Friday, December 24, 2010

CHRISTMAS GIFTS FROM THE FARM; part 2; by Marion Aldrich

To my brother's wife I sent a small crate of mixed vegetables. She was delighted. I sent them early enough for her to use them for the Christmas dinner. There was a small Hubbard squash, some choice potatoes, onion, beets, carrots, turnips, a cabbage, some apples, a dozen hard winter pears and a little jar of delicious crabapple jelly tucked in.

To our old school-teacher, still striving to teach the young idea how to shoot Ruth and I joined in making a big, rich fruit cake.

To a friend who had a number of small children, Ruth sent half a dozen jars of pure honey.

I don't know how many little jars of jellies and chili sauce and baby pickles and jams and other preserves and condiments we sent along for presents.

To a doctor friend—the one who sent me to inhale the country air for six months—I sent two dozen big, rich duck eggs, quite fresh. On each egg I pasted a tiny sticker, a little Santa or Christmas tree or stocking or something of that sort. I placed these in a wire case which holds each egg firmly, marked them plainly and they reached the good doctor without a break or a crack.

Every year Ruth's great-aunt send her something of value. This great-aunt owns a string of business blocks in a big city and keeps a lawyer busy attending solely to her estate. At my suggestion, Ruth prepared a goose for the oven, stuffed it, sewed it up in a white cloth and packed it in a box, the corners of which she filled with apples and onions for roasting. This she sent to Great-aunt, not without fear and trembling. “The very idea of sending her something to eat,” she gasped, “she'll think it an insult.” she invited a select few in to dinner, she wrote, and boasted of the “home-grown goose straight from my dear niece who lives on a farm,” And all her guests raved.

To friends who had children we sent baskets of native nuts: walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts, chinquapins and the like. We also made some delicious molasses kisses, wrapped them in waxed paper, packed them with sprigs of evergreen and sent them along.

If you live in the maple belt, you surely have some maple sugar left. If it is black, melt it over and re-cast the cakes. They will be delicious. Or melt them and stir them into the soft maple sugar and let your friends use them for genuine maple fudge.

If you have popcorn, tie up four bunches, six ears in a bunch, with red ribbon and send it as a present. Country pop corn “tastes different,” you know! It does. I've tasted it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

CHRISTMAS GIFTS FROM THE FARM; part 1; by Marion Aldrich

Last Christmas I spent with a schoolmate who lives in the country. I had gone to her home in the early Autumn to board because I had much writing to do and needed quiet. At the same time I needed the sweet, pure country air. When we first began talking of Christmas, fully six or eight weeks before that date, Ruth, my friend, began the old-time plaint: “I know I shall get a lot of pretty things from my city friends and relatives, and what on earth can I get in this old ark that is fit to send them?”

“This old ark,” was the village general store, where we were when we brought up the subject of Christmas giving. “Ruth Preston,” I answered her, “with all the opportunities you have for making the most delightful, unusual and really worthwhile gifts, you should worry about Storekeeper Wiggin's limited stock of cheese and chewing tobacco.”

“What do you mean?” gasped Ruth.

“Well, you never lived in the city, cooped up in an apartment, or in a house in a big town where the nearest woods and nearest garden were miles and miles away? Did you now?” She admitted that she never had.

“Imagine that you did live in such a place. What would you say if you were to receive a beautiful little baby fir tree eighteen inches high, a luscious deep green, growing in a pretty little wooden tub painted deep red? Suppose it came to you carefully wrapped in wet burlap so that the express people could see what it was the keep it right side up?

“It would be pretty,” admitted Ruth.

“And suppose you lived in a big elevator apartment with a tiny kitchenette and a new maid every week or so and all the goodies you had you made yourself or got at a cafe or dug out of cans with a can opener. How would you like to get a great big fat mince pie, packed in a box so carefully that it couldn't crush or break?”

I had set her to thinking. Soon after that we brought up the subject once more. I sent back to the city for two dollars' worth of narrow, red ribbon, holly ribbon, Christmas labels, tags and stickers.

“What are you going to send him?” I asked Ruth one day as she mentioned her very wealthy brother who had lived in a distant city for twenty years.

“Oh dear, Tom has so much money that anything I could afford would look cheap!” she complained. “Neckties are silly and I don't know the latest styles. I'd love to surprise him once---”

“Make fifty of those old-fashioned big sugar cookies, such as your mother used to make for you and Tom when you were youngsters. I know how they taste—want one right now! Wrap each one in white tissue, stick a tiny fancy label on, to fasten the tissue together, pack them firmly in a box and send them along to him.” Watch his mouth water!

Ruth did it and the letter she got from her brother brought the quick tears to her eyes.

Friday, December 17, 2010

PIONEER STORIES; 1872; part 2 of 2

This account was written in 1949 by Mrs. Mary Dostal of Olivia, MN, continued:

On winter evenings, Father would make shoes for us children from cowhide he had tanned himself. He made harnesses, brushes, furniture and even made wagon-wheels.

Mother used to help with the tree-cutting. That was the ever-present, never-ending work. Besides cooking and cleaning, sewing, and child-bearing, Mother would churn butter for market, make cheese, molded candles, cooked soap using lye made from ashes. She would knit for us using yarn she had spun herself out of wool from our own sheep, using a spinning-wheel she would borrow from a neighbor. Neighbors in turn would come to our house to use Mother's sewing-machine which was one of the few of its kind in the neighborhood. We would often pick wild raspberries and take them to Hutchinson and exchange them in the store for calico, kerosene or coffee.

Whenever anyone was sick, the neighbors helped each other. Women knew many home remedies which they were glad to administer in time of need. Many a baby was brought into the world without the assistance of a doctor.

These early settlers enjoyed working together, and would combine fun with work. In the winter they would line their sleds with feather-beds, and bundle up the children and drive to some neighbor to help at a butchering, quilting, or feather-stripping bee. After the work was finished, the floor was cleared and an accordion or a fiddle would furnish the music for their spirited square-dances, polkas and two-steps. Gay Czech songs were sung. There is something about a Bohemian tune that sets the foot to tapping.

The Czechs are proud of their nationality, and in the Silver Lake community it has been kept alive. Their language was spoken in their homes and used in business transactions, and today the majority of the people there are children and grandchildren of the old settlers, who are alive on the old homesteads, and carry on the old traditions. The Czechs, with their ingenuity and hard work, have built one of the most prosperous and progressive communities in Minnesota.

Monday, December 13, 2010

PIONEER LETTERS; 1872; part 1 of 2

This account was written in 1949 by Mrs. Mary Dostal of Olivia, MN:

When my parents came to this country in 1872 from Czecho-Slovakia, they bought a small tract of land in McLeod County. They lived in a neighbor's home until they cleared a piece of land on which to build their log cabin. They chose to live in the woods in preference to the prairie, because the trees provided shelter, fuel and lumber.

This cabin my parents built into a home. The first work that had to be done was to cut down trees and grub the stumps. When they had a small plot cleared, they planted potatoes, proso (a grain similar to millet) mangels, and turnips.

This new soil was very fertile and yielded well. The potatoes and proso meal with skimmed milk was their main food. The proso was hulled by pounding a small amount at a time in a bell-shaped mortar, made by hollowing out a block of hard wood.

Mangels and turnips with slough hay was the winter's feed for the cow. In the summer they would tie a bell on the cow's neck and let her wander in the woods to find her own feed.

Year after year, as they cleared more land, they were able to plant other crops. They raised sorghum cane, which they took to a neighbor who had an improvised oxen-powered press. This press was crudely constructed but served its purpose. The pan used for cooking the syrup was a large tin-bottomed pan with wooden sides. The sorghum made this way, was used for sweetening.

My father was a jack-of-all-trades; he was especially handy with carpenter's tools. Neighbors asked him to help them to build their homes, and they repaid him by helping him in other ways. Father had constructed a device for making shingles; it required two men to furnish the power, and one man to feed the machine with the bass-wood, and any number of us children to stack the finished shingles and to tie them into bundles.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


It is expected that approximately two million Christmas packages will be sent from this country to the fighters Overseas. Officials of the War Department, the Post Office Department and the American Red Cross have worked out a plan whereby every soldier can receive one Christmas package and only one from the United States.

The men themselves will decide who is to send these parcels. They have been given, each man, one Christmas-parcel label with instructions to mail these labels to the person in this country from whom they wish to receive the holiday box. Packages that do not bear these labels will not be accepted. Lost labels cannot be replaced.

The American Red Cross will provide cartons, 3” x 4” x 9” in size and will make itself responsible for the distribution receipt at designated points, inspection and mailing of the boxes.

No Christmas parcels will be received for shipment after November 20.

This all may seem hard lines to us who long to pour out our love in many gifts but WE ARE AT WAR and, considered in that light, it seems wonderful that Uncle Sam can add ANY provision for our Christmas packages to his other heavy responsibilites. Let us help him by strict compliance with every regulation.--The Editor of The Farmer's Wife.

Monday, November 29, 2010


I came across the article below a day or two ago. I had just received the magazine in the mail (I am a collector of Farmer's Wife magazines) and was struck when I noticed that the issue was 100 years, and one month old (October 1910.) Just a few hours before, I had been looking at a Christmas flier from a local store. There I saw advertised a hot dog cooker. For those of you who have not seen this new, and I believe ridiculous invention, I will describe it. It appeared to be about the size of a large toaster, with hot dogs and buns sticking out of the top as you would see bread sticking out of the top of a toaster. It "only" costs $17.99! What a bargain!! As you will see in the following article, our buying habits have changed much in the last 100 years. I will leave it for you to decide if it has been an improvement or not.

"A finicky public has become accustomed to buying all kinds of food products put up in tasty, neat packages. All kinds of grocery store products now go to the consumer in attractive cartons or packages where formerly they were bought in bulk. This is, of course, an expensive way to buy, for the consumer has to pay for the extra trimmings, but if we are to get the high price we must observe the demand.

In years gone by, butter was sold by the jar, or dished out by the grocer in wooden parchment saucers. Nowadays the high-priced butter comes in neat cartons stamped with the producer's name, the butter itself being wrapped in parchment paper. In city stores, butter so handled often brings five to ten cents per pound more than the same quality of butter sold in jars.

