Interview With Christine Franz White
By Tony White 12/21/98
Introduction: Christine Franz White is the mother of Tony
White. Her mother was Minnie Reisch, one of George and Mary Reisch’s 10
married Henry Franz and had two children, Henry and Christine. The children grew
up just 2 blocks from the Reisch Brewery.
interview is mainly about her brother Henry, who became the last accountant for
the Reisch Brewery. She also talks about: the (George) Reisch home, behind the
brewery; going to Onekama, MI, in the summer; and Charley Spitley, who left a
trust for George’s 10 children.
Christine Franz White (Photo circa 1998)
TW: You told me that when Henry was at St. Louis University, while he was in school, he worked for a firm.
CW: Diggs Boyd and Crock. And then when he set up his own firm, Mr. Boyd, who was the Senior member of Diggs, Boyd and Crock, asked Henry if could come into his firm. Henry was very proud of that because he had a well-known name in the field in St. Louis and had lots of customers of his own and he left the firm he had been with for years and came with him. Of course, that was a plus for him.
TW: Do you know why the firm broke up or Henry decided to go into business by himself?
CW: I don’t think the firm broke up. He just felt the he could do well. He had acquired quite a few people who liked his attention to them and his work for them, and so he felt that he had enough business to take with him that he would manage, and he did very well. When he died it was announced on the radio in St. Louis. Several people in Springfield learned it almost before I did because they heard it on the radio. And I was proud of that too because St. Louis is a big city.
TW: You said that when Henry was a kid he had a reputation in school for being good with figures, or good with numbers.
CW: He was always going around multiplying things and coming up with fantastic figures about things. Of course, in high school he wasn’t around much.
TW: Where did he go to high school?
CW: A Jesuit School, St. Mary’s, Kansas. It was, I think, the first Catholic boarding school in the country, or first Jesuit one. Aunt Annie Dirkson had sent her sons there. See, there was no Catholic high school in Springfield when my brother was that age. And I always said, if we had starved to death, he would have had to go to a Catholic school. And Aunt Annie Dirkson sent her boys there and so mother sent hers [there]. But the majority of the Catholics in Springfield sent their kids to Quincy College. It was a High School but it was called Quincy College. All my Eck cousins went to Quincy and the Rechners. It was closer, you know?
TW: What made your mother decide to send Henry out to Kansas then when Quincy was so close?
CW: Because of Aunt Annie I guess. And it was a Jesuit school and she favored Jesuits.
TW: Quincy didn’t have the Jesuits so they lost out. (Christine laughs)
CW: Well, we had a Catholic girl’s school too, two of them in fact.
TW: I guess it was more important to educate Catholic girls in Springfield than it was the boys. You said that Henry only came home a couple of times a year from school?
CW: Yes, Christmas and Summer. Because, in the first place, mother couldn’t afford to have him come home any oftener. And transportation was more difficult in those days. People didn’t drive long distances a lot.
TW: How would he have gotten home from school anyway?
CW: There was a train and it was on 11th or 12th [street], the tracks and the station. He would have taken that, or maybe he did take it once. But you see, he could go with Ted and George, however they went.
TW: Did they have a car?
CW: Yes, an electric. You’ve heard of the electric haven’t you, electric car?
TW: I guess so. No, it’s been a while, what was it like?
CW: It was this square thing. It had to be recharged frequently. You couldn’t drive very far at a time. And I think there were no other cars but the electric at first.
TW: How far could they drive before they’d have to get this recharged?
CW: I’m not sure exactly and then I think, you know not everybody could afford an electric. They just had horse and buggies when I was four of five. But after that cars came in, and then Annie learned to drive. We never did have a car, because we didn’t have any money. Grandpa Reisch, who was a wealthy man, could have done a lot more but he had ten children, two boys that would have loved to have been supported, but he did a lot for us in many ways. I feel sure that my mother must have had help in sending Henry away to school. I just don’t think she could have done it on her own.
