Dearborn Historical Museum, Oral History Program
Interviewee: Mr. Frank P. Schneider [JULY 26, 1893 - JANUARY 21, 1986]
Interviewer: Donald V. Baut
Subject: Farming, Brickmaking & Ford Motor Company
Date: December 3, 1975
Transcriber: Kathy Jakey
Edited By: Donald V. Baut
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Table of Contents
1 Growing Up on the Miller Road Farm...p 3 2 Brickmaking..........................p 6 3 Henry Ford Remembers a Spanking .....p 15 4 Education............................p 15 5 Henry Ford Purchases the Farm........p 17 6 Marrying Stella......................p 17 7 Working on Ford’s Eagle Boats........p 18 8 Keeping an Eye Out for the Old Man ..p 20 9 Home Building .......................p 21 10 Back to Ford’s for 24 Years.........p 22 11 Working in Ford’s Shipping Department .....p 24 12 Frank’s Mother Growing Up with Henry Ford..p 26
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1 - Growing Up on the Miller Road Farm
MR. BAUT: This is December 3, 1975, and I'm in the home of Mr. Frank P. Schneider at 8151 Strathmore, here in Detroit. And Mr. Schneider, we interviewed your sister, Gertrude Esper, several years ago. Your farm was down on Miller Road just opposite the Ford plant on the east side of Miller Road, is that correct?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Right.
MR. BAUT: Opposite the Gate 4, which would have been the main gate, is that correct?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's correct.
MR. BAUT: Do you recall any of your early experiences when you were growing up there on Miller Road on the farm?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. I might as well tell you, I was born on Miller Road on July 26, 1893 and was brought up there and worked on the farm and went to school at St. Alphonsus, which is on Schaefer Road and Warren Avenue. I went to school there until I was twelve years old and then I went down to St. Joseph's Commercial for high school. And I didn't finish that because I was needed on the farm. So I worked the farm until I was eighteen years old. And at that time my father, Nicholas Schneider, and two of my uncles started a brickyard when I was just a youngster. At that time I worked the farm until Ford bought the property in, I'm quite sure it was, 1914. We quit the farming and I went to work at the brickyard until I got married and that was in 1915.
MR. BAUT: Now going back, you are a twin brother, is that correct?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right.
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MR. BAUT: Who was your other brother?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Louis.
MR. BAUT: Louis was your twin brother?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: Is he still living or has he passed on?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No, he's still living but he's in a home now. His circulation was so bad that the blood didn't get to his head. He is in very poor condition.
MR. BAUT: You came from quite a large family, didn't you?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. There were twelve of us.
MR. BAUT: How many of those are still living?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Just four -- two sisters, my twin brother and I.
MR. BAUT: Now growing up on that farm, some of your neighbors around there, do you recall a man by the name of Brum who lived around there or Broom?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. He lived down the road further. They were small farms. I think my father's thirty-six acres, on the west side of Miller Road nearer to Michigan Central Railroad, that was about the largest and then there was the farms below. I imagine the biggest one would be about twenty acres, twenty or twenty-two acres. They were all garden farmers.
MR. BAUT: I see. In other words the further you went north the larger the farms?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right.
MR. BAUT: And further south you went towards, say, the Detroit River would have been small farms?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right,
MR. BAUT: I see. Well, that's interesting,
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MR. SCHNEIDER: See, Miller Road ended at, let's see, I believe it was Fort Street, and Ford, of course, wanted the property from the Michigan Central Railroad to the Rouge River. See, he dredged down the Rouge River so his boats would come right up into the plant.
MR. BAUT: Well, what did you grow on the farm?
MR.SCHNEIDER: Well, at that time we did mostly truck farming they called it, which was fruit and vegetables. When I was about six or something like that, my dad at that time had a small dairy farm. He had some cattle and a neighbor, Joseph Padberg took the milk and delivered it. At that time the milkman had the milk in a ten gallon milk can and he put those in a wagon and he'd drive along the street and people would come out with a pitcher or something and he would dip out a quart for a dime. There was no bottled or pasteurized milk.
MR. BAUT: They didn't even know about that?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No, that was all.
MR. BAUT: Where did you take your produce? Where did you sell it?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Down to the Western Market.
MR. BAUT: You went down to the Western Market?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes, Eighteenth and Michigan.
MR. BAUT: Right. So all thirty-six acres were devoted to truck farming then?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Mostly, they grew some grain, like wheat and oats, and my dad had a grist mill. He would grind feed for his cattle and also farmers came all the way from Warren Avenue, all around Dearborn and Springwells. They would bring their grain to him and he would grind it up for them and mix it whatever way they wanted it mixed.
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MR. BAUT: How long did he have that grist mill, do you recall?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, until they started the brickyard. Then he quit. The next nearest grist mill was Addison Ford, Clyde Ford's father, over here on Joy Road. His house is still standing on Joy Road. Do you know where the Ford Cemetery is, where Henry Ford is buried? Well, just west of that, his house stands there now. He had a grist mill there also. And so after my dad quit, all of them had to go to his farm.
MR. BAUT: There was nothing west of that, I mean, along Michigan Avenue. No one had a grist mill other than Addison Ford?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No.
2 - Brickmaking
MR. BAUT: Well, that's interesting. Now when did your father start in the brickmaking business?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, I can't recall exactly the year but I remember going over there. And I think I was probably six or seven years old [circa 1900].
MR. BAUT: Now where was this brickyard?
MR. SCHNEIDER: On Western Avenue, what's Western Avenue now. It ran right along Western and Southern Avenue, Western Avenue is the street running north and south and Southern ran right along the railroad track.
MR. BAUT: I see. And he had two brothers who were also in the business?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right.
