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Tell It Like It Was - Doris Fuhr Hopen

Adapted from the original email story by Paul Ovaitt sent on December 4, 2022

Doris Fuhr Hopen – Rosa Parks again – Paul and Lydia – Lorenz, der wagenbauer – John Fuhr – Gert Goebel - Latin Farmers? – International Shoe Co.

Gentle readers, you know the rules. (Anything in parentheses is ye olde town interviewer speaking.) This phone interview took place November 12, 2022.

Paul: I just had a nice nap. I’m ready to go.

Doris: That’s more than I got done. (We laugh.)

P: Would you like to tell me what year you were born?

D: 1928.

P: And do you know if there was a doctor there…or a midwife?

D: Both…Dr. Schmidt and Mrs. Parks.

P: Rosa Parks. And were you born just outside of town…there at the farm…more or less where Glennon and Ruth Stelzer had that ranch style house?

D: Yes, there was an old house there before they built one.

P: And your father farmed there. Tell me your parents’ names.

D: Paul (Fuhr) and Lydia (Thieman).

P: Was Paul’s father named Herman?

D: No, it was Lawrence (Lorenz) Fuhr.

P: Oh, sure…he was your grandfather, the wagon maker in the blacksmith shop.

For that matter, there have been a whole series of Fuhrs in Augusta, starting with John Fuhr who co-founded Harmonie Verein…are you related to all of them, you think?

D: Oh yeah, and then John Fuhr was…oh golly…was that my dad’s uncle? I think so…I just really wouldn’t say for sure…but he was a shoemaker.

P: Yeah, I’ve read that…also a farmer and a musician.

D: And he gave…musical instruments…like trumpets…and those kinds of musical instruments lessons…while he fixed shoes. That’s how my dad learned how to play the trumpet…and never handed it on. I’ve got the trumpet yet, but I never did learn how to play it…nobody did.

P: Can I get a picture of it, you think?

D: Oh, I don’t know where it’s at…it’s in my attic somewhere…

Gentle readers, I hate to ruin a perfectly good story, but the gravestones of John and Paul Fuhr don’t support Doris’ recollections on her dad’s trumpet lessons. John Fuhr died in 1891, whereas Paul wasn’t born until 1894. Oh well.

Before I began writing this story I emailed Walter Kamphoefner, professor of history at Texas A&M, to learn more about the Fuhrs of Augusta.

Walter Kamphoefner, via email: If you look at Gert Goebel’s, Longer than a Man's Life, 235-37, you get a profile of an earlier generation of Fuhrs, band leader John Fuhr. He was the immigrant generation of Fuhrs, who I believe originated in Hesse-Darmstadt like a lot of Latin Farmers, but I don't think they were part of Muench's Giessen Society. They hailed from Homburg an der Ohm, only about a dozen miles or so NW of Giessen where Muenches originated.

Walter: There is a Fuhr tie-in with an uncle (of Walter) five generations back; the last of the Kamphoefners to come to America was Heinrich Mattheus (Kamphoefner), along with his wife and daughter. They arrived in New Orleans on the ship “Carl” on October 29, 1860, and settled near Augusta, Missouri. There they became members of the Lutheran church that was founded as a daughter congregation of New Melle. Heinrich died only two years after their arrival, and his widow remarried on October 14, 1863. Her second husband was Friedrich Wilhelm Wissman, also a native of Buer. One son, August Kamphoefner, is buried on the Lutheran cemetery in Augusta, and several descendants named Fuhr are still members of that congregation. One of his daughters, I think, married Lorenz Fuhr. [Here is the tie-in from Christ Lutheran marriage records: 10/5/1879 - FUHR, Lorenz Michael - Augusta, MO KAMPHOEFNER, Marie Elisabeth - New Melle, MO]

Walter: Their son Paul, born 1894, was one of the men who used to hang out at Holt's blacksmith shop.

Gentle readers of English, the phrase, “Latin Farmers” refers more to the intellectual pursuits of these early Immigrants. And I did, in fact, secure the Gert Goebel book Walter recommended through the Augusta library, and I’m totally getting into it. I am including a photo of the book cover because it’s not only cool, but it also allows me to credit the translators and editors (which include Walter Kamphoefner).

Gerhard, or Gert, at the age of 18, settled on the Franklin County side of the river in 1834. There were few Germans there, and Gert soon gravitated towards the backwoods hunters. He took on their language (English), customs, and skills. Nevertheless, Gert was well acquainted with our side of the river, and he knew what was shaking in the Augusta and Dutzow area.

Gert describes Doris’ ancestor, John Fuhr, as “a friend who has rendered a very special service to the noble art of music.” John was first instructed in music in Germany, but he shared his training with his younger brothers and a small orchestra resulted. “…how delightful it was to hear music played in correct time, with expression, and pure notes after one’s ears had been maltreated for years by the backwoodsmen’s fiddles”, wrote Goebel. (I can so relate to that.)

