Journal-News, Wednesday, July 4, 2001
Michael Popp, Hamilton tailor, created popular Eisenhower jacket
By Jim Blount
Civilian fashion during World War II was notable for plainness. Patch pockets, cuffs, pleats and other clothing adornments that consumed fabric and materials succumbed to conservation measures dictated by the federal government.
One of the era's most popular apparel items -- a military issue -- was created by Michael Popp, a Hamilton tailor who wore sergeant's stripes for more than three years.
The garment didn't originate on Sgt. Popp's drawing board. He wasn't its designer. He was the person who adapted a drab army coat into a coveted jacket popularized by one of the war's most-photographed personalities. In doing so, Popp was following orders from Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, his commander.
Eisenhower -- later a two-term president -- led Allied forces in the North Africa landing in November 1942, directed the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of the Normandy coast of France, and was supreme Allied commander in the defeat of Germany in 1945.
"During World War II, the popular image of General Eisenhower depicts him wearing a well tailored, short-waisted, smart-looking jacket," reports an Internet web site of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library & Museum.
Its popular names are the Eisenhower jacket or the Ike jacket. Officially, it was Wool Field Jacket M-1944, and informally known as the ETO jacket (European Theater of Operations).
Dissatisfaction with existing apparel and a desire for a distinctive ETO look led to creation of the Eisenhower jacket. He didn't like the army's long wool jacket, recalled Sgt. Mickey McKeough, a military aide to the general. "It didn't have any shape. . . . And he made it clear he wasn't going to wear anything that looked like that first battle uniform."
"He tried it on and sent for Sgt. Popp, our tailor," McKeough said. "When Popp showed up, the general told him what he wanted. He wanted the jacket shorter; he wanted it to fit -- he gave Popp quite a job to do. Popp went at it and the result was the Eisenhower jacket -- very short, very comfortable and very natty looking."
"The Boss was pleased with it and began to wear it, and when we got ours, all of us on the staff yelled for Popp. He was a good guy and he cut down all of our jackets to make them look as much as possible like the one the Boss wore," McKeough explained.
Following their commander's example, other officers individualized their uniform. "It is not known how many changes were made to the jacket," the Eisenhower Museum notes. "Some models have side slash pockets, many with concealed buttons, others had patch pockets or only flaps," and there also were "different types of waist tabs."
The creator of the Eisenhower jacket was born in Cincinnati Dec. 24, 1905, a son of Yugoslav immigrants, Peter and Elizabeth Popp. When he was 18 months, his mother died and the boy went to Yugoslavia to reside with his maternal grandmother.
At age 18, Michael Popp returned to the United States, first to Cincinnati and shortly after to Hamilton to work as a tailor in local clothing stores. In the 1939 city directory, he is listed as a tailor at the Worthmore Clothes Shop, 136 High Street.
Popp joined the U. S. Army in 1942 and was assigned as a tailor to Eisenhower's staff during the North African campaign. He held that post until discharged in December 1945. June 19, 1945 -- about five weeks after fighting had ended in Europe -- Sgt. Popp married Lucienne Gaillard in France.
In the late 1940s, he was a tailor at the Siebler Tailoring Co., men's clothier, at 109 South Third Street.
He and his wife opened their own tailor shop in 1949. They operated the business on the second floor at 205 Court Street for more than 18 years. In a 1951 advertisement they offered "custom tailoring for men and women, large selection of fine fabrics, civilian suits, top coats, overcoats, slacks, sportswear, Eisenhower jackets, military uniforms, alterations."
The Popps were the parents of three children, a son, Michael Dwight Popp, and two daughters, Mary France and Lucienne Jane. Michael Popp died at the age of 62 Jan. 6, 1968, in Mercy Hospital in Hamilton.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Fairfield's Milders Inn only a memory
By Jim Blount
A new CVS drug store dominates the northwest corner of Pleasant Avenue and Nilles Road in Fairfield. The building, completed this year, looks like others built recently by the chain, but a small display in the parking lot recalls a one-of-a-kind family restaurant that once distinguished the location.
In 1914, Jacob and Mary Milders acquired the property at that corner and renamed the business Milders Inn.
Previously, the building had been the Village Cafe and Summer Garden in the Fairfield Township community known as Symmes Corner. It had been operated by H. J. Meyers. Directly across Pleasant Avenue was Symmes Tavern, which dates back to the 1850s when Mount Pleasant Pike was a toll road.