MR. BAUT: They were your uncles? Who were they?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, Joseph and Fred. And Joseph was a salesman, He sold the product and Fred, he was, what you called then, a kind of a dude guy. When they got a steam shovel to dig the clay, he ran that for one summer because it was a novelty. And that was all he ever did at the brickyard. And then he ran a gents' furnishing store down there on the Schneider Block on Dix Avenue between Junction and Ferdinand, right there by Holy Redeemer Church. That's where my dad's folks lived right there, down near Junction Avenue and Dix.
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MR. BAUT: Of course, they all attended Holy Redeemer down there?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: You began to work there in the brickyard when you just were after the —
MR. SCHNEIDER: Eighteen. After I quit on the farm.
MR. BAUT: Now your father was still living at the time?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No.
MR. BAUT: He had passed away?
MR. SCHNEIDER: He had passed away in 1913, March 3rd, I think it was, in 1913 from an automobile accident. He had a Model "T" Ford and he drove a friend that lived up here on Warren Avenue, Charles Horger. He asked my father to take them to his uncle's funeral out on the east side. Since there was no one else around that had an automobile, my dad drove him to the funeral and on the way back at Chene and . . . .
MR. BAUT: Gratiot?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No. I think it was Selden, somewhere in there, he took a short cut. The Fourteenth car ran on Chene Street and there the store buildings were built
right out to the sidewalk and so you couldn't see until you were practically there. And it was snow and ice and he slowed up when he got up to the street. But the car slid and as it happened, a street car was coming right there. He slid right in front of the street car and the steering wheel crushed him. The doctor said it broke the tissue of his heart. Of course, at that time they couldn't do anything and he lived four days.
MR. BAUT: What happened to the business after your father passed away…to the brick business?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, let's see, he was the man that made the brick. He ran the yard. That was a pretty rough dirty job. And, of course, when he died, my oldest brother
was practically running the yard but my uncles wanted to get out of it. They didn't want to have it anymore. So they put it up for sale and sold it.
MR. BAUT: Now where did your father learn how to make bricks?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, they just got the machinery and the equipment to make them and went from scratch. Of course, there was brickyards, Clippert and Haggerty brickyards and
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they could go there. They got a lot of information on just what to get and everything. They went and built up right from scratch.
MR. BAUT: Now you say your oldest brother, who was your oldest brother that —
MR. SCHNEIDER: John.
MR. BAUT: John was in the brick business also?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. He worked there from the start. He passed away.
MR. BAUT: He's gone now. You said they sold the yard. When was the yard sold, do you recall?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That was, you see, my dad passed away in '13, 1913. Well, it was the next year.
MR. BAUT: The next year, 1914? About the same time that you sold the farm then?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right. Just about the same year.
MR. BAUT: Who did they sell the brickyard to?
MR. SCHNEIDER: They sold it to a company from Terre Haute, Indiana. And they were going to show the people here in Michigan how to make wire cut brick, the same as they made shale clay brick in Indiana. Well, there's so much difference in the texture of the clay that the Clippert Brick Company-tried it two or three times and they couldn't make it go. But this company was going to. They built an elaborate plant and they were going to dry this clay before they made the brick instead of drying them after. And a pressed brick is dried after it's made. And they used to dry it in air, with air cooled racks in the open.
Then later on a company started to make steam dryers to dry it, to dry the brick and they could dry them overnight instead of taking a week or two weeks sometimes to dry them with just a little space. So they built dryers and they made brick the year round, winter and summer. And that's the way they were making it. Well, these people were going to come and show them how to make the wire cut. Well, they spent thousands and thousands of dollars and when they burnt these brick, they were going to show them.
There is a layer of limestone down now at the Michigan Central Railroad. You could go down twenty-two feet before you hit that limestone. And up close to the north end of the property, which was what's Addison Switch, what they called Addison Switch, you could only go down twelve to fourteen feet. This layer went up hill and at Warren Avenue, McDonalds had a brickyard. They could only go down six and seven feet when they hit this limestone, limestone the size of a pea would split a brick right in two. And, well, these people said, "You're wasting all this blue clay down here." They started a drag line shovel, that stayed on top of the surface and reached down and they dug out. My brother said, "You can't make brick out of that. There's limestone in it. Aw, you don't know what you're
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talking about." So they built a whole kiln of brick, which is about three weeks work. When they burned them, there wasn't one whole one in the whole thing. There was just a pile of scrap.
MR. BAUT: Now, you say they used wire cut. Now what is wire cut?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, that's a wheel with wire the width of a brick about two-and a half inches. There's a wire and this wheel is about five foot. And this wheel turns and the clay comes out like a sausage machine. Comes out in a square shape. And this wheel turns and cuts this brick off. And as soon as it's cut off, they throw it on a conveyor that is running a little faster. And this is coming out and it separates them. From there, they can go right in the kiln. They can pile them up because they won't squash. They're hard. But this clay here is soft. And when they pile them up, they would squash. So they had to dry it first. But blue clay, I don't know if you know what that is, it's just like putty and it'll roll in a ball and it won't dry. They spent all this money and when that happened, they just had to give up.
MR. BAUT: You don't recall the name of the firm, do you off hand?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Ajax.
MR. BAUT: Ajax?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Ajax. They were called the Ajax Brick Company.
MR. BAUT: What happened after they sold out? Did they sell to somebody else or did they just give up?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, they sold the property. The buildings and everything wasn't worth anything. They weren't good for anything else so they sold the property and it laid there for years. And they tore all the buildings off and leveled it off and it laid there for, I would say, fifteen years. They broke it up in small parcels and then these shops, they put small shops and things on there.
MR. BAUT: In other words all the clay was out of it by that time, is that correct?
