered to the creamery.
My father was always employed, but nobody had much money during the Depression. Social life consisted of church and family activities. The Seymour Theater offered movies for adults for fifteen cents and children were free. In the summer, farmers made sausage and put fat pork in crocks in a salt brine to preserve it. I remember driving the team and wagon to Oskey’s Cheese Factory and then going home to slop the hogs. It seems there was always work to do on the farm. Usually in October or November, farmers would butcher a hog and a steer. That would guarantee meat for the winter months. I remember more than once being startled as I opened the door to the shed and saw the carcasses hanging from the beam.
World War II
During my freshman year on the way home from church, I heard that Pearl Harbor was bombed. The next day we had an assembly at school and listened to FDR. A number of students dropped out of school to join the military after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Seymour area people supported the war effort. I helped knit hats and scarves for the soldiers.
Many goods were rationed during the war. Tires were hard to get. Sugar, coffee, meat, coal, gasoline, and numerous other items were limited. Farmers usually had gas, so it was good to be friends with farm boys. Scrap iron was collected and war bonds sold. Everyone sacrificed to support the war effort. Silk stockings became valuable and I made money mending them.
I met my husband at a 4-H picnic when I was about 13. I was making friendship bracelets and needed someone to hold them while I braided. Robert volunteered and we exchanged names. That winter during ice-skating my brother reintroduced me to Bob. Several years later we were married.
Seymour Has Changed
Years ago everything you needed could be purchased in Seymour. The city had four grocery stores, two shoe stores and a number of clothing stores. Many businesses have disappeared and Seymour has become more of a bedroom community. The small country schools have vanished and the school buildings are now located along Highway 54. The movie theater was a popular spot, not just for movies, but for traveling shows.
The Methodist Church was at the corner of High and Main St. and a Congregational Church was located adjacent to the Lutheran Church on Main. Depot Street was a busy place with many businesses and people relying on the train for transportation.
City hall was located on the east side of Main St. in the middle of downtown. It contained the fire department, police department, jail, and the city council meeting room. The city library was located upstairs above the fire department. I remember Mrs. Joe Lotter, then Eleanor Tubbs as librarians.
I lived in Seymour all my life met my husband and raised our family here. It is a fine community with many outstanding people. I made a number of good friends while working at the canning factory, Van Camp’s Locker Plant and for 25 years at Kuehne’s. I did everything, including cleaning, bookkeeping, chasing hogs and laying carpeting. I’ve lived in the same house since 1952. It was built by Seymour merchant Frank Dean in 1904. My husband added woodwork and made a number of changes, but the large walk in closets are original.
How many people remember Seymour’s characters Wally Wingate, Russell Recknagel or Fritz Moselle? Lowell Vietch was my mother’s brother. His father, Jim, drilled many wells in the area. Dr. Hittner help revolutionize medical procedures and everyone has heard of Dr. Groendel, but Dr. Sieb also served Seymour residents for years. I believe he practiced from 1933-1965. He delivered five of our six children.