Although then in a quiet rural setting in Fairfield Township, Milders Inn was accessible by interurban (or traction) service from Cincinnati and Hamilton and points beyond.
The electric-powered cars on the Cincinnati & Lake Erie system stopped at the front door of the popular leisure spot with service every 30 or 60 minutes throughout the day. Interurban cars stopped running July 1, 1938, and were replaced by buses.
Milders Inn attracted diners and celebrants from near and far. The clientele included some Cincinnati Reds players and business and social notables from a wide region. During the Prohibition era, 1919-1933, some of the region's most notorious bootleggers and rum runners patronized the spot. Local people favored it for banquets and wedding receptions. It also featured an outdoor garden, popular during warmer months.
Fried chicken in a cordial atmosphere was the reason most people patronized the restaurant and cafe. During its 28 years, Milders Inn was synonymous with fried chicken in southwestern Ohio.
"Our price for a chicken or steak dinner is $1, but, oh, what a great, big marvelous meal," boasted a 1933 newspaper advertisement. Sandwiches were 10 cents. Bottled beer was 15 cents and draft a nickel, according to the same ad.
Mrs. Milders, known as Mom to hundreds of customers, did most of the cooking. "Mom hired about seven German cooks, all of them had their own specialties and after special teaching from Mom they were great," said Ray Milders, a son, in a letter quoted in Esther Benzing's book, Fairfield, Ohio: Township and City. "Dad taught the girls how to fry chicken," he explained.
Milders said the inn "always had homemade noodles made in chicken broth. The girls, under Mom's direction, canned over 2,000 cans of corn each summer which was served through the winter."
Milders said his parents and employees also prepared "35,000 homemade pickles and gallons of all kinds of homemade relishes and preserves, homemade tomato juice and catsup."
Mrs. Benzing noted that "several good truck farmers lived practically next door to the inn, so the combination of hour-fresh vegetables, plus good cooking, made some delectable dishes."
Jacob Milders died in 1935. His wife, Mary, died in 1942.
After 28 years of family ownership, the inn closed in October 1942. The property and equipment, including more than 30 tables, were sold at auction the next month. The auctioneer's ad called Milders Inn "Ohio's best-known chicken and steak dinner cafe and restaurant" and boasted that it had been "known from coast to coast."
Milders patrons wouldn't recognize the intersection and its surroundings in 2001. Symmes Corner has lost its rural identity. It became part of the city of Fairfield in 1955. The cornfields and farm buildings are gone. So are traces of the electric-powered interurban system. Restaurants abound within a quarter mile of the inn site. Nilles Road, no longer a country lane, and Pleasant Avenue (U. S. 127), which was two narrow lanes into the 1960s, form a busy intersection with five lanes in each direction.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 18, 2001
Electricity extended to rural areas in 1938
By Jim Blount
Electricity didn't reach most parts of rural Butler County until the late 1930s when a Depression relief program extended into the area. Before then, private power companies across the nation had been reluctant to offer service in sparsely-populated rural areas. Where available, electric connection costs had been prohibitive for most farm families.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order May 11, 1935, creating the Rural Electrification Administration. The REA was one of several programs aimed at ending the nation's economic doldrums.
In 1933 -- during the depth of the Depression -- it was estimated that 90 percent of the nation's farms relied on gas engines or generators, animals and hand labor for power. Kerosene lamps were the usual source of light, and stoves fueled by coal or wood provided heat and a cooking source.
The absence of electric power also meant that the majority of rural families lacked running water for drinking, cooking, bathing and laundry.
Oct. 14, 1935, the Butler County Rural Electric Cooperative Inc. was organized at a meeting at Hanover Township School. Founders decreed it would be "an organization . . . formed among ourselves on a non-profit basis for acquiring and distributing electrical energy."
In 1936, it was estimated that "22 percent of rural Ohio and a slightly larger proportion in Butler County" had electric service.
Martin Petri of Hanover Township chaired the county REA committee that included the following township representatives: Carl Engel, Ross; Luther Borger, Wayne; C. P. Krebs, Milford; John Keehner, Union; Marcus Beard, Morgan; Charles Schlabach, Reily; Loren Sizemore, Oxford; A. F. Baker, Wayne; and Clovis Kalbfleisch, Madison.
