Robert C. Daniels

Author / Adjunct History Professor


Interview conducted as part of research for the writing of World War II in Mid-America

Josephine (Aarts) Hopp  © Copyright 2006

Interview by Robert C. Daniels

Josephine was interviewed in the living room of her home in Waupun on 13 March 2006.  The interview started at 2:00 P.M. and lasted for 28.44 minutes.  Two of her daughters, Carol and Donna, sat in the background listening to and sometimes helping with the interview.  At the time Josephine was seventy-nine years old.  She passed away on 8 November 2006.


What is your full name?  Josephine Mary Hopp.  Maiden name is Aarts.

I know a lot of people born in the early twentieth century were not born in a hospital, but at home.  Where and when were you born?  1927, over here on the Beaver Dam Road in that brick house.  That’s what my mother told me anyway.  I didn’t know.  If she wouldn’t have told me, I wouldn’t know.

What day were you born?  March 28th.

Who were your parents?  Joseph and Ella Aarts.  My ma’s name, her maiden name, do you want that?   

Yes.  She was a Wendtland, W E N D T L A N D.

And her first name was…?  Ella, E L L A.

And Hopp is spelled with two P’s, is that correct?  Yeah.

Do you have any brothers or sisters?  One brother.

What was his name?  Johnny…John.

Was he older or younger than you?  He is younger, he’s deceased.  Do you want the rest of them besides him, the family?  (Her daughter Carol asks, “Her sisters?”)

Oh, yes, yes.  An older sister, older than I am, she’s deceased too, Alene Ketler,  A L E N E,  Ketler…?  She married a Bru [Bruesch]..., this was her second marriage.  Are we gonna do that?

No, her first name is fine.  (Carol asks, “And then…, who’s next, Angie?”)  Angeline Veleke.  (Carol says, “And Johanna.”)  Yeah, Johanna Riel.

And were they all older than you or younger?  They’re younger.  The oldest one, that died, she’s older than I was.  Six years.  (Carol says, “So it’s Alene, Josie, Angie, and Johanna, and then John.”)  Alene was the oldest one, and John is the youngest.

So Alene’s older?  Yeah.  (Caorl says, “She’s the oldest, she’s number one, and then mom.”)

Where did you go to school?  South Ward, here in Waupun.

Where was South Ward?  I keep hearing that term, South Ward….  South Ward, that was the name of the school.  South Ward.  (Carol asks, “Do you remember where that was?”)  I think that was on Forest Street where the library…, or across the street, or whatever.  (Carol sates, “I thought it was where the old Lincoln school was, but I…”)  No, no.

I was told once before it was where the new library sits now.  (Carol says, “Okay, then that is closer, that’s where she says too, then.”)

So they actually had two schools then, one South Ward and one North Ward, or?  No.  There was the South Ward and that went up to the 8th grade.  I don’t think that was where the library is now, where the old library…, the old library.  Where was the old library?  I don’t remember.  It’s on…, I think it’s Forest Street.  You know, where the library is now.  That’s were I think it was.  (Carol:  “It’s somewhere in there.  Now, they were pretty both close together though, the old one and the new one.”)

Did you graduate from high school?  No, just from that South Ward.  I got a  little picture of that school too.  I clipped it out of the paper.  It might take a little while to find it, but.

What was it like for you growing up?  What was it like?  Well, my folks were poor.  So that’s one thing, you know.  But we had (inaudible) and probably didn’t know any better, I suppose.  But we were satisfied.  Ma’s…, as I say, her home-made bread and apple pies and broiled dinner and all that sort of thing.  And when we got to be sixteen then we went to the shoe factory and thought we was earning big time money now.  Enough to go to the theater and go to the super big ice cream shop, you know.

What shoe factory was it?  I knew there was a couple in the town.  Huth and James, but they changed names so often there, they would buy and sell out, you know.

What did your father do?  He worked over here at Carnation.  No, it was Libby plant.  Libby plant at that time.  He worked there quite a while, yeah.

Was it the canning factory, Libby?  I know Carnation made cans.  They made cans too.  

What were you doing in the 1939, 1941 timeframe, basically just before the Pearl Harbor attack?  I don’t know.  (Carol says to her mother, “I remember you saying, ma, you were pretty young yet.  We kinda figured you were like about thirteen or fourteen.  Yeah, you were born in ‘27, yeah, so we figured you were about, what, fourteen or so?”)  Yeah, I think I was fourteen when the war started, I think.

You were still in school then?  Yeah.

Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard that Pearl Harbor was attacked?  No.  I think we were all scared, I think, or excited, you know.  Yeah.  Because we knew it was gonna be war, you know, it would be war.  I think the whole town was all shook up, you know.  I can remember my folks getting stamps for certain things.  Like for gasoline mostly, gasoline was rationed.  Chocolate…nylons! 