After moving from the Lake Creek area to Augusta, Fuhr organized a larger orchestra. He gave music lessons but refused pay for his services. Ultimately, he co-founded the Harmonie-Verein Cultural Society in 1856. I have lifted a Harmonie Verein Orchestra photograph from Mallinckrodt’s Augusta’s “Harmony” which Anita lifted from…?

Paul: In one of Anita’s books (Augusta’s Harmony, p. 29), I came across a list of professions and trades in 1858. I found a Henry Fuhr listed as a wagon maker. You gotta wonder if he instructed Lorenz in the wainwright craft.

Doris: Yeah, that’s more than I know.

P: Okay. Did you learn German growing up?

D: Well, yeah…we had German in Lutheran school the first three years…and then they kind of dissipated it, so, it was more English in school…then they didn’t want that German. That was the end of it.

P: You mentioned Lutherans, and I picked up on that…that most of the Fuhrs appear to be Lutheran, but then I noticed John Fuhr, the shoemaker/musician is buried in the town cemetery.

D: Yeah, there’s some E&R (Evangelical and Reformed Church, now United Church of Christ) Fuhrs.

P: Mel Fuhr was your brother. Did you have other siblings?

D: No, just Mel and me. (Mel Fuhr wore many hats around Augusta. I know him best as the owner of the downtown grocery store, but he also sold propane, was a member of the town board for many years, and he was active in promoting baseball in Augusta and caring for the baseball diamond.)

P: So, you grew up on this farm where the Stelzers lived later, and you told me in a previous story that you never did drive a mule or do any farm work like that. Did you feed the animals?

D: Not…chickens maybe…but the rest was not in my category.

P: Did Mel do much farming?

D: Well, he helped Dad until he went to the service.

P: Korean War?

D: Yeah.

P: Where all did you go to school?

D: At the Lutheran school in Augusta.

P: Then did you go to high school in…?

D: Nope, I didn’t go to high school. I went to work, helping the neighbor ladies out when they needed help…babysitting…washing diapers…scrubbing floors.

P: Hard work.

D: Yup. 50¢ a day.

P: …oh dear. Before I get further into your working career, let’s go back to your childhood. I guess you were a child when you were doing all these chores…

D: Oh, of course…I milked cows...

P: What did you do for fun?

D: Ha-ha…there was none…you found your own fun, whatever it was…

P: Did you play in the yard, or walk?

D: Well yeah…sandpile…or played with the dog.

P: What did you do in the sandpile?

D: …whatever junk I had to play with in there…and it was junk…couldn’t afford nothing else.

P: You said before that your dad would take you into town. I guess that was fun…you would see your grandfather.

D: Yeah...I was young…before I went to school even…I can’t remember.

P: I recall you told me about the time a horse stepped on your grandfather’s foot at the blacksmith shop.

D: And I saw it, and I said to dad, let’s go home. And he was wondering how come I said that ‘til the next day he went to see his dad for some reason, and he was sitting by the cookstove with his foot all wrapped up…and then he told dad…a horse stepped on my foot yesterday.

P: Before Wilbert Holt…I forget the name of the blacksmith who was in that same space…

D: Schmidt. (Fritz)

P: Just like that doctor.

D: Yes, that was the doctor’s dad.

P: So, Lorenz worked during Schmidt’s time but also when Holt was there. In general, did you like going there?

D: Well yeah, whenever we got that ice cream cone (at the tavern).

P: Did you sit around and watch him work on wagons?

D: No, huh-uh.

P: Okay, you told me about working around town…

D: Yeah, until I was 16, and then I went to work for International Shoe…for 45¢ an hour. (Location of factory: W. 2nd St., Rand Ave., Edith St. & Johnson St., Washington.)

P: Well…that beats 50¢ a day.

“The original factory building was dedicated in June 1907. A public dance was held on the second floor. The Washington Concert Band under the direction of Edwin Spaunhorst provided the music. Early in July 1907, the factory began operations. In less than 10 years, the factory had fulfilled its promise of paying $1 million in wages.”

“At one time, the Washington plant was No. 1 in the manufacture of pairs of shoes of all the International factories, which numbered 58 in 1957. At the time, International was the largest manufacturer of shoes in the world. Total production in 1956 was 53,433,683 pairs of shoes, with about 48,970 for the military.”

“International began to phase out its operations here in 1959 and the plant was closed by 1961. For about 53 years it was the “bread and butter” employment center in Washington.”

Doris: It was 55 hours a week; the first paycheck I got with tax deduction and everything, was 19 dollars and 52¢…for 55 hours. And now days these kids won’t even work one hour for $15.

P: So, that was in Washington, I guess. Were you using the new bridge?

D: It was a toll bridge.

