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The life and Times of
John & Helen Fuss

John Fuss Jr.

Chapter 8: Life for the Fuss Family in the 1940's

Chapter 9: Later Years on the Farm

During the 1950s, the farming operation continued much as in the prior decade.  Modern machinery had been developed but John did not buy a combine, bailer, or forage harvester.  He continued to farm in the same manner, but engaged others to combine the grain and bale the hay in the late 1950s, particularly for the Bishop farm.  Overall, he did not modernize his operations to any extent, and was one of the last farmers in the area to continue to cut corn and put it on shocks.

In 1953, Dr. W. R. Cadle remodeled the brick house next door to the farmhouse and established his residence there.  The Fuss family often helped the Cadles with work in their garden and yard.  Shortly thereafter, Dr. John B. Howes, a professor at the Westminster Theological Seminary, purchased the cabin across Middle Creek for use as a summer home and retreat.  This cabin later became his retirement home.

Dr. Howes often traveled to meetings and conferences around Pennsylvania and Maryland, accompanied by John Fuss, who thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  John and "Dr. John," as he called him, were close friends as long as John lived.

The former Ohler house on the hill had been purchased in 1946 after the death of Helen's mother for $3,675.  It was rented to Pete and Elizabeth Aldridge and later to Wilmer and Betty Baker.  The latter had a large family and experienced difficulty in meeting the $40.00 per month payments, so they fell behind.

By 1956, Helen decided that  she did not want to care for the eight room, two story house when she retired.  The property was sold to Vernon and Blanche Keilholtz for $12,000.  The Keilholtz family were their neighbors until John and Helen died.

John and Helen retained the Bishop property along the Taneytown Road after the move to Locust Grove.  It was rented to Henry and Buella Hoke from 1935 until around 1945.  Then Robert Troxell and his wife rented the farm, which was rented still later to a man named Wivell.  About 1960 it was sold to a partnership.  The buildings were demolished when the Route 15 bypass was constructed in the 1960s.  The ten acres were farmed by John until they were sold.

By the end of the 1950s, both sons had taken other positions and were not interested in taking over the farm.  In fact, John strongly recommended that they not become farmers.  There was a lot of money tied up in land, livestock, and so on; the work was hard; and the return was just not adequate to repay the effort.  He never encouraged his sons to take over the farm, believing that there was a better life to be found elsewhere.  At the same time, Helen wanted to move to another house and away from the farm.

Robert McNair owned a lot of land to the north of John and Helen's property.  The McNair family had in fact received the land from the Penns, and had been neighbors of the Ohlers since the 1850s.

Robert suffered a stroke around 1954, resulting in considerable paralysis for about seven years, until his death.  Emma, Helen's sister, was a registered nurse and cared for him every day.  A male nurse had night duty, but he wanted to have every Saturday night off from work.  The McNairs could not get anyone to fill in, so John volunteered and stayed with his neighbor every Saturday night for a number of years.

Chapter 10: Move to the Rancher

Construction on the new house was started in 1960 on the plot of land adjacent to the house where Helen had been raised.  John and John, Jr. cut a number of oak and pine trees from the woodland, and Fred Green took the downed trees to his saw mill and sawed it into lumber suitable for construction.  All of the basic lumber of the house came from John's woodland.

First, a well was drilled, and then the excavation began.  The new house was built in the ranch style, with kitchen, living room, bath, two bedrooms, and a full basement.  The attic floor was used as both a large open room for storage and also as another bedroom for overnight guests.

Dale Witherow was the principal contractor.  He was paid by the hour, rather than as a general contractor.  Ralph McDonald did the electrical work and James Fissel installed the plumbing.  John and Helen did a great deal of work on the house, such as carrying blocks and brick as they were needed, providing the lumber, and so on.  Russell Wantz and his three sons did the plastering.  The entire house was covered with the rough coat on one Saturday and the finishing coat the next Saturday.

The house was completed in 1961/1962, but was unoccupied until September.  John, Jr. and Sarah Carolyn Rice of Arendtsville were married on September 1, 1962.  While they were on their honeymoon, John and Helen arranged for an auctioneer and had a sale bill distributed.  In late September, they held a sale of the farming equipment and extra household goods.  At this time, they moved to their new house, which would remain their home until they died.

At first, the address was just Route 2, Emmitsburg.  Later, the Post Office designated the address as 10818 Harney Road.

The U.S. Government began a Soil Bank Program in the 1950s, and farmers were encouraged to take their land out of production.  In 1960, the land on the south side of the Harney Road was put into the Soil Bank for a five year period.  Payments were received from the government of about $30.00 per acre in exchange for leaving the land fallow.  John continued to keep sheep and some cattle for the first two years.  They were pastured on the land on the north side of the Harney Road.  After this, the pasture land was rented to neighbor Scott McNair for several years.

John and Helen continued to own the farm after they moved to the rancher.  John had a steer that was fattening which he butchered that winter.  For the first year, he went down to the farm every day to look around and see what was going on.  The farmhouse was rented also, until the property was sold.  The farm had been listed for sale for some time, until finally, in 1965, it was purchased by Charles Wolfe, a real estate broker.  He split off the house into one lot with several acres and the remainder of the 68 acres on the south side of the road into six other lots for dividing into so-called farmettes of approximately ten acres each.  These were offered for sale, and some were sold soon and houses established, where others remained in the hands of the investors.

The entire north side of the road of more than 200 acres remained in the possession of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wolfe, who did not repair or maintain the barn.  The leaning east wall finally fell about eight years later, causing the rapid demise of the rest of the structure.  The remains were sold to a contractor for salvage. This barn had been standing for more than 180 years.