TW: Where did grandmother get her income from after grandpa died?
CW: Well, I think he had $12,000.00 insurance and grandpa bought a building in Lincoln. We had $150.00 a month and when Henry went to college she gave him $75.00 a month to live on and we lived on the other $75. Of course my mother, if she needed legal advice, had Grandpa’s attorneys and wasn’t charged. And lots of people in those days, widows and orphans, and women, didn’t work. Of course, in the first place, I was born with two uncles that were doctors, Dr. Bernard and Dr. Aschauer, so we never had to pay them. They should have paid mother for all the work she did.
TW: All the work she did for them?
CW: For nothing.
TW: Why did she work for these, the Aschauers?
CW: Well, families helped each other. That’s when [my] Grandma said she’d take care of us if [my] mother would go help, because she felt it was her duty to help her daughters, and she couldn’t do it with still having family at home to feed.
TW: So when somebody was sick in another family, your mother would go and stay with them?
CW: I only remember her helping Aunt Eda and Aunt Clara. Aunt Clara had six children and Aunt Eda had five. And, as I told you, if one got something they all got it.
TW: So if Eda got sick or needed help after the birth of a new child…
CW: Mostly she helped when they were all sick, when all the kids were sick. And then also, when Aunt Clara and Uncle Amo Bernard took a vacation every summer, they had a live in maid. But she was young and not capable of taking care of five boys practically all the same age. They were all just about a year apart, and one girl who was as good as the boys any day. And mother would take me in the summer, when I wasn’t in school, and she and I would live at Uncle Amo’s house for the two weeks that they were on vacation, because the live in maid just couldn’t do it all. And shouldn’t have that responsibility.
Grandpa Reisch was on the board of the Marine Bank, and the Reisches had contributed a lot there and so Henry, from the time he graduated from grade school, worked at the Marine bank in the summer time.
TW: What did he do there?
CW: I don’t really know what he did, but he worked all through high school, and I think even when he was home in the summer from college.
TW: Did he do bookkeeping for them perhaps?
CW: Not out of grade school, he wouldn’t have. I just don’t know, but it was extra income. It helped a lot. But I never did baby sit or anything like that to augment our income.
TW: Why not?
CW: I don’t know why. But I was the first girl in either side of my family ever to work for a living. I had three or four cousins who were within four years of my age, and nobody, on either side of the family, worked for a living until I did. I worked for the state. You couldn’t get a job. That was [during the] Depression and I got it because Grandpa knew somebody that could get me a job. Who you knew, that’s how you got a job with the state. You had to know somebody, so I had a good job.
TW: What did you do?
CW: I was a secretary. I went to business school. I took typing and shorthand in high school, and then I went for a couple of months to business school to polish it off. And then I was a secretary.
TW: When Henry went away to high school, didn’t the family own a farm out in Kansas, a ranch?
TW: Did Henry ever work there, or go there?
CW: No. Walt did. Walt Reisch was out there for years. And finally came back and lived in the house on Lowell Avenue where Joan Reisch lives now. My Grandmother and Grandfather lived there until they died. They originally lived in the big house on the hill.
TW: Why did they move from the big house on the hill to Lowell Avenue?
CW: Oh, that house, according to my mother, had 24 rooms. But you had to count a couple in the basement. The kitchen was in the basement, for instance. The dining room was upstairs and there was a dumb waiter. All the food went from the kitchen in the basement to the first floor.
TW: 24 rooms, what did they do with all those rooms?
CW: Of course with ten kids to start with and, you know, they had a lot of help in those days. In fact, a Mrs. Rechner worked there. The Rechners always said they were related and probably that’s why she was there. I said to my mother, “What did she do?” because I grew up with Rechner’s and she said, “Well, she combed our hair.” There were four girls. And I asked Aunt Christine, because she knew the Rechners, was close to the Rechner’s too. She said, “Well, she combed our hair.”
