2nd in a 3-part series

My father, the late Charles S. Overmyer, found that being the youngest of four boys in a Richland Township farm family could be beneficial. As his memoirs reveal, "having three older brothers to do the farm work let me off the hook and I was mostly a chore boy."

When his father, Frank, "started feeling his prosperity (about 1912) he got the automobile fever and those pals of his in Rochester sold him a brand new E.M.F. automobile. This was made by Studebaker. Dad, of course, was afraid to learn to drive so I was elected to be the chauffeur . . . . This is the reason I had the opportunity to meet Edyth." (My mother, Edyth Kingery.)

Dad would take his father to town each Saturday and wait until he was ready to go home. "So I got to do a lot of girl watching. Edyth lived on Madison Street (623) near the firehouse, so I would see her and Bernice Bussert (later Mrs. Harry Louderback) go home from uptown. During the (1913) Peru-Rochester celebration of Rochester's help to Peru during their flood, Aubra Emmons (father of Mrs. Jean Brown) and I got dates with Edyth and Bernice. I found out that Edyth was engaged to a Kewanna boy by the name of Clifford Spangler but he had gone out to Iowa and gotten a job with some of his relatives. He was going to get rich and send for her, I guess. This took several months to convince her that I was here and he was there."

(His entreaties finally were accepted, as you already have guessed. They were married October 31, 1914. My mother's parents were Percy and Minnie Hawkins. Her father, blacksmith Hiram Kingery, died in 1904 when she was eight years old.)

To go courting Dad's father gave him Bill, "the quiet, intelligent old driving horse" and a rubber-tired buggy. And so the pattern became that Dad would drive his father to Rochester Saturdays, make a date with Edyth for Saturday nights, return home, hitch up Bill and return to town. "Gee, that was a long drive back (10 miles) after driving a car to and fro, but he would never have let me drive that car alone. I wouldn't have had any money to buy gas with anyway, as if I had 50 cents I was lucky."

Buggy horses like Bill must have been a treasure to have. "This old Bill driving horse was a smart old fellow. He was a light bay and he could really travel. He had a large intelligent head and was very quiet and docile. He would take a nice easy trot after night and when he was headed home and driverless, as he was most of the time, he would end up in the barnyard where his sleeping driver would wake up.

"One night on the (Tippecanoe) river bridge north of town (on old U.S. 31) he met another rig and must not have given him quite enough room. There was a clash of wheel hubs. I awoke with a start but we continued on our way.

"Another time . . . . I had him tied in front of Edyth's on Madison Street. When I went to get him, no horse or buggy. I had no idea where to find him. I notified the night police and prepared to stay until daylight. Bernice Bussert's dad had a livery stable just east of the Louderback Garage (then at the Collection Connection site, 527 Main Street). An old man by the name of Crist was his night man. They always kept a man all night as people would come and go all night long. Old man Crist said afterwards that he saw this horse come up to the barn door with no driver so he just took him in and put him up. He knew the horse as I had put him up there several times. So Crist came over to the Hawkins house in the morning and told me where Bill was. Was I relieved!"

By now "things were getting more serious with Edyth and me, so I must have started thinking that I had better know how to make a livelihood." Thus began Dad's journey into the adult world.

First came a trip far north to Detroit to follow up a tip about a factory job. "That was quite a trip for a green country boy by himself," Dad recalls. And so it turned out to be.

"I can remember getting into Detroit after night, pretty badly scared. I remember going into a large rest room under the street and going to the rest room, but I got into the ladies' (room) and an old Negro cleaning woman chased me out. I finally found the place where I was to stay but I don't remember going to the factory at all. I do know that I was on the first train home and that was enough city for me."

Next came a summer season as a silent partner with eldest brother Anson in a general store at Maxinkuckee, a crossroads settlement on the east shore of that Culver lake. He drove a delivery wagon pulled by a dapple gray horse, delivering orders to cottages on the lake and driving four miles north to the train station at Hibbard to bring freight back to the store.

There was no future in that arrangement, he decided, so he turned to another brother. Vern was operating the general store at Richland Center, on the northwest corner of another crossroads where there also were church and school. Dad bought him out and decided this was good enough to get married, since he and Edyth would have the store to live from.

And so in the autumn of 1914 it was done, both store and marriage, but only half of the arrangement proved successful. Dad started the county's first mobile huckster wagon with a two-cylinder Groboski truck "with solid rubber tires that whenever they got on a wet bit of grass or barnyard, there you would sit and spin." The combustion-engine motor soon doomed his Center store experience. His customer base dried up; people began driving their new autos to Rochester for groceries.

Dad sold out and with Mother moved to the west side of South Bend, where he took a job as grinder at the Oliver farm implement factory. Grinding corn plow axles all day was just "as if they had put me in prison, the only difference was that I was allowed to go home to eat and sleep." He lasted only a month.

Rochester beckoned and there the young Overmyers settled for the rest of their lives, except for two short returns to the family homestead. In Rochester Charley would raise his family and, in time, find his business success.

More of that next week, as I conclude this review of Dad's memoirs, a story redolent of an age now long gone.

Published Aug. 24, 1999