Gerald Rhoads

Susan Meehan: I'll begin by saying that I am Susan Meehan, and I am here today talking with Gerald Rhoads. It is Wednesday, January fourteenth in the year 2014 [2015]. We are in the recording studio of the Cumberland County Historical Society, and it's my understanding that you will be ninety-eight in March.

Gerald Rhoads: Twentieth.

SM: March twentieth, and no glasses? Do you ever wear glasses?

GR: I have a pair, yes, but I--

SM: More trouble than they're worth?

GR: Yes. I use one when I watch TV.

SM: That's lucky for you, isn't it? Have you always lived in Cumberland County?

GR: Yes, I was born in Carlisle, West North Street.

SM: At home?

GR: At home, 368 West North Street.

SM: Had your parents always lived in Cumberland County also?

GR: Yes.

SM: What was your dad's line of work?

GR: He was a shoe cutter.

SM: At one of the big shoe manufacturers?

GR: Lindner [Shoe Factory].

SM: How about your mother? What was her maiden name?

GR: Her maiden name was Small. She was born in Mount Holly.

SM: They had a long history in the county also.

GR: Yes.

SM: Did she grow up in the town, or did she grow up on a farm?

GR: I grew up in town--

SM: And your mother and father also?

GR: --368 West North Street.

SM: Which school did you attend?

GR: I attended the Wilson building and the Carlisle schools, and--

SM: The Lamberton High School?

GR: Where the YMCA is now, that building. I went to third grade in that building. I went to first and second in the Wilson building down on West North Street. Then I went to--

SM: I expect you walked to school in those days.

GR: Yes, [I] walked from West North Street to the Penn School. Then [in] fifth or sixth grade, I went to the Lamberton building, and I finished out high school in the Lamberton building.

SM: Did you go to have further schooling after that? Did you go to college at all?

GR: I went to Carlisle Commercial College. Then I got a job at Maslands, and I finished up [at] Maslands.

SM: Your whole working career was with Maslands?

GR: Yes.

SM: I know we have a picture of you in uniform. You must have served in the military.

GR: Yes. I was in the Twentieth Division.

SM: Did you serve overseas?

GR: Yes, I [came] home, and I was discharged at Indiantown Gap.

SM: Then following your discharge, were you soon married after that, or were you married before?

GR: I was married before.

SM: Well that was nice that your wife was waiting for you. Was she a Carlisle girl?

GR: Yes.

SM: What was her name? [Rhoads pauses] That's okay, you'll think of it later.

GR: Marian Hays. She lived on Bedford Street.

SM: Pretty close to you then, your neighbor. The girl next door?

GR: No, not quite.

SM: But you knew her from childhood?

GR: Yes.

SM: That's very nice. We have some pictures that I think that you gave us of you in uniform, and I think also with Mary. She's deceased now, is that [right]? Your wife is deceased now?

GR: Yes. [00:05:57.13]

SM: So then where did you live after you were married?

GR: I lived on Bedford Street for a while, and I bought a house on North Pitt Street, 900 North Pitt Street.

SM: Were you there at that house for quite a while?

GR: Yes. I was there until I moved where I live now.

SM: You're on Strawberry Square?

GR: Yes.

SM: That's a long period of time in one house. I'm going to go back to your childhood again here because we have a picture of you as a Boy Scout at Camp Rothrock.

GR: Yes. Camp Rothrock was up on Laurel [Lake].

SM: You went for two weeks, or longer than that?

GR: Yes.

SM: And took hikes and built fires?

GR: I spent two weeks in the summer camp. Then I went to the YMCA camp.

SM: Did you have brothers that you grew up with, brothers or sisters?

GR: My brother is thirteen years older than me.

SM: Not much of a buddy.

GR: He was out of high school before I started.

SM: Did you get close later on? Were you close to him later on in life?

GR: No. He got a job with the state and he worked in Sunbury. He was with the state the rest of his time [that] he worked. He worked for the [undecipherable] in this section, and then he was transferred to Williamsport, and he took Harold[??] with him. [00:09:25.19]

SM: What was your first job as Masland?