Housewives who pride themselves on superior butter, might well take a suggestion along this line; namely, giving the public what it wants. First, get a mould that will make just a pound brick of butter. Then secure parchment paper and wrap each brick after wetting the paper in cold water. Then if you want to go still farther, get pasteboard cartons holding a pound brick, and on the carton let it be known the kind of butter you are selling and the name of the maker. The whole outfit will cost but two or three dollars, but it will all come back in a month or two.

If you are in shape to make first-class butter and want to sell it for a good price, try this suggestion. Your grocer will be glad to have your consignment so he can sell it out by the pound without handling it. The consumer will be glad to get it without having people handle or muss over it. The first thing you know, you will have quite a reputation for the quality of your product and will have trouble in supplying the demand. If the public is willing to pay for attentions of this kind, you can well afford to go to the extra trouble. Successful salesmen today are those who anticipate and supply the demands of the market."

Friday, November 26, 2010

JANET MAKES HER OWN WAY; part 8; by Mabel Hester Green

May 23, 1929

I'm preparing for finals.

Pray for me.

School will soon be over. But my, how I hate leaving the Hall and the friends I've made there. Sarah and Elizabeth Pentree are going to visit me this summer, though. I can scarcely wait for that.

I love this old school, with all its work.

Father and Mother are coming for Commencement exercises—going to drive up since it's cheaper and they can take me back with them. Janet

May 31, 1929

Enclosed find clipping. I'm too overwhelmed to write.
(From the Student Reporter)

“Miss Janet Ellsworth, of Frankfort, has been awarded the Mary Welch Randolph prize given annually to the freshman woman of this college who has shown the most initiative, originality, and womanliness during her year on the campus.

“Miss Ellsworth, the winner of the award, has maintained a good scholastic record, was captain of the coed freshman basketball team, has paid the greater part of her expenses for the year by work done while in school, and is popular on the campus because of her true womanliness.

“The prize will be presented at Commencement exercises.”--Janet.

June 5, 1929
Dearest Mart:

I'm so happy.

Commencement is over. We go home tomorrow. But the reason I am happy is that Father is proud of me.

And Mart, he says that next year he is going to send me to school and pay all of my expenses that he can, and that if I want to join a sorority I may!

I'm going to keep my place at the bookstore, but I'm glad that I won't be responsible for earning every penny I spend next year. I'm glad, too, that Father feels encouraged over his financial affairs. While it will be hard going for some time yet, he seems to feel that the worst pinch is over.

Well, working has many, many disadvantages, but I don't believe this year has hurt me any. I wouldn't recommend it as a general practice for all girls. I happen to have good health, quite a little pep and ambition, and have always been a fairly good student. That helps a lot. But I'll sure take a good rest and get caught up on sleep when I get home. Mother says I'm as thin as a rail.

I guess sororities do have some use for girls who work. Anyway, I've pledged Chi Theta and will live in the house next fall.

Tonight Elizabeth, Sarah, and I are going for a last walk through the campus by moonlight and then it's “Goodby, dear college, until September.” Love,--Janet.

The end...

Monday, November 22, 2010

JANET MAKES HER OWN WAY; part 7; Mabel Hester Green, 1929

Western Union Telegram:
Miss Martha Ellsworth,
South Bend, Indiana.
Made grades, even math.

February 11, 1929
Dearest Mart:
Thank you so much for the $50 for my fees. It was both a surprise and a relief. You certainly are the dearest sister anyone ever had. Janet.
P.S. I did make the team.--J.

February 21, 1929
Dearest Mart:

Mr. Ferber has employed me as a stenographer in the bookstore!
I have given up my waitress job. No need to worry quite so much over money now. The new position means work and will take lots of time--but it means steady work with a chance of promotion. Of course, it doesn't make me rich but it's a big lift.
Congratulate me.

Miss Pentree has thawed out to a certain extent. I think we may get to be friends some day. Some of the girls always will be snobbish toward me, I fear, but I find I really have more friends than I ever expected after waiting tables a semester.--Janet.

March 18, 1929

I haven't written for a long time, have I?
I've been a busy girl. Midterms are near again. They will not be the horrible bugbear they were to me last semester. I've studied more regularly.

Jim is as faithful as ever, but I don't seem to rate a lot of dates--big men on the campus.

I have my little group of girl friends but not the many that some of the girls have. You remember I promised Father not to join a sorority this year. That was a waste of words. A girl who works hasn't a show with sorority girls. Outside of Miss Pentree and one or two others, no organized girls pay any attention to me.

I'm resigned, though I do love the fluff and flutter of social life.

Don't tell, but I always walk rapidly past shop windows.

Wearily yours, Janet

April 16, 1929
Dearest Mart:

Please burn that pessimistic letter I wrote yesterday. Just when I was pining away for spring clothes, Father and Mother sent me a new hat and dress--a birthday present they said. The dress was a made-over freshened up with a little new material but it's pretty, and stylish, and no one need ever know what its past has been. How do Father and Mother manage when money is so scarce at home?

I am going to a party tonight to celebrate the acquisition of new finery.

Excitedly, Janet.

May 1, 1929
Mart Dearest:

Mr. Ferber has promoted me and raised my pay.

Gee, I'm glad. I sure have been working hard at that store. We've begun ordering Commencement invitations and filling seniors in caps and gowns. I'm worn out every night before I begin on my lessons. And term reports due and no time to get them written in decent style. Oh me, oh my! Such is collitch life for the working "goil."

Friday, November 19, 2010

JANET MAKES HER OWN WAY; part 6; by Mabel Hester Green; 1929

November 24, 1928

I'm discouraged tonight.

Smoke-ups (What does that mean, I wonder? LA)came out today. I got five hours in math. I never could understand old math anyway.

The smoke-up has done one good thing for me though, it has shown me I had another friend.

Martha Ellis, one of the quieter, sensible girls, came to the room to tell me not to feel too blue about math. The old dear is majoring in the stuff and has promised to help me with it. She is sure she can pull me through.

I'll have to study harder from now on. No more lengthy letters from yours truly until she fools Prof. Wade. Janet

Dear Mart:

I have discovered a new method of making money. Miss Douglas recommended me to the Ferbers (who run the bookstore) as a refined, dependable girl to stay with their children at nights!

Occasionally I am called over to stay with the youngsters while their parents are away on business or pleasure. The children usually go to sleep, as all good children should, giving me a chance to study. My financial status is quite satisfactory.

Father and Mother sent me a Christmas box with a few new clothes--enough to last until spring, if I'm careful. Mother picked them out, of course. Two of the darlingest dresses. I'm very elated. I was getting quite threadbare.--Janet

Miss Ellsworth:

In reply to yours of the 6th I would say that, indeed, I'm not becoming a grind.

I work hard for me, but I have my activities book which came with paying my fees and which takes me to games and concerts.

Jim, the faithful old dear, hasn't cut me like most of the frat men did, and takes me to a show or dance once in a while when I have an evening that I can spare. We girls have our good times in our rooms.

Then we are playing ball in gym. Rah! Rah! Rah! for me. I think I'll make the team.

I don't have time to do lots of things the other girls do, though. Some time I'd like to come to college for a year without working. As it is I'm rushed to death from morning to night and think I'm lucky if I have an evening or so off a week. But one can't have everything.

Finals are week after next. You won't hear from me for some time. Janet

Monday, November 15, 2010

JANET MAKES HER OWN WAY; part 5; by Mabel Hester Green, 1929

From Laurie: Please note that this story was written and published before the Great Depression. It seems that some farmers had a hard time of it, depression or not. It is a good reminder that honest hard work should not be looked down upon.

November 1, 1928

I've had to come to it! Picture to yourself your fastidious little Janet tripping into the great dining-room with a huge tray of soup bowls. Even if we were raised on a farm we never had much practice in waiting tables. But, my dear, I haven't dripped coffee down anyone's neck yet.

By the way, things must be getting desperate at home. Something Mother wrote gave away the fact that she's let her hired girl go. Poor Mother! I wish I hadn't written those letters begging for money. I'll not ask for any more, though. From now on, I've got to go it on my own, no matter how hard it is.

Well, working is just like I said. Miss Pentree sniffed and Isabell looks the other way when I pass her in the hallway,--the little snob! But Miss Douglas, the chaperon I just adore, partly made up for it. She shook hands after the first meal and said, "Bravo, Janet. I knew you were a brick. We're glad you decided to stay in school."

Of course, Sarah stands by me. She's a dear. I'm learning to appreciate her so much that I can forget the mannish clothes.

If the girls would still be my friends I think I would be happy in spite of everything.--Janet

P.S. Waiting tables only pays my board. I still must rack my brain for more work. Thank goodness, I'm pretty well supplied with clothes. I wanted a new coat, but I can wear the one Father bought for me last winter.

November 6, 1928

I have found the plan! I'm going to be sandwich man for the Hall.

You know I always loved to make fancy little things for picnics and lunches. Brother always had me pack his picnic basket because I could make such appetizing sandwiches.

Here's the scheme. Just before we go to bed at night every one gets just starved. At that psychological moment I appear in the hallway laden with a basket of dainty sandwiches, big red apples, and candy (I make part of the candy in my chafing dish and part I buy in the bulk.)

Listens well, doesn't it? And best of all, it works! I've been mobbed every night this week. It will more than pay my room rent. I love to do it, too. I must make some sandwiches now. Janet

November 11, 1928
My Dear Preacheress:

So you are still worried about my studies?

I am, too.

Your sermon has sunk deep in my heart. I must study. Midterms are next week.--Janet

Friday, November 12, 2010

JANET MAKES HER OWN WAY; part 4; by Mabel Hester Green, 1929

Dear Mart:

Father answered my special at last.

But, my dear, he never sent me a penny. Just explained how matters stood at home financially and suggested some different kinds of work I might find to do.

Then he wrote, "You must learn, Janet, not to consider the opinion of those people who look down on honest work. I'm sure you will find friends who will admire you for any plucky endeavor. If you find, though, that college life as a working girl is unendurable Father and Mother will welcome you back to the farm. But they expect their little daughter to make good."

After that I simply can't go home. But, oh, I do mind, Mart. Miss Elizabeth Pentree will sniff and her roommate cut me dead. And I won't be popular and get to go places any more. The fellows won't have any use for a poor girl who hasn't any nice clothes.

I'm convinced now that Father simply cannot help me any and I've given up all hope of that. Mart, could you--would you help your little sister in this emergency? You never had to worry about money when you were here, did you?

I'll study hard and amount to something and I'll pay your money back. Don't you think you could loan me enough for this year or at least, enough to finish this semester on?--Anxiously, Janet.