The Wolfes built a fine summer home in the woods overlooking a rocky section of Middle Creek.  They also built a small barn as a stable in the pasture field nearby and, for a number of years, stabled horses there for riding.  The old farm house was purchased by Louis Grandstaff and family and they maintained their residence there until this day.

John was not ready to stop working altogether.  He spent several years working at the Mason Dixon Dairy.  First he worked as a general repairman and painter for some of the houses they purchased.  He also worked in the milk processing dairy, mostly making ice cream.

While they still owned the farm, he maintained the garden at the house and he also maintained several other spots in the field.  He continued to raise more than he needed and gave away much of his produce to others.  On Saturdays, when the weather was cold, he and John Jr. cut cedar fence posts from the woodland.  They were then hauled beyond the hill behind the barn, where John trimmed them during the week and sorted them for sale.

John and Helen took several trips during these years, crossing the country to California every year or so. The Greyhound lines usually featured, in the fall of the year, a $99.00 ticket which they could use to travel anywhere in the country for a ninety day period, so long as they did not retrace their route.  The longest portion was a trip to California for a visit to John's brother Rob.  John and Helen generally returned home after a two to three week trip and then went off again to Florida or New England or somewhere else for another few days or a week.

After the sale of the farm, John sold the tractor to Reynard Stambaugh.  The trailer which had been used to haul posts was given back to Lloyd Fuss, as this trailer had belonged to his father.  The garden was confined to a small plot of land behind and on the west side of the house.

Chapter 11: Later Years on Hill

Vernon and Blanche Keilholtz continued to live in the house next door, which had been built by Helen's father.  John and Helen established a close relationship with the Keilhotz couple.  Vernon was an active cattle and livestock dealer.  Whenever they left for vacations or short weekend trips, John took care of the livestock in their absence.

John and Helen continued to be active in Toms Creek Methodist Church until their deaths.  John served for several years as the delegate from Toms Creek Methodist Church to the Annual Conference meeting for the Baltimore Conference.

In the 1970s the Senior Citizens Group was established in Emmitsburg, and met at lunchtime in the old school.  The meal that was served was subsidized in part by federal or county programs.  About once a month, the lunch was held a local restaurant.  This organization became very important to John and Helen, and they would miss it only in very bad weather or unusual circumstances.

Helen had always been a good seamstress.  She spent much time making afghans during her retirement, and she produced at least 40 or 50, or possibly more.

Retirement gave John and Helen more opportunity for visiting and socializing with neighbors and relatives.  They usually were the first couple to visit newcomers who moved into the area within several miles of their home.  In this way, they established a very friendly relationship with William and Louise Turney, who moved into a house on Bollinger School Road, and continued to visit with them on an almost weekly basis, except under unusual circumstances.

John continued to travel with Dr. John B. Howes as Dr. Howes went on speaking engagements.  He enjoyed excellent health during his retirement years.  He normally weighed about 145 pounds in the prime of his life and held to this weight until he was close to the age of 80.  Helen's health was not as good, probably because of her weight.  During the last twenty years of her life, she weighed about 160 to 180 pounds.  She sometimes dieted for several weeks or so, but lost only two or three pounds.  Then she would say that she enjoyed eating too much and would go back to her old habits.  She was not at all adverse to eating large amounts of sweets.

Dr. Cadle continued as the family physician until he retired in 1975.  Helen was often concerned about John, and claimed that he was losing his memory, was slowing down, and so on.  Others pointed out that she was always more confused than he was.  On one occasion, when Helen was at Dr. Cadle's office for her regularly scheduled appointment, she had Dr. Cadle go to the waiting room and ask John to come back, presumably to hear about her condition.  When John reached the examination room, Dr. Cadle put the blood pressure monitor on him before he realized what was occurring.  His blood pressure turned out to be good for a man his age.  John would have no part of any other physical examination.

John and Helen's 40th wedding anniversary was celebrated on March 9, 1969, at their son's home in Hanover as part of a joint celebration with John's two brothers, Elmer and Clarence, and their wives, Ethel and Helen.  Present were the three couples celebrating their anniversaries, their children and families, and Johnís sister Carrie and Helenís sister Rosanna.

Their 45th wedding anniversary was celebrated five years later with friends and relatives at the home of John Jr. on Sunday afternoon, March 3, 1974.  By this time, John & Helen had five granddaughters.

Their 50th wedding anniversary was celebrated on Sunday, March 4, 1979.  Their sons and families held a reception for them in the social room of Toms Creek United Methodist Church.  Relatives, friends, and Church members were invited, and about 150 attended.

As an anniversary gift, the sons gave them tickets to travel to California to visit John's brother Rob.  This was their first trip by air and they stayed one week.  It was to be the last major trip of their lives.  Their 55th wedding anniversary was celebrated in 1984 with relatives and friends at their home. 

John and Helen also spent a considerable amount of time visiting their sisters in nursing homes.  Emma had to leave her home in April 1969.  She first lived at Michael Manor Nursing Home in Gettysburg.  After a few months, she relocated to Papes Convalescent Nursing Home, also west of Gettysburg, and remained there until it closed a few years later.  Her last years were spent at the Frederick Nursing Center in Frederick.  Helen had Power of Attorney to handle her affairs.  She visited Emma at least weekly until Emma's death in 1976.  Helen's sister Roseanna also lived in several different nursing homes until her death in 1977.  John's sister Carrie left her home in Emmit Gardens in October 1972.  She lived at the Frederick Nursing Center until she died on November 20, 1982.  John often remarked that he was tired of visiting nursing homes.  Yet he and Helen visited these three sisters on a regular basis, generally once a week.

Chapter 12: Helen's Death

Read previously posted chapters of the life and times of John and Helen Fuss

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