GR: Receipting.

SM: Because we have this picture from The Shuttle from later on.

GR: Yes.

SM: Did you have to go get special training to work with those machines?

GR: No, I learned how.

SM: It was on the job learning?

GR: Yes.

SM: I'll show the picture; this was with all the cards--

GR: Key bunch of operators and cards. These were the computers--this [is] where they stored it[??]. And that's Burkholder[??].

SM: Okay, do you know the other guy or not? You can't bring him to mind?

GR: I think that was Dick Cook[??].

SM: It looks like maybe you were supervisory.

GR: Yes, I was. I was the supervisor.

SM: Then did this lead into--did you ever work with the computers? Other computers?

GR: Yes, these cabinets are part of the computer.

SM: Were you still working when the desktop computers came in?

GR: Yes, we had desktop machines after these machines. I had charge of the computer section, and we had about three different computers to--[one outdid the other??].

SM: That was the nature of your work for the whole time after they came in?

GR: We had punch cards to start with, and then we graduated from that to computers. We had discs; [Dick had disc storage??]. After I retired, they still had computers.

SM: We have a picture of you and your wife and I guess your eldest at the Masland Picnic.

GR: Oh yes.

SM: They took over the park for the day. Was your wife working at all, or was she just a homemaker?

GR: She was a homemaker. Actually, when she worked, she was a cashier at Bixler's Hardware Store, her and [undecipherable]. They were cashiers at Bixler's Hardware Store.

SM: All the stores that don't exist anymore. Did you have a paper route or a job when you were a young boy?

GR: I sold magazines, Saturday Evening Post.

SM: Did you save your money, or did you buy a bicycle? What were you doing with your [money]?

GR: No, I had a bicycle. [00:14:44.12]

SM: I understand that you're a member of St. Paul's Church or you used to be.

GR: Before that, I was with the Methodist Church. I was with the Methodist Church when it burned.

SM: Oh, do you have any stories about that?

GR: No.

SM: You didn't go down to see it, or go across to see it?

GR: When it burned, I was there.

SM: Were you?

GR: Yes.

SM: Must have been a pretty big fire.

GR: Yes, it was a fire. I remember being at [that fire??], and Bowman's Store and Kronenberg's burned. I was with--I guess that was--Woolworth's burned on North Hanover Street, and Bowman's Store is on South Hanover Street.

SM: Were you there as an observer or as a volunteer fireman, or both?

GR: I was there just as an observer. When Kronenberg's burned, I was with my dad. I remember we went up to the second floor of the courthouse and looked out the window at the fire.

SM: Did your family have a car?

GR: Yes, my dad had a Willys-Knight, 1921 Willys-Knight.

SM: Was that a touring kind of car?

GR: Yes.

SM: Then what was your first car, your first very own [car]?

GR: Ford Coupe, I bought a Ford Coupe, and I had that till nineteen--I guess it was 1921. Then in '40, 1940, I bought a brand new Ford Touring Car.

SM: Have you always been a Ford customer?

GR: No, I had a Pontiac, and I had a Ford, Willys-Knight, Pontiac.

SM: You've had a good sampling then.  [00:19:03.23] Now we are interested in learning what you can tell us about the Oddfellows because we know that you know about the High Street Building. When did you join the Oddfellows?

GR: After I got out of high school, I joined the Oddfellows. I was a member until they transferred the Lodge to Bowmansdale, and I dropped out.

SM: It was men of all ages?

GR: Yes.

SM: Had your father been a member?

GR: No, he was a member of--

SM: Elks, or moose? I can't think of who else there is.

GR: He [was part of??] Knights of the Golden [Eagles??]. It was above [undecipherable] Hardware Store, on South Hanover Street.

SM: So what was the nature of the Oddfellows? Can you talk at all about what you did? Was this [about] doing good in the community or self-development? What was the focus?

GR: They transferred the Lodge to Bowmansdale. I still belong, but I didn't attend.

SM: But do you remember being in the building?

GR: Yes.

SM: So is there significance to the mural, for example, the beautiful painting that's on the wall?