TW: She must have done something else that escapes the eye of a child. What do you remember the help doing around the house?
CW: Well, there were [oil] lamps. Of course, they did have electric lights as soon as they came in. But when I was real little, it seems to me they still had lamps all over the house. There were 3 living rooms. They called one a library, one a parlor, and one a living room, and they were enormous rooms. And then my grandfather and grandmother’s bedroom was on that floor, and a big bathroom. But they had a lot of dusting and sweeping and cooking.
TW: I imagine there was a lot of work. Did they have a yardman?
CW: Oh yeah, there was a lot of yard around the house.
TW: What other servants did they have, or hired help?
CW: Well, a lot of cooking and lots of sweeping and dusting and cleaning. And lots of washing and ironing.
TW: With ten kids there would be lots of dirty clothes.
CW: Lots of washing and ironing. And then I was there too. Of course, not with the ten. My Grandmother Reisch always said at night she just went out and gathered in ten. (laughs) Hoped she’d have her own ten. Of course she was joking. Sewing, grandma always seemed to have a seamstress there that practically lived there. You know, sewing for all the kids. You couldn’t buy just anything you wanted.
TW: If you couldn’t buy just anything what did she have to have sewn?
CW: Most of your clothes were hand made. You made them. People made them themselves.
TW: Didn’t a lot of the Reisch family go up to Michigan, Onekama was it? How many families had homes, or did they rent homes, or what?
CW: Only two owned homes. Emily is going there for Christmas. I don’t understand it. I haven’t had time to talk to her because she’s been going on trips constantly. Her mother and father owned a home on a lake, Lake Portage, in Onekama. And Aunt Eda Ashauer and Uncle Henry, being a doctor, was seldom ever there. But his wife and five kids went up every summer and then others in the family and Dirkson’s. Aunt Annie Dirkson had a summer home up north. And then several people in the family would go up and rent a place for a couple of weeks. And some, of course, would go up and stay with Aunt Eta or Aunt Clara for a week, maybe. I think we did once. And then later, my brother Henry took his family up and my mother, and they would stay for several weeks.
TW: What would you do while you were up there?
CW: Well, the Bernards and Aschauers had rowboats and did a lot of rowing and fishing. The kids would row over to what was called Portage Point, It had a, I don’t think it was a grocery store. As I remember, it was a drug store, and they could buy candy and popcorn and stuff over there. And the kids, from the time they were 10 or 12 years old, could row a boat like you wouldn’t believe.
TW: Could you walk around to the store, or did you have to row?
CW: You could, but it was a long walk around. And you could also walk over to lake Michigan, which I used to do every night while we were up there. We stayed with Aunt Clara once or twice, for a week. And later, of course, Mother stayed with Henry and maybe I would for a week.
TW: Did you ever walk over to Lake Michigan during the day?
CW: You could. I used to go over and watch the sun set. We went over in the daytime, and watched the rich people with their motor boats and stuff.
TW: Did anybody in the family have a motor boat?
CW: Not that I can remember. But then I didn’t notice things particularly.
TW: What else would you do with your time while you were up there?
CW: Well mostly play on the beach or make things in the sand. And fish, or watch people fishing, or watch people in boats. I don’t remember if anybody had a motor boat but they might have.
TW: What kinds of games would you play when you were up there, or would you?
CW: I just have no memory of that. We played tennis. The Bernards had a tennis court. I loved tennis.
TW: They had a tennis court. What kind of surface would you play on? Was it grass or what was it?
CW: Just dirt, I think. And they had a big garage with an apartment over the garage. And, of course, as they grew older the kids left the house. Some of them got married but when they came back, they lived with their families on top of the garage, and it’s still that way. Emily’s nieces and nephews come with their families and they’ll stay in the apartment over the garage. There’s plenty of room in the house, but Emily would be tied up all summer cooking for them.
TW: When Henry finally got a job out of college in St. Louis, did he start doing the Brewery books back then, or was that later that he started doing the Brewery’s books?