Us girls was standing in line waiting for a pair of nylons.  When we got almost there—that happened to me—when we were almost there they were all gone.  And different things like that were rationed like that.  They needed the nylon, I guess, for the parachutes.

So you remember the rationing and the rationing cards?  Yeah.

Can you tell me a little about those?  The rationing card?  I don’t know…, I’ve seen ‘em.  I think…, I can’t say for sure what color they were.  They might have been green and white, but if I can remember right I think they look more like a postage stamp.  You had to have so many of them before my dad could…, he got some from the farmers, the farmers would get too many sometimes.  And he would get some from his good friends, farmers, so he had a few extra.  So, I mean, we weren’t allowed too much gasoline.  And I don’t think we did a lot of going any place neither, you know.  We had a Model-T, my folks did, a Model-T, I think they had.

Now, I understand that during the war that you couldn’t get tires and different spare parts for the cars.  If something broke down you just had to wait until one (a part) showed up.  Yeah.  Tires, tires were one thing you had to wait for.  Tires.  I remember they would put patch on top of patch.  Yeah.  If it leaked you’d put a patch on there.

I also heard that Shaler’s was famous for making rivets and patches for tires. Hot patches, they called them.  Hot patches, yeah.  And that was…, anybody who worked there had their own name tag.  I think it was guarded…, it was guarded too because they were afraid of spies coming in.  They had a fence around that plant.  There was a little booth like outside, I remember that, where you had to show them your card and who you were, that you worked there, that you weren’t trying to pull something, you know.  They couldn’t just let anybody in, because they were making stuff for the war.

Were they armed guards?  I think so, yeah.

What changed in Waupun during the war?  I don’t know.  Everybody was talking about the war; there was lot of war talk.  We had, what do they call these, mothers that lost their sons?  I don’t remember what we called them again, just what they were called.  But they had a parade, I think, for that reason.  There was different ones from town that did get shot and didn’t come back, you know.  (Carol asks, “What about jobs, mom?  A lot of job changes, or…?”)  Jobs, war jobs, you know, that would help the war, things that they would need over there.  Those kind of things.

Were there people like rolling bandages or stuff like that, or making bandages?  Someone had mentioned to me that they had….  I suppose they did, but I don’t remember hearing anything on that.

How about Victory Gardens?  Victory Gardens?

Do you remember hearing about Victory Gardens or seeing Victory Gardens?  Yeah, I don’t know what they really were, though.  During the…, I was about fourteen, you know, about that time when that war started.  I can remember when the war ended.  They called it V-D Day, you  know.  I think it was V-D Day.  And a lot of people went downtown, you know—I was too young to drink—but a lot of ‘em were drunk, you know.  The end of the war, you know, so everybody was celebrating.

Do you remember anything that comes to mind that stayed the same in Waupun during the war, that really didn’t change?  Anything come to mind?  No.

There was at least one German POW camp here in Waupun.  As a matter of fact, I think it was not far over here behind…, next to where Central State Hospital used to be.  (She talks a bit with her daughters about where it was.)  Yeah, there was one there.  And I know there were girls from the shoe factory that were…, those guys were sneaking out and these girls were…, had dates with them.  Big-talk shoe factory girls—I was not one of them (we all laugh)!  But there were certain girls that were just that type of way, anyhow, you know.  Those guys would break out; they’d go to the cemetery and did their thing.

The cemetery down by the mill pond?  Yeah.  I was no part of that gang.  I thought I’d throw that in (we all laugh again).

Did you ever see the POW camp or the prisoners?  I don’t think so.  We may have walked by there to be a little bit nosey, you know—otherwise not.  I think there was one in Fox Lake too.

What was it like when you heard the war was over?  I know you mentioned a little bit about this.  What it was like when the war was over?  You said they had a big commotion downtown.  (Carol asks, “What was it like for you, mother, with daddy?”)   When did the war end again?  What year?  Was if ‘44 when the war ended?

It was ‘45.  What was it like when the military members started coming home?  Were they different?  I didn’t really know any of those guys, not really.

Being that young, I guess….  Yeah, because I was maybe about…, when they started coming home…, well, I….  You know, I think that war lasted about four years.  I think he was in four years, Emil.  Or close to it.  Of course, he was in the Veterans Hospital for a while because he had a crippled hand.  He was shot in the shoulder by a Jap. 

(Carol says to her mother, “Remember, on Saturday we talked a little bit too about when he come home on furlough and stuff like that on little visits, you know, when he saw you at the shoe factory and things like that?”)  Yeah.  There is a couple of times when they let him go when they was going to operate on his hand, because he had a tendon in his arm, his hand, he was crumpled like that (she motions with her hand in a crumpled form).  They set an appointment time for this operation to see if they could do something with this hand.  And twice over the doctor had cancelled on him—the doctor wanted to go to a ball game or whatever it was.  Then they gave him a ninety-day furlough.  So then he had a job here working for the city raking up leaves in the parks, you know, a little bit. 

