LEONORA MAY BLAU NORRIS
(Leonora May Blau Norris was interviewed on audio tape for oral history projects in Columbus. The transcripts of the interviews are in the archives room of the library of Columbus College. The transcripts total 57 pages in question and answer form. This is a summary of the interviews as they relate to the Blau family. For the most part this summary is in her own words with minor editing to combine statements regarding the same facts. The interviews were made in 1978.)
My father was from Germany. He was an artist in drawing. He had natural talent as well as studying it in school. The war business (in Germany) and the military training was so severe that after his older brother had been through it, his mother said not another one of her boys was going through it. His older brother married and lived in London. My father's mother sent him and his younger brother to the United States. When my father came over he was about fifteen years old. It took him a month or two to get over here at that time.
He went to Milwaukee and couldn't speak a word of English. I believe a lot of people in Milwaukee must have spoken German because a lot of people from Germany went there. Papa said he was walking the street and this man was hollering, "Glass put in! Glass put in!" He was just beginning to learn English and thought the man said "Glass pudding." He told a lot of funny things about how he misunderstood people. As he was walking the street in Milwaukee, he came to a butcher shop and a man had a covered wagon to deliver beef. The man had just finished painting a cow on the canvas of his wagon. Papa went in and asked the proprietor, "Are you going to accept that painting of that cow? I know a plenty and if you'll let me paint one for you, I'll paint it for nothing if you don't like it. If you don't like it I won't charge you a cent." He was a young boy and didn't know how much to charge for anything. So he painted the other side of the canvas. The man was so delighted that he paid him for it. That was his first job.
MARRIES IN COLUMBUS
I don't know how or why he came to Columbus. I don't know where my mother and father were married. My grandmother lived in Columbus where they were married, I guess. Papa never kept up with things like that, so I don't know where they were married, at home or in a church, but they were married in Columbus. My grandmother was from North Carolina. She was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She came to Columbus in a covered wagon. In those days they had iron hammers stuck down in the hubs of the wheels to use if anything went wrong. Grandma had one of those hammers for years and years. I don't know when she came to Columbus from North Carolina. I heard Grandma tell about how the water froze over and they would break the ice and store it in sawdust for the summer. When they cracked the ice the fish would come up and they would scoop the fish out. Papa and my mother lived with her mother in Columbus until they moved to Girard. Grandma moved to Girard with them.
Papa was in the Civil War. He got his little toe nearly shot off. He didn't tell me what happened. Mr. I.I. Moses told him he ought to apply for a pension. He did and got a little cash out of it years and years after the war. Papa and a Mr. Williams, who was from London and lived in Columbus, got together and made this undomestic material. They put paste and glue on it, flour and water, stuff like that with some kind of mixture that water wouldn't go through. They made squares for the soldiers to put around their shoulders and tie around their necks, and little things to put over their heads to protect the soldiers and keep the cold and rain out. That's what they did for the war. It was just plain old domestic cloth, unbleached.
I've heard Papa say that the northern soldiers had good clothes and the southern didn't. They just wore rags and old ragged shoes. He said they were so glad when they killed a Yankee, All the boys that were close to him would run to get the boots that he had on. They had to tie on their shoes, they were so ragged. Papa said they'd just put them on whether they fit or not, they were so glad to get some good shoes.
After the Civil War, he started Blau's Brewery in Girard. These Germans that came over here persuaded him to go into business. He was doing well and furnished the money for it. When they didn't contribute, he couldn't go on with it by himself, so it broke him. I never heard Papa say much about it. It was up on the hill, they call it Brittingham hill now. I think it must have been a shack of a thing. There's no sign of it now. You see, the Germans made beer different from the way it was made here, They didn't like the American beer, so they got together and wanted to have beer made like they-liked it. They did it for a little while, but after Papa found out the burden was going to be on him, he had put everything he had except a small amount, my mother told him that he had to buy a house. She made him buy, not a nice house, just a little ordinary place to raise all those children. She said, "It's going to be in my name." Now that is what Papa told me, "Going to be in my name and you can't sell it without my consent." He didn't have enough money to buy it anywhere else but Girard, and that's when he bought the house I was born in.
PIANOS AND MUSIC
Papa worked for Pease Book Store and Piano Company. They had pianos in the back and he had charge of the pianos and sold them. He was a musician and played piano. I wish you'd heard him play. It was a beautiful thing. I never heard anyone play like him before. His father and brother-in-law were in the piano and organ manufacturing business in Germany. They manufactured pipe organs for churches, reed organs and pianos. When Papa married the second time, they sent a piano from over there for a wedding present. It had silver things on the side and in the center it had an ebony design of a little boy with a horn and silver candelabra on the side of that. When he died (Papa's father), they sent three or four pianos over here as part of his estate. I learned to play on it. Everybody in my family was musical. I played a little by ear and by note too. Papa had music in Germany. He played at the Springer Opera House in Columbus. He and his brother (Gustav), my uncle, sang a duet at the Springer Opera House. The Springers and the Schomburgs were all Germans and came over about the same time. They were friends of Papa. Papa didn't teach us music or German. He was busy making a living.
