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In 1995, Dorothy Anthony of Greenville contacted me to see if I could help her put stories and poems she had written together in a book.
Dorothy told me that for the past 20 years she had published a one-page newsletter for her friends and relatives, and included in them memories and stories from her childhood and everyday life. The idea for her newsletter came to her one day when she needed someone to talk to…to fill that empty space.
She had kept this up over the years, and wished to take some of the stories she had shared in her newsletter and make a book that she could give as gifts to those close to her. Before the project was begun, Dorothy had already chosen as the title for her work: “Along the Fence Row.”
Dorothy was born in Sefton Township, the daughter of John Louis and Philabena Steinhauer Oberlink. Her mother died when Dorothy was 4 years old, and after living on the farm for a time, her father sold it and moved to the home of his parents.
“I attended a one-room country school," Dorothy wrote. "It housed one teacher and 30 pupils through eight grades. Just getting to school was exciting. It was a four-mile round trip on roads that were dusty, muddy, frozen and snow-covered.
“I walked to the crossroads, and kids came from three directions. We headed west, and the fun began. Older girls looked after the little ones with motherly love. Boys ran foot races with fence posts and mail boxes as markers. Often, skirmishes took place between the boys, but stopped as they knew the girls would 'tell teacher.' When dark clouds gathered, we all raced solidly against the approaching storm.
“My closest neighbor, Lil, had a pony named ‘Kicker.' Some days, I walked to her house and we mounted, bareback, from a rail fence, with her dad tightly holding Kicker’s reins.
“This pony didn’t like two riders, and such kicking as we ‘loped’ down the lane! When he couldn’t shake us, he settled for a fast gallop to the school house. When school dismissed, he put on the same performance, with the teacher and pupils watching.
“Kicker was hungry and frisky from being tied all day. He knew the way to his manger of hay, and we ducked our heads as he bolted through the barn door and came to a sudden stop at his stall.
“It was more exciting than riding a school bus. In those days, there were no yellow school buses. There was no fear of drugs. There was no generation gap. The oldest (eighth grade) pupils were helpful to the smallest ones. We didn’t need physical fitness – evening chores were waiting for us when we arrived home, and they lasted ‘til dark.”
During the time I was working with Dorothy on her book, a committee had been organized in Brownstown to create a book to commemorate the 125 years since the founding of their village. Dorothy, who was raised a few miles north of Brownstown, asked if she could add some of her memories of life there.
Her contribution centered on the time she spent in the home of William and Lucy Rode, while she attended Brownstown High School.
“I was the daughter of John and Philabena Steinhauer Oberlink," she wrote. "We lived 2 miles northwest of Brownstown. My mother died when I was four years old. I was told that the snow was so deep that February that the coffin was taken by sled for burial in Zion Cemetery, a mile north of our home.
“Our farm home had a lovely woods nestled east of the house. When I was older, my father told me he would sit on the east porch and watch the moon rise through the trees. One night, he saw the form of a cross through the trees from the moon glow.
“He was very lonely after my mother’s death, and he sold those acres of memories, moving to his parents’ home close by. They were William and Mary (Henna) Oberlink.
“My grandparents raised nine children, my father being the oldest. By the time I was four years old, their older ones were establishing homes of their own. My dad was in his childhood home again, and I was raised under his and my grandparents care.
“I attended Union School, which stood near the present Emmanuel Church. This church is still being used for services. Our two homes and Union School are gone, but memories live with me.
“I graduated from Brownstown High School. One year, I lived in the William and Lucy Rode home, and worked for my board and room. I learned so much from Mrs. Rode. Mr. Rode owned and operated the Rode Store. He knew his business well, and was a friend to all, as was his good wife, Lucy. They touched many lives.
“Mrs. Rode was a marvelous cook, and the home was open to all. The salesmen who called at their store came to the home for their meals. She set a beautiful table, with good food, and this is where I helped. I must have picked cups of nut kernels from walnuts and hickory trees in preparation for holiday cookies. I also flipped pancakes by the dozen for breakfast.
“I was often late for basketball games, but dishes had to be washed and dried and the table made ready for breakfast. I didn’t mind, for in return I had a warm room in which to study and sleep.
“I have seen wars and peace, air travel, men have landed on the moon, buildings that rise ‘sky high,’ yellow school buses transporting students from their homes to school, solid streams of transport trucks going coast to coast on some roads which I knew as mud roads.
“I learned the basics of life by feeding wood stoves, living in the horse and buggy days, having our first Ford, working hard all my life, growing up in country churches and I am still learning.”
Though Dorothy Anthony’s stories and memories we are given an insight into the days of yesteryear.