GR: The walls, yes. I remember the man that painted them.

SM: Was he another member of the--

GR: Yes, he was a member of the church--the Lodge.

SM: How frequently did you meet? Once a week?

GR: Once a week, yes.

SM: I think there's a kitchen up there. Were there meals involved?

GR: No, every now and then they had a meal.

SM: Just to eat for members or to make money?

GR: Yes, just members. They had a kitchen and a lunch room, and the paintings were on the wall and the ceiling. I guess they're still there.

SM: They are; they're very intriguing.

GR: I can't think of what the guy's name was.

SM: That's all right; you can tell us later when you think of it. How many came to the meetings, forty or twenty?

GR: Probably twenty.

SM: Then did you give money to the community or do any fundraising?

GR: I don't remember.

SM: It was just a social time?

GR: I don't remember.

SM: You didn't have hot swinging parties?

GR: I remember we played pinochle.

SM: Well that can get pretty hot. That's a Pennsylvania game for sure.

GR: Yes.

SM: What is the origin of Rhoads? Is that from an English background, the name Rhoads?

GR: [It's] German.

SM: German?

GR: Yes.

SM: Well, there's another pinochle connection. [00:24:24.02] Can you remember the Flood of--like Agnes, or the one in '36?

GR: Yes, I remember going down to Camp Hill, and the river came up on the road, [it] was up over the road.

SM: That was for Agnes?

GR: Yes, that was Agnes.

SM: Do you remember that earlier one, that one in '36?

GR: I remember being--my parents taking me down to see the river because the river was up to Camp Hill--being in Camp Hill.

SM: But you never had any flooding in your house?

GR: No, no, I lived on West North Street until I moved away, got married and moved away.

SM: How about any snowstorm stories? Any stories about snow that you can remember?

GR: I remember we had big snows, and they plowed the snow off the street along the curb, and they shoveled it off the pavement onto the street. It used to pile along the street that you couldn't see across the street from the windows.

SM: What did you do for recreation? Did you hike along any of the trails? Since you walk so much now, did you ever walk on the trails?

GR: Yes, I went to the mountain. I hunted and walked.

SM: What did you hunt, deer?

GR: Deer and rabbits, and I belonged to a pheasant club in Newville. I hunted pheasants, which there aren't any now.

SM: That's right.

GR: Rabbits--I fished a lot.

SM: On the Yellow Breeches?

GR: Yellow Breeches, the Conodoguinet and the Susquehanna River. I fished the river quite a bit.

SM:  What fish did you take from the river?

GR: Bass.

SM: And the same for the Conodoguinet? Was that bass?

GR: Yes, that was bass, and the Yellow Breeches was trout.

SM: You know, this is the year that the Historical Society is thinking about the water-powered mills. Do you remember any experience with any of the mills that were in the area?

GR: Yes, I fished at all the dams that were mills.

SM: Did you?

GR: Yes, Newville, [and] the dam at the Conodoguinet.

SM: But the mills were not turning then, were they? Were the mills still operational?

GR: Yes, they were operating. Heishman's Mill and the mill this end of Newville--

SM: The Laughlin Mill?

GR: --and the mill [in] Middlesex, there were about four or five mills down along the Conodoguinet from Newville down. Most of them are still in operation.

SM: I guess since you were a town guy, you didn't go in the mills the way a farmer would have.

GR: No, I never used the mills.

SM: When you talk about going to Newville to fish, did you take the trolley or did you take your car?

GR: Car, handy car.

SM: But do you remember using the trolleys and the trains, though?

GR: I used to ride a bicycle up along the Conodoguinet and fish. I tied a fishing rod along the frame of the bicycle. I still have a lot of pictures of fish.

SM: Some really long ones?

GR: Yes, some twenty inches.

SM: Whoa, you probably couldn't do that now.

GR: Well, there's--

SM: Are there some that big?

GR: There's some that big in the creek now. There's trout twenty inches.

SM: But now with the Yellow Breeches, is that catch-and-return, or can you keep it at the Yellow Breeches now?

GR: You can keep it.