March 17, 1936, the group applied for a $320,000 federal loan. By that summer the organization anticipated supplying current to more than 1,000 Butler County farm hones "before snow flies." But delays were encountered and that goal was missed.
More than 252 miles of distribution lines were erected for 718 members. Thirty families received the first power March 30, 1938. The first connection was at the family home of Mr. and Mrs. Sam F. Bauer on their 31-acre farm on Wayne-Milford Road.
"Coal oil lamps were flickering hesitantly, soon to disappear entirely in many rural sections," a newspaper noted. "To many of the patrons of the cooperative, it will be the first time electricity has ever lighted their homes and will mark the end of the era of flickering lamplight that has been the only means of illumination for many years."
"It will mean that modern appliances, such as sweepers, stoves, ironers, heaters and improved radios can be installed to lighten the work of the farmer's wife," the writer observed. "It will mean, too, that the farmer can install motor-driven machinery to facilitate his handling of crops and materials in his barns."
Nationwide, thanks to the REA, 40 percent of farms had electricity by 1941 when the United States entered World War II. Ten years later, it was 90 percent. By the 1970s, it reached 98 percent.
Economically and socially, rural electrification is regarded as one of the most successful New Deal programs.
In 2001, Butler REC -- which also serves portions of Preble, Hamilton and Montgomery counties -- maintains 900 miles of electric lines for more than 10,000 members.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Carrie Nation skipped 'wicked' Hamilton
By Jim Blount
Carrie Nation was a tough lady who tamed many tough towns in more than a decade of crusading against drinking, but she didn't challenge Hamilton during a brief August 1901 visit. The native of Garrard County, Ky., disapproved of what she saw in the city, calling it "an awful wicked town." But she didn't swing her hatchet in an attempt to remedy the situation.
At nearly six foot and about 180 pounds, Carrie (or Carry) Amelia Moore Nation (1846-1911) earned a national reputation as a threatening figure in her ardent opposition to alcohol. She called herself "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesn't like."
"Smash, ladies, smash!" was her battle cry as she led colleagues in destroying barrooms across the nation. Those she opposed she labeled as "rum-soaked, whiskey-swilled, saturn-faced rummies."
She reportedly was arrested at least 30 times between 1900 and 1910 because of her anti-drinking assaults. The popular image was Carrie brandishing a hatchet as she smashed bottles, glasses, mirrors, furniture and fixtures in saloons. She paid her bail and fines with proceeds from her lectures and sales of souvenir hatchets.
The crusader was reared and educated in Kentucky, Missouri and Texas before marrying a doctor at the age of 21. He was an alcoholic and she failed in her efforts to reform him. He died shortly after their marriage.
She turned to teaching before a second marriage in 1877 to David Nation, a minister and lawyer. They were residing in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, when she responded to what she said was a divine calling to destroy saloons.
For three years, she lectured and led public prayers. At a stop in Wichita, Kansas, she wielded her hatchet for the first time. Nation called her subsequent attacks on saloons "hatchetations."
Her exposure to Hamilton was in 1901, the year her husband divorced her for desertion because she was constantly away from home. She stayed at the Globe Hotel (southeast corner of South Third and Court streets) and made a brief speech at the Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton depot on South Fifth Street before boarding a westbound train.
She shared her views on Hamilton with the editor of an Oxford newspaper while riding a passenger train between Oxford and College Corner.
"Did you stop in Hamilton?" the editor asked. "Yes, a short time," Nation responded. "That's an awful wicked town. I'd like to go back there for a few days and help the good people to clean out the hell holes there."
"That town is cursed with saloons and breweries," she said. According to the 1900-1901 city directory, there were 117 saloons, three breweries and four malthouses in Hamilton when Nation visited. The directory listed 27 churches and synagogues in the city of 23,914 people.
"I found her to be an intelligent, Christian woman with pronounced views on the question of the day, which she expressed in plain, blunt terms," the Oxford editor observed.
He asked the crusader if she worked "in connection with temperance organizations?"
"I used to," she said, "but I found that they spent their time in passing resolutions so I started out to destroy the evil with a hatchet."
The editor asked if she belonged to a church. She said she was a member "for a number of years, but I became too radical for them and the church withdrew from me."
Nation's efforts also included publication of newsletters -- including the Smasher's Mail, the Hatchet, and the Home Defender. Funds derived from the newspapers helped finance a home for wives of alcoholics in Kansas.
Carrie Nation continued her campaign for prohibition until her death June 9, 1911.