Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More About Life in the 1940's

  More about life in the 1940’s

    I will go into a little more depth about what life was like in the 40’s.  In March of 1940 my parents moved from a farm 2 miles south of Hope MN to a farm 5 miles south of Owatonna on the Lemond Road.  This farm was large and had 360 acres.  I was in 8th grade at this time so here we go attending a new school where I didn’t know anyone.

    The school was located 2 and ½ miles from the farm.  One of the neighbors came over and said that they had a car pool going to school and we were welcome to be in the car pool.   Once a week each family drove the children to school.   There were 5 families involved and  7 children.  So 7 children were  in the car and off we went to school.  Remember this was before the days of seat belts and the cars were a lot smaller than they are now.

    I was the new kid on the block and was in 8th grade but I had no trouble getting along in this school.  I think we started at 9 a.m. and got out of school at 4 p.m.  We had an hour for lunch and then had a morning recess of 15 minutes and an afternoon recess of 15 minutes.  The 7th and 8th graders helped the teacher with the first graders and I think there was 6 children in first grade.  Only a couple of them had learned anything about learning to read.  So we helped them with their reading as best we could.  I remember listening to the first graders recite.

    At the end of school  we had a school picnic.  All the neighbors brought food and drinks for a nice mid day meal.  The older children in the neighborhood came to the picnic and some had already graduated from High School in Owatonna.  It was a good way for my folks to get acquainted with the neighbors and suppose my Dad made the connection with neighbors about harvesting oats.

    There was a small creamery about a mile from the house and my brother Larry went to the creamery every third day.  Two other neighbors exchanged days and they hauled the cream in the cars.  Steele county was known as the Butter Capital of the United States at that time and there were small creameries scattered all over the county.
Hope Creamery building

    This new farm had a small woods on it.  Suppose the woods covered about 10 acres.  I was always off exploring and in the summer there were several patches of wild raspberries.  There were also small patches of wild strawberries on the farm and they were very small but good to eat.  There was a huge hip roofed barn on this place and you could drive a team into it on the second floor or hay mow.  We used to go up in the hay mow and jump off the beams into the hay.  One time my brother Dick jumped about 10 feet but he didn’t get hurt.

    I was the only girl at home so I helped my Mother around the house.  By that time I was doing some cleaning by myself and always wiped the dishes after a meal.  We had a nice flat lawn in front of the house and I kept the lawn mowed.  The folks bought us a croquet set and my brother Dick and I played croquet every nice day that we had in summer.  Now remember I mowed that yard with a push mower by hand.

    At this time I was also milking cows.  We had been able to purchase a small milking machine that was run by a Briggs and Stratton motor.  There was no electricity on this farm.  After we washed the cows teats then my brother would put the milking machine on and milk the cows.  We always had to go back in with a pail and do what we called the final stripping to get all the milk.  We put the milk in a bowl on top of the cream separator and then turned a handle by hand to separate the milk from the cream.  There was 2 spouts on the cream separator and the cream came out one and the milk out the other.

    We put the cream in a can after the evening milking and then we put it in a cold water tank to keep it cool until the next morning.  Then we put the morning cream in and took it to the creamery early in the morning.  The separator had to be carefully washed every day.  We had a bench outside the pump house and I washed the separator every day.

We always ran cold water through the separator after we had finished separating the milk and the cream.  That came in handy to know when I had children as I rinsed the bottles out after feeding the babies.

    In the winter time we kept the cows in the barn and would let them out to drink water.  We had a cast iron stove of some kind or another and we had to light a fire in it to melt the ice on the water tank.  My Dad took the skim milk down to the hog house and he mixed it up with grain for the hogs.  We called that stuff slop.  In other words we slopped the pigs. We didn’t have an ice box until the summer time.  My Mother would make home made ice cream in the winter as we would get the ice out of the cattle watering tank.  She used pure cream and made a custard for the ice cream base.  Boy was it good.

    In the fall of 1940 I moved down to east of Ellendale  with my sister Dorothy and family.  This was so I could start High School at Ellendale. My nephew Warren was about 4 years old at that time.  I helped Dorothy the same as at home.  She was a terrible hard worker and she was out milking cows every morning and evening.  I didn’t do any milking there but I watched Warren and I picked up eggs and was just generally useful as a 13 year old can be.

    My clothes for High School weren’t to classy but then no one else had anything that looked much better.  I remember that Dorothy made me a nice wool skirt out of some things that Uncle Ernie had sent to us.  I caught the bus into High school and they had two routes to cover.  I was on the late route going to school and then I was on the late route coming home.  In the winter we had about 45 minutes after school and so the boys and girls would play basketball .  We would get up a team from various classes and I played forward.  Got half way good at shooting baskets.  We usually got on our bus to go home about 4:30.   Wouldn’t the teachers today have a fit if they had to watch a bunch of kids after school for 45 minutes.  But we probably acted better.  I also read and did home work in that period of time.

    I remember the terrible blizzard that we had on Nov 11 1940.  I went to school that day and it was a real warm day for November.  About 11 a.m. it started to snow.  I remember our High school Supt looking out the window at the snow.  The Supt’s office was right across the hall from our home room.  A little while later he called for the early morning bus riders to get ready to go home.  He had called the bus drivers early and decided it was best that we get home.  I of course went home on what we called the 2nd bus.  By 2p.m. we had a raging blizzard on our hands.  My sister Dorothy told me that we had to go out and round up the chickens and get them in the chicken house.  The chickens had been out all morning scratching around for seeds and bugs and whatever.  The blizzard lasted for about 3 days and a lot of people died.  They got caught out away from home in their cars and couldn’t get to shelter.

