MEMORIES OF YOUR GREAT GRANDPARENTS
GRAMPS AND MUZ BICKLE
Gramps remembers helping his grandfather make
deliveries in the oil (kerosene) delivery business that he established
in Sunbury. He had a tank mounted on a cart drawn by a horse. Gramps
would ride with his grandfather and help fill up the cans that were
placed outside of the homes when oil was needed. Gramps said that they
didn’t have to even lead the horse because the horse knew the
route and would stop when he saw the cans. Gramps thinks the oil was
7 cents a gallon and that a good day would net sales of $10. He remembers
once being treated by his grandfather to an ice cream cone, which was
a real treat in those days.
Gramps’ father originally worked in a dye factory on Front St.
in Sunbury where they dyed fabrics for clothing. After a strike the
employees were laid off and the company closed. This was during the
depression and jobs weren’t available. His father found work on
a farm and would only be home on weekends. His mother took in washing
and Gramps used his wagon to pick up and deliver the wash.
Later his father was hired as a fireman for PP&L which then sold
both electricity and gas. He kept the fires going during his long shifts
at the plant located along the railroad behind the former parsonage
and church where Grandpa Kauffman lived. Gramps used to go there and
watch his father work.
Gramps had numerous jobs to make money when he was a teen including
scraping and painting garbage cans. He would scrape the rust off the
clean cans and then paint them. He earned a penny for the inside and
a penny for the outside. Unfortunately, he lost some of his money when
his father told him that the gas meter in the basement was actually
a bank. So, Gramps ended up being tricked into paying part of their
gas bill. He also raised a small flock of pigeons after he found a wounded
one while delivering newspapers on his 43-paper morning route. He later
sold them to a local businessman. However, they would escape from the
pen of the new owner and return to Gramps. Then he would need to return
them to the new owner.
His father had a bad drinking habit and Gramps was exposed to a life
of drunkenness, arguing, swearing, and infidelity. Education and grades
were not valued and Gramps was even often encouraged to skip school,
especially if he said that he didn’t feel well. However, his father
loved him and Gramps has fond memories of some of the good times, especially
going swimming together. Gramps often expresses thanks that God saved
him from a similar life and “brought him out of the miry clay
and set his feet on the solid rock”.
As he got older, Gramps worked digging ditches for the PP&L. Later
he worked in a grocery store where he was a trusted employee. Among
his duties there was the slaughtering of chickens, ducks and geese.
A few years after he was married, Gramps bought his own truck and sold
coal. Later they moved to Mt. Joy and Elizabethtown while he worked
at the Air Force base in Middletown. He didn’t fight in World
War II because his work on the airplanes was considered critical.
Muz was originally from Snyder County and she remembered when her family
moved to Northumberland County. They had to use a barge to bring their
possessions across the Susquehanna River. Her relatives came from England
and one of her relatives, William Deitrich was a circuit-riding preacher.
Her grandmother used herbs to help heal people.
She grew up as a farm girl a few miles from where Gramps and she moved
when they bought the Tulpehocken Spring Water Company. She apparently
was a good shot and could pull out her revolver and shoot from the hip
with the best of them. She had to walk to and from school in Sunbury,
a distance of about five miles. She also enjoyed taking rides in the
horse drawn sleigh during the winter. She also had a cow, named Betsy,
that would walk alongside her and shade her from the sun while she was
working. She didn’t enjoy farm life and warned her daughters never
to marry a farmer.
Muz loved to read books and her father called her lazy because of this
interest. That made her determined never to be called lazy again and
that is probably why she always worked so hard. She wanted to attend
college, like her brother, but she didn’t have the finances to
do so. She loved to play the piano and sing.
Gramps and Muz were married on Christmas Eve. Soon after their marriage
they moved to Mt. Joy and Elizabethtown. After working at Middletown,
Gramps began to look for a business that he could purchase. While visiting
in Sunbury they found a very small water business for sale. Against
all odds, they felt the leading of the Lord to leave the security of
a government job and try to make this business work. The Lord worked
out all the details needed for the purchase, including a loan from the
bank. It was hard work reviving the water business and operating a grocery
store on the Plum Creek property. Years later they held auctions in
the barn and lot behind their property. Muz was an excellent seamstress
and went to work in a dress factory. With much hard work and the Lord’s
blessing, the business, Tulpehocken Water Company, finally grew. And
over the years they remodeled the property and cleared the land to make
a beautiful and well-kept property. As their girls grew up, the property
and barn were often used for church picnics and parties.
The Lord took Muz home after a battle with congestive heart failure.
During the last days of her illness, Grammy was unable to visit for
several days because she had a virus. But Muz held on until Grammy arrived.
While she could no longer talk it was obvious that she knew Grammy had
arrived. Then, very shortly afterwards, God’s angels took her
to her new home where she was free of pain. Gramps had lung cancer and
the angels took him home while he slept, hours after family members
had visited with him. They are buried in the cemetery next to the Sunbury
Bible Fellowship Church where they attended.
GRANDMA AND GRANDPA
Grandpa Kauffman’s father, Pastor Horace Kauffman died in the
Flu Epidemic of 1918 when Grandpa was 16 months old. I understand that
because of the epidemic they couldn’t hold a public viewing or
funeral and instead his body was positioned so that congregation members
and friends could view it through the front window. One of the last
things that he did was to pray for the unborn Hartman baby who turned
out to be Pastor Jansen Hartman, one of Grandpa’s closest friends
and one of my former pastors.
