The farming occupation during the depression and the years following produced a special breed of men. They were tough, hard-working, sleep-deprived but full of hope for the future. Their day began at 5:30 a.m. and ended at 9:00 p.m. every day the whole year around. Most of them did not have a high school education because they were kept home from school to help their parents. They married women with multiple skills who were willing to work alongside them without complaint. All these guys wore the same uniform -- blue denim shirt, bib overalls and working boots.
On our farm we had animals; they all served a purpose. In the pigpen were the hogs that had been castrated so they would grow bigger and bigger. At some point, my dad would call my Uncle Herman (who owned a cattle truck) to let him know we had pigs ready to be shipped to South St. Paul where they were sold for cash. The pigs provided the family with money for farm and living expenses.
Summer on the farm in 1940 could be joyful and full of delightful activity. But that was not always the case, for it was also a place of hard work, long days and sometimes painful events.
It was hot! It was humid! It was August in southern Minnesota and I was assigned to bring the cows home (with a little help from my sisters, Dorothy and Elda) in time for milking. The cows were allowed to graze in the "far pasture" during the daytime because the grass was, indeed, "greener on the other side of the fence". They liked it there and needed some encouragement to return to the barn.
It was a bright sunny day in early summer 1939. Mom and Edna (oldest sister) were very busy in the dining room; they were getting ready to sew a dress for Edna, who (at age 19 ) had a new boyfriend. Even though the young man was 9 years older than she, mom and dad approved because he was an employed school teacher. Therefore, Edna needed a new dress for a special date. The material and pattern were laid out all over the big dining room table. Buttons and thread were placed on the arm of the pedal-operated Singer sewing machine.
There were two attics in our farmhouse -- one above the kitchen, the other above the upstairs bedrooms. Attics can be interesting places and, when bored or on a rainy day, we explored those recesses. Some such places have no flooring and you can walk only on the joists. Most of these attics are equipped with a "push open" small doorway in the ceiling of a hallway or closet, which can be accessed by a ladder.
There was snow everywhere! In 1938, there were very few snowplows. There was one plow for the main highway about a quarter mile from the farm. After a snowstorm, it took some time before that plow came through and, when it did, the result was minimal. The truck made a path in the middle of the road, leaving a pile of snow on each side in its wake.
Preparation for winter began in the fall. It could get very cold on the farm, the furnace was fueled with wood. Bringing wood to the house was a big chore. Trees lined the perimeter of our property and dad would be looking throughout the summer for fire wood dry enough to cut. When he noticed a nip in the air, he and my uncle would get out the wood cutting saws, harness the horses to the hay wagon and off they would go. Logs were brought to the farm yard where they had set up a cross-cutting saw with which to cut those logs into lengths suitable for feeding the furnace.
Mom told us we needed to weed the garden again! At least it was a warm summer day -- not hot like last week. I went to the garage to get the hoe for the weeds when I saw him walking up the driveway -- a tall man, with wide shoulders, a heavy brown mustache and a long stride. Unlike some of the other "visitors" to the farm, this man was someone I knew. There was much poverty in the 1930's and we did get vagrants (my mom called them bums) who could be intimidating to a young girl, but we all liked Julius even though his appearance could be revolting when you saw his face.
July, what a great month to enjoy the outdoors. Mother told us to carry all eight kitchen chairs outside and line them up on the sidewalk. Then she gave two of us buckets of warm, soapy water and a rag with instructions to wash every square inch of those chairs. Yep, they were dirty alright.
When September rolled around after the busy summer on the farm in 1939, you could feel a more relaxed pace, a chance to take a breath from all the "chores". The canning was completed, the potatoes and carrots had been dug, the grain had been harvested and the granary was filled to the top. Now was the time to go to the corn fields with the corn binder, which cut the corn stalks and tied them into bundles, and transport those bundles by hay wagon to the barn yard. Dad had arranged for the "silage guy" to bring his silo filler which was powered by a tractor.
Respectfully submitted by
Laura W. Berglund
Copyright, March 2016
I will never understand how my parents were able to keep up the pace. Farming days began at 5:30 a.m. and did not usually end until all the cows were milked about 8:00 p.m. They did take time to sit down to three ample meals between chores and listen a while to the battery operated radio.
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.
When we are cold in our homes, we turn up the thermostat or flip a switch to start the fireplace. In 1939, if you were cold my parents needed to go down the basement steps, pick out some firewood and feed the big, ugly furnace. There was no forced air so we were dependent on the heat to rise to the main level through a register. We were lucky if the heat rose even further to reach the upstairs bedrooms through a grate in the floor.
The sun was hot, a good day to sit on the porch and read a "Little, Big Book". That's what I thought, but our dad thought otherwise. "There are bugs on the potatoes", he said, "and you girls will get them off the plants - today!" Ugh! Not much fun to pick reddish orange icky bugs off potato plants, but three of us were chosen for the job, my sister, her friend and I.
The mounds, located in Afton Township, east of Mound Prairie Cemetery on Highway 18 (old Highway 95) are composed of bedrock. Bedrock is any solid rock mass, either at the surface of underlying such surface deposits, as glacial drift. Originally they were laid down by epicontinental seas covering North America in the Lower Ordivician, Lower Paleozoic Era, millions of years ago. They are composed of marine sediments in pre-glacial era; few fossils would be located there. The hills are capped with limestone that is resistant to erosion.
Two men in row boat, a tug boat (the Marion), and a barge heaped with clams on the shore of the St. Croix River at Afton, Minnesota. In the drought year of 1911, the river channel was often, in places, no more than twenty feet wide. That was the year towns people reaped a harvest of clams. They did not eat the clams; they searched them for pearls. A gem quality pearl, pink, white, blue, or purple, the size of a pea, brought $100 or more. The imperfect pearls were called slugs.
July 4, 1900...a mental picture...Main Street...Parade...Riding in the first wagon was blacksmith Tony Nord, banging on his anvil; Julius Spreeman with the horn; and a drummer. Gummerson, a Civil War vet and shoemaker, and Long John, the Wolf Saloon keeper, were along for the ride. There was a horse cart race, which Hank Siebold always won because he had the fastest horse. There was a ball game in the cow pasture north of the depot (now Windmill Marina). Tony Hedstrom pitched and Tony Nord caught a 6-7 game against St. Paul Park. Then families returned to picnic in Village Park.