And then one time he came home, or more than once, on furlough, and I didn’t know about it.  And it was lunch time, maybe around 10 (o’clock) at the shoe factory.  We had our windows open, it was summer, and we were looking out the window a little bit—the train always came by, so we would all look out there to watch the train, you know—and then I seen him going down the railroad track—my husband (her future husband).  I thought, well, he was going to see his ma.  I didn’t know he was coming home.  But he didn’t.  I mean, a little while later I was back to work, you know, and I was called into the office in the shoe factory, and I thought, “Oh my God, what did I do?  I didn’t do anything,” you know.  And there he sat, you know.  And they gave me the rest of the day off, you know.  It was a surprise, yeah, yeah.  And then we’d go to the ice cream shop and go to the…, we had a theater here in town, you know, so, yeah.  He didn’t have no car, but he always managed to get a car from someone to use, you know, most of the time, anyway.  Or he’d walk, you know.

Tell me about him.  Where was he born?  First, what was his full name?  Emil.  I don’t think he has a middle name that I ever knew about, anyway. 

That’s spelled E M I L?  Yeah.

And he was born in Waupun?  Yeah.  But on Beaver Dam Road…, yeah, well, Waupun, yeah.  I was going to say Beaver Dam Road, I’m not for sure; Waupun, yeah.

And when was he born, the date and year?   He was four years younger (meaning she was four years younger), so it’s ‘24, 1924.  (Carol asks, “The date?”)  (Her daughter Donna asks:  “August?”)  August, yeah, August 24th.

Who was his parents?  His parents?  Morris, that was his dad….  (Carol states, “Manus, Manus, M A N U S, Manus?”)  Manus, I guess you’re right.  (Carol continues, “Manus and Hattie.”)  Where did I get Morris from?  (Carol answers, “It’s close.”)  Manus, they’re all so alike, you know.

Hopp is that a German name?  No, that’s Dutch.

I’m trying to think of Manus; where that come from.  (Carol states, “Yeah, that does kinda sound German.”)

And did he have brothers and sisters?  Yeah, one sister and one brother.  (Carol states, “Jim Hopp and Hazel, she’s Hazel Buwalda now.”)

And did he go to school in Waupun also?  Yeah, he went to the Lincoln school, which isn’t there anymore in town.  That’s an apartment now.

Did he go to high school?  No, he was 6th grade.

And he went into the military?  He went into the Army?  Yeah.

What did he do in the Army?  He was in the medics.

Do you know when he went in?  I think it was…, they all had to enlist, so I don’t think it was much after he enlisted that when he went in.  Now, you could get in there in service when you were eighteen, I think.

So he went in after the war started?  (Carol states, “According to this [newspaper] article, Bob, it says January 27th, 1943.  It’s probably a more accurate record than what we had, I think.  I’m quite sure.”)

And where did he serve?  The European Theater or the Pacific Theater?  I think it was European.  (Donna states, “European, that’s what the medals say over there.”)

And how did you meet him?  Under a pump (we all laugh), an old fashion pump that you pump the water out of.  My sister went out with him once.  He went over and picked her up and she didn’t care so much for him, I guess, or whatever (she laughs).  And he asked me.  We were all standing around there outside around the pump there, so I remember that.  (Carol states, “Your sister Angie, Angie.”)  Yeah.

How old were you then?  Eighteen probably.  No I’d be younger than that.  I certainly wasn’t as young a sixteen either.

So this was during…, you met him during the war or just before the war, or…?  Well, I think the war was over.  He was still in the Army yet, because of his crippled hand.  It took about two years before they got things straightened out.  

(Carol states, “We have to backtrack a little bit because he came home…, because you guys met and he came home a couple times on furlough.  So it wasn’t…, I don’t think it was exactly over.  So there was some…, you know.”)  Because he didn’t get a discharge until he was satisfied with…, if they could do anything with his hand.  (Carol states, “Yeah, he was in there quite a bit with surgeries because he got wounded, and so.”) 

He didn’t want…, he wouldn’t leave without them trying to give you an operation or trying to help you, the government, you wouldn’t get an honorable discharge.  He didn’t want that.  So he had to stay there.  They couldn’t do much to his hand anyway, he had a…, some kind of contraption.  Did you guys ever see that (speaking to her daughters)?  It was wires on there and a leather thing.  He was suppose to exercise his hand, kinda.  And you could use your fingers with this contraption, you know.  But I don’t think he ever did use it.  It was too clumsy, I guess.

So was he cripple the rest of his life, somewhat?  Yeah.