Because his Grandpa’s mother was pregnant with Aunt Ellen, the
District Superintendent thought that she needed to be married and so
they arranged a marriage to one of her former husband’s best friends,
Norman H. Wolf. Then the newly weds were assigned back to the same church
in Spring City where Grandpa’s father was pastor when he died.
It took Grandpa Kauffman many years to understand why he was given the
big bedroom (formerly the Kauffman’s bedroom), while the newlyweds,
and later Grandpa’s sisters, shared the smaller bedrooms.
Grandpa Kauffman accompanied his stepfather and driving teacher when
Grandpa Wolf was being taught to drive. He remembers how Grandpa Wolf
turned too sharply while rounding a corner and ended up in a field.
He watched as they had to get a tractor to pull them out of the farmer’s
When he was older he used to accompany his father when he went to visit
members. On one trip, between Spring City and Phoenixville, Grandpa
Wolf said lets see how fast we can get this car to do down the hill.
Grandpa Kauffman watched as they reached 35 miles per hour. Grandpa
Wolf then suggested that Grandpa shouldn’t tell his mother about
In his early days there weren’t any Christmas decorations or trees
in their home. However, when he got his Lionel train he was allowed
to put up a platform to display the train. A couple of years later,
a neighbor who worked in a drug store brought home some Christmas decorations
after the holiday and these were added to the platform display. As these
decorations increased, they were accepted, and eventually a tree was
included. Incidentally, the train that Grandpa used is the one that
I often set up and run at Christmas.
He got to spend quite a bit of time with his Kauffman relatives. Sometimes
he would get to help in his grandfather’s store. The customers
used to talk about him in German and he usually didn’t know what
they were saying. They would also visit the Wolf relatives in Philadelphia
around Christmas. He remembers the elaborate displays and shows in the
department stores. He also remembers seeing a show by Houdini who did
his famous escape trip.
When they moved to Sunbury he was advanced in his schoolwork. He was
an excellent speller and had perfect attendance records in school. He
was also editor of the school newspaper and also covered sports for
the local newspaper, the Sunbury Daily Item. When he later went to Susquehanna,
his stepfather allowed him to play football and that was unheard of
then for a member of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church, especially
a pastor’s son. However, his knees took a beating in football
and this was a problem that caused him to limp as he got older. He later
coached football, track, and basketball when he taught at New Cumberland
High School. He remembers going to scout other football teams and had
to travel by bus and train since he didn’t have a car.
He worked numerous jobs including working for the railroad, laying track
after the devastating Sunbury flood, and shoveling intersections after
snowstorms. Later, while living in New Cumberland, he worked for the
railroad again, this time sorting baggage in Harrisburg. He also worked
sorting mail for the post office in Sunbury. While working there he
saw a beautiful young lady bringing mail to the post office. He was
interested in meeting her and later found that she worked at Newberry’s.
It wasn’t too long until he began to date this Aletha Wise. In
his scrapbook he noted that he had a first date and he said that he
didn’t expect anything more to develop with this relationship.
Grandma Kauffman was born and reared in the Herndon area. One year she
missed the entire year of school because of some illness. Unfortunately,
nobody seems to remember what her physical problem was. Her father worked
for a lumber company there and one year they wanted him to move to Port
Trevorton, on the other side of the Susquehanna River. So one winter,
when the river was completely frozen, the family moved all their possessions
and children over the ice in a horse drawn sleigh. Port Trevorton didn’t
work out and eventually they moved back, but this time they moved everything
on a river barge. One winter, while cutting firewood, Pappy accidentally
cut off his big toe. They claim he kept it in a cigar box and that it
later grew back. Another time he cut off part of his finger.
Later the lumber business took the family to Sunbury. Pappy Wise was
a real craftsman who made many pieces of furniture. He made the bookcase
in our living room as well as Grandpa’s walnut desk. In Sunbury
he was hired by a casket company and made wooden caskets for many years.
He used to walk to and from work, on the railroad track that used to
pass through the north and eastern parts of Sunbury. In his memory we
purchased a wooden casket for Grandma Kauffman.
Pappy Wise always had a big garden behind his house. He often had a
hunting dog in a dog pen at the end of his yard. The only heat they
had in their home came from a coal furnace in the middle room and from
the coal stove in the kitchen. It used to get very cold in the bedrooms
during the winter with the only heat coming through vents from the two
stoves downstairs. They used to have a swing on the front porch that
we used to love to wildly ride. At Christmas they always had a silver,
metal tree, decorated with blue balls.
Mammy Wise used the coal stove quite often for baking. It seems like
she always had homemade pies and cookies and they were delicious. Her
large sugar cookies were exceptional and her peach/raspberry pie was
always one of my favorites.
Grandma and Grandpa Kauffman had it very hard in the early years of
their marriage. It was about seven years before they could afford to
own a car. Up to that time they had to walk, ride the bus or get rides
to go to church or to even shop for groceries. At the end of World War
II, times were hard. They found a storekeeper who had one electric refrigerator
for sale and a long list of folks who wanted it. They were able to get
one since they were the only one with a small child and the merchant
felt that really needed it because Uncle Terry. The refrigerator remained
with them and was still working when Grandpa died in 2009. We finally
had to pay somebody to haul it out of his basement.
Their experiences of moving and finally settling in Lititz as well as
Grandpa’s many jobs are found in other chapters. Grandma was ushered
into heaven following an accident when a teenage driver hit them broadside
on Fruitville Pike. Grandpa was suffering from leukemia when the Lord
took him home, possibly of heart problems, early one Friday morning.
They are buried in the Moravian Cemetery at the end of Lemon Street
where they lived in Lititz.