Putnam County Culture

Kalida, and much of Putnam County, is predominately German Catholic. Each of the nine villages had large, ornate Catholic churches. During the summer months, every weekend a different Catholic church sponsored a beer festival. They would bring in a semi-truck full of beer. By midnight Saturday, it was gone, and their budgets were enriched by some $50,000.

The beer festivals were a major part of the social scene and the young folks rotated among the various festivals. At that time, Putnam County had the highest per capita beer consumption in the state. After every Friday game, someone would host a spoJim Burgeintaneous beer party. Most Friday nights, there were several parties happening around the rural community. Beer flowed freely at all parties, often from kegs. With all the alcohol consumption, I never saw anyone get nasty, though many got silly.

I attended many of the beer parties, but chose not dabble in the beer, for various reasons that I’ll share later. I never had a single beer until my freshman year of college.

Within the first six months at Kalida High School, I had learned the Rosary, forwards and backwards. The basketball team and cheer leaders recited it in the bus on the way to every away game! That was a bit of a shock at first. But I soon accepted it, and used it as a time of quiet reflection. This experience did shape my attitude decades later when I heard people demanding we return prayer to the schools. My response was, “Whose prayer?”

Each Wednesday, my classmates would go across the street to their church for religion classes. I sat by myself in study hall. I used the time wisely, so it was no big deal. After a while, my best friends would tell me some of what happened in those sessions. One reported the priest once chided an errant lad, “Ron Partin sitting over in study hall is better that you are, kid!” That’s only hearsay, but I found it amusing.

In reality, it was somewhat of a public-financed parochial school system. Before we moved there, a new elementary school was needed, so the church volunteered to build one and leased it to the school board. Part of the deal included nuns who taught the classes. I called it the “Rent a Nun Program.” Far as I know, they were good teachers, and it worked okay.

There was on interesting incident in the early 60s, when someone notified the state education office that crucifixes hung on the walls of the Kalida Elementary School. In their wisdom, the state officials called the superintendant and reported they were coming next week to investigate this claim. When the investigators showed up, there were indeed no crucifixes anywhere, but there were large white cross marks on the walls where they had hung for years.

A few years later, the old German priest decided the church needed a heated entrance plaza to melt the winter ice. My understanding was the leaders and treasurer calculated it would cost some $50,000 and assessed each family as to what they should contribute and billed them. Can’t imagine that going over real well with the Unitarians!

A big issue at the time was whether French kissing was a mortal or a venial sin. Apparently various priests in the county interpreted it differently and doled out different penance. So the offenders would shop their sins to get off a bit lighter. Of course, all of my research on this is purely secondary. Truth is, I probably didn’t even know what French kissing was at that time. If I did it was all hearsay evidence.

There was one practice for which I envied my Catholic classmates. They almost all attended mass at 5:00 pm Saturday evening. They got to sleep in every Sunday morning (unless they had to get up early to feed livestock or milk cows).