SM: Can you?

GR: Yes.

SM: I guess a lot of people put them back in.

GR: Well, I don't know.

SM: They're not hungry enough to keep them. [00:31:50.04] Do you have any reminiscences of parades in Carlisle?

GR: I can remember a lot of parades in Carlisle. I don't know what they were.

SM: Do you remember the circus coming?

GR: Oh yes, West North Street, I lived right below where they had the circus. The circus used to pull in up at Louther Street, and they had always performed up on North Street, right below Cherry, where [Reese Hoagman??] is now.

SM: That was the circus ground?

GR: That was the circus grounds, yes.

SM: So, I know we have some nice pictures of elephants coming down the street. Do you remember that?

GR: Yes, they unloaded up at Cherry Street, Cherry and North. Then they paraded down the street. They had wagons that they had cages on; they had the lions and all.

SM: Made for a boy.

GR: Yes.

SM: Was there still a lot of horse-drawn traffic when you were a boy? Wagons and--

GR: Yes, I lived right where--the first street down North from--

SM: Louther? Which direction?

GR: No, it's a block over.

SM: Pomfret? That way? That's south.

GR: I can't think what the name of it is. Kruger's Dairy was on it. It went from North Street--it ended on North Street and went north from North.

SM: On the other side of the little bridge? Did you cross the LeTort Stream?

GR: No.

SM: That's the wrong direction? [00:36:11.26] That's okay, but did the Kruger Dairy deliver with horse-drawn--

GR: Horse-drawn carriages; they'd come in the street that they were on, turn down North Street and service the rest of the town. There were two or three farmers [that] brought milk into town.

SM: On their own, not associated with the dairy?

GR: In other words, what you did is put your milk bottles out, empty them, sit them on your front porch, and they filled them and that's how you got your milk.

SM: How about any kind of a place where you went for an ice cream cone? Where did you do that as a young man?

GR: Kruger's had an ice cream, and Stambaugh's had--they were down at West North Street. The Wilson School building was down there.

SM: Were there any other food treats that you had as a young person? Were there places that you went for special food?

GR: It was one, two--there were three stores along North Street, grocery stores that I used to run errands for. Spangler's store was on West North, and there was a butcher at West North. I don't remember who it was, but it was a butcher shop.

SM: Were there any bakeries?

GR: There was a bakery down North Street, and there was an alley back of North Street that there was a bakery on. There was a bakery down Louther Street; I forget what the name of it was.

SM: Would your mother have used the bakery, or did she bake her own bread?

GR: She used the bakery.

SM: It's a lot easier.

GR: Yes.

SM: How about laundry? Do you remember how she did laundry?

GR: Troy Laundry.

SM: But did your mother have a ringer machine, where you fed it through to--

GR: Yes. [00:40:22.18]

SM: Did you have a back yard?

GR: Yes, we had a garden.

SM: Did you put vegetables in? Were there vegetables in the garden?

GR: Oh yes. My daddy raised plants: tomato plants, cabbage plants, cauliflower plants. He had hotbeds; he used to dig them out about four feet high, and he got horse manure and put [it?] in and covered [it with?] soil, about so much. The heat off the horse manure kept the plants from freezing in the early spring. He raised plants and sold them.

SM: At the market? At the marketplace?

GR: No, people used to come to our house and buy a dozen tomato plants, celery plants, cabbage plants and cauliflower plants.

SM: Do you remember the big Markethouse on the square?

GR: Oh yes.

SM: What do you remember about that?

GR: I knew the fellow that built the Markethouse that's in the library. Jim Otstot, he built the Markethouse that's in the--

SM: The model, you mean.

GR: Yes, the model. I remember the Markethouse.

SM: Did you ever run errands down into that? Did you ever shop there for--

GR: Oh yes, every week. I went with my mother when I was little to the Markethouse. Then when I got older, I went there myself. I had a wagon, and I used to haul baskets for people. I used to sit outside along Hanover Street.

SM: And they shop and put their things [there], and you would pull them around for them.

GR: Yes, your baskets and all, you used to.

SM: Before shopping carts.