October 18, 1928

My Dear Unselfish Sister:

You don't know what a blow your letter was to me.

So you have been saving your money to help at home, and going without things yourself to do it, I'll venture. You poor girl!

And here I've been having a lovely time and begging for more money. I've spent $100 in less than a month.

Sis, I'm going to turn over a new leaf. I'll start out this very afternoon looking for work. Your repentant, Janet.

October 25, 1928

Dear Sis:

I'm at my wit's end.

I have applied for all kinds of jobs but I guess I'm a failure. I can't find any--that is, any decent ones. I just can't do housework or waiting tables.

For the life of me I don't see why I can't work in the registrar's office, but when I applied I was told that they took only experienced upperclassmen.

Then I went to about twenty offices trying to get secretarial positions but it seems that work requires training and experience, too.

At one place I got a tryout as a stenographer but after the snort that man gave when he saw the letter I typed for him, I resolved never to apply to anyone else for such a position. Still I couldn't blame him. I haven't any speed yet and I make the most queer mistakes.

Sarah says we will need a new waitress at the Hall at the end of the week. But, Sis, I never can do that. It would just ruin me socially.

The positions in the bookstore, library, and stores downtown are filled.

Do you have any ideas? I'm about to give up in despair and pack my trunk for home.--Janet.

Monday, November 8, 2010

JANET MAKES HER OWN WAY; part 3; by Mabel Hester Green; 1929

Memorial Hall
October 26, 1928

Dearest Mart:

The shops in this town are simply marvelous!

I can't walk past them without stopping to gaze wistfully. Sis, I do love pretty clothes.

You know what is coming!

Yes, I did. I might as well confess that I yielded to temptation.

It was a little striped flannel and only cost $15 and then I bought a little felt hat to match. All the girls have felt hats and I really need a school bonnet. Now--scold away!

You asked whether I was getting acquainted or not. I know our next door neighbors now. There is Miss Elizabeth Pentree, a Chi Theta pledge, whose fair, thin-nosed, blue-blooded ancestors came over on the Mayflower. She is quite friendly to me, but I saw her turn up her dainty nose a trifle when she was introduced to Sarah. (Sarah is waiting tables at the Hall.) I can see now the supercilious toss of the head of Miss Pentree will give me if I start working. I hope Father does send me some money soon.

Isabell Bonham, Miss Pentree's roommate, is a little doll with loads of fluffy-duffy clothes. I think her slang and lipstick rather grate on Miss Pentree's nerves.

I love school, Sis, but I'm worried about finances. Why do you suppose Father doesn't send me some money? Mother's last letter said that he had sold some wheat. I wrote that the $100 was almost gone--Janet.

Memorial Hall
October 10, 1928

Ma Cherie:

Bonjour. Comment vous portez-vous? See how fast I'm learning French?

You seemed worried in your last letter about my grades. You think I'm going to too many dances, don't you, old dear? And you think I should be conservative with the remains of my $100 and start looking for a position.

Well, we only go to college once and I'm having such lovely times!

And, listen--deep, dark secret--the $100 is almost gone. It won't be long now.

I sent Father a special last night explaining that I didn't want to work unless I just had to because all the girls would look down on me. And besides, I don't know any kind of work to do. Yours in anxiety.--Janet

October 12, 1928

Dear Mart:

The $100 is going fast. I haven't heard from Father.--Janet

October 14, 1928

Dearest Sis:

It's gone!!!--Janet.

Friday, November 5, 2010

JANET MAKES HER OWN WAY; part 2; by Mabel Hester Green, 1929

The other advice he gave me doesn't worry me either--that was that I had better not join a sorority this year, even if I was asked. I want to get acquainted first, anyway. Then I'll know which one I want. I am rather thrilled over my two rush dates, a tea tomorrow afternoon and dance that night.

I'm just a tiny bit homesick tonight, though, in spite of all the thrills. I went over the place for a last goodby look before Father drove me to the station. I'll miss it loads. I can just imagine the family sitting down to supper just about this time and the breeze coming in at the window and the frogs croaking down in the pasture. Don't forget to write to your little sister.---Janet

Memorial Hall, September 26, 1928
Dearest Mart:

I have gone to classes two days.
Registration was a pain, but the rest of the red tape wasn't so bad. I had to write out the family history and pedigree and take an all-over test to find out whether I could spell and whether I had flat feet. Since then we've been left in peace.

I'm taking mathematics, French, English composition, and typewriting--and, oh, yes, gym.

Mathematics scares me. Prof. Wade is a cross looking little man. He sure does assign lessons, too. We have twenty--think of it--twenty problems to work for tomorrow.

We are to write an autobiography for English composition. I'd like to read the story of Miss Osborne's life. (She's the teacher.) I'll bet it's been exciting. She has red hair and she may make things exciting for us.

Oh, and I do wish you could see ze leetle French professor with his leetle moustache. I keep my eyes on my book in that class. I would explode with laughter if I looked up at him.

The typewriting teacher is sweet. If I work real hard at my typing maybe I can get a job in about a month. Fees and first month's room and board made quite a hole in my bank account.

But I think Father can help me later. It's only a matter of time.---Janet

Monday, November 1, 2010

JANET MAKES HER OWN WAY; part 1; by Mabel Hester Green, 1929

Memorial Hall, Collegetown, Indiana, September 18, 1928

Dearest Sister Martha:

At last I've left the farm behind me and I'm off to college! I'm just thrilled to a peanut.

When the conductor shouted "Collegetown" my heart went flutter, flutter, and I grabbed my traveling bag, and my hat box and the flowers dear old Bob gave me, and my purse and the box of candy Roy thrust on me at the last minute, and squeezed down the aisle.

The conductor smiled at my bundles. Some of the students crowding behind me smiled, too I don't see why. I'm sure I looked quite sophisticated and collegiate in my new gray suit and new hat. (The sweetest little red hat, Mart, that mother got for me the day we drove in to Frankfort after you went back to work.)

Well, the minute I stepped off the train I was swamped by taxi drivers--but I needn't go into detail--you were through it all many times yourself the four years you were here.

When we reached the new Memorial Hall I was shown my room on the second floor. And, oh, Sis, the Hall is the most beautiful place. It was completed just last fall so the furniture and floors are new and shining. It has fireplaces and cozy little corners downstairs and the dearest little rooms. I have a dozen ideas for making ours look both elegant and comfy.

You notice I said ours, for I have a roommate. Miss Ellsworth, may I present Miss Sarah Jones? Now, you are properly introduced.

Miss Jones is not so good-looking, Mart, and wears very mannish clothes. She tells me that she intends to study Latin and work her way through school.

And mention of work makes me think of something else. Father had quite a serious talk with me about finances before I left home. He has had some bad luck. Mother wrote you about his losing so many hogs from the cholera, didn't she? And his wheat didn't thrash out as well as he expected--and he hadn't expected much either. So what with low prices and everything he had to renew that note Mother has for so long been hoping that they could get paid off this fall. He said he hated it, but that if I wanted to come to school I would have to pay my own bills. He thinks it will be good training for me, too, because I spent so much in high school.

Why, Mart, I never had many clothes while I was in high school. For graduation even, I had only four dresses and Alma Marie had five.

Father said he thought making my own expenses would teach me the value of money. Of course I had my heart set on going to college so I agreed to pay my bills if it was necessary.

All the clothes I needed to start with Father bought and he gave me $100 to last until I found some work to do. He is such an old dear. When he gets in a cheerful humor again and sells some more corn he'll relent and send me all the money I need. A hundred will last a long time so I'm not going to worry about a job. If worst comes to worst you would help me out.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Mrs. Rose Schleppi, Columbus, Ohio

Three children; 56-acre dairy farm; born in Germany and spent her girlhood there; married after coming to the United States and moved to present farm. Her husband died but she and the children have operated the farm successfully, although oftentimes she has had to work in the field. Her mother-in-law lived with her many years, and she says of her, "She was one grand woman, we never had a jar." (A Jar?? A fight, perhaps? Laurie)
"Success in homemaking is measured by the way the family keeps interested in the home, and by the principles of right living and the education with which the children are equipped."

Mrs. A. J. Denton, Concord, Tennessee

Eight children; 160-acre farm; four sons above school age are all farming; seven springs on the farm furnish water which is bottled and sold in Knoxville; Mrs. Denton teaches basket making at a girls' camp each summer and sells baskets of her own.
"I want most for my children, when they grow up, good educations, Christians homes, congenial partners and well trained children."

Mrs. L. E. McClung, Rupert, Tennessee

Has two children and is foster mother to an orphan girl; 200 acres of cleared land; has lived forty years on same farm, in the mountains, twenty miles from a railroad; manages the farm and has built up a herd of purebred Jerseys with records in production and show ring; has been active in many organizations.
"I hope to spend my old age here, where I can milk cows, feed folks and chickens, help my fellow men and face the sun when the end comes."

Mrs. Ray Ward, Elkins, Tennessee

Nine children; 130-acre farm; earns $900 a year selling bread, cakes and chickens; takes one week's vacation every year; two of her daughters are "All-Star" 4-H club members; she and her husband are partners in fact as well as in theory "for you can't be anything else and have a real home."
"A homemaker is a success if she has raised a large family to be good, honorable citizens and if they still think 'there's no place like home.'"

Mrs. Asia Watson, Little Falls, Tennessee

Three children; 30-acre fruit and poultry farm, which she and Mr. Watson have changed from a "thicket and briar patch" to an attractive farmstead in ten years; "pet" labor saver is a dish drainer; family often sings together, for she believes "music is oil for the household machinery."

Mrs. Earl Dickerson, Irene, South Dakota

Four adopted children; 440-acre diversified farm; in thirteen years she and her husband have transformed a rocky piece of bare prairie into a high-producing farm with an attractive landscaped farmstead with a comfortable, modern home; her flowers have attracted visitors from many states; has been Sunday School superintendent and has missed attending scarcely a Sunday in fifteen years; her home is a social and recreational center.
"I frequently breathe a silent prayer that God will keep me young in spirit so that I can always be a companion of children."

Monday, October 25, 2010


Mrs. H. E. Slusher, Lexington, Missouri:
Four children; 700-acre rented farm. Farming the Slusher homestead, obtained from the government just a century ago. Taught school in Los Angeles four years before marriage but prefers the farm and hopes to retire there. Whole family has annual examinations by doctor and dentist. Has kept home expenses accounts for eleven years.
"I'd have to live a hundred years to get the things done I'd like to do."

