My father, J. Paul Snyder is the 10th of 13 children of Ora and Marion (Lucas) Snyder. He was born in Johnsville in 1934. The family moved to Lexington when Dad was very young and then moved to Bellville when he was seven years old. I always enjoyed hearing Dad’s stories about his years growing up in Bellville. I recently asked Dad to put some of his memories down in writing and he agreed that I could share with you my “interview” of him.
Here is my interview of Dad:
BLS: What memories do you have of living in Johnsville as a young boy?
JPS: U S Route 42 still went down thru Johnsville right in front of our house (funeral home) , I would set right out on the berm and watch the cars go by.
BLS: What memories do you have of living in Lexington?
JPS: We lived on Delaware Street (route 42) . I later learned that Dad rented the house from Dr.Milton Oakes. There was a sunroom across the back of the house on the second floor and there were many beds in that sunroom where most of us kids slept. There was an old car sitting in the field behind our house and my neighbor friend , Harold Bachelder, and I would go out and play in that old car. We would push the starter pedal and make the car groan and move, we thought that was neat.
BLS: How old were you when the family moved to Bellville?
JPS: I was seven years old.. I completed the first grade at Lexington and we moved to Bellville just in time for the Bellville Fair !
BLS: Your parents had 13 children. I just can’t imagine that. What was it like growing up in such a large family?
JPS: I wore mostly hand me down clothing. I didn’t realize it then but my older brothers, (Don Dave,Bob,Dick) had actually left home by the time we moved to Lexington.
BLS: How did your mother manage to keep up with everything? Meals must have been a real challenge for your mother on a daily basis. What do you recall about that? What were some of your favorite meals that your mother made?
JPS: Mom always started out the meal preparation by peeling a big pot of potatoes and would generally add fried beefsteak and a vegetable. She would make a big pan of mush before she went to bed and we would have fried mush for breakfast. As Pat and Janet got older, they took over a lot of the kitchen chores from mom.
BLS: Which of your siblings were you closest to growing up?
JPS: I guess as a youngster, I looked up to Dick & Bob & Pete. I remember quite well when Dick & Bob would come home on furlough during WWII. I would look up to them and be very proud of them.
BLS: There was a big age difference between you and some of your older brothers and sisters. What was your relationship with your older siblings growing up and how did that change over the years?
JPS: Dad Snyder was 59 years old when I graduated from high school, and in the early 1950’s that was considered elderly. He never did any sports activities with us younger kids like he did with the older boys ( Don, Dave, Dick). Dick in particular was more like a father to me. He was 14 years older than me and we sorta did some things together. I never recall living with Don & Dave as there was quite an age difference between myself and them, like 16 years.
BLS: What do you recall about growing up in a funeral home? Any particular memories or stories.?
JPS: All my memories of living in a funeral home were at the old Bellville funeral home (1941-1953) I would always be nearby and loved to listen to “shop talk” when Dick or Bob would come upstairs to have coffee while or after helping Dad on funeral work. I guess that’s where I picked up my knowledge/history of the background of the funeral home. Many sad memories of screaming sounds coming up to the apartment or living quarters when families would come in for their first viewing of their loved ones.
BLS: What were some of the tricks you played on your sisters when you were growing up?
JPS: Do you mean like putting a dead mouse in their shoe? Or rigging up a tin can to rattle outside their bedroom window? How about catching a bat during the day time and planting it in their bedroom?
BLS: What are some of your best memories about growing up in Bellville
JPS: Mom & Dad never seemed to be concerned where we kids were. We roamed all over Bellville. Dad would be upstairs in the living room watching the Cleveland Indians on TV. I would go out to the barn and jump in his big Buick Roadmaster and drive out to get Jim Hope and bring him in for the Friday night football games. Pat & Janet were both cheerleaders. As a young kid , I worked up at the cemetery trimming grass around tombstones and made twelve cents an hour. I saved up my money and bought a Schwinn Deluxe coil action bicycle. I rode my bicycle all over Bellville until I got my drivers license. Then I would drive dad’s big Buicks, Chryslers, Mercury woodie station wagons all over Bellville. I don’t think he ever knew it.
BLS: What was it like as a kid having the Bellville fair essentially in your front yard every September? How excited were you about that and do you have any particular memories about the fair while you were growing up?
