Women of the Westside: Part Two – Mary (Wittman) Rupp

By on March 18, 2019
Shown is the original Wittman homestead on Ogden Center Road, Ogden. It is now the residence of Patricia (Wittman) Brown and her family. At the far right is the home of Mary (Wittman) Rupp. Also on the family farm land, but not shown, is the home now occupied by Mary Rupp’s daughter and her family. Photo by Karen Fien.

Shown is the original Wittman homestead on Ogden Center Road, Ogden. It is now the residence of Patricia (Wittman) Brown and her family. At the far right is the home of Mary (Wittman) Rupp. Also on the family farm land, but not shown, is the home now occupied by Mary Rupp’s daughter and her family. Photo by Karen Fien.

A series celebrating Women’s History Month by shining the light on local women of wisdom with long lineages of life in towns on the westside

“A wonderful life on a farm” were the words that Mary (Wittman) Rupp used to describe her life growing up on the family farm in Ogden. Mary’s parents, Dorothy and Eugene Wittman, raised seven children including Mary on a 25-acre farm located on Ogden Center Road. The Wittman Farm had cows, chickens and pigs as well as crops. Mary grew up at the end of World War II, in an era where her family grew and farmed all their own food.

Mary recalled the different roles the girls and boys had in the family. The family grew up knowing the value of hard work. The boys helped their father with the animals and outdoors work, while Mary and her sisters worked indoors with their mother – cooking, canning, sewing and learning home skills. Mary fondly reminisced on how special it was to be allowed to go down to the fruit cellar and bring up a jar of peaches to eat with warm homemade bread. “Dad would go out and milk the cows twice a day and bring in fresh milk.” She chuckled when she remembered how he would squirt the milk into the mouths of the barn cats to drink while he was milking. Pails of milk would come inside and Mary and her sisters would strain it through a gauze cloth into jars to be refrigerated for drinking. They would make home-churned butter from the milk fat that rose to the top of the jars. One of her favorite dishes that her mother made was mashed carrots and potatoes.

Saturday evenings were an important time for the Wittmans. In preparation for Sunday mass, the children would all take their Saturday night baths, polish their shoes, and line them up for Sunday morning church. Attending St. John’s Catholic Church in Spencerport was a big part of their life. Mary and her siblings also attended St. John’s school until eighth grade and then to Spencerport High School.

“Life was very different when I grew up,” Mary said. “Families were not so rushed, and they took more time to talk to one another.” Also, “we did not have a lot of fears in going to school, not like some kids face nowadays. Despite the occasional air raid drill, things just felt so safe.”

She feels advancement in technology has been a good thing but also can take away from some of the connection of people. When thinking about technology, she recalls her first “color TV.” It was a black and white television and one day her father brought home a piece of cellophane material that had color bars across it. He placed the cellophane over the black and white screen and it gave the picture color. “Sometimes a man’s head would be blue and his shoes green,” laughed Mary. But she remembers how exciting it was to have this brand new color technology. Phones consisted of one line being shared by many neighbors as party lines, where nowadays almost everyone has a phone in their pocket. Purchases were made with cash when Mary grew up. She recalls her mother grocery shopping and needing to put things back if the total rang up to more money than she had with her. “Nowadays people rarely have cash on hand and pay most things with a credit card,” commented Mary.

Mary loved the family farm and the Ogden community so much that she never went too far. When Mary met and later married her husband, Frederick Rupp, they started out in Greece, but she returned to the family property where they built their own home on the farm. She and her husband had five children (two boys and three girls). Mary’s husband worked for Kodak and she was a stay-at-home mom. “I was very lucky to be home with my kids,” Mary said.

Mary remains very active in the Ogden community and in volunteering. She serves on the SAHARO Board of the Ogden Senior Center, donates candies and favors for special holidays, is active in the Friends of Ogden Farmers’ Library and has been a member of the Red Hat Society for over 17 years.

Mary still lives on the Wittman farm, and recently Mary’s daughter, husband and children moved back to the farm. Sunday family meals at the farm are still a staple in the family. “Happy Grandma! Life is good!” Mary said with a big smile.

A Wittman family reunion circa 1949. Mary, then about five years old, is in the front row.

A Wittman family reunion circa 1949. Mary, then about five years old, is in the front row.

Mary’s siblings, Gene and Bernard Wittman.

Mary’s siblings, Gene and Bernard Wittman.

The Wittman Farm in Ogden.

The Wittman Farm in Ogden.