Mrs. Eugene Frank, Shirley, Illinois:
Eight children; farm 1,500 acres. Four sons still at home, partners in seed corn business. Three grandchildren come from Pittsburgh every summer "because the farm is the best place for them." Believes in providing recreation at home and has a pool table in the attic for the boys. Often entertains big delegations that come to see the seed corn and recently had one hundred forty Rotarians for dinner. Has been active in home bureau, History and Art club, Woman's club, Republican Women's club and Community club. On the school board for 12 years.
"I am not a very good housekeeper but aim to be a good homemaker, wife and mother."

Mrs. W. R. Eygabrood, Geneva, Illinois:
Two children, 100-acre rented farm. Although they rent the farm, Mrs. Eygobrood has made an ugly house into an attractive home. She painted floors that were a dirty yellow color, put fresh paper over dark colored walls, made unfinished upstairs into pleasant sleeping rooms, using homemade rugs and curtains. Bought her own pump and got water in the kitchen. Makes $500 a year with poultry.
"The motto in her home: 'Not yours, not mine, but ours.'"

Mrs. M. E. Craven, Livia, Kentucky:
Five children; 414-acre diversified farm; one of her chief ambitions is to make her own and her husband's parents happy and she has insisted that her mother-in-law have the best room in the house.
"I want most for my children, good health, good characters and good education."

Mrs. Louis Diebel, Jeffersontown, Kentucky:
Four children; 12-acre truck and flower farm; children are active in 4H clubs; for several years lived in the same house with her parents-in-law, two brothers-in-law and two sisters-in-law, and says "a happier family couldn't have been found."

Mrs. O. H. Lukens, Kent, Ohio
Five children; 37-acre truck farm; has four hired men to cook for most of the year; hobby is drawing plans for new farm homes and for remodelling old ones; believes much credit "for any success I have attained" should go to her husband for his co-operation.
"I believe every child should be educated for intelligent parenthood."

Friday, October 22, 2010


Mrs. F. H. Cotterell, Bates City, Missouri:

One child; 81-acre farm, was a milliner until she married. Six months afterward moved with her husband to homestead in western Kansas and lived first in a tent, then in a granary, the only building they could put up. There was plenty of room in it for the first three crops were failures; sometimes entertained ten people in this "home." Adopted a four-weeks-old baby weighing five and a half pounds and reared it to be a healthy, normal child. Later built a house with a basement. In a few years more came back to western Missouri with $12,000. Home now has much electric equipment and many other conveniences. Sells six to eight cases of eggs a week and hopes to establish a farm hatchery.
"Life to my husband and me has always been a great game."

Mrs. J. C. Payne, Garden City, Missouri:

Four children; 360-acre farm. Has organized the Payne Literary Society, including all members of the family. Mr. Payne is president, she is vice-president and a daughter is secretary. She hopes it will be a permanent organization for her descendants. Also is planning the Payne family orchestra. Has built amateur stage, lighted with electricity in the barn loft, for children's dramatics, some of which they write themselves. Favorite recreation of the family is walking over the farm together.

Mrs. Eli Taillon, Cavalier, North Dakota:

Ten children, 20 to 36 years old, seven living on farms. Gets dinner every day for twelve persons. Definition of good health includes "A healthy mind, full of grit and vitality to carry on life's duties and a little left over for emergencies." Has been trying to have school board make improvements in school for several years and hopes to succeed this year; also worked successfully for road improvement. Although the father uses tobacco none of her seven sons smoke. (What an odd thing to mention! Laurie)
"The Master Farm Homemaker honor will be precious to my descendants for generations."

Mrs. F. R. Brokaw, Fullerton, North Dakota:

Three children, 200-acre rented farm. Taught school four years before marriage; makes $1,000 a year with poultry; favorite books are Ben Hur, Ivanhoe, Last Days of Pompeii, Tale of Two Cities, and Eben Holden; has family worship before breakfast.
"Home is the place where we do our best living."

Mrs. E. B. Wollan, Fairdale, North Dakota:

Three children, 320-acre farm. Taught rural school and now boards the teacher; is teaching her children to love country life and the whole family prides itself on knowing practically every kind of bird in North Dakota; her chief ambition is to educate her children and fit them for a useful life.
"Home is a success if the family prefers to stay there."

Monday, October 18, 2010


In the 20s and 30s, The Farmer's Wife had something called, "Master Homemakers." The editors said, "We would like to tell the complete story of the thirty-one new Master Farm Homemakers, but we can present only these brief sketches. Yet you can see in these stories something of the fullness of the lives of these women.

Mrs. D. A. Ross; Afton, Ohio
One child; 240-acre livestock farm which has been in the family more than 150 years; part of the house is over 100 years old but is equipped with electrical appliances. She made more than $1,000 last year with poultry.
"I hope to spend my old age on the farm, with lots of friends to visit me, with enough strength to walk out-of-doors, live with nature and talk with the Creator of all."

Mrs. John V. Chitwood; Pratt, Kansas
Seven children, all living on farms; 320 acre grain and livestock farm, came as a bride forty-four years ago to a barren looking homestead, a-top a wagon load of household goods; the same farm is her home today; first house was blown away and she and her husband waded in water knee-deep to the nearest neighbor's; that fall she moved into a newly-built home which is the dining-room of her present home; led a successful three-year fight for a consolidated school.

Mrs. Allen Sharp; Greenfield, Ohio
Two children; 180-acre farm, her home for 38 years; plans her meals four to seven days ahead in order not to have the same things too often; has not only planted her own home grounds but has given much nursery stock to the neighbors.
"I am trying to make our family life so satisfying that the city will not attract the children."

Mrs. M. W. Fulton; Cherry Run, West Virginia
Three children; 900-acre farm, 175 acres in orchard and 40 acres of plow land; born in England; took a motherless girl of sixteen into her home and instructed her in the arts of homemaking, now the girl is happy in a home of her own; one son is a former naval officer and a graduate of Annapolis; her children had a tennis court, croquet grounds and baseball diamond.
"I hope to be an all-around farmer's wife, a wise mother, a kind and considerate mother-in-law, an understanding grandmother, a helpful neighbor and always a Christian.

Mrs. W. V. Riggs; Trafalgar, Missouri
Four children, 250-acre farm. Organized the 4-H girls' club in her county and is still leader of a club in which 31 girls finished a clothing project. Active in church activities and home project work. Sells hatching eggs, as well as poultry, for extra income.
"I happen to have the best husband in the world."

Friday, October 15, 2010

PLANT A TREE FOR BABY; by Mr. & Mrs. L. E. Potter; 1932

To plant a blue spruce for every grandchild is the plan of Mr. and Mrs. L. E. Potter, living on Shady Lane Farm near Springfield, Minnesota.

They now have thirteen grandchildren and twelve spruce trees in their yard. A thirteenth will be planted for a baby who recently arrived. The oldest child and tree are now nineteen years of age.

"When we plant a tree it is quite an occasion," says Mrs. Potter. "After grandfather has tamped the ground and finished the job we place a stake there, two inches square, painted white with the child's name in black letters.

"It has been an interesting plan and we have taken a great deal of pleasure in it. It has increased the interest of all of us in the home farm, and it has been a reminder through the years of our family unity."

Of all the trees on the farm the grandchildren's are most treasured.

From Laurie: Some co-workers of my husband's gave us two maple trees when my dear in-laws passed away less than a year apart. Our family now calls them: "Grandma and Grandpa's trees." With our fall weather, they are a beautiful red color now. I surely do miss Mom and "The Warden." I couldn't have wished for better in-laws. Mom was a farmer's daughter; born in 1924.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB!; Happy in Texas; part 6; 1932

Life isn't all work and no play, nor do we lack for social divertissement. I attend regularly a reading club, Home Demonstration Club, and a dramatic club which produces two plays a year. We play cards an evening or two a week, either at a neighbor's home or our own, and we attend as many good shows, concerts and art exhibits as our finances and babies allow. There are frequent barbecues and picnics, and an occasional barn dance or school entertainment, most of them impromptu and real fun.

I find at these gatherings a number of women like myself, all doing their own homemaking and enjoying it. They are as a rule, healthy and intelligent wives and mothers. They drive their own cars, and are actively interested in many activities outside their homes. They are partners to their husbands in every sense of the word, and are helping to make it a success. Divorce? We never hear of it except in the daily papers. We haven't enough leisure to feel ourselves mistreated or abused.

Perhaps men and women grow nearer and dearer to each other on a farm--I do not know,--but depending entirely on each other for companionship must make it true. Hardships draw people closer, I happen to know. The nearest I ever felt to my husband was during a terrific hailstorm that shattered every window, splintered the shutters, and crumpled the roof, as well as destroying every living and growing thing on our farm. We stood there, or rather crouched, behind the shelter of two inner walls and a mattress, each holding a terrified baby, and though not a word was exchanged--well, we were sharing both fear and courage.

We farmer folk who are standing by our land, are feeling a bit as the old-time pioneers must have felt. We hear a lot about farm relief and depression and low prices, and all of it is real enough. The past few years have held heartache and sacrifices. We have almost forgotten what money looks like, and would probably shy at a ten dollar bill as old dobbin shied at the threshing machine. Our products are exchanged for the few bare necessities we do have to buy, and often are inadequate. Once in a great while I save enough pennies for a new book or a new sheet of music, and how we do enjoy them,--reading them carefully so as not to lose one precious word, hoarding their bits of beauty and wisdom as we hoarded the pennies with which to buy them.

The wise farmer and his homemaker, if they are healthy and intelligent, are not going hungry, and we are glad that this going without has come to us while we are young. This isn't a tale of hard times, but a story of a farmer's wife, who is doing her best to make the old Homestead into a home worth having. THE END

(I'm sorry that I never met this woman. She was 27 at this writing in 1932. That would have put her birth year at about 1905. Could she have been your grandmother? I imagine that we all would like to claim her. Laurie)

Friday, October 8, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB; "Happy in Texas," part 5; 1932

Finally after several weeks, I am resuming this narrative from a young and happy farm wife from Texas.