JPS: Dad would give us a quarter to spend each night of the fair. You have to remember French fries were a nickel and most rides were a nickel So, you could get pretty good mileage out of a quarter. Then too I was probably a little more ‘flushed’ then my siblings, because I was Dad’s in- house car washer and he was always flipping me a quarter or half dollar for washing cars after school.
BLS: How would you describe your mother? Some of the younger grandchildren of Poppo Ora and Gong Gong do not have much recollection of them.
JPS: Mother had a very profound admiration of my Father. To say that she adored him would be a great understatement. They truly enjoyed their get-a-ways from the funeral home. I often wonder how they endured family get-to-gathers with forty grandchildren running loose around the house. Mother’s sudden death had a great impact on my father. Her death.really aged him greatly and quickly. He was a changed man after her death.
BLS: How would you describe your father?
JPS: To me he was a very quiet person. He was a different person when my older brothers came around and would laugh and joke with them.
BLS: What are some of your most fond memories of your mother?
JPS: I did not realize this until after her death, but my mother battled with high blood pressure. If one of us boys had a problem, we always went to Mom with it. Pat & Janet had Dad wrapped around their little finger. She loved all her 13 children and she had no favorites. She always referred to my father as “daddy.”
BLS: What are some of your most fond memories of your father?
JPS: Mom and Dad had a “thing” going on between them. They only needed to look at each other with a ‘wink’ or a twinkle in their eye and you knew they were communicating in a private way that none of us kids would understand, and they were both good at doing this sort of thing. Dad liked to watch golf and baseball on TV, and he enjoyed going golfing with his golf buddies: Bill Castor, Art Kell and Harvey Fleck.
BLS: What do you recall about some of the first Snyder reunions?
JPS: Lots of good food !
BLS: As you think about the legacy or heritage of Ora and Marion Snyder and their children, is there anything that stands out to you?
JPS: I think that my Dad & Mom instilled a legacy in each us kids, that gave us a desire to make them proud of us in whatever we did in life, and I think we all pretty much accomplished that. Mother let it be known to us that our father was an admired professional and was revered as such in the community.
BLS: Are there any other stories or memories that you would like to share involving your parents, growing up in Bellville and/or your sisters or brothers?
JPS: My mother was an only child.. Her mother died when Mom was only six months old…And she strived to make each one of us thirteen kids feel like we were her favorite, yet she did not favor any one of us over the other. She really made Christmas a special event in our lives and I still cherish the family get-to-gathers at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We never,that I can recall, took a family vacation together but we were a very close family. One of our special times was sitting around the dining room table and enjoying the wonderful food that my mother would prepare. She was very much a ‘stay at home mom.” My folks essestially worked together all day, every day and I was never aware of them becoming cross or upset with each other.
BLS: What kinds of things did you do helping your father in the family business as you were growing up?
JPS: There was no trash service or garbage disposals in those days in Bellville. So once a month I would help Dad put an old casket shipping container in his 1937 Ford service car that he used for removals.and we would literally fill it up with garbage and trash and haul it up to the town dump. When Dad’s cars became dirty, I, without being told would go out to the garage, (not heated in the winter) and wash the cars as needed, sometimes it would be two or three cars. Dad would come out to the garage and see what I was doing and often give me a half dollar coin, which in the 1940’s was no small sum of money. After Pete & Phil left home, I would help him on ambulance trips and death call home removals.
BLS: What recollections do you have of family get togethers in the 40’s and 50’s? Going to Mohican, etc?
JPS: We seemed to have a lot of family get-to-gathers in the 40’s & 50’s,always with a great meal either at home, or a back yard picnic or a fish fry at Mohican state park. This seemed to change after the last of us kids got married and left home but all of us would come back for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
BLS: Any other memories you have of growing up in Bellville that you want to share?
JPS: It was always a special time when one of my older brothers, (Dave, Dick, & Bob), would be home on furlough from service during World War Two. I remember quite well one Christmas eve, when Mother read a letter from Dave describing how he & Dick got together in Paris, France and Dave put one of his officers uniform on Dick and took him into a USO festivity where they bumped into Dick’s commanding officer. I also remember as a ten year old boy, working up in Bellville Cemetery trimming around tombstones, making twelve cents an hour and saving up my money to buy a new monarch bicycle with white sidewall tires and twin knee action. It was the most prettiest bike in Bellville.