CW: I guess it was later.
TW: I can remember when I was a kid that Henry would come down a few times a year to check out the books at the Brewery. You know, visits, Christmas, New Years, Easter.
CW: When he got married he and his family would come one weekend a month.
TW: Where would they stay when they came one weekend a month?
CW: They stayed with Grandma, and then I did the cooking. From the time Grandma was seventy years old cooking made her nervous. She had always loved to entertain. Even though she had very little money she had beautiful things with which to entertain. And so she did always enjoy doing that, and then I was there to do a lot of the work. When it first started making her nervous she would have invited company for dinner that evening, and then she’d end up being sick. And maybe we were having company the same night, but I’d go downstairs and work on her dinner, and daddy would work on ours upstairs. And then he’d go down and work on Grandma’s and keep everything from burning, and I’d work on our dinner. And finally I got so I said, “Look, I’ll entertain anybody you want entertained, but I’ll do it in my house.” When the kids would be asleep, and grandma had company, I’d want to go down and do the work. Then it was wrong for her somehow. I could work when the baby was taking a nap. So I entertained all her company, and I cooked for Henry and his family. But they stayed with Grandma, slept at Grandma’s, but then they came upstairs. Of course, I lived up above, as you remember. Henry went back and forth a lot, to do any work for the Brewery. He and Ted Dirkson were very close, although Ted was five or six years older. They were real good friends and he did all the [accounting for] Dirkson’s Furniture Store. They had a big furniture store. And he did ours, too.
TW: When you say ours, you mean the drug store?
TW: Henry was very athletic. What sports did he play?
CW: He played all three, football, basketball, baseball. In high school, even in grade school they had basketball, baseball. I remember Frank Dirkson, who also played with him on the grade school [team], he would come to the house and wait for him. In high school he played all three and ended up with a bad heart. He said before he was through with football, while they were still playing football, the basketball coach would insist that he start practicing for the basketball season. And before he finished basketball, the baseball coach insisted that he come and practice. And it was too much for him. I think that if he’d been in Springfield, the two doctors that were in the family, that owed mother a great deal, would not have let that happen to Henry. He was way far away. There wasn’t anybody to say, “Hey, that’s too much. You’re not going to do that.” Not my mother, not anybody. But, if he were here, I don’t think Uncle Amo [Dr. Bernard] and Uncle Henry [Dr. Aschauer] would have allowed it.
He had a bad heart attack while he was still in high school. Mother went out and stayed quite a while, and I stayed with Aunt Annie Dirkson, who wasn’t an aunt, she was mother’s cousin. She said we had to call her cousin Annie. She was fifteen years older than my mother, and Henry and I, couldn’t imagine having a cousin that old.
Grandma Reisch had 36 grandchildren. I had 49 1st cousins, and that didn’t count husbands or wives. I think [Dr.] Ott Metzmaker is mad at me to this day, because he heard me say that he was a 1st cousin by marriage. He heard me say that I had 49 1st cousins, not counting husbands and wives, and that made him mad. He felt that I didn’t consider him a cousin, when he’d been in the family so many years. See, the government owned him for five years when he finished medical training. Of course, during the war, they paid for everybody in medical school, and then they owned them. However it was, the government owned Metzmaker, and all he did was surgery. But when he came back to Springfield, at that time, you could not just go into surgery. So he went into general practice, and he was our doctor, because [Dr.] Bill [Bernard] had plenty of money, having inherited it, as well as having a good practice. At one time I called Ott and said, “Chrissy had a 102 fever, and could I bring her in just at closing time?” And he said, “She shouldn’t be out if she has a 102 fever. I’ll stop by on my way home, and take a look at her.” And I introduced him to somebody. I think Guy Snell was visiting at the time, and I said this is my cousin in law. And he was mad then. He said, “Look, I should be considered a cousin as long as I’ve been in the family, and I thought you liked me”. And I said, “Ott, I did. I just didn’t feel I should take credit for you. I’m proud of you, and I didn’t feel I had a right to take credit.” And he said, “ Well, I consider myself a first cousin, and if you don’t I’ll be mad.” And years later he heard me say that. Well, I did consider him a first cousin, and I was proud to consider him a first cousin. But I just meant that I would have felt silly saying I had 94 1st cousins, which was [what] I would have, had if I would have counted [everyone].