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MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, no, it wasn't all out. No. There was a lot of clay left there, a lot of good clay. But the Clippert Brothers, there was three brothers in the Clipperts and George and Charlie and Bill, William. William was the youngest one. And he wasn't in the brick business until, oh, probably 1910 or somewhere along there. He built the yard right next to my dad and uncle's yard. And they all made brick until they used up the clay that was there. They probably even bought the clay off from this other property. One of the yards, I believe, is still working but they're not building. They're getting the clay from wherever they can, where they haul it from way out wherever they build something. They dig a hole. If the clay is any good, well, they buy it. They truck it into the yard and they burn it enclosed. They bake them in a closed kiln. And they called them mission brick. That's the only kind that's made here now.
MR. BAUT: Do you recall Harry Clippert?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Harry was the son of George,
MR. BAUT: I see.
MR. SCHNEIDER: He was.
MR. BAUT: And this present George is Harry's brother, is that correct?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Probably his son. Harry took over the business when the older folks were unable to.
MR. BAUT: You're talking about Harry's father and his uncles, then?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right. And Harry took over after his father and his uncle were too old to operate the business anymore and then Harry worked there from when he was old enough to work. He worked in the office and he took over the business from his folks. And they had a brother, the old George and Charlie and William, they had a brother that was a doctor that lived in Delray.
MR. BAUT: Is that Fred?
MR. SCHNEIDER: I can't recall his name but he was doctor. He was a brother to these three.
MR. BAUT: To the three brick men? So now getting back to your schooling, you went to St. Alphonsus. Now that is not the present building that is still standing?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Oh no, no, no.
MR. BAUT: Where was the original school?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Where the Manufacturers Bank is, corner of Calhoun. That's where the school was.
MR. BAUT: Is that right next door where Boleski is? Or is it across the…
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MR. SCHNEIDER: No, it's across the street where the bank is. Right where the bank is, that's where the school stood. Yes.
MR. BAUT: Getting back here, we were just looking at a photo here of old St. Al's. The old church, when it sat on the northeast corner of Warren and Schaefer, and the
residence was right next door approximately where Boleski is today, is that correct? In that general area?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Right next to where the Activity Building is now. As it turned out when they built this, the rectory used to be back of the church but when they built this, this was a veneered building and the brick was furnished by the Schneider Brick Company.
MR. BAUT: Oh, the Schneider's furnished the bricks on the building?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes, for the rectory.
MR. BAUT: Well, that's interesting.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. They donated the brick for it and hauled them up there for them.
MR. BAUT: How many people worked at Schneider's yard, do you recall?
MR. SCHNEIDER: At the yard? Well, they didn't take too many men, about a dozen, a dozen men to make the brick. The brick was put on pallets laying flat and then when they were dried hard enough that you could handle them, then they were tipped up on edge. There was a family that did that.
MR. BAUT: Who was that, do you recall?
MR. SCHNEIDER: There name was, I can recall, the name was Lipke. His family, his wife and children, he had five or six children and they all worked and they didn't have to tell them when to do it. They knew when it had to be done and they would turn the brick on edge. See, at that time they would only make about twelve thousand bricks a day, and they had to have room enough, racks enough, to handle at least ten days of brick. And then as they were dry enough, there were about four men with wheelbarrows that would haul them. They would have two rows of brick and they would get about, oh, right around one hundred bricks on each wheelbarrow and they would wheel them out of the racks to the kiln in the big shed where they built the kiln. There were, of course, arches in them for the fire and they used crude oil to burn them. Oil was blown in with steam. As it blowed in, it would explode and that flame would go.
The kiln was about, oh, twenty, twenty-two feet wide. The arches ran all the way across and there would be a burner on each side and they would blow the fire into the middle. And after they burned so that they were red hot, about two-thirds of the way up, then they would turn the fire off and seal those arches shut. The heat of the blower would go up and burn the rest of it. Then after it cooled off, they would haul them in to the builders.
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MR. BAUT: Who were some of the others that were in that business, do you recall?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, yes, there was the Clipperts and Daniels and Haggerty. They were the big ones. And then my . . .
MR. BAUT: How about Lonyo? Was he in the business?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Lonyo? They were on what is Lonyo Boulevard now, right near the Michigan Central Railroad. They had a yard down there. They had a pretty big business, too, the Lonyos.
MR. BAUT: How about the Goldners? Have you ever heard of that name?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Goldner? The only Goldner I can recall, I believe he had a blacksmiths shop on Michigan Avenue.
MR. BAUT: I see. How about Hall? Do you recall Richard Hall at all?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Hall? Yes, there was a Hall. Seems to me they were up near Warren Avenue. There was a brickyard on Warren Avenue just . . .
MR. BAUT: McDonalds?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. McDonald, there around Wyoming. And there they could only go down about six feet. Well, they went into what they call field tile, drain tile business. They made mostly tile.
MR. BAUT: That's a little different process, isn't it?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes, it was pressed out like a sausage machine and they were cut off in twelve-inch lengths and they were dried and burned in a kiln, too, but they were closed. More like baking them. But they would bake then until they were red hot and once they were red hot, then you can cool them. They would stay that way. They would stay red and also they're fit to go right in the ground and they won't deteriorate. But they have to be burnt hard enough, otherwise they dissolve.
MR. BAUT: Of course, this was before Brian, Larkin and Mercier were in business.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes, well, Brian, Larkins built that brickyard on Miller Road, just north of the Michigan Central Railroad, nearer to Michigan Avenue but that didn't run too long. They didn't have enough property there and he could only go down about, oh, I don't believe it was more than ten feet before they would hit that limestone. So, they ran out of clay, I don't think they were in business more than about twelve years, Larkins, I believe, worked many years for the Lonyos. In fact, I think one of them was related to the Lonyos.