THE BLAU FAMILY
I was born at the house which was down on the sand bed at the end of Fifth Avenue in Girard. The older children were born in Columbus, but after Papa lost all that money in the brewery business, we didn't have any money left. I was next to the baby. I was the tenth child. Mother had eleven children and was just thirty-five when she died. She married when she was fifteen. I had five brothers and six sisters. The oldest child died in infancy. He was a boy, Otto. Then my sister Ida and Addie, a brother Charlie. Brother Ed was next. There was sister Tiny, brothers Lorenz, called Lawrence, and George, sister Effie me and brother Richard. Then my mother had a miscarriage and died. Papa and my mother lived with Grandma in Columbus until the brewery business came up, then she moved to Girard with them. She and my older sister took care of us after my mother died. My oldest sister was engaged to be married and the date was set. Papa told her to go ahead, he wasn't going to stand in her way. So they, Ida and Mr. Golden married. She moved across the street from us after her first child was born. She looked after us a whole lot, she and my grandmother, until Papa married the lady next door to us who had come from Cusseta with her sister and brother-in-law.
My step-mother Emma Cobb, came from Cusseta. She married a Massey. He lived a month after they were married and I believe he died from typhoid fever. Then she came to Columbus with her sister Lula and her sister's husband, Jim Jones They moved next door to us.
HER LIFE AS A CHILD
When I was a big girl, we had a colored family, we called her Aunt Cilly and her husband Uncle Bob. Aunt Cilly used to come and scour the kitchen. In the Springtime we had Spring cleaning, We would take the mattress out and clean the bed and wash the slats. We'd do general housekeeping and Aunt Cilly did most of it. We had a scouring mop. It was a wooden frame and had holes all in it. They put corn shucks in it. That's the kind of mop everybody had then. We had to make our own stuff. Every Saturday, Aunt Cilly would come and scour the kitchen. She'd sprinkle sand on the floor, take pot ash and water and go to work. We had a brass fender in front of the fireplace in what we called the parlor. Every time that got sort of dull looking, my sister and myself would have to scour it. My father knew a lot of things to do that he learned in Germany. He would take a piece of brick, break that and beat it up real fine, put it in vinegar and mix it into a paste. We'd take a cloth and dip it in that and shine the brass. We did hate it because we had to fix it and keep it shiny. Papa was very particular about everything being clean and nice. We had cedar water buckets that had brass hoops around them, and we'd have to scour them too. We did hate for Saturday to come. I went to a three room school and learned my ABC'S. We had homemade wooden benches, The lower grades were in one room, the higher grades in another. The principal taught in the big room where the big boys and girls went. We had to go in the big room every morning and have prayer and a song, then go back to our room. I think he read something from the Bible and had a Prayer. They taught spelling, arithmetic, history, reading and writing. We had a bench to sit on and then they had a desk in front of us with a little ink well right in the center. Every Friday afternoon we would have to say a speech. We had to go to the rostrum and stand before the whole crowd in our room and say a speech. My father always wanted to provoke us in those things He wanted to sort of show us off. He was very ambitious about: everything, It was a good world we lived in.
AUSTIN, TEXAS AND UNCLE GUS
When I was a little girl, I went to Texas. My father's brother (Franz Gustav Blau) came over from Germany after my father did. He married and moved to Texas. They didn't have any children when my mother died. They wanted to take me home with them and raise me. They said Papa had eleven children to raise and no mother. Papa said he didn't have any more than he could take care of and said I couldn't go. But, when I was eleven years old, I went out there. I wanted to go. I wanted to ride on the train and go to Texas. My brother was a telegraph operator. He wired to New Orleans and asked the conductor to take care of me. So, I got on the train and went to New Orleans, a little girl, all by myself. I stayed there until the train went across the Mississippi River.
My aunt and uncle were supposed to meet me in Texas. I got there and everybody on the train was looking at me. I was just a little girl. I didn't see anybody I knew when I got off the train. I got on a bus. After everybody got off but me, I was scared to death. I told the driver the number of the house and he carried me right there. They lived on a corner. Instead of driving to the front, he drove around to the side. The lady next door came up and I told her who I was, and she took care of me until they got home. She said her two children had gone with my aunt and uncle to the train station to meet me. My aunt had a little rocking chair for a child four years old and a little iron bed with sides to it. She never thought that I had grown up. All the neighbors teased her to death about it. I stayed with them in Austin, Texas for eighteen months. I went to school out there. We lived near the capitol. I used to go through the capitol yard or the capitol building to school. There was a governor at that time named Hogg. They said he had two daughters. One was named Eula and one named Ima. I don't know if its true or not. Those school children that I went to school with every morning, they said it was true. Of course, they may have been joking.
My aunt had plenty of money, and Papa didn't have enough to have anything fine with eleven children. My aunt never had any children and she had plenty of money. She bought me a doll with a kid covered body and a disc head and pretty hair. I was just in heaven. She bought me a pair of shoes that cost $5.00 and I had never had a pair of shoes that cost that much before. I was so afraid I'd wear them out before I got home. I just thought I was rich with those shoes and that doll.