I couldn't begin to name all my various undertakings, but I did enjoy being interior decorator. The house was quite the most drab and uninviting I every stepped into, but it has changed. I painted the dark woodwork a rich ivory, (and nearly 80 years later, we are scraping that paint off! :) and tinted the plastered walls. I have ruffled curtains and made and framed silhouettes. I have made footstools of coffee cans, and book shelves from apple crates. I have smoothed and varnished floors, and refinished old walnut furniture that I brought for a song. I even learned to weave cane seats for stubby dining chairs that many have since admired, and an old walnut rocker that I found in the barn loft is now a lovely thing with high back and seat of cane. I have made shades for the kerosene lamps, and added countless gay candlesticks and candles. My living room is a north room with maize colored walls, and a beautiful view. The single oil painting on its walls was exhibited at the Philadelphia Exposition. I took second prize on this room last year in a County Living Room contest, and my only expenditure was my own work and one dollar and a half.

All my linens are handmade, and will wear for years. I take great pleasure in keeping the beds snowy and fresh, and I am not at all above piecing together bits of the blue shirt I liked on John, and the babies' first rompers, and my old blue frock and the yellow kitchen curtains and making a quilt of them that will later be tufted into feathery softness. There is something soul-satisfying about sleeping beneath bits of your life sewed together into stars.

Sewing is part of my job, too, for I have to do all my own in order to make the most of the money we have to spend. I sew for myself and the children, and we are not especially "country looking," either. My machine is an antiquated relic, but it sews a straight seam with a bit of persuasion.

I am not a huge success as a gardener, but I am learning, and it is certainly a pleasant task in the early spring to dig and putter in the warming earth and to plan and plant. What gorgeous things it does promise after you have read the seed catalogues, and even if it never lives up to them, still if you are a faithful gardener, you can have green things a-growin' for your table, and beauty for your eyes. Beans and beets and spinach and carrots are important foods for the body, but just as important to me are the early pansies and violets, the purple and pink and white of larkspur and cosmos and phlox and zinnias. They are food for the soul.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I really appreciated Kathy's comment about understanding her grandmother better because of these prize winning letters. Besides simply loving these letters, they did have a curiosity for me also. The subjects often ran on the same theme and were many times stated in the same way. It seemed to me that these women sat under the same teacher, but how could that be? I have since discovered that there was a movement in the early 1900s that among other things, was a force in encouraging farmers and their families to stay on the farm. To any of you historians who would like to understand this subject better, I will include two links about The Country Life Movement.

I am sorry, but due to some computer problems, my postings have been off schedule. I plan to regularly begin my Monday and Friday postings beginning today.

Please accept my thanks to all of you who are reading these letters and articles from The Farmer's Wife magazine. It is a privilege to be able to share the lives of these women who could easily be our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers. They were truly amazing women.

In case you didn't notice, the third place winning letter follows this post.


THIRD PRIZE LETTER from the "Do You Want Your Daughter to Marry a Farmer," 1922; By Mrs. Cola L. Fountain; Jefferson County, New York

That depends on the farmer. I would wish him to have health, ambition, broadmindedness and vital religion.

Country life needs the assistance of far-seeing men and women. Each community must have a percentage of unselfish, helpful farmers and their wives who are willing to build up the weak places in their community at personal sacrifice.

Farm life has its disadvantages; so has city life. Because the rural school needs attention, the country church needs aid, and the spirit of neighborliness and co-operation is weak in many communities, the country offers a wide field for tireless, tactful service, which will result in a corresponding development of the individuals engaged therein.

Farm and home bureaus, backed by the United States Department of Agriculture, are doing a wonderful work, but they will reach their limit unless the farmers and their wives grasp the opportunities they offer and fit them to their needs. There must be found in every rural group, someone who will stand back of the efforts the Government is making for Agriculture, and help by voice, example and spirit to put them over.

One's words go far in a rural community and one's influence counts. There are dangers threatening the very foundations of American farm life, and in order to decrease them, farmers must put forth sound, sane and well-balanced efforts. They must read, think and act.

Country life is sometimes narrow but it never has to be. There is no need for a woman who can see the sky, the rising and setting sun and the wonders of the soil beneath her feet, to spend undue time in reflecting upon the littlenesses in her neighbor's character. A mind filled with large interests is never narrow and the country furnishes those interests today. If we are narrow in the country we should be just as warped in the city.

Many city conveniences can be installed in farm homes. I have never had any of these myself. I should be delighted if my daughter's home could have them but I hope she has been so reared as to realize that her truest happiness does not depend upon conveniences, but that the soul-satisfying life is the one whose days are filled with well-directed efforts.

If she can marry a farmer with whom she can join heart and effort to make her corner of the community an uplifting example of the bedrock of American Yeomanry, if she and her husband can be relied upon to push forward every measure that will help to break the plaster cast in which the "backbone of the nation" is at present largely encased, then both her father and I shall bid her God-speed.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Second Prize Letter from the "Do You Want Your Daughter to Marry a Farmer" booklet.

Dear Mary: Your letter saying that there is nothing that you "want so much as a chance at farm life with David," makes us very happy.

We have had some quiet amusement over Aunt Florence's objections. From her standpoint, they are natural enough. One is born "rural-minded" or one is not. Her views have been distorted by newspaper, magazine, stage and Government statistics proving (?) the drudgery of farm life. Happily you realize its beauty and value.

Life's values are not measured by such standards as ease of living, fashionable clothes and carefully tended hands. Service makes living beautiful. There is no reason why a farm woman should neglect her personal appearance. Your splendid health and David's, with
your fine ideals for home and community life, would make you shine anywhere.

Both of you love to work and are especially adapted to country living. Your tastes are domestic. Your love for animals and gardening will make you in sympathy with David's ventures in crops and cows. You delight to see the sun rise!

Both of you understand that it is the discipline of the farm, the insistence of its duties, the certainties of its penalties and the great fact that you are working with Nature in the things that make the world go, that make the farmer a broad, self-reliant, forceful individual. Strength is refreshed daily because he is dealing with the elemental facts of life.

David's social instincts match yours. Denied the finest lectures, concerts, dramas, your opportunities will be great for helping to secure worthwhile recreation for a large, scattered, needy group. School and church need your help. I believe with Bailey, that "a man cannot be a good farmer unless he is a religious man."

"The Fellowship of the Productive Life," says Carver, "does not offer the insult of a life of ease, or aesthetic enjoyment or emotional ecstasy. It offers instead, the joy of productive achievement of participation in the Kingdom of God." Read it with David.

Do not be disturbed because you cannot start with all of the labor-savers. Things were shabby when we began. Half the fun of having "things" is in working intelligently for them. You will have a fairly convenient house, running water and a good woodpile! Father jokes about my measuring a man by water and wood but there is more in it than appears.

Your small musical talent enriches your life. Rosalie has real talent. I feel as certain that she should not marry a farmer as that you should--since it is to be David. When she considers marriage, I hope that she may find her husband among one of the other honorable professions. Note the "other." There is no more honorable profession than farming--but each for the niche for which he is best fitted to play his part in the world.

Here comes David. I will let him read this. Blessings on you both.--Your loving mother.

Friday, September 24, 2010

THE STRENGTH OF THE NATION COMES FROM THE SOIL; Mrs. Fannie L. Brundage; Fairfield County, Connecticut


When I compiled The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt, I did not use the first, second or third place winning letters. Today I will post the first place letter in its entirety.

Yes, even in the light of the hard years I have spent upon the farm, I would be willing for my daughter to marry a farmer because I believe in a constructive policy for farm homes and that true happiness is found in well-rendered service. In something so vitally necessary to the growth and progress of our nation as is agriculture, it is wisest for us farmers not to decry our occupation, nor to make mountains of our difficulties and molehills of our pleasures.

The strength of our nation lies in the youth of our land, and, with intelligent care, nowhere can boys and girls be reared to a sturdier manhood and womanhood than on our farms.

If our men are to till our farms to feed the multitudes, side by side with them must be women to help carry on. Who are better fitted than our daughters who can bring to their task understanding hearts?

"Oh," but I hear some one say, "It is such a hard life?" Have you ever known any great work, of brawn or brain wrought by one seeking the "easy job?" The making of happy farm homes is a great work.

Our government is awaking to the fact that the farmer is to be reckoned with in our national policies. Our home demonstration agents are showing us farm women how to make becoming and inexpensive clothing; the automobile is making it possible to do and see many interesting things--and get home for "chores." On many a lonely farm, our club workers are touching the lives of boys and girls, inspiring them with a keen interest in their work and surroundings.

Last, but not least, the farmer is aroused as he never has been and is speaking for himself. When he shall have spoken wisely enough, I hope the great lack in the life of our farm woman today--ready money--will be filled and she will have machinery to relieve the drudgery of her work and opportunity to enjoy some of the niceties of life. It is her due. To such a life I would gladly give my daughter.

I love the country; take a keen interest in farmer folk; admire their sincerity, quick sympathies, and sane and clean thinking. I find true enjoyment in the changing seasons; the spot where the children find the first hepatica; the bird songs; the beautiful colorings of the skies, the refreshing spring water; the feeling of nearness to the Creator of all things good and beautiful.

Because of this and because I am an American Patriot, I should like to pass this legacy on to my daughter's children.

Monday, September 6, 2010

MODERN QUILTING SURVEY; Quilting in America 2010

For the first time on my blog, I will be departing from my usual vintage letters and stories. A lovely quilting friend of mine, Barbara J. from Illinois, sent this survey to me. It is from Creative Craft Groups "Quilting in America 2010." It is a rather extensive survey, so I will just include the highlights.

1. 14% of U.S. households (16.38 million) are home to at least one active quilter.

2. Estimated total dollar value of the quilting industry is 3.58 billion.

3. "Dedicated Quilters" are defined as those households that spend more than $600
per year on quilting-related purchases.

4. The dedicated quilter is:
62 years of age
Well educated (72% attended college)
Affluent ($91,602 household income)
Quilting for an average of 16 years
44% prefer traditional quilts...50% enjoy both traditional and contemporary

5. 85% have a room dedicated to sewing/quilting activities
On average, she has $8,542 of quilting tools & supplies
On average, she owns $3,677 worth of fabric

6. She owns 2.7 sewing machine; 25% own more than 4 machines

7. In the past 12 months, each purchased an average of 93.6 yards of fabric.

8. In the past 12 months, each spent an average of $144.10 on thread.

9. Bought an average of 4.4 quilting books for last 12 months.

10. She subscribes to or reads an average of 4.4 quilting magazines.

11. 91% own a personal computer
73% regularly access the internet
Average 2 hours per week on quilting websites
28% belong to facebook

12. Key Findings:
16.38 million quilting households in the U.S. (down 14% from 2006)
Total number of quilters in the U.S. is 21.3 million (down 23% from 2006)
Average quilting household annual expenditure is up 27% to $216

Really interesting and I thank Barbara for sending it to me.
I will continue "I Glory in my Job," after my new book announcement on September 9th. Bye for now...