MR. BAUT: Oh, I see.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: Well, one of them, either Brian or Larkin, lived in the area, I mean
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they grew up in the area.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. Right.
MR. BAUT: In Springwells.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: What was then Springwells?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: Before we do leave that area, do you remember any sulphur wells around on
the Roulo Creek?
MR. SCHNEIDER: We had one on our farm.
MR. BAUT: Did you?
MR. SCHNEIDER: But it wasn't too strong. Our cattle and horses would drink it. And we would drink it occasionally and it was a flowing well but it wasn't too sulphury. I remember when they built the brickyard; they wanted to drill a well to furnish the water for the boilers and all they hit was sulphur. And that was so strong that it would eat up the pipe in a year. They couldn't use it. So I don't even know how they got the water to start but soon as they got the hole dug, they only went down about eight feet until they got enough to make a pond and then that filled up with water. Then they pumped their water, furnished their boiler out of that.
MR. BAUT: I was also going to ask you if you recall any of the other employees that worked in the brickyard?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, I can recall. I have some pictures here that my niece brought me. Her dad had them. I can recall some of the names but the main one fired the boilers, and he was my first cousin, John Theisen. He fired the boilers and took care of the engine until they built the plant to make brick day and night, all year round, and then finally they worked day and night. They worked two shifts. And then before that, my dad took care of the engine. My cousin took care of the boilers. They had, at that time when they dried them with steam, they had three boilers, three what they called three hundred horsepower boilers. And they had to get a bigger engine, steam
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engine, to run the machinery when they made brick day and night. And by that time, my dad had, I think, passed away.
MR. BAUT: Who were the ones who worked on the boilers there?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, my brother, John.
MR. BAUT: Oh, you mentioned it was your cousin.
MR. SCHNEIDER: And my cousin and then there was several of the others I can recall but they all lived in the area.
MR. BAUT: In the area?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: Were you all related in some way?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No, no.
MR. BAUT: I was just wondering.
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3 - Henry Ford Remembers a Spanking
MR. SCHNEIDER: Just a few of them were related. Now George Reckinger, his folks lived on the corner of Southfield and Michigan. He came to work at the brickyard. He was a night man. He fired the boilers nights for many years and he started to work there before he got married. And he worked at the brickyard before they sold out. And then he went to work for Ford. They were all real friends of Henry Ford.
Even my mother, when she was growing up, she was only twelve years old, I think. Their home was on, what's now, Paul and St. Mary, right on the Ford property across Paul on the south side of Paul, that's where the house stood. And, of course, Henry's home was on Greenfield and Ford Road, what's Ford Road now. And they were neighbors, nearest neighbors. So when my mother was twelve years old, Mrs. Ford was quite sick. And she was bedridden and my grandmother used to send my mother over there on Saturdays to bake bread and straighten up the house and everything for them.
Henry Ford claimed that she gave him a spanking once. She sent him out to get an armful of wood and went out and started fooling around out in the yard. But he was always fooling around with machinery, trying to make something. And he said that she came out and made him bring in the wood and then she gave him a spanking. He told dad that when John Schaefer married, after his wife died some years, well, he married a first cousin of mine, Trace Theisen, And when they got married, my mother, of course, was invited and so was Henry Ford. And it was at the dinner table that he told this. He said, "Do you remember, Mary, when you gave me a spanking?" And she said, "I don't think I do." And he said, "Well, you did." So he told her what happened.
4 - Education
MR. BAUT: We got to your schooling but we didn't get that far. Now talking about your schooling, you went here to St. Al's and you became quite friendly with Father Buechsenmann who was . . .
MR. SCHNEIDER: Oh yes, yes. When after we made our first Communion, see, you had to be twelve years old by the first of the year, I think it was, in order to make your first Communion that year. And, of course, our birthday was in July and they made their first Communion, I think, in June. So we had to go to the next year and . . .
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MR. BAUT: You're almost thirteen?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. And after we made our first Communion, we, my twin brother and I, went to St. Joseph's Commercial. They took them from the seventh grade on and . . .
MR. BAUT: Now they did not have a high school over at St. Al's?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No, no. They didn't even have grades. They go into according to the readers. Fourth Reader was as far as they went.
MR. BAUT: You got a good share of German there, too, didn't you?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Oh yes, we had to read, write and speak German. But, of course, we had a nun that wanted to teach German. We had one that taught English and that's all there was, the two classes. And there was one that did the cooking for them. There was a third one.
MR. BAUT: Who were the two nuns?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Sister Alphonsina was one and, oh let's see, the German teacher, she was a little person. Oh, I can't think of her name now but she was strict. She'd
hit you over the knuckles with a ruler if you didn't do what she wanted. I can't recall her name.
MR. BAUT: Who was the cook?
MR. SCHNEIDER: I think her name was, what was it? Alberta. Something like that. She was related to the Neckels. Isabelle, Sister Isabelle. She was related to the Neckels in some way.
MR. BAUT: You went through there until the sixth grade then? Roughly? Or fourth reader.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Fourth reader, yes. And then we went down to St. Joseph's and there we were up to what they call the seventh grade.
MR. BAUT: Now where was this St. Joseph's Commercial?
MR. SCHNEIDER: It was the corner of Orleans and Jay Street, just off of Gratiot.
MR. BAUT: Your older son went to St. Joe's?
