This is the last of the early Wakeman stories told by Grandpa Lyle, for now. Clearly one of the common threads in all of these stories has been F.A.’s entrepreneurial style. He found a variety of ways, typical to a rural area to support his family over the years. This one is about the several things he did toward the end of his working life. This post is also the most heavily edited from Grandpa Lyle’s words. I have tried to keep his use of words and cadence while tightening up some of his digressions and pauses.
“One of the things that Father became interested in, or became involved in, was a vineyard. He had a certain amount of money left when he sold the mill and he purchased a small acreage, perhaps a matter of ten acres of ground from the Paul Hall family. (I have been trying to figure out who Paul Hall was and where he fit in our Hall family, without success so far.) The Hall family was related to the Denmans through the Minors. Will Hall was a brother of my grandmother Minor and the rest of the family all called him Uncle Will, Uncle Will Hall. And to me he would be a great uncle. So Father purchased this ground — he loved to raise things and see things grow and he had his orchard on it, he still had his orchard. And he planted several acres of vineyard. Why, I don’t know. But something prompted him to start a vineyard of perhaps, let’s say there may have been six or eight acres. Or may have only been four. I cannot say. But anyway he bought that. That was following the sale of the mill and the fact that the mill burned after he had sold it is of no consequence to our family there. (This is a story for another time.) So Father bought this area of ground and set out a grape vineyard which took several years before it came into production.”
“Part of this property was down on the flats along the Vermilion River and Father had sort of a camp ground. People would drive in there and stay overnight that wanted to. And there was clumps of bushes and he’d have a picnic table there. He’d have probably six or eight picnic tables there and he just called it Denman’s Picnic Ground. And up the hill there was an acreage, perhaps four, maybe three, maybe five acres that he planted into vineyard and raised grapes. And they came into harvest in just a few years and he would harvest the grapes and would take them to Dover, near Cleveland, to have them pressed into wine. And there wasn’t too much to tell about that except the the bit of humor from the fact that at one time some twenty years earlier he had been a very rabid prohibitionist. Wakeman was a dry community under local option and somewhere or other that had been discontinued in later years. And he had these grapes pressed into wine and with the help of his son-in-law, Fred Graves, they would take them to the wine press and he would have a few barrels of grape wine which he was able to sell retail from his residence in Wakeman. He had obtained the proper permit from the state that allowed him to do that. And occasionally people would come there and buy a gallon of wine which he would sell from his basement.”
“But in the meantime he was buying eggs from different people and would take them to Cleveland. He had certain customers there, among others Hotel Cleveland which was the newest and biggest hotel there. Father would take those eggs and they would be candled, hand candled, and h would guarantee the absolute freshness of every egg that he sold. And they paid him a premium to get Father’s special white candled eggs which they used for their three-minute boiled eggs. They bought cheaper eggs for the general use, for baking and for serving, frying and scrambling and what have you. But for any customer that ordered a three-minute boiled egg, you would get one of these eggs that Father had and he would take a certain number of cases to Cleveland once a week and he had developed a small business that way. And then he had other eggs and things for sale. And there was a market, a farmers’ market, in Cleveland that he would make his deliveries. There was a grocery store there, the Brayman brothers owned a store, and the Braymans had lived in Wakeman at one time and Father supplied them with eggs every week.”
(My mother remembered that when he raised strawberries, he used to take the strawberries into Cleveland.) “Well, we didn’t, he didn’t raise many strawberries. It was, he, whenever he had produce of any kind that he raised, he would take into Cleveland. And one year, among other things, he had a quantity of white Easter lilies and he raised, oh, how many hundred I don’t know. But those were bundled up and were taken in to a florist in Cleveland. And he did quite a lot of work like that. He was gradually getting older and that was one of the reasons that he sold the mill. The mill had become, he had been fifteen years younger and when he was fifteen years older the mill property had become a burden, trying to operate it along with his orchard business and all of these — he seemed to like to get into everything at the same time and didn’t concentrate.”
“Father seemed to like to dabble in many things. One of the other things following the sale of the mill — at one time he decided that hatching eggs, baby chicks, would be a good idea and he had the space in the barn at Wakeman. And he obtained from someplace, or bought, an incubator that would hatch or would carry three thousand eggs at a time. And for more than one season — I can’t remember how long he did it. I know he did it for at least two different years, in the spring of the year. People who would want baby chicks — he would contract to furnish them at so much apiece. If they brought their own eggs and had wanted a certain breed of chickens, they would bring the eggs for those. Or if they would tell him what they wanted, he would get them.
“Father raised chickens. We had quite — always did have a lot of chickens around.