Friday, September 3, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB!; "Happy in Texas;" part 4; 1932

Lusty appetites must be fed, and the converting of wholesome food into sound minds and sturdy bodies is no child's play. It demands time and thought and energy and imagination. In addition to food, there must be flowers and fresh linen and the wedding silver on my table for I want them to be an integral part of my sons' education. Farm folk need to live as beautifully as any others, and doesn't cost a bit more. It is wholly up to the homemaker.

With the help of my partner I have taken entire care of my babies. I have suffered when they cried, and laughed when they smiled; I have known the discovery of a first tooth, and the pride of a first step. It is to me they bring each baby joy or sorrow, and all the freedom in the world could not mean what their confidence means. Perhaps I shall some day do a lot of my lost adventuring through the eyes of my boys, but have quelled my own wanderlust in order to make the little valley a home that will always bring them back from their wanderings. I am sure that I could not have shared their babyhood with another no matter how efficient or well trained. It has been too precious.

It has not been all roses. There has been thousands of small annoyances like water fights on clean white linen suits and mud pies down the front of rompers that I had worked half an hour to iron. There have been brief spankings and the attendant howls of rage, and the breaking of bits of glass that I particulary loved, like the soft rose beige vase of Brookfield ware. There was one week of zero weather when I took bricks and broke the tiny frozen garments off the clothesline, and there were sleepless nights when both children had whooping cough, and I was sure that they were choking to death before my very eyes. However, there have been plenty of compensations, and I would go through it all again to hear those baby voices saying their "Now I lay me," and to get those good-night kisses. Did you ever hold a baby, all fat and bathed and sleepy and warm, and feel it go limp with the touch of the Sandman? Drudgery? That is Heaven! the heaven of your own creation.

Note: I will continue with parts 5 & 6, in a few weeks.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB!; "Happy in Texas;" part 3; 1932

There's a heap of preparation and excitement when the bees are robbed. Daddy dons his bee bonnet and gloves, and the babies are carefully corralled on the porch until it is over. How good the honey tastes when it is fresh--that means hot biscuits for breakfast. It is strained and put away in stone crocks, along with gallons of molasses, freshly-boiled from the ribbon cane that grows on our own brown acres. And part of my duty seems to me to be crisp molasses cookies and taffy.

There are strutting turkeys and garrulous White Leghorns in the barnyard, for a farm wife must often play poulterer, too. That means fresh eggs in abundance, and the tender flesh of cock and hen, but at times it means nursing senseless baby chicks through their period of babyhood, and they can be annoying though interesting. A small turkey is the most brainless thing that ever had the gift of life, but when it has attained twenty-seven pounds and a parsley trimming, it becomes worth while.

I do not milk, but I could in a pinch, and often do in the summer evenings so that we may all join in the evening swim. I do, however, attend to the milk, wash and scald all the utensils, make the butter and cheese, and put away the heavy golden cream that will add so much to tomorrow's plain pudding.

Twice a week I bake in my temperamental wood range. How a stove as pesky as that one can turn out such crispy, crusty loaves, I don't know, but it usually does. Often on baking day there are cinnamon rolls or coffee cake, which are really just bread dough all dressed up. Why I even make my own yeast cakes! Common everyday things like cornmeal and buttermilk are converted into that mysterious something that makes the bread rise.

Butcher? Just another sideline. Sometime before Christmas every year, hogs are changed into tender hams, spareribs, bacon, sausage, headcheese, and buckets of white lard, not to mention homemade soap. That soap is more magic. I am proud of it, for it is snowy white, faintly fragrant, and it floats--and I made it! Drudgery? No achievement!

Friday, August 27, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB!; "Happy in Texas;" part 2; 1932

No danger of unemployment for the farm woman. There is work of one kind or another always waiting for her, but it is certainly varied enough, and busy persons are usually happy ones. It seems to me that caring for your loved ones is a God-given privilege. It is not in the least degrading to preform every task connected with making a home, rather it lends a certain dignity to life.

The farm wife over her wash tub! How our novelists have harped on that plaintive theme,--a bent figure slaving away at endless piles of dirty clothes. Quite naturally there are days when it seems hard, when you wake up out of sorts and everything seems hard, but there are many more wash days that are fun! Yes, kind sir, I do all of the washing for my own house and family, and as yet have no washing machine. I do it in tubs with the help of a washboard and I get as much satisfaction out of changing a heap of soiled, wrinkled clothing into fresh-smelling, orderly piles as I ever got out of eighteen holes of golf, and I am sure that I get as much exercise. Hanging snowy sheets and shirts against a cloud-hung blue sky with fresh-clipped green grass under foot, and a vagabond breeze in the air, is fun!

Please do not gather from this that I am a low-brow drudge who knows nothing else. I play McDowell and Tschaikowsky because I love them, and I enjoy Sinclair Lewis and Edna Ferber and Thackeray and Wells. Washing just happens to be one of my sidelines.

Another sideline is being my own butcher and baker and candlestick maker. It is a good thing to learn complete independence, especially when there are no shops just around the corner, and no money to spend. At first this seemed a hardship, but I have learned my job so thoroughly that I can now serve a complete and well-balanced meal from soup to nuts without counting on anyone.

From my cellar I can bring tomatoes, corn, cured meats (venison in season), fruit, jellies, preserves, relishes, pickles, vegetables--all of them raised on our own farm. Of course all this is work, but there is only one difference in working for money with which to buy food, and working directly for the food itself, and that, of course, is the immense pride that you take in your own products.

Monday, August 23, 2010

I GLORY IN MY JOB!; "Happy in Texas"; part 1; 1932

When the census-taking man called at our home, I parked the babies in the sandpile and sat for half an hour answering his questions. When he came to my occupation, he looked from under his brows in all solemnity and asked, "You don't do anything, do you?" Without even awaiting a reply, he wrote, "Occupation--Housewife."

I protest! I refuse to be draply set aside. I demand the title of Homemaker and defy the world to say that homemaking is doing nothing. It is a profession, and those of us so listed labor at it. It is a labor of love. There is no monthly salary. The pay is merely the little sweetnesses of everyday family life, and I must sift them out of their attendant pains and sacrifices. The business of making a home--an honest-to-goodness home, with cookies and pillow fights and firelit hours and books and beds and joys and tears--that is a job--a great, grand task.

I happen to be not only a Homemaker but a Farm Homemaker. I glory in it.

That I am only one among thousands of others is a point to be stressed. I am representative of my class, and I am decidedly not stooped nor wrinkled. I am sun-tanned and straight two pounds underweight from a summer of strenuous hours in Ye Olde Swimming Hole (I do a rather nice crawl stroke, too.) My hair has a natural wave, and doesn't string, and I never wear sunbonnets. Instead of drab calico, I make my own house frocks of gay, fast-colored prints with fresh white collars, and I wear happy-looking aprons over them.

While we are getting acquainted, I might add that I have been at my present job for five years, and am still in my twenties. I earned my own living for five years before I married, and at present have two sons--husky young lads of two and three.

From a honeymoon of care free happiness, I came to our Old Homestead, a rambling farmhouse built half a century ago, and typical of the times--high ceilings, plastered walls, no closets, wood heaters, not enough windows, coal-oil lamps. There is a big zinc sink without a drain. Running water has been installed, but drinking water is still drawn from a well with a rope and bucket and pulley. There is a temperamental wood range for cooking, and you raise a door and go down a flight of steps into the dim, dirt-floored cellar.

To be continued...

Friday, August 20, 2010

WHERE WE CAN REALLY LIVE; Mrs. M.B., Nebraska; December 1929

My grandparents, on both sides, were farmers. Some of my happiest days were those summers I spent as a child at "dampers,"--a baby name for "grandpa" that has stuck.

My parents have always lived in town, and it has been one long grind of deeping up with the demands of city life. Never enough money, no matter how much! Always noise, confusion, and restlessness.

My husband was raised on a farm. And now the children love to sit in the evening and hear him tell of the days when he was a little boy. Fishing and swimming, climbing the huge, gnarled apple trees, walking barefoot down the road, kicking up the hot dust between his toes, riding the high loads of hay, going after the cows. It's like a fairy story to them. They don't know that such things are real happenings!

It makes me fairly sick to think that all the things that go to make up ideal childhood are denied them. I look at their surroundings with a scornful and rebellious heart. A tiny little two by four year and beyond that, the asphalt street, always roaring with traffic. Now, I ask you, is that any way for children to live and play? No wonder they're so tired and cross in hot weather. And I, too.

It's our dream to be able some day soon, to get a little place out somewhere, where we can really live. Where my husband doesn't have to leave in early morning and be gone until dark. We'll have a hard time, of course. But, oh, the compensations! We're used to the hard time. How we pinch and scrape! But so far we haven't had any compensations.

Monday, August 16, 2010



I took a notion last year that I'd set out a strawberry patch or bust. It was one-half acre exactly. When I finished the harvest, I had taken in $367.47. Expense for pickers was $47, at the rate of three cents a quart. I had to market the berries all myself as Hubby was too busy in the fields. Sometimes I made two trips a day to town, a distance of 14 miles. My little girl helped carry them in from the patch.

Oh, yes, of course I had to neglect my housework, but now after it is all over I'm going to make everything clean and pretty and will have a nice little roll in the bank besides.

Does it pay for a farmer's wife to have a business of her own? I'll let the rest of you argue about the question. But I will say that I think that there are some females who need responsibility to make them real women.--Mrs. W.G., Ohio


My cookies looked very nice with their two raisins shining through the thin wrapping paper. They were taken to our curb market with other farm produce and my husband soon became known as "the cookie man." I sold for twenty-five cents a dozen, but if I lived where eggs were always high, I would get thirty cents. Soon the demand exceeded the supply. They were bought to be mailed as gifts, eaten at curb and even carried home by near neighbors. I also baked shredded-wheat bread in one and one-quarter pound loaves, selling at fifteen cents. One daughter and sometimes two, helped me.