MR. SCHNEIDER: He went through grade school here at St. Al's. Well, he started at Holy Redeemer, two years at Holy Redeemer. And then when we moved back into the parish in '26 and he went through the, I think, the 7th and 8th grade here at St. Al's and then he and a boy by the name of Frank Renier and Billy Theisen, was Bill Theisen, His dad was superintendent of the foundry at Ford's. And those three went to St. Joseph's and graduated from there. And another one, a fourth one instead of going to St. Joseph's, Partensky, Leonard Partensky, he went to the seminary and he's a priest. He's at St. Michael's in Livonia. But those three went through St. Joseph's and Renier became an osteopathic doctor and in '68 he operated on me for a very serious operation and he's still my doctor.
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MR. BAUT: How long did you go to St. Joseph's Commercial?
MR. SCHNEIDER: We only went there two years and then one of us had to work the farm so I stayed home and worked the farm and Louie worked at the brickyard.
5 - Henry Ford Purchases the Farm
MR. BAUT: While you were working the farm, this is when Mr. Ford came along to purchase the farm?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's, well, yes.
MR. BAUT: You weren't married yet, were you?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No, I got married, though, before we moved off the farm. I got married in 1915. See, he bought it late in '14 and in '15 I got married.
6 - Marrying Stella
MR. BAUT: You married Elizabeth Korte is that…
MR. SCHNEIDER: No, Stella Korte.
MR. BAUT: Stella Korte.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Her home, where she was born, is still standing on Joy Road right over here -- Joy Road and Terry. Her old home is still there. So when we got married, see, there was eleven of us and then that was divided, when they sold the brickyard. That was divided three ways for the three brothers. Then my mother's share that she got was divided among the eleven and so each of us got, I think, fifty-five hundred dollars. I bought the first home up there on Cloverlawn and I paid for the house. It was a six room house and the lot. I paid fifty-five hundred dollars.
MR. BAUT: In other words, you came out…
MR. SCHNEIDER: I came out even.
MR. BAUT: Well, you were in several businesses. You were in the grocery business for a very short time.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes, just a little bit over a year. And then when the War came along I had one son, and we were classified 4-A because we had a dependent. And so when
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time came for us to go in the service, we had our notice already when to come in and within a few days after that the Armistice was signed. So it was over.
MR. BAUT: Well, then you were working for Commerce Truck, is that correct?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Commerce Truck at first for only a few months and then this superintendent at Ford's asked me if I wouldn't come over to Ford's. So I went over there and I worked there then until they got through with the boats. And then I worked in the garage until that caved in and then I went to work for my brother.
7 - Working on Ford’s Eagle Boats
MR. BAUT: Now we're going back to when you first started working at Ford's, who was the man who told you about coming to work down there when they were building the Eagle boats?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Oh, his name was, oh gosh, Clyde
something, I can't think of his name.
MR. BAUT: Well, was he your next door neighbor?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. Right next door. The man that got Louie and I the job at Ford's the first time in 1915, was Addison Ford, Clyde's father. He sold cars for Ford besides running the grist mill. And, of course, he's very close to Henry Ford. And he took my brother and I right down to the plant and took us into the office of, what was his name, the top man of Henry Ford? My God, I can't even recall his name now.
MR. BAUT: That was before Bennett was there?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. Oh, yes. And that was up at Highland Park. Worked in the machine shop. We worked in the cam shaft department, my brother and I. But we only stayed there for nine months and then we quit and went into the grocery store.
MR. BAUT: Well, you were telling me that you had to work there for six months before you got your five dollars a day.
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right.
MR. BAUT: I see. What did you get before your six months were up?
MR. SCHNEIDER: It amounted to $2.65 or something like that a day.
MR. BAUT: Before you were boosted up to the five dollars?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: Then, of course, you went into the grocery business and that was located over on Northlawn and Grand River, is that correct?
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MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right.
MR. BAUT: And then you went, where did you . . .
MR. SCHNEIDER: Then I went to work for Commerce Truck.
MR. BAUT: Then you went to work at Commerce?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: And then from there, this gentleman told you about the job at working for the Eagle boats. Did they put you to work down here at the Rouge plant building the Eagle boats? What did you do down there?
MR. SCHNEIDER: I was put in the crane department where I requested. This guy had a drag so he asked me what I would like to do and I told him. So I went to work on an overhead crane. They didn't have an opening for an operator so they put me rigging on the floor, that is, hooking the objects on for them to lift, see. And I worked there, oh, probably about three months when they got the crane above the bulkhead department finished. And then they put me up there to operate that. And I worked on that until I got through with the bulkhead department operation. That was the first section done, you see, because that's where they laid the keels and started the boat.
MR. BAUT: Well, you had a lot of time on your hands.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Oh, yes. I had a lot of time on my hand, that is, after we got through. While we were building those bulkheads, I was kept real busy. Every once in a while they would turn them things over. The widest part of the boat was a pretty big piece of steel, sheet metal. And the crane I had was one of the heaviest, would lift the most weight of any in the building because it was handling those bulkheads. MR. BAUT: What plant was it, A or B?
MR. SCHNEIDER: It was B because A was the fabricating shop. It was north of the "B"
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Building. The B Building was where the boats were built. They had three lines, B tracks. See, they would run them off when they were finished and to the slip and launch them right off of those from that transfer car that they had.
MR. BAUT: Well, by the time they had the deck on your crane was even with the deck, wasn't it?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. Where my cage was, you could stand on the deck and it would be level with me. That's when he came and saw me doing nothing and he wanted to know if I wanted to have a job.
MR. BAUT: Who was this, your foreman?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No, the superintendent, the guy that gave me the job.
8 - Keeping an Eye Out for the Old Man
MR. BAUT: You went to work in the garage, is that correct? This was the service garage?
MR. SCHNEIDER: It was a service where they serviced the cooties. They had a few Fordson tractors at that time. I worked on official’s cars and then on Sunday, I had to work, I don't know why but they picked me to work pretty near every Sunday. On Sunday we were suppose to work on only tractors but toward the end, there was a Commander Bean that was an officer of the Navy that took care of the launching and whatever they did to the boats.
