In 1910 a new industry came to Paulding, the German-American Sugar Company. The black muck and flat land that had formerly been swamp turned out to be excellent for growing sugar beets. The factory to turn them into sugar was built west of town on the road that went past Uncle Will Straw's and we kids in the south end spent all of our spare time watching the buildings going up, then later, after production started, wandering around in the buildings watching the men at work. There were no guards and anyone could spend as much time as he wanted to following the beets from the time there were unloaded from the railroad cars or the wagons 'til they wound up as sugar in the sacks and barrels in the warehouse. The most interesting process to me was the centrifuge where the brown molasses turned to white sugar by being spun rapidly to remove the water while the operator applied what looked like bluing, the stuff my mother used to whiten clothes.
Paulding men were hired to operate the machines but the manager of the plant was a Frenchman with two daughters, the oldest about Raymond's age. Beets required a lot more work in the field than a farmer and his family alone could take care of. Many of the boys my age spent their summers blocking beets but most of the work was done by Hungarians who were brought over from Hungary by the company. They lived in box cars lined up on an unused sidetrack and me, women and some of the children worked in the fields. Few of them spoke English at first so they didn't mix with the town people who considered them inferior. We called them Hunkies. A group of us boys would sometimes go out to the tracks in the evening to watch them dance to the music of violins and accordions. Raymond especially began to learn a few words of Hungarian and became acquainted with some of the men. When our cow had a calf, Raymond named it "putschkai" which he said meant "wait a minute." Most of the men would come into town on Saturday night and get drunk. One Hungarian, about 50 years old I would judge, would come into the store late, when we were sitting around the stove waiting for time go home and ask for a dozen eggs. He would take them into the potato cellar at the rear and swallow them raw, one at a time. They seemed to sober him up so he could get the rest of the way home.
When the first world war came along, the name of the company was changed because of the feelings against the Germans, to Columbia Sugar Company. When I attended my 50th class reunion in 1966, the factory buildings were still there but completely abandoned.
Last modified on 14 June 2009 @ 10:09