Interview by Robert C. Daniels
Having been friends since childhood and both being widows, Dorothy (Bal) Vroman and Lois (Bohnert) Schleicher wished to be interviewed together. Their interview was conducted at the Union-Congregational Church in Waupun starting at 4:30 P.M. on 29 November 2005. It lasted a total of 26.45 minutes. During the interview they sat next to each other on the couch that I normally used for conducting the various interviews. At the time they were both eighty years old. Lois is the sister of the author’s (interviewer’s) mother and the brother of Alfred Bohnert; therefore, the author’s aunt.
Lois, what is your full name? Lois Ida Schleicher
What’s your name, please (referring to Dorothy)? (Dorothy): Dorothy Gene Vroman
I know a lot of people that were born in the early twentieth century were not born in a hospital, but at home. Where were you born and when? (Lois): I was born on Beaver Dam Street in a house, 1925.
(Dorothy): And I was in St Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac eighty years ago today.
Today? Well, Happy Birthday! (Dorothy): Yup, 1925.
Who were your parents? (Lois): Joseph and Linda Bohnert.
(Dorothy): And Martin and Bessie Bal.
Do you have any brothers or sisters? (Lois): I have two brothers and a sister.
What are their names? (Lois): Alfred Leopold Bohnert, Doris Daniels, and Ralph Bohnert.
That was the order in which they were born? (Lois): Yes.
(Dorothy): And I have one younger sister, Barbara.
Where did you go to school? (Dorothy): Waupun High School.
(Lois): Yeah, that is where we went, and for grade school we went…, I went to the Lincoln School where I’m living now in an apartment (laughing). That’s where I went to grade school.
You both graduated from high school? (Dorothy and Lois in unison:) Yes.
When did you graduate? (Lois): ‘43, 1943.
Did either one of you go to college? (Dorothy and Lois:) No (again, in unison).
What was it like for you growing up? (Dorothy): Oh, it was, I mean, times were hard. I mean it was during the Depression.
(Lois): Some of it, yeah. We didn’t have a lot, but I think we had a lot more fun in our life, I think, in those days.
(Dorothy): More than the kids have today, I think, because we made our own fun.
(Lois): We went swimming, like I went swimming in the river. When you wouldn’t think of it now, how it looks, but at that time we went swimming in the river, China Hole.
In Rock River? (Lois): Yeah.
(Dorothy): Then in winter time we ice-skated on the river and went sledding and skiing and…, I mean, we had good times. We didn’t have a lot of material things, but what we had we appreciated.
(Lois): I think everybody was in the same boat, kinda, except for like doctors or lawyers or someone. Other than that we were all in the same boat, we didn’t have a lot. But what we had we shared and had a good time.
(Lois continues): I can remember when we were kids we’d get a nickel and we go to this one store, it was a little store, you know, and instead of just one of us going, we’d each go and get the neighbor kids and we’d go to the store and there we’d sit and see what we could get the most for our penny. You know, two for a penny, always something like that, you know. And then we go home and spread it out on the blanket, and then we’d divide it up, you know.
(Dorothy): I can remember may dad and I’d walk back home from my dad’s work, and everyday he would give me a penny. And [I] went into the corner drug store, and there was a big table there, and boy, there was really a decision to make up your mind what you are gonna buy for that penny because it was twenty-five or fifty different candies. Jawbreakers were two for a penny, and bubble gum, and…. So, every day it was a decision what you were gonna get for that penny. Today you give a kid a penny and they’d throw it back at yah (laughing).
What were you doing in the 1939, 1941 timeframe, basically just before the war? (Lois): Going to school.
(Dorothy): Yeah, going to school.
Do you remember what you were doing when you first heard that Pearl Harbor was attacked? (Dorothy): We were at my aunt and uncle’s at Beaver Dam. And it came over on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been….
(Lois): I can’t remember.
(Dorothy): We were just shocked. We couldn’t believe it.
What time of the day was it, do you remember? (Dorothy): It was about four o’clock in the afternoon, on a Sunday afternoon when we heard it. I remember we had a big assembly in the school the next morning. Do you remember that (talking to Lois)?
(Lois): I can’t remember.
(Dorothy): Yeah. First thing in the morning we all got in the gym and they had an assembly telling us that war have been declared. I can remember that.
And your high school was…? (Lois): Where the middle school..., the old middle school [is].
That is where you went too? (Lois): Yeah.
The Junior High School it was called back when I went to it? (Both): Yeah, yeah.
What were your thoughts and feelings about the United States being attacked? (Dorothy): Well, it was just hard to believe.