MR. BAUT: Bean?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. Commander Bean, and he had a Ford Model "T" coupe and they wanted the connecting rods. Bearings used to go out pretty much on the Model "T" and they wanted me to take up on those bearings. And they wanted me to work on a Sunday. So on Sunday Henry Ford used to come around the plant. You never knew where you were going to see him but he used to stop in the garage almost every Sunday. So I was the only man working in the garage outside of the assistant boss who was in the office. They told me to work on this car but they said, "Keep an eye out for the old man," they called him. They said that, "If you see him come around, get away from it and go to work on a tractor." Well, as it happened, after lunch I was under the car working on the connecting rods. All at once I looked up and there was Henry Ford, looking right at me. But I wasn't going to try to get away from there. I just stayed there. And he walked by and just said hello to me. He walked on by and when he got to the end of the garage, part of it was an open shed, he met the superintendent, Hickey, coming in and there was some pretty loud talking down there.
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The next morning, boy, the supervisor of the garage called me in and he said, "What the heck's the matter with you? Why didn't you get away when you saw the old man coming?" I said, "How in the heck could I work under that car and watch at the same time?" I said, "When I saw him, he was looking right at me," I said, "I wasn't going to be a fool and try and get away." I said, "I just stayed there." I said, "Why didn't you have somebody watching?" I said, "It isn't my fault," Well, that started some of the mistrust.
MR. BAUT: Well, when you came to work one day, what happened?
MR. SCHNEIDER: When I came to work one morning, there was no garage. The building was there but nothing in it. It was stripped out completely. So then I worked for a while. My two brothers, Louie and Bert, were both on locomotive cranes. They're the ones that traveled all over the plant handling, unloading cars or whatever have you. So I told the foreman, Jack Button his name was, I said, "I'm going to get out of here." And he said, "No, no, stay." He said, "You'll get a good job out of this." He said, "You stay here. We've got to have a garage." And he said, "You'll get a good job out of it." I said, "No, there's too much crooked work going on here. I don't want to be here." I worked under the supervisor of the crane department, I worked on his car quite often and I knew him quite well. So I went and saw him and he said, "Okay, I'll give you a job," and he said, "you'll have to fire for a while." So I only worked there about two months when my brother asked me to come and work for him.
9 - Home Building
MR. BAUT: So you went to work for your brother then?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. We built homes until 1930 or 1929. The crash came. We built quite a few homes around Dearborn. We built for Frank Horger. I don't know if you know Frank Horger. He was married to my second oldest sister. And Tony Esper, we built his house, the one that my sister lives in.
MR. BAUT: Oh, you built that house over there on Bingham?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: How about Al Hussey's place?
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MR. SCHNEIDER: No. A friend of ours built that. But we built several on Miller Road, Miller Avenue, in Dearborn, well, all around Dearborn on Maple down nearer to Michigan. We were busy all the time.
MR. BAUT: What name did you go under?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, it was just my brother and me. He and I looked quite a bit alike and a lot of times salesmen would come when he wasn't on the job and they would think they were talking to him and I'd tell them, "Oh, that's my brother. You want to see my brother." Well, they'd think I was sloughing them off.
MR. BAUT: You stayed in business up until 1930?
MR. SCHNEIDER: '30, yes. And I worked by myself during the Depression until '34. January '34 I got back into Ford and I stayed there until I retired.
MR. BAUT: Well, now what did you do during that period between 1930 and '34?
MR. SCHNEIDER: I did painting and decorating.
MR. BAUT: On your own?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes, and remodeling, light remodeling or something. I worked on my own.
10 - Back to Ford’s for 24 Years
MR. BAUT: How come you decided to go back to Ford's?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, in two months of the year, January and February, there was nothing to do because it was right after Christmas, people would probably be short of money and there was no painting or decorating and you couldn't work outside. There was no painting and decorating so for two months I'd be idle. So I decided I was going to try and get back into Ford's. Well, I made it on my own in '34 and I stayed there for twenty-four and a half years.
MR. BAUT: Would you like to tell me the story or to tell us the story you told me of how you went back to Ford's the last time?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, the first time Tony Esper got me a letter and I went down to the employment office. They weren't hiring so they said they'd call me. Well, that was in, I think, that was in January, December or January, and so I just eat around. Well, when spring came, I went back to work again on my own for myself. So in '34, right after Christmas, I decided I was going to go and get in line on my own. They called it the "bull pen" and it was across from the employment office on Miller Road. You go in there and they come around and hand out a card. He'd pick out somebody. And, anyway, I was standing there in the sleet and rain and it was an awful day but there was a lot of men there.
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Finally at eight o'clock this fellow came along and there was a policeman with him for a bodyguard. And it happened to be my nephew, Al Korte. And so they walked right by me. He didn't say anything to me. After he got by, he told this fellow, he said, "My uncle is right back there in the line." He said, "Your uncle?" He said, "Yes." He said, "Well, let's go back." So they came back and he said, "You looking for a job?" And I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, what can you do?" I said, "Well, I'm a carpenter by trade," I said, "but I would like to get into the shipping department.” He said, "Okay." So he gave me a card and he said, "Go across Miller Road and get in line outside the building."
So there was quite a long line there. I got in the line at noon. They came along with a lunch wagon and they said, "Any of you fellows want a sandwich and cup of coffee, why, you can just go over to the wagon and get what you want." And when I walked over there, there was always a service man by this wagon. And he was a little fellow. He wore a slouched hat and he said, when I walked up there, he said, "What the hell are you doing here?" And I said, "Well, I got a card and I'm waiting to get a job." And he said, "Get the hell out of here." I said, "Well, no, I've got this card and I'm suppose to stay here and get a job." "No," he said, "get out of here." I didn't know what else to do so I went.
