Post-depression years in the 1930's were days of scrimping and saving to make ends meet. Fortunately, living in rural Minnesota, our family always had food to eat -- meat from the chickens and animals, vegetables and fruit from the gardens. There were some times of drought during those years which threatened some of the crops but we were able to bring water from the well when the gardens needed moisture. The potatoes were stored in the cellar, along with the canned goods. By spring, those potatoes were shriveled and full of sprouts but my mom boiled them or pan fried them and they remained a part of our meals; surely they would not be allowed to go to waste!
Most of the time we stayed close to home -- driving only to church, school and an occasional trip to a grocer for sundry items. Our transportation was a 1931 Chevrolet which seated five comfortably. On church days this was a problem because there usually were six to eight of us, but we scrunched together and "made do". This could spell disaster for our starched organdy dresses in the summer time. Since I was the youngest, I sat on a small triangle of space on the front seat. My face was close to the windshield in this position. Of course, there were no seat belts and, thankfully, there were no accidents. Rarely, did we ever drive over 40 mph.
That little black car was quite dependable transportation but there were some disadvantages. All the roads to town were gravelled and dust had a tendency to roll into the car, especially during the periods of drought. In the winter, we found it difficult to keep frost off the windshield. If there was a defroster, it did not work. My dad had rectangular frost shields attached to the windshield and front side windows in the hope of developing a thermopane to look through. This only partially helped and with so many people in the car, there was abundant moisture to frost all the areas around the frost shields. Also, in the winter the roads were only minimally cleared of snow and sometimes we needed to get out and push through a snowbank.
Then there was the horse blanket that those in the back seat would use to cover their legs. It was a sorry excuse for a blanket -- rough, scratchy and ugly. But my dad made double use of it by using it to cover the hood of the car when we reached our destination in order to trap some of the engine heat from escaping.
When my dad loaded 5 gallon cans of cream in the back of the car for delivery to the local creamery, he would sometimes put me on his lap and let me steer the car. Wow! That was exciting. Once in a while my dad would buy a pound of Land'OLakes processed cheese from the creamery and he would give it to me to hold on the way home. I was fascinated to see the Indian maiden sitting on the ground holding a box of cheese with the same Indian maiden on that box -- which also had an Indian maiden with an identical picture -- and so on and so on; never-ending.
One of my uncles had a gas station in town and that is where we would get gas for the car. We did not need gas on the farm; we did not have a tractor. My dad had horses to do the plowing and cultivating. We were not allowed to ride them but we were responsible to help bring their feed to the feeding troughs. I loved seeing the horses, so big and strong -- and I loved the smell of the hay -- always the same, refreshing outdoorsy smell.
Those were the days!
Laura W. Berglund