(Lois): Surprise…, you couldn’t really believe anybody would do that. Then we were really against the Japanese. I remember that if any people had knick-knacks in Japanese they got rid of them, you know.
(Dorothy): I mean there was just…, I think we were in shock, maybe, for a day or so, because we couldn’t believe that anybody would do something like that. You know, the people, they didn’t have a chance.
Was that the general feeling around you? (Dorothy): Oh, yeah, I think so. I think anybody felt the same, that, you know, they just…. Maybe some people kinda expected that it was coming, but I don’t think the majority of ‘em had any idea. It just…, just like out of the blue.
What did you do during the war? (Lois): I finished school. Graduated in ‘43 and I went right into…, I worked at Shaler’s at the war plant, you know, in the rivets. I started out in the rivets. And then I got into…, I didn’t like the rivets, working in rivets. I got into hot patches. At that time they used to use that to patch tires, you know. Now that’s obsolete.
They were rubber patches? (Lois): Well, they were…, yeah they had rubber ones. They were very flammable, you know, they were in little…, well you had the round ones and they had oblong ones, you know, and then they had bigger patches.
(Dorothy): They came in a little can, almost like tennis balls come in today. You could patch your bicycle tires and….
(Lois): Well, they had cans like that (shows with her hands), like that. I forget how many patches came in one can because you took them off the machine and shoved them in there (into the cans).
Did Shaler’s have special security at that time? (Lois): Yes, they had a fence put up and you had to have a.., like I had to wear a badge to get in. And they had a gate there that you went in.
(Dorothy): They had a guard house.
Were the guards armed? Did they have armed guards? (Lois): You know, I couldn’t tell you that. Isn’t that funny? I remember the man but I don’t remember if he had a gun or not.
Was there just one guard or…? (Lois): Yeah, because the gate was there, and the guard house was there, and we always had to show our badge to get in.
(Dorothy): And I worked in the office in the shoe factory first, and then I went and worked in the shoe factory where they made army boots.
What was the name of the shoe factory? (Dorothy): I worked…, first I worked at Ideal and then I worked at Teeple (the Teeple Shoe Factory).
How long did you work in these places? (Lois): I worked until after, let’s see, it must have been after the war...
(Dorothy): I worked till ‘51…, ‘50.
(Lois): …because I got laid off after the war. And then I…, I worked at someplace else. Then I, you know, I got a letter to come back. They said they’d hire me back as soon as they could, you know. Well, by the time I got the letter to come back to work there I didn’t go back. I stayed at East Central Breeders working in the office there. I worked in the office there for seven years.
But Shaler’s wanted you to come back? (Lois): Yeah. But they quit making hot patches already, because I met Del Corrigan on the street, and he told me that, he said, “That’s all done with.” But they still made rivets.
Can you tell me about the rationing and ration cards and how they worked? (Lois): You had to tear a ticket off each time you got something, you know, for meat and sugar and like that. Like gasoline too you had to have tickets. Of course, we didn’t have a car except for Al (her brother), when he was home, he had a car. And then we used to chip in money, each of us, and we’d go ride around for a little bit.
(Dorothy): I know they were only good for…, each ticket was good for so long, and then they weren’t any good. And then the new one would come up. But I remember my mother using ‘em, but I never paid much attention to ‘em, you know.
(Lois): But I remember when my brothers went into service, and then when Ralph came home on furlough, Walter (Walter Paskey, an uncle) gave him some extra gas money (ration cards), you know.
(Dorothy): I remember my dad used to get extra gas because the guy at the filling station…, some of the farmers would bring it.., they wouldn’t use their…, I don’t know how come they weren’t using their tickets—if they got more gas than anybody else—but they were bringing their tickets and telling him to give it to somebody that could use it, you know, so. I remember my dad, he was an air-raid warden, I can remember that. And he’d drive all around every so often, and all the lights would be turned off. I wish I could remember that; he stopped a guy one time after everybody was in the dark and this guy was coming in the car with the lights on, and I wish I could remember what excuse he gave my dad why he was out on the street, but it was something crazy. I can’t remember if he told my dad he wanted to get home before it started or what (laughing). But anyway, there he was with all his car lights on. So, yeah, we did that every so often. All lights…, the shades were pulled, and all the lights were off. How long did we sit, Lois, a half hour or so, maybe?
(Lois): I don’t know, a half hour. They had wardens for each block….
(Dorothy): Each block. Each street. I remember my dad had Fond du Lac Street from the end on to the Powder Puff. (The Power Puff was a gas station located on the corner of Fond du Lac and Watertown Streets.)