TW: You mentioned that during the Depression that your grandfather gave each of his children 10 pieces of property if they could pay the taxes on it. If they could pay the taxes, they could keep the property.
CW: I’d forgotten about that. I think he just gave it to them in name only, because he couldn’t pay all the property tax. Because I don’t remember that he gave us, a piece of property.
TW: Well, I remember that grandmother had a property, where the only tenant was the Chinese laundry.
CW: Well, that’s what she owned. When my father died, grandpa bought that building. But I thought he bought that with the $12,000 insurance that he had, which wasn’t enough to support a family. That building was our only source of income for a long time. And then mother’s uncle, uncle Charlie, had no children, and he had a lot of money. He had several million dollars. But he lost a million or two in the [Stock Market] Crash and it killed him. He had a heart attack and died. But before he died he had left his money in trust to 11 nieces and nephews, of which my mother was one. The ten in her family, and I think a daughter of another brother of Uncle Charlie’s. There were two boys, and this other boy had just this one child.
TW: How did Uncle Charlie make all his money?
CW: In the stock market I believe. That’s what I was told. He never enjoyed spending it. Nobody knew that he had a lot of money. Now my grandfather Reisch should have known it, because he helped him every time that he had to do something with dividends. Every time he had something to do with dividends he’d get sick. Grandpa, and Dr. Aschauer too, made trips out there several times. He’d moved to California.
TW: They made trips all the way out to California to help Uncle Charlie do what?
CW: Grandpa would help him reinvest his money. And Uncle Henry [Dr. Aschauer] went because he was sick. He would get sick every time he had to do something with all these dividends. He had several million dollars, which at that time was a lot of money.
TW: He had so much money he didn’t know what to do with it.
CW: He didn’t enjoy spending it. He put it in trust, so they had an income, and when the last one of the 11 was dead the money (all the money was in stocks) was to be distributed to their children. When my mother died, my brother and I automatically got her share. Only he [my brother] was dead so his children automatically got grandma’s share. She [my mother] got 1/11th of Uncle Charlie’s [trust] and when my mother died I got one half of 1/11th. Henry was already dead so his children got the other half, Carol and Joan. And I didn’t have to do anything about it. It automatically went from one generation to another. That’s the way the will was sent up. Aunt Christine was still alive and she had Marilyn call after my mother died, to see if the money really did go to my mother’s children. And she was anxious to know, if Carol and Joan [got it]. And I said yes, definitely. We asked our lawyer, and he said yes. Henry and I had already agreed that if it didn’t automatically go to whichever one of us was left, if we outlived him, we would see that his children got his share whether it was so arranged or not. And if one of us died he would see that you and Chrissy got my share. But it was so arranged, and the lawyer said, “You don’t have to do a thing about it, and if you die it’ll go to your children.” When Aunt Christine died she was the last of the 11.
TW: She lived to be?
CW: 103. So when she died the trust was dispersed. And I got my mothers share. I got half of her share. But, at first, I got $4,000 a year. Then that bank was bought out by another one. It was a very well known bank. After they bought it I got between $8,900 and $9,000 a year. And that’s where all the trouble came in. I said to Doc Springer, “I hope that this stock which I had sent to him will bring in the $9,000 a year I’ve been getting.” And he said, “Well, can I sell it?” I didn’t know, it was all clue chip stuff and I didn’t know why, but I trusted him. I didn’t know anything about stocks and he sold it and then I had to pay such terrible capital gains and my accountant said he certainly didn’t do right by you. But I think he has since.