Well, I knew that my nephew was guarding the children across Dix Avenue down at the Roulo School. He was the one that was with this man that gave me the ticket. So I went and saw him and he said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "Well, the serviceman chased me out when I went to get lunch." "Well," he said, "you remember what Big Al looks like (or something they called him), will you remember him when you see him?" I said, "Yes." "Well," he said, "he'll be coming in at eight o'clock so," he said, "you get down there and watch for him and I'll talk to him and tell him what happened."
So I went down there and stood by the gate and pretty soon a mounted police come along and said, "You can't stand here." he said, "And get out of here." So I went across on the other side of the road. And in a little while he came over there and chased me away from there. So I went back about three times before eight o'clock and I happened to be on the east side when he came through the gate, this big fellow. And I got in step with him and walked across the street with him. And so he said, "Now," he said, "here's another ticket. And you can go right inside the building now and get in line right inside the building." And he said, "Don't let anybody chase you out of there." He said, "You'll get a job." That was eight o'clock in the morning and at 7:30 that night, I was taken to the press shop and showed where I would go to work on Monday morning. So Monday morning I went over there and I got a job bracing fenders on railroad cars.
I'm telling you that was work. I was used to hard work but the lumber they used was all hard wood. And some of that you'd try to drive a spike through it. Sometimes you’d try three, four or more nails before you get one to go through. Well, I didn't think I could take it
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for the first three days or nights, I had just about had it. But I stuck it out and after that, things came easy.
Well, then in '36 they started experimenting on equipping railroad cars for sub assemblies and I was the first man they picked to work on that. And I stayed on that until I retired in '58. My last six years were at the Development shop on Glendale west of Telegraph, right behind the Lincoln-Mercury Service Station. They built a Development shop and they moved us out there. And before that it was in the transportation building down at the Rouge. We always had a couple of railroad cars in there and we'd experiment how much and how safe we could ship a sub assembly. So I worked on that until I retired.
I was a foreman during the War, packing and shipping jeep parts. I had sixty women on my time sheet and I'm a telling you that was something. Right after the War was over, I went back on my old job. I think the first model that we started to work on after that was the '46.
11 - Working in Ford’s Shipping Department
By the time I retired, the railroad company wouldn't equip cars anymore. They give them what we call a D-F car that had belt rails and angle iron on the side wall with a hole every inch. And then they had bars to go across it with fingers on them that would set in those holes and they would lock there. If you needed spacers, you had to use these cars. Then if you needed spacers to separate the items, you, Ford had to put them on themselves. Before that, we'd make a pilot car and the railroad would take it from there.
MR. BAUT: I see. In other words they would equip them there?
MR. SCHNEIDER: That's right.
MR. BAUT: I suppose it cost them too much money.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes. They were really taking it on the chin.
MR. BAUT: I was going to ask, you were there when the unions came in? Were you not?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes, yes, I was. I was there. I'm telling you there was some bloody battles when that union was trying to get in but they finally won out and I was only in the union, why, I don't think it was a year. It was less than a year. And then I was made a foreman. Then, of course, foremen couldn't belong to the union. Later on they tried to form a foremen's union but they never made it stick. They couldn't. I was in on that. I remember once we were out on strike for more than a couple, three weeks something like that.
MR. BAUT: All the foremen?
MR. SCHNEIDER: They couldn't get enough men that would really sign up, so they had to give up. They finally gave it up. I was a Material Handling Engineer the last six or seven years.
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MR. BAUT: In other words you handled the material shipped, is that correct?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No, we just made up a pilot car. We set-up the shipping, that is, how to do it for the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury Division on anything that was made. Murray's used to make the coupe bodies, when they made coupes we set-up their shipping. Briggs in Highland Park made body parts and side panels and stuff like that and we set-up their shipping. And for Kelsey Wheel, Budd Wheel, we set-up the cars and system of their shipping. In fact, everything that was shipped sub-assembly, we made up the pilot car for. They had cars for engines before I even got into Ford's. I think they started in '32, I believe, they started shipping engines in equipped cars. These cars would take a load out to the assembly plant and they'd come back empty with this equipment in it, see. They couldn't be used for anything else.
MR. BAUT: When did the railroad stop doing the…
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, they stopped. They started to make these D.F. cars. Let's see, I retired in '58, so in '52 we moved out there so it would be around 1950 that the railroads got wise. We used to ship roofs through '48. A roof was shipped with the cowl, windshield and the rear window on it. The whole thing would just sit down on the car and we hung them like sides of beef across the car. I designed hooks to hang them and they used them starting in 'U6 - let's see, right after the War.
MR. BAUT: You don't recall the date?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No. But the roof got so long that the railroad had to build higher cars for it. You're allowed so many feet from the top of the rail to clear bridges. We took frame cars and we stood them up but we had them set on a slant to keep them from going too high. We were allowed sixteen feet from the top of the rail to the top of the load but sometimes when you hit the car from this end, those things are kind of raised and they were held down but they would raise some, see.
They claim they hit a bridge out here in Indiana someplace, South Bend, no not South Bend, Gary, Indiana. Well anyway, it happened that we had to go to this town to see somebody who was making steering gears for the Mercury car. They made a pack on pallets for shipping and we had to go down and okay them. There were three of us fellows that went there by train and it was in this town that they claim that these frames hit the bridge. So they said, "while you're here, why don't you take a cab and go over to this street and maybe you can find out what happened." So we went over there and it was a yard like it was storage track. There happened to be a boxcar sitting right underneath this bridge so we slid down the bank. It was all snow and ice. We slid down the bank and we got up on top of this car and we could see the whole underneath of that overpass. There wasn't a spot where we could see where anything ever hit it. So we went back and told what we found and never heard anything of it again.