My first venture was only two dozen. These "old-fashioned sugar cookies" can not be bought in shops and I am greatly indebted to The Farmer's Wife (for giving me the idea.)--Another Cookie Lady, New York.

Friday, August 13, 2010

DREAMS; by Mary E. Willits; 1931

She used to have a dream,
Of songs that she would sing,
Of silks and diamonds she would wear,
Of all the pleasures wealth would bring.

She used to have a dream
To climb a snow-capped mountain high,
To write a poem of sighing winds,
To paint a sun-splashed western sky.

But all those dreams of yesterday
Have changed, and have become more fair;
The songs she sings are lullabies,
Her wealth--her baby's golden hair.

She has not climbed the mountain's peak,
Nor has the things that wealth can give.
But still she has this great dream left--
To teach her baby how to live.

She used to dream--
Of wealth and power and fame.
And though no crowds will call her great,
God surely knows her name.

Friday, August 6, 2010

BOXES; 1929

So many girls have "boxes" for their friends,--specially cut "boxes" made of firm, rigid materials that never stretch or bend. Have you sometimes heard them trying to fit into them their different acquaintances?

"What makes Amy wear such awful clothes?"

"Jim can't talk about anything except those smelly chemistry experiments of his. Why, he doesn't even like basketball games."

"Why doesn't Hildreth cut off those braid? Nobody wears their hair like that nowadays!"

"Oh, Robert is good at school but he can't dance or anything and he's always talking about books."

So each of us brings forth a "box" of special prejudices and tries to push others into it. How hard it is to make them fit! Clothes here, manners there, won't be squeezed into our box at all! Out must go the misfits, for if they won't fit into our special "box," what's the use of trying to be friends with them?

Other girls have another kind of "box"; one which seems to have room for the most amazing sort of things.

There is Mary, for instance. She can't do anything especially well; but she is always asked to parties and to serve on committees. At meetings it's always Mary who thinks of something to keep different factions from hurling sharp words at each other because of the new pins or what play to give or whether Grant's Grove or Silver Lake would be the nicest place for the annual picnic.

Sometimes Mary's friends chide her about the acquaintances she makes. Perhaps it's their funny clothes or their nationality or their manners. But Mary is loyal. Haven't you heard her?

"Why, Bob isn't funny even if his clothes are shabby and a little queer. He is generous and clever and you know there wasn't anybody at school last year who knew as much about literature as he."

"Oh, don't you think that Hildreth's hair is lovely? At camp last summer she looked like a Nordic princess in that dance costume. Don't you remember?"

It is a happy sort of "box" which Mary keeps and to what interesting shapes it must bend and stretch to hold all of the widely varying sorts of friends that she gathers to herself.

Monday, August 2, 2010

GOD IS LOVE; Anna in Nebraska; December 1929

Guess I'll just write a line and give you a peep into the life of another busy farmer's wife. Married at fifteen, I became the mother of five rosy, chubby babies in less than eight years. When the third babe arrived we decided town was no place for a "poor man," so we rented a farm.

Well, the first year our hogs died with cholera; the second, all the kiddies, including Daddy, were very sick with scarlet fever; and the third, our four work horses broke the gate and got into the seed wheat and died. Such has been our luck, but have we given up? Not much!

It's true I've shed a good many tears, and it isn't so funny to wear a winter coat ten years. Yet a person can't afford to think of these trivial matters where others are concerned. And when at meal time our baby Ken bows his curly head and says "God is Love," I can truly say I'm not sorry for the sacrifice.

Friday, July 30, 2010

CIRCUS LEMONADE; by Myrtle Jamison Trachsel; part 3; 1929

"Wait!" commanded the lemonade man. "The fire's out now and this boy hasn't had his lemonade."

He poured what was left into the big dipper and handed it to Jimmie. A crowd of circus people had gathered. Said the lemonade man, "There isn't a bit of water around this berg, and I don't know that I would have thought to use the lemonade if this boy hadn't dumped his glass on it the moment he saw the fire."

"Here, son," said the balloon man, "have a balloon. Have two of them."

The side-show man caught Jimmie's arm. "Come see the thinnest man on earth. Won't cost you a cent."

Jimmie went with him, his balloons in one hand and his lemonade in the other grimy fist.

"Here have some peanuts to take along with you," said the peanut man, as he stuffed a sack of nuts into each of Jimmie's pockets.

When he came out of the side show he found the elephant trainer waiting for him. The man was very much excited. "I don't think you know how bad it would have been to have fire break out in the hay at the elephants' feet. We have them chained but they could get away if they wanted to, and they certainly would have broken away if they had seen that fire. Come on in and see them."

Jimmie went gladly. There were only three elephants and they were not very large, but Jimmie thought them very fine indeed. When he had seen all the animals it was time for the elephants to go in and preform. Jimmie rode one of them in. It was very exciting, sitting up so high and feeling the great beast lumber along. Afterwards Jimmie saw the rest of the acts. He was sure it was the most wonderful circus in the world.

When it was all over he ran all the way back to town for fear his father would be waiting for him.

"Why, Jimmie, where have you been? I heard about the circus and came back almost at once. I wanted you to see the circus."

"Oh, I saw it."

"How could you when you had only a nickel?"

"Well, I bought circus lemonade with my nickel and they gave me the rest. Don't you see?"

His father did not see, but he understood well enough when he had heard the whole story. He said, proudly, "I see I have a boy who can use his head as well as his arms and legs."

Jimmie was not listening. He was thinking of the wonderful afternoon.

"It was very good," he murmured.

"What was?--the circus?"

"Yes, and the circus lemonade."

Monday, July 26, 2010

CIRCUS LEMONADE; by Myrtle Jamison Trachsel; part 2; 1929

No, that would not do. Jimmie went back to the entrance of the big tent. Perhaps if he stood there long enough the wind would blow the flap again and he would get a better view of the elephant. Then he heard someone crying, "Pink lemonade! Right this way for your circus lemonade. Al-l-l you can drink for a nickel!"

Jimmie looked at the great bowls of pink lemonade beside him.

"Try a little, son? Ice cold. Only a nickel a glass."

Jimmie hesitated a bit and then put his nickel down on the lemonade counter. He was very warm. The first sip made him feel better. He would drink it very slowly and not mind missing the circus--at least not very much.

A couple of young men hurried to the big tent. One stopped to throw away his cigarette. When Jimmie looked down he saw a thin finger of smoke in the hay that had been kicked out of the tent by the elephants. The hay blazed.

"Look!" cried Jimmie. "Fire!"

Even as he cried out he dashed his lemonade onto the flame. The fire died down for a second and then leaped again, racing along the bit of hay to the edge of the tent. The man behind the counter threw a dipper full of lemonade at the flame and missed it. He leaped over the counter, caught up one of the huge glass jars and poured the contents over the fire. The blaze died down, and others hurrying up, stamped it out. But a thin tongue of flame had escaped to one side. It sprang up and caught the flap of the tent on fire. Someone grabbed up the other jar of lemonade and poured most of it on the tent flap and the hay beneath.

Friday, July 23, 2010

CIRCUS LEMONADE; by Myrtle Jamison Trachsel; part 1; 1929

Jimmie did not know about the circus when he asked his father if he might wait for him at the court-house square. His father did not know about the circus when he gave Jimmie a nickel to buy a sack of popcorn, and told him to amuse himself until five o'clock.

Webster was a small place, but there were always people passing along the street by the court-house, and Jimmie thought it much more fun to watch them than to do the errands with his father. Today there seemed to be more people passing than ever before and they were all going in one direction. This seemed strange to Jimmie. There were people in automobiles and people on foot, all hurrying along.

Two boys passed and Jimmie heard one of them say, "I worked all week to get enough money to see the circus."

The circus! Jimmie had never seen a circus, for he lived far back in the Ozark hills of Arkansas, but he knew what a circus was. He jumped up, clutching the nickel in his hand, and went along with the crowd. Not until he came in sight of the big tent did he stop to think that a nickel was not a great deal of money. One could not see a circus for a nickel.

People were hurrying into the big tent. The flap whipped back in the wind and Jimmie caught sight of a large elephant. He knew what it was because he had looked at pictures of elephants and had thought and thought about them. His mother had told him about the trained elephants of the circus. How he did wish he could see them perform! But there was no use crying about it.

"Right this way, ladies and gents! See the fat lady. See the walking skeleton. The fattest woman on earth--the thinnest man."

A few people turned to the small tent and Jimmie went with them. The pictures of the fat lady and the thin gentleman were very interesting. Perhaps he could see them.

"Come one, come all! 'Twill cost you one thin dime, only--one thin dime or two round nickels."

Monday, July 19, 2010


When city people find themselves in a time of depression, they are certain to sound the cry, "Back to the Land." We hear it now, and there are serious proposals to work out plans for moving large numbers of unemployed out of industrial centers and locating them on farms.

That is not strange, for as the city man out of work looks forward he sees that the man on the land still has his job. It may not pay as much as it should, but it is a permanent job at any rate. And he also sees that the family on the land is at the very source of the food supply and more certain of enough to eat than any other family.

But the city man who never lived on the land does not understand this important fact--that to make a successful farmer you have to start with a capable man who loves the land, train him through many years, give him a wide range of experiences, and provide him with a helpmeet and family who likewise love the soil and to labor with it.

In the procession of those who set out from the city to the farm will be some who will find joy and a reasonable measure of success in farming. But there will be many more who will be foredoomed to failure from the beginning,--men much like this one: He used his savings to make part payment on a forty-acre farm. Before he put up house or barn, he stretched his credit to buy a tractor. That done, he had neither money, credit nor knowledge to do anything more. And so he retired from farming, right then and there,--and went back to the city for life.

The present agitation for a "back to the land" movement is not likely to mean much to farm folks, one way or another. If the stranger who comes into your community to try his hand at farming truly belongs on the land, you'll soon find it out, and you'll be glad that he came; if he doesn't, he'll soon find it out, and he'll be glad to go.

Friday, July 16, 2010


June is bride and groom month. Red roses and happy hearts belong to the spring-time. Thousands of beautiful brides and plain looking grooms will, this month, attempt the rather difficult and divine task of establishing their homes.

Marriage requires great loyalty to make of it a great success. It should never be undertaken in any other purpose than for a life task. A bystander watching a great artist paint said, "I would give my life to paint like that." The artist replied, "That is just what it has cost me."

Cheap ideals of marriage will always result in bankruptcy of the heart and home.