Do you guys remember anything about the POW camps over here? (Dorothy): Oh, yeah.
(Lois): I remember they had it, but that’s all. We were told not to go there, and, I don’t know, for some reason we never did. We never went around there, so I never really seen it.
(Lois continues): I did a dumb thing one time, but…. My mother and I were walking down to a friend’s house, and this officer come along with a jeep, you know, and I went (makes a sign like hitchhiking) thumb like that—and while I did it never thinking he’d stop—and then he stopped and I didn’t know what to say (laughing). I had my mother with me when I did that, you know (laughing even harder).
Where was the POW camp, do you remember? (Lois): By the old canning factory. (Lois and Dorothy discuss between themselves what street it was on.)
Wasn’t there two canning factories at the time? (Lois): Oh, yeah, one was on the other end [of town].
One down by the…? (Dorothy): Cemetery. (Both): Yeah.
That’s by Rock River. (Dorothy): That’s gone.
The POW camp was not up by that one, it was by the other one? (Both): No, no, it was up way up there. (They again discuss between each other the street name of this other canning factory.)
(Dorothy): I think it’s Doty Street. Yeah, it was up there by that canning factory, because I remember I was working at the canning factory.
During the war? (Dorothy): Yeah, in the summer. I worked there during one vacation before I…, when I graduated [from high school] I went there and I worked there ‘till the shoe factory called me.
What was the name of the canning factory? (Dorothy): Waupun Cannery. I don’t know what the other one was. What was the one down by the mill?
(Lois): I don’t know. My mother used to work there, too.
(Dorothy): Wasn’t that the…, they just called the Mill, didn’t they?
So they still canned food, even though the war was going on? (Dorothy): Oh, yeah; oh, yeah.
Did the prisoners work in the canning factory? (Lois): Some of them, because my dad, I remember he used to…, they had those binderies, you know…, dad had worked there because he could talk German, you know
So your father worked with the prisoners sometimes? (Lois): Yeah.
I heard a lot about Victory Gardens and stuff. Did you guys ever have Victory Gardens, and what were they like? (Lois): Yeah, we always had a garden.
(Dorothy): We just planted everything that you could plant. Canned it all. My mother canned everything because we didn’t…, I mean even…, we’d even canned…, I don’t think they canned meat then but other years they would can meat, and…. My dad had a big garden and planted everything.
(Lois): We always had a big garden.
So most people had Victory Gardens then? (Lois): Yeah.
(Dorothy): Oh, I think the biggest share of them did.
During the time of the war is there anything that changed in Waupun that you remembered or noticed? (Dorothy): I don’t know what really changed, I think of….
(Lois): The biggest change was, like, having the fence around the [rivet] factory.
(Dorothy): Yeah, yeah. And then I think people got a little closer together because, you know, they….
(Lois): Because your sons and daughters and stuff are in the service, you know.
Did you know a lot of people that were in the military? (Dorothy): Oh, yeah, I can remember….
(Lois): A lot of our classmates joined before they graduated. Then Ralph lied about his age to get in.
Tell me about that. (Lois): Well, he wanted to go, and some of the others…, Al, my oldest brother, he was going in the Marines, and so Ralph said, “I’m going in the Army.” So he went down and enlisted and lied about his age. And he stayed that way all the time until the time come for Social Security, then he had to own up for what he did, you know.
How old was he? (Lois): Oh, he must have been seventeen then, because you had to be eighteen.
(Dorothy): I can remember going to the [train] depot when the National Guards left. Do you remember that?
(Dorothy): I remember going down there. I think the high school band played, and it was quite a send off for all of them to go.
Was that in the beginning of the war, 1942? (Dorothy): No, I think it was before the war I think they went. I wouldn’t just say, but I…, it almost seems like they went before they declared war, but I wouldn’t swear to that.
(Lois): Then I laughed. After Al went, then we got a card in the mail that he was supposed to report for or to the Army, you know, or whatever. He was already long gone in the service (laughing). Him and his buddy went.
(Lois continues): And then he (Al’s buddy) got killed in the war. And it just happened…, well, Al can tell you that. When he went to California for his training—and he never got a furlough to come back home, he got shipped out—but when he got…, when him and his buddy was supposed to be shipped out, Al got a sore on his elbow—and a Marine kicked him, you know, when he was rifle shooting, or whatever—and he got a sore there and they wouldn’t let him go then. And they had to heal that first. So his buddy went, and that’s when his buddy got killed landing on Tarawa.
What was it like when you heard that the war was over? (Lois): Oh, that was really…, everybody went wild.