In his right arm?  It was…, the right?  I think it was his right.  No, the left, the left, the left.  (Carol states, “No, it was his right, his right, because he then had to learn to be left handed.  Yeah, because it was hard for him to be left handed.  He had to switch.”)  Yeah.  Because I had to help him tie his shoes and then button his shirts, too.  But then we got him shirts with snaps on.  Then he got—that’s later on—then he got slippers that he could slip right on, you know. 

(Carol states, “Maybe you wanna kinda share a little bit real quick with him about when you guys were gonna get married and when he was in the hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan, about how they kinda kept him in there.  And then you wanted to get married and you ended up writing a letter to the government.”)  Yeah, I wrote a…, well, they were keeping him longer than he really wanted to stay there.  And I agreed with him, you know, in this hospital there.  And they were very slow in trying to give him an operation, if that’s what they wanted to do, because we wanted to get married, so.  But it took about, I think, two years, anyway, before things were straightened out.

When did you get married?  March 15th of 1947.

Where did you get married, in Waupun?  Yeah.

And after you got married, and after he got out of the Army, what did he do for a living?  He worked…, at that time they would say, “Well, you guys go off to the service,” you know, “that your job will be waiting for you.”  And it was waiting for him.  He got a job there right away.  But they didn’t treat him very kindly because of his hand.  That was the main thing, I guess, because of his hand—that he couldn’t put out work the way the other people could.  (Carol states, “He worked for Shaler’s at that time.”)  Yeah, Shaler’s.  (Carol continues, “Before he went in.  He was a farmer, and he also worked at Shaler’s when he went in.  I forgot that part, yeah.”)  He worked for the farmers.

Was his father a farmer?  He was a painter. 

He went to Horicon one time, I think it was, and tried to get a job there.  They said, “They couldn’t get water out of a dry well,” meaning that they couldn’t use him because of his hand.  I think it was Horicon.  Was it Horicon (she asks Carol)?  (Carol answers, “You said John Deere.  I thought you said it was John Deere, which would be Horicon, yeah.”)  John Deere, yeah, John Deere.  Well, it would be Horicon, yeah, John Deere.

So Shaler’s wouldn’t take him back?  He quit there…, no, he quit there because the way things were.  He worked for the…, he got a government pension.  And he worked for different farmers at that time.  And then worked in a filling station, and worked a bit now and then for the city, like I said, raking leaves, that sort of thing.  He usually found something.  He wasn’t the type to sit around.

When the war was over we’d go downtown and people would wonder why there—because he wasn’t out yet, you know, because of his hand there—and people would wonder why he was keeping that crippled hand in his pocket, you know.  I don’t think he was ashamed of it, because he was fighting for his country, too, you know.  I think more or less it was of a habit of his of doing that, you know.  But they always wondered why he stuck that hand in his pocket, you know.

So, what did you do after the war?  Well, I got married. And then I had that daughter back there.  She was born in ‘49 (we all laugh).  I was mother; mother and the housekeeper and the boss (we all laugh again).  I had four daughters.

Four daughters!  Wow!  What were their names?  Donna, back there, she’s the oldest one.  And then there’s Rosemary, and Beverly, and Carol. 

And you started in 1949?  ‘49 she was born.

And do you have grand-kids?  Grandchildren?  Yeah.  Want me to count them?  I’ve gotten a few; three, four, more, I guess.  It used to be about four and four.  I had four; four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren.  Now it’s changed.  (Donna states, “What are the grandchildren’s names?  We just want to know if you know” [laughing].)

Did any of your children or grandchildren go into the military?  No.

He was given the flag, you know, at the…, I was given the flag at the burial, you know.  All the veteran’s wives or whoever they want to give the flags to, I guess, or who want it, get the flag.

Did the VFW come to the funeral, the honor guard type stuff?  I don’t know if they did, I don’t remember that.  (Carol states, “It was the Legion, wasn’t it the Legion post?”)  The Legion.

But there was an honor guard?  Yeah.

When did he pass away?  March of ‘79.

When my father passed away they had the…, I think it was the VFW honor guard came through.  When did he die?  He must have died young, too, then.  (Donna asks, “How did you…, do they all go like that, or do you have to be a member like of the vets?  Because I would think that maybe they were there too, I don’t know.  Do they just do it?”)

You don’t have to be a—for the honor guard—you don’t have to be a member of the organization.  If you’re a veteran, and someone in the family requests it, they’ll come out and do it.  (Carol and Donna ask if Emil, their father, was a member of the VFW.)  The VFW, no; the VFW, no.

Was he associated with any membership with the Legion or the VFW?  Just the Legion.  (Donna states, “The Disabled American Veterans.  He would always get the magazine, the DAV magazine, I remember that.”)

Is there anything else that you can think of?  (Josephine nods her head no.)

Well, thank you very much.  Sure.


This is considered © Copyright (2006) material.  Only minor quotes, giving proper reference, is acceptable.

Last updated on 27 Jan 2013 .   

This page's Webmaster can be contacted at