I do not know who wrote the following sentences, but they are the best that I have ever seen. I send them out to all brides and grooms, young and old, with my blessing.

1. Never both be angry at once.
2. Never taunt with a past mistake.
3. Never forget the happy hours of early love.
4. Never meet without a loving welcome.
5. Never talk at one another, either alone or in a crowd.
6. Never speak loudly to one another unless the house is on fire.
7. Let each one strive oftenest to yield to the wishes of the other.
8. Let self denial be the daily aim and practice of each.
9. Neglect the whole world besides rather than each other.
10. Never let the sun go down upon any anger or grievance.
11. Never allow a reasonable request to be made the second time.
12. Never make a remark at the expense of the other. It is meanness.
13. Never sigh for what might have been, and make the best of what is.
14. Never find fault unless it is certain that a fault has been committed, and
always speak lovingly.
15. Never part for the day without loving words to think of during the absence. Short words at morning make long days.
16. Never let any fault that you have committed go by until you have confessed it
and are forgiven.
17. Never forget that the nearest approach to a Heaven on earth is where two souls
rival each other in unselfishness.
18. Never be contented until you know that both are walking in the straight and
narrow road.
19. Never forget that marriage is ordained of God, and that His blessing alone can
make it what it ought to be.
20. Never let your human hopes stop short of the home eternal.

The practice of these maxims my not make every home happy, but it will go far to accomplish that perfect goal.

Monday, July 12, 2010

THE DIARY OF A DISTRACTED MOTHER; by Sally Sod Herself; part 5; 1927

THURSDAY. Well, Mary Anne, I surely opened my mouth and put my foot in it today. I can't help thinking how my brother used to say there Was no connection whatever between my tongue and my brain, that my tongue was fastened in the middle and wagged at both ends. Now I believe every word of it.

I wanted to go away this afternoon but my good man looked dubiously at the tire.

"It'll blow out before you can make a very long drive," he said. "You better wait another day. I'm going away with the truck and haven't time to change it."

After he was gone I went out and looked at the tire. It didn't look bad to me so I got ready and went anyway. Got all the way there and within a mile and a half of home when Bang--Chester surely knows tires. I drew up to the side of the road and began to debate with myself.

"Try to change it alone? Walk home and leave my four little ones in the car on a cement road? Wait for some one to come to help?

I didn't know what to do. A car drove up behind ours and stopped. I got out my very best smile and smiled it right in the face of my own husband. Yes, it was the very man I married. But worst of all...

"O, is it you?" I said. "I was just wishing some good-looking man would drive up and help me."

Now that was all wrong. He wirelessed me one look more eloquent than words.

"Pile yourselves into the truck," he answered, "and see if you can get home on these four tire. I have LOTS of time now. Only 5:30, all the chores to do, ten cows to milk, supper to eat and get to the milk meeting at 8:00 sharp.

FRIDAY. "Seeing as how" this was the day for the debate, I made up my mind I would go to see how my boy could perform. I took the car and drove to school. Got there a little early and had a chance to look around. I found it was the same old thing in the same old way. A large assembly room, one teacher in charge, paper wads, whispers, smiles, frowns, and snickers--but you remember how it was.

Then came the pep meeting. I had an awful time trying to keep myself under control. Songs--yells--songs--and then some--until I just wanted to yell myself. But, no, I mustn't forget my resolution. Pat me on the back, will you? I kept still. But when they gave that old time ONE-A-ZIP, A TWO-A-ZIP, A-THREE-A-ZIP-A-ZAM I just wanted to shriek.

A few words by the superintendent, the speakers were introduced and the debate was on. It was very interesting, of course. But at last the third speaker on the negative side was called--There stood Elery. He stood so long--Eternity it seemed. Would he never speak? Had he forgotten? Then: "Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen"...He gave me one quick glance and I looked down. I didn't want him to be excited on my account. So I decided not to look but to listen. My eyes burned. My throat was dry. With my whole body, mind and soul I said, "Please, Lord, don't let him forget a single word."

I wonder when I looked again. Once more he looked me in the eyes and I heard, "I thank you." What--Done so soon?

Next came the rebuttal. When Elery spoke again, I was calmed down so I could enjoy it. But, O, those few minutes of suspense before the judges handed in their decision. Then the chairman said:

"The decision is three to nothing in favor of (cough, cough, cough) three to one in favor of--the negative side.

Was that a Pep meeting before? Then what was this? Every one yelling, laughing, slapping each other on the back. The teachers couldn't keep order and didn't try.

It was over. I was only too glad to slip out the back way and home.


Friday, July 9, 2010

THE DIARY OF A DISTRACTED MOTHER; by Sally Sod Herself; part 4; 1927

FRIDAY. Just my luck--every time. My cleaning. As my Big Bunch were at school and only my Little Kiddies, my good man and myself here, I thought I would stir up some pancakes for dinner. Then when we were ready to eat, in walked my brother-in-law. His wife was gone so I asked him to have dinner with us. Of course I felt a little foolish over pancakes at noon. Next my cousin, whom I had not seen in two years, dropped in bringing her two boys to spend the day with us.

Then to cap the climax, Aldrich's car broke down in front of the house. Of course there was nothing to do but ask them in. They were both cold and hungry. So I asked them to draw to and have some fodder. Well, Mary Anne, they did. I know I baked a bushel of pancakes. SAUSAGE, PANCAKES AND SYRUP. Get thee behind me, Satan, and don't show up around here again.

SATURDAY. Just another Saturday, Mary Anne. You'll soon get used to them. The boys' school suits to clean and press, shoes to polish, heads to wash and once again to see that every button is in place. One cake baked, six dozen fried-cakes, 10 loaves of bread. Not so bad. Not so bad.

SUNDAY.I never saw those girls of mine so eager to help to get just everything done--even the despised dusting. Dinner nearly ready, a rap at the door. Here were four schoolmates of the girls and how they laughed! They had been invited in as a surprise for me. Well, those fried-cakes saved the day.

MONDAY. O Mary Anne, what do you suppose? You can't guess. I am just too happy for words. When Elery got home from school today, he stood around acting a little guilty I thought.

"I made the team today," he said.
"Yes, I mean it." And he went to change his clothes. Just think Mary Anne, only fourteen and a Junior in High School and third speaker on the debating team. I had just finished my washing and was so tired when he made the grand announcement. But it took the tired out of my back, the ache out of my legs and the mist from my brain.

TUESDAY. Mary Anne, it seems strange, doesn't it? that boys will get to talking about cooking. I have always prided myself on the fact that I feed my family balanced rations, three times a day. But O, that Jimmie of mine! He said the boys got to betting on what they would have for supper.

"I told them," he said, "we would have 'just the same for supper tonight as we had last night.'"

"Well you see we didn't." I answered. "We have carrots and cup cakes different."

"But I didn't tell 'em that when they asked me what we had. I said 'Flap jacks, slippery jacks, limberger, hamburger, eggs a la golden rod, pig-in-a-blanket, sauerkraut, a cold bottle and pop corn.'"

"Jimmie, what ever made you say such a thing?"

"Well, I like variety."

"And so do I when it doesn't vary from the truth."

"Shucks," he answered, " I like variety in various forms."

WEDNESDAY. Doesn't it seem awful? Just when you are trying to do your very best something happens that shows how you stand. Tonight when I tucked my lambies into bed I kissed them and heard their, "Now I lay me down to sleep..." Then I added, God bless Pa and Ma and us children and make us all good." But that Junior--What did he say? Just listen to this:

"God bless Pa and Ma and make 'em good. The rest of us are good enough--Amen--Thanks--Good-night--Blow--out--the lamp. I'm a big boy now 'n' not afraid in the dark."

Monday, July 5, 2010

THE DIARY OF A DISTRACTED MOTHER; by Sally Sod Herself; part 3; 1927

SUNDAY. Dear Diary, I think I shall call you Mary Anne so you will seem a little more human. Nothing much to say. Sunday peace and quiet--just as I like to have them.

MONDAY. A glorious day. And O, how I hated to defile it with work. But of course that was the case. At supper time I always get the report of all the wrong-doing of my children.

"Say, Ma," Jimmie said, "Leora was late."

"I was not."

"You were and you know it. Twenty minutes."

"I was not. I got in just after the last bell rang. So there."

"Well, you were late. Why, we were singing."

"Yes and it was the first song, too, because it was America."

"Yes," said Louise, "that's right. Because I looked around when Leora came in and we had only just got to the sweet land of Liberty."


What, O, what, ever possessed me to try a new recipe when I was expecting company--when I had other true and tried old ones? Never again. That recipe looked so good I could just taste it. And I tried so hard and it looked so nice until it was cut and then--Well, I've had failures with cakes before. But today--That was my masterpiece of them all. From now on my motto shall be old recipes for my friends and new ones for my own beloved family.

THURSDAY. O Mary Ann, I'm in Dutch again. Why can't I calm down and be a dignified old married woman as a mother of ten children should be? I knew Louise was angry when I saw her come stamping down the road from school today. The first I heard from her was:

"Say, Ma, you made a fool out of me."

"How come?"

"Today Teacher asked if any one could give a Mother Goose jingle 'n' I raised my hand 'n' she called on me. So I got up and gave Old Mother Hubbard 'n' she laughed. So did all the rest of them. 'N' Mr. Riley...If you could have heard him...He just roared 'n' roared."

And then I remembered--that piece of foolishness I had said to her. But surely I hadn't meant any harm to my own children. One day when we were having a ton of fun I spoke that piece for them--with variations, of course. But I'll never be able to explain it to Louise. I said it this way:

"Old Mother Hubbard,
She went to the closet
To get her poor girl a dress,
But when she got there
The closet was bare
So the poor girl had to wear her kimono."

But Mary Anne, I ask you--just stop and consider--I am chairman of the entertainment committee for the Parent-Teacher Association to be held next week and I have already asked Mr. Riley to speak to us. I said to him, "Give us something funny. Don't be too serious." That man is a clown. He can keep a roomful laughing with the least effort of any one I ever saw. Next Wednesday night if he dares to mention Mother Goose Rhymes--as I'm afraid he will--I know I shall just evaporate. I'll order him shot at sunrise or boiled in oil at dusk.

Therefore I do solemnly affirm that from now on henceforth and forever more I shall be a calm, dignified, solemn, stern, old woman as a mother of ten should be and never again shall be reckless in words and actions. Signed, sealed and sworn to before me, to take instant effect from now on to the day of my death.