P: Oh yeah, when they first built it (open 1936 according to MODOT), they charged a fee. Was there anybody from Augusta working with you?

D: Oh yeah, there was a whole…we had there for a while…between Augusta and Dutzow…we had a school bus load. And some more from Defiance…they would drive up here and catch the bus. That was kind of during WWII.

P: Did you have to pack a lunch every day for the shoe company?

D: Oh yeah.

P: Was the building all heated, or not so much?

D: Oh yeah, it was all heated…that was a nice building…all the conveniences.

P: There were machines in there…

D: Yeah, and you were on piecework…if you didn’t work, you didn’t make nothing.

P: And these machines, were they run by belts?

D: Yes.

P: So, there was something outside the building or something making the belts…

D: Well, there was a shaft, and there’s where the machines run off of.

P: And they burned gasoline or…

D: No, no, no…it was all electric. But don’t ask me the mechanic part of it. I sewed with them and that’s all I done.

P: You were sewing through leather?

D: Yes. I made army boots…many an army boot for WWII.

P: Before the bridge did you cross the river on the ferry?

D: You bet I did. I went over on the boat. That’s the only way we’d get any shopping done. If we wanted something besides what they had here at the store we had…we had to go on the boat to Washington.

P: Was that exciting?

D: Well, yeah…and no. I didn’t like it. It was just something different in those days…we shopped what everybody could carry, and then we had to go back to the boat again and go across the river.

P: How did you get to the ferry?

D: We had our old Model T Ford.

P: But your father never did get a tractor…

D: No. He was right on the verge of it, and then…well my brother went to the service, and he (dad) said that’s the end of farming. I ain’t doing it no more. So, we had a sale, and that was it. We moved to town where Ruth (Mel’s wife still) lives now. Dad bought that from George Webbing (or Webbink?). (According to a 1991 building survey conducted by the MO Office of Historic Preservation, 255 Green was built in 1910. The survey states: according to the current owners, the rear of the house once was supported by poles before the present concrete foundation was built, and the bldg. had served as a "colored school & church"…

P: So, at 16 you went to the shoe place. Did you work somewhere after that?

D: After I worked at the shoe factory…I worked there for nine and a half years, and then I went down to SECO Products, and made pots, pans, and ski cables, and hospital carts. And now…I don’t know…I heard that there making drugs in it. What kind of drugs, I don’t know.

Gentle readers…from MoDNR: “The SECO Products site is located at 5025 Old Highway 100 East in Washington, Missouri. The facility was first owned and operated by Washington Metal Products Co. in 1952. The facility was subsequently owned by McGraw-Edison Food Service Division, who later sold the facility to Bastian-Blessing Inc. Bastian-Blessing Inc. was later owned by International Food Service Equipment Systems Inc. The Hussmann Corp. purchased the facility in November 1985. From 1985 to 1989, SECO Products was an operating division of the Hussmann Corp. In 1989, Hussmann sold the facility to the Seco Middleby Co. The facility manufactured stainless steel food service equipment, including steel pitchers, trays, and salad bar service units. Manufacturing operations included metal cutting, welding, electropolishing, and solvent degreasing. By September, 1983, SECO had discontinued its electropolishing and metal etching process and replaced it with an annealing process. The Seco Middleby Co. went bankrupt and operations stopped in 1999. The facility remained mostly vacant until it was purchased by MPH Properties LLC, in early 2007.”

P: How long did you work there?

D: 17 years.

P: Anything after that?

D: Babysat…I retired and then I babysat.

P: I think I need another nap.

Gentle Augustaphiles, in part 2, we’ll talk about Doris’ husband, Wilbert, and her children, Paul, Lori and Dave, and a few more things. Also, Doris asked me to not use a picture of her, but I’ve got something else for you: a very old pic of her dad, Paul Fuhr.

Now I’d like to tell you that I received a text on Thursday, 12/1/22, that Michael Bruckdorfer died the night before. As of this morning, there is no obituary online that I can link you to, but I’ll share a little history with you. Michael and his wife Jan (also deceased) lived in Augusta from the 70s to early 90s. He was a coppersmith/artist. He ran the Americana Gallery, fashioned art from copper in his next door shop, and moved/restored 2-3 log structures for more retail space. These buildings were eventually owned by Jan Cross as b&bs, and are currently owned by Hoffmann.

What you might not know is that Michael was an amazing fisherman. We could stand in the same creek, sit in the same boat, share the same pond, and guess who always caught nice sized fish…not me. I think he could have pulled fish from your bathtub. He grew up in Canada, I seem to recall, and he was good with ice skates and cross-country skiing. (Yes, we had some real snowfall in the 80s.)

In case I don’t get back to you before December 25, I’ll just wish you a Merry Christmas now. Stay warm and healthy, drink your fair share of eggnog, and stay curious.


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