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The life and Times of
John & Helen Fuss

John Fuss Jr.

Chapter 2: The Bachelor Years

Chapter 3: Helen's Early Years 

Helen was born on October 24, 1902, the daughter of Jacob Rowe Ohler and Annie Reese Stansbury Ohler, his wife.  Her birth occurred in the two-story brick farm house located on the Emmitsburg-Harney Road about two and a half miles east of Emmitsburg.

Rowe Ohler, as he was commonly called, had also been born and raised on this farm.  His mother was a Rowe and had inherited the land.  Rowe's father, Samuel Ohler, cleared most of the land and brought it into production.  The relatively flat land proved to be one of the best farms in the area.  J. Rowe and Annie Ohler had three other daughters besides Helen, born as follows: 

  1. Emma Belle born November 24, 1887 
  2. Ada Ruth born November 1, 1892 
  3. Lydia Rosanna born June 16, 1896 
  4. Helen Virginia born October 24, 1902

Rowe was a prosperous farmer.  He had a full-time hired man and hired others for seasonal work, perhaps because he had no sons of his own to help him on the farm.

When Helen was five years old, her mother Annie developed a form of blood poisoning, which was thought to have originated from an insect bite on her arm.  The local doctors could not properly diagnose or treat it, so Annie was transported by train to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where she was a patient for several weeks.  She nearly died, and was incapacitated for some time both before she went to the hospital and after she returned home.  Although she recovered, her left hand and fingers were permanently impaired and she never regained the use of them.  This experience was very traumatic for young Helen.

Helen's grandparents moved from the farm to a house on the top of the hill just to the west of the farm when Rowe and Annie were married.  They both died before Helen was six years old.

By 1909 a new two-story eight-room brick house was constructed at the site on the hill and the Ohler family moved there.  Rowe was considered a rather prosperous man.  In addition to his home farm, he acquired two additional working farms.  All three of these farms were operated by tenants, who gave half of the crops to the owner as was the custom of the day.  Rowe visited his farms nearly every day.

Rowe also owned some other tracts of land.  He had holdings in bank stock and was later elected to the Board of Directors of the Emmitsburg Bank, and he also owned some other securities.  The ownership of the bank stock caused considerable difficulty when the bank merged into the Central Trust Company and failed in the Great Depression.  Because the stock was assessable, the proceeds from the sale of the farms had to be used to pay the assessment on the bank stock.

During Helen's early years, these investments provided a better life style than was typical for the day.  Helen was brought up as a Methodist and was a life long member of Toms Creek Methodist Church.  Her mother was a Methodist, and her father was a Lutheran who was very active in the Elias Lutheran Church in Emmitsburg.  On most Sundays each parent went to their respective churches.  On occasions when the weather was bad or for special services such as Christmas, the parents and the entire family would go to the same church.

Helen's education began at the one-room Ohler School which was on a one-acre tract immediately across the road from the house where she lived.  In the seventh grade, she went to Emmitsburg High School and traveled each day by horse and buggy.  It appears that she herself drove the horse to the school and left the animal in a livery stable near the school.  When the weather was poor, she stayed overnight with relatives in Emmitsburg.  She graduated from the high school in 1919.

One of her boyfriends in high school was Bill Hays.  She often recalled riding on a bicycle with him once during  lunch time.  When they tried to navigate through some mud, she was thrown from the bicycle and was very embarrassed.

Upon completion of high school, she went to Irving College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, which offered both two- and four-year courses.  However, it seems that it was primarily a finishing school for young ladies, and most of students appeared to have taken the two-year course which Helen completed.  There was apparently a heavy emphasis on home economics in order to prepare the young ladies to become a good wives and homemakers.

Upon completion of the college course, she returned home to live with her parents.  In those days, females worked outside the home only as teachers, nurses, or domestics.  It was expected that most young women would stay and work at home until they married.

Helen was given an opportunity to teach school.  In those days, only a high school diploma was required to teach.  By this time, the one-room schools such as Ohler's had been closed and all students in the Emmitsburg District traveled to Emmitsburg to a consolidated school.  Helen taught the fourth grade for the second half of the year in 1924 and also substituted on other occasions.

During Helen's teenage and unmarried years, the Ohler family vacationed each year in Atlantic City where they would spend up to two weeks in mid-summer.  Annie Ohler's favorite pasttime there was to sit in the auction houses and watch other people bid on various items.

Swimming suits in those days covered virtually the entire body.  On one occasion, Helen was on the beach when she felt a tap on her shoulder.  It was a policeman who told her that she would have to roll her suit down, because she had exposed more than her ankle and it was against the beach regulations to do so.

The Ohler family led an active social life.  They visited regularly with their relatives in the Emmitsburg, Keysville, and Taneytown areas.  This was made possible by the arrival of the automobile.  Helen's first automobile ride occurred when George Miller, a wealthy inventor from Canton, Ohio, came to Emmitsburg in his automobile and took everyone for a ride.  Rowe Ohler acquired an automobile of his own sometime later, which made it easier for the family to get around.

Helen seems to have been rather popular with the young men and had a number of boyfriends.  One of them was a boy named Sauble from Taneytown who drowned.  Another was Clarence Waybright, who came from a family who had been neighbors to the Ohlers for generations.

John Fuss was also from a neighboring family and lived about a mile away.  He was almost six years older than Helen, and had his eye on her ever since she was a young girl.  He sang on the choir and she sat in the second seat on the opposite side of the church, and he would often try to get her attention.  When she would smile at him, he assumed it meant that she would agree to go out on a date with him.  He had his first date with her when she was 16 and they dated off and on for a number of years.

Helen also said that John seemed to always be ready to help untie her horse at church when she was ready to leave.  John often told the story of one of their earlier dates when they went somewhere on a Sunday afternoon.  As they were returning to Helen's home, they knew that her parents would be on the porch, so they stopped some distance from the house to kiss.  However, their caution was wasted.  When they arrived at Helen's house, her mother told John that it was not necessary for them to stop away from the house.  He took this to mean that it was all right to kiss Helen in their presence.  John said he never forgot that incident.  The romance continued off and on for ten years.  John often said that he "worked ten years to get his little girl," referring to Helen's small size as she weighed only about 100 pounds at the time of her marriage.

In 1926, John went to California for the winter.  When he left, he telephoned Helen and said he was going.  She simply said goodbye and did not say much more.  While he was in California, however, she wrote to him, and this encouraged him to come back home, rather than to stay and seek his fortunes in California.

While John had other girlfriends and Helen had other boyfriends, John always said that he only really wanted one woman as his wife and that was Helen.  After years of dating, Helen finally consented.  John and Helen were married March 1, 1929.  From that day forward, their lives were inseparable.

Read Chapter 4: The Marriage

Read other chapters in the life and times of John and Helen Fuss

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