    My brother Don was a Senior in High School while I was in 9th grade.  He worked on a farm that year and rode the bus to school.  Don played football, basketball and he was a baseball pitcher.  I think he pitched a no hit no run game in High School one time.  They wanted him to play on the Legion team but World war 2 started and he was off to the Navy.

    While I was in school in Ellendale I sold candy at noon to the other students.  Most of the kids didn’t want to sell candy, they wanted to walk up and down the halls and flirt with the boys.  If you sold candy at noon you were able to eat one candy bar without paying for it.  I sampled every kind of candy that we sold.  We had to make change and turn it in and all that good stuff.

    We had the starting of a hot lunch program in our school at that time.  I think it cost 5 cents.  A woman came in and made stuff for us to eat with our lunch packed from home.  Sometimes we had macaroni and cheese and sometimes hot soup and sometimes hot chocolate.  At Ellendale we all took our lunches to school in a lunch bucket.  The next year when I went to Owatonna all the kids packed their lunches in a paper sack.  A lunch bucket was a no no in Owatonna.

    In the winter time when I was staying with Dorothy I used to go up the road and Eugene and I would go ice skating on a frozen pond close to his house.  Would just do that on Saturdays.  I think we probably played some games with Eugene’s step mother.

    I remember some of  kids problems that were on my school bus.  One of the neighbor girl’s Mother had died and she was in 10th grade.  I think she was going to school and doing most of the housework and helping take care of her younger sister who was in 7th grade.  Another family on the route had lost both parents and there was 5 or 6 children in the family.  The oldest boy was about 22 and he had a sister about 20 and he did the farming with the help of some uncles and managed to put the rest of the kids through school.  Some of the younger children were just in second or third grade.  I think that maybe some of the other farmers in the area helped out with the farm work and advise.  But they kept the children together and they turned out all right.

    People were more inclined to help their neighbors back in that time.  Farmers exchanged work back and forth so that they could get harvesting done and also haying and other chores.  But you didn’t take advantage of your neighbors and try to get by without returning favors.

    I enjoyed the library that we had in the school at Ellendale and was always checking books out to read and take home.  Dorothy liked to read so we would both read the same books.  I probably left the books home and she read them in the day time in winter when there was not much you could be doing outside.  At that time there was no electricity in the house and your heat came from a wood cook stove and then another heating stove in the living room.  There was a wood pile outside and someone had to bring the wood in and think it was stored in a small entryway.   I don’t remember if we used much coal or not.  It came in real handy when I went to work for the railroad to know how to start a fire in a pot bellied stove and how to bank a stove in those cold railroad stations so that all you had to do was add more coal in the morning.

    Dorothy had a big garden and when I was first there in September she had an ever bearing strawberry patch.  I remember her going down and picking a dish pan full of strawberries.  She made shortcake and of course we poured pure cream over all of it.  We did eat good on the farm.  Dorothy was an exceptionally good cook and I enjoyed that. 

    Most of the farming families where I grew up got by in the depression quite well.  We didn’t have anything to spend on stuff we didn’t need but we were always able to have good shoes and clothes to wear and we never went hungry.  Things begin to get better about 1938 and then after the War started there was more money available to buy things.

    I went to Owatonna the next year and stayed at home and car pooled with 2 other neighbors.  My brother Larry said that all he did was car pool at that time.  He went to Owatonna twice a day every 3 days.  Then Dick was in grade school and he had 2 trips to grade school once every 5 days.  Then he went to the creamery every 3rd day.  He said he spent a lot of time in the car getting all the running done.

    When we lived on the farm south of Owatonna a terrible fire happened to one of our neighbors about a mile south of us.  Their 5 year old little boy went out in the barn with some matches and started a fire.  The barn burned down and the little boy was in it.  It was a terrible windy day and pieces of the barn came into our pasture which was about ¾ of a mile north of the barn .  My parents never left any of us alone in the house if they had to go out at night.  We used kerosene lamps and they just didn’t trust us to be careful around those lamps.  We had a healthy respect for fire.  We used kerosene lamps when we were milking in the evening and we were so careful with them.  To this day I do not want a lighted candle in my house.

    My  tenth grade in school was the last year that I stayed at home all year.  The neighbors that we car pooled with graduated from High School and so I worked for my room and board and stayed with the Supt of our High School in my 11th and 12th grade.  A lot of girls that lived on the farm did that and the Dean of Women in our High School kept a list of people that wanted a girl to stay and help them and she  picked out the girls who she thought would make a good fit with  some one on the list.

    I answered the phone and helped with the house work and watched after the two little boys when they had to go at night.  I could go out if they weren’t going anywhere and I had to be in at ten on school nights and at twelve on Friday and Saturday nights.  I sold them about 3 dozen eggs when I would go home every other week and used that money to go to the movies.  The movies were fifteen cents and that was for the shoot em up westerns.  The better movies were twenty five cents.  There were three or four movie theatres in Owatonna.  At that time the population of Owatonna was 5000 people.

    I did go to the football and basketball games at that time.  I also went roller skating and did some ice skating in the winter time.  Mrs Burt sold me her ice skates for two dollars and the city in Owatonna had a ice rink on the Straight river.  They had an attendant at the rink that kept a bonfire going so that we could warm up when we got too cold.  It was high school age kids that went skating and think it stayed open until about 9 p.m.

    This is just a little bit more detail about my life in the forties for a couple of years.

1 comment:

  1. I really look forward to these stories. Thanks for sharing with us!