GR: Yes.

SM: Now I think you have two children of your own.

GR: Yes.

SM: Are they in this area? Are they living in Carlisle now?

GR: No.

SM: So did you see them at Christmas time? You see your children at Christmas?

GR: Yes.

SM: Do you have some grandchildren?

GR: I have two great-grandchildren, two boys, and I have a boy and a girl grandchildren. [00:45:37.24]

SM: How about anything that you can think of that you would like us to know about the way you used to live in Carlisle, that people would find interesting now? Before television, did you listen to the radio?

GR: Yes, we had a radio. My brother built radios. We had a radio when I was in high school.

SM: Did you ever pick up baseball?

GR: Yes, I played baseball for--

SM: For Masland?

GR: Well yes, Masland's. We played softball, and I played baseball for the--

SM: That North End team?

GR: The Playgrounds, Lindner Playground, I played for Lindner Playground. [There were] four or five playgrounds in town, and they all had teams [and] they played each other.

SM: Were you winners? [both laugh] How about any of the theaters, the movies?

GR: The Orpheum, the Orpheum Theater, [I] used to go to it on Saturday. They had Westerns. And the Strand Theater was on Pitt Street.

SM: Did that burn also?

GR: No, [that was] the Orpheum Theater on High Street.

SM: Well I think we've covered a lot of ground. Did you come up with anything else about the Oddfellows that we should know, about how the building--did they own the whole building?

GR: Yes, they owned the building. They sold it when they disbanded and went to Bowmansdale. I think they sold it for sixty-two thousand dollars. It was because we gave the money--what money the Lodge had went to Bowmansdale, and they got the sixty, I think it was sixty-two thousand dollars on the building down on High Street.

SM: Well I think you've had a very interesting life. Altogether, are you pretty satisfied with it?

GR: I guess. I'm ready.

SM: Well you've had a much longer run than a lot of people. Do you have anybody from your high school class who's also still living?

GR: I don't know whether there's any of them living or not.

SM: Do you have any secrets about longevity, any secrets that you want to share about longevity? Walking, right?

GR: Walking, yes.

SM: I think we'll close if you don't have anything else.

GR: I used to come to the Historical Society quite often.

SM: You gave us pictures.

GR: Yes, I give them pictures, and I knew Dick Tritt. I don't know, there was a lot of people that I knew that I can't remember their names or anything.

SM: It's frustrating. Well, we're very glad that you shared what you did. This will be very nice to have on our record, thank you. So I guess we'll close for now, and then if you can think of some other things, you let Richard know and we'll talk to you some more.

GR: Okay. [00:51:29.01] End of interview

Post Interview Notes:

His service record:

He went first to Indiantown Gap on April 1, 1943.

During his service time he was a Supply Officer.

He was in Europe starting July 23, 1945, in France.  He was stationed later in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.  He left Germany on Feb. 9, 1945.  He was discharged on August 21, 1945.

In Gerald’s home is a watercolor scene of a large weeping willow tree and the waterwheel.  Gerald likes this painting because he liked to fish in that area.  His mother was given the painting by someone when she worked at the Todd Home.  The artist is Herman W. Riley, who was the last owner of the business Morris & Riley, a tin and stove business on N. Hanover St. in Carlisle.  Riley painted the watercolor in 1950.  Gerald indicated the painting was to come someday to CCHS.

Hanging in Gerald’s bedroom is a case holding a Colt Pistol that was taken from a Rebel spy during the Civil War.  J. E. Witter was in Co. F of the 13th PA Cavalry.  He took the pistol at Fisher’s Hill, VA, on April 2, 1863.  The pistol was passed on to his nephew, Jacob Witter Rhoads, the father of Gerald Rhoads.

The Cumberland County Historical Society has a photo collection that Gerald Rhoads donated to CCHS in 2008.  It is files in Subject Box 47J, Photo Archives.

Rhoads, Gerald, interview by Susan Meehan. January 14, 2015, The Elizabeth V. and George F. Gardner Digital Library Project, Cumberland County Historical Society., (accessed Month Day, Year).

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