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MR. BAUT: Well, covering part of your private life, Mr. Schneider, you married in 1915 late in September? How many children do you have?
MR. SCHNEIDER: We had eight children and I have thirty-four grandchildren and I think it's twelve great grandchildren.
MR. BAUT: What are the names of your children?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, there is Leo, the oldest, and then Olive, Gerry, Elenor, Bob, Don, Winifred and Barbara. Barbara graduated from St. Al's and she took the test for a Ford scholarship and she won the scholarship from Ford's. She went to Mercy College right here in Detroit. She wanted to be a medical technician. Part of her schooling was taken in Mercy Hospital. When she graduated from Mercy College, she stayed at Mt. Carmel Hospital until she got married.
MR. BAUT: But you never had a Frank Jr. huh?
MR. SCHNEIDER: No. Leo, Bob and Don and the five girls, Olive, Geraldine, Elenor, Winifred and Barbara. My folks, Nicholas and Mary's family there were twelve children. One died at birth, a boy, I think he was the 5th child. He was christened as Francis, called Frank. So when Louie and I came along, they named me Frank.
MR. BAUT: They named you the same as the first one. Well, Mr. Schneider, we covered a lot of territory here.
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes.
MR. BAUT: And is there anything we have not discussed at all that you would like to include?
12 - Frank’s Mother Growing Up with Henry Ford
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, in my experience working at Ford's, I learned a lot about the workings of the Ford Motor Company from way back. My Dad bought that first Model T in 1911 through Clyde Ford and what was so surprising at that time, every once in a while, maybe every two months or so, my Dad would drive over to the service station, which was on the corner of Grand Boulevard, West Grand Boulevard and
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Woodward. He'd drive over there and they would take the car and tune it up and would paint the whole undercarriage outside of the wheels and fill it full of gas and Dad would take the car and drive off.
MR. BAUT: How often would he do this?
MR. SCHNEIDER: About every couple of months.
MR. BAUT: Your father knew Mr. Ford pretty well?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, my mother mostly. My mother, of course, was brought up with him. They used to play together when they were kids.
MR. BAUT: Your father grew up, as you said, near Holy Redeemer?
MR. SCHNEIDER: Yes, down that way. But my mother, she was brought up right with the Ford's. There were the Horgers and they grew up together too. And at one time the old homestead, which is right off Paul, St. Mary's and Paul, right there at one time when my mother was living, she moved off the farm when he bought it. She moved to Crawford and Army. She bought a house down there by Holy Redeemer Parish. Ford called her one day and said, "I'm going to send my chauffeur down to pick you and your brothers up someday. I want to go out to your old home." And after he bought that, one of the farmers that worked on a farm for Ford, lived in it and they changed it, tore a stairway out, I guess. They did some remodeling in it. Now it was empty and he wanted to take them over there. So he set a date and picked up my mother and then they picked up my three uncles and took them over there. And "Now," he said, "the reason I brought you here, I want this house put back exactly like it was when we were kids." And so they told him. They spent the whole afternoon and he had an architect there that made the drawings of how everything was when they were kids. And then he had a chef with him and they set up a table. They had a meal there together. They spent a whole afternoon. They had pictures of themselves taken with Ford.
My sister had pictures and when Winnie, who works at Ford's now - she's been there twenty-eight years now - when she was there twenty-five years, they wanted an interview with Winnie and I about working at Ford's. They were going to have it in her office. She's a secretary to the Manufacturing Engineering Manager and Material Manager at Dearborn Assembly Plant. She got all these pictures I had, an old picture of our old home and others. And it was real good for the makeup, reprint. She had these pictures of Ford and my mother and uncles and she had all that stuff.
And they were going to have me come down to the office and have an interview. Well, then on a Friday, she - this lady told Winnie, "Why don't we have it at your dad's home?" So she said, "Well, that's alright” So she put all the stuff in a Ford envelope and had this lady's address on it, where her office is. Then she put her purse on her desk and she went to the
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restroom. She came out to go home and the envelope was gone. Her and the boss, they tore everything apart and looked everything over and couldn't find it. So he told the clean-up man what happened down here and he said, "Don't touch a thing. And don't take those scrap boxes away outside the door. ” He said, "Leave them there. We want to go through them on Monday.” They went through everything and never found that envelope. But there was a lot of men that came in and out all the time. She thought that one of them happened to see that and thought, "Well, she wants to mail that, I'll take it and mail it." But she never got it. To this day, they don't know what happened to it. So the pictures that we valued so much, they're all gone.
MR. BAUT: That's too bad. Well, Mr. Schneider, I want to thank you for allowing me to come into your home and speaking with you here about the early days and your career with Ford Motor especially and have one of your sons or daughters take you out, bring you out to our Museum sometime.
MR. SCHNEIDER: You know, as long as I lived in the neighborhood and everything, I have never gone completely through Greenfield Village. I used to go out to Dearborn Engineering quite often to see blueprints of different things, parts that I was going to have to set-up for shipping. I tried to have a lead so that I could have cars ready when they needed them. I used to go out there quite often and walk through part of just the entrance of the Museum and then out the first door going out to the west and then go, that was connected with the Engineering Office. That's as far as I got in the Museum there. I've never completely gone through Greenfield Village. People come from all over the world to go through there and here I sit never . . . It don't make sense.
MR. BAUT: Well, that's the way it is. Well, you come on out any time. You're more than welcome.
MR. SCHNEIDER: I'll be glad to do that.