(Dorothy): Oh, yeah.
(Lois): I don’t know, I think it was…, I think I was in Fond du Lac when, I think it was, the Japanese war was over. And boy, they were wild. You know, everybody was whooping and hollering and running down around the main street, you know. And then I think that…, but that was Germany, I think. And then when the other war was over I was in town (Waupun). I remember the people running around on the streets and stuff. I was there, too, evidently (laughing). I remember the one girl ran and she fell on Main Street. Her dress went way over her head, you know (still laughing).
(Dorothy): I can remember my mother and dad and I were out on the front sidewalk. I don’t know, I guess we were talking to my aunt. And all of a sudden we saw this jeep coming with two servicemen in. So I waved at them and they stopped, and I told them, I said, “The war just ended.” Boy, you should’ve seen the looks on their faces. And they took off in that jeep for five blocks. I don’t know where they were going but they were happy to know that. Yeah, it was…, that was quite a day.
What was it like when the military members came home? (Lois): Well, it took a while for them to settle down. Like I remember my one brother, Al, when I went to wake him. Well, I sent…, we had a little dog, you know. I sent the dog in the room to wake him up—that was the wrong thing to do. He knocked him (the dog) off the bed, you know. He thought he was in the war yet, you know.
(Lois continues): And then one time I went to wake him and I shook him, I guess, or something, touched him; anyhow, and he grabbed like this (she motions grabbing for a rifle) for his rifle. He didn’t have one, but he grabbed for it, you know. So he said after this, talk to him. So it took a while [for them] to kind of adjust that you weren’t fighting anymore.
Did the Waupun area change any at all, after the military members came home? Did it go back the way it was before or stay the same? (Dorothy): Oh, I really don’t know. I don’t think that we paid that much attention, did we Lois? We were just glad it was over, and I think everybody just went around about their business.
(Lois): When Ralph came home I know it was different because he got married while he was gone, you know. He got married while he was in Massachusetts there where he was stationed.
What did you do after the war? (Dorothy): Well, I kept on working where I was. Until I….
(Lois): Well, after the war…, after I got laid off at Shaler’s then I worked at the canning factory, I worked during the pea season. Then I was going to work in the corn. [But] then I had my tonsils out so I couldn’t work in the corn right away, so. But then I started to work at East Central [Breeders].
Did you get married? (Lois): In ‘53.
Who did you marry? (Lois): Frank Schleicher.
Was he in the war? (Lois): Yeah, World War II, he was.
What did he do in the war? Was he in the Army? (Lois): Yeah, he was a mechanic.
Did he come from the Waupun area? (Lois): Yeah. Well, originally he come from Almond, Wisconsin.
(Dorothy): And then I married Franklin Vroman in 1949. And he was from Almond, Wisconsin.
(Lois): Yeah, isn’t that funny, we both…(laughing).
(Dorothy): And he was in the medics as a…, with the combat engineers. In the South Pacific.
In the Army? (Dorothy): Army, yup.
(Lois): Frank was in Europe.
Did you have children? (Lois): Sure did (laughing).
How many and what were their names? (Lois): Well, I got…, I actually had five, but one died as a baby, six months old. And then—that was Charles—then we had Ronald. Then let’s see…, Ronny was born in ‘56, and then we had Jane, she was born in ‘57. And then we had Ed in ‘59, and Joan in 1961.
(Dorothy): And I had three. Daniel in 1951, and Gary in 1954, and Kevin in 1959.
Did any of your children serve in the military? (Dorothy): No.
(Lois): Yeah, Ronny. He was in the Air Force. Don’t ask me what year; I can’t remember (laughing).
Is there anything else that you would like to say about the timeframe or the period or anything you can think of? (Lois): I can remember other people talking; I didn’t do it, but other people. They went to dances. But there was very few men around. All that were left was the ones that couldn’t go, you know.
(Dorothy): Well, I can remember going roller skating in Columbus (Wisconsin), and when we got back to Beaver Dam—and then there was a bus from Shaler’s that picked up the workers in Fox Lake and then went from Fox Lake to Beaver Dam and then to Waupun—and I remember my girl friend and I rode home on that bus because we were too late, you know. Our parents had left earlier. So they picked up the workers for Shaler’s.
(Lois): We had…, like whenever someone had someone in the service, they had flags you could put in the windows, you know. And like I say, I had those two pins I used to wear for each brother; one was in the Army and one was in the Marines.
Dorothy passed away at age 88 on 29 December 2013.
Last updated on 07 Jan 2015 .
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