From inventions on farm to tragedies

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house in flood

“Not until we sat down to supper did we get the news from Papa: Dunham’s Hill was going to get a telephone line! But first we had to get ten subscribers to the service. Second, the men had to cut and dress the timber for the poles — just the right height, the right girth, and as nearly identical as possible.” 

— from “Papa Was a Farmer,” Brenda “Goldie” Weisberg Meckler, circa 1912

Part Two

Read Part One: Escaping Russia, becoming American

Read Part Three: From simple to sensational

When young Goldie learned of the telephone line requirements from her father, she wrote this down clearly on paper.

The telephone

She spent that Saturday morning riding Ol’ Belle at a gallop, going from farm to farm in their southern Ohio community. She came home with 10 signatures of neighbors willing to put in the work to bring Alexander Graham Bell’s invention to the farm.

Cream separators

The telephone joined another wonderful invention: the Weisberg family had been the first in the neighborhood to purchase a DeLaval cream separator after learning of it in The Ohio Farmer.

Goldie, an only child, felt driven to read any book or magazine she could find.

Attending high school

Several lucky breaks prompted the opportunity to attend high school, though it meant leaving home and staying with a newly-married couple in New Richmond.

On the morning of March 13, 1913, Goldie was at the chalkboard working out a geometry problem when tolling church bells in the town summoned all the students to run for home.

Flooding

The Ohio River was swollen from constant snow and rain in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania during late 1912 and into early 1913.

Someone shouted, “Backwater’s into the mill basement!” and everyone scattered frantically.

Goldie spent the day helping the couple with whom she was boarding, moving all of their store provisions to the upstairs rooms in hopes of saving precious inventory. Goldie saw people lowering small boats from windows to row down the street. Her father came for her, and they heard stories of small houses torn from foundations, floating down streets.

Surviving

Later, when Goldie returned to New Richmond, she saw a tobacco barn from Kentucky near the drug store. Her host family had survived the flood, and so had everyone else in their town, though much rebuilding was required.

Goldie was home in January 1914, and with the other work done for the day, the family of three worked to load a wagon.

Fire

While loading sacks of corn husks stored in an upstairs room to sell to a plant in Cincinnati (where they would be used to make dolls, or perhaps brooms) Goldie’s mother tripped coming down the stairs, knocking a kerosene lantern over.

While helping her father situate the bags in the wagon, Goldie heard a scream and saw fire.

Help

After dragging her mother outside to safety, Goldie began ringing the bell, sending word for help. The house went up in flames quickly.

New home

A new home was ordered from a Sears, Roebuck catalogue. The kit arrived, each piece numbered, making it quite easy to put together. Even the right amount of paint was included. “It was to create almost as much of a sensation as the telephone,” Goldie writes in her life story.

Selling the farm

In March 1917, with many changes stirring for this family, a city real estate salesman and “necktie farmer” named Sam Romberg, sold the Weisberg farm with grand hopes and dreams of “a rustic paradise” for the young couple who purchased it.

“I could only hope that their dreams were made of sterner stuff, that they could withstand the assaults of reality,” Goldie writes. “They were definitely looking at their future through rose-colored glasses,” in large part due to the necktie farmer talking up the idyllic side of country living.

